The long awaited return of Vibeke Stene to the metal scene has finally happened in 2020. The former Tristania vocalist has teamed up with Asgeir Mickelson (ex Borknagar, ex Ihsahn, etc.) in a new Doom Metal band called Veil of Secrets. They’ve just released their self-produced debut album, “Dead Poetry”, so we contacted them to discuss the same and everything else related to the band.
RISE!: – Asgeir, I know you’ve been involved with some bands along these years, but Vibeke, tell us what you’ve been doing these years where you were not active in the music scene. I know you’ve been acting…
Vibeke Stene: Yes, I’ve participated in four plays at the theatre. That’s been my artistic expression during these years. Teaching takes most of my time.
R!: – Singing teacher?
VS: No, I’m a teacher at the primary school. I teach all lessons for the younger children. I teach them how to read and write. That’s nice.
R!: – You’ve started the God of Atheists project some years ago, what happened with that and why did you decide to start another project from scratch?
Asgeir Mickelson: Well, God of Atheists is a project, so that’s kind of an experiment. The idea was to make an extreme metal album with only Norwegian musicians, then I wanted a female vocalist as well and I checked the female vocalists in Norway and the one that I definitely liked the most was Vibeke. That’s why I asked her. Then there have been lots of delays and right now there are five bass tracks left to complete and that’s how it stands. Then we started to work together for Veil of Secrets, so I put the God of Atheists on hold in order to focus on the Veil of Secrets album. Now that the album is out, I can dig out the old files and see if I can get the GoA album done, but I need to get Lars (Norberg) into the studio to record the last bass tracks.
VS: Well, you can invite him here.
AM: He lives half an hour away from us, so now that we’ve built the studio, he can just come over here and record, so we’ll see.
R!: – How did you come up with the name Veil of Secrets?
VS: We had a little secret that we were working together. We liked the word “Secrets”. When we create music, it comes from within where our secrets are hidden. We liked that word, but we couldn’t find a way to use only “Secrets” in any language or form, so we had to think for a while until we ended with Veil of Secrets.
AM: I think there’s a South Korean girl band called The Secret. It’s really hard to find an original band name nowadays because everything is taken, but the word “Secret” fits well with Vibeke because she had become kind of a secret. At least since she quit Tristania, she’s been kind of hidden. The word “Secrets” would be a match for her. Then we needed another word and we added “Veil”. It sounded good and it fits the music.
VS: It fits the genre I think.
AM: You always want to find something original and really cool, but the years go by and you can’t find anything better, so you have to decide, you know?
VS: And those are my letters; VS, I like that. It’s my signature as well (laughs)
R!: – Yeah, I was thinking about that!
AM: So we’re going to start a new band using AM (laughs)
R!: – Who was responsible for the band’s logo?
VS: That was Mateusz Witczak.
AM: He’s a Polish visual typography artist who makes lots of logos. He’s a professional designer.
VS: We wanted these Doom style ornamental letters and we found his work on the internet and contacted him.
AM: He works for advertisement agencies and everything because he’s really great, but I think he makes most of his logos for tattoo shops because he has this typical style used by them. That also took a couple of years to work through because he was so busy.
R!: – What about the songs on the album? Were they written a long time ago? Maybe you had some God of Atheists riffs that you used for this or you just started everything from scratch?
VS: When we had been working together for God of Atheists, we got to know each other and I got to hear some material he had been working on. He had seven or eight doom songs and some of that material I really loved, so I asked him if I could sing on it.
AM: I’ve played guitar for some years before I switched to drums, then I didn’t play much guitar until 2002 when I bought the D/A converter for my Mac, so I could record on it. Then I started to play and write riffs and just have fun. Doom and thrash metal is what I grew up with, and of course the typical general heavy stuff like Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Kiss, etc. Then I started to write a lot of doom metal riffs, so the earliest songs are from 2002 and 2003, but I think the oldest riff on the album is from 1989 or 1990.
R!: – Wow! What riff is it?
AM: It’s the mid-section of “Sear the Fallen”. It’s a really old riff.
VS: But we made new songs for the album too.
AM: Well, when she asked to sing on the material, I had even talked to Messiah (ex Candlemass) to sing on it, but he said he didn’t have time because he was going to release a solo album. I think that was seven or eight years ago and he still hasn’t released anything. So I had been thinking about the typical male doom metal singer and then Vibeke asked to sing on it (laughs). I had to think about her proposal for a couple of days because I was so set into my vision and I had to forget that and rethink the whole band. Then I realized it was going to be great. I remember I was really happy when we decided to work together, so I wrote two songs immediately, which are “The Last Attempt” and “Entirety”. Those are the newer songs.
R!: – Actually the positive thing about her joining the band is that it sounds pretty unique. You have the traditional Doom, but you also have these unique vocals at the same time, so it’s not just Candlemass worship. You have also these Candlemass-like riffs, but sometimes, specially in “Sear the Fallen”, I’ve noticed some My Dying Bride influence too.
VS: That doesn’t come from him.
AM: I don’t think I had ever heard My Dying Bride at that point, but when you play single string guitars and have violins on top of that, and it’s doom metal, it’s bound to be close to My Dying Bride, but they’re a great band, so I have no problems with it.
R!: – So it wasn’t an influence, but just a coincidence.
AM: Yes. Then I’ve checked My Dying Bride and if it wasn’t for our band, I would probably listen to them because it sounds like they have a lot of cool music. But I won’t listen to MDB because I’m afraid of “stealing” something without knowing, so it’s better not to listen to anything (laughs)
R!: – But it turned out to be pretty original and that’s great.
VS: Thank you, we like that.
R!: – Asgeir, you’ve been playing many different styles over the years, why was this the right time to start a traditional Doom Metal band being the main songwriter?
AM: It has not been any timing at all other than trying not to delay it even more. We started working on this in 2013, so what we’ve done the most is doing nothing (laughs). We had so many other things to do, I have my own company which has grown and have less and less time to work on music.
VS: But I told you this album had to be done during 2020 (laughs)
AM: I actually got an ultimatum. I don’t remember when, but she gave me a date, I had to get the album done by then or else… (laughs). So I did, but that’s good, I need someone to crack the whip (more laughs). There have been so many things we had to find out. It’s a new band, so we had to find a label and eveything. I’m sure it’s gonna be a lot easier next time.
R!: – And you’ve produced this album yourselves, what do you think were the advantages of working this way? Would you do it again in the future?
VS: Of course we will. The advantage of doing it ourselves is that we get the sound that we want and with less interference.
AM: We have never done anything in this band looking outside in and thinking what we should do in order to sell as much as possible. We haven’t done that at all. I mean, we are grown ups and we’ve done what we wanted in music and know how we want it to sound. You know? Having a producer is like having another member in the band, so I think that unless you get the perfect producer, it’s going to make the band sound different than what you really want. That’s why we do it ourselves.
R!: – Talking about band members, you’ve actually recorded guitars, drums and bass by yourself. Is that just because you wanted it that way or you haven’t found the right musicians?
VS: We chose to keep Asgeir’s guitars. He is the only one who can manage his special sound.
AM: Well, I could do it. As a joke I say that “I’m not really a drummer, I’m just a mediocre guitarist” (laughs). I’ve played my demos to friends, and so many of them have said “you have to record the guitars because you got your own style”. They thought that if I found a different guitarist, it was going to sound kind of wrong.
VS: Yes. And then I don’t know if I could go for it (laughs). I need his feelings on the strings.
R!: – If you get to play live whenever that’s possible, will you be playing guitar or drums?
AM: Drums. Mostly because I’m going to make less mistakes playing drums than playing guitar (laughs). I don’t have to practice that much when playing drums, so it’s gonna be a lot easier for me.
R!: – What about the cover illustrations? Did you give Kjell Åge Meland instructions or did you just leave him do whatever he wanted inspired by the music?
VS: It was important to us to be true to the early doom genre and we wanted these brush strokes. We also had some ideas for colours that could make the atmosphere that we would like. We had some brainstorming meetings with him which I think gave him some ideas combined with listening to our music.
AM: Absolutely. He’s very passionate and you can see him absorbing everything, all the emotions and ideas.
VS: He’s so fantastic. We’re very pleased with his work and his ability to communicate with us and feel the art that he does. It’s like he catches what you’re not able to put words to.
AM: He kind of paints of our feelings and expressions. He catches them somehow. It was important for us that when you look at the cover and you see the painting and illustration, you know it’s doom metal. That’s the most important thing. It’s a way to express what the music is about, to understand it as soon as you see it.
VS: If they know the genre… because it’s a little bit old… I don’t know if the younger metalheads know it as well as we do.
AM: Now they’ll learn! (laughs)
R!: – Yes, they should (laughs)
AM: So when you look at it, it could have been painted last week or during the 1800’s or whatever. The point is that it’s timeless.
VS: It has amazing skies and clouds…
R!: – Let’s talk about the lyrics. What was the concept behind “The Lie of Her Prosperity”?
VS: That’s a very important personal point of view to the fact that I’m a woman in a man’s world, not only considering the metal scene, but in general. It comes out very passionate because it’s a big deal, not only for me, but for every woman. It’s a global challenge to live under oppression which is accepted and expected from your birth, so if you have the chance to say something about that, you have to do it. I felt I had to share this if I made a comeback. Asgeir needed some time to accept the expression and style of voice that I used on this song. Now I think he likes it, but he needed some time.
AM: Yeah, because I’ve been living with these songs for so many years, so that was a song that was difficult to accept at once. I had an expectation on how it was going to sound, so when she did something else, then I needed a lot of time to remove myself from my vision and then understand her. But we talked about it and she told me about the lyrics and everything, and as she said, it had to be like that.
VS: He gives me the space I need to express myself and I’m very grateful for that.
AM: As long as I don’t have to do the vocals, I’m fine with it (laughs)
R!: – That’s why you needed someone else to do the male vocals then (laughs)
VS: Yes, I needed a male voice to highlight my point on that song. Erling (Malm) does a great job on that.
AM: It’s like a question/answer thing.
VS: Yes, kind of.
R!: – What about “Remorseful Heart”?
VS: That’s a song full of pain. Lots of pain and bad conscience after you’ve hurt someone close really badly. Also here I needed Erling’s voice to emphasize continous self-torturing that follows such actions. All of the lyrics on this album are emotional in a way because they’re very personal, but I must say “Remorseful Heart” is my most emotional lyrics because what I’ve done still hunts me. I know I’m not the only one in the world that has done things that I’ve regretted, but it’s painful.
R!: – You’ve released a Lyric Video for “The Last Attempt” and now you plan to release a music video as well, right?
VS: Yes, we’re working on that one.
R!: – What details can you tell us about that or is it a secret?
AM: It’s a secret, a veil of secrets (laughs)
VS: We’ve spent a weekend shooting for the video.
AM: It’s in the last stages of the editing now, but we haven’t set any time or anything. We’ll see when it’s out.
VS: No date yet.
R!: – Vibeke, you have lots of fans in Latin America. You know that, right?
VS: Yes, I do!
R!: – I get a lot of messages from Latin America asking for you, specially from Brazil for some reason. Since I’m here in Norway, they ask me if I’ve seen you…
VS: Do you tell them I met you at Inferno Festival? (laughs)
R!: – Yes, exactly (laughs). So what memories do you have from Latin America when you were there with Tristania? Have you ever been there as a tourist as well?
VS: I was there as a tourist after some of the shows. I would like to do that again. My memories are the welcomes, the passion and the crowd. It’s amazing, it’s a grasp of air, it’s incredible and I would love to come back. The fans are so passionate and there is constant encouragement coming from the Brazilian fans. They’ve been encouraging me with their words and the “I Love You’s” (laughs). It kind of kept my head up high, I’ve seen all the comments coming in and through years of nothingness they’ve been there for me. They’ve been waiting and waiting and I’m so grateful for the fact that they never stop believing in me, like I could do (laughs). Sometimes I stopped believing that anything musically would come my way again, but now we’re here.
R!: – You’re finally back!
VS: I’m finally back! (laughs). So I hope they love our work in “Dead Poetry”.
R!: – What bands are you listening to these days?
VS: I’m not listening too much really. Not during a normal day. When I’m meeting up with friends and stuff like that, we put on some music of course.
AM: It tends to be old hits (laughs)
VS: I always listen to…
AM: She forgot the name of the bands (laughs). There’s not much music in our house.
VS: Yes, there is. There’s a lot of singing and playing. Playing the piano and singing out loud.
AM: She sings a lot.
R!: – So you play the music yourselves then.
AM: Yes, but you know? I’ve been working with Scream Magazine for years, so I had to get myself updated and check out at least some of the new bands that are coming. I can listen to one or two songs and then listen to the next band. It’s really hard to find new bands that you really fall for.
VS: There are some bands I always need to listen to when I’m in search of a certain mood.
AM: British goth bands.
R!: – Sisters of Mercy for example?
VS: Yes, I love to listen to Sisters of Mercy. I went to see them in Berlin last year, that was amazing. Sometimes I listen to Nick Cave and Type O Negative. I like this girl band… (laughs). I don’t know if they’re dead or if they’re old and don’t sing anymore… The Shakespear Sisters. I love listening to them and they have influenced me quite a bit because they have one member who sings with a light voice and one girl who sings with this deep voice. It’s kind of theatrical, sometimes political, and they played their own guitars, I think. I also listen to Norwegian singer/songwriters such as Jan Eggum and Kari Bremnes.
R!: – Yes, I know who they are now (laughs)
VS: You do? That’s great!
R!: – What’s on the top of your bucket list right now?
AM: We want to play live of course. That’s pretty high up on the bucket list. Then start working on the next album.
VS: Yes, we already have some material and we have our studio.
AM: We’re setting the new studio right now.
R!: – So it’s not going to take that much time this time.
VS: Not eight years this time.
AM: Hopefully just a couple of years. I guess we have 80 or 90% of the basic material for the next album.
VS: We’re looking very much forward to start working with it. That’s what I like the most, the work from scratch, to put it all together.
AM: You’re creating something that didn’t exist before, and that’s such a special feeling.
VS: You try something, you take it back and you try again and then you hit it.
AM: I talked to my son yesterday, he’s 16, and I’ve asked him “Have you listened to the album yet?”. He didn’t know it was out. I told him that now he could listen to the album that he’s been hearing his whole life while he was growing up, listening to it again and again (laughs)
VS: Poor guy (laughs)
AM: So he’s the one who has listened to the songs the most besides us.
R!: – Thanks a lot for the interview!
VS: Thank you!
Dead Poetry – 2020
“The Last Attempt” (Lyric Video):