After composing music for countless Norwegian films and TV shows and even winning a Norwegian Emmy, a love for extreme metal genres sees solo project ILLT unleashed on the world.
Oslo-based composer and guitarist Roy Westad has honed his love for death metal, doom, thrash and all things blackened and honed them into a raw, melodic, modern sound. It’s one that he describes as “Groovy, diverse, brutal, melodic. Hard to label – hopefully easy to like.” To do that, he’s working with a top team of session musicians and engineers, including vocalist Speed Strid, drummer Dirk Verbeuren and fellow guitarists Karl Sanders and Mr. Damage.
As Roy explains: “ILLT is basically my alter-ego/bandname when I write noisy stuff that goes fast and loud. I decided that the actual songwriting was something I wanted to do without any outside opinions this time around. I always struggled with believing that I could write something good on my own, and always depended upon others for arranging. I have always been kind of a riff machine, but never a song machine.
“I wanted ILLT to be my sandbox where I can play around and experiment until I find my voice, without the constraint of genres or the opinions of others. It has to start there, and if this madness resonates with people, that’s a huge bonus! Maybe being the only child and a control freak are contributing factors as well.”
Our first taste of what this project offers is debut single Scythian King, which opens up with a huge fat bassline under heavy guitars. A drum roll gives way to a huge wall of pounding drums and fast guitars, which drive us into an intense opening verse of driving riffs, bass and drums under heavy vocals.
Cool piercing guitar lick joins in as the intense vocals continue, then drops into another huge wall of fast guitars, bass and drums. A second chorus gives way to a dark section of relentlessly heavy bass and atmospheric heavy guitars, which continue under a massive guitar solo that ends on a screeching note over pounding drums and guitars. That feeds into a cool gothic lick under big screamed vocals and more heavy drums and guitars. It’s an unrelenting, absolute monster of a track.
On the track, Roy tells us: “I think it’s a little ‘expect the unexpected.’ It’s hard to predict how the listeners are gonna react to it, but hopefully they will appreciate the intensity, diversity and groove. This is probably one of the least brutal songs on the album. I was reading this article on warfare and imperialism before and in the dark ages, how it has shaped the world, and I was fascinated by how relentlessly ‘hands-on’ warfare was back then. It’s the only song on the album with swords!” Check it out here:
The track is the first to be released from ILLT’s debut album Urhat, which will be released later this year. On it, Roy told us: “It’s an intense emotional ride, that’s for sure. It’s an eclectic yet seamless blend of everything I love about the more extreme side of metal. I hope it shines through to the listeners.”
The ILLT sound has been inspired by what Roy describes as a “very schizophrenic taste in music.” It takes inspiration from all sorts of music, but in terms of the heavy stuff there’s a long list of everything from 80s Metallica, Taake, Mastodon, The Crown, Crowbar, early Sepultura, Testament and Napalm Death to Nails, Urgehal, Cult Leader, Watain, Pantera, Tsjuder, This Gift Is A Curse, Djevel, Martyrdöd, Gojira, Mayhem, Primitive Man, The Secret and even more.
And when it comes to writing music for ILLT, Roy tells us: “I’ve been dealing with a lot of anger and bitterness towards several aspects of humanity. I tend to let my guard down and take in too much of the harrowing shit that’s going on throughout the world, and it’s therapeutic for me to have an outlet for all the negative feelings I carry with me. I used to just let it build up inside, but nowadays I’m actually able to leave a lot of that in my songs.
“ILLT serves as a sickbag and keeps me in balance, and the positive effect it has on me is motivation enough for me to write music. On my debut album, most of the lyrics revolve around humanity, past and present. How did we get here, and how did we fuck up this bad? Were we destined to fail from the beginning? The album title Urhat means something like ‘ancient hate’ in Norwegian. It deals with topics such as religious genocide, racism, imperialism, devolution and technology as a weapon.”
ILLT’s second single Blood of the Unbeliever is out tomorrow (3 March) and it’s safe to say it sounds pretty huge. Check out a teaser here. Debut album Urhat will be released later this year and Roy hopes the recording of most of his follow-up will be recorded by the end of the year, so there’s plenty more dark metal to come from the project.
As Roy adds: “I just want to thank everyone who has listened, shared, followed and in any way supported the release of the first single. It means the world to me. Stay tuned for more!”