Nidingr are back with an album that refuses to play to expectations

Press shot of Nidingr

With past contributions to Gorgoroth, God Seed, 1349 and Orcustus – not to mention current involvement with such vitriolic outfits as Mayhem, NunFuckRitual and Umoral – guitarist Teloch is a man with a considerable CV of extreme and hateful music. Nidingr’s new opus, The High Heat Licks Against Heaven, is a fine example. A cold, bleak and sometimes complex record where melody plays second fiddle to a calculating and rhythmic assault, it thus recalls the industrially coloured Norwegian black metal of early 2000s – Thorns, Dødheimsgard and Satyricon – with an added dose of death metal thrown into the mix.

Paradoxically, the record’s thematic inspirations are actually far less post-modern, drawing upon Norse mythology and the ancient Edda texts – a territory they explored previously on 2010’s Wolf-Father album. Given this conceptual return, one might assume the band to be heavily inspired by such philosophies. In fact, it turns out this is not the case at all…

“There is just so much gold to be found in those stories that can be used in metal,” Teloch explains. “I didn’t make the lyrics – and I haven’t read the lyrics – but I agreed together with [vocalist Cpt. Estrella Grasa] beforehand that this would be an album based on northern mythology again.

“We come from this Viking country so it’s cool background for us – it’s very ballsy and cool as fuck to use in lyrics – but it’s not like we believe in that. The previous album was an Aleister Crowley-themed album and now it’s suddenly a Viking album… That says a lot about us. We don’t care. For us it’s not important as long as it sounds cool.”

So there is no deeper meaning to the choice of subject matter at all?

“No, of course not.”

It’s actually pretty unusual to hear such a candid reply within an extreme metal context. Sure, as fans we may suspect certain bands to be aligning themselves to particular beliefs for aesthetic or marketing reasons, but we become so desensitised to musicians professing absolute dedication to Satanism, Norse spirituality and the like that hearing someone buck that trend is, to be honest, a bit of a surprise.

“It’s 90% bullshit,” offers Teloch with a laugh. “Do you know anyone who is a real Satanic guy? I don’t know anyone. When it comes to it, I think they’re all full of bullshit, those who say that. I don’t think anyone is properly Satanic.”

Presumably as a full-time member of band as notorious as Mayhem, Teloch meets many fans who make that assumption of him and his bandmates?

“Yes,” he replies, “and they figure out what we are after one minute of talking to us! I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not…”

Given that his motivations appear to be purely musical, the obvious question is what Nidingr offers Teloch that Mayhem does not. The latter having become an almost full-time touring band in recent years has meant the amount of time left for Nidingr is obviously reduced. Nevertheless, Teloch explains that his aim is to make the band a more full-time proposition, even if he has to sacrifice his own involvement on occasion…

“This is my baby, I started it in 1992 or something. I think we had two shows abroad since 1992 so we are trying to change that. We have a functioning live band now so we want to push that, as long as it doesn’t conflict with Mayhem. Actually we can also do gigs without me being there, because we have Destructor from Morbid Angel in the band now – I think that would be good for the band, to go on without me sometimes.”

The band’s future albums are likely to be more collaborative efforts thanks to this addition and also Sir (Trelldom, God Seed), who plays on the new album but arrived after the writing process had been completed. Until now, Teloch has handled songwriting in the band and there are certainly parallels to be drawn between the precise and angular nature of The High Heat Licks Against Heaven and Mayhem’s 2014 opus Esoteric Warfare, both of which he wrote the lion’s share of.

“The distinction is that with Nidingr there are no rules. It’s so much easier for me, instead of trying to force out something that someone else wants you to do, although I enjoyed making the Mayhem album. In Mayhem the songs also have to sound kind of evil and mean… For Nidingr it’s more about this Slayer feeling, this ‘Grrrrrr!’ This time I wanted to make it more death metal than black metal. When I started with metal, death metal was closest to my heart and also I get kind of bored with the black metal stuff. If you want to play black metal there are too many restrictions and rules.”

Such a comment naturally inspires thoughts about whether death metal or black metal has provided the greatest inspiration to Teloch’s current writing, not to mention which bands he might favour in those subgenres. As it turns out, this is a largely hypothetical avenue of questioning…

“I don’t listen to any metal at all,” comes the surprising revelation. “From the old days it was always Metallica. People say I’m influenced by Thorns, and I can hear that. But I think most metal albums are very similar and boring; nothing new is being offered and I get bored very easily, so I’m listening to other genres. I love playing live, though, and the process of making songs, but it becomes like a job, so when I am home I want to do something else. I listen to hip hop, Pink Floyd, rock music like Clutch, but mostly I’m listening to this old downtempo jazz and electronic music, as well as some Leonard Cohen, and some things from the breakbeat genre.

“I think that maybe has some effect on my writing actually, my use of rhythm,” he muses. “It makes me think outside of the box… The metal box. I try to do beats that aren’t very normal in metal and I also play in this band called Igorrr, which is a mash-up of metal and breakbeat.”

The longer you speak to Teloch, the more you understand how he sits apart from the usual determined mindset and metal/extremityworshipping conventions of black and underground metal musicians. The furious and unrelentingly aggressive nature of both Nidingr and Mayhem would suggest an intense personality, but unlike most of his peers, the guitarist appears to be utterly laidback, with little interest in venting any personal demons, competing with his peers or expressing any particular worldview or ideology.

“I’ve always been like that,” he sighs. “Maybe I’m too relaxed. I’m not an emotional person at all, actually. I have a hard time expressing my feelings – if I even have any feelings. I don’t really care about anything. I really just want to make albums and play kickass gigs, that’s it. Music is my life.”