Pure Steel Records has just issued yet another great album. This time we are talking about the band Assassin’s Blade and their second full-length ”Gathered Darkness”.
Assassin’s Blade has just issued a brand new offering, your second album, so please could you, for the beginning, tell us something more about your latest issue?
“Gather Darkness” (Pure Steel; 2019) follows “Agents of Mystification” (Pure Steel; 2016) as Assassin’s Blade’s second album. After AofM, we had learned quite a bit about working from different parts of the planet, and we decided to work with reliable people for mixing (Martin “Mattes’ Pfeiffer [UDO]) and for mastering (Stefan Kaufman [Accept]). Therefore, “Gather Darkness” ends up being a more mature and more powerful album than AofM.
What’s hiding beneath the title of “Gathered Darkness” and the cover artwork, what kinds of emotions you would like to present in one way or another?
“Gather Darkness” is a metaphor for the crazy world we live in. The governments are corrupt, the environment goes to shit, and critical thinking is now considered a pathology. The Capital and the Establishment are taking advantage of this sort of decadence, and in the end, the number of normal, lucid people is drastically decreasing. On this album cover, the assassins are back, this time to fight against the decadent forces. In a way, we are those heroes who, through music, try to fight depravity by
denouncing it and proposing
Please, could you tell us something more about the band Assassin’s Blade since this is the first time that we have a chance to have an interview with you on our pages?
Assassin’s Blade started as a project undertaken by Swedish musicians Peter Svensson (bass) and David Stranderud (guitar). Peter and Dave collaborated on the music while Peter wrote all the lyrics. In the late 90′, as a huge metal fan, Peter knew tons of bands and had a particular interest in Exciter, enough, actually, to create a website dedicated to Exciter. That’s how I first met Peter. Over the years, we stayed in touch and met a few times when Exciter was playing Europe. In 2014, Peter had heard through the grapevines that I had done some recording (just for fun) with Manfred Leidecker, the studio engineer with whom Exciter had recorded quite a few records (Kill after Kill, Better Live than Dead, Dark Command, Blood of Tyrants, etc.). So Assassin’s Blade goes back to David’s and Peter’s previous band/project named Trap. They were the main songwriters for that band and had written quite a bit of material. When that band fell apart, the still wanted to do something with the material, maybe even just have the songs recorded for personal purposes basically. While writing the songs, they were like “could you imagine Jacques Bélanger’s vocals on these songs?” One evening after sitting at David’s house drinking whiskey, they just said let’s try to contact Jacques and see what he says… So for us, it was quite cool to be able to work with one of our favorite metal vocalist. We enjoyed the first recording sessions with Jacques in Sweden so much that we asked him if he was interested in forming a real band together. On AofM, Marcus Rosenkvist recorded the drums as a session musician. But Marcus is such a good drummer and a great guy that we had to convince him to stay with AB. Then, for “Gather Darkness”, Peter and Dave recruited Bruno Buneck, a fine lead guitarist whose style fitted perfectly.
Could you compare Assassin’s Blade debut album with your latest offering? Agents of Mystification was your debut album.
AofM started as a fun thing to do among friends. Although AofM was filled with very good songs, the end results could have been better. For one, we broke every studio recording rule; then, we were ill- advised when it was time to get the material mixed and mastered. Also, the music and lyrics had been written before I joined the band, so the songs were not conceived exactly for the unit that recorded the opus. This time, we had some experience together. The songs were written after I had joined Assassin’s Blade, so Peter and Dave definitely wrote the songs with the current musicians in mind, especially my vocal style. Plus, we had the chance to hook up with Martin Pfeiffer (UDO) who mixed the album and Stefan Kaufmann (Accept) who mastered it. This album therefore has a lot more punch sound-wise.
Anyway, do you plan to have some shows here and there and promote your latest offering since the band has become more prominent now?
Touring is still an objective. Some offers have been presented to us, but they were not really in or advantage. I do not want to tour simply for the sake of touring. Tours require a lot of time and money, and we do no want to invest in ventures that would not serve to significantly promote the band. After AofM, we decided to wait and release a new album first. AofM was our introductory piece and has allowed us to make a first statement. Now, we perfected our level of collaboration; we capitalized on
our first experience and came up with an even stronger album. Now, we have a lot of live material to offer, including some material taken from Exciter’s Dark Command and Blood of Tyrants. Let us now see if we can get some interesting offers.
How about your influences? What sorts of influences do you store in your particular style especially when it comes to speed and traditional heavy metal bands?
Inspiration is the sum of all we have been exposed to in life. In AB’s case, some inspirations are obvious, some are more obscure. For music ideas, I guess we are quite NWOBHM. Our style has been shaped by the bands of which we were fans since we started to listen to music. I personally listened to a lot of progressive rock from the 70′ (Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull) and classical music. Musically, those obvious influences are numerous and sometimes pretty clear: Priest, Maiden, Merciful Fate, etc. All those years, those various musical genres have shaped the way we understand music and, therefore, the way we write and interpret it. And eventually, when you combine Dave’s interpretation of those influences, with Peter’s interpretation and mine, we end up with a product that sounds neither like Priest nor like Maiden. In the end, we have typical Assassin’s Blade material. We do not start with the idea that our music should sound a particular way. We simply let the emotions flow. Then we shape the
ideas and polish them up until we feel they have matured enough. So if there are any specific influences that one can detect in our music, I will have to say that it is purely accidental… almost. That is one of the reasons I was drawn to Peter and Dave’s material. Power, melody, speed, great lyrics… and the proverbial Swedish touch that makes metal music so distinct. Most of the reviewers have detected definite influences in our music/vocals: Priest, Merciful Fate, Maiden, Manilla Road were the
most commonly mentioned, but none of the reviews concluded that we sounded like any of them. Obviously, we didn’t intend to reinvent the wheel. Let us face it, we play a classic type of metal, so our material will not exactly make you feel like you are suddenly on a different planet… and that is perfectly fine. Musicians have to play what comes from the heart. For us, our heart and souls are mostly influenced by classic metal.
The band actually comes from two different countries so is it hard to run and have such a band?
Distance certainly influences the collaboration. Peter and Dave already knew my vocal style from Exciter, so when they send me music, lyrics and vocal melodies, they expect that I will keep that style. They end up trusting that I will render the vocals in an acceptable way. We have no choice but to trust each other. However, AB music is more complex than Exciter’s, so I have to adapt to a certain degree, and that is perfectly fine. I also have to adapt to the vocalist I have become over the years. Back in the
Exciter days, I did exactly everything John Ricci wanted me to do. I had no say in the song rendition, either live or on record. I do not want to sing that way anymore. I have always been more of a mix of Halford and Dickinson: none of these two sing the extreme stuff I had to do with Exciter. So now, I tend more toward exploiting my entire vocal range, which is an approach that suits AB’s style, in my opinion. On a personal basis, the most difficult aspect of this long-distance relationship is that I miss the other guys. They are serious, smart, funny and crazy at the same time. I do get along with them very well, and I only wished I could spend more time with them. But we all believe so much in what we do, that we manage to get the job done. I guess that it is on the operational aspect that it ends up being difficult. Distance does not keep us from creating/recording songs because the process can be done in separate parts. However, we cannot practice together at all. And no matter how prepared we can be before we could get together for a gig, we will never gel as much if we had played together for a while.
And for the end tell us how do you look from your own perspective to other bands at the scene and present situation where there are totally two groups of the bands one still based on classic or old school metal and the others on some more modern stuff so to say?
To tell you the truth, I do not pay much attention to band classification. I think that this need to label a band according to its music is useless and only serves to divide. So, some “metal music experts” will come up with “universal categories” in order to sort band. OK. And then what? What are those categories for? I think they only serve to establish a hierarchy that will only have personal subjective tastes as a foundation. In my opinion, those so-called universal categories established only for the sake of promoting/imposing our own subjective preferences. In the end, I think there are four categories of bands: 1) the bands that I like; 2) the bands that I like less (or much less); 3) the bands I do not know, but that I would like; and 4) the bands that I do not know, but that I would like less (or much less). When you start putting bands in categories, you end up rejecting bands that you may like regardless of the style, but that are in a category that you decided not to like. For example, a lot of the bands I like are categorized as NWOBHM. But there are a lot of NWOBHM that I do not particularly like. However, someone who would categorize me of my bands as a NWOBHM may be totally surprised if I told them that I really liked Frank Zappa, Rammstein or Callejon. Now those bands are everything but NWOBHM. So to go back to your question, I see the music scene as very complex and diverse, so it is hard for me to divide that complexity into two great categories. And if you absolutely insisted that I propose only two categories, I would say that the metal scene is composed of authentic bands (the ones who create music from their guts and soul) and the insincere bands (the ones who conform to a pattern, a pseudo-norm, only to get attention or to make money). And I easily tell you that I much prefer the first category,
regardless of the style.
- Interview done by Marko Miranovic