Fans of extreme metal surely know who Sebastian Ramstedt is. His contribution to no less than seven Necrophobic albums is a fact, but it should be noted that Sebastian has a central role in creating the two masterpieces which are the latest two albums of the Swedes – Mark Of The Necrogram and Dawn Of The Damned. He has also played with other classic bands like Unanimated and Nifelheim, but few of you probably know his quite successful venture into heavy metal territory for two albums with Black Trip. Anyway, the name of the game now is Mr. Ramstedt’s new venture, called In Aphelion, where he partners with his Necrophobic and Black Trip bandmate Johan Bergebäck on guitars and drummer Marco Prij (Cryptosis). Check out what he shared with Velvet Thunder about all things present and future.
Hello, Sebastian! How is life currently going on in Sweden? Are things getting back to normal?
-Yeah, they lifted some restrictions the other day so it seems we will have concerts again. A small tour of three dates that we have planned with Necrophobic, will actually happen, so this is really good news. People are not talking so much about Covid anymore, so it’s pretty much like before.
In Aphelion is your fresh new band, which you started as a project last year. So, I have to ask you the question that is bothering all Necrophobic fans – why isn’t Sebastian saving these great riffs for Necrophobic?
-Because people know what kind of quality to expect with Necrophobic and when you buy a new album, you know it will sound exactly like Necrophobic. However, it is also limiting for me to be only within this frame, because when I practice so much, I can manage so many different styles of music. It’s kind of limiting to me to only write Necrophobic riffs. Even though this is also extreme metal, it is more black than death metal and these are riffs that will never pass the filter of Necrophobic. The Necrophobic founder Joakim Sterner is also the one who keeps things together so that it never strays away. So, with all these ideas, I feel they are equally good or even better, but will never fit within the concept of Necrophobic. If I had to present these riffs to Necrophobic, then I would have had to simplify them and change the tempos, which are things I wouldn’t sacrifice. That’s the main reason these are not saved as Necrophobic songs.
I can understand what you are saying. When you listen to the forthcoming Luciferian Age EP, In Aphelion is a slightly different beast. There is more classic heavy metal here, and less black metal tremolo speeds. Am I right as for the general idea for In Aphelion?
-I would say there are probably no death metal elements at all. It has heavy metal, thrash metal and black metal. Most of the people who know me know that I listen to a lot of heavy metal and early black metal. I listen to a lot of Venom, Bathory and the early Norwegian scene, but not so much death metal. So I created something with the influences that I think are most important. The black metal part comes mostly from my vocals, which are think are extremely influenced by black metal, which is also valid for the tremolo riffs and the lyrics. There is also a strong heavy metal approach and I have made this album with no bars held. This is not a major label release so I didn’t have to think about anything commercial – I wrote it exactly as I wanted to. I didn’t have to write a follow up to a Necrophobic album – I was totally free.
As you mentioned, with In Aphelion, you are also performing the vocals – I think for the first time in your career. What is it like being in this new role?
-I’ve always done vocals in a lot of the bands I’ve been in, which never made it to the albums, you know. With Necrophobic, I sing a lot of it live and on the title track of the album Mark Of The Necrogram I share the song credits with Anders, singing every other line. So, I’ve done some singing over the years and I know my voice has a personal touch to it. I am trying to figure out what I can bring to the table when I write both the riffs and the lyrics and also perform the songs, so this is a really big step towards presenting the songs with my own voice. When I write for Anders, then it’s him who interprets my lyrics but now I can colour the words exactly as I want. It’s a big challenge and it was quite hard actually to find the right mood and the right voice but I am pleased with the result in the end.
Seb, taking your answer further – tell us something about the lyrics of the songs – what are the themes in your lyrics?
-Usually I try to find a myth or something in literature or even religious approaches about luciferianism, Satanism or other topics that will fit the atmosphere of the songs. For me it is very important that the lyrics go with the atmosphere of the song. Also, for me it is not only important to tell stories, I feel I should stand behind the lyrics, so I always have a personal approach. For example, the opening song of the EP, called Draugr, which will also be the first lyric video, is about this revenant in the Norse mythology but it is also my own take on immortality, on having an immortal life and at the same time being plagued by hatred versus the short lifespan of the human being with all the feelings we are able to feel. So I try to put myself into these myths and beliefs.
The full length album is called Moribund and is planned for next March, through Edged Circle Productions. Is the EP totally representative of the album or there will be surprises?
-I think the EP is very representative – it is what I wanted it to be. The reason to release the EP before the album is because I am a record collector, as is Stian – the owner of Edged Circle Productions. In the past, with Kreator for example, they always released a mini-album or a maxi single before the album – LP-maxi-LP-maxi, always. Iron Maiden did that too. I wanted to do this with In Aphelion too – first release four songs on a 12’’ EP that represents the album, but you have to have some extra songs on the EP as well. So, two of the songs are exclusive to the EP and it was not made for commercial reasons but only because it was how it was done back in the days.
It is really a nice touch for the collectors and also to spread the word about the band, of course.
-Sure. We could have released it digitally, but I don’t like the digital form. I want to have the physical copy of the music and for me it’s worth it. Even if we don’t sell a lot of copies, in time, it will be a collectible item, so it’s a win-win situation in the end.
A few years ago, you and Johan released two classic heavy metal albums with the band Black Trip, which were excellent. Do you plan to release something else in the heavy metal style in the future?
-No, actually. I have riffs lying around and even songs but I don’t feel the time is right. Even though I like those albums a lot – it was a fun time, but playing heavy metal music is so hard! If I do it, I want to do it by the standards of George Lynch of Dokken or Warren DeMartini of Ratt or Iron Maiden, but I am not such a good player. When I do extreme metal, it is right up my alley, but as soon as I try to do something like Judas Priest, I can feel my limitations, because I am not Glenn Tipton, you know.
Iron Maiden were mentioned several times during our conversation, so – do you like the new album?
-Yes, I actually do. It’s a very good new album but of course, it can never be as good as Piece Of Mind. I didn’t like Book Of Souls at all, but with this one, I had the songs in my head the whole day and that’s a very good sign.
I also liked Senjutsu a lot and I think it is a grower. When Book Of Souls came out, I actually liked it very much initially but it didn’t stand the test of time. So, finally, Seb, what are the albums that have impressed you this year so far, apart from Maiden, of course?
-I liked the new album by a Swedish black metal band called Myronath. Also, the new Netherbird album Arete, which is brilliant. These guys were a big inspiration for me when writing the In Aphelion songs. The Netherbird album is actually better that Iron Maiden and probably the album of the year for me.