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Sorcerer – interview met Anders Engberg

Anders Engberg: “It is a true Sorcerer album in that sense. We want to keep it big, bombastic and we want to keep it epic. The thing about this album maybe, is that it is more diverse. We want to appeal to the heavy metal fans too, not only the doom adepts”

Het is zoals zanger Anders Engberg ons weet te vertellen: ‘De band bestaat al een eeuwigheid, maar er kwam pas schot in de zaak na de reünie in 2010.’ Sindsdien wist Sorcerer ons met drie albums te boeien. Drie jaar na ‘Lamenting Of The Innocent’ weet Sorcerer opnieuw hoge kwaliteit te bieden op het behoorlijk vurige ‘Reign Of The Reaper’. Met de rustig sprekende frontman overlopen we alle laatste ontwikkelingen binnen de Zweedse band. Vanuit Stockholm spreekt Engberg ons toe via zoom video conference.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 11 december 2023

The previous time we spoke to each other was when former album ‘Lamenting Of The Innocent’ came out in 2020. You managed to create the album, but of course you could not perform live. Yet the writing process for the new album ‘Reign Of The Reaper’ only started in 2022. Can you tell something about that?
The album has been finished now for six months almost. So we started in 2022, late 2021 I think and we had the same process as we always use. We are not a band that goes down to the rehearsal room and jams. So we write on the computers and we send the information to each other, to put into our system and that is how we juggle around ideas for the songs.

So it has always been that way, it was not because of the pandemic at that time?
No, everyone is so experienced in this band that we don’t have to really rehearse to know that it works. We are used to that. All the four albums have been written in the same way and the same process, so we are used to it now.

Since you write the parts at home, was there a kind of musical direction you talked about before starting or is that not an issue?
No it is not an issue really. We always write a lot of music. For this album we had 14-15 ideas, which we pulled down into eight and why only eight? It is because we decided to go a little bit – what you say – old school and do a single vinyl this time. So we did not want to make a double vinyl this time, we have done that several times already and we wanted to have a format that was going back to old school. So this record is 47 minutes of music. The main characters behind the music are Peter Hallgren and Kristian Niemann, the guitar players. Also Johnny Hagel, also our former member, he is also in the background. He came up with some ideas and when the ideas take shape, they were sent to me and our co-producer Conny Welén and he and I work out the melodies for the songs and the last thing that really done on the songs are the lyrics, before we go in and do the actual recordings. That is our team. Justin, our bass player, he kind of reworks the bullshit lyrics that me and Conny write. Some stuff he saves and incorporates into these lyrics and some stuff he just rewrites. So it is a real team effort.

Yes, Justin always writes the final lyrics…
Indeed he finalized all the lyrics, it is a good collaboration for the lyrics we write when we get those melodies and the titles are almost always there first. When we write lyrics, we always have a title for the song. It makes it easier to get the feeling for the song.

Former time the main subject were the witch hunts, but this time it seems to be the death, isn’t it?
Basically the lyrics are always based on historical facts and then we just write fiction around it. We are all fans of horror movies and the struggle between good and evil and stuff like that, so the lyrics tend to evolve around that mostly. The last one was kind of a conceptual album about the burning of witches in the 15th century. This one is not a concept album. Every song is different. We have for instance ‘Thy Kingdom Will Come’ is more like knights fighting over a castle and ‘Curse Of Medusa’ is about the Greek mythology. ‘Reign Of The Reaper’ is about soldiers dying in battlefields and this soul reaper comes out and takes their souls.

Well, it is all dark, let us say…
We are not very enlightening in the lyrics. We want to paint a picture, you know, with the music, and we got some effects. We got those church choirs and we have effects to bring the listener into the song so to speak. I think we try to keep the lyrics abstract also, so it is not about a guy who comes into this room, falls on a sword and dies. It is up to the listener to decide what the lyrics mean.

Still it is a very coherent album I think. It sounds very epic with your vocals, sometimes the choirs are bombastic…
It is a true Sorcerer album in that sense. We want to keep it big, bombastic and we want to keep it epic. The thing about this album maybe, is that it is more diverse. There’s some faster songs, there’s some slower songs, there’s some songs in between. We felt that we wanted to do eight really good songs that were different to each other, so it would be more interesting. When you do a longer album, it doesn’t matter if two songs are similar, but if you only have eight songs, we wanted each of the songs to be different from the other as much as possible, without taking away the sound we have.

You achieved that and this one has really fervent and fiery guitar solos…
We have really great guitar players and I think it is one of our trademarks. The twin lead guitars, they are super talented and in a different style. Kristian is more the technical one and Peter is more the old school. He is also fast, but they have a certain way of writing their solos which I think it gives Sorcerer a certain spice.

It is strange that you manage to do that while writing on your own…
Indeed and I think these days it is not that common having two lead guitar players. Mostly it is one who takes all the glory, now they have to share the spotlights. (chuckles)

Did you go through line-up changes? Is Richard Evensand still drumming?
He is playing drums on the album, but as we finished it – it has been six months since we finished the album – after that he felt that he wanted to do something else with his drumming and we respected that. We went looking for a replacement and we found that Stefan was available, he’s a good friend of ours and a really nice guy and an awesome drummer. When we asked him, he was actually a fan of Sorcerer, so it was perfect for us to have someone who really enjoys what we do. It is important of course, instead of just having a drummer doing his job. He lives here in Stockholm where we live, so everything is so much easier you know.

What struck me, in the middle of the album there is this kind of slowing down with the song ‘Eternal Sleep’ which is a very sensitive song I love…
We wanted to create a kind of dynamic in the album. Fast songs, then slacken down the tempo and then up again. We had eight good songs and of course we had to think: which ones are we going to put on the A side and which ones on the B side. After a little while we came up with this and I also really like ‘Eternal Sleep’. I think it is a song that has everything what Sorcerer is about: acoustic parts and the blistering guitar solos, up-tempo middle part there and yeah. I think it is a song by Peter Hallgren and he tends to write a little bit almost progressive in his style when he writes music, he loves different parts.

Did you manage to play any gigs after the pandemic? I remember in the past it was always a bit of a problem to go on tour for a longer time. Did it happen in the meantime?
Yeah, last year we played five post pandemic shows. We played at Hellfest, we played Bloodstock, we played Karmageddon in Norway… so we played quite a few shows. We will continue to play shows. We are headlining Hammer of Doom this year. We are very happy about that and then next year I think there is one more show in Sweden this year and then next year we go to Poland and Germany and a lot of different places, so it looks good. We just signed with a new booking agency called Rely and it seems to work really good. Of course it depends on how the album gets received also. At least it comes out in October, so we are in time for festivals in Spring or Summer.

I remember you created a lot of video’s for the previous album. Are you planning to do that this time again?
(laughs) Oh God, no. That was very tough, you know, doing nine videos for all the songs. So this time around there’s only the two we have released so far and I don’t know if we are going to do anything else. There is a visualizer coming out the same day as the album is released, one last single and that is more like – almost like a lyric video but there’s no lyrics in it – you see the cover and well… a visualizer. Not eight videos this time. We don’t like to repeat ourselves, we like to move forward, both musically and also in what we do beside, we need to do different things, also to keep it interesting for ourselves. The new album also displays this, we broadened our sound a little bit, maybe reaching out more to the heavy metal crowd than the doom crowd only. I think we are a bit wider in genre. We have always been very close to Black Sabbath and Rainbow and that kind of seventies bands in traditional hardrock/heavy metal. It is no surprise that people will hear the album and recognize that as a Sorcerer album.

In the meantime during the downtime you have made two EP’s. One was with covers, one was with acoustic songs…
Exactly. We did one streaming live show when we played acoustic and we released that digitally on Spotify, but we also recorded an EP called ‘Reverence’. It also was digital for us, but it is out now on the bonus special edition, both on CD and vinyl. We got the question for releasing the ‘Reverence’ EP, we wanted to have it and we printed a version of it that we only sell when we play live, but we had in mind to release it with this album too.

Are there guests on the album?
No not this time. Last time we had Johan Langquist from Candlemass, but not this time. We might do some guest stuff maybe on the next one, but this time we felt that we wanted to do this album as a five piece. I think that if we will have a guest again, it will be a female, because we already have a male vocalist. We’ll see what happens.

Maybe you can tell anything about the two singles – and the videos – that are coming out…
Yes of course. ‘Morning Star’ was the first single that came out. We had no problem for choosing this song as the first song out from this album. I think it is a killer song and it is up-tempo with an intro, in the same vein as ‘The Hammer Of Witches’, but still different. The second single ‘Reign Of The Reaper’ was also a pretty natural choice, because we wanted to have something that remind people of where we come from, the heavier part of Sorcerer. Fantastic two tracks there that I am really proud of.

We should also mention that you have a lot of help from Conny Welén…
Yes! I have been working with Conny – he is a good friend of mine, my best mate – we have been working together, not only with Sorcerer, but plenty of albums before that. I have done many studio projects, even more progressive stuff and Conny and I have been working on those albums for twenty years now. It was an easy decision to bring Conny in for Sorcerer. He has been with us on all the four albums we released so far and he is a genius when it comes to producing music. He hears stuff that somebody else can’t hear and he is almost like a sixth member of the band. He is multi instrumental, he can play every instrument. He is a great help and he is also very creative in the process. He helped with some of the choirs and built these big choirs. It is always nice with another voice, not only mine, so we did some of the stuff together.

Don’t you think that you are a bit underrated?
Argh I don’t know. We are not a heavy touring band. I mean, we have been around forever, but I think if you want to reach out for real, you need to make a couple of more albums and need to go out and play more. I am turning 55 this year, I toured a lot when I was in my thirties and my second coming now so to speak now with Sorcerer, we try to keep it at a level that we can manage it. I mean, we all have jobs and families and kids and stuff that we need to take care of. I think if you need to really move something, you have to be out there all the time. But obviously, we always had really good reviews and I think in Hard Rock magazine we are going to be ‘album of the month’ for the fourth time in a row. There is a great opportunity for us here and I hope – we have two more albums on this contract – I hope that we can make that happen.

What were your influences when you started singing?
I started when I was 15, 16. I started in my first garage band and at that time I had of course Tony Martin, Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Geoff Tate… you know, all these icons, there are so many great singers out there, but I always tried to sing how I imagined my voice would be and I have tried to pick up a sound somewhere. As time went on when I started I wasn’t very good, but as time went on, in 93,94 when I did my first album with Lion’s Share, that was a progressive band and that was my first album. I think there was something I found my true voice somehow. It differs through the years but there are so many heroes, like Glenn Hughes of course. So many. I did three albums with Lion’s Share, I think they made five? Now they only release the singles I think. They don’t do albums anymore, they just release one song here and there. I have no connection with Lars anymore, no problem you asked it (laughs).

You are playing at the Hammer of Doom festival in Wurzbürg, in Germany. That must be a gathering of congenial souls I think. People on the same wave-length. What are you looking forward to the most?
I am looking forward to meeting up with our Greek friends, the band Doomocracy. I think they made a really, really good album, their latest one and I think that’s the thing I am looking forward to the most. We have been playing Hammer of Doom quite a few times. This is the fourth time I think. The first time we played there was the reunion show in 2010 where we all started again. We are really thankful, it is like our second home there. It is so nice and it’s going to be great playing there again.

What are the plans for the near future?
I don’t know if it is going to be a European tour, but we have some things that’s not confirmed yet, but we are playing in Poland in February. And we are playing in Germany on a festival there. Then there are some shows not confirmed yet. Both in Sweden and Denmark and Norway. I think there will be – maybe not touring – but we will play a lot in Spring and Summer I hope. Maybe a week in Germany. We are aiming for playing the bigger festivals to be able to play in front of people that never heard us. It is very important to build a fan base and to open the ears of people who don’t know what Sorcerer  is all about. It is a mix, you know. One big thing would be play at Wacken or do maybe Summer Breeze or whatever to meet more fans and then also do the smaller club shows. We’re going to do it all.

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