Not long ago, a hugely memorable and gritty death metal-influenced 4-track EP by the Swedish quartet Bombs of Hades came my way, and it literally blew me away and reduced my apartment to a pile of ashes. Entitled Phantom Bell and consisting of two original tunes as well as two wildly creative cover renditions (‘Kamikaze’ by the Flower Travellin’ Band and ‘Lungs’ by Townes Van Zandt no less), this one is as raw and unpolished as it is heavy. We recently caught up with Jonas Stålhammar (guitars, mellotron, and vocals) to learn more about their latest (and most wicked) EP and the story of the band itself. Read on and make sure you check out Phantom Bell via Bandcamp afterwards – it is well worth your time.
Greetings, thanks for taking the time to reply to these question of mine – much appreciated. What is happening in the Bombs of Hades camp these days and what are you up to? Are you by any chance working on new material?
Jonas: Hey there! Yeah, we’re working on new material for the next album. If all goes according to plan, we’ll record it in September/October this year.
Could you tell us a bit about how and why the band came to be and what inspired you to spawn the outfit in the first place? When and where was it founded and by who?
Jonas: The band formed in 2002 by me and original bass player Anders Ekman. Mainly just as an excuse to drink and bash out some crust/death metal in the rehearsal room. In 2007, PO Söderback and Magnus Forsberg joined, and the band took on a more serious form from there.
One of the things that I love and cherish about the Phantom Bell EP is that it sounds warm and organic as well as vibrant and inspired. It is a marvelous piece of work in the humble opinion of yours truly! Were the songs for this particular release written and recorded within a short span of time or were they something that you had been working on for months or even years? Is there a certain theme or lyrical motif to the tracks (or a concept of sorts to the entire affair)?
Jonas: Thanks. The two new original songs were written pretty quickly in a day and then we chose the two cover songs to do. There’s no overall concept lyric-wise on this release. I leave that kinda stuff for full-length albums instead.
Are you guys intuitive and spontaneous when it comes to putting ideas together and crafting songs? There is a wonderful sense of rawness to Phantom Bell that could easily lead one to believe that its compositions came about through jamming together as a band in rehearsals and coming up with the arrangements and so on together as opposed to working and writing separately, but am I right in that assertion? How do you go about writing your unpolished and wicked tunes?
Jonas: We never jam out ideas. I usually come to the guys with songs that have already been written. Then we flesh out the final arrangements together in the rehearsal room. That’s how we’ve always worked with respect to the songwriting.
I am curious as to what inspires you in terms of composing music and writing lyrics of your own? Where are we at? Are we talking movies, literature, art, everyday encounters, or maybe something else entirely?
Jonas: Well, I’m never really inspired by other death metal bands. I’m usually inspired by prog rock, stoner bands, psychedelic stuff, old classic hard rock, heavy metal and even country music. Lyrics can be inspired by books and movies, yeah.
What does the title of your latest EP signify and refer to? Is there a deeper meaning to it or perhaps a historical reference of some kind? It sounds so evocative – I love it!
Jonas: It’s just a song title I’ve had floating around for a while. You could say it means that it’s a ghost bell as in a bell that you hear ringing, but it doesn’t really exist. The lyrics revolve around a person locked in an asylum.
Are you involved in other musical acts and if so, which ones? How would you compare working in other musical configurations as opposed to Bombs of Hades? Is it ever difficult to juggle two or more bands?
Jonas: Söderback and Forsberg are playing in the band Puffball also and bass player Roger Iderman has some projects on the side too. I also play in At the Gates, The Lurking Fear, God Macabre and Venus Principle. It’s not really a problem to juggle all that together. At the Gates takes up most of my time and the rest is worked on around that really.
What is next for your guys in the grand scheme of things? Will your next release be in the same vein as Phantom Bell, musically and stylistically speaking, that is?
Jonas: The next album will be a lot more proggy and doomy. That’s just what we want to do right now.
Do you recall what the first record you ever bought was, where you got your filthy paws on it, and how old you were?
Jonas: The first album I got was Destroyer by KISS for Christmas 1976. The first one I bought by myself was the Ace Frehley (KISS) solo album in 1978. I don’t remember where I bought it though ha-ha… probably some local store that’s not there anymore.
Just out of curiosity, what bands and records are you currently immersing yourself in at home?
Jonas: Right now, I’m listening a lot to Motorpsycho, Chairmen of the Board, Popul Vuh, Black Mountain, Donald Byrd, The Masters Apprentices, Autopsy, Fairfield Parlour, Wolf People, Dungen, Manowar, Queensryche and Wovenhand.
Thanks once again for your time and best of luck with your future musical endeavors. Any closing comments or words of wisdom to our readers?
Jonas: No problem, thanks a lot. Remember, there’s a lot of music out there from the past and the present. Don’t get stuck in one genre. Explore!