Having so much influential locations in Norway like Bergen, Borre and of course its capital Oslo at (least when you look for Black Metal), Halden might not be on your map just now. We are about to change that and shed some light on the Imperium Festival. The event takes place in Fredriksten fortress, which thrones over the small and scenic city, just some 100km south of Oslo. To give you more insights, we could interest Ravn Harjar Raumr, who not only fronts the Black Metal behemoth Strid, but is also the mastermind behind Imperium Festival!
UG: Hey Ravn
Ravn: Hey there
UG: First of all, please give our german readers a brief introduction to Imperium Festival, which is a rather new project, if I got it right?
Ravn: Not exactly a new project, but rather something that has grown organically since the start in 2019. Back then I stumbles upon the fortress of Fredriksten when we were looking for a venue to do a gig with some local bands. Tons of Rock had relocated to Oslo from the fortress the year before and were available for new ventures. I have regretted it many times, but when getting the idea of a black metal festival at this amazing location I just knew there was no way around it. Simply a thing that needed to be done. So, we got it together within 3 months and from the preconditions we had; it was a success. Not in the sense of economy, but from the experience itself. The fortress is simply close to perfect for a festival like Imperium, and I am confident that both bands and artists had an experience they will never forget. Then of course, the pandemic put a lid on any progress for both 2020 and 2021, so when last years edition were materialized in the sense that we actually knew for certain it would happen; we did not have much time for planning, and it was almost like starting all over again gaining the attention from a rather spoiled festival-crowd in Norway.
UG: Interesting you mention „spoiled“ festival crowd in Germany. I just thought „Your folks are spoiled? Let me introduce to you the german spoiled festival people.“ laughs
Ravn: I don't think there is that bigger difference in the Norwegian crowd, and like it or not; Norway has been a North Star on the metal horizon for more then 30 years now; so the crowd are in that sense spoiled as they have followed what is considered as "classics" since they played gigs in youth clubs and basements. I am not sure if this is to be spoiled, ignorant or simply just satisfied with what we have in our cultural possession. As Norway also have established metal-festivals like Beyond the Gates, Midgardsblot and Inferno does not make the threshold of gaining attention any lower. I believe that no matter what Imperium will just have to continue what we have started. We are not supposed to become a reflection of the other festivals, and we are never booking bands from a commercial perspective. It's like with any work within art; to do your own thing without caring about whatever whoever will think about it.
UG: Well, I never thought about it like that. Of course it makes perfect sense that if you „are“ the scene and lived with it for so long, it can become rather mundane. While foreigners might experience something I would call „Sehnsuchtsraum“ - putting everything Black Metal-ish from Norway into highest regards, especially the old stuff. I mean I've met so much people who where born around the 80ies and desperately try to move themselves close to bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Gorgoroth and even Strid to seem extra-trve by being closely attached to the early days. I mean there is no way to deny the impact of the classic music and the early days, but in the end it's about the evolution of... ah well, fuck it, I'm getting way off the track laughs So, back to Imperium! I love this attitude because that's simply how it should be. The moment when money drives your decisions, you lose touch to music and finally the art. Do something you love and dedicate everything you have to it and you can't even lose – the people will show up naturally because with dedication comes attention! You already told us about some nice parts of the location, please tell us a bit more about the Imperium concept."
Ravn: I guess it depends on several conditions. It could be geography, age or whenever you got into Black Metal, but I think it makes sense that you will compare your past experiences or at least illusion of past experiences with whatever expectations you might have for new bands. I say «illusion», because in some cases the reputation of the band in question are far from reality, probably as a result of the phenomenon «Sehnsuchtsraum». There are definitely several examples of Norwegian bands being aware of it and exploiting this fact and who’s only quality is the fact being lucky enough to be Norwegian. Then we have artists trying to do the right thing for the wrong reasons, either being fame or the illusion of success, or in cases where success is the reward; money. On the other hand, the element of evolution is definitely there. It is just so easy to forget for an old geezer when the degeneration and dilution of the scene is so visible. Commercialization has certainly reached into the underground a long time ago, it is just recently it is become so transparent and shameless. That being said; there is quite a lot of bands evolving to the next level and I would say that getting these bands to the fortress is part of the concept behind Imperium. I honestly think that every one of the bands in the Imperium line-up has something to offer, either based on the quality of the band, their historical relevance or simply because of the passion they put into their work. You know, for me also playing music it is impossible to not make subjective decisions when booking bands. Though, it is not only my opinion about their music, but sometimes everything is in perfect alignment. Nothing pleases me more in regards of booking when the band really wants to play and that they understand that performing at the fortress is not just the random gig. That is part of what creates the magic and the unique atmosphere surrounding the festival. For the fortress itself, I could go on for a long time. The history is so rich and filled with stories that still keep historians occupied. For instance; the Swedes attacked and besieged the fortress three times during the years and their king was also killed during the besiege in 1718, a mystery still not solved. The brutality of the history, the well-kept fortress and Black Metal could not be a better match. The fact that the fortress is so big, and that we still have a limited capacity of 900 people makes everyone more comfortable and not overcrowded. The stage area itself is what limits the capacity, so the festival area feels more like a small village where everyone are there because of Black Metal!
UG: I mean there are already some great names on the list like Taake, Dodheimsgard or Underground gems like Kringa and Eternal Evil who are already a perfect fit when it comes to the location– I even spotted Strid on the list who take a humble spot in the middle of Thursday *laughs*– do you yourself look forward to a special gig or do you even have a „Sehnsuchtsband“ you would love to see there? And maybe even more important – how can a band reach out to you to try to convince you of their „worthyness“ to play at Imperium?
Ravn: Yes, indeed some great bands for this years edition. In fact Hoest from Taake will be the only one to have performed at Imperium at every edition so far. Taake were a part of the line-up in 2019 and he performed with Carpathian Forest in 2022. He asked me already before leaving the fortress if he could perform again with Taake in 2023 and who would say no to such a charming individual, *laughs*! No really, Hoest is a great guy, truly passionate and a great performer, so I am looking forward to that of course. I am in particular curious about Mephorash on Thursday the 6th of July. I haven’t seen them live and we have given them the last spot to maximize the effect of their performance. For Friday I am in particular waiting for Kringa as well. They convinced me by their performance at Howls of Winter in February. Then only as a three-piece, but still the energy and dedication was supreme. And Saturday… Dødheimsgard will perform again this year, as in 2022, but with that new amazing record in their backpack and the back catalogue from hell there will always be a spot for Mr. Vicotnik and his crew. But for Saturday… My gem is Spirit Possession. What a great act. Only two people, but they raise hell. Spirit Possession is one of the few new act I find truly inspiring. I just saw them live in Oslo for a sold out show, and I am just truly impressed. Great people as well!
And you are right, I will perform with Strid. Mostly because we save some money for fees. laughs Well, not only that of course. The musicians in the band are really good and dedicated, so I always look forward to perform with them. We have also been rehearsing some unreleased songs, so I found it appropriate to play them live at Imperium for the first time. To get our attention, simply send an email to email@example.com. I look into everything I receive. There are no open spots for 2023, but preparations for 2024 has already started. What we do need for 2023 is more artist who wants to come and show their works. If anyone feel they would fit into our sphere these days at the fortress, they should not hesitate to contact us either.
UG: Okay, so we covered location and the line-up. What kind of artists do you want/have to complete the experience?
Ravn: So, for artist for Imperium, we more or less have no particular demands, except it is of course natural to have some correlating aesthetics with the Black Metal scene or the dark arts. We have a lot of space available, both underground dungeons, huge wooden buildings and even parts of a museum at our disposal. So, as art it self, only the imagination and creativity limits our options. Conditions are quite good as well compared to other festivals. Buy a festival-pass and we charge no commissions for using the space.
UG: This sounds indeed like a great concept! So, imagine you would be a german fan with the urge to visit Festung Fredriksten - what would be the best way to get there?
Ravn: Well, every road leads to Halden, an old Norwegian saying tells us, so its just to start walking. If you believe that is just a bad joke, there are several convenient ways to get there. For flights you can actually fly to both Gothenburg in Sweden and Oslo Gardermoen in Norway as the distance to Halden are more or less equal. Otherwise there are ferries going from Germany to both Oslo and Sweden as well, if someone wants to drive. And of course trains are going as well. I can add a couple of quite important selling points as well. The fortress has one of the biggest parking-lots in the county, and parking is free. What is new for this year is that we are also giving camp-tickets away for free to the ones buying a festival-pass, and remember.... The Norwegian kroner has fallen more then 20% against euro the last months, so tickets should actually be quite reasonable at the moment.
UG: Sold! Well, you might gotten yourself some visitors from se Bundesrepublik Deutschland and we will look closely into new announcements from Imperium festival! Thank you for your time and hopefully see you there!
Ravn: You are all very welcome of course, and I hope to see more Germans there then we have so far! I think we have had more Germans on stage then as visitors so far!
Picture Ravn: Arttv Karvonen
Pictures Imperium: Carl Eek (Necrolust)