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27 years on, Count Raven still have plans, and a new line-up to carry them out with: Comrade Aleks talks to founder member Dan Fondelius and newest recruit Samuel Cornelsen to find out more.

Interview with Count Raven.
"Count Raven originally proclaimed their reign over the Swedish traditional Doom scene in 1989, when the first cassette demo was recorded and released by Dan "Fodde" Fondelius (guitars), Christer Pettersson (drums), Tommy "Wilbur" Eriksson (bass) and Christian Linderson (vocals). The band followed the examples of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, making strikingly heavy doom rock music with charismatic vocals. The guys had plenty of groovy ideas for songs, and the seven track demo 'Indignus Famulus' soon appeared, later the same year. The material was damned good, and the evidence of its potential was provided by the full-length debut 'Storm Warning' (Active Records, 1990). 27 years have passed since then, and the band is still alive. It isn't as active, and only Dan Fondelius (who now also performs keyboards and vocals) is left from the original lineup. Dan and the new Count Raven bass player, Samuel Cornelsen, found time to tell me about the band's past and present."

Talking to Aleks today: Dan Fondelius and Samuel Cornelsen. Photo: Ina Bendiksen.

Hail Count Raven! Thanks for your time; I'm glad that we can shed some light on the band's current status. What is the latest news from the Count's camp?

Dan: Thank you for showing your interest in the band, bless you and your family. Well I have been trying to put together the band again for a couple of years now, and finally we are a good unit again, with good people that want to play the music.

How many songs are you preparing for the new record? What's your progress with recording of this material?

Dan: At the moment we are rehearsing material for a new album, or albums, cos we have a lot of material right now, and things have progressed so fast that it is a little bit difficult to see the whole picture at the moment. But it's really killer stuff all the way. It's all classic Raven stuff, and at the same time the songs really progressed into new areas.

The current Count Raven line-up: Jens Bock (Drums), Dan Fondelius (Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals) and Samuel Cornelsen (Bass). Photo: Ina Bendiksen.

Dan, you're saying that it's classic, but there's only you remaining of the original lineup. How would you describe "classic Raven stuff"?

Dan: Well, I was referring to the music and how that sounds. It has been a more or less deliberate idea that the albums should have the same sound and feel like follow ups, just like the next chapter in a book. I wrote all the stuff during the original line up, and since I still write it will off course sound like the former stuff. Of course the drums and basses sounds different due to the fact that the musicians put their own ideas into the music and colored it as they saw fit. But over all, the song ideas are made by me and due to the fact that how they are made, how the guitars and vocals are the driving force,overall the same approach of the music is evident. A.k.a. made on the same principle and idea.. or like our drummer Jens jokes about it, why change a winning concept?

Samuel: In my mind Count Raven has always been all about the songs, not the individual members. But on the other hand Dan's guitar playing and singing is also very distinctive, so without him there would of course be no Count Raven. I will do my best to play as doomy bass guitar as possible and hopefully the listeners will accept me.

Count Raven - 'Storm Warning' (Full album):

How do you see Count Raven's path from 'Storm Warning' to 'Mammons War'? What are the most notable changes in band's sound you would notice?

Samuel: I would say that the song writing has naturally evolved. There is much more intricate stuff nowadays, some of the new songs would probably have sounded funny if they were on the first album. That being said, I also love the more "simple" songs like for example "Social Warfare" and "Let the Dead Bury the Dead".

Dan, what were the reasons for Count Raven's split in the late '90s? At that point it looked like the band had warm recognition, you'd made 4 strong albums, and then just disappeared!

Dan: What killed the band then was first of all the record company called Hellhound.. We did not get one dime out of them. They used all our work and money on themselves. We did 4 albums in 5 years. In fact we immediately became the number 1 band that sold the most of the bands under their umbrella. We sold albums like crazy and gigged in money like crazy, but as I said, we did not get any, and when they had enough money, they suddenly declared themselves bankrupt. They told us by phone that they were 'taking a pause', but should continue. So far, a long pause…… Hmm. In those days we lived in the stone age, so to speak, because there were no internet and connections between companies and musicians did not work that well. But the main nail in the coffin then, were that the band members were too tired to continue. I was completely disillusioned and just wanted out, I do remember. And as in all similar cases, the band members had run into personal conflicts and we did not like each other anymore. That's it.

Samuel. Photo: Ina Bendiksen.

As there's a new bass player in the band, how did you meet Samuel Cornelsen - and does he take part in composing of new songs?

Dan: Well, that is kind of a funny story. After searching for the right guy from everywhere, he had being hiding in the same rehearsing house that we were in. Actually one stairs above us, playing with his own band. One day he was talking to our drummer, and just popped the question if he could join. There you go. No and yes…..We had been working with our former bass player Wilbur, and was way into the process of new songs, so when Samuel joined, we decided to work on those songs first. However those songs are almost rehearsed now. I have begun to go through tons of older empty riffs recorded and Samuel gave me a bunch of stuff that he wrote, so we will see what we can come up with.

Samuel, what's your musical background? Where did you play before Count Raven?

Samuel: I've been playing guitar for 30 years this year. I have played with many bands over the years, right now I also play guitar for a punk rock band (Puffra). These last few years, though, I've become kind of bored with the guitar. Usually when I listen to a band I tend to listen more to the rhythm section than the guitar. So over the last few years I've become increasingly interested in the bass guitar. When the opportunity came up to audition for Count Raven it was like a dream come true. This is by all means the best band I've ever played with, both on a musical and social level.

Count Raven's previous LP, 'Mammons War', was released almost 7 years ago: what has the band been doing since then?

Dan: Boozing hard, living under the bridges and eating raw fish….haha… Well, living in a void in one sense, looking for a stable line up. In between that, me and the drummer kept on writing stuff.

Jens. Photo: Ina Bendiksen.

The drummer on board is still Jens Bock, right?

Samuel: Absolutely, his playing provides a stable and integral part of the band's sound.

Dan: I call him Quasimodo, since he is a bell ringer at the local church. At night you hear the bells and you can see him swing from tower to tower, howling at the moon: "Esmeralda!… Esmeralda…. Where are you!!!?"

Ha-ha, nice story! But how is the new material supposed to differ from the songs of 'Mammons War'?

Dan: I think it feels like a natural follow up. That is always how I like things to be. Like a book that you read. It's the same book, just the next chapter.

Do you watch for modern Doom scene trends? You know – there are some popular "occult" Doom bands, and at the same time there are old experienced coyotes like Lord Vicar or Spiritus Mortis… or those well-known dudes from the States like Pentagram or Saint Vitus…

Samuel: I tend to lean more towards the classic stuff, like Sabbath, Saint Vitus and Pentagram. But lately I've also been listening a bit to Iron Void and Black Capricorn, among others. There are a couple of good Facebook groups for doom, sludge, etc, one guy called Marcus posts music there all the time, so those FB groups are great for discovering new stuff. Also, Swedish band Candlemass recently released an EP that is definitely as good as anything they've ever done.

Count Raven - 'High On Infinity' (Full album):

The band developed step by step from album to album, how do you see the core of Count Raven's sound which has remained untouched for all these years?

Dan: As I mentioned it in the last question, I think it is important to really keep the same sound and lyrical direction. I hate when bands or musicians mellow out after a couple of albums and progress themselves to death. It is not good for you as an artist and human being, and it is not a proper way to treat your audience. In our case I think we showed that you can progress endlessly, but within your special style. It really is not that hard.

Can you also describe the main lyrical concept of the band?

Dan: The 60s and 70s heavier bands were always into their lyrics, one way or another. And since you play doom, this goes without saying. If you have a forum to express things, then use it. My lyrics are about different topics that during that time or this were important to me. Some are about social issues, political, religious, scientific, where the world ends….e.t.c. and also, many are from my own experiences.

Dan. Photo: Ina Bendiksen.

How much social and political stuff will be in the new album? Do you already have some topics you'd certainly like to speak of?

Dan: Yes it will be social and political stuff among other issues. With the obvious and deliberate invasion of the western world, you just can't avoid it anymore. If you destroy the western world, you certainly will destroy the developing countries even faster. Our countries are being raped in '*the name of love*. Like Jesus said to Judas, 'do you betray your master with a kiss?* Old rhetoric becomes new. Overall it is too early to see any full picture of the writing, since I am right in the middle of the process.

Count Raven - 'Mammons War' (Full album):

How do you see the band's touring activity for the last few years? Do you feel that count raven is demanded by listeners? Do you feel that they remember you and wait for gigs?

Dan: Well, the last time we were out playing was to promote the "Mammon's War" album in 2010-11. I loved that period. Good working band and the audiences were fantastic. The last time around the promotors said that we had to come up with a new album before any new gigs. Makes sense to me. Still, we just opened up on facebook, and gigs seem to keep coming without that new album. Go figure. It seems very clear that there are many followers out there that keep looking for our stuff. That really feels great. And yes, they always turn up at our gigs. What more can you ask for. So…

When will you be ready to accept the invitation to some festival? Give people a chance!

Samuel: We were already booked for three gigs this year, Little Devil Doom Days in Tilburg in May, Fall of Summer festival outside Paris in September and Hammer of Doom in Würzburg in November. We're definitely looking for more gigs in the summer and autumn/winter. Any suggestions are welcome!

Photo: Ina Bendiksen.

Do you remember the most enthusiastic feedback you ever got from fans or critics?

Dan: That should be an easy thing to answer, but it is not. The thing is that generally we have always been liked by the press. We rarely had a bad review, and the voting has always been high. Except for the latest "Mammon" album who were all full points everywhere with that one we climbed up a step. The same thing with the fans. They are totally in it, although the are all individuals, and they clearly speak their mind, and some like this better or not, and have the wonderful guts to tell you if they don't like a song.. Our audience is the most honest in the world and I love them for that.

Count Raven - 'High On Infinity' (Live 2006):

The band was born 27 years ago, how does it feel now to have been part of the Doom scene for such long period?

Dan: One simple answer. Doom is timeless as god is timeless. And what can I say. I am so empowered and humbled at the same time. This is what love and brother/sisterhood is all about. They and the universe is my family. And all that means harm to this family I will blow away with my gun, or call down the almighty's fire breath.

Thanks for your time and answers gentlemen. So, let's sum up - what are your plans for the forthcoming 2017?

Dan: Well, we are working for a record deal and to carry on from there. Gigs are turning up during the late summer in Germany, and France. Romania might as well come up so far and after a new album, well then we are on our way again. Once again, thank you for your interest. The Raven family of Oden greets you. You are welcome to the halls of Valhalla!

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Visit the Count Raven bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-08-05 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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