Subterranea pays tribute to late Lifelover musician, ‘B’
It was with great sadness that we learnt of the death of the talented musician and creative force Jonas Berqvist, better known to the world as Nattdal or ‘B’, who passed away on September 9. An active force in the black metal underground for almost a decade, he contributed to the respected Swedish black metal outfits Dimhymn, IXXI and Ondskapt, but it is undoubtedly for the unique works of Lifelover that he will be best remembered. Contributing guitar, vocals and piano to the outfit, he was also the group’s most prolific songwriter, and it was here he appeared to express himself most openly, creating not only the majority of the music, but a good deal of the lyrics.
The results were nothing if not eclectic: indeed, in a metal scene where bands frequently stick dogmatically to genre rules and limitations, Lifelover’s chaotic cut-and-paste approach to composition proved nothing less than a revelation, blending black metal with elements of pop, shoegaze, depressive rock, post punk and new wave with a devil-may-care attitude. Songs could be manically upbeat or relentlessly bleak, sentimental or psychotic, the fractured nature of the work offering an emotional gamut truly rare within extreme metal. While it was the talented lead vocalist ‘()’ (or Kim Carlsson) who handled the recent interview with Metal Hammer (as well as other magazines), this writer was also fortunate enough to deal with B for a book project. While it’s always easy to over-praise the deceased, he genuinely proved both helpful and friendly, his enthusiasm in communications mirrored by his replies, which were, like the music, often painfully honest, painting a picture of depression and substance abuse.
“Lifelover totally reflects me as a person,” he explained, “when you have heard all of the music we have done and read all the lyrics, you know a bit of me. In one sense you can get to know me in that way. The lyrics reflect our lives, and our lives consist mostly of a great amount of agony and angst. And to reduce our angst we take those drugs necessary. And that’s mostly it, but we have also touched subjects like love – or broken/lost love to be exact – hatred for mankind and suicidal thoughts. We also write about urban surroundings and miserable city life. It’s not exactly positive lyrics, but they probably are more honest than most bands out there.”
“I can’t recall any song that we have recorded without being under the influence,” confirmed main vocalist ( ) in the Subterranea interview earlier this year. “I am usually drunk, high, hungover or all of the above when I record my vocals and most of the others have their prescriptions. B as well, he makes most of the music, sitting in his haze with his guitar. None of us ever has an easy time, currently two of us are homeless and we have many people close to us being in bad situations, people in hospitals, people killing themselves, people trying to kill themselves.”
Given the bleak tapestry the band drew upon, as well as the self-destructive lifestyles (the group tellingly labelled themselves ‘narcotic metal’) of its members, a death within the group was perhaps not entirely surprising. That of course makes the death of such a young musician no less tragic on either a personal or creative level, and the fact that Lifelover have decided to split up following B’s death, is, though completely understandable, certainly a major loss for the music world. For all that however, it’s perhaps worth remembering that a surprising positivity surfaced in both Lifelover’s music and B’s own words, with Lifelover’s many achievements (five essential releases in as many years, more than most bands achieve in decades) providing obvious satisfaction.
“You can’t honestly say that life is just misery all the way through. For some people it might be, but we reflect all feelings in our lives – even if I mostly feel like shit, my life has its bright moments as well. And I think that is the case with most people feeling down… We have become that band that people love or hate, and I personally think that is great. Our fan base is very diverse. We see as many black metal fans as we see ‘normal’ rock/pop fans… well, you name it, we see them all and that is to a great pleasure to us. I see it as a sign that our music is so complex it appeals to so many different people. If one looks back a bit in music history it is those bands that have become big and famous. But our goal is rather to become infamous!”
Mission accomplished, no doubt. Rest in peace B, rest in peace Lifelover.
The official statement from the band follows…
“On Friday morning, September 9th, B didn’t wake up from his sleep. He didn’t take his own life nor was he victim of any apparent action. The authorities in charge are still examinating [sic] his body to find the exact cause of death.
“We, the remaining members of Lifelover have decided to lay the band to rest. This would be the only right thing to do considering B was the main composer of Lifelover.
“Therefore, we won’t be performing at our coming, planned shows. We are very sorry and hope that all of the fans that had been looking forward to seeing Lifelover play live will understand. The concerts in Belgium and Holland were the last concerts of Lifelover. We want to thank everybody that was present and helped out, especially Rob “Svograth” Polon of Monads and the members of IXXI.
“These last days have been very hard for us and everybody that knew B. We want to thank all of our fans for being so respectful, dedicated and understanding and, most of all, for supporting Lifelover during all these years.
“Kim, Henrik, Felix, Johan, Rickard and Kral”