Since 2008, Denmark’s UNDERGANG have been pursuing the deepest, darkest depths of total Death Metal, a sound that nods to early Finnish death metal, slimy doom-death as equally as timeless goregrind. It’s a sound that’s garnered the band a legion of devotees across the world, and justifiably so. Three long years since their last album, “Misantropologi”, they are back with their fifth full-length “Aldrig i livet”. To remind everyone that they still are and will be kicking asses all around. Thanks to David for the cool interview!!
Hello David, UNDERGANG was born in 2008, since then you have released quite a lot material and you have build a large base of fans
Hi there, thanks for the interview and for the interest in UNDERGANG. Yeah, it feels a bit wild to know that we’ve now been rocking for more than 12 years, but it has been a fun ride. Lots of songs written and recorded, tours and shows spread out over most of the world. If I was to show and tell a 13 year old version of myself where I’d be today I’d like to think that he’d be excited! We’re just trying to be honest to ourselves about what we do and continue doing what we love and thankfully it seems other people are into it as well so we’ve had a good ride meeting lots of nice people around and sharing stages with many great bands over the years.
We used to locate Death Metal epicenter in northern countries, but Undergang can be considered the most popular death metal band in Denmark and has nothing to envy to those lands?
I don’t think we’re anywhere near being the most popular death metal band in Denmark, but to some people looking in from outside the borders of Denmark and enjoying more of the conservative side of Denmark in recent years I can kind of understand why you might think so. We’ve been busy and maybe busier than most with trying to branch out and play as much as we’ve could as many places as possible and that way put ourselves on the international underground death metal map and in that process likely helped put Denmark a bit more on the overall map for death metal too. I think a lot of bands here before us maybe didn’t invest as much time and effort into getting their band out there as much as we did starting out and therefore didn’t come “as far” as we have. Maybe it’s just one of those cases of where people work hard on something that it pays off? What do I know; it’s just some opinion of this wiener here. Nowadays we have a sick little national scene of cool death metal bands like DEIQUISITOR, TAPHOS, PHRENELITH, CHAOTIAN, ASCENDENCY, DEAD VOID, SEPTAGE, VOMIT ANGEL, TARDUS MORTEM and more coming all the time it seems. And more bands that I don’t care about and won’t mention here.
We take note of that. On December 4th you are releasing your 5th studio album, may be your best work till date?
I really do think so myself too at least. We’re all very happy with the way “Aldrig i livet” has ended up with likely our strongest songs written and wrapped in a great production thanks to the excellent work of Lasse in Ballade Studio and Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studio again, Greg always make us sound the best, Total Earhammer Support!
It’s curious because between albums you use to deliver some eps, splits, demos or live albums, a good way to guarantee that Undergang is always present, isn’t it?
Yeah, that’s the way we think of it at least. I don’t want us to be one of those bands that release a new album every year and that way overfeed the listeners. I don’t really believe that most bands would be able to continue producing that many great songs that fast, so I prefer that we take it a bit easy and write sometimes only a few songs a year and then focus on them being great and then spend more time being out playing shows that writing new material. And that results in us usually playing live every month and then some years producing a new EP or a split to keep our name out there at the same time as us trying to be visible live around the world too. To some extend at least. SO with that said, now that the album is done and soon out we’re already composing new songs for some single and split releases till we focus on a new album again at some point.
Apart of that, the guys on Dark Descent Records must be very happy with a so productive machine as yours?
I hope so, so far DDR haven’t turned any of our ideas for releases down at least, haha. They have been sleeping on the LP version of our album for almost 2 years though, but the word is that it should out be out soon, haha. But all jokes aside, Matt behind DDR is a personal friend of mine as well as the man operating one of the main labels that releases the music of UNDERGANG, so I feel very comfortable being a part of a Dark Descent Records recording band. He’s been very supportive of us since the early days of the band after we met him first time at a show we played in Denver in 2011 and since we got out of our recording contract with Xtreem Music we returned to work with Me Saco Un Ojo Records and Dark Descent from then on, which I’m very happy with. Both of those labels and our band has grown a lot together since then and I think it’s cool to have both sides benefitting of that from each other. We’re in a good place with MSUO and DDR for sure.
The pity is that as we don’t speak Danish we don’t understand a word you are saying. You have stayed true to your mother language despite your international popularity, why?
It was the decision we made when we started out the band. We never imagined that the band would have much interest outside our own little circle of friends locally, least of all internationally, so we choose a name for the band in Danish and therefore also for the song titles and lyrics to be in our native tongue, pretty much as simple and little thought-through as that. I think it has brought both some positive and negative things to our band that we’ve kept everything in Danish, but being a death metal band thankfully the music and visuals have been the most important part and been what most people have gone with. So, for better or for worse, we’re sticking to having everything in Danish.
How long have you worked on your new album “Aldrig i livet” and how was the creative process?
We’ve been writing songs for the album since 2018 and then in the Spring of 2019 when we had most of the songs written we choose 2 to be text recorded and released as a maxi single to help promote and build up hype for the 5th album to come. Sadly we then got a bit slow and after the “Ufrivillig donation af vitale organer” single was released in September 2019 it took us quite a while to get it finished. We started with getting the drums recorded at Ballade Studio in Copenhagen in October before we left for Scandinavian Death Fest and then directly to Japan to play some shows at and around the Asakusa Deathfest. Then after that we didn’t get around to record guitars and bass till January 2020 due to other various commitments and then in February we recorded the vocals down in Ballade studio again and then had everything send over to Greg in Earhammer Studio for mixing and mastering. It was originally intended to be out in July and we should have played some US East Coast shows with PISSGRAVE and MEPHITIC CORPSE to promote the album in the US to start off with, but sine the pandemic had us cancel that little tour we lost a bit of enthusiasm and the whole process of me getting the art done for the album took me a whole lot longer than originally planned. So the whole thing has been a bit on and off, I guess. But none the less it has been a healthy one too, as we’ve had contributions for the music done form all 4 members, where in the past it has often been more of a product created between Anders (drums) and I. Everyone has made the album what it is and that I am really proud of too!
It’s natural to be proud of such a monstruosity of an album. In 2017 you recruited Mads Haarløv for the lead guitar position, 3 years after what has been his contribution to the band?
Originally we wanted to have a thicker and more massive live sound with having 2 guitarist, but after a short while of doing that the chemistry was good and we asked Mads to join the band full time, which he agreed too and since then he has been contributing with song writing, tiles and lyrics too. So he’s as much a member of the band as Anders and I and our “newer” bassist Martin Leth Andersen as well, who has been with us since March 2018. All 4 members contribute to the band in various ways and UNDERGANG 2020 wouldn’t be the same without either and I feel like “Aldrig i livet” is a fine example of that too.
We had great expectations about “Aldrig i livet” but we have been positively surprised by the atmospheric touch and the versatile grindcore you have added to the songs
I’m glad to read if you’ve had a good experience listening to our new album so far. I think that “Aldrig i livet” is a rather natural progression from “Misantropologi” and has a bit of everything we mixed up on that album with the shorter faster songs (first introduced with the 2013 “Søm til din ligkiste” 7” ), the more steady mid-tempo songs we’re maybe a bit more known for and the doomier parts of the band (which likely was a bit of something new brought in around the 2015 “Døden læger alle sår” album). The album also has several songs that were written by Mads, but I think overall that the entire album has a very familiar UNDERGANG sound and presentation. Both Mads and Martin are doing backing vocals on the new album too, though not as much as I originally intended for, but my planning out separating lyrics in the studio got a bit more rushed than what I had hoped for, which is only falling back on myself. For the old Undergang listener to the new ones discovering the band with the new album, I think it gives a good presentation of what the band is and sounds like nowadays and should be able to please both sides.
We also value the crushing production you have used for this album!
Like on our last 2 albums (“Døden læger alle sår” – 2015 and “Misantropologi” – 2017) we decided to work with Greg Wilkinson in Earhammer Studio, as Anders and I felt that he makes the band sound the best on recordings. The last times around we’ve been on an month long US tour leading up to the studio session, but this time we didn’t have anything like that coming up and decided to record locally and then worked out with Greg to have the recordings send over to Earhammer for mixing and mastering. So we recorded the drums first with Lasse in Ballade Studio here in Copenhagen and then we recorded guitars and bass with Mads at a set-up he made in his “work shed” up north where he lives around Hornbæk. After that we went back to Ballade Studio and recorded the vocals there and then send the whole lot to Earhammer for the final work to be done to it. The sound is fat and heavy as wished and expected from previously working with Greg and we’re all very happy with it. Hopefully the listeners will feel and think the same.
Now, with another great album on the streets in December we can say that Undergang is one the most inspired and cool death metal bands nowadays, how do you feel about that?
I don’t think we’ve ever been cool, haha. But I guess we’re a bit of an established underground death metal band by now with 12 years behind us as a band and 5 albums out and we’ve worked a lot and hard on getting our music out there as much as possible with playing a lot of shows and toured a lot in the past too. That and having good label support from me Saco Un Ojo Records and Dark Descent Records has helped push us further. And if you like what we do, we still have more to come and are still enjoying what we do, so there should be something to following and join us for if you care.
After a so good album as this “Aldrig i livet” how do you face the future in terms of composition: better don’t think about it or just prepare for another great composition challenge in the future?
We’re never really trying to out-do anything or do anything specifically different moving forward, I think it’s more just a process of trying to write good songs that are fun to play and have memorable parts, without losing heaviness and brutally. And as long as we all still think it sounds like UNDERGANG, a song stays and get’s worked on till we’re satisfied with it. We’re already writing new songs and are entering the studio again before the end of the year to record some new songs for a split and a compilation. After that we might start writing songs for the next album or some other smaller release in between. I don’t want to be a band that releases albums every year, as I think that becomes boring and overwhelming for the listeners and I’d rather have the albums feel special with having a bit of time in between, so you can digest the last one properly, before there’s a new one to embrace. Personally I’d like to do a shorter release with only fast and shorter songs, btu we’ll see what happens.
And hopefully we will tell about it if the pandemic doesn’t sweep us all. How do you fit your sound in what today is called “Occult Metal”?
Not at all, I think that presentation sounds pretentious and lame. We’re just a death metal band with the songs and riffs in focus and then soaked in lyrics and imagery of death, gore and putrefaction. Conservative and ignorant.
You are compared with big bands of the genre as Bolt Thrower, Incantation or Autopsy, to name only a few, how do you feel about it?
It’s always fun and flattering to hear people compare your music to some of your own favourites and there’s no doubt that all 3 bands mentioned have played a role in influences on UNDERGANG’s music over the years, so I guess it make sense. I think we’re a band that has obvious influences of certain genre defining bands, but still manage to make our own music out of it and while not trying to or claiming to sound original, still happen to have our own sound by now, so that when you hear an UNDERGANG song you’ll know it’s us.
In Spain we don’t have much info about Denmark these days on the news, so we suppose you are doing better than most of Europe with the pandemic, how are you living it?
I don’t think anywhere at the moment is in a position to really do good, so I wouldn’t claim that, but it does seem that when our government had a rather immediate lock-down of a lot of things once the virus hit back in March, it had quite a good effect for our little country of Denmark. Due to that we’ve yet to have had such a pressure on the hospital system that they couldn’t follow with intensive care and treatment, which is a positive thing, compared to likely a lot of other countries during the pandemic so far. Things go up and down and we’re at a critical spot now where the restrictions for the first time has all citizens to wear masks when doing shopping, in restaurants/bars and most other inside public areas. But at least most businesses can still stay open, even with restrictions on amount of customers, etc. I run a record store myself here in town and I’ve only been closed for a few weeks back in April (by choice) to support the at the time wish from the government for people to be extra careful as numbers were increasing at the time. Since July we’ve been able to do live shows again too, with a sitting audience and later with the attendees having to wear masks while not seated. But at least we’ve been able to still have live music. So I’ve been doing my “Extremely Rotten Death Metal” shows about once a month since then and even though we haven’t been able to have any foreign bands play, thankfully we have quite a cool little local scene of death metal bands so I’ve tried to promote that and have our local bands play once a month in various settings. We have a road trip coming up now in November to go to Aarhus on the other side of the country with CHAOTION, STRYCHNOS, DEIQUISITOR and UNDERGANG and in December on the 4th and 19th we have release shows for “Aldrig i livet” at a great local venue called Pumpehuset. So live death goes on, for those of us into that. At the moment the numbers are increasing quite aggressively and I think everyone is a bit worried about how the whole winter season will play out…
How has the pandemic affected your promotion plans?
We’ve had to cancel a little line of US East Coast shows with PISSGRAVE and MEPHITIC CORPSE promoting the new album in July, back everything fell back as that also shows that the album was originally supposed to have been released in summer, haha. It’s been a weird year. Other than that, now that the release of “Aldrig i livet” is in December we’ve had a bit of time to get used to whole the world is right now and to prepare some things for how to deal with it. So we’re doing 2 local release shows and I’m already spreading flyers with mail to promote the coming of the album and MSUO and DDR are doing their job to promote the album, so I think we’re almost able to do as much as we could have done otherwise. Just with less shows in other countries to promote it, sadly.
Thanks for your attention David, we wish you the best and congratulations for your big album!
Thank you Alberto for this interview and for the interest and support of our band. I hope this interview has lived up to your expectations and that the reader has had a fun time reading through the lot and perhaps if not already ware of our band, would like to give us a listen now. Anyone interested in keeping up with everything UNDERGANG can have a look at our social media pages, we try to keep that updated on various news related to the band. And even if you can’t attend our shows, we try to have them all live streamed too, so keeping an eye on social media can perhaps give you a bit of that too, if interested. Support underground death metal; read and buy zines, support the bands you like by buying their releases and merch and don’t be a jerk. In Putrescence, • DM / UG October 2020