Wednesday 26 January 2011

From Norway they came - Kollwitz

Occasionally, a band rises from obscurity and blows you away. They are mysterious and encompassing and leave you feeling awe-struck, especially in world of spoon-fed, commercialised music. The band I am referring is Kollwitz.

Kollwitz play a very different type of music from a lot the bands that are coming out of Norway at the moment. They play very introspective, doomy metal with hints at the hardcore past of some of their members.

Kollwitz surfaced in 2006 in Bodø, Norway by Thomas Hanssen (Guitar), Stian Hansen (Drums), Jorgen R. Holmen (Synths/Samples/Vocals) and Frederik Hillestad (Vocals/Synths). The four had already been active in the Norwegian underground music scene, playing in bands such as Beyond The Fences, Oceanism, Uzumaki and Hjertesorg. Shortly after, Endre Njos joined as the bands second guitarist and was also active in a band called The Spectacle. 

In 2007, Kollwitz relocated to the city of Oslo, where they played shows and begun to records material that would end up forming their debut album - Like Iron I Rust, which was released in 2010 by Norwegian label Fysisk Format. Around the time of it's release, Tobjorn Hafnor joined on Bass and this allowed Jorgen to focus more on the layers and textures that would contribute to Kollwitz's sound.

A little while ago, I caught up with guitarist Endre Njos, to ask him some questions about the band and their journey so far:-

First of all, how are you and how is 2011 going so far? What plans have you got for 2011?
We are doing well! 2011 has started nice and quiet, with some time for other projects than Kollwitz. Our main focus now is writing new songs, but we also have a few gigs lined up in Norway. The writing process is pretty slow for us, so it takes a while to finish a song, let alone and entire album. Right now we mostly have a lot of riffs, and we are trying to work though what can go together and what is potentially right for our next record.

Like Iron I Rust is a brilliant record. How did you come up with the sound for Kollwitz? Was it a natural progression from your previous bands?
That is most kind of you. I guess you could say that it is a natural progression from earlier bands, though it was far from the only possible outcome, if that makes sense. All of us have played in hardcore or metal bands before this, and at least most of us have had a love affair with slow and hard music for quite some time. Our sound is, like most bands, partially coincidental and partially deliberate. It is not like we had a master plan from the get-go, nor is everything purely by chance. You discover new things by chance, and then you make deliberate decisions based upon what you’ve found and what you have learned in the past. In one sense, you could probably say that we have fused various elements from earlier bands to our liking.

The package for Like Iron I Rust is great. How did you come up with it?
A Norwegian artist, Johannes Høie, did the artwork. We had seen some of his work on the Internet, and incidentally he had already been in touch with our label, Fysisk Format, about doing artwork for some of their bands. We gave him some keywords, and he made the awesome drawing on the cover, plus most of the other illustrations. A friend of us did the layout. He is great with graphic design and did a superb job putting those illustrations together in a format that could be printed. The packaging itself is an “arigato pack”. Our friends and label mates in Dominic had used it for their album, and the label suggested we do it too. We are really satisfied with it, and if you like the CD packaging, you should see the vinyl!

Your label Fysisk Format seems to be gaining a reputation for really quality releases at the moment. What made you decide to work with them?
Actually, they were the number one label that we wanted to work with, so we were thrilled when they liked a promo CD we made them. The quality of music and packaging they had already put out was most impressive, and the people behind the label seemed very dedicated and serious, not to mention that they are all really nice people. Top that with the fact that they are running the best record store in Norway, and you have a winner! We couldn’t be happier with being on Fysisk Format.

I found out about Kollwitz from a feature in Terrorizer magazine. Have you had a lot of attention from other areas?
Not really, it’s mostly been from Norway and the UK, which is obviously connected to distribution and promotion. However, we are eager to tour and release albums more or less everywhere, and try to build up a network and, hopefully, a fan base wherever there might be interest.

Norway seems to be producing a lot of great, original bands at the moment, including yourselves and Kvelertak. Is the scene switching to more forward thinking bands?
Fysisk Format is almost like a scene of our own – and what a great one! On could perhaps say that bands coming from more of a hardcore/punk background are pretty diverse and “forward thinking” these days, but it is hard to say something meaningful about those things when you are involved in it yourself. Suffice to say that there are many good bands in almost any genre in Norway nowadays?

What bands/music do you listen to and would you say that they influence you at all in your music?
That would be a different answer from every band member. There are of course some of the usual suspects: Neurosis, Breach, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, GYBE!, Sigur Rós, TNBM amongst many others. Of course they influence us. However, I think we find most inspiration in our near surroundings and from all the great bands that our friends play in. There is something special about music performed by people that you have a real relation to.  

Which bands would you suggest that people pay attention to from Norway at the moment?
Okkultokrati, Obliteration, Årabrot and Aristillus from Fysisk Format. Hell, check out the entire roster! Altaar is a drone/doom band that are actually playing South By Southwest this year. Kråkesølv is a great indie pop band, and Lukestar is another, and yet another one, which features members from Kollwitz, is Cold Mailman. Iskald plays black metal that will freeze your soul. 

And so to the album itself. Like Iron I Rust is made of eight tracks in just over an hour.
The track listing for the album is as follows:-
1. What You Are Given
2. Green Line
3. A Great Divide
4. And The Stars Did Wander
5. Dispirit
6. Black Star, Grey Sky
7.Stille For Stormen
8. Like Iron I Rust.

As soon as the album starts, it transports to the baron, cold landscapes of Scandinavia. The synths and lightly plucked strings, heralding in a sense of calm before bursting into raucous passages which would be akin to bands like Cult of Luna. Now, I don't want to draw any comparisons to other bands becuase Kollwitz deserve more than that.

You can definitely hear brief nods to the bands influences, but they add to the bands very original sound and help them to become somewhat unclassifiable, genre wise. The album is able to hold the attention well, allowing the listener to get lost in their soundscapes. I think it is a great album and has been on rotation in my record player since I laid my hands on it.

The packaging is also great. The CD came packaged in a cardboard case, not much bigger than the CD itself. The artwork on the front of the release, stretches round when you open the album up. Inside, instead of the standard booklet, the band provided the song titles and lyrics on separate, double sided cards. This is a very original and quality release, and should be a sign of the quality to come from the band's label.

Overall, Kollwitz are a real treasure and a band that should start to get more recognition for such an amazing debut album. The album is out now through Fysisk Format. You can visit the label by going to and thanks to the label's distribution, you should be able to find copies in the UK, especially on Amazon.

You can follow Kollwitz on facebook by going to!/pages/kollwitztheband/104195012625.


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