Do not confuse this OBSCURITY with the Southern Swedish cult act. Neither confuse it with the Stockholm act of the same name. This is the German version that is very much alive and going. Interview Partner: Ziu; bass. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
How tough is it to choose a band name? I know of at least two Swedish bands that have used the moniker Obscurity and even though they might not live on as bands their legacy still lives on.
-It wasn´t as tough as you might think. Actually we sat together having a “brainstorming” for a good and fitting band name. Someone came up with “Obscurity”. The name reflects our music as one cannot put us in a certain subgenre. We thought it´s the right choice.
Concerning the fact that our name doesn´t seem to be that original, well, at that time we thought we were quite original. Now we have knowledge about one of the Swedish bands you mentioned. The Death Metal pioneers from the eighties (I really like damnations pride – could get my hands on it a couple of years ago). Furthermore we have knowledge about some more bands called Obscurity from all around the world.
How does that come? I cannot tell you how the other bands found their name and how they researched for others band with the same name. It isn´t that hard anymore to find out, there are already some Obscurity bands around, thanks to the internet and it´s various platforms.
Back in 1997 you didn´t really have such web-platforms and bands in general didn´t have a major prominence on the internet. Furthermore, only very, very few 18 or 19 year old metalheads had access to the internet. I know that may sound unimaginable nowadays but believe me, in those days we were happy about having a cell-phone which made fancy Gameboy beeps if you got an incoming call. Writing short messages was the new sport. Well, it wasn´t the Stone Age but maybe one can understand that there weren´t many sources to verify if there´s another band called “Obscurity”. In Germany we had two print-magazines at that time and a couple of print-fanzine. The magazines arrived every month and if you were lucky you could get your hands on 5 issues of different fanzines per year. That makes about 30 issues a year all together. After the choice of the name, we brought all of our magazines together. A collection of issues of several years (I wonder if they have any collector´s value now). We had a lot of fun during the researches for “Obscurity”, we learned a lot about metal, but there was no other band called “Obscurity” in those magazines. So we gave birth to Obscurity.
I’m the first to admit that I can’t tell heathen from pagan from folk metal. What defines the still of metal that you play?
-From my point of view, Heathen and Pagan Metal is quite the same. Both of them should have mainly heathen lyrics dealing with topics from a certain heathen point of view. Folk Metal does have lyrics about traditions and cultural mannerisms. Religion is only an under part. The music of Heathen/Pagan Metal can vary from Black, Death to other not that extreme Metal. Occasional “non-classical” Rock/Metal instruments are allowed whereas in Folk Metal flutes, bagpipes and ancient instruments are vital parts of the music. Well, that´s just my humble opinion but we have blurred boundaries here and I´m sure there are plenty of metalheads who have different views.
As far as it concerns the music- and lyric-style of Obscurity, we always had the problem that one cannot really put us in a certain genre. Therefore call our “style” since our very first days – Battle Metal. It´s a mix of Black and Death Metal with some Thrash influences. Sometimes we have songs tending more to Black Metal and others more to Death Metal but it´s still a good and more or less balanced mix on our albums. Our latest album “Obscurity” is a perfect example. Our lyrical scope ranges from normal topics, for example about the daily struggles in life, over heathen topics and historical events to overall bellicose topics. We come up with the traditional metal instruments, two guitars, bass and drums and vocals which can be regarded as additional instrument. We don´t have any fancy instruments like I mentioned above. That´s quite suffice to blow one´s ears, hehe.
That is just a small excerpt of our musical and lyrical “style”. If you are already as confused as I am and you don’t know in which genre you might put us, well then you know why we play Battle Metal.
You’ve been around for some time now releasing albums on various labels. Do you feel that you’ve come as far as you would have liked? What has set you back from being even bigger than you are?
-Since we started with Obscurity back in 1997, we forged 6 albums and two demos. The second album “Thurisaz” has been released via Twilight, the successor “Schlachten & Legenden” via Massacre Records and the last three albums via Trollzorn/SMP Records.
In retrospective I can tell you that we had some serious set-backs right at crucial points in our career which forced us to slow down again and again. Maybe we were just too lazy, too. The main argument is maybe that we want to be as independent as possible. That´s not always the best way to reach for the stars, as soon as possible. But it´s our way. More to that topic later on. Furthermore I think we are a bit too frugal and did not push things to the limit regardless of the consequences. We do care about consequences.
Anyways, we don´t have a big production machinery as a backup or fuel up. We tread our path with just a couple of supporting friends. We do what we want, whenever and wherever we want to, as long as there are fans who want to see and listen to us. And if there are no fans left, we carry on in our rehearsal room.
That´s maybe not the most effective way to get right to the top but it is how Obscurity works. We climb up the ladder step by step, slowly but surely. We can measure it. Every new Obscurity album is a good step forward. We have full control and it´s rewarding.
We do feel that we already achieved quite a lot. You must know that all of us started to play instruments just a few years before we gave birth to Obscurity. Meaning we were about 16-18 when had first contact with our instrument. I started to play bass the day I joined the group of friends which should later become Obscurity. I was 19 years old.
You can see that it took some years to enhance abilities at instruments, songwriting, stage performance and so on. So, one can say that it took a couple of years to get to the point where you know your instrument and how songs may work.
What ambitions did you have when you started OBSCURITY? How have they been met so far?
-Hmm, I remember that we wrote “world domination” on a sheet of paper which should be our first promo-sheet for labels and other parts of the music industry. Well, mission NOT accomplished so far. We were quite young at that time.
We never had huge ambitions in terms of making money with our hobby, we just wanted to play the music we would like to listen to, as well as, contributing a very own part to the Metal we love. That didn´t change until today. Of course, there are things we desperately wanted to achieve, like playing in a special venue, having a European/US tour, playing certain festivals, forging albums and all that stuff. We already achieved most of them and the others are about to be achieved in the nearer future.
There´s still untapped potential and we are still hungry. Let´s see what future has in store. We´ll grab and drag it out of Obscurity and face future with confidence.
How important is lyrics in metal? What kind of topics are you dealing with?
-That depends on the music and band. There are many songs that do not need lyrical depth. Some of my favorite bands and songs are just straight forward.
Obscurity does have a certain standard in lyrics, as we always want to provide good and coherent stories or tales. We want the listener to enjoy our music and stories like a good movie or book. As we mainly have German lyrics, it is quite a task to arrange a certain standard and on the other hand to provide an interesting and catchy mix for the non-German-speaking listeners. During our European tour in 2012 and by the feedback from non-German-speaking countries we learned that we did a good job on that task so far.
Like I explained earlier, we have quite a scope of topics and we are constantly searching for special topics, incidents and concepts which we can convert into interesting music-stories.
In choosing art work what are you looking for? Does the art work have to fit the album title and lyrics?
-That depends on the idea we have of an upcoming album. The artwork for the “Várar”, “Tenkterra” and “Obscurity” albums were already set in the beginning of the songwriting process. For the first two mentioned albums we had already an overall-concept in mind before we actually did the first step in the creative process. The “Várar” album has elements of a concept album about ancient German times and topics. “Tenkterra” is a real concept album dealing with historical topics of our home region and a period of time of about 1,200 years. Since we recorded the “Obscurity” album on the occasion of Obscurity´s 15th anniversary, we knew that the band itself and its trademarks will make the run for the artwork theme.
The process of creating an entire album may be variable to us but every single Obscurity album has a complete and coherent overall garment. The visual realization of music and lyrics on the cover artwork and booklet, as well as, the fitting album title has high importance. If you buy one of our albums, you´ll get an overall concept which combines music/lyrics with a made-to-measure artwork.
How big is the kind of metal that you play in Germany? I get a feeling that it is more heavy/power metal that gets the attention.
-Well, as in most other countries I guess the favorite metal genres are Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, modern versions of any kind of extreme Metal and Heavy/Power Metal. If it comes to the pagan/heathen/Viking, you named it; Metal subgenres are nevertheless quite popular.
As we play Black Metal, Death Metal and Pagan Metal festivals/concerts I can tell you that there are many festivals for each subgenres with audiences of multiple hundreds and thousands of metal supporters. The German metal-community provides good scores of events for every subgenre. Fortunately we are a Metal country.
None the less, it´s most thrilling and a very, very special occasion to play in foreign countries. It´s always a highly appreciated pleasure to us.
Your latest album, how pleased are you with it? What do you want to see happening with it?
-We are extremely satisfied with the album and the feedback it brought. It´s definitely Obscurity at its current peak.
The “Obscurity” album is now a couple of months old and the mass of feedback is still coming in like in the month of release. We are very grateful and still busy with the promotion and harvesting the fruits of our labor.
As I mentioned earlier, there´s always untapped potential and we are working hard to spread our music around the world. We´re looking forward to present our music in European venues soon again.
How tough is the competition really? How tough is it to make your name heard?
-It can be easy and very hard to make your name heard. Here we have a quite ambivalent situation.
If you have a great promotion idea and place it in the right spot at the right time, somewhere in the internet, you can be a celebrity a couple of days later. But normally, that is the exception to the rule. The internet and it´s promotional platforms are nowadays so vast that the majority of bands have to flood the entire internet with their name just to get some feedback. There are so many bands in this vast area and such an immense offer by the various platforms, that you maybe cannot position your name properly on “the market”. The consumer is washed over with interesting names and so you have troubles to filter the offers.
Most of the people are already overstrained to get their “facebook-life” in line with real-life. If you don´t have that very special idea or luck which gives you a real prominent position, despite of the quality of the music, you have the same struggles like twenty years ago, where you had to find a very rare spot in one of the metal-magazines.
Well, no matter if you´re lucky or not, the internet provides the potential to spread your name across the world and it cost you almost nothing, besides a lot of time and hard work. The user can decide firsthand if he likes a band or not. One doesn´t have an editorial journalist who decides what may of interest to you. I don´t want to miss that potential and we as a band are happy with our position and to communicate with metal supporters around the world.
If you want to read anything about music-business itself, well, it´s a profit machinery, as every other industry, as well. You can give yourself into such depths and if you have some good qualities, you´ll be able to spread your name in no time. But you will always have to give a piece of yourself or your creative work. There are still labels and music-companies which really support their bands and you can be very lucky if you get one of those.
We never prostituted ourselves, have full control of every single aspect and are glad with our position. We can enjoy what we do and are free to do what we want. We are still hungry and will continue to attack.
What will happen for you in the future?
-World domination, hahaha!
Ok, maybe not world domination but we will move on, step by step. Plans for another tour across Europe and the USA are in the top drawer. The songwriting for the next album has just begun. Interesting shows a scheduled and more to come. Let´s bring it on!
It was a pleasure to have this interview. I hope could make you guys a bit curious on Obscurity and you didn´t already fell asleep during the interview.
Thanks and metal on!