Interview with Saturn guitarist Robin Tidebrink and vocalist/bassist Oscar Pehrson | By Mike Gaworecki
With their second album, Beyond Spectra – released March 31 via Rise Above Records – Swedish retro metal band, Saturn, have taken off into new territory without sacrificing the vintage vibe of their debut, 2014’s Ascending.
“We wanted it to sound raw and honest,” guitarist Robin Tidebrink says of Beyond Spectra. “I think it came out sounding more like early ‘80s classic metal than anything else, really, but it wasn’t something that we planned. Many of the songs are more dynamic than the songs on our first album, Ascending, and that’s something we strived for. More dual guitar harmonies as well for those who like that sort of thing.”
While the band didn’t plan to have any overarching theme to the album, according to lead vocalist and bassist Oscar Pehrson, one eventually emerged on its own. The lyrical content is, in some ways, a throwback as well. “We did not set a theme before production, but since all lyrics kind of reflect the world today, but seen from different perspectives with various degrees of humor and fiction, I would say it tries to capture the present as seen from the past,” Pehrson explains.
However, one song, “Force of the North,” is just straight-up about the past. Tidebrink says it’s about a battle that took place in the 16th century on a lake called Åsunden, located in the band members’ hometown of Västergötland. “The end results of that battle led directly to The Stockholm Bloodbath, because the Danish conquered the Swedish army—sadly enough,” he laughs.
If there’s anything the band want listeners to take away from Beyond Spectra, it’s their exhortation to “look beyond what you already know,” Tidebrink says. “Spectra are the plural form of spectrum, and we want people to look at things from another point of view. It can also describe how we want our music to evolve and not to be stuck in a certain way of sound.”
In addition to flexing their songwriting chops, Saturn focused on capturing their live sound more faithfully in the studio. The result is an album that sounds more modern, thicker than your old Judas Priest and Iron Maiden cassettes—even though it was recorded through two old mixing tables that used to belong to Sweden’s government-controlled public radio service.
“Same as with our last album, we wanted [Beyond Spectra] to sound as it does when we play live, so we didn’t do any overdubs at all, but we wanted the album to sound better than our first one,” Tidebrink says. Ascending was recorded live, with all the instruments blaring away at the same time in the studio. “That made the mixing part of the album really hard,” he adds, “since there were drums and bass leaking into the guitar channels, etc., so we had another approach this time.”
For Beyond Spectra, Saturn first recorded the bass and the drums together, then recorded both guitars together on top of those rhythm tracks. “I think it came out well since we kept that live feeling but could mix it better,” Tidebrink says. “We produced it ourselves, but our recording engineer, Johannes Henningsson, was really helping us a lot in finding that sound that we all had in our heads.”
Henningsson bought the vintage mixing tables when the radio station swapped out its old units for new, digital ones. That was another secret to the warmer, higher fidelity retro sound achieved by Saturn on their new album. “They indeed do sound fantastic,” Tidebrink says of the tables.
While the “retro” label most certainly fits, Tidebrink says that he and Saturn don’t necessarily feel beholden to it. “I guess that we are one of those ‘retro bands,’ but again, it’s not like we’re trying hard to be a retro band,” he asserts. “We just play the music that we would like to listen to ourselves. We love the ‘70s and ‘80s classic rock and metal, and that’s why we sound like we do.”
Photo by Ester Segarra