MASSGRAV have been called many names, including fast a paced rock’n’roll hardcore band, a fastcore mob, fastcore punks, a powerviolence horde, or a d-beat monster. Either way, the Scandi thrash monarchy of Stockholm, Sweden are back with a bang! Hotter than hell! Colder than ice. Faster and more furious than ever before. Check yourself.
We sat down with the band to get some more details about their project, the lyrical side of their new release, plans for the future, and more.
Released in September 2022 on vinyl (limited edition & black wax) & tape with Lixiviat Records and CD & TAPE with Selfmadegod Records, “Slowly We Rock” by MASSGRAV is ready to melt your brain!
For the last 20 plus years, MASSGRAV has been a constant of the Swedish extreme music scene. Rooted in the scandinavian hardcore tradition of the 80s and early 90s, the band has moved forward to stake out their very own path, brandishing their weaponized blend of stop and go faster-than-fuck hardcore punk mixed with meat and potatoes rock n’ roll.
The last couple of decades have seen the band play venues from Russia in the east to the Americas in the west and share split releases with bands like Yacopsaë, Diskonto, Blood I bleed and Widespread Bloodshed. The band has released a handful of albums and several handfuls of EPs.
Following years of severe drummer problems, with several band members being rendered incapable of ever playing drums again from the sheer physical abuse of drumming for MASSGRAV, the line-up stabilized with the addition of current drummer Fenok in 2010. From that point, the band has only gotten faster, though without ever turning into grindcore. In 2018, Jesper Liveröd added a second guitar to the lineup to further increase the intensity and aggression, this release being the first one he has contributed to.
When the pandemic paralyzed the world, MASSGRAV decided that social distancing did not apply to the members of the band and continued working on what turned into SLOWLY WE ROCK.
Recorded by Robert Pehrsson in Studio Humbucker and mastered by Dan Randall of Mammoth Sound, the album forms a logical continuation of the route the band has been on since the release of Still the Kings in 2012. Albeit with a much fuller sound and a bit more musical variation, the core of MASSGRAV will always be full tilt, ferocious scandi thrash, and the lyrics will always deal with problems like bosses, right wing politicians, cops, rich people and the so called “scene”.
Asked about their backgrounds and other projects, the band confirms that MASSGRAV are no rookies.
“Me (Ola) and Norse started this band a long long time ago, while building a website for Distortion Records.”
“The very early releases of bands like Driller Killer and Skitsystem and also their reissue of Mob 47 inspired us to start our own band. After that, we’ve kept at it, evolving little by little, adding members mostly because previous drummers’ arms have not withstood the abuse. We’re now at the point where we’ve released a bunch of albums and seveninches over the last 20 years or so, having played all over Europe and in the Americas and at the moment, we can’t see any reason for doing anything else for a while longer yet. Since our drummer Fenok joined the band 10 years ago, we’ve gotten faster and faster and over the last couple of albums, I think we’ve also started to mix in a lot more rock n roll influences among the fast and aggressive parts.”
“As for other projects, it varies.” – continues Ola. “Fenok also plays in more of a shoegaze type band and Jesper is still involved in his previous band Burst, and has some international superstar grindcore project going on but… I feel like a bad person for not being able to give you the name but I’m the one member of the band who’s not super interested in grindcore.”
The writing process
“If you ask us, our writing process is the simplest, most straightforward, normal way imaginable, but it still seems to surprise a lot of people.” – says Ola.
“A lot of bands seem to consider songwriting some sort of communal ritual, some haphazard collage work, where whatever drifts through peoples’ minds at the moment gets put into the song. Others split it up, tasking a guitarist with writing a pretty much finished ‘song’ (a bunch of generic riffs) which is then handed to the singer, for him/her to put words and (possibly) melody to. These methods may also be why so many bands suck.”
“Here’s how we do it: You sit at home. You probably have some sort of melodic figure that’s been spinning in the back of your mind for a while. You also have some issue that’s been annoying you for some time, that you would like to write a song about. You now come up with words for the chorus. You make them fit with the music you have in mind. This – on a good day – gives you a great start and all that’s left now is realizing how the rest of the song goes. Once you’re done, type it up – words and chords – and bring it to the band and show them how the song goes. The band may suggest slight changes and additions that make the song even better. You decide who sings what. Fenok will also point out that your different tempos in the song don’t match. You make it work. Done. Next.”
“But like I said, this is very strange to people. Songs written on paper? Super odd, apparently. Songs written by a single person? Borderline fascist, according to some.
We try to meet up once a week to practice, which a lot of other bands regard as weird too, but we enjoy doing it and we also think our albums benefit from us knowing the songs well. Often, you need to play a song a few times before you come up with some addition that really works well. Also, we tend to change our live set list a lot, so we spend a lot of Tuesday nights trying to figure out some old song we haven’t played in a while. At times like that, it’s very handy to have them all on paper (or, rather, on Google drive).”
“Yes, lyrics. We do them in Swedish because that’s the language we know best and it makes the lyrics a lot punchier.” – admits Ola.
“Writing in English, it’s sooo much easier to fall into the same generic tracks that others left behind. We have a few commonly recurring themes, frequently singing about Swedish politics, the “scene” and also our aversion to the workplace, but apart from that, it’s pretty varied. We like using a bit of humor, especially in the song titles, which sometimes leads the mentally challenged among us to assume we’re “not serious”, but I would say most of our lyrics are serious as a heart attack.
Just like with song writing in general, a lot of bands make writing lyrics look very, very hard – there are so many crap bands out there, lyrics wise. If you really have that little to say, why are you the singer of a punk/hardcore band in the first place?”
Stockholm hardcore punk music scene and it’s post pandemic state
Ola admits that the local scene sure took a beating during the pandemic and local punks lost some venues, but “there are some heroes that are keeping the local scene alive and it feels like everything is back in full swing.”
“There are gigs all the time at the moment and a bunch of decent venues, ranging from pretty commercial ones to super DIY, so… I guess it can always get better, but it’s been worse at other times than it is now. As for bands, everyone has a lot of pent up energy after sitting at home for two years, so… yeah. I wish there were more younger bands but there is also a very real possibility that they exist, I’m just not aware of them.”
“At the moment, I’m more worried about the scene in continental Europe.” – he continues. “Those semi big festivals and venues that are the backbone of a underground tour seem to have a hard time. Add the crazy gas costs, fear of war, lack of electricity and the rising inflation and I’m not sure how much we’ll be able to play outside of Sweden in the upcoming years. We’ll see, I guess. I hope I’m wrong.”
“Right now we’re pretty busy getting ready for our release party/gig in Stockholm.” – says Ola.
“Our aim is to have something that is more than just a regular gig, we want you to notice this is a special event to us, so… we’re trying to work out things you can do on a shoestring budget, as always. We’re still in the wake of the release too, so trying to drum up interest for that and hopefully turn that attention into some sold albums and some good show bookings for next year. We’ve got a few gigs lined up already but nothing I’m able to talk about just yet.”
Apart from that, the band is well on our way to writing the next album.
“Yup, so we need to write a few more songs and also learn the songs we’ve written well enough to be able to record them.” And we’re ordering a bunch of new shirts, so that will be available soon. And maybe some more videos. Our aim was to have some sort of video for each track of the new album, but YouTube didn’t like some of the ones we made and refused to let us upload them, so maybe we’ll replace them with something less… violent. Or less copyright infringing. We’ll see.”