In a time when people are becoming more conscious of their life choices, the world of metal, punk and hardcore has become perhaps more politically driven now than ever. With artists tackling issues on gender, sexual assault, the environment, the rise of the far-right and so much more, music lovers are turning to bands to be the vehicles through which their opinions are shared. Indeed, the reality is that the world’s future looks bleak, and it’s often for that reason that we turn to abrasive music as a catharsis. For Norwegian blackened hardcore quintet SIBIIR, this brand of hard-hitting music is about instigating the much-needed change that we all need to fight for.
The band revel in darkness and misery to create their uniquely spine-chilling sound, but in the same breath are looking to push for progress through their music. Their latest record, Ropes, is as much an outlet for anguish as it is a call to mobilise. Speaking about the new record, guitarist Tobias Gausemel Backe tells us, “The need for change is inevitable. If we could help some people to recognise that, I’d be stoked.”
“At the same time, we want to create music that works on several levels. As both art and entertainment – as an outlet for despair, as a call to arms. We want to make you bang your head and stomp your feet, while still remaining interested and intrigued. Hopefully the listener picks up on some of this duality in our music.”
It is a strive for change, then, that motivates the band and their output. Having seen the downfall of society through injustices and political unrest, Tobias says that humanity has not learnt from the past, and that unless action is taken then we are stuck in a cycle of despair. “Basically we’re repeating mistakes again and again, unwilling to see what history has tried to teach us,” he says. “Whenever the level of crisis rises, so does prejudice and racism. All over the world we see how support for right-wing parties is growing, exploiting people’s fear of an uncertain future.”
“Greed and selfishness is so embodied in our culture that it has become our nature. I don’t know how it could be halted, but it would sure help if people could get their heads out of their asses, and see what’s happening around the world. We must at least start by getting involved, recognising the problems and reacting accordingly.”
Musically, the new record reflects the anger and desperation felt by people the world over, touching on the greed of capitalism (‘For The Few’), insular thinking (‘Worlds Apart’), white supremacy (‘Old Patterns’), consumerism (‘Monoton’) and much more. Suitably, the five-piece tackle such issues with a ferocious sound that picks up exactly where they left off with their debut self-titled record, with opener ‘Leeches’ forming that bridge. Tobias explains: “We saw ‘Leeches’ as the perfect step between the self-titled LP and Ropes, as it carries elements from both albums really. If both records had a child, it would be ‘Leeches’. That being said, it’s also just a killer opener, and we feel that it really sets the mood for the rest of the album.”
This mood-setter also shows the comparatively more vicious and dynamic nature of this record, though. “Even though we are all really pleased about how the self-titled album turned out, I think we were all really over that album,” Tobias admits. “We had been playing those songs for many years, and were just eager to expand our repertoire. We definitely wanted to do better, but I don’t think any of us felt any pressure. We had solid backing from our label, Fysisk Format, and it was more relief than pressure going into the recording of Ropes.”
Having largely come from a hardcore and punk background, when SIBIIR were in their embryonic stages the idea of creating a metal band was some what of a foreign concept for the five-piece, completed by Jimmy Nymoen (vocals), Steffen Grønneberg (guitar) Kent Nordli (bass) and Eivind Kjølstad (drums). Despite coming from an area of the world which has, over the years, become synonymous with heavy music, the band found that it didn’t come naturally, and that at first they didn’t have the means to create what they saw in their heads. But by the time of their first single’s (‘Swallow & Trap Them!’) release, it’s clear that the pieces of the puzzle had started to align – and they’ve been on an upward trajectory ever since.
“Our goal was first and foremost to create music which was harder and more extreme than any of us had done before,” adds Tobias, “Looking back I think we succeeded. The biggest change, I think, is the maturity of the songwriting, which is a result of us knowing each other on a totally different level and being a lot more experienced than when we wrote ‘Swallow And Trap Them!’. Even though our references are still extremely diverse, we seem to be able to hold on to some sort of nerve in our songwriting that I think has been there from the beginning.”
The band’s tendency for blackened maelstroms of riffs certainly calls to mind some of their home country’s well-known names, but SIBIIR don’t wear their Scandinavian influences on their sleeves as much as many of their peers. Their hardcore background shines through, sounding suitably angry whilst the lingering threat of ominous black metal keeps things bleak throughout. Coming from a wider region with perhaps more metal acts per capita than anywhere else in the world, though, it’s no surprise that the band’s music is colossal.
“The tap water here is fabulous,” Tobias jokes, speaking of the region’s love of metal. “No, I still don’t really know why this is. Because Scandinavia is so far north, the season change can be quite extreme. From the summers when the sun almost never sets, to the winter when the sun barely rises to say hello before the all-consuming darkness again takes over. A lot of people – especially in Norway – suffer from depression during the fall and winter because of the lack of daylight. Maybe this can explain some of the brutality you can hear in the music coming from bands in the north.”
The band certainly drew upon this brutality when it came to their self-titled record, but for Ropes the five members of SIBIIR took a more experimental approach and wanted to produce something that was a little bit more dynamic. The guitarist adds: “We wanted to bring more air and space into the songs. The first album is so packed with audio information that there’s not even room to think. And even though most of our songs are based on riffs, this album definitely has more of a jam-feel to it than the previous one. Also, working with Øyvind [Røsrud Gundersen, producer] really helped us a lot – and I will say that he played a key role in widening our soundscape.”
Despite Norway’s occasionally problematic history with black metal, it seems that Scandinavia is becoming somewhat known for leading the way on certain issues, particularly with Sweden’s Greta Thunberg becoming a leading voice on climate change. Tobias reflects that these are conversations that everyone should be having if we are going to make any form of change.
“She’s definitely a strong voice in the battle to securing a viable planet for the next generations, and the impact she has is just amazing,” he adds. “But I don’t think we take any pride in her being a fellow Scandinavian. It’s mostly just sad that it takes a Swedish kid to pinpoint just how fucked we are, and that leading politicians for years deliberately have ignored this massive threat in their hunt for economical gain.”
Ropes is out now on Fysisk Format. Purchase here.
Words: Tim Birkbeck