Immortal: The Brothers Grim
GW I’m sure that the white cover caused a stir among some people in the scene.
ABBATH Definitely. There were even some morons that said, “This is done in a studio, and the snow is not snow, it’s foam.” [laughs] They thought we were standing in foam!
GW Blizzard Beasts is the first album with Horgh on drums. How did he affect Immortal’s sound?
ABBATH Not much. [laughs] At that point, in ’96, there weren’t many drummers available to play our kind of music. So we put an ad in our local paper, and that’s when we got a call from Horgh. We were immediately like, “Oh, that guy!” because we already knew him. I’d seen him in a band that covered songs by Judas Priest and Metallica.
On the first of May in ’96 is when we had our first rehearsal with him. He didn’t even have a drum kit at that time, but he was so desperate to join a band that he had already been practicing our songs on pillows! [laughs] He was a very good drummer but had never played blast-beats before. But after I showed those techniques to him, he was ready to record.
GW You’ve expressed dissatisfaction with how Blizzard Beasts turned out. What was it exactly that frustrated you?
ABBATH We bit off more than we could chew with Blizzard Beasts. We were in a new studio [Sigma Studios] with no producer, and we were playing things way too fast. We were always like, “Faster, faster, faster!” It gave us lots of problems. But again, we had some great songs.
GW Demonaz, Blizzard Beasts is the last Immortal album you played guitar on. When did your tendonitis first start affecting your playing?
DEMONAZ The tendonitis happened after this album. It was like a fucking nightmare when you’re awake. I was practicing too much. I practiced before, during and after rehearsal.
ABBATH At that point, Demonaz had a very static style of playing guitar. It wasn’t very dynamic. It was always very fast and mostly in one position. Also, it was winter and he was working outside for this construction company. One thing led to the other and then suddenly, without warning, bam! We didn’t believe it. We were like, “What the fuck? Are you kidding?”
DEMONAZ I was standing there at the rehearsal space between songs. And all of a sudden I couldn’t stand. I had to lean against an amp so I wouldn’t fall. I was like, “What the fuck, is something wrong with my back?” So I took a break. When I came back I tried again, but I got dizzy and had to stop.
Finally, I realized that my arms were sick and I had to stop playing. Back then we didn’t have any information about these kind of things. I went to specialists and stuff, but there was nothing they could do for me. It was so frustrating, but it made me stronger in the long run. Because if that didn’t kill me, I don’t know what would.
GW Was there ever a point during this period when you considered ending Immortal?
ABBATH The reason we’re still here is because we believe in this band. Even before Demonaz’s arm problems, it was always a struggle to keep everything together. It’s never been perfect. It’s always been a search to find what more we could do. We don’t want it to be perfect. We don’t want to reach the top. We want to be constantly walking and almost there, but never reaching it. That keeps us strong. Because when you’re on top, there’s only one way to go, and that’s down. We don’t want to sell 95 million albums like Metallica. It’s better to sell 20 million! [laughs]
GW At the Heart of Winter has a different sound than previous recordings. How did working with producer Peter Tägtgren at Abyss Studios affect your sound? [Tägtgren is a Swedish musician and producer and the guitarist of blackened death metal band Hypocrisy.]
ABBATH Peter really helped the band get to the next level. I say this from my heart: We would not be here today if it weren’t for Peter Tägtgren. We owe him everything. I love that guy.
GW To me, At the Heart of Winter seems thrashier and more melodic than previous albums. Did German thrash have an influence on its sound?
ABBATH German thrash…hmm. Now what’s German thrash? That’s Sodom, Kreator, Running Wild… Who else?
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