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Interview

Isole's Crister Olssen Explains Moonstones, Shadowstones And Carrying The Torch Of Candlemass

Isole has been seasoned for the last twenty years, appearing as Forlorn in 1991, playing epic doom metal in the style defined by country-mates, the great Candlemass. Now on the heels of releasing the band's strongest effort "Born From Shadows" and the news of Candlesmass' signing on the same label (Napalm Records) for what will the the legend's final release, Isole finds itself on the receiving end of the inevitable torch passing of epic doom (Metal Underground's review for "Born In Shadows" can be found at this location).

Frontman Crister Olsson sat down to answer questions about conclusion of the "Moonstone Trilogy," the future continuation of the "Redemption" story from "Silent Ruins" and the reaction to the news of the band's biggest influence announcing its final release.

CROMCarl: The title track of "Born From Shadows" is the third and final piece of the "Moonstone Trilogy” where the "Moonstone" (light/good) and "Shadowstone" (death/evil) combine and become one. I know there is an actual moonstone gem that was revered by Romans and Greeks and associated with their ancient gods, but the lyrics to the song "Moonstone" refer to it as the "hidden and forgotten power of God." Can you elaborate on the choices of "Moonstone" and "Shadowstone" and whether they were based on fact or merely symbolic in the choice of names?

Crister: When Moonstone was written back in 1994 we had no plans of making a trilogy, the title was inspired from an old computer game if I remember correctly. Approximately 10 years later the idea of making the opposite to Moonstone and Shadowstone was born. We still didn't plan the making of the trilogy at the point. The third piece about the two stones is inspired by a series of books by a Russian author named Nick Perumov and there are no stones but two swords instead in these books so it’s only symbolic and no real facts.

CROMCarl: I read that the markings around the cover art symbolized the number of tracks with the eighth on the skull forehead represents the combination of the moonstone and shadowstone. Were these numerical indicators based on ancient numbers (such as Mayan numeric symbols) or was it designed by Gustav to cleverly look like numbers 1-7?

Crister: The symbols are designed by Gustavo Sazes and they might have a touch of alchemy. So I guess this is how you count to seven in Isole language.

CROMCarl: In the final installment of the trilogy on "Born From Shadows," is it clear what occurs when the two combine, or does the skull on the cover art indicate the victor?

Crister: When the two great opposites combine it’ll bring death and destruction of all that we know of… The end of the world, or a new beginning? No, it’s not crystal clear, it’s for everyone who listens and read our story to interpret and ponder to seek the answer on this question.

CROMCarl: The sound on "Born From Shadows" seems a bit more aggressive then "Silent Ruins," adding more of the harsh vocals and more forlorn (no pun intended) with a complete return to slow punishing doom as on "Bliss Of Solitude" and "Throne Of Void." Was this the natural maturation of Isole's sound? Can you take me into the writing process for this record and what the band was aiming to achieve with the sound style?

Crister: I think it's a continuation on the path that we started on “Bliss of Solitude” and stayed on for “Silent Ruins”. I think we’re simply following our own tastes and ambitions. I'm not sure if we were inspired by anything or anyone particular, but safe to say is that we don't shy away from incorporating stuff that maybe isn't all that common in the typical doom metal band. This is simply how ISOLE sounds anno 2011. The songs were written at home by me and Daniel individually, we presented our creations to the rest of the band and we worked on the material in the rehearsal room and in the recording sessions to get all members influences on the songs. As we call it the “Isole-Machinery”.

CROMCarl: There has been some progressive elements, some death elements and other style variations added to the overall sound of Isole throughout the last 20 years, yet at the very core the band always remains true to the epic doom sound. Is it a challenge to find ways to keep both true to the core sound and at the same time keep the sound fresh and exciting? Will Isole be the first band to be able to incorporate a banjo into doom and still pull it off???

Crister: Yes there have always been other elements in our music and I think we are taking it one step further this time and we’ll keep evolving and incorporate elements that we believe in. But as you said our foundation is built up by Doom Metal. This is not something we are trying to do it just comes natural, we’re making music we like and we like exciting music. I don’t know about the banjo, in fact Isole rarely uses other instruments than the regular ones for metal bands. But who knows…

CROMCarl: The band took a longer break in between releases to "gain some perspective before returning to the songwriting process." With an understanding of the amount of creativity and energy it takes to make one album, never mind four in four years, was the band feeling a little burnt after "Silent Ruins" was finished?

Crister: We needed time to do 30 gigs in 10 countries to promote Silent Ruins with Isole and record an album with Ereb Altor in between, that’s the main reasons that it took a bit longer this time. It actually felt good to wait 2 years between the album to get ourselves and our fans hungry for a new Isole album. But you’re partly right, I have felt a bit burned out and maybe I need to slow things down just a notch. If you count the Ereb Altor albums I’ve released 7 albums and having brought 2 children to the world in only 6 years and that’s kind over the edge.

CROMCarl: Was there clear a intent when writing "Silent Ruins" that the band would one day come back at some point do a "Redemption, Part II"?

Crister: Yes it was our intent but since Henrik who is the author of the Redemption story took a long break from Isole last year and this year it was impossible to do the follow up now. I hope he will finish the story so we could put music to his words and Redemption part II will be a reality in 2013-2014 or something like that.

CROMCarl: One of the biggest doom influences, Candlemass, just signed to Napalm last week the mentioned Isole was one of the bands they were most excited to work with. Unfortunately, they also announced that the next album will be the band's last. What was your reaction to the news? Do you feel as though when Candlemass is done, the torch of epic doom would naturally fall to Isole?

Crister: I will miss Candlemass but hopefully they will do a really extended tour and some special gigs here in Sweden so I can see the Live again. They have been around for a long time and set the standards for this narrow genre really high from the beginning and it’s hard to take on their “Torch”. I’m not sure if this is something that naturally will fall on Isole but I keep hearing people telling me that we are the ones that will fill the void after Candlemass. But I must admit there are lots of great bands out there that have more similarities with Candlemass than Isole. This is something for the crowd to decide!

CROMCarl: Has there been any talk of a Candlemass/Isole tour at all? When do you guys plan to start touring for "Born From Shadows"?

Crister: There have never been any talk of a C-mass/Isole tour, it would be really nice to get the chance to share a stage with them before the end. I really hope that they signing with Napalm Records can help this dream come true somehow. At this point we can’t go on an extended tour (unless a really good opportunity comes up) we have some family issues with newborns and so on that will force us to do several shorter weekend gigs in different countries for now.

CROMCarl: Is there a track or tracks on "Born From Shadows" that you cannot wait to play live? I for one would love to hear "Come To Me" and "Condemned," which has the best pure doom riff that I have heard since Candlemass' "Cry From The Crypt."

Crister: We can do every track on the new album justice in a live environment, no problem at all. In fact I think all songs will be even better live!

CROMCarl: How has the reaction to Isole been from the United States? Will the U.S. see Isole when you tour for the album?

Crister: The reactions have been better if you compare to our previous releases, more interviews and more feedback from U.S. than before. I hope we will be able to visit U.S. but we lack of contacts and we would probably need a bigger act to tour with. And as I said we have a hard time right now to go on an extended tour so United States will probably have to wait until late 2012 in either way.

CROMCarl: Best of luck with the album and the tour!

CROMCarl's avatar

Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.

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