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This Ending's Mårten Hansen: "The scrap heap seen on the cover of the album is replacement parts for humans embodying the fact that people are expendable and sometimes seen as merchandise without emotions."

Interview with Mårten Hansen from This Ending
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 26 July 2021, 9:58 PM

Egoism might get one killed, as if this phrase matches the curiosity that killed the cat. Actually, it is not the same, as the former is the harsher reality and could eventually lead into a gloomier future that mankind might never come back from. It starts with the people, the ones that aren't willing to let go of their own interests. And when these folks have the power, it might mean doom for the surrounding rest. The coming back to action band, This Ending, made it clear that the danger is evident, it is there to consume us if measures wouldn't be taken into the account. With the release of "Needles Of Rust", Steinmetal had a good talk with Mårten Hansen, as the latter told the story of the album, his own vision of society and his inspirations.

Greetings Mårten, it is great to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how is everything going on there in Sweden?

Hey Lior, it’s a great honor being interviewed by Metal Temple. Here in Sweden things are slowly going back to a more normal state. Restrictions are still in place but it’s less of them right now than before. Otherwise I’m enjoying some vacation and try to listen to as much metal as possible.

With the last year and a half being like a sort of a between the hammer and the anvil, do you feel that there is a reason to get comfortable and simply watch this pandemic fade away or we are rather far away from being out of the woods?

I think we are far from over the pandemic even if things are looking brighter with the vaccines. I guess it all depends on how we choose to act in this situation. If everything is going to get back to normal until next summer, I think it all depends on individual choices. The least we need to do is to make sure we stay home if we feel sick.

One of the things that have been quite an endeavour for musicians, and also people in general being in isolation, is to keep one’s sanity in check. Would you say that for you it has been smooth sailing or there were hard times that you battled with?

Well, it for sure has been some hard times to battle with. I work as a teacher and in that context, I come in contact with lots of people since schools have more or less been business as usual in Sweden. Lots of teachers in Sweden have been affected and I already caught the virus in March last year and got it like a bad flu. I did however manage to cure myself at home and was never worried that things would go overboard so to speak. But there’s always a strain to meet lots of people in a situation like this. It’s also a strain when you go back to private life that you cannot meet people in the same way as you’re used to. All the restrictions have felt like a mockery when they do not apply when it fits the agenda of the government. However, I have been lucky since no one real close to me has been taken from this world by the hands of the pandemic so far.

Gladly, and slow and easy, This Ending became relevant once again. When talking about relevancy, or actually producing something new, what made you inspired to continue writing new material?

I have always loved what we are doing with the melodic death metal genre, so I urged our main songwriter Linus Nirbrant to get things moving again. What inspired us was that we had loads of material that wasn’t finished and we had the impression that we have more to offer when it came to our own brand of the genre. Being engaged in a writing process during this pandemic was actually a way to make something meaningful and inspiring. We put a lot of work into the songs and changed things for the better until the final recordings were done.

Personally, I engaged myself more than ever in the process of this album. Everything from lyrics, how it should be sung and how everything musically could fit together in the best possible way. We also had a lot of input when it came to the cover art of the album and in the end I think everything turned out great. It’s a diverse album that has the heaviness, brutality and speed that I think embodies the sound of This Ending. The cover art is also a great follow up to our previous album Garden of Death.

The new material, slowly arising throughout the last year, with two singles, materialized into “Needles Of Rust”, and with that occasion came the signing in one of your local labels, Black Lion Records. How do you feel about this signing with a label that is closer to home? What are your expectations going forward with the label?

Black Lion Records was the label that seemed keenest on signing This Ending. They were really quick in the process and we got the feeling that Oliver and his team will make a great job promoting This Ending. It was important for us that the label we signed was prepared to invest time and that they really liked the music we are making. It’s always a smooth process when you work with someone that can give you answers quite quickly and so far; Black Lion has lived up to that. We hope that “Needles of Rust” will reach out far and wide and that it will gain us some new fans. I think we have managed to make an album that really embodies everything we have achieved as musicians since the early 90’s.

As a subject, or a theme, I felt that “Needles Of Rust” may as well be a general symbol of humanity’s leftovers after a tremendous tragedy, somewhere far into the future. Other than being a kind of an intro to dystopia, is this the direction being expressed, a view into the future?

It might be a glimpse of the future if we continue to strive for economic gain and success with no regard for what happens to the rest of the world around us. If you look only at the song “Needles of Rust”, this song is actually about people exploiting humanity itself. It could be experiments that are going wrong, destroying people’s lives or ultimately ending their lives. The scrap heap seen on the cover of the album is replacement parts for humans embodying the fact that people are expendable and sometimes seen as merchandise without emotions. Each time we are heading in that direction I think we are one step closer to this envisioned doom.

You also talk about people, and their greed, their nature that is always planning mischiefs against the fellow man. In your viewpoint, what has been keeping mankind in that spot, being consumed by cruelty, always being against rather than being in favour of?

I think it lies in human nature to always put yourself in the center of the universe. If you can’t see or at least respect how your actions affect others we will always have this problem. We need to emotionally invest in others and not only in ourselves and those close to us. We need to see the bigger picture if we are going to have a chance to change this human nature. Some people are great at rising above the ego and I admire everyone who can do this. I think much lies in how your upbringing has been. What you have experienced growing up. If you always meet people that try to take advantage of each situation without regard for others, then that’s the way at least most of the children growing up under these conditions will act if no one shows them other paths to tread.

Seeing other sides of each story is an important thing to have in mind. To think about why your counterpart acts in this way and what you could have done differently to change the outcome. This is a way to learn more about yourself and the people around you. Trying to see that you also have a role to play in how others act around you and taking responsibility for your own actions.

It has been said by various people, without it being a religious driven phrase, that the essence of man is evil. Do you believe this notion? What is your standpoint about that?

I don’t think that the essence of man is evil. We as humans have the ability to change ourselves for the better if we really want to. But usually “evil” is the easiest way to choose since then you can embody all your personal needs with no regards for others. It’s harder to take the path where you need to navigate around other people and their experiences.

 “Needless Of Rust” also takes a point at the concept of nightmares. Would you say that you, or someone else in the band, expressed his own fears and coloured them within the songs?

That would be me then painting the canvas of nightmares. I think most of us have had nightmares and for example in the song Hell to Hell it is about a nightmare that never seems to end. I don’t know if you’ve experienced it being half awake half asleep and dreaming the strangest dreams and sometimes end up waking up almost shaking from this weird experience of different “nightmares” that doesn’t seem to end. You never get to reach the end of these dreams since you constantly get new scenarios without logic thrown at you. These dreams often become even more vivid if I have a fever. Now it sounds like I have a lot of nightmares which in fact is not true, but some of them stick with you for a while when they become so alive.

One of the things that I like about This Ending is the fact that you guys have been doing what a lot of the early Gothenburg Death Metal bands stopped doing, producing actual Death Metal that is melodic by nature. However, I believe that “Needles Of Rust”, while maintaining the old ways, also encompasses more directions of extreme Metal, and I might add a little bit of Traditional Metal. Therefore, I ask, how do you find the band’s musical development through the qualities of “Needles Of Rust”?

First of all, thank you for that, I can only agree. This is something I miss in many new melodic death metal releases. I think “Needles of Rust” is the result of all of our experience as songwriters finding its true form. I think the album has become as diverse as a This Ending album should be but everything fits better together as a whole on this album.

As you mention we have incorporated new elements into our songwriting that we haven’t been using that much earlier. To me the biggest change in sound is to be found in the headbanging and groovy song “A New Plight”. I find this song really cool since it mixes up elements we haven’t mixed together earlier, and it still sounds very much This Ending. I hope we can build and evolve our sound in this way, so you always find surprises and new elements on each new album.

Talking about the early Swedish Death Metal movement, do you believe that it is perhaps nearly impossible to recapture the magic of the early 90s or would you rather dump the past and live for the future music wise?

To recapture the magic of the early 90’s is nearly impossible since you had to have been there and experienced it in that context. Everything was new and evolving, so from my point of view it would only be possible to do this magic during this point of time. With that being said I still love the sound of the music from this era and I don’t see any reason not to build on that legacy to create great metal.

A great metal album, even if it’s not the same magic when you as a young music lover discover what metal is all about, is still a kind of magic experience. So I think as a musician you should always write music that you enjoy to play and that gives you satisfaction. I still enjoy each album I have recorded and am proud of what I have achieved through the years. For me “Needles of Rust” is a monument of melodic death metal done the way I love it.

Certainly one of the benefits of making an album, at least from my end, is gaining additional experience at songwriting, perhaps trying to find a different approach to the writing of a song for instance. How would you say that you were developed as a songwriter while working on the new record?

I have never worked so hard on getting everything right as on this album. Due to the pandemic, we did not rehearse that much so we recorded lots of demos and changed ideas with each other. We actually did a demo recording of the complete album this time around and I worked with that for a few months until it was time to record the final vocals. During the process I discovered things that disturbed me a bit and I had the chance to change things until I found the shape I needed for the vocals. This is the closest I’ve gotten to perfect when it comes to how I want the vocals and rhythms to connect with the music. With that being said, I even changed some small details during the final recordings of the vocals, and I must say that I’m really pleased with the end result. So, this is a way to work on the vocals that I really would like to repeat and evolve even further.

A question that I have been asking melodic driven bands is about the melodic factor in the music. How do you find the importance of melodies to the music heard on “Needles Of Rust”? How do you believe that the melody empowers the energetic personality of the songs?

For me melodies have always been of great importance to balance the music and to convey emotions within the compositions. We have always used melodies to create a mood within the music. The melodies empower the riffs and the vocals. Everything should fit together seamlessly, and the melodies are usually the driving force behind how the lyrics end up. I usually listen to the songs a few times to feel the vibe of the song. After that I start to build a lyrical theme that should empower the feeling, I got from the song itself. So, the melodies I would say is the element that enhances each song we make and what ties everything together.

“Needles Of Rust” saw a major change in This Ending’s lineup, with the departure of longtime drummer, Fredrik Andersson. Gladly, that you had a drum expert as a guitarist in the image of Peter Nagy. In light of Nagy’s drumming, what do you see as different in This Ending rhythmic section? How do you find Nagy’s approach?

For This Ending as a band, it was of course not an easy choice to make. But since we knew Peter’s skills as a musician it was natural to first approach him and ask if he felt up to the task of playing the drums on the album. After some consideration and practicing of the old songs he accepted the task. It’s hard to say what is different in the rhythmic section since Fredrik is a skilled and dynamic drummer too. I’m sure there would have been some differences in the fills and rhythms, but Peter approached the drum parts with lots of respect and tried to put his own touch to things. I think as a listener you can hear that he has a flow in his approach to the drumming. Using the drums to enhance the songs even more. He achieved more than we had expected on “Needles of Rust” and we couldn’t be more pleased with the result.

Diabolical’s Sverker Widgren mixed and mastered “Needles Of Rust” to a point where it is a grandstand, a strong and piercing sound output that is definite. How do you appreciate Widgren’s work? What is your take on This Ending’s new sound?

I think Sverker did a great job with the album. The production is great, and you can hear each instrument in a way we haven’t heard with This Ending before. He was always very open to try ideas we had to make the production fit our sound even better. In my opinion This Ending has never sounded better. It’s a distinct sound that really fits the songs well. A friend of mine told me that he had never heard us before with such separation between the instruments and that it makes the songs come out even better. I totally agree.

The rather slow paced heavy chugger, “Eclipse Of The Dead”, harbours also a majestic atmosphere, along with gut ripping riffs but with enchanting melodies. Would you say that this track is the face of This Ending nowadays?

I would say that “Eclipse Of The Dead” is a great song among other great songs on the album. If it’s the face of This Ending nowadays I’m not sure. What I am sure about though is that we would like to incorporate these elements in more songs in the future. But to me This Ending is still about the diversity of the songs and that you never should expect an album from us where all the songs come at the same pace, melody and rhythm. We embrace the legacy of Swedish melodic death metal with pride. We try to do it our way and that’s the way we and hopefully our fans like it.

Which of the tracks would you care to talk about further, elaborate about in regards to its closeness to you, where do you find refuge in it just sitting and listening?

I have always been really fond of the song “Devastate”. It has all the elements I need in a good aggressive melodic death metal song. It has of course the melodies, but it also has a thrashy face smashing lead riff with a haunting melody on top of it. It also holds some holds some elements of surprise in how we have arranged it. Vocal wise it came out great with really brutal and aggressive vocals that fits the lyrical theme of exclusion and mistreatment. It also gets topped off with some guest vocals from the mighty Paul “Themgoroth” Nordgrim (ex- Dark Funeral).

What are This Ending’s plans for the rest of 2021 or are you simply thinking of 2022?

I hope we can start to work on some new music before the end of the year. We hope to be a bit quicker this time around to write a new album. “Needles of Rust” was in the works for almost five years. We also hope to be able to do some live shows in a not too distant future.

I really hope we can get the opportunity to do some shows in other countries than Sweden when all restrictions are lifted. So if you would like to book This Ending don’t hesitate to contact us. We also hope to have some nice new merch soon and are looking forward to the release of “Needles of Rust” on vinyl. This will be the first vinyl release for This Ending, so make sure to check it out.

Mårten, it was a great pleasure for me to have you for this interview. You made me look back to great heydays with a simply amazing record. Thank you sir. All the best. Cheers

Thank you for the kind words Lior. I wish you all the best and hope to see you at a show rather sooner than later.


 



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