Swedish doomsters Dautha set the great bell tolling with their demo almost two years ago which was at long last followed with a full release last month. Brethren of the Black Soil fulfilled expectations of an epic doom event as well as including plenty for the corpses to chew on, from monolithic riffs of granite-slab proportions with folk and monastic influences – not to mention a those booming vocals that some of us felt like we’d met somewhere before. It’s hard to imagine that Dautha’s lead singer has never even heard Candlemass or its most famous messianic vocalist – well, not proper Candlemass anyway. Surely he’s pulling our gangrenous, plague-infected legs? Call yourself a Swedish doom singer Lars Palmqvist!? Here to explain all to Ave Noctum’s Reverend Darkstanley – and hopefully let his band mate borrow his copy of Nightfall so he can see what we’re all talking about – is Swedish doom enthusiast and Dautha guitarist and head honcho, Ola Blomkvist.
AN: Hi Ola, hope you’re good! Your debut album Brethren of the Black Soil seems to be making quite an impact – how has this year been so far for you?
OB: Greetings Reverend, I’m fine, thank you. Yes, our debut has been met favourably by a whole bunch of reviewers, and also by quite a number of regular fans who has gotten in touch to tell us about their feelings for the album. There has been some less enthusiastic reactions also, as one would expect, but they are in a minority it seems.
AN: Have you been surprised by the reaction so far?
OB: Yes, we didn’t expect such a warm welcoming, to be honest. Seems that we really have struck a nerve with fans of classic Epic Doom, and this feels great of course as it was our target group, needless to say. When ones work is compared to Candlemass Nightfall more than once one must have done at least something right.
AN: Lars’ vocals are unmistakably Messiah-like on the demo (especially In Between Two Floods) and now Brethren (on opener Hodie Mihi, Cras Tibi – although admittedly less on some other tracks). How do you feel about the Candlemass comparisons?
OB: The funny thing with Lars is that he, according to a conversation we had recently regarding the most common name drop in connection to reviews of BOTBS, has only heard Candlemass’s infamous Bullfest EP [AN: one of those spasms of misjudgement European metal bands had in the 1990s – the less said the better!]. Thus, he feels a bit bewildered about the Messiah-comparisons. I, for one, can understand the Candlemass comparisons to a certain degree, at least when it comes to the instrumental part, but at the same time I feel people are a bit fast to drop the mighty ‘C’ sometimes. On the other hand, being compared to early era Candlemass is a always a big honour so all in all I do not mind being put in the same boat as Leif & co.
AN: So who would you list as direct influences for Brethren / Dautha?
OB: The two acts that has had the greatest influence on me personally when creating the basics of the album is the Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud and Fire+Ice. These two acts were with me during the most manic phase of the song writing for the album, as they will be with me until I write music no more.
AN: What does the band’s name mean and can you describe the sound to anyone that hasn’t heard Dautha yet?
OB: Dautha means death in ancient Swedish, simple as that; and “Medieval-themed Epic Doom with occasional folk music elements” doesn’t sound too deceiving to my ears.
AN: The tracks on Brethren are all ‘big’ tracks, each with its own personality but with a ‘Dautha’ thread running through (all ‘epics’ I suppose reviewers might say). Did you set out to do that?
OB: Thank you for this great feed back! We had no conscious plan for the tracks other than making them as solid as possible, leaving nothing to chance and making sure that each passage in them was truly inspired. The process involved me being a nuisance to my partner, and at times, to my band colleagues, during the most intensive writing phase. I was absent-minded at home and I came to rehearsals with new stuff all the time, or with changes of old stuff, to the point where I started to annoy the others. Needless to say we spent a lot of time rehearsing and arranging as a band also, and me and Lars battled it out between us when it came to lyrics versus song melodies. I tend to write the lyrics as finished poems, and naturally I want to preserve their original charge when they are adapted to Lars’s vocal melodies, and this takes some re-writing at times, which made Lars and I spend quite a few evenings together cutting through my poetic undergrowth until we had solid hooks for all tunes. All in all I would estimate that it took us three years to finish the album, although much of the work was concentrated to the latter part of 2016 and early part of 2017..
AN: In the finest tradition of metal there are some excellent stories and dark themes running through the album – can you pick some out for us to give people a flavour of your lyrical themes? Any favourites?
OB: Thank you again! I am really glad you enjoy our story telling. Beginning with Hodie Mihi Cras Tibi, it is a song that moves in the same waters as the memento mori/vanitas funerary art popular during medieval post-plague times. I believe this art style to be unsurpassed still to this day in terms of morbid beauty when it comes to portraying our inevitable decline, and this is our little stab at it.
The plot for The Children’s Crusade might also be worth mentioning, due to its grand scale tragedy alone. So, the event that has gone down in history as the Peregrinatio Puerorum, or the The Children’s Crusade, took place in 1212 and was not really a children’s affair exclusively at all since among the enthusiastic small crusaders there were all manner of people with nothing to lose, like beggars, prostitutes and other outcasts. Anyway, our narrative draws from the popular version of the story and in it we do not mention the hookers, drinkers, losers and gamblers but focus on the children instead, because after all we are not out to lecture, but to tell gripping tales of woe. Thus, our children leave their homes in Northern France and Germany in droves, all culled by two charismatic leaders, the prophesying shepherd boys Stephen of Cloyes and Nicholas of Cologne, in a quest to take back the Holy Land from the Saracens. These masses of children, some sources say it was 7000 while others say 30000, were called Pueri by their contemporaries and it was believed, both by the Pueri themselves and the good Christian people (not including the clergy and those in power), that they would succeed in their venture by virtue of their innocence. Mighty knight’s and kings and the celestially well connected clergy had failed, but the children would do it peacefully, through love…It’s like its 1968 all over again, only in 1212… Anyway, the plan is to march to Italy where, the shepherds tell their followers, God will part the sea exodus-style and let his children walk dry shod over the Mediterranean seabed. And it is in Italy our version of the story ends in catastrophe, for those that were not lost on the way there… Pueri = True Children of Doom.
And if I am to mention my favorite track it’d be Brethren Of The Black Soil, in which we lend a voice to the small and trampled victims of feudal slavery, the serfs, while redeeming them through death’s equalizing power over both rich and poor. When writing the lyrics for this one I really tried to envision what one of these oppressed laborers would say to his oppressor, the landlord, when they both met down below in the black soil of after life. And I succeed above my own expectations with my conjuring because this torn man started speaking to me as if he was a real person, ironic, spiteful and sad, and when he quit I had the longest lyric I have ever written.
AN: Do you have an interest in history or books in general?
OB: Indeed I have. Began reading fantasy when really young, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Le Guin, Alexander Lloyd etc and subsequently as I grew older, ended up reading history books. Where I grew up, in the countryside, there was not much more to do other than reading books and listen to Metal, at least if one happened to be completely uninterested in girls, motor’s and sports like myself.
AN: Brethren is unmistakably ‘doom’ but there are a lot of different things going on in there: are different members of the band coming from different places / influences – how has that shaped the final sound?
OB: We most certainly come from different directions musically. Emil Åström, our eminent bass player, is a jazz and art music fan with a penchant for old school Swedish Death Metal, and Dismember in particular. Our pulse, Micael Zetterberg, likes his old school Black Metal, traditional Doom and Swedish prog. Erik Öquist is young, only 22, but still a grumpy old lead guitarist at heart who loves Deep Purple, Steve Morse and Gary Moore but also the Spanish acoustic guitar tradition, something that can be heard in the intro for The Children’s Crusade. Lars Palmqvist is a classic hard rocker if there ever was one, Maiden, Sabbath, Priest, Kiss…but he also have a passion for two of Sweden’s biggest female singers, Carola and Lena Ph. Lars IS music, being the son of a music teacher, and plays guitar, drums, bass, keys on top of singing everyone into submission and also he is very musically flexible and able to do anything, really. As for yours truly, Old School Doom Metal is the name of my unsurprising poison, along with a love for medieval, folk and neo-folk music. I think our differences forces us to take roads less travelled towards Epic Doom, and much is due to me being completely self taught on guitar. My, sometimes, awkward riffs breaks against the schooling of Lars and Erik in particular, and in the debris after the smoke has cleared there sometimes lay small treasures. Also, Emil’s unorthodox way of thinking music, as well as his unorthodox way of being human, enriches the sound. Micael, then, stands for the more pragmatic and rock steady and functions as a sentinel for musical sanity when things go too apeshit.
AN: One of the many highlights for me was Bogbodies – a real dark treat to finish the album which I think underlines the original approach you guys have taken with this album. Did you consider that to be a curveball when you wrote it, or even a risk?
OB: Glad you liked our little album ending! We knew it was different, darker and more experimental, but that it would fit into our universe nevertheless, being both folksy and heavy. So no, we didn’t view it as a risk. Perhaps our unconcerned approach to including it on the album is due to us having nothing to lose also, since we don’t plan to have a career with Dautha, at least not a commercial one. If people like what we do, then fine and we are happy, if not, then fine and we pass by the bank (without entering) on our way to the rehearsal room smiling all the way.
AN: The Swedish doom tradition is a fine one – does that help / force you to you raise the bar and aim for a certain level of quality?
OB: Indeed it is a fine one, however I must be honest here, in the hope of not coming off as arrogant, and state that we do not take Sweden’s Heavy legacy into consideration at all when doing our thing. Sure, influences from Candlemass and Count Raven can be found in our sound, it is inevitable since I personally love these bands to pieces, but they are not present in my consciousness when I create, because then I am in a bubble, shut off from the world, zooned out, call it what you will. This said, the material must hold a certain level of quality, and this happens automatically if one uses only the stuff that is granted by the muses…only truly inspired stuff gets recorded.
AN: Do you think there is a ‘classic’ doom sound?
OB: To say there is a classic Doom sound might be too general in this age as there are so many branches to the supposed Doom-tree now. I guess one need’s to narrow things down a bit for most listeners to understand what one talks about by putting a denominator in front of Doom, like Traditional Doom, Epic Doom, Death Doom etc. However, if you ask an old fart like myself, and you did, Doom Metal is Trouble, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Reverend Bizarre, Solstice, Scald, Solitude Aeternus, Candlemass… I would say that Ancient Dreams is my favourite Doom album, and I guess it has to do with early exposure as it is the first Doom album I bought, soon followed by Nightfall. Everything about the four first Candlemass album’s is everything one could ever wish for in Doom-perfect riffing, perfect rhythm section timing, perfect guitar solo’s, perfect other-worldy vocals, perfect realm building lyrics, perfect album cover art, majestic atmosphere’s. Magic. Best Metal album regardless of genre is either the earlier mentioned Ancient Dreams or Into Glory Ride.
AN: Wardenclyffe, Griftegård and The Doomsday Cult are all excellent examples of Swedish doom too and fans remember them all fondly. Are there are obvious influences that led to Dautha from those? Do you have any plans with Wardenclyffe [or any of the others….]?
OB: With The Doomsday Cult, I was elaborating with themes similar to those I use in Dautha, along with medieval aesthetics. However, when composing for TDC, I was really limited as a musician so I don’t think the musical ties to TDC are that evident in Dautha. Me and Wardenclyffe might be a finished story, it all depends on how much time I will have to take part in the band given my private life situation. I have just become a father for the first time and I have my priorities where they belong. Still it would feel great to be part of Wardenclyffe for the recording of the second album, which is more or less finished, because I think it will be quite special. Griftegård is no more, so no plans for this band exists, save for one thing – I would like for us to posthumously release the last song we made, A Pile Of Ash, in some format.
AN: It feels early to be talking about the future – the album has only been out a month! But have you thought of any ideas / lyrical themes for the next album?
OB: Hehe, we, too, are thinking about the future of the band, and luckily there exists a lot of song material for our second album. In fact, this material was composed during the same period as the stuff on the album, so there will be no radical change to our sound, I think. There are also some lyrical ideas I have been working on for a while, and to give a hint of what to expect I can say that we will be digging where we stand for a couple of the new numbers, using very local history as inspiration. And at least one of the lyrics will have a humorous twist to it, however a morbid and dark one so fear not…
AN: How about touring?
OB: No tour and no gigs are planned. Our individual schedules simply doesn’t allow it, sadly. Maybe next year, or when album number two is out, or maybe never, right now it is impossible to tell.
AN: And any other projects in the pipeline?
OB: Not for me personally, Dautha is my priority. The other members are busy doing other things though. Lars Palmqvist has the leading role in a rock musical in England called Krankenstein (krankensteinshow.com) and Erik Öquist plays in a great, progressive and completely bizarre band called Slimbulbous who will debut with a four track EP soon. Micael Zetterberg has Aggressive Mutilator while Emil Åström continues to work in mysterious ways, as always.
AN: We like the idea of hearing Dautha live even if we have to wait until next year… Well, Ola, thank you very much for your time – it’s a privilege to interview Dautha!
OB: Thank you, and the privilege was mine!
(Interview Reverend Darkstanley)