Nordic Folk Against Fascism: An Interview With Hindarfjäll

The world of Nordic folk, a subgenre of neofolk focusing on traditionalist Viking era music, has become one of the most involved and ecclectic styles in the folk revival. Part of the attraction has come from the romantic focus on Viking culture, usually ahistorical both on the left and the right. Many of these bands have found inspiration in Nordic pagan spirituality and traditions such as crafts and arts, but have had to fight to defend this culture from open white nationalists who use a “folkish” interpretation of heathenry to promote fascist tribalism.

Hindarfjäll is one of these Nordic folk bands, inspired by a huge wave of musicians out of neofolk and black metal that are drawing on these communal sounds. They have made themselves clear from the start, that they will provide no quarter to Nazis attempting to appropriate these traditions.

We interviewed Nils A. Edström from Hindarfjäll about how the project came together, why we have to stand against white nationalism, and how tradition plays into their songwriting.

How did Hindarfjäll come together? 

I started Hindarfjäll with a close friend of mine, Elias Pettifor, back in 2015. We shared the same passion for nature, music and Norse mythology. As we’re both musicians we decided to try to make something together based on our interests. We only did one song together though, and that song is called ”Så Som Träden Viskar Hans Namn” which was the first song we uploaded as soon as we created Hindarfjäll’s Facebook page. Not long after that we got contacted by a festival called the Asgardian, arranged by Asatru UK, and we were asked to come and play. At that time Hindarfjäll was still a project, so we basically needed more people. I studied music in high school so it wasn’t hard to find musicians.

When we started to rehearse the songs, things started to get quite complicated. Elias didn’t show up and it was almost like he disappeared for some time. Eventually I decided to go anyway and find a substitute.

When we came home from England Hindarfjäll suddenly felt more like a band rather than a project.

I started to write new Hindarfjäll material with help from my best friend Samuel Tibell and all of a sudden the two of us became the core of Hindarfjäll. Today I see Hindarfjäll both as a project and a band. Samuel and I create the music and we get help from the others when we enter the studio or play live.

Were you inspired by other Nordic folk bands, like Wardruna?

I’m inspired by a lot of different bands and genres. It all started when I was 13 years old and listened to a track called ”Stenristarna” by Anders Hagberg. Not long after that I discovered Wardruna and other Nordic folk bands. The band that’s influenced Hindarfjäll the most is a band called Månegarm. It’s actually a folk/black metal band from Norrtälje, Sweden. They have a lot of acoustic songs and if you listen to that you can really hear that it sounds quite similar to our music.

How does Nordic paganism and spirituality play into your music?

Nordic paganism and spirituality is basically the core of our music. Without it we wouldn’t be able to create that atmosphere we make today, and that’s basically why I wanted to do this kind of music from the start. The music definitely has its roots in nature and spirituality. I won’t say that every song we make has to have something to do with Nordic paganism though, but every song is touching deep thoughts and questions.

Are folk traditions important when creating your music? Do you feel bonded to the traditions and cycles of the past?

I feel bonded to nature and all the different traditions that are connected to nature. We definitely get inspiration from old traditions and the old ways of thinking.

What do you think of white nationalists trying to appropriate heathen music and symbols? What should we do about Nazis trying to come into this music scene?

I don’t think we can or should do anything else than just show the world what heathenism is REALLY about. I believe in freedom of speech so I think it’s better to show people that Scandinavian traditions and music doesn’t have anything to do with hatred and racism. We need to be seen and heard!

Do you think it is important to stand up against fascism in the neofolk scene?

Absolutely. It’s a real shame that we even have to explain that heathenry and Nordic symbols doesn’t have anything to do with fascism. But I think it’s really important to do that especially in these days.

How does songwriting take place? Is it collaborative? 

It varies, I wrote all the songs by myself until ”Sunnas Strålar” and ”Dolda Krafter”. That’s where Samuel came in the picture and we started to write together. You can hear that those songs are a bit different from the other songs.

What instruments do you use?

We use guitars, flutes, skin drums and mouth harp.

Who would you recommend fans of yours to listen to?

Byrdi, FehReid, Runahild and Songleikr.

What’s coming next? Any tours, new releases, or side projects?

The debut album is in the making. We’re just waiting for our drums to be finished, then we’re ready to go.

 

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There is only one Hindarfjäll track available on Spotify and has been added to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify. Check out some more of their albums from Bandcamp below.


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Hindarfjäll is the Nordic Folk Band You Have Been Waiting For

The term Nordic folk has emerged to distinguish a series of bands that are directly connected to the revival of heathenry, the tradition of the Aesir and Venir, often focused on Nordic cultural identity and accurate history of pre-Christian Scandinavian countries.  The term has a double usage in that it is a way to not say neofolk, which has the occasional baggage of costumed racists like Sol Invictus or Allerseelen. Drawing a distinction is especially important as white nationalists have staked their claim on heathenry, using pseudoscientific theories like “metagenetics” and misreadings of Carl Jung to argue that heathenry is a religion that is for people of Northern European descent only.  

For the vast majority of heathens, particularly heathens outside of the U.S., this notion is absurd, and instead Asatru and heathen denominations across Nordic countries have been active in anti-racist campaigns and welcome a worldwide kindred.  The neofolk duo Hindarfjäll comes from this tradition, using the traditional regional instruments and sounds of Norway and Sweden to revive a historical music that is tied directly to the earth.  Started by vocalist Nils Edström in 2015, the project was inspired by bands like Wardruna in that they drove directly from a historical memory that centered an earthy pagan worldview.  

Hindarfjäll is centered well in neofolk in both sound and practice, with each member filling multiple roles as they juggle a range of instruments from flutes to guitar to bassy percussion, all backed by looping chants.  There is something haunting about the folk-inspired sound that comes out of the frigid woods, and Hindarfjäll feels like they are emerging with a sound meant to capture a life guided more by the cycles of nature than the modern travails of politics and conflict.  Each track feels precisely laid, patient and haunting, acting as a reminder of a life that once existed and could again. This may be why the bands in the Nordic folk scene have been so centered on history, particularly the accuracy of it, because of the misappropriation the far-right has made of their cultural legacy.

Hindarfjäll is new on the scene and has yet to put out a full-length album, and has instead been releasing demos that sound like they could have been birthed by a dozen musicians syncing for a decade.  With the very brief coverage they have had, they have used it to make a public statement about what they stand for. Before playing their first live show in 2016 at The Asgardian, they wanted to make clear that they reject any element of the racialist pagan movement.

I want to add is that I think that racism is a very important subject because Asatru and the music we play attracts a lot of idiots unfortunately. Such as nazis and racists, I think that’s unacceptable. Hindarfjäll does NOT tolerate such things. We take a stand against hatred and racism.

The Asgardian was put together by Asatru UK, a heathen association that prohibits racism in their organization.  “Asatru UK is an organisation that abhors all forms of discrimination and racism in Heathenry, and though it is sad to say – these views ARE still out there. For the good of our members and the community we are creating, we do have to have some measures in place to keep that community hate free.”

We are jumping the gun a bit to include Hindarfjäll since they only have a few public recorded tracks and have yet to release their full length album, but we were blown away and wanted them in the mix early.  We are putting some tracks below from Bandcamp and YouTube, but unfortunately they are not on Spotify yet and cannot be added to the playlist.