‘Mörkrets Intåg’, the debut offering from Swedish one man project Höstblod, is an unexpected album. From the minute you push play you’re constantly surprised in the most pleasant of ways. Black Metal is often restricted and weakened by perceived ‘rules’ that must be followed, and both the artist and listener are often guilty of falling into this trap of expectations. Listening to this album you get the feeling the man behind Höstblod has absolutely none of that anywhere in mind. This is him creating solely for himself, and the result is something beautiful and hidden.
With fantastic instrumentation, composition and arrangement, frequent (and great) clean vocals and even children’s singing, the album can be as stripped back and captivating as to have your heart in your mouth while you listen then seamlessly transition to unleashing an elemental, tortured fury like few others. Being a non-Swedish speaker I was unaware of the deeply personal side to the album until he mentioned it in this interview too; that knowlege has imbued further listens of the album with an immense and powerful, yet delicate emotional weight. It’s honestly breathtaking, and I guarantee not what you will have expected going in.
With not even a demo to his name, this man has gone all out with no fear and crafted something hushed and unique, something truly special. So either listen to the full stream below or the tracks embedded in the interview, and read on as Johan Nilsson walks us through the shadowed glades of ‘Mörkrets Intåg’.
Hello Johan! Thanks for speaking to us, hope you’re doing well.
– Hi! I’m doing very well, thank you, but a full schedule to say the least. Didn’t really think the record would get this much attention to be honest.
Your debut album ‘Mörkrets Intåg‘ has just been released. I believe it has been quite a journey, how does it feel to finally be holding the physical product of all your work in your hands? Can you tell us a little about its creation?
– The creation of ‘Mörkrets Intåg’ has taken a long time. I think its getting close to two years since I started the recordings, so actually seeing it now feels very surreal and emotional. Alongside its becoming I have had tremendous support from Rog Jarl from Le Narthécophore, so sharing these moments with him is very nice.
The album is stunning; loaded with beautiful and varied instrumentation. You seem to be an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, what’s your musical background? Is this your first project?
– This is indeed my first black metal project. I played in some bands in my youth, mostly alternative rock, but then my interest for the classical guitar took over. So after a long classical guitar education I started working as a guitar teacher and I think it was at this point my passion for black metal started to blossom. Probably as a reaction to the stale and rigid world of classical music.
And, yes, I play a lot of instruments on this record but the actual playing isn’t really that complicated. I practised the drum parts a bit but the hard part is composing the music. If you have a band you can try stuff out when you rehearse, but as a one man project you have to visualise the music in your head and just do what you can to make it come alive.
There’s a great folk-ish, natural sound to it all. A certain integrity and authenticity. Music is a universal language but my Swedish is unfortunately poor, so I’m not able to gather too many clues as to the exact lyrical themes; could you share some wisdom about the topics the album touches upon and what they mean to you?
– The main themes are sickness, death and the feeling of emptiness that it brings. I started this project when my mother got diagnosed with dementia and seeing her fade away fuelled the creation of ‘Mörkrets Intåg’ (‘When Darkness Enters’). The lyrics to the last song ‘Tystnaden’ (‘The Silence’) were written just after she passed, so the whole album is basically therapy for me to be able to cope with the situation.
The whole thing is covered in some incredible artwork with a very symbolic cover, done by Tiny Dots of Death. What are your thoughts on it, and how does it all tie-in to the music within?
– I agree, the artwork turned out amazing. Rog and I have worked closely with Mark from Tiny Dots of Death, with both ideas and the symbolism of death and rebirth noticeable even in the very fabric of the cover. But the end result was made possible by Marks willingness to pour his soul into this, not compromising in any way. The font used on the inside of the cover is especially built for this album for instance. Not going into detail, one could say that it has a theme of motherhood and decay.
The vinyl is being dually released through Le Narthécophore and Vinyl Compvlsion, while the CD is on the way through Wolfspell Records (if that’s public knowledge yet). Have you enjoyed working with all of those guys?
– Well, it’s solely Le Narthécophore who has produced both versions of the album, but we made a special edition for the VC community (available only to members) to thank them for the support. And to that version they provided the stickers and Eddie Ruffles helped out doing the booklet. Working with Rog from Le Narthécophore has been crucial, even for this music’s existence. Supporting all crazy ideas from children singing to the ballad ‘Höstblod’. Which I never planned to make or put on the album, by the way. The melodies and the chords just appeared in my head and wouldn’t leave until I recorded them and then it became a natural part of the process of this album.
To release a VC special has been planned for quite some time and that also feels very rewarding, to give back a little to a community that has given me a lot of entertainment and interesting dialogue. Wolfspell Records have entered now in the end, and there will also be a tape released in fall from a Canadian label that are just starting up (follow Höstblod on Facebook if you are interested in updates). I am eternally grateful to these guys for getting my music out there.
Vinyl Compvlsion in particular are known for their limited edition clandestine variants and ‘Mörkrets Intåg’ has been bestowed with a gorgeous bone white. How does someone get their hands on one of these rare gems?
If you are a member of VC you can order that one from the VC cartel or from distributing members in the group. We have copies available in Germany, Denmark, Canada, US, Holland and by me in Sweden, plus on the Le Narthécophore bigcartel. The regular black is also available by most of these people and by Not Kvlt Records in the US. Or, simply private message Höstblod on Facebook.
Also packaged in the special edition are some unique photographs taken by you. I love this kind of personal detail, what was the thought behind putting these in?
– Regarding the photos I thought it would be a nice gesture towards the listener, to add something a bit personal since it is a very personal recording. The photos are from a lot of of places, for example the village where my mother grew up. And I also thought about getting the message out there that if you want to know something about the photo that goes along with your copy of ‘Mörkrets Intåg’, just send Höstblod a message on Facebook and I will do my best to explain the thoughts and whereabouts of that photo.
While researching this, I made the odd discovery that Höstblod has joined the ranks of those with the dubious honour of being blacklisted from Metal Archives for being “not metal enough”. Clearly they haven’t actually listened to the album; the title track and ‘Tystnaden’ for example are both some of the finest black metal you’ll hear this year. I’m sure it doesn’t faze you in the slightest, but what the hell is going on there?
– Well, this project has been quite secret and under the radar, so it just might be that no-one has bothered adding it yet. Personally I don’t care how you label my music.
After all this, what lies on the horizon for Höstblod? Any new recordings in the works yet?
– Well after this I thought that I would never be able to muster the energy to do something like this again. It has been exhausting, physically and mentally. But music is starting to grow in my head again, so in some way it probably forces its way out.
Sincerest thanks for your time and the incredible music, Johan. Any final words?
– Thank you to all you fine people that understands the beauty and darkness of Höstblod.