During the early 90s, EVOCATION released two great demo tapes that established them as a promising act in the Swedish Death Metal scene. 15 years after, they have returned – stronger than ever- by delivering one of the best Death Metal albums of the past decade! If you are into good old Swedish Death Metal, then you have to like them. They are that good! Here’s an interview with Thomas and Marko…
When did you first get into music? What was the first album you bought? When did you start playing music and in what others bands have you played before EVOCATION?
Thomas: "The first band I had was called Heavy Waste. It was Johan Oudhuis (Lake of Tears), two other guys and me. I was playing drums and Johan guitar. We were in 6th grade back in 1986 and it was unbelievably bad… The people at the rehearsal house got sick of us and taught us how to play a regular rock 12… After that we played it 1 hour, twice a week… Then sometime later we split up. Ha ha ha… We sucked… The first album I bought for my own money was… I don’t remember, but my first record was “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC. I had a band with Johan Oudhuis (Lake of Tears) during some years under different names and with different people, Morbid Death, Moribund, and Forsaken Grief. I also had one 3 hours long existing band called Harass Mentation, a sort of grind band with Marko and some other guys."
Marko: "I got into music when I started the 8th grade in the same school as Thomas. Me and Thomas liked the same kind of music and started to hang out a lot and at some point we started the band Morbid Death with Johan on drums just as Thomas mentions above. Damned that band was bad… We didn’t manage to come up with anything good… hahaha. After that I think me and Thomas started Harass Mentation, the famous three hour lasting grind band with some other guys. Then finally we started Evocation and things started rollin’. The best time of my life! The first album I bought was “The Number Of The Beast” by Iron Maiden. It was on tape, I still like it a lot!"
How did you guys meet? Were you friends from school or something? I know that living in Sweden is by itself a good reason to start a Metal band, but what motivated you to start a Death Metal act in the first place?
Thomas: "Me and Marko met in school. Then we all came together through the Death Metal scene and skateboarding."
Marko: "Yeah, that pretty much sums it up but I also remember that none of the other bands that we played with at that time were going any good at all. Anyway, at some point when we met up at some gig or a party during the influence of some heavy drinking, the idea came up to join together (me, Thomas, Vesa and Janne). Immediately when we started to rehearse the magic was there and riffs just started to flow. I haven’t ever felt this way with other musicians!"
In the early 90s you have released two demo tapes. The first one ("The Ancient Gate") was recorded in legendary Sunlight Studios by none other than Tomas Skogsberg. How did you feel when entering such a legendary place? Can you recall anything in particular that made an impression on you while recording there?
Thomas: "Tomas Skogsberg affected me deeply personally. He made us relaxed, and he was such a fuckin’ cool dude. I believe he still is. It was a bit sad to leave because the weekend with him felt like a week. In fact, it only lasted for 16 hours, but still one of the highlights in my life. But also it was a wonderful feeling leaving Stockholm, listening to the demo over and over again. We loved the whole production. We smiled all the way down to Borås, playing the demo over and over for 6 hours. Tomas Skogsberg has my full respect for ever!"
Marko: "I also have this cool memory from the evening before we entered the studio. We went to Sunlight Studio just to say hi and to be sure that we would find the way to the studio the day after. Much to my surprise we found At The Gates in there recording the “Gardens Of Grief” EP. Memories like these one will remember until the day hell freezes over… I think Tomas Skogsberg was really impressed with the fact that we were so well rehearsed. It must be some kind of a record or something to do “The Ancient Gate” demo in just 16 hours, considering the fact that we were up drinking until 5 in the morning. Hahaha."
Was the second demo tape recorded in Sunlight as well? Was it mainly used as a promo tape for labels?
Thomas: "Nope, not in Sunlight mainly due to the fact that the cost was too high to record up there when we were about to do the second demo. And yes, it was mainly used for promotional reasons."
Marko: "If I remember right Sunlight was reconstructed somewhere around the second demo and therefore the price to record went up. When we recorded the first demo the price was only around EUR 20,- / HOUR so many bands still recorded their demos up there."
It seems that Tomas Skogsberg was ecstatic about your first demo tape. I also presume you had a support from the Swedish scene. How come you did not manage to release a full-length album back in the 90s?
Marko: "Yeah, Skogsberg really liked us. He actually took upon him to promote us to the major record labels (Earache, Nuclear Blast, Century Media etc.) at that time. However I think we came a little bit late and therefore the labels were a bit over signed with Death Metal bands. After the second demo there was interest in Evocation from several labels (Roadrunner, Osmose, Black Mark, No Fashion, Relapse etc.) but unfortunately we had some musical differences and decided to put Evocation to rest. A bit weird when you consider the fact that all these major labels wanted to have our signature, but that’s what we did… For the re-release of the old demos I went up to Sunlight in 2002 to visit Skogsberg and much to my surprise he still remembered us! The best producer I have ever worked with!"
It seems that you have played a considerable amount of gigs along with other legendary Swedish Death Metal bands. How did it feel to play live with other like-minded, underground acts such as DISMEMBER, LIERS IN WAIT, CEREMONIAL OATH and DARK TRANQUILLITY to name a few? Which was your most special / memorable gig back then?
Marko: "It was a cool time back then when we all were underground acts and we all went to each others gigs head banging like madmen! It was great fun to do all those gigs with bands and members that later became pretty well known within the Metal community. We all were pretty much friends or knew the bands from our part of Sweden. I think the most memorable gig must have been when we headlined for Edge Of Sanity. The thing was; we were in Gothenburg at this cult club called Valvet to check out a gig with Edge Of Sanity. The entire band was over and we had been drinking really heavily the entire afternoon and evening. At some point that evening the gig promoters received the message that Edge Of Sanity had to cancel the show. Why, I don’t know. So instead they asked us if we would be interested in headlining the show instead. Give us a case of beer and we will do it! The place was full and the crowd was absolutely mad! By the way also caught on tape, waiting to be unleashed upon mankind…"
What are your memories from the early Swedish Death Metal scene? How did it feel to be part of this whole new wave of Death Metal? Which bands from that age do you consider as most important?
Thomas: "I personally consider bands like Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed, Death and Autopsy as very important but of course there are a whole lot more. Even Thrash bands like Kreator, Testament and of course the mighty Slayer made a big impact and sat some of the stones for Death Metal."
Marko: "Today when I look in retrospect it feels really great to have been a part of the birth of such an evil music genre… Everything was so cool even at local gigs; people just turned up from nowhere and banged their brains out! The best period of my life! Bands that I consider most important from this time are At The Gates, Dismember, Entombed, Unleashed, Morbid Angel, Immolation, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Sabbat etc."
In 1993 you decided to dissolve the band and change musical direction by playing with CEMETARY (later SUNDOWN) and LAKE OF TEARS. What were the reasons for such a turn? Was it the need to experiment and try something new? Do you think that the overwhelming amount of Death Metal releases back then somehow "saturated" the scene in a way? Was that also the main reason for leaving EVOCATION behind?
Thomas: "When Evocation was put on ice, I went for bass in Cemetary for a while instead of doing nothing. I didn’t have the strength to start a new band. In Evocation we simply could not agree on what musical direction to go; fast, slow, heavy or just go on like before."
Marko: "Yeah, the scene got a bit saturated back then. There were tons of crappy bands releasing stuff but the over flooding of bands was never a reason for us to leave Evocation behind. It was just as Thomas says musical differences that made us go separate ways."
How come you decided to release the demos in CD/LP format so many years after? Didn’t you have any earlier offers by other labels to release them? Are you satisfied with the work done by Breath Of Night with the demo re-release?
Marko: "In 2001 we were contacted by Akhenaten at Breath Of Night Records. He said that he loved Swedish oldschool Death Metal and that he wanted to release our old demos. Anyway, we thought that it would be a great idea to release the stuff to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the birth of “the thing that should not be”… Then it took three more years before the album was released and during this period Akhenaten also mysteriously just vanished… Some rumours say he left to the US, but I’m not sure at all what happened to him. I’m really thankful that he wanted to release our old stuff because in a way he is a bit responsible for the reunion of Evocation. The release of the old stuff was the match that made the flames start burning again. During the years that Evocation was put on ice we were never approached by any other labels. Actually I’m not really satisfied with the demo release. First of all, when Akhenaten disappeared the remastered version of the release got lost somewhere in Germany. Me and Vesa spent several days remastering the old demos and the result was pretty damned good. Fortunately we have one copy left of this version here in Sweden. The release made by Breath Of Night is not the remastered version. Also I’m not sure that we are really satisfied with the packaging either. Therefore we are probably going to do a reissue a bit further ahead with the remastered version together with a really extensive booklet featuring pictures from the early days and a biography. Probably some video footage will be added as well."
Has the aforementioned release of the demos somehow affected your decision to start rehearsing again in 2005? What has actually triggered you to reanimate EVOCATION? Perhaps a need to leave the melodic / atmospheric path for a while in order to return to the old Swedish Death Metal sound?
Marko: "Just as I mentioned above one of the reasons was the re-release of the old stuff. We were just so astonished to see that people even remembered us after all these years. It was somehow during this period we also realized what an impression we had left within the Death Metal community. Back in the early 90s we didn’t have a clue about these things. We were just a bunch of youngsters drinking beer, having the time of our lives – playing Death Metal! But one other major reason for the restart of Evocation was the fact that we were bored and fed up with the music scene as it is today! I mean, there haven’t been any good releases made since 1995 when At The Gates released the “Slaughter Of The Soul” album. I don’t think anyone in the band has any Death Metal records made after that. And about the melodic / atmospheric part you mention above I suppose you are referring to Cemetary / Sundown and Lake of Tears. These bands have always been considered as side projects by the ones in Evocation that has been in those bands. We have always considered Evocation to be the main and best thing that ever happened in our lives. We have always been like a family and we share everything like brothers. Always when we met up at parties the subject started to circle around when we should reanimate Evocation again. Finally we just did it!"
"Tales From The Tomb" is a real shredder! It is truly incredible what you guys have achieved!! Pure Swedish Death Metal! Did you have in mind the good old days when recording or did it come naturally / spontaneously?
Thomas: "Oh man this is natural, pure love and one hell of a good time. And the members are like brothers. Also we have lots of respect for one another… I love those guys, they are the best musicians together ever in my opinion."
The ENTOMBED cover is more than suitable and fits the whole atmosphere of the album perfectly! Was your cover version of ‘But Life Goes On’ a sort of a tribute to this legendary release that influenced to a great extent the whole Swedish Death Metal sound? Or was it done just for the fun of it? It is apparent that ENTOMBED has been a huge influence for EVOCATION…
Thomas: "Entombed is without any doubt one of the influences but they are not in control of our creation. ‘But Life Goes On’ is a wonderful song and when you play it you can feel the fire within the song it self. Seriously, Entombed has a great atmosphere. No fuckin’ fuck here, same as Evocation… It’s the same shit emotionally…"
Marko: "I think you are spot on, it’s both because it’s fun and also as a sort of tribute. We have always fooled around in the rehearsal studio, and from time to time we have been doing different covers. It’s both fun and relaxing to do them. For me the “Left Hand Path” album always has been a source of inspiration. This might sound a bit weird but I have actually owned six copies of that album. It’s not because I’m a collector, it’s because they have all worn out… I still remember that at one point even my mother thought it was a great album since I brainwashed her with that album, day in and day out… hahaha."
The choice of Dan Seagrave to illustrate the cover of "Tales From The Tomb" is more than suitable! What is your favourite of Dan’s covers?
Thomas: "“Like An Ever Flowing Stream”, Dismember."
Marko: "Yeah, the cover artwork by Dan “the man” Seagrave turned out just perfect! I just have to quote Dan’s own words about it. “I think this one will be a classic, one of the best pieces I have ever done”. Earlier my favourite Seagrave artwork was “Left Hand Path” but now I think it’s “Tales From The Tomb”, hehehe."
Are there any ideas for a vinyl release of "Tales From The Tomb"?
Marko: "Not that I’m aware of at the moment. Of course it would be really awesome to have a vinyl version with that amazing cover artwork by meister Seagrave. If enough people write to Cyclone Empire I think they will bow down for the masses…"
Do you agree that the old Swedish Death Metal sound is somehow "justified" nowadays were there are loads of crappy releases around? Do you believe that an even increasing number of bands will redefine their sound by digging back in their past?
Marko: "Yeah, you’re right about that there are lots of crappy releases around nowadays. I think this will be an igniting spark for the old Swedish Death Metal sound. People are bored and fed up with the scene as it is today and probably there will be more bands that follow and start digging back in to the past when it becomes more popular."
What do you think of this new wave of brutal Death Metal coming from Sweden and bands such as VERMINOUS, NECROVATION, TRIBULATION etc.? Are there any new bands that you would recommend?
Thomas: " I really don’t know these bands you mention. No, I can’t recommend anything except for ourselves of course…"
Marko: "Sorry, I haven’t heard of these bands either. Guess I got stuck in the freezer back in 1995… hehehe About new bands; I like Fragments Of Unbecoming from Germany."
Please add the final words for this interview. If possible let us know your top 5 playlist.
Thomas: "Don’t let the fool’s guide you blind… Support porn and support your local dope dealer."
Marko: "Thanx for the interview and hope to see ya all down in Germany for some live shows this summer! In the meantime check out www.evocation.se if you want your head blown away by Death Metal the way it should sound!"
Marko’s Top 5 playlist:
Entombed – Left Hand Path
Dismember – Like An Ever Flowing Stream
At The Gates – Slaughter Of The Souls
Sabbat – Dreamweaver
QOTSA – Lullabies To Paralyze