Singer Christian Linderson about Count Raven’s Storm Warning album
Doom Metal wasn’t ever the most popular wave within the metal scene and won’t be, but it has the most loyal fanbase. Considering the European doom movement, Sweden is one of the most important part of this music, including bands such as Nemesis/Candlemass, Mercy, Faith, Memory Garden, Sorcerer, Stillborn and of course Count Raven. In tis interview singer Christian “Chritus” Linderson shared us his views about Count Raven’s first effort Storm Warning.
Chris, is it correct that the band was formed as Stormwarning back in 1987?
No, they were called that way before I joined them. No idea now how long though.
At which point did you change the band’s moniker to Count Raven? What did you want to represent with this new name?
Not entirely sure but I think there were one or two other bands at the time named Storm Warning or close related to it any way…guess it was needed to avoid mixups of sorts, and to avoid any legal process at that. Plus, changing to English instead of lyrics in Swedish changed the band in some aspects so maybe the name wasn´t really representative any more in the same way. The change came about around the same time, or a bit prior to, the recording of the first album. We kept it as the title instead as a homage to the older following of the band and thus still had the connection. All-in-all a smooth move I think.
Did the line up consist of you on vocals, Dan „Fodde” Fondelius on guitar, Tommy „Wilbur” Eriksson on bass and Christer „Renfield” Pettersson on drums right from the start or did you go through several line up changes?
When I joined them, their original drummer Micke was till in the band. Sorry forgot his last name here. Nothing personal and give an old man a break! Haha!
Was it the first band that you got involved with, or did you have any musical experiences prior to Count Raven?
I was involved with a few local bands before that. At least two comes to mind. Very first one had several names but we were young and hadn´t really found ourselves musically just yet. Your basic average rock band on a beginners level and hardly worth mentioning…haha. I also had a stint and some demo recordings with a band called Conquest.
How did you opt for the musical style that you wanted to play?
Thanks to Stormwarning actually. I happened to see them play at some local gig at some point in one of them “youth centers” that were legion back then over here. I could easily identify with the heavier and slower, more powerful music served than what most other bands played generally. More my kind of sauce, if you will. There were a couple of really good “traditional” metal bands around in the area though, especially Jonah Quizz. Their singer Johan Längquist (later on hired in for the first Candlemass album) made a huge impact on me and no doubt he´s the main reason I wanted to be in a band in the first place. A cousin of mine was friends with them and dragged me with during rehearsals and he became an instant hero of mine. Still think he´s one of the best vocalists ever coming out of this country.
What about the Swedish doom forerunners, such as Nemesis (later known as Candlemass), Sorcerer, Faith, Mercy etc.?
What about them? Haha! None of the above were local bands close to Stormwarning/Count Raven if that´s how you mean. I heard of Candlemass before I heard of Nemesis. Sorcerer we happened to have a couple of gigs with as Count Raven got the album out and we had started to get some reviews coming in from the “bigger” fanzines at the time and whatnot. Not sure if they had their first album out or not by that time.
What do you recall of your early rehearsals? Did you start writing originals or were you mostly jamming on covers?
A mix of what you mention I guess. Obviously everyone´s love for Sabbath laid a foundation and we did a lot of covers a lot of the time. Some songs on the album were older Stormwarning songs that I got to re-write in English as well as some new ones that were jammed out and written from scratch. I forget which ones in general but two that I got to alter was In the Garden of Mirrors and High Beliefs, the latter featured on Dark Passages compilation on Rise Above. But again – plenty more.
In 1989 two demos were released, Demo 89 and Indignus Famulus. Could you tell us any details regarding those materials? Were they heavily spread around in the tape-trading scene?
I wouldn´t think they were THAT heavily spread to be honest. Some, but not tons, not from us any way. We sent them to and among ‘zines for reviews and some labels trying to land a deal I suppose. Of course we had correspondence with traders and some fans as well but not in a major way at the time.
How were you signed by Active Records? What kind of contract did they offer you? Weren’t bigger labels interest in the band at this point?
Either by word of mouth or some review. Likely both. I can´t remember the deal but a “standard” deal of sorts if I was to guess. And it wasn´t like we had a hundred to pick from, no. At some point there was some Swedish well-known business manager who we had a meeting with but we got cold feet after that one as we felt the “honesty” weren´t quite there in the man in question. Something like that. One of these “I´ll make you huge stars from the goodness in my heart only” type guys, you know? So nah.
When did you start working on your debut album?
Not sure…the material was there already so it was more a matter of pick-and-choose when the opportunity came.
You entered the Whiteflower A-studio, May-June 1990. How did the recording sessions go? Were you prepared to record the material?
Fairly smooth as I remember it. No rush or anything, pretty relaxed in general I would say. And yes, I think so. Most of the songs that ended up on it we had played for a longer period already.
How do you explain, that Storm Warning contains everything one would ever expect from a great Doom Metal album? It’s slow, it’s heavy and there is an awesome singer Christian Linderson as an icing on the doomed cake…
Haha! Thank you! Well, again the musical elements any fan of Black Sabbath are on there so maybe not all that surprising if you boil it down some. And not much of that boiling needed either.
Dan Fondelius is an outstanding composer, and some of his best work is included in Storm Warning, namely True Revelation, In the Name of Rock ’n’ Roll and A Devastating Age…
No argument from me on that part, I´m sure. I get my fair share of nostalgia sometimes and I agree he is an amazingly talented composer, no doubt. As for songs mentioned each to their own. Personally I was blown away by the later released High on Infinity album. Still my fave of them I have listened to, and Mammon´s War comes close second for me personally.
Do you agree with that the little difference of Count Raven when comparing to some other Doom Metal acts of the 90’s, is your obvious rock ’n’ roll attitude – it makes you pretty unique?
I don´t know. But in retrospect we were more “Witchfinder General” than, say “Candlemass”, if you know how I mean. I think most bands in them “early days” are special in their own right. Maybe more distinct as it WAS in “the early days”, before the genre exploded later on.
Is the record heavily reminiscent of a couple different eras of Black Sabbath?
I´ll leave that up to listeners to decide that part. To some degree it wouldn´t surprise me as we all liked the different eras of the band ourselves. And of course that may or may not be noticeable at times.
Did musically the band take elements from specific bands, such as Candlemass, Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Black Sabbath?
Of the bands mentioned I´d say Sabbath again of course. But it was all inspiration and not purposely coming out as a cover-clone band of sorts. Candlemass came much later for us hearing about them. So no. I was personally a fan of Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Trouble, Witchfinder General…and I know at least Wilbur liked some of them as well but I can´t say we borrowed from these bands, no. Both Wilbur and Dan are from a bit older generation so our “other” influences came more from other bands. More 60´s-70’s based, like…well, most major and obscure bands from that era. Everything from Uriah Heep and Nazareth to Budgie, to mention some sort of general reference here. As for the material itself I know at the time I was with them that Dan had a huge collection of self-made demos since forever at home so it would seem to me there´s a goldmine of riffs in there still to this day. I got to hear some of it back then and I begged him on my knees that we´d take more from there but I guess I wasn´t around for long enough to persuade him further regretfully. Some of it might have been used for the later releases but I don´t know. He should.
How would you explain, that the album can be divided into three sections (excluding the demo material): the intro, the next five tracks, then everything after (and including) the seventh track?
I don´t know really. Haven´t thought of it that way. I remember we talked about the order of sorts and I guess it just kinda fell in natural in that sense. General dynamics of stuff I reckon.
The good thing about the record is that it isn’t oversaturated with long pieces, and instead keeps a handful of songs no shorter than about four minutes, and no more than close to nine minutes. Do you agree with it?
I personally never thought of it in those terms. More like “it is what it is” kinda. But hey if that´s considered a good thing and worth something in that aspect then by all means, fine with me.
The album was dedicated to child actress Heather O’ Rourke (1975-1988). Can you tell us more about it?
We shared a common interest in classic horror movies and such (and Monty Python even though it´s maybe a bit out of context in a way here, but felt like throwing that in for good measure). We agreed on dedicating it to her as a homage as we felt she deserved something more than a small notice in the Swedish press about her tragic departure. She was in the first Poltergeist movie if needed to be pointed out.
What about the front cover artwork In Ictu Oculi by Spanish painter Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690)?
I forgot who of us came up with it. But it fitted well with what we wanted and felt representative obviously.
Were there any shows/tours in support of the album?
The most memorable was being opening up for Saint Vitus across Europe for a month. It was actually a part of the deal of sorts, haha! I wrote their company at the time and said hello and if they came to Sweden could we open for them and included some demo tracks or whatever and the answer was we could open for them for a whole tour almost if they could release the album. I forget as of why the prominent reason the album was released on two companies to begin with. Both Active and Hellhound. Country licenses or something? Shortly after coming back from that tour we played a festival in a “neighbor county” with Sorcerer, Tiamat and others. Other than that it was usually always gigs we had to set up ourselves.
I found on the internet a bootleg, titled Live at Burgerweeshuis, Holland (13/10/1990). Are you aware of it?
Yes. Someone was even kind to send me a copied-copy of it in CD format a few years back. So I have a bootleg of the bootleg! Thanks again, you!
What kind of reasons led to your departure from the band?
The old classical “personal indifferences” thing as I recall it. Me and Dan had some disputes, as it was. Seeing he was after all the main founder there were just no way my opinion mattered in some ways I guess. We´ve made amends since then a long time ago but do seem to talk often at all these days. Guess he´s as much secluded as I can be from time to time. So be bygone now.
Then you joined Saint Vitus; how were you picked up by the band and what kind of memories do you have about the C.O.D. album?
At the time Wino had left the band I saw in some ‘zine. Company asked me to get in touch with Messiah if possible as a potential new vocalist, so I did. He and I were the biggest fans of the band that I knew of actually. However, after not being in Candlemass anymore it turned out he had other plans already. So next thing is I get another phone call after a couple of days or so saying “Pack your bags!” and so I did after considering it for about 3,2 seconds. I was already in touch with Mike Smail and the guys from Dream Death/Penance at the time though. I meant to go over there and try out with them initially. But I think they were cool enough about it not happening in this case.
As for memories of the album…recording was nice and fine and all that but I never really “found” myself musically I think. More cause of my own self rather than anything else, mind you. I was always more comfortable doing their back-catalogue live. Again – being the fan. In my head I wanted it to be more like, say “The Walking Dead” or “Mournful Cries” than what actually happened, but I´m not Reagers or Wino unfortunately. Haha! That part I like to think I covered a bit better live than in studio. Something like in-between the two. But I will forever treasure the fact I was in one of my all-time fave bands there for a period of a well couple of years. I mean who wouldn´t? I also put some honor in never “boasting” about it ever for personal gain in any shape or form. Perhaps I don’t like myself on there enough is the reason as well (same as with Storm Warning.)
At the same time I´m proud of the manifestation in itself, if you know how I mean. I´m fully aware it divided Saint Vitus fans into two camps in that regard, kinda. But then again it obviously drew many “new” fans to the band and thus discovering their back-catalogue as well so it filled some worthy purpose for sure at least, regardless of what I may think about it personally.
Would you say that Count Raven is probably the most underrated traditional doom band in Doom Metal history?
Oh, I don´t know really. The name pops up here and there and now and again but I wouldn´t know other than what I see on social media like Facebook or whatever. But you might be right. I don´t know. Hard for me to be non-biast to begin with here in this matter. If you like it you like it, I suppose. And if not then that´s ok, too. Again I can only speak for my own views on Storm Warning to begin with.
The band was featured on two compilations, both on Dark Passages I with the song High Beliefs and on What the Hell! with the song Creepshow. Did these materials help you to make the band’s name bigger or spread around in the scene?
Out of them two, Dark Passages made the “classics” of compilations. We are in good company on that one, wouldn´t you agree? So, yes I think so. I´m sure it was more good than the opposite…I mean, why decline an offer to be featured to begin with? And, you know, one more for the discography.
Was Creepshow exclusively written and used for What the Hell!?
No. Both of these songs we had that wasn´t on the album. Think that´s basically the way we figured it purposely. “Extra” songs, in terms of being what we felt were good enough in their own right to kinda represent us, and at the same time “bonus” songs in that sense if people bought any of these compilations. We were the gift that kept giving! Haha!
A promotional tape was recorded in 1990; what kind of goals did it serve? Was it recorded for Hellhound?
Not for them specifically. I think it was for your basic band-demo purposes mainly. (No specific goals set, as I recall it.)
Chris, thanks a lot for your answers! What are your closing words for our readers?
Thanks everyone! Stay safe and god bless!