Well, anybody who has been to a live gig of Helvetets Port will surely know that they are a legend unto themselves. They are a cult. The clothes, the music, the attitude. Above all, they do possess a fine sense of humour (unlike some of their contenders, like Enforcer for example). I talked with their drummer Oscar about the new mini-album "Man with the Chains". It came as a surprise to me that Helvetets Port have only come up with three new songs. Are they perhaps holding back songs for the next lp? Oscar confirms: "Yeah, we've got more material. Some ready, some being written during the album making process. We wanted to make a shorter release, meanwhile, so the fans wouldn't have to wait for ages before anything happened. Now with the mini-album out we can take the time it takes to record an earth quaking second album. We have already started on it!" That's good news indeed! What has happened in the Helvetets Port camp since the debut album “Exodus to Hell” came out? "We played live quite frequently after the album release", knows Oscar. "In 2010, we've only played one gig though. Mostly because Kongo has been away, we have used the time to write new songs and to get the studio rolling."
It has taken Helvetets Port quite some time to come up with the follow-up to their debut album but their drummer is able to explain why: "Last year was too busy to fit in a recording process and after the tour with Ram and In Solitude we had a financial set-back which we haven't recovered from still. We had to find a new rehearsal place earlier this year because we couldn't afford to pay the rent at our last location. It took some time to find new practice space and then to find a studio we could afford as well. Kongo deciding to run off to Afghanistan didn't help making things move quickly, either." Hmm, and then there also was the spectacle of the German tour, a very adventurous trek, I have leraned: "Yes, we had a run-in with the German traffic police. They stopped us to make a check of the bus, take drug tests on our driver and make sure papers were in order. They quickly decided our bus wasn't good enough for the glorious German roads and confiscated it. It was surreal standing there in the rain with all the gear at the side of the highway, just outside of Berlin, which was the first stop on the tour. In Solitude came in their mini-van and took the gear and us in to Berlin. The morning after we managed to rent a mini-van and continued on the tour, which turned out to be amazing, in most ways! Logistics wise it was a bit of a roller coaster since the original plan for us was to sleep in the tour bus where we had our beds. A couple of months later we managed to lend money to pay the traffic fine we got from the German police and to tow the bus back to Sweden, something which wasn't cheap I might add."
The mentioned “Man with the Chains” mini-album does feature a photo instead of a drawing this time around. Oscar explains why: "We were spawning on the idea of having a photo for cover this time and decided that we wanted something more than just a band photo. The title 'Man with the Chains' inspired us to have a man in chains. At first we tried to contact Kjell Nilsson who acted as the bad guy Lord Humungus in 'Mad Max II: The Road Warrior'. He's Swedish and we heard he was supposed to be home in Gothenburg earlier this summer. Sadly, he never replied and we had to find someone else. I think we found the best man for the job, since he looks quite lunatic without trying hard. The location is the ruins of a large caste just outside of Gothenburg. You can't see us very well in the fog but just behind us there's a cliff fall several meters down and it wasn't very pleasant standing up there in the cold and on slippery wet grass underneath our feet."
What have been the press reactions to “Exodus to Hell” I wanted to know of Helvetets Port's drummer. "Quite mixed", he answers. "Some of the criticism I find justified in a couple of ways, some not. But at the end, we've had a lot of press and I suppose people have been talking about us. Both good and bad, press is stimulating for success, so I'm never considering anything people write a disaster." I reckon the fans themselves did show more positive reactions than the mainstream press. This was indeed the case states Oscar: "Yes, we've also had loads of really good feedback. But even if we hadn't, we'd still be doing what we love: Heavy Metal."
Are they surprised that Steffen at High Roller had to do several pressings of their first album to meet the demand by fans? "I suppose I am a bit surprised how the Heavy Metal scene has suddenly been going better and better over-all", finds Oscar. "I started listening to Heavy Metal during the '90's when people saw this ultimate genre as something dead and buried, something you could laugh or spit at. Heavy Metal is spitting back." Perfectly put!
One aspect of Helvetets Port's appeal to their growing legions of fans is their use of all-original '80's stage gear and props. Where the hell do they go shopping? Who is designing their stage set? Oscar reveals: "The same guys who produced the video for 'Lightning Rod Avenger' and who has done all our recent photo shoots helped us to realize the idea of having chess pieces on stage. They are mainly made of styrofoam and sculptured by our good friend Peter Holmgren."