Interview – Memnock of Susperia

Interview – Memnock of Susperia

The old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait,” and that could never be more true than with Susperia’s long overdue new album, The Lyricist. A Norwegian Metal act with roots dating back two decades, Susperia would become a highly respected band in the European world thanks to their style that is best described as a hybrid between Black and Thrash Metal. Building a following with their 2001 debut album, Predominance, and continuing to grow it with albums such as 2004’s Unlimited, Susperia were at the top of their game. Offering their fans consistency through 2009’s Attitude, many may wonder, where has Susperia been since?

Well, the burning question is not that easy to answer, and once the answer is discovered, many will be inspired to hear of the band’s will to move forward. Plotting their return, the time has finally come, and Susperia is set to release their first album in nearly a decade on Friday, March 16, 2018 through Agonia Records. Recently we caught up with co-founding member Memnock to talk the twists and turns of the band over the years, their dedication to a return, plans for the future, plus more. – Susperia has been established for nearly two decades now. In that time, the band has released 5 studio albums with a sixth coming, The Lyricst. First, tell us, what has the journey been like with the band?     

Memnock – When we started out, we were at the top of the world, we thought. We were out on tour with Dimmu Borgir and big bands like In Flames. We thought, “Wow, this is fantastic!” We were playing to big audiences for weeks and weeks, then we suddenly realized, “Hey, who’s paying for this?” (Laughs) It turned out the band was to pay for all this. Reality came in and we realized we needed to build the band from the ground up – not think we were big because we were doing big tours. We had to change record labels because things happened while we were at Nuclear Blast. Then we changed to another record label because of new problems. Then, all of a sudden, our lead singer, Pål “Athera” Mathiesen, had a heart attack and had to sit out a few tours. Our drummer broke his leg when we were supposed to do a tour, all sorts of crazy things were happening all the time. 

Eventually we had to sit down and say, “What do you want to do with this band?” We spoke and we said we want to try and make a new album, basically nothing happened. Not to be bad to anyone, but our ex-vocalist didn’t have it anymore inside of him. We asked him if he wanted to do this and he said sure, but one year went by, then another year went by. It just kept being stalled. We had to tell him, “Either you do it now, or we have to replace you.” He said, “No guys, let me quit myself, you do it in a good way, and we stay friends.” Basically that is where we are now. (Laughs) We replaced him with a vocalist that we had as a replacement singer on the tour we did when our vocalist had a heart attack. It’s been a roller coaster. (Laughs) – Wow, yes, it sounds like it has been a crazy ride. It has been almost 10 years since your last studio album. Obviously Athera fell ill, which had to be hard on everyone. That really set the band back a while, didn’t it?

Memnock – Oh definitely. We did a short tour in Norway called Back From Attack, it was hilarious actually. He really suffered because his voice and lungs were struggling to cope. When you do an operation that big, it is massive, a triple bypass is a really big thing. Everything was slow, he had to do everything in slow motion. He couldn’t run on stage anymore, he couldn’t hit the high notes anymore, he was really struggling. It was a tough ride. He was also playing with Chrome Division and that took a lot of his time, and that’s cool. He eventually had to choose. That is how life goes, I guess. 

Nuclear Blast

Nuclear Blast – Right, it is understandable. Things happen and unfortunately it set the band back. Susperia’s sound has changed through the years. In the early stages, the band was certainly more along the lines of Black Metal. You then shifted more towards a darkened Thrash Metal sound. How would you describe the evolution of the band’s sound?

Memnock – Interesting question. We started as a Black Death-ish band. We were very much inspired by the Black Metal era of that time. Then we got more into Thrash Death Metal because our singer wanted to try out something new. We said, “Ok, let’s do it!” Now we are getting older, I am 44 now, so we said, “Let’s get back to our roots,” which is Black Metal. That’s why I think the new album is much darker, much faster. The only problem is, since we are getting older, it is not that easy playing fast anymore. (Laughs) 

I think the next album, we are planning to do it even more dark and fast. That is where we are at. We want to get back to our old roots, our childhood roots so to say. – The Lyricist is due out on March 16th and it is a great album. It may strike some fans by surprise – it is heavier, darker, and certainly more Black Metal. It is also very diverse with various vocal styles. What was the writing and recording process like?

Memnock – Close to 1 1/2 years we took to record it because various things again. Our drummer struggled, he was injured, he had to do all the drums again in the studio. We did all the guitars back and forth in the studio, we had to mix it and there were problems. When technology works, it is fantastic. When it doesn’t, it’s just plain crazy. We had to reamp and do a lot of things. The studio we wanted to use didn’t have the time. Eventually we managed to record all the songs. We then said, “Ok, what do we do now with the vocals? What kind of vocals should we have?” Bernt “Dagon” Fjellstad, our new singer, said, “Everybody will expect me to do some Power Metal vocals,” because he has another band called Guardians of Time which is more a Power Metal vocal thing. We said, “You can’t do that because it will just sound weird in Susperia.” He said I can growl, we told him sure, try. He tried, you heard the result – he can do high pitch, etc, and we were like woah!

We did it and I think he used two and a half days in the studio to do all the songs. We were so darned impressed because he was just like a machine. He said, “What am I doing? I need a lyric.” We wrote a lyric, recorded the song, next lyric. He is really a step up for us. I think his voice is also really a refreshment. It has been a process, but we are really happy with the end result now. – As you should be! Another aspect of The Lyricist is the production is crisp, but it sounds raw and not overproduced. It is really well done.

Memnock – Thank you, I do agree. We were afraid we would overproduce it because a lot of bands do nowadays – it just tends to sound too clean. There is no soul behind it anymore. A lot of Norwegian bands also do that, and we wouldn’t do it. We needed a good production, but also a Rock production. It is right in your face kind of music. 

Tabu Recordings

Tabu Recordings – It works well. Bernt joined officially in 2015 as the lead vocalist. What has the chemistry been like with everyone together?

Memnock – That’s the thing, he still feels like the new guy. We try and tell him, “Hey man, you are one of us now.” Like the cliche, he is one of the family. He says, “Yea, but I used to look up to you guys when I was playing in other bands.” We tell him he really doesn’t need to do that because you are a part of Susperia now, everything we do, you do, like a family. He has our sense of humor, that is important, he has a real dark sense of humor, which is funny. The only thing we tease him about, he has OCD when it comes to old war tanks. If you ask him about tanks, he knows everything! He just has too much information in his brain that is totally useless. (Laughs) 

Other than that, he has our sense of humor, he is a funny guy. He actually looks a bit like our previous singer, that is also kind of funny. We tend to joke with him the way we did with our old singer. He says, “Hey guys, I am not that guy.” (Laughs) It’s a good chemistry. – That is great to hear! The Lyricist is really going to excite fans. Were pieces of these songs ideas that were around for a while?

Memnock – The first song was actually done in 2010, or even before that. Our guitarist, Cyrus, is very productive. He writes a lot of songs and when they are done he starts to produce new songs. He says, “No, these are for the next album.” He is always ahead of the albums, which turns out very good. Now, already, before we release The Lyricist, he has 5 or 6 songs for a new album. He is always putting pieces together, putting riffs together, and working years ahead almost. A long answer to a short question, yes, we had a lot of pieces before we started recording. (Laughs) 

Agonia Records – Excellent. The Lyricist is 9 songs and a little under an hour. Is it safe to say the next Susperia album will be a lot sooner, you are not going to wait 10 years?

Memnock – Definitely, 10 years is way too long for an album. As I said, hopefully in 1-2 years time, we will start recording a new album. Also, our new singer is very productive, we already have a lot of new ideas for songs and lyrics. In an ideal world, we should release and record an album every year, but we will see. Hopefully, in 2 years, we will have a new record, not 10 years. (Laughs) – That is good to hear, Susperia will be making up for lost time.

Memnock – We will hopefully now be touring a lot. We are in discussion with management, booking agents, and the record label. Everybody is very keen on getting us out and about on the road again. We need to show we are still a live band, we still have got what it takes to do live shows, even though we are getting older. But hey, The Rolling Stones are 70 or 80 years old, we are still young. (Laughs) – (Laughs) Right, you guys are spring chickens in that respect. Speaking of touring, Susperia has never toured North America.

Memnock – That is a good point. We never did and that is the first thing our new manager asked us, “Did you ever tour the US/North America?” We told him no and he said that is the first thing we need to do. Hopefully next year, or maybe this fall, we will be in North America, I hope. In the music industry, nothing is certain until we are on the plane or bus. We will see. 

Tabu Recordings

Candlelight Records – That would really be special if it does come together. There has been a lot of changes with music through the years. In the Metal world, around the early 2000s, there were a peak of interest in European Metal acts in the mainstream in North America. The interest has settled down in North America, but tell us, what do you think of the Metal scene in 2018?

Memnock – Since I am playing in two bands, Susperia and Abyssic, which is my Doom band, what I tend to see, all of a sudden with my Doom band, I release one album, and I get lots of shows and even headlining shows. I think the reason why is because Doom is still underground and people are still interested or excited about bands because they are not mainstream. I think the problem might be Norway produced a lot of great bands, but they tend to be mainstream very fast. Then the market overflowed with good bands that are claiming to be true Black Metal or whatever. I think people are just growing tired of it. Here in Norway, I think we have 1,000 Black Metal bands, a lot, in small Norway! We are a population of 5 million in this country, it is a very small country. When you have got that many good big bands, just from Norway, I think the market is going to stop itself eventually. That tends to happen to genres that go mainstream. It comes to a point where people say, “Nope, this is not true anymore, we don’t want it anymore,” and they start seeking other bands.

This is just a thought, maybe Doom Metal will have its renaissances because Black Metal has become so big and mainstream, that people start to seek other bands and genres. I think Metal will always be there in some form, maybe or maybe not. Also, you have bands like Leprous who are a kind of other genre, they are very technical. They have growling and fantastic clean voices. They sound like a mixture between Dream Theater and Emperor. That kind of genre is a new one which seems to be growing very big now. Does it all make sense at all? – Those are very good points. We will see where it goes. It does seem there has been a lot of copycating in recent years. It is nice to hear refreshing new songs. Last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock covers music as well as Horror and Sci-Fi movies. If you are a fan of either genre, what are some of your favorites? 

Memnock – It used be all the Alien movies, that was my favorite. I am very into Sci-Fi. Also Ash vs Evil Dead, that series was fantastic. It was so bloody and gory, I thought, “How could it even be shown on Netflix?” (Laughs) Of course Hellraiser, I love all those movies, they are fantastic. – Good selections. You were more than likely a fan of the original Evil Dead films?

Memnock – Absolutely! I have seen them all. That is what I love about them, the way they have evolved from being really low budget, you could see it with bad effects, to now, where it is like wow. it has evolved to something very good and cool.

20th Century Fox

New Line Cinema – Yes, it certainly has evolved. It seems there is better quality material on television opposed to feature films.

Memnock – Yes, and of course you have American Horror Story. I love that series. There are a lot of good Horror series now, especially on Netflix. It’s cool. 

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