THE FORSAKEN – Serving Death Again
We often wonder what happens when acts that are productive early in their recording career seemingly disappear without a trace. Especially if the break has been years- as is the case with the Swedish death metal band The Forsaken. Hopefully this interview with guitarist Patrik Persson dispels any myths you may have had regarding their low profile status during the last eight or nine years- because their fourth album "Beyond Redemption" is a serious knockout blow to all your senses.
Your new album "Beyond Redemption" comes 9 years after the last one- what exactly has taken place in those years in between? I know you negotiated a release from your previous label Century Media in 2009- were there other work related/ personal issues going on that caused some delays? Did it ever seem at any point that the Forsaken may have to break up?
"What took place in those years was not that different from what usually takes place in a band’s lifespan, only in super slow-motion. We rehearsed, wrote songs and had a few gigs but the tempo was slowed down to a crawl. A lot of things happened to create this effect. One significant fact was the geographical split in the band that happened when I moved away to study at a different location. The songwriting had always been a collective effort, mostly between me, Stefan and Nicke. With the new setup there was a serious glitch in the songwriting-process. The songs didn’t end up sounding as good as we needed them to and weren’t getting finished in the same pace as before. At about the same time we were unofficially dropped from Century Media which meant we had to find a new label. But without good material none of us felt the urge to send any promos so the band gradually faded away.
We were never broken up as a band even though there were some periods without any rehearsing, gigs or songwriting. When Stefan left the band we found ourselves at a crossroad- either drop everything or painstakingly start the old machinery again and get up to speed again. I’m glad we got our heads out of our asses and started making music, I didn’t know how much I had missed it until we started seriously playing again."
What circumstances led to founding guitarist Stefan Holm leaving The Forsaken- and was it easy to get Calle Faldt (ex-Feared Creation/Deranged) to become the newest member? Were you familiar with his work in his previous bands? *
"Stefan was getting more and more frustrated with the band not making any progress. In many ways he was the one trying to get things going and pushing for us to start getting serious again. We had many instances when it seemed like we were about to get going only to return to our dormant state again. In the end he figured it wasn’t worth the effort so he quit the band and focused on other things. Since we’ve always been a band with a pretty stable line-up this was a pretty big blow to the rest of us. Paradoxically enough him quitting the band got the rest of us going since we realized we were pissing away something that used to be really good. For the record I’ll have to add that we’re still good friends and that there were no hard feelings involved whatsoever.
Calle was the first choice for us. Anders had played with him in Feared Creation and Nicke knew him well as a "Sweden Rock" drinking buddy so they were convinced he could fill Stefan’s spot. I had heard some of the Feared Creation stuff but I didn’t really know that much about him. After a few rehearsals it became apparent that he was a perfect match both musically and personally."
"Beyond Redemption" is your first release to be self-produced, how do you feel the overall process went recording this album? Did you have any special challenges or obstacles that came up in terms of songwriting, particular tones, or performances?
"It was a strange and frightening process indeed. When signing with Massacre we knew we wouldn’t have the same recording budget as the past albums and we had to find ways to do everything cheaper without cutting any corners sound-wise. Since I’d been studying and working with music-production for a couple of years I felt confident that we could record the album ourselves and spend the money on mixing instead. The fact that Calle owns and operates a small studio in his hometown pretty much sealed the deal.
There were loads of challenges involved. We had a specific deadline since Fascination Street is a busy studio and needed the material on the first of January to complete the mix. So getting the logistics of it all done, finding time for everyone to record their parts, getting hold of any additional equipment and preparing the files for mix was a big headache. At the same time there was the creative stuff as well, making sure everything sounded right and getting the best takes from everyone and writing the final songs was also keeping me up at night.
Recording your own music has some advantages as well. There’s a lot more time to experiment with the material than when you’re in a studio and every hour wasted is money thrown away. The vocals were something we spent a very long time with. There was a lot more experimenting with different feels, rhythms and lyrics this time around and we’re very pleased with the result."
How much warming up comes into play before tackling some of the speed riffing and hyper fast drum parts for songs like "Foul Messianic Grace", "Force Fed Repentance", and the opening title track?
"We don’t actually warm up that much, we simply accept that the first 20 minutes of every rehearsal is going to sound like senior-citizens are playing our songs. With consistent rehearsals those 20 minutes turn to 10 minutes and when playing very frequently, like on tour, the need to warm up is gone for me. As for the drums, I’m sure it’s a pain in the ass but then again it’s not my problem if Nicke sweats a little. He could use the exercise, he he!"
Where do you get your lyrical outlook or inspiration from?
"The lyrics deal with worldly things, politics, religion, social issues among other things. All of the lyrics are rather abstract but they do have a very distinct topic as a foundation. A lot of inspiration has come from the big land west of us and the fascinating twists and turns in politics since they got their first black president. Most of the newer songs on the album have lyrics that are related to the festering mass of politics/religion/corporate-interests/money that dictates the way the world is governed. It’s very easy to become cynical when watching the news."
You went to Andre Alvinzi and Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios for the mixing and mastering on this album. How important do you believe both aspects are as an artist to getting the final recording sounding just the way you want it to be- especially for the type of punishing death metal The Forsaken plays?
P: I’m not sure. You always have reference-albums that you want your production to sound like. On top of that each member has a slightly different sound-ideal where there own instrument is the loudest. When we received the first mixes from André we were all very surprised because it sounded way different then we had expected, but in a good way. We already had a pretty good idea how the songs would sound based on our own demo-mixes but listening to them with a completely different production was really cool, it was like hearing the songs for the first time again. We had some input about the sound though we tried to keep it at a minimum. A lot of the time I imagine the band is more in the way when it comes to mixing. It’s a delicate process and it’s not as easy as just adding more bottom to the guitars or raising the volume of the bass. It’s the engineer’s job to know what will sound good so I think it’s best left up to him. Sure, we had some opinions about the sound and levels of the different vocal and guitar-parts but mostly we let André do his job. A lot of the times his ideas were better than ours. For example we might have added certain guitar-parts that were meant to be very low in the mix that ended up being much louder, and most of the times we agreed with André’s decisions."
Are the lead breaks within the songwriting planned out before the studio sessions- or are there certain times where a spontaneous, on the spot lead spot works better for the band? I’m particular impressed with the work in "Only Hell Remains" for instance…
"Yes, the song-structures are 100% finished when we start the recording. As for solos, fills and some vocal parts there is a lot of experimentation. Often it’s when you are in the middle of a recording session you get the most ideas. Listening to the song in a studio environment gives you a much better overview of the structure and sets off more creative sparks then in the rehearsal room, at least when it comes to the things I mentioned above. As for the solos for me it’s about 50% improvisation. With solos that are played over a fairly simple riff like in "Only Hell Remains" or "As We Burn" I’ll usually improvise a couple of takes until I get something cool and then fill in or overdub if there are some parts I don’t like. With more harmonically complicated riffs like in "There Is No God" most of the solo is written methodically."
Now that you’ve had some time to look back at the career of The Forsaken, how would you assess or rate each of your previous three albums, "Manifest Of Hate" in 2001, "Arts Of Desolation" in 2002, and "Traces Of The Past" in 2003? What would you consider some of the highlight songs for each of these records?
"That’s a good question. At the time of release I’ve always felt very proud of our music and have never been dissatisfied with any of our albums. As the years pass you’ll inevitably grow as a musician and instrumentalist. Also your taste in music might change. I still stand 100% for all our albums and any criticism that might have grown over the years have more to do with individual songs and riffs rather then the albums as a whole.
Manifest of Hate: 8/10
The album is overflowing with ideas and some pretty complex song-structures and passages. The album ended up this way because we only worked on one song at a time so any cool riff we composed had to be fit into the song we were doing at the moment. A lot of the songs were too fast for us to play properly and would have sounded better if we had put more thought in when it came to setting the tempo. But that was the way we composed music back then, faster = better. Though some songs sounded better on our "Reaper -99" promo then they did on the album it does have a certain charm to it. My favorite song of that album has to be "Collector of Thoughts". I like the cool time-changes and the subtle use of melodies here and there.
Arts of Desolation: 8/10
There is a big difference sound-wise between the debut and this one. Partly because the riffing is much more controlled this time around and as a result this album is much tighter. There is certainly a more mature (or boring depending on your taste) approach to the songwriting here. The songs are much more focused and fluent and don’t contain as many breaks and riffs as on MoH, the structures are those of a band that has learned a thing or two about songwriting. As a result the album has a few thrash-songs and a few death-songs and some in-between- this was due to us trying to make the riffs in a song fit together and have the same general feel to them. My favorite song is "Dethroned". It was the first slow song we’d ever done and I think it turned out great. It’s got a relentless heaviness and brutality that very few of our other albums had.
Traces of the Past: 7/10
I think this was our most varied album to date and also one of the most inconsistent albums we’ve released. It spans from America-style death metal "Acid with Acid" and European neo-thrash "First Weapon of Choice" to straight up mid paced melodic Gothenburg-death "One More Kill". Looking back this album gives a forewarning of the musical indecisiveness that we would suffer from during our 9 year absence. It contains both some of our finest songs and also some songs and riffs that just don’t quite cut it. My top pick from this one is "God of Demise". It has a nice flow to it and I like the structure and riffing. It’s also one of the songs that worked really well with a kind of mid tempo feel. The main riff gives me a really nice Bolt Thrower feeling. Actually I think the songs working-title was "Bolt Thrower-song".
BTW, Beyond Redemption gets a 9/10 at the moment."
What type of touring plans or festival action will The Forsaken take part in this upcoming year or so?
"We will be doing a few festivals this summer but there probably won’t be any extensive touring in the near future. The band is old and getting time off from work and family isn’t as easy as when we were 20. We’ll see how things pan out. Playing live is still important to us though, it’s more fun then our sweat-infested rehearsal-room."
How do you view the live experience versus the studio experience after all these years? What have been some of your favorite show(s) or tours that you’ve done?
"The studio is a great creative environment. It’s such a rush to hear all of the solos, vocals and effects being tangled together to form a physical manifestation of something that started as a thought in your mind one rainy afternoon. Live gigs are more like massive bursts of energy. If the studio is a place where you use a scalpel to methodically carve something into form then a live gig is where you use a sledgehammer to knock down a brick wall.
I love live gigs, the smell of sweat, beer and weed is something that invokes a very special feeling in me. In many ways a live gig is a huge pain in the ass, spending a couple of hours in a bus, dragging all the equipment back and forth, sound checking, waiting to play. All this work just for a measly 40 minutes. Those 40 minutes has to be something pretty fucking special to make it all worthwhile and they usually are.
One of our most memorable gigs was actually in our hometown of Landskrona. There was this event in the park where a lot of local bands played and we were the only metal band there. I remember us playing sometime around 3 ‘o clock in the afternoon just after a very popular reggae/ska band so there was a pretty big crowd in front of the stage. Families were sitting on blankets and were having picnics in the sun, kids were playing in the grass and an ominous intro started playing from the P.A. system. After the first song the kids and parents had disappeared from in front of the stage, a lot of them were covering their ears and I even think some of the small children started crying. In front of the stage however were maybe 20-30 headbanging teenagers who loved every second of the show. I got this really nostalgic "us vs. them" feeling like back when I was a teenager with a Dissection t-shirt and was the only one in my shitty village who loved death metal."
How would you describe the personalities within the members of The Forsaken- and what does each person bring to the table to help the band remain special?
"Hmmm… a question that demands a very thoughtful and diplomatic answer. I’ll start with myself. I think I’m the one in the band who brings most of the musical input. I have very strong opinions on what makes a good song and can be pretty thick-headed in those discussions. The rest of the band has learned to live with that.
Nicke, besides being an awesome drummer is a very methodical and organized person. He is usually the one who has been responsible for label contact, administrative issues, booking and all financial stuff regarding the band and does a great job at that. He’s also very keen on making contacts which is damn helpful for a band trying to push upwards.
Anders is the "band father". He’s the one in the band has some pretty sweet mechanical and practical skills and is fully capable of driving a proper bus. When the bus breaks down there’s never any real discussion about who gets to take a look under the hood. Did I mention that he also owns a farm? How cool is that?
Stefan is still the youngster in the band even after 10 years. He’s quite opinionated, well read and has some pretty sharp rhetorical skills. He’s also funny as fuck. He’s probably the one person in the band whose taste in books, movies and music I trust 100%.
Calle is the new guy. He’s a splendid guitarist and probably the only one in the band who has a real capability for practicing and has big ambitions in all he does. Once he sets his mind to something, it gets done."
What aspects of the metal scene do you most enjoy- and what would you like to see change (if anything) if you could- and what needs to be done to ensure the longevity of the movement?
"It’s very hard to make generalizing statements about a movement that contains several million people, both positive and negative, but I’ll give it a go. One of the main things I like about the scene it the low ratio of assholes. Metal fans and musicians have a tendency to be cool people in general, I’m not sure why though. Perhaps it’s the fact that metal still is something doesn’t really fit in the social norm. I’m not saying it’s an entirely underground genre but you very rarely hear it getting airtime on commercial radio, not even the bad bands- at least not in Sweden. After all these years it’s still not kosher to the general public and I think that’s a good thing. Metal should be loud music, angry music and rebellious music, it’s not for everyone. I think public acceptance is corrosive to all things extreme and pure. If the more extreme forms of metal would become proper and get airtime on major radio-stations, played at clubs and bars all day long, there would evolve something even more extreme as a reaction to that. Anyway, I think that feeling of being slightly left out of the mainstream community makes for a sub-culture who genuinely cares about the music and the bands. At the risk of sounding too much like a Manowar song, metal will never die!
What I would change? Hmmm, I really don’t know if I would change anything. No remorse, no regrets and all that."
How supportive have your respective families been with your musical career decisions in The Forsaken through the years?
"I think all of our families have respect for what we do. Being in a band is pretty time-consuming and there’s a very delicate balance you have to make between the band and your personal life. I think all our wives and girlfriends understand that this is something that is very necessary for our well-being. Making music is an act of self-fulfillment and it’s a big part of who we are. We will never make any real money from playing the music we do but without it we would be miserable. Through this band we’ve gotten to see a large part of the world, meet loads of cool people and get our egos stroked by folks that enjoy what we do. I think this is reward enough."
What is on your bucket list of goals to accomplish in the coming years with the band? Any new territories you would like to play, or possible new influences you may add to the bands sound?
"Just getting to the point of releasing this album was a great accomplishment for us. A long leave of absence finally culminated in something we are proud of and we haven’t really given that much thought to what will happen afterwards.
Next on the list is getting back to the live scene, getting some gigs and making sure people know we’re back in business. Like most musicians I’d really like to play Japan before I die. I’ve heard so much about that country and want to experience it first hand.
About new influences, I don’t really know. I don’t think we will never make any major changes to our particular sound. Some influences will be added and some will be dropped but we will always stay true to our roots. If we don’t sound like The Forsaken anymore we might as well start a new band under a different name."
Do you think death metal in general is as healthy of a movement now as it was in your early playing years? Do you also think there are distinct differences or special characteristics between the different countries of artists that play death metal (i.e. America, Canada, mainland Europe)?
"Is it as healthy? Yes, I do think so. It’s a totally different scene but then again, change is as necessary as it is inevitable. A lot of new influences have been added to the sound and some new sub-genres have been born. I think the differences between continents aren’t as big as they may have been back in the 90’s. There is still a tendency towards using geography in order to describe a certain sound but I don’t think there is a typical sound for Swedish bands but I guess a Swedish band is more likely to be influenced by other Swedish bands and thus maintaining a sort of Swedish sound I guess."
What scares or frightens you most about the world we live in today?
"What scares me the most is the increasing influence of money and business-interests in politics, the complete arrogance and lack of empathy from those who are high up in the food chain. A lot of the time it seems we are moving towards an egotistical, capitalist, "every man for himself" mentality disguised as "individual liberty". If you’re not rich it’s your own damn fault. I don’t think a society can be judged by the standards of those who are wealthiest, it should be judged after how well it cares for those less fortunate. That’s also how I think people should be judged, not by how you treat you friends but by how you treat those who have nothing to offer you. Anyway, I see society as becoming increasingly shallow and materialistic, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon."
Are you hopeful that a fifth studio album will hit the streets within the next 2 years? Have you already begun the songwriting process, and do you think it will be a logical continuation from "Beyond Redemption"
P: I am very hopeful, I pretty much guarantee that we will have a new album on the shelves by then. We’ve started writing new stuff and finishing the older stuff that didn’t make it on to "Beyond Redemption". I don’t really think there will be as big of a difference between these two albums as it was between our older efforts. It seems like we’ve found our niche and I don’t see any identity-crisis coming anytime soon. We’re accumulating new influences and I’m positive that the next album will involve lots of contributions by Calle and Stefan in the riff department which is bound to spice things up."
What type of a record collection do you own personally? Do you prefer vinyl over CD’s? What is your favorite album in your collection, and what would be a couple of surprise artists that you listen to?
"I don’t really collect vinyl, it’s a pain in the ass to play and store, though they look really nice. Vinyl does sound better then CD’s but this is only due to the differences in mastering. I’ve got a few rarities on the shelf but nothing more.
I’ve got an average size CD-collection I think, perhaps 300-400 of them. When I was younger it consisted of 100% metal but as my interest in music grew it became more diverse and interesting. My favorite album? That’s a really hard question. My all-time faves are the ones I liked in my teens. Dissection – The Somberlain, Emperor – Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, Death – Human are perhaps the 3 albums that have been the most regular visitors in the stereo through the years. If I had to name something a little more contemporary… I’d say Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons. I fucking love their new sound and that album is a party-favorite.
Some surprises? I don’t really know what get to be called a surprise but I’m guessing it would have to be something non-metal. I’ve been getting into a lot of folksy-pop lately. Iron & Wine, Bon Iver and also the new Fleet Foxes album "Helplessness Blues" is fucking amazing. With its epic arrangements and song-structures its a fantastic journey from start to finish.
But something a bit more surprising… I can wholeheartedly recommend Ellie Goulding, "Lights". Electro-pop with a sort of singer-songwriter-ish vibe. I love it! Another cool album is Lissie, "Catching a Tiger"."