"Cast in fire tempered by the flame, Evil demons lie within the blade, Mighty swords razor sharpened steel Death metal weapons forged to kill…" – ONSLAUGHT ‘Death Metal’ – "Power From Hell" 1985. DEMONICAL was spawned in March 2006 – by former CENTINEX members Johan Jansson (guitars & vocals), Martin Schulman (bass) and Ronnie Bergerståhl (drums) – with a mission to return to the roots of Death Metal and deliver a sheer dose of darkness and brutality. Martin Schulman – bassist and founder of DEMONICAL answers
The last time you were featured in VFTD, you were in CENTINEX. One question from that interview that was asked of you, was if you were satisfied with your career thus far? Your answer in summary was that you have to keep trying, keep excelling at what you do. Try to "get a new better deal, get a better tour, write a better record, and to achieve higher goals all the time…" Is this the reason why DEMONICAL was formed?
"There are many reasons for the split of Centinex, both musical and personal. My first thought about splitting the band came in the fall of 2005, after we had released "World Declension". Even if the album got great reviews and things seemed ok I was kind of fed up with the situation. We didn’t have any arguments within the band or anything but I felt that enough was enough, I felt that I had taken the band as far as I could. So I started to think about a new band and that was when the idea of Demonical was spawned. But then it took until April 2006 before I really realized my plan and told it to the other Centinex guys. With Demonical I try to achieve the goals I didn’t receive with Centinex, both for my personal satisfaction and in terms of musical aspects."
As a decade + supporter / fan of CENTINEX, who first heard of your band when "Subconscious Lobotomy" was new I could only imagine what this decision must have been like for you. The reputation within the underground proceeding CENTINEX alone, the immense back catalog of this band and consistent level of craftsmanship in your studio works and live performances year after year. It must have been some kind of hell to cut the ties to this band / creation that you have played in, promoted and stood behind since the early ’90s. Were you alone in this thought process, in this decision to end the band?
"Yeah that’s right, the decision wasn’t anything I just came up with during a night. During all the years I had of course thought about this a few times, especially when things have been hard with line-up changes, record labels, canceled tours etc, but then still, I continued as Centinex was so important for me. However, in the fall 2005 the decision was final but as I explained, it still took many months until I announced it in public. I was completely alone in this decision, I didn’t tell anything about my plans to the other guys."
Where were the other band members, mentally speaking, at this time? Had they enough as well with CENTINEX?
"No I don’t think they had enough of it really. My decision was a surprise for a couple of the guys, the remaining two dudes somehow understood it was coming. All of them of course thought it was sad to end the band but when I had explained to them my reasons and thoughts they understood me."
Seems like you really needed a fresh start. A tough way to go, to go about doing this I mean, but now you have this new beginning and as well a new creation called DEMONICAL. Tell me more about your vision with DEMONICAL, as the band appears to me rather to be a harsher, more "back to basics" and straight-forward approach to Death Metal.
"Yeah it was a though decision but I still knew I had to do it. There wasn’t any other way to go, no other solution. A line-up change or something wouldn’t have helped or changed anything as to tell the truth, the last CENTINEX line-up was musically very good and we played very tight together. So that was never an option, there was just one solution to the whole "problem" and that was to call it a day. It feels also good that we made the split at the absolute top of the CENTINEX’s career. It takes a lot more guts to split a band when you are in some ways successful than to split a band when you are on the way down and no one really cares anymore. When it then was done it was actually a big relief, it felt very good to start again from scratch and just look forward. DEMONICAL is exactly how I wanted CENTINEX to sound. A much more rawer form of Death Metal, like you said, "back to the basics". Like real Death Metal is supposed to sound…."
It’s funny that you say this that "DEMONICAL is exactly how I wanted CENTINEX to sound." I have to tell you, honestly, that’s the impression I got from what I heard on your debut album "Servants…" and that DEMONICAL seems not so much of a wide jump from where CENTINEX was at or could of been capable of. But rather DEMONICAL is more of what I would of said personally, if asked, of just what I had envisioned CENTINEX to have morphed back into some years ago but just never quite got there.
"Yeah of course there are some similarities between the two bands but still I feel the material is quite different. Or put it this way, "Servants…" is an album that could have been recorded after Centinex’ "Diabolical Desolation" (released in 2001) if we wouldn’t have had the line up change back then. "Diabolical…" was, in my opinion, the last Centinex album with that oldschool sound. After the album was recorded one of our guitarists quit and a new came aboard, a guy with a much more technical style and who came from a completely different musical background. He was quite a lot younger than us and hadn’t been in the so called scene for long, he was almost still wearing diapers back in the late 80s / early 90s when we got into this Death Metal circus. So with the addition of him to the line-up everything started to change. All of a sudden we had two very talented technical guitarists who were almost challenging each other in their playing and style. They played very well together, they had like the same chemistry between them like KK Downing and Glen Tipton of Priest have, but sadly it did also effect the song writing progress and the direction of Centinex. So the album that then followed, "Decadence – Prophecies of Cosmic Chaos", was very melodic, technical and in some ways almost progressive. Of course there were a few fast tracks but most of the material went in some kind of half-tempo lacking all oldschool influences. The production on this disc was also very clinical and polished. I don’t know if it was a reason or cause but "Decadence…" was in some ways our breakthrough album, it did very well especially in the States. For the album after that, "World Declension" which then also became our last, both me and Johan, the vocalist, said that we have to go more back to the roots, we have to try to catch the essence of Centinex and make the new tracks more brutal and intense. I think we managed with this up to a certain point, "World…" became more brutal and back to the roots than "Decadence…" but still it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So in order to realize my own visions and style the only solution was to split the band and start Demonical, a band in which I could have more creative control and input."
And that really is the crux of the situation, isn’t it? Meaning, "you want what you want", for your band and that is at all times the very best! Anything less is just unacceptable. So too then is the desire of having what you create to come across exactly how you envision it to be and if possible in the most gratifying way, right?
"Right, music is so important for me so rather not compromise when it comes to that… For me it was, and is, completely impossible to be in a band that I was supposed to "lead" and that I had created without feeling that I could stand behind it for 100%. So yeah, some might call me a dictator, don’t know…"
Let’s talk a bit about that, the first audio assault – the four track promo attack entitled " Bloodspell Divine "
"Yeah sure, shoot man…"
Tell me about it
"After we had formed the band we were of course very eager to enter the studio asap in order to show everyone what we were up to. I had written all the tracks, the inspiration was really flowing, so we didn’t see any idea to wait, we booked Necromorbus for 4 days around midsummer
2006. We hadn’t found a suitable vocalist at that time so we decided that Johan should do the vocals. But this was only a temporary solution, that was agreed as he really wanted to concentrate on the guitar playing. We thought also that it’s easier and smoother to find a vocalist when we have a ready product to give them, like "here, this is how it should sound". So we recorded for tracks, ‘Revel In Misanthropia’, ‘Unholy Desecration’, ‘Feeding The Armageddon’ and ‘Leipzig 1945’, during those days and even we got blown away of the result. We didn’t think it would sound that good, so that was pleasant surprise and kick for us!"
As little is spoken about Black Lounge Studios outside of Sweden. The very same studios that were your primary recording bunker for so many years with CENTINEX. I am told Necromorbus, is an off shoot of this same facility, is this correct?
"Yes both studios are very good with excellent equipment and really cool dudes running them. Just to make it clear though, they are two completely different studios and they have nothing to do with each other."
Can you tell me a little bit about both studios, then?
"Sure, Black Lounge is a studio located in my hometown which is owned and operated by Jonas Kjellgren, the former Centinex- and current Scar Symmetry guitarist. Jonas has been running the studio since 1999 so he knows what he is doing… The "Bloodhunt" MCD by Centinex was the first "bigger" recording he did, it was also his first recording as a member of the band, and since then Jonas has been doing the studio as a full-time job. Yeah with Centinex we recorded everything there since that MCD and the decision why to do this was of course quite obvious. For the Demonical album we decided to record the drums there as he has a very smooth way of recording drums, things go very easily and that’s of course something Ronnie, our drummer, likes. Actually the first plan was to record the entire album there but do to a full booked schedule it was impossible. So we decided to do the rest of the album at Necromorbus Studios in Stockholm, a choice we are very satisfied with. Nothing wrong with Black Lounge, it would have been great to record there, but somehow I think Necromorbus still suited us better. First of all, it’s always good to be away from home when you do an album, that way you fully concentrate on what you are doing instead of having "everyday stuff" that has to be taken care of. Secondly, I think the sound we got at Necromorbus suits us a bit better as the sound at Black Lounge tend sometimes to be a bit to polished and clinical. There is absolutely noting wrong with Jonas nor his studio and I don’t wanna bad-mouth him but I do believe it was better to do this way.."
Since I didn’t get a chance to actually hear the promo "Bloodspell Divine", what were the aspects of this recording that surprised you and that blew you away? And what things did you want to keep for the actual recording of the album?
"Well the fact that blew me away was that the final result sounded really killer remembering that we just rehearsed for a couple of times before the recording. Also, the band was completely new as we had only existed for just over two months, the whole situation was new with Johan playing guitar etc. So all in all, it was a very quick recording, which turned out very well in the end. The reason why we recorded the entire promo at Necromorbus was simply because it was so close to the Centinex split that the relationship with Jonas was maybe a bit… hmmmm, "infected". But then when some time had passed things turned to the better and that’s why we returned to Black Lounge for parts of the full-length. What we wanted to transfer from the promo to the full-length was the intensity and brutality and even make those things more present. But I don’t think we should compare the promo and album recordings so much as the album was done with a much larger economical budget, we had really rehearsed the tracks, we were much more prepared, we had a full line-up etc so there were many things that were better."
How did Johan’s vocals handle over the entire promo? As he was the veteran vocalist for CENTINEX, I’m assuming he just knocked these four songs out with little trouble, eh?
"Yeah that’s right, he just nailed them down without any problems. We didn’t even have the lyrics written when we entered the studio doors, I wrote them while he was recording the guitar. So the vocal recording was really fast and unprepared but with Johan’s experience it became easy as hell."
What’s your opinion of Johan’s guitar playing? He’s been active, playing for many years, hasn’t he? And in quite a few other bands too, like INTERMENT for instance
"He has been playing guitar since the mid-80s, first in some Thrash bands and then in Death Metal bands. He do also have his Death band, Interment, that was formed in 1990 so to play guitar in Demonical is like the most natural thing for him." (It is now that I would like to just say that the reason more was not asked of Martin about Johan’s involvement with INTERMENT is two fold. Firstly, the fact that an interview with Johan Jansson is going to be conducted in the near future herein VOICES, with his raging side band INTERMENT will indeed happen soon enough. I didn’t feel it necessary to pepper Martin with unneeded questions about INTERMENT as it’s not his band, and secondly, the interview you are reading is, logically speaking, with Martin and is for the most part about his new band…DEMONICAL – Wes)
Martin, you told me that having Johan sing over these songs was just a "temporary solution", as you now have a permanent singer in Ludvig Engellau, from the band REMASCULATE. So it is then that I am guessing you won’t re-record over his vocals for the split EP with ABSU that I have heard about? Of that the song ‘Unholy Desecration’ from the "BloodSpell Divine" promo shall appear.
"Yeah after the promo we searched more actively for a vocalist and then Ronnie recommended Ludwig as they knew each other. Then the rest is history as they say… No we will not re-record vocals nor anything else, the track will appear on the 7" as it’s on the promo."
I thought ABSU had folded some time ago? It’s only been a matter of days now that I have heard otherwise
"Honestly, so did I as they have been really quiet for the last couple of years. But now I have red that they are back in business with a new line up and new album on the way, which is of course something I really look forward to. The whole deal with the split 7" was something Temple of Darkness fixed so I don’t know how they came up with the idea to include Absu but that is of course a great decision and I’m sure the EP will be supreme."
From all accounts given, DEMONICAL received great write-ups and commentary about the "Bloodspell Divine " promo. Not to mention several recording offers from prospective labels, were looked at also. That must have been empowering feeling to get such an enthusiastic reaction for your new band and your new material, yes?
"Yeah of course it felt really good. Most of all it was a kick for me on a personal level, I felt that I was still able to write good Death Metal. So it felt really great, especially also as we had excited for such short period."
Did you think it was going to be this easy with DEMONICAL to get back into the game (of the recording industry) after the finalization with CENTINEX?
"I was convinced that we would be back in the game and when we formed the band I said to the other guys, "we will have our debut full-length out within one year…". It took about 13 months so it was pretty good he he…!! I never lost hope or anything, I knew Demonical would have some potential so it was just a matter of time."
What made you choose Cyclone Empire Records? A relatively unknown Metal label from Germany?
"Because of two things. First, they offered us a really good deal with great economical terms etc. Secondly, which was maybe even more important, was the fact that we had a really good communication with them right from the beginning, it really felt that they believed in the band and its potential and that they wanted to work with us. It was not this big-mouth-label-bullshit that I have come across so many times during all my years in the scene, this was honest and straight talk. So all these things together made us sign with them and we do not regret it for a second!! Actually, we had already decided to sign with a another label when Cyclone Empire got in touch."
The debut album of DEMONICAL "Servants Of The Unlight" – was recorded during January and February 2007 and released in April the same year. Previously you stated you had a larger budget than the promo, and that the band was more prepared going in for this recording. In your opinion, did you manage to capture all the goals you had personally set, with this album?
"Yes, I think we pretty much fulfilled everything. Of course you will maybe never be completely 100% satisfied with an album, you always come up with things that you might want to change but all in all, we can say we are like 99% satisfied with "Servants…". On the other hand, if you would do an album you are totally satisfied with and you feel "this is it" then it’s pretty hard to do a follow-up right..?"
For those who may have heard "Bloodspell Divine ", but have not obtained the new album yet, could you expound on the rest of the tracks that were written and recorded for "Servants…"?
"The new tracks on the album are in a way similar to the promo tracks from "Bloodspell…". Not so similar, but in the same direction, so they all fit together and make the album a good miscellaneous death blast. So all in all the album consists of 9 fat and brutal Death Metal hymns."
Lyrically for this record you shared these duties with your new singer Ludvig Engellau, how’d he do?
"That’s right, Ludvig wrote all the lyrics for the "new" tracks, those which weren’t on the promo. It was a big help and relief for me as I really don’t like to write lyrics, that’s something I always left for the last second and just put together some lines in the studio."
An amazing statement considering the quality and sheer amount of lyrical matter Martin has written within his career with CENTINEX and now too with DEMONICAL.
"So as I said, this was a big help and also one of the criteria we were looking at, when we were searching for a front man, that he would be able to write lyrics. The names of the tracks are important for me so I decided those but then Luvig wrote the actual lyrics."
What’s your opinion on the writing team of Schulman and Engellau vs. Schulman and Jansson?
"Hahhaha… Johan Jansson, is ever lazier than me when it comes to writing lyrics…"
Will we see any more Schulman and Berggren or Schulman and Danielsson collaborations with DEMONICAL as there was with CENTINEX?
"No, I don’t think so now as we have Ludvig. Danielsson and Berggren did contribute with lyrics simply because we were short of stuff when we entered the studio back then…" (that’s too bad. I liked the results of their contributions to CENTINEX. Like the stalwart ‘Demonic Warlust’ from "Diabolical Desolation" and how this was written. These lyrics alone reminded me almost of UNLEASHED! – Wes)
Why the title "Servants Of The Unlight"?
"Suits the band, album and overall concept."
The reason I asked the explanation of the album’s title is the obvious and extremely close similarity to DEICIDE’s 1997 album title "Serpents Of The Light " nor to forget either MARDUK’s 1993 album "Those Of The Unlight". Was this mere coincidence? Or just word play association?
"You forgot Nifelheim’s "Servants Of Darkness"… (Dammit! Hahaha…I did miss this one…How will I sleep at night?! – Wes ) No it wasn’t a coincidence, I was well aware of those albums but so what, how many bands doesn’t have the word "dark" or "darkness" in their title !? Yeah, maybe we should have chosen some complicated title that no one would have understood, but at least then we would then have been "original" and "mature" which seems to be so important in today’s so-called scene…" (thankfully you didn’t choose a title like this, one that no one could understand. There’s nothing worse than an album’s title you have fight your tongue and teeth over to pronounce, no matter how cool the artist thinks it’s gonna be. Originality is a must these days that’s for sure. I wish this tactic was more in step within every genre’s circle and put into practice not with only the newer bands but older bands a like. Especially when so many acts in these times opt to blatantly go the other direction, stealing on a whim, without hesitation or fear of reprisal. Treading upon ground already blazed and usually too already " borrowed from" by those more competent than the average thief – Wes)
Tell me about the album cover… It seems a bit H.R. Giger-ish meets C. Moyen… Is that a fair assessment? Who did this artwork? Is this the same artist who did the logo of DEMONICAL?
"The artwork was made by finnish Babalon Graphics and yeah, they did also draw the logo. We wanted a brutal satanic black and white oldschool cover and they came up with that one. I really think it looks great, didn’t give much instructions so it’s basically based upon the artist views. Yeah, maybe you can say it’s a mix between those two artists."
As a bonus for the fans, the first pressing of "Servants Of The Unlight" carries with it a real audio gem… What is this cool added bonus?
"Actually the track you are referring to will be included on all pressings due to the relatively short running time of the album (36 minutes). Anyway, the track is a cover version of ‘Death Metal’, a tune that originally appeared on the "Power From Hell" album by UK-Thrashers Onslaught, released in 1985. The track is really cool and the title is almost groundbreaking when you have in mind that it came in the mid 80s, way before the expression "Death Metal" was known." (there are those like me, who would argue this point of reference in terms of who actually laid claim to the term "Death Metal " and who’s version is indeed more in line to that of the actual "Death Metal sound". However, for the sake of continuity within this interview, and at expense of not boring you the readers here who have made up your own minds about this semi-controversial topic. Ye all shall be spared this forum for now… – Wes). I think our version turned out killer, actually many have believed that it’s an original Demonical track…"
It is a great version of this song indeed! However, how funny it is to hear that there are those that actually believe this is an original DEMONICAL song! No discredit to you, yet ONSLAUGHT’s career is quite known within the Metal world. So if I may ask you, what are your thoughts about the reformation of ONSLAUGHT? Have you heard the new record "Killing Peace"?
"Well I’m not sure if I agree with you, in my opinion Onslaught were quite unknown for the large masses, a bit like the 80s answer to Centinex he he…!! I think it’s cool that they think it’s our track, that’s an honor. It’s cool Onslaught have reformed, like so many other bands, and released this new album but for me the two first vinyl are still the real classics."
Are you as relieved as I am to know that Steve Grimmit (ex-GRIM REAPER) will NOT be a apart of this ONSLAUGHT reformation? That in fact, the rager who originally yelled on that track ‘Death Metal ‘ that you covered from the "Power From Hell " album, vocalist Sy Keeler, has made a comeback?
"It’s great they have Keeler in the game even if Grimmit is also a superb vocalist in my opinion…" (I will definitely have to "agree to disagree" with you on this point. As I can NOT stand Steve Grimmit or his band GRIM REAPER. The choice of having Grimmit as the vocalist for ONSLAUGHT is on par, and in my opinion, with that of having Blaze Bayley of WOLFSBANE attempting to sing for IRON MAIDEN! Yuck! – Wes)
Getting back to "Servants Of The Unlight ", two shows with the almighty GRAVE were slated for your album’s record release parties. How’d that go? When / where did these shows occur? Also, what did GRAVE have to say about your new band? What was their opinion of DEMONICAL?
"Yeah we made two shows, one in Gothenburg and one in Oslo. They went well and they weren’t just our release-shows, they were also the first Demonical shows ever !! Isn’t that fucking exciting ha ha…!? The Grave guys really think we are killer, they enjoy our brutal and dirty sound and approach. This is at least what they have said and I hope they don’t lie heh…"
I had read that initially DEMONICAL were to tour in support of "Servants….", some time before it was to be released. During early April 2007 through May, along with DERANGED and MASTER… What happened with this?
"That’s right, we were supposed to do this tour around the time of the release. Were were really looking forward to hit the road and some of the dates were already booked when everything suddenly got canceled from the bookers side. Many reasons for his decision but I do not wanna get too much into details…well this is not the first time a tour gots canceled for us and surely not the last time either, shit like that happens and there is not much to do about it."
Will you reschedule with either band?
"No we will not re-schedule that exact tour."
In related news I see that you have a confirmed itinerary now for the tour with NUN SLAUGHTER in July of this year… Is this, right?
"Yeah we will do 6 days with this mighty devil-horde in July. Shall be killer. Too bad we couldn’t take part in all the dates, 11 rituals, we had to skip Finland due to various reasons."
Will you have merchandise available by the time you start the NUN SLAUGHTER tour? If so, what can those who attend expect to see at your table?
"Actually we do already have merchandise available, haven’t just put it up at our website yet. Will be soon… But you can check out the stuff and order it through our MySpace site already, that’s updated. We have quite a lot items for sale, regular t-shirts, girlies, long-sleeves, zip-hoodies, stickers, patches, badges and CDs of course. Well worth to spend some hard earned cash on so take a look."
As we near the end of this interview, might you have anything else that you’d like to mention that mayhaps I may have overlooked?
"Nah don’t think so, this interview was quite in-depth."
In closing what would you like to say to all those that supported CENTINEX through the years?
"I would like to send a big THANK YOU to all of them !! The support we got during all the years was very much appreciated, I will never forget that, but remember also that life goes on…"
And to those that await your battles under the banner of DEMONICAL?
"We are really much looking forward to all these upcoming years with Demonical and I’ll promise, you won’t be disappointed!!"
Your last words
"Thanx dude, this interview and your support will be very much remembered. HAIL THE DEATH METAL VICTORY!!!"