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  • Interview by Faye Coulman

Dark Funeral talk touring, festival experiences and long-time tourmates Cannibal Corpse

In a heavily commercialised music industry that’s long been laden with attention-seeking posers and cash-grabbing pretenders, it’s heartening to note the presence of those who still prize the pursuit of their own unflinchingly expressive and authentic art above all other conceivable interests and agendas. And with an illustrious career spanning a whopping three decades of blistering, delectably frostbitten extremity, suffice it to say that Swedish black metal legends Dark Funeral comprise one such tirelessly impassioned powerhouse of a musical collective. Ahead of their hugely anticipated turn in the capital alongside US death metal heavyweights Cannibal Corpse, founding member and riff master Lord Ahriman weighs in on what’s already shaping up to be their most epic and globally expansive touring cycle yet.

“Of course, we were kind of struggling during the set a little bit, but it wasn't until we got off the stage that I was like, okay, my brain is about to fucking to explode,” recalls Dark Funeral founder Lord Ahriman on the dramatically different set of circumstances in which we last encountered the iconic Swedish black metal collective. Harking back to the notoriously blistering summer of 2022 when Bloodstock Open Air was besieged by a freak heatwave that saw temperatures skyrocketing to an inferno-like 40°C, it’s ironic to note that a band this thoroughly entrenched in grandiose lyrical concepts of world-ending ruin and devastation should have been tasked with performing in quite such literal, near-apocalyptic conditions. And yet, as we sit here now comfortably ensconced in the band’s dressing room at the labyrinthine recesses of the O2 Forum on this mellow afternoon in mid-April, it’s clear that this particular, endurance-testing episode is just one of the many trials and tribulations that the Swedes have triumphantly faced down over the course of their prestigious 30-year career. And be it in the blistering midday heat of a summer festival slot or a luxuriously air-conditioned club replete with enticingly demonic props and pyros, there’s no mistaking Dark Funeral’s unwavering commitment to manifesting the most intensely visceral and absorbing live experience possible.

The lead guitarist elaborates: “Of course, club shows bring us closer to the crowd and also we can build up the atmosphere more than on a festival stage, especially during the daylight. That said, if you can't go on stage at any time of the day and still fucking kill it, then you're not a professional, good band in my opinion. If you need to hide behind lots of gimmicks, you know darkness, smoke machines or fire or whatever and only perform in the night. On the other hand, I understand bands who do that performing in the evening. I don't think we're going to do many more daylight festival shows in the future. But yeah, I still think the music must always come first. And if you can't perform it at any time of the day, then you're kind of fake to me. With that said, when there's darkness, when you have the lights and pyro and all that kind of stuff, then you can bring the extras to the basics of what your band wants to, but that's extras to me. You still need to be able to do what you do under any circumstances, and I think we're one of the few bands that can do that.”

Indeed, as a band whose humble, tirelessly industrious origins far pre-date today’s frantic digital age of instant gratification and fickle online trends, there’s the unmistakable sense that Dark Funeral belong to an increasingly rare and arguably dying breed of bands. Artists whose reputation is forged out of nothing but the purest and most finely honed of creative instincts, together with a dogged work ethic and commitment to the most physically gruelling of touring schedules and studio sessions. And for all the numerous stylistic differences that set them apart from current tourmates Cannibal Corpse, this unrelenting passion and creative spark appears to be one of the various ties that bind this rather unlikely pairing of extreme metal acts. Of the precise form and nature of this artistic affinity, Lord Ahriman observes: “It's extreme metal to the max in two different genres and that's the cool thing. They are honestly just a machine in what they are doing when they go and they just fucking kill everything in their way, whereas we have another kind of wall of sound that pushes people in a different way, so I guess that's the connection we have. Both our sounds are so massive and overwhelming to the crowd in two different ways and I think that’s what makes us a good match.”

Add to that an extensive history of playing somewhere in the ballpark of a whopping 80 shows together over the course of the past couple of decades, and it’s easy to appreciate the warm-hearted friendship and camaraderie underpinning this harmonious pairing of longstanding tour buddies.

“The first time we met I think was around ’98 or ’99,” Lord Ahriman recalls. “Me and Caligula went over to New York to do some press. Both of the bands were signed to Metal Blade in the US at that time, so we flew over to do some press for the ‘Vobiscum Satanas’ record and at that time Cannibal Corpse and Meshuggah were doing a couple of shows together, like three or four or something like that. So we met up with them and we kind of joined a couple of shows to do press and I think that was when we became friends. We were on the same booking agent in Europe and the same label in the US, so I guess that’s why they put us together. We knew very early on that this sort of combination was going to be good and I think it's a perfect match.”

But with tonight’s hotly anticipated London show now mere hours away and a slew of countries and continents still to check off on this tremendously expansive global touring cycle, Lord Ahriman and co.’s attentions are, for the time being, focused firmly on the present moment. Compelled ever onward by the all-consuming goal of delivering the most incendiary live spectacle imaginable, the founder enthuses: “We don't want to do just another tour. We want to step up the game and do a great fucking tour, which is going to be good for us and also for the crowd. So I guess we’ll have a little bit more demand on what kind of tours we're going to accept in the future. We have so much more to offer under the right circumstances, and I think especially the crowd deserves that. We want to go even further and and give more than what we can now. I will always want to push further.”

Click the player below to listen to the interview in full...


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