Faroe Island's own doom metallers Hamferð know the isolation that comes with the territory of the coronavirus. Isolation is a prerequisite of island living after all. But with it comes a natural connection to place and culture, not to mention the inner strength – or inner demons – that make for damn good heavy metal.
Metal Injection caught up with vocalist Jón Aldará and guitarist Theodor Kapnas to dive deep into the inspirations behind the band, uniqueness of Faroese heritage, exit of founding member John Áki Egholm and ideas for their next studio album.
On Being Grounded During COVID-19
Theodor: I mean, our issue has been for many years that the rest of us live in the Faroes, but our drummer lives in Denmark. When we don't travel for shows we don't really see each other, all six of us. So we can't rehearse and basically we can't jam. So it's been a bit of a weird year. We're lucky enough to have had two shows in Copenhagen in December, our first shows since February. And I think it's the longest we've gone for the last seven or eight years without actually playing together. So it's a bit weird and I think it is for everyone.
On Creating Long-Distance Music
Jón: It's actually kind of a slow communication. A lot of it's over text, I guess, and we've been meeting up a bit. Theodor is kind of the instigator or the guy who kind of starts off the ideas for the songs and writes stuff. And then he's been getting together with Eyðun, our new guitarist, and they've been hashing through some ideas and then sending that over to me and to Remi, our drummer.
We'll do our stuff and then send it back … we all sort of pitch in with our thoughts and ideas and we present it to each other. But it kind of works over messenger and stuff like that, Facebook group or whatever. We use different types of ways to work together, even though we are in separate places.
Theodor: I think that it's always the most productive when several of us get together. Both due to Covid, and lso several of us being really busy with other stuff as well, it's been quite hard to get proper momentum into it. So we'll have a few months where we write some stuff and get together once or twice a week and actually have momentum in the writing process, and then there will be some times where there's not that much happening. It's trickier to keep that momentum going when you don't really have any shows. Also, I think for the guys who aren't that involved in the writing, just keeping focused on the band basically when there's nothing really going on for six months, it's a challenge.
On Performing Underground
Theodor: I had an idea. A friend of mine is an engineer for the tunneling company, which made the subterranean tunnel (Eysturoy tunnel). It's brand new. So I was talking to him over coffee like two years ago or something, and he was talking about the tunnel. I thought, huh, it'd be pretty cool to be able to put on a show down there. So the original idea was to drive down the truck stage with a proper PA and have lights and people and everything. But obviously that's not really possible with this pandemic now, so we ended up having to scale it down a bit and ended up just doing a video session. And I think it worked really well.
It's kind of one of those things where we have no idea if it will work or not before we went. We just drove down with some gear, set up a camera to see what happens. If it works, it works. If it doesn't then at least we tried. I think it was cool.
On Band Origins & Embracing Faroese Culture
Jón: We put our own spin on our origins, in a way, in that we draw inspiration from particular parts of it, maybe particular eras and sort of elements relating to nature and weather and stuff like that and the culture and the folklore as well. That's sort of been since day one. It was like, let's make a doom band … It was our previous guitarist John's idea, and he was really into doom. The others were kind of like, yeah, I guess I like doom too (laughs). Let's try it!
I wrote a song and it's like this eight minute kind of big thing. Let's join a competition that we're supposed to play 10 minutes and then have it just be the launching of this. There wasn't that much thought into the longevity or anything of the band back then. That's almost 13 years ago. We still play it to this day, that first song. And it's kind of immediately tapped into something that felt really cool and kind of unique, even though that song in particular wore its influences on its sleeve. It was a lot of My Dying Bride and that kind of stuff.
The story came to me quite clearly. It was this guy battling the ocean, kind of trying to survive on a rocky sea. And it was clearly very Faroese in a way. And then gradually we started working in stuff that I like and the other guys just had to put up with the stuff that I like, which is I guess mythology, folklore and kind of fantasy elements, but always with the kind of very human tragedy. Sort of self analyzing or self punishment and stuff like that. People carrying their burdens alone and kind of separating themselves from other people. That's been a huge theme that kind of resonates with the way I see the Faroe Islands in themselves.
On Pros & Cons of Island Living
Jón: You know, you can quite easily become pretty isolated here, and especially if you have this kind of Nordic attitude where it's like silence is pretty revered as a positive trait somehow and just buckling up and doing your work and not complaining. You maybe have that side effect of people getting closed off from each other. It's not really the way our society works I think. We're doing a lot better than that. But it's sort of this idea that I think it's kind of connected to the Faroese soul, more or less, or culture.
It gives a lot of room and time for contemplation and solitude as well I think. But in the same way even though there are few people altogether, you kind of have to deal with each other pretty much all the time because it's a small, small area. You're almost forced into each other's personal affairs in a way.
A big thing that we always talk about is funerals. Funerals are a very, very present thing in everyday life here. In the radio, you have the announcements of every death in the country and every funeral that is occurring. It's like everybody knows each other and that kind of thing. So it's very interesting, that contrast between the feeling of isolation, but also the kind of very strong community.
On Moving on from the Thematic Trilogy
Jón: I think we're in the process of it. We sort of decided to move in a sort of different direction. That direction still isn't entirely clear to us before the majority of the material (is finished), sort of how we connect the material and arrange it and decide what kind of sounds we're using and so forth.
So musically, we're not super clear on exactly how it's going to turn out. But thematically and lyrically, it's definitely leaving the trilogy behind, the previous story line and going somewhere else. Not as kind of narratively cohesive, but just sort of thematically cohesive instead where the songs are not connected to each other through a story, but more like through an event.
Theodor: Musically, I think if you compare our last two records, they're very different. Both of them are concept albums with a story line from beginning to end. But the first one is much more like a composition, which is much more arrangement heavy with all the strings and strange sounds and the way the songs are put together with recurring themes between the different tracks. Lots of intertwined stuff like that. I'd say we feel generally that was something we really wanted to do, the kind of real proper concept album which you can see as one piece of music.
So to me, it feels like we did that with the last album and there's not really any desire to do that again. So all the stuff we've been writing so far, I guess you could say the song structures are more simple. It's more like a combination of separate songs. Just with the themes, they're definitely thematically linked. Whenever we write some music it always ends up sounding like us, but we're trying to be as open minded as possible.
I'm guessing that our next album will end up being quite varied. Thematically and atmospherically, very closely tied together, but not necessarily similar songs back to back.
On Lineup Shuffling
Jón: Well, John (Áki Egholm) founded the band back in the day. So that was very strange to say goodbye to him in the band. But it was the natural thing for him to do. There was no real doubt about it for him. He needed to move on. And then we, of course, lost a really, really kind of influential member. But we're trying to recoup and Eyðun is an extremely talented and interesting musician.
He's had a bunch of projects throughout his career … so having him on board and having him work with us on the songs is super cool. We're really looking forward to developing Hamferð with him on board.
Theodor: He's added a lot of enthusiasm coming in and we all know him quite. Me and Eyðun have played together in a few projects before. We complement each other really well, both with writing songs and playing and he's a really, really productive guy. Especially when you can't play it's pretty hard to get momentum into the band, get everybody fully focused and invested. He's been a breathe of fresh air. We've been working really well together. He has a really good perspective that he's added to the songwriting.
On Future Plans
Theodor: I think the most important thing for us up until summer is to finish writing the new record. I mean, we're looking at hopefully being able to record that this summer so that it won't be too long until it's released, because the whole recording and mixing process takes time. And then the whole process with the label with stuff like vinyl production takes ages.
So yeah, we're looking at a time frame that if we realistically want to release next year then we really need to get going and start recording this summer. Otherwise, it's just going to drag on into eternity.
Don't miss Hamferð perform at the next Slay At Home free at home live concert this Saturday February 19th!