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You don’t need to re-invent the wheel to deliver a smashing old school death metal album. Sweden’s Gravestone proved this statement with their latest release. Inspired by the old Swedish guard of Entombed, Grave and Dismember the four Swedes from Växjö released their first 3-track EP ‘Rotten Kill’ last year and received very positive critics all around the world and it made old school death metal fans crave for more Gravestone. Well, good for the fans, the band around Entrails guitarist Penki Samuelsson have not rested on their laurels and just recently released their debut full length album ‘Sickening’. The album is full of catchy D-beat drum rhythms, heavy and groovy HM-2 distortion riffs and brutal vocals, death metal with a punk attitude. ‘Sickening’ is like a textbook example how well-executed Swedish old school death metal should sound and I sense the same excitement and vibe I had after hearing the first EP ‘Breeding Death’ of their countrymen Bloodbath back in 1999. Guitarist Penki Samuelsson speaks with Lords of Metal about the story behind the band and their latest release ‘Sickening’.

By: Dennis | Archive under death metal / grindcore

First of all, let me congratulate you on the release of your debut album ‘Sickening’ and give you a big fat compliment on the result. ‘Sickening’ is one of the motherfucking coolest old school death metal releases in a long time!
Thank you! The album has recieved really good feedback so far. We are extremely happy about how it turned out and I can't wait for people to hear the whole thing!

In January of last year you released your first three track EP ‘Rotten Kill’. How have the reactions been to that release?
Other than that it isn't the most original songs, I haven't heard a bad word about it! But original isn't what we are going for anyway. In that case we would not play this kind of music. I think the bands from the late 80's/early 90's got it right, and there's no need in adding anything to it. The fact that people think we sound similar to bands like Entombed and Dismember is the biggest compliment we can get!

In 2014 you joined Jimmy Lundqvist’s Entrails and recorded two old school death metal records with them so far and played many live shows. How did you get involved with Entrails?
It all started with me filling in for their guitar player at the time. Entrails and my old band had rehearsal rooms next to each other, so they had heard me play and knew that I was a big fan of theirs. They had a festival booked in May 2013 but their guitarist wasn't available for some reason. So they asked me to play with them and I was ecstatic! I was only 18 years old at the time and had never played outside of Sweden before. All of a sudden I was being offered to play a show with one of my favorite bands at a festival in Germany. It was crazy! A few months later their guitar player parted ways with the band. Since I already knew the songs and got along well with the guys I was asked to join as a full time member.

Did it slow Gravestone down because you were active in Entrails? And why did you decide to finally start releasing material with Gravestone? The band was founded in 2013 already, so it took about four years before you guys had material out…
It didn't slow us down what so ever because we were not really active at the time. In the beginning Gravestone wasn't even a band. It was more of a fun project me and Magnus started up because we wanted to play music together. We were jamming, writing songs and recording demos for the heck of it. Eventually it just seemed logical to share our music with the world! We put a full band together and started to play a few shows and slowly but surely it became more of a serious project. None of this was planned. It kind of just happened!

Lundqvist also helped Gravestone with recording the drums for ‘Sickening’. Was it a logical decision to record the drums in his Bloodshed Studio?
I have spent a lot of time in his studio, so it absolutely felt like the most logical decision. It feels like home at this point! We don't need a million dollar studio to record this kind of music. We'd rather record at a place where we are comfortable and can take our time. Also, Jimmy really knows what he's doing. When it comes to death metal, everything he touches somehow sounds amazing!

All of the rest of the instruments on ‘Sickening’ was recorded, mixed and mastered by yourselves. Did you ever consider having another producer mixing and mastering your album?
No, not really. I think we have a good enough grasp on how this is supposed to sound. Sure, there are people out there who could make this album sound way better, but we like the DIY side of things. By doing it ourselves it feels like it's 100% us. No-one elses input came into play. At least this is the way we wanted to do it for the first album so that people get to know us properly. For the next album we might change things up a bit.

Did you have experience in recording and producing albums before? Or was this the first record you did? Is it something you enjoy doing?
This is the first time I have produced a full length album, but it's far from the first recording I have been a part of. I like to stay busy, so I have recorded a few project here and there. Some of it has been released but most of it is just stuff that I made for fun! It is something I do on a daily basis. Some people play video games or watch TV to relax - I spend time in my studio!

band image

I assume the Tombthrasher Studio is your own home studio? Did you have to invest a lot in recording equipment? I must say the outcome sounds absolutely killer, so great job done.
Thanks! To be honest I only have the bare minimum that's needed to record guitar, bass and vocals. It is barely even a studio, but it works! Instead of spending huge amounts of money on expensive gear, I have spent a lot of time trying to master using the stuff that I have. It isn't rocket science after all. Play loud and hard and it will sound heavy! If it doesn't turn out perfect, good. Perfect is boring.

Patrik Tegnander designed the cover for ‘Sickening’ and it looks really killer, just what an old school death metal cover should look like. What were the instructions you gave him when you asked him to design an album cover and how satisfied are you with the result?
He is an absolute beast! Whenever I need any art done, he is the first guy I turn to. For this cover I had a clear image in my head on what I wanted it to look like, but I couldn't find the words to describe it. The only thing I could come up with was ‘make a a graveyard that twists into the shape of a vortex’. That was the only piece of obscure instructions I gave him, yet somehow he nailed it! What ended up being the cover for this album is exactly what I had in mind. It is almost as if he reached into my head, grabbed the image and put it on my screen. I don't know how he does it.

Your first EP ‘Rotten Kill’ was released through the Dutch label Raw Skull Recordz. How did you land a deal with them and why did you choose for Raw Skull Recordz again for the full length?
I met Rai from Raw Skull Recordz at an Entrails show in Germany. I don't remember why or how we ended up talking about it, but somehow Gravestone was brought up in the conversation. He was just starting up an underground label and we wanted to put out our first EP. As we were talking it became clear that it was a no-brainer. We were both in the starting phase and it felt logical to help each other out! Just a few weeks later we signed a deal for the EP and a full length album.

With such a killer release like ‘Sickening’ in your pocket I can only imagine that it is a matter of time before a bigger record label will pick you guys up. Have you already been approached by other record companies for your next release – if there is ever going to be one?
No bigger labels have showed any interest yet, and I'm not sure they will. We play underground music for an underground audience. That is most likely not very attractive for the big companies. At this point, we will just have to wait and see what opportunities show up along the way! There will be many releases in the future, but right now we want to focus on playing live. When the time is right, we will put out another slab of disgusting tunes in whatever way feels right at that point.

You are going to play your first two shows outside of Sweden at the Monster Metal Festival in Gronau (D) and EMA Fest in Emden (D). That must be quite exciting. Have you played a lot of live shows in Sweden with Gravestone?
We have played a total of three shows! Nothing too fancy or serious. So these two shows in Germany together with the release of the album feels like a proper start to the band! I am so freaking excited. Even though we have not been active for that long, we have technicaly been around for five years, so it feels like it's about damn time to go out and show people what we're all about. I can't wait!

I also noticed you are going to play in Holland in September at the Schoonenbeek Deathfest with Entrails and General Surgery on the bill as well. Are you guys looking forward to that one? It’s something like a festival of friends, isn’t it?
That is going to be one hell of a party! It feels like everyone I know is going to be there. I have had good times playing festivals before, but this is something completely new. I will be playing with two bands, our friends in General Surgery and Gravebomb will be there along with a lot of other people we know. As if that isn't enough, the rest of the line up is killer! It will be exhausting and amazing at the same time. I have a feeling that Schoonebeek Deathfest will be one of the highlights of this year.

What can we expect in the coming time from Gravestone?
Live shows! We will do our best to book as many shows as our regular lives and other endeavors allow us to fit in to our schedules. It won't be easy, but I hope we can go to as many places as possible and spread our death metal madness!

Do you have any last words for our readers?
Thanks for reading and a huge thanks to everyone who helps keeping the underground scene alive! We hope to see you on the road, but until then, keep blasting 'Sickening' on an unhealthy level. Skål!

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