Interview with Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth in Stuttgart, 24th October 2014

Opeth - LKA Longhorn Stuttgart - 24-10-2014_0001


WS: Hello Mikael, thank you for your time. Our Magazin is called Whiskey-Soda and we had the pleasure before, not me, but my collegue and you smiled about our Magazines Name. As I know you are big wine drinker, I’m not gonna ask you my usual question. Instead I asked myself if you ever considered to have your own Opeth Wine Line made?

MA: Oh yeah, we’ve talked to two or three wine producers, and we even met one producer from Tuscany, Italy. We talked to them to do a wine, and they were Opeth fans and everything was good. It was gonna happen , we had the wine, a really good wine. But they were cooperating with a big wholesale company in Sweden, who got us in touch with each other. And then the guy who was our contact, left the company – so it didn’t materialize. And with the time, everybody’s doing wine and beer and whiskey and all that. All the metal bands did, so I lost interest in that. I don’t wanna be one of these bands saying: “Here’s another one.”

WS: So when you thought about it, it was quite early when not everybody was doing it yet.

MA: Yeah.

WS: Interesting, but I just wanted to give you this – that was my connection. As I know you like wine I brought you a bottle of wine and we made a Whiskey-Soda-Opeth-Label for it!

MA: Wow! Wow! Thank you very much! I will enjoy it!

WS: So. Let’s talk about your new album a little bit?

MA: (Smiling) That was it with the alcohol questions?

WS: Well, yeah. Next time I’m gonna bring the Whiskey for Whiskey-Soda, okay?

MA: Well, I was a Whiskey Drinker. Scotch – but not the fine stuff. We had cups like this at the tour bus, Grant’s, one liter bottles. Every night, me and Mendez especially. This much Grant’s, and this much Coke. And as the tour progressed, the Grant’s got more and more and the Coke got less and less.

WS: So when the tour was over, you had to go to holiday to recover.

MA: I had to go to rehab. We stopped that, we were drinking too much, I was drinking too much. So we don’t have any hard liquor on the rider any more. Only wine and beer.

WS: I prefer to drink a good glass of wine or a dram of Single Malt and sit down and enjoy it.

MA: Yeah, sometimes I have a Calvados as a digestive nowadays. I like it very much! But I don’t drink hard liquor otherwise. And virtually never cocktails.

WS: So you get away further and further from the Rock Musicians Clichees. No more Metal, no more liquor, no more baby killing, no more girls! (Smiles)

MA: Well, for the most part, we’ve been a drinking band. We’ve never been the typical rockband in that direction. We’re Swedish People. Being Swedish comes with a limit. There’s a word in Swedish called “Jantelagen”. Swedish People are very subdue. Unless we go on holiday in Mallorca. As a band we’ve been fairly calm over the years. And definitely now.

WS: So. Let’s talk about your new album a little bit. I just read an interview with you recently where you said that you are not so much interested in high chart positions. Like you understand that it is good for the label and so it is good for you, but you prefer to focus on the musically side. Now with your new album, being the highest charting album in your band history in Germany. And the sales are some kind of recognition as well, especially after your change in musical style. Isn’t it a good thing in that meaning, to have high sales.

MA: I don’t know what “high sales” means. Sales can be manipulated. While concert attendance can’t. We’ve been touring with bands that sold quarter a million of their album, but they’re still supporting us. So sales are not a finger on the pulse. I don’t think, it can be manipulated by record labels or the industry. We’re on a major label now, because Warner took over Roadrunner. But I still don’t know really what it means. I’m not the guy looking at the sales like: “Wow, it’s finally happening after 25 years!” It’s always good, I’m not stupid. I want to sell as many records as possible, but it doesn’t make me flexing my chest.

WS: So when you say the concert attendance is more of a pulse to you, have they been increasing with the new album?

MA: Well, we just did six shows on this tour, so it’s kind of too early but I think so. The shows in the UK, some of them were really better, some were not. It’s really difficult to say now. When I think about it, it’s not so easy to say with touring either. You don’t know what goes on in the minds of your fans, so to speak. Because your fans might be a fan of another band touring as well, because now it’s busy touring. So you’re competing. It’s really hard to say. But one thing I can say for sure: We haven’t really gone down, either with records sales or concert attendance. I’m expecting a little bit more, though, because now we’ve done two records in a row that don’t appeal to the fans of the really heavy stuff. But it’s still too early to say if we’re going downhill, if we stay the same or if we go up.

WS: When I was reading reviews of “Pale Communion” and I wrote one myself I was feeling that you’re doing better with the new album than with “Heritage”.

MA: Yeah, but I think that might have to do with the people getting used to it. Because “Heritage” was a little bit of a bomb.

WS Like the people going: Okay, they’re not a metal band any more, but a Prog Rock Band.


Mikael Akerfeldt - LKA Longhorn Stuttgart - 24-10-2014_0006


MA: Sometimes, a little bit. We still swap between being a ballad band, a prog rock band and a metal band. We still play the heavy songs. It’s a dream position to all of us, because we like all of it! That’S been a big misunderstanding of a lot of people, especially about me and the band. That I don’t like the previous records any more, because we feel too mature and everything. It’s never been that way. For me, writing and recording an album it’s not like that I have a plan to go anywhere. We go for what sounds good. If we would’ve approached this band as corporation thinking of a commercial success, we would have done differently. Obviously! We’ve never cut our music to the needs of the industry or the fans. We want to have fans and we love our fans. But on our terms. And of course it’s impossible to please everbody.

WS: So we were just talking about reviews and the general impression that “Pale Communion” made. What do reviews of your art mean to you?

MA: I read them if I stumble on them. I don’t necessarily search for them, even if I have seen a few online. Somebody said: “You got a really good review in that Swedish Newspaper” – so I had to look it up online. And that site also listed other mags and newspapers, so I was like: “Ah, what the fuck are you guys writing?” (laughs). It’s not that I’m not interested, but it won’t change what I am doing and I won’t affect my confidence either. But of course I want good reviews. There was a time, several years ago, when the internet started happening and I got my e-mail set up and everything, I was much more sensitive to negative critizism. But also, which is a paradox, I went looking for them, the negative ones. I didn’t look on the good ones, because back in those days we almost only got good reviews. So I was looking for the negative ones and didn’t give a shit on the good ones. But now I read them, but I don’t get as upset – and don’t get as happy either. A good review is like: “Ah, that’s nice.” And then I forget about it. And another one is like: “Ah, that’s shit.”

WS: I don’t want to go into the depth of analyzing every song. The change in style is obvious, and in my opinion that it’s a great album is obvious, too. But I was wondering if there’s a certain part or something that you are especially proud of.

MA: Well, one thing that I’m proud of is the composition of the album as a whole. The sequenzing, how the songs blend together. And I’m maybe more happy about the songs on their own, as well. Like for instance, on the Deliverance Album, there’s a song I don’t particularly like today, which makes me think less of the whole record. So the composition of all the songs, the packaging, the whole thing means a lot to me. So I’m happy with that. That the songs fit together as a record. I’m still a record guy. I don’t go to spotify and listen to a song. I want it to work as a full record.

WS: There’s another question that just fits in here. It’s about the song “Goblin”. The song, and the sound is quite different from the rest of the album in my opinion. I want to challegenge you with a prevocational question. Wanna go for it? Yeah? Okay, here it comes: I was wandering why you chose to put it on the album in the first place and then, secondly, why did you put it at that particular place, like in the middle of the album and not at the end? Because I was feeling like that would have made a good bonus track or an EP. What was you thaught with that?

MA: Well, I finished the song, played it to the guys, they all liked it. WE all have the reference to the Band Goblin. And why I put it just there. Well, a lot of people tell me “Pale Communion” is an uplifting record, but for me, it’s a very dark record. So that song, and the song after it, ‘River”, at least the beginning part are there as a kind of equilibrium to the darker songs. It’s a bit more kind of playful, If you know what I mean. It’s also a new sound, that we haven’t really indulged in before. Wether you like it or not, it’s still something new for us and I want to have that kind of things on our records. I like that myself, why “Heritage” is all over the place.

WS: Let’s talk about he lyrics a little bit. I was wondering when it comes to Lyrics or Album topics in General, is there something that inspires you in particular. And just to pick up two song titles or citations of songs like “The Devils Orchard” or “God is dead” and also “Faith in others” on the new album now. Does that says something about your beliefs.

MA: No. “The Devils Orchard” – when I wrote that song, the demo version had the same chorus of phrase, “God Is Dead”. And everyone I played it to told me “that’s a really catchy phrase”. I just sang on the demo, making up words – and that was it. Everyone I played it to, it stuck to their minds. I remember I even told Steven Wilson, who mixed that record, that I was thinking about rewrite this part. But he said to me: “Keep that. It’s a strong thing. It kind of dates back to my past, to the early days of being a Death Metal Band. Where I wrote a lot of almost satanic and occult type of lyrics. But basically, the rest of the lyrics didn’t have to do anything with any kind of religious beliefs. The rest didn’t have to do anything with “God Is Dead”. It was just bollocks. But it made it to a song, which topic almost could have fitted on “Ghost Reveries”. So it’s certainly not about any beliefs. “Faith In Others” doesn’t have to do anything with “Faith” as in religion, it’s more about faith in other people.

WS: When talking about beliefs, I’ve got another interesting question for you. I just recently talked to a Swedish Death Metal Band and they’re all Christians. They’re a christian Death Metal Band.

MA: They’re Swedish?

WS: Yeah, and they’re quite awesome musically, they do this kind of Scandinavian, meldodic Metal stuff and they’re also quite profound when it comes to Lyrics and stuff. Do you know any christian Metal Bands, ever heard about that such stuff exists?

MA: Well, there was Mortification, I think they’re from Australia. But I can’t really remember what they sounded like. I am what is called an Atheist, so for me Religious topics in Music have a tendency to turn me off. Most of the religious bands have something about them that is almost like propaganda type of thing going on in their lyrics – and that makes me shy away from it. I’m actually Columnist in a Swedish Rock Magazine and I did a column about that: Music with religious undertones. Or music recorded by religious bands. And I started it with the question about how many great bands with religious beliefs in christianity are out there? How many are there? I could come up with any from my personal taste. Obviously I picked one band because that was what the column was about. This band called Salamander, they’re an old band from the 70’s and their album is called „The Ten Commandmends“. Kind of speaks for itself. They were in my opinion the best band with songs and lyrics based around their beliefs. I was never a big fan of Stryper. I was never a big fan of Mortification, or any of the others. I’m a big Stevie Wonder fan, one of my favourite records of all time is his „Innervisions“, and there’s a song called „Jesus Children of America“ on there. I can’t listen to it.


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WS: You like the album, but you can’t listen to that particular song?

MA: Yeah, but I can’t really explain it. But I get turned off by music and religion. For me it doesn’t fit. But that’s no personal statement to the guys who are practicing this.

WS: Interesting topic, you could go on for hours about this, but we don’t have that time. So let’s go on to something different. The album release was postponed and I read it was because the Cover Artwork couldn’t get finished in time. Were you not satisfied with the outcome?

MA: No, it just took a lot of time. I had this grandiose idea with the three paintings. Each of this three parts almost took as much time as the Heritage Cover Artwork. I simply wasn’t thinking that far. I was pushing myself with all these ideas I had in my mind, but I didn’t think twice about timing. So he spent a lot of time on it. And I also had so many changes on it. And then I was just like: Wow, we are too late!

WS: Okay, but in the end everything came out like you wanted it to?

MA: Yeah, the Cover, I love it. The rest of the album booklet. There are a few mistakes in the Thank You Lists. Because these days they do so many versions of the same record, so they were sending me all these different Word Files I had to approve. And I didn’t really understand what was going to which version. So I finally went like: „Well, it’s fine!“ (laughs)

WS: I know you are a big Prog Fan and Opeth nowadays could also be described as a Prog Rock Band. I read about you saying that a lot of the Bands nowadays aren’t innovative enough and aren’t rebellious any more, that kind of direction. I asked myself, if there are newer bands in the Progressive Rock or Metal Genre, that you like?

MA: Well, it’s quite difficult. I don’t listen so much to new music. I’m too occupied with my old records. I get compilations sometimes and there are many competent bands. But when I hear an immediate reference to something that I know from the past I tend to get a bit turned off. I don’t wanna talk shit about any new bands and I don’t think they’re shit. They’re actually pretty good. And Metal Music. Well. It’s so easy to think about and it will probably make me sound like an old fart. But back in the seventies and eighties, and to a certain extend the nineties, where most of the metal bands I know had a clear identity. They never mixed up. Scorpions. You Immediately recognize them. Or Judas Priest. Purple. Sabbath. Led Zeppelin. My problem is, that I don’t feel the same about many new bands. When it comes to Metal at least. When it comes to Progressive. Well, as most people would expect I’m a big fan of Steven Wilsons work. I don’t think he’s ever written a bad song. I think it has more to do with taste, which is why I can’t say that bands are bad. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re bad. It’s just that there’s a certain type of music that I cling to. Sometimes it only takes a few seconds for me to tell, this is something special.

WS: What about Soen, the band of your former drummer Martin Lopez? Have you heard their new album? It’s coming up now and reminds me of Opeth a little bit.

MA: A little bit. I heard one song from that, which I found sounded good. The first album reminded me of Tool strongly and I know when he was in the Band, he was always a big Tool fan. And that kind of makes sense. As I said: They’re really competent and good band, but not something that I would sit down and listen to.
WS: So you stick with the old stuff?

MA: There’s SO much! And I’m also a bit romantic when it comes to old bands. It’s nostalgia to a certain extend. It happens so often that I’m a few seconds into an old album and it just makes me „Wow, Amazing!“ It happens so often when I go through my records. So there’s no need for me to search for new music yet.


All Photos of Florian Stangl @

Interview: Daniel Frick




BIGELF – Of antique instruments, Jedi Forces and Broken Bones

Band Logo - Bigelf


Whiskey-Soda: Damon, thank you for taking your time to answer a few questions for the readers.

Damon Fox: Well, it’s you guys that put bring the music out there and put the words together, the stories behind the music and everything.

WS: Our Magazine is called Whiskey-Soda, usually when I start I ask my interview partners what they prefer to drink: Whiskey-Soda or Swiss beer, as we are in Switzerland right now, right?

DF: Well, I was actually never known to drink, I’m not a drinker. I’ve been into the sort of Frank-Zappa-Stoner-Doom-World.

WS: (Laughing) Okay, other stuff then?

DF: Yeah, I never got to much into partying to much actually. As a kid, but I was lucky to get out of it. Rock’n’Roll, especially in Bigelf, we go between a lot of different genres, but one of these would be just Rock. Not Prog, because I think Prog isn’t traditionally a drug infested thing, even though It can be. But in Rock and Metal there’s definitely no shortage of drugs. Bigelf has an hallucinate-type feeling, and there always people that want to take mushrooms with you or they give you mushrooms. I usually say thanks, take them and flush them down the toilet. I like people do their thing. And I like Whiskey-Soda!

WS: I’ve been to one of your Shows four years ago in February 2010 and there were so few people, maybe only like 20 or 30 people. I loved the show and for that reason I almost felt a little bit sorry for you guys, because there were so few people attending. And I thought by myself: Why are these guys not bigger? Wasn’t that frustrating?

DF: The whole career has been frustrating. So is that. Though there’s no one person to blame for that in the machine. But certainly by all the touring that we’ve done, we’ve played in Europe on our own for various times before doing all the Dream Theater stuff. We’ve been exposed to seven shows in Germany with Dream Theater and we got a Record out, so you would think that more people would come. And you don’t know wether it’s competition, just too many bands touring at the time. But February isn’t really a key month, the fall are more like the key months when it comes to competition. Is it the promoter, you don’t know. Is it the wrong club, that people don’t go to see Rock’n’Roll-Stoner-Rock at that club? I got a couple of E-Mails already on this tour asking me: Why are you not in this club? But I’m not in charge of all the pieces that are put together. You just try to do the best and hopefully the next time things will turn out better. But I think this club is a great club so we’re looking forward. But I don’t know why all this stuff happens. It always happens to somebody. But no doubt – it’s disappointing. One thing about Bigelf is we’ve managed to stay relevant somehow. Somehow, through all the different changes in style and trends and all that we’re still there. And this is cool. It’s relevant, it has passion and most of all: It’s still – in a way – new. So it’s a little bit of a blessing and a curse.

WS: I was wondering, looking back to the show four years ago, if you just were ahead of your time? In the last two years there’s been sort of a movement with a lot of seventies-influenced bands coming up and sometimes even become big. But you guys have been around for about almost 25 years.

DF: Yeah, absolutely. Of course it’s really cool to be hip or visionary, but Bigelf was definitely, with other bands. When we started Bigelf the bands that were around at that time. I wasn’t really happy with the metal-scene or the synth-pop-scene. I have origins of all kinds of music, growing up with the Beatles and Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, all this stuff. I wasn’t really a huge Prog-Head, you know. You don’t put on „In The Court Of The Crimson King“ when you’re seven years old. It’s something you discover when you’re a teenager. But everybody gets into „Highway To Hell“, everybody gets into „Stairway To Heaven“, you know what I mean? But I was also into Run DMC and Depeche Mode when I was a kid, but when the late 80’s and early 90’s were rolling around I didn’t have a place to make music and so it made sense. I think early on I was trying to be Retro but I just didn’t know how to do it. It was such an abstract thought to make music that didn’t sound current and I was playing with ideas around 88 that turned into the songs ‚Falling Bombs‘ on „Hex“ and ‚Change‘ from our debut. Those songs were like a blueprint, they were written ’87 and ’88. And then Lenny Kravitz hit with ‚Let Love Rule‘. And then it was Black Crowes. That’s when I realized that I was in time with this. This was making sense. And I actually knew a few of these guys because we were all Westcoast-Guys. So why started to make this Rock Music that had Prog-Elements, Doom-Elements, it had Glam-Elements – but they main element, that it had that I don’t think any band had until now: It had an aesthetic element. So we were always about the way we looked. Now a lot of bands that do Stoner-Rock-Doom-Prog-Seventies-Rock whatever you call it, they have long hair, they’re wearing flares. They’re wearing the clothing that kind of looks like Black Sabbath or Deep Purple. And yeah, we’ve been doing that for 25 years. But in the time, we were 30 years behind, ten years ahead. And everybody always says: These guys’d been great in 1971, they probably would be famous. I don’t see it like that, because we’re carrying a torch kind of further. But those were dark years, it was a different time. Weezer, Chili Peppers, Hip Hop was really big. It took a while, though it was happening tons of stuff at the time. There were Saint Vitus and Nebula. You know, Stoner Rock is really a 90’s concept. It’s just getting big again. I think Wolfmother was one of the main things making the people go: Wow, you can sound kind of Zeppelin – and it sells. And now it’s everywhere – which is fantastic. I was like a Godfather of the scene, much older than all these kids. Totally cool! As I went to do this record people were telling me: Well, you should do a Retro-Thing. And I thought: We’ve already done that! We’ve already done this kind of Stoner-Retro thing. And our style is also in the Progressive-Soup-Thing. It’s about putting all these elements into the soup and finding the balance versus just putting out ten songs that sound like Blues Rock or whatever. I’ve never said Bigelf was original, not one time. But it’s innovative, because it’s different than the origins of it. You never hear the combos that we do, like the Beatles and something else. So that was the goal, it’s sort of a hybrid-style. Maybe because of that it doesn’t appeal that well. Because for Metal People it’s too Pop, for Pop People it’s too satanic, for Prog People it’s too glammy, for Glam People it’s too busy. We’re like an everymans band, but we just can’t get the fish. We can’t get the one combination that connects us with the audience. I know it’s out there, we’re out there, do the shows and playing our music. It’s there. There’s just so many bands. Let me be honest about it. It’s just about promotion. That’s the solid answer to all this. I’m trying to be nice, but the reality is when there are only 40 people at our shows it’s because it wasn’t promoted. More money always connects to reaching more people.


Band Photo - Bigelf


WS: About this retro-thing going on for the last two years, did you notice that in terms of Sales od Concert Visitors?

DF: To be honest, I don’t know yet. Obviously there’s a lot of young fans who don’t know who we are because we’re a little older. So you have to connect with that scene or connect with that audience, wether it’s a certain tour or a certain band. Connecting with the Dream Theater thing really put us in front of that Progressive audience. So that has nothing to do with bands like Kadavar and Ghost and all the stuff coming out of England and all the retro stuff that’s really big at the moment. But that is our origin. To me Bigelf is more like that than we are a Prog Band. Bigelf isn’t Prog. We’re simply just innovative. It’s intelligent music.

WS: We could have a conversation of hours just about the question what Prog is in the first place because there are so many answers.

DF: Yeah. Well, are there elements of Bigelf that are Prog? Of course! We totally define 1970/71 Italian Prog. Raw Rock’n’Roll with complex arrangements and organ and mellotron. Early King Crimson like Bigelf? For sure! There’s definitely a lot of lineage to Prog from Bigelf. In the whole is Bigelf a Prog Band? No! Because that’s more like Yes, Kansas, Rush, Marillion, Dream Theater. The real origins of Progressive Rock was Jazz, combined with Classic and Rock. That were the origins. Let’s get crazy and copy classical music, let’s copy Jazz music and put it in Rock. That was what ELP was doing. That was what everybody was doing. The Beatles. It’s just copying classical music. No big deal. That’s what blues is. Most of Rock Music, Led Zeppelin is just Blues done with psychedlic pants and theremines. It’s a brillant concept. That’s what it takes, but it think that we don’t really fit to Prog. Well, some Prog Fans like it, because it’s alive, and it’s – dangerous isn’t the word…

WS: Maybe it’s because there’s much to discover. Maybe that it what appeals to a prog audience. It’s no simple music, that you get bored of if you listened to the album three times.

DF: Yeah, thank you. There you go. But I don’t sit down and plan to do that. It just turns into a wormhole as I get into it. I just go in the rabbithole, looking for the rabbit for a year. And sometimes, I never find it. The records are good like that and people keep mailing me saying: Oh my god, I listened to the record for ten times and I just found these cool things. And that’s what makes a good record. Well, thank you. But it’s not about the playing. It’s about the mental space of the record and the concepts and the sonic layering and stuff like that. For us. So in that way it’s kind of… For me, „Revolver“ and „Sergeant Pepper“ were Progressive. Before Rush were progressive, the Beatles were definitely progressive. They were doing shit that noone ever thought of. That’s what Progressive should be. And in that way, we’re definitely Progressive because nobody has 17 different styles of music in one song. But you know, the Prog audience, it’s a very ambitious audience. When you listen to Frank Zappa you belong to very intelligent audience, that’s used to a multitude of notes coming into their ears. Their almost a little snobby. I don’t think Rock Fans are snobby. They just wanna fucking rock. They’re totally different.

WS: You just mentioned all the setbacks the band survived. There’s a song on the Record that’s called ‚Control Freak‘. Are you singing about yourself and is that the reason why the band is still alive. Because you are a Control Freak?

DF: No, that song is just about who „Am I happen to be that way?“, but it’s also about my experiences with people that I identify as a Control Freak. It takes one to know one. So it’s just that kind of people that are very controlling, that are having a hard time letting go. It’s a song about pain. What I sing about is like „Fucking Help Me!“ Like „let go of that shit“. It’s not only about you don’t have to have this Apple IPad right here, but it’s not except about that. It’s like: Let me let go of me having you wanting to treat me the way I wanna be treated, let go of my expectations of people. And that can go from the parts in the songs or Love or anything. So it was just like: Let go of everything!

WS: You were producing „Into The Maelstrom“ on your own and then went to Inside Out Music to put it out. So, as you talked about all this turmoil in your bands history I was also wondering if you ever considered to do a Crowdfunding Campaign to get the album done?

DF: It’s a tough balance. We weren’t a machine up and running at that time. The band had gone through a little bit of a hiatus and I wasn’t even sure if it had disbanded. I sort of let go in order to survive. So, it did survive and we were thinking about doing a funding campaign, but I didn’t want to do something so homegrown. We really needed a label for the structure, because we spent a lot of time into Bigelf over the years. I didn’t to sit there saying: But now we got no distribution! So now with Inside Out it’s been a proper step, we’ve been talking about that for a while and it seemed to be a good thing to have. Connect with the Prog community, Portnoy is on the record so it’s like a good progression. And of course you wanna make to most of where you’ve been. We’ve been on Tour with Dream Theater and Porcupine Tree and so it seemed like a natural Progression. Probably not the perfect Progression, but certainly a step that has to be taken. As far as the Genre I already said that we don’t neccesarily totally fit in with the Prog. I think the Progressive community definitely scratches their heads. Maybe we’re prickling the brains a little bit in order to let the people grow. Historically prog doesn’t look. It’s not something aesthetic. It’s not something you look at for the imagery. Pink Floyd, die ultimate Psychelic Band, original prog, slow, mellow. You’re looking at them, you’re looking at theit pics, the imagery that they have. It’s not fucking Jimmy Page, is not Chris Robinson, it’s not Nikki Sixx. But Bigelf IS that. We’re not the thing with the pics, even though like that both. Bigelf is definitely about the Rock’n’Roll. And Prog has never been about that. He’s got makeup on and a tophat. But he’s got a mellotron. Wait. Must be Peter Gabriel! That’s the connection they make. You now what’s the most way out there thing? Hawkwind! They’ve got Hawkwind! Because it’s fucking out there! Or Arthur Brown or something. As long as people like it – that’s all I care about. I don’t really mind if you don’t like it, I just try to connect to people who like it.

WS: When I saw you for the first time at the show I mentioned I was fucking impressed seeing you play two keys at one time and singing as well. I asked myself, if you see yourself more as a singer or a keyboard player. If you would have to give back the keys or the microphone, which one would you choose?

DF: I think I’d rather be a singer. Here’s the thing: I’m already singing and it’s easier to just play the keys. To do both together is still the hardest. I still don’t even do it right! To do what I’m trying to do is really difficult. And I only do get better at it when we actually do shows. It’s not something that I can actually do in rehearsal. It’s only during shows, it’s the space. You get in there, there’s all these things happening, it’s literally Jedi-Shit. Pushing knobs and you’re singing. If there would be nobody else aroud I couldn’t do it. You’re actually connecting with people, so my hands are not looking. This is prog 101. Don’t take your hands of your neck, you might make a mistake. Everyone’s looking what they’re playing. My fucking eyes are closed, I’m just feeling it, I’m looking at people. If if have to do quick adjustments, there’s mistakes. But singing is kind of a way to just focus on that. When I’m doing videos and I’m not playing keys I really like it. I have my mic and just explore that element, but I don’t do it that often. So I don’t really know that much about it to be honest.

WS: So you’re looking out for a keyboard player to concentrate on the singing. That would be the next logical step after your answer!

DF: I don’t know. I’m usually open to anything. We were a five-piece for a while and I was the second guitar player. It was just a brief little thing we did in 2002. I would be potentially open to another guitar player that played keys so that I could do two or three songs where I could just roam. But honestly I think the foundation of Bigelf works like it is. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I get all this feedback. Jules Verne, Time Machine, Wizard of Oz, fucking Willy Wonka thing and I’m like: I’m loving it. If that’s what you’re getting out of it, what you’re seeing or hearing – I’m happy. Somehow I’m doing something that people get some professor-thing out of. I don’t know, maybe it’s a combination of the words, the music and the image and there’s some really cool things happening. The funny thing is, sometimes I think people are just watching to see me fuck up. Is he gonna make it or will he fuck up? The next one, he’s gonna blow that and go back in time! (laughs)

WS: Well, I think it’s kind of a trademark, you playing both keys with your tophat.

DF: Yeah, it is. I’ve got so many cool ideas. I wanna have the keys on a circular riser and have it go from side to side and also turns, so I could fully see everybody and go up. I would do so many things if I had the money. Holographic pirate cellists – I could go on forever. We play a lot on the westcoast and we have a Laser Guy doing this thing for us. It’s like Pink Floyd, it’s fucking amazing, it blows peoples minds! But it’s hard to get somebody that works the laser. Maybe someday. At this point, that’s the hard part: I’m literally just trying to keep Bigelf alive. I really love to do it, but I also try to make a living out of it, playing the music, but there’s always other things. The show didn’t change. It’s raw, motherfucking rock’n’roll. It’s probably not any different than we’ve ever been. Raw, passionate, blow your face off. Now, if we could actually make a lot of money selling records and everything and make it to some sort of Dream Theater level – then I’ll bring out the elephants. The first day we played in 1992 people said: You guys should be at the Forum, you guys should be in an arena. And we just had started. The music, the sound of it and the style reminds people of Arena Rock from the seventies. Now it’s just living up to that or figuring out a way to do it. It’s about making music and being happy.

WS: How long did it take you to lose stagefright?

DF: Well, I’m comfortable in front of people. So it’s not that. I guess it’s more the machine, the cockpit, my stuff, is it gonna work. It’s like twenty spinning plates. I mean Portnoy is on the show, but we’re not a band. We play together and he’s the greatest ever, John Wesley’s just coming in to these shows. It’s like a last minute thing we put together, this little special presentation. It’s a lot, they’re incredibly pro-dudes. It isn’t like the band before, were we had this intuition thing. Ten years ago, we just went out and played. This is a different thing, we’re not always really speaking the same language, you really kind of have to pay attention. But sometimes, I already said it, I’m in kind of autopilot-mode, I go back to another state of mind. Thank god! It helps me to do better, but that doesn’t mean that Mike or anybody else is following me. It’s a challenge! I get a little nervous, to be honest. It’s a small tour, it’s not a huge crew and we try to keep the budget as tight as possible. And everybody’s pushed to their limits and asks the others to help him out. I’m helping loading and everything, but it works good. I like playing in front of people. I don’t get nervous in front of people. I just want my shit to work. Some of the stuff is from the Sixties.

WS: Obviously you enjoy making music and gained quite some positive feedback from fans and press. Besides being a passionate, innovative musician, do you have any other talents? What do you love to do in your free time. Can be artistic stuff or anything else.

DF: As far as feeling the muse I draw. I can draw, I did a lot of the designs of the records. I can get into anything, as long it is something that I’m passionate about. But outside from music – hmmm – not too much. I really wanted to get into meditation, like Tai Chi. I have always been attracted to this Samurai kind of thing. To be in that Zen state. I’m trying to find that world where I am in inner peace. Trying not to be on your dark side, fighting your demons and pain, you know what I mean?

WS: Well, you mentioned the Jedi-thing earlier. So it’s about becoming a Jedi and not a Sith? To be on the good side of the force, huh?

DF: Yeah, it’s a little bit corny, but yeah, I’m trying to be with the force. But sometimes it’s just about meditating. I really like the beach, I like the ocean. I just got back from Australia. I loved the beaches in the days off, it has been so wonderful. Just my and I felt totally right. I feel like a Billion Dollars. Not like having a Billion Dollars, nothing matters to me in that moment. At that special beach, there were these pools and reefs, it was pretty fucking amazing. It’s dangerous for piano players, so I try not to do it as much as I would: But I like skateboarding. In pools in stuff, I was seeing that when I was a kid. I’m a friend of the Dogtown Area in Los Angeles, but I was too young. But it was so cool, seeing Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta and all these guys. And in my head, it’s still the same today: It’s so cool! It’s not about the height, or the tricks or the flips – it’s the style! So when I’m skating, especially with no helmet, it just feels so good! But the higher you go – well. My manager…. (Laughs)

Pantokrator – The Lord Reigns the Universe (Interview English)


Searching Wikipedia for „Pantokrator“, it turns out to be a term of Iconography. The Pantokrator is a incarnation of the biblical god, presenting him as the „Emperor of the Universe“ (greek: Pantokrator). God is portraied looking straight towards the viewer, blessing him with his hand and holding one of the gospels in the other.


It`s no coincidence that the Swedish Death Metal Outfit out of the Smaland region in the south of the country chose exactly that name. The five guys grew up in the pentecostal church and are avowing christians. Anyone who rolls his eyes now is totally wrong. Pantokrator stand up for their beliefs, but that doesn`t mean they are close-minded preachers up in their ivory-tower. The open minded Scandinavians prefer to let their music and their livestyles speak, rather than trying to convert their fans and friends to christians. At the Elements of Rock Festival in Uster/Switzerland in March 2014 I had the opportunity to speak to the guys about their music, their beliefs and the role they play in a mystical order. Here is the raw transcript of the very diversified, interesting and profound one hour talk with Karl, Jonathan, Rickard and Matthias.


Whiskey-Soda: You are well known in the Christian Extreme Metal Scene, but still a Insider recommendation to discover for the  Metal Scene in General. Who are you guys, what kind of music do you stand for and what do you think is your unique feature?

Karl: No, we’re a very big fish in a very small bowl.

Jonathan: I guess we play a kind of scandinavian death metal, it’s not the american stlye of death metal. We have all those screams, but we also have a lot of the melodies the scandinavian bands in this genre typically have.

RIckard: Yeah, one of our big brands is that we’ve got strong melodies, strong refrains in our songs.

Karl: Without sacrificing the extreme heaviness, because there are some bands in Sweden that just have strong melodies.
Jonathan: Also there was written in a review recently that we also don’t use breakdowns and stuff. A lot of american bands take Metalcore and put some Death Metal on the top of that, but we go straight to the roots. Similar to bands like At the Gates and all those famous scandinavian Death Metal Bands.

WS: Why should any Metal Fan pick up your music in the first place? Come on, I give you some room for free promotion and shameless profiling. 🙂

Karl: Because the new album may be one of the best things ever written in music.

WS: You’re very self-assured.

Karl: I don’t write any of the music, so I’m allowed to say that. I do just the lyrics and play nothing. So I’m in the best place to say this is really good.

WS: So you developed? Because every band says: „Our new album is the best album we ever wrote.“

Karl: Before this album, I never couldn’t say that the last one is the best. Sometimes one of the guys in the band said: The new one ist the best one. I couldn’t decide before. But since this one, I can honestly say: It’s better than all of them. And that’s a good feeling. Now we did it!

Mattias: It’s a matter of songwriting actually, I think we wrote really good songs on this one.

Jonathan: Yeah, maybe it’s because it’s the first time we had enough time to do the things that we wanted to do. Also, it’s maybe the first time that we were honest to use the ideas that we had and we had the time to look over the songs again and to say: „This is not good enough. Let’s skip that and write something new.“ On the last recording „Aurum“ there were some things we felt that we should do something more here and there, but we didn’t have the time to do it. We had already booked the studio that cost a lot of money so we couldn’t go home and to do that. We just had to record it and get it done. This time we recorded it ourselves and sometimes we said: „Okay, let’s leave this for now and go home for a month and think about it and then let’s get back with new ideas.“

Rickard: A lot of stuff at the album was actually totally rewritten. We recorded it and then we said to each other: „No, this doesn’t feel right.“

Jonathan: When we recorded the lyrics and then listened to the songs that we hadn’t recorded yet we were like: „This part isn’t good enough. So we changed it and recorded a new version.“

WS: So that’s probably one of the reasons it took you several years, seven years I think since you released „Aurum“?

Jonathan: Well, it’s one reason. It’s not the main reason actually. We’re really lazy guys sometimes and of course there had to be done a lot of logistics and stuff, mostly because we live so far from each other.

Karl: And it’s also finding our form after „Aurum“. Where do we go now? It took quite some time to find that.

Mattias: And also to find a simple way to use the creativity, to record our ideas, how to write songs. I think this album has helped us a lot in the sense to really use the ideas and record them.

WS: Your recent Album „Incarnate“ is a Killer and got a lot of great Reviews from different Music Magazines. I know music stands for its own and can’t be described easily, but will you take the challenge to describe it? What are the differences compared to its predecessor or what else do you consider important to know about it?

Rickard: I’m proud about the fact, that inthe music itself it’s much more us. As I said already, the songs have really grown from where they started, from the idea to the complete songs. Overall it’s just great songs.

Mattias: It’s not that technical as aurum, but it’s better songs.


Karl: I think for example „Blod“ (First Full Album from 2002) is very chaotic, very weird but it has an special atmosphere, that I kind of missed a little in „Aurum“. That’s why I’ve got a really hard time to decide which album I like most. When we recorded „Aurum“ we started with the attitude: „Well, let’s do traditional songs – Verse, Chorus, Bridge. Not just chaos! We continued on that with „Incarnate“, doing songs „the old way“, the album came out with good structure. But it has a little of that feeling that I was missing in aurum.

WS: So you got the best part of both albums!

Karl: Exactly! Or actually the best part of the three last albums, because I feel something of „Songs of Solomon“ in it, too when it comes to some of the melodies. But it has to develop. You can take the best parts of each album and they will kill each other.

Jonathan: With this album, I don’t think that I ever feels forced. It feels very natural that this part follows that part. With „Blod“ – I wasn’t on that album, I heard the songs afterwards and tried to learn them – I thought by myself: „What Is this? It felt like: We have this riffs, let’s put them in somewhere.“ This time, we really had the time to think about what was the best way to write everything.

Mattias: We found our great formula to put the songs together.

WS: Your Lyrics are obviously Christian or even Biblical like Passages from the Reveleation or the Sermon on the Mount. I just read an interview with Ryan Clark from Demon Hunter, which are also a band with avowing christians. He was talking about how it is to be in a christian band or a band consisting of christians. He said: When it comes to the lyrics, you can’t do it right. On one side there are the people where your lyrics can’t be christian enough and on the other side there are people that write bad reviews just from reading a „Thank you to Jesus Christ“ in the personal liner notes, not even in the lyrics.
Why did you choose to use this lyrical approach in particular?

Karl: It’s more on the older albums that are truly based on parts of the bible. I think „Incarnate“ is more like through the filter of inspiration, of course I read the bible. But when you mention the people having different feelings about it. I was reading one review about „Aurum“ and the guy wrote: „Well, I thought it was strange that it was christian metal. But then I decided: Well, there’s metal bands with pagan mythology or viking mythology – I should read this that way. And it works!“
Because you can believe it, or you can just read it like other lyrics based on some kind of mythology. Like Amon Amarth for example. So why can’t we just take the christian lyrics that way?


Well, to be honest, it’s Jonathans fault. After „Aurum“ I started to write lyrics for „Incarnate“ and then I wrote more songs, that are not recorded yet. I sent them to him and he said: „That’s great! Can’t we just skip „Incarnate“ and go record the newer songs? They’ve got more attitude!“ But of course, I didn’t want to do that. So I had to rewrite the lyrics to make them good enough. So I started to write more „Aurum“. My mind, my own language in a way. First I wanted to rewrite them, but that didn’t work. So I put them aside and started all over. Some of the parts of the older versions where sticking in my mind, they didn’t get better. Then I compared the two and kept the parts that I thought they couldn’t get better on the newer versions. So he was the one who inspired the text change in a way. When it comes to: „Why did you chose this approach?“ – It’s actually where we come from. To play in a pentecostal church. It has also been based on a need. „The Songs of Solomon“ is mostly about the erotic love between a man and a woman from a christian perspective. That’s what it’s all about. There are no mystical layers of some parabel. It’s just about love. We felt a need, there was a big hole to be filled in the christian music with erotic love. So if we didn’t do that record, who would? So we did it! And after that I felt an urge to go back to more biblical topics, in „Blod“ it’s from Adam and Eve unto the cross. It’s like going through sunday school in a metal way. In „Aurum“ I wanted to go to the mystical parts of the bible, that no one really talks about. Because noone really understands it. You don’t hear people preach about these parts because they are so cryptic. I might not understand them even, but I think those parts should be lifted up. They’re inspiring, and they start questions, you know? I wanna know more about this. „Incarnate“ is kind of a follow-up on „Blod“ when it comes to the lyrics. There are actually two different themes, but now they’re mixed together. In the early part of the project it was supposed to be two EP’s with different themes, if you want to find those storylines, you have to scramble around the songs to find the topics. Because on the CD it’s all about what sounds best, what order of the songs makes the album sound as good as possible. There’s also an anagram. You can move around the lyrics and you can get two storylines.

WS: We talked about it already a little bit. But I’m still curious: What kinds of Feedback do you get from Metal Fans or Publications, that are not specifically Christian? What do you hear mostly when it comes to you as a Christian band?

Mattias: It’s more like „It’s okay for me“ nowadays. Because we have a lot of non-christian fans as well. From South-Korea and there are the brazilian guys.

Rickard: We get a lot of E-Mails on our facebook page from people that are not christian who are writing things like „you guys are a great band.“

Jonathan: Most people we meet when we’re out playing they are obviously on the concert, they came there for a reason or they seem to have some kind of interest in it and think it’s okay. But I think Sweden in general is quite anti-religious. There’s more of these guys that roll their eyes and say things like: Oh my, a christian band!“

Karl: There’s an interesting example of this. 2005 we played the Gates of Metal Festival in Sweden. One day after it was announced, there was a very hot debate about wether we should be there or not. We didn’t even get into that at all. We just watched it. There were these guys that were like: „Aaaah, they’re christian. They shouldn’t be here, we should shoot them!“ And then there were the other voices like: „Why don’t you just shut the fuck up and go take a beer if you don’t like their music?“ (Laughter) They were literally throwing stones at each other and we just watched it! After the show, there was no negative response at all. The ones that really didn’t want to hear us took their beer and the others who were more open minded gave us a shot.

Jonathan: I think it’s kind of weird because when you sing about Satan, no one believes, but no one really cares, too. But once you sing some christian lyrics, people get offended!


WS: One reason why I ask this is the recent state of western societys when it comes to acceptance of confessing faith in Media, in Public and so on. It’s not only about music, of course. Sometimes theres even hostility. I’ve got an example of this, that comes to my mind right now. There was a big public debate in Baden-Wurrttemberg about the curriculums in public schools, which were planned to be based completely on the gender-mainstream theory. Like: We have to teach the children, that they can chose their gender, they can be what they want and there’s not right or wrong in being transgender or whatever. And there was this christian teacher who was starting a petition on the internet against this new curriculum. In my opionion as a christian, the petition was quite sensitive. It was clear, but not offensive or excluding someone, but standing for the values of the bible when it comes to sexuality. There was a huge impact all over the media and the political parties, even from the federal government in Berlin. There were protest marches from christian against the initiative, they where thrown eggs at and attacked from the backers of the plans or from this special community. It think they climate is turing hostile more and more in society when it comes to christian values that are spoken out and christians in general.

Karl: This is very interesting. My wife is studiny sociology and she had a teacher that said: „There are still today priests in Sweden, that don’t want to marry homosexual couples.“ She was biting her lip, but what she wanted to ask was: „What Imams or Rabbi do you think would do this?“ People don’t mind. It’s just about forcing themselves into the Swedish State church.“

Jonathan: When we talk about church, we got a State Church in Sweden, but it isn’t even controlled by the State anymore. If we’re talking about schools, I think it’s very important that the things to learn are actually based on facts. Religion should be thought in religion classes. We don’t want it to be like in the United States, where Creationism is preached in the schools. It’s only religious propaganda, because they can’t really prove it’s true but they still want it to be. And that’s also quite weird. You have to tell people everything! You can’t really say:“This is right and this is wrong.“ You have to teach them, that these opinions exist and that opinions exist.

Karl: In Sweden there’s another problem. They’re still teaching evolution theory, which was disproved 50 years ago. It’s old news. But the teachers are no scientist and don’t really know what they’re talking about. But they keep on telling: „This was proved – and all the scientist are turning in their graves: No, that was disproved 45 years ago!“ If there were real scientist teaching they would tell that these are theories. It’s a more humble approach. But the Swedish teachers are like: „This is the proven facts, forever and ever, written in stone.“ And that’s just sad. So we’ve got like the opposite problem of the US in Sweden. In both countries there seem to be no teachers that can admit: „This is a theory, and that is a theory. And now make up your own mind!“

WS: In my opinion, teaching Homosexualtiy in School, to keep the example, appears to be an ideology in it’s own. It doesn’t seem to be equaled out. If something just looks christian you will get offended and meet hostility. You will not meet the tolerance that they demand for their own beliefs and lifestyle.

Karl: If you are in the Gay movement, you can say everything and noone will say anything about it. There was this Jesus Proclamation March somewhere in Sweden and there were these queer gangs standing beside them shouting: „We’re here, we’re queer, we’re gonna fuck your children!!“ For me, it’s the mentality behind it. Before this whole gay movement, people could find out that they were gay for themselves. You didn’t have to tell everyone to „try a little faggory.“ If you are, you will find out.

Jonathan: On the other hand, you have to tell the people, that it’s okay. If you’re okay, it’s fine. Because I think there’s a big problem that most people don’t actually think that it’s okay. That is something I think has to change, because I don’t think that anyone can really decide to be or not to be.

WS: You’ve got this special thing going on, that you call the „The Golden Order of the Almighty“ and that appears like a real religious order with a history getting back two thousand years. But it’s kind of mysterious, too and I didn’t really get the whole thing. Can you tell me something about it without getting our readers losing their curiosity about it?

Karl: (Smiling) If you want to find out, you have to dig.

Jonathan: If you got questions, we’ve got a book. And if you’re going to read it, you’re going to have a whole lot of more questions. (Laughs)

Karl: What the Order is or will be, depends on each member. We don’t have a very strict form for this. It has a life of it’s own and we hope that people will take it in different directions. There’s some kind of teachings and some aesthetics around it and it’s like the backbone of the „Aurum“ album. It’s like what the „Silmarillion“ is to the „Lord of the Rings“.

Jonathan: In a way, it’s kind of like a fanclub, but it’s been given its own life. We don’t control it. We’ve got all this different degrees. The more the people are interested in the degrees, the more they’ll get to know and the more they’ll rise in the degrees.

Rickard: You’ll find most of the answer to the questions in the book in the Bible.

WS: Yeah, well that’s one thing I was wondering about. If it is just like some kind of bible studies stuff mixed up with some provocational winks in the direction of occult orders that actually exist.

Karl: (Smiles) There might be some provocations with everything we do.

Jonathan: It’s obviously based on the mystery theme of the „Aurum“ album, which is kind of based on one or the other order which is there and have these mysteries around themselves. But to be honest: You won’t really get what’s going on until you’re going into the order and rise in the degrees.


Karl: One thing that inspired us as well is that a lot of people think they know what the bible says, but they have never opened it. And other people have read it ten times and they still don’t know what it says because they’re reading it only through their own point of view. You don’t have to like it but this gets people a chance to start your own search and find stuff. But we’re not responsible for what you find in the bible and we don’t tell you what’s right or wrong. And to get all of the questions you also have to go to other books that are related to the bible like the Book of Henoch and stuff like that. If you are a curious or eager for knowledge, then the order is for you.

WS: Your music is categorized as  „Progressive Death Metal“. Even tough I know most bands roll their eyes with journalists labelling them as This-or-That-Style of Metal I wanna ask you: Do you see yourself as a Death Metal Band or more as a Progressive Metal Band?

Karl: Everybody says that, but that was not by ourselves, the label came from the record label.

WS: So you don’t agree with it?

Jonathan: I think most musicians don’t like to label their own music. Our music has Death Metal vocals, but it’s not really Death Metal. It’s hard to describe actually, it’s similar to Death Metal, but it’s something totally different. I can accept if somebody gives us that label, but it’s not our own.

Rickard: Some people also connect the label „Progressive Death Metal“ to „Technical Death Metal“ and think that’s what we’re playing. But that’s completely wrong. We don’t.

WS: So as you don’t see yourself as a Progressive Death Metal Band, what does the term mean to you. Are there maybe even some bands from that kind of stylistic direction that had a certain influence on the music you play today? Or is that something you don’t mind or reflect about at all?

Jonathan: Well, we don’t play some kind of particular music because we decided to write music that sounds similar to a certain band. We don’t really do that. Everytime I find a new band I usually listen to that all day. And in the evening, when I go to bed, I have songs in my head that are similar to them but not the same. Some of those things stick and the next day you listen to some other band and then everything get mixed up.

Karl: I think it was a quote by Rachmaninow that said: „In a composers music you should hear the books he’s been reading, everything he likes, where he grew up and everything.“ And I think that’s what happens when you write music.

WS: Imagine yourself being the boss of your own record label. Is there a talented Band that you were willing to support or if not what kind of new band would you set up? How would you cope with the dilemma to chose music to be convinced of artistically and also have to earn money from it?

Karl: Oookay, I think that’s why we’re not at the head of a record label.

Jonathan: Well, I think it depends on what goals you have. In these days, you can record an album for not so much money because you to go to a studio. You can buy some gear and do it at home. So it can be quite cheap to record an album but that’s still good. Then you can release it on ITunes, which doesn’t really cost anything in terms of manufacturing. So in that sense I think that I would try to find bands that I like myself and try to get their music out. I wouldn’t worry so much about the sales but of course on the other hand, if you run a label to earn money from it, you might have to think about what people will probably like and not what you like yourself. You have to go mainstream. Or if you have a lot of money you can take anything you like and tell the people it’s good and they’re gonna buy it. With the internet nowadays you also can just put out your songs and ask the people what they like and what not and then do more of that stuff.

WS: So what was you actual approach to bring out „Incarnate“? You recorded it yourselves and took your time. We already talked about that. And then you took the final album and got it to the labels to release? And was it hard to get this done?

Karl: Yeah, exactly. We sent it around to a lot of labels.

Rickard: The label for the American market, „Rottweiler Records“, we got in contact with them quite fast and they liked it when they heard the songs. But we continued to search for another label in Europe and other markets.

Karl: Yeah, I thought by myself „What about Australia“ so I sent a message to Steve Rowe from Mortification: „Is this something for you?“ He answered: „Well, I think this might be something for my friend at Soundmass – I will forward it to him.“ And he contacted us. So it was more like labels finding us because all the labels we tried to bring it out were not interested.

Jonathan: There are SO many labels out there. And the ones you try say „No“ usually, especially when they are bigger ones. They deny most Bands. It can be quite tricky to find the right ones. I guess only time will tell if we made the right choices. We did think about this Kickstarter-Thing as well, but then we felt we didn’t need that much money, so we might as well just pay it ourselves. But maybe next time! I’ve seen bands being really successful in getting money with this approach because it cost a lot. I think I just recently got my money back that I paid for the last recording which was seven years ago. So we do pay quite a bit of money and it takes long to get it back. It’s not the same amount this time, though. But of course you can do a lot of things on that funding-platforms. You can try to get the money to fund a US Tour. It’s the exact problem with the gigs. The most places don’t have the money to pay what it actually costs, especially for us who come from Sweden. We have to cross bridges and that becomes quickly expensive. I kind of like the idea that it’s our problem, but on the other hand we don’t really have the money.

Karl: It’s also the problem of the fans. Some say: Please come to Brazil. They could to their own kickstarter to bring us to their country.

Jonathan: What I really like about kickstarter is that the ones who really want to reach something can make it happen, even for all the other ones!


Karl: And of course it’s better to be ruled by your fans than by a label. Those are the people we play for and if they want us to do it, they will pay us to do it! And if they don’t pay us, then we’re probably not good enough! It’s better to do what the fans want then to do what a label thinks the fans might like. You’ll get the receipt directly from your fans if you ask them: „Do you want us to do another record?“

Jonathan: It’s of course a great way to get your expenses in advance and it’s also a great way to give the fans some special things. I saw that Devin Townsend had a kickstarter campaign and he did like 100% of the amount demanded in three hours! If you pledged 3000 Pounds, you could get his guitar. Or you could get things like a voicemail-message that you can put on your voicemail. And handwritten lyrics and drawings other stuff. It’s really interesting because of the interaction with your audience. But even though with the internet platforms the labels might not be as important then they used to be, they’re still needed to spread the word and do the distribution and stuff. We don’t feel like doing that work on our own.

WS: So thanks, guys! I think I tortured you for almost an hour, it’s enough now! Thank you for your time and effort. Looking forward to seeing you play tonight! All the best for the gig!

Copyright of the Photos by Rebecka Marie Gustafsson and Michael Bolli. Thanks buddy!

Israel Nash – Ponds, Bonds and Music that is real (Interview English)


Whiskey-Soda: Hi Israel, thanks for taking your time to answer some questions for our Readers. We are here in Zurich, at the very cool club „Bogen F“ and I was wondering, what comes to your mind when you think of Switzerland?

Israel Nash: I haven’t spent much time in Switzerland, this is maybe the fourth time to play in Zurich, but each time it’s been like we’ve been going from somewhere so far away, get in just for soundcheck in the club and after the gig we wake up early to go somewhere else. Last time I was here I dig it to walk around by myself – that was my first time to actually see a small part of the city. Sometimes it’s hard to make an incredible judgement about a place because in reality you spent so little time there. You’re always inside of the venue so long. But I dig it to go walk around for about an hour, that was in March when I was here for the last time. I think it’s a beautiful city, I think of it as some kind of an exotic place in Europe that’s kind of tucked away. You get there, and everything’s a little bit more expensive as well.

WS: I stumbled over your music about a year ago, over your new album. I bought myself a new music magazine where it was presented. I listened to your album and I was absolutely blown away. But I haven’t heard of you before, I have to admit and I think a lot of people who aren’t in this kind of music you make, don’t know your name. So can you maybe present yourself from your point of view: Who are you, what kind of music do you stand for and what’s important to know about your music?

IN: My Name is Israel Nash and I stand for an idea that I think music should be real, a song should mean something. To the person writing it, and it should be performed in a live way, it should be indelicate and real as well. It’s just the thing that I do. I’m a songwriter, and I’m proud of that. It’s something that I’ve been doing and pursuing my whole life, since I was twelve years old. Maybe it’s also the only thing that I’m good at, but I feel that I get what I was just supposed to do. Other people, friends along the way, they don’t play guitar any more. They don’t pursue anything. I was never that guy. But for me, it’s just what I was supposed to do. The thing is about being a real person and being a real artist, inspired by the things around me, my family and the world around me. And pursuing making art based on that, to give something real.

WS: You have to tell us something about your alias name. Israel Nash is not your given name, is it? Why Israel? I can think of one or two inspirations to „Nash“….

IN: My father was a minister, I grew up in a very religious family and they felt the want to name me Israel. They’re not jewish, and Israel is a fairly typical name in spanish-speaking countries. I think it was a expression of their journey through their faith. So that’s why it’s my name.

WS: I read in other interviews that you’ve got quite some impact in the UK and Scandinavia. As Americana has to be considered as a
niche in German speaking countries, is there some kind of special Feedback that differs from the usual feedback you get in the States, that’s where the music comes from. Also „Country“ has a special recognition. There are some „German Country Bands“, they’re really embarassing, singing in German and everything and most people just rolling their eyes.

IN: First of all, I think all these labels have become unproperly defined. You know: „Americana“ – some people cringe to that idea. I don’t think that that music is. I think of „Americana“ in a general sense, it’s really american music. That’s a really general category. Obviously, there’s a lot more depth going on. I think this label is sort of unfortunate.

WS: Which label do you prefer for yourself, for you music?

IN: I call it my own term, which is „Deserted Folklore“. Which is of course some branch of americana music. For me, a lot of my growth has been in Europe. „Rain Plans“, it just came out in the states two weeks ago. I had kind of an interesting path. My first record came out on a small label in the Netherlands, from there on, things just kind of started growing. Here, I had a team around me, but for some reason, that wasn’t happening in the States. It was almost frustrating, things were growing in Europe steadily, but I couldn’t afford to touring the States. I just hadn’t the people behind me that are needed to support the growth of an artist, so I stopped playing the States. And with „Rain Plans“, it fell through, we didn’t have a label to put it out. And I didn’t want to release it independently, I really wanted to have a team of people that could really work it. What I thought it deserved. Finally everything worked out, it just happend to take some time. So the album just came out in the States. So it’s kinda funny: I just had interviews on the phone from the States, now the States are picking up. We’re leaving here at the 14th and we fly to Nashville, meet the rest of the band and play the AMA’s in Nashville. And then we’re on tour for a month. The US are supporting the album for the first time. I’m really looking forward to that because it will be a new period in my life, playing at home. It’s really ironic, but it happens to artists. It happened to Jimi Hendrix, you just go where people wanna hear you play and you can make a living out of it. For me, that was Europe for the last three years and finally I got some people that wanna see me in the States. Now we can go there and we already have this experience on a professional level.

WS: So if I understand it right, the impact the album made in Europe made it possible for you to bring it out in your homecountry?

IN: „Uncut“, the british magazine, ranked it in the top twenty americana albums of 2013. From there, KEXP, which is a radio station in Seattle, was a great supporter of me and the album, awesome people! Kevin, their Program director gets all the magazines and discovered the album. He bought an import copy because it wasn’t available in the States. He started playing it and from there a few other things finally fell into place. Which was rewarding, because on some levels it felt frustrating over the years and I’ve been asking myself: „What’s going on?“ So it feels very rewarding and more natural now, I feel more mature through it, it’s not new. At the end of the day, playing in the States is no different than playing in Europe on many levels. I mean, you’re playing shows, and you have people coming. So it has been exciting to go that way and it feels natural. It’s been nice, yeah.

WS: You talked about it already, but I asked myself if you ever considered to pusblish the album independently using a crowdfunding platform. As a music journalists, I’ve seen some great projects coming up over the last years only by the support of the fans. So is this something you ever considered, to publish „Rain Plans“ independently?

IN: You know, it is independent. I don’t think there’s a very easy way to release an album worldwide by yourself. There’s so many people, distributors and everything, just like many cogs in a big system. It’s just the nature of the business side of things. The moment you play music and you’re making a living on it, you’ve entered in some sort of business arrangement by its nature. It’s hard to keep this separated as an artist. When you’re going on the road as a grown-up man, noone is making much money of it, but you have to live and survive. And I think the best way to do that is to surround yourself with good people, people that are as good as I am in their profession. If you have a publicist who loves the album he works so hard or a label who supports it, it’s great to see that family come together and I think it’s about building a good team.

WS: What Band/Album would you choose to convince a newbie to
americana music? Maybe you’ve got a insider tipp, maybe a band not well known or underrated? Close friends but maybe also classic bands, whose music you adore?

IN: That’s a really tough questions. A recommendation? Well, a band that I recently discovered, in the past six months has been a band from the UK from the late sixties called „Pretty Things“. They were part of that kind of movement in the UK of artrock, prog and fusions of that with almost even blues stuff. I’d say: Listen to their album called „Parachute“. It’s a beautiful piece of music, it has guitar rock elements, it has musical progressions like medley-type-stuff and it’s really well executed. They’re incredibly good musicians, you can tell. That’s unfortunately something I am missing too much. I love the heavy classic bands like Led Zepplin or Pink Floyd, all these incredible musicians. It’s real, handmade music. That’s what I’m into. It’s a lot of older stuff, but it’s hard for me to point one out. I mean, there are albums that I’ve been listening to since I was 19, there’s all these emotions I went through. That’s why an album feels classic. But there’s also a lot of new material that I like.

WS: I want to ask you about a special moment. Can you remember how you felt when you got asked for your first autograph?

IN: I can’t remember exactly, probably I was asked by a buddy. But when I was in Europe for the first time, I played at the „Take Root Festival“ in Holland. We are actually playing it again now, in a few days. I just had out my first album „New York Town“, it was brand new. And I know I signed records, but I can’t remember the first one because it was just overwhelming. There were 20 people lined up to get a record signed all of a sudden. Just the whole experience was overwhelming. I was so nervous to play that show, that’s not the same anymore today. But I remember the hardest part was back then I tried to write everyones name to dedicate it personally. I do that today when someone asks, but I don’t do it automatically because I was spelling names incorrectly constantly. And you don’t want a signed album with the wrong spelling of your name. So I had people writing their names down and stuff. But you know: It’s been overwhelming, some mix of overwhelming and bizarre. It’s almost like a dream. I also remember it because I was on that tour with my wife, it was our first time in Europe together. From the pay, the record sales and the merch sales of that show we made like 1800 Euro. And I remember her saying to me: „You CAN make money on this“. Of course she ever since said: „Oh, you can loose money in this“, too. But that was such a cool time in my life. First record, being in Europe for the first time, meeting fans for the first time. My music seemed to have made some sense at some level and we finally saw a little bit of money coming in. It was an excitig time! Now it’s an exciting time for new reasons, there should always be exciting times. An album to me is like a vision, this big thing you gotta figure out all these details on. It’s not just songs, it’s the whole thing. And the first thing to doing something big is to get excited. I think Excitement changes when you get older but it hasn’t to be ever be gone. I’m excited living this life, I’m excited about the people that have chosen to be around me, all these relationships. I can do what I wanna do, all this family and friends mean so much to me.

WS: So you wouldn’t change this life if you had the opportunity. Like someone getting to you, offering you a good job with a good salary and enough free time to go on making music.

IN: I have a masters degree in political philosophy, I have an education. My parents at that time felt that I should have a backup plan. So my bachup plan was to be an attorney, it was a very distant backup plan. So I could have had a job, it just wasn’t what I was meant to do in this life.

WS: Are there any unfulfilled or yet unreached artistic dreams you have? Something like „I would love to do this or that some day“?

IN: Well, I have 15 acres of land in Texas, I bought a house there and I’ve got some land. There’s a big area that’s been washed out over the time and I wanna turn that into a pond and wann have it stocked with fish and want to build a dock. So, that’s my dream: I wanna build a pond. Music takes me around the world, I see a lot of things, experience things in a cool and exciting way. I wanna build a pond. I like the concept of it, because, it won’t hold water by itself, the ground has to be treated. It has to be clay based, rocks have to be put in, alge needs to grow for fish, it’s not just putting a garden out. There’s so much beauty in the land, there’s also beauty in man-treated land. It doesn’t have to be these two separate things. I spend a lot of time in cities, I used to live in New York City, but I gotta love to be on the country. I got a marriage between living there and being a part of it. I don’t want to exploit the land, but I want to use it and value it. There’s good water on the land, too. No thirst no more.

WS: And I can figure if you’re really doing it some day, there certaintly will be new inspirations for great music. I think that’s great ending sentence for the interview.

The raw, unedited Interview with Israel Nash took place in Zurich, Switzerland at September 10th, 2014.

Interviewing british Progressive-Rockers IQ @ Night of the Prog 2014 (English Version)


road of bones

In June they brought out their great, tenth album „The Road of Bones“ and at this years edition of Germanys „Night of the Prog Festival“ I had the honor to interview all five members of England’s Neo-Prog-Band IQ. Mike Holmes (Guitars), Peter Nicholls (Vocals), Neil Durant (Keyboards), Tim Esau (Bass) and Paul Cook (Drums) had quite some interesting topics to talk about. The new album and their suprise about it’s success, about Progressive Rock in General and interesting new bands. About the internet’s impact on music and some other stuff. Enjoy!

Daniel Frick: Hey Guys, thank you for taking your time to answer a few questions for the readers of our music magazine Whiskey Soda.

Paul Cook (drums): Isn’t that terrible to call the magazine like that? Because you ruin Whiskey putting Soda in it!

Daniel: Yeah, I heard that answer before. It’s just a simple story behind that. When the founders of our magazine got together in 1996 I think, they were both working as DJ’s. Well, one of them gave himself the nickname „Jack D“, the other one called himself „Soda Bubble“. So that’s why it became „Whiskey-Soda“. But just a few days ago I talked to one of them and he said to me: Back in 1996 there were all the cool names for a music magazine available like „“ or „“ or whatever. Why did I go for Whiskey-Soda?“ (laughs). After the Show later, will you have some good German Beer instead of ruined Whiskey, won’t you?

Mike Holmes: Well, any beer we can get!

Daniel: You played the Night of the Prog Festival in 2011. How does it feel to come back and do you know the Loreley Legend?

Mike Holmes (git): A little bit. It’s something about the river, isn’t it?

Daniel: Yeah, it’s a german romanticism legend about a mermaid with that name distracting the sailors with her songs causing shipwrecks at the strait just down here.

Mike: And they blamed it on a mythical creature? (laughs)

Daniel: Yeah, I think it probably really developed with the time that went by.

Mike: Maybe they just couldn’t find the directions because of all the loud music at the Amphitheatre? There was no GPS back then, right?

Daniel: What I was going to aks was if you ever thought of bringing a female singer to the band?

Mike: Well, we have some additional background singers from time to time. Since this is has been going for so long we tend to write for each other now. When we write, we’re writing for Peter singing it. So for a female singer on a regular base? I don’t think so.

Daniel: I read that this it the first time you play the New Album Live?

Mike Holmes: We did a few gigs leading to the album, but since the official release in June it’s the first gig.

Daniel: So I guess you’re still a little bit excited or at least curious? How does it feel to step out to the fans with an all new album?


Peter Nicholls: It’s the most important thing that we do. It’s a new album. If we release a new album and it’s not good, we do ourselves bad. So we always want to make sure that the albums are really good, because it stays with us for the next three or four years until the next album is coming. We had great reactions to this one. It never becomes something ordinary, it’s always very exciting to have new material out.

Mike Holmes: And it makes a difference as well playing it live. We always enjoyed playing live and new material makes it different again for us to play.

Peter Nicholls: It’s still new to us, so we’re still trying to remember it. On the edge, definitely. Some songs you’ve already played 50 or 60 times. You can’t relax with this. Because it’s new material you wanna do really well, and we’re all trying to remember it and get confident with it. It helps keeping the attention levels higher.

Daniel: So does that mean, that everytime you get up on stage, the stage-fright turns up again?

Paul Cook: Yeah, I think so. When you got new material it’s not as well, you’re better with the old stuff. So you have to keep a special concentration.

Daniel: „The Road of Bones“ has been released for about three months now. As far as I know there’s been great critical acclaim all over the world. But it also had quite some success when it comes to sales. You hit Top 40 in Germanys Album Charts. That’s not a matter of course for a Prog Band, is it?

Mike Nicholls: We’re really very surprised by that. We didn’t even think about any chart placements. If we had thought about that, we might have done it quite different. We just went out and did what we usually do. And that was incredible, we’re really pleased by it. The nice thing is we’re getting good reviews in different types of magazines. Even metal magazines have given us great reviews as well. There’s one metal website, I didn’t find out which one, that has given us 100 of 100. Which is really cool for a prog album!

Daniel: Do you finally feel that you’re now where you deserve to be? Because good sales are of course also a kind of affirmation, aren’t they?

Tim Esau: We’re getting closer (smiles), we worked very hard. But we’re not quite there yet.

Daniel: The house mortgages are not payed yet? (laughs)

Tim Esau: Not yet. We don’t think about what we deserve, we just do what we’re enjoying. That’s pretty much it.

Mike Holmes: Yeah, we’re just doing our best and hope it gets down well.

Daniel: Let’s talk a bit more about „The Road Of Bones“. I really like the Album very much and as I understand it’s a concept of a Story of a Serial Killer or just the title track. How did that special topic occur?

Peter Nicholls: When Mike presented the music, he said he felt it like sort of filmic, it’s like opening up on a scene of some kind of carnage, where a serial killer had been at work. So it just turned up to fit that idea. I think that track is quite different, to me it’s a quite visual piece of music. you can easily visualize scenes and get an idea when I was trying to do the lyrics. It just came from that really. The best thing about writing is that one idea follows the other idea. You just throw things in and so it becomes the bands project.

Daniel: So that’s your usual approach to write the music first?

Mike Holmes: Yeah, we always do the music first. I’ve been watching a lot of films recently, and also the scandinavian murder series. „The Killing“ – do you watch that? There’s loads of it, it’s massive in England. There’s an american version of it now. And „The Bridge“, all these murder things coming from scandinavia, and they’re done very well. And I suppose it was that, because they’re quite atmospheric as well.

Daniel: Did „The Road Of Bones“ turn out harder when it comes to guitar riffs and so on because of that Serial Killer Topic or did the music develop harder and darker and you came up with the idea?


Mike Holmes: No, it just felt very natural. On our previous album „Frequency“ there were one or two tracks getting towards that. I think we just allowed this album to go down that mode a bit more. Particularly when it comes to the sounds that we were using in the stuido. Quite a few people that say that there’s not so much guitar on it. But actually we spent more time on the guitar sounds than we did on any other album. I think it just presented itself, the sound of the album. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It evolved.

Daniel: So you didn’t also listen to a lot of Metal stuff at the same time?

(Collective laughter)

Mike Holmes: No. But there’s quite a big crossover between Metal and Prog over the last ten years or so. The most of it isn’t prog to me but just Metal with different time signatures. But there are one or two bands coming out now that actually do manage to combine it really well.

Daniel: Mike, as I expected only talk to you I’ve got a special question only for you. As what do you see yourself mainly: As a Guitar Player, a Keyboarder, A Producer or a Composer?

Mike Holmes: My main thing is the guitar. But I’m not a person that hangs around in guitar shops. I like guitars obviously, that’s why I play it, but I’m equally interested in keyboards and records sounds. I see myself as a musician in general

Daniel: There’s also Synaesthesia, who are signed to your label GEP, whose CEO you are. I think most of the visitors of the festivals haven’t heard of them before, neither did I. So here’s your chance to do some shameless profiling and advertising for them. How should anyone give these guys a shot? Why are they special?

Mike Holmes: I think they’re special. GEP gets sent between 6 and ten demos a week, and they’re the ones we chose from a years worth of demos. They’ve got some really interesting ideas, they’ve actually good melodies. I think a lot of prog bands or prog musicians tend to think melodies aren’t important. They tend to think it’s important what keyboard sound they have or to play 7/8. For us, melodies are pretty much the most important thing. That’s why I like them, because I think they’ve got some good melodies. And it’s a nice mixture of real classic prog sounds and modern sounds.

Daniel: As I mendioned already you’re also the CEO of your Label GEP. What music you listened to in the last time did convince/inspire you when it comes to progression, excitement, originality?

Neil Durant: I was listening to a Japanese Band lately called „Tricot“. They’re all female Prog-Funk-Band. Very, very tight, very dynamic. I really like them. I stumbled on them on Youtube, they’ve got this great video of them playing in a big aircraft hangar. It’s really captivating. I went to see them in London a couple of weeks ago. They’re very good live as well.

Daniel: Is there now the time for a Revival of Progressive Music? How do you evaluate the Standing of Progressive Rock Music in 2014?

Peter Nicholls: Well, you’re probably in a better place than us to say, because you’re probably more aware of what’s happening generally then we are. And we’ve been sort of locked away for over a year working on our album. It seems to be detaining it’s popularity, I don’t know if it’s actually growing. Prog is always gonna be niche-market, isn’t it? But I think within that, it’s sustaining. There are new bands coming all the time, although I’m not familiar with them.

Mike Holmes: I don’t know if there’s more sales in prog, but I think they way to see prog has changed. You don’t have to be ashamed to like prog any more. It’s cool to walk down the street with a Genesis or King Crimson Shirt.

Tim Esau: The internet probably helped as well, the people are a lot more aware, there’s a lot of prog on Youtube.

Mike Holmes: And the social media have also shown, that there are a lot of people that like prog, before they weren’t that vocal. There’s a magazin in Britain called „Prog“ and it’s going great. It’s selling a huge amount, they’re very popular. It used to come every two months, now it’s probably every six weeks. And that’s cool!

Daniel: When it comes to the internet and social media, there’s also platforms like Spotify and other streaming sites. I saw that your new and the last album are available at Spotify and the earlier ones aren’t. I asked myself if that has a special meaning. What’s your opinon on this topic? Because it’s special. Some musicians tend to say: I don’t get the money from it that I deserve or I need to keep on making music. Others say, especially smaller bands, that it’s a good chance to get a bigger audience.


Mike Homes: You do get pityful amounts of money from spotify, but unfortunately I think it’s gonna be the future of music. Streaming. So you have to run there I think. Ten years ago people where really worried about illegal downloading and it hasn’t really proved to be the death of music. I think we’re lucky to be a prog group, because so many people into prog are collectors. They love to have a physical product in their hands. So thats good for us. I don’t know if it’s the same in other genres but in prog that’s great.

Daniel: And how long did it take you to lose stagefright? And how did you manage to achieve that?

Paul Cook: For me it’s always an underlining bit of nervousness there. I think it needs to be, you need to have a little bit of that. If you’re too releaxed, you probably won’t do a great gig. So for me, it’s still there. I don’t know about the other guys.

Peter Nicholls: Yeah, always. If you went on stage and didn’t care, then you shouldn’t be doing it. I’m always nervous before a gig, I’m fine once it starts. But the time before a gig, you start to think about the things that could go potentially wrong. But that’s because I care about it. Then I have to go to my little place and focus on the things you’re about to do. Because nobody wants to see someone on stage looking nervous or unsure about what they’re doing. Well, I think the important thing is there’s only five of us on stage and we rely on each other. We have to support each other and if somebody makes a mistake it’s up to everybody else to get through that. It’s no telepathy, but we’re looking out for each other and we’re always concentrating on what we’re doing. If you sit and analyze it, it’s a bizarre thing to do. Because you’re not going on stage saying: „Look what we can do!“ It’s not a normal thing to do. But when we’re working together, it’s great, there’s nothing like it.

Daniel: In my opinion you’ve proved to be an great musician. Are there other secret talents that you have? What are you not talented in at all? 😉

Paul Cook: Well, for me, the band is just a small part of my life. It’s not a big part. When I wake up in the morning I don’t think: „Oh my god, I’m a musician, I’m in a band. It’s not like that. It’s something I do for pleasure. My everydays life and my work is more important.

Daniel: What can we expect from IQ in the future? Are there special projects that you have been thinking about for quite a time or something similar?

Tim Esau: There’s a movie from „Subterranea“, Mike wrote the music for it and some guys want to use some of the themes for a movie.

Mike Nicholls: The movie is done and they’re pretty much at the final edit. And I do the soundtrack for it. It’s just themes from „Subterranea“, inspired by the album so to say. It’s someone elses take on the story, that’s the interesting thing from my point of view. They’ve taken elements from the story and taken them into a different direction, it’s very interesting.

Daniel: So, that’s quite it. That was my last question. Thanks again for your time and all the best for the gig!


Interview: Daniel Frick @ the Night of the Prog Festival, 18th July 2014, St. Goarshausen, Germany

Photos: Michael Buch


Musicians as Music-Journalists (In Vain & Words of Farewell)

Recently there was an idea emerging in my mind. Why not just try something different than the usual interview to promote a new album? That album was from German Melodic Death Metallers Words of Farewell. The guys accepted my challenge to review an album from a fellow group they didn’t know until then. (Which was Norways In Vain, similar in style). And then Kjetil Pedersen, Guitarist in In Vain also accepted to review „The Black Wild Yonder“ by Words of Farewell. Here are the results, unedited from Kjetil (git, In Vain) and Alex (voc, Words of Farewell). There’s also a german version of this article available over at Webzine. Enjoy!


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Words of Farewell – „The black wild yonder“, guest review by Kjetil DP (Guitarist In Vain) 

So, Herr Frick of the Whiskey-Soda webzine asked me if I would do the honor to review Words of Farwell’s new album „The black wild yonder“, claiming it to be quite reminiscent of our latest In Vain album, „Ænigma“. Having no experience in music reviewing, and being totally unfamiliar with the band, I humbly accepted the challenge, just to wake up in a cold sweat the following night, when realizing just how incredibly stupid and cocky I would sound if I hated the album and had to butcher the effort of fellow musicians…

Luckily I had no reason to fear, because WoF has delivered a powerful, well composed and tightly performed album in the proud Gothenburg tradition. In general, I’ve grown slightly tired of this genre over the years, but WoF has that certain amount of progressivity and technicality in both riffs and song structures, which keeps this album fresh and interesting through multiple listens. First track „Continuum Shift“ kicks off with a grand melodic part, which is repeated as a chorus later in the song, and the contrast between this epicness and the thrashy riffing in between, makes this a killer opener for the album. „Telltale Notion“ follows up with some trademark synchronised chugging of guitars and bassdrums, filled out with some clever arpeggiated synth and guitar melodies, and a chorus line that has been stuck in my head the last couple of days. These two first tracks, plus the exquisite „Temporary Loss of Reason“, are really the highlights on this album for me, but there’s an equal high quality of songwriting throughout the album, with no real fillers to mention.




As a fellow guitar player I really enjoy the soloing throughout the album, clean and well played, with a few atypical melodic phrasings, and some creative and tasteful use of different sweep picking and tapping patterns. Kudos! The production is also more or less spot on, with great amounts of both power and clarity. Though the loudness monster might have bereaved the album for any possible variation in dynamics, that goes for more or less all metal realeases these days (our own included). I particularly like the clear definition in the bass guitar sound, making it audible as an individual instrument, and not just functioning as as a low frequency filler (Believe it or not, guitar players CAN learn to accept and even appreciate bass players!)

Also, let me just mention that I haven’t been provided with or checked out any of the lyrics, so I won’t give any remarks to the poetic qualities of the album. My guess is that they growl about Satan and stabbing baby seals like we all do, so that’s a thumbs up from me anyways. The vocals are pretty kickass as well, and though I would have wished for a little bit more variation in pitch and perhaps even some clean vocals to spice things up a little, I guess that’s just a matter of personal taste.



Now, as for the mentioned resemblance with „Ænigma“, I must admit that I don’t hear a whole lot of clear similarities. WE might be moving into a similar melodeath landscape on tracks like „Against the Grain“ and „Image of Time“, and there are certain progressive guitar passages on „The black wild yonder“ that easily would fit into an In Vain song, but in general, I see the WoF album as more of a fullblown, genre true yet original Melodic Death album with progressive edges, whereas our own „Ænigma“ is far more schizophrenic in terms of genres, instrumentation and vocal use etc. But then again, I find it quite difficult to rate and analyse our own music; it might be easier for an outsider to spot the similarities, so I’m certain that Herr Frick has his good reasons for comparing the two albums.

Never the less, I truly believe that the music of WoF would appeal to quite a lot of the In Vain fans out there, and vice versa. I really enjoyed the album, and I appreciate the opportunity to check out some new music that probably would have slipped under my radar otherwise. Words of Farewell, you’ve been awarded with the In Vain Mark of Approvement, an achievement easy comparable to a Purple Heart or a Nobel Prize. Keep up the great work, and see you on the road!












(Kjetil/In Vain)



In Vain – „Ænigma“ , guest Review by Alexander Otto (Vocalist in Words of Farewell)


Primary note: publicly reviewing another band’s music is a challenge that we have never faced until now, so please forgive us if any of the general reviewing conventions are violated! We decided to first comment on each song focusing on the composition. Then, as we always appreciate feedback ourselves, we included a short criticism section. However, that section is not to be mistaken as a damning review as we really enjoyed In Vains music and the songs on Ænigma. The criticism is rather to be understood as a suggestion to make further improvements to the already excellent music! For those who do not have the time to read the full review we added a short summary at the very end. And now: Curtains up for In Vain’s Ænigma!

After listening to the album several times ‚Against The Grain‘ seems to be a good opener in the sense that it does show what the listener is in for. It doesn’t make any excuses for the courageous mix of Melodic Black Metal, Death, Doom and elements from other genres such as Gothic Metal or Progressive. The thing that possibly struck us the most were the different vocal styles which are already present in the first minutes of the album and set the tone to what is to come. The tremolo-picking parts seem to reference bands like Enslaved and for me personally the clean vocals tend towards the direction of Vintersorg, which is a compliment. The relatively long duration of the opening song may leave some eccentrics a little indifferent towards the end as the song does not contain any breaks or strong caesuras. Given that it is the opening track though this might be a calculated risk that will pay off with fans of this particular breed of music!

‚Image of Time‘ is a bit more melody oriented that its predecessor with a strong black-metalish chorus and a clear distinction between the parts featuring different tempos. It also comes across as a little more structured. The strong bridge part at the end builds up tension when polyphonic clean vocals float above the neat stop-riffing. In our taste, this climatic end could have been a little longer. We had the feeling that In Vain did not allow the song to reach its full potential in this passage.

After a fluent transition from the instrumental interlude ‚Southern Shores‘, which is a nice opportunity to digest the first two songs, ‚Hymne Til Havet‘ comes along as a sort of heart piece of the album having been introduced by the nice intro (if you like to see Southern Shores that way). After the first blackish, mid tempo oriented parts the chorus really offers an opportunity for festival crowds to sing along and raise their horns. A potential live hit for mid tempo fans! For some of us the amount of tragedy might have been a bit much, but I personally liked it. One of the absolute high lights of the album for us was the terrific guitar solo embedded in the latter half of the song which then fluently gives way to a reprise of the chorus. The outro is also loaded with pathos and epic sentiments, which especially I liked very much. For me there can never be enough!




One could think that In Vain are fans of the heavy metal TV-series „Metalocalypse“ and their sympathetic protagonists „Dethklok“. ‚Culmination of the Enigma‘ is more rooted in the death doom roots even though the double bass at the beginning and in between works against the rather slow picking of the guitars. Within the next few minutes the band introduces two new elements to the music, emotional screaming and organ, which we liked and which to our taste could have appeared more often next to the other instrumentation techniques on the album. All in all the song seems a little as if it constantly builds up to an epic climax that doesn’t really break loose. Latest after the well forged spoken interlude we expected a grand finale. Alternatively, the Norwegians return to themes that were introduced in earlier parts of the song. We really loved the well-crafted brass implementation in the short bridge part and towards the end of the song.

‚Times of Yore‘ starts off with a fatalistic atmosphere and uses some really aggressive scales. Certainly one of the most death metal oriented songs of the album and a nice change even though it is also more mid tempo oriented. Time of Yore does also offer the most variety on the album with its almost thrash parts around 2:40, the rock oriented part around 3:20 with a nice hard rock solo which sounds a little out of place in the album of the album but just right from the song, offering some variation. With a little gap in the middle I initially thought that the song would be over but it is far from, as the best part is yet to come. The following passage is again more on the doomy side and may remind some of bands like Novembers Doom or Nahemah (I personally don’t like to compare bands but in this case it seems to fit), certainly a highlight for fans of the dragged out excess that are long doom passages.

First of it’s a good idea to place the bonus song ‚Rise Against‘ at the best possible slot on the album rather than patch it at the end. Nice touch! Certainly the favorite song of most of our members as it turns out. Henrik said he felt reminded of Catamenia which is certainly a compliment. All in all the song has a spherical feeling to it and is also able to give the listener a breath. At least up to the midpoint where it’s mixed with a little prog passage to loosen things up. Afterward we again get offered a nice instrumental interlude consisting of an atmospheric pad, spoken words and a (maybe traditional?) wind instrument. The song is topped off with a terrific and strongly emotionally charged climax consisting of high and low growls accompanied by a blistering guitar solo, our favorite part in our favorite song of the album.




Another instant death metal song starting off with groovy triplet feeling. Possibly the most brutal track of the album, ‚To The Core‘ again shows how big of a repertoire In Vain have to offer. The second half of the song moves a bit into the direction progressive black metal with clean passages and blast beats with hymn character. I personally didn’t like the combination but the majority of the band found a great liking in this rather experimental combination. ‚Floating on the Murmuring Tide‘ is a very strong and epic opening with symphonic and opulent keys and a powerful vocal overlay of growl and clean power vocals (another new vocal facet), giving way to a very well-crafted saxophone interlude which is remnant of the days when Amorphis or Shining used this element, however seldom so effective as In Vain do here. The instrument is intertwined with the rest of the band in the following using the harmonic patterns that already served the intro. Afterwards the song ships into more restless, progressive waters. The second interlude employing both an acoustic and an electric guitar – and some rim shots in the snare, wow, haven’t heard them until here! – then heralds the end of the song and the album. This interlude can be said to be drawing the final breath before the last storm, in which In Vain once more fly towards a great climax, modulating into a higher key twice and layering saxophone, different vocal styles, a guitar solo and keys on top of each other. Afterwards the listener is gently lead into a long outro with a guitar solo slowly fading out. A classy way to end an album!




Summing up we would have liked the songs on Ænigma to have been a bit more coherent, meaning they could have been interlinked by the famous red line more clearly at times. Though this very line shines through particularly in the instrumental passages, the rest of the album could have had more of these compository-, and less of soundwise resemblances. This hints at the sound of the production as a whole: in our opinion, In Vain sadly lost some opportunities especially concerning the drum and guitar sound. The bass drum and snare drum sound could certainly have been more organic, which is certainly not because of Stig Reinhardtsen’s drumming skills, but the quite sterile production. The rhythm guitars can be found in the directly opposite corner, coming across a bit washy at times. A more clearly defined, perhaps crisp sound would certainly have done the otherwise neat production good. However, the definition and perception of sound is one of the key elements in music and up to every musician’s own liking. We are sure that Johnar Håland and Kjetil Pedersen kept this in mind modeling the guitar sound according to their own mental images.


If you like bands experimenting with different vocal styles, the atmospheric layering of instruments, blistering guitar solos, epic interludes, progressive parts, and the employment of the generally contrastive elements of death, black, melodic, and progressive metal, check out IN VAIN’s album Ænigma. You won’t be disappointed.


Words of Farewell Alex Promo2













(Alex/Words of Farewell)




Groove-Metal-Veteranen PRONG veröffentlichen Neues Album

Sie sind die Urväter der Groove-Metal, zahlreiche inzwischen populärere Bands wie sie selbst wie z.B. Machine Head, KoRn oder Nine Inch Nails zählen PRONG zu ihren wichtigsten musikalischen Einflüssen. Am 25.04. erscheint nun das zehnte Album der New Yorker mit dem Titel „Ruining Lives“ beim Label SPV in etlichen hübschen Editionen. Die Herren sind in der kommenden Woche auf Tour und werden im nochmals einige Clubkonzerte und Festivals spielen. Infos vom Label zum Album, Tourdaten und alles weitere per Klick auf das Banner:


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PRONG live 2014

15.04. D-Berlin Lido
16.04. D-Bremen – Tower
17.04. D-Hamburg – Knust
26.07. D-Viersen – Eier mit Speck Festival
30.07. D-Weinheim – Cafe Central
31.07. D-Wiesbaden – Schlachthof
01.08. D-Wacken – Wacken Open Air
23.08. D-Bad Wünnenberg – Wünnstock Open Air