What did you get for Christmas? Most kids our age wanted an iPad. But turns out the Xbox 360 Kinect was pretty popular amongst dudes with belly bulges and retirement accounts.Marko Palmén: The best present I got for Christmas was a tour offer for Evocation, which we received the 23rd of December. The offer was to join in as support band on Amon Amarth’s upcoming European headlining tour in May. Of corpse (Palmén’s being cute—CD), we accepted the offer and we are really looking forward to both joining Amon Amarth on the tour, but we are also looking forward to taking our new album Apocalyptic out on the road where it belongs… Main support on the tour comes from The Black Dahlia Murder. I think this tour package will be something out of the ordinary.
Besides, this awesome Christmas present I also bought an iPhone 4 for myself, which I’m mighty pleased with. Now, I can have video conversations over Internet with my family when we are on the road. I think that’s heavily appreciated both by me and my family. Oh, and I almost forgot that I also bought an old classic on DVD: Slayer’s Live Intrusion. That DVD will be really cool to watch with some friends and beers.
Apocalyptic charted in Germany. You signed a publishing deal. You’ve toured Europe. Shit, Evocation’s like a real band now. If you hadn’t re-started Evocation what would you guys be doing?
Marko Palmén: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess it became quite serious after the re-union in 2005. At first when we started to play again in 2005 we only talked about playing the old stuff from the early ‘90s. After a while we started to work on some new material and it sounded quite OK. So, we figured that maybe we should do a full-length album, and so we did. The thing was just that when we were about to release the first full-length album in Evocation’s history back in 2007 we already had made about 80 percent of the next album, which we released in 2008. And that’s the way it has been since the reunion. I guess, we are in a very productive mode at the moment and don’t want to waste time since we are not any youngsters anymore.
What would have happened with our lives if we wouldn’t have started Evocation again? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have been able to lay down to rest if we wouldn’t have started Evocation again. I mean, there was no sense in the decision to put Evocation to rest in 1993. There were several major labels interested in signing Evocation back then and we decided to quit because of musical differences. It felt like we still had lots of things to achieve before quitting. I’m just so pleased we managed to come over the musical differences for the re-union and that we are now working together as a band again. We are really having the time of our lives now and enjoying every minute on stage. If this wouldn’t have been the case then I guess I would just be doing my ordinary daytime job as a psychologist at a Swedish high security prison and spending the spare time with my family.
Apocalyptic also marks your first official stateside release. It’s sort of been two decades in the making. What do you make of Evocation finally landing in U.S. stores domestically?
Marko Palmén: It feels really good that we are finally taking the step over the Atlantic and getting our albums released over in the U.S. as well. I guess, that’s very much thanks to Metal Blade Records signing a licensing agreement with our European label Cyclone Empire Records. Metal Blade has been a very good partner to work with and we have a really good connection with the staff in Los Angeles. The fact that we are now finally releasing our stuff overseas also increases the chances of realizing our objectives of taking Evocation on a tour in the U.S. I really hope we will one day be able to do so. It took two decades to release some Evocation stuff in the U.S., but I sure hope it will not take another two decades for us to embark on a U.S. tour.
What the hell are you guys—namely, Thomas (Josefsson; vocals)—yammering about on Apocalyptic? More abstract tales of death and destruction?
Thomas ‘Tjompe’ Josefsson: Well, abstract tales about death and destruction have always been a part of the death metal culture and should always stay that way as well. My lyrics have always been true to both you and I, and most of them are from my inner self and I am totally bloated when I share them. They are full of my thoughts from what I observe and what I think about life in general for most people. I believe (take it for what it is) that we are controlled through media and that we are living in lies and most of the history that we have been brainwashed with is in some parts false education. I do not have much left over for governments, school or even the church. I might sound paranoid to you, but actually I feel good believing those things. I feel free. My/our goal is to open your eyes and look around you. I believe that the people that are really in control of us and this planet see us as nothing more than trash on which they make profit. Most of the lyrics are about how many people feel, how I feel sometimes and where does it come from? We thought Apocalyptic was the perfect title for the album, but we do not see the name apocalypse as the end of the world. We see it as an enlightenment that we actually have something to say. For example: the old Maya Indians use the name as an enlightenment, only Christians use the word as the end of the world to keep us in fear. Actually the Mayas claimed that that the Apocalypse will take place in 2012 and mankind will step into a new enlightened era, a new sort of consciousness. Every 3,600 years the Planet X (Niburu) will enter our solar system and creators of man will walk the earth again, and 2012 is that year. If it’s true or not I have no idea, but I am very fascinated by the old Mayas. Nevertheless, the lyrics are much about the everyday struggle, the enslavement of people and that we should open our eyes and believe in ourselves.
And musically it sounds like Vesa’s (Kenttäkumpu; guitars) refining the Evocation sound. Would you call Apocalyptic a refined mix of Tales from the Tomb and Dead Calm Chaos?
Marko Palmén: I think we are developing with each and every album we do. The biggest step of progress in our history was from Tales from the Tomb to Dead Calm Chaos. Tales from the Tomb was pretty much a legacy from the early ‘90s. We hadn’t been following the death metal scene since 1995 when we went in to the studio in 2006 and recorded Tales from the Tomb. So in a way it just became the natural follow-up to our demos from 1992. Dead Calm Chaos, however, became something completely new, which sort of drew up the direction for Evocation in the 21st Century. The development from Dead Calm Chaos to Apocalyptic is in a way a refinement just as you say. As I said, to another guy; if one would compare it in terms of pizza then Apocalyptic has extra everything on it. [Laughs] The songwriting is more developed and thought through. As a listener I think you can notice that since there are no parts in the songs that become boring or too repetitive. We have also developed as musicians on every album and on Apocalyptic I think Thomas (Josefsson; vocals) did the biggest step of development. He’s much more mature in his voice now and the vocal patterns he’s done for the album are brilliant. And just as you mention, of corpse Vesa is the main guy in the band behind the songwriting. He is probably responsible for 60-70 percent of the music on Apocalyptic; just as on all previous Evocation albums. However, I think we are all responsible for the artistic direction that Evocation chooses. If someone in the band has some ideas that won’t fit in the concept then there are always people in the band that objects to it.
I’ve labeled Evocation “Stockburg”, which is a portmanteau of Stockholm and Gothenburg. Sort of best of both worlds for Swedish death metal heads. Where do you think you’ll take things from here? “Stockburgoping?”
Marko Palmén: [Laughs] I like that phrase “Stockburg” and I also think it’s a spot on description of what we are doing in terms of death metal. We are trying to take the best parts from the Gothenburg and the Stockholm death metal scenes and creating something which ends up sounding like Evocation. The brutality comes from the Stockholm scene and the melodies from the Gothenburg scene. Somehow it works out quite well. In terms of art direction for the music I think that we already have found our way of expressing death metal. There will of corpse always be room for experimenting and trying out elements that are not obvious for our way of expressing death metal, but the main direction I think we have already found.
So, kids want to know. What’s the secret behind your crushing guitar sound? Same old Entombed pedal or have you spiced up the old set-up?
Marko Palmén: [Laughs] So, the kids want to know. Well, daddy can let the kids know a bit about the secret. We are actually using the same setup as At The Gates did on the legendary Slaughter of the Soul album. I read an interview with Anders Björler where he explained the setup he had used for that album. We are using a BOSS HM-2 serially connected with a BOSS MT-2. In order to get the perfect tone there are several more factors that needs to be fulfilled. For instance, the cabinets need to have Greenback speakers and the guitars need to have EMG-81 pickups. At The Gates used an old Peavey amp to get the sound for Slaughter of the Soul. I would suggest the Peavey 5150 MK II, ENGL Savage or ENGL Invader to get the right tone. All of them sound great. I have a cool anecdote from the European tour in 2009 with Cannibal Corpse which has to do with my guitar sound. I think we played a couple of shows on the tour when Pat O’Brien came up to me at sound check saying that I had a killer guitar tone. I was a bit astonished since I thought he had a really fat tone himself. But he was serious and we started talking about it and a couple of days later he tried out the settings and even took pictures of my settings. It would be cool if next Cannibal Corpse album had a touch of the Swedish death metal sound. [Laughs]
You might be wondering what the settings for the pedals are. Well, if you come to our show I’d be happy to share it with you over a beer or two.
The Boss HM-2 pedals are starting to fetch top dollar in good condition. Think it’s the Swedes buying up the pedals?
Marko Palmén: Yeah, I know they are really starting to fetch top dollar nowadays. And it’s a bitch in my opinion since I’m trying to get hold of a back-up pedal for myself. Last one I put a bid on went for $140, I think. Can’t understand why BOSS can’t start producing them again. Would love to see that happen! An even better thing would be if BOSS would start endorsing Evocation and as a result of that co-operation we would do an Evocation signature HM-2 pedal. I have to stop dreaming these wet dreams…
And who’s buying all the HM-2 on the market? Well, I actually think everybody is trying to get hold of one of these pedals nowadays. I get mails from all around the globe asking me which pedals and settings Evocation use. Death metal is spreading like a plague.
Who’s the rad kid headbanging in your Formation of Apocalyptic video?
Marko Palmén: [Laughs] The rad kid headbanging in the video is Janne’s (Boden; drums) youngest kid named Noa. He came along when we were in Studio Mega (Sonic Syndicate, etc.) to master the new album. He is a really funny kid and he’s very proud of his daddy’s drumming in Evocation. On every album recording we try to capture some stuff on video and there are always some cool moments that get caught in these videos.
For a completely cliché but popular question: what’s the best Swedish beer that you can recommend for Americans used to Pabst Blue Ribbon and Bud Light?
Marko Palmén: I think my favorite Swedish beer is Mariestads Export. I have lots of friends who like that beer and several of the band members also like it. Don’t know if it’s available in the U.S., but do try it out if you ever come over here. It’s a beer that reminds me a bit of the very popular Czech type of beers called Pilsner, which are made in the region named Pilzen. Czech beer is the best god damned beer in the world, period! [Laughs] Thanks for the interview and for the Decibel readers I would like to say that we all hope to meet you on some show in the U.S. in the future. When and where remains to be seen…
** Visit Evocation on Myspace. Click here to blast some “Stockburg” ragers.
** Evocation’s new album, Apocalyptic, is out now on Metal Blade Records. Order it here.