Cipher System - Storm Chasers
By: David E. Gehlke
Let's be Captain Obvious for a moment: The Gothenburg sound is perhaps the most polarizing in all of metal. Perfected by the likes of At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames in the late 90's, it was soon mangled and destroyed by an enormous swath of uncreative metalcore bands wearing skinny jeans and mascara. Riffs and harmonies were poached left and right, used indiscriminately by bands (whose names we'll leave out in order to refrain from being too vitriolic) who more than likely discovered Slaughter of the Soul a year into their existence. Naturally, it made the collective undies of metal sticklers like yours truly bunch up, and it sidetracked true-blue Gothenburg bands like Cipher System. (Side note: Blistering prefers boxers over briefs)
Last heard from in 2004 with Central Tunnel 8, the Swedes are returning after a lengthy period of inactivity with the totally-excellent Communicate the Storms (Nuclear Blast), where Cipher System show everyone how Gothenburg metal circa 2011 is done. They make it look rather easy, as an array of hummable melodies and modern riff-action provide blanket coverage over killer jams like "7-Inch Cut," "Forget to Forgive," "The Stairway" and "The Failure Starts," all the while staying honest to the core Gothenburg sound. The resultant is a sleeper melodic death metal du jour, and a sure-fire subsitute for the wayward-sounding In Flames and Soilwork. Getting us up to speed on a band who is much better than you think they are is founding member and bassist Henric Carlsson...
Blistering.com: Surely you've gotten this question a lot, but why such the long wait between Central Tunnel 8 and Communicate the Storms?
Henric Carlsson: Several reasons actually. Members in the band have been involved in other bands and there has been some line-up changes in Cipher System during those years.
Blistering.com: Since you were away for so long, has it been difficult to regain momentum and/or interest in the band?
Carlsson: It sure has, we have worked hard on being active on Facebook and Myspace. But in a way or there other, YouTube and forums has kept the band alive and the people out there on the net has actually pushed us to record and release this second album.
Blistering.com: Being on Nuclear Blast can only help matters, so how did you end up on the label?
Carlsson: We actually had contact with Nuclear Blast just after the release of our first album, we started discussing with them again after the recording was done for Communicate the Storms. We spoke to a couple of labels, but Nuclear showed us the most interest and we in them. We have big hopes on the coming years for us and them together.
Blistering.com: Along the way, you put out a pair of demos. How helpful were they in the creation of Communicate the Storms?
Carlsson: All the songs on the last demo ended up on the album, slightly modified, but still the same songs. In a way it was helpful because they set the sound for what all the others songs would sound like. I guess it is easier to decide in what way we wanted the music to be like when we concentrated all that energy into just four songs.
Blistering.com: Leading up to the release of the new album, you put out several videos of the studio process. How important is it for a new (but not totally new) band like you to get in touch with fans via this method?
Carlsson: We see it as a way to interact with our fans. They can follow the entire process of the recording and see all the steps that led to the final album. Many fans are musicians and we get al lot of questions concerning our gear and recording methods, so the videos are also a way to satisfy them.
Blistering.com: Being that you’re a melodic Swedish death metal band, are you self-aware of trying not to sound like the rest of the bands from your country?
Carlsson: We don´t claim to be the most original band in the world, of course we sound Swedish. Many people say that we sound like a band coming from the Gothenburg area but that we have something that makes it sound like Cipher anyway. We have no intentions of sounding like other bands - we just make music in our way, but we as all other bands have influences. So the answer to the question might be that we try to make music that we like and if it accidentally sounds like another band it is not our intention.
Blistering.com: The album avoids a lot of the clichés that come with melodic death metal. How did you go about making your own sound, as opposed to copying others?
Carlsson: Well, mainly I think that it is because of the way we play our instruments. In my point of view we have a more of a metal approach, almost closer to the 80`s kind of metal. This and the synth makes the music sound a little bit different. Many riffs are based on chord-structures and arpeggios rather than plain melodies.
Blistering.com: Now that a lot of the Gothenburg death metal bands have gotten older, what do you think their legacy will be?
Carlsson: Surely many of them will go on as usual. One thing that is happening with the older bands is that they are trying new ways of expressing their sound, why, I don´t know. Maybe some of them just want not try a different way of making music. The lineups have been changed in some bands so that is probably a reason as well.
Blistering.com: You formed when Gothenburg death metal was starting to take off. What do you remember most about that time?
Carlsson: Well, the years '93 to '95 sure was the most interesting era. There were many bands at the time and a lot of interesting albums came out. Bands like In Flames and At the Gates made albums that to date, are considered to be milestones in the genre and the birth of a new sound, I guess. I was more into the American death metal wave at that time, to be honest i didn´t like the Gothenburg sound…might sound strange but I just liked groovier and faster death metal more…
Blistering.com: Recording in Studio Fredman, the place of so many legendary albums…what was it like? Do you get chills being there, or are you not fazed by it?
Carlsson: Fredman is a great studio and Fredrik [Nordstrom, producer, engineer] has produced some legendary albums. He is a great guy and Henrik Udd who works with him is not that far after either. A true pleasure to mix the album in that studio.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda going into 2012?
Carlsson: We have a music video that we hope will see daylight as soon as possible, we are also very eager to play live, so that is our main goal.