Insense 22/04/2011

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 Metal attack.


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



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!


Tommy: 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 short introduction? 


Tommy: 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 ‘Burn In Beautiful Fire’ and how much time did you spend on the songs?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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 silly issues.


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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: Burn…’ 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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 or sentence:


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 your career?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: Aggressive metal with a sense of melody, devoid of hipster numetal shenanigans.


What makes Insense different from the other bands out there?


Tommy: 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 touring plans?


Tommy: 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 next album?


Tommy: 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?


Tommy: Yes, be sure to check out for all the links and info you need. Also, check out the pathetic “Insense 2011 Webisodes” available at our YouTube channel Thanks for the interview and thanks for checking us out!




Current line-up 

Martin Rygge - Guitar 

Ola S. Hana - Bass 

Tommy Hjelm - Vocals, Guitar 

Truls Haugen - Drums 


Former/Past members 

Eigil Dragvik - Vocals   

Håvard Iversen - Drums   

Magnus R. Ruud - Bass   





2002 - Insense  

2005 - Soothing Torture  

2007 - The Silent Epidemic  

2011 - Burn in Beautiful Fire