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Stefán (Arstidir Lifsins)

Interview with Stefán from Arstidir Lifsins
by Manolis Alifieris at 02 December 2010, 6:12 AM

ARSTIDIR LIFSINS: keep that name in your mind and make sure you search out for their music. Combining what sounds to me the soundtrack of the atmosphere of their country, they are here to stay. Keep aside the trend of Pagan/Viking Metal, this band has something far more different to tell us. Stefan is telling us about his creation, ARSTIDIR LIFSINS and their debut album, “Jîtunheima Dolgferð'”.

Hi there, it’s Manolis from Metal Temple here. First of all I would like to congratulate you on you new (debut) album. Something spectacular that truly deserves to be heard. Why don’t you give us a short biography of ARSTIDIR LIFSINS for those out there who do not know you yet?
Hello Manolis and best regards to you from Kiel, Germany! Thank you for the kind words, it is always a pleasure to hear that people like the new album. ARSTIDIR LIFSINS was, if one wants to call it so, born in late summer 2008 when I started my studies in in Reykjavik, Iceland (MA in Medieval Icelandic Studies). During that year in Iceland I wrote most of the material and recorded the drums together with the drummer and violinist Arni of DYSTHYMIA and SKENDOD. At the same time, we recorded a rima (an old, Icelandic folk song) with 3 singers from the Haskolakorinn. Back in Germany in late summer 2009, I finished the recordings of the instruments and the vocals in late November with great help of Georg (Jorge Blutaar) of DRAUTRAN and Marsel (Skald Draugir) of HELRUNAR. Afterward the rest was recorded and the mixing took its time until the beginning of May 2010, when it was mastered by Tom Kvalsvoll at Strype Audio in Oslo, Norway. The band consists of 10 members that live in Iceland and Germany.

As we are not familiar with your language, what is the meaning of the name ARSTIDIR LIFSINS and who chose it?
ARSTIDIR LIFSINS means “the seasons of life” and that is a quite an exact description of what is presented in the lyrics on the debut. The story tells of a whole lifespan, told in strong connection to the circle of seasons.

Would you like to tell us a few words about your debut album? As I do believe, there is a concept behind it.
Indeed there is one. Everything that is connected to the name ARSTIDIR LIFSINS is linked to a story that is and will be told. The lyrics on the debut “Jîtunheima Dolgferð'” tell of a farmer’s life in Iceland roughly between 910-935A.D. He is born in spring and dies in winter (it is therefore strongly connected to the band’s name). Since most blows of fate are linked to the rough and merciless nature that surrounds the protagonist, I chose the kenning “Jîtunheima Dolgferð'” (roughly translated as “the knife's path of Jotunheim”) for the debut’s name, since the actions of giants, or the mountains in that sense, are a very central aspect in the story.

Everything regarding your release is on your native language. Apart from the fact that it is easier for you to express what you want in your mother language, what drove you to that decision?
To a main part all written sources that have come down to the present day from medieval Western Scandinavia were written in Old Icelandic. Since the lyrics are both dealing with that literature and the early history of Iceland and to a small extend Norway too, it was just a logical step to present the lyrics in Icelandic too. But still they are not genuine Old Icelandic but a mixture with Modern Icelandic to give a rather fluent touch to them.

How about telling us a few words about each and every song on your debut album?
Ok, here we go. I will give you both a small description for music and lyrics for each song:
“Ísa Brots Blómin Milli Hnignunar Marnars Barna”: the first song, or intro, welcomes the listener with melancholic and very typical Icelandic violins that sound quite like a rather Old Icelandic lullaby. In the textual surrounding, this song shall show the beginning of spring in the Eastern fjords of Iceland around the year of 910 AD.
“Morgunn I Grárri Vvindhjálmars Poku Við Berufjörð”: the first song starts with great choirs that are guided by a deep voice which tells the listener of a grey morning in early spring and the birth of a new life. Afterward the song changes its appearance quite often.
“Velkomin I Lífið, Avarpar Maðr Sjálfan Sig”:a very long and diverse track music-wise that has two main topics: the death and killing of one of the protagonist’s brothers during a long, rainy night in spring and the following dream, that already gives an impression of what will occur in the last track.
“Haka Kleifir Berja Ok Brjóta Við Enda Langrar Ferðar Sinnar”: probably the most direct and aggressive track on “Jîtunheima Dolgferð'”. With only 5:14 min it is also the shortest one. Still, the song comes with very different parts and changes. Lyric-wise, it tells of the connection between man, sea and fish that live within.
“Lifðu Með Oðrum, Með Pínum Eigin”: well, a song about the importance and ethics of family and heritage. Guided by a groovy Metal part, choirs and singing, it tells of how important a family is and what a great achievement it can be by living under the reign of Freyja.
“Eigi Hefr A Augu, Unnskíðs Komit Síðan”: an epic poem from medieval Iceland, called a rima. It is sung a capella with a single melody and voice that sometimes is supported by two other voices, singing in pentatonic lines to it. The story tells of a blood feud that is fought between several families in the west fjords, and its end.
“Margt Breytist Fyrir Orð Völvanna”: another very diverse, but more folky song, that changes its appearance quite often during the ten minutes playtime. It tells of damnation by the gods after the protagonist was told that he would have to change his homeplace in autumn. Regarding the fact that this will have a disastrous outcome, some foreshadowing are mentioned in the texts.
“Við Fundum Nýtt Heimili, Langt Burtu I Vestrinu”: A consequence from the last song, also music-wise. The story tells of the changeover to a western fjord and the consequences my doing such a great change for a family and a household in autumn times in Iceland.
“Pat Er Stormr Ok Bláköld Vatnssmíðin Litar Regna Borg”: The last and probably saddest song of the album. Because several people of the household and cattle already died from cold and food shortage in the previous song, the dying goes on with the death of the protagonist who drowns in the cold waves in winter time. Within this song, there are some very strong changes in the music. It might therefore be the most representative song for ARSTIDIR LIFSINS on “Jîtunheima Dolgferð'”.

Iceland nowadays seems to have a Metal scene that may not have that many bands, but those few ones do a really great job. SOLSTAFIR and you for example.
Well, actually there are many bands in Reykjavik and Iceland that are more than noteworthy and are true to their origin and mostly very inventive. Sadly, most of them have never got the chance so far to get out of Iceland for presenting their art to others. They literally stayed on their black soil. I would like to give the reader a list of bands of nowadays Iceland’s Black/Death Metal scene I can recommend and that have released at least a demo so far:

SOLSTAFIR (Psychodelic Postrock, Black Metal)
FORTID (Black/Pagan Metal)
CARPE NOCTEM (Black Metal)
SKENDOD (Black Metal)
DYSTHYMIA (Depressive Black Metal)
CHAO (Black Metal)
WITHERED (Black Metal)
FINNGALKN (Black Metal)
MYRK (Black Metal)
GONE POSTAL (Death Metal)
BENEATH (Death Metal)
BASTARD (Death Metal)
DIABOLUS (Death Metal)
ANGIST (Black/Death Metal)

What do you think of the ‘trend’ that Pagan/Folk/Viking Metal has become nowadays? Has it helped you it terms of promotion or it is just something that exists for you?
Well, I don/t listen to most of today’s Pagan Metal since I am absolutely not a fan of a certain party scene within that scene at all. That trend surely helped ARSTIDIR LIFSINS in terms of promotion, but I think the deal with Van Records and the bands involved in ARSTIDIR LIFSINS speak for the quality of our music.

What are the reasons that made you form ARSTIDIR LIFSINS and express yourselves through your unique music?
I wanted to combine the music I wrote in Iceland between 2008 and 2009 with the studies I did at that time in Reykjavik. Since it worked out so easily and fluently all the parts became quite close connected and already after some time me and Arni started the rehearsals in autumn 2008.

Would you at any case picture yourselves playing something totally different than what is on your debut album?
Well, no one knows the fate of the Norns in the future. But so far I can say that the path we walked will be followed on the second album, too. It will still be diverse and uncommon in that sense that it is not connected to one style, but a radical change compared to the first release is not planned so far. Since there is enough freedom within all the styles used I also see no real point in a change in the near future.

As it was hard for me to fully try to find what has influenced your music, would you mind giving me a hand on that matter?
I have been listening to Metal and other styles such as Nordic Folk for about 15 years now and it would be hard to find special bands or projects that have had an influence on me while writing music. Regarding the Black Metal part they propably have been the usual ones such as ULVER, PRIMORDIAL, ENSLAVED, BATHORY, EMPEROR, GORGOROTH, MAYHEM, HELHEIM, DARKTHRONE, KVIST, KAMPFAR, THRONE OF AHAZ, NEGURA BUNGENT or WINDIR but also other stuff like OTYG, GARMARNA, THE 3RD AND THE MORTAL, SIGUR ROS, THY SERPENT, MOTORPSYCHO, SOLSTAFIR, KYUSS and tons of other Bands.

Any plans for live shows? It sure would be something interesting for people to see and not only hear your music.
No, there are no plans for live shows so far. We first want to record and release a second album before we start thinking about presenting the material live. Maybe there will be a chance in 2012, but surely not before.

What I got from your cover artwork is something like a keyhole to the world you would like or you have dreamed of and talking about. To my eyes it is a success in matters of depicting the music.
That description rightly represents the ideas I had in mind when discussing it with our designer Christopher Duis ( at the time we working on the layout together. I wanted to give a rather unusual impression of what is shown both in the music and lyrics of the album.

Is your album coming out only in CD format? I have seen something about a vinyl as well.
Yes, it was released on the same date as an extensive, very beautiful gatefold 2LP as well. With the LP version comes an exclusive two-sided poster and two stickers, too. I truly have to recommend that version, since I have been a fan of vinyl myself for a long time.

Concerning future releases, are you planning to keep everything in your mother language or are you also gonna write something in English?
Well, I myself am a German and would indeed not call Icelandic my mother tongue, but the lyrics of ARSTIDIR LIFSINS will stay a mixture of Old & Modern Icelandic for sure. Since the background and the main topics are basically all related to the old North, there seems to be no other option to me anyway. Also, the language has a very intense and archaic sound which I do not want to miss in the future either.

Thanks for your time Stefan. Last words are yours!
Thank you for the interview.


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Edited 28 May 2023

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