Entombed Interview

Threeman Recordings

Entombed are back and ready to release Clandestine Live. The progenitors of Swedish death metal decided to do something special for the album’s 25-year anniversary. They recorded a two-act concert of the entire Clandestine album at Malmö Live in Malmö, Sweden with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra And Choir. Original members Nicke Andersson, Uffe Cederlund and Alex Hellid sat in with the symphony on the first act. The second act Entombed performed, for the first time, the entire 1991 album. Fans can get a copy of the live band set on May 17, 2019. Entombed hope to release the symphonic set later this year.

Clandestine deserved special treatment as it was their second album and is now considered a death metal classic. The band progressed technically from their debut, Left Hand Path, while continuing the maxed out, chainsaw guitar tones. Not only is there a certain atmosphere that is unique to the album, there is a mystique to it regarding who recorded vocals. Guitarist and original member, Alex Hellid spoke to Heavy Music Headquarters about recording this monumental concert. He also recounts recording the album nearly thirty years ago, and dishes the goods on the band’s reformation and future releases.

Darren Cowan: Clandestine Live was recorded for the album’s 25th anniversary. The recording is of a two-part concert. How did this begin. Who conceived the idea to put on this special concert?
Alex Hellid: It’s a really long process. I think it started back in 2005. Somebody in Germany sent us an orchestrated piece he and his friend had done. He was in the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra. He had done an orchestration of “Chief Rebel Angel” and something else and sent it to us just for fun. Then, somebody else sent us a letter asking if we’ve ever done Clandestine with an orchestra. So, it’s been in my head since around 2005. Five or six years later, the opportunity arose. I had been thinking about it, but not doing anything. I didn’t know how to get it done with an orchestra. The opportunity presented itself, so when a promoter asked if we are interested in trying it, I said “yes” right away. I knew exactly what we’re going to do; we were going to do that album, from start to finish, because that’s what this other person, whom I’ve never met, suggested.

That album is very complex for us. We met and did a show with Atheist in Sweden around 1990. We had just released the first album, we were just blown away by their set. That’s the reason we went in more of a technical direction. It was a hard album to play live. There are a lot of things going on in the album that aren’t audible, you can’t pick it out, so I thought it was a good way to really dive into that album, pick it apart and really show people what is there. There were a lot of things that led to it. It’s been an interesting ride.

Clandestine is very atmospheric, especially the vocals. You recorded growls on top of screams. One would fade from one speaker to another. Did you try to recreate the atmosphere live?
No, especially back in the day that was way beyond what we could do because we probably didn’t even have a sound guy with us then. It was definitely a challenge. That’s why it’s cool to revisit it now. Hopefully, if we get any more shows like that, we’ll try to recreate the atmosphere a bit more. We discussed if we should bring in the samples we had. Back in the day, we used to carry a sampler with us. One tour, Matti [Kärki] from Dismember came with us on a trip to Germany. He was on the side of the stage, behind the amps or something with Nicke’s keyboard hitting the samples. This was around the time of the Hollowman EP because we were doing the “Hellraiser” song.

We were trying it out, then, and we used to carry a sampler, but this show we kept it really simple and focused on the music. Next time we might. Back in the day, it was very straightforward. Atmosphere wise, it was closer to Left Hand Path when we did it. It has a lot of things going on, and I know we hear comments from people saying they can hear stuff they didn’t on the original album on the live one. So, we at least got something right with the clarity. It’s a live album, too, some of the stuff is easier to pick out from the wall of sound.

Was the album recorded on a sound board? The recording is excellent.
We ended up using the sound guy from the venue at Malmö. They record the orchestra there, so we decided it can’t be all bad. We had him do it, and he also mixed the album. He’s about eight hours from where we live, so we actually didn’t have the possibility of going down there for the mix. We are pretty happy with it. Originally, we did a crowdfunding to raise the money for the filming. We made a special thing for the people who supported that campaign. We made a DVD of both sets: the orchestra and the band set. Also, they got the music on two discs. It came with really nice artwork. Hopefully, we get to put the first one out later this year. It’s a lot of people involved when you deal with orchestras. It’s like a band times 50 to deal with everybody…

We hope to put Live 1 out. This is Live 2. We all grew up with KISS (laughs). This is like our first ever proper live album. Earache put something out in ’92, but we were never happy with that recording. Then we did something with a ballet [Unreal Estate, 2005], but the songs were arraigned differently. So, this is actually the first time we’ve put out a proper live album. It’s also the first album I’ve done with Uffe [Ulf Andreas Cederlund] since ’96 when we did the To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth album. It feels like a new chapter in our Entombed lives. I spoke to Nicke this morning. He’s been on tour in the U.S. He and his wife have a band, Lucifer. He just came back a few weeks ago. Now he’s rebuilt his studio. He’s getting ready and setting up his drum kit again. Now, he’s probably in better drum shape than ever now that he’s touring a bit with a drummer. It will be interesting to hear him do some new stuff also because we are planning to record some new Entombed stuff. It’s going to be interesting.

What was it like playing in an orchestra?
I love it. It’s weird because I told our friend Thomas [Von Wachenfeldt], who orchestrated the album, to try to take us out of the equation, and not think of it as a band with an orchestra. I wanted it to be just an orchestra, and if he could fit us back in somewhere for instrumentation, then fine, but really we are just there to enjoy being in an orchestra. The less we do, the less we destroy what they do (laughs). It’s still a work in progress. We are also working on the next installment of this orchestra thing. We are trying to take it to another level. We’ll see if we get a part in that or we just take ourselves out completely, and just try to do an orchestra. Then, maybe do a band set. Maybe not at the same venue.

We would like to take it outside of Sweden. It would be cool to do this orchestration thing, but also do a live show. It doesn’t have to be in the same venue. The venue we did this thing in is like a classical, symphony hall, so it’s all a seated audience. When you see the video, it’s bizarre because we’re up on stage, moving around like a normal show, but the audience looks like they’re frozen because they are sitting down. Some people are trying to head bang in their seats, so it’s a bizarre situation.

Did you record the album in 2016?
Yeah, at the end of 2016. Actually, by chance it was released on the original day the album was released, the 12th of November 2016. With the help of my team, we finished the editing. We put together the package we promised the people who supported the crowdfunding. That took a while. This version we do a proper, commercial release. We aimed to get it out last year, but then we had problems with the front artwork. We had to change it a little bit. We didn’t want it to look too close to the original version, which I think is OK now that you can definitely see it’s a live album.

We had Dan Seagrave do the artwork for the show, so we could use it as a backdrop. We wanted a winter theme. In the end, I wimped out when I spoke to them because I got the feeling he was going to add too much snow. It would be a white cover. I said for him to ease back a little on the snow and make it more icy. Then, Earache thought it looked too close to the original. We wanted the new version to be like you wouldn’t know if a thousand years had passed since the first one. Or it was a thousand years before, another season, another time of day. I asked Dan, “What time of day is the original one?” He said it was probably at dusk. We made this one more like a dawn with ice. I wanted these twisted faces that he is good at doing that are all over the place. I didn’t want him to cover them up with snow. We still wanted to see all the details that he put in. He did an awesome job! He made even more details than the original, so it’s really cool.

Entombed now includes three original members: Nicke Andersson (drums), Uffe Cederlund (guitar) and you, Alex Hellid (guitar) with Robert Andersson (vocals) and Edvin Aftonfalk (bass) from Morbus Chron. How did you get everybody together?
Edvin is actually Nicke’s brother, so when we met up in 2015 to do a session, we recorded a song off the first album and a cover of Death’s “Evil Dead.” We were working on releases at the time. I had this idea that we would do a song off an album, and a cover song that we have done at the time that would some how influence the title track. We all loved Scream Bloody Gore and we used to do “Evil Dead” at our earlier live shows. After we did that, Nicke asked who should be singing on this. He suggested Robert. That’s where that came from.

Then, when the idea to do this show came around, we asked the guy who was in the band on To Ride and onwards [Jörgen Sandström], but he couldn’t commit to do the shows. So I thought if we were already having Robert, then let’s ask your [Nicke’s] brother to come do the bass. So, that’s how that happened. I think these guys were born around the time the album came out. They were born around ’91. It ended up being a really cool time. We were glad to have them. They did a fantastic job. It felt great to have their energy. We had new blood. Instead of getting somebody we knew back in the day, this felt like the perfect thing for us.

Who was the vocalist on the studio recording? Johnny Dordevic was listed but Nicke did the vocals, right?
After the first album, Nicke called me and said he couldn’t be in the band anymore with L.G. [Petrov]. He said it was either him or me. That was an easy choice because Nicke was the one who started the band with, so we were really eager to get working on the new album after the first one because that was before we started going on tours for a year after an album. We did the album, released it, and we did a few shows. We had material for a new one, so Nicke called Dick up and asked, “Can we go in the studio? We don’t have a singer, but we’ll do it anyway.” We’re kind of used to not having a complete lineup. We didn’t have a singer when we started, so we asked L.G. and Uffe to guest on our demos because we didn’t have a full lineup back then, either. That was nothing new to us. Johnny was a friend. He was in a band with Mike Amott called Carnage, so we knew him.

He was a guitar player, but we thought he looked great and was a good guy, so of course he could sing. But then, for the album there really wasn’t time to get him involved in the recording. We had about 10 days to do it. Nicke put down some guide vocals. We asked him to do it instead. It was never the plan. In the end, I think Johnny did one line. I think he said, “I’m already dead” or “I just want to die” (“Sinners Bleed”). That’s Johnny and the rest is Nicke and Uffe. Uffe does a lot of screaming. Our thinking at the time was we would keep it to ourselves. We wanted to have five people in the photo for the album, so we put him down as the singer. After a while, I don’t know when, but it leaked out. We were trying to keep it secret. We had Troy Dixler from Sindrome in mind as the one person to sing on the album. Nicke was trying to sound like him, but obviously did it his own way. I’ve gotten in touch, now, with Troy. I asked him if he would be interested if we did a new version of it. I haven’t convinced him yet, so we’ll see. We’re still working on that.

One of the characteristics of the Swedish death metal sound is the C or less tuning, maxed out Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal in combination with the guitar running through a Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal. What do you recall about creating that sound? Entombed basically created that sound.
We were trying to copy other bands we liked. We really liked the way Obituary or Executioner sounded; I still think they have really great guitar tones. Leffe [Cuzner], the guitar player we had originally, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on gear, so I got one pedal and he got this HM-2 pedal. He hated it. He thought it sounded terrible. He said, “These knobs, it doesn’t matter what I do with them. It sounds terrible. But listen to this: if I put them all on full, this is what it sounds like. Isn’t that funny?”

So, it started out like that and then that’s what became his sound. OK, this is the sound he was using then. I used the Distortion-1 to be a balance to his really extreme sound. That’s what Uffe took forward when he inherited the band and developed even more. Then when we started recording at Sunlight, our sound developed in the way the sound was built up using HM-2 as a stereo, Uffe would put down two identical guitars — put them left to right. Then, there would be a third guitar in the middle put in with a bass to try to add some clarity to the extremeness of the HM-2 sound. That’s basically how that came about.

What’s next for Entombed? You said you’re going to record another album. Do you have tour plans?
We’re working hard to get this live album out to as many people possible. We hope to build from there. Speaking to Nicke this morning, it sounded like he was ready to go, so I’m hoping we can be active. After the shows we did in 2016, we started getting a lot of offers, and good offers, too, so it would be nice to say yes to a few maybe this year, definitely, next year. The guys from Decibel made us a really good offer to come do their festival in December in LA. That would be really cool, so hopefully we can start to do things like that.

We hope to come back to the U.S. and do some shows again. That would be awesome! So that’s roughly the plan. If things go as planned, we’ll record stuff this year and start releasing maybe late this year or early next year, and hopefully we can say yes to some shows. I look forward to building the concept around a new album. That will be awesome. We’ll probably be working with Dan Seagrave again on art ideas — just make it really cool, complete and classic.

Is that going to be a return to the first couple records? Is it going to be rocky?
I would say it’s going to be a mix of everything. I wouldn’t say it will be a rocky thing; we’re going to take the best parts, what works best out of these first four albums, and try to add something new like we would done back then, also. We would have taken it somewhere. We wouldn’t want to go back and try to do Left Hand Path again. We definitely want to take the best parts of that, so we will get a maxed out, complete Entombed album. At the same time not try too hard. It’s tricky. One way we do that now is not worry about writing a full album in one go or spend too much time before we go in an record it. We have a couple songs now. Today, we said if we just start and record one, two or three songs, put something out and then go to the next one. Maybe build an album that way. We’ll see.

To make it happen fast, to start releasing anything, the best thing for us to do is not wait around too long. Where do we all have 4 weeks in a row? That’s going to delay things. I’m also looking forward to doing it that way because back in the day when you go in and record everything on one go, there are always things you don’t have time to do that you want to do. When we recorded Clandestine, Thomas [Skogsberg] is a big Beatles fan and he would say, “If we had more time, we could try this or we could try that. Next time you should do it definitely. Instead of recording a full album, you record one song and finish it, completely, mix it and everything. Then you can come back and do a new session.” We never really got around to doing that. It sounds like that’s where we are heading now. Finish one song, get it done. Maybe release it then collect a few more. We’ll see what happens. I would like to release one song at a time or put out an EP or 12”. As a kid, I loved how Iron Maiden put out 12” singles.

(interview published May 17, 2019)

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