Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell
Swedish metal band Mustasch final get their internationally acclaimed masterpiece Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell released in the States on Metalville Records. Their sixth disc overall, it follows the band’s nomination in three categories at BanditRock (Swedish Radio) awards with Best Artist, Best Album and Best Live Act. A steady line up with Ralf Gyllenhammar (vocals/guitars), David Johannesson (lead guitars), Mats ‘Stam’ Johansson (bass) and Danne McKenzie (drummer) deliver a meaty effort mixed by engineer extraordinaire Stefan Glaumann (Rammstein, Paradise Lost, Within Temptation). Leading single “The Challenger” has already become a breakout hit in all Scandinavia with hopes of making waves on these shores. Intentionally leaving their stoner/doom influences behind, the band pump out ten pure, unadulterated heavy metal gems of the utmost quality. Beginning with the hook-filled “Speed Metal” the band go for the throat with an almighty riff and sludgy rhythmic backbeat. Ralf’s vocals are classic metal and embrace the song in the tradition of Dio, Halford and Kilmister.
It’s their approach to songwriting and old-school delivery that make Mustasch the new breed of classic metal. Think Priest, Sabbath and Motörhead with a bit of The Cult tossed in and you have it nailed. The guitars are straightforward punching the air with a chainsaw grind and open-chord riffage. The solos are never overstated, just simple ditties that retain the melody and accentuate the beauty of the song. “It’s Never Too Late” polishes their six-string tone with just enough rust to give it an edge of legitimacy in the face of new-metal’s overproduced splatter. The lyrics are cleaver, like the fabrication of the word “Skeletones”, that when combined with a catchy chorus, make it stick like glue. “Destroyed by Destruction”, “The Challenger” and “Cold Heart Mother Son” are ripe with chugging guitars, brutal bass and plenty of cowbell. In a world where most band’s lean on gimmicks to get noticed, it’s nice to hear a bunch of guys turning it up and focusing on the honest, the brave and the true.
Not to be dwarfed in distorted amplification, “Morning Star” maybe the closest the band get to a love song. “You came into my world and blew my cool,” sings the gruff frontman, “my sleeping beauty, can’t stop watching you” proves there’s still good lovin’ in heavy metal. Counter that with “I Don’t Hate You” where our hero is “on the road alone again / riding the healing winds of change” as emotions run full circle. The darker side of “Dead Again” takes a step back into vintage Sabbath complete with a plodding march under an Iommi-inspired ostinato phrase. Uniquely their own is “Your Father Must Be Proud Of You” which revisits the adage of youth vs. parent. Closing out the disc is the loosely constructed keyboard outro “Northern Link”. All-in-all Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell is a perfect summer soundtrack where the songs are rock-and-roll-driven, instantly memorable and heavy as hell. Sit it alongside the new Danko Jones, Volbeat and Grand Magus for essential listening.
Breaking new ground outside their homeland, Mustasch have signed with an International booking agent who has been hustling up work for the quartet at all the BIG summer 2013 metal festivals including Motocoltur (France), Metaldays (Slovenia) and the mighty Wacken (Germany). On their stop at Holledau Festival in Empfenbach, Germany we caught up with guitarist David Johannesson who filled us in on the band’s jam with Motörhead’s Mikkey Dee, opening for Def Leppard and their plan for global domination via a reality show.
The Cutting Edge: Ok David, spill the beans on the Motörhead gig last night.
David Johannesson: “At the last minute we were asked to fill in for Motörhead at Metaltown in Gothenburg. Lemmy had to cancel the whole tour because of some serious health issues so we went on in their place with matching Motörhead t-shirts. The crowd went over the top when Mikkey Dee (Motörhead drummer) joined us for “Ace Of Spades”. Mikkey lives in Gothenburg so it was really cool for us and the audience. I’m sure it’s all over YouTube by now. (Fan-filmed video footage of this appearance can be seen here).
We also played with Def Leppard and Hardcore Superstar in Helsingborg and Uppsala (Sweden) a couple days before with a crowd of about 5,000 each night. In between we’ve been playing Germany for about four weeks now and its gone really great. Each show the crowds get bigger and bigger. When we started a month ago is was big clubs like 1,500 but tonight, at this festival, (Holledau Festival in Empfenbach) there will be 3,500-4,000. The first week of August we play Wacken, the biggest metal festival in the world. We go on about 4:00 in the afternoon - you can reach a lot of people with that time slot. I think there will be 80,000 crazy metalheads there!”
TCE: Is the language barrier ever a problem?
DJ: Not really. Ralf, our singer, knows a little German. He knows enough to speak with the crowd and get them worked up. The Germans know what he’s says but it’s not so accurate. The kind of music we play is very anthemic. The Germans like songs they can chant along to.
TCE: In the 15 years the band’s been together you have never been to the States. I would think your brand of metal ala Motörhead-meets-Metallica would go over well there.
DJ: We would never rule it out but it’s very expensive to tour the US. It’s a very big place and the traveling would eat up a budget. But there are possibilities. We are friends with Danko Jones. It would be good to put some kind of package together with them. Alice Cooper, Clutch, Alice In Chains, there are a number of bands we could pair up with. We are signed to Sony worldwide so if we could get a foothold in the United States like Ozzfest or something, it would work for us. Maybe the best way to go would be as an opening act…and we’re ok with that. This is our strongest line up to date so it would be good to strike while the iron’s hot.
Last summer we went to New York City, the whole band, mainly to meet people and make connections and to see about touring in the States. We met a director / producer that was interested in doing a reality show. He’s from LA and has worked on Punk’d with Ashton Kutcher. He saw us in Sweden when we played for 25,000-30,000 in Gothenburg. He filmed us there and later rehearsing in the studio. We hooked up again when we were in New York and he filmed us there just doing “everyday life-type things’. He put something together and tried to sell it to the networks but we haven’t heard anything since.
TCE: Before you joined Mustasch you were in a Swedish metal band called Sparzanza with your brother Calle. What is different about playing with Mustasch?
DJ: They are a lot bigger more widely known. I’ve been in this band for five years since replacing the original guitarist Hannes Hansson. He quit because he had a family and wanted to spend more time with them. Touring in a rock band is not very healthy on your family life. I did three albums with Sparzanza, on the last one Banisher of the Light in 2007 Ralf was a guest vocalist. When Hannes said he was leaving they called me.
TCE: On the new album Sounds Like Heaven Looks Like Hell you and Ralf (Gyllenhammar) are the only members of the band credited with song writing. You wrote “Destroyed by Destruction” and co-wrote “Never Too Late” both great riff songs.
DJ: Thanks. Yeah, me and Ralf do the majority of the writing. We work together on the music but Ralf takes the lead on the lyrics. For the past two weeks Ralf and I have been writing songs for our new album due to come out next year. We will start recording in the fall after our summer tours. We never really know what direction the songs will take until we all run through them together. We have a new producer for the next record and have given him complete control. He is the boss and will decide what the framework will be. I won’t reveal his name just yet but he played in a famous Swedish band in the ‘80s and has worked with a lot of artists from the Sweden Eurovision Song Contest.
*Later, we had a chance to speak with vocalist Ralf Gyllenhammar and ask him about the challenges of writing in English. “I learned English by watching American movies,” says Ralf. “I will watch the movie three times. Once in Swedish to understand the concept, the second time with English subtitles, the third time in English with no subtitles. This way I’m able to get an English lyric or concept across as close to the right meaning as I can.”
TCE: Wasn’t Ralf was in the Sweden Eurovision Song Contest?
DJ: Yeah, he wrote a top-ten hit called “Bed On Fire”. I guess it was big in Finland too. He’s had a long history with TV. He’s been a presenter on channel TV7, he’s worked with Klipptoppen (a Swedish hidden-camera show) and was on the double disc soundtrack for Upp Till Kamp (Swedish drama series). He got to the semi-final 4 on Melodifestivalen 2013 with “Bed On Fire” and came in first qualifying for the final round on the Eurovision Song Contest then got beat out.
TCE: Is it distracting to have Ralf involved with TV?
DJ: Ya know, it helps the band out by getting the name out there but yeah, it’s also distracting. It takes time, we have to tour and play. He gets involved with other stuff when we don’t have any commitments as a band. So we try to balance it all but it’s been full time since 2005. We signed with a new agent in Germany with the focus to expand into Europe. We’re trying to spread the word. If you like the classic metal sound, you’ll like us.
TCE: Can you tell us about your guitar influences?
DJ: Honestly, I hate guitar players. I love drummers and singers but nothing new on the guitar front. I go back to my roots like The Cult, Black Sabbath, Kiss - loud guitars anything strong and original. Other guys in the band are into David Bowie, P-Funk, Beatles and Queen. I was never schooled on the guitar but I can recognize a good riff or a good solo when I hear it. We’ve been joking about this song “We Built This City” by Starship in the ‘80s. It’s got this great hook so you have it in your head all the time. A good song will do that. We played with Turbonegro the other night and they used it as their outro after the gig. We died laughing.
A special thank to David Johannesson and Road Manager Johan Falkenberg for their help and support.
In 2011 Mustach parted ways with drummer Danne McKenzie due to personal differences and replaced him with Jejo Perkovic (Infinite Mass, Candlemass, Bear Quartet).