Alone With the Dead
Yeah, I'm glad I can introduce to you interview by the Swedish VANHELGD maniacs, the band which will not deny their Swedish roots, but certainly they don’t stick only to those waters. Hard to say whether VANHELGD become better known band in the underground, the potential is certainly there and also great Nucelar War Now! label behind their back, but crucial is the fact they play wicked and sick music of high quality. I believe the right Death maniacs have already found a way to these maniacs through their two great albums and one EP. The country of origin is also more than interesting with its genre traditions. The interview was committed quickly enough, so there is absolute satisfaction from my side. For the band answered Matt (vox, guit) and Jimmy (vox, guit).
Yeah, greetings to VANHELGD horde of hell! How are things going in these hot days in your band? What employs your minds most now?
Hey! Vanhelgd is busy writing new songs and planning world domination as we also are rehearsing for some upcoming shows.
Your journey was quite quick, you have started in 2007 and a year later you've already recorded "Cult of Lazarus" debut. Haven’t you really recorded any demo meanwhile? Have you exactly known what do you want to play?
A lot of things fell into place at the same time and the music is not so far away from our former bands. We did a rehearsal/demo that we put online for a while in early 2008 which led to the contact with crematorium records.
What reactions to the "Cult of Lazarus' album have you got? What the recording of debut has actually meant to you? It was carried out under the auspices of Crematorium Recs. How did you get to this label? Have you found them, or they found you?
We haven’t got so many reactions on “Cult of Lazarus” and the ones we got are both good and bad. Crematorium heard some songs online and contacted us to see if we were interested in releasing something. We were very glad that someone was interested so we went into the studio in the summer of 2008 and recorded the album. Everything went quite fast and smooth as I recall it now.
It seems then luck smiled on you when you got the great Nuclear War Now! label which is responsible for truly excellent recordings. How did you get to this label? Are you satisfied with their work? How many albums have you signed a deal?
We sent a copy of “Cult of Lazarus and NWN! wrote to us asking why, we answered that we were searching for a label to release a vinyl version of the album and then thing just went on. We are very satisfied with NWN! - Yosuke is very professional and puts a huge effort in each release. We have not signed any deal and I’m not sure that a record deal is the way to work these days.
Under the Nuclear War Now! you have already released "Praise The Serpent" EP and currently still quite hot novelty, the second "Church of Death" album. How are you happy with the novelty? Where can you see the biggest difference between debut and new one? Was there any attempt on some progress by you?
“Church of Death” has a lot of similarities to “Cult of Lazarus” in my opinion. But there are some differences to, the sound is not quite the same and the songs are stronger and more worked through, that is probably the main difference. We had no intentional strategy when we wrote the songs; we just wanted to make music that we liked ourselves. The songs “Prasie the Serpent” and “the Triumph of Death” that appears on the EP were recorded at the same time as the album but were taken out due to lack of space. The songs were also originally written for me and Jimmys “old” band Ceremonial Execution (check out the re-release on Nuclear Winter rec.) and are therefore slightly different, even after we desecrated them.
All your stuff you've released so far is fucking good, I think your sound and way of old school Death Metal is killing! Recently was also released AUTOPSY "Eternal Macabre" album, in my view your novelty easily reaches its level. What is you look at this legend? Have they influenced you somehow? What bands inspire you the most for your creation?
Autopsy is a big influence on Vanhelgd, especially on “Cult of Lazarus”. Other bands that are very important to us is Edge of Sanity, Entombed, Morgoth (Cursed), Pestilence, Paradise Lost, God Macabre, Utumno, At the Gates (with fear..) Deathevokation, Bolt thrower…. What I think is important with Autopsy is the drunk fuck off attitude combined with melodies and a fucked up raw sound. Insanity and perversion before being a “cool metal band”… What I think is really good with Autopsy is that they doesn’t want to impress you with technical skills and stuff like that, it’s not about who is the “best” musician. Many bands just seem to want to impress others with their skills, like if there is a contest going on. It’s like doing a painting just focusing on each brush stroke being perfect but not caring of what it depicts…
Even wholly deaf listener must be noted that the way of your Death Metal is rather slower than fast. How did it happen you have started to play more slowly or mid fast? Do you think slower rhythms are more appropriate to achieve the atmosphere? Would you prove to imagine you would write real fast song in such a way as e.g. Krisiun?
I have not been into writing fast songs for the sake of being fast. We sometimes tried to speed things up with Ceremonial Execution but not like Krisiun and stuff like that. Our influences and the kind of Death Metal I grew up with and it is not the super fast kind. Regarding atmosphere I don’t think that it has to do with speed, rather with production, songwriting and so on.
Do you think your Death Metal is a highly atmospheric? Do you prefer music that is atmospheric and that is playing with the listener's subconsciousness than cold, commercial music, often also full of exhibition?
I don’t believe in essence of things, that there is some “true” atmosphere imbedded in specific pictures, music or whatever. The experience of let us say atmosphere or whatever else notion like happiness or tragedy is highly a cultural construction embedded in the individual and shared with others that have certain cultural and subculture codes in common. It’s all about interpreting certain codes in a specific context as I see it.
The mood that I think we try to communicate with our music is more similar to what I think is common in old euro/Scandinavian death metal, a feeling of tragedy and doom. Much of the old US death metal is more “straight in the face” brutal… This is of course my subjective opinion and a ruff generalization.
Personally, I think your band is pretty quickly recognizable among hundreds of other bands due to already mentioned slower paces, characteristic sound and of course due to great vocals. Is originality important to you? Do you think only original bands can actually take metal fans attention?
Originality has never been our goal; I think that we sound like everybody else ha ha! It is quite clear that an original band is NOT the recipe for attracting fans, people in general seems to like stuff that they recognize and can relate to that goes for metal as for other music too. Then there is always the “who was first question” that has to do with originality if you follow the ideology that “first automatic equals best”. Originality as notion is also hard, what is originality and can anything be original, things have a certain ability to relate to and build on other things…Short answer - originality is not important to me and I don’t think only original bands can attract the metal fans.
Definitely you will agree with me that the most important factor in music is composition. Do you think the music composer should be already born with this talent, or it can be either studied at the conservatory, or by self-perception of music?
Talent… studies…self education… conventions and sub-cultural frameworks… as mentioned before - I don’t believe in the essence of things… the context is what makes stuff for what they are, tie the most “talented” dude to a wheelchair for 6 years, cut his right arm of and give him nothing but candy and beer and force him to practice guitar every day he will probably become a better guitarist than me and I will run faster than him…
How can you see your music in terms of composition?
We work quite hard as a group trying to make the songs interesting in terms of arrangements. I think that the drums are very important for what the guitar riffs sound like so we have a lot of discussions regarding drums. Björn is a really great drummer to play with and has a lot of ideas so it usually comes out great!
In late 80s and early 90's there was a great wave of Swedish Death Metal in Sweden. I think I should not even mention the bands of this amazing time in my opinion. No other European scene has never been as strong and original as the Swedish one. How can you see this phenomenon?
I really don’t know much about how it was in Stockholm then, I guess that there was a small group of people playing in each other’s bands and things just happened... then more bands showed up here and there. As I recall not so many bands from Sweden were legendary in the early 90ties, it’s more like a rationalization that has formed in the last 10 years, but some bands like Entombed and Dismember were really big. The scene as a whole can be understand as original but hardly the bands, I think a lot of them are variations on basically the same thing.
Seems to me as if the classic Swedish bands gradually leave a bit their roots, either they have changed direction, or they broken up etc., Today it seems to me as if Swedish Death Metal would rose up again, VANHELGD, REPUGNANT, DEGIAL, MIASMAL, GRAVELESS, MORBUS CHRON , TRIBULATION, STENCH, BASTARD PRIEST, INTERMENT, VETERNUS, INVIDIOUS, PUTERAEON etc. What do you think about your current scene?
My personal new death metal favorites are Bastard Priest, Maim, Miasmal, Morbus Chron, Bombs of Hades and Tormented. Also the veterans in Sorcery are amazing live. Most of the new Swedish bands have just put out one album but I hope that I don’t stop there. (Maim and Bastard Priest put out album no 2 this year)
What lyrical themes you deal with? Do you prefer any particular theme? Death Metal generally deals with rather cliché themes. Do you think that certain themes should remain preserved in this style? How much are the lyrics important to you and who is responsible for them? Where do you draw inspiration?
I don’t care so much for lyrics in music at all. I threat lyrics as an instrument, the words has to adjust to that. When I write in Swedish it often gets a little bit better lyrics but its way harder to fit with the music than English. Our themes are often the standard clichés. My inspiration often comes from a phrase that I put together for a certain part of a song. I really like Entombed lyrics on Clandestine and Wolverine blues and a lot of Primordial’s stuff is truly amazing + some Edge of Sanity have done some “out of the box” stuff that sometimes inspire me too.
They always said the Swedish bands have a problem to play live at home, on the other hand, your country supports young unknown bands - perhaps financially, the contributions for instruments, rehearsal rooms and the like. Is it true? Have you already played outside Sweden?
It is quite hard getting decent gigs in Sweden and to get people to come to shows. We have adult educational associations in Sweden who helps for example musicians with rehearsal rooms, recordings and stuff like that, depending on which association and where you live you get different amounts of help.
We have just played a couple of shows actually and just one abroad in Berlin at the NWN Fest part 2. We will do a show in Copenhagen Denmark, Kill-Town Death Fest II in September this year.
Are you fans of horror films? Who of you is most interested in this film genre? Do you prefer the old classics or you watch the current movies as well? Which movies are your favorites for the old and the new ones? In a later era there surely resonates “The Blair Witch Project” or “Paranormal Activity”...
I’m not really a “fan” of horror movies so I throw the ball to Jimmy instead:
Jimmy: I prefer the old classics. First "The Omen" and "Rosemary's Baby" are favorites. I try to watch most new movies, but it's hard to keep up with all. The favorite among the new, I must say "The Grudge". The U.S.. Believe it or not.
How is the life in Sweden? Are you satisfied with your standard of living? Would you prove even imagine to live somewhere else and if so, where? Is more important to you the economic or rather spiritual - atmospheric aspect of the country?
Sweden is great in many aspects but the last two winters were fucking brutal on peoples mind, nothing worked and there were snow everywhere for months, it was a real project just doing basic stuff like taking out garbage and getting to work and so on. Otherwise we had a quite functional society but it is getting dismantled a little bit each and every day now… Jimmy me and Björn lives in a really small town, Viktor lives in Stockholm, which of course is also small in international terms… but there are some stuff to do at least.. I could imagine myself living in Rome or Berlin or maybe London. I think that both the economic and emotional is important… I need to be able to have a studio to paint my pictures in and stuff like that.
How do you perceive death? Have you ever thought about it you would actually arrive at the threshold of life and death, you will realize that all is ending, leaving everything? Do you believe everything ends with death?
Yes death is the end of life and your consciousness I believe. Religion and stuff like that is just an outcome of need for control and peoples fear and inability to cope with their own insignificance. Why should we come somewhere else?
Yet it is probably quite soon, but what are your plans after new album release? Will you go to support album by live gigs? Aren’t you going to some European performances, e.g. to Eastern Europe? Would you prove to imagine playing at some better fest for 10,000 till 30,000 fans?
We can’t really afford/have time to go on tour. Everybody except for me has a fulltime job and I have just (somewhat) finished my academic studies and are trying to start up my own business in the graphic design/art sector. So the answer is no for the moment unless someone gives us a fair deal! A festival would be great!
Ok, that would be all on my part. If I forgot something, you have the space. Thank you for answering my questions, I hope you will succeed in all aspects. Keep the kingdom of death alive!
Thanks for the interest in Vanhelgd!
One world united under the banner of death!
Matt 30. 6. 2011 Mortuary