av Niklas Göransson
According to some, Sorhin is the most underrated Swedish black metal band of the late nineties. Not having recorded anything since 2002 they’ve been presumed put to rest – now however, we (well, I) can exclusively reveal that they’ve in fact been dormant and not dead.
– We’re planning a new release of some kind, says vocalist and founding member Nattfursth, there’s material recorded already – what remains to decide is what to do with it.
– Good question, says Nattfursth when asked about their past 14 years of inactivity, wish I had a good answer for you.
We look back to January 1999, when SORHIN had just recorded their second album “Apokalypsens Ängel“.
– The remaining year and start of the new millennium was a highly productive period for us; we wrote the lyrics and most of the music meant for a third album called “Hädanfärd” (old Swedish for ‘bereavement’).
However, the release of “Apokalypsens Ängel” was fraught with problems and delays so when it was finally out more than a year later, the band members were pretty fed up.
– We’d lost a bit of our fire and couldn’t summon the energy for much more than the split with PUISSANCE (“To Give Death by the Sword of Christ!”, 2002) but disappearing entirely was never our intention, we meant to work in the shadows in order to strike when least expected. It was a subconscious development in the end – a lack of oxygen to feed the flames I suppose you could say. It was never fully quenched though, just smouldering beneath the surface.
Now however, the time has come to re-emerge from obscurity.
– We have plans for a new release of some kind, there’s material – the question is what to do with it. There’s been talk of a split with one of Sweden’s most important black metal bands – one from the same generation as us, featuring new and exclusive material from both parties.
Nattfursth points out that since SORHIN was never actually discontinued, this is not a comeback – there’s no resurrecting something that was never laid to rest.
– During the past 15 years we’ve been exchanging ideas, as well as recording and ultimately discarding songs. We’ll go idle for years without anything happening, only to enter a productive phase and write lots of material.
What served as catalyst for the latest such phase was the cooperation with French label Norma Evangelium Diaboli who released the 2008 “Förbannade år 1993-2001” box set, which featured SORHIN’s entire discography as well as bonus material.
– A lot of memories resurfaced, many of them genuinely inspiring and they fanned the flames again, but as always we proceed without undue haste.
As I was preparing for this interview, Nattfursth sent me an advance of a new SORHIN song.
– It was composed in 2014 and then recorded in Borlänge last year. The lyrics were written a few years prior to this but fragments can be traced as far back as the year 2000. The line-up is Nattfursth and Eparygon.
Eparygon is SORHIN’s other founding member. What kind of relationship do you have today?
– Well, we’re certainly what you’d call comrades and we share the same vision for SORHIN but these days we don’t socialise all that often.
Inspecting the new song, it didn’t take long until it was entirely clear what band I was listening to. There’s no mistaking those riffs.
– As a guitar player Eparygon is really unique, if I may say so myself. His riffs have become somewhat of a SORHIN trademark; twisted black metal with subtle elements of folk music, with no compromises to the rawness. We have our own style – it feels like we’ll never really fit in anywhere and we’re fine with that.
I recall another unique delivery, didn’t you use wire cutters to spice up your vocals?
– I did, can’t deny it. For propriety’s sake I should point out that it was a plier wrench, not a wire cutter and this was back on the first demo in 1993. The intention was to channel genuine agony and it worked splendidly, just listen to it and you can sense the suffering in the screams.
Anyone who’s discussed music with Nattfursth will know why he’s notorious for advocating a rather strict framework of what a black metal production should sound like. Age has done nothing in liberalising the treble-Taliban’s sonic policies.
– I haven’t softened my stance one bit when it comes to black metal; I still maintain that a raw, dirty and noisy production is essential in forging the right feeling. It creates a certain atmosphere, one that can be traced back to the early days of BATHORY, into old German thrash and further on to DARKTHRONE.
His hostility to all things audible is not fully shared by his string-fiddling cohort, which has occasionally led to internal strife. One such example is the recording of “Apokalypsens Ängel” in the then newly build The Abyss Studios, produced by Tommy Tägtgren.
– Unfortunately, Eparygon’s insistence on a listenable mix was supported by both studio producer and label manager.
The objections of the latter two could be disregarded as SORHIN ended up releasing it on their own label Svartvintras, in cooperation with fellow Swedes Shadow Records.
– We routed the guitars through a pedal straight into the mixing table. I did everything within my power to mould the soundscape according to my principles, the distortion and treble among other things.
In order to enforce his preferences, Nattfursth was forced to employ unorthodox stealth tactics.
– Each time I was alone in the mixing room, I’d make subtle adjustments to the levels. As we listened to it Tägtgren thought his new equipment was faulty since the sound kept changing. In the end, Eparygon and I found a compromise that both of us still stand for today.
Something else Nattfursth still embodies is the unofficial motto of “Apokalypsens Ängel”, which translates to ‘misanthropy and death’.
– Still highly relevant, when Hell calls your name there’s no way back. To this day I live by these words, even if the processing is more internalised these days. This is my life as it will be my death.
While he objects to the term ‘recluse’, he takes the utmost care of the company he keeps and which crowds he enters.
– It’s not as if I go around wasting energy craving universal suffering in perdition; that will come sooner or later regardless. That said, I think mankind is tainted by an inherent falseness that I neither understand nor accept.
What then is the heart of this death fixation – the transformation into a new plane of existence or its life-consuming nature?
– I think it’s the omnipotent presence that appeals to me; the understanding that while this might be the end of one phase it’s also the start of something new and grander. Death is an infinite source of inspiration, you never know where it lurks and it can outsmart you when you least expect it.
Perhaps it’s this obsession with death that can explain SORHIN’s meagre history of live performance. I could only recall Västerås with DARK FUNERAL in 1996 and a mini-tour of Germany around the turn of the millennia.
– That’s about it really; all in all we did six gigs from 1994 to 2000. Playing live never resonated with us so it simply wasn’t a priority; we’ve always preferred to operate away from the spotlight.
Probed about their one and only tour, he sighs.
– A decadent spectacle from start to finish. If nothing else I suppose I gained an experience out of it but it’s not something we’d ever do today.
Once considered a bit of a troublemaker in times of revelry, Nattfursth’s life today is significantly calmer.
– Seen from the outside it’s a lot more controlled, he says, yet ruled from inside by a strong, rebellious and youthful spirit. I found my peace ten years ago when I left the urban setting behind. I now live in a remote rural area with the forest as my closest neighbour and it suits me perfectly.
He still has solid ties to the art that’s been the biggest focus of his life.
– Black metal remains a focal point and most of my daily life revolves around it. I’d like to think that I’m fairly up to date with what’s going on and I still buy new music. I’ll even discover a new band once in a while, even though this is a phenomenon that’s getting increasingly rarer. I’m currently listening to PANPHAGE, very good with the right feeling. Swedish label Nordvis has also released some interesting music the last few years – there’s still hope…
Speaking of hope – the past 17 years I’ve had in my possession a cassette tape containing rough mixes of songs heavily influenced by ZYKLON-B (the Norwegian band, that is), recorded under the moniker WELTMACHT and featuring Nattfursth on vocals. He now reveals that this also might finally see the light of day.
– A similar story to what happened with SORHIN, the whole thing just sort of dissipated. Mathias Kamijo from ALGAION wrote some killer material and we started recording a full-length in The Abyss Studio sometime around 1998 or 1999. Unfortunately, we never ended up finishing it. The original plan was to release it on Shadow Records – our old label that until recently was defunct; this is a perfect example of how everything revolves in cycles as they are nowadays more active than ever. There was enough material recorded for at least an EP but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Shadow Records’ first release upon coming back is the re-issue of “Apokalypsens Ängel” on LP. The label’s proprietor Marcus Tena (TRIUMPHATOR) and Nattfurst have collaborated in various ways on and off for more than 20 years now.
– A big part of my record collection came from Tena’s old distro. I also used to hang out in his store in Stockholm and there was plenty of nefarious business going on there.
In May of 1999, Tena had moved to the capital of Sweden and turned Shadow Records from a post-order distro into a physical store. It also served as social headquarters for certain elements within the Stockholm black metal scene.
– It was an inspiring time shrouded in various forms of chaos; havoc unleashed in the shop and on the unsuspecting in various bars and concerts. I regard this era as vital, something that strengthened the whole feeling around black metal – there was always some manner of devilry afoot; violence, suicides and general debauchery.
What’s your strongest memory from the time?
– That would paradoxically be the most scattered one; needless to say it played out in Shadow Records. It features a mightily drunk label manager with a loaded gun, fanatical people in a joint frenzy, tear gas and a mannequin.
Ah, I think it might benefit everyone involved if further details from this particular incident are withheld.
– Yeah, he agrees laughing, thinking back it could have ended really badly but it was worth it. Hail MALIGN, FUNERAL MIST and TRIUMPHATOR! I can’t say I miss those days to any greater extent but they live on as fond memories and will forever do so. For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.
This particular era of Swedish metal history came to an abrupt end in January 2001 after the police raided the store and Tena was sent to prison.
– We lost touch for about a decade but now we’re conspiring future conquests. I predict violence…