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Horned Almighty's Simon Petersen: "The album is a mere representation of cruelty and demise in a historical perspective and offers no solutions, nor redemption. We are not in the peace mongering business..."

Interview with Simon Petersen & Bjørn Hellpig from Horned Almighty
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 02 January 2020, 9:19 PM

It is hard to come up with a quality kind of artistic venture when constantly under pressure due to time restrictions. The fact that an artist has to be on time, mainly because it was written, doesn't guarantee that his next creation would be worth the trouble. However, even if you stretch it, there aren't guarantees either. Nevertheless, the chances of putting out something groundbreaking, or at least a source of renewal to an extent, are higher. Horned Almighty took their time, and they came out with the fortune, buried within their new “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design”. Steinmetal had a good time chatting with Simon Petersen and Bjorn Hellpig about the future of man, evil doings, musical development, and more…

Greetings, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

S: All good, eager to unleash our latest manifestation upon the world and witness the further downfall of mankind!

After your previous album, “World Of Tombs”, it appeared that you changed your policy regarding writing material. It took you a little more than five years to come up with newly forged songs. Was this a sort of a strategy to see what you can get out of yourselves, without a physical schedule or was it simply your inner wish for time off perhaps before taking the next step towards a new album?

S: We never had a physical schedule within the band - when we have enough material ready we record an album. In the early days' inspiration came a lot faster, which meant faster songwriting. With time comes clarity and a sharper perception of which direction you want to proceed as an artist. Self-awareness and a higher dose of self-criticism results in a longer process before satisfaction is reached with our work. This is difficult when you’re bound by a timeframe of any sort. Another reason for the timespan, was the usual personal reasons, family obligations, work and obstacles connected to this mortal coil in general. These were prioritized for a while, until the inspiration for creating black bile once again was present…

Would you recommend any band out there to follow your footsteps regarding the pressure element that may exist between albums, especially when a band is under contract?

S: Absolutely! Too many albums are done in a haste, due to contract obligations, which are by definition the worst conditions for artistic creativity! Many touring artists are also dependent on releasing new material to maintain their livelihood, which adds to a certain amount of pressure. We are luckily enough spared of both factors, which results in artistic freedom – our preferred frame of work.

The band’s new album’s title is “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design”. There are more questions than answers, due to this album title. What is the master’s grand design and who is that master? Is that any form of government or a futuristic oppressor that may take control over mankind or there is a treading within religious boundaries?

S: The new album is a concept album of the destruction of man - History has proven that evil exists on many planes, from the forces of nature to the human psyche. The higher laws of nature are cruel and unrelenting, without sense or remorse, nor compassion for mankind. Each song is a historical manifest of the demise of man, resulting in a massive epitaph for humanity. Herein lies the answer of the grand design. The Master is multifaceted, be it death or deities, the devil or perhaps nature itself…

You talk about the evil that man do, and how many forms it can take, from a singular murder right up to world scale warfare. How do you perceive the evolution of man’s violent nature? Do you believe that your new album concept actually provides a solution or mainly describing the inevitable, which is mankind’s downfall?

S: The album is a mere representation of cruelty and demise in a historical perspective and offers no solutions, nor redemption. We are not in the peace mongering business… The album offers insight to various phenomenons and historical events which led to the death of thousands of people, for various reasons. From some of which lessons could be learned and some which were and still are inevitable. Humanity is the biggest threat to this globe, and we will eventually all be a part of the grand design…

The violent nature of man has been tamed throughout the history of humanity, through enlightenment and evolution. With a population close to 8 billion, it is quite an effort that so many live in peace with each other. But the foundation is frail and there are many aspects which triggers the capability of conducting violence. Oppression, superiority, dogmas, race, and to this day and age, religion are some of the largest incitements for antagonism between men. All though tamed, it is a part of mankind’s nature, in all its primitive medieval might and splendor!

Which recent events, whether on general or personal level, influenced the lyrical perspective on this album? Any form of event that made you question if there is a future after all?

S: The inspiration came after reading an article on the eruption of Tambora in 1815, which led to a series of worldwide events, such as hunger, floods and drought, causing millions to succumb due to this particular event. I delved deeper into the matter and eventually this became the lyrical background for the song “Apocalyptic Wrath”. Inspired by the massive scale of this natural disaster, I started to explore other historical events resulting in the massive demise of men and came to the theory of a stronger force pursuing the destruction of man – either through the forces of nature or through the violent nature of mankind itself…

Without entrusting your music mainly on the Norse driven Black Metal, “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design”, upon its brutish attitude and approach, has a fine share of diversity. Would you say that Horned Almighty made an important step in its musical evolution through this release in particular?

Bjørn: Well yes. We actually ventured quite a bit outside our normal comfort zone this time around. Adding a bit of both piano, keyboards, semi-clean guitars, spoken word and so on. Also, quite a few of the tracks are longer than we have ever done before, with unorthodox arrangements, at least when you compare it to a lot of our material on earlier albums. You can definitely hear that it is Horned Almighty, but there is more atmosphere on this album and in general more of everything. This album contains both the fastest, angriest parts, as well as the slowest, heaviest parts we have ever created, as well as everything in between.

What do you think were the key changes, or upgrades, within “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design”, in comparison to your previous work?

Bjørn: Our bass player Haxen actually provided the skeleton for two of the songs on TFTMGD. That's the first time in 10 years that anyone else has contributed more than a riff here or there. Historically, I have always written the majority of the music, so having someone else contribute was refreshing. Another thing is that it was a conscious decision to stray from our formula, in order to challenge ourselves. AC/DC is fine with doing the same thing over and over again, but we needed to try new things this time around to make it interesting for ourselves.

While writing the music, what generated your motivation to come up with a one hell of a violent onslaught? Was merely anger or was it you simply trying to integrate the music with the lyrical content?

Bjørn: Honestly, I knew the general idea for the album theme, but didn't read the lyrics before putting together the booklet for the CD and LP. Angry, obscene and violent music is what we do, so nothing new there, just a few new twists and turns. The most violent song, the opening track "Violent Cosmology" was in fact written at 4:30 in the morning on the day of our last rehearsal, before going into the studio to record the album.

How would you describe the songwriting process of “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design”? With all that time that you had, was it decided to approach the material in different ways than earlier? Would you argue that Horned Almighty is a democratic band when it comes to who contributes to the songwriting more or less?

S: The writing process began with a no restrictions effort, opening up for new ideas and not just a continuation of our past work. Soon “Swallowed by the earth” was written and it became clear we were expanding our musical horizons. After a while, as mentioned earlier, there were too many obstacles and obligations in our personal lives, which stalled the writing process. Several times we had to start all over and it wasn’t until half the album was written, we could focus on the main goal. Several times it would be months without writing and to this day it has been the most difficult period of the cult. But what seems to be our passage through purgatory finally paid off in the end.

Yes, we are very much a democratic band and writes mostly all the material together. While this works best for us, it is also a fragile and time consuming method – which became quite evident during the course of the last 6 years…

While the new album explores more than Black Metal, as mentioned, where do you personally find yourself more in the music?

S: I myself am deeply rooted in black metal, but all of us come from a death metal background too. We began as an homage to old school Norwegian black metal from the nineties, which we all listened to back then. In time, more layers were added, but the core of the songwriting relies to this day still very much on black metal – but from all eras. I could never choose myself between let’s say death metal and black metal, since both genres deliver such potent platforms for extreme music and art. We’re combining several approaches and not restraining ourselves to the dogmas of one genre only…

Do you think that the same diversity and approach on “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design” will lead Horned Almighty on its next efforts?

S: Hopefully. With all the time and effort spent, it is most artists' goal to conquer new grounds and territories, and to grow and explore. The concept was quite elaborate and took a lot of time to write, although at the same time being a personal development and challenge. To understand the future, it is necessary to understand the past. On a musical level, I don’t see ourselves going back, only forward with what TFTMGD has started.

The song “Swallowed By The Earth”, at least in my book, is that sort of an eye opener musically, it positions Horned Almighty as a band that is willing to go beyond the regularity. It also shows various states of mind. What is your input regarding this particular number? How do you find this song compared to other songs of the release?

Bjørn: "Swallowed by the Earth" was actually the first track we wrote for the album around 4 years ago, so it kind of set the mood for the direction of the whole album at a quite early stage. That is by far the most "experimental" track we have ever done and close to the longest as well. It goes through many different atmospheres, tempos and buildups during the 6-minute span of the song. Once we understood that we could actually make material written in this, to us, quite unorthodox manner work, it kind of opened up for embracing new things that we hadn't tried before on a larger scale.

Going off topic for a little bit. It has been said that Metal music is more than merely a musical genre, yet also religion, a way of life to lead, no matter the person’s status. How do you find this saying? Don’t you believe that it is a bit outdated?

Bjørn: No fucking way. I live and breathe metal, and have done so for 30 years. I do other things as well, but metal is always there and always will be. Whether it is listening to music in the car, reading a review, watching a documentary, picking out which shirt to put on or choosing what to listen to when exercising.

Heading back on track. After the release of “To Fathom the Master's Grand Design”, what do you think are the main challenges that stand in the way of Horned Almighty? What are the album’s challenges when it comes to the Metal market that is so vast and varied?

Bjørn: The market is oversaturated with bands and releases. Luckily, we mainly do this for ourselves because we love creating sick, profane and brutal music. Even bands that have great material get overlooked these days, because of the sheer amount of music out there. We face the same obstacles that every other small or midsize band out there faces: Being noticed among all the shit and useless noise is difficult.

What are your support plans for the new record? Does Horned Almighty plan to visit new locations yet to be played?

Bjørn: We did a few headline gigs during the last couple of months after finishing the album recording, to let people know that we are still here and a force to be reckoned with. We already have 3 shows lined up to support the new album in the beginning of 2020. Also, we have a new booking agent that hopefully seeks out a few nice festivals or weekend tours for us.

Guys, I wish to thank you for your time for this interview. Many thanks for offering the Metal world such a profound release. All the best.

Bjørn: Cheers & thanks for the interest.


 



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