Majesties’ Primordial Melodic Death Metal Conquers “Vast Reaches Unclaimed” (Interview)
By design, Majesties' debut album Vast Reaches Unclaimed has a sound firmly rooted in the past. Featuring members of Inexorum, Obsequiae, and Antiverse, the music holds some similarities to those projects, but it mainly takes you back to early 1990s Sweden with furious melodicism via the riffs and ripping brutality on the vocal side. Fans with an appreciation of the Gothenburg scene in Sweden, especially before it was a fixed monolith in heavy metal history, should recognize this primordial and beautiful style of music in its nascent state: one that can still be heard in various forms over 30 years later.
I spoke with Carl Skildum (Inexorum/Antiverse) about the inspiration behind the project, which extends beyond the Scandinavian peninsula. We talked about the writing and recording process that included Tanner Anderson and Matthew Kirkwold, the wonderful artwork, which nails the aesthetic perfectly, what the album’s title means, and future plans for the project ahead of their debut LP. Keep an ear out for this one–old heads and fans who like to dig a little deeper into the limitless lexicon of heavy metal will find a ton to like about this record.
What makes Majesties different than your other projects as a whole?
Carl Skildum: Majesties really was designed from the start to satisfy our interest in the earliest forms of melodic death metal, where there were so many ideas packed into single songs and the lines between genres were blurry, including elements of traditional heavy metal along with death and black metal. It might be because I’m so close to all of our other projects but I feel like they are all distinct from one another. Obsequiae is castle metal with a singular aesthetic and strong use of Dorian modes. Inexorum is meant to be further along the black metal spectrum and Antiverse is much darker, although both still have a throughline of melody. Ultimately, I would think anyone who is familiar with any of our other bands will recognize some of our character in Majesties.
Why the inspiration from Gothenburg? What makes this music so special to you?
CS: I was a young death metal nerd in the 90s and was already tracking down anything I could find, which was mostly US bands recording in Morrisound Studios or Swedish bands in Sunlight Studio. I still love all that stuff, but my first heavy metal fandom began when it was just all “heavy metal”, pre-extreme anything. So, hearing the Wrong Again Records comp when it first came out knocked me flat – it had the extreme aggression of death metal plus the twin guitar heroics that I associated with my favorites of NWOBHM.
What was the writing process like here, how shared of a responsibility was it?
CS: Almost all of the material was composed with Tanner and I sitting in front of a computer passing the guitar or aux cord back and forth. Some of the ideas were rescues from earlier riff tapes going back as far as 1997, but most of it was just thought up on the spot. I found it to be an inspiring and exciting way to write as we would just build off each other’s ideas.
What in your opinion removed the layer of authenticity from true melodic death metal?
CS: I don’t ever see my role as any kind of gatekeeper or think I deserve to define what is “true” or not, but I do know that the earliest examples of the style had a good amount of unique character, where each band had their own recognizable style. Some of the material that came out in the 00s and beyond used simpler song structures that were more verse/chorus/bridge, which works great for immediacy and live engagement. I know that Slaughter of the Soul had a big audience and ended up influencing a lot of bands who came out with similar sounding records, even though earlier At The Gates had a lot more of the linear songwriting style with more curveballs in each song. I like it all, but it’s the earlier, wilder stuff that hooked me first.
How did the artwork come to be?
CS: Working with Juanjo Castellano was a dream come true. I’ve admired his art for many years, and he’s one of the current artists that really captures the same surreal, twisted landscapes that I associate with some of the great cover artists in the 90s. I gave him a general concept taken from the lyrics of “Sidereal Spire”, where the narrator discovers a crystalline tower ascending into the heavens. Juanjo took the concept and ran with it and the results came out beyond my wildest dreams.
What is the meaning behind Vast Reaches Unclaimed?
CS: It’s a line from “The World Unseen”, which is about an out-of-body experience. The lucid dreamer can discover secret corners of the world that were formerly unreachable by traveling bodiless. I was drawn to the idea of hidden places nobody has ever seen that burst with wonder and excitement. When it came to choosing the album title we had a few ideas pulled from various lyrics, and this was the one that felt best to us, and it just looked right on the cover artwork.
Will Majesties be performing live at any point?
CS: We’re considering it. One of the liberating elements of writing without a full band format is that we can stack more guitar layers together, but the tradeoff is that all those guitars pose a challenge for recreating the songs live without losing anything. We’ve got some geographic distance between members now that’s another logistical knot. It isn’t impossible to see it happening at some point though.
Was there any other inspiration to this album beyond Sweden?
CS: I pull a decent amount of my inspiration from NWOBHM and 80s thrash as that’s what I cut my teeth on as a young guitarist. There were a lot of great bands like Germany’s Night in Gales and Finland’s Sentenced that really nailed the sound I liked as well. But if I’m just going by sheer numbers, yeah – a lot of this stuff was happening in Sweden.
Is there any plan going forward for the band to record more?
CS: Yes. We really enjoyed making this record together, and we’ve continued to sketch out new ideas even after the songs for this first album were finished.
Is there anything related to this or your other projects that you want to promote?
CS: We all have a few respective irons in the fire for upcoming projects, but I think this about covers it for what we have ready to announce at this point. Thank you for the interview!
Vast Reaches Unclaimed releases March 3rd via 20 Buck Spin.