Sweden’s DAMNATION came into being back in 1989 when vocalist / guitarist Richard Cabeza (DISMEMBER, UNANIMATED etc.) teamed up with drummer Peter Stjärnvind (UNANIMATED, MERCILESS, ENTOMBED etc.) and bass player Björn Gramell in order to do some BATHORY worshipping, mainly by playing covers of Quorthon’s early period, but with a couple of own creations already thrown in there as well… They labeled their style as "Occult Swedish Black Metal" and released a demo ("Divine Darkness") in 1994, which included three own songs (‘Eternal Black’, ‘The Dark Divine’, ‘The Mistress (Queen Of Sin)’) as well as a BATHORY cover (‘The Return Of Darkness And Evil’)… And then there was silence… until now. The band recently returned into the spotlight with their debut full length album "Destructo Evangelia" via Threeman Recordings, which left a couple of questions unanswered for our Mr. Franke, who – despite the obvious musical charme of the record – wasn’t completely convinced about the band’s seriousness yet… Reasons enough for us to contact Björn Gra… ehh "Churchburner" for a more detailed feature…
Greetings Björn – it’s been quite a while since we’ve been in touch (way back for the interview in VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE # 7 to be a little more precise), so what have you been up to ever since the release of "Divine Darkness"? Did you release anything else afterwards or was DAMNATION put on ice shortly after?
"Yeah, it’s nice to be in Voices From The Darkside again after all this years! After we spoke last time we have not really recorded anything official, but the production of ideas and riffs is always in work. The “Divine Darkness” demo sold a lot of copies worldwide, and the response was awesome, and because of that we got plenty of record-offers but we didn´t sign because we really didn´t care back then. We have always played and existed for our own needs first of all. The horde of DAMNATION will continue to the day we´re all dead, even if we’re quiet as hell you can be sure that we’re still around, lurking in the back… DAMNATION is our life."
I always wondered who the fourth member on your classic band picture was… I mean, as far as I know you always promoted DAMNANTION as a three-piece didn’t you?
"Well, we are sort of a 4 piece band. We have never really got official with the number of the horde. No member has got fired since, let’s see… ’91 maybe, and we have no needs to do so either. On "Destructo Evangelia" I know people get confused by the pictures, but this is Damnation, 2, 3 or 4, it doesn´t really mather. We´re still the same band, just sometimes less members the day the pictures is taken!"
Was your bandname never a problem for you, especially considering the fact that there’s a couple more bands around using it (including the Polish horde that already has several albums released)?
"No, not really! I only remember once when the polacks contacted me and told me to change name or… Hahaha! Fuck em! I couldn’t care less about what they want! We have been around for 15 years now and no way hell that we even consider a name change. We ARE Damnation."
At which point of time did you start working on the band’s debut album, who was involved in the writing process / recording line-up of it and why did you choose to use pseudonyms ("Curchburner" and "Insulter Of Jesus Christ") instead of your real names now?
"The working process is always in progress. More or less, but for this album Insulter has written the majority of the songs. The last 10 years we have had trouble to get all together to rehearse because of various reasons which have resulted in less productivity than it should have been. About the pseudonyms, they have always been used between us, and now we decided to use them on the record as well."
Back in the demo days Richard wrote the majority of the material – has this changed now?
"No, Daemon still is involved in the writing of lyrics and music. But as I said before, on this album Insulter has written the majority of songs but next time it may be more from him also."
I also noticed that your logo was changed quite a bit from the demo days to the actual album version… What was the reason for that? To me the old one looked pretty cool already, so…
"We really like both logos and use both nowadays also. We recently released the “Divine Darkness” demo on 7”, and on that record it was perfect to use the demo logo, and on "Destructo Evangelia" we thought that this more simplified logo suits better. This album is dedicated to the really old Black Metal scene, and therefore this old logo fits just pefect! But you´re right, the demo logo is cool and will of course be used, but the album logo has been around since the beginning so…"
Why didn’t you use the other two demo tracks ‘The Dark Divine’, ‘The Mistress (Queen Of Sin)’ for the album as well and decided to go for two cover songs (VOLCANO and BATHORY) instead? I mean, you could easily have included them as well as the playing time is only about fourty minutes, so…
"We couldn’t exclude the covers, that’s not an option! We have always played covers and will continue recording covers on every release. That’s a part of Damnation. In a kind of way we´re like a tribute band for the really old and occult bands, and we need to honour them for everything they have meant for us! We didn´t want the album to be too long, so that’s the only answer I have. Maybe next time we will record them…"
I suppose you are already aware of Stefan’s critical comments in the review that we published on our website… Do you have to face those kinda comments more often these days? That people are questioning your seriousness because they are not aware of your past? How do you deal with that?
"That was a fuckin stupid review! Who the fuck is he to question the seriousness of Damnation? Just review the album, judge the music (which he actually did good) but don´t bother what the hell everyone does besides Damnation. I’m so fuckin tired of all this comparisons. No wonder why some bands need pseudonyms. If you do it for money this is certainly not the music to play, so why even think about it? Damnation’s members live for this music and we are both dedicated and proud to play Black Metal the way it should be played!"
The packing of the album is pretty simple and there’s not even a real booklet included, almost similar to the simple packaging of your demo back then… What was the reason for it this time? Once again lack of money or don’t you like publishing lyrics and stuff in general?
"We wanted the whole production to be simple. That has actually nothing to do with money. We specified our needs, for example the Insert to be printed black and white on NO glossy paper, we wanted the old touch. The first printing was printed on glossy paper and we couldn’t accept that, so they had to print it all once again. There is a thought behind everything on this design. There was no place left for the lyrics on the CD, that’s why we didn’t include them. We didn’t want a book inside."
There’s two additional names mentioned in the booklet though: Mörk, who’s responsible for the lyrics to the album’s titletrack and ‘When Creation Dies’ (as well as for speech in the latter) and "E." who contributed vocals to the titletrack… Could you tell us more about these two?
"They both hail from the almighty Watain from Sweden. E is the singer in Watain and Mörk plays bass. Mörk also has his roots in one of my favourite Swedish acts of all time, Malign. They are both very dedicated in what they are doing and there wasn´t a hard decision to have them on our album."
I was pretty surprised when I found out about the playing time of some of your songs (around seven minutes each) – as this is very unusual for the raw oldschool style you’re playing… What made you do so anyway?
"You´re right, that’s unusual but we like the songs to be longer than average if possible. Of course that is not something we really struggle for, usually it just happens. A mix between short and long songs is I guess the best…"
Visually the pictures on the back of the album pretty much look like old TREBILNKA, NIFELHEIM and the likes to me… are they band’s that you feel close to? Which bands would you consider your main influences (apart from BATHORY of course)?
"Treblinka is for sure both visually and musically a very big influence for us, as well as lots of other bands hailing from that old era of Black Metal. Tormentor, Samael, Vulcano, Masters Hammer, Sarcofago, Grotesque, Sex Thrash to name a few. Nifelheim is truly one hell of a band and togheter with them, Watain and a few more I think we carry the flag for real Black Metal in Sweden!"
What made you record two cover songs for the album? Were you lacking in enough own songs? And why did you go for another BATHORY one? Was it your way of honouring the passed Quorthon once more? By the way, how did all you react when you find out about his tragic and way too early death?
"They were not chosen because of lack of songs. We could have recorded a lot more songs if we wanted. Like I said before, this is Damnation, and we will always cover bands as a tribute and show our respect for them. And Bathory songs is always going to be recorded, if not for a record, then for our own needs as we always have done. I got the information the day after the death from a source with connection to the family and I was in total shock. I lightened up 13 candles and listen to Bathory all night. As one of the few “dedicated warriors of the hordes of Bathory” I have been worshipping Bathory for a long time and I am for sure one of his most dedicated fans. The memory of Quorthon & Bathory will be honoured in Damnation forever!"
How did you hook up with Threeman Recordings? Was it due to Peter’s involvement in ENTOMBED, who basically run that label? Did you have other label offers after "Divine Darkness" got released back in those days? If so, why did you turn them down?
"We got a lot of record deals sent to us in the mid 90s but we turned them all down. Demo releases was good for us back then, but things changes and 15-years of Damnation couldn´t be better celebrated than printed on vinyl (…and CDs for the new generation). Threeman was chosen as a label because that made us more in control of the production and distribution of the album than a deal with another label could offer."
Have you ever played live? Would you like to do so?
"No, we have never played live yet, and I don’t think we ever will either."
Well Björn, I guess I’m running out of questions, so feel free to close this interview with any additional information that still might be of interest here… Thanx for taking the time and all the best with DAMNATION and "Destructo Evangelia"…
"Thanks Frank once again for showing the interest in Damnation! Anyone interested in real oldschool Black Metal should buy “Destructo Evangelia”. Visit your local store or go to www.threeman.net for information regarding purchase of the album. In Memory of Ace! Hail The Hordes!!"