Losing two pivotal members will usually kill a band. That’s almost what happened to Swedish death metallers Evocation after Janne Kenttäkumpu Bodén and Vesa Kenttäkumpu decided the lifestyle wasn’t for them. Looking at death in the eye, the remaining members voted on reanimating the proverbial corpse, pulling Evocation out of a three-year silence. Without the Kenttäkumpu brothers, the group wrote The Shadow Archetype, likely the strongest full-length in the Swedes’ catalog. Heavy, hard, brutal yet melodic, melancholic, and introspective, The Shadow Archetype is massive. Moored by catchier-than-the-plague songwriting, hard-hitting drums, courtesy of ex-The Haunted drummer Per Möller Jensen, and savage vocals, The Shadow Archetype might just be contender for death metal album of the year! At least that’s how I, Chris Dick, sees and hears it. Decibel catches up with guitarist/songwriter/founding member Marko Palmén and Thomas Josefsson to dive deep into The Shadow Archetype. Read on…
The last metalheads heard from Evocation was 2012’s Illusions of Grandeur. OK, the covers EP came after, but what have Evocation been up to over the last three-four years?
Marko Palmén: We have been working on the follow-up album pretty much since the late autumn of 2013 after Janne [Kenttäkumpu Bodén] and Vesa [Kenttäkumpu] announced that they were going to leave the band. In early 2014 we played a farewell show for Janne and Vesa and after that we also played two German Festivals. But after that we worked intensely on the tracks for the new album. I think we spent more time on making these tracks perfect then we have ever done before in our career. A lot of blood, sweat and tears are put into the tracks of The Shadow Archetype… In the autumn of 2016 we also signed a new worldwide recording agreement with Metal Blade Records. We already worked with them for some years since they released our first three albums through a licensing agreement in the US and Canada. In the European office there is also a very old friend of the band working. As a matter of fact we know each other since the release of the first demo of Evocation back in 1992. So for us it was a natural step to approach Metal Blade for the new album and it just feels great to work with old friends of the band. Metal Blade is a great label and to be a part of their amazing roster of bands is a huge honor for us.
Who is playing drums on The Shadow Archetype? Pretty big name from what I hear.
Marko Palmén: The session drummer for The Shadow Archetype is none other than Per Möller Jensen (ex-The Haunted). It was quite a coincidence that we hired him for the album. At the moment when we contacted Per we were working with another drummer that we just felt didn’t work out. Per on the other hand was looking for session work through his social media page. I contacted him and he replied pretty much immediately that he was interested in doing an album together with us. The recordings were smooth as hell with him. He loves to improvise in the studio. He had studied the basic rhythms for the tracks at home in Copenhagen and then he came out to Gothenburg where we recorded the drums at Crehate Studios together with studio engineer Oscar Nilsson (drummer in Engel). The drum rolls are just pure magic on the album, I don’t think there are two drum rolls that are exactly the same on the album. Sometimes we all just dropped our jaws and had to ask him how he made a particular drum roll and he would say; “I don’t have a clue on how I did it and I can’t make it again…” And as a bonus Per is a really nice guy to hang out with as well. Only positive memories from the recordings with him! I think Per also really enjoyed coming away from his daytime job in Copenhagen and just be a musician again for some days.
Any other guests on the new album?
Marko Palmén: Yeah, we actually got our old guitarist Vesa to do a guitar solo for the track “Survival of the Sickest”. Turned out great and we were really pleased to have him on board for the new Evocation album. He helped us out on some occasions with the production as well. I think Vesa felt it was quite an honor to be a guest and help us out on the album. He has been very supportive all along the way and want’s nothing but the best for Evocation. Besides Per and Vesa there are no other guests on the album.
Illusions of Grandeur was well received. What did you want to do on The Shadow Archetype that you felt you couldn’t do on the previous album?
Marko Palmén: We just dropped all restraints on this album. Pretty much all the ideas that came up were tried out and put to test. A lot of ideas were dropped and some got through. The only words that come to mind when I think about what we wanted to achieve with the album is brutality and melancholy. We just wanted to make a really dark and sinister album this time and I think we managed to achieve something to be immensely proud of.
How is this album different from your previous albums?
Marko Palmén: This album is definitely different from the previous albums and it’s quite natural as well since we lost both Janne and Vesa who were parts of the song writing process in Evocation before. Some friends of the band have said that the new album sounds different but still has the sound of Evocation. In my opinion the new album is a step towards the roots of the band although it also has a footing in the future. I think the sound of the new album reflects the dynamic of me and Simon who wrote the music for the album. I’m more of an old school death metal kind of guy and Simon comes from the younger generation of death metal freaks who enjoys technicality and brutality. Somehow we just merged those two sides of death metal into the creation that will be known as The Shadow Archetype. Evocation has always tried to make something new with the albums and for us it comes quite natural as well. I mean if you want do the same album over and over again, then why do a new album at all?
What were the songwriting sessions like?
Marko Palmén: As I have said to the other guys in the band the songwriting sessions for The Shadow Archetype were the easiest so far compared with all the previous albums we have done. I and Simon who wrote the music for the album are relatives and somehow it was as if our genome matched perfectly. We had the same thoughts on how the album should be and how the riffs should sound. Pretty much everything with the songwriting process went really smooth although we were a bit tired of the tracks in the end. But hey, who wouldn’t be tired of the tracks when you have worked on them for almost two years…
Where did you record The Shadow Archetype? It’s probably the best sounding Evocation album to date.
Marko Palmén: We recorded The Shadow Archetype at 3 different studios. Recording of backing vocals, mixing and mastering were made at Dugout Productions. Daniel Bergstrand handled the recording of backing vocals and mixing. George Nerantzis handled the mastering. Drums were recorded at Crehate Studios together with studio engineer Oscar Nilsson (drummer in Engel). Guitars, bass and lead vocals were recorded by ourselves at Evocation Productions. We started recording the drums in late June 2015 and did the last recordings with vocals in June 2016. So we spent roughly a year in the studio with The Shadow Archetype. The most part of the album was recorded at Evocation Productions in Borås, our hometown. When you record in your own studio you always end up being more meticulous since you have unlimited amount of time. I think that was one of the reasons why the recordings took so long time. Another reason is also the fact that we don’t have Evocation as our daytime job which means we can’t spend 40 hours a week in the studio. We have to spread the sessions in the studio over a longer period of time in order to be able to handle daytime jobs etc. The sessions were great but we sure spent blood, sweat and tears into this album and I think people will hear the effort we have made… Daniel Bergstrand was an amazing experience to work with. I love the productions he has done with bands such as Behemoth, Meshuggah, etc. He is an old friend of our bass player Gustaf Jorde. Daniel had a great vision of how the sound was going to be and we have only appraisal and gratitude for how the result became. In my opinion the production is our strongest so far. It has all the elements I want in a production; raw brutality but still with a distinctive punch!
Sonically, what are you happiest about on The Shadow Archetype? The production is pretty massive sounding and the guitars are thick and meaty.
Marko Palmén: I think the overall production is outstanding and in the end it is the fruit of countless hours spent in the studio. And it’s also the fruit of all our combined experiences we made on our previous albums before. For instance on the guitars we spent maybe 2-4 weeks of work on this album before we were satisfied. At first we tried out a guitar sound and recorded 2-3 songs with that sound before we decided to pull the plug and start all over again. I just felt that there was something missing there… We changed a microphone and did some other small adjustments and finally we were there with the sound. The guitar sound has that amazing BOSS HM-2 buzzsaw tone but with a distinctive punch. It is impossible to get that tone only with the HM-2 since that pedal just creates a huge fuzzy tone. That’s why we have always used a BOSS MT-2 pedal serially connected which tightens up the tone and creates an amazing punch. I can honestly say that this album sounds the way Evocation always should have sounded like. The bass sound is mean and the drums have a great punch and also have a natural vibe and sound. At the moment I’m quite tired of triggered unnatural drums so I’m really satisfied with the drums on “The Shadow Archetype”. Last but not least Thomas vocals turned out amazing and in my opinion he did his best performance up to date! The guitar sound is of course a favorite of mine on the album but then I’m a guitarist myself so I’m not sure what the other boys would say is their favorite.
Lyrically, what’s The Shadow Archetype about?
Thomas Josefsson: The lyrical themes on The Shadow Archetype are still mainly focused on my thoughts on psychological disorders, society, one well hidden ruling agenda, different ways of controlling, politics, death, drugs, sex, war, media and six six six.
What’s Evocation’s plans in 2016 and 2017?
Marko Palmén: We haven’t played a single show since 2014 so at the moment we are quite eager to get out on the road again… The plan is simply put to start up with a release show in our hometown and then to follow up and play as many shows as possible at festivals, tours, clubs etc. after the release of the album. Evocation will also record a video for the track “Condemned to the Grave” together with director Carlo Oppermann at Ambitious Films during the winter of 2016/2017. Release of the video will be in early 2017. When the touring cycle for The Shadow Archetype comes to an end the plan is to start doing another full length album again. But before that happens I hope we have been able to play some new territories that we haven’t visited before with the band. There might be another cover EP as well in the autumn/winter of 2017, but that still remains to be seen…
** Evocation’s new album, The Shadow Archetype, is out now on Metal Blade Records. Click HERE for vinyl, CDs, and t-shirts. Amazing album for fans of melodic / melancholic old-school death metal.