(A day late because of my own screw-up, here’s the second of three interviews we have this week from Comrade Aleks — and today he talks with Ola Blomkvist of Sweden’s Griftegård.)
“G” is for Graveyard in English. “G” is for Griftegård in Swedish, and it means the same thing, I swear! So Griftegård is a universal name for any really heavy band. This one was born in 2004 in the Swedish city of Norrköping, “Swedish Manchester”, as it’s said.
The band’s main features were crushing and depressive doom metal and lyrics dealing with Christian images and their interpretation. Well, it’s a strong combination and it works well if you have no prejudice. But what kind of prejudice can we talk about, considering the world of professional heavy music?
Griftegård had only one weak point – for ten years of the band’s existence they had only one full-length album, Solemn Sacred Severe, but good news came in April 2015, as I discovered that Ván Records is going to release something new from these men. What kind of news are they ready to share? Ola Blomkvist, the band’s mastermind, is here to tell us.
Hail Ola! Haven’t heard anything from Griftegård for too long. What have you done since you finished recording the split-album with Lord Vicar?
Greetings Aleks! Beginning with a huge question here… Many things have happened since we did the split 7” with our Finnish brethren, too much to go into detail about. The all-dominating occurrence in the band’s history happened in July 2013 when our brother and drummer Jens Gustafsson died very suddenly (forever to be remembered and missed).
This was during a long period of inactivity for the band; the last thing we did with Jens was a gig with Lord Vicar in Stockholm in February 2013, and before this we had not rehearsed for a long time. Thomas Sabbathi and Per Broddesson were occupied with Year Of The Goat, I had had my hands full with personal matters (and with Wardenclyffe rehearsals), and so had Thomas Jansson, while Jens had gotten involved with Saturnalia Temple (and some other musical endeavors). The plan of doing a new album was always there, though, it was just a matter of the circumstances not being right for realization.
In the autumn of 2014, I and Thomas Sabbathi decided it was time to start working on the new album for real though (partly to honor Jens’ memory), and during the process of setting up a working schedule and finding a new drummer it so happened that Per Broddesson and Thomas Jansson left the band, to be replaced by Jonas Mattsson and Joona Hassinen, while Fredrik Hellerström (also in YOTG) became our new drummer.
By this time we were offered a live slot at the Acherontic Arts on the 2nd of May 2015 by our label (Ván) and we started to work on getting the album ready for this date — however, we soon realized it would not be possible. We then opted for an EP, and this resulted in The Four Horsemen 12”.
Has the process of working over new songs changed cardinally with the new line-up?
Not cardinally, but a bit, perhaps. It feels like we, to a larger extent than before, build the songs at rehearsals together these days. Also, it is easier to get together for rehearsals now as we are not spread out as thin, geographically, as before, and this enhances the band feeling as well. In addition everyone is motivated to rehearse as often as possible.
Now, I’m not saying the prior line-up was not motivated or worse in any way compared to this one — we created magic together and we are still friends — but things run a bit smoother in the band today.
What about your tour activity? How often (and where) did you play during this period?
We have never been a very active live band and we have only played like three shows in a row at the most. During the time frame 2011-present we have done two shows in Stockholm (2011 with Rise and Shine and the one I previously mentioned in 2013 with Lord Vicar), Muskelrock in Blädinge 2011, Heavy Days in Doomtown in Copenhagen 2012, and Acherontic Arts in Oberhausen, Germany in 2015.
Ola, you did a live presentation of the forthcoming record in May. How was it?
We played the two tracks featured on The Four Horsemen EP at The Acherontic Arts Festival on the 2nd of May, and out of these two “A Beam In The Eye Of the Lord” will be featured on the forthcoming album, while the cover of Aphrodite’s Child’s “The Four Horsemen” is exclusive to the EP.
Performing live in such a setting was fantastic! All these amazing bands…Sortilegia (who did one of the five best concerts I have ever seen, magical beyond compare…), Dolch, Crom Dubh, Urfaust, The Ruins Of Beverast, Deathronation, and the greatest of them all: Necros Christos (crushingly uplifting, as always)… Sven/Ván really outdid himself organizing this amazing festival/family gathering!
Also, it was exciting to play for the first time in over two years and with a new, fired-up line-up, learning through the sheer number of people in the audience (and their response) that we had not been forgotten during our years of silence. But performing alongside lovely Farida Lemouchi in “The Four Horsmen” in honour of Selim Lemouchi and Jens is something I will carry with me forever, and so will the rest of the band. It was very emotionally intense for all of us, and it no doubt got through to the audience as well.
Can you share details of this new 12” EP?
The Four Horsemen EP was pre-released at the Acherontic Arts on the 2nd of May for those fast enough to get a copy – we had our own merch stand (thank’s to Sven, once again) where we sold a limited amount of the first black vinyl pressing (250 copies) of the EP. Ván then officially released the EP at the end of May, and as I write this (July 5th, 2015) the amber vinyl version and the CD version are also available through their mail order.
The Four Horsemen EP is a tribute to our fallen brothers Jens Gustafsson and Selim Lemouchi (of The Devil’s Blood), and as such it is a very special release for us.
The track “The Four Horsemen” is, as stated previously, a cover of Aphrodite’s Child’s monumental song with lyrics inspired by The Book of Revelations, featuring Farida Lemouchi of The Devil’s Blood in a duet with Thomas. The second one, “A Beam In The Eye Of The Lord”, is a new Griftegård track and will be re-recorded for the album.
Regarding “The Four Horsemen” cover: We have had the great privilege of sharing stages with The Devil’s Blood on multiple occasions in the past, and a strong bond between us (as well as a mutual understanding for each other’s mission) has been formed. Paying tribute to Selim and Jens together with Farida through the recording of a song that TDB did live, and whom we loved ourselves, felt natural. We feel very honoured that Farida felt the same way, and we are all really satisfied with the result. The recording of “The Four Horsemen” also happened to coincide with the death of Aphrodite’s Child-singer Demis Roussos, so in a way the EP also became a tribute to him.
“A Beam In The Eye Of The Lord” is a song that lyrically, and musically, moves in waters familiar to those previously acquainted with our music. Perhaps the riffing might have become a bit more elaborate, compared to previous efforts, but it is Griftegård through and through.
Griftegård – The Four Horsemen
“The Four Horsemen” is based upon The Book of Revelation and it consists of apocalyptical visions and characters which are well known for most metalheads. How seriously do you take now the idea of an Apocalypse? The idea of divine judgment over the human race? I think that this idea is depreciated as we plunge further and further into the dirt of our existence, and at the same time too many bands have songs about it.
Apocalyptic scenarios in lyrics/imagery has become mandatory in all of Metal’s sub genres, like you say, and indeed the theme is over-used, and presented in a light-hearted fashion, but we play DOOM Metal so what can I say, really?
Doom works outwards (world) and inwards (spirit), we judge ourselves through what we do to each other (not realizing there is no such thing as an individual self) and to the earth, and we choose to either cultivate our inner garden (soul entity) or turn it into a wasteland (letting our souls take the back seat behind materialism), condemning ourselves to perpetual restless disharmony/apocalypse.
I personally would welcome divine judgement; indeed, I yearn for it! But my conception of Doom/Judgement/Apocalypse has undergone quite some changes since my years as a slave under twisted Christian dogma and lately I have started reading Swedenborg and have found some of his visions/ideas interesting. For example, he has the idea of building one’s own spiritual house, so to speak (deciding the level of blissfullness/condemnation you will experience after life), while still in the flesh, and this ties in nicely with a favourite quote of mine from the Book of Hebrews 9:27: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” – En gång dö och sedan domen.
What are your plans concerning the full-length record? Do you have some songs for it?
We are currently rehearsing three new songs and we have the basics for several others ready, all we need is time, precious time, to give them final form. I have learned from experience not to say too much on when a release can happen though, but we work as fast as we can, given the circumstances.
The name of the album is nailed (and has been since the release of Solemn-Sacred-Severe in 2009): An Orgy Of Surrender. The same goes for the cover artwork and the lyrics for the songs. It has been, and still is, a frustratingly slow process, but now things look more promising than in a long time. We have a new steady line-up with loads of combined experience, we all get along very well, we rehearse quite regularly, and everyone contributes with ideas.
What do you expect from this new record? Do you plan to step out from the borders of doom metal?
We aim for the album to be an uplifting experience to the receptive listener, old and new, this is the main thing. We have no illusions of grandeur. Our goal is to preserve our orthodox Doom Metal sound to such a degree that, if there indeed exists an infinite number of parallell universes (like some scientific theories suggest), one only slightly different to the other, we would still be PURE DOOM METAL through and through in all of them.
Most of your songs’ lyrics have religious or spiritual content. Does this reflect on your touring activity? I remember that Dave Mustaine of Megadeth once refused to share a stage with some antichristian black metal band.
Griftegård is non-confessional and Dave Mustaine is a fool.
It’s a good answer, though I’m not sure if Mustaine is such a fool… How do you understand the conception of the Devil in heavy music? One says that it’s a kind of protest against the hypocrisy of modern society or something, but it seems that this image is overused as well. It’s difficult to take it seriously, as it’s difficult to be Christian when you see corrupted clerics everywhere…
I personally do not shut the door to the metaphysical dimension of reality; entities we think of as angels and demons could very well be real, although they might not obide to the images and laws created by petty mankind. To most Metal-people I think the Devil stands as a symbol of rebellion against society/religion/mum/dad/whatever (like you imply) and for a celebration of the ego. To a very small minority he is real and should be worshipped or feared in equal measure, depending on one’s faith.
Over-used? Definitely! Then again, masterful variations on a familiar theme can create magic… or a turd. Mainstream Christianity is corrupt, of course, otherwise it could not exist. But what a magnificient show it puts on!
I have two standard questions. The first one is about a favorite book from childhood. Which one did you like most?
As a ten-year-old I was exposed to Bilbo and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy through my school teacher, who read these books aloud for my class, and subsequently I spent my most formative years trying to get the same kick from other fantasy books. I worshipped the works of Stephen Donaldson and Ursula K. Leguin, and when I found Lovecraft…
I can’t choose a particular book, I really can’t. All I can say is that when I was really young the fantasy and (later) horror genres provided me with a much-needed escape from religious dogma.
And the second one: Please tell the story of one of your favorite songs from a most actual record of Griftegård.
We are currently working on a yet-nameless song that I feel very strongly about which is inspired (lyrically) by The Book of Job. This one is, I think, one of the books in The Bible that is particularly easy to relate to as a human being, as it speaks to us on so many levels. The instrumental basics of the song are rather straightforward, but when Thomas‘ voice gives life to the general human narrative and the harmonies are on, something amazing happens and the sum becomes much greater than its parts. I’m really excited about it and it will be a pleasure to present it to the fans.
Ola, your other band Wardenclyffe have released a first long-play, Control All Delete, this year. The band has an interesting conception, combining themes of science and occultism. How did you come to this?
Jacob Nordangård is the sole lyric-writer/conceptualist of Wardenclyffe, so he’d better answer this question, really. What I can say is that I and he share the same interests and passion for knowledge, arcane and mundane, although he is the true scientific explorer of us.
Is there any chance that someday you will leave one band for the other? Or do Wardenclyffe and Griftegård give you an outlet for absolutely different emotions and ideas?
Griftegård is my vision, Wardenclyffe is Jacob’s. It is convenient, comfortable, and enriching to let someone else be at the helm. Both bands give me an outlet for my inspiration, although Griftegård is much more personal, needless to say.