TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
Nocturnal Rites have become one of the leading Swedish power metal bands since their trembling start as a death metal band under the banner of Necronomic in 1990. With a brand new album "Grand Illusion" just about to be released they support Nightwish for their Swedish shows and will hook up with Gamma Ray for a European tour in October. Chief editor Vincent Eldefors had a chat with the two remaining members from the original line-up - guitarist Fredrik Mannberg and bassist Nils Eriksson right after their sold-out show at Arenan in Stockholm on September 8th, 2005.
I sit down to talk to two sweaty gentlemen who have been running the ship for fifteen years. Both of them are satisfied with tonight's show but were a little uncertain before how they would be treated by the crowd as almost anyone can be a Nightwish fan. Playing live is however what it's all about to them, jamming in the rehearsal room for all eternity becomes dull very fast.
- "Some say that they only play for themselves but that's bullshit. In that case you can stay in your basement until you're an old man.", says Nils.
Nightwish has become a highly successful band over the last few years, having sold more than 4 million albums, but Fredrik and Nils don't think it's the most important shows they have played this far as they have played in front of large crowds before. However it's a different kind of audience comprised of both metal fans and people who listen mostly to mainstream music.
Nils used to list all live performances of the band but that list is highly incomplete today and none of the guys know how many shows Nocturnal Rites have played in their long career.
- "It would be very cool to know.", says Fredrik.
Today Nocturnal Rites is a very active and experienced live act but it has not always been like that.
- "In the early days we didn't play much at all. For the first album in '95 we only did one show. It was not until '98 when we were bought out by Century Media that we started touring for real.", Nils informs me.
In early April this year the band performed together with a 50 men strong philharmonic orchestra at the opera house in their home town. Both guys were amazed with the way their music sounded and Nils had not been to witness classical music live at all prior to that evening. The origin of "Demons Of The Opera", as the event was baptized, was slightly unusual.
- "It was a guy called Robban (Robert) from a local unsigned act who have recorded a couple of demos. He met a journalist from TV4 (Swedish TV channel) and they began talking about the conditions for bands in Umeň. One of the biggest venues, Galaxen, where we also used to play, has been shut down and they have rebuilt the opera house for 360 millions or something like that. They focus on the fine arts and cut back on everything else. The couple then suggested to the head of the opera that they should do something together and "Demons Of The Opera" was the result. We were asked to play and thought it would be fun.", Nils explains.
The band's performance at the opera house was recorded for a future DVD release. "Grand Illusion" comes with a bonus disc which includes some behind the scenes material from "Demons Of The Opera" as well. A DVD featuring the whole event was in the planning but they don't believe it will happen.
When the two began playing together in 1990 the name of the band was Necronomic and they were playing death metal which is quite remote from what Nocturnal Rites is about today. What caused the musical shift?
- "It just turned out that way. We have always loved traditional heavy metal.", Fredrik says.
- "I also think it has something to do with the fact that in the early 90s everyone played death metal. We wanted to do something different.", Nils fills in.
Even though they started out as early as 1990 it was not until five years later that Nocturnal Rites had an album out on the shelves, something they seem to regret today.
- "We had some kind of naive thought that EMI or Sony would call us.", Nils says.
- "We had several offers from small companies, of which there were a lot at that time.", Fredrik continues.
The older material from the band remains unreleased to this date but Fredrik still has a demo recording from the infamous Sunlight Studio in Stockholm from 1992 which he actually finds pretty good even now, more than ten years later. They were offered to release a single but turned it down.
Nocturnal Rites have been loyal to their record company Century Media but with the release of "Grand Illusion" they are free of obligations. They are fairly happy with the support from the label so far but have not made a decision on what the future will hold yet.
- "Especially for the last two albums they have been good. I don't think there's any band in the world who are entirely happy with their record company.", Nils diplomatically tells me.
The band's singer Jonny Lindkvist came onboard in the year 2000 as a replacement for the departing Anders Zackrisson (who some of you may remember from the 80s heavy metal band Gotham City). I wanted to know how they found Jonny as he has an incredible voice but seemingly came out of nowhere.
- "Jonny played in a band together with Owe and it was Owe who suggested him. We had another guy in mind as well who sent us a tape but we listened to it and heard that Jonny was much better.", they explain.
Their former singer was never really a part of the band and it was more or less a mutual agreement that they would part ways. As far as they know Anders has his own studio and records some bands but they have lost touch with him.
The European street date for "Grand Illusion" is September 19th and the media response has been great so far but that does not surprise Nils.
- "We have always received good reviews from the media for our albums but this time the album is a little different. Well, different..., a little heavier, that's all.", he says.
Both Nils and Fredrik thinks that it's important to develop their sound and not repeat themselves with each new album but they have never made a conscious move when it comes to the music in their entire career according to themselves.
- "I think as a band you treat the recordings differently when listening to them than you do as a fan. You noticed production details and things like that which you could have done differently and better.", Fredrik says.
The album was once again recorded in their home town of Umeň at the highly professional Toontrack Studio which they both find very comfortable. Settling down in the middle of the woods in Germany for six weeks is not an alternative they appreciate.
- "Then you're stuck there, staring at the ceiling while Fredrik lays his guitars and watching the Spinal Tap DVD a hundred times. It kills the creativity. We tried recording in Uppsala (Swedish city north of Stockholm) once and it worked great but in the end you just want to go home. When you're recording at home you can have a life outside the studio. Then I can lie at home watching the Spinal DVD instead.", Nils laughs.
The song writing process has always been the same within the band. By now they also have their own studio. The two guitarists - Fredrik and Nils Norberg - come up with the main ideas and then the three (with Nils Eriksson) arrange the songs. Fredrik and Nils E. then come up with one vocal line each which are then tried out by Jonny who may add his own details as well.
Today the band doesn't rehearse that often when they don't have any shows coming up. Like now, right before a tour, they practice rather intense though, playing through the set at least once a day.
- "From when we began writing material for the new album until October last year we spent every day and night in a cellar without windows and then there's no sunlight until Apri. That drives you insane. You don't want to go back there.", Nils says laughingly.
How big is Nocturnal Rites as a band today? That's quite an interesting question as they will now be supporting both Nightwish and Gamma Ray while touring Europe.
- "We're one of the biggest bands in the world.", Nils says jokingly.
- "Well, it's easy to live off the music if you want to but then you have to live thereafter as well and stay on the road a lot more. Now we have settled at a level where we do things that we find rewarding and are able to develop as a band and where it works out for everyone. You can make a living from playing covers or fucking anything. It's not difficult to live off music but then you have to play all the time.", he continues.
I wanted them to pick any band in the world who they would like to tour with but they both agree that it doesn't really matter who they ally with on the roads.
- "It doesn't really matter if you like them or not. You see them perform maybe once during the entire tour and then you stay in your dressing room.", Nils says.
"Grand Illusion" features some high profile guest appearances from Jens Johansson (Stratovarius), Stefan Elmgren (Hammerfall), Henrik Danhage (Evergrey), Kristoffer W. Olivius (Naglfar) and the Swedish world champion of cross-country skiing Per Elofsson.
- "We thought that having these guests would make the album more interesting to listen to. These guys are people we have toured with or met in other ways. We have toured with Hammerfall and Jens we have met through his brother Anders. Per Elofsson is some kind of wild card. I mean, how many metal bands have had a world champion of skiing playing on their album? It's funny if nothing else. He didn't do a regular solo but only noise.", Nils honestly explains.
In 1997 Fredrik and Nils released an album for Necropolis with their thrash metal side project Guillotine. What happened with that? Both of them breaks out in a joint laugh when I mention the band.
- "We did actually write a lot of songs after the album was released but the guy in our studio happened to push a button and reformatted his hard drive by mistake which made everything disappear.", Nils says.
The Guillotine project has now been more or less put on ice but they are not ruling out that they might write new songs in the future if there's the time and will. They write music all the time and not everything fits in with the Nocturnal Rites concept. Their musical tastes are wide and everything from Stryper and country music to Testament and Krisiun can be found in their CD players. Old-school death metal such as Entombed, Unleashed and At The Gates are also favorites in the Nils Eriksson home.
The band have recorded a video for the opening track "Fools Never Die" but there will be at least two more videos which they will probably let the fans pick out.
The nearest plans for Nocturnal Rites consist of touring, touring and even more touring. After these Swedish support dates together with the Finnish operatic metallers Nightwish they will team up with Gamma Ray for an October tour throughout Europe and then there will be a headliner tour in their home country in November. They have not begun writing new material yet but it will come.
- "Be sure to check us out on the roads!", Nils rounds off the interview with.
Thanks a lot to Jenny from Border and Tobbe from Skrikhult for their support! All photos shot by Olle Carlsson.
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