Interview with Deathening

Metal Addicts – First of all, guys, congrats to your album “Antifascist Death Metal”! This album’s a breath of fresh air in the Metal world. I’ve gotta say the album impressed me for its music and, of course, for your political agenda. Not many Metal bands have a political agenda, and if they do, it is the wrong one. But, first things first, who are Deathening? What can you tell us about the band?
Pål Callmer – Deathening were founded by me and our drummer Arnold Lindberg about ten years ago. We had then played together since the mid-90’s in different bands in various metal styles. I’ve been a death metal fan since the genre was born and the early albums of the  so called Swedish death metal scene made a huge impact on me. So that’s the, maybe obviously, the main musical influence for the band. Soon after Deathening were born I set out to recruit some of the best musicians to complete the line-up, and 2011 we released the first album. When it comes to the lyrics, I’ve always wanted my lyrics to mean something more than just the plain blood-gore-darkness-themed type of songs. And that has over the years become more and more important for me personally, because if your lyrics really mean something to you, that’s an extra driving force both when you write the songs and play them live. We have a clear agenda to fight fascism, racism and homophobia. And we struggle on to best of our ability to do this with the music we make. It’s become increasingly urgent to stand up for human values and the freedoms that define democracy.
Metal Addicts – I confess I’m scared to death to what we see in the world today. Trump in the US, Marine Le Pen in France, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and, unfortunately, so many other examples. Even in more liberal countries like Sweden and Norway, fascists are playing a coming back. Please, stand your position. What the hell happened in the world?
Pål Callmer – I’d say you’re not alone. I think most people are scared. But many of them are being fooled by populist politicians to fear, blame and hate people of other countries, communities and cultures. It’s the old trick of offering easy solutions to difficult problems. When we the most need to work together they just want to turn people against each other. Blaming every problem on the ones not fitting into their nationalist utopia. But we stand our position. Not by giving the fascist the silent treatment suggested by some, nor trying to argue with nazis, which is pointless, but through empowering our listeners with Deathening’s music and lyrics, giving them strength to stand up for what’s decent. Letting them know they’re not alone, because they’re not. We are many across the world who are concerned about the political development. But we all need to speak up in our everyday lives and not let fascist and racist statements stand uncontradicted.
Metal Addicts – In your press release, you say that Deathening were advised not to mix music and politics. What made you go on? What happened in your lives that made you go left? Do Deathening intend to move on with politics?
Pål Callmer – We’ve got many comments over the years in social media from people not wanting us to say what we think. They think we should leave the politics to politicians. Some comments lately could even be considered as death threats. But it’s impossible for me to set my beliefs aside in the writing. It’s a part of who I am and a part of the idea of Deathening. As long as I write lyrics I will speak my mind. This is not because something specific event in my life, it’s just common decency. It has always been the same lyrical themes, but I’d say the lyrics on ‘Antifascist Death Metal’ is more to the point and easier to put in context than on the previous albums. The title, to begin with, is more than clear and defines with utmost clarity what we believe. And we will go on, no doubt about that.
Metal Addicts – As we all know, metalheads and Metal bands aren’t so interested in politics. Some say that we leave that for the punks. I totally disagree with that. I guess there’s room for everything in Metal’s scenes today, even for ‘serious’ matters. Do you agree? What do you have to say about your audiences? Did any fan get more excited or else? Have you ever had any troubles with your political agenda?
Pål Callmer – Metal has always been a scene for serious matters. There’s a massive amount of metal records made over the years dealing with politics, but I think with the current growing polarisation in society today, there’s also a growing part of the fans not wanting to see what’s happening. I guess they need their musical experiences to be a safe haven where they don’t need to care about the world and not being reminded that they should. If you feel that way you can still listen to Deathening and not focus on the lyrics. It’s quality metal that can give you a kick ass ride even if you don’t want to get political. The lyrics are there, sure, but they shouldn’t bother you if you’re not a fascist. Then of course, there are the ones that totally disagree with us. I mean, if you are a fascist and a racist you will probably get offended by our lyrics. And probably even more so if you like the music. In most cases our audience constitutes of like-minded people who want brutal metal and think fascists are f**ked up. It’s a fantastic crowd!
Metal Addicts – Okay, now let’s talk about Deathening’s music.  Why Death Metal? Listening to “Antifascist Death Metal” I noticed lots of other influences, let’s say NWOBHM and melodic Death Metal. Am I right? What are your musical influences? I see a band with a lot of care in the songwriting process and the recording as well. Can you tell us how was the songwriting process? Is there a mastermind in the band or does everybody take a part in it? How was the recording process? Where did you record the band?
Pål Callmer – All members have different histories in different musical styles, but we all grew up listening to metal. So it naturally becomes a mix of what we like. You can absolutely hear influences from many subgenres of metal from many eras, but when you mix them together they merge into death metal, I think. The main influence is death metal, anyway. I am the writer of both music and lyrics, so if there’s a mastermind it’s me! I try to listen in on everyones opinions though, and of course, I don’t play drums, bass or sing myself. The album is recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by me and Arnold, since we both are sound engineers and work in studios. So, some parts are recorded at the studio where he works, Nobel Street Studios in Gothenburg, and some parts in the studio where I work, King Edward Filmproduktion in Malmö.
Metal Addicts – Shreaking vocals are kind of mandatory in Death Metal. But Deathening got to interweave different vocals instead of the regular moans and groans. Any change of singing with a clean voice? Who are your favorite vocalists? Can you say any words about the mandatory rules about Death Metal?
Pål Callmer – Kalle Nimhagen’s voice is a very important part of the Deathening sound. He has an amazing ability to produce different types of voices, ranging from low to high. I would not ever use a clean voice in death metal though. I think that is totally out of place. Then it’s not death metal anymore. That’s just my opinion and I know many disagree, but Deathening won’t ever have clean vocals. There are so many great vocalists but if we stay within the death metal genre I have one favourite, and that’s Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates. When finding a band’s sound it’s really a matter of making the music and the vocals fit together and benefit from each other. Letting them play equally important parts. That’s where the lyrics become important, forming the bridge in-between. In this case not the meaning of the words, but rather how you can make the words sound. So behind every great death metal voice there is a lot of hard work putting together the words. It’s like writing a guitar riff. And if you also want to add meaning to the lyrics, it’s even harder. For me there’s nothing you’re not allowed to do in death metal, and I don’t think it’s critical to decide which music is what genre. Call it what you want. When I make music it just sounds the way it does. I have no rules, it is what it is.
Metal Addicts – A not usual question: What are you guys reading? Any favorite authors? And about music: What are you listening?
Pål Callmer – I don’t know about the others in the band, but I read fact books and reports on history and contemporary society, and also the “must read” classics. It’s a growing long list and hard to find the time to make it shorter, but I try my best. When I get the time to listen to music it’s more often old Neil Young albums than the latest metal releases, actually. But I also get to hear a lot of classic metal and thrash albums, since my daughter is the one managing the playlists at home.
Metal Addicts – Now a very usual subject: religion. What can you tell us about religion? Are you religious of any sort?
Pål Callmer – No, I’m not. I believe in doing good and being helpful. To treat people with respect and and check the facts before judging anyone. Simply don’t be an egoistic asshole.
Metal Addicts – Heavy Metal is one of the musical genres that still sticks to the good old album formula and it is consistently doing pretty well. I mean, HM albums still sell, of course not as much as pop, but it does. There is an open debate among musicians and the media that bands are making very few dollars with albums due to all the existing digital services which allow fans to get music without paying a penny. What’s your view about this debate? BTW, can Deathening make a living with their music or you all have other jobs?
Pål Callmer – We all have jobs. It would be impossible for us to earn a living by just playing death metal. We do it because we love to write, record and play our music. We have made close to nothing on metal music, so for us it’s just great that people can access our music. Preferably not through piracy though, cause that really sucks. I can understand though how bands that used to live of record sales are pissed off by the streaming/download and especially piracy that has deprived them of their livelihood. At least we control the streaming/download sales ourselves because we have our own label Rakamarow Records that I operate, so there’s no other label taking a part of the few dollars coming in. I hope our fans buy the vinyl though. That’s the real thing and the only way of listening to the album uncompressed, cause there will be no CD.
Metal Addicts – Due to all aforementioned, tours are more than ever a very important channel to get in touch with fans, to promote albums, and of course, to provide the means so he band can keep up. So, what are your plans for tours? Does the world have a plan to Deathening? Could tell us where you have played around the years? What was the most unusual place you have played?
Pål Callmer – So far we’ve no tour planned, but some gigs will come. We’ve mainly played at festivals and clubs in Sweden, but would be happy to consider any requests from abroad. It’s hard to find real tour gigs if you don’t “pay to play”, and we don’t do that. And since we all have families and jobs, it’s rare to find opportunities that is worth the effort. But we struggle on and hope get on stage soon. I wouldn’t say we’ve played at any really unusual place. Last gig we did was at a punk festival in a barn in the forrest.  That’s not the typical gig for us. The audience was totally crazy moshing all over the floor and the stage too.
Metal Addicts – Metal scene today is very diverse. There are lots of bands playing music with lots of influences bringing up some excellent new material. Are you a nostalgic band that praise the good old days? How do you feel about new bands?
Pål Callmer – There are some really good new bands and there are those which suck. As it has always been. I am a bit of a nostalgic though, especially in death metal scene. The records I listened to at age 14 to 17 has something about them that seems impossible to recreate today. I mean, old Entombed, Carcass, Dismember and Napalm Death albums has a sound and songs that simply can’t be beat.
Metal Addicts – Well,I think that’s all for now. Hope you guys get really well with “Antifascist Death Metal”. Wish you the best of luck. Greetings from Metal Addicts.
Pål Callmer – Thank you!