Norway isn’t exactly known for producing a lot of outstanding speed metal acts. In fact, we’re not known for producing bands performing speed metal at all. When Oslo-based Black Viper released their demo a couple of years ago, you got a sense that the number of outstanding releases within this genre was about to grow significantly. Now that the debut album, “Hellions Of Fire” has arrived, it is safe to conclude that Black Viper has produced a world class album inspired by the likes of Agent Steel and Holy Terror. Hail Norwegian speed metal! Hail Black Viper!
Where does the name Black Viper come from? Is it just a cool sounding band name, or is there a deeper meaning behind it?
– The name just came to me one day and I thought it suited the fast and deadly vibe of the music perfectly. It wasn’t until later I realized it’s also the name of a track from the first Vectom album “Speed revolution”, which I really dig, says drummer and main songwriter Cato Stormoen.
Apparently you started writing stuff like this already back in 2012 and 2013. I know that some of the songs on “Hellions Of Fire” are quite old, but are there songs on the album that stem from that first period?
– Yeah, I first started making these riffs in late 2012 when I came up with some stuff which was too melodic and heavy metal-inspired and didn`t quite fit the hellish and rotten vibe of my other band Deathhammer. In 2013 I had several songs ready and also recorded instrumental demo-versions of “Metal Blitzkrieg” and “Freedom’s Reign” , although with a couple of different riffs here and there which we scrapped and changed for better ones for the re-recordings. Later down the road, I also began recording a solo EP with those songs plus “Hellions Of Fire”, but then I moved to Oslo and it never got finished, luckily. All of those old songs have been revisited and perfected over the years leading up to the demo and album-recordings. So to answer your question – yes, both “Metal Blitzkrieg” and “Freedoms Reign” stems from this early period, and shortly after that “Hellions Of fire” and “Storming With Vengeance” appeared.
Is it possible to say something about how much different the basic idea behind what we hear on “Hellions Of Fire” compares to the early material you created on you own?
– The songwriting in itself is not much different, except for the riffs we changed for better or more fitting ones of course, but as I only play the drums on the album I think it was a very wise choice to get Arild (Myren Torp) to do all guitars as he is the tightest guitarist I know. Several of the guitar solos and leads I had ready, but that’s mostly the melodic leads as I’m not that skilled on playing fast up and down on scales as Arild is. Some of those primitive leads he also improved drasticly. The bass I feel rather comfortable with in the studio but to come up with those tasty things Christoffer does here and there takes more than skill so I’ m glad he did the bass as it turned out excellent. Another thing regarding the material itself is that it grew over time leading up to the album, so if I would have recorded it solo in the beginning, it would probably have sounded a bit more primitive and not as grand as with this full band. Also, I must stress that I’ m not responsible for writing the whole album on my own. Arild made the “Hellions Of Firee”-intro, wrote all the music for “Suspiria”, and he contributed two of the mid-part riffs in “Freedom’s Reign”, plus various other important things like spicing the songs with guitar details here and there.
Black Viper as a band pretty much came together when Cato moved to Oslo.
– I started recording an EP right before I moved to Oslo and if I remember correctly it was almost finished but it doesn’t exist anymore anyway. I don’t think I played the instrumental demo-tracks to many people, I just hung out with Arild at a party one night and asked if he was interested and since we have many of the same favorite bands in the realm of speed and heavy metal he was on board right away! After that things happened rather spontanious and easy.
Why do you think speed metal a genre, if we don’t take the European variant ala early Helloween into consideration, never got as big as thrash metal?
– It`s tough to say really. Maybe because it wasn’t hard and violent enough for those who loved Slayer and Metallica, and not rocking and pumping enough for those who were more into bands like Judas Priest and the NWOBHM? I really don’t know. It’s however great that it seems to have had it’s resurrection in later years, at least in the underground. It certainly doesn’t get much more metal than real speed metal at a deadly volume. Maybe too metal for most people? Hehe.
As mentioned earlier, Norway has seldom, maybe never, produced something that sounds like the stuff you are doing. The main problem when doing this kind of metal here, seems to be to find a decent singer. Where, when and how did Salvador enter the picture? Did you know he could sing like he does on the album?
– That’s for sure. I think if I should make a compilation with speed metal songs from Norway, I would land somewhere under 10 tracks in total. Mostly there are bands who have one or two songs in that vein on their albums, but the rest of the album is not close to that style at all. I actually think Darkthrone of all bands made some great speed metal songs on some of their previous albums. In the search for a singer, I put up an online advert with some band examples that we may or may not be inspired by and I think maybe a mixtape also. Out of the blue I got a message from Salva which I had partied with a bit before who said he wanted to give it a try. I had no idea he could sing at all but from the first rehearsals it clicked right away! I would never have thought he could sing like that, but I`m glad he could because I have no idea who else we could have tried.
The “Storming With Vengeance”-demo, which is the name of the demo I referred to inthe beginning of this interview, was released first digitally then on two separate tape versions through Bifrost and Heavy Chains a bit later on. When and how did Bifrost express an interest in you, and was it Salsten from Deathhammer that hooked Black Viper up with Heavy Chains?
– I can’t exactly remember the details here, both those tape releases happened pretty fast. I think Bifrost just contacted us right after the digital demo was out on Bandcamp and then it got released shortly after. As for Heavy Chains, they contacted us pretty fucking fast too and that version even made it to a second press. I don`t remember if Salsten had anything to do with the Heavy Chains hookup although he and Will from the label plays in Torpedo together. Check it out, it rules!
When did High Roller show an interest in signing the band? Were other labels interested as well?
– That also happened right after we put the demo out on the internet, I think. Seem to remember I sent Melle a demotape too. Yeah, we even got an offer for releasing the demo on a mini-LP, but since we were clear on it being a demo and also wanted to record the songs for our album anyway, we declined. I’m glad High Roller was interested because it’s the ultimate label for heavy metal and the likes nowadays I reckon. They seem really into metal and that’s what’s important.
All the three songs from the demo are included on the full length as well, but in newly recorded versions. Cato fills us in on the changes made to the songs on the album.
– Yeah, you can clearly hear that they are re-recorded I hope? Hehe. There are only a couple of minor changes along with of course the production and naturally how the execution spontaniously comes out. I never do the same drum-take twice on anything for example. On “Metal Blitzkrieg” we added a little sample of impending doom in the beginning, we corrected the ending vocal-lines on the second verse which on the demo was the same as on the first verse. It was a studio mistake we didn`t realize until it was recorded and finished. The vocals in general also have some minor changes, the solo is a bit different and we added some bells to the last mid-part. On “Storming With Vengeance” we use vocals instead of synth on the ending of the pre-chorus leading up to the main chorus forexample. Also we added an extra guitar solo on the last mid-part riff. On “Freedom`s Reign” we basically played it as we did on the demo. Some added vocal lines here and there and better drums in the last mid-part riff as I hit a wrong spot on the demo and you can hear a click. Argh! I`m sure there are some other things too, but I guess you should just hear for yourself if it`s that important. The changes was made to improve the songs to the maximum of course.
I think the album was recorded in the beginning of 2017, and you said then you aimed for a summer release. It took a lot longer. Why?
– Mostly because we have too much obligations to other things like working every day. Several of us even work shift and often late or at night, gigs and tours with our other bands and stuff like that. The studio where we recorded the vocals and some extra guitars and synth, was also a bit outside of town you could say, so we always had to drive a long way, often with traffic jams, or take a train. The other main factor why it took so long, is because the vocal-lines were not 100% thought-out before we recorded the album and it took a great deal of time in the studio just to think about this and how to make it out the best it could be. It was a long hard road and that whole long drawn-out process actually inspired me to write an extra vocal-section as the last thing on the album. It was written after the album was bascially finished and pretty much sums up that whole ordeal and all that came with it:
“At the end of our long winding road
Thy glorious nightmare unfolds
Through the mist and the splendouros madness
Death is now walking beside me”
As a sidenote, for me, this is by far not the longest it has taken to finish and album and getting it out. With Deathhammer it have taken years and years even after the album has been 100% completed to release it with dayjobs lost and new albums recorded in the process. It`s a drag and a curse but it is how it is.
You changed bass player since you recorded the demo. Did Christopher Bråthen, who peforms on the album leave the band because of all the other acts he is involved in?
– I believe Chris left because he was not 100% in it anymore. I think he was a bit fed up with most of the bands he was in at that time and wanted to do something new and that’s totally understandable. I’m glad he stayed through the album because he really added something to it and he’ll always be a killer guy.
Cato says that Kato Marchant was invited to join right after Chris announced his departure from the band. Black Viper played a couple of gigs with him which went great , but in the end he had no long career in the band. Around the release of “Hellions Of Fire”, the news broke that he is no longer part of Black Viper.
– Yes, that’s correct. The reason was basically that he has his main band, Evoke which he wanna put most of his energy in. Their debut album is gonna be a ripper, by the way. He also recently joined Deathhammer on live guitars, so he’ll have his fingers full with those bands. Also he said that he found bass guitars a bit boring for him live because he wanna slay and desecrate the stage properly, and he didn’t get the right feeling playing the bass, he’s a guitar player after all. We haven’t found a replacement yet, but we haven’t searched for one either. We got some gigs lined up for next year, so that’s a good reason to start the search now. We’ll soon find someone who’ll rip those four strings apart, I’ m sure.
While there are parts that are more or less pure speed metal on the album, there are heavier stuff as well. Would you say that the inspiration to create these parts come from US metal as well?
– Yes you got that one right. If I could, I would have made stuff much more similar to bands like Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Crimson Glory and so on, but that`s impossible to just decide. I never sit down with the guitar and think “OK, now I`m gonna make a riff that sounds like this”, riffs just pour out when the creative spark is there. It`s totally un-controllable and real. However, our new, now pretty old as usual of course, material sounds much less speed metal and much more US metal than “Hellions Of Fire” so let’s see what the future brings…
According to the press release, you compare “Hellions Of Fire” to the first Savage Grace-album. In my opinion one of the best albums ever released. What do you like about it and where exactly do you see similarities? I can see some in a song like “Metal Blitzkrieg” and a couple more, but can’t really see it when it comes to the album as a whole?
– I would like to see that press-release. I was asked to answer a whole interview for promo use, and the small one I have seen, I didn`t know it apperantly was the press-release), mentions Savage Grace yes, but it was never my intent to have that album as a guide for how our album sounds at all. It looked like they just took one band out of several I mentioned and made that the statement. No big deal anyway. I fucking worship the first Savage Grace-album and I yeah like you I think a song like “Metal Blitzkrieg” is in that vein, but for the album as a whole – no way. I just like the relentlessness and the mad drive of it all, while it is at the same time very melodic. I guess the same can be said about some of our tracks. On the other hand, tracks like “Fountain Of Might” have nothing to do with Savage Grace, so please just ignore that press release.
Cato seems a little unaware of the fact that the band got a lot of positive feedback on the “Hellions Of Fire”-track released as an advance track for the album.
– We did? That’s great. I don’t pay much attention to things like that, I’ m just happy to have it out finally. As usual I`m just glad if some of my close friends which care about music like this likes it, the rest is not very important although I’d rather see people like it than bash it of course. Regarding reviews I rarely read em, and when I do I feel I have to know what the person reviewing it really likes to listen to. If we get a 10/10 review from someone who just listens to crap it’s worth zero for me. On the other hand if we would get a 2/10 from someone with very similar taste as myself, that would suck a bit, hehe.
“Quest For Power” – The Fountain Of Might came as a big surprise when I listened to the album for the first time. It’s a long and pretty diverse song. Did you set out to create a song that differed quite strongly from the rest of the material?
– As usual it just slowly came together out of the blue. I`m glad it did manifest itself because I think it balances the album quite good since its the longest and the only “slow” track on the album. I think it came together over some time, no idea how long, but it wasn’t made in a week. It’s maybe the best lyrics on the album together with “Freedom’s Reign” in my opinion and suits the riffs and mood of the song very well. It’s about a journey into one’s own mind and about finding a fountain of personal glory and freedom. The chorus-riff may have been hummed to me in a hotel-room in Dubai by my friend Mike for a dead project with me, him and Salsten and then I perfected it for Black Viper. At least that’s what he says, hehe.
What type of sound were you looking for for the album? Did you have a reference album for the sound and the production?
– I guess we just wanted to have a strong and powerful sound without loosing any of the raw nerve of the unmixed recordings which already sounded pretty good as it was. It was mixed by three different people in a way over a period of time and in the end the mix was made by Arild and luckily it turned out excellent. We didn`’t have any specific albums in our minds, just that it needed real power without loosing any rawness.
You have material ready for the follow up. How would you compare these tracks to the material on “Hellions Of Fire”. A band like Finland’s Chevalier for instance is taking their brand of speed metal into a more progressive direction. Are there elements in these new songs that we don’t find on the track on “Hellions Of Fire”?
– Yes, I`m really excited about starting working on the new songs. I would compare them more to the heavy side of “Hellions Of Fire” than the fast side, not that it will be a mid-tempo record or anything. We’ll have to see how they will sound in the end and it will probably take some time to get a full album ready but it will be very metal, that’s for certain.. I love Chevalier and their latest demo is a total ripper! I think you will hear the difference but it`s a bit early to tell now. The essence of “Hellions Of Fire” will of course be there, just in a more mighty and crushing way I envision. We`re aiming for a total metal overkill, no more – no less.