Darkened - Interview


Considering that we're halfway through 2024, I think it's safe to say that this year is doing great with all the albums that came along the way, especially in June which was packed full of them. I really admire what these bands had to offer for the masses, and so is the case with the international death metal band Darkened, which had a very strong impact when they returned with their third album "Defilers Of The Light" that got overwhelmingly positive feedback from fans and critics. I thought this was a great opportunity to share some words with their bassist Tobias Cristiansson, whom I greatly admire for playing in other great bands such as Necrophobic and In Aphelion, while also having a musical background of being the member of legendary Swedish death metal bands like Dismember, Grave and Entombed as well. During our conversation, we covered multiple subjects such as Darkened's latest album, a brief talk about his experience at the Kilkim Žaibu festival in Lithuania with Necrophobic, his phenomenal contribution to all of these aforementioned bands, as well as other things like how social media affects on the mystique behind musicians and bands. Please join me on this journey, as we dive deep into the extreme metal background of the awesome Tobias Cristiansson.

Vladimir

Hey Tobbe, how was the trip back from Lithuania after Kilkim Žaibu?

Yeah, well, the trip didn't go as planned, because yesterday's flight was cancelled.

Really?

Yeah, we came one day late, that's why I didn't know if I could make it in time for the interview.

I hope you are not tired of the whole experience, you just played there and you just got home.

Yeah, I came home like 30 minutes ago, but it's fine, it's good, don't worry.

How was the show?

It was nice. It's a cool festival, it has a little bit of a Viking theme to the whole thing, or more like pagan theme I would say. When we came there it was raining, it had been raining a lot, but luckily right before we started, the rain stopped and the weather was nice, so it was good. We played the main stage, it's kind of a big stage, it was really good, it was a fun show.

I saw the stories and everything, and I see that people really enjoyed it a lot. Damn it guys, every time you play on bigger stages, you look like you are 10 feet tall and that you are titans, I am not kidding haha.

We are kind of tall, everyone in the band, so that's correct.

So, the reason why I invited you is because of the new Darkened album "Defilers Of The Light", and even today I was listening to the album, and I still love it a lot, it's wicked, intense and vile death metal, just the way I like it, it blew me away. It was unbelievable for me to think that in this day and age we still have this solid gold in extreme metal, and there is also plenty of excellent musicality in between all that death-thrashing violence, from epic moments to the melodic parts. How was the whole experience while working on "Defilers Of The Light"?

Thank you very much for the kind words, I appreciate it. The main composer in this band is Hempa, one of the guitar players, so immediately when we had released the previous album in 2022, he started writing new songs and came up with new ideas for songs, riffs and everything, he is constantly producing stuff. So, slowly we started to put stuff together, like I said Hempa is the main writer, and then Linus Nirbrant, the other guitar player, he was more like arranging the stuff, maybe things you can cut some parts off, like leave some parts away, that's mostly what he's doing, he's like tightening the songs up, like make them a little bit shorter maybe and then he's on and off with ideas here and there, until like the songs are finished and then we recorded all separately at our homes. So, it's a very easy process with the modern technologies you can do that, a lot of bands do that today. I did my bass and it was the last thing that was put on there, because I wanted to wait for the drums, so I wanna know how is Perra playing the drums here, and this is the first time that Perra is doing the drums on our full-length album, because before we had Andrew Whale, and he's living in England, he was in Bolt Thrower from the start. He's a legend, very cool, hahah. But this time, like every time, I want to wait until the drums are done so I know the drum fills and maybe I can do something on the bass.

Yeah, better bass lines and everything.

Exactly, so my bass was pretty much the last thing that was put on there. In Darkened, I think it's fun because I can play around a lot with the bass and it's cool to make like separate bass parts and not only following the riff and try to think outside the box and do something, maybe not like typical death metal, but to bring in some other influences from like the 70's or whatever, or like more melodic parts if it's possible.

That's one of the things that stood out to me, that classical piece you did on the bass guitar on 'Echoes of Solitude' and how it transitions to the next track 'On We Slaughter', and it came out so surprising that it made me think "Holy shit, you have got to be kidding me!". First you have this instrumental piece which is like classical guitar music, and then you get this evil and melodic death metal song, it just worked out so nice. What can you tell me about the work on both the instrumental and the follow-up track 'On We Slaughter'?

Actually, I wrote that piece not specifically thinking about Darkened, but I wrote it in a period when I had a hard time, both of my parents passed away and I also divorced from my wife for 10 years, so everything was at the same time and I didn't have a proper apartment to live in, I even lived in like a cabin in the woods, so it was tough. So, I wrote that, and maybe those kinds of feelings transported into that song, so I didn't write it specifically for Darkened, but after a while I thought that I could send it to the guys and see what they think, and they were like "Yeah it's cool, we'll break off from the songs and have a different thing that will come in", kind of like when you listen to the first Dissection album.

Yeah, when they had the classical pieces.

Yeah, and when I was young, I listened to that, and I was like "Wow, this is really cool, like you have this extreme metal and then all of a sudden it's something beautiful, like nice melodies and stuff, also like classical pieces, it's beautiful", so it's cool to have that kind of thing. It's cool to have that kind of, as a listener you get a little surprised like "Oh, this is something else, it's cool". I need to learn that piece again, because I haven't played it forever, it was a little bit tricky because of some stretches and stuff, but I wanna re-learn it again, because it's nice.

The part where you mentioned Dissection, that's one of the things that I noticed, because there's those elements from their instrumental pieces on their first two albums, and even the melodies, you can definitely see their influence in your music like flying all over. I really like that, the fact that it breaks away, the fact that it's so much richer and very expanded. In comparison to "The Black Winter" from 2022, this one is on a higher bar, it really does break away from the traditional death metal because you can hear some heavy and thrash metal influences here and there, and I am glad that you guys made it altogether like that.

Yeah, I agree with you, this album is more diverse, much more than the other ones, which I personally really enjoy when you can mix up some influences from the past, like heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal and more melodic stuff, and make the songs interesting to listen to. There's a lot of things going in the songs, it's not always like verse, bridge, chorus etc., there are some things happening, details here and there, so that's interesting to listen to. And I think that the songs on this album came out so good it's interesting to listen to, if you can tolerate some melodies like that.

The melodies fit well together, it's not like when a melody kind of thins out the extremity of the performance of the songs, it's well put together. It's important to note that a solid material such as this doesn't exactly come from "anybody", but from people such as yourselves who are veterans in this extreme subgenre, especially you who already played in tons of other Swedish death metal bands like Entombed, Grave and Dismember and you were also briefly playing in Nifelheim. I guess a lot of people envy you, I can imagine people going "Damn, I wish I was that guy".

It's funny that it turned out like that, I used to listen to all these bands when I was a teenager, like they were my favorite bands and I played with a lot of them, it's crazy and I don't know how it happened really, but I had a great opportunity to join Dismember when I was 27 years old and doing world tours, and I think that opened up a lot of doors, because Dismember is a big band and I had to tour around the world and meet people. Well, I think this wouldn't happen if I was an asshole, because you always have to have a good attitude, you have to be willing to devote, to really put some time and effort in to what you are doing and to be dedicated, it takes a lot of dedication, talent and also to be a good person, because travelling around with people, it's good if you can get along and not to be an asshole.

Yeah, or to be pretentious and everything. I agree because you have a lot of optimism in yourself, not just as a musician but on a personal level as well. I recently watched that Under Blood Red Skies documentary, and I saw you guys having fun and you cosplaying as a typical 70's hard rock roadie with a mustache and a Black Sabbath cap. This is one of the things I really like about my favorite bands, they don't just go on tour, do the job and go home, or talk about wanting to go home as fast as possible, what they do on tour really shows that you need to have fun in order to do everything great all the way through. You really did fit well with the band, even though you are currently not playing in Dismember, but you made a good point as well saying that it opened new doors for you, because you are now in Necrophobic as an official member, whereas you were a live member before, but now you are more involved with the band.

Oh yeah, with Dismember on that DVD, when I joined the band I bought this little camera, back then you had a cassette, and I wanted to take the opportunity to film everything, because I didn't know if it would end after these first tours, maybe it will end, so I will document as much as I can, and then it just continued, we were filming all the time that it ended up on that crazy documentary that is really fun to watch, it's like a party with a lot of goofing around, we wanted to make like a fun thing, not super serious. But I like that combination when you are out playing, I mean it's super serious to take the show, it comes firsthand to really play well and do best you can, but offstage it's about having a good time, enjoying the time when you are there, because you have a nice opportunity to go to another country so it's always fun to take advantage of that and do something out of it and not just hide away, at least I want to meet new people, have fun together with the band and that's really important. That's also the case with Necrophobic, which I am happy for, it's a great bunch of guys and when we are out playing we are always having a good time together, like when we played the other day at this Kilkim festival in Lithuania, we had a super nice hotel, it was located next to an outdoor Zoo, so the day after the show we went on hiking and watched some funny animals and stuff like that, so it's good to do that as well.

I hope that someday we will also get this like a tour video of Necrophobic on a DVD, maybe like on a re-release of "In the Twilight Grey", along with this mini documentary, that would actually be cool to see.

Yeah, it would be really fun, but I don't know if bands are releasing DVDs today, it's like a different market, because everybody has an Instagram account and you put out stuff like continuously as you go along, but back when we did the Dismember thing, it wasn't like that, we had Myspace I remember at that time.

Yeah, and other forums as well, so you wouldn't come across such stuff easily like nowadays.

It's both good and bad, you lose a lot of that mystique surrounding bands today, because as soon as something happens it's out on the internet, and people show what they are doing in their private life, there is no mystique in the music scene anymore. On the other hand, it's nice because fans can connect with musicians if they want, because you can write something directly and ask something to a musician, that's really cool and it's nice to have this communication nowadays, more so than before.

I agree because if that wasn't the case, it would be harder for us people to contact you guys, because it would take two or three guys to get your contact to do interviews and stuff like that. I also agree on that part if you want to keep the mystique of the band and everything, then you shouldn't follow those musicians on social media. Sometimes, you are maybe kind of split because you have mixed opinions, you don't know exactly what to think, but on the other hand it's nice to see musicians posting stuff like where they go and what they do in private life, because it reminds us that we are all normal people, that we are not gods or above anyone else. Plus, nowadays I can see Rob Halford post a lot of funny stuff, whenever he comes up with a cool new shirt to wear and those leather jeans with his revealed butt cheeks, so it's cool hahah, because it's the kind of guy I expected him to be.

Yeah, it's fun. Also, I think nowadays it's harder for people to be douchebags, because they would be exposed on the internet. A lot of people wanna show a good side, so if you are an arrogant person, it will show much more easily today than before, because you are more in contact with people on social media today.

It's true, and on the other hand you can get a nice insight into the process of recording an album. Aside from "Defilers Of The Light", you also contributed your bass skills to other great releases of this year, the new Necrophobic album "In The Twilight Grey" and the new upcoming In Aphelion album "Reaperdawn". I really have to ask you, how the hell did you manage to do all of these albums around the same time, because it seems like you've been pretty busy lately?

Yeah, it's crazy, like this year it's three bands that I am in various releases, but I have to tell that I am not playing in the In Aphelion album, because I joined the band and Sebastian had already had recorded the bass parts, but I will be on the band photos, I am also in the videos and I am doing the live shows, but there wasn't any time for me to do a bass recording there. I am a full-time member of In Aphelion, and I have to learn the songs because we will play them live. So, yeah, it's pretty busy, but I like that. I do one thing at a time, otherwise it would be impossible, like if I do a Darkened thing, I am just really focused on that and do only that, because if I wanted to record Necrophobic at the same time, it would be crazy, so I had to plan my time really well. Those two recordings weren't done at the same time, I don't remember how it was but there was some time in between, so I had time to learn because it takes a lot of time to learn like ten songs and do something out of that, and not just learn and record them. I want to do it really well and come up with cool bass parts if I can, and all of that. Yeah, I am pretty busy, been doing other things in between, I play with an Ozzy Osbourne cover band and I also play in a Latino jazz band which is totally different, and that takes a lot of practice because it's a lot complicated at times, but I really enjoy it. The time I have right now with all the bands and all that stuff, I really like that, I truly enjoy it. As long as it's not stressing me, but it takes planning to do one thing at a time, and it's fine.

Since you mentioned playing in an Ozzy Osbourne cover band, I actually wanted to ask you this because I watched a lot of your cover videos on YouTube and your live performances also. Personally, I actually really like Bob Daisley a lot, and also Phil Soussan who was an awesome bass player in the band, but who is your favorite bassist in Ozzy's band?

Bob Daisley, absolutely, the bass stuff that he is doing there is really cool, especially on the first two albums. He played on more albums than you think really, but yeah, the bass lines that he's doing are really cool. When I started to learn "I Don't Know" from the first album, I wanted to learn it exactly like he does, but there are more licks here and there, and it's not always the same lick, he's doing a lot of different parts, it's cool. I think he does a lot of octaves, almost like disco bass stuff, it's a bit tricky to get that but it's fun to play it, it's really fun.

Yeah, the disco thing, he does that on some Rainbow songs as well, on the Long Live Rock and Roll album. You wouldn't actually believe how much of a great bass player he is, of course he was in Rainbow and Ozzy's band, and he was briefly with Black Sabbath doing the bass parts for Eternal Idol, even on that album he has such great bass lines that sound as if Geezer Butler could have easily come up with them.

Yeah, exactly. He's a great bass player and also a good songwriter, I mean they wrote Ozzy's songs as a team in the beginning, Randy Rhoads and Bob Daisley, and it's really well put together, it's fantastic.

I have to say that you really do a great job on all of the latest albums, but I have to ask you this of curiosity, because I am also a bass player: What basses did you use on all of these albums, because I know you have the Fender Precision and the Fender Jazz bass?

On Necrophobic, I am using my Precision bass, we're tuned to D standard, so I have my Necrophobic bass that I am doing there. Darkened on the other hand is very down tuned, it's tuned to A, so it's very low. Before this, I used my Fender Jazz, but this time I wasn't really satisfied with that, because even if I intonate it's a bit floppy and it's hard to get a good tone out of it, because it's so downtuned, so I actually bought an Ibanez five string bass, the fifth string, the low string is B, so I only had it down tune it one whole step to make it to an A, and it's a fatter neck and everything is more stable, and the tone is really good. So that's what I used for the latest Darkened album, the latest five string bass, so I bought it just because I wasn't really satisfied with how the feeling was when I was playing on the four string that low, so I had this new Ibanez and it's really good. So that's what I've been using for that, but mainly I play Fender basses. I am not an expert; I don't know much about this stuff. I like to play, but I am not collecting instruments or anything like that, for me it's like to have them to play on, and not to hang them on the wall and look at them.

Yeah, Sebastian on the other hand, he collects a lot of guitars. I mean dude, first he's collecting Jackson guitars and then Gibson and Fender guitars, and I am like "Oh my god, this guy could open a fucking guitar museum".

Yeah hahaha, he's crazy with that and he has a lot of knowledge about that too. Sometimes he sells away a lot of guitars so he could buy a new one, so it's like a constant movement there.

I mean what can I say, he is also very dedicated to what he does, as much as I was very excited with the new Necrophobic album and came out very pleased how it turned out, I have to say that am really looking forward to the release of the "Reaperdawn", because I was listening to the new single 'A Winter Moon's Gleam' constantly on repeat for these past couple of months and it got me even more hyped to hear the new album.

Yeah, the new In Aphelion is really cool, the whole album will be released on August 9th. We played a couple of weeks ago and we played that song 'A Winter Moon's Gleam' for the first time. We haven't even rehearsed it as a band, because our drummer Marco lives in Holland, and he's super talented, he's such a good drummer. So, everybody was learning the songs at home, then we met and played it perfectly. If you do the homework good enough, you can do that.

What can I say, this is the next album in line I am very excited for. I listened to the previous album Moribund a lot last year and I was thinking "Wow, imagine what could this band come up with next", and of course the new single that came out before this one was very good, I forgot the name of the single that came out at the beginning of this year, maybe you remember.

No. Fuck, I forgot hahah. We played it live just like I told you, like a few weeks ago. I am sorry, I can't remember now, too many songs.

It's okay hahah, but the second single was so surprising, it's like one of the best black metal songs I heard lately. It's got everything that I loved about the genre itself, because I haven't listened to black metal that much for a whole year, I got so sick and tired of it, but this brought me back to the days when I first heard Bathory, Immortal and Necrophobic, this is like all in one. I don't know what can I say, not everybody such as yourself can take their time to contribute their skills to excellent albums which gained such momentum, that are all released in the same year. How do you personally feel about this?

I think, especially the newer In Aphelion songs, are more progressive than before. It has more parts, more diversity which I really like and more complex as well, it's difficult to play, you really need to focus on that. It's nice to play with a band, everybody is like on top of the game, like I told you Marco is an excellent drummer, he has his band Cryptosis, but he's also been playing in Flotsam And Jetsam and he is also with Ross The Boss at moment, so that's some cool acts. The album is mixed by Tore Stjerna, he has this Necromorbus Studio, he's doing Watain and a bunch of others, so the sound is really good, bombastic and it has a really wide range sound. I also think that the new album is really more set apart from Necrophobic, so that's cool. Sebastian is such a talented songwriter and guitar player, it's really fun to play with him. He always wants to get better like myself as well on my bass, we always strive to top what we did before, learn something new on your instrument and try to nail that technique that was difficult or whatever, so it's inspiring to play with him.

Yeah, the guy is a genius. The funny thing when I got to know better what's his taste of music, apart from what he does, I was actually surprised to see him being into Ratt, Dokken, Cinderella, Poison, Motley Crue as well, he even mentioned that he was Motley Crue and Iron Maiden in 1984. Imagine if a guy like that didn't make the great music that he does today, it's impossible.

Yeah, he's very diverse in his taste, but I think some of these bands he had discovered a bit later on in life, like Cinderella, I don't know if he listened to that when he was young. I don't know, I shouldn't say. That goes for myself as well, I like a lot of AOR music, like Survivor, Boston, and all that melodic stuff. I think if you wanna develop your playing, it's good to have different influences. You can pick up stuff here and there, and put them in what you are doing, it's good, because you will really develop.

Man, I have to thank you so much for taking your time to do this interview. I really have to congratulate you on your excellent musicianship and I am really hoping that I will get the chance to see you live on-stage someday. Are there any final words you'd like to say?

Yeah, I just remembered that In Aphelion song is 'When All Stellar Light Is Lost' hahaha, it fucking came out right now.

Yeah hahaha, that's it.

Thank you so much for this interview, it was really nice talking with you, relaxed and good. I hope you will get to see Necrophobic live, or whatever band I will play with. Thank you for promoting the bands I am in; I am really humble and I appreciate that a lot. When people say that they like what I am doing, I am always like "Wow, are you serious really?". It's really nice and it warms my heart that people actually take time. Today there are so many bands and so many new songs coming out constantly, so it's easy to get lost in this constant flood of information and new music, so I really appreciate that.

Entered: 7/4/2024 4:33:30 PM

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