Taking their moniker from a song off Slayer’s landmark 1986 album Reign in Blood, Necrophobic is a Blackened Swedish Death Metal group that emerged in the early 1990s with an uncompromising sound and lyrical style that favors themes of anti-Christianity and Viking mythology. Since debuting in 1993 with The Nocturnal Silence, the band has endured numerous lineup changes but has managed to issue a slew of punitive EPs and albums, including Death to All (2009), Womb of Lilithu (2013), and Dawn of the Damned (2020).
Necrophobic was formed in 1989 by drummer Joakim Sterner and guitarist David Parland. The pair played with a revolving-door lineup of musicians before the permanent addition of guitarist Martin Halfbahn prior to recording their debut album, The Nocturnal Silence, in 1993. Following the addition of vocalist/bassist Tobias Sidegard, Necrophobic released the four-song Spawned by Evil in 1996 as a teaser for the full-length release Darkside, which bowed later that same year. Third Antichrist was released in the fall of 2000 through Black Mark Records, but it marked the fourth release from the group to be mishandled by their U.S. distributors. A switch to Hammerheart Records led to Bloodhymns, the first of their traditional death metal releases to see American shores through the label. Hrimthursum arrived in 2006 via Regain Records/Candlelight USA, with the critically acclaimed Death to All dropping in 2009 — Satanic Blasphemies, a compilation of the band’s early material, was released the year prior. Necrophobic continued to flex their blackened death metal muscles in 2013 on the full-length Womb of Lilithu, and again in 2018 with the release of the triumphant Mark of the Necrogram, their first outing for Century Media. Two years later they returned with unrelenting Dawn of the Damned, which saw the veteran group finding new ways to marry brutality and melody. (Bio was taken from AllMusic.com)
This Is Black Metal Webzine had a talk with the Drummer and Founder of the Band Joakim Sterner about their latest offer “Dawn of the Damned” and their glorious past!
This Is Black Metal: hi, Joakim! How are you? I think you are in top form, since I got to see one of your crazy performances at the metalitalia fest!
Joakim: Hi! Well, thanks. We have played a lot this year since the corona is more or less over and it has allowed us and many others to come back to the stages. It’s something that we have looked forward to. Metalitalia was a great festival and a festival we never played before, so that itself was cool. We have of course played in Italy before, but it is always cool to play where you haven’t played before. And as you said, we were putting on a great show for you. We sold a lot of t-shirts that day, so I guess everyone else thought so too. And we were not even the headline that day.
TIBM: let’s talk about your latest work “Dawn of the Damned”, which I consider the coherent continuation of the previous “Mark of the Necrogram”: a trilogy that began with “Darkside”, of which the cover of “Mark of the Necrogram” represents the inside of the depiction of the sinister corridor drawn on the cover of the historic album that came out in 1997. The cover of “Dawn of the Damned” depicts, in turn, the whole of the cathedral of “Mark of the Necrogram”. What prompted you to take up the concept started with “Darkside” for your last two albums? Could the cover of the next album depict a hypothetical interior of the entrance that can be seen on that of “Dawn of the Damned”?
Joakim: It all started when we were about to think about what kind of cover we were looking for, for “Mark of the Necrogram”. At that time, Sebastian and Johan had recently re-joined the band and Anders had returned to the band a couple of years earlier also, so we were thinking that we had to come up with an idea that connected with the past somehow. The idea landed to make something about the cover art on “Darkside”. What is it looking like there, front, beyond, or inside that church, in the background center of that art? As “Darkside” was painted by Kristian Wåhlin, it felt obvious to contact him and ask if he liked the idea and wanted to do it and he said he liked the idea and wanted to do it. And when it was time to do “Dawn of the Damned”, we still felt that we could use the idea one more time, but now how it looks from the inside. With this said, I want to point out that the three albums have nothing in common storywise/musicwise. It’s only connected with the artwork for these three albums, but hey, it’s brilliant, if you ask me.
TIBM: Let’s go back to your origins and those of the Swedish Melodic Black. Can it be said that Necrophobic, together with Dissection, were the very first band to play and, dare I say, to invent this kind of Black Metal that blended the Swedish Melodic Death style with the roots of the first Black Metal bands? Show us your major musical inspirations and influences of the time and now.
Joakim: When we started, we were pretty newbies of everything, but with a strong and dedicated vision about how we wanted to sound and look. Many bands from our area had different influences than we had. We of course shared some of them, but bands like Napalm Death, Carcass and that kind of bands never really appealed to us. We liked much darker bands, more obscure bands, like Bathory and Venom, that separated us a bit from bands like Nihilist, Dismember, Carbonized, Afflicted Convulsion and those bands that existed back at that time. Of course, we were also Death Metal, but tried to add strong melodies that conveyed the feeling of darkness and evil. We obviously were too bad songwriters from the beginning, so it did not really sound like that from the beginning, but the vision and aim were already there from the beginning. Also, image-wise. We wanted to look different than the others as well, so we did not wear flannel shirts and shit like that. I am not saying we were the first to wear it, but we were among the first to wear leather pants and appear all dressed in black, with biker boots/leather boots, even though that did not happen on day one, but in the development to come nearer our vision. We even tried to have corpse paint on our first photo session back in 1989, but it did not turn out the way we wanted it, so we skipped that. A couple of years later, I started to use the term “Blackened Death Metal” to describe our music style to further separate us from everyone else.
TIBM: How much did the return of Anders Strokirk’s vocals affect your latest releases? It’s been a long time since he was the lead singer on your first album, only to leave the band shortly after.
Joakim: Well, Anders was more or less forced to leave the band back in 1993. As he now has talked about it in interviews himself, I can now tell that it was his bandmates in his other band that forced him to quit Necrophobic. They did not like the idea that we were a bigger band, even though they all were our best friends. They did not want Anders to be recognized more as the singer of Necrophobic than the singer of his other band, so he left Necrophobic only because of that reason. It was not common that a person played in more bands back then. It existed bands like that, but it was not common. We said to them that if there would be conflicts with shows of both bands happening at the same time, we would deal with it there and then, but no, he had to leave. Anyhow, many, many years later, it came to our understanding that Anders have buried his other band and we were looking for a replacement for Tobias, so we asked him if he would like to rejoin the band … and the rest is history. He came back! Yeah, I forgot … it has of course led to many great things that he came back. His voice is special. His voice is strong. His voice never fails. And he is such a character. Everything is in a good way.
NECROPHOBIC – Mirror Black (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
TIBM: You are currently under contract with one of the biggest labels ever: Century Media. How are your relations with it? Are you planning tours for next year as well?
Joakim: Right now we have one more show left for 2022 and then we have more coming up for 2023 and as I see it, we have to make those shows to support the last album “Dawn of the Damned” that came out during corona, so we have not a new album in our minds as of now. It could be totally different in a couple of months ahead, but right now, our focus is to make “Dawn of the Damned” based shows.
TIBM: Technology has made great strides, even in the field of collaboration between musicians. With this in mind, how do you work on your compositions and preparations for live performances? Would you prefer to find yourself in the rehearsal room or work remotely, as many bands do nowadays?
Joakim: We are an old traditional band. We have always had and still have a rehearsal room, where we rehearse on a somewhat regular basis, but nowadays we don’t rehearse the way we did in the past and as often as we did back in the past. Nowadays, we rehearse to both keep up the tightness as a band and to practice new songs, but we don’t write new music in the rehearsal room as we did before. Mostly, we are there to rehearse for shows. I sort of miss that feeling of creating together, but musicians are different. Some prefer to write at home and to record their ideas on the computer/home studio and present the songs completely and that is good too and maybe more efficient for some musicians. All of us have families nowadays also, so I think this new way suits us best, in the long run.
TIBM: You are a veteran of the Swedish Metal scene. Can you tell us how the Extreme Music situation in Sweden is progressing today compared to the past?
Joakim: I can not tell you anything about the progression of the Swedish Metal Scene, as I am, like you said, a veteran, haha. No, but seriously, I actually don’t follow or have time to follow how the scene is. My time with my own band is quite a lot of time and work. Then I have a life outside the band, which is not only music related. I do so many other things I find interesting and spend time doing.
TIBM: Necrophobic’s discography currently boasts 9 full-length albums. If you had to choose one to best represent this band, which one would you choose? And, in hindsight, would you change anything about the music they contain?
Joakim: You know that is impossible, right? No, I would not change anything with any album we have done. It is what it is and it represents where we were at that time. There is no “what if?”. It happened as it happened and it happened for a reason. But if I had to choose one album that represents Necrophobic best to anybody, I’d say “Mark of the Necrogram”. It is a “new” album, you may think and a bit odd to choose as an answer, but I think the music and feel on that album are great and it combines very well with how we sound today, but also contains very much that connects with our past. At least I think so.
TIBM: Joakim tell us how you spend an ordinary day? What other kinds of music except for Metal are you listening to?
Joakim: An ordinary day for me is like everyone’s ordinary day, I guess. I don’t play shows every day. If you take away all the Necrophobic related work and stuff, I still do the things that everyone else is doing. Today, I spend time with you, answering this interview. After that, I will shop for food and drinks and watch a game of football, a Premier League game between Tottenham vs Leeds. I am a Tottenham supporter. After that, I guess I will watch a movie or continue to listen to the audiobook by Paul Stanley, “Face the Music – A Life Exposed”, read by himself.
TIBM: What is your opinion about Black Metal music nowadays?
Joakim: There is no flesh and bones in today’s Black Metal. Enough said.
TIBM: We’re done, Joakim, thanks for your time. If it is possible, tell us some gems you have planned for the future and salute our readers!
Joakim: Thank you for letting me and my band take place in your publication. Next up for us is headlining the German festival “Braincrusher in Hell” on Saturday 26th November and then having a small rest before 2023 is happening. Keep following the news we post for you on our Instagram and Facebook, for instance.
I hope you can supply your readers with our links. Yeah, also don’t forget that we have, during 2022, reissued our entire back catalogue from 1993-2013 with most of its original design and much extra material. I have also dug out a lot of old videos I found in my attic. I have digitalized them and put them up on our official channel on Youtube, so please subscribe to that channel to not miss furthermore that is not yet published there. Have a great ending to 2022 and see you in 2023!