After the release of their successfull debut album Tales from Yggdrasil, we had the privilege to speak to the vocalist Björn Larsson of Havamal (third person at the center of the picture).
Hi Havamal ! First of all, thank you for according me this interview ! In a few words, could you please introduce yourselves ?
H : Thank you for having us! We’d like to introduce ourselves as the hymn-weawers of Odins wisdom. Havamal set out to unknown lands, but has since then moulded into an act composed of different musical backgrounds that gathered under the heathen banner to create symphonic melodic death metal heavily influenced by the nordic mythos, especially the tales that circulate the viking legends. It’s brutal and calm at the same time; the eye of the storm. We invite each and everyone to find out our stories for themselves to judge fair instead of us trying to give a picture that’s left for the individual warrior.
I found out that you took the name of your band from a poem from the Edda, which is the most famous Nordic book of poems. Why did you particularly choose this poem ? What does it represent for you ? Do you think that our world should read and apply these rules ?
H : We chose the name since we all love the stories of old. They are an eternal source for imagination and brutal hopes as well as despair. We wanted to create the sound the resembles the feeling you get when you dwelwe too deep into the epic works of the viking era. It represent what each person should strive for; the wisdom and acceptance that we’re all under one sun, one moon and one banner in the end. Havamal welcomes all and hopes to be welcomed as well, and we in the band fully supports the wisdom that is the Havamal. They are guidelines, not strict rules, and it basically tells you to be a better person to yourself as well as to your fellow warriors, and we can all unite under that thought.
You recently released your first album, Tales from Yggdrasil, via your label Art Gates Records. Do you have any feedback about it ? Are you happy with the result ?
H : Our first album was indeed released during the summer this year, and we couldn’t be happier with the results from our point of wiew! We’re all really picky with our own instruments and therefore all have personal comments about our own performances on the record, but we really enjoyed working on this album as it solidifies what we as a band are capable of, and what we want to share to our fierce einherjars and valkyries of the Havamal army!
This milestone will be surpassed by our next work which is in its writing stage for the moment, and our aim is to always improve ourselves as well as surprise the fans with each release. The feedback from the album is astounding, and we couldn’t be happier that our music made such a mark for so many people across the world!
Your band was founded in Stockholm in 2016. I ‘m very speechless by this very high level that rules the band. Do you have any experiences from other bands ?
H : Once more, we’re humbled by your kind words! We all come from musical backgrounds and each and everyone has played in different bands before this, but never on this level before. We all have different experiences with former projects, and it’s interesting to see how our musical differences when merged can create something uniqe and highly personal as each members represents their own instrument through their personal preference. Yet we always aim for the soul of Havamal when we write music to aim our differences to a united goal.
Except for your melodic death metal influences, I was extremely surprised by your keyboards that highlight your power metal influences. Who take care of keyboards in the band ? Do you like power metal ? What are your main influences in that style ? Could you feel a lack if you didn’t put keyboards in your music ?
H : The majority of the band is very deeply rooted in the power metal scene as well as melodic death metal. So basically power death would be a good description of our music. The main riffs are usually constructed by our guitarists, and the singer sometimes reach in with with power pieces, and then the band as a whole complete this picture to create the sound that is Havamal. Our biggest influences in that spectrum of music is for me at least Fairyland, Rhapsody, COB, Lost Horizon, Wintersun and Norther. Although the musical influences ranges from Disney to Wagner, so it’s hard to pinpoint that exact influence. We wouldn’t like it some other way; the power death element is there to stay! And it wouldn’t be the band as a whole without the keys. It could work, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Which other metal bands could you quote as your main influences ?
H : This is again highly personal, but as for me (Björn), I count my biggest ifnluences to be Equilibriums early work, COB, Norther, Wintersun, Pain and Devin Townsend. But then again, this is highly personal and I’m sure that depending on which member you ask you’ll have a different answer for this question.
So your band is supposed to sing about Norse Mythology. In fact, there are a lot of metal bands which have chosen this topic in their songs. Were you afraid by this fact when you started your band ? Did you just follow your passion ?
H : We knew that this topic had been touched on by other bands, but since we wanted to create this as our own passionate project we stuck to the theme with a different approach from the traditional viking-themed death metal. Our stories derives stright from the Poetic Edda and Snorre Sturlasson. We’re not trying to create our own sagas from these stories, but retell them so that our audience can get a true understanding of the norse mythology. It all ends up as a pretty unique approach on the theme since this is something an aesir priest could chant about, not just something that spawns from them. The re-telling of the stories keeps them alive, and that is one of our main goals.
Except for Edda, do you have any other subjects that inspire you and could not be related to Norse Mythology ?
H : Of course the legends that the viking age has created is a heavy influence for us as a band. Everything from the tales that we’ve read to the way of life as a viking inspires us to write about a world almost a legend to us nowadays. Some of it derives from pure fact, and other is pure myth. But that’s the beauty of it; to create the world the vikings lived in and the world that they themselves believed in.
What about the writing process ? Who writes songs in the band ?
H : The songs usually originates from the guitarists, and a few from the singer, but when the fundamental idea of a song is born, all of the members pitch in to leave their own mark in it. I in my role as the singer creates the lyrics based on what the song does for me spiritually. That feeling a song can create its own lyrics, I believe.
If you could choose one character from Norse Mythology in order to feast with, which one would it be and why ?
H : I’d sadly and gladly say Loki since he’s a true charmer, a master of stories and sweet lies as well as a glutton and a heavy drinker. You know you would’ve ended up stealing a giantess or cut off the golden hair of a goddess without remembering why when hanging out with Loki, but in the end it would’ve been an epic mead-heaving night and day with this charming and fully-bonkers creature of myth!
What about your next plans ? Do you have any planned European tour ? We would be glad to see you in France…
H : We’re recently talking with festivals all across Europe and have some plans for live events before entering the studio, hopefully next year. If an opportunity shows itself, we would gladly play for our warriors spread across the world! France is definitely included in our list of lands to musically raid, and we’re once more honoured that France would be glad to have us! We’re as mentioned in contact with some festivals in France as well. But more to be announced as time goes by, so stay curious and it will pay off.
I saw that you’ve never shot any official video for one of your songs. Would you like to do this in the future ?
H : We discussed this when choosing which songs to expand on, and we had some suggestions and ideas, but in the end we decided to create official videos for the next full-length album. For this we’ve already discussed this with a few persons of interest to create a mighty video for our frost-cladded warriors in a close future, so this is something that is bound to happen. We’re all very excited to start filming an official video, and you can expect to see at least one if not more in the future.
A last word before concluding ?
H : Havamal would like to deeply thank Valkyrie Webzine for interwiewing us, and we hope to meet each and every reader of this on festivals, out on live events and finally in Valhalla for eternal festing and battling! We, the hymn-weawers would like to extend our deepest thanks to all our einherjars and valkyries that has made the band and its future possible, and we hope to include a lot more warriors in our ranks for epic feasting, comradeship and musical battles in the future for many years to come! Hail the hordes that upholds Odins wisdom! Hail the words of the One-Eyed God! Hail Havamal!