Interview: Sulphurous (2021) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Sulphurous

If you, as the main songwriter, are the brains of Sulphurous, would it be fair to say that Tuna is the backbone? Do you appreciate this analogy?

Mathias Friborg: I guess you could use that analogy. Not sure there is much brains in what I do though, but Tuna definitely is a huge part of the foundation of the music, so yes, he could be the pelvis.

What about Tuna and yourself makes for such great chemistry? In which ways are you different and in which are you the same, and what makes your musical bond stronger, those similarities or differences?

Mathias Friborg: We work very differently both playing music and in life in general. We see and deal with the music in completely different ways without it ever clashing in a bad way. I guess Tuna finally understood my way of writing music and has adapted his drumming to it perfectly. I think we understood each other way better on this album than on any previous stuff we have done before. The drums and guitars work together on a whole different level and I guess that’s why this album ended up so good for us. The amazing thing about Tuna is that he sees the guitar patterns in a kind of hieroglyphic ways which he invented to remember what the hell is going on in the songs, so he is always deadly sharp and can play any song he ever recorded just by looking at those doodles.

He is really drumming his ass off on this one. Would it be fair to say that this album features his most dynamic and technically demanding performance up to date?

Mathias Friborg: He definitely is. I think this is one of his best recordings. What he does on the drums on this recording made the whole thing so much better. I hadn’t expected such a good outcome. Very happy about him doing his hammering on this piece of music.

Considering that this album and the last one by Hyperdontia have been released literally less than a month apart, how difficult it was to give your maximum effort on both The Black Mouth Of Sepulchre and Hideous Entity, without having your commitment and contribution to any of them negatively affecting the other?

Mathias Friborg: I guess I have to be careful answering this one, in case any of my bandmates in Hyperdontia reads this (laughs). Nah, I always try to do my best and give it all that I got when recording music. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense to do it, if it was only a half-hearted performance. I actually had four different recording sessions clashing within a couple of months of the same period. So, it was very stressful to rehearse and make all the final touches on them all. I guess I took it one step at a time. Finishing one recording at a time, and then I could concentrate on the next. Closing the chapter for an album recording to be able to prepare and put all my effort into the next one. That said, the only negative thing I can think of was that it was a bit stressful finding time to rehearse with other band members, rehearsing at home, writing lyrics, making layouts and artwork, and still having time to spend with my family.

Speaking of commitment, you play in Sulphurous, Hyperdontia, Had, Sort Sind, Ascendency, and Taphos. Which of these bands is the closest to your heart, that you would be the saddest to leave or disband?

Mathias Friborg: Hmmm. I would be very sad if I for some reason had to leave any of the bands which are real bands and not just studio or side projects. I would maybe say that my oldest still playing band Night Fever, which is a hardcore punk band, would be the hardest to leave since we toured the whole world and have been friends for more than 20 years in this band, and we have so many good memories from playing together. After this, I would say Taphos and Hyperdontia which I also love playing in.

Do you find The Black Mouth Of Sepulchre to be significantly better and more mature than Dolorous Death Knell, or do you feel that both records are perfect the way they are, for what they are? What are in your opinion the main differences between them?

Mathias Friborg: When I made the songs for The Black Mouth Of Sepulchre and when I recorded them, I actually didn’t think they were as good as the songs on Dolorous Death Knell album. But now the songs have grown on me, and the new album came out way better sound-wise than Dolorous Death Knell did. So I’m definitely happier about this new release, with the artwork and sound. I think the main difference between these two albums is the artwork that evolved into a much more malevolent beast. Also, the sound is sharper and clearer, and we play much better together as a band on this album.

Would it be fair to interpret the dolorous death knell that was tolling on the first album as a send-off to whatever has now been buried with the black mouth of sepulchre? Is this album the second chapter of the Dolorous Death Knell narrative, a thematic follow-up to the debut, or a brand new lyrical concept that starts and ends with this album?

Mathias Friborg: I think these two albums are different in that way. Several of the lyrics on Dolorous Death Knell were written by my brother who played bass in the band many years ago, back when I started making the songs for that album. But we have the same mindset and read many of the same books, and probably get inspired by the same kind of things in life. So, the lyrical concepts on these albums are not that far apart as one might think, since we shared a lot of things growing up. But it has evolved into something else now, since I’m creating everything on my own.

Sulphurous Interview

What is that opening sound in Emanated Trepidation, before the first riff?

Mathias Friborg: That was my oldest son who helped me produce these demonical sounds in a music program he sometimes uses. They were supposed to be the eerie opening of this beast. It’s a simulation of different string instruments being strung the same time.

The last two minutes of Shadows Writhing Like Black Wings feature one of the longest, most compelling, emotionally charged solos to be found on a death metal record in recent years. Did it unfold in its entirety during some intense rush of creativity, or did you need to spend weeks re-arranging it until its flow became impeccable?

Mathias Friborg: Thanks for the kind words. This part of the album was one of the oldest songs we played back in the earliest Sulphurous days when the band had its first real line-up. I decided to throw this away over ten years ago. But when writing The Black Mouth Of Sepulchre, I felt compelled to use this slow and creeping part again. I tried my best to recreate the leads and solos, but I think it came out way better now on this recording. So I’m really happy that I chose to use it in Shadows Writhing Like Black Wings. It didn’t take that long to come up with the solos. They sort of popped up in my head when listening to the guitars and drums together, and as you can hear I am a big fan of the more Egyptian inspired scales.

Do you think that the overall charm of this record owes at least something to the way you played piano in the outro to Gazing Into The Patch Of Darkness, with two hands following two different melody lines, and in other songs as well?

Mathias Friborg: It probably gave that little extra touch to this album. That said, I don’t think the piano parts are that important. It wasn’t my decision to use the piano from the start, it was just that the place I recorded the album had this old piano standing and collecting dust, and it was all out of tune, and I thought to myself that this was just what was needed to complete this recording for me.

What are some of your favourite Paolo Girardi’s album covers, and could you single out any of them that left you under such a strong impression that you immediately knew your cooperation in the future would be inevitable?

Mathias Friborg: I really like the colours on Predator Reign by Degial. And the drawings he did for the new Burial and Biomorphic Engulfment records are amazing. There is another one that hasn’t been released yet, so I don’t know who it’s for. I could mention maybe twenty more covers he did which are all amazing. He is truly a talented artist.

Do you remember the guidelines you gave to Paolo before he started working on the cover for The Black Mouth Of Sepulchre, and did the final result of his efforts meet your expectations? To what extent does the final version of the artwork do justice to the image you had in your mind initially?

Mathias Friborg: If I remember correctly, I wrote Paolo and asked for an eerie, abominable, sulphur strewn, desolate, and depressive landscape, with a vortex sucking all life, colour, and happiness out of this world. Or as the title says, the black mouth of the grave. Basically, some kind of black grave or vortex hole stealing all life, with a bit of an ancient Egyptian atmosphere to it, like decaying mummies. In green, brown, and black colours. The final result was stunning. It was very different than what I had in mind before he started working on the painting, but I was blown away by how amazing it looked and how good it matched the whole theme and Sulphurous in general.

Do you feel that Dolorous Death Knell still holds up well, that it stood the test of time, even if it has been only three years since it came out? Is that susceptibility to making a lasting impact something you crave and think about when you write music?

Mathias Friborg: I haven’t listened to Dolorous Death Knell in a long while and have moved on, due to all the newer recordings I have done over the last few years. So that’s a hard question to answer. I really liked the songs I did for that album. And would have liked to have recorded them as I did on The Black Mouth Of Sepulchre. Then I am sure that the end product would have ended up even better than it did. I hope the new album will make an impact on people and hopefully it won’t be forgotten too fast because of the enormous amount of releases that pop up all the time. That said, I don’t intentionally think of that when creating music, no. It might affect the end result when recording, but not in the process of writing music.

The last time we spoke you said that Had had a more ghoulish and devilish feeling to it than your other bands. With that in mind, could you put into words what is the difference between a signature Sulphurous riff, Hyperdontia riff, Taphos riff, and, let’s say, Ascendency riff? Is it possible to describe each of those with one short sentence, the same way you did with Had?

Mathias Friborg: Hmmm, you caught me there, that’s a hard one. Sulphurous is more massive, complex, and all-consuming. This is where I spit forth all my inner demons. Hyperdontia is the technical beast, with mountainous layers of crushing savagery. Taphos is where I show the diabolical side of me. The ferocity and bloodthirsty darkness, that is Taphos. Ascendency is the more pompous and imperious somber chanting, with layers of spite.

Have you ever considered singing in Danish on a Sulphurous record? Do you think something like that could perhaps make the sound of the band even more authentic, given your fondness for the old Danish literature from the ominous times where evil forces thrived and took hold of all the weak and wicked, as you once nicely described it?

Mathias Friborg: No, I never wanted to sing in Danish on the Sulphurous stuff. I think that works better on some of my other projects. The Sulphurous world is centered around other stuff than Danish literature.

Sulphurous Interview

In our previous interview you said that you are a self-destructive person, that turns most stuff inward. Does that self-destructive impulse sometimes get so intense that you have a hard time dealing with it, and do you see making music as a fitting outlet in those situations?

Mathias Friborg: What I said in that interview seems pretty fucked up. But it’s actually not that bad (laughs). That being said, it’s a very good way to play a show and use this intensity to give it everything I got on a stage, instead of just playing a show. I hate seeing bands play where it’s so obvious that they would rather be any other place than on that stage. Like if the drummer was looking at his or hers watch, thinking it would be so nice to sit on my couch and watch a movie between every hit with his sticks. You follow me? I love playing music, and I love playing shows, and try to do my fucking best every time. So that’s probably where I spit forth those impulses.

What gets you down these days, what makes you feel sorry for yourself?

Mathias Friborg: Having a fucking concussion. Fuck that shit.

If music is the first, what is the second best way to handle anxiety and depression in your opinion? What should people that weren’t so fortunate and talented to be musicians do when things get tough?

Mathias Friborg: Do yoga or join a satanic club and sacrifice some white metal fanatics. Nah, I guess if you are so lucky as I am to have an amazing partner and some half decent kids, then that is what can save the day if you’re down.

Speaking of the amazing partner and half decent kids, do you find it hard to keep the balance between your music career and the responsibilities you have as a husband, father, and role model for your children?

Mathias Friborg: No, not at all. I have brought the kids to different kinds of shows ever since they were very small. They always enjoy going to shows and experiencing this environment. And at home, they don’t mind the music playing in the background, or that I play guitar every now and then. But of course, it’s difficult to go on tour for longer periods when having kids. That is probably the hardest part about touring and the reason why I don’t tour more often.

Are your children old enough to understand and tolerate your artistic eccentricity and the extremity and oddness of your music? How demanding it is for someone of their age to comprehend and appreciate those things?

Mathias Friborg: I think they are old enough, and don’t have a problem tolerating their dad being weird and very different than other parents, due to them being exposed to this extreme music environment. But of course, they sometimes ask questions about the oddity in the very obscure and evil artworks, etc. For example, they don’t like looking at my Cannibal Corpse Butchered At Birth t-shirt, and I still really don’t understand why (laughs). One thing they don’t understand at all is the growling and screaming vocals in death metal. They don’t understand it when they can’t hear what’s being sung.

What would be the most essential parenting advice when it comes to developing and shaping children’s taste in music?

Mathias Friborg: That’s a difficult one. I tried for years to inspire them into listening to rock-driven guitar based music, and they enjoy it. But that is a very difficult job, because they also have their own lives and friends in school who open other worlds for them music-wise. So, for now I lost all of them to mainstream pop and rap music. But didn’t we all have to go through bad music experiences when growing up? I’m not worried about it, because I know they will at some point find their own style and go their own way, and do what they think is best for them. So, to cut the long story short, it’s very difficult to indoctrinate your kids (laughs).

Proper parenthood implies unconditional love. Obviously, as a dedicated father, you must have love galore to share and show daily. On the other hand, in order to write proper death metal one needs to know how to channel the deepest despair, bitterness, anger, hate, frustration, and hostility without faking it, which is impossible unless one carries within all of those in abundance as well. That being said, how difficult is it to balance those two polar opposites of the emotional spectrum within yourself without going crazy? Is it utterly overwhelming to deal with so much love and hate at the same time?

Mathias Friborg: You’re right about unconditional love. It probably sounds like a ballade to people who don’t have children and haven’t experienced this. But it’s a very intense and overwhelming feeling to have for these small persons. That are most of the time very annoying (laughs). But still, the best thing that ever happened to me. It isn’t that difficult to balance those two opposite spectrums. As you say, there is an unconditional love for one’s children and that is boundless. I became very good at only channelling the darker side of myself towards creating the music I love to play, and that is very natural for me, fortunately.

 

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