Blogging returns to calideath.com! Coming off our recent episode #37 with Dennis Röndum, drummer and vocalist of the legendary Spawn of Possession, we had a great career-spanning discussion, with several interesting topics that are highlighted below.
Recording the drums for “Scorched”
Spawn of Possession pushed the boundaries of death metal in nearly every direction: songwriting, groove, technicality, and yes, speed. The song “Church of Deviance” off of 2003’s Cabinet showcases Dennis throwing down some super fast hammer blasts. But their 2006 album Noctambulant, altogether perhaps a more varied release in terms of tempo and drum patterns, features the now-infamous “Scorched” as album closer. Clocking in at 310 bpm, Dennis plays long passages of simultaneous 8th notes with both hands that propel the song forward at blistering speed, while the guitar riffs and vocals weave together the conclusion of the album’s narrative concept. Given the ridiculous bpm of the song, I had to ask Dennis about its recording, which led into a nice discussion about his approach towards recording and plans for “Scorched” to be performed live (which were sadly never realized).
Josef: Did you actually play “Scorched” in the studio at the recorded tempo, which is something like 310 bpm?
Dennis: Yeah, but it’s with punch ins. I didn’t play it in one take, for the record. It’s not a one take song, having a snare that like, hitting that hard, in that tempo. It’s doable – I could have done it, maybe. If I had all the time and all the money, maybe I could have done it.
But again, the whole thing with the studio for me, the prestige about that: look, I totally respect musicians going in just nailing it – man, I take my hat off to that. But for me, I have a slightly different philosophy, because – if you’re comfortable doing that, go ahead and do it. But for me it’s like, here we have all this technology, and I hope people are not listening to it and thinking like, “Is this a first take?” Because I don’t think like that when I listen to music. Maybe I did way back, but now I don’t pay attention to that stuff because I don’t think it’s relevant; what’s relevant is how it sounds. Then we can talk about how you did it, but then again, you have to go on stage and perform, so that’s where the sort of evidence comes out if you’re into that…
I mean, when we practiced it – like me and Jonas practiced it – we played the song, like we played it [all the way through]. But I didn’t have a click track in the practice pad, so obviously, was it like that tight, like record tight? Probably not, you know, the chances are, you know, no.
But the whole idea was that, we’re going to do it live. Because we always finish the shows with “Church of Deviance,” like a quick sort of in-your-face beat. [Jonas] said, “We’re going to play Church midway and end the show with Scorched, that’s going to be awesome.” And also: the only prestige I have ever had as a drummer is playing the hardest fastest song last, when you’re the most tired. It’s like a little, “Oh you’re so tired? No watch this;” and then you play [fast]; it’s like a fun thing. Well, what happened there was that even before the album was released and we hadn’t had any time to to practice, after the studio we got an offer to do a tour with Hate Eternal. Then the other guys in the band didn’t know Scorched, along with half the [new] album. They couldn’t play those songs, they hadn’t learned it. So we had to scramble a set really quick, so we had like “Lash By Lash,” “Sour Flow,” and one more song – those were the ones that they knew how to play, so that was what we brought on the road…
Speaking about Noctambulant and the song “Scorched,” I actually cheated a little bit, because when we started that song, I recorded midway and I stirred it up and gave it a couple of shots to get it going. Because it’s very fast, it’s just like – I’m not gonna be silly about it, it’s a fast song. And then behind me was a window, and in the window was a bunch of drumsticks and stuff that other drummers had left. It was just like a whole collection, and I found like a drumstick – it was like extremely small and it weighed absolutely nothing. I was like, “What is this? This is a toy. ” I don’t know what this is. But I actually used that – it kind of made it a little easier. I had to hit harder to get the strength [velocity], but it was slightly easier to play. So that’s how I sort of got through it.
I just remember that now, I had this little toy stick or something. But yeah, I used my fingers pretty much when I play anyway, but it was just a little easier to maneuver with it. I felt afterwards, I was like, “Man I got to get those.” But then I felt, you know, for the more heavier parts, like when you slow down and you want to do the toms, it wouldn’t really work; you need real sticks.
I just gotta say, like a dream scenario, was that me and Jonas wanted to play it on the tour we did with Hate Eternal. And like a dream now would have been like if we performed it live, and I played it the way it should be played, and somebody videotaped it [and put it] on Youtube. So like, there you go. But it happened with Church of Deviance, so it’s out there, but yeah…
Another highlight was hearing Dennis talk about a project he joined after leaving Spawn of Possession in the wake of Noctambulant and an ill-fated European tour (he rejoined the band as vocalist for 2012’s Incurso). Begotten featured Dennis (as guitarist) alongside other ex- and future- SoP members. The project was mentioned a couple of times in interviews back in the day; however, even though they recorded an entire album and landed a contract, nothing from the project was ever released. Needless to say, I was quite interested in hearing more about this band.
Dennis: After Spawn I went away on my own, and I did a record with Nick, where I play guitars and I do vocals, and Nick plays bass. And then Henrik, we found through Rob [SOP producer] and Flat Pig Studios. He had been in a bunch of bands, and he played the drums. And then we found “Germ,” Martin [Bermheden], who had played on the last Visceral Bleeding album. So he came in to do the solos and stuff.
We record this whole album, and pretty much mix it and everything, and then it just… I don’t know what happened. It’s not been released. The album cover is there, the deal is signed, and you just… I don’t know. So we’re struggling, like: “we should put this out.” That album is more than 10 years old and it’s ready. And it’s like a totally brutal thing. It’s not Spawn or anything but it’s it’s very brutal.
Josef: What’s the name of the project?
Josef: You’re saying there’s like a hidden, almost-Spawn of Possession album that just never came out? That’s insane. I know it’s not actually Spawn of Possession but…
Dennis: Yeah, whatever I do, people are gonna compare to Spawn. Which is okay, I get that, but it’s unfair because Jonas is the real mind behind Spawn; he is the genius in Spawn of Possession. But Jonas has heard the album, and to my surprise, he was really giving me a lot of props for it. He was like, “Man it’s awesome, release it, what the fuck, it’s great,” you know. It’s very brutal, it’s just like a lot of blast beats and it’s a very live recorded, one-take kind of thing, to get a certain old-school imperial doom kind of vibe. Hard-hitting; it’s a brutal album, and I loved recording it and Rob’s going to [finish mixing] it; it’s just a matter of time to sit down and do it but hopefully…
We actually signed a record deal with Willowtip, but it was signed like 10 years ago. I don’t even know if the deal is still on. I don’t know. We gotta email them…
[In response to an inquiry from me in the YouTube comments of the episode, Rob from Flat Pig Studios says: “I cannot say too much about this… but something might just be in motion…” ]