- Au Champ Des Morts
- Bestia Arcana
- Blut Aus Nord
- Crimson Moon
- Cultus Profano
- Eryn Non Dae.
- In The Woods...
- La Morte Viene Dallo Spazio
- October Falls
- Terra Tenebrosa
- White Ward
- Year Of No Light
Three months ago, Norway’s WALLACHIA released their epic new record, “Monumental Heresy”. Featuring their strongest and most consistent line-up to date, the record is surely their strongest and most fully realized effort. Robert had the honor of being able to discuss “Monumental Heresy” among other topics over email with Lars Stavdal, guitarist, primary songwriter, and founding member of WALLACHIA.
Q: How do you feel “ Monumental Heresy” stands apart from your past work? Do you feel there were any big differences between this album and your other records regarding composition, emotional inspiration, recording, et cetera?
Lars: With Monumental Heresy we approached the recording a bit differently than the past couple of albums, and we recorded it way more "live" and direct, and not least to say it was also much more fun and rewarding this time around. It's the recording we used less time on in terms of production, and yet it turned out to be our best sounding album, in my opinion. As for the way I compose and write songs, that remains the same now as ever before. With this new album, just as much as with the previous one "Shunya", I am very much inspired by the current situation of my own life and the state of the world and society. The inspiration behind the songs are based on real events and emotional experiences. Over the later years I have dared to show a more fragile and open side of myself. Looking back at my childhood and upbringing, seeing the path that has led to where I am at today. I found a lot of strength in that, by closing some doors and healing some spiritual wounds. In many ways I have now come full circle with this form of concept.
Q: For one reason or another, Wallachia has had a fluctuating lineup since its inception. What challenges has this posed? Being the main songwriter of the band, do you collaborate or run ideas past your current bandmates, or do you have a more solitary mode of creation?
Lars: Living here in the central region of Norway, there was always a big challenge to find musicians to work with in this genre of music. On the other hand, I never really cared so much about creating a band in the traditional sense, as what drives me is the process of creating and recording. The early recordings suffered a bit from inexperience, naturally, but I have been lucky to co-work with some really great people and musicians over the years. From the 2nd album in 2009 and up until now, where we have been working as a long-distance based unit, that has actually been a much better and more determined way to get things done properly. For me personally it has been demanding in many ways, in particular time- and economy-wise you have to put your "life on hold" for longer periods of time. But in the end it's all worth it. I rather spend my vacation inside a studio than at a beach in the Bahamas. As the composer and writer of the material, I present my finished ideas for the other guys, and with these 3 latest albums we have done a full instrumental pre-production of all songs, which has been helpful not only for the other guys to get into the material, but also for myself to test out the arrangements I have in my head. And the other guys bring in their own ideas and personal touches to the songs, and some times we've re-arranged certain parts based on the other musician's ideas. Be it Thomas having done some spiced up drum patterns/fills, Paal bringing in some 2nd harmonies on the guitar or Ludvik also having his own ideas for the bass arrangements. So yes, in this sense we worked more as a full band this time around. And that is exactly what made this album a lot more fun to do.
Q: You’ve stated before that you were heavily influenced by the nineties black metal scene, particularly bands like Bathory and Burzum. Are there any new bands you’ve discovered within the last couple of years that you feel capture that magic, or have influence on you today? Who’s carrying the torch?
Lars: To be honest I haven't discovered so much new stuff that left its mark on me, and more than often I go back to all the classic stuff that inspired me from the '80's and '90's mainly. But there are some exceptions, and now in recent times I was listening to a band from Malaysia called Putrefied Remains, and they play a style of music that truly echoes the early Hellenic sound and spirit, which is really to my taste. Thanks to Yury from Convivial Hermit Magazine for recommending them to me. And I think the Danish bands Solbrud and Afsky are both interesting, and they are both from the same main guy. Solbrud has a sound that reminds of the Cascadian BM, while Afsky has a bit more Northern Pagan influence. And for instance the Canadian band Woods of Ypres that I got deeply into from nearly 8 years ago, has turned out to be one of my all time favorite bands. And of the more post-BM related stuff I find the German band Der Weg einer Freiheit to be a really great band, and we were honored to play right after them in Transylvania back in 2015. Very nice and humble guys, excellent musicians who have brought some fresh new blood into the BM sound.
Q: Both “Demo 1996” and your debut “From Behind the Light” have those unique “demonic” vocals, which was abandoned on the albums that followed for a more traditional black metal style. Did you make a conscious effort to change your vocals or was this more of a natural evolution? Do you ever consider revisiting this style? About vocals, what motivated you to bring in another vocalist in the form of Grolig?
Lars: The whole idea with those demonic sounding vocals wasn't as well conceived as how I wanted them to be, but this goes back to the inexperience of those early days with the band. I was heavily inspired by Quorthon's vocal style on the 2nd and 3rd Bathory albums, as well as Glen Benton's approach on the early Deicide. Take for instance the song "Mephistopheles" from the Deicide debut, and it was pretty much something like that which inspired the vocal direction in Wallachia back then. My own vocals on the 2nd and 3rd Wallachia albums were purely done without any form of effects, and I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it (better). Grolig became our vocalist for the (so far one and only) live show we did in Romania in 2015, and we decided to continue with both him and the drummer for the same occasion, Thomas Leitner. Grolig has a really sharp, raw and powerful voice that fits perfectly into Wallachia, and he has a much wider range than what I can do myself. I really love his vocal style, and he's a great person that echoes a lot of my own personality and background too. So he can adapt and understand what lies behind the songs very well. For Monumental Heresy we did a bunch of these dual vocal parts, with the screams and the growls combined, and I think we will develop this more demonic style of vocals further and go back to the roots in a better way than what we did back then.
Q: “Carpathia Symphonia” featured two songs that were re-recorded from your first two records. “ Monumental Heresy” included “Silenced No Longer,” a track you first recorded in 2000 but never released. How did it feel revisiting this old material, has time brought you new perspectives or emotions on it? What changes did “Silenced No Longer” go through before it’s final form we hear on the new album?
Lars: It's been fun to dive back into the early material and taking inspiration from past efforts. Those two songs for the Carpathia Symphonia EP were done in the process of preparing the live-set in 2015, and thus we did them now with lyrics in English plus some new arrangements. We totally transformed the "Arges - Raul Doamnei" song from a pure ambient/acoustic track into a full-fleshed metal song. I feel we did justice to these old songs that were recorded in such poor versions/conditions back in the nineties. The song "Mother Tongue of Heresy" from the same 2015 EP was the other unreleased song from the early millennium material, and now for the new album we managed to finally include that "Silenced No Longer" track too. I don't think much changed about the songs themselves over the years, but with the latter one I did add that acoustic/cello and ending part later on in the process, so I took that old half-finished song and completed it when the time felt right. And this is pretty much how I work with music. Some times I have fragments of songs lying around for a long period of time until it all fall to place at some point.
Q: To my own perception, “Monumental Heresy” takes the blasphemous and anti-religious themes that have always been present in Wallachia and makes them the focus. Was this intentional? Do you feel that these themes are as relevant to the genre and the world at large as they were in the early days?
Lars: The anti-theistic (or rather pro-individual freedom) themes of my songs have been present since day one of creating Wallachia, and it’s something that has its roots further back, way before I got into metal music and everything related. And when I look at the world and society as of today, I feel that this is perhaps even more relevant now than ever before. After the previous album "Shunya" I started to craft material that was closer to the melancholic side of my music, and the songs that survived from this epoch are "So We Walk Alone", "The Parallel Fate of Dreams" and "Returned Favor of Abandonment”. They sort of close the concept that was started on "Shunya”. While I was on my first visit to Transylvania in the summer of 2014, the whole IS terror movement was on the rise in Iraq and Syria, with followers spread all across the western world. And by time of my return back to Norway, there was a code red terror alert back home, and I came home and was met by armed police and a much higher security everywhere, which was strange and unusual (and uncomfortable) here in peaceful little Norway. And that whole experience triggered my emotions and lyrical concept towards how religion manipulates and is being used as tool to not only justify, but also encourage in its scriptures the most gruesome acts of torture, of murder and genocide. How it has through century after century divided mankind rather than uniting us. The disdain towards religion (as a whole) goes back to me being a child and my first encounters with it in primary school, being fooled into Sunday School, and from seeing friends of my family being married into religious sects and seeing how this affected their mental health in negative ways. One of my mom's friends got brainwashed into the Jehovah Witness' sect and kept pushing those pamphlets to us, and I ended up reading them all time after time as they appeared. I was surprised to see how much of their so-called faith is based around a mortal fear and threats with punishment to those who don’t repent and walk the narrow path to paradise. And how we see the religious societies are constructed around a patriarch rule, where the women (and children) are the ones that suffers the most. This is something we see everywhere, in all kinds of cults and in the 3 big monotheistic sects. It's all bullshit to me, and it kinda proves itself that they are all equally wrong with their own unique approach towards the "one true God". There's only one way towards the truth, but a thousand leading away from it – and the many paths of religion walks away from it, blindfolded. I appreciate diversity and liberty more than anything, and to have the freedom to be who I want to be, spiritually and intellectually, as much to how I choose to dress, what books I want to read, what films I want to watch, what music I want to listen to, what I want to eat and so forth. Religion is so concerned with this social control and shapes us into being thinking/acting/dressing the same, and for most people I would like to think that feels like a mental prison and limitation of who you truly are. Religion takes too much space in society, and it's a one-way form of criticism and judgement, and has far much to say when it comes to censorship. To think that it's illegal to play rock/metal music in some countries, where that alone can get you imprisoned. And with the sort of loose "blasphemy laws" as we see in places like Saudi Arabia Pakistan, etc. I must say that I find it scary and absurd. In the 21st century and the world is still being held hostage in a stone age mentality to such a large scope. That is truly frightening in so many ways. For me personally to step up and speak out against, I feel it’s a much needed protest against something that has poisoned our world for far too long.
Q: What does the future hold for Wallachia? Are there any more live shows or festivals being planned? Is there any material already written for next album? Roman Sayenko of Drudkh has been a friend to the band in the past, can we ever expect a Wallachia/Drudkh collaboration?
Lars: The main focus for Wallachia right now is to continue the work on what will become album number five, and the whole concept and thread for the songs has been ready since a while. And I am about halfway into the process at this moment. Actually I think you’ll be able to hear a little sample by the end of the year. All I can say that this is indeed very much a return to our musical and conceptual roots. We already had some offers to play live here in Norway this year, but it was with too short notice for us to be able with the situation of being a long-distance based band. So yeah, maybe something will happen towards the fall and winter, that we’ll be able to do some gigs in a row and present both old and new material. I think we would need a handful of gigs just to prove that we exist beyond being just a studio-based project. So still we’re making babysteps with the live-part. As for Roman and Drudkh, it’s very true that he has been a key person in reviving Wallachia and helping us out in many ways, so I am eternally grateful for his support and help. We already talked about doing some collaboration with his medieval ambient solo-project Dark Ages, but I think the whole idea just washed away, and he’s been quite active with several bands so. We’ll see what the future brings. It would be great to have him as a guest too, just like we’ll continue our co-operation with Athelstan from Forefather in the future.
Thank you for your time Lars, it was a pleasure. I look forward to seeing what comes from Wallachia in the future, and if you guys ever find yourself playing in the United States, rest assured I will be in attendance.