As the shadows of evening drew over the bustle of Manchester city centre, ThisIsNotAScene ventured off the beaten track to Moho Live, the willing host of the Under the Sign of Hell tour, to seek out Sweden’s purveyors of aural violence – Valkyrja. Vocalist A and bassist S discuss subliminal messages, casting off the shackles of genre limitations and why “spreading shit” all over written and social media will never be their thing.
Valkyrja is a relatively young band, formed long after the 2nd wave hit Scandinavia. What fresh ideas do you bring to the table?
A: I can’t really say it’s about innovation, that has no purpose for us, nor does cloning what any other band has done before it’s all about using the right tools to construct the music that is pretty much made to channel violence. It doesn’t matter if it’s been made before or if it’s something completely new because its purpose justifies the means.
S: Sometimes we might sound unique and sometimes exactly like something else, but that’s not the main idea.
A: It’s kind of a hard thing to put your finger on, but we’re doing this because we need something to feed on, that’s it.
You have stated in the band biography that you created your music to be “a vessel of violence and deprivation”. Have you seen violence result from your music, or is it something that comes from within yourselves?
A: Never enough, never enough. It can always increase. It is one of the keys things to have to want to wake up in the morning, to destroy the world. I find this channel of violence so appealing because it has so many faces. There are no specific manifestations, violence will always find new ways, there are always new was to reach it. It’s all about your imagination.
The band’s profile says that no specific genre was ever chosen, so as not to limit the music. How would you define your sound?
S: Many still class us as part of the Swedish Black Metal scene but we don’t have the limitations of belonging to a specific genre. If people look into our music they can find elements from whatever they might call it because I don’t see it as typical black metal.
A: An extremely important aspect is that the limitations of others can never be our limitations. We must have the free space to create whatever we feel is necessary to reach the goals we have set for ourselves. If you put ourselves in a certain genre there are so many restrictions and we are not interested in participating in that. There are so many bands labelling themselves black metal because they want to belong, or fit in or something but it’s not about the music itself or the people who listen to it, it’s all about what can be found and channelled through the music. Music is merely an instrument itself.
On the album “Contaminate the Earth” some songs feature sinister whispering and chanting – what is being said?
S: In the interlude? Another guy made this for us. You shouldn’t look for words in it, it’s just adding atmosphere.
A: Yeah, it’s all about the ambience. This wasn’t created by us but for us by a guy who is in a way related to the band, Simon also plays in Ondskapt and this guy used to be the drummer. There are no secret messages or anything that I’m aware of in it
S: Yeah that would be a surprise for us too – so we can just hope!
A: Hopefully there are some subliminal messages that we are yet to discover! Sometimes I think people look too deeply into meanings, rather than just listening. You should lock yourself in a room and close your eyes and feel what you listen to and not think about it.
Your vocals are both harsh, yet clear. How do you tread the line between the two?
A: It’s not something that I think about. We have done this long enough to know what we are supposed to do. I don’t think about it when recording or go on stage, subconsciously I know my mission. Fulfilling my goal is more important than the quest for self.
Despite playing quality extreme metal, you appear to be little known, for example in comparison to fellow Swedes Watain. There is little information available about the band. Is this intentional?
S: Maybe people expect to see us in more magazines or something but that’s not in our control, we’ll do an update when we have something to say, not just to prove we’re here. If you don’t hear from us we aren’t doing anything important. We aren’t being secretive; we just want the information to be of value and not go spitting shit.
A: We are a constantly active band, but something I really can’t identify with is bands who keep reaching out to the media for the attention. We do whatever we feel necessary to spread our message and we will always reach out to those who care, and if there are people who don’t care I will not pay the slightest bit of attention to drag them into our net as it were. If you are interested in us we will speak to you, but only when we have something vital to say. I see no point in spreading lots of updates to prove we are doing something.
You have expressed previously that many bands have lost their aggressive edge. What is your view of the extreme bands today?
A: That’s a question I’m really uncomfortable with answering because underneath all the piles of shit there will be some really majestic gems that will shine through eternity. I really can’t compare bands and it is not my interest as I am only involved in Valkyrja and all my interest revolves around that. Of course there are always bands that will be shit and bands that are good. I do feel that there are so many empty words; there are many signed bands that are playing this extremely aggressive music and then when they go offstage the start partying and having fun. It seems so two faced to proclaim something and then as soon as you leave the studio or the stage you completely transform into another being who distances yourself from your beliefs and opinions. What we are doing live and in the studio it is something we live and breathe and what we do. It is not even something we do, it’s something that lives within us, one of the many manifestations of what we’re here to proclaim.
What is that?
A: Contaminate the earth!
I think we’re doing quite a good job…
A: We haven’t even begun!
It is rumoured that your lives shows are particularly vicious. What can we expect to see at the gig tonight? Will we be able to walk tomorrow?
A: I’d say, expect nothing and see the show with an open heart and see what you will get from it. Its not about spreading a global message, but placing a seed in every person and seeing what it will become. Just watch and listen and take whatever it is with you that you feel is important
S: Of course it’s very much up to the audience what they get from the concert. Anyone who sees us live will say we are very dedicated to what we perfume on stage but it’s up to the audience to decide how to react.
A: We are only the voice, we speak but we can’t listen, if you listen you will be preached to.
You have 2 successful studio albums under your belt, and are currently touring Europe with Gorgoroth and Vader. Valkyrja is most certainly on the rise. What does the future hold for the band?
S: We have talked within in the band that this “Final Contamination Tour” will mark the final chapter of the touring with this album before we settle down and start to think about what’s coming next and do something new.
A: This is the second tour we have done promoting the Contamination album and I really don’t know how many listeners we have, whether there are 10, 000 or 10 people but we felt that we still had something to promote, the guns still have ammunition. So after this we’ll play a handful of live shows and maybe some festivals. Then we’ll write some new material and see what we have gained from all of this as hopefully we can use the energy and experience we’ve gained to our efforts, to make them even more grandiose.
Anything else you’d like to add?
A: We’re still on tour so come see some shows, absorb it and destroy the fucking planet!