Tom Sutton: Balancing life in three bands, vehicles for metal, doom and heavy rock
Words: TK Smith

Most know Tom Sutton from his current residence in Swedish rock band Horisont or may have spotted him on tour with Church of Misery at one of their many showings at Holland’s Roadburn festival. Currently, Sutton is touring with his own band The Order of Israfel supporting Pentagram and his new project Night Viper. For a guy that all but abandoned playing the guitar to teach English, Sutton has returned to his first love and is busier than ever. The story goes: Australian-native Sutton moved to Japan to teach English and ended up joining Church of Misery. His doom metal yearnings eventually pulled him to Gothenburg, Sweden where he met bassist Patrik Andersson Winberg whose band DoomDogs were opening for Pentagram. Patrik knew drummer Hans Lija and Sutton’s old roommate was guitarist Staffan Björck. Within a couple jams, Sutton was convinced this was the perfect vehicle to introduce songs that he had been working on for years. Thus was born The Order of Israfel.

The saga continued when friends Horisont needed Sutton to fill in for departing guitarist Kristofer Möller. After several gigs, he was invited in as a full member. Within months he was also seduced by the straightforward metal tremorings of another friend’s band and was soon deeply immersed in the ranks of Night Viper. “Before I even moved to Sweden, my plan was to have three bands,” says Sutton as we sat backstage at this year’s (2015) Freak Valley Festival. “When I write songs they come out in different styles. There can be a lot a variety as I move around musically. Sometimes it can sound completely different than it did when I started. Before moving to Sweden I knew I wanted to do a band like Order of Israfel, a classic doom metal band. I also wanted to create a classic death metal band like Entombed or Dismember. I actually started a death metal band with a drummer. But once Horisont asked me to fill in on guitar, I didn’t have time for it. It might be something I get back to in the future.”

Sutton grew up in Australia where he started playing guitar at 13. “I had no music friends growing up,” says the guitarist. “I lived in a heavy metal vacuum. It wasn’t until I moved to Japan that I met this guy that suggested we start a band.” Sutton had put down the guitar at 20 when he moved to Japan to teach English and study martial arts. “I picked it up again in my late 20s and was soon in Church of Misery. That’s when I had to force myself to play lead guitar. Ha! I had been in bands before but Church of Misery was my first really good band. The first band I toured extensively with. I got into it kinda late. I was still trying to find myself musically in my early thirties.” After six years and four albums with Church of Misery, Sutton left Japan with a plan to live in Europe. “I first wanted to live in London but ended up in Gothenburg. The music scene is very good there. That was the attraction, many great musicians.”

“Gothenburg has been a great place for me to discover who I am musically,” continues Sutton. “The Order of Israfel was the first band I started when I got to there. A friend of mine told me Israfel was the angel of music. I thought it was a beautiful idea that maybe, somewhere out there, there’s an angel of music.” Sutton explains, “Whenever I meet people that are into music, it doesn’t really matter what kind of music, I have an instant connection with them. I’ve hung out with people who love jazz or play in classical orchestras and we have so much to talk about. There’s a real understanding.  The idea of The Order of Israfel is that it is a collective understanding between all music lovers. The name can be a challenge if people misread it or don’t understand it, but once I had it in my head I couldn’t get it out. I’m quite proud of it as it represents an honest band with an original name. As a band we are obsessed with music, that’s what we love, so it represents who we are.”

We talked about the chemistry of The Order of Israfel, the layering and texture that made up the debut. “Some of the songs on the album have been around a long time, years even, says Sutton. “The variety of the album came about by accident. The different musical styles happened very naturally. When I’m writing songs, I can feel which band they belong to. On the next Horisont album there is a Spanish flavored song which was a riff that I came up with and even has a little country vibe. My idea with Israfel was to break down certain preconceived ideas. For a lot of the people, doom metal is very set. Slow and low all the time, but to me what defines doom metal spans Cathedral, Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre, Gates of Slumber, Black Sabbath and Trouble. Each of those bands are really varied. Cathedral records can have traditional heavy metal riffs but also acoustic guitar and flute with keyboards. There’s lots of different things going on. That’s what defines what I think doom metal should sound like.”

During the interview we turned our attention to Night Viper, Sutton’s third band that played a stunning set at Sweden’s Muskelrock 2015. “Night Viper is a classic metal-type band, somewhere between Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All and Judas Priest Painkiller. It’s riffy with some fast solos. When I started hanging out in Gothenburg, I met Martin and Sofie Lee who were trying to start a band. A mutual friend suggested I play guitar and, at that time, I was saying ‘yes’ to everything. We hit it off and have just released our first single. One of the songs was suppose to be for my death metal band, but when I played the riff with regular tuning and melodic singing, it turned into a great heavy metal song.” Night Viper plan to release their debut album by the end of 2015. “I wrote eight of the nine songs. Ruben, the bass player wrote the other one. Sofie Lee wrote all the melodies and most of the lyrics, so it’s a real band effort and very strong.”

“For me music comes from the heart and is very natural. I keep myself open to lots of different musical ideas, which can come together in diverse ways. Of the many projects I’ve been involved with I’m closest to Israfel, it’s my thing. I write all the songs, the lyrics, play guitar and sing. I have a deep love for that band. For Horisont, I am a support player. I contribute riffs and ideas but Axel, Charlie and Magnus write the majority of the music. The door is always open for me to join in and I have contributed some riff ideas to the new album. There is a song on the next Horisont album called ‘Odyssey’, it’s a ten-minute space epic. I brought in a couple heavy metal parts for that one and another influenced a bit by the band Satyricon. What I hope I bring to Horisont is a lot of energy, maybe even a little over excitement. I love being on stage and playing live with them.”

Special thanks to Tom Sutton for taking the time out of his VERY busy schedule to speak to us.

Website: Order of Israfel, Horisont, Night Viper