Initially formed in 2010 by S. Gronbech (all instruments, ex- Keep of Kalessin) and later joined by T’ol (vocals), Khonsu is an experimental/atmospheric extreme metal band from Norway. On November 18th their second album ‘The Xun Protectorate’ was released via Jhator Recordings.
Tell us a few words about Khonsu. How did you two guys meet and decide to create the band?
Khonsu was created by me alone, S. Gronbech, around 2010, and I compose the music and play all of the instruments. This was after composing music for several years without finalizing any album. I collected all of my riffs and tracks and finally recorded the debut album ‘Anomalia’ around this time. So the riffs on this album are created over a period of 15 years actually. With me on vocals I got Thebon, who is now the ex-vocalist in Keep Of Kalessin. My brother Arnt “Obsidian C.” Gronbech is one of the founder members of KoK, so I knew Thebon through him. After we had recorded the album we got a deal with French label Season Of Mist, and they released the album in 2012. Our deal was only for one album, and so the new album which was released on 18th November is released on my own label – Jhator Recordings. In 2013 I went in studio again and recorded the new album, in addition to some extra tracks that was released on an EP released in 2014. For the new album and EP I got another vocalist on the harsh vocals, T’ol from Norwegian death metal bands Chton and Killing For Company. On the new album I also have used a lot of clean vocals, which were done by Rune Folgerø from Manes. Arnt also did some guitar solos here and there. Even though they have helped out, only me and T’ol are now regarded as full-time members. I knew T’ol from the metal scene in Trondheim, Norway where I lived until I was 27 years old. I now live in Bergen.
In the band’s bio you mention that you both were participating in other projects (Keep Of Kalessin, Chton, and Killing For Company). Are you still members of these bands or have you separated your ways?
The only other band I have participated in is Keep Of Kalessin, when I made some tracks together with my brother on their ‘Reclaim’ EP which was released in 2014. I’m not participating in it now. As I mentioned earlier, T’ol also does vocals for Killing For Company, and earlier he was the vocalist in death metal band Chton.
In your first album ‘Anomalia’ (2012, Season Of Mist) you experiment a lot! Every track has its own musical identity. Is ‘The Xun Protectorate’ going to follow these steps or does the single ‘A Jhator Ascension’ give us an exact taste of what we are going to listen?
The first single ‘A Jhator Ascension’ does absolutely not give an exact taste of what to expect, because the album is at least as varied as ‘Anomalia’. The first single and the video that was released are the most traditional black metal tracks on the album, but the other tracks are very different. So, yes, in that respect, the new album follows in the same steps as ‘Anomalia’. Each track is unique, but still I think they fit into the whole of the album. Khonsu is all about innovation and experimentation, and when people listen to the album, they will never know what to expect of the next track. It’s like a journey through different landscapes, and this is what Khonsu is all about.
Is there also an official video going to be released, and if so when can we expect it?
Actually, the official video has already been released. The video is for the track ‘Visions Of Nehaya’, and this track was actually featured on the EP we released in 2014, entitled ‘Traveller’. We thought we were going to release the album later the same year, but things have taken much more time than we thought. So since this was two years ago, we re-released this video some months ago. This video was filmed at an abandoned psychiatric hospital in Norway, and we also released a “behind the scenes” video from the making of this video. The video was made by the Norwegian production company called “Gammaglimt”, who also produced a black metal documentary called “Blackhearts” that was released some months ago. They also produced the video for the track ‘The Malady’ which was featured on the debut album.
The artwork of the new album points out an industrial theme. Although your name is taken from the Egyptian god, the image is more ‘space-like’. Also “Xun”, if I am not wrong, is Chinese. How are all these combined?
Yes, the whole concept of the new album is very space-like and futuristic. I am a huge science fiction fan myself, and have always looked up to the stars and wondered about the universe and our place in it.
When I released the first album ‘Anomalia’ on Season Of Mist, Adrien Bousson from their graphics department did all of the artwork. Since I thought Adrien did such a great job, I contacted him and asked if he would do the artwork again.
The new album is a concept album about a space colony, or city, in orbit around the sun several centuries into the future after earth has become inhabitable. The existence of the inhabitants of this city is without purpose and meaning, and this place is very dark and depressing. There are many thousands of worker clones here, without any separate mind or individuality, and the album is a story about the awakening process of one of these clones. He has visions and dreams and becomes certain that his purpose is to end himself and the rest of humanity, so he steers the city into the sun.
I told Adrien about the concept, and sent him the lyrics and the music, and he created the cover, 1 image for each track related to the theme in the lyrics, the digipak and gatefold vinyl layout, and also about 10 bandphotos – everything related to the same sci fi concept. I think his ideas, style, and artwork fits perfectly to the lyrics and music.
The word Xun sounds Chinese, but its just a rewrite of the word Sun. We envisioned this space station as a mix of cultures from Earth, and that the word sun now was influenced by Chinese and called Xun. We also think it sounds more exotic and futuristic. So this space colony is called «The Xun Protectorate», because the city is in direct orbit around the sun.
The bandname Khonsu is indeed taken from an Egyptian god, but its the god of the moon and the name means «he who travels across the night sky», so this has some cosmic meaning to it. It also hints to darkness and mystery, and so we felt this was a good name. But the name was created before we got into the whole space concept of the new album.
Is it true that when you formed the band you had to change your name from Merah to Khonsu?
Yes that’s true – in the beginning the band name was “Merah”. But right before the release of our debut album, there was a major terrorist attack by a man named Merah in France, and since Season Of Mist, which were our label at the time, are French we decided together with them to change the band name so we were not associated with the terrorist. I am very happy that we did this, because I like Khonsu much better. I chose the name mainly because of the meaning, but also because it’s short, easy to remember, and not taken by any other metal band.
Two members from the band Manes have contributed to the new album. Rune Folgerø on clean vocals and Torstein Parelius on lyrics. Tell us about this collaboration and perhaps any other that has been important for the release of ‘The Xun Protectorate’.
Yes, as I mentioned earlier the clean vocals on the new album are done by Rune Folgefør from Manes and Atrox. I was looking for a new clean vocalist and got him suggested. I listened to his work in Atrox, and he has a very theatrical and dramatic voice that fits the album very well. Torstein Parlius also plays in Manes, and is a great lyricist. He has written lyrics for several bands, including also several on ‘Anomalia’. I contacted him and asked if he could do the lyrics for this album and he was up for it. He also created the storyline, and each lyric is related to the others in this story.
Can you tell us about the Norwegian metal scene? Has it completely changed or evolved? Where do you see yourselves as musicians in the wide metal scene as well?
Actually, I’m not very involved in the Norwegian metal scene, and I don’t listen that much to metal. I listen for the most part to electronic music, and when I listen to metal it’s usually early Norwegian black metal albums from the 90’s. I was in my teens when those albums was released, and they influenced me a lot. I think no other band or albums later can compete with all of the truly brilliant albums from that time period.
So, the music of Khonsu is a result of inspiration from both early atmospheric black metal, electronic music, and movies soundtracks.
Where we stand as musicians in the wide metal scene I don’t know, but I truly feel that the music of Khonsu is something unique and original compared to most other metal music.
Are there any plans for live shows?
We currently don’t have any plans for live shows. We have only played one show, at the Inferno Festival in 2012, and I’m not sure we will ever play live again. It depends on how the album does in terms of publicity and what kind of offers we get. I don’t know if playing live will be worth the work, because we would have to recruit a live crew, rehearse, etc. And me and T’ol live in different cities also. But we will see.
If we play live we would have to create a majestic show which fit the atmosphere of the music, and I don’t think this would be suited for a very small venue. It would have to be on a festival, or maybe warming up for a bigger band. It would definitely be cool to play live, and I think the music would fit live very well, but we will see.
Thank you very much for your time! We are looking forward to the new album! Close this interview as you will.
No problem, we really appreciate the interest in Khonsu, and happy to hear that you are excited for the new album. We hope you will enjoy it.
We would also like to say to all the fans that read this that we appreciate all of your support!
Photo credits: Adrien Bousson