Interview with Vanhelgd

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Temple of Phobos is a monster of a death metal album. Vanhelgd have shown, once more, that they really know what they’re doing with the style. If you’re a fan of well-written death metal that effectively combines both heaviness and atmosphere, then it’s absolutely an album to check out. With that in mind, let’s find out a bit more…

For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself! Give us a bit of background to Vanhelgd

In the end of the year 2007 Vanhelgd was formed by Björn Andersson (drums), Jimmy Johansson (guitars, backup vocals) and Mattias Frisk (guitars vocals). After making a unreleased demo Vanhelgd recorded eight songs in Backbone studios in Mjölby and the first full length album “Cult of Lazarus” was released by Crematorium Records in November 2008. The band got in contact with the US based Nuclear War Now! Records who decided to release “Cult of Lazarus” as a 12” LP in 2009. In the Summer of 2009 Vanhelgd recorded a couple of new demo songs. One of the tracks from that session, “Nec spe, nec metu” was featured on the “Invocation of death” compilation, released in June 2010 by Death invocation records. Vanhelgd started to work with the recording for their second full-length album “Church of Death” in april 2010. Due to various problems they didn’t finish until September the same year. Two of the songs were taken out to be featured on the EP “Praise the Serpent” which was released on the Nuclear War Now! Fest part 2 in Berlin where the band also performed. In 2013 bass player Viktor had to leave the band and Jonas Albrektsson ( King of Asgard, Retaliation, ex- Thy Primordial) joined for the third album ”Relics of Sulphur Salvation” that were released by Pulverised Records and 20 Buck Spin. In the end of 2015 Vanhelgd once again entered Studio Underjord to record their fourth studio album ”Temple of Phobos” that will be out on July 22 on Pulverised records and Dark Descent.

What are your influences?

Tragedy, ecstasy doom and so on. We have quite different taste in music so it’s hard to keep the numbers down. But I guess that I have to mention bands like Edge of Sanity, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Entombed, Dismember, At the Gates, Morgoth, Death, Samael, Bolt Thrower…

What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?

It’s been a lot of Iron Maiden lately, but also some Horrendous, Albes Duz, Mgła, Paradise Lost and Sulphur Aeon. Recommendations: Lie in Ruins, Dead Congregation, Sinmara, Lantern, Entrapment, Desolate Shrine. Fans of old Paradise Lost must lend an ear to their new stuff.

Vanhelgd Band 2

How do you feel that you fit into the wider death metal scene?

I think that the death metal scene consists of so many sub-categories that it’s no longer to be considered as one scene. It’s often hard to put certain bands in certain categories and maybe even harder to exactly describe a category, it’s something you just know when you understand the music genre. I’m not sure that we are a part of the main/wider death metal scene; I don’t think we will ever be a headliner kind of band; our music is too rooted in the underground.

Give us a bit of background to Temple of Phobos – any particular concepts or ideas you want to discuss?

In the recording process of “Relics of Sulphur Salvation” we understood something about Vanhelgd, how the band works and what kind of stuff that comes out of the monster when you feed it. When starting to write material for a new album we used that experience and went further on some of the paths we found on “Relics…” We found ourselves slowing down songs and putting more doom into them and we put a lot of effort in trying to capture emotions like hopelessness, despair and sorrow. Conceptually we wanted to make a darker and more demanding album, and a bit less direct… I guess it will take a couple of spins before one gets what it’s about… I don’t think that there is a usual “hit” song there… The album has a balanced mixture of moods but all of them leaning towards the atmospheric rather than the brutal. I don’t think it’s an album for the average metal dude. The overall lyrical concept is about fear and mankind’s futile struggle towards an inevitable end.

Tell us about the album artwork

I work full time as an artist and illustrator ( so naturally I make all the artwork for Vanhelgd. For “Temple of Phobos” we wanted to stay with the layout and concept that we had on “Relics of Sulphur Salvation” but go into a more gloomy direction. I got an idea about depicting a person in foetal position in a boat, manoeuvred by a cloaked oarsman, towards a temple. I had Arnold Böcklins Die Toteninsel in my mind during the process and I decided it was better to just make it in that tradition than trying to create something less familiar.

Vanhelgd Band 1

How do you go about writing your songs?

First we do a riff, then another and another and then we put them together into a song…For some reason I have become the main writer but I really must stress that the songs wouldn’t be the same without our mutual input in the process of arrangement. For us songwriting is an uphill battle with ideas that won’t fit together but at some point we can all agree that the song is done and it’s time to go to the next one. We rework everything until it’s the way we like it, so we usually don’t have any extra material for bonus tracks, compilations and B-sides.

How did the recording process go?

We have done it a couple of different ways but for the two last albums we worked with Joona at Studio Underjord. We spend about 10 days in the studio recording and mixing. For Temple of Phobos we have almost no pre-production except for some demo guitar tracks as guidance for the drums. We used real drums, amps and pedals, which can be quite frustrating at times.

What’s your favourite song on the album and why?

It’s hard to say but for now its “Allt hopp är förbi “ (All hope is gone) a song that differs a bit from what we usually do but I really like the lyrics and the mood of the song. Jimmy does an excellent take on the vocals on the fast version that is on the 7”.

What does the future hold for Vanhelgd?

We will start working on new songs as soon as possible, we are not much of a touring band and we have no shows planned right for the moment.

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