As a guide to the vast array of bands in this universe I present to you an interview with VALFREYA. Anders Ekdahl ©2021
Do you feel that is has gone the way you intended when you formed back in the days?
-Well, there have been more band member changes than expected and the release of new material is slower than anticipated but otherwise, although our progression isn’t steady (what progression is anyways, right?), we believe it’s going in the right direction.
How do you feel about your latest recording? Did it come out the way you expected it to?
-I like the direction we’re taking musically, although I think we’re still discovering ourselves. You can feel as if we’re attempting different things on this album. Sound-wise, I think it’s a slight improvement from our first album “Path to Eternity” but I’m still not 100% satisfied. The guitars and orchestrations are fighting each other in the mix a little. That’s in part our fault is we tend to put too many layers of chords and melodies. This is something we’re working on for our new songs (the “less is more” mentality). Try to remove as much as we can and still be satisfied with the overall result. That should clear things up and give better results for our next album. And, one thing I was really disappointed with on our latest albums were the orchestrations themselves. Not enough work was put into them and they’re like plain MIDI tracks with “nice” sounds. But, it feels to square and mechanical. It’s especially apparent in interludes like “The icelanding sagas” or the outro of the album. But, it is also present in the other songs, just not as apparent. That is another aspect where we expect big improvements on our next album. I mean, If we had the funds, we’d go for an actual orchestra but we’re not there yet.
Do you feel that you by now has found a sound that is the band and that you can build on it ?
-We’re getting there but I don’t think we found it just yet. One of the things I wanted to improve on was the rhythm guitar playing. On “Path to Eternity”, it’s pretty much tremolo picking throughout the whole album. On “Promised Land”, I tried to go with more rhythmic variety, as I get used to writing guitars over pre-existing orchestrations. There’s also a part of knowing better what will be accepted by Corinne. I was partially successful at this, in my mind. So, this still needs to be perfected but I feel it’s getting better and better. What helps is I’m often writing with Jeremie, our drummer. It helps to define rhythms in songs and trying ideas on guitars and drums instead of defaulting to blast beats and tremolo picking all the time.
Is having a message in the lyrics important to you? What kind of topics do you deal with?
-On a personal level, I like when lyrics have a message, something to deliver and get people thinking. But, in Valfreya so far, lyrics are purely fantasy related and have no “philosophical” part. I do believe that Corinne (who writes most of the lyrics) is taking a different approach for our upcoming album / songs. It’ll still be fantasy-based, but with a deeper meaning that applies in the times we live in.
How important is the cover art work for you? Can a really cool cover still sell an album in this day and age of digital download?
-I love great album artwork. When I was younger (before digital music), I used to spend lots of time reading the booklet of an album. Actually reading the lyrics while listening to the album, and looking at every detail in the artwork over and over. So, this has a special place in my heart. Now, with the digital age, it might be less prevalent but I still find it gives you an insight on the band’s music and general feel. But hey, that’s just me. Pretty sure you can find people that don’t care at all about artwork and all.
Why is it so hard for bands that come from places not the US or UK/Sweden/Scandinavia to break big? What is success to you and is it something you’d like to achieve
-Well, I feel in Canada and specifically the province of Quebec where we’re from, people don’t like the local bands that much. We have lots of really good metal bands here. And, don’t get me wrong, there are bands that make it big like Cryptopsy, Beyond Creation, Quo Vadis, etc… But, they only seem to be liked by the locals once they make it big. I find we (Valfreya) seem to have way more love from people outside Canada than into it. I’m under the impression bands from Scandinavia / US or UK have more support from their own people (but I might be mistaken, I haven’t really spoken about this subject to such bands).
As far as “success”, my definition of it has really changed over the years. Given the reality that the biggest metal bands barely make a living from their music, the chances of making this our bread and butter are basically non-existent, realistically. Especially with the type of music we’re playing and the growling. It’ll never be liked by enough people in the world to become “rich” from. And, being rich is not something I strive for. I would be happy in paying my bills and buying a house and having some money to put on the side for my old days. I mean, if Marko from Nightwish quit in parts because of the money aspect, imagine all the smaller bands… People playing music, especially metal, must really play for the love of the music and not for the money. That said, for me to consider having “succeeded”, would be to tour Europe and the US at least once. And, a tour we’re we don’t fall in the negatives or at least, no too far.
Today the competition is harder. You got plenty of digital platforms for new talent to display their music. How do you do to really stand out in a world where everything but the music is blind to the listener?
-Yes, now that everybody can make a decent home recording and with platforms being available to everyone to showcase their music, it is very difficult to stand out. Plus, people are bombarded with music from hundred’s of bands and it gets though, even for the listener because there are so many choices. But, I think we still stand out with the way we write our music. I find a lot of music I put an ear to sounds the same streamlined model. So, getting out of the mold and coming up with different voicing and chords is still feasible. In Valfreya, I think the different musical background of each of the musicians creates a nice mix that, to my ear, sounds different than anything else out there. Now, I’m not saying symphonic metal is original. It’s been done. But, out of the more symphonic bands out there, I find we have our own sound.
What is your local scene like? How important is a national scene for a band to be able to break out and make it international?
-I think it is pretty important. You especially need to be able to play with bands that have a somehow similar sound and style to yours. I mean, playing with trash metal or other type of metal might work on some occasions, but people usually prefer one style and go to shows of the type they prefer. And, the scene in Quebec is pretty awesome. Lots of metal heads here. But, the amount of bands sometime seem to dilute how many people show up to a concert because there can be 2 to 4 shows on the same evening, just in the city of Montreal alone. And, although it is possible to get recognition using YouTube and other digital platforms, sometimes what gets people is the live music. They can then appreciate the album better.
Rock and metal has come a long way since the early 70s but still some people’s attitudes towards it seem to be left in the stone age. How accepted is metal in your area? Is it like in Finland where it seems to come with the mother’s milk?
-Metal here is not yet at the level of Finland but the general attitude seems to be better and better. I mean, we had a metal singer show up at “Star Academy” (kind of like “The voice”) and it got people talking quite a lot. It was “shocking” because it was the first time this happened on national television. It opened up this style of growling to audiences that would’ve never even listened to it otherwise. And, it obviously ain’t for everyone, but some people discovered they liked it. And, it also shed some light on the fact it requires a lot of practice and technique. It’s not “just screaming”. So, I believe its getting more and more accepted.
What does the future hold for you?
-Well, we’re working on our 3rd album. If everything goes according to plan, we should enter the studio by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022. Of course, with the pandemic and being quarantined here, we can’t do much else than write new music (no band practice possible nor shows). Although we did get to release a new video-clip. So, we’re moving along at a decent pace and already have 5 finished songs (or very close to being a final product). Other than that, depending when “normal” comes back, we’ll get back to playing shows and will see if we can make those tours happen in the next few years.