With strong roots in northern european metal styles, and strong roots also in Atheism, Luciferianism, and Nordic Paganism, Utlagr's sound approaches a cold, frenzied, epic black metal feel. The five have forged an infernal, yet enjoyably musical black/thrash metal sound. The metal is played with venom, with character and technical craft. I'm positive I heard “Lucifer” screeched more than thrice, but there's a lot more going on in Utlagr.
In fact,the band carries strong opinions-about politics, music, religion, consumerism and its multiplex of evils-seasoned with down to earth heathen common sense. Besides, the name “Utlagr” is Old Norse for “Outlaw”. I'm not sure what the weather was like that day wherever they were hailing from, but Jacques Villiard and Sebastien Martel waxed lyrical on all things metal, philosophical, subliminal-and discoursed widely on rise of the beast. That's consumer hyper-capitalism, in case you didn't know......Read on...
Heathen Harvest: Hello and thanks for talking to Heathen Harvest! “1066 - Blood and Iron in Hastings” was released on December 20th, 2007. Can you discuss the new album? How does it stand next to “Traditions Normandes” in your opinion?
1066 is a more mature album then Tradition Normandes. The riffs are more elaborated and complex. There’s some things that I liked about the demo and some that looking back we should have worked on a bit more. With 1066 I took what I liked best about the demo and push them further in the direction that I though would please me more and would make 1066 a less linear album with a better mix of aggression and melody at the same time.
It may sound cliché but I really like the album. To me every song brings up a different emotion and state of mind. Even after having spent many months writing and recording it I still listen to it in my car from time to time, thing that I never did with the demo. Don’t get me wrong-I still like the demo, but to me it grew old quickly and lack the depth that the album has.
HH: Have you received much response to 1066?What are people saying?
Since December 20th, when the album came out, we’ve received really positive comments and words of encouragement, especially from France but also from USA, South America, Germany, etc. Martin from Sepulchral Productions
has done a really good promotional job, so it help us to be heard out of the Canadian borders. Peoples seem to appreciate our blend of Melodic Death Metal and Black Metal, many compare us to Dissection
(the Slaughtersun period). Even if we try to keep our originality, it’s never bad to be compared with such a cult band like Dissection.
HH: When and how did Utlagr form?What had you all been doing previously?What do you do outside of musicianship?
I’ve been playing guitar since 20 some years and I’ve always had some kind of band going on. But finding good musicians that are serious about what they are doing is sometime very hard. I spent my teens in thrash/speed metal bands but even if we did some shows it never was much more than a “party band” and I soon found out that nothing very serious would come out of them.
I had heard of Eric from his previous band and he lived in a city not far from me. We got in contact through mutual friends and started working on a Black Sabbath
cover band. It didn’t took long to realise that we both share the same passion for music. After the cover band Eric talked to me about forming an original Black metal band. That same night we started working on some riffs and Utlagr was born. Couples of years later Sebastien and Francois were added to the line up.
The addition of Guillaume came a year ago. I’ve had some serious problems with my health and I wasn’t even sure to make it. So yes we wanted to have a second lead guitar but for me it was also a way of being sure that Utlagr was not going to die if I didn’t make it. I was not able to do the first show that we did with Guillaume so he had to learn my part and his at the same time. He did a great job without me being there and therefore became a full time member of Utlagr. I’m glade that we chose him and some of his riffs will be heard on the next album.
HH: What does the word “Outlaw” mean to you?
We choose the name UTLAGR for different reasons. First, it was the nickname given to the Norwegian Ganger Hrolfr, Rolf the Walker, Hrólfur útlægur, founder of Normandie in northern France. Many Quebecers (French Canadian) ancestors were coming from Normandie, so it was a tribute to the founder of our fatherland. Secondly, as you said, it mean “outlaw” but also it refer to the social status of being “banned”. So UTLAGR represent our vision of the modern world, our condition in front of the actual establishment. If your vision of life, your beliefs or your values are differents from the actual “western civilization” way of thinking (capitalism, socialism, judeo-christianity, etc.), you are directly or indirectly put aside. In a way, you’re an outlaw or banned from that system.
HH: How has the experience of playing live been?Do you enjoy it?What do you think people get out of coming to your shows?
I love doing shows. It’s where you get to really show your music to the fans and meet them. Sometimes intensity and feelings can be hard to get on CD, playing live is one way to really show the fans what Utlagr is all about. I really hope that every one that come to see us live leave the venue satisfied with what they have seen. I have great respect for the fans, so doing the best performance I can every night is the least that I can do. Some gigs can be frustrating for any musician but you cannot let the fans know that while you’re on stage. They’ve come to see a good show that’s what they have to get.
HH: What other influences, particularly musical ones, do Utlagr bring to their original sound as a metal band? In terms of music per se, do you stand for musicianship first and foremost, or do you have a stronger interest in ideology like many bm bands?
I have many musical influences. I grew up listening to thrash/speed metal in the eighties and never stop exploring other genre since then. I’m not a single minded person when it comes to music. Of course I mainly listen to metal but to know exactly where the sound of Utlagr come from is very hard. It’s just a mix of every thing I’ve listen to since I was young.
You ask about musicianship and yes, to me it’s the most important thing. Some bands get caught up in the ideology thing too much and their music suffers a lot. Of course you have to know what you’re fighting for and be proud of it, but you can’t put out a shitty record and hope to get your message across.
For me, the message has the same importance than the music. I think, Black Metal, like Punk Rock in 70’s and 80’s, NeoFolk, Industrial, has more to share than only music. Black Metal is a brutal way to question many religious, philosophical and social established values. Of course, like Jacques said, I don’t know how an idea/message behind poor musician skills could be shared. It’s also a way to respect your audience. If the person who buys your album is totally annoyed by the fact that you cannot even tune your instrument, he(she) will never pay attention to what you say.
HH: Your bio has a strong disassociation with Satanism. Why? Where do you think black metal, Satanic or otherwise, is right now, compared to the early 1990s? Do you identify with much of the bm out there right now? Any favourite bands?
You’re not the first person to ask this question and maybe I should change the bio to be more clear on that issue. We are absolutely not against Satanism. What I meant in our bio is that UTLAGR is not a satanic band. It’s just a question of clarity. Personally, I think basically that Black Metal is a satanic sub-culture expressed through a rough, brutal and sometimes atmospheric kind of music. Actually, often bands are wrongly labelled “Black Metal”. The result of all this is that there’s some bands who prefer to be called “Satanic Black Metal” or “Orthodox Black Metal”, to dissociate themselves from the trendy scene.
About myself as the person behind UTLAGR’s lyrics, I’m really interested by occultism, magickal orders, Satanism (in its Laveyan form) and Luciferianism (as a never ending quest for wisdom and strength and as a philosophical point of view). I see no problems to support and study Nordic/Germanic paganism and Satanism/Luciferianism. In a way, both are compatible in their quest against mediocrity and weakness.
We prefer using the term “Heathen Metal” or “Pagan Metal” for describing UTLAGR, and as I said, it’s only a question of clarity. Musically, we are not totally Black Metal. We clearly have a
“Swedish melodic death metal” sound, many people have made this remark. We cannot be compared with the “True Black Metal” scene but we still have some typical Black Metal riffs.
About favorite bands...I’m listening to many kinds of music and I’m strongly involved into the Industrial/Power Electronic scene with my own project (The Vault
) and label (Sophisticate Pleasure Records
). I really like The Grey Wolves
, Haus Arafna
, Genocide Organ
. In the Black Metal scene, I especially appreciate Lurker of Chalice
, Funeral Mist
(and many swedish Orthodox bands), Behexen
, Dark Throne
, Velvet Cacoon
and much more.
HH: Given that fundamentalist Christianity is on the rise, after a period of relative decline in the 1980s, what are your thoughts on this? Why do you think a naïve and essentially negative religious philosophy has such sway politically-even economically-in the 21st Century?
Well, first, it’s probably a matter of identity. In USA for exemple, being a good Christian (Baptist-Evangelist-Mormon-Pentecotist, etc...) is a way to express your allegiance to your Christian country in front of the axis of “Evil Islamist” countries. The same phenomena happens in Israel with Judaism, and in many arabic and persic countries with Islam.
Of course, it’s not so simple, but when the economy of a country is starting to collapse, the social tension is high because of poverty, peoples are losing faith in material things and turn themselves to the “sky”. Finally, it’s the result of a sick society, losing faith in its own power of changing the world around us. Monotheistic religions are not anymore the realm of “mysteries” and “sacred” but an organ of political propaganda used for mass control.
It actually becoming a serious problem because a sacred cause can justify any excessive actions like unjustified invasions, suppression of basic rights and very restrictive moral codes. The result will be an explosive blend between political agendas and religious rhetorics, leading us to a massive clash between eastern and western civilizations.
HH: Can you discuss your own religious(and/or spiritual)values and what they bring to your lives and personal expression?
I’m not a religious person. I have a deep respect for heathenism but I consider myself atheist. Finding my own strength, being my own “god”, obeying my own rules and living life exactly the way I want it to be without having to follow any kind of guideline is important to me. Even more so now that I’ve been fighting serious health problem for the past 3 years.
I personally feel a need for a spiritual life of any kind. I’m not following any precise guide lines, I prefer to explore different avenues. It’s just another way to temporarily escape my normal life, studying and reading about a marginal approach for understanding our physical and mental environments.
You’re asking about values, for me religion/spirituality is 75% of philosophy and 25% of belief in something else higher, a kind of chaotic force influencing and linking any form of life on Earth. The philosophical values associated with different deities have more influences on my own life than any other spiritual aspects. For example, Odin is a role model for me, he’s the eternal wanderer. A shamanic archetype seeking knowledge at any price (passing by different ordeals, self-sacrifice and even his own temporary death). He’s not a positive or a negative figure, he’s as complex and combative being as humans should be. We should never fall into mediocrity in trying to improve our knowledge, and always being proud of ourselves and keeping ourselves above the common standards.
These philosophical aspects are also present in Satanism, I call it a form of “positive individualism”. It’s the same approach with the Luciferian intellectual elitism, it’s simply a matter of proving to yourself (and the others) that you can always be a better and stronger person.
HH: What role does your ancestry play in your lives? In your musical expression? Is the concept of ancestry relevant anymore?
We are like a tree, our roots need to be strongly anchored to the ground, our arms, like branches, turn up to the sky, looking for enlightenment, a higher destiny...A person should always look behind him/her, to know exactly where he/she coming from. If your roots are deeply buried in your homeland soil, you’ll certainly be a better person. To know about your past will help you to have a better futur. The concept of ancestry should always be relevant. The family is the core of a healthy society, a sacred entity to preserve at any cost. Even dead, members of your family will always stay a source of inspiration.
I did not use so much the concept of familial ancestors worship in my lyrics in the demo and the brand new album. On Traditions Normandes, it’s more a tribute to Hrólfur Utlægur as the founder of our European fatherland than a form of ancestral “praise”. It’s hard for me as a person to write lyrics about ancestors for UTLAGR. We are a band and not a one-man-project. My lyrics have to be objective and inclusive, not exclusive and pointing only in my direction.
HH: Would you define yourselves as practicing heathens? Why / why not?
I was a practicing heathen during the last 7-8 years. I had a small fanzine about philosophy, rune magick, galdr, books and north american/european asatru/odinic kindred activities. I was in contact with some of those kindred and I was an active member of a heathen organisation (that I’ll not name here).
I’ve decided to follow a lonely path for different reasons. A major one was the huge political influences inside many heathen groups. Also, since a bit more than 3 years, I’ve started a masters degree in archaeology at university and I’m actually writing a thesis on the iconographic representations of the Scandinavian Iron Age golden Bracteates and their symbolic implication as a vector of shamanic practices. With this project, I had the chance to travel all around Norway, Sweden, Danemark and Iceland. I met many persons with different point of view about Nordic paganism and its modern form. Since then, my own beliefs have evolved and I feel no more the need for rituals and active practices.
HH: What do you think heathenism has to offer men and women in the 21st Century? How does your music express these drives and spiritual ideas?
As I said earlier, heathenism is an opposition to mediocrity and should help anyone who feels the need to be a stronger and a better person. I think this notion of strength is omnipresent in UTLAGR’s music. With the actual catastrophic environmental situation, heathenism has to offer another approach to the concept of “Nature”. As an element of worship in some case, Mother Earth / Nature is a central point of heathenism. The respect for the environment and the close relationship with it should be at any active and passive heathens agenda.
The monotheistic religion place their unique God as the creator of Nature, not as a part of it. For them, humans should exploite it and fear it. The first thing the Christian monks done in France during the massive conversion of pagans around 500-600 AD, during the domination of the Germanic Holy Empire, was to cut the trees and destroy the forests. For them, it was the land of evil spirits and decadent gods and goddesses, cradle of the pagan faith. This priviliged relation between humans and Nature have been disrupted since then. The actual situation could be seriously different without the conversion to monotheism (maybe not but could it be worst?).
HH: In your myspace / website biography, you make the point that you stand against monotheism, and Christianity specifically. What else do you feel is wrong in the world and society at large? How do you think Utlagr and other metal bands are a real force in resisting and defying what you describe as religions that “destroy the force of character and the combativeness of each human being, thus reducing it to the state of a sheep in the herd.”?
What’s wrong with society actually? The savage capitalism is probably the major cause of problems. The quest for profit at any prices, the avidity of always being the richest, the corporate control on many governments, the incredible power of the lobbyist are only few examples of what’s going wrong with the capitalist attitude. I have nothing against prosperity but it should be the result of hard work and perseverance.
Some Metal musicians (not only Metal but any other “underground” kind of music) have adopted a very critical point of view in front of our actual western civilization system. Few of them are active militants against the “New World Order”. At least, more and more kids and teens are listening to Metal music and sharing our point of view. In that way, Metal music can be an organ of resistance. Staying critical, it’s the best way to preserve your integrity.
HH: So what's next? Can you leave us with a final comment?
Right now were planing 2 tours this years so the focus as been on that. I did began to write some riffs for the next album but I see no hurry to put out a other album right now. 1066 as just came out so promoting this album and doing shows is priority right now.
Thanks to Heathen Harvest for your support!