Tom Sutton (The Order Of Israfel) - interview

*** TOM SUTTON (The Order Of Israfel) - "If you follow your heart, magic can really happen."***

Released in 2014, The Order Of Israfel's debut turned out to be one of the most intriguing Doom Metal albums in recent years. We talked with Tom Sutton, band's singer and songwriter, about the follow-up to mentioned Wisdom, his musical inspirations, relations within the band and the long way that lead him from Japan to Gothenbourg.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Tom, first I would like to ask you what do you think about the newest Black Sabbath album?

TOM SUTTON: Actually, Hans, our drummer, had a listening party at his house when it came out and we all went and listened to it together. I think that if they don't do another album, it'll be a cool last album for them. I don't love it, but it's pretty good. It sounds like them trying to write something very stripped down like their first three albums, but I think something more layered and progressive like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage would have been cool. It lost a lot of the meaning when Bill (Ward, band's original drummer - editorial note) dropped out too, of course. There are some cool moments on it, but at the end of the day, to me it doesn't come near the final albums by Cathedral, Reverend Bizarre and Candlemass.

The Order Of Israfel HARD ROCK SERVICE: The reason I’m asking is my impression that with Wisdom you have achieved everything that Sabbs failed to deliver on 13. Above all I’m referring to the dark, heavy and gloomy atmosphere of your debut. Do you consider yourself as a spiritual heirs of Tony Iommi and company?

TOM SUTTON: Thank you, that's really nice to hear. Well, obviously, Black Sabbath is the biggest, most towering influence for us and most bands like us. It would be amazing to be thought of in that way, but it seems too lofty a goal to actually try to be that. In the beginning it was purely that I couldn't find enough bands like the ones I mentioned above, and wanted to create the kind of music I wanted to hear. That's how I started writing songs. Very nice compliment, though!

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Israfel is an archangel in the Muslim religion, having its equivalent in Christianity (Raphael) and Iudaism (Uriel). That is exactly what can be said about your music. Do you think that Wisdom can bring hard rock, doom metal and gothic fans together?

TOM SUTTON: It does seem to kind be going that way. I always assumed that it would only be traditional doom metal fans that would be into us, but we're seeing that all sorts of metalheads and rock people seem to like us. I think we have strong melodies, and a certain swing that makes us listenable for people outside regular doom metal circles. It was really important for me to have properly crafted songs, rather than just slapping two riffs together and playing them for 15 minutes, so hopefully people are hearing the songs, and reacting to them.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Did you work on those songs before The Order of Israfel was formed ?

TOM SUTTON: Yes, actually I had all but one of the songs on the album totally finished before I met the guys in the band. I actually demoed almost the entire album, using a drum machine. Maybe we'll put those demos out there one day. Some of this material is getting close to ten years old now. The album and how the band sounds is absolutely a product of all the members being who they are. There are parts that are the product of jamming and working on stuff together. For example, the first acoustic guitar you hear on the album is Staffan, and those harmonics are his creation. And the whole end of 'Promises Made To The Earth came from working together, and jamming that part over and over again.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: The fact that you've become a singer in The Order of Israfel was a bit accidental. Tell me how do you feel about it on stage?

TOM SUTTON: It's been a really big challenge. I keep swinging between feeling comfortable as a singer, and wondering if it's not too late to look again (laughs). Actually, the recent tour with Pentagram went a long way to helping me feel confident in my singing. I felt like I could really embrace it, and even enjoy it. We auditioned a couple of really awesome singers at the start of the band, but at the end of the day, it wasn't right. It had to be me. As the song-writer, I think the spirit of the songs comes through with me singing them. It's best this way! Y'know, I actually had a dream once some time ago where James Hetfield came to me and said, 'you too will be a singer/guitarist one day', and now it's happened (laugh). It's kinda cool. My heroes growing up were mostly people like James Hetfield, Max Cavalera and Mille Petrozza, so it's kinda cool for me to be in that role now, except playing lead guitar too.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: While listening to your album I cannot ignore the lyrical aspect of the music. I have the impression that the power of your songs increases when you limit the means of expression. During the slow Noctuus or riff-driven Morning Sun (Satanas), song lyrics interact directly with the listener. I can also find influences of Lovecraft gothic novels in your work. Could you tell me how does the creative process look in your case? What goes first: lyrics or music suitable for particular words and stories?

TOM SUTTON: It's definitely music as a starting point, and then as the lyrical ideas start coming out, they influence how the song sounds. For me, each song on the album has a very clear story or message, and the sound of each song suits the lyrics, I think. Something I want to work towards is having every line in each song really serve a purpose in the song. I want to avoid having lines that are only there because they rhyme, or sound cool. I want every word to mean something. That's quite a challenge, but hopefully we're achieving that.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Every member of The Order of Israfel has a rich history of collaboration with other bands. Could you tell me to what extent your previous experiences shaped the way Israfel works?

TOM SUTTON: Hmmmm, I don't know. I would say that at least for me, I've been influenced by my time in Church Of Misery mostly in the live arena. They are a really exciting live band, and I want The Order to be exciting on stage too. Something that has influenced me recently is playing in Horisont. I think my approach to twin guitar playing has become more sophisticated thanks to playing with them. And I also feel some kind of pressure to write riffs and songs that aren't too predictable and clichéd. Those guys like to put a lot of twists and surprises in songs, and it really keeps the songs fresh.

The Order Of Israfel HARD ROCK SERVICE: And what’s the origin of the album title? Is it just a reference to the first track on the CD or maybe there is a wider concept behind it? To be frank, it is hard for me to find any elements that would allow me to perceive Wisdom as a concept album. On the other hand, you have divided it into separate ‘chapters’. Should we treat every chapter as a part of a larger story?

TOM SUTTON: I guess the idea of the chapters remained from when we were thinking of designing the album like a book. It didn't turn out that way, but the chapters stayed (laugh)! Yeah, it's not a concept album, but half the songs are based on lessons I feel I've lived through in my life, and these really fall in line with the concept of Wisdom. The rest of the songs are more like stories, especially Hammer-type horror stories. I think we chose that title for a few reasons. One was the connection it had with those songs about life lessons. Another is that we really feel like that song really sums up what the band is about and represents the band. And it's a nice short title that's easy to say and remember. Unlike the name of the band! (laughs)

HARD ROCK SERVICE: You are almost one hundred per cent responsible for the album. Are you planning to get the rest of the band more involved into the creative process before releasing the second album, or will you remain as a driving force of ‘The Order’?

TOM SUTTON: All the songs we have for the next album are again mine, but I left a lot more of the details open for arrangement with the whole band. Something we want to expand on with the next album are the Thin Lizzy/Trouble twin guitar parts, and the harmony singing. Those are things that are heavily influenced by how Staffan comes up with guitar melodies, and his singing. On the first album, everything was more or less demoed and worked out before I met the rest of the guys, but we're going in this time with space to work out the details more together.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: The length of your songs indicates that you don't seek attention of commercial radio stations. What do you think, is it necessary to attract mainstream media to be successful nowadays?

TOM SUTTON: I guess if you're talking REALLY big, then yes, it helps to be on TV and radio, but for underground music, no... it doesn't matter at all. Even the nature of music videos has changed. You used to not be able to do songs over 4-5 minutes, 'cos TV wouldn't play it, but now everything's on YouTube, and they don't care how long your video is. I mean, our video for our song Wisdom is ten minutes long, but it's still done really well for us. I think it's great news for bands. you can make whatever you want, and it's up to people to watch it or not.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Who was responsible for the general art project of the album (i.e. cover, booklet, drawings, band logo)? The reason I’m asking is because it captures the mood of your record perfectly.

TOM SUTTON: Thank you! Actually, we were super blown away by how the artwork turned out. Henrik Jacobson put his soul into all the parts of the art. There was so much to do! Front and back cover, gatefold painting, two portraits of each member of the band, illustrations for each song. It was a huge project, and he went above and beyond what we'd hoped for. Yeah, it was Staffan and I who came up with the concept for everything, but Henrik had a lot of freedom too. Some things we were pretty specific about, but for some things, we just gave him an outline of what we wanted. People need to check out the vinyl to get the full experience. We even had all the liner notes and lyrics hand-written by a friend of ours, Martin Wilhelm, who also designed our logo. We're very happy with it.

The Order Of Israfel HARD ROCK SERVICE: Moving from Japan to Sweden seems to be a far-reaching change. I have to say that your mobility is intriguing. Do you just like to travel or it is a matter of challenges that life puts in front of you ?

TOM SUTTON: It's actually listening to my intuition and following my heart and the signs along the way. Moving to Japan was probably the single best decision I've ever made in my whole life. Every experience that I've had as an adult that I truly treasure has come pretty much as a direct result of moving to Japan in January 2000. And when it was time to leave, there was a voice in me telling me it was time. I just had this feeling that I had to be somewhere in Europe. Now, I didn't get there directly after leaving Japan. It was a twisty road, as it often is, but I found my way to Gothenburg, and this is exactly where I should be. If you follow your heart, things won't always be easy, but magic can really happen.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Can we expect the Order of Israfel concert in Poland?

TOM SUTTON: We'd love that, of course! Booking shows can be complicated, and it really comes down to whether or nor a promoter wants to book us. I've had a lot of friends and students from Poland, actually. And I love polskie ogorki, so the sooner the better.

HARD ROCK SERVICE: Thank you for your time and I wish you success! The Order of Israfel surely deserves it!

TOM SUTTON: Thank you! Hopefully we'll make it to Poland soon! Cheers.

Interviewer: Jakub Kozłowski

(All pictures are taken from the artist's official website and are used with their permission.)

Autor: Rockhard

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