Studio report II

by Twilightheart

Even for die-hard Gorgoroth fans it might have come as a bit of a surprise when the band announced around mid October that they will enter the studio again to re-record their 3rd album “Under the sign of hell” (which originally was released in 1997, now scheduled to be re-released in early 2011). This, plus the fact that a rough mix of brand new songs was supposed to be recorded as well, was reason enough for me to follow the invitation to Tomas Asklund’s “Monolith” studio once more (located in a small village near Stockholm) to check on progress during the recordings.

As bright weather was interluding the late autumn and the landscape around the studio is phantasmagoric, it made sense to me to combine the studio visit with a few days of vacation, doing all the things that you don’t usually have time for all year round (such as exploring nature) or doing things that you normally defer, like visiting Quorthon’s grave. Apart from that Stockholm is always worth a visit anyway.

beautiful countryside behind the studio:

When my plane landet at Stockholm Airport on Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, Infernus and Pest were kind enough to pick me up at the airport, later on telling me that Pest has already done a large part of the vocal recordings for “Under the sign of hell” the day before. But before finding out how it was possible to be so prolific within only one day, it was primary to find out, why “Under the sign of hell” had to be re-recorded. It shouldn’t be hard to guess that the sound quality of the original release played a decisive role. It had been Infernus’ wish for a long time to re-record it in better quality as this album bears a lot of energy and potential, therefore many of its tracks were chosen for the bands’ live shows. Infernus stated that he wanted the re-recording to become more straight and more to the point than the original, effectively bringing out its special essence.

So for Monday night the plan was to record the missing vocals for “Under the sign of hell”. At 9 p.m. the band entered the studio and without much delay Pest stepped right onto the microphone, starting to sing and growl, Tomas Asklund recording all the takes (and later on Pest, Infernus and Tomas would decide which take fits the specific part of each song best).

“Krig “ and “Blood stains the circle” were sung and sometimes Pest would take a pen and paper to write down for himself what might be in need for impovement later on. He was almost more meticulous than Infernus. While Infernus very often was semaphoring his enthusiasm by showing his thumbs uprising, Pest tried to work his vocal parts out down to the last detail, always being supported by Tomas Asklund’s opinion about the outcome as well. Anyway, after a few takes had been recorded, Pest, Infernus and Tomas would sit together, edit and check the results, listening to it underlayed with the instrument-lines or optionally without. 

Pest during the vocal recordings:

You could really feel the interconnection within the band, so it was redundant to ask the band members if they were satisfied to work with each other (again). But of course there’s more than personal sympathy. Asked about Pest’s working manners, Infernus stated that he is extremely pleased with it, as Pest works in real terms, not needing additional time for preparing himself to “get into the right mood” prior to the recordings, but just being present and always ready to go. Thus, it was possible that the main part of the vocal recordings were done within just one day. Of course, Pest knows the songs well as he sang them on the original album and at numerous live gigs as well. Pest admitted to me that apart from that he didn’t want to waste anybody’s time, therefore he was trying to act overall professional. “It is not important where you record or how the circumstances are. Important may only be the people you work with.” Having said that, Pest adds that he is amazed by the skills of Tomas Asklund. His working style, power and knowledge enthuse him. 

But of course there indeed were some vocal parts that caused difficulties to Pest, such as one clean vocal part from “Profetens Åpenbaring”. Several takes for this were recorded, but still it was not perfect. Tomas tried motivating Pest by giving “instructions” with a wink, such as to be more “nasty”. Infernus gave even more particular instructions of what he wanted, like f.i. to put more intensity into the very first tone. But there were never expressions like “This was bad”. Instead all of them used the phrase “There is room for improvement” in situations like these. So after maybe 20 entries it was finally done and the whole bunch of them could finish this part. 

But don’t think that there was only tenacious work in the Asklund-forge. The fellows told broad jokes or stories from the past. So the atmosphere of mutual trust was accompanied by a lot of fun sometimes. Especially Pest could hardly keep his mouth shut, he would often chip in, improving the mood by quoting or singing Metal classics, preferably songs of Manowar. 
If you can call this funny as well, I don’t know, but Tomas caused some action by accidently activating the alarm system of the building, almost forcing a security company to come and check what’s wrong. But luckily he found the code and the key to stop the nerve-racking alert noise and could tell the securities by phone to stay off…. in the morning at 1 a.m. :-)

I don’t know for how long the guys would continue working this night, but at 4 a.m. I couldn’t stay awake any longer and headed off to my bed in my “favourite” Swedish hovel. 

exquisite ambience in the studio:

When I returned to the studio on Tuesday evening, Pest had already completed 2 hours of vocal recordings once more. He was working multi-parted this day, some more improvements for “Under the sign of hell” were done, and collaterally the band recorded some songs for a demo version of the new Gorgoroth album, yet untitled, scheduled to be released in autumn 2011. Four songs were under examination. For two of them A.Behemot has contributed some all-embracing satanic lyrics, and for another two Pest has written the lyrics by himself, and they were accepted by Infernus and the band immediately. The lyrics written by A.Behemot were handed over from Infernus to Pest only at his arrival in Stockholm, therefore Pest had to read them from a paper while singing. As the songs are completely new, there was much room for Pest’s own interpretion of how to perform it best. Most of the time Infernus agreed to what he heared, but of course every now and then he did intervene and introduced a different idea about how to sing it. 
From 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. the Gorgoroth triple tightly worked their way through and then things could calm down as now the vocal recordings were completed, both for “Under the sign of hell” and for the first demo version of the new studio album. Now it was mainly Tomas’ part to cut, edit, mix and slot or move the symbols for the recorded parts in his computer program. Drums, bass and guitars for UTSOH had been recorded before (I believe to do so the band had entered the studio in spring, already). So now Pest and Infernus could rest, talk or try out one of the many instruments laying around. Oh well, as everything was almost finished, the band left the studio at “only” 4:30 a.m. and I was very curious about what the next evening might bring. 

After a long day of going on the rampage in Stockholm I joined Gorgoroth one last time on Wednesday, work starting at 9 p.m. as usual. As mentioned before, the recordings were mainly finished, and as Tomas Asklund is one of the producers of both albums, no one but he himself could press the band for time. But he didn’t, so there was an exceedingly relaxed atmosphere with the studio. A candle was lighted and “Profetens Åpenbaring” was checked again for ideas for improvement. So, one last time Pest placed himself in front of the microphone to try another take for a short part of it. A long growl for the background of the song was being recorded again as well, Infernus asking Pest to stretch it 30% more than before, which wasn’t easy, but Pest made it.

While Infernus and Tomas stayed at the computers, I later on used the surplus time to pepper Pest with questions, finding out that since 1997 he sometimes did think about how it might feel to join Gorgoroth again. But he clarified that he would only enjoy this with the current line up, he would probably not like to work with people like King Ov Hell. But for the moment he is very pleased to be back in Gorgoroth, as the musicians are really friends with each other, knowing exactly what the other ones expect, not only regarding musical abilities, but also concerning the dedication. 

Asked about reactions in the press about his return, Pest mentioned an article in whatever magazine, writing that “it will be hard for Pest to follow in Gaahl’s footsteps”, Pest rightened this statement to Gaahl actually being the one following in his footsteps 12 years ago. But in general Pest doesn’t pay attention to articles like this, as he has more useful things to do in life than searching the internet for gossip. “Music is something we do for ourselves”, he says, “Pleasing yourself than pleasing anybody else” is his motto.

At the studio wall:

Speaking about his habit of how to learn the new songs, Pest revealed that he gets rough demo versions of the songs by e-mail, which Tomas Asklund and Infernus had recorded before. When listening to it, he sometimes knows immediately what to do and in what way he wants to put with his voice over it. Other tracks need more time, Pest not being exactly sure how to handle these. It might of course be possible that Pest’s growl parts for the new songs will be changed again sometime later when the band will hit the studio again after the next tour. For the moment it is recorded in a way that makes everybody realize what he imagines. 

Before Pest left the studio that night (he really needed some sleep as his plane was supposed to leave early next morning) Tomas Asklund gave him the CD with the rough mix of the first Gorgoroth songs for the new album. Another copy went to Infernus, ready to be sent to Regain Records as well to get an impression of what to expect.

A man and his mission:

So, what to expect? Let me tell you. The few new songs that I could listen to, tie in with the concept of “QPAST”, one or two harmonies are slightly reminding me of the previous album, but maybe that’s just my humble opinion, just recognizing Infernus’ very own song writing style. 
One thing is certain: The times of gasping for scandalmongering and mediagenic effects are over. The Press should stop to compare the new/old line up with the line up from the Gaahl-area. Gorgoroth as they are now have returned to their roots, providing their fans with the purest Black Metal they are ably to deliver, carving their Satanic statements into an intrumental manifest; straight, radical, musically improved and channeling raw blackness. No more music for wannabes, but true spirit for old-established or genuine Black Metal fans.

Keeping this overall impression that I got from listening to the new compositions, I was then ready to leave the studio. It has been a really exhausting “session” for me this time, but don’t get me wrong: I am loving it. It is extremely interesting for me to watch progress of the work for a new album that will hit my (and maybe your) record shelf in the future. And of course I enjoy writing about it to share the experince. 
So, to conclude, I wanna thank Tomas Asklund for hospitality, coffee & Co., I thank his wife for breakfast and the ride back to the airport, and most of all I thank Infernus for just everything. 

Stockholm skyline in twilight:


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