Nortfalke on a Haunted Shore

Roughly 90 percent of the music that is uploaded daily on Black Metal Promotion is anchored around the structure of a traditional rock band. Meaning: the instruments most commonly used are guitar, bass, drums, vocals and the occasional synthesizer. On the surface that is. However, when you take a spade and really want to get to the bottom of bottoms, you will find that synthesizers and electronic/ambient music in general have always been part of 1990s Black Metal its aural arsenal and atmosphere. Take for instance “Sylvester Anfang” by Mayhem, a dark ambient piece that Conrad Schnitzer (Tangerine Dream) gave to Euronymous. Which he used as the opening track for the now legendary ‘Deathcrush’ EP from 1987. Or the droning synth work of “Channeling the Powers of Souls into a New God” found on Burzum’s first demo from 1991. The last example, and probably one of the biggest contributors of the subgenre that we now refer to as Dungeon Synth, is undoubtedly Mortiis. In 1993 he released the demo cassette ‘The Song of a Long Forgotten Ghost’ that started it all, and is seen by many as the elder of said offshoot. 

For those who are still reading this somewhat lengthy justification for the relevance of Dungeon Synth on this here website, I now further want to acquaint you with the sounds and spells of NORTFALKE. A highly productive multi-instrumentalist hailing from the haunted shores and misty moors also known as The Netherlands. He first tested the waters by releasing a piece called “Verscholen dimensies” in 2017 through Bandcamp. Shortly after more releases followed rapidly in different formats and via different labels. Since May of 2021 he dropped two full-lengths: ‘Seefonktjúenderee’ (Dunkelheit Produktionen), ‘Moonjeie’ (Heidens Hart) and one EP ‘Schijnsel’ (Lafawijn Records). Bringing the total of close to a dozen releases within a five year period. If that wasn’t enough, more is yet to come in the remainder of 2022. Starting with a compilation initiated by Nortfalke called: ‘Conspiracy in Blood and Wisdom’ (Dark Dutch Synth Music Compendium) to be released on November 11th via Heidens Hart Records in digipack format. The front cover was created by none other than The Specter of Old Tower. Thus, enough reason to delve deeper into the musings and motivations of spellcaster NORTFALKE. Below you will find a report of our meeting.        

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The fourth track “Mooi Wintermones Opkomst” from ‘Moonjeie’ (Heidens Hart Records)

To begin with, I’m curious to the meaning of Nortfalke and your story up until now. Can you shed some light on these matters? 

“It’s a combination of two words: Nort (North) and Falke (Falcon) and have territorial and symbolic value. The former is where I come from, which is the Northern part of the Netherlands. It’s the culture and its history I connect with. Black Metal is about Winter, not about Summer, it can be Summer, but it’s not quite the Carribbean here, you know? The latter is a bird of prey that, especially in the Middle Ages, had symbolic meaning like power, strength and superiority. As for when I came up with the name… Well, I had used Nortfalke for some old school Black Metal projects, like ten years ago or something. But then I thought: “It fits better with the music that I now make”, which is Dungeon Synth, Dark Ambient and Berlin School (a style of electronic music that emerged in the 1970s in West-Berlin that was shaped by artists such as Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Gottsching, Ed.). So I thought it was a good match, still do by the way. Besides, a lot of people in Black Metal do the same, using their old name for their solo projects. I did too, not knowing that this (Dungeon Synth) would become so important to me.”

“As far as I can remember I have been doing synth music, I think since 1998 (a demo from the same year called “Uit een ver verleden”, can be found here YouTube, Ed.) even earlier than that. I was taking piano lessons and already made songs in that period and recorded them for my first Dwaallicht-demo. But then I found out that Dwaallicht was already taken by some other band around the MySpace-era (2003 – 2008, Ed.), so I dropped the name. Which was a bit sad, because it was good enough for me. But I always made synth music between the “regular” Black Metal stuff. Early on I was interested in keyboards and synthesizers. Because I listened to Black Metal with synthesizers and created it myself. For me, the two went hand in hand. So the interest was there right from the beginning when I started to make music.”

“But like, ten years ago I really started to feel the need to develop it more. It was another way of making music, you can use a lot of synthesizers and layer the sounds. Of course, you can do the same with guitars, but it’s not the same. Altough the purists among us will deny this. There are so many different synthesizers and especially synthesizer engines. Each engine has its own unique sound. If you layer them, it will be a very original and big type of soundscape. Which you can’t create with guitars. But the feeling between synthesizers and Black Metal isn’t that far off. It has to be atmospheric, dark, epic, cosmic and folkish. I think the type of sounds and atmosphere are almost the same. Then again, there are loads of different types, but my creations all have the same spirit.”    

Do you make much effort to keep your real name a mystery?  

“A little bit. Because it can affect the atmosphere I want to create. It’s not a secret. But I’ve got a daytime job, a family. To mix those worlds would be unwise. Meaning: Black Metal is always about looking for the edge, always exploring the boundaries of the conventional. And society, in general can’t understand what we are doing. If people from work, or clients will know what I’m doing, and some do… But I’d rather keep those two worlds separated. Otherwise I would have to explain it to everyone all the time, and I don’t want that. Besides, I want to create a mystic atmosphere and a pseudonym helps with that.”  

Is Nortfalke just a studio entity? Or do you also perform live?   

“We have played live on two occasions, both times with Mortiis. The second gig was with Old Tower, which I think is a great Dungeon Synth/Dark Ambient act. Also a friend of mine. I just got a gig confirmed for January 28th, 2023 in Landgraaf at Oefenbunker. I’m planning on doing more live shows for the near future. I just recorded a new album of old school Dungeon Synth, which will be easy to translate to a live setting. So yes, playing live will become more important.” 

Is it just you? Or do you play with someone else, or with more people maybe? 

“I can play everything on my own. But normally I bring along a friend of mine, that plays the bass notes and some leads as well.” 

You also use some percussion, right? 

“Yes, live I have used some real percussion, but now I’ve also programmed percussion within a sampler. The thing is, I really want to bring along a drummer or percussionist, but I also want it to stay a small group. Two would be maximum. Three would be nice, but then we also have to rehearse more and plan more etcetera… So two is enough. Like I said, I programmed bits of percussion and will still do some live myself.” 

Dungeon Synth is a fairly new subgenre that is closely tied to Black Metal. Why do you think it has such an appeal to the underground? 

“It depends, I think most Black Metal nowadays sounds too modern, very smooth sounding albums with decent productions and what not. I guess people get bored with that kind of Black Metal sometimes. They need a side dish or something, you know? Something different, but with the same feeling. The same atmosphere. And a lot of intro’s and intermezzo’s already are Dungeon Synth-like. Just listen to Summoning for instance, it’s all Dungeon Synth but with guitars. Which is also very popular within that scene. I think it was already there, but nowadays people are interested in making Dungeon Synth. Maybe because it’s much easier and cheaper to use computers now than it was before, which I don’t do myself. I am a hardware man. Recording with lots of different hardware synths and effects. But I don’t know, people are all the time looking for something new and something different.” 

The front cover of ‘Conspiracy in Blood and Wisdom’ (Dark Dutch Synth Music Compendium)

created by The Specter from Old Tower

Order at Heidens Hart Records HERE

What about the compilation? I heard that you were closely involved and even made some paintings for the booklet?  

“That was my initiative to create a compilation with Dark Ambient and Dungeon Synth songs from artists from The Netherlands. It’s a fairly new and original idea, I think. It comes from ‘The Absolute Supper’ compilation by Cold Meat Industry (a Swedish underground label now defunct, Ed.) from 1997, but that’s more Noise/Dark Ambient. That’s where I got the inspiration from. Like I said, it will contain Dutch artists only and off the top my head they are: Old Tower, Erschreinung, Orodruin, Blot, Vetus Sepulcrum from Mories, Nortfalke and my side project Dúnåtters, which is more like trollish kind of Dungeon Synth, and some lesser known projects. It’s a mixture of old and new acts and it will be released on digipack by Heidens Hart Records in November.”

“The artwork was made by The Specter from Old Tower. And yes, I’ve also contributed some art for the booklet. I’m really looking forward to it. I hope that Black Metal people are open-minded enough, I think they are, to explore the world of Berlin School, Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient. If you think about it, they already like such music. Because Mortiis was a big name in the Black Metal scene of the Nineties, but after the Dungeon Synth albums he recorded more like gothic type of music. But now he’s coming back to Dungeon Synth, because I think he also understands that it’s gotten bigger and Dungeon Synth originated from Mortiis, so. It’s nice that he’s returning to it.” 

You are quite productive when it comes to recording and releasing music, so in that light: apart from the three records you have released since last year, what more can we expect from Nortfalke in the foreseeable future? 

“I recorded three albums and one long epos with a duration of something like thirteen minutes. One is a Winter Synth album mixed by JB van der Wal and will be released by Heidens Hart Records. Plus one more Underground/Old School Dungeon Synth combined with some Ambient stuff, which will be released by New Era Productions this year. Also one album that will be remixed, because I wasn’t satified with the end result. And as I mentioned before, I recorded a thirteen-minute intro or epos, for Bølzer from Switzerland. With vocals from Okoi and will be used for their upcoming tour with Tribulation, Abbath and Watain (this tour took place last September, Ed.). I have also been recording for a new project with JB van der Wal, which will be Synthesizer/Space Rock/Sludge kind of thing. So with real drums, bass guitar, synths and the vocals will probably be done by Okoi (Bølzer), if he has the time for it.” 

How do you keep things interesting? Do you experiment with different instruments for example?    

“I’m planning to record new material with real instruments, like a harmonium, maybe with acoustic guitars, xylophone, woodblock… I really want to record a Dungeon Synth album without synths, haha. About experimenting: the latest Old School Dungeon Synth album is recorded with a sampler, it had no sounds at all. I had to record my own sounds within the sampler, a microSAMPLER. It was a new and fun thing to do, because I recorded my own voice, but also flutes. And I recorded percussion in a WW2 bunker, to get a big sounding  hall reverb from it. I think the album sounds original because I created the sounds myself. So I’m far from done and you can expect a whole lot more from me. I have like twenty-five synthesizers and I also want to combine those. Each time I bought a new synthesizer, I had new inspiration because of the new sounds within it. I have still so many synthesizers that I haven’t used yet on an album. On top of that, I’ve actually lost two (unmixed) albums, because my hard drive crashed. I’m still hoping I can fix it, as I really liked what I recorded. However, I’m afraid it’s lost forever… But hey, I’ll record something new again, fuck it!” 

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