by Niklas Göransson
October 2007 – Sweden Rock has organised a ferry cruise. Part of the line-up for this nautical spectacle is Blaze Baily, once vocalist for Iron Maiden, and his participation guarantees the presence of the most notorious twins in Swedish metal.
Tyrant and Hellbutcher, NIFELHEIM’s bass player and vocalist respectively, get comfortably seated in the cabin used for the interview. Accompanied by myself and a bottle of vodka, they are set to discuss their new album “Envoy of Lucifer”. After a brief skirmish contested over who actually started the band, they agree that it was a combined effort.
– We are twins after all, explains Hellbutcher, it does happen that you have the same idea.
Despite having founded the band in 1990, three years went by before their first official recording saw the light of day. Tyrant explains:
– We never made any particular efforts to be productive. When we formed the band we were rather young, 15 I think, so there was no rush to release anything as we didn’t see the point with yet another demo tape by 15-yearolds.
– Once it was recorded we weren’t really going to release it either, continues Hellbutcher, but Jon Nödtveidt (DISSECTION) kept nagging us to.
Jon has had an important role in Nifelheim throughout the years. Besides actively promoting the band, he played a few guitar leads on the first two records (“Nifelheim” from 1995 and “Devil’s Force” from 1998) – however, internment courtesy of the judicial system prevented him from appearing on the third (“Servants of Darkness”, 2000).
– The CD version of the VULCANO split will include a bonus song featuring Jon, Hellbutcher reveals, it was the last recording he ever did.
NIFELHEIM was not the only orchestral collaboration the twins had with Jon.
– There was a project called SATANIZED that we were about to record an album with, says Tyrant.
SATANIZED was formed in 1991, featuring members from DISSECTION and LORD BELIAL – they released the “Rehearsal ‘91” demo but disbanded within a year. Tyrant explains why nothing materialised from the resurrected project.
– It was around the time when this whole murder episode unfolded. Funnily enough – on the date we were booked to enter the studio all of us were in custody. So that most certainly never came to fruition.
I’m assuming most reading this are at least briefly acquainted with this so-called murder episode. The unwilling inclusion of the NIFELHEIM twins in the judicial aftermath is not quite as known. When the topic comes up, the brothers squirm uncomfortably and exchange glances.
– Bah, exclaims Hellbutcher, it was only because we were friends with Jon and had visited his place a lot.
Silence. Tyrant appears fully intent on not saying a word. Another attempt:
I seem to recall something about a Taser?
– Mmm, the vocalist grudgingly acknowledges, I kind of had one of those. It happened to be somewhat involved. That whole ordeal was insane, unbelievable – I had my home raided and so on. A deplorable ordeal, terribly unfortunate but I really don’t want to talk about it.
Besides my interviewees, today’s line-up consists of Vengeance From Beyond (lead guitar), Apocalyptic Desolator (rhythm guitar) and Insulter of jesus christ (drums). The twins explain that the remaining members are fully attuned to the NIFELHEIM concept, so much that they are allowed to represent and perform in the band.
– It’s not like we’re forcing anyone to do something they don’t want to, adds Tyrant.
In a previous conversation I had with the guitar players, they mentioned that the twins are rabidly pedantic with everything from song arrangements to recording technique. Every riff must sound note for note the way it was visualised. The vocalist confirms.
– I’ll have this clear idea of a song in my head, how I want it to sound. Since I don’t play any instruments besides a little guitar once in a while, I structure the whole thing in my mind. Having been pondering it over and over it’s like it already exists on a record, so when someone plays it differently it’s like a cover, a shitty version of my song. We’re even highly particular when it comes to individual cymbal hits.
The twins share composing duties between them while Hellbutcher is in charge of the lyrics. Coupled with what’s been said thus far, it sounds almost as if the remaining members are hired mercenary musicians rather than full members.
– No, insists Hellbutcher, that’s certainly not the case. They are more than welcome to write their own songs, it just has to pass the NIFELHEIM filter.
Hellbutcher proudly declares that the new album was recorded entirely in analogue, everything from recording deck to master tape – nothing digital. He laments the fact that there was a computer present in the studio facilities but assures that its only function was to burn CD-R’s.
– Explain that to your readers, Tyrant instructs, there was no way of cutting and pasting in the recording tracks; what you hear is what we play.
– We recorded all bass, drums and guitars in about two days, including the time it took to engineer the sound. Then we went on tour with VENOM.
The coveted slot of supporting the British legends on their Scandinavian tour was not selected randomly.
– There were many that wanted in on it, says Hellbutcher, but VENOM simply responded: No, we want a good band.
– It’s great to know that they still have the good sense to bring along real black metal instead of a bunch of idiots and posers.
To be diagnosed with the latter invective is supposedly a fate worse than death, which would imply a rather high standard when it comes to the recruitment of band members.
– Firstly, they must have an understanding of what metal is all about, says Tyrant and adds the mandatory ‘worship IRON MAIDEN, death and so on’.
That said, I’m curious to hear the metal gospel according to the NIFELHEIM twins.
– Let’s say you’re at someone’s home, explains Hellbutcher, you put on EXCITER’s “Blood of Tyrants” and then just sit drinking and smashing things up – that’s when you’ve grasped what metal is all about. You can tell, you know – if people understand metal or not.
‘Speaking of metal and hard rock…’ is what I manage to say before being subjected to exasperated sighs in unison, the twins doubtlessly aware where this conversation is heading. Having appeared in a documentary about metal on Swedish state television, the ‘Hard Rock Brothers’ is a stigmata they bear – both as individuals and NIFELHEIM as a band. As a result of the zealous dedication to IRON MAIDEN the documentary portrayed, the twins have been made reluctant representatives for metalheads who live the lifestyle to the max – at least in the eyes of people that like the music but have no bonds with the subculture or actual scene. Merely mentioning the subject renders dejected moans and synchronised eye-rolling – clearly demonstrating how thoroughly weary of this they are. They explain stoically that NIFELHEIM is the truth and that the ‘Hard Rock Brothers’ is nothing but a television fantasy.
– It’s absolutely beyond me how people can be so transfixed by this and think it says something about us, Tyrant complains, it was heavily edited and represents nothing. We were just goofing around. It’s a tragedy that people are so fixated with what they see on TV.
– As soon as people have seen it they think that’s what defines me, continues Hellbutcher, that it’s all I’ve ever done and that they know me. From 15 minutes of television! It’s bizarre.
– It’s been ten years now! Hand me that microphone, Tyrant commands while gesticulating with the vodka bottle, I want to speak to them directly: Fuck off, you idiots!
This ‘fuck off’ slogan is something NIFELHEIM has utilised heavily through the years, all the way back to the demo booklet.
– That’s the attitude we’ve always had, explains Hellbutcher, we’ve never been into the underground or having pen pals. That’s what we stand for.
– Solidarity sucks rectum, adds Tyrant. We like nothing!
One side-effect of this celebrity status is the steady stream of complete strangers approaching the twins as soon as they set foot at a metal event in Sweden. Referring to their contemptuous viewpoint, I’m curious about what tactics they employ in keeping the plebs at bay.
– Well, says Tyrant, we’re actually somewhat polite. To get rid of them as fast as possible, that is.
Wouldn’t it be more efficient to simply fall back on this ‘fuck off’ approach?
– It’s really isn’t, I’ve tried everything! We’ve had to learn the hard way that the easiest 1152escape route is to be as boring as possible. Laugh at us now, they’re not likely to snigger quite as much with a knife planted in their back. Anyway, I’ll cease further philanthropic ravings about this.
Given the brothers’ attitude towards the underground it might be a moot point – it is however indisputable that their scene credibility suffered heavily from the television appearance.
– Yep, concedes Tyrant, I suppose that’s soundly in tatters now.
– Sooner or later, people will realise that we are serious and will never stop. I hope that this nonsense will gradually fade with each passing year and that the spotlight reverts back to the band.
When the documentary aired, many reacted with outrage when they realised the NIFELHEIM connection. As luck would have it, the brothers were spared most of the blowback.
– You see, says Tyrant, I seem to remember being locked up at the time so I wasn’t subjected to all that many reactions. At that point we were rather tired of trying to be extreme; the ones who know, they know.
– There are no pretences, says Hellbutcher, I have done a lot of extreme shit and am precisely the way people originally thought I was.
Do you regret appearing in it?
– Of course we regret it, admits Tyrant, but it also came with some positives.
– You can’t really say if you regret something like that, adds Hellbutcher, when you don’t know what the outcome would have been if you hadn’t.
The mentioned benefits were valuable contacts that helped the brothers with things they wouldn’t have been able to get done on their own, such as guest list spots and IRON MAIDEN rarities. The brother’s firm inclination to not have this associated with their band is unquestionable; it is however impossible to write an in-depth NIFELHEIM article without mentioning it. Now however, enough of this.
NIFELHEIM’s roots are in Dals Långed, a small village in the municipality of Bengtsfors on the west coast of Sweden with a population of approximately 1 700. Hellbutcher reveals that their place of origin is also the very foundation of Swedish black metal.
– That’s where Sweden’s first black metal magazine came from, Heavy Metal Massacre, by Phantom – Lennart Larsson. The first issue came out in 1983 and had interviews with HELLHAMMER, VENOM, ANGELWITCH and so on. I proclaim Dals Långed a black metal village.
I recall hearing a rumour in the mid-nineties, that NIFELHEIM’s drummer at the time had been forced out of the band by his parents after the local paper had attributed various shocking acts such as animal sacrifice to the band. Hellbutcher laughs, shaking his head.
– That’s not entirely true, even though the real story is no less weird. There was no newspaper. You’ve never lived in a small town, have you? Everyone knows who you are – and I mean everyone; the elderly, people at the post office and so on. The whole thing turned into a bit of a redneck situation, for some reason everyone suddenly started hating us. It was a mess, they accused us of all manner of things we were completely innocent of …
But also things you had actually done?
– Ehem – yes, Tyrant interjects, but a lot that we never did. I’m talking completely outlandish claims here. Like sacrificing an infant behind the town hall – really, where the hell would we have gotten an infant from?
– Anyway, Hellbutcher continues, our rehearsal place was in our drummer’s parents’ house. When all this happened they decided we were no longer welcome there. It’s not like he was locked inside the house by his parents or anything, we just couldn’t go there as they’d go completely mental just by seeing us.
While on the subject of rumours I have to mention another one; it’s said that a previous guitar player was discharged on allegations of the prohibited act of procuring a girlfriend.
– Correct, confirms Tyrant, that was Morbid Slaughter. We had a… well, I suppose we still have the same attitude but have since learned that it’s impossible to enforce it and still keep a band together.
Hellbutcher, somewhat bashfully, confesses to currently having a girlfriend. He defends himself by referring to the dilemma in which their staunch attitude is confused with homosexual leanings. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to interpret his significant other as a shield against buggery rumours but for the sake of domestic peace we’ll refrain from discussing the matter further. Either way, it appears that NIFELHEIM have been forced to adopt a more liberal stance when it comes to womenfolk.
– It’s hopeless, groans Tyrant, a utopia. But it’s simply not feasible to operate a functioning band with such noble policies.
We return to their youth, which judging from what’s been revealed so far sounds like one spent in relative solitary.
– We were in our own world so to speak, says Hellbutcher, we were primarily in touch with people in Gothenburg, Falun, Strömstad, Norway and so on.
The brothers were early in establishing contact with the scene in Norway – they even visited Euronymous’ (MAYHEM) Oslo store Helvete and met many of the prominent personalities.
– We were in touch with the Norwegian black metal scene long before most other Swedes, says Tyrant. That’s certainly been forgotten in the shadow of the ‘Hard Rock Brothers’.
I’m curious if there were ever any talks of cooperation with Euronymous’ legendary label Deathlike Silence Productions. Tyrant:
– I remember that Jon sent him the demo but he was killed before we heard back from him. I don’t really want to comment as speculation is futile but suffice it to say, it wouldn’t have been impossible.
Lyrics are a crucial component of black metal. Hellbutcher, responsible for all orations, stresses a genuine and personal connection to the subject matter. He is however not particularly talkative about it, but I insist on knowing if he really does worship the devil.
– There are definitions of everything, he responds, but I’m not going to label myself. If I do, the people that come up to shake my hand will be asking about that too and this is more than I can bear.
Another attempt at lyrical discourse, this time with the approach mindset at the time of their conception.
– They are written in a state of sheer hatred, says Hellbutcher, I usually envision the end of creation. This is what I’ve been doing since day one.
NIFELHEIM have never published their lyrics on past albums, they claim there’s no particular reason for this but that it’s now become a thing. At the time of this interview, it’s undecided if there will be a policy shift for “Envoy of Lucifer”.
– Perhaps, speculates Hellbucher, we might put one of the lyrics on the back of a t-shirt design.
Speaking of merchandise; according to popular rumour the twins, known to be resolutely unenthused by ‘girlie shirts’ in metal, have now finally relented and printed one.
– We have, confirms Tyrant; ‘My boyfriend likes NIFELHEIM’.
Have you sold many of them?
– Not really. No matter, it’s a statement.
Those who’ve read the rare NIFELHEIM interviews through the years will be familiar with the twins’ habit of irritably fending off all questions about modern (as in, 1990 and onwards) black metal. They have also mocked several named bands, newcomers at the time but who would go on to be considered classics.
– We’ve never hesitated in taunting others, says Hellbutcher. Personally, I don’t listen to any of these new bands so I might as well insult them.
Is there really not a single modern band you like?
– No, he says with some afterthought, I don’t think so.
– Fuck off, Tyrant adds.
Alright, what was the most recent band you did like?
– VENOM, the brothers reply in chorus.
– It’s not as if I think all of them are shit, clarifies Hellbutcher. I suppose some bands are acceptable but I’d never listen to stuff like that at home.
Bands deemed acceptable are ones who fulfil the brothers’ criteria of who is allowed to claim affiliation to the genre. The theological…
– Yes, states Tyrant, it goes without saying that black metal should have a satanic message.
… and a genuine devotion to the culture the brothers have wholeheartedly embraced.
– Certainly, says Hellbutcher, black metal is ‘metal’.
Sub-genres like ‘depressive suicidal black metal’ is something that holds little appeal for the brothers.
– Losers seeking unity in misanthropy, says Tyrant while shaking his head, pathetic – they must die.
– I usually stay off the internet, says Hellbutcher, but once in a while I can’t help but have a look around. I end up spending a few seconds on one of these forums, which infuriates me to the point that I must remain in a dark room, cradling myself and rocking back and forth for two days straight. They spew forth their quasi-intellectual rubbish, praising worthless demos and finding in them great depth.
A recent phenomenon that gets more prevalent for each passing year is a younger generation of black metal enthusiasts with no heavy metal background, whose first encounter with metal music was its extremities. This is especially apparent when young bands mention role models; here, Norwegian acts are usurping bands like MERCYFUL FATE, SODOM, JUDAS PRIEST and CELTIC FROST.
– True – and aren’t they all really good, says Tyrant with heavy sarcasm, so amazing that one might almost regress into childhood.
– You won’t believe what I heard, an agitated Hellbutcher proclaims, I don’t remember their names now but supposedly there are bands who claim to play black metal – all the while listening to KENT!
He shakes his head in outrage, wearing a face that can only be described as an amalgamation of astonishment and indignation.
– Things like that… let me be entirely clear here – I’m totally against it. This behaviour is completely unacceptable, one hundred percent! Trying to come across all…
He deliberates for a few seconds before snarling:
– Suit! Sophisticated black metal is contradictory. Take POISON from Germany for instance – just standing there with oily, filthy and torn jeans, looking like old men. I think that’s black metal.
What’s upsets the twins even more is bands that go so far as to disassociate themselves from old metal culture.
– How dare you claim to be black metal if you’re not metal, asks Tyrant, why do you even want to be part of something you know nothing about?
As agitating as this development might be, perhaps it’s inescapable when younger generations of metalheads emerge. It’s difficult to relate to though, for those who had their fundamental musical schooling in the late eighties and early nineties. Obviously, most of these bands have not.
– Lost causes, the unforgiving bass player decrees.
Hellbutcher is somewhat more merciful.
– I suppose that’s where we come in, to re-establish order – lead by example. We need a new album with real metal.
How do you view the future of the genre?
– One would have to assume that everything will keep getting worse, Hellbutcher prophesises, even if it boggles the mind how that’s even possible. I reckon it’s already begun; I’ve spoken to youngsters – 18-yearolds and such, who don’t think NIFELHEIM is black metal since we don’t have non-stop blastbeats. So, we have suddenly started drifting from the genre because it itself is changing, we don’t fit in anymore. All of a sudden, we’re just an ordinary ‘metal band’. That’s as clear a sign as any that they have no idea what they’re talking about.
– I hope it all dies out, Tyrant proclaims, the whole genre. So that we can finally reclaim it, bring it back to baseline.