The German melodeath band VARG will be releasing their newest record, “Zeichen,” on September 18th, 2020, after a 4 year absence since their album, “Das Ende aller Lügen,” and we’ve had a talk with the drummer Fenrier about the release, the album’s story, the uncertainty of future shows, and more.
Hello there, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me. How are you doing?
Oh I’m super fine tonight. I just came back from our last video shoot for the next single. I’m a bit tired, but feeling really good because the result of the video shoot is amazing.
You’ll be releasing your 6th full-length album, “Zeichen,” on September 18th; how satisfied are you with the final product? Is it everything you wanted to be?
It is. Finally, we are at the point, at the same point like in the beginning. “Wolfszeit,” our first album, had a total pagan metal feeling, as well as with the second album, “Blutaar,” and now it’s like a circle, we close the circle with this album, “Zeichen.” Because we’re going back to the roots and we are so proud of this album, by far my favourite of VARG.
You’ve taken a bit of a departure from your previous work with “Zeichen,” namely delving more into a sort of pagan metal with Viking imagery. How did the band come up with that idea?
It was in our mind all the time to be a pagan metal band, but at one point we changed a bit too – there’s a music site in Germany that also centers around lore and the German language, out of which we got a big fanbase, so we decided to go a bit forward with our music, change the style, and maybe it fits us. But no, it doesn’t. Now we finally can do the music that we want to.
VARG has always been a band that plays with their imagery – why the change from the striped red and black to this blood-spatter pattern you wear in the singles from the album?
The first warpaint of VARG was a mix between realistic Viking war paint and a bit more fantasy, and now we went back to how Viking looked when they went into battle and they weren’t always just totally covered in blood, so we decided to go back to the real Viking look. This is also why we change our stage clothes; now we wear more leather. It fits the style.
It was maybe also a bit too polished before with the stripes.
Yeah, now it’s more natural and of course the Vikings thousand years ago didn’t have a mirror to make it look perfect.
You have a very interesting addition in the form of Fylgja providing female vocals and a certain serene touch to the record – how did she come to be a part of the band? Is she a permanent member of Varg now?
She is a permanent member. It’s actually the wife of our singer Freki and she’s a beautiful vocalist and she did a lot for the new album. She did the whole concept of the album. She’s also into song-writing and lyrics, so she’s a full member of the band now. The song “Fara Til Ránar” in which she sings is my favourite song on the album. But we for sure won’t be a female-vocals band, we’ll always be these bad motherfuckers painted in blood, doing heavy music. So on this album, “Zeichen,” there is just the one song with female vocals and that’s it, and also for the next albums – we are not a female-lead band. We’re brutal metalheads and we will stay like this, but she fits the whole concept, it’s perfect.
It does add an interesting contrast to the heaviness with her serenity.
Is there a particular reason you’ve picked the year 793 as the title of your intro song, was there a particular Viking event we should be aware of happening in that year in history?
Yeah, there was a big event, it was the first time that the Vikings were written down. It was the conquest of Lindisfarne, so the Vikings went from Scandinavia to England and conquered Lindisfarne. And that’s why we decided this song should be the first on the album because – bam, here are the Vikings, we are back.
Was the title of the album “Zeichen” picked before all the songs were written and you wanted the entire record to be in the spirit of signs or runes, or is the album just named after the song?
You see on our new album for the first time a new sign. It’s the wolf rune – that means we are back. We wear the rune on our armour as well the album cover. It’s a mix between some runes and if you put it together it means wolf, so that’s why because we’re VARG, we played wolf metal in the beginning and now this wolf rune is the new sign of VARG and represents the new VARG.
What would you say the biggest influences were in regard to writing this album, musically or otherwise?
We listen to a lot of music, not just metal, also a lot of folk music, but also pop music, etc. But the influence of this album comes a lot from the series Vikings, because the vibe of this series, when we were watching it, made us think we need to go back to the roots of VARG and the vibe was amazing. The music doesn’t change that much because we’ve had the catchy riffs and hooks and the brutal screaming from our singer, Freki, but we needed this feeling of pagan metal again. Also the lyrics – it’s just pagan lyrics. Before that we had a lot of political lyrics and about what happens in the world right now.
Along with the record, you’re also releasing a mediabook with a bonus CD that features alternative songs with prominent members of the folk metal scene such as ELUVEITIE and EQUILIBRIUM. How did that idea come about?
They are all friends, so it’s not like because we liked the music of ELUVEITIE that we’d try to get their singer for our album. Chrigel [Glanzmann] is a good friend of the band, we toured together many times, we also toured together in the US, five or six times in Europe. The singer of EQUILIBRIUM as well, it’s a really big German pagan metal band, he joined us on this album, so they’re just friends, all the special guests on the album. It was really important to us to keep friends on this album. Funny thing is, when these guys sing the songs they become totally different songs. When Chrigel is singing “Fara Til Ránar,” it changes the whole vibe of the song, it’s amazing, so it’s like a second album in one.
Your band has the misfortune of sharing its name with one of the most infamous metal musicians, do you ever regret naming the band Varg because of that?
So much about Varg Vikernes, yes [laughs]. It’s also on YouTube when I read the comments some guys say, “Ah fuck, I thought this was Varg Vikernes.” Come on, guys. We are not big fans of Varg Vikernes, his music, and all the shit he does, but I don’t regret the name VARG because we feel like a wolfpack as a band and “varg” means wolf in Swedish language so it fits perfectly.
Finally, you have an almost completely German tour coming up in October and November, do you know yet if those shows will go through or are you still worried about cancellation?
We are still worried, because we also have a big festival called Wolfszeit, like our first album, and we start this festival in 2 weeks. Normally we have 3000 visitors, this time we had to limit it at 2000 and then it’s fine. This will be fine, the festival, but the tour – we don’t know. Winter is coming, all the normal flu viruses are mixing with coronavirus so I really don’t know. We hope for the best.
I think Wolfszeit might actually be the biggest festival this year.
In Germany for sure. We beat Wacken Open Air.
That’s all I have for you today. Are there any last thoughts you’d like to leave for our readers?
Thanks a lot for listening to VARG and all the support. I wish everyone who reads this the best, especially in these hard times for all of us. Hopefully we see each other next year in some festival without masks and with some beers.
Thanks again for this interview and I wish you good luck with the album and the festival.
Interview by Didrik Mešiček
Interview with messier — “There’s only three of us, so we have to make it count and get the sound as big as we can.”