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Nocturnal Rites    
Nocturnal Rites
The latest offering from Sweden's Nocturnal Rites is just around the corner for US fans of European power metal. Those who crave powerful, clean vocals and melodic, articulate guitar playing will not be disappointed. After starting out briefly as a death metal outfit called Necronomic in 1990, the band quickly blossomed into a more traditional-sounding metal band, and have released several well-received albums in recent years, including 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination', 'The Sacred Talisman' and 'Afterlife'. The latest offering 'Shadowland' will only further the band's reputation and expand the group's popularity worldwide. Metal Update had the chance to speak with bassist Nils Eriksson to discuss touring, the internet, country music and what the hell "Volymen" means.

METAL UPDATE: Many European metal bands feature a lot of melody, but also utilize the death / black style vocals. What do you think of that? Do you think that style works together with melodic guitars?

NILS ERIKSSON : Yeah, for some bands. I mean, I do like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity and those kinda bands. So, I guess it works for some bands, but it would definitely not work for us. I mean, their foundation is in death metal, and I guess that's why it works. . .

MU: When you decided to go more melodic, did you guys just get tired of doing death metal? What prompted that move?

NE: I think we all grew up listening to, like, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Kiss and, you know, those kinda bands. I think that's what we started out listening to, but back in the early 90's and the late 80's, you know, every kid was playing death metal. Everyone was into death metal. So, I guess that's why a lot of kids started doing it, and we weren't different. We jumped on and we did the death metal thing for a while, but it didn't take that long for us to kinda realize where we were sort of heading. We started out sneaking in a riff or two in a song that could sound a bit like heavy metal and we just took it further and further for every song we wrote. Eventually, we ended up sounding like we do now. So we never really sat down and sort of discussed the thing. It just happened for us.

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MU: Have you guys ever played North America?

NE: No, actually not. We haven't been to that continent yet. That's sort of the goal for this album - to really visit the continents we still haven't been to and tour as much as we possibly can all over the place.

MU: Does that look like that's going to happen?

NE: We have some ideas, actually. Nothing is really worked out yet, but, I mean, our fan base is growing with every album in the States, and I know we have lots of fans. So, it's a shame we haven't still been there. Hopefully, it'll happen this time.

MU: Your new vocalist, Jonny, had he played in other bands before?

NE: Not any known bands, actually. He used to have a band with our drummer, Owe, like, I don't know, eight, nine years ago - a bit more of a rock band. And he had some bands when he was younger - like melodic metal bands, that kinda type. That was a long time ago, actually, but, you know, no famous bands.

MU: Christofer of Therion discovered you on your first album 'In The Time of Blood And Fire.' Did you ever collaborate musically?

NE: No, we never did that. He actually helped produce some of the stuff on our second demo back in '92. He came up to the studio and helped us out a bit and everything, but that's really what we've done together so far.

MU: What is the story behind the the vocalist switch from Anders Zackrisson to Jonny for 'Afterlife'?

NE: I guess. . . you know, the classic scenario. We sort of drifted apart, I guess. He didn't want to commit as much as we did in the band and, I mean, we just wanted different things. He's always been into a lot more melodic stuff like Whitesnake and stuff like that. So, you know, the classic scenario. . . musically, we didn't click. It was sort of a mutual decision. He was fine with it. We were fine with it. No hard feelings. We knew we had Jonny right 'round the corner. So, we just called him up. He was the new guy the day after Anders left, it felt like. So, it wasn't a big deal for us.

MU: You've been in the band since the beginning. How old were you when you started the band?

NE: I think it was, like, twelve, turning thirteen, I guess.

MU: Were all of you that age when you started out?

NE: I think Fred was like fifteen when he formed the band. He's two years older than I am, and he formed the band in '90. So, yeah, I guess we're sort of the same age.

MU: That's such an incredibly early age to start doing anything like that. Now that you've had over a decade to look at things, how have you guys matured as musicians? Is there anything that you look at differently?

NE: I don't think so. I mean, just the other day, I sort of realized that I' ve spent half my life in Nocturnal Rites. It started when I was thirteen, and I'm turning twenty-six and, you know, that's kind of a - (laughs) - it's kind of a big thing. I don't know. I think the emphasis in this band has been to have fun from the get-go, actually. I think that's what hasn't really changed. As long as we have fun writing songs, as long as we have fun touring, meeting people from all over the world and, you know, just having a good time, we're gonna do it. That's what being in a band is all about, actually - just doing what you love, having a good time.

MU: I was reading your bio on the website, and it says you're into country music. Was that a joke, or do you actually like it?

NE: (laughs)

MU: I wasn't sure. I was reading it. . . I thought: "Is he serious, or. . . ?"

NE: No, actually, I do like some country music, like Travis Tritt and stuff like that. So, yeah, I do.

MU: Usually, metal musicians are pretty open, but when it comes to country and rap, they're usually like, "Oh, no. . .

" NE: I definitely agree on the rap thing. I don't like rap, but country's fine. I love steel guitars. So, yeah, definitely, country rules, man.

MU: Have you ever played in a country band? Is that something you might plan on doing in the future?

NE: (laughs) I don't think so. I'm quite busy right here in Nocturnal Rites. I don't think I have time to focus on a country career, and I don't think I would have one either. I'm a very poor singer and I've never even seen a steel guitarist. I don't have a cowboy hat or any boots or anything. So, you know, I need a makeover.

MU: Are the other guys in the band, are they pretty open-minded musically? Do you listen to a lot of different stuff?

NE: Oh, yeah, definitely. I mean, speaking for myself, I'm into a lotta melodic stuff like Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Journey, Rush and all those kinds of band. Also, definitely, the old classic bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and also some death metal, some thrash metal. I know Fredrik, he listens a lot to thrash and death metal, and the other Nils, he's into a lot of fusion / jazz - you know, guitar music. I mean, everyone in the band is really, really different musically, and I think that's one of our strong points.

MU: So, would you say, when you guys come together to write music, that affects how you write things?

NE: I think so. I think that sort of shapes our sound a bit. I mean, it would be different if every guy in the band loved Helloween, we had all their albums and that's all we listen to. But that's not the case, and I think that's really good. We all like different kinds of stuff, and I think that sort of shapes the way we write songs and the way we sound.

MU: On that same note, it's funny, for a Swedish band, you don't sound all that "Swedish" to me. It's definitely more of a power metal type thing. In most forms of music, especially metal, those bands take a handful of ideas or techniques and they regurgitate them. What do you think Nocturnal Rites adds to or subtracts from power metal or traditional heavy metal? What do you see in your band as being unique?

NE: I think we have a lot more heaviness and a lot more aggression and a lot more - basically, a lot more ideas than maybe some of the other bands have. I don't know. I don't wanna sound too critical, but I think we have our own sound. I think we have our own way of writing songs and melodies. I mean, compare our new album to a lot of other new albums that just came out. I think it's really different, and our sound is kinda unique.

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MU: I was reading your bios on your website, you guys talk about the "best tour moment" and you mention "Volymen." Is that a band or a place? What is that?

NE: It's our keyboard player.

MU: Was there an incident, or can you go into some detail?

NE: No, he's just. . . he's a fun guy, that's it. I don't know why. I think that was Owe who wrote that, or maybe Jonny. Yeah, he's a fun guy to be around. . . yeah, it's hard to explain, but he's kind of. . . he's a bit strange sometimes, I guess.

MU: Is he your current keyboardist?

NE: Yeah, that's his nickname, "Volymen." That stands for "the volume," you know? He speaks really loud.

MU: Nocturnal Rites has more of a traditional or classic metal sound. Have you seen the popularity of that style rise in Europe? Have you seen your popularity increase there?

NE: I think so. For every album we have out, it seems like we grow and get bigger in every country we have albums out in. I think this will definitely be our biggest album so far. It's selling really well. It feels like we have a strong thing, you know, like a really good album out there. Power metal is huge in Europe right now. In Sweden it's almost ridiculous. It's the biggest thing right now. So, we're just sort of enjoying the moment.

MU: From your perspective, for the style of music you play, are there a lot of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen year-old kids getting into this music? Not just for buying records, but are they forming their own bands and carrying on that style? Do you think there's enough of the younger generation getting into this that they're going to carry this style of music forward?

NE: Yeah, that's the good thing about it. I mean, at least in Sweden and in Europe, I have seen guys that didn't grow up listening to Iron Maiden or Judas Priest - they just found their new bands right now. The bands they're growing up with right now, they're Hammerfall, us and, like, Primal Fear or whatever, you know? They're not just listening to these old bands that I grew up listening to. They've got their own bands and, so, we've got a whole new audience with this kind of music. So, that's good.

MU: Are you guys from the same town as Meshuggah?

NE: Yeah.

MU: Do you know those guys?

NE: Yeah, we used to share a rehearsal place some years back. They've moved to Stockholm, though, but I don't know them that well. I know them - if I meet them, I say "Hi."

MU: I imagine that you know they're on the US Ozzfest this year. If you guys got offered to do the Ozzfest in America, with the kind of bands on that package, would that be something you'd do?

NE: I have no idea. I mean, that thing is huge, but I don't know. . . I can' t see us fitting into that bill, actually, you know? They've got a lot of heavier bands and I can't see a power metal band fitting into that. It'd sure be a nice experience, but I can't even think about that.

MU: What is the best way to increase the visibility of traditional and power metal bands in the United States? What do you see as the best way to do that? Is it touring? Are there certain bands you'd like to tour with that you think would do some good for your career?

NE: I think touring is always the best way to establish a band as a live act. To go to a place then come back is the best way to get people to buy your records and remember you. So, I guess that's why a lot of bands tour as much as they do. So, touring is probably the best way to sell records - and what I'm doing right now, talking to you and doing interviews, getting the name out there and stuff.

MU: On the new record 'Shadowland' there's a song called "Invincible". Judging from the lyrics, they're almost biblical. It almost reminds me of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. Is that what it's based on?

NE: Not really. When I wrote that song, I don't even know what I was thinking about. Lyrics, for me, just pop out. I never go look for topics. I never go deep into myself or try to find some hidden truth or anything, you know? They're just lyrics that just pop out of me. I always try to just listen to the song and get an idea for what it should be about - sort of a continuance to the song and the sort of feeling in the song. It always felt sort of dusty, and, you know, people walkin' and blistering feet and a grand chorus chanting - a big crowd or whatever, you know? That's the feeling I got. I guess that's why. I don't know.

MU: So, are you the main lyricist for the band?

NE: Yeah.

MU: So, when you write lyrics, you pretty much have the music written first before you do lyrics?

NE: Yeah. It's pretty much always the same scenario. It's Fredrik, Nils and me. We do the first outline of the song. We record it in our studio, and I bring a tape back home and I start workin' on the lyrics. I guess the music is written first, but the lyrics come really close after.

MU: For lyrical inspiration, do you read a lot? Does it come from movies? Are there any specific sources that are particularly good for you?

NE: No, it's just my head, you know? I don't know where I get stuff. It's just poppin' out, and sometimes I amaze myself. I never look for topics in books or movies. No, it just comes out.

MU: Do you think the internet is a good tool for promoting music? Have you been successful with spreading the word through that?

NE: Yeah, definitely! It's free. You can access it from all over the world - and it's fast. I mean, it's a great way to promote your band and to give people a chance to talk to you and talk to other fans of the band and everything. So, it's probably one of the best things that's happened to music, and probably one of the worst for record labels, too. But, yeah, it's a great thing, I think.

MU: Worse for record labels, you mean in terms of pirating?

NE: Yeah, I mean, it's not good for the bands, either. . .while we're talkin ' about it. I think it's really cool if people can download like one or two songs to get an idea of a band and, you know, then go buy the album, but they closed this Audiogalaxy now, I think. Yeah, it's a tough topic. I don't know.

MU: So, as far as you're concerned, as a promotional tool it is O.K., but if you get an entire record and start creating bootlegs and selling them, that' s when it crosses the line.

NE: Definitely, definitely. I don't think anything could justify stealing, but it's hard to get rid of the problem, I guess, you know?

MU: You had a song on the 'Afterlife' record called "Hellenium" and you used a guy named Jakob Munck on fretless bass. What made you use him on that?

NE: He's a great bass player. He's working in the studio where we did that album, and we thought about havin' some kinda cool bass part, and he was really just the guy to do it. He sat down and tried a couple of different ideas and it sounded cool. So, we kept it.

MU: As a bass player, who are your influences? Do you have particular players that you are into or more like bands in general?

NE: I don't know. I don't think I've ever had a specific bass player that I looked up to. Maybe as a kid I liked, like, Steve Harris, just because he's so cool on stage and everything. There are thousands of great bass players. I don't think I have a specific one that inspires me as a bass player. I'm not really a technical player. I just play bass, and that's it.

MU: So, do you play any other instruments? Do you sing at all?

NE: No, I don't sing. No, it's pretty much bass, and I played some guitar at home and write some songs sometimes and stuff like that.

MU: The whole 'Shadowland' record is pretty dark. The lyrics are kind of apocalyptic and so forth. The term "shadowland" does that refer to a general idea? Is there a concept behind the record?

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NE: All the songs are different. There's no lyrical concept for the album, but I think the title 'Shadowland' sort of represents a sort of a continuation of 'Afterlife'. That was a lot about death and dying and all that, and I think 'Shadowland' is sort of the place you come to before you actually pass on. I think that's what we're trying to do with the cover, you know?

MU: Now the cover, that's a Russian artist, is that right?

NE: Yeah, Leo Hao.

MU: Has he done other things?

NE: I'm not sure, actually. I think he's probably done a bunch of different covers, but I still haven't seen them. You know, we just started talking to Century Media about who should do the cover, and they had some samples from this Russian guy. We got them and they look amazing. A couple of weeks after sending him some sketches and stuff, we got back the cover, and it looked really great.

MU: As far as your band's style goes, are you pretty satisfied with it? Do you want to try something different the next time around?

NE: Oh, wow, I don't know. I mean, if you look at our back catalog, it's kind of obvious that two albums never sound the same. So, I think, change is always welcome in this band, and we try to never look back on our records and just write whatever we feel like. So, I'm pretty sure next time around, we're gonna try some different kinda stuff. It's not gonna sound like this album. It's not gonna sound really far out, but, you know, it's not gonna sound exactly the same. So, we're always trying out different ways of writing songs and new ideas and, just to keep it interesting for us and for the fans. I don't think it's fun when you just copy your old stuff, and that 's it. That's sorta the proof for me that a band's just not having any fun, when you try to do the same thing twice.

MU: For the area of music that you're into, you're very successful. Are you satisfied with the niche you've created for yourself?

NE: I mean, sure it would be nice to try to sell ten million copies, you know? I've never done that. It would be cool being able to buy a big house in the mountains and maybe get a private jet or something. That'd be cool, but, I mean. . . mainly, I'm not in this business to make a lot of money. That's not my career or whatever. I mean, if I wanted to make millions of dollars, I'd probably be writing songs for Backstreet Boys, or something, or trying to get Britney a song. The big money is not in heavy metal. It's somewhere else. I think the essence is to do what you love and fuck everything else.


review of Nocturnal Rites 'Afterlife'

"Shadowland" from 'Shadowland'

"The Devil's Child" from 'Afterlife'





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