Back in 1994...
The beginnings of KAMPFAR date back to 1994, as Dolk bid farewell to his former band Mock. His desire to continue expressing himself musically and to move ahead prompted him to seek new blood. He recruited Thomas to take on the guitar responsibilities and soon the duo began composing new material.
The two musicians, who possessed quite disparate musical backgrounds, soon developed a unique sound that was first presented to the public with the release of the MCD Kampfar. The self-titled MCD was followed by the full-length album Mellom Skogkledde Aaser in 1997. Although the album leaned heavily on Thomas’ folk influences, it still espoused Dolk’s Black Metal finesse.
With two releases under their belt, KAMPFAR continued to write and to produce new material. In addition, the band explored new lyrical territory and presented their fans with their first English lyrics. The song was part of the MCD Norse. The following year, 1999, Kampfar released their second full-length entitled Fra Underverdenen.
This particular recording, being darker and more emotional than its predecessors, saw KAMPFAR move away from some of the folk aspects and concentrate more on Thomas’ fondness for classical music. The result, however, was still very deeply rooted in the Black Metal genre.
Following the release of “Fra Underverdenen”, KAMPFAR almost disappeared from the face of the earth. It was the beginning of a long period of inactivity due to personal issues. Once resolved, KAMPFAR regained its momentum.
After bassplayer Jon and drummer Ask Ty joined the band during 2003, KAMPFAR focused on writing new material and finally accepted one of the numerous offers to play live. The band chose to premiere at the Moshfest festival in Halden, not far from their native Fredrikstad. The show’s success resulted in numerous Norwegian gigs and in the band’s first mini tour of Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands — a tour that also included some festival gigs.
In between rehearsing for their live performances and the writing of new songs, demos were recorded and in November 2005, KAMPFAR was ready to enter Silvertone Studio in Gamle Fredrikstad to record what would become the album Kvass. Working with producer Rune Jørgensen, the band recorded the album in 3 months time.
”Kvass” was well received by the metal press and the band performed at numerous festivals including legendary Wacken and With Full Force. Furthermore, a tour of Europe helped the band reach a whole new level of notoriety, encouraging them to quickly move forward with new material for the next release.
KAMPFAR once again remained true to the their primordial style and delivered raw Pagan Folklore Metal as it is meant to be heard. Piercing riffs, driving drums, and catchy melodies shaped their fourth full-length Heimgang. The dark and yet majestic atmosphere, both clean and harsh, was again caught on tape by Rune Jørgensen of Silvertone Studio, Norway. Lyrically the album dealt with crossing over into the underworld, as told in Nordic myths and legends. "Heimgang" proved that alongside Darkthrone and Satyricon, KAMPFAR remained a forerunner and one of the last true originals of the scene.
KAMPFAR followed up with the album Mare, which opened a new chapter in the Norwegians' band history, while delivering a true monument to black metal. The band achieved the difficult task of giving their sound new impulses without losing their unique style. Isolated keyboard passages and sprechgesang consorted with icy riffs, dark melodies, and oppressive drums. Dolk's raw vocals continued to set the pace, while giving songs like "Bergtatt", and the title track such intensity that they were left with no other choice but to crawl under the skin of even the most discerning black and pagan metal fans. The album was produced by none other than Peter Tägtgren (Abyss Studio), who provided the songs with a piercing and very powerful sound. "Mare" also proved to be the final release involving long time guitarist and composer Thomas.
With the touring schedule in place after the release of "Mare", KAMPFAR drafted in the talents of Ole Hartvigsen, already an experienced guitar player and songwriter, with a background from Emancer and Mistur. The band co-headlined Europe and North America as part of The Black Path tour, before headlining a second European tour, the aptly named Devilish Triumph. Yet more festivals were added and the cycle ended with the Barge To Hell cruise from Miami to Bahamas in late 2012.
The fresh blood provided another impulse by taking familiar elements into unfamiliar territory. The resulting highly forcused writing process injected an energy into Djevelmakt that spawned songs as diverse as "Mylder" and "Swarm Norvegicus" while keeping a strong musical foundation in place.
The third chapter of the third wave is ready to be presented to the world.
2011's Mare represented a journey into the world of witches of the past and the present, and was followed in 2014 by Djevelmakt and it's conceptual journey into the underworld with rats, black souls and false choirs. New album Profan now finishes the thought process by digging so deep that there is nothing more there. There is only more digging to be done, and it is all fruitless. There is no more hope beyond the night terrors, no company beyond the snakes, nothing to be found but suffocating emptiness.
Says singer Dolk: "It only gets bleaker and colder from here. Profan represents no hope, a life of filth, a surrender to the laws of Death and the Scythe."
Musically, though, Kampfar presents the fiercest and most intense recording of their career. Since its first conception in 1994 with folk and classical music influences, via the colder winds on Kvass, the band has kept on renewing, and elevated into the black metal authority that reaches its peak on Profan. Songs like Pole In The Ground and Profanum hearken back to the vibes of the early 90s black metal while keeping the edge of 2015 Kampfar, while slow burners like Daimon and epic album closer Tornekratt show that Kampfar can go deep down and still deliver intensity few in the world of metal can match.
Profan is the result of a creative wave that really took on gigantic proportions after the release of Djevelmakt in early 2014. Again written partially in Bergen, where half the band is located, and in the band's spiritual home in Hemsedal, the writing process was yet again highly gratifying. Jonas Kjellgren of world renowned Abyss/Blacklodge Studios was also involved again, as the drums on this album have the distinction/honour of being the last recording ever to be recorded through the mixing desk that has been the catalyst for so many legendary albums since the mid 90s. Vocals were recorded in Oslo's Waterfall studio with the aid of Stamos Koliousis, while all remaining recordings were handled by the band's own Ole Hartvigsen, who also held the production reins. The mix was done by Jonas Kjellgren, seeing as he had grown to understand the band's sound as well as they themselves did, and the result is a giant of an album. For this, KAMPFAR won the Norwegian Grammy Awards ("Spellemannprisen") in the category "Metal album of the year 2015".
Visually the band has chosen to go back and acquire several paintings by Polish master Zdzisław Beksiński.
Drummer Ask Ty comments: “What Kampfar captures with sound is an essence that we have only seen mirrored in Beksiński's work, and thus it is only natural to use his art to front our music.”
The visual design of the record follows the lead of Mare and Djevelmakt before it, and as such the arch of this third creative wave is completed in the right manner. As always, with the band writing predominantly in Norwegian, the imagery of the album serves as a guide to the lyrical themes. Though, again, there are also songs that found their voice in English, such as stunning album opener Gloria Ablaze and the first single, Icons.
For the first time in the band's career they have also chosen to record a video to one of their songs. Cooperating with Red Pig Productions due to their intimate knowledge of Beksiński's visual expression and their expertise in capturing interesting metal videos, the result is a story that more deeply explains the themes the album is founded upon.
Profan is a fitting end to a long journey through nature's magic, the power of perseverance in the face of gargantuan forces, and finally acceptance that there is no such thing as resolution.
To paraphrase from the words spewed in Skavank, there will be 'no prayers, no prophecies, no hymns, no rituals, no life'.
But there will be fire.