Ahh Sweden, the land of flat-pack furniture, beautiful people and Volvo. Despite being home to ABBA, the country is also famous for an abundance of metal bands. Thus, it was inevitable that a Swedish outfit would be our weekly featured artist. Meet An Abstract Illusion, an ambient death metal three-piece hailing from northern Sweden.
The band formed as a group of high school kids in 2007 under the name Perpetuum Mobile, Latin for “perpetual motion.” Ten years, several line-up shifts and a name change later, they now stand as An Abstract Illusion, consisting of vocalist and drummer Christian Berglönn, guitarist and bass player Karl Westerlund and Robert Stenvall on keyboards and vocals. All three of them have their own quirky personalities. They humorously told me that Robert is a ‘gym-bro’, Chris has a gaming addiction and Karl loves fashion. Having met in high school, they are now all university students too. They study an array of different majors, not putting all their eggs in the one “death metal band basket.” In fact, Robert is currently in Namibia, Southern Africa as an exchange student. Their influences include the likes of Devin Townsend, Devil Sold His Soul and Brian Eno.
August of 2014 saw the band release their debut EP, Atonement is Nigh. The record boasted the perfect mix of elegance and chaos, with crisp, clean production. However, it was the group’s experimentation that got this EP recognized by fans of progressive and ambient death metal.
The next chapter for An Abstract Illusion began on July 2016. It was then that the band unleashed Illuminate the Path to the ears of the world. The full-length saw the band experiment even further with their sound, adding a black-metal feel to the album.
The lyrics on Illuminate the Path do not necessarily have an overarching theme; all three members are a part of the songwriting process and bring a range of ideas to the band. Many songs tell stories of humanity and nature. Hinduism and ecoterrorism are also explored in their music. One song with interesting themes is “Skeletons of Light”, which talks about victims of horrific murders and how their ghosts seeks revenge.
Recording Illuminate the Path was far from easy. With the help of their engineer friend, the band decided to record the album by themselves, despite their lack of experience. This gave them new challenges they had never faced before, and also led to some rookie mistakes. Thanks to their mixing and mastering engineer, these errors were reversed and lessons were learned. Luckily, these challenges cannot be heard in the quality of sound production on Illuminate the Path.
In spite of its sparse population, this is still Sweden we are talking about, so of course the boys have received nothing but high praise from the metal scene in their small town in the north of the country. This reception has undoubtedly kept their morale high. It would be difficult to lose motivation to continue as a band being surrounded by positive peers and plenty of gigs to be part of:
“The metal scene up north is surprisingly good, despite its small population. Our hometown has a very tight and rich community with other cities close by that also embrace metal. The music culture as a whole is pretty big here, lots of live shows.”
Speaking of shows, An Abstract Illusion are yet to tour. This is not to say they have never planned to; unfortunately, their personal lives have been a barrier. However, the lads have gigged here and there throughout the region since their formation. This, of course, has not been without its troubles. They certainly have stories to tell that would make anyone cringe in disbelief:
“We do have some funny gig stories. For instance, early in our career when we were forced to play without guitar distortion at one of our shows because the venue had provided us with three bass amps instead of two guitar amps and one bass amp. It sounded really bad.”
Despite the obstacles they have had in their way, An Abstract Illusion have successfully made it to the ten-year mark of being a band. They cite dedication and friendship as the biggest reasons for lasting this long. For those who are in younger bands reading this, An Abstract Illusion has some advice for you on how to see your band through to the first decade:
“If you believe in your music, live to see it happen. If you don’t believe in what you do, it will quickly suck all the fun out of being in a band. Pick your bandmates properly. Don’t be deterred by set-backs; Lord knows we’ve had some. Find a unique sound you like and do it well. We’re still searching.”