Sometimes taking a chance on a band at random pays off in dividends. Yes my first question of the interview entails some details of me buying the long lost Burial Dimensions album from Dark Descent along with a T-Shirt all because I thought a death metal band with that name was cool (it was on discount too). Long story short, I got the CD, played it a bunch loved it and it’s sound. Months passed and low and behold I hear the band reforms and has a new album. Well isn’t that convenient – where I thought Burial Dimensions was all I would get, I get a new record and the chance to talk to the band about their history and their current state and everything else. Sarcasm are not your typical Swedish death metal band be it their straightforward style or the melodic style that does not even remotely represent what is being called melodic death metal today. Check out the interview with vocalist and founding member Heval Borzarslan.
Bryer Wharton: So I came across Sarcasm last year – I was buying stuff from Dark Descent, I saw the band name and Swedish death metal. Purely because of the name, that I love! I bought the Burial Dimensions CD and shirt without even knowing what the band sounded like. So first question, there are a few bands with the name Sarcasm, since I want to know, why did you chose the name?
Heval Borzarslan: Cool, It’s nice to know that people still buy albums before hearing them, I did that all the time in the 80s. Today, the chance is very small you get something good when you take a risk like that isn’t it? Well actually, when we formed this band in 1990 I just suggested the name Sarcasm, I don’t know why I did that, and we weren’t thinking much about any other names before we chose, we just took the first thing that popped up from my head. We didn’t think so much about the meaning either, we just thought it sounded cool, short and to the point. We didn’t think about changing even when the band progressed into something more melodic and epic, we never talked about it, it just stuck with us you know. And we hadn’t heard of that Slovenian band with the same name, I don’t think they were active back then. There were a couple of other bands with the same name, but they spelled different, one with a K and one with a Z.
BW: That said, the Burial Dimensions album is a solid one, why was it never really officially released in any capacity until 2011?
Heval: When we released our last demo in 1994 we were desperate to record an album and rushed into the studio just months after the demo and recorded it, without sorting the details out with the label etc, we were very inexperienced with that stuff and didn’t even send the album to other labels after we canceled the deal. Our guitarist and main songwriter left after that demo, our drummer was about to move to another city way up north, the others and me included didn’t have any inspiration to continue. I was very much tired of the whole underground scene and the way people behaved. This was 94 and the only thing people were into was black metal and they wanted us there where we didn’t belong. So we split up without even announcing it to anyone or ourselves for that matter. It just happened quietly. I stopped writing letters so Burial Dimensions was never spread or heard of, and we wanted it that way until years later when I thought perhaps this album should be heard, and I was curious to know what people would think about it after so many years. So I talked with Cronis at To The Death Records about it and agreed that they release it, packaged with all the demo material as a 3-LP compilation in 2011. Dark Descent released the same compilation on 2-CD and finally as a standalone release last year.
BW: How active in that early Swedish metal scene were you? Did the band not really sounding like a lot of the “standard” Swedish death metal bands maybe change how you were looked at then?
Heval: We were very active in that scene back in the day, and we checked out pretty much every band that came out and had contacts with many of them etc. At first, in our earliest demo days we were very much “standard” I would say. We were basically one of many “Autopsy-inspired” bands with that “sunlight sound” and gory lyrics. But after the third demo we wanted to crawl out of that world and add new elements to the music. Sure, the first albums of Grave, Unleashed and all that were great but change and motion forward was needed for the genre to survive, A lot of bands changed in Sweden in 1993, either they became “death ‘n’ roll” or “melodic death”, and since we disliked “death ‘n’ roll” we experimented with melodies. I remember many bands all of a sudden started to listen to traditional heavy metal and got inspiration from Iron Maiden and stuff, and so did we, but we didn’t want to lose our brutality either and wimp out so we blended both and added a blackened atmosphere to the whole thing..
BW: What inspired your initial sound to current? I don’t know why I feel so hard pressed to think of influences – most likely because you have a unique sound, there’s also the fact that my head right now feels like it got kicked by a mule.
Heval: When the band started 27 years ago we were very much inspired by death metal bands at that time, many American bands such as Death and Autopsy, and also the Swedish bands of course. We were so much into that music back then, and actually even more so years before we started, especially me and Fredrik (our first guitarist), we checked out every single band and demo that came out, we worshipped all those underground bands like Exmortis, Dr. Shrinker and all those guys, we were pretty much addicted to death metal and wanted to create our own noise also. But as time passed by and we became better musicians and the songs naturally became more complex, as I said, we started to listen to other music than just death metal, we were also very much into bands like Dead Can Dance, Fields Of The Nephilim etc. It just felt natural to add stuff in the songs that wasn’t common in death metal back then. I remember when we wrote the song Scattered Ashes, the guys just jammed a simple heavy metal riff all of a sudden, we laughed at first but then we thought, why not just add it in the middle of the song for surprise effect, and we did it enthusiastically. We didn’t follow any rules anymore – it was a short but exciting period for the band. And when it was time for us to record our last demo “A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset” we just wanted to experiment (even more so on our first album), at that time not many death metal bands had pianos, female vocals, birds singing etc in their songs. And because it was uncommon some people threw us into the black metal category. We liked of course some of that black metal and captured that atmosphere and kept the brutality of death metal and blended both worlds and at the same time experimented a lot, and that made it unique I think, and I’m glad you’re are saying that because people often draw a fast conclusion and compare us to Dissection or some other bands. But if they dig deeper in the music they’ll find out that we explore many worlds.
BW: What sparked the band to reunite and what went into building the current line-up?
Heval: Well after so many years of not playing in bands we decided to reform my other band Third Storm in 2014, I wasn’t sure how that would turn out, it felt surreal to do this again but after a while I really enjoyed being in a band again, it was fun and felt like I was 20 again, and I wanted to do more stuff and thought of Sarcasm a lot, and how much unfinished business we had with that band, I felt that the band deserved a second chance and that we can deliver much more than we did. So I contacted the guys and they liked the idea. Both Fredrik and Oscar were thrilled. Since our bassist Dave Janney passed away in 2008, we needed a bassist so Henrik, our guitarist said he’d like to play bass because he was not comfortable with the guitar anymore, so we needed a second guitarist so I contacted Peter Laitinen. I knew Peter from before and knew what he was capable of, he said yes and he began writing a song immediately and sent me a song two weeks after, which we gave the title “From the Crimson Fog They Emerged”. Then in March last year when we just completed the 6th song for the album, our drummer Oscar passed away. It was a tough time so we decided to take a break and see if we can continue this. In April we said, ok we need to complete the album for Oscar’s sake so we wrote two more songs. We contacted Matte Modin and asked if he could play drums on the album and he agreed and just before the recording Fredrik and Henrik left for various reasons so Jonas Söder joined as our bassist and we contacted Anders Eriksson who played on our first album and asked if he would like to re-join and he said yes he hadn’t played guitar for almost 20 years so he had to practice a lot, but after few weeks he played like old times again and learned the new songs fast..
BW: What was it like going into writing for the new album after all these years?
Heval: It was a great feeling, we were very inspired and went with the energy flow so everything went very fast. We knew exactly how the direction would be, the old atmosphere but one step further and without repeating ourselves. The melodies should be there yes, but they should not overpower the aggression of the music and they have to be dark and sophisticated. In my opinion, this “melodic” death metal music has only become laughable and cheesy after 1995. We didn’t want to make same mistakes as all those happy melodic bubble gum bands from the funny accent city of Gothenburg.
BW: Higher production values are easier to achieve now as compared to the past. I think the new record does a great job at retaining the original sound of Sarcasm but gives it a crisp sound. Did you have any goals in mind as to how you wanted the new record to sound?
Heval: Yes, you are right, we wanted the album to sound like albums sounded like in the past, but still have an updated and modern touch, one foot on each era so to speak. We wanted the record to have a sound that was old but clear at the same time. We are not big fans of supermodern metal productions, there are new albums with good sound of course, but most of them sounds so lifeless and fake. We wanted an organic sound, with lots of atmosphere, the drums should sound like drums and not something a computer produced etc.
BW: Speaking of sound the guitar tone is similar, did you change it much for the new recordings from what was used back in the day? Also what kept the old members fresh in their playing – were there any other bands you were involved in?
Heval: You really think the guitar tone is similar? We don’t agree, Peter is very specific what he wants, the least thing he wanted was to have a sound that reminded of that Sunlight sound or something similar, since we have many stuff going on in our songs, we needed a clear sound so all the details could be heard, but still deadly. I was bandless for many years til I reformed my other band Third Storm in 2014, Matte is the only one in the band who has constantly been playing in bands. Peter also reformed his other band Imperial Domain same time as we reformed.
BW: Is there any particular theme throughout the new album lyrical or just through the sound or did you want to explore multiple themes? – for me its a bit of both, musically fast and heavy songs or like “Embodiment of Source” for example slower and in a way a bit downtrodden.
Heval: Yeah, the laws of the universe are the themes throughout the lyrics, energies, power of the mind, creation of your own reality, rebirth, messages from your inner being, the source etc. The lyrical content is very “cosmic” and “philosophical” and spiritual if you will, but not in a religious way. And the focus is planet earth. There are alot of stuff happening in the song “Embodiment of Source”, many riffs from mid-tempo to fast to insanely fast an so on. And “A Black veil For Earth” is a doomier, darker and is completely different from the rest of the album and it seems like it’s everyones favorite now, we didn’t know it would turn out that way, we just needed a long song because the album would be very short otherwise haha..
BW: The album art is spectacular – I’m a huge fan of bright and colorful art when it comes to anything metal – too many dark and undetailed album covers I’ve come across. How does the art relate to the music on the album – who did the design?
Heval: I agree, I’m also a fan of that kind of artwork. The album cover is very “80s”, you know when every album cover looked alive and had its own uniqueness, and all those covers are iconic today and we were after something like that, something striking and something that can’t be missed in the record stores. We dislike all these crappy and lifeless photoshop made covers, it has to be made by human hands and not mouse clicks. The artwork was made by Raul Gonzales, a Spanish artist who also did our first album. Actually the Burial Dimensions artwork was made long before it was considered for the album, we liked it so much and bought it from him, and we loved the skeleton guy on the cover so much so we used him again for our new album. He is officially our mascot now and will be used in the future also. His name is Sarcor by the way. The concept for the cover was my idea actually. The artwork continues on the back of the cover, it’s the universe with all the planets in our solar system lined up, and there’s a vortex, stars etc. And the idea was that the planet earth is in focus, lyrically the album is all about our planet and that’s why Sarcor is holding it in his hand and analyzing it and all that fire and energy symbolizes empowerment.
BW: Did you intend to develop a bit of diversity for the new songs – I feel it’s not a new style attempt for Sarcasm, the older material goes from speed to rotten to some melodies. What do you feel your strengths in songwriting are? And what do you think makes Sarcasms brand of death metal unique or stand out?
Heval: Diversity has always been an important factor to this band and every song has to have its own identity and if you listen to the new songs closely you can find all kinds of styles of metal. Its core is death metal, and there are lots of melodies covered with a blackened atmosphere and if you listen closely you can find some thrash elements and Peter’s guitar solos are more in vain of many of the guitar virtuosos in the 80s, there are also some heavy metal stuff on the album, and stuff that leans to old technical death and thrash (We are huge fans of Death, Cynic, Coroner etc), there are some slower doomier stuff, classical stuff etc. And everything is done in a very deadly way. If the album is analyzed you’ll find that this band is inspired by all kinds of genuine metal, because that’s what we listen to.