In Aphelion - Interview
In Aphelion just released their first full-length "Moribund" (review here). After releasing a very appealing demo and EP the album comes out at full 60 minutes of darkness and hate. I had the chance to chat with Sebastian Ramstedt (also in Necrophobic) via Skype so he explained about the lyrical intentions behind all this, the (short) history of the band and his further plans with In Aphelion. Enjoy reading the interview and check out "Moribund" if you haven't done it yet!
Hi Sebastian, how are things in Sweden?
I'm doing fine. I had a very mild case of Covid these days which I wouldn't have even noticed. My wife took a test because she felt a tiny headache but we were not sick at all.
Your first full-length album "Moribund" was released in March. Did you have any expectations about the reception from the listeners?
Those who already have spoken to me like you and a couple of others like it. I haven't heard any negative criticism yet at all but if you read your own threads on Facebook, people are generally positive but if you follow these black metal communities and someone that is not me sharing this then it's usually something that can turn up. But I try not to do this because I think people kinda like to talk shit about things and it doesn't affect me in a good way so I stay out of it. But I hope that people will like it. I am not doing this to sell a lot of albums and we don't need to make money but we don't want to lose money. I hope we can keep the balance and that would be some stress relief for me to know that the record company is not bleeding money. Then I can be a creator and write music, I just want the things to be smooth. That's what I hope. I don't know how many albums we have to sell, probably not that much. I mean, this is not Century Media and this is not thousands and thousands of albums, we're talking about smaller amounts here (laughs).
Did you get to know how many EPs you've sold?
No, I haven't seen any numbers yet. Usually you get the calculation two times a year but I don't know yet.
The demo was sold out pretty fast, within two weeks, I would guess?
Yeah, less I think. That was very quick. That is the thing when you do limited stuff. Sometimes it sells more than the non-limited stuff because people think that they have to buy it now. We made this special thing and we didn't want to spread hundreds and hundreds of demos. I think that people were kind of curious what I was up to outside of Necrophobic and other bands.
On "Moribund" I think your classical influences come out much clearer than on "Luciferian Age". The riffing in some tracks is pretty much untypical for black metal, I would say. Would you agree with that or would you say it's on the same level as on the EP?
I don't know. You know, I'm old and I don't listen to black metal to write black metal. I listen to heavy metal and hard rock and what comes out happens to be black metal. It's not something I want to create – that is just how it is. It's my voice, just like the old bands – Venom, Bathory, all these old bands- they were listening to Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and when they created music, they created black metal from that. I listen to Saxon, Priest, Ratt, even Def Leppard and out comes black metal. If I was listening to Watain or Mayhem and inspired by that, that would make more typical black metal riffs but I try to make the Iron Maiden riffs just faster, harder, more aggressive and more evil. I'm trying to make an evil "Piece Of Mind" and not an evil "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" part two. I think that's the reason. We kind of handpicked some songs for Luciferian Age from which we thought that it would catch the listener into what Moribund is and in some of these songs I think, like 'He Who Saw The Abyss', 'The Origin' or 'This Night Seems Endless' there is a much wider musical landscape than 'Draugr' or 'Luciferian Age'.
Did you want to break out of these stylistic boundaries with that?
I don't want to be limited. I don't need to have another Necrophobic where there is some kind of dogma. I don't want any formula for In Aphelion – this is something else. I can write freely in it, whatever I want. When I wrote those songs, I just kind of let loose, let go. Normally when I get a theme or a melody that works in my head; those are not created by me. I don't sit down and try to create that. That will come to me as inspiration or hallucination or whatever you want. From there I start to build. It's like when I play one riff, before it ends, I hear the next riff already. If that turns out to be a heavy metal or a slow, doomy riff or whatever it is then it is what it is. It's not like cooking when I say I should try some cinnamon in this – it's like all the jars have no etiquette on it and I start trying. When a song like 'This Night Seems Endless' is formed, I kind of celebrate that it goes into a certain direction I normally wouldn't write. I let that track open up and follow that path. I don't try to stop and don't tame it, I don't try to take it back, I don't care if it's seven minutes or pretty slow and boring music (laughs) because that's the music that wants to be born. But I think at the end I'm good enough with arranging to make it not boring. I think my honest ideas make it interesting in some way and I want people to lose themselves in the songs. A good seven minute song is when you don't think that seven minutes have passed.
Talking about the title 'This Night Seems Endless' – this could also be a description of the pandemic, is there such an agenda behind it?
No, it's not. But what I wish is that you put your perspective into that title. The title is very direct and it's also not very mystical (laughs). I mean this is what you feel during distress or depression, during the long nights when you doubt that you are good enough for the job. When you go to sleep and feel like "What the fuck have I done with my life? Who am I?". And even worse in the years when I was drinking and stuff like that when I had this horrifying anguish. In the daytime we don't blow things up but at nighttime, that's when you get cancer. You have this bump and say "oh this is cancer" and at the daytime you say "oh, I only have a cold". That's what I wanted to write about but for me I wanted to write about the fact that when you are in a state of misery, the only thing you have to hold on to is your misery. If someone takes that from you, then you have nothing. People who are unhappy are more comfortable in their unhappiness than they are in ten minutes of love somewhere. That's why it's so hard to go away from the dark side. 'This Night Seems Endless' but this endless night is mine. This is what I have and this is the road I cling on to. If you take that from me I have nothing. The song is about being in absolute horror but still choose the horror. This is what I have been doing for such a long time of my life and I think people can relate to that.
Can you tell a little bit more about the other lyrical topics?
They are very varied. All is about me in some way. I try to make it my perspective but I try putting it within a myth. 'Moribund' is about Urd, one of the Norns that told your fortune in the North mythology. She is down the well and in a life thread. It's the same in Greek mythology. But what I'm really writing about are the scars on your body that show the paths of life. Every scar you get is like Urds we get. It's the wheel of life – you can look at a person's skin and see what has happened to this person. I found it kind of interesting to take this very old, much known mythology but what I really think is about how everything I have done can point out where I will be tomorrow. It's no bad luck, it's no guessing. If you take a close look at what you have done, you will see what kind of future you will probably have in ten years. That is what it's really about – the scars that mark our way through life but I put it into this other perspective. All these old stories were probably told to kids and people to learn about life. That was the way of saying: "if you do this, that will happen!" just like Draugr – we spoke about this in our last interview – the revenant that comes at night and gets into your mind. This is probably how you described mental illness. Why is this person now mentally ill? Because Draugr came. I found it interesting that these stories weren't myths in the beginning but descriptions of life. So I tried to describe my life with these myths.
Is the title 'Sorrow, Fire And Hate' a homage to Bathory "Blood Fire Death"?
No. Sorrow, Fire and Hate are three of the rivers you have to cross to the kingdom of death in Greek mythology. They are Styx and the other ones and the meaning of the names are Sorrow, Fire, Hate, Oblivion and another one I forgot. It's not really about crossing the rivers into death. In this life, you and me, we try to behave. But you don't want to get stuck in the 9-5 wheel without ever feeling anything. You want some kind of fire. So I rather cross the rivers Sorrow, Fire and Hate than getting stuck on the shore. I rather have all these negative or powerful emotions than just to keep calm at the shore. You cannot cross these rivers without paying the ferryman. If you miss the ferryman you have to wait for a hundred years or more. I kind of feel this when you're stuck in a relationship that goes nowhere. I cannot stay there for a hundred years or more because I see that the ferryman is here and I have to go now. It will be a sacrifice of maybe good stuff because I will have to go through sorrow, fire and hate from this relationship but there will be peace for me on the other side. It can also be like doing In Aphelion instead of just being in Necrophobic. It's probably not only a positive thing for all the members in Necrophobic that I do this but I have to go through sorrow, fire and hate to not just stand on that shore doing the same thing for a hundred years.
….but you don't want to leave Necrophobic, do you?
No,no. I need to widen my life. You want another dish on the table now and then, you know.
Listening to "Luciferian Age", you have some marching samples in this song that makes it appear quite militaristic. What's the idea behind this?
It is a song about war. If you believe the creation story that man is made by God – we have a God, he made us. The problem is that he made us really enjoy all the deadly sins. We, the people, the humans, we will end up in hell and that's a hell of a bad creation of God. And it's also supposed to be that we are made like him. This is a bad match, something is wrong in this story, right (laughs)? But for the Luciferianists they mean that Lucifer is the creator. It's not God and it will hold up because the Devil celebrates everything that is men. If we are God's mirror then the Devil is the creator. No question about it. The Luciferian people will get mad at me for telling it that simple because it's much more serious and for those who really believe in it, it is much wider and darker stuff like this. But what I saw is that people are trying so hard to fit in, especially on the internet about what you say and what you cannot say – we are forced to not be ourselves because if we are ourselves we can be canceled. If we don't think about the right stuff at the right time then we're out. I will sell no more albums and can just go home, which would be good (laughs). But what I'm saying is that it's time for Lucifer to return. We must have Lucifer's war because we cannot live by the rules of God which are the rules that humanity thinks that we need to live after. It's wrong. We should be free, we should be happy, angry, and we should be everything that we are. This song celebrates the coming of the Luciferian age and the world will get scorched, mankind will burn. It's our marching boots that take over the world in this song. It's kind of hard (laughs) but in a way I believe it's necessary. Every now and then something has to happen and I don't believe we should diminish ourselves. I think we should be greater.
I always have the feeling that when you use keyboards they were originally some guitar work. Can you tell a little bit more about this technique?
In the end of 'Requiem' there's a bell that rings four times but it's all through the album. There are bells at a certain point to magnify the next part. Those are made with a trick that Michael Schenker did (shows me his guitar; M.). You cross the strings the wrong way and then you get this sound (plays it on the guitar; M.). When you put distortion to that it sounds just like a church bell. It gets really cool and I also have a lot of clean guitar playing behind the distorted guitar. That you will never hear, it's so low that you cannot hear it but you will think it might be a synthesizer or keyboard or something. It just widens the soundscape so to speak – there's a lot of clean guitars here. I cannot even tell where anymore because I forgot. I just feel like this is a great song here (laughs). I always try before doing real samples, like the first note in 'Requiem' that is a sample, to create the sounds I need with my guitar because you can go very far with a guitar. It's not really needed and I think it's a little bit lazy to download the right sound when you can create the sound.
Who produced the album?
That was Frederik Folkare again and he has produced almost everything I have done since the 2000s. He knows how to make my guitar playing sound good so there was no question about this.
Apart from In Aphelion, you are currently working on another project called "Saints & Sinners". Can you already reveal a little bit more about this?
This is a thing we have done once a year since last year. It's me, Perra Karlsson who used to play in Destroyer666, Tobias (Christiansson; M.) from Grave who also plays in Necrophobic now, then we have Erika Wagenius who is an artist of herself but she was married to Yngwie Malmsteen in the 90s and she is very professional and a kind of next level musician that would never work with death metal musicians in the past but we have become friends through the years and I thought it was kind of fun to do something outside of extreme metal. She is very much AOR, more soft rock and the rest of us are extreme metal musicians so we try to cover tunes or songs that would be in between us. We did a Europe cover last year, "Scream Of Anger" that we made a video for and we collected money for Suicide Zero and this year we do a Gary Moore cover, "Out In The Fields". We released it on the 4th February which is World Cancer Day and this has been kind of close to us in the death metal community by age – I mean, people are dying and so we thought while we are doing something fun during the pandemic we can also make something good about this. So I have a hell of a time doing the video on this and I don't even have all the files yet (laughs) but it's a big challenge for me to play the Gary Moore solos and this is the next level. But it also makes me a better musician. I have to practice like crazy to make the song good!
Do you also plan to release an album with Saints & Sinners?
I think these two songs will probably be 7" singles. I mean we're kind of a band but we have no plans of becoming a band, you know? This is something we'll do once a year because we like it.
You always post a lot of music from 1984, what makes this year so special for you?
It is the best year in heavy metal music. It's not something I think, it's a fact (laughs). Right now I'm collecting all these albums (shows me his record collection in the background; M.) and I'm trying to buy all heavy metal albums that came out in 1984 and I mean ALL heavy metal albums from 1984. In 2024 when there's the 40-year celebration of it I will listen to those albums on their release day the whole year. Isn't it brilliant? Oh, it's the 9th of February – Lee Aaron put out an album – perfect!! And I will probably write reviews about it. I'm gonna live that year one more time in musical history. Back then you recorded an album in February and it was released in May or even in April. There was a very short turn around for printing albums. When Iron Maiden released "Powerslave" in August that year, all the other bands panicked, went back to the rehearsal rooms and you could hear "Powerslave" in their albums that went out in November. By listening to the whole year I can see what the fuck happened in 1985 because then music died. That was when Mötley Crue stopped being Satanists, that was when Ozzy Osbourne started to write the follow-up to "Bark At The Moon". Everything was cotton candy and 1984 is the last real heavy metal year in history.
Besides that, what are your plans for the near future? I know that some worldwide festivals are scheduled with Necrophobic, is there anything else?
We actually started to plan the first gigs with In Aphelion yesterday. We decided that we will take this out on the road and we will start playing in June this year. I have no more specific information but we decided to do this. It will be very small of course which will be nice instead of the big festivals to go back in time a bit. Right now we're planning very much on how to learn the songs and how to do this, which musicians because we need a bass player (they announced Dennis Holm from Avslut as bass player lately; M.).
Finally, what are your hopes for 2022?
I hope more than anything that I will enjoy being out on the road again. Like so many other people I got used to being at home. I missed the stage for the first year but now I don't miss it anymore. I'm kind of afraid of what I have become. The worst scenario would be to go out on the stage and say "nah, fuck this! This is not my life anymore." Right now it seems quite possible but what I hope is that everything will come back and I will say "Yes, this is where I belong!". I really hope that it will be a great time and good concerts and so on. That's what I hope. If I feel like this, many people feel like this. And if many people feel like this, the scene dies.
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- Wells Valley - Achamoth - Sep 29
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- Just Before Dawn - A War Too Far - Sep 29
- Dismal Aura - Imperium Mortalia - Sep 29