TTI: Songwriting-wise, Dysangelium doesn’t sound like a tribute to any particular death metal band, album or scene, it actually sounds exactly the opposite, like an effort that goes far beyond being merely a homage to its influences. While writing this album, were you consciously trying to silence their presence in your sound and let whatever was inside of you to rise to the surface instead?
J.K.: We don’t sound like a tribute band, because we’re not a tribute band. Naturally we have influences, but one of our aims has always been to go beyond those influences, to take that which we regard as being great and make it greater. The creative process has been an episode of both silencing and enforcing different influences and modes of mentality, but also, as you said, a conscious effort to not be influenced by anything. I find that the best approach to this is silence. There has however been a lot of influences that has differed from the past, for example a lot of jazz. In the end, the only conscious effort towards any sound has been that towards sounding more like Ensnared, but better.
TTI: How often do you listen to Dysangelium and when you do, are you able to enjoy it impartially, without being too analytical and critical about every little detail?
J.K.: We try not to listen to it that often. This way, the experience is always kind of a fresh one. The charm with this is that we discover new things, both good and bad, every time we listen to it. We think it’s impossible to listen to a record you’ve written and recorded in an uncritical and impartial way, but of course, it’s still an enjoyable experience to us.
TTI: Ensnared definitely isn’t the word to be immediately associated with the iconography of nowadays death or black metal. One might say it’s not evil enough. Then again, your previous name Gravehammer was as stereotypical as they come. In that respect, is Ensnared something more than merely a more refined moniker? A statement of unsettlement with status quo perhaps? Together with your sound that becomes more eloquent, smarter and more personal with every new release you put out, it certainly feels like you want to distance yourselves from the vast majority of death metal bands who believe that being stale and ambitionless is actually a virtue.
J.K.: Every virtue can also be a vice if not approached properly. We see change and going against the stream as a virtue, just as we see the opposite as a vice. Most of all, it comes down to us not caring about what’s happening around us. We chose Ensnared as a band name for a lot of different reasons: it sounded good to us, it felt right, we had a concept for a logo ready, that later changed, and once we started to think about it, it felt more and more fitting. At a later point in Ensnared, we actually felt ensnared by certain things that we felt Ensnared was a proper expression of, so we kept it. As regards to it not sounding evil enough, well, there’s just so many combinations of goat plus random optional word that you can use and when evil trumps quality, you usually end up with a pile of dung.
TTI: Almost every metal purist I know is on board that Trial are one of the most interesting young heavy metal bands at the moment. Granted, the respective talents of A.J. and A.E. are 80% of what makes that band so special and appealing, so it’s truly a good fortune for Ensnared to have those two amazing musicians playing on Dysangelium as well. Tell me something about their roles in your band, are they just session musicians or equally contributing band members? Presuming that Ensnared is, first and foremost, a vessel for you two to express yourselves creatively, not using their creative input for a greater good of the band would still seem like quite a waste.
J.K.: A.J. started out as a bass player in Ensnared in 2011, but later switched to guitars after D.Ö. quit the band. A.E. joined somewhere in the end of 2013/beginning of 2014, when our singer quit the band. They have both had very free roles in Ensnared, at least from our point of view and their creative input has been very valuable and has certainly made Dysangelium into what it is. To not have used their musical qualities would certainly have been a waste. I agree that Trial is a very good band, and now that Ensnared has parted from A.J. and A.E., we wish them the best of luck with Trial in the future.
TTI: The most impressive thing about Dysangelium is its consistency and the fact that it maintains the same high level of quality songwriting from the first second until the last one. And even though there are officially only six regular songs on this album, the truth is that all those five interludes are only a few minutes of length and a few lines of lyrics short of being proper songs as well. They don’t seem to be there for a listener to take a break, they also demand his full, undivided awareness. While writing the album, have you at any point considered that you should maybe develop those interludes a bit further and transform them into actual songs?
J.K.: During the writing process, it is never really clear to me what is an interlude and what is a song. The act of separation comes at a later stage, zimzuming frantically at the end to get it all together. A lot of interludes has started out as part of songs, and a lot of songs has ended up as interludes. Right now, I don’t think we’ll adorn them with words since they are – or supposed to be, it depends on the listener – meditative and trance-inducing pieces, pieces with the purpose of transporting the musicians, us, and the listener from one song to the other in a hypnotic way. One of the main purposes of the interludes was in fact for live use, to not give the audience a break and to build up and channel the energy of us on stage. For us, it worked better than intended. We have been toying with the idea to make an album with just interludes as actual songs, to experiment with them.
TTI: With regard to track order and the structure of this album in general, how much time did you spend trying to carefully arrange everything and put all those bits and pieces of music in their right place? When you listen to it now, are you satisfied with how the album flows, does it feel smooth?
H.K.: The arranging of the songs and interludes took about as much time as the writing of the album itself. The ends and starts and the keys of the songs/interludes sometimes had to be changed in their entirety to fit the record. All in all, I feel fairly satisfied with the result.
TTI: David S. Herrerías was responsible for the front cover of Dysangelium. How the subject matters you dealt with on this album lyrically correspond with the things we can see on that brilliant painting?
J.K.: Señor Herrerias likes to work just as we do, without instructions or a laid-out plan. We sent him bits of music and lyrics and let his creativity flow. The interesting part of working with David is that you never know what to expect, except 100% quality. With that said, not even we know what the exact meaning of all the symbolism in the painting is, a mystery we’ve kept intact on purpose so far, but there’s definitely a correspondence between the cover art and the lyrics.
TTI: It would take too much space to quote entire biography of the band that was published, in form of a honest, poetic proclamation, on your official facebook page, but I must share at least its final segment, relating to Dysangelium and the current stage of the bands development: As with all things dying, that are destined to live, Ensnared has toiled and trodden on paths worn down by those before. Ever failing, ever finding new futility in the opulence of expression, but by the virtue of perseverance, the dysangelical took its form and was moulded in its fathomless form: wreaking purulence in hearts perverse, in the year of 2017, Era Vulgaris, through Invictus of Eire. There is a certain gloom to be found between these lines, that is even more present in those previous paragraphs I decided not to quote. Reading the whole thing, I was under the impression that the band’s journey had been quite a struggle. Can you elaborate on that please? What made you write your own history in such a peculiar manner, not by focusing on chronology of events, but on how difficult was to deal with everything the band went through?
H.K.: I will answer your question in an inverted chronological order, since the last question needs to be answered first. The reason why we wrote a biography at all was because Invictus asked us to write one. I sat down, thought about our history, and, being very influenced by Samuel Beckett, this is what came out of me in a poetic outburst. That’s one of the reasons why it took such a poetic form, the other being that band biographies are insanely boring with a lot of unnecessary facts crammed in them. I think you’re wrong about it focusing only on the struggles though. In it is also included a lot of our victories, such as releases and live shows. But the fact remains that the band has been a source of struggle and frustration from its inception, as are all bands. We’ve gone through constant lineup changes, faced defeat in a lot of ways and got fed up many times and as I said, this is a thing that all bands face. The real gloomy part to me is not however the struggles of the band, but more the limited forms of creative output. No matter how well you manifest your creative output in the world, it will still not be the essence of what you want to express. Platonically speaking, this is the struggle between the realm of perfect ideas and the realm of manifested ideas. In the biography I also express this feeling of futility of creativity, although I at the same time realize the impossibility of perfection, which again always makes creativity a source of frustration. I could expound on this for pages, but I’ll keep it short.
TTI: Compared to some other albums released this year by both Invictus and Dark Descent, I feel that Dysangelium was announced rather quietly. No pompous press releases, no uncontrolled bursts of online excitement by the fans, just a few short, elegant and simple infos that the album would soon be out. Was that a conscious decision, is that how you wanted the promo campaign to unfold?
J.K.: It wasn’t a conscious effort by us by any means. We’ve left the promotion to Invictus and Dark Descent, and as far as we know, and according to your description, they’ve handled it perfectly.
TTI: I remember reading in some of your earlier interviews that you didn’t have quite a positive attitude towards underground metal culture and that you felt all truly outstanding bands should sooner or later reach above and beyond its boundaries. That being said, Invictus and Dark Descent are probably two of the most important labels in death metal underground today and you are lucky enough to have Dysangelium co-released between them. Do you see that as an ultimate fulfillment of the band’s ambitions label-wise, or only as a step towards even wider visibility an even bigger label could provide you in the future?
J.K.: Metal was from the beginning, and still is, a musical and spiritual endeavour, it was never meant as a social endeavour. When we started out at 13-15 years old, we didn’t even realize there was people out there who were into the same things as us, so it was something that was going to be channeled in isolation and solitude with a few like-minded individuals. Metal was, as far as we see it, an anti-social movement, it was fuck everyone and fuck the world, we’ll play as loud and fast as we want, not come see my band and we didn’t think most of the other people in the scene had this fuck everything mentality, rather the opposite, so it just pissed us off and made us to try to be louder and faster and more brutal than the rest. Granted, there are good bands out there, in the so called scene, but trying to make an impact and trying to belong to a movement is just another aspect of herd mentality.
We don’t expect a call from Warner Bros Records anytime soon, we will cooperate with labels whom we get along with and who get the shit done, and that’s it. We will provide them with the drugs, and they will be the ones to sell it to the fiends. We don’t really have any ambitions label-wise other than artistic freedom and working with someone we can trust, and that’s what Invictus and Dark Descent provide.
TTI: What is the most negative thing you have ever read or heard about your music?
J.K.: Comparisons with a mish-mash of life metal acts. There hasn’t been any real attack on our music or approach as far as we know.
TTI: Considering that Gothenburg is just a small city, with only half a million inhabitants, how hard it is for two young men like yourselves to get by? Do you have regular, full-time day jobs or are you able to support yourselves by working only part-time?
J.K.: Unfortunately, we work full-time in various blue-collar trades. Further elaborations regarding our private lives will not be given in interviews.
TTI: Over the course of several years, from early to mid ’90s, a couple of similar sounding bands from Gothenburg area like At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity and In Flames pioneered what is now known as melodic death metal. How old were you when those bands were in their prime, releasing their landmark albums, and were you inspired by their music?
J.K.: In Flames were in their commercial prime when we started to get into music for real, and it became the opposite of everything that was good with metal in our eyes. Especially their fans. Has Dark Tranquility ever been in their prime? At The Gates were in their prime when we were toddlers, so their music wasn’t exactly forced down our throats like other bands. But the whole melodic death metal scene and everything related to it was in our eyes complete and utter waste. We are dancing on the grave of that scene.
TTI: Speaking of At The Gates, Anders Björler told me a few years ago that there were only a handful of studios left in Gothenburg. He told me that they were running out of business because majority of younger Swedish bands preferred using cheap technology and recording equipment and making their recordings in their rehearsal rooms. Apparently, to make a decent sounding record, you need a good microphone for the vocals, but other than that, you can record literally everything else on your computer, without suffering significant loss of quality. Dysangelium, with its warm and organic sound, makes me think that you are one of those few remaining young bands who are willing to pay for a studio time and get their music professionally recorded. Are you?
J.K.: That might be the case. Swedes have a lot of money and as the price on technology goes down, basically everyone can afford a rudimentary studio. This is of course run by people with no real clue of how to achieve sound and how to fully use the technology, more than to just use a lot of filters and triggers. With easily accessible technology and the ability to buy it comes also a fascination with technology, meaning that everything has to sound modern and new and be recorded with the newest version of whatever that’s on the market. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a good sound on a recording, it just means that it’ll be modern, and that is seldom the same thing. Just compare a lot of albums from the ’60s and ’70s to today’s records, and you’ll know what we mean. Dysangelium was recorded in a studio in Gothenburg by a semi-professional studio engineer, which was great. The studio engineer was professional enough to be 100% serious about the music and the recording, but unprofessional enough to make the sound of the album wild and uncontrolled. If we have a label, like we do right now, who helps out with the expenses, we will try to record an album in a real studio, but then again, we would do that anyway.
TTI: I’m in Pink Floyd mood these days, listening to their 1973-1979 albums a lot. How about yourselves, what is your favorite Pink Floyd period? Also, in case you are a fan of Swedish prog rock band Änglagård, which one of their two early albums you like better, Hybris or Epilog?
J.K.: The period you mentioned is almost our favorite period as well, counting the period from 1971 to 1975 with the culmination of their best album, Wish You Were Here, as they’re best phase. They’ve definitely inspired Ensnared. We like Änglagård a lot as well and saw them live during their first-ever appearance in Gothenburg in March this year, which was just as great and weird as we’d hoped. We both agree upon Hybris being the better album of the two.
TTI: The most significant artists throughout the history of mankind, regardless of the form of art they used to express themselves, were often really troubled people. Can you come up with a rational explanation for that? Why is it impossible for an artist to be happy or at least satisfied person and still create something that is worthwhile, deep and meaningful?
J.K.: That’s a very old question and we don’t have any answer to that but we do know that Nietzsche identified thinking with disease and that Schopenhauer, and many before him, argued that if there wasn’t suffering, there wouldn’t be thinking and pondering, meaning that most of thinking and reflection stems from suffering and disease. There’s also this thin line between genius and madness, as in the case of e.g. Bobby Fischer, which we don’t know how to explain. Maybe one could argue that severely troubled people need creative output in a way that harmonic people do not, maybe as a form of escape? Following this theory, the worse you feel, the more you’re going to need escape, and the better you’ll be at your creative output. If this hastily thought-up theory has any worth, it still doesn’t explain why there are people who seem to naturally suffer more than others though. Maybe it’s all neurological? Maybe one of the reasons are the experienced frustration and with futility with art and creation that we mentioned in the answer regarding our biography? We could probably go on for pages discussing this topic, so we’ll leave it at this.
TTI: As a fan of Rainbow that I know you are H.K., how do you feel about this latest announcement regarding Ritchie Blackmore allegedly writing new Rainbow material? If that’s true, do you feel any desire to hear it?
J.K.: Well, considering his latest medieval albums I’m not overly excited about the news, but I will definitely give it a chance once it’s ready. I wouldn’t say I have any desire to hear it, more of a curiosity to hear it.
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