We bumped into Dark Funeral‘s Lord Ahriman earlier in the day on the elevator on the Independence of the Seas. Without his stage attire and corpse paint, the guitarist isn’t immediately recognizable, save his height, black tinted sunglasses, Sigil of Baphomet t-shirt, and necklaces hailing all that is unholy.
Dark Funeral had just played a massive set the evening before and would assume their righteous place onstage the following evening on the ship’s outdoor Pool Deck stage for another blistering performance. Once in the interview cabin on 70,000 Tons of Metal, we had the opportunity to chat with Lord Ahriman and vocalist Heljarmadr. While there is always an undercurrent of seriousness with musicians in the genre, the guys were pleasant – even jovial – while discussing their musical themes and the music they love to listen to both in the past and the present.
Black Metal on a cruise – seems kind of weird doesn’t it?
Are you digging it?
Does the corpse pain have sunblock in it?
Heljamadr: No, I don’t think so. I just haven’t tried it like that.
Ya’ll have had a number of lineup changes over the years. What has been the key to keeping the consistency and keeping the band moving forward over this time?
Hejarmadr: This guy.
Lord Ahriman: I’m a stubborn bastard.
Was there ever an option of throwing in the towel?
Lord Ahriman: Well of course. Sometimes you just get tired of things. However, it is sort of like, this is what I got to do, and I got to do it one way or another.
Lyrically, the subject matter, the satanism and anti-religion themes, is it something of a form expression for you, or is it a way to affect social change?
Lord Ahriman: Well of course, when you have a message with the music, you want to have it like an alarm clock. At least, I am not here to convert people into whatever I am doing, but I want them to start thinking a little about themselves.
What keeps the drive alive after all these years to keep doing this, to keep pressing on it?
Lord Ahriman: This is my way over getting my load out of my system.
When Shadows Reign came out a couple of years ago. Are you working on new material?
Hejarmadr: We are, yeah, we are working on new material and still doing a lot of touring for that album still.
Do you have any estimates for when the new music will be released?
Hejarmadr: It’ll come when it is done. If you put a deadline on it, you just paint yourself into a corner. You end up releasing something you don’t really like in the end.
Lord Ahriman: I was hoping we were going to stop touring this year, you know, so we could focus on new music, but now we have tours lined up – they aren’t announced, but will be announced in the next couple of weeks tour by tour – but there is also going to be time to write. Touring is at least one more year.
I had a conversation with some guys earlier today where they expressed that sometimes it just feels like a job. We are on a cruise ship, so it felt kind of weird for it feeling like a job. I mean, we are on a fucking cruise ship. Do you find parts of what you have to do day in and day out more of a job, more so than it is for the passion?
Lord Ahriman: It’s passion, but there’s still lots of normal business to it. To run a band on this level, there are lots of business things.
Hejarmadr: That part is the business, and the going on stage part is the passion.
Lord Ahriman: So there’s like two kinds of work. The passionate music and the office work.
If you think about Dark Funeral over the years and you think forward to the current black metal scene, what is your take on it?
Lord Ahriman: Nowadays it is just a music scene. When we started it was something different, it was something that we tried to create. We were finding our own ways to build the scene, not on us but the bands that were around at that time. It was just evolution from the real thrash/speed kind-of scene, and we were going into death and black metal. We were still trying to figure things out and doing it our way. So we come from that generation. Now there is a music style and that scene is already created for many years. The new generation bands come from a whole different – it’s already there. It wasn’t there when we started. It is two different worlds.
Are there any bands that excite ya’ll, as far as the newer gen of black metal bands?
Hejarmadr: I like the Polish band Mgła. They are really good, actually. They are one of the few bands I think that are newer that I listen to.
Lord Ahriman: Haha, I don’t think I listen to any. I still listen to lots of my vinyls from the ‘80s.
What are some of your favorites?
Lord Ahriman: I listen to Judas Priest. What more do I have … King Diamond, Mercyful Fate, Black Sabbath. I listen to lots of extreme metal, too. Sodom. There are lots of good bands. I like to listen to new bands … but I always find myself going back to the records that I grew up listening or those bands. Many of those bands are still really good.
Hejarmadr: I saw this study that said that after 30 your music tastes are done. I can kind of relate to that, because it started for me before I was 30. It is like you say, you have this that you know is good if you are going to listen to a CD going in your car somewhere, you have time for one album, you pick a good one that you know is good. If you take a chance, and it sucks, maybe that meeting you are going to isn’t going to be as fun, or whatever, or maybe you listen to the radio anyway. You start to play it more safe, in a way.
Lord Ahriman: I also have Spotify, so you can go to this new metal releases, I click and go through – not everyone – but I never like anything. I have my playlist, so I just put it back on.
When you think about getting on this ship, a black metal band on a cruise, building up to this, what were you looking most forward to?
Lord Ahriman: Good shows. I like to meet a mixed crowd that is not just into black or death metal. And if you can bring real black metal for people who are really not die hard into it, that’s perfect for me. Some people will hate it – that makes me proud. Most people are going to love it, and you meet lots of new people who get into your music and what you do. That’s pretty cool.
Video credit to Anthony Serafino III