I’ve played Sulphur’s “Thorns in Existence” multiple times since it was released – especially in the last couple of months for some unknown reason! Since a fully fledged obsession is likely to grow from these repeated listens, I thought it was only right to send a few questions in the direction of the band’s vocalist Thomas Skinlo Høyven.
I have used a few photographs from the band’s official Facebook page to accompany this interview and I have credited the photographer where possible. If a photo you took is here, please let me know in the comment box below… or, if you are the photographer I’ve already credited and would like to leave us a link to where we can find more of your work then that would be superb!
Lou: Hi and thank you for taking the time out to answer my questions. As is now customary with these kinds of interviews, please can you introduce yourselves just in case anyone out there in Loucifer Speaks land hasn’t heard of you yet?
Thomas: Greetings everyone. This is Thomas, vocalist in the extreme metal band Sulphur.
Lou: I see that Sulphur have been around quite a while, but how long have you been together? Has there been any line-up changes in that time?
Thomas: Sulphur started in 1997 under the name Taakeriket (The realm of fog) by Øyvind, (our guitar player, songwriter and one of the founders of Sulphur), and some of his friends. After a couple of years the name changed to Sulphur and the lineup changed a bit as well. I started in 2001 right after the first demo (A relic for the damned) was recorded.
There were a lot of lineup changes over the years between demos and records so I don’t think I will name all the different members because it would take a long time and it isn’t really that interesting. But right after our first album “Cursed Madness” and in the songwriting process towards the “Thorns in Existence” album we came up with a full lineup and we are still the same members to this date.
Lou: When I listen to “Thorns in Existence” and “Cursed Madness” I can hear a range of influences – everything ranging from Black Metal to Death Metal to Thrash to the just plain weird. It’s very much your own sound though – the “Sulphur sound” if you will. How did you end up playing in this style? Was it a conscious effort to blend a multitude of things, or was it more of a happy accident?
Thomas: I think the main reason that we ended with this sound is that Øyvind has a lot of different bands he get influence from. He likes bands like Morbid Angel, Slayer, Dark Throne, Emperor and Mastodon but also prog-rock bands like Camel, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and others. So when he writes the songs for Sulphur he gets a little influence from every aspect of the different bands and styles and mixes it into the sound and music Sulphur consist of.
It probably started as a happy accident, but now after two albums with this progressive approach, we feel that we have got something a little different than what many other bands are playing so we are happy with our own sound. We are aware that it is not the easiest music to listen to and many people may find it chaotic, but we hope they will try to give it a chance because the chaos in our music tend to get understandable after a couple of spins or so I have heard.
Lou: How do you achieve your sound? I particularly love the lead guitar tone in “Luna Noctiluca”.
Thomas: Well, beyond that above, I am not sure I can explain it very good. “Luna Noctiluca” is a quite different track from the rest on “Thorns in Existence”. It has a much more Rock’n roll approach to it. With the help of Eivind, (our other guitar player) and his lead guitar solos it makes it even more like a good old rock’n roll ballade but still with the groove that keeps it in the metal genre.
Eivind is a great guitar player and with his lead guitars and guitar solos it gives the album the little extra it needs to get more interesting. Everybody likes a great guitar solo;)
Lou: Which bands have influenced you?
Thomas: There are a lot of different bands that influence us and everyone in the band has their own favorites. For my own part I think Dissection is one of my favorites and that’s because Dissection is the first “Black metal” bands I ever heard. Other bands that I enjoy and have enjoyed over time are: Emperor, Satyricon, Windir, Finntroll and Taake to name some.
Before I started listening to Black metal I listened a lot to Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Pantera and Sepultura so there is probably some influence from them as well.
Lou: What was the first album you ever bought? Do you still listen to it?
Thomas: My first album is hard to remember. Probably Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for destruction” or “Use your illusion 1″ and one can’t stop listening to any of those albums. My first Black metal album was as I said Dissection with “Storms of the lights bane” and that is one of my favorite album to this date so I still listen to that a lot.
Lou: Which bands are you listening to at the moment? What have been your favourite albums from 2011?
Thomas: Taake’s “Norges Vaapen” is the album that gets my rock-fot jogging for the time being. The “Kveld” EP is pretty damned good!! Gives me the goose-bumps to listen to the old songs recorded live in studio, so even though it is not a full length album it need mentioning. I also bought Einherjer’s “Norrøn” album some weeks ago and it to light the spark for me as well. Primordial’s newest is worth mentioning and the rest I probably forgot;)
Lou: “Thorns in Existence” has been out for while now. What has the reaction been like to it?
Thomas: Well, there is much split feelings about the album I think. From the reviews I have read there is much good, but also some that are not so good. The good ones praise the experimental and progressive sound we bring and that there is a feeling of something new in our music. They enjoy the good riffing and the guitar solos and the massive drum work throughout the album. And they like the variety the whole album gives, the balance between the fast, the heavy and the trashy.
The not so good reviews seems to be having a problem understanding the album. And as I said above, I think that they haven’t listen to the album enough times. The clue with our music is to get to know the riffs and the rhythmic changes to get a good understanding of each track. But of course, there are probably many people that simply don’t like what they hear.
Lou: Looking back on the album now, which tracks stand out the most for you?
Thomas: This is a hard one because many of the tracks are so different from each other. I think I would have to point out “Luna Noctiluca” since it is a much slower track with the rock’n roll feeling I told you about. It is also a track that I would say it’s a bit sad and beautiful in a way if I can say that without sounding weird And with that it differs from many of the other tracks that are more harsh, dirty and chaotic.
Lou: What are your favourite tracks to play live?
Thomas: Probably “Luna Noctiluca” here as well. The groove and the rock’n roll feeling makes it easy and fun to perform. “Into Nothingness” and “Ravner Beiter i Banesår” is also great ones to play. These tracks are not so fast and chaotic as many of the others and makes it easier for us to play and still have contact with the audience.
Lou: Do you have any plans to come over to the UK to play some shows? That would be awesome…
Thomas: No plans for that at this time. We are currently working with new material towards a new album so we don’t play so much live these days. But if someone would want to invite us over there in the future, we would be happy to show up and play your brains out.
Lou: Are there any lyrical themes running through “Thorns…”?
Thomas: No, not through the whole album. Some of the tracks are about the corruption of Christianity and their immoral ways to force their beliefs upon all and everybody. And there is tracks like “Luna Noctiluca” that is a tribute to the goddess of the moon. But mostly the anti-Christian theme.
Lou: Are there any lines or verses that you’re particular proud of?
Thomas: Here is another hard one but I think I would say this one from “Throne of Illusion”
“I’ll never beseech false redemption. I won’t fall into your self-destructive religious circus”
Lou: Where do you get inspiration from? Both in regards to music and lyrics…
Thomas: I think Øyvind gets his inspiration from listening to much different music and I hope he gets inspired by Angry Birds as well because he plays it a lot
For my part with the lyrics I get inspiration from reading books and some videogames. I also get inspiration just looking at the news sometimes, all this madness and catastrophe out there in this world makes it easy to write about destruction and insanity.
Lou: How would you say “Thorns in Existence” compares to “Cursed Madness”?
Thomas: The progressive approach and the weird programing and arrangement that show up in the different tracks can make a little comparison. The guitar solos and that there is one track in Norwegian on each album can also make comparison.
On “Cursed Madness” many of the tracks are old and from the two demos we recorded, but there were also some new ones we made right before we recorded the album. These new are more similar to the tracks on “Thorns in Existence” and made a more natural transition between the two albums.
Lou: I’d love to be able to hear your older material, so is it still possible to buy “Outburst of Desecration” or the “A Relic for the Damned” demo?
Thomas: “Outburst of Desecration” was released on a 7” vinyl through Osmose Productions, it looked like an old and worn out vinyl because the company printing it wasn’t very good at their job but it worked. It is probably for sale somewhere and maybe through Osmose Productions. You can also buy it at iTunes if you want it digital as well. The “A Relic for the Damned” demo is not for sale and I think I only know about some that may have a copy. It was only printed in a few copies and sent around to different labels when it was made.
Lou: It looks like most of you are involved with other projects – everything from other bands (Vulture Industries) and jewellery making – how do you find the time to do it all? How do you strike a balance?
Thomas: I work as a jeweller at a daily basis and have my own company “Astoroth Design” as a hobby where I can make a more suitable design for my own taste. I do this in the spare time in between everything else. When Vulture Industries are working with their stuff and travel on tour and such, I have a lot of time to work with my things and Sulphur is more or less on hold. When we work with Sulphur, I put Astoroth Design on hold and the Vulture Industries gears turns a little slower. So when we just balance it, we get time to do something extra even though it can be chaotic from time to time
Lou: What’s next for Sulphur? Are there any plans for new material?
Thomas: We are currently writing and composing new material and hope to start recording in the first half of next year. But we’ll see. Things usually takes longer than planned in the end.
Lou: Do you have any messages for the readers of Loucifer Speaks?
Thomas: Greetings again and thanks for reading the interview. I hope all you who haven’t heard of Sulphur yet visit our facebook page at facebook.com/sulphurband and “Like” us. There are possibilities to listen to our music, buy merchandise or CDs at the bandpage or store on this page. Visit us on myspace at myspace.com/sulphur666 and become our friend there.
There is also the soundcloud page at soundcloud/sulphur-official if you just want to listen to our music.
If some of you want to check out my “Heathen and Dark Art Jewellery”, go to astorothdesign.no or facebook.com/astorothdesign and have a look.
Cheers and horns up to you all!!!
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