Melancholic/post-black metal band Dynfari realeased a third album entitled „Vegferð Tímans„.
It is a great and magical work. I assure you there are amazing sounds which are difficult to ignore.
Dynfari restores faith in ambitious black metal.
Jóhann Örn and Jón Emil agreed to tell us a little bit about new album.
Marcin: Hello guys. First of all I congratulate such a great new album. Excellent work! You play together for 5 years and you have a three fulllength albums. I think it’s a good result. What have been the most memorable periods in Dynfari‘s artistic life?
Jóhann Örn: Thank you. It is a good result, even though we aimed higher. We went on a tour through some countries in Europe last summer which is definitely a highlight of our career so far. We have never encountered such enthusiastic and lively crowds before, cocreating so much energy with them. We look forward to seeing what we will experience in North America.
Marcin: Do you have a some black metal philosophy? How much of this is ingrained into your everyday life?
Jóhann Örn: I wouldn’t call it „black metal philosophy” and whether it is part of everyday life depends on context. Every now and then you are reminded of how small and insignificant your life and your problems are and our lyrics reflect these moments of transcendence. The philosophy of Sem skugginn was exactly about humanity’s insignificance in the universe and our indifference toward it. The first half of „Vegferð tímans” channels the same agenda while the Vegferð trilogy has quite a different approach, more related to fantasy and the idea of escape.
Marcin: Let’s talk about your new album „Vegferð tímans„. I had an amazing experience listening to it. How has the reception of the album been and are you satisfied with the response?
Jóhann Örn: Great to hear! The reception has been quite good, with some words being thrown
around which are way beyond what we expected, like “album of the year”, “classic” and “close to perfection”. We are very satisfied with the response. Keeping in mind that a piece of music will never please everyone I think the ratings have been fantastic.
Marcin: Before we get to the music I have a few other question. You sing in your native tongue so I agree that most people outside of Iceland doesn’t know what you sing. I know „Vegferð tímans” is a concept album and a title can be translated as “Yourney of life”. Tell us whose idea was the concept. Can you explain the concept and what made you choose this idea for the album?
Jóhann Örn: The direct translation would be „Journey of Time” but your translation also makes a lot of sense. The concept can be understood in different ways and I’m not going to sit in an ivory tower and tell people what’s the correct one, even if I will give a brief synopsis of the lyrics later. To give the main idea, the album takes you from the light (“Ljósið”) and to the dark (“Myrkrið”). Some people have taken the interpretation that this the album depicts the stages of life which I think is a marvelous way of understanding it. It is important to understand that the poems were written seperately from the music. The music has a rather cryptic vibe to it so we thought it would be fitting that the lyrics would be too. These poems were thus adapted to the music to form some whole, an aspect in which the sonic construction of the album also contributes to.
Marcin: What inspired the creation of „Vegferð tímans„?
Jóhann Örn: The music was inspired by contemplations on life itself, death and sorrow. The
lyrics arose from philosophical musings, on the concept of hope in this whole mess we call existence and what it entails.
Marcin: And another big question is what are the songs about? The songs united in some story I think. Please tell about the titles and content of the lyrics from the album – track by track.
Jóhann Örn: Ljósið (“The Light”) starts with the dying sounds of Sem skugginn and in that way holistically alludes to the final lyric of that album’s concept: Hvar er ljósið (“Where is the light?”). It sets the tone for the songs to come which ponder our meaning in a grand context.
Óreiða (“Chaos”) takes a Greek stance toward humanity’s role, constantly fighting to keep order, as paradoxical as it sounds. It casts a light on our rather recent realization that the world does not revolve around us, rather we around it. Sometimes we should indulge in the chaos that we often so sorely avoid. Embrace the universe we are.
Sandkorn (í stundaglasi tímans) (“A Grain of Sand (in the hourglass of time)”) is a song which asks what we will leave behind us, being but a mere two seconds in the 24 hour existence of everything. It proposes that being the universe experiencing itself, our constant search for meaning is a futile endeavour as it is constantly coloured by our mortality and apparent inability to focus only on our perception and nothing else.
Hafsjór (“Vast Ocean”) is a representation of this same theme, asking multiple, seemingly incomprehensive questions about our humanness; insignificant matters such as regret, misery and betrayal true despair. On this voyage a wanderer will simply have to row harder and harder until the ocean swallows him whole.
Fall hinna XCII og hinna 2^57,885,161 − 1 sálna (“Fall of the XCII and 2^57,885,161 − 1 souls”) depicts this person’s death by whispering the funeral verse: that we are dust and will return to dust – excluding purposely the part that from dust we will rise again. XCII represents the number of known chemical elements in Roman numerals and 2^57,885,161 − 1 is the largest prime number known to man – despite knowing they are infinite. This short interlude thus emphasises our limited understanding of the world, and proposes an interpretation of what to come as the fall of our systems of meaning or the demise of all our indivisible souls.
The Vegferð trilogy (“Voyage trilogy”) can then in turn be understood as post-apocalyptic, but certainly not
The first part, Ab Terra (“From the Earth”) starts with the ashes of what once was being covered with snow with time becoming one with the universe, free from chaos for eternity. Suddenly the voyage transcends life, energy and time. A profound realization is made, akin to the one in Óreiða that the world doesn’t revolve around us, but now that the energy of the stars in the skies pump through our veins and that despite in what way you look at it, your life is made from ancient forces.
The second part, Ad Astra (“To the Stars”) takes the remains of what once existed to new realms, with life echoing in rhythm with a universal heartbeat. In this grand composition we/it see ourselves living but disappearing. We are not seperate but one whole. We unite with ancient, distant galaxies while dissolving in free fall. Our flesh turns to dust, yet the heart beats faster and faster, in rhythm with the planet’s operation.
The third and final part, Myrkrið (“The Dark”) weaves the album finally together, contemplating that the search for light was always in vain as this is our journey to the stars, not only toward the light. We unite with ancient, distant galaxies at last. I know this may be confusing, but that’s good. The album is not supposed to provide answers. The purpose is that at the voyage’s end the listener is left with more questions than before, not
Marcin: Tell me about the creation of „Vegferð tímans” album. How long have you been working on this material?
Jóhann Örn: The oldest songs date back to early 2012 and all the songs were basically composed in that year. Some of them were mostly unchanged since then but others had some minor changes and additions all the way to 2014, even though 98% of the album was recorded in 2013.
Marcin: How did the writing process and recording session go? How do you guys work? Individually or the entire band together? In which way did it differ from previous experiences?
Jón Emil: Most of the time we write the songs individually but the songs are not completely formed that way. We meet up and rehearse the songs, putting each others influence and touch on them. The best part of working on new songs is that in the collaboration they get reborn in a way. So when we think the songs have taken shape we imagine how we should put them in recording. Sometimes it’s good to record and listen to band rehearsals and learn something from that but because we are only two it gets really limited. On Vegferð tímans we worked more equally than on the previous album Sem skugginn. Both of us had four songs on Vegferð tímans and we went instrumentally free, that is no boundaries on who plays on what instrument in Dynfari.
Jóhann Örn: This will be profoundly different in the future as it will be made with our now full lineup.
Marcin: Was there much difference between how the songs were first conceived and their final forms?
Jón Emil: Yes, absolutely. Most of the songs had been made before previous album came out which was in 2012. Since then and until the finishing touches of the album a lot of changes were made, hopefully for the better. Through these years we have been influenced by more things and experiences which shaped the songs. Everything we listen to inspires thoughts and meaning to what we want to make. There are no rules in making our music, except we make one and that’s no fun.
Jóhann Örn: I couldn’t imagine joining a band predecided on what sort of music will be written. It just goes against my nature. The creative process needs to be open and flowing, not closed and restricted. So, of course, in those almost three years from writing the album toward the release, changes did occur.
Marcin: Do you remember any particular surprises or complications that came up in the recording?
Jón Emil: We recorded the album completely by ourselves which was in a way much of an experimental challenge. The previous albums were a good learning experience to confront the new album which we think is more organized and more mature. But surely there are always some complications which is better to confront than regret later. We did for instance rerecord the drums from scratch because I was playing the drums over my capability, so I went for „less is more” on the later recording.
Marcin: Amazing thing that I liked about the album was the addition of violin sections and female vocals. Was including these into your arrangements a conscious decision taken prior to writing the music, or were they spontaneous additions?
Jóhann Örn: Those were definitely decisions taken after the basic instruments had been recorded. Originally we had opera singer Alexandra Chernyshova lay her voice on Vegferð II Ad Astra but later we decided that the opera singing didn’t fit the song as we had thought. We highly appreciate her agreeing to trying this out though as she is a great singer used to singing in very different and diverse types of music.
Marcin: Can you shed some light into session musicians?
Jóhann Örn: Of course. Karen Ýrr is an old friend who agreed to adorn her amazing voice to our song Vegferð II Ad Astra. I am positive she is capable of doing something spectacular in the future. Johan Becker is an American multiinstrumentalist musician I got in contact with through a friend from Colombia. I met Johan in person at Iceland’s Wacken Metal Battle 2013. He has been part of music projects such as Austaras, Cairn, Vaskula and Vukari.
Marcin: Besides a new components in your music like the sounds of violin and female vocals there is a lot of acoustic guitar. I get the impression that it is very important for you and the sound of this album. Am I wrong?
Jón Emil: I think we both agree that using acoustic guitars gives it more natural sound and it just so happens to mix well with the whole context. I think it was never thought out from the beginning. But for me using acoustics sounds more natural and the reason might be from learning on classical acoustic guitar when I was young which helped the thinking of shaping the songs.
Marcin: I must say that „Vegferð tímans” strongly impressed me. In my opinion the album is full to the brim with beautifully crafted songs with a keen eye for detail, structure and atmosphere. It has a really beautiful epic and melancholic athmosphere and every song has lots of strong moments. Those songs also reflect how much you guys have evolved and matured as songwriters.
Jón Emil: Thanks! That’s our aim for our listeners and for our selves to get some feeling out of it, and in a way it can be personal. In some parts it feels really exhilarating and beautiful while other times it all feels dark and hopeless. But in the end while playing or listening to these songs my personal feeling can be really satisfying, I feel more stronger and calmer as a person. With the songwriting it comes more easier if you’re in some creative mood where you just let it all go, that may have matured our songwriting skills. It can also be just what music you listen to and other matters is to rehearse or jam with other inspiring musicians.
Marcin: In my opinion „Vegferð tímans” is mostly emotions and unique atmosphere. The album transmit a spiritual and magical aura. It’s a very Icelandic thing, isn’t it?
Jóhann Örn: You are not the first person to say that. Given the concept we feel glad people experience this aura. Icelandic thing, I don’t know. It wasn’t really our original intention to make a spiritual or magical album but I understand completely what people mean by that. I guess it just somehow happened. In our live shows we try to make it not just an auditory but also both an aural and sensual experience. It seems that some people can feel it through a recording as well, and that’s awesome.
Marcin: Do you agree that the album can be divided into two parts? It seems to me that the last three songs are of particular importance.
Jóhann Örn: Absolutely, we always felt this album was a dualsided one. This album isn’t necessarily conceptual as a whole, although it is definitely possible to experience it that way, the first 4-5 songs being before death and the trilogy being postmortem. The first half is also different from the later half musically. The segments are shorter and the songs themselves as well. The last three songs are longer and the passages tend to be more drawn out and textured. That’s also a play on words about this being a journey of time. We certainly lose perception of time when playing these songs.
Marcin: On the new album there’s a degree of progression in your aesthetic and sound but it’s generally all of the trademark Dynfari elements are still present too. How would you describe your musical progression from your early days to now? The new album is a logical next step?
Jón Emil: It’s always a learning process to be a musician, you get to know your own musical capability and talent and make it blend together in formation. I think for this album we were more focused and motivated as a whole so the outcome was better music playing, song structure and better sound production.
Jóhann Örn: Yes, I think it’s very logical. There are certain elements in our sound that may be described as trademark, but then again we might have different views than our fans on what that exactly is. In that discussion it’s important to raise the issue that we are not in this business for anyone else than ourselves. If people like what we do, that’s great, who doesn’t like a sincere compliment? Constructive criticism is also something we value greatly and has helped us from our beginnings. It’s hard to describe our progression from our first album to our newest, but if anything we have become more open to new instruments and soundscapes. The first album had only drums, bass, guitar and vocals and that is still our live setup. On Sem skugginn we played quite a lot of keyboards and synths despite not using them often live. We have also included more clean vocals than before, with our first album having only one such part. Despite that, we have had these more mellow influences ever since the first album, so talk about that we have mellowed out our music is not based on much. I think the improved production may play a part in that view. Last but not least we have improved a lot as instrumentalists in these 5 years. We were only 19 when we started the band and released the first album.
Marcin: How important is it to you as a songwriter and musicians to keep moving forward?
Jóhann Örn: Very. We have no interest in releasing the same album twice. I think some might be pleasantly surprised by the next album.
Marcin: The first thing that struck me about „Vegferð tímans” was the complexity and variation in sound. Your music is a new dimension of atmospheric black metal with a variety of musical styles like progressive, postmetal, rock, ambient, neoclassical and more. What were the influences for that?
Jóhann Örn: Wow, thanks. It’s exactly those kind of words that transcend our expectations. We’re into a lot of different styles of music, including postrock, ambient, electronic and neoclassical. Some nonblack metal bands that inspire us are Mogwai, sleepmakeswaves and This Will Destroy You (actually spinning right now).
Jón Emil: I think you can see beauty in all style of music, hopefully, so for me I have lots of different roots for music which grows in separate ways, but they all connect from the same tree, and that’s what you get. I started playing on classical guitar at 10 years of age which of course influenced me playing more on acoustic guitar and rock has to come from my father introducing me to bands such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and after that came more extreme influences, old and new bands such as Death, Immortal, Dissection, Sólstafir, Alcest, Austere etc. So influences can have much power on you.
Marcin: The picture on album cover is awesome and very distinctive and suggestive. It’s an amazing and beautiful art. Who is the author of this picture and how does it connect with the music? What’s the story behind that?
Jóhann Örn: The artwork for the album was done by an artist who calls himself Metastazis. The picture itself depicts a lone human standing amidst a grand symmetrical valley between layers of mountains. It’s made out of multiple real photographs of Icelandic nature. The connection to the album’s concept is quite obvious, the insignificance of man in a seemingly chaotic and colossal universe. The theme continues in the booklet’s beautiful artwork. How we got in contact with Valnoir is a funny story. He visited Iceland and went to Lucky Records, a now legendary Reykjavík record store, to find fitting Icelandic music to listen to on a trip to glaciers and mountains in the highlands. Of course, he spotted our 2012 album Sem Skugginn whose cover art shows (what seems to be) a snowy mountain top. He asked if they had any more such albums. Now, our selftitled debut album released in 2011 was long sold out of its only 50 copies. However, the store had just recently moved to a new location, and during the move a copy of it was discovered, somehow tucked between boxes in their inventory. Their salesman remembered finding it and asked if he was interested. That’s how this great artist acquired the last copy ever to be sold of our debut album, fell in love with our music and contacted us, saying he simply must make artwork for our album.
Marcin: What is triskelion included on the album cover? Why are you including that symbol and what it means for you?
Jóhann Örn: The triskele has multiple meanings to us. First of all, it symbolizes eternity, a central theme of the whole album. Secondly it is known as a Celtic symbol to which native Icelanders have ancestry. Thirdly its triple symmetry is symbolic for the Vegferð trilogy.
Marcin: Which the song from the album is the most important for you?
Jóhann Örn: If you listen to the acoustic intro in Sandkorn there is an accordion accompanying the acoustic guitar. It was given to me by my grandfather when he had become too weak to lift it himself. He passed away last autumn, so that song will always have a special meaning to me, not least given the lyrics and how they relate to that whole connotation. You can also hear the accordion in the beginning of Ljósið.
Marcin: Do you have a plan to shoot a video and any ideas for a screenplay?
Jóhann Örn: We have had some ideas but lack the money and time to do it. If we would go for such a project we would want to do it properly. We’re still a small band and need to spend our very limited resources wisely. For us the music always comes first. Perhaps for the next album if all goes well.
Marcin: What is your Top5 of most favorite metal band currently?
Jóhann Örn: That’s terribly difficult. In no particular order, I want to mention YOB, Woods of Desolation, Enslaved, Moonsorrow, Drudkh. I could have probably chosen a dozen completely different combinations of bands, but these bands’ discographies could keep me occupied for weeks.
Jón Emil: I’ve been listening to some really old stuff which I haven’t listened to for a long time and there is lots of good new music which I haven’t given myself enough time for and some of it has little to do with metal. I can not pick my 5 favourite bands but to name something that I have been listening to I would say: 1. This Will Destroy You (good instrumental band, needs to be more checked out). 2. Váli (Neofolk, all instrumental, lots of acustic). 3. Darkthrone (They bring it all, fuck satan, worship metal). 4. Sólstafir (their last album „Ótta” was reasonably alright). 5. Kontinuum: (Another band from Iceland, just bought their new album „Kyrr„).
Marcin: What would you say to your fans in Poland?
Jóhann Örn: We look forward to visiting you again! Our night in Krakow was unforgettable. Next time we hope it will be possible fit more people inside to be mesmerized into a state of trance.
Marcin: Thanks for the interview. I wish Dynfari a successful careers.
Dynfari: Thank you for your insightful and challenging questions.