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With the release of sophomore full-length 'Tßmsins likam' this month, Comrade Aleks went in search of Faroese band Hamfer­ to get the story on it.

Interview with Hamfer­.
"Every doom metal fan learned where the Faroe Islands are when Hamfer­'s debut EP 'Vilst er sÝ­sta fet' appeared in 2010, and I guess that the full-length 'Evst' (2013) drew the attention of not only fans of slow and low music, but of many more open-minded metalheads. The band's name means "the epiphany of dead/missing seamen", their vocalist sings in his mother tongue with both clean sonorous vocals and deep growls, and the band in itself sounds in the vein of both classic Death Doom outfits and classic music in a wider sense of the word. After five years silence from the Hamfer­ camp the band returned with a long-awaited sophomore - 'Tßmsins likam' - that saw the light of day on the 12th of January on Metal Blade Records. I believe that you would have questions for Hamfer­'s members, and that the band's guitarist Theodor Kapnas and vocalist Jˇn Aldarß have answered some of them in this interview."

Hamfer­: Esmar Joensen (Keyboards), Theodor Kapnas (Guitars), John ┴ki Egholm (Guitars), Jˇn Aldarß (Vocals), ═sak Petersen (Bass), Remi K. Johannesen (Drums).

Hi Theodor and Jˇn! First of all, my congratulations ľ Hamfer­'s long awaited second full-length 'Tßmsins likam' is almost in our hands. But, gentlemen, what held you up? The band got its portion of praise after the release of 'Evst', but you made us wait for five years!

TK: Well, technically you have only waited for four years and two months! Jokes aside, we have had several challenges in releasing this album which has made it take it's time. First and foremost we spent a lot of time writing the music since we really wanted this album to be as elaborate and thorough as possible. The writing has also taken quite a bit of time because we have not been able to rehearse regularly since Remi (drums) moved to Denmark and it is pretty difficult to rehearse without a drummer! So we have been forced to do a large part of the writing individually with computers which has been a bit of an adaptation for us. We also decided that we wanted to try and release this record on one of the bigger international metal labels, and we decided that we wanted to have the record completely finished before we tried to make deal with anyone. So the album has actually been done for slightly more than a year. And as you know we have signed with Metal Blade Records, so as you can imagine we can't wait to finally be able to release it!

In what conditions did you record 'Tßmsins likam'? How did these sessions differ from the ones you had for 'Evst'?

TK: We all knew each other well when we did Evst, but I think I can say that we know each other even better now. We have played much more shows together and I think we have improved at recognizing each other's ideas, strengths and weaknesses which probably has made the process easier this time around (much less fighting haha).. On the production side of things the biggest difference from Evst and Vilst er sÝ­sta fet is that although I did the production for the album myself I didn't mix this album myself. We were lucky enough to have the legendary Daniel Bergstrand do the mix. He took the recordings to a different place than I would have done myself and I don't think we could be much happier with how it sounds.

Studio session for 'Tßmsins likam'.

Really? How did you explain to him the kind of result you'd like to reach?

TK: Nowadays most bands work on a pretty tight budget, meaning that a lot of modern metal productions are made in a way where certain tools and workflows are used to be able to reach consistently good results in as little time as possible. However, seeing as I produced the album myself and work out of a really nice studio we didn't have those budget constraints in the same way. So I set out to make the album sound as realistic as possible and try to capture the sounds and performances of the band as honestly as possible. The end result we were going for was a real sounding album with real performances, properly recorded drums, real strings, real choirs etc... And Daniel is the undisputed master of making the best of a production like that and making a recording sound like a fantastic version of itself instead of making it sound like everything else. Those are the kind of productions I personally enjoy the most, so you could say we had a similar idea of what we wanted it to sound like from the beginning.

Hamfer­ - 'Evst' (Official):

You have an official video for one of the new songs - 'Frosthvarv' - that looks really impressive. I remember that 'Evst' is a prequel to your debut EP 'Vilst er sÝ­sta fet'. What about 'Tßmsins likam', then?

Jˇn: You're quite right, and "Tßmsins likam" goes even further back, chronicling the origins of the main character from the previous albums and his relationship to his wife, who is also a main character this time. The story is seen from both of their perspectives, and describes how differently they deal with grief after losing their youngest son to disease. The husband becomes increasingly distant and unsupportive, so she seeks out. There she meets a mystical figure that helps her work through her loss. The story is strongly inspired by the "nykur" myth, which exists in different versions throughout the Nordic countries. The "nykur" is a lake-dwelling creature that can change form to lure unsuspecting victims to their death by drowning.

You have a very unusual approach, as most doom bands prefer to write lyrics using only general images of "loss", "grief", "regret" and so on. What made you write such a detailed story?

Jˇn: Storytelling has played a huge part in forming Faroese culture, as it has been for most of the world's pre-literate communities. The term "hamfer­" even springs from old Faroese stories and myths, so it is quite intuitive for us to apply this approach to our lyrics and music. Personally, I am a big fan of mythology, science fiction and fantasy, and I believe that these concepts are best fulfilled in narrative form. Therefore, I tend to frame my lyrics within a storyline, so I can include those concepts as much as possible. Also, if I deal with subjects such as loss, grief or regret, I find that a storyline can put them in a larger context, so that I don't get too lost in a mire of emotion. I know many doom bands prefer that, but I enjoy being able to pull out of it, if necessary.

Discography: 'Vilst er sÝ­sta fet' (EP, Tutl Records, 2010), 'Evst' (Tutl Records, 2013), 'Tßmsins likam' (Metal Blade, 2018).

There's been a new bass player, Isak Petersen, with Hamfer­ since 2014... Well, it actually means that he isn't new... However, did he take part in composing the songs? Is there any place for democracy when you go into studio?

TK: We all have different roles when it comes to the composition and songwriting aspects of our music but we try to involve all members as much as possible since I feel we always get our best results when there is as much co-operation as possible.

═sak has played a big part in this upcoming record. He has joined with some really good ideas and he is an absolutely phenomenal bassist as I am sure people will be able to hear. We have had to change bassists twice, but both times we have been extremely lucky with having a ready-made replacement who has fitted seamlessly into the band. ═sak has been a close friend of ours for many years and he has slotted straight into the Hamfer­ family.

How would you describe the main features of the new material? Four years is a long period, I bet that it should sound different, but 'Frosthvarv' shows that the Death Doom aspect of Hamfer­, its tender acoustic parts, Jon's sonorous vocals and lyrics written in your mother language are all back in their places.

Jˇn: The new material is definitely a continuation rather than a reinvention. With "Evst", we felt that we had hit a very solid "sound" that could convey our idea of Hamfer­. This time we wanted to stick to that sound and expand the way we constructed an album with it. For example, we have been extremely conscious of tying the album together, musically. We were very inspired by the movement-structure of classical symphonies, assigning musical themes to the particular moods, characters or events within the story. Also, we have been aiming towards creating strong dynamics by introducing some subtle new elements and assigning a unique profile for each song without losing the coherence of the album, which, if I should say so myself, we managed quite well.

Can you say that such a complex approach helps to connect the music more tightly with the mournful mood of the album's story, to make it more complex and full of semi-colours as well?

Jˇn: It certainly supports the complex nature of the story, since the music is able to move in tandem with the events and emotional ebbs and flows. And certainly, using eclectic elements for contrast does add color and listenability to an otherwise quite demanding album.

Hamfer­ - 'Frosthvarv' (Official):

I didn't ask this question during our first interview, but I'm wondering ľ what are your influences? Which bands formed your vision of how the band does sound?

TK: All of us have quite varied preferences when it comes to music, and I think that our different individual preferences influence the way that Hamfer­ sounds. But we do not aspire to sound like any other band, we strive to create our own expression and not to copy what anybody else is doing. But everybody is always influenced by their surroundings and we are no different. One thing which has influenced the writing of our upcoming album a lot is classical music. We wanted to create an album which can work as one large piece of music even if it consists of several shorter parts, much like a symphony.

Classic music strongly associates with harmonies (in general), while heavy music is rather about a distorted, sometimes destructive vibe. Do you feel that in Hamfer­ you have a balance between these two sides?

TK: We do spend a lot of time working on both the rhythmical and harmonic content of our songs. When I write music it always has a lot to do with chord progressions and different harmonies. I came up with most of the music for "Tßmsins likam", so a lot of it actually started out being quite simple rhythmically but pretty complex harmonically. The rhythms are usually only done after Remi has joined in and written drum patterns and moved some stuff around.

It's pretty hard to put into words, but we do put a large emphasis on creating harmonic tension within our music. I personally love music which is dissonant but still has an air of beauty about it, and I often strive to achieve a combination of those two when I write music for Hamfer­. I have listened a lot to classical music over the last couple of years, and even though I am not a fan of a large part of it (especially the happy stuff) a few composers such as Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov managed to hit that perfect balance between beauty, dissonance and despair in some of their works. If reading this makes anyone curious go check out Tchaikovsky's 6th or Mahler's 9th, especially the last movement of both those symphonies. They are as doomy and bleak as any metal I've ever heard.

Live 2015 (Photo: Olaf Olsen).

As I've noticed, Hamfer­ is on Metal Blade now: how did that happen? How is it to work with such a big label?

TK: We are very excited to be releasing the new album on Metal Blade. We first spoke to them a few years ago when they expressed an interest in releasing our music, but at that time we were not in a place where we knew what we were planning to do with the new record. But when we finished up the album and decided that we wanted to release it on an international label we got back in touch with them and the rest is history. Our co-operation with them is still a pretty new thing, but we are extremely happy with how things are going. The people at the label are proper music people and have given us full creative freedom to create the artistic content that we want to create which has always been a key point for us. And yeah, working with Metal Blade will hopefully let the music reach a far larger audience than if we would have released this album on Tutl. So the times ahead look very exciting.

By the way, do you feel Hamfer­ is now a bigger band, or if the worldwide feedback from fans was a full sign of recognition back in the time of 'Evst''s release?

Jˇn: After releasing "Evst" we definitely felt an accelerated increase in recognition, and the increase has continued until now. So you could say that we are working from a more advanced point in our career with "Tßmsins likam" than we did with "Evst". Hopefully we can continue to grow and reach more people that could potentially enjoy our music.

Do you plan to support the new album with a tour? I saw only one date in Iceland, one in Germany and there was one more gig or soů It doesn't look like a massive expansionů

TK: We will actually be on tour for most of February. Our first show after the release is in Iceland where we will be guests at Au­n's release concert. Check out their new album if you aren't familiar with it! We are then doing a three week tour of Europe in February, starting out together with the great Downfall Of Gaia for most of the tour and then ending the tour with a few Danish dates with our fellow countrymen from Svartmßlm and then a final Danish date with our good friends from Woebegone Obscured. So we are going to be busy in February and will hopefully add a few festivals this summer as well. Time will tell what happens after that.

Hamfer­ - 'Dey­ir var­ar (Live, 2015, during the solar eclipse):

Gents, you played live (and recorded it) during a solar eclipse, you played in church and performed an acoustic set a few years ago. What now? Do you plan to play a show in front of erupting volcano or something?

TK: We have an idea or two about cool stuff to do, but nothing concrete yet. The last couple of years we have been playing 1-2 concerts a summer in a large seacave in The Faroe Islands called KlŠmintsgjˇgv which has a reverberation time of over 10 seconds. It's an indescribable experience, hopefully we will be able to make a proper recording in there some day.

What are the chances of Hamfer­ winning the Faroese Music Awards with the new album? And what are the chances of Třr prevailing once again in this nomination?

TK: I have no idea to be honest. I am not sure what the FMA categories will be but I am pretty sure that there won't be a "best metal album" category since there aren't that many metal albums released in The Faroe Islands every year. So if we or Třr get nominated we will have to go up against artists from all sorts of other genres, and when it reaches that point it is impossible to compare music in my opinion. So we're not too bothered about it although it's obviously always nice to get recognition.

Jon, what about Barren Earth and Clouds? Clouds released the EP 'Destin' this year, but there's been nothing new from Barren Earth for two years: when can we expect new material?

Jˇn: The new Barren Earth album has been recorded, mixed and mastered, and it's set for release sometime in Spring. We'll probably announce it quite soon. Really excited about that! In regards to Clouds, mastermind Daniel is always at work on material, so I suspect there will be something on my doorstep to work on soon enough.

Thank you for the excellent interview gents! I wish you and Hamfer­ all the best on forthcoming tour!

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Visit the Hamfer­ bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-01-31 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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