by Niklas Göransson

Echoes from the land beyond; Lifvsleda is a passion project courtesy of two long-time veterans of the Swedish black metal scene. Devotion still burns with the fires of remembrance.

This article can also be found in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2, a printed anthology with selected features from the online archive. Additional content includes NÅSTROND, VOMITOR, NOCTURNUS, XIBALBA ITZAES , Ryan Förster, ANGELCORPSE, THE RUINS OF BEVERAST, ASCENSION, MALOKARPATAN, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman, WARDRUNA, FORGOTTEN WOODS, SEIGNEUR VOLAND, and WOLCENSMEN – all presented in ambitious aesthetics with plenty of custom artwork. More information here.

“Det besegrade lifvet” consists of nine songs performed in the manner we prefer: raw, wild, and atmospheric. We sought to stoke the flames of ages past, a time when black metal was something dangerous and feared. Not by ripping off masterpieces that have already been made, but rather building on the same foundations to create our own. The album recording has been an ongoing process since the summer of 2019, before we even finished the “Manifest MMXIX” EP. This is one of the advantages with self-recording; we can do things entirely at our own pace and without meddling producers. With our vision clear in front of us, we wrote every song as if it was our last. For this work to be cast in its proper light, it needs to be listened to – intently – from start to finish. Therein lies its absolute grandeur. The totality.

As could be expected, the lyrics were a delight to read. It would certainly appear as if Sigward’s loathing for all things living has ripened with maturity.

– My general contempt for life itself, or rather my insatiable fascination for death, has always been a part of me. It’s shaped me into the man I am, was, and will become. Lyric-wise, “Det besegrade lifvet” is about learning from death – channelling emotions and moods and thereby finding the balance and strength to delve into the unknown. Orchestrate your own downfall within your mind and then bid a dignified farewell once the end has come. In summary: to worship, to desire, and to live in accordance with one’s creed. Life, in all its simplicity, and death in perpetuity.

I read that the vocals were recorded in the forest?

– Correct. Around the time we commenced working on the album, we procured a remote cabin in the woods. No electricity, bats living in the walls. They were clearly bothered by the racket, and so retaliated by making loud noises several nights in a row. To capture an authentic feeling and atmosphere, the vocals were tracked from start to finish – one song at a time. When we began, the temperature in there was several degrees below zero; when the last word faded out, it had risen to twenty-six degrees (79°F). In order to get that dry, pained voice, I avoided drinking anything either before or during the recording. It was pretty brutal, not only for the throat but also my joints which went from freezing cold to unbearably hot. Heh, listen to me, talking about painful joints… a whipper snapper I am not. Anyway, in order to have more material to work with in the mix, this procedure was then repeated on two separate occasions.


The closing track, “Landet bortom skogen”, is very different from the remaining songs. The title itself translates as ‘The land beyond the forest’. Worthy of note here is that the original name for Transylvania, Ultra Silvam, means ‘beyond the forest’ – bringing to mind a classic Swedish black metal metaphor.

– It was our outspoken intention to write an outro that differed musically from the remaining tracks. We used a sample of Swedish author Pär Lagerkvist reading his poem Det är vackrast när det skymmer as the song’s foundation, and then built further from there. We made two versions of it; the other one, which can be found on the EP, is more stripped-down. “Landet bortom skogen” could be regarded both as a farewell and a homage. A hail to two prominent personalities from the classic black metal scene who chose to travel onwards.

Sigward himself has been conspicuously absent from this very scene for many years now. As such, I’m wondering if he’s finally succumbed to what we know here as the ‘Svensson life’ – a so-called ‘normal’ existence. ‘Enjoying weekends in the garden with their children and golden retrievers’, as MkM from ANTAEUS put it.

– Svensson life? I don’t even know what that entails, nor do I intend to ever find out. If we’re sticking to metaphors, I’d take a trip to Transylvania over a charter to Mallorca. But I never disappeared, I’ve always been here. I just chose to work in the shadows, in peace and quiet. Now, the hidden has become visible and leaves a corresponding mark: wild and sinister.

LIFVSLEDA, the project that’s now become the duo’s life work, came into existence as a result of a chance social meeting during the spring of 2019.

– We’d been loosely acquainted for a long time without socialising on a personal level. We had a short stint in the same band at some point after the millennium shift. Besides this we’ve been in different projects ever since the early 90s, and it was recreating that feeling and mood which became our primary driving force. As you can imagine, working as a band again after so long was a mixture of nostalgia and fascination. But also, at the same time, it was the most natural thing in the world; as if I never stopped. It didn’t take long to realise that we were onto something really special. Once the forces had been set in motion, holding back was virtually impossible. With twenty years of desperation unleashed, everything came pouring out – unrestrained and savage, but simultaneously under our full control. It was a surreal feeling, trying to reign in such immense powers. Those who’ve experienced something similar will know what I’m referring to.

I’m assuming you’re going to keep making albums – but what about concerts?

– Well, the notion has come up, but not yet been discussed to any greater extent. Preparing for and then executing a live performance would mean sacrificing something else, and right now I don’t know if it’s worth it. But I’m definitely not saying no – we shall see. As for future releases: we’ve already made our grey album and our white album, so the next will be black as night. Torrents of sheer inspiration and devotion still flow unabated. There is more, and more will be forthcoming when the time is right. However, LIFVSLEDA is definitely not an active band in that sense: we prefer solitude and isolation over fraternising in a rehearsal place. I keep to myself and mine, without socialising to any greater extent.

Thoroughly unsurprising – I’m not sure about his cohort, but Sigward has never been known as an overtly sociable fellow.

– True, but I must point out that we are in no way a bunch of misfit recluses; we’re fully able to carry ourselves in many contexts, and possess enough social competence to live our lives entirely as we please. From the very beginning, we decided to keep LIFVSLEDA in as much obscurity as possible – for the simple reason that we don’t want more contact with other people than is strictly necessary. Our music, lyrics, and aesthetics speak for themselves. Honestly, I’m as baffled as I am fascinated over how well it all came together. Not only the actual music, but everything around it… how one is so profoundly swept away into the deepest depths of oneself, evoking the most feral of powers. It was like magic: I cannot rationally explain how any of this happened.


What are your strongest memories from the days you seek to reminisce?

– Oh, too many to mention. Hearing MAYHEM on the “Projections of a Stained Mind” sampler – “Freezing Moon” with Dead on vocals. Finding “Worship Him” and “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” at my local record shop. Receiving the BURZUM debut from the Swedish Helvete mail-order. How this music and its concepts upended my entire existence, root and tree. Buying Slayer Mag #9 at House of Kicks in Stockholm… or had it become Sound Pollution by then? Not to mention the legendary MAYHEM and BURZUM interviews in Close-Up; to this day they still give me the chills. Then all the advance tapes in circulation, such as the rough mixes of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, “Hvis lyset tar oss”, and “Det som engang var”. Memories such as these have forever etched themselves into my psyche. I still remember, as if it was only yesterday, one afternoon in August ‘93 when I heard the news that changed everything, forever. What else? Co-founding a pure black metal band earlier that summer, after having played death metal for a few years. I recall thinking, even back then, that we were a bit late to the party since there were already more than enough quality black metal acts around.

Seeing as how this is a LIFVSLEDA interview, Sigward declines to discuss any and all previous band involvements. Fair enough – fortunately, he’s agreed to talk about his old label instead. Svartvintras first appeared in 1995 with a really ambitious compilation tape called “Drap”; it features no less than nineteen Scandinavian black metal bands, many of which are well-known today.

– All participants were hand-picked, some for different reasons than others. I was in touch with all of them, so several songs are exclusive to this tape. ALGAION’s contribution, for example – and what a damn fine piece of black metal history that one is. It oozes more Hellenic black metal than ROTTING CHRIST and THOU ART LORD combined. The cover artwork was also created especially for this release: Shamaatae from ARCKANUM made the frames, and the pentagram skull was drawn by Aemelgoth from BELSEMAR and SATARIEL. He was also responsible for the Svartvintras logo.

Revisiting “Drap” was quite the ride of nostalgia. We have IN THE WOODS… and HELHEIM – later known as THE HELHEIM SOCIETY – representing Norway. SETHERIAL, playing their original style. Furthermore, NAUTHIS… I refuse to believe even Sigward thought this was good. THORNIUM, on the other hand; perfect ‘95-style Swedish black metal. They are also one of many bands I’ve debated Sigward on, at length, in the distant past. From memory, he adopted his usual ‘the demo is better than the debut’ stance. Generally, any black metal production which could even be suspected of having seen the inside of a studio was dismissed by way of contemptuous scoffing. One can but hope he’s come to his senses with advancing age. NÅSTROND, also present on the tape, is another example: needless to say, any mutterings about the demo outshining “Toteslaut” must be discarded as the vile disinformation it is.

– It would appear as if very little has changed with time. The THORNIUM demo beats “Dominions of the Eclipse” by a mile; I don’t care for the production of that album. The same goes for NÅSTROND – great debut, but the demo is clearly superior. SETHERIAL, on the other hand, is a rare exception to this rule: “Nord” is much better than the demo. I’d go so far as to call it a mid-90s Swedish semi-classic. HELHEIM… if I recall correctly, I ordered some jewellery from them, and that’s how it went. NAUTHIS might not have been the best thing to ever happen to the world, no.

Following “Drap”, Svartvintras lay dormant for another five years, before returning with a multitude of vinyl releases.

– First out was PUISSANCE “Mother of Disease”, followed by “Back in Control”. We handled SORHIN’s “I det glimrande mörkrets djup” on picture LP and “Apokalypsens ängel” on both vinyl and CD, in collaboration with Shadow Records. Then the vinyl version of the first KARJALAN SISSIT, a project by Make from THE BLACK. What? Yes, yes, “The Priest of Satan” is better than the demo. Anyway, the plan was to release vinyl of elite acts within black metal and… martial industrial, neo-classical, or whatever you call that genre? Bands like PUISSANCE and ARDITI anyway.


Svartvintras were supposed to release FUNERAL MIST’s iconic debut, “Salvation”, on both vinyl and CD. It’s interesting to ponder where the label might have been today, had this come to fruition.

“Salvation” was indeed meant to be released by Svartvintras, with distribution through Regain Records. Contracts were signed and everything was in place. I can’t be bothered to get into details here but, suffice it to say, things didn’t exactly pan out as planned. Luckily, Norma Evangelium Diaboli released this absolutely monumental work in the best way imaginable: “Salvation” is an untouched classic. Following that debacle, we released a split EP with SORHIN and PUISSANCE, and finally, as our death rattle, the ARDITI debut on CD. Then, everything was shut down. I haven’t really given much thought to how things might have unfolded – the record business isn’t something I’d ever want to be part of. At least not in terms of bigger releases requiring organised distribution, relying on other people, and so forth. After all, I prefer to work in the shadows here too.

I still have my copy of “Mother of Disease”Sigward brought it for me when MALIGN played Uppsala with WATAIN and DARK FUNERAL in October 1999. Sadly, the beer he’d smuggled into the venue sprung a leak, so the entire booklet is damaged. Hell of a night, that one. If I recall correctly, Sigward orchestrated some spontaneous marketing efforts by constantly holding up said PUISSANCE LP in front of DARK FUNERAL’s camera man during their set, with quarrelling as a result.

– My memories from this evening are rather vague, to say the least, and I’d actually repressed that business with the camera man, but now that you mention it… really though, wasn’t there always quarrelling whenever everyone got together? I also recall Belfagor kicking someone in the face from stage? Glorious night, no doubt – and epic intoxication to boot, judging by my lack of recollections. It was actually Mörk from MALIGN who made the LIFVSLEDA logo; we are still in sporadic touch. I’ve been privy to new MALIGN material, and it sounds fucking killer. Rumour has it that they will release a split with SORHIN through Shadow Records: three entities who all operate with minimal haste, so it remains to be seen if this ever materialises. One can but hope.

How did you get to know MALIGN?

– I ran into them outside a SLAYER gig in Stockholm in… 1994, if memory serves me right. It was all about attitude and scene cred in those days, so our first meeting actually started out with conflict. I can’t recall the exact details, but there was some kind of dispute over a rumour pertaining to suspected poser behaviour. Fortunately, we sorted out our differences pretty fast and then remained in contact, exchanging many handwritten letters. I really miss that form of communication. I then visited them in Stockholm a few times over the next decade. One hilarious memory was when DIMMU BORGIR played Stockholm in the late 90s. Needless to say, this couldn’t be allowed to simply go by unpunished, so someone smuggled a bag full of raw herring into the venue. To throw at the main attraction. At least that was the original plan.

This concert, which also featured DØDHEIMSGARD and DARK FUNERAL, took place in April 1999 – several months before the deeply polarising “666 International” was released. Therefore, one could say that DØDHEIMSGARD’s revamped aesthetic approach came as a bit of a surprise to most in attendance.

– We were actually there to see them – but when they trotted out on stage wearing brightly coloured pastel dresses, barrages of aquatic artillery were spontaneously discharged. I mean, really, this is the band that released “Kronet til konge”, an absolute black metal gem, so the disappointment was crushing. I’m unable to comment further on the evening since I was forcibly escorted out of the venue before DARK FUNERAL had finished playing. And no, throwing fish is perhaps not something I’d engage in today; I’m a vegetarian, for starters. There was a completely different atmosphere back in the day, and not some welcoming sense of community where everyone felt embraced. In hindsight, threats and harassment might sound ridiculous, but all of this was a natural part of the scene and it set the mood for the entire milieu.

Very true. I recall with amusement when a member from one of the bands featured on “Drap” left a death threat on the answering machine of Marcus Tena of TRIUMPHATOR and Shadow Records. Shortly thereafter, the gentleman was made aware of a new technological innovation known as ‘caller ID’.

– Haha! It surely is a time to miss, and a time to hail. That feeling and mood when one finds oneself so thoroughly immersed in something unfamiliar and exhilarating – where hidden perils lurk around every corner. You feel completely at home, as if you’ve never been elsewhere. You are utterly mesmerised as the total fascination morphs into sheer fixation. This feeling is unbeatable, and that’s precisely what we wanted to infuse into “Det besegrade lifvet”. Something wild, dangerous, and uninhibited. An emotional journey backwards in time. This is our homage to the black metal we recognise and feel at home in. I see nothing negative about intolerance and narrow-mindedness in this context; it’s a calling and a way of thinking that’s a rare privilege. To be honest, if you haven’t been marinated in it through formative years, I doubt it’s even possible to re-create this with any sense of authenticity.

Would you say you are still emotionally invested in black metal today?

– To one hundred percent. I’m actually forced to restrict myself from social media and forum discussions; taking part in this desecration would be like destroying a part of myself. I still take black metal seriously, to the greatest possible extent. I’d say this is a topic in which there is no room for jestery or any kind of comic relief. The reason why this is such a sore spot to me is that black metal has deeply affected, shaped, and developed me. I think and live in accordance with these codes until this day, and the experiences from the past permeate my entire worldview. I might choose other ways of expression in daily life these days, but in my heart and soul the fanaticism rages stronger than ever.


This article can also be found in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2, a printed anthology with selected features from the online archive. Additional content includes NÅSTROND, VOMITOR, NOCTURNUS, XIBALBA ITZAES , Ryan Förster, ANGELCORPSE, THE RUINS OF BEVERAST, ASCENSION, MALOKARPATAN, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman, WARDRUNA, FORGOTTEN WOODS, SEIGNEUR VOLAND, and WOLCENSMEN – all presented in ambitious aesthetics with plenty of custom artwork. More information here.