Interview with vocalist and bassist Harald Eilertsen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: October 29, 2012
Photos by Andrea Chirulescu and Martha Lewicka
"There was a time in the early and mid '90s that you had to play Black Metal and wear corpse paint to be considered "true". It was all a lot of bollocks of course, and no better than a fashion fad. As fashions do, they die out and remaining are the ones who were in it for the music. I think that's where the Norwegian Metal scene is today. A mature scene with a very strong and independent underground where quality matters more than the genre itself..."
Those were some wise yet very thoughtful words from Harald Eilertsen, vocalist and bassist of Norway's brutal and technical thrashers Imbalance. Imbalance started out under the Frost moniker back in 1996 and recorded a handful of demos under that name. After the name change and a few more demos, Imbalance went full-speed ahead and recorded their 11-song debut album in 2010, Period Three Implies Chaos. A couple of years later a 6-track 10" EP, titled Readymade Contraptions of Descent was released. It contained 3 new songs, 2 live songs and a cover of Trashcan Darlings, Oslo's Sleazepunk legends. And now we'll let Harald shed more light on his band Imbalance though the following interview that was conducted with him for The Metal Crypt.
Luxi: How's life in Oslo these days? Work, family and band keeping you busy?
Harald: Life's not that bad actually. I'm keeping busy mostly with the band and work. We leave the family stuff to Welle, he's a lot better at it than the rest of us.
Luxi: Imbalance started out under the Frost moniker, back in 1996, but during the recording process of your first demo, Burial of Consciousness, the name was changed to Imbalance. Why the change? Was it due to so many other Black Metal bands using the Frost name?
Harald: Yes correct, Frost got started in 1996 and we did a few demos under this name, but things got rather quiet by the end of the millennium. We kept on rehearsing, but never progressed much as the lineup was really unstable then. So when we finally managed to begin recording another demo, we also decided on the name change.
As you correctly imply; much of the motivation for the change was the growing number of bands with the same name. Also we felt that we had progressed quite a bit since the more primitive Thrash Metal of our first demo so we wanted a name that reflected our current state and inspirations better.
Luxi: Imbalance have been evolving constantly, since the early days, adopting a more technical style of blackened Thrash Metal over the past few years. Do you think musical progression is inevitable whenever you stick to doing one thing determinedly and devotedly for years and hence Imbalance sounds the way it does?
Harald: That's probably part of it, but also it's a matter of who is in the band at the time. It's no secret that Imbalance has had its share of members throughout the years. For me it's always been imperative that the band is the sum of its parts, and so we have been going through some musical changes reflecting this.
Welle joined us 2003 and has some different influences than the drummers we'd had before. His influence is quite apparent on the Burial of Consciousness EP. When Thormodr joined the band, shortly after we recorded the EP, he brought with him a more aggressive and tighter playing style. This naturally pushed the rest of us, and we kind of moved into this more aggressive style together. If you listen to the Bestial by Nature EP, you can hear a lot of the directional change already.
Luxi: Period Three Implies Chaos (great album title, by the way) is Imbalance's debut album, which was released in 2010. Would you tell something about the response you have received for that record?
Harald: Thanks, quite happy about the title ourselves :) The response has actually been extremely good, with some rather rave reviews around the underground 'zines, and some of the bigger ones too. It's always difficult to judge your own work, so it was very nice to hear from so many people who like it as well. From the response it seems it's an album few are indifferent to. I think that's a good thing, as it seems to fit in a unique niche in a genre that's quite heavily populated already.
Luxi: Why did you decide to release this album on your own label, Calculated Imperfection? I would think some labels would have wanted to put it out, too?
Harald: Well, the title of the album is not entirely taken out of thin air. Apart from being the title of one of the defining papers on chaos theory, it pretty accurately describes the way Imbalance work when recording an album. It is a rather chaotic and unpredictable process, which usually involve quite a bit of frustration. There are always some plans in the beginning, but at the end only the remains of any purpose is left...
In fact, when we started the recording in 2008, the plan was to finish it that same year. For several reasons that did not happen, and when we got the offer for the Master Tour for 2010 we thought we had plenty of time to finish the album and get it released in time for the tour. The truth is we barely managed to get the discs in house before leaving, so with the time schedule we ended up with we didn't really have the time for any other options. So we never even shopped around for any label.
Luxi: It comes no surprise to anyone anymore that Norway is mostly known for its huge and influential Black Metal scene but Imbalance's style has also started to gain some ground there as well, correct?
Harald: You are right on the spot! The underground scene in Norway is very vibrant and hugely diverse. In fact, I think Thrash and Death Metal are bigger in the Norwegian underground now than Black Metal, well, at least in the number of bands. There are also the progressive bands, Power Metal bands and even some old-school Heavy Metal bands that produce a lot of great music. Still, there's no denying that the Black Metal bands of the early '90s paved a lot of ground and helped bring about a scene where Norwegian bands would be noticed and taken seriously.
When it comes down to the bare bones, I don't think genre matters that much anymore. There was a time in the early and mid '90s that you had to play Black Metal and wear corpse paint to be considered "true." It was all a lot of bollocks, of course and no better than a fashion fad. Fashions die out and the remaining bands are the ones who were in it for the music. I think that's where the Norwegian scene is today; a mature scene with a very strong and independent underground, in which quality matters more than genre.
Luxi: In March/April 2010, Imbalance joined the European tour with Master, Whorrid, Potential Threat and some other bands. How was that tour overall for you? Did it meet your expectations?
Harald: Yeah, that was our first bigger tour so it was a very rewarding experience where we learned a lot. We'd been on a small 3-date tour with Keep of Kalessin and Max Midsun a few years earlier, but this was our first "real" tour, and the first major effort outside of Norway.
As for expectations, I'm not really sure what we expected. We did have a damn great time, got to know a lot of really cool people, both in the other bands and those that came to the shows and we got to establish the beginnings of a fan base in Europe.
We probably thought there would be better turnout to the gigs, and we definitely thought we'd sell more merchandise than we did. But I guess expectations needed to be adjusted. Touring is a hard business, and there are so many really great bands out on the road at the same time, so to build an audience you have to fight, and that's where I think the tour was good for us. We got a lot of great feedback on our show, and a lot of people noticed us. We see some of the same people show up whenever we're able to hit that part of Europe again. I guess that's the best feedback we can get.
Luxi: What about the headliners, Master? Did Mr. Speckmann treat you guys the same as the other bands on the tour?
Harald: Yeah, Paul is definitely a great guy to tour with, and so is the rest of Master. Also it's very inspiring to see these guys hammer on and deliver a great performance every night regardless of there being 200 or 10 people in the crowd.
While Master was the headliner, and also pretty much the only band that could draw a crowd on that tour, they were always really cool and had no special treatment from the rest of us. We were, in reality, a traveling freak show where everyone was doing their part and working together for making the best possible show for everyone. In short all the guys and all the bands on this tour were great people, and we still keep in touch with all of the bands.
Luxi: As for some recent news, you just put out a 10" EP, Readymade Contraptions of Descent, which features 3 new songs, 2 live tracks and a cover of Norwegian sleazepunk legends Trashcan Darlings, "Me Punk, You Fuck!." The first question regarding this release is why did you decide on the 10-inch format? To serve more vinyl collectors perhaps, as vinyl should never die?
Harald: Well, I'm personally a big fan of vinyl, but the main reason for doing it this way was that we wanted to make it a more special release for those fans that show up at gigs and still want to buy physical media. That's why we included some extras and hired the most excellent artist Sam Arraya to do the cover artwork.
You can get the same or better sound quality with online distribution as with CD, but the solid feeling of a good vinyl with the bigger more detailed artwork cannot be matched online! Of course we do have the limited bullet-shaped USB stick for those that still want it in a physical digital format.
Luxi: How would you compare the 3 new songs on this EP to your previous stuff on the Period Three Implies Chaos album? Are they much the same as what you have already done on your debut studio album or are there even slight changes to be heard?
Harald: I think you definitely can hear some changes from Period Three. I feel this release is showing a slightly more progressive side of us, where we allow ourselves more headroom both musically and production-wise. Most of the songs are newer than those on Period Three, of course. Actually the title track "Readymade Contraptions of Descent" was meant to be on Period Three, but we were not happy with the recording of it at that time. We kept working on it and I think we found its perfect form for this release.
Luxi: What made you to choose "Me Punk, You Fuck!" to cover for this release? Is Trashcan Darlings one of those bands that have always, more or less, been an influence for you?
Harald: Heh, not exactly. Trashcan Darlings is a great band who used to hang around the scene at Elm Street Rock Café (RIP) in Oslo. When they decided to call it quits, after 20 years, a mutual friend of ours decided to do a tribute album where he invited several bands to cover a song from them. We decided to join in, provided we got to do a version of "Me Punk, You Fuck!" In my opinion, one of their best songs and one that would fit best for thrashing it up a little.
The tribute turned out really well with a lot of bands doing their own versions of some classic Trashcan Darlings tunes. It's also the first (and only?) time Imbalance appears on a release that features make-up stuff on the cover! The vinyl should be ready on Dstroy Records before Yule this year.
Anyways, it was a fun track to do and we think the result shows a more playful side of the band, so we decided to include it on the EP in addition to the tribute album.
Luxi: Let's change the focus to your upcoming stuff. How close are you to having enough material for a full-length?
Harald: At the moment we're just beginning to work on new material. We do have quite a few half-done songs that we could pick up, but at least for now we want to begin fresh. Also, we're trying to change the way we work to bring out more creativity from each member of the band. Doing things differently may be just what we need right now.
It's way too early to say anything about when to expect any new material or in what form. The stuff we have going for now feels very good, so the process is very encouraging. I guess all we can say is stay tuned; we'll keep people updated on any progress through our various channels like web, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Luxi: Do you think you'll use a combination of Pure Music Productions, Lionheart Studios and Creative Violence Studios for your next recording, like you did for your debut album? Or will you just try to focus this time on where you can do everything from start to finish?
Harald: We'll most likely be using a combination of studios again, but we have talked about trying to do more in one place next time. Creative Violence is essentially our own studio, consisting of a more or less full studio at our rehearsal space along with our private home studios. Apart from the vocals we used this for all of the recording of the Contraptions EP, and also large parts of Period Three were recorded here. What other studios we'll be using will depend on where we are and what deals we can get when we are ready for it.
Lionheart Studios has been very convenient for us, since we're rehearing in the same building as they are, and Øyvind, who runs the studio, is a really great guy to work with. Most of the time, we've been able to rent the studio on very short notice, something that suits us and our chaotic process very well. As for Pure Music, I'm not even sure if they are around anymore, but if they are we wouldn't mind using it again.
Luxi: How is the songwriting process shared between each member of the band? Who is responsible for what and how democratic is the band when it comes down to what type of material is approved and what gets rejected?
Harald: Traditionally the songwriting has been sort of divided. One of the guys will have an idea for a song and, usually, the riffs and a structure in place already. This is presented to the band, which then offers feedback, ideas and suggestion for changes. In time it is molded into an Imbalance song, sometimes with big changes to the original idea, sometimes none.
For the past few years is has been mainly Thormodr composing the songs and me adding lyrics and the vocal lines. This hasn't been any sort of conscious decision by the band, but just how things have worked out. As mentioned, we're trying to work a bit on the process itself now to get more input from all of us into the compositions.
When it comes to what ends up on a release, we usually agree on most of it before even starting on the process of planning a new album. It's more like we're writing songs and when we have something that we think works as a unit we start thinking about releasing it. The arguments along the way are more about each song as we're writing it; what fits, how we want it to progress, how the lyrics should go, etc.
Sometimes we record more than what ends up on the release, but some is rejected because of quality issues with the recording, or we feel it needs more work before it's done, not because of the song itself.
Luxi: Are there some things in particular that are huge inspirations whenever you are trying to set the correct mood for creating the 'right stuff' for Imbalance?
Harald: Imbalance has always been about self-destruction and the things that are fucked up in the world. That's the inspiration for the name as well. This may be just the general state of things, politics, mental issues, everything from deranged fuckups with power to destroy the world, to the whacked looney that one day decides to kill his family when coming home from work. But it's also about what goes on in our minds, how we justify to ourselves the sick things we do, and how we know the result of our actions will be a catastrophe but we still carry on for convenience or the chance of earning a few extra dollars.
We don't really have any limits to what topics we write about, but most of the stuff will be along those themes. In the end a lot of inspiration comes from the real world. History is full of weirdos who had a bright idea that they could make the world a better place by suppressing huge groups of people or killing random strangers.
Luxi: If your sharp lyrical pencil was needed to complete the following sentence, how would you continue the following sentence in your native language: "Døde kvinner aldri si nei..."?
Harald: ...de sier ingen ting – men stirrer stum på døde menn, i en dunkel dans til dødens melodi.
Luxi: There's an official video available for "Ease Your Pain" off your debut record, Period Three Implies Chaos, which looks pretty darn sick and beautiful with all those torture scenes in it. It was directed and produced by Øyvind Welle from Wellefilms. How did you end up choosing this guy to direct and produce the video?
Harald: Thanks a lot! We're really happy about it ourselves.
Øyvind is the brother of our drummer (Lars) Welle, and he had made this short film, Tortüra, while studying in Australia and the video is based on that. It just felt natural to make use of his expertise when we had the chance. The original idea was to just edit the short film to fit to the music but, since we had the chance, we decided to add some footage of ourselves in there too. Things got rolling and in the end we had a full set built up and a professional production with two cameras, make-up artists and extra photographers whirling about.
Both the original short film and the music video will be screened at Oslo Fright Fest , which was unfortunately postponed due to issues with the Norwegian film censorship. Anyway the festival will be held later, and we're really looking forward to show off the video on a big screen in a proper setting!
Luxi: This video looks very professional and well done. I believe you just couldn't be any happier with how this video turned out. Is there a chance that you might use his services in the future, based on the video for "Ease Your Pain"?
Harald: Yes, I think it's safe to say we'll be working with Øyvind again. The whole experience was very satisfactory. I think it's the first time we've done anything where someone external has come in, taken on the entire project and we could trust that the result would be just as we wanted it. We, more or less, just showed up for the filming, and then made some comments and adjustments along the way during the editing process. Otherwise everything was arranged and handled by Øyvind and his cohorts.
Luxi: As for the current state of Thrash Metal in Norway, one of the best new bands are surely these young fellows in this act called Tantara, whose debut album Based on Evil, was released just a while ago. However, just a small handful of Thrash Metal bands don't necessarily create a steady scene, so I was wondering how Thrash Metal is doing in Norway these days? What are some of the hopeful (young) Thrash Metal acts, besides Tantara and Imbalance, and a few others maybe, that have really got the ball rollin' for Thrash Metal in Norway?
Harald: The Thrash Metal scene is not a standalone scene outside of the general Metal scene in Norway. We're a small country and there's cooperation and respect across the genre borders.
But a few other bands you definitely should check out are our friends in Ninth Circle and Exeloume, two really great bands that we joined up with for our latest tour around Norway. Also check out Harm and Forgery, which will tour Norway together with Tantara this fall. Also the latest release from Wyruz is definitely worth your time, and there are more young bands like Gouge, Necretion, Neoplasma, etc. coming along, which shows a scene that is still attracting the young guys and evolving. Simply put, there's a lot brewing!
Luxi: Is Imbalance's Thrash Metal more popular outside of Norway than it is within your own borders?
Harald: Difficult to say. From the streaming statistics it seems we're more popular in Norway for now, but then we are a lot better known inside Norway than outside. The feedback we get from all over the world is very positive, so I think it's about going out touring and meeting people so they get to know our music. Also we see that having a proper video is essential to be noticed these days. The response from the video for "Ease Your Pain" has been way above anything else that we've done, and helps spread the noise to corners of the world we've not reached before.
Luxi: If you had a crystal ball in your hands, what would 2013 look like for Imbalance?
Harald: World dominion! Free beer to everyone and Thrash Metal from every church tower seven times a day! Oh, wait... realistically? Damn...
We hope to make it to some festivals for next year, that's a great opportunity to meet a lot of dedicated metal fans and introduce them to our music. Other than that we're mostly focused on the songwriting right now, and we're keen to have something new and fresh to present when we go on the next tour, whenever that may be. In other words, I think 2013 will be about sitting in the bat cave conjuring evil spells, with occasional appearances into the gray dusk for a quick rush of riot and mayhem.
Luxi: That is all this time, so I want to thank you for your time and getting this interview done and I want to wish you many great years ahead with Imbalance. Keep thrashing on! Any last words for the readers of The Metal Crypt, perhaps?
Harald: Well, thank you for your thorough interview! It's an honor to be invited into the Crypt, and I hope we have shed some light on the twisted world of Imbalance. As for last words, as always: Support the underground! Check out our releases available on some streaming service near you! Also check out some of the bands I've mentioned in this interview, and go to gigs with your local bands! Metal is meant to be enjoyed live, and your local scene depends on you!
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