Raise hell, get seduced by the dark and shun the light – three things WITCHGRAVE make us want to do in 2013. The young Swedes have just vomited forth their first full-length and it’s not been off the Iron Fist stereo since it landed. Hearing everything from Venom to the blues in there we had to find out more and sent DAVE SHERWOOD to the cabin in the woods to infiltrate the coven.
“Vomit on the fucking priest!”
That’s probably the best greeting we’ve had from a band this issue. And it’s no surprise that it comes in email form from Swedish youth gone wild, Witchgrave. Their self-titled full-length arrived in our postboxes like an early “fukk you” from Santa just before Christmas. Fitting since we’ve not exactly been the best-behaved children this year. The album, which contains juvenile blasts of thrashing fury such as ‘Seduced By The Dark’, ‘Raise Hell’ and ‘The Virgin Must Die’, is just the dose of merciless, Venom-ous, old metal brilliance we needed to end the old year, and ring in the new.
Witchgrave are inhuman, they’re forged from the molten wax of someone’s complete Neat Records collection which has been burned (and died). A little bit of Jaguar, an even bigger touch of Raven and a huge “fist” of Venom, if you like metal you’ll love Witchgrave – fact!
And the best thing about this whole album, is that is sounds like it was a real blast to make.
“That recording was fucked up,” laughs drummer Sven Nilsson, who also plays in Antichrist and Eviscerated [who are annoyingly on hold for now]. “But it was also really enjoyable. We were trapped in a tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere for about a week with only two goals: to get drunk and make a record. We were about six guys there most of the time, just doing what we felt like at the moment. We had the studio guy and esteemed producer Philip [Svennefelt] from Helvetets Port. He is maniac. And then there was David [Olofsson] from Portrait and Hands Of Orlac. Both are really good guys and they both had the same twisted thoughts as us on how the record should sound so the creative moments were terrific. I also remember Oscar Thunder from Helvetets Port hanging out there a lot.”
This is no surprise to our ears. Of course, it makes complete sense that Satan’s jokers would be present when Witchgrave put their warped ideas and love of heavy metal onto tape. It also makes us want to be a fly on that studio wall – not to mention help provide the backing vocals to the ‘Motorcycle Killer’ chorus. But it couldn’t have been all downing beers, listening to Priest and acting like doofuses – the proof is in the pudding with the album ready to be unleashed any day by High Roller Records. So, how did the madness become the reality?
“I borrowed Oscar’s drums since they were already in the studio. Thanks warrior,” says Sven. “Most of the material for the record was written earlier, but some riffs, lyrics and other stuff was written in the studio during some moment of diabolical inspiration.”
Fresh from a earlier EP, 2010’s ‘The Devils Night’, which gained the band a lot of recognition, particularly from Mr Gylve Nagell, who quickly made them one of his infamous bands of the week in June 2010, did the band feel any pressure to meet the high standards already laid down?
“No man,” Sven replies. “Witchgrave has only Witchgrave in mind when the music is written and we don’t put any pressure on ourselves. As you hopefully can tell from the album we usually do what ever we want and feel like. Of course there is always some discussion on how a song should sound, but we usually have the same ideas. Obviously we want to write good songs and if we always question ourselves and try to stay as inspired as possible during the writing process the results usually reflect that in a positive way. So, no pressure, but a will to do something we are satisfied with. This record sound quite different from the first one and who knows what next album might sound like?”
We’ve already talked a bit about their influences ranging from, well, Axis to Wraith and everything in between, but while the band are staying inspired to write who, other than the Neat lads, are Witchgrave influence by? We’re pretty sure we can hear some blues hidden within the thrash attack.
“Witchgrave has a rather wide spectrum of inspiration,” admits Sven, “and that it often shines through. Some of us listen quite a lot to blues, blues inspired heavy rock, boogie and what have you, so sure, if you can hear it, it’s probably there. I can’t remember a time where we were directly inspired by a specific blues artist or song but on an other level there is much we owe to the old days of blues and rock music.”
Witchgrave’s honesty about their musical influence is illuminating, but what of their lyrical stance? Like so many old sounding heavy metal or black thrash bands, Satan rears his heads. Why does Sven think that Him downstairs is of such importance?
“Probably because it is such a intriguing and powerful subject. Maybe on a wider level it has become pointless and hollow, but on a personal level it can still offer you a lot. We have songs about Satan because it continues to be fascinating and meaningful to us and it also is something very closely related to heavy metal and a “fuck off” attitude towards life in general.
Well, it is said that the Devil has all the best tunes and he’s still on a winning streak with Witchgrave. The band formed in 2008 in their hometown of Växjö, but despite dispersing across the country to attend university among other things the band have been steadily sowing the seeds for this debut album.
“We all have other bands and projects which take up time,” is Sven’s excuse for the four year wait for ‘Witchgrave’ [their members are busy in the aforementioned Antichrist, as well as Jigsore Terror, Slingblade, The Rotting, Inverted Cross and Leukemia]. “And we don’t rush things. Sometimes things take a long time and now that most of us live in different cities things probably won’t get any better. Hopefully we can keep a steady pace from now on and get things going with gigs and stuff.
“We started like that because it originally was a project of Jocke’s [Joakim Norberg to his parents]. He had written some Venom-like riffs and me and him just put together a few songs for a demo that we recorded in our rehearsal place. But then High Roller heard it and we ended up releasing it as an EP instead. Gabbe [Forslund] who is in Antichrist with me did some guitar solos on that EP and after we released it we realised we wanted to have a full line-up so that we could play live and become a proper band. So Gabbe joined us and some time later Tobbe [Ander] told us that if we ever needed a second guitar he wanted to give it a shot. So, he started playing live and then he just became a member. We needed four people because we wanted to play live and there is quite a lot of dual guitar work.”
With the band now functioning as a live four-piece the band were ready to hit the studio, but not before putting in some road miles.
“We have played Sweden, England and Norway and the Live Evil gig was the first one outside of Sweden,” Sven recalls, bringing back memories of a very inebriated weekend in October 2011 for both Witchgrave and most of our writing staff. “That was completely insane! Antichrist will probably play the warm-up show this year and I am really looking forward to it! We did some shows over here before that and then we have also gone to Olso and a festival called Til Dovre Faller in Norway. That was a great festival. We haven’t played that much yet but we are looking to change that.”
And we have to mention Muskelrock, where some of team Iron Fist discovered them in summer 2011!
“Muskelrock is magic. Maybe the best festival in the world. It’s located right outside of our home town and we know the organisers from way back. It’s a perfect venue and it only attracts dedicated heavy metal people.”
Is that important to Witchgrave? Can they feel the wind of change that is turning in favour of simplistic styled heavy metal of late?
“Maybe so, but I think it is only a trend and that people who today look at ancient and honest heavy metal as something exciting, heart-warming and almost cute will soon die. Hopefully they will die a horribly painful and real death. These people who think heavy metal is a fashion thing.
“I think that the change of heart is only temporary and will last as long as this retro-trend thing lasts. Don’t get me wrong, I like that there’s more young people, like us, that are into good, traditional heavy metal and other kinds of early metal/hard rock now than a some years ago. And these people will live on and continue to fight against all this bullshit that the retro-trend has given us. In Sweden we see fashion rockers and true posers everywhere today but that must certainly change soon right? I hope and believe so.”
So do we, Witchgrave!
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