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This temporary reunion does not seem to be so temporary anymore

Supposedly, Vomitory is a band well-known to any fan of old school Swedish death metal. Unfortunately, having recorded probably their best album Opus Mortis VIII (2011), the guys decided to split up. After announcing the breakup in 2013 the band retired for real and seemed to be dead. However, in 2018 Vomitory returned to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Feeling the old flame again these Swedes decided to extend the temporary reunion and went on a tour that would have continued the world tour until now if it had not been stopped by COVID-19. Well, even though its not about recording some new stuff as they say, but The bands reunion itself was supposed to be a one-time event. So fingers crossed! In the meantime, I had a great opportunity to chat with Tobias Gustafsson drummer and one of the main composers of Vomitory. By the way, in 2016 Tobias helped his friends from Amon Amarth to record the album Jomsviking when the band had lost their drummer. Also, since 2018 Tobias has been playing in Nifelheim. Nevertheless, this interview is about Vomitory only. The band has always had its own formula of a great Swedish death metal.
Hi Tobias! First of all, please tell me what is happening in the band now? What's the top news?

Hi! Nothing is happening in the band right now, as for most of the bands in these times. A couple of months ago though, we did a live streamed show from Karlstad, Sweden. Our first show since the end of February, which also was the last time anything were actually happening for us. So we were busy for a couple of weeks prior to the show, rehearsing and preparing - which felt absolutely great! The show went great and we were all happy to be on stage again blasting shit to pieces, although there was no live audience. We are not working on any new stuff, just as planned with this temporary reunion. Which doesn't seem so temporary anymore since we still have shows booked for next year, or whenever live shows will be a thing again.

Although personally I have other favorites, but your latest album Opus Mortis VIII became the most diverse and maybe the best album in the Vomitory discography. Songs are well structured and very different; there is a good groove, lots of cool solos. Its rare when the eighth album becomes almost the best in the entire bands discography ...

Thanks for the nice words. Yeah, "Opus Mortis VIII" is probably the most diverse of our albums. But I don't think it strays away too much from our other albums. I remember we wanted some more diversity when we wrote that album. I think it turned out really good, although now I would have wanted it to have a bit rougher and dirtier production.

By the way, what was the most successful Vomitory album? For you personally. Name your favorite one please.

It's impossible to pick only one above the other seven albums. But "Blood Rapture" and "Carnage Euphoria" have always been special for me. The material on those are particularly strong, I think. But then there's "Terrorize Brutalize Sodomize" which I think is our most brutal album, both musically and visually.

How does the songwriting process work in the band? Do you have democracy in your group, or are there still first among equals, who always have the final say?

It was and is indeed a democratic band, and everybody have their say no matter what decisions that are to be made. When we were an active recording band and were writing songs, we usually would write by ourselves and then present the song to the rest of the band, and then (if necessary) work out the finishing touches together. When someone wrote a song, that guy was the "boss" of that song (if it's approved by the others). So I would say that his words weighed heavier than the others regarding that song.

As a drummer, you are one of the main composers in Vomitory. Can we assume that you play other musical instruments as well?

Yes, I play the guitar also. I actually started playing guitar some time before I started playing drums. But drums was always what I wanted to pursue ever since I was a very little kid. When I write songs on the guitar I simultaneously write the drum parts. Quite often I even come up with a drum part first and then write the riffs around it.

Your lyrics are usually wider than the routine for death metal horror and gore themes. Beginning with the first album, Vomitory lyrics often cover topics of war and human cruelty. Your concept is more serious than many bands have, which are essentially the musical equivalent of horror movies. Please tell me more about this.

War and human cruelty have been two of our main lyrical topics since the very beginning. Sometimes our lyrics are on the more serious side I guess, or more directly related to reality rather than horror fiction. But we also have the usual slab of horror and gore in our lyrics. I mean, we play death metal after all.

Vomitory is a metal band of two brothers. It must be a special feeling when you playing with your brother for so many years, isnt it? Do you always manage to come to a compromise in conflict situations? Or have you never had conflicts?

It sure is a special feeling, and the older I get, the more I appreciate it and see it as a privilege. Naturally there have been ups and downs between us, just like with any other band members in any band. Especially when we were younger. But we never really had any big fights or arguments during all these years as far as I can remember. We get along extremely well, and the longevity of Vomitory is a proof of that. In fact Urban, Erik and Peter are three of my best friends.

How did you and Urban get into rock/metal music, how did it all start for you? Which of you was the first?

Urban is four years older than me, so quite naturally he got in touch with hard rock and heavy metal first of us two in the early 80's. But I followed very soon since I looked up to him and his friends. Heavy metal was getting extremely popular at that time in Sweden, with bands like Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Saxon and Judas Priest first and foremost. They were in magazines and got some exposure on TV and radio too. The phenomenon of Heavy Metal upset a lot of worried parents, with lots of debates in the news and on TV shows, so naturally it got even more attractive to us kids, haha. In 1982 I heard Iron Maiden for the first time, and since then I never looked back. They are still the best band in the world.

Why did the band split up in 2013, what was the main reason? Dont you regret that decision?

There were several reasons for the split up, but simply put we lost the fire and got tired of it all. We were in different places in our private lives, which made it hard to combine with the band on an even level. I don't regret the decision at all, it was what had to be done back then. Maybe though, we could have put the band on a hiatus and returned later when or if the time was right. But at that time, at least I didn't see any future activities for the band whatsoever. And look at us now, haha...

Please tell me about your reunion? When did you realize that the moment was right for this?

It all started by late 2016 when Summer Breeze Festival in Germany approached us and asked if we were interested in doing a secret one-off reunion show to honour the memory of the late Michael Trengert, who was the founder of the festival, and sadly passed away way too young in 2013. 2017 would also mark the 20th anniversary of the festival. Earlier Michael was the manager of Metal Blade Records Europe for many years. He was the one who signed Vomitory in 1999 and who helped us grow remarkably. We owe him very much for Vomitorys' success, so this request was a no-brainer and agreed to play this show at Summer Breeze 2017. The show was very successful and great fun for us. This nice experience planted a seed that maybe, only maybe, we could do more reunion shows in the future. Just for the fun of it. Because now we had a lot of fun again doing it. So in 2018 we started planning on doing a temporary
reunion again and do a handful of mainly festival shows during 2019, to highlight the 20th anniversary of the band. But within two days our booking agent had received offers for shitloads of festivals and three tours or something like that. So we decided to play as much as we possibly could during 2019. The interest was so big that we had to turn down quite a few offers, simply because we didn't have enough time. So we decided to extend this reunion til 2020, but then Covid-19 happened... At least we did five shows - three in Germany and two in Sweden - before the world got locked down. Most of the planned shows are now re-scheduled for 2021, but we'll see what happens.

How has the COVID-19 situation affected your band and you personally? How did you get through this time when the whole world went into a total lockdown?

The band has more or less been on a hiatus since the pandemic started. The only thing we did was a streamed live show on October 10th 2020. It felt a little weird to play in a big venue with almost no people at all, but nonetheless it felt great to play music on a stage again. Just like everyone else, we're just waiting for the world to go back to somewhat normal, so we can get out and play again. Personally it has given me a lot of well needed free time to do things that I've pushed ahead of me. Chores at home, small projects on the house, and for once lots of relaxation, which is something I didn't get much of during Vomitorys super busy 2019. Luckily I have a normal job that hasn't got affected by the pandemic, so my everyday life has been very good and quite "normal" actually.

What do you think about online streaming performances that are becoming popular now? What do you think about the future of the music industry?

I think online streaming shows is a great idea, and I think this is something that we will continue to see even after this pandemic. At first I didn't like it, since I saw a few bands that were sort of trying to profit from it, you know, to quickly grab a piece of the cake, although they were not directly affected financially by the pandemic and all its consequences. Out of courtesy and respect for fellow bands, I think one should have left room for the full-time working bands first instead. But anyway, streamed shows is a cool thing to do in these times. But nothing beats a real live show in the flesh of course. About the future of the music industry in general, I can only say that it will continue to change.

From time to time I see an opinion that Vomitory chose the US way in death metal. But I cant accept it. As for me, your music is 100% classic Swedish death metal, perhaps you play more brutal than other bands. Also, you can easily find thrash and doom touches in your music in addition to death. (and possibly black metal, if we talk about "Thorns" from the debut album) The rest is "Made in Sweden". So?

I think our riffage and song structures are very classic Swedish/European, but the intensity and brutality are closer to the US style I guess. We definitely have some thrash touches too. We come from the time when thrash ruled with bands like Sodom, Slayer, Kreator and Celtic Frost. And such influences have been with us since then.

As a classic old school Swedish death metal band, you never recorded at Studio Sunlight with Tomas Skogsberg, who is synonymous with Swedish death metal. Why?

Because when we were ready to record our first demo, 666 other bands had already recorded
their stuff at Sunlight Studio and we didn't want to become just another one of those bands. Also, the "Sunlight sound" had already begun to get old by then. For us it was also a matter of money and convenience, since we were living far from Stockholm. In retrospect, I'm happy that we never recorded there because I think it made us stand out a bit from the rest.

Do you think the Swedish death metal scene is more of a museum today or is it still alive?

Hell yes, it's totally still alive! Both old and new bands keep releasing great stuff, and normally they're out playing the stages of the world. Swedish metal is still very popular and highly respected in the world, and rightfully so I think.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Stockholm's death metal scene formed underground society Bajsligan. Another cool words from back than were Bogringen and "the map", where people met every Friday and Saturday. Do you remember this and did you take part in it? Perhaps there was a similar bash in your hometown Karlstad? How often did you hang out in those days in Stockholm and Fagersta, where concerts (at Rockborgen) and the Bergslagsrocken festival were held?

We sure knew some people in Stockholm bands back then, but we were not a part of that scene in that way. We lived too far away to partake in their everyday/weekendly death metal adventures. We had our own. But once in a while we went to shows in Stockholm, we even played a few ourselves, and it was always cool to see that the scene was so big that it acutally was. In our area of Sweden there was only a handful of people that were really into it. But the few of us in the Forshaga/Karlstad metal scene had a strong bond and partied hard together, went to shows, supported each others bands etc. I went to Bergslagsrocken only once, in 1992, and it was fucking amazing. Napalm Death, Obituary and Paradise Lost were the main acts that year. In 1993 I also saw Bolt Thrower, Grave and Vader at Rockborgen, and it's still one of the best and coolest death metal shows I've ever been to.

D-beat is a common drumbeat in Swedish death metal. Although originally D-beat associated with hardcore punk. Would you like to tell me about the drumming technique and its development within Swedish death metal from the drummer's point of view?

As you say, it's originally more of a punk beat (D-beat = Discharge-beat, just to make that clear). But it was quite common in thrash metal as well, so I think it came quite natural to use it in death metal too for many bands when the genre was born and was evolving. And Napalm Death sped it up remarkably and took the D-beat to a new level. I think the D-beat is very groovy, even when played at Mick Harris speed. I love it. I think it brings a certain feel of violence and a "fuck off" attitude to the music, that Vomitory always wanted to achieve. And if I may say, we did/do it really good. Not many Swedish death metal bands use the D-beat as we do though, played at that speed. Old Napalm Death style. I think it's more common at slower pace, like "Bleed for me" with Dismember or "The Day Man Lost" with Carnage, which obviously is great too. You know, the classic SDM style. There's a difference in the technique between slow and fast D-beat, as I play them. When I play it fast, my right hand is playing the same pattern as my right foot simultaneously (I'm a right-handed drummer) on the ride or crash cymbal, as opposed to when I play it slower my right hand plays the eighth notes straight over the snare and bass drum
patterns. It's hard to describe in writing haha, sorry. A good example of me playing a fast D-beat is the beginning and major part of "Rage of Honour" with Vomitory.

What are your favorite drummers? Which of them influenced you the most?

There are so many great drummers that have influenced me over the years, and still do. But I always mention Nicko McBrain, Doc, Nicke Andersson, Dave Lombardo, Mick Harris, Mikkey Dee, Chris Witchhunter, Clive Burr, Ian Paice, Philthy Animal Taylor, Vinny Appice, Neil Peart, Dirk Verbeuren.... I could go on and on haha. But for my death metal playing I'd say that Doc, Nicke Andersson, Witchhunter and Dave Lombardo are some of the top influences for me.

When was the last time you were on the beach? I recently did an interview with one of the Swedish bands whose vocalist said that Sweden its an absolutely marvelous place that Swedes generally cant wait to escape for sunny beaches and expensive holidays elsewhere at least once a year.  Is it true?

Last summer was the last time I was on the beach. By the west coast in southern Sweden. It's fkn fantastic there. A lot of Swedes go abroad to sunny beaches during the autumn and winter, which makes sense since it's so dark, cold and can be quite depressing here during that time of the year. But I don't really see the reason to go abroad to sunny places in the summer when Sweden is an amazing summer country to be in. As long as the weather is nice, that is haha. But I don't care much for the beach really. I prefer a nice city stroll or a walk in the countryside instead.

Could you tell me who of the old school musicians in the Swedish scene do you keep in touch with?

It's mostly through Facebook and Messenger nowadays, and mostly sporadically. I'm in touch with Perra Karlsson, Jörgen Sandström, Adrian Erlandsson, Anders Schultz to name some of them.

We all know about the misfortune that befell Lars-Göran Petrov. Are you familiar with the situation? Do his stage colleagues help him? Is there any movement among the local death metallers to help him raise money for treatment and so on...?

Yeah, I know about his condition. It's really sad. I think I saw something about a possible fundraiser among death metal bands to support LG's battle. But that's about all I know.

Tell me please about your future plans? How optimistic are you about the future, given the current situation?

I am positive that things will go back to normal eventually, but it will probably take a little longer than we all are hoping. We just have to be patient and not act like idiots, which unfortunately a majority of the earth population still seem to do regardless of this situation. The plans for Vomitory right now is to just sit back and wait until this is over so we can get out there and play live again.

Do you plan to continue working with Metal Blade Records? What keeps you together for so many years?

Since they have most of our catalogue, we will always be working together to some extent. I believe the reasons for the longevity of our co-operation are first and foremost that they like our band very much, and that we are laid back and easy going people to work with. And the same goes the other way - the Metal Blade people are genuine metal fans and put a lot of heart into their work with their bands. At least that's what I've felt over the years with

Tack så mycket, Tobias! Wish you and Vomitory all the best. Well, you can send a message to the Russian Vomitory fans here to complete this interview.

You're welcome. And thank you very much. I hope we will get a chance to play in Russia again sometime. We only did two shows there in 2011, so it would be great to come back and do some more dates and cities, when the times allow. Cheers!

By Alias
6 2021
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