Swedish Black Metallers The Legion have just issued their third album A Bliss to Suffer. Dean Pedley caught up with returning vocalist Lars Martinsson to get the lowdown on the band's latest activities.
SoT: Hi guys and welcome to Sea of Tranquillity!
You are now three albums into the Legion, is the band continuing to evolve and explore new ideas?
Lars: At the moment we are actually at a crossroads for the first time in our ten year history as what to do next. We always evolved very naturally, slowly but surely, blending in new impressions along the way without having to make an effort, as it were, but this is a new situation to us. A great opportunity or the beginning of the end? I always preferred slow working bands that choose each step carefully, so I am not bothered with this taking some time.
SoT: How do you think this album compares with your previous two?
Lars: OK, this is going to be a long one… We started leaning towards death metal a lot around the 7" and the first album in 2001-2003, which probably had something to do with the fact there came a lot of interesting releases in that genre at the time, which meant a lot of qualitative inspiration, and that Emil had worked himself up to become a monster of a drummer who could actually play exactly anything you asked him to. So we went for technique and complexity to a point when that at least got to bore me a bit.
- Then we went on tour with Belphegor and saw some great examples of what was happening in the scene further down in Europe, we all bought ourselves a copy of that Deathspell Omega album and then... hi-tech music with perfect production sort of lost appeal to us. I'm not saying we switched direction or nothing, that would be obvious, but all of us realised perfection doesn't mean perfection in this game. So we stuck to the technique but exaggerated it so we weren't actually able to perform it properly anymore, and out came "Revocation", which is rougher than its predecessor, and far superior in my opinion. No big surprises, but more life and nerve in there. Mind you, Emil broke his arm in a street fight half a year before it was recorded, and I guess he hadn't fully recovered when he sat down to put those songs to tape, which actually enhances his drumming considerably.
- Prior to "A bliss to suffer", we got ourselves our own studio, and while you would guess making it all yourself would rough things up further, this one came out as more grand and well produced than anything we did before. It probably had to do with the unlimited amount of time for recording. Not stale like "Unseen to creation", yet not as fuzzy and wild as "Revocation", it sums the band up in a pretty neat fashion, adding a bombastic dimension we merely hinted at previously.
SoT: You are a very self-sufficient operation with no outside producer or engineer. Why have you chosen this route?
Lars: I would say it is an effect based on the fact that Rikard is a very devoted sound engineering amateur and we spent a lot of time and money on building up a really comfortable and effective rehearsal space. It gradually grew from a place to record tape rehearsals to something resembling a studio were you could arrange pre-productions to what it is now: a proper studio which kicks many more established institutions in the ass. It is very relaxing and fruitful to your creativity not having to stress things through in the studio but taking your time and doing it well. We have been able to produce this album over YEARS, which we never could have done in another studio, not least because of zero budget.
SoT: How important was it for you to be back in the band on vocals?
Lars: It means a delightful platform of expression I do not have access to anywhere else in my life. Still, we are not a rehearsing band at the moment and we live in different cities so to my everyday life it means very little I'd say. Answering this interview is i.e. the only thing I did concerning the band this entire month. I have lots of other stuff going on and Legion is just a small, however dear, part.
SoT: Where did the inspiration come from for the lyrics?
Lars: Starlit winter skies, Lovecraft, bad trips, good wine, the dreamlike state between sleep and wake, night time loneliness, some other metal and some other literature.
SoT: 'The Luring Depths' hints at another side for the band - would you sometimes like to move away from the Black Metal format?
Lars: I hardly put us there in the first place but like to think that we have no limits whatsoever for what we do. We will definitely play less and less by the book on future releases, but it is very hard to say exactly how as of now. Many people reacted to "The luring depths" but I actually do not see that great a difference from the rest of the material.
SoT: How do you rate the overall Black Metal scene right now, which other bands are worth hearing?
Lars: As always pretty good, you can buy and listen to very solid new albums anytime of the year, it is only a matter of how closely you look and how good you are at designating quality from crap. People who go on about how bad "the scene" has become clearly have no insight or ability of individual experience. This year these bands have made my day with new releases: Portal, Gorgoroth, Drudkh, Way To End, Impiety, Myrkr, Teitanblood, Den Saakaldte, Abandon, Funeral Mist, Wolves In The Throne Room, Katharsis, Switchblade, Orcustus, Throne Of Katarsis. Good stuff all of it.
SoT: Tell us about touring plans…
Lars: None at the moment. Any suggestions?
SoT: Is it difficult for a Black Metal band to get a slot on the European Metal festivals?
Lars: I wouldn't know, we never tried very hard. There are certain occasions for any kind of music it seems, the bad news is that those festivals tend to water down any participating band to a sort of least common denominator where everything eventually sounds and looks the same. I prefer bands performing exclusively, one night at a time.
SoT: Aside from The Legion what other bands / projects are you involved with?
Lars: That's part of my dark secrets. Me and Joel from the very, very brilliant black metal band Eidomantum have grand plans for some sort of cooperation and are planning a rehearsal sometime next week. Joel shares my Abigor fanaticism and is devoted to metal from the former Eastern Bloc. Check out Eidomantum if you don't know them, probably one of the 15 best black metal bands from Sweden ever.
SoT: And finally, was there anything else you wanted to add?
Lars: My girlfriend just made me a dinner that smells absolutely fantastic.
SoT: An excellent way to end an interview! For more on The Legion go to:-
(Click here to read our review ofA Bliss to Suffer