Mattias Frisk (Vanhelgd) interviewed

** Death metal record of the year? It might just be Vanhelgd’s new album, Relics of Sulphur Salvation. Featured in DB (June #116), we decided mainman Mattias Frisk had too much to say than we could fit in print. So, we took out the full transcript for ‘heads everywhere. Read on and don’t sleep on Vanhelgd!
You appeared in our Death Metal Revival article in 2009. Now that a few years have passed, it certainly seems like death metal is more alive than ever. What do you make of death metal’s trajectory over the last five years?
Mattias Frisk: It’s been some good years for the underground, lots of interesting festivals in our corner of the world and a lot of great bands coming up. 2014 seems to be a hell of a year with a lot of great releases already and a bunch of albums that I´m looking forward to. The downside is that there is so much happening so that I find it hard to keep track on what’s going on. I´m glad that there seems to be a lot of development in the scene, for a while I got the impression that there would just be some kind of retro-trend with new bands (like us) just releasing one album and then have no idea what to do next. But I´m also afraid that 2014 will be the peak and the interest will fade again, it feels a lot like in ’92-’94 all over again.

Top 5 Death Metal albums of all time?
Mattias Frisk: That’s a hard question to answer, but Clandestine by Entombed always seem to follow me, also Gothic by Paradise lost, the Spectral Sorrows by Edge of Sanity, the 4th Crusade by Bolt Thrower and With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness by At the Gates. Mental Funeral by Autopsy, Ceremony of Opposites by Samael, Human by Death and Cause of Death by Obituary are on that list too, but to put this in some kind of order is too hard for me. But the ultimate death metal song in my opinion must be “Chaos Breed” by Entombed. That’s for sure!

Tell us what your primary inspiration was for Relics of Sulphur Salvation. I’m not talking music. What got you guys out of bed and into writing mode?
Mattias Frisk: I draw a lot of inspiration from art in general. As an art historian I specialized on abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, his paintings and thoughts on art is a great inspiration in general. Also discussing music and other forms of expression with the band and other people has indirectly been important to the outcome of the album. Early 2013 we decided that the album should be done that year, that kind of pressure is also a good motivator, Church of Death was recorded in 2010, so we thought that we needed to do something new by now!

Jonas Albrektsson is new to the band. What does he bring to the table, other than his vast experience in black metal and death metal?
Mattias Frisk: Jonas makes things happen, he has a lot of ideas and speaks his opinion. He is committed to what he is involved with and takes thing very serious. The fact that he writes a lot of music himself has made it easy for him to understand our process and get into what we are doing. He writes most of the bass parts himself witch has been a great thing for the album. I guess people will think that Jonas being a part of the band has pushed us towards a more black metal direction, this is not the case since a lot of the ideas and two or three songs were already done when he joined Vanhelgd.

Is Autopsy still a driving force? Actually, I hear a bit of that old Paradise Lost vibe too. Maybe it’s both bands early works informing Vanhelgd.
Mattias Frisk: Yeah for sure but I guess we have moved away from the most obvious Autopsy references by now. On cult of Lazarus autopsy was the main influence. Paradise Lost had a huge impact on me around 1992 and still has. Other influences on the band are Edge of Sanity and At the Gates.

There’s one thing that’s always separated Vanhelgd from other revivalists. There’s a bit of despondent melody in the guitars. They contrast well with the mega-heavy rhythm and bass guitars. You pushed the despondent element a bit further up in the mix on Relics of Sulphur Salvation. Any particular reason for that?
Mattias Frisk: We have been on that path since the first album and tried to refine it on each album. I guess that it took some time for us to spot what we were after. In my opinion you need to record the album to have an opportunity to listen to the songs from the outside, so it’s a slow process to actually understand what you are doing. We had quite a clear idea what we were looking for this time, make a better whole, more focused song and get the atmosphere right. I guess that the melody is a symptom of listening to bands like the ones mentioned earlier.

What’s Relics of Sulphur Salvation about? There’s a few songs with “worm” in the title, right?
Mattias Frisk: In short terms: Tragedy, ecstasy, doom.
Didn’t think of it but yes, two songs has “worm” in the title: “Dödens Maskätna Anlete” (“the worm-eaten face of death”) and “May the Worms Have Mercy on My Flesh”. That’s more of a coincidence. There is no lyrical theme or something like that; I think that the lyrics play a minor role in the whole; there are so many other parts that tell the story.

It’s pretty obvious you’re not into organized religion. What is it about organized religion, particularly the Abrahamic stuff, that drives you crazy?
Mattias Frisk: Religion is an illusion that controls people’s minds and thoughts, taking its power from the fear of death and the search for meaning in an uncomprehensive world. Religion is just fairy tales and myths that have manage to take a tremendous hard grip on our thoughts and culture, what if you would base your life, thoughts and choices on what is written in the Lord of the Rings that is just insane and quite the same thing in my opinion.

What did Tore and Necromorbus Studio give Vanhelgd that you didn’t get before with previous studio experiences?
Mattias Frisk: The album was recorded in Studio Underjorden by Joona Hassinen, Tore did the master. Working with Joona allowed us to just focus on the recording in a great environment. Church of Death was recorded by me at my house, except for the drums that were recorded in studio Backbone. That took a lot of energy and time, and I realized that I didn’t have the skills for making it sound the way I wanted. Johan Fasth helped us out with the mix and the master then and made it sound decent in spite of my shortcomings. This time everything went smooth and we could just focus on doing our best instead of all the technical stuff. To be able to just hang out in Norrköping away from our hometown Mjölby and just work with the album under a certain period of time was great (we just had two or three weekends booked).

The last time we spoke, Myspace played a big role in Vanhelgd’s promotion. Where does social media fit now, particularly Myspace?
Mattias Frisk: I guess that for a lot of people internet is based around the social media sites. Myspace is the worst crap ever now days, but Facebook still works, but I guess that the whole idea with forcing you to pay for attention will kill Facebook to soon. Myspace was great in the beginning of Vanhelgd but the day our page was clogged with ads for Pepsi I had enough and stopped to update the site. For a band like us that doesn’t tour and don’t play many shows it’s great to be able to reach those who are interested in what we do via the social media sites.

I’ve been dying to know. What’s a “vanhelgd” and where did it come from?
Mattias Frisk: It’s just an old form Swedish word for Desecrated, we had a hard time to find a name that wasn’t already taken and looked into our native language to find something that would work, we decided to use the old term “Vanhelgd” instead of the newer “Vanhelgad” to put some kind of twist on it.

** Vanhelgd’s new album, Relics of Sulphur Salvation, is available now from 20 Buck Spin. Corrosive CD HERE and wax inferno HERE.