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INTERVIEW + SONG PREMIERE: Swedish Symphonic/Depressive Black Metal Band Mist of Misery

Mist of Misery- Absence

Swedish symphonic/depressive black metal band is one of those styles of metal that can be fairly hit or miss depending on the quality of the production values and songwriting.  But when a group absolutely nails it, they present listeners with an abrasive yet mesmerizing listening experience that’s best experienced in isolation.  Sweden’s Mist of Misery has been able to reach that level on their upcoming full length ‘Absence’, due out August 1st on Black Lion Productions.  Formed in 2010, the group has steadily been honing their craft over several releases and this is their finest moment yet.

Today we’re pleased to bring you a premiere of the song Epitaph of Penance, the fifth song on the album.  Right from the start the instrumentalists make it clear that they are capable of some truly stunning melodies, as the symphonic keyboards early on give way to sweeping guitar melodies that have just as much in common with melodic death/doom as they do black metal.  The guitars and keyboards work in tandem to create an icy, somber sound that expands in layers and is sure to make you want to find a cold forest to wander in solitude.  Compared to many of their peers, Mist of Misery focuses a bit more on the melodies and haunting atmosphere, letting the abrasive tonality add extra flourishes where necessarily rather than using it as the core of their sound.  The vocals add a considerable amount of grit to the otherwise clean style, with the screams towering over the instrumentation, sometimes sounding like a tortured howl.

Epitaph of Penance is a perfect example of the type of cold, somber melody and grit ‘Absence’ is capable of delivering, and if you’re a fan of symphonic or depressive leaning black metal this is one that you shouldn’t miss.  To get further insight into how Mist of Misery put this album together and the overall vibe they’re going for, I had the chance to send some questions to guitarist/bassist Phlegathon.

Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): For those that are just discovering Mist of Misery, can you give us an introduction to the band and its formation?

Mist of Misery (Phlegathon): Mist of Misery is a DSBM (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal) band from Stockholm, Sweden. Our music focuses on creating an ambient, dark and melancholic atmosphere in order to captivate the listener to enter a moody, meditative state. We do so by including all the musical and lyrical elements we deem fitting to this vision of ours. The band was formed in 2010 in the northern suburbs of Stockholm by Simon Sjölander and MortuzDenatus with the vision to achieve just that. Several releases have seen the light of day since then. As everyone has probably realized by now, we have a new full length album entitled ‘Absence’ on the way which will be released this year via Black Lion Records.

TO: Keyboardist Anders Peterson and Simon Hägglund were brought on for live performances last year.  Both play in bands your other two members are involved with (Hyperion and Eufori).  Did your familiarity with their playing styles make them easy choices to bring on-board for Mist of Misery?

Mist of Misery: Yes, it did. Simon is now also a full time member of Mist of Misery actually. Both guys are close friends to the band obviously and have been for quite some time. We share a lot of thoughts and ideas regarding music and things in general, so those selections felt very natural for us. We knew that both of them are very capable musicians. That was the main reason for asking for their assistance. We have had other live members with us as well and Anders no longer performs with us live, however. We use a full set of backing tracks on stage instead.

I would like to add; however that Eufori was formed after Simon joined Mist of Misery, so his involvement with us had nothing to do with Eufori originally.

TO: The material for ‘Absence’ was written and recorded between 2010 and 2016.  In this period of time you’ve also released two EP’s and another full length.  How far back do some of the songs on ‘Absence’ date back to, and how have they changed as you’ve released other material in between?

Mist of Misery:  The majority of the material was written in 2011. Naturally a lot of details were added in the recording and mixing process of the album. We recorded most of the tracks for the album about 5 times I believe, at least the guitar, bass, and drum track. That gave us a lot of insight and a lot of chances to experiment and to improve the material even further as we spent countless hours in the studio and on our own making this album. Most of the tracks you hear on the album were recorded in 2014-2015.A lot of the lyrics however were written between 2014-2015 I would say. Me and Mortuz always had a lot of correspondence and shared ideas on how to improve the material from the first day of recording until the final mastering process. One exception would be that the majority of Serenity In Nothingness was written in 2008, before Mist of Misery even existed.

Regarding the two EP’s we released, I was not a part of the ‘Bleak Autumn’ EP of 2011 so I can’t speak for that one, but I was a part of the ‘Temple of Stilled Voices’ EP. We always knew that the full length album would end up 10 times better than the Temple EP, so we bore in mind to not settle for anything other than perfection in every sense of the word. In our eyes, this latest full length album is above and beyond the previous releases in every way possible. Not to say that the previous releases were bad, but we feel strongly that we really have something to say this time around.

Mist of Misery

TO: Going along with the previous question, mixing and mastering was handled by founding member MortuzDenatus.  Compared to ‘Temple of Stilled Voices’, were there any aspects of the mixing and mastering that he wanted to approach differently this time around?

Mist of Misery: He wanted to approach everything differently, I suppose. As I said earlier, we aimed for nothing but utter perfection with this album and that principle naturally applied to the sound of the album as well. ‘Temple of Stilled Voices’ was good, but a lot sloppier recorded than ‘Absence’. All the tracks for this album were carefully recorded and we never settled for second best when laying down those tracks. We also wanted this album to sound more professional and well-produced than Temple without losing the ambience and melancholic atmosphere that is the core of Mist of Misery. Another thing that Mortuz definitely learned from the Temple sessions was that the vocals on this album needed to be a lot louder than on some songs on Temple.

TO: There are plenty of harsher, abrasive black metal moments throughout ‘Absence’, but I felt that the emphasis was on the somber, depressive melodies.  At times some of your symphonic elements gave off a neoclassical feel to my ears.  What are some of your influences with regards to the ambient/symphonic elements used throughout the album?

Mist of Misery: Oh, I’m glad you noticed! Yes, the emphasis on this album is definitely on the overall melodic soundscape of the album. The inspiration behind that comes from a lot of different sources. Mist of Misery has always been inspired by other Black Metal-type bands that have a similar musical vision, for example Coldworld and Thy Light. When I entered the band, however, both Mortuz and I started listening to a lot of movie soundtracks and game soundtracks, which became huge sources of inspiration for us. The most notable soundtracks of those would be the soundtrack of Heroes of Might and Magic, especially the 3rd game, the soundtrack for Warcraft 2, the compositions of Hans Zimmer and James Horner along with the soundtrack from movies like Nekromantik and Cannibal Holocaust. We were also inspired by other metal bands that used a lot of orchestrations and other “non-metal” instruments such as Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, and Summoning.

TO: A lot of the melodies make me feel like they’d be best experienced with headphones on as I wander through nearby forests.  How has the environment around you in Stockholm and other parts of Sweden influenced your songwriting?

Mist of Misery: To some extent it has inspired us, for sure. Stockholm is a very beautiful city with a lot of nature, especially where we live. You are right, that is the way the music is best experienced. Either that, or by sitting alone in isolationist night looking out of the window, while watching some rain hit the window and cover the landscape. Most of the material on this album was written with some type of alcohol consumption involved either at my father’s house, or some other place that has a lot of nature surrounding the building, so I’m sure the environment has influenced the songwriting to some extent.

Yes, the emphasis on this album is definitely on the overall melodic soundscape of the album. The inspiration behind that comes from a lot of different sources. Mist of Misery has always been inspired by other Black Metal-type bands that have a similar musical vision, for example Coldworld and Thy Light

TO: The cover artwork was done by Alex Tartsus, with the booklet design handled by Marcos Cerutti.  From what I’ve seen of both, they perfectly suit the somber beauty and mysterious feel of your music.  How did you come to work with Tartsus and Cerutti, and how did what they’ve created fit your vision?

Mist of Misery: Thank you. We agree that this artwork and booklet design fit the album very well. Alex Tartsus drew the artwork for the ‘Temple of Stilled Voices’ EP as well. We got in contact with him through Johan Nephente of the band Netherbird. He recommended him to us; we soon discovered that he was indeed the right man for the job. His style is very unique as he is ruthless in his chaotic execution. He is also very easy to work with as long as you give him clear instructions. We pretty much provided him with our vision, some lyrics and some early recorded versions of the songs to get his brain going. The whole process was very smooth and felt natural to us.

Marcos is a member of the Black Lion family and is a very close friend and cooperator with Oliver, the owner of Black Lion Records. He is a very talented designer and has worked with designing booklets for the last 10-15 years or so. He lives in Brazil, so we usually arrange Skype sessions, where I share our ideas for the booklet, write them down and then we sync up later when he has made some significant progress. Marcos definitely has an eye for design and truly understands what we are going for as he is very passionate about the music and metal in general. He is a true supporter of the underground scene, as he does most of this work almost free of charge. The guy is a hero.

TO: The full length of ‘Bleak Autumn’ released in 2011 was an instrumental release.  Was the band in-between vocalists at this point, and were there ever any thoughts of continuing on with some instrumental only releases?

Mist of Misery: I think you have got some misinformation about that album. It was not an instrumental release since all the songs featured on that album had vocals on them. I was not a part of that release, but I know for a fact that that was not the intention, nor did it become a reality.

TO: You started working with Black Lion Productions for 2014’s ‘Temple of Stilled Voices’.  How did you connect up with the label and what has your experience with them been so far?

Mist of Misery: Oliver Dahlbäck, the man behind Black Lion Records as they are now called has been an avid supporter of Mist of Misery since day 1. He is probably responsible for attracting most of our listeners. When he decided to start his own label and proved that he definitely could do some high quality promotion for my other band, Hyperion, the decision to choose Black Lion as our label felt very natural to us. I have never met him in person, but I consider him a close friend, since we communicate on a daily basis. He has done so much for the band and we are growing together as a team to build something that hopefully will be worthwhile for many years to come. We feel that the cooperation fits us perfectly. It’s not always stable as Oliver is a very unique and… energized person to say the least, but we are all working towards the same goal. We trust in each other’s judgments and skillsets.

TO: How long have you been playing live for, and what has your most memorable gig?  How would you compare your live experience to your recorded output?

Mist of Misery: We have been playing shows on and off since the beginning of the band in 2010 I believe. I was not a part of the first couple of gigs, however since I am not a founding member of Mist of Misery. I think the live shows have just gotten better and better over the years in terms of…everything really. We have better equipment, better songs, better playing capabilities and a more experience obviously. I personally would say that the ultimate Mist of Misery experience is to listen to our music in isolation as I said before, but now that we have such a strong line up and capable people playing with us; the live experiences are getting better and better with time. One day, we might be able to completely re-create our recorded material live.

TO: I saw that your live set list has included a cover of Coldworld’s Tortured by Solitude.  What made you decide to cover this song, and are there any plans to record any covers for upcoming albums or EP’s?

Mist of Misery: That is correct. Coldworld is one of Mortuz’s favorite bands and that song is a one the best Coldworld songs in the rest of the bands eyes as well. Mortuz was the main driving force behind that decision and none of us other could find any reason not to do it, so we just went along with it. The ending result was a very atmospheric and great song added to our set list as a tribute to one of the best DSBM bands on the planet.

TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Absence’ or Mist of Misery?

Mist of Misery: Well, I would like to add that ‘Absence’ is by far the best and finest representation of Mist of Misery so far. We put down a lot of ourselves into making this album and for a long time, we seriously doubted that it would ever be completed. The end result is above and beyond our original expectations, but very close if not on spot with our original vision. I would encourage anyone reading this to give it a good listen. This type of music is not for everyone, but I know many people who are drawn to the darker and more sorrowful side of music will surely appreciate it.

Thank you for the interview!

Mist of Misery | Black Lion Productions

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