The Norwegian blackened thrash troupe The Konsortium issued their debut in 2011, and other than Mayhem bassist Teloch, the members’ identities were kept under wraps. Not so on their sophomore effort Rogaland. Guitarist Benjamin Waldejer gives us the scoop on the new album, why they decided on letting their identities be known, tour plans, his musical beginnings, the impact of the early ’90s Norwegian black metal scene and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: What led to the seven year span between albums?
Benjamin Waldejer: The plain and simple answer to this is life. There has been a lot of things going on in our lives with a lot of family obligations. There has also been some changes in the lineup which led to things being delayed.
How did the songwriting process for Rogaland compare to your debut?
I think that the songwriting process kind of picked up where the last album ended. Although this album is fairly different from the first one there is a kind of thread going from the last two songs that were written for the first album. Both “Knokkelklang” and “Tesla” are songs which already on the debut gave the songwriting a more technical and complex direction. Also, the tempo of those two songs are more in line with the tempo on Rogaland. But, on the whole I would say that the songwriting has generally gotten more complex and aggressive.
What led you to be more transparent about your identities this time around?
There did not really seem to be any point to the anonymity anymore, and doing the exact same thing twice would be a bit boring, I think. But, the main reason is probably because we feel like this album represents who we are and where we come from, so it just felt wrong to hide ourselves behind masks this time around.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
I have many good memories from the process, but I think one of the highlights was visiting Gomez in his studio in England and doing the final tweaks on the mixing with him. That was a great experience, and I was very pleased with how things turned out. One of the things I do remember quite well though was doing acoustic guitars on “Fjella.” I spent a long time testing different mics and guitars before recording it, and I was fairly happy with the result. But, then when the time came to go through all tracks before sending them over to Gomez for mixing we realized that there were issues with the quality of the recording and I ended up having to do all the tracks over again in a very short period of time. It really pissed me off at first, but the end result was so much better, and in hindsight it was a rather funny part of the process.
Are there any disadvantages to producing the album yourself?
Well, as I mentioned above you might end up making mistakes which could jeopardize your plans. A lot of things have to be booked far in advance, like studios and mixing. If you then mess something up then it puts a lot of pressure on the project. I think if a band is thinking about doing the production themselves then they definitely have to think of contingencies and always have some backup ideas in case things go wrong. Obviously, you really have to know what you are doing, or be surrounded by people who know what they are doing. It is a lot more work and pressure, but the great benefit is that you are in total control of the end product, which is kind of what we were missing in the production of the first album.
How did Nidingr’s Cpt. Estrella Grasa’s guest appearance come about, and what did it add to the album?
I think all of us in the band really like the stuff which Morten (Teloch) has done with Nidingr, and we were really impressed with the style of vocals which Alf has on their latest record. I don’t really remember exactly when or how, but Morten ended up asking him to join in on parts of the record and he did not hesitate and went for it. I think his vocals really added another dimension of anger to certain parts of the record. As Gomez said while mixing, he just sounds so angry. And for the parts where he ended up doing vocals, we really needed an angry, raving madman style and he absolutely delivered on that.
How has the band’s sound evolved on this one?
Complexity, intensity and concept are keywords if you ask me. We were looking for a more organic sound where you are able to notice details. That is what we were a bit disappointed about with the first album so we spent a lot more time working on the sound this time around. We wanted a lot of dynamics, but without compromising on intensity and I for one think we really pulled that off this time.
What lyrical topics do you tackle?
The entire album is a concept about a journey in time, geography, season, tradition and heritage of the county of Rogaland, which is where we live and grew up. A lot of what you’ll find is inspired by nature and particularly the weather. You’ll also find a lot of references to local mythical beings and folklore which represents the heritage and traditions we are coming from.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Hard to say, really. I think the main goal was to make a killer album which knocks your socks of at every listening. I really hope that this is an album that gives the listeners something new to discover with every listen. I think perhaps it is not a very easy album to grasp at first listening, and in these modern times people may not have the patience to listen from “cover to cover.” But, I would recommend listening to it as one whole album and not as individual songs.
Do you have any shows/tours planned in support of the record?
We are getting ready for concerts after the summer. We have not planned any touring so far and due to family obligations it is quite unlikely that we will go for extended periods of touring. But, we are going to be doing some shows this autumn, and things are really shaping up for it at the moment.
How did you get started in music, and what drew you to metal?
I grew up in a family of classical musicians. Both my parents are professional musicians and I therefore started playing the cello at a very young age. By the time I was 10-11 I started getting drawn towards the guitar. My father, who is an oboist, had previously been a guitarist and helped me to get started. I have always liked fast and aggressively sounding music, combined with a fascination for anything disharmonic or diminished. I think that is what lead me to metal. I have always hated ballads, so metal seems a natural choice for me. But, I am far from a genre nazi. I could not really care what genre a piece of music is categorized as, so long as it sounds good I will happily listen to it.
With the band’s thrash and black metal influences, which did you get into first as a youngster?
I think it was a slow glide from thrash metal and generally speaking ’80s metal bands towards death metal and then finally black metal. I have always had a perspective as a guitar player as I always used to play my way through whatever it was I was listening to. I actually still tend to do so if I get bored with my own practicing routines. I think that is what led me to increasingly faster and more complicated music, because I kept on developing as a guitarist. But, I guess like a lot of metal guitarists today I have a lot of fond memories from working my way through bands ranging from Slayer and Megadeath to Cannibal Corpse and then basically all the big ’90s black metal bands. Today though, I think the black metal scene is kind of drying up, and it is quite rare these days that I find something that really excites me. The only bands now that never seem to disappoint me are Dødheimsgard and Nidingr, which both created absolutely amazing stuff on their respective last albums.
What effect did the ’90s Norwegian black metal era have on you?
I was a young schoolboy during this period, so I was more or less completely oblivious to what was going on in Norway at the time. So for me this era is something which I started to discover in the midst of my teens towards the end of the ’90s. I was very fascinated with the sounds and atmospheres of the different bands, and as I mentioned before I think I have played through anything worth mentioning from this period. That has given me a lot of insight into many different aspects of sound and style.
We are now in the age of social media where active pages are almost a necessity for bands. Do you embrace or resist this?
I think somewhere in between. We don’t mind sharing things that we’re excited about through social media, but then again it is never very high on our list of priorities.
What are your non-musical hobbies and interests?
I really enjoy being out in the wilderness all year round. I do a lot of hiking, camping and fishing with my kids. During the winter I do skiing and snowboarding when I have time. To be honest, there is very little time for much else than music and my family, but I try to get out as often as I can. I also enjoy reading and spend a lot of my spare moments reading literature from various parts of the world. I never really stopped studying as such, and I usually do a course or two in language, literature or history at the local university every semester if it fits in with my schedule at work. I very much enjoy learning, although it sounds a bit weird perhaps.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
As I mentioned, the last Dødheimsgard record A Umbra Omega is one of my favorites at the moment. Also, Nidingrs’s The High Heat Licks Against Heaven is also regularly on my stereo. I never lost my liking for Cannibal Corpse so that is also something that tends to be on my list. Other than that, there are many bands I occasionally listen to, like Deathspell Omega and Craft, but not as frequently as before. Actually, for the past year I have almost exclusively listened to classical music, and mostly composers from the late 1800s and early 1900s. I really enjoy the piano works of Liszt and Rakhmaninov. Those are two of my favorite composers. It gives me a lot of inspiration for playing guitar, I really like experimenting and trying out “old” ideas in new contexts.
(interview published June 8, 2018)