In case you were wondering, yes Left Hand Path was released exactly a quarter of a century ago. It’s worth pointing this out because lately there’s been an outpouring of bands cranking up their beloved Boss pedal effects to the max and following Entombed’s, erm, path. There are hordes of bands worshipping the vintage Sunlight studio (where all the early swedeath classics had all been recorded), rangin from youngsters desperately trying to recapture their elders’ mojo and old farts rediscovering the joy of ripping it all, sometimes after a lengthy absence from the scene. Case in point being Under The Church, whose first proper full-length Rabid Armageddon is streaming below…
They instantly grabbed everybody’s attention two years ago with the release of their self-titled debut demo (on tape!), not just because of its intense rawness and dedication to the most rotten form of death metal but it also marked the long-awaited return of two thirds of one of Nirvana 2002 (the sadly short-loved Swedish death metal act). Proof that evil knows no boundaries, as Slayer once said.
If we’re telling you that Under The Church is just an excuse for old guys – including one drummer who plays rockabilly! – to relive their former glory and surf on the current Swedish old school death metal revival, what would be your answer?
**Erik Qvick (drums and guitar): **“Well, you won’t get a better excuse than being a band with your buddies, drinking beer and writing death metal… We’re definitely not reliving any teenage dreams. Besides, isn’t that ‘old school’ thing long over? We’re way too late for that kind of revival anyway. The upside to being a old fart is that I don’t care anymore. I don’t care about trends, I don’t care if Band A has more likes on their Facebook page than Under The Church, all I care about is writing death metal tunes that will kick you in the nuts. When we started Under The Church we made conscious effort not to ride the coattails of N2002 or pry doors open with that name, it’s basically only in interviews that name gets brought up and seldom by us. A good band with strong material shouldn’t have to rely on former glory, to me it doesn’t matter if it’s music from 1991 or 2015, good tunes is good tunes. You mention me playing rockabilly or other styles of music than death metal, to me it doesn’t matter if it’s Jimmy McCraklin or Scott Carlson, to me they both inspire and represent the same thing.”
Nirvana 2002 was for a brief moment a high hope for the scene, then vanished totally only to be remembered – at best – as ‘one band where one dude sang for Entombed for, two minutes’ before becoming all in a sudden ‘cult’ again. What’s your take on that whole weird story?
“It is what it is. When Daniel Ekeroth’s book on the whole Swedish death metal scene came out, there was a lot hype around that whole ‘80/90s scene and a lot people started to search for the bands mentioned in the book, and N2002 was among those bands. Hype and nostalgia is one thing but I think N2002 deserved the attention we got from the book. We were a pretty good band and not too many people outside the real hardcore underground tape-traders had heard us…. the whole reunion thing and those gigs at Maryland and Black Mass Ritual were so much fun. About the whole ‘cult’ thing, maybe the attention around both N2002 and Under The Church says more of the current state of death metal than us, a lot of bands today have more in common with Kenny G than Autopsy and Possessed – I don’t hear enough good songwriting. A crappy tune is a crappy tune, regardless of how many harmonic minor sweep pickings or 268 bpm double-bass drums it has. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good guitar solo as much as the next guy but we don’t write tunes as the sole purpose to show how technically proficient we are as musicians, I mean Under The Church can play fucking circles around most bands if we wanted to but what’s the point of that? We don’t need to prove anything else than writing killer death metal.”
**How does it feel at 40+ to be back at singing about zombies and armageddon?
**“Lyric-wise we stick to our guns, other bands can do the pretentious and pompous lyrical content, we’re not really ‘artists’ if you get what I mean. Again, to me it doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 49, can your band fucking write a whole album worth of good tunes? That´s all that matters.”
**With two of you guys living in Iceland and Under the Church being – so far – a studio thing only, do you think this kind of isolation so to speak allowed you not to be permeated by any current influences?
**“Our inspirations are the usual suspects; Venom, Bathory, Death, Sadus, Autopsy, Master etc. Lately, I’ve been into the ‘80s Brazilian and Chilean scenes and dug out some old tapes with Dorsal Atlantica, Vulcano and Pentagram. The Icelandic scene is okay, there’s a whole bunch of black metal bands here but nothing that really interests me. I mainly write for myself, what I mean by that is my main concern is writing tunes that I would listen to myself – inspiration can get you going but you have to take it somewhere all by yourself. For this album we had around 15 ready tunes that we liked, we then narrowed it down to a solid nine for the recording. We already have a couple of new tunes recorded, but for now we’re focusing on the full-length release. It’s true that Under The Church mainly have been in the recording basement so far, but those days are over. Since we have Erik Wallin (Merciless, Death Breath) and Marcus Klack (Morbid, Trash Amigos) on guitars in the band, we’ve been trying to rehearse as often as possible. Wallin and Klack has taken the guitar playing to another level and their input is going to be a lot more apparent from now on.
**If we tell you then that Under the Church is not only stuck in 1990 but also shamelessly tries to carry on N2002 spirit, what would be your answer?
**“Well, whether it’s 1990 or 2015, we as a band and musicians have the same approach. If anything, I think Under The Church is a more ‘back to basics’ band as far as song structures and forms go. I don’t think we sound like N2002 or consciously go for that kind of sound, but since we still have the same influences now as back in 1990 (which means Venom, Bathory, Death, Autopsy, Sadus…) I guess it’s bound to seep into the writing.”
**Why should people check out Rabid Armageddon over the 25 Swedish OSDM-sounding albums that are being released lately?
**“You should check out Rabid Armageddon to get a slice of raw death metal consisting of some of the best tunes you’ve heard since 1991!”