I find it incredible how a song can turn a bad day into something really quite magnificent.That’s what happened when I first encountered Swedish black metal project Fornhem. For hours I submerged myself in their deeply atmospheric sounds, uncovering layer after layer of black metal brilliance. It is with great pleasure that I present this interview with a band that is most certainly going to leave deep, long-lasting impressions in the minds and souls of many.
Fornhem was established in 2013 as a result of a mutual desire to conjure up the mysteries of nature, history, old Norse mythology and poetry, as well as exploring and expressing certain mental states. Can you talk about how the band came to be in existence, and what the process of starting up a band was actually like for you in this crazy age of technology.
It started as many bands start: with a simple add. I (Vavtrudner, vocals, drums, lyrics) was in search for a black metal band as a vocalist and Solbane (guitars, bass, string instruments) answered the call. Originally we searched for other musicians to join up, but the interest was low. So we decided to start up the project ourselves with me on drums aswell. In the beginning the plan of the music was quite loose, since we had to get to know each other a bit. But in the end we settled for the idea to play a melodic kind of black metal with a bit of folky tunes (not making it too “soft” or melodic though) with lyrics in Swedish inspired by history, Norse mythology, Nature and Swedish poetry.
I attempted to research into the background of the word Fornhem, but was relatively unsuccessful. All I discovered was that a handful of people in Sweden claim it for a surname. What is the meaning of the word, and what made you decide that it was the perfect title for this project?
We weren´t aware of that it can be a surname actually, it is for sure not common anyway. I came up with the name after a road trip in the Swedish countryside. This will be a bit of a detour, but since you asked about the name… In the 30´s and the 40´s there were projects around Sweden to preserve houses and buildings from the countryside hailing back to the 1800´s since the society became more modern and these buildings were demolished to make room for new houses. There was then an attempt to save a bit of this Swedish culture. These “out-door-museums” are all around Sweden, the biggest and most famous one being Skansen in Stockholm. Another one, a lot smaller in size, is located in the region of Östergötland and called Fornhem and I bumped into this one Summer, by pure chance as it were, since I wasn´t even aware of its existence. The name wasn´t really chosen because of its history as an out-door-museum, but rather because of the simple meaning of the name itself. It is a bit difficult to translate into English without it sounding corny, but it means something like “ancient home”. We connect it to our aim to indulge in history and Norse mythology and also the fact that people back in the old days were a lot closer to Nature and didn´t consume it so rapidly as we humans (in our infinite ignorance) do today. That is actually what our song “Fornhem” is about: to forget ones roots and this connection to Nature which, in the end, will be leading to ruin.
I was introduced to your music through the track Fornhem from your upcoming debut album, and immediately thought to myself ‘this is a profound work of genius.’ Even now when I listen to it, I discover yet more layers. I think it’s a gorgeously rich, mysterious, deeply atmospheric experience. Would you mind divulging how this song came into being, where the inspiration came from and how long it took until you were satisfied enough to release it out into the world?
Thank you! We are most satisfied with it. It´s been a long journey with this song. It is actually our first “proper” song we ever created and it´s been ready in more or less the version you have heard for over a year now. From an early stage of the band, Burzum´s “Belus” has been an enormous inspiration, which we think is quite obvious and it is nothing we try to hide. He is a master at minimalism and to create atmosphere and that is what we want to do with our music; we want it to be meditative and that the listener is able to lose the sense of time for a while…Back to the song. It didn´t take long to finish it as soon as we realised in what way we were heading. And the lyrics were written in an instance, I haven´t changed them from their original form. Although the song has been ready for such a long time, it wasn´t recorded until recently, simply because “life” with all its demands came in the way. But now, the ball finally started to roll.
About the layers in the song; our aim is to make music that moves forward, even if it’s minimal and repetitive, and we think that adding something or making slight alterations in a riff or chord progression makes it come alive and breathe, so to speak, which would be the whole meaning of music-making.
You feature beautiful, quieter moments in your music, and I’m interested to know why it’s important to you that these softer elements are included.
This has to do with the meditative state we want to conjure up and also to show the beauty of this kind of music. Black metal in general is quite beautiful music behind all the layers of noise, we want to enhance that by using minimalism. Also quieter moments or using acoustic instruments creates an interesting dynamic as opposed to the “wall of noise”. The music should be simple and repetitive and long (if needed). We always take our time and really feel how long we can play a certain riff. There should be no stress. And when it comes to the drums for instance, I really need to “hold it in”, that is, I can do a lot more with the drums, but this music doesn´t need it. In fact, we think it would ruin a lot of the atmosphere. And that´s basically how we work; we always focus on how the music FEELS.
The artwork which accompanies your music is especially striking. Who is responsible for Fornhem’s visual aesthetics, and did it take a while to develop the ‘look and feel’ you wanted to create? Is the artwork for the debut album completed?
The artwork we have used so far hasn´t been that thought through actually. I was just going through my personal archive to find something connected to Nature that would work with the music. And then I contacted a childhood friend (Vindsval of the one-man project Mara by the way) to help editing them. We think Vindsval made a great work capturing the atmosphere we wanted. The photo we used for the song is taken in the Swedish region of Härjedalen, more or less in the middle of Sweden, at a waterfall out in the woods. It was taken even before Fornhem was even thought of, but we thought it would fit for now. But the focus on Nature will always be there; it completes the music we feel. When it comes to the artwork of the upcoming album, we haven´t really thought of it yet. At the moment we put all our energies into the creation of music. Then we will see what we can come up with…
When absorbed in Fornhem I find myself encountering a range of folk and melodic influences, yet you maintain a fantastic and fierce uniqueness. Who would you cite as your long-term influences?
Obviously, Burzum, especially “Belus” and “Umskiptar” albums, is of a tremendous influence to us as we mentioned already. We are influenced by the early Norwegian black metal scene but not so much the actual music but more the aesthetics of sound. The musical influences are the traditional folk music from Scandinavia, medieval and renaissance music, and other bands with a strong dose of folk music influence such as Kampfar, early Ulver, Storm, Isengard, Garmarna, Kebnekajse and of course Jan Johansson (1931-1968). Needless to say we also love AC/DC (Bon Scott era). They are the masters of minimalism!
After listening to Fornhem for the first time, I started to wonder where you escape to in order to be inspired to write and create music? Are there any particular favoured areas of natural beauty where you venture to?
I am originally from a small town on the east coast of Sweden, where the Nature and the sea are very close, and some parts quite untouched. Being raised there, I also go back there to find inspiration. The sound of the waves crashing against the ancient rocks is usually enough inspiration. I also have some other places in other parts of Sweden I go to which are inspiring. The common factor of all those are always closeness to Nature.
Solbane on the other hand usually retreats to the comfort of his home. With some tea, silence and a guitar he can reach within himself for inspiration as well as for recovery. Within he not so much creates the music but rather the music creates itself and projects itself out through the use of Solbane and his instrumental abilities.
Swedish poetry has a role to play in the creation of Fornhem. As a poet myself, I would love to know which poets have provided inspiration, and what is it about poetry in general that inspires you to make music?
I write the lyrics (as stated above, in Swedish) and my personal favourites are two classical Swedish poets: Erik Johan Stagnelius (1793-1823) and Gunnar Ekelöf (1907-1968). I find that poetry is full of both philosophy and spirituality and that is something we want our music to consist of. Also, the poetry in itself IS a kind of music. A good poet “paints” sounds and landscapes with his words and can evoke such emotions and illuminations just with some, soundless ink on a piece of paper. That is pure magic. Apart from the above mentioned poets, the poetry of the Eddas with all the Norse legends is also an important inspiration, full of ancient wisdom which we would like to use in our own music. I use names, myths and legends from these texts, not just to tell a saga, but more to adapt it after a certain esoteric knowledge which could be transmitted or “painted” with references to these classic texts.My artist name, “Vavtrudner”, is actually taken from the Poetic Edda. It is an Icelandic name originally (Vafþruðnir) and Vavtrudner is its Swedish translation (by Erik Brate). The name is that of the giant which Oden visits in order to find out if this giant is indeed all-wise (from the poem “Vafþruðnismál” in the Poetic Edda).
The music of Fornhem has a meditative quality about it which I really relish. Was it a conscious decision from the beginning to create this kind of ambiance within your music?
It was a path we decided to take at quite an early stage, yes. And again, that is how we perceive the music of Burzum and we wanted to continue on that path, thus exploring ourselves also in a deeper way. When we play and the mood is right, “things” happen to us. We experience and we grow and we feel a really natural and primitive magic which evokes esoteric knowledge. Our aim with creating music is to save some of that magic and to re-live it by listening to our music but also to share it with others of course.
Where are you now with the production of the debut album, and do you know when we can expect to see it released?
Well, the final song is done as you know. We now have three more (and quite long) songs that we are working with. So all in all, the album will consist of these four songs. The songs are more or less done, it is just some details we are working with, so we expect to enter the studio to record the rest quite soon. Hopefully it will all be done until the Summer at the latest. Meanwhile, we are looking for a label to collaborate with us and we have some contacts although we haven´t struck any deals yet. As of now, we would like to keep our options open until everything is done. And if it would be that no label would be interested sometime soon we will probably release it ourselves on a small scale when we have the funds for that. For us it is not important to get “famous” or to sell a lot of records. We simply want to contribute to the scene in what way we can. If we release and sell a 100 copies or 10 000 copies doesn´t really make a difference to us.
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