Forsaken But Not Forgotten
CoC interviews Nicke Grabowski of The Forsaken
by: Pedro Azevedo
While I am not planning to elect The Forsaken's debut _Manifest of Hate_ [CoC #52] as my favourite album of the year, I am nevertheless sure that by the end of this year it will have been one of the records that I spun the most -- if not -the- one. The reason for that is very simple: _Manifest of Hate_ is an unpretentious slab of pure metallic enjoyment in the Swedish death vein, written and performed by a very skilled and determined band, and well produced to boot. _MoH_ is not just another record in the crowded Swedish scene, simply because The Forsaken have done a stellar job in gathering much of what makes brutal, yet melodic, Swedish death metal so damn enjoyable. Here is what the band's talented drummer Nicke Grabowski had to say.

CoC: Having your debut disc released by a label the size of Century Media is not something that happens to too many bands. What do you think made this possible for you?

Nicke Grabowski: I do not know for sure, I have not thought about it that much before. We received several offers from both "small" and "big" labels, so I can only imagine that the demo we posted was very well appreciated and maybe it was just what many labels were looking for at that moment. Musically, I think we have a really brutal sound, but still clear and melodic. Maybe that was one of the things that appealed to the labels. I think that one of the important things about the demo was that we paid a little extra to record the demo in The Abyss with Tommy Tagtgren! Together we produced a very punchy and a big sound on the _Reaper_ demo. I think that when you have a very high standard, and a very professional sound that represents the music, then you get your music to a higher level, which makes it much more interesting for everyone that listens to it. A crappy sound can be fatal to a band's material, especially when you play death metal -- as it tends to be really blurry with low-tuned guitars. For example, if a demo band with high performance skills and really good songs would record a really crappy-sounding demo, then it would probably not be as interesting as it might have been, and maybe the labels that receive a demo from a band with that kind of production and great potential just throw it away. I recommend that every band that has thoughts of recording a demo should check if they can afford to record in a professional studio instead of choosing one that only want to "rip off" bands (for less money, but still money) with no interest and no knowledge of the music. Not that I think that -all- "small" studios are like that; they have to begin and learn as everyone else, but in Sweden we have lots of studios that book bands just to get the money, even if they lack interest in the music that the band performs, no matter what it sounds like. That is pretty clear if you think of it, a "pop-engineer" would probably not do his best for a metal band.

CoC: Are you glad to be on Century Media, considering it isn't a label that people tend to associate too much with the more extreme side of metal these days?

NG: I think their roster is very mixed with all kinds of metal, and that is one of the good things with Century Media. If a label is too deep into only one part of the huge metal scene, the label might end up in a dark corner. Being open-minded always opens new doors and new channels to explore. It is like that with everything all of us do; if you close your mind, you only know the small things that surround you and you never see things outside the locked door. The metal scene has changed a lot and many metalheads now listen to more than just one kind of metal, and that is another important aspect of why labels should be more open: to have different kinds of metal under their wings. Century Media has been very good for us and we are proud to share the same label with many of the great bands they have. One other thing is that they are one of the big names on the market, and that is good for us; they are respected in the music business and their trademark is well known for releasing quality music. For a new band like us, it is very good to have the opportunity to be signed with a label like Century Media. It is easier and you do not have to find all the contacts by yourself; you are able to concentrate on the music rather than doing the promotion, or the huge work to get a name known on the market yourself. And there are never any problems when it comes to economic situations. But we had big discussions about which label to sign to, because we thought that signing to a big label like Century Media would put us in a very bad situation, being a very low priority for our own label. Of course, I understand that they put down a lot more effort on a band like Iced Earth, but we did not want to be under a pile of papers waiting for someone at the label to notice that "oh, we have The Forsaken as well, I wonder if they have material for a new album -- hey, that was three years ago!", and then having a contract for like seven albums that we could not break. Well, they proved themselves to us, and we were wrong. For some reason everything has been very satisfying, I wonder if we should be suspicious!?

CoC: In my opinion, _Manifest of Hate_ is a markedly -Swedish- death metal album, in the best sense of the word. I think you have done a very good job in creating a record which is not revolutionary, but rather a superb example of a certain metal genre. What bands do you feel closer to in terms of inspiration?

NG: A question that is hard to answer, because all of us listen to so many different kinds of metal. What you can hear on the album is a mix of everything that you can think of. Impressions that go through and circle around us from all kinds of music is something closer to where we get our inspiration from, rather than just one or a few bands. I think you can hear that on the album; we have brutal riffing close to old-school Swedish death metal and to the American style of death. Within these influences we mix the melodic elements of the more modern style of death metal. I also think that we have a more heavy metal sound on the solo arrangements than most other death metal bands (but really, that question is for the guitarists -- I am "only" the drummer). I think every band has problems with this issue, you know, trying to say that our band sounds like this or like that band! Every band tries to write their own music with their own special presence and appearance, at least I hope so! Or at least a band wants to create something unique that belongs in their genre.

CoC: And what do you think can make The Forsaken stand out from the Swedish scene as one of its greatest exponents?

NG: I think that the mix I mentioned before is one of The Forsaken's most important elements. I think that on _Manifest of Hate_ we show the beginning of what the band will become. We are very proud of the album and I personally think that it is close to many other bands -- as you said, not revolutionary -- but I still think that we have come up with a style that suits us and that you can hear; this is The Forsaken. That you can hear our own style is pretty much something that I think makes us stand out from the rest of the Swedish bands. Not that I think we do not have any good bands, because we really do: The Haunted, Darkane, Evergrey, Vomitory, Abyssos, Ominous, Soilwork, Spawn of Possession and Carnal Forge, just to mention a few, are all really great!

CoC: Indeed, despite being firmly rooted in the Swedish death metal scene, you still prove to have your own individual style on _MoH_. What can we expect from the evolution of your sound in the near future?

NG: At the moment, we are in the progress of writing material for the next album, which will be recorded in December. We have completed four songs so far, and as far as things have proceeded you can expect the album to be a little different without changing who we are. I think the new material is darker and more brutal, but still melodic. We still have the mix of death and thrash metal, but I think the main thing that has been changed is that the songs are a little bit shorter than on _MoH_ and that the melodies have more thrash elements and are more evil. You know, we want to develop our sound and explore the grounds we entered on _MoH_ without losing our own style. But as we still are in an early phase of the writing progress, it is hard for me to say exactly how the album will turn out to sound like. But expect it to be killer!

CoC: What else can you tell us about the follow-up to _MoH_?

NG: Other than what I already told you, we will use the same artist that did the cover for _MoH_. Mike Bohatch is an incredible guy, and I think his kind of artwork suits us perfectly. Both the music and the lyrics are very well in hand with his ideas and thoughts. Check his artwork out on www.eyes-of-chaos.com! Another thing is that Lord Rhen from Abyssos will write another mid-section track for the album. It will not be like "Manifest of Hate" on the _MoH_ album; we will work with him on something that is written to fit with our setting, and it will not be just an instrumental track with choirs and orchestra only. You guys will have to see how it will sound like when the album is released!

CoC: One of the things I liked about _MoH_ was that your drumming was quite distinctive and involved, besides powerful. I especially enjoy the beginning of "Soulshade" and the "Truth of God" pre-chorus sequence. Any passages in _MoH_ you are particularly fond of, drumming or otherwise?

NG: Thanks a lot for those words. It is always cool to hear when people think that the drums are well written and involving. Then I know that all the hours of blood and sweat are being rewarded. I like almost everything on the album; there are always things you know you could have done better, but all in all we are satisfied with everything. Some of my favorite parts on the album are the introduction on "Collector of Thoughts" and "Dehumanized Perspective" -- really brutal and pounding. I also think that the mid-section parts of "Inseminated by the Beast" and the solos on that song are really intricate. Another one that I think is the best song on the album is "Seers Hatred": there you can find lots of passages and sequences that are really cool.

CoC: According to the _MoH_ booklet, your singer -- whose vocals I thought were very good -- appears courtesy of Holy Records. Is he not a full-time band member, then?

NG: Yeah, his vocal abilities are really powerful, especially in a live situation. I think he is in his best shape on stage, where he can be more live with the music. He is a full-time member of the band and he has been since 1998, when the first singer went out of the picture. The reason why it says that he appears courtesy of Holy Records is that he is also a member of Ominous and therefore is bound to another contract as well. That is the only reason!

CoC: You recorded with Tommy Tagtgren at Abyss Studio. Do you reckon the Abyss is too busy for its own good these days, in terms of having become too expensive or its sound too generic with so many bands recording there, or do you plan to go back for your next album?

NG: Yes, we recorded the album at the Abyss Studio with Tommy, and we will be back in the Abyss for the next album as well. The reason why we choose him is that we know each other very well and he knows what kind of sound we are after. It is a very natural choice for us, and it is a really relaxed place to work on an album. In the middle of the forest in the middle of nowhere... <laughs> really, it is! The good thing about that is that you only have the music to concern yourself with, whereas if you were recording in a studio in a big city, you have, for example, lots of pubs to attend to... But I do not think that they are too busy for their own good. People I talk to always say that because they record so many albums up there, the bands tend to sound pretty similar sound-wise. But I think that is up to the bands themselves. If a band goes up there and do not know what sound they want or what is the sound that suits their music, then of course the technician will produce the album with his own personal style.

CoC: Being signed to Century Media will probably give you the chance to tour a lot more than if you were on a smaller label. How's it been going in the live front so far? Any plans for the near future?

NG: The near future will be busy at the rehearsal studio to write new material, and therefore we are not looking for any shows at the moment. But if any gigs come up, then we will be there, molesting the stage. About the touring, well, one week after the release of the album we were out on a three week long European tour with Nile, The Haunted and Carnal Forge. [<groan> -- Pedro] When we came home, Century Media called us up and asked us if we could join the Marduk tour that reigned in countries that were not covered by the Nile tour. We were not able to join that because of our job situations -- who ever said it is easy to be a death metal musician?! With these things in mind, I must say that they really want to get their bands out on the roads. That is another good thing to say about Century Media, as touring is what you want to do, one of the absolute best things!

CoC: That's it... any final words from The Forsaken?

NG: Yeah, thanks for the interview and thanks to all those who support us, and the whole scene. I hope that I will be seeing you on tour sometime next year! Remember to swing the fist and bang your heads, and let the metal rain -- cheerz!

(article submitted 12/8/2001)


ALBUMS
2/29/2004 P Azevedo 8.5 The Forsaken - Traces of the Past
9/1/2002 P Azevedo 8.5 The Forsaken - Arts of Desolation
3/13/2001 A Bromley 9 The Forsaken - Manifest of Hate
GIGS
5/13/2001 D Rocher Nile / The Haunted / Carnal Forge / The Forsaken At the Haunted Gates of Vengeance
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