A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing a delightfully aggressive and musically interesting record entitled Omen by a group of skilled young dudes collectively known as Fretmiden. Conceived and based in Bergen, Norway, the quintet has been hard at work since the release of the aforementioned album and sharpened their musical claws considerably, which is evidenced by the sheer quality of their brand-new offering, Bashaea. While still implementing traits and characteristics that are often associated with modern metal and metalcore, Fretmiden have expanded and developed their raging and dense soundscapes even further and spawned a potent and fiery brew that also involves elements of death metal and claustrophobic doom metal. This talented ensemble is one of the most promising and musically captivating outfits in the Norwegian metal underground scene and so naturally, RAMzine had to have a chat with vocalist Isak to learn more about what makes them tick as well as what their new opus revolves around.
Hello Isak and thank you for taking the time to talk to RAMzine – much appreciated. Could you start out by telling us what Fretmiden is currently up to and what the readers of RAMzine can expect from your upcoming barrage of intense and pummeling metal in the shape of Bashaea?
Isak: Hello, Jens! Thanks for having me. You can definitely expect a way heavier sound than our previous album. We decided to take the heavier parts of our debut album and follow that direction for this release. We wanted everything to sound bigger, darker, and more brutal and we think we have achieved just that. The production is bigger and heavier, and the songs are grimmer and more brutal.
At the moment we are just relieved that the release went smoothly even though we could not hold our release party due to COVID-19. We are doing some work related to the release, but we are aiming to get back into the studio in not too long actually. We have a plan for a third album already, but we first want to release an EP with a couple of songs.
Given that Fretmiden might be a new name to many out there, perhaps we should start out by talking about how and why the band came to be and who or what motivated you guys to launch it in the first place? Do you recall where you met the others and when/why you decided to join forces and perform metalcore?
Isak: Our guitarist, Tormod, and I had played together in some earlier projects since we were 14 years old. The latest project slowly faded out after a couple of attempts at breathing life into it. We had a longer break but decided to try something new a couple of years later. This was the start of Fretmiden. We knew Karim (bass) and William (drums) from a band we played with a couple of times back in the day and asked if they wanted to join. Now we needed a second guitarist. Tormod got word from a guy he was studying with that there was this guy, Even, who had played in some prog projects earlier on, owned a 7-string guitar, and didn’t have any bands at that point in time. We met up and started working on the songs Tormod had already written for us and quickly discovered that we had a good chemistry.
Your previous offering entitled Omen was released back in 2017, so I am curious as to how long the compositions that constitute your brand-new record Bashaea have been underway. Were they composed within a short span of time or did you work on them for many months in order to shape them exactly according to how you had envisioned them initially? Were you fully prepared when you entered the studio to lay down the tracks for the album?
Isak: We actually started working on the first songs before we released Omen. Just a couple of riffs here and there but we got to work fast. Omen was an amazing opportunity to try different things to find out exactly where we wanted to go with our music. The songs ‘Nox Perpetua’ and ‘Departure’ quickly started to take shape. We also had some of the riffs for ‘Extinguish Our Dying Flame’, which was supposed to be featured on our first album. I think we rebuilt this song about four or five times before we finally found a sound that worked. We spent a lot of time with this album both due to the fact that we wanted to nail our sound and that we were regularly playing gigs with songs from our first album. We had everything except ‘La Håpet Svinne Hen‘ ready before we went into the studio. The studio process took a long time. After having recorded all the guitars our producer found a fault with the guitar sound, so we had to fix the problem and re-record everything. This obviously took a lot of extra time. In addition to that, we spent a lot of time discussing the sound and production with our producer. All in all, we are very happy with the time we put in. The sound suits our vision for the music way better than the mix on Omen did, and we learnt a lot from the release of our first record. So yeah, we definitely sank more hours into this record than Omen, both the creative process and the technical process.
How does the songwriting process within Fretmiden work and who contributes what parts and ideas to the tunes? And are you (or the others for that matter) a perfectionist? Is it often a case of trial and error when you guys play around with various ideas and arrangements in rehearsals?
Isak: Tormod has done a great deal of the work here. He often brings riffs or entire songs to rehearsals and then we build on them or rebuild them together. One of the greater obstacles can be to re-write some riffs and replace parts of songs with better fitting riffs. This takes a lot of time and is a team effort that usually takes a couple of iterations. I have written all our lyrics so far and plan to continue doing that. Usually, I write a couple of texts, then edit them later for them to fit the music. We have recently tried to do it the other way around though, meaning that we write the music to fit the lyrics, and it works extremely well for creating songs that feel more complete.
Is there a specific theme to Bashaea and does the splendid album artwork illustrate or somehow encapsulate (or complement) that topic/concept?
Isak: The theme for the album, lyrically, is a picture of the downfall of mankind in different scenarios. Everything from being consumed by alien overlords to exterminating ourselves, making the planet uninhabitable or being consumed by our own dark thoughts and despair in ‘Traurigheten’. I mean human extinction might not be the most original theme for a metal album, but I am overall happy with the lyrics and think that we have done it in a neat way. I think the artwork captures the theme of the album superbly. I think the cover could both represent a person dissolving into the air as well as some kind of alien creature taking form in the depths of space, and both interpretations fit the theme greatly in my opinion. The cover as well as the colour-variants for the singles we released are all done by the very talented Anders Røkkum. Check him out!
Speaking of lyrics, who or what inspires you to craft the words that accompany the music? What things out there in the world trigger your imagination?
Isak: I take inspiration from a lot of different sources when I write but I’ve come to enjoy writing fictional lyrics as I find it a lot more enjoyable to both write, imagine, and sing. I take inspiration from a lot of sources, everything from books to videogames and art. For instance, two of the songs from this album are heavily inspired by the game Bloodborne. We also have lyrics inspired by the very talented artist Zdzisław Beksiński, Princess Mononoke, Nier: Automata and Dune. Inspiration can come from everything: sometimes when I look at something or read something a sentence will just pop into my head and then I work from there.
As to the title of the new album, Bashaea, what does it signify and refer to? It sounds quite inspired and yet slightly puzzling too.
Isak: It’s based on the Arabic word for “atrocity”. We took the word and changed the writing and pronunciation to use it as a name for the creature described in the title track. We found it to be a fitting name for the atrocious creature at the same time as it sounds and looks outlandish when written in the Latin alphabet.
Are some of you guys involved in other musical endeavors outside of Fretmiden?
Isak: Our guitarist, Even, recently joined the melodic death group called Children of the Void. It sounds like a really cool project that I’m looking forward to hearing. Our drummer, William, produces a lot of music himself. He has a project with his brother, Morgan, called Willmore. Those of you who like electronic vaporwave, lo-fi and ambient should really check them out on Spotify and Soundcloud! I listen to them a lot myself.
What is next for Fretmiden? Do you have any shows planned for this year? Or perhaps some new song material is beginning to take shape? The pandemic sucks ass!
Isak: You can say that again. We are eager to play gigs and live normally again. We still have a plan going forward though and this fucking pandemic isn’t about to slow us down. We have planned to start working on an EP containing 3-4 songs as soon as we are done with everything with this album. We want to just blast out a couple of super heavy songs that we don’t have to structure the same way as we have to with a full album. I can’t guarantee that this will happen as soon as we want, but we hope to return to the studio pretty soon. I can also reveal that I have written 70 percent of the lyrics for the next full-length album already and we know how we want to structure it too.
Do you recall what the first record you ever bought was? And what do you currently listen to at home if you are alone and just want to kick back, relax, and drift off to some otherworldly plane of existence?
Isak: I spent a lot of time listening to my dad’s records, so I didn’t have to buy records until my taste got a bit heavier. His collection was filled with a lot of Black Sabbath, Metallica, System of a Down, Rammstein, you name it! I discovered Opeth’s Blackwater Park when I was 11-12 years old and instantly fell in love with death metal. I think that was the first record I ever bought, and I still listen to it a lot to this day.
Thanks once again for your time. Any closing comments or encouraging words to our exceptionally cool readers?
Isak: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate every single one of you fuckers reading this thing through and checking out our music. We are glad to have the opportunity to share our creative process as well as the result with you guys. We won’t be going anywhere soon, and you can look forward to what’s coming from us next. Take care of each other, stay safe, and enjoy our music!