Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Interview: Beneath (Ragnar Sverrisson)

Behold, I bring you another interview from Iceland, and there is more to come. Beneath have no interest in being pigeon-holed into any particular genre, instead they do what Icelanders do best with their music style; They infuse elements from a wide range of genres to create something less "I heard this before" and more "This is interesting".

In this case, we have a stew of extreme influences…(though, in my opinion often mislabeled "technical death metal"). A basis of straight-forward extreme/brutal death metal create the massive sound Beneath offer, while subtly hinting at elements like black metal, grind, old-school and technical death metal. To me the bulk of the technicality comes from the drumming by Ragnar Sverrisson (who took the duty of answering these questions), you would think the fucker is an octopus with 8 arms… especially with those beautiful and drop-of-a-dime drum fills.

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1) Is there a "underdog" quality to being a metal band in Iceland?

Well there is definitely a big barrier between the Icelandic bands and the European live market because we always have the cost of airline transport if we want to play a show in Europe. It's frustrating to not be able to pack-up our shit into a bus and drive to Norway or Germany or whatever to expand your crowd. On the other hand I personally think that the isolation helps creating the unique Icelandic vibe to the bands that many have noted, but the fact that you most probably wont play the material for anyone but the Icelandic scene can be destructive to some bands…

2) What is the worst show you ever played? What is the best show you ever played?

For me personally our worst show was at Death feast open air in Germany were we couldn't hear each other, and we played like crap that day. 
I was really pleased with our performance at Neurotic Deathfest 2011 and I think it must be my favorite show to date. I really hope we can play in Tilburg again soon, it´s an awesome town.

3) Ophidian I tells me you guys share a practice space. I think you guys should squeeze into the practice space at the same time and jam out your respected songs at the same time. I think the force would be so strong it would cause all active volcanoes in Iceland to erupt at once. Okay, I'll ask a real question; What is your idea of being successful? What needs to happen for you guys to achieve your goals?

I think we´d be better off dividing the universe with zero than trying to mix these bands together, I really don´t want to know what would happen.

As for the Idea of being successful in my mind it is being able to play the music you like best for other people as often as you can and keep progressing your music and show. In my mind you are successful if you can keep doing that for a long time regardless of how big your crowd is.

4) Does Iceland have way too much Viking shit, or can you never have too much Viking anything?

I think outsiders think we are all bathed in Viking gold and clad in armor during our daily routine of killing people for no reason, but most Icelanders don´t really give two shits about Vikings, the only time I am usually reminded of the existence of Vikings is when I see the tourist shops downtown or go to a Skálmöld show. But in the right perspective, the fact that we are descended from Vikings and the impact they had on our culture can be very cool.

5) The word on the street is Enslaved By Fear is going to have a 10 minute track titled "Monolith" featuring the use of synthesizers, what inspired this?

Well the basic idea was to have something on the album to weigh against the speedy parts, which is basically all of the other songs. We wanted the song to be as basic as possible but still try to deliver the same amount of energy as in the other songs. I don´t want to reveal much more, but I´ll tell you that Daniel Bergstrand helped with the development of the add on instruments, with much delicacy.

6) I wanted to ask about the album art, but remembered Birkir of Halifax Collect (Who introduced me to you guys) already had that covered a while ago. It was addressed perfectly so I will just cross link it here: "The cover art is something to behold. It's pretty immense and to-the-point rather than being too ambiguous rendering it to feel out of sorts with the album title. It harkens back to the days of thrash metal were you could pretty much make out the lyrical theme by looking at the cover... What inspired you to be so literal in the imagery?" - Birkir

I'm certainly much more interested in album covers that give a certain theme or mood for an album as opposed to covers that are more like randomly Photoshopped stuff. There is a strong anti-religious theme in most of the lyrics on the album and we had a strong vision about the cover which Raymond really brought to life, so to speak. We wanted to have a religious icon, a high priest of some sort that was preaching (or commanding) to the suffering mass of people while being kept safe by armored guards.

7) How important was it for the band to have powerfully visual and conceptual album art?

I think we decided early on that we would be a straight-to-the-point band, both musically and lyrically, and so it was only natural to have the visual aspects represent that as clearly as possible. As said before this album has a strong anti-religious theme so that´s what the cover art depicts, I would imagine that on the next album we would have the cover art depict the lyrical message of that album as vividly as we have done now.

8) Which member in Beneath can grow the biggest beard? Who most fits the description of viking?

Unnar. No question about it. He´s got a thick black beard and likes to ride his motorcycle out in the wild when he´s not deathmetalling in Ophidian I or Beneath. 
He is also the fastest moonshine-drinker I have ever seen.

9) When can I be expecting Beneath to come playing in Toronto, Canada?

Hopefully soon, let´s see where this album takes us and hopefully we´ll be on the road asap.

10) Which 5 bands have influenced Beneath the most?

From the top of my head Misery Index, Hate Eternal, Behemoth, Hate and Morbid Angel.

11) Iceland seems to be a small breeding ground for musicians with fresh ideas and takes on music. Is there something in the air of fire and ice that breeds this unique approach to the music?

I think it´s the location right between America and Europe, and also our nature helps to inspire.  But mainly it´s the access we have to media from all directions of the world and we can then take the best styles and blend them to make our own.

12) I want to come live in your country, I will get my European citizenship and start working as a freelance graphic designer, all I need is for you and our pals in Ophidian I to help me out with some contacts. Deal?

Sure, just bring us some Canadian groupies and we´re all set.
13) Signing to Unique Leader Records must have been exciting, how does the signing help the band branch out further towards your goals? Be honest, are there any downfalls to signing with major labels?

It´s definitely awesome to get signed, both because it´s a recognition but also it´s a sign that you can now focus solely on making music without having to worry as much about how to get it to the masses. If there are any downfalls we haven´t experienced them yet, there have of course been some delays but they were a reality also before we got signed so not much chanced.

14) Did Jóhann really use a screwdriver as a whammy bar while recording in the studio? If so, please accept this HIGH FIVE!

Yes he did, and HIGH FIVE accepted!

15) This will be a difficult question to answer. but since you are staring down the barrel of the debut release is there anything the album as a whole may lack, anything you wish you added or any single element that could slightly be improved?

As a musician you always wish you were tighter on this or that part or may have had an idea that didn´t come to fruition… but there are also new elements that you had not expected, added by producers and others that totally make up for that. Though, any album that I make that doesn't have Eiríkur Hauksson guest singing on it has me thinking afterwards: "damn it, I wish we´d asked Eiríkur Hauksson to be a guest singer on this album".

16) I am going to link some bands, listen to it, rate each one out of 10, feel free to provide some reasoning behind the ranking. Pressure is on!

Oh crap this will be hard as I'm very narrow-minded when it comes to music and very rarely discover a new band that permanently sticks, but

let´s give it a shot:

A) Kvelertak

Hmm, this is some sort of post-hardcore slash black metal? These guys can play their instruments well and this is a pretty original blend (at least to a guy like me stuck in the 1997-2002 era of metal), and the owl tentacle-Gothic twin sisters on the cover are pretty hot, so I guess that brings the total value of this song to me to about....6.5/10. Well done Kvelertak.

B) Heresiarch

Now this is instantly more to my liking, fast, brutal and pretty disgusting. On the other hand I dislike the fact that bands these days are still producing their music with such a crappy sound. Also even though i like the style it´s not a very original song. The cover art is very cool, seems to my like it´s supposed to represent total chaos on the earth.  All this considered this band scores a 6/10.

C) Low Places

Pretty awesome, I can smell the old carpet on the walls at some shitty rehearsal space. Great amount of energy for 43 seconds. 7/10

D) Vomit The Soul

Instantly I am annoyed by those bree-bree vocals, although this has some cool riffs and is pretty well sounding music. The incredibly stupid choice of a band name further enforces my opinion that this band scores 5.5/10 for not making more of their obvious musical talent.

E) Winterfylleth

Whenever I check out one of those bands who are all about the true forestry-frostbitten-romantic black metal, I get prejudice against them for not being original, but damn it, this style of music just has too strong of an attraction for me to judge anyone for playing it, and these guys do it well. This song has a nice build-up and the title pretty well matches the visions the sound of this song brings to me. I´m a sucker for this "it´s raining outside, let´s stay inside and cry" vibe so this band scores a 8/10 and is thus the winner of this little review.

17) Finally, the most important question of all, and one I asked Ophidian I; 'm trying really hard to visit Iceland again this September or October, where would I most likely find members of Beneath hanging out on a Friday or Saturday? Who is likely to be the most drunk? Who is most likely to come stumbling to the hotdog vendor with me?

Tþm (our rehearsal space), Unnar and Unnar.

Thank you Ragnar, keep punishing those skins.

Thank you, and thank you for the interest in Beneath!

the end.


  1. Found this acidentally searching the internet for Enslaved By Fear. im glad i did, fucking awesome man

    bookmarking blog

  2. Was posted on the Beneath facebook, I really enjoyed this, Snillingur

  3. Raggi is great. Good read. Chris rules. Bookmark the shit out of him. Thanks for the namedrop and for including a link. Hail and kill!

    - Birkir
    Halifax Collect blog

  4. Great interview!

  5. The Swedish MetalheadJuly 18, 2012 at 5:16 AM

    Haven't visited the site for a while, and you post stuff? Nice!

    Altough a tip for you, try to get long posts like these just to show up as a preview on the start page, so that you have to click on the link to come to the full interview, it becomes so much easier to navigate the site then, and it becomes rather annoying when you've read a long text, and then have to scroll past it everytime. Just my 2 cents.

  6. @The Swedish Metalhead

    Aye, I can understand that. I'll take a look into it. Also, are you from/living in Sweden? I'm heading there this October and would love to pick your brain about something.


    Ps: Stop visiting so infrequently and contributing even more infrequently… cunt ;)

  7. The Swedish MetalheadJuly 28, 2012 at 3:43 AM

    Damnit.. looks lie i didn't click publish...

    But yes, i'm from Sweden, so just ask away. Or would you like to take this over mail?

    1. Yeah, hit me up on my email. (chris_dalessandro@hotmail.com)