"A BRIT, A YANK AND A NORWEGIAN..." – Reism
I thought I was doing OK until I asked Reism’s vocalist Kirsten Jørgensen about the name of her band, and whether it had any significance. “It was Tom and Joe who came up with the name,” she replies. “It was quite quickly shortened down from Reification to Reism, which means to regard something abstract as something concrete. The wedding ring is a good way to explain it,” she clarifies. “The wedding ring becomes a symbol of love and therefore manifesting the love between two humans as something one can see even though love is an abstract thing.”
OK, that’s a long way from three chords and words that rhyme with Satan. I might be out of my depth here!
Reism are quite a special band – articulate, multi-faceted and difficult to pigeon-hole – with a roll-call of Kirsten out front and centre, guitarist Tom Poole-Kerr, bassist Kim Lund and drummer Wolfgang Ognøy. “Tom is one of the founding members, and I’ve been singing with Reism almost since the beginning. They did a demo with a couple of other singers before I came into the picture. And then Kim and Wolfgang have been with us since 2012-13. The band is based on Karmøy, an island off the west coast of Norway,” Kirsten helpfully explains. “It’s a beautiful place even if our only seasons seem to be ten months of autumn and two months of summer – and that’s if we’re lucky! Metal is pretty strong here, though. I feel like the genre is more widely accepted, with lots of great bands coming out of Norway, and with so many metal gigs happening near us, our sound has definitely been influenced and become heavier.”
The band recently released their third album ‘Dysthymia’, an intricate, multi-layered heavy hitter with numerous surprises tucked up its sleeve. Influences cited are as varied as In the Moment and Alice In Chains, which gives an idea of the diversity to be found lurking on the CD. The album title – like the band’s name – is a tad unusual. “Reism landed on ‘Dysthymia’ not only because depression has been experienced within the band, but also because the name describes where humanity is headed. Mental disorders are becoming the norm as more of us feel its symptoms as a result of how today's society is developing. We feel a number of things are contributing to this. A major factor is the individual’s constant need for confirmation, which has been heightened in recent years by our dependence on social media. Compounded by our disregard for reliable news outlets and factually based assessments, this has led us to feel we can freely judge and criticise other people without consequence. We are disassociated behind our keyboards and screens, able to launch an attack without anyone holding us to account, and in fact being jeered on by mob mentality. We sit alone in our echo chambers, seeing the world with blinkered eyes, believing that we know the truth, and disregarding everything that doesn’t conform to our viewpoint. We are isolated, unrepentant, and falling ever further into a pit of darkness.”
Eschewing the official biography, Kirsten’s five-minute history of the band is that it was started “by a brit, a yank and myself back in 2004, while we were studying at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. We gigged around England for a few years, but struggled with always being too heavy for the gigs we were billed on. Eventually we decided to relocate to Norway. The Englishman followed and after recruiting new members we released ‘Something Darker’ in 2010. That album had more of a band feel, where we pushed the electronic elements a little further back. However, then we ended up being the softest band at the gigs we played – we seemed to be doomed to falling in-between expectation! Lots of other life shit and line-up changes got in the way and it took us a whole nine years to release Dysthymia.”
Digging deeper, Reism was founded by Tom and drummer Joe Cochrane whilst studying sound engineering at LIPA. “They’d written and recorded an EP consisting of four tracks on which they were looking for a female singer to perform,” Kirsten elaborates. “I met Tom at a metal club the same year and as it turned out we were studying at the same university. He told me he had a band, and I told him they needed me! Some time went by and after trying out several singers they finally gave me a chance, and here I am still. In 2004 we were a steady formation of three, with session musicians joining us for live gigs, which lasted until we finished Uni. Since then we’ve had a few drummers and guitarists coming and going. However, we’ve been quite steady these last few years.”
‘Dysthymia’ is the band’s first album since the aforementioned ‘Something Darker’ – so the most obvious thing to ask is why it took so long to return to the studio. “Well, there isn’t a very exciting answer to that, I’m afraid. Basically, life happened. We were writing the songs the whole time, but in between rehearsals, gigs and writing new music, we also had to combine it with our day jobs. Unfortunately, one has to have money to pay bills these days. Being an inspired musician and holding down a day job doesn’t always go hand in hand. However, slowly but steadily, we managed to write what now has become ‘Dysthymia’. A few of the songs came really easily,” she continues, “like ‘This Reality’. That beast just grew into an uncontrollable monster and everything about it felt good, from riffs, to lyrics, to melody. ‘The Folly Of Man’ on the other hand was a real struggle. Tom and I could not agree on anything on that song until the very end, and it was the last song to be recorded for the album. I really didn’t like it to begin with, but after battling it out we came up with something that we both really love, and is quite different from the rest of the album. As for the recording, the album was pretty straightforward as we have the luxury of Tom being a sound engineer. We have a great home studio at our disposal and recorded most of it in our own time there. We decided to track the drums at ABC studios [Etne, Norway] because they have a great live room that’s perfect for the big roomy sound we were after. We’re not a programmed and ultra-quantized technical Djent band, and were after the kind of sound and air featured on the Nineties albums we love.”
The band are extremely pleased with the fruits of their labours. “I couldn’t be happier really! Reism’s sound has developed so much over the years and this album is my definite favourite out of the three. ‘Dysthymia’ has got a more band feel to it and even though we still use a lot of synths, we’ve let the band come to the fore, and layered the synths in a way where you don’t necessarily notice them at first, but they add a fifth dimension and give you something new to discover each time you listen to it. The album is more melodic, a lot heavier, but still very accessible to most people who want to give it a listen. And as an album ‘Dysthymia’ really lets the musicians shine. It’s got a rooted sound where the band welds together more than on our previous albums. Reism began as a studio project, while we weren’t so experienced playing live as a band, and I think this reflected in our writing style. As we’ve gigged more we’ve developed how we write, and now songs can be started while rehearsing, or developed and fleshed out as we play together. I think this is really evident when comparing [2005 debut] ‘Lifestyle Product’ with ‘Dysthymia’. We sound more like a band bashing it out in a room.
“It feels varied,” she continues, when asked what the album’s strengths and highlights are. “One advantage of us taking our time over the writing means that we were going through phases of listening to different bands, and gaining new influences, which affected our writing style at different points in its creation. However, when we started playing the songs in gearing up to start recording, they developed a similar feeling, and a continuity developed where they felt like they belonged together. And he highlight of this album has to be ‘Take it From Me’. I love the dynamic shift in that track – how it almost feels like a ballad, with the simplicity of the verses, and then the pre-chorus kicks down the wall and smashes you in the face! That song also came together pretty quickly. Everything just seemed to fall into place, which we feel is always a good sign.
“Tom and I have been writing together for sixteen years so we kind of know what the other one is looking for and what they’re likely to think. It means we can write parts that will fit each other’s style more easily, and I often don’t have to fight to find a vocal melody as I automatically know where to go. And it helps that both Tom and Wolfgang are sound engineers working with lots of live bands so that really helps us prepare for playing live. They know exactly what we need and make sure everything is in place for us to perform at our best.
“We’re also a pretty happy bunch, with no real drama queens, and we’re serious as musicians. I also work at our local metal festival ‘Karmøygeddon’, so I understand what artists of all calibres have to deal with and can expect, and you really see that the more experienced the band is, the easier they are to work with. That helps us keep grounded and professional, so there’s no funny business. However, whilst on stage there can be a lot of funny business!”
The band’s immediate aims now are “to promote ‘Dysthmia’ via all means possible. We have a few gigs lined up, and are pushing Spotify to try and reach a wider audience. We also really enjoyed the remixes that feature on the album, so are toying with the idea of creating some alternate versions of some of the songs. And we have a new music video that is very close to completion, and exciting things in the works, so keep your eyes peeled!”
© John Tucker February 2020
Photos by Jorgen Freim, Jarle Moe and Jo Moolenschot