Svölk and roll

By Adam Smyth

Svölk are an exceptional band from Norway for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they go against the grain of Norway’s main metal export by actually not being another corpse painted, church burning black metal band. Secondly, they play “true Norwegian bear metal” – a raucous mix of redneck attitude, stoner heaviness and 80s guitar riffibility.

With a successful debut album now behind them and a recent signing to Austrian-based Napalm records, things are looking bearight for the band. Later this month the band are set for a worldwide release of second album Svölk ‘Em All. Adam Smyth caught up with bassist Halstein Røyseland to dissect everything Svölk  and roll related. . . in a grizzly sort of way, of course!

AS: First of all, Svölk  is definitely a striking name for a band but where did you get your name? Is there an English translation for it too? 

HR: Svölk is a word from Trysil, the redneck backwoods where the band was founded. It means to kick someone’s ass, or to kick ass. So it’s a pretty fitting name for the band. At least, that’s what we would like to think.

AS: So you’re primed and ready to release the always-tough second album. During the writing and recording process for Svölk  ’em all was it a case of simply building on the momentum of history’s first ‘bear metal’ album (their eponymous debut album) or did you consciously decide to move in a different direction in terms of a musical or lyrical theme?

HR: We are constantly trying to renew ourselves, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to sound very different from the first album. It will still be of very high Svölk-calibre.

AS: What can fans expect on this album? 

HR: Get ready to be Svölked! There is a bunch of high quality riffs from our axemen Martin and Jengt. It’s a re-release of our Norwegian debut album, so some fans might recognise it, but there are also some older gems on this version. And it’s all soaked in our redneck attitude, haha.

AS: You’ve cited ‘Eighties metalmasters’ as key influences on your unique sound. It may seem obvious to point out, but you could forgive a metal fan for thinking that because of that fact added to the title of your next album, (Svölk  ’em all) there is some connection to Metallica’s ‘Kill ’em all’ title. Is the connection only a namesake coincidence or was the titling of the album a conscious nod to that album?

HR: That’s no coincidence at all, my friend. I think it’s safe to say that James Hetfield has been one of the biggest influences on metal musicians the last 20 years, and that goes for us too. Metallica made some killer albums in the eighties. So yes, it’s a little nod the Bay Area thrashers, and metal fans will know that. At the same time, Svölk ‘em all means that we’ll kick everybody’s ass – as we certainly do live. Muahaha!

AS: You’ve recently moved from being with an indie label to signing with the huge Napalm records in September. Since you formed in 2005 did Svolk experience times of having no money? What is it like now to have the backing of a label like Napalm and how did you get signed? 

HR: It’s of course great for us to sign with Napalm! It’s a great label, with several great bands, but the best thing is that they have people working there who really know metal, and what it’s all about. We’ve always had to work to make enough money for beer, and when you start out you have to work long and hard before you see any money. It’s like they say in the Turbonegro song: Working for the weekend just to stay alive.

AS: In the metal world, Norway is famous for its crowding of corpse painted black metal bands. Svölk on the other hand stand out as a Norwegian band for having more of a stoner- Sabbath sort of vibe about them. Did you guys feel that you definitely wanted to create something that was a reaction to your country’s black metal roots or did the ‘redneck attitude’ just come naturally? What sort of influences do you draw from?

HR: The rest of the guys are the biggest rednecks I know, so that comes naturally indeed. And I think we would look pretty fucking stupid in white make up and black hair. Besides, we don’t even know if we can play that fast, haha. Growing up, we listened to a lot of different rock and metal. Bands like Black Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore.

AS: What’s next in the pipeline for Svölk? I take it you will be touring like crazy once this album is released?

HR: We are planning to spread our gospel of bear metal all over the world. There is talk of an European tour in the spring, and hopefully you’ll get to see us on the festival circuit next summer.

AS: This time last year you were touring with the mighty Annihilator across Europe, no small feat at all I’m sure! What would be your dream band or bands to tour with and what place or festival would you most like to play at?

HR: It was great for us to tour Europe with Annihilator. Great guys, and good times! For me, personally, I would love to tour with The Sword. I think that would fit Svölk like a glove. But, there’s a bunch of bands on that list: Anvil, Anthrax, Machine Head, etc. Svölk played Sweden Rock Festival back in ’08, but that was before I joined the band – so I wouldn’t mind going back there, of course. And Wacken. Doesn’t everybody want to play at Wacken?

AS: Thanks for your time and good luck for the new album’s release.

HR: Thank you for talking to us. We’ll grab a beer next time!

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