The Re-Emergence of Heiinghund
In the pre-Internet age, anonymity was easily curated. One could maintain an entire music career, in this case in the context of black metal, without ever divulging a true name, offer a clear picture, or even speak to the press -- it was an age of pure aesthetic and music. Grainy photos and music were the true kings of the age, defining black metal as this mysterious art form, rife with creative people who totally separate their art from their personhood.
So strikingly feeding off this anonymity-as-art philosophy is the legendary Sort Vokter's 1996 album Folkloric Necro Metal. Though heralded by the then-notable (and now retired) Vidar "Ildjarn" Våer, the rest of the band -- Nidhogg, Heiinghund, and Tvigygre -- were the subject of years of speculation. Some believed the album's harsh, hypnotic buzzing was even just the work of Idjarn himself, emblazoning the album's liner notes with photos of fellow shaved-head black metal aficionados as a fake-out. It wasn't until a 2013 snafu that the elusive Nidhogg briefly resurfaced, which brought about another question: what of the rest of Sort Vokter? The mystery remained.
Late last year, an unassuming Bandcamp surfaced, an artist using the moniker Heiinghund. At first, thoughts of "well, that's mildly tasteless, using another artist's moniker as one's own" surfaced, but there was this lingering what if element. Could this be the mystery person, this pseudonymous black metal enigma finding his way back into the fold more than twenty years later?
The music certainly spoke to a connection in sound -- buzzing and intense, but with an overwhelming psychedelic character -- and yet, it could be argued that anyone could emulate the "Sort Vokter sound" and potentially end up like this. It wasn't until the Heiinghund artist appeared in the unlikeliest place -- a Twitter account -- that the years of uncertainty and doubt found resolution.
Yes, this was Heiinghund, the man behind the photograph and album which spawned years of speculation and rumor, reappearing in the new age.
Celebrating the recent release of his second full-length album Draugkvad, Heiinghund, or the man behind the Heiinghund moniker at least, felt it necessary to offer us a rare opportunity to speak at length. In an interview with the artist, which you can read below, at least a modicum of context is finally given and process is laid out, but, in a classic sense, more shadows are cast. Pseudonymity still reigns.
Your return to the music world is unprecedented when compared to the other members of Sort Vokter, who have all totally withdrawn or never revealed themselves beyond Folkloric Necro Metal. What brought you back to black metal all these years later?
Returning to black metal after more than 20 years, was to make a musical statement first of all to myself. I missed the raw, unpolished, straight forward black metal of the early 1990s without the endless guitarmasturbation. So I decided to see if I still had it in me to make the music I liked. I didn't mean to release any of it originally, but as I started out recording It was as something possessed me and it wasn't really me making the music. The songs made themselves like if Heiinghund is a entity in himself. So I decided, or rather the music and Heiinghund decided, to release it to see if people liked it. I guess it is inevitable that people would compare it to Sort Vokter, and certainly the listener will find some likeness, at least in production and mix. But Heiinghund is a project on its own and and should be regarded as that and not a continuation of Folkloric Necro Metal as I have seen some has done.
Has this notion of an outside entity possessing you been a constant in your tenure as a black metal artist?
Yes, I think I had the same feeling back then. Immensely focused but at the same time everything is intuitive or as it was predestined to be played that way. I am only partly conscious when recording. And if I try to be in "control" I cannot make anything at all.
Although the process comes off as more automatic from your cognitive perspective, with everything incensed from an outside force, do you find this new project working toward any other goals or different atmospheres?
For atmospheres, I find that contrasts are a big part of the music. Like in the wild nature of Arctic Norway you can find both the raw, unforgiving, harsh and something fragile that are not quite reachable with the ordinary mind. By disharmonies, rawness and pushing the production beyond what is conceived as appropriate, can you still find the beautiful? Not quite touchable. Like the contrasts between the mountains and water, where the untouchable is represented by the thin veil of mist in the morning. On the upcoming album this becomes even more clear in my opinion as the borders are pushed even further. Others has defined Heiinghund to be atmospheric black metal but I have never been any good at following genres or definitions, or rather the music created are not taking that into consideration
In nature there is something ancient, dark and mighty. These powers are angered by humans behavior towards nature and will one day strike back finishing of humanity. Earth are better of without humanity and I look forward to that day. In the lyrics you find an appraisal of these forces either written by me or by old poets and skalds. (Norwegian; Skalder, not sure of the spelling). As for goals, you might say that homage to these ancient forces is part of it. For instance in Draugkvad I use an old Icelandic runestaff that are designed to awaken Draugr on the cover. And in Necromancer the runestaff used to sign the deal by the inheritor and the giver of necropants are used.
These old, nature-driven folktales and legends to which you just alluded have definitely been a cornerstone in your two eras as as black metal musician. What drove you to look toward these stories for inspiration?
Ever since I was a child, I have spent a lot of time in nature, feeling more home there than in society. Spending nights in nature alone gives you a certain contact with the forces and moods that dwells there. And, later in childhood, learning the norse mythology and folklore from people who still remember and uphold the old ways made it feel natural to me to use this context also in music.
Is there a different way you strive to communicate and celebrate these ancient stories in your current black metal efforts?
Heritage and the wisdom of the ancestors has always been a part of me. You can say that, since I grew older, using historical sources which convey the knowledge and heritage from the past is weighted more than before. In that way it's different.
From an American perspective, the idea of heritage is seen as something alien and entirely separate, given how our most of our ancestors left their homelands to come here. From your own Norwegian cultural perspective, what does heritage mean to you?
Heritage as I see it is what knowledge is in our blood, the ancestral knowledge. It is part of our identity. To us here in the Nordic, countries it means our bonds to the lands and the spirits that dwells here and our ancestors. Also, in a context much older than the Vikings we are known for, Christians has seeked to destroy those bonds and suppressed the old values and code of honor. But, the song is still there in our blood and the ancestors speak to us if we listen, and I strongly believe in embracing and integrating those values in my own life and how I conduct myself. For me, it is also my heritage is a way to see where I come from also in music. Its quite funny to see that there is a small but growing fanbase in Hungary, for instance, since my ancient forefather was King Belà IV of Hungary (not that that make me any kind of royalty, he has an estimated four millions descendants). It might be a bit far fetched, but I do like to think that there is a relation to the music I make, my ancestry, and how it is welcomed by different nations. Heritage is a very big subject and it is almost impossible to cover it all without writing a book about it.
Many peoples are confused today, they feel lost. Part of that, in my opinion, is loss of heritage. Heritage and where we come from is an important part of our identity as I see it, and many have lost theirs.
It is very apparent that this idea of refinding heritage and displaying that part of your identity is important to your art, especially in the Shamanic nature of your black metal. Keeping that idea in mind, how do you go about composing this very deep, soundscaped music?
Well, as earlier I mentioned it is not me who creates the music, rather the entity heiinghund or so I conceive it. That implies a certain state of being in a trance, [which is] not an unnatural state [for me] to be in, so it's not hard for me to do that, and I find it immensely creative. I kind of get a feeling that it is time to make some music, and then I start to do that. It is seldom that I have a notion on what to make, it kind of just happens. I often start out with guitar, and, after laying down a track, I often use a second or a third guitar track that harmonies or disharmonies with the other. In the production I try to take it as far as possible. How far can you take the rawness and noise and still, underneath, find beauty. Some have described my music as contemplative, and I will not oppose to that, but describing and labelling my music is not my task. I leave that to others.
Do you, as in the corporeal person, feel a sense of ownership over this music, even though it is the result of being a communicant?
Now that's a very good question which I had to ponder on for awhile. Yes, I do feel ownership for the music to the extent that I have produced it and made it available to people, but not to the extent that I have composed it.
Considering this element of possession and spiritual communication, was there any sort of resistance on your part to these elements during the lengthy period of time you spent away from black metal?
None at all, just life took other directions. Moving to other places, going to school, etc. There is a time and a place for everything. I guess you can say it's time to step forward, but there is also a time to step back.
When did you feel the spirit first re-emerge?
I am not sure if you can call it a spirit, though an entity and yet still a part of me. [I first felt it] when we made Folkloric Necro Metal, especially when we did the production.
Heiinghund had a short reappearance after Sort Vokter. He appears on the intro to Mactätus's Sorgvinter, which I produced and engineered for them. I believe that was the demo which gave them a contract on a French label [Editor's Note: He is referring to the infamous Embassy Productions].
The entity returned in 2010, as most of the Necro Mancer demo was recorded then. I put it away until 2017, when I remixed it, added "Hvisker Stille", and took some songs away. Among others, a cover of "Fra kilden til tjernet", which I composed and [my former bandmate] Nidhogg made the lyrics. That was made just for me for sentimental reasons. So Heiinghund had a short reemergence in 2010, but it wasn't until I decided to remix it in 2017 that he decided to take a step forward again.
Do these moments of being the communicant for Heiinghund feel different now than they did during the Sort Vokter days?
Definitely. As Ildjarn stated, there was a lot of compromising when we made Folkloric Necro Metal. Also, there is a sense of maturation into it. Any sense of uncertainty or hesitance is gone. However, how long he will appear for is uncertain. There is a sense of finality here and there might be one or two more albums. I guess we will see what the future brings.
That sense of finality seems sort of looming, especially since you are the only member of that era making music of this type again. I recall NiDHOGG's re-emergence, but only to release that EP of rarities. Ildjarn has long since retired. We've never heard from Tvigygre. Though this is not a specific connection to the old days, do you feel that kind of looming, end-of-epoch feeling when meditating on the end of the Heiinghund material?
I can't say the finality of Heiinghund as it is today an end of an epoch, more the beginning of a new one. When I released Vargmaane, it was meant to be a musical statement. Although I am not certain what was meant by it or what goals might involved since they weren't my words, but when they are achieved, Heiinghund will take a step back again. It is correct that Nidhogg released a strong EP of rarities, and we have spoken quite a lot since then about old days since. In fact, he has been giving me a lot of feedback during the making of Draugkvad. I many ways I see Nidhogg as a mentor into black metal. We have a relation of mutual respect and from time to time seek advices from each other in more private matters.
What was it like to rekindle that friendship? Had you two been out of contact before the re-emergence of the Heiinghund entity?
It was just like we had talked just yesterday. I can't actually recall when we started having contact again, but we have had a lot of more contact since Heiinghund reemerged.
The cover of Draugkvad is interesting. Could you go into the symbolism?
The cover of Draugkvad was made by Vinterheim. The rune or runastaffir on the front of the cover is an ancient icelandic rune to awaken the Draugr (the plural of Draug). It is not a symbol that should be taken lightly. On Draugkvad, it is used to further strengthen the ancient creatures anger against humanities crime towards nature. The artist who goes by the name Dystopia Kaotika has really managed to transfer the energy and mood of the music into photo. As well as the cover for Vargmaane, it reflects the song of the arctic blood, the song of the lands.
What does the awakening of the Draug entail?
The will appears to be strong, strong enough to draw the hugr [animate will] back to one's body. These reanimated individuals were known as draugar. However, though the dead might live again, they could also die again. Draugar die a "second death" as Chester Gould calls it, when their bodies decay, are burned, dismembered or otherwise destroyed.
In short, awakening the Draug haunts the living.
This idea of reawakening the dead coincidentally ties in with the return of the Heiinghund entity. Is this intentional or purely spiritual?
It is not intentional. In fact, I didn't see that at all.
Funny how coincidences happen. As someone who was active in black metal so long ago and recently re-entered the style, have you paid attention to the style in the interim?
In general, I would like to say that there is a very slick style of production these days, where much of the wild and raw has been edited out. I guess that is whats happens when record companies get their saying in the production. I don't think it a secret that I prefer a more necro production. Playing raw straight forward black metal is a very honest thing. There is nothing to hide behind. Though I have registered that there are interesting things happening in the undercurrents of the black metal scene. Without mentioning names, Japan is an interesting country.
To clarify, do you feel slick and polished production in black metal is less honest?
I think that a lot can be hidden in beefed up production. When it is obvious that the production manager has had their sticky hands on it, well, you lose something. There is something missing there. I am not the one to tell others what they are supposed to do with their music, but, yes, I feel that there are many shiny mirrors out there, so to say. Also, it seems like my music hits a nerve out there, Just yesterday I got this feedback from a French fan.
Translated to English:
It has been a long time since I listened to a very good album from Norway !!! There you go! Heiinghund and Draugkvad in a Raw and ruthless registry! An ultra impious black album, atmospheric passages touching the dungeon synth as an intro ... True Norwegian Black Metal!
This tells me I am not the only one who feels that.
Do you feel there is any particular reason as to why there is black metal with that slick production?
I guess market demands, or what is perceived as such. When big labels get to decide what is best to attract bigger masses, maybe. I do not see myself as an expert on these things, so my view might not count as much. Maybe I just got stuck in the 1990s [laughs] and am an old, grumpy man muttering on how much better things was before.
Were they better before?
[laughs] I can't remember. It was a bit hazy back then!
Are there any specific memories which have surfaced?
Not that I can recollect in the moment. More moods or states of mind in relation to making music. It is bit hard to describe as these things often are. But although I cannot recollect specific things from making for instance Folkloric Necro Metal, I do recognize and recollect the trance and dark moods of it. It is still the state of mind I am in when making music today. I am not sure how to put it, but it is the call of nature in a wood at full moon night. Or a winter night in the arctic outside in a blizzard, which is consequently also a good setting to listen to my music
Do you feel the correct setting (like listening to music on a full moon night or during a blizzard) especially important when listening to music?
A correct setting might be individual, of course, but, yes, if you want to go into the depths of the music, then the setting should be according. Music has, since its beginning, always seeked to move the mind in a certain direction. What direction my music takes you will also be individual, so I leave that to others to describe.
Do you compose and record under a specific setting, or does the entity possess you at random moments?
In general, I compose at night and record vocals during day so as not to freak out the neighbors. but I never know when I get the call to make music. I have tried to decide to make music, but that doesn't work for me. It has to be the right time. Both Draugkvad and Vargmaane were, however, made during the polar night (when we have little or no daylight here in the arctic north), so I guess that is a major influence. But, if you are thinking of dripping candlelights and incense, I'm afraid you will be a bit disappointed.
If the music is influenced by the Polar Night, would you consider the music of Heiinghund to be dark and/or lightless?
Dark yes, but there is light in the Auroras, in the moon.
Is that sort of ethereal glow an integral part of the music itself?
I'd like to think so. If you have been out in nature with the Aurora spilling over the night sky and the snowy landscapes are lighted by the full moon, I think you could relate.
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