Anders Jacobsson: “I am just glad we have passed the ‘SOVRAN’ phase, because this new album has established something way more.”
Vijf jaar na het zesde studioalbum ‘Sovran’ is Draconian klaar met een nieuwe dichtbundel vol meeslepende doom metal met een vleugje gotische verfijning. ‘Under A Godless Veil’ is het tweede album met de Zuid Afrikaanse zangeres Heike Langhans en illustreert dat alle leden nog dichter naar elkaar gegroeid zijn om weer topklasse af te leveren. Intussen vangen we overal positieve reacties op over dit nieuwe meesterwerk en dat geeft een triomfantelijk gevoel als fan van het eerste uur. Zoals steeds hielden we eraan om eerder met zanger Anders Jacobsson een diepgaand gesprek te hebben over de nieuwe worp en dat deed hij van op het Griekse eiland Korfu.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 08 november 2020
Last time we spoke happened to be in 2015 when previous album ‘Sovran’ was about to come out. Five years have gone by since then. How do you look back at those years and what happened to you and the band?
Yes, and we briefly met on our last tour. There has been allot going on since 2015, mostly things I’d like to forget about, but the creation of this album has kept me afloat, that’s for sure. During this time, I have also made a deep dive into new esoteric and philosophical matters, as this new album hints at a bit. Things has certainly changed for most of us in the band personal levels and at times it has been a challenge to let personal shit affect the band, but we are still rolling and with a great new management.
What could you achieve on the live front to support ‘Sovran’ by touring? Any exceptional adventures or destinations you cherish?
Let’s just say that our tour with HARAKIRI FROM THE SKY and SOJOURNER was an eye-opener. Friendships established and at times the tour was like a rollercoaster. We pushed ourselves through illness and some personal hardship, but again, I think Draconian are, in several ways, better because of the struggles. It adds to the music and the angst that is needed. My voice definitely improved. I am just glad we have passed the ‘SOVRAN’ phase because this new album has established something way more stable; a brighter path. This transitional period is almost over and we will come out shining.
How did the writing process pass off this time? When did inspiration come to the surface?
It seems like so long ago at this point. For us these songs are quite old now, but upon release it is going to be like a kind of resurrection, shining light on it from many different angles. As for me, concept-wise it was already late 2015 or early 2016 when I was listening to a presentation about Gnosticism and the early Christian church by Terence McKenna on YouTube. The story of Sophia caught me off guard. I was hooked right away and knew I had to write about it. So quite early on I wrote ‘Sorrow Of Sophia’ and as years has passed and I’ve learned much more about these things, I didn’t change the lyric. I wanted that naïve, modest passion to remain, and to open the album as it depicts the start of this journey.
In addition to your long cooperation with Johan to write songs, you told me that Heike contributes a lot more to the songs than Lisa. What about this cooperation this time?
As the songs started to take form, I realized this was mostly Heike’s album. The story of Sophia and what it entails sort of required it, in my opinion and Johan went along with it. That said, Heike wrote at least half of all her vocals on this album. Lisa was more comfortable to sit down with me and come up with ideas or to let me and Johan write her lyrics altogether. But it helps to have a singer/songwriter in the band with her own ideas. It creates more diversity within the sound itself. Heike has grown allot since ‘SOVRAN’ and that shows on the new album.
But it seems that the first song ‘Sorrow Of Sophia’ kinds of summarizes the story behind the album. Can you tell more about this story?
Complex story and it is difficult to explain in few words. Let me try. Sophia is the female aspect of the unknowable, invisible God. I am not talking about the sadistic god of Abraham here (yet), but rather the source of all creation. You can call it Monad or simply Mind. Only an idea of creation existed in the void, but as it woke up self-consciousness came to be, and this spirit emanated from itself various aspects of itself called Aeons (angels) representing various attributes of perfection. One of these was Sophia representing Wisdom. Her (and our) tragedy starts with a passion and obsession to truly know God.. The spirit is invisible and you can only know it by fully knowing oneself but her passion took over so, she started creating on her own not fully understanding the requisite of creation. It resulted in an abomination. The Gnostics described it like an aborted fetus and demonic being. It immediately became conscious but only of itself, taking power from his mother. Sophia, in her passion and dreaming, fell from the highest realm. Realizing what she had done, what she had manifested, she went through emotions of rage, sadness, disgust, immense sorrow and shame… and all these emotions condensed into what was to become the material world. In that moment these things were created. This entity is seen as the first, or core representation of the Ego. It is what was to become the god of the three monotheistic religions. A demon of imperfection thinking it is God. Sophia created a cloud and hid it away where it could rule. Though, it started imitate creation, hence the material world was created.
I remember we talked about spiritualism and soul-searching last time, but how did you come to your fascination for Gnosticism more precisely?
As mentioned in a previous question, I came across a presentation on YouTube like five years ago, but I have realized after reading about the central tenets of this set of ideas that Draconian has been Gnostic since day one. Since the first demo. The dark, yet truthful attitudes towards life and this world in particular sparks of Gnostic heresy. We just didn’t know these ideas went back all the way to Plato and was adopted into early Christianity, and so on. Unfortunately, too few knows about this. Why? Because the powers and principalities tried to hide true knowledge from man for thousands of years. We are still there, slumbering in the shadows projected to us. My personal fascination with all this is that it tells a tale of the world and its puppet-masters that rings true. If you just look in to it, so many things can be traced back to Gnosticism, it just takes different forms in different cultures over the millennia. It is hidden away but ‘he who seek shall find’, as they say.
How did you come in contact with and can you tell a bit more about the artist Natalia Drepina, who’s in charge for the artwork and I notice that she also created the video(s), isn’t it?
I think I have said enough about the concept of the album. Yet, about Natalia; Johan came across her work on Deviant Art and he showed me some of her amazing work. I went through almost all of it just to get an idea how to tie it to the concept and music. I got in touch with her and she got very fascinated with the whole idea, made lots of research on her own and we are still working with her as of this point right now, for another video that will be released as the album drops. She is truly amazing and I don’t think our work with her is finished. She truly gets what we are doing and what it means. Her wonderful performative lyric video shows this, if anything.
Talking about these videos, you are better on time than last time, because three of them are already launched at the world. How much were you involved in the creative process of these lyric videos and do you plan a music video with the band as well in future?
I was working on the first video with a friend of mine Filip who has done some lyric videos in the past, giving him some pointers and so… It is also Filip who’s made the lyric video that will drop now during September. Management hired somebody for ‘The Sacrificial Flame’, as Filip had no time for that one. Natalia is doing the other two and she is getting pretty much free hands. I just gave her very few pointers for the videos as she has such an understanding of the concept herself, and of course because she is the brilliant artist she is.
‘The Sacrificial Flame’ is one of my favourite songs. Any thoughts on this one?
It is one of the more traditional doomy songs, I’d say. For me it was a little tough to wrap my head around it at first. Johan had made these very dragging MDB-like vocal-lines and for it to flow well I didn’t want to complicate the lyrics / words too much. The decision to use Heike for the verses was a good decision, for the feeling of the somewhat weary, inert elegance of her voice turned out great. It sounds awesome in the mix. The song is pretty much about dying, from a Sethian point of view.
‘Ascend Into Darkness’ is another long and exceptional track. Can you tell something more about that one too?
Same there; difficult to get my head around at first. Many verses and not the easiest riff to write vocals to, without it to be too dragging. It was a definitely challenge for me, but it turned out good in the end. I love the flirtations with gothic rock in the choruses. The song reminds a bit of ‘The Sacrificial Flame’ lyric-wise; a Sethian take on death and dying.
Are there guests on the album this time?
We had some ideas that never came into fruition. So, no. But I love the album the way it is, apart from the usual small hick-ups you always think you could’ve made better.
I found out that you start to get interest for progressive rock from the 70’s. How did you come across that and what about this (new?) fascination?
That started already when I was in junior high-school. It started with my math teacher playing Uriah Heep for us in class during the small breaks. Mostly stuff from the first two albums like ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Lady In Black’. I was already a music nerd back then, so I got hooked immediately. Prog rock is still one of my main musical passions, and early Pink Floyd is perhaps my big love these days. But prog in all its glory… Just yesterday we had an Emerson Lake & Palmer marathon here in the house, mixing it up with some neo-prog like Arena, The Flower Kings and Anekdoten. But as far as new fascinations go, right now I’m into New Wave, like allot! =) It is a big genre and of course I listened to many bands that were in the new wave scene growing up, but I have just recently started to have a burning passion for certain styles within this genre.
In this respect, I remember your words from one of our former interviews that you will always be a music fan, more than an artist. What music do you like to listen to these days? Any new bands that really struck you, or do you rather listen to old favorites?
To be honest, I barely ever listen to new music. I usually find older bands I have missed out on in the past, or I just rehash things. Of course, I have found new bands I love since we spoke the first spoke, like many bands in the psych rock, stoner rock and related… and I have found new friends in bands I have played with and respect, like HARAKIRI FROM THE SKY and THE WOUNDED. But as it comes to new bands, not really. Not that I can say on the top of my head. Maybe the dark progressive metal band FRAGMENT SOUL here from Corfu. I had the pleasure to listen to the whole unreleased album, and Heike is a guest vocalist. Stay tuned for that release. It is truly a gem. I have become good friends with the songwriter.
How would you describe the new album in comparison with the previous one? What are – in the eye of the creator – some features that struck you in the development of sound of Draconian?
‘SOVRAN’ is probably a little heavier, more massive. More growls. The new album is darker, more subtle and cohesive. That’s the feature that spoke to me the most. The ‘divine feminine’ is a big part of the album, yet Heike rarely takes the role of Sophia. We wanted to keep it descriptive and mostly from the 1st and 3rd perspective, narrative wise.
A tour with Nightfall is planned for March 2021. Let us hope this covid-19 crisis is gone by then. How did you face this crisis yourself in Sweden (one of the countries with different approach than others)? What are your thoughts about it?
Living in small towns and forest ridden rural areas near the lake, life hasn’t changed much other than keeping a distance in stores and restaurants. But people get drunk and forget about it. Since this outbreak I never really go out though. I don’t necessarily agree with the laid-back attitude regarding COVID. I try and take precautions, but my life hasn’t been affected that much, but as I write this I am in Corfu, Greece and people around here has grown custom to protecting themselves and others and no one is bitching about wearing masks. Unfortunately, yet naturally we have lost some shows due to the virus, and Heike’s struggle to renew her passport and dealing with the authorities has got more complicated.
I wish you a splendid time in Greece, take care and enjoy the freedom of traveling! If there is something you like to add, please feel free to do it here… J
Thank You Vera. As always, I enjoy answering your interviews. I wish you beauty in your life and I hope you are safe from harm in these crazy times. To anyone reading, I hope you’ll enjoy the album and that it has been worth the wait. We are already having some new material in mind.