“Guitars tuned in B-flat since 1991” is a phrase Evocation guitarist Marko Palmén uses to illustrate his band’s place in the bygone times of Swedish death metal. He’s not bragging but merely stating a fact. Evocation were there when it mattered. Sure, the Swedes have had a bifurcated existence—fizzling in 1993 but officially reanimating in 2005—but as the saying goes, what does kill death metal only makes it stronger. In fact, few bands have ever come back to plague the denizens of death metal quite like Evocation. With four full-lengths, the newest of which is the bewilderingly barbarous and Century Media Records debut Illusions of Grandeur, in five years, the group has a work rate that’s second to none. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
To celebrate Evocation signing a new agreement with Century Media Records, the two paired up to release Evoked from Demonic Depths - The Early Years, the ultimate re-issue of the band’s demos, live bootlegs, and bonus tracks incl. a re-recorded version of “Genesis”, a song written back in 1992. Palmen sums up how this cooperation came into being: “During the years that we have been active—since the reunion in 2005—we have met the people at Century Media at different festivals and tours,” recalls Palmén. “Evocation has always had a reputation of being a ferocious live act and probably we left some impression and interest with the people at Century Media thanks to that. For us, it was the best thing that could happen. To be signed with Century Media. They have always had their roots deep within the death metal scene, so for us it was a natural choice to make. And as a matter of fact it also feels as if we finally have found our label home.”
Formed in a small town outside Gothenburg in 1991 and named after the classic Asphyx track, Evocation had, like many young guns during the Golden Age of Swedish death metal, a limited number of options to pursue. Nevertheless, the quartet—vocalist Thomas Josefsson, guitarist Vesa Kenttäkumpu, guitarist Marko Wacker (Palmén), and drummer Janne Kenttäkumpu (Bodén)—penned four songs over the next few months and booked a visit to Sunlight Studios to record 1992’s The Ancient Gate demo with producer Tomas Skogsberg. Recorded over two days in February, The Ancient Gate was hailed not only by tape-traders but also Skogsberg as the Sweden’s new death metal hopeful. Evocation wouldn’t repeat their Sunlight Studios visit, however.
That didn’t stop follow-up demo, Promo 1992, from appearing a mere seven months after The Ancient Gate. Put to tape at GMP studios in Evocation’s hometown of Borås, Promo 1992 blended the punk fueled brutality of the “Stockholm Sound” with the signature sounds of Gothenburg’s best and brightest. As early as 1992, Evocation had developed the “Stockburg Sound”, a neologism used to describe the group’s blended bicoastal brutality. Reviews were fantastic and label interest was high. But something happened.
Despite third-party praise and heavy courtship by labels large and small, Evocation splintered a year later due to creative differences and an uncertainty in musical direction. Fast forward 11 years. With an untimely demise still fresh in the cranium, the musically-active exmembers discussed reforming—even if just for one gig—Evocation for, as Thomas Josefsson recollects, “the 156th time.” But Evocation 2.0 didn’t spark up from within. Certainly, the drive was there, but it took a re-release of The Ancient Gate and Promo 1992 demos by Merciless Records sub-label Breath of Night Release Date: September 24th, 2012 Records and Vesa’s addiction to At The Gates milestone Slaughter of the Soul to finally shock Evocation’s long-dormant system into action. It took two years, but Janne, Vesa, Marko, Thomas, and new bassist Martin Toresson self-released Demo 2006 perhaps more out of revenge than anything else.
“When we started to rehearse together again in the summer of 2005,” remembers Palmén, “The plan was merely to play the demo tracks from 1992 and see how it would work out, and if it would be fun. As it turned out the magic from the early ‘90s was there, clear and immanent as ever before. From that moment it just started to grow exponentially and the initial plan of just rehearsing the demo songs from 1992 was quickly scrapped. Some years later, we did our first full European tour as support for Cannibal Corpse, and before that we had already played numerous open air festivals, including the world’s largest metal festival—Wacken Open Air! The plan is just to keep on playing as long as we enjoy it.” That Evocation were able to re-amp and modernize the so-called “Stockburg Sound” wasn’t a minor miracle. They knew what they wanted to do and soon found a partner with German underground label Cyclone Empire. The first of three excellent long-players came in 2007. Tales from the Tomb had the benefits of an on-fire Evocation, throwback Dan Seagrave cover art, and a reinvigorated affinity for prime Swedish death metal by fans and bands alike. Follow-up albums, Dead Calm Chaos (2008) and Apocalyptic (2010) continued to see the Swedes in fine and finer form. Apocalyptic marked also the band’s first US release through a license deal with Metal Blade Records. Revenge continued to be sweet. It is clear Evocation were not only making up for lost time, but also show no signs of slowing down. New album Illusions of Grandeur follows predecessor Apocalyptic and tracks like the ultra-catchy “Divide and Conquer”, the galloping “Perception of Reality”, and the brilliantly penned “The Seven Faces of God” distill the group’s strongest attributes— melodies, groove, hooks, and brutality—into a formidable melodyenhanced death metal attack. Illusions of Grandeur also marks debut of bassist Gustaf Jorde, who replaced Martin Toresson earlier this year.
Recorded, mixed and produced at IF Studios and Evocation Studios by Roberto Laghi (In Flames) and Evocation respectively, Illusions of Grandeur is yet another brilliant example of Evocation spit-polishing Swedish death metal with blood, sweat, and determination. Whereas Dead Calm Chaos had Anders Björler and Dan Swanö as guests, so too does Illusions of Grandeur. The mighty Johan Hegg from Amon Amarth roars on “Into Submission”. Also, Michal Xaay Loranc returns from his Apocalyptic stint as cover artist to haunt Illusions of Grandeur.
Illusions of Grandeur is out September 24th, 2012 on Century Media Records and trust Palmen when he states: “I think the new album is the one which comes closest to the essence of what Evocation really is.”