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Sympathy is another one man band the Dutch company Fear Dark signed. And though the name suggests something friendly and gentle, the music on the new album Invocation is sheer power. It's initiator, though, appears to be a friendly guy with an obscure name: Dharok. How does this Canadian end up with this extreme brainchild on a Dutch label?


Discography: Covenant (demo; 1992), Arrogance And Ignorance (1993), Age Of Darkness (1994), Realms Of Chaos (demo; 1996), Invocation (2002). Available through: Sympathy & Fear Dark. Official website: Sympathy. Interview by: mpo. Date: August 29th 2002.



Invocation is your new album, released by the Dutch company Fear Dark. How do you feel about the outcome?

I have been very happy with the outcome. I have been very pleased to work with Fear Dark and I was very pleased with how the disc turned out. Fear Dark was very
professional with how they treated me. They always asked my advice, making sure that I was satisfied, every step of the process. I really like what they did with the graphics done by Jeff of  Kekal to me, it looks very good.

You have been very happy. That sounds like you were happy with it in the past. Does your opinion about your own product alter throughout time?

Well, I really didn't mean that I am less pleased now than I was originally. But I do hear things that I could have done better. Probably the biggest one is that I wish that I had gotten a better guitar tone. I think that the sound of my guitars are not as good as they should be. Plus I dislike some of the EQ'ing that I did when I was mixing the album. These are all things that I wish I had done a better job with the first time.

Some time ago the new album was tentatively titled Images Of Fire. However, the title
changed into Invocation. What makes Invocation a better title, do you reckon?

Well, I had been calling the pre-release disc 'Images of Fire' because fire is a reoccurring theme throughout the lyrics of the album. Circle of Light, Final Ordeal, and
Immolation of the Dragon are the most obvious examples of fire imagery. Circle of Light talks about a secret religious ceremony that involves fire. Final Ordeal uses the image of fire to represent the work of God in purifying and redeeming believers. And Immolation of the Dragon talks about fire as the final resting place for the enemy. I had thought that the titled 'Images of Fire' was appropriate because of the central role that fire plays in religious imagery. But Fear Dark pointed out that perhaps the title didn't fit the style of music that the album contained. They thought that it would be perceived as a thrash album, whereas Sympathy is more extreme than that; so we decided
together to change the title of the disc to the name of the first song. 'Invocation' has a much darker and more beautiful meaning, and I thought, it does represent the lyrical content of the album.

Sympathy is, at the moment, a one man band. You wrote, played and recorded all
material. That's quite a job. So, what inspired you making this album?

Well, it is quite a job. But I find that it is often easier to work by    myself. Sometimes the writing and recording process goes at such a rapid pace that I would doubt that
anyone could keep up with me. I find that the time that I spend in the studio is my most creative and musically demanding. I think that if I were to bring other people into the process, it would put a damper on this creative time because I would be forced to explain what I am hearing in my head rather than merely making it happen. On the other hand, it would be nice to have a group of like minded musicians who are familiar with how I work in this type of situation, because we would be able to feed off of each other and share each other's ideas. That would be a great situation, but I haven't yet found musicians like that. But regardless of whether or not I will work with other
full-time members in Sympathy in the future, I doubt that I would give up the control of
producing or recording Sympathy's material. I feel that I need that control so that I can direct how the final product will sound. And I must say that recording 'Invocation'
was a great learning experience, so I am sure that the next albums from Sympathy will show a marked improvement on all fronts: songwriting, guitar tone, musicianship, and production.

Right now Sympathy is a one man band. Initially I was expecting a mediocre effort to
sound like a band but I'm surprised Invocation sounds so well. Are you taken
seriously or are people prejudiced about you being the only member of a band?

Well, thank-you. I am glad that the album doesn't sound mediocre. Well, I am not sure how seriously people take me because I am a one man band. There are a number of
reasons that they might not. First, because the music from one man bands is usually really dull. Second, because one man project usually have really poor production. And third, because one man bands do not tour. Well, I hope that I pass the first two points, but I do not pass the third. There is no way that Sympathy could tour at this point in time. This relegates Sympathy to being a studio band until there are more people in the lineup. If this is the only reason that the disc would not be accepted, then at least it has nothing to do with the quality of the music. And it is in my power to take steps to remedy the problem, so I am not as concerned about the third point.

Okay, you've summed up some reasons why people would be prejudiced. To answer my question, do you feel taken seriously or is my assumption purely hypothetical?

Well, to be ‘taken seriously' a band has to tour. Without other members, it is hard to tour. Don't forget that this is the first Sympathy release that has any real distribution, so I would expect that people would display a slight prejudice against Sympathy regardless of whether or not there is a full line-up. But other than that, I can't answer the question because there really is no way for me to know how seriously people take Sympathy.


There are hardly any guitar solos on the album in the classical sense with stunting with
scales. Yet you vary one riff with the other and the riff-shifting sometimes becomes like
soloing. What do you think of your own guitar playing?

Well, you nailed my style of songwriting and guitar playing on the head. Sympathy's music is more like symphonic music than any other band that I know that takes the
title of 'Symphonic.' I rely on a constant melody in the instruments, using themes and variations to organize and structure the songs. Most death metal and black metal bands merely place riffs together and organize their songs, but I do my best to truly compose each piece. I make sure that the melody in each song could be whistled. I usually think of guitar solos as a waste of time, because there should be sufficient melody and difficult musical elements in the rhythm playing. To me, guitar solos should only be used to enhance the mood of the song, not to take over and forced a melody overtop of a mediocre rhythm line. With regard to my own playing, I can play guitar solos, I just
choose not to because I think they 'get in the way' musically speaking.

Interesting you say that the melodies could be whistled to as that's exactly what I often do and that's why I realized the riff-shifting is so solo-like in a certain manner. Has your perception of how your music should be changed over the years? I mean, you've gained quite some experience over the last ten years. Does it change your concept of what your music should be like in terms of song writing and such?

My concept of good metal music has changed a lot over the last ten years. I used to write music that was very linear in nature. What I mean by ‘linear' is what most thrash and power metal bands tend to do: they take a standard time signature, a standard chord progression and then arrange it into a song based around a rhythmic pattern. I find this method of song writing makes an album seem more and more boring each time that I listen to it. What I like to do is to create a melody that I find pleasing and then build or compose a riff around that melody. In this way, I think that I now write music that is led by the melody rather than by a particular repeated chord or rhythmic pattern. Because of this feature, I sometimes think of Sympathy's music as similar to Richard Wagner's music. So, for instance, in ‘Realm of Disease,' no matter how brutally fast or ‘chunky' the rhythm becomes, the song still has a lot of melody that shows up in different ways and in different places throughout the whole composition.

There's one guest appearance from Angel. She sang on Christus Factus Est. Who is she actually?

Well, during the process of recording 'Invocation,' I married Angel. So, she is actually my wife.

Four of the songs were recorded for previous efforts. What made you redo them?

Well, the reason that I wanted to redo the previously recorded songs was because I really like them, and I think that I never really recorded them very well previously. Arise, for instance, is almost an entirely different song on 'Invocation' than it was when I originally recorded it back in  1995. None of the riffs are in exactly the same form they were then, and the entire song is much faster and more brutal. Besides that, I really wanted to re-record 'Final Ordeal', 'Fey Illusion' and 'Cup of Demons' because I think that these songs fit very well into the album and because I had new ideas for each of them that I think improved them a lot. 'Final Ordeal' is a great deal longer with many more intricate riffs in the end portion of the song. I was able to improve and
enhance the atmosphere in both 'Cup of Demons' and in 'Fey Illusion' so much  that I don't really consider them the same songs as they use to be.

In an interview I read I came to the conclusion that the message you put into your songs is a vital part of what Sympathy is about. The kind of vocals makes understanding what is sung hard yet only the lyrics of two songs are printed in the booklet. Why?

Well, the lyrics are important to me, and the reason I write them is not for other people, but for God. I am sure that He has no trouble understanding them :) I do not think of myself as an exceptional lyricist, and my lyrics are generally fairly straight forward. But I am working very hard on becoming better at writing lyrics. The reason that Fear Dark and I chose not to include some of the lyrics for the songs was because I tended to be a little too confrontational in some of the songs. When Fear Dark brought this to my attention, I thought about it a bit and agreed with them. The lyrics, although they are Christian in content, tend to be confrontational enough that they might be found offensive by people who do not share my Christian view of the world.

To me it's a bit cheap to say that the lyrics were written for God, while I get to hear them as well and I want to know what they are about. And with them being confrontational I wonder if you really don't want to confront anyone with them at all... Maybe I'm wrong but I get the idea that if you released this disc independently you would have printed the lyrics. So, what are the lyrics about then?

Well, I am not sure that I was being cheap. I really did write the lyrics with that in mind, but honestly, I do need to find a different approach for lyric writing in the future: I don't want to alienate and offend my audience. But having said that, I do not think that I will be betraying my original goals if I do change my lyrical focus. I think that I can write music for God's pleasure and yet be sensitive to my audience at the same time. And the only reason that I haven't done this already with ‘Invocation' was only because I needed Fear Dark to point that out to me and make me aware of what I was doing. In the end, I really think that working with Fear Dark on this issue will help to improve Sympathy's overall musical package.

As I said before, Invocation was released by the Dutch company Fear Dark. You're from Canada. How did this record deal come about? When did they start showing
interest in your music and how did it happen?

Well, Europe has always been a leader in the metal genre. A lot of the creative song writers and creative musicians have come from Europe over the years. My friends used to joke with me, that I should have been born in Norway or Sweden. I think that this creativity makes European labels more willing to experiment and do something new and original, whereas, most labels in Canada will only play it safe and support Pop music.

But also, as a Christian artist, I wanted to work with people who shared my views and thoughts regarding the world. I wanted to do this for a number of reasons. I wanted
to support the Christian music scene and I wanted to lend credibility to a Christian's
involvement in extreme metal. This made me look for a label run by Christians, who would let me release a disc that contained Christian ideas. That narrowed things down a lot!! There were only a handful of labels who fit this description. So after a little research, I approached all the labels that I thought I would like to work with, and after a while, I decided that Fear Dark was the best fit for me. Fortunately for me, they seemed to think that I was worth their time and effort as well.

They first approached me with the offer of working together in November of   2001, but at that time I was talking with another label. But after starting to work with the
other label, it started to become obvious that it was not going to work out. So I asked Fear Dark if their offer still stood. They were still interested in working with me, so we started talking. It was then near the beginning of January in 2002.

Invocation is the first record in six years. What may we expect in the future from you?

Well, I have seven new songs written already, and these songs have all their rhythm tracks laid down already as well. I have not taken a break since the release of Invocation because I am finding that I am in a very creative period in my life right now. Plus I am looking for an appropriate classical song to turn into an death metal song. I have been considering some Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven pieces. One of these may make it onto the next album. I have been talking with Fear Dark about the release of another Sympathy release. Our talks are still very much in the preliminary stage, but I think both sides are interested in working with each other again.

Style-wise, the new Sympathy material is much more brutal. It is faster, heavier, and more technical. To my ears, the songs are coming out of the studio sounding like a blend of Origin, Hate Eternal, and Dimmu Borgir. I am using the speed of Origin, the brutal rhythms of Hate Eternal, and the atmosphere of Dimmu Borgir. The guitars and the drums are much more forward in the mix, giving the sound a crushing and punishing feeling. I am very excited about how it will turn out in the end.