Band Of The Day: God Macabre

By on 21 August 2014

godmacabre

God Macabre totally surprised death metal fans the world over (including myself!) late last year by announcing that they were going to reform and play some reunion shows to coincide with the re-re-release of their cult one and only full length album ‘The Winterlong’via Relapse Records. The album was originally recorded back in 1991 and released in 1993. Late last year the band recorded a bonus track ‘Life’s Verge’ for this latest release (the 2nd re-release by Relapse having already put out a CD version of the bands album in 2004) with ex-Vomitory drummer Tobias Gustafsson behind the kit for the recording of the bonus track.

The bands debut album is a gem from the classic Swedish death metal heyday recorded at the legendary Sunlight Studios with Tomas Skogsberg in the producers chair and remained somewhat underrated and undiscovered for many years, so I thought it was a perfect time to make God Macabre a Band Of The Day and probe the band about what instigated the reunion, how it has been getting back onstage together again and playing live abroad for the first time and the expected lifespan of the reunion as well as the latest reissue of ‘The Winterlong’. Guitarists Ola Sjöberg and Jonas Stålhammar and vocalist Per Boder answered my questions…

WORDS: Kat Gillham

WHO ARE THEY: God Macabre
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Karlstad / Västerås, Sweden
FOR FANS OF: Carnage, Nihilist Entombed, Grave, Crematory (Swe), Dismember, Autopsy, early Paradise Lost
LATEST RELEASE: ‘The Winterlong’ (Relapse Records, 2014)
WEBSITE: Facebook

You guys surprised the death metal scene late last year by announcing that you had reformed after over 20 years since the band split up – what instigated this reunion and made you decide that you wanted to reform and play some shows together again as God Macabre?
Ola: “The short answer is: alcohol. The little bit longer answer was Jonas and Tobias meeting up at a concert and it was brought up that recording that last track we never recorded back in the day, ‘Life’s Verge’, would be a great thing to do. And then to use it on the new reissue of the album. When we were in the studio Tobias asked us if we were interested in playing live at Vomitory’s last ever gig, which of course felt like the right thing to do. And with that gig set we decided to let 2014 to be the year of God Macabre playing some shows to then go back into our grave when the year is finished.”

What originally caused the split which happened not too long after the album was released?
Ola: “Well, the split happened more than a year and a half before the album was released. We recorded the album in December of 1991 using our old drummer as a session drummer, since he had quit the band not that long before we were going into the studio. Instead of trying to find a new one we paid for his expenses and he spent one day recording the drums for us. When the whole thing was finished we planned to find a new drummer and continue, but it proved too difficult to find anyone in our area of the country, so we decided that enough was enough. The band officially broke up around March 1992. The album was then released in December 1993.”

Your one and only album ‘The Winterlong’ was recorded in 1991 at the now legendary Sunlight Studios in Stockholm but wasn’t released until 1993 and is considered by many to be a cult death metal classic. It was released on the underground label MBR and remained very underrated and hard to get hold of for many years – what are your thoughts looking back on this album and the recording 23 years later? Is there anything you would go back and change or are you still very satisfied with this album/recording after all these years?
Ola: “My thoughts about the album is that even though there are imperfections, it shows quite well what we were up to, how we sounded and what kind of band we were. In a way I am more happy that there are these imperfections rather than it being sterile and “perfect”. We were always a bit of a punky death metal band, and you don’t wanna mess too much with that. So, even though my guitar playing wasn’t always the best in the world, I rather keep it like it was. I would have liked to spend more time on the recording of the drums though, there are some stuff there that could have been better if we only had more time recording them. From what I remember, most of the drums on the recording are the first and only takes we did. Regarding the album itself I’m VERY fond of it. We did something that I will be proud of for the rest of my life.”

You recorded that album with Tomas Skogsberg producing, how was it to work with him? And what made you decide to travel to Stockholm and record in Sunlight? What fun memories or anecdotes can you tell us about from that recording experience in Stockholm? Did you get to hang out with any guys from any of the Stockholm death metal scene back then?
Ola: “The decision to go to Stockholm and Studio Sunlight was easy. The best Swedish bands went there, so we wanted to go there too! That, and it was pretty damn cheap compared to many of the other studios around at the time. Tomas was a very laidback guy that I remember was very easy to work with. If we wanted something changed in the mix, we got that changed. This is not something that always happens in a studio… I’ve come to realize that the hard way. We didn’t hang out with any of the guys in the Stockholm scene though. The most fun memory I have of that recording isn’t from the studio, but when we went back to record the vocals and mix the whole thing. Me, Per and a friend (Erik, the original drummer in my current band Space Probe Taurus) went in Erik’s car to Stockholm. It was a massive snowstorm and of course the windshield wipers didn’t work. So, we had to stop often to clean the windshields so Erik would see where the hell he was driving. After a while those  stops were just too boring, so we stole some kind of windowscrape from a gas station and Per then hung out of the front window while we were driving and cleaned the windshield. Youth means you are either stupid or wild and crazy… I think some of us were all three on that trip!”

How come it originally took so long to get released? Nearly 2 years if I am not wrong.
Ola: “If I recall correctly it was a mix of the label having some money troubles, releases got pushed back a little and we had a bit of a hard time finding the right cover image. The one we later used on the Japanese Live LP was the original intended cover image for the album, which also at the time was going to be called ‘God Forsaken’. It’s a pity it took that long to get released as I feel we kinda missed the train there. And I think that if the album would have come out in the first half of 1992 we would have tried harder to continue with the band.”

What bands fuelled and shaped the original sound of Macabre End/God Macabre back then influence wise and made you want to play such a style of music?
Ola: “On the top of my head I would definitely say Carnage, Nihilist, Dismember, Autopsy and Paradise Lost being the main inspiration when we started “for real” when Jonas joined the band. Then Jonas, of course, brought with him a shitload of more different influences. And if I know him correctly, he’ll now list a couple of thousand bands that inspired him while writing GM songs!”

Jonas: “Haha, yeah those we’re the core influences when it came to Death Metal at least. But I was moving forwards already back in late 1990 and early 1991 with a lot of progressive rock stuff that was starting to influence me. That was a big part of wanting to use a mellotron on some of the songs for example. Other key influences for me as a songwriter were stuff like: Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Queensrÿche, Fields of the Nephilim, Trouble and most of all Black Sabbath.”

Please tell us about the album title meaning and the inspiration for the lyrics on this album?
Ola: “I will let Per deal with the lyrics as he is the one responsible for them. The album title was, if I recall correctly, just something we borrowed from the book “Winterlong” by Elizabeth Hand. A weird post-holocaust sci-fi book that some of us in the band had and liked. It sounded good, and we just added the “The” to the title. Not sure why we had the title as ‘The Winterlong…’ on the MBR version though. Could it have been we planned for a second album that would have had some kind of continuation in the title? I bet Jonas or Per know more about that.”

Jonas: “The book was the dealbreaker for me to use it as a title but I remember loving the title of Neil Young’s song ‘Winterlong’ (also covered by The Pixies back in the day, which is where I first heard it) and that made at least myself think of that as a title we could use. It really fit the way we sounded at the time.”

Who is responsible for the great album cover?
Ola: “A gentleman by the name Mark Franson is responsible for the cover and all of the images inside of the booklet. We were very lucky that he and Per had gotten in touch with each other and that he was willing to send a whole bunch of samples for us, to see if we could use anything. We did… I think we used three images for the CD and then we’ve used one more of his images for one of our t-shirts. He is still at it and I think he has come back a little to the more morbid side of imagery and have worked with some other death metal bands. I was in contact with him during the Myspace days a little and he seemed to be knee deep in work.”

Tell us about the band name and its meaning and why did you originally change it from Macabre End?
Ola: “It’s a way to show our anti-religious Swedish heritage. Well, the name felt like it fit the band way better than Macabre End and even though I was opposed to change the name when it came up, I’m very happy we did. God Macabre was an unreleased song by Jonas’ band before GM, Abhoth, but for some reason I’m not 100% we actually stole the band name from that song. I could be extremely wrong about that though. One of the reasons I remember made us wanna change was the constant “Macabre Ant?” question we got here in Sweden when someone asked what the band was called.”

Ponas:”I distinctly remember Per loving the title of that Abhoth song ‘God Macabre’ and suggested we might use that instead of Macabre End. To this day I do prefer God Macabre over Macabre End. It just fits so much better to our music.”

The album was reissued and spread to a wider audience for the first time back in 2002 by Relapse Records, how did that deal originally come about? And was it a relief to finally be able to get that album heard by more people and available to a wider audience worldwide?
Ola: “I was contacted by a guy named Tom Hailey who worked at Relapse at the time. I think it was even he who had come up with the idea of re-releasing the album and he nagged his boss into doing it. At the time I never really thought of it finally being available to a wider audience as through all the years since we split up and this was first brought up, I’ve gotten letters and e-mails from all over the world. But, it felt really good getting it re-released as the original pressing was more or less impossible to find. I do know the re-release spread our name to a lot more people who had never heard of us before.”

Relapse are about to reissue the album for a 2nd time again on CD and also on vinyl, please tell the readers what they can expect from these reissues? The album has been remastered, is it the same mastering as on the first reissue or is this a re-remastered version of the album? When is this reissue due out/available? Are you satisifed with the job Relapse has done with everything regarding these reissues?
Ola: “As this interview took a little longer to finish (due to some family stuff) the album has already been released when this interview is unleashed on the world, so I suspect some of you reading this already know this. But, the new reissue has been remastered by Jonas for the vinyl release and it sounds fucking awesome. What people will get this time is a bonus track (that we’ll talk about in a question later on in this interview), a bunch of pics of the band, flyers etc, some stuff people probably have never seen before, ALL the lyrics (yes, even ‘Spawn Of Flesh’ and ‘Ceased To Be’ this time), and all overall much better looking product than any of the old releases. I’m VERY satisfied with all the work Relapse has put into this new reissue. The first reissue was part of their “Underground series” and wasn’t super available everywhere, this time around it’s a bona fide “real” release all over the formats and all that.”

Jonas: “Rennie from Relapse had been asking me for quite some time about doing a second re-issue. I was hesitant at first but finally thought the timing was right. Also out of respect for Rodrigo at Blood Harvest Records I wanted to wait a while so he could sell out his vinyl version. It was great to work on the album once again.”

The current line up features 3 members who played on the ‘The Winterlong’ and also you have got the talented Tobias Gustafsson (Torture Division, ex Vomitory) on drums and have enlisted the help of 2 different bass players for live shows so far if I am not wrong, more recently Bjorn Larsson from Mordbrand. What made you decide to get Tobias in on drums and how come original bassist Tomas Johansson is not involved in the reunion? Did you approach him and he wasn’t interested or…? Please introduce the current line up for live shows.
Ola: “The reason Tobias is drumming is that when you’re doing something like this you want the best possible person to join in on the fun, and it’s hard to find someone fitting in better than Tobias. First of all, he’s a pretty damn fucking great drummer, but also an old friend of the band that after the gigs we’ve done together feels like he’s been part of the band since day one back in 1988. Björn is also an old friend of some of us in the band, he even played bass live with my current band back in 2003. And as he and Per are playing in Mordbrand together we felt it was an easy choice. Then we also have used Jörgen Kristensen (Dead Awaken, and also used to be in Abhoth back in the day) when Björn hasn’t been able to join in on the fun. Jörgen was an easy choice as well as we all knew him from back in the day. Tomas is not involved as he’s not playing music any more. The current line-up is Per Boder – vocals, Jonas Stålhammar – lead guitar, Ola Sjöberg – rhythm guitar, Björn Larsson – bass and Tobias Gustafsson – drums.”

You recorded a song ‘Life’s Verge’ with Tobias on drums for the new reissue, which has never been recorded if I am right? Please tell us about this song.
Ola: “It’s actually one of our oldest songs. We played a gig in Karlstad as Macabre End back in December 1990 and that was our opening song, so I suspect it was written around the same time as the other demo songs. To be honest, I have no idea why we never recorded it back in the day as it would have been a great addition to the album (or Mini-LP as it was back then). Maybe it wasn’t enough time for it? It’s maybe a bit faster than the usual GM songs, but I would say it sounds 100% GM.”

Jonas: “It was actually the first song rehearsed and ready after we did the ‘Consumed By Darkness’ demo back in September 1990 so it’s a really old song. I do remember we for some reason discarded it for a while after that because we thought that it was a much faster song as Ola said. It didn’t fit with the newer material we thought. Bad choice I think now, but I’m really glad we recorded it this time around.”

You played your first reunion gig in Karlstad last December supporting Vomitory at their last ever gig, the end of an era for them and the beginning of another era for God Macabre. How did this gig go overall? How was it to be back onstage playing those old songs together again after so many years? I guess it must have been a very special moment!
Ola: “Yeah, it was a REALLY special moment. First of all going on a stage as God Macabre again after 22 years in front of a shitload of people, who also seemed to enjoy us, even though we played a pretty short set. As we and Vomitory have a history together from the early days it was truly an honor being part of their farewell. Also nice to show up and watch the band you steal the drummer from… The gig went quite well, considering how little we rehearsed before it. It FELT really well, and the errors that might have happened was probably more because of headbanging than not really knowing what to play.”

Jonas: “It was quite magical standing on stage playing those songs again after so many years. Still is magical”

You have many live shows planned throughout 2014 including slots at the prestigious Maryland Deathfest and Party San Open Air festivals in USA and Germany, what are your expectations for these festivals and what can the fans expect from God Macabre live at the upcoming shows? What are you looking forward to especially about playing such festivals?
Ola: “As this interview is replied to after Maryland Deathfest I can say that playing those bigger festivals is fucking amazing. It’s not something you can be used to, I think. All those people screaming their lungs out between songs. MDF really shot up my expectation for Party San quite a lot, as standing in front of all those people were really what it’s all about. To get to play out stuff in front of as many people as possible and just get to do what we love. What people can expect from us is lots of hair (well, on some of us at least), lots of d-beat and a whole bunch of death metal!”

Jonas: “What you get is ‘The Winterlong’ played in it’s entirety (minus ‘Lamentation’) with the ‘Consumed By Darkness’ songs and ‘Life’s Verge’ added. So our entire recorded catalogue.”

What are all the shows you currently have confirmed so far?
Ola: “The ones that are left are Party San in early August, Kill Town Deathfest in Copenhagen in early September and a gig at Truckstop Alaska in Gothenburg, Sweden. Those are the ones we have now and I’m not sure there will be any more after those.”

You recently played your first ever gig outside of Sweden in Brescia, Italy, how was this show/experience for you? How was the crowd reaction? How was it to finally play a God Macabre show outside of your home country?
Ola: “The Brescia gig was fantastic. A cool place to play at (Circolo Colony), an audience who knew our stuff (hell, they even sang along to some of Jonas’ solos!) and I feel we had improved quite a lot since the Vomitory gig. It was wild playing outside of Sweden as the only gigs we did back in 90/91 were local gigs and not even around in different parts of Sweden. After the Brescia gig we’ve played at Neurotic Deathfest in Holland, Maryland Deathfest in the US and Viseu Rockfest Open Air in Portugal outside of Sweden, and I feel that it’s more and more fun for every gig we do. This has truly been a great year, doing this together with old friends.”

Will this reunion continue beyond 2014 or is this strictly a limited timescale thing? Or are you just gonna go with the flow, enjoy the moments and just see what happens from there?
Ola: “This reunion is for 2014 and for 2014 only (although we prematurely started it already in 2013 with the farewell gig for Vomitory). It’s really about the new reissue, us getting out and play for people who have never seen us and making the label happy, while getting some really great memories for life.”

Jonas: “For me personally, I will not close the door on more gigs beyond 2014 at all. It’s been really fun and magical as I said to play these songs with these guys. And if some cool gigs get offered for next year or beyond I’d say yes in a heartbeat. It’s not that much hard work really.”

Any plans to play the UK yet? I am sure there is many underground death metal maniacs who would love to see God Macabre play on these shores!
Ola: “Sadly no. Not at the time I’m writing this. I would love to play in the UK and to show that the Vikings are back to pillage once again! The UK have always had a great death metal scene and it would be cool to have played there with GM. And, let’s not forget, we are a d-beat death metal band, so playing in the homeland of Discharge would of course be really cool.”

Jonas: “The UK would be high on my list to play in for sure.”

What are the chances of recording/writing new material or is the door strictly closed when it comes to such an idea? Do you prefer to just play the reunion shows and keep the recorded legacy firmly in tact? Or will you do an At The Gates and initially play down any suggestion of recording a new album but then in a few years time surprise the world again by announcing a follow up album to ‘The Winterlong’?!
Ola: “As we have said we would NEVER reunite and play live together I don’t think I’m gonna sit here and say that we will NEVER record new material. But, the chance that will happen is very, very slim. Like you said, we have a legacy of our music that I really don’t wanna mess with. So many old bands that come back and make new material has lost the touch and it’s not the same again. To me that would be a really bad gamble with us doing something new. I don’t doubt we could make some really good music together again, but it wouldn’t be the same.”

Jonas: “Even if I want to keep the door open for more shows in the future, I would not want to do a new record with God Macabre. To follow up a record done over 22 years ago just seems pointless and almost a suicide mission. I prefer channelling my Death Metal songwriting through Bombs Of Hades only. But, I could not say it will never happen, cause you really don’t know. We used to say we would never reform in any shape or form and here we are so…”

Describe God Macabre in 5 words only!
Ola: “Old farts playing death metal! Hahahahahaha! Nah, maybe “Doomy, punky death metal attack”.”

In the years God Macabre remained inactive and buried in the death metal graveyard you have all remained very active with other bands/projects throughout the years such as the very underrated Space Probe Taurus and more recently Bombs Of Hades, The Crown, Mordbrand etc..please tell the readers a bit about the other bands that are currently active that feature God Macabre members.
Ola: “Well, I’ll be an egotistical bastard and start with my own band. Space Probe Taurus is my current home, where I play guitar and sing and we’re playing garage rock influenced by the late ‘60s and bands like The Stooges, MC5 and Blue Cheer, plus an added touch of Mudhoney and Monster Magnet. We’re just about to release our second album, hopefully before winter. Per is doing his thing (and the thing he’s doing better than a shitload of others) in Mordbrand and they’re about to release a new EP as a follow up to their brilliant album ‘Imago’. And Jonas is growling and playing guitar with Bombs Of Hades, which just released their third full length ‘Atomic Temples’ and that truly has taken the band to a new level. As those guys are so god damn productive I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t working on their next release already.”

What is your opinion on the recent/current old school death metal scene and the resurgence in such a style? What bands out there have caught your attention and in your opinion are playing death metal how it should be done? The Swedish scene has been especially strong and vibrant again in recent years.
Ola: “I’m very happy that the scene is still alive and vibrant with new bands. I see no reason to be all stuck in the past, and the current Swedish scene is, to me, almost as interesting as it was back in our day. I really like what Tormented is doing, although I don’t know how “new” you would consider them to be. The first Tribulation (The Horror) was also something I really enjoyed. Other bands I enjoy that are fairly new are Bastard Priest, Entrails (yeah yeah, I think of them as new), Vanhelgd, the first Morbus Chron was quite good. Also, among the best “Swedish” death metal I’ve heard recently was made by the Italians in Funest. Oh, and of course Mordbrand and Bombs Of Hades (Per and Jonas, you can stop pointing that gun at me now). There’s really too many to mention as the scene is still alive and well and there are a shitload of great bands out there.”

Ok, thanks for answering this interview, wish you all the best for the upcoming travels and shows – the last words are yours!
Ola: “Thanks to you, Kat, for doing this interview! And… do you want your stamps back now?”

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