Ukrainian metal is a box of excellent surprises. More and more Ukrainian bands impress the music fans with their creativity and awesomeness... I was totally blown-away when I listened to Balfor’s new opus “Black Serpent Rising” and I bet it’ll happen to you as well! This band is on fire and this conversation with Thorgeir proves it.
Before being named Balfor, the band was Alter Ego. Why the name change?
When we started the band we did not have a specific concept, and when it was fully formed, we have realized that the old name does not fit this and decided to change it.
Balfor has been active for 16 years now but only has 3 full-lengths. Why?
Actually, after the first album the band did not exist for a long time till I reformed it in late 2005. And after all, I'm mostly doing everything myself like composing, arrangements, management, promotion, booking, etc. etc. and music is not my main job, you know, I have to work on normal job, so there are many factors that affect it.
Thorgeir is the only member that’s been with the band ever since day one. How dificult is it dealing with line-up changes? Did these line-up changes affect the number of releases?
Yes, it’s hard enough and it certainly affects the number of releases. Because we have always been an active live band and members change each time, so it throws you back, forcing again and again to work on the same material with new members. However, I am absolutely satisfied with our current line-up and I hope it will remain unchanged for years.
The band’s new album “Black Serpent Rising” has been getting awesome reviews. What makes this album so special? How proud do you feel when you read a new great review? Have you read a bad already?
Yeah, so far as I know reviews are very good and of course it makes me proud as a creator. I've seen very few reviews, that may be called bad, but who cares, you can't please everybody. Hard to say what's making this album so special, maybe it's the passion with which we create our music. We've never been a band that makes music only to grasp the moment of glory, or be a trend. We want to create true art, timeless and out of trends, that's our passion.
Why the title “Black Serpent Rising”?
We were looking for a title, which would fit a whole topic and concept of the album, and "Black Serpent Rising" works perfectly. There are lots of symbolism in it, first of all you can easily recognize a myth about Ragnarok, where the Serpent who is the embodiment of the underworld is opposed to the upper world which reflects the dualistic pair of Jörmungand and Thor and it also dates back to ancient shamanic rituals of Serpent spell. On the other hand this is a symbol of wicked and sinful side of nature which reflects the beginning of the end.
This is a concept album that deals with the end of the world, Ragnarok. Why have you decided to explore this theme? Do you think the world might be heading to its end considering all the tragic events happening in Nature, wars and even the election of Trump?
Thread of the end of the world has always been relevant. I was always amazed how many signs in this myth can be projected on the modern world and what is happening now, when the world is on the brink of a new war, which, definitely no one would survive. We've already had several songs based on this topic, but I wanted to cover it deeper and wider.
Where was the album recorded? How long did it take?
We have worked in Kyiv-based More Music Studio which we normally use for rehearsals and it allowed us to feel more comfortable and get a good result. The whole process took much longer than we had planned as we had a very limited budget, and we had to do a lot of studio duties ourselves. But it was worth it, we are very happy with the result.
Who writes the lyrics and riffs? Apart from the end of the world, what other topics do they deal with? What inspires you to create?
I'm writing all the music by myself, sometimes guys are helping me with some arrangements and structures, but mostly it comes from my mind. As for lyrics on this album most of them were created by my friend Lou Yardley, this time I was only behind the concept of it and created lyrics only for a few songs. Besides the topic of the end of the world there are lot of historical background which we always love to use. And I don't have a recipe of inspiration, it just comes from within.
Of the 8 tracks featured in the album, which one is your favourite and why?
Actually no favorites there, each track is a sort of story for me, so I can't choose one.
The new CD comes with a booklet with spot UV. Why such an investment at a time when some fans and bands seem to think that the 90’s raw sound and old school look is the way to go?
We just wanted to do something special, it seems that today CD's are bought mainly by collectors and this is good feature for them.
Are you 100% pleased with the album? Would you change anything if you’d go back in the studio?
Of course, as a creator, I cannot be 100% satisfied, I always want to change or add something. But it could be a neverending process, so I put up with the idea, that each creation is beautiful in its moment and it shows who we are here and now.
All Balfor releases have been through different labels. Your last album was under the Pulverised Records banner and this one is through Drakkar Productions. Why? How did the Drakkar Productions deal come up?
We were not very satisfied with the work with Pulverised Records. They have almost buried the album after its release, without giving it a promotion. Now with Drakkar Productions we are completely free in the promotion, which gives us great opportunities to do it ourselves.
How complicated is it for bands like Balfor to get good deals and promotion. Most musicians I ask this to say that most labels are just interested in profit... do you agree?
Absolutely, labels are investing a lot of money in production and promotion of the bands while sales are falling down. So they should be pretty sure that the band they want to sign will sell well. It definitely makes it hard for small bands to get good deals.
The music vídeo for “Serpents of the Black Sun” reached 15000 views in 2 months. How grand is this for the band?
Yes, I think it's pretty nice for such underground band as we are. This is our first music video, so we are more than pleased with the result so far.
The music video "Serpents Of The Black Sun" was made by Anders Matt Kochin and has full moon, fire, blood and bones. How do you plan a video? Do you know what you want or does the video producer share his ideas with you?
Ohh.. that's was awesome! Anders is a very talented person, we planned everything together, I came first with my own idea and we started to work on it piece by piece. Something has not changed, but something we have added in the process. And the result surpassed all expectations, we are very pleased with this video.
I read somewhere that you’ve made a couple of videos for this album… one’s “Serpent of the Black Sun” and the other one? When will you publish it online?
We only plan to do another video for the song "Dawn of Savage". Hopefully it will happen and we will publish it online as soon as possible.
You’ll be presenting the new album live this month in Kyiv. Are there any surprises in store for the fans? Are you excited?
Yes, this is will be our first show in Kyiv in two years, so we are quite excited to present a new album for the fans. And we have some surprises in terms of performance and stuff.
You’ll be playing in a German festival but are there any other plans? Are you planning to tour?
Definitely, we are looking for possibilities to make a tour and festival appearances. We are going to tour as much as possible, some new tour dates will be announced shortly.
Are there many Ukrainian bands worth mentioning? Do you all get along?
Sure, we have many great bands in Ukraine, I can mention Khors and Raventale where my band mates are playing as well, also of course many of you know Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum, but also worth mentioning some new bands like KZOHH, 1914, Stryvigor and many more, you should definitely check them out.
When you’re on a creative hype, do you just focus on writing music or do you create other forms of art?
When I create music, it usually has a common conceptual component. Of course most of the time is spent on writing music, lyrics and everything connected with it. But I also do some design sketches for the cover, video and others.
All the best for the new album and Balfor! Hope to see you live! Share a message with Pest’s readers.
Thanks a lot for your support! Hope to see all of you guys on our shows and follow the Serpent!
Interview by Sónia Fonseca