Our loyal Vault Hunters whose memories are good enough to stretch all the way back to…December may remember that the very much not metal Slow Motion Death Sequence by Norwegian used-to-be-black-metal band Manes appeared at #11 on my Year-End List. After 25+ years as a band, Manes has pretty well earned the right to do whatever the fuck they want, and they’re damn good at it to boot.
Starting with 2003’s Vilosophe, or essentially the point where Manes began to sharply pivot away from the lo-fi black metal of their early demos, guitar duties in the band have been shared by founding member Tor-Helge Skei and another musician who goes by the name of -viNd-. As those familiar with Manes likely already know these days they seem more like a loose collective related musical endeavors than a traditional band, with each member having multiple projects going at once. -viNd- is no exception, and his newest endeavor Drontheim are set to release their debut Down Below on February 22 via Wraith Productions (snag a copy here).
The sextet is stylistically similar to Manes in that they too draw from a wide range of influences and combine them into a post-damn-near-everything sound that doesn’t skimp on either dramatic tension or cinematic grandeur. What makes them unique, however, is their lyrical themes – a WWII-based alternate reality inspired by Norwegian history. If you’re having trouble conceptualizing it, imagine Norwegian take on The Man in the High Castle (the Phillip K. Dick book, not Amazon’s boring af adaptation).
Today we have the pleasure of premiering the first video from the album, “Down Below.” I also had a chance to ask -viNd- a couple of questions about the record. Check them both out…well, down below.
Indy Metal Vault: There are a lot of bands that draw their musical and lyrical inspiration from war – hell, there’s even a genre known as ‘war metal’ – but I’m not sure I can think of another that takes an alternate history approach like you do on Down Below. What got you interested in alternate history in the first place?
-viNd-: Well first of all, as you might already know, the Drontheim project was born from an idea I had back in 2006 while my other bands (Manes and Atrox) were on hiatus. Back then I started to watch a lot of documentaries about the Second World War, and it inspired me to write music. It just kind of happened; after watching some WW2 stuff I just had to write music. I was full of stuff from within, and after writing some songs I think I also (re)discovered why, and that was due to my grandfathers. They were both in the war (on the Allies side), and I remember they used to tell me a lot of stories about WW2 when I was a kid.
So that’s’ how I got interested in the Second World War history in the first place. And the way I see it, it’s like they made me start Drontheim, and I´m grateful for that. The alternative history, or what we call docu-fiction, allows us to play with the “what ifs” and parallel universes of a world at war. We don’t have to stick to the facts, and it also allows us to skip the use of symbolism we don’t want to be related with. Along with that we also get to build our own universe inside a very well documented time period, and also speculate about alternative aftermaths…
IMV: If I have my history correct, Drontheim is what the Nazis renamed Trondheim during their occupation of Norway during WWII. Can you expand a bit on that history, and how it influenced the album? Is Down Below a concept album?
-viNd-: The first time I heard the name Drontheim was via my grandfathers when they were telling me about stuff they experienced during the second world war here in Trondheim. They also pointed me in the direction of the vision the Germans had for creating Neu Drontheim(New Trondheim). It was supposed to be a new German metropolis in German-occupied Norway, and it was planned to have a population of around 250,000–300,000 inhabitants. The building site of the city was located 15–20 km southwest of Trondheim. Because of the significant strategic importance of the Trondheim Fjord to the German military, it was to be constructed in conjunction with a major naval and military base that would give Germany unprecedented maritime control over the North Atlantic area. Hitler stated that the city was to become “a German Singapore,” and it eventually became one of his favorite architectural projects.
Hitler appointed Albert Speer [Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production] to organize and carry out the necessary planning for the new project. The city was to house an enormous art museum for the northern part of Germany′s empire, containing “only works of German masters.” An Autobahn was to be constructed to Trondheim across the Little and Great Belts of Denmark and further through southwest Sweden and Norway to connect the northern outpost with Germany proper. The naval base itself was planned to contain extensive shipyards, docks, and U-Boat bases for the expected post-war German navy that was to consist altogether of several hundred submarines and dozens of super-battleships, as well as several aircraft carriers. It would, in Hitler’s words, render British Singapore “mere child′s play” by comparison as a military stronghold.
In 1943, the first ground detonations were begun. To provide the construction site with labor, a prisoner-of-war camp was built in Øysand. A reserve landing strip for airplanes was also put in place. Special maps were prepared for Hitler from which he studied the optimum positions for the docks and accompanying structures. A metres-wide, highly detailed miniature model was also built for him, which was destroyed during an Allied bombardment of Berlin in 1945. During the war itself, the port city had already been turned into a major base for German U-Boat submarines, Dora I.
To call the album a concept album would be stretching it, but I would call it heavily themed around a WW2 naval concept. The title Down Belowis a reference to naval submarine warfare and the unmarked graves for many unlucky sailors during the naval campaigns of WW2. Infernos and screams above, silence and darkness down below. The design of the album is based around this, and several of the other songs and videos also plays around this theme.
IMV: It seems like there’s an increased interest in alternate history recently, most notably the Amazon series (very loosely) based on Philip K’s Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. At the same time, there’s been an increase in extreme right-wing political activity in both the US and Europe in the last few years as well. I know Drontheim is a non-political band, but do you think there might be a connection?
-viNd-: Speaking for us – no, not for us at least. Remember I started this back in 2006, and it has nothing to do with politics. Its purely artistic, and I have also been carrying the stories from my grandfathers for over 35 years. That’s also something that has become clearer and clearer to me after they both passed away.
IMV: If I’m not mistaken, you’re finalizing tour plans at the moment. Can you reveal anything yet?
-viNd-: This is something we´re working on at the moment, but the dates and cities are still not 100% set. We hope we can share some light on this soon, as the band is ready to do some kick-ass shows. So I will just have to say tune in to www.drontheim.no and stay informed 😉