Hello there. How are you?
‘Greetings! I'm fine up here in the North enjoying a calm spring evening and taking care of some music biz things with my freshly released second album.’
Could you start off by introducing yourself and Wallachia and tell us something about the band in terms of history and meaning of the name?
‘I'm Lars, the composer, writer and main man behind this project of mine that has existed since the early/mid nineties. Wallachia first introduced its name with the self-released Demo 199" that later on was released as the Wallachia mini CD on the French label Velvet Music International. On this recording I was joined by Eystein Garberg (Lumsk) that helped me program the drums, synths and effects as well as second guitar, while I performed the rest myself. I signed a new contract with VMI for a release of a full length album, and during the winter of 1999 From Behind The Light was recorded. On this album I did all instruments and vocals myself, but was helped by Lars Erik Vesterdal and Mikael Duna who played drums on four songs each. With the release of our debut album, the record label had reached an end of finances to continue their work. Signing many new bands and having more expenses than what the sales figures could back up. So from that point on I was on bare ground again and have shaped Wallachia from scratch to what it is now today. It's been a long journey indeed.
The name Wallachia origins from Romanian history and is linked to the tales about Vlad Tepes, The Impaler of Wallachia. This Romanian prince is what became the legend we know as Dracula from the vampire myths. Though the real story is of more savage cruelty and real warrior spirit. For me growing up as a teenager I was really fascinated by these stories, also seeing that it's actually not so many centuries ago really. It was a perfect name to create mystical, epic and barbaric music around.’
Would you say Wallachia, being a Norwegian band, is influenced by the typical bigger Norwegian black metal bands or are the influences derived from elsewhere as well?
‘Some of the Norwegian bands at that time for sure had an impact and influence upon Wallachia. Also since most of the guys were at approximately my age or a few years older, it was inspiring to witness so many great and unique sounding bands coming out of this little, narrow land. Emperor, Burzum, the early Mayhem, Ulver, Gehenna, Hades Almighty, Enslaved and so on. But there were already many other bands from abroad that I was into just as much as these. For instance Samael were already a great and established band with their first three albums. Others are Alastis, Master's Hammer, Sigh, Monumentum, Mayhemic Truth, Ancient Rites, and the Greek scene with Rotting Christ, Varathron, Zemial et cetera.’
What has been the most evident inspiration for Wallachia? If you had to describe Wallachia with which bands would you compare?
‘I think in particular Bathory and Burzum inspired me the most since both of them being (more or less) one man projects. The mid era Bathory was a great influence with Under The Sign..., Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart most of all. And I have as much a background with a lot of the death metal things that evolved when I was a kid. The whole Tampa scene with Deicide and Morbid Angel first and foremost. Also bands like Suffocation, Morgoth, Pyogenesis, Sinister, Primordial, Windir, Dissection, Rotting Christ and so on. All these bands inspired me in one way or another to shape my own band. And there are more recent influences like Wolves In The Throne Room with their hypnotic and special sound, Dornenreich, Deathspell Omega, Arkhon Infaustus, Xasthur.’
It has been ten years after From Behind the Light before you released the latest album Ceremony of Ascension. Was there a particular reason why it took this long before you came with new material?
‘It was only the fact that I had to start from bare ground again after the demise of our record label back then. After the first album came out, and was sold out right away to distributors, I went into the army for a year and since I got out from my service there I've been working with my cinema job and gradually shaping what was to become the return of Wallachia. Actually, most of the music for Ceremony Of Ascension has been created between 1998 and 2004 and I've simultaneously worked with material for what will become the third opus scheduled for a 2011 release.
In 2005 Wallachia showed a sign of vitality with the re-release of the debut-album on Dark Horizon Records including the demo as bonus. In 2006 I recorded a full instrumental pre-production for the second album, in the fall of 2007 the drums were recorded, August 2008 I completed the recording myself down there in Germany and now eight months later Ceremony Of Ascension finally sees the light of day.’
How did people react to the release of Ceremony of Ascension? Was it received well?
‘So far it seems to be a positive surprise among the fans that have followed the band since the beginning as well as also in the media with the reviews and response I've seen till now. I'm glad to see that some remember this project of mine and actually waited with excitement for a new release. It's not easy to come back with an album after such a long period of being dormant. Having in mind how both Celtic Frost and Dissection returned with their albums after years and years of silence and how positively surprised I was by both those. I hope to some extent my album holds the same effect for those that know the core sound of Wallachia. For me personally it's a big step forward and it's a lot thanks to the persons involved in making this happen so smoothly: Stefan, Thomas and Laura.’
Like mentioned before, it has been ten years since your last release. What’s the most evident difference between From Behind the Light and Ceremony of Ascension?
‘The most noticeable improvement is the vocals. On the first album we used electronic harmonizer to create this other worldly effect on the voice. An experiment that caused various reactions, and for me personally was a failure compared to how my intentions were. But all this was a first step in the process from someone that never had played in a band before and suddenly being in the studio with my songs. This time around it's totally my own voice without any effects apart from some echo/delay at some parts. Apart from this I would say that the arrangements and performance is much better this time. We already had a rock solid drumming nailed down when I came into the studio, so it was fun from the first moment to record this album.’
I noticed that Wallachia has a very different musical approach to black metal than most bands. You have a very modern sound, it feels like there’s some death metal influence and I sense a big contrast between the aggressiveness and serenity on Ceremony of Ascension. How would you explain this yourself?
‘Wallachia could perhaps be split up into two or three various projects as some of the songs carry elements more close to let's say in a more pure black metal way in a few of them, while some songs have a stronger death metal influence. And then again, you have the melancholic parts. In some songs all these blend very well together while others have a more distinct direction towards one or the other. I don't know, I guess this is what makes Wallachia what it is and sounds like. It's all my influences being channelled through this project and I rather use all my good creative ideas into one band than having two or three half-assed projects. The songs shape themselves naturally and I try to have no limitations as long as I feel the ideas are good and fit within the soundscape of Wallachia. There has to be some framework and direction of course.’
Would you say there’s cohesion between the different songs on Ceremony of Ascension? If so, how did you manage that? Do you, for instance, work with a theme?
‘Each song is a journey on its own with the lyrics being told as a story from start to finish without any repetitions or the usual verse/chorus build up. There are some themes that connect between a few of the songs. 'Self-Inflicted Stigmata' and 'Kamikaze Christians' both deal with the theme of martyrdom in two various ways. The first one being more about the individual while the second one as a more collective sect related matter.
'Refusalvation' and 'Genesis Enigma' are also linked conceptually. 'Rival Of A Cursed Destiny' is the raw counterpart to the melancholic 'The Wreckage Of Innocence'. While also 'Sanctimonia XXIII' harmonizes with 'Void Expansion' as two different approaches over a common theme. So there's those connections that divide the album and in the end also connect it as Ceremony Of Ascension. And I want the music to build up on the lyrical theme with the right atmosphere as much as the words fit the song perfectly.’
I must mention the artwork of Ceremony of Ascension, because it’s stunning. Music, like art, is free to interpret in whatever way you like, but what does the artwork mean to you?
‘I'm blessed to have Laura's amazing artwork as a part of my album. It's mysterious, beautiful, enchanting and I think it balances naturally on the feeling the music evokes. The dominating colder world below is for me what I come from and from which I ascend. It represents negative energies and bad memories from the past, a world that now is gone but made me more aware of myself. That is just a metaphorical description of how I feel about the artwork and what I try to achieve with these songs. I like that the artwork is symbolic and yet have a sense of abstraction and this way makes it more open for interpretation alongside the music. Laura created all the artwork, logo and in the end did the whole booklet design that she handed readymade over to Twilight. So her contribution to my album is quite something.’
Will Wallachia ever form a live line-up? What other plans does Wallachia have in store?
‘There's of course a possibility of making a Norwegian/Austrian co-operation with Stefan and Thomas that both performed on my album. We'll see how things turn now with promoting the release and if any offers come up via Twilight or so. The main focus is to work towards the third album and have that ready for 2011. And some smaller plans about shirts and merchandise are the closest things on my mind.’
I would like to thank you for your time. If there’s anything you would like to add, please do so!
‘Thank you for doing the interview! And I want to thank all the readers, to those that have supported Wallachia and bought Ceremony Of Ascension. Thanks! I feel pretty connected to Germany now with both having recorded my album there as with also our record-label. Thanks to Tobi, Thomas and Daniel at Twilight Vertrieb for a good co-operation and support from the first day. To Laura, Stefan and Thomas that helped me make this album what it is!’