Back from the Grave (Century Media)
An interview with vocalist/guitarist Ola Lindgren
by Tim Den
Back From the Grave, indeed. After nearly seven years of silence, the almighty Swedish deathsters Grave have returned with what will surely be one of 2003’s best metal albums. After all, the scene is in desperate need of a history lesson, what with everybody so busy plagerizing the Gothenburg sound. Grave – along with Dismember, Unleashed, and early Entombed – ushered in the trademark Swedish sound years before anyone gave two shits about At The Gates (maybe cuz their first three releases sucked?). Raging out of Sunlight Studios under the supervision of Tomas Skogsberg, Grave and their peers opened a new chapter in metal history with their bonesaw distortion, creepy melodies, hysteria-inducing grooves, and frozen-solid brutality. Now, with Dismember barely intact (and releasing mediocre albums) and Unleashed/Entombed far down the shithole, it is solely up to Grave (and maybe the supergroup side project Bloodbath) to remind the youngsters how it’s done.
No “Resurrection” (to quote a song title) needed here: Grave have never sounded more punishing, more vital, more hungry to eat the opposition and crap out the scraps. Picking up the vibe of ’94’s Soulless, the name of the game here is breakdowns. Fat fucking breakdowns, like 800-pound wrestlers stomping your skull and cracking your spine. It felt earth-shattering on their older releases, but when you throw in 21st century production values (once again handled by Master Skogsberg), watch out, world! Back From the Grave is a classic in the making, one that will mark Grave as the underdogs from the original pack who emerged as leaders.
What made you reunite after seven years?
We never officially “broke up.” We did a European tour and some touring in the States in ’96 for Hating Life, and then we came home and just layed low for a while. We all got steady jobs, and we didn’t feel inspired to write songs. When you have steady jobs, it’s hard to be motivated. Everything was just slow for a while. The record label didn’t push us either. They just waited and said “whenever you guys want to do an album is fine with us.”
About two years ago, I started jamming with Jensa (Paulsson; drums) again. Writing slowly… and Jonas (Torndal; on-again-off-again bassist/backup vocalist) came in about a year after that, playing second guitar. We got our friend Fredrik Isaksson to play bass around that time, too. We did a few shows, enjoyed them, and decided to do the band again.
Are you guys still on good terms with Jorge (Sandstrom; ex-bassist/vocalist, current Entombed bassist)?
Oh yeah! We see each other and hang out sometimes. Everything is cool.
Entombed is like a national treasure in Sweden, right?
They are very popular. They just played a few concerts with the Swedish Symphony Orchestra. In Sweden, if you live in a small city with 1000 people, (a show) is the hottest thing to happen there in three months.
Tell me about how the band first formed.
Jensa, Jorgen, and I started playing together in seventh grade (’84), at 13 years old. The only one of us who could play back then was Jensa. His father’s a jazz drummer, and he was already pretty good. We listened to Kiss, Mötley Crüe, stuff like that. Then came Metallica, Venom… heavier stuff. We had a couple of bands, one called Anguish, one called Destroyer, and then Corpse. Corpse was ’86, when we were 15. We did a three-song demo in ’87; thrashier than the Grave stuff. I still like to listen to it. It’s pretty good.
Around Soulless, your tempos became groovier instead of always fast, culminating in the crowning achievement that is Hating Life.. .
Yeah, (Hating Life) was an experimental album. Only Jensa and I played on it. It’s cool you like it, cuz most people rate that as their least favorite. Mostly because of the vocals (Ola’s official vocal debut). It was such a big change from the pure, growling death metal voice that Jorgen had. People didn’t think I could sing that way. I mean I can, but I don’t want to. Growling just deep and dark doesn’t take that much talent. Most of the bad reaction was from Europe. It was okay in the States.
Also, the death metal fanbase is pretty one-track-minded. They’re not receptive to change. If they heard your first album, they want you to do five more just the same.
After so many years in the genre, do you still have the same level of interest for it? Do you listen to any new bands?
Not really; I’m mostly into old stuff. I’m not too into exploring new (metal) bands. If I get a recommendation from someone like “this new band is worth checking out,” I might do that. But I mostly listen to the radio. I can stand it up to a point. There are some good rock stations in Stockholm. Rock from the ’60s, ’70s… Black Sabbath, Deep Purple… you never get bored of it. You can hear “Iron Man” for the five millionth time and it’ll still sound good. (laughs)
What about the rest of the band?
Pretty much the same. The one who checks out new music the most is Jonas. He shops around a lot at used CD stores. He’s kind of a collector also, so he wants to get everything he owns on vinyl on CD. He’s always checking out new re-releases to “fill out his collection.” He also listens to a lot of weird stuff that I could never (get into).
Like that surprise drum machine beat on Hating Life?
Yeah! It’s actually a stolen idea from Prong, from the Cleansing album. It’s really low in the mix; you probably can’t even hear it if you’re not trying. I really love Prong.
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