Sorcerer are back with a brand new album entitled “Lamenting of the Innocent”! Grande Rock took the chance to chat with Kristian Niemann (guitars) and Anders Engberg (vocals) about the new album, the line-up changes, the songwriting and the old days among other interesting things. Read more below…
Sorcerer band pic
Hi Kristian and Anders… welcome to Grande Rock. First of all congrats on your new album “Lamenting of the Innocent”! It has been chosen as the “best Album of the Month” on Grande Rock!
K: Thanks so much, what an honor!
Do tell us… what has happened these 3 years between your previous album and the new one?
K: Not that much actually apart from changing two members. We did a bit of touring after the release of “Fire King”, though not as much as we’d hoped for, we played in the US for the first time, which was actually a biggie for us, a real highlight. Then we started writing “Lamenting of the Innocent” in January 2019, went into the studio in mid-July to record drums and when we got back from the US and ProgPower XX we started recording the rest of the instruments, the vocals, the guests etc. Mixing took place in January – Febuary 2020 and then the album dropped end of May 2020 which brings us pretty much up to date.
How did you approach the songwriting this time?
K: I wrote the way I’ve always done for this band; I create pretty elaborate demos of the music and then send them off to Anders and Conny, so they can add vocal melodies and lyrics. At that point the arrangements usually change – a prechorus can turn into a verse and the bridge might become the chorus. Anything goes as long as it improves the songs and inspires Anders to sing over it. We, or at least I, try not to shove too many ideas into the songs and I also tend to write like a pop/rock writer would write, meaning I like the idea of ”intro, verse, prechorus, chorus, repeat, bridge, solo, outro” etc. instead of ”Riff A, Riff B, Riff C, Riff D, Riff E, Riff F, Riff G”. I like traditional song structures as they are easier to grasp I guess.
What were the things that inspired you in general?
K: Personally I get inspired by hearing new music and I make a point of seeking out as much new cool shit I can before we start writing for an album. That way I will always have fresh stuff to draw from; new influences and new ideas. Listening to “Piece of Mind” or “Heaven and Hell” again for the 10,000th time, even though I absolutely love those albums, isn’t inspiring anymore, I need new music in my life.
And how did the addition of bassist Justin Biggs and drummer Richard Evensand occur? Richard had been in the band before, in the early 90s, right?
K: Yes. Our previous drummer quit just when we were about to record “The Crowning of the Fire King”, so Lars Sköld (Tiamat, Avatarium etc.) helped us out on that album but we needed a permanent drummer so I called Ricky. We’d been playing together in Therion and Demonoid before so I knew him very well and of course Anders and Johnny knew him from the old days of Sorcerer. Absolutely incredible drummer – he was the only name on my list. Luckily he wanted to rejoin the band and we are thrilled to have him back.
Around this time Johnny Hagel wanted to step down from touring duties and spend more time with his family (mind you, he is still very much involved in the songwriting and the business side of the band), so we went looking for a replacement. I knew Justin as his wife had been a part of the Therion choir when I was in that band. Great guy, very driven, really good player. He brings some different influences which can be heard on “Age of the Damned” and “Institoris”. Also he’s doing the growling parts in “The Hammer of Witches” and the title track. A great addition to the band.
How did the guest appearance by Johan Langquist (Candlemass) and renowned Swedish cellist Svante Henryson on “Deliverance” come about?
K: Anders had worked with Svante before in his other band Lions Share. Anders contacted Svante and he said yes directly and did a fantastic job on the song. Johan and Anders go way back and have known each other for over 30 years. Growing up and starting to sing, Anders played with Johan’s younger brother in the beginning of his career. Johan was a big influence from the start and a good friend.
What does the album title “Lamenting of the Innocent” declare and how it is (if it is) connected with the cover artwork, which is kinda “intense/sharp” in a way, but also great?
Anders: The title and title track is part of the concept of the album and relates to the suffering that so many innocent victims of this horrible period in time was inflicted, the inquisition. This concept/story is well represented by the cover art as you have the church/priest and the innocent girl who’s being accused of witchery and is sentenced to burn. The great Dusan Markovic did the artwork and totally nailed it.
Give us a hint about each track…
K: “Persecution (intro)”: Powerful intro that builds up to the hammer of witches…
“The Hammer of Witches”: This song is about the churchmen that are hunting witches to eradicate the threat against the catholic decree.
“Lamenting of the Innocent”: Mourning of the dead lost in the pyres the victims of the terror by the church…
“Institoris”: Heinrich Kramer wrote the book “The Witch Hammer/Malleum Maleficarum” out of anger being rejected by a woman he was in love with. True story…
“Where Spirits Die”: A woman on her final walk up to the gallows and the pyre, where she will meet her end…
“Deliverance”: A song that projects the longing for an end of the fires and to go back to the way things used to be…
“Age of the Damned”: Describes the terror of these times, “Age of the Damned”, the title says it all…
“Condemned”: A woman condemned to be executed on the stake, looking out from her damp dark dungeon…
“Dance with the Devil”: Are there witches that dance around fires to conjure the dark knight? Maybe…
“Path to Perdition”: The evil priest/inquisitor finally gets what he deserves and are dragged through the streets to his demise in the fires of hell…
“Hellfire”: Through the land fires are burning in towns throughout the country sides… Just like Hellfire!
You decided to produce the album yourself. How was the whole procedure? And how did you decide to work again with Ronnie Björnström (mixing and mastering) and Conny Welén (songwriting)?
K: We’ve done that on every album, so it’s not a big deal for us. We know exactly how the songs should sound and how they should be arranged so the only thing we need help with is capturing sounds and mixing/mastering. That’s where Ronnie comes in. He’s done all our albums since the restart in 2010 and we are super-happy with his work. Top guy, top engineer, top mixer.
Conny and Anders have been working together for decades now and he’s an integral part of the songwriting in Sorcerer. I can’t imagine working on a Sorcerer album without him. Both Ronnie and Conny are big parts of Sorcerers sound and I hope they will continue to be for a long time.
Do you have any plans for a tour or live shows or you’re waiting to see what will happen with the whole pandemic issue? What about live streaming shows at some point?
K: We have some touring plans but nothing solid right now, as we don’t know how the world will look next year. We’ll just have to play the waiting game like everybody else. Live stream, yes. That will happen this fall.
Do you believe that this is the best Sorcerer era since you began back in late 80s and why?
A: We are very happy about how Sorcerer sounds today, in the 80’s we were young and inexperienced, and today we are so much more prepared and handier in our craft. We are all better musicians than back then. We believe that the Sorcerer of today is how we want to sound but we will always progress and try to find new ways of expressing ourselves.
Why after you first two demo releases “Demo 89” and “The Inquisition” (1992), you disappeared from the scene as a band? Which were the main reasons that made you reform the band in 2010 again?
A: Sorcerer disbanded because of several reasons, one was that Johnny joined Tiamat, another was that I wanted to explore other musical paths. So, Sorcerer disappeared for two decades. In 2010 we were asked to do a reunion show at the Hammer of Doom festival in Wurzburg and we accepted but with a new line-up and this was the trigger to eventually do the first record “In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross”. Then we just kept on doing what we love, making music.
What are your expectations from the new album and what do you wish to achieve with Sorcerer over the next years?
K: We really hoped to get out there and do more touring in 2020, but Covid-19 put an effective end to those plans. We will hopefully restart the touring cycle in 2021 and make the best of it. I wish the new album could open a few more doors for us in terms of the gigs we get and the tours we could do. We want to grow in every way. The monetary rewards that could come from being a bigger band would be nice, let’s not deny that, but just getting out there and play to the fans who dig our music is all I care about right now… if you get into Doom Metal to make money you made a bad decision!
What do you think about this corona-virus thing? How will it affect the music business and people’s lives in general?
K: It’s a disaster of course, on every level. I know so many people in companies that provide PA, lights, production stuff, musicians, actors, dancers, makeup artists etc. that have lost their businesses over this Corona thing and the Swedish government are doing jack shit, ZERO, to help these people. They can bail out the big banks and corporations when they have problems but the working man/woman? Nope. Fucking @ssholes!
What’s your opinion about the live streaming and the virtual tours that bands started during the “lockdown”? Will they work in long term if need be or what?
K: I don’t think it’s a long-term solution. You can only do so many live streams before people lose interest. People want to watch bands live in the flesh and bands need to be out the playing and touring to make money to survive. I hope next year we’ll be somewhat back to normal but who knows?
A: We feel that it is necessary to be able to reach out to our fans in some way, the only way today is though streaming. We feel that it is not optimal but a way to promote our new album. We are working on doing a live stream full concert, but we have no date yet as of now.
People and the media mostly refer to you as an epic-doom metal band. What’s your opinion on that music term and how would you describe your band’s music in general?
K: It’s fine by me. It’s definitely the band’s roots, but I think our sound is a bit more diverse these days. But hey, if people need categories and labels then Epic Doom is fine. If someone asks me I just say we’re a metal band.
It’s time for our “weird questions”!!! Are “social media” a “compulsory part” of music biz these days or bands, artists & labels can do without them as well?
K: Hell yes, very important. It’s how you reach out and interact with your fans these days. You can’t ignore it no matter your opinion on the matter. We are not the best at this so we need to step up our game and create more content for Youtube for instance. Speaking of which, please subscribe to our channel Sorcerer TV. We have some cool stuff on there and more will come, I promise!
What do you think about the “streaming issue” of our era? Do you prefer the streaming services better or not?
K: Streaming is great when you want to find new music but bad when you want to get paid as a musician. It’s a double-edged sword no doubt. The payment artists get from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music is a fucking joke. It’s an insult really. Lars Ulrich was absolutely right when he went after Napster because he saw where this shit was going. Nowadays everybody expects music/art to be free. I dunno how we could turn this around to be honest, but there is no doubt the quality of music will suffer in the long run from it.
Is there a particular book you can’t recommend enough?
K: I’m not a big book reader tbh. I wish I had the time to read more but I don’t. When I have a little time off I’d rather watch a horror or sci-fi movie, that’s where my interest lies.
Top 3 “Action / Adventure” movies of all time?
K: In no particular order: HEAT, First Blood and Aliens.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words:
K: Rockstar: David Lee Roth!
Heavy Metal: Iron Maiden!
Eurovision: Pure fucking shit!
Music Realities: Dunno what that is...?!
Fill in the phrase… “Doom Metal wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
K: Candlemass. They took the Sabbath sound and ran with it creating a genre that is alive and kicking even today with bands as diverse as Avatarium, Atlantean Kodex, Below, Isole, WHW, Solitude Aeturnus, Krux and Crypt Sermon. That’s not even touching on the many subgenres of doom (Stoner, Sludge, Funeral etc.).
Which are the best 3 Doom Metal albums of all time according to you?
K: Candlemass – “Nightfall”, Krux – “II”, Avatarium –”S/T”. Yes, Leif Edling is the Doom God!
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
K: Iron Maiden – “Powerslave/Somewhere in Time”-era. No doubt whatsoever! I even had a dream about this, which I was in Maiden. Best dream ever!
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in metal history?
K: Ronnie James Dio and although she’s not a metal singer per se, Ann Wilson (Heart) still kicks everybody’s ass.
Which is the composer/songwriter who influenced metal music the most?
K: No surprises here: Tony Iommi first, Metallica second. Without Sabbath there’d be no metal. Iommi created the sound we all love today, there’s no one else even close. Maybe Blackmore/DP but I dunno...The second huge thing would then be Metallica. The number of bands active today who in one way or another were inspired by Metallica is immeasurable. Hetfield & Co are the reason I play music too.
If you had the opportunity to invite any musician, living or dead, to play on your album whom would you choose and why?
K: That’s difficult. Probably Johann Sebastian Bach or John Lennon. Either way that’d raise a few eyebrows and sell a ton of records!
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
K: I’d go 5000 years into the future! Beam me up Scotty!
That’s all for now guys. Thank you very much for talking to Grande Rock. Wish you the best for the future to come. Take care!
K: Thank you so much for having us, it was a pleasure. All the best!