I will not stress the fourth album because it's the final one and I want to go out on a personal high note. I don't know what the album might be like, people might hate it but as long as I'm happy with the conclusion I will release it.
Novarupta has produced another post-metal cracker with third album Carrion Movements. On the week of its release Gary Davidson caught up with the band’s creator and only permeant member Alex Stjernfeldt to talk through the third and four instalments of the natural elements series covering fire, water, air and earth.
E&D: Marine Snow was in my top five albums of 2020 and continues to be one I return to a lot, how did you find the reception to the album?
Alex: I was really surprised by the reception because the recording was kind of a haze. From writing the songs, recording them, going back and forth with the songs everything was kind of a blur and suddenly the album was done. I didn’t really know what I had created until it was out and I read the reviews and was like oh, oh okay!
E&D: Do you ever see any negative comments about your music?
Alex: There’s always some negative and some positive, the negative was “generic post metal” and “Cult of Luna clone” and whatever, but of course I know how it is with music, some things you like some you don’t and it’s the way it’s supposed to be. I think that if you play in a band with the label ‘post’ and you’re from Sweden it automatically gets in the shadow of Cult of Luna whatever you do.
E&D: The plan was for four albums in four years and Carrion Movements was scheduled for a 2021 release. Was this delay vinyl related?
Alex: The album was done in, I think, August 2021 but then, as you have heard the vinyl problem all over the world. When we sent it to the pressing plant they said it’s at least six months delay for this one so that’s postponed the entire fight sadly yeah, at least we tried.
E&D: Having covered Fire and Water with previous albums using a multitude of singers, Carrion Movements is based on the theme of air, did this drive the instrumental approach?
Alex: I think I got the idea when I was recording Marine Snow to have a soundscape foundation for the music. A friend of mine, Peo, made all the soundscapes on Carrion Moments, he’s amazing with those kinds of weird ethereal, astral sounds. I told him my idea and he sent me these two huge stems of soundscapes to build upon and when I heard those foundations and started playing around with guitars on them I realised it should be without vocals, it should be driven by the melodies. The more I wrote for it I realised that some riffs and hooks came back all the time. It was like movements in the music because I’m really inspired by John Murphy and his film scores and that’s where the title came from and also what made me go for the instrumental approach.
E&D: Did you feel like you had to keep coming back to certain sounds to achieve the aim for an air theme or was it all quite a natural creation?
Alex: It was kind of natural flowing, I worked a lot with a guitar sound in the beginning and I found a sound on the guitars that I really felt this is air for me. Which was not that distorted, more like an overdriven sound with a lot of reverb and a huge airy sound and when I found that a lot of pieces just fell into place. I had my vision of how I wanted it to be and I also wanted to push myself outside my comfort zone and I usually try to use as much distortion and heavy guitars as I can to hide behind and this time I felt let’s try another approach both to evolve as a musician and also evolve Novarupta as a concept and get out of my comfort zone.
E&D: The two tracks are epically long, was there a conscious decision about this based on the theme?
Alex: My original plan was to try to make one song that long to see if I could because it takes time to write and make it feel organic and to keep interest. The first song, I was not working on it constantly but I was doing some part, returning to it, doing some parts, taking away something and I worked with one of the songs for like a year and when I finally had that song done the second one came in like a weekend so that was really an interesting uh process.
E&D: You mentioned in the last interview that Suicide Records “let’s me do what I want when I want”, how did the record label receive the idea of two tracks over 18 minutes?
Alex: I don’t know, I think that when I told Suicide about the idea and what I was working towards they were like “okay…this is interesting but run with it and we’ll see what happens”. They’ve been super supportive of the idea but I think from the beginning they felt like oh this is weird, not so commercial I don’t know but they always had my back and were like yeah do it and do it good. It seems to be selling well so far before it’s even out and the most interesting part about that is that no one has even heard a song yet, we haven’t released them, only those weird artsy remixes but we never released a real song from it yet.
E&D: Are the label on board for all four albums or is it decided per release?
Alex: When I signed with them for Disillusioned Fire we had only had one album deal. When that was out and we started talking about the whole four album concept we did a deal to do the entire journey together.
E&D: Do you feel that relationship and deal lets you truly explore the themes in the series or would you have done that anyway?
Alex: The relationship I have with Suicide, we’re more like family now and I know that they trust what I do and I trust what they do, there’s no pressure. Even though I said four albums in four years if the fourth album would be delayed like one, two, three, four years I know they would still support me and that takes a lot of pressure off because it means that I can fulfil my vision without pressure from the outside and without the pressure of a release date. I can just go with it when I have the creativity and just make it as close to my vision as I can possibly do.
E&D: Have you already written album four?
Alex: Quite a big part of the fourth album is recorded. I kind of hit a wall after Carrion Movements with the direction I wanted to take on the fourth album and how I wanted it to sound. Like this is the fourth and final one, what’s my goal, what’s my statement, what’s the legacy? So I think I recorded and threw away like 15 songs and then finally everything just fell into place in the weirdest way possible. I saw a documentary about Max Martin and Denniz Pop and their studio where they recorded Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and stuff like that. There was an interview with E-type, a huge Euro-disco dude and when I saw that and heard their thoughts, how they approach music things just clicked and I was like yeah I’m going that way. It doesn’t sound like Euro-pop but I think their way of approaching music really opened the door for me to create something, of course you will hear that it’s Novarupta but it’s a brand new approach.
E&D: Album number four is due to focus on the elemental force of earth, is there an environmental edge to that or is it more a geological album?
Alex: I think it will be a bit of both, earth as the environment, earth as the geological earth. I think that the main theme will be how you interpret it and how the vocalist will interpret.
E&D: Do you have any vocalists committed to the project or is that something you concentrate on after the music is written?
Alex: It’s still the same approach, write the song then hunt the vocalist down. I don’t have everyone yet but I have a couple.
E&D: Have you set yourself a time to have the album finished by?
Alex: I think it will be as it comes, I will not stress this one because as I said it’s the final one and I want to go out on a personal high note. I don’t know what the album might be like, people might hate it but as long as I’m happy with the conclusion I will release it.
E&D: Do you foresee a four album box set or anything making an appearance to wrap up the series?
Alex: [Looking very shifty like I have possibly rumbled a plan] I can’t tell yet, maybe [laughing]
E&D: What happens after the fourth album?
Alex: I think that when the fourth album is done it will be the end but I don’t know how to say, uh, we have an idea. So the band will not be anymore but it will exist, does that make sense without telling too much? So there won’t be any more albums, no.
E&D: So that sort of leaves the door open for more live performances?
Alex: I don’t know I haven’t thought about that yet. Watching all the bands I love and all the bands I grew up with I have learned that you should never say we will never do another show and then keep coming back, so maybe uh it’s fun to play live and the songs are kind of cool to revisit in a live setting. So I’m not closing that door but I’m not planning anything for it either.
E&D: Did you ever think of making a live line up that can handle the songs without those individual vocalists?
Alex: We have discussed it and I have thought about it but no. I think that the few and far between shows should be really special and to make it special you should have the vocalist that does the original. Each song kind of elevates thanks to that vocalist, it would just be weird to have someone else do it. I think that to have like one vocalist singing all songs I would feel like I’m live karaoke.
E&D: Another pressing issue to talk about is your April Fool’s songs (‘The Colour Void’ 2020, ‘Wear You Down’ 2021, ‘Satanic Volcanic’ 2022). How did they start coming about and how did you find the reaction?
Alex: The first one, ‘The Colour Void’, we were going out on like a Saturday later that evening and I was just sitting at home having a beer and I started to record like a beat or a snippet, just to annoy my girlfriend, and just kind of partying with myself and ended up with that song. The day after I was like yeah this is kind of a cool song and I think this was in March or something so I realised yeah let’s do this as a joke and I sent it to Suicide and said should we do this as an April Fool’s and they were like yeah this is fun and we released it on Bandcamp and some people understood right away that this is April Fool’s but some were like yeah this is a weird twist but I like it.
After that I liked the idea to use April Fool’s as a kind of a meta joke to Novarupta. All the songs I have released so far, it’s not a joke, they’re not jokes but they are not Novarupta either. It’s just a way to expand the Novarupta universe without affecting the main canon. I find it interesting and it’s so weird to see how people react because now they realise that April Fool’s something will be released and it will not be something we expect and they have been super supportive. I’m really proud of the songs ‘Wear You Down’ is super Suede and Pixies which I’m really influenced by and the latest ‘Satanic Volcanic’ is super 80s post punk and it’s just freeing to create it. I think of the three April Fool’s songs ‘The Colour Void’ is the most out there but it’s also the song that was more of a joke but I still like the song.
E&D: Which artists have you been enjoying in the past year?
Alex: Lately I’ve been really into the latest Zeal & Ardor album. I think that’s brilliant, it’s like a new milestone in extreme music I think because of the way he mixes black metal, blues and gospel; it’s mind-blowing how he makes it work because it shouldn’t but it’s there and it’s brilliant. I have also been listening a lot to the latest A Place To Bury Strangers. Really noisy, it’s just extreme while not metal but super super intense. Also been listening to a lot of electronic music actually, I love music and I love finding new ones. One of my favourite albums from last year was the new Arab Strap, I was just floored by that one, so yeah, it’s a bit all over the palace. There’s a lot of interesting labels out there at the moment like Consouling Sounds, Pelagic, Suicide Records, I think that the underground really thrives at the moment.