In these strange and troubling times of a global pandemic is there a better expression of the dread we all feel than that found in the sound of doom metal? Well, we all have our individual preferences, but give a listen to Vår Avgrund, the latest album from Swedish doom/sludge purveyors Walk Through Fire, and tell me I’m wrong. The album title translates to “Our Abyss” in English, which is quite fitting for current events and a description of the music.
The dirge created by the guitars, bass, and drums builds an abominable sense of grief that is only amplified by the howling vocals. With a 75-minute run time that stretches out over seven tracks, Vår Avgrund is an all consuming world that’s unfit for short attention spans. Indeed, this isn’t easily palatable, run-of-the-mill metal. This is the feeling of being dragged behind a tank a gravel road.
We talked with vocalist/guitarist Ufuk Demir to learn more about the album, the band, and how they’ve been coping with the global pandemic. Vår Avgrund is available now via Wolves and Vibrancy Records.
You created a 75-minute long record that is meant to be listened to as a single musical piece. Aside from themes of “despair and gloominess,” is there a particular concept or story that drives the record forward?
Ufuk: Personally, I don’t think it has to be listened to as a single piece. I don’t know how that ended up in the press text for the album, but for me it’s not true. Having said that… we always want to challenge ourselves to fully surrender to the slow grinding of the negative emotions that our music embodies. It can be very cleansing. A form of trance you could say. And a disconnection from our society and everyday lives. In that sense, one could argue 75 minutes is a bit rushed.
The cover art shows an individual with a prison door in their chest. How does the artwork fit in with the album concept?
Ufuk: There is no visual or lyrical concept or storytelling, as such. The music is at the absolute center, always. The lyrics and images serve as amplifiers for what we try to achieve with it. And as for the album cover, I think Göran (Nilsson [Hydra Illustration]) nailed this brilliantly. He’s been listening to our music for a long time and knows all about what we’re trying to do.
Why was it important to you to have lyrics in Swedish on this release?
Ufuk: I started to feel very uninspired when writing lyrics in English and wanted to step out of a comfort zone, I guess. Although I’ve heard Swedish in extreme music before, I had never heard it in extremely slow tempos. It felt a bit scary at first, but it turned out to bring a lot more emotion to the music.
What inspired you to bring in a saxophone on “Vagar Mot Slutet” in terms of the sound or instrument itself?
Ufuk: The saxophone is just one of those instruments that has the ability to sound incredibly alone. I was first inspired by films like Lost Highway and The Conversation, where there were characters that seemed to have this connection to their instrument (the saxophone) and they would bring out their most inner chaos or sadness by playing it. Then, of course, we have been inspired by Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore!
The closing track on 2014’s “Hope is Misery” features doom piano and now you’ve used doom saxophone, is there a particular instrument or sound that you’re interested in experimenting with next?
Ufuk: We don’t think too much about that. It’s not a “thing,” so to speak. But, it would be interesting to further explore the piano in our music. A lot of our music is written on a piano, so it would make sense.
The themes often explored in your songs deal with misery and despair. And for many of your listeners it is a means to channel their emotions. What type of music do you listen to when you’re dealing with these emotions, conversely what music do you listen to when you’re happy?
Ufuk: I don’t know if any of us make that distinction, really. Listening to music should bring joy in one way or another. I can feel joy when listening to Grief, for instance. Their absolute negativity and anger elevates me from those feelings I have myself.
How has your local community and your country responded to the Coronavirus?
Ufuk: Sweden has been discussed a lot in the media, all over the world. About not locking down and putting a lot of responsibility on its citizens. But, it has of course had its impact on us, too. The most scary thing is how little we know about it, I guess. But, it also is fascinating how society is forced to change.
How are you dealing with it as band? Has it forced the band to change touring plans? Has it sparked any creativity, like writing new songs?
Ufuk: We are very careful of course. But, when we can we get together and practice and write music. Fortunately, we don’t rely on touring as a band. Economically, that is. But, we did have some cool festival shows that were, of course, cancelled.
If you’re required to be isolated, how are you spending your time?
Ufuk: Writing music, playing video games, watching films and series. The usual!