vul­ture in­dus­tries

Vul­ture In­dus­tries’ vivid theatre of the ab­surd has been be­guil­ing au­di­ences for more than a decade, but it’s a mir­ror held up to the tem­pes­tu­ous times we live in

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: TOM O’BOYLE

The Nor­we­gians be­guile us with their dark hu­mour and the­atri­cal ap­proach to de­gen­er­ate art.

'De­gen­er­ate art’, or ‘En­tartete Kunst’ in the tongue of its ori­gin, was a term given by the Nazis to all works of art that did not pro­mote their mil­i­tant ide­ol­ogy of racial pu­rity. They knew that pro­pa­ganda was a pow­er­ful weapon, and it was wielded with ruth­less ef­fi­ciency by Hitler’s close con­fi­dante, Joseph Goebbels. He knew that if they could con­trol the kind of mes­sages peo­ple re­ceived, they could heav­ily in­flu­ence their thoughts. Any art that en­cour­aged peo­ple to think for them­selves was de­rided, banned, and in the most ex­treme cases, burned.

It would serve us well not to for­get lessons learned the hard way more than 70 years ago. Europe’s po­lit­i­cal spec­trum has shifted to the right in re­cent years, with hate­ful rhetoric on the rise. You only need to think back to the front pages of the right-wing Bri­tish me­dia in the re­cent gen­eral elec­tion to know that dark forces haven’t for­got­ten the power of pro­pa­ganda.

It’s a les­son not lost on Bjørnar E Nilsen and the rest of Vul­ture In­dus­tries, in­flu­enced heav­ily by the ex­pres­sion­ist art move­ment so re­viled by the Nazis. “If Goebbels was asked his opin­ion of Vul­ture In­dus­tries I’m pretty sure he’d call it de­gen­er­ate art,” he states in his re­laxed, Nor­we­gian lilt. As the mouth­piece of the band for the past 14 years, he has used the emo­tive power of their be­guil­ing avant-rock to ad­dress the woes of the mod­ern world, and en­cour­age peo­ple to look past the pro­pa­ganda.

“What I want to do is to help peo­ple think and make up their own minds,” he af­firms. “One of the main prob­lems with the hu­man con­di­tion is the ten­dency to lean to­wards ab­so­lute truths in­stead of see­ing things from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. We live in an in­se­cu­rity-rid­dled time; we have shit­loads of in­for­ma­tion at our fin­ger­tips, but this over­load makes for un­cer­tainty and there­fore makes peo­ple more sus­cep­ti­ble to easy solutions.”

Heavy sub­ject mat­ter, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t let off a lit­tle steam. Their new al­bum, Stranger Times, takes their car­ni­va­lesque con­cept to greater heights, with a col­lec­tion of songs that leave a last­ing im­pres­sion. Its tightly-writ­ten epics of ma­jes­tic, hid­den depths are full of wry hu­mour, as Bjørnar’s multi-faceted vo­cal ap­proach is more akin to lis­ten­ing to a the­atri­cal cav­al­cade of char­ac­ters act­ing out a story than a singer in a rock band.

“When I record and per­form I try as much as pos­si­ble to con­vey a story,” he ex­plains.

“It’s not like telling a story from A to B, but con­vey­ing it through images and emo­tions. That re­ally af­fects my vo­cal ap­proach.”

Any who have wit­nessed the melo­drama of their stage show can at­test to its com­pelling na­ture. “This way of pre­sent­ing the music feels re­ally nat­u­ral,” en­thuses Bjørnar. “Metal is a very dra­matic genre, and for me it seems like the log­i­cal choice to add this to the stage; like a nat­u­ral con­tin­u­a­tion.”

Vul­ture In­dus­tries strive to present a uni­fied vision. Their on­stage cos­tumes and per­sonas, the por­trayal of char­ac­ter and the emo­tional roller­coaster ride their music takes you on all com­bine to cre­ate the­atri­cal tragedy. It’s the party to dis­tract us all at the end of times, laughing, as they say on Stranger Times’ gri­mac­ing de­but sin­gle, As The World Burns. Th­ese themes are tied to­gether bril­liantly by the vision of Ro­ma­nian artist Costin Chiore­anu, a fan of the band who has ren­dered their vision since 2013’s The Tower. It must have been a light­ning bolt mo­ment to dis­cover some­one who rep­re­sented their vision so clearly.

“No,” laughs Bjørnar, “He was cheap! No, def­i­nitely – we met Costin some years ago at Dark Bom­bas­tic Evening fes­ti­val in Tran­syl­va­nia. We were play­ing in an old Ro­man fortress. He had an ex­hi­bi­tion there. I re­ally loved his images – they were dark, but at the same time rep­re­sented both sides of be­ing hu­man, and had this ex­pres­sion­ist touch. He’s be­come a sixth band­mem­ber for us; he re­ally gets it, in­tu­itively.”

The cover art for Stranger Times is a per­fect en­cap­su­la­tion of the band’s unique per­spec­tive, the feel hark­ing back to the Ex­pres­sion­ist pe­riod of art that so in­spires them while ad­dress­ing a mod­ern world tee­ter­ing on the brink of obliv­ion.

“The rhi­noc­eros try­ing to tra­verse a line on a uni­cy­cle while be­ing struck over the head by demons with news­pa­pers – it’s like this feel­ing that the world is con­stantly try­ing to bal­ance on a tightrope – it some­how man­ages to keep afloat even though you can see that it’s prob­a­bly go­ing to hell!”

Vul­ture In­dus­tries’ dark sense of hu­mour and the­atri­cal ap­proach to metal seems quintessen­tially Nor­we­gian, ty­ing the band, along with the likes of Arc­turus and Virus, into a rich tra­di­tion of avant-garde music to orig­i­nate from those lands, with its roots in black metal. As an em­ployee of sis­ter black metal and prog la­bel Dark Essence and Karisma, Bjørnar is highly qualified to pon­der why this might be the case.

“I’ve been asked about this before and usu­ally say there’s some­thing in the wa­ter,” he laughs. “When you look at the good black metal bands most of them have a very strong sense of in­di­vid­u­al­ity. This goes well to­gether with the pro­gres­sive ap­proach. It’s two gen­res that found each other and be­came some­thing beau­ti­ful, and evolved into some­thing new, which is some­thing both gen­res needed.”

Dis­cussing the band’s evo­lu­tion re­veals a strange, cycli­cal process of cre­ativ­ity Bjørnar couldn’t have pre­dicted 14 years ago. “When we started out we had more of an is­sue with find­ing a set path,” he re­flects. “As the years passed we be­came more con­fi­dent song­writ­ers; those bonds have loos­ened. In the end we were left with what feels right to do within the frame­work of Vul­ture In­dus­tries. At this point it’s fairly easy for me to see if some­thing works or not. Ac­tu­ally some of the riffs on Stranger Times are re­ally old. They got aban­doned dur­ing the writ­ing of the first and sec­ond al­bums – they didn’t re­ally fit in back then. I took them out again, and they fit­ted into the con­cept pretty seam­lessly.”

One of the ben­e­fits of the age­ing process is feel­ing more com­fort­able in one’s own skin. It’s ben­e­fit­ted the cre­ative process of a band aware of hu­man­ity’s mis­takes, the moral of their story per­haps be­ing that we shouldn’t re­peat them.

“There’s hope,” Bjørnar re­as­sures. “There are lovely peo­ple and I think solutions can be found. Try­ing to fix it with bombs is a bit like try­ing to stop the bully at school by blow­ing up the school – that doesn’t make sense to me!”



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