Stormkeep is a force of the supernatural, a wind flowing through the crumbling ancient ruins of a lost land, buried by legend and mystery. From the athenaea of old came the acclaimed underground mini-LP “Galdrum,” an homage to the golden age of Black Metal and harkening back to the dark ages of history filled with mysticism and magick. Now Stormkeep brings forth their debut full-length album “Tales of Othertime.”
The penultimate tome of fantastical Dungeon Metal Symphonia from a world beyond, “Tales of Othertime” presents six majestic hymns of triumphant, cold and fierce Medieval Black Metal. Sail across the frozen worlds of Elda and travel into a land of myth.
This Is Black Metal talks with Isaac Faulk (Otheyn Vermithrax) (Drums (2017-2019), Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards (2017-present) about this great project! Enjoy…
This Is Black Metal: Hello Isaac, thank you very much for this interview. How are you doing during these strange times?
Otheyn: Doing all right here in the United States, it’s opened up a little bit so at this time we are now you know gearing up for various concerts with our other bands. So, I guess not as dire as it was a year ago. So yeah, we’re just using the time to build new projects or various writing and all that sort of stuff.
TIBM: Sounds creative, and fantastic. So, since this is the first time we’re speaking, I would like you to tell us how and why have you formed this band?
Otheyn: Stormkeep was formed around the year 2017. It was a product of my interest and devotion to a certain style of Black Metal. So even from the beginning, it was intended to be almost in homage to mid 90s, medieval Black Metal, many of the bands that I’ve liked for many, many years. Those were all things that I was very passionate about, and this band was kind of an opportunity for me to expand on that. However, it has evolved, and I think through having a band and not just one person in the project, it has evolved into its own kind of entity. It has kind of taken on its own form. That of course, is rooted in that era and that style but has also taken on its own form.
TIBM: So, after one Demo (Promotional Tape MMXVIII) and one EP (Galdrum) you finally released your first album, Tales of Othertime! How is the response from fans and press so far?
Otheyn: The response has been great. It’s been probably more than I would have even expected but I did have an idea when we were writing and recording the new album that it was going to be something unique as there are no other bands really going right now that are fulfilling this specific niche. So I knew that anybody who’s into the same sorts of things that I am would be into it. This is ultimately what our bands, and specifically Stormkeep, are all about is playing the music that we want to hear. So if there are other people that want that, then you know, of course it makes sense that it would be successful, but that’s not why we do it. It’s not for success or whatever. It’s really just a self indulgent sort of thing, we make this music for ourselves first.
TIBM: You made a video clip “The Serpent’s Stone”. Why have you chosen this song among others?
Otheyn: I believed that this was the centerpiece of the album. In a way the serpent stone, I mean lyrically, and within the story, is kind of a climactic point in the storyline of the album, and the song contains all of the different elements that make up the album. For these reasons, I thought it was the best way to present the sound of the album from the get-go.
TIBM: The album is rich with sounds such as acoustic elements, Ambient, Black Metal riffing, Dungeon Synth and others. Can we say that this album has a concept?
Otheyn: Of course, yes, the album is a concept album. The lyrics are all tied together in a storyline that takes place within a mythical realm called Elda, which I created, and so all of the lyrics and the liner notes detail the storyline therein. So every song within the album is very important. Where each song is placed, how the story progresses and the music itself reflects that as well.
TIBM: You have just told us that everything exists in a world that you have created named Elda. Where can we find any info about this world?
Otheyn: If you get the vinyl edition, which I know it’s sold out pretty quickly and actually the CD. Both have a map and storylines within them. So you know, of course, those things sold out pretty quickly there will be a repress, but all of the information is within the packaging.
TIBM: So, can we expect your new work to be a continuation in this world?
Otheyn: I can’t really specify that at this time. Even the EP took place in the same world. I can’t say for the future, but at least for now, it will be within this realm.
TIBM: One of my favorite moments in the album was acquire on the serpent stone, whose idea was this one and how you implemented that?
Otheyn: It was very important to me that there was another voice and another kind of style of vocals. Of course, those vocals are throughout the album, but they are most represented on Serpent Stone. And so that was really my idea of elevating the music beyond just your regular Black Metal band. A lot of my favorite, not just Black Metal, but other metal bands utilize this kind of singing, and so I enlisted a good friend of mine. He goes by Shield Anvil, he’s in Caladan Brood and also Visigoth and a lot of other bands. He’s a very talented singer and did vocals on our previous release Galdrum. He did the vocals on “Of Lore…” from the EP, and so it made sense to bring him back to really elevate this song to another level and he did an amazing job. And yeah, it is also one of my favorite parts of the album as well.
TIBM: Your lyrical themes have a point of reference to the Medieval times, magic and fantasy in general. What attracts you to these themes?
Otheyn: I studied history in university, and it’s always been kind of a second passion of mine besides music, and specifically medieval Europe, which has always interested me just because of how it was such a chaotic time. The castles and all this stuff, it evokes a certain part of my imagination. I’ve also always been interested in fantasy, of course, Lord of the Rings, but also Ursula K. Le Guin and Earthsea, even stuff like Dune. I mean, it’s not strictly fantasy, but you know, fantastical worlds have always interested me. So digging into Medieval Fantasy was always something that interested me and Stormkeep as a catalyst for that made the most sense because Black Metal already has this medieval sound and a feeling especially going back to Satyricon’s “Dark Medieval Times”, or Covenant’s “In Times Before the Light”, you know, albums like this, they kind of evoke this medieval darkness that has always been really important to me and always struck me with a very deep feeling. So for me, it made sense to make a band that kind of consolidates all of those things into one thing, including Medieval Folk and Dungeon Synth. All of those things, even Power Metal. I think those all can be kind of connected into the same realm, which is medieval fantasy.
TIBM: Something that went straight into my mind when I saw this album cover was the cover of Emperor’s first album. Based on that, your sound and the fact that Mortiis was a member of them (who later played Dungeon Synth among others), may I presume that you are a fan of them?
Otheyn: Yes, definitely. It would be foolish for any band that plays Black Metal with keyboards to deny the importance of Emperor. They are probably one of the most important bands in metal in my opinion. And so yes, of course Emperor is a huge inspiration. I think that’s kind of where the initial influence of the band really comes from, but at the same time, I don’t think that I would ever want to try to write an Emperor album. I’m not going to try to copy Emperor or make a facsimile because in four albums they already really spanned the entirety of Symphonic Extreme Metal. And so, to me, it was important to deviate a little bit just from Symphonic Black Metal and create something of its own. And even though yes, of course, it’s Black Metal with keyboards and Emperor’s is probably the number one band in that sub-sect, it was important for me to delineate that we’re not just a cover band, you know what I mean?
TIBM: Yeah. So if you are an Emperor fan, what is your favorite Emperor album?
Otheyn: I know some people disagree, some people will agree but in my opinion “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk” is the pinnacle of Symphonic Black Metal. “In the Nightside Eclipse” is a close second but I would probably put the EP up there as well. I probably listened to the Emperor EP even more than “In the Nightside…” but “Anthems…” really takes the top slot for me. It was an important record in my life, in my upbringing and learning about metal. It was one of the albums that I bought with only having seen the album cover and knowing the name of the band, I went in blind. This was before the internet had really taken over, I learned to just dive in and just find out if I liked something or not and that was a very integral album. Even the first time I heard it I didn’t really understand what was going on because of the production and the way that the album was written, but over 15-17 years every time I listen to it I hear something new.
TIBM: It’s my Favourite as well. So, in your album, you are blending fine Melodic Black Metal with Dungeon Synth. What is there in common between these two genres in your opinion?
Otheyn: We use the term Dungeon Synth as a broad umbrella because I think there are so many kinds of Dungeon Synth. I would also call it Medieval Ambient or Fantasy Ambient, but Black Metal and Dungeon Synth have the tie of Mortiis going back to the early days of the scene, and so they are definitely tied together. There are plenty of Black Metal bands that probably didn’t call it Dungeon Synth, but they utilize Ambient Synthesizer Music within their sound. Even early Behemoth records have a keyboard track here and there. You know, it was a pretty common thing in the early 90s to have one or two keyboard tracks as interludes or outros or whatever. I always really enjoyed those parts of Black Metal albums and I’ve always enjoyed Mortiis. I’ve always enjoyed stuff like Jim Kirkwood, and even video game soundtracks and stuff like that. And I think they all kind of tie together in the way that they are expressing the same atmosphere. And so even if a Mortiis album has no guitars on it you still get the same feeling that you would listening to, for example, a Sacramentum album or something like that. It gives me the same feeling and so to me, it was a logical extension to combine these things, because Symphonic Black Metal in my mind has been kind of overdone to the point where a lot of modern bands are focusing too much on the keyboards and not enough on playing a Black Metal song. Therefore it was important to me to make a band that was focused on the guitar and the Black Metal aspect first, but then to incorporate these Dungeon Synth and Symphonic elements in the way that bands back in the 90s did.
Otheyn: That’s a tough one. But I mean, of course Emperor would be one of them, but I would probably say, Obtained Enslavement is one and them too… that’s a tough one. There’s so many. Probably Dimmu Borgir. It’ll probably be Emperor, Dimmu Borgir and Obtained Enslavement. Those would probably be the top three picks.
TIBM: Fantastic, thanks. Another tough question for you; Which are your 3 favourite American Black Metal bands?
Otheyn: Oh, that’s even harder! I would probably have to put Absu in there. But I’m trying to think I mean, that’s the thing for me is that I’ve never really liked the American Black Metal scene. I think of course there are good bands. I’m not going to talk down on anybody, but I’ve never connected with a lot of the American bands as much because there’s always been something about the European scene that grabbed me that I didn’t find elsewhere. So in the case of Europe there’s almost too many to make a list of three, but in America there’s almost not enough to make a list of three. I would say Absu and Dragonlord are good. Yeah, I don’t know, that’s a tough one.
TIBM: Let’s go to a more philosophical question; what is Black Metal for you?
Otheyn: Here’s the thing, people ask and of course if we had to put Stormkeep under an umbrella. Black Metal makes the most sense, but in the truest sense of when it was first created in the early 90s, I would probably say that Stormkeep doesn’t really classify as Black Metal in that way. So I guess it just kind of depends on your own personal perception of what Black Metal is because many people will say, “Black Metal died in the late 90s” Whatever it is now is just mainstream. There are true evil Black Metal bands, whatever you want to call it, that still go today. But in my mind, it’s more about the approach and the atmosphere and the feeling. You know when you hear it, that’s the real thing. It’s hard to pinpoint in words because it’s such an intangible thing, just a feeling. The aesthetic is very important to the way it’s presented too and all of those things are very crucial to how we define Black Metal as what it is. So, for me, it’s definitely the Black Metal from the 90s into the early 2000s that’s really the stuff that has the right atmosphere and the right feeling. That’s not to say that any band that’s happening now can’t do that. It’s just what I’ve noticed is that it’s harder to create that mysticism, that esoteric feeling when you can look up the band on the internet. It definitely changed how the genre was perceived. For Stormkeep, it was important to me to remove the social media aspect from the band and try to be as close to how things would have been. Obviously, that’s basically impossible to replicate the feeling of not hearing a band until you buy the album, that sort of thing, but it was important to me to try to maintain that. One band that I think does that the best these days is a band called Mare from Norway. I watched them perform in a cave in Norway, and I would say that that was probably the most Black Metal thing I’ve seen in modern times. It was one of the few times that I actually felt like I was watching a real Black Metal band. I’ve seen a lot of Black Metal bands, but that was one of the first times that I felt like I was experiencing something unique and special, much like what people might have felt at a Mayhem performance in the early 90s or something, which of course, I will never know exactly what that was like.
TIBM: What are you doing in your free time except playing music?
Otheyn: My main vocation at this time is being a musician. So that’s what I spend most of my time doing. But if I have free time, other than that, of course I enjoy going into nature here in Colorado and spending time with my girlfriend and my cat and all that stuff, but I spend almost every day doing something related to music.
TIBM: Can you share with us your future plans?
Otheyn: Stormkeep is a project that I definitely foresee playing and performing live. We have done so before, but it will probably be a little while until we actually get to that point. So in the future, I foresee that there will be more recordings and, of course, live performances when we can. I think our goal is to make it to Europe and perform at some very special and curated festivals. It is very important to the band to create an environment and a special event that is not just at a bar and so it’ll be important for us to make sure that those performances are taken care of in the right way.
TIBM: All right. So Isaac, I would like to thank you very much for your time and tell us a message to our readers.
Otheyn: Thank you for the chance to talk about Stormkeep.