Logo Wallachia

"My humble little project"

One couldn't find a more improper description of WALLACHIA than the words Norwegian mastermind Lars Stavdal chooses himself. Ten long years of silence follow the debut album "From Behind The Light", a time well spent as there are too few albums like "Ceremony Of Ascension", expressing itself lush in colours equally in notes, words and artwork.

The idea of founding WALLACHIA haunts Lars since the early 90s but only takes form in 1995 when Eystein Garberg - nowadays guitarist with Lumsk - joins the project. The first release "Demo 1996" sells well and attracts the attention of the French label Impure Creation Records who recognize WALLACHIA's potential and offer to press the demo on CD format. When the French label, now acting under the name of Velvet Music International, release the MCD "Wallachia" in 1997 and two years later the debut album the great setback for WALLACHIA is already emerging. "We signed a contract with them and the "Wallachia" MCD was released in July 1997. The label had a few other interesting artists such as Blut Aus Nord, Mundanus Imperium, Zephyrous, Necrophagist, Yyrkoon, etc. The "Wallachia" MCD was one of their most successful releases alongside the two first Blut Aus Nord albums. After this they signed WALLACHIA for the release of a full-length album as well, and "From Behind The Light" was released in September 1999. On this album I played all the instruments myself, only hiring two drummers to play on four songs each. Unfortunately VMI went down with an economic crisis at the time my album was released, so the first and only pressing of 1000 copies was sold out right away to distributors worldwide and the album didn't get too much attention due to this. Even the hardcore fans weren't aware it was out. VMI had by that time signed too many bands and had more expenses with pressings and artwork than sales figures on their releases. So it was sad to see this happen so sudden. And this event alone put WALLACHIA back to scratch with everything, and this time around it felt harder to get things rolling again. It was never the intention that it would take thaaaat long before I was back with this band." Still, in some aspects, the timing of these events turns out to be for the better. 2005 sees the rerelease of "From Behind The Light" by American Dark Horizon Records who also include the demo tracks as a bonus. This edition is still available in their webshop on Dark Horizon. It's time for more things to happen and once again myspace plays a considerable part. "During the winter of 2007 I made a full instrumental pre-production for the second WALLACHIA album with some help of my friend and neighbour Polly from the death metal band No Dawn. We spent a few evenings at his place programming drums, recording keys and adding my guitars on top of it in the end. After putting my pre-prods on myspace I was contacted by Stefan Traunmüller from the Austrian bands Golden Dawn and Sternenstaub who offered his help to produce/record my new album and also to find a drummer to step in. The drumtracks were recorded by the Austrian Thomas Kocher during a couple of days in fall 2007, using the pre-prods as guiding tracks. After this we scheduled me going down to Salzburg and nailing the rest of the instruments and vocals in the summer of 2008. And during ten extremely hot August days we completed "Ceremony Of Ascension" in Stefan's studio-bunker in Freilassing (Germany). A great new experience that marked the return of WALLACHIA."

On the whole the reactions to "Ceremony Of Ascension" are positive as Lars confirms."So far the response has been good from old and new fans as well as the media channels that have received the album until now. I'm happy to see that people remember and recognize this band after only one album and with a ten year dormant state. It's a good start and I'm curious to see more feedback from fans and magazines around the globe." Still there are some critical statements on the short playing time and the immense variation in the songs. Lars however sees the variation as a strong point. "I was aware of those things myself while sitting in the studio and listening to the mixing process. I think it's also the album's strength in many ways, the variations in expression and how each song has a story and life on its own, though. And hopefully this will open up to the listener after a few spins of the album. When you look at other bands and see how they evolved... like Emperor and their four albums over a timespan of ten years, for instance. In my case it's the same narrowed down to one album only. I don't think we removed anything in WALLACHIA's original soundscape but only brought in a few new elements." Naturally Lars evolves as a musician over the years and can bring in his abilites into his new compositions. "I think I put a lot more depth into the songs and this way they also turned out standing strong on their own feet musically speaking. I learned to arrange the songs better so it's more like a full band than sounding so obviously a one man thing. It's way better on this album than it was on the debut. I want every song to have a deeper meaning, to make sense to myself and not just be some mumbo-jumbo fictional lyrics and random riffs put together. "Ceremony Of Ascension" pushes the soundscape of WALLACHIA further in every direction. It's a lot more uptempo and rawer than the debut but at the same time it even goes deeper into a calmer direction with the closing track, for instance. It became an album to test and explore myself as a musician and I felt I had a lot to prove since the first album was a step down for me personally from how the demo sounded. So I had a lot to prove to myself. The biggest improvement from my side are perhaps the vocals which are totally my own voice all the way without any effects apart from some echoes or delays on a few parts. The vocals show a much wider spectre now and are most likely the most noticeable change resp. improvement."

Picture provided by Lars Stavdal

It may seem adventurous to some that Lars combines wide influences such as melodic riffs inspired by Windir and song structures reminding one of bands like Deicide and Morbid Angel with a proper dose of melancholy but the result speaks for itself. It's an inartificially growing process and stands for much more than merely integrating heard and favoured sources of inspiration. "I've always put all my influences into the soundscape of WALLACHIA, and also on the debut you have this mix of death and black metal influences. Though they come forth stronger on the new opus. The bands you mentioned are some of my key influences since starting out with WALLACHIA so in indirect ways they have their effect on my songwriting. The Windir styled lead and harmony guitars were done on purpose as a tribute to Valfar and Windir as he left a big impact on me as a great composer. How he weaved melancholy and folktunes into his savage black metal so naturally. ´Refusalvation´ has those types of guitars all the way during the first half of the song, and it started as a coincidence that I had some of the basic rhythm things completed and I started hearing Windir inspired melodies on top of them in my head. So it naturally became this way even years before Terje/Valfar passed away so sudden. The sound of WALLACHIA became by nature caught up in between death and black metal since I grew up with the wave of Earache Records related bands and the whole Tampa death metal scene while there was a new thing on the rise here in Scandinavia with many great black metal bands taking shape. I like the rawness and energy of death metal as much as the chilly and majestic feel black metal gives. I want WALLACHIA to be the best of both worlds, really. I just let the songs shape themselves without having many restrictions so you'll find some more pure death metal influences in a few songs on my new album while others have more of that epic driven black metal touch." An epic atmosphere is first and foremost present in ´Genesis Enigma´ which could also be seen as a little tribute to Bathory with Lars' clean vocals. "Yes, there is a little truth in it, especially after I did my first ever attempt of clean vocals it naturally got that Bathory viking era touch. The song itself also has that floating structure all the way through. I always liked the mid era Bathroy stuff ("Under The Sign Of The Black Mark", "Blood Fire Death" and "Hammerheart"). Those were albums that inspired my more epic style of arranging the songs, including acoustic guitars, additional effects, etc. There were a few years in which we lost a lot of great and important songwriters within extreme music such as Quorthon (Bathory), Valfar (Windir), Jon Nödtveidt (Dissection) or Jared Anderson (Inernecine, Hate Eternal), and I think you'll find traces of inspiration from them all within my music for sure."

As further important sources of inspiration which found their ways into his music Lars lists Burzum, Rotting Christ, Celtic Frost, Bay Laurel, Blut Aus Nord, Primordial, Mayhemic Truth, Wolves In The Throne Room, Mayhem, Defecation, Napalm Death and Samael. "All these bands have had an effect on me and the music of WALLACHIA in one way or another. Though the inspiration to create a song comes from nothing but random ideas, thoughts or melodies that I create inside my mind. Normally I have a vision how I want a song to sound and harmonize with the lyrics and the message it holds. Also the music has to build up on this. Inspiration sometimes comes from pictures, paintings, books or movies as well as some events in my own life and reflections over things I've endured. As long as there's that core element to create around then the music will also come by itself. Usually I create songs over long periods of time, letting the parts connect with themselves over time as I have more stuff and ideas. It's an interesting process all the way to see how a song becomes before you know the word of it." Such processes can at times lead to unexpected effects like the trumpet melody in ´Sanctimonia XXIII´ which may give direction to future experiments? "That exact part was something Stefan and me experimented with in the studio, a spontaneous thing that turned out really cool! After I had done all my guitar, bass and vocal recordings we played around with orchestrations, additional effects and ideas for a couple of days so a lot of those things are Stefan's own ideas. He always had this ´eastern vibe´ also with his own band so it became a fresh and nice little touch to my song. I'm sure we'll include even more elements like this on the next album. Whatever serves the purpose of the song and adds something of mystique and atmosphere."

Mystique and atmosphere are trademarks which do not only circumscribe the multifarious music but create an entire piece of art together with the lyrics and especially the stunning artwork of Laura. This contact also comes into being via myspace when Lars stumbles over Laura's profile one evening in late 2007 - and immediately feels drawn towards her art. "There was something magic about her and what she was doing that appealed to me. Already the first day I saw what a talented artist she was with her drawings and paintings, and how much she left of her own spirit within them. During the time I learned to know Laura I felt that her creativity also inflicted on me and urged me to complete this album, to step up and do my best with it. She's really an amazing artist with so much potential and an endless creativity so I'm always curious and surprised to see what she will do next with her works. And I sure want Laura to also shape the artwork and designs for my next album, to include her earlier in the process with exchanging ideas on the songs and visual themes related to them." The detailed cover artwork relates fittingly to the album title and some of the lyrics, ascending from the bluish lower world to the warm brownish world above whereas the cold component is predominant. Questioning the ´why´ goes along with the thought if it is a process which could be evened out on future releases as eventually a second album after such a long time could also be viewd as a new beginning of something to (hopefully) prosper more regularly in the future. On the other hand the assumption that beauty and warmth may be on a way to be extinguished from this world, opposed by the "Ceremony Of Ascension" - a title which leaves vast space for interpretation - doesn't seem that farfetched as well. "The artwork is for me very symbolic for the title of the album. The cold blue/greenish world below represents the past for me and memories filled with negative energies left behind while there's a new blooming world above that I try to grasp for. Once can for sure say it represents a rebirth and a new beginning. Looking at things with a fresh perspective but being very much aware of the past that shaped you to become what you are. Sometimes one feels that even bad elements serve their purpose and have a meaning in the long run, and for me I want this album to be a fresh start with WALLACHIA. If this album is about ascending, then the next one will be more about transcending, of making something even more grand and solid, to push things even further. I find links between the artwork and several of the songs. One could say that ´Void Expansion´ very much represents the feeling the cold world on the cover artwork gives. While ´Sanctimonia XXIII´ is the one I feel closest to the warmth the upper part gives, a song which sums up the essence of the album title. When you look at the balance of the world today one can easily say that there's more of a cold feeling with all the conflicts in terms of territories, religions, materialism and the vast human ego in the front seat, and this way of course also nature retributes back at us more and more because of how we spread out and dominate the earth. There are many ways to look at it and interpret the artwork, and I can only say that I couldn't be happier than having Laura's works as a part of my album. I think we'll keep some references from this album and develop a new concept and style of expression for the next one."

In the center of the booklet we come across the very same colour scheme, only that this time it's horizontal and could be interpreted as a balance or choice. "It carries on the same theme as the front cover and one can also see the colder colours fade stronger into the warmer side than the other way around. It's all about finding a sense of equilibrium and not suppress or hide feelings that are a natural part of your soul. I don't believe in totalitarianism in any sense and this relates to how the artwork has a stronger vibe of the cold world, that in emotional terms I'm perhaps stronger linked to ´that side of things´ not necessarily in a negative way. Self-awareness comes from exploring and learning things, most of all how you interpret them. Dogmatic religions deny the adventurous instinct of man and hands you a ready-made world of norms and a very black/white spectre on what is good and evil in this world. For me that lacks that balance in a way and leans more towards a totalitarian way of how to live and act. For instance, how the holy Roman church have fought and persecuted scientists and free thinkers throughout the ages makes no (common) sense. Evolution is their enemy and thus also the cold world in the artwork represents how the world is viewed through the eyes of the good and blessed ones." Instead of writing just some nice sounding lyrics it's of great importance to Lars that his songs have a message. Reading the lyrics of ´Self-Inflicted Stigmata´ one stumbles over the word ´seppuku´ which stands for an old Japanese ritualistic and honourful way of suicide. "Yes, seppuku is a samurai ritualistic way of suicide in a way that I can relate to more modern ways of religious martyrdom. A samurai would commit seppuku if his master had died, if he was held captive by enemies and thus die with honour and not reveal any secrets. ´Self-Inflicted Stigmata´ relates to the subject of Christian martyrdom seen from actual events in the Greek orthodox church, for instance, where they take the death and torment of their saviour into their own lives by whipping themselves to blood and actually real life crucifying themselves. I think it's such a far out concept of honouring someone whose message should be quite contrary to those events. Their whole lives are so consumed with torment and redemption, of not feeling worthy, and I can't see what this has to do with goodness? The song is the oldest one featured on my album and it was written with a bit of venomous tongue and adolescent anger and frustrations about these matters but I feel it makes sense in many ways. How paradoxical religion can be and often is."

Picture provided by Lars Stavdal

Also ´Kamikaze Christian´ carries the message of religious delusion when Lars obviously deals with the escalade of David Koresh's headquarters in Waco. "These events occured in 1993 at a time when the whole black metal thing and related crimes were at a high peak here in Scandinavia, and this only showed that things went on just as extreme, if not more, on the other side of matters. The scary thing is that this event only was exposed with this particular happening and storming of their headquarters but it was a case that went on for years behind curtains. For some reason we remain quite numb and oblivious to things that happen in the sake of goodness so to speak. Maybe because we're so used to it by now. Two months after I had written this song the 11th September attacks took place in New York City and it really gave my song a new meaning. This goes again back to the totalitarian views of how the world is seen through a martyr's eyes and the glorification of a seppuku way of dying. And it's due to these totalitarian aspects of religions that we also see how split up religion and the church are. Add to it the lust for power and greed of mankind and you have hundreds of sects with their each and own unique way to God and away from sanity." The lyrics of ´Void Expansion´ are just as much close to the wind for the gray matter and sound like a species gone wrong, living for the wrong (materialistic) values and neglecting the essence of existence and the knowledge of what a wonderful place we actually live in... and which we will probably destroy until it's ´void´... "The song focuses on how shallow and empty the world has become and how mankind only decays generation after (de)generation, how materialistic values and consumerism have a focus rather than, let's say spiritual fulfillment. Population increases year by year and it affects the planet itself as much as ourselves as beings, how we in the end aren't able to care and share things. As we spread out over the world thus also the void expands and feeds itself. Mankind has no reverence for nature and is only devoured by its own ego. And it seems we will only learn when it's too late. This song is a wrathful provocation to the mtv-culture, exterior ´values´ and plastic ideals, in general what refers to the x-generation in some aspects. We're served the ´fast food´ version of anything artistic, spiritual and it's all about taking without giving something back. Not having the feeling of sacrificing something in order to achieve and reach a goal. When kids' perception of reality is through ´reality-tv´ rather than experiencing things and dreams on their own this state of emptiness that I tell about in the song will only grow."

After an extensive excursion into the lyrical contents let's catch a glimpse of the future. The songs on "Ceremony Of Ascension" come into existence over the time span of 1998 until 2008. So probably Lars has still many older ideas in store for future albums which will hopefully have a longer playing time than 35 minutes. "I have been working on the next album since 2004, parallel to completing "Ceremony Of Ascension", so it will feature some ideas and songs I kept a while though most material will be fresh and new since I am now able to focus entirely on this opus with a clear mind. So far everything has a rough structure and I'm envisioning this album as a whole with how it's created and arranged. It will definitely be a bit longer, maybe around 45 to 50 minutes or more. A few of the songs are really long and epic while there's also a really short and intense piece to be featured. So I'm very excited about completing this one!. We can expect the third album to be released on Twilight Records again, and the story how Lars gets the deal with those Germans is not really that spectacular but he's quite full of praise regarding them. "Since I was on scratch with WALLACHIA and recorded this album from my own pocket, I decided to send out promos to a handful of labels that I like and support myself, and Twilight was one of them. I received a couple of other offers but Twilight was by far the most enthusiastic and serious label I spoke with so I was happy that they wanted to sign WALLACHIA and believed in this album. What I see as a good thing with Twilight is communication as well as co-operation to please both parts. I feel we worked well together making this album become real now over the winter. Also how they liked the actual music as much as the artwork and it seems they enjoyed the process of putting it out. The distribution network is also good I must say. So this time my album will at least be available in various stores and mailorders worldwide." Being a Norwegian one man project with active support from Austria it could be a bit difficult to bring WALLACHIA to stage, considering that this is an alluring thought to Lars. "I'm thinking about the option to do some single shows or small tours with WALLACHIA in the future. Depending on how the album is received and what offers might come our way. I already had a Dutch booking agent contacting me with the purpose of doing some gigs so it's mostly a case of getting a line-up together. Stefan and me spoke about making a Norwegian/Austrian co-operation if to take WALLACHIA to the stage so we'll see..."

The next goal will be to complete the third album, involving the same people who leave their traces on "Ceremony Of Ascension". The pre-production is scheduled for fall or winter 2009 so that the drummer can record the drum tracks. "And then I'll throw myself into Stefan's studio bunker for some time during fall next year. But before that maybe a vinyl release of "Ceremony Of Ascension", and it would be great to have some shirts and longsleeves available soon." With this a long and intense conversation draws to a close and the final statement belongs to the mastermind himself. "Thanks for this great in depth interview and for enjoying my album - it means a lot to me! And thanks to the readers for spending time reading this interview, to those who have bought the album and supported WALLACHIA and Twilight Vertrieb. And finally I want to thank the important persons who made this album come true after such a long time of silence: Stefan, Thomas and Laura for all your help making this one a special album to myself. Finally I want to thank Tobi, Thomas and Daniel at Twilight Vertrieb for believing in my humble little project and for releasing the CD!".

For further information check out WALLACHIA's myspace page.

Interview done by Endrew. May 2009.

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