Evocation: The Shadow Archetype - Metal Blade March 10
Silence has, in the past, worked wonders for death metal legends Evocation. See, from 1993 to 2005, a healthy 12 years all told, the Swedes were dormant, non-existent, a pivotal - according to famed producer Tomas Skogsberg - act with a killer sound lost to the annals of time. When Evocation resurrected in 2005, they emerged stronger, deadlier, and better than before, with nearly the entire Promo 1992 lineup intact. The group's debut album, Tales from the Tomb, replete with Boss HM-2s brutally blazing and spooky Dan Seagrave cover art, spent most of 2007 at the forefront of the New Wave of Old-School Death Metal movement. Really, if any band fit the resurgence of throwback death metal it was Evocation. They were relatively new, but were also part of and privy to the genre's halcyon years.
After four years in proverbial quietus, the Swedes could've vanished into the halls of greatness, knowing they had sated the bloodlust of their untimely demo days' dissolution with four remarkable slabs of intensely catchy death metal. But they didn't. The time between 2012's Illusions of Grandeur and new album, The Shadow Archetype, wasn't easy, however. Founding members and long-time friends Janne Kenttäkumpu (drums) and Vesa Kenttäkumpu (guitars) had given up Evocation's ghost. The fire that burned hot and bright on Tales from the Tomb, Dead Calm Chaos, Apocalyptic, and Illusions of Grandeur had extinguished. The group nearly collapsed under the weight of the Kenttäkumpu brothers' departure, as a result.
"At first it was a really hard blow for the rest of us,"remembers guitarist Marko Palmén. "When we got the news, the first thought I got was to bury the band for good. But I didn't want to make a decision that I would regret later on, so I reckoned it would be better if I let it go for a couple of weeks before I made a final decision on what to do. During those weeks the feeling that I'm still not through with Evocation started to grow on me and the same happened with Thomas [Josefsson] and Gustaf [Jorde]. So, after a couple of weeks we all decided to move on with the band."
As a trio, Evocation regrouped. They had lost critical members, but the future was far too inviting, with death metal's ghastly spectre gesturing the left hand path forward. The group holed up in their hometown of Borås, enlisted guitarist Simon Exner (As You Drown), and wrote The Shadow Archetype across a two-year period. In some ways, Evocation's fifth album is yet another rebirth. A second life to roam catacombs of decay and wander dark recesses of the abyss.
"It's definitely a new beginning for Evocation,"Palmén says. "Although, it's quite different than when we came back from the dead in 2005. Evocation is nowadays a name in the scene, so we don't have to start over from scratch. We also matured during the years that have passed and realized that we don't have to work 180 km/h (111 mph) and release new albums every year or every second year. This time around we did it to our own pace with the passion for death metal as our only guideline. I think that back in 2005 we had a really strong urge to prove something to people, but nowadays we don't have to prove anything. We already know what we are capable of achieving, so this time we just channeled all the energy into this behemoth of an album."
A monster it is! Big and muscular, with seething eyes. The Shadow Archetype's not at all the kind of thing to meet head on. Tracks like "Condemned to the Grave", "The Coroner", "Survival of the Sickest", and "The Shadow Archetype" (check out the chilling Stanley Milgram sample) embody death metal's heartiest and heaviest of traits. Like if Bolt Thrower war machined over Entombed's "Bitter Loss". Or if Asphyx strangled Paradise Lost's "Dead Emotion".
"Some friends of the band have said that the new album sounds different,"offers Palmén. "But it still has the sound of Evocation. In my opinion, the new album is a step towards the roots of the band, although it also has a footing in the future. I think the sound of the new album in many ways reflect the dynamic of me and Simon, who wrote the music for the album. I'm more of an old-school death metal kind of guy and Simon comes from the younger generation of death metal freaks who enjoy technicality and brutality. Somehow, we just merged those two sides of death metal into the creation that will be known as 'The Shadow Archetype'. But I also have to point out that the album is a creation made by all the members ofEvocation and I think we all pushed ourselves to the very limit of what is achievable. I'm certain that we all can stand proud of the album in the future."
But there's also another side to Evocation's burly brawn. Going back to the demo days, the Swedes were known for spinning a little longing (or melancholy) into their music. Turns out, songs like "Children of Stone", "Dark Day Sunrise", and "Modus Operandi" - with their pining harmonies and crestfallen melodies - originate from a cultural place far back in Palmén's Nordic ancestry. As with Evocation's albums past, so too does the downcast vibe juxtapose perfectly against the otherwise merciless delivery on The Shadow Archetype.
"You are spot on here with the melancholic edge,"grins Palmén. "We have had the melancholic touch present on our previous albums as well, but with the new album we went all-in, so to speak. I have always had a soft spot for melancholic melodies in death metal. Whenever I feel I could slit my wrists to a riff or song and it wouldn't matter, then I know we have hit the right notes. My soft spot for melancholic riffs probably comes from my Finnish ancestry. I was grown up with melancholic Finnish melodies in my home since both my parents are from Finland."
Musically, The Shadow Archetype is first-rate Evocation. But it's the production that brings out the best in the band. Whether it's session drummer Per Møller Jensen's (ex-The Haunted, ex-Invocator) veteran pounding swing and Palmén and Exner's colossal riffs or Jorde's hammering bass and Josefsson's unreal growls, the production preserves the Swedes' past (the opening to "Dark Day Sunrise" is a must-hear!) while also being entirely contemporary. Few bands of recent memory have made a record that's as crushingly heavy as The Shadow Archetype.
"We recorded 'The Shadow Archetype' at three different studios,"Palmén reveals. "Backing vocals, mixing and mastering were done at Dugout Productions. Daniel Bergstrand handled the recording of backing vocals and mixing. George Nerantzis handled the mastering. Drums were recorded at Crehate Studios together with studio engineer Oscar Nilsson. Guitars, bass, and lead vocals were recorded by ourselves at our own studio, Acacia Avenue Recordings. We started recording the drums in late June 2015 and did the last recordings with vocals in June 2016. So, we spent roughly a year in the studio with 'The Shadow Archetype'. In my opinion, the production is our strongest so far. It has all the elements I want in a production; raw brutality with a distinctive punch!"
As with Evocation's past, The Shadow Archetype tackles topics that stem from vocalist/lyricist Josefsson's interest in control themes. Whether it's psychological issues, drug dependencies, sex, the media, or greater, more nefarious government-driven forces at play, songs on the Evocation's fifth full-length read less like teenagers into gore and horror movies and more like observations of a lettered adult. Even the title, The Shadow Archetype, is derived from Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung's theories on psychological archetypes, where we, unwittingly, inherit both good and evil from our predecessors.
"It started on the 'Apocalyptic' album,"posits Josefsson. "An idea of an evil empire with plans to enslave the whole planet. When we did the 'Illusions of Grandeur' album, we saw it from the other side, the evil empire's ideas on ruling and controlling. On this album the story starts where this evil force has taken over in the future. It's got a bit of a 'Mad Max' vibe to it. Only the dead will see the end of it!"
Officially, The Shadow Archetype marks Evocation's second go-around with Metal Blade Records. But instead of a third-party deal - Tales from the Tomb, Dead Calm Chaos, Apocalyptic were released in North America on license from German indie Cyclone Empire - this time the ink on the contract is exclusively worldwide. Really, after four dormant years, Evocation has come back with a new lineup, a new album in The Shadow Archetype, and the mighty Metal Blade as their death metal benefactor. If there's anywhere left for the Swedes to go - after 12 years back on the steed of Conquest - it's up.
All hail Evocation!
Thomas Josefsson - Vocals
Marko Palmen - Guitars
Simon Exner - Guitars
Gustaf Jorde - Bass