First time I heard the name of Hellcommander Vargblod, it was when I started listening to Myronath, a Black Metal band from Sweden. Hellcommander Vargblod (Mark Azzopardi, born in Malta) was a founding member, playing bass and doing vocals. If their debut album from 2019, “Into the Qliphoth”, was very good, their second one, “Djevelkraft” (2021) is simply awesome. Besides this band, Vargblod had his solo project, Draugûl, and also played in Khaospath, Martyrium and the past two years was in the Norwegian Black Metal band Ragnarok. After leaving Ragnarok along with his bandmates Bjarkan and Ihizahg, they three started a new band together, Helvitnir, which has very promising things in the making…
Hellcommander Vargblod (HV in the responses) agreed to do this interview for Blessed Altar Zine where he talks about his new band, his career as a musician and some more personal things. Keep on reading and check his interesting answers!
Hi Vargblod, many thanks for your time doing this interview. Some new winds are blowing from the underground Norwegian and Swedish Black Metal scene, and they whisper the name of Helvitnir. What can you tell our readers about this new project? How was it that you decided to start this new band, with Bjarkan and Ihizahg as your bandmates?
HV: Hello and first of all, thanks for this interview opportunity and your interest and support in my musical endeavours! Yes, quite right, Ihizahg, Bjarkan and I started Helvitnir together after all of us left Ragnarok, due to a stalemate in the band which was out of our control and it seemed like we were wasting time and material. So we decided to release the songs we 3 were writing together for the past 2 years, in a nutshell!
Was it difficult for you to find the drummer who fulfilled your expectations, or you had decided who it would be from the beginning?
HV: At this point in time the drummer has not been confirmed yet but we have been in contact with some drummers who we found interesting and showed interest back, so we shall have to wait a bit more with that for now!
Helvitnir has released their first single, and let me tell you: it’s hellish, dark, ferocious… well, none of you guys are newcomers in the Black Metal scene, I think we couldn’t expect less from you! Which are your plans for the near future?
HV: The plan is of course to first recruit the drummer and immediately book a studio so we record the final full length which I have to say is almost ready! At the moment we are also hunting for a suitable record label which can help us promote our blasphemies as they deserve!!!
As a founder member in Myronath, how proud are you of the two albums released until today? Are you working on some new stuff with your band?
HV: Myronath of course is and will always be a very important “thing” in my life. It was the unexpected meeting of me and Bjarkan (who at the time we didn’t have the faintest idea who we were, we had never met) and after a small chat we decided to conjure something up and see where it leads. It was a meeting written in the stars as they say, we were meant to meet and create Myronath together, and thus continuing our musical journey together!
Do you have something in sight for Myronath in the near future? A new album, some gigs…?
HV: We just had 2 gigs on the 24th and 25th of November in Trollhättan and Stockholm, and it was a blast as usual! We are also booked at Mangelfest festival in May 2024 and currently working on some other dates as well!
Recording of the new album is imminent and the studio is booked for January 2024 at Endarker Studios in Norrköping under the usual capable hands of Devo Andersson (ex-Marduk). It is going to be a concept album regarding a very particular book, where I twisted the tale to be a darker one and one that fits my (or Myronath’s) views more perfectly! More about this in the weeks to come!
These two past years you were a member of the Norwegian Black Metal band Ragnarok. Even if you didn’t record any album with them, you hit some stages as an active member in the band, playing bass. How was it performing live with Ragnarok?
HV: It was a great experience and I cherish the past 2 years as a member of Ragnarok! We have no ill issues with the founding member of Ragnarok, we departed on good terms. Needless to say, Ragnarok has quite a following and it was sad to leave, but the circumstances were as they were and there was no other way round it! We look forward from now on!!
Apart from painting your face, grabbing your axe and getting out to the stage, how do you prepare before a live show?
HV: I usually tend to be very quiet before a gig, setting aside the everyday Mark and bringing out the Wolf from within. As I always say, the music that we write in Myronath is a way to channel our energies to the (un)divine. Music has from ancient times been used as a means to communicate with the supernatural. For us it is the same. It is not just grabbing our instruments and plucking some chords and coming out with tasty riffs. For me, I need to feel that the music is alive and it fits the message I want to convey in my lyrics. And even more on stage, it is the ultimate way of expressing and channeling those energies.
Now, I think it’s time to know a few more personal things about you. When did you start playing music, and which was the first instrument you had?
HV: Good question! I actually plucked my first chords when I was 7 or 8 years old. My dad got me a guitar (he plays himself as well) and started showing me some stuff, though I really got into playing guitar when I formed my very first band when I was 13 – which was named Hell Rats haha, and later on another band Mannaris! We played in my parents’ living room, After which I got interested in learning some other instruments so of course I started playing bass, got some basics on drums and piano, as well as some wind instruments (where you can hear sometimes in my solo project Draugul). Lately I got a fondness of the cello, so I bought one and started practicing on it as well!
Which was the first band you played in?
HV: As mentioned before my very first band was Hell Rats, it was a mix of Thrash and Melodic Death, though unfortunately we never got anything recorded. It is quite sad actually! Would have loved to release a bootleg with that material! Fun times! Then in 1998 I joined Martyrium with whom I played for 12 years and recorded 3 albums.
Is there any vocalist that has inspired you to do those sick and fierce screams?
HV: I can’t really say I have just ONE inspiration for vocals, though I almost always ended up as vocalist without wanting to! As vocals are concerned, I like to blend styles and those who know me and my music well know this. I love to blend and mix between screams, growls and clean vocals. It is boring for me to just stick to one type of voice! As inspiration is the question here, I have to say Glen Benton’s vocals on their first Deicide album was a major inspiration for me! But as Black Metal is concerned I don’t really have a favourite singer.
Which bands were you listening to as a teenager? Are you still listening to them?
HV: Mhm depending which stage of the teen years.. in my early teens I was listening mainly to Thrash and Death, with bands like Slayer, Morbid Angel and Deicide… then, at 14 years old I discovered the “joys” of Black Metal and was hooked immediately and cursed to thread the path of thorns from that fateful day until now, hehe! The first Black Metal song I listened to was Bathory – “Satan My Master”, then I got more into other bands like Burzum, Dissection, Emperor, Marduk, etc etc.
Is there any song that has a special meaning for you? Not only because it’s damn good, but also for being highly emotional to you.
HV: Without any inch of doubt is Black Sabbath – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. First metal song I heard when I was 5 years old, most probably. My dad was listening to them and I was like WOAH, what is this?? And up to this day that album is my favourite metal album of all time, also because it has a sentimental value to me!
How do you see the underground Metal scene nowadays, more concretely the Black and Extreme Metal genres? Is the internet a good tool for the less known bands, in order that more people can reach them?
HV: It is a blade that cuts from both edges. Sure the internet helped in spreading the music, but I think a lot of the music lost value with all the downloads and easy access. I still remember in the 90s when we had to really look for the stuff we needed! Those times are long gone of course. Today also there are hundreds of thousands of bands as well… so it is still difficult to rise from the sea of artists that want to show their material.
If you had to choose only five albums from the whole Metal universe, not being able to listen to the rest in your entire life… which ones would you keep?
- Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
- Iron Maiden – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
- Sepultura – Beneath the Remains
- Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon
- Slayer – Hell Awaits
Do you have any “musical guilty pleasure” you can confess?
HV: Not really! Not really ashamed of the music I listen to even though to some maybe it is cringe, cheesy or whatever. I don’t really care what others think anyway! Two non metal artists I really enjoy for instance are Michael Jackson and Phil Collins.
What does Metal music mean to you in your life?
HV: Music IS life! I think without music I would not be able to function!! I chose one day actually to give music a pause and stop composing and chill down a bit… you know what happened… Myronath was born instead! HAHA! So I have to say I do not function without music.
Many thanks for doing this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. Is there anything you want to add?
HV: Many thanks to you for this interview opportunity and for your continuous support! Stay tuned to our pages for imminent information regarding our upcoming music!!!
Interview by Sílvia
If you found this interview interesting, go and check Vargblod other projects besides Myronath, and stay tuned regarding Helvitnir. Support the underground.
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