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On the eve of a forthcoming new album, Norwegian Christian Death/Doom band Dalit talk to Comrade Aleks about their vision and progress.

Interview with Dalit.
"Dalit isn't a new name on the Doom scene. The band was born in Stavanger, Norway, in 2006 and since then they've worked steadily work in a Death/Doom direction with melodic and sometimes avant-garde touches. "Dalit" means "untouchable" in the Hindu caste system, but the band's rather known for its Christian lyrics - though I wonder if one would realise this influence were it not clearly marked in their biography. After two full-length albums - 'Dalit' (2009) and 'Descent' (2015) - the band took a break, just playing a few gigs here and there, but now their new material is finished and we've organized this interview with Jon Ivar Larsen, Cato Gulaker and Erlend Trengereid to learn more about it."

Dalit: Cato Gulaker (drums, vocals), Erlend Trengereid (guitars, bass), Jon Ivar Larsen (guitars, bass), Eirik Hellem Bř (vocals, bass).

Thanks for your time, much appreciated! What's going on in the Dalit camp? There was no news for a while, besides the band's appearance at some gigs.

Jon Ivar: Hi! At the moment we don't have any gigs planned, but we hope to change that as soon as our new album gets released. We're all quite occupied with things in life, but we want to prioritize playing live as much as we're able to.

Dalit was formed in 2006: what gathered you all under this banner? What was your initial vision of the band?

Jon Ivar: Back in the day when we all were involved with other bands, Cato (our drummer and songwriter extraordinaire) came up with some material that was more in the doom-territory. Since the material wasn't a good fit for our current bands/projects we started DALIT more as a doom-"outlet".

Were you previously interested in Doom metal? Which of its elements attracted your attention?

Cato: To me, doom is a fitting vehicle for expressing, channelling and sharing one's inner darkness. Where social media trends pulls you in the opposite direction, in terms of denial, covering up ones failures, struggles and short comings by means of constructing and expressing a more polished appearance, we want to direct attention towards it. It all comes down to honesty for me - being honest about life. If everyone were as honest with their struggles in life as they seem to be with their accomplishments and joy - we would have less people feeling depressed for not being able to cope with life along the high standards "everyone else" seems to exhibit.

Doom Metal provides us with the means to express such feelings in an extreme yet at the same time sensitive and emotionally laden way. The constant struggle to master this combo is in many ways the musical essence of Dalit.

You recorded two demos, and the self-titled album then saw the light of day in 2009. It has a quite specific sound, though this material was tagged as Death/Doom from the start. How would you resume your influences on this album?

Jon Ivar: Well, first off; the demo was actually the entire album that we sent around to labels trying to get noticed. Silenoz (Dimmu Borgir/reviewer in Scream Magazine) commented that the demo was too long (which it was). After we were signed to Endtime Productions, the recording was mastered and released as our debut album. For my part when it comes to influences, I remember vividly being inspired by My Dying Bride, Anathema, Virgin Black and Woven Hand. That makes for an interesting combination.

Did you have certain requirements for the band's sound during your work in the studio? Or did you allow yourself to improvise during sessions?

Jon Ivar: On our first self-titled album, the creative process and the recording happened at the same time. We had nothing to prove, and no-one knew about the project. This perhaps allowed us to experiment more and iterate over parts to get them just right. For my part, experiments and happy accidents are what makes the recording process so much more interesting.

What kind of accidents helped you to build the band's sound on this album?

Erlend: The sound in general was more of a searching process, until we found something that worked as a basis. After that the recording process for all albums has been a sort of a playground in many ways. Leads, small details, crazy ideas or discoveries has been welcomed and tested. We have also had a share of fortunate equipment malfunctions that sparked someting: "that sounded terrible" - "Yeah - great, let´s use it as an effect in that song". It is a tedious but fun process.

Jon Ivar: Happy accidents often occur when you approach the recording differently. Using a powerball on an electric guitar, shouting into the pickups, singing into an old telephone are just a few examples. It also has a side-effect that makes the recording moment memorable and inspiring. Check out Sylvia Massy's book 'Recording Unhinged', it's so inspiring.

Your lyrics on the debut album dealt with themes which could be roughly summed up as social inequality. Norway is one of most prosperous countries in this sphere… Well, though Metal Archives points out that your lyrics deal with Christian topics… How important are the lyrics for the band? Do you feel that Dalit's listeners accept your message?

Cato: The lyrics are intended to be complementary to the music. It follows from this that the more merry and cheerful elements of life are better left off to adherents of power metal, ska-punk or the regular hard-rock act. When we were starting up, we wanted to make music that spoke directly to the soul in a way that was clear and so to the point that it was hard to miss its punchline. Our main goal was to open the gates to the lower abyss of the human emotional spectrum, and try our best to set tone, rhythm and words to sorrow, despair, rage, loneliness, and so forth. As you mention, we live in a, materialistically speaking, prosperous sphere of the world. Thus, we are obviously not speaking of famine, plague, war or death in the ordinary, mundane, sense. It is the inner suffering and conflict we explore for the most part. Even in Norway, there is plenty enough existential misery to go around for everyone if one dares to peek behind the glossy facades of social media. Moreover, as Christians, there is a returning focus to the issue of theodicy in the lyrics. Who God is to our suffering. Perhaps needless to say, but we are lyrically closer to "the crucified God" of Jürgen Moltmann than the more popular advocates of prosperity theology.

Jon Ivar: As for the lyrical content I've contributed with, it focuses more on atrocities against indigenous groups and the concept of manifest destiny, the "God-given right" of "civilizing" the world. Being a history- and anthropology-buff, these topics interest and provoke me the most.

Dalit - 'DEM' (Official, 2009):

The Metal scene is known for its "anticlerical" position in general - Norwegian Black Metal is one of many examples. On the other hand, there are a number of Metal bands with a Christian position – Faith (Sweden), P˙lon (Switzerland) or Seventh Angel (UK) are just a few names which pop up in my mind now. Did you evidence any situations where Dalit is misunderstood because of your ideology?

Cato: If I understood your question right, I cannot say that I have encountered any accounts of prejudice, misconceptions or hostility because of our ideology. I would like to think that this is because sorrow and suffering is a trans-cultural, universal phenomenon. Everyone can relate to it, one way or another.

Norway is known for its breathtaking landscapes and natural spirit, how much of that is in your music? Is there a portion of Norway in Dalit?

Erlend: Well, I guess nature is, for us as for most Norwegians, a place to seek serenity and connection. So in that matter it plays a role. It is a place to seek disconnection from disturbances. But not for the musical or lyrical content directly.

How wide is Dalit's touring range? What are the furthest places where you've played live? And how often do you play in Norway?

Jon Ivar: We're all family men, so to getting on long tours will be quite a challenge. Previously we've toured and played gigs in Belgium, Netherlands and Germany in addition to Norway. The latest years have been slow, so maybe a gig or two every other year. Our last gig was in April in Kristiansand, Norway. Most of us live in the vicinity, so playing 'home' was a new experience.

The sophomore album 'Descent' contains a number of new elements which could be described as avant-garde ones. How did you come to these experiments?

Jon Ivar: I always find it hard to classify our own work when it comes to genres. We pour our hearts and minds into the music and then the songs happen. The strength of our songwriting (in my opinion) is that we put a ridiculous amount of time and energy on brief and minute parts so that they feel right, individually and as a whole. As you move forward in life, new influences and visions color the music for sure. In the creative process, when any one of us comes up with material, they're never finished songs as-is. The other members always contribute with ideas, be it altering or adding to the songs or even removing parts. This adds up to doing what we feel is the best for the song, in a very democratic fashion.

Erlend: I guess we said something about it in the "accidents" question. Many elements has emerged as a result of a playful and positive approach. And careful attention to detail in the process.

Live, 2015. (Photo: Gabriela Olem).

Does that mean that you spend as much time as you can in the studio during recordings of your songs? Or do you always have a deadline you had to stick to?

Jon Ivar: We've never had a deadline when it comes to recording albums. I'm not quite sure if that is for the better or worse, but probably the better. Recording just to release quickly might have a detrimental effect on the album. But I guess we'll never know. The material/recording is finished when it's finished, with the gruelling side-effect that comes with that approach.

You recorded 'Descent' whilst a trio: was it a different experience compared to the 'Dalit' album?

Jon Ivar: Actually, it was the other way around. Our first album was recorded with us being a trio. Eirik joined us as a permanent member afterwards and we recorded Descent with a full line-up. Recording-wise the experience was vastly different, not because of the amount of band-members but since some members in the band had relocated to other parts of the country. This made the recording-process take a long time, which was a bit of a pain. I guess we've grown used to collaborating online with sketches and revisions, but I would prefer us all being located in one place.

'Descent' was mastered by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna) - did you work together with him during mastering?

Jon Ivar: We were unfortunately not able to work directly with Magnus during the mastering process, but we would've loved to! Some of us are huge Cult of Luna-fans, so having Magnus put his mark on our album was a delight.

Dalit - 'Descent' (Official, 2015):

So Dalit are working on the third album: how far did you go from 'Descent'when writing new material?

Cato: Musically, I find our new album to be a natural progression from Descent. More specifically, it is an exploration of the landscapes that brought forth the song 'Descent'. Where a few of the other songs on the Descent-album fell into more usual song structures (ababcb), the song 'Descent' is not cyclical but linear. I guess that makes an "epic" song, at least in the ordinary sense of the word. The same could be said on the key songs on our new album. This is a bit more close to home for my own musical taste anyway, as I am a huge fan of the progressive rock scene of the early seventies. In addition to exploring alternative song structures, we have tried to further expand our musical pallet of expressions on this one. It is at the same time slower, darker and more extreme than its two predecessors, without, at least in our own opinion, shattering the unity of the album as a whole.

Can you name the main elements of next album? What are its pillars?

Cato: We have tried to expand on the elements we consider to be the best moments of the two earlier records, and at the same explore new territory in terms of vocal arrangements, song structures, dynamic and genres. I find it to be both darker and more aggressive than its predecessors, yet at the same time it contains more clean vocals than both of them together. Hopefully people will catch on to what we have tried to express.

Do you have an approximate date for the new album's release?

Jon Ivar: We've finished recording the album. At the moment we don't have an approximate date regarding the release, but we're hoping 2020 will be the year to shine!

Thank you for your time, gentlemen, I hope Dalit's new album will come without delay. And I wish you all the best with its release. Did we miss anything?

Jon Ivar: Thank you for reading our long answers! Feel free to check out our previous albums on your usual streaming services, and our website.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Dalit bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-11-23 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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