Jøtnarr: Band Of The Day

By on 4 September 2014

Jottnar

From the grim and frostbitten climes of, erm, Colchester, come Jøtnarr, a three piece who’ve managed to fuse black metal’s scathing, evil atmosphere with a belligerent punk backbone and some deliciously dense riffs that can only really be described as “fucking massive”. And before all you cynics stick your oar in, yes, there’s no shortage of bands playing Immortal riffs over d-beats right now and yes, “blackened crust” sounds more like a badly burnt bit of toast than something you’d want to let anywhere near your stereo, but hear us out out; these guys tie these two sounds together in a way that feels much more organic, interesting and visceral than many of their contemporaries.

Take their new EP, ‘Divide The Growth And Stone’ for instance – in just under five minutes, Jøtnarr manage to weave together a cavalcade of murky, Norwegian flavoured tremolo, big sludgy stompers that’ll have Mastodon fans punching the air with delight, moments of sweeping, elegiac beauty that bring to mind the likes of Wolves In The Throne Room et al and (of course) some utterly righteous d-beat rampages – and all without ever feeling clumsy or contrived. It’s a big step up from last year’s demo tape, which, to be honest, was pretty damn exhilarating itself – if they continue on at this rate, you can expect some great things from this band, regardless of which side of the supposed black metal/punk divide you sit on.

The band more than deliver the goods in the live environment too, and so, with an appearance at Brighton’s ‘This is Your Last Chance to Dance’ all set for this weekend, we decided to get in touch and ask some pressing questions about bass players, Iron Maiden and find out what exactly “the mangler” is…

WORDS: Kez Whelan

WHO ARE THEY: Jøtnarr
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Colchester, UK
FOR FANS OF: Darkthrone, Bone Awl, Wolves In The Throne Room, His Hero Is Gone
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Divide The Growth And Stone'(2014)
WEBSITE: Facebook, Twitter & Bandcamp

Could you tell us briefly how you all met and formed Jøtnarr?
Chris (Moore, guitar): “Simon (guitar) and I were neighbours at the time, and knew each other from playing gigs together in other bands. He had one jam with Oli (drums) and they’d already written some d-beat stuff. When Simon asked if I’d be interested in doing a band with them, I asked if they were up for playing some black metal too – Simon said they definitely were so that was that.”

Was it a conscious decision to forego having a bass player, and if so, why?
Chris: “It was never really a conscious decision. From the beginning the three of just really enjoyed playing together, and found writing stuff really easy – we all just sort of got each other’s ideas without having to talk it out much so I think we were reluctant to get anyone else involved in a way. We did talk about whether or not it’d be good to have a bassist purely in terms of how it would sound, but we’ve always played in drop A# so we felt there was already quite a lot of low end there anyway.”

Did you have a specific sound in mind when you formed the band, or did that grow and evolve as you played together?
Chris: “Well initially we just discussed doing d-beat and black metal but nothing more specific than that was ever said; we were just thinking in terms of the three of us playing music in a room together to see what came out. We never said “right, this band needs to sound like Darkthrone mixed with His Hero Is Gone” or anything like that, so whatever sound we have has come about pretty naturally.”

What kind of stuff are you and the rest of the band into? Who would you cite as influences?
Chris: “Seems obvious to say but we’re all hugely into black metal – classics like Ulver’s ‘Nattens Madrigal’, stadium belters like Immortal’s ‘Sons of Northern Darkness’, and a lot of newer albums like Wolves in The Throne Room’s ‘Two Hunters’. Everybody says it don’t they, but we’re into loads of stuff – metal, classic rock, stoner, punk, all sorts. Influences wise… There are things we share, and things one of us will listen to that the others won’t, but I think we’d all agree on Darkthrone, Discharge, Black Sabbath, and King Diamond. Simon doesn’t like Iron Maiden, and that is something of a sore point for the other two members.”

How does your writing process normally work out? Will you meet up with song ideas pretty much fully formed beforehand, or do you tend to jam stuff out a bit more?
Chris: “Simon and I both write the music, and we tend to turn up to rehearsal with finished songs but they’ll always go through “the mangler” – which is just us playing sections through and trying little tweaks or adding bits. The vocals always come later; I tend to write lyrics almost separately from the songs, and because of the nature of the vocals I just try to put pre-written lyrics with the music where I feel the moods match up.”

What can you tell us about your new EP, ‘Divide The Growth And Stone’?
Chris: “‘Divide The Growth And Stone’ is two songs that we recorded in one day with our mate Tom Donovan at his studio. We’d only recorded a demo tape live in our practice space before so it was the first thing we recorded properly if you like. Tom was great to record with, he had loads of cool ideas and we’re very happy with how it sounds. The EP was released on CD and tape by Vetala Productions who also released our demo tape. Vetala are an awesome little label run by lovely guys, and they’ve put out releases by some of our favourite UK bands like Harrowed and Art Of Burning Water so we’re really pleased that they’ve been so supportive of us too.”

Are there any plans for a full-length any time soon?
Chris: “Yes definitely, I think we have more than enough material for a full length – it’s just a matter of finding the money and the time to do it – but we’re recording for a longer EP with Jason Frye from Sun of Sun studios soon, and we’re determined to record an album in 2015.”

There seem to have been a fair amount of bands combining black metal with elements of crust punk in recent years – why do you think the two genres seem to complement each other so well?
Chris: “It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, or that we as a band have ever talked about. I think the crust punk part of our sound is maybe a bit more of an aesthetic thing rather than all our songs being a balanced mix of crust punk and black metal. When we think of crust we mean things like Disrupt or really early ENT and Napalm Death, but then stuff like Kylesa gets called crust too. I don’t mind the label or anything – all that stuff is just shorthand designed to make overwhelming amounts of music easier for people to navigate and find stuff that they like. Sometimes I think people are just more aware of bands doing a specific thing because a few bands have popularised it for a time. For instance you’ve got bands like The Secret at the moment who are pretty successful, so maybe that popularity means a bunch of people are more likely to look into similar bands, and it just seems there’s more bands doing that kind of thing when in reality it’s just that those bands are enjoying a bit more attention.”

What’s been your best moment as a band? And on the flipside, what’s been the worst thing to happen to you in music?
Chris: “There’s not been one particular best moment, we love playing our stuff and we’re just really pleased that other people like it enough to release it for us and put us on awesome line-ups. When we get to travel a bit and play a few shows with other bands we really like, and then hang out afterwards watching the Immortal ‘Live At Wacken’ DVD or whatever, those are probably the best times. There haven’t been any true shockers for us, but we did end up paying about £40 for a couple of hours parking in Brighton once, and then I think the next weekend we missed most of Art Of Burning Water’s set because of some ‘trouble with the law’ which was a bummer.”

What does the future have in store for Jøtnarr?
Chris: “We’re playing ‘This is Your Last Chance to Dance’ in Brighton this Saturday which we’re really looking forward to because the line-up is so good, and we get to play with Celeste on their (I think) only UK date this year. Other than that… we want to record an EP, record an album, play more cool shows, and use any time in between for some lively debates about post-Dio Black Sabbath.”

About Kez Whelan

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