Interviewed by Nathan Robinson in Sept. 2000
This interview with the keyboardist Robert Bengtsson of Grief of Emerald, conducted September, 2000 via email.
First of all, I am going to be dead honest with you and tell you that I know very little about your band. So I will begin with some very boring questions. Who exactly plays in Grief of Emerald, and what instrument does each metalist play?
Originally formed under the name of MANDATORY back in ?90, a band called EMERALD was given birth after Johnny (ex DECAMERON, ODERU) and Anders (ex NECROFEAST) gathered forces and skipped the gore themes formerly approached in their prior lyrics to a more thoughtful mystical concept. Eventually, Robert (ex ODERU) added the epic feeling with his keyboards in ?94.
Then, the name of GRIEF OF EMERALD became more fitting to the band?s improved style. Drummer Dennis filled in to smash the skins and this lineup completed a demo, entitled ?The Beginning? which resulted on CD on the Scottish DEVIATION label. It?s only in September ?96 that the band went on recording their debut full-length album Signs of a stormy past which, due to some delays, never saw the light of the day. Then followed the departure of Dennis who got quickly replaced by a new ultra-tight beat master: Fredrik.
GRIEF OF EMERALD signed a multi-album deal with LISTENABLE. They re-recorded the album with this new lineup, and increased the power by adding some new intricate songs. By their boasting harmonies with haunting keyboards, tight double-bass drumming backed by a thick guitar sound and haunting vocals, plus superb packaging, GRIEF OF EMERALD stray away from the usual light-sounding Scandivanian black/death metal releases.
After releasing Nightspawn, Fredrik was kicked out and replaced by Jonas Blom (ex Deathwitch, Runemagick) and he pumped some fresh blood into the veins of Grief of Emerald: ?It feels like we have a complete and final line up nowadays?.
Sorry for using this flyer from Listenable, but I?m too lazy writing a new one?I will someday.
The band has gone through some name changes over the years, but basically you guys have been together since the very early ’90s. What took the band so long to finally release your first album?
Well I can?t say anything about the band before I joined (?95), but we recorded a demo in January ?95 and got a record deal with Deviation Records (Scotland). They said it would be released in a couple of months. We recorded a full-length CD in late ?95 or beginning of ?96?
The band didn?t take a long time. The so-called “label” were delaying everything, saying that next month and next month? I can?t believe that we stayed so long (on that label)?about 2 ? 2.5 years. Horrible. We decided to record two new tracks and sent ?em out to a bunch of labels and Listenable were the most horny label of them all. They didn?t take ?no? for an answer?hehehe. It feels like we did the right thing.
Your first release was actually a miniCD on a Scottish label, correct? What was the title of this CD? What was the name of the record label?
Well it was the demo that we recorded in ?95, and it was released by Spellcast Records, a division of Deviation Records. The big difference was that Spellcast had some money and Deviation didn?t.
Because this miniCD is out of print, do you have any plans of re-releasing it?
No, I don?t think so?it?s crap!!!?if you compare it with today?s releases?
Back in 1996, you were slated to record your debut album Signs of a Stormy Past, but your old label had funding problems. From what I understand, only a few of these songs were re-recorded for the real debut album Nightspawn. Are there any plans to re-record the rest of the songs and release them in the future?
No, I don?t think so. We chose the best tracks from Signs? and added some new ones. The reason for this was that we didn?t find them good enough?simple as that. And if they weren?t good back then, I don?t think they would be any better nowadays.
I have not heard Nightspawn. How would you compare it to your new album Malformed Seed?
More black metal I think?faster, but not the same intensity like Malformed Seed. I think Malformed Seed is much more death metal than Nightspawn and has more powerful production. Plus, we have better arrangements on Malformed Seed.
If Grief of Emerald was to tour North America, and you had your choice of bands to play with, who would you choose?
I would like to go with Evolution Fail (RIP). Besides that, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Cradle of Filth, etc? I don?t know, really. It doesn?t really matter but it?s cool if there will be a lot of people, and that?s easier with a big band?(with us) as a support act I mean hahahaha.
Do you mountain bike?
Hell NO!!!!!!!!!! I know I should. I?m sitting on my ass all day at work and becoming all fat and slobby. But mountain biking?I don?t think so.
What do you think about golf?
I think that?s great if you are into holding hard things with rubber on it in your hands and playing with balls hehehehe.
On a nice sunny summer day, I would like to dress up as a black metaller, corpse paint and all, with a cape and a sword, and go mountain biking on a golf course, hacking and slashing all of the unsuspecting stupid-looking uppity career-minded celery-eating golfers. If Grief of Emerald were in the Detroit area, and had a day off in between shows, would you not like to join me in my quest?
Hahahahaha hell yes. It would be great, but only if I can wear a stupid golf hat?you know the one with a little furry ball on top hahahah.
As a keyboard player, what musicians have been your musical inspirations?
Goddamn, I have a pimple in my ear?it hurts like hell. Anyway, I think Morbid Angel, Samael, Cradle of Filth, and Emperor have been big influences for us, not that we listen to ?em and say ?let?s rip this riff off and call it our own?. We try to create our own style and not take anything from others, but I think you do so without knowing?you take impressions from everything you hear.
When it comes to keyboards and death metal, one can hardly forget Nocturnus. What is your opinion of their music and how they implemented keyboards in it?
To be honest I don?t know if I?ve heard them?at least not what I can remember.
Although the band has been together for many years, it wasn’t until 1996 that you settled on the name “Grief of Emerald”. I find the name rather interesting, because given that you’re a black metal type of band, it does not sound typical at all. How did you arrive at the name?
OOOOhhhh not again?I think the name sucks!!!! I wanted a different name and I still do. They were called Emerald before I joined, because the lyrics were like some kind of fairytale?about some warrior and his search for a magic stone. Anyway, I suggested a name change but they wanted to keep Emerald in the name, so we ended up with Grief of Emerald. We wanted to change the name to “Nightspawn”, before this release, but then all former promotion was down the sink. Our label didn?t think it was a good idea to change after so many years. But, I think it?s better to create a good reputation, than have a cool name.
What is your honest opinion on Metallica’s Load and Reload?
Metallica ???? Plastica would be a more fitting name!! I have never been a Metallica fan and I would never be, especially after these albums. Hell I think Spice Girls have more balls than Metallica. But shit will remain shit?that?s it.
It seems that Malformed Seed is being pushed very well. How has the reaction been to the album so far?
Very good, actually. Most of the reviews have been very good. Of course there have been some bad reviews too, but you can?t please all. Nightspawn got better reviews in some magazines, but overall Malformed Seed has been received better.
Your album cover is pretty fucking cool. I am going to assume that the artist is from a company in Poland…Graal, isn’t it? The same artist that did the cover for Mutant’s The Aeonic Majesty?
Aaaaa hehheeh you said ?fuck? hahahaha?yes, it?s the same. He has also done Behemoth?s Satanica cover. I think it looks pretty cool, and the layout is excellent. He has done a really great job.
Some bands use, or have used, a photo of themselves for the cover of their albums. I think this is quite lazy, effortless, and plain stupid. What do you think?
We have a photo of my sister on Malformed Seed hahaha? Well in some cases I can agree with you, but sometimes it would been better to use a band picture instead. For example: our first mini-cd release The beginning?just look at it. We had nothing to do with it I swear?
I only own a promotional copy of Malformed Seed, damn me, so I have no idea what the fuck you guys sing about. But judging from the song titles, it sounds like you have a rather negative look towards Christianity. I assumed in my CD review that the band’s lyrics are satanic. Was I correct? Have you taken any different approaches to the subject?
Satanic?well, more anti-Christian!! I hate Christianity and people that are trying to talk me into that bullshit. I can?t believe that someone is willing to openly proclaim that they are Christian!!! It?s like saying “hey I?m stupid and have something wrong with my head, shoot me!!!!!” Just look into their eyes and see how wasted they are?it?s unbelievable. Most of the lyrics are written from an anti-Christian point of view. The next CD will be even more clear, with titles like “Christian Termination” and “The Filthy Cunt of Virgin Mary.”
If Megadeth was looking for a keyboard player, would you audition?
I don?t think I?m that good that I?d even get in?hahahaha. No I would not go there.
Has Grief of Emerald been touring? What bands have you played with?
Well we have done some gigs around Europe?some festivals and shit like that, plus a mini tour. The bands that we?ve playing with: Marduk, Immortal, Limbonic Art, Enslaved, Defleshed, Altar, Lord Belial, and Suicidal Winds to mention a few. There will be more.
What do you think sets Grief of Emerald apart from the vast number of black metal bands out there?
We are maybe more easy listening than many. We have a quite unique sound, and we have some really good chorus riffs that you will remember?something like “regular” metal in the arrangements. Hell I don?t know?I just talk a lot of crap?you tell me?
Does anyone have any idea when Jon Nodtveidt of Dissection in getting out of jail?
No, I don?t?2005 or something I think?
Malformed Seed sounds pretty damn awesome from a production standpoint. The drums have a little echo, but they still sound fine, and overall the album sounds great. Do you foresee yourselves working with a producer in the future, or will you continue to handle it yourselves?
The next CD will be recorded and produced by Peter Lake (Theory In Practice/Mutant). I feel that the next CD is very important, so I don?t wanna waste any energy on the studio work. I?m only gonna play and make sure that the other ones do well (they always do).
Any plans on using clean male or female vocals in the future?
No. I had something in mind a year ago, but it didn?t work. We will never use a clean female voice!!! What I had in mind was a mix of black metal and horror screams?a chick that can sing with some attitude?not that smooth, gentle voice?rough, evil, sick, and haunting. That?s the way.
I can’t really see a place for clean vocals in the music, but choir vocals would mix well with the symphonic keyboards during the slower parts. What do you think?
As I said in the question before: NO!
Slaughter of the Soul seems to be At The Gates’ most praised album. But I would take The Red in the Sky is Ours over that album any day. How about you?
It?s got a crappy sound, but I think it?s ok. I think the Slaughter of the Soul and Terminal Spirit (Disease) are the best ones?sorry!
Your music ranges from assaulting blast beats, typical of black metal, to slow atmospheric doom. Is it a conscious decision to vary the songs, or does it just come naturally?
It comes naturally. We often feel it when we make songs?if you?ve got two speed riffs and you want both to sound really fast, just add a slow one between them and they will sound even faster. I think it?s very important to have dynamic in the music?it gets more intensity in the intense parts and heaviness in the heavy parts. If you only have fast riffs, you have nothing to compare it with. You have to put on a different CD to do it.
I had trouble finding information about the band on the internet. Any plans on getting a web site running?
Yes, we will. We have a guy working on it right now. In the meantime visit www.listenable.net. There we will have most of the news and info about what?s going on with the band.
OK, Robert, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! Any parting comments?
Grief of emerald
c/o Robert Bengtsson
451 60 Uddevalla