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  • Interview by Faye Coulman

Necrophobic’s Sebastian Ramstedt talks COVID-19, cosmic upheaval and killer 9th opus ‘Dawn of the Da

The world as we know it is awash with apocalyptic horror, teeming with tales of sorrow and woe as we, locked in the maddening noise and isolation of our own heads, endlessly fret and ruminate over the sorry state of affairs that is the year 2020. Small wonder, then, that this exceptionally dark chapter of human civilisation has proved such a rich and fertile source of inspiration for many a darkly-inclined metal unit. But while blackened collective Necrophobic may have long aligned themselves with all things decidedly grim and frostbitten, epic new slab ‘Dawn of the Damned’ is so much more than just a fine, delectably sinister specimen of the genre. From its visceral layerings of bone-scraping tremolo to grandly expansive spirals of lacerating fretwork that audibly glimmer with infernal fire, it’s evident that the Swedes’ ninth studio masterwork has an altogether more purposeful and intelligent agenda at work here. Guitarist and compositional talent Sebastian Ramstedt lifts the lid on this deliciously nightmarish long-player.

“The funny thing was, when I wrote these lyrics and this music, in my mind, I had a feeling that this is like a farewell to something. This is a goodbye to life as we knew it, as we know it,” reflects Necrophobic’s Sebastian Ramstedt on the darkly prophetic conception of groundbreaking ninth opus ‘Dawn of the Damned’. Indeed, reflecting on the life-altering arrival of COVID-19 to European shores last March, it’s hard to believe it’s been over half a year since Dark Matter last had the pleasure of holding an audience with the aforementioned riff lord and composer. Largely because, since our last exchange with this towering institution of a metal collective, frighteningly little to nothing has changed here on this dreary, rain-sodden rock we call the United Kingdom. After a momentary flicker of activity back in the summer, our local boozers have once again shut up their doors, families are still estranged from their nearest and dearest and the ‘R’ rate is once again gathering alarming momentum. And as we inch, with agonisingly slow inexorability, ever closer to the end of this veritable catastrophe of a year, the concept of live music is fast becoming an increasingly alien prospect, a faded relic of a bygone age quite possibly forever consigned to the history books.

But how keenly we recall the bitter disappointment of Necrophobic’s long-awaited European tour being brought to a violently abrupt halt mere hours before the Swedes were set to unleash hell upon the city of London back in March. As our last chat with the band on the subject of COVID-19 and its devastating impact on the music industry abundantly revealed, this proved to be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions, not least after Sebastian and his family themselves contracted the virus before luckily making a full recovery following a few weeks of precariously fragile health. But despite the crippling effects of COVID-19 and the unending multitude of spiritual, physical and financial complications it brought with it, it’s clear that, while the better part of the western world descended into a prolonged period of Netflix-bingeing apathy and despair, Ramstedt and co. were putting all this dead time to exceptionally productive use.

“It’s been great that we have had all this time to make this release what it is,” Sebastian comments of the band’s latest impeccably orchestrated long-player. “You know, we had this time to really think through the mix and make all the preparations and the videos and everything else. So we have used the time actually very well. Of course, we had written most of the songs long before this pandemic came. But when we had to finalise the mix and add the last details and decide how the overall feeling and atmosphere would be; it kind of had the tension of the world in a state of great change and the world locked down in fear for some reason. For many reasons, most of our albums are more about aggressive power and going your own way, against Christianity or whatever, but this album is much more about looking into yourself and to manage to cope with or fight your own inner demons. And as the whole world is in this state, it's very interesting to put out an album about this during these troubled times. I mean, it lands quite well so to speak.”

Indeed, the album’s conception could have scarcely begun at a more eerily appropriate moment, with Sebastian’s private struggles with depression coinciding with the onset of a global catastrophe that would later rock human civilisation to the very core of its being. Revolving around the darkly introspective concept of monumental, life-altering change effected via the most turbulent and traumatic of personal misfortunes, ‘Dawn of the Damned’ is a record born of the very darkest cosmic energies and unearthly vibrations. Be it in its ghoulishly echoing, sulphurous screams, bristling lashings of tremolo or gargantuan lines of blackly expansive fretwork, there’s no mistaking the undiluted torment at work within this grimly apocalyptic slab.

“I really tried to draw the atmosphere out of this one because this is so much based on my own experiences with depression, and also my own experiences with rituals,” the guitarist elaborates. “I really tried to get that kind of inner conflict thing going on in the music. The harmonies take you this