Norway'S Gothenburg Sons
CoC interviews Rune Holm of The Embraced
by: Alvin Wee
Though not as high-profile as some of their Swedish melodic death counterparts, The Embraced (not to be confused with Regain Records' keyboard-based black metal act Embraced [CoC #51]) pull off a decidedly non-Norwegian stunt on their newest opus _The Birth_. Eschewing the Norse "holocaust-metal" ethic of old and all but ignoring the latest wave of electro-industrial pouring forth from their homeland, this Norwegian quintet embrace (sorry!) a technical death perspective that's refreshing coming from Norway. After numerous line-up changes, a messy deal demise with the now-defunct Invasion Records and the band's subsequent return to original label Aftermath, The Embraced are back with a vengeance and a solid new album, almost a year delayed. Axe-man Rune Holm gave me an idea of their ambitions, and was (I suspect) nearly driven to exasperation with my critical views of the Gothenburg genre.

CoC: First off, I'd like to ask about your expectations regarding your new album. How do you expect the response to be this time round? Any hopes?

Rune Holm: We're pretty enthusiastic about this release! I think we have a much stronger album than _In My Dreams..._. The songs on _The Birth_ are all more technical, melodic and brutally different than our debut album. This time we have a better distro than the last time so we're promoted basically in all of Europe, Japan, USA and Scandinavia. We look forward to hearing how people will react to our music and we hope they'll like it!

CoC: And the label?

RH: Aftermath have attained a lot of new distros in the last few years, so they are really working hard to promote their bands. We're very happy with Aftermath so far, but we'll see what happens in the future. Our record deal was only for one album, so now we just sit back and see what happens...

CoC: There's been a separate Asian release too, hasn't there?

RH: In Japan we let Soundholic records release the album on license from Aftermath. It was easier for both Aftermath and Soundholic, because Soundholic agreed to do all the promotion down there and that was a release for our label. There's also a bonus track on the Japanese version, so it's pretty cool when all of our friends order the Japanese version instead of the European.

CoC: A good decision, since Japanese pressings seem to be doing pretty well in terms of demand nowadays. Now I must admit that I'm pretty unfamiliar with your previous releases. How did they do in terms of sales?

RH: In 1998 we released our debut album called _In My Dreams... I Am Armageddon_ on Aftermath music. It was Aftermath's first release, so we were both pretty anxious to see how this would turn out. As time went by, we discovered that distros all over Europe [were] interested in our album and Aftermath's forthcoming releases! We had estimated a total sale of 500 ex. [copies -- Alvin] for the album, but it turned out that we sold about 2000! Not the biggest number in terms of sales, but I must say that things look interesting in the future! Soundholic has estimated a sale of 3000 ex. only in Japan, so this looks good for us!

CoC: How have you matured since then?

RH: Immediately after releasing our debut album we started to rehearse and compose new songs for our follow-up _The Birth_. During this period we listened a lot to Dream Theater, Children of Bodom, Hypocrisy and such. Our music was quickly inspired by these bands, so there is a significant change in how we sound! _The Birth_ is much more powerful, technical, melodic and brutal than our debut.

CoC: From what I see you're really quite determined to go beyond the underground and achieve some form of success worldwide...

RH: We try to create a name so that people know that Norway has a death metal band included in the black metal jungle here. We're also planning a tour in Scandinavia to begin with, so we try to be recognized in the media wherever we go. What we really want is to go out and play live as much as possible, so we're promoting ourselves quite heavily at the moment to get the people's reaction, you know...

CoC: Your bio states that you're now playing a "more brutal, yet technical form of death". Sure, there are faster parts here and there, but your overriding concern seems to be melody and atmosphere rather than the brutal/technical aspects of it. I mean, with all the acoustic segments, melodic leads etc.. So what's the issue here?

RH: We like to put in some clean guitars / parts to create a more diverse feeling in the songs. I still believe that this album _The Birth_ is more brutal than _In My Dreams..._, our last album, so we're definitely moving towards a more brutal and technical approach. The new songs for our next album sound a lot like old death metal, [like] Hypocrisy's _Osculum Obscenum_.

CoC: This description doesn't sound very different from the fifth-hundred band out there playing cool Gothenburg metal... What's to stop us from labeling you guys as just another generic Gothenburg act?

RH: This is the way we like it! If you want to call us "just another generic Gothenburg act", then so be it! We like to put in some of our inspiration sources in our music and if people doesn't [sic] like it they can simply buy a different album!

CoC: Hmm? OK, in my opinion, the new wave of melodic death has about as much in common with the traditional Morbid Angel style as Britney Spears has to do with rock. Where have the original attitudes gone? Death metal wasn't meant to be catchy and melodic!

RH: I know what you mean...but get ten people to label one band and you get ten different answers! It's pretty hard to label bands these days because they play so many different styles in one album... I like "the originals" as you call them, but a lot of the newcomers have some interesting approaches in their music too. I'm really fond of the '80s hard rock bands and I like to combine that feeling with our death metal inspired music.

CoC: Even in the death metal boom of '92 and '93, bands like Suffocation, Cancer and Monstrosity were all playing brutal, crushing music. Today however, the rise of NWOSDM has contributed to the scene being filled with previously non-metallers. Some blame the "pollution" of the scene on this new wave of bands... What's your opinion on this? Isn't the scene exclusive anymore?

RH: I really don't care what other people think. If someone thinks that this "new wave" thing is polluting the scene, that's OK!

CoC: Uh huh...

RH: I don't care what label people put us under, or how they respond to our music. If they like it it's cool, but if not I just don't give a shit! Personally, I think it's good that new bands enter the scene with other inspirations and a different approach to their music. This helps to create a big mass of metal based fans and I think that's a great idea! I must admit that some of the new bands like HammerFall, Rhapsody and Edguy don't appeal that much to me... It seems to me that when people have heard HammerFall or Edguy a few times too much, they begin to listen to more brutal metal! I managed to get my girlfriend to enjoy death/black metal using this technique... <grin>

CoC: Quite right indeed! So are you still inspired by old-school brutal death?

RH: Absolutely! I still listen to Carcass, Death, Hypocrisy and so on... Our new bassist Tom gave me a CD the other [day] to listen to. The CD was [by Nocturnus] and it totally blew me away! I rushed out to buy as many of their albums I could possibly find...

CoC: And how do you integrate this into your melodic material?

RH: I'm not really sure how we do that... I often get inspired by whatever I hear on my stereo, so everything can turn up! I can listen to Children of Bodom or Dismember and play that kind of style for the rest of the week! When I'm making a song I'm just fooling around trying to mix two, three or four riffs together. At this stage I have ruled out ten other riffs that I didn't like or [couldn't] do anything with. If it's a traditional death metal riff or a Children of Bodom-like riff I don't really care about it. If I (and the rest of the band) like what we hear, I'm happy!

CoC: So, bringing things back to the new album, what can the fans expect this time round?

RH: This time they can expect (as I mentioned earlier) a more brutal, melodic and technical album than _In My Dreams..._. We have added a lot more technical elements in the songs and the melodies fit the songs in a nicer way than the last album. Maybe we remembered to tune our guitars on _The Birth_ too? On a few of the songs on _In My Dreams..._ we didn't bother to fine-tune our guitars... bad mistake!

CoC: So you're satisfied with the result?

RH: My personal goal with _The Birth_ was to achieve a decent sound and an overall good production. As I listen to it now I'm pretty satisfied with it, since we got to do all the work ourselves (supervised by the studio owner, of course).

CoC: To end off, what are your plans for the future? What can we expect soon: tours, new material, etc.?

RH: Well, first of all we're going out touring around Norway, Sweden and Denmark (and possibly Finland). We're also in the process of making a new album, so we'll probably play some new songs on the tour to check out the response. There's also some talk about longsleeve T-shirts and an LP version of _The Birth_.

[Readers interested in The Embraced merchandise can contact Aftermath Music at: -- Alvin]

(article submitted 13/5/2001)

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