Below

In a time when metal seems to have been hijacked yet again, by a variety of hacks, nifty marketing plots and “novelty bands”, it seems refreshing that there’s a new vanguard of bands that seems to be bowing down, kneeling before the altar of Black Sabbath and Candlemass and coming up with some new metal that is not a copy of the old, but pays its respects to the genres roots and sounds like a ton of bricks falling upon you. Metal Blade, in particular, seems to be home to a bunch of great bands like the Swedish Below. Drummer Jens Vestergren was contacted by Grande Rock and this is what he confessed...
Below band pic

Hi Jens, it’s good to have you on Grande Rock. Firstly, do tell us how and when the band took shape and how you came up with the name Below. Are you aware that there a few bands with the same name out there?
 
J: Hey! Thanks for having me. Well we started back in 2011, after discussions that we wanted to create Doom that would give homage to the 80s Metal, we felt that this had been overseen and it is something that we all love. Long story short we wrote and recorded an EP, it got a huge 9/10 in Metal Hammer and Metal Blade offered us a deal, it all went really fast. We felt that Below was what described our music, simplistic, dark. We wanted an easy to remember name that everyone can spell, haha. We did a quick search online and found some bands but we still went for it.
 
 
What happened those 3 years between your debut and the new album?
 
J: We have played shows, been on one tour and some festivals like Summer Breeze, Tons of Rock, Up The Hammers, played in a lot cool countries and met a lot of great people on the road and of course at the shows. Other than that we have of course been writing new songs.
 
 
When did you start working on the music for your new album, “Upon a Pale Horse”, and with what kind of music influences did you have in mind to embellish your music this time?
 
J: I would say about two years ago; we don’t rush things, we play doom we do it slow. We have influences from Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Solitude Aerturnus in our music but we also as musicians bring a lot of different influences since we all listen to different sorts of metal as well apart from Doom Metal. I think that is one of the things with this album, the songs have a great variety and have evolved since we also have evolved both as musicians and as songwriters.
 
 
How did you come up with the album title “Upon a Pale Horse”?
 
J: When we wrote the song “Upon a Pale Horse” we straight away felt that this song should be about be biblical apocalypse, since it is so dark, epic, dramatic and apocalyptic in its atmospheres. When Zeb wrote the lyrics and we all felt that “Upon a Pale Horse” would be a really good title for the album and the song also feels like a title track.
 
 
Do give us a hint about each track…
 
J: “The Plague Within”: Intro, creates a nice haunting atmosphere…
“Disappearing into Nothing”: Really heavy main riff! You must headbang.
“The Coven”: A waltzy, sort of King Diamond style song.
“Upon a Pale Horse”: A real behemoth of a song, huge and dramatic.
“Suffer in Silence”: Dark heavy metal style song, fast for being us.
“Hours of Darkness”: My favourite, really melodic and fun to play.
“1000 Broken Bones”: Fast for being us, groovy main riff, really crushing.
“We Are All Slaves”: Long, dramatic, good lyrics and beautiful outro.
 
 
Tell us a few things about the guest appearances of Anders Engberg (Sorcerer) and Alan Averill (Primordial) on the album?
 
J: Anders is besides a great singer of the mighty Sorceror also friends with Conny Welén who recorded the vocals, and we wanted more than Zebs voice for some backing vocals. So, we asked Anders and he wanted to do it and he said yes, we couldn’t be happier. Alan does a speech for “Upon a Pale Horse”, we felt like we wanted a spoken part to start the song off, and we wanted someone with a dramatic and storytelling voice who speaks English fluently, then who better than Alan? We have contact with him since he works for Metal Blade so, we asked him and he wanted to do it, we are really grateful for that, it sounds amazing.
 
 
Where did the recordings take place and who mixed, produced & mastered the album? Are you satisfied with the final result?
 
J: We recorded the album in our home town of Nyköping (vocals in Stone Tower Studios) at Deep Blue Studios where we recorded our first EP. It was recorded and mixed by Nicko DiMarino and produced by Nicko and ourselves. Vocals recorded by Conny Welén and produced by Zeb and Conny. The master was done by Micke Lind at Master Plant. It all turned out just like we wanted it, we couldn’t be happier.
 
 
Are you satisfied with your cooperation with Metal Blade so far? Do you think that a big label such Metal Blade is a valuable asset for any new band out there?
 
J: Absolutely! Metal Blade have been really great and supportive to us, it’s a huge honor to be part of such and iconic and influential record label. Of course a big label can reach out further, will have a bigger spread in terms of reaching out to magazines, radio stations, followers on social media and such. But the music will always be what is most important. Size of the label doesn’t matter as long as the music is great.
 
 
What are your touring plans to date?
 
J: Well, our agency is working on that, the only show we have confirmed right now is the “Hammer of Doom” festival in Wurzburg/Germany in November. But hey, if anybody wants us, just get in touch with Doomstar Bookings.
 
 
What are your main influences?
 
J: As a band I would say: mid-era Black Sabbath, Candlemass, King Diamond, Solitude Aeturnus... and perhaps a hundred more, haha.
 
 
How would you describe your music style to someone that hasn’t heard of you before?
 
J: Really heavy, melodic, haunting atmospheres, dynamic, dark and dramatic.
 
 
Which are your expectations from “Upon a Pale Horse” and what do you wish to achieve with Below over the next years?
 
J: It’s hard to say, the album has gotten an extremely good reception, so we really hope that this will help us get to go out and play a whole lot more shows, especially all the amazing festivals. Over the next few years I hope we have gotten to play a lot and we will soon begin writing our next album, so hopefully we will be in this position again with a new album just out. We will keep doing what we do, and see where it takes us.
 
Below band pic
 
It’s time for our “weird questions”!!! If you could “erase” one thing from modern music, what would it be?
 
J: The Auto-Tuner! I hate it when I hear something where they have autotuned the shit out of the vocals, either for effect or because they can’t sing. Just let your voice be your voice, it is what makes you different and gives the band a unique voice. Collect all those auto-tuners and just burn them!
 
 
What do you think of the “free downloading & the free streaming issue” of our time? Will that help music generally or not?
 
J: I think streaming and such is a “two headed sword”, on one hand it’s nice to just stroll through Spotify and find new music that I probably would never hear otherwise, and it’s a great way to sample new things and for bands to spread their music world wide really fast. On the other hand, it also makes it hard for musicians to actually be working as musicians. I think you should use it to find new music, but if you find something you like you should buy the album or merch to help the band that you like. Without that you probably will never be able to see them live or have them record new albums, recording albums and travelling costs pretty much.
 
 
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
 
J: Now this is a tough one. Do I go for “Larger than life making millions”?, or go for “really great music”?, or go for “this I can do really well”?, haha. The obvious one would be Candlemass. But I will go for Judas Priest, great music, wouldn’t have to worry about anything more than playing drums, and the songs are really fun to play.
 
 
Which are the best 3 doom metal albums according to you?
 
J: Candlemass – “Nightfall”, Solitude Aeturnus – “Alone”, Black Sabbath – “Headless Cross”…
 
 
Fill in the phrase… “Doom metal music wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
 
J: Black Sabbath doing what they did and influencing a lot of excellent bands.
 
 
Top 3 thriller movies of any era?
 
J: Well that is hard, just 3?! And it has to be thrillers? OK, I work for a cinema company so I have to do this: “Taxi Driver”, “Silence of the Lambs” & “Seven”. I would like to say a top 20 of all movie genres but let’s not waste time.
 
 
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
 
J: It’s a tie between “Painkiller” and “Nightfall”... just because they both are excellent albums!
 
 
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
 
J: Haha, I would send them some random generic “MTV-pop”, so they can understand just how bad the taste of the mainstream people is and how doomed this planet is. Then they would turn around and never come back again.
 
 
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
 
J: I actually don’t know. Perhaps I would go back to when there was just bacteria. So, I could just be alone for a while, no wars, no hunger, just silence… haha.
 
 
Which do you consider to be the best male vocalist in metal history?
 
J: Ronnie James Dio... easy.
 
 
You have the chance to have sex with the movie-celebrity/porn-star of your choice. Who would it be & why?
 
J: Duuuude, my wife is sitting right next to me with an angry look on her face and a frying-pan in her hand. I am too afraid to answer this one. (i.n.: Hehehe…)
 
 
Who is the sexiest female Rock Star of all time?
 
J: I really don’t care, it’s about the music. A beautiful voice doesn’t have to come from a beautiful face.
 
 
Which of the Seven Deadly Sins do you reckon is the one, that’s more likely to send you straight to Hell, in the afterlife?
 
J: I don’t know, I am guilty of them all!
 
 
Which character from the “Game of Thrones” would you have been – if you lived in the Seven Kingdoms?
 
J: I actually haven’t seen the series, so it’s hard to say. But someone with a big beard who likes to hit stuff. Perhaps you can tell me?
 
 
Imagine that your girlfriend is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
 
J: I don’t even want to think about it. Don’t touch my music!
 
 
That’s all for now Jens! Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Say anything you feel like saying before we close. Take care dude!
 
J: Thank you so much for having me! Well to everyone who reads this, check us out, you can find us on instagram and twitter @belowmetal, and facebook.com/belowmetal! Give it a go, you might like it.

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