After the split of the band in 2009 and several unsuccessful reunion attempts, LORD BELIAL are now completely unexpectedly back with a new album. After guitarist Niclas „Pepa“ Green already talked about the individual songs in our track-by-track special, he now talks about the overall concept of „Rapture“, the perfect album sound and how he has spent the time since the breakup of LORD BELIAL in this interview.
LORD BELIAL are back with a new album – that’s a real sensation, after the last reunion attempts were only short-lived and did not result in an album. When did you find together again for the current one and start songwriting?
Micke and I recorded an album with Vassago at Sonic Train Studios with Andy and we were very pleased with the outcome, so we started to talk about doing an album with LORD BELIAL. We rehearsed in Micke’s basement for a while and Thomas had some excellent new riffs. Three weeks later, we had all bought a lot of new equipment and got another rehearsal studio, we started to put the songs together, changed a little bit here and there, added some riffs, took away some riffs etc. It was a very productive and creative period!
Did the pandemic influence your decision to bring the band back to life?
No, not at all. Sweden was not under such strict restrictions as the rest of europe. I went traveling during the pandemic, I was in Naples, Italy, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt, on different occasions. Frankfurt had by far the worst restrictions! Armed guards at the mall, guards at restaurants, paperwork to sign before having a meal, etc. In Sweden, there was not much of a difference – a face mask was not mandatory and you could go to restaurants and the mall without any problem, however, all competitions and such were cancelled. But nothing that affected the reuniting of LORD BELIAL.
The new album is entitled „Rapture“ – whats the idea behind that title, what ist he album about?
We really dug deep into ourselves when we discussed the title. We were in the studio at the time and discussed different titles. The concept of “Rapture” in its essence for us is that Belial is exalted, the beast is unleashed in its purest form. Then, there is also the concept from the bible, about Paul, in which he uses the Greek word harpazo, meaning „to snatch away“ or „to seize,“ a concept where believers in Jesus christ would be snatched away from earth into the air. It is an end-of-all-time thing for christians and christianity. There are a number of people that have looked into the concept through history; e.g. Edward Irving’s idea about the snatching of christians being followed by the rise of the Antichrist. The concept of the album reflects the idea behind the concept of the rapture.
There is a common concept of „Rapture“ in its true meaning on the album; to make way for the antichrist and it is communicated not only in the lyrics but also in the music. “They shall cover the world in flames, The higher the flames, the greater the shadows” (from “On A Throne Of Souls) “Lust and power for absolute annihilation, Winds of obliteration, fire, and death, Storms of destruction reaping all mortal souls” (from “Destruction”). The frustration of being caught in the age and in the system/social function we all have to be caught up in is also reflected upon and is also from that same theme of „Rapture“: “Possessed by a thousand burning souls, Bound in human flesh, torment, and confusion, Centuries spent in chains” (from “Legion”), etc.
And in which way the Album refers, thematically, to Belial itself?
The album is in many ways a salutation to Belial, for instance in “Rapture of Belial”:“Northern prince of evil, unleash your power onto this withering earth of human filth, Trample its burning soil”. Also, the [first letters of all] song titles spell out LORD BELIAL! We have made a salutation to Belial, and the lyrics and the music reflect and represent our way.
The artwork is quite oldschool in a way, but also quite kitschy, I’d say. Why is it the perfect cover for this album?
It reflects the concept in a phenomenal way; it depicts desire, longing, and wanting – some of the things we sought for. There are also other elements in the picture, it depicts things from the more esoterical side of life – it is an esoteric painting and e.g. “Rapture of Belial” is about eschatology.
With this album you continue with your early albums for my understanding, stylistically I would rather place the album between „Angelgrinder“ and „The Seal Of Belial“ than to see it as a logical consequence of „Revelation“ and „The Black Curse“. Do you see it that way as well, was that your goal to make music more in the style of the early 2000s again?
I think this album is a fresh restart for LORD BELIAL. We like the dynamics of going from full blast beats to midtempo with harmonies, going full blast again with exploding guitars like that, it creates dynamic and we all agree that dynamics is essential. If you blast for five minutes, it just becomes flat and you lose the idea of how fast it actually is. If you only go slow, or only midtempo, it becomes equally as boring. We did not try to sound like anything else, we just went for how we wanted it to sound now, no comparison, even though we kind of worked more like we did on „Enter The Moonlight Gate“.
The mixing was very difficult at first, we had grown used to the sound from the demo and the raw brutal sound from the recording session, but it was very interesting to find out that all three of us wanted the exact same thing! We all agreed on the levels – more choir here, less bass here, more attack in the rhythm guitars here, louder snare drum, etc. In the end, we were quite pleased with the outcome. We listened to the raw mix in different cars, a variety of different speakers, and finally, we agreed that this is what it should sound like.
For the sound you worked with Andy LaRocque again, who did all your albums except oft he last one … and I think it sounds better than any of your albums so far. What made the difference?
Thank you, I agree; we have dug deep into ourselves this time and we have taken the time to create harmonies that become disharmonic, and just as we did on ETMG, there are more guitars than in the previous album. It took a lot of time and effort, but I would say we have definitely found a way of working that will suit us in the future as well. We spent quite some time in the rehearsal room before entering the studio to record Rapture, we tried different ideas and we had an open mind thinking “yeah, why not” instead of “absolutely not”. Many ideas were trashed of course, but working as we did now is a very pleasing creative way of writing riffs. Working with Andy is a procedure that is described as a perfect fit. The man hears our ideas, he understands the riffs, solos, harmonies, the final product + he brings new ideas to the table. He also hears immediately if something is off + he has a profound understanding of how to differentiate frequencies from each other so that e.g. the guitars meet up instead of colliding in frequency. Imagine parts where we have the full drum kit + four different rhythm guitars+two clean guitars+choir+strings+two harmony leads at the same time! Andy manages that situation with a smile and just makes a quick joke about something that makes us all laugh. That’s the kind of guy we need. Andy is truly one in a million, he gets us, and we get him.
From todays‘ point of view: Was it a mistake not to work with Andy LaRocque for „The Black Curse“?
We wanted to try another studio to see how it might end up, and I think it ended up quite alright, but working with Andy is 100% the best for LORD BELIAL.
That album was rather controversial among fans. How do you feel about this album today – and is there anything you would do differently?
I think “Sworn” and “Trumpets Of Doom” signals how we wanted to sound when we did „The Black Curse“, yet it is the same thing there; we did not try to sound like anything else, we went for how we wanted it to be like at that time.
With the new album you landed on Hammerheart Records – your first non-Swedish label. Looking back on your career, would you say it was a mistake to have stayed with Regain for so long? Or to what do you attribute the fact that stylistically similar bands like Naglfar or Dark Funeral have become so much better known?
The contract with Regain was filled and we were free to search for a new partner. We asked around and we were pleased with the offer from Hammerheart. The cooperation is progressing as we wanted from the start, thus we are pleased with our decision to join Hammerheart. I don’t know about other bands, sorry!
The reason for the temporary end of the band in 2009 was a tinitus of Micke, which made it impossible for him to play music. Has this health problem improved, or how do you deal with it as a band?
By now, we all have tinnitus – but we have learned to live with it. We have pretty advanced equipment in the rehearsal room nowadays, we don’t play as loud as we used to because we have a monitor system in which you can choose what you need/want to hear more/less of – it is like being in the studio more or less! In the old days, we just turned up the volume more and more on the guitars in particular, so in the end, it was a very chaotic sound – which has its charm of course – with feedback noise from every speaker, it was cool but it hurt like hell after every rehearsal. Then, Micke’s health issues were never physical, he just had bad tinnitus. He is in very good shape! He exercises a lot and keeps up with the drumming all the time now. I was amazed when we recorded the Vassago-album in 2020 because he said he had barely played anything for five years. Yet it turned out excellent.
You were not part of the band during the reunion attempt between 2013 and 2015 – how did that happen, and what was your attitude towards this reunion without you?
I was very much involved in other matters at that time, all my life I have had periods of hyper-intensity and almost manic periods of creativity and during those periods, there is nothing that can stop me, I am super focused. After such a period, I crash and don’t want to talk to anyone. I was then diagnosed with a bipolar type II disorder and have since then medicated for it, I am quite stable when I am on my meds.
What made you decide to participate in this attempt again … and probably to reactivate your band VASSAGO with Micke at the same time?
I trashed all my other projects and asked Micke if we could set focus back on music, and he had sort of got caught in the hamster wheel at that time – eat, work, sleep – so he was more than happy to do it.
What did you do during the almost ten years that LORD BELIAL and VASSAGO were on ice or you were not part of the band? Were you still active as a musician, either in a band or „privately“ – or did you hang up the guitar completely?
I studied for my third degree; I am a mining engineer, an IT engineer, and the third degree made me Master of Arts in Education, I am a licensed teacher in upper secondary school. I played the guitar in a variety of different bands, also at work with my students-helped out in their school performances etc, did some demo recordings at work, got a contract with yosuke and NWN, released some demos etc, and then NWN wanted a fullength album so I started to write material for that. Then you know, I got kids and a wife! That also takes/gives energy and time. I run an ammunitions company and I compete in a variety of shooting sports … etc.!
You can’t see into the future … but what are the chances that LORD BELIAL are really back now, that you will play shows all over Europe again and that there will be more albums after „Rapture“?
We have seven new songs and another one in the making! It will be another killer album! We have talked about playing live, maybe do some festival gigs and perhaps a small tour, but nothing is yet decided.
And what about VASSAGO – will there be new music or maybe also a live-band at some point as well?
VASSAGO is probably never going to go live, but I am sure there will be more albums!
Thank you very much for the interview. Let’s wrap it up with our traditional brainstorming – what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the following terms?
Last album you listened to: Bathory – The Return
Concerts are back – are you going? Yes!
Dark Funerals „We Are The Apocalypse“: I have no idea!
If „Rapture“ were a car – which type? Koenigsegg 1:1
Being on tour: No thanks!
Your guess: Is the pandemic over now? Yes!
A food that always makes you happy: Steak dinner!
LORD BELIAL in 10 years: Touring with a new album!
Once again thanks for your time!
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