In the deep woods of central Sweden, on the bank of the Dalecarlian river sits a steel mill around which a town is built. The austere town of Borlänge stands somberly, as if buried between the many hills that characterize the landscape. The winters here are harsh, and the summers evanescent. Somewhere beyond those emblematic hills is a hanging cloud of awe and astonishment; an unspoken promise of something that would sate and satisfy the restless minds of the young fated to grow up in this, albeit chimerical, anti-utopia. In a way, music has always served as a medium that bridges the gap between an uneventful small town existence and the lively world beyond. It's no wonder the region has produced so many successful musical acts over the years. If nothing more, it's an excellent way to pass the time. And this is how the story of these five young Swedes from LETTERS FROM THE COLONY came to be in 2010, deep in the catacombs of a local music venue with affordable rehearsal rooms.
Lowering their sights or just taking small steps at the beginning of their career has always been out of the question for LETTERS FROM THE COLONY. Therefore, their first full-length release is already in production and being mastered by Jens Bogren (DIMMU BORGIR, OPETH, PARADISE LOST), whilst Peter Tägtgren did not shy away from declaring a big recommendation for the band.
A highly complex construct of math metal, crushing death elements and virtuosic shoegaze moments is what the world can expect from this young Swedish quintet, but LETTERS FROM THE COLONY create more than just songs. The progressive death metal architects are building tracks that are able to catapult them right into the league of bands such as MESHUGGAH, OPETH or GOJIRA with their first album. They build upon the intersection between perfection and ordered chaos; the unbridled joy of experimentation and virtuosic instrument mastery. They deliver highly complex songs full of unbound aggression, progressive structures, but also do not shy away from playing saxophone alongside guitars or sampling the roar of a deer into a track – yes, a deer!
“A vignette can be defined as something that surrounds something, the edges of a photograph shading off gradually into darkness, or a brief scene in a play or a movie. The metaphor we’re making is somewhat ambiguous, but can be seen as a form of social commentary with regards to the state of the environment. We’re living as if we had the resources of multiple Earths, and it’s only a matter of time before modern society collapses. Nature — being the vignette surrounding us — will creep inwards from the edges and completely devour the image in which we are living. It’s not an exhortation for us to better ourselves, but rather a nihilistic observation. Our time here is nothing but a brief scene in the play of evolution; a tiny speck on the timeline of the universe. People are too busy climbing career ladders and chasing Instagram likes to ponder the simple fact that one day, we will not be here anymore, and another being will have risen to take our place. That is the symbolism of the deer”, Alexander Backlund says about the concept behind the lyrical theme for the album.
This animal became the main focus on the surprisingly colorful artwork presented in a psychedelic vintage style. Obviously, this choice is another proof of the quintet’s dazzling multi-faceted qualities, pushing LETTERS FROM THE COLONY into a new niche compartment of technically challenging extreme metal. Instead of concentrating on dark colors or cliché-ridden motives, the band designed their promotional photos as well as their album artwork in a striking alternative style:
“The first time I showed the artwork to my band colleagues, not everyone liked it”, guitarist and main songwriter Sebastian Svallandlaughs. “But I strongly felt that it was a good fit for the music, and it was important for me to showcase in our artwork that we’re not an ordinary technical metal band from Sweden and don’t want to copy any already existing acts. When you are the main songwriter of a band, you often have a vision of how all the pieces fit together. I sometimes have to fight for my ideas, but in the end we usually agree as they start to understand my vision.”
Sebastian Svalland’s unique playing and writing style is a crucial component to the sound of LETTERS FROM THE COLONY. “I am not a shredder – I like shredders, but personally never learnt to play that way, so I am more into improvised solos, ambient leads and most of all love to experiment. That’s why I dive into all kinds of effects. The pitch shifter gets used a lot throughout my songs, and I rely heavily on looping to be able to perform them live without using backing tracks.”, Sebastian Svalland explains. The experimental title track of the album includes the call of a deer during an interlude: “When I wrote the song ‘Vignette’, I felt very humble and I wanted the song to reflect that. That’s why I came up with the idea of sampling a deer’s call. There’s something so pure and wild about such an animal. It’s not a scream of pain you’re hearing, the deer call in a very nice way and it just fits the theme perfectly. It's a great example of the power and purity of nature.”
After several line-up changes, LETTERS FROM THE COLONY finally found a solid band constellation, ready to climb the international stages together. Particularly spectacular was the sudden introduction of singer Alexander Backlund, who had been working with the band as a producer for several years, before he was asked to jump in for his predecessor when they were suddenly left without a vocalist right before an important gig. Having never played or even rehearsed with the band before, he performed such a mind-blowing show in Stockholm that the band made the unanimous decision to recruit him as permanent member of LETTERS FROM THE COLONY.
“The technicity of the music makes it hard to find people, and is also the reason behind many of the line-up changes that happened during the first years of the band’s existence. You need to have a team that you can rely on, and my standards are pretty high. Since I write the songs, I am connected with all the riffs in a way where I don’t have any issues remembering them, but I see how difficult it can be for the other band members. I try to write tablature for all the songs so that they can begin to understand my crazy ideas, because explaining it would just be impossible. We then take our time to rehearse properly, because even if you can play a riff you don’t want to look like a machine while doing it. Music needs feeling. It’s supposed to look easy, even when it’s not. We never want to set our standards any lower; it has always been all or nothing in terms of quality.”
Therefore, the sky is truly the limit for LETTERS FROM THE COLONY, and it's becoming increasingly apparent as they prepare for an exciting year 2018 both on and off the road. The world beckoning from beyond the hills of Borlänge is one that they will get to witness with their own eyes; a seldom-granted luxury in the deep woods of Dalecarlia.