There’s a new beast emerging from the realms of Swedish darkness, and its name is Unhallow. Joakim Sterner (Necrophobic) is half of this new band, and Robert Sennebäck (Dismember) is the other; they two have joined forces to create a dark, atmospheric and melodic new Metal band. I had the pleasure of interviewing Joakim Sterner for Blessed Altar Zine, about this new project and some other personal things.
Hi Joakim, thank you for taking your time doing this interview. How was it that you and Robert teamed up to bring Unhallow to life?
Joakim: We’ve been close friends for over 30 years and we have always liked each other’s bands. Robert once also was a member of Necrophobic but his regular job made it too difficult to be part of Necrophobic at that time, due to a lot of shows. We also had a band under the name of Souldevourer, between 2005-2008 and we had like 8-9 songs ready to record, but it ran out in the sand.
However, in 2020 I got a song sent to me from Robert and he was asking me what I thought of it. I didn’t know what to say. It was brilliant, but the thing that was the most cool with it was that it was not Death Metal. He said that he had a lot of ideas in this direction and was asking me if I wanted to be a part of this new music. I didn’t hesitate a second before saying yes!
How would you describe the music played by Unhallow?
Joakim: Both of us have a hard time describing this music. We come from Death Metal and Black Metal and are Metal fans since the early 80s, so there we have our foundation, but Unhallow is not what our main bands are doing. The darkness is there, of course, but that’s it. No Death Metal or Black Metal, as far as I see it anyway, so it’s Metal, Heavy, with eerie and somber melodies.
What we are trying to do here is write music that is not Dismember or Necrophobic, but also try to find new paths and soundscapes that we haven’t tried before and that is very challenging.
Who is responsible for writing the lyrics and composing? And what do the lyrics talk about?
Joakim: I have no idea at this point because we have only recorded 2 songs. It’s Robert that has written both the music and the lyrics, but I can say that it is not dealing with happiness and light. It’s about visions, darkness, lust …
Your first demo, “Dæmonum”, was released last February, and we can find it on digital platforms. Do you consider releasing it in any physical format?
Joakim: Already during the first week when we released the songs, some people sent messages to us saying that they wanted it on vinyl. We checked the price of pressing 100 items, but it was too expensive for us to do that, paying from our own pockets, but both I and Robert really want to have it released on vinyl one day. Even if these songs now are on both paid platforms (like Apple Music) and on free streaming platforms, this could still be released later on, as a 7-inch or a 12-inch vinyl. But we have to get a record deal before making those plans doable.
Two songs are only a small taste, but enough to keep the listener hungry for more… Can we expect more material coming soon from Unhallow?
Joakim: Right now, the goal is to find a record label that handles this type of Metal that wants to sign us. There are 10 songs all together, so the material is already there for a full-length album.
Even if I’m not an expert, I can feel a characteristic dark atmosphere in your music. Do you think there’s something inherent in your country that provides “that special kind of darkness” common to so many Swedish metal bands? The weather, the culture… maybe something in the water?
Joakim: It must be. From October to March, we live in more darkness than light, almost, so it has to have some influence on the music that comes out from us Swedes. Yes, something in the water too, haha.
Talking about some more personal aspects; at what age did you start playing drums? It was difficult for you to have your first drum kit and a place for rehearsing? (I guess it’s not as easy as if you play the guitar, for example…)
Joakim: I started to play drums in school, in the music class. I must have been around 14, maybe, but that was not on a regular basis. On a regular basis playing drums was when we formed Necrophobic, back in 1989. We got a rehearsal room that we could borrow one day a week at a youth center. They provided the rehearsal room with a drum kit, guitar, and bass amplifiers, and a small sound system PA. I bought my first drum kit around 1991 and in 1993 I bought a new drum kit and that is what I still play today.
Do you play any other instrument besides drums? Maybe you are good at vocals?
Joakim: I am not good at singing. I guess I would have been a great frontman, but with a bad voice, so I did not go for that position. I play a little guitar, but that is mostly for composing music.
Is there any drummer that you consider a big influence on you, or maybe the reason you started playing drums?
Joakim: I have two drummers that I both respect and am influenced by and that is Dave Lombardo and Igor Cavalera.
Which band(s) got you into Metal as a teenager? Do you still listen to them nowadays?
Joakim: The band that got me into Metal was Iron Maiden and yes, I still listen to them today. Some other bands I started to listen to at that time were Judas Priest, Accept, KISS, Black Sabbath, and Mötley Crüe and I still am listening to those bands as well nowadays.
Can you name some of your favorite Metal bands? And, is there an album or a song with a special meaning for you that you could be listening to forever, because of the emotions it conveys to you?
Joakim: There are so many. Like the ones that I just mentioned, along with Dio, W.A.S.P., Metallica, and Bathory. If I must choose a song that would be played for me forever, I have to say “To Tame a Land” by Iron Maiden. Not that the song is the best I have ever heard, but it’s truly up there, but the song has a lot of great ingredients and moods, so I have to say that one.
Do you have any “musical guilty pleasure” you can confess?
Joakim: I am very fond of Depeche Mode. Especially their early and “naked” stuff. I started to listen to Depeche Mode almost at the same time I discovered Metal and Iron Maiden. I still own their first album “Speak and Spell” on vinyl. It’s very dark music but in a totally different genre.
How do you see the underground Metal scene nowadays? Do you think it’s strong enough?
Joakim: I don’t have so much spare time left these days that I want to spend on finding new music, so I can not give you a proper answer to that. Most of my time goes to playing with my band/s, playing live, doing graphic designs, and watching sports, movies, and series. I seldom go to shows nowadays, unless I am invited or if it is some of the bands I really want to see, so there is not so much time for the underground these days. But I still think it’s strong. It has always been like that.
What does Metal music mean to you in your life?
Joakim: Well, it has been my music now for over 40 years, so I guess it’s my way of living.
Before ending, I must ask you about Necrophobic, as you are one of the founding members and the only constant in the band since it was formed. How proud are you of Necrophobic after 33 years of existence? Do you think your band has enough recognition nowadays?
Joakim: I am very proud. The band still exists, more powerful than ever and there is no sign yet of being on a downward spiral. I never would have thought that I’d still be doing this, but I have been proven otherwise. There is still hunger for Necrophobic out there and I really appreciate that. We still attract new fans, young boys and girls, that are now the age I was when I started this band.
We have been to many parts of this world with Necrophobic, so I think we have got enough recognition, but of course, I want more people to find our music.
Do you have some gigs insight soon with Necrophobic? Are you guys maybe working on new material?
Joakim: There has been a pandemic for over 2 years now, so we have a lot of postponed shows to do now. Next up is Maryland Death Fest in the US and then there will follow a lot more here in Europe during the remaining of 2022.
Many thanks for your answers, Joakim, is there anything else you want to add?
Joakim: Thank you Sílvia for having me and Unhallow in this magazine.
Interview by Sílvia
Check out Unhallow music in the link below. Feel free to support the band if you enjoy what you hear. Support the underground.
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.**