New Blood: Dead Soul
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A musical marriage between vocalist/guitarist Anders Landelius and producer Niels Nielsen, Swedish duo Dead Soul have successfully blended the beauty of the blues with the harsh, unrepentant racket brought forth from industrial metal, covering way more ground than the previous statement implies. Imagine Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode, Wovenhand, Swans and a host of other miscreants having a bubble-bath with Bruce Springsteen. That's not even close to what Dead Soul achieve.
“We've never heard of a lot of the bands we're compared to!” says Nielsen. “The Nine Inch Nails reference is a good one, and also stuff like Depeche Mode and heavier bands. Everyone keeps bringing up Fields Of The Nephilim and I still have no idea what they sound like! We're compared to The Doors sometimes, but I'm sure that's only because I used an organ on one track! I've never heard The Sisters Of Mercy.”
“Never heard them! But when I was growing up, I loved Pink Floyd and Rush; I love German techno music and The Prodigy, too.”
“The first time I bought a Nine Inch Nails record was when someone said we sounded like them, so I had to check them out,” continues Landelius. “I've been living in the blues world, listening to Delta blues from the thirties and forties, so I've not really been interested in contemporary music for the past 25 years! But Iggy & The Stooges and other bands from the late 60s and early 70s, all they really had for inspiration was the blues.”
The net of influence is flung far but its haul is hefty. This band's been knocking about, in one form or another, since 2007. Landelius' day job, blues project Slidin' Slim, collaborated with Nielsen on the suitably-titled One Man Riot album; Landelius' skewered acoustic ditties were perverted by Nielsen's electronic loops and samples, making for refreshingly weird listening.
Nielsen's hectic work schedule had him producing bands and even becoming Ghost's tour manager, while Landelius continued to graft his way upwards in the blues world. One Man Riot had tickled both men's respective pickles, but recording and writing was sporadic.
“We just did singles and worked on stuff in my studio, which was in my apartment,” explains Nielsen. “When we had a few songs, we were both a little bored with how it sounded; we thought we'd just spice it up and see what happened. Push it further. I have a tendency to push things a little too far with production – just to see Anders' reaction! We broke as many rules as possible. We were mixing blues with the electronic stuff, then we put metal guitars and synths and shit on top of it, and we thought everyone would hate it! I think the milestone was when I tried to destroy one of the songs. My father said, 'This is actually pretty cool! You have the blues thing going on already, but this is something different.' And that became our first song, They Will Pay. It was a happy accident.”
This happy accident was sent to one Anders Fridén: vocalist of In Flames and owner of Razzia Notes Records. Debut album In The Darkness was released through Razzia Notes in 2013, but Dead Soul's imminent opus, The Sheltering Sky, is a different beast.
“We wrote our first song in 2008 and the record wasn't released until 2013, so we had a lot of time writing and exploring together,” says Landelius. “When we started recording the second album, we had a much clearer idea about what Dead Soul was, what we wanted to do and how we could develop what we'd done with the first album.”
“On Hounds Of Hell from the first album, we use a vocoder – like Daft Punk,” elaborates Nielsen. “I actually stole that from a Kanye West song. When we were deciding the tracklisting, I said we had to have Hounds Of Hell first. That's the biggest no-no in rock music, to have a vocoder going on. If people don't like that, they can just turn it off. But if they do like it, then they'll buy anything! I don't want to make music that's already been made. If you don't like, it, then too bad for you.”
While the stylistic juxtaposition has triumphed on tape, Landelius remained sceptical during The Shattering Sky's recording sessions. And rightly so. Massive choruses, haunting acoustic passages and blasts of industrial heaviness teetering on the edge of noise rock don't really sound like the chummiest of buds in theory.
“Most of the time, we record a song in the studio and I have an idea about how it will turn out,” says Landelius. “Then maybe five hours later, I get an email from Niels with a version of the song; he'll have gone bananas with all the electronic stuff and my initial reaction, nine times out of ten, is, 'What the fuck has he done to this song?!' Then I listen to it a few more times and I'm like, 'Nah, this is fucking great.' I love working with Niels because it's always a surprise for me – even if we write the songs together.
“Niels does a lot of the production on his own, too,” he goes on. “Sometimes I have a differing opinion about something, but most of the time he's right anyway!”
“I'm the guy with gear, so I have the final say,” chirps up Nielsen. “I can change it all before it gets sent over for mastering!”
“And I know nothing about tech stuff...” says Landelius, hanging his head in mock shame.
Dead Soul is very much two men in sync with one another, both on a personal and musical level. Nielsen dubs their cacophonous concoction “electronic doom blues”, and that's probably the best summary you'll hear. The Sheltering Sky is a sprawling, ambitious slice of musical madness; the inaccessible industrial thud climaxing through Until The Last Breath, the delicacy of Dirt Road and the trance-like droning of Home By The Sea are but titbits of brilliance from Dead Soul's second LP. As Dead Soul warm up for a six-week European tour with Ghost, the duo are very much aware of their individuality within the music world.
“There's something that happens when a guy like me works with someone who has all the skills Niels has,” concludes Landelius. “We're not part of a specific scene or anything. That might make things a bit more complicated for us, but at the same time I'm convinced it will make us last longer as a band.”
The Sheltering Sky is out now. For more information, visit their official Facebook page.