Interview with Tom Ian Klungland of SWORN

Interview with Tom Ian Klungland of SWORN

- in Written interviews

(c) Rune Drotninghaug

Hi! What do you think sets “A Journey told through Fire” apart from your previous releases in terms of its atmosphere and intensity?
Hello! While all our albums have had the melodic element, I think we’ve gradually evolved our melodies into being darker and more atmospheric. There is also a lot more aggression and intensity as you say, on “A Journey” than the previous albums.

The album contains your longest track to date. Could you tell us more about the creative process behind this epic piece and what inspired its length?
«A Godless Domain» is sort of the introduction to the whole concept of the album. It contains every musical element of what Sworn is and can be. During the writing process the song was fleshed out and parts added, and this was all done to serve the song. That it long has more to do, I believe, with the fact that it had to be this long in order to be the ideal version of the song, and less with writing a long song just to have a long song.

What prompted you to explore “progressive” musical direction, and how do you feel it enhances the overall listening experience?
We’ve had some elements that can be considered progressive on previous records, especially regarding chord progressions and melodies, but this time we also made use of some odd time signatures and subdivisions on one track. It was just another way of expanding our sound and experimenting with elements we hadn’t before. It keeps it interesting both for us and for the listener. We do not have a goal of becoming a progressive band though, but some elements here and there might work wonders. This time it looks like it paid off, as we have seen that many hold Visions of Fire as one of their favorite tracks on the album.

Can you elaborate on the overarching concept or story behind the album and how it influences the individual tracks?
The song title «A Journey told through fire” came up at some point and when we realized that this was somewhat of a concept album, a lot of pieces of the puzzle came together, especially lyrically. It’s still about a lot of the themes we’ve always written about, but this time personified through an unknown person’s struggle. We have three lyrical writers in the band, and all of us have our own way of looking at the theme, which keeps it interesting. So whether it is an actual journey through a world of flames, or a symbol of something else, is open to interpretation. Each track stands alone as well as being a part of the overarching concept.

As a band hailing from Bergen, Norway, a city renowned for its black metal scene, how has the local environment and heritage influenced your music and songwriting process?
I think the metal scene in Bergen has influenced us in very little regard. While we know some of the players in the scene, we’ve always stood on our own feet, kind of separated from the rest. We also signed with a German label very early on, and our main focus for several years was Germany, both when it came to selling albums and playing live. The German crowd also seemed more susceptible to the kind of metal we played. They are an enthusiastic crowd and we always had a good time there.

How did the 2011-2016 break impact your creative approach when you returned with the “Dark Stars and Eternity” in 2018?
Firstly, the songs on “Dark Stars” had a long gestation period, so there was plenty of time to mature, both for us as musicians and songwriters, but also for Sworn and the band’s sonic expression. As for the creative approach, I think we went about it pretty much as we’ve always had. After 2011, we began to scatter and live in other cities and even continents, which was some of the reasons for the long break. We still all live in different cities in Norway now. The way we’ve always written songs was to mostly complete a song on an individual basis, and then bringing it to the band and finalizing it. Being used to working this way was a plus when we decided to write music and release albums again.

“A Journey told through Fire” marks your first album release since the pandemic began. How did the downtime during the pandemic affect the writing and recording process? Did it bring any unexpected challenges or opportunities?
As mentioned, with our way of working, the pandemic didn’t really have an impact on writing, and by the time it was time to start recording drums, Norway had pretty much opened up again.

After the prolonged break from touring, how did it feel to play your first show after the pandemic in Bergen? Did it bring a renewed sense of energy and inspiration to the band?
Definitely. Since we don’t meet up as much as we used to, we always appreciate meeting up, whether it’s for rehearsals, recordings or live shows. We always come out of it with renewed enthusiasm and a sense of appreciation for the band.

Sworn has shared the stage with prominent bands like Behemoth, Aborted, and Helrunar in the past. How did those experiences shape your growth as musicians, and did they have any influence on the sound of your latest album?
The tour we did with Behemoth, Aborted and Helrunar initiated a lot of other gigs for us later on, and it was our very first experience of both playing outside Norway and touring in general, so it’s one that we’ll never forget. I don’t think it shaped the music on the latest album or us as musicians, but it certainly gave us some knowledge about touring that we’ve carried with us since. We were pretty much just kids back then, so we had a lot to learn.

How do you see Sworn contributing to the legacy of Norwegian black metal, and what aspects of your music do you believe make a unique contribution to the genre?
I hope that our music can be considered a part of a renewal of the melodic black metal genre. We’ve never really had a particular audience in Norway, our fans have mostly been in other parts of Europe and the world. It would be cool to get some recognition in Norway as well, at least for this last album which we are very proud of. Regarding our musical contribution to the genre, I think we’ve established our own unique sound and way of writing songs.

Your inspirations include 90s black metal bands like Ulver, Dissection, Dimmu Borgir, Alcest, Naglfar etc. How do these influences manifest in your music, and what elements do you incorporate to create your distinctive sound?
I think they manifest in different ways. One very specific example is the melodic way of writing guitar riffs, or riffs in general. Whether it’s a part of a song that is up-tempo with blast beats, or a more sombre and moody part, we always have the atmosphere and melodic aspect in mind.

How do you believe Sworn’s exploration of abstract concepts, both musically and lyrically, contributes to the overall impact and meaning of your songs?
I think that whatever serves the song and elevates it, is something to be explored, whether it be lyrical themes, chord progressions or something else. We explore different themes and alternative ways of writing music and lyrics each time we make a record, while striving to keep the “Sworn”-feeling present. As for abstract concepts, it’s something I think we have done on all our records, at least lyrically, dealing with the nature of the human spirit and conveying stories about this through different Jungian archetypes and symbols. There is struggle, but also triumph. I think a song can have great impact and meaning whether it deals with abstract or concrete concepts though, this is just how we have written our lyrics and what we feel works for us.

How have fans and listeners responded to the album so far, and how does their feedback compare to your own expectations and assessment of the album’s success?
The response has greatly surpassed all expectations we had. We are thrilled that so many have listened to the record and that it has received the high praise it has.

With the release of the new album, do you have any plans for upcoming tours or festival appearances? Are there any specific cities or countries you’re excited to visit and perform in?
We are planning some shows in Norway this autumn and would love to play some festivals outside Norway in the coming time as well. Nothing is booked as of right now though, so if anyone wants to book us and have us play, send us a message!

How do you engage with your fans online, and how important is their support and interaction to the band’s overall growth and success (from your point of view)?
The fans’ support and interaction is what gives validity to what you do. Their response to your music can have great impact on growth and success, which we have seen first-hand with “A Journey Told Through Fire”.

Looking ahead, what can fans expect from Sworn in the future? Are there any new musical directions or themes you would like to explore in your upcoming projects? Thank you for your time!
We are pretty far in the writing process of our fifth album, but nothing is set in stone, so I won’t divulge too much about that now. Suffice to say, If you like “A Journey…” you’re probably going to enjoy our next album as well.

Thanks for the interview!

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Quality music fan since '80s.

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