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Evocation Interview

A Conversation with Guitarist Marko Palmen

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Evocation

Evocation

Century Media Records
Updated November 08, 2012
Earlier this year the Swedish death metal band Evocation released a compilation of early material called Evoked from Demonic Depths - The Early Years. They have just released their latest studio album Illusions Of Grandeur, which features new bassist Gustaf Jorde. It also features a guest appearance from Amon Amarth's Johan Hegg. Evocation guitarist Marko Palmen gives us the lowdown.

Chad Bowar: How did new bassist Gustaf come to join the band?
Marko Palmen: Gustaf has been an old friend of the band ever since 2007 when he did some guest vocals for the Tales From The Tomb album. After that we stayed in touch, and when the position as bass player was available in Evocation, we thought about him immediately. Gustaf was interested, but didn’t want to take the position if we could find someone that was located closer to our hometown. Gustaf lives in Uppsala, which is located 500-600 kilometres away from the Evocation headquarters in Borås.

For us it wasn’t a big obstacle with the distance, and we felt Gustaf would be the perfect guy for the position as bass player so we offered the position to him and he gladly accepted. Now after we have worked together with him for a while, I must say he has a really positive vibe for the band and he brings a lot of energy. Not to mention that he has brought along an entire crew for the band who also are fantastic. Now we are really looking forward to having him as part of the creative process for the future of the band.

How did your songwriting and recording process for Illusions of Grandeur compare to your previous albums?
Before we even started working on the tracks for Illusions of Grandeur we had long discussions about how we should develop Evocation. For us, development and progression has always been an important factor. If we wouldn’t develop then I hardly think we would have had any energy to continue for as many years as we have been doing this. The challenge for us is to develop within the frame called death metal. Some people say that the frame is too narrow but for us this only makes us more motivated to create something that feels new and fresh but still within the boundaries of death metal.

So the discussions we had prior to the making of the album were circling a lot around our previous albums. What are the core elements of those previous albums that make up the Evocation sound? And also we had long discussions about what we love about death metal in general. Some conclusions that we drew from those discussions were that grind beats and blast beats really weren’t anything that we thought gave an extra dimension to the Evocation sound. Therefore we decided to remove those elements completely from Illusions of Grandeur.

Also, we thought that melodies, groove, hooks and catchy riffs were elements that we really love and wanted more of. But in order to keep the necessary brutality for death metal, it became quite a challenge to balance the loss of the grind beats and blast beats. We managed to balance it by adding more fast 2-beats and the end product really felt like the core, or the essence of what Evocation really is.

So the songwriting process differed quite a lot from the previous albums due to these discussions we had prior to the writing of the tracks. When it comes to the recording process, it differs like night and day when one compares Illusions of Grandeur to the previous albums. For the first time since 1992, we worked together with a producer and hence the production is also absolutely amazing on the new album.

In 1992 we worked together with Tomas Skogsberg at Sunlight Studios when we recorded our debut demo The Ancient Gate. For Illusions of Grandeur, we worked together with Roberto Laghi (In Flames) at IF Studios in Gothenburg. It takes a huge load of pressure off the band’s shoulders when you are working with a producer.

Roberto Laghi was really amazing to work with, and he managed to make us perform on the very limit of what we were capable of. He is really easy to work with and we instantly connected with him. Together we made an album that I think we can stand proud of for a long time ahead. I really hope we can work with him for a long time ahead.

How has the band's sound evolved/progressed from Apocalyptic to Illusions of Grandeur?
As someone said to me: “it’s a quantum leap from Apocalyptic to Illusions of Grandeur.” I can only agree. We really managed to raise the bar on Illusions of Grandeur to a level that we have never reached before. When we did Apocalyptic we had set our minds on doing the most brutal, technical and fast album that we had ever done. I think we came quite close to our goals on that album.

Then when we did the Illusions of Grandeur album, we had set our minds on doing the most melodic, groovy and catchy album in our history. In my opinion, we accomplished exactly what we had set as our goal on this album. So the Evocation sound had quite a big development from Apocalyptic to Illusions of Grandeur. But if one compares the new album to Dead Calm Chaos, then the leap is not as big.

Dead Calm Chaos is much more groovy, melodic and catchy than Apocalyptic. If one would try to describe Illusions of Grandeur, I would say it’s a Swedish death metal album the way it was meant to be, and I think it has a natural place in the evolution of Evocation. One can definitely see and hear a red thread through the entire Evocation discography and I’m very proud to say that I love all the albums we have made through the years.

What inspired the album title?
The first inspiration of the title actually came from a Star Wars movie. It’s from Return of the Jedi when they are at Jabba the Hutt’s palace on the planet Tattooine. Han Solo has just been thawed from his carbon freezing and talks to Princess Leia in disguise as a bounty hunter. Leia explains what has happened in the period when he has been frozen and says that Luke Skywalker has become a Jedi.

Han Solo answers: “I’m out of it for a few seconds and all of a sudden everybody gets delusions of grandeur.” That’s where I initially got the inspiration for the title. I just liked the phrase very much and saw that there was also a deeper meaning behind it as well. Then I did a small change to the phrase when I switched the word “delusions” to “illusions”. I just thought it sounded better.

How did Johan Hegg's guest appearance come about?
In May 2011 we did a European tour together with the guys of Amon Amarth and have stayed in touch with them since then. We had a great time on that tour, so when we were working on the new album and talked about possible guest appearances, Johan Hegg’s name was one of the first who surfaced. He is a really nice, down to earth guy and also an amazing death metal vocalist. So I think it came quite natural for us to ask him if he would like to do some guest vocals on the new album.

We met him after a show they did in Gothenburg in February 2012 and asked him if he would be interested in doing some vocals, and he immediately replied that it would be an honor to do it. So in May 2012 he had some business in Gothenburg which is located quite near the Evocation Studios. We picked him up there in Gothenburg and drove him off to our studio where he nailed the vocals in about 90 minutes. I think his guest appearance turned out great and it really gives an extra dimension to the track with his additions.

How did you decide to sign with Century Media?
For us it was a quite easy decision. Century Media has always since the very beginning had their strong foundation and roots deep within the death metal scene. For us it was an important factor when deciding on which label to work with for the future. We also knew the people at Century Media from the tours and festivals we have done through the years, so we already knew that the people there were great. And now after having worked together with Century Media for almost a year, I can only say that it finally feels as if we have found our label home. They are professional in every aspect of the work with the bands.

How does that affect your expectations for the album?
Naturally we are hoping for results that will reflect all the work we have put down in Evocation through the years. But in the end it’s not up to either us or the label – it’s up to the people buying the albums and the media if the results will match up to our expectations.

What has the early response to the album been like so far?
The early response so far has been great. In Europe, we came into the top four of the sound checks of Germany and Europe’s three biggest and most important magazines. And we received I think an average of around 9/10 points in the reviews in those magazines. These are the best results of Evocation’s history, and I’m really pleased that we managed to make such a monster album at this point of our career. I think I always felt that we had this material within us; it was just a matter of time before we would make it.

What was the reaction to your collection of early material that was recently released?
People all over the globe have been commenting that it was great that we finally did that release and that we included all material from the early '90s in it. We already did a release of our early demo material in 2004 through Breath of Night/Merciless Records, but that release was quite inferior compared to the release we did this year. The release from 2004 only contained the demos from 1992 and nothing else. When we did that release, we instantly received reactions from fans of the early '90s death metal scene saying that we should have included all material we could possibly find. I guess that was where the idea for the new release was born.

In 2012, the timing was perfect with the 20th anniversary of the demos coming up and Century Media being interested in doing the release. So we just went with the flow and gathered up all the material we could possibly find from the early '90s: photos, videos, the demos, rehearsal tapes, new liner notes, lyrics for all tracks, etc. People in the scene have been really enthusiastic about the release, and for us it was also a great feeling to include all that material. Somehow it felt a bit like the closing of a chapter of a book when the release was made. When the right time comes, I hope we can make a special show also to commemorate the early years of Evocation, but we will see when that will come.

What are your upcoming tour plans?
At the moment, we are looking at different touring options for Europe. We just finished a short promotional tour with 7 dates in Sweden and Germany, but now we are looking at a full European tour for 3-5 weeks in the winter or spring. And after that, we are looking at other continents since the goal with this album is to take Evocation to as many places and continents as possible.

Any chance of a U.S. tour?
Yeah, the chances for a US tour have definitely increased now since we signed with Century Media Records and our albums are being properly released and promoted over there. But in the end, it all depends on if there comes a tour that feels right for Evocation. Our goal for this album is of course to take Evocation to other continents than Europe, and the US would of course be of highest priority for us.

What has been your most memorable Evocation live show?
It’s definitely the show we did at Summer Breeze Open Air in 2009. I remember it was one of those really tropical heat days of that summer over here in Europe. The sun had been burning the festival area the entire day, and finally it had just set over the horizon. It was still hot and humid, but the worst heat had passed. There were people from all corners of Europe at the already fully packed tent stage where the show was about to begin. I think there was around 6000 people crammed inside the tent when the show was about to begin.

I remember walking onto the stage and just being met with a deafening roar from the crowd, and at that moment I just knew we were about to experience a magical evening… Fortunately the entire show was filmed by a professional crew with 6 cameras and later on released as bonus material for the limited edition digipak version of Apocalyptic.

What's the craziest thing that's happened to you on tour?
It must be an incident from our last tour we did with Amon Amarth in 2011. We had done the last show on the tour in Pratteln, Switzerland. Of course there was some major partying going on since it was the last show on the tour and we would go separate ways after that. So anyway, for some reason we managed to forget all our merchandise at the venue and realized this when we woke up (still drunk) in Austria.

So we had to turn the tour bus back to Switzerland and get the merchandise, a nice little 8 hour extra ride that day watching the Alps. I remember our bus driver had a hard time understanding the funny thing about this. Now when looking at it from a sober point of view, I’m pretty sure alcohol didn’t have anything to do with this incident. Not!

As someone who was around for the beginning of Swedish death metal, who were your favorite bands from that era?
There were so many and the favourite band was shifting by the month, or even by the week. But to name a few: At The Gates, Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed, Carnage, Dark Tranquillity, Liers In Wait and so on. These were only some of the favorites from the Swedish death metal scene; if I would go on with the foreign death metal scene, the list would of course be much longer.

What's currently in heavy rotation on your MP3 player?
The strangest thing; an artist named Yohio, a 17-year old visual kei artist from Sweden that is about to break big time in Japan. The thing is that my girlfriend’s cousin is a huge visual kei fan, and then I saw this TV show that featured Yohio, which instantly reminded me of her. So we sent a tip to her about this artist, and I also checked out Yohio during the day and as it turned out, the new track that was being promoted was quite catchy and I got stuck with it during the day. The track title is “Sky Limit”.

Anything else you'd like to mention or promote?
I really hope we will meet our American friends and fans on the upcoming touring cycle for Illusions of Grandeur, but in the meantime, BUY the new album or I will KILL YOUR PARENTS!!!

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