Soul Laid Bare

The final chapter? Not quite. This Sect talk candidly about current album Everything We Know Into A Black Hole.

It has been a long time coming. Too long in fact. Part of their working methodology, part family/work commitments, other musical duties and, more recently, along with the rest of the population, a global pandemic to consider.

Flipping through the calendar years, it was 2014 when Famous Last Words (FLW) last spent time with This Sect before a scheduled gig in the centre of Oslo, Norway, that evening. It proved a deeply rewarding experience as the band discussed their debut album ‘Shake The Curse’, released to the public that very same day, and they were collectively proud of their efforts judging by the enthusiasm in which they spoke for this brand-new record concerning the ideas and influences behind it.

Since that gathering, creative productivity has been minimal, with only the raw twin barrel noise of vinyl 45” ‘Nil and Void’ b/w ‘Pink In Red’ to plug the gap that was widening and only worsening judging from the paranoia swelling in its words. In many respects a likely foreboding of things to come, which seemed to be tightening a vice-like grip as far as any new creativity from the band was concerned and, more severely, a near-fatal hospitalisation for one of its band members, leaving one to ponder the title of their debut album as perhaps too close to home.

With new bands emerging, different genres to consider and fall in love with, whilst still clinging on to those bands who got you there in the first place, news finally broke of a body of work from This Sect when all seemed lost and buried. Stepping into the unprecedented times is ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole’; a deeply personal account of troubled times, but one unknown to itself during its gestation period is now serving as a portent for the present. Interestingly, This Sect also moved to newer ground in their sound that still holds dear to their post-punk roots, but one that has shifted to a workshop consisting of electronics, producing a sound dominated by synths but not without completely abandoning their guitars.

Given the album has been issued on a strictly limited basis (Once they’re gone, they are gone folks!) on clear, transparent vinyl, there is every chance that ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole’ will become one of those cult records revered over in thirty years’ time due to its limited run. In the meantime, with the sophomore album fresh in the minds of those who have forked out their hard-earned cash for a copy, will be in tune with the forthcoming single release ‘There Is Something Wrong With Our Hearts’, which is as good a starting point as any to get to grips with life for This Sect right now, and their reasons for selecting this song as the upcoming single release?

“It just felt like the right sequence of statements after previous single ‘Stain Remover’,” replies lead singer, and band spokesman for the day, Gøran Karlsvik. “First comes the anger, then comes the tears.”

It is quite a catchy song (musically) considering the bleakness of the entire album, would you agree?

“I wanted to point out the evils of mankind while being maximum 80s [music] catchy, I guess! But that’s not up to me to judge, thankfully. The songs just poured out of me during this era, and mainly I think of them as parts of a bigger picture. I think they’re all super catchy in their own way [laughs].”

The photo for the imminent single release portrays a very bleak image. Where was this taken, and what was the band’s thinking behind it?

“The thinking behind it? Well, maximum despair and alienation. The photo was taken at the same location as a lot of the other ones in the inner sleeve, at an abandoned farm in rural Norway. The backstory of the farm involves supposed hauntings, a bizarre murder, and a history of mental illness between generations. [The photo] Fit like a glove for me,” Gøran explains.

What has been the reaction in Norway to the forthcoming single and album in general?

“We’ve received great reactions so far, with good press and some airplay on radio and podcasts. We have always been a bit of a weirdo outsider act, so we don’t really expect much, but we’re super stoked if people listen.”

Your sound has moved on as well, would you agree, with ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole?

“Yes, quite. That’s just the consequence of me writing the songs this time around. It’s more downtempo, plus, of course, more electronic since I have started doing more of that. I bet the next record will sound equally as different, while still sounding like us. Øystein just finished his Ild debut album and is currently writing some song sketches for This Sect, so that’ll be an interesting new direction!”

As mentioned earlier in this article, there has been a considerable time lapse between recordings by This Sect, and something they acknowledge regarding their absence, “An album from This Sect will always be a pretty thorough and meticulous affair for us [when] making the sound. There is no easy way around it.” In fact, This Sect has mainly been in studio mode these past few years, barring a brief live appearance pre-lockdown with Belarusian post-punks Molchat Doma.

“It took us roughly three years to complete ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole’, admits Gøran to FLW. “Graphic design, photography, music videos and other album-related tasks were completed in the same time span. The album was recorded mainly at our studio complex Mir, with some overdubs plus drum sessions at Stovner Rockefabrikk. Some of it was also recorded a bit on the fly in my home, in our producer Gunnar Kjellsby’s home studio, in addition to a hospital room as well.”

With your own admission of working methodically and very intensely, and given the bleak nature of the entire album, did you experience some difficult moments along the way?

“Lots! For example, trying to understand the music industry once again, and giving up [because] it’s always a waste of time. So, DIY it is. An indie label can be just as corrupt or malfunctioning as any major, and our gut feeling indicated that it would be best for us to go it alone, again. That said, the main thing that demanded time and focus, was to “translate” my recordings into a more band-centric sound. I recorded the skeletons of the tracks with my synths, drum machines and groove boxes with vocal tracks, and then it was up to the band to decipher the songs and add their own personal flair. The song structures remained the same after I recorded my demos, so no big surprises there really. The drum sessions were the most time consuming because our drummer had to find a way to do organic drums on top of my programmed glitchy beats (We butted heads for a while in this process, but it’s all good now). In the past, we have always jammed our songs as a band unit. This time around the process was completely turned on its head because I was the main songwriter.”

Considering the personal nature of this record, do you feel that it gives off an impression of being a solo record?

“I did not set out to write this album alone as a “selfish” thing,” admits Gøran Karlsvik. “I didn’t want to take charge of the band or anything, it was simply something I HAD to do because these songs had to be made, and I tried my best to be humble about it. Once my intentions were clear regarding the album, everyone eventually landed on the same page. It has been a demanding process for sure, but all in all it strengthened us as a unit, and we now have more “tools” available in our skillset as a band. It’s the first time we’ve been extremely studio-centric, and there’s gonna be more of that in the future.”

FLW is aware that the new record is a very personal album, but are you comfortable with (to use a much-used saying) “washing your dirty laundry in public” because even though the lyrics are not obvious, This Sect is a band that wears its heart on its sleeve and therefore there is much of the “personal” in these words?

“I’m definitely NOT comfortable with “washing my dirty laundry in public”, never was, and never will be, but it came to a point, with this record, that it would be difficult for me to talk about it without stating the actual story behind it. Living with an elephant in the room. The sheer bleakness of this album makes it seem obvious that it’s coming from an intense and heavy place. And even though this album is the soundtrack to a spiralling depression that hospitalised me for months and nearly killed me, it is also part of a shift in my life after my total meltdown. I got diagnosed as bipolar with PTSD. I got proper help and medication. So, in a bizarre way, it [album] has its cathartic moments. I am in a different place now, a better one, just trying to cope with having a mental illness or two. I have my ups and downs, and that will never change, but at least I am more aware of my condition. I can’t make up a different story about the record because that would feel dishonest.”

Is it a difficult album to listen to now though, considering your admission that you are “…in a different place now, a better one”?

“When I listen back, I mainly think of it as a good solid piece of work, and a document of a time in my life that I somehow, against all odds, managed to make an album about. At the time of recording, I was so down and out, sleepless, and delirious, that I had mainly purged the anger out of my system, and what was left was a kind of hopeless peace. Death was on its way anyway, so why not try to make the best of it, leave something beautiful for the world while gazing into the void. There’s enough ugly truth out there, anyway, why add to the pyre. It is the sound of coming to peace with your own demise, somehow soothing.”

Considering your honesty about your personal experiences and the whole recording process for ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole’, the timing is very STRANGE because it appears to be relating to, and documenting what has been, and still ongoing for the rest of society, an exceedingly difficult year. Therefore, what do you make of that, and how do you relate to such bizarre circumstances?

“I only set out to make a record about my own personal apocalypse, I had no idea it would be the soundtrack to an ACTUAL apocalypse [laughs]. So yes, everything was written pre-Corona. But the dystopian streak is something I’ve always had if you look back at my body of work. Lots of doom and gloom there! Just call me the post-punk Nostradamus.”

With that in mind, do you think there are any positives to come from ‘Everything We Know Into A Black Hole’, or is the album a final statement from This Sect?

“Making the record wasn’t easy on us as a band, for sure. And Corona puts a damper on some of the band activity, but we are still here and still great friends. We’re super happy with the album and how it turned out. I would say the trial of fire was worth it, and now we know how to write music separately and collectively. Plus, we released THE most apocalyptic record during a global pandemic, which was something of a #lifegoal.”

(Photography courtesy of Per-Otto Oppi Christiansen & Carsten Aniksdal)

Everything We Know Into A Black Hole is out now and available from Sect Appeal Records https://thissect.bandcamp.com/album/everything-we-know-into-a-black-hole

FLW - From the Tapes

A few midnight strolls in the Norwegian wilderness upon discovery of decrepit abandoned buildings proved something of an inspiration for the imagery used for This Sect’s current album, and additional single releases. The man behind the artwork, Gøran Karlsvik, explains in his own words.

“I did the artwork and graphic design. I was doing lots of nocturnal expeditions into abandoned housings to do photoshoots. I somehow found it calming and peaceful, plus super exciting to enter these locations. I couldn’t sleep anyway, so night-time seemed like the right occasion to go exploring and do creative endeavours. A big part of these expeditions has always been to try to decipher what really happened at the place. Like, why is this building in such a scenic spot abandoned, in a rich country [such as Norway] where housing is in such high demand? There’s a mystery to it, a puzzle to solve, and those kinds of locations just makes my mind boggle with inspiration.”

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