Swedish death metal veterans Sarcasm have recently unleashed an album (yes, an actual album!) full of dark melodies, razor sharp riffing, atmospheric passages and catchy hooks. ‘Within The Sphere Of Ethereal Minds’ (recently released on Dark Descent) takes the listener on a multi-faceted musical journey with many twists and turns that takes you right back to the glory days of the early to mid ’90s melodic death metal scene before the genre became oversaturated and commercialised. There is a blackened edge to their aural aggression too much in the same vein as their fellow countrymen Unanimated and Dissection. Iron Fist spoke with frontman Heval Bozarslan to find out more about the album and comeback.
Your latest full-length ‘Within The Sphere Of Ethereal Minds’ just came out, what can we expect and are you pleased with it?
They can expect 35 minutes of jaw-dropping, ball-crushing, catchy yet face-melting death metal. I’m more than satisfied, even though I listened to the pre-production demos a thousand times and knew that this material was strong I didn’t know it would turn out this good. All the people involved really gave 100 percent and believed in this. And so far the reaction from people who have heard it has been great.”
Where was the new album recorded?
The album was recorded at HSH Studios in Uppsala. Two of our friends, Alvaro and Philip helped us out with the recording and it was recorded during summer last year. Lawrence Mackrory mixed and mastered the album in November at his studio in Uppsala. Well, mostly because Peter [Laitinen, guitars] already recorded there at the same time with his other band, so it was easier for us and the studio is very near. Lawrence was around way back in our demo-days and listened to this band and knew exactly what this band was all about, he was the only choice for us. They know exactly how a death metal album should be recorded and what kind of a sound we were after. They did a great job, the album has an atmospheric, clear and, at the same time, brutal sound.
Tell us about the album title and also what inspired the lyrics on the new album?
The album’s main theme is the universe, and the laws of the universe. I wanted somehow to explain in a metaphoric and metaphysical way that everyone is their own creation and creator of their own reality and almost every song is told from the non-physical’s point of view, the energy flow that focuses on this physical earth. Thereof the album title; ethereal minds are the non-physical energy stream who tell the stories, and they are told within their sphere. The inspiration comes from my many years of interest in these subjects. I read a lot and think a lot about this stuff so I had to write about it also. It’s not a concept album, but it has the same theme throughout the whole album.
You formed in 1990 and were one of the central bands in the No Fashion/early melodic death metal scene in Sweden until you split in 1994 just before it really took off. How do you feel this new material compares to the older Sarcasm material? Do you feel there has been a significant progression since the reunion in 2015?
The newer songs, except for one or two are more to the point and shorter, they are faster, more in your face and at the same time more technical. The thing that remains and the most important is that the songs are memorable, like the old ones. They all have their own uniqueness, and these songs also explore other areas of the metal spectrum; we have, for instance, some riffs that are more thrash-oriented. We have combined different worlds before and still do, the only thing this album doesn’t have that our first album had are keyboards. It wasn’t planned, it just turned out that way. The only odd instrument on the new album is 20 seconds of violin.
Would say you have stayed true to the roots of the bands original sound with this new album, was there any conscious decisions to do anything different when writing the new material?
Yes, in the beginning we discussed how the direction would be, and we all agreed that it must be a natural continuation from where we left. Keep the old sound but go a step further. If you imagine that our first album was actually released in 1994 and then the new in 1996 it’d be easier to understand. A natural progression from the first. I’ve heard people say that it sounds exactly like before but much better, and that’s okay too.
How long did it take to write the material for the new album?
The writing took eight months. Eight songs in eight months. Peter wrote the music and made demos, with drum tracks and everything and sent them to me one-by-one so I could write the lyrics, so it was only him and me working at first. And during those eight months we had to take a break because of Oscar [Karlsson]’s death and two of our members quit before the recording. So when all the songs were complete we talked to Matte [Modin, drums] and Jonas [Soder, bass] and finally Anders [Eriksson, guitars]. The process was fun as hell, we had so much inspiration and ideas and we just went with the energy flow. And the thing is, we didn’t rehearse once prior to the recording.
What formats will be the new album be available on and how did you hook up with Dark Descent?
The album will be released on CD and LP. The vinyl is in production now as we speak and will be out in June I think. And also digital. We haven’t talked about the casette yet but perhaps we’ll release it in the future for the tape freaks, there are plenty of those, I heard. I’ve known Matt Calvert from Dark Descent for a few years now since his label released our two-CD compilation in 2015 and our first album properly last year. I asked him if Dark Descent would be interested in releasing the new album also, he said of course and the deal was made. They did an awesome job on our other releases and they also released an EP of my other band Third Storm. It’s a perfect label for us.
Who is responsible for the excellent artwork on the new album?
The artwork was made by Raul Gonzales, a Spanish artist who also did the artwork for ‘Burial Dimensions’. Well, actually I came up with the concept. The artwork continues on the back of the cover, it’s the universe with all the planets in our solar system lined up, with stuff like a vortex, stars etc. Planet Earth is in focus, that’s why our mascot Sarcor is holding it in his hand. We love the artwork and Raul will definately do artwork for us in the future also. We wanted something that looked alive, wild and could be recognisable, something that had that ’80s feel to it, you know, something that people will remember. In the past all artworks were like that and today they are all iconic, made by hand and not some crappy photoshop crap. I mean, who remembers all those photoshop-made album covers that were made the end of 90s to mid 2000s?
During the writing and rehearsing for the new album tragedy struck the band with the sudden death of your long-time drummer Oscar Karlsson… that must have been a huge shock. Did his passing leave the future of the band in any doubt at one point?
Yeah, it was a shock, it was so sudden you know. Without warning, without anything, just like that, the heart stopped. Yes, we had doubts and didn’t know what to do, so we agreed to take a break. Oscar wasn’t involved in the songwriting process but inspired us a great deal. He kept saying: yes, more of this, this is amazing, we must record this, etc. and Peter loved that feedback and delivered more and greater stuff. Six songs were completed before Oscar passed away, we wrote another two after the break, in April and May. Those two songs were ‘A Black Veil For Earth’ and ‘The Drowning Light At The Edge Of The Dawn’, the last two songs on the album.
How did you go about finding his replacement Matte Modin (Firespawn, Raised Fist, ex-Dark Funeral)?
We’ve known Matte since way back, he’s been involved in other bands in the past with Sarcasm members so he was no stranger to us. And he and Oscar were friends since they were kids. You know, in Uppsala every metal musician knows each other. So, I just asked him if he would like to play on the album, he said sure. We chose him because the songs demanded a good drummer. In Uppsala there are few drummers who can do all those crazy things Oscar did behind the kit, we wanted someone like him and at the same time someone who can add his own style to the mix. And we knew Matte could do that, and he did it perfectly.
What made you want to play this style of music in the first place? What bands and general influences helped shape the sound of Sarcasm?
Well, for me at least it was the underground scene and the extreme bands of the ’80s, when I got into this music in 1983-84 and discovered bands like Venom, Hellhammer, Bathory. I was literally addicted to that music and discovered more and more of that stuff. You know, back then bands like Possessed and Sodom were the most extreme thing, although we didn’t use words like kvlt or necro to describe those bands. But if you were into that stuff in 1985 you were the craziest guy in town and the one with the worst music taste, here in Uppsala anyway. Anyway that scene made me want to have a band of my own so I started Third Storm in 1986. That band didn’t do well so we broke up in 1988 but I was still into extreme music and checked out everything that came out and wanted one way or the other to start another band but failed. In Uppsala at that time most people either liked Europe or happy thrash like Anthrax and crap like that, it was impossible to find members who wanted to play extreme metal.
But then in 1990 I asked my like-minded friend Fredrik Wallenberg if he was interested in starting a death metal band, so that’s when the band started and we were extremely into death metal at that time, especially all those underground bands. We checked out every single one of them and were completely obsessed by it. When we started we were pretty much a standard death metal band, we were one of those Autopsy/Death-inspired bands. But as time passed by, after a few demo-tapes the band became more professional and better musicians, the song structures changed also, into more complex, melodic and epic stuff, the inspirations came from all over the place actually. Sure, we checked out every band band that came out, and even that second wave of black metal. I remember how blown away we were when we heard the second Master’s Hammer album, it was so innovative and daring to do stuff like that back then and we listened to that album so much and I think that inspired us a lot, not so much in a musical way perhaps but it inspired us to experiment and go our own way. They are still one of my favorite bands. And since we were so much into extreme music and couldn’t listen to anything else for years, after a time we got a little bored and started to develope a varied music taste and also re-discovered traditional heavy metal, something that inspired us when we did our last demos.
And besides that we listened to stuff that wasn’t metal at all, you know stuff like Dead Can Dance, Fields Of The Nephilim and lots and lots and lots of ‘Angel Rat’ by Voivod. The inspiration now is metal in general, I would say. And it can clearly be heard on our new album, we don’t limit ourselves, if we for instance have a great thrash or heavy riff we add it to the mix, the important thing is to have a good and memorable song and it has to be played in a deadly and furious way. That’s how great albums of the past were made, the time before everything had to be categorised in a compulsive way. That’s the trick to do good music and that’s how we have learned, before and now. But the most important inspiration is life itself, and ourselves.
Tell us about the ‘Burial Dimensions’ release? It’s basically a discography release? Are you satisfied with how that turned out?
There’s a bit of confusion regarding this I have noticed. ‘Burial Dimensions’ is our first album recorded in 1994 and was released last year on vinyl. But the two-CD compilation that was released in 2015 is also entitled ‘Burial Dimensions’. It’s actually the same compilation as ‘To The Death’ released on vinyl in 2011, but we chose the title ‘Burial Dimensions’ for the two-CD to bring the 1994 album itself more to the light and the cover that was used is the same cover that the ‘Burial Dimensions’ vinyl has. In a way you can say that the ‘Burial Dimensions’ two-CD is the album plus 6 demo-tapes as a bonus. Yeah we are very satisfied with how that turned out. We remastered some of the stuff on it and did some cleaning up etc. And also the vinyl that was released last year turned out good. Our past stuff has been released many times now, it’s nice to see that people still want that stuff. This year, a cassette box-set will be released, with all the past demo-tapes, limited edition and numbered with some additional stuff in it. The tape freaks will probably drool when they see that.
You have all been involved in the scene for a while, what keeps you inspired and motivated to continue?
I don’t know, beacause it’s so fun I think. It’s where you belong, and even when there was a time I didn’t want to be a part of it, it eventually called for me and dragged me back, and the other members feel the same way. I think we give each other inspiration and it’s a good thing if you do other stuff also besides this scene, otherwise you get bored by it after a while. That’s one of the reasons I left in ’94. Nowadays I watch a lot of movies and I get inspired by that, and also do other stuff. The scene is much more fun if you’re involved in a healthy and non-obsessive way.
How do you feel about the current death metal scene both in Sweden and worldwide compared to the early-mid 1990s?
There are so many bands today that I need to have 20 or 30 lifetimes in order to check all of them. In the past you could keep track of every band that came. I try to check out as many as I can and some of them are really fantastic, bands like Sulphur Aeon and Phobocosm for instance. And I checked out the new album by Hemotoxin the other day, really amazing stuff. Well, you know, of course it was better before. I mean all those albums from the early days are of course much better. I’ve always prefered American death metal before Swedish, they were more technical, faster and more exciting and almost all of them had their own specific uniqueness. The Swedish were also good but almost every band had the same sound. It got one-dimensional and boring after a while, and some of the melodic death metal were really good but after mid-’90s most of that became cheesy and embarrassing in my opinion. But if you ask me which period of death metal I prefer most I’d say the earliest days, Possessed, Celtic Frost, Necrophagia, Death and all those amazing extreme bands of the 1980s. For me those bands were the best and deadliest. But anyway, there are good stuff today of course, and some are really boring, many of the bands just goes in and out the other ear. They have to have that one special extra thing to make me excited.
How active is Sarcasm as a live entity?
Not that active at the moment, but we will be. If you want to book us, give us a call. Thanks for this interview and hope you like the new album and perhaps we’ll see you on the road, and check our Facebook page for news, announcements etc. Cheers!
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