Introduction

Ambush stand out among their peers as one of Sweden’s new premiere traditional heavy metal bands. Due to personal struggles and line-up shuffles, it’s been five long years since we’ve properly heard from these Swedes. They’re now finally set to release another album! Infidel is set for a March 13th release via High Roller Records. It follows the same rough outline as the first two Judas Priest and Accept inspired albums, but Infidel features a bit more experimentation in terms of both music and themes. We interviewed Oskar Jacobsson, Ambush’s vocalist, about the journey to the new album and the themes behind it.

Watch the video to “Hellbiter”, a track from Infidel:

Full album release date: March 13, 2020 via High Roller Records

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Interview

Note: The below interview was transcribed from a conversation between Panos and Oskar Jacobsson, the vocalist of Ambush

Panos: So Oskar let’s start by clearing the air and ask the question which is in every fan’s mind: after two very successful albums you guys waited for 5 years to release a new album. Why did you leave us waiting for so long?

Oskar: It’s because of a lot of things actually. After Desecrator we toured quite a lot and we got a chance to visit a lot new places like North and South America and Japan as well. We actually started writing the album after we released Desecrator (note: in 2015) , we had two or three songs but we decided to wait for a couple of years to get the most out of Desecrator. And then…all in this storm.. Our bassist Ludwig got sick after the South American tour with a kidney disease… It’s a chronic kidney disease that he had since birth… So yeah.. The focus of the band became if Ludwig is going to be okay, and that was the main focus for us as friends basically. We didn’t think about releasing anything because we were waiting for Ludwig to become better… To this date he is still very very sick, so he said “ we must release something now, and we need to have a line to release this album with”. So we started playing with Oskar (Note: Andersson) from Night on bass and he has become an important figure on the Infidel album he wrote the basslines and he came up with good ideas. Also after we recorded Infidel Adam (Note: Hagelin – guitars) decided to leave the band, which also delayed the release of the album as well. Because we don’t want to give something to our fans and not have a complete line up, that would be silly. So that took a couple of months more but now we have a line up to tour this album with. We got Karl Dotzek (Note: Ex- Legbah) on guitar and Oskar on bass.

Panos: Αre they going to be permanent members or they will just join you for the tour?

Oskar: Yeah they got a permanent membership. They are very important for the band so we must have them.

Panos: I see.

Oskar: It’s a difficult situation. So far Ambush has been more like a “collective” rather than a constant line up because of Luwig’s illness. We had to get help from friends, you know, and since Adam’s motivation for the band has dropped a bit over the last couple of years due to personal issues. We had a couple of other guitarists come in as well for more than two years, but now we have a really good line up and we feel very positive about this-actually I don’t think we ever sounded better (laughs)

Panos: I understand that you guys were originally all from the same town, if i am pronouncing the name correctly its “Vaksoe” (Växjö)?

Oskar: Hahaa its “Vek-hoe” (laughs)

Panos: Haha I’ll try my best. So I understand that you guys were friends first and bandmates later, so it might be extra hard for you to replace band members.

Oskar: Yeah it’s very hard. We started this band as a small group of friends that were listening to the same music and all of us were musicians , so the initial intention was to have fun and to create something together that we liked. It makes it even harder…we are becoming older you know, and the main priorities in life differ from year to year for people… so yeah it didn’t come as a surprise when someone says “you know i have a family etc so I can’t tour..” That’s no problem, we are still friends and it’s going to be like that forever. Ambush continues.

Panos: Let’s focus on that for a bit. You started the band 8 years ago. How easy is it for a band of your caliber to just say “lets focus solely on music and make money out of that exclusively”?

Oskar: It’s a tough life. The band obviously takes a lot of time on an everyday basis. Luckily for me it’s my inspiration, my main goal in life to create good music and to build relationships around the music platforms we play. We are in this really lucky situation but obviously it’s taking a lot of time from full time jobs and full time studies. For a band around Ambush’s caliber, its manageable for now. But for the next step it’s a tricky situation because then you will have to maybe work half time. We haven’t got to that point yet, but the time will come and then surely we will find out. I don’t really have a plan for that yet but I can’t stop doing what i love, and i think the rest of the band is in the same position. Having a band and travelling around the world making new friends is worth a lot.

Panos: And I feel that Ambush are among the frontrunning new bands of traditional heavy metal – the so called NWOTHM. Do you accept this acronym? Do you feel like you are a part of a global wave?

Oskar: Yeah definitely. It makes a difference when you are in “a wave” because in that way it feels like it’s a bigger “punch” rather than one band tries to strike through the mainstream. So I would like to imagine that there is a wave going on. And there are a lot of bands that play traditional music. The younger generation sees real value in real music and I think that our numbers will grow as we go deeper into the mainstream bullshit that’s on the radio right now. Young people tend to make a revolution about that so I feel that we are getting closer towards the “real sound” of guitars, bass, drums… and that’s the new wave. I would say that a lot of NW bands are into the 70s sound as well. It’s more about mainstream versus real, mainstream versus tradition. For me it’s like that- it’s not just about heavy metal. It could be a blues band, an indie band that uses analog recordings. It’s about real music versus chewing gum.

Panos: Sometimes bands want to explore new sounds and experiment with, maybe something more mainstream or experimental. Do you see Ambush taking that road any time soon?

Oskar: I think we found what we want to sound like, but we don’t want to limit ourselves in a certain kind of style. We can play what we want and still know what Ambush is about: Early ‘80s – late ‘70s traditional heavy metal. That’s what we want, what we like and what we aim to be. Its that specific era of music that made us feel warm inside. 

Panos: You mentioned before- and it’s evident in your music- that you were influenced by Judas Priest and Accept. I feel that your latest album “Infidel” is going more towards the direction of the tight sound of Accept.

Oskar: I think that when it comes to vocals it isn’t even close to Udo Dirkscheider’s voice, but I love Accept, and Judas Priest are gods. So those bands obviously influenced us a lot and you can probably hear it to our music as well, and we are proud of that it’s our legacy you know. We want to carry on the torch. But when it comes to the new album, I would say it’s more experimental. Some guy told me when you combine the riffing with my vocals it sounds a bit more like Riot and I would probably agree. I love Riot as well so I don’t mind (laughs).

Panos: Speaking of RIOT, i don’t know if you have heard about this, Todd Michael Hallthe vocalist of RIOT V appeared in the american version of “The Voice

Oskar: Hahaha really?

Riot V’s Todd Michael Hall on “The Voice”

Panos: Yeah he sang “Juke Box Hero” by Foreigner and everyone was going bananas on the internet. Half of the people were excited that he is getting recognized but others were more judgmental, saying that he shouldn’t pursue the easy way a talent show like that offers. Would you do something like that personally?

Oskar: Nah, I don’t think so. I mean you do your own thing and you see what happens in the future. I mean I love to sing and I like other music, not only heavy metal. I like a lot of singer-songwriter kind of music, even mainstream as well if it’s good music. And on those kinds of shows it’s like okay, you sing a song for a couple of minutes, you get your minute of fame, and then you get thrown in the garbage. You can sing well, but there are always going to be ten thousand people singing as good or even better. So you better start building something, like a band, a relationship with the fans to start something real. Those shows are a shortcut that I don’t think leads anyone anywhere in the end, but I don’t disrespect people for doing that. I mean he (notes: Todd Michael Hall) gets exposure, then Riot V gets exposure, maybe even the scene gets exposure. We are underrated in my option. Today all the bands that are more or less underground, and I consider RIOT V an underground band as well, all they need is exposure and then people will show up and say “this music is fucking great”. And that’s how the scene grows, you got to look beyond narrow-minded people and step ahead to include more people to the audience.

Panos: This is what you mentioned before, about the only thing the scene lacks is exposure, so maybe that might be “a way”- not necessarily the only way.

Oskar: Exactly, like you said it’s “a way”, not the only way. The easiest way is to get quick exposure on YouTube like that. People are going to be interested in what Todd Michael Hall is doing and see that he is playing for RIOT. So RIOT is going to be in some gig in America at some point and people will be like “okay let’s go check them out”. Then they will see what heavy metal is all about. We got to open up the eyes of the younger generation because they don’t have a clue about what’s going on.

Panos: So let’s discuss the new album! Starting with the once again amazing cover you guys used. To a greater extent this time, you have an inverted cross where a poor guy is burning. Are upside crosses becoming a theme for you?

Oskar: (laughs) Ok so we are flirting a little bit with the occult obviously, and the song “Infidel” is about the Inquisition. It’s about the manifestation of good and evil, where the good is very evil, and evil is very good. So the woman on the cross- actually we didn’t want to have a woman, we wanted more like a carbonized corpse, but the story behind Infidel is very straightforward. I think infidels and people who stand out the mainstream beliefs are good instead of evil, but that’s my opinion. So the album cover is basically about the duality: warm-cold, evil-good, the basic polarities.

The cover for Ambush’s latest album Infidel, artwork by Alexander von Wieding

Panos: So it’s about the perspective of things which differs from culture to culture.

Oskar: Yes sure, it’s about people’s views. I mean some religions like Yazidizm actually praise the fallen angel, as a god- a good god. So they would be infidels in a different belief system, but they believe in good. So in my little bubble, I want to step away from strong dogmatic beliefs. Just listen to heavy metal, drink beers and have fun you know, and maybe buy some gyros and watch Champions League (laughs)

Panos: While I am not Swedish, my understanding is that the Swedish approach to religion is very devout. 

Oskar. I think we are the most secular country on earth. Almost no one believes in god here. But we still have a very christian tradition like, our swear words. Instead of fuck we say “satan”, every swearword is related to the devil. Older people in Sweden will go like “ooh you have long hair, you must be listening to evil music”. Religion is not a problem in Sweden, we are way past that. But religion is standing very strong in other countries, with both positive and negative consequences, but mostly negative in terms of one person standing up for its own rights. 

Panos: So you mentioned before that you were interested in the occult. Following the path that was set on Desecrator, you continue to explore a darker lyrical theme on Infidel as well in a somewhat of a Mercyful Fate-esque kind of way.

Oskar: Haha, I just love to incorporate dark lyrics to our music. I think it fits the heavy metal concept very well, and I love Mercyful Fate by the way. And I also love to write ambiguous controversial lyrics. I like it when you can write something controversial and people can listen to it and think that it is of good quality. Its music that you can show to your mother and like it, cause she won’t know you are singing about a demon or something (laughs)

Panos: (laughs) Where do you draw inspiration from for writing lyrics?

Oskar: On our first two albums we all shared the job of writing lyrics, but for this album I wrote all the lyrics myself. We have a lot of songs that talk about history, wars and stuff like that, and many songs are written after having some thoughts about the modern society like for example psychological illness. On Infidel we have a song that’s very depressing, called “Demon Within”…

Panos: That was going to be my next question actually. Despite Ambush’s music being somewhat uplifting, “The Demon Within” sounds as if you are exploring some different themes than usual.

Oskar: Yeah I would say it’s not our typical songwriting structure and we’ve written some lyrics in the same concept as that in the past, that are dealing with schizophrenia, but on this song I think we did a really good job presenting this depressing feeling and the melodies are making the song even more depressing and I like that. And then the chorus is more uplifting and gives hope, but the verses are plain depressing. It’s gonna be interesting performing this song live (laughs)

Panos: You feel like you could delve deeper into this darker songwriting style?

Oskar: We will see what happens, we have no intention to create a “ dark album” or “dark lyrics” in the future. I mean we have some of our most positive melodies in this album as well (laughs) like “Hellbiter” and “Heart of Stone”. As we discussed before, we have no boundaries and I like that we are in a band that we can incorporate all our feelings and states of mind like anger or depression. Maybe not love, because then we are going too far! (laughs)

Panos: (laughs) Well maybe love for satan…

Oskar: (laughs) Yeah something like that..

Panos: You guys have released three albums, two singles, a famous demo, you toured the world, at what point you think you could say that you are satisfied with the success of the band?

Oskar: We will never be satisfied i think. We love doing this, and it’s the journey that makes it so fun. We started out with nothing basically… we recorded a demo and then all of a sudden people started to listen to our music and we were excited as fuck. I can still remember that day you know when we got our first contract with High Roller. I mean there and then that was our goal. So we asked ourselves “okay what’s next? Maybe we will tour Japan”. And then when we played there we said ok let’s do something else. It’s the journey and the fact that you get to hang with your friends that makes me want to continue. It’s like doing a roadtrip with your best friends. For the band, we obviously want to hit the big stages and I think we are ready for that, it’s just a matter of time before we get the attention i think. And I believe that Ambush is a band that plays best when we play in front of a lot of people and interact with them. Also it would be good to come to Greece (laughs)

Panos: Haha well since the announcement of the festival is already out there, let me be the first who will welcome you to Up The Hammers Festival XVI in 2021 in Greece(laughs)

Oskar: I’ve never been to Greece so I am looking forward to that!

Panos: A few days ago Kings of the Underground tour was announced, where you guys get to play all over Europe with Enforcer and Skull Fist. How did this tour come to be?

Oskar: We started a business relationship with Dragon Productions booking agency and we thought “let’s do something great for the release of Infidel”. So we talked about that and then Enforcer joined the bill and we were like “fuck yeah!”. Then Skull Fist joined and that made this a perfect line up. I can’t wait to be on the road with these guys, because they are great as people and know how to deliver a show.

Kings of the Underground Tour set for May 2020 – Buy your tickets here!

Panos: After seeing the list and the tight schedule that you guys are going to follow, how many liters of beer do you think it’s going to be consumed in total? 

Oskar. Oooppphh.. I wouldn’t even dare to…(laughs) even ask that question to myself haha! To be honest, I’ve always been drinking too much when I am on tour, destroying my voice in the process, so I am trying to keep it down a little bit now (laughs). I know that the guys will pick on me if i don’t join them for heavy drinking , but I think I will succeed in keeping a low profile on this tour, so I can do a better job on stage. That’s actually one of my main goals: keep calm and not get involved in the debauchery between the shows” (laughs)

Panos: Have you seen the latest Metallica news about James Hetfield cancelling shows because he wants to remain sober?

Oskar: I get that, it’s especially hard to sing when you are drunk . I think I never had a sober gig in my life, so maybe two or three beers before getting on stage will be enough for me…And then maybe drinking a couple of more (laughs). Keeping a low profile is my highest priority, I owe my mother at least that! (laughs)

Panos: Is she listening right now so you have to say stuff like that or it really comes from your heart?

Oskar (laughs) it comes from my ass (laughs)

Panos: A question that I always wanted to ask you is, were you aware of the old Swedish band with the same name as yours, that came from the Kolsva area when you were naming the band?

Oskar: Haha no we didn’t know! Ambush sounded like a funny word and we thought ok that’s a good band name. So when we started calling ourselves Ambush we thought obviously someone else might have used that name, but we didn’t know that it was a Swedish metal band (laughs). We never had any contact with them but I hope they feel it’s okay (laughs).

Panos: Actually they changed their name to Rampant after one album, but it was a very decent band.

Oskar: Yeah I’ve listened to their music afterwards, they put out some really quality stuff.

Panos: You should invite them and do a joined Ambush show

Oskar: (laughs)I guess they will be really old now (laughs).

Panos: So Oskar that was it! Do you have any final words you want to say to Ride Into Glory readers?

Oskar: I hope that people will listen to our new album Infidel, coming out on the 13th of March 2020, it’s Friday the 13th, so you can get your Jason masks on and go massacre people on the streets.(laughs)

Panos: – While listening to the album (laughs)

Oskar: Exactly! (laughs)

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Panos Anagnostopoulos

Traditional metal addict, storyteller, and food obsessed. Hailing from Greece, Rides into Glory

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