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ISOLE – When All Is Black
Anthony Morgan
January 2012

Isole (l-r): Henrik Lindenmo, Crister Olsson, Daniel Bryntse and Jonas Lindström

Cut at the group’s own Apocalypse Studio, Born From Shadows – the fifth studio full-length from Swedish doom metal outfit Isole – was recorded once for pre-production purposes, listened to for several months, and subsequently recorded again. Discussions were made about pre-recording fourth album Silent Ruins, but there wasn’t enough time to do so due to a deadline. However, Born From Shadows wasn’t marred by any deadlines. “A lot of ideas came really early for Born From Shadows,” reveals Crister Olsson, guitarist, backing vocalist, and co-founder of Isole. “We had all the time in the world, so we took our time with the album. That isn’t usual for us, but it felt good. The results were really good in my opinion, and we got the vocals better because it’s easier when you have the songs and the lyrics ready. We recorded the album ourselves again, and this is the fourth album in a row that we recorded ourselves. It was convenient to do it ourselves, but I think it could be a good thing to get into another studio next time.

“It’s mostly financial issues I guess; we are playing true metal, and spending a lot of money out. We do a decent sound which is actually a kind of good sound, a sound which would cost a lot of money to get from a professional. To look for the sound you want you’d have to go to a really expensive studio, but to get the sound that we want we record and mix for free at my home studio. We’re only playing with our own spare time. We want to record with Jens Bogren whose sound we really like, but that would cost tens of thousands of Euros. It’s a big difference; even though that might not seem like a lot of money, the band hasn’t got that kind of money. I don’t think we’ll spend a lot more out trying to get the perfect sound. We’ll still play the same music, we’ll still play metal. We get better all the time, and every album is sounding better and better every time. We bought some new microphones and we’re buying new stuff for the studio all the time, so it’s getting better.”

Jens Bogren (Katatonia / Enslaved) mastered Born From Shadows. “I really like the sound that Jens Bogren achieves, like with Opeth for example,” the axeman enthuses. “It’s a really good sound overall; a really good guitar sound, and also a really good drum sound as well. We’ve always produced ourselves, but it’s hard because we’re not professionals in terms of sound (laughs).”

A slightly bigger gap took place between the respective issues of Silent Ruins and Born From Shadows, Isole performing more live shows. “If you compare when we released Bliss Of Solitude to when we released Silent Ruins, there was only a gap of 13 months and after Silent Ruins we did a lot of shows,” Crister notes. “We focused more on live things, and that’s why we choose to play music I guess. Being on the stage is the fun part (laughs), but you have to release an album once in awhile. Two years is good; I think we released albums too frequently in the beginning, so I think we will wait for up to two years with the next album as well. It’s good to have space.”

The membership status of bassist and co-founder Henrik Lindenmo seems to be cloudy. “Henrik is kind of a passive member of Isole,” the co-founder surmises. “He will not share the stage with us anymore, but he wants to continue writing lyrics. He wants to continue to play, but he doesn’t want to play live shows. We will have another bassist; he’s called Jimmy Mattsson from Loch Vostok, another Swedish band. He lives in the same city, and he plays in local, lesser known bands. We don’t live in a really big city; all the hard rock musicians know each other, and he’s a really good bassist. We’re trying him out, and he’ll travel across Europe and do some live shows with us during 2012. Only time will tell – it’s too early to say. We’ve been really honest with him and said that Henrik is still in the band, but we need someone to play live with us. I can’t really say if he’s a proper member of Isole, actually. I don’t know. He’s been at two rehearsals, so he’s really new. It’s very hard to say. We’ll see what happens in the future, and how we work together. We know he’s a nice guy, but he hasn’t been onstage with us before and hasn’t been on a long trip with us, so we don’t really know how we’ll work together. He likes to go out and play though, so it’s a good arrangement for the both of us.”

Queried as to why Henrik cannot perform at live shows, Crister diplomatically responds “You’ll have to ask Henrik. He doesn’t want people knowing, but this isn’t anything between us and him. There’s no hard feelings; we’re friends and he’s still working with us, but he doesn’t want to do live shows anymore.”

Isole (l-r): Jonas Lindström, Crister Olsson, Henrik Lindenmo and Daniel Bryntse

Whether Henrik is still a studio member of Isole is an uncertainty. “I don’t know,” the backing vocalist admits. “It’s too early to say. He was with us recording Born From Shadows, but I can’t really say for the next album which’ll be released in two years from now or something like that. It’s really hard to say. He didn’t play with us last year for live appearances either, but just for the recording of the album. We used another bassist last year – Kristofer (Elemyr of Undivine) was his name.”

Title cut ‘Born From Shadows’ continues a story which began on March 2005 debut Forevermore (I Hate) courtesy of the composition ‘Moonstone’, and resurfaced through ‘Shadowstone’ on third album Bliss Of Solitude (January 2008, Napalm Records). “‘Moonstone’ wasn’t meant to be a trilogy from the start,” Crister stresses. “‘Moonstone’ was an individual song back then; it was actually written in 1993, and I released it on demo tape (Waves Of Sorrow, recorded as Forlorn) in 1994. That’s a fantasy story written back which was inspired by an old computer game from the 80s. Daniel (Bryntse, vocals) wrote the lyrics for ‘Moonstone’ and then a decade later Henrik wanted to continue the story in some way, so he wrote the opposite. ‘Moonstone’ is this power of God and life, so Henrik wrote ‘Shadowstone’ which is about different forces. The opposite was ‘Shadowstone’, and that was inspired by a series of books written by a Russian author called Nick Perumov. In the books I think it’s two swords that are the opposite though. It wasn’t meant to be a trilogy back on Bliss Of Solitude either, but when we were out touring the Silent Ruins album with long nights in the van Henrik started to talk about maybe doing something about this, and writing a conclusion where the two stones came together. He started thinking about it and wrote a continuation where the end of the world will come and the two great opposites will collide, so it’s kind of a fantasy story. The first part is Daniel and the two last parts are Henrik, so it’s hard for me to say what happened in their heads. It’s not a concept album, Born From Shadows – it’s just the title track. If I were to mention something about the album cover, to have the moon with the stone was meant to reflect the trilogy. They come together, and in the middle there’s the face of death. Death comes when the stones unite. The seven symbols surround it, and symbolise the seven tracks on the album.”

Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes (Arch Enemy / Firewind / God Forbid / Manowar) designed the cover artwork for Born From Shadows. “I’ve worked with Gustavo before, and we discussed the concept together,” the guitarist shares. “He did the Silent Ruins cover artwork as well, and we just shared our ideas. We thought of the album cover concept together, but he’s the one making the covers because I don’t have the skills myself. We had a close co-operation because I wanted to be in charge in some way (laughs). I’m kind of a control freak.”

Of the album’s tracks, Crister penned lyrics for ‘The Lake’, ‘My Angel’, and ‘Condemned’. “‘The Lake’ is actually my autobiography; it’s my life, it’s very personal, and to me it means a lot,” he confesses. “It’s simply the story of my life so far; it’s about my past, where I came from, and my fears and my feelings. The lake is from my youth. I also often write lyrics in such a way. It’s very easy to comprehend everything I mean in that song, but if anyone else reads the lyrics they can get their own stories out of it. ‘My Angel’ is actually about my first born, so I wrote a song about them being an angel. It’s personal as well, and was a special turning point in my life. On the other hand, ‘Condemned’ is inspired by a movie I watched called The Stoning Of Soraya M. (2008). It’s a movie where a girl is accused of cheating on her husband in the Middle East, but she didn’t. The woman was just stoned to death. There are such situations for women, even today.”

Fatherhood has inevitably changed the axeman’s life perspective. “I’m a parent, and it’s a kind of salvation I guess,” he chuckles. “In many ways it’s cleansing, and my priorities are no longer the same. My family comes first. You experience a love that you can’t really imagine by becoming a parent, so it’s a huge thing in life.”

Crister Olsson

Lead vocalist Daniel Bryntse authored the lyrics to ‘When All Is Black’.” “‘When All Is Black’ is just shorter, and is actually an old song,” Crister clarifies. “Daniel doesn’t write lyrics anymore, and it’s been a long time since he wrote lyrics. We used this old song because we thought it was a really fitting end, kind of a black hole at the end of the album.”

The possibility of re-recording old tunes in the future is seemingly remote. “The whole of the first album is made up of songs from the 90s,” the co-founder muses. “We used one or two songs on every album since then, but I didn’t think we would use any old songs on Born From Shadows. This song really fitted though, and that’s why we chose to re-record it. I believe in writing new material; we’re more mature as composers and songwriters now. The new songs are better, in my opinion.”

A darker tone is prevalent on Born From Shadows. “It’s darker, and more death metal and black metal,” Crister feels. “We hadn’t used any black metal before, but all of us listen to black metal these days. It’s not something new for us to listen to, but it’s new for Isole maybe. Just a small part in the title track there’s black metal chords, but maybe there’ll be more in the future. I don’t know. It’s hard to say, but I think we are going into harsher areas. It feels like that right now, but it’s really hard to say. I like aggressive and psychedelic music myself. I think we get a good balance; Daniel is maybe dragging us into death metal areas a bit, and Jonas into black metal maybe. I try to keep the progressive parts. We veer the band in different directions, and that maybe makes us sound the way we do. We continue on the path that we started with on Silent Ruins with the more progressive parts, and it was a chance to further develop that. I think it’s more varied, but darker. There was some light at the end of the tunnel on Silent Ruins, but Born From Shadows is dark. I like dark, melancholic melodies. They actually make me feel good. It’s strange (laughs). I think they’re beautiful.”

Previous album Silent Ruins featured an as yet unfinished tale. “The first part is about a man who wakes up in a cold, lonely, dark place with no memories at all, and throughout the album his memory is coming back more and more,” the backing vocalist recalls. “He’s in a totally desolate place, and wants to find anyone who’s living. It’s like you see in a lot of movies; he’s alone, the last man standing. Everyone is gone. What has happened, and who is he? Jesus? We’re hoping to do the second part – there’s supposed to be two albums to this story. It could’ve been our fifth album. Henrik is the author of the story, but he hasn’t been with us this past year. He agreed to continue working with us, so hopefully the sixth album will be Silent Ruins Part Two. He said he would finish the story someday, so hopefully it isn’t too late.”

Born From Shadows was released in North America on October 25th, 2011 and subsequently in Europe on the 28th, all through Napalm Records.

Interview published in January 2012.

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