Yggdrasil has been one of those names in underground metal that made a stunning mark with their debut, and then suddenly changed things up over time. Recently, with the breakthrough of their latest album, ‘Irrbloss,’ the band has found a home on a new label and is trying to get their music out to enjoy again… with a few extra goodies at hand. I got a chance to talk with their bass player about the story behind the change in their sound over time, and a bit more on the meaning about the concept of ‘Irrbloss.’
Hello there. So who do I get the honor of doing this interview with for Yggdrasil?
Hi there, this is Gustaf, bass player of the band.
So what’s your opinion on the latest output, ‘Irrbloss,’ and its reception? There have been so many changes since your debut such as lineup shifts and directions and at this point ‘Irrbloss’ seems like the pinnacle of your work.
I think so too; 'Irrbloss', to me, feels better in all aspects than our older stuff. Not that I think they´re bad but 'Irrbloss' feels more thought through, more unified in a way. The reception has been great and people seem to like what we do and that´s a really good thing. :)
What’s the story behind ‘Irrbloss’ anyway as far as translation and concept goes? Since Yggdrasil terms for the ‘world tree’ in Norse mythology I assume ‘Irrbloss’ is rooted in that culture?
An irrbloss is a will-o-wisp from the Swedish folk lore; a being which lures you into the marsh to drag you down and when you´re drowned, you light up your own "irrbloss" (literally "stray-flare"). While our name is taken from the Norse mythology, not all our songs are based on it; some are, some are based on folk lore and some on nature romantic themes so we try to keep things mixed up. :)
BRUTALISM has been lucky enough to review all your major works since their re-release on GMM. Each one is significant in their own way; do you have a particular favorite and why?
I would say that Yggdrasil has been lucky enough to have all three major works reviewed by BRUTALISM! ;) Of the three we´ve released, 'Irrbloss' is my favorite. It might sound cliché but I feel it´s the album where the best of the first and second album comes together. It has a rougher black metal feel to it and the folk elements are there even when there are no "folk"-instruments playing. Lyrically, it is the best we´ve done; as a lyricist that´s important for me :).
For those of us who don’t know, how did Yggdrasil begin? Did you always intend to be a folk metal band or did it just come along the way?
Me and Magnus met on the Internet in the fall of 2000 and he had a band which I joined when they needed a bass player. The two of us started up Yggdrasil as a side project and our goal was always to combine metal and folk music and here we are.
What got you into metal in the first place?
When I was a kid, the coolest thing to listen to was Metallica, GnR and Iron Maiden but apart from a few songs here and there, it never got to me at that point. I was always interested in music but my interest was much more towards the electronic stuff, especially deep trance or hard-style. What really trigged my interest was actually Hammerfall some five, ten years later. My cousin brought along some songs on a mixed CD on a vacation in the late 90's and I was instantly hooked. And from Hammerfall to Blind Guardian, then further into the seething pit of metal.
Ironically, after your debut ‘Kvällningsvindar över Nordrönt Land,’ the band went in almost a completely different direction, cutting out the female vocals for the most part and installing the more modern, ‘black metal’ influence as opposed to your more ‘cleaner’ style from before? Was that a collective decision or did you feel that your first brand of folk metal just wasn’t what the group was looking for? It seems that across the web reviewers regard the debut as your best achievement…
I think we were sort of tired of the "clean and nice" stuff, we´d been playing the songs from the debut album since, well, since the beginning in 2001 and we wanted to do something new. I still think that the melodies and the atmosphere is there but the songs are better composed and arranged, combining the metal and the folk rather than separating them as on the first album. With 'Irrbloss', I think we´ve taken it even further but we got the acoustic "breakdowns" back too so it feels more folksy than, say. 'Vedergällning'.
Any particular influences you’d like to name- past and present? How do you try to diversify your sound from comparisons to make your own path in the metal world?
What really got me into folk metal at first were Vintersorg and Otyg and still today I would rank those as big influences, for me personally at least. Then there was a lot of Bathory, Storm, Moonsorrow, Ulver, Skyclad, Emperor, Finntroll; yeah, you get the picture. :) We don´t really focus on trying to be unique or sound different, we do what we think sounds good. If it sounds good, we like it and if we like it, other people will like it too. Sometimes it is just a few, sometimes more.
Folk metal has been compared a lot to black metal, especially in the vocal work. Do you see the idea as mislabeling, especially regarding Yggdrasil’s style, or is there indeed some influence there?
It depends on the style of folk metal you look at. As for us, it´s definitely not mislabeling, we have been aiming at a black metal-style sound and since black metal, especially the Norwegian, have gotten so much stylistically from folk music, it´s hard not to see the influences. If one is to be picky, that might drag us down towards the Viking metal-label instead but since what we do is play metal with folk music-influences, we call it folk metal. :)
So what was the main idea behind re-releasing all your previous works?
To get them back out again. There was really no chance of them getting re-printed from our old label so we decided it was best for us to do it again. We managed to squeeze in a couple of bonuses as well for those interested in that. :)
Are there any tours coming up, not only to promote the new album but also the older ones?
We are currently putting together a tour or two during the fall. Our promoter, Northwind Promotion, is hard at work on it at the moment, and hopefully we´ll get out there and do a bunch of gigs. There will be stuff played from all albums during such a tour so I´d say it´s more of a Yggdrasil-promotion-tour rather than Irrbloss-support-tour.
Done much touring before? What’s your thoughts on it- enjoyable or drives you crazy due to being on the go most of the time as opposed to the easier life of recording in the studio?
Not as much as I would´ve liked. ;) I love being on the run, seeing places, meeting new people. And playing live is great too, especially when you connect with the audience. Life in the studio is easier in a way but can be more hectic; you need to think more, basically. I hope we get to visit places all around Europe (and in the future: the world) and entertain people.
Obviously for being around for about five years you’ve met a great share of fans, either through the Web or in person. Any particular thing a fan has said or done that has really made a good impact on the band?
We did actually record our first demo almost ten years ago... ;) But that´s a really good question! I don´t know about the band but for me personally, I remember a fan saying that he really liked my lyrics. No one ever mentioned that before, nor after for that matter (here, I define a fan as someone I don´t know).
Last question: The future of music is evolving faster than we can comprehend. Where do you think metal’s future as going as far as the CD slowly being obsolete compared to downloading (usually illegally) and how do you think it will effect Yggdrasil’s future? Do you think, even if this profession doesn’t become the most profitable, that you will still want to be doing this five years down the road?
As part raging conservative on the subject, I think it´s a damned shame that CD´s (or any physical album for that matter) are going obsolete. I love sitting with a new album, checking out the artwork, listening to the songs while flicking the pages. But yeah, I´m also a bit of a technocrat and I love seeing new technology arise and I probably couldn´t live without my WiMP-subscription (streaming music service comparable to Spotify). Next stop is probably Apple's iCloud (or Amazon's or Google's versions if they ever get their technology right) and wireless syncing to all devices is pretty rad.
As for profits, I don´t know. Music competes with so much more these days than, say, ten or twenty years ago so I think we have to settle for smaller margins or even zero profitability. It´s too bad, at least being able to focus on what you do without having to worry about the rent makes things so much easier but this is what we´re given and we´ll have to work with that. Since we never did earn any money on Yggdrasil, I think it´s fair to assume that we´ll be here in five years time, still combining metal and folk music. Can´t say for sure but I bloody well hope so! ;)
Thanks again for all your time and questions, along with allowing BRUTALISM to review your legacy so far!
Thank you and cheers to all BRUTALISM readers!