It has been a busy start to 2016 for Krigsgrav. The black metal group out of Fort Worth, Texas is gearing up for their first ever tour set to kick off on April 1st. (And fortunately enough for me, this 17-city tour happens to include a number of east coast dates, so you’ll be able to catch me at the Portland, Maine show on April 8th.) But even more than that, Krigsgrav have announced that their newest album, Waves of Degradation, will also be dropping on April 1st. It has been just under two years since The Carrion Fields dropped in 2014, so between the upcoming tour and new album, 2016 is lining up to be a big year.
Before all of this unfolds, Krigsgrav drummer, David Sikora, was gracious enough to offer up his time and answer a series of questions regarding all the aforementioned upcoming events and more. So, without wasting anymore time, let’s roll right into it…
Being from Texas, an area that may not be readily associated with black metal, especially of the more atmospheric variety (unlike, for example, the Northwest), where do you pull inspiration for both your sound and lyrical content?
Well I can’t speak for the others in the band, but for me personally inspiration is drawn from wanting what I can’t have. In this area of Texas, we’re surrounded either by bustling metropolis or unending suburbs. Any strip of land that can be built upon is taken up by strip centers full of nail salons, donut shops, etc, and any piece of “nature” that we have is something that is man-made or fenced in, with paved walking paths on “private property”, etc. There is no where to simply go for a walk in nature (real, unchanged nature) and enjoy our surroundings. So, I look to the surroundings in other states, other parts of the country, etc and let it guide me. My longing for nature is what inspires the music that I write.
I am, for lack of a better term, totally ignorant to the scene in Texas. Could you offer some insight into the metal community in your general area? What has it been like trying to build and increase your following regionally?
The scene here is decent in terms of pure numbers. Dallas is still thriving in the sense that there are always bands playing at various clubs every weekend, but in terms of new and exciting music, you have to really search sometimes. Much of what you hear here in the metal scene has been done before many times over. The people here who promote the shows around here do have great enthusiasm though, which is great. I’d rather have that than an uninterested, lazy promoter any day. And we’ve never really done much to grow and spread our name/following. We had the mentality all along that we would not play live very often, and would only play bigger or more unique shows that would have larger crowds and would get our music out to a different crowd than just the typical metal bar crowd here in Dallas. We want our shows to be special, and not be one of those “play the same bar every other weekend” bands.
The Krigsgrav discography showcases a raw, more extreme style on the earlier demos. Jumping ahead to The Carrion Fields (2014), melodicism and cleaner production creates something more entrancing. Today, Krigsgrav’s take on metal may be more akin to Agalloch, Fen, or Alcest in the use of folk and even shoegaze elements. What influences were behind this development of sound over the years?
To be perfectly honest, in the early days when I was writing all the music and lyrics, I never had a true vision of what I wanted it to sound like. I wanted it pretty primitive, but for the most part I was just inspired by the classics… Darkthrone, Mayhem, Carpathian Forest, etc. It wasn’t until after the recording of “The Leviathan Crown” that I had the realization of “I need to just write whatever the hell I feel like, and whatever comes out will still be Krigsgrav to me. Who cares what everyone expects me to sound like or wants me to sound like.” And that mentality still resonates today when writing for new recordings. We just write what we like.
Expanding on that a bit, how would you categorize or describe Krigsgrav’s music today? Do you feel there are any bands or artists you are associated with in terms of style?
Well people love to make the Agalloch comparison, which is fine. We all enjoy Agalloch. I don’t necessarily think we sound like them, but I’ll gladly take that comparison. I love shoegaze bands like Slowdive, etc, as well as more of the melodic black metal like Lantlos, Thyrfing, Kampfar, Fen, Woods of Ypres, Obsidian Tongue… so I like to think we blend elements of all those bands, but still certainly have a sound that (in my opinion) is recognizably Krigsgrav.
You have your fourth full-length album, Waves of Degradation (through Bindrune Recordings), coming out soon. Knowing your history, what kind of progression can we expect from the new album? Were there any particular goals in mind through the writing/recording process?
“The Carrion Fields” was a great success for us. It was the first Krigsgrav release as a full band and our first time collaborating on music. So for “Waves of Degradation”, we already had a level of comfort when it came to the writing, and I think that more relaxed approach comes through in the music. It all feels more effortless this time around. Again, we always just throw ideas out there and see what we all like. This time around there’s kinda more of everything… the mellow parts are more mellow, the aggressive parts are more aggressive, there’s more double bass in my drumming, more clean vocals this time, and we’ve added violins into a few of the songs. So it’s more diverse than anything else we’ve done, that’s for sure.
In support of Waves of Degradation, April 1st will bring your first U.S. tour (accompanied by Giant of the Mountain). After kicking off in Little Rock, you spend the majority of the 17-date tour on the East coast. What was the motivation or thought process behind expanding to this specific area of the country?
Well I’m from NY and have family and friends up there. And we have established some great friendships with people in other bands in ME, MA, NY, NH, etc, so we figured, why not. Giant of the Mountain has toured the west coast and midwest before, but never the northeast, so we felt that it was a no-brainer for both bands. There’s some great bands over there and some really good and interesting venues, so we’re excited to get over there and see what it has to offer.
There are some distinct (and obvious) differences in sound between Giant of the Mountain’s approach to death metal and your take on black metal. How did you end up teaming up with them for this tour?
Giant of the Mountain and the members of Krigsgrav go back many years. Myself and Corey (Rhythm/Lead Guitarist in Krigsgrav) also play in a band called Of Oak, who has played countless shows with Giant of the Mountain over the years. They’re great people, very focused on their craft, great musicians, and we get on great. There’s no other band around here that I even considered touring alongside. I know that touring with them will not only be a great time, but the two bands have the focus and drive to do it properly, take care of the business side of things well, etc. Plus their sound is hard to really put a label on. They blend a lot of styles, and I feel that Krigsgrav does the same, so the pairing of the two bands is perfect in my eyes.
As previously mentioned, your sound has evolved over the years. Keeping the upcoming album and all your past work in consideration, what was the process behind establishing a setlist for your first tour? Especially since your work has been, for the most part, unseen live.
Well we feel that the new album is the strongest, most diverse music we’ve ever done, and has the most to offer a crowd who has never seen us before, so we’re playing more stuff from the new album. The longs are quite lengthy, so our live set consists of 4 songs. They’ll be 2 from the new album, one from “The Carrion Fields” (2014), and one from “Lux Capta Est” (2011).
Staying on the upcoming tour, your lyrics cover everything from the natural to the philosophical; images of light to those of darkness. Given the different themes you have implemented in your music, is there a specific emotion, or range of emotions, that you are hoping to convey to your audience through a live performance?
You know, I don’t really know. I’ve honestly never thought about trying to convey a specific emotion on stage. I just want us to put everything we can into the performances, let our music do the talking, and trust that the fans will connect with us and feel that they are witnessing something special. I want them to see that they are watching 4 people on stage who are putting their souls into their music and trust that they can connect with us on some level.
Between the new album (the first with Bindrune Records) and the upcoming U.S. tour (also a first, as mentioned), 2016 is shaping up to be a big year for Krigsgrav. Looking beyond these two events, what are some of your goals or ambitions for the rest of the year and going into 2017 that we can look forward to?
Next for Krigsgrav is an acoustic album. It’s possibly an EP or possibly a full-length…we’ll see how much the inspiration hits us and how much material we end up with. But we have had the urge to do an acoustic album for awhile now, so we expect to finally get the ball rolling on it in the second half of this year. I’m looking forward to that very much.
Finally, just for the hell of it, what was your most embarrassing moment as a musician?
Hmmm…a few years back I was playing live in a small club in Dallas and had some pretty flimsy cymbal stands. I’ve since gotten some much better ones, but back then I was using ones that were held together with duct tape! Haha. Well in the middle of the set, my stand that was holding my ride cymbal gave way. Now that in itself isn’t the end of the world… I could always just transition over to my hi-hats and resume the beat from there… but the ride cymbal slid down and got stuck between my pedal/beater and the kick drum head. So anytime I tried to hit the kick drum, the beater would just hit the ride cymbal and make no noise whatsoever. So I had to do what no musician ever wants to do… stop the song, fix the cymbal stand, and then start the song over. There’s nothing worse! Haha
A huge thank you to David for sharing his thoughts and time. A few more weeks remain before Krigsgrav hit the road and Waves of Degradation is released, but be sure to check out 2014’s The Carrion Fields below.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”
Waves of Degradation will be available on April 1st through Bindrune Recordings. For more information on Krigsgrav, visit their official Facebook page. Be sure to catch Krigsgrav on tour between April 1st and 17th with Giant of the Mountain.