“At a time where cultural, historical and environmental values and heritage are often forgotten or ignored, the attempt must be made to resew what has been disregarded…”
I’ve spoken of this before, but once again: it’s not hard to tell when a project has integrity. You can just feel when the artist responsible for it believes in their message. Listening through ‘Landvaettir’, the debut atmospheric/pagan black metal album by Helgafell and sole work of UK man Feigsfar, you can hear in each note and every word that he has poured his heart and soul into his creation. The Pagan atmospheres and themes are sincere and give extra depth to its resonance; this man is living what he speaks of and it informs his art in a beautiful and compelling way. This IS the man and his beliefs. This is his life.
Originally released digitally back in March, it’s not hard to recognize the strength, quality and potential of this debut once you hear it and one who immediately did was Mark at the great Fólkvangr Records, who is now bestowing upon it the lavish tape treatment it deserves and aiding in spreading the word of Helgafell to the masses. The tape drops tomorrow (in a limit of 50, so sign up for an email notification here if you don’t want to miss out), and ahead of its release we were fortunate enough to grab a few words with Feigsfar, the man behind it all. Read on below.
Greetings Feigsfar! I hope you are well, thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Your debut album ‘Landvaettir’ was released digitally a couple of months ago now. Are you happy with the album and how it has been received?
– Hello, thanks for your questions, I am glad to hear you enjoyed the album. I am happy with the feedback I have received overall. It’s been a long time coming for me to finally release an album of my music after playing for around 10 years, so it’s a good feeling. I am hoping to have used this first release as a primary stepping stone towards getting my foot in the door as a Black Metal musician and musician in general. I have learnt my way along throughout the writing and recording process, as well as the communicative nature of having a solo project. YouTube channels such as Atmospheric Black Metal Albums, Metal Vault, Pagan Music Albums and Symphonic Black Metal Albums have all released my album on their channels, so I have been pleasantly surprised. I have received a lot of support so far and I look forward to working on more music for the future.
Helgafell is solely your work, and sounds remarkably accomplished for a debut. Can you shine a little light upon your musical beginnings and the origins of the project for us?
– My musical beginnings were primarily drums and guitar as a young teenager, which then evolved into any instrument I could get my hands on that I liked the sound of. Going from more mainstream metal, I quickly found my way into Death Metal and Black Metal as a mid/late teen. Since then, at the age of 24, I have stuck to enjoying those genres as well as Jazz, Blues, Classical and especially Folk!
The origins of Helgafell started in about mid 2017 when I decided to do a Black Metal project based on important issues I hold dear and around a solid theme. I created the project from within the spare room of my flat and therefore in the comfort of my own environment, where I felt I was able to comfortably express what I wanted to convey in the music. The primary goal for this first release was to create an atmospheric Black Metal sound with themes based around Heathenism, Nature, Environmentalism, Heritage and Autonomy.
Given that you alone play all instruments on the album, what is your composition process like? When do you know it’s time to work on Helgafell?
– My composition process always starts with me humming a riff in my head that I come up with when I’m at work, or out on a walk in the woods. It seems to happen easier away from home than at home. I think for me, being out of the house allows my mind to think more freely and come up with something I can take back to my writing and recording area. The composing itself is always done firstly on Guitar Pro 5, as I think it is a fantastic platform to write down the skeleton of your songs to refer back to and add to. Actual recording on DAWs (I use Cubase), isn’t done until the actual recording process later on.
Personally, my favourite thing about the album is your use of deep, affecting melody such as the plaintive single notes featuring in the first section of opener ‘The Envious Deed’ and then recurring throughout. This may sound a little odd but I find it pulls similar strings within me as older doom like early Katatonia or Paradise Lost. That feeling draped elegantly throughout your stunning and robust pagan black metal is simply wonderful, packing a huge, emotional yearning for times gone by and places not yet reached. It’s clear this is a very personal album; what do you yourself take from it or feel when you listen back to it?
– A lot of compliments there, thank you! I like to think I have released somewhat of a unique album, with influences of more than just a few bands in there. One of the main things I take from the album when listening back is the reoccurring melodic parts as my intention was to add thin, treble-based layers of melody that stuck out in the mix and gave a nice contrast to the rest of the heavier, distorted sound.
Ryo of Pure Wrath did a fantastic job of the mixing and mastering as well, and that’s also something I always remember whenever I put the album on.
You can also tell the lyrics are deeply intertwined with/expressive of your own beliefs and philosophies; reverent tales of Norse mythology like ‘Discovery and Sacrifice’ which speaks of Odin‘s discovery of the Runes and the god “sacrificing himself to himself”. How important is Norse Mythology and the old ways to you, and how do they feature in your life?
– As a Pagan, (and Norse Paganism being of a big thing for me) I have always gained inspiration from the philosophies, teachings, and ways that that specific branch of Paganism offers.
Aspects such as the Nine Noble Virtues and the Havamal stanzas are things I always relate back to in life to gain a better understanding of how to approach situations and better myself in life.
I will always believe that there is a lot that Europeans can learn from the old ways that can help to benefit them as individuals and others around them, as well as helping them to improve the areas around them and to ensure sustainability and resourcefulness within the things they do. My passion for Norse Mythology and beliefs are one of the concepts that made it significantly easier for me to write about naturally.
On the other hand, you also have tracks like the disturbing ‘Lifeblood’. In particular, can you tell us a little about the themes this song touches on and your thoughts on this?
– I consider Lifeblood to be the most ‘Black Metal’ song of the album, and it definitely the most raw. The theme for this song is based around humanity draining Earth’s resources, so I thought the title to be fitting as well as the relentlessness of the riffs to bode well with the overall emotions of the song. The actions of humanity have for a long time been an emotional thorn in my side, as I have found the stubborn ignorance of many people to be mentally draining as well as somewhat hopeless. I intended to express this within this song and I hope it came across!
Correct me if I’m wrong but the name “Helgafell” refers to the holy mountain in Iceland of the same name, where it is said not only Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir’s grave is located but also the gateway to the afterlife, and if you pilgrimage to the top without looking back, will have three wishes granted. Why did this particular mountain speak to you so? Have you ever visited, or are you planning to make the pilgrimage?
– The mountain of Helgafell was a location that stuck out to me; from the beliefs, to the location, to the aesthetics. It is a location I intend to one day visit and indeed make the same pilgrimage to! It’s not the biggest mountain, and it’s not in the most beautiful, forest-filled landscape, but the simplicity of it and the integrity of the beliefs based around it (as well as the name of course) was more than enough for me to want to name this project after it in its honour! (I was happy to see it wasn’t taken either!)
After being self-released digitally last year, Fólkvangr Records is giving ‘Landvaettir’ the beautiful cassette treatment it deserves. To paraphrase a quote I have seen from label owner Mark, your album “pretty much sums up” what he’s trying to do with the label both “musically and aesthetically”. How do you feel about that, and what has it been like working with Mark and Fólkvangr?
– Mark has been fantastic with his show of enthusiasm, honour and support towards my project. I was delighted to see the artists involved in his previous releases and was more than happy to work with him. He doesn’t ask for money and puts a lot of time and effort into his work, and I feel that shows. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the tape release and to add Helgafell to his list of artists.
I was honoured when he spoke of my project fitting into his plethora of artists and his vision so well. I can only say thank you to him for his support thus far!
The album has undergone a cover art change for the physical release. Both are fantastic, can you tell us a little about both the original Fran Shum artwork and the new, more classically styled cover?
– I have previously worked with Fran on a death metal project a few years ago. She had drawn up and nearly finished a fantastic, gory impalement-filled piece which unfortunately wasn’t used, due to me and the vocalist falling out! Since then, I made it a primary goal to have her art work on at least one of my releases. She is young, and naturally gifted as an artist with a sub-conscious flare-filled vision. Her artwork I felt worked very well for the mp3 and hopefully CD release. For the tapes, Mark was going with a general artistic theme specific to the couple of tapes coming out at the time, and we conversed about using different art for the cassette version. After pondering for a while, I decided that it was common for many bands to have at least 2 different art works for various formats of release, and the art he chose I felt was simple yet darkly elegant and aesthetically worked much better for the size of a cassette.
In my research for this piece, I stumbled across your sizeable Bandcamp collection. There are some solid gems in there; are there any recent releases in particular we should check out that have either inspired or affected you in any way, through the creation of ‘Landvaettir’ or otherwise?
– I have many fantastic albums that I have purchased through Bandcamp which have in some way influenced me in the creation of my debut album, as well as in the present and I’m sure future.
Just to name a few: Rur – ‘Rur‘, Blencathra – ‘These Bones Became The Roots of The Forest‘, Beorn’s Hall – ‘Mountain Hymns‘, Ildra – ‘Edelland‘, Pure Wrath/Onirism Split – ‘Endless Journey‘, Hermóđr – ‘The Howling Mountains‘, Grimoire – ‘L’aorasie des spectres reveurs‘.
Lastly, aside from being an excellent album in its own right, listening through ‘Landvaettir’ you can’t help but feel that this is only the beginning. What comes next for Helgafell? Are there plans for a follow up record?
– In terms of a follow up, I am hoping to get the bulk of an EP recorded for the remainder of this year, as well as perhaps a split written with Blencathra. We’ll have to wait and see! Ideas are always flowing, so that’s always good.
Once again, sincerest thanks for your time Feigsfar, it’s been a pleasure. Any final words?
Thank you for the interview, as well as yours and everyone else’s continuing support!