Welcome to Demo:listen, your weekly peek into the future of underground metal. Whether it’s death, black, doom, sludge, grind, thrash, heavy, speed, progressive, stoner, retro, post-, punk/, -core, etc. we’re here to bring you the latest demos from the newest bands. On this week’s Demo:listen we are possessed by the spirit of Iceland’s Vanvid.
Walking among the nineteen thousand citizens of Akureyri are two men you’d never suspect are capable of not only evoking, but of harnessing strange dark spirits. Ulv (vocals) and Bjorn (everything else) are the sole members of Iceland’s latest, and weirdest black metal band, Vanvid. Together they channel those mischievous forces, and then promptly enslave them. They put those spirits to work toward building something too unique to call occult, and too haunted to call simply black metal.
Says Bjorn, “Everything came together in one 10 hour [session] and I mixed it the day after.” [Bear in mind, Bjorn’s talking about recording two guitar parts, bass, drums, and whatever else for a nearly forty minute demo, all in a mere ten hours. But wait, it gets better.] “I had some riffs in mind and some melodies but nothing had been written or demoed before we entered the studio.”
Says it right there on Vanvid’s Bandcamp. ‘Deviced & performed on the 135th day, MMXVII.’ Still it’s a shock learning that hol, Vanvid’s debut, is entirely improvised.
“Ulv’s vocals . . . evolved throughout the recording process and his performance on ‘Mørke stemmen’ still gives me shivers. Something supernatural happened there,” Bjorn says.
In a vain attempt to demystify their demo’s origins, Bjorn offers up the bare logistics of how Vanvid recorded hol.
“We entered the room where we recorded and set everything up so that I could easily move from one instrument to the next. Guitar came first, structuring the songs, with drums and bass following. Most of the music was improvised on the spot in one or two takes with me only having one riff or melody in mind for each song to begin with. Meanwhile, Ulv was writing lyrics inspired by what he heard. He then recorded his vocal parts, working it out as he went on. When we had finished the first song we moved on to the next. The songs are all written and recorded in the same order as they appear on the album in one day.
“Recording took place in a rehearsal space where I’ve set up a crude studio. It is the same place Urðun’s Horror & Gore and [their] split with Taphos Nomos, R.I.P., were recorded, the latter I also produced… (as well as playing drums as Coffin Crusher in Urðun.)”
Jam this while you process all that.
Like some epic tale of vainglorious madness succumbing to its just miseries, hol begins almost triumphantly, but one can sense the paranoia creeping in like stalking death’s ever-darting shadow. Comparisons to the Norwegian masters come easily, but Ulv’s vocals keep hol in the far out reaches, where the unknown taps upon your shoulder.
“We wanted [hol] to sound like we had found the tape somewhere, raw and dark,” says Ulv.
But what about all that atmospheric noise?
“Don’t worry, your speakers are fine,” Bjorn says. “It is simply some noise that got recorded and we didn’t notice until the day after. Re-recording was out of the question as it would certainly ruin the magic and power of the music. Now, is it a ghost? Are the recordings cursed? I can not say . . .”
“Also a child falling on its face and starting to cry, just outside our window, made for some interesting background noise,” Ulv adds.
Regarding the purloined photographs used for their layout, once again, Bjorn seems as astonished as anyone else may be at the explanation of their origin.
“On the day of recording we just happened upon a book that had these haunting photos. What the photos really show are scenes from old Icelandic plays but to us the gothic black & white photos were an inspiration and definitely affected the songwriting in some mysterious way. It was something lost and now found . . .”
But after it leads you through heaving and twisting corridors and up Escherian spiral staircases, piercing alien welkins and beyond, hol settles into the repetitive dark ambient closer called “Lang vinter.” Wagner Ödegård fans take not.
“‘Lang Vinter’ is inspired by just that, a long winter. A simple lonely melody repeating ad nauseum . . .” says Bjorn.
I know what you’re thinking . . . When comes the physical manifestation????
“hol has been released as a limited run of 30 home-printed cassette tapes. It is still possible to contact us for a tape through either our Bandcamp or Facebook. A re-release in some form in the future is not out of the question though,” Bjorn says.
“In keeping with the theme, the tapes were recorded on 20 year old cassettes that we got from a friend of ours, handmade and numbered,” Ulv adds.
Since it seems to be no big deal for Ulv and Bjorn to exploit ancient spirits for their own devious black metal, they’re looking toward an active future.
Says Bjorn, “We have been asked to play a show in Reykjavik next year and are looking for members to fill a live lineup. I am hopeful that we will find the right, like-minded people and I think that Vanvid has a nice niche carved out for it in the Icelandic black metal scene. We have discussed doing another recording session in December this year which could see a release in January 2018 (maybe). Then live shows in 2018. Vanvid is a project driven by passion for the music and as long as there is passion I think we can look forward to seeing more Vanvid.”