– Hello, thanks for taking the time. How is everything going right now with COUNTESS? What’s keeping you busy at the moment?
Everything is going fine,thank you. Over the past months we’ve been rather busy recording, releasing and promoting our new album ‘Fires Of Destiny’ that came out on June 30.
– First off, to make some kind of history of the band, COUNTESS was formed during the early 90’s. So when the whole Norwegian style and the second wave of Black Metal was going strong you want back to play amore HELHAMMER, VENOM style. Why did youfeel the need to somehow retrieve this spirit?
We were very much intoold-fashioned black metal and around that time, when as you say all these new bands from Norway and other bands imitating that style were getting popular. We didn’t like that modern style at all and wanted to create real black metal, the way we felt it was supposed to be. Filthy, raw, primitive and with no commercial appeal whatsoever. We didn’t think this new ‘black metal’ was really black metal oreven really metal, for that matter.
– During the late 90’s the band took an hiatus, a short one. Why did you decide to bring the band back to live and to keep rolling with it? Even without a complete full line-up for several years.
We were fed up with everything at the end of 1997, so we decided to quit. But after a while, we wanted to play music again so we continued. From that point on, the band largely was as a one-man project for a while, but some of the former members still participated every now and then. Zagan played guitars on the ‘Revenge’ albums for example and Othalaz did the acoustic guitars on ‘Blazing Flames Of War’.
– How were those years as a somehow one-mand project?
Well, very different from being an actual band, of course. Doing everything yourself has some advantages but more disadvantages, I think. The most obvious disadvantage is that without a full band, you can’t play live or really rehearse. You work on music by yourself, record it by yourself and then it’s released and that’s it and you start over again.
– Now you have again a full line-up so, how do youthink this has affected the overall sound and work behind «Fires ofDestiny»?
The biggest difference obviously is that ‘Fires Of Destiny’ was recorded with a real drummer. Other than that, we also rehearsed all the new songs rather intensively before we began the recording process; something you can’t really do when you’re working alone.While rehearsing the songs, we made several changes here and there that we probably wouldn’t have thought of if we hadn’t rehearsed the material.
– Did you also work on the songwriting as a band? How was this process like?
Well, all the music was written by Zagan and myself. Most songs we wrote together this time. This process went quite smoothly. When one of us has a new song, he usually records a simple demo and sends that to the other one. Then we look at it together and flesh it out. When that’s done, we record another demo. Then the drummer gets that demo and we can start rehearsing the song. The drummer obviously also has input in this process; he creates his own parts.
– You remain loyal to yourself, mixing a first wave of Black Meal worship with a growing Heavy Metal influence, specially epic, ala MANILLA ROAD. What could you say have been some of the most influential actsfor the music you are playing?
Well, that’s very hard to say. It’s also different for the different members of the band I guess. For me, the most important influences are probably Venom, Bathory, Manowar and Manilla Road.
– I think the epic vibe gets strong with each release. Epicness uses to go in hand with the lyrics or with a certain atmosphere orfeeling the artist wants to portray. How much is this the case on this album?
Well, the epic vibe’s getting stronger probably has to do with the growing influence from traditional heavy metal. On the new album, we didn’t go for a specific theme that encompasses the entire record, but most of the lyrics continue in the directionof the lyrics on our more recent albums; mostly historical and mythical subject matter that perhaps also contributes to a feeling of ‘epicness’. More about that in the next question I guess.
– Lyrics seem to be an important part of the album andof your music in general. Inteligent lyrics not just dealing with the most standard Black metal topics as you had in the early days. Could you comment what do some of the lyrics on the album deal with?
Yes, the early lyrics were very much inspired by first-wave black metal lyrics, you know, the typical subjects. Later on we began using different subjects too, partly because there’s only so many times you can write what are basically the same lyrics over and over again and partly because there simply were other subjects we wanted to write about as well. However, all lyrics have stayed within the boundaries of what we think are lyrical subjects that fit the music. Basically, that means subject matter dealing with the occult, mythology, history or metal itself. On the new album, the title track for example deals with the relief of Vienna in 1683 when it was under siege by the Ottomans. The ‘fires’ in the title reference the bonfires lit on the Kahlenbergoutside Viennathat were lit by the allied troops to signal to the city that they had arrived.
– Also your last 3 albums I think saw an improvement sound-wise, but «Fires of Destiny» sounds rawer than «Ancient Lies and Battle Cries», which I think is really positive, as I missed a dirtier vibe with that one. Did you get the sound you were looking for?
Well, the main difference is that we recorded the new album with real drums. The guitars, bass and keyboards were recorded in exactly the same way as they were recorded on‘Ancient Lies’ and ‘Sermons Of The Infidel’. I think we’re pretty satisfied with the sound of the record. It’s clear and you can hear everything, but it has a raw edge nevertheless. It’s definitely not a ‘standard’ sound anyway; it’squite a distinct sound that fits the music well.
– All this about «Fires of Destiny» being said; how would you describe it in just 3 words?
Real heavy metal.
– As I said, you remain true to your honest and traditional sound but, how has the band evolved throughout the last twodecades?
In the beginning we were very much a raw and primitive black metal band, with a focus on atmosphere. Over the past decades, we have evolved to a sound with much more elements from traditional heavy metal. This evolution probably culminated on ‘On Wings OfDefiance’ back in 2011. On the last two albums, specifically the new one, we have gone back to emphasizing the black metal part of our sound a little more again.
– During all this time you haven’t stop, you are aband with a strong studio/releases activity. What keeps you motivated? What keeps you inspired?
I don’t know. The inspiration the write and play music is just there. The fact that Zaganre joined the band in 2013 and that we got a full line-up together in 2014 and started playing live again has really rejuvenated the band, though.
– Not even line-up changes have seem to be an obstacle for you, but how did affect the work behind the albums and the activity of theband? Did you ever miss playing live?
Well, it limited the‘activity’ of the band to just recording and releasing albums, as mentioned earlier. And yes, I did miss playing live during all those years we didn’t playlive (1998-2013). I often thought of playing live again and even considered the possibility of doing so with session musicians, however, due to all kinds of circumstances it just never happened and there were times when I thought it would never happen again. Somehow in 2014 everything just worked out and sincethen we have been playing live again (for those interested, there is a short film documenting our return to the stage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZcAYWr1WNo).
– In fact over 20 years is quite a lot, and the scene has changed a lot too, specially since Internet appeared. What would your assessment on how the Metal world has changed during these last decades be?
For underground metal and music in general I guess; the emergence of the internet has probably been the most significant change. Back when we started, bands released demos and they became known mostly through tape trading. Nowadays, everything happens online. All that doesn’tchange the fact that there are probably just about as many good bands today as there were back then. I also doubt that this whole internet thing has changed the music itself. It has just changed the way the music is being spread; almost every band out there is just one click away and if they want people can get everything for free. Of course, when they do that it is in fact stealing, but it has positive sides as well: your music is spread tomore people. And it’s not like every single illegal download equates to a lost sale, as record executives would like us to believe. Most people who illegally download probably wouldn’t buy it anyway if they couldn’t download it. Maybe it means a loss of income for really big artists and labels, who would sell millions of records a few decades ago and now sell thousands instead. But for small bands, who wouldn’t sell that many records anyway (due to lack of distribution, promotion, touring, etcetera) the detrimental effect may be outweighed by the additional exposure gained through illegal downloads. And there isn’t much you can do against it anyway.
– And finally, what are now your near-future plans?
Rehearsing a lot and playing some more shows. Perhaps also writing some stuff for the next album.
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thanks for your support and keep the flame of real metal burning! Hail and kill!!!