Some people say we are too varied…
From Uppsala, Sweden, death metal quartet Usurpress have recently released their second album, Ordained, through Doomentia Records (Facebook; Bandcamp; website). Vocalist Steffe Pettersson took time out to talk to MR’s Jason Guest about the band’s progress since 2012’s Trenches of the Netherworld, writing, recording and the development of the new album, and their proclivity for all things prog…
Hi Steffe. Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on Ordained, it’s a great piece of work!
Thanks a lot!
No doubt you are happy with Trenches of the Netherworld and what you achieved with that album, but was there anything in particular about your music that you wanted to develop or improve upon?
Yes, we still think that Trenches is a good album and I don’t think that Ordained is that much different from it actually. If you disregard the two acoustic songs and the Bo Hansson-cover, most of the songs on Ordained could have been on Trenches and vice versa. Maybe a song like ‘Seduction Through Bloodshed’ would have been misplaced on Ordained or ‘Ritual Warfare’ would have been too weird for Trenches but apart from that I just feel that it is natural progression, we have experimented with slower tempos, more varied vocals and some progish riffs, that’s all.
What was it that you wanted to achieve with the album?
We only wanted to write good songs actually. I still feel that we are true to our vision of how we want Usurpress to sound even if might have broaden our musical horizon a bit. In fact, we are getting closer to how we want Usurpress to sound now; we are starting to find our own sound as a band.
You recorded the album in your own rehearsal space. Was recording in this familiar environment different to a ‘real’ studio?
To some extent I believe it was, yes. It didn’t feel like a big deal, you know, just playing the same old songs in the same old place. I can understand that some bands might lose their creativity in such familiar surroundings but for us it was the other way around. Also, to record in a real studio you almost have to take time off from your work and we didn’t have the time and money to do that, we recorded on weekends and evenings instead. We also felt that the money we saved by recording it ourselves, or rather with Påhl’s brother Erik, we could spend on mixing and mastering in a real studio.
How do you approach composition for Ordained? Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
Quite early on in the song writing process we decided that we would record the album in two sessions. We did 6 songs in the first session and on the basis of these songs we figured out what kinds of songs that were missing on the album. The two acoustic songs were recorded in a separate session between the two main ones. It was a working schedule that worked very well for Ordained and I think the album benefitted from that.
The album title has interesting connotations. Did the meaning of the word have any influence on the writing and the lyrics?
At first we just thought it was a cool word that sounded good as an album title but later on when we wrote ‘As the Monolith Comes Alive’ I included the word in the lyrics and from that on I started to think about it. The next album is based around the prophecy from said song; there you will meet The Ordained. Stay tuned so to speak.
Magnus Stjernberg has returned for this album. Did you have him in mind when you were writing ‘The Undeification’ and ‘As the Monolith Comes Alive’? And how much direction do you give him for his contributions?
‘The Undeification’ was first written on the piano and then we added some stupid MIDI-effects on it to give Magnus an idea of how we pictured us the song, he did the rest of the arrangements for it. ‘As the Monolith Comes Alive’ was written more fluently, it’s basically a jam with Magnus on cittern and Påhl on electric guitar.
You also have Helene Landahl playing flute and David Hallberg playing piano on the album. What drew you to these two? And how much direction were they given when writing / recording?
We needed someone to play the piano on ‘The Undeification’ since Påhl’s piano playing on the demo was laughable, he didn’t exaggerate when he said that he sucked on piano. David was the bass player for Påhl’s old prog band Klotet (now reformed as Gravmaskin without him) and Påhl knew he is a great keyboard player. Helene is Magnus’ wife and I knew about her flute playing abilities so that was a no-brainer.
There’s your cover of Bo Hansson’s ‘Lóthlorien’ on the album. Your version is very different (and very good, I must add). Why this track?
Thank you! Yeah, the arrangement is different and we tagged another Hansson tune (‘Skuggfaxe’) at the end of it, and of course we play it on guitar instead of organ. It was actually an experiment to see if we could pull off a genuine progrock piece or if it was gonna sound totally shitty. We are all big Bo Hansson fans so we decided to try it out for fun but it turned out good so decided to include it on the album, it replaced a short fast song called ‘The Insatiable Sky’ which remains unreleased.
Besides being very heavy, there’s a progressive element to Ordained. Is this track in any way indicative of where you see Usurpress heading in future?
Yes and no. We will not become the next Morbus Chron but we have written a piece for the next album which is very much in the line true progrock, and some other progressive parts as well but we will always remain a d-beat based death metal band. We just bring in elements from crust, doom and prog because, in our opinion, it makes the music more varied and powerful. However, some people say we are too varied…
Can you tell us about the album artwork design and what it represents?
We had the idea of a desolate barren landscape where the only thing living was the actual landscape itself. That’s what we got. The cover will look stunning on the fold out LP which will be released by Doomentia in January 2015.
The artwork is by Ola Larsson. Why did you choose to work with him? And how much direction did you give?
I was looking at the Disma covers and thought ‘Ola Larsson? That must be a Swede. Wait a minute; I wonder if it’s the same guy that did the old Traumatic artwork in the early 90s?’ I got in touch with him and asked him if he had time to do an album cover and he accepted. He had almost free hands but he sent new sketches all the time so we could tell what we liked and disliked. He is very easy to work with and I hope we can use him on the next album as well.
Any plans for gigs, tours, or festivals in support of the album? And will we be seeing you in the UK?
At the moment the situation within the band is making it impossible to do gigs, I’m afraid. Nothing dramatic though, we will not change any members or anything of that nature. We did two gigs in Sweden with Bombs of Hades and Yuri Gagarin just before the album was released and they were perhaps our two best gigs so it kinda sucks. Right now the only thing we can do is write new material and it’s going really great, so there’s a silver lining. We already have 5 songs written and they are much more ambitious and fluent than our previous material. Hopefully we can do some cool shows in 2015 but it’s hard being a very unknown band, there’s a lot of bands competing for the gigs.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thanks for support and some good, and tricky, questions; it’s a pleasure to answer good and insightful interviews. If anyone wants to get in touch with us, then drop us a line at email@example.com.
Ordained and most of our other work is available on Spotify if you want to know how we sound.