Saturday, May 22, 2010

Interview: Spawn of Possession

Spawn of Possession is simply one of the best new bands in death metal. They are also at the forefront of the newest wave of Swedish groups who are completely breaking away from the hallowed [and confining] tradition of metal within their country. When I say "best" I know people will ask "what exactly does that mean?", but interpret/take it any way you want to. In terms of songwriting, technical ability, originality, and enthusiasm there hasn't been a collection of musicians like this in quite some time. I recently had the opportunity to question Spawn of Possession's highly skilled drummer, Dennis, who also does the vocals in another one of Sweden's up-and-coming groups, Visceral Bleeding.

Is the style that Spawn of Possession has, in any way, some sort of reaction to the popularity and precedence of the entire wave of At The Gates-influenced Swedish death metal? That whole NWOSDM form of metal has seemed to dominate Sweden's output for the last few years, even though I know that beneath it there must be all kinds of different bands in your country. Do you hope that Spawn's rising popularity will throw some more light on the bands in your country [and elsewhere] that play metal that is a little closer to your style?

We didn't really pay much attention to what was going on in the Swedish scene when we started to write for this band. Of course we were aware of the whole At the Gates sound thing but we have never thought of Spawn as a statement against that type of metal. We just play what we enjoy to listen to and that's it. Our band is very personal to us and everything we write we write for ourselves. It seems that some people from outside of Sweden think that just because you're from Sweden, you're into the Swedish sound. That's completely wrong and I honestly think that the Swedish metal is a hell of a lot more popular outside of Sweden then it actually is in Sweden. Indeed there are more bands of this calibre in Sweden and if we can blaze their path to reach greater masses, then that's great. I feel that this still is a very unrecognized form of music so all bands that are into it should stick together and support each other.

Is there ever anger or resentment in the different music scenes within Sweden that the rest of the world, at times, only seems to want to hear ONE type of music coming from your country, and ignores everything else? Do you know musicians that ever feel constrained or limited by what people always expect Swedish bands to sound like?

Well as a musician you should definitely not resonate in those terms. I mean, who cares what other people think as long as you're happy with that you do!? I guess there are a lot of people out there having high hopes about our next album since Cabinet came out so well but that doesn't concern us at all really. We're gonna stay honest to ourselves and play what we feel like. Sure I can get a little annoyed when people relate Sweden to bands like In Flames or Dark Tranquillity when I know there's so much more to give. But you can't blame the bands for that; it's the people that buys their CDs and actually believes that all Swedish bands sound all the same that are ignorant! They are just like any other bands that play what they feel like playing and it just happens to be their time right now.

I'm not going to bother asking you for a list of influences, as anyone who really listens to your music can probably hear who you are - at times- referencing, but I did want to touch for a moment on Spawn of Possession's originality, outside of all questions of influence and inspiration. How important is it to you to maintain a style that is so idiosyncratic? In terms of song writing, how often do you throw out material that doesn't fit your exact idea of the band's sound?

Things that wouldn't fit into our music do rarely reach our rehearsal place. When Bryssling, who writes most of the riffs, comes up with a riff that doesn't fulfil his current musical demands he just throws it away. The hardest thing is I think to actually put it all together and make it into a complete song. When it comes to merge the riffs I and Bryssling work as a unit and that always takes a great deal of time and effort before both of us is totally satisfied. I wouldn't say that our goal is to sound original. The quest and challenge of it is to have the goose bumps all the way through the finished song. We want the song to be absolutely perfect, the groove and flavour must please us fully before we decide to call it complete. I believe that if you work like that and spend the time the song needs to be perfected, it will automatically turn out original one way or another. Of course you would need to have some sort of distance to yourself and your influences as well but the bottom line is to make it your own favourite song.

Do you think bands can create a new style or an original sound by consciously trying NOT to sound like other bands, or is it something that just have to come about naturally? Do you think there are musicians who just can not play original music?

You can never escape the resemblance between bands and artists no matter how original they might be. You will always find some small little hidden influence here and there. The most important thing is to stay as close to objectivity as possible and then simply follow your heart; that's the place it has to come from in order to be good anyway. The point is to forget how other bands sound, don't get me wrong, it's important to have influences but we just never compare our stuff or listen to it in order to find stuff that is similar to other bands. We go by feeling, that's all that matters to us. I'm sure there are a lot of musicians out there who in the eyes of the masses doesn't write original stuff but who's still happy with what they do and that's the most important thing.

Again, on the Spawn of Possession song writing process: how long does it take, on the average, to write a song? Do you work on several songs at the same time, or do you just work on one and try to finish it before moving on to another one? The amount of detail and structural complexity within one of your songs can be almost overwhelming at times, I am guessing that you must spend a lot of time piecing together the separate riffs/segments into song fragments, and then try to assemble whole songs out of those…can this be accomplished in rehearsal or is there one main songwriter responsible for the material?

For instance we worked on and off on "A Presence Inexplicable" for about 4 years. "Hidden in Flesh" took about 4 months to complete so we don't have an average for our song writing. We just need to find the right elements of the songs to get it written. We usually have 2-3 songs in the smithy at the same time. It actually works pretty much as you describe, first we assemble some riffs into to chunks and then we try to put those chunks together in a clever way and make sure the song doesn't lose its charisma. Afterwards we play the song over and over again and as the song grow in our minds as a whole we step in and make small changes here and there just to get everything down right. Usually this is taken care of by me and Bryssling when there's no band practise. But of course everybody has a saying in the final piece.

Is there one song on "Cabinet" that points to the style that Spawn of Possession will follow in the future? What direction is your newest material going in? More technical, less?

Well "Hidden in Flesh" and "Uncle Damfee" were the last two songs we wrote for the album so that's were we have taken off with the new stuff. It's too early to comment on the new material but it is indeed more technical and crazy. We have also increased the speed with several bpm and added some more slow groovy riffs to complement it all. "Uncle Damfee" was more of an experiment so I'm not sure we will continue in that direction but the elements of "Hidden in Flesh" might appear, with a bigger twist though.

If there was one thing you could change about the current state of the entire death metal scene, what would it be? What would you like to see happen in death metal? What disappoints you in the current scene?

I can't really say anything disappoints me because I don't pay any attention to stuff that doesn't intrigue me. Of course there are some albums I've had high hopes for in the past and when they're finally released the band has chosen to work in another direction or done something that might not interest me, I guess that can be a bit disappointing sometimes. I respect any band that has sold their soul to brutal music but it would be cool to see a little more pushy bands who dares to take this genre one step further and not only repeat the same old shit over and over again. It is a bit sad that some bands leech on other bands creativity instead of trying to find their own path. But I guess that's the way some artistry goes. Eventually it is gonna be the original bands that will navigate the whole fucking genre.

Do you think that the rising interest in death metal at this time is a kind of backlash against the dominance of black metal over the last 7-8 years? Is it just boredom with what the black metal bands of this day are doing, or do you think it goes deeper - that the newest wave of technical death metal bands offer a flexibility and creative power that contemporary black metal bands can't match? In other words…why play death metal at this time and NOT black metal? How does the style of Spawn of Possession satisfy your need to create, in ways that other styles of music can not?

Genres come and go and this is something that sifts out the passionate listeners from the stream followers. I guess you could say that people are getting fed up with black metal just like they did with death metal in the early nineties but that kind of people that jump between the genres are in my opinion totally irrelevant. I mean just because the hype cools off and some big bands vanish doesn't mean that the music is dead. Personally I don't think the new brutal stuff that is coming out has anything to do with any other genre. Basically it's people who likes to play death metal regardless to what's going on in the scene. Death metal has so much more artistic freedom then black metal if you ask me, it's a lot more than just speed and ferocity. Besides a few exceptional bands black metal in general is a bit too monotonous for my taste. Right now Spawn is perfect for me as a musician and a drummer. I have 100 percent creative freedom here so it's just perfect to try out new stuff and experiment with my instrument! I don't think I would find that creative satisfaction in a pop band for instance!

When I listen to bands like Spawn of Possession, it seems to me that…your music is as much a reaction against older styles of death metal as it is a fight against anything else, you are desperately trying to expand the boundaries of death metal and not let it fall into the clich├ęs and stale formulas where the biggest bands in the genre have driven it. Does that make sense to you? I know that musicians have felt, over the last few years, that at times there just wasn't anywhere to go, stylistically, and within death metal…how important is it to you to disprove that theory? How vital is it for you to show other musicians that there is still plenty of room for exploration within death metal?

We're not about proving anything to the rest of the death metal community, we just play it the way we like it. In a way we are very alike the old giants because they all together pushed this genre and kept it fresh. Today you could call it old school but back in the early days, their music was quite unique. Same thing with us, we want to push ourselves as much as our music into further extremities because we strongly believe that that's what death metal is all about. As a musician you have to lose yourself and try out new stuff in order to reach higher levels. One thing we do is to bring in influences from outside death metal. We listen to Classical, jazz, movie scores, solo music etc. and that stuff certainly gives us an impression that we take with us into our state of creativity. If you stay open minded to wild ideas and influences and not only play the same old records over and over again you will definitely broaden your musical thinking. Take guitar solos for instance, how many death metal bands can actually play really genuine guitar solos!? Very few if you ask me. Most of the time it's just some lame melody with a lot of tremolo or a mindless scale going faster than the speed of light. Those guys that actually can pull it off have most certainly not been inspired by another death metal guitarist. They listen to guitar players like Yngwie Malmsteen, Van Halen, John Petrucci, Steve Vai or whatever because that's where the real guitar artistry lies.

All right, please use this remaining space to let our readers know what will be happening for your band in the near future. You have a tour coming up in the States, right? Thanks for answering this interview.

Yeah we're going to tour U.S. and Canada on the Bloodletting N. America between November and December. Other bands on the bill are Pyaemia, Severed Savior and Gorgasm. When we get back I will enter the studio to record my vocals for the second Visceral Bleeding album which will be released later next year! In April we will hit Europe once more on the No Mercy Festivals tour; the other bands for that tour are Cannibal Corpse, Hypocrisy, Kataklysm, Vomitory, Prejudice, Exhumed and Carpathian Forest. After that we will focus 100 percent on the next album. Thanx for the interview and the support!!!