Four years ago I was enchanted by the doom ‘n’ roll swagger of Laser Dracul‘s eponymous four-song EP. In that premiere I wrote “Swedish doom trio Laser Dracul are the children of the night, and the music they make is LOUD.” Shutter the windows and leave garlic hanging in the doorways, because Laser Dracul’s debut LP is imminent. Hagridden will be released from Majestic Mountain Records on September 25. Luckily, Decibel has the record for you over a week early to satiate your bloodlust.
From the first rollicking bass line of album opener “Ashes and Dust,” grave-digging grooves permeate Hagridden. Like Black Sabbath and Cathedral and Orange Goblin, Laser Dracul never lose sight of being a rock band. There’s a spliff-smoking bounce and whimsy to the record that’s precursory to the shadowy themes. Despite the nocturnal crawl of “High Tide Striding,” they don’t strictly dwell in darkness. Around halfway through that song they reshape the central riff with a swaggering rhythm and eerie organs. “Into the Night We Go” stands out as an album highlight with Henrik Östensson’s serpentine drum-rolls accompanying Michael Brander’s midnight croon.
The album does experience a tonal shift with the downcast melodies of “Now You See It” and “Ill in Spirit.” They both block the sun’s warmth before bruising closer “Mother Midnight” trudges through the mud. But Lars Bergfält’s riffs are more than bludgeoning implements. They enchant and enrapture with psych flourishes while maintaining that rock edge. Hagridden is for fans of self-assured, no-frills loudness. Welcome to one of your new favorite doom bands.
Succumb to Laser Dracul’s Hagridden and stream the record below. Press play NOW before the album is released from Majestic Mountain Records on September 25.
Decibel Magazine interview with Laser Dracul drummer Henrik Östensson
Your bio mentioned the members met over a few beers 15 years ago. Do you remember what conversation topics that day made you realize the foundation of a band was possible?
HO: It was probably more like twenty something years ago, I’d say. The bands we were in then (Lars and Mike were in one, I was in another) rehearsed at the same municipal complex in our hometown. So, we weren’t exactly complete strangers when we started running into each other on weekend nights at
our local hangout. I can’t say what was said verbatim, but I’m sure it would have been about comparing musical references and sharing memories of drunken festival feats. We became mates and sometime later and they asked me to join their band, since their drummer wanted to play guitar instead. I accepted and joined. First Degree Murder was the name of their band!
It’s been 4 years since the band’s debut, and this album feels well-worth the wait. Were there any changes you wanted to make to your songwriting and style for Hagridden?
HO: Not exactly. We definitely took our time making with these songs and worked a bit differently. We brought nearly complete songs to the metaphorical table individually, instead of just jamming out and piecing the puzzle together, as we had done before. For some reason I thought this would make the process easier, but it wasn’t. It was a bullet to the foot, so to say. We shan’t apply this method of procedure again. Stylistically we have incorporated some faster material, just because we wanted to. What comes comes and if we like it, we use it. Should we see fit to use a banjo or accordion or cover a Barry Manilow tune, we will. Do you catch my drift? We’ll always do whatever feels necessary to convey our vision of the song.
Your debut included references to regional folklore. Are there any provincial tales featured in Hagridden?
HO: Well, I can say that there are a few expansions on those themes. But there are also stories that touch upon more contemporary topics like nuclear extermination and opiate pandemics. Then there’s torment of the soul, religious rebellion… Which is not to say that we have made a permanent move to the ‘now.’ We will always try to fathom the superstitious fears of hundreds of years ago, because that is what Laser Dracul is about; folkloric notions of wraiths, witchcraft and creatures who crave blood. You may rest assured.
The album and guitar tone both sound huge. What brought you back to Sellnoise Studio to record Hagridden?
HO: Jonas Arnberg–the man behind the studio–is someone we trust and rely on to bring out the best version possible of our material. “Maybe if you sing it like this? Hit harder! No, that won’t work at all…” He is patient but not afraid to say what he thinks works and what doesn’t. I think Lars and Michael had employed his services with another band just before Laser Dracul, so they already knew him. Back then, when we recorded our first EP, he just had a room in the back of his garage. This time he had really put some serious cash and effort into everything, building a separate recording room and vocal booth. Very professional. Hence that larger sound. Plus, he makes a good cuppa coffee!
What do you have planned for Laser Dracul during the rest of 2020 and beyond?
HO: There’s not very much left of this year to plan, is there? We can only hope that the Coronavirus situation settles enough so we can get out and perform for people who wish to see us. In the meantime, we’re just going to jam out more songs as we have plenty of ideas whirring about; dig our
graves in the forest and polish our coffins, in case the virus brings our civilization to a coughing end.