VAMPIRE – Rulers Of The Crypt

May 26, 2017, a year ago

Nick Balazs

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VAMPIRE – Rulers Of The Crypt

“I suppose this title says something about the way we sound, the way the lyrics deal with the dark and the unknown. This is music that comes at you bared with primeval force.” So says Lars Martinsson (who goes by the stage name Hand Of Doom), the vocalist of Swedish death metal act Vampire about their new album With Primeval Force, released on April 21st through Century Media Records. The Swedes have come a long way since their 2012 demo which turned heads with a raw and filthy production with horror based lyrics holding a resemblance to Autopsy and early Tribulation. On their second full-length album, With Primeval Force ramps up the production values, is a tad more atmospheric, but brings the aggression that gained them attention in the first place. 

Opener “Knights Of The Burning Crypt” sets the stage for the killer tracks and is a standout track for Martinsson. “That was the first song we wrote for the album and it sort of gave us a direction for where to go, meaning very energetic and primitive sounding riffs clashing with something more atmospheric and something more emotional and that all combines in that first song,” remarks the singer.

The closer “Syclla” is an all-in effort paying homage to the deities we revere in our beloved death metal. “It’s the last one we wrote for the album which is where we go all in for the kind of music we cherished we were in our formative teenage years, bands like Dissection or Emperor,” reveals Martinsson. 

But what about that cover art with this mountainous beast towering over the world. It’s a cover that’s very eye-catching and sheathes off a different vibe compared to the art of the first album, where the reaper was right in your face and any listener would know what they are getting into.

Martinsson discusses the art saying, “A guy from New Zealand name Nick Heller, I think he painted this piece in 2011 so it has not really been circulating. Once we saw that image, it was something very Vampire-ish about it; the whole concept of something forbidden and outlandish and primitive; just way off civilization and way off from something you see every day and just way off from the whole enlightened modern society. It’s something pretty romantic and timeless that taps into kind of folkloric vibe that speaks to us as Europeans and probably speaks to you as an American as well. It’s something, regardless of what culture you come from; there’s something about rugged mountains and wild forests and open skies that talks to you in a certain way and that’s very fitting to some of the songs and for the album title just taps into the primeval force mindset.”

This blood-sucking Vampire holds songs based in horror and the supernatural. Martinsson, who handles the lyrics, says the meaning of them comes from the unknown, something that’s far-out from the world.

“The psychology behind the lyrics is basically a feeling there’s something off with the modern world. There’s something at the corner of your eye that you can never really grasp and really put a name on; just something that is present and something that informs your view on life, but you can’t really get to know or connect to in a productive way and I suppose some people would call that an experience of the divine, some people would call that just a remnant of the very primitive people that we are trying to make sense of things we can’t really make sense of. I wouldn’t call my lyrics poetry because they are really song lyrics, but there is definitely narrative in those lyrics and there are definitely in different ways dealing with the same thing. That is a fascination and an attraction and perhaps a fear of the unknown side of the human experience if that makes any sense at all,” the singer illuminates.

But it must all come from somewhere right? The Swede points to old Italian horror movies that served as the inspiration at first like ‘Midnight Trial’ building off the film Mask Of Satan (also known as Black Sunday), the 1960 Mario Bava film about Moldavian witches. Other tunes like “Metamorphosis”, just came to Martinsson “just after coming back from tour and having been up to all sorts of stupid things on the road and I didn’t feel very good about it once coming home and just morphing that into some kind of Gothic romance about the night side of the evening experience.”

Martinsson reveals, “When we started out with Vampire, the inspiration came from old horror films, like old Italian zombie films and whatnot, but over the years I developed a more sophisticated approach to writing lyrics and I think my influences as of now are not as apparent and I hope them to be a bit more personal than for example on the demo tape which more played around with horror clichés. We totally deal in horror clichés now as well, it’s just a little more heartfelt.”

The Vampire logo is one of the more impressive ones out there, very detailed that reminds of the original Death logo and it was actually created by a member of the band Darkified, a Swedish band from the same town as Marduk. The band wanted to try and fill as much “Gothic clichés and metal clichés in the logo as possible.” 

“The devil’s tail comes from the Possessed logo obviously, and the inspiration for the candle comes from this incredibly great Finnish band called Beherit. It’s basically just a mashup of everything cool, evil looking from the 1980s and early ‘90s. I think when we presented the idea of the logo to the guy, we said we want something that sort of mashes up the Necrowar logo and the Venom logo with the Possessed devil’s tale and that’s basically the result of that,” says Martinsson. 

For a band that pays homage to those acts and plays a style reminiscent of the greats, there comes a criticism that bands like Vampire don’t really do anything new and listeners should just stick to the old bands.

Martinsson points to playing this type of music as a way of keeping it alive and sticking with tradition. 

He points out, “You don’t have to fix something that isn’t broken and some things are worth keeping alive. For example, last week was Easter (note: this was interview was conducted late April) and some of the stuff we Swedes do at Easter is getting rid of dead stuff in your garden and having bonfires and pyres to sort of flame away whatever from last year and keep the witches away. As much as that is stupid superstition, it’s still a tradition that gives you something. Whatever you put into that grants you very much in return. I guess it’s the same with us playing stupid death metal music that was popular in the ‘80s. That’s tradition and that’s our way of keeping something alive that we think is bound to stay healthy and obviously most of the old bands don’t really deliver the goods anymore so I guess we’ll have to step in and straighten things out. Mercyful Fate are obviously not around anymore, Entombed turned into absolute shit, Venom turned into incredibly weak sauce crap. I mean, I could go on. The bands that were great years ago are not great today and we just need to do something about that. We don’t really see that as a mission; it just comes very naturally to us. The stuff we listen to, that’s what we want to play and if people enjoy that, that’s fantastic,” declares Martinsson.

There’s nothing with keeping this type of music going forward for a new generation and also something to latch onto for the older headbangers. Sometimes it’s a catch 22 with the metal crowd, do something new and the metalheads will roar that it doesn’t sound like the classics, but keep something simple and there will be complaints that it isn’t original. The main point in all this is a good song is a good song no matter when it was written or if it pushes any boundaries or not.

Martinsson brings a finality to this, digging into the history or rock and his personal opinion saying, “Most of the greatest music every recorded was in the ‘80s and you have to keep the wound fresh. You have to cherish and try to keep the stuff you enjoy viable and valid. People who have a problem with old-school metal; they only care about music that was recorded after the turn of the millennium. That means you probably don’t care too much for songwriting because something that people really knew how to do in the ‘80s; that was writing good, proper, effective songs. They actually do have verses and choruses and bridges and all those basic elements of ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s pop and rock music; the very foundation of the stuff that we deal in and that got lost somewhere during the ‘90s.”

Unfortunately for Vampire, there are no plans as of this time to come to North America, however a European jaunt is in the making.

“As of now there are no plans to play in North America. A big problem with trying to do that is the finance of it all, just getting working visas for a break even tour deal; that’s pretty expensive man and I don’t think we’ll come around to doing that this year. We’ll probably go on tour this fall in Europe and if everything goes as planned we’ll be touring with one of our boy-room heroes of the ‘90s; it would probably be a pretty attractive package for people who are into the kind of music we make.”

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