Stories from a Bleeding Earth
Where should I begin? After an excessive research trip up in the far north of Sweden which I did for our EP The Void - Stories from the Whispering Well, I felt quit empty. What could possible top what I found up there? I exhausted my methods of finding good, original stories. I travelled far and wide, scouring libraries, nooks and crannies and talked to people with different backgrounds.
So how could I find new stories and tales for our new album Ghostlands - Wounds From a Bleeding Earth? Well, first of all I need to explain the title before going more in-depth with the songs.
Ghostlands refers to to the afterbirth of humanity. What's left after we have extracted every mineral, cut down our forest and slaughtered every animal, what's lefter after we've been enslaved by our man-made deus ex machina? I am not a radical environmentalist, not at all, but this is just were our future is heading. A dystopian armageddon. For each passing of generation, for each passing of the torch, the scars from the earth becomes wider and deeper, until She she cracks. Tsunamis of blood and typhoons of tears sweep the planet. It's inevitable.
What will remain after this? Spectres roaming the earth in endless wailing. Crying at the riverbed of Acheron. As our husks aimlessly wander we will have an infinite time to revel in our mistakes and think about what could have been. But it's too late when it do happen.
The 'Wounds from a bleeding earth' part is then rather self-explanatory. It's our mistakes we humans to throughout our lives. We, the flesh, is the fault of the downfall of the earth. We rake the skin of the earth and leave Her bleeding. We are the embodiment of a malignant tumour which spreads across the world. The earth can only be cleansed by a great cataclysm.
So in conclusion the title of the album is more of less the after-effect our actions as a species and the songs are about different tales in this odyssey of destruction.
A Godless Endeavour
As I wrote earlier, it felt like I exhausted my inspirational places, but as it seems, life have a tendency to repeat itself. Once again I returned to the north, but this time, I was not alone. The whole band,friends and girlfriends went with me north. We stayed a few days in a cabin up on a fell around 300km above the arctic circle. During the polar nights we gathered around and talked about how we tell a story within a story. The lyrics for Godless Serenade was already written. I wrote the lyrics almost a year before we started shooting the video. I found my inspiration for the text before I knew the concept of the album. You could say that Godless Serenade was the starting point for it all. I wrote a melancholic aubade for an earth in peril. Howe we don't need any gods to appreciate our wonders of nature. How we can sit high up on a mountain, watch how the aurora borealis dance and sway across the nightsky. Witness this beauty from a godless perspective.
So, we did gather all of us in the warmth of the hearth. Exchanging ideas on how to tell this story within a story. Our good friend (and director, editor, etc, of the music video) Isak was an inspirational mastermind. He had grand ideas how we could tell a very different story. Without explaining too much, we still want you to be able to decipher it in your own way, it's about our different trails in life and how we shall overcome then. One trail might to be surpass your inner turmoil and to escape from your mental cave. To be able to sacrifice yourself to nature, She who rules it all.
We decided to hit the northern roads. We travelled to desolate and secluded parts of the nearby fells and recorded vigorously. We went to places where, as far as we know, no one has really filmed before, not in the manner we did at least. We walked across fields of snow, just to find the perfect shot. I won't go into details about everything because we still want these places to be pure and unspoiled by human presence.
After the shooting was done up there we travelled to the woods which lies near our homes (outside of the Stockholm area). Through these thick forests we found some really good places which would translate perfectly for our vision. Through the day and the night we did some magical things. Locations that was just made for us.
All in all, we are very pleased with the final product and we hop you are too. When you read the lyrics and see the video you might have a different opinion on what it's about. That is not wrong of course, we want people to open their mind and see it differently. If you have any questions or thoughts regarding the video, please don't hesitate to contact us.
You can find the video here.
Lost but not Forgotten
These six stories have something in common; they're all connected to the Void. The Void is a primordial, ethereal and omnipotent force, which has been talked and written about fora century and more. Through painstaking researches throughout libraries in the far north and word-to-mouth encounters by elders, I've accumulated what I think is the most accurate information about the events that inflicted these parts.
With this knowledge I've translated it into music and lyrics, I hope you'll be as engrossed as I was when I did my research.
This is my story...
The Story from the Reeds
To be able to conduct parts of my research I had to visit Kiruna. A, for Sweden, quite big northern town (in fact the largest one above the arctic circle) around twenty thousand people lives there and it's dominated by a massive mine. One of the biggest in the world, so it's a quite rich town. Here you can find bars, restaurants and all of the things a bigger town would have. Though everything is above the polar circle which makes it a bit more interesting.
The way up to Kiruna is a long one. From Stockholm by train is around 20 hours, of course you can fly up but the scenery you get from the train is breathtaking. As the landscape goes from plane and abundance of forests to grand sights of massive fells is really a sight to behold. Just sitting in the restaurant, witnessing the transformation, is somewhat of a cathartic. Also I needed some time to think what I would ask and expect really, which is easy when you see your home-country passing by. I really need to reflect about all of this.
I arrived just before noon and it was more or less already dark. It was December and the polar night draped the northern part of Sweden in its perpetual darkness. Just to clarify, many people unfamiliar to the polar regions thinks it's completely dark for ages, but actually it's not. Here in Scandinavia you'll get these spectacular colours peering out from the horizon. Magenta, pink, purple. These colours paint the sky in absolute wonder. Then of course after a few hours it's back to utter blackness. If it wasn't for all the snow it would be impossible to navigate there. People with the lack of knowledge tend to disappear around these regions. Some are self explanatory and some is shrouded in mystery. Perfect, right? I hope everything goes alright.
I checked in at a hotel which lies in the center of town. It's not a bad hotel, but it's not nice either. Really, around here, you can find a variety of different hotels and hostels. Some are in traditional Saami cottages and there is one really splendid hotel made completely out of ice in Jukkasjärvi.
My small room had everything I needed. I could connect to the local wifi to read up about the last things I needed to remember before meeting this fabled person. Even my girlfriend from before knew about him (she is from Kiruna). When she was little all of the kids when they wanted to scare each other, they talked about what this man had seen and heard.
I woke up in a daze, a bit discombobulated, but I came to my senses again when I reliesd I wasn't dreaming. It wasn't the same nightmare which have haunted me for so long. Well, that's a story for another day. I found my way to the central station of Kiruna , from there I took a bus to a small hamlet called Övre Soppero. Just a few people live there. I have had contact with an old gentleman who insisted of being anonymous. We had been telephoning and sending some e-mails to each other, talking about an event he experienced when he was a small boy.
Early the next day I took the bus which goes to a hamlet called Karesuando, which is the northernmost habitable place in Sweden. After a few hours sitting in the bus and looking out over the vast sub-arctic vastness I was finally there. Going towards Finland, you don't see so much except the immeasurable taiga which goes from Norway all the way to Russia. Indeed, it's almost infinite, but seeing endless trees passing by is a bit uneasy, especially when you know your destination.
"I remember to this day", he began whilst sitting in his traditional Gustavian chair; the man's house was very Swedish-looking. It had the big grandfather clock which chimed exactly when you least expected to. Old big tables and lamps which looked to be almost a hounded years old. A beautiful place. He lives there alone. His wife died ten years ago. She was out walking, slipped on the ice and sustained such bad injuries that she died a few days later.
"Me and my friend were on our way as usual to kuormakkajärvi, around twelve kilometers from Övre Soppero." He said it was quite far away but during the summers, he and his friend were mostly out in the forest walking, playing. Because it's so far north, the summers were short and cool, so they made the most of it.
"It was during the midnight sun in July. We went to the lake to continue working on our small wooden fortress. It was when we returned that day we heard this inhuman-like hissing from the reeds. We looked at each other and decided to investigate." Now during the interview I noticed he was unmistakably shaken up whilst recalling this old event. I felt bad, but I needed to soldier on to be able to know everything I needed to. "As we approached we saw a figure of undefinable shape moving in the reeds and upon moving some of the weed we saw something... It's difficult to explain, but it was human...but at the same time, not, you know? Almost like a corpse, thin, but with extremely long digits, disturbingly long arms and thin. Thin like a twig" He also explained that even though he can explain in some detail what it looked like, his head during the time, was running rampart with feelings. Haphazardly he re-imagines his horrific visions for me.
We took a small break and drank some coffee. It seemed he wanted to end the conversation there and talk about an old picture on a shelf close by which was irrelevant to the story. Clearly he was not feeling alright. His blank stare towards his fades wives portrait was heartbreaking. I didn't ask. I let him take a small break. He continued.
"It looked at us with these blank, pallid eyes and opened its mouth and hissed at us. I will never forget that sound. It was something from a nightmare. We screamed and just started to run. Run like we were chased by a pack of wolves. When we finally came home, god how we ran, we explained to our mothers what we have saw but of course they didn't believe us." And who could blame them really? Seems like something they fabled up to get attention. I am a skeptic myself, but I did find the story intriguing.
"We told them what we saw, what we heard, all in vivid detail but they just shrugged it off. I told my father, and my friend told his father as well when they came back from the sawmill, But they did not believe the story either.
Even until this day, almost seventy years later, he has not visited kuormakkajärvi. He still lives in his old childhood house and he adds that sometimes he can hear a faint hissing which sounds exactly like he heard that day.
This is just one of the stories I researched. What do I make of this? Maybe it's the rambling of an old, isolated man. Either the case, I found it interesting. He was the first of a few people I met the following week.
A Calamity we call The Ocean
Whilst being up in the north of Sweden for a bit more than a month to do research for the lyrics to our album, I came about something rather spectacular. An old captain's log from the late 1800-hundreds which I found in a library that was being renovated. This small local library can is situated outside of Kiruna in a hamlet called Jukkasjärvi, most famous for its ice hotel.
At the end of the road inside the hamlet there is an old wooden church, built in 1607 (the oldest in whole of Lapland). Going past that on a small gravel road you come to a building which has seen better days. It's the whilom library. I got access to it via a friend who worked as an librarian in Kiruna and Jukkasjärvi, he talked to the manager of the building and the rest is history.
While going through the books I found the ordinary there. Novels, biographies and alike. Nothing really interesting. Going through the shelves filled with books about the local history wasn't really helpful. Most of the stuff there could be found by googling. After a while, aimlessly and fruitlessly searching across the aisle, dispirited, I heard a voice behind me.
"Not finding what you're looking for? Try the basement, we have some books and stuff down there." It was the landlord, or the manager, I am not sure what he was really, but I took his advice. He showed me the way down, turned the lights on and then walked away. The basement complex was rather big for such a small library. They had furniture and miscellaneous down here, not only books. So I started to looking around, moving rubble and whatnot in search for, I didn't know really.
I was about to give up hope and head back to my hotel when I noticed a door I haven’t seen before. I tried to open it but the lock was jammed. I went up to try to find the man who helped me down but I could not find him. It was getting late, so he could have headed home? I went down again and looked for something which could help me open it. I found a two-by-four which I used to ram the lock with. It opened with one swift thrust. I didn't feel bad for breaking the lock, they would tear this building down soon.
I stepped into the room and tried to find the light switch. Found it after fumbling in the dark for a few seconds. Pressed it; nothing happened. I took a torch from was in the other room and illuminated my way through the room. The room was a total mess, more or less. Books where pilled over where without any form of structure. Cobweb overlapping in the corners and a peculiar smell filled the air.Here I could find more books about local history, stories and similar things. I skimmed through them in rapid successions. Again, nothing really interesting, but indeed, some anecdotal value was in them which I noted down.
As I was about to leave for a second time, not feeling as crestfallen as before but somehow disappointed that I didn't find anything grand, I saw something I missed on the floor in the far right corner of the room. Just beside a chest I saw a book which looked like it was cover with fur or something. I investigated closer and found it was a book wrapped in seal skin. I opened it and saw tattered pages and withered pages. I tried to decipher the title yet could barely read it: Fa—est N—th: Being t—rec- -o a vo-age of Explor---n.
What I found was magnificent. I read a few pages, as best as I could before simply taking it with me and leaving. I didn't find the man and simply left, locked the door to the building (I knew were the key was and the padlock was on the door). I phoned my friend as he came and got me and drove me to the hotel. He was curious why I was so excited, I told him that I would explain later, now I just wanted to the hotel. After I thanked my friend and slammed the door behind me just as he was about to say something, I ran up the stairs and opened my door, threw my bag across the room and remembered that my camera was in it, but I didn't despair.
The tea-water was boiling and I was sitting at my desk. My eyes were glowing with anticipation. What I believed what I had found was the, more or less, lost captain's log of an expedition to the North pole in 1893. It's not really famous here in Sweden because there were mostly Norwegian sailors and scientists on the ship. I think two or three swedes were on it. So, this puzzled me a great deal to find it in Jukkasjärvi of all places. Maybe it wasn't the original. Maybe it was?
The reason why it the expedition was shrouded in mystery is just because of what the surviving crew members had seen and experienced. As far as I remember, only two members survived the tragedy which unfolded on the vessel. Though, only one came back to Norway. He returned almost catatonic, unable to explain what had happened on the ship. Just a bit of information could be fabled from him.
"Leviathan. Leviathan…of the great, cold white silence. This dark, deep void is like the mysterious, unfathomable well into…which you look for something…which you think must be there…only to meet the reflection of your own eyes of madness..."
Whatever he seen must have been traumatizing. We can't be really sure. But I was hell-bent on finding out. So I started to read every single page…
Before I continue I must note that I did contact the relatives of the deceased. The ones I found told me that I was free to publish what I was to find but to use alternative names for the people mentioned in the book. They don't believe in the happenings that are described in the log but they don't want them to be kept a secret either. So with this in mind, I have changed the names of the crew members. Some of the chapters were maddening to read. The sense of madness and chaos these people felt is unimaginable. I will not tell you everything. But what I will tell you will make you re-think the world as we know it.
December 3rd 1893 “This ice is of a wonderful nature. It lies at times quite still, as one would expect, with openings or large fjords in it; but sometimes its movement is so strong and rapid as to equal that of a ship running before the wind, and it drifts against the wind as often as with it. Minute by minute, degree by degree, we have stolen forward, with painful effort. Slowly the day has approached; even now we are but in its early dawn; darkness still broods over vast tracts around the Pole. We're on our way. We finally are. We have set sail towards no man has tread”
This is not the first entry in the log, but it was the first which caught my attention .The first pages were about how they found the crew and what equipment they had. How many dogs, dog sleds, food and everything. Just your typical polar expedition kit.
What I found interesting was the poetical tone of Egil (he was the skipper of the ship). It' was so engrossing and I just wanted to read more. I couldn't help but to see a tone of unease. Maybe he knew something the others did not?
December 11th 1893 "Unseen and untrodden under their spotless mantle of ice the rigid polar regions slept the profound sleep of death from the earliest dawn of time. Wrapped in his white shroud, the mighty giant stretched his clammy ice-limbs abroad, and dreamed his age-long dreams. Ages passed—deep was the silence.
[…] the experienced king of the Northmen,” that he undertook a voyage out into the sea towards the north and “explored the expanse of the northern ocean with his ships, but darkness spread over the verge where the world falls away, and he put about barely in time to escape being swallowed in the vast abyss.” This was Ginnungagap, the abyss at the world’s end. How far he went no one knows, but at all events he deserves recognition as one of the first of the polar navigators that were animated by pure love of knowledge"
Again, I couldn't help but to see a dark undertone. Or he might just have been a cynical, brooding Northman who had been out on the sea for way too long.
December 20th 1893 “H’m! as if dissatisfaction, longing, suffering, were not the very basis of life. Without privation there would be no struggle, and without struggle no life, that is as certain as that two and two make four. And now the struggle is to begin; it is looming yonder in the north. Oh, to drink delight of battle in long, deep draughts! Battle means life, and behind it victory beckons us on.I close my eyes. I hear a voice singing to me:
Among the fragrant birch,
Among the flowers’ perfume,
Deep into the pine-wood’s church.
December 23th 1893 "Wind still unchanged, and blowing equally fresh, up to 13 or 14 metres . The snow is drifting and sweeping so that nothing can be distinguished; the darkness is intense. Abaft on the deck there are deep mounds of snow lying round the wheel and the rails, so that when we go up on deck we get a genuine sample of an Arctic winter."
December 27th 1893 " Christmas has come round again, and we are still so far from home. How dismal it all is! Nevertheless, I am not melancholy. I might rather say I am glad; I feel as if awaiting something great which lies hidden in the future; after long hours of uncertainty I can now discern the end of this dark night; I have no doubt all will turn out successfully, that the voyage is not in vain and the time not wasted, and that our hopes will be realized. An explorer’s lot is, perhaps, hard and his life full of disappointments, as they all say; but it is also full of beautiful moments—moments when he beholds the triumphs of human faith and human will, when he catches sight of the haven of success and peace."
This made my heart shiver with sorrow almost. Here, he seemed hopeful, wanting to see life's grand price in the north. He would persevere and achieve his life's goal. But I, as a reader, knew how horrific his fate would be…
January 2nd 1894 "During the night we had an uncommonly strong aurora borealis; wavy streamers were darting in rapid twists over the southern sky, their rays reaching to the zenith, and beyond it there was to be seen for a time a band in the form of a gorgeous corona, casting a reflection like moonshine across the ice. The sky had lit up its torch in honor of the new year—a fairy dance of darting streamers in the depth of night. I cannot help often thinking that this contrast might be taken as typical of the Northman’s character and destiny. In the midst of this gloomy, silent nature, with all its numbing cold, we have all these shooting, glittering, quivering rays of light. Do they not typify our impetuous ‘spring-dances,’ our wild mountain melodies, the auroral gleams in our souls, the rushing, surging, spiritual forces behind the mantle of ice? There is a dawning life in the slumbering night, if it could only reach beyond the icy desert, out over the world.
Yet I cannot feel like I am being followed. Like an all-surrounding benign watcher. Even though the aurora guides our path towards our kingdom of ice, I have a sense of dread deep within my bone. What is happening to me?"
This passage clearly showed that he was starting to feel a presence of some kind. In the beginning of this entry he was, again, very poetically, and all of a sudden he started writing about being watched. Can you imagine that feeling? Being almost a life-time away from home on your life's most important mission, yet you feel like something is stalking you?
January 5th 1894 “I slept soundly, woke up only once, and listened to the crunching and jamming and grinding till I fell asleep again. I was called at 5.30 in the morning by Ingvar, who told me that the hummock had now reached the ship, and was bearing down on us violently, reaching as high as the rail. I was not left in doubt very long, as hardly had I opened my eyes when I heard a thundering and crashing outside in the ice, as if doomsday had come. I could swear whilst on the deck, looking down towards the broken ice were the water was visible, I saw something. Maybe an animal or…I don't know. I saw it a second time and the ship started to sway and thrash."
This was the first observation of the thing which followed them for some time. I could imagine it being a giant squid or maybe even a colossal one. As far as I know, these animals can reach the Arctic Waters. In any case, it's hard to believe that something of this size was really able to affect the ship.
Most of the pages to follow were too withered to read and there were only fragments of the original text left. I tried to decipher them and puzzled the pieces together which lead to the following. It seemed like this thing which had followed them had found an opening to attack the ship. He wrote "Boundless in stature like a tyrant of the seas". Its impossible long tentacles fell down on the deck like a monstrous pendulum, destroying parts of the ship. It then descended into the depth again.
January 19th 1894 "I can just discern close by vague outline of the ship, dimly standing out on the desolate gloom, with her rigging showing dark against the host of stars. Like an infinitesimal speck, the vessel seems lost amidst endless expanse of this realm of horror. Trying to find shelter in dreams of death, but I am forlorn, lost forever in this mental bedlam"
They have lost many of the crew. Just a few have survived the attack. They are demoralized, cold and hungry. During the assault the deck which held most of the food got destroyed and got swallowed by the ocean.
It was really disheartening reading the log. The goal of reaching the north was not their main quest anymore, but the survival of the journey. And since nothing can really survive under the cold gaze of the stars at this part of the world, their journey came to an abrupt end.
January 27th 1894 "I peer out over this frigid shore and all I see is death. Human driftwood bobbing around in the cold waters. I am alone now. Stranded. Where, I do not know. Dan left me. He followed a path towards the horizon. A vault of some kind. Shelter. I know it's not true. He's waiting for his impending doom. I am as well. I will just sleep now and it will be some time…"
This was the last entry. Before this a second attack on the ship happened, totally demolishing the ship. The crew who didn't get eviscerated by the giant's sharp claws on its tentacles just gave up. The captain explained how his mate said something about that he was smiling inside, though he could clearly see he was crying. Then he just let go,sinking down towards his water tomb.
Egil survived by clinging on some raffle from the remains of the boat. He fainted by the cold and then woke up on shore with his friend Dan.
The rest is history really. Dan walked towards his death on the arctic landscape. Egil was found a few days later. He had survived by finding food which had drifted upon shore. He had made a small fire and a temporary shelter. He also ate something which would haunt him forever.
I will end this by quoting Egil, the only sentences he would speak ever again when being found.
"Leviathan. Leviathan…of the great, cold white silence. This dark, deep void is like the mysterious, unfathomable well into…which you look for something…which you think must be there…only to meet the reflection of your own eyes of madness…."
Engil committed suicide three months after being rescued.