Interview with Skyggen of TORTORUM
As “Armageddon Descends III” draws closer, Nekrokatarsis will publish a cycle of interviews with the performing bands. The first interview features the founder and guitarist of TORTORUM – Skyggen. We invite you to meet with his thoughts that form the base for TORTORUM.
1. Hello. I’m very glad to be talking to you. Please introduce yourself and your band TORTORUM. What is the main goal of the band? What steps do you take in order to reach this goal?
Hails! Same here, thanks and respect to you.
I’m Skyggen, the guitarist and the founder of the band. TORTORUM was formed in 2010 and the main goal of the band is to express our adoration to the Dark Side and channel the dark energies through this medium. We proudly perform Black Metal, Satan’s art, as we feel this is the best way for us to reach the higher levels of spiritual fulfillment and to kindle the black flames in our hearts.
Besides me, TORTORUM consists of The Barghest (bass/vocals), Specter (guitars) and now Dirge Rep (drums). We’ve released 2 full-length albums so far: “Extinctionist” (2012) and “Katabasis” (2014), both on mighty WTC.
2. Your “official” biography states that, upon the creation of TORTORUM, you’ve done an instrumental demo for a circle of close friends. I guess that the purpose of this demo was the completion of the line-up, right? How did co-operation with Barghest come about? Were there more contenders?
Well, it was both to present my ideas to others as well as I did it for myself to weigh the value of the compositions. That’s my standard procedure, the way I work until today. I usually record pre-prod demo while in the process of creating songs as it makes it easier to improve compositions, fit lyrical side of it, put all the pieces together.
I lived one year in the UK before I moved to Norway where I met Invictus, a guitarist from SPEARHEAD and I became a fan of their vicious death metal. So the name of Barghest as the potential vocalist for TORTORUM was standing very high in my personal ranks. There was a few other contenders I was considering, but after Barghest said “yes”, the choice was simple to me.
3. Your first album was recorded nearly after the completion of line-up and released by “World Terror Committee”. How did you got in touch with this label? Was it the old way by sending promos to a bunch of labels or was it due to the personal connections?
It was more of this mentioned “old way” actually. I was quite “out of business” at that time as I’ve cut all my contacts with the scene a couple of years before TORTORUM was born, and needed some advice from “updated” friends on which labels would be worth trying. WTC was one of them, so I sent them a couple of songs which they really liked – and here we are.
4. Also, how do you see the work of WTC? In my eyes, it is one of the best labels for (underground) black metal. Could you comment on their work as an insider? Do they invest a lot of time in TORTORUM? Is there some internal competition between the “bigger” bands as HORNA and “smaller” bands as yours?
Exactly, WTC is just a perfect label for us. One of the very few serious labels left out there who still believes in the sincere and true forms of dark art. WTC is still growing and getting stronger, and we’ve noticed quite a huge progress in their actions since the debut album was released.
No, I wouldn’t say there is any form of competition or whatever, at least I don’t care about such things…
5. Completion of your second album “Katabasis” took around two years. How did you, personally, and your vision of TORTORUM changed during that time? As I understand, the fist album was your own creation. Maybe this time you were assisted by other band members? Was there any change in the lyrical themes? What is the general thread that runs through “Katabasis”?
There wasn’t any huge change in the sense of creating the musical side of TORTORUM since the debut as it was mainly me who created most of it for “Katabasis” as well. But we’ve definitely changed as individuals and you can easily spot the big step forward, or at least, a more spiritual approach to the composition-structures than those from “Extinctionist”. 2 years between those 2 albums were very fruitful for us. It was quite dark and turbulent time which made us stronger both as individuals and as a unit. Hours I spent with Specter on the guitarwork for the last album and the overall atmosphere were remarkable. And so Barghest came with his incantations…
Same as in case of the music, there is quite a huge difference between the lyrical side of “Extinctionist” and “Katabasis”. It reflects the path we walked during its creation and the lyrics are deeper, more complex and spiritual while those from the debut were more hate-driven and “in your face”. “Katabasis” is not a concept album, but the common ground is of course the adoration to the Dark Side.
6. Since I asked about the personal changes, I want to ask a more general question. How do you personally see your own evolution as a musician/artist from the point when you first plucked a string or wrote a verse to where you are now? How did your conscious thoughts regarding the composition and interpretation of music changed with time? What kind of insights into your own motives were brought up?
It is one of those questions that aren’t easy to answer. So I’m gonna answer it in a more general way. This evolution came quite naturally for me as I look at it now. I don’t think much about details and what went right or wrong now and then. I just follow the voice of my heart, the voice that leads me through the tortuous paths of this existence on each single level of it.
I’m definitely more conscious today than I was for example 10 years ago and I might see my goals in clearer way…but the feelings and reasons why I do what I do and which made me who I am today are still the same.
7. “Katabasis” was unleashed around a year ago. How do feel about this album now? Do you see it as a great artistic accomplishment or do you see many points of improvement? Would we see even better result if you had, say, an additional week of studio time?
I’m still proud of what we’ve accomplished with “Katabasis” and I wouldn’t change anything about it. There are always some small things you could do slightly different, maybe even better, but that’s what is a driving force for me as an artist. If I would create something totally perfect, kind of my personal opus magnum, I wouldn’t probably see the reason in going with it any further.
8. I have read in one interview that you were somewhat displeased with comparisons between “Katabasis” and the music of WATAIN. Why is that? Do you hear this comparison a lot? Also, since we are talking about comparisons, could you name a few bands that inspired and continue to inspire you and a few “allies” of the contemporary scene that you could associate to? Is there any band that you would like to do a split-album with?
No, I don’t hear this comparison a lot, but I’ve simply heard it enough times after the new album got released to somehow notice it. Well, there’s no sign of frustration or such from my side, or nothing against the mentioned band, it was just this thing that almost every “reviewer” seem to compare every or at least each second BM release to WATAIN these days. Our session at Necromorbus made it obviously even more “Watainish” to some ears, which I simply find ridiculous. And that’s what basically happens, the fucking formula looks more or less this way: “Necromorbus? Ah, yeah, WATAIN!”. A typical ship-thought pattern for braindead humans I’d say, nothing more, nothing less.
Speaking of (metal) bands that inspire me: I won’t be ultra original or revelatory here as I prefer rather old, classic stuff: BATHORY, HELLHAMMER/CELTIC FROST, SLAYER, KREATOR, SEPULTURA, SODOM, SARCOFAGO, KAT, MERCYFUL FATE/KING DIAMOND, TORMENTOR, MORBID, MERCILESS and so on… Of course some of the classic second-wave bands: DARKTHRONE, MAYHEM, BURZUM, EMPEROR, DISSECTION etc. I worship early Satanic death metal from MORBID ANGELl, DEICIDE, early VADER, ENTOMBED, MIASMA, stuff like ANGELCORPSE, arrrggghh. I listen to different kinds of music in general, there is quite a lot of classical music I spin on my turntable, some ambient, 60’s and 70’s stuff, some dark rock and other twisted stuff, and the list goes on…
Yes, of course there are bands that we respect, share similar ideas/goals and could easily release something together with, but there are no such plans, at least not yet. Maybe in the future.
9. You have recorded “Katabasis” in the famous Necromorbous studio. Was it worth it? Would the album sound differently if another studio would be used? Also, how would you describe the input of T. Stjerna to this album? Did he actively gave you some tips, regarding, for example, the structure of songs, drum fills, guitar leads etc. that would result in a more massive album? Or was he just a passive guy behind a mixing desk that was there to capture your music?
Yes, I definitely think it was worth it and it was a great experience to work there with Tore. Guessing the album would sound different if we would record it somewhere else. That’s the reason why one is choosing this or that studio and the producer as I see it. And that was what we were aiming for – this kind of more clearer and “huge” production for this album that Necromorbus is known of.
We were quite well prepared and had a clear vision of what we waned to achieve with “Katabasis”, but Tore still managed to come up with some interesting tips here and there.
The whole mixing process was done by the man himself, as we left the studio after the recording was done. We were of course constantly updated and received samples from Tore and discussed the details, changes etc., but definitely the final result wouldn’t be as satisfactory as it is for us without T. Stjerna.
10. How does it feels to be a black metal band based in Norway? As an outsider, I suppose that the scene is very crowded, but maybe I am wrong? Also, what is your opinion about this “True Norwegian Black Metal” meme? Is it relevant in the year 2015?
It feels good I suppose. At least the mighty Mother Nature provides you enough of inspirations here to create dark music and not to be too happy about your existence. Especially in Autumn/Winter time. Not surprised really when I think of it now that the level of suicides in Scandinavia is on the very top in global scale, haha.
Sure, there is quite some bands around, but how many of them have something interesting to offer is another question.
I have no opinion on so called “TNBM” thing as I was never and never will be part of it. Just guessing it was more relevant in the early 90’s when some indeed turned their words into action, that’s all.
11. By the way, talking about “Norwegian” black metal – TORTORUM is not so Norwegian after all as you are Polish and Barghest is British, who lives is London. Could you comment on the “international” aspect of the band? If I’m not mistaken your drummer is also from a different city in Norway. Doesn’t the fact that band members are scattered around hinge the progress to some degree? Could you describe how do you go on with the rehearsals, preparations for the gigs and recordings?
Barghest actually lives in Essex, just to be more exact. Well, I myself never stated that we’re “Norwegian Black Metal band” or perform “Norwegian Black Metal”, or whatever. The only fact is that the band was formed in Bergen and has its base here, that’s all. Some people are still getting attracted by this “Norwegian BM” – term, and I guess some others might use it due to…let’s say “promotional reasons” or whatever it might be.
The reason why I started to look for the vocalist outside of Norway is simple: it was impossible to find someone like Barghest here – a very unique personality. Don’t get me wrong, there are devoted and dedicated individuals in Norway too, but they’re – in most cases – involved in too many bands or projects. One has to understand that TORTORUM is not only about music, it’s FAR BEYOND that, so it’s not enough when someone is decent with handling his instrument, but lacks the spirit and heart for it.
Dirge Rep is just perfect personality for this band too. Possession and darkness!! Eternal hails! I’m proud to have both of them in TORTORUM, the chemistry and the spirit is just perfect now!
Speaking of logistics, well, we don’t live in the 80’s anymore, so flight from London is often cheaper than a train from Oslo to Bergen, even takes less time, so it’s not a big deal.
You’re right, Dirge Rep lives in Stavanger which is not that far from Bergen, so we arrange rehearsals either in Bergen or in Stavanger. He used to play with several Bergen bands before too actually…
We simply arrange some intense rehearsals when we need to, i.e. recording sessions or live rituals. I write most of the music alone and so work on the details with Specter and record a pre-prod demo for Barghest and (now) Dirge Rep who are later working on their parts. All of the members are pretty much…“special” personalities, so the fact that we don’t see each other each second day is probably…healthier in the meaning of body and soul. And it works perfect this way so far. We all are experienced in our trade, are extremely dedicated and understand our goals, so mundane things like borders or distances won’t stop us.
12. TORTORUM consists of somewhat known members and releases albums on a well-established label. However, I somewhat feel that you do not get the attention you deserve. Given music of such level, I’d expect that you would receive much more following and praise (even that might not be your goal). Is there any chance that this “international” aspect of the band (that we’ve discussed in the last question) does not allow the band to release it’s full potential? Do you think you will reach a more recognizable status in the future when your potential is unleashed? Does this even matter to you?
Thanks for your words, I appreciate it.
It’s hard to say. The nowadays scene is something totally unpredictable with all its hypes and trends. It’s very often something totally alien to me and to be honest, I find it hard to identify myself with it…
I obviously notice that there is a lot of mediocre crap that gets more attention than we do, but I simply don’t give a shit. We march our own way and will channel our energies through TORTORUM as long as we feel the need of doing it.
It seems that the quality of your art itself lays often far in the background, and is not as important as you might think.
It’s ridiculous when I see some demo-bands suddenly gaining sort of “cult” status and being hyped up to such levels that it’s getting totally absurd. Just empty laughter.
It was so different when I joined the scene back in the day, with totally different values and goals. Young people that are part of todays scene will never understand it as they come from a totally different place. We are in 2015 now and it is as it is, that’s all.
I don’t know if this “international” aspect has anything to do with it. Might be we simply are not lucky enough, fuck knows. The history of music knows quite some examples when fantastic bands did never make it. I’m not so good in keeping in touch, hanging around with people and so on either, as I simply have more important things to do, so it might be an issue too.
Gaining popularity at all cost was never and will never be our biggest concern anyway. Might be the things will change tomorrow, might be they won’t – time shall tell.
13. Could you describe your live shows? What kind of emotions and/or message do you want to channel? What should the audience of Armageddon Descends expect from your show? Would you ever consider mixing your live performance with some other form of art as, e.g., film or theater?
It is all about bringing forth the aura of darkness and channel its energies. To bring forth chaos, filth and break all boundaries and limits. To put our bodies and souls in the state of possession by unchaining the primal beasts and demons inside us.
There is never big planning going on before, we do what we feel and that’s exactly what you’re going to experience under our performance.
No, I haven’t consider mixing our work with other forms of art yet. Some cruel pictures in the background could be interesting though. Maybe one day/night?
14. What lies in the future of TORTORUM? Have you started creating and arranging new music? Or maybe you need a break from creating music so you could replenish your ideas? Is there any upcoming live shows that are important to you?
Yes, we’re pretty much ready to record something new as we speak. The original idea was to release a 7” EP, but we already have over 20 minutes of material, so it’s going to be a MLP or something I suppose. The music is very dark, a bit slower perhaps, but full of negative emotions. We’re quite busy right now with preparations for some live-activities though, so we’re going to wait with the recording until Summer or somewhere close to that. The important ones will be by far Armageddon Descends (first time in Lithuania!) and a short European tour around April/May.
15. I, personally, can not wait until you come to Lithuania and channel the darkness via your Black Metal art. Please state your final words.
We are looking forward to it too! Never visited your country before, which makes it even more exciting and special! So Vilnius, be ready to embrace the aura of darkness with us!! Thanks for the interview and support! Hail the Lightbearer!