Welcome to our artist-written feature on Heavy Blog, “The Anatomy Of”. Taken from the Between The Buried And Me album of the same name — in which the band pays tribute to the artists and bands that they feel have most inspired their songwriting — it’s a feature in which we hand off the metaphorical microphone to bands so they can talk about their influences.
Spawn of Possession is a name tech death fans worldwide breathe out with awe. With just three albums, the band have proven their ability to write incredibly intricate yet brutally punishing music, all while drawing from their strong classical music-inspired sensibilities time and time again. Even as tech death goes, their work is borderline impenetrable at first when examined from a strictly musical perspective, and the meticulous twin-guitar riffs — particularly on their defining, instant-classic third record Incurso — remain complex beyond compare. Fortunately, we at Heavy Blog were lucky enough to score some time out of Spawn’s vocalist/former drummer Dennis Röndum as well as guitarist and mastermind Jonas Bryssling himself to get a sense of what unearthly depths the band bring their unique style of tech death out of. And thus we are proud to present to you, in their own words, The Anatomy Of Spawn of Possession!
Dennis: Imperial Doom is basically press play and feel the steel-toe boot hit you square in the face. From track one and onward those jerky riffs make your shoulders twitch! Early Monstrosity was definitely one of the bands in the well from which we drew inspiration, especially the riffing style with the changes between fast picking and the rhythmic stuff. We always loved those groovy parts with odd timings and little tweaks. Things like that is something we still use in our songs and I guess Monstrosity was the first band to bring that style to our attention. Those short intense bursts of blastbeats alternated with fast drumrolls were something I picked up on I remember. I also like the fact that the production is pretty crappy because it adds so much to the overall feeling of the album. It has that “live in the practice space” feeling to it with some apparent blunders here and there but that shit just adds to the realness. Corpsegrinder’s sick vocals and Harrison’s slamfest behind the drums had influence on me early on and I remember applying that to Spawn when we first started. I hadn’t listened to Imperial for a while so I put it on while I was writing this and I think it still holds up well. Makes one forget all about pro-tools and click tracks and crisp productions. That record is one of the main reasons why we decided to go in the direction we went in.
Bryssling: I was 15 and I remember a friend having this album and he complained about how awful it was because he thought it was way to technical. I had heard a little bit of it and I was very interested by it. I eventually got the album cheap from another friend which didn’t like it either. I was completely blown away. Brutal US Death Metal combined with cool thrashy riffing, hard grinding drums, the production is raw and not perfect which makes it even better. I remember feeling like I was on fire after listening to this one. This was the album that inspired me the most to go nuts on the guitar and try to play more advanced stuff than let say Metallica, Sepultura etc. Amazing album, I still listen to it from time to time and I still get inspired by it. Favourite songs: all of them.
Dennis: I still remember the day that I went in to town and got my pre-ordered Covenant album. I was so excited to hear it I asked the phony metal chick with the fake tits and extensions behind the counter to put it on in the store. Once “Rapture” kicked in I was completely sold and while the bimbo clerk was pulling on her chewing gum with an empty stare I was feeling every bit of hair on my body standing up. This record is one of those few that we still can refer to when explaining a riff or a vibe over the phone. The fleshy, chaotic riffing that never lets you off the hook combined with those drums is just the perfect blend. I also feel that Covenant is one of those records with an attitude of, “-Hey maybe we should slow down for a minute? –FUCK YOU!” Basically every song tears it up until the end when you’re greeted by the “God of Emptiness”. Today of course that’s normal practice but back in 93, few bands rarely went all the way like that with a full album. I think we found some of our own intensity through Covenant, the need to push things further and further to see what happens. And besides Trey and Pete’s performances, Vincent’s vocals are some of the best ever to be recorded in my opinion. Another great piece of vinyl that still inspires us and reminds us to stay true to ourselves!
Bryssling: I wasn’t into Morbid Angel much at all until I saw them on the Covenant tour, To be honest, I went mostly for the opening bands, Grave and Dismember. Even though Grave and Dismember were amazing, Morbid Angel’s performance is what I remember the most. Trey was playing like a possessed man, his fingers were all over the guitar. It was an incredible, inspiring evening and I realized I had to practice a lot more. Soon after that I bought the album and got obsessed with it right away. I think every song is solid, even “Nar Mattaru” is a great atmospheric track.
Dennis: The brutality of the Vile album really made us step up our own musical violence. With this album, Cannibal really managed to produce something that felt like a soundtrack to a merciless gangbang using broken bottles or like hearing thousands of scud missiles raining down on Rivendell and those fucking elves. We really wanted to find that vibe in Spawn and get that ferocious attribute going. Although the riffs on Vile had a lot of edge and sharpness to them there was always this great sludge hovering over the songs, I think that was part of what made the album so intense and uncompromising. I remember we picked up several little ideas from that album from guitars to vocals. And of course Alex’s basswork was just second to none. In my recollection the biggest inspiration after all was the fact that it was so brutal and kind of took a piss on the scene where bands and “producers” was trying newer cleaner things. When we search for brutal inspiration, Vile is for sure one of the go to records.
Bryssling: This album made me tune down the guitar for good; I usually played in D or E before. But after hearing this, I made my final decision. This album was just amazing when it came, dark and filthy, extremely brutal sounding but still very catchy. Even if I liked the albums they had done before, I thought this one was close to perfection. One big difference was the vocals: Corpsegrinder’s intense and furious vocal style just fits the music a lot better than Chris Barnes lazy mumbling growling style. I think the riffing on this one influenced us a lot while writing our first album, Cabinet. The use of diminished stuff, the squeels and etc. If I have to pick some favourite songs I would say “Perverse Suffering”, “Devoured by vermin”, and “Relentless beating”.
Dennis: When the Gothenburg scene was happening and getting a name for itself back in the mid-nineties, there was one band that got completely overlooked. While people seemed content with the outpour of cheap metal interpretations of Swedish folk music, steel-string acoustics and the complete boring overuse of the traditional skankbeat, Eucharist showed real musical imagination. A Velvet Creation, their first album (and the only one that matters really) was such a breath of fresh air. They had a lot of playful melodies with varied harmonies drawn from the baroque era that was inspiring as hell. Drummer Daniel Erlandsson (now in Arch Enemy) was completely fucking relentless. He played blastbeats and tons of fast double bass, which was more of an anomaly in Sweden back then. But he had feeling and a very tasteful style, something that influenced me a great deal. They were not ”tech” per se but the two guitars and the bass constantly kept it interesting by switching tempos and fucking with volume pedals and what not. I know Eucharist has had a great impact on our melodic thinking and it’s a damn shame they never got the cred they deserve. The only downside of A Velvet Creation is the poor production and not so tight playing, but that’s okay since the music has so many goosebump moments. And besides, I’d rather listen to that album than some slick production with a drummer who’s too stupid to play anything beyond a fucking skankbeat. I consider Eucharist pioneers and the ultimate spearhead in Swedish melodic death metal and they sure have our respect for all their influence on us.
Bryssling: I have never been a fan of the Swedish melodic death metal scene, but there where three bands that stood out greatly: Dissection, Edge of Sanity and Eucharist. Eucharist was so unique and underrated that it was ridiculous. Maybe the bad production and the out of tune leads made many hit the stop button before they even realized what masterpiece was unfolding? I don’t know. I didn’t care about the production much, since the riffs and the melodies got me hooked right away. The melodies are written in a delicate way with harmonies coming and going in very interesting ways. It didn’t sound like what any other band were doing at that time, and since I was already back then interested in classical music this was a great inspiration on how to translate that into death metal without the need of being a guitarist a la Yngwie Malmsteen. I must have listened to this album at least a thousand times. All the songs are great, but the true masterpieces starts with track 3, “March of Insurrection”; from that song and on there’s a endless stream of goosebumps. The best song is probably the epic “Floating”. It would be great to hear this entire album re-recorded with the best production possible. Maybe more people would get into it then.
Dennis: I feel Erosion is one of the first experimental albums that caught our attention. We had been playing Considered Dead a lot and howling to the hysterical lyrics while we were chugging beer, but Erosion was just something different. I still remember when I heard “Condemned to Obscurity” for the first time with that chilling piano and drums that evolves into a song. How fucking cool was that!? That album had so many nuances and there was always a newly discovered part to discuss between myself and Jonas. Everyone on that album helps to make it interesting with the bass going off or the drums doing a 180 in the middle of a riff or the guitars smearing away with those sick harmonies. And it never loses its intensity even if the tempos fluctuate and it’s not all blastbeats. Not that it ever bothered us, but I think this album was slightly ahead of its time and fans didn’t seem to get into it right away. Obviously you had to give it a couple of spins before you got hooked but that’s not uncommon when it comes to well-crafted music, regardless of genre. In Spawn we use the word “messy” in a positive sense to describe a certain style of riff or something. Erosion of Sanity is a pure definition of what that word means to us and that album is still played for inspiration.
Bryssling: I bought Considered Dead when it was released and I was listening to that album all the time. I thought it was a masterpiece. One day some years later Dennis called me and told me had bought the new Gorguts CD, Erosion of Sanity. He had only listened to it a few times and had a hard time describing it; it was weird, he said, good but weird. Anyway, this album was way ahead of all other bands I think when it comes to write interesting riffs. A lot of dark chunky riffing with harmonies added and the bass is just awesome. The riffs have some kind of tiny little grooves built into them. The songs are not very fast, which is great for the groove and the atmosphere. Well everything is just amazing with this album. I used to listen to it all the time, I mean all the time. The goosebump factor is very high when you get into it. I eventually got a VHS tape with Gorguts live from the the Erosion of Sanity tour, the sound was pretty good and it was easy to see how they played. I dont know how many hours I spent looking and analyzing that tape. Back then, there was no Internet or magazines with Death Metal tablature or videos, so you had to figure everything out for yourself. “Orphans of Sickness” and “Hideous Infirmity” are two of the best songs on that album.