THE ORDER OF ISRAFELInterview: August 2016
After the release of their stunning debut album Wisdom we felt The Order Of Israfel definitely was a band to keep our eyes on. But we also had doubts if the band would be able to write a worthy successor. With Red Robes T.O.O.I. proved the world they’re here to stay. We were happy that Tom Sutton, guitarist and vocalist of The Order Of Israfel had some time for us to talk about the new album.
First of all, congratulations on your new album Red Robes. You managed to release a great successor of your debut Wisdom. Was it hard for you to write and record the new material? I mean, after the release of your fantastic debut pressure must’ve been high?
Thanks! Yeah, I guess that we felt some kind of pressure, but it wasn’t too bad. Albums kinda make themselves in a way, so all you can do is do your best and enjoy the process as much as you can. A lot of these songs are really old, so in a way, half the album was already in my head even when we were making ‘Wisdom’. It feels great to have made an album that we’re really happy with, though, I must say!
Can you describe the period after your debut Wisdom? How did the touring go? How were the reactions?
It’s been great. We’ve done three tours, one with Lonely Kamel and two with Pentagram. We’ve also been able to do some big shows, for example Sweden Rock and Gothenburg Sound festival. My hopes for the band in the beginning were very modest, so I feel very grateful that we’ve come to this point. I would say that the shows with Pentagram have really been a highlight, for sure. Most of the people who love Pentagram would be able to appreciate us too, so it was a great experience to do those shows.
About Red Robes. You took the ingredients that we already knew from The Order Of Israfel, but you also mixed some new ingredients in there. The song The Red Robes is a good example of this. Was it important for you that Red Robes sounded a bit different than Wisdom?
I think the main things in the song-writing that we tried to do differently was to increase the amount of harmony singing and harmony guitars in the songs. Staffan is very gifted when it comes to making harmonies. He was the last person to join the band, so you only hear some of that on the first record. We wanted to do more of both those things this time round. Other than that, no, we didn’t try to make the songs different in any way on purpose. Hopefully the album has its own personality just naturally. A lot of the songs are the same age, or in one case even older, than the songs on ‘Wisdom’, so no, we didn’t try to make them different on purpose.
Swords To The Sky, Von Sturmer and Fallen Children are highlights on your new album. Amazingly enough none of these songs really sound alike making Red Robes a very versatile album. Was releasing a versatile album a hard goal for you or did it just happen?
It just happened that way. We got feedback on that aspect of the band on the first album too, and it’s something I’m proud of. The bands that influenced this band were versatile too, so it feels natural to be that way. No two songs on ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ sound the same, y’know? I have feeling in me for what falls within the boundaries of The Order Of Israfel and what doesn’t, and I guess those boundaries are pretty wide. There is a particular flavor, though. To me, it sounds very unified.
A Shadow In The Hill is the only real up tempo song on the album and also a highlight on the album. Do you think you’ll be experimenting more with up tempo songs in the future or is doom your one and only true love?
Well, this is one of those songs that on the surface you might question whether or not it fits the doom metal sound of the band. You know what does it for me with this song? The main riff has ‘Iommi vibrato’ in it. You know that way he shakes power chords to make them sound evil? It’s an up tempo song, but it has that shaking in the chords, so that’s enough to make it a song for The Order for me. We’ll probably have at least some up tempo parts on all our albums. I think there’s only a few bands out there that can do an entire set of very slow songs and keep your attention. Even the first Cathedral album, which at the time was probably the slowest thing out there, had up tempo classic metal parts.
Closing track The Thirst needs some explaining! First of all, it’s 16 minutes in length and has little variation comparing it with the rest of the songs. It can be quite a challenge for some listeners. Can you tell us something about this song?
Sure. Well, regarding the length, that just happened naturally, as with all our songs. I’ve never thought, ‘this song needs to be longer or shorter’. Songs just end up the length they are. Actually, this is one of the oldest songs. I remember playing this before I joined Church Of Misery, which makes it about 12 years old or something. I guess it might be a challenge for some people being the length it is, but I thing doom metal people are used to this kind of thing. Anyone who loves Reverend Bizarre should have no problem. The song is actually about sexuality, and how it can twist people when it’s not expressed in a healthy way. It can simply be about when you ‘can’t get no satisfaction’ as Mick Jagger might say, but it also deals with the persecution that people who aren’t straight go through. Homophobia is one thing that really makes me furious. Your sexuality is a gift and can bring so much joy, but people really get damaged when they are surrounded by the narrow-minded. I can’t wait till we don’t need to even use labels like ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. I feel like those labels are really outdated.
Was Triptykon an influence of yours when you wrote The Thirst?
Haha! No, but I love Triptykon and Celtic Frost. When ‘Monotheist’ came out, I played the hell out of it. That’s a fucking masterpiece. But no, the biggest musical influences on ‘The Thirst’ were bands like Candlemass and Reverend Bizarre.
You also went another way with the production. Wisdom had this 70’s sound to it while Red Robes sounds more modern. Weren’t you satisfied with the production of Wisdom?
That’s kind of a surprise to hear, actually. I feel like ‘Red Robes’ has a more woody, natural sound than ‘Wisdom’. The snare on ‘Wisdom’ was big and fat, which to me is totally 80’s, so to me the snare is a more 70’s snare on the new album. I know Hans is much more satisfied with the drum sound this time round. I really love the sound of this album, actually. We used all our own amps this time, which made a huge difference. I’ve rarely been satisfied with my recorded guitar sounds, but I love this. Staffan and I both use Hiwatt heads, and it sounds great. It was a very different experience this time. We recorded drums, bass and one rhythm guitar all at the same time ‘cos we wanted a more live feel. We’re really satisfied.
Only one song on the album didn’t really meet our expectations and that was In Thrall To The Sorceress. Obviously you cannot always please everyone and opinions may vary. But is it something you can relate to that we felt this song didn’t quite reach the same level of the other tracks or do you feel different?
Ha! Very funny that you bring this up. It’s been something that has been a source of friendly disagreement in the band, actually. It’s Staffan’s favorite song on the album, but no-one else agrees with him. Yeah, I kinda know what you mean. I think it’s a good song, and sometimes it feels really good to play, but I also know what you’re saying. I’ve read reviews of the album that say it’s a highlight, so you can never tell what people will like, I guess.
Even though we searched and searched until we found something to bitch about Red Robes is an amazing album. I assume you will be on tour shortly in support of Red Robes?
Hope so! We’re working on all that right now. Hopefully we’ll have some news on that soon.
Besides playing live do you have any other plans for the near future?
We want to do one more music video for this album, so we have to start working on that. Also, we’re already ready to start working on new songs, so that’ll start soon. Actually, Staffan and I are planning to take little practice amps out into this forest this Summer and write songs there. Should be pretty magical as long as the mosquitoes leave us alone!