Simmering in Greed
CoC interviews Christian Alvestam of Unmoored
by: Alvin Wee
All but the most dedicated fans of the Swedish scene would be familiar with this band's poorly promoted album _Cimmerian_. A blessing in disguise perhaps, for the seriously sub-par debut to sink into obscurity: Unmoored are back with a major overhaul, and the stellar _Kingdoms of Greed_ attests to the band's new-found prowess. While a similarly improved promotion isn't quite expected from the label, the very quality of the music should garner considerable attention from discerning critics and fans alike. I hooked up with main man Christian Alvestam in the hope of gaining some insight into the remarkable new opus...

Christian Alvestam: Well, let's start by saying we're more than satisfied with the final result. I personally sacrificed a great deal in the making of _Kingdoms of Greed_, so now that it turned out as well as it did, it really is a relief. The album was recorded at Studio Abyss under the watchful eye of producer Tommy Tagtgren, which means the production is of highest quality. In contrast to _Cimmerian_, _KoG_ is more of a concept album lyrically, dealing with all those bittersweet desires that form our lives. As goes for the music, it's faster and more intense than on the debut. It's still as dynamic and varied as _Cimmerian_, though.

CoC: You're still a relatively new name in the scene, but you guys have been pretty active in the past. Surely there's some history to share?

CA: When we started out back in the late winter of '93, I don't think we really had any goals in the strict sense of the word. However, in '94 we recorded our first "official" demo called _Wood-Chuck Tune_ and it was generally very well received. From that day we all started taking Unmoored more seriously, encouraged by the great response. As for goals, recording an album suddenly had become one. It took us three demos, _Wood-Chuck Tune_ included, to finally get signed in the Summer of '97: a two-album deal with the Singaporean label Pulverised Records. After finishing the recording of our debut album at Sunlight studios, we immediately started working on some new material. We made a couple of songs with Nicke still being a full-time member (our drummer back then), but we soon realized his limited drum skills, along with his decreasing interest in the band in consequence of his personal problems at the time, would put a spoke in our wheel. We simply didn't want to jeopardize what we had going, so we gave him an ultimatum. Either you concentrate on the band wholeheartedly or you give notice. He chose the alternative last-mentioned. We also felt like we had taken Unmoored as far as we could go with the sound established on _Cimmerian_ without starting to repeat ourselves musically. So with the help of drummer Jocke Pettersson, co-producer of _Cimmerian_, we tried to take Unmoored one step further. Did we succeed? Well, the answer to that can be found on _Kingdoms of Greed_. Feel free to check it out!

CoC: Either I'm imagining things or some of you have bands on the side, don't you? Jocke's with Thy Primordial, that's for sure...

CA: Both me and Jocke are involved with several other bands and projects besides Unmoored, while Rickard and Tobbe aren't. Solar Dawn, Trone and Supernaut are some of the constellations I play with when I'm not practising the guitar in Unmoored. Jocke is also a member of Thy Primordial, Retaliation and Kids Are Sick, to mention a few.

CoC: You mentioned Nicke "putting a spoke in your wheel" due to his waning interest. Was the unsatisfactory debut album a direct cause of this trouble? Or were you just trying to appeal more to the fans with _Kingdoms of Greed_?

CA: When Nicke declared his resignation, our rehearsals consequently stopped. I then started writing new material completely on my own in view of the situation. All of a sudden there was no longer anybody placing obstacles in my way. Back when Nicke still was in the band, we often had to compromise in the writing process, you see. Always having to simplify everything so that he would be able to play the songs. Considering this, I don't think it's hard to understand our development, or our shift in sound as you prefer to call it. It consequently has nothing to do with trying to enlist more listeners or anything. We've simply removed the missing link, that's all.

CoC: So what exactly instigated this shift in sound? Why choose this specific genre of technical death? It's a fine example of integrating melody with aggression in the true Swedish tradition, don't you think?

CA: First of all, we didn't choose to play in this style. This was just something that came to be once we started writing the new material with Nicke being out of the picture and all. You know, "cause and effect". As for the mixture of melody and mayhem, the challenge in trying to get these two elements working with one another is in itself the source of inspiration generating creativity. I simply need this defiance in order to be productive of new material.

CoC: It's interesting to know what state of mind you're in when composing this duality of passions. Also, I guess your influences wouldn't stray too far away from the realm of death metal?

CA: I write new music all the time, no matter what frame of mind I'm in. You can say composing kind of works the other way around for me. Creating new stuff makes me feel good, whatever temper I might be in right before picking up the guitar. As for influences, let's put it this way: bands that we've really come to dig throughout the years are Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Obituary, Testament, Vader, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Emperor, At the Gates, Entombed, Dismember, Hypocrisy, Eucharist, Dissection and Edge of Sanity, to mention a few.

CoC: I personally feel the standard of lyrics in the scene is abysmal, but you seem to handle some unique issues with your writings. What do you usually try to portray? Do you feel there is a disadvantage when the listener cannot hear the lyrics clearly like in normal singing?

CA: I'm not trying to spread any message with my lyrics or anything. I pretty much just write down my own thoughts and opinions whenever I see, hear or read something interesting that affects me in one way or another. I don't think not hearing every word in a song is something that works against you, since the listener then has to read the lyrics in order to make out what the vocals are all about. This way you're reaching out to the listener in more ways than one.

[The highlight of _Cimmerian_ had to be the final track, entitled "Final State", a sensitive, emotional "ballad", heavily angst-ridden and self-searching. "Final State Part II" made its appearance on _KoG_, once again proving a remarkable experience with the emotive singing and hugely memorable leads. I tried to get to the bottom of the obviously deeply personal lyrics.]

CoC: The "Final State" songs are very interesting... they seem to reflect your personal experiences. Is this a sort of catharsis for you, to get it out of your system? Care to share it with us?

CA: The "Final State" songs are by far the most personal ones to date. If I told you what they were about lyrically, it would be like giving away the end of a movie before seeing it. I think lyrics in general work better this way -- unanalyzed, that is.

[The blatant piss-taking of the track "Now and Forever" on the debut album upset me for some time; it seemed to ridicule the imagery of the extreme black metal scene. My annoyance would probably have been unfounded had the music been less hardcore-ish and immature. Needless to say, I confronted Christian.]

CoC: In the song "Now and Forever", you're taking the piss on the image/lifestyle of "evil" black metal bands. As a die-hard purist myself, I can't help wondering: how serious are you with these lyrics, and why do think this way?

CA: Well, the lyrics for "Now and Forever" are written in the vein of irony, my friend, so take them with a pinch of salt. All I did was try to mix some humour into a view of life that in a way fascinates me, that's all. As goes for extreme imagery, it's OK by me. I frequently practise upon it myself.

CoC: In the light of the band's new musical direction, the lyric takes on a more meaningful slant... OK, back to your music. Many newer Swedish bands are moving in the same direction: to become more technical, more thrashy, etc.. Don't you feel lost in this flood? How do you intend to differentiate Unmoored from the horde of similar bands?

CA: You don't have to be the most original band in the world in order to write interesting songs, you know. We do what we do and if someone has a problem with that, too bad. All the bands I mentioned earlier in this interview work as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for us in some way.

CoC: Indeed. While not earthshakingly original, _KoG_ is outstanding in its sheer complexity and maturity, and I hope it'll do better this time. What's the future going to be like, then?

CA: Since our contract with Pulverised is drawing to a close with the release of _KoG_, we'll probably start looking for a new label in time. As goes for promoting our new album, we'll definitely be trying to do so through some live shows this fall. Nothing is scheduled yet, though.

CoC: You're going to leave Pulverised? Not surprising, considering how poorly _Cimmerian_ was promoted! But they're essentially a good label, I think...

CA: When _Cimmerian_ was released back in 1999, Pulverised suffered from really severe financial problems. Unfortunately, this came to affect our promotion and consequently our sales. Hopefully this will not be the case with the promotion of _KoG_, especially now that Pulverised have managed to get their economy back on track again.

CoC: OK, to finish up here, tell the readers why they should waste their money on another Swedish album...

CA: Well, first my compliments to you, Alvin, for your shown interest. For the rest of you, check out _Kingdoms of Greed_ if you like it brutal and melodic at the same time. You will not be disappointed!

Apparently promotion for this has been exemplary, with larger labels like Copro taking over distribution overseas.

Contact: Pulverised Records, P.O. Box 109, Yishun Central, Singapore 917604, Singapore Contact:

(article submitted 25/10/2000)

8/12/2000 A Wee 7 Unmoored - Kingdom's Greed
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