– Hello and, first of all, thanks for taking your time to answer to our questions. Your new album is about to come out, how are you feeling about it?
Hello! The pleasure is mine. We’re really excited, and glad that it’s finally coming out after all this time.
– First off, what motivated you to form a band so purely 80’s (and 70’s) inspired?
Back then there were no new bands to my knowledge that played in that vein. I just couldn’t understand why. Many people thought the early 80s was the best period for heavy metal, then why did they themselves play black/death metal? Although, the motivation to start the band was 90 % wanting to express musical ideas and 10 % the bugging fact that there were no such bands around.
– What did that era had that is missing in today’s Metal?
The two most important facts were the sound, and the lack of perspective and to some degree lack of self distance. The first part can be handled nowadays but the second part is obviously difficult. However, we’re not so much concerned with emulating the past per se, it’s just that the era in question had the best music and the best visuals and then it comes naturally to also do that ourselves. Back then, bands also seemed to play more what came to mind, on a whim. Nowadays bands want to max out every song section with blazing leads and riffs and screams etc, with a degree of self-awareness that is often detrimental.
– In fact even though there’s some kind of «new wave of traditional Heavy Metal» when you started there weren’t that many bands doing what you did. Do you consider yourselves as some kind of originators?
I’m not sure how many people heard Helvetets Port back in 2001-2004 since there were only demo songswith drum loops and mostly spread to acquaintances in Sweden. We released our first 7” in 2005 and by that time things had started moving. So I wouldn’t dare to call us originators in that we influenced other bands very much, but yeah we were perhaps the first “such” band, weirdly enough.
– What are (and were) your aims and goals when you decide to form a band is strictly 70’s/80’s sounding Heavy Metal?
We’re not influenced by the 70s although we are influenced by 80s bands who themselves were influenced by the 70s. We try to distance ourselves from the recent 70s trend, but on the other hand we are very much into melody and a dynamic sound, and also want to distance ourselves from over-reliance on speed and heaviness. The initial aims and goals were just to play the music we like, and bring it to other people who might also like it. Those goals remain the same. We also want people to see this music for what it is, and shed false preconceptions about heavy metal. Sometimes the general public (and even metal fans) seems to only know about late 80s commercial hard rock and death metal, and nothing inbetween.
– In fact it seems like visuals are also important for you, from the artworks to your wn aesthetic. Am I wrong? Also it seems something that a lot of current bands seem to not pay attention to.
Yes, it’s important. We feel like this: You have clean slates to work with when venturing forth with a band, first of all is the music and of course people fill that up. But then you have more clean slates: your clothes, album covers, stage etc. Why not maximize it? It’s more for you to find fun and meaning in, and more for the audience to appreciate.
– Being so loyal to everything that 70’s and 80’s Heavy Metal conveyed, do you think there’s people who believe you’re a gimmick?
For some people it seems hard to fathom that someone would want to do something that was popular inthe past. I strongly wonder why, since almost all people ought to like something that was made in the past. I’m sure those people don’t follow the absolute latest trends, so they expect us to … come halfway or something? Haha. The only other reason I could think of is that our themes are a bit “fantastical” in nature and that we tout them with seriousness. So they would like us to sing about everyday issues and social strife? Booriiing! What I remember most about imbibing culture as a kid was the rush you felt when something really cool happened in the movie you were watching – often having to do with something from the realm of fantasy. Or when some really epic heavy metal came out of the stereo. Well I’ve held on to those feelings. I still get goosebumps from the He-Man cartoon intro, and it’s not just for nostalgia, it’s for real. So, those hollow people can go to their shows and sit at the bar with their arms crossed and listen to their soulless elevator music, and we’ll go and experience and instill some emotions.
– It’s been a decade since your debut album saw the light of light of day. What has happened during these years? You were never officially inactive but did you feel like to needed to rest a little at some point?
The first half of our absence was kind of a hiatus , I guess it started with the wind getting knocked out of us when our tour bus was confiscated, then it was a bit hard to build up “gusto” and motivation again … then the second half has been getting together and rehearsing, and working on the new album. The break was perhaps needed as it has now reaffirmed that playing with Helvetets Port is essential.
– When did some of the songs (or some of their parts) on the album begin to take shape? Have they exited in different forms throughout these last years until you got with the version we can find on the album?
Some of them are from around 2007-2010, like Night of the Innocent and Die to Stay Alive, also the music for Röda Nejlikan. The verse riff for White Diamond was something I came up with around 1999. Ruled with an Iron Hand was at first a birthday song for Oscar with Swedish lyrics, maybe from 2008 or so. The songs and parts from those times weren’t made with this album in mind of course, they were just made. Other than that the songs have been written since we got back together in 2014 and I believe they were all finished by 2016. Luckily we are a band that doesn’t have to follow the signs of the times!
– In fact there’s a lot of songs on the album. Are there any tracks that didn’t make it to the record?
Out of the batch that we worked on for the album, no song was canned. We felt that we owed our fans a really maxed out offering.
– There have also been some line-up changes. After David joined the band Witchfinder is only focusing on vocals. What effect has this had on the album?
With the addition of David we’ve had new capacity on the guitar front since he’s an excellent player, and there’s also a broader range of guitar work for the album since both David, Kongo and I have recorded guitars. As for the vocals on the album I’m not sure there’s any difference since I luckily wouldn’t have had to wear a guitar around my neck when recording vocals anyway, hehe. But yeah, since switching to vocals only I’ve had more time to become a bit better at it.
– The first thing that caught my attention off the new album is the Egiptian-themed cover. What was the reason for this? Was it done to fit the stronger epic, medieval vibe on the record?
I think it fits us and the music on the album, since the Egyptian theme feels mythical, epic, serious and mysterious without being “occult” or too dark.
– In fact there’s a couple of songs on this opus that deal with Egiptian themes. Which songs are they and what’s their story?
Those songs are the title track, and Ruled with an Iron Hand. From Life to Death is about a king who ventures into the afterlife where his actions in life are judged – not to his favour. He does not accept this and decides to remain among the living, but dead. We don’t get to hear more about this in the song, maybe he’ll be back later. The story behind Ruled with an Iron Hand is a bit more general, it’s simply about a man who ruled his kingdom with an iron hand, something which the “narrator” learns through an ancient text. It’s not overtly Egyptian in its lyrics but was done with that setting in mind.
– As I said, the album is more epic, it also contains some instrumental parts with a certain medieval feeling. Was to make everything on the album work as a whole somethihng you were striving for?
Not intently so, no. It just happened that the vast majority of the songs fit into that category, due to the inspiratons of the writing sessions. Sure, when getting an idea of what the album would be like, we refrained from writing any songs about going clubbing etc.
– You remain loyal to 70’s/80’s Heavy Metal, but there’s a song called «Röda Nejlikan» that besides some ala MANILLA ROAD elements has a subtle 70’s Rock (with hints of Prog) feeling…
It might be the clean guitar of the first two verses, but to me the song is in the same vein as most of the other songs. It’s a freely re-interpreted story about the Scarlet Pimpernel.
– The sound on the album is really raw and natural, which I consider one of the strongest points onthe record. How did you record it?
That might be thanks to what also made it such a long process. We recorded it with many different guitars, different equipment, different people turning knobs etc. We recorded everything digitally but other than that, as old of a touch as possible. The guitars were re-amped. It was a strenuous process but in the end we think it made for a varied and dynamic album. We re-worked it several times and then Olof of Enforcer did the final mixing which was just what it needed.
– All this about «From Life to Death» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
I could even use only words on m: Medieval, melancholic, melodious!
– Overall I see some GOTHAM CITY nuances in your music but what could you say have been the most influential bands for the band’s sound? And what are your non-music influences?
Yes, Gotham City is a big inspiration, especially when it comes to melody. Whenever it turns heavy, I would say Heavy Load is a big influence. Other than that I often think of bands like Tyrant (both of the English ones), Zone Zero, Kim Sixx, Witchkiller and Kraken (CAN). In eleven days from now we’re playing with Zone Zero at our release party, which for us is huge.
– What do you think makes you stand out from other bands doing a similar style? I think you convey that feeling, that rawness of those obscure, more underground bands that released demos instead of recreating the sound of the bigger acts.
Yes, I believe that is the case. Our influences and frames of reference might be a bit different than other bands, and us being very passionate about what we do, under those circumstances, maybe contributes to it being a unique experience. It’s weird, when I speak about it I find myself sounding like we walk a tightrope of different considerations etc, but in actuality, with the music, we just plow ahead. I believe that Helvetets Port has become somewhat of a self -perpetuating entity. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
– Do you listen to other music (or Metal) styles besides Heavy Metal even though it doesn’t leak into your sound?
I do sometimes listen to faster and rougher forms of metal, but then it’s usually the oldest bands of those genres and the same ones that I liked when I was a kid. I also like some early 80s synth pop, the mindset of those bands somehow remind me of 80s heavy metal bands in that they seemed dead serious and very concerned about their stern image, which also came through in some of the music.
– As I said before there seems to be a new wave of traditional Heavy Metal, and Sweden has some pretty good acts doing a tradional style. Are you updated on what’s going on into nowaday’s scene?
Not very much, I have to say. I can’t recall hearing about any new Swedish bands in the past couple of years. However, on Youtube you could follow endless suggestions about new releases from NWOTHM bands, which I’ve sometimes done and listened to the first songs of the albums. Usually the sound and production have still been a bit too modern for my taste.
– Before we wrap this interview up. What three albums (or demos) you wouldn’t do without?
Since you mentioned demos I have to follow up on that one. I’d have to say:
Overkill (GER, Winnenden) – Demo 1984
Kraken (CAN) – Demo 1983
Witch (SWE) – Soldier of the Future 1984
– And that are the near-future plans for HELVETETS PORT?
As I mentioned before we’re having our release party August 23 here in Göteborg together with Zone Zero, and then we’re also screening our new music video. Then on September 14 we’re playing at the Storm Crusher festival in Germany. After that we’re looking to play some more but nothing more booked until Live Evil in January. And also the writing process for the next album is ongoing!
– That’s all from our side, thank you once more for answering to our interview. If you’d like to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thank you! Like I said we’re looking to book some more shows, so if you guys want some heavy metal, send us an e-mail at email@example.com