Few questions to Arnt “Obsidian Claw” Grønbech, founder, guitarist, keyboardist and singer for the band Keep of Kalessin, about their new record Katharsis.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Keep of Kalessin without using the usual musical labels, such as ““Black Metal” or “Epic Metal”?
Arnt “Obsidian Claw” Grønbech: Still being the underdog in the norwegian Metal scene, Keep Of Kalessin hold and impressive amount of accolades from our now 25 year old career including 2 nominations to the norwegian grammy awards, 3 albums on top charts in Norway with Reptilian entering at position #2 as well as sharing the stage with many great bands like Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, Exodus, Satyricon and more. Our music is epic and extreme and we’re known for mixing all genres of music into our very own blend of Epic Extreme Metal. Oops. I just used a label on it….
Despite a break from 2000 to 2003, the band has been alive since 1995 (or 1993 as Ildskjaer), and your sound evolved a lot. How would you now link the band’s name and the music you play?
Obsidian Claw: We’ve had a natural evolution where we went from more black metal to bringing in elements of Thrash, Death, Heavy Metal and Power Metal into the mix. However, it doesn’t sound like anything else. The great thing that we always hear is that we have our very own sound. You just gotta hear it. It’s big and epic, extreme and melodic. It has anything a Metal fan would like, in my opinion. But sometimes you gotta spend a few rounds with us to fully understand the complexity behind it and be fully captured by the emotional journey.
Keep of Kalessin just released its seventh album, Katharsis, after a long period of silence. How do you feel about coming back?
Obsidian Claw: It’s great to be back ! Life happened and suddenly 8 years have passed since the last release. It was never intended, but when you don’t focus on the band time truly flies. But it’s great to finally be back !
What was the creation process of Katharsis? How does it feel to create something again after all this time?
Obsidian Claw: Normally I start the process by jamming on the guitar and creating some riffs. I record these and start creating the song. Then I send the song to Robin and Wanja who add bass and drums. Finally, we add keyboards and vocals before we send it to mix and mastering. Sometimes I also start creating an idea about the song in my mind before I sit down with the guitar, but usually it all starts with jamming some riffs. It’s great to be back at it, even though I actually never stopped completely. Some of the material on Katharsis was created around the time of the last album, Epistemology.
The band evolves as a three-piece, plus one live guitarist, how do you feel about the current situation?
Obsidian Claw: The current lineup is better than it ever was ! We have such professional people in the band now that it’s again very exciting to both do new music as well as play live shows. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed playing in the band this much !
At the beginning, the band played raw Black Metal in the vein of the Norwegian scene, but you progressively evolved to Symphonic/Melodic Black/Death Metal, how did your influences evolve through time?
Obsidian Claw: My background was from the 80’s Heavy Metal, but in the 90s I became more obsessed with Black Metal which we started playing. I guess you can say that after a while we matured and started bringing in elements from our previous musical tastes as well. Now, today we’re not scared of breaking any rules or new ground. I think it’s liberating to feel free when you create music, even of the extreme kind.
What is your inspiration to create your music now? Whether it is for music or lyrics.
Obsidian Claw: It can be literally anything. In music we tend to get inspired by what we listen to and for me this can be anything from Hard Rock and Heavy Metal to the most extreme Black or Death. But also Electronic music like Synthwave or Retro Synthpop. In fact, I also draw inspiration from old Keep Of Kalessin albums and on Katharsis I kinda started listening to our old catalog and it was a good source of inspiration. Regarding the lyrics we also keep an open mind. Earlier it was more fantasy oriented, but today it can be universal contemplation as well as personal thoughts and feelings. But still also a bit from TV-series or movies of the epic kind. I would say we are inspired by anything epic !
I also noticed the band’s visual aspect evolved too, wearing armors on the promotional picture for example. How do you feel connected to this visual aspect, especially ancient wars?
Obsidian Claw: We have always had an eye (and ear) for epic movies and music. When working on the imagery of the cover we felt that we wanted to take the next step from our Armada album. So we decided to up the notch a little bit on this, but I think since Armada we always had one goal in mind which has been to create epic albums with epic artwork and imagery. Which I also think we’ve managed to do, but in our very own way.
Maybe you have a favorite song on this album? Or the most natural one to create?
Obsidian Claw: I think The Omni is the best track, even though it changes a lot from what mood I am in. But this track has a great atmosphere and the lyrics are over the top when it comes to contemplating about the universe and our own existence in it. I think this track turned out really good and judging from the feedback, so do most of the people who hear it!
Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation as a band? Did it have an impact on the album?
Obsidian Claw: It had a great impact on the album in the way that I personally felt really bad during this time. I just felt that life became really, really boring and just lying on the couch in the house every day without anything to look forward to actually made me really depressed. But it wasn’t until after those two years that I started really feeling how heavy it was to get out of that state. So yeah, Katharsis is a lot about leaving those negative thoughts and emotions and taking the first steps toward the future.
Do you think you are still improving yourself as a musician?
Obsidian Claw: At least as a songwriter and lyric writer I have improved. I am in the process of working even more to improve my guitar skills, but yeah….I still think we are pushing the boundaries.
What led you to the music universe back in time? What was the very first album you ever bought?
Obsidian Claw: I started playing the organ when I was very young. Then I moved on to acoustic guitar and later electric guitar. I had been playing some simple things, but when I saw Dire Straits with the song Sultans Of Swing on a video tape my father had, it made a true impact. It still does. Then I got into Iron Maiden, Metallica and Guns n Roses and I guess those three had the most impact. I also listened a lot to Helloween and other 80s bands. I still do. But then in the 90s I got into Death Metal and Black Metal and as I mentioned we started playing more of that kinda music. Nowadays, I enjoy it all and I’m happy to see many of the bands I was listening to are still going strong!
The band played two shows on the 70,000 Tons of Metal 2023, how was this experience?
Obsidian Claw: It was great to be part of this year’s edition of 70k ! It was amazing to play the old songs, but also great to present the new tracks on the main stage. But mostly for me, it was great to be a band again ! To hang out with the guys and get to spend time with friends with mutual interests etc. So the entire trip was amazing for us !
You were also supposed to play a European tour alongside Dodheimsgard and Cadaver, but it was unfortunately canceled. How do you feel about it? Do you plan to reschedule the dates?
Obsidian Claw: We will see. There was a lot of back and forth and I didn’t even understand why they even announced it to be honest because I kinda knew they would have to pull the plug on that, announcing only 3 weeks before the tour. We will see what happens in regards to touring, but right now our focus is to build more demand by doing releases and a few select festivals. If we get a good tour offer we might do it, but it’s not a priority at this point.
Your last show in France was in 2015, do you remember this show? Maybe you know and like some French bands?
Obsidian Claw: Yeah, I remember! France has always been a very welcoming crowd for us. My favourite french band is Carpenter Brut.
A funny question now: what if I ask you to compare Keep of Kalessin’ music with a dish? Which one and why?
Obsidian Claw: It would be Spicy dragon-tounge with sauteed medley of wild mushrooms, fresh from the forest floor accompanied with mashed potatoes. Point is, you know it’s not an ordinary dinner, but a feast worthy of the greatest heroes of the realm.
Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, an album…
Obsidian Claw: Yes, some. And I’ve already started thinking about it. But I won’t mention the names until we do a deal with them.
Last question: which bands would you love to tour (or play, considering only one show) with? I let you create a lineup with Keep of Kalessin as opener and three other bands.
Obsidian Claw: The tour with Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth was probably our best tour, but also Soilwork was a very good fit. If we were the opener I would probably say Keep Of Kalessin, Soilwork and Emperor.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Obsidian Claw: Thank you so much for the support. Hope everyone checks out our new music and follows us on social!