Eucharist – Still DissolvingSunday, 10th April 2022
Once right in the thick of the late 1990s Gothenburg, Sweden melodic death metal movement, Eucharist broke up before the scene became a global metal force. The band released two albums in the ’90s, A Velvet Creation (1993) and Mirrorworlds (1997), the latter about as pure and brilliant as melodic death metal can get. However, vocalist/guitarist Markus Johnsson’s personal life took a perilous turn in a haze of drug abuse and drummer Daniel Erlandsson turned his attention to Arch Enemy, leaving Eucharist to the annals of time. Fifteen years after Mirrorworlds, Eucharist has returned with a new album, I Am the Void, a diabolical slice of melodic black metal that takes on a brazen, darker approach. It is a revival worth getting behind, so here’s Mr. Johnsson, bringing Dead Rhetoric up to speed…
Dead Rhetoric: You broke up in 1998 right as the melodic death metal scene took off. Have you ever wondered how Eucharist would have fared had it continued?
Markus Johnsson: Well, I might have reflected on it a bit but it’s nothing that has been bothering me or that has haunted me over the years. My life was so bloody messy during these years that I never had the time to reflect on this sort of philosophical questions at the time and I usually didn’t feel sorry that Eucharist was dead, either. Sure, I could miss making music at times because it has always been a way for me to deal with my mental state and is something that has helped me during the periods I was active with Eucharist. I don’t know what could have been and I find it pretty pointless to speculate about it, so I don’t.
Dead Rhetoric: Many of your peers went on to achieve international success. Then again, some of them changed their sound – for better or worse. What did you make of this?
Johnsson: I don’t really understand this question, to be honest – sorry about that. But yes they did and that is great for them and mainly it was very good for the melodic death metal scene. The fact that bands changed their sound is to me just a sign of that they are developing and evolving as musicians and I find it positive in most cases. Sure, I know the problem about what fans thing about bands jumping between genres and I’m afraid Eucharist is now in such a spot. However, like I said, it is due to the fact that people change and so does the inspiration that becomes creativity so it’s not strange that bands change sound. As long as they play metal I see no greater problem with it even if there are people who can only listen to one genre of metal. I’m kind of like that myself because I have always listened to old-school straight black metal and death metal. I never liked the melodic death metal music from other bands much. It may sound a bit strange, but it’s the honest truth.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think Mirrorworlds never received its fair share of credit? It’s one of the pillars of Gothenburg melodic death metal.
Johnsson: Thank you for your positive words! Well, I don’t know, man. I think it is a great album and I am proud of the material and that is all I can do but the more people that appreciate your music the better, of course, but I am happy that the people who have taken the album to heart has done just that. That is what matters to me. What I wish to do when I create music is to reach peoples’ insides, touch their inner worlds, affect their moods and strengthen their self-confidence by infusing live and energetic material into their souls, which means I can’t reach everybody, naturally. Sounds really philosophical perhaps but music must have a reason else it is useless to me and this is what music means to me – it is like a tool to affect other people’s minds and if only one person truly understood Mirrorworlds, my mission has succeeded, ha-ha. But when it comes to Mirrorworlds, Daniel is the guy who wrote the lyrics and they are, needless to say, extremely important! But he always wrote lyrics that I personally felt I could have written myself so we really clicked on that subject and together we made it a good album.
Dead Rhetoric: What did you end up doing after Eucharist split? Did you continue to play music?
Johnsson: Which time? Hehe. After Mirrorworlds was recorded I quit playing the guitar for good up till 2015 and I never took part in any other bands during that time except for a vocal job I did for a Non-Existent track in 2016. My life was a bloody mess after Mirrorworlds; a violent use of drugs, pills and alcohol made it a constant misery and a very self-destructive lifestyle for long time. The drugs took my life back then and it continued on. After a long amphetamine abuse I fell deep into the world of opiates, I injected and smoked drugs and pills and topped it off with liqueur and beers; constantly drinking beers. My health was declining heavily during the beginning of the new millennium but I got myself into a methadone-program in 2007 and later switched to Subutex, which I am still on to this date, 15 years later. It helped me quit and stay away from the drugs but they’ve haunted me ever since and they will for the rest of my life, that’s for sure. But I master my life today. I am a strong individual now, stronger than ever, and all these experiences have made me a better and more aware person. The music I create nowadays are dealing a lot with the memories from this time because it is emotions coming out from that period that has never been dealt with before but now they get the chance to do so. I large quantity of this shit came out in I Am the Void.
Dead Rhetoric: You put Eucharist back together in 2015. Was it clear from the start that you would head into a more black metal direction?
Johnsson: Yes, it was. We were both clear with that we wanted to take on this path because we’ve always listened to almost only black metal despite the music we have created. I can’t answer why we made that kind of music, to be honest. It is what came out from our inspiration and that is what we recorded. However, we wanted to make an album that dealt with the darker sides of humanity and nature and really wanted to set a strong and sinister atmosphere on the album and I think we succeeded in doing that, to the annoyance of many people. But we don’t care about that. As I told you before, my personal wish is to reach into people’s minds with my work and to affect it somehow and in some direction. I wanted this album to be like a poison or a virus but which instead of killing the person it will seek out the weaknesses in the listener and exterminate it and leave the victim with a powerful feeling of sinister awareness of the world and nature around us.
Dead Rhetoric: Frankly, it was surprising to see you head this way. It would have been easy for you to write another album like Mirrorworlds, but instead, you came out with some very challenging music that pushes boundaries.
Johnsson: True about pushing boundaries but mostly for myself, personally. We were very agreed upon that we did NOT want to make another Mirrorworlds – it has been done and copying oneself is known to be very much not effective nor productive. Naturally, after having finished an album work plus, taking all the years that have passed into consideration, during which we have evolved as individuals, we wanted to create something that was new to us and that would add to the evolution of Eucharist and its listeners because, hopefully, they evolve as well! But still many complain but it is to be their loss if they can’t understand our way of interpreting our own existence and the essence of our minds. Yes, it turned out to be some kind of blacker metal than previous work but that was what had to come this time.
Dead Rhetoric: How old are some of the songs on I am the Void? Do any of them pre-date you reforming Eucharist?
Johnsson: None of the tracks pre-date the reforming of Eucharist and they were all constructed during a six-month period at the end of 2016 so the tracks are all six years old today.
Dead Rhetoric: The album has a nihilistic, dark tone. Was that in response to the uncertain times we live?
Johnsson: No, I wouldn’t say that it is such a response. It is all a work of a very personal character as I have managed to explain somewhat already in the preceding questions. It is about a person’s existence and its internal struggle to understand nature and its own essence of being and what kind of essence this person is and what purpose this person has both in its own life and on this planet.
Dead Rhetoric: How much of a challenge was it for you to write and record nearly all of the instruments?
Johnsson: My personal struggle was with the lyrics, mainly, because although I have no problems expressing myself in words eloquently I had some issues interpreting my own essence and to explain what has happened to me in words that are suitable for this music. But the lyrics actually became dark in themselves and not because I was chasing it for a reason. Just like the riffs came out dark and with a certain attitude to them. But I already play the guitar so no worries there. I had to practice the bass a little bit before each take but I soon nailed that as well. Then I programmed what I call the “help-drums” which I program very basic just to give me a feed back when I work with the riffs and to complete the picture as much as possible. It was not very cumbersome to do all this because it was something that had to come out of me and so it was almost a therapeutically procedure for me to work record and program. The challenging part is always the vocals. After not having practiced the vocals chords for years and years you first don’t know what it will sound like and once you start it is often quite cumbersome but a very good feeling too because the vocals are finalizing the tracks and is the crown on the king so to speak. But it went very well when I recorded the Void album. It was a hell of effort to record the latest album, though, but I made it and I’m very pleased with the results as of now, but that is another story entirely!
Dead Rhetoric: Are live shows in your future? If so, do you have musicians in mind to complete your lineup?
Johnsson: Nope, there won’t be any live performances for “Void” and probably not in the future at all but you never know. But for now there is simply no way because it would mean we needed a place to rehearse to begin with and we need to bring Simon [Schlling, drums] here from Germany and get others there as well from faraway places in Sweden and I just don’t feel motivated at this point to make all this happens.
Dead Rhetoric: With I Am the Void complete, will there not be another 25-year wait in between Eucharist albums?
Johnsson: Nope again, as you already know by now, there is an eight-track full-length album recorded by now except for the real drums. It is my best work so far, according to my own likings, and I’ve gone back to the roots music-wise and you will find a lot of double harmonies of typical the classical Eucharist-style along with some heavy energetic and quite melodic riffs that will bring a lot of drive and attitude to the listener. It’s no continuation of where I Am the Void ends but it rather took off where Mirrorworlds ended, you could say. So I know for a fact that the hardcore Eucharist fan will for sure like this newest album openly.