A few weeks ago, one of the Everything Is Noise editors posed a question: ‘do you tend to gravitate towards music from a particular geographical location?‘ Seeing the team’s responses to this question was quite interesting; some found that they were, indeed, more partial to music from a specific area of the world, but most of us seemed to agree that it was more of a subconscious thing – hearing a band we liked, and then realising after the fact that they were from the same part of the globe as other bands we enjoyed. Upon reflection, I discovered that I, too, have an unintentional bias towards a specific location.
Within metal, I like things raw, riffy, and dark, and it seems to me that specifically bands from the northern reaches of Europe do this incredibly well. Maybe it’s something to do with the climate, but the music that comes from there seems, to me, grimmer, grittier, and more wrought by emotion than most others. It’s hard to pin-point exactly what it is – just an atmosphere, I guess. One of my favourite discoveries from Northern Europe this year has been the Norwegian five-piece Ormskrik – heavy-ass thrash riffs, a smattering of death metal dissonance, and the raw fervour of black metal, all held together by that Scandinavian x-factor. Their self-titled debut album hasn’t left my listening rotation since I reviewed it in May; something about it sounds Nordic, and it’s not just the track names. The band have always found Viking history fascinating, and this had an impact on the band name, too:
‘When we were looking for band names, we came across a town called Ormskirk in England. Ormskirk is most likely named after a person named Orm, who probably had a church there, ‘Orms Kirk’, or ‘Serpent’s Church’ in Old Norse. After hearing the name, we got inspiration for a new twist by rearranging the letters, therefore ‘Ormskrik‘. We felt this name had a good punch, reflected the music in the band, and was easy to remember.‘
The five guys met through their high school, where they all majored in music, and ‘quickly discovered each other’s interest for metal’. Specifically, Ormskrik agree that their main influence within metal lies with thrash and ‘the bands that have been driving this genre forward’, such as Metallica, Slayer, and Havok. Their adoration of these bands, and specifically Metallica, certainly shines through on their debut album. In my review of Ormskrik, I described Ormskrik as sounding ‘like Metallica, if they were a Norwegian band in the 1990s and became part of the second wave of black metal’, and I still haven’t found a more accurate way of explaining them. At the same time, narrowing their sound down to such a specific point doesn’t really seem fair, as they also take influence from many other genres. Ormskrik explain: ‘since we all went to a music school, we were ‘forced’ to broaden our musical interests, and that has definitely influenced our music. Our influences in regards to genres span really wide, and we think that is reflected in our music.‘ To me, this is most apparent in the gentler sections on Ormskrik, the sweet acoustic breaks that hold so much emotion.
Ormskrik’s writing process often starts with a member of the band bringing a riff or idea into the practise room, and this then getting jammed and expanded on. Often, one of the guitarists ‘makes a demo of the song so that the rest of the band can rehearse and maybe come up with new ideas as well as make the song more consistent’. After this is done and a structure for the song is determined, the lyrics are written. Here, the band frequently ‘take inspiration from various themes that have inspired us in recent weeks’. The songs on Ormskrik were written between 2015 and 2019, so the album doesn’t necessarily have a uniting concept. However, Ormskrik find that they keep returning to the same two lyrical themes: death and fear. The lyrics are written by all members of the band, though vocalist Gjøran Bårdsen and guitarist Anders Skjæveland tend to do this the most. Ormskirk explain that ‘the process of writing the lyrics often starts with a small idea or a short line of lyrics, which is then ‘brainstormed’ into a whole lyric’.
“Hecatomb”, the album’s unholy penultimate track, was a bit different. Ormskrik say they ‘had the opening riff for a long time, but had no idea how to progress the song’, resulting in it getting reworked again and again. The band tried many different things, which ‘more often than not made the song feel forced’, and it became their longest writing process to date: ‘we tried the song as a short banger, a long epic, until we found something in between as it exists now.‘ However, they also agree that the challenges “Hecatomb” posed made them try many different styles, something they enjoyed immensely and found very rewarding in the long run.
Ormskrik put off recording their debut album for several years, a decision primarily dictated by their lack of funds, until in 2019, they finally decided that they just had to make the album, ‘no matter what’. This resulted in them tracking only drums at a dedicated recording studio, Lydplaneten Studios, without a producer to overlook the process or offer guidance. They found they ‘had to figure out a lot of stuff on our own, microphone positions, recording techniques, even simple things such as mental exhaustion; how much it is possible to do in a day and still be able to call it a good take.‘ The rest of the recording was done in guitarist Tormod Hansen’s bedroom over the summer of 2019, simply because Ormskrik couldn’t afford to book out the studio for bass, vocals, and the many guitar parts. They knew from the beginning that if they had to prioritise their funds, ‘it would be towards the mixing/mastering, because that is such an important stage of the album’.
Although their new material ‘is very scattered and unfinished’, Ormskrik are definitely keen to release another album. Their sound is already very confident and refined, and the band say they ‘want to stick with the same style, and not do a complete 180° as some bands have done in the past’; however, they still ‘want to aim higher, and outdo ourselves. We believe we’ve set a high standard, but enjoy the challenge’. I couldn’t agree more – Ormskrik is a ripper of an album, and I’m very excited to hear where the band go from here. According to the band, vocalist Bårdsen is also ‘a vivid clarinet player’; being an oboist, I certainly hope to hear his playing integrated somehow.
Ormskrik feel that ‘listening to the album is pretty close to a live concert’, with most of the songs having been played live before they were recorded, and them never trying to add anything that was impossible to recreate in a live setting.
Local bands like Kvelertak and Purified In Blood have set the bar high for Ormskrik, who ‘definitely aspire to maybe one day achieve that level’. The band feel fortunate that Sandnes and its neighbouring city Stavanger have a healthy live music scene, ‘with enough clubs and venues for live music to grow’, even though there is not a very strong metal scene. Wedged between the dominating genres of hardcore punk and stoner rock, Ormskrik found they had to look at the scene on a more national level in order to ‘align with other bands’. The band state: ‘It was only after we were picked up by Fysisk Format that we started to break out of our own local metal scene, and began to gain more national attention.‘
Ormskrik are now looking to ‘gain a foothold within Norwegian metal music and make a name for ourselves.‘ They’ve got their eyes firmly on larger gigs in the wake of their album release, with a dream of theirs being to go on a European tour, possibly with bigger bands such as Skeletonwitch, Havok, and Kvelertak. In the meantime, they are also continuing to work on their next album, even though they state ‘exactly how that will play out remains to be seen’.
Gjøran Bårdsen – vocals
Anders Skjæveland and Tormod Hansen – guitars
Erik Bakke – bass
Kristoffer Fikstvedt – drums
Now that I’ve hopefully gotten you as excited about Ormskrik as I am, smash that ‘like’ button on their Facebook page, and make sure you let their debut album kick your ass in full through their Bandcamp profile, too.