Interview: As You Drown: Just playing for ourselves would be like masturbating!

Seeing a new band is always an exciting prospect because you might be witnessing the birth of a star. That unsigned band you only saw because you were bored last night might turn out to be the next Decapitated or Behemoth, and then you can claim you were there at the start to see what they were really like. Of course, something like that only happens once in a lifetime so you might do well to catch As You Drown live the next time they’re in town – you’ll be witnessing the birth of something special.

Hanging out with the guys after they’ve played a spectacular set in support of Polish legends Vader, what strikes you most is the lack of cynicism and world weariness. And so it should be too, for a band that first got together in 2003 as a bunch of starry-eyed teenagers, wanting to emulate their idols Morbid Angel, Decapitated and Meshuggah. After a period of changing lineups under the name of Ethereal, the current quintet came together and generated enough buzz to get signed onto Metal Blade. They might have grown as musicians, but ask them what it’s like to tour with Vader and they revert to being star-struck fans.

“It’s amazing dude!” exults Henrik Blomqvist, throat-shredder-in-chief. “This is what we want to do; Playing metal, drinking with insane Polish people, it’s great!!!” Simon Exner, one half of the six string combo that forms As You Drown’s aural assault, then jumps in: “They’re such fun guys as well – no superstar egos. They’re down to earth guys and we’ve become friends with them.”

As You DrownTo utter those two lines has taken them a good 5 minutes, not because they were drunk senseless, but because fans keep mobbing the band to congratulate them on their live set – no mean feat when you’re playing to a Vader crowd at a Vader gig as a Vader support act. There isn’t a single unimpressed soul after their savage set at the Underworld in London tonight, proving that they are a force to be reckoned with on the stage as much as in a studio. Deservedly, then, the guys are cracking open a few beers as a reward. One would imagine there will be more than few empty cans by the end of tonight?

“There’s been a few pukes on the bus although none by us, only the crew!” laughs Simon, as Henrik adds: “There’s not been as much drinking as you would expect but everyone’s been really fucked up at least one time! It’s been a pretty good tour so far, better in some places than others. The crowd tonight really got into it and started moshing, which is nice. It gives you a bit more energy on stage when the crowd is moving and being violent, which we always like! That energy from the crowd feels great; it feels great every time someone comes up to me and says ‘Oh I really like your music’. It still gives me a rush. We don’t want to play just for ourselves because that would be like masturbating!”

Of course, the reason they’ve got this support slot with Vader and are drawing respectable numbers each night is because less than a year ago they dropped their new album ‘Reflection’. Best described as a mix between Entombed and Whitechapel, this whirlwind of a debut is probably as close as you’ll ever get to being scared shitless and pooping your pants all at once. Unlike so many bands today, who pigeonhole themselves into the stylistic straitjackets of one movement in metal, As You Drown pull together old and new-school influences to create music that is powerful, memorable and adroit in equal measure.

“We took the old school and mixed it with new school bands and put a little bit of our own touch on it,” the bands’ second guitarist Mikael Akerstrom helpfully explains after ambling over to where we’re talking. “It’s difficult to stand out because there’s so much competition. It’s pretty saturated, I’m hoping for the next album to go even further in developing our own sound. This is our debut album so we were just trying some stuff. I think on the next album we’ll find exactly what we want to do.”

Next album? Already? “It’s always in the back of your head,” nods Simon. “After this tour I don’t think we’ll go to the United States or anything like that. This album has been out for a while and we’re starting to focus on the next one now. We’re constantly talking about it and coming up with ideas but there’s been no solid writing on this tour yet.”

Having their own studio helps, no doubt. It’s where they recorded ‘Reflection’, which was later mixed and mastered by Christian Silver (he of The Crown, Sonic Syndicate and Impious fame) and they’ll be heading back there to record the follow up. As self-professed perfectionists, they are always looking to eke every last minute of studio time so they can improve on their performance, as Mikael reveals: “If we can only afford a little amount of studio time, we know we won’t get the most out of it since we are changing things all the time. It would change the whole writing and recording process and probably not sound as good as we want it to be.”

As You DrownIf there was one criticism to be made of ‘Reflection’ it was that the record became a tad single-minded and monotonous by the end of the nine-song barrage. Whilst there is a lot to be said for the uncompromising, sledgehammer approach, a little variation along the way would not have been amiss, a point not lost on Mikael. “Some of the songs on the record are pretty old – songs we’ve had with us for a while since we formed. I’m not disappointed with this one, but if we’d written it from scratch it would have sounded different. So we want to follow up the new songs and make them even better. I have a lot of ideas but I want to have some quiet time and concentrate on what I write.”

Over the next few months he will have plenty of time to ponder his riffs, with As You Drown only scheduled to make a handful of appearances. No one can guarantee whether their sophomore effort will impress and move them one step closer to extreme metal’s higher echelons; just as they cannot be certain if won’t be an abject failure that consigns As You Drown to the ‘whatever happened to those guys?’ bin at a motorway truck-stop. After all, this is still a very young band that has only shown potential (albeit massive amounts of it) but hasn’t been around long enough to land a knockout punch yet. So let’s just say we can be cautiously optimistic that a band which has already shown such massive pedigree as a live act, and such commitment and honesty in the studio, will create something more than merely average. Till then, here’s to more pukes on the bus.

     

About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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