DATE OF INTERVIEW:
15th March 2014
CHRISTOFER MALMSTRÖM; LAWRENCE MACKRORY
Since unleashing their debut album, 'Rusted Angel', back in 1999, throughout their career, Sweden's Darkane have forged an unfaltering reputation for consistently releasing albums loaded with some of the most innovative and freshest sounding metal within the scene. With an exhilarating blend of thrash and death elements at the core of their aesthetic, their genuinely progressive songwriting mentality has seen them move the genre into new and exciting areas of hard-hitting sonic expression. And, last year, after a half-decade absence, they returned to the fore with a brand new album, 'The Sinister Supremacy'; chock-full of their established idioms and showcasing, once again, their flair for compositional innovation. It also marked the return of original vocalist Lawrence Mackrory - who last lent his vocal talents to the band on 'Rusted Angel' - which re-established Darkane's original lineup. And it's a lineup that features two of the most talented musicians currently active in Sweden - namely guitar virtuoso Christofer Malmström and the ridiculously talented sticksman Peter Wildoer (with the latter's credentials cemented after finishing in the top three of Dream Theater's 2010 drummer auditions to replace Mike Portnoy).
Over in the UK, spring 2014, as main tour support for Soilwork, it's the first time Darkane have hit these shores in some eleven years. As the tour nears its conclusion, Metal Discovery met up with Christofer and Lawrence in Birmingham, a day after their appearance on the bill of Wales' annual Hammerfest, to discuss a whole array of subjects including 'The Sinister Supremacy', Peter's Dream Theater audition, bizarre photo shoots and how the band's very own beer came to be, Darkale...
METAL DISCOVERY: It’s been a long time since Darkane last performed over here in the UK so does it feel good to be back?
CHRISTOFER: Of course, yeah, yeah.
(Christofer Malmström on Darkane's idiomatic sound)
"…when I play the guitar it sounds like me, and when Peter plays the drums it sounds like him, so that makes the Darkane style instrumental-wise."
Christofer and Lawrence in The Institute, Birmingham, UK, 15th March 2014
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: Was it 2003, the last time?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, way too long!
MD: That was a show in London supporting someone, wasn’t it?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, Death Angel. We had three visits to England within a year. We played London, and Bristol and Cardiff also. But, since then, we haven’t toured here.
MD: So how was Hammerfest yesterday? That must’ve been quite weird in a holiday camp setting?
LAWRENCE: That was funny. Yeah, it was kind of a weird setting but there were a lot of people there… metal people of all shapes and sizes and genres! [laughs] It was brilliant. We played on the smaller stage but it was actually quite big, and quite a big audience. And we had a lot of people coming up, saying, “we’ve been waiting for years to see you guys.” So, yeah, getting back to that, it’s been way too long. But Hammerfest was nice and we played quite an early set at 5pm so we got to see a bunch of other bands, drink beer and just walk around. It was fun.
CHRISTOFER: And the festival site was very cool. The backstage area was this cabin village! We got our own little cabin, cottage thing.
MD: I noticed you had a day off on Thursday when Soilwork played in London with Overkill, so were you not invited to play that show?
LAWRENCE: No, that show was already set because Overkill were already touring in the UK with Xentrix. And Soilwork, I don’t know, instead of doing their own show, just kind of merged them together; they have the same booking agency, and three bands were obviously enough on the bill, they thought. We had a nice time, actually. We went up the London Eye…
CHRISTOFER: And the dungeon.
LAWRENCE: Yeah, we went down to the London Dungeon. We had a nice day off. It’s great to have a day off in a major city where you can actually go around and see stuff, instead of sitting in a parking lot somewhere!
MD: Soilwork’s Björn [Strid] was Darkane’s original vocalist, of course, back in your very early days, pre-‘Rusted Angel’, so I’m guessing it must always be cool and nostalgic to tour with Soilwork seeing as Björn is an inherent part of Darkane’s history?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, but we know them through the years and we’ve toured with them a lot of times, so I wouldn’t say nostalgic since they’ve been around throughout the years. I think they’re the perfect band for us to tour with. We see them as our brothers. We’re having fun together.
LAWRENCE: Musically, it’s a good match. Maybe we’re a little bit harder sometimes; maybe a bit thrashier than they are… but, personally, it’s a really great fit as well, since everybody’s friends since the beginning.
CHRISTOFER: He wasn’t in the band for that long; it was a few weeks actually.
MD: Oh really?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, yeah, he did this compilation, ‘War Dance’, with us and that was it. He wanted to continue with Soilwork.
MD: There was quite a long gap, of five years, between studio albums before ‘The Sinister Supremacy’ was released last year, so did Lawrence returning to the band give you a bit of a nostalgic feeling and renewed energy to work on new material?
CHRISTOFER: Oh yes, for many reasons. With the previous vocalist, we had to do a lot of writing the lyrics and making up the vocal lines ourselves. But, when Lawrence came back, he is more of a thrash metal vocalist and death metal vocalist than the previous singer was, and he created all his own vocal lines and most of the lyrics. So it was a big help for us in that way, that here’s a guy who can do his own part. And yeah, I think his ideas are also very good. Yeah, I’m very satisfied with the vocals on this album.
MD: Yeah, they do sound great.
LAWRENCE: Thank you. I think, with this album, it was discovering the formula of how we’re gonna work in the future. And it can only get better, I think, because even when I was out of the band I looked up to these guys musically, and it’s great to work with that music again, and figure out the vocal patterns and stuff like that. Luckily, they were like, “yes, please do it, we’ve been doing it for a long time now!” I’m just glad they’re happy with it.
MD: Cool. And were you worried about leaving a long gap between releases in that people might’ve lost a bit of interest in Darkane?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, we didn’t know our value on the market these days when we went on this tour. I think we were a little bit surprised that people still remember us and that they have been waiting for us. But, yeah, it’s important for us to show that we are here, we’re back and we’re not gonna quit or anything. So, yeah, I just hope we can tour more now. It’s a rough business; there’s a lot of competition between bands that want to tour. But we have to start working on a new album now and get it out.
MD: Keep the momentum going.
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, much faster this time.
LAWRENCE: As I said, now we have a kind of formula and we have everything set up, with record deals and booking agencies and stuff like that, we didn’t really have that in place before. But everything is set up now so we can just keep the ball rolling. There was a lot of stuff that happened in those two years – there was personal stuff, building a studio, losing Jens and me coming in, and writing the new album… that’s why everything just took a lot longer.
MD: But worth waiting for!
LAWRENCE: Ah, thanks!
MD: Lyrical themes of ‘The Sinister Supremacy’ are based around of the darker side of the human psyche, similar to songs on ‘Expanding Senses’, I guess, but by researching and writing about this sort of stuff, did you learn anything about yourselves and the dark side of your own minds?
LAWRENCE: Yeah, actually. I’ve been thinking about that for a while, actually; how you make your choices and how these choices are made every day. Even if it’s just like one more Snickers bar left… should I take it, or should I leave it for somebody else? And it can be really small things like that, and it can be really serious stuff where somebody’s like: “I need to murder people. I don’t know why, I can’t stop, I just have to.” And that’s what the title is about; some evil part of your brain just taking over and controlling things and makes you take those decisions. I mean, not all the lyrics are exactly about that but, looking at them, I kind of saw a theme between them, in a way. And all the Darkane albums, most of the lyrics deal with psychological stuff and so it fits the music really well.
MD: Yeah. So there’s a whole spectrum of darkness from chocolate to murder!
LAWRENCE: Yeah, exactly! [laughs]
CHRISTOFER: It’s a thin line between them sometimes, when you really want that chocolate!
MD: The album seems to have all the expected Darkane elements but also progresses your sound once again so it still feels fresh. Are you conscious to always try and progress with your songwriting to keep it interesting for yourselves and your fans?
CHRISTOFER: Well, we try to! Our ambition has always been to stick to the Darkane style while, at the same time, developing. But it’s important for us to stick to our roots, that we don’t do something completely different, because you lose fans when you do that. I mean, there are a lot of bands who have changed styles and lost fans. But we try to develop; we try to play better…
LAWRENCE: We like the style of music that we play so to just keep doing that and, as Christofer said, just adding some touches. If you get some new influences from somewhere, you might write something that is influenced by them. So, yeah, keeping to the original sound but maybe adding a few bits here and there. And that’s a hard thing as well - if you write something that is very much in the same vein as your early albums, you’re gonna hear people complaining that you’re not developing; and if you develop too much, people are complaining about you changing too much. So you have to keep a good balance there and we do that, I think, naturally. We don’t really think about, “we need to do this and we need to do that”; it’s just the songs come, and there’s some interesting new stuff from Christofer and Klas written on this album, which is cool. And maybe the vocals add some kind of new dimension as well… I don’t know…
CHRISTOFER: It definitely does.
MD: You seem to have a progressive mentality with your songwriting anyway so I guess the progression in your music is a natural thing…
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, and at the same time, when I play the guitar it sounds like me, and when Peter plays the drums it sounds like him, so that makes the Darkane style instrumental-wise.
LAWRENCE: We’d probably sound like Darkane even if we liked Dolly Parton songs!