The modern day Metal “scene” has long been infested with incredibly generic and uninspired bands who continue to recycle ideas already established by the masters of the genre. Luckily, there are still bands around like Defeat, who are able to take a variety of influences such as Manilla Road, Bathory, Graveland, and Omen and create unique and sincere metal by building on these influences. In this interview I speak with sole member and mastermind Vidarr about the history of the band, his songwriting process, and the role of heathenry and history in his life and music. For my review of the Defeat album “The Winds Have Changed, click here
- Greetings Vidarr! Thanks for answering this interview with Barbarian Skull! Please let us know about the history of Defeat.
Defeat is a project I started working on in 2004. I had spent a few years searching for a suitable drummer, but had found no one interested in playing in the black metal style. I had some experience working with programmed drums and home recording at this time. I wanted to achieve a more “organic” sound. My solution was to learn how to play drums myself, and use a cassette four-track for the “Pride Valor Hatred” demo. The demo was extremely raw, and was an example of mid-paced Burzum style black metal. The last track on this album was an ambient track including reversed drums (achieved by flipping the four-track tape over) and classical guitar. With my first full length I began to explore atmosphere and ambient recordings further with some synth work. “From Far Away” expanded upon many of the tracks included on the demo, with the addition of guitar leads and occasional acoustic guitars and keyboards. The lyrical content, overall, revolved around mythology and nature. Beyond the first full length, I recorded several rough demos, again using my mostly broken four-track as an audio notepad. These demos are included on the compilation “Ten Years of Silence”. With the demo and first Defeat album, I had been inspired mainly by Burzum, Darkthrone, Bathory, Nokturnal Mortum, and Graveland.
- Defeat is described as a “Heathen Black Heavy Metal” band, and there are certainly hints of the first wave of Black Metal and pure traditional Heavy Metal in your music. Defeat also utilizes aspects of Folk music and ambient as well. What bands/projects inspired you most to create this unique blend of music?
After the long period of silence, I began to look more towards the NWOBHM and early power/heavy metal bands like Manilla Road, Omen, early Fates Warning, Manowar, and Cirith Ungol. The black metal influences which have remained in Defeat deal primarily with the first wave bands, like Celtic Frost and Bathory. My taste in metal generally ends with the 80s: I have become stubborn, maybe even bitter regarding my metal preferences.
The term “Heathen Black Heavy Metal” is in some ways a nod to Darkthrone’s declaration of spearheading the New Wave of Black Heavy Metal, with my own twist on the concept. The latest albums by Darkthrone are a celebration of the old-school, which is something I can really appreciate.
As far as ambient goes, my influences are what one could expect: early Mortiis, Summoning, and of course the mighty Basil Poledouris of Conan fame. I use an old keyboard, the best qualities of which are that the keys are touch sensitive. This keyboard is run through external effects on my mixer, which gives it a warmer, less harsh sound. It is also worth noting that all synth on my albums is played: there are no programmed passages. Another influence, oddly enough, is most definitely the old NES RPG songs and sounds.
The combination of these styles is something more organic, and less of a specific intent. I never sat down and planned out what I would like to sound like. I simply created an album, and style of metal, that I would like to hear. I strive to create albums and songs which are consistently epic, with no down time to wait for the next powerful phrase.
- Defeat creates music deeply rooted in Norse lore and mythology, even directly quoting historical texts such as the Havamal. What role do these themes play in your life, and why did you choose them to be the focus of your musical efforts?
I am Heathen, and the old teachings and the old ways are part of my every-day life. The statement: “The Winds have Changed” refers to the turning of the seasons, and deals with following nature as a spiritual path. When the seasons are about to turn, there is a different feeling in the air, as if one can feel or smell the changes which are coming. The cycle of life is ever turning and evolving, and we, as humans, are the same way. The song “The Worlds Numbered Nine” paraphrases portions of the Poetic Edda, the verses dealing with the creation of the worlds, and the chorus quoting the famous passage from the Havamal dealing with death.
In additional to ancient Germanic and European spirituality, I study historical western martial arts, and have spent years practicing reconstruction Viking Age combat, mainly in the areas of sword and round shield. I consider myself a “material historian” regarding ancient Scandinavia, and have amassed a wardrobe of period correct clothing and armor, which is worn while practicing these martial arts. Most of these artifacts I have either crafted myself or are hand-made by other artisans. Participation in large-scale battles is something which I have done longer than I have been working on the Defeat project, and is something which I intend to continue for many years to come. The experience of standing on a battlefield with a barbarian army, facing several thousand opponents is something which is a great inspiration to my work with Defeat. It is a full contact martial activity, with real pain and real threat of injury: high risk, high reward.
- Your first demo (Pride, Valor, Hatred) was released in 2004, followed by your debut full length (From Far Away). How did fans react to these releases at the time of their release? They have both recently been re-issued by Werewolf Promotion as a compilation called “Ten Years of Silence”. Has the compilation created a renewed interest in Defeat?
Both the demo and the full length were met with positive reactions, but reached a limited audience. This is something which is expected, as Defeat is a thoroughly underground band. Without the ability to perform live, I can only reach so many people. I would say that the majority of my fans reside in various European countries.
“Ten Years of Silence” has compiled all of the Defeat materials recorded before “The Winds Have Changed”, including eleven unreleased tracks overall. Many of these tracks were never intended for release, but have been restored and cleaned up as best could be done. Again, this release has reached a small, but enthusiastic audience.
- Before your second full length album (The Winds Have Changed), Defeat was on hold for many years. Why was the band placed on hold, and what inspired you to re-activate Defeat and begin composing music again?
After recording “From Far Away” I began, once again, searching for suitable musicians to help flesh out the band. After this proved unsuccessful, once again, I drifted away from metal for a period of several years. In this time I was very interested in 70s prog bands like Yes and King Crimson, as well as some early space rock and psychedelic groups like Hawkwind, Soft Machine, and Gong. I recorded several unreleased albums of material heavily influenced by this music. These albums will remain unreleased.
My inspiration to re-activate Defeat came about through a renewed interest in metal, this time focusing on the origins of metal, which naturally came forth from the prog and space rock bands which I previously mentioned. The influence of 70s prog remains as a cornerstone of the Defeat sound. In addition to this, an increasing interest in Viking age combat and reenactment also inspired me to work further on this style of music.
- I consider The Winds Have Changed to be a unique work of art in the realm of “Viking Metal”. Tell us more about the recording and composition of this album. What feedback have you received from fans regarding this masterpiece?
The album is composed as one might compose a visual work of art. Apart from being a musician, I am also a visual artist, and for years have focused on classical oil painting as well as numerous other artisan skills. The album includes nine tracks: three ambient tracks and six metal tracks. The ambient tracks function as an introduction, an interlude, and a conclusion track, while the metal tracks function as halves to the album. The first set of metal tracks mirror the second set of metal tracks, as far as lyrical and melodic content are concerned. This is entirely intentional.
The metal songs are composed around a central group of guitar riffs, which are then arranged with accompanying drum patterns. At this point, a basic guitar, bass, and drum version of the song are recorded. It is at this point that I begin to add lead guitar textures and additional melodies. All of this is done by improvisation. All solos on this album are improvised. The keyboard parts are written in much the same way. Lyrics are written as the songs take on a concrete recorded form.
The ambient tracks are composed around a central, simple melody, which then becomes more complex as each additional instrument is recorded.
I have received very little feedback regarding this work, which is not something I am discouraged by. My intentions remain in creating music that I want to hear. This current era of music in general both benefits from and suffers from the internet. It is easy to hear and discover new bands, but there are so many people doing so many things, that it becomes quite difficult to filter out all the sub-par offerings. It is perhaps for this reason that my list of influences is decidedly old-school.
- You were also planning an ambient album released under the name Vidarr, with songs similar to the excellent keyboard tracks featured on The Winds Have Changed. What is the status of the ambient album?
The ambient full length album is recorded, but still must undergo the mixing and mastering process. I have not decided on an official name for this project, and may end up simply releasing it under the Defeat name. Time will tell what form this release will take, but I feel that it is strong enough material to deserve a proper release.
- What can you tell us about the future of Defeat?
I am currently writing riffs which will become the bones for the next full length album. I will say that these riffs are continually heading towards a more old-school heavy metal sound. I will hopefully begin recording this album within the year. It will, once again, be a long album of epic heavy metal music. My knowledge of recording, mixing, and mastering is becoming more formidable, so you can also expect this album to sound better as well.
- Thank you Vidarr for taking the time to answer this interview. Any last words are yours!
Thank you for the support, and thanks to all those who uphold both the ways of true heavy metal and true heathen art. Our modern world is filled with many false or unworthy ideologies, rampant materialism, and technology worship, but there are a handful of folks out there who still have the right idea!