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INTERVIEWSInterview with Iscariah from "Arrow Lords Of Metal" (December 2001 - January 2002)
Next February the new Immortal sees the light of day. A fine release, reflecting the ice-cold nature of the Nordic climate. "Lords Of Metal" spoke to bassplayer Iscariah.
Hail Iscariah! How do people in general feel about your new album?
The promo's have been send out a couple of weeks ago and the response is pouring in at the moment. We get very high ratings in the "RockHard", "MetalHammer" and other reviews indicate good impressions too. Abbath and I have been in the Nuclear Blast office all day, we've done like thirty interviews so far. I hope that Nuclear Blast can push us even further that Osmose could. We didn't leave Osmose because we thought that they were doing bad job, but simply because we thought Nuclear Blast could promote us even better, especially in Germany.
The album is quite different from your previous CD. "Damned In Black" was one hundred percent metal, but pretty one-dimensional: you would have to be deaf in case you don't get it. The music on "Sons Of Northern Darkness" is different, more technical and takes some time to get into. And with a duration of 50 minutes it is longer than any of your other albums. How does "Sons Of Northern Darkness" fit in with the rest of the albums of Immortal?
It fits in really well, most people think that our roots really show on this album. I see it as a compliment that you think the album takes some time to get into, because that means that the album has the finesse that we wanted it to have. It's good when you have to listen to it couple of times, because that way the songs will stay with you longer. They are indeed pretty long, have slightly longer riffs and more instrumental parts. We timed the bridges and the breaks more accurately, which makes the album more interesting to listen to. It's very different album than "Damned In Black", which was a very heavy and compact album. We toured a lot in the last two years, became tighter and more acquainted to each other. We've matured as musicians and professionals and that's reflected in the music. We pushed Immortal in a direction where it still sounds fresh yet also familiar.
So basically what you say is that you have stuff on this album that you couldn't have done two or three years ago.
Yeah, I mean, there are ideas on this album that Abbath wanted to do six years ago but felt that the band wasn't ready up until now. The song "My Winter Cold" is one of those ideas. All the events and experiences from the last years have snowballed into the songs that we put on the album. There was no plan behind it, it is just the way it turned out. "Sons Of Northern Darkness" is the next chapter in the history of Immortal, nothing more and nothing less.
Some people I have spoken to, claim that Immortal goes back to the "Blizzard Beasts" and "Battles In The North" on this album.
Well, perhaps. But there wasn't a preoccupied masterplan behind "Sons Of Northern Darkness", it just came out this way. You know, it is really hard to answer this question because we're on the outside looking out. Perhaps I could give you a better answer in a couple of months. But there is a truth in what you say. Demonaz rediscovered some influences that he had lost for years, the same inspirations that he had when he did the "Battles In The North"-album.
I must admit that I wasn't expecting this. After hearing the "Damned In Black" album and your deal with Nuclear Blast I somehow assumed that this album would sound more commercial.
You mean more chore-verse-chore stuff? Well, we didn't want to do that. We expressed our feelings on this album, and didn't really take the public's opinion into account. "Damned In Black" sold a lot (over 100.000 copies – Ferdi) but it won't matter much if this album is going to sell less, because that has never been our main objective.
Why did you choose the name "Sons Of Northern Darkness" for your new album?
We came up with a handful of possible titles for this album and eventually decided that this one fits us best. It's very cold, very Immortal. It sounds poetic, and it fits in with the lyrics of the album. It's a monument to our heritage, both as a metalband as well as inhabitants from Norway.
Immortal used the same name for the 1999 tour with Marduk. Did you have to fight with Marduk over who could use this album as a title?
You know, we haven't even asked Marduk if we could use the title, hahaha! Perhaps we should've, I don't know. Oh fuck, perhaps Marduk is gonna send some fucking anthrax-envelopes to our houses now, oh shit no! Hehehe, but seriously: I don't think that they mind: the name fits our lyrics better than theirs.
Immortal consists of you, Horgh and longtime member Abbath. How stable is the line-up nowadays?
We've been together now in this line-up for almost three years and I would say that this line-up is very stable. We work well together as people as well as professionals. When someone writes a part of a song that someone in the band doesn't like than that person can speak up and tell the truth without fearing that he insults that person, so no harm is done. Immortal is a better unit now than it was a couple of years ago. How long do I think that I'll stay in the band? Well, sometimes I get home from a tour and feel all fucked up and tired and I think "to hell with it all", but in the end I'm quite pleased with it, and can easily see myself playing with Immortal for the next ten years.
What is Demonaz's part of the band nowadays?
He's still a part of Immortal, he is our fourth member. He doesn't write any music anymore, but he writes the lyrics and does a lot of the managing, he was very involved with the negotiations with Nuclear Blast.
This must seem like a very odd situation to some. He still writes part of the songs, does lot of other work, yet he isn't on the covers and doesn't play live anymore.
Yeah, it is a rather unique situation. But we all feel comfortable with it, it feels very good to still have him with us. It says a lot about him as a person and about his dedication to this band.
How is Demonaz doing? Any signs of recovery from his injury?
It is getting better. There was a point where he couldn't even lift his hand of wash his own fucking hair, but that's thankfully over now. He can do quite a lot with his hand, but not to the point where he can tour or rehearse for days. We still have hope that he'll recover and fully return to Immortal, it's not impossible. In that case we would simply carry on as a four-piece. But we've got to be realistic, and at the moment there's no way that he can perform in Immortal on the same level as he did in the past.
It must've been pretty hard for you in the beginning to join this band. Did you feel a lot of pressure at the time?
Yeah, in the beginning I was shaking like hell because I had never played live before. Immortal went through a lot of changes before I joined them. And everybody was expecting the band to look for a new guitarist, but instead Abbath changed to guitar and all of a sudden they were looking for a bassplayer. I live next door to Abbath and frequently hang out with him, so when he asked me if I wanted to audition I instantly agreed. Yes, I did have my doubts at the time, but because I felt that this was a chance that I might never get again I decided to jump into the fire. Three weeks later we went on tour. Man, I seriously fucked up some of the first shows! But you know, when you're on tour you can't close your eyes for your own shortcomings when there's another show coming up tomorrow night. So I was forced to push my abilities, and by the end of the tour I had a lot more self-confidence. And Abbath, Demonaz and Horgh helped me a lot, these guys made me feel really comfortable like I was a full member.
Immortal is a well-known band, and the first couple of bootlegs have already appeared in the stores. What is your opinion on these recordings?
It is irritating. Somebody else benefits from our music without having our consent or authority. We try to stop it whenever possible, but cant prevent everything. We know that there are fans who buy the bootlegs because they support everything we do, but in a way they are cheated just like we are because they pay for a crap product that's not an official Immortal-release. I've heard only one bootleg that doesn't sound absolutely terrible, it was recorded at the Wâldrock Festival in 1999, but it's still crap. And we also felt really angry when some asshole released a bootleg CD called "The True Kings Of Norway". Somebody had taken some 7"-es from us, Ancient, Dimmu Borgir, Bathory and some other Black Metal bands and burned them on a CD. That thing destroyed the whole idea behind the 7", and that's irritating. And the worst thing is that we're not even informed about it: someone out there is making money out of our work, and doesn't even have the decency to inform us about it or send us a CD. That's just disrespectful to us.
One of the best ways to prevent bootlegs is of course to release a live-album.
Yes, that's one of the things that we're planning to do. We talked about this with Nuclear Blast, and we'll record all shows on the upcoming No Mercy-festivals and the tour with Hypocrisy. We'll choose the best recordings and put those on CD.
This months issues of the "Rock Hard" and the "Aardschok" had pictures of you guys without coprsepaint on. This came as a bit of a shock to some, because to the best of my recollection I have never seen pictures of you without paint on.
Hehehe, I know what you mean. You know, we had this listening party in our hometown Bergen where journalists from all over the world flew in to listen to the record. Some of them wanted to have some exclusive pictures of us, so we took them to one of the mountains where they took some photographs of us without paint. We're relaxed with that. Don't get me wrong, the corpsepaint is very important within the Immortal-concept. It is a part of the band we are. But it's not a rule that we enforce to the point of ridiculousness. I mean, I don't wear corpsepaint all fucking day, that would be fucking stupid. So even though we prefer pictures of us with paint on our faces we accept some paintless pictures every now and then. But we're not ditching the paint, never. As long as we perform under the name Immortal we'll wear it on stage and on the CD-covers.
Author: Ferdi (© 2001-2002 "Arrow Lords of Metal", The Netherlands)
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