While they were recording their debut album, released this month through Kingsway, Dave Williams spoke to Swedish doom metal team VENI DOMINE
Many young metal fans who attended Greenbelt in 1989 will remember a Swedish doom band who went by the name of Seventh Seal, playing a set in the big top at a relatively metal-starved festival and took few prisoners. Today, transformed as Veni Domine, their 'Fall Babylon Fall' promises to be one of the outstanding metal releases of 1992. I spoke to the band in between recording their doom metal epic at Eastbourne's ICC studio.
Veni Domine started out in 1987 as Seventh Seal. Thomas Weinesjo, the drummer, and his guitarist brother Torbjorn, contacted Fredrik Ohlsson and asked if he would be interested in singing in their band. A year later, Magnus Thorman replaced their original bassist and the arrival of keyboardist Par-Anders Danielsson in 1991 brought the line up to completion. But there was name trouble. They were contacted by an American band with the name Seventh Seal. To confuse the situation further, there was a Norwegian Seventh Seal who had cut an album. So a new name was an obvious necessity.
Remembers Fredrik: "When we began looking for a new name we went to the library and began looking through a Latin Bible. We saw the name Veni Domine, which translates as "Come, Lord". They are the last words of the Latin Bible at the end of Revelation. We loved the new name."
Veni Domine aim to be different in their music. They feel that all too often metal bands begin to sound too similar, especially thrash, it seems. Their influences vary from one member to another, mentioning such names as Queensryche, Black Sabbath and fellow Swedish doom band Candlemass. The influence of the latter was obvious as we listened to some parts of the growing recording during our time there. Vocalist Fredrik maintains that he is influenced by Kate Bush - it sounds off but this too is evident in his erratic and complex vocal style, often taking a great deal of time to perfect, yet becoming the icing on top of the cake.
Says Fredrik: "The main aim of the band is to speak the message of God's love to the people who really need to hear it - the ones who will not hear it elsewhere. In the band we put a lot of emphasis upon prayer. We pray about each decision we make as a band. Obedience to God's voice is very important, we would be prepared to play pop music if that was what God wanted! Back home we have a group of people who back us in prayer and we report to them various band matters and any problems we may have. The band would ideally like an outside band pastor to guide us spiritually but we do have a fair amount of church support. The band is fully aware of the opposition afforded to Christian bands by the Devil and the need for us to constantly stand against him by leading a prayerful and holy Christian life, even though sometimes it can be hard."
When asked about the dangers of slipping backwards in their faith as their popularity increases, they replied that it was impossible to say "never", but they felt that it could be avoided by talking to God and being honest with God, never lying to themselves or thinking of themselves as stars. They felt that having been through a lot together as a band, they have a pretty firm foundation to begin with.
The band are very grateful for the opportunity presented to them by this recording deal, particularly the secular distribution, in the capable hands of Music For Nations. The secular market is their ultimate aim but they feel that their songs may have something to say to both Christians and non-Christians. Despite much prejudice in metal circles about the use of keyboards in the music, in this case it definitely enhances the quality. The keyboard is skilfully used to provide big, heavy backing, massive choirs, etc - the "Pompous Sound", to use their own words. Fredrik plays for us an amazing 15th century-style acoustic piece on an 11-stringed guitar. It's a beautiful tune and I only hope they have room to include it on the album.
Although they would like to make it clear that they are not a political band, they do feel the need to speak out against the wrong doings of certain world leaders. One such government is their own in Sweden, as with its policy of mass secularisation. Says Fredrik: "It is gradually wiping out the 'Christian country' ideal. They're abolishing prayer and hymn singing in schools and talking of legal homosexual marriage. We Christians have to stand against the secularisation of our culture." The band feel that time is of the essence and their message must be delivered with optimum speed and efficiency.
Finally, we spoke to their producer and engineer, Matthias Kaufmann, from West Germany. Veni Domine are the first heavy Christian band he has produced but he is obviously very impressed with their music. "Veni Domine's music is some of the most intelligent I have ever worked with, with very complex rhythms and time changes. To someone who doesn't appreciate the style, metal often sounds all the same. But if you do like it you will note the many different nuances in the music as you listen. I think Veni Domine have all the potential required for them to compete with the secular bands. Already, they're achieving a very high standard for a non-professional band."
His advice to young Christian bands who are just beginning is to make sure that they work very hard at the arrangements, concentrating on rhythmical tightness and see that each member is writing for the good of the song, rather than using it as a platform to show off his own instrument, which is not a problem affecting this band. In the studio Veni Domine gave the impression of a hard-working band of perfectionists, fully able to cope with the potentially devastating problem of a keyboard exploding before it was recorded. They were soon up and running again with a number of options for its repair or replacement.
As we leave the studio Veni Domine's last message to young Christians is nothing if not straight to the point. "Show God's love to everybody and do not give up even when it is hard."