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unKonventional death doom

When it comes to Scandinavian metal, Sweden and Norway overshadow Denmark on a considerable scale.  The northerners have been leaders in the death and black genres since the late 1980s, and while the south can claim forerunners Mercyful Fate and King Diamond, there hasn’t been the same kind of scene explosion.  But is that about to change? Is the red and white kingdom on the verge of something special? Death doom four-piece Konvent, which formed in Copenhagen in 2015, are hopeful. “…being in a certain town with certain people at the right moment … some bands start inspiring other bands and then a sort of movement starts, and that hasn’t happened that much here in Denmark,” bassist Heidi Withington Brink says.  “I would say something is happening right now with the metal scene here. You see bands going from the underground and trying to take it further.”

Grater catches up with Brink, guitarist Sara Helena Nørregaard, vocalist Rikke Emilie List and drummer Julie Simonsen by phone while they’re on a tour bus. They’re headed around the peninsular and Germany with their brand-new album, ‘Puritan Masochism’, fresh on their mouths and hands. 

What the group (and country) lack in heavy history, they make up for in aggression.  Naturally then, this brings up the seemingly unsolvable ‘Scandinavian metal paradox’.  “No matter how privileged your life is, you can always find something to bitch about,” Nørregaard laughs.  “I don’t think anyone will ever be 100 per cent happy.” Brink agrees: “I also think that even though we are very privileged here, the stuff we talk about in our songs – it’s not superficial problems like luxury issues – it’s often deeper than that, I would say.  About losing people in your life that you love for some reason or another, and also about mental illness. There’s a lot of heavy stuff you can still go through even though you live in a privileged country, but of course it’s easier to go through these things without worrying about stuff that other countries have to worry about.  We’re happy people, normally. When we play we don’t seem very happy,” Brink laughs.

‘Puritan Masochism’, which was released on January 24, is a dark exploration of the loss of control in one way or another; though the band don’t elaborate fully.  “Each song on the album can relate to that issue of losing control in some way,” Brink says. “So, one song might be about the loss of a loved one, the other song might be about knowing somebody who’s going through a rough time, like Ropes Pt. I.  Then Ropes Pt. II is seeing it from the inside of the person who is struggling.”  Nørregaard says they also want to leave it to listener interpretation. “We like the listener to create … stories in their heads without us telling them what the song is about,” she says.

Thematically, Ropes Pt. II is one of the darkest songs on the record, but lyrically, The Eye takes the title.  “The lyrics to The Eye are also quite dark, almost gore-ish, so that’s kind of dark in another way.  It’s a palette of dark,” Nørregaard laughs. That palette extends to their logo, in which the ‘t’ appears as an inverted cross.  Brink says nobody has asked them about it yet, and replies truthfully with a laugh. “To be honest, it’s mostly because we thought it looked cool.  We’re not a band that stands for anything political. And not Satanists as well, but we don’t have anything against them.”  

The darkness has always been present in the four, who all loved listening to metal from when they were quite young – though they had different gateway bands.  “None of us started listening to extreme metal from the beginning, so it was kind of like our music taste evolved in some way, and then when we got together in the band, it just seemed to fit that we started playing the music we did,” Brink says.  “We never decided to play the genre we did. We just kind of fell into that for some reason. This is a bit funny, but the first concert I went to was The Darkness and I just remember seeing them playing and just being like, ‘Wow, this is so heavy’.  If only I had known how heavy it would get in the future, then I would’ve been shocked. I slowly progressed into a bit more of the mainstream metal and then getting into more sub genres like black metal. I remember being completely blown away when I heard Darkthrone for the first time and being like, ‘Woah, this is insane’, and Satyricon and bands like that.” Today, they also cite influences like Nails, Candlemass, Conan and Paradise Lost.

While the members are very much a family now, the collective that came to be known as Konvent was not a planned thing.  “Back in 2015, I really wanted to start a band but none of the guys I knew in my surroundings wanted to start something with me,” Brink says.  “I understand, because I was really bad at that time and I was just starting out. My roommate at the time was teaching a girl (Rikke’s sister Mette) to play the drums and I heard she was also interested in starting something, so we got together. They both knew Sara through the metal scene, so that’s really how it happened.  Not with the intent of ‘let’s do a girl band’, but just like ‘these are the people around me that are sort of on the same level and think it’s a good idea and it’s cool at the time’,” she says. Nørregaard then adds, “We actually started doing Seven Nation Army by The Whitestripes.”  “Because I couldn’t play anything else at the time,” Heidi says.  “And we haven’t looked back since,” Nørregaard concludes.

The members’ ages vary from 21 to 33, and while drummer Simonsen (replaced Mette in 2017) is the youngest, she also has the most experience.  “Julie is the young one in the band,” Brink says. “She’s the ‘new’ drummer, even though she’s been with us for more than two years, but she’s also the one with the most experience playing her instruments.  She’s been playing the drums for eight years.”

It was not long after their current lineup was complete that they performed at a networking festival in Denmark, where their lives would change forever.  “Two years ago we were asked to perform at ‘When Copenhell Freezes Over’ and they had invited a lot of different people from the music business from around Europe from record companies and festivals.  We played there and right after the show, our current booker Thorsten Harm came out to us backstage and offered us a booking deal and said he could probably also give us a record deal, so that’s basically how it happened.  It’s been in the works for quite some time, but we’ve been working a lot on our album, so it took some time for us to take it further. We’re very happy but also very overwhelmed. I don’t think any of us really thought it would happen so fast, but it’s fun. We really like it.”

Puritan Masochism is out now via Napalm Records.

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