The Carnage Rages On

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Vomitory has always been a quality Swedish death metal band (as in country of origin, not style) that never seems to get the amount of recognition so deserved of the unit. In the U.S. at least, some of that may have to do with the fact that they’ve played a grand total of one show on this side of the pond. Or maybe some folks just aren’t paying close enough attention. Still, many a devoted death metal fan is well aware of the quartet’s lethal approach. I’d like to think that Terrorizer Sodomize Brutalize brought the band a higher level of recognition, based in part on the level jump in songwriting and blazing lead guitar work of then new member Peter Östlund. Or maybe I just worship that album and any other thoughts are pure delusion. Following that bloody bastard was the dangerously ferocious Carnage Euphoria, which was released on Metal Blade in Europe, but saw no U.S. release (more on that below). But all is back in sync with Metal Blade now with the release of crushing new\effort Opus Mortis VIII, a carnivorous beast that in some respects blends Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize and Carnage Euphoria, albeit with a nasty disposition all its own. Let’s call it like it is, shall we? Vomitory was never about death metal reinvention, but they sure are consistent in making robust death metal albums that offer improvement and slight progression without any compromise when it comes to that skin-shredding, skull-crackin’ style of theirs. Just ask amiable drummer Tobias Gustafsson. He’s the man with the answers. Once you’ve finished reading, support quality death metal by purchasing a copy of Opus Mortis VIII; it’ll rip your arms off and then beat you mercilessly about the head and shoulders with them. It’s what you deserve.

On Opus Mortis VIII, “compromise” continues to be a word that is not in the Vomitory dictionary. How does a band like yours continue to improve without changing the style that the fans expect? You were quoted as saying that Vomitory has not broken new ground, but that there are dynamics and diversity involved that have never been heard.

Well, I don’t have any good explanation for that other than that we keep writing death metal the way we like it to be. We know our sound and are confident with it, while we still always try to find new little things to spice up our music with. Still we try – and want – to stay true to our style which Vomitory is known for. On Opus Mortis VIII there are more dynamics and diversity than before, and a few elements that are new for Vomitory. It’s nothing unique; it’s just that you haven’t heard it from us before. So by involving this in our sound, I think our music gets more interesting and entertaining to the listener. It’s also more fun for us to play, which really is quite relevant to us.

Any favorite songs on this album or perhaps one that you think will remain in the set list for years to come?

I have several favorite songs on this album. The easiest would be to say the opening track “Regorge in the Morgue,” but I think “The Dead Awaken” is more that kind of a song. It’s also a band favorite. But we will definitely play “Regorge in the Morgue” for some time now, as it’s such a total punch in the face and the obvious opener of our live shows for this album.

One element that has come to define the Vomitory sound over the last three albums is that ear piercing, white hot riff tone. It is one of the first things that come to mind when I think of Vomitory. How important is that sonic aspect of the music, including the contribution of producer Rikard Lofgren to it?

To us it has always been important to have a really good production on our albums. And it’s important to always try to top the previous recording you did, which is something I believe we have managed to do almost every time. Rikard Lofgren has obviously played a big role on every album we’ve done with him (the last three ones). Not with how the songs turn out – we’re in charge there – but with the production as a whole. We know what sound we want, but in the end it’s Lofgren who’s getting us there. We started working with him on Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize and it was definitely the right move for us to do at that point. We had been working with the same producer, Henrik Larsson, for four albums up ‘til then. We were really happy working with Larsson, but we felt it was time to change something. And since we don’t move too much outside our musical boundaries, we knew that working with a new producer in a new studio would bring the change that we were looking for.

Along the same lines that growling bass tone is absolutely murderous. The opening to “Regorge in the Morgue” makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

[Laughs] Yeah that bass tone is totally murderous! The bass got more upfront in our sound when we began working with Rikard Lofgren and we all love it that way. The bass is unfortunately often overlooked in death metal, but it really has its place sonically and it brings loads of extra brutality to the overall sound. Rikard got us a bass sound that makes other bands feel embarrassed! I’ve had the intro for “Regorge in the Morgue” for several years, but I couldn’t make it fit somewhere until now. And I definitely think it was worth the wait ‘cause I think “Regorge…” turned out absolutely killer. It’s the perfect album opener.

In fact, the first video is for “Regorge in the Morgue” and I believe it was just recently released to the masses. Care to shed some light on that one?

Yes, it got released just the other day and the reactions so far have been nothing but great. It is actually the first real video we’ve done. It only took us 22 years [laughs]. We hired the Swedish up-and-coming Some Kind Of Bear Media and some local make-up artists for this video. It is a performance video, but it has a small “story” twist to it too. We shot the video in an abandoned dairy plant, which was perfect with all the tiled walls and floors. It had this rough and cold atmosphere that fits the song, which I think really comes through in the video. We shot everything in one day and then the SKOB guys spent some weeks editing it. We are very happy with the result and it feels great to finally have done a proper video.

There is no question that Vomitory is a straight up, ferocious death metal act, but I continue to hear Slayer-esque thrashy elements here and there.

I think you’re totally right. It’s difficult to keep it a secret that we all in the band are big Slayer fans [laughs]. We grew up with those classic albums – Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood, South Of Heaven, etc – so it’s hard not to be influenced by Slayer when writing music. It’s nothing we do on purpose. It has just become a natural part of how we write music, just like with the constant Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower influences. I think those thrashy elements are a very nice spice to our music and bring diversity to our sound.

I still remember how much of an impact that Peter Östlund made on Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize and he continues to have that impact on the new album. How important was his addition to Vomitory’s sound? Does he contribute to the songwriting as well?

Getting Peter into the band definitely improved our sound, but most importantly he brought fresh blood and new inspiration to the band. And that clearly shows on Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize I think. Peter opened us up for new musical possibilities that we didn’t quite have before. Peter is a great lead guitarist and he has also contributed with the songwriting since he joined the band. Out of ten songs on an album, he usually writes two or three. He’s also a good lyricist.

Unfortunately, my promotional download does not include the bonus tracks. What can you tell me about those?

Our record label asked for bonus material for the limited edition of the album, and instead of recording some cover songs, we thought re-recording four old classics was a better idea. It made much more sense to both us and to our fans. The songs are “Nervegasclouds,” “Raped in their own Blood” (both from our debut album, Raped in Their Own Blood), “The Voyage,” and “Redemption” (both from our second album, Redemption). We chose those particular songs because at least three of them have been in our live set, back and forth, for many years. They still are. So it made sense to re-record those with the present line-up of the band and with a proper production. I think they turned out killer and so far we’ve gotten great response from the fans for including these songs.

The album art is very much in the Vomitory mold, yet it is also rather unique.

Yeah, the artwork is killer. It’s made by the Polish artist Lukasz Jaszak. It was Peter Östlund who came up with it in the beginning, and after brainstorming we ended up naming the album Opus Mortis VIII. It was also Peter’s idea to have a string quartet of these wounded (or already dead?) soldiers, playing in the middle of a battlefield where a full-blown war is going on behind them on the cover. They’re playing the Opus Mortis – the opus of death. Quite fucking epic. We provided the artist with the basic idea and then he worked out the details from that. The inside of the CD has some really cool artwork as well. I’m really happy with the artwork and I think it works so well with both the musical and the lyrical content of the album. War is a common topic in our lyrics, and has been since the start, so it was about fucking time to have album artwork with a war-theme [laughs]! Jaszak really managed to nail what we were looking for…and then some.

Why was Carnage Euphoria not released by Metal Blade in the U.S? I recall having to request a promotional copy for review from the German office.

Before the release of Carnage Euphoria we re-signed our deal with Metal Blade records, and at the time we wanted to look for another label to work with for the U.S. territory. But nothing good came out of that, unfortunately, so that’s why that album never got released in the U.S. But we’re hoping now to get it released there in a close future. For the new album, we upgraded our deal with Metal Blade to include the U.S. too and some more countries as well.

I was perusing your website and came across the “Carnage over Finland” Tour. I can’t believe you’d never played in Finland until then. How was the tour and what made the Fins decide to allow your “kind” in the country?

I can hardly believe it myself [laughs]. It’s embarrassing, to say the least, that we haven’t played in Finland earlier. It’s so close to us but still it took us 21-plus years. We’ve been on our way to Finland many times before, but either the timing was bad or we couldn’t get it funded right. But now we have done it and it was a very positive experience. The promoter did a great job in putting the mini-tour together. Also, the Finnish bands Torture Killer and Atretic Intestine were with us on this tour. All great guys. We hope to play there again in a not too distant future.

You had surgery last year and it sounds like you came out just fine. I could think of less problematic injuries for a drummer than a herniated disc. Did it happen while you were drumming and what was the rehabilitation like to get back to full strength? Have you adjusted your approach to drumming based on the injury and to minimize the chance of re-injury?

The surgery went fine and I have recovered well, but I am still not 100 percent recovered. I may never be either. But at least the pain isn’t affecting my everyday life, as it most certainly did when the pain was at its peak. And I don’t get any pain at all when I play drums anymore, and that’s one of the most important things to me. The hernia didn’t happen while I was drumming. The disc injury wasn’t drum related at all actually. But I’ve always had a weak back because of my work (bad working position), my height and a somewhat slouching body posture. All that – during many years – combined with one single event caused the herniated disc. I was sitting in a very bad position working for a couple of hours, two days in a row, and after that the pain snuck up on me. For a while the pain was unbearable. Luckily there are strong painkillers. And eventually I got to see the right doctor who really took on my case and made this surgery on me. It wasn’t an easy road to get there, I can tell you. Sweden is great in many ways, but the healthcare is sometimes a fucking joke. After the surgery and the rehabilitation, I’ve been forced to adjust my approach to drumming based on the injury. I have had to adjust my drum setup slightly and my posture while playing, so it gets as ergonomically correct as possible. And improving my posture alone has made wonders for my playing! I’m also very careful with how I lift my gear nowadays to minimize the risk of re-injury.

You put up a cover of Napalm Death’s “Mass Appeal Madness” on your Myspace page, which was supposed to be on a tribute album, wasn’t it? What happened and why did you decide to cover that particular song?

Yes, that version was originally recorded for a Napalm Death tribute album that was supposed to be released by a Swedish label. But it never happened, so instead of just letting it be, we decided to release it on our Myspace page instead. It was too old to include as a bonus track on the new album but too good to not release at all. So Myspace was a good solution I think. We picked that song simply because it’s awesome. One of Napalm Death’s best songs ever.

When was the last time Vomitory played in the States? Was it Maryland Deathfest? Talk about that appearance as well. Will you be coming back?

Yes, the last (and so far only) time Vomitory played in the States was Maryland Deathfest in 2007. We were of course all very excited to finally play in the U.S. We did a good show and the crowd was great to us. We’d love to come back for more shows, but as always it’s all about the financial part. We have got a lot of really good opportunities to go on tour in the states during the last few years, but it never happened because of the funding. It’s difficult these days to get the tour support that you need so bad to make it happen at all. I really hope we will be coming back sooner or later for some shows. We will see what the future brings.

Do you think Vomitory sometimes gets overshadowed by all the attention that has been given to the classic Stockholm sound? Or do you even give a shit? I suspect not.

I think we have been overshadowed many times, but in the long run, I honestly don’t give a shit. Sometimes I feel we don’t get the attention that we rightfully deserve, but that’s just how it is. I think all artists feel overlooked sometimes, except Lady Gaga maybe.

Is it possible for Vomitory to get even heavier? Could the fans even survive such a thing?

[Laughs] Well of course that’s possible. We’re definitely not the heaviest band around and we know a few tricks that would make us even heavier, if we wanted to. But I don’t know if we want that. Time will tell. But I’m sure our fans could handle that anyway!


  1. Commented by: Brandon Duncan

    Cool interview! Love these guys.

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