With the bludgeoning and bloodied attack that is ‘Angrep’, Gjendød have delivered their most uncompromising and hateful album to date. One half of this unruly Trondheim duo, KK [drums, vocals] discusses the genesis and station of Gjendød’s thunderous third full-length, the insufferable plague of Christianity, a forebear’s brush with Spanish flu, the inevitable eradication of human existence and standing in a house without mirrors.
‘Angrep’ sounds like the angriest and most intense Gjendød release thus far, awash with fury, contempt and sheer horror. It’s a fitting statement for the insane times we’re living in but how instrumental was the madness sweeping the planet since early 2020 in shaping this record? I believe the conception of the album goes back to 2018, so its genesis was a lengthy process?
“The pandemic circus didn’t shape this record at all, since it was already written before it happened. We decided long ago to make a fast album, then a slow one. It came out quite intense, yes, and angry from time to time. But not just that. A lot of different feelings behind the war-wall. We won’t make anything like this album again so we want people to hate it.
“I hope there won’t come much books and movies, etc., now about this virus shit. At least I won’t read or watch anything about it. In the end it’s all about buying a lot of toilet paper. So if me myself would write a lyric or two about it, it would be on toilet paper so I can flush it down afterwards.
“Yeah, it took a long time to make this record, but we just used around two hours a week, since that’s all the time we had for it, so we didn’t drown in the album for two years, if anyone thinks that. We have watched people work daily with the same album for years, and it is not a tempting scene. It can be like touching a river.”
I think it’s fair to suggest that the past twelve months have been the most surreal in living memory. The events played out with almost military precision on the global stage have been unprecedented. Some people believe that the draconian restrictions implemented in practically every nation are a justified response to the threat posed by a dangerous new virus, while others suspect that something way more sinister is occurring. Would you agree that the systematic removal of basic liberties and freedoms – the right to congregate, socialise, meet and touch friends and family members, work or run a business, attend a gig or sports event – amounts to tyranny?
“Yes, maybe those who do those things feel that way. I’m still awoken at night by party lions, so I feel this ‘tyranny’ doesn’t work. I never touch my friends or hug my peripheral family. This isn’t France. Or Italy. Or Turkey. Or Spain. The virus spread so fast in those countries because people can’t take their hands and lips away from each other. Here, in Norway, we barely look at each other when we meet and greet. The natural thing would be to embrace and get warm in this coldness, but no.
“The events aren’t really unprecedented. My great grandfather had the Spanish flu. He lost his hair. Something my grandfather and father – who lost their hair in their early twenties – inherited. Me, I still have my long beautiful hair in my forties, so I’m not be-Spanished. The hair smells like a flu sometimes though, but it might be flux.”
The impact on culture and arts – and therefore music – has been particularly severe, with live events no longer possible in most countries. I know Gjendød is not a live band so this doesn’t affect you directly, but how damaging is it to musicians in general to have concerts and festivals indefinitely scrapped? And fans, too? Bands performing on stage was a part of life we all took for granted and it’s depressing without that. Perhaps it only really affects career musicians who make a living from touring and makes little difference to the underground?
“It certainly does not affect me because I’m an album person. If I am going to a gig again it has to be something really special. It has been years since I went to see a band, I can’t remember when. Used to go to a lot of them before, but hello, it’s a ridiculous and social culture. I would rather listen to a live album than go to a concert. I’m still so fed up with it just by thinking of it! I don’t miss it at all. Entering the arena passing drunk people laughing loudly with Thousand Island Dressing on their faces, smoking their cigarettes and spitting when they talk to me … no thanks.
“And Black Metal, man, it is just not a genre that is fit for concerts. I don’t want to see other styles of music either. I just want to sit home and listen to music or read. Other people can do whatever they want. But I don’t care if they’re not allowed to watch their crappy concerts and smell the incense from their clown-painted or caped id(i)ols.”
In some respects, it feels like we are extras inside a sci-fi movie, with no influence over what happens next. Although I’ve always been a pessimist by nature, it’s difficult not to sense more strongly than ever that the future could be bleak, perhaps even hopeless. Technology and science have brought many positives over the years but things are moving too fast now. In the dystopian future – coming soon to every neighbourhood near you – genetically-modified humans could be stripped of their individuality, personal choices and free will as smart technology and AI become more prevalent, while our every move is surveyed and dictated through digital means. Those who resist could easily be erased from the grid by having their paltry few remaining rights removed. How did we end up here?
“A dystopian future – or a utopian future, for that case – when all comes to all, would not happen, because we all need to wake up, eat, do shit, shit and sleep. Things change all the time anyway. We live in a sci-fi future with all the things and apps you can read this on – there should always be some … dynamic! Yes, that’s the thing! Downs and Up syndromes in anything, forever, in short or long terms. That is how everything has always worked.”
But does it even matter if humans are deleted? The misanthropic spirit that is synonymous with Black Metal would surely decree that we deserve everything we get. We haven’t exactly covered ourselves in glory over the millennia and perhaps we are now reaping what we have sown? Human nature is despicable and the planet might be better without us…
“Humans will be deleted some time, and something else will come. Something else that can’t read this. What I suddenly realized was that we are ugly. All human beings. Even the most beautiful girls, those winning prizes for their looks in the same kind of competitions dogs compete in, are also very ugly, seen from the future species’ view. They can’t read this but they’ll have an opinion on beauty, that’s for sure. Yes, this planet will be better with pretty species.”
One thing that is certain is that god isn’t going to save us. It’s estimated that there are more than two billion Christians in the world – over 30% of the planet’s population. Isn’t this completely astonishing? What is wrong with people? Another huge hoax that the masses have swallowed hook, line and sinker! What kind of weak man sees Jesus as a hero? And what breed of warped individual listens to twisted, deviant clergymen for guidance?
“I’m just glad that I don’t know any Christians. Or stupids, as I call them. ‘Heey I’m not stupid, I’m an engineer!’ Well, people can still take an education while being blown in the head. In the end I think no one deserves a brain at all, because no one can use it well enough, creating, manipulating or do me favours.
“It takes a looong time between each time I stump upon one of those Christians. This place is quite the opposite to the bible belt which is located south in Norway. Even at jobs I have had none who believed in this shit. But baptising their children they do, the stupid bastards.
“They built a new church for Polish workers here in Trondheim a couple of years ago, for their branch of Christianity, the C’holics. They could have just used one of the empty churches instead for their airshit worship.
“It is pretty obvious to me that religions are fake, but I guess it is harder to see that for people growing up being told that this Jesus and god shit is real, and that Christmas – or jul, as we call it here – is all about this hippie character. But jul is much older than feces christ, or bæsjus tissus, as we call him here.”
‘Angrep’ is a particularly aggressive onslaught, even by Gjendød standards. I’m pretty sure I detected Death Metal influences in there this time and don’t recall noticing this on your previous material. While your music has always been imbued with violence and venom, the new album does appear to be angrier and more hostile. The distinction is quite subtle and there is still some devilish melodicism and plenty of variety evident, but it does feel like you perhaps have reined it in a little bit this time around and adopted a less restrained approach?
“I don’t know. We didn’t know if anyone would like it. We never do really. But this time we really doubted. This monotone machinegun drumming that took me all that time might go yey or ney. One can go earblind after a while if one works too much with the same. Really a one-time experience, but that is what we try to do, different stuff.”
Thematically and conceptually, where does ‘Angrep’ fit into the Gjendød discography? What is the role of this album within the overall journey or path that you are on? Is there any important concept behind this album or an over-riding association of lyrical themes? While song titles like ‘Vår lykke er vårt hat’ and ‘Ikke mye håp’ are suitably negative and direct, I’m especially intrigued by the much more unusual and somewhat cryptic ‘I et hus uten speil’. Could you possibly divulge any information about the meaning behind that one?
“With ‘Nedstigning’, we descended under earth, experienced with some demos, tried to dig us up, but fell down again. With ‘Krigsdøger’, we felt a war was coming, the ‘Motstand’ EP was some kind of resistance. ‘Angrep’ is the war. Will we win or lose? Next album will be after the war. Lyrics might fit or not to the overall concept. We have no hard rules about that. What fits fits. The overall concept is more like a guide for us. We can’t make the same album twice. They must be very different from each other.
“‘I et hus uten speil’ … it’s a bit hard to explain, but it’s clear in my head. It might be harassing old fables and myths, really to rape and piss on them. As if you thought everything was better before, at least you know everything is better before you DIE, there where you stand in a house without mirrors.”
Often when I’m listening to Black Metal, I can’t really hear the bass guitar. With some bands, even though they claim to have a bassist, I find myself wondering is there any bass there at all. Gjendød, however, makes full use of bass, which is decidedly prominent throughout your songs. The riffs, drums and vocals are amazing, too, but those rumbling bass lines reverberating through everything instil a unique character into your music. Is there any reason why you place so much emphasis on bass? Do you still compose a lot of your songs on the bass and is this one of the reasons why it is so integral to the end result?
“We have to play bass, so why hide it? I think a lot of good Black Metal has good bass. Actually, since always. Venom had fretless bass solos dammit! But if I take a look at the Norwegian bands … wait… ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’, Thorns, Dødheimsgard / Ved Buens Ende, Strid, Ulver … ehmm, not using the bass must be a new phenomenon, so those who forget should rather explain THEIR reason why, because it is just as important as the guitars to create the feeling.”
The vinyl editions of both ‘Skygger fra dødsriket’ and ‘Krigsdøger’ have just been issued via Darker Than Black Records. How important is it to you to get your music out on this format? Do you prefer the vinyl / analogue experience over CDs personally and, if so, why?
“I pretty much took CDs for granted before, but now I really like them better and better. Bought a lot in the ‘nineties since they were easier to get, but I always preferred and collected LPs. I still buy all three formats. It is quite important to get our stuff on LPs so we can hear it on our record players if we get old. CD and MC too.”
For a relatively new band, Gjendød have enjoyed four fairly prolific years already. Was any new material written or recorded during the year of plague and pestilence? How did you find the experience of composing during lockdown / restrictions / isolation and did these circumstances impact much on the actual music and lyrical content?
“Hmmm, we have just written around three-four songs in 2020. We finished ‘Angrep’, but I just think maybe one of the songs was written in the 2020 calendar year, and that was very early, before the plague. We wrote a depressive Christmas album in January 2020 for another project, not metal at all, where I predicted that the plague had happened that year. Of course, no one believed me when I said I wrote it before Covid-19, people think albums are written and printed in a month. But anyway, clairvoyant I am.
“I would like to thank the black plague that loosened the hand of Christianity by exterminating the religious leaders. Bring back my black plague to me, oceanwise.”