GRAVE – Straight to the point
27. August marks the release date for the 10th (yes, that’s 10th!) studio album from Swedish death metal maestros Grave. It feels strange to ponder the fact that the youngsters coming out of Visby Town on the island of Gotland, Sweden, in the mid-eighties has established themselves as a household name in metal music.
The first demos Black Dawn (1987, as Corpse) and the Sick Disgust Eternal (1988) connected Grave to the epicentre of Swedish death metal in Stockholm, and positioned the guys to be in the front lines when record labels came running in 1990. The kids then known as the ‘Shit League’ (Bajsligaen) pulled through from drunken mayhem to top-notch grindfreaks: Suddenly, all the key bands got signed and succeeded: Earache signed Entombed, Nuclear Blast signed Dismember and Therion, Deathlike Silence signed Merciless – and Century Media signed Grave. Their first release was a 7" Tremendous Pain, but the first full-length album was Into the Grave, an album that indisputably is an essential part of the formative years of death metal as we know it. It was a classical Sunlight Studio-production with straightforward and brutal songs. The thick and foggy fuzz-pedal sound. Gory lyrics, gory artwork. The works.
Since then, Grave has been steadily putting out albums and toured with every corner of the world. Their last 5-6 years has been really busy, and the guys are ready to release their latest album Endless Procession of Souls.
In the bible of Swedish Death Metal by Ekeroth (2006), Ola Lindgren is listed alongside people like Quorthon (Bathory), LG Petrov (Nihilist, Entombed), Fredrik Karlen (Merciless), and Michael Amott (Carnage, Carcass, Arch Enemy) as culprits in the outbreak of this type of metal that still is very much alive. On that same list, the majority of people have nowadays returned safely to society with normal jobs and regular lives. But Ola Lindgren is still out there to stir up death metal riffs and sweet production.
I’ve never seen a grave this lively.
I called up Mr. Lindgren to hear his thoughts on the latest album, touring with Morbid Angel and the new line-up.
So, there’s a new Grave album out soon on Century Media. It’s called "Endless Procession of Souls", and is due late august 2012. Tell me about the album!
Yeah, it’s our tenth studio album, and we done everything ourselves this time. We recorded it in our own studio, produced it, and did the mastering, everything. I think we are taking it back to the roots, a lot of good old-fashioned death metal, a little groove here and there, and some heavier and brutal stuff. It’s very easily to get at, straight forward and simple. No technical show-off or anything like that. Straight to the point, you know.
Is it the first album that you record in your own studio?
We previously recorded a lot, but not been in charge throughout the whole process. Yeah, it’s the first done fully by our selves.
So, how does it feel to be fully in control?
It’s very interesting and cool, actually. I really enjoy being in the studio. We moved to a new place this spring, and we then built the whole rehearsal and studio from the ground and up. Now it is as good as it newer have been before! The plan is to do some work in between our own albums and tours, we’re hoping to do some mixing and recordings and stuff like that.
It’s the new Sunlight Studios in the brewing here, he he!
(laughs) Yeah, we’ll see! We hope to get the chance to do some interesting stuff. There aren’t that that many facilities that handle metal music, at least here in Stockholm. We hope to get some projects done and ‘get into the marked’, so to speak.
Yeah, because it takes some skill and experience to understand metal, right? It’s not just to go ahead and make a metal album sound good?
Right! We do have some experience and references. I guess it is important to make a band sound like they actually sound, you know, and transfer that to the album. I think a band should sound on the album like they sound live, you know, at least as close as possible. I think people should have the same experience, somehow. And that’s the difficult part. A lot of bands don’t succeed in that sense.
The previous album (INT note: Burial Ground, 2010) was made quite fast; you spent 2-3 months with the whole thing. How was the process this time around?
It has been a longer process for sure. I think we wrote most of the material in October 2011, and recorded the drum tracks in January this year in our old studio. Then we went on building our new rehearsal studio here in Stockholm. Century Media told us there was no panic in terms of getting the album out before summer, so we forestalled the release until the fall of 2012. We did the carpentry and construction for three months before finalising the rest of the album. I guess it took approximately 6-7 months or so. But that includes the construction work. But still, it felt good not rushing it, and just reflect on the whole process. There was never any rush or hurry to get this album out. It’s been good, you know.
Yeah, this is your tenth studio album. How would you say that it fits to the back catalogue of Grave?
I think it fits very nicely. It is for sure the most old-school sounding material we done for a very long time. The people that have heard so far thinks it something like the three first albums, and that was the idea in the first place. We wanted to do something damn brutal and straightforward – but catchy in some way in order for people to catch on easily. Then we really focused on the production to get the right feeling in the songs.
Agree! The sound is important. I’ve heard through the album a couple of times, and the guitar sound is incredibly good! It has this really fat and warm sound, with a rich set of nuances in the songs. It’s a bit more crisp than previous albums?
Yeah, that was one of our goals – we wanted it dirty and brutal, yet, it should be crisp and possible to hear what’s going on. We spent a lot of time on getting it crisp enough, and that all instruments were there to create momentum.
Were there any technical challenges in terms of the production? Any particular effects, guitars, pedals, microphones or so?
Well, I guess not. We did it all ourselves, so we had the time to try out different things. We a deal with EVH now, so we used primarily their stuff. Beyond that, no big secret or anything. There’s very little tinkering after recording the instruments. We tried to record stuff as close to the end-production as possible. Every instrument we added fitted nicely into the overall picture, so it was very difficult to bring all together at the end.
It sounds like the new material is very well suited for playing live.
Yeah, we kinda aimed for that, its how the songs were written. Two guitars, bass, and drums, that it. No multiple tracking of guitars or stuff that you cant play live. The new songs are written and recorded so that they may be played live. We are very excited about playing the songs when we get out on the road this fall!
So. You weren’t tempted to do like some bands do nowadays, and bring inn saxophone, strings, oboe, and stuff like that?
(Laughs) No, not at this point, as far as I know.
Well, perhaps the next album.
You’re headed out on tour this fall. First Germany and central Europe together with Sonne Adam, then you’re headed the US to play together with Morbid Angel. There 45 gigs in 35 days or something, that quite a busy schedule.
Yeah, We look forward to that. We’re stacked it all together, and we go straight from our last concert in Europe that is in London straight over to the US to start up there. We did not want to wait with supporting the album, so we just got to it, you know. We’re ready to go out there.
And you’re touring with Morbid Angel! That quite a line-up, I’d say. Given the significance of Morbid Angel both for Swedish death metal in particular and death metal in general, that must be a blast!
Yeah, it gonna be a blast! I heard them recently on a concert and they are totally crushing. Look forward to that.
Grave is regularly labelled as ‘legendary death metal pioneers’. What are your thoughts on being labelled ‘legendary’? Do you want people to hear the new songs as something from a compactly new band or as something from the ‘legendary band Grave’?
I don’t know, it’s difficult to say. I don’t want people to buy the album or come see just because we have been doing this for 25 years. I want them to get into our stuff because they heard a song or two and really like it, no matter what band it was. I guess its all both good and bad, because you get a lot of momentum due to the name and reputation we have and the fan base that we have established. If we were to release a album today totally without any history, goddamn, that cannot be easy (laughs)! How the fuck to they pull that off, you know. Just to get signed and get an album out and go on tour to support it! All of that is easier for us when we got the name that we got, you know. We have this ‘legendary’ label hanging to us, and we do our thing, we haven’t changed up everything, or gone all technical prog-metal. We’re still true to the stuff that built our name.
Yeah, because metal is becoming more and more popular. Going back to 25 years, death metal was a marginal phenomenon. Few acknowledged death metal, and ever fewer were really into it. Now, you have metal festivals though out the summer pulling crowds up to 100.000 people. What’s your thoughts the fact that death metal has become that popular and almost mainstream?
Well, I dunno. Today you don’t have the same underground movement in the same way it was back then. It’s a whole new game, with the Internet and all that comes with it. It’ all a lot easier to promote gigs and keep in touch with fans compared to 20 years ago. The bands become more visible in a different way than before. Beyond that, I think its cool that there are that many festivals out there! With the right connections, you could play every Friday and Saturday from March to October (laughs)! Every little town in, say, Germany, there’s a festival or something going on. A guess it’s both good and bad. Concerts in for example South America or Russia or something were seldom and people showed up, but nowadays there are so many bands and concerts that fans really needs to prioritize, you know. People don’t have the money to go to every show, I guess. So it’s hard to put together a good tour and proper gigs. The completion is fierce.
What keeps you going in the metal scene?
Well, there still a lot of interest in the band, you know. I guess there’s not that many bands that’s been playing for 25 years and still have a career based on that, and to release new albums, play gigs, growing a fanbase. But its not all about nostalgia. As long as we have a label backing us up, you know. Tha last five or six years has probably been our most busy periods as a band ever. It might be a general positivity towards death metal, and that cool. I’m not here to become a millionaire, you know, that’s not going to happen (laughs). Its not a job in that sense. I love doing this, plain and simple. Great people in the band, we have a lot of fun recording and touring and stuff. Its still a bit like it was when we started.
The line-up in the band that you got now is very interesting. You got Tobias from Dismember and Mikael from Facebreaker. That must be a solid set of soldiers to hit the road?
Absolutely! We really click on a personal level, and it feels like a strong line-up when we play live. It’s a unique feeling compared to before. We deliver in a completely different way. And they have been very involved in the song writing in the new album. We all had our input, I had this final touch, putting it all through the ‘Grave-filter’. But it’s all written as a band in the rehearsal place. Its been very rewarding to work this way.
It’s going to be exciting to see and hear the reception of the album when it’s out in late August! Wish you guys the best of luck with the tour! Thanks for taking the time for the interview!
Thanks! We hope to get back to play in the Nordic countries again, its been a long time since last we played here. Hope to see you all on the road sometime.
Yes, I really hope the booking people pay attention here!