By Mads Lilletvedt & Olav Iversen (Sahg)
Readers of Decibel, here’s an introduction to the renaissance of heavy metal — Trve Norwegian Heavy Metal, if you may.
Entering the Norwegian metal scene in 2006 as a classic doom band, wasn’t necessarily a recipe for success. Black metal was still the big thing coming from Norway, and there wasn’t much space for bands from other sub-genres. Even with Gorgoroth members King ov Hell and Kvitrafn (now in Wardruna) in the line-up, adding a touch of blackness, it wasn’t very likely that Sahg would get an instant break-through. However, the band took the heavy music scene by storm with their blistering, chart-breaking debut Sahg I.
Throughout the following decade, we released five critically acclaimed albums, and played several tours and festivals across Europe, the United States and Asia to date. We have toured as support act for bands like Motörhead, W.A.S.P., Opeth, Clutch, Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir, and Enslaved to name just a few, and appeared at prestigious festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Summerbreeze, Sweden Rock Festival, Hard Rock Hell, Tons of Rock, Inferno Festival and Beyond the Gates, among many more.
As showcased on our new album, Born Demon, we are newly reborn as a three-headed monster. Arguably heavier and more dynamic than any previous incarnation of the band, we are now a blistering power trio. I think Born Demon is what happens when great musicians allow instinct to take over.
From the pile-driving occult doom of the title track to the widescreen menace of the closing “Destroyer Of The Earth,” Born Demon sounds more like a kicking, spitting debut record than our sixth opus. Forged around the fizzing chemistry enjoyed by Olav Iversen, Mads Lilletvedt (that’s me!) and bassist Tony Vetaas, we’ve obviously stripped things down to the beautiful basics. With that, here’s the track-by-track breakdown of Born Demon. Enjoy!
Born Demon track listing:
01. “Fall into the Fire”
I’ll leave “Fall into the Fire” to Olav: “‘Fall Into the Fire’ is one of the tracks that really states what the new album is about. This is heavy metal in its purest form. After Sahg became a three-piece, we started focusing on writing simpler songs. We wanted to go back to the core and rediscover the essence of our heavy metal origins. On the previous couple of albums, we had written more complex and progressive material, but we’d had enough of that. I remember thinking, ‘How can we make a Sahg song that hits the headbanger in people in the simplest way?’ This is what came out. The simple opening riff is the backbone of ‘Fall Into the Fire.’ The chorus was taken from a song we had written some time before, that was otherwise heading in the wrong direction. But the unpretentious catchiness of the chorus fit perfectly with the new riff.
“ The vocal line came instinctively along with the riff, and is equally instant and to the point. The first words that rolled off my tongue when we jammed the song, were ‘You scored the Devil’s daughter,’ which led me on to writing a lyric about someone who hooks up with a charming young lady out on the town one night. One thing leads to another, and after waking up the next day you realize you have spent the night with the actual Devil’s daughter. Pretty bad news, of course, because you have given the Devil and his daughter exactly what they were after — the perfect occasion to drag you to hell and torture you in the most horrible ways, for all eternity. Turn it down from 11 to seven, and I’m sure many can relate. It’s a song about getting into trouble, basically. The kind you can’t get out of.”
02. “House Of Worship”
“House of Worship” says a lot about Sahg’s new approach on writing music. We are not trying to prove our integrity or show off our song-writing intellect. We are at peace with that. We just thought, ‘let’s bring back that classic heavy metal vibe, and write something that makes people raise their fists in the air and scream along.’ That’s how the opening drum riff came about. Not a guitar riff for once, but a drum riff, which is the base of the entire song. Everything else is built around that. The vocals play around on top of the strict rhythm, before the song breaks down into a slow, heavy part in the middle, and then gets back at it again.
The lyrics simply promote religious liberation. Freedom of believing in whatever you want. Don’t let anyone tell you what to believe in. Why would anyone try to convince you to believe in the same thing as them unless they wanted to gain power? Why else would they threaten you with eternal suffering in hell? I can’t see any other reasonable explanation, and that’s where organized religion comes from. It is an instrument of power, rather than a communion of faith.
03. “Born Demon”
Again, Olav take it away: “We chose ‘Born Demon’ as the title track, and to release it as a single, because it is one of the heaviest tracks on the record, and it tells something about the overall theme on the album. About how all human beings have their demons. Everyone has an evil side, dark powers which are hard to control, and which sometimes go out of control, and make us do bad things to ourselves and to others. Every one of us is born with a dark side, and everyone is ‘Born Demon.’ The lyrics are about the newborn child of a woman and a demon. The mother is in deep shame and deeply regrets her mistake with the evil seducer. She doesn’t want the child, and plans to leave the newborn deep in the forest to die. But the child uses its demonic powers to get back at her in the most gruesome way… The song originated from a riff that I (Olav) wrote many, many years ago, in the early years of Sahg’s existence. It has stuck with me through all this time, and I always loved the heavy, dark vibe of it, but I haven’t been able to write a song from it, until now. That riff is now the main riff of ‘Born Demon.’ The song materialized when I came up with the verse, and when we made the massive choir arrangements towards the end. We decided to go full-on Queen on that part, with the entire band singing along. And we have no regrets for doing it.”
04. “Descendants of the Devil
Master Olav yet again: “The obvious jam track. The basis of this track came along as presented on the album. The drum groove (again) was essential in inspiring the riff, and we felt it had a very cool demonic vibe. With the album’s possibly catchiest bridge, and Mads joining in on the chorus with brilliant harmonics, ‘Descendants of the Devil’ shows the full specter of our capabilities.”
05. “Black Cross on the Moon
This song went through some rough treatment, and was initially a far more aggressive song. After some discussions, we all agreed that the chorus was so insanely beautiful and rich in story that we had to figure out how to build up to it in the best way possible. So, we cleaned up everything, classic driving chords on the guitar with a simple back beat, and everything got a lot sexier.
06. “Evil Immortal
Finally a full force banger again!? After “Fall into the Fire,” we were literally on fire, and the riffs for ‘Evil Immortal’ came like raining embers. Reign of darkness never dies, this is the coming of The Lord. Kneel and receive the wicked Baptism of Fire! A little fun Easter Egg competition is that one of the riffs is directly inspired by a Pantera song. First one to recognize this should hit up drummer Mads in a DM and offerings will be shed.
07. “Salvation Damnation”
Speaking of Immortal… here we wanted to pay our respect to one of Norway’s most influential extreme metal bands of all time — Immortal. It’s no journey to Blashyrkh, but a heavy ride down a blood-red stream of riffs and floor toms. Also hosting one of Born Demon’s two guitar solos, it’s still cementing the new trend in our songwriting. Straight to point, no bullshit, compact heavy metal commanding circle pits whenever we play live!
08. “Killer Spirit (From Outta Hell)
A quirky little twister, telling the story about a schizophrenic hearing voices inside, telling him to go about and end people. Also introducing the mighty Sahg choir chanting on some evil Norwegian demonic callings. We felt it was so evil that we asked our daughters, from age 6 to 13, open the track to give it a slightly more Billie Eilish-vibe. After all, we do need new generations to keep the Killer Spirit alive!
“Heksedans” is nothing less than a heavy metal cover version of a true Norwegian classic, originally released in 1977 by Bergen’s own troubadour legend, Jan Eggum. Growing up in Norway, Eggum’s many classics are as familiar as Edvard Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King.’ That way, “Heksedans” is part of our heritage and the background music to our childhood.
One can say that it seems like an unlikely match to Sahg. But during the writing sessions for the new album, we touched base with our native inspirations, and realized that “Heksedans” has all the right ingredients to make one hell of a heavy metal banger. The eerie melodics of the opening riff, the heavy groove of the verses, and a chorus that just begs for the deafening sing-along of a metal crowd.
Jan Eggum’s lyrics for “Heksedans” were inspired by the women who were pursued and burned to death for having special skills, accused of witchery and black magic. He related this to modern times, where people with unusual abilities are still looked down upon. But like Eggum put it: “The future belongs to the witches.” Witch burnings were carried out among the Seven Mountains of Bergen up until the early 1700s, and wrote a dark and horrifying chapter of our local history, which makes it no less important to remember.
Transcribing this original folk tune came so natural and effortless that what you hear is our one take after a single rehearsal the night before recording. We had already concluded on the recording material when this one came along, so it was not part of the plan. But when it happened, there was no doubt that it had to be put on record.
10. “Destroyer Of The Earth”
When you reach the end of this album, the end is upon you. To this day, Sahg has always stayed trve to our doom and heavy metal roots, and still holds the throne as Norway’s high guardians of doomed heavy metal. We’re sort of the bastard sons of Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Pentagram and Judas Priest. Classic heavy metal for the new age, with a desire for the occult, aversion for religion, and a gloomy gaze into the inevitable apocalypse, all served with a cold bite of Norwegian blackness. We hope you’ve enjoyed the ride, and welcome you to another spin!