A deep dive interview with Limbo

Limbo is a five-piece progressive metal-act from Gothenburg, Sweden. They strive for being the quintessential mixture of atmosphere and finesse through their music. Following the release of three singles, the band is releasing their self-titled debut album this summer, so I decided to ask them about their process since I know how much they did themselves and I wanted to know how they managed to create such quality work, DIY style.

I hope you will enjoy this interview.

How come you guys chose the name Limbo? Is it attached to your atmospheric sound or is it just a coincidence?

We were initially going to name one of our songs Limbo, and the band was going to be called With Eyes Wide Shut. Although, after a discussion, we switched places on the names, making our band name Limbo, and one of our singles called With Eyes Wide Shut. We wanted something short, snappy, and precise that was easy to remember. Plus, many of our lyrics fit the theme of our name, so we think it’s a great match.

How did your sound develop over time? What made you decide to write songs in the way you do?

Our songs are written linearly. Almost like a timeline. It’s not the typical pop arrangement where you get your verse, your chorus, and all the other parts you can bet your house on will be there, and still have a place to live after the song is finished. From start to finish, it is a journey. That is how we write our music. The motto has always been to add a chorus when it felt natural to do so and abstain from doing it when we didn’t need to, according to our intuition. It’s one continuous flow of music according to this structure. Our songs are also almost entirely guitar based. Few parts are repeated, and the songs contain numerous unanticipated surprises. We want to make exciting music that takes the listener from A to B without following a tried and true structure. A perfect example would be Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. There is a distinct theme in the song, and all parts work together to create the sum that is our songs. Although, some of the songs are written in the exact opposite direction. Let’s see if you can find them.

After hitting a home-run with your style of songwriting, what made you decide to record and fund the debut album yourselves?

We have wanted to record a full-length album for a long, long time. The songs have existed for about seven years, but because we replaced some members, some had personal issues to deal with and we haven’t been able to give our music the focus and attention it needed to result in what we originally intended it to. We recorded the demos at home and tracked most of the album that way too. Marcus and Julius, who both play guitar, have openly stated that they prefer to play and record their parts in complete solitude so that they can focus and perform to the best of their abilities. One thing that was extremely important for us was to have real drums on the album. We chose to record the drums, do the re-amping and mix and master our whole album at Arnold Lindberg’s studio — Dimmu Borgir, Hammerfall, Marduk, In Flames and Evergrey. Mostly because we have a kick-ass drummer, but also because it goes against the grain where many bands in our genre, if we can call it that, choose to use MIDI-drums on their recordings. Either that or replacing every drum hit with triggered hits so that the sound that you hear has nothing to do with the acoustic sound of the drums.

When it comes to financing this album, we never felt a need to use external help from anyone outside the band. It’s our band and our music; thus our own money will be spent. Can you think of any better way of spending your money than the permanent documentation of our musical creations? We can’t. This album will last us a lifetime. And hopefully, you will come to enjoy it too.

How come you chose Arnold Lindberg as your sound engineer for this album? What has he done previously in the metal genre?

Actually, it was Carl, our drummer, who had heard of him. He was in Lindberg’s recording studio when his friends in Marionette recorded their album, and Carl was impressed at how big, fat, and robust the drum sound was. Lindberg did it in no-time. You can come here in the morning and start recording before lunch. There is no wasted time and the result is mind-blowing. According to Carl, it was the best drum sound he had ever heard. Several drummer friends of Carl have since then recorded at Lindberg’s place, and they all shared the same experience. A fun story: once Carl was at a Ghost concert when he was overwhelmed by the drum sound. He looked back at the sound engineer, and wouldn’t you know? Arnold Lindberg! We quickly booked a meeting, came up with a great deal, and hit record. We tracked the drums in 4 days. Plus, Lindberg does not talk the usual business talk when you are recording. Nor does he namedrop and all that other bullshit you get with producers these days. He is one hell of a guy, this man.

Do you think Lindberg helped develop your sound at the end of the recording process or was it all according to strategy?

When the mix came back, it blew us away. Not only did we not expect such amazing results production-wise, but he exceeded our expectations sevenfold. We are immensely grateful for this. In our genre, the norm is to trigger everything. Change the velocity of the drum hits to a raging 100% maximum impact, all the time. Plus they usually edit and clean everything, so the sound is the audio equivalent of a sterile surgery clinic. Lindberg delivered an organic and moving mix that sounded alive in a way you rarely get to experience in this genre of music. That sound in combination with our particular song arrangements came out as something genuinely unique, and Lindberg was definitely a huge part of that sound coming to fruition.

The sound on the album is pretty raw and natural. At least in comparison with other bands in the genre such as Vildhjärta and Periphery. Was that on purpose or did it naturally drift toward that during the recording process?

It was probably not our intent to aim for this particular sound. Although we did intend for our own unique sound from the start, so I think that helped. That is also one of the reasons we didn’t choose to hire one of the most popular names within the realm of metal producers today. Lindberg did the job, and he did it well. We are happy the album came out the way it did.

You did not trigger and replace too much on the drum-kit either?

We have some samples that are mixed in with the original drum sound. Mostly on the snare drum, but pretty much nothing on the toms. The toms sound like something crafted in the depths of Mordor right out of the box, so, why change that? However, we did not change or mess around with the velocities of the drum hits. Everything there is original and as dynamic as the drums themselves. So the samples follow the original velocities of the drum hits. Since the drums were recorded in such a short time, there are a lot of ‘’mistakes’’ and such. But we like it that way. It becomes more alive. We are immensely pleased with the drum sound.

You are releasing this album by yourselves. What made you come to that decision and are you going to be looking for a record deal in the nearby future? What’s the plan here?

Only time will tell. On this album, we had to let it go through the process of letting everything mature and come about in the time it took for all parts to come together, you know. That includes promotion. This band is solely built on passion and friendship. No outside source of stress can break these bonds, so we allowed this album to be a slow burner, but now we are done, and we can’t be more excited to show you, guys, what we have been working on for the past years. Plus, we find it tremendously exciting to do the marketing process ourselves. It is equally creative as writing and recording music, if you do it right and with the right people.

Is there an upside to doing everything yourself these days? Do you think the days of the record company pulling the strings are soon to be over?

It’s possible. At least when it comes to the metal genre. The record labels have at least declined and fallen off their pedestal. That’s for sure. A lot of bands sign with a record label just to be able to wear it like a badge of authenticity, but if that is what you aim for, you are in this game for all the wrong reasons. Admittedly, when you get to a certain level of success, a record label is probably something you must commit to, but that is, again, rarely the case in our genre. You should never overestimate the prosperity of being signed to a record label. To be a “signed band” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are working your fingers to the bones to reach new heights each day. It will probably lean more towards making you lazy and unwilling to fight for your survival as a band. We think of it more as a company. You get to work on time, and you work until you are done. If you can get into that mindset, all record deals in the world will become redundant Period.

You managed to pull in over 1,000 views on your first official music video for With Eyes Wide Shut on the first couple of days. Is that a sign that your plan is working?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Either way, we enjoy every second of it.

You did fund the music video yourselves too, right? How was it to work with a professional video team for With Eyes Wide Shut?

Yes, we did. The video was even a bit more expensive than the entire album. 11Frames, the video team, were terrific to work with. They embraced our ideas and took them to a whole new level, and together, we formed something beautiful.

We bought all the props, fixed most of the lightning, got an actress and a make-up artist, wrote the whole storyline and directed most of the video. 11Frames pulled off the technical side of things and help us with the directing with their many hours of experience at their backs, and did a magnificent job doing so.

We had to gather and burn firewood to create ashes. Collect all the branches with thorns and of the right proportions and find the perfect rose bush with a proper stem (which wasn’t too easy!). Also, because you can’t find ripe roses in the middle of the Swedish winter, we tied green steel wires around the stem in the video and attached fresh roses to it. If you look closely, there are fresh roses at the beginning of the video and withered ones at the end which means we hade to get a separate bouquet of roses two weeks before shooting in order to give them enough time to dry up. So we had to come up with some creative solutions that actually worked out pretty well. Although, cleaning up the 200 liters of soil on a white floor wasn’t the most fun experience, but it was undoubtedly worth it.

I guess you are all set to launch this project on full gear. What’s the plan for the forthcoming year? Will you be touring or will you begin recording next album right away? What is the best tactic for the self-reliant band today?

We are firm believers in working hard. If you are going to do this on your own, entrepreneurial style, you must be ready to get your hands dirty. We are planning to do some gigs, but mostly, it is to focus on writing the next album. Always next action. We will see when we hit the studio and start recording that one. Hopefully, it won’t take us seven years to finish that one.