Denied – Chaos Through DisruptionSaturday, 11th July 2020
When it comes to heavy metal, a sense of realism creeps in when you find musicians who aren’t necessarily making a living at their craft. They choose to play and perform in the genre for self-expression, passion, and enjoyment of the art itself. Such is the case for Denied – as the five-piece consists of musicians in their forties and early fifties and appear content to deliver their brand of melodic heavy metal with power/thrash tendencies to their masses – no matter how large or small that may be. The Decade of Disruption is the latest album – the first for new vocalist Søren Adamsen, adding a bit more of an aggressive approach at times to the group as well as some wider dynamic possibilities.
We reached out to guitarist Chris Vowden who is always a delight to talk to. It was very much a back and forth conversation of which the highlights are present. You’ll learn about the three member changes between records, the band’s songwriting and recording approach, thoughts on where the group is in terms of stature, and a bit of talk regarding his love of history plus thoughts on parenthood.
Dead Rhetoric: A lot has happened with Denied in the two years between album releases. Would you like to bring the readers up to speed with the member changes and how you believe that has affected the songwriting and performances for the aptly titled The Decade of Disruption record?
Chris Vowden: Yeah, sure. We’ve got three new members. Søren Adamsen is a current member, and he’s from the band Artillery. I haven’t heard those albums, I need to check them out. We brought in a local guy, Markus Kask. He’s a great drummer, he hasn’t played in any big bands before but he’s a great talent. And then Fredrik (Thörnblom) on bass, he’s also just a local guy. He played in a band called Oz many years ago. They were on Black Mark, which was run by the father of Bathory, the Swedish black metal band. That’s those guys, they aren’t famous but that doesn’t matter anyways.
The songwriting hasn’t been affected that much, because Andreas is still the main songwriter, and I help him out with riffs and harmonies. There is a difference in that Søren is writing the lyrics now, before Johan our previous singer did that. There’s no real change, or a big difference. The other guys just play their instruments. The sound is a bit different though with these guys – especially in the case of Søren. He’s got a completely different voice which I think it’s cool. We didn’t want a copycat anyway, which is what other bands tend to do.
Dead Rhetoric: Having a seasoned professional like Søren on vocals, did it open up some of the possibilities with the direction you could take the material – as there seems to be a variety of heads down metal along with tracks that are bit more melodic and commercial this time around?
Vowden: Yes, I guess. Since his singing is so different than Johan, I think he has more of an aggressive approach and that affected the songs. This album, although it sounds like a cliché and you’ve probably heard this a thousand times already, but it’s a bit heavier. And that was not the intention. With him having a thrash metal background, it was kind of obvious which kind of direction we would be heading. Of course there are a couple of differences with the songs – we have a balladesque song with “Freedom Rain”, a song called “We Play Rock N’ Roll” that’s a tribute to Lemmy, and overall it’s a heavier album than the previous ones.
The sheer heaviness took me by surprise. I’ve always been that kind of guy that thinks that the older you get, the more mellow you tend to be.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the guest guitar appearance from Candlemass’ Lars Johansson take place on the closing epic “Undergang”? And what are some of your favorite memories over the years with Candlemass in regards to specific songs, albums, or live shows you’ve witnessed?
Vowden: That’s a fun question. Lars is a friend of Markus’, our drummer. I can’t exactly remember how he mentioned it, but he said he could ask Lars to play a solo on the doomier song we had called “Undergang”. What a great idea, he could just give him a call. I really pushed him to do so, as Lars was one of my favorite guitarists growing up. Especially the live album with Candlemass, they recorded that in Stockholm in 1990. I love that record. I bought that album for my younger brother but he hated it (laughs). I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve nicked some of his solos through the years off Candlemass, the live album and some studio albums. He invited Lars to play in our studio, and I was very excited. I now have his phone number.
Dead Rhetoric: Now on that particular song, you guys are trading solos, correct?
Vowden: He does the solo in the middle of the song, and I did the outro solo near the end. I’ll take that as a compliment! (laughs)
Dead Rhetoric: Is it a challenge to do an epic song, considering most of your material is shorter and faster paced?
Vowden: Andreas writes most of the material, and he’s always been a fan of Candlemass as well as of a band called Krux. Which features Mats Levin and the bass player Leif Edling. Andreas was a huge fan of Krux, and he loves doom. He wanted to write a doom song. I was the one that was a bit opposed, I was afraid of falling asleep. I love that song now, but I’m not sure if we are going to ever play that live.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the biggest differences in The Decade of Disruption compared to your previous discography?
Vowden: That’s easy. Because this feels like a band effort. The previous album we had another guy laying down the bass tracks, three different singers. It didn’t feel like a band effort. It’s a great album and it has great songs, but this is more like a band. It’s us five guys playing every instrument and all the songs. That’s what it feels like to me.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the cover art designed by Alexander Lifbom– and do you believe it’s still as important in today’s digital music/streaming landscape for the metal genre as it was maybe in decades past when physical mediums like vinyl, tapes, and CD’s were the major formats?
Vowden: Oh yeah, I think that it’s still relevant. That’s why we do these colorful album covers. Alexander is an old friend of mine, he’s been an artist for many years. I told Andreas about his work, he checked out his work, and that was the guy to do our album covers. He started creating something that was very similar to Megadeth’s Rust in Peace, that’s the type of cover that Andreas wants us to have. So he was the right guy at the right time.
I love the green color. It’s a shame… if you have an album cover in high resolution, you can zoom in on it and see all these details. With the Iron Maiden albums, you remember The Number of the Beast or Somewhere in Time, you could hone in on all the details and study the cover. You can’t do that now these days – that’s the feeling though that we want to do. If you look at things on Spotify, you’ll only see this little green blurb in the middle. I think that is how heavy metal music differs from pop- the album covers have always been very important.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you look at the guitar playing duties with Andreas in the band – do you see specific strengths that you try to enhance or divide out responsibilities accordingly?
Vowden: Yes! (laughs). The thing is, Andreas writes most of the material, and I record most of the guitar parts, plus do all the leads and the harmonies. Because he’s more comfortable with writing the material and me recording most of the parts on the albums. That’s the way we work. The guys in Accept used to do the same thing, where Wolf Holfmann wrote the material and recorded all the guitar parts. Andreas records all the demo parts, and I work around all those parts with my guitars. And then the other guys come in and lay down their tracks as well.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe he tries to provide thorough demos so that everyone knows what they’ll be doing when they hit the studio?
Vowden: Well, I don’t think he even knows sometimes what he’s going to do (laughs). He writes a song, but it can turn out differently a month later because he has so many ideas he just never rests. It’s a big process, because if I record some guitar parts for a song, and he could come the next day and say he’s changed his mind and needs to rearrange the song – I would go back to the studio and do it all again. It’s all for a good cause though, the songs always turn out better. He’s that kind of guy, he always has to rearrange the songs until they are perfect.
Dead Rhetoric: Did Søren have any ideas with where he wanted to go specifically in terms of the lyrics?
Vowden: Yes, he did. Søren has a completely different approach compared to Johan. He’s very much into fighting, and he likes to write lyrics about that topic. He is more of a rhythmic singer, so he ends up singing more in line with the guitars, and that’s his style.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the status of Denied in terms of bands in your genre and where you are at as far as popularity or acceptance? What do you think needs to happen to improve your stature?
Vowden: That’s a good question. I’m not sure. We don’t take anything for granted. We are a small band, and some of us are going into our fifties for age. I’m the youngest guy in the band at 45. We do this because we enjoy this. If nothing happens, fine, that’s okay. We enjoy what we do – and of course we would love to conquer the world, but we just like to write songs and record albums plus play the occasional gig. If anything else happens, that would be great – if not, we are fine. We are not 22 anymore, so we don’t expect anything big to happen.
Dead Rhetoric: Switching things up from our previous talk about three favorite albums of the past – I’d be curious to know if there are any albums of the past say one to three years in the metal genre that have made a great impression upon you?
Vowden: Wow… I’d have to check my Spotify playlist! (laughs). That’s a tough one. That is the hardest question. I just listen to old bands, nothing has changed. A Brazilian band called Angra – the album is Omni that came out a couple of years. A great album, I’d never heard the band before. But I’m the type of person that still sits down and listens to Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies, or Dokken – Back for the Attack. I’m old-fashioned and boring, and I know it.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some common mistakes that you see younger musicians make in the metal genre that if you could pull them aside and work with them on you would have them think about and consider?
Vowden: Don’t do drugs, and don’t drink! (laughs). That would be my advice. Apart from that, just enjoy what you do. Obviously, not many people make a lot of money doing this. I never intended to do that anyway. It’s a tough business, I started playing more than thirty years ago and I had no intention of being a rock star. I still enjoy what I do now as much as I did back then. Just enjoy playing.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your hobbies, interests, and passions that you have away from Denied when you have the free time and energy to pursue them?
Vowden: Well, okay. I read a lot. I’m very fascinated by history, medieval history and the Renaissance. Not very rock and roll. I like gardening, long walks, and the occasional whiskey soda. That’s about it.
Dead Rhetoric: I know that you raise a 17-year old daughter with autism. How does parenting her change your perspective on life?
Vowden: What can I say. It’s made me very aware of what autism means. It’s made me a better parent. She is in the other room right now. Sweden is a great place for support, and it’s nothing to take for granted. We can get proper help, anything you need is a phone call away. It’s if she wants the help that counts. It’s given me a bigger perspective on life, that you can’t take things for granted. We have a great time.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or two for Denied in terms of promotion and activities? Considering the live market shutdown due to the pandemic, has the band been working on new material to possibly come out with another release in a shorter time span as you did with these last two records?
Vowden: Yeah, that’s what we are doing right now. We are recording the next album, there’s no gigs and we will promote the new album. We’ve been hunkering up in the studio. We did one gig two months ago that was a comeback gig, and we hadn’t played a gig in two years before that. It’s hard to tell, we don’t know when this is going to be over. We are going to record new songs and keep promoting the album, that’s the plan.