Nortt’s Long-Awaited Return
Music like Nortt is difficult. A personal endeavor into the darkest sounds imaginable, the Danish master of "Pure Depressive Black Funeral Doom" (a self-imbued title) hid in the shadows, a dark corner of the isolated artistic space which he's called home since 1998. Following 2007's Galgenfrist, however, there has been silence. It's hard to tell what inactivity means, especially with artists who create sepulchral music.
Following an album like Galgenfrist appears monumental, the music held therein a sort of "life-siphon." Nortt's last effort was horrific, a gloomy monolith unlike any other music put to tape before or after its late-December release a decade before this new album's release.
"Galgenfrist," Nortt reminisces, "can drain the life out of just about anything[...]"
Even a decade later, it is a tough listen, a testament of true depression which explodes and decays with a lumbering, ages-traversing gait. It hurt, and it certainly was, as the artist says, draining. A cross-section of ambient and drone minimalism with black metal's harshness and a doom-defined pace, Nortt's sound aesthetic in the late 2000s was the acme of the depressive's black pit of despair.
Afterward, we were met with silence. It should be expected that following something like Galgenfrist would be difficult, nigh, impossible. Listening to Nortt is already such a feat, taking the creative helm must have taken this solitary artist's entire being. Silence is still so horribly connoted. Where did Nortt go? Some assumed he was dead, the initial announcements for the "yet-to-be-titled" new album followed this last album's coattails, but then nothing. It wasn't until January of this year that Nortt even said anything at all. Artists disappear, people die, but unanswered questions and unfinished timelines are the obsessive fan's bane.
At face value, the long-awaited and mythical Endeligt is a departure for the Danish enigma. Placing his signature piano lugubre in the forefront, Nortt's suddenly succinct nature connotes this collection of brackish funeral doom hymns in the style of Chopin's funeral marches. No longer the monochromatic man in the woods, Nortt presents himself in a more human light -- the faceless metal musician at the grand piano.
Mirroring this change in aesthetic, Endeligt is a more immediately "artful" work, nowhere near as difficult and immense as its predecessor. No longer obscuring his beautiful, melodic songwriting, this new album unveils a "catchier" Nortt, with memorable melodies which reverberate for hours to come.
Of course, the work is still vast and "catchiness" is relative. Nortt continues to embody the sound of deep despondency, a crawling march to the grave with each step a punch to the heart. Endeligt is still a funeral doom metal album, something slow and terrifyingly personal, and with that genre comes an inherently sepulchral grief.
"Although I like Galgenfrist, I didn't want to record the same album twice."
Even though Endeligt is a new face to Nortt, a condensing of his difficult music into something more compact, it still carries the same spirit. This is not a casual, easy listen, which could be said of Nortt's entire body of work. It is depressing, and follows the aforementioned "Pure Depressive Black Funeral Doom Metal" classification. If anything, this is Nortt distilled, the art and intent all the more pure and dense. Though Endeligt may present itself as something beautiful and melodic, its crushing weight will leave you breathless.
The long-awaited Endeligt will officially be released by Avantgarde Music on December 29th. Listen to the album in full and read an interview with the enigmatic man behind the project below.
There had been this decade-long silence following Galgenfrist before the first stirrings which led to Endeligt first showed up on your website. Many fans, myself included, had begun to think you had stopped making music! Considering the shorter periods of time between Gudsforladt, Ligfærd, and Galgenfrist (EPS, splits, and demos notwithstanding), what led to this lengthy period of time before Endeligt?
I ask myself that question too. Honestly, I wasn't even aware that a decade had passed before Avantgarde Music released it, but of course I at least knew it had been a while. I think what led to and sustained the silence was a feeling of slight discouragement towards recording music. I recorded the title track for Endeligt right after the release of Galgenfrist, whereas all the other songs on Endeligt were recorded later, and I got struck by discouragement because the sound was too similar to Galgenfrist. Although I like Galgenfrist, I didn't want to record the same album twice. Also, around the same time, I started hearing more and more bands of a similar genre, and I thought many of them had a better sound and a better production, which I always yearned for, so I thought that Nortt had become the slow horse that drags behind. I still composed music, though, I just didn't feel the need or the will to record it. Yet, I always knew I would record another album one day. Of course, my private life plays a part in the silence too. Let's just say that I reached the age where all of your dreams and ambitions fade away. In a good way, though.
Having completed a new album, do you still feel that same sense of discouragement when you revisit your older works?
No. Of course, if I go back long enough, then there are many things I would have done in a different way. And I even think it's proportionate, the further back I go, the more I would change. I imagine that's very common among musicians. The urge to improve a song. So even though Galgenfrist can drain the life out of just about anything, it wasn't the cause for the discouragement. The discouragement wasn't grounded in regret, but in pessimism.
It surprised me how the title track of Endeligt was written so close to the completion of Galgenfrist. Given the vast difference in style between the two -- "Endeligt"'s calm, pulsing resignation and Galgenfrist's overall suffocating nature - I would have assumed a vast period of time would have passed between them. What fueled this change in approach?
The approach to the title track of Endeligt was that it had to be an outro, hence the calm and pulsing nature or resignation, as you say, a very accurate choice of word. Different songs have different natures already from the initial idea, and that is the approach to any song. In this case, the distance in time can't really be heard in the nature of the song. The time distance can, however, be heard in the sound and the production. The guitar sound is very different from the rest of the album, and the arrangement of the song is more repetitive and monotonous, which is also a trait that dates back in time.
Do you approach each song with the intent of it being an intro, an outro, or serving some specific function within an eventual album's greater context?
I do to some extent, yes. Some songs change during the creative process and become something else, but "Endeligt" was intended to be an outro from the beginning. Just as "Andægtigt dødsfald" was intended as the opening intro and song, and "Kisteglad" and "Gravrøst" were intended as instrumental interludes for instance.
The depictions of you at the piano almost directly feeds into the feeling presented on Endeligt. Isolated, solitary. Each song feels like a brief marche funèbre, as if it was written for solo piano and expanded to the multi-instrument format which represents the rest of your discography. Though this is how I interpret your new album, is it correct? Or is there another way you go about the songwriting process?
I compose equally on piano and guitar, but the arrangements are done on piano. It is, in fact, the cue instrument that I use as a fundament on which I add the entire instrumentation. So your interpretation is spot on.
Did the piano-centric approach lend itself to the "catchier" sound of Endeligt? "Catchiness," of course, being a relative term for what is still a very slow, mournful, and desolate album.
The piano-centric approach was actually my method ever since I had a piano available, at least since the third demo, so that can't account for the catchier sound. The catchier sound was simply what I aimed for. Galgenfrist explored the boundaries where music starts to dissolve, and Endeligt explores a catchier and more structured sound. Of course Endeligt is still true to the Nortt sound, so "catchiness" is indeed a relative term.
Exploring Galgenfrist more, the release of Endeligt coincides with its predecessor closing out a decade of existence. As an album which you said could "drain the life out of everything," what does this impenetrable album mean to you ten years later?
I heard it for the first time in awhile in connection with the mastering of Endeligt, and I was a little surprised how extreme the sound, the slowness and the atmosphere actually was. It can be difficult to get into, that I admit, but with the right amount of concentration (I always recommend headphones and darkness), it's a dark journey with an almost transcendental quality. I'm happy it.
You had mentioned a more concrete songwriting approach for Endeligt, but Galgenfrist's bleakness was much more abstract and linear. How did you go about creating the minimal, droning atmospheres of Galgenfrist?
Well technically, I started with the piano, as just explained, so the skeleton is as solid as Endeligtbut the tempo is often so slow on Galgenfrist that it almost dissolves, and that gives the more abstract atmosphere, I think. I remember I had an idea of recording an ambient album with acoustic or at least analogue instruments. That idea was partially abandoned, since metal still had a claw in me, but the echo of the idea can surely be heard. Prior to Galgenfrist, a typical Nortt arrangement could be an ambient part, then a metal part and so on, but on Galgenfrist, I tried to integrate ambient in metal and use ambient qualities as part of the metal instrumentation, if that makes sense.
Is there still that desire to create an album with acoustic and analog instruments?
I still like the idea, and I won't rule it out, but for now I'll stick to interludes made in the way, like "Kaldet" and "Kisteglad."
Though you have previously discussed what inspires your music as Nortt in other interviews, what sorts of introspection have come with creating and recording what you refer to as "Pure Depressive Black Funeral Doom Metal"?
I never really thought about it. Normally I'd say that introspection leads to the creation of Nortt - not the other way around. Of course it has taught me a thing or two about an artistic process, but, apart from that, I can't really think of any particular or explicit introspection that has come from Nortt. A poor answer to a good question, I'm afraid.
Citing a 2008 interview you did with "Pavillion 666," you proclaimed your music as "not intended to be a suicide tutorial." Is it frustrating to see the idea of suicidal intent continually ascribed to your project as the decades pass, despite your clarification?
No, frustrating is a strong word. I have come to peace with people interpreting my work and even my interviews the way they want. It is "The Death of the Author," as Roland Barthes called it, and out of my hands. If someone interprets Nortt as a suicidal tutorial, it's of course fine by me, and I understand why people make that connection, as I play depressive music and write about death all the time, but the categorisation depressive/suicidal black metal was never with my blessing.
Even so, is there anything you'd prefer people to take with them from Endelight?
I hope people will find it an interesting journey into the dark, and if that leads to some kind of introspection, then I couldn't ask for more.
Nortt does not use social media.