Sweden’s Apocalypse Orchestra are poised to release their debut album “The End Is Nigh” on May 12th via Despotz Records. Blending doomy beats with folk, medieval and metal, AO has created a new take and different sound to get in to. Erik Larsson (lead vocals and multi-instrumentalist) and Mikael Lindström (backing vocals and multi-instrumentalist) shared some answers with us regarding their sound, their debut album and a few other things…. check it out….
Congrats on your pending debut “The End Is Nigh”… have you gotten any sort of feedback regarding it yet?
Erik & Mikael: “Thank you very much! It feels great.”
Erik: “We have seen a some reviews, heard some via word of mouth, and also had alot of comments on the singles, and we are completely blown away by the positive feedback. We really could not be more humled.”
History of the Orchestra
Could you give us a little history on how the band was formed?
Mikael: “We all go way back as friends, but me, Erik and Andreas have played together in other bands for almost 15 years. About four years ago when we didn’t have a vocalist for our last band we decided to do something different. More metal, and older musical influences than before. We felt that the world needed heavy, downtuned medieval folk metal.”
Erik: “We started writing songs, and right away we found our groove, and some songs took form very fast. We decided to add our friend Andreas, Jonas and Rikard, and soon after that we were standing on stage…”
How did the signing to Despotz come about?
Erik: “Some people, among others a few label mates (Grimner) as well as common friends, had given the guys at Despotz tips about us, but they had not the time to check it out. Some time later they saw a live video of us, with full gear, actors, fire breathing and whatnot, and they just reached out to us. We were signed a few weeks after!”
Stylistically, you cross over into many genres….. what genre or description are you the most comfortable with if any? What were the main driving forces/influences musically to your sound?
Mikael: “I personally think Medieval Metal works just fine. My influences come from the medieval music I listen to as well as more modern bands with common denominators like Garmarna, Wardruna and the like.
At the same time, I feel that we’re kind of breaking some new ground here. There are not many bands that plays this kind of medieval metal that we do, a driving force in itself.”
Erik: “I agree, Medieval Metal feel right, if one are forced to label oneself. You yourself added “Contemporary” to it, and that feel even more right. We have had the doom epithet following us from day one, and I really don’t recall how it came there, but me myself don’t view us as a doom outfit, even though there are some heavy old school doom inspirations, both for me personally as well as in our music.
I love cross over music. Hell, I love cross over everything. I would guess that more than half of all the music that I listen to have some form of cross over element in them. The first folk metal experiences I had were also of bands that mixed actual folk music into metal. Not just donning some outfit and singing about lore, and don’t get me wrong, I really love a bunch of those bands for those treats alone, but we set out specifically to mix actual authentic folk (medieval) music with modern metal. At least I felt I was missing that on the scene when we began. And most bands were playing fast death metal style cross over, with growling. We just did a 180 and started marching. Slowly.”
Why do you think that there is a lot of people who think of your music as “doom”…. is it simply the tempos or are there other aspects of your sound that may have doom connections?
Erik & Mikael: “All of the above?”
Mikael: “Probably the tempo thing first and foremost. Some of our lyrics have a feeling of impending doom, but it’s not supposed to be depressing in that “doomy” way.”
Erik: “I agree, doom metal does not have to be about despair 100% of the time. There are many classic examples of that. And if I have to give one comparison we have gotten a lot, it’s that many people can hear a bit of My Dying Bride and similar bans in our music, if not the lyrics. Not so strange, I grew up with that, early Anathema, Candlemass and other like them.”
Erik & Mikael: “And Type O Negative.”
Mikael: “Type O is one of my all-time favorite bands. We both really love their music.”
EP or not EP
The new album features the 4 tracks from your previously released EP…. was the plan to have these included on the album from the beginning?
Mikael: “Yes, it was, since we were initially planning to release the debut ourselves.”
Erik: “I also feel I need to clarify that the “EP” wasn’t actually meant to be an EP at all, it’s a demo. Don’t know who first gave it the status of “EP”, but it seems to have stuck!”
With regards to the remaining 4 tracks, have they been around and were not recorded or are they all relatively newer tracks?
Erik: “Most of the songs are written overlapping in time, so both the sound and feeling fit together really good. The earliest embryos of the all the songs were present before even the first one were completely finished. Then they were made ready, one by one. For the album, we have also disregarded both completed tracks as well as decided not to complete others. In other words, we have more music in store…”
How does you songwriting begin….with basic riffs or lyrics? Are tracks primarily written by one member and then brought in ready to be worked on?
Erik: “Mikael is one of the world’s greatest melody makers! Both with folk instrument as well as guitar riffs. He comes to me all the time with new stuff, and what makes us work so good together is that I most often get an idea for an arrangement right away then he presents something to me. I add my own melodies and riffs, and we’re off!”
Mikael: “Aw that’s so sweet! And to me, Erik is a musical genius machine. I usually come with an almost unintelligible piece of crappy riff recorded on my old phone and then put it through the ErikFilter™ and amazing music comes out the other side! Erik is very good at putting it all together, in regard of arrangement.
After this initial creative process, (embryo has become arrangement) the others have their say. When you write music, you tend to go “deaf” for the obvious after a while and it is very healthy to bring in new fresh ears and opinions.”
Erik: “So far, Jonas, Andreas and Rikard have been an essential resource in keeping us on track, while all along having both faith in, and respect for, our initial musical vision.”
How did you gravitate into melding the medieval instruments into your sound? Was it always the intention from the start or has it grown organically?
Mikael: “It was key from the start. To get that folk/medieval feel we knew that we had to use authentic instruments. The mix of acoustic instruments blended with the metal sound was the basic idea that we wanted to pursue.”
Erik: “Well put! I would also like to add that our plan all along have been to incorporate more and more, so you might say, you haven’t heard it all yet…”
Sweden has a rich history of folk metal from Grimner to King Of Asgard to Utmarken and many others……what is the reason for so many gravitating towards the style? History? Landscape?
I don’t really know that we have that high a volume of folk metal bands though, but Sweden really have produced high quality folk metal for a long time, Vintersorg, Otyg and more. I would say this was bound to happen. People often talk about the “musical wonder of Sweden”, and I think that is in part true. Sweden first of all have a huge number of active musicians, much thanks to public school, peoples education and communal music schools. We have the world’s second best density of metal bands per capita (after our wonderful neighbors Finland). Add to the mix our rich tradition in folk music, and also the fact that a lot of rock, leading on to metal, have been pioneered by bands and artist through time who have been heavily influenced by folk music.”
Mikael: “Sweden also have a bunch of folk rock bands (not folk rock like Bob Dylan mind you!) such as Garmarna, Hedningarna, Ranarim, Big Fish, Folk och Rackare. There’s more to it than just the music. The lyrics of these bands are often influenced or taken directly from medieval ballads. Gruesome and brutal to say the least. One ballad ends with a young woman being rolled down a hill in a barrel full of nails Iron Maiden style. And then we have the ballad about the werewolf that rips a pregnant woman in pieces for her lover to find. In the words of the late great Peter Steele, “Everything dies!”
Erik: “Nordic medieval ballad writers – The Scandinavian predecessors to Shakespeare…”
Erik: “It will be a follow up of our first single, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and it will be released shortly! Not a concept such as that, and even after we all in the band had agreed on the story and script, we realized we all interpreted it differently. The viewer should have an open mind, and maybe just give in to some abstract visions of olden times… see where they take you.”
How do you feel about performing live….is it a passion or more of a necessity? Do you have a tour or shows lined up to support the album?
Mikael: “For me it’s a nervous passion! Since our music contains a lot of different elements everything has to fall into place. Usually I’m a bit shaky until we hit the first note but then everything changes and the black magic of music takes over. Right now, we don’t have any shows planned other than the release party for the album. Though our wish is to play live as much as possible, I love watching the audience while we play and meet them afterward.
An important part of our live shows is to offer something more than just us the band on stage. We want to make it a whole experience so we try to include candles, an iron wrought burial cross (it’s awesome to have a bassist that’s also a master blacksmith!), projected animations tailored to each song, fire breathers and fire dancers. Mood is everything!”
Erik: “Mikael and I are two peas in a pod. I love performing live, no matter be it straight up playing music in all its simplicity, or putting on a grand show with external elements. For this band though, we feel the latter gives it that bit of “extra” we so wish to bestow on the audience. I love bands that plans their concert as a show, even though the music itself is of course the main focus.”
Any thoughts on downloading music for no compensation?
Erik: “Let’s be truthful, we have all done it. And who knows, in this day and age, if some, if not many bands. have in the end profited from this, in regard to increasing the reach of their music. Look at some of the great bands who used this when downloading was at it’s peak, they planned their tours where they had the most downloads. I have a relative who was with his band in India, where they knew they hadn’t sold more than a handful of records, and by the second song on stage (in front of almost 9000 people!) they noticed that a huge amount of people in the crowd where singing along the lyrics, as if they had never heard anything else! So, the discussion can point both ways.”
Mikael: “I’ve kind of come to terms with the fact that you won’t make any money from music itself and I’m fine with that. I personally love the return of vinyl since it made me buy more music again. You can’t stop technology so you might as well tag along for the ride. Without the evolution in (computer) technology we would most likely not have been able to make it this far.”
Favorite albums from 2016 or 2017 so far?
Erik: “Wow, to many good ones! I can drop on the top of my head; Borknagar – Winter Thrice, Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence, Ereb Altor – Blot – Ilt – Taut, Myrkgrav – Takk og farvel – tida er blitt ei annen, Novembers Doom – Hamartia, Myrkur – Mausoleum EP, Symbio – Phoresy, Pallbearer – Heartless, Wardruna – Runaljod / Ragnarok, and I will also sneak in 2015’s amazing Paradise Lost – The Plague Within!”
Mikael: “Yes, I agree with most of the above, and I add; Cult of Luna ft. Julie Christmas – Mariner, Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá – A Piece for Mind & Mirror, Garmarna – 6, Wardruna – Runaljod / Ragnarok, Grimner – Frost mot eld, Rotting Christ – Rituals, 1900 – Tekno, and I also will sneak in a 2015 album, Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud.”
Erik & Mikael: “We are also really looking forward to the 2017 releases of Vintersorg and Vallenfyre, and we are hoping to maybe see a release of up and coming Swedish folk metal act Norrsinnt during 2017.”
Erik & Mikael: “Huge thanks for supporting us and showing an interest in us. We hope we can continue to provoke the mind, mixing our brands of weird, and we will strive to go on, making more music you all will hopefully like. Our regards, and as always, stay folk!”