Necrophobic - Interview


Swedish legends Necrophobic recently released their 10th full-length album "In The Twilight Grey" (check reviews here). With this new album, there are some slight changes in the approach concerning both, music and artwork. I had a very nice chat with the drummer Joakim Sterner and out came a very entertaining interview where you can find out the reasons for the changes but also about the band in general and about the diverse side-projects most of the band members are involved in. Check it on your own and enjoy!

Michael

Hey Joakim, how are you doing?

I'm okay. I have a bit of sore legs because I was skiing two days ago. It was the first time this season so the legs are a little bit tired (laughs). The ski resort is about 2 ½ hours north of Stockholm and it is the closest ones with good slopes. The smaller mountains are nearer but the slopes are pretty short. But it is so close that you can go there for just one day and then back to Stockholm again.

You are going to release the 10th Necrophobic album in March and you founded Necrophobic 35 years ago…is there anything special planned for this very anniversary?

This is a question that everybody has but I can honestly say that there is nothing that we planned. The album was written and recorded and going to be released this year and as a coincidence the band is turning 35 years old. So there will be no anniversary shows for being 35 years old. There will be shows to support the new album. The band is so old now, every year there is something that is having an anniversary so you cannot track everything (laughs). I have to set reminders that this year that album is going to be so and so old…. Last year The Nocturnal Silence, the debut album turned out to be 30 years old so we had one special show in Stockholm and the album is soon coming out so there will be no more of these special "Nocturnal Silence" shows. It was not just only the songs from that album but we decided to do some from the three first ones we released during the 90s.

Again you evoke some kings of hell like in 'Clavis Inferni' and bring darkness over the Earth. Is the apocalypse coming closer when you look at the real world today?

I try not to think in those terms. I live for the good things in life that I can do. I can play the music still, I can record the music still, I can go skiing still. The political stuff I don't have time to dig deep into those questions. I've never been interested in that. I just try to enjoy my time.

Also, the cover is very hopeless and devastating in comparison to your past covers. It is very bleak and with fewer details than before. Why didn't you continue the church cover story but decided to go this way? And did you change the cover artist this time?

Yes, we changed the artist. The other two albums Dawn Of The Damned and Mark Of The Necrogram came out very close to each other. It was just a two-year gap between them and the songwriting process was more combined even though they had nothing in common. They were quite similar from a certain songwriting point. When we did Mark Of The Necrogram we said that we wanted to use Kristian Wåhlin once again and Sebastian came up with the idea: "Have you ever thought about what happens beyond that council in the middle?". He started to brainstorm ideas as concepts for the artwork and then Dawn Of The Damned was, as I said, not connected in the story but connected in the songwriting process. We looked if we could do even one more cover of the same theme so to speak. However this time, everything was reset more or less, the song-writing process had nothing to do with anything from the pasts song-writing processes. We worked a lot with the photographer Jens Rydén, once the singer in Naglfar. Him and I have been close friends for many many years; we went to the same art school and stuff. So I think Sebastian went to his homepage and saw an art piece. I don't know if it was ready but Jens put it up there. Sebastian saw it and he felt that if we could tweak this art, it should really be for the new album. We asked Jens if we could have that art but he could redo it to make it look more Necrophobic-style. He did that and also we wanted to continue the art on the backside of the album. It is something we wanted to have for a long time but Kristian always forgot to paint the backside (laughs). He was asked for both, Mark Of The Necrogram and Dawn Of The Damned to make the widescreen painting; he never did it (laughs). So this time we had it and it's inspired from an album that came out in the middle of the 80s. The art is really connected to the new album. So Jens did the artwork. We took his art piece and he did the re-arrangements and the layout together with me. He did the main design and I made him some suggestions and he also took the photos.

When I first listened to "In The Twilight Grey" my first thoughts were that you were more Bathory-influenced this time, for example in the title track, so you go more into black metal than on the previous albums. Would you agree with me?

I cannot say what's wrong or right to think. I was not thinking the way you were thinking. I think it flirts with our past and the music has found a new path. There are more heavy metal parts in this album than we ever had before. Of course, it has this black metal feeling, also. It's a very wide album, still the same band but it's dynamic.

Well, it's just in some nuances. I know that you guys are fully into 80s stuff like W.A.S.P. and Maiden and so on and it is true when you say that it is more classic metal especially when it comes to Sebastians' riffs. But in some riffs, there is also this certain black metal feeling…

I understand now more what you mean when you put it that way. I can agree and still, I think a song like 'Stormcrow' is more death metal than black metal. 'As Stars Collide' is more heavy metal than anything we have done before but still with that melody and dark feeling over it.

It also isn't as catchy as the two last albums. It's more bulky and there are more levels to get access to it. I mean, not like "Womb Of Lilithu" which was a very difficult album but it doesn't grip me right from the start.

I can understand what you are thinking. I can agree that it's not like Mark Of The Necrogram where you got hooked right away. It was a quite straightforward album, very catchy. This one will take a few more listens and then it will grow on you because you find stuff that you didn't hear first you didn't hear maybe because you were searching for that catchy stuff (laughs). This one is going to be a bigger album the more listens you give it.

Are there some connections, except darkness, between the songs?

This is not a concept album like Dawn Of The Damned. Every song has its own lyrics and story.

Where did you get the lyrics for 'Clavis Inferni' from? I googled it up and found some demons from hell concerning the names but nothing else.

I didn't write any words on this album. The music actually started with our new bass player sending us a demo tape with ten or twelve songs he had written and didn't put in Grave or the other bands he is involved in. This kick-started Sebastian to write the new album. I can't remember every song on that demo but Tobias has co-written songs now because Sebastian gave them that Necrophobic sound. In that particular song, I cannot say from where he got the inspiration to write the lyrics. Maybe they wrote it together and talked about it and the lyrics came up. I cannot really explain the lyrics on this album because I haven't read all the lyrics yet. I don't like to explain lyrics. It's up to you to read them and make your own opinion about what it means to you. It meant something to Sebastian when he wrote it but when we look at the same painting, you and I can see different things.

(I asked Sebastian about the lyrics and he told me that it is a classic South, North, East, West-spell. There exists a painting called "Clavis Inferni" which illustrates the beasts of the directions and is an homage to the old black metal lyrics of Venom, Possessed, Slayer, or Hellhammer.)

Link to this painting :https://www.openculture.com/2022/08/discover-the-key-of-hell-an-illustrated-18th-century-guide-to-black-magic-1775.html?fbclid=IwAR1m004nrcrpeSW7gC8RxWtufWiGea7vvyEad_Y0FSRekqPB3YGCH87-P2w)

With 'Ascension (Episode Four)' you have another instrumental that is connected to the first three episodes that are to be found on "Darkside". Is it some kind of tribute to your past?

Yes, it is a continuation and also a tribute to what we did back then. We didn't have instrumentals on all albums I think….or do we (laughs)? Anyhow, this was a flirt with Darkside, and one of the songs, 'Stormcrow', you can really think it's 1994 when you hear it.

Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to see you live yet. I spoke with your manager lately and told him that you have to come to Dortmund or at least somewhere in the Ruhr Area – are there any concrete plans yet for some shows? I guess touring will be difficult since you all have families and jobs….

Yes, we don't do full tours anymore. We go to festivals and we go to clubs. I think Germany is going to be pretty much compared to the last album. But I cannot remember which towns and which festivals (laughs). But you can find them on Facebook. (And on the page of their booking agency: https://district-19.com/portfolio-item/necrophobic/)

You probably remember that I reviewed your Unhallow demo back in 22. Since that, it has become quite quiet around that band. Are you currently working on some new stuff?

Yes, but Dismember and Necrophobic always come first. Our plans were to record the other songs we had later that year but then Dismember started again. The Dismember circus is back (laughs). I was skiing with Robert (Sennebäck; M.) last week and the week before he had his birthday party and we discussed the Unhallow situation. I hate to make promises I cannot keep but we said to each other that we should go into the studio later this year to make the full-length.

Not only you but also Sebastian and Johan have another band going on with In Aphelion – was this some kind of stress test for Necrophobic when you all started these other bands?

Me and Robert had a band, Souldevourer, in 2005 together. So this is our new 2005 band (laughs). Unhallow was not the band that we had in 2005 because most of those riffs are now maybe used in upcoming Dismember stuff, I don't know. For Sebastian, he had a lot of time during Covid and he wanted to do something that didn't have any limits so that he could decide everything for himself. That was the goal with that band but I think that none of our side-bands interfered with Necrophobic. But I was pretty surprised when I heard his band because I thought that he would do a heavy metal band and In Aphelion sounds a lot like Necrophobic but there were no hard feelings and nothing.

I always thought that you look a little bit like the twin of Kerry King – did you already hear his new song and check the cover?

Haha, I heard that before. Yes, I checked the song and I wasn't feeling so happy about that. I didn't have any expectations really but what I was afraid of was that it sounded like the Slayer period I don't like and it sounded like the period that I don't like. I mean the song is not bad but I wait until I hear the entire album. I think Mark's voice is very aggressive and cool but I don't like Paul Bostaph's style of playing. I am more the Dave Lombardo-type because he has more feeling. Paul is more machine and the sound is not so cool on his drums. It sounds like when you bounce a basketball.

And as we all know now, Dave Lombardo is dead for him!

Yeah (laughs). And there was something else, I think he threw something at Tom Araya as well. And also maybe the media is talking and trying to make a drama out of nothing.

So did you also see the cover?

Yeah, I've been noticing that it looks like Deicide. I wonder how it happened.

Probably AI.

Yes, maybe they've used the same words (laughs).

Baphomet, Devil…

Haha!!

What are the albums you're looking forward to in 24?

I don't know. I keep looking for albums that I didn't get in the 80s, haha. But which bands are going to release new albums? Do you know?

Well, I hope Mercyful Fate….

I can tell you what I am looking forward to in 24. I am looking forward to Columbia and Mexico in April. Columbia we haven't played before and we're going to play with Emperor who, as far as I have heard, haven't played in Columbia before either. That will be interesting!

I think so! Maybe even more interesting than the new Mercyful Fate, haha!

Haha. And we're going to play a show where Anthrax is headlining and I saw that we're going to play at a stadium (laughs). That will be interesting, too!

The final words are yours!

I hope that you all will enjoy the new album like you said, maybe you don't like it as much on the first listen but it grows on you. I still think it sounds very much Necrophobic so you shouldn't be afraid!

Entered: 3/23/2024 11:20:21 AM

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