Last week we had the opportunity to chat with Cris Frederiksen guitarist of Danish metal band Svartsot about their new album Maledictus Eris, the current state of the band and future plans, this is what he told us:
1. Where the idea of write about the black plague in Denmark came from?
We basically got tired of the Viking/pagan label that some have seen fit to force upon us, as this was never what Svartsot is about. We have always had very mixed sources of inspiration for our lyrics, starting from before the Viking age and leading right up to folklore collected in the 18th century. So we decided we’d write an album that had nothing to do with Vikings, and seeing as we’ve always had a strong medieval feel to the music – which became even stronger for this album – the medieval period was the obvious choice.
The decision to write an album about the Black Death first came about after a few tracks had been written. The music had taken a more somber turn for this album, and we needed to find a more serious subject matter. The Black Death was discussed for some of the first tracks, and the more we researched into it, the more opportunities we found in it. There was even some scope for the few “positive” sounding tracks on the album. So the album pretty quickly became a concept album.
2. How was the experience to work again with Lasse Lammert and LSD studios on the making of Maledictus Eris?
We have a pretty good relationship – both working and now also private – to Lasse, so it was a pleasure to work with him again. In many ways it wasn’t that different to the recording of the last album, but in other ways it was a far more complicated process. The material is a lot more complex on this album, and this of course was reflected in the actual recording process. I think also we used Lasse more as a producer this time, and bounced more ideas around with him than we had done on “Mulmets Viser”. But seeing as Lasse knows us all now, it made the process a lot more smooth running than it probably would have been with a new producer. Although Lasse is very much a perfectionist, he knows how to get the best out of us without making us feel awkward. Besides that we’re very happy with the way both albums have turned out, and I can’t see any reason for us to change him out for future albums.
3. The artwork of the album is really impressive, who made it? And what is the meaning behind it?
The artwork for the album was done by a Hungarian artist called Gyula Havancsák, who has also worked with bands such as Destruction, Annihilator, Grave Digger and Týr amongst many others. There isn’t any hidden message or anything behind the picture, but it is a kind of stylized view of the Black Death, with the central figure representing the plague in human form. He has just taken a victim – the young woman hanging in his arms – and around him are other victims – the young man, the priest, and the mother and child. That his eyes are covered by the banner suggests that death is blind and takes whatever is in its reach. The ship represents the way the disease seems to have spread – along seaways and trade routes – and on the ship a sick sailor is vomiting from the railings (one of the symptoms of the plague). The picture is kept to blues, maintaining the dark image, and the red as a contrast. For me the red also symbolizes the fact that the disease was carried around the body in the blood, attacking the internal organs first. The roses the priest is holding are from a tale Gyula found about priests and survivors making rose garlands to ward of the plague.
There are a lot of differences in many ways, so it’s difficult to know where to start! But at the same time, I also feel there are many direct developments from “Mulmets…”, or even right back to “Ravnenes… “
I think the main differences are the more serious attitude towards the music in general, the addition of Swedish bagpipes and even a song that is sung rather than growled. With this album we’ve left most of the rowdiness of the first two albums behind us, and concentrated more on atmospherics and layering of the music. This of course has also resulted in a more serious lyrical theme than on the past albums. This complexity also means that the album is nowhere near as accessible as “Ravnenes…” was, and some listeners may need to listen to the album several times before they get the full picture. This process was started on “Mulmets…”, and is definitely the way will continue for future albums. I am personally not interested in writing another one-dimensional album like “Ravnenes…”, as I find them extremely boring in the long run.
Although “Mulmets…” didn’t appear to get the best critique after the release, many now say that the album is far better than “Ravnenes…”, and I think this will probably be the case for “”maledictus eris”” too. As far as we are concerned, it is the best album we’ve recorded so far and marks the start of a new era for Svartsot.
5. Are there any plans to tour Europe or any other places anytime soon?
We stand in the unfortunate situation that we don’t have an agent that can decidedly deal with worldwide booking for us right now. Our Danish/Scandinavian booker is doing what he can, but his main contact area is of course Denmark. So booking for outside of Denmark isn’t that easy for us at the present time. We do have a couple of shows in Germany, and our agent is working with some other plans, but there are unfortunately no European tours planned for the time being. We hope of course to be able to find a suitable booking agent to deal with worldwide booking as soon as possible, as we would love to get out on the road in Europe again soon, and hopefully make it to other places too.
6. What is the next step on Svartsot career?
Apart from finding a booker to deal with worldwide booking, we don’t have any major plans. We really want to get out and play outside of Denmark again, so that would be the next plan after sorting the booking agent situation. I’m also just slowly starting to work on new material, but I want to give myself more time for the next album. Writing two albums in relative quick succession was pretty hard, and I have therefore taken a break in writing since I finished writing material for “maledictus eris”. Normally I have at least one track on the go, so it was a bit strange for me to not write anything. But generally we take things as they come in this band, so not having any big plans is quite normal for us.