The Legion – David Svartz (guitars) and Lars Martinsson (vocals)

Joining SMN News today, we have Swedish extreme black metallers THE LEGION!!  Check it out now, as David Svartz (guitars) and Lars Martinsson (vocals) give us some in-depth details of their latest Listenable Records release, A Bliss To Suffer, and much more.  From their song writing process, tour plans, possible plans for a music video (please make it “Shining Redemption”, *crosses fingers*), and the dream festival Lars has created in a hidden away forest in Transylvania, these guys are the real deal, and are going to continue to get stronger, and stronger, and stronger.  And attention promoters, let’s help get these guys to the US.  I mean, something with this much blasphemous genius needs to be heard by the masses!  Just witness their power, for THE LEGION will convert you within first listen.  Much respect!!

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I absolutely love the song, “Shining Redemption”!!  Right away within the first listen it gave me the chills, as does the rest of A Bliss To Suffer.  It’s true blasphemous genius!!  Creating such a beast like that from start to finish, you guys must be really proud, huh?

David Svartz (guitars): Thanks, and yes, of course we’re proud. We wanted the music to be a bit more dynamic and varied this time and I think we succeeded quite well. The material is a bit more epic I guess and there’s less grind/blast beats, but the intensity is still there for sure. We’ve focused more on getting the right feel, if you know what I mean, instead of getting entangled in technical twists.

With the raw and energetic power and strength of THE LEGION’s metal, how does it feel seeing the crowd give that same energy back when playing live?  A job well done?

Lars Martinsson (vocals): You could say that, or rather the attitude is more often “don’t just stand there, do something!”, since the tendency is you do not get that same energetic feedback from the crowd that you think you deserve. Most bands agree that western European crowds are pretty lame.  I guess the situation is different in the States. Then again, what do you prefer? People who appreciate what you are doing on a personal, reflective level with arms crossed or unmanageable kids who mosh about, without the slightest care which band they are enjoying this particular weekend night?

Another great thing about your extreme style of black metal is that THE LEGION incorporates some shredding guitar solos.  That is something that isn’t heard as much in black metal, but of course, it sure follows the heavy metal law!  It’s awesome, and showcases even more of the band’s talent.  Are there any particular influences in your mind that help create that extra drive?

David: I wouldn’t call them shredding guitar solos, but sure, there are a few solos here and there and this is something that we really haven’t used a lot of before. It’s true what you say; traditional black metal hasn’t exactly been famous for using guitar solos, and to be honest, we’ve also been quite restrictive to the idea of incorporating such stuff. Much is due to the risk of sounding cheesy. But, we’ve strived to be more open-minded in some aspects, and not be limited by certain norms.

Lars: Heavy metal is indeed the law, which I guess comes across in those solos and in some other inclusions on the album as well. You have to have that heavy metal feeling going at least from time to time, mind you we are definitely black/death METAL if anything. I myself appreciate this development, since it resembles the situation in the 80s when metal bands had great guitar players above all, and not the 90s tendency, with splendid drummers and mediocre guitarists.

Creating the black metal you guys do, how do you look upon the current black metal scene?  Losing some of its roots, or creating a huge doorway for many other heavy bands that one might not listen to?

Lars: I guess what we see at the close of the first decade of the 21st century is that black metal is increasingly absorbed up in completely other music subcultures than metal only: we have i.e. Wolves In The Throne Room associating with ecology/leftwing politics/punk, a band like Xasthur releasing albums on Hydra Head which indirectly associates that band with all sorts of subcultures, a band like Twilight taking in Aaron Turner of Isis and somewhat reevaluating both his position as a musician and their relationship to anything he is associated with. Nothing could be more hip two years ago than puking at a Watain concert, punks dress up in Craft t-shirts and Darkthrone start playing crust… I see the resolve of the puritanical black metal environment as a good thing, and loath the thought of the situation fifteen years ago when black metal only took inspiration from black metal and the perspective was as narrow as a duck’s asshole – it was completely oppressive.

The symphonic parts throughout A Bliss To Suffer truly stun the listener, and really add another dimension to THE LEGION’s music.  In the songwriting process, how do you guys work off of each other to create the beast at full force?

David: We’ve always used atmospheric elements and orchestrations in our music to some extent, but we don’t work like many other bands do today, you know, adding some simple guitar strokes to a pompous orchestral part just to make it sound heavier. We always compose the songs with the guitar. When we feel that a certain part needs to sound “bigger” we add some orchestration so it’s more like a background to complete the whole thing.

We are dying to know.  Does THE LEGION have any plans for a music video or some kind of live footage for any of the songs on A Bliss To Suffer?

Lars: I guess we had grander plans about music videos five years ago, yet nothing happened, so it seems to be farther away now than ever. Let’s see what happens on the live department in the close future, it would probably be a good idea to collect your own footage and assemble it with some sort of aesthetic awareness than relying solely on fan material on YouTube.

The artwork on A Bliss To Suffer is beautiful!  It really sticks out, and helps show the pure darkness of the release.  Care to give any promotion for the artwork, and any concepts you guys had behind what you wanted the album artwork to look like?

David: It’s important to us that the artwork goes well together with the music. It should somehow visualize the feeling you get from listening to our songs. The artwork was made by a guy called Kris Wervimp. This is the third time we’ve collaborated with him and I think that he nailed it once again. We are really satisfied with his accomplishment. I want people to be able to recognize our albums, just by looking at the cover art, you know.  Not in an “Iron Maiden kind of way”, but still with some unity to the art.

Does THE LEGION have any plans to tour in the future?  I know the US would love to see the unholy black metal force in action.

Lars: We have plans for live performances in the near future, sorry to say nothing is planned for the US as of now. We would definitely love to come, though.  Any promoter interested should get in touch!

With A Bliss To Suffer out already in Europe, and for the album to be released early August in the US, how have the responses been from Europe so far?  Also, are you guys stoked for the US’s responses?

Lars: Responses have been pretty good, the least excitable responses come from Sweden actually, which is not that strange, since it is a country immensely anxious about trends, and bombastic, well produced metal with black metal overtones is so totally out this season, I guess. We don’t mind, but wait eagerly to hear what people overseas have to say about it! It feels far more important to us. On a more cynical note, the American market is a huge one (California alone having four times more inhabitants than the whole of Sweden), so if you “make it” there, you are a busy musician basically until you’re tired of it yourself. We confidently look forward to launching the album in the US.

A Bliss To Suffer closes on the song, “The Reaping Of Flesh And Blood” and really ends the CD on such a strong moment!  It’s such a well put together CD, but we also want more!  Does THE LEGION already have some ideas on any future material?

Lars: I agree with you on that, it is a kick ass song – the album’s best one in my opinion. We always spend some time and thought on the actual sequence of songs.  It is not unimportant and if you have a look at some really great records, because you will probably find it is not haphazard at all. A good ordering will not make up for crappy songs, but great songs can actually lose some by being put together in a bad way.  I actually got an email last week from one of the band members and he was extremely enthusiastic about a new concept of lyrics, and as long as we are not about to get into spoken word performances, I guess it means we have some new shit coming up.

Are there any particular songs out of THE LEGION’s discography that you especially like to play live?

David: I think “Retribution” from the first album is a great opener and its fun to play. From the “Revocation-album” I love the song “Nocturnal Apparition”. In a way it sums up what The Legion is all about; a perfect display of severe brutality carefully blended with majestic progressions opening the paths to your inner darkness! Muahaha!

Lars: I have not played live with the band for five years but when I did I liked “On Swift Wings” and “Rise of the Fallen”, both off our first album, very much, because of their grand and very emotional climaxes. It was always a great feeling of statement to play those songs to an audience, a very strong sensation of using yourself to an utterly important cause at that given time.

Here’s a fun and tricky question.  If you were to organize a dream tour, who would be on it?  Feel free to name a full scale festival if you wish.

Lars: Ha! I would have myself a festival in some hidden away forest in the middle of Transylvania, no bus transports, there should be shuttle hearses running from the village to the venue. The Legion could open up at three o’clock in the afternoon, and after we played, I could get plastered watching a drum-and-bass version of 1990 era Mayhem performing with two open caskets on stage, then Morbosidad and Bestial Warlust covering each other’s songs as pause entertainment, before everyone in the crowd is supplied with free LSD and the night is rounded off with Wolves In The Throne Room playing their entire discography in sequence. Then there would be Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” read aloud around the campfire and wolf petting until everyone is sane and sober and fast asleep.

David: More LSD Lars?

THE LEGION began in 1999 with a strong musical direction.  Now it’s 2009!  How does it feel spreading your message to the true metalheads and beyond for now 10 years?

Lars: It feels great, even though I would suggest we are actually not spreading a certain message but are rather happy spreading our artistic expression to audiences across the world. That we, having some major impulses from the black metal movement, should be around for the reason of proclaiming some sort of ideological agenda is a misunderstanding, I am afraid. Moreover, we would hope that we do not only come through to true metalheads, but may actually be relevant to people outside of that crowd as well. Apart from that: it feels great!

What music has been playing in your CD player lately for your listening pleasure?

David: Anaal Nathrakh!! I absolutely love the band. To me they’re still doing something original. If I’m not listening to extreme metal I sometimes enjoy a good film score. Composers like Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer or James Horner really appeal to me

Lars: This morning I listened to Conqueror’s “War Cult Supremacy” as I was showering away yesterday’s hangover, apart from that there has been a lot of Nick Cave lately (as always). The latest new discovery I really got fond of was Den Saakaldte from Norway, sounds a bit like Obtained Enslavement or something really melodic yet dark, dark, dark. I actually listened to a lot of power ballads from the late 80’s/early 90’s lately, i.e. Damn Yankees. Cheesy, but absolutely enchanting.

I see the unholy black metal force of THE LEGION is ever evolving!  You guys have a ton of potential, and have really used it to its best so far.  After each release, you guys have found ways to keep getting better and better, and now with A Bliss To Suffer, THE LEGION is stronger than ever!!  Looking ahead how does the future look for THE LEGION?

Lars: The way I see it the main objective for the time being is to get on the road and prove ourselves to crowds in Europe. There has been a lot of studio activity for a couple of years now, it is time we get on our feet and fucking do something about ourselves. We hope to come to the US but it is a long way to go – support us and it may come true. We sure would love to come! We will start rehearsing full-band this summer for whatever may come our way in terms of live performances; we are all ready to go.

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Label: Listenable Records
Website: http://www.myspace.com/legionsweden

Written by: Alex Gilbert


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