In the Meet The Band spotlight this week is the Icelandic black metal duo Helfro. Their self-titled debut was just released. Vocalist/drummer Ragnar introduces us to his band.
Chad Bowar: Give us a brief history of Helfro.
Ragnar: I created Helfró when my death metal band Ophidian I went on hiatus. I have always just focused on playing the drums so I used the opportunity to realize some creative ideas and started writing the first Helfró songs in the fall of 2015 in the wake of some sort of crossroads in my life. In the beginning I had no special plans for the music but after a while I had enough material to record an album so I did.
Describe the songwriting process for your self-titled debut.
For the first half of the album I was writing the songs while in a questionable state of mind in the middle of the night. I would come up with riffs and transpose them onto guitar pro. Later on I became sober and wrote some of the more extreme songs like “Afeitrun” and “Eldhjarta.”
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Definitely recording the first vocals. We went to a little hut in the absolute middle of nowhere and screamed our lungs out for “Þrátt fyrir brennandi vilja.” I absolutely destroyed my throat and this song is actually my favorite one on the album. I like the riffs and I think the lyrics and vocal patterns really hit the spot somehow.
How would you characterize its style/sound?
This album is a combination of extreme, fast riffs with brutality that builds up to cold and sad tremolo parts.
What lyrical subjects do you cover?
The theme of the album is loneliness and despair resulting from addiction, narcissism and arrogance. It also deals with empowerment and freedom from these experiences through the cultivation of discipline.
How did you come to sign with Season Of Mist?
I simply looked up the label owner and sent him a demo. He showed interest and we went from there. It took some months to reach an agreement and in the end I for one am very happy with the arrangement.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Simply to unleash it upon the world and let it go from my mind. The melodies and ideas have been swarming around in my head for so long and it is time to allow this music to have a life of its own. I am very satisfied with the layout and the artwork so I believe that the exclusive vinyl will be a great addition to the metal enthusiast´s collection.
Is Helfro a studio project only, or do you have plans to play live when shows are up and running again?
I won’t say never, but so far there has been no thought given to creating a live band from Helfró. For now, we simply want to create and record dark music.
How did you get started in music?
Like so many, I have an older sibling who is into rock and metal music so that definitely put my attention on the typical starter bands. I used to play in a school band when I was young and I also have an uncle who would bring me to hardcore and metal shows as a teenager. I would hold on to his wallet and phone as he went insane in the mosh pit. I witnessed the power and intensity of metal music and there has been no turning back.
What drew you to black metal?
My first exposure to black metal was the Icelandic band Myrk. First I was attracted to the extreme drumming and then I really started to appreciate the dark elements of the music and lyrics. Back then I was a daily visitor on blackmetalradio.com and I got to know many bands on there that I still hold in high regard today.
Who were your early influences and inspirations?
As a drummer I have been greatly inspired by Derek Roddy, Nicholas Barker, Morten Løwe, Kristján Einar Guðmundsson, Vyl and many more.
What was the first metal concert you attended?
Probably Dys or Forgarður helvítis back in 2002 or 2003. The first International band I remember seeing was when Converge came to Iceland in 2004. I also saw Amon Amarth that year.
How is the Icelandic black metal scene these days?
I am very disconnected from the scene as I stopped going to shows about 5 years ago. I mostly enjoy music at home or while working. I know the scene is absolutely flourishing with lots and lots of bands being formed every year. I do hope that it is attracting new people to listen to metal and start playing themselves. I am proud of my colleagues in the scene that have been able to break out of Iceland and create a name for themselves.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected Iceland?
It seems to have been managed fairly well by the authorities with intense testing and quarantine. The tourist industry has taken an enormous hit and there is a scary spike in unemployment. Like elsewhere, people are instructed to stay in their homes as much as possible and implement social distancing.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Support Icelandic metal! There is so much going on in our small scene that there should be something for everyone. Thanks for your interest in Helfró. Hails from Iceland!
(interview published April 25, 2020)
Watch Helfro – “Afeitrun” Video