2017 was a great year for metal. I don’t think I could settle on a personal favorite release or even settle on what label had the best run. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that Fólkvangr Records had the strongest DEBUT year for a metal label. Not only did Mark Addington (the man behind the label) establish a singular focus of pagan/folk/epic black metal for Fólkvangr, but he put out a consistently strong and interesting roster of releases that would be impressive if spread out over a handful of years let alone the first year. He was generous enough to spend the time to talk about each of the nineteen(!) releases he put out in 2017.
In your own words, what’s the aim of Fólkvangr Records?
Mark Addington: My goal with the label has and always will be to help bands that I personally enjoy listening to. I work a day job and live a lifestyle that allows me to set aside a little money here and there and that is what I use to fund the label. I don’t put out anything with the mindset of “this will sell well and make me money,” because the truth is I don’t want to make money off of other people’s work. Wherever this all leads and whenever it feels like it has come to its natural conclusion, I just hope I have put something out that gets someone as excited as I was when I was a kid and I first popped a cassette into my Walkman.
You’ve had a label before this one; what prompted you to distinguish a new label and why now?
Once I had the basic understanding of what is required to get a small label off the ground, I thought it would be a good idea to start something where I could work with bands in my favorite genre and not limit it geographically. The other label I am involved in is a locals only kind of thing, that focuses on a lot of different genres, with my good friend Jake Sullivan (who has done an incredible job helming the label while I have been trying to get Folkvangr off the ground). I was wanting to apply the same mission we have with Baby Tooth Records (babytoothtucson.bandcamp.com), which is to help bands produce quality merchandise to sell at shows or online, but on a more widespread scale. The timing thing I can’t really explain, I was talking with my girlfriend Annette about maybe wanting to starting something new and before I knew it I had already registered the name and had started brainstorming logo ideas and contacting bands I wanted to work with.
Was it that simple? Just ask a band if you can put out a tape? What goes into your pitch?
Maybe I oversimplified that a bit. I spent a lot of time researching artists that had semi-new material but maybe not anything on cassette and would go from there. I don’t really have a canned pitch I send to people, so each time it is a little different but it is always personal and unique. One of the biggest hurdles with my first few releases was not having anything to show the artists and having no name or contacts in the black metal world, so I kind of just had to rely on my personality and hoped that people could see that I was coming from a genuine place when I would say I wanted to help them put their music out. Once I had a few titles out under the label name it was easier to cold contact people and I also started to see band submissions roll in (which are always welcome, I try to listen to everything that comes in).
Before we get into the specific releases and how you chose/choose individual bands, let’s talk about the format. Most of your releases are tape-only, and as you said in some cases you’ve released albums that have already been out but had no tape release. So what is it about cassettes that appeals to you? Your releases have such attention to detail that makes it obvious you love the format.
There is nostalgia in the cassette format for me. My mom bought me a Nickelodeon Walkman when I was a kid and I was spending my allowance on tapes as far back as I can remember. I switched to CDs when it became more affordable, but there was always that pull to go back to something simpler and more durable, and that is a large part of the cassette draw for me. It is also a matter of being able to offer something that is affordable for the people still buying music. Not every album released needs to be on vinyl, no one can afford to keep up with that and I’d rather be able to buy three or four cassettes for the price of one LP.
On top of all that, like you mentioned, there is the attention to detail and quality I try to bring to each release that should let people know these aren’t just a novelty item. Outside of hardcore music collectors, most people kind of scoff and act surprised when I say I run a cassette label, I want that to change and I am doing what I can to be a part of that change.
Your first release was “Disquiet” by the Canadian band Unreqvited. The album has a lot of hallmarks many might associate with the current post-rock/blackgaze scene, but certain elements like the absolutely punishing drums keep it from becoming cliche. Why was this the first release and how did it come about?
In all honesty, the post-black subgenre is the one that grips me the least out of all the subgenres of black metal, but what Unreqvited did that really caught my ear was create amazingly large scale, cinematic sounding songs that transcended the post-genre markers for me. I was looking at a lot of different sources to scout bounds and when I came across Disquiet I thought that it would be a great album to start the label off with. I was pretty shocked when he got back to me because I wasn’t really expecting ANYONE to want to work with a complete stranger with no background, but luckily he took a chance on me and it kind of legitimized the whole operation.
The second release, Afar’s Selfless, also has elements of that post-black genre, but more than anything does what you’ve called “cinematic” music. The songs on this album seem to crescendo over and over, and it’s really a stunning release. That said, it’s probably the most similar to Unreqvited out of all the other releases. Did you have any concerns about being tagged as a blackgaze label by people who maybe just stream a song or two to check things out?
I.K. is an incredible songwriter and while “Selfless” does have certain cinematic qualities, I think it retained a lot more traditional elements of black metal than “Disquet” did. As far as being pigeonholed into a specific subgenre goes, I still didn’t really quite know what direction I wanted to take the label in when I was first starting out so I was open to all avenues, I think it was maybe more coincidental than purposeful that these two releases fit so well together. I was listening to a lot of Bindrune bands at the time and so I think you can see a lot of imitation there in that I started working with more “atmospheric” bands starting with Afar and moving forward. You can see slight shifts in the catalog as time goes on as the label really is an extension of myself and my playlist at any particular point in time.
“Selfless” was released mid-2016; was it on your radar before starting Folkvangr?
I think I.K. caught my attention with Afar sometime in January via a black metal youtube channel when they uploaded “Selfless”. I had already listened to it a few times and it clicked that I should reach out to him. It wasn’t until then that I realized that he is also in Windfaerer who I was already familiar with. The USBM world is a lot smaller than you’d think even though it is pretty spread out geographically.
Moonlight Drowns’s “The Stars Guide The Path,” the third release, is such a great album. It’s lo-fi, but not in a way where it seems like it’s trying to be throwback-y or make up for poor songwriting. And actually, I don’t know if “lo-fi” is really accurate: more than anything it seems like a layer of frost is glazed over everything. It also really uses keyboards in an interesting way, where they are more present than the guitars. It came out in January of this year, which is right when Grok’s “A Spineless Descent” did, and the two albums feel very complimentary. How did Moonlight Drowns get on your radar?
Moonlight Drowns was another find from a YouTube channel, or it might have been Bandcamp. It has been a while and I was combing through so many places to get a strong starting lineup that it all kind of blurs together at this point. I contacted them via email and then we had a few exchanges over Facebook. Throughout the whole process they were pretty elusive and hands-off so hopefully they were as happy with the end product as I was. I also had a lot of fun putting together the layout for the album as I often have to modify or expand on the original art that is given to me. Most art is not set up for the rectangular cassette format, so it is always a bit of a challenge to get it to a place that works for the cassette insert. I would also like to add that if you are a fun of dungeon synth, checkout Forlorn Citadel, which is a project from a member of Moonlight Drowns.
Do you listen to unsigned bands with the express purpose to put them on the label, or is it part of your leisurely listening and certain things just strike you as a good fit?
At this point it is definitely more just if something catches my ear then I’ll do a quick search and see what they are about. I haven’t really done any hard research the past seven or eight months as I had created a pretty intense schedule for myself from the beginning and was already booking myself out so many months in advance. I am just now starting to get caught up with everything I had already committed to and have the first two releases for 2018 in process (one being a co-release with another great US label) but beyond that I will have to see where things go and maybe start searching for those needles in the haystack again.
With your fourth release, Sojourner’s “Empires of Ash,” I feel like you have really set the template for the rest of the year. Sojourner bring in the folk elements that kind of round out what you’ve done in 2017: your first two releases are the epic element, the third release has the lo-fi and keyboards, and Sojourner has the folk. It’s use of traditional woodwind instruments and acoustic interludes offer an atmosphere that bring better-known projects like Saor to mind, but there’s a pleasant, ruddy feeling that ground it all without feeling like a metallic Braveheart Soundtrack that sometimes bogs down other folk/black metal. Anyway, it’s obvious that you are a fan of this type of music, and given the name of the label, I’m kind of surprised it took until the fourth release to come out. Why was that?
First, I would just like to mention that working with everyone in Sojourner has been extremely fun and gratifying, they are working on a new album and I’d say there is a pretty good chance you will be seeing that on cassette. With the release of “Empires of Ash” I went further into the folk & atmospheric realms of black metal and it was mainly a matter of being able to track down and make agreements with people. I was lucky to be able to work with some artists on Avantgarde Music earlier in the year and they kind of came in a wave, and with them I started receiving submissions to the label from other similar bands who wanted to work with me. I still think that the insert for “Empires of Ash” is one of my favorites that has come out on the label so far. Mike Lamb had sourced a lot of great artwork and we were able to put everything together in a way that fit with the songs and that made the cassette release special and unique from the other formats it has been released on.
Enisum’s “Seasons Of Desolation” was the fifth release, and also I think one of 2017’s standout black metal albums. Is the process of putting out a release concurrent with the artist releasing the material any different than putting out a physical copy of something that was previously published?
Enisum definitely knocked it out of the park with “Seasons”, they were also the first of three Italian bands to work with the label and kind of focused me in on a scene I wasn’t too familiar with. For me, it is always easier working with material where another label isn’t involved just because I like to be able to work at my own pace and schedule things and not have to worry about what other people are doing. So it is moreso an issue of multiple labels working on a release that makes it different than putting out a new title verses a reissue. That being said, I have been very fortunate to work with Avantgarde Music, Tridroid Records, Darkwoods and Damnatio ad Bestias this year and am already planning a co-release with another label for the early part of 2018.
Your sixth release, “Lupercalia” by Selvans, continues with the nature theme explored by Enisum. The two albums make a lot of sense coming out one after another, but “Lupercalia” came out in 2015. Contrasted with your premiering “Seasons of Desolation,” how different is the process of putting out a physical copy of an album that has been out for a while?
Logistically, it was a whole lot easier to release “Lupercalia” than “Seasons”, being that I was able to work with Selvans Haruspex and Fulguriator on the layout and then move on it as soon as we were ready. I think I may have even had “Lupercalia” ready to go when the release with Enisum came up so we were able to shift things around quite easily. All in all it was a wild period for the label as I put together layouts and was still dubbing the cassettes myself back then so with Sojourner, Enisum and Selvans I had put together 450 cassettes in a matter of weeks, all while working 50-60 hours a week on my day job and trying to stay sane. I definitely learned my lesson by the halfway point in the year and tried to do a better job about spacing the releases out, it is something I will continue to work on into the 2018 year.
You did the dubbing yourself? Is it a financial decision, and does the same place that makes the shells also do the dubbing, or do you send the cassettes around to different places? I guess I’m asking you to walk me through the whole process, ha!
For the first six releases on the label plus the Sovereign tour cassette, I did all the dubbing as well as putting together artwork and layouts and all that. It was a bit of a financial decision in the beginning but also me just not really understanding how much time I was going to be investing into the label. I hadn’t really planned on things moving at the rate they did and eventually I got a bit overwhelmed. So for the first eight release I think I was working with National Audio Company and they were doing shell imprints and sending me the tapes that way, but after a while I switched over and started using Corey at Cryptic Carousel and I now put everything in his hands as far as the physical production goes. I still hand number each insert and add download codes and all that, but he handles printing, imprinting and dubbing and I am always amazed at what a good job he does.
You’ve mentioned layout and artwork a few times; I imagine that process is different with a re-release compared to you putting something out the first time.
There really isn’t much difference between a reissue and something new when I go to put something together, as most everything is in a square format and I have to puzzle out how to make it work in that wonderful little rectangular frame that is a cassette case. Some projects come in a little more fully formed than others and those are mostly cut and paste and format jobs and some I get to be a little more creative with. I’ve been doing graphic design stuff on my own for fun for a lot of years so it is nice to be able to apply it all to something now.
The next release, Varmia’s “Z Mar Twych” is such a great album; I wish it was on more people’s radar. It’s got such a great feel to it. It sort of sums up what I love about your label, which is a black metal release that hints at a lot of familiar touchstones without being cliche. Where did this album come from?
Lasota is a powerhouse, with Varmia he is making some of the most interesting pagan metal around right now and I am glad I got to breathe a little new life into the album after it debuted with a CD release. I came across Varmia on Bandcamp on a Saturday and by that Sunday I had listened to the album enough times that Bandcamp was asking me to cough up some cash, so I thought I would do one better and contacted Lasota about working together. One of the most interesting things about this release is that the band made their own recording studio in a barn near a lake in Poland and record the songs in a “live” setting, so I can’t imagine how much time and effort goes into getting that perfect take, but it makes the album sound really warm and organic. They’ve been back at the barn working on new material and they even record their vocals out in the forest… what more could you ask for?
Next up, Chiral’s “Gazing Light Eternity” is another example of keyboard-heavy folk-ish black metal; it at times reminds me of Eldamar’s excellent “The Force of the Ancient Land, “and in some moments feels like some of the quieter passages of mid-period SWANS. It’s also the album where I personally committed to buying everything you put out. It came out over this summer, but feels very much like an autumn record. How did this tape come about and does time of year ever factor into when you release things?
I am glad you decided to pick up this release (and all the others)! Chiral is a one man project, and Teo contacted me after seeing the releases I put out for his fellow countrymen (Enisum and Selvans). It was really fascinating to see all these examples of folky/atmospheric black metal coming out of Italy with various styles. I do consider timing when I release albums and maybe this is just me familiarizing myself with and working on the material during the Summer months but I definitely picked up some warm weather vibes and sunlight through the trees and all that. I was also very fortunate in that Teo recorded a song specifically for the release of the cassette version of “Gazing Light Eternity”. That is something I like about being able to work on these albums after the artist has had some time to live with and reflect on the material, sometimes additions or addendums come about.
Was that the first time an artist contacted you, and is that happening more now that the label has some legs?
Selvans and Chiral were the first bands that reached out that I thought fit what I was trying to do at that point in time. By the time I had put out the Moonlight Drowns album, I was starting to get submissions here and there but it’s definitely a more frequent thing now. A lot of it just isn’t a right fit for the label or where I am subtly shifting things at that moment in time but every now and then a gem pops in my inbox and I am grateful for them. I try to listen to everything that comes in and sometimes things click. “Gazing Light Eternity” was definitely one of them.
The ninth release was pretty special. Violet Cold’s “Anomie” was a co-release with Tridroid and also made available as a vinyl release and a limited package with a tee shirt. What made this particular release a candidate for such a treatment?
I was already a big fan of Violet Cold, “Magic Night” was a huge album, so when Christine (Tridroid Records) approached me with the opportunity I jumped at it and we started brainstorming ideas on how we could best bring an album like “Anomie” into the physical realm. There were a lot of hands involved in making this a reality. Christine reached out to Nate Burns who put together an incredible design for the limited edition shirt and Joe Beres from Hammerheart Brewing designed the LP while I did the cassette and to top it all off Mike from Fallen Empire Records helped us get the actual LPs made and handled the production side of that as neither Christine or I had put out a record before. It was definitely a lot longer process than I had imagined and a lot more involved but I am 100% satisfied with how it turned out and I have heard from more than one satisfied listener that it sounds great, so it was worth the effort!
In general, what are the pros and cons of a co-release?
Pretty similar to in any group project, you can pool resources and contacts and every person has their own areas of expertise, but on the other hand you can have scheduling conflicts or may not always be on the same page. Working with Christine was great and we are both doing our best to keep quality at 100% on our releases so it was a good pairing!
The next release is almost the polar opposite of Violet Cold’s majestic atmosphere: the three-track demo by USBM band Sovereign. A lot about this release seems like a departure from the rest of the roster: the shell artwork is a sticker, the cover at least feels like a DIY affair, the recording itself is just a demo, and I think you took only 40 of the 100-tape run while the band got the other 60 for their tour. How did this all come about?
The “Spirit Warfare” demo came up on me quickly and I put the entire release together myself from artwork, printing, assembly and dubbing in a matter of about two weeks. I was helping the band to get merch put together for an upcoming tour they were about to go on and since they live up the road from me and black metal in Arizona is a rare thing, I thought it would work well. It was also kind of my way of showing that Fólkvangr Records can branch out and make departures, I was getting pigeonholed as an atmospheric label and that isn’t really what I wanted then or now for the label. It is a black metal label but is also a direct extension of myself and what I am listening to, so from time to time you will see subtle shifts here and there in what is being released. I hope by now I have earned everyone’s trust and they will stick with me as I continue to bring my personal playlist to life (you will see more of this in 2018 I think).
Sovereign’s next release was a split (on a different label, of course) but that makes me wonder if you have any interest in releasing splits through Folkvangr?
You know, up to this point I have avoided splits and for the most part I have avoided demos and EPs as well. It is kind of just a personal choice of mine that if someone is paying $7 for something from me, I want them to get something of equal value. To me, the length or these things just doesn’t work for what I am trying to do. Nothing against splits, demos and EPs and I buy them for my personal collection, I just don’t want that to be something the label is known for.
Speaking of which, your next release was Suicide Forest’s “Descend into Despair” which is two EP’s released together (although they hold together as an album for me). To me, this is one of the cassette format’s strengths, as you can pair like two EP’s together one on each side and get a very specific experience as you flip from one to the other. Also, this release in particular might go to what you were saying about wanting to distance yourself from being a purely atmospheric label: although it IS keyboard heavy, it’s also very lo-fi and dismal. I can’t think of a black metal band with a more appropriate name as it’s certainly evocative of nature, but not in any kind of uplifting or hopeful way. How’d this one come about?
I think starting with the Sovereign release, you can see the label take a slightly darker form and Suicide Forest definitely was a part of that movement. A.K. who is technically the only member of Suicide Forest lives in my city and I have worked with him and some of the live musicians in the band in another project of theirs, Chronovorus, which released an album through my other label, so when they were getting ready to play Festum Carnis over the Summer, I wanted to be able to help send them off with some extra merch in hand, so it was a similar situation to the Sovereign release and kind of my way of supporting the Arizona black metal scene. And to go back to the earlier part of your question, I do love the ability to combine demos and EPs on a single cassette, it is one of the benefits of physical media, when you can set up the listening experience in a certain way that is lacking with digital content.
Eskapism’s “Tales of Elder Forest” is just a blistering assault. It’s the kind of album that could potentially get lost in the shuffle because it lacks some of the sub-genre touches that gets things noticed in a crowded landscape, but, for me, it’s a high point of black metal for 2017. What can you tell us about this album?
“Tales of Elder Forest” was a band submission and I remember sitting in my car checking my email and before I knew it I had been in a parking lot for about 40+ minutes, wholly lost in the music. It is an incredible example of atmospheric black metal and their cover of ColdWorld’s “Tortured by Solitude” is absolutely fantastic. This is definitely an album I would consider as a Fall/Winter album and would be great company on a long and secluded hike. I was really happy with the overall turnout of this release and the response to it was really good as well which is always great.
What do you consider a “good response” with a 100-piece run of something this obscure?
Mostly fan response and the band being able to sell their copies. This album also had a number of solid reviews on music blogs so I was happy to see them getting some coverage. I would obviously like the label to get to the point where I am selling more copies of stuff and have that be the metric of what a good response to an album is, but I also don’t ever want this to become a sales-driven business so it’s hard to say.
Your thirteenth release, Hate Moon’s “Imprisoning War” is such an epic, fist-in-the-air work that, for me, exemplifies why digging for new metal is always worth it. It’s an album that just packed with feeling. It’s also the only CD you’ve put out, and that’s the only format it’s physically released as. Why is that?
Hate Moon approached me early in the year and it’s actually an album I sat on for quite a while. I wanted to wait until I had a solid enough case of fans before I put out a debut album for a band who had no previous material available anywhere. I felt like I had a responsibility to do it right for them. I initially came back at them with my whole cassette offer I give everyone and they mentioned that they were actually wondering about a CD release as that is how they preferred to listen to music. I couldn’t say no to that, especially after I made them wait so long to unleash this material into the world. I am really happy with how the digipak turned out, it looks amazing and it sounds amazing as well. To answer multiple people’s question about whether this will ever see the light of day on a cassette, we will have to wait and see.
But that doesn’t answer anything! Ha. You mentioned before trying to listen to everything people send you; was that the case with Hate Moon? Do you approach an unknown/unreleased band any differently?
Hate Moon sent me an email, and they had mentioned that they knew someone I had worked with previously, so that definitely peaked my interest more than a generic cold contact would. It also didn’t hurt that it was a message that was written specifically to me and wasn’t just a generic EPK they were blasting out to a ton of different labels (this happens way more often than you’d think and I get everything from punk to hard rock stuff being submitted to the label). As far as my approach for working with an unknown/unreleased band, I try to get a feel for what they are like and tend to spend a little bit more time with their material than I would for something people are already familiar with, and when I say I spend more time, I just mean I try to figure out the best possible way to present their work when I don’t have any prior examples to turn to.
Gravespawn’s “Inexorable Grimness” is an album of contrasts — it’s lo-fi but epic; it’s driven by galloping riffs, but they are layered with slow and twinkling keys; the vocals are a mix of high-pitched shrieks and deep chanting. It also came out a year prior to your tape — how’d this end up on Folkvangr?
I am actually just a big fan of Reaver’s style of black metal and his songwriting. It is very distinct and against the grain for what is popular in USBM right now and that stands out to me. He doesn’t make music to please other people and has a very no-bullshit attitude that I found really easy to work with. I was listening to “Inexorable Grimness” enough that it finally dawned on me to get in contact with him and things went from there. He runs a label as well so we did this release as a co-release and I revamped the layout a bit from the CD release so you get something unique between the version of the album. I was glad to sign another American band to the label, and one that did not have any trappings of Cascadian, post, or atmospheric black metal. I would also like to point out that Reaver is involved in an armored combat league, how much more metal can you get?
Your next release was a dual-package re-release of Chaos Moon’s “Origin of Apparition/Languor into Echoes, Beyond” — Not only was the package a beautiful thing to hold and behold, but it marked the earliest-recorded re-release for the label. This was obviously a labor of love for you. How’d it all come together, and will classic releases be part of your normal roster?
It was a lot of work to put that release together, but AP and I were talking one day and he brought up the idea of reissuing remastered versions of those Chaos Moon albums ahead of the release of the new album and I couldn’t say no to that. It was kind of a right place, right time thing for both of us and it was cool being able to hand deliver those to him in Austin at Red River Family Fest a few months ago. I won’t say that I am not doing anymore “classic” reissues because who knows what the future holds, but it definitely isn’t a priority for me or where my head is at currently. That being said, if Oystein is reading this, let me at that early Borknagar catalog, thanks!
Up to this point in the discography, there is a very consistent artistic feel to the album art. The Lostregos album is a slight departure as it is a stark line drawing over white. I know I’ve brought up artwork before, but can you elaborate on the collaboration between artists and you when it comes to layout? Do you consider the band’s desires first, or are you consciously trying to work everything into a recognizable aesthetic?
It’s funny, I don’t think I ever really considered it as standing out from any of the others, although I guess now that you mention it I can see how it does look a bit different when viewed next to everything else. When it comes to putting together the layout, I always ask the artist what they would like or to give me a general idea of what they are going for. I’d say in about 90% of the releases I have done, they just tell me to do what I think looks best and that they trust my judgement. Overall label aesthetic is definitely secondary but I guess it just makes sense that since it all comes through me, that it would all kind of gel cohesively in the end. I really do love that Lóstregos artwork by the way, Manuel Scapinello (https://www.instagram.com/manuelscapinello/) did an amazing job and I suggest everyone check out his other work.
That album is especially riff-heavy compared to some of the other FV releases. It almost makes me think of Taake in parts. It’s maybe the most head-bangy affair you’ve put out. Does this album represent another aspect of your personal taste?
It definitely has a lot of NWOBHM influences and it is something I enjoy so it stood out to me when they originally sent the album over. This was another release where I have been sitting on it for quite some time waiting on the other pieces (the CD release) to fall into place so I am glad to see it finally out in the world and that it is resonating with people.
After the Lostregos album you put out Forefather’s “Tales From a Cloud-Born Land” which is an EP comprised of their half of a split. How did that come to be? Did they go looking for someone to put that material out on its own, or did you hear the split and get drawn to their material? It’s pretty rad, by the way — more killer riffage and lead lines that make you want to roll a D20!
I have always had a lot of fun listening to Forefather, something about their riffs and galloping drum beats is really uplifting and makes you feel like you can take anything on. When I saw that they had released their half of the “English Steel” split as a separate EP, I thought it would be really cool to get some tapes going for them stateside and they were really open to the idea and easy to work with. They pretty just sent me everything I needed and trusted me to put together the layout and go from there. I think it is up there as one of the best selling releases for the label despite being so recently released.
The Darkenhold tape is another I’d put on for a long D&D campaign. But again, it never feels silly or cliche. The folk/epic branch of black metal is tough, as it’s easy to get cartoony. Coming right after Forefather, it seems like you ended the year in a very specific zone.
This has always been a style of black metal that I have gravitated towards, even 15-16 years ago, I was listening to a lot of Nazgul (both the French and Spanish bands) and plenty more like them. It just so happens that I’ve been listening to a lot of medieval black metal lately as it seems to come in phases and France is a hot spot for it. I was actually talking with the band back in March of this year but due to scheduling and me missing an email message, this release didn’t come together until later in the year. I think in the end it worked out though as the CD release the band put out had some time to breathe and then we brought it back to everyone’s attention later in the year with the cassette version. I had a lot of fun working with the band as I am a big fan, check out their back catalog if you aren’t familiar with it.
The last release of the year is “Seidrúnar” by Runahild. This release is, musically, a big departure for the label as it isn’t metal at all. It of course retains the folk elements that mark many of your releases, but in a very melodic, repetitive/meditative and almost drone/ambient way. It was a surprising listen for me, but very satisfactory. Where did this come from?
So a big part of my personal music catalog is neofolk, ritualistic folk, heathen folk, whatever moniker you want to give it… I think as a genre it has always run parallel to black metal for me and even shares some musicians between them. I am a big fan of Runahild and her previous project Eliwagar (since retired) and so I had been in contact with her about releasing Eliwagar’s 2016 full length album “I Vølven’s Vev”. I had been working off and on towards putting the layout for that one together as I knew it was something I wanted to release in the winter months, and during this time I saw that Runahild was struggling with whether or not Eliwagar was going to continue as a creative outlet for herself. I suggested we put this release to rest so that she could fully embrace and focus on her new project and not have to worry about something from the past. I knew I still wanted to work with her so I suggested we work together on bringing “Seidrvnar” to life on cassette and she was more than happy to continue on with the project.
Like you said this is probably the biggest departure and side-step I have taken with the label, and it was because of this and the nature of the release that I wanted to do something special with it, hence the Winter Solstice release date and special packaging. Hopefully everyone enjoys it as much as I do and it will be a good introduction to the different sorts of releases I will be bringing into the label’s catalog in the coming year. My focus will always be on black metal, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see things that I think fit with the label, at least in spirit, if not musically.
What does 2018 hold for Folkvangr?
Well, I hope a lot! You will definitely see some familiar faces as far as returning bands with new material, and I’ve already got a few new projects lined up as well. Robb from the band 1476 is currently working on a new merch design for the label so you should see some more shirts, stickers and who knows what else coming up soon. Also, don’t be surprised if you see a few more DIY style titles and genre stretching in the coming year. I just hope that I have earned enough goodwill and trust from people that they will stick with me as the label continues to grow and test new waters.
Awesome. Thank you so much for your time with this interview and also for putting out a fantastic run in your first year. It’s truly been a pleasure to follow the label so far.
Thank you so much, not only for the opportunity to speak about the label, but for managing to collect everything that has come out so far! It definitely means a lot and makes the long nights and weekends spent at the kitchen table assembling and packing cassettes worth it!
P.S. make sure you follow the label on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with what is to come!