Temple of Phobos is the new creature from Death Sweden act Vanhelgd, released this 2016. A confirmation of their quaility, their own style and personality. We talk to Mattias Frisk, maybe the soul of the project, although he prefers to talk of a team task, but we get clear one thing: they are here to stay and to follow their own path and ideas.
Hello Mattias, the band was formed in 2007, almost 10 years later how do you feel with your career? Are you where you expected to be?
The project we started, just to play some old-school death metal, turned into something we really didn’t expect… We were tiered of not rehearsing with our previous bands and just wanted to hang out at the rehearsal space on regular basis. Now we have released four albums and have no plans to stop yet! In some weird way it still feels like it’s a new band and that we just started the journey.
From “Cult of Lazarus” to your last and new album “Temple of Phobos”, what has been the evolution of the band?
I guess the main thing is a shift is away from the more punk oriented approach and on to a more serious path. We didn’t use a proper studio until 2013 so that’s also a big step into another direction. In terms of songwriting I think we struggled to concentrate the formula since “Church of Death” and got a step further on “Relics of Sulphur Salvation”.
You play death metal, but the atmospheres you are able to create make your sound apart of so many bands…
I´m not sure about that, I guess we sound like a blend of our favorite bands and have nothing really original going on… But people keep saying that we have some kind of dark atmosphere going on, and sure we spend a lot of time working on making the atmosphere the way we want it, so that could be the thing that makes us a bit different…. But I think we still got a lot of things to explore in these matters
Talking about “Temple of Phobos”, how long did you work on it?
To paraphrase the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko: all our lives… I think a statement like that is quite true artistically speaking since everything you ever did more or less have an impact on what kind of choices you do. But if narrowing it down to just writing the songs I think we started in the middle of 2014 and entered the studio in November 2015.
Which one was the most difficult track to complete?
Probably the one that wasn’t really completed and was taken out of the album ha ha…. But apart from that one I´d say “Den klentrognes klagan” since it had a lot of different shapes, tempos and riffs since we started working on it. It was the first one we wrote for the album and it took a long time to make it feel ok.
Well, I hope eventually we will put our hands on that dismissed song. “Temple of Phobos” is very consistent album that offers strength as in Rejoice In Apathy or more elaborated songs as the titletrack Temple of Phobos or Lamentation Of The Mortals, for instance. In what land do you feel more comfortable?
That’s an interesting question. I personally feel most comfortable with songs like “Rejoice in Apathy” when it comes to playing live. “Rejoice…” was actually the hardest one of these three examples to write and is more complex than “Lamntations…” that is an easy song to write technically but at the same time you need some experience to trust it’s going to be good in the end since it’s a bit weird.
Who contributes more to the design or composition of the songs?
We do that as a whole band. I write most of the material but we shape the songs together.
Jonas Albrektsson entered the band in 2013, how important has been the stability in the lineup for your death metal approach and how has Jonas contributed to that sound?
Jonas hasn’t really written any material for the band but he has been a part in shaping the songs and rewriting riffs. He has a long experience playing in bands ( Thy Primordial, Retaliation, Niden Div.187, Indungeon , King of Asgard) so we shaped up a bit when he joined.
What are the lyrics about in your new album?
Tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on… the struggle of mankind and the inevitable end.
The cover art fits very well with your doom side and the title of the album…
Early on in the process I got an idea about an oarsman and rowing a boat across black waters carrying someone, the classic Charon crossing Styx theme: When we agreed on the title “Temple of Phobos” I kept the idea but changed the perspective and added a temple in the background.… But you really can’t paint a figure in a boat like that without Arnold Böcklins Die Toteninsel coming to mind so instead of trying to avoid it I thought it could be an obvious tribute instead. I guess that it fits well into the tradition of doom metal and that was what we wanted to communicate. We had a lot of skulls on out covers and merchandise so it was time to do something else, even if the skull thing would have fit really good considering the lyrics for the title track…
What bands have influenced your sound and what bands from the past do you miss?
Many and a lot.
As a Sweden band how do you see the scene in your country?
We are quite far from any scene, if there even is one, I don’t know…We live in a small town and don’t do many live shows.
In our opinion, Vanhelgd is one the current references in the current death metal scene, are you conscious that you could be one of the big bands in the near future of the genre?
No I think that is very unlikely considering that the closer to the mainstream of extreme metal you get the more you have to fit into a current trend…We do what we think is relevant to us, sometimes we fit well in a trend sometimes not.
Many people compares you with bands such as Asphyx or At the Gates, how do you feel about it?
I like Asphyx and early At the Gates (I don’t think people compare us to Slaughter of the Soul ha ha) and I think here are some relevant similarities with both bands.
What touring plans do you have for this 2016?
None right now. We are not a touring band, we do some festival shows and gigs now and then but a full tour seems quite unlikely to happen.
Thank you very much for your time and congratulations for your great album