Vanhelgd: Band Of The Day

By on 1 July 2014


Swedish purveyors of dark death metal Vanhelgd really impressed me with their 2011 album ‘Church Of Death’ but with their latest full length album ‘Relics Of Sulphur Salvation’, recently unleashed upon the worldwide metal scene by Pulverised Records, the band have really taken their sound to another level and have created an album that in years to come will surely be regarded as a classic. Razor sharp riffing cuts through the production like a freshly sharpened blade slicing through flesh, there is a good variation of tempos including some tasty doomy passages and the whole thing is driven along by a very powerful howled vocal attack bringing to mind the likes of Martin Van Drunen and Marc Grewe and the overall atmosphere created is deathly cold and ominous.

If you like your death metal swathed in black with some doom and crust thrown into the mix for good measure (see album closer ‘Cure Us From Life’ for a good example of when the band inject some abrasive punkiness into their sound), then Vanhelgd will appeal to you. Guitarist/Vocalist Mattias Frisk answered my questions…

Words: Kat Gillham

WHO ARE THEY: Vanhelgd
FOR FANS OF: Asphyx, Morgoth, Grave, Autopsy, Skitsystem, Dismember, early Samael, Unanimated, Necrophobic, Dead Congregation, Grave Miasma
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Relics Of Sulphur Salvation’ (Pulverised Records / 20 Buck Spin, 2014)

Hails Mattias. Please give me a quick history on the band and who does what currently?
Mattias: “Vanhelgd started in 2007 by Björn when both our old bands Ceremonial Execution (death metal Jimmy and Mattias) and The Jam Session (punk/doom/grind Björn and Mattias) were put on ice. We just wanted rehearse on regular basis and play some dirty rotten old-school death metal in the vein of Autopsy and I remembering listening a lot to Morgoth and Death Breath at that time. We soon got a bunch of songs together and Viktor joined to play bass and after about half a year we recorded our first album “Cult of Lazarus”. In 2010 we recorded ‘Church Of Death’ and our EP ‘Praise The Serpent’ which consists of two rearranged Ceremonial Execution songs that never were released. Viktor had to leave the band in 2013 since we had a hard time to rehearse while he lived in Stockholm and the rest of us in Mjölby. Jonas Albrektsson joined the band half way thru the writing process of ‘Relics Of Sulphur Salvation’, the album was recorded in November 2013.

Mattias Frisk, vocals and guitar
Jimmy Johansson, guitar and vocals
Jonas Albrektsson, bass
Björn Andersson, drums”

My first introduction to the band was ‘Church Of Death’, a great album! Please describe this album in your own words to the readers? Are you totally happy with how it turned out and the response you have gotten to it so far?
Mattias: “‘Church Of Death’ is our second album, released in April 2011. The entire album was recorded at my house except for the drums that were recorded in studio Backbone by Patrik Jonsson and mixed and mastered by Johan Fast. It was the first (and probably last) album I ever recorded and it was a lot of work but the budget was limited and we wanted to get so much control as possible over the process, it turned out ok but looking back at the album it would probably turned out better in a real studio… The sound is quite raw and dirty; the songs are a bit less schizophrenic than our first album ‘Cult Of Lazarus’ but suffer from some kind of multiple personality disorder. I think it has an European sound but not necessary a Scandinavian. We did the best we could at the moment but we were not so focused and sure what we wanted to do with the band at that time.”

How did you hook up with Nuclear War Now! originally? Are you happy with the work they have done for you so far? Is the EP they releases still available?
Mattias: “We sent our first album ‘Cult Of Lazarus’ to some labels just to see if there was any interest releasing it on vinyl since Crematorium Records only released it on CD. NWN! helped us getting our music out on vinyl and CD and we played two NWN! festivals so we are very grateful towards the label, but I guess we didn’t really fit the roster and Pulverised Records got us a better deal in terms of budget and so on. The EP was just released in 250 copies or so and is sold out since 2011.”

Your latest album ‘Relics Of Sulphur Salvation’ was recently released by Pulverised Records, please tell us a bit about this album in your own words and what the readers can expect from it? Are you satisfied with how it turned out overall?
Mattias: “This is the first time we got in to a fully equipped studio with a sufficient budget so the sound is more worked through than our other releases, a bit more massive and balanced. We worked a lot to get the mood right within each song and we were more focused in general (except for writing the lyrics). I guess one never gets fully satisfied with something but I must admit that the next album will be much harder to write in terms of living up to my own expectations… We have begun to learn what kind of monster Vanhelgd is by now and what we are able to do with it, what it feeds on and what kind of shit that comes out in the other end. We worked a lot to get the right dark atmosphere, finding the tempo and balancing the mix between doom, death and black metal. You won’t find any avant-gardism on ‘Relics of Sulphur Salvation’, it’s up to others to break new ground and explore the possibilities of the genre, we are just interested in writing songs that we like.”

Where was it recorded/mixed at?
Mattias: “We went to Norrköping, a town in our region and recorded /mixed it at Studio Underjord by Joona Hassinen. The album was matered at Necromorbus by Tore Stjerna.”

How has the overall response been to the new album so far?
Mattias: “Very good actually, we were not really expecting so many good reviews and it seems like people really like the album!”

Please tell us about the new album cover concept and who designed it?
Mattias: “We came up with the cover concept in the summer of 2013, the idea was to make it a bit like the record label “Naxos” releases, i.e. some classic painting and a white border ( we actually tried it a bit on Church of Death but it really didn’t work with the painting that time). I made the original oil painting, some digital painting and put it all together. I make a living as an artist and illustrator and have worked with a bunch of metal bands (Orator, Under the Church, Miasmal, Ghost , Siberian, Vampire,  Herder, Night, Entrapment, Maim, Sledgehammer Nosejob, Ocean Chief and so on… )”

How did you hook up with Pulverised for this release? Are you happy with the collaboration with them so far and what they have done for this release?
Mattias: “I’m not sure, Jonas had some contact with them since he have worked with them when he was in ‘Thy Primordial’. I am very happy with both Pulverised and 20 Buck Spin (that released the digipack and vinyl versions). Both labels are very easy to work with.”

Is your debut album ‘Cult Of Lazarus’ still available?
Mattias: “Yes, but only on vinyl, the cd is sold out as far as I know.”

What would you say are the most significant differences between the ‘Church Of Death’ and the new album material?
Mattias: “The songs are better crafted, more focused and we tried to get rid of things that were not necessary. The vocals are better and more thought through. Jimmy has evolved his vocals a lot in the last couple of years and I think I understand a bit better what I am doing to, none of us were used doing vocals before starting Vanhelgd, I had done some backup in Ceremonial Execution and The Jam Session but not really that much. I think that the songs are a bit easier to play on guitar, a bit more basic this time. Another difference is that Jonas writes his own bass-lines, something I used to do before he joined the band ( I even played bass on a couple of songs).  The whole production also helps to get the best out of the material.”

What bands fuel and shape the sound of Vanhelgd?
Mattias: “Everything we ever listened to ha ha… For me it’s the bands that have a huge impact on me when I started listening to death metal in the early nineties, bands like Paradise Lost, Entombed, Edge of Sanity, Samael, Dismember, Grave, My Dying Bride, Bolt Thrower, Obituary, Death, At the Gates… but also a bunch of new stuff like Deathevokation, Dead Congregation, Necros Christos, Sonne Adam and Grave Miasma.”

Lyrically where do you draw inspiration from overall?
Mattias: “Art, literature and the everyday news.”

Please tell us about the new album title and it’s meaning.
Mattias: “No.”

Love the bands logo, who designed that? Also please tell us about the band name.
Mattias: Thanks, I made it when we started the band, plain old death metal style. Vanhelgd is an old form of the word Vanhelgad, meaning “desecrated” we looked around for good band names and searched the net for every one we came up with, leaving only Swedish alternatives left, at that time we found no band with a similar name anywhere.”

Describe Vanhelgd in 5 words only.
Mattias: “Tragedy, ecstasy, doom, death & destruction.”

Do you play live often? What can people expect from a Vanhelgd live show?
Mattias: “No, just a couple a times a year. You can a expect us beating the hell out our gear and screaming our guts out, nothing special, no theatre… just some worse version of our songs.”

Do you have many shows planned? Any tours on the horizon?
Mattias: “Not for the moment, we might plan a tour but at the moment it’s just something we started to talk about.”

You played the NWN fest in Berlin a while ago, how was that experience for you? What other labelmates made an impression on you?
Mattias: “We played in 2012 (for the second time) it was great, one of the best shows we did, you can find it on YouTube, filmed by Walerian de Justine.”

What other bands are you guys currently active in that you would like to tell us about?
Mattias: “Jonas is in King Of Asgard who just put out their third album ‘Karg’, I would describe it as black/death with influences from norse music and mythology. He is also in Retaliaton, an ancient legendary grindcore band that probably been around since the 1920s. Björn plays in Ocean Chief who also released an album a couple of months ago called ‘Universums Härd’, they play some kind of doom.”

What is your local scene like? Any cool bands you could recommend?
Mattias: “We come from a very small town but have/had a bunch of great bands, check out Thy Primordial, Dawn, Choir of Vengence, Traumatic and Mithothyn for some kind of history lesson of the Mjölby metal scene.  Active metal bands include King of Asgard, Vacant (heavy metal), Falconer (metal), Ocean Chief (doom) and Throne of Heresy (great death metal that needs more attention).”

Vocally I am reminded of Martin Van Drunen in places… is he an influence or is it just a coincidence?
Mattias: “I draw a lot of inspiration from Van Drunen, John Tardy, Chris Reifert and Marc Grewe, so no, no coincidence.”

What is your opinion on the current death metal scene both in Sweden and worldwide? Current fave bands?
Mattias: “I think that the scene is doing very well at the moment but I also think that what we see today is some kind of peak, a similar thing that happened in the early 90ties, many bands releasing one album and really don’t know what to do next…   In Sweden it’s as hard as usual to get gigs and few people shows up when underground bands play. My personal favorite current death metal bands are Lie in Ruins, Dead Congregation, Grave Miasma, Sonne Adam, Desolate Shrine, Entrapment, Necros Christos, Necrovorous, Miasmal and Maim to name a few… the list could be long since there is so much great stuff out there at the moment.”

I hear some crust punk type parts in your music on past releases, would you say you are influenced by any punk/crust bands? If so who?
Mattias: “Yes absolutely, we got some punk/hc roots, personally I got a lot of influence from Catharsis (US), Tragedy, From Ashes Rise and Skitsystem.”

What are your current plans for rest of 2014 and into 2015?
Mattias: “We have just started to work on new material so that is the main plan by now if we don’t go on tour/do some shows. Hopefully we will be able to record a new album in late 2015 or early 2016.”

The last words are yours, please plug available merch and websites etc.
Mattias: “Check out:

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