Interview with Árstíðir Lífsins

Interview with Stefán, responsible for all bass and guitars, as well as select vocals and choirs.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/arstidirlifsins
Bandcamp page: https://arstidirlifsins.bandcamp.com/
Ván Records: https://van-records.com/

Hello and thanks for your time. You formed a while back in 2008. Is your music mellowing with age or are you getting more bitter?

No, I assume our releases remain somewhat the same throughout the years. We clearly have a progression music-wise, but we are inspired by the same topics as in 2008: Old Norse literature and history. Two of us have an academic education in Old Norse Philology, and we approach the topics we deal with from a very critical and academic point of view. Our lyrics are written in Old Norse entirely, and as part of them, we use a large quantity of Viking-Age and medieval Scandinavian Skaldic and Eddic poetry, as well as sections of the famous Icelandic saga corpus.

Your latest music is based on the Norwegian king and saint Olafr Haraldsson who lived in the 11th century. Is there a reason you chose to write about him in particular?

As all of our previous releases, we depict on our newest album entitled ‘Saga a tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir’, and it’s twinned forerunner ‘Saga a tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr’, parts of Viking-Age and medieval Scandinavian history. The story told on our albums is always connected to each other in the sense that an ongoing story of a (fictional) family is depicted, embedded in the history and culture of western Scandinavia. The time of reign and the power-struggles of Óláfr helgi Haraldsson (995–1030) was simply now topical. With our last album, ‘Aldafǫðr ok munka dróttinn’, we displayed a previous part of the story of the same family, embedded in the events of the Christianisation of Iceland in the year 999/1000. 

In all your years of writing black metal, is there a favourite subject you have covered? If so, why?

As mentioned before, I would not consider our music being black metal in the narrow sense, rather Old Norse-inspired metal music. Although most of our metal influences clearly stem from various bands of the 1990’s Black Metal scene, there are almost no correlations as regard to our lyrics. In either way, the subjects we cover, being inspired by Old Norse poetry and literature, are all equally interesting for us. 

In the future, do you have any plans to take your musical ideas into a different direction? If so, how?

We are constantly evolving, in particular music-wise, and I do not see that this may change in the foreseeable future. Thus, we certainly are not in a need to change our lyrics or our music radically. We first and foremost do Árstíðir lífsins for ourselves.

Your music often has an ambient vibe. Are there any composers you have been influenced by that many would consider ‘weird’?

Our musical influences are wide, and it would clearly go too far to count them all in this interview. I would certainly not consider any of them as weird. In either way, outside of metal music, as for choral works, I have been somewhat inspired by the works of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. I know for certain that our band member Árni (Bergur Zoëga) is inspired by selected composers of contemporary classical music such as Krzysztof Penderecki and György Ligeti. Árni has studied composition at BA and MA levels and is responsible for quite a few of the parts that you may be referring to.

Are you planning to do a tour? If so, when? If not, why?

With Árstíðir lífsins, we never played live, and probably never will. We are generally not against playing concerts, but we simply have not the time to prepare and work together with an extended live line-up at the moment.

How do you resolve disagreements in the band, if there are any?

We all in the band are grown-up and experienced musicians, there is a very professional way of working presently in the band since the beginning.

There is a lot of poetry in your music. Do you write any of your own poetry?

 

We use in our lyrics a large quantity of so-called heiti and kennings, poetic Old Norse synonyms and compounds deeply rooted in the various religious and societal aspects of Old Norse culture. These are embedded in the prose lyrics, while the actual poetics are citations of Skaldic and Eddic poetry. In that sense, there is no own poetry in our lyrics, although the heavy use of heiti and kennings indicate a somewhat poetic form of expression nevertheless. For a better understanding, apart from one EP (due to the sake of limited space), all of our physical releases feature English translations of our lyrics, including the quoted Old Norse sources.

Do you have any jobs to support you or are you working full time with your band?

I am employed in the humanities, and conduct research in medieval Scandinavian literature. Although working with Árstíðir lífsins is a passion of mine, it is not a substantial source of income.

How is lockdown affecting you?

Fortunately, not much. I work from home as many people do that are employed in academia. Writing music and lyrics remain the same as before, but playing concerts with Helrunar, a band from Germany that all three of us play live with, has stopped for the time being. Although this is not very pleasant, there is little I can do, and instead of getting grumpy about the current situation, I try to be as productive as before. Thus far, it worked out fairly well.

Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you would like to say?

Thank you for your support and interest in Árstíðir lífsins.

(This video is from their currently released split with Icelandic black metal band Carpe Noctem. No promotion song of their upcoming album has been set online as of yet.)

Interview by Simon Wiedemann

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