In a world were there are so many bands to keep track of I want to bring my two cents in presenting you to this interview with SPEARHEAD. Answered by Invictus . Anders Ekdahl ©2019 (Rhythm Guitar)
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?
Firstly, thank you for the interview and interest in Spearhead.
My reading of your question is that you want to know how we are able to produce original material, and what inspires us to write music. In my view this style of death metal has a fairly narrow sound – and rightly so. Bands that try too hard to push the boundaries mostly end up sounding contrived and lacking in direction. There are some notable exceptions where ‘progression’ (if I can use that term) has yielded some interesting results, but personally I prefer to stick to the ‘classic’ sounds of the 90’s and early-mid 2000’s. There is limited scope to deviate far from this without moving away from what defines the genre in the first place. That being said, this is no excuse for creating stagnant and unimaginative music. On the contrary, I see this as a challenge to rise to – and I think for the most part we have succeeded.
There is no particular inspiration for making the music we create, other than as a means to channel the ideas that flow naturally. The writing process is a very organic one and new songs usually start with one or two riff ideas, then develop from there. Listening to Spearhead you will generally hear what we regard as the finest elements of classic death metal, sometimes injected with influences from the black and thrash metal genres, and a large dose of unbridled energy culminating in what we feel has become our ‘sound’. All the raw ingredients you would expect are there, but we take it a step further, adding our own signature to the music. It is difficult to articulate – but I think anyone that is familiar with our discography will understand. We are are in no way interested in re-inventing the genre, and I am not claiming for a second that our music is wholly ‘original’. But we do pride ourselves in crafting real songs, with actual structures, and memorable moments for want of a better term. Personally, I cannot stand most of the instantly forgettable, nebulous, and overly ‘atmospheric’ nonsense that passes for death metal these days. We will continue until we no longer feel we have anything worthwhile to offer.
How is this new recording different from the previous? How do you take your sound one step further?
-The previous two albums were fully recorded, mixed and mastered in professional recording studios. This time we made the conscious decision to record the album ourselves, away from the usual time pressures. Unfortunately, this inevitably meant the recording process become rather protracted, which did create some frustrations, but in the end the album probably turned out better for it. Once the tracking was complete we engaged Greg Chandler (Esoteric) at the Priory Recording Studios to engineer, mix and master the tracks. So, from a procedural perspective this album is quite different from the last few.
Musically the album is a fairly logical continuation of our previous releases – it is not very far removed in terms of the overall approach, but this time the sound is perhaps both more direct and also varied at the same time, with a much greater sense of dynamics that our previous output. There are some new ideas/devices in the mix which we have not used before, and we think this has breathed some new life into our sound. Above all, it is critical that the quality is consistent and that each track is as important and deadly as the last.
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?
-We are not writing music or lyrics to provoke a specific response, and to be honest I have not noticed people reacting in a particular way. Those that take the time to read the lyrics and forewords contained within our albums should have some grasp of the numerous topics and themes we have covered over the years, and they can take these on board and read into them whatever they want. If that prompts some sort of reaction or response then fine. Suffice to say that while musical content always takes priority, we do value substance in terms of lyrics and underlying themes.
It would be difficult to fully elaborate on all the themes from each song here, but inspirations and topics range from Yukio Mishima, Nietzsche, consensus speech, Oppenheimer, and various writings on conflict and war. I would invite the reader to look at the ’Proclamation’ in the album inlay, which probably sets out all that needs to be said at this point.
Whenever I think of you I cannot help wandering off to different bands. What bands/sounds do you identify with?
-The list of bands that have in some way influenced or inspired our sound would be endless. Most people tend to compare Spearhead to acts such as Morbid Angel, Angelcorpse, Vader, and the likes. To be fair this is probably not far off the mark, plus a heavy dose of aggressive black and/or thrash acts such as Absu, Marduk, old Infernal Majesty, and old Sadus. Having said that, personally I listen to many South American bands such as Abhorrence, Mortem, old Krisiun, Force of Darkness, Mental Horror, Rebaelliun, etc. This sound has had an impact in terms of the overall intensity of our music. Aside from that, Dutch bands such as Centurian, Asphyx and Sinister have probably played some part in shaping our overall approach.
How did you go about choosing art work for this new album? What was important to have in it?
-The front and back album artwork for ‘Pacifism is Cowardice’ was created by the exceptionally talented Jose Gabriel Alegría Sabogal. We provided Jose with lyrics and other background information, but intentionally steered clear of prescribing a particular concept or image – we wanted to see what he would make of this and come up with. We were presented with a variety of sketch options, which we evaluated and then matters progressed from there. We continued to exchange options, ideas and opinions until we reached a clear vision for the artwork. In summary, the central figure is inspired by Yukio Mishima. The man image depicts the paroxysm of conflict and an inner war. The figure holds the Vajra, the weapon of Indra, the warlike god from the Rgveda, symbolising lightning.
Something that scares me a bit is this I hear from more and more bands that they aren’t that bothered with art work anymore because people today download rather than buy physical. To me the whole point is to have art work that matches the music. I don’t know how many times I’ve been disappointed by weak art work to an otherwise cool album. What’s your opinion on this subject?
-The overall package and presentation of an album is very important – I see little point in taking the time to write, record and release anything that is sub-standard. As previously stated, the music will always take priority – but it is certainly an advantage if an album is adorned by appropriate artwork, as this sets the tone for the release and provides a visual insight into the music and themes contained therein. This is not essential, but a lazy approach to artwork/layout does little to inspire confidence that the music will be any better. Having said that, there are plenty of examples of killer albums with terrible artwork, so this is not always the case.
How do you come up with song titles? What do they have to have to fit the songs?
-The song titles are usually conceived towards the end of the writing process, once the lyrics have been finalised. They simply reflect the main theme of the song.
I use Spotify and Deezer but only as 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?
-There is no point worrying about something you have no control over – besides, I have no fears or concerns in this regard, at least in terms of the metal genre. Of course, physical music sales (be that of CDs, vinyl’s or tapes) face strong competition from digital media – but this has been the case for a number of years now and I see no sign that physical formats are dying. On the contrary, there seems to be no end to the multitude of ‘special edition’, ‘die hard’, ‘box set’ and ‘limited’ versions of new albums on every format and colour you can imagine. I will obviously always support bands and labels by purchasing physical releases in all and every format, but there is no escaping the rise of digital media and this can serve a purpose – it seems to now be the preferred format to check out new releases, and it is generally more convenient and accessible when on the move. If physical formats become obsolete in other genres then I really do not care – but as far as metal is concerned I think there will always be demand for physical items.
How much of a live band are you? How important is playing live?
-Admittedly we do not play live very often, although over the years we have still performed at quite a few individual concerts/festivals, and have completed tours in Europe and America. We are open to offers for live appearances, but this can be difficult logistically – the band members are spread across the country and we all have busy private lives. This means we tend to be more selective in terms of which events we participate in. Playing live is important if your aim is to become well known and sell a lot of merchandise. For us, this is all secondary to our recorded output – people quickly forget about live shows, but the music will endure and ultimately that will be our legacy.
What lies in the future?
-No immediate or confirmed plans at present – all options are open.