I interviewed guitarplayer Stefan of FLESHCRAWL already last year when they were on tour together with VADER, VITAL REMAINS and REBAELLIUN. At that time, they were on the road supporting their album "As Blood Rains From The Sky…" They played on some smaller festivals during the same summer and went again on a small tour together with BOLT THROWER last January. FLESHCRAWL just released their new album "Soulskinner", which still offers you their own version of old-school Swedish Death Metal in the vein of old DISMEMBER, CARNAGE and old ENTOMBED. A really cool album which all of you Death-maniacs out there should have a listen to. Here’s what Stefan had to tell me…

I listened to "Soulskinner" quite a few times within the last couple of days and I’d say that the album sounds really very spontaneous, everything you did in the past is coming together again somehow…
"That’s maybe because when you reflect the new album to the "As Blood…" album, we play a bit more slow. There are many parts where the speed is really reduced and rather slow, something we did before on albums like "Descend Into the Absurd" or "Impurity". But, I’d still say that the main focus is speed, there are definitely still more fast songs present on the new album."

The cover-artwork is also really nice I think.
"Thanks, I’m happy you like it. The guy who made it, Uwe Jarling, already designed three covers for us. Besides the cover for "As Blood…", he also did the cover for "Descend Into The Absurd". I know him already for ages because we even went to primary school together, we also did our civil service together. After our time in the army, he made himself kind of independent as an illustrator and he made a few covers for movies. He once told us that he also felt like doing an album-cover, we thought it would be interesting to use him and the first result was the cover for "Descend Into The Absurd". Uwe lives in the same city as I do, he lives just around the corner, so I can visit him any time and see what he’s doing. I can give him hints like ‘that’s good’ or ‘can you draw that detail a bit different’, that way we really have everything under control. Besides our covers he also drew the cover for the last DAWN OF DREAMS album. I think that together with ours, that’s the the only one he made in the Death Metal direction."

You once again visited a Swedish studio to record your new album. I think that in the meantine you must know about all the different Swedish studios from the inside and outside…
"Well (laughs), we never visited Sunlight. When I compare all our visits to each other, I’d say that I liked the recording of this new album, which we did in Studio Underground, the most. The atmosphere was really nice. Lars Lindén, the bassplayer of CARNAL FORGE worked as an engineer together with Pelle Saether. Pelle did the mix later on together with us. I don’t think I’ve ever seen people working that concentrated on the recording of an album in the studio as they did, that was really impressive. They really did everything they could to make the album sound as good as possible and we’re really very satisfied with the final result. The recordings we did in the past in the Abyss studio, Unisound, Fredman and Montezuma were a cool thing too, it’s always nice to record up in the north in Sweden. All the people and all the studios we worked with are really good but I really liked the recording of "Soulskinner". We booked the Studio Underground when we heard the latest album of CARNAL FORGE, I really thought the production was very good, especially the mix."

I guess everybody out there knows that the sound of FLESHCRAWL is very much in the vein of the old-school Swedish Death Metal bands, especially old DISMEMBER, CARNAGE and old ENTOMBED always come to mind when hearing your albums. Are you actually deliberately recording in Sweden each time to get this Swedish sound, in other words, do you think it would be more difficult to create such a sound in a studio in Germany?
"Good question. I guess yes and no. For 3-4 years, we probably could have get this Swedish sound only in Sweden. In the meantime, we have made made so many experiences in all those different studios that we probably would be able to get such a sound in a German studio as well. For example, we know now what the settings are on a bass-amplifier to get this sound, we’ve learned a lot over the years in Scandinavia that we would be able to do it here now as well. It’s just that in the end, for us, the mix is always very important. We really need to work together with people who undersound this pretty extreme Death Metal style we play and who are able to mix it that way that it also sounds really devastating in your own living-room. And I think that when it concerns the mix, the people who can do that are living in Sweden. In Germany, you will hardly find an studio-engineer in the Death Metal direction who really knows and understands this kind of Swedish Death Metal style that we play. When we will record our next album, we will propable go up there again."

As always, you also recorded a cover for "Soulskinner", this time it’s the JUDAS PRIEST classic ‘Metal Gods’. Apart from SLAYER’s ‘Necrophiliac’ you always went for more obscure bands in the past, so why JUDAS PRIEST? And are you happy with your version of ‘Metal Gods’ because honestly, I think the resultis a bit disappointing.
"Really? You’re the first one I did interviews with who said to me he didn’t like our cover, most of the people out there seem to like it. When I’m really honest, I have to say that before we went into the studio, I was also a bit skeptical if we should put the song on the album or not. Even in the studio when we started recording the song, we still didn’t know, we still had our doubts. Also because so many bands out there covered JUDAS PRIEST within the last couple of months. At first, I didn’t want to put it on the album, but when I heard the final result in the studio, in the end, I’m really happy that we did it anyway. Personally, I really like our version. It was really interesting to play such an old song, I think it’s already about 20 years old, in this Swedish Death Metal style. I do not regret it, but you are right when you say that in the past we covered more obscure bands. It has been a wish of our drummer Bastian for several years to cover a JUDAS PRIEST song, and since we had the time for it this time, we went for it."

Are you going to play that song also live?
"No, we have six albums out now. We have so much own material in the meantime that we probably won’t be playing any covers on the upcoming tours. Maybe we will still play CARNAGE’s ‘The Day Man Lost’ as an encore, but that’s it."

I have the impression that since you signed with Metal Blade, things are working out much better for you. You went on a big European tour together with VADER last year in June, and you did a small tour together with BOLT THROWER at the beginning of this year…
"I know what you mean. Since we left Black Mark and signed with Metal Blade, the promotion and the tour-possibilities have been much better for us. Metal Blade is a much bigger company and also have much more possibilities to really push a band. We also have the possibility now to tour with bigger bands like for example SIX FEET UNDER or BOLT THROWER, when we play shows with them, a lot of people are always showing up. Since we’re all on the same label, the possibilities to tour together are also bigger, which is a big advantage for us. In January next year, we will be going on the road for four weeks together with BOLT THROWER and BENEDICTION, where we will most likely be playing in front of a lot of people. You really can’t compare the situation to the time when we were still having a contract with Black Mark. We also really notice that there’s a bigger interest in the band from the side of the audience."

Black Mark, is that label actually still existing because I haven’t seen any releases of them within the last couple of months?
"Well, to my knowledge they just put out a new BATHORY album (aaah, overlooked that – S.W.), but you’re right when you say that things seem to be very quiet at their side. What’s going on there, I really don’t know, I hardly have any contact with them these days."

I also interviewed you last year when you played in Belgium. The tour with VADER, REBAELLIUN and VITAL REMAINS had just started back then. How did that go further in the end?
"Well, the tour went really good until the point that our vocalist Sven got really sick. When we were playing in Czechia, he got very sick during the night, he had a very serious estomac-infection. When we were in Austria the next day, we immediately went to the hospital and later on, we sent him home by train. So, we had to cancel all the rest of the shows when we were in Austria. This was really a pity as there were still some shows scheduled in Spain and Portugal, countries we never played before. We played a show in Russia which was really nice, the audience there was really cool. Overall, the bands and the audience were really cool. One thing that was maybe not that pleasant was the fact that we had to wait for more than eight hours at the boarder of Poland to Russia. It was incredibly hot, but such a tour always has its ups and downs."

Do you think that because of the rather tough times you went through as a band when you were still under contract with Black Mark, this also made you stronger as a band?
"Very good question, I have to think about that. Hmm… when you have a main goal as a band and when it’s difficult to reach that goal, you grow and stick together to accomplish that. We also made some positive experiences when we were with Black Mark, I don’t want to make them look bad. But it’s true that they sometimes promised things which didn’t work out and in the end, all that isn’t motivating. But we sticked together and we have gone through all that, it’s all behind us now so…"

And to finish, what are the last albums that you heard or bought which you liked?
"I heard the new BOLT THROWER album which I think is really great. But another album that really impressed me is the new ENTOMBED album. I used to be a very big ENTOMBED fan, especially during the "Left Hand Path" period. "Clandestine" was the last Entombed album I bought (same here – S.W.), afterwards I didn’t buy any releases of them anymore as I was rather disappointed by their releases which came out afterwards (once again, same here – S.W.). But when I heard the new ENTOMBED at a friend’s place, I was really very impressed. It doesn’t sound like "Left Hand Path" of course, but it’s at least a big step in the right direction."

Steven Willems

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