Finding inspiration in nature is nothing new for metal bands. The wondrous landscapes or longing for lands unknown fuels a fair number of bands. Yet, for the quantity that delves into that subject matter, few bands deliver the quality that Fluisteraars does on their newest album, Bloem. The Dutch black metal duo—much like their compatriots, Turia—recently dove into their natural surroundings and found inspiration for their latest and greatest effort.
Through vivid recollection and reimagination of old folklore, Fluisteraars builds a dazzling collection of tracks that showcases a psych/folk-driven black metal. The duo has evolved into one of the staples in a growing surge of non-Scandinavian black metal talent. As they grow, their sound and ideology further bucks the trends the very genre was founded on.
M. Koops and B. Mollema choose to find the positivity in the world around them. One of the biggest wells of hope comes from the Veluwe, an area of forests and fields in their native Gelderland in the Netherlands. The Veluwe has stood for years and with its tenure comes its tales. Stories and legends emanate from windswept wildflowers and whispering woods. Koops and Mollema took those tales and molded their own and wove it into beautiful moments like "Nasleep" and "Eeuwige Ram."
Bloem is a further deviation from the raw sound that Fluisteraars was founded on years ago. It's even a drastic stretch from their previous full-length record, Luwte. No track stretches beyond the eight-minute mark, yet each moment yields such poignant depth and stirring imagery. Arrangements as lush and diverse as the natural world in which Koops and Mollema explore make Bloem one of the finest moments in heavy music this year.
Bloem arrives this Friday through Eisenwald Records. Listen to an exclusive stream of the album and read an in-depth interview with Fluisteraars now ahead of its release. Also, be sure to pick up a copy of the record from either the label's US or European stores.
Metal Injection: It has been roughly five years since the last full-length Fluisteraars album, Luwte. I know in that time you’ve put out some material—the Gelderland EP and a split with Turia—but what else has been keeping you busy in life lately?
Fluisteraars: For the past five years, Mink has been busy with other musical projects such as Solar Temple, Iskandr, Nusquama, and Maalstroom—a Roadburn project. Bob in turn does a lot with other artistic projects in the field of art. Fluisteraars, however, has never been inactive or gone. In this period of 5 years in which we have both experienced many artistic developments, Fluisteraars has grown with us.
What would you say, for the two of you, was the most important thing you wanted to convey from this growth in your newest full-length album, Bloem?
Fluisteraars: Well, over the years we have both become much more receptive because we have researched many new things in the cultural field. So much has been made in so many ways, but most of all; there are so many tasteful and good things in the world. When we made this album, we no longer wanted to think about conventions or rules that prevail in the genre.
Artistic freedom is the rebellion and the uniform is the prisoner suit. I think that over the years we have become more self-assured due to that responsiveness. That is something that we have won and that will bring us better and beautiful things in the future. In any case, it was a personal victory that I hope will be in the pores of the album.
That's a powerful realization for your music. You both certainly do a great job of breaking convention. In Gelderland, the province where you’re from, is the Veluwe—an area of hills with vast forests and the biggest sand drifts in Europe—which plays a role, thematically, in Bloem. What can you tell me about the Veluwe? What makes it so unique from other natural areas and what makes it so special to you personally?
Fluisteraars: The Veluwe is no more unique than other areas. We are raised in it and have discovered the whole area in our youth. It has been a catalyst for dreams and adventures for us. The place remains special because it is one of the few places in the Netherlands where you can roam for more than an hour without encountering asphalt. The Veluwe, therefore, feels like something that was and will always be there. While we also know very well that many forests are planted for mining in the past; it is sometimes good to fool yourself and accept the contrast.
What also makes it special are the old stories that keep popping up. Scraps of legends about spirits of wise women and so-called "vuurmannen" can be found throughout the area in the names of areas, street names, et cetera. It is the second layer in the area that people who do not come from the Veluwe know.
In addition to the Veluwe, a lot of thematic elements of Bloem come from old folktales or legends in which flowers signify the cycle of life. Where or from who do some of these tales originate from?
Fluisteraars: Many of the stories are derived from Greek mythology and local stories. In the lyrics, it has often become a mishmash of different stories that deviate from the original stories. That cross-pollination also fits in with the flower theme, I now think. We are convinced that stories must live and can also be molded into new forms. Just like in music or art, it is good to use your references to create a strong whole.
Do these folktales or stories tie in at all to the flowers on the cover of Bloem? From what I can tell they’re red poppies, which often represent remembrance.
Fluisteraars: We were first inspired by an introduction film from the Great Escape. Where a tank drives through a field of poppies. This enormous contrast appealed to us, so we wanted poppies on the cover ourselves. From there, the idea really arose to name the album Bloem and tune the theme to it. It works fine because now the form came first instead of the content. Inspiration is always difficult to steer.
Given that sentiment, what sort of new stories are you telling on Bloem? Where did the inspiration take you?
What I find interesting is the manufacturability of a story. I can only imagine that the stories on which I base something are again a collage of events and experiences. What very much inspires us is that all things happen or will be a mix of human reactions or choices. Nature and the universe just continue and sometimes give us a good deal of it. Yet, everything we as humans have done or are going to do is a kind of blend of reactions and attempts to understand everything. To tinker with stories ourselves, it gives us the feeling that we ourselves will understand everything better. It is a kind of mind relay. This theme is not so new to us, but this time comes out nicely.
I love that sentiment. That is beautifully said. A press release for the record describes some comparisons to psych/folk acts like The Electric Prunes and Lee Hazlewood as some style and production ideas. I’m always interested to hear what kind of non-metal music musicians are drawn to. I’ve really caught on to Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley lately with the help of some friends. What are some other folk or psych acts have you been a fan of?
Fluisteraars: We listen to many different music genres from delta blues to modern jazz. Within the creation process, we try to incorporate these influences but also remain true to our own sound. For Bloem, the most important influences come from the 60s. Bands like Kaleidoscope UK (also check out Kaleidoscope US!) and The Smoke US (also check out The Smoke UK!) have had a major influence. And of course, we should mention The Kinks for their great songwriting.
Following the release of Bloem, what does the rest of 2020 look like for Fluisteraars or any other projects you’re involved in?
We have put our heads together a few times and are talking about the future of the band—what we want and which way it should go. There are already many new ideas, but also old ones that we want to cast into a mold. In which capacity we do not know yet. We have decided that this will be our year. We also believe more in a wave movement instead of indications. 2020 will be our year.