VOMITORY: "Violent Regurgitation"

Interview by Dr. Abner Mality

It ain't exactly a secret to anybody who knows Yours Truly that I am a slave to the true old spirit of Swedish death metal. I regard that as "my" scene and I've been lucky enough to speak to Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed and many more. But the great Vomitory has eluded me... until now!

These guys are as true as it fact, perhaps even more so than those forefathers mentioned above. They've never gone "rock n' roll" on their fans or experimented with black metal or symphonic sounds. They have always brought the unholy chainsaw hell of Stockholm unleashed to the game on every single album and although they really didn't hit their stride until the mid-90's, they have certainly been around long enough to be regarded as "Gods of Swedeath"!

2011 brings their latest "Opus Mortis VIII" and again Vomitory sticks to the plan while bringing just enough variation to avoid accusations of doing the same album over and over again. Fortune smiled upon Dr. Mality once more, as I got to converse with inhuman drum demon Tobias Gustafsson about not just Vomitory and "Opus Mortis VIII", but his other bands Torture Division and Project Hate MCMXCIX. He's also got a hell of a "Spinal Tap" story to tell, so strap yourselves down tight, because we are taking a trip at projectile speed right to the heart of the "Vomitorium"!!!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings and hail, Tobias! I first want to go way back in the past and ask about what got you interested in brutal death metal?

TOBIAS GUSTAFSSON: I got into heavy metal and hard rock around the age of seven or eight in 1981-82, through my older brother Urban (Vomitory guitarist). I have loved metal ever since, and as time went by and the genre evoved, I got more interested in the faster and more extreme bands. Starting with the extreme image (at the time) of WASP, discovering Metallica, Anthrax, Bathory, Venom, Slayer and many of the thrash bands that came around that time. From there I discovered Sodom and Sepultura - two bands that were crucial for the birth of Vomitory. Urban and former Vomitory vocalist Ronnie Olson got into the death metal underground some time before me, discovering the treasure that was the Swedish DM scene. But when Entombed released their classic debut "Left Hand Path" - which I still consider being one of the best death metal albums of all time - in 1990, I was hooked for life.

WC: How would you say your latest album "Opus Mortis VIII" differs from past Vomitory releases?

TG: I think this is the most diverse album we've ever done. Still, it has all the ingredients that define Vomitory and our sound. When we write, we always strive to give every song its own strong identity, and I think that we succeeded very well with that on "Opus Mortis VIII". The production on the album is nearly flawless and the performances are very solid from us all. I believe that Erik's vocals have never sounded better or more brutal than this. Lyrically, there aren't any big differences from our previous work. The cover artwork also differs a bit from what we've had in the past.

WC: The cover art on "Opus Mortis VIII" is quite different from what you've done in the past. What's the story behind this image?

TG: Initially, it was Peter (Östlund - lead guitar) who came up with the idea to name the album "Opus VIII" and have a battlefield with a string quartet of wounded or already dead soldiers on the cover. After tossing more ideas around this between the four of us for a little while, we agreed on naming the album "Opus Mortis VIII" instead - our eighth Opus of death. We described the basic idea for the cover art to the Polish artist Lukasz Jaszak, and he totally blew our minds with the stuff he came up with. We couldn't be happier with it! The cover isn't directly related to any of the songs on the album, but half of the lyrics deal with war in some way, so I think it totally makes sense. The cover is brutal and beautiful at the same time, with these tranquil "musicians" playing their instruments, while a full-blown battle is going on around them.

WC: How do you guys compose music? Do you all chip in or does one hand guide the ship?

TG: Musically, I compose the majority of the songs. I write like 70-80% of our songs, and Peter is writing the rest (or him and me together). Erik is the main lyricist, but ocassionally he gets some help from Peter and me as well. When I write the music for a song, I complete it from start to finish with most of the details already there, knowing where I want vocals, guitar solos etc. I also compose a lot of my own drum parts in my head before I have even started to practice the song. I usually record a simple demo at home with two guitars and (quite carefully) programmed drums of every song, as they get finished. That makes it easier for all of us to get into the song, practice to it and to write the lyrics to it. Then after presenting it to the other guys - and hopefully they all approve - Erik start working on the lyrics. But if someone doesn't like a certain part or has other ideas for a song, we usually work it out together.

WC: How would you compare the Swedish death metal scene now with when Vomitory started? Is it more healthy now and growing?

TG: Back in the day, the scene was exploding with all bands coming up from out of nowhere, it seemed, so it was actually a bit overwhelming. At that time I was in my mid-teens so there was a lot of other things happening in my life at that time beside the music. At the shows, there was a very special atmosphere. Everyone had this feeling that this was our music, and no one could touch it. That is something that I miss today, to a certain point. I cherish the memories from that time, and I feel privileged to have experienced the birth of a whole new genre. The scene of today is still very vital, I think. The average musicianship is better nowadays and the bands are still quite innovative and pushing the boundaries within the genres (and sub-genres) forward. The music reaches out to a bigger audience these days too, for good and for bad.

WC: Do you take notice of some of the newer "old school" Swedish death bands like Miasmal and Morbus Chron? Do you think they hold up with the old masters?

TG: I honestly don't keep up with the scene like I should or as much as I used to. And I honestly haven't listened to those bands that you mention before. But as I type this, I'm listening to Miasmal online and they sound fucking terrific! I love it. But the old masters are still the old masters. It's hard to compete with the best of the best.

WC: What are some of the musical influences you have outside of death metal? Or are you pretty much just a crusty old blast beater?

TG: No, I'd say that I'm quite the opposite. I have always listened more to heavy metal and hard rock than death metal, actually. Still am. I grew up with heavy metal and was there as the genre evolved, so I have my favorite bands from many of the different styles of metal and hard rock - Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Accept, Saxon, old Metallica, Rush, Slayer, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Candlemass, Whitesnake, Sodom, Y&T, Judas Priest etc... But I sure love listening to Grave, Exhumed, Rotten Sound and Vader too. It depends on the mood and what I feel like listening to. That differs from day to another, and I guess that's the case with most people, particularly musicians.

WC:  I would say the sound on "Opus Mortis VIII" is a bit cleaner and clearer than on the previous record, "Carnage Euphoria"? Was this a deliberate decision?

TG: I totally agree with you. Yes, it was a deliberate decision. On every new album, we always work on getting a better production than on our previous album, naturally. This time our main goal was to get a better and clearer guitar sound on "Opus Mortis VIII" than we had on "Carnage Euphoria". We spent more time on getting the guitar sound right this time around, which I definitely think paid off. Also, we went with a bit cleaner bass sound this time, not turning the "chainsaw"-knob on the bass amp to 11. That also contributes to the overall cleaner sound on the album. We also miked the drum kit more careful, and with more microphones than before, which I think did the trick too.

WC: What song would you say is the highlight of "Opus Mortis VIII" and why?

TG: Oh man, that's so difficult to say haha! There are so many highlights on this album, and for different reasons. That's the cool thing with this album, that there isn't any "obvious hit" on the album, if you know what I mean. Sure, the opening track "Regorge In The Morgue" is an instant hit, but "Opus Mortis VIII" has so many great songs so I think it's impossible to pick just one. At least for me. But part from "Regorge" - which you just have to love - I think "The Dead Awaken" is one of the highlights, in the true Vomitory tradition. Another favorite song of mine is the last one, "Requiem For The Fallen".

WC: You're also a part of the band Torture Division. What's happening with those guys right now?

TG: At the moment we are slowly preparing for the recording of the new demo, which will be by the end of September. For those who don't know, Torture Division is a band that doesn't releases albums in the traditional way. We release our music through demos, which are all free for download at our website: We are working with Dan Swanö of Unisound, so the sound and productions aren't exactly "demo quality", but top-notch album quality! The band started in 2007 and has so far released 7 demos and an extremely limited 7" EP. The demos come in trilogies, so three demos makes one "album". And so far, Abyss Records, has released the two demo trilogies on CD as albums - "With Endless Wrath, We Bring Upon Thee, Our Infernal Torture" (2009) and "Evighetens Dårar" (2010). Torture Division consists of me on drums, Jörgen Sandström on bass and vocals and Lord K Philipsson on guitar.

WC: How does playing in Torture Division differ than Vomitory?

TG: Musically, it hardly doesn't differ in anything at all. I'm playing the same kind of stuff in Vomitory as in TD. But with the big difference that I'm playing with other people and that I don't write any songs at all in TD. Vomitory is on a whole other level than TD, and with other ambitions. Vomitory is where I use my creativity and get serious, whereas Torture Division is more like my playground. TD is like a musical "ventilator" for me.

WC: Are you part of any other bands besides Vomitory and Torture Division?

TG: Yes, I also play drums in The Project Hate MCMXCIX, which also features both my Torture Division buddies, K and Jörgen. I joined TPH MCMXCIX in late 2009 and have so far played on one album, "Bleeding The New Apocalypse (Cum Victriciis In Manibus Armis)" (Seasons of Mist, 2010). In TPH I get to play different from what I do in my other two bands, which I really enjoy.

WC: When you're writing for Vomitory, are there any limits to your heaviness? In other words, have there ever been songs rejected for being "too fast" or "too noisy"? Are there certain lines you won't cross?

TG: No, there are no such limits as "too fast" or "too noisy". Maybe "too fast" then, but only because of our own playing limitations haha. But sure, there are certain lines that I won't cross when writing Vomitory songs. You can stretch the boundaries to a certain point, but it still has to be Vomitory in the end. You can't get too melodic and you can't use a synthesizer (OH NO!!!). But those things are obvious, as Vomitory is a death metal band, and proudly so.

WC: Are the guys in Vomitory pretty much in agreement when it comes to song lyrics? Is there a lyrical "philosophy" behind the band or is everything "wide open"?

TG: Yes, we are pretty much in agreement regarding the lyrics. There isn't any lyrical philosphy behind the band, other than we should write about brutal and sick stuff. We are a death metal band after all. Brutal music calls for brutal lyrics. Simple as that. And we are very much in agreement that our lyrics should never be political.

WC:  How do you see Vomitory evolving while remaining true to its sound?

TG: The best answer to that is to just listen through all our albums, back to back. We have always developed for every album - sometimes more, sometimes less - in one way or another. Some of our major influences today are the same as in 1989 - Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower and Grave are some of them. On the next album there will be some more new things, even though it will probably be very reminiscent of both "Opus Mortis VIII" and "Carange Euphoria". One has to be true to oneself and to the band when writing new songs and not forget what the band is all about. So far, we've had no problems at all with that.

WC: Any plans to visit the States?

TG: Unfortunately no, not at the moment.

WC: What have your experiences been like when you've played in the U.S.?

TG: We have played only one show in the U.S. so far, and that was at Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore in 2007. The welcome from the American audience was absolutely great! Unfortunately, the arrangements of that festival could have been a lot better, so that left a somewhat bad taste in our mouths. But it sure would be great to play in the U.S. again. There have been a lot of offers and possibilities during the last few years, but in the end it was impossible for us to go there because of lack of funds.

WC: What was the last CD or release you picked up just because you wanted to check it out?

TG: Exhumed - "All Guts, No Glory". To me, it's the most anticipated death metal album in years! And what can I say, Exhumed is BACK!!! Killer album to say the least.

WC: What was the last band you saw live just because you were interested in them?

TG: Rush. I love them.

WC: Has there ever been a "Spinal Tap" moment in the history of Vomitory you'd want to share with us?

TG: Haha, sure man! When we were in the Czech Republic to play the Brutal Assault Festival in 2009, we got picked up at the hotel with all our gear by a taxi that should take us to the festival backstage entrance. But then, in the middle of a crowded street, the driver (who obviously didn't speak one word in English) gestured that we should get the fuck out of the cab. When we got out, I called our contact person from the festival several times on the cell phone, and of course no answer. There we were, in the middle of some street - nowhere near the festival area - with all our instruments and shit in a pile, looking completely lost and stupid haha, not knowing where to go or who to talk to. Eventually that festival person picked up the phone, and asked us where the hell we were, as we were getting short of time before our show. She told us she would send out a new transport for us immediately. And after a couple of minutes, a guy on an ATV with a trailer showed up and shouted that he was taking us to the festival. On an ATV??! But we were getting out of time so it wasn't exactly the right moment to start arguing and questioning things. So sure, we put our gear and two of us on the trailer and two on the back of the ATV and then we took off. The driver drove like a maniac through the bumpy, cobbled streets, and we were all kinda nervous that we were going to crash, fall off or flip over. That ride was insane. But after some minutes we arrived (but still somewhat shaken) at the festival, and later we did a killer show and had a great party afterwards. And they lived happily ever after...

WC: Thanks again for speaking to us! Any last words?

TG: Check out our new album "Opus Mortis VIII" (and every other album too, if you're unfamiliar with Vomitory) and buy some merch from us to support Vomitory. Thanks for the interview! Cheers!