With so many cool bands out there to check out I offer you some minor guidance by introducing you to ASHEN HORDE. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
What fascinates me is how you can still come up with new combinations of chords to make new songs and sounds that have not been heard before. What is it that fascinates you into coming up with new songs and albums?
-As often as I hear (and say) “everything’s been done before,” I feel like there’s always some way to present a riff in a way that isn’t a complete clone of something else. That’s something I always strive to do when I’m writing (whether or not I’m successful is a different discussion). I listen to a TON of music, so it’s not always easy to come up with something I consider even remotely original, but hopefully, people listening to Ashen Horde songs don’t instantly think they sound just like other bands’ songs.
One thing I’ve found to be really helpful is using alternate tunings. Doing so mixes everything up, so your instincts for scales and what not go out the window. It also allows you to find some really cool chord voicings while playing familiar chord shapes.
As for what drives me? I guess it’s just the need to create. I’m at my absolute happiest when I’m in writing mode. I think most people have a desire to create something, whether that’s art, technology, architecture, or just a great meal. There’s a lot of satisfaction in saying, “I made this,” especially when it’s something you love!
How is this new recording different from the previous? How do you take your sound one step further?
-I feel like I really stretched out in terms of songwriting on this one. While I’m proud of the previous two records, with “Fallen Cathedrals,” I really pushed myself to try new things. Thus, I think the progressive side of Ashen Horde is a bit more prominent. We’re certainly not Yes or Opeth, but there are a couple of parts that are decidedly not typical for death or black metal. The middle bit of “The Vanishing” stands out to me as a part that’s a little left of center.
Adding Stevie [Boiser] on lead vocals also kicked this album to the next level. His vocals are miles beyond anything I was ever able to do myself. Adding in clean vocals also added a level of melody not present on the earlier records, and helped give this album more character.
When you write songs about the topics you do what kind of reactions do you get? How important is it to have a message in your lyrics? What kind of topics do each song deal with? Is there a red thread to the songs?
-Each Ashen Horde album tells a story, and while they’re certainly inspired by current events—“Fallen Cathedrals” more so than the earlier records—I’m pretty adamant about not preaching anything. With Ashen Horde, I’d rather just tell dark stories that mix well with the music.
“Fallen Cathedrals” tells the story of a city divided in two, with the wealthy on one side and less affluent on the other. While they’ve maintained a strained peace, a single event (as described in “Profound Darkness,” the first single) offsets the balance and sends the sides into a brutal war.
If there’s an underlying message, it’s probably that people do a lot of hateful, stupid shit to each other, and rarely have a good reason for doing so!
Whenever I think of you I cannot help wandering off to different bands. What bands/sounds do you identify with?
-While I really work hard not to sound like any one band, I’m sure my influences come through loud and clear. A lot of different bands influence my writing—the thrash bands that ushered me into the heavier side of metal: Anthrax, Sepultura, Megadeth; the black metal bands that I was listening to when I started seriously playing guitar: Emperor, Immortal, Enslaved, Borknagar; the death metal bands that pushed me to be more technical: Opeth, Cannibal Corpse, Nile; and all of the other bands that I fucking love, from Helloween and Queensryche to Misfits and The Cult.
How did you go about choosing artwork for this new album? What was important to have in it?
-I had a rough idea of what I was looking for and spent many hours on Deviant Art looking for the image I had in my head. Luckily, I came across the work of MWeiss (https://www.deviantart.com/mweiss-art), and she had exactly what I was looking for! Even better, she allowed me to use her image for the cover.
The key thing I was looking for was something that illustrated the broken city around which the story is based. The graininess and near-symmetry of the image we used fucking nailed it.
Something that scares me a bit is this I hear from more and more bands that they aren’t that bothered with artwork anymore because people today download rather than buy physical. To me, the whole point is to have artwork that matches the music. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disappointed by weak artwork to an otherwise cool album. What’s your opinion on this subject?
-This bums me out, too. I put it in a similar category as people only buying songs and not albums. That’s fine for pop music, but for rock and metal, it’s not just about the single, it’s the whole album. The way the songs connect, musically and/or lyrically—it’s all part of a larger experience. Same goes for the art—I feel like the cover adds another level of depth to the music. That said, I don’t always understand what bands are going for… I don’t care how famous Edvard Munch is, I still think the cover to Satyricon’s “Deep Calleth Upon Deep” is awful. Luckily, the album itself was sweet.
How do you come up with song titles? What do they have to have to fit the songs?
-I usually just look for titles that sound interesting, and of course, that fit with the part of the story told in the underlying song. Sometimes it will be drawn from a line in the song, but more often than not, the name is a unique entity. Something like “Atavism” from the new record, for example, doesn’t appear in the song, but the term describes a civilization reverting to a more primitive state; at this point in the story, the two sides have essentially devolved into warring tribes.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as a compliment to buying CDs (it’s easier to just have your phone or pad when you’re out) but I fear that soon music as we know it will be dead and buried. What are your worries as a band?
-I’m totally afraid of the death of the physical format. Like you, I love the convenience of having everything on my iPhone when I’m out and about. It’s awesome. But I still buy everything on cd and vinyl (usually both, since I’m an insane collector). Maybe that makes me a relic of a bygone era, but I do think people miss something by just streaming everything.
The plus side is the ease at which you can access new music, and it opens up a band’s potential fanbase to a level that would have been unthinkable even 20 years ago.
But what bothers me most about streaming everything is that people don’t value music anymore. It becomes something disposable, rather than an art form. While I like to think that most great bands aren’t in it for the money, it’s sad to realize that living as a musician is something unachievable by all but the most plastic of pop stars. Obviously, I live in the real world and realize that playing weird black/death metal will never pay the bills, but people should want to support something they love.
How much of a live band are you? How important is playing live?
-On a scale of 1 to 10? We’re zero! Up until this album, I was the sole member of Ashen Horde, so playing live wasn’t really something I thought much about. Now that Stevie’s in the band, I have started to consider the idea of putting together a full band and looking at doing shows. He tours all the time with Inferi and Tethys, so I know he’s down. Part of me definitely misses playing live. The other, lazier part, however, enjoys not having to lug gear to a shitty club to play for two people that actually give a fuck about the music and 20 that wish you were Metallica. Ha!
What lies in the future?
-Hopefully a lot more music! I’ve been writing like crazy, and have a ton of stuff I’d like to release over the next year or so. I’d love to see at least one 7” this year, maybe two. Maybe even an EP of some songs that were cut from “Fallen Cathedrals.” Beyond that? Another record, hopefully, sooner than three years from now!