by Niklas Göransson
Wandering aimlessly on the threshold of sanity; Ofdrykkja is a Swedish black metal odyssey in three chapters. Their tale is one of psychosis and bloodletting, of self-harm in flesh as well as spirit – but also of redemption and metamorphosis.
The following is an excerpt from the full article, which is almost twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #6. The same issue also includes conversations with FUNERAL MIST, DEAD CAN DANCE, DEATHSPELL OMEGA, SUNN O))), MYSTICUM, ADORIOR, Metalion, Dave Haley, Michael Denner, NECROS CHRISTOS, TEITANBLOOD, and Wim Hof.
– “Gryningsvisor” is new terrain for us, says multi-instrumentalist Ahlström. We opened up for more classical acoustic and folk influences, exploring a broader atmospheric sound in the music. Conceptually, we tend to weave in more spiritual elements in the context of Nordic melancholy, minimalism, and nature. We’ve all changed our way of life quite drastically over the last few years, so it would be strange to keep OFDRYKKJA static; there’s no reason to hold on to a certain theme if your heart is no longer in it. We try to infuse our own personal progress into the music and concept – to use the previous release as a steppingstone into something new – and perhaps that is the core of OFDRYKKJA.
This was indeed not at all what I expected; my first impression of OFDRYKKJA’s third album, “Gryningsvisor”, was a meeting between BURZUM’s “Filosofem”, GARMARNA, and the first LANDBERK LP. I was under the impression that this was some kind of ‘depressive suicidal black metal’ and had, as such, not paid much attention to their previous efforts.
– No, says vocalist Pessimisten, we’ve always been clear about our differences from DSBM. That scene tends to glorify pain and suffering, whereas we’ve always believed ourselves to do the exact opposite. I can’t really blame you for mistaking us as part of it though, since our debut album, “A Life Worth Losing”, was full of similarities. Yet, while sharing our reality of living with mental illness and drug abuse, we always hoped for a better life whilst others merely celebrated the misery. Writing music and lyrics was like therapy for us. I guess this longing for something else could explain why OFDRYKKJA has evolved into something very different today, while many DSBM bands keep walking in the same old footprints.
Well before OFDRYKKJA came into existence, the band’s second multi-instrumentalist, Drabbad, played in LEPRA whereas Pessimisten sang and wrote lyrics for APATI. The paths of these two acts would cross early.
– This would’ve been around 2005 or 2006, says Pessimisten. APATI members Obehag and Professor X were standing at a bus stop in downtown Västerås when they were approached by an extremely doped-up Drabbad, who gave them a note with a handwritten link to his band’s Myspace page. Before walking off again, he snarled ’Support LEPRA or die!’
– Now that you mention it, says Drabbad, I do actually remember this. I was at a record store called Skivbörsen; you could sit there and listen in headphones before buying something, and they were sitting right next to me. I noticed them listening to metal music – I’m almost certain it was ANAAL NATHRAKH, among other stuff. Anyway, they left after a while and I loitered for some time before leaving too. When I got out of there, I saw them standing at the bus stop and decided to approach. I’d been popping Xanax, so I probably walked up rather aggressively, almost screaming, and handed them the note. They looked like human question marks, as I remember it. Quite surprised.
Pessimisten says this peculiar meeting aroused their curiosity, so they decided to investigate further.
– On LEPRA‘s page we could see several photos of drug abuse and extreme self-inflicted violence. The music turned out to be very original and, to our surprise, also pretty good. Later, when the APATI Myspace was created, we started supporting each other on our profiles and kept a vague contact between bands from then on.
The foundations for what became OFDRYKKJA were cemented one fine day in July 2010, and if there was ever an appropriate occasion for the term ‘bonded by blood’ – this would be it. The adventure starts when Drabbad sits in a taxi on the way home from the hospital and makes a stop along the way to pick up a relatively new acquaintance, Bödeln. The pair arrive at Drabbad’s home and begin consuming large quantities of different benzodiazepines and similar drugs, through a variety of orifices.
– I have a faint memory of my mom being there early in the morning, says Drabbad, while we were injecting rectal solutions of Zopiclone. Meaning we dissolved the tablets in water and injected the solution up the old sewer hole using a syringe. I know, complete and utter depravity. My tolerance level for benzodiazepines was off the charts, so I soon realised that if I was to get any kind of real buzz going, I’d need alcoholic beverages. So, we went down to the bottle shop to pick up some beer. I remember Bödeln opening a can and downing it before we’d even left the store – worthy of note here is that he didn’t have my tolerance and was already clearly intoxicated prior to this.
Before proceeding, we should explain that benzos and alcohol are a spectacularly poor combination – especially in the company of people otherwise prone to violence. I never had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman in question but, according to the resulting police report, Bödeln was a twenty-nine-year-old 185-centimetre-tall and athletically built 120-kilo savage who used to be an MMA instructor before black metal and drugs took over. I read in the same report that Drabbad later impressed the ambulance personnel with his almost encyclopaedic knowledge about various prescription psychotropics and their effects so, surely, he must’ve known what a terrible idea this was.
– Ingesting high doses of benzodiazepines is always a terrible idea, but it often starts from being sober and thinking, ’Okay, I’ll only have two, just to get a bit relaxed’, but you quickly lose your judgement. It’s the same as when you’re drinking, as I’m sure you know; ’Nah, I’m not drunk, give me another beer…’, and once you’ve reached that stage, you no longer care. When combining benzos with alcohol, the effect is multiplied several times over and you turn into a braindead idiot. You’ll be repeating the exact same sentences over and over again for hours on end. For days even, if you keep going. It’s impossible for any sane person to hang out with someone who’s under the influence of benzos. If you’ve seen the movie Idiocracy, you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about.
Can you now, in a sober state, remember what the headspace of this combo feels like?
– You’re in a state of euphoria, you feel great and very reassured; you’re under the impression that nothing can go wrong. You’re often convinced that you’re not even high at all and might be a bit annoyed about this, constantly bringing it up. The more wasted you are, the less wasted you think you are and the more obnoxious you become. It tends to fuel the worst ideas, but at the time you think they’re brilliant. It turns you into to a mumbling fruit cup, basically – definitely brings out the worst in you.
Case in point, after returning to Drabbad’s place – which his mother had vacated by then, fortunately – they started drinking beer. Suddenly, Drabbad remembered that he’d always wanted the words ‘griftefrid’, which is a Swedish term for the peace promised by the grave, and ‘jordfäst’, buried in soil, carved into his arms. Previous attempts at recruiting friends for amateur scarification assistance had not borne fruit, but he now enjoyed direct access to a man entirely unencumbered by troublesome moral qualms; plus a brand-new set of extremely sharp knives, from which Bödeln selected the filet blade.
– We went into the bedroom, sat down on the bed, and went about our business. Any normal person would probably have made their way into the bathroom to do this, but not us. We chose the bedroom. I later noted from reading the police report that the bathroom was actually the only place in the entire apartment where there wasn’t any blood. Anyway, Bödeln began carving ’griftefrid’ into my arm but stopped after a while, exclaiming, ’I’ve always wanted ‘darkness’ over my back!’ I didn’t really want to do it, I just wanted to get my words of choice cut into my arms, but I was, like, ‘Alrighty then…’. So, I stood up, took the knife, and began slicing huge letters into his back. When you use the tip of a large thin blade to carve something into skin, there’s a weird noise that’s a bit special. It’s kind of like the combination of a metallic sound mixed with that of tearing fabric, like ripping a cloth. Once done, I was like, ’Okay, now let’s continue with my arms’, so we sat down on the bed again.
Not that events thus far were in any way normal, but this is where the tale takes a turn into truly warped territory. Looking at the modestly sized word being carved into his flesh, in comparison to the massive letters covering Bödeln’s profusely bleeding back, Drabbad found himself a bit self-conscious.
– I thought it looked wimpy, like something a little girl would do, so I started taunting and daring him. ’Go deeper, it’s not deep enough! Deeper, deeper! Come on, you can do it!’. Unsurprisingly, he finally snapped and grabbed my arm in a steady grip with one hand and the brand-new bread knife with serrated blade in the other, and started sawing away like crazy into three different spots on my forearm. At first, I didn’t say anything – I just sat there with my mouth open, gaping in surprise. Then, suddenly, I got hit with the worst pain ever as he went straight down to the bone, severing a nerve. I think I screamed at that point because he immediately ’came to’, so to speak, and dropped the knife. He started saying ’Sorry!’ over and over again and threw himself down on the floor. I was bleeding heavily by then and the bed was covered in blood. I suppose I was in shock, but I told him ’It’s okay, don’t worry!’ After a while, he got back up to his feet and that’s when I saw blood literally streaming from his hand. He must have landed on the knife when dropping to the ground. I tried to check where it was coming from but couldn’t see any wound. I grabbed a shirt or something and tied it around his arm, but this accomplished nothing and blood kept gushing from the hand.
Were you still drinking at this point?
– No, we could only afford a few beers and polished those off quickly enough. We’d already downed all the pills we had – take that much and you won’t return to normal for a couple of days. You might think you’re sober, while in fact you are anything but. Anyway, we began wandering around my apartment, both of us bleeding like stuck pigs. Bödeln took off his clothes and walked around in boxer shorts. There was literally blood everywhere; bloody handprints on the walls and on the floor, and also bloody footprints. My white socks were soaked dark red. I distinctly remember this sticky, splashy sound as I walked around. Bödeln, wearing only his underwear, lay down on the floor in a puddle of blood. The living room was covered in blood, the entire wooden floor had a deeply crimson hue. He started dipping his hands in the blood and smearing himself with it. His legs, his face, his entire head, arms, chest. Everything. I did the same thing.
Drabbad decided to fetch his digital camera and begin documenting the proceedings. Bödeln, still on the floor and covered in blood from head to toe, started doing the sign of the horns and cursing whilst having his photo taken.
– I then snapped selfies of myself screaming and took lots of photos of the open wounds in my arms. Suddenly, Bödeln sat up on the floor, got to his knees, and then took the carving knife and pressed it to the side of his neck – seemingly preparing to finish himself off. I somehow realised things were getting slightly out of hand and tried talking to him, but to no avail; he just stood there on his knees, in silence, with the knife pressed against his throat. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I left the apartment for a stroll around the building and then came back inside. As I started walking up the stairs again, someone came running after me and screamed, ’Don’t worry, I’ll get help!’ It was some man and he seemed to be in a state of panic. This was during the summer so there were plenty of people outside, and it probably made quite the impression, seeing a man covered in blood walking around outside. I also left bloody footprints behind me since my socks were completely soaked.
When Drabbad returned to the apartment, Bödeln had dropped the knife and passed out. Shortly thereafter, the local constabulary showed up – and knowing Drabbad from previous encounters, fully prepared for close-quarters combat. However, the police report states that he was in a supremely jovial mood and entirely compliant. He even tried showing them his photographic chronicling of the mayhem, but the unimpressed officers instead seized the camera as evidence.
– Yeah, they noted that I was euphoric and very cheerful. Apparently, I inserted my whole finger into one of the wounds, seemingly quite happy doing so. I don’t remember much of this myself, but I do recall being in exceptionally good spirits. Oozing happiness, sort of. One of the cops had been over to my place about a week or so earlier; they paid me regular visits and would just go get the key from the landlord and enter my apartment. I was obviously not especially amused by this so, that time, I’d taken some precautions and jammed the doorhandle with a chair. I was drinking denatured alcohol, good ole’ Kemetyl T-Röd, and wanted to be left alone. I’d already gone to bed, with a huge knife next to me, when I was woken up by the sound of my front door being breached, and it was this guy. Supposedly, I got up and raised my fists to fight them, but I don’t remember much of this incident since I was quite drunk.
Clearly, the ambulance staff were also treated to something they don’t see every day; the badly injured Drabbad, wearing MARDUK’s “Fuck me Jesus” shirt, informed them that he and his cohort represent the Swedish black metal cult. When asked about the half-carved ‘griftefrid’ on his arm, he responded that the peace of the grave was precisely what he wanted. Then there was commotion from inside the apartment and someone could be heard screaming, ‘He’s going to jump!’ Bödeln had woken up on the floor whilst receiving medical attention, gotten to his feet, and then managed to climb half-way over the balcony rail before being pulled down again by police. The report also mentions that, as they were being carried into separate ambulances, Bödeln and Drabbad shook hands from their stretchers.
– I do remember that. We said, ’Next time we’ll cut our throats, brother’ and shook hands, right before getting wheeled into the waiting ambulances. The witness who mentioned this also stated that we didn’t appear to grasp how severely injured we were, or that we were even under arrest. She said, ’They seemed to be under the impression that perhaps a few band-aids – if anything – would suffice, and that they’d then be allowed to return inside and continue.’
I’m curious what the soundtrack to this hellscape might have been. From what I recall, ABRUPTUM used to be the classic soundtrack for the parting of flesh.
– We weren’t listening to anything at all, I think. We watched some movies earlier, I believe it was Riget with Ernst-Hugo Järegård, The Machine Girl, or Agitator. I don’t remember which ones though. However, I’ve been in situations like this quite a few times before, where self-mutilation has taken place with ABRUPTUM playing in the background.
Some time after the duo arrived at the hospital, Drabbad’s parents showed up and demanded he be institutionalised for his own protection. The prodigal son’s response was to proudly show them his blood-drenched trousers, vowing to never wash the garments again. Bödeln, on the other hand, first had an amicable chat with a police officer, deeply impressing him with expert knowledge about hand-to-hand fighting techniques for maximum infliction of harm. The policeman notes in his report that Bödeln approached him and offered to demonstrate a few efficient ‘police holds’, a proposal he graciously declined. Mid-conversation, Bödeln suddenly grabbed the hand disinfectant and gulped down a few hearty mouthfuls. After a few additional constables turned up, he became somewhat agitated and tried to kick one of them in the head – narrowly missing and instead hitting the wall before being clobbered and pepper-sprayed into submission. The report mentions that Bödeln exhibited surprising speed for a man his size. Both men were sewn up and placed in different holding cells. I can’t help but think how dreadfully unpleasant it must’ve been to first wake up to a variety of knife-related injuries, only to then be told one is under arrest for the Swedish equivalent of Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. One hilarious comment by a cop in one of the subsequent newspaper articles was, ‘they seem a bit surprised to find themselves in there’. The medical examiner who tended to Drabbad the morning after told him, ‘Your friend didn’t understand what was going on either.’ To further confuse matters, the staff of the lockup to which Drabbad had been sent were told he was the one who’d tried to decapitate an officer of the law.
– Ah, yeah, I’d forgotten about that – you remember this better than I do. But now that you mention it, I do recall being taken to a psychiatric ward and some doctor there telling me I’d kicked a cop in the head. They wanted me out of county jail since I was wreaking havoc up there, big time. I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong and was acting accordingly; screaming like a madman for hours on end. I felt wrongly accused and that someone needed to put an end to this great travesty of keeping me locked up in a cell. So, yeah, we were a bit surprised. Furious even, I thought it was outrageous. Like, ’What ever has the world come to when two friends can’t pop some pills, drink a few beers, and re-enact a couple of scenes from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the privacy of their own home?’
Didn’t several of the responding officers have to take sick-leave to recover from this?
– Ah, yes, I was later told that the officers on scene took a week off… or was it two? I can’t say for sure if this is true but that’s what I’ve been told. I do remember one of them saying that my apartment was the worst crime scene he’d seen in over twenty years of law enforcement. Everyone at county jail still remembered the incident four years later, when I came back there after I’d been shot and awaited trial. Quite a few of the guards talked to me about this, saying things like, ’Oh, it’s you again! You always do the most random, senseless things! I remember your apartment, it was like a slaughterhouse; that was the worst I’ve ever seen!’ I don’t know if they’d seen the photos I took, or the ones taken by the police. The images we used for “A Life Worth Losing” were shot by the cops. I tried to get my camera back, but it had been mysteriously lost.
How long were you in there?
– Only a few days, but I’d ingested so much stuff it took weeks until I returned to normal again. I was also administered Haloperidol or some similar antipsychotic, and remember the nurse saying, ’I’ve never injected someone with such a high dose before.’ People told me afterwards that it was impossible to hear what I said for several weeks. My dad volunteered to clean the apartment, to avoid having to pay someone to do it. In hindsight, I think he might have regretted this kind offer – it was the middle of summer and really hot outside, and there were extreme amounts of blood in there. If you’ve ever smelled rotten blood, you know what I’m talking about. The stench is absolutely horrid. Apparently, he had to clean the floor four times before getting everything out.
Ultimately, since all bloodletting had been on a voluntary basis, no criminal charges were filed against either party. However, both of them were shipped off to different mental care facilities for six months of compulsory treatment. Little over a year after the incident, in the autumn of 2011, APATI vocalist Obehag sent Drabbad a message through their bands’ Myspace profiles, requesting assistance in the procurement of illicit narcotics. Alas, Drabbad responded that he was incarcerated again and unable to help. Shortly thereafter, Pessimisten wrote back with news of Obehag’s recent passing following an overdose. This rather morbid rekindling of contact then somehow turned into an actual friendship, ultimately resulting in OFDRYKKJA. Drabbad invited an old friend, Ahlström, to join the project. Since Bödeln had proven himself sufficiently unhinged, and could play drums to boot, he was also asked to participate. There’s a lot to be said about this, but I find it entirely unsurprising that such a band would emerge from Västerås, of all places. During the late 90s and early 2000s, the city had quite a few real black metal maniacs. I remember in particular a character named Jim – one of his most memorable moments was stabbing himself in the belly whilst watching MAYHEM perform in Stockholm. If I recall correctly, his evening ended by being forced into an ambulance after the doorman at a nearby pub first noticed him bleeding and then, upon further inspection, spotted his intestines protruding from the open wound.
– Yes, says Ahlström, I remember the rumours going around after this incident. I knew him and remember his apartment as more or less a Västerås black metal gathering place in the late 90s. I have no idea what he’s up to nowadays though, it’s been quite a while since I last saw him.
– Actually, adds Pessimisten, all of us have left this particular urban dystopia by now. These days, I don’t like to blame my problems on my surroundings, but Västerås never did me any good and nothing could ever make me move back there again.
There was also a VHS tape in circulation, fondly known as Skärfilmen – ’The Carving Film’ – which starred a number of Västerås notables. This cultural gem was often screened in the old Shadow Records store around the year 2000 and became somewhat of a pre-internet meme, with its many memorable quotes felled amidst the carnage. ‘Ring lite brudar då, Jimpa!’ One of the highlights featured a gentleman essentially slicing his forearm in two with a bread knife, then delivering the immortal phrase, ‘Din mamma luktar curry’, ‘Your mother smells of curry.’ Another clip featured the aforementioned Jim together with someone else, both going off on their arms with razors like men possessed before becoming nauseous from the blood loss. Whilst heaving, the pair deliberate whether they should go to the emergency ward or invite a few girls over for drinks. I don’t know why I’m surprised but, going into this conversation, I honestly had no clue I’d be speaking with one of the protagonists.
– I was actually in that film, exclaims Drabbad, I’m the one vomiting and suggesting that Jim call over some ladies. This was so many years ago, I don’t remember how old I was at the time but a teenager at least. Sixteen? Seventeen, perhaps. It was actually my idea to record this in the first place; we’d been drinking moonshine at some party when I suggested that we make a video recording of us cutting ourselves. Said and done – we left, did it, and then returned to the party again. The bread-knife scene was shot at a later occasion, and there were ideas to record even more stuff but, as far as I know, that never happened. As you noticed, this VHS was copied and spread around quite a lot in Swedish black metal circles. I recall going to some party in Hofors with a couple of friends, and this girl kept saying I looked familiar. I told her repeatedly that I’d never been there before. Then, hours later, she suddenly started screaming, ’Now I know where I’ve seen you! You’re that guy from the video recording! The psycho!’
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is almost twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #6. The second part contains additional madness – such as Drabbad literally bringing a knife to a gunfight – but, more importantly, an inspirational account of personal redemption for everyone involved. To see what Pessimisten is up to these days, check out his Instagram account.