by R.S. Frost

Formed in 2010, Icelandic black metal band MANNVEIRA has been seething away in the Reykjavik underground, sharing members with the likes of WORMLUST, O, ALMYRKVI, ANDAVALD and NAÐRA.

With a relatively recent spike in live activities, I caught up with vocalist Illugi and guitarist Örlygur to gain insight into the savage anti-human musings of their work and to get a better understanding of what goes into this overly hostile music.

I figured it best to begin this conversation with the band’s founding member, Illugi.

- Well, the first tour was a while ago (2016) with Wormlust where we did about a dozen shows around central-Europe with various other bands here and there (including NOCTURNAL DEPRESSION, GREY AURA, KRINGA and CHAOS ECHOES). Then we did a short tour of Germany with some Reykjavík bands (WORLD NARCOSIS, NORN and ÖRMAGNA). Other than that, things have been moving slowly with us recording our debut full-length and playing the occasional show in Iceland.

Image credit - Elvar Ö.E

Can you give me an idea of what Mannveira is all about and how you both became involved with black metal?

- We went to the same school around 2003-04 in a small, crap town an hour away from Reykjavík (Borgarnes, often known as “Sorgarnes”) and figured we were interested in the same things, namely the same music. We grew up in other small, crap towns in Iceland though.

There was no certain direction for Mannveira in the beginning other than making black metal the way I wanted it to be. I’m not sure how much that’s changed over time, really. I think our interest in extreme music in general eventually led us to black metal around the same time, giving our computers AIDS via Limewire looking for interesting sounding stuff like GORGOROTH and SILENCER, and eventually discovering what was going on here in Iceland. If we remember correctly, we went together to our first black metal show in Reykjavík sometime around 2006.

I don’t suppose you happen to recall the bands on display at that show? And what impact this show had on you both going on to create black metal?

- If I remember correctly, it was WITHERED, SVARTIDAUÐI and FINNGÁLKN. I can’t really say if the show itself impacted us into creating black metal ourselves, but seeing it live definitely helped grow our enthusiasm for the genre in general.

Mannveira’s first offering was the ‘Von er eitur’ EP in 2014.

This release contains three songs, clocking in at just under 18 minutes, with Illugi handling all of the songwriting as well as guitar, bass and vocal performances.

Where did this music come from and what did you want to communicate or achieve through it?

- A lot of the material was older stuff that I had written and played around with for a while but never really thought to do anything with up until then. I think the main purpose was just to make some savagery mixed in with melancholy and other, more complex, aspects of black metal, and portray all the anger and despair my young mind could muster.

If my translation is correct, the track titles collectively form a sentence that reads “Hope is poison, or, the torment of consciousness”. This, coupled with the capital punishment being displayed on the EP cover, communicates a rather severe and generally uncordial aesthetic.

- That translation is spot on, and the titles really speak for themselves when it comes to the subject matter and general vibe.

And the cover art?

- It’s just some crappy photoshop work that I did myself. The original photo is of Italian resistance fighters that were executed to warn others not to follow in their footsteps (if I remember correctly, that is).The whole idea was a vague interpretation of the idea that beliefs and hope are futile because everything is terrible! *laughs*

What is it for you that drives this notion of futility? Is the perceived terribleness of things in relation to life experienced in Iceland specifically or on a broader scale?

- It’s definitely on a broader scale. I think that black metal is the ideal platform to express whatever bleak and nihilistic sentiments you might have (or at least it is for me). As for what drives the notion, it’s hard to say but I think just a healthy amount of cynicism and pondering the human experience for what it really is definitely plays a part.

In July of 2016 came a split release with Canadian band ELLORSITH, released through DARK DESCENT RECORDS. The two tracks featured on this split are the band’s most recent recorded output.

How did this split release come about?

- The Ellorsith guys contacted VÁNAGANDR (local label) about bands they wanted to collaborate with and we jumped on the opportunity. We actually played a show with them in Rostock, Germany, which was Mannveira’s first performance abroad. Good dudes, although nobody knows where they’re from.

What do you mean nobody knows where they’re from?

- I’m not sure how it began, but every now and then they got a review or a mention somewhere that said they were from somewhere they are not, e.g. Canada or Scotland (pretty sure they’re both from Germany).

How do you see the two Mannveira songs on the split comparing/aligning with the songs from the EP?

- I tried to work some other ideas into those songs that I didn’t think to use on the EP, although there are of course similarities between them.

Can you tell me about any upcoming releases? What you have planned, what the material will be like compared to the older songs and what concept, if any, they will follow?

- We’ve finished recording our first full-length album already. It is due to be released sometime in the near future. The songs are a lot more focused and a lot of the teen angst and horniness that was a key factor in our earlier stuff has given way to something a bit more grown-up. We also collaborated a lot more as a band on the material than we have done before.

Given that you have essentially been responsible for all of Mannveira’s output so far, how was your experience with collaborating with other musicians during the writing and recording process?

- It was a learning process for sure, but in hindsight, I think it was the right decision. We’ve all worked with each other in various projects through the years in one way or another, so that definitely helps with interpreting each other’s creative efforts.

At this point the conversation is handed over to Örlygur, who is also no stranger to holding down multiple instrumental duties. Not only does he play guitar for Mannveira and O, as well as having performed live with Andavald and Wormlust, but he is also the singer for Naðra and Örmagna, the latter of which is a relatively new band who released their debut self-titled album in February of 2019 through SIGNAL REX.

Image credit - Woda i Pustka

I was trying to find some information on the other members of this band but came up completely blank. It seems that Örlygur is the only member who is not anonymous.

Are you able to shed some light on Örmagna and the thematic concept behind the band?

- This project has been around since before we released the album, but the present line up is Hilmar Gylfi Guðjónsson, Ari ÞórÁsmndsson, Sindri Stefánsson and Sindri Ström. I guess you can say that the idea behind most song concepts are really just the dark side of reality and what some people might call fun. I tend to take old stories from my life and write them in a fantasy manner.

I also have outside help when it comes to writing lyrics. I give a lot of praise to S.E for being a solder with a pencil and also sending praise (and apology) to Andie for the lyrics on ‘3 árí dýflissu’ – I somehow managed to forget to have her on the thanks list but she needs a shout out for her brave words on that text. So you can say the lyrical themes are very personal non-fictional, yet fictional, reality. And of course talking shit about my good friends the Icelandic police, since they have been “such help” throughout my life.

In my experience which is by no means expert – actually finding Icelandic police seems to be quite the task. Last year I circumnavigated the entire country and did not run into local law enforcement once, nor did I lay eyes on any uniformed officers in the nation’s capital, or any other city or township for that matter.

- I've had my bad experiences with them, both when I needed them and when I didn’t. Plus, we have our rotten apples in the force like everywhere and often they ain't pretty. Let’sleave it at that.

Image credit - Suzanne Mathuis

Örlygur has recently been involved with Andavald and Wormlust in the live arena; experiences which have provided their own set of trials and tribulations from what I understand.

- I was a session player for both. With Wormlust I have little to say other than I mostly spent my time in a small room listening to the songs and clean tracks of my guitar to pick it up by ear, then after a while of this, binge drinking and power smoking. But when it comes to Andavald. Ohhh dear. I can't say I remember all of it, but I do remember parts of it. Let just leave it at I have never used as much speed in my entire life as with that band. Love those guys to bits.

Örlygur also has a hand in the general operations of Portuguese label Signal Rex.

Given that you reside in Iceland, and not Portugal, I wonder how it is that you come to work with the label in the first place?

- Well, we started working together as Naðra is on Signal Rex, so we were always in contact in both a casual and business sense. Sometimes when I was out drinking and met friends from other bands that needed help, I tried pointing out that I could talk to Signal Rex and see if they can help out somehow. I think I was turbo drunk one night talking to him when he decided to label me on facebook as “PR & Communications at Signal Rex“. I don't really know what I could get praise for under that position, but at least I tried to be a middle man. But I have to admit I don't do anything there *laughs*. Maybe time to take that down. Fucking facebook…

On a recent trip to Iceland, I spent quite some time with Örlygur, both during the ASCENSION MMXIX festival and otherwise. After many failed attempts at correctly pronouncing his name, I was made aware of a rather peculiar nickname…

- Ahhh yes, “Lölli” is the nickname I was given by my grandfather, only to find out later that it was slang for “Shit”, and even later learned that it's similar to “Dick” in Dutch. But then my wife Robie noticed from an old envelope that when you turn “LÖLLI” upside down you see 777, so you can say it has a little bit of Kabbalistic magic in it. I like it.

Speaking of Kabbalistic magic, there seems to be quite a high prevalence of it within Icelandic black metal. Given the geographical distance between Iceland and Israel, the proposed birthplace of Kabbalah, not to mention the already-present rich cultural and esoteric traditions found throughout Icelandic culture, I’d be interested in your thoughts on how this prevalence came to be.

- Not sure. You might say even the earth here lends itself to magick. Add to that the near addiction that many Icelanders have to looking within and crossing the abyss. Kabbalah just offers a comprehensive system for finding the light, dark, and everything in between. You could also blame Crowley for showing many of us Kabbalah.

When our exchange prior to this interview began, Örlygur had recently returned from playing in Germany.

What were the shows and how did it all go?

- That was with World Narcosis, Norn, Mannveira and Örmagna. It was an interesting one; great attendance at K19 in Berlin and Slow Club in Freiburg, great people that work there and both of the venues are just super cool places. Then we go to Pfarrkirchen; kind of the same deal there, amazing venue in that small town that probably has more churches than homes, the stage was huge since it was an old movie theatre, super comfy backstage and all that, but that night had the lowest turnout. I do have to say though, that was an amazing party for a gig of maybe 15 people. So I guess the biggest bummer was the super expensive cigarettes we had at Erfurt where five of us ended up having to buy new train tickets because the train just left us with only one member inside, sleeping, and having at least 10 bags to carry. That was alright.

Image credit - Júnía Líf

What do you guys have planned for the future, musically and personally?

- We have been working on new material slow and steady, so all in good time, hopefully will be doing more while I look for another day job. But since we're all in billions of bands it takes time to find the right time.

Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.

Illgi – Stay in school, don’t do drugs (or do, none of my business, really), brush your teeth, go outside, play loud riffs etc. Couldn’t think of anything profound or insightful, all I could really think about is how much I hate Axl Rose. Seriously, fuck that guy. Fucking racist, wife-beating, red-headed, no talent fat cunt he is.

Also, go buy the new Mannveira album, that is if the plague hasn’t killed everyone or the glaciers haven’t melted by the time it is released.

Image credit - Elvar Ö.E