Reasoning With the Heretics
CoC interviews Mikael Andersson of Thy Primordial
by: Alvin Wee
It's always sad to see how some quality bands in the underground are neglected; especially one as promising as Thy Primordial. Perhaps it's their lack of truly outstanding innovation in an overcrowded scene. Or maybe the lack of promotion. Either way, the band hasn't been getting the attention they deserve -- not from the fans, and even less so from the press. Hoping to expose the work of this underrated group, I summon Mikael Andersson -- axeman, composer and spokesman for one of Sweden's most underrated acts -- from his Northern lair for a quick "what's up" chat.

Thy Primordial still haven't made the impact one would have expected from a young and talented, if not incredibly unique, outfit. Despite having been released ages ago, little has been seen or heard of _At the World of Untrodden Wonder_, the band's third album. [CoC #46] "_At the World..._ has been out for some time for sure. Almost a year, I think." A case of poor promotion, perhaps? "We have done pretty much only interviews to promote the album. But nothing else other than that for promotion." In a scene where marketing speaks as loud as the music itself in securing the success of a band, the work of individual labels has become crucial in determining the outcome of new releases. "I don't know about the rest of the world, but here in Sweden and most of Europe there has been almost no promotion at all for _AtWoUW_; I saw an ad for it in Close Up mag [Sweden's largest metal publication -- Alvin] some time ago, but that's all I've seen." I suggest that working with Pulverised Records (the premier Singaporean label that introduced Amon Amarth to the world) hasn't been altogether favorable, but the Swede is quick to point out: "The promotion for _Where Only Seasons Mark the Paths of Time_ [CoC #20] was a lot better, at least in Europe. And otherwise I don't see any big problems working with them, except for all the delays that have cursed the band."

Thy Primordial must have realized that taking up a contract with an unrecognized, Asia-based label would be a gamble in its own right. Delays would be inevitable, and promotion would no doubt be inferior to that of an Europe-based office. So how did their relationship begin? "They wrote to us asking for material. We then sent some samples from each of our demos and promos. They liked what they heard and sent us a contract for three releases, which we, after some changes, decided to sign. What made us sign with an "exotic" label was that there was no other interest from any labels back then."

With respect to the debut album, the efforts of the "exotic" label proved respectable, to say the least. Advertisements sprung up in most major magazines worldwide, and while distribution proved to be a stumbling block, the name of Thy Primordial made the rounds for a time. Mikael interjects, "I think you mean the _Where Only Seasons..._ album here. Which is -not- our debut album, although the first to be released." Which brings us to the most confusing part of the band's history: the debut album that wasn't.

Most fans and journalists alike took their maiden release, _Where Only Seasons Mark the Paths of Time_, as simply an impressive debut. But circulating in the underground, among the better informed, were rumours of a little-known, unreleased album. It was only until 1998 that, without fanfare or explanation, _Under Iskall Troll Mane_ surfaced on certain distro lists. An obscure, B&W affair of 1000 copies, hardly distributed and advertised less. Most of all, the new album wasn't on Pulverised Records as expected... "Pulverised was not even a record label when we recorded that album. Back in '95 we were signed to this American label called Gothic Records. They faced a lot of economic crises and it took them till '98 to release the album. Things got really messy for us, people thought that it was our new album. That is nothing we are pleased with, but there was nothing we could do about it. We tried to cancel the whole album as it doesn't represent Thy Primordial today, but Gothic refused to listen, as they saw a bright future for the label."

Despite the lack of sustained interest in the band, Mikael remains unfazed. One assumes the livelihoods of the members don't rest solely on the success of the band. "No, we don't live on the music. Music is a hobby for us. I work in a factory, Albrektsson and Nilsson study, Morth works at Sunlight Studios and Isidor walks around unemployed (that lucky bastard)."

While retaining the characteristic melody of their Swedish roots, Thy Primordial has eschewed the traditional technique-heavy style of their countrymen. Driven by an almost Norwegian-style aggression and fury, the band's ferocity is more than one would expect coming out of Sweden. "We play in a more Norwegian style because we like the songs to be less melodic than the rest of the bands from Sweden", Andersson explains. "Probably because me and Albrektsson, who are the main songwriters in the band, are more into that kind of style."

_AtWoUW_ took the band to greater heights of complexity and aggression, yet there was no way to pinpoint any concrete change in the songwriting. "The riffs are more worked out. And the material is a lot more aggressive on _AtWoUW_ for sure, Mikael states. "When we did the _Where Only Seasons..._ album we were a bit stressed, as Pulverised needed a quick release from us. So we didn't have much time to write new songs. Some of the songs on _WOSMtPoT_ were like two years old already when we started recording. We used about one year for the songwriting for _AtWoUW_. Basically everything feels a bit more worked through on _AtWoUW_."

"We told Isidor that we would like him to change the vocals", he continues, highlighting another major change in the music. "We thought that the way he screamed on _WOSMtPoT_ took down the energy in the music. Also it shall be mentioned that we used only English lyrics on _AtWoUW_, which is a lot easier to sing than Swedish." I did like the Ihsahn-type shrieks that accompanied the earlier album for the atmosphere it added, though. "We think Isidor's new way of singing is a lot better than the style he used on the _WOSMtPoT_ album", he remarks, putting an end to the discussion.

An alarming number of bands are treading a new path; Satyricon and Dodheimsgard are just two of the many bands who have turned to electronic experimentation. Satyr believes that the inclusion of industrial/urban elements in an already dark musical style will achieve an even more oppressive and inhuman effect: black metal for the urban chaos, so to speak. "I have to agree with Mr. Satyr. If such elements are used right, it makes the music more brutal, and darker", Mikael opines. "Although it will -not- be included in the music of Thy Primordial for sure." I breathe a sigh of relief, and he finishes: "But I think a lot of bands will use such stuff."

So Thy Primordial, like many other underground bands, are sticklers for tradition. But do they see themselves progressing anywhere in the future? "Of course I see a progression in the band", Mikael says emphatically. "Otherwise we would split up today. I don't see any reason for doing the same shit again and again. Today's Thy Primordial is a bit more controlled, but still brutal enough. You will understand when you hear the forthcoming material." Indeed, but what does the man think of "holocaust metal" bands like Marduk, who believe that melody only detracts from the hatred in the music? "Yes, nice melodies take away the brutality of the music, but they also add something new for the listeners. It might get boring to listen to total chaos from beginning to end. So there I see a reason for using some nice parts. But not too many!!"

The band's obsession with all things dark and depressing is clearly reflected in their lyrics. "Death and darkness through different forms -- that's basically the concept of our lyrics. Albrektsson is the main lyric writer in the band, even if both myself and Morth have added some over the years. We write our lyrics so the listeners can decipher them in their own way. To spread darkness and hatred is the goal of both lyrics and music. Misanthropy is a concept which is often used in our lyrics for sure. I can't really get deeper into it, as I leave most of the lyric writing to Albrektsson."

Sensing a dead end in the topic, I turn the discussion over to music in general. New record labels have all but destroyed the demo scene with indiscriminate contract offers to new, inexperienced bands. I ask Andersson if he's heard anything promising in the underground lately. "No, I don't think I have heard a single demo tape for years. I am not too up-to-date about the demo scene at all. Seems like most of the bands got signed before the demo was released. I don't know how many Gothenburg bands got signed. I stopped buying those types of records years ago", he says, and I couldn't agree more.

New material has already been recorded for the upcoming album, _The Heresy of an Age of Reason_ [reviewed in this issue]. The new album boasts a cover done by Ola Larsson (who also did the _Where Only Seasons..._ cover) and a superb Sunlight Studios production. "We changed studio from _WOSMtPoT_ to _AtWoUW_ because we thought (and still think) that the old studio sucks. The guy who owns Rolab [the _WOSMtPoT_ studio -- Alvin] is pretty good to deal with, but he is not too involved in the metal scene. We were actually the first metal band to record in that studio. He doesn't understand the music at all. In Sunlight the people at least understand what the hell you are doing. Anyway, nowadays, as Morth works at Sunlight, it is our natural choice to record there. Good price and plenty of comfort while we're there. The sound is outstanding on this upcoming piece. We hope people will enjoy it!" Listeners can be sure that when Pulverised does get around to releasing it, it'll be one hell of a ripper!

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(article submitted 12/8/2000)

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