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As the rumours of a new Count Raven album, more than a decade after the last, firm up into reality, founder member Dan Fondelius talks to Comrade Aleks about Ravens, past, present and future.

Interview with Count Raven.
"Reborn from the remains of Heavy Metal crew Stormwarning in Stockholm, around 1989, this band forged their own destiny - for years remaining one of the very few original Trad Doom bands of the Old World, alongside probably Mirror Of Deception and Dawn Of Winter. It was Dan Fondelius (guitars), Tommy "Wilbur" Eriksson (bass), Christer Pettersson (drums) and Christian Linderson (vocals) who recorded the first demos and debut full-length album 'Storm Warning' (1990). When Christian left Sweden in order to join Saint Vitus (where he spent the period 1992 - '94), Count Raven became a trio, with Dan on vocals, and continued to forge their own destiny, with the help of the controversial Hellhound Records. They put out three albums: 'Destruction Of The Void' (1992), 'High On Infinity' (1993) and 'Messiah Of Confusion' (1996), playing their slow heavy music from the heart, not caring about the "doom" status they gained along the way. And then...after a huge pause, Count Raven returned with fifth album 'Mammons War' in 2009, just to disappear off the radar for another decade. Now, when vague rumours concerning the band's new album have become real, we got in touch with Dan Fondelius himself, thanks to the great help of their bassist since 2016, Samuel Cornelsen."

Count Raven 2020: Samuel Cornelsen (bass), Dan Fondelius (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Jens Bock (drums). (Photo: Katrina Kendrick).

Hi Dan! First of all how did you get involved in doom music? What attracted you to these low tunes, and did you aim to play this kind of music from the start?

Hi back .......Oh my God, I will never forget the year when it all began for me. The year was 1970 and I was only 14 years old then. We had moved into the city of Stockholm a couple of years before. I was meant to start at a school in an area for the working class, since it is my own background. But every seat was full. And due to law that all must attend school, I was moved to the upper class area. Imagine that. A very different world than what I was used to. Something that helped me a lot later in life. Anyway, my classmate buddy who was an absolute demon on guitar started to teach me how to play. Then one evening he said to me, - "Jimi Hendrix has a gig tonight...Let's go." And we did. Jimi Hendrix was my first big concert. Not a bad start. I remember saying "that's it, I want to do this"; the same year the famous albums Deep Purple In Rock, Led Zeppelin 2, Black Sabbath etc. were released. So that year started everything for me. We started our first band and started playing concerts. But only just as far as the parents did allow...haha. Two years later in 72, I wrote my first own song, 'Point of Youth'. It all came natural...

Pre-Count Raven band Stormwarning was born in 1987. How active were you in the late '80s? How did you spend this period of the band?

Actually, Stormwarning started out in 1982 by me, Wilbur and Michael Nilsson, and one year later, we were out constantly gigging around, mainly in Scandinavia due to the fact that we were singing in Swedish. We bought our own PA system, lights and all, and went out on our own without any contracts. Me and Wilbur decided one day to split the map of Sweden; he took the south and I the north, and we called every God damn number we could find in towns, villages, small places etc. In those days, it was easy cos there were phone books in every household of EVERY number you could get. It took a lot of work, but it worked. We played everywhere, big venues, clubs, youth centers, at the local toilet....haha. Sometimes the payment was lousy, but we did not care...we just wanted to play. We were out playing live roughly four months every year all through the 80s....I still miss those days, the best time of my life..

What was people's reaction to Count Raven's debut, 'Storm Warning', in 1990? What kind of feedback did you receive?

At the time when we were preparing for the album, we did not know what to expect. The material was all the best of Stormwarning (the band), we just switched from Swedish to English cos we were going international. Therefore, the name Storm Warning was the name of the album to honour the former band. The reaction from the press when our first album came out surprised us. It was all good I remember and they totally accepted us. Forever thankful for that.

Count Raven - 'Storm Warning' (Full album, 1990):

How often did you play gigs in this period? Did you feel that Count Raven was an in-demand band?

It was pretty hectic I remember, cos the record company wanted to get their money back and profit, so....And yeah, the band became in demand pretty fast, and still is it seems.

You started performing vocals on the '92 'Destruction Of The Void' release, as Chritus left the band not long before that. Did you feel yourself comfortable turning into Count Raven's frontman?

I was already being a frontman during the 80s in Stormwarning so I had no problems taking over the microphone in Count Raven.

Original line-up, with Christer Pettersson (drums), Tommy "Wilbur" Eriksson (bass) and Christian Linderson (vocals).

You already wrote lyrics for 'Storm Warning', though most of the texts were done by Chritus. And Count Raven for me is one of the bands which cares about the message in its lyrics. Did you feel a kind of responsibility writing lyrics like 'True Revelation' or, later, 'Mammons War'?

I really love to write and yes, you are right. I always thought that lyrics should say something otherwise you might as well just do instrumental music. There is a constant war between 'good and evil' on this earth and even more so in the spirit world. Or as Jesus puts it in the gospel of Thomas: "All the stars that your eyes can see have all been erased due to their transgressions". I have personally had visions since the age of 17. Nothing weird about that. This thrown into the mix makes you to have a very different view of everything, and there you have my passion, I guess; to communicate. And yes, responsibility goes into it. Then again in a more earthly thinking...this old geezer has a few things on his mind...haha.

You dedicated 'Storm Warning' to actress Heather O'Rourke, who played in the Poltergeist movie. Horror movies are an important part of Doom metal culture, but I don't recall you having songs influenced by movies besides 'The Poltergeist' on 'Mammons War': do you have anything else?

Apart from the intro 'Count Raven' on Stormwarning, no. The horror genre has indeed produced a lot of good movies and books and personally, I enjoy classical and intelligent ghost stories. My favorite of all times is the movie 'The Changeling' with George C Scott.were you We have a new song on the upcoming album called 'Stigmata'. It is an ode to the entire phenomenon. Not that that has anything to do with horror, but it was the movie with the same name that made me curious to study the whole thing.

There's the song 'The Viking Sea', on 'Messiah Of Confusion': is that a kind of tribute to your origin? Is it important for you as a part of your self-identity?

It is about the place where I live actually. It is the centre place for the Swedish Viking history, you could say. The place I sing about actually does exist, is hard to spot and is almost hidden from the world. The place is one of two 'guarding' places on high ground for protecting and stopping uninvited ships from the sea. When the sun sets during summer and you stand at the top of this mountain, you have a perfect view of the surroundings and the sea. It is magic I tell you. And yes, my past is beyond important to me. I clearly feel the bloodline to my past very much. In my wife's case and children, there has been proven a straight bloodline to an old Danish Viking king called Gorm the Elder.

Count Raven - 'The Viking Sea' (1996):

Count Raven was on Hellhound Records - how did you build your relationships with the label? Was it successful in the end?

Sure, Hellhound definitely helped to put us out on the map. For that I am grateful. I remember that those years were very hectic. No time for rest. We rushed between album, gigs, album, gigs....We had for most of the time a good relationship, but unfortunately in the end, they stole all our money....millions actually....How I wish they were here.

Was the band popular in the USA? It's usually said that American Doom bands find more recognition in the Old World...

Yeah, the band is quite popular over there. Yes, it's true that all bands come over here to play. It has always been like that. America has never been a good market for rock generally, and today the same is for all genres of music as well. America is fallen...

Old American bands often mention the Grunge wave of the '90s as a phenomenon which slowed down the Doom metal scene. Did you feel the same in Sweden?

I suppose that could be true since Geffen and other companies that 'created' and pushed the movement had shady ideas to say the least. This thing never happened to us over here. The Scandinavian metal scene forged its own metal swords and we went our own way....haha.

You finished Count Raven's third album, 'High On Infinity', pretty fast: were you so enthusiastic back then? Did you feel the band got deserved recognition playing this kind of music?

Yes it was a very good period of our existence. Both Destruction of the Void and High on Infinity prove this. There is a great atmosphere and spirit in those albums. Those memories make me happy. After the High on Infinity album everything just exploded. There were most of the time full houses when we played live, and Hellhound worked hard to get things done. And the press were really nice to us....

(Photo: Katrina Kendrick).

Dan, when did you learn what you play Doom metal? Was it you who first started to use the label for Count Raven, or was it the media who tagged you as a Doom metal band?

Funny that you ask that. It is quite a funny story. I started out writing this type of music already as a young lad in the early 70's. When Candlemass and others much later started to create doom with its typical "doomy scales". I recognized I'd done some similar stuff, but I did not think more about it. When Count Raven started, people of the press referred to us as doom, but we said "no, we don't play doom"....we referred to it as 70s harder rock. Still the press insisted on the label. It wasn't until we played at Wacken in 2005 I believe, that I had the final argument in the back of a bus with a press guy, and he said "Well maybe not all of your songs are doom, but your lyrics are!" And I went.......Aaaaahaa......Boy did I feel stupid....haha. There you go.

How often did you play outside Sweden back then? With what kind of bands did you usually tour?

Well, it went from mainly playing in Sweden, to never playing at home. And this went on for a long time. The first tour we were the support act for Saint Vitus on a seven week tour around Europe. I don't remember everyone we played with. I have to dig deeper into the archives for that. But there where bands like Solstice, Year Zero, Alien Boys, Stillborn, Reverend Bizarre, Mirror of Deception, and so on...

What happened after 'Messiah Of Confusion'? Why did Count Raven split?

Well, Hellhound suddenly decided to go bankrupt and run away with all our money. The album did not sell well, due to the fact that Hellhound had not printed that many copies before they closed their doors. We were all tired after years of touring and doing albums, and the trouble with Hellhound unfortunately transmitted a bad vibe. Suddenly we had no record company and were homeless.

Count Raven - 'Mammon's War' (2009):

Count Raven's return with 'Mammons War' in 2009 was a pretty strong thing, but the band was actually resurrected back in 2003. Why did it take so long to gather enough material for a new album? Was it such a difficult process?

The band received an invitation in 2003 to perform at Doom Shall Rise Festival 2004. The original members discussed this and accepted this. The internet had then taken off, and I realized that the opportunity had increased to do something good. So I put up some demands for the reunion that apart from the Doom Shall Rise gig, I wanted us to go all the way. Gigs, albums etc. They accepted. So after Doom Shall Rise, gigs started pouring in and we went out playing. The last gig we did was at Wacken in August of 2005...We had all decided that a new album had to be made. So we tried some new songs. We went along with this for some time, but then the drummer stopped coming to the rehearsals and after a while, so did the bass player. Me, stupid me, sat there alone for about six months writing new stuff for myself. Then one day I said, that's it. I won't wait for these guys anymore. I called Chris Lindersson up to ask if he knew of any people who were available, and the day after, Fredrik Jansson joined the band...Mammons War, here we go.

(Photo: Katrina Kendrick).

Despite 'Mammon's War' being a quite successful album (it was re-released four times), the band didn't go back to the studio until quite recently. Did you lose motivation or was it just... "life happened"?

Yeah, life happened indeed.....We started recording the drums for a new album last year (2019). Then due to some technical shit, the drums had to be remodeled completely. And this went on for a while. Then due to the distance from where we live to the studio, I started and finished all the guitars at my house. Sometime around this I did an EKG test for my heart and the doctor noticed I had a defect in the beating. As we speak I am still under treatment for this. We had a gig in Romania coming up that we had to cancel. It was a blow to me cos I had looked forward to that gig. The doctor said I could continue with the studio work cos that would not be any risk. So I started working on the guitar solos. That was in September 2019. I rehearsed for weeks and started recording the stuff. I had just finished my second solo on the 26th. Came out of the studio really happy. Then four hours later, my wife died in front of me and my children, right on the floor at home. I was blown away. My life partner was gone. Since I have two handicapped children, life had to go on though. I just had to pick up the pieces and go on. Then in January 2020, my wife's mother died. She had been an incredible mother, grandmother, friend and an amazing assistant to my children. Two deaths in the same family in four months....I had to live slow and take one day at a time. Then at the beginning of April this year (2020), the record company calls me and asks if there is a possibility that the new album could be finished during the summer. This kicked me out of the coma so to speak, and I said yes. So here we are. I am now once again working and finishing the guitar solos. Then came the Corona hell situation. I got a nasty cough from my daughter and I had it for eight weeks. I have to finish the singing and of course, no studio wants me around. So I've had to build an isolated room to record the vocals in. Bought a new monster computer, big screen, microphones...you name it. So here we go. The Raven is flying again.

Do you have a working title for new Count Raven's album? What can you tell about it now?

We haven't decided a title of the upcoming album yet, but we are on very final stages of recording. It will feature eight or nine tracks in all...I think. It's a natural follow up to the other albums. May Oden let his face shine upon you all, and that you may die in battle. So you can go to Valhall, where the brave may live forever.

Greetings from The Ravens.

Count Raven - 'Leaving The Warzone' (Live, 2006):

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Interviewed on 2020-11-16 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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