Icelandic atmospheric black metal band Auðn left me rather impressed with this year’s sophomore full length, Farvegir fyrndar. We managed to catch the band’s guitarist/lyricist Aðalsteinn Magnússon, to learn more about the thought process behind the band and its music, as well as the landscape in Iceland.
Greetings Auðn! Thanks for taking the time for this interview, and we would like to congratulate you guys on the release of Farvegir fyrndar. First things first, for the non-Icelandic speakers, how do we pronounce the name of the band? What is the meaning behind the band’s name?
Thank you, Auðn means ‘desolate landscape’ reffering to most of Icelands terrain which is a cold and barren lava field where nothing grows. The words pronunciation is Au-thn with a soft ‘th’.
Farvegir fyrndar is the band’s sophomore album, and it is indeed an exhilarating experience listening to it. Farvegir fyrndar roughly translates into “Ancient Paths”, and contains many emotional passages. Where and how does the band draw inspiration when writing the lyrics to the album?
Farvegir Fyrndar would best be described as ‘Ancient Paths’ and is a line from the second song of the album Lífvana Jörð or Lifeless Earth where the earth is a barren wasteland (Auðn) and down the valleys where water used to run only dust and rubble remains. Metaphorically or literally meaning things are not as they were but ruined, desolate.
The lyrical themes focus mainly on depression, loss and the consequences of those emotions, but instead of laying it out literally we use images and metaphors to paint a picture and with our natural surroundings in Iceland the color pallet is dark, unforgiving and harsh but also beautiful. Almost all the lyrics touch on these subjects without being connected they all share the same bleak hope that we deliver with our music.
While the themes seem to be rather depressing, the band manages to retain a beautiful soundscape, like on Ljosaslaedur (my personal favourite track). What is the songwriting process like for the band, and how has this evolved over the years?
You are right the emotions driving the songwriting are depressing and we try to translate that through the music. The process has changed since our debut album where many of the songs were written beforehand and then changed and molded by the band. Farvegir Fyrndar was more of a live effort where we wrote the whole album in our rehearsal space together and went back and forth with ideas creating the songs. All of the song begin with a riff that comes from either me (Aðalsteinn) or Andri the other guitarist and then we compose together with the whole band with everyone’s input. The song is then written and structured, sometimes this happens without effort and comes naturally. We also recorded the album live over three days with the same setup as we use in our rehearsal space, we wanted to capture the energy that sparked the songs and i believe we did just that. It doesn’t have to be perfect the feeling has to be right.
Music-wise, we are hearing lots of influences from bands like Drudkh, Wodensthrone, or even Fen. Outside of these atmospheric black metal bands, are there any musical influences that have gone into the melting pot that is Farvegir fyrndar?
We all come from different musical backgrounds and listen to all kinds of music, I myself rarely listen to black metal bands. There is so much music out there that inspires and things would get redundant with only one element influencing the music, so most of us try to broaden our horizons when it comes to influences.
The album lyrics also seem to be written in Icelandic. Were there any particular reasons behind this, and has this affected the reception of the band and its music, especially in live performances outside of Iceland?
Icelandic is our mother language and comes easy, it is a way of expressing emotions without laying them out in the open if people want to dig deeper they can but there is really no need if the feeling translates through the songs. If anything it has helped us gain recognition. The lyrics being in Icelandic don’t seem to bother people as we have people chanting along to our songs live without them knowing Icelandic, in metal music vocals tend to act as more of an instrument than in most genres as the words aren’t always audible and having them in Icelandic adds to effect of mystery and for those who would like to know more can dig deeper.
For those that enjoy the art of Auðn, what are some places that one can visit in Iceland to soak in the atmosphere that is fitting for the music of the band?
If you drive anywhere in Southern Iceland you will experience the landscape that shapes us and our music but the town of Hveragerði is our home and where we rehearse. Who knows we might be there when you swing by.
Extreme metal from Iceland is starting to gain some traction in the international metal underground. What has the journey been like for the band, and what is the scene like in Iceland?
The journey for us has been erratic and surprisingly fast we have gone from playing small club shows in Iceland to performing at some of Europe’s most prestigious festivals in a very short period of time and hopefully will continue to do so, the scene in Iceland is small with many bands but few people. Many bands are sharing members which makes for an interesting melting pot, it has its pros and cons but we could be considered outsiders in that sense as we do not share members with other bands and keep to ourselves.
Any bands that we should check out from Iceland as well?
Dynfari and Draugsól to name a few from the black metal scene, most people will probably know Zhrine, Svartidaudi and Misþyrming by now but of course they are worth a mention. From the death metal side Severed and Cult of Lilith are gems to check out if you haven’t already.
We have come to the end of the interview. Once again, thanks for taking the time, and we wish the band all the best in your upcoming endeavours!