Just like they did last year, with Trial, High Roller is once again supplying us with one of the early highlights of the new year. This time the band in question is Lethal Steel, and the album is called “Legion Of The Night”. Even though the band has existed for something like five years now, this is the debut album from the Swedes. Metal Squadron spoke to guitarist Johan Frick to get all the background info on what is yet another very promising heavy metal act from Sweden.
As far as I know, it was the singer Viktor Gustafsson and drummer Leo Ekström Sollenmo that formed the band. What made you convinced you to join them?
– We met in Tantolunden which is a park in Stockholm. I think I followed the sound of Heavy Load-song that someone was enjoying, and thats how I met up with Leo and Viktor. We soon realized we had the same interest and taste in music. It all happened pretty natural from that moment on, and when Leo and Viktor showed me their new project one night, I suddenly found myself wanting to be part of it. I have been into early Swedish heavy metal bands like Gotham City and Heavy Load, so it was pretty natural for me to join a band where the members appreciated the same kind of stuff. Also, what they aimed for was something I felt was lacking in the Swedish metal scene at that point in time. .
Is Lethal Steel your first serious band, or did you have others in the past?
– Yeah, I’ve been in a couple of other acts. My first one was when I was 14 years old, I had a heavy metal project, and it was the first time I ever recorded stuff, you could probably still find it on Myspace. Right before I joined Lethal Steel, I quit a thrash metal band, so yeah, I have been playing around in few different bands, performing different kinds of music, but never in anything that feels so right as Lethal Steel, or anything that got any real attention. Leo and Viktor have been playing a lot of black metal together in the past. I believe they have done music together since they were like kids. When I joined the band, they already had the name, Lethal Steel, figured out.
I have to admit I have a tendency to mix it up with other similar names like Lethal Saint, which is a heavy metal band from Cyrprus.. It’s maybe a little to standard…
– I think it’s a pretty good band name. It sounds harsh and heavy, similar to the way our music sounds, so it fits us pretty good. At the same time, I admit it’s kind of a lazy band name. You know, jus put the words “lethal” and “steel” into it and you have a heavy metal band name. Even though it’s pretty lazy, it actually works quite well, because if you do a search through Google, we’re gonna on top of the search list and don’t disappear into other categories. Maybe because there isn’t a lot of other stuff with the same name. In other words, it’s pretty easy to find us, and I think that is pretty good and important. When we founded the band, we sounded a bit different from what we sound like on the new record, and of course a band name we came up with five years ago, is not 100 percent representative for the music we perform today.
But you never considered changing the name, like your country men in Steelwing did?
– I think we have probably come to far with this bandname and that we would have to change the music more drastically if we should consider it. We’re Lethal Steel!
So it looks like you have settled for a band name, but do you think you have found your sound, or do you see a development coming for future recordings?
– We haven’t thought too much about the sound really. It pretty much comes natural, and everything sound a little like the stuff we’re into ourselves. We don’t think too much about it, we just write songs that we enjoy ourselves, and it all ends up sounding like “Legion Of The Night”.
There has been some line up changes since the early days of the band. Johan fills us in on the details.
– Actually, when we recorded “Demo 2012”, we had a different drummer, called Jesper Nyrelius, and our current drummer Leo, played the guitar. Sebbe Lindbom played the bass. Jesper then quit the band, and Leo took over the drums from there. Sebbe then quit the band to and Totte was a natural choice as the new bass player, as he had already been filling in when Sebbe couldn’t play.
Sounds like Leo is quite a multitalent?
– Yeah, he is really talented, and he can play pretty much everything. Let me put it this way: He is a good guitarist, at least rhythm wise, he is a really solid bass player and a great drummer as well. It’s kind of comical that he is not in the photos on the back of the cover of the new album. We were pretty stressed to get the photos done and to have them sent to High Roller, so they could start pressing the album. We had a deadline to do the band photos, and on the day we were supposed to have the photo shoot, Leo didn’t show up because he was too hung over. He simply missed the whole thing because he was totally smahed on a Monday morning!
Haha! Maybe you should have his name with “absent because illness” underneath the picture, just like in those old school photos?
– Haha! Yeah, exactly. In fact, we thought of doing something similar, and have been joking a lot about the whole incident.
Lethal Steel got their breakthrough, if you can use an expression like that with their 2012 demo, but apparently the band did one demo already in 2011.
– Yes, that’s actually true, but the recording only featured Leo and Viktor. They recorded the songs “Lethal Steel” and “Don’t Look Back” along with a couple of other tracks, but they never got around to releasing it, as they were a bit ashamed about how they sounded back then. At least they convinced me to join the band when they played this demo for me.
What was the purpose of “Demo 2012” then? To get gigs or spread the name or to get a deal?
– We weren’t thinking very far really, it was more like we were really eager to play that kind of music. Viktor and Leo studied at a music school called Fryshuset, so we knew we could record the demo for free. We just recorded it, mostly to hear it ourselves and of course also to have something to show others. We really didn’t think too much about the possibility of the demo getting any attention, but when we released it, it just rolled on. We got a lot of emails from abroad that we didn’t expect, from all over the world really. The interest was perhaps not very big scale, but we wer contacted by something like 100 people, a number we hadn’t epected at all. We then got a gig at Muskelrock and also a deal with High Roller due to the demo, so yeah, it did some great things for us.
But you only made 50 copies or so of it?
-Yeah, we didn’t have too much money to pay for the tapes, and we weren’t exactly business minded. We sold the tapes out pretty quickly, and to this day, people are still asking for a copy of it. You can find it online, but the underground fans always want physical copies.
It will probably turn out to be another collectors item. I saw the Portrait demo, “Welcome To My Funeral” went for 84 Euros on German Ebay some time ago…
– Alright. Yeah, maybe it will. The problem is that it’s pretty easy to copy, because it’s so simplistic. We just took the logo on a blue background and used it as a cover. It looks really crappy. The tapes were hand copied. We recorded the songs and put the music on a CD and then recorded it from CD and onto the tapes. In that kind of way its gonna be hard for it to grow into a collectors item, as it will be really difficult to verify if it’s a genuine copy. We just released the demo and didn’t put too much thought into doing anything else with it, that’s perhaps one of the reasons why noone never asked us about releasing it on other formats. That being said, it got us were we wanted to go, and there are som really good songs on it.
Johan confirms that the band contacted High Roller mainly due to the fact that they had heard good things about the label through some of the other Swedish bands connected to it.
– Yeah, we knew that they most likely would be a really good label for us. Also we knew we might have a shot at it, because they sponsor Muskelrock, and that year we played the festival. In the end, it all worked out for us, and High Roller really has been a perfect label for us so far.
Some time after the demo, you released a few tracks that were only released on the Internet, among them, the song “Ge Alt”.
– That one and “Nocturnal Seductress”, which is also included on “Legion Of The Night”, but in a re-recorded version. We had been playing those songs for a while and wanted to record them, but were a bit to lazy to make a demo or something. We were all pretty much broke too, so we didn’t care more for it than to record these songs for ourselves to hear them. I would have liked to re-record “Ge Alt”, and I would have preferred to have that one on the album instead of “Nocturnal Seductress”, but it still might show up on a future album.In fact, we just talked about it during rehearsal today. That’s one song we’re considering, but we’re getting pretty bored with the old songs now, so we’re recording some new ones.
After the band performed at Muskelrock in 2013, I guess most people expected the debut album to be released at least a year later. Johan explains why it took such a long time to get the record out.
– Basically, I think we’re all a bit lazy. We’re not business minded at all, and this album has been progressing very slowly. We have been partying too much, I guess, and we’re not so good when it comes to really pushing the band. Also, when we got the record contract, it took us a year before we even started recording. So we we’re really slow. On a positive note, we got the time we needed to complete the songs in the manner we liked, and High Roller was really nice to us all the way.They were not pushing a deadline, so we didn’t have to do things in a hurry, or anything like that. And we’re happy with the result!
Would it have worked for you if they put some pressure on you?
– Personally, I think it would have been good for us to have some kind of deadline, because we could really use a boot up our ass sometimes. But if the label had been too hard on us, that probably wouldn’t have been good either.
Are you all “a bit lazy” as you say, or are there fractions within the band? Those things can be pretty dangerous if the band members are very different?
– Yeah, I think we are all pretty like minded, maybe I have been pushing a bit more than others, but to be honest, I am pretty lazy myself, and the difference really isn’t that significant.
Is this the way you will continue doing things, or will you be able to work faster and more focused for the next album?
– As things are right now, where eveything is working out and we’re getting lots of exiciting gigs, for instance with Mindless Sinner and Helvetets Port in Göteborg in February. Everybody is really happy about what’s happening with the band, at the moment and we are way more enthusiastic about getting together for rehearsals and are also getting a bit more serious about things right now. Its a feeling shared by all members.
So getting good gigs at festivals and positive feedback is some kind of motivitation for you?
-Yeah definitely! Especially being able to play live gigs is so much fun. Also we’re gonna have the opportunity to release another album, and we’re already in the process of making new songs, so we’re quite exited right now. The new material is a bit different, its hard to explain how, but…they’re all new songs, and they still got that melancholic feel that you can hear on “Legion Of The Night” as well. There are some fast tracks too, so it’s definitely going to sound like Lethal Steel, we’re not suddenly turning progressive or anything. Some of the songs are a bit more technical technical though.
If you use three of four years to finish the new album, you will probably be overtaken by a whole host of other new acts. Is this something you have in mind when you are working on the next album?
– I think it’s our ambition to make a record that we are proud of of, and we like the sound of. But of course, but we want to complete the record in time for us to get gigs that we can surf a bit on like we have been able to with the recent album. I think we want to have the next album released already this year, or early next year the latest.
When I received the promo from High Roller, there were some information included. I found it a little bit strange that you claim to be the only Swedish band playing genuine heavy metal at the moment. It sounds strange mainly because Sweden seems to be the country producing most pure heavy metal acts at the moment, and has been for quite some time now.
– Well, I think many in our band are strange when it comes to what they want to find in heavy metal. I don’t think many other bands coming from Sweden has had that kind of vibe. We’re looking for genuine stuff, but of course there are some really great bands out there like Enforcer. Especially live they’re really good. But they’re more like speed metal, I think. One band that I would like to push, that are really good is Tungsten Axe. For us thats pretty much the only band that has released heavy metal lately that we have been interested in ourselves.
I bought the new Tungsten Axe-demo “Power Rock”, but haven’t listened to it yet. I guess I proably should?
– Yeah, you definitely should. It’s great! We’re gonna share the stage with them at our release show.
So you don’t care for acts like Portrait or RAM?
– I enjoy the first Portrait album. I am personally pretty peculiar of how I like my heavy metal, so no, I don’t care too much about them.
It seems Johan is more into the really obscure stuff coming out of his home country…
– I think there are some really great singles, some Swedish ones. Do you known the band Reflex? Onyx is awesome too…I love bands with that kind of vibe. I got into that kind of music really early, and it really stuck because it’s so genuine, so honest in a way. Take Gotham City, the first demo with Ola, there so much will and honesty in it, and he doesn’t care that he sings like shit. So you don’t either, because it’s so damn honest. Thats the greatest things about these obscure bands.
Are you just as interested in the NWOBHM as in these early Swedish bands?
– Sure! I love bands like Hell and Ostrogoth (Belgium) and that kind of music. Quite crappy sounding productions, but really nice riffs and great songs.
I see bands like Gotham City and Heavy Load turning up as references in reviews. Do you honestly think your style has a lot in common with them?
– Not a lot, actually, but at least we build our songs on solid riffs, so that’s something we have in common with those acts. Still they are a huge inspiration, as they’re pretty much the reason why we got together. We found each other because we shared the same interest in those, Swedish heavy metal bands. We then wanted to do something inspired by them…
As you mentioned, you are performing a gig in February with Helvetets Port and Mindless Sinner. Those bands must be considered heavy metal or?
– Yes, of course! We are really excited by the thought of that gig, its a really heavy metal-lineup.
I saw Mindless Sinner at KIT last year. They were pretty potent…
– Yeah when you’re going to see the old acts at Muskelrock for instance, it’s always 50/50 if they’re gonna be really good or plain horrible. Mindless Sinner is one of those acts that sounds almost like on record when you experience them live.
In general do you feel that heavy metal fans are too obsessed by reunions from eighties bands and don’t pay enough attention to up and coming acts like yourselves?
– I dont know actually. Of course there are always a lot of speculation about whether Gotham City will do the gig at Muskelrock that everyone is hoping for. I guess it all depends on what kind of new bands that are coming through. Some bands that gets hyped are really good, but I dont think the interest in new metal acts are as big as the wish to see classic bands getting together again for a one off-gig.
If I am right, the songs on “Legions Of The Night” are mainly composed by Leo and Viktor?
– Yeah, they’re behind half of the songs. I am included in the songwriting of some of the newer songs on the album. I think it’s safe to say that Leo is our main writer though, and of course the songs all come together in the rehearsal studio. Me and Leo have been writing a couple of songs for the album, “Sirius” for instance.
This song was the first taster from the album and also serves as opener. Johan confirms that this is one track they all enjoy.
– We are happy with that one. Leo wrote the intro stuff and the first riff. He showed it to me, and I continued with it. We’re figuring out the track list for first gigs now, but I don’t see us opening with this one even if it’s the first song on the album.
How important are the lyrics? Are they just something the songs need to make the songs complete?
– Viktor writes the lyrics mainly. It’s important that he picks themes that sound right for the songs. I think he does a really good job with it. We’re mostly about getting together songs with lyrics that feel right to perform. I dont think any of the songs we have written so far has the potential to push a lyrical concept in a deep way. I think we will continue with dark themes in our lyrics, because as we sound now, with this melacnholic touch, it fits in very well.
One of the stand out tracks is “Nattsvart” with lyrics in Swedish. Have you ever considered doing a full album in your native language?
– No, we haven’t. It’s more like some songs just feel more right in English, while others feels like they need to be sung in Swedish. We don’t want to push our concept too much, and whether a song should be Swedish or not, is just something we know when the music is ready. In some kind of way it gets more real in a sense, when writing in Swedish. I really like the Swedish songs we have, so we will continue doing it, but I don’t see us doing a full album with Swedish lyrics. You get the feeling that if your are pushing it when it doesn’t really feel natural, you are losing a bit of the honesty that is needed.
The album contains five new songs, two old ones not recorded before as well as a new recording of “Nocturnal Seductress”… Did you have long discussion about which tracks to include on the album and which ones to leave out?
– Well… not really. Of course we discussed it, but what we ended up with, everybody pretty much agreed on. The album has a nice dynamic I think, with slower paced songs mixed with faster and more energetic tracks.
Many bands would have made new recordings of demo songs as strong as “Lethal Steel” and “March Of The Caroleans”.
– Yeah! Actually we talked about re-recording them, but we feel we can’t do them better than we did on the demo, even though they are very crappy. Especially the song “Lethal Steel”, it wouldn’t suit that song at all to be rerecorded, it has to have that “younger” feel to it.
And that song is probably one you will continue to perform live even though it’s just a demo song.
– Exactly. It’s a bit of an anthem for us.
You had Olof Wikstrand from Enforcer producing the album. What’s his contribution to “Legion Of The Night”?
– He was very professional and had a lot of ideas on how to produce the album which were really good for us, because we’re not professional at all. He made the process really smooth for us, and also contributed some backup singing, for example the screams in “Warrior”. Other than that, he was really pushing the drums, telling us to throw in some cymbals here and there and motivating everybody to play to their full capabilities. He definitely pushed us towards a better result. He had some ideas for the guitars as well. Olof and Jonathan got in touch through the recording, and thats how Jonathan stepped in for Enforcer live afterwards.