When we asked Green Bay, Wisconsinite Mikael (a.k.a. Goblin Reaper) how his main project Vredensdal was able to be so prolific, releasing four full-length albums and two EPs since 2019, he replied simply, “That’s the perks of not playing live. We’re keeping it close to home, as far as being more creatively focused.”
Today we’re premiering the third single—the one in Norwegian called “Svøpt i blod” (more on that later)—from the band’s latest album, Sonic Devotion to Darkness, due out at the end of this month on Soulseller Records. Fans of black metal with gritty tendencies and a throwback riff-centric approach to guitar performances and song construction should get the hell in here and find out what this is all about. Everything about this track—indeed, the record as a whole—reeks of reverence for the old masters, the raw influence of heavy metal and punk and pure, acidic DIY creativity.
We had time for a great phone conversation with Vredensdal’s main man, some of which you can read in a forthcoming issue of Decibel, and more of which we’ll include here for your reading pleasure while “Svøpt i blod” corrodes your fucking soul.
How does the creative process in Vredensdal work?
It’s pretty much all me. I write all the music, I come up with the artwork. The other musicians are more studio musicians. I come up with a basic programmed drum track and I send it off to the drummer. He’s not even in this state. He’s somebody I met in Washington State when I used to live there. I had my first project there, and that’s where I met him. We made this agreement. I send him the music, he comes up with the drum tracks. After I have the drums and guitars put together, I’ll send it to the bass guy and he’ll take care of that and then I’ll just re-record the vocals over the whole thing. I’ve done my own mixing and mastering for the last couple albums.
How did you pick up those skills?
It comes from a lack of money. As somebody with a family, my priorities are with that. I’m also somebody who can learn things quickly, and I’ve always had an ear for listening to albums. That’s always been my thing, listening to albums for their sound and understanding why certain bands I like sound the way they do. It sort of came naturally to me when recording. I just started to mess around with things and as time went on I began to really enjoy doing it. Why pay for something you can do yourself? That’s where it landed me.
Promos mention USBM, though your sound often feels very European. What are the nearest touchstones for this record?
When I began to make the music, I was just doing it because of my general interest in black metal music. The sounds and the atmosphere drew me. However, my background in music didn’t start in metal. I grew up in a really strict religious home, and I wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music. The music that I did listen to came from whatever my dad showed me—a lot of ’60s and ’70s stuff – and that stuck with me. Over time, being a teenager, making various types of music, things led me to metal, and after I got back from the military I decided to make some sort of music that means something to me, that’s dark and heavy just like the way I wanted to be.
I decided to look into my ancestry and I found out that I was half Norwegian. Then my mind kind of blew up in that way, and that’s why the band name Vredensdal is a rough Norwegian translation, and it’s also why I do one track per album in Norwegian, thanks to the help of some of my friends. It’s all connected to that. When I found that out, I immediately looked into Norway. It’s like taking the veil off somebody’s eyes. A whole new world opened up to me and I connected immediately to that Norwegian sound. That’s really important to me. The Norwegian sound is part of the Vredensdal DNA but something that is equally as important is the progressive rock of the ’70s, moving into things like New Wave and punk in the ’80s, NWOBHM, stuff like that. It’s all stuff I found on my own as an adult because, as I said, I had no upbringing in music other than just the few things I was given. All the exploration was my own. I just wandered through sounds, and I found myself making something that is supposed to be more so a good representation of what I perceive as black metal.
Do you work on music routinely or in bursts?
I’m always in some sort of bizarre creative space. I try to just enjoy music as much as I can, whether that’s playing the guitar or listening to music, and more times than not I’ll be listening to something totally random that has nothing to do with metal at all, and I’ll get an idea out of nowhere, and I’ll run off, even during work, and I’ll hum into my phone recorder and try to remember this rhythm, and I’ll take that home and develop it on a guitar. Or I’ll just be sitting in a room playing and things come to me.
As far as the pace, after the first album that I made, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep making music. It was like throwing gas on a fire—once you get it going you just want it to continue to roar. That’s how I felt. People noted another album came out, and then another EP, and it felt nice to get some attention for this random stuff I was doing. Just a few people started to notice that the quality didn’t fail with the speed I was going, so I was pretty stoked about that.
Is new music coming from the same place as earlier records?
The philosophical side has changed a lot. When I started making Vredensdal, I was in a pretty negative space mentally. I went through a good amount of shit, enough to say that it’s still with me. After Silence is Eternal—you can call that the [end of a] trilogy—after that happened, things really started to change for me, mentally. I don’t feel trapped like I did for the first three albums. I feel like I can do whatever I want. My life doesn’t suck, so I’m not writing for anger.
Really? Some of these songs sound angry as fuck…
The trick is that life is filled with continual suffering, just varying degrees of it. These things that build up, the things we come across in life, if we’re not reflecting on those things and finding a way to release them, then this pent up energy we have is going to be used negatively. I feel like if I can express the rawness of those very specific things in a way that’s understood by others, then maybe it’ll make sense. The intensity of the emotions for me is really important. For my whole life, I was told what to do and what to wear and how to be. A lot of this stuff is about what I’ve been through and repurposing it for something creative.
I was broke for a long time. I had addiction problems, and my life wasn’t easy, but that wasn’t necessarily the reason why I was so angry. I was more angry because I feel like I missed out on things, being stuck in a religious dogmatic lifestyle and forced to do things that I really didn’t want to do. I was angry and venting and doing things that were unhealthy for me mentally or physically because I thought that it would help. However, as time went on, and I had my kids and I moved away from my place of birth and started doing my own thing, I took control of my life and refocused. I took my own power back and fixed it. I have my own confidence now. This is going to sound so cliché, but a lot of it was, once I got into satanism, that changed my life.
Pre-order Sonic Devotion to Darkness from Soulseller Records on Bandcamp HERE.