Interview with Drummer Henrik Ohlsson
by Alan Gilkeson
In September of 2008, Scar Symmetry released a statement announcing they had parted ways with their vocalist due to creative and touring conflicts. Losing a singer is probably the toughest challenge for any band. Often the group’s image is wrapped up in the personality of it’s front man. However, Scar Symmetry rightly believed that no one person was bigger than their band… so they found two new singers, allowing them to do live what their former vocalist could not handle, all of the vocal parts without losing his voice. With Lars Palmqvist and Roberth Karlsson sharing front man duties, Scar Symmetry appear poised to take their brand of melodic Death Metal to the masses. Their latest opus, DARK MATTER DIMENSIONS has already spawned two popular videos and sees the band touring the globe. Drummer Henrik Ohlsson was kind enough to answer some questions for us at Metal Rules.
How has using two singers helped expand what you can do as a band, both live and in the studio?
It`s easier in every way, especially live, because two singers doesn’t have to put such strain on their voices as one guy would have to. We don`t have to cut out songs from the set list because of an overheating voice and things like that. In the studio it works smoother because the vibe is so great in the band right now.
This album sort of continues what you guys have been doing over the past few album, becoming more catchy yet even more progressive. How do you manage to combine both of these elements?
It`s something that comes natural to us since we like both simple stuff and complicated stuff. We just combine the things we like about music and it`s not something we have to think about very much. We`ve evolved as musicians and songwriters since the first album but that is a natural thing as well, it`s what happens when you put a lot of time and effort into something.
Still, this record comes off much more brutal than the last, is this something you wanted to do? To be more aggressive?
Yeah, we wanted this album to be more in-your-face and organic sounding because the previous album came out a bit too soft in general, especially the vocal parts. So we wanted to take back the aggression and edge that we had on the first two albums and even take it all one step further. So yes, it was an intentional move to make an album that kicked more ass than the previous one. But every album is a document of where you are at that particular time, we normally don`t know where we`re going musically until the album is done.
DARK MATTER DIMENSIONS seems like a real breakthrough for the band. You seem more focused and seemed to further have defined your sound. Do you feel like you guys have really got something special with this record?
Yes, I mean, we had some problems in the old lineup during recordings and it was getting worse than ever around HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE. When we recorded the latest album we experienced a really smooth and relaxed recording-environment and that made it a special recording and a special album. All of this probably made us more focused and at peace with the whole thing. So yeah, "Dark Matter Dimensions" documents a special time in the band`s existence.
Scar Symmetry has a very original sound. When you guys formed, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted the sound to like or did it just happen naturally?
No, that`s the odd thing about this band. We had no clue what we would sound like. And even the vague ideas we had regarding our sound were demolished when we recorded our first album. We became what we became sound-wise without any plans at all. It`s pretty remarkable when you think about it. Nowadays we have a past that we honor and we`re more aware of what Scar Symmetry is in a musical and lyrical sense. But back then…we had no clues whatsoever. It just happened.
Does all the band play a part in the song writing process or do one or two guys handle all of the writing?
Jonas and Per writes the songs individually and I write the lyrics. On this album Jonas and Per collaborated regarding the vocal lines. All of the members have input as far as suggestions and ideas go, but we all have our specific roles in the band when it comes to writing the actual material.
When Christian left the band did you feel like you really had to come out with something powerful to show that he wasn’t as important to the band as some people may have thought? Was it scary for the future of the band when he left?
We knew that the band was bigger than any of the individual members and we knew that we could write strong albums with or without Christian in the lineup. So we recorded a new album to prove that fact to the world. But of course we weren`t happy about having to kick our vocalist out of the band, it lead to negative expectations before we had a new album out with the new lineup. So the time immediately after Christian`s departure was…I wouldn`t say scary…but frustrating. Especially since some people thought that we were out of the picture. But by now we`re proved that isn`t the case. And we had to make that change in the lineup in order to secure the band`s survival.
Now that you’re using two vocalist does Scar Symmetry feel like a new band to you guys?
Yeah definitely, we`re like a new band. But at the same time it feels like this lineup has been together since the beginning. It`s odd. A paradox. It feels like Roberth and Lars have always been a part of the band but we also feel rejuvenated, hungry and born anew.
Do you worry that both Roberth and Lars will vie to be the main front man for the band? Is it possible that they would fight for the spotlight?
I`m not worried about that at all and that`s because I know the guys. They are in no way divas or interested in fighting for the spotlight in the way you described. They`re like best friends, ready to give each other any space requested and it`s not about individual members- it`s all about the band.
Since you were not able to tour much in support of the last album, are you guys just itching to get on the road and play the new stuff?
Yeah, we actually just came back from the road. We recently completed a European tour with Behemoth, Devildriver and Arsis and it was a blast. We were really having a serious tour-itch so it was great to go out there and entertain the crowds on a long-ass tour again.
Will this new tour feature most of the new material or will there be a fair mix of everything you’ve done?
50% on the set list comes off the new album and the remaining 50% is given to the three first albums.
How did the filming of the video for ‘Noumenon And Phenomenon’ go? Was there a concept you wanted for it at all? Who chose this song to be the first single/video?
The video for "Noumenon and Phenomenon" went alright despite a serious hangover the second day of the shooting. I think the result was OK but we are just about to release another video that will kick even more ass. Stay tuned for the new video – it will be released in the beginning of December. Nuclear Blast wanted to use "Noumenon and Phenomenon" for the first video off the album and we agreed because that song is pretty cool.