Reaping, Ravaging, Rebelling and Rocking
CoC talks to Tobias Kjellgren of Soulreaper
by: Paul Schwarz
From out of nowhere, my ass was well and truly kicked early this year by Soulreaper. Obviously, I should have done my homework. When a band comprises half of Dissection, great things are a little less surprising than when they come from unknowns. But regarding Soulreaper as either a continuation or little brother to Dissection (despite the dubious link offered by their name) would not only be a misrepresentation of the band's feeling about themselves, it would be a grave -musical- mistake. Their _Written in Blood_ debut [see Album Asylum for a review] owes more to Morbid Angel than to any other death metal act, blackened or otherwise. Of course regarding Soulreaper as a Morbid Angel clone would likewise be unwise. They may owe Trey and Pete a lot, but they didn't sell them their souls. Soulreaper have their own character and it's not only brutal as a vicious beating with a big hammer, it's also got its melodic subtleties. With _Written in Blood_ still ringing in my ears, a sore throat choking me and the temptation to ask too many questions about Dissection firmly under control, I spoke to Soulreaper's drummer (yes, ex-Dissection) Tobias Kjellgren to see where Soulreaper came from, and where they might be going in the future.

CoC: What are you guys up to at the moment?

Tobias Kjellgren: Well, we are busy trying to do new songs for the next album and I guess we are going to record it as soon as possible to get a new thing out.

CoC: How long ago did you record the original album?

TK: Well, it was January last year. So we have a couple of new songs.

CoC: With "the Dissection connection", in what way did Soulreaper come out of Dissection? How related would you say the two bands are?

TK: Non-related. A couple of months after Dissection split up, me and Johan Normann of Dissection decided to do a new thing since Dissection was turning to the grave, and here we are, basically. Nothing to do with Dissection, really. The only connection with Dissection is that we took a couple of riffs that me and Johan did -for- Dissection and used them in Soulreaper.

CoC: In the end what really did happen with Dissection, why did the band dissolve, ultimately?

TK: I don't want to go into it. I wouldn't bother to bore the readers with the whole story. But anyway, we got unfriendly with each other and it didn't work out in the end, so finally me and Johan split Dissection. We didn't split, we got out of Dissection. I don't know if Jon was planning to continue Dissection with another line-up, but he got imprisoned and that's history. We didn't know how things would have turned out for Dissection if he hadn't.

CoC: So, do you not see Jon much any more then?

TK: I have talked to him a couple of times since he got imprisoned. I don't really have any good connection with him. I have a good connection with his brother. He says he's alright.

CoC: Did you set out to write a very brutal album, because _Written in Blood_ -is- very brutal?

TK: Was it planned? No, it all came out spontaneously. For us, nothing is ever planned; what comes out comes out, really. It is a brutal album, I can't disagree with you, but it's also [got] a lot of other elements as well. That's a real trademark of Soulreaper, I guess: trying to do this brutal, ultra-speed kind of black death metal combined with the melodic parts.

CoC: Were you at all tentative about doing this considering -- although it has become more popular again of late -- it's still slightly against the grain; it's somewhat against the grain for the majority of albums Nuclear Blast release these days?

TK: We just ended up with it. What can I say? It was very spontaneous. We didn't plan to sound similar to American death metal: bands like Morbid Angel, Angel Corpse or Hate Eternal. But Hate Eternal, for example, is a very new band also and I can't say I had heard Hate Eternal before making the album. Of course, obviously I've heard Morbid Angel before. Actually we had to cut off some things in our songs because it sounded too much like Morbid Angel, so obviously we definitely do not want to be a little-brother-band to any of these bands. We do our own thing and we live in Sweden and I guess we're the only ones in Sweden doing this. So it's pretty original in the sense that it comes from Sweden. <the last sentence had sarcasm underlining it>

CoC: Formerly, being in Dissection, you were very much part of the black metal scene, though obviously you weren't in Norway. With this album, do you see yourselves as alone or would you align yourselves with the death metal bands from Sweden or the American death metal bands?

TK: Well, first of all, Dissection stated, back when Dissection was Dissection, that Dissection never -was- a black metal band. But we don't care if we're death metal or black metal or anything like that, it's just... you know what I mean?

CoC: I know what you're saying, you don't see yourselves as really coming out of a scene...

TK: No, [and] we don't identify with anyone else either. We're not the ones that like to compare us to every other band either.

CoC: On Dissection, I do appreciate that they never stated they were a black metal band; I am just saying that they did get roped into that.

TK: Yeah, yeah, of course, I know what you mean.

CoC: With the album, who did you decide to work with studio and production-wise?

TK: Well, the principal matter was that we wanted to do a new and original thing. The turn-out is maybe not that. We used a local studio here in Gothenburg. Not Fredman or Abyss up in northern Sweden. We wanted to do an original thing, we just picked a studio right in Gothenburg and we knew a guy that is a really good technician so we just did it.

CoC: Are the lyrics quite Satanic or occult, would you say it is trying to convey an anti-Christian political message?

TK: Well, it is certainly anti-Christian, if you listen or read the lyrics. That's the only thing I can say. All five of us are Satanic individuals... and we play death metal, and we're here to conquer the world -- what else can I say? <laughs>

CoC: Would you consider yourself part of the LaVeyan school of individualist Satanic philosophy or are you more into the -ritual- of Satanic philosophy?

TK: No, not really. I used to be, but I'm really not that involved at the moment. It's more a mental life scene.

CoC: But for you, the lyrics are -real-, the Satanic philosophy is a -real- part of your life. 'Cause a lot of bands I have talked to, especially recently, have talked about Satanism as a way to express anti-Christian feeling or feeling towards the way society oppresses -- Immolation, for example, do this -- because it is a language that people can understand.

TK: Maybe Immolation, coming from America -- or any other band from another culture having, in general, people who are more Christian -- can see it on the streets. Not here in Sweden, we can't see it on the streets, we actually have to go into a church on Sunday to see the Christianity in the community. You're angry at something for a reason and, well, here in Sweden we don't have any reason to hate anything because we don't see it every day. But it's a lifestyle, I can't deny I'm a Satanist and the source that I have and the other guys in the band have also is hard to do without. It is the kind of people that we are; that I am, anyway.

CoC: As far as your influences go, I assume you guys contributed quite a bit to Dissection, so would you say you're using different influences in making this album? You say it was spontaneous, but looking back on it would you say it comes from a different part of your past or whatever?

TK: Yes, all the elements are in the album if you really listen to it closely and I can't deny that -my- influences are Pete Sandoval on drums and Mikey Dee and this Dream Theater drummer, all this kind of shit, you know.

CoC: Would you say the "classic rock" movement had influence on you?

TK: Well, I can't see any New Wave of British Heavy Metal in it, but those bands are my best influences because that was the music that I grew up with when I was little, so if it wasn't for that kind of music I wouldn't be releasing this album or anything -- so I guess that's an influence: not in the music by itself but in the music life.

CoC: Are you touring at the moment?

TK: No, we're going to do a three week tour in May in Germany and Spain and every country in-between, I think, with Gorgoroth and Old Man's Child and some other bands as well. So we're really looking forward to that because we haven't really played live before. We just did a release party here in Gothenburg a couple of weeks ago and that was great and we're really hungry to do more shows.

CoC: Would you say you prefer playing live or recording material?

TK: Playing live, of course! That's why we're playing. When you're in the studio you're playing in front of a wall. The live situation is great, you feel the energy from the crowd and you kick it right back.

CoC: Regarding your image. As far as the way you look, you certainly haven't followed the Floridian style of just looking like fans. You have armour and stuff. With that image, what would you say you're trying to convey?

TK: No. The way that we look on the album is the way we look when we walk down the street. So, it's not a typical image for the band, it's just the way we are. If we had used corpse-paint, which we would never do, maybe I wouldn't say that.

CoC: So you guys walk around with armour [I should have said spiked armbands --Paul] and things?

TK: We don't have any -armour- on the photo!

CoC: Someone had a spiked wristband.

TK: That's the singer, he doesn't wear that walking down the street.

CoC: I used to know some people who did -- they weren't musicians, though. <we both laugh> Anyway, if there's anything else you want to bring out about the band, you're welcome to do so now.

TK: Well, I hope you buy the album and support us and support death metal in general, because it is definitely coming back. I hope to see you on tour, and hail Satan.

(article submitted 25/5/2000)

5/25/2000 P Schwarz 8.5 Soulreaper - Written in Blood
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