Interview: :BOLVERK:

Interview: :BOLVERK:

- in Written interviews

:Bolverk: is a brand new Norwegian extreme metal band, formed by Under The Oak, Welcome To Hell (Venom cover band), and ex-Ragnarok’s guitarist Thomas Hansen.
I had the pleasure to interview Thomas again, who has talked the new band and the new album Uaar, more, he gave info about Under The Oak’s upcoming album as well, the relationship with the Italian label Wormholedeath, and others.

Greeting Thomas! Is my pleasure talking with you again! How is everything going?
Hello Carla! Thanks for another interview and thanks for your endless support of the metal scene. All is good and I am keeping very busy with three bands. No rest for the wicked. Welcome To Hell, our Venom tribute band, Under The Oak, the thrash/heavy metal band, and now our latest endeavor :Bolverk: which is extreme Norwegian metal.

Last time we spoke was about Under The Oak, this time let’s talk about your new solo project under the name of Bolverk and the new album called “Uaar”. First, when the idea and what made you decide to go solo?
So, the thing is, :Bolverk: is not my solo-project, :Bolverk: is:
Christopher “Rammr” Rakkestad (Elvarhøi, Jordskip, ex- Ragnarok)
Lucass “Yautja” Edquist (Gnida, ex- Mork)
Bjørn “Narrenschiff” Holter (Images at Twilight, ex- Illnath, ex- Aasmegin)
Thomas Bolverk (Under The Oak, Welcome To Hell, ex-Ragnarok, ex-Images at Twilight, etc.)

Initially, we were working with another name for the band, but it turned out that we had been a bit sloppy with our research. Another band was already using the name and almost in our own backyard no less. As we had spent the best part of 3 months working with that name, it was obvious that we needed a new band name immediately, like yesterday. A couple of the guys suggested :Bolverk: and that’s the way it went. I kind of take it as a compliment, but it also makes me kind of uncomfortable as I’m not too comfortable sticking my nose too far out and tooting my own horn. Luckily, most of the world has no idea that it used to be my stage name and now I use Thomas Bolverk instead. I think it’s just a matter of time before everybody automatically will look at :Bolverk: as a four-man unit.
When my time in Ragnarok was up, it was always in the cards that I would start another extreme metal band. Under The Oak and Welcome To Hell kept me busy, but one day in November 2020, I think it was a Thursday, I thought to myself: It is today, the day is today. I already had a lot of riffs ready for this band, but it was there and then that the real work started. I called Chris “Rammr” to hear if he was interested and he was. I had already talked to Bjørn “Narrenschiff” and knew that he was interested in joining a new extreme metal venture and he was still interested. Lucass “Yautja” completed the line-up after we had an extensive jam on some of the material in my rehearsal studio. This is an excellent line-up of great players and great guys. We have a good time when we meet as well as creating some extreme Norwegian metal.

As I listened to the album, I noticed a mix of elements and sound. It is both heavier, bit “brutal”, as well mellow. What was the approach when you wrote the music, was it the musical direction you have planned to go since the beginning?
:Bolverk: is extreme Norwegian metal, aiming to be as sad and melodic as Solstafir in one end and as brutal as Marduk in the other. We are exploring the borders of the extreme metal genre and are actively working with the contrasts that all our inspirations have embedded in us. Our music is about melody as well as brutality. We want you to sing along as well as wanting to furiously bang your head. Good music makes you want to move, and that is one of the goals we aim to achieve with :Bolverk:.
When we started out, I kinda thought that it would be an extension of the black metal I’d written earlier. It turned out to be something different, though. I guess that all our different influences from Marillion to Mayhem, Maiden to Motorhead, and so forth, was making its way into the music. We wanted the music to be melodic as well as brutal and we wanted the songs to be extensive compositions, challenging the listener. This turned out to be more work than we bargained for. You see, it’s easy to play slow and it’s easy to play fast, but it isn’t necessarily easy to make these two elements work well together. We spent a lot of time challenging our own arrangements and working within the contrasts to make the transitions between melodic and brutal…and back again as smooth as possible. We learned a lot in the process and I think Uaar turned out very well in that respect. The arrangements are natural, and even if the songs are long it seems like they managed to keep the listeners attention. Chris “Rammr” taught me the term “a song’s narrative” and we spent a lot of time working on just that. What story do we want the music to tell? How do we keep the arrangements interesting and challenging without overdoing it? How do we keep the listener’s attention? Questions like that. A lot of this album is the result of deliberate and targeted work, but a lot of it is still more about feeling the music than planning it. We are very satisfied with how the album turned out. We are happy as long as we like the music ourselves, obviously, we wouldn’t release anything we thought was crap, but everything is a lot better when other people like it too, of course.

For this new band, you took on board, as you mentioned earlier, Chris “Rammr” Rakkestad (Elvarhøi), who you’ve shared the stage with him the time you were in Ragnarok, as well ex-members of Mork, Images At Twilight. How is to have them in this band, and what was their contribution on Uaar?
Everybody is in this band because they are great players and great guys. There are a lot of resources in our ranks and everybody contributes their bit, be it with the songwriting or with all the other work that needs to be done to keep a band active. A :Bolverk: song starts with me stringing a bunch of riffs together. I try to put them in an interesting order and I try to make them work well together. Then we fight over arrangements and challenge each other in that respect. This time around Chris “Rammr” and me has sent arrangement to and from and made suggestions. This song can do with another riff. This song is so sick, how can we make it even sicker. This song needs a more interesting arrangement and so on. This is a process that can be very challenging in the respect that we have to kill each other’s darlings, but the process is necessary to ensure that the end result is our very best effort. 9 songs for the next album are actually in the middle of this process as we speak. Everybody takes an active part and the arrangements need to be ready soon because we are recording drums for the next one after the release party in June. As for the lyrics, Bjørn “Narrenschiff” has written four, I have written three, and Chris “Rammr” and I have cooperated on one. In addition, everybody is the king of their own instrument, of course. There will always be suggestions and discussions, but we always agree in the end. It’s very important to cherish this process, even if it’s tiring because more heads think better than one and it will amount to a better result in the end.

So far, what feedback has the album received?
Even if it’s early days yet, a few reviews have turned up. All of them in the 9 out of 10 range. This is awesome, of course, but we are prepared for harsh criticism also. We don’t make music for the masses and even if there’s melody and order. Less chaos, more art. The music is still challenging and requires something from the listener. The feedback we’ve received from friends and collaborators has also been very positive, but maybe a bit biased, so you don’t always trust they are being totally objective. With the free press, on the other hand, we have to assume that they will slaughter you if they don’t like what they hear. No really, I think usually most people are kind and objective when writing about music today, and thank you very much for that, because whether you like the music or not, the bands usually put a lot of work into it and every band deserves to be given a fair chance.

“Uaar”, what does it mean, the word?
The title of the album, Uaar, means a bad year in older Norwegian language. This was usually used when the crops failed and people starved. It fits well with the state of the world for the last two years, we think. Luckily now, the world seems to recover a bit, bands are touring and people are going to shows again. It was strange to stay at home for 2 years, but at least we got to write a lot of music. Nothing beats going out to play for people, though, and I’ve had quite a busy year already with all three bands.

Yet you continued the work with Italy’s Wormholedeath records. Guess you “had no choice”, haha! 
Ha, ha! I like working with them. They are my friends and we were very happy with the work they put into Under the Oak’s Ripped Up By The Roots. A lot of promotion was made.
Reviews and interviews were plentiful. There was a lot of radio play and podcast stuff. I thought radio almost had died as a medium, but I was proven very wrong and we had a lot of great experiences with radio shows and a lot of songs were played on the airwaves. Wormholedeath works very hard for us. They really care about our happiness, give us full artistic freedom and treat us with respect in every way.

Indeed, Carlo (label boss) likes working with you a lot, he shared this in the announcement statement. He’s a great guy tho!
Charly and me are brothers, you know. We became friends many years ago and we are the same, me and him. We haven’t been able to meet for three years now because of the pandemic, but hopefully we’ll get to see each other this summer and make up for lost time. He added some very nice words to the press release of :Bolverk:’s Uaar, indeed, and I was very grateful about that. Today, business is often just business and there are no personal relations. I like the personal relations and working with people I trust and who I consider to be my friends.

What news can you share with us as well about Under The Oak?
There’s actually a lot of news about Under The Oak. We have rehearsed and gigged regularly, even under the pandemic so it really hasn’t stopped us much. The shows have been small with sitting audiences, of course, but still fun shows. We recorded the new album in Endarker Studios, Sweden with Magnus “Devo” Andersson in January as usual and it will be released in September, by Wormholedeath, of course. We are very happy with the new album. 10 of our own songs as well as 2 cover tunes, just like on Ripped Up By The Roots. The title of the album is Rattus Norvegicus, and we think that the overall quality of the songs are better on this one. Our style has maybe settled a bit with us realizing that we have traditional heavy metal traits as well as thrash metal ones and it made the songwriting more relaxed. Ripped Up By The Roots went down very well and we got a lot of great feedback on the album. It meant that we could approach Rattus Norvegicus with more confidence, but also with high expectations from a lot of people. Ripped Up By The Roots came as a surprise for most, but this time people are prepared and will expect us to top the last album. We think we have. We think Rattus Norvegicus is a great album. First and foremost, we also make music for ourselves, you know, and as long as we are happy it’s all good. It is however a lot more fun when other people like it too. We have several shows booked for the fall, festivals, and smaller shows and we can’t wait to perform the new album for actual people.

In June there will be the new album release party show. What will you expect from the public by then? 
As we speak, the release party is drawing near. Rehearsals have gone well and we are ready to perform the album live. The release party is being filmed and the sound is being recorded on individual tracks, so we can make it into a live video. It’s also possible that we will cut a music video from the material, but as long as our songs already are long and not very commercial, it would be great to release the whole thing. The commercial value of that is probably about zero, I think, but it would be a really cool thing to do and it would also prove to people that we can transform the album to the stage in a good way. This is very important to us because it’s the meeting with the audience that is the real moment of truth for a musician.  In general, it’s much more important and more difficult to make the material work in a live setting than in the studio. Admission to the show is free and we hope that the venue will be filled up so we can turn it into a madhouse.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? And of course, thank you again for this interview. It was my pleasure and hope to meet you soon again! Hails!
Once again, thank you very much for the interview, Carla. Thank you for taking an interest in our band and for dedicating a lot of your time to writing about music. Thank you for supporting the scene. We’re all in this together. The bands wouldn’t exist without the audience and vice versa!

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