For anyone who isn’t familiar with Heljarmadr (Andreas Vingbäck), he is the vocalist, guitarist and a founding member of Swedish black metal act Grá, who just released their new album Lycaon on Avantgarde Music. Although many will also know him as the vocalist of legendary black metal entity Dark Funeral, who he joined the better part of a decade ago. Since joining, the band has released two full-length albums, the latest of whichWe Are The Apocalypse, released on Century Media Records. On top of this he is responsible for an impressive amount of mixing, mastering, some producing and has even made music for some underground films.
So please enjoy my interview with him below and find all relevant info and links to listen to and order both Lycaon and We Are The Apocalypse below the interview.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, we truly appreciate it and all of the work that you do in the black metal community. I’ll start with some general questions and then we can get band specific.
Who do you draw inspiration from as a vocalist and lyricist?
Completely depends on day and mood, today I was reading Hávamál while listening to Black Sabbath (Headless Cross album).
Who inspired your corpse paint styles?
20+ years of trial and error really. When I was young, I liked the Alice Cooper and Dead style, the less is more approach.
How did you get into black metal as a genre? What was your introduction?
Being exposed by friends I guess. Back before the internet days, things were obscure and exciting, especially for me as a youngster. My first black metal album was Varathron – His Majesty at the Swamp. I come from the north of Sweden, so any material was very hard to get.
Do you have a favourite country and/or city to play in?
Not really, if the crowd is excited, we will all be together in a place beyond the concept of cities and countries for a while. I do enjoy touring more than single shows as there’s a bit more time to explore.
What drove the creative decision to strip back your sound so much on Lycaon?
I’d say the will to develop as a musician. Less layers makes each layer more important and that was what I was going for when it comes to the compositions. We want to bring Lycaon on stage as it is, with a minimum of tracks and such so the album is composed and recorded with drums, vocals, bass and two guitars.
Do you plan to continue with the current sound or return to a more symphonic, grandiose style?
That is something we will find out when we start writing for the next album. Right now, we are celebrating Lycaon.
What inspired the themes and concepts covered on Lycaon?
I think everyone should listen and read/interpret the lyrics for themselves, White City Devil is obviously about serial killer HH Holmes and Lycaon is about werewolves but the rest I will leave up to you all to interpret for yourself.
What bands would you say most inspire Grá’s sound?
For Lycaon I’d say 80’s heavy metal. Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Dio, Accept, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and so on. Throw in Bathory, Celtic Frost and some Slayer in there and you have Lycaon.
What would you say the biggest differences are between working with Dark Funeral and Grá?
The obvious difference is that I am not a founding member of Dark Funeral, it is a band that was up and running 20 years before I joined so I’m included in it and walk alongside rather than leading. With Grá it is the opposite as I founded Grá together with Dimman and I also write the music, not just the lyrics. Dark Funeral is also a much bigger machine while Grá is an underground band with a lot of DIY attitude.
Given that you were a member of Grá for half a decade before joining Dark Funeral, do you consider it to be your primary project?
I don’t see it that way, I work with the same amount of passion with both. I have different roles and that is perfectly good. There would be no point in doing the exact same thing with both bands. I’m also working on a solo album, with different musicians. Another layer in my palette as a composer as that album will walk in yet another direction than Grá or Dark Funeral. Go big or go home, I don’t enjoy doing things half-way. This is also the reason that I don’t do many guest appearances, if I can’t attach on a deeper level then there’s no real reason for me to be there at all.
I’ve had much more fun doing some guest guitars or bass for bands than vocals, I feel much more appreciated as a musician rather than just a famous face to put as ”guest vocals by” in the press release. I do a lot of studio work too, mixing, mastering, some producing. I’ve made music for some underground films.
How do you keep managing to put out fresh, critically acclaimed albums with Dark Funeral despite the band having been going for 30 years? What’s the secret?
I think the secret is not to rush an album. People do complain that it takes a long time in between them with both Dark Funeral and Grá but what they often fail to realise is that if we would release albums closer in between, we would seriously compromise quality and depth. In the era of quick fixes and instant gratification, many forget that quality will win over quantity in the end.
With We Are the Apocalypse being released six years after Where Shadows Forever Reign, did you see a change in the black metal community/scene between releases?
No, but honestly, I don’t pay so much attention to what other people do, I have my hands full with my own life.
We Are the Apocalypse seemed to take a more atmosphere focused approach than previous releases, what inspired that shift in stylistic direction?
I don’t think there’s a shift compared to Where Shadows Forever Reign, which is the first Dark Funeral album I wrote the lyrics for. I know that I have a different style from how Caligula writes lyrics and perhaps that is what you refer to. If so, the answer is simply that we are two different persons who see things differently as lyricists. I guess I sometimes have more in common with the first vocalist Themgoroth when it comes to composing lyrics. The Secrets… album has a very atmospheric tone under the surface.
Who are some lesser-known bands that you enjoy that people should be paying more attention to?
I’ve mostly been listening to Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath lately to be honest, so I haven’t really paid so much attention. This year I have high hopes for the upcoming Tulus album.
Were there any standout releases in 2022 that people shouldn’t miss?
My favourites were Khold – Svartsyn and Willie Nelson – A Beautiful Time.
If you were stranded on a desert island and only had a solar powered discman and three CDs to keep you going, what albums would you want them to be?
The Doors self-titled album, Judas Priest Ram it Down and AC/DC Razor’s Edge. I’d be fine with that. But I’d rather bring a solar powered guitar with a bunch of extra packs of strings and sing whatever songs I want to hear myself.
Thanks again for taking the time, we greatly appreciate it!
No problem, thanks for the support and cheers!
Grá – Lycaon
Label: Avantgarde Music
Release Date: January 13th, 2023
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
The four-piece present us with a classic style of Swedish black metal, taking a different approach on this album and stripping back a number of elements that were prominent on their previous release. The focus on songwriting and musicianship rather than textures and layers gives the release a more traditional and minimalistic approach and allows the vocals to really shine in the mix Lycaon is a solid offering that will fit perfectly into the collection of anyone that enjoys melodic black metal.
Read James’ full review of Lycaon HERE
Listen to and order Lycaon album:
Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse
Artist: Dark Funeral
Album: We Are The Apocalypse
Label: Century Media Records
Release Date: March 18th, 2022
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
With the band’s second album featuring Heljarmadr, they continue to refine the sound and style established on Where Shadows Forever Reign, bringing a richer, more of atmosphere heavy sound to the table. With a number of memorabe tracks and some stellar standouts, the band show that even after 30 years of putting out music they still have what it takes to create top tier black metal. We Are The Apocalypse cements their place as one of the most consistenly solid acts in the genre and further re-enforces just why they have the cult following that they do.
Listen to and order We Are The Apocalypse: