In fair Sweden is where we set our scene. Two cities, both alike in dignity… you know the story. You’re either Stockholm or you’re Gothenburg, and this isn’t an article about football. Sweden may have taken the crown (no Johan Lindstrand related puns please!) when it came to Europe’s burgeoning death metal scene but the line was drawn depending on if you preferred the melodic thrash of Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates (in the red corner… Gothenburg) or the buzzsaw, Sunlight sound creeping out of the darkness in Stockholm thanks to bands like Entombed, Dismember and Treblinka.
But 45 miles north from the Swedish capital lies a previously untapped pool of death metal nihilism. In a university town of 140,000, Uppsala is the religious capital of Sweden so it’s unsurprising that it gave us early progenitors of Swedeath in Sarcasm and black metal bastards Unpure and later Watain. But the spotlight has turned away from the old guards of the major cities and is glaring on this unassuming hub of metal mania. Invidious, Graveless and Degial have put Uppsala on the death metal map and it’s showing the big boys of Stockholm and Gothenburg that the sounds of the suburbs is encroaching on their patch.
The core of the Uppsala Metal Of Death pack centres around few key players, who jump in and out of projects of equally exciting status, which means only one seems to be fully active at any one time. Currently the throne is held by blasphemous brats, Degial.
With a ‘striking’ new album on Sepulchral Voice vying for Album-Of-The-Year status over at Iron Fist HQ, following a 7” that made collectors cry thanks to its hard-to-find cachet (‘Death And Darkness Buries All’, 2010, Blood Harvest Records) Degial boast E Forcas (Graveless) on drums and H Death (Invidious) on vocals and guitars, which proves the theory about the town’s metal inter-connectability (they’re joined by R Meresin on guitars and J Megiddo on bass). They’re a band that smacks of youthful arrogance, inner-city rage and unbalanced genius and despite their age the Degial mob have leant their talents to live duties for the Swedish veterans, picking up tools of the trade for the likes of Repugnant, Watain, Shining, Unpure and Malign when needed, cementing their status as not only a young band to watch out for but as one that has support where it matters most, from their forbears, who, as we know, do not give their approval so easily.
Wrapped up in a cacophony of obliteration, Degial are a band that do not just talk the talk, which is why there is as much trepidation approaching them for an interview as there is listening to their unruly output or watching their no-bullshit live show. In a world where extremity is polished up and watered down, Degial are a reminder of why death metal is called death metal.
“Our mission is to play death metal, to bring back what death metal was in the beginning. Not to bring back some old school sound, more to bring back what death metal really meant – music for people that worship death,” spits H Death, spokesperson for the mutinous mob. It’s the kind of statement that gives Iron Fist goosebumps. It’s a genuine answer and one that is frightening because it’s has no bounds. Read between the lines and understand that this is a band who have a mission, and that mission is to sermonise the true spirit of extreme music. No hold fucking barred.
But that’s not all they’re preaching. Following in the left-hand footsteps of countrymen Dissection, Watain and Funeral Mist, Degial’s message is not one an earthly concern.
“With a lot of dedication and worshiping to our Gods we got a lot of signs that really told us to continue on the same path we were on and after the release of our EP ‘Death And Darkness Buries All’ we felt that it was time for us to start working on a full-length album. We could have released an album a long time ago, but we are really accurate on what we release. Everything has to feel perfect,” H continues. “The link that we have to death and the darkness is what drives us to create. We are the tongues of the mist that spread the words from our Gods.”
But while their outlook and output reeks of inspiration and guidance from their Lawless elders (Watain requested personally that they open for them at the recent 13th anniversary ritual in Gothenburg), Degial are not leaping into the flames, understanding that bands like Watain and Marduk took time to evolve. They’re hungry, that’s undisputed, but their hunger is not focussed on the fame and fortune of many metal musicians their age and they’re comfortable playing outside of the mainstream music rules, shunning such demands as band photos and interviews.
“We always do what feels right for us,” is H’s reply for printable photos of the band for this feature (fat chance). “We chose ‘photos’ that represent the atmosphere that we try to create. If a magazine doesn’t want to have us in their mag, it’s their loss. If the mainstream metal press will continue to focus on ’90s rap metal bands and shit like that instead of paying attention to what’s new and important, is it maybe better to not be a part of it. But lately it feels like many mainstream magazines have paid much attention to us, maybe because we are something real that not many bands are today.”
It’s not arrogance on H’s part to claim that Degial are something special and that the metal press needs to sit up and pay attention. But what about playing live? It’s in that domain that Degial really come alive but they’ve not, as yet, been very forthcoming in that area, besides a few homeland forays.
“When it comes to live shows, we play every show that we get,” H admits. “But lately we have focussed on the album. The Watain show in Gothenburg was one of the most powerful nights. We shared it with both Watain and In Solitude, two of the best bands out there right now, and close friends to us. But sometimes we have to share the stage with a lot of shit bands, but we always focus on what we do, instead of getting annoyed on every retard that tries to plays music.”
The mention of their friends in In Solitude quickly leads to a discussion about Degial’s stomping ground of Uppsala. It would be lazy journalism to ask a question as cliched as “So, what’s in the water in your home town that is helping produce all these exciting bands”, however…
“Why Uppsala has so many great and interesting bands right now is something I wonder of every day,” is H’s response. “Uppsala has been the seat of the Archbishop since 1164, so it has been a middle point for Christianity in Sweden. Probably has something ancient, sinister and dark has been hidden by Christians here for centuries. It has now have become unleashed, and has touched our souls.”
It all sounds kinda Sunnydale, but he has a point. The scene there is on a par with an ancient apocalyptic prophecy. “I wouldn’t choose to call it a scene,” H scolds, at the mere mention of the world. “It’s more a group of individuals in different bands that share the same vision. A scene can be misleading and include bands that we have nothing to do with. We, in our circle, keep us for ourselves and I am really glad to see that In Solitude and Watain have become as big as they are since they share our vision and are two of the greatest and most pioneering bands right now.
“Sadly, Uppsala has become infected by retarded hypocrites. A lot of shit bands have started to come up. That’s why we stick to our own to maintain what we have worked hard to build. The Uppsala Metal of Death is very important for us, because we are like brothers. All of us really support each other when needed. Like a family.”
Family is a strong word, but any time spent around the UMOD cohorts and it becomes strongly apparent that it’s a word that fits. Instead of conjuring images of a peaceful Christmas dinner though instead think of family in terms of the Corleones or Hell’s Angels. It’s more than blood ties with the Uppsala inner circle, it’s a “fuck with me, fuck with us all” mentality, a fraternity that cannot be severed.
“Me, R and E got to know each when we still went to school,” H explains of the years honing this unbreakable bond. “We all are from different parts of Uppsala, but I suppose we were meant to meet each other. We all played our instruments already, I have always known that I was going to play music my whole life, so I didn’t spend so much time in school. I never cared for any education. I went to the lessons that I found interesting.
“Bathory has been a huge inspiration for me,” he continues on the subject of his formative years, where he and his classmates would swap algebra for Quorthon. “It was one of the first extreme metal bands that I started to listen to. I worship a lot of the early Swedish bands, but we have never tried to copy any of them. We have always tried to do our own thing. I think that is one of the saddest things about the newer bands today; instead of trying to do something of their own, they just try to sound exactly like the old bands.
“The world is full of idiots, especially in the metal scene. And if I would care about every single one of them, I would probably go insane,” he continues. “We are the same people on stage as we are in real life, but before we go on stage, we put ourself in some kind of trance. All the energy that we have accumulated the whole day takes us to another dimension. And on stage, the chaos will be unleashed. We have dedicated our life to death, chaos and the eternal Darkness. Degial is like a tool that we use so we can spread our beliefs together. And use the powers we get to end the world.”
A version of this interview was printed in Iron Fist #1 available from our online store
Copyright © 2020 Iron Fist Magazine. All Rights Reserved.