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An Interview with H.V. Lyngdal + Album Stream: Ljáin – Endasálmar og klofnar tungur

No discussion of Icelandic black metal would be complete without a mention of H.V. Lyngdal. Frankly, the conversation might actually start with his short-lived project Wolfheart, who released their first demo in 2003. Lyngdal is arguably best known, though, for Wormlust, which he began as a solo project and released his first, self-titled demo for back in 2006, the same year that Svartidauði released their first demo The Temple of Deformation.

It was Wormlust’s 2013 full-length The Feral Wisdom, however, that truly put the project on the international black metal map and eventually led to Lyngdal and Philadelpiha-based Chaos Moon/Skáphe/Krieg guitarist Alex Poole joining forces and launching Mystískaos, which has very quickly become one of the most unique and engaging black metal collectives in the game today.

Anyone who follows Wormlust likely knows how long Lyngdal has been working on Hallucenogenisis, which is on the verge of becoming the black metal equivalent to Chinese Democracy. As a break from that process in 2016, Lyngdal quickly recorded a pair of back-to-basics EPs under the name Ljáin (“scythes”): Endasálmar (“End Hymns”) and Klofnar tungur (“Clears Tongue”). Signal Rex will be releasing a compilation of both releases as Endasálmar og klofnar tungur on both CD and vinyl on April 20, and we are honored here at the Vault to be exclusively streaming that compilation in its entirety. I also had the chance to talk to Lyngdal about a wide variety of topics–including the recent controversy surrounding the ill-phrased Mystískaos announcement that they were leaving Bandcamp–and he was both exceptionally forthcoming and extremely generous in his replies.

Simply put: Lyngdal proved to be one hell of an interview, just as Endasálmar og klofnar tungur is one hell of a compilation. And the time has come for me to shut up – you can enjoy both of them below.

Indy Metal Vault: Hey – so first off, thanks for the interview. I know you’re a busy dude—Mystískaos just released several tapes including your Afsprengi Satanas project, Wormlust’s Hallucinogenesis will be out later in the year, and you and Alex Poole have so many other projects and collaborations going on than I can keep track of them all—so I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions. There’s a lot I’d like to get to, but let’s start with Ljáin’s Endasálmar og klofnar tungur, since that’s what we’re streaming along with this interview. Unlike a lot of what you have in the works for this year, this one is a compilation of two EPs you released in July of 2016: Endasálmarand Klofnar tungur. So I guess my first question is what made you decide to reissue this material? It’s always been my impression that the Mystískaos collective is pretty well against represses or reissues – you either get it when it comes out or too bad. Also, the compilation is coming out via Signal Rex and not Mystískaos. Why not keep the compilation in-house along with everything else the collective is doing at present?

H.V. Lyngdal: I always felt it was an LP since it was recorded in the same week. Putting them together only illustrates that fact better.  Ljáin has always strangely been on the outside of the kaleidoscopic nausea of Mystískaos, in my mind it emanates from a colorless void in contrast to the other projects. Signal Rex offered to release Ljáin in some capacity and I suggested this if I recall correctly.

We ourselves are against re-presses of our own MS releases because it undermines the ephemeral nature of our output, and as a creative collective we want to keep moving unto the next thing. Re-releases that present material in a different way aren’t against that idea though. For instance, if we wanted to bring someone into the fold. that is the way to do it. We are moving into LPs so we might play around with that format.

IMV: I spent a bit of time with your recent Reddit AMA, mostly so that I could avoid asking too many of the same questions that came up over there. I found it to be an interesting read, and far more informative than I was expecting – most of the AMAs that I’ve read have been pretty underwhelming, but I also imagine that must be a tough format in which to answer questions. You did say a couple of things about Ljáin there, however, that I want to follow up on. First off, you mentioned that the Ljáin material was written in about two days in what you called “a release of bad energy,” making it sound like something of a cathartic experience. First, is the two days part actually true? And what was the project you’d been focusing on at that point that left you needing that kind of release at that point? Was it Hallucinogenesis? From what I understand, that album has been in the works for a couple of years.

HVL: Well, it was more like four days, two for each release.

At that period time I could possibly have kept on doing similar sounding material for a while, but after the second one was finished, so were my mental reserves. This was on the eve of a European tour, and the complexity of the Feral Wisdommaterial had us simplifying the songs more and more, so in the end I decided to throw the baby out with the bath water and create something new for it from scratch. Wormlust toured as mirror band.

Hallucinogenesis has been in the works for around four years at this point, and at times it has been very overwhelming and intense. Last November we tracked drums and I thought it was finished, but after taking a two-month break and coming back to it, I thought it sounded very overworked, so I have now been slowly working on making it more listenable.

I was working for a week on ten-second passages at times and nonsense such as that, so yes, recording two releases in a few days was like taking the chains off. It also reminded me of how I did the early Wormlust material and it doesn’t have to be a self-designed torture.

IMV: You also mentioned that you have three more albums’ worth of Ljáin material written and ready to record later this year, after which you intend to retire the project. Given that each of your projects seem to represent different aspects of your musical personality, why do you feel as though Ljáin has run its course?

HVL: I am making an effort to make Wormlust my only musical output and laying these side expressions to rest. The difficult part with doing that is when working on a very specific soundscape there are always riffs and ideas that don’t fit and inevitably become side projects. The most important and under-looked at trait in art is self-editing, something I am working on. Three albums is a very good legacy since another difficult aspect of creating music is the time in between releases that dilutes the urgency of the original intent. If I were to revisit Ljáin after this cycle it would most likely not fit in thematically. The project has a demanding headspace to be in ultimately.

IMV: I think it’s far to say that you’re something of a prolific musician, and it seems like with all the Mystískaos projects currently in the works your discography is about to get a lot deeper. I always wonder how musicians are able to not only keep up that kind of work rate, but also maintain such a high level of quality. You and AP both are kind of astonishing in this respect. So how are you able to maintain that level of productivity? Do you have a backlog of old riffs that you draw from when you’re writing, or do you start new with every project? A bit of both?

HVL: I have about seven years worth of riffs and material that I have slowly been depleting and writing around, but I am hoping to finish off the old material next year so I can spend time absorbing music and writing only new pieces. Quality is subjective, but when you write about eight hours of riffs, for example, usually there is an hour’s worth of useable things and maybe fifteen good minutes. It’s all just about putting in the time and work. Alex has more avenues and styles to express than me, but its interesting to follow what comes next. He mostly just creates from the now.

IMV: What does your recording setup look like at this point? Given how many projects you have in the works—and given that many of them are international projects—I’m guessing you do a fair amount of DIY recording? And I’m curious as to whether you use live drums on Endasálmar og klofnar tunguror if you programmed them.

HVL: My recording setup is not very impressive: bass, guitar, mic, and audio interface. I am slowly getting better versions of those elements, but I really don’t need anything more – already in 2006 everything was good enough “in the box.”

I do go elsewhere in the final stages to have drums recorded and I don’t mix myself. By that point objectivity is all gone anyway.

Those drums on Ljáin are electronic. It’s the kit/sounds I used to demo Wormlust material, but the urgency of Ljáin meant I wouldn’t record live percussion and also it fits the overall sound.

IMV: I’m not certain you’re going to answer this question, but I’m going to ask it anyway because it came up in the Reddit AMA, and the answer mostly left me with even more questions. The Mystískaos collective use a lot of sigils in their artwork, which you (or AP – it wasn’t specified) said were extensions from “the mother project Martröð.” So far, so good – but then the response takes a turn towards Hindu mythology and mentions non-literary magic and loses me a bit. So let me ask this: what significance do these sigils have within the Mystískaos collective? And where do the symbols come from? There seem to be occult and Egyptian (maybe? they sort of look like ankhs) in the Ljáin sigil, which is why the mention of the Shiva archetype kind of threw me.

HVL: We are building a power sephirot of sorts with the sigils of the bands, I don’t think we talked about Hinduism specifically, but we are all about archetypes obviously. It’s a construct, both the internal logic of the sigils and the external membrane of how they connect. A sort or noosphere of collective creation, macro and microcosmic. Ljáin is like a withered off-branch. The term ‘non-literary magic’ is a allusion that it’s not narrative magic (literal vs non-literary) but rather collective creation of centric chaos magic. The symbols themselves contain each project’s initials or element in fuþark tradition.

IMV: I know you addressed this in the Reddit AMA, but for our readers who may not have seen it, I do want to ask one question about the Icelandic black metal scene. With only a couple of exceptions—Dynfari, whose last album I absolutely loved, immediately come to mind—it seems like a pretty closely-knit group of musicians with a fair amount of overlap between projects, to the point where it seems like either you or D.G. are in pretty much every notable Icelandic band.  Is the scene as close as it seems? Or are there other regional scenes that metal bloggers should be paying attention to as well?

HVL: We all share a rehearsal space and play in multiple bands, so that Venn diagram would be very simple. The Vánagandr sect has the most active intermingling projects and apparently hours in a day. My own activities also reach over into the USA like D.G. I suppose, but I only have enough energy these days for one or two artistic endeavours at a time, which right now are Sól án varma [ed. note: a specially commissioned project for this year’s Roadburn Festival featuring members of Misþyrming, Naðra, Svartidauði, and Wormlust] and the Wormlust/ Nyiþ collab. But In terms of notable projects. I think you can basically trace backwards from Misþyrming.

IMV: So I keep referencing all of the releases you and the rest of the Mystískaos collective have in the works, but I haven’t tried to list them. Can you give us the overview of what you and AP have in the works for the rest of the year?

HVL: Alex is working on a couple of things with the person behind Ancient Records, then there is a Ljain/Entheogen split that is pretty much finished, and also a Guðveiki LP. That project is kind of our version of death metal. There is the laying to rest compilation for Afsprengi Satanas (co-release with Infinite Darkness prod) and also the co-release of Andavald with Fallen Empire. Our first true LP release will be the Wormlust/Skáphe collab. There is always more material that usually emerges when we are working on other things, a strange sort of alchemy.

IMV: Mystískaos recently became the first high profile label (that I’m aware of anyway) to say that they’re pulling their releases from Bandcamp because of their fee structure, though as I’m writing this it appears that at least part of the label’s catalogue is still available as ‘name your price’ downloads. I am interested in what led you and AP to make that decision, but I feel like have to also ask about the bit of controversy that accompanied the announcement as well. Whoever wrote the post—and if memory serves, I believe it was you—referred to the platform as (((Bandcamp))), and the triple parenthesis “echo” is apparently an anti-Semitic symbol. The blog Toilet ov Hell picked up on it almost immediately, and shortly thereafter the original post was taken down. However, I’ve not really seen any kind of explanation for it anywhere. I’ve not seen anything to indicate that you, AP, or anyone in the Mystískaos collective have any sort of NSBM sympathies, so what happened with that post?

HVL: We were having issues with the terms that Bandcamp had when you register as a label there. It seems as soon as you change gears from being a band to a label on it its a different reality. I cancelled the page subscription months ago, but it still remains up there? But we weren’t deleting our individual pages. We were trying to delete our label hub.

No, we don’t have any NSBM sympathies. That kind of thinking is very antithetical to our own ideals and racism itself is predicated on the belief that one group of people is better the other because of where they were born. That goes against our ideas of the possibility of an individual’s enlightenment within the tides of flock mentality in the form of psychoactive/transcendent Luciferianism, in spite of societal norms. The post itself was a satire of the idea that Bandcamp, in our isolated music-centric world, can be a sort of dystopian shadow lord, since we are beholden to them. The application of the parentheses was understood as a way to allude to a secret world order. But things went sideways very quickly and the literal applications of the parentheses – saying a particular person is Jewish – were discovered so that thing was deleted.

A non-Mystískaos American friend of mine told me that things in the USA are very combatively left or right on the political spectrum over there these days and it seemed that the website decided to drag us into their fight against the other side without any research. Bad status, worse site.

In the end of the day we are a collective of musicians that are united by a similar style of music and working methods, and I can say that none of us hold any political ideals that favor one group over the other. It is more about the self vs. an unrelenting universal machine.

IMV: Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions. I always like to leave the last word to the artists – anything else you want to add?

HVL: Thanks for the questions. Usually I get asked the same thing worded differently about landscape etc. so this was a nice change.

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2 comments

Brett Strohl
Brett Strohl April 18, 2018 at 10:29 pm

What sigil is that?

Reply
Indy Metal Vault
Indy Metal Vault April 19, 2018 at 8:25 am

It’s the sigil he uses for that particular project. All the bands in the Mystískaos collective have their own.

Reply

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