Vulture Industries echoes the strangeness of Norway’s extreme metal scene in the early 2000s. Black metal musicians abandoned the genre’s initial tenets and embraced the new millennium with a broader experimental sense. Avant-garde by definition, and channeling the bizarre, Vulture Industries reiterates Norwegian black metal’s shedding of its second wave. In this sense, they become postmodern, yet they still remain tangible. On their upcoming album Stranger Times, they incorporate a darker emotional essence with psychedelic rock’s catchy, soaring choruses and wider atmospheric expanse.
Immediately evoking the spirit of ICS Vortex-fronted Arcturus, “Strangers” flows with vocal charisma and persistent rhythm, leading toward an enthralling climax. Vocalist Bjørnar Nilsen’s impassioned belting (an amplified vibrato) gives haunting character to an already stirring musical performance, courtesy of Øyvind Madsen (guitar), Eivind Huse (guitar), Tor Helge Gjengedal (drums), and Kyrre Teigen (bass). There’s symphony in negation, much like the intent behind the infamous “post-black metal” tag (e.g. Solefald, Ved Buens Ende, and Sigh), and — by hammer, by chisel, by resolve — Vulture Industries helps build the tag’s momentum toward the impending new decade.
— Andrew Rothmund and Jon Rosenthal
We spoke with vocalist Bjørnar Nilsen about the new album, style, sensibilities, and Tom Waits. Meanwhile, check out an exclusive stream of the music video for “Strangers” below.
Vulture Industries, especially after 2013’s The Tower, has been associated with descriptors like “progressive” and “avantgarde” — in terms of music (as art), what do those words mean to you, and how do they apply to Stranger Times?
Progressive and avantgarde give me different associations. While progressive, somewhat contrary to the meaning of the word, has become genre defining, avantgarde seem to imply “different from the norm”. Suggesting difference rather than similarity. On our part we never had a clear intention of either fitting into established genres nor standing out as different. Our expression is a consequence of who we are and our aesthetic preferences. All art need to have a sense of something profound in order to have impact, and being weird for the sake of weirdness, does not.
Stranger Times feels like heavy rock (and to its benefit), but shares in the darkness of metal — maybe even the darkness of black metal. How does the album’s lyrical content fit with the musical content, in terms of the album’s mood and theme?
Stranger Times aims to hold up a distorted mirror to the present day. Showing an image where the colours are more intense, the edges sharper and the contrast deeper. I always aim to have a link between the lyrical and musical content on our albums, to have one complement the other. On Stranger Times I find that link to be a sense of despair caused by an increasingly confusing world where concepts such as truth and rational thought are being [devalued and] side-lined by the beliefs and personal views of groups. Abandoning truth as an ideal, and accepting it as a subjective concept where it is accepted, even expected, of every party to tell the story that best suits their worldview, rather than striving towards an objective ideal.
The vocals on Stranger Times are loud, dramatic, and distinctive, but integrate well into the music overall. How was this style of singing originally discovered? Was it “designed” for a purpose, or maybe landed upon completely by accident?
For what we do, loud and dramatic always seemed like the logical choice. Landing upon it was never a conscious decision though. It kind of just happened. A bit similar to how certain politicians came to power in recent years.
To what extent did Vulture Industries take into consideration “theatrics” on Stranger Times? From the baroque sensibilities to the offbeat styling, the album feels completely enveloping and imaginative.
The theatrics and dramatics are a pretty integrated part of our sound at this stage. Even though we don’t have a conscious aim to include these elements as a goal in itself, I think these aspects have become integrated tools of my musical vocabulary for painting pictures with sound and conveying atmospheres though words and music.
Random question: do you guys listen to Tom Waits at all? If so, what is it about Tom Waits and his music which appeals to you?
A whole lot. I’m a huge Tom Waits fan, and Rain Dogs, Swordfish Trombones and The Black Rider [Editor’s Note: he couldn’t have picked finer albums.] are among my favourite albums. His way of storytelling, crooked aesthetics and original quirky personae have always been something I find highly intriguing and inspiring. I don’t think it is possible for any artist to create something original from thin air. We all have our sources. The trick is to not take too much from any one source, and not strive to do, or be as anyone else in particular. On my part Mr. Waits is probably one of the musical sources that I stole and borrowed the most from, even though I hope we are still far away from full highway robbery.
Did the band run into any challenges during the writing process for Stranger Times? Or, what lessons were learned about collaboration, songwriting, or anything really, as the album was being written?
Not more than usual. Some of the songs took some radical turns from their original starting point, becoming something else entirely, then what we started out with. This is pretty normal for us though, as we tend to let the creative process take a while and let the songs mature and fester over a couple of years.
Pre-order Stranger Times here.