Interview by Mass of Hard Album Review
A promising stoner doom outfit from Bergen, Norway, Bismarck is a band that could garner many fans with their sophomore studio album, Oneiromancer, released earlier last year on April 17th. It was met with mostly positive reviews and together with their strong, positive presence across various social media, promoted the band further. I got the chance to know them via their Instagram page and could get the chance to sit them for an interview. Questions were answered by the whole band and here is what we discussed.
First of all, welcome to Noob Heavy and thank you for your time. I would like to begin with the formation of the band. Where and how did you come up with the idea of this band?
Thanks for having us! The band started with Trygve and Eirik’s shared taste in music and a desire to play slow, heavy music. They played around with the idea of starting a band, brought along Tore to play drums and started jamming out every now and then. Trygve got to know Anders at the university, and he soon joined as well. Together they started writing the songs that would later become “Urkraft”. The band needed a vocalist and Anders asked Torstein, knowing about his vocal talents from another local act in the city. The line-up was complete in spring 2015.
And as for the name of the band, is it taken from Otto von Bismarck, the German statesman? Why did you choose this name?
It sounds heavy, that’s all! We have a shared interest in European history and the name is taken from the German chancellor, but it is by no means intended as a tribute [to] him, nor the Nazi battleship or anything like that.
You pretty much wander freely in the doom domain, from sludge to stoner to psychedelic. Is it a form of experimentation with the music or is it precisely what you intend to sound like?
Yeah, that’s a pretty good observation. We don’t feel locked to a specific genre and we kind of have this attitude that no idea is bad until we have tried it. The focus is more on riffs, structure and quality. Good riffs, no fat! However, when writing “Oneiromancer” we knew that we wanted to have a certain Middle eastern vibe to the sound, picking up from the ending track of “Urkraft”. So it’s both; a lot of experimenting and a vague plan of what we want the overall sound or atmosphere to be.
Only two albums in the business and you already have a fanbase. You are quick to respond to your fans and have strong social media presence. What do you think of your fans and how is your relationship with them? How important are they to you?
The people attending our concerts, buying our albums and spreading the word are much of the reason we keep on doing this. The fact that other people than ourselves take pleasure in what we do is extremely rewarding. So, a huge thanks to all our amazing fans out there!
Tell us about your debut album Urkraft, released in 2018. Was it as representative of you as you wanted it to be? How well was it received?
I think it’s fair to say that “Urkraft” was very much a learning experience for us, both making it and promoting it. We knew that we wanted to sound really heavy and have that ambient, post-rock thing as well. Certainly, loud amps and an array of pedals get you a long way, but it’s very challenging to recreate what we do live on a studio recording. After recording “Urkraft” in several local recording studios (even our old rehearsal room was used for a lot of it) we asked Chris Fielding to glue the whole mess together in the mix, being fans of his previous work with acts like Conan, Winterfylleth and Electric Wizard. We released and promoted the album ourselves, before we got picked up by Apollon Records. They re-released the album some months later under their label. Our music doesn’t exactly scream mainstream appeal, but it was well received in the underground scene and got great reviews and attention; even from the mainstream press. In retrospect, we know a thing or two we could have improved or done different, but it’s still an album we hold in high regard. Some of the best music we’ve ever written is on that album.
How did Urkraft lead to Oneiromancer? Do you follow where you left on your previous record?
“Tahaghghogh Resalat” on “Oneiromancer” is picking up where we left things with “The Usher” on “Urkraft”. That was intentional. But from there we’re moving in a slightly different direction. “Oneiromancer” has many of the same elements obviously, but it’s musically more diverse. On “Urkraft” we had this idea to keep things minimalistic; simple, repetitive riffs, pentatonic scales etc. which worked well for that album; but we didn’t want to get stuck in some sort of formula. We like to evolve as a band, try out different things. We’ll never make the same album twice.
Oh! I’m happy to hear that! This is where things get interesting for me I guess. The first track Thaghghogh Resalat is in Persian only, sung by Armin Amookhteh. Why this Persian track and why Armin? Was he a friend?
We shuffled around with different ideas for this song. It basically started off as a concept Anders made, something that would work as an intro to the album. The initial idea was to make Torstein lay down some throat singing along with Persian folk instruments. After experimenting in the studio, we developed the idea further and realized we wanted to make it a full song rather than just a quick intro, and more of a fusion between heavy psych and Persian folk. That’s when the idea of using Persian vocals emerged. Anders wrote the lyrics in English and a friend of him from Iran helped him translate it to Persian. Armin was recommended by a producer here in Bergen, and we invited him to come over one day to try out ideas. He basically improvised the whole thing on the spot and that’s what ended up on the record.
You have a friend in Iran!!?? Brilliant! This Persian theme is also present on the album cover. It seems to be an ancient Persian king from Sassanid or Achaemenid dynasty or something, breathing out flames! I really liked this idea and this cover art was the thing that attracted me at first. Why this figure and why this flame?
The figure on the front cover is a Persian magi [magus] with holy fire bursting out from within.
Do you listen to Persian metal? Do you know any bands? Do you like any bands? Would you like to collaborate with any of them?
We listen to a lot of music, but regrettably we don’t know much about Persian metal bands. We did however listen to a lot of Persian and Kurdish folk music as inspiration for “Oneiromancer”, Shahram Nazeri and Seyed Khalil Alinezhad to name a few. We’ve heard there are Persian black metal bands incorporating folk music much like Norwegian black metals do, but this is still unexplored territory for us. It would definitely be cool to collaborate sometime. We actually did try to engage a few musicians from Teheran for “Oneiromancer”, but because of how things are it wasn’t exactly trivial to exchange files and coordinate stuff, and we gave up eventually. Hopefully things will change for the better someday.
Good choice Persian musicians. You have used the art of Vaderetro on the covers of your single The Seer (which features a Simorgh) and Oneiromancer; both are magnificent mind you. Tell us about the experience of working with this French duo.
We had a very specific idea on how we wanted the style of the artwork to be, but not the motif. We explained some of the lyrical concepts to the people at Vaderetro and this is what they came up with. They are a pleasure to work with and we couldn’t have been happier with the result. It fits the atmosphere of the album perfectly.
What do you sing about? What was your inspiration for the lyrics?
Anders wrote the lyrics for both “Urkraft” and “Oneiromancer”. During the last writing process, he was dreaming intensely and when the word “oneiromancer” appeared it became a creative trigger. The lyrics for “Oneriomancer” interweaves dream interpretation, ancient mythology and apocalyptic prophecy; like always with Bismarck it’s a fantasy universe which doesn’t necessarily mean anything besides being imagery; however, this time around it became more of a personal experience than before.
With all its ups and downs, 2020 is over. How was it for you?
The biggest letdown for us is that we haven’t been able to promote our album playing live for an audience. Thus, we had to change our focus. We’ve been promoting the album on social media platforms, did a live play-through of “Oneiromancer” and a live stream. On the positive side, we’ve had a lot of time to write new material for our next album and it sounds very promising.
I would love to hear that already! What will 2021 bring for us from Bismarck side?
A new album, and as soon as we’re done with this Covid thing, we’ll be playing live again!
Too bad I cannot join one of your live shows. Anyway, I want to thank you again for this interview. Any final remarks?
Remember to follow us on our social media accounts, it’s a great way to keep updated on concerts, upcoming tours, releases and so forth. If you enjoy our music, please consider buying our records and merch at Bandcamp. It’s one of the best ways to support independent bands these days when we’re not allowed to tour. Also, check out our live play-through of “Oneiromancer” on YouTube.