SLECHTVALK is an extreme metal band from The Netherlands, originally a solo project by singer/guitarist Shamgar, formerly of Ascension and Mordax, and formed in 1999. The band has achieved chart success in the metal circles of its country, and the Dutch press sometimes refers to them as the country's best black metal band. Slechtvalk plays extreme metal with folk influences, as well as strong musical loans from symphonic metal. Lyrical themes include fantasy, epic medieval wars and Vikings. The band's fourth album 'A Forlorn Throne' was released and with this CD the band's style has slightly changed from symphonic and folk influenced black metal to epic extreme metal with death, black and most importantly viking metal influences. Are they real vikings? Ehem, let's not go there, huh? RockUnited-Urb had a quick chat with their growler/guitarist about 'A Forlorn Throne' and various schtuff. Here's SHAMGAR...
How has the reaction to your latest CD been?
Shamgar: We have received many good reviews from international magazines and the response we hear from fans are also very positive.
Any favourite songs and lyrical highlights on "A Forlorn Throne" and why?
Shamgar: We have many favorite songs on 'A Forlorn Throne'. It's always difficult to make a proper setlist for shows as we'd like to play all of them. Lyrically we like the concept of 'Enthroned' alot, upon which the cover artwork is based. 'Forsaken' and 'Desolate' are very personal to me as I've put alot of my own misery in these songs.
What's the story/idea behind a title such as 'A Forlorn Throne'?
Shamgar: The title 'A Forlorn Throne' is mostly based upon the song 'Enthroned', which is about a warrior on his way to a battle that comes across a ruin during his journey. When he sits down on the throne an enchanting spectacle starts to unfold in the mists before him and the longer he watches it, the more he finds himself trapped in its spell. At a certain point he is too far gone to be able to break free from it and turns into a statue. It's a metaphor about the dangers of addictions, like drugs, alcohol and other things, which seem great at first, but eventually lead to your own destruction. Ohtar, who wrote the lyrics, once had a friend who had a severe alcohol addiction and knowing that it would kill him, he was unable and
Any overall theme of mood that you're trying to capture while writing songs?
Shamgar: We wanted the album to become a bit darker and more agressive, compared to our previous ones. We wanted each song to become a fist in the face of those who stand in our way
Why does one love dark 'Viking Metal' if you're from The Netherlands and not Scandinavia?
Shamgar: In our opinion 'viking Metal' is some kind of proud/warrior-like atmosphere the music creates. It's mostly about attitude/atmosphere than something else. I once heard of a spanish band which call themselves viking metal and all I thought was 'good for them'. I think it's useless to create a different stylename for every bloodline an artist might have if the music still sounds alike, otherwise you'd get Saxon Metal, Frankish Metal, Goth-Metal, Roman-Metal, Hun Metal, Moorish Metal and so on and so on. If you go down that path you'll end up with thousands of different style names and you'll have to admit that's a bit silly. Stylenames exist to give people an idea of what a band sounds like, before they buy an album or visit a show. Besides if you dig deep enough most europeans will have some traces of viking blood anyway, especially those like me, who have strong roots in the northern regions of the European M ainland and the vikingblood of most scandinavians has already been watered down with Slavic or Germanic blood.
What's your new record like in comparison to your previous ones? (and the violet hour)'
Shamgar: It's more agressive, darker and technical compared to our previous ones. The songs are a bit longer than on our previous albums, but there is much more variety within the songs, so you won't get bored easily. Also we've recorded 'A Forlorn Throne' with some of the best people the metalscene has to offer: Johan Örnborg from Studio Mega (known from Amon Amarth, Opeth and many others) engineered and produced the album and Jens Bogren from Fascination Street did the mixing and mastering. The result is an excellent production that can match other sub-top releases within the scene.
Does your vision for music get affected at all by trends and changes?
Shamgar: We try not to follow certain trends just because it's popular, but we do listen to other bands and if they think of something new that sounds cool and could sound awesome in combination with our music, we might want to incorporate it into our own music. We mostly want to keep our music interesting to ourselves, try new things we haven't done before and see if it works out.
How did the band get its name? Any meaning behind the monicker?
Shamgar: When I formed 'Slechtvalk' 11 years ago, most songs for the first album 'Falconry' were already finished and all I needed was a proper name for it. English names sounded too cliché, so I wanted something dutch. During the time I've seen some documentary about Peregrine Falcons (Slechtvalk is dutch for 'Peregrin Falcon') and I was impressed by this creature, so I decided to name my project after it. The dutch name Slechtvalk is a combination of the dutch verb 'slechten' (which means 'to tear or break down') and the noun 'valk' (=falcon) and this name is based on the hunting style of this particular falcon. In England the bird was in earlier times also known as Sligh-falcon, which is similar to the dutch meaning.
How much of an influence has the likes of Bathory and Samael had on your music?
Shamgar: We're not really influenced by the first generation blackmetalbands. Most of us started listening to blackmetal during the mid- or late-90's and a band like Samael was already experimenting with other styles we didn't like. It were bands like Dark Funeral, Enslaved, Immortal, Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir, Dawn and Unlord which became our main influence and we only incorporated the viking elements into our music during the preparations of our third album and for these we were mostly influenced by Enslaved, Falkenbach, Manegarm, Thyrfing, Moonsorrow, Amon Amarth and others .
So, who are your influences and heroes? (music-wise)
Shamgar: Grimbold and Seraph are huge fans of Opeth and they let their playing style be influenced by their music. We all like Immortal alot, because they make good blackmetal and don't take themselves too seriously like many other underground blackmetalheads seem to do, as if it's a crime to have fun. My personal all time favorite blackmetal band is the Swedish "Dawn", because I love the epic blackmetal they make. Next to these bands we ofcourse have many other influence ranging from Amon Amarth to Empyrium, most of them I've already mentioned earlier in this interview.
What's the 'Dutch' scene like for your type of music at the moment?
Shamgar: The dutch blackmetal scene seems to have focused itself mostly on underground oldschool blackmetal. Although shows of Immortal and the likes still attract a big crowd, most dutch blackmetal bands stick to the more oldschool types of blackmetal. There are very few bands that try to rise above the underground scene, it seems that most prefer blackmetal to be very underground.
What's the best/worst thing about being a musician?
Shamgar: The best thing is that you're able to create something out of nothing and that other people like it. the worst thing is that it's near impossible to make a living out of it, so you often have to abandon certain projects because of the lack of time.
What do you do when you're not playing or listening to music?
Shamgar: Work to pay for all the bills, spend time with family, friends etc. All the modern-day entertainment forms: concerts, movies, gaming. We also like to take a stroll through the forest, especially Ohtar who sometimes camps for the night.
What 3 words describe you best?
Blood, mud & paint
What is your guilty secret?
Shamgar: Except for playing metal, I often prefer silence over listening to metal, because when I just listen to metal I get a bit uneased and want to play it myself.
What's your favourite 1980's album(s)?
Shamgar: Metallica's "Ride the Lightning" probably. One of the first album's that got me into metal.
What song(s) do you identify with the most? (sorry, you can't pick one of your own)
Shamgar: Personally: 'Falcula' of Dawn pretty much sums up the darker side of me, though nowadays I rather ventmy frustrations in other ways.
What are your future plans?
Shamgar: As Slechtvalk we plan to record several more albums and play many shows. Personally music will always be a big part of my life and if I find the time I'd like to record some of my other projects as well in the following years.
If there's anything you'd like to say, add, promote, please do:Shamgar: Don't assume anything unless you've done some research yourself.
Urban 'Wally' Wallstrom
27 August 2010