(Here’s Comrade Aleks’ interview with guitarist Micke of the Swedish sludge/doom band Shadowmaster, whose debut album was released last year.)
Shadowmaster is a Swedish power-trio: Cedermark (bass, vocals), Jumbo (drums), and Micke (guitars). All three played under the title Desert Crone since 2014, but a year ago they changed the name and soon released a self-titled full-length. The dudes perform cogent, forceful, and damned fierce and gloomy sludge-doom.
The material has a really strong delivery, and it’s absolutely heavy and well-produced. Heavy as hell, if you wish! Seeing Red Records gave the album the shape of a CD on December 22nd, 2017, so we had a talk about Shadowmaster and its stuff with Micke.
Hi Micke! First of all, what’s up with Shadowmaster?! Seeing Red Records just released your first album Shadowmaster on the 22nd of December, and the band’s Facebook profile is already deleted. Are you ok there?
It’s probably just a misunderstanding, I checked and our Facebook is still going strong. A link here: https://www.facebook.com/Shadowmasterswe/
We also have a Bandcamp and you can find our music on YouTube.
You started in 2014 as Desert Crone — what didn’t work back then? Why did you change the name to Shadowmaster?
Nothing but the name has actually changed. We had the same songs, lineup, and goals back when we were D.C. The reason we changed the name is because we were displeased with the name of the band. We thought it sounded weird and it didn’t really fit our music. So we changed the name to Shadowmaster and released the album on Spotify under this name. We haven’t looked back since.
Each album starts with artwork. What about Shadowmaster? Why did you choose this popular plot (above)?
First of all we wanted to do the artwork all by ourselves, not hire someone to do it for us. The idea came from watching lots of old-school horror. We thought that a ritual would become a nice album cover, and even cooler if we would take a real photograph.
The picture where we hang ourselves is basically telling people what the album is mostly about, which is death. It’s nothing new, but it’s something people react to. It fits the music as well! We worked hard on these photos and we take real pride in our work.
Does it mean that you’re into “do what thou wilt” stuff or is it just a cool image? And well… black mass isn’t necessarily associated with death, it’s rather about Devil-worshipping — correct me if I’m wrong.
Most of the stuff is about death and the afterlife. We chose to have a sacrifice as a cover, because we thought it would look great and fit the sound on the records. We are not worshippers of some sort, we like to play extreme music, so we chose to have an extreme cover for the album. So yeah you could call it an image.
Satan, rituals, and other attributes of that kind are common things for doom and sludge bands. Don’t you feel that we should take some themes more seriously? I’m asking ‘cause a lot of bands seem to be influenced by horror movies and, in the end it’s just entertainment, pop-lore, and I wonder if it has any real connection with Satanism or paganism or whatever you want.
When it comes to writing and creating I really don’t think you have to take anything more seriously or less seriously. It’s art, you choose yourself how you want to express it. You can write from your perspective or from another point of view. Then of course there are some people who take certain things more seriously in life, and some people who don’t. But when it comes to judging art and music you should decide for yourself.
Shadowmaster – Lost Reality
The very first song on the album ‘Lost Reality’ strikes with a damn balanced, heavy-as-hell sound. How did you work out this sound in the studio? Did you already know what you wanted to hear when you entered it or was it improvisation, a search for something that suited Shadowmaster well?
A heavy, fuzzy sound has always been our idea for the sound, but the sound on the record is all thanks to our good friend Björn Sundström. He took his time to help us out in the studio and we are really grateful for that!
Of course we had an idea of what we wanted to sound like, but he helped us out since we don’t really have enough knowledge. The next record will be even more crushing and heavy, at least that’s our goal, and we will try to be more independent, haha!
How did you explain to Björn what you wanted from him for Shadowmaster? Did you name some bands’ titles or tell a general description, like “bloody sacrifice on a moss-covered tombstone” or something like that?
You nailed it, haha! No, but we told him that we wanted it to sound dark, heavy, and massive. Then, like you said, we came up with a bunch of descriptions, but he knew what we meant. He already knew before we entered the studio because he had been helping us out before at live-shows with the sound.
What are the “Lost Reality” lyrics about?
It’s about getting lost into nothing, like losing yourself. Not quite knowing what is real and what is not. A horrible feeling, I’ve had it myself a couple of times. You feel lost in time and space.
By the way, how do you feel this hypnotizing sound and those raw, rabid vocals? Is it something destructive erupting from you? Is it something calculated and thoughtful?
Johan’s vocals are one of the best, at least if you ask me. The sound is also great, but it can always evolve into something better! We try out new sounds all the time in search for the perfect one. A more crushing and heavy sound is something you can’t get enough of! As for the vocals, Johan just screams as loud as he can! There is no particular style there, just anger straight from the gut, haha! But it gives me the shivers, so it has to be good!
So would you say that anger is the main mood of the album? What kind of emotions do you yourself put into the songs?
I always feel a bit down when I play these songs, I don’t know why since I don’t think it’s depressing music. But anger is a mood that occurred several times, because we wanted it to be perfect, and sometimes it didn’t go to well. But we were also obviously very excited as well to record our first full debut. So anger, excitement, and a touch of depression is what made this record I guess, haha!
The whole album through, you perform in that strong sludgy doom way. What influenced you in both your sludgy and doomy aspects?
Oh you can mention tons of bands and influences that have made an impact on our music. But the main influences have got to be old-school horror, Burzum, Electric Wizard (surprise, surprise), Acid Witch, Belzebong, Summoning, etc. Like I said, there are a ton of influences out there, not just from movies and bands, but from life itself. Creativity has no limits.
What kind of lyrics do you perform in Shadowmaster? Do you deal just with horror / satanic stuff or do you prefer to express yourselves through metaphors?
A lot of the lyrics are about death and the afterlife, since it’s such an interesting subject. No one knows death so it’s a big mystery, plus it fits the music. There are a lot of metaphors as well, because we think it’s easier to express the lyrics that way. But most of them are about death and the more extreme, since we find that most fascinating.
There’s one brief acoustic instrumental track, “The Lizard King”, amongst the snake-crawling-styled songs you have on the album. Did you put something special into it? Why did you decide to add it in this black mass?
I have always liked acoustic and instrumental music, which is why I wrote it. It turned out really dark and atmospheric, so it fits the rest of the album great! Plus it’s nice to experiment with different styles and sounds on a full record; it gives the listener more experiences. It’s like watching a movie with more than one genre, but with the same basic concept. It was one of those songs that just came out, and it came out great. But it was hard to play, it took forever to record it, believe it or not. I guess it’s hard to play songs that are not based on two chords, haha!
Do you want to continue to elaborate this… well, psychedelic… aspect of Shadowmaster on the next record? Do you already have plans for the sophomore album?
Nah, our plan for the next album is to be even more extreme and heavy. Well, we will experiment with different sounds and effects to create the perfect album, but no more acoustic.
The last track on Shadowmaster is a 19-minute-long psychedelic voyage, “Under His Black Skies”. How did you manage to create such a massive yet solid composition?
Practice. Loads and loads of practice. The idea of the song came really quick, a long song based on one riff with various stuff going on in between, but the structure took forever! We worked the hardest on this song and came up with several structures for it before we felt happy with it. We didn’t rehearse it with effects either, so we had never heard it 100 % complete with effects and samples before we were finished in the studio, but we are happy with the result. It turned out massive, heavy, and epic, which is just the way we like it!
What was the most difficult thing technically when you recorded this material? Did you meet any challenges writing or recording these songs?
That would be “The Lizard King” and “Under His Black Skies”. “The Lizard King” was hard to record because I was recording it all by myself, which made me fucking nervous. All the other songs didn’t make me so nervous because we recorded it all live together. So that was nerve-wracking. And of course, as I mentioned before, “Under His Black Skies” was hard to write due to the complicated idea of having one riff for one 19-minute song. But it was also hard to record it, as we needed constant eye contact, plus we were afraid that we would fail at some point as we recorded it, which we did… haha. I have never seen Jumbo so pissed before! But we got it on the second take.
How would you summarize Shadowmaster’s general message?
To try and bring as extreme and as dark music as possible to give the listener an idea or a picture of how death and misery can be like. I would say that is the basic idea of Shadowmaster’s message and music. That, and to make as heavy music as possible.
Shadowmaster on Facebook: