by Niklas Göransson
Frontiersman of the northern hinterland – a visit to the hearth of Nordvis. Andreas Pettersson from Lönndom, Saiva, and Armagedda ponders the ethereal dance of woodland spirits, as well as the enigmatic allure of the netherworld.
This is an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #8. The same issue also includes conversations with DESTRÖYER 666/BESTIAL WARLUST, AKHLYS, LEVIATHAN/LURKER OF CHALICE, BLACK WITCHERY, CULTES DES GHOULES, THUNDERBOLT, BLACKDEATH, MISÞYRMING, MORTUUS, DÖDFÖDD/REVERORUM IB MALACHT, and OFERMOD.
– LÖNNDOM felt like a natural development from ARMAGEDDA. It was also a continuation of sorts, both tonally speaking and in terms of personal progress. We founded the project in 2004, not long after recording “Ond spiritism” at Necromorbus Studio. I felt a deep-rooted urge to convey something more closely tied to how we grew up – our origins and way of life – and to cultivate that side of myself. Obviously, ARMAGEDDA didn’t have much nature-related content, so I think we needed LÖNNDOM right then and there; it signified the start of something new.
In an EHLDER feature from 2020 – published in Bardo Archivology Vol 1 – Andreas’ long-time cohort Stefan Sandström said that LÖNNDOM sprung from a desire to introduce some manner of spiritual balance to his life.
– I personally don’t consider LÖNNDOM to be the antithesis of anything; I’d rather regard it as its own entity. But I can see why it might have felt that way because ARMAGEDDA was very intrusive. I suppose breaking free and doing something entirely different was both liberating and inspiring – and that, in turn, did indeed bring about some balance. Which ARMAGEDDA, needless to say, never did. There was no light, only darkness. LÖNNDOM had a bit of both; it encompassed so much more.
Did you see LÖNNDOM as a black metal band?
– Not aside from the music, no. I’d never use that term for LÖNNDOM; it would feel almost heretical. I’m sure others regarded it as such, but there is nothing satanic or destructive about LÖNNDOM. The music might not have been very happy, but nor was it especially dark. I saw it as primitive and filthy folk rock. There is always inspiration, but perhaps not in a musical sense so much as emotional. Most of it came from the frontiersman way of life up here in the north: an existence filled with melancholy and hardship.
In the spring of 2005 – using an improvised home-studio setup on the top floor of the house they shared – Andreas and Stefan recorded “Hågkomster från nordliga nejder”, a two-song EP with an intro and outro. After a few years of living together on the outskirts of their hometown, Skellefteå, the two of them moved to a small rural community called Burträsk.
– For a long time, my ambition had been to move further out into the heartland – unfortunately, I was unemployed, so my prospects weren’t great. But then we found a remote house that stood empty. The location itself was very special: alongside the property ran an old church path that people would take to mass back in the day. There were a lot of strange things going on around there. I’m not sure if that’s what seeped into the house; it had a peculiar, even creepy, vibe.
“Hågkomster…” includes a statement about how LÖNNDOM is dedicated to and inspired by the magical and mystical aspects of the Lappish taiga. Not only did it permeate the band’s concept, but the actual music moved closer to the melancholic nature-romantic black metal that had its heyday during the 90s. However, it still sounds unmistakably sinister – the folky aspects are far closer aligned with ISENGARD than OTYG, despite the latter’s geographical proximity.
– Neither Stefan nor I had much of a connection with OTYG. The same hometown, true, but we never felt especially compelled to fraternise; I cannot imagine we would’ve had much in common. Anyway… sinister, you say? Well, it’s difficult to play such music in major scales. LÖNNDOM’s approach of wistful folk music with dissonances came naturally to us. But bear in mind that “Ond spiritism” also has a bit of that folky touch; same with our use of only two guitars, which gives it that hollow, eerie sound. We were huge fans of KVIST’s “For kunsten maa vi evig vike” – especially the way they used keyboards to create a certain atmosphere. If one is to talk about some kind of inspiration from black metal, that was absolutely a record with a mood reminiscent of what we wanted for LÖNNDOM.
The spring of 2006 brought with it a dramatic turn of events. After recording “Hågkomster från nordliga nejder”, as well as “Lekamen illusionen kallet” – the third album of his solo project, LIK – Stefan’s many years of obsessing over the shadow-side started to take its toll, sending him down a spiral of rapidly deteriorating mental health. This episode culminated in an attempt to blow his brains out with a shotgun. But while staring into the barrel, finger on the trigger, Stefan was suddenly beset by a powerful vision. An ethereal apparition showed him what manner of afterlife lay in wait, should he vacate the contents of his skull. Awe-struck and overwhelmed, Stefan interpreted the ghostly figure that stood before him as the Son of God and so embraced the teaching of Jesus Christ. In the EHLDER feature, Stefan recalled that he ‘died in the eyes of Andreas’ upon sharing the news.
– In the heat of the moment, one can blurt out many things. But ‘died in my eyes’? Sure, I might have said something to that effect. Perhaps it was even how I felt at the time. But of course, deep inside, I knew it wasn’t true. Bear in mind now that this was an individual with whom I’d spent almost every day for many years. Try putting yourself in such a position: someone you’ve shared everything with – worldview, lifestyle, ambitions – suddenly calls to say, ‘Hello, I’m a completely new person!’ I mean, what is there even to say? ‘Andreas, I burned all of my old Norwegian LPs. I’ve burnt everything that exists.’ Yeah, so it was really strange.
Did you take it hard?
– I did, yes. But – more so than Stefan distancing himself from what we had done, or black metal in general – I think it was mostly because I felt as if I’d lost a friend. It was a bizarre thing to process. This happened at a time when we were really close. Both of us knew what we wanted to achieve and where we were going, but all of that crumbled overnight. It was like razing a shared future. You are thrown into uncertainty; you’re suddenly left all alone, holding what once belonged to both of you. So it’s difficult to… not to talk about it per se, but rather to think back and find the right words.
Were you musically active in the immediate aftermath?
– No, I don’t think so. Even before this happened, I had withdrawn quite a bit. It was much needed; I think I was just trying to understand life. But it did provide even more fuel for my ambitions to move further from the coast, away from everything. After a few months, once all the chaos in my head had settled, Stefan and I started talking again. ARMAGEDDA was obviously out of the question, but we discussed what to do with LÖNNDOM. Stefan could justify this project from his new religious perspective, so I thought, ‘Alright, let’s keep going then.’
Was there a different dynamic between you by this point?
– It was almost like building a brand-new friendship. Everything had changed. But at the same time, if you’re close to someone, you must be willing to accept change. Otherwise, you’re not much of a friend, are you? Seeking new creative inspiration, we went on long hikes deep into the wilderness. Actually, we aborted one such trip and drove straight back home to start working on “Fälen från norr”. We sat by a campfire beneath a mountain when both of us noted, ‘Damn, I can literally feel the inspiration flowing!’ That exact sensation – right then, at that precise moment – provided a lot of fuel to LÖNNDOM over the next few years. It was a very natural process of converting feelings and moods into notes.
Come the winter of 2006, the pair recorded “Fälen från norr” on the top floor of Stefan’s house in Risliden. One would have to assume that there was a slightly different studio ambience compared to “Ond spiritism”.
– It was quite pleasant actually – far nicer. Significantly more enthusiasm, for starters. It’s hard to put words to certain things. We began writing these melodies and harmonies together and just felt, ‘Now, this is something…’ I don’t know, ‘not destructive’? ‘The Devil is not always present, as He always was before.’ It made for a huge difference, but in a good way.
Both men agreed that LÖNNDOM was too personal to be left in the hands of an outside party. Andreas worked at a local ore mine by then and so possessed the financial means to release it himself – which is essentially how Nordvis got started. In June 2007, “Fälen från norr” became the label’s first title. Over the coming years, Nordvis was on a semi-hiatus, so Andreas licensed the debut to Germany’s Eisenwald Records. The same label released LÖNNDOM’s second album, “Viddernas tolv kapitel”, in February 2010. Here, LÖNNDOM abandoned metal altogether in favour of dark, gloomy, and atmospheric folk rock.
– Since we had previously worked exclusively with metal as a musical medium, it was interesting to interpret our creations using only acoustic guitars. I’m thrilled with how this album came out, but it took us two attempts – “Viddernas tolv kapitel” was recorded twice. We weren’t satisfied with the first version, so it was discarded and re-done from scratch. But we couldn’t muster quite the same enthusiasm the second time around; that’s the problem with re-recording material.
The final LÖNNDOM record – “Till Trevaren”, an EP released by Eisenwald in April 2012 – saw the duo return to metal. But soon thereafter, the project which had meant so much to them both was unceremoniously dissolved.
– That’s a private matter I’d rather not talk about; it’s far too personal. Also, I can’t imagine that Stefan wants me to discuss this publicly. Let’s just say that there have been times when we’ve been in different phases of our lives. Perhaps that was evident from the interview you did with him? We’ve certainly had our issues over the years. When LÖNNDOM split up… well, perhaps not split up – but if Stefan and I are not in symbiosis, then there is no LÖNNDOM. I think it’s important to emphasise this. And whether or not we are still actively socialising, we will always carry with us our individual parts of LÖNNDOM and ARMAGEDDA.
Since then, Stefan has not only revived his old solo venture LIK but also started a new black metal band called EHLDER. The debut album, “Nordabetraktelse”, was released by Nordvis in October 2019. Andreas has also kept busy – besides working with STILLA, he’s made an album and a few EPs with his own solo project, SAIVA. Actually, both the music and concept of SAIVA strike me as a continuation of LÖNNDOM.
– In one sense, sure… but in others – no. SAIVA is not necessarily a continuation of LÖNNDOM so much as of the elements I brought to the project. The main difference here is that I do everything alone, without compromising with anyone. Still, it bears mentioning that Stefan and I work very well together musically: we’re able to capture a certain feeling. I also believe that both of us have managed to create something unique on our own, taking EHLDER as an example. But I’d say the music I’ve made in later years has a slightly less hostile expression than Stefan’s output. Perhaps it’s always been that way, only that our respective musical impulses mixed well?
In the fall of 2014, Andreas was perusing a Swedish classified website when he spotted an ad for a secluded farm. Seen on the map, it looks like a small clearing in the middle of a forest – far from any human settlement. It was about an hour by car from Fjällboda, where he lived with his partner at the time.
– I keep an eye on these sites because there is always useful stuff popping up – lumber and all kinds of things which might come in handy one day, either on a farm or in daily life. I wasn’t actively searching for a new home but, oddly, the ad was listed under a different category. ‘What the hell is that?’ It looked so solitary. The price was also very reasonable. ‘Alright, let’s have a look.’ I think we arrived from the same direction as you and I did yesterday. We found the old dirt road leading up to the property, parked, and exited the car. I will never forget that feeling: it was so incredibly serene and tranquil.
After driving up said dirt road, one is met by a two-storey residential house. There is also a barn with a vegetable patch next to it. Besides the additional structures that Andreas has built since taking occupancy, there is nothing but trees and mountains as far as the eye can see. The location depicted on the cover of EHLDER’s “Nordabetraktelse” is an approximately ten-minute hike from Andreas’ front door.
– We’d been told where the keys were hidden, so we let ourselves in and checked out the house. As it looked then, it wasn’t all that exciting. I said, ‘Let’s have a look up there.’ I remember it so clearly now – I stared up towards the hill, and my eyes fixed on that magnificent pine barren. I made my way up and then surveyed the surroundings. A minute or so later, I turned to my partner and said, ‘This shall be my home. I’m buying it.’ That was eight years ago, and I feel the same today.
How much time passed until you owned it?
– About a week. Since I still had the property in Fjällboda, we initially used the farm as a holiday home. Then, after Christmas, I thought, ‘Bah, why don’t we just move here full-time?’ So, I put the house in Fjällboda up for sale and have been here ever since. I’ve now built a sense of trust in this place that’s worth more than any material riches. One should always have a fixed point in life, and this is mine. I’ve grown into it, but it’s been a long journey. Whatever tribulations life throws my way, I can come here for comfort, solace, and strength. There are also far fewer people around these parts, which is something that’s always been of vital importance to me. Seclusion isn’t negative by default: it can also be a great way to get to know yourself.
At this point, Andreas had spent the past eight years working as a miner. The mine was about one hundred kilometres from his new home – a little over an hour’s drive. That meant getting up at 4 am for the day shift. He’d work seven days and then have one week off.
– For a while there, I was carpooling with a co-worker. We’d meet up about thirty kilometres from here. One of us would park and then get a ride in the other’s car. The dayshift was from 6 am to 4:15 pm. Then, after a week off, 4 pm to 2:15 am. I remember once when we were driving home after a night shift. It was extremely cold, and when we arrived at my car around 3:30 am, the thermometer showed forty-two degrees below Celsius (-43.6 °F). I turned the keys to the ignition – nothing. My co-worker gave me a ride home, and then I had to tow the car the following day. It’s things like this which make life up here so exciting. From the farm to the mine, there is zero habitation. Nothing but forest, so one does well to prepare for all eventualities. In wintertime, you might want to keep some extra clothes in your car because it could break down somewhere without cell phone service. Your only option then is to get dressed and start running. That should keep you warm for as long as you can keep going.
Life in the desolate taiga isn’t always as uneventful as one might think. Around 2010, after studying scripture at the Johannelund Theological Seminary in Uppsala for two semesters, Stefan abandoned Christianity. Five years later, he found himself back in the north, on the run from law enforcement. A few months earlier, he was arrested in Skellefteå and then – after spending six weeks in jail – let go awaiting sentencing for his involvement in what’s been described as Sweden’s largest-ever drug distribution enterprise. Rather than attending the trial and serving his prison sentence, Stefan opted to leave town and set up camp in the wilderness. His adventures resulted in an outrageous true-crime story extensively chronicled in the aforementioned EHLDER feature. One night, Stefan left his hideout by car to pick up an off-road motorcycle he had stowed away. Trailers are typically not readily available in the arctic outback but, as luck would have it, Stefan knew that his old friend Andreas owned one. So, he came by in the middle of the night to borrow it. Figuring that Andreas might not be too keen on the idea of aiding and abetting a wanted fugitive, Stefan didn’t bother asking.
– When I got up the following morning, I was utterly bewildered. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what had happened. As you can imagine, people don’t often spontaneously drop by to borrow things here. Furthermore, we had two dogs that would usually alert us at the slightest sound outside, so whomever it was must’ve been super-stealthy. At first, I thought, ‘Damnit, did I leave the trailer somewhere and then forget about it? Have I really grown that old?’ But I was sure it had been there when I went to bed – full of lumber. And that lumber was now neatly stacked on the ground. Our bedroom was on the ground floor back then, and the trailer stood right outside the window. I mean, he must have unloaded it like this…
Andreas grabs a log from the pile next to the campfire and then, ever so gently, places it on the ground.
– How he managed that without rousing the hounds, I will never understand. It hasn’t ever happened that we’ve had visitors without the dogs alerting us. Anyway, I concluded that someone must have taken it. Not long after reporting it stolen, I received a phone call from Stefan. ‘Hi, it’s me. Look, I apologise, but I had to borrow your trailer.’ As I recall, the first thing I said was, ‘How the hell did you even pull that off?’ I then met him at an undisclosed location, got my trailer back, and brought it home. A bit worse for wear but largely intact.
Stefan told me your reunion was ‘as frosty as it was brief’ – is that how you perceived it?
– I thought our meeting went pretty well, considering the circumstances. In some way, I’ve always had a forgiving eye for Stefan and his escapades. We have a lot of shared history that undoubtedly left a permanent mark. Besides, I myself am far from perfect. I was also well aware of his plans, and that he had no intention of attending the trial. I’d even helped him out with a few things. I knew everything about his situation, so we kept a lid on it.
After several months on the run, Stefan was apprehended in the small town of Arvidsjaur, about a forty-minute drive from the farm. While on an expedition to see his daughter, he’d been forced to ditch the stolen car he used for transportation. At the time of his arrest, Stefan was trying to procure a replacement vehicle with which he could make his way back to the makeshift cabin he’d been building at the foot of a remote mountain. Appropriately, the concept of living in and off nature – under the mercy of the elements – was a big part of LÖNNDOM. Both Stefan and Andreas have long held a profound reverence for the 18th and 19th-century frontiersmen in the north of Sweden.
– Many of them had no choice but to take matters into their own hands. Young families would travel for days, deep into the uncharted wilderness, until they found a good spot with a nearby water source. ‘This shall be our home.’ On trackless land in the absolute middle of nowhere, often venturing into Sami country. And those meetings did not always end well. They built their own log houses, tree by tree. It’s too far north for any kind of agriculture, save for potatoes. So, they would grow potatoes and fish in the rivers and lakes. That was the alpha and omega. Unless you were a skilled hunter, there wasn’t much else available. These folks must’ve had a primordial life force surging through them. They didn’t need a whole lot to survive: a fire, potatoes, and some fish.
Not much has changed, it would seem. Before the interview, I was served river-caught fish – freshly cured in the smokehouse that Andreas and his domestic partner, Tina, built themselves – with a side order of potatoes harvested from the vegetable patch an hour earlier.
– I feel there’s a risk of over-romanticising here because life wasn’t all that romantic back then. Nature isn’t just something… ‘Everything is lovely; it’s a wonderful day, let’s go for a walk among the trees.’ She can also be chaotic, cruel, and violent – but that’s part of her charm. So, while I don’t want to idealise anything, I have tremendous respect and admiration for the northern frontiersmen and the life they led.
This was an excerpt from the full article, which is twice as long and published in Bardo Methodology #8. The same issue also includes conversations with DESTRÖYER 666/BESTIAL WARLUST, AKHLYS, LEVIATHAN/LURKER OF CHALICE, BLACK WITCHERY, CULTES DES GHOULES, THUNDERBOLT, BLACKDEATH, MISÞYRMING, MORTUUS, DÖDFÖDD/REVERORUM IB MALACHT, and OFERMOD.