Each Gehenna album had different sonic attributes. From the eerie black metal of The First Spell through the death metal disposition of Murder and then back to brutal black hybrid on WW. Do you recall wanting each album to be singular, regardless of genre?Dolgar: We always try not to make the same album twice of course, but still, I do not recall being as conscious about it on the first three albums as we became later on. After Malice, we felt we could not push the music any further in the melodic direction without losing the aggression or the darkness we wanted to convey with our music, so that was our first major deliberate change (for Adimiron Black). Then we pushed it to the max in that direction for Murder, so another change was natural for WW, which is very stripped down, back to the roots of early black metal. The next one will probably be in the direction we set with WW, but a bit more diverse. It is not done yet though, things can change.
Gehenna was very active throughout the '90s. Then, the aughts hit, and your album work slowed down significantly. What was happening in Gehenna between '99 and '05? Dolgar: More or less nothing, Gehenna was not even a band per se during all those years. Sanrabb was the only one still actively working on anything Gehenna until '03, and he was not even sure if the music he was working on would be recorded/released under the Gehenna name. It eventually was of course, and when WW was done, we got a full band back together again. The last 12 years have been a slow ride though. [Laughs] Perhaps that will change, perhaps not.
I’ve always felt Adimiron Black was an unsung gem. It didn’t get the same attention, I think at least, as releases by Emperor, Satyricon, and Dimmu Borgir. Was Gehenna ahead of its time with Adimiron Black? Dolgar: Yes, I think we were. When Adimiron Black was released, I think everyone expected it to be Malice part 2, and when it was not, nobody knew what to think. I hear a lot of praise for it today, but back when it was first released it was more like WTF, you know. And then we did not get any proper touring done to support it either, which did not help much of course.
What’s your favorite track from Adimiron Black? “Deadlights” was the single, but I’ve always felt “Devil’s Work” was the album’s highlight. Few bands then or now are able to give that gears-of-Hell feel that remains central to “Devil’s Work”’s aesthetic. The vocals on that track are particularly intense. Dolgar: Yeah, we do not even play “Deadlights” live anymore, but we still do “Devil’s Work”, so I guess that answers a bit of it there. But I also like “Eaters of the Dead” a lot, and hope to play that one live again some day. Need keyboards to make it work though.
What about WW? Where were you at musically and personally? I gather a lot of folk were surprised of the return to black metal. Dolgar: Sanrabb has been into the history of the world wars since his young days in school, and I guess with WW (which he wrote almost all by himself, remember) he saw an opportunity to merge this interest with the music. And I was not hard to convince when I got back in the band either. We just wanted to keep it simple and to the point. There was not really a lot of interesting stuff going on in the scene during those years, at least not compared to the ‘90s. Extreme music had lost some of its focus. I guess some were surprised, but it had been five years since Murder, without the band doing anything at all, so I guess a certain degree of change was expected.
Was Stavanger any different from Bergen and Oslo, as far as black metal was concerned? Any regional differences come to mind, whether it was approach or musical/environmental influences? Dolgar: Yes, there were never as many bands in Stavanger as in Oslo or Bergen, and we kept more to ourselves as well. But back in the day, all the relevant bands had their own sound/style anyway, it was not like the ‘Tampa sound’ or anything like that to pinpoint where the bands originated from (in my opinion anyway). All the early Emperor, Burzum, Immortal, Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Mayhem stuff all recorded in the same studio (Grieghallen), but sounding very individual still. I think personal approach/individualism was way more important (then as now) than anything else.
OK, missed opportunity time. If Gehenna could’ve recorded a cover song—any cover song, really—during its heyday, which song would it be? Mötley Crüe’s “Shout at the Devil”? Dolgar: [Laughs] Great song, but I think I am the only Crüe-fan in Gehenna. There was a time, in ‘93 I think, when we actually considered recording Venom’s “Welcome to Hell”, but with the lyrics translated and sung in Norwegian (“Velkommen til Helvete”). Somewhat glad we never did that though... I have always wanted to do Bathory’s “Massacre”, but it is hard making songs like that sound like your own, and because the original is so great as it is, how to improve it? I like the covers we did of Darkthrone and Mayhem, but they still stick out as Darkhrone and Mayhem songs, you know. They do not really sound like Gehenna. They work, because they are meant as tributes, but preferably one should try making a cover sound like your own song. Might include a cover song on our next album though, but it will be a less obvious choice of song.
Peaceville has re-issued both Adimiron Black and WW. What do you think of the records getting fresh exposure, even if the exposure’s nominal? Dolgar: That is great, of course. With each re-issue we have also tried as best we could to document the relevant parts of the bands history, with liner notes and bonus material. Moonfog was slowly dying anyway, and all these releases (not only Gehenna) could easily have remained in limbo if Peaceville had not picked them up.
Will Murder also get a reissue? Dolgar: Yes, just finished my end of it a few weeks ago, so it should not be to far away.
OK, what are Gehenna’s plans for 2012 and beyond? A new album, maybe in the vein of Maroon 5? Yeah, bad joke, but the question stands. [Laughs] We wrote a new album, but it was shit, so we sold it to Maroon 5. Apparently they recorded and released it?! No, jokes aside, we have put all gigs on hold (except Wacken 2012) to fully concentrate on getting a new album done. It is way overdue!
** Peaceville Records has re-issued Gehenna's Adimiron Black and WW in super-jewel case form, complete with liner notes and extra tracks. Click on this LINK to hear the track "Devil's Work", download rare promo photos, and order both full-lengths. But if you loathe Flash players and want to get right into Gehenna's audial hell, well, Peaceville Records has a quick-shipping STORE, where Gehenna's saturnine work is available for about $12.