We interviewed The Crown about Cobra Speed Venom!
The Royal Five return, and we have questions.
This coming March will see Sweden’s death thrashers The Crown release their ninth studio album, Cobra Speed Venom. Fondly do I remember the days of metal videos on television, which was where I first heard “Face of Destruction” some time around 2003 and was promptly blown away. The band’s career has certainly had some ups and downs since then, but such is to be expected with a history spanning nigh-on 30 years. From what I’ve heard of Cobra Speed Venom so far, it looks like this will be one of the ups. I was therefore psyched about the opportunity to shoot them an email with questions about the new record, how it relates to previous outings, what shooting in a foundry is like, and the latest lineup changes. Bassist Magnus Olsfelt was kind enough to provide details on all of this, except one thing…
Hi! Thanks for taking the time to do this. How are you, and what (if anything) are you drinking?
Hello! I’m doing just fine, just had a cup of coffee, thank you.
It’s been three years since your last record, Death Is Not Dead. How much of that time did you spend writing the new record? Were you able to use material that didn’t make it onto the last one or did you start from scratch? Are all members involved equally in coming up with new material?
Yeah, I guess as a band member you are always in a way in the process of writing new material, just with varying intensity. We did more or less start from scratch, but there are always some ideas or riffs here and there that have been with you for a longer time. We have four people actually writing material on this album, and the whole band is involved in the rehearsals, where everyone brings their style to the table. So everyone is involved.
The new album’s title, Cobra Speed Venom, reminds me of the Deathrace King/Possessed 13 era of the band. It just sounds like the kind of stuff you guys would come up with back then, and I’m quite happy about that. The same goes for the first single, “Iron Crown”, which kicks ass pretty hard. Would you say that the album goes back to those times stylistically?
Yeah, that title actually goes back to that era of Hell is Here/Deathrace King, so you are right! “Iron Crown” has some punk influences, like Anti-Cimex. Maybe it goes back a bit to the Hell Is Here era, which also had some punk influences in parts. But it is not really nostalgic. We just play the music we want to hear!
Speaking of those albums, Possessed 13 seemed to take a lot of cues from old school horror movies, particularly with its design. Looking at the tracklist of Cobra Speed Venom, some song titles would not look out of place on old movie posters. Are horror movies generally a source of inspiration for you guys?
I see what you mean, and I do really love that kind of horror aesthetic. But I cannot say that I am a movie freak or something. I think that song titles are important. Even more important than the actual lyrics, in a way… So I always try to go for strong, hard-hitting titles.
The video for “Iron Crown” seems to have been shot in a foundry. What was that like? Was it hard to get permission for that? Would you mind talking about the imagery of the child receiving the titular iron crown or would you prefer viewers to make up their own minds?
Yep, its an old metal foundry from 1875 or something. Marko [Tervonen, guitarist – ed. note] knew a Guy who has been working there for about 25 years or so, and he let us in and took care of the safety issues that came with the location. Sometimes we had to wear helmets. It was a brutal place, lots of fire, extreme heat, molten metal, etc. They also used shotguns to break the moulds in order to let the molten Metal out! Pretty awesome!
The image of the Child and the Iron Crown is up to interpretation. A legacy, or a curse?
How did the album cover come about? Are the gnarly faces in the wave a nod to the old classic, Altars of Madness?
Yeah, Altars of Madness was of course an inspiration. But I got the idea watching the ocean in Italy a couple of years ago. I just had this image in my head of a wave breaking with all sorts of skulls and demons in the foam. I have been in contact with the artist who made the cover, Christian Sloan Hall, since 2000. I am a fan of his art and he is a fan of The Crown, but for some reason, we had never worked together before. He really made the idea into reality. He put in 2 months of work, almost going crazy with the level of detail. His goal was to make album art that you can watch for hours while listening to the music, finding new stuff all the time. I think the result is amazing. Like a mix between Altars of Madness and Master of Puppets, with the colouring and the sundown.
What was the recording process like? Did you face any particular difficulties?
We decided to do it straightforward. We had the drums and amps mic’d up and then we recorded it. Real playing, real instruments. No cheating. So it went pretty fast, and we had fun. No real difficulties. Smooth operation!
Aside from handling guitars, Marko also filled in on the drums for the last record. You’ve since added drummer Henrik Axelsson to the lineup. Was it a big difference having a dedicated drummer again instead of one member doing double duty? How did you find Henrik? Did adopting him as a permanent member bring in new ideas or influences, seeing as he also played/plays in other bands?
Yeah, Henrik is a beast of a drummer! Brutal style of playing. Of course it is a big difference to have a proper drummer again. Marko had a studio a couple of years ago where Henriks band Implode had done recordings, so Marko knew that Henrik was a great drummer and also a really cool and funny guy. He fits great into our band and his work with other bands has not been a problem. He is a permanent and important member.
Same question regarding Robin (Sörqvist, guitarist; also of Impious, Afterbürner, and Power Supreme), the second-newest member – did he have an influence on how Death Is Not Dead and Cobra Speed Venom turned out?
Yeah, listen to the guitar solos on this album. Really, really great lead stuff! He has also written the music and lyrics for two songs, “World War Machine” and “Rise In Blood.” They turned out awesome. He is very good at finding out harmonics and squeals, and those small but important guitar details in the songs that make the music come to life. He is also doing backing vocals. And he’s just an overall heroic guy, so of course he has been a huge contribution to the band.
The last album had guest appearances from singers Tomas (“Tompa” Lindberg) and Jonas (Stålhammar; both currently in At The Gates, and both previously singers in The Crown). Is there anything similar on the new record? Did you have any guests in the studio?
Well, no one famous. No celebrities to get us some extra attention. We had a guy playing strings (cello and violin) and a guy doing some synthezisers. That was just to add those little effects in the sound that make it deeper and more interesting to listen to. It’s worked to great effect, I believe.
Sweden is a prestigious country in terms of metal history. Were there particular influences that made you want to play the style you play? Are there perhaps any underappreciated bands – either from back when you started out in the early 90s or from today – that you would like to shine a light on? Are you up to speed with today’s scene or more of a fan of the classics?
Yeah, there was one local band that is really unknown called Valcyrie whom I really loved, particularly their 1989 demo, The Emperor. They were a huge influence on me since they were also from Trollhättan and made me realize that you could actually start a band like that. We did pay some tribute to them by recording a cover of one of their songs, “Die Before Dying“, for the Doomsday King bonus tracks.
I am first and foremost a fan of the classic Swedish bands like Bathory, Entombed, Merciless, Dissection, and At the Gates. The best new Swedish albums I’ve heard would be List by Martyrdöd and Frontschwein by Marduk.
What does your schedule look like now that the album is done? I’ve seen a couple of gigs announced on the Facebook page – will there be a tour coming up?
I don’t really know. Let’s unleash this baby beast of an album upon mankind and we’ll see what happens…
Thank you again for your time. The final words are yours in case you want to throw anything out there. Toilet-related anecdotes are welcome, of course.
Thanks for the interview and your support! Check out Cobra Speed Venom when it is released 16th of March!
Toilet-related anecdotes? Piss and shit… are you into that? No, my mind is revolting… ?
Aww, I was kinda hoping for some funny stories about pooping on tour or something. Oh well. This was fun anyway.
You can pre-order Cobra Speed Venom directly from Metal Blade if you’re in the US, or from EMP mailorder if you’re in Europe. Check the band’s Facebook for further news – hopefully about tour dates – or be all olden times and go to their website.