2009. december 11., péntek

Old School Swedish Death Metal History - Grotesque

So Tompa, do you remember any early memories of music while growing up and what spurred you on from being a music fan to becoming a musician?
Tomas: „My earliest memories are rock and roll orientated I guess, getting cassette versions of chuckberry, bill haley and elvis presley albums and blasting them in my kid room, the first album (vinyl) I bought was actually a chuck berry compilation, I must have been about seven or something, all the other stuff came later (alternative/garage rock/punk/hard rock etc) from my sisters boyfriends record collection, he got me into bands like MC5, the stooges, thin lizzy, blue oyster cult, dead boys, the cramps, ramones, black sabbath etc from when I was about ten or something, then everything just exploded, I guess me turning into actually playing music was inevitable and related to me being a fan of punk rock, which seemed fairly simple to play... i started out playing in a hardcore punk band when I was13 or something like that.... later on, I guess those early thrash records (possessed, dark angel, slayer, metallica, voivod, celtic frost, venom etc) were responsible for me turning into a singer, I was just screamig along to them at the top of my lungs in my bedroom , hehe...”
How did you end up being a Heavy Metal addict back in the day? Do you recall your first meeting with that music style?
Tomas: „As I mentioned earlier, my sisters boyfriend is responsible for the initial meeting with the style, but that was more classic hard rock though, bands like b.ö.c. and wishbone ash had a deep impact on me when i was a kid, i guess it was the mystique surrounding it, i know i was after something else though as these bands lacked the intensity of other stuff i was listening to; the ramones, the misfits, stooges, black flag etc.... and when i stumbled upon metallicas ride the lightning and discharge´s hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing in the early eighties, the flame was lit...”
Virgintaker: „I think I was around twelve when a friend of mine at the time introduced to me the concept of the 666 layers of hell. I was fascinated by the idea that evil could run so deep. If ordinary people like you and me, ermh, I mean most people, would only get to one of the first few levels, and the deeper you’d go the more evil the dwellers there would be then it’s hard to even fantasize about the evil that went on towards the bottom of the pit. I began reading books on sorcery, devil worship and different types of sacrifice.Right about this time Iron Maiden released „the number of the beast” which ofcourse had an imense impact on a child of twelve, at the time completely consumed by fantasy, ocultism and theology. I was especially thrown by „Hallowed be thy name”, the narration of a death sentence carried out in real time. The same concept, equally fascinating was done by Metallica two years later on „Ride the lightning”. Up until this point I had never even heard fast agressive music. These days it’s almost funny that Iron Maiden were considered evil... Not long after. Only like a few weeks. Another friend of mine found a cassette (yeah, this was 1982) on the street so we took it home and cranked the volume up to be completely blown away by the Hellion (the intro to the Judas Priest record Screaming for Vengeance...). The power was flattening. I guess these two albums were the my entry point to the metal scene. As time progressed me and my friends (especially Kristian ’Necrolord’ Wåhlin) grew gradually more into harder stuff like Metallica (as above), Venom and Slayer. It went to thrash when Kristian found this compilation with Overkill, Exhumer, Sodom and you name it on. We’d skip school to go to his place and listen to it... LOUD.”
Were you always into death metal or…?
Tomas: „From the moment I first got in touch with the death metal sound i was hooked; bands like Bathory, hellhammer and Possessed had already made me ready for what was to come to a certain degree, but when i stumbled upon the underground scene and bands like repulsion (then genocide), death/mantas, morbid angel, terrorizer, vomit (norway), necrophagia, insanity etc nothing was the same anymore.....it was the first stuff i discovred by myself and that was probably quite important for a lonesome teenager like myself.”
Virgintaker: „Well, as I said to start of it was mainly British heavy metal, and then German heavy metal (Accept, Warrant (DE), Stormwitch, Warlock). And then I turned to thrash. We didn’t think of ourselves as death metal while I was still in the band. The concept of Death Metal was simply not coined yet.”
When did you decide to become musician and how did your choice fall on the bass? Was it the first instrument that you’ve decided to play?
Virgintaker: „Bass was my instrument of choice right from the start. A minute to learn, a lifetime to master, you know, like master mind the game..., eh..., nevermind.... Anyway I thought it was really cool. I’ve played heaps of different instruments, vigorously encouraged by my dad. The list goes something like; piano, recorder, guitar, trombone, cello, harmonica and violin. I tried my hands on mandoline, clarinet and drums as well, but I suck as a drummer... The bass is the only instrument thats stayed with me. I am however concidering getting a new cello. You can create some pretty eerie stuff on a cello.”
What were your influences to become musician at all? Were you self taught or…?
Virgintaker: „I would have to say Steve Harris (Iron Maiden). No-one can play like that. I’m blown away everytime. I haven’t been into Maiden for a long time but when I was, I was REALLY into Maiden. I could sit for hours practicing „The rime of the ancient mariner” the bass parts. I had a teacher for a while who showed me the basics, but that was only for a few months. He showed me pentatonic chords and that if you cook your old bass strings they sound like new, for a while. All the fat and grime from your fingers stuck on the strings floats to the top. It’s nasty. I also want to sent some credit to mine and Kristians old music teacher who had this room set up at school complete with drumkit, amps and axes. That’s where it all started as far as I’m concerned. At the age of 13 we’d be there bashing out AC/DC songs.”
When and in which circumstances did you end up joining Grotesque which had been formed by you, Necrolord and Insulter on guitars Nuctemeron on bass and Shamaatae? Was it the really first band for all of you or…?
Tomas: „I have to correct you on the line-up here, I joined a band called conquest that was basically kristian and some thrasher dudes, that later all quit except nuctemeron (david hultén) who stuck along for a year or two at least... during those early days it was mostly a question of me and Kristian bashing out noise in his parents basement with different dudes turning up now and then, only to leave pretty fast (because they had no understanding for the stuff that we were into), the other guys you mention, i don´t know; insulter is a synonym for Johan Österberg, who never was a part of grotesque at any point (although he did play second guitar on the reunion show), he was though an active scenster all the time and edited cascade magazine together with during the late eighties/early nineties... shamaatae I guess is the dude who is now in arckanum, he was eleven at the time that he was in grotesque , and left pretty quickly....”
Do you still remember who came up the name of the band with and who did the logo?
Tomas: „The band name was stolen from Celtic Frost, i thnik it´s from a song on emperors return, it sounded twisted and cool, a bit different I guess, kristian designed the logo, he was, and still is, a king when it comes to death metal design, i like the sick, twisted, disfigured style he came up with, it´s almosty like a graffittti painting or something...hehe”
Did you take the band seriously right from the start?
Tomas: „We were very young, i guess we were as serious as we could be, everything meant alot to us, you know how sensitive u were as a teenager, the band was all we cared about, we lived in this different world between the ages of 14-18 i guess.... no one in our city knew what the hell we were doing, but we had this huge underground scene to escape to , it was awesome... our own separate universe of sound, visual art and international comradeship.”
Why did you use nicknames instead of using your real names? Was it a kind of Venom approach or…?
Tomas: „yeah, we were dead into all that stuff, we had a glimpse in the eye though, we loved how cheesy some of the brazilian bands stagenames sounded; kk bullet, skullcrusher and all that, a huge influence, but i guess it was taken out of proportions when looking back upon it, it was all great fun.... and kind of came with the territiory of our vision of what a death metal band was all about.”
While during the mid/late ’80s the underground scene was ruled by thrash metal, contradistinction to it in Sweden happened a great death metal boom, does it mean that death metal had a stronger background than thrash, although in Sweden were cool thrash acts as well, such as Merciless, Mezzrow or Agony?
Tomas: „we, and most of swedens other prominent death metal acts, came bursting out at the time of the thrash metal fade out.... all other bands were playing anthrax, testament shit, we didn´t have any understanding at all from them, it was alot of silly rivalry when you look back upon it... we couldn´t compromise one inch with our style, it was death metal or nothing!!!! I remember w were, for an example, deeply aggrevated by sepultura´s „sell-out2 on beneath the remains.....When i think back upon it , the swedish death metal scene between the years 87-91 only had about thirty people that were invovled, the trend happened later...”
Virgintaker: „I couldn’t tell. When I left the band in 88 I was really fed up with death metal. But I’ve come to my senses again since ;-) I think there’s maybe too much analysis of what went on. At the time the genres where hardly defined. We would often refer to what we doing as techno (as is techno-metal) as it was fast and complicated. When dance-techno gained a larger audience techno-metal as a definition dissapeared. I was alway more leaning more towards fast and crazy rather than brutal. I still am today with my current band AUTOTRASH.”
What did you feel seeing that death metal explosion in your area with quite a good number of outfits popping up from everywhere?
Tomas: „this happened way later, probably around 92-93 or something, we were alone for a long, long time, i can tell u that, there was not even any people coming to shows with this kind of music or anything, the scene was pretty much dead in gothenburg, we lived in the international underground bubble,and enjoyed it to the max as well... later when some bands started to pop up it was a good feeling, we were not that alone anymore, but stupid enough, i think we felt some kind of elitism evovling as well, that we didn´t want to be a part of, it was not compatible to the underground spirit that we were raised in.”
Virgintaker: „We were way to early to see any of that around ’87-88. Noone (in our area) understood what we where doing. Toward the end of ’88 we met Nihlist and Intoxicate. But they were from other areas (Nihlist from Stockholm and Intoxicate from another part of Gothenburg)”
Were Stockholm and Gothenburg the centers of Swedish death metal movement at this point?
Tomas: „Stockholm had (in 1988) only a few bands, but were still miles ahead of everybody else; i was in contact with nicke and uffe already in 1987, and we traded alot of tapes etc, we used to stay over for summers and stuff, it was a good time. Gothenburg, as i said before, was dead and silent, we were alone. So ,when we wanted to hang out, we went to stockholm where there was at least a handful of dudes into the underground way of thinking.”
Virgintaker: „I suppose. I don’t know. At the time it felt nothing like a movement. Just kids drinking beer and making noise, having a good time. I don’t know about any other Death Metal bands from Gothenburg so I suppose that Stockholm was the center, as with most things in Sweden.”
As I as know, before you joined Grotesque, you were in volved in Conquest, is that correct? What about this act as a whole?
Virgintaker: „Conquest was alot of fun. It was very far from Grotesque of course. Definately not death/thrash/metal... More about the AC/DC songs I mentioned above. We drank beer and „rehearsed” in Necrolords basement. I can’t believe the patience of his parents... The band members came and went with Necro, me and „Maskis” (nothing to do with Dinosaur Jr) as the constant members. I think Nuctemeron was around playing drums for a while (he later appeared as the bass player when I left the band). Alot of times it would be like an open session where anyone present could grab the mic and freestyle rock vocals.”
In your opinion, did Grotesque belong to the first wave of Swedish death metal with acts, such as Corpse, Nihilist, Mefisto, Carnage etc.?
Tomas: „the first swedish wave consists of only one band (and only one guy); BATHORY, later mefisto, obscurity popped up which is probably the second wave I guess, if you could even call it a wave...nihilist, morbid, grotesque, corpse/grave, treblinka, sorcery, merciless are the third wave and were closely followed by dismemberizer/dismember, afflicted convulsion, therion, crematory, macrodex, carnage, etc.... that was the intitial scene right there. Up until 91 i guess that was all that was going on in sweden at all.....if you don´t count the grind/crust scene which was closely related to what we were doing with bands like anticimex, filthy christians, g-anx, no security, mob 47, asocial, avskum, svart parad etc....”
Virgintaker: „The only Grotesque gig I played (before the reunion last year) was a gig in Gothenburg together with Nihlist. This was in ’88, so yeah I’d say we we’re definately first wave. Apparently parts of this gig was captured on video and is in the hands of Offensor, but he hasn’t sent it to me yet. There’s a clip of Grotesque performing Hell awaits (Slayer). We must have been about 16-17 at the time. I remember being in total adrenaline chock just to be on stage. My bass strings snapped when I tried to tune it and the string hooked into my hand like a fish-hook so I had to rip it out. So I was dazed and bleeding but on stage and loving it.”
You were rehearsing in the basement of Necrolord’s house, what do you recall from your rehearsals? Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming mostly on covers?
Tomas: „well, the first ever time we met it was only me and kristian, we didn´t even know each other or had met... david, the bassplayer (nuctemeron) gave me kristians address and just told me to go there..this was long before cellphones or the internet kids!!, we started going through his record collection and he showed me some stuff he had been working on...we decided to jam and the first stuff we ever bashed out was a cover of (the just released) enter the eternal fire by bathory, the next time i showed up i brought a few demos and stuff, introduced kristian to the undergound sounds of bands like necrophagia (a big influence in the early days) and pentagram, we glued instantly and started working on originals directly after that...”
You soon got together your first violent pieces of death and mayhem, „Moondance Prophecy” was a slow song reminiscent of Celtic Frost/Hellhammer, „Shadows Of Lost Life” was a faster song somewhat in the style of Obscurity/Bathory and Poison (Germany), how do you see it?
Tomas: „Yeah , I guess that describes it pretty much... kristian was still alot into the hellhammer thing, he would later become more obsessed with crazy riffing along the lines of morbid angel, insanity, necrovore etc..., so the first songs were really crude and basic, almost hardcore sounding, we played at the very top of our very limited capability, this was max speed for us at the time, we just wanted to be as brutal as possible.....hehe”
These songs respectively „Ripped from the cross” made up on your first demo titled „Ripped from the cross”, do you still remember how was the demo recorded which was probably your first experience? Can you give us details on this tape?
Tomas: „Ripped from the cross was never a real demo in the modern way of seeing stuff, it was mainly just a rehearsal that we polished ( a bit) with extra guitars and spread through the tapetrading circuit... it was just us and a tape recorder. In a basement, that´s pretty much how it worked back then, nothing fancy whatsoever...”
Did you shop around the demo to attract label interests? Do you think that the demo opened some doors for the band? What type of reviews did you get for this tape?
Tomas: „As I said before it was never a real official demo like that , we didn´t send it to any of the bigger magazines or anything or labels for that matter, we were not really interested in all that , it was more important to us how the diehard undergound dudes would greet it, so we got a few mention in a few small fanzines, that´s it basically, and we were dead happy with that as well for that matter.....”
After the releasing of the „Ripped from the cross” Shamaatae quit and instead of him joined Offensor (aka Tomas Eriksson), why did he decide to leave the band and how did the new guy get in the picture exactly? What about his musical background?
Tomas: „Tomas Eriksson came into the band after having played a show with us, with his other band (a local thrash band) where he played the guitar, he was interested in playing drums for a band, and we were looking for members... as he was not into the whole imagery and lyrical approach of the band he choose to stay a session member throughout his stay in the band, as it was important for us (as teenage diehards) that every member of the band was into the same kind of shit as we were his decision didn´t worry us much, Our previous drummer johan lagher (shamaatae) quit/got kicked out, he was just a kid, i guess his dad was worried abouthim hanging out with a bunch of weirdos like us, he also stole some of Kristians vinyls....”
Was he the first choice or were there auditioned other musicians as well? Did you part ways with Shamaatae on a friendly term in the end? Were they involved in other acts after their departure from Grotesque?
Tomas: „As I mentioned before, there were not many people into heavy music at all in gothenburg at the time, we had tried out a few dudes on various instruments, but noone seemed to have a clue what we were after, at least tomas knew who bathory and possessed were, that was at least a start, hehe... shamataee was, as i said , only eleven, we didn´t hear from him ever again.... we later heard he was playing in this troll black metal band or something like that...quite funny, maybe we did „destroy” him after all....”
The coming monts were spent writing new songs like the epic „Angel’s Blood” and „Submit To Death” as well, does it mean, that you immediately started writing new material with Offensor? Did he have a big hand into the songwriting at this point? You rehearsed heavily and composed more complex and evil death/black metal material like „Ascension Of The Dead”, „Blood Runs From The Altar” and „Fall Into Decay”, would you say, that Offensor was more talented and experienced drummer than Shamaatae and it allowed you to move into a complex direction?
Tomas: „No, Tomas was just a session member, we pretty much told him how to play, but as you mention we did have more energy and focus because we had, for the first time, a drummer who could actually play! That was quite a trip for us, we had alot of ideas before but they were never really fulfilled, now we felt we could push the concept a bit further, but all the songs were still written by kristian and me. Some of these songs had been embryos for a long time in our heads.”
Virgintaker: „I was part of writing Blood runs from the altar, Fall into decay, Ripped from the cross, Moondance profecy and Submit to death, (although I never got any credit for any of it).”
On the 4th of May 1989 you recorded the blasphemous rehearsal/demo „The Black Gate Is Closed” featuring „Bestial summoning”, „Blood runs from the altar” and „Angel’s blood”, an avalanche of death and hate preparing the wimps for Grotesque’s first studio recording, what about the recording sessions?
Tomas: „A 4-track portable mixing desk in the rehearsal room, that´s all, it´s all live as well- straight to tape, it´s distorted, twisted and has a weird aura surrounding it, i think this was as close to real satanism we ever came. I think the tape is quite scary in some places actually, because of the desparation and angst displayed in the performance... I guess we were surprised how it turned out and therefor decided to spread the tape more efficiently than previous ones.”
„The black gate is closed” was an advance tape for „The Final Conspiracy” LP demo, is that correct?
Tomas: „That was one of our many plans, we had contact with some guy in brazil who wanted to release an album at this stage, pure f-king underground! Of course we should have kept our mouths shut until we knew it was going to happen, hehe... anyway ; as u all know- this record never happened....”
A rehearsal demo followed this tape, also in 1989, featuring „Angel’s blood”, „Fall into decay” and „Rise of armageddon” was it a better representation of the band? Did this tape sound closer to what you wanted to achieve with Grotesque? On this tape was a longer version of „Angel’s blood”, how did it happen?
Tomas: „When we recorded the black gate is closed, we didn´t have a full version of angels blood , but the part we recorded was so brutal that we decided to put it on the demo as a trailer kind of, inspired by morbid´s deathexecution-trailer on the december moon demo i guess.... the version on that next rehearsal tape is close to the finished version that appears on in the embrace of evil if i remember it correctly. We are playing better on that tape, but i like the feeling and atmosphere on the black gate is closed more.... i guess we were trying to identify the direction of the band, I think this second part of our history starts with the writing of Incantation.”
You were playing a few crazy and brutal live shows at this point, what do you recall from these gigs? Did you do some headlining local shows or were you opening act for bigger bands as well?
Tomas: „Not that many shows were actually played, a mere handful only. These were poorly attended and people didn´t seem to understand what the hell was happening, I guess it all would have been different if we had a scene to interact with, as the bands in stockholm had, at least the guys in the other bands showed up at the local gigs there, in gothenburg we were alone. We did play some memorable shows though, one in strömstad with therion, that show was booked by jon nödtveit actually, he was quite young then and also one in gothenburg with nihilist. We were basically too young, around 15-16 to be able to arrange bigger shows and invite other bands...”
The legendary November 1989 recording of „In The Embrace Of Evil” featured five songs - this was originally ment to be the first five songs of a full lenght album on Dolores Records, another three tracks to be recorded later on therefore, the recording was never released as a demo, what did happen exactly?
Tomas: „This was another totally unprepared thing, hehe... we just happened to come in contact with this guy who had this studio, we were psyched about the option of getting our stuff portrayed in a real studiosound, we scrambled together the cash that was needed, pretty much for us teenage kids probably... and went ahead to record, we were quite unexperienced, to not say totally, of being in a studio , but i think the result is totally ok when i listen back to it, everything is untight to the point of collapse but the underground death metal feeling is there for sure, we did approach dolores about the possibility of releasing it somehow, but everything just fell apart again.... and david quit the band....”
On December 12 ’89 Grotesque played a truly insane local show in front of 200 people, the crowd was in a frenzy as Grotesque launched their brutal death metal at unsuspecting victims, as well as a few of your own songs you got to play „The Return” by Bathory before the show was shut down by local authorities clamining Grotesque were a bunch of drug addicted satanic maniacs trying to start a riot, how do you remember?
Tomas: „how could i ever forget? We lied to the people at our local high school that were organizing the gig to be allowed to even play, when they realized what we were up to they simply pulled the plug on us, hehe... as usual there was not really any people attending that knew what the hell was going on, but people at that age take each chance to stir up some trouble i guess, and our brutal sound proved to be just what the kids needed to totally let go, hehe... a scandal...”
In late 89 Nuctemeron left the band and joined Virgintaker (aka Per Nordgren), what led to Nuctemeron’s departure and how did Virgintaker get in the picture exactly? What about his musical past? Were there still other bassists in mind besides him?
Tomas: „this is all wrong actually, when david quit the band i started to play the bass instead , it was as simple as that, per nordgren was never called virgin taker when he was in the band for a month or two at the very start; he left the band cause he felt that we were too brutal. Hew was later invited to play the reunion show on his merits as one of the original members though.”
This set-back did not hinder the unholy making of new, faster and more technical evil songs , such as „Nocturnal Blasphemies”, „Spawn Of Azathoth”, „Church Of The Pentagram”, „Ritual Mutilation” and the legendary „Incantation” and these new songs fully stated that Grotesque never compromised one way or the other, do you agree with it? Would you say, that you had only gotten blacker, more evil and intense?
Tomas: „yeah, this is the start of the second era of the band for sure, we started to develop our skills as muscians and writers and gained alot of energy from being published in more undergound fanzines than before, the rest of the swedish bands had more in common with each other musically, our style of more satanic, twisted death metal was unusual in our part of the world, i guess that made it stand out as well... yeah, the darkness was increasing by the minute, that´s for sure...”
Guitarist „The Haunting” (aka Alf Svensson) had joined the band in the beginning of the year, do you think, that he brought in a new dimension of brutality into Grotesque?Before Alf being involved in Grotesque, what were the previous acts he has played with?
Tomas: „I got to know alf from high school where he was studying arts, he was a few years older than the rest of us, but we clicked instantly, he came from a more hardcore background, playing in different hardcore punk bands around the area but had an urge to write and play some deeply fucked up evil shit. He definatley brought a new perspective to what we were doing. Initially this was just what we needed, later kristian felt some frustration over his creation being a bit lost in this new version of the band, but for the time that everything worked out, things were killer, alf had some weird ideas when it came to harmonies that i felt complemented kristians intense twisted riffing perfectly and added alot of disturbing feelings to the sound.”
In August 1990 Grotesque did the „Incantation” recording (3 songs for the Dolores Records mini album), did you have a decent budget to record the material? How did the recording sessions go with this material at all? Were you more prepared than for the previous ones?
Tomas: „I guess we had a budget enough to spend three days in sunlight studios with Tomas Skogsberg, i can´t remember how much it costed but it can´t have been that much, we had rehearsed more intensily for this one for sure, and we had also rewritten alot of the material together with alf, that had added alot of extra depth to the songs. We were much more pleased with this recording than with the in the embrace of evil one, I guess we tried to stay away from the obvious entombedguitarsound that everyone wanted when the went to sunlight, we ended up with this very strange, ghostly tone that i haven´t heard on any recording since, it´s really not that distorted, you can hear every note but it´s still brutal, today i look back on this recording with pride, we very creating something very different.”
Did you have some songs written that didn’t make up on the EP?
Tomas: „This were basically the three songs that we had worked hardest on , the ones we felt represented the new grotesque most, we had older unreleased tracks lying around but they weren´t matching the level of brutality of those three songs,that´s why we only recorded these three, also Incantation is a long f-king song...”
The material was released by Dolores Records in lilac vinyl and black vinyl and the black vinyl version seems to be the first pressing, is that correct?How were you signed by them at all? Weren’t any bigger labels interests in the band?
Tomas: „I could not remember, but it feels correct with the black vinyl being the first pressing. We didn´t get any response from any bigger labels, this was at the very start of the recordreleasing era of death metal, u got to remember that, only a few bands had released anything and the explosion hadn´t happened yet. We were probably a bit ahead of our time, it´s also my feeling that it was some meaning to that as well, that grotresque somehow was meant to be an underground band.”
In your opinion, did all of the demos expand Grotesque’s popularity in the underground scene? Were your materials monstrous hits in Swedish underground?
Tomas: „no, we didn´t have any breakthrough whatsoever, i guess we were weirder than most of the stuff that was emeerging, we were also a bit uncalculating, we didn´t do it for the career, we rather spent our time on producing new stuff than hassle record labels or managers or anything like that...”
In 1990 Grotesque played their last show, what do you recall from it?
Tomas: „I had started trying to book some shows for fiends abroad, i was a long time friend from Patrick in disharmonic orchestra and they were doing a low budget diy tour through europe, i basically rented the hall at the local rehearsalpace and invited them for a couple of hundred bucks or something, this was a perfect chance for us to portray our new stuff in front of an audience, we had not played live since the recording of incantation. It was me, tomasoffensor,alf and kristian performing that night and it was a „greatest hits” kind of setlist with material from all our different eras, smoke machine, light show , the whole kit, it was a great experience and also the first time some people came out that actually knew who we were, as the scene had slowly started building up at this point.”
Due to contradictions you split up shortly afterwards, why did you decide to break up?
Tomas: „There are a few different reasons actually, first of all. me and kristian had been talking about doing another project anyway, we felt that grotesque had said all that we wanted to say, that if we continued down the same path for much longer we would eventually paint ourselves in a corner, and we had such great ambitions... we wanted to make music that was more insane, more artisticly challenging and intellectual and we felt that the formula of groteque needed to be intact and that was a dilemma.... we decied to split the band on good terms and start another project; liers in wait... i had at the same time started hanging out more and more with a couple of dudes named anders and jonas and had helped out their band; infestation on bass and vocals – they were doing a more american/stockholm version of death metal along the lines of autopsy, master, nihilist etc and that was alot of fun as well... i guess kristian wanted full control of what he was doing and decided to take the drummer of liers in wait (hans, later in the rgeat deceiver, luciferion, now in dimension zero) with him and reform the project without the rest of us.... „the rest”, i.e. me , alf anders and jonas would instead form at the gates...all of a sudden u had two bands continuing a part of the grotesque legacy , but in different ways....”
After the demise of the band Kristian Wahlin aka Necrolord became known, who painted the album covers for many bands, like Emperor and Dissection and formed Liers In Wait , you an Alf went on to form At The Gates, but what about Virgintaker and Offensor after Grotesque broke up? Did you remain in touch with each other?
Tomas: „As I mentioned before per nordgren (who was NEVER called virgintaker) disappeared from the band after just a couple of months, never to associate himself with death metal again, offensor actually started singing instead and have played in a variety of local gothenburg bands, none of them releasing anything.... none of us have really stayed in touch but we say hi when we meet...grotesque had always been just me and kristian, though alf had some input in the last version as well...”
Virgintaker: „No. We didn’t hear from each other for years and years. We’d see each other around town, but we weren’t talking. I was fed up with the fact that all I heard at rehearsals was „play faster”. At that time I was getting into other music. More melodic and expressive. Not unlike what became of Kristian and his „Liars in wait project”. I bought a long leather coat and started playing music more along the lines of Fields of the Nephelim. I guess the others thought it was kind of cool because they asked to borrow the coat for a photoshoot. The coat that Tompa is wearing on the back sleave of „In the embrace...” is actually mine. There have been many claims to this coat. People have actually payed alot of money for what they thought was this coat. The truth is it fell apart many years later still in my possesion and I threw it in a secondhand-bin while living in Sundsvall. So unless it came from there the ones they bought were fake, suckers... ”
In your opinion, did Liers In Wait and At The Gates deserved followers of Grotesque?
Virgintaker: „I think they are both quite bland in comparism. I’ll probably get alot shit for saying this but neither is as good as Grotesque. Way too technical and not half as much nerve. Listen to „The flames of the end”. What the F- is that? This is ofcourse a matter of taste. But I prefer the punkier aspects of Grotesque such as Submit to death.”
Would you say that Grotesque was the forerunner of what became known during the mid ’90s „Gothenburg melodic death” metal or did you address the same concepts that evolved black metal but takes a much more death metal interpretation through polyrhythmic phrasing and structuralist architectures?
Tomas: „I do beleive that grotesque, as u mention as an option, have more in common with what happened later with bands as darkthrone, satyricon, etc.... we were a brutal, satanic death metal band.... it was important for us to be dark and ritualistically pure. That whole gothenburg thing happened way later, and i do take my hand away from it all, I guess , as we were the first band to play extreme music in gothenburg we might be to blame for introducing the kids to the subgenre, but i don´t think we were ever an influence musically...”
Virgintaker: „I read that phrase on a website somewhere and I find it really funny. While I was in the band the goal was to be as brutal as possible. „polyrhythmic phrasing and structuralist architectures” is ofcourse high-brow bullshit. I know Kristian spent alot of time and devotion writing those songs, but hardly to have them described that way. This music wasn’t written to be deconstructed it was written to be experienced, loud!”
Did you have an important impact on bands, such as In Flames, Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquillity etc.?
Tomas: „I guess some of the guys in those bands, the ones that are old enough, came to a few of the grotesque last shows and bought the incantation album, but other than that , no... i guess at the gates had a more direct input in that whole thing, but the formula was later bastardized and made more melodic etc.... as i said; i take my hand away from that whole thing... i have nothing against any of those bands, they are great artists and some of them are great friends, but if u ask them they will tell u the same; that grotesque did not have any influence on them musically...”
Virgintaker: „It’s hard to say. At the time Grotesque folded I doubt they had much impact. The impact has come later with the 1996 release. This is of course just a guess.”
On the Friday 13 of 1996 Necrolord, Goatspell and Offensor entered Berno studio to record 2 songs especially for the „In The Embrace Of Evil” cd, „Church Of The Pentagram” and „Ripped From The cross”, the very first songs you wrote after Grotesque’s demise, from where did come the idea to write these tunes?
Tomas: „Ripped from the cross, was as u mention one of the very first songs to be written ever by me and kristian.... it was recorded along with the rest of the tracks on the initial in the embrace of evil session, somehow that song was lost over the years though and we couldn´t find it on ay of the mastertapes, when dolores introduced us to the idea of finally releasing all the grotesque studiomaterial on one cd (maybe to cash in on the success of at the gates?), we felt that we couldn´t release it without this significant song.... and going to the studi to record just one song felt stupid, so we took one of our old songs, church of the pentagram, and reworked it a little....”
Virgintaker: „Ripped from the cross is actually the very first song we ever wrote. It’s just re-recorded. I heard from the boys that they put it on there for laughs. Now it’s like a grotesque-anthem. Me and Kristian had alot of fun comming up with this one. The idea is that when Christ is hanging on his cross, this huge hand comes up from under ground, grabs him around the waist and, well, rips him from the cross. None of this graphic desciption evermade it into the final song. What a pity... As for „Church...” I’ve no idea. But it’s a great song.”
Was this record a kind of tribute or paying attention to Grotesque?
Virgintaker: „It might have been. Or it was Tompa needing money ;-) I don’t know. I’m glad it was released though. As I said; if it hadn’t been, I’m not sure Grotesque would have had the same impact.”
Were you deeply involved inte the making of this?
Virgintaker: „I wasn’t even aware of it.”
This album unites a session of early material and two later recording sessions, meaning that it is a time lapse double album of a band emerging from itself - it grows and it mutates, erratically, but beautifully, into a direction visibly incendiary in inspiring At the Gates, what do you think about it?
Tomas: „Well, as i said before, it is basically the Incantation-recording and the In the embrace of evil recording, together on one album: as it was intended long ago... the plan that never happened somehow (the incantation minilp was kind of a compromise)... the new recording was intended to fill the gap between the two old ones, i guess the comparison with early at the gates is logical – seeing that both me and alf were in both bands....”
Virgintaker: „I think it’s a beautiful piece of work and I’m proud to be associated with it although I had nothing to do with it (apart from partaking in writing some of the songs on it).”
Would you say, that the first part of this album showcases frenetic and violent early songs in the crossover of percussive speed metal with early death metal riff styles and structural variations, especially in the tendency of Satanic bands like Slayer to use strange pieces of songwriting to build logically communicative top-level architectures?This is an ugly, uncanny bastardisation of death metal, the complex song structures and raw, unrelenting atmosphere of early Morbid Angel is blended with the messy over-stretched teenage ambition of early Possessed with some manic Slayer solos, crushing slow passages, atmospheric intros, an overtly Satanic image, how do you see it?
Tomas: „Well, that was a quite good explanation I guess, except for the thing about speed metal, to me speed metal is bands like helloween etc, which i think is total crap... we were inspired by possessed, morbid angel, insanity, necrovore, pentagram... stuff like that. Although i guess our roots in music like bathory, sodom, hellhammer, kreator, destuction, slayer, dark angel shines through on some of the older stuff which gives it that primitive charm.... and that mix might be what makes it interesting...”
The first half of the album bears a great similarity to pioneers Slayer as well as Sepultura materials of years past; its songs are fast but extract turns of melody and structure and the art of recombinance to reveal an inherent pattern and similar to middle 80s works of thrash-influenced metal where chorus lines determined major song rhythm and thus a predictable sequence of emphasis points for any phrase, this music rages along nicely with a somewhat confused but aesthetically coherent and structurally focused textural evolution, what do you think about it?
Tomas: „We were young and hyper, we wanted to combine the furious aggression and brutality of the early favorites, sepulturas first two albums are important here, together with other brazilian faves such as sarcofago and ritual... with more complex, profane textures of more intellectual nature, that gives the whole project a twisted feel of something not being quite right, some real insanity going on... and i think this only happens when u are young and inspired in the sense that we were.”
Virgintaker: „Again, very high-brow description of music created by beerdrinking teenagers. Although probably a very precice description as Slayer is what we all listened to at the time.”
Would you say, that a slow melting and recombination of momentum in each riff allows a melody to gel from the associative structures of the song, but the abrupt narrative of violence in embedded rhythms gives the music its underlying strength and encodes an artistic portrayal of an abstract perspective on human aggression?
Tomas: „There is so much natural teenage aggression on that record, it´s all real frustration and anger – all this is played out in a scenery of more abstract musical structures, disjointed ideas almost caveing in from the weight of pure hate. This is real music , from the heart.”
What about the lyrical concept as a whole? Were you heavily influenced by satanism, Anti-Christianity, occult things and stuff to use titles, such as „Ripped from the cross”, „Blood runs from the altar”, Thirteen bells of doom”, „Church of the pentagram” etc.?
Tomas: „Grotesque was a melting pot for all our aggression as i mentioned earlier, our way of expressing ourselves was in the most antisocial, nihilistic and misanthropic way possible; satanism. I was very inspired by the works of aleister crowley in these early days and we tried hard to create something along these lines of thinking. Of course some of the older songs are more basic and u can see inspiration from other death metal bands being more obvious, but as the band grew, the lyrics had to evolve too... referring more to philosophy surrounding occultism and satanism than the actual riual itself, we went inside the psychological depths of this subreligious activity, i am however a militant atheist and am only interested in satanism and it´s thoughts and not the religious practice itself...”
In your opinion, is „In the embrace of evil” an extremely nasty listening experience, and a classic example of Real Death Metal? Was this record deserved ending of Grotesque’s career?
Tomas: „We had quit much earlier, as i mentioned in question no. 33, when we decided to get back together to record those two songs in 1996, it was understood that we were going to do that, and nothing else, we never „reformed”, so we couldn´t possibly quit again, could we?”
Virgintaker: „Definately. Actually the record is probably better than Grotesque ever really where.”
The material was also re-released as a split with At the Gates’ „Gardens of Grief” EP as well by Century Media in 2001, how did it happen? Were you aware of it release?
Tomas: „this was done behind our baks, noone is happy with that release, it is official, but we have n´t seen a penny from it.”
Virgintaker: „Don’t know.”
On 26 January 2007 you played some songs in the release party of the Swedish death metal book and decided to reunite, what about this book as a whole? Do you think that Sweden became the home of the European death metal movement and had a very big importance on the scene?
Tomas: „I think this book is fantastic, it tells the true story of what happened at the turn of the last decade. Also, the way it was written, in the same enthusiastic style as the fanzines from that period, paints a full picture of the feeling back then. I am happy that daniel put this project together, it´s a great read! About sweden being some sort of death metal capital i don´t know, it´s not up to me to judge that. Some of the bands involved in the scene has caused a great ruckus and had international careers, so something must have been good! Right?”
Virgintaker: „Everyone should get the book. And almost everyone has... I think it’s sales have actually broken a few records. Well done Daniel! The story behind the gig is that me and Kristian met in Stockholm while he was here exibiting his art at a metal expo. Daniel came over while we where talking and we started talking about a Grotesque reunion for the release of the book. Said and done. Daniel claims this in his book. I wouldn’t really know.”
How did the show go? Didn’t you think about to give more shows? What about the line up and the setlist as a whole?
Tomas: „The gig was fun, it was weird for sure , trying to recapture that teenage aggression and angst at the age of thirtysomething, but because of the fact that the audience was solely compromised by people that were around when it „happened” originally with members from merciless, grave, treblinka, dismember, morbid, obscurity, macrodex etc... it made it easier to cope with. The line up was me-vocals, kristian-guitars, offensor-drums, insulter(johan)-session guitars and per nordgren-bass, we played incantation,blood runs from the altar, spawn of azathoth, ripped from the cross and submit to death.... it was a weird but great night. Nirvana 2002 and interment played as well....”
Virgintaker: „The show was fantastic. The crowd was insane, we were at the height of our game. We where all covered in black paint, as was the entire backstage area. Tompa was drinking the paint from a skull and spewing it into the crowd. What an entertainer! My brothers (and fellow bandmembers of AUTOTRASH) who where in the audience claimed it was pure genius. At the end of the show we where all really psyched up for alot more shows. At least almost all of us... We were offered several show right away and everyone was thrilled to be back in action. We were all prepared to do a show in Gothenburg at a major venue when Tompa all of a sudden decides that he doesn’t want to do it. With no explanation and without consulting any of us he just called it of. The booker called me, furious ofcourse, while I was away on holiday. I was in chock. Apparently she (the booker) had arranged all kinds of cool/weird stuff, like topless nuns serving Jaegermeister...!! The band on the reunion night was: Goatspell on throat and ink-skull, Necrolord on main strings, Insulter also on strings, Virgintaker on thunderbird, Offensor on skins. The set list as it was played: „The thirteen bells of doom”, „Blood runs from the altar”, „Submit to death”, „Spawn of Azathoth”, „Incantation” and „ Ripped from the cross”.”
Did you perhaps film or record the performance?
Tomas: „Someone, somewhere has something, I know i saw a camera, my advice it to search the internet forums for this... i don´t have any film of any performance I´ve ever done, as i am no narcissist...hehe...”
Virgintaker: „The show was filmed by a TV-team and I’ve seen the result. I’m still waiting for Daniel to somehow release it, because it great entertainment. I think some of the other bands are hesitant to have it released because they have other careers which they feel would not benifit from it, or some shit like that.”
On April 2nd 2007 you Tompa announced that Grotesque was done after a few shows, does it mean that you put the band for good on ice? Won’t be any further Grotesque shows, new materials etc. in the near future?
Tomas: „Grotesque is dead, the legacy shall remain intact forever. We did one reunion to record the two songs for in the embrace of evil and one reunion for daniels book because he is a great friend, that´s all, it would not be true to the spirit of the band to try to do this with the same conviction agian: i don´t think that´s something u could ever calculate and try to recreate...”
Virgintaker: „Actually there where no more shows. When Tompa decided to quit the Gothenburg show the rest of us considered getting a new singer but we realized that it probably wouldn’t work. I know that Kristian started writing new material almost right away and I’ve sent him some new lyrics but I doubt that anything will come out of it.”
Would you say, that Grotesque marked people’s minds and became one of the most influential death metal outfits?
Virgintaker: „Considering the reponse we got at the gig I would have to agree. People traveled from all over Europe to see us at this tiny club. Daniel claimed that he had about 2000 people who wanted tickets but the venue only held about 200 people. When I listen to a song like Angels blood I can’t help but qoute Tompa in his pressrelease with which he finally killed the band „It can never be as brutal”.”
Any final words to our readers?
Tomas: „I think it is awesome that people are still interested in grotesque, that means we must have been doing something right... thanks for all the time you spent on creating this interview, it warms my heart that you dedicated so much time trying to reach the inner core of the band. grotesque will always be in my heart, as it is a big part of my life, even today... I beleive we must let the band rest now though, to keep he legacy intact... anyway, thanks and take care!!!!”
Virgintaker: „Grotesque are dead but the creative genius lives on in other forms such as Disfear, The Great Deceiver and AUTOTRASH. There are even rumours that At The Gates are reforming. Who knows what the future holds...?”

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