In my humble opinion, Hamferð have recently released an early contender for album of the year in their stunning latest album Támsins Likam. Yes, yes, I know; bold claims…it’s only January…blah blah blah, but I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a release that ends up getting some seriously high places on a lot of lists eventually. Time will tell, of course…
Anyway, all I can say is that I urge you in the strongest possible manner to check these guys out. If you’re partial to emotive, melancholy doom metal, with first-rate songwriting and some deathly bite, then this is a release you have to check out.
Vocalist Jón Aldará and guitarist Theodor Kapnas were kind enough to let me in on a lot of the background of the band and album, so listen to the stream at the bottom of this interview and have a read of the band’s thoughtful and comprehensive answers…
Who and what are Hamferð?
Jón: We are a sextet from the Faroe Islands which plays a form of doom metal that is hugely inspired by the Faroese environment and cultural heritage. We have evolved a bit through the years and have been compared to quite a broad variety of artists, but the base of our sound was originally inspired by mid to late 90’s death/doom bands, particularly from the English, Swedish and perhaps Finnish scenes. However, our influences range quite widely, as Hamferð is a band composed of six very different personalities with different backgrounds and preferences. In our opinion, this has led to a certain eclectic nature in our music, which then results in a wide range of comparisons, depending on the ear that hears. And that’s exactly the way we like it!
How did you form?
Theodor: The band was originally formed by John, our other guitarist. There was a band competition in The Faroes called The Global Battle Of The Bands, and if I’m not mistaken John formed Hamferð to get free tickets for the event! To be fair I think he had been thinking about trying to create a Faroese doom metal band for quite some time, so he called up the people who ended up being the first iteration of Hamferð. They wrote one song, performed at GBOB in 2008 and got to the final of the competition. But after that not much happened for a year or so. However, a year later he called me and Esmar and asked us to join the band and we then got together and started working on some more material. I think we all felt that the concept of Faroese doom metal was too good of an idea to not continue working on, and here we are I guess.
A fun fact is that we still play that first song live at almost every show even though we’ve never properly recorded it.
What have you been listening to lately that you would like to recommend?
Jón: I always try to brush up on new stuff as much as I can, even though I haven’t been as diligent in recent years as I used to be. Nevertheless, I found some gems in 2017. The comeback record of Akercocke is fantastic, and to my delight, Fleshkiller reinvented the Extol-sound, and with Ole Børud at the helm, no less. ‘In the Passing Light of Day’ by Pain of Salvation was probably my highlight, and I even got the chance to see them on that tour. So for me, it was very much a year of returning favourites.
Theodor: I work with music full-time, so to be honest I don’t look up as much new music as used to do a few years ago. I did enjoy some really great releases in 2017 though. The Pain Of Salvation album that Jón has already mentioned was definitely one of the highlights of the year, but I think my most played album of 2017 must be Leprous’ latest record “Malina”. Both those albums have been playing on repeat for long periods of 2017. An honorary mention must also go to the latest Cannibal Corpse record, I haven’t had the time to listen as much to it as the aforementioned two, but I am probably going to hit another death metal period pretty soon and put that one on repeat.
Támsins Likam is your second album – did you approach this one differently to your previous work?
Theodor: Our previous two releases both had a conceptual approach. For our first EP “Vilst er síðsta fet” it was Jón’s lyrics that tied the concept together, the music was written as separate songs. For our first full-length “Evst” we wrote the songs separately, but we put them together and tweaked them for them to make as much sense as possible in the context of the album’s context. So you could say that we created lots of different pieces and then put them together into a concept album when the process had got quite far. However, we have approached “Támsins likam” as a conceptual piece of music from the get-go. We don’t rehearse as regularly as we used to since we live in different countries now, so for the new album I did most of the basic songwriting before sending demos off to the guys for them to add their own touches to the material. And I worked very closely with Jón from the beginning to make sure that the lyrical concept and the musical compositions would be able to evolve together instead of us having to work to make one part fit the other.
Tell us a bit about the concept and lyrical themes behind the songs on the album
Jón: This album is the final part of a trilogy that includes our previous two albums. The story has been released in reverse chronology; the ‘Vilst er síðsta fet’ EP describes the fears, regrets and attempts at salvation by the main character in his moment of death, while ‘Evst’ chronicles the events occurring just before his death, where he realises that he is doomed to repeat the errors of his past. ‘Támsins likam’ investigates that past.
The man and his wife have lost a child to disease and in their grief struggle to keep their family together. The man becomes distant and lost inside himself, while the woman yearns to process her grief on regain an ordinary life. They lose connection with each other, and the woman is driven to find support elsewhere. She finds a mysterious stranger that shows her beautiful and hopeful things, and she continues to meet with him. But her husband suspects, discovers them and starts following them, driven by jealousy. But the stranger is no mere man, and soon he leads the wife – with her husband on their heels – through the mountains on a perilous voyage towards a tragic ascension.
The main theme discusses the inability for human beings to improve themselves and their patterns of action in isolation. The story is inspired by Faroese folklore, and the mysterious being is derived from tales of the “nykur”, a mythical creature that is able to turn into any appealing form and lure people into its lake dwelling to drown.
Quite a few years have passed between the releases – what have you been up to in the meantime?
Theodor: We have tried to play as many shows as possible and keep as busy as possible with Hamferð, but to be honest the writing, production and release of “Támsins likam” has taken up a huge chunk of our time. We’re unfortunately not able to do Hamferð for a living, so we have to balance what we do in the band with our other everyday responsibilities. A few of us do have other musical projects which have released stuff, most notably Jón has released an album with his other band Barren Earth and John has released an album with his other band Hamradun, both are worth checking out! But we’re delighted to finally have released “Támsins likam” so we can do some touring again. And now that the album is finally out we can move on from it and start writing new material.
Now that you have completed work on the album, what’s your view of it?
Jón: We are incredibly proud of it. Considering the time and effort it took to realise it, we could have easily become stuck in composition and end up with a bit of a mess in the end. We didn’t end up with exactly the kind of record that we imagined before starting to write, but it became the record that best represents our current vision as a band. It is quite a long time since we finished it, so at the moment, the album feels almost too familiar for just having been released. Therefore, we are extremely excited to hit the road with the material and feel it come alive for us again!
If you had it to do over again, would you change anything?
Jón: In the big picture, I’d have to say no. Of course, some things don’t go exactly as planned and it’s hard to know exactly what to do in all situations. But I truly believe that we have dealt with all our challenges to the best of our abilities, and in the process we have gained priceless knowledge. We have always stuck to our principles, doing things the hard and rewarding way, and we will continue to do so in the future.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
Jón: To me, the songs are very dependent on each other, so it’s quite difficult to pick out favourites. I’m a sucker for the weird and wonderful, and “Tvístevndu meldur” has some very strange harmonics and otherworldly atmospherics going on. “Fylgisflog” is also close to my heart, due to its naked beginning and gradual buildup towards the final crashing waves of guitars and strings.
Theodor: I don’t have a particular favourite song on the album, I have loved them all and been sick of them all at some moment in time. However, if I had to pick one it’d probably be the last song on the album called “Vápn í anda”. I am extremely proud of how that one turned out.
How do you balance the heavier influences in your sound with the more delicate, lighter ones?
Theodor: One of our main considerations when we write music for Hamferð is dynamics. We are not the kind of band that would repeat the same riff for minutes like for instance many funeral doom bands, we’re too impatient. So it’s quite natural for us to delve in different dynamics to create variety in our music. All six of us have quite different influences, but I’d still say that some of our main influences when the band was starting out have incorporated both clean sections and very heavy sections.
In my opinion heaviness has a lot to do with contrast – the softer you play, the harder it will end up hitting when you finally do something heavy.
Do you have any goals for the album and for 2018 in general?
Jón: We’re of course hoping that it will reach as many people as possible, and that it will be an experience for those who hear it. It’s a very coherent and probably a somewhat demanding album, so it’s going to be very interesting to hear our listener’s thoughts on it.
We will be touring with the new material as much as possible throughout the year, including a European and Danish tour in February, as well as a slew of festivals. There will be also a special release concert on the Faroe Islands in March, which we are hoping to be able to film. Besides that, the year is young! You never know what we might come up with.
What’s it like working with Metal Blade?
Theodor: It’s great! Working with a label such as Metal Blade is obviously a dream come true for pretty much any metalhead, so we’re delighted to have got the chance to do so. The people at the label are proper music people and have been extremely helpful so far. A very important point for us is that they don’t want to get involved in the creative side of things, they trust us and give us full freedom to create the music we want to create. The response to the new album has been incredible so far, and part of that is obviously due to the fantastic promotion that the label has been doing for the album, so we’re looking forward to continuing working with Metal Blade and to see where that can take us as a band.
What are your views on the current state of heavy music?
Jón: There is always exciting stuff happening, and lots of artists and bands are trying to keep it fresh and innovative. I have huge respect for that. But there’s also a lot of traditionalism and nostalgia going on, and to be honest, I find the whole retro thing quite dull. Of course, good music is good music, no matter if the style’s been done before. But metal music can very easily get stale nowadays, because it’s getting more and more difficult to find ways to reinvigorate it and discover new ways for it to go. That’s why I give props to those who try, even a little bit. I doubt that there will ever be another band or scene that reinvents metal, though. It’s difficult to imagine, at least.
Theodor: There has probably never been more quality music available. However, the sheer number of bands out there means you usually have to dig a bit deeper to find something really awesome since you get picky when you’re spoiled for choice. Or at least I do! The number of bands out there makes it harder for bands to grow to the size of the biggest bands of previous generations. There is only a handful of metal bands out there that realistically look like they will be headlining the big festivals in 20 years time, so I think the whole dynamic of the music industry is changing a lot. You have to become pretty big to have a decent shot of actually making a living out of performing metal music, that part seems a lot harder nowadays than it used to be. However, I doubt that we as a doom metal band from The Faroe Islands would be doing international interviews 20 years ago, so the world getting smaller has definitely benefited us.
Do you have any upcoming tours that you want to talk about?
Jón: Certainly. On the live front, this year starts with a concert in Reykjavík, where we will support Auðn at their release concert for their new album “Farvegir Fyrndar”. On February 2nd, we begin our Central European tour with the awesome Downfall of Gaia. We will do 16 dates in Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, France, Poland, the Netherlands and Italy. Right after that, we play 4 shows around Denmark with our friends and countrymen Svartmálm, who are releasing their debut album in February. We have a few festivals coming up in the Summer, of which only Midgardsblot in Norway is announced so far. We’re hoping to do another, more extensive tour in the fall, so if anyone is disappointed that we can’t make their country in February, keep an eye out! We’ll get there eventually.
Anything you’d like to add to sum up?
Only that we sincerely hope that people have a listen to ‘Támsins likam’ and come see us perform the songs live if the tour comes by. Thank you for your questions and your interest!