Svartkonst mastermind Rickard Törnqvist talks morbidly entrancing 3rd album 'May the Night Fall'
While the less-than-enlightened likes of “Metalhead Memes” may have spent more than their fair share of time poking fun at the ever-ubiquitous “solo bedroom project” (cue childish tittering), today’s rich array of absurdly talented black metal artists currently working largely, or indeed entirely, alone makes a more than compelling case for such solitary musical ventures. And having spent more than a decade meticulously honing his fiercely distinctive, self-styled melange of wintry, tremolo-stricken hostility, densely reverberating groove and thoroughly malevolent atmospherics, Svartkonst’s Rickard Törnqvist is one of the most exciting new solo artists we’ve ever encountered here at Dark Matter HQ. Fresh from releasing majestic third opus ‘May the Night Fall’, its tremendously industrious creator reflects on the most all-consuming and intensely creative period of his career thus far…
As much as we fans might like to romanticise the classic, sentimental concept of the tight-knit musical collective forged from the closest of lifelong bonds and unbreakable friendships, the reality of operating as a band spanning various artistic temperaments, opinions and, inevitably, competing egos can be a messy business for even the most harmonious of musical units. And even leaving aside the Spinal Tap-esque temper tantrums and other assorted melodrama, there’s no denying the painfully obvious truth that, as far as ensuring one’s creative vision is brought to fruition as faithfully and fully as possible, the fewer the number of personnel involved, the better. Indeed, as a multi-talented artist who’s handled every conceivable aspect of writing, performance and recording duties since the inception of genre-straddling solo project Svartkonst back in 2012, ultimate and all-encompassing creative control has long played an integral role in facilitating creator Rickard Törnqvist's own intricately realised artistic visions.
“It is a very laborious process, and it's easy to never be satisfied and keep changing stuff,
remixing, and re-recording, never knowing when a track is done and so on,” Rickard notes of his meticulous and fiercely autonomous approach to the creative process. “As much as I would love to just hand over the process, I could not relax if I did so. I have a vision in my head that I need to fulfil, and in doing so I can only trust myself. To have complete creative control is something that I value very much. It allows me to have an even deeper connection to the music.”
Beginning life more than a full decade ago as what Rickard describes as “a sort of unholy marriage of old school Swedish death metal and black metal”, the years that followed saw its ambitious creator take ample time to meld and manipulate these underpinning genre traditions into a sound of his own inimitably scabrous and morbidly immersive design. Culminating some six years later in blistering debut album ‘Devil’s Blood’, this sonically immense manifestation of weightily pulverising, subterreanean groove and intensely visceral fretwork witnessed the genesis of a tremendously inspiring new creative venture.
Of this early, wholly unanticipated breakthrough, the songwriter recalls, “I started Svartkonst myself as early as 2012. And that's where I started experimenting and finding my own path and, most importantly, sound. I wanted the desperation and musical freedom of black metal, but also the weight of death metal. I was deeply invested in both scenes, and I think I managed to reach what I set out for. So in 2018 I finally released my debut album ‘Devil’s Blood’. I had no real intentions of continuing past this album, but things got in motion and here we are.”
Indeed, a mere two years later (and in the midst of a global pandemic, no less) exquisitely frostbitten follow-up ‘Black Waves’ was released to a critically glowing reception, with this accomplished long-player illustrating a marked amplification of the intensely blackened and immersive atmospherics first glimpsed in its more primal and roughly-hewn predecessor. Together with generous lashings of thoroughly caustic and crushing death metal, this strikingly layered long-player pulls in a wealth of influences from across the extreme metal spectrum, from coldly abrasive strains of tremolo and sleekly unfurling guitar leads through to crippling expanses of doom-laden riffery that palpably ooze ink-black malevolence. Small wonder, then, that the year 2023 brought with it much eager speculation as to what listeners might expect from Svartkonst’s next anticipated opus when news of a follow-up first surfaced this summer.
“This third record will follow the Svartkonst-formula of genre-bending death worship,” Rickard confirms. “But it will be a new manifestation, an evolution. Things cannot stay the same and must move forward. I think it will offer a few surprises and unexpected turns as it offers great variety between songs. As some tracks lean more against black and others death, and also hints of other genres like thrash, crust and a bit of rock 'n' roll, of course. With that said I don't think anyone will be disappointed if they enjoyed the previous record.”
With each track on this stylistically expansive record purveying its own uniquely distinctive flavour and overarching identity, the process of selecting just a handful of tracks to air ahead of the album’s official release required no small amount of careful premeditation on behalf of its ever-conscientious creator. Underpinning a densely layered multiplicity of lethally searing tremolo and weightily reverberating grooves whose sinewy, blackly contorting throes abound with deathly majesty, eerily riveting standout ‘Endless Dark’ comprised our first tantalising introduction to the new material back in June 2023. Followed swiftly by ‘Filth Worship’s’ frantically energised mix of scabrous, Motörhead-tinged groove, pulverising blasts and torturously elongated guitar leads, these two tracks alone underpin a diverse plethora of differing musical traditions and energies.
He elaborates: “When selecting tracks it's mostly pretty easy as some have more of a single-aura. But this time it was pretty hard. I want to show the most of this new record, all dimensions. It's hard to do that in just one single as the tracks can be very different from each other. This first one is very much in the black metal vein, so the next one obviously followed with a different flavour.”
And just as the album’s musical dimension continues to further expand upon and progress these vicious, thoroughly malevolent sonic energies, it’s unsurprising that its lyrical world should also tread similarly dark and existential thematic territories.
“Yes, those themes are constantly with me,” Rickard affirms. “And it will probably always stain the lyrics in some way, even though I try to broaden my writing. Lyrics is a process that I find very difficult and has high standards. As it is very naked, you can't hide sloppy lyrics with more distortion. It simply must be good and have meaning, even though probably not many read it, it's important to me that all aspects of the music are as best as possible.”
With this latest, intensely all-consuming creative process now complete with the tremendously awaited unveiling of new album ‘May the Night Fall’, the autumn of 2023 sees Rickard turning his full and undivided attention toward the exciting prospect of both immediate and future touring plans.
“So far this year, we did a couple of one-off shows, a festival and a tour with the legends in Craft. One of my all-time favourite bands, so that was an honour supporting them. It all went fantastic. Great crowds, and many shows got sold out. So we are thankful that we have made some kind of mark, although we have not played for that long. Now the rest of the year will be taken up with preparing and rehearsing the new tracks for crushing live shows in the future.”
'May the Night Fall' is out now via Trust No One Recordings
Click HERE to order your copy now