November will see the release of one of the most interesting releases from a Danish band this year, ‘Ravnenes Saga’.
Svartsot from Randers, Denmark, have forged a crushing piece of folk metal, and Powermetal.dk's Thomas wants to know everything about it from front grunter Claus B. Gnudtzmann.
Claus, congrats on your brilliant debut disc – I take it you have great expectations?
Claus: Yes, I hope we’ll sell a couple of albums or more, that people will like it and that we’ll be able to play in front of our fans.
How did Svartsot come together in the first place? You seem like a mixed bunch and the various inspirations that can be heard in your music also hint at a crew with very different backgrounds.
Claus: Most of us knew each other beforehand. I joined the band when the previous incarnation of Svartsot ceased to be. Even though the line up has changed several times, everyone has known someone in the band before joining. This makes it easier to work together as the social side has already been in place for a fairly long time.
We all have different backgrounds but that’s what makes us into Svartsot - that and the beer.
Perhaps you should explain the name Svartsot to our English speaking readers…
Claus: It’s a type of jaundice that makes the skin go black. Many people died of this disease in the Middle Ages. Michael and Cris had already come up with the name when I joined and it seemed pretty cool, so we kept it.
Your lyrics are in Danish. Was that a very conscious choice from the outset, or is it simply because you’re more comfortable with writing in Danish? Did you ever consider using English?
Claus: Yes, it was a conscious decision. The lyrical themes are based on Nordic and Danish folklore and mythology so English seemed wrong. The melodies in Danish are different to those in the English language and they fit better with the music, we have spoken about using English but decided on keeping it in Danish, besides the parts that we want people to shout along to are quite easy, “hey” works in every language.....
Since I only have a promo copy of ‘Ravnenes Saga’ and thus no lyric sheet, I can’t really tell if the album is based on a concept. Does the album tell a story?
Claus: It doesn’t tell a story, rather, every song has its own identity and meaning, basically it’s about beer, battles and bitches. The title Ravnenes Saga means Saga Of The Ravens which more or less covers everything. Hugin and Munin are the two ravens of Odin and they would fly across the world each day reporting back to Odin what they saw and heard during the day. This album is a collection of stories that could have been told by them.
Jakob Hansen produced the album. How was it to work with one of the true veterans of the Danish metal scene? Did he add to result in other ways than the sound?
Claus: It was great to work with Jacob. He’s a great guy and he and his assistant Michael Hansen made it a lot easier and took away the pressure and tension that you can feel in a situation like that, it was after all only the third time we were recording as a group and we all wanted the best possible result.
As for the result he’s mainly responsible for the sound.
I’ve managed to see you once (Midwinter Meltdown in Randers) and it was an excellent experience. Are you working on more concepts for you live shows like the girl with flaming stick and your swords and axes?
Claus: We have a few ideas but nothing big at the time. You’ll have to attend the shows to find out if there are any real surprises.....
The Fair Maiden Of The Flame was a one off, she’s a good friend of the band and we all thought that it would be cool if she joined us on stage...
Speaking of touring: I read that your planned tour with Korpiklaani was cancelled. Still no explanation as to why that happened?
Someone told me that you had no singing/growling experience when you started in the band. Is this true – and how then did you manage to move into the top five league of Danish growlers all of a sudden?!
Claus: It is true that I had no prior experience as a vocalist when I joined the band. But with lots of practice and running around at home scaring neighbours and whatnot I’ve gotten to this point, and while it is certainly flattering to be regarded as one of the best in the country I don’t really agree with that sentiment. Denmark has got a LOT of good growlers and to join their unhallowed ranks is of course a goal that I hope to achieve one day. I don’t think I am there yet.
‘Ravnenes Saga’ is, as I’ve already said, a fantastic album. But where do you see Svartsot heading on the next release? One of the dangers of folk metal with the very characteristic sound of the flute is that it will sound all the same from release to release unless you’re going about it in a clever way…
Claus: Well I guess you’ll just have to wait and see what happens. We can’t give away all our secrets........
I’ll slowly let you off the hook, but one thing I need to ask you is the titles of the five albums the world could not have been without and why they are so crucial.
Iron Maiden – Piece Of Mind (the first metal album I ever listened to, the reason I’m doing this today)
AC/DC – Back In Black (look at the track list, ‘nuff said )
Slayer – Reign In Blood (still the best )
Carcass - Necroticism, Descanting The Insalubrious (great all the way)
I could go on but I really do not want to choose. I’ll just go with the rest of the collection at home.....
Thanks a bunch for answering my questions. Any last rants for our readers?
Claus: Buy the albums, go to the shows, wear the shirts, live the life of a true metalhead.... And the three most important things in Svartsot’s universe
Interviewed by Thomas Nielsen