Interview by Demitri Levantis
With their third studio album, “Härd” to be released in August, Independent Voice caught up with Swedish black metal group Svederna to discuss the new album, Sweden’s black metal scene and what the band plans to do in the future.
Hi and thanks for joining us. Let’s begin with your new album “Härd”, how has the recording and processing been?
S: Thanks for having us! This is Simon, bass (and some guitars)! The process behind “Härd” was pretty straight forward. Anders, Erik and me wrote riffs and/or more or less complete songs separately, then the whole band met up and worked out the arrangement of the songs and Jonatan wrote the lyrics. Some songs were more finished than others when they were introduced during rehearsal, and some songs really changed along the way. We recorded the album in the age-old forests of central Sweden, during a week of total isolation, and a creative mindset. There were definitely some man-hours put into the process of finding the right sound, but nothing really came down to gear magic – we just worked hard on getting the basic sound and the starting points right.
E: Thanks! This is Erik Weinestedt, guitars, writing. As you can see we decided to have several band members representing Svederna for this interview. It might give you some more elaborated and interesting answers. Here we go.
Simon sums up the recording and process pretty well. But I just have to make a remark regarding the statement “pretty straight forward” that I feel should be clarified. Svederna consists of four extremely dedicated members with a lot of integrity. Every member in Svederna has a strong and clear vision of how Svederna should sound, the band benefits greatly from these personal qualities and would probably not even exist if we didn’t have these. But working under pressure and stress sometimes we collide with discrepancies in “visions” and this turns to endless arguing. The outcome of these quarrels usually turns the music even better and will probably always be a part of how we work.
A: This is Anders, drums and guitar, and I will answer a few of the questions below as well.
How would you say it’s different to the other records you’ve made?
E: My personal feeling is that ‘Härd’ has a much darker feel to it compared to ‘Svedjeland’. We worked more with creating an atmosphere in the songs rather than go full speed all the time. Having Simon contributing with riffs and whole songs has made the album still sound like Svederna with something extra. When Simon joined the band it really made Svederna come full circle.
This is the third time you’ve collaborated with Lars Robin Larsson Asp, what makes him such a great person to work within making an album?
S: First off, he’s a total professional – fast working, experienced, easy-going, and focused on solving problems instead of finding them. He’s also brutally honest so you know that when he’s satisfied with a take, you’ve positively done a good job. As an instrumentalist, that really puts you in your best game.
A: We are friends since way back, and I also think that his inexperience in working with metal bands is a huge advantage, as he has no preconceived notions of how it ‘should’ sound. He also has a very fast technique and comes up with a lot of good solutions on the spot. This time we aimed for a more organic sound, which I think he succeeded with. For example, the drums were recorded in a garage and we kept a lot of the sound captured from the room mics in the final mix.
You’ve recorded this album in a “remote wilderness” in Värmland, what made you choose there to do the recording?
S: The previous two records – “Äntra” and “Svedjeland” – were recorded at the same location. The other guys in Svederna all come from Värmland, so they have a special connection to that place. And the location itself has a special ambience to it, that really adds to the recording experience. Even if I´m not from the same place as Anders, Erik and Jonatan, I think most Swedes can relate to the certain kind of atmosphere you get in the remote, primeval woods of Sweden.
You say in your press release your main theme is a return to “a natural way of life”, could you please elaborate on that?
S: Jonatan, our vocalist and lyricist, describes how much around us is being perverted by a very shallow and overly detached culture. And how lots of people prefer putting their energy and passions into the investment of little trinkets that hold no real value, and how they go through life without seeing how everything around them transforms and evolves into this harsh, cold expression of nothingness. Returning to a natural way of life, of course, means different things depending on who you ask, and even to us as individuals within the band, but it basically comes down to not feeling at home or at ease in parts of modern society.
Jonatan: Another way for me to examine this relationship between man and the world around is to travel into ourselves as humans. To dig deeper and find what makes us human and where we are as individuals. For me the lyrics express the feeling of being lost in one-self and the outer world. To have the courage to allow this disorientation to happen instead of fearing it, in order to learn and live through something new. In my experience this makes us evolve as humans and connects us to our feelings and opinions in a deeper way, to break ourselves free by letting us get lost.
To be alone in nature for a longer period of time has made me get to know myself better and some of the lyrics describe these journeys. To live through mind and body on a more primitive level is very important in our modern world where we constantly push aside these aspects of ourselves and our lives.
To anyone who has never heard Svederna’s music before, how would you describe it to people?
S: Classic Scandinavian black metal, with hints of thrash and heavy metal, and with a rock ‘n roll attitude. Really, really based on solid riffing. The influences lean more towards the Norwegian scene than the Swedish one.
How does Svederna compare to the other bands in Sweden’s black metal scene today – what makes you different?
S: Svederna has a more clear focus on classic metal riffing. A lot of Swedish bands are working in the tradition of the second wave Swedish black metal bands of the 90’s – and don’t get me wrong, those are good bands – and thus those bands have a more “wall of sound”-feeling to them. I’d say Svederna are more dynamic than most, without losing brutality. A lot of bands also tend to sound less organic, perhaps due to other production ideals. And I really appreciate the blend of simplicity and complexity that I think we’ve achieved on this album.
What made you want to start the band in the first place, was there a certain moment of inspiration you can recall?
A: I clearly remember being inspired by long wintry walks in the forest, around 2011/12, and making the decision to start playing the drums again after a hiatus. I had been sort of away from the metal scene for a while and found a lot of inspiration in discovering and rediscovering a lot of bands. When I then picked up the guitar, riffs and melodies just came flowing, and I had a lot of inspiring sessions on my own, creating riffs and drum patterns that would become the basis of Svederna. I recorded a few demos without having any thoughts where it would lead, and when I played them to Jonatan and Erik we all agreed on the spot that we should form a band and take it further, and since then we never looked back.
How do you feel the band has changed or evolved over the course of its career?
A: Svederna is a very dynamic band, even if we have a strong foundation in our sound we constantly let the riffs guide us where to go next. The biggest changes have come in recent years when we took the decision to start performing live shows and found our guitarist Pär and bassist Simon. They made us a more complete band, and just being able to rehearse as a full band and have more songwriters in the group has been incredibly inspiring. Our live sound helped to define us more, and we can all feel the power and force that comes with it. We have all become much better musicians, songwriters and lyricists over the years, and have a more clear vision of what we want to achieve.
What are the biggest non-musical influences on the band’s sound, like art, film, literature, etc?
A: For me, the biggest source of inspiration is nature and the unseen magic in this world. Dark forests, fire, the moon, stars, snow and ice is what makes me feel alive and in awe and one with nature, and I try to translate those feelings into the music that is Svederna. When everything synchronises it can be a very transcending experience.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you, did you have to cancel a lot of things?
S: There have been a couple of gigs cancelled, yes. But most of all it’s been harder to plan ahead. Since we don’t know when, or how, the restrictions in different countries will change, it’s quite difficult to book gigs or tours. We’re still holding our breath concerning some shows here in Sweden.
When gigs and touring resumes, is there anywhere, in particular, you would like to play?
S: It would be awesome to return to Spain and Portugal, where we toured in 2018. We felt really welcome, and it would be great to play our new material for an audience that already experienced us before. It felt as though the metal community on the Iberian peninsula was really thriving, and people were sincerely passionate about going to a concert with a band that they maybe never heard about before.
Of course, we’d like to go just about anywhere to play our music, but we definitely have to go back to Spain and Portugal!
When you’re not playing music, what do you and the rest of the band like to do in your spare time?
S: Personally, I like to read. Especially on topics concerning religion, philosophy and such. But music is indeed my biggest passion, so when I’m not playing directly with Svederna I like to practice my instrument and challenge myself technically and musically. Most of us are involved in other bands as well, although Svederna is without a doubt our main gig. So music plays a really big part for all of us.
A: I run a hostel village in the middle of the woods, where I also sometimes organize gigs and festivals. Spending time in nature is vital for me, and I also enjoy going to concerts in the cities whenever I have the chance.
Who are your favourite bands on the black metal stage at the moment? And what non-metal bands do you listen to most or cite as an influence?
A: I don’t follow the current metal streams that much to be honest, but I like discovering new bands whenever I have the chance. Two metal bands I’ve been enjoying in recent times would be Inconcessus Lux Lucis and Malokarpatan. When it comes to non-metal bands there are a lot of great things happening in the Swedish psych/electronic/metal without being metal- scene, for example Gösta Berlings Saga, The Exorcist GBG and Contaminazione, which have all played at the festival I organize. I also listen to a lot of soundtracks, folk and middle eastern music, that’s a huge inspiration for me.
What made you want to be a musician and what do you enjoy most about it?
A: For as long as I can remember, it was natural and logical to have music as a part of my life. I started playing guitar from a very early age and has since then never really stopped, and I’m always curious to pick up new instruments. It can be challenging, especially improving my drumming skills and stamina was not easy on me, but the results are incredibly rewarding. The feeling when performing together in a live setting and you just let go of your thoughts and let pure instinct take over and everyone is locked in with each other is out of this world, and definitely improves life quality permanently.
S: I totally agree with Anders. Also, I clearly remember picking up a vinyl album from my dad’s record collection when I was 13 years old, with a Swedish instrumental rock band, and was absolutely blown away. I wanted to recreate that magic and that feeling I got from listening to certain types of music, so I started playing myself. Nowadays I really enjoy the blend of versatility and total in-depth devotion that comes from having played in a great variety of genres and still being able to keep extreme metal closest to you.
Finally, do you have anything to say to our readers?
A: Thanks for taking the time to read this interview, turn up the volume and blast ‘Härd’ in its entirety for the world. Häll!
Thank you so much for dropping by and we wish you all the best.
Svederna’s new album “Hard” is out now on Carnal Records.