Saint Deamon – Rise of the SerpentThursday, 1st June 2023
There’s nothing quite like the sound of European power metal – especially in the hands/minds of experienced players from Norway and Sweden that we have here in Saint Deamon. Arriving at their fourth album League of the Serpent, the band are willing to explore heavier and more rhythmic territories next to the tried-and-true melodic hooks and catchy angles prevalent in their songwriting. We reached out to guitarist Andreas ‘Toya’ Bjurström to learn more about the process behind the new album, the story behind a very pyro-filled video shoot for one of the singles “Load Your Cannons”, what AFM Records can do for the band to elevate their status, his work on a Celine Dion album, plus how being on his boat fishing helps to relieve stress and the hopes for lots of gigs/touring in the cards.
Dead Rhetoric: League of the Serpent is the fourth studio album for Saint Deamon. You mention in the background information that the band took some rhythmic chances on this record while keeping the trademark characteristics you’ve developed as a band. Where do you see this set of material sitting in the discography of the band – and did the pandemic allow you guys as musicians to really dig deeper into the details?
Andreas ‘Toya’ Bjurström: The music, what we do with the rhythmic parts you talked about on this album, it actually started on the Ghost album. We just had a new drummer, and he suggested that we could try more of these rhythmic things. Nobby the bass player and I, we really love this rhythmic guitar and bass parts. Just to have nice rhythms behind the vocals – even guitar fans would like the chord playing. We also listen to a lot of different genres – we have some favorites like Meshuggah and other rhythmic bands.
But we are still a power metal band. That’s very important for us too, to not change the sound too much. To use a little bit of the progressive rhythmic styles, we just love it. It’s difficult to play live though – but we will do our best. We haven’t done any gigs yet with the new songs, I’m afraid. That will be a challenge. It’s been three and a half years since we released Ghost. Because of the pandemic, we could work a little bit extra on the songs. We also changed record companies, and those sorts of things. We had a lot of time in the studio in Gothenburg, we spent a lot of time there to get the sound just right. We got the feeling that the album would be great. I like good albums; I have always liked albums. I like to put on a record and play it from a to z. We didn’t want some songs that we didn’t care about so much. We decided that we would give every song as much love as we could.
Dead Rhetoric: How important are the duties of Oscar Nilsson and Tomas ‘Plec’ Johansson when it comes to mixing and mastering for Saint Deamon with this record? Is it hard to remain objective with the material, thus seeking out additional professional support to make the final product that much stronger?
Toya: Yes, I believe that Oscar sometimes is the fifth member in the band. We had a lot of help from him. In an earlier period, around 2011 for a couple of years, he actually played drums in Saint Deamon. We didn’t have as many gigs back then, so he decided to quit and spend his time on his studio. It has done very well for him. He played a big part in the drum sound, and even the vocal sounds he was a big part of. He worked with Alfred, our drummer, for at least a week, and with Jan Thore, our vocalist, for about two weeks. The work they did went very well. Nobby and I played our parts back at home, and I arranged all the strings and rhythms at home. Oscar did an amazing with the reamping and everything with the mix. Tomas, we have used him several times and he’s a great master engineer. He does the mastering in a fantastic way; he’s so fully booked. We were lucky to have a chance for him to do this.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve shot a killer performance video for “Load Your Cannons” including some interesting fast cuts and pyro-driven sequences. How do you feel the shoot went, any funny or interesting stories to tell about the experience?
Toya: It’s the same guy that filmed our video for Ghost, “Captain Saint D”. His name is Ted Lidén, back then he hadn’t done so many videos. But after we worked with him three or four years ago, he’s so scheduled and booked up. The price has risen (laughs). What shall we do? We loved that video, let’s give him a call. He answered, and Oscar, our engineer he said Ted owed him a favor. We took the chance and asked him if he could help us. He made the video, he’s so good. He is so professional, easy to work with, and has great ideas. Because when it comes to filming, I don’t feel so comfortable. It’s great to have Ted to push so I’m not too nervous when I pretend that I am a rock star (laughs).
The pyro, Ted had a friend that was a pyro engineer. It felt fine at first, it was the first time we’ve ever recorded with pyro. A lot of gasoline smell, we had a bit of a headache after the video shoot.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you assess the career arc of Saint Deamon at this point? What do you think are the next challenges or goals to reach to ascend further up the ladder in terms of popularity or establishing more of a global reach with your music?
Toya: We have to play live. We are not a big band. We produce great music, but we haven’t been able to get out on the road. The big thing now, our dream right now is to support a bigger band and to do a nightliner tour in the first place Europe. There are so many countries that we haven’t visited. We were in the USA in 2008 for the ProgPower Festival. But that’s the only gig that we have done in the USA. It’s so hard to get out in Europe and play on our own. We need to be a support act to reach a bigger audience. That is the main goal now – to be able to just get out and play.
Dead Rhetoric: You are now a part of the AFM Records roster after being with Frontiers and Ram It Down for your previous work. Where do you see the importance of record labels these days and their knowledge, staff, and promotional push in maximizing opportunities to be heard versus what you can do yourselves as a band through social media / personal content?
Toya: I believe AFM is playing a big part in our career. They have done an amazing job; they are supporting us and are a really good record label. They always answer our emails. They have so many followers, and that’s very important for us to reach out with our music. It’s a budget thing, it’s very expensive to record an album – the recording studio, the mastering, not even thinking about a video shoot. It’s a big part, and AFM finally did a remarkable job to reprint our first two albums, In Shadows Lost from the Brave and Pandemonium. These two albums were released in 2008 and 2009, and they have been sold out for so many years. Now when we signed with AFM, they knew the time was so long away from Frontiers, they could reprint the back catalog. Now we finally can sell the merch of those two albums also when we are playing gigs.
I know what you mean regarding social media – and we are not so good at that. We try to be as good as we can but comparing us to other bands, they have so many more followers on social media. AFM has a social media team that’s helping us now, and we are hoping to be able to start work on Tik Tok and do a better job with Instagram and Facebook.
Dead Rhetoric: You also got the opportunity to play guitar on Celine Dion’s Loved Me Back to Life album back in 2013. How did you gain that opportunity, and what was it like to step into that world of a renowned singer like that?
Toya: We can’t live on Saint Deamon alone – I cannot pay my rent. I must work with other projects and so on. Celine Dion, I knew the people who were writing the songs. They called me and asked me to come to their studio to do the guitar work. When they called me, they didn’t say it was for Celine Dion. When I came to the studio, it went really well. Suddenly they said, oh by the way – this is for the album by Celine Dion. I was so nervous in one second! (laughs). She’s a superstar. It was really great; it was a good memory. The song went to number one in Europe for many, many weeks. I also play with other artists, name Swedish artists recorded live in the studio and some live shows. I mostly end up doing pop/rock hits for Eurovision, song contests and so on. I do many of those jobs just to pay my rent.
I would love to have just Saint Deamon just as my main thing. But we are not there yet. We have to reach a higher level to be able to get paid (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What draws you to perform and play in the melodic power metal style? Are there specific artists, bands, or musicians that helped shape your technique and outlook on the genre as a whole?
Toya: When it comes to the power metal thing, I grew up with the genre. The first band I listened to when I was a little boy was Helloween, and Iron Maiden of course. But also, Metallica, some thrash metal. That kind of metal is in my DNA. When I was the age of fourteen, fifteen, I started to be very interested in playing the guitar. Other influences came into my life – Steve Lukather, the Toto guitar player – the West Coast style, that genre took me more to the blues, jazz also. When I started to be a guitar teacher, mostly I played jazz. But metal has always been a part of me. When I got the chance to start this band Saint Deamon, I had written some songs and I felt that I was good to write in this kind of metal music.
Having many influences has helped me to write songs. Now that we have a new drummer, he suggested that we could do some heavier stuff. This is the first album where we have some songs that are tuned down to C tuning. “Raise Hell” among others is one of those songs. Sometimes it’s great to have these young musicians in the band who have new influences.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some hobbies, interests, or passions that you have away from music that you like to engage in when you have the free time and energy to pursue them?
Toya: I have kids, they take some time. I have a little boat, we have a big lake nearby, and I try as often as I can to go out on that lake and just fish. I never get any fish, but I like the feeling to get the stress level down, putting away the phone, and being by myself. I have to do that recovery. When we had a time where Saint Deamon didn’t have many gigs, that period I ended up practicing a lot and the energy to write songs. That gave me more energy. It’s always a balance – I need to be in the middle.
Dead Rhetoric: What is some of the worst advice you see or hear being given in the metal music industry? Or what’s the worst advice you ever got as a musician growing up?
Toya: The message from the adults was that music is just for a hobby and not for a professional career is probably the worst advice I got. I think many talented musicians have quit music because of this.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year or so shaping up for Saint Deamon in terms of live shows, tours, promotion? As I’d imagine there is also work in some of the other side bands of the members that will be coming out over the next year too, right?
Toya: Our main goal is to do more gigs. To hopefully be able to reach out for maybe a booking agency or something like that. We have a manager now that we are working with, and Mike, he helps us very much to reach out for the right people. We are all parents in the band, we are not out in the clubs/venues talking with people. Our management helps us with the contacts for the right people to book gigs. We are trying to write songs for album five, of course. I hope I can get some ideas. When I sit with my computer, I start to do some composing, and melodies start to come to me.