Miseration – Devotion in Miracles and Wonders

Tuesday, 19th April 2022

Blending a technical and bombastic brand of melodic death metal with timeless myths and stories inspired by Sumerian, Norse, Judeo-Christian and ancient cultures, Miseration returns for their fourth album Black Miracles and Dark Wonders. Years in the making, the songwriting and execution contains flawless execution as well as stellar performances – the contrasts and atmosphere sure to appease the faithful. We reached out to multi-instrumentalist Jani Stefanović to bring us up to speed on the decade-long break between records, changes in promotion for music in the current industry model, his expectations these days in balancing work, family, and music, plus hopes for the future.

Dead Rhetoric: Black Miracles and Dark Wonders is the fourth and latest Miseration album – coming a decade after your last outing Tragedy Has Spoken. Can you fill us in on the absence of the group from the scene, the reasons behind why now is the right time to resurrect things, and how the songwriting and recording process went for this set of material?

Jani Stefanović: Just life, that´s what happened, (laughs). No but a summary of many things. Nothing that was planned in particular that it would take ten years or whatever. I moved to Finland from Sweden in 2010 so that in itself already put a small dent in Miseration’s plans on being a full-time live act. Did a few gigs after Tragedy Has Spoken. I had a knee surgery close after the release of that album. I had to cancel a few shows on my behalf. The recovery took longer than planned. Members going onto other tasks. Oscar our past member and drummer was just in the process of building his studio which today is a successful running business, steadily growing. Then as many know, Christian and I also run Solution .45. We started to work on our second album around 2012-13 which ended up being a monstrous project of 19 songs divided into a Part I and II release. We worked intensely on that for more than two years. During the Solution .45 releases both of us had our firstborns with just a few months apart. So that slowed things down significantly. As I said, life happened.

I started working on what was to become the fourth Miseration album in 2018. It all started with an idea of making some sort of atmospheric death metal album and I had the thematics ready in my head. I wanted it to evolve around grandeur beings, Godlike creatures, rulers and stories deriving from a span of different eras. The main focus was, on the Mesopotamian era, Sumerian stories, but then some biblical and Norse mythology tales can be found as well. Somewhere during the process of making the music to fit my vision about the stories, I contacted Christian introducing my ideas and songs. Could this be a new Miseration album? Turned out it could. So basically out of the birth of new songs without a destination slowly grew the idea that this might be a new Miseration album.

Dead Rhetoric: Dealing with Sumerian, Judeo-Christian, Norse, and other ancient cultures for the different gods and godlike creatures with the lyrics this time, what specific themes did you want to get across to match the musical proceedings? Have these always been figures that you have taken an interest in from childhood forward, and were there specific books, movies, or television shows that you used as reference points to flesh out the lyrical content and gain accuracy?

Jani: It´s not like this is inventing any new wheels of any sort. Quite worn-out subjects but still, I had never written about it myself. I would not say that I have been interested in these kind of things since childhood but somewhere around my early twenties. For me, more so the Egyptian, Biblical and Baylonian eras. Just reading through different stories, old texts / scriptures etc. for inspiration.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the working relationship and chemistry between yourself and Christian Älvestam? What qualities do you enjoy most about his unique extreme voice and contrasting clean melodic delivery?

Jani: Well it´s needless to say that it´s not in vain we have been collaborating on several albums since 2005. The years must speak of something good. At least it does in our case. We know each other very well both musically as much as personally. Christian is exceptional when it comes to deep growl vocals, I´d say one of the absolute best in the industry. His clean vocals are the icing on the cake. I just love the contrasts. I feel very fortunate to have been able to do amazing records with him.

Dead Rhetoric: You are now a part of Massacre Records after being on Lifeforce for the past two records. Where do you see the major differences in terms of promotion and support – and how do you as a musician handle the changing tides of the music industry, where social media, streaming services, and digital media has more importance than often the physical sales of product?

Jani: Times have changed indeed and quite drastically over the few years. Let’s just rewind to Tragedy Has Spoken. There were barely any discussions about videos. Sure videos have been a thing since forever but not to this extent as we see today. Likewise regarding singles. My personal experience is that it started around 2014-15, where singles became very important. For a death metal band that was very unique and unheard of. But yeah times are different. It is very demanding on many levels. The market is just over-saturated with new music, cause it´s so easy to record and even publish your own music. What were the numbers floating around media a while ago? Was it 40,000 or 65,000 songs are being released every single day via Spotify? That´s a few songs you have to compete with to get noticed. We´re living in a “fast food” society, where everyone is busy, just scrolling through your feed. Series and movies much more fast paced. You have to have access to full seasons right away otherwise people are not buying etc. Music is battling against drowning in the crowd, forgotten in the masses.

An album with even a decent promotion / marketing plan, will be utterly lost and forgotten within a month. So it´s a strategic must to spread out the talk of a future release as long as possible. BUT with that said. I actually enjoy a lot of this time, I love the single tactics, being a visual and video engineer I love the video aspects of releases. Awesome to have several videos, some bands have a video for each song which is a whole new area of experience for the fans. The optimal scenario today for me is when I can have both of the old and new worlds. Meaning a good old fashioned physical product as in CD and LP but then to have the benefits of releasing singles accompanied by stylish visual videos, performance videos etc.

Dead Rhetoric: Pär Olofsson once again handled the cover art for Black Miracles and Dark Wonders. How did the process work this time around – do you trust his ideas and vision, or is it a collaborative, back and forth effort to reach a satisfying final cover? Do you still believe that artwork has major importance in today’s scene compared to say the 80’s and 90’s-eras?

Jani: Like I mentioned I do videos for bands as I also do album art. So I obviously think it´s very important with good looking art to further promote the vision of the release. Adding when we both grew up during that very mentioned era you are referring to. Painted covers were a huge thing and you had these well-known artists who made very cool covers for your favorite band. So being that old (laughs) we are old school in that sense as well perhaps? Artwork is very important.

Talking about Pär, he is one of those guys that we know can deliver what we visualize in our minds. It´s most often a collab. Us presenting our ideas, our vision, which he then tries to recreate. I think he kinda nailed it. Super happy with this stunning album cover portraying these power hungry, war-like, evil rulers.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess your abilities at the various instruments you use to execute your material? Do you find that you have to spend more time developing and refining your ideas more so now than you did in your younger years – or have things gotten easier with more seasoning and experience?

Jani: I´d say that I am way more aware of what I´m doing these days compared to my early years. Back then I just played, someone else recorded and I played. But today being fortunate enough having a decent home studio with everything I need, a huge benefit is that I can spend as much time as I want with a song if that is what I desire. Trying out different sounds, tunings etc. Creating songs recording ideas, I guess some kind of maturity, comes with years of experience. I have certain habits and patterns which I work by, so it´s a very smooth and easy process whenever I record new stuff. Familiar setups, and everything is just ready to go. More knowledge about mixing and arranging elements obviously helps a lot. Overall, I’d say everything is more effortless today than back in my early years.

Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest challenges you face with Miseration now that you’ve been away as a band for ten years? And has your definition of success or satisfaction changed from the earlier years of the band to the current incarnation?

Jani: With every record you invest a lot of your spare time if you will. So a lot of hard work goes into every single release. You feel kinda drained after it´s done. You are so invested in it, over analyzing every little aspect of the album up until the master is done. Then I can relax. Then the next part begins when you get to hear what others might think. But I think I´m quite balanced in this field. Obviously, one gets very happy if someone likes this, but when and if someone doesn’t, it doesn’t really bother me. So what I´m trying to say is that, no I don´t have super expectations of success or whatever anymore. I also think I´m past that point where I´m seeking to conquer the world with my bands. Life has happened and I didn´t end up in major big successful bands and I have settled in all that. I am super happy and thankful that there´s an interest towards my music at all. I mean it could be the opposite. I´m a happy family guy with a beautiful family, I’m still able to make music that is released through respected record labels. I´m pretty content with that. If someone would offer me a huge opportunity, sure I might be interested but I´m not seeking it with every chromosome in me like I used to during my younger years.

Dead Rhetoric: What have been three of the most important bands in metal (or otherwise) that have helped shape your outlook and viewpoints as a musician/songwriter? And what has been the best concert that you personally took in from an audience member perspective – and what about this performance made things so memorable and special?

Jani: Wow, narrowing it down to only three is very difficult. But in large aspects I would say Yngwie Malmsteen, Dream Theater, Pantera and Meshuggah. See I couldn´t do it. Too difficult. But yeah in a nutshell with a lot of branches out of those groups have shaped me into the musician I am today. But influences never really stop. I´m constantly influenced by different things, bands, musicians and I don´t think I am the same musician I was 20 years ago.

One of the absolute best concerts was when I saw Meshuggah around the Koloss tour, where they had this brand-new lightshow where most of the lights were directed towards the crowd. It was such a cool gig and the lights made it even more immersive. Meshuggah is one of my absolute all-time favorites and they are so good live.

Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are in your early forties, have your priorities and outlook on life and what’s most important to you shifted than how you spent your time, life, and career in your twenties and thirties? And has it been important to have the support and understanding of your wife, who is also a musician in her own right?

Jani: Yes, absolutely correct. As you grow older, priorities shift alongside with whatever life has to offer. I touched on this earlier. But yeah, I can´t say I´m driven by the same things I used to. Today my family, wife and my precious daughter are what matters to me the most. My passion for music and creative stuff won´t ever go away and it doesn´t have to. I still burn for creating music and art. Looking back 20 years, my sole purpose was to try and make it. Become a big successful band, tour like crazy. I had that same drive up until my daughter was born, by that time I was 35. After that, strangely other things felt way more important. I have continued doing music with my wife supporting all I do. She understands that as we share a passion for music and creative art. So she has always understood how important and what role music had / has in my life.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of the most important career highlights that have taken place either in Miseration or any of your work over the course of your career? Specific albums, live appearances, tours, or other activities where you knew you were making a mark/ impact with your craft?

Jani: A lot of good memories. Getting to play in Japan was unreal. Likewise, to play in the US was always a dream of mine. So those as far as it goes of places I´ve been to. But then you have less glamorous tours like one of our first European rounds with Miseration that had some bizarre moments and venues. Yet a very important memory I cherish.

I don´t think of myself as leaving an impact or yeah, there you did good Jani. I rarely listen to my own albums unless I have to learn songs for gigs nor do I think, here and there we did good. I leave that to others. They can judge. If I have made an impact on someone with my craft that´s a really humbling thought.

Dead Rhetoric: If you had the chance to impart specific words of advice or thoughts that younger musicians should pay attention to in order to advance their work and careers in the best manner possible, what would you like them to think about and consider?

Jani: I would say really go out your way and look for the best people. Surround yourself with not necessarily friends but driven and equally as passionate people as you are. Meaning not knowing someone isn´t a hinder, he/she might end up becoming a very close and good friend. It´s enough if one person in that five-piece band isn´t as hungry as the rest and it will become a hindrance. Everyone needs to unitedly be determined to achieve the success. Devotion into practicing relentlessly to perfect your craft. Everybody needs to be on the same page when it comes to how much can or do we need to invest in this timewise and financially as well.

Start out as early as possible to spread the word about yourselves. Build a fanbase, starting off with local gigs then expanding when the opportunity presents itself. That will pay off eventually.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Miseration over the next twelve months or so – or other activities (music or otherwise) with yourself that we can expect down the line?

Jani: Nothing specific for Miseration since we´re just a two piece but open for offers. I am working on a new band with my wife which hopefully will see the daylight late 2022 or 2023 sometime. We have a full-length of material and vocal tracking is about to begin. A project that moves around a very modern metal production in the vein of Architects, new Within Temptation and Spiritbox. Other than that, not many solidified plans. But there will be a lot more music, make no mistake.

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