Djevel’s Advocate: 10 Works of Genius by Norway’s Finest
“I skogen og elverne finnes en grusom smerte,
Og den som ikke tror er galere enn presten.” /
“In the forest and the rivers there is a brutal pain,
And those who don’t believe are madder than the priest.”
Are you a black metal purist and elitist? Then you’re probably aware of how Djevel, one of the greatest BM bands around, conquers with their true Norwegian sound. Djevel is the brainchild of Trånn Cieklas, a.k.a. “Darktrond.” Trånn has stated that he founded Djevel in 2009/2010 and that he first embarked on his black metal journey around 1992/1993. Trånn is so true to the old ways that he once told Dagsavisen that he hasn’t incorporated any new styles since the early ’90s.
Djevel focuses on devil worship, Norwegian culture, folklore, death, etc. Trånn, a camping partner of Darkthrone‘s Fenriz, explained to Byas that Norwegian BM should be about “Skog, fjord og den hedenske tradisjonen” / “Forest, fjord, and pagan tradition.” You might have guessed from the Fenriz reference that Trånn currently resides outside Oslo. Trånn actually had a hand in revitalizing one of the city’s most important landmarks: He helped Neseblod Records move into the space that was once occupied by Euronymous’ infamous store and meeting place, Helvete.
This April, Djevel was honored with a 2021 Spellemann award, or “Norwegian Grammy,” for their seventh and latest album, Tanker som rir natten (2021). Djevel’s current lineup is the best yet: Trånn, of course; ex-Emperor‘s Bård Guldvik Eithun, or “Faust”; and Djevel’s new vocalist, multi-instrumentalist Eskil Blix (Mare, Vemod, ex-Kaosritual, etc.). Eskil, also known by monikers like “Azazil”/”Kvitrim,” is one of the most important figures in the Nidrosian BM scene. Djevel certainly has a Nidrosian vibe, which is one of the reasons we find them so magnetic. Nidaros’ Nosophoros (Mare, Dark Sonority, Ritual Death, etc.) plays live with the band along with former full-time member Mannevond (ex-Urgehal[!], Koldbrann, etc.).
Tomorrow, Djevel will drop the track “Kronet av en væpnet haand.” Because all Djevel’s songs are masterpieces, we anticipate that their latest gem will cause Hell to freeze over. In celebration, we are stoked to present our list of 10 must-hear songs by Djevel!
Get out your knives. The instrumental track “Ingen vei tilbake,” on which you will hear what sounds like a blade being sharpened, serves as an eerie intro to Dødssanger. “Djevelheim” follows on its roughshod hooves. This pick is Dødssanger‘s only song featuring Trånn as the lead vocalist. However, he provided additional clean and harsh vocals elsewhere on the record and played guitar throughout. Hjelvik‘s Erlend Hjelvik, who fronted the hugely popular Stavanger band Kvelertak at the time, was the album’s main voice. “Djevelheim” gives way to the highly unusual “Mørkefødt,” so keep listening.
“Vaar forbannede jord”
Based on “Vaar forbannede jord,” we understand why Trånn believes that Djevel’s music is best experienced in solitude. Trånn is especially interested in creating moods and feelings, and this selection definitely sets a misanthropic tone. This rare slice of madness is wedged between the all-too-cool intro “Skritt for Skritt Mot Mareritton” and “Hode og hals i doedsvals.”
“Vaar forbannede jord” hails from Djevel’s third full-length release Saa raa og kald (2015). This “raw” and “cold” album certainly lives up to its title. Trånn revealed to Metal Invader that Saa raa og kald was recorded in locations, such as rehearsal spaces and the member’s homes, as opposed to an actual studio. It is mind-blowing to think that the band was not in the same room, Trånn created almost all the lead guitars on the spot, and the process took four days.
“Vi slakter den foerste og den andre, den tredje lar vi gaa mot nord”
“Vi slakter den foerste og den andre, den tredje lar vi gaa mot nord” melds the beautiful with the savage. This oddity was the ideal way to kick off Norske ritualer (2016) — an album that is even more raw than Djevel’s previous offering, Saa raa og kald. Norske Ritualer‘s third song, “Doedskraft og tri nagler,” showcases Hoest of Taake. Hoest’s vocals were recorded at the famous Grieghallen by none other than Eirik “Pytten” Hundven — black metal’s greatest producer. Meanwhile, Djevel turned to their longtime collaborator Rubin Willem at Caliban Studios. We also recommend Norske ritualer‘s “Med tornespiger var han haengt.” Tthe finale, “Afgrunds Engle,” has a narcotic effect on us.
“Maanen skal være mine øine, den skinnende stierne mine ben, og her skal jeg vandre til evig tid”
“Ravnen paa himmelen, vargen paa jorden møtes i en sirkel av kraften…” / “The raven in the sky, the wolf on earth meet in a circle of power.” Djevel’s songs, which can be remarkably long, often have the sense of sprawling vastness of a forest that swallows you in its hidden mires. “Maanen skal være mine øine, den skinnende stierne mine ben, og her skal jeg vandre til evig tid” is no exception. This awe-inspiring, snow-capped track debuted in advance of Tanker som rir natten.
This record consists of songs that clock in around 10-minute mark, aside from the instrumental title track. In discussion with This Is Black Metal, Trånn has described Tanker som rir natten as a “transcendental meditation.” The cover art perfectly suits this purpose. This nature photo was taken by Eskil, whereas Djevel has previously collaborated with the likes of Truls Espedal, artist to Enslaved.
“Norges land og rike”
“Norges land og rike” delivers everything you’ve come to expect from norsk svartmetall and more. “Norges land og rike” is another unforgettable moment from Saa raa og kald. Other album highlights include the title track, “Salmesang og knokkelklang,” and “Om prest i pest” — a song inspired by how priests died during their attempts to save souls in the age of the bubonic plague.
“Da kvinnene brant”
Returning to the topic of Dødssanger, Trånn informed Metal Norge that he is especially pleased with “Vi malte verden i sort” as well as this favorite song of ours. “Da kvinnene brant” contains backing vocals from Nekromantheon‘s Sindre Solem, who has played live with Djevel on bass. “Da kvinnene brant” later appeared on the split Korp (2018), which included artists like Kari Rueslåtten. Do you remember Kari’s work, which she would soon come to regret, with Satyr and Fenriz’s Storm?!
In any case, considering the quality of “Da kvinnene brant” it’s surprising that Trånn and Mannevond only rehearsed twice for Dødssanger. What’s more is that four songs were completely new to Erlend when he recorded them. We are wild about Dødssanger‘s finale, “Paktens ende — i Satans eie.” As you might have guessed from this aforementioned title, Dødssanger is an effort about making a pact with the devil.
“Ormer til armer, maane til hode”
Brace yourself for 6+ minutes of brutal perfection. The fire-breathing “Ormer til armer, maane til hode” boldly introduces Djevel’s 2019 album by the same name. Trånn revealed to No Clean Singing that some of the record’s songs were made in 15 minutes, which confirms the idea that genius works in mysterious ways. Trånn is certainly a master of spontaneity. Listen for the highly unique “Det eders herre lover er mer enn hva mennisket taaler.” Djevel ends Ormer til armer, maane til hode on a truly great note, as always, with “Illoeygd foedt som Satans barn, paa ferd uden spor af menneskeverd.”
“Her er ikke spor af mennesker”
“Her er ikke spor af mennesker” is a tale of desolation that will send shivers through your body. This unearthly delight appears on Blant svarte graner (2018), which was Djevel’s first release without Erlend. Thus, vocals were covered by Mannevod and Trånn on this album and the next. Blant svarte graner was also Djevel’s first output with Faust, who replaced Dirge Rep. He is obviously a stellar drummer, who injects his work with so much personality and presence. (Despite Faust’s upsetting past, it should be acknowledged that he has done what he can to part with hatred and become his best self. Emperor’s Ihsahn weighed in on The MetalSucks Podcast: “Once you’ve done your time, you can start over.”)
“Besatt av maane og natt”
This pick is the opening and the title track on Djevel’s sophomore album, Besatt av maane og natt (2013), which boasts other amazing numbers like “Stjernesluker.” Djevel would reimagine “Besatt av maane og natt” along with five other compositions on the acoustic EP Vettehymner (2018). This beautiful EP enticed listeners with one completely new song, “VI (Naar solen er vekk er det dags at vaakne).”
You can also hear a demo version of “Besatt av maane og natt” on a two-song EP by the same name that came out in 2012. The EP marked Djevel’s first recording with the legendary drummer Dirge Rep (ex-Gehenna, ex-Enslaved, ex-Orcustus, etc.). Trånn has known Dirge Rep since they were 13. (Fact: Speaking of Gehenna, Trånn told Addergebroed that he shared a rehearsal space with this legendary group when he was a member of Neetzach. The two outfits featured some of the same members.)
“Englene som falt ned i min seng, skal jeg sette fri med brukne vinger og torneglorier”
“Englene som falt ned i min seng, skal jeg sette fri med brukne vinger og torneglorier” is the opening track on Tanker som rir natten. Here, Mr. Ciekals proves yet again that he’s a brilliant lyricist. This ode to paganism first came out as a single in January 2021 with an accompanying instrumental version. After enjoying this song, you won’t question how Djevel managed beat out Einherjer, Kal-El, and Nekromantheon at the Spellemann Awards. In reality, there was in contest.
A Little Something Extra…
Don’t forget to check out Trånn and Mannevond’s work in NettleCarrier, a project that formerly included Dirge Rep as well.