Alexander Backlund of Letters From The Colony: Musical “Omnivores” and Earthy Sounds

In the wake of one of the most successful debuts of the year so far, Swedish progressive metal newcomers LFTC’s vocalist sheds some light on Vignette.

Seldom does a band epitomise the fact that there is always room in metal music for something different like Swedish rising stars Letters From The Colony. In the immediate wake of their impressive debut album Vignette release via Nuclear Blast on February 16, Metal As Fuck caught up with vocalist Alexander Backlund to find out more about this intriguing album. 

Since its recent release, Vignette has gained a lot of attention. How have you found the reception so far? “Yeah, well its been overall pretty awesome, I think, and it not something that we anticipated, we were thinking that we were going to have a small group of people who would, you know, absolutely love it, as it’s a very sort of…niche…type thing. And then there were going to be a lot of people who, like, wouldn’t get it [laughs]. Actually it’s been overall pretty positive and great reviews.” 

Indeed, Vignette could be considered quite “niche” … How did these songs come together? “Yeah well I think there’s a lot of diversity and dynamics throughout the album and I think that’s mostly due to the fact that some of the songs have been with the band for quite some time, but have been reworked... So I guess that’s why we have songs that are a little more towards metalcore and death metal and the more recent material that is more sort of djent area. Yeah, we try to think of our songs like it’s a journey from start to finish and its just different atmosphere and riffs and stuff pieced together in a way that, you know, makes it grow as a song and also we’re just …we’re omnivores…in music… we like a little bit of everything. We’re trying to marry everything, as best we can.” 

Vignette is a very immersive journey. What are some of the themes this journey takes us through? “Yeah well, I’ll start at the beginning I guess. So the album opens with a track called ‘Galax’, which is a Swedish word that means ‘galaxy’, pretty obviously perhaps, and that song has been with the band since around 2014…the lyrics on that one I guess they sum up the general theme of the album… ‘Galax’ is about, you know, employment, and societal trends, pretty basic stuff but again, it hits some sort of point inside, grinds my gears and gets me going…[laughs] Yeah … it is also that aspect [the environment]. It was something that was sort of born when we were working on the title track, the last one ‘Vignette’. I guess I sort of always had an image in my head of the instrumental version that Sebastian [Svalland] had sent me, and that started us off into the whole ‘nature’ area, recurring as well in the album art and in the videos. But you know, I try to keep the lyrics pretty open as well, because you know, when you mention certain topics you have a tendency to ‘date’ your art, know what I mean? They’re pretty broad and open for interpretation.”  

What is the significance of the deer on the cover? “[laughs] I don’t really know. Its something that…happened when we were working on the song [‘Vignette’]… somewhere in the middle, near the end, there’s a mating call of a deer sample in there…something that Sebastian wanted do…I will not go too far into that … [laughs] Just something he had his mind set on doing and we just spent days searching for the perfect sample because it’s a pretty nice … earthy sort of sound but its very hard to find an actual recording of it. We probably spent more time on that than we should have but it just one of those little details we wouldn’t compromise.” 

Letters From the Colony have definitely not compromised on detail. How have you approached Vignette lyrically? “Well yeah, I really like the song ‘Terminus’. The lyrics on that one feel like it hits the hammer on the nail. Very much personal experience, deep and genuine hatred… it’s supposed to summarise the sort of general mechanics behind the every day…the loop that we’re in…like ticking clockwork…and there’s no escape. We wanted to call that song ‘Clockworks’ but then Meshuggah…we had the song all mastered and done, dead set on calling it ‘Clockworks’…then a few weeks later Meshuggah released their latest album [The Violent Sleep of Reason] and they have a song on there called ‘Clockworks’…and we were like ‘oh fuck, now we gotta find a new name’ [laughs].” 

LFTC have often been likened to bands such as Meshuggah. Is this a band LFTC have drawn inspiration from? “Yeah we admire them for sure. I think we all like different aspects of Meshuggah. Sebastian’s really into the twitchy guitar stuff and the time signatures, I really like the production sound they have going on, because its very unique to them…sound wise, if you put on a Meshuggah album it’ll take you two or three seconds to hear that…its them…and that’s something I think I try to, like, draw a lot of inspiration from when we were producing our album.” 

What have you brought to Vignette that is unique? “Well I guess with metal you always have to sort of toy with the distorted rhythm guitars, drums and vocals, but we always try to sprinkle a lot of melody on top of that. There was a lot of work that went into the lead guitars, all of the melody guitars occurring through the album. Me and Sebastian spent probably a month in the studio together just working on those, I’m a guitar player also, and we own a lot of guitar pedals… I guess its some sort of an addiction. So we experiment a lot with those to come up with sounds… In the big picture level, when you’re listening to a lot of music you can anticipate at lot…but with LFTC we’ve been getting lots of compliments on the arrangements, how we piece those together, sort of like you can’t anticipate what’s next … sort of you know keeping the songs diverse, very dynamic, that’s our sort of signature.” 

Vignette is certainly not predictable in any way. Have these songs been played live as yet? “Yeah we’ve been dead set from the start that anything we do in the studio we’re going to do live. We’re perfectionists [laughs]. We’re practicing together twice a week, were dead set on playing everything the way it’s meant to be even though its very… complicated. Which just means more practice, no shortcuts. We’ve ironed out all the details as to how we’re actually going to do it. We just kept practicing, never stopped.” 

Vignette is out now via Nuclear Blast.