Stripping the HM-2’s Wires: An Interview With Miasmal

When you take a step back and consider that yellow-and-blue flag waving Swedish death metal as pumped through the (real or imagined) Boss HM-2 pedal is almost a genre onto itself, it’s perplexed me since 2011, when they released their self-titled debut, that Gothenburg’s Miasmal hasn’t been a name on more lips and tongues. That the band has had their consistently excellent take on a classic sound be part of the Century Media family and promotional powerhouse – in Europe, at least – since 2014’s Cursed Redeemer and still isn’t a more talked about name on the buzzsaw guitar scene confounds me in the same way that the operational properties of magnets and the continued popularity of dumb super-hero movies does. Hopefully, 2016 will bring the quartet – featuring members who do double time in Agrimonia, Martyrdöd and Night Viper – better fortune in the general public’s playlists as the band are in the midst of the release schedule of their third album, Tides of Omniscience, a penetrative jab-jab-uppercut of crust-infused classic Swe-death with just enough classic and prog brushstrokes to shape the material, but not be obnoxiously overpowering about it. We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Pontus Redig and dropped a few questions in his lap via email.

I could be wrong, but seeing as this is your first time we’ve featured Miasmal, can you give a brief history of the band?
Miasmal started out in Gothenburg, Sweden back in 2007. Our intention was to create the kind of death metal we felt was missing in the musical climate at the time: song-oriented, no bullshit metal with a groove and with a punky, Discharge backbone. Me and our other guitarist, Magnus [Andreasson] assembled the group and by 2008 we had our first demo out. We are now about to release our third full-length, Tides of Omniscience which is our second album for Century Media. We have couple of releases and tours under our collective belt, and over the years I believe Miasmal has musically grown more into our own style and take on death metal.

Having members who play in bands from along the different sounding spectrum of extreme music, do you find yourselves having to get into a particular mindset when writing or performing under the Miasmal name?
I suppose so, since I’ve never really been able to work simultaneously with any of the bands. When it’s time to do another Miasmal album, it’s 100% Miasmal for me. It’s not so much a mindset, rather a mode where I am eventually. The closer we get to finishing the album, I’m constantly thinking about the music and lyrics, pretty much unable to suddenly switch direction. Live is another thing, it’s always about energy and the here and now – very different to a writing/recording situation! I usually treat every live show the same, by simply trying to give all I got. However, with Miasmal that can be extra exhausting since I’m doing both vocals and guitar, and there’s not a lot of breaks or slow passages where I can catch my breath.

Do you feel that your experience with other bands opens up a broader scope of sounds and influences you’re able to add to Miasmal? Or is this band strictly considered your vehicle for giving classic Swedish, HM-2 death metal a titty twister?
I do think that working with other music has an influence, yes. Playing different music always somehow informs the way you play, think about chord structures, think about melodies; even if you wanted to, it would be hard to not be influenced. I think it’s fun to sometimes be able to pick out different influences in a metal track you’ve written, without the influences being visible on the surface. On the new Miasmal album, there’s this part that makes me think of Bolt Thrower, but another part that is inspired by a chord progression from a Robyn track. I feel Miasmal never truly fit in that HM-2 death metal thing, partly since we’re not using HM-2s [laughs]. I think this new album makes this even more apparent.

How long did it take to write Tides of Omniscience and what would you say were the major motivations that spurred you towards writing this new album?
It took us about six months to write the album, the usual time frame for us. I tend to work that way, focusing on Miasmal only and writing most of the material in a pretty short period of time instead of spreading out the workload evenly in the time between albums. You get to a point when you simply feel the reserves have been filled up somewhere in the brain, and it is time to somehow get it out of there and make another album. There were some new ideas that felt very fresh for Miasmal which made the process even more exciting.

Was there anything that was done differently in terms of the way the album was written or recorded compared to what you had done in the past?
Not really to be honest! We have recorded by ourselves before and we have also worked with Studio Fredman before. However, I think this was the first time we did both on the same recording! We recorded the material by ourselves and then mixed it at Studio Fredman.

The writing process is always the same. So far, I’ve been responsible for the bulk of the material, and I tend to work from home, or at least by myself. I make demos with programmed drums, try to work them on a bit so they sound quite “full.” Then, we meet up at rehearsal, learn the song and maybe rearrange a bit, but we usually don’t work so much on the material at rehearsals.

What is the significance or story behind the album’s title?
The title actually came to me after the artwork was done. I was watching the finished artwork and started to think about the story behind it. Those three figures, where are they going and where are they coming from? I want the cover and title to be open for interpretation. But to me, one interpretation of the artwork and title is that the figures, or beings, or statues, are a reflection of ourselves, of mankind being on an endless search for something else, never satisfied, no matter what it takes. We will continue to try and improve our lives without realizing we might destroy ourselves in the process.

How would you characterise Tides of Omniscience against your previous two records?

It’s more of everything, in a way! I think we felt that we were pretty done with the mid-tempo thing that characterised the two first albums, and wanted to up the intensity level a bit. While our last album, Cursed Redeemer, has this decadent feeling, Tides of Omniscience is sharper and more direct. We have our fastest stuff ever on this one, but also more melodies and more in your face vocals.

Tides of Omniscience is out in Europe on Century Media and will be released in North America April 16th on Divebomb Records. Check out the pre-order link here.