The Norwegian metallers INSENSE have recently released their
fourth album, "Burn In Beautiful Fire" via Indie Recordings. INSENSE
are of the new breed of Extreme Metal statesmen. Hailing from Oslo,
Norway, INSENSE are a potent extremity of manic-noise that fuses
the elements of intricate musical progressions with an all out Heavy
Created in 1999 by vocalist/guitarist Tommy Hjelm and guitarist Martin
Rygge and with the addition of drummer Truls Haugen and bassist Ola S
Hana, the band steadily climbed the ranks in the Norwegian underground
metal scene, one step at a time. Their schizophrenic mesh of death
metal, thrash, grind core and hard core was an acquired taste for a
somewhat conservative Norwegian metal community. During the first decade
of the new millennium, the quartet released three records.
While recording their third release ‘The Silent Epidemic’ (2007), the
band got in touch with renowned metal producer Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah,
In Flames, Strapping Young Lad). During the mixing of the album it
became obvious that there was a connection. Fast forward two years and
Insense are ready to record their fourth full-length album. Calling
Bergstrand was an obvious thing to do. In Flames vocalist Anders Fridén
was invited to join Bergstrand and Hjelm at the mastering of the album
at Stockholm Mastering.
In order to get to know this band a little better we tracked down
frontman Tommy Hjelm ( Guitar, Vocals) to answer some of our
questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com
First of all, how are you doing? Congratulations with
your new album ‘Burn In Beautiful Fire’
which was released recently, so of course we’d like to ask you a couple
of questions about it!
Thank you. I’m doing fine, and shoot!
Your previous album, ‘The
Silent Epidemic’ was released in 2007, so can you give us a little
update of what’s been happening since that release? I’m
not that familiar with your band so could you also start off with a
Well, we’ve always been an underground band, struggling
to get any attention in a country that’s more into black metal, so
having played a little bit around Norway and Europe, we decided to start
recording another album in 2009 – the one we’ve just released.
How did you launch into writing material for your album
and how much time did you spend on the songs?
These last few years, making music at home has become a lot easier with
Drumkit From Hell and cheap recording software and what not. With that
in mind, we introduced a new concept called the Riffpool, where all the
members in the band made riffs at home and published them to the
riffpool, allowing the other guys in the band to check the ideas out.
Then we would go to the rehearsals a couple times a week and try the
ideas out and stitch songs together. It’s an exciting way to work
because you have a lot more riffs to go through and you come to
rehearsals a lot more prepared.
Which approach did you choose to make this album?
We don’t have a formula that we stick to or anything like that. We
analysed the last album and found out what we liked and what we didn’t
like. That gave us inspiration to make decisions concerning the new
record. For this album we made 18 songs, and scrapped 8 by a series of
votes – both by us and friends that are close to the band.
How can we imagine you worked on these songs, what's the
typical writing process like for Insense? For example, did someone write
all of the material by himself or was it more a kind of a group process?
I pretty much summed it up in the previous answer. No,
there is not one writer in the band, but we definitely have different
jobs within the band – compartments that are important for each one of
us. That way, everyone gets their say and we’re not stuck grinding on
What were the goals you had in mind when you started to
record ‘Burn In Beautiful Fire’,
any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?
Not really. I remember thinking after ‘Silent…’ was
released and we got feedback from shoegazing nitwits that there were
“too much clean vocals” or we were “numetal wannabes” blablabla, that it
would be cool to go all in on the blast beats and make the most extreme
album yet. Then you realize that everyone who gives you beef over some
element of the music, hasn’t seen the big picture. We’re a difficult
band to categorize, I’ve come to understand that when you listen to us,
predetermined that we’re a metalcore band or a mathcore band or
whatever, you are going to be disappointed. We’re not one thing. Anyway,
what we ended up with, was putting our money on what we think we do
best, making good riffs and groovy songs, with a decent melody here and
there. To that extent I think we’ve succeeded. And as it turned out,
there isn’t a single blast beat on the record.
Could you please describe the implications of the title
‘Burn In Beautiful Fire’,
what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?
I have a tendency to appreciate darkness disguised in
contrasts. Soothing Torture, Silent Epidemic, Burn In Beautiful Fire;
those titles all have a placidness to them that seems to obfuscate their
more sombre intentions. Originally the title was supposed to be “Born In
Beautiful Fire” but the album cover was scrapped in the last minute, and
so the title was changed, to fit one of the songs.
About the lyrics, did anything in particular inspire your
lyrics and can you tell me more about them?
I had a soul searching moment a couple of years ago when
my best attempt at a relationship fell apart and I was forced to ask
myself if I could ever get a relationship to work. I don’t have an
answer to it yet, but the lyrics on this album are a consequence of
that. I’m not going to credit myself as being anything of a poet, but I
think I’ve dealt with some interesting emotions, at least for myself. In
a way, they are time stamps that I can go back to, to remind me of how
bad I felt at a junction in my life, hoping that I will learn from it if
I ever get there again.
How important is it to you that people pay attention to
your lyrics apart from listening to your music?
It would be cool if people got something from reading
them, but honestly I’m not going to sit here and claim to be Norwegian
metal’s Bob Dylan. It would be interesting to have the intelligenza
check them out and give their assessment, but I think the reviews would
be scathing. The most important thing for me is the One-liner. The line
that sets the mood, or that neatly wraps the riff and gives the song an
extra lift. They’re hard to come by, but I have a couple of them on the
album and I’m proud of that!
If someone was only going to read the lyrics and not
listen to the music, what would you hope they would take from them?
That the man writing them was genuinely hurt, sad and disappointed in
himself. The worst thing that could happen is that they think it’s a
14-year-old emo kid trying to be cool. Hahaha.
How hard was it to come up with a follow-up for ‘The
Silent Epidemic’ and what do you think are the main differences between
your previous albums and ‘Burn In Beautiful Fire’?
in my ears is a continuation of ‘silent…’, Whereas ‘Silent…’ was all
over the place musically, we managed to create much more of a solid
output on this one. It’s more to the point than anything we’ve done
previously. You could listen to this and hear that it’s the same band
all the way through.
How would you describe this album to someone that has
never listened to the band before?
We have trouble doing that. It’s a modern take on the heroes of the 90s.
By a fluke, we managed to say in an interview that “…we’ve taken the
best parts of all the different genres and created the “correct metal”.
Norwegian Correct Metal - NCM!” So to summarize; Insense is NCM!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of
things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry and your lyrics?
What are you personally into?
Well, I am Tommy, the vocalist and guitarist. I’ve been
into metal since I was a kid. Fan of Kiss, W.A.S.P., Metallica,
Sepultura, Obituary, Death, Gorefest (HUUUGE fan of False; Go
Netherlands), Fear Factory, Meshuggah and so on. These bands all
inspired me to play the music that I play. As long as I can remember
I’ve wanted to play in a band. Lyrically, what motivates me is the human
mind. I’m fascinated by how far we’ve come as a species, and baffled by
how far we could have come if we hadn’t been so damn stupid. In the end
we’re only animals, and a pathetic specimen at that.
Could you respond to the following terms in just one word
Metal : Truth
Underground : Honesty
Internet : God
Religion : Richard Dawkins
Politics : Most important, but permeated by self-serving idiots
The Netherlands : beer comb
Norway: Freia Melkesjokolade (only the best chocolate in the world)
What have been the highlights and low points throughout
I think our highlights are happening this year. We’ve had
an uphill battle since we started, basically because we came about in a
time when black metal was taking off. The scene shunned us because we
were not the hip thing. Now, after we recorded this album, we got
management, a new record label, booking agencies and what not. 2011 is
proving to be a great year for us, and I hope we’ll be able to press on.
What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? Is
there anything missing in the scene?
I think it’s good and it’s healthy. A lot more people are
open to metal these days. That means greater diversity and more
competitiveness among bands. I choose to think that bands understand
that “when I do well, it’s gonna rub off on you.” We have a healthy
metal scene growing in Oslo these days and I’m looking forward to more
prying eyes looking northward in the future!
How would you describe your own music?
Aggressive metal with a sense of melody, devoid of
hipster numetal shenanigans.
What makes Insense different from the other bands out
We haven’t placed all our eggs in one basket. I don’t
think that you’d pick up on our “originality” after listening to our
record once over. What we do well, is to interweave heavy, hard core and
aggressive riffs with good melodies. After a couple of spins you’d start
to pick up on details that are not at first apparent. I choose to think
that we have a flair for “the good melody”, and that’s what sets us
apart from the other ones. There’s longevity to what we do. We are never
going to be the new comet strike Korn or Slipknot, that fundamentally
changed the scene but we won’t disappear like all those
not-worth-mentioning bands that tried to copy them.
What can we expect from Insense in the near future? Any
The festival summer is due, we are doing some of those,
and then we hope to be on the road in Europe in the autumn. A support
spot for something bigger is the ideal situation I think; considering
we’d only be playing barroom shows on our own! Haha.
Where do you see the band going within the next couple of
years, and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the
We haven’t started making new music yet, although our
riffpool is surely filling up with ideas. Right now I’m hoping to take
the ‘Burn..’ recipe even further, make an album with even more
refinement than ‘Burn…’. How that will end up, I don’t know, but I know
I’m looking forward to it!
A last statement?
Yes, be sure to check out
www.insense.no for all the links and
info you need. Also, check out the pathetic “Insense 2011 Webisodes”
available at our YouTube channel
www.youtube.com/InsenseHQ. Thanks for
the interview and thanks for checking us out!
Martin Rygge - Guitar
Ola S. Hana - Bass
Tommy Hjelm - Vocals, Guitar
Truls Haugen - Drums
Eigil Dragvik - Vocals
Håvard Iversen - Drums
Magnus R. Ruud - Bass
2002 - Insense
2005 - Soothing Torture
2007 - The Silent Epidemic
2011 - Burn in Beautiful Fire