HELRUNAR from Germany is an archaic breath of the misty world hidden behind all that is considered real by the people of a modern society marked by dull materialism. With an excellent demo (Grátr), a split with Nachtmahr and a full-length (Frostnacht) released on mighty Prophecy Productions/Lupus Lounge Records they deserve regards from everybody who listens to Black Metal. They deliver very-well composed folk-influenced Black Metal with haunting and frosty melodies, and they already managed to create a style of their own. Vocalist Skald Draugir shared us a few interesting details about Helrunar and other interesting matters. (interview taken from the Cross Of Black Steel magazine Issue # 2, done by Robert Sun in April 2006)
What is the significance of the name and why did you choose it? How do you think the name Helrunar reflects the mood your music offers?
“Helrunar” means something like “The runes of Hel” or “Those who whisper with Hel”. Hel is the Germanic goddess of the underworld, the realm of death. To whisper with her means to awaken lost or suppressed memories from the human subconscious. Regarding the lyrics, which often have a psychological-symbolic meaning, or the music which has a kind of archaic, dark atmosphere, I think the bandname reflects it quite well.
Your webpage gives almost zero info about the band, nothing except some tour-dates and stuff. Why is that so?
It is simply not finished… we had some problems finding a person who creates our homepage. But now it will soon be done I think.
Your first release was Grátr. “Grátr” in many places is rated as a demo. Your site doesn’t give information about that. The metal-archives.com says that it’s an LP. So, it’s a demo or it’s an LP and why is this confusion?
It is a self-produced demo-cd. I think the origin of the confusion is that the cd is made with a good quality, so many people didn´t realize that it is a demo, actually.
Most of the bands release demos before such a long play release. Did you made any demos before Grátr?
No, Grátr was our demo. We just made some tape recordings for ourselves before.
Gratr was a self-financed release. How difficult is to release a CD by yourself? Didn’t you get any offers from record labels? Gratr is now sold-out. Did you thought of a re-release, cause it’s a very good release.
Well, it wasn´t easy. The recording and mixing time took very long before we were finished. And after that it was really expensive to give the cd this professional look. But we wanted to do a quality release, no burnt shit with a photocopy cover. Many bands do this mistake- releasing stuff with a lack of musical talent, a bad production and a ridiculous cover, and then pretending to be “true”. No one needs stuff like that. Apart from the offer from Prophecy Productions, we got two offers more. Yeah, we think about a re-release of Grátr, maybe just on vinyl.
Then you also released a split with Nachtmahr, which again is a very fine release with two interesting bands. Are you close friends with Nachtmahr? Whose was this idea and how this idea materialized into this release?
We didn´t know the guys from Nachtmahr before, the label planned to put our two bands together on the split. But aye, you´re right, the Nachtmahr song is very fine indeed. I met the guy behind Nachtmahr when he visited one of our concerts on tour and we had a small conversation. It was really nice and interesting.
“Frostnacht” was released by Prophecy/Lupus Lounge, a perfect label for your kind of music. How this label did come into the equation? Are you satisfied with their work? What kind of credits do they offer?
I did an interview after the release of Grátr, and I was asked which one would be my favorite label to be signed with. I said “Well, Prophecy Productions…” But I didn’t know that the interviewer also worked as a freelancer for Prophecy Productions… and well, that was it. He sent them our demo-cd and they offered us the deal. We are very satisfied with their work. The contact is friendly and professional, they support us in any way. And they gave us the chance to put out such a release like Frostnacht with the great cover and the good mix… they also managed to bring out some shirts. Everything is much easier with this deal. And we met a lot of interesting people since we signed the contract. All in all, we are very satisfied.
There are lots of folk influences on the album. What makes you to introduce folk influences in your music? Do you also listen to authentically folk?
Yes, I do, Scandinavian folk especially. I think we introduce the folk elements to give the music more atmosphere and variation. When you compose something you don’t think about what you do so much… a lot happens very intuitive. If you listen to folk music and are interested in a kind of paganism, then it simply fits.
Some moments on your albums have this clean vocals stuff, which somehow reminds me of “Pagan” or folk bands. Are those singed parts are a kind of tribute to the traditional music of your country, paganism or anything, or you just wanted the music to be more diversified?
Both, as I said. But it has not so much do to with the traditional German music, for a lot of this music is lost. You see, it is very difficult to find original German folk music. Therefore I rather use the Scandinavian stuff as an influence. The lyrics often have a pagan/mythological background, so all in all it fits I think…
Some riffs and harmonies foggy remind me of Darkthrone, Mayhem, Satyricon and other Norwegian BM acts, but all those ideas are very well placed in a German feeling. Were the Norwegian BM bands from the early 90s an influence? What names circling in your mind when it comes to speak about influences?
Of course, the early Norwegian bands are our main influence, much more than any German Black Metal. Our main influences are Darkthrone, Satyricon, Ulver, Enslaved, but also a little Dissection and Bathory sometimes.
Both of your albums sound professional as hell, very clean and straightforward. Do you think that Black Metal should sound only this way? What do you think of the so-called “necro style” BM?
I can’t tell you what Black Metal should sound like, because I don’t like any rules. The most important thing is that a musician works with all his heart and soul to create a good work of art. This can be well produced or also necro… doesn’t matter. We chose the way of a good production, because our music has a lot of details hidden inside, and they would get lost with a raw production. But in the case of old Darkthrone for example, the raw production fits very well and gives the music a deeper feeling and atmosphere.
What do you think is the essence of Black Metal? How should sound a BM band and how should not sound a BM band?
As I said, I don’t like any rules. Everyone should decide for himself. The only point is that it shouldn’t sound boring and uninspired.
Do you agree that some Black Metal bands transmit the disturbance of the contemporary man of our society, who would like to escape from the modern world?
Absolute! This is one of the main reasons to create Black Metal I think… I don’t know if all the guys who play or like Black Metal are conscious about that. Many feel lost in this modern world and rebel against all these senseless un-values by music and behaviour. Therefore, Black metal is a very critical music, but this is not obvious… it is merely the fact that music like Black Metal exists that points to this un-satisfaction with the modern world. In the lyrics this point doesn’t appear that often.
On both of the covers are forest images. What the lyrics deal with (I don’t understand German) and how do you think your music, the lyrics and the cover/booklet connects into each other?
The lyrics deal with modern human experiences, seen through the mirror of mythological or psychological/archetypical symbols. I use a lot of symbols from the nature in the lyrics, therefore you could call the lyrics “pagan” somehow. I also use symbols from old-Norse myths especially, also in connection with Norwegian and old-Icelandic language. I think the wisdom hidden in pagan myths can uncover a deeper truth also for modern people. So, the use of forest images in the cover may have two meanings… one is that it reflects the modern world… somehow you can feel lost like in a thicket without being able to find a way, on the other hand it expresses a kind of longing… a longing for going back to nature, to withdraw into a kind of symbolic forest, into your inner self, back to a kind of archaic perception that ignores the modern world with all it’s senseless shit. Let them live their unconscious lives, I don’t wanna be a part of their sick society.
Were there any concepts on your two albums, which connects each track to the others, or they are just songs put together?
Grátr mainly deals with this feeling of being lost in the modern world, as you already described it. The modern world is also seen as a thread… as a kind of long winter that will not end. Fimbulvétr, you know? Frostnacht deals with experiences and memories. Personal, dark memories and how they influence life, and also archaic, subconscious pagan memory. Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten.
Many German bands have folk influences. Besides Helrunar: Sun of the Sleepless, Falkenbach, Nachtmahr, Nargaroth just to name a few. Do you keep on the track with other German names? Do you listen to them?
Not that much. I like Sun of the Sleepless and Nachtmahr, also Drautran (R.I.P.), Lunar Aurora, Nebelhorn and some more. But I am not “into the scene” that much.
There are also many other bands from Germany, who play folk-influenced Black Metal, or just simply folk or neo-folk with archaic, sensitive, sometimes romantic lyrics. Why is that so? Do you think it could be an influence from the 18th, 19th century’ German Romantic Poets?
The romantic poets have a kind of influence of course, especially if you regard the Neofolk- stuff. But I think the main reason is that they search for their cultural identity. You know, because of the Second World War and the crimes of the Nazi-government the Germans have a strange relationship to their own history. Nearly all of our medieval or Germanic roots have been abused by the regime, so it is difficult to rediscover the truth. And if you’re interested in runes or Germanic culture, then many people regard you as a Nazi, anyway. But of course, pagan Germanic spirituality and runes have NOTHING to do with the Third Reich. It was another great crime of the fascists that they abused and dirtied our cultural roots, today we can’t have this natural, self-evident way to deal with our past like people from other nations have. But people need these roots to discover who they are. In the Neofolk or Folk-Metal scene they try to find a way to rediscover all that I think. There is a great longing for cultural identity, original spirituality in these confused modern times I think.
Where all the darkness and coldness from Helrunar’s music come from?
From our experiences and from our desolate, rotten souls.
Personally what do you think of death? You think death is the absolute end for us, humans, or is just the beginning of something else?
Actually, I believe in reincarnation. But of course, I can’t tell you for sure…
If Helrunar’s music could be a soundtrack for a movie or a piece of a theatre drama and it would be up to you to decide, which movies/drama’s soundtrack would you choose?
Well, that’s a difficult question… I can’t tell you a kind of genre or so, but it should be a movie with dark expressive and disturbing pictures… the same somehow counts for a theatre drama… I already thought about creating a drama around our music. It should have a pagan background, but in the same way it shouldn’t lack modernity.
Do you have any musical training? Do you think it is good for a musician to learn musical theory or it is better to discover everything alone and to create his own style? Or a combination of both?
A combination of both I think. I have no special musical training, I learned everything by myself. But you should go through the world with open ears and eyes. And professional training will of course do no harm. To create your own style takes time, nevertheless. The first songs you compose always sound like being influenced by other bands… I think it takes 3 or 4 albums for a musician to discover and create his own style.
You had a mini-tour in this year’s April together with The Vision Bleak. How is a Helrunar live appearance? Do you use theatrical decors (special lights, mist, special costumes, paintings, etc) or you just go on the stage and play?
No theatrical effects, we just dress ourselves in black. I find it more effective if you do an emotional, expressive show, also by gestures and mimic art than painting myself or using torches or stuff like that…
What are the plans for Helrunar? When will be out the next album? Or maybe another interesting split?
We will play to more festivals this summer, and then we’ll withdraw to compose our next album. I think we gonna record it next spring or so.
I’m a Hungarian who lives in Romania. Do you know/like by chance any other Hungarian or Romanian band?
I don’t know any Hungarian bands, but I like Negura Bunget from Romania very much!
OK, that’s all for now, many thanks. Final words of wisdom?
Knowledge is a weapon- arm yourself! Thank you for your support, and greetings to Romania!
by Robert Sun