February 25, 2015 Interview – Niclas Engelin of Engel & In Flames
Many would turn to the Scandinavian landscape of Sweden when the term Melodic Death Metal comes up in conversation. Dubbed the Gothenburg Scene during the mid 1990s, many bands left their mark, helping forge the modern sound known today. Among those musicians who have been apart of the scene for over two decades now are accomplished guitarist Niclas Engelin. Beginning with the band Sarcazm, Engelin’s career has been showered with success, from his time in genre defining band Gardenian, to Passenger, to In Flames, and his own project Engel. Originally seeing the light of day in 2005, Engel has combined the vast experiences of Engelin’s time as a musician with Progressive, Electronic, and of course Melodic Death Metal influences sprinkled throughout. While a work in progress over the course of years, the band’s fourth studio album, Raven Kings, see’s Engelin’s vision take on new form. Recently we sat down with Engelin for a look into his career, his time in In Flames, the progression of Engel, touring, Horror movies, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music now for over two decades in a list of different projects including Engel, In Flames, Gardenian, and Passenger, among others. What has the journey been like for you?
Niclas Engelin – Wow, has it been that long? (laughs) Time goes by when you are having fun! I see it as a learning curve and you never are fully done from learning. I really love the journey because you never know where you will end up next in this musical maze. To me, it is all about being on the move and feeling inspired, strong, and motivated while doing it. Have fun is my motto!
CrypticRock.com – That is a good outlook to have. It is quite interesting, because your story with In Flames started early on back in 1997 for a brief period, and then you returned in 2006, 2009, and became part of the band again full-time in 2011. What ignited the interest to revisit working with In Flames again?
Niclas Engelin – I have known the guys for so long, myself and Jepser went to high school together. We formed our first band together, Poltergeist, and shared the love for bands such as King Diamond, Sanctuary, and Iron Maiden. Björn grew up in the same neighborhood as me, so we always known each other. Anders used to play in pre-Dark Tranquillity, aka Septic Broiler, and my band Sarcazm used to play shows with them and we hung out in the same crowd. So for me, In Flames comes natural and feels secure. I know every move musically, I know how they work and how they arrange songs. When I got the call that Jesper was ill and if I could fill in, it all felt very natural.
CrypticRock.com – There seems to be a lot of good history there. It is clear the chemistry has worked for yourself and In Flames. Amidst all the projects, Engel has been a band you have been working hard on since 2005. Was it a concept you had brewing for a long time and were itching to get started?
Niclas Engelin – I really like the vibe from a hard hitting riffage that is catchy, hooky, and that goes on forever combined with a loop or a beat. Just something that makes your body want to move to the music; stuff like KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Rob Zombie, and such. If you take those elements and throw in some catchy vocals and heavy drums, you got something happening here, and that is what I was aiming for in the beginning and still have the vision to make that happen.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly is great to have that type of groove in music, especially when it comes to Metal. Engel’s sound has certainly progressed from album to album with elements of Industrial, Melodic Death Metal, and Progressive Metal as well. Was it your intent to make this project as diverse as it has been?
Niclas Engelin – As I mentioned before, it has all been a learning curve and I think, with Raven Kings, we kind of got our sound and way of song structure together where the previous albums have been a little bit like, “Can I combine all these elements into one album?” I think it worked in some way and some do not. We kind of found our way with Raven Kings. I really like when you follow a band and you can hear that they are moving towards something that they have not found just yet, but you can hear it.
CrypticRock.com – That makes perfect sense. Music should be evolved for an artist and one can imagine all artists have a plateau they want to reach. Now, the band has sustained some lineup changes. In 2012, vocalist Magnus Klavborn departed after Blood of Saints. Considering he was an intricate part of the band’s songwriting and the voice, how difficult was it for you to see him go?
Niclas Engelin – It was a sad period of time because we have known each other for so long, he has a great tone in his voice! We kind of re-grouped and found Mikael Sehlin who really fired our engine and wanted to make this happen. He has a huge range and can do so much with his voice!
CrypticRock.com – Yes, Mikael Sehlin has done an excellent job filling that void on vocals. As you mentioned, the band recently released fourth full-length album tilted Raven Kings. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Niclas Engelin – After we regrouped and got everything in place, we had conversations about what direction we would like the new music to take and what kind of vibe it would have. Marcus and Mikael are huge fans of Playstation 4 and are gamers, so they had this vision about an apocalyptic theme where the band was the only survivors in a world that has gone wrong and that group of humans are called Raven Kings! So the whole process of writing/recording and vibe was tons of fun and we would gladly do it again!
CrypticRock.com – That sounds like a pretty cool way to create a theme and atmosphere around the album. The record certainly has a great blend of heavy, aggressive Thrash-like guitars and addictive chorus lines. Is it safe to say the chemistry between yourself and Mikael, as well as new drummer Oscar, worked very well?
Niclas Engelin – Mikael and Oscar really add so much to the band, it feels like we have been reborn and a new band in that sense because everything is running so smooth and easy with them apart of it. We have reached the first goals we set out to make with Raven Kings and we will continue to push the band/album as far as we can. The really good thing is that we feel strong and confident in what we do and that is so convincing to others.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. You have to believe in yourselves before anyone else will believe in you. Now, this record in fact comes close to the release of In Flames’ latest effort Siren Charms. Was it a difficult task working on both records at the same time like that?
Niclas Engelin – No, actually not because we recorded the In Flames album one year prior to when Raven Kings was recorded. Myself and the Engel guys had conversations and were very well prepared, so the release of Raven Kings, it is just a coincidence when you think of the time frame of the both releases. I have to say that I am really proud and blessed to be able to record/play and to work with such talented musicians as Engel and In Flames really are!
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is a wonderful thing to have two solid bands to work with like that. Considering you have been a part of what has now become known as the famous Gothenburg scene, what is your take on the current state of Melodic Death Metal in 2015?
Niclas Engelin – From what I know, it is really healthy and new great bands are born which is something I hold dear. That keeps the legacy alive and healthy!
CrypticRock.com – There does seem to be a good amount of productive bands coming out of the scene still, which is very positive to hear and see. Considering you are constantly touring with In Flames, would you ever think of bringing Engel on tour to North America?
Niclas Engelin – I would love to bring Engel to North America because I am sure they would do great over there. It would make sense, but the band would need a cool tour so they could build a strong fan-base properly.
CrypticRock.com – Of course, that would be very exciting for the band and fans as well. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Niclas Engelin – If I am (laughs). My favorite movie in that genre of all time is The Exorcist (1973) with Linda Blair, it is such a great movie and vibe. I absolutely love it. I actually saw that movie in the third grade and on the following Friday we had the last hour before weekend to just talk about what we have done during the week. I just went up there and gladly talked about Father Karras and how Regan fucked herself with the cross and so on (laughs). I guess my dad got a phone call from school. My dad was really cool in that sense because he spoke very healthy and clear about the movies and it was acting, they were performers so I got the education from early age on. We were first in my family to VCR, the first edition of VHS, and my dad is a huge film freak so I always had friends over to watch cool films. I actually got to meet Linda Blair at a exhibition here in Gothenburg and she was a sweet, pooshy woman, so there I was posing with a Megan t-shirt besides this elegant woman (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That is a great story, to have met Lind Blair after being such a big fan of the film. What are some of your other favorite Horror movies?
Niclas Engelin – I think that all the Horror movies made back in the ’70s and early ’80s are the best! The Burning (1981), The New York Ripper (1982), and Zombie Holocaust (1980), along with The Exorcist of course rules.