Shades of cold indifference
The shadows dance in starlight
Oceans of delirium
Danish native Simon Garðarsson is a man of many and considerable talents. His creatons under the Art By Simon Garðarsson moniker have been drawing down his own unique and otherworldly brand of darkness for years now; wonderful, haunting pieces that transport you to another place and time. However, not to be content with conquering just one form of expression he has now found a compelling new outlet – Black Fortress of Solitude, the debut album from his newly-formed black metal project Í Myrkri, is being unleashed in the coming months.
Joined by the great Lane Chaplin of Armorer on vocals, for an initial foray into the genre it’s remarkably satisfying. Simple riffs that exist only to entice you to the grim and gloom work well with insistent drum patterns; immersing you completely in Cimmerian shade and enchanting for the duration. I’ve heard much, much worse than what this man was able to conjure up in seemingly no time at all, it’s clear he knows his stuff – so I simply had to reach out to know more. Read on below for our chat with the man himself and grab yourself a pre-order of the CD, limited to 100 and materialising November 30th through A Pile Of Graves. Hails.
Greetings Simon, pleasure to speak with you today! Your debut album Black Fortress Of Solitude is on the way, and it’s a great first effort. Now as some may know, you’re already an established illustrator who specializes in pointillism, have worked with many bands to create album art, logos and shirts and you are a permanent affiliate artist at the Jarsbo Gallery of Contemporary Art. So around your other successful creative outlet, what’s the tale of you finally forming Í Myrkri and recording your first black metal album? What does it mean to you?
– Greetings! The idea of forming Í Myrkri actually began with the album cover and of course my commitment for black metal. It was my first artwork of 2019 and I thought it would fit well for a black metal album. So I promoted the artwork on different Facebook groups to hear if some bands were interested in it. I got a fair amount of replies but truth be told, none could afford it at that moment. So I thought to myself, why not try writing my own music and use the artwork for it?
I have always wanted to create artwork for my own band or musical project but I never got the chance with the former projects I was in. So I began writing some riffs and eventually finished my first demo, which also is the first track of the album. I really liked the idea of a project where I created everything in it, so it’s a big achievement for me creatively.
You describe your visual artwork as “inspired by the infinite cosmos, the morbid and mysterious. I create gloomy art with an occult and mystic undertone, often with a strong sense of symbolism”, which in a pinch could also be used to describe your music fairly well. Do you feel your music and art are extensions of the same thing, an expression of something internal?
– Definitely. Every artwork I create is inspired by music consequently as I always listen to it while drawing, especially music with a lot of atmosphere. I want to visualize a certain mystical atmosphere in my artwork where the viewer can get their own feelings and interpretations at play. I also had the album cover artwork in mind when I wrote songs for the album, so my music and art are definitely extensions of the same thing. All the times I’ve tried to write something it always ends up very atmospheric in some way and I’m sure it comes from my artwork. Also the album’s lyrical theme comes from what I try to visualize in my artwork. Darkness and occult, mysterious happenings in nature.
The lyrics for the album are written and vocals performed by Lane Chaplin of the also-great and underrated project Armorer. How did this happy collaboration eventuate? Plus, I’m also interested to know – during the writing process, did you relinquish total control of the album’s lyrical themes and trust in him?
– A not so long story short, the guy who runs the label A Pile of Graves introduced us. I had given up the idea of doing vocals myself, so he put me in contact with Lane. It was the best thing that could happen. Lane is a super cool dude and extremely talented. I am honored to call him my friend. I had some basic ideas of how I wanted the vocals to sound without him changing his style. I also had a lyrical theme, but other than that he had total creative freedom. And I’m glad we did it that way. Lane also works super fast and produces all his music by himself, so when the vocals were done, it was practically just drag and drop without having to adjust too much in the mix. Lane is now a permanent member of Í Myrkri which already has unleashed great things to come.
Musically there are certainly many influences to be found by the listener, both ancient and modern. But in the eyes of you, the creator – did you have any particular musical touchpoints you were inspired by throughout the writing and recording process, or a particular sound you were aiming for?
– I definitely got inspired by the Norwegian black metal scene and the black metal scene in Quebec, Canada as well. I wanted it to be atmospheric but also very dark. I wanted it to have a big soundscape but still the lo-fi sound similar to the second wave of black metal. It was my first time writing black metal and first time writing completed songs as well, so I have developed my writing style a lot in the process. I didn’t do much re-arrangement of the tracks. I recorded track 1, 2, 3 and so on. So you can definitely hear the development throughout the album.
It’s undoubtedly a lo-fi album, but not raw; you also have an interesting guitar tone at work here that lends a certain relative weight to the songs. What sort of gear did you use for recording?
– For a guitar I used an Ibanez RG-7 with active pickups, which isn’t the typical guitar for black metal as you don’t want that low tuning with seven strings. But it was the only guitar I had, so I just tuned it up. But it’s a really nice sounding guitar and easy for me to handle.
Frederik Rose from Crescent Audio Production who helped me record and mix the album, got a really nice setup for the guitar tracking. We used an old Roland Jazz Chorus amp where he put a ProCo Ratt simulation into it. This, with heavy scoops in the bottom and mid gave a really cool, old school black metal sound. On the amp itself there was used an SM57 and a MD421 as a closemic to get the very nature of the speaker units. Also used a Neumann KLM 103 which stood approx. 1.5m away from the amp facing the center to get a recording where both the room and the amp could be heard and then blended into the finished signal. Of digital elements, we used a Line 6 Helix and a Two Notes Torpedo Cab with a ProCo Ratt into it which was also blended into the overall signal eventually.
It was super cool to use this type of amp, which normally was used for clean guitar in 80’s heavy metal.
We’ve heard about your pathway into music – but I’m also curious as to your pathway into illustration. What led you to begin creating your art, and in particular to practice “The Dark Art of Pointillism”, as you put it?
– I have always created. I particular got into drawing at 3 years old according to old hidden drawings my family kept. And I have been drawing ever since. It was the thing I did in school and at home. I always knew I should be an artist, that was the only thing I could think of. Nothing else made sense to me. I have been drawing in many styles and themes over the years. But The Dark Art of Pointillism first came to me in late 2015. At that time I was trying out the tattoo style because I wanted to be a tattoo artist, and then I discovered Pointillism or Dotwork. It was also around that time I suffered my first anxiety attacks or panic attacks. It was a very hard time because of that, so the only thing I felt I could do was to draw. And I slowly figured that Pointillism was very meditative, laying those dots one at a time. So I found my own unique style eventually and I ditched the tattoo artist idea, because I’d rather be an independent artist and illustrator exhibiting my work, and I have always had a huge interest in the dark and morbid. It was the perfect combination. Also that I could create art for the music I love was a huge deal to me. I have worked as an artist in a professional way for 3 years and so much has happened in this short time period. It keeps growing with amazing opportunities for every year. So I am very grateful that so many people enjoy my art and baffled that it could happen for me. I can actually thank my anxiety a long way too, for giving me the patience and meditative skills to begin my professional art journey.
You’ve already mentioned that you created the stunning cover art for Black Fortress of Solitude – What’s the story behind this particular scene? How long did it take from genesis to final product?
– As it goes for almost all my artwork, the story is completely up to the viewer to interpret. But there is always that mystical and dark atmosphere and I think it goes for most of my artwork that there is no specific story but a feeling and an atmosphere. That’s just how I think about it, I get a feeling of something mysterious and what might lurk in the shadows deep within these woods I create.
The artwork for my album was, as said earlier, the first artwork of 2019 I created. It’s a very long process with this Pointillism. I don’t create bigass canvas artwork because it would take me a year if not longer to create something that big unless I use thicker ink pens. The album artwork took approximately 60-70 hours to create. And it’s no bigger than 20×20 cm. It was actually some of my fastest work, not hour wise but I only spend a week creating it. I usually draw on and off because it’s very exhausting work and I probably spend 1 ½ month on a single artwork depending on the size and detail. But this one I just kept going.
Black Fortress of Solitude is being released on CD via A Pile Of Graves Records. How did this come about, and how have you found working with them so far?
– It came to happen when I launched my Bandcamp page and uploaded the first track from the album in the form of an instrumental demo. I think there have only been a week and then I got contacted by Alireza, the guy who runs the label. He asked if I wanted to release an album on his label. I was very surprised that he thought I had the potential. I actually didn’t have plans at the time of releasing an album already but this got me writing more songs and suddenly there was an album. I was very new to this label thing and in general just a total rookie, so I’ve had to learn a few things about that industry. But all in all the process went pretty smooth and things have turned out the way I wanted, so I am happy to release it through A Pile of Graves. It’s a quite new underground black metal label with some really solid releases. So I am looking forward to seeing where it goes.
The album will also be released on cassette via a Danish label and later vinyl.
Í Myrkri was only formed this year, yet you’re already dropping your debut full-length – remarkably fast work. Are you going to keep this up? Will there be another Í Myrkri release before the year is out?
– Yeah I have been told that by others also, haha. Things just go faster when you’re doing it alone and with a vocalist like Lane who also works fast, it just unleashes a wave of creativity.
There will not be another release this year but I can tell you that I have fully completed an EP which will be released in early 2020 + a demo concept album in late Spring. So while I was waiting for the debut album to be mixed and mastered I got in a really creative mood and also found that writing style I wish to continue with. I am a huge fan of the Finnish black metal scene, so my next releases will have influences from that. Now I only have to wait to release all this music. My focus will now go back to creating art as I have my first solo exhibition next year, so I will be busy with that. And maybe I will have a second full length ready before 2021, that’s my ambition at least!
And finally, if I may ask a question that may be difficult to answer. Listening to and creating music, or looking at and creating visual art – you must give up one or the other, or you and everyone you care for will die. What do you choose and why?
– Aw man, that is like the toughest question you can ask haha. I know that I can’t live without music. I can’t think of a time I don’t listen to music besides when I’m asleep. And creating art is the only thing I can imagine myself doing for a living. And to work with what you love for a living is the ultimate dream for me. Both also have huge mental benefits and value to me. I honestly can’t choose! I don’t even dare to choose haha.
Sincerest thanks for your time, Simon, and congratulations on the wonderful first album. Any final words for us all?
– Thank you! It was my pleasure.
Well, I just want to say my thanks again and I hope to get some positive response and critique on my first album. Cheers!
Black Fortress Of Solitude releases November 30th via A Pile Of Graves. Pre-orders available now.
Support Í Myrkri:
Like Black Metal Daily on Facebook for more kvlt sounds and tonal blasphemy.