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Bilde, fotograf: Richard Sahlin
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Nattehimmel, Night Sky if translated, the band sums up the name as a curiosity towards the infinity, the everlasting, the insane greatness of what’s out there. It ties with what frontman James has been using as the foundation of his long lasting band Ewigkeit, and it is the question most people have twisted their mind to.
Musically the band is located where In The Woods… left off with the debut album, and parts of the music I felt was squeezed behind the demo and the debut, so we’re talking ancient woods, perhaps Nattehimmel will be a band fans of the older material will embrace?
And why not? The core of the band is the Botteri twins, which possess the support beam in the classic In the Woods… sound, and James was the vocalist on the last two albums. The underrated drummer Sven, also a member of Strange New Dawn, has been a part of the local scene from the early days, and his contribution is not too far from being a possible Kobroish deliverance.
Just recently James flew to Norway, to be with the band, to rehearse, to make a video and to just hang with the guys. As I spent a couple of days with them, my curiousness on Nattehimmel grew. Black metal isn’t usually on my menu, but as the guys are all good guys, and the fact the music is not that black metal, and the ties to one of the most important local bands for me is present, I found the listening session and the social aspect well worth the hours spent.
We will be touching both Nattehimmel and the reasons for the trio leaving Woods, but hopefully it will be a matter of airing some thoughts on the latter, and focusing most on the upcoming Nattehimmel album.
The band, Nattehimmel, came together last year, in December, though some of the material is something the Botteries and Sven have been sketching for some years. Sven told me the drums was tracked four or even five years back, and that some of the drums will be re-recorded. The album, the band has secured a deal with Hammerheart Records, will be in the shops during this year, probably later than sooner.
Christian says he was kind of surprised James left Woods, and that he contacted them to do this band together. "I was kind of surprised, yeah, I figured James was an important member of the band, and I also was impressed with the last album they did with him."
Cease the Day was an album James pretty much said was "…made to secure the label Debemur Morti some funds due to a financial situation within the band." And James points out if this hadn’t been the case, he probably wouldn’t have stayed because of some problems within the band.
Christian adds: "When James contacted us, we told him we had Strange New Dawn, a full band, and if we were to form a new band, the band needed to sound different from Strange New Dawn. It was James’ idea to focus on the In The Woods… debut, Heart of the Ages."
Musically, from hearing the songs myself, they do sound like an early version of Woods, and I pointed out it might be a release appealing to the older fans. As In The Woods… these days seems to drift a bit from the classic sound from the early/mid 90s, why not offer Nattehimmel as an alternative for those wanting to hear what the Botteries has to say? They were the core of Woods and it’s history, and their sound and playing is an important piece of the palette.
James points out this, Nattehimmel, is the extreme side of the twins, a side he felt needed to be heard again. Christian: "I think people will be shocked this is so extreme, considering what we have done lately." Christopher says he and his brother had plans back in 2007 to do some metal stuff, "…but it didn’t materialize until now." I mention the fact that the brothers did in fact distance themselves from metal for many years, and from arriving with the Strange New Dawn concept, the jump to Nattehimmel will, as mentioned, be a shock for those who know them.
When Hammerheart arrived with a contract after just a few weeks from the band starting up, it proves the Nattehimmel idea was of interest for the metal scene.
Then we talk a bit about the James leaving Woods situation, which Christian said earlier was a surprise to him. Christopher agrees. They ask James, "Why did you leave In The Woods…?" "I was rather upset on the way the twins was treated" he says. Christian was sacked, Christopher was also sacked, a bit later. Rather than doing some legal issues on the name, they decided to just stand down and start something new. "It was kind of wrong being sacked as we are two of the core members", Christopher says, "…and Janki and we were the main body of the sound in building it." My view is it is better to bury the past sometimes, and Christopher agrees, and sharing his pride over Nattehimmel, and that they will look forward towards making music with this band now.
James revisits the financial situation, "…the label needed to get some funds paid back, and I stayed to make Cease The Day for this purpose." He did the bass, the keyboards, the vocals and the solo guitars, but not the rhythm, "…’cause I told them then I will be doing too much." You stayed on just to secure the label some money? "Yeah, you know, the label is into the music, they love the music, but at the same time it is a business, they need to pay their rent and expenses." And from my view Phil and Debemur Morti is a stand up label, doing things on a high level of quality work. Just pick up the In The Woods… collector box with the first four albums. An excellent release. There is no way of finding any Woods on Debemurs page these days, but looking at Discogs, there are versions of the first two available through a Brazilian label from back a couple of years, and the bands new home, Soulseller, has reissued the debut in 21, and the Omnio just recently, in February of this year. "But we haven’t seen any money from these" the twins says. Hopefully their musical legacy at one point will secure them some kind of metallic pension ;).
And the stretch between the Cease album, towards you leaving, what kept you aboard James? "The pandemic of course" he says, smiling. He also tells me it was hard to be creative in the woods, and things took a long time to finish. Him and the twins are effective, that’s why Nattehimmel is coming together this fast, "…and we are getting things done fast." Now the pandemic is over, Nattehimmel is producing their music and videos as we speak, In the Woods… has arrived out from the pandemic as well, new album is coming out, I for one are excited to see what all of this will bring. You have Strange New Dawn and Nattehimmel, pretty much sums the two sides of the early to late 90’s Woods, and the new In the Woods… doing the rounds with a new and different vocalist, yeah, I’m looking forward to finding out how things develop.
Regarding the tour in the wake of the Pure album, which was the twins final tour with the In the Woods…, and the nail in the coffin for them ever to play with the band again, Christians is eager to say to the fans that he had a really bad experience, playing 8 gigs with a broken Achilles heel, and a constant push towards finishing the tour rather than deal with the problem. So now the people that saw the guitarist struggle, now know why this was. "I was about to collapse at the end, in Romania" Christians says. "The tour was a complete chaos" James adds. Let’s hope the system will work better when and if Nattehimmel will do some gigs, hopefully this will happen. "But probably in Norway and perhaps in the Uk first" Christian says.
The twins aren’t very digital and have pretty much no way of airing their story themselves. That’s why they haven’t come forth with their side back in 2017, when all of this came tumbling down. They have both lost a lot of money, getting pretty much nothing into their accounts. They’re introvert, but do know what they want, and from feeling badly treated on occasions, they are now aiming for a new dawn, with two bands hooking up the future and the past. It is important to separate the two situations as well, and if they want to share their story, they need to do it as a kind of biography.
Back to the night sky.
The twins and Sven sent some songs to James, and James picked out those who fitted the concept. "It was crucial the songs for Nattehimmel weren’t similar to Strange New Dawn" James says. "To separate the two bands. And I’m not involved in making the music, Sven and the twins are taking care for this. If you need to write some black-ish metal, I do an album for my band Old Forest. This is the twins and Svens musical journey, with me. I just get the multi tracks, dress them up with vocals and some lead guitars, and that’s it." Christian: "It’s teamwork, every member is of equal importance" he says, strengthening the unity as a band. Christopher: "Me and my brother can be on different pages a lot, be it politics, religion etc., but we have always worked well together when it comes to music. This is an important reason why we have survived through the years, together, and still, we hang out making music today.
The music is oldschool black metal, with inspirations from the early scene, which the twins were a part of. "And bands that I and Sven at least, were fans of; Old Emperor, Old Dimmu, Gehenna…" James adds. "But only in music, we’re a bit old to run around in the mountains with corpse paint." But hey, you can do the eye shadow and some lipstick? The band laughed, but I’m not sure they like my joke :). Christopher: "We can do some David Coverdale ish". As they won’t fight for the name In The Woods…, my suggestion was In The hoods… as the twins often uses hooded jackets. I am laughing at least.
To secure a professional ish situation, Christian jumps in: "Me and James are very effective, and I believe, if everything goes as planned, we will be ready with our second album next year."
And Sven? The drummer? He is a quiet dude, but I asked him if it was difficult to find the time to do two bands: "Nope, no problem" he responded. "But this is enough" he adds and laughs. But even though its mostly the same people? "Yeah." I pointed out it has to be a different experience to be a drummer in these bands, ‘cause in Strange New Dawn the possibilities are endless, in Nattehimmel it's more limited, as it is a more limited style of metal. Sven is also very skilled in doing layout, he has made the videos for Strange New Dawn, and I have even borrowed his skills for a band I play in. He is an underrated piece of the local metal scene, that’s for sure! An asset. And we should not forget the big brother of the twins, Richard, he is the bands fifth member, occupying the chair when it comes to producing, and being a multi tool for the band. And he has been at their side forever, always helping.
If the band is up for it, if people like the music, if the media is asking for interviews, if touring is happening? "Absolutely" Christopher says, "I’m ready to do interviews." Christian, you were kind of a shadow back in the 90s, introvert, didn’t do too many gigs, and your experiences on the Pure tour, this doesn’t scare you from a potential tour with Nattehimmel? "No, not at all, I’ll do gigs." He do have some thoughts on the pandemic situation, and who knows, hopefully it’s over, but Christian is a bit cautious on the possibilities on the travelling and touring bits as of yet. Hence the piece on touring Norway and perhaps the Uk at first. James is probably doing vocals and guitar, to strengthen the sound, and Christopher points out James is a better frontman when he sings and plays guitar.
So, a fine bunch of people, just sitting together, talking, laughing, reminiscing, a fine evening just outside of Kristiansand. It strikes me as a cathartic process, some old grunts need to come out, but the main reason why they are here, and which makes them go woooaaah the most, is when talking about Nattehimmel. Will this be a band gone in a year? Will it be a band doing life? Or something in between? Not easy to say, but here we are, this is what it is, remember to check it out when its ready. Black metal with some nuances, lyrics building on astrology, philosophy, the unknown. The guys seem pleased with the lyrics coming from James, Sven has red some, and both he and the twins trusts the Englishman with the textual component.
The name? Oh, you’re wondering why they chose the name? It is, as mentioned early on in this article, meaning Night Sky, Norwegian for Nattehimmel. It is the difference and the same for everyone looking for something out there, they all gaze at the stars wondering what’s out there. Christopher reveals it was a play on the excellent, enormously powerful album from the band Thule (Natt), and it was in fact James arriving with the full name; "…it is a Norwegian band, might as well have a Norwegian name" he said with a tad posh Uk-style obviousness :). And at the same time gesticulating with his hands towards the roof, to hint towards the sky, the stars…
What the future will bring we don’t know, but now the twins and James has left the woods for good, Sven is a great drummer and person, Richard is there to assist, they got a great rehearsal place, it’s a great friendship, they all want the same – so lest lift our heads towards the sky, and wish the band good luck with what’s coming.
From the demo cassette: