Saturday, December 1, 2012

An Interview With Johan Edlund Of Tiamat!



Country of origin: Sweden
Location: Täby, Uppland
Status: Active
Formed in: 1989 Genre: Death Metal (early), Gothic/Atmospheric Metal/Rock (later)
Lyrical themes: Sumerian Poetry (old), Love, Drugs, Religion (now)
Current label: Napalm Records


Roger Öjersson: Guitars
Johan Edlund: Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Theremin (1989-present)
See also: ex-LucyFire, ex-Treblinka, ex-Expulsion, ex-River's Edge, ex-Brainwarp, ex-Dark Age
Lars Skjöld: Drums (1994-present)
See also: Leif Edling, Jupiter Society (live)
Anders Iwers: Bass (1996-present)
See also: Ceremonial Oath, ex-Desecrator, ex-In Flames, ex-Mercury Tide, ex-Lacuna Coil (live), ex-Cemetary


THE INTERVIEW (Answered By Johan Edlund - Vocals)

1. Compared to your last album, Amanethes; The Scarred People is a slightly lighter album and more gothic rock and 70's oriented in some areas. What sparked the decision for this abrupt change in the style, and do you consider it just another step in a series of evolutions for the band?

I don't know. We don't speculate much, we just write songs and then record them. We're just trying to make good albums and we were never very interested in genres.

2. What is your observation on the evolution of Tiamat as a band? You started out doing death metal with a xylophone on "Sumerian Cry" and then progressed into gothic, electronic and now classic rock soundscapes. Do you feel that this gothic nature was where Tiamat had been headed from the beginning, or was it just something that came along upon the discovery of new music?

We draw influences from within ourselves rather from the outside world and other bands, so everything we've ever done always felt natural.

3. Explain the recording process for The Scarred People. How long did it take to record this album, and what was the composition like? Were there any group rituals or invocation ceremonies performed during this process?

Songs have been written over the last five six years. I probably spent half a year with pre-production and arranging, then we spent nine weeks in Woodhouse Studios in Germany.

4. Being a studier of the occult myself, I'm very curious about the nature of the album. From the album cover to the lyrical content and overall feel of some of the tracks on this one, it's more than obvious that this would certainly be an occult work. Explain to me the concept for the album cover, what it means, and the overall aim of The Scarred People. What exactly is the nature of this disc? Who are The Scarred People? Is there a concept that ties these songs together?

I'm interested in the concept of Thelema, as it's picking the good parts out of many religions and cultures to build a best of religion. That's why the hotch potch of symbolism on the album cover. A symbolism I also use in my lyrics. Apart from that, I'm not much for going into details. I think everybody should have space and freedom left to inerpret everything by himself.

5. Now I must get into something that has been bugging me for a while now. The song that stuck out to me at first glance was "384 - Kteis." I've listened to this song several times, still trying to figure out what it means. There's something that sounds to me like a Faustian deal and talk of Shiva. Which I also noticed some other Indian elements on the disc (Winter Dawn.) This is interesting for a band that I thought once was largely Luciferian. Could you explain the meaning of this track and the use of Hindu deities?

Same here.. It's not just black or white. By adding tools from different religions and cultures you get a broader pallette of colours to work with. It goes hand in hand with what we're doing in the music. If you're open minded, there's more to gain.

6. There is a track on the disc called "Before Another Wilbury Dies." Who is this Wilbury, and why is he significant?

Being a son of hippie parents, it's an homage to the musicians I grew up with. It's a reminder to live life today, before it's too late.

7. I must ask about the odd nature of "Messinian Letter." This track is much jauntier than what we would expect from the band, and had me scratching my head for a bit. What is the meaning of this song, and why did it come out so oddly peaceful?

It's just a love song. Complete with no irony or sarcasm. The music had to go along that feeling.

8. The track "Thunder & Lightning" was originally on the Lucyfire demo that you were trying to get out to record companies, and then quickly abandoned. What was the reason for this, and do you think that the band will ever reunite, or will the other track also appear on a Tiamat release?

I don't know. Right now I have no plans to reform LucyFire, but never say never.

9. There are a great deal of references to the Sun on this album. "Radiant Star","The Sun Also Rises" and "The Red Of The Morning Star" as well as the Sun-referenced album cover. What is the connection being made here?

I'm a sun worshipper. I love the sun. The sun is the only medicament against depression.

10. There are two covers on the limited edition version of this disc, "Born To Die" originally by Lana Del Rey and "Paradise" originally by Bruce Springsteen. These are odd covers for you guys, (even though your version of the Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" is definitely my favorite interpretation of that song) could you talk about them? I'm also very curious as to the stripped down nature of "Paradise" in which you used a completely different vocal tone. It was certainly surprising, but fit the song perfectly (It's simply wonderful.) What brought about your decision to approach this song in a much different vocal tone?

It's actually Anders (Iwers / bass) who sings on Paradise. When picking covers, we just go for songs we like. Simple as that. These were two songs I listened to alot this year.

11. Let's talk about the new man on board, Roger Ojerson. He performs some incredible guitar solos and melodies on the disc, definitely giving the band a bit more flavor. How did this all come about, and what do you think of Roger's performance in the band?

He's been very important on this album. Also helping out with the songwriting and pre-production. He was in the studio with me for seven of the nine weeks and we developed a very good way of working together where we found out how to complement each other.

12. Definitely have to talk tech. What instruments are you guys playing right now and what was it that made you want to play them in the first place?

I have a bunch of different guitars. I mainly use my signature Mayones Maestros. For a lot of the clean electric guitars we used my Gretsch White Falcon. Roger is using some Ibanez and some custom built guitars.

13. What bands/musicians are you currently listening to right now? What would you recommend in music? How about in films, or books?

In my opinion Lana Del Rey made the best album this year. For books, Guernica.. A book about Picasso's most famous paining and the spanish civil war. Movies.. Last film I watched was Prometheus which was pretty good.

14. How much of a role does the occult/thelema/ceremonial high magick exc. play in the band's music? Do you have any advice for those who wish to study and/or practice the occult? What are some things that one should know before performing ritual or working with sigils, exc?

Everything enters my songs subconciously, so it's hard to say. It doesn't feel very occult to me, as it comes from within myself. It's all part of me. I don't have any clever advices to other people. I think everybody should find out for himself.

15. What is your opinion of the occult in the media? Several pop stars have embraced elements of the occult in their imagery, music videos, stage shows and album covers. The television and internet embrace the same ideals. There is even clothing dedicated to the occult, being aimed at children without their knowledge. What is your opinion on this? Is it just time for man to embrace the magick that Crowley stated is "for everyone" in "Magick In Theory And Practice?"

I have no opinion about that. I mind my own business and am pretty unintrested in how others chose to lead their lives.

16. The nature of this album seems to be very apocalyptic, like we should be waiting for rivers to turn to blood and such. Do you truly feel that this is the case, or is there a way that we might redeem ourselves and our world?

It's often meant symbolically. When a world falls apart it might mean that the entire planet was blown up, or just that your girlfriend left you. But I like to keep the wide spectrum and let the meaning be both, or somewhere in between.

17. Finally, I must ask one question that I've always wanted to ask. There is a song called "Dust Is Our Fare" from the album Skeleton Skeletron. It is a track that I have listened to thousands of times. I've always considered it a metaphor for the filth of modern society. Is that what the song is about, or is there a greater meaning to that track?

Filth of modern society sounds like a very good explanation of that song.

Thank you for your answers and I hope to hear more great music from you in the future.


Tiamat - The Scarred People (Ltd. Edition 2012) - Again, I find myself on a completely different page with a Decibel writer. This happens often, and I do expect those guys and gals to be a little more than just half-assed with their reviews, which is usually the first section I gravitate towards upon getting any metal zine. Chris Dick in particular reviewed the new Tiamat disc as being something in the vein of "Wildhoney." But as I remember, that disc was quite heavy and had some harsh vocal influence. He also went on to state that the band could not figure out how to follow up "A Deeper Kind Of Slumber" and meandered along for years. But that record and "Cold Seed" really aren't anywhere near as good as this gentleman is saying. "Skeleton Skeletron" wasn't perfect, but "Prey" captured the more gothic aspects of the band brilliantly. It's that album that really got me into the band, as I checked out the other discs from there with "Wildhoney" and "Amanethes" being my personal favorite albums among the gamut of releases. I still remember that wonderful 2008 disc, where I wound up playing "Temple Of The Crescent Moon", "Lucium" and several other tracks hundreds of times. The disc was an absolute marvel. A friend and I agreed that it was definitely one of the best of their career. After that one, I didn't really care if Tiamat made another album or not. As far as I was concerned, that was a successful attempt at re-peaking, as I've called it.

Fast forward four years later, and here we are yet again with The Scarred People, adorning a cover that looks very OTO and Illuminati referenced. (But I kind of expected that. However, I do believe that it is a metaphorical representation of Lucifer.) This disc is a virtual 180 from the heaviness of "Amanethes", but I suppose that opener "The Scarred People 6:38" is a good transition into the new material. That new material being a sort of darker gothic rock. "Winter Dawn 4:13" does this well with a strong chorus, but it's got a dreamy vibe that sort of ends the song out on an odd note. Then directly after that one comes the odd "384 4:25." This song is something definitely interesting, as it has a very bleak and fearful sense to it. Words don't really explain it, as it sounds like a Faustian bargain with the riffs being downright apocalyptic.

But I've broken the paragraph again to highlight one simple fact. The disc changes in nature after that powerfully dark track, and it picks up some lighter influences and introduces the start of many rock-style guitar solos. Apparently they've got a new guitarist by the name of Roger Ojerson, and he really changes the nature of the band quite a bit. His major highlight is the instrumental, "Before Another Wilbury Dies 1:39" which highlights the 70's era shred-fest that comes right after the extremely boring nature of "The Sun Also Rises 5:06." So for those of you expecting to bang your head at all, well - you're fucked this time around. But I really feel that Tiamat and Johan Edlund are showing their age. As I said, there are some certain 70's moments on this disc, like "Messinian Letter 4:20" which still has me scratching my head. What were they thinking with that one? That's a hippie song if I've ever heard one.

Thankfully, we've got "Love Terrorists 5:42" which brings back the magic of the band's goth-natured work. Which is another thing that has me curious. Chris Dick said that he didn't like the latter work, but much of the work on this album sounds like that work, just without the added guitar solo. Now surely you aren't going to sit down with a straight face and tell me that some of that old material would've only appealed to you if there had been a few frantic solos, are you? Because that would be foolish. Ideas like "Tiznit 3:03" also don't do much for this disc, and "Thunder & Lightning 4:33" is dreadfully boring, only the guitar solo manages to save what comes off as a pretty weak rock ballad.

The bonus track "Born To Die 4:42 (Lana Del Ray Cover)" sounds more like the electronic work of "Skeleton Skeletron" and at first, it's quite weak - but I will admit that when you give this one a chance to warm up, it's got a very strong chorus. Even so, I've heard much better from Tiamat and this only sounds like a cast-off from that album. The disc's closer "Red Of The Morning Sun 4:21" takes forever to actually warm up, but it does get a little better towards the end. It also features electronics, but I have no idea what the song is about. I'm guessing it's a song about saving humanity.

The last song on the disc (before two live tracks) is the weird bonus track "Paradise 5:28 (Bruce Springsteen Cover.)" and this one is very odd. Johan doesn't use his normal dark tone of vocal on this one, so it sounds a little nasally. I guess that's why he took it off. But some people might like it, as it has a strong folk-like quality to it. I don't think everyone will like it, but there's definite emotion in the vocals. It's got a very "stripped down" quality that really takes off the whole "dark gothic" nature of the band, and brings it down to an intimate and more human level. The little bits of guitar melody (and end solo) that play alongside the acoustic guitar really help to make the song somewhat of an awkward standout. A live version of both "Divided 4:45" and Cain "5:17" are featured at the very end of this album.

If you want my full and honest opinion, I do not completely recommend this album. At least not to everyone. There will certainly be people who don't like it. Calling it metal is a stretch, and it's definitely more along the lines of gothic rock. Those of you expecting heavier material will be sorely disappointed. Even I couldn't have foreseen this change in the band's nature, but it is certainly a maturation. Not only that, but if you want me to be completely and painfully honest - I see this album as a bit of a Swansong. Maybe not the band's final release; but something very close to that. We might get another live show DVD/Blu-Ray and/or CD, and perhaps one final disc before a collection of rarities/demos.

But you know what? I'm okay with that. Tiamat has given me years of great music. Songs that I will remember for the very rest of my life. They are one of the only bands I've ever heard that has given music to Crowley's "The Pentagram." There's a reason I bought "The Church Of Tiamat DVD" and it's because those songs still resonate with me to this day. I still get "Vote For Love" stuck in my head, and I still get "Cain" stuck in my head, as well as "Wings Of Heaven." I could go on like a blabbering idiot about how great some of these fucking songs are, but I'll leave it up to you to check out this band's body of work.

Highlights: The Scarred People, Winter Dawn, Radiant Star, Before Another Wilbury Dies, Love Terrorists, Born To Die (Bonus), Paradise (Bonus), Cain (Live Bonus) (15 Tracks, 67:00)


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