Emissary of Suffering
Interview with Nils Groth (Drums & Vocals) and Mattias Rasmusson (Guitars)
Interview by Lee Carter
Hey and thank you for your time. Please state your name and position in the band.
Hey, thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about our band. My name is Nils and I am the drummer and singer of the band
Can you give us a little history of Emissary Of Suffering – how did you all come together?
Nils: Emissary Of Suffering is pretty much a Corona project. Some years ago I’ve been touring with my band Heretoir in Gothenburg. I met Mattias there and we stayed in contact over metal bands and vegan snacks we love. At some point we agreed on getting together a few death metal songs. With the pandemic kicking in we both found the time to work on songs and finally recorded the album in 2020.
What is your personal history with music? What drew you to this genre and made you want to become a musician?
Nils: I grew up with 80s and 90s metal and hard rock – AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Helloween and stuff like that. Quite early I found those Fat Wreck Chords CD Samplers at my brother’s room. This fired up my love for everything punk and hardcore. The first death metal record (and still one of my faves) is ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’ by Amorphis. The combination of melodies, atmosphere and those deep growls took me on a ride I’ll never forget. I think this album opened up the door to extreme metal. From the more melodic stuff like In Flames, I came to Cannibal Corpse, Death and Misery Index.
As a drummer I always loved the extremes. As a child the kick ass speed drumming of Ingo Schwichtenberg or the fills and grooves of Nicko McBrain and even the style of most hated person in metal – Lars Ulrich made me wanna become a drummer. As a 10 year old I first heard ‘Dusk & Her Embrace’ and I really wanted to understand and be able to play what the guy did there. I guess that’s where my interest in becoming an extreme metal drummer comes from.
Have those early ambitions and dreams lived up to the expectations of your younger self?
Nils: To be honest, I achieved more then I could ever imagine as a child. I toured many countries, met so many people who love my music and spend their money and more importantly their time on checking my stuff out. That’s incredible and I am super stoked and grateful for that. I just formed my own little record label Cold Knife Records and I was allowed to tour and play with some of my favourite bands like Skepticism. If you would have told me this as a child I would’ve called you insane, haha.
How does it feel to have released the band’s debut record?
Nils: For me it’s even more exciting because we released it on my own label. So this album is also kind of a risk. It’s a new album on a new label that no one knew before. This said I am super thankful for your interest in the band and helping us spread the message! The album will be out on September 24th and I can’t wait to see and hear what people have to say about the album. I am really satisfied with the result of the recordings, mixing and artwork and I think we released exactly what we wanted to. Although there are some things I would change nowadays. But that’s normal for me.
How long had ‘Mournful Sights’ been in the works? Were many of the songs written prior to the studio, or did writing sessions occur whilst there?
Nils: That’s a good question. I think some songs have been laying around on Mattias’ computer for quite some time – even before we thought about doing something together. But most songs have been written from 2019 until we recorded in 2020. Mattias sent me some guitar tracks and I played some rough drum ideas in the rehearsal room and after that he could rearrange some parts or add something here and there. It’s the modern way of writing music, haha. We haven’t met to play the songs. He lives in Sweden and I live in Germany so it’s pretty difficult to hang out and record together. But I am used to this kind of band feeling as Heretoir works pretty similar.
What makes the perfect Emissary Of Suffering song? Is there one on the album in particular that encapsulates this?
Nils: I guess that’s a bit difficult as there are two main differences in the songs. First the angry ragers with lots of blastbeats and fast riffing. Secondly the slower, more doomy ones with a pissed off but melancholic feel to it. So I guess the mixture of having both kinds of songs on a record makes it perfect to me. But I think the track “Mournful Sights” is my fave as it is doomy and sad but also raging in the end. It’s not the time to be passive. We have to try to be active to stop this planet and human societies from collapsing.
The band’s membership have had a long association in the genre, with members featuring in bands like Anchor, King Apathy, Gust, Heretoir, Disavow, Ophis and Blessings – how do you feel this collective experience benefits Emissary Of Suffering?
Nils: So the band only consists of Mattias and me. We will have some of our closest friends with us when we’ll hopefully be able to perform live soon. But the core band is just us. I think the experience we both have helped us a lot to be able to write and record an album like this within a few days. Also we are connected to many people who can help us on the business side of music when it comes to promotion and live shows. But the most important aspect for me is that we both know how to be a good musical partner. That means we give the other person space to do what he thinks is right for the track. There’s no ego involved. Just friendship and tons of respect what the other has to offer.
How do you as a band write? Is there just one of you who does it all, or do you swap ideas and democratically construct pieces together?
Nils: I kinda already answered this question above: Mattias writes all the music and most of the lyrics. I write all the drum parts and some lyrics. I usually lay down a basic vocal performance and Mattias can tell me if he likes it that way or wants some changes. But I hope we can come together for the second album and play the songs before recording it. Let’s see if people will get the vaccine and allow us to come back to a life where we can meet in person. I hope so.
Your subject matter concerns your observations of a world you “see emerge more and more into a moloch of inhumane policies and right-wing narratives” – was this a conscious decision, or something that came naturally?
Nils: To me this comes naturally. I look around and I see so much shit going on. From right wing “anti-migration” propaganda that clearly is racism, to the destruction of our planet for economic benefits. There is such much injustice in this world. I really hope to see the dawn of a day where we try to live in a way that humanity doesn’t destroy this planet and especially the Western “civilized” world doesn’t feed off the labour (aka modern slavery) of underprivileged and often robbed (colonialism) peoples. We check our privileges. We both live in some of the wealthiest countries on this planet. The least we can do is to scream against these injustices.
How do you feel your work offers a fresh or unique take on the goings on in the world?
Mattias: When it all comes down to it we’re doing what many others have done before. Looking at the dying world and using music as a means to understand it. I do hope we’re giving it a tiny bit of our own twist though. I don’t remember us talking about what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go during the process. We really just let songs happen and I’d like to believe there’s something in that kind of spontaneity that makes creative work special.
How did you settle on the album’s title, ‘Mournful Sights’? At first glance, it seems to relate neatly with the album’s theme – is there more to it than that?
Mattias: I believe we had one or two other options but settled on ‘Mournful Sights’ since we thought it summed up the themes of the album best. Looking at it now it actually turned into a conceptual album, without us intending to. I also believe the artwork gives the album an incredible framing.
Are there specific events behind any of the album’s eight tracks, or are they all part of a wider brief?
Mattias: It’s all part of a wider brief. Looking around, looking at the world, trying to understand some of the madness that’s going on. Trying to identify structures and commonalities. But also dealing with our feelings for all of it, as humans.
The presser that accompanies the album name checks Iron Maiden, Death and Dismember, as well as Morbid Angel, Autopsy and Bloodbath, as influences and peers – how do these factor into the band’s sound?
Nils: I wouldn’t call these bands peers, haha. They are mainly an influence. Maybe not all specifically to the sound of EoS but to us as people. I don’t know what kind of music and person I would have become without getting ‘Piece Of Mind’ from my brother.
Related to this, the album is referred to as a “…tribute to those who came before them without losing forward thinking” – how do you feel Emissary Of Suffering achieves the latter?
Mattias: Paying respect and tribute to those before you is a beautiful thing, but we also do want to have a voice of our own. I also believe there are things about the way we write and play that will come through whether we want it or not, no matter what type music. With that said ‘Mournful Sights’ does have quite a few hints and references to bands. Friends of ours have identified some, but certainly not all of them.
How has the reaction been to ‘Mournful Sights’ so far?
Mattias: Seems like a lot of people really dig it. I’ve only seen very positive reviews this far, but we’re early in the process.
Regardless of the reaction, is there anything you would have done differently with the album?
Mattias: There’s always going to be things you would’ve done differently if given the chance. To me that’s the beauty of putting everything you’ve got into a song or an album, then pressing it on vinyl or CD. A song is a living material. It’ll keep living and developing as you play it live, but recording of it is what it is. You’ll just have to accept it.
Of course, after the release of a new body of work comes the promotion side of things: are there any plans to tour ‘Mournful Sights’? Can the UK expect a visit from you?
Mattias: Nothing too concrete yet, but we would love to of course. Tell all your friends!
What makes a killer live show? What makes an Emissary Of Suffering live show?
Mattias: Honesty, watching an honest band believe in their craft.
You are handed a blank cheque to create your dream tour: who’s on the bill and where are you going? Why those choices?
Mattias: Entombed, Dismember, Death, Morbid Angel and At The Gates around 95-ish, EU and the US. Imagine going from city to city with 5 bands that helped define extreme metal forever, see them play every night, hopefully get a bit of an insight into how they all created musical history and learn.
How did you and the band cope through lockdown without live shows and human interaction? Do you have any hobbies outside of music that you partake in at home or on the road?
Nils: I guess we both have/had tons of stuff to do in private life with jobs and studies. Apart from that I founded a label and have some more projects in the making. Guess that’s the same for
Mattias. Maybe that’s why we can work that well together. We’re both always busy haha.
Are there any recent bands or artists that have piqued your interest recently?
Mattias: In my opinion Suffering Hour and Memoriam put out two of the best albums of 2021.
Nils: Sweven put out one of the best death metal records I heard in years in 2020. Old Growth, Pharaoh and Empyrium released great albums as well. And of course the new Helloween album.
Do you believe in guilty pleasures and, if so, what is yours?
Mattias: No guilt, all pleasure. Not gonna hide my love for Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi and Veronica Maggio.
Nils: Totally agree. If you like music spin it. As long it’s no Nazi crap or discriminating bullshit.