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Crister Olsson: “The theme of the album is Pandora’s box and mankind has already opened Pandora’s box. We are destroying this planet and the way we live will consume everything. I am pretty sure we are already doomed”

Onze gesprekspartner van vanavond is de vriendelijke en spraakzame Crister Olsson. Hij heeft het altijd druk met muziek maken. Enerzijds is er Ereb Altor dat het erfgoed van Bathory blijft huldigen, maar wel een eigen sound heeft. Anderzijds is er de doom metal formatie Isole met wie hij en bandmaat Daniel Brynste de prachtigste treurnis over ons laat neerdalen in uitgebalanceerde, pakkende songs. Over die laatste band gaat het vanavond. Sinds ‘Dystopia’ verscheen zijn er vier turbulente jaren verstreken en de totstandkoming van het nieuwe Isole album ‘Anesidora’ liep dan ook niet over rozen. Daarover – en over nog veel meer – hadden we een diepgaand gesprek met de sympathieke Zweed. 
Vera Matthijssens Ι 16 maart 2023

In 2019 we talked about your previous album ‘Dystopia’, that was also a great album. Now you just returned from the 70,000 tons of metal cruise. How did you experience that?
The cruise is a very odd experience. It is hot and sunny and metal at the same time and waiters running around with the small snacks. I remember I went to a Kreator show on the pool deck when they were doing a wall of death. In the middle there was a waiter with some snacks. They had to remove him, because he would have been run over. It is a crazy experience to go on that boat. It is not as a usual show when you play, it is very different.

Did you do one or two shows?
We played there twice: one show on their way to the Bahamas and one on the way back.

Could you visit something when the boat stopped in the Bahamas?
Yes, we went ashore on a small island and relaxed, had a pina colada and sat in the sun for a while. We took a bath in the turquoise water and enjoyed the white sands. It is a small yet beautiful island.

But you also went to Greece, didn’t’you?
Yeah we did a show in Greece at the Demons Gate festival in Athens. It was a nice experience, well crowded, lots of doom metal bands, it was a kind of doom festival with similar bands. I really liked that one, with Tiamat and Draconian. Very nice.

You have a new album coming out soon. What means ‘Anesidora’? It should be a sender  of gifts in Greek and Roman mythology…
Yes, the sender of gifts from below. Actually it is the second name of Pandora, which is much more well known, with the Pandora’s box. The theme of the album is Pandora’s box and mankind has already opened Pandora’s box. We are destroying this planet and the way we live will consume everything. I am pretty sure we are already doomed. We will destroy ourselves. Hopefully the planet will live on after mankind is gone and everything will be perhaps better I suppose. We are the destroyers. We are the ones that opened Pandora’s box.

I guess it is all about greed and money…
Sure, it is all about greed and it is crazy. We will see what happens in the future, because sometimes you have to break down or something like that, because we cannot continue this way I think. But humans are not very known for learning from their mistakes. We are repeating the mistakes over and over again. You can see it in the politics. Everything has come back, soon we will have the 1930’s and 1940’s again.

Were you inspired by mythological figures?
No, it has nothing to do with mythology, more about contemplations of where the world is going, mixed with some lyrics about personal experiences and stuff like that. Usually when I write lyrics for Isole, I take experiences from my own life. It is kind of personal all the time. I leave the fairytales to my other band (chuckles). (Ereb Altor – Vera-ALOM)

There is a second meaning for ‘Anesidora’, more precisely a fictional ship in the Alien franchise (survival horror game), but it has nothing to do with this I guess?
No, it is a synonym of our interpretation of the legend of Pandora’s box. First of all the working name of the album was ‘Pandora’s Box’, but then we thought it is maybe too common and there are several other bands – Aerosmith for instance – who released already albums entitled ‘Pandora’s Box’. Then Jimmy (bass player – Vera) looked around and he found the second name of Pandora ‘Anesidora’, which is much more mystical and it suited us better. I think it is a more beautiful name.

It is an amazing album! A little bit softer than the former albums, but there are growls as well. I love it!
Thank you. It is a little bit softer yes. I can agree with that. I don’t know if I tried to make it softer, but it just happened. I guess I am getting old and listen too much to pop music perhaps (laughs).

What was the inspiration for ‘The Songs Of The Whales’? It made me think of Iceland. I love that!
Yes, it is a beautiful island. I have been there, perfect for hiking, if you like hiking. I will visit the island again, because it is one of my favourite places. It is like another world. The latest few years there haven’t been that much vacation for me abroad. I have been hiking a lot here in Sweden instead. There are some beautiful places here as well. I have been up in the mountains, for the first time in my life I have been walking several days in a row without seeing any civilization at all. That’s nice. It is soothing for the soul.

Wow fantastic, but you haven’t answered my question what the songs of the whales is about…
(laughs) O yes, I am sorry. It is about that we are destroying the seas and the oceans here. It is a kind of title track of the album, that mankind pollutes the oceans and without the oceans we will die. We are doomed and we have to rely on the next generation that they will be smarter than us and hopefully they will be smarter than us, but you never know. If I go to myself and look at my kids, I think that they are way much smarter and much more aware than I was at their age. So there is still some hope, but we’ll see what happens. It is kind of the theme from the title track of the album you could say, from the Pandora’s box. I even mention the Pandora’s box in the lyrics on this one. We made a video for it as well.

What is the message behind ‘Open Your Mind’?
I think too much people stay silent, people with good ideas and good values in life, but they remain silent and that is dangerous I think, because the crazy ones are the loud ones, speaking their minds with all the crazy things coming out of their mouths. But the ordinary, actually normal human beings often stay silent. You have to open your mind to see where the world is going  and speak up in saying what you think, because most of us are decent. So we have to make a stand somewhere and not let the crazy ones control the world from now on.

But the problem is that the crazy ones always come in the news…
Yes, because they are loud. They speak up. Why are decent people, why are we silent? You have to speak up and stand for your points, in what we believe in and I hope that the world will be a better place if we do. This is how you change the world actually, but if we all stay silent, nothing will change at all.

You have a new studio now. What can you tell about that?
Yeah we went into the new studio last autumn. So it is kind of nice to have a new studio now, because we didn’t have a rehearsal room or a studio for seven months after the flooding and it was not a good thing when it comes to being creative, because we were in the middle of making this album.

But you could save the material and the tapes, isn’t it?
Yeah nothing we recorded got lost, but there was a big break. You kind of lose the feeling of recording when you have a big break in the middle of recording. It is not optimal. I rather do it until it is done and then a pause.

The photo shoot seems to be in a kind of industrial area. Where was that?
Yeah it is not very far from where we live. It is an old industrial area which has been closed down for several years and it has something to do with the layout. The front cover is a kind of a greedy man who opens the gate. It is a symbol for the box of Pandora. When you open the box with greed, you can see factories with black smoke and industrial areas. We found such a place not so far from here, so we thought, maybe it should be good to do a photo shoot and I think some of the buildings are actually in the layout as well, from that place.

Furthermore you recorded a lot in Studio Apocalypse…
Yes, we recorded everything there, but in different buildings. We had to move everything, because the old building was destroyed. We could not move back in. We just moved everything in a different place, because the flooding destroyed everything. They are going to tear the building down.

And that was another studio than yours?
Yes, there were three or four studios in that building and some rehearsal rooms and we were kind of lucky, because some of them had water like 2m high and everything was destroyed. Luckily we didn’t get that much water inside, but we had to put all our equipment in a storage room and let it dry for months. We didn’t dare to plug it in. Moist was everywhere. Luckily when the rain came, I managed to take my car the next morning to the studio, because it wasn’t decent to drive, every road was closed, and luckily I got in, because there were construction workers there. The building was filled with water. So I could go down to the studio and take everything that was made of wood, like acoustic guitars, the drum kit, and stuff like that and I took it away really fast.

Fortunately you could do that!
Yeah it is a lot of money. Maybe we could get something from the insurance, but I rather save everything.

Let us talk about the song ‘In Abundance’. There you go all the way, more than in other songs…
Yeah it is the only song that I didn’t write. It is actually Jimmy’s song. He wrote one for this album. It is a little bit different. I was only in charge for some of the song structures; the melodies of the vocals and stuff like that, otherwise he wrote that song. To me it is a little more doomy, a little more metal than the other songs.

Is there still a song you want to tell something about?
(thinks) They are all kind of personal, but my darkest hour was caught in ‘Monotonic Scream’. I had some inside problems, for a couple of years ago which was pretty nasty, since I had panic attacks on daily basis and a kind of squealing noise in my ear and also ‘Twisted Games’. It is about old relationships and stuff. Every song has something special for me in it. I hope that people who listen to the music will find something in the lyrics that they can relate to.

What are the plans for the near future?
We are working on a tour actually, so that is the main priority right now, so it’s kind of negotiating and stuff like that. We are not writing any music for now, because the album is just out. We are trying to get on the stages and play live, because we haven’t been doing that for years. So it would be kind of nice to get out again. So I hope that everything will fall in place and we’ll visit perhaps the Netherlands and Belgium. We are trying to attend to festivals as well, but it is a little bit late. Maybe the festivals that are later in the year… We will see what people think when the album is finally out. We hope to meet our fans later this year and otherwise all our fans should come to where we are going. It is hard to cover every place on earth, but we are focusing on Europe of course, because doom metal is hard to play at big festivals and stuff like that. It is not the most popular music I suppose. Now I just long for the album to come out. It has been a while since ‘Dystopia’. People will see that we have been working on during the pandemic.

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