MADNESS STRIKES BACK: FLEURETY

So we have reached the last pick from Kaleidoscope #8, and it’s suitable to finish this tour with the veterans of weirdness, Fleurety. Their legendary debut Min Tid Skal Komme (1995) was already stretching the borders of black metal with hysterical singing and complex song structures, but it just got more obscure in their later releases. Department of Apocalyptic Affairs (2000) isn’t the album for everyone and it surely gets out of hand here and there, but the duo Hatlevik-Nordgaren has a strong vision, no doubt. The band made a decent comeback with two EP’s two years ago, and now, after the long moments of silence, they are coming again:

– At the moment Fleurety is about to release a new 7” called Et Spiritus Meus Semper Sub Sanguinantibus Stellis Habitatabit and it will be out on Aesthetic Death records in early 2013. We are also planning even one more 7”, but the title is not yet determined, tells Hatlevik.

Before this, I’ll give you Fleurety, enemies of sheep metal!

(originally released in Kaleidoscope zine #8, 2010)

At first it sounds like a cheap-ass rip-off story. A legendary black metal band from the early 90’s is turning more and more into new directions and after one full-length album which pisses off many people the band decides to quit. The silence lasts for nine years, things are happening in other bands and projects, but then, out of nowhere, the band is back with two re-recorded songs from their black metal glory days.

You could call the band as moneymaking turncoats, if they weren’t Fleurety and you hadn’t listened to those two songs which were released as a seven-inch called Ingentes Atque Decorii Vexilliferi Apokalypsis. Because the songs – Descent into Darkness and Absence – aren’t just attempts to torch the dying embers. Rather, they are innovative amalgams of harsh and hysterical black metal and Fleurety’s innovative avant-garde madness.

And well, you could blame Fleurety for being moneymaking turncoats, I guess they wouldn’t mind. According to the multi-talented Svein Egel Hatlevik, he’s here to piss people off and push their narrow-minded little circles. At the same time he also feels very good to be back making music with Fleurety again:

– It’s cool on a personal level to be making music with an old friend (Alexander Nordgaren, another half of the band) from way back in the days, and I’ve always been thinking that we had – and still have – a lot of potential as a band, so it’s very nice to develop the music of Fleurety in non-obvious directions. That said, we have been back on track as a band since 2004, but things tend to take a little more time with the two members of the band living in different countries. The way we work now, we record one new song every year, that’s the one time the two of us are both at the same place.

So the pace is slow, and the above mentioned gap between Nordgaren (England) and Hatlevik (Norway) isn’t a small thing on the band’s way. Therefore on Ingentes Atque… Fleurety used a number of helping hands, such as Hellhammer and Necrobutcher from Mayhem and Plenum from Virus, to get things done. Still it’s quite an interesting choice to re-record old songs for a new start. The motif for this was to get the old chemistry and old fingers going again, and the old songs taught some new tricks for the duo as well.

– Basically we needed to start playing the old songs again, just to remember what we were doing all those years ago. And if you take the song called Descent into Darkness from our first demo from 1993, we were never really happy with the recording. Not suprising, perhaps, considering it’s a demo recording. We recorded that song in a bomb shelter on a four track cassette studio. Not exactly optimal conditions. So we just thought we should do the song like we would have wanted it to be in 1993. I guess it’s a kind of wish to get some kind of closure. And we are a pretty slow working band. I guess we should have re-recorded this song ages ago, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen until 2004. So it took us five years to find time to release it too. Yes, we are indeed a slow working band.

– With the other song Absence, it was always an idea of ours to continue to make alternate versions of that song. Back in 1995, we were thinking of making maybe five alternate versions of it, but to always make each version very different from the previous. Now the recording we made does not sound extremely different from the one we did in 1995, but we might do a very different version of that song at some later point.

If you expected something in the vein of Department of Apocalyptic Affairs’ genre-hopping insanity, you were on the wrong tracks. These versions still keep the songs quite raw and fuzzy and therefore close to the original ones. Of course there are surprises like the disco end in Absence, but still this is quite pure black metal. Hatlevik thinks this approach as a reminder.

– It was a way for us to get back on track on what appealed to us with black metal initially. And Fleurety has a very specific sound, and we thought we wanted to keep that sound. At the same time we have always been fond of experimenting with sound, so this time we wanted to experiment with a raw and fuzzy production. Remember: It is not a coincidence that most good metal records have a noisy sound. It is because this kind of sound enhances the harmonies and overtones and certain spectral components that have a certain effect. This combination of harmonies and bringing to front spectral components is an efficient way of building that evil old black metal feeling.

So the door is open again for Fleurety. Before we take a few glances over our shoulders, let’s take little peek at the future. Fleurety is working with the next EP called Evoco Bestias (”We changed the earlier title Summon the Beasts to Latin, because latin has proven to be a more evocatively appealing language”), and it will be about totally new songs.

– They sound very much like Fleurety to me. We also have a very interesting drummer, who plays black metal -kinda drums, but also – again – in a non-obvious way. He usually plays in a band called The White Tiger Prepade, which in my opinion is one of the best extreme metal bands in Norway these days. But if we have stepped in any specific direction? I don’t know. I like the songs, and that’s what’s important. We also have one song with the vocals of Ayna Johansen, who also did some vocals on our Last-Minute Lies EP. She has a really good voice. So well, I guess that if you like Fleurety, you will like the new songs too. We have also recorded another new song just recently called It’s When You’re Cold, which will eventually end up on yet another EP. That song is more experimental.

SHEEP METAL

Before the future is here, there is a lot to chew on in Fleurety’s almost 20-year career. The band has gone through many different phases and has slowly distanced itself from its black metal roots in order to engage in a more experimental approach. However, Hatlevik doesn’t see these two as opposites, and he’s also ready to attack the cliché-filled nature of today’s black metal.

– Black metal mentality has always been opposed to sheep mentality. It’s very simple: these two mentalities are not compatible. If you make black metal with no fresh ideas, you shouldn’t call it black metal, you should call it sheep metal. We started up as a band very much inspired by black metal, and we still are. I know a lot of people talk about our music as avant-garde metal, and I can accept that. In one sense there has not been any black metal since 1994. That’s the year it all ended. Then the clichés of black metal lived on through sheep metal and the passion, will and dignity of black metal lived on through avant-garde metal.

Tough words, but somehow I can understand Hatlevik’s point. Although new and appealing black metal albums are released every year, the candid and daring spirit of bands like Ulver, Mysticum, Emperor, Manes and Fleurety seems to be almost forgotten nowadays. Luckily Fleurety squeezed their most innovative essence of black metal onto the legendary Min Tid Skal Komme before heading into new musical territories. This album from 1995 sounds very thoughtful but then again Fleurety changes from one atmosphere to another very easily. Although Hatlevik sees the stream of consciousness to be present more in their lyrics, he also finds a certain kind of restlessness in their music.

– It kind of always wants to move to new places. Most of the songs we made after Min Tid Skal Komme are more traditional in structure. We are for instance not so crazy about writing songs with a new riff after another riff after one riff and so on. I mean, it’s a shame to throw away a good riff. You might want it to last a little longer.

Min Tid Skal Komme has been released four times so far: two original pressings, one re-release and finally a vinyl version. And everytime there has been a different cover art. Do these reflect different sides of the music in this case?

– That’s more a coincidence. First the record was meant to have a black and white photography on the cover, but Misanthropy Records (our record label at the time) thought that was too boring, so they found out that they wanted to have it kind of green. Then it turned out that they had printed 5 000 copies of a record with a really ugly shade of green. Then there was a second pressing in a more successful shade of blue. Then there was the CD reissue that we made a new cover for because we didn’t really like the first one. And the vinyl reissue needed a new design, because it was a completely different format.

The next full-length was the more challenging Department of Apocalyptic Affairs, which showed Fleurety’s love for progressive music, jazz and different tempos and instruments. Also, if the new EP has some well-known names behind it, Department of Apocalyptic Affairs is like the ”who is who in Norwegian black metal”: Garm, Maniac, Einar Sjursø, Carl-Michael Eide, Steinar Sverd Johnsen… Hatlevik turns the question about Fleurety’s importance to its musicians to cheerful humour:

– Everybody loves Fleurety, of course. That is because we are so handsome. For instance I was voted the most handsome man in Norwegian music – regardless of age, genre or musical instrument – last week. I’m not kidding. I got 26 per cent of the votes. And if you are very handsome, everybody loves you. That’s just how things work.

Well, handsome or not, what do you think, did that album need all those artists to be complete, or could you and Alexander Norgaren have made it just by yourselves?

– That is a very counterfactual question, and it is very difficut to imagine what that album would have sounded like without all the guest muscians. The identity of that record is for instance that all the songs sound as if they were made by different bands. It’s like a compilation album. But I’m not sure if Alex and I could have done it without at least some kind of help. Neither of us is a very good singer, for instance. But it’s quite possible that we could have recorded it with me playing the drums, Alex doing the guitars, some bass player and a female singer. But the end result would of course have been very different.

If Fleurety has stirred people within (black) metal, there are also more controversial and disturbing bands which have included Hatlevik. One of them is Zweizz, Hatlevik’s own brain-damaged child, which has so far covered Immortal, made weird electronics and possessed the most buzzing guitars ever – and we can’t forget the pink logo with pentagrams and inverted crosses either! The main goals of Zweizz are making music unrestricted by others and – you guessed it – rattling the cages of black metal puritans.

– Yes, it is to provoke people by telling them they are all just a bunch of narrow minded lazy sheep. I once saw on some blog where they had posted some kind of rapidshare or similar link of The Yawn of a New Age (a Zweizz album from 2007) and there was a big picture of that pink logo with the caption ”This album hates you”, and that’s what it’s all about. I have received a lot of angry emails from people who think that I am an idiot because I break their rules about what you are allowed to do and not do with pentagrams and inverted crosses. It’s like they consider pentagrams and inverted crosses to be holy. I don’t care whether people feel like I have desecrated something that is holy to them, so I always tell this type of people to go fuck themselves.

But how serious do you take music – especially music made by yourself?

– I take it very seriously. There is of course an element of humour in it, but if people don’t like it, there are huge amounts of sheep metal bands out there that you can listen to.

Hatlevik, who works as a music journalist for a Norwegian newspaper called Morgenbladet, also finds an aspect of music criticism in the music of Zweizz itself.

– In one sense The Yawn of a New Age can be seen as a commentary about everything I think is wrong in today’s world of music. And it is indeed a well contemplated and analytic piece of music. One reviewer described it as a collection of musical riddles, and I think this is a very good observation – I never thought of the songs on that album as riddles myself, but in a sense I think they are: Each of the songs are like mysteries that need to be unfolded. But I don’t know how I would have listened to it if I were to write about it myself. I mean, I made that music, so it’s very difficult to approach the music with another perspective than that of the composer.

– Another thing about that album is that it is made almost entirely on a computer, which means the music is very much composed as opposed to being played on musical instruments. In this sense, I often think about that album that is has more in common with a piece of text, rather than a piece of music. So maybe the music journalist who wants to write about this album should approach it more as a piece of poetry than a record?

Besides Fleurety and Zweizz, Hatlevik spent also years in DHG, aka Dodheimsgard, whose 666 International (1999) is considered one of the most groundbreaking records in electro/avant-garde-spiced black metal. Hatlevik finds those years very inspiring.

– To make a long story short: From the making of that album I learned a lot about life, the universe and everything.

And that is much.

NO DRUGS, JUST ABSTRACT

If Fleurety musically has been a bit of an outsider to the general black metal circles, the same thing has happened with lyrics, which have always had some very abstract and even hallucinating vibes going on. On the other hand Fleurety does have a demo called Black Snow, they always went to the forest to have their band photos taken, and Hatlevik himself has imagined the setting of the lyrics of Min Tid Skal Komme to be in a forest. But there must be something untraditional going on the lines like ”Christmas presents and venereal diseases / distributed randomly over the world’s population. / A voice that shatters glass such that / the sound of shattering glass is louder than the sound of the voice. / The voice is non-existent in space. / Like the cries of a bird that does not exist.”

– We have always been kind of dreamy or visionary lyrically. Not so much hallucinatory, but I guess we like to try to describe something abstract through our lyrics. Since I am the person writing most of the lyrics these days, I guess it has something to do with the fact that I used to read a lot of modernist writers when I was younger, like Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and Franz Kafka. The term ”stream of consciousness” was mentioned in an earlier question, and this kind of writing was a big influence on the lyrics of Fleurety.

Someone who listens to Fleurety’s music and reads your lyrics might get the idea that your art is somewhat drug-induced… Do you use or have you used any inspiring narcotics to get your thoughts rolling?

– A lot of people seem to think that drugs have been important to us when making music, but really it hasn’t.

If we continue our trip from music and lyrics to visuals, we find more provoking elements. In the band pictures Hatlevik, for example, has held a submachine gun and worn a colourful dress. I don’t want to go further with analyzing every detail, but this wardrobe makes me wonder if Hatlevik always takes some sort of a role when he works in different bands, because he has the same thing going with his aliases like Mr. Magic Logic.

– I guess it’s more about keeping order when I have so many different projects. I have Fleurety, Umoral, Zweizz, Zweizz & Homo Vinter, Zweizz & Joey Hopkins, Pronounced «SEX», Stagnant Waters and MAZ. That’s eight bands, and you can’t do the same thing in every band, it all has to be different. Every band needs to have an underlying foundation that justifies the existence of each band respectively. Then having a different alias might work as one among many techniques to impose some kind of structure onto the chaos.

But how about the basic black metal aesthetics? Were you ever totally into corpse paints, for example?

– It was a good feeling to use corpse paint in 1992, but after a while it just felt unnessecary. Maybe I should try it again some time to see what it feels like after so many years.

Today Fleurety has used the renowned duo of Trine Paulsen and Kim Sølve for their artwork. This tandem has been involved with many Norwegian bands lately – Ulver, Enslaved, Mayhem, Den Saakaldte and Darkthrone, to name a few. Covers like Min Tid Skal Komme’s vinyl edition and the latest EP have brought more ageless atmosphere to the picture and therefore the change could be seen as a big step, but Fleurety’s decision to use Trine and Kim only stems from a long friendship.

– I’ve been good friends with Trine and Kim for more than ten years, and it’s more about the fact that we like working together and have a very common understanding of what works and what doesn’t. I think they make very good record covers for the releases I have participated on. And that’s basically it.

On the Trine+Kim’s cover for Ingentes Atque… there is a lineless pentagram surrounded by ornament branches and lines reminding me of rays of light. How does this cover reflect the music and Fleurety’s current state? Or is it useless to find deeper meanings from it?

– There are deeper meanings, of course. But I have to be boring and tell you that every viewer or listener needs to figure that out for herself. However, there is also a black snow crystal. And that is a quite open reference to our Black Snow demo.

Pictures are one way to experience or describe music; some people use emotions or their memories. But because Fleurety is not your everyday band, let’s use another approach to close this interview: if Fleurety was a scent or smell, what would it be and why?

– I know a lot of people have said that the name Fleurety sounds like a perfume, so it has to be the sweet perfume of a gorgeous woman getting ready to fuck your brains out. It’s an expensive perfume. We do after all have good taste.

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