interview: Dawid Krosnia
‘…all human beings are able to do evil acts towards other people as long as somebody else is an authority who takes responsibility for those evil acts.’
photo: Evocation 2017
Evocation has been first formed back in 1991 just to be put to sleep for over a decade to then rise from the ashes and create some great death metal albums. The band is just releasing their fifth full-length album, The Shadow Archetype. We spoke to one of the founders of Evocation, Marko, to find out why the band was inactive for so long and what is hidden behind The Shadow Archetype concept.
The Goat Tavern: First of all, congratulations on your recent deal with Metal Blade Records! How did this deal happen, not everyone gets the chance to be signed to one of the biggest metal labels in this planet.
Marko: Thank you very much! The deal happened a bit thanks to Andreas Reissnauer [head of Promotion at Metal Blade Europe]. Andreas is actually a really, really old friend of Evocation from the very beginning. Back in 1992, when we released our very first demo, The Ancient Gate, Andreas had his own record label back then, Concrete Records in Germany. He distributed our demo back in the days. When we did the new album, the only record label that we contacted was Metal Blade Records, because we had Andreas there. We also did some cooperation with Metal Blade as well when they released our first three albums (originally released through Cyclone Empire). They did a licence deal and released those three albums in the US and Canada. Metal Blade liked the album but, even though they are good friends, they wouldn’t have signed us if they didn’t like The Shadow Archetype. I’m really, really happy that we’re signed with Metal Blade. It feels like closing the circle.
That’s great, it makes sense I guess! So how many albums can we expect to be released on Metal Blade Records?
The standard deal nowadays is one album to begin with but I think it is three albums at most. I think it is three… or four, I’m not sure now [laughs].
Before we talk about the new album, could you tell us how Evocation was formed and why you parted your ways for 12 years before you decided to have another go in the music industry?
Evocation was formed back in 1991 here in our town Borås, Sweden, it’s like 65km from Gothenburg so we were actually a part of the Gothenburg death metal scene back in early nineties. We are four guys from the metal scene but also from the skateboarding scene. We were very much into skateboarding back in the days as well. Me, Thomas, Janne and Vesa used to play in different bands and we were driving forces in our respective projects but somehow, somewhere along the way, we said ‘Hey, we are driving forces in our bands, why don’t we start a band together?‘ We had a very strong urge to do something really good. That’s when we started Evocation back in the autumn of 1991. And then we were quite active between 1991 and 1993 and we released two demos. In 1993 we decided to call it quit because it was musical differences that made us part our ways. Some wanted to go more brutal, some more into melodic ways and so on. We just couldn’t unite and go in the same direction. And 12 years later we were more grown-up and more mature and decided to give it a try again and after 2012 we have been going on with the band.
Did you ever regret the decision to put the band on hold?
No, I don’t think so. Because if we have tried to make something together with those musical differences it would have been a disaster [laughs]. The result could have been horrible. We are so proud of Evocation so this could have destroyed the band for a really long time. It’s the same with Bolt Thrower, they have much pride in their name and after Those Once Loyal, I think they had a complete album written but they realized that this material didn’t hold up to the back catalogue of Bolt Thrower so they didn’t record it in the end. So that’s how it was with Evocation.
Over the years musical taste changes from time to time, you get inspired by different bands. Where is your inspiration coming from, who made the biggest impact on you as a musician?
I would say it’s probably the Swedish and British death metal scene. We did a cover EP in 2013 which featured five tracks from five different bands that had inspired us pretty much throughout the years. The British bands were Carcass and Napalm Death and the Swedish ones were At the Gates and Edge of Sanity and… which was the fifth band? Oh…. [laughs]
Hold on, one second [checking the omniscient Metal Archives…]
God damn it…
Both: BOLT THROWER! …for Victory! Of course, the great Brits! [both laugh]
Evocation discography to date
Since your return in just over a decade ago, you have recorded 4 superb death metal records. Which one holds the special place in your heart or are they equally loved?
Perhaps Dead Calm Chaos… It is maybe my favourite of all the previous albums that we released. But I think the new one, The Shadow Archetype, will be my favourite in the long run because of the diversity on the album and the aggression, darkness… I think it is something which we can be really proud of in the future.
Your previous album, Illusions of Grandeur, sounds a little bit different from we have experienced before from Evocation. I think it’s more melodic and not as heavy as Dead Calm Chaos or Apocalyptic. Was this intentional move or did it happen by accident?
I guess both… We wanted to make a really melodic album but now when I listen to it, I feel that it became a bit too polished and overproduced. There are too many guitar layers and too much finesse on everything. It doesn’t have that real raw energy which I’m used to when it comes to Evocation. That’s also maybe why with The Shadow Archetype I wanted to return to more brutality and darkness.
I totally agree… I can even say that the previous album sounds like a completely different band. If you played Dead Calm Chaos back to back with Illusions of Grandeur it sounds so different. But still good…
The tracks are still good on Illusions of Grandeur but, as I said, the production is too polished, too nice. If I were to rerecord that album, I would have done it more brutal. The feeling would have been more towards the previous albums.
Shortly after releasing Illusions of Grandeur you lost two core members of the band, Vesa and Janne, could you explain why they decided to leave the band after so many years?
I think that the reason why they left was that they were burned out, the lacked the energy, motivation to continue. I think the high tempo that Evocation has had after the reunion was the other reason. Between 2007 and 2012 we released 4 full-length albums so it was one album just after another. It took a lot of energy, time and work effort to make all those albums and in the end Evocation paid the price in losing Janne and Vesa. It was a really hard blow to the band. For me… my first reaction when they told us the news was to bury the band. I felt also that I couldn’t continue and carry the ship further without Janne and Vesa. But I said to the boys that I needed a couple of weeks to think it through. During those weeks, there was a feeling that started to grow in me and that was the feeling of still having things to achieve with Evocation. It felt as if we still had the strongest album within us. When I talked to Gustaf and Thomas, they also felt the same. They still wanted to continue. And that’s when we came to the decision that we would continue Evocation.
Was it hard to find new members for the band?
Simon was quite easy to find. He plays in another death metal band from our hometown, As You Drown, and he has been an old friend of the band. I have known Simon since he was a toddler, his dad is my also my cousin. I might also be a reason why Simon is into extreme metal. It felt like a really natural choice, he’s a great guitar player and songwriter. We asked him and he didn’t hesitate a moment.
The drumming position has been, however, tougher. We tried out a drummer during the summer of 2014. We did two live shows but in the end we felt that he wouldn’t work out as a permanent drummer for Evocation. So we continued making the album and when it started to close in on the studio dates to record the album, I was a Facebook friend with Per M. Jensen [The Haunted former drummer] and I saw that he was looking for session work. I contacted him and asked if he was interested in working for Evocation. He immediately said that he would love to do it. And Per’s drumming has always had an influence on Evocation. So it became a perfect choice to have Per on the album. He prepared his drum work in Copenhagen as he lives in Denmark and we met for the first time when we came to the studio in Gothenburg. Per was a really easy guy to work with, he’s really professional. And I just really loved his jazzy and groovy drumming. He loves to improvise in the studio. If you listen carefully to the album, there are two drum hits that are exactly the same. Everything is different and improvised throughout the entire album, which I think makes it very diverse and interesting to listen to. I know drummers that listened to the album and said it was an inspiration because is new all the time. Per’s drumming lifted the demo tracks that we had done with Simon to a whole new level. He really did an amazing job on the album. I can’t thank him enough…
Evocation The Shadow Archetype
(out through Metal Blade Records on March 10th)
The Shadow Archetype is to be released very soon on Metal Blade Records, I have heard it already and it really does sound impressive. Can you tell a bit more about recording and the song writing?
When it comes to the music, the song writing is done entirely by Simon and me. I would say that Simon was the main songwriter on this album. I contributed as much as I could to all the tracks. It was a cool cooperation between me and Simon. Thomas wrote all the lyrics for the album and we all felt that his lyrics caught the feeling of each track. It turned out really great. Gustaf wrote all the baselines which turned out brilliant as well. When it comes to recording process, as I said, Per’s drums were done in Gothenburg at Crehate Studios together with the studio engineer Oscar Nilsson. Everything went really smoothly there. The reason why we decided to record drums in a different studio is that the drums are an instrument which is quite difficult to record by yourself. After that we recorded guitars, bass and lead vocals at our studio, Acacia Avenue Recordings in Borås. They are much easier to record in general. We’re perfectionists so we wanted to spend a lot of time to make it really tight and perfect on production. We spent, I think, 6 months recording guitars, bass and vocals.
I think it paid off! Because the album is literally phenomenal!
Thank you very much! There is so much blood, sweat and tears put into those tracks. We wrote the album in 2 years and that was also because we didn’t have any pressure. That’s the advantage, we’re not a band that lives off the music, it’s not our day job. So we can spend as much time as we need to make everything 100% perfect. And yeah… finally… with the recording process, we did the backing vocals, mastering and mixing in the Dugout Productions in Uppsala together with Daniel Bergstrand.
There are a few intriguing title on the new album like Children of Stone, Survival of the Sickest or Dark Day Sunrise. What does The Shadow Archetype tell us lyrically?
When it comes to lyrics I can explain the title track and the meaning behind it a bit more, because the lyrics are Thomas’ feelings and thoughts. The Shadow Archetype comes from the theory of archetypes that Carl Gustav Jung [the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst] formed in the early 20th century. He meant that there were archetypes, psychological structures that are inherited from generation to generation of humans. He meant that the humans are not born as a blank sheet of paper. The Shadow Archetype is a dark side of human psyche. On the title track we also featured a sample from the American professor, Stanley Milgram, who explained his thoughts about the obedience and authority experiment. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the obedience and authority experiment…
No, not at all…
In the obedience and authority experiment he had one test person that was supposed to give electrical shocks to another person in a different room when they gave a wrong answer to a question. For each wrong answer the test person would increase the voltage on the electrical shock machine. There was also a test leader who was a part of the experiment and he would be an authority. He would say that he would take all responsibility and would tell them to continue the test and so on, if the person would object to give electrical shocks to another person. There were people from different social and working backgrounds and in almost all cases, they got the test subject to deliver the highest voltage which on the machine said ‘LETHAL DANGER’. During the test, the person in the other room would say that he’s got a heart failure and he didn’t want any more electrical shocks. Professor Milgram’s conclusion was that all human beings are able to do evil acts towards other people as long as somebody else is an authority who takes responsibility for that evil act. And that was exactly what happened in the Nazi Germany during the Second World War, the evil acts were made by ordinary human beings who said ‘oh, I only took orders, the authority took responsibility for the evil act’. Stanley Milgram meant that this mechanism that human beings are able to do this is the universal psychological mechanism which is inherited from generation to generation. And that couples to what Carl Gustav Jung meant with his theory of psychological structures and The Shadow Archetype is one of them which holds all the dark and evil side of the human being. It gave that evil touch to our new album [laughs].
Wow, that was a very intriguing explanation of The Shadow Archetype, thanks a lot! I will definitely have a look into the subject. Does the artwork translate into the lyrics and the main theme as well? Who is responsible for it?
The artwork is made by the Polish artist, Xaay. We worked with him ever since the Apocalyptic album. We found him by coincidence. I think I was reading Blabbermouth at some point and I saw the album cover which looked cool and I checked the story behind it and I saw his name, I checked it out and found him. He has previously worked with Behemoth, Vader and Nile. I contacted him and we did the first collaboration on the Apocalyptic album. We were so happy with him that now, he is sort of our ‘in-house’ artwork guy. We don’t want to change him because he always catches the feeling of the Evocation albums. And the funny thing about this artwork was that when I told Xaay the album title and the story behind it, he wrote back to me ‘wow, that’s a great coincidence cause I just studied a couple of years ago in Cracow, Poland and I was just studying the archetype theory on that course’. The Shadow Archetype’s artwork is symbolic interpretation of that theory. You see a face or mask coming out from the shadows and the evil side of the human sometimes flashes out in a second in the most unexpected ways.
I do have a strong feeling that this album will open many new doors for Evocation. Do you have a vision for the band in the future? Do you think you’re on the right path now?
I think it was Thomas, our vocalist, who said ‘wow, this is the way Evocation should have sounded like from the beginning’ [laughs]. I would definitely say we’re on the right path. I think we found the essence of Evocation with this album. I can only look into the near future right now. We’re really eager to come out and play a lot, do some shows, tours, festivals. That’s the main goal for the near future. Long term, we’re really trying to take one step at a time. At the moment, I don’t know if there would be more Evocation albums, time will tell… We will do this as long as it feels fun to do and it gives us motivation. And now it does and I am really happy that we continued with the band. We just try to enjoy the moment.
Do you have any tours booked already for the promotion of The Shadow Archetype?
No shows booked at all at the moment but in the very near future we will start booking release party shows. Those shows are always really special for us, they’re always sold out. It’s like school reunion or something like that, you know… With just friends everywhere, we really love those shows. We will definitely try to book them and then maybe some festivals. I hope to book a tour to the autumn as well but in the end, Evocation is not our daytime job so tours are a bit more difficult.
Marko, thank you very much for your time! I’d like to wish you all the best with the promotion of the new album. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
We really hope to be playing in the UK with this album as we still didn’t do any single show in there. That would be a really great moment for us!