The Lurking Fear – Unsettling DarknessSunday, 30th July 2017
A complete vortex of death. The cover art for The Lurking Fear’s debut, Out of the Voiceless Grave seems to sum up the band’s mission statement more than anything. Comprised of rather well-known members of the extreme metal community (musicians from At the Gates, Skitsystem, The Crown, and Disfear), the act takes a slightly different road towards the feeling of pure death metal. Yet the sense of dread and darkness from the music is one that stands the test of time – one that is more about the fear of the unknown than outright, blunt aggression.
With the high-profile, veteran members in the band, its claustrophobic feel, and fresh twist on the old school formula, we figured a more thorough investigation was in order. The band’s vocalist, Tomas Lindberg, is a man who needs no introduction. Fronting a number of acts over the years (At the Gates and many, many more) he’s well-established and a revered name within the extreme scene. So we chatted with him about The Lurking Fear and its goals, what death metal means to him, and a check-in on new At the Gates material.
Dead Rhetoric: Having been a part of a number of bands over the years, and contributing to even more, what makes you decide to go out and start another band?
Tomas Lindberg: Restlessness and just creative energy I guess. We formed the band a week after the At War With Reality tour with At the Gates. We were just like, “ok, what next?” We had to do something. We figured we had some time, with the At the Gates break, for the creative process and it went quicker than we ever thought [it would]. It was great fun.
Dead Rhetoric: Obviously, there’s an HP Lovecraft influence on the material. Anything you particularly enjoyed about writing in this direction, as opposed to say, the lyrical direction of the last At the Gates album or some of the socio-political stuff you’ve done in the past?
Lindberg: I always write for the song…whatever the song gives to me. This record is all about the essence of unnerving, old school death metal. It makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. That’s what I was trying to capture. I started writing my own stuff and really had something going. But I really wanted to create a different layer to it, to fit it to the atmosphere of the music. I just placed all of the stories/poetry/whatever you want to call it inside HP Lovecraft’s universe of words. Using his style of writing as an extra filter to create that atmosphere.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a lot of talent involved in The Lurking Fear – the idea that I seem to get from it is that it’s a celebration of death metal. Death metal musicians doing what they love.
Lindberg: It is. I’m just very nervous about the ‘project’ stamp on it. We are really making sure in all interviews to portray it as a band, even if it is old friends who have known each other for over 30 years with similar backgrounds. This is a band that we formed because we felt that the five of us could create something new and interesting out of all of our different influences and similar reference points, so we could work well together and create something new in the field, so to speak.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it tough too, knowing that you are going to get saddled with that whole ‘supergroup’ label too?
Lindberg: We are talking underground death metal so supergroup, I think, we should leave to more prolific people [laughs]. I see what you are saying, but for me, it’s just weird that the five of us haven’t played together before. Everybody has played together at one point or another in some aspects, except for Jonas [Stålhammar] and I – we haven’t been in a band together before. I played with Andreas [Axelsson] in Disfear, I played with Freddy [Wallenberg] in Skitsystem, and Adrian [Erlandsson] in At the Gates. So we’ve been in the same scene and friends forever and knew about what everyone was doing all the time, so it’s kind of weird that we didn’t do this earlier. It’s definitely like a band thing – whenever we are playing together or hanging out together, you will notice right away that it’s a band, not a project.
Dead Rhetoric: Does it make it easier to write material since you have all known each other for so long?
Lindberg: First we wanted to create some sort of democratic filter for what was working or not, concerning riffs, but we noticed pretty early on that we were all working in the exact, same direction and talking in the same language. We could also lean back a little bit on our experience of arranging songs. We always had the same feeling about how long a part should be, and things like that. If a song needed something more, we all kind of agreed on what it was [missing]. It was very easy and it gave us more time to work on the actual delivery and songwriting than the particulars.
Dead Rhetoric: Being entrenched in the scene for so long, what is death metal to you?
Lindberg: I guess it is that feeling that I was talking about before. That unnerving feeling, that something is wrong. That someone/something is out there – that sort of feeling. There’s been so much focus on aggression and brutality; I never really saw death metal as an aggressive music. Hardcore, thrash, grind…that’s aggressive. Death metal is more about the unsettling emotions. Something that really creeps and crawls through the night and makes you feel uncomfortable [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: One of the PR releases talks about the realness and grit of the album, and certainly The Lurking Fear doesn’t really fit into that retro movement, but do you feel those more ‘retro’ styled death metal bands are a bit of push back against more modern/aggressive sounding material?
Lindberg: Yeah, I guess that is a reaction to that. We didn’t want to be a part of any of those kind of styles. We wanted to create something new with it, but I can see what you are saying. Those old school bands/retro trend is kind of a reaction against the clean-ness of what happened to death metal. There’s always been real bands out there, old and new; there’s always someone out there flying the flag.
I guess the trick is to sum up all your influences. A band is always about the influences – no one can hide that. Every band is influenced by someone. Even Black Sabbath, they were influenced by something. So it’s just how you combine your influences and what you make of it that makes a band original or not. If it moves forward, or if it just moves backwards, or if it relies on sentiment and tradition. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to bring the old feelings back, but with a new touch.
Dead Rhetoric: Going back towards my original question in being in so many different bands and projects – when you want to hear new music at this point in your life…do you find it easier to just go out and create that music yourself?
Lindberg: There is actually so much music out there, through all the different outlets. It’s easier to find new stuff, but there’s more to sift through. There’s much more bullshit as well, much more crap. So I still find stuff that interests me every month, something that tickles my excitement in some way. When it comes to extreme music, I always feel like I want to do something new. There’s something that needs to be done; there’s something out there that hasn’t been done before. There’s a limited amount of time, but I try [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: I saw that you became a social studies teacher. What made you go back later in life to become a teacher?
Lindberg: I never really had a profession, so to speak. As most metal musicians, that I know at least, I jumped around from part time jobs – daycare, elderly care, record store, whatever you could get your hands on between bands and tours. There was a time, after At the Gates initial break-up, when I had some extra time to go back to school and get a degree in something. One of my part-time jobs was being a teacher’s assistant, so I thought it was actually quite fun. So I jumped at the chance and got the degree. So now I always have something to fall back upon, because there’s a big shortage of teachers here in Sweden. It’s a good thing – so far my bosses have been quite good to me. We’ll see what the next year will bring, there will be a lot of shows [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: As a science teacher, I thought that was kind of cool to see…
Lindberg: It is kind of similar [to music]…you have to get up, put yourself out there and do a little performance with every lesson. There’s always a new interaction. You never know what the day is going to throw at you.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you feel most proud of in accomplishing over the years, or is that a hard question to answer?
Lindberg: Looking back, I’ve done quite a lot of different stuff. I think that’s the charm though – there are a few different extreme genres that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. The style from the crustier stuff like Disfear and Skitsystem to extreme death metal, and whatever else I’ve been into. It’s hard to compare because they are so different. I’m really proud of the early days and what we achieved there, with very little means – breaking out of the underground. And also coming back with At the Gates after such a long time was a big thing for us. That was putting our necks out there, and I’m glad we survived that [laughs]. But there’s no particular album, or something like that – it’s too hard. I don’t really listen much to my own stuff. I’m not one of those kind of guys [laughs].
Dead Rhetoric: There was the split with Anders [Björler], but is there anything else currently going on with At the Gates?
Lindberg: We are writing a new record. News about the replacement for Anders is coming up sooner than later. There’s no exact date for that yet, I’ve got to check with the record label, but there’s something happening. The progress on the new album is amazing so far. I think it’s going to be one of the best one’s we have done actually. You’ve never heard that from any musician before, right?