Nis Larsen interviewed by PSL
People who only have heard The Human Spirit Massacre might be somewhat surprised by the new album. Why did you skip the keyboard and the black metal elements?
Well, the songs on the The Human Spirit Massacre were written a long time before they were recorded. It's songs that really belong back when the band was called Gothic Domain. You could say it's a different band because there are only two members left from back then. Actually we did record the EP when we still were named Gothic Domain and there's actually a layout version of The Human Spirit Massacre with a logo almost identical to the Usipian logo, but where it says Gothic Domain instead. We were tired of the bandname as it didn't really represent what we wanted to do. Perhaps it should have been released under the Gothic Domain moniker and then we should have dropped the name and started on a fresh, but we didn't. But yes we have gone in a different direction. On the new material written after the songs on The Human Spirit Massacre it was like the keyboard didn't fit in and that's the reason why we chose to say goodbye to our keyboard-player Anders without finding a new one because it just wouldn't fit with the direction we were heading in.
"Brought Within Chains" is also the only song included from The Human Spirit Massacre.
That's correct. The songs on The Human Spirit Massacre are very long and unstructured. "Brought Within Chains" has always been my favourite on The Human Spirit Massacre and it's also the shortest of the four and the one best structured in my opinion. That's why we chose to re-record it and you may have noticed that there has been made a few changes here and there. We tune deeper now than we did back then, the keyboard is gone and we made a few re-arrangements with regard to the guitars. If you haven't heard the song on The Human Spirit Massacre then it's likely that you'll understand it a little different than if you have heard the demo. It's definitely a song that is a bit apart from the rest of the album so we took somewhat of a chance by including it.
Your music has become even more technical and detailed. Is this something that you deliberately work with?
Yes, it's Jeppe, Kent and to a degree Tais who writes riffs to Usipian and that means that there's a lot more variation in the songs so there's really no long red line through all the songs on the album and as you may have noticed there's a lot of temposhifts within a single song and I think that sets the music apart from what so many other bands do. That's also why we don't play after a click track because it's nearly impossible with all the different temposhifts. We like to make the songs a bit complex, so it's not all that simple and just four riffs in a row. Make it a little challenging just to make it a bit more interesting to listen to. That's also the reason why it often takes long time to write songs because we try a lot of different things and practice a song only to find out later on that there's bits and pieces that need to be changed and then we try to come up with something different. That's mainly the reason why. Both Tais and Jeppe are very skilled guitarists who wouldn't be satisfied by making things as simple as possible for themselves, but we have also done a bit of experimenting by doing it a bit simpler. There are two brand new songs which were written shortly before we went in the studio. "Selfless" and the song "World Without Skin" which is available for download on our website, those two songs are a bit simpler in their structure than what we've been used to, but it doesn't necessary mean that we're heading in a simpler direction. Another new song "Multiplied Inhuman Disrupture" couldn't almost not be anymore complex. It's possibly also the most complex song on the album. In my opinion it should definitely not be as simple as possible.
"Multiplied Inhuman Disrupture" is also one of my favourites from the album!
I can say that that song will be on a new compilation. There will be a compilation out in October featuring a bunch of Danish bands in connection with Danish Metal Awards and we chose that song because we feel that it has all the elements that represent Usipian. It's a fast song, but it also has some mid-tempo parts and it's even slow at a point. The last two minutes is a whole other direction compared to how the song otherwise is built. So we think if people only should hear one song on a compilation then it would be a song that represents Usipian.
It sound like for instance Morbid Angel, Behemoth and Gorguts have been a source to inspiration?
Yes, there's no one in the band who doesn't like Morbid Angel. It's no secret and in particular Jeppe admits that he's definitely inspired by both Erik Rutan and Trey Azagthoth. It's very clear that it's undeniable. Gorguts is one of my personal favourites and they have always been. I don't know if we're directly influenced by them and in that case I don't know which Gorguts period it should be, but I take it as a compliment as I've always been fascinated by their complex song structures. Perhaps it's some of the complexity that you think remind of Gorguts. With regard to Behemoth then I don't know because none of us really listen that much to that band so I can't really say.
It appears as if you draw a lot on inspiration from death metal released in the early 90's so I'm curious to know what you think of death metal in general today?
Frankly I think the best albums have already been made. It doesn't necessary mean that there's not released good albums these days, but they are few and far between. I think it's characteristic for my own concern that when there are new albums that I really like they point back in time the same way as we do, but of course without forgetting that we live in another time, but still digging down to the roots and finding the bands who was sort of shaping the whole genre and making it interesting. At the moment I'm listening to songs by newer Swedish bands who has begun to go back to the childhood of death metal, that means in the late 80's and when the thing exploded in the early 90's. It's bands like Kaamos, Repugnant, Verminous and Necrovation. I don't know if you've heard any of these bands, but it's some young Swedish bands who sound like Nihilist, the early Entombed, Dismember and Merciless. It's definitely something that I like a lot. If I should mention a newer death metal album that I think is really good then it would be the first Hate Eternal album. I really like that album a lot and it's perhaps due to the fact that Doug Cerrito has written some songs on that album. He's an excellent guitarist from his days in Suffocation. It's one of the newer albums that I think is well done.
I'm a bit surprised that the titletrack is a short acoustic track!
Yes [laughs], it's also a rather late track. It was one of the last ones that were written. We didn't have any titletrack. The title "Dead Corner of the Eye" was something that Toke came up with before we made the instrumental track and we discussed if there should be a title track on the album and at the same time Jeppe had an idea for an instrumental track and then we got the idea that title track could be an instrumental song. It might be a little different than the usual thing. There no special idea behind this besides that it was a way to do it.
You chose to record with Anders Lundemark in his Starstruck Studio. Was he the most obvious choice?
We haven't tried so much else. The Human Spirit Massacre and Clouded Restrainment were both recorded in Soundzone by Lars Schmidt, who also is in Konkhra and it wasn't like we weren't satisfied by working there, but we wanted to try something new and when Anders approached us and suggested that we recorded in his studio and we heard some of the things he had done and talked a bit back and forth and we agreed that it sounded like a good idea. One of the guitarists, Jeppe, has an education as a sound-technician and has worked with a few bands, so he knows a great deal about the technical gear, so he was out in Starstruck to check things out and he found out there was all the gear that we needed and at the same time Anders seemed to be easy to work with so it wasn't like there was a lot of other studios that we thought about using. We quickly realized that this was the way to do it.
Are you happy with the result?
There are a few different opinions about this. The thing is that the double drums have been placed very high in the mix on the album. It's something that is impossible not to notice and I think that many writers will notice this because it's a bit atypical. It was a little experiment and on our 7" Clouded Restrainment we recorded four rhythm-guitar-tracks and on Dead Corner of the Eye we chose to go in the opposite direction and instead of having a thick wall from the guitars we then tried to let the attack come from the drums so instead we only recorded two rhythm-guitar-tracks on Dead Corner of the Eye, so Jeppe and Tais recorded one rhythm-guitar-track each and then we let the drums be more upfront in the soundscape. We thought that the production that we had come up with on the drums could carry this. Personally I'm very happy with the sound that the double drums have. I remember I had some references with me out in the studio so Anders could get an idea of the sound that I wanted. One of them was Vader's Litany and on that album it's exaggerated so I told him that it shouldn't be quite as much as on Litany, but something similar where you kind of feel that the attack comes from the drums. Afterwards we've discussed if they take up too much space in the soundscape. I don't think people should expect that the drums will be this present on the next album, but overall we're pretty happy with the result.
The guitar sound a little thin in places like for instance in the lead on "Brought Within Chains"!
With regard to the leads I've had nothing to say whatsoever. Both Jeppe and Tais know exactly what they want when they are in the studio and I wouldn't be surprised if there's a little difference from song to song with regard to the lead as well as other things that maybe could have been mixed a little different. I haven't really noticed if the lead placed somewhat in the background, but it's possible that this is the case.
I know it's Toke who is writing all the lyrics, but perhaps you could say a bit about them anyway?
It's correct that it's him who writes the lyrics and therefore he would be able to give some more detailed answers with regards to the lyrics. I remember that someone wrote in a review we got some time back in an American zine; 'this is definitely not generic, I'll give him that' and that is probably characteristics that he doesn't write the usual kind of death metal lyrics. It's not gore lyrics or something. He writes very critical lyrics about society and it's also implied in the title Dead Corner of the Eye and the cover artwork, a world in decay, almost an industrial nightmare where the people are soulless and superficial not noticing that the world around them is crumbling. That is also what is represented on the cover artwork like the soulless persons that is being transported to an unknown destiny. That's a theme his lyrics is dealing a lot with, but at the same time he has a very big interest in movies, which he by the way has a huge collection of, so there's some of the lyrics rather a tribute to certain movies, but he's lyrics mainly deals with mans stupidity and a world heading into decay. That is also what is implied in the intro "Downfall", so it's the main theme.
Dan Seagrave was he your first and only candidate to make the cover artwork?
Let me put it this way if we wanted someone special to do it besides having a friend do it. At one point we talked about getting Phillip Rauf who did the layout on The Human Spirit Massacre and on Clouded Restrainment to make a cover, but we wouldn't be satisfied with a Photoshop cover. It needs to be a bit more special when this is our debut and Seagrave was definitely our first and only choice. In particular Toke and I have always been fond of Seagrave's work and we all agreed if it should be someone special it should be him. It has been very cool to work with him. He was very interested in getting Toke to explain the lyrical universe to him, get the lyrics, get the ideas and the essence of Toke's lyrics and from that he made some sketches which he mailed back and forth over the computer for us to approve and tell what works and what don't. He definitely put a lot of work in it and we all agree that every time there's a new Usipian full-length hopefully it will be Seagrave who does the cover.
It kind of began when we had recorded two songs in Soundzone in 2003. We began sending them around to various labels and Metal Fortress was one of them who thought it sounded really great, but it wasn't something that we discussed any further. It was then the plan that the Danish vinyl label Ancient Darkness Productions should release it as a 7" and we also made the layout, but for various reasons we chose to drop that deal and because the release already had been announced I contacted Metal Fortress to hear if the would be interested in releasing it and they were. We have since been in contact with them without being signed and when we had recorded the album we sent it to Metal Fortress among others, but we didn't really get the chance to send it out to that many labels. They were able to give us a pretty good deal for a debut album and instead of using months on spreading it to a lot of different labels we chose to sign with Metal Fortress and until now it has been fine. It's not a label that has released that much yet and for that matter very known things. They have released some Lord Belial and recently a pretty good album by a Swedish black metal band called Blot Mine, so it's definitely a label on their way up, just like we're a band one the way up if you could put it that way. Right now we go hand in hand, but we'll see what the future brings.
Have any of you other bands besides Usipian?
Yes. Before Jeppe joined Usipian he was a part of Strychnos, which is a band that originally come from Fyn [a Danish island] and I have joined Strychnos as drummer, so both Jeppe and I are involved in Strychnos. Kent plays in a black metal band called Monomania and Tais also plays in Saturnus which by the way just signed with Firebox Records from Finland, so they will also record a new album towards the end of the year. But there's no doubt that Usipian is the main priority for us and nothing comes in the way for Usipian.
How is the scene in Copenhagen these days? It doesn't seem very alive and kicking!
Denmark has at the moment a lot of success with more commercial types of metal and it's genres that don't really interest me. No offence, but it's just genres who don't interest me, but with regard to those band it's definitely in Jutland it's going on, but with regard to death metal I think it's pretty much equally divided all over the country. Iniquity is unfortunately disbanded, but Mads Harløv has instead started Strangler. It's a band I find promising and then we have Corpus Mortale, so there's a handful of bands in Copenhagen, just like there are in most of the other major cities, but it's difficult to view it as a scene. It's people who know each other and play music, so how much it's a scene, I really don't know, but things in Copenhagen in general is improving compared to the late 90's where things were really bad. There are more shows nowadays and more people are turning up and it does also appear like more people has begun to show interest in death metal again and I think that is great as long as it's real death metal and not the Gothenburg style or similar. But no there are not many in our genre in Copenhagen.
How does the autumn look for your concern?
We have a few gigs in the melting pot, but not a real tour as support for some band. We have some gigs in England and Sweden and at some point there were talks about gigs in Germany, Holland and Belgium, but I really don't that much about those. I think we will be playing in some of the major cities in Denmark too later on.
Anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
I'm a vinyl fan myself so to those who wonder if the album will be out on vinyl then the answer is yes. It's a part of our contract so it will be out on vinyl sometime in the autumn so keep an eye out for that. There will soon be new t-shirts, both logo shirts and Dead Corner of the Eye shirts which can be ordered from our website when the time comes.