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Interview: ICS Vortex Talks New Album, 'Storm Seeker'

When Simen Hestnæs -- better known to most at ICS Vortex, or simply, Vortex -- unceremoniously parted ways with Dimmu Borgir in 2009, he posted that he was looking forward to "concentrating fully on my own project now." Fast forward two years, and Vortex now has his first solo album under his belt.

Titled Storm Seeker, the album will almost certainly throw a curveball to anyone expecting a run-of-the-mill black metal set. It could be very easy to call Storm Seeker "black and roll," as Vortex's hard rock influences are right there along side his unmistakable black metal pedigree, but in truth, the album has enough unexpected twists and turns that one might even be able to bandy about the "P" word (Read: progressive.)

Whatever you want to call it, it's a record that should be on the radar of any metal fan with a love of the dark side.

GUITAR WORLD: Why did now feel like the right time to put out a solo album?

Tumultuous situations trigger creativity in my experience. The Dimmu meltdown generated enough energy to finish what I started many years ago.

Do you enjoy the creative freedom of working on your own? How much were the other musicians involved in the songwriting?

The songwriting was done by me. After the preproduction Asgeir Mickelson helped improving the drums a lot. Cyrus added some killer leads. To do what thou wilt ain’t so bad.

Did you handle bass duties on the recording?

Yes. I did the bass in my home studio (Pro Tools). I used my Vortex Warlock BC Rich signature with EMG pickups hooked into the DI from the C24 board. The signal is then distorted with Gromguten (Onkart Gromt) and compressed.

How much did your work in your previous bands influence Storm Seeker? Who are some of your more surprising influences that we might be hearing come through on this record?

Working with so many excellent musicians over the years has made me believe in what I do. This is a lot of help because there always comes a time when you want to change everything. This can be critical to flow and feeling. Doubt sneaks up on you sometime during the recording process ands it can be hard to focus. To overpower this, experience and stubbornness are good allies.

You said "Blackmobile" was written about a time when black metal was dangerous. Do you think those days are done or could they happen again?

Danger won’t die. You misquote me. I said “The Blackmobile” was written at a time when I thought Black Metal was dangerous. The words where added years later and changed the original concept by describing my old Ram Charger. In my opinion the BM generation of Norway had talent and will enough to reinvent danger. Shape shifting is a key element of being explosive.

On that note, do you think people finally got "used to" extreme metal? After being around for so long, that angry parents finally accepted that this community was out there and stopped protesting shows?

The world will always be full of narrow-minded protestors and religious fools. It wouldn’t be any fun without them either, I suppose.

You often talk about being drawn to the "dark side" of things, and a lot of people immediately associate that with negativity. Do you think that's true? Can one be a positive person while still being interested in the darker side of life?

I am not a negative person. Fear leads to the dark side, baby. Negativity is just misunderstood emotions. I am more a “Release your anger and together we can rule the universe” type of guy.

Gambling pops up as a recurring theme on the album. Where does that come from?

As you know, there is only one song on the topic of gambling. The "all in" attitude in life inspires and fascinates me, and I guess that resurfaces from time to time.

Do you see yourself putting more focus from here on out on your solo project, or is this a one‐off kind of album?

I foresee another two albums from the ICS Vortex platform.

The debut solo album from ICS Vortex, Storm Seeker, is out now on Century Media Records.

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Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.