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Thomas Skinlo Høyven & Øyvind Madsen (Sulphur): The ‘different ways the world could end’

Thomas Skinlo Høyven & Øyvind Madsen (Sulphur): The ‘different ways the world could end’
TRUPE : Sulphur

 The Norwegian metal musicians of Suplhur have released this year their third full length, “Omens of Doom”, a disc which amazes all those devotees of blackened creations through its innovative compositions and wretched atmosphere resembling some Emperor and Dissection touches along with plenty of other genuine details extracted from death metal, thrash, heavy or even some ambient-like styles. The choruses are pretty epic and that whole compressed sound manages to offer an encyclopaedia of the most intense metal approaches. Romanian fans have the privilege to catch them live during the first edition of Guest Metal Night, which is held on the 29th of October. Metalfan had the chance to get a few captivating words from Sulphur’s frontman Thomas Skinlo Høyven and guitarist Øyvind Madsen. They told us some facts about this group’s history, including the period when they were making music under the name Taakeriket before the 2000’s, a period when they were even more black-oriented. Besides this, there are more and more interesting aspects to be discovered in the following lines such as the post-apocalyptic visions and messages conveyed by Suplhur. 

Metalfan: Hello and welcome to the pages of! Bergen is a rainy city with an average of 242 days with rain every year. Isn't that depressing?
Thomas: Hello and thanks for that wet welcome! It is nice to be reminded of the rain as the sun has been shinning for two weeks now. It is of course tiresome with the amount of rainy days here in Bergen, but I think it is nice to have something to complain about from time to time. Anyway, when the sun first comes out here in Bergen we really enjoy it so I think the contrast makes us more grateful for the nice sunny days. Bergen is probably the nicest city in the world when the sun is shining.

Metalfan: Speaking about the rainy time in Bergen, back in 1973, the blues & soul musician Ann Peebles have recorded the song "I Can't Stand the Rain". Even if it was later covered by Tina Turner, have you think to make a cover for that song of your own? [Ed. Note: laughs]
Thomas: As funny as that might have been I would prefer to cover “It’s raining men” by The Weather Girls. It has a bit more spark to it. [Ed. Note: winks]
Metalfan: How did your "love affair" with the extreme metal start? Which were the records that made you want to be an extreme metal musician?
Thomas: It started out with the 80’s-90’s rock bands and it worked its way forward from there. First Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura. Then I discovered the awesome cover art to Dissection’s “Retribution / Storms of the lights bane” and with that followed a path towards the darker and black metal.
Metalfan: When it comes to extreme music and Norway, I have to say that Sulphur is not such a well-known name like Aura Noir, Darkthrone, Mayhem or Ulver for example. For those of our readers who don't know too much about Sulphur, it would be great if you could tell them the story of your group...
Øyvind: It all started back in 96 under the name Taakeriket, back then our music was more straightforward black metal. During the years between 1996-1999 our music slowly started to take a new direction, getting more progressive and experimental. Therefore we had to change our name to Sulphur to describe our music in a better way. We released our first demo-tape under the Sulphur name in 2000 and our second in 2005 which, led to a record deal with Osmose Productions. They did only release our first album "Cursed Madness" before we left the label and signed with Dark Essence which we have been since the “Thorns in Existence” album.
Metalfan: So, the first name of the band was Taakeriket, then in 1999 you've changed it to Sulphur. Now in 2016, do you think that this name still represents you and your music? Please, tell us more about it...
Thomas: Taakeriket is a name that was inspired by the Norwegian black metal scene and was probably very fitting at that time. Sulphur it fits better now, when the music is more complex compared to what it was in the start. The music that has been composed under the name Sulphur is inspired by a wider variety of genres than only by the Norwegian black metal. It has elements of rock, prog-rock, death metal, trash metal and probably some other genres as well, next to the black metal that is the root of the music. I don’t think there is any need to change the name again. We have released three albums under this name and I think we have been able to make something special that our listeners know. I believe they can hear the link between the three albums even though it is 10 years between the first and the third one. I think the name Sulphur represent our music just fine.
Metalfan: Some time ago I've seen a new documentary made by Sam Dunn (Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, Global Metal, Metal Evolution, etc.) regarding the album "Slaughter of the Soul" of At the Gates. In this documentary someone from the band said that they are very lucky to have released a classic album back in the '90s and at this time there is a huge struggle for new bands to get their music to the public. Do you agree or disagree? Could you please tell us more?
Øyvind: Today it´s very easy to get your music to the public, but it does not mean it´s easier to get noticed. Back in the 90’s there was no Spotify or Youtube so, yes, I think it was much harder back then. Another problem of today is that there are too many bands out there and it´s a real challenge to get noticed amongst this jungle of bands.
Metalfan: This year you have released the third full-length album with Sulphur, "Omens of Doom". Could you please tell us more about the title of the record and the story that you are telling on the seven songs that are present on this album?
Thomas: The title of the new album is inspired by the dark days we are living in… Where omens of death and destruction is all around us… Where just watching the news is terrifying as we can see the evil deeds done by humans, to humans and towards our once so fertile earth, on a daily basis. The lyrics on the album are inspired by post-apocalyptic books, movies, paintings and such and their stories is about different ways the world could end. Some of them are about natural disasters whilst others about a world after a nuclear disaster where plague and desperation rule the land. Every lyric is one omen of doom. 
Metalfan: So the devastating effects of natural disasters, nuclear wars are the main themes of this album. For the future do you see possible to compose an album inspired by the song "Imagine" by John Lennon, not by the music, but by the lyrics? 
Thomas: I see that as being very plausible. There are, of course, great lyrics and if I could write something that is nearly as good, I would be extremely happy with myself. I think that in a way the lyrics to “Alt Svartner” could be said to be inspired by “Imagine”, without that being the intention when that lyrics were written. The lyrics to “Alt Svartner” are about the world ending after we have destroyed everything around us, killed our brethren and poisoned our fertile earth. You might say that when the message in “Imagine” is not heeded, the doom in “Alt Svartner” is more likely to become real. 
Metalfan: Costin Chioreanu from Twilight13media (At the Gates, Arcturus, Sigh, Vulture Industries, etc.) has designed the artwork of your new album. How did the collaboration between you and Costin evolve? What is the thing that you like most regarding the Costin’s work?
Thomas: We have seen many of Costin’s artworks, so we knew much of his style. We wasn’t sure though, if his artwork would work with the musical expression and the lyrics of Sulphur. I am really glad we contacted him and asked him for a go on the cover art. We had tried a couple of others before, but most of the band disagreed upon those outcomes. When the artwork Costin did for us showed up in the email, we were amazed. I think he overcame everything we expected. The colours were very red, something I don’t think we expected. My mind was always on the darker and blacker path when I thought of what it would end up like. I am very happy it ended up as it did and so are the rest of the band. A great artwork from a great artist... The cover-art is currently on the first place as “the best metal album covers 2016” in And Justice for Art’s cover artwork competition. I think that says it all.
What I enjoy the most about Costin’s artworks is his way of implementing so much different “symbolism” and elements that means more than two things into one artwork. When you look at his artwork you might just find something new every time.  
Metalfan: Which were your expectations regarding the music on "Omens of Doom" and what do you feel about the final result? Could you please tell us more on this subject?
Øyvind: There is always a struggle to make a better album than your previous one, because you want your band to grow musically after each album release. I must say we were really satisfied with the “Thorns in Existence” album when it was released so this time it had to be even better. Before we entered the studio to record “Omens of Doom” I had a good feeling that this was going to be our best album so far. I think the album has a more thin red line to it than our previous releases; it´s like the songs belong to each other’s. Bjørnar Nilsen also did a great job with the production and I think it sounds amazing.
Metalfan: As I see things from outside, Norway has been a progressive country when it comes to human rights if we compare it with other countries not only from Europe but from the whole world in general. Am I wright or wrong? How do you see this kind of things as a Norseman?
Øyvind: I think you are right about that. I’m not that deep into politics when it comes to human rights, but as far as I know things are working out here in Norway. I do of course think that every human being should have the same rights everywhere, but I guess there is still a long way to go.

Metalfan: Last year when Vulture Industries have played at Rockstadt Extreme Fest from Rȃşnov, Romania, Costin Chioreanu featured as a special guest. I have to say, that was a hell of a show. Would you like to develop a show of that kind for Sulphur sometimes in the near future? Will this work or not? Why?
Thomas: I don’t think that would work as well for Sulphur. I think that, because of Vulture Industries theatrical expression, it works well for them. With Sulphur we are more focused on the music and not so much the visual expression. The “riffing” and the solos of the guitars, the blasting of the drums and the rest of the band is more than enough for us. We just want the regular expression of a band playing and with the complexity of our music, that is more than enough to handle. 
Metalfan: On the 29th October 2016 Sulphur will perform at Guest Metal Night 1.0 in Bucharest, Romania along with Vulture Industries and AlithiA. What should the audience expect from Sulphur and what do you expect from Vulture Industries and AlithiA?
Thomas: Yes, we are and we are looking very much forwards to it! We have played in Romania once before and I think it was one of our best shows to this date, and then I am thinking about the audience. They were amazing. We really enjoyed that show! This time we will play four different shows in Romania and hopefully every one of them will be as great! From our side I think you will get a blast of a show musically. By this time we have already played a couple of shows and are getting good and warm. Hopefully we are all at our very best!
From the other two bands I have heard and seen Vulture Industries many times and they never seem to stop impressing me. I don’t think they will stop now. When it comes to AlithiA, I haven’t heard of them yet, but I am really looking forwards to do so. It is always interesting to listening to new bands!
Metalfan: Here at we are big fans of mix-tapes. Even if it sounds a little bit old and we actually don't use tapes that much these days the way we did back in the '90s, it would be fun if you could pick 12 songs from 12 different bands / artists that have influenced you in a way or another. Which it would be the name of this "virtual mix-tape"?
Øyvind: I don´t know how to call it, there are so many different bands and genres on the tape...
1. Guns N Roses, Nightrain
2. Metallica, Master of Puppets
3. Pantera, Mouth for War
4. David Bowie, Life on Mars
5. Anathema, Fragile Dreams
6. Nirvana, Territorial Pissings
7. Satyricon, Mother North
8. System of a Down, B.Y.O.B
9. Dissection, Nights Blood
10. Pink Floyd, Us and Them
11. Emperor, Into the Infinity of Thoughts
12. Beatles, Happiness is a Warm Gun
Metalfan: Thank you for your time and for your answers! In the end would you like to add something or to send a few words to our readers?
Check out our new album “Omens of Doom”, and hope to see you at our upcoming shows this fall!
Foto: Ivo Oskar Osvald
Autor: H., Gina S.
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