My first contact with Skálmöld was the last album Med Vaettum (review here), released last November and... Wow! Hailing from Iceland, that remote cold island best known for their volcanoes, they play a quite original Viking Folk Metal. Let's find more for this awesome band. I greatly appreciate Napalm Records for this opportunity :)
Hello and thanks for showing interest. All questions answered by me, Snæbjörn Ragnarsson, bassist, backing vocalist and lyricist of Skálmöld.
Thank you very much for coming to Portugal for two awesome gigs. Unfortunately, with that schedule, you didn't have any time at all to see around. What memories do you have from our country? How did behave the Portuguese public?
Yeah, that was a lot of fun, pity we did not have time to scout your awesome country. But that just calls for another visit soon, right? So, the memories are mostly based around the people, and the gigs of course. The Portuguese are, for me at least, very nice and to the point. The blood running through your veins is clearly boiling hot and I like that a lot. Friendly and passionate, and man you guys can party! Great visits, both Lisboa and Porto.
Can you briefly tell us how Skálmöld start?
Well. Me and Björgvin (singer) have been friends since childhood and used to play in bands together growing up. We started our first band in ’91 and continued playing punk and metal for more than 10 years. Early 2000’s we drifted a little a part but we always talked about that we should get together, before we got too old and tired, and make one good metal album. We just knew we had it in us. One day in 2009 I was thinking of all this and realised that I actually knew every person needed to form the band. One e-mail, and few weeks later, we rehearsed for the first time and everything just clicked. Still we were just aiming at having fun, rehearsing once a week, maybe playing handful of gigs and releasing this one album. And so we did. And then everything exploded and here we are, 6 years later.
The decision for singing in Icelandic was primary for domestic audiences, or is there another reason?
There was never any decision. It always would have been like this, even if we had aimed towards the international market to begin with. We are Icelanders, singing about very Icelandic things and I think that doing it in English would be “cheating” in a way. All our lyrics follow the strict rules of Icelandic poetry and it is just a huge part of our sound and concept, I guess. With that said, I have nothing against bands singing in other languages than their mothers tongue. It’s just not our style.
One interesting thing about the band is that everybody on the band sings, and with quite different vocals, allowing for a multitude of stories. Was this planned, or just happened?
First plan was to have Björgvin do his thing and then the rest of us would do some harmonies and choirs. The idea for Baldur’s screams just came to him when we were recording ‘Baldur’, the first album, He just tried it out and it worked! Gunnar’s chanting evolved much later, when we were writing for the second album. So, some of it was planned, some not.
With long tours, like the last two with Eluveitie, do the band members have other occupations, or can live from music?
We all have other jobs, I’m afraid. Teachers, artsy stuff, advertising and comic book store clerks. Maybe one day …
During these tours fun must be present. Do you have any funny story or prank between bands to share?
Hah! Most of those stories can never see the light of day! The Finntroll guys once did us a huge favor by covering our monitors with porn. Not very good when concentrating on stage. We just showed them our private parts from the side stage during their set as a revenge. Bet they still have nightmares. Nice things as well. Kriegel and Nicole from Eluveitie joined us on stage for the last show last tour, without us knowing beforehand, and played the ‘Kvaðning’ main riff with us, whistle and violin. And then the rest of the band poured whiskey down our throats. Good times.
Your show with the Symphony Orchestra is awesome, the best I've ever seen. When did come this idea?
Yeah, that was pretty cool. We had been joking for months and years that our music would sound very cool with the Symphony Orchestra, but it was never more than that. We must have told that joke often enough for them to actually hear about it because they called us in the end. Pretty damn cool.
How many persons were involved in this show? It seems that all people enjoyed the experience, including the Maestro, right?
Huge orchestra, three choirs and us of course. Let’s see … More than 300 at least. And it was just such a blast and everyone on stage just killed it. First rehearsal was a bit chaotic, people not knowing what to expect. Everything that happened after that was amazing and every soul on stage gave it everything they had. The Maestro, Bernharður Wilkinson, is a magician and the arrangements done by our friend, Haraldur Sveinbjörnsson, just made the whole thing. I felt like a kid. Still do.
Another interesting Skálmöld characteristic is that all song names are only one word. Is it intentional?
First two album, yes. ‘Með vættum’ has two words titles. And yes, very much intentional. All the albums are concepts and this is a part of that.
From my bad Icelandic (joke), Med Vaettum is dedicated to the Four Seasons and a character from that season. Is that so? What about dragons in summer and giants in fall?
Hmm. Close, but not quite right. There are eight songs on the record, In Spring, With Birds, In Summer, With Dragons, In Fall, With Giants, In Winter and With Bulls. The story is about a female Hero called Þórunn Auðna. She is born on the North coast of Iceland and for her entire lifetime she travels around the island, from North to the East, then South and in the end she dies as an old woman in the West. During this journey she has to fight four times, once from each quarter, to defend Iceland from enemies. Ancient myths tell us of these guardian creatures defending our country, the Bird in the North, Dragon in the East, Giant in the South and Bull in the West. They are called ‘Vættir’, hence ‘Með vættum’. The English term would be ‘Wights’ if you want to look it up. First quarter of the story (first two songs) happens during the spring, in her youth, next is summer, in the bloom of her life and so on until she grows old in the winter and dies. Every fight she fights the vættir fight with her, one at a time, and so she manages to save us from the foes. The Seasons have to do with her lifespan, the Creatures represent each part of Iceland. Hah, sorry for the essay …
(brilliant explanation, must improve my Icelandic, lol)
Iceland will build a temple to Norse gods this year. Is there really people worshiping Odin or is it more to apply old tales as a philosophy of life?
For me it is the latter for sure, and I think it’s the same for most people. The stories are super cool, and the ethics and philosophy is raw, basic and very much to the point. On top of that this is our heritage and we should do our best to preserve it and celebrate our roots. Fundamentalism would be just as wrong worshipping the heathen gods as it is worshipping other supernatural beings, God, Allah, Santa, He-Man or others.
Do you want to leave a message to Sounds from Apocalypse readers? And to the Portuguese fans?
Just remember the one rule: Don’t be an asshole. If everyone would follow that one simple rule we would all live happy.
Thanks a lot for this opportunity! And I do hope that you, guys, could come to Portugal again!
Thank you. And fuck yes, we shall be back very soon!

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