Formed at the onset of popularity of the retro thrash movement in 2005, Nekromantheon have largely outlasted and outperformed all of the bands that were their peers through the rise and fall of thrash revivalism. Targeting from the start the deeper underground and always avoiding the party-heavy themes and aesthetic that plagued their contemporaries, Nekromantheon built a cult following for their intense velocity, witching thrash mentality, and incredibly high quality over the years.
Nearly a full decade after 2012’s Rise, Vulcan Spectre, Nekromantheon have returned for their third album. Visions of Trismegistos largely carries on exactly where the band left off nine years prior, with howling vocals soaring over technical razor-sharp brutal thrash riffing and breakneck drumming at all times leaving an uneasy impression of a train about to go off the rails. Slow sections are mostly intros or outros of songs and seem to only exist to leave room for a bated breath while anticipating the next onslaught of terror, and all around, Visions of Trismegistos is exactly what fans wanted after nine excruciating years of waiting for more.
Though it’s exciting that the band is back after so long, the sudden return leaves a lot of questions, and Sindre (bass and backing vocals) is here to answer them.
Hails Sindre! Thank you for doing this interview with Ride Into Glory. To start, what have you guys done to keep busy in between 2012’s Rise, Vulcan Spectre and Visions of Trismegistos, and what made now the right time for a new album?
Well, it is a pretty complex answer, but the broad strokes is that we’ve been playing live quite sporadically, and we have been busy with other bands and projects, and life in general. Life takes so much more space getting older. We have been writing music quite regularly, but we have a very high standard, maybe too high, of what thrash metal should be, so it takes time and we discard LOADS of music.
Whenever the album was closing in to be finished would be the right time for it’s release though, but we started working much more focused and structured towards an album in 2019, and just before covid hit we set deadlines for going into the studio and such, and finished the entire thing in may 2020.
Were there any songs that didn’t make it to the album that might surface at some point?
Probably not. Maybe some parts here and there, but you’ll never know. Most of it was discarded for a reason, that it did not keep up to our standards and hence did not make the cut. But some was good material that just didn’t fit with the rest… There was especially one 2-3 riff part that was extremely epic, on the more heavy metal/midpace side of things, that I really wanted to be included. It just never fitted in. I hope to use that some day, or that it at least finds its way to Black Viper…
Would you say that heavy metal is a particularly big influence in Nekromantheon normally, or was the scrapped section you mentioned anomalous?
Well, not more than proto black metal and punk is, but it’s been a more important influence in the last years rather than in our formative years. Especially when it comes to song structures and leads/solos for the most part though.
Yeah, it was maybe too mellow and a bit too midpace oriented. It just never clicked, so in the bit it went.
Why is heavy metal more of an influence now than a decade ago?
Getting older I guess. When we were young it was important to listen to extreme shit all the time, especially when we partied. Heavy Metal had a huge resurgence in the 2010’s, shining light on many obscure bands and releases, so naturally we listened a bit more to that. I mean, we’ve always listened to Iron Maiden, but especially Arild has had a long travel into heavy, speed and US metal the last 10 years.
What is the songwriting process like, and who handles it for Nekromantheon?
The process is not written in stone, but someone usually brings a riff or something of a song structure, and we work on that. We try riffs up against each other, get details in place, and play it again and again. Arild writs most of the actual riffs, but we work everything thoroughly through together.
Something I’ve repeated in all the interviews I’ve done, haha, is the fact that our standards when it comes to thrash metal are extremely high. It takes something extraordinary to get me excited for a new thrash record etc these days. And we think like this when we write, it has to be perfect. Because there is nothing worse than mediocre thrash. Maybe mediocre black metal.
For us the music has to be fast, dynamic, dark and cold, techinical up until a certain point yet it has to sound alive, spontaneous and almost sloppy. It needs to possess a certain feeling, and an element of surprise. It has to be perfect. Perfect Thrash balance on a knife’s edge of all the above mentioned factors(and more). Hence, we throw away a lot of material, and we work work work work on it until it’s perfect. Sometimes we work it around a lyric, others around riffs, a theme or a vibe.
Are your standards as high for classic thrash as they are for modern thrash?
Yes and no. The stantards derive from the classic era, but a lot of the early / rudimentary classic releases will lack something, or have more of something else, but it was in the genres conception and that felt original, hungry and vital. A simplicity that VERY seldom would work today without sounding dated and homage-esqe. There are always exceptions though.
What were some perhaps lesser-known classic thrash releases that inspired Nekromantheon the most?
Hmmm. Not sure if they classify as classics or obscure, but here is a list of releases that are a bit off the trodden path, that was and is very inspirational to us, and releases we really dig. Underground freaks will off course be familiar with this:
- Pentagram from Chile – both demo 1# and 2#
- Obliveon – Whimsical Uproar
- Sadus – Death to Posers demo / Illusions record
- Poison – Into the Abyss
- Fantom Warior – Morbid Invasion demo
- Whiplash – Looking Death in the Face demo (the first album also obviously)
- Vader – Necrolust and Morbid Reich demos
- Morbid Saint – Spectrum of Death
- Gammacide – Victims of Science
- Dark Angel – Darkness Descends ( best fucking thrash record ever )
- Sacrifice – Forward to Termination
- Hobbs’ Angel of Death – Hobb’s Satans Crusade ( the demos )
- Necrophagia – Seasons of the Dead
- Morbid Angel – Thy Kingdom Come demo
Could go on forever, but will have the pace myself, haha.
The new album’s North American release is being handled by Hells Headbangers Records. How did you get in touch with them, and how did that come about?
Very excited to have HELLS release it, I really like that label, they release a bunch of good stuff. Kick had a good impression of them, being a part of Deathhammer in the past. I just asked our label if they could reach out and try to get a US license going, and I thought they would fit us best in the states. I have always preferred to work with someone else in the US, as it’s such a huge market and it’s hard for a Euro label to really do good work there.
Are there any particular favorites from the Hell’s Headbangers discography that you’d want to talk about or that made a particular impact?
Oh man, almost too many to mention. They’ve done a bunch US releases that where on other labels in Europe also, so pardon me if I mention any of those, but I love the Deathhammer stuff, Shitfucker, Abhomine, The Midnight releases, Apokalyptic Raids, the Barbatos – Blüdwülf split, Cianide, THE GOUGE RECORD(fucking great band), Profanatica etc. Great label that only releases stuff that seems gritty, dark and honest, which I really respect. I guess we are one of the more polished bands here, haha.
Cycling back- speaking of your label getting in touch with Hell’s Headbangers, how did you get in touch with Indie Recordings, and why did you decide to have them take over from the labels who handled the first album?
That is quite a funny story. In the wake of Obliteration’s Nekropsalms record, Indie Recordings approached Obliteration to sign us, as that album did quite well, at least in Norway. They wanted us to follow up on that hype, releasing something new right away, to ride the wave.. However we are not very good at playing ball with the labels, so a new Obliteration record was not ready by far, and we were not gonna rush it. So after their 5th ” what’s happening with the new Obliteration record”, I said ” Wait, check out this instead”, which was an early mix or rehearsal for Rise, Vulcan Spectre. So I kinda pushed Nekromantheon on them to get them off my back with Obliteration, as we were pretty far away from finalizing the record then…
There were two labels handling our first record, and the initial label so not a label we are that happy with. It was only a simple license/handshake deal anyway so we were free to do what wanted for the second record anyways.
Did you get any other offers aside from Indie Recordings after Nekropsalms?
Yes, quite a few, but some came a bit too late, or were not as interesting. We wanted the security of having a Norwegian label when we signed due to some bad experiences with foregn labels, but in this digital world it doesn’t really matter anymore. I email Indie 95% of the times I need to get in contact with them anyway.
Are there any benefits to having a longer-running contract as opposed to the handshake deal stuff of the band’s early days?
Depends on the contract. I will say yes and no. But we live in a world where labels aren’t as important as before, bands can do a lot of work themselves for the same gain, to a certain extent. But we’ve always liked to have someone to handle most of the boring stuff, it’s enough work regarding booking etc. But there are no perfect labels. Not in this day and age.
Do you think that Nekromantheon could have gotten as much traction as it has without the benefit of a label?
Not immediate upon release, but probably over time given the album being good and that the band is active. Several bigger underground bands have released on small indie labels or themselfs, gaining traction and great success. The time when people followed labels and the labels were “tastemakers” is long gone.
How does everyone manage their time between bands? Every member of the band is in one or two other ones.
It’s not like it’s our daily jobs here, it’s just a matter of priorities. And I believe that different inputs from different people, playing with different musicians only is only beneficial for us as musicians and “writers of music”, haha. Obviously, Nekromantheon has to some extent been neglected in favor of our other projects for quite some time, namely Obliteration, Flight, Black Viper, and when Kick was in Deathhammer. You just have to try to prioritize, but we’ve followed where inspiration and fruitful flow has been present, and for some years that was more in Obliteration’s favor, but that’s shifted as of now…
Does that mean we can expect a less expansive release schedule for more Nekromantheon stuff following the new album?
No I hope not. It will not be 9 years too the next release. We might look in a bit of a different direction going forward, not making pure thrash anymore, so our ideals will maybe not be so in the way, haha.
What’s the reason for the possible deflection from pure thrash? What can fans expect going forward?
That is only speculating and what we are loosely talking about within the band, but we have upheld this for 3, or at least two albums, and it took us 9 years with the last one. Maybe it’s time to look in a bit other directions, allowing yourself to evolve a bit more naturally and take more risks. It will still be thrash / extreme rock, but in a bit different form. Too early to tell, but it feels like we are a bit done with the formula that has forced us to use so much time.
Did taking so long to write Visions of Trismegistos come with any benefits that it might not have had if it dropped closer to Rise, Vulcan Spectre?
I don’t really know. Hopefully it got better and thoroughly worked through. Sometimes the only right thing is to let the songs sit, and mature. Taste the vibe and atmosphere until it’s just right. We PROBABLY have lost all the traction we gained with Rise, Vulcan Spectre and then some, so hope it gave some benefits by this long time maturing.
Going back in time a bit, you’ve been a part of a couple of multi-band splits, and did a split with Audiopain in 2010. How did those come about?
We always thought splits and 7 inches was a cool thing when we were younger, and quite a few of the older Norwegian Black Thrash bands had some sort of tradition to do splits so it felt normal. I guess the first we did was a part of RELAPSE’s Speed and Spikes 7inch series, where we had a split with Abigail from Japan. The Audiopain split I guess we initiated, as we are fans of the band and Kick was asked to join them later on. Done in collaboration with Duplicate Records!
Will Nekromantheon continue doing split releases in the future?
Maybe. As time is much more precious I think we’ll focus most on our own releases, but you never know.
Nekromantheon records everything in-house instead of going to a studio. What are some advantages to DIY?
Well, this time around we actually went to a studio to record large parts of the record, and mix it, but we did it ourselves in that studio, without a producer/tech. It was a bit in lack of our own room this time around, and we wanted to utilize some old tube preamps and compressors and vintage mics we didn’t own. So we borrowed a friend’s studio, and recorded the rest in our rehearsal room and at Arilds place etc.
We have always recorded by ourselves and mixed etc. Guitarist Arild has some education in the field of sound engineering and we always liked it. To have total control but also challenge yourself. The product feels more honest and less “produced” this way, at least in our ears.
Was there anything you missed in the studio compared to recording at your own space?
No not really, it felt pretty similar, it was only us three and we used much of our own gear.. We don’t have the old space anymore, so it’s hard to compare. We probably would have had a sharper and less bassy sound if we recorded it at the old venue. A bit shittier sound.
Do you think you’ll rent out a studio space again for future recordings or go back to your own space once you have your own room again?
-Very hard to say, depends on the situation. There are pros and cons with both, we will probably do it ourselves if we have a room suited for it. But being able to use old Royer mics, tube preamps etc while doing it ourselves gave us a different and “better” start off point, and it was very rewarding to mash up our DIY/shabby recording ethics with some proper old school high end studio equipment.
Had Nekromantheon made it over to the United States prior to Defenders of the Old a few years ago?
Yeah, we were on a small tour in 2010 with Obliteration. Both bands played Maryland Death Fest, and we did a short run around those shows. NYC, Montreal, Quebec city, Boston and Philly. Was a great trip with a lot of shenanigans and some great shows. We all had gained a bunch of weight coming back.
Was it difficult doing back to back shows with different bands?
It’s probably worse now then back then. But I hated it. You had to go back to pre show focus after going off stage when you just want a cold beer, and get in the right mood again.. I also had some issues the last gigs with singing two shows, felt like I used up the oxygen in my body, which resulted in headaches. Haha.
I said I would never do it again, at least for a tour. But it is very cost effective, and we’ve done both bands at festival etc, which reduces cost etc. And we’ll probably do it again if the cool offers come.
Are there any plans to return to the States in support of the new album once the pandemic allows?
I hope so, but as of now no plans. I just don’t wanna use a lot of time and energy working on something that might not materialize. However, when things are more back to normal, I hope we can come over again and play.
Before closing out I have a couple of questions for Christian, if that’s okay, as I understand that he does the band’s lyrics! Now, Nekromantheon from day one has had a focus lyrically on Greek mythology, and that seems to continue with the new record. What exactly is Trismegistos?
Trismegistos, or Hermes Trismegistos, is a Greek/Egyptian mythical figure and the alleged author of a range of mystical and metaphysical texts. For us, Trismegistos represents a bygone tradition of gnosticism and mysticism, an interesting foundation to build metaphors and symbols upon. We want the lyrics to add a layer of obscurity and mystery to the music.
Did the delay between records make it any more difficult to write lyrics than if you had kept going with the momentum from the first couple albums?
After a long break from writing it always takes some time to get back into the groove, yeah. And I felt I needed to find something interesting to write about, not just regurgitate a bunch of ‘metal’ sounding words and phrases. I actually started studying intellectual history at the university in order to get some inspiration and develop my lyrics. I know most people aren’t gonna read them or care what they are about, but we’re doing this for us, not for them.
Is it difficult at all to write and envision lyrics for the other members of the band to sing? How do you make it work?
I try to think like a drummer when I write the lyrics, and I usually have a clear vision in my head of how I want the phrasing and emphasis to be. Sometimes I record a demo version for the others to listen to, other times I try to instruct and explain while they record. If they have a different idea, we decide together what’s best, so there’s no dictatorship. I’m just glad I don’t have to do the vocals!
What’s coming up next for Nekromantheon?
We are releasing an alternative “release gig”, filmed in our own dungeon. It will be out just after the album. Other than that we are actually jamming on new riffs and have started to explore a bit with new material. So hopefully it won’t be 9 years until our next record, haha.