BRYMIR were previously known mostly to die-hard melodic death metal fans, but with their fourth album „Voices In The Sky“, the new label deal with Napalm Records and an extensive European tour with Finntroll, the Finns should become massively better known. That would only be logical, because their melodeath with symphonic, power and folk elements is extremely exciting, and the band also presents itself as strong as never before. We talked to singer Viktor Gullichsen about the making of the record, the important messages of the songs and the absolute dream tour.
„Voices In The Sky“ is your first album on your new label Napalm Records. Why is Napalm the right label for you and what does it improve for you?
Napalm Records is a world leader in our genre and they are the partner we need to finally have access to the metal market in Europe and beyond. We’ve pretty much been an independent band for most of our career and having Napalm Records by our side opens up many doors that before have been very hard to reach.
Your last album „Wings Of Fire“ was released in 2019 – since then the Corona pandemic and the war in the Ukraine have changed a lot. How did you get through these times and how have the last years affected you and the band?
We had a great release year 2019 with lots of tours and more shows set up for 2020. Everything was looking great and it was a hard blow when all our plans where cancelled our radically changed. The challenging times affected our creativity a lot – the first year of the pandemic destroyed our inspiration to write but the second year boosted it by bringing out so many emotions. Frustration can sometimes be a very powerful creative tool.
How did the songwriting and recording process go? Did the pandemic change anything in your usual working process?
The pandemic started as we were entering writing mode for this album and at first it looked like it would be an effective time make new music. However, as our process was drastically changed by the circumstances the early writing progressed at snail speed. We’ve usually had a very tight cooperation between me and guitarist Joona Björkroth from the earliest phase of creating a new song – and now when we couldn’t meet, and video chat sessions felt horrible, I did much more work alone in my home studio. This did have some benefits as I was forced to learn more guitar and as a result we managed to create this new, heavier sound with less reliance on keyboards as previously has been the case.
Even though you play melodic death metal at your core, your sound seems to open up even further towards symphonic, power and folk metal. Is this an intended development or do you just write and play what you feel like?
It’s a bit of both! We originally started as a folk metal band in 2006 but kind of grew out of that sound in later years – on this record we wanted to bring back some of those elements. We also we’re bold in taking more power metal into the mix as we are big fans of the genre, especially the kind of neoclassical style of known from long-time favourites Rhapsody, Stratovarius and others.
I think „Voices In The Sky“ is your most melodic, wide-ranging album so far. Despite the many melodies and the more frequently used clear vocals, there are also many hard moments like the thrashy, black metal „Forged In War“. In your own opinion, how would you classify the new album in comparison to its predecessors?
I would say this album is heavier in general, partly because of I had guitar riffing as my main production tool as opposed to our previous albums where I first write the melodies with keyboards and only later convert them into riffs together with Joona. As we used to have a keyboard player in the band we have previously been used to writing keyboard-oriented songs – but this new method allowed us to create songs that are more centred around the instruments we have on stage.
In „Borderland“ you use the poem „My Testament“ by the Ukrainian poet of the famous Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. How did it come about and what connects you with Ukraine?
One of my best friends, Kirill, is from Ukraine and seeing the pain of him and his family made me want to write about the subject. I remembered that Kirill had talked about this poem earlier and we decided that it would be a great fit to include it in the song.
On „Herald Of Aegir“ you said about the song that it’s about the fact that we are heading towards a point of no return for nature or some animal species. What could you do now to avert this and are you very close to nature?
I’ve lived close to the sea and around lakes my whole life and I have a deep appreciation for nature. I’ve always been very fond of (responsible) fishing and I’ve seen how the environment changes and thriving areas turn sour. We need to rethink commercial fishing and development around rivers if we want our grandchildren to also be able to enjoy what Aegir has to offer.
Is it important to you to send a valuable message with your music rather than just having blunt lyrics or fantasy themes?
Yes, that is very important to me but sometimes it’s also nice to just to paint metal pictures with epic themes. Most of our songs discuss real-world or personal issues, even while being told through themes from mythology.
Some songs, especially „Rift Between Us“, seem very emotional. Would you say that „Voices In The Sky“ has become an emotional, maybe even very personal album?
Definitely! I pour my deepest emotions into the music and subjects often come from my own struggles or personal opinions.
With „All As One“ you have another track on the album that is about eight minutes long. I especially like the acoustic parts and the epic atmosphere that is built up by the solos, slow rhythms and the spoken words and choirs. What is the song about and how did it come about?
This song was actually originally written by our bassist Jarkko Niemi almost ten years ago, here is a quote by him: „The song carries themes from our second album, “Slayer of Gods”, being as its first versions were formulated at that time… It tells the story of a prisoner moments before their public execution; a “beast” that has affronted the powers-that-be. Told from their point-of-view, the crimes committed, and the validity of the accusations are left in the mists of unreliability: is the prisoner a freedom fighter trying to rouse the masses to remove their blindfolds and throw down their oppressors, or merely a madman whose ravings try to justify this bitter end? For though the urge to see past this world, the yearning to kill false gods and ascend to higher levels of freedom, is undoubtedly a necessary human driving force to improve ourselves and our societies, all too often the down and dirty things that create real change are all muddled… When we wish to destroy monsters, we may become monsters ourselves. And at the moment of execution the fantastic becomes reality; apocalyptic visions of future worlds and the ends of those worlds, an “all-seeing-clarity” of cosmic proportions… If this would be the last glimpse a troubled soul will see after a lifetime of struggle, let such clarity be a comfort; whether real or not, it matters little.”
You covered „Diabolis Interium“ by Dark Funeral, which is very brutal and nasty for you. Your cover version is also very true to the original and therefore stands out at the end of the album. What do Dark Funeral mean to you and why did you decide to cover this track?
We chose this as a bonus song because the music of Dark Funeral was an important bonding factor for us when our drummer Patrik Fält joined the band in 2012. We’re both huge Dark Funeral fans and we had together planned to make a cover for years, even just as a side project. This was the perfect opportunity to do it with proper production and show the world our most brutal side!
Hopefully you can present your new album live on numerous stages and without restrictions. What is the best thing about touring and what did you miss most and least about live concerts lately?
We have a big European tour set up for November, a real dream come true! We really miss discovering new places, meeting new people and general sense of adventure. But for us, playing live is the most important form of validation for us as artists as we just by feeling the atmosphere in the crowd can give us a feeling of acceptance and proves to us that all the blood and tears was worth it!
Time to dream: What would the perfect BRYMIR tour look like if you were free to choose the bands for it?
(laughs) If we can dream big, please send us on tour with Dimmu Borgir and Amon Amarth!
Let’s conclude with our traditional brainstorming. What comes to your mind first when you read the following words?
Current favorite album: Decapitated – Anticult.
Best Movie-/Series-/Book-Universe: “The Culture” novels by Iain M. Banks.
Norse mythology: Valhalla.
A food that always makes you happy: Fish tacos.
Something that makes every bad day better: Fishing.
BRYMIR in ten years: Everywhere.
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