INTERVIEW: Alex ‘Impaler’ Friberg – Firespawn

Comprised of members of NECROPHOBIC and ENTOMBED AD, Swedish death metal supergroup, FIRESPAWN, are close to the release of their second studio album, The Reprobate. Two years since their debut, Shadow Realms, we caught up to FIRESPAWN‘s bassist, Alex ‘Impaler’ Friberg to talk about the new album, the band’s conception, and how attitudes in death metal have changed over the years.

How’s your day going so far?

Alex: Not too bad, woke up a couple hours ago. It’s OK, so I’m drinking my morning coffee now more or less!

So, we’ll go straight into the new album that’s coming out next month. Are you happy with how the record has come along?

Alex: Yeah, extremely happy. The songs and the sounds and the mix and everything. Even though I’m very happy with Shadow Realms as well, but I think this time we really nailed it. This is more the FIRESPAWN sound than Shadow Realms according to me.

What do you think you did differently this time around to make it a stronger record?

Alex: Composing wise, we did it slightly differently. Shadow Realms is more, in one way, an aggressive, in your face kind of album. The Reprobate is more of a big album, both song-wise and sound-wise. I think the main difference, though, is mix and sound.

You released a single for the album, Blood Eagle, last month. What was the initial response like from fans?

Alex: I think it’s been very good so far. I think people like our fast stuff, and the main thing I read about this is that, apparently, a lot of people think that this is the way that LG (Petrov, vocals) should sound like. You know, a lot of comments is “This is how ENTOMBED should sound and this is how LG should sing” because when he does it like in FIRESPAWN, he’s way better than when he does his death growl kind of singing. At least I think so, because he has an extremely good death metal voice. So, I think that was the main thing that struck me. We will always be compared to ENTOMBED of course, since LG is in the band, but I’m glad that people like it!

Being compared to ENTOMBED, do you feel that puts a bit of pressure on you when making new music?

Alex: Yes and no. You know, ENTOMBED more or less created the Stockholm sound, and they are the founders of the Stockholm death metal scene, so a bit of pressure. But at the same time, we’re a new band, so we can do whatever we want. You know, we don’t want to sound anything like the Stockholm sound, of course we’re Swedes from Stockholm, our roots are there, but we don’t want to do it like ENTOMBED or NECROPHOBIC. We want to do something else. More a kind of American sound, I would say.

Lyrically, what are you trying to put across in the album?

Alex: The things that interest me are the darkest corners of the human mind. What is it that makes people do kind of twisted stuff? You know, mental illness or religion, what is this mass psychosis? I write about events that occur during the history of mankind that is quite dark and twisted. Obviously, some dark powers are involved, otherwise I don’t think people would slaughter one another in the way that they have done. And what’s interesting to me is what is it that makes them do stuff like that? So, I try and write good lyrics about actual events.

So where did the name for the record come from?

Alex: It was Victor who came up with the name and he also wrote the lyrics for The Reprobate. I think it’s good. It’s a good theme for lyrics and good for an album, because it says quite a lot. You know, death metal in one way is extreme music for extreme people who have no need to fit in, and a reprobate is kind of a creature who is totally lost in one sense beyond all saving. Quite deep in his hate, he doesn’t care or want to care. He’s proud of his actions, I guess. No need to fit in.

Makes sense! So, do you feel like people who are in extreme death metal are the outsiders they once were or are they more accepted now?

Alex: Yes and no, I would say. In one way, I guess death metal and black metal has been more accepted in society since it’s becoming a trend that black metal bands win awards and stuff, so it’s not as underground as it used to be. But one thing that annoys me from time to time is that some death metal bands try to fit in. Death metal and black metal, according to me, must always be a “fuck off” attitude. Death metal should never try to be accepted. Because we are underground, death metal is a lifestyle, and also black metal. Our goal is not to be on commercial radio or stuff like that, but those death metal bands that try that is not really death (metal) according to me. The main attitude in death metal must be “fuck off” to the society, at least according to me.

That’s fair enough. Not as many bands are sticking to that attitude these days.

Alex: I know. From time to time that annoys me. Especially when I grew up with bands in the 90s, who were truly pioneers and said “fuck off” to everything, and nowadays they’re calm and old guys who, you know, don’t want to mess around with anyone. I guess people get old, but you can have the same attitude.

Going back to the album, how did you go about writing and recording the material?

Alex: We did pretty much in the same way for Shadow Realms. Victor wrote all songs except one, which Fredrik wrote, I wrote mainly all the lyrics, and this suits us very well. Matte (Modin) lives in Uppsala, three of us live in Stockholm, and Victor in Gothenburg, so it would be hard for us to do it as a group effort and see us in the rehearsal room once a week or so and write material. So, we needed to have one guy who writes the music, and Victor does that extremely well, so it’s natural, it’s on his table. Yeah, he sends the stuff to me and I write the lyrics, almost all of them. So far it works really well for us, so I think that’s the way we’re going to do it for the next one as well. Of course, we send the songs to Fredrik as well who makes his touches here and there, and puts on his solos and stuff. So yeah, it works for us, so no need to change that.

So, how was FIRESPAWN originally created?

Alex: It was three years ago, maybe, when LG and Alex from ENTOMBED had their name fight if you remember, so it was a kind of a slow period for ENTOMBED, and also in NECROPHOIBIC, or beloved singer was in jail [laughs], so it was a slow time for NECROPHOBIC as well. So, the thought had crossed my mind to do something new because I want to play, you know? And I always wanted LG as a singer and frontman. Both because he’s a close friend of mine and I like him very much, and also, I think he’s amazing on stage, an amazing voice. I had lunch with him and talked about this, and he was immediately on the idea, and he gave me a funny LG-ish answer, “As long as it has fast double drums, I’m in”. [laughs] He told me that he talked with Victor about the same thing because they also want to play and were not that satisfied with ENTOMBED’s situation. And I knew Victor from before as well so I said “Yeah, Victor is a super guy, let’s call him!” and we called him that lunch, and yeah, from there on, it was us three. Victor had some songs, I don’t remember how many, but we put some demos online, did the vocal recordings with a drumming machine and stuff and it had quite a good response. We worked on that for a year or so, I think, and we knew we needed a fast drummer, a technical drummer, but we didn’t know really who to ask. But then, funny enough, Victor read online that RAISED FIST were doing their recording in Gothenburg, and he knew Matte from his days in DARK FUNERAL and DEFLESHED, and he’s insanely fast, so we said “Yeah, why not call him?” and he was on it as well! He was very stoked to be asked about this project, so that’s awesome. He’s one of the most technical drummers in Sweden, so we were very satisfied to have him in the band. Also, I’m a fan of this extremely long solos, IRON MAIDEN solos and stuff, so I said “There’s only one guy. I play with him in NECROPHOBIC, it must be Fredrik. He’s one of the greatest solo guitarists in Stockholm, we need him”. And he was on the idea right away as well, so then the line-up was done. Everyone said yes right away, and we did our homework and the first time we rehearsed, it felt like we’d played together for ten years. That was an amazing feeling. I guess it was because we’d known each other for so many years. When we played, it felt good as fuck, so that was awesome!

That’s what you need!

Alex: Yeah, exactly. Energy boost!

So, of course it’s great you knew what you were doing right off the get go, feeling like you’ve played together for ten years like you said. Were there any issues that came along when you first started writing or recording, you know, differences in opinions or anything?

Alex: No, not really actually. Everything has been running so smoothly, so I’m beginning to wonder “When are there going to be some issues?” Because in every band there are some issues in discussions, but so far there have been none. We’re all easy-going guys I guess, we like drinking coffee and creating metal [laughs], so no, no issues whatsoever, and that’s so nice. Because we’re too old for drama, you know?

It’s not what you need. You just want to concentrate on the music! So, how do you feel FIRESPAWN have developed as a band since Shadow Realms?

Alex: I think we’ve come together as a five-pointed star unit. After this second recording, everyone in this band is so obvious, I can’t see anyone change. I don’t know how to explain really, I wouldn’t change any of the guys for anything. It all works out so great, no questions asked. Everyone’s doing their thing, everyone’s respecting one another’s opinion. We know what we’re doing, you know? It feels funny to say it when you’re supposed to be an evil death metal band, but it’s kind of a happy family feeling going on.

That’s great, it obviously works! Circling back to the album, how do you think The Reprobate will stand out from other albums?

Alex: I think it will stand out in quite different ways. First off, the music. The music is more well written than a lot of music I hear nowadays, because there is this kind of ‘retro-boom’ going on. You know, a lot of bands want to sound like the 70s or the 80s and we’re not doing that. We’re looking forward and wanting to make something new and not go back in time, so I think therefore our music will be a bit more well-written and more complex, but have a very nice flow anyways. Also, it will stand out because of the production or the mix of the album. I think the sound of this album is one of the best sounds I’ve heard, ever I guess. You know, this is kind of the big, heavy production that BEHEMOTH is having on their albums. Not very many death metal bands have that. It’s more like, you know, “rehearsed demo” stuff, and the album should sound like that, well, that doesn’t work for me. I want the production to sound super expensive, like BEHEMOTH and DIMMU BORGIR kind of sound, and I think we managed to do that on this album. And also, it will stand out because we have an extremely nice layout. It’s not too much, it’s nice, strict, straight lines. So, it’s going to be something for the fans to look at as well, not just to hear.

And recently, I noticed it on Facebook, you’re playing Hellfest this year.

Alex: Yeah, that’s awesome!

Along with that and the album release, what other plans have FIRESPAWN got for this year?

Alex: The plan is obviously to play as many festivals as we can, and also, we are planning to do some kind of European tour this fall to support The Reprobate’s release. What I’m guessing is that it’s going to be a support tour for some bigger band, but it’s in the pipe right now so I don’t know really. But the plan is to do a tour at least, and some festivals here and there this summer as well.

Excellent! Thank you for taking the time to talk!

Alex: Okay, cool! Thank you so much for having me, man.

The Reprobate is set for release on April 28th via Century Media Records.

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