At 38, Thomas Eriksen, the mastermind behind Mork, is a modern metal hero. The Halden-native valiantly bears the torch of True Norwegian Black Metal through our troubled times of overproduced trash by dilettantish clone bands. Whereas the bulk of contemporary BM playlists are littered with posers, Mork is synonymous with integrity. Although Mork is often thought of as a "new" project, Eriksen actually founded the endeavor in 2004. Mork is without a doubt one of the most successful BM bands born of this century. A fan favorite, Mork has won over many of the movement's most influential players as well as audiences around the world.
Of course, Eriksen always appreciates the support of his fans. Nevertheless, he is a true "Varg Utan Flock," "Wolf Without a Flock," to make a Shining reference, insofar as he is going to make music whether you like it or not. He creates to please himself. Much of the secret to Mork's success lies in precisely in this stoic yet punk "I-don't-give-a-fuck" approach to songwriting. With each album, Eriksen allows himself even greater creative freedom to experiment. Mork's material can often be described as groovy, retro, and cold with a black n' roll feel at times. Mork is furthermore defined by primitive aggression, the good-old "necro" sound, tons of atmosphere, alpine ambition, warrior-like strength, nostalgic hard rock influences, the late-'80s/early-'90s Scandinavian brutal metal spirit, fire and ice.
Eriksen's choice to perform in Norwegian lends his art greater authenticity. On the one hand, Mork simply means Mork. On the other, it comes from the word "morken," which means "decayed" or "rotten." Similarly, "mørk" means "dark." Mork's logo depicts roots. The problem that sometimes faces us when listening to Mork can be summarized by the words of Nietzsche: "The more he [man] seeks to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his roots struggle earthward, downward, into the dark, the deep — into evil." Mork's music explores the tension between our wretched fate to sink (into death, abysmal loneliness, etc.) and the desire to rise.
Naturally, Eriksen writes and records all of Mork's content in solitude. Sometimes, he enters the studio with a riff and finishes a song in a night. He prioritizes spontaneity and is a master of improvisation. That said, Eriksen performs with a live lineup of friends who try to rehearse each week: Alex Bruun on guitar, Robin Saxsæter on bass, and Dauden and ex-Ragnarok's Daniel Minge, a.k.a. "Malignant" on drums. Mork has also played gigs with the likes of ex-Dimmu Borgir's Ian Kenneth Åkesson, or "Tjodalv," and ex-Borknagar's Asgeir Mickelson on drums.
Eriksen's musical journey began at an early age. He recalls that he first picked up an instrument at 11 or 12 years old. He began with the flute. At 13, Eriksen discovered the electric guitar due to his love for '70s British punk. Since that time, he has considered himself a performer. Eriksen became acquainted with metal through the brother of a friend. He has clarified that he did not discover black metal until later. Roughly a year after he saw Mayhem perform live around 2001, Eriksen began searching for black metal bands online and found Burzum. After Darkthrone, Burzum has served as Eriksen's most important inspiration. All the same, Eriksen continues to benefit from a varied palette: He enjoys Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Sex Pistols, Pink Floyd, etc.
For his third album, Eriksen switched from the Canadian HSP Productions to the prestigious UK label Peaceville Records, which is known for their long relationship with Darkthrone, Autopsy, etc. Eriksen managed this with the help of none other than Darkthrone's Nocturno Culto. Peaceville has since reissued Mork's first two records and continues to work with Eriksen. Another one of the many coincidences surrounding Mork is that they became the second black metal band ever to play in İzmir, Turkey when the promoter responsible for organizing Mayhem's infamous 1990 show brought them over in 2017.
Eriksen's other endeavors have included the occult heavy metal band October Moon and Pale Kids, which shared the stage with groups like My Chemical Romance. In Pale Kids, Eriksen sounded like the all-American emo next door who was destined to make it big. The outfit, which was formed in the late '90s, may be described as a post-hardcore band. They unleashed their debut EP, It Will Grow on You, in 2006. The video for "The Reality of Ignorance" not only aired on Norwegian television, but it also stands as a testament to the fact that most of us have sported a mismatched fishnet glove at one point or another.
This year, Eriksen's bass appeared on Deathiah Manifesto — a split between the Polish/English BMers Black Altar and the beloved Norwegian "Bloodbound Militia" known as Vulture Lord. You can find Eriksen on the third track, Black Altar's "Nyx." Eriksen also played bass on The Deathtrip's latest album, Demon Solar Totem (2019), which features ex-Dødheimsgard's Kvohst and ex-My Dying Bride's Dan Mullins. (Thorns' and ex-Dødheimsgard's Bjørn "Aldrahn" Dencker used to act as The Deathrip's vocalist.) Eriksen played drums and bass on the title track of the EP Ashes of the Dying (2018) by Avertia. You can hear Eriksen's voice on "Ave Satani (Blood, We Want Blood)" from Oh Death (2021) by Messerschmitt. He has performed live with the death metal band Befouled.
It may come as a surprise to learn that the driving force behind Mork's misanthropic music has a charming and chill personality fit for radio. Take some time tonight to listen to the greatest metal show ever: The Thomas Eriksen Podcast. But for now, enjoy Mork's awesomeness with these 10 brilliant songs:
"På tvers av tidene"
"På tvers av tidene," which means "Across the Times," appears on Mork's second to latest album, Det svarte juv (2019), or "The Black Pit." When Eriksen recorded Det svarte juv, he was dealing with the loss of his father, the deaths of two grandparents, and a break-up. Unfortunately, his mother also became ill. Yet, the resilient Mr. Eriksen has clarified that "På tvers av tidene" is about self-belief: "Jeg eg er reist og vil forevig bestå. Min skapelse vil stå for alltid."/ "I am risen and will forever hold out. My creation will stand forever." The layered vocals and chanting work splendidly. By the end, this song will have slowly but surely convinced you of your own potential: "Et mot til å bekjempe og overvinne. Et mål a bestå ut i evigheten." / "A courage to fight and surmount. A goal to persist for eternity."
Although "På tvers av tidene" is one of Mork's most popular tracks, it is difficult to call it an album highlight since every song on Det svarte juv radiates an incredibly luminous "dark light." "På tvers av tidene" follows the groovy and irresistible "Da himmelen falt," or "Then the Sky Fell." The charismatic "I flammens favn," which means "In the Flames' Embracing Arms," and the accompanying music video will scorch you in "an inferno of pain" / "Et inferno av smerte." Det svarte juv demonstrates that Eriksen is not only a musician, but he is also a seer — Eriksen predicted Covid with the song "Karantene": "Karantene er et faktum." / "Quarantine is a fact."
Mork's second album, Den vandrende skygge (2016), literally threatens to decapitate outsiders. This unapologetic album stands its ground and defends Norway's status as black metal's leading exporter. You might be wondering: What is "Den vandredrende skugge"? — "Gubben er en skygge av fortiden. Målløs og blind for nyere tider." / "The old man is the shadow of the past. Speechless and blind to new times." Get out your hiking stick: This record takes you on a sorrowful quest in search of what once was. Ultimately, Den vandrende skygge will feel as if you have been crucified upside down: "Måtte ditt blod dryppe." / "May your blood drip."
Darkthrone's Nocturno Culto makes a guest appearance on "Hudbreiderens revir." He sent Eriksen his vocal contribution by mail. It was recorded on the famous portable 8-track recorder dubbed "Necrohell 2 Studios." The lovely "Hudbreiderens revir" speaks of flaying and massacring Christians. The name, "Hudbreider's Territory," is a nod to Kjell Arne "Hudbreider" Hubred, a trusty friend of both Thomas Eriksen and Darkthrone. In Norwegian, "hud" means "skin." Although "Hudbreider" sounds as if it means something like "skin-peeler," it was the old way to say Hudbred. On Eriksen's podcast, Kjell Arne revealed that it refers to a Viking custom of placing valuables on a hide in order to purchase land.
Eriksen actually met Nocturno when he, Kjell Arne, and Stein Åge Hudbreider (Kjell Arne's brother) acted as drunken extras in the movie Saga (2016), which showcases a band that Nocturno fronts called Sarke — the eponymous project of Thomas "Sarke" Bergli, the main songwriter for Khold and Tulus. If you love "Hudbreiderens revir," know that Nocturno later returned to provide vocals for "Svartmalt," another one of our favorite songs, from Mork's fifth album, Katedralen (2021).
"Hudbreiderens revir" follows the highly unique "Den lukkede porten," "The Closed Gate," which is complemented by the Hardanger fiddle of Eriksen's accomplished friend Freddy Holm. We also recommend "Død og begravet," "Dead and Buried," to which "Hudbreiderens revir" gives way.
"I hornenes bilde"
"I hornenes bilde," or "In the Horns' Image" proves that Mork does not stand in anyone's "Shadow." As noted, Mork obviously has influences; but above all, Mork sounds like its own distinctive entity. The video for "I hornenes bilde" was shot at Rockefeller Music Hall in Oslo, where Darkthrone played their historic last gig on April 6, 1996. (Darkthrone performed four songs before walking off. That evening, Satyricon took the same stage for their first-ever show and Dissection showed who Sweden's greatest band will always be. Oddly enough, Satyr played bass with Darkthrone and Nocturno played guitar with Satyricon.)
The hard and heavy "I hornenes bilde" follows the title track on Mork's third album, Eremittens dal (2017), which means "The Hermit's Valley." The album features the likes of Dimmu Borgir's Silenoz and 1349's Seidemann as guests. The cover was illustrated by Bergen-native and tattoo artist Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, whose art has appeared on albums by powerhouses, such as Burzum and Immortal. Eremittens dal concludes with "Gravøl," which means "funeral beer." In honor of Eremittens dal, Mork collaborated with Halden Mikrobryggeri to produce a brown ale named after this track. Later, Grünerløkka Brygghus would brew a stout with chili called "Mork Gravøl" to celebrate Mork's fourth studio album, Det Svarte Juv (2019).
"Isebakke" is, of course, the slow and grim title track on Mork's 2013 debut album. We love Eriksen's low, savage vocals. Isebakke's next song, the intense "Dype røtter," "Deep Roots," will blow you away as well. Isebakke includes a cover of Onslaught's "Power from Hell," which is Mork's only English-language song besides "Black Thrashing Roll."
Thomas completed the whole of Isebakke in a creative frenzy that began immediately after visiting Dakrthrone's then-rehearsal space, Hudbreider's house, where he played Nocturno Culto's guitar. During the outing at Hudbreider's, Thomas had the epiphany to focus on primitive, as opposed to technical, songwriting. The title "Isebakke" comes from the name of the village in Halden where Eriksen grew up. Eriksen is proud of his country's nature and cultural heritage. His music is a fantastic tribute! Eriksen continues to be an upstanding representative of Halden: "Isebakke" was later included on the Fortid og Fremtid (2015) EP as well.
"I sluket av myra"
"I sluket av myra," which we can translate as "In the Drain of the Morass," is another popular track from Den vandrende skygge (2016). This phenomenal song first appeared on a 2015 EP by the same name. Despite its darkness, "I sluket av myra" sparkles like starlight against water and will make you want to dance. Eriksen has described "I sluket av myra" as a Burzum tribute. After hearing it, Fenriz chose Mork as the "band of the week." Let this one suck you in and drag you deep under: "… ører befinner seg milevis unna." / "… ears are miles away." Like the old man in the song, no one will hear you scream.
"Siste reis" hails from Det svarte juv (2019). The lyrics tell the story of a lost battle: "Vi kantrer i syndenes flod." / "We capsize in sin's river." Where does this fight take place, one may ask?! The sea of booze. No wonder why it's fatal: "Dette er vår siste reis. Der dagen dør og natten rår." / "This was our last journey. Where day dies and night reigns." This victory of a song will have you begging for another round. Skål!
"Hull i skogbunn"
"Hull i skogbunn," which means "Hole in Forest Floor," is a necro and fiery gem that gives hope to new generations insofar as it demonstrates that "truth" is an atemporal phenomenon: Great BM is not exclusive to the late '80s/early '90s. "Hull i skogbunn" was the third Mork song ever written. The original version premiered on Mork's debut demo Rota til ondskap (2007), "The Root of Evil," where it was called "Hull i skogbunnen," "Hole in the Forest Floor." A re-recorded version serves as the opening track on Fortid og Fremtid (2015). (Besides this EP, Rota til ondskap is the only place where you can find the wicked "Før kristen tid," or "Before Christian Time," and "Brenn i helvete," "Burn in Hell.")
Both versions of "Hull i skogbunn" are absolutely sick: The first feels more playful while the second is darker and more aggressive. Although the bells present in both variants are obviously meant to symbolize death, they are also appropriate insofar as Mork will fill your heart with love.
On Rota til onskap, "Hull i skogbunnen" follows the delightfully idiosyncratic opening, "Vandring inn i mørket," or "Wandering into the Darkness." The agonized "del II" / "Part II" heads off Isebakke (2013). It pairs cries that are reminiscent of Slavic war movies with hobbit-like rasps that call to mind the intro to A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992).
"Valen" (Acoustic Cover)
Is it really possible to cover Burzum well?! Thomas Eriksen does the impossible with "Valen," which means "Fallen." Eriksen made a "metal" version in 2012, which you can find on Peaceville's 2018 CD reissue of Isebakke (2013) as well as the digital versions on Bandcamp and Spotify. Eriksen eventually reimagined "Valen" in a soothing yet badass acoustic rendition, which can be found on the EP Pesta (2020). Both efforts ooze enough dark magic to charm a snake. These covers are so excellent that they tempt listeners to commit blasphemy by daring to say the insane: They are even more enjoyable to listen to than the original. (Keep in mind: On Burzum's Fallen , "Valen" successfully follows the magnificent "Jeg Faller.")
Although it rarely thrills us when black metal bands decide to use clean vocals, Eriksen not only has an exceptional voice, but also maintains the spirit of the song. The first variant includes both harsh and clean vocals like Burzum's original. The second interpretation showcases purely clean vocals with the exception of an added track that begins around 1:42. Whereas the former effort is roughly the same length as the nearly 9 1/2-minute masterpiece, the latter follows Burzum's text through the first two verses and second repetition of the chorus. For the acoustic cover, Freddy Holm contributed percussion, cello, fiddle, harmonium, and contrabass. He also recorded the song. (Eriksen used to mix his albums at Holm's home studio.)
Although Burzum's creator Varg Vikernes is obviously a controversial figure, the objective Eriksen has diplomatically stated that he separates the art from the artist. "Valen" stands outside politics as a work of sublime beauty. The full song ends: "Død, kjære død! Død, min død! Glemselen har tatt meg. Mørket har senket seg for alltid. Hva mer kan jeg vite?" / "Death, dear death! Death, my death! Forgetfulness has taken me. The oblivion has descended forever. What more can I know?" However, as noted, the acoustic cover stops here: "Hvorfor i døden, min venn, og der alene? Hvorfor i glemselens elv du stuper? Hvorfor i mørket, min venn, og der alene? Søker du lysets vennlige varme?" / "Why in death, my friend, and there alone? Why in the river Lethe do you plunge? Why in the dark, my friend, and there alone? Are you seeking the light's friendly warmth?"
This epic track follows the previous pick on the EP Pesta (2020). The title refers to the personification of the Black Death. "Pesta" was partially inspired by the world situation during the Covid pandemic. In addition, visiting locations used by the famed Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914) fueled Eriksen's creative juices. Many of Kittelsen's most famous illustrations can be found in the book Svartedauden, or "The Black Plague," which was completed in 1896. Kittelsen's artwork has been used by outfits, such as Burzum for Hvis lyset tar oss (1994), Filosofem (1996), and Thulêan Mysteries (2020). Myriads of BMers count Kittelsen among their muses.
Don't forget to check out the rest of Pesta: This 4-song EP includes live versions of "Hornenes bilde" and Isebakke's "En sti inn i Remmendalen," or "A Path to Remmedalen." (Fun fact: Pesta was released on King ov Hell's birthday, which is amusing when one considers that Fenriz wrongly believes him to be BM's greatest pest / plague.)
Katedralen — ALL OF IT!
We still have not recovered from the release of Mork's latest killer album, Katedralen (2021), or "The Cathedral." Eriksen has stated that the name came to him in 2009 or 2010. He originally envisioned making a 4-song concept EP. Eriksen's ambitious idea was condensed into Katedralen's epic final track, "De fortapte sjelers katedral," or "The Cathedral of Lost Souls." At roughly 9 1/2 minutes, this is Mork's longest song to date: Bound in chains, exiled souls are led to a cathedral where they must remain eternally. As a whole, Katedralen is every bit as striking as Nidaros Cathedral, which thankfully survived BM's '90s wrath. Eero Pöyry of the Finnish pioneering funeral doom band Skepticism added pipe organs to the album's opening, "Dødsmarsjen," "The March of Death," and the close. Eriksen's admiration for Skepticism goes way back. As mentioned, we adore Katedralen's second track, "Svartmalt," or "Painted Black," with Nocturno Culto.
During the moving and courageous third track, "Arv," or "Heritage," Eriksen comes to terms with the loss of his father, with whom he worked and from whom he inherited so many positive traits. The video was shot inside Halden's Fredriksen Fortress. Next up, we have the brutal yet criminally underrated "Evig intens smerte," "Eternal Intense Pain." "Det siste gode i meg," "The Loss of Good Within Me" was created while Eriksen was working on his previous album, Det svarte juv (2019). "Født til å herske," or "Born to Rule," features Kampfar's Dolk, who answers Thomas with lyrics that he wrote himself. This song is meant to empower listeners: "Vi er mørkrets horde. Et tegn på ubestridt kraft. I skyggene vi samles. Et bånd av brødre."/ "We are the horde of darkness. A symbol of undisputed power. In the shadows we assemble. A band of brothers." The pair appear together in an accompanying music video. Check out the alternative version of this song as well. Katedralen's penultimate track is "Lysbæreren," or "The Light Bearer," which is another way of saying Lucifer: "Jeg er nytelse. Jeg er frihet." / "I am pleasure. I am freedom." Once you hear Katedralen, you will not be able to escape Mork's hold over you.