On July 2nd and 3rd, the folks behind the Grimposium events are bringing a taste of Norway to Montreal. And by “Norway” I mean “Norwegian black metal,” of course (but you probably already guessed that): with the Norwegian Invasion event, Montrealers will have a chance to check out the Blekkmetal documentary (which shows performances from the festival of the same name, held in Norway last November) and see the first Canadian performance from BardSpec, Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved’s soundscape project. Decibel caught up with Grimposium mastermind/Blekkmetal producer Vivek Venkatesh and Blekkmetal director David Hall to talk about the event, what Enslaved fans can expect from BardSpec, and attempting to re-imagine Norwegian black metal.
Where did the idea for this event, and the movie, come from?
Vivek Venkatesh: The genesis for all of this began in the spring of 2015, when I had a chance to interview Ivar and Gruttle [Kjellson] from Enslaved here in Montreal. I was really interested by the way they were using spirituality, Nordic themes, religion, philosophy, and humanism in their lyrics, and how the music itself was picking up from some of the progressive rock that I listen to a lot. All that led into the Inferno festival in Oslo, which I was attending and gave a talk at. They were headlining one of the nights there, so we met up again there. After the Oslo festival, I traveled up to Bergen. I spent some time in Bergen because I had some connections I wanted to make within the Bergen black metal scene. I’ve always felt that the black metal scene in Norway has received a fairly North American approach, with documentaries and journalists always focusing on their violent pasts. When you talk to the members of the scene who’ve been involved in those issues, there’s a lot of reflexivity and criticality when they speak about what happened. When I met with some of the key members of the scene in Bergen we hit it off really well.
What separates Blekkmetal from other black metal films?
David Hall: Three things: One, we have full-song performances from bands so the music can speak for itself. Two, we don’t focus on lame shit like worshipping Satan and burning churches and tired old tropes that other filmmakers and the mainstream media slap onto black metal. Our film is about a festival—Blekkmetal—created to briefly celebrate a specific window of time in Bergen, Norway when magic happened: art untouched by corporate or untrue agenda was allowed to flourish. And, three, there is no narration or attempt to tell a story about the filmmakers or some preconceived notion. It is verité, guerrilla filmmaking that allows the subjects and the action to tell the story.
What was your intention with Blekkmetal? What were you trying to achieve?
Venkatesh: The film will never be on sale. We’re not looking to distribute it. We’re going to look at some film festivals and some curated events that are willing to help promote a message of re-imagination and re-focus of the Norwegian black metal scene on the musical and aesthetic qualities as opposed to some of the political elements that have surrounded it. I’m not going to speculate or reveal how the Bergen scene reacted to other documentations of their scenes. What I can say is I drew a lot of inspiration from the documentary Until the Light Takes Us; it provided a number of perspectives around Norwegian black metal. Our aim here is to take this back to Bergen, to screen the movie, have a great party there, and hand the film off, so to speak, to the Bergen community that has been so gracious with their time and also with their emotions. It’s been an emotional undertaking, and that’s what we want to respect.
Hall: My intention was to be respectful of the people—bands, fest organizers, people of Bergen and fans of Norwegian black metal—who were allowing us into their lives to film. Our intention as a crew—Jason Wallin, Vivek, Owen Chapman, and myself—was to show up, film non-stop, and capture the best-quality footage and audio possible. Since the “stage”—the fest, the beautiful city of Bergen, the amazing people of Bergen and Blekkmetal—was already set, we focused on technical stuff—lenses, audio gear, etc.—and let the story unfold before us.
Did you achieve what you set out to do?
Hall: 100 percent.
What can people expect at Ivar’s BardSpec concert?
Venkatesh: I saw Ivar perform as BardSpec at his inaugural performance and I was completely gob smacked by the quality of the music and the visuals. BardSpec reminds me a lot of latter-day Pink Floyd, but that does neither any service to Pink Floyd or Ivar. What BardSpec does is brings together post-punk, progressive, chamber music, and electronic music elements into one cohesive whole. The performance is basically an hour’s worth of music that Ivar laid basic tracks for and improvises music over based on the visuals he creates or has had created for his performance. I’m going to be performing with Ivar live on stage in Montreal, with soundscapes I’ve been collecting in Bergen and Montreal.
What’s next for Grimposium?
Venkatesh: I’m hosting a Grimposium show in the lead-up to Heavy Montreal, with Misery Index headlining and Vastum playing their first-ever Canadian show. In the lead-up to that I’ve organized for a panel session with members of Repulsion. Also, we are proud to announce the Canadian premiere screening of the Chuck Schuldiner biography, Death by Metal; that’s going to happen the day before the Misery Index show.