Entering the Swedish multi-instrumentalist's war zone of a mind.
Among the solid release date of October 16th was HENRIK PALM's Poverty Metal (Svart Records), a richly layered effort of boundless post-punk proportions. Poverty Metal, which stands as a display of Henrik's elite musical prowess, is exemplary in scope, bridging hard-hitting doom-esque riffs with a palette of charming melodies to groove to. One can't accurately describe the elements present on the record within the length of a paragraph, but let Sebastian Murphy's densely packed cover serve as an introduction to the experience that awaits. With involvement in GHOST, IN SOLITUDE, SONIC RITUAL, PIG EYES, and more, there's no question as to why Poverty Metal is as interesting with every subsequent listen.
We talk to Henrik Palm about all things Poverty Metal:
Three years from ‘Many Days’ and you’ve returned with ‘Poverty Metal’, a free-spirited record that can very loosely be defined as post-metal. Seeing as you’ve been involved in countless musical projects of different styles, where are you now as a musician?
Palm: Haha, wow. Post-metal? Really? That makes me think of bands like Isis and Pelican. Personally, I feel that I have more in common musically with Aerosmith than with those bands, haha. But yeah, fair enough. I get your point.
Now to your question: Well, today as a musician and a music fan, I am exactly where I've always been, which is just being in the now and trying to explore, digest and, hopefully, pervert the sights and sounds I love. And having fun of course. “Poverty Metal” does not deviate from that path. I still see myself more as a music-fan than a musician. And everything comes out of that really.
There are definitely some valuable connotations associated with the album title, which will have many people scratching their head if they think it has to do with the literal meaning of it. How did you come about titling the record?
Palm: It's a “term” I loaned from the Canadian heavy metal-band, Cauldron. My close friend Henry Yuan (of the mighty Impure and head honcho of Electric Assault Records) told me it's a loose description of bargain bin heavy metal from the 80's, like every band on Mausoleum Records! I thought that was really fitting for an album title! First as more of a pun just to fuck with idiots who wants to pigeonhole and dissect everything and anything all the time.
But then, the title basically grew a little bit beyond that. I found a music video with the German band Bad Steve (purest of the purest poverty metal...) where everything looks like a c-version of a Saxon-video or whatever. But then, I thought that the band members in Bad Steve must have thought that what they did was just as valid as Saxon or Judas Priest? Like in their minds, they are doing the same thing and just as good. So to me, the title basically says, “You do as good as you can”.
The variety of elements present on the singles ‘Nihilist’ and ‘Concrete Antichrist’ speaks to the different projects you’ve been a part of. Musically, how did you approach the composition of ‘Poverty Metal’ so that these styles coalesce seamlessly?
Palm: It was business as usual, just being a lazy sod laying on my couch while watching horror movies and playing bass or guitar, just slowly mapping out the record in my head. I listen to music all the time, except when I take a shower or sleep, be it Albert Ayler, Lip Cream, Drunks With Guns, soundtracks, Devil Doll, The Residents, Chrome, Flipper, Hellhammer, Blue Cheer, NWOBHM, Necrophagia, Septic Death, Peter Brötzmann, Plasmatics, Accept, Cluster, Brian Eno, GZA, Method Man, etc. etc. It's always something blaring in my headphones or from my speakers. I just let everything seep into my brain and see what comes out after a while, though I don’t push it too hard. When I reach a certain high or emotion, I just stop and let it sit for a week, a month or even years. Then, I pick it up again and take it from there, or just trash it and forget about it. Some stuff on both my albums are over 15 years old, so you never know. It all finds a home after some time.
Simon (Söderberg, producer) and I make pretty ambitious demos and map it all out there again and that's when we can realistically see a potential album take shape. I must really highlight the help I had from the collaborators and players on this album like Simon Söderberg, Daniel Moilanen, Johan Törnqvist, David Lundberg, Sofia Rydahl, Kicki Karlsson, Benke Höckert and Tor Sjöden. Their impact on the album is huge. In the studio, I like to lose control a bit to see what happens. I'm not a control freak - believe it or not - so when someone from the “outside” comes in to participate I just let them do their thing. It's always the best way to go, for me and all others.
Other than that, I can’t really say how I make it work 'cos I don't know, but I guess it's just a feeling really. It comes from the gut and the soul and that is what’s probably ties it all together. And I don’t care what other people will think. That also helps. Total freedom is the key.
Thomas Lindberg, Scott Carlson, and more speak highly of your work. You’ve also surrounded yourself by a tight knit community that as you mention, includes Simon Söderberg, Magnus Lindberg, and more. What does it mean to you as a musician to have such strong support?
Palm: My family and my friends mean everything to me so of course that is a huge factor, probably the biggest. I feel so blessed that I have such beautiful friends and people supporting me through all times, good or bad. Without them I am nothing. I must also recognize Tim Bertilsson, Jenny Walroth, Anton Ranweg, Henry Yuan and Jocke Proos as hugely important figures behind the scenes who deserve to be mentioned in the highest regard.
A strong member of said community is Sebastian Murphy, who illustrated a vastly intricate piece contained within the boundaries of a box, reminiscent to that of the effects of genre categorization. That’s just my interpretation of course, especially since the entire piece is a bit larger than what is represented in the box. Visually and conceptually, what were you looking for in working with Sebastian Murphy this time around?
Palm: Like the last time, I gave him a pretty vague description. Nick Blinko’s art is always a reference I have and I think I just told Seb like “Make it total death”. And then he did that. I don’t interfere with his process because I always know that it's gonna be as good as it gets. His cover art also is a mirror of what goes in my head sometimes. War all the time!
Seeing as this is now the second consecutive cover Murphy illustrates for you, what can you comment on your partnership?
Palm: He’s a good friend and an amazing artist and musician that I adore. Easily one of the most talented people I know. I’m so glad that him and Viagra Boys are doing so well! The world deserves Seb and Viagra Boys!
There’s plenty of symbolism within the central heart, which is constantly being daggered and infiltrated by these ghost-like demons, arrows, forks, and more. Was Sebastian allowed complete creative control with respect to the concepts presented or was the cover particularly guided?
Palm: Yepp. Complete control. I gave him a vague description and the title. That’s it. I think we share the same kind of influences, which also make it work so smoothly: Nick Blinko, HP Lovecraft, punk, horror and trash culture in general.
For as vibrant and elaborate as the musicianship is throughout ‘Poverty Metal’, the color usage on the cover is quite simple. Though many think album color choice is insignificant, it plays an important visual role in setting the tone. Can you elaborate on opting for the cleanliness of the off-white and black color combo?
Palm: Since “Many Days” (2017) was black, I wanted “Poverty Metal” to be inverted in color. It was as simple as that. And I also felt that it highlighted some of the more bleak themes on the album. The layout and the placing of the frame in the middle is VERY much inspired by a very obscure punk-oddity 7” which I leave for all you pretentious assholes out there to recognize…
But I really like just the plain simplicity and rawness of album covers like Venom’s “Black Metal” (1982), the first Motörhead-album, “Pick Your King” (1983) by Poison Idea, a lot of the Crass Records 7” etc. etc. I wanted some of that as well 'cos the musical influence from those aforementioned is all over the record. I wanted that to somewhat coalesce and tie in with the artwork. Clear as a bell, aight?
Mandatory question for us here at Heaviest of Art. Do you recall a time when an album cover made you pick up a record or even changed the way that you engaged with it? Perhaps the cover of ‘Somewhere in Time’ (1986) by Derek Riggs?
Palm: Yeah, “Somewhere In Time” for sure. Iron Maiden is probably my favourite band of all time, so I love all their 80's albums and the fine arts of Derek. Up the irons!
But a more obvious influence - to me at least - on both of my albums is probably Nick Blinko and his band Rudimentary Peni. The album “Death Church” (1983) is such a monolithic record and Nick's artwork is just insane. I also guess that insanity is part of the ingredients, still blows me away every time. Always an influence and always a reference.
In general, I like when artists just go the whole nine yards and push it where no-one has dared to go, and Rudimentary Peni is a very good example of that. The kind of total madness I love and adore. Same with Voivod. To the death!
You chose yourself a damn good pair of records there. With ‘Poverty Metal’ now here, what do you hope audiences take from the listening experience you've crafted?
Palm: We put a lot of effort in it so that you can listen to the album from start to finish without a break. So, I hope every listener will try that at least once and just enjoy the ride. Other than that? Hard to say. If people like it, well that's fantastic! If people don’t like it, well thats great too 'cos I don't really give a fuck, haha. But yeah, to me “Poverty Metal” is as honest as it gets from me so I won’t be apologetic. And I sincerely hope that every fucking nazi pukes their guts out if they hear it. And I mean that literally.
Poverty Metal is available now via Svart Records. Order your own copy HERE.