Crossing the Abyss

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Despite hailing from Stockholm, the birth of Swedish death metal, Astrophobos have chosen a different path, a path traveled by fellow Swedes like DIssection and Naglfar; an blacker path. Make no bones about it, Astrophobos’s influences are as clear on their sleeve as the moon in the night sky, and their brand of melodic, razor sharp black metal is a solid throwback to the mid 90s, performed with an energy and reverence that comes with inate Swedish genes.

On their debut, Remnants of Forgotten Horrors, released on Triumvirate Records earlier this year, the band slice a dice through a sweet spot 44 minutes of Lovecraft-themed melodic black metal. It’s hardly ground breaking or genre defining, but as an homage to the aforementioned duo — as well as the likes of mid-era Immortal, Marduk and other seminal ’90s 2nd wave black metal acts — it delivers ample frosty riffs and solos, bundled in a tightly produced package. I caught up with guitarist Martin Andersson to find out a little more about this promising new act.

First off, tell me about how Astrophobos came about and the members currently in the band?

Astrophobos was started in 2009 by me, Micke and Jonas out of the ashes of a heavy metal band we were playing in at the time. The three of us have known each other since we were teenagers and have played in a number of different bands together, so we know each other well, both personally and musically. Anyway, at that time we all felt that playing black metal in the vein of the bands we grew up listening to would be rewarding, so, Astrophobos came to life. Recently Jocke Wallgren joined our ranks as a drummer and permanent member, which is really exciting.

All of you are veterans of the scene either on disbanded acts or still running acts notably Valkyrja, who has released three albums since 2007? Has this combined experience helped shape Astrophobos and Remnants of Forgotten Horrors?

Jocke plays drums in Valkyrja who have gained some well deserved notoriety over the years, especially so with their latest album which is really good. The rest of us have toiled in a bunch of lesser known bands over the years, but obviously all experience makes you grow as a musician and that comes in handy when writing for Astrophobos.

There is an undeniable Dissection, Naglfar and other ’90s black metal influence in your sound. Is that what you set out to do? Pay homage to that sound? Or are you trying to forge your own path?

We do like the Swedish black/death metal scene from the nineties very much and growing up listening to it during our mid-teen years clearly had an impact on our taste in music. However, we don’t have any strict agenda or intention for our songs to sound like a specific era, and certainly not any specific bands. Playing this style is what comes naturally to us and a result of our combined skills and preferences.

Are you concerned with the “orthodox” or by the numbers label I’ve seen thrown around at bands who wear their influences on their sleeve so obviously?

I’m honestly quite indifferent. Creating music isn’t necessarily about inventing new genres or taking things to new places all the time. We simply play the music that we love, and that we’d want to listen to ourselves. If you like it, cool. If you don’t, there are tons of other bands you can listen to instead.

What on your thoughts on those two bands’ respective discographies?

Assuming that you’re referring to Dissection and Naglfar, I’ll be a boring old fart and just say that I like the two first albums best from both bands.

Was there a temptation to throw on a cover song by one of those bands?I half expected Naglfar’s “Brimstone Gate” or Dissections’ “Night’s Blood” to come blazing out of the speakers.

Not really. We did record a cover of an old Rotting Christ song during the studio session for “Remnants of Forgotten Horrors”. It might see the light of day sometime as a bonus track if we release a vinyl version of the album.

Stockholm is widely known for its legendary death metal bands-was it difficult trying to start a black metal band in that town/area and do gigs, or is Stockholm a home to all great music?

Stockholm, and Sweden in general, has a great scene for both death metal and black metal. The fact that there were so many great local bands and an active live scene was very much a contributing factor to us picking up instruments and starting playing on our own.

Tell me a little bit about Triumvirate Records. Remnants of Forgotten Horrors is the label’s first release. Is it a real label with plans for other releases or is it more of a band related label for your to release Astrophobos albums?

We started Triumvirate Records after some failed, and very time consuming, dealings with another record label. Based on the experiences we had being stuck with a signed contract and nothing happening for a really long time, the decision to start up our own label and keep everything close to home felt natural. We’ll see if it progresses beyond it’s current form or not, but we’ve certainly entertained the notion.

Talk to me a little about the lyrics there are some interesting, deeper themes and concepts above the expected Satan/Darkness stuff going on in the likes of “The Malevolent Firmament” and “His Abysmal Grave”.

Micke writes all the lyrics, so you’ll have to settle for my interpretation in regards to themes and meanings. But in short the lyrics are horror stories, inspired by the writings of authors such as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Sometimes with a poetic streak and sometimes as short stories. I think they fit our music perfectly and you can tell that Micke spends a lot of time and effort on them. I’d also like to point out that they are in fact not Satanic, as we care little for religion in any shape or form.

You have two rather long songs on the album, “Detestable Illumination”(8 and 1/2 minutes) and the closing track “Celestial Calamity” (over 9 minutes). I’m always curious when I see longs songs amid usual 4-5 minute songs if those long songs are planned or just happen? What are the challenges or writing long songs like that, knowing full well they more than likely wont ever be played live?

While writing the album we did strive for variation and distinction between the songs, and length is absolutely a factor there. But generally we just go where the song takes us. With “Celestial Calamity” for instance, the riffs and tempo sort of demanded some repetition to really work. As for playing these songs live, we have rehearsed them and would definitely play them live if we had enough stage time. We try to make a point of not recording songs that we couldn’t perform with a standard line-up.

What’s next for you guys?

Hopefully more live shows during this and next year. We’ve also started writing some new material and hope to be able to release an EP or a 7” later this year. It’s not going to take four years until you hear from us again this time!


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