STENCH "Reeking, Rotten, Reigning"

By: Lord Randall

Hot on the heels of Swedish trio STENCH’s release of sophomore effort "Venture", Lord Randall chased down guitarist Jonathan Hulten for the downlow on what makes the moldy beast tick.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: So, four years later the STENCH returns. With yourself and Johannes [Andersson, drums] both being in TRIBULATION, why bother? I mean, of course the bands are different in tone and style, but why not pour all your energy into one, making it the best it can be? Or did you just want to work with Mikael [Pettersson, vocals] again?

 JONATHAN HULTEN: Regardless of the circumstances some things just need to happen, and as for "Venture", that was most definitely the case. Things like that are important enough to fight for and struggle with until they have made a place for themselves in the world. Ideas and dreams are essential, but it is just as essential to make them become reality as it is just harboring them.

WC: You've been working on "Venture" for the whole time since "In Putrescence", though, so it must hold a particularly special place in your hearts. Was the long time between albums simply to make way for the newest TRIBULATION, or did you want to make sure you were in the right frame of mind to approach STENCH as an entirely separate entity?

JH: Although there of course were some practical reasons to why it took so long, "Venture" still needed all that time to become what it needed to be. It feels more relevant and important to create things of real substance, things that really mean something. It may sound like a matter of course, but to truly see big projects through takes commitment.

WC: Was there anything you knew you wanted to stay away from going into the writing/recording of "Venture"? Anything you wanted to shine a light on that maybe you hadn't with the debut?

JH: Yes. This time around we wanted to peel off all unnecessary and redundant decorations in order to keep focus on the most powerful ideas, to let each theme have enough time and space to reach its full potential. Unlike how "In Putrescence" is in its character and how the circumstances around it were, we are not in a hurry in any way anymore. While "Venture" is a well-balanced blow to the exact spot we wanted to hit, the debut had more of a chaotic and experimental vibe to it, though precise in its own way.

WC: Would you agree that sometimes repetition can bring hypnosis (albeit in a different way), just as more technically expansive material? The difference between, say, SWANS and Tchaikovsky.

JH: Absolutely. Monotony is of course much easier to let yourself go to, but complex soundscapes are very rewarding when given the time they need to cast their spell and carry you away. Furthermore, I think you could define any form of altered state of mind and consciousness as a kind of hypnosis in varying degree and intensity. Just imagine yourself looking out of the window while traveling by train and letting your thoughts wander - even there you have entered some kind of light weight-trance. Anything might be capable of activating this function in ourselves, and of course music is providing an extra boost in a given direction.

WC: Speaking of (indirectly), what function do the occasional choral sections within "Venture" accomplish, and will we see more of them in the future?

JH: They have a set of different functions. One of them is to tie the whole together like a contextual glue, and another is to subtly introduce and emphasize the important musical themes of the album. They are also there as a contrast to the audible intensity and extremity of the songs in order for the listener to get to rest her/his ears for a short while. Yet their most important role is probably to make the album lift from its limitation of guitars, bass and drums and stretch out for something bigger and monumental, something beyond Death Metal. This is as most evident in the places in the songs where they are to be found, as in for example ‘Way’. These choirs will most definitely return in the future, but perhaps not in the form you would expect.

WC: Stepping back a bit earlier in the year, to the self-titled vinyl EP. Was this a way of getting out what had come before, so that you would start "Venture" with a "clean slate", and move from then on, or are those 3 songs meant to stand on their own?

JH: The EP originates from the material that was written for "Venture", but ultimately did not make it into the album. These particular three songs happened to be stylistically very similar to what we did with our first EP, so we decided to make a short revisit to our own past before we would plunge into a whole new era.

WC: Describe, if you could, the setup at Necromorbus Studio. What do you think going into an actual studio (if it is one) brought to the album that maybe couldn't have happened within a home studio setting.

JH: The actual differences would be of more practical importance, such as the room the drums were recorded in and what type of equipment there was. But I don't think these details are of crucial importance in the end, as the final result has more to do with the skills of the producer and the vision of the band. I believe that with basic equipment, knowledge and clear ideas of what you want, you can reach desired results wherever you are. A small example, is that I recorded the choirs in my own kitchen by myself.

WC: In this free-and-not-so-easy instant download culture, do you feel that bands have to fight much harder for that "entertainment dollar", so it makes them better bands? How important is packaging/artwork/arrangement - the total album package - to you?

JH: The concept of creating music merely in order to please a consumer group is alien to me. What would your motivation be if that would be your goal? It feels cynical. Nevertheless I am very positive towards the digital way of consuming music, it is very handy. How important the artwork is depends on the album, in other words how much thought and energy has been put into it. In many cases you might as well skip the entire visual part, as it does not add anything or even negatively affects the experience. In other cases where it is of crucial importance to the whole, such as in the case of "Venture", it is indeed a shame if you don't take part of the visuals. Therefore it is important that the images instead are widely spread and are available on the internet. Still, the best way to enjoy that kind of album is to just sit down with the LP package, reading and examining the booklet while listening to the music.

WC: What's coming up in the remaining/new year for STENCH?

JH: Nothing I can divulge at the moment.