Kampfar: Witchery and Nightmares Abound

Kampfar has always been one of the most innovative bands in the Norwegian Black Metal scene – always conveying a truth and honesty within their extreme artistry. Mare is their latest and greatest effort – a visionary work mixing the Kampfar of old with the dynamic production work of Peter Tagtgren at the famed Abyss Studios.  Here is an interview we conducted with founding member Dolk, who was quite thorough in his observations and comments on the themes of Mare, the unusual cover art, the major loss of a band member, performing at Wacken, and other topics of interest.  Witchery and nightmares abound as we enter the realm of Kampfar commencing now…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Kampfar, and how long the band has been together.
Hello I’m Dolk, the singer and founder of the Norwegian band Kampfar. This year Kampfar has been together for 17 years.  So it has been some years in this so called “Business”.

I had a very clear vision about the outfit and how Kampfar both should sound like and be like from the very beginning! I named Kampfar’s music back in 94 for “Norse Pagan Folklore Metal” and to me no one has never been coming up with any better explanation or labelling of our music since either!

The main idea behind it all was just as simple as that I wanted to create something that was 100% real both to myself as a person and musician!

Kampfar is:
Dolk- Vocals
Ask – Drums
Jon – Bass
Ole – (session guitar)

Overall , how do you think “Mare” compares to the previous Kampfar releases?
Its so great to finally see the album in a true format now, I can already now say that this album will forever state “blood and tears” for me.

Well anyway in someway we used the same method on “Mare” as “Heimgang;” cause its still very historical connected.

It’s very “Northern historical” again but the album itself is more witching and devilish than ever before and in that way it really sticks out if you compare it with our previous works and the “Heimgang” album.

With “Mare” we tried to think “Old school in a modern way and sound, with Honesty” all the way. Only that itself is something that differs from the previous albums alone. If we also add that with “Mare” we tried to redefine ourselves too without losing the identity and roots, so we are a bit further than ever before in my opinion. And again with this album I am proud to say that we have managed our goal. “Old school Kampfar shit but modern”. A hard task indeed!

What was it like working with Peter Tagtgren at Abyss Studios and what did he contribute to your overall sound?
During festivals etc we have meet up with Peter more than once and during talks etc we decided to go for Abyss. Peter is a quite busy guy to say at least but we didn’t want to do this album in Abyss if not Peter was the man behind the board. So luckily for us he wanted to do this and we both had a lot of the same ideas for this album. Besides all this Kampfar has always been “against the stream” in black metal and not before now used a “metal producer” for our work. And against the stream was still our concept but with great modern sound without losing its edge, but this time with a “metal producer”.

Yea Peter is a great sound guy without any doubts. In fact he is the best sound guy I have been working with in my whole musical career. I don’t think people really know about his skills in a proper way to be honest. Some people (in fact a lot) in this so called business have got their fame and fortune for something they have done a long time ago etc and it really doesn’t tell anything about their skills now. Peter is not in that category. He did things with this album that I have never seen been done before with my own eyes. So it’s a huge step for Kampfar this.

We stayed 4 weeks in the Swedish woods with Peter in Abyss. Peter has been “the perfect match” for us. Together we have been making “Mare” – thinking “Old school black with modern sound” over and over and over. It has been a struggle from beginning to end. But the technical finesse and skills of Peter have made it all to a product we all can stand tall behind. With his skills we have managed to create an album without any drum replacements, triggers and all that shit. And that makes me so fucking proud to be able to say that in these days.

Is there any story or concept behind the “Mare” title.
Mare is in short words “The she devil/witch”. The word “Mare” itself is in fact the very beginning of the word “Nightmare” in Norwegian (Mareritt). The “nightmare term” has been created from this in fact. This is pure ancient folklore history! And it suits the album well as an overall title.

The album is a direct conflict towards or between Christianity and witchery. Or more correctly what the high priests thought or claimed to be was witchery. It’s very Northern historical but also a huge Hail to the strong women in our history who walked their own way! It’s a thick red line from start till end of the album lyrically this time.

The album itself is more witching and devilish than ever before and it’s a fresh memorable sting for the Northern historical people and Christians if I can put it that way.

Blitzwitch is such an awesome song! Tell me the story behind that particular song.
Thanx!  It’s very much appreciated! Well the song Blitzwitch is about a legend in old Norwegian. About a “sea witch” It’s a too long story to tell in short sentences here. But it all comes down to what “Mare” is about. It’s the direct conflict towards or between Christianity and witchery.

Blitzwitch is maybe a bit different than the rest of the songs when it comes to the flow and openness in the song itself. But it all brings the “Mare” complete as an album.

Select two other songs from “Mare” and what inspired the lyrics?
To go in specific details with all the songs can be a bit too much here, but I can try to explain a bit about the song “ Ildstemmer.”

In the old “North” people thought that some few had overnatural visions and powers or that they where connected to the spirits from the underworld in some way. The priests and the high church did of course also link this into Satanism or connection and league with the devil. Normally an “Ildstemmer” was an old wise man that the people/locals itself did trust and had a lot of respect for. An “Ildstemmer” was a person with special skills towards fire. The locals gave an “Ildstemmer” a lot of nice food and even money to have them on their side. Cause he had “fire skills” they belived.

When big forest fires were going on and burned down the lands and houses like paper, an “Ildstemmer” came in handy. Cause they could just spit into the fires or sing , stomp with their feets, dance and so on… and the fires would stop and turn in other directions etc. So as you probably understand it was of very big importance to have them on “your” side.

But there is always a dark side for everything, and that is what Kampfar’s “Ildstemmer” song is all about.

The albums deals a lot about witchery as mentioned and the “Ildstemmer” here was an historical event that took place centuries ago in Norway. This “Ildstemmer” was a female one with revenge thoughts against the church and high priests it’s told. The flames where this time not her enemy if I can put it that way.

So again all songs on “Mare” are purely connected to witchery and history and it’s supposed to set a question mark about what’s devilry and evil. Or what is black and what is white? The truth isn’t always what it seem to be in history.

The cover art certainly seems usually for a black/pagan metal band. What was the inspiration for the “Mare” cover art and who designed it?
Yes it is a different and untypical cover layout art than “what’s normal” if I can put it that way. But that is also one of the whole ideas of it. Cause we want people to think for themselves. We try to create black art and art has never been easy has it?

I mean I have to take Napalm Records as an example to not get sent in court by the other companies we’re not signed too hehe…  But I mean take Napalm as an example then.  If “you” look upon the covers the last years coming from them it all seems like it’s all painted in the same “metal style” and with the same artist in some way. I am not saying that it’s bad covers. But there is no art there that makes it differ from the rest and there is nothing there that makes you think. That’s at least my opinion. With “Mare” we redefined ourselves in some way. The same goes for the cover. Its black art in the name of the “She devils” and we try to create “Black art” so it fits like hell.

This whole process with the cover, took some time to finish. But with the help of a splendid Norwegian artist called “Robert Høyem” we finally crossed the finish line. This whole thing was a constantly progress and ideas between us and him from start till the end. But we could of course never have done this cover without him.

How difficult was it when longtime collaborator Thomas parted from the band and do you still keep in touch with him?
Me and Thomas have played together for 17 years now… so a huge part of me died when I got the message to be honest.  Nothing of this was a plan, even though I knew something was going on it came as some sort of shock for me when it all was a reality.

And I had to spend a lot of time in total solitude after the album was done. This process and this album has been as already stated: blood, tears and frustration right through. 2010 has in fact been a huge battlefield for us. And to “lose” Thomas in the band was just the top of it all. And it has been like losing my brother musical wise. But we will always be brothers with love and respect towards each other no matter where this world is heading! Nothing can change that! People might think what ever they want here. But I will never turn my back on Thomas and that’s the truth.

Thomas, did in fact not record “Mare;” he was with us on the whole creation part of the album though. But he didn’t want any part of it. So he hasn’t either in that way. This is no secret whatsoever. Thomas created “Mare” together with the rest of us, but he didn’t record it. Thomas was done with Black metal. And our musical quest/path was impossible to continue together right now.

All this did of course affect the psyche within Kampfar. But Kampfar is stronger than one man or any of us alone. So Kampfar is still here!

Has Kampfar ever played here in the the States or plan to do so in the future?
Kampfar have never been in the States, But everything is happening in high speed these days so right now I really don’t know about the future to be honest. But we hope to one day in the near future visit your country and share our music over there too.

I have many friends and blood brothers in the states during all my years in this “business” so it would really have been an honor to finally go there soon.

Thanx to everyone there for support and respect during all this years!

What could one expect from a live Kampfar show?
Honesty and Black Art united.

What was it like playing the legendary Wacken open air? This is a festival many American metalheads wish they could attend.
This was in fact our second time at Wacken. Our first show we did there in 2007. But this time it was a bit special for us since we had to cancel our planned show there in 2009, due to familiar reasons.

Anyway… the audience was awesome and its always special to do Black Metal at festivals like this. Between all the “power metal” stuff its amazing to see how good people react to our “Art”. Great to see that the “Kampfar Horde” are present even at main festivals like this!

When you look back on your earlier work such as “Mellom Skogkledde Aaser”  and “Fra Underverdenen” , What do you think of them now?
Back in 94 when I created Kampfar I had a clear vision of the outcome of it all. In 94 Kampfar really created something new and unique and I`m of course still very proud of this. Even though the production of these albums is suffering from the early period itself, some of these songs are still one of my favorites to play live. So I have nothing to be embarrassed about here if I can put it that way?

What are you looking forward to the most about The Black Path Tour and have you ever toured or met Vreid and Secrets Of The Moon before?
To tour means to get back to all the “Dirty” Clubs again. But that also means that we meet our most loyal supporters in the “Kampfar Horde” and that means a lot to us as a band. Otherwise we wouldn’t have toured to be honest.
S.O.T.M, I don’t know to much about, but I hope it will be an interesting meeting and a good band to tour with.

Vreid is something complete different since we know each other all the way back from the “Windir” times actually. We did also a tour together in 2009 so we have the same taste in whisky so that works fine indeed.

Do you have any messages for the metal fans here in the States.
We have so far played Europe up and down 5 times now. So its about time to finally enter the States soon, And I can tell you we`re closer than ever now.., So we`ll just have to see what happens. It makes me really proud to be able to travel around and doing gigs all over, and to meet peoples that have traveled for up to 10 hours just to see a Kampfar show. This is for me so much more real than just selling a lot of albums. This is what makes me really humble and proud in what we are doing.

Hope to experience this in the States also soon too


Editors Note:  At press time, it was announced Kampfar will be touring here in the States!  Go to their website for tour dates!  The local Los Angeles date will be September 9th at the world famous Whisky on the Sunset Strip with Vreid and NecronomicoN!!!

Kampfar Official Home Page


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