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The Order Of Israfel

© TOOI Carina Englund

The Order of Israfel has suddenly appeared in Swedish Gothenburg only three years ago, and quartet was motivated enough that it took only two years to finish their debut album Wisdom which helped them to get a deal with Napalm Records. The band demonstrates all their best performing catchy, heavy and diverse doom music. Their frontman Tom Sutton gained experience playing with Japanese Church of Misery and local heavy metal band Night Viper (just to name the few) as Order’ bass guitarist enveloped his skills in DoomDogs band. This enthusiastic duet has recruited Staffan Björck (guitars) and Hans Lilja (drums), and the lineup was finally formed. As The Order of Israfel returned from another tour with Pentagram, we contacted Tom to ask him a few vital and actual questions.

Hello Tom! How are you? How did the tour with Pentagram go?

Really good!  It was our second tour with them, so it feels really normal now to hang out with them and share a stage with them.  We learned so much on the first tour about playing bigger stages and venues, and now it actually feels most natural to play those size places for us.  We had a great time.  And Hammer Of Doom festival was a big highlight.

So I need to ask you what’s subjective difference when you play on stage in a small dark club or when you're standing before the crowd on big festival? 

It's hard to describe, but there's something big in our music, and it feels better to have the space to let that out somehow.  It could be something as simple as the fact that we've gotten used to being able to move around on stage.  But yeah, I think the epic nature of the songs feels better on a big stage somehow.  I remember the first time we played a bigger stage, it was the Gothenburg Sound Festival here in Gothenburg, and I felt really uncomfortable, actually.  This band and this style of music feels really personal to me, and it felt weird to be in front of a 'regular' metal audience.  Later, we played Sweden Rock right after the first Pentagram tour, and felt totally at home there, so that shows you how we progressed, and how playing on bigger stages really helped us get better at it. 

The Order’s page shows that you already had 2 new demo tracks in July, what’s your progress now? Can you foretell when second album will be ready? 

Yup! We're recording in January, and the plan is to have it out in May.  The songs are pretty much done. We're just in the process of putting in the details now.  Adding as much guitar action as possible.  He he!  We've demoed four of the tracks, and we'll do the next four soon.  We're getting really excited to record.  The studio's in this spooky old house in Gothenburg, and it'll be the middle of Winter, so the atmosphere will be just right.  The artwork is under way now too.  It's all coming together!  I know that you already played new songs during previous tours and gigs, how many of it in your set now? And do you play cover-songs? We've done three of the new songs live now.  On the recent Pentagram tour, we did a new song called 'The Red Robes'.  It felt great, actually.  It can take some time to get comfortable with a new song live, but this one felt great straight away.  We love it.  The only cover song we've ever done was 'Solitude' by Candlemass.  We did it at our second ever gig along with Mappe from Candlemass on guitar and Chritus from Lord Vicar/Goatess/ex-Saint Vitus/ex-Terra Firma on vocals.  That was a mind-bender!  We haven't done any covers since then.  I've got a lot of material, so it's hard to put time towards cover songs right now. 

Almost all songs from the “Wisdom” album were done by you. How do you work with the band over new tracks? And may your listeners expect some cardinal changes in your sound?

All the songs for the next album are again me, but you'll hear a lot more of Staffan, the other guitarist, in these songs.  He's so good at making guitar harmonies.  He makes things that I would never think of.  And he's made an intro for one song and the outro for another.  Another big difference is that with the first album, I had everything demoed with a drum machine before we even formed the band.  I guess there's more input from everyone this time on arrangements.  It feels good!  Will it be different?  I think it'll have its own personality, but will still totally sound like us. 

Well, how does Staffan’s manner of songs writing differ from yours? 

Well, he's working on a new band right now, so you'll hear for yourself soon if you check it out.  It's kinda quirky.  Very influenced by the old Swedish band, November.  He really likes chords and notes that are less obvious, so that helps with building surprises and interesting things into songs.  He's good with chords in general, actually.  I learned to play guitar by playing Metallica, Sepultura and Black Sabbath, so I tend to basically stick to single notes and power chords.  Staffan helps to make songs sound a bit more sophisticated sometimes.

The Order plays straightforward old school doom rock/doom metal, and your stuff sounds bloody powerful and has rough energy. Don’t you ever think about enrichment of your sound with moog, melotron or hammond to make some songs more atmospheric? 

Yeah, I used an organ on a couple of songs I demoed about 12 years ago, but didn't use any keys on the songs on the album. There's gonna be quite a lot of different instrumentation on the second album. We're working it all out now.  I was planning a keyboard intro for this next album, but then I had another idea, and everyone voted for that instead, so we'll see how that turns out.  I love all those extras, though.  The bells and whistles.  I think it adds so much. 

Lyrics of first albums are straightforward as music – who does influence onto you as a lyrics author? And what will you prepare for next album?

Hmmmmm, good question.  If you look at the first songs I ever wrote, it comes across a bit like Entombed lyrics with quite a lot of word plays and a sense of humour to it.  These days, I don't know.  I think the lyrics are not really influenced by anyone in particular.  It's really just how I write.  I really admire how the language of the lyrics and song titles of Reverend Bizarre are so unified in flavour.  Nothing feels out of place with the rest.  I guess I aspire to achieving the same thing. 

How does it feel now a year after release of “Wisdom” album – all this recognition, positive interviews, feedback on your shows? What did this year with The Order give you?

It feels amazing, actually!  The idea for the band, and the songs were such a personal thing to me that to have finally put it out and received such a good reaction feels really good.  It was kinda scary, y'know?  What if after all these years of working on this stuff by myself, it totally sucked?  And now, after our third tour and preparing for our second album, I've had a chance to look at everything and really appreciate how well things have gone.  I mean, to play at Hammer Of Doom the same day as Candlemass, 40 Watt Sun, and My Dying Bride....that felt great.  Two tours with Pentagram....we feel very fortunate. 
I think that sometimes it’s enough for a good band to hold on for years and release albums from time to time, yet it works not always. How do you think what keep high status of mentioned above bands even now when they don’t exist anymore? It’s a kind of metaphysical questions.  Well, that's the big question, isn't it?  What makes a band mean more to people than others?  There's a lot to it, I guess.  I would say that being at the birth of a genre or a movement helps a band achieve that kind of legendary status.  Would St. Vitus be as special to people if they had only appeared in the last five years?  Of course not.  There's a lot of value attached to doing it first.  And some bands age better than others, I guess.  'Raining Blood' will never sound out of date, but 'I Am The Law' definitely feels more a product of its time. 

How do you see future perspectives of The Order Of Israfel? You have strong songs, strong lineup and strong label besides you, it looks like a straight road if you have aim to take a place alongside stoner/doom metal legends. 

Wow!  Thank you!  I mean, of course we would love that.  We're thinking long-term, y'know.  The bands we all look up to the most built their place in the world over years and decades, and we know that there's no need to hurry.  I have certainly said that with Cathedral, Reverend Bizarre and The Gates Of Slumber all gone now that we would love to be a bit of a light in the dark for those who miss those bands.  I certainly miss those bands!  Anyway, we'll keep pushing ourselves to write songs that mean something to us, and to get better and better both live and in the studio. 

You work with big label, does it change borders of your artistic freedom? Does it really change commercial positions of the band? 

It's been wonderful, actually.  I can't say enough good things about Napalm Records.  They haven't tried to push us around in any way.  Sometimes they suggest things, but if we say no, they just accept it totally.  And they're so organised.  They do everything they say they will do when they say they'll do it.  I never expected any labels outside specialist doom metal labels to really be interested in us, and I was a bit hesitant to go outside that circle, but Napalm have been perfect for us.  Yeah, I would say that we've had more exposure than we would have on a smaller label. 

Do you plan to release next album with Napalm Records again? 

Absolutely.  There have been almost no downsides to working with them.  And they seem to genuinely care about us even though we're not obvious hit material.

Tom, you also did play with Church of Misery, can you tell about this experience? 

Well, that was the beginning of this whole journey for me, really.  My first tour, my first album recording, the first band I was ever in that people cared about.  It was HUGE for me.  I loved it.  The day they told me I got the job was probably the happiest day of my life, seriously.  I'll be grateful as long as I'm alive for that experience.  It was a supremely fun band to play live with.  Just so much energy.  And really, a massive learning experience in terms of my guitar playing too.  I'm still in touch with Tatsu, and we might tour with them some day.  We have the same booking agent now.  I actually saw them live last year for the first time since before I joined the band, and it was fucking killer.  It really reminded me why people love that band so much.  And I've heard the new album actually.  Muahahaha!!

Church of Misery are known not only because of their cool riffs but also with Tatsu passion to sing stories of serial killers, didn't you discuss this topic with him? And didn't you try to persuade him to sing about another maniac or to sing about another topic? 

Though I believe it’s quite impossible. Yeah, a little bit.  I would read his serial killer books when I was at his place.  I wrote the lyrics for three songs on 'Houses Of The Unholy', so I had to do my homework.  Ha!  No, I never tried to convince him to do songs about anything else.  I think that the topic helps make them unique, and to be honest, I don't think he has anything else he's burning to put into song form.  It's perfect for the band, I think.  All the lyrics for the new album were written by Scott Carlsson, so it's cool to hear his take on what Church Of Misery lyrics should be.  Okay, Tom, thank you very much for your time and the opportunity to ask you these questions. I wish you and other brothers of The Order all the best on your way to next album. Good luck and long live The Order of Israfel! Thanks so much!  Finally getting the chance to do a band I've been writing songs for and planning in my head since about 2002 is a dream come true.  As I said, we're recording the next album in January, and it'll be out around May, so hopefully we can talk again around then.  Cheers! 

© TOOI Carina Englund

Thanks to Mona Miluski for organizing the interview.

Interview made by Aleksey Evdokimov/2015
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