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THE CROWN: The Return of the Deathrace King

December 29, 2003

(Evil) spirits have been running high in THE CROWN camp since the recent reunion with their original voice-from-hell, Johan Lindstrand. The Swedish metallers’ highly publicized one-off (2002’s Crowned in Terror album) with former AT THE GATES screamer, Tomas Lindberg, found the two camps in a situation with a serious lack of chemistry prompting a quick-but-inevitable split. Fortunately the terror set was short as destiny soon cast Johan back to resume his rightful role in THE CROWN resulting in the dangerous new album, Possessed 13. Guitarist Marko Tervonen enthusiastically chatted with APESHIT about Johan’s new haircut and other significant things such as Possessed 13 and the importance of having Johan back in the fold.

images/thecrown.031229.jpg APESHIT: The long awaited new album, Possessed 13, is finally out and original vocalist, Johan Lindstrand, is back in the fold (minus the long hair). What has his return meant to the members of THE CROWN?

MARKO: A lot…the most important lesson we have learned from this singer situation is that we now know how important it is to have this lineup for THE CROWN to work. It can’t work with other people. And having Johan back is all good, he brought on some fresh energy. Today it’s easy to be in THE CROWN, since we all know each other so well.

APESHIT: How did the songwriting and recording of Possessed 13 go…was that like old times having Johan back?

MARKO: The songwriting and the recording process was like in the good old days. Everything just felt right!!!! It’s always fun to work with Johan, he’s one sick puppy! (laughs)

APESHIT: I know everyone and their mom has asked you about this but what’s up with THE CROWN logo on the new album adopting the classic Earache Records logo look?

MARKO: This is the story…after seeing the cover we knew that we needed a new logo for this album. Our logo was simply too modern to blend in with the artwork. So we asked the company that did the graphics to do a logo that would fit in. And when we got it we were all like, “nice…cool…but doesn’t it look like the Earache logo?” I guess the “splatter” style makes you think of Earache right away. But we really liked the logo, and let’s face it, Earache was the label that made death metal big in the early days, so in the end it became a cool tribute as well. But it’s important to say that this logo was made only for the Possessed 13 album. Either the old one will return or we’ll make a new one for the next album.

APESHIT: How did you guys come up with the idea to write a concept album? Can you give us some dirt on the theme and structure of the album?

MARKO: Actually only thing conceptual about this album is the graphics. But when we had the graphics done, we came up with ideas to the (already done) songs to make them more…movie-like. Like with the intro, the two instrumentals, to divide the songs into three parts (like three acts in the theater), and some sound effects here and there. So we only kind of spiced up the songs with a “concept” so to speak.

APESHIT: Bassist, Magnus Olsfelt, is the prominent lyric writer on this album. I read in an old interview where he stated that he considered himself to be a Satanist. There are a lot of references to Satanic themes of independence, blasphemy in the face of Christianity, inner soul searching, and finding truth in this life on Possessed 13. Are these concepts that the band as individuals believe in?

MARKO: There’s a lot of good things to embrace from a Satanist’s way of thinking. Like the subjects you mentioned. But I wouldn’t go as far as calling any of us a Satanist. Well, it depends what you mean. I guess in the eyes of “normal” people every damn metal head is a Satanist. But in the end it’s impossible to categorize an individual like that.

APESHIT: So there have been some things said regarding THE CROWN’s split with former vocalist, Tomas Lindberg (THE GREAT DECEIVER, DISFEAR, ex-AT THE GATES), which you guys have attempted to clear up. But in your experience with Tomas, when did you guys notice that things were not going to work out?

MARKO: During our first tour with him.

APESHIT: And how long did it take following the split for THE CROWN and Johan to realize that you guys needed to reunite?

MARKO: When we got home from the US tour [summer 2002] we told Tomas that we would like to end the cooperation. I’m not sure how long of a time we were without a singer (bad memory), but at one point I met Johan at a local pub and simply asked him, “you wanna join the band again?” He immediately answered, “of course!”

APESHIT: Now honestly…what do you think of Johan’s new hairdo?

MARKO: (Laughs) I know, he has this Elvis/Wolverine look going on. It fits him…the man is a freak and it’s just so right that he ended up looking like he does. He always goes his own way. He’s a big Elvis fan too, therefore the sideburns I guess…

APESHIT: Looking back, did you guys learn anything from the Crowned In Terror experience with Tomas? Or was that album/experience a complete waste?

MARKO: We learned a very important lesson. We realized how damn important it is to have us playing in this band. We have very good chemistry and friendship in the band. We have been doing this now for 13 years…we know our shit!

APESHIT: The fact that the current line-up has been playing together as a band for quite a long time, longer than most underground bands, has probably helped with your good chemistry. Friendship-wise, are you guys close like brothers? How did you all meet in the beginning?

MARKO: Johan, Magnus, and drummer Janne Saarenpää went to same school and were in the same class. And they just realized that they liked the same music. I met Janne at this Christian bible school (can’t think of the right word right now) at the age of 14-15 (13 years ago). And he saw me writing MORBID ANGEL, NAPALM DEATH, DEATH, et cetera on a bible, and we just hit it off from there. Pretty ironic that a Christian tradition (the bible school thing is a tradition here in Sweden…pretty much every one does it) created THE CROWN and made these “evil” albums. (laughs) So the guys had actually started to play together with another guitarist at the time. I guess they did that for a couple of months.

Then there was this guy that told Janne that “Marko knows all the METALLICA solos.” So Janne came to me and said, “you want to play with us?” I said, “sure.” At the first rehearsal the other guitarist asked me, “how’s the solo in ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ go??” I said, “I have no idea, I don’t know a single METALLICA solo!” So the truth is that I got into the band thanks to a mutual friend that had lied about my skills behind my back! (laughs) That’s funny right there!

In 1993 the other guitarist eventually left the band, so we started looking for a new one. A friend recommended [current guitarist] Marcus Sunesson. So we auditioned him, and when we asked him what bands he liked, he answered, “DEICIDE, MR. BIG and more.” We were pretty surprised!!! Those days it wasn’t common to like both death metal and glam rock ya know? He was a fucking guitar hero-type dude from the start, so we knew we had our man!!!!! There you have the long story. I haven’t told that one in years!

APESHIT: Well now that we are up-to-date on the past, what’s the scoop on the future? You guys have mentioned the re-recording of Crowned In Terror? Why did you guys opt to re-record the vocals? At first glance it seems like you trying to erase the Tomas experience from your memories and meanwhile help Metal Blade make a quick buck. Was it something that Metal Blade suggested?

MARKO: Yeah, it was suggested by Metal Blade, but I guess we were thinking about it as well. We decided to do it simply because we want to…and we can. This is not a “to disrespect Tomas” thing. We simply want to look back at our albums in 10 years and see that we did all this, because we are THE CROWN!

APESHIT: What was your last US tour with DARKEST HOUR like? It must’ve been a different experience to play in front of predominantly American hardcore crowds.

MARKO: It was a good tour! The audience was a mix of CROWNheads and hardcore people that the DARKEST HOUR brought in. That’s the way touring should be. To have two, three bands that brings in different types of people to enjoy all the bands, and to make new fans. Hopefully they realize that it doesn’t matter what category the music is in. There’s only two kinds of music…good and bad.

APESHIT: Deathrace King was sort of THE CROWN’s “breakthrough” album. It really elevated the band’s status. How have things changed since post-Deathrace King from the CROWN OF THORNS [their pre-1997 band name] days?

MARKO: Deathrace King made it possible for us to tour North America. And it meant a lot to us. From our debut album, The Burning, to today’s Possessed 13, the band has kept on growing. For every album we tour more, sell more, visit new places/countries. It feels damn good!!!! Not many bands have it like that…

APESHIT: Eternal Death is probably one of the most underrated albums to come out during that time period. It seemed like a huge step for the band in every way. Looking back, how do you feel now about the album?

MARKO: I like it! It’s a very dark and “evil” album. Damn, sometimes it’s almost black metal, ya know? I’m actually proud of all our albums. But in retrospective it feels a bit sad that both The Burning and Eternal Death got released on such a small label. The distribution and advertising was very bad at that time. People didn’t even knew that we existed.

APEHSIT: Anyone who has listened to the band knows that you guys love classic thrash metal. Really quickly, can you name your top five thrash albums of all time and why?

MARKO: METALLICA, Master Of Puppets (this is the shit, this the mother of all albums). KREATOR, Extreme Aggression (incredible clear production and killer songs). SODOM, Agent Orange (my personal favourite SODOM album), TANKARD, Chemical Invasion (aaahh…brings back memories from the good old skateboarding days). Last but not least, RIGOR MORTIS, Freaks (yeah it’s a MLP, but I was damn heavily into this one). Those are the first five albums that popped into my head. I know there’s shitloads of more quality thrash albums.

» Does APESHIT dig Possessed 13? Find out here!