Thursday, 4 August 2011


UTUMNO is a Swedish death metal band I easily put in the same category of bands with MACABRE END (GOD MACABRE), NIRVANA 2002, DESULTORY, GOREMENT… All fantastic bands, but somehow they didn’t get the attention I would expect them to get. Anyway, UTUMNO may be seem to some as just another Swedish band, but the real maniacs of the old Svensk Dod Metal will agree that this short-living band rules. UTUMNO (a name taken from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – and it was an old fortress, built by Melkor) was formed in 1990 in Vasteras –pretty late, as at the time the scene in Sweden already has been very active – under the name CARNAL REDEMPTION. The first line up had just three members - Staffan Johansson – guitars (who played in ABHOTH before that, but left the band before ABHOTH recorded their first demo “A Matter of Splatter”), Dan Oberg - bass and Pontus Jansson – drums. Sometime later, it was shortly after MACABRE END did their demo titled “Consumed by Darkness”, Jonas Stålhammar – who was a vocalist in MACABRE END and before that in ABHOTH – was asked by UTUMNO to do some guitar solos, but because UTUMNO didn’t have a vocalist, he (Jonas) offered a help to do them. As so he did. The first demo 1990 – recorded under the name CARNAL REDEMPTION – was titled "Desolation Domain", but it wasn’t much successful recording – years later Jonas admits that the songs were good, but the production was absolutely awful, so the demo have never even been released with the cover, etc. Soon after that the band changed the moniker to UTUMNO and quickly recorded another demo material, three tracks, all released under the title “Twisted Emptiness”. It was 1990 still, so the band’s been very active then. First local shows were played also, but Jonas started to feel uncomfortable doing both jobs – vocals and playing guitar (which wasn’t a problem in GOD MACABRE as this band didn’t rehearse too often), so the guys got Dennis Lindahl to play guitar. Playing live shows and having two demos UTUMNO started to get more and more followers. One of the gigs they played was recorded on a soundboard and this recording Ola Sjöberg from GOD MACABRE sent to the owner of CENOTAPH Records. This was the label UTUMNO signed a contract with and recorded a debut EP for. After the intensive rehearsing the band chosen three tracks for the EP, which eventually were about to be recorded. Then all of a sudden, Pontus decided to leave UTUMNO. The band quickly found replacement though; they auditioned just one drummer, Johan Halberg, who eventually got the job. But when UTUMNO entered SUNLIGH T Studio (between 7th and 8th of September 1991) it turned out that Johan was so nervous he couldn’t play, so the guys called up Pontus to record drums’ track, which he did. Johan was later auditioned once more and this time he didn’t fail; actually he impressed everybody a lot. Meanwhile EP had just two songs in the end:  “Saviour Reborn” and “In Misery I Dwell”; the third one wasn’t quite finished, so UTUMNO decided to drop it, instead taking its title for the EP – which was “The Light of Day”. EP got great feedback and sold well... There were two version of it – first 1000 copies had really awful cover drew by Danny v/d Dungen (funny, but UTUMNO guys really liked this cover as the band tried to avoid the typical gory and dark death metal style… which also could be noticed on band’s photos), and then the second pressing had more professional artwork by Paw Nielsen. The line up change didn’t have any impact on the tempo UTUMNO worked as the band played more gigs (with bands like AFFLICTED and AT THE GATES) and also already had SUNLIGHT Studio booked for another recording, as CENOTAPH wanted them to record miniCD. The band spent all the summer of 1992 rehearsing new material and went back to SUNLIGHT. Six tracks (two of which were from the EP) were recorded and UTUMNO really got great material again; it was titled “Across the Horizon”! The production, although typical for SUNLIGHT, was killer (even if the mixing took just two days) and the songs were absolutely fabulous. CENOTAPH released this stuff on CD – and this pressing is really rare nowadays! The artwork was done by brilliant Kristian Wahlin – and he did fantastic job; also band got new logo, drew by Calle Johansson, drummer of a band called MSA, which was pre-ABHOTH. But then the problems with CENOTAPH started. Adwin, owner of this label, didn’t answer the phone calls or anything. He did release CD, but never even sent copies to the band. UTUMNO started to compose new songs, but at some point Dennis stopped showing up on the rehearsals. Because at that time GOD MACABRE already split up, Jonas decided to play guitar again. The band managed to play one gig as a 4-piece, but didn’t survive long. Soon after – with all the problems they had with CENOTAPH and also with Dennis leaving – the band split up. Unfortunately I have to say record label should be blamed for it!!! How unfair CENOTAPH was for UTUMNO proves also the fact that the band members didn’t have an idea that “Across the Horizon” was released until few years later, when Jonas, who was running a record store at the time, found few copies of the CD around and gave one to every band member.
Of all UTUMNO members only Jonas had played in various bands afterwards. He played in few rock and metal bands like DARKCREED, SPACE PROBE TAURUS, THE COLOMBOS; his new band is called BOMBS OF HADES and plays great old school death / thrash metal. In 2010 he also joined the reformed THE CROWN and did vocals on the excellent “Doomsday King” album! Also Johan Halberg played in another metal band, called CRANIUM. Unfortunately he committed suicide in 2001. None of the other guys played metal again.
Finally in 2009 THE CRYPT Records decided to re-release “Across the Horizon” on LP, with “The Light of Day” EP as a bonus. This vinyl looks very impressive (as always when we’re talking about THE CRYPT releases) – has huge poster, inlay with lyrics and liner notes written by Jonas, as well as a patch. It was limited to 500 copies and sold pretty quickly. Also a CD version came out through Cyanide Syndicate / VIC Records in 2010 as well as tape on Dark Descent Records in 2011 (with bonus tracks).
Twisted Emptiness (demo 1990)
Recorded: unknown
Recording line up: Staffan Johansson – Guitars, Dan Oberg – Bass, Jonas Stalhammar – Vocals, Pontus Jansson – Drums
Here is one of the rarest and hard to find recordings from the early Swedish death metal scene. The second UTUMNO demo, which was actually recorded under the name CARNAL REDEMPTION, was really hard to find and I can only imagine how much one has to pay to buy an original tape version of it – if any still exist. I was lucky to find out that finally someone has decided to publish mp3 version of this demo (with a bonus rehearsal song what makes it even more delightful and rare piece of music!). Anyway it was 1990, so very early stage of the death metal movement in Sverige, when “Twisted Emptiness” was recorded. But many bands from this great scene already had their sound and style and I think that includes UTUMNO as well. I mean I can easily recognise many elements of “Twisted Emptiness” that have been carried on with the latter band’s recordings, “The Light of Day” 7”EP especially. The production is very raw and rather primitive, but definitely has that fat sound on the guitars. Jonas Stalhhammer’s growlings are recognisable easily as well as his vocal arrangements, which to my point of view are one of the highlights of UTUMNO music. And it is a music, which is very original; even here on the demo these Swedes play quite uncommon and diversified sounds. Sure, UTUMNO style is based on death metal, but just like AFFLICTED or AGROTH, they put in many technical parts, with some weird, almost jazzy arrangements, so the music has completely different feeling than ENTOMBED or DISMEMBER did have. You may be able to spot that in “Insane Incantation” especially… There are some really twisted and uncommon for death metal parts with strange rhythms, sudden tempo changes, sickening guitar solos and other such things, which make UTUMNO music quite difficult to classify. Sure, many of these parts still seem to need some work, they’re not totally perfected, but as a demo band UTUMNO already presented an interesting style and quality. Luckily these Swedes remembered also about the aggressive and brutal part of death metal, so their music has a bit of that as well, especially in “Desolation Domain”, which I think is the most brutal and exciting part of “Twisted Emptiness” demo in my opinion. I just love that fragment with bass in the front followed by a short, but fast grinding riffage… But this song has even more to present, so give it a listen and see yourself. I can guarantee some great tunes. And finally, as for that one rehearsal track, it is a rare, amateurish recording of “The Light of Day” song… It was probably recorded in April 1991 and as you may guess it doesn’t sound as good as the MCD version, but it surely is great addition to demo collection. All in all, I think the entire “Twisted Emptiness” demo sis worth checking out and looking for.
Best song: “Desolation Domain”
Final rate: 60/100
The Light of Day (CENOTAPH Records – 7”EP 1991)
Recorded: Recorded in SUNLIGHT Studio, between the 7-8 of September; Produced, Mixing and Engineered by Tomas Skogsberg
Recording line up: Staffan Johansson – Guitars, Dennis Lindahl – Guitars, Dan Oberg – Bass, Jonas Stalhammar – Vocals, Pontus Jansson – Drums (session)
This EP surely is a fine piece of Swedish death metal. The production is little bit rough, but I like the songs quite much. To be honest UTUMNO doesn’t differ much at this point from many other bands, like AFFLICTED for instance. They also played quite technical and well structured music, with many layers of melodic riffs, as well as those more aggressive ones here and there. The band changes the tempo often and rapidly, so everything is very dynamic and energetic, but the music doesn’t feel too complex, which is good. It’s still easily listenable, probably thanks to the melodic riffs and some catchy tunes. Especially “In Misery I Dwell” sounds great, has many hooks, even kind of chorus and great Swedish guitar solos, where you can feel from the spot where this band is from (and what studio did they record the music, as the sound of the guitar is very typical for SUNLIGHT). UTUMNO definitely had a great idea and talent for composing interesting and original death metal. Both songs are fulfilled with many, many ideas, surely the technical skills of these young guys were very impressive. So definitely musically there’s absolutely nothing wrong in this EP. Only the production could have been little bit better; it‘s just too rough, would be better to get cleaner, but more powerful sound. Anyway, this is really good EP!
Also, the first edition of EP has one of the worst front covers I’ve seen ha, ha! It shows a sun, but really weird one, with crazy eyes and lunatic smile and sharp teethes… Under it there are some people, probably kind of the tribe of sun worshippers. Eh… bleeeh he, he. The second edition of the EP has completely different layout, the front cover is much more death metal like and almost blasphemous. There are two large figures of evil looking priests who are praying in hell, where the devils torment the sinners. This cover looks much better. The second edition of an EP have the band photo on the back cover; and another shock comes! It is the famous picture of very un-death metal looking chaps, of which one is wearing MADONNA t-shirt!
Best song: “In Misery I Dwell”
Final rate: 70/100

Across the Horizon (CENOTAPH Records – MCD 1992)
Recorded: Recorded in SUNLIGHT Studio, October 1992 by Tomas Skogsberg. Produced by UTUMNO.
Recording line up: Staffan Johansson – Guitars, Dennis Lindahl – Guitars, Dan Oberg – Bass, Jonas Stalhammar – Vocals, Johan Halberg - Drums
Totally obligatory piece of Swedish death metal!! Although the band took the name from Tolkien's books, I can assure you they haven't got anything in common with the symphonic black metal a'la SUMMONING. It's totally the opposite! This mini album from the Swedish UTUMNO is a real killer and surely belongs to the best death metal stuffs recorded in Sweden at the time of early 90's. “Across the Horizon”, surprisingly (he he) recorded at famous Sunlight, contains six tracks – two of which are new versions of songs from old EP from 1991. There’s also a song called “The Light of Day”, which was also planned for the debut EP, but didn’t make it in the end. So, we have two old and well known tracks and four brand new ones. I must be honest and say that I've been trying to get this CD for years, but it's so rare that I couldn't make it (or afford it). So I've been just listening to it on tape, as someone recorded it for me. Finally in 2010 this wonderful label called THE CRYPT Productions released UTUMNO on VINYL (!!!), adding "The Light of Day" EP as a bonus. Shit! Already looking at the impressive front cover by Mr. Wahlin is something astonishing - especially in such a big format as 12"LP. Ha, this record includes also a giant poster of the same picture. Also to read a history of UTUMNO written by the vocalist, Mr. Stahlhammar, is awesome. Definitely this is another great LP in the collection of mine. Musically it just couldn't disappoint any fan of Swedish old school. Comparing "Across the Horizon" with "The Light of Day" EP I can say that the sound has changed a bit... UTUMNO has tuned down their guitars a bit I think, so the sound is definitely heavier. Also the production by Mr. Skogsberg is fabulous… So what if it's so typical for his studio and so many other Swedish death metal bands? Truth is I love this sound and “Across the Horizon” sounds also wonderful. Right from the first sounds of the opening song “The Light of Day” I feel like nothing else really matters but good Swedish death metal. This is very classic track, more in the atmospheric style rather than the NIHILIST-esque viciousness. Of course UTUMNO can be aggressive as hell when needed; they just have this ability to shuffle it with plenty of melodic, moody parts. That opening track is a fine example for it as it has some very headbanger’s friendly parts, quite fast and crushing, while it remains melodic all the way through, even has very catchy chorus. I can easily compare it to such AFFLICTED and their “Ivory Towers” anthem for instance. Both are great songs. “I Cross the Horizon” is pretty much similar, again I can compare it to AFFLICTED or GOREMENT, even ENTOMBED from their "Clandestine" LP… This track also has some splendid, more aggressive parts and I think this song is even more straight forward that the one before. After that there are two tracks from the old EP. I love “In Misery I Dwell” especially; it’s fantastic track, very energetic with blast beats in one fragment (!!!) and Jonas Stahlhammer’s vocals are again harsh and good as ever. “Sunrise”, another new track, is again very typical; but some of its parts are really complicated. Johan Halberg plays some truly incredible parts on his drums and the guitarists play some wonderful melodies. Last track, “Emotions Run Cold” is probably the weakest link of this miniCD. Well, it isn’t bad, because of its very aggressive and fast beginning, which actually sounds great – but I really don’t like these annoying clean vocal parts in the middle fragment. As much as I like Jonas’ harsh vocals, he cannot sing ha, ha! Anyway, this short fragment is maybe 10 seconds long only, so it doesn’t damage “Across the Horizon” that much. I think this recording is one of the brightest stars on the Swedish death metal sky! Probably there are just two things that I think could have been done better - one is the mentioned clean vocal parts, while the other thing I think are those fragments when UTUMNO rapidly changes the rhythms and riffing. Not always they do this perfectly, seems like the guitarists just couldn't come with the idea how to get things right. And then it just sounds weird and unobtained. Other than that, this is awesome and obligatory release.
Best song: “The Light of Day”, “In Misery I Dwell”
Final rate: 85/100

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