Siberian Black Metal outfit Devilgroth have been around for a few years and have released new material every year ever since 2012. Their latest album “Ivan Grozny” was released last December and in January they put out the compilation “Songs of the Polar Night” featuring 6 tracks. Pest Webzine talked to Aarsland, the mastermind behind this project.
Devilgroth kicked off 10 years ago. Why have you opted for the name Devilgroth?
In the very beginning of our way, we wanted to make a primitive classical black metal band. We were finding a name for band, which was suitable for black metal cliché, for a long time. We didn't want to stand out. As I remember, the current name of the band came to me while I was asleep.
When the band was formed its material was not intended for the public. Why?
As I thought at that time, the band's sound wasn't formed at all yet, same as its face too. Also, we didn't want to be famous and, only after a few years, with my spiritual growth, with my growth as a musician, my own philosophy of sound and outlook, the art was completed. Only after "Landschaft" I felt that the band had something to say to the world.
Your latest album “Ivan Grozny” finally presents us with a solid band with a concept. It seems you only found your sound in “Morena”. Were you adrift before that? Were you still trying to find your sound and authenticity in the previous releases?
Yes, while we were in the making of the band up to "Landschaft", we were drifting. Partly, it's connected with the quantity of members. There were more people in the band than now and each of them had his own opinion and influence, tried to bring something personal. Now, when I'm alone, I definitely know what and how everything should look like and sound. I have my own approach to making music and sound recording.
The album “Ivan Grozny” released last year was named after a Russian Tsar known as “Ivan The Terrible”. How important is this man to the history of Russia? How did the idea of exploring this come up?
He is very important and a well-known person in the Russian history, one of the key persons, and also one of the most disputed. It is very complex question, it's hard to explain it in just a few words, but his role and his meaning for history is hard to be overrated. I wanted to make an album, which differs from "Morena", not so fairy, but more gloomy and connected to reality. I'm traveling through the pages of Russian history, mythology, culture in my art. I discovered that authentic things, connected with Russian history and culture are touched rarely in Russian music.
The banal simple thought that Ivan the Terrible and those dark times could be put into metal music came to me spontaneously. This album is a soundtrack for those who are interested in Russia, its history and culture. I am glad that my try to create an album with national meaning on the world’s international language is released.
In the early days you used to write about the usual Black Metal topics but now you are inspired by history and you have shown an interest in history and ancient Slavic. How did you develop into this? What caused this change?
Firstly, these changes connected with setting free from stereotypes. I always needed deeper themes than just antichrist themes or something connected with the apocalypse. After some years, I started feeling the music more deeply and delicately. I chose a mission of a wanderer through history. This is one of the themes, which may show the world something new. I've got the idea about how music should be created and what for. I think the art of making music is a discovery of the world, it is writing about anything, about even surprising themes, but still staying inside the genre you've chosen. The majority of artists creating something just ask themselves "how?": how to promote, how to attract attention, etc. My way is another, I'm writing my music to ask "why?", "what for?". I'm writing to make people search. I am always very happy, when I discover that I woke somebody to become an artist.
How important is Russian culture and folklore to your sound? Are traditions getting lost with modern times and technology? Is globalization affecting the individuality of our countries?
I have a base - like a skeleton - it consists of sounds, riffs, and the theme, history and folklore in particular, it is a source of inspiration, which stimulates the skeleton into action.
On the one hand, technology gives artists, especially from the underground, an opportunity to announce about themselves and their culture. From this point of view, the idea about the global world is interesting because of its opportunity to know each other better and closer, to see the variety of people and countries we are surrounded by. But on the other hand, there are some people who can't stay as they are, they forgot about their roots, cultural features or even separate themselves from the traditions of their nation. Therefore, the next generations of people of globalization will not know where their roots are. For example, I very often meet those people, who even don't know the names of the traditional Russian music instruments.
You have used German, Russian, Danish and English in your lyrics… why the wide variety of languages? Are you thinking of using any others?
The variety of languages was connected with 2 things: finding the sound of the band and personal preferences of my ex-bandmates. Now and in the future you will hear only English and maybe Russian languages.
You’ve released one album per year ever since 2012 and I think it is the first time I see a band that releases 2 full-lengths in the same year. In 2014 you released “Forgotten” and “Altar”. How did this happen? Was it unreleased material that was ready to be published? It seems creativity flows easily, huh?
There are some bands that release more albums per year than we do, and also there are some bands who do very long breaks between their albums. It's individual. We don't have a very active concert life, so we can spend more time recording material. I write and release as much music as I have something to say to my listeners.
Taking this in consideration, one might assume Devilgroth will be releasing a new album this year as well. Will it happen?
I already have an image of the future album, but I can't say with confidence if will it be released this year or not.
In early 2018 you released a compilation “Songs of the Polar Night” featuring 6 tracks. What’s the purpose of releasing so much material so close in time? How can fans keep up with your rapid pace?
Everything is so simple: our fans are always happy to listen to new music, so it's not a problem in my opinion.
The band only has 2 members. Isn’t it more complicated than having a full band?
We have another situation. The less quantity of members means the less quantity of opinions to take into account, so two people working together is better. It means we can portray our thoughts more properly.
Devilgroth haven’t done many tours or concerts… will this ever change? Would you like to play live more often?
We haven’t done any tours yet, only concerts in separate cities. I admit the idea of doing tours and concerts in the future, because it's important for me to see these people who listen to our music and to shake the hands of those who our fans, who support us. The concert for me is not a show, it's just like a meeting of old friends, even if you are seeing them for the first time.
The band’s sound is usually described as Cold Siberian Black Metal. Is this the best way to describe Devilgroth?
I think, yes, because it's important for me to show where I'm from. The one of my art's purposes is to show Siberia to the world.
What can fans expect of Devilgroth in the near future?
There are some changes inside the band. Now, I'm mostly working alone, but there will be a new member on the next album.
Please share a message with your fans and Pest’s readers.
So, I want you to discover new things, new cultures, new countries and worlds, but don't forget about yours and try not to lose yourself.
Interview by Sónia Fonseca