Wormlust interview (05/2018)
|Conducted by:||Apothecary (e-mail)|
Although I always found it enjoyable, I never got really hooked on Icelandic black metal until first coming across the music of Wormlust in 2013. While the rest of the Icelandic scene was exploding seemingly everywhere around it, this idiosyncratic brainchild of one HV Lyngdal exerted an effort that felt slightly more discrete yet at least twice as powerful as the rest of the flock in The Feral Wisdom.
^Fans should really seek out the earlier Wormlust demos as well.
Becoming a huge admirer of what Lyngdal does in recent years, both via his own musical endeavors as well as for the Icelandic black metal community as whole, it was only a matter of time before my caged lunacy for both black metal and psychedelic music led to me seeking him out for conversation. Just recently, I was fortunate enough to catch the madman in his free time for an intriguing discussion about the intent of his work, his non musical artistic efforts, and more.
Che: First thing I'd like to ask... Icelandic black metal really "taking off" and drawing a lot of international recognition seems to be a phenomenon of this decade more than anything. Yet Wormlust actually appears to have much earlier origins. How did the band begin, and did anything in particular really inspire you to get going?
HV: Well to get very down and biographical, during the last year of elementary school, when I was 15 I started hanging out with kids that had started a black metal band called Mictian. They turned me on to all the Norwegian bands. Since they were already a fully formed band I started making little things on my own, as well as beginning to learn the guitar. A solo project's start is usually very fuzzy, I mean this project of mine has gone through multiple iterations and names all the way back to the year 2000 or 2001. Names such as Abhzar, Wolfheart and finally Wormlust. Early on I think I was mainly just learning how to record myself on the program Cool edit pro and also how to actually play my instrument. If you find my first demo as Wolfheart you can hear very heavy Satyricon cloning going on.
Che: Was there anything that drew you to black metal specifically, as opposed to some other sub branch of metal?
HV: Lyrically it was the "hidden" aspects of it, the mysticism. With death metal or other sub branches you usually find very corporal, mundane or humanistic topics. Musically its the tremolo trance that black metal has, a kind of extreme noise meditation that these other genres don´t really go into - dissonant spaces that sometimes shine melody through. Closest to it would be noise or drone which I am getting more into these days while exploring avenues for Afsprengi Satans.
Che: Cool points, agree with you that it has a lot in common with those more minimalistic, ritual focused type forms of music you mention. From what I understand, Wormlust originally started as Wolfheart. What fueled the name change?
HV: It didn´t resonate with the type of music I was doing anymore. I had recently discovered Lurker Of Chalice, and that totally warped my world and my thought of how you could approach the art form. Wolfheart was from the early days of me being immersed in Ulver and Satyricon and reflected the kind of medieval black metal I was making. After LOC that part of my listening sphere felt hollow somehow. So I took the wolf and buried it, and heart transformed to lust.
Che: Being that you've been involved for a considerable period of time then, how would you really compare Iceland's black metal community today to how things were in the early 2000s, when Wormlust was just getting started?
2009's brief yet satisfying Seven Paths demo, released not long after the Wolfheart to Wormlust transition.
HV: There was more chaos, self immolation and general destructive behavior. Also there wasn't a circle of bands or projects like there is today. Basically it was Myrk, Potentiam and whatever other band that would pop up to only fade away a month later. Back then there were so few bands that the hardcore bands and the two to three active black metal bands would usually play shows together, which I believe was very unusual or maybe still is. But that was all insanity condensed into a period of something like three years and then black metal pretty much all died out for years. That black metal scene was a slowly dying remnant of the 90s deathmetal scene, which was hugely popular for whatever strange zeitgeist reason.
Che: So with Iceland's black metal scene having "died out" for a period then, as you mention, what do you think really brought forth the revival that we're witnessing right now?
HV: Svartidauði and their debut album. Sinmara were also active at the time, as were Carpe Noctem. But their live shows and the album I think created a scene by itself. I don´t hold any illusion that my experimental stuff at the time was a part of that revival and I remember all the energy that they had behind them at the time. It kind of feels similar right now, with about every band releasing an album this year it is like there is this wall of terror waiting to be broken down.
Che: Coming back to Wormlust then, with the music there's a very heavy sense of ritualism and meditation involved. Perhaps it's just part of the black metal spirit like you said, but it feels it a lot more "complete" with your work than with many others. What exactly are you looking to accomplish with this approach for yourself and your audience?
HV: For me the work on the music is like my days in Zen meditation, which is meditation without thought and just being. The very title "The Feral Wisdom" is a reference to this, the wisdom of the unthinking animal, only pure being. So when I am making the riffs or recording parts, I can lose days just staying up in a meditative trance until I fall down from exhaustion. You would look upon a blank wall, with eyes open and think of nothing, and that's what I try to get out of it myself, becoming a sort of conduit to the art. The symbolism and lyrical aesthetics around it are more to set the mood, like one doing vocals by candlelight only for instance. It is possible to create a mood or "vibe" and yet be completely unthinking, it's a matter of putting on the landing lights for something unknown. As for an audience I am not sure. At this point I am kind of bewildered I have any, since I do very strange things with the art form for my own amusement and challenge. Rituals are very personal so I don´t expect to transfer my way of living unto the next, but if what I make has some sort of resonance with a listener then I can only take that as some sort validation of merit.
The recurring "Wormlust sigil," which frequents itself on shirts, album artwork, and the like.
Che: As for that aesthetic you mention, looking at the overall visual artistry attached to Wormlust, notably the appearance of many occult and esoteric sigils, it is hard to not get the impression that you are in some way a practitioner of such traditions yourself. Is that something you would care to elaborate on?
HV: Sigils and symbols are similar to compasses for the person in that they set the way you go out on, in your own personal and creative journeys. But they only have as much strength as the faith you put in them in yourself. My own school of beliefs is certainly of a mixed bag of whatever I have read throughout the years, but you couldn't pin me down to a particular sect. I have known too many people that have conjoined their lives with others and found themselves in a symbiotic cult relationship that can stem from this particular type of self study. I think the most powerful magic is that of archetypes, and sigils, themes and symbols all fall into that. It´s the awareness of that which gives you power and takes you out of the sociological snare trap. In years past I would have said that Christianity or some other religion was the enemy of thought but now I belief it is the hypnotic bonds and roles that come out of ingrained societal expectations. The role of friend, son, and husband all have hidden chambers that can limit where you travel, so the awareness of that is important. Any esotericism starts there, in an almost hermetical separation of the self until you become aware of what expectations are upon you, elevating or warping your thinking. I think mushrooms and isolation for a few months is the key to understanding the world, returning to the status quo or an in between state. For myself, I slowly back drift from manic creative chaos to normality.
Che: Considering this, do you see yourself as sort of dissolving, or transcending those expectations with your artwork? Is your performance sort of a part of that hermetical separation in itself?
HV: That kind of socetial thing I spoke about is only the stage for me to create my art upon, like a placeholder for life. You have to have your surroundings and affairs in order to be able to create without boundaries. For me it can be simple, like saving up cash so I can go into the wild for a few months, or slowly breaking off little by expectations that the world wants from me.
Che: On the point of composing, Wormlust seems to shift a lot between a more aggressive approach, reflective of the metal side of things, and a more formless, sort of dark ambient dimension as well. What if anything really fuels your transition from one to the other?
HV: When I am writing I go through cycles of the types of sounds and textures, maybe for a week I´ll be only playing with atmospheric parts and then the next riffing out distorted things. The switch from one to the other is just the balancing act of editing down these explorations to actual songs to convey a journey of sorts. I could easily do songs that are just one or the other, but to me dynamics are almost sacredly important.
Che: With that in mind, does the ordering of tracks on your album ever play a key role, in telling a story or relaying some grander theme perhaps? For example, do you perhaps find yourself moving intentionally from more to less atmospheric, or vice versa?
HV: For the new album the sequencing of the songs ties in with the lyrics on the album, which was a horrendous decision but one I stuck by. So the actual music relates to the lyrics, just something I wanted to do for one album to pay an homage to the albums I listened to growing up with more grandiose themes and concepts. As for the sequencing that is something that just takes time to decide, you listen to the thing until it feels everything is in a natural progression. I think for the Feral wisdom they were in the order I wrote them though. If this were are album making class which it kind of seems resemble I'd say always start with brutality out of the gate, the rest I could go into but that would be a book. Plus it's not like I have the longest track record.
Che: Recent years seem to have seen you branching out a lot as an artist lately, roughly since the release of The Feral Wisdom or so. One way in which you've been doing this is the live performance. What made you decide you were ready for that step?
HV: I really haven´t done a show yet totally on my own volition, it started with Wann from Oration asking me to play and I agreed. That's the socetial thing I talked about. That was the kind of beginning of it, everything after that has been me saying yes to playing live at this place or that. which isnt something I regret, I wanted to experience touring in my lifetime. It is just that stress and endless practices have taken me out of recording music again and again. I have to focus on one thing at a time and devote myself to it. The shows at Roadburn which I am really proud of are the last ones for me for possibly years, at least for Wormlust. Birth of the age of no.
Che: One thing I found particularly interesting was those few shows you did under the Wormlust name, but playing the music of Ljain. Do you think anything like that might be in store for the future, some non Wormlust music live... Afsprengi Satans or Martröð, perhaps?
HV: Martröð would be a literal nightmare production wise to get together, so I doubt that will ever happen. Just the logistics and cost of flying everyone in to rehearse somewhere gives me a headache. Wormlust I think should remain a studio beast unless I come up with something special or something special is proposed to me like the NYIÞ ritual collaboration, I would rather the live experience for Wormlust to be challenging and unexpected than play technically difficult songs poorly. We tried playing The Feral Wisdom live but the result was us watering it down until it wasn´t enjoyable to anyone. Then in walked Ljáin. As for Afsprengi Satans I am actually thinking of rehearsing it to be a thing I can do live so that it doesn't interfere with my recording of music, but that's still in the exploratory phase. As I said I am exploring drone and noise more, but the tribal magic needs to remain in there somehow, visually and musically.
Che: Do you think the live setting may be ideal for such drone and noise explorations then? That music is very rooted in shamanism, and rituals often seem to be "enhanced," for lack of a better word, in group format. Perhaps performance in front of an audience could almost amplify that effect?
HV: That was the thought that I had. I am still kind of drunk on drone after having worked with NYIÞ for the past 9 months. Wormlust has a lot of starts and stops that work well on an album, but there isn't really that trance that translates to the live setting, I think. Drone bands also tend to be more improvisational live, they have more freedom to go into spaces that weren't planned which is a kind of like the feeling that mirrors the original recording of the music to begin with. But as I said my mind is impregnated with ideas of drone after the stint with NYIÞ, so who knows.
Che: It's interesting that you mention NYIÞ, because I did want to discuss some of your recent musical collaborations. It seems as though your performance with them at Roadburn was the culmination of a long developing partnership. How did you all get to know each other?
HV: I think if I talk about how I know them then that would give clue to who is in the band, and I would rather not betray that trust. They take anonymity a bit more seriously than me. I myself don´t really care at this point, I mean the moment I put out the initials H.V. and answered interviews that was already death to the concept of non-being. Myself and NYIÞ, we didn´t start working together musically until last year, but ever since I saw them perform in 2012 I have been a big fan of their work.
Che: No worries, that's a totally understandable and respectable attitude then. One other partnership you've forged lately that I'd be remiss to not mention though is your recent alliance with Alex Poole, and the subsequent creation of Mystiskaos. How did that really come about?
The co-creation of Mystískaos around early 2016 could be Lyngdal's most ambitious venture yet.
HV: Alex e-mailed me years ago to talk about the Martröð idea, which was a bit different somehow at the time. How so I don´t exactly recall, it may have had more ties in with Krieg back then I think. I had heard of Chaos Moon, checked out his other ventures, and it seemed like he was doing interesting things. This must have been in 2014, since I was living at a commune at the time. That's where I remember writing the about 8 hors of material for Martröð. During that time period Alex created Skáphe, and I made some art for that so around the time the second Skáphe album was released it was already becoming its own self sufficient thing. Also we have a lot of songs and projects from the Martröð writing sessions as well as projects that were older and unreleased, and it made sense to give them an umbrella of strong aesthetics. Right now the internal workings of Mystískaos are more like a commune than a traditional label run every day. There are people behind the scenes and not so behind the scenes, and we are working on each others' projects as well as discussing what the others are working on. The first collectivized release from all involved will be the band Guðveiki.
Che: Going forward with Mystiskaos, do you see more musicians being added to your roster or do you think the trend will continue of new projects being formed simply by those already involved?
HV: No, not at least for another couple of years. There are too many upcoming and unreleased things to even be able to add anyone new into the fold. We do have outliers like Andavald and Vonlaus, who I am proud of being able to support, but they aren't really a part of the collectivized creative process of intermingling projects. We all have a very similar way of working on music, so when you see us starting to release and start to put emphasis on outside forces then you will know we have decided to change our mission. We recently added a person early this year who didn't end up fitting into the circle and to me illustrated the point that we are at the right size for the moment.
Che: Discussing plans for the future then, of which I'm sure there are many, the most pressing for you right now appear to be the release of the upcoming Skáphe/Wormlust collaboration as well as the new Wormlust album. How are these progressing at the moment?
HV: The collab sounds more like a new band to me in a way, since it melts together our styles. So it represents both Skáphe and Wormlust as well as neither. The album is an experiment in doing things, like stronger thematics, stronger songwriting, and also having parts that appear more than once. It´s about 80 minutes of music and 14 songs, so there is much more variety.
Che: And I believe you mentioned the new Wormlust is set to be a lot more... lyrically focused?
HV: My lyrical theme has been the same since the split with Haud Mundus, the death of a god on a personal and cosmic level. So it can be ego death, death of a way of thinking, or the literal, biological death. Every release with Wormlust is about this topic, and the name itself reflects this. If you look at the track names on Oblivio Appositus or have a copy of the self published zine I did 7 years ago you get a clearer understanding of this. For Hallucinogenesis, I thought about if a sentient god were to be time would be outside of this state of being, he would be born and die at the same time as the universe; his body would be an instant graveyard. Then you relate that over the idea of self, aspirations that everybody has and the total futility of creating anything to glorify yourself or trying to create some kind of a monument to you having been alive. I keep defining and losing the definition of what Wormlust is, but the direction is always about taking tradition and expanding upon it. It´s born out of what the bands in the early 90s were doing, black metal wasn't like a completely set sound back then and each band had their own style. So I feel like I am more of and in tune with that earlier, purer school of thought, and it feels underhanded when what I do is labeled as Avant-garde.
Che: Before we wrap this up, I would like to mention the growing relevance of your visual artistry as well, as this is something I'm not sure many fans know you're actually involved in... photography, creating album artwork, and so forth. What's really your background with this sort of work, and in the case of your photography, when did you decide you wanted to organize it in book format as you have recently?
HV: In high school my major was visual arts, and I recently learned photography from scratch just four years ago. I really didn´t know anything about the medium. I really didn't do much of note with either, photography or artwork until these past 4 years, and I couldn't tell you why. I guess it wasn't until I found my own personal style that my work became viewable by people other than me. Going from doodling for a couple of years to then being asked to draw for the Leviathan/Krieg split still is a watershed moment for me personally, Alex Poole set that one up. The book was a concept I had from the moment I started photographing the Icelandic scene. It seemed that no one was going to document it, so I took it upon myself. All of these side expressions of learning to photograph, making a photo book, touring, doing art for other bands, and having a label obviously diverted me from my main drive of Wormlust, but at this point in my life that's the only thing I am focusing on for the next few years.
Che: Well whether you end up choosing one primary venture or several, I'm sure myself and a good number of others will stay as passionate fans on the lookout. On behalf of myself and others who may be reading, thanks again for the interview time and the insight, HV. Any last words for your fans here on Metal Storm?
HV: Thanks for taking an interest in my very weird and eclectic music. This site seems to be a place where it is talked about more than elsewhere which made me ramble on a bit more than usual.
I'm sure I don't speak for everyone, but I know I'm certainly happy if MS has a bit more of an established online reputation for bizarre black metal experimentalism than other sites on the block. Cheers for the recognition HV, and hails to wherever your efforts may take you down the line.
*Additionally, for any and all interested in HV's new photo book which documents Iceland's burgeoning black metal scene, please direct yourselves right over here.
||Posted on 05.05.2018 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.|
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