The month of November in the Northern Hemisphere is always a synonym to colder temperatures and darker days, a sign that winter is coming and that all the happiness and warmth of the summer are long gone and will take even longer to return. Having said that, there’s nothing better than listening to some old school, menacing Scandinavian Black Metal to “celebrate” the Stygian season that’s about to begin, especially if it’s the Black Metal crafted by our metal chick this month, the multi-talented Swedish Valkyrie known as Dagny Susanne, the mastermind behind the top-notch extreme music project Nachtlieder. By the way, Nachtlieder is German for “night songs” or “songs of the night”. Do I need to say more?
Born on September 9, 1986 in Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden, situated in the province of Lapland, but currently residing in the multi-cultural Swedish city of Gothenburg where she moved about a decade ago, Dagny Susanne (whose real full name is Karin Dagny Susanne Hansson) mentioned she never had any friends who were into heavy music nor could buy any albums in her hometown because there wasn’t a record store there at that time, being “forced” to download music using Napster with a modem, which obviously made her discovery of metal painfully slow. Furthermore, growing up in Kiruna affected her personality and the way she currently sees things both in good and bad ways, but her interest in metal, in meeting musicians and starting a band motivated her to move to Gothenburg. However, nowadays Dagny feels a little nostalgic when talking about her beloved Kiruna, saying that not only it’s a beautiful and serene place, but it also inspires you to work, clearing your head and putting you in a good state of mind due to its calmness and distance from bigger cities like Gothenburg and Stockholm. For instance, just to give you an idea of how isolated Kiruna is, Luleå, the biggest town in the same region, is nothing more, nothing less than three hours away from it.
Since 2008, Dagny has been embellishing the world of extreme music with her Black Metal outlet Nachtlieder, being responsible for the songwriting, the lyrics, all vocal parts and pretty much all other instruments except for the drums, played in almost all her releases by her longtime friend Martrum (also known as Dödsdyrk, from bands such as Minion and Wicked). After the release of two demos in 2009 and a promo album in 2010, Dagny and her Nachtlieder became a much bolder and intense entity after unleashing upon humanity the full-length albums Nachtlieder, in 2013, and more recently The Female of the Species, in 2015, with the latter having the Biblical character of Eve, the female of the species, as the central character in the album’s narrative as mentioned in our review for the album. However, the original idea of the album was taken from the book “The Female of the Species”, by American writer Joyce Carol Oates, a collection of novellas about women committing different acts of violence for various reasons, slightly changing to the narrative about Eve after Dagny began to reference the phenomenon of “Satanic feminism” where Satan, a symbol for liberation, is also used as a feminist icon in her lyrics. In addition, Dagny said that, as she used to work in a public library, she reads a lot and that has a significant influence on her lyrics (but not on her music, thought), starting with small text fragments before coming up with what the lyrics should be about.
If you want to take a good listen at the music by Dagny and her Nachtlieder, I highly recommend you go to BandCamp, YouTube or Spotify to do so, being suddenly embraced by her visceral Black Metal such as in the excellent songs Eve, Beyond Death, Leave the View To the Rats and A Meager Escapism. The only “issue” with Natchlieder is that you won’t be able to find any live material or footage online, as Dagny hasn’t been able to form a full-bodied band yet. She obviously wants to perform live some time, but there are a few barriers to that such as the availability of musicians in her circle of friends that would be willing to play her music, and if those musicians would be reliable enough to replicate her music to an acceptable level to her.
Prior to becoming Nachtlieder, our Swedish black metaller was the bass player for Gothenburg-based Death/Black/Thrash Metal band Wicked from 2006 to 2010, having recorded with them a demo titled Chaos in 2007, the single Gospel of Sickness in 2009 and the split album Abominations, Chaos and Bestial Warfare in 2009 together with the bands Adokhsiny, Land of Hate, Надимач and Wargoatcult. She mentioned that she learned a lot from that time as it was her first extreme band, in special about arrangements and the role of the bass guitar in a band. The band unfortunately disbanded after their lead singer moved out of town with his family, but all three members are still friends and try to meet as much as possible whenever they’re in the same city. Apart from Wicked and obviously Nachtlieder, you can find Dagny in a couple of bands and projects as a guest musician, being the bassist and guitarist for the 2016 album Winds of Transilvania, by American/Swedish Black Metal project Nattsvargr (led by American vocalist Noctir); and doing some vocals and violin for a German Ambient Black/Doom Metal band named Black Autumn.
Dagny also has a very interesting (and obviously strong) connection with Black Metal from her homeland, having discovered the genre in her teens and consequently listening to Swedish bands for hours and hours, in special her favorite of all, Dissection. For instance, she mentioned that Dissection’s first gig after guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter Jon Nödtveidt (R.I.P.) got out of prison was the first big concert she ever went to. When asked about the general concept of cold and dark winter days being the reason why Scandinavian Metal is so unique, our Swedish diva said that there are of course bands that succeeded in portraying the extreme conditions and contrasts that exist in the northern parts of Scandinavia through their music, but that you can also see a significant difference between the metal scene in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Furthermore, when asked what defines Black Metal as a genre, Dagny said that when she wrote her bachelor in musicology about Black Metal she tried to identify the elements that define the music, finding that certain intervals were used both in chord progressions and melodies, therefore making Black Metal a music style for her no matter what the lyrical content is. For example, she said that if Black Metal is all about Satanism as several people think, then a band like Immortal, one of the biggest and most influential exponents of the genre, wouldn’t be Black Metal.
As usual, I love to know about our metal girls’ opinions about women and sexism in the metal universe, and Dagny has a strong position about those topics, especially for playing a music style vastly dominated by men. First of all, she mentioned that gender isn’t the only thing that matters, citing other details such as age, profession, place of birth and residence and ethnicity, among others, as reasons why different people doing the exact same thing will certainly receive very distinct feedback from the society. However, she said she has already faced some not-so-subtle sexist comments directly to her face such as “chicks can’t play”, as well as the feeling of not being fully respected by guys whenever she was the only woman in the group. In addition, she said that although she doesn’t know for sure why the number of one-woman Black Metal bands is extremely low compared to one-man Black Metal projects, she feels that it might be due to the different networks between men and women and the conscious and subconscious differences in social sex. “From the day we’re born we’re not encouraged to do the same things and this includes the music we should listen to and perform and the instruments we should play”, said Dagny. Also, she thinks the well-established expression “’female-fronted metal” (which I confess I end up using quite often i my reviews and discussions) doesn’t really make sense at all, like the term “female vocals” instead of “clean vocals” when the singer is not a man, and that applies to Nachtlieder as very few people would associate those expressions with the type of music she plays.
As any musician in our modern-day society, Dagny also has to deal with illegal downloads of her music, but she doesn’t see those as a huge threat to music in general as many others do. She said that the biggest trouble for artists like her concerning illegal downloading is that they can’t keep track of their listeners, and knowing who her listeners are and that there are people out there who appreciate her music is always a boost to her creative process. She thinks that people who can afford it should prioritize paying for their music consumption, and the ones who can’t pay for it should at least be part of an informal “marketing campaign” by sharing the bands’ Facebook and BandCamp pages, leaving positive comments on YouTube, among other small but meaningful acts. The only thing that really bothers her in this case is when an album leaks before the release date, as she finds that really disrespectful towards the hardworking labels and artists. Furthermore, Dagny also considers the way music is shared by fans on the internet extremely positive for independent artists like herself, saying that for example fan initiatives like the Facebook community Death Metal Girls and the YouTube series The Female Vocalists of Extreme Music are great options for headbangers who want to broaden their knowledge of female artists in metal.
Lastly, one might think that a musician like Dagny, coming from the northernmost part of Sweden and playing the ominous Black Metal by Nachtlieder, must draw most or all of her inspiration in the night, but in reality that’s not what happens to her during her creative process. Dagny said she’s inspired by her instrument and what she’s playing at the moment, with the calm and relaxed feeling from the middle of the night being of course something she loves but that due to her working schedule is not something she can fully enjoy anymore. For instance, one of my favorite songs from The Female of the Species, the fantastic Nightfall, was written at night and had parts of its lyrics inspired by the first part in the Arnold Schoenberg opera Pierrot Lunaire, also known as “Moonstruck Pierrot”. I guess everyone reading this tribute to Dagny has already gotten “moondrunk” in life, feeling dizzy or lightheaded after staying awake for an entire night, but of course very few of us are capable of delivering such vibrant and captivating music by ourselves like this high-skilled woman who left her hometown, the distant city of Kiruna, to conquer the world of extreme music with her undisputed, raw and totally awesome Black Metal.
“My own purpose with feminism is not to blame the trouble in the world on a specific group of people, but to raise the questions. Make people think about how they treat others and why. It’s all about recognizing human value, in the metal scene, but most of all outside of it. I’m certainly responsible too and no one is without flaws. We’re all products of the societies we live in.” – Dagny Susanne