Interview with Gutter Instinct

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Age of the Fanatics is Gutter Instinct’s début album, and what an album it is. Their ability to merge Swedish death metal with evil blackened auras has proven to be a stroke of twisted genius, and Age of the Fanatics is definitely one to keep returning to again and again.

Curious to find out more about a band with one of the most diabolical sounds around, Hannes, (rhythm guitars), and Oscar, (lead guitars), were kind enough to give me a tour of the Hellish landscapes that they have created…

Hello! Please introduce us to Gutter Instinct!

Hannes: Gutter Instinct was founded in 2012 by myself, Oscar and Thomas in Helsingborg, Sweden, after having played together in various bands over the years. The aim was to unleash a unique style of grinding death metal. Apart from being influenced by the first generation of Swedish death metal bands like Entombed and Dismember (and what could be called the second generation with bands like Repugnant, Kaamos and Necrovation) we wanted to add the furiosity of grindcore where bands like Rotten Sound and Napalm Death were the main influences and, of course, American bands – such as Death, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel – have had a major impact on our sound. With this philosophy – to mix all the good stuff within extreme metal – we recorded the ‘Obedience’ demo in 2012. After some live shows the first incarnation of Gutter Instinct fell apart and we had a change in the rhythm section with drummer Ola Håkansson entering the picture. With this line-up we recorded ‘The Insurrection’ in 2014, with me handling the bass duties. It was around this time the ’blackened death metal’ influences started to emerge. We discovered bands like Teitanblood, Bölzer, Grave Miasma, Pseudogod and so on… But we only scratched the surface with these influences on ’The Insurrection’. Simon Isaksson was recruited as a permanent bass player and the line-up was complete. New songs were written, this time with more emphasis on the mentioned ’blackened death metal’ sound.

What are your influences?

Oscar: As many bands before us in the extreme metal genre, it all started with old Metallica, old Sepultura and Pantera, to later evolve into heavier bands like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel and Death. So it was actually the American death metal scene that had an early impact on me. It was not until later that I discovered my own country’s thriving death metal scene with bands like Entombed and Dismember. Since then I have discovered what I would like to call the second wave of Swedish death metal, with bands such as Verminous, Necrovation, Kaamos and Repugnant. And also black metal, mainly from Poland, Iceland, and the Czech Republic. So as you can see it’s a mixture of influences that I try to incorporate in Gutter Instinct.

Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend

Oscar: Infernal War – Axiom, Inferno – Omniabsence Filled by his Greatness, Mgla – Exercises In Futility, Teitanblood – Death and Cult Of Fire – Ascetic Meditation Of Death. Bonus: Bölzer – Soma.

Tell us about your latest album, Age of the Fanatics

Hannes: We wanted to make this album feel more ’occult’ than our previous releases. Music-wise, we wanted it to have a more ’murky’ and obscure sound overall, and one way we worked to achieve this was to add more delay/reverb effects to the drums, the vocals and even some of the guitar parts. We also chose to mix the vocals and the drums a bit more subtle than on the EP – especially the kick drum – to make them sound more integrated in the mix. Lastly, we also experimented a lot more with guitar and bass sound this time around, to try and get the sound just right. Lyrically, I think you could say that we’ve started to move away from the more ’revolutionary’ spirit on the EP. The lyrics on ’Age Of The Fanatics’ are more dark, cynical and misanthropic. No hope.

You seem to have introduced more of a blackened aspect to your music on this release, was this a conscious decision?

Oscar: Yes, it was. Like I said before we drew a lot of inspiration from the black metal scene. Bands like Svartidauði, Mgla and Cult Of Fire have been a huge inspiration for us. Also the whole blackened death scene with bands like Teitanblood, Inferno, Bölzer and Grave Miasma. We used this to take the sound in a different direction. We didn’t want to be a standard Entombed clone, so we blackened the music to make it more interesting, both for us and for our listeners. The result is a mix of Swedish and American death metal with a bit of crossover and a cold blackness that is present throughout the album.

Gutter Instinct Band1

How would you compare Age of the Fanatics with the Insurrection?

Hannes: It’s a darker album. Like I said we were aiming for a different atmosphere this time, largely due to most of us being heavily exposed to this whole ’wave’ of awesome bands within the black/death metal scene. This included, among other things, making the drums sound more organic and reverb-drenched, and also adding more depth and reverb to the vocals. The lyrics are also very different and more ’philosophical’ in nature, and mostly deal with other topics than on the EP, like I mentioned earlier.

How do you think your music will progress in the future?

Oscar: I think the music will progress into even darker territories. More black metal and more ‘occult’ blackened death. Actually we have already started to work on new songs. One is very much inspired by the band Von, which Hannes is a huge fan of. The other new songs are more atmospheric and even a bit melancholic in the vein of Mgla and Burzum. But our main focus is still on death metal, so there’s still a whole lot of Cannibal Corpse riffing and a shitload of brutal parts, so people don’t have to worry about us ‘getting softer’.

What’s your favourite song on Age of the Fanatics and why?

Hannes: I guess I’d have to go with the title track, also it seems I have a new favourite track every week. But it just feels like the title track is the most well written song on the album overall. It also perfectly captures the spirit of Gutter Instinct both musically and lyrically, which I really like.

The album cover is quite striking – tell us a bit about this

Hannes: The art was done by Dávid Glomba, whose work we’re all big fans of. We don’t really want to reveal too much about the meaning and symbolism of the artwork since we feel that the holistic experience will be much more satisfying if you draw your own conclusions. However, if you look closely at the artwork, not only the front cover, you can see bits and pieces that are connected to the lyrics in different ways. It is not always completely obvious but rather open to interpretation, which is the way we’d like it to be.

With music becoming increasingly digital in nature, what’s your take on the digital/physical debate and the current state of the music industry?

Oscar: As a record collector I will always choose physical format over digital. Things like Spotify and Youtube are great if you want to discover new music, but it only generates a small amount of money for the artist. Therefore, I view Spotify and Youtube as tools of preview listening. If I like what I hear I buy the album to support the artist. I’m glad to hear that vinyl is coming back because it is really the perfect way of listening to music. It’s more of a package deal with dynamic sound and a visual impact due to the size of the artwork. With vinyl you can have a very detailed cover. That’s why we chose to work with Dávid Glomba, an artistic genius. The cover art for ‘Age Of The Fanatics’ is really a piece of art. When you hold it in your hands, reading the liner notes, looking at the pictures and listening to the LP on a proper stereo – giving it the attention it deserves instead of listening to it on some digital device – then it’s pretty obvious that the physical format is superior. And this goes for all artists. Of course it’s more practical with the digital format if you want to take the music with you. I have Spotify on my cellphone and it’s great, but I view this as a compliment to the physical format.

Do you have any upcoming live shows you want to talk about?

Oscar: No, not at the moment. We’re currently working on getting gigs and hope to get in touch with a booking agency to get things moving. We have been working on the album and locked up in the rehearsal room and in the studio so we are really looking forward to playing live.

What are the next steps for Gutter Instinct?

Hannes: No specific plans, except for continuing our mission and staying true to our sound and message, and since we already have 3-4 new songs ready I think it’s quite probable that we’ll see another Gutter Instinct release by next year or so. Basically, we will keep doing things our way and most of all we hope to play a lot more live in the future. Touring would be awesome.

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