Bands with the ability to crossover between genres and attract/convert fans from a variety of musical backgrounds have always been the ones to have grabbed my ear. Those groups that either can’t sit still musically or have that certain je ne sais quoi that has them peeping above the pack are always more interesting than listening to the same old menu of orthodoxy. Rooted in classic black metal, Oslo’s Tulus has been knocking over gravestones and church pews since 1991 and recently the trio issued their sixth album, and first since 2012, in the form of Old Old Death via Soulseller Records.
Marrying old-school rock swagger, punky pacing and off-kilter thrash with coffin-scented death metal and the early sounds of Norse blackness, Tulus and yours truly have had a certain connection in that drummer Thomas “Sarke” Berglie, Sverre “Blodstrup” Stokland and new-ish bassist Stian “Crowbel” Kråbøl were the first to speak to my then-black metal adverse ears. To celebrate the new album, I caught up with Sarke for a quick chat about simplicity, keeping it old, then keeping it older.
What were you looking to achieve or possibly do differently with Old Old Death? Was there anything different about the way the album was written or recorded that was unique when compared to how things have been done in the past?
Thomas “Sarke” Berglie: “The thing with this album is that we wanted to do the same thing as we did on our first album. Usually, bands strive to progress and evolve and we have also done things differently on each album. We are still pleased with our debut album. So, after all these years, we are back to the first formula again: very basic and raw riffs, simple drums beats. The album was recorded live in studio; no click-track, full band rocking out, full songs recorded all the way through.”
How long was Old Old Death in the works and how much did the album change since you began working it in the period after Olm og Bitter?
“After Olm og Bitter there was a longer break. I will say we worked about a year on the songs for this album. We get ideas and write songs both at home and at rehearsal. Of course, some of the songs and riff ideas can change when we work on the songs. That is to make it all work together with tone, tempo, drive, how to keep it interesting and to feel a complete song that will work both on the album and live. We have no leftover songs. If the idea for a song doesn’t work at rehearsal, we throw it away.”
What is the significance behind the title of the new album? Is there a particular story behind why you went with the title you went with? Were there any other titles up for consideration?
“Our lyrics often deal with death in one way or the other. It often goes way back in time to the dark past. So, I feel this title fits the Tulus concept very well. And I feel ‘Old Death’ was far from good enough. We needed to go way back in time… more rotten, more smelly, more into the ancient past of pain and darkness. Therefore, Old Old Death. We had ‘Morbid Castle’ on the shortlist, but we did not think that was a title for Tulus.”
Tulus has always been a band that both fans and non-fans of black metal could enjoy because of the different take on the genre. Is that something you’ve heard over the years from people who aren’t everyday ordinary black metal fans? How has being more on the outside of the black metal orthodoxy helped or hurt the band?
“It’s good to hear you say that. I have heard that before. I think that is because we often have a basic rock groove as a solid foundation. We like to keep it simple, clear and groovy. Our sound also makes it easier to get into it and hear what is actually going on in the music. Our vocal is black metal and hard, but it’s not so screamy and high pitched. Our inspiration comes from the first generation of black metal and they got their inspiration from the ‘70s rock scene. To this, we added the Norwegian cold black metal feel in order to create a dark, cold atmosphere that’s hard and mystic.
Tulus has always done things our way and done things a bit differently. We started with Norwegian black metal in 1991. There is often talk about Norwegian black metal in books, films, forums and so on and Tulus is hardly never mentioned anywhere. So, I guess it has not helped us in popularity, but for us, it’s important to always do our own thing.”
After many years and albums, how would you say the personal and creative meaning and significance of Tulus changed over time?
“I don’t think it has changed too much. I still make the music in the same way as 30 years ago. I don’t use any computer or tracking system or a home studio. It’s still all acoustic and in my head. We don’t make any demos of the songs before going into the studio. Just rehearse, then into studio. And for me, it’s always about creating an atmosphere in the songs. To put sounds on a picture, idea or words and hopefully after many years we’ve matured in how we can make better songs, but that can always be debatable. Take bands like AC/DC, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Metallica and so on; are their latest releases their best….?”