Af­ter writ­ing for Sa­ba­ton, Ken Kängström decided to take his own bom­bas­tic am­bi­tions one step fur­ther

Metal Hammer (UK) - - New Noise - WORDS: ALI COOPER

If you’ve ever

won­dered what would hap­pen if Hans Zim­mer went through an Epica phase, Follow The Cipher are your an­swer. Cal­cu­lat­ing sym­phonic power metal meets the tow­er­ing sound­tracks of time­less cinema fan­tasies at the hands of this Swedish five-piece. Start­ing life as a solo pro­ject for gui­tarist and main song­writer Ken Kängström, Follow The Cipher were forged in the power metal fur­naces of Falun, the city that spawned Sa­ba­ton and Twi­light Force.

“Falun is a place of won­ders be­cause all the bands in the city are friends and ev­ery­one helps each other out, whether they’re the most fa­mous guys or they’ve just started out,” ex­plains Ken. “We all go to the pub to­gether!”

A friend­ship with Sa­ba­ton front­man Joakim Brodén led to Ken join­ing the writ­ing team for their sixth al­bum, Caro­lus Rex, and con­tribut­ing to the writ­ing of the fan favourite and setlist main­stay track of the same name. Follow the Cipher have now cov­ered it on their self-ti­tled de­but al­bum.

“I lived with Joakim for two years and they in­vited me to be a sound en­gi­neer for Sa­ba­ton when they re­leased Primo Vic­to­ria. Af­ter a while, it all be­came too much so I had to quit and move back home. Years later, they asked me back to write for them and see where it led, and it led to Caro­lus Rex.”

Follow The Cipher be­came less of a day­dream and more a chal­leng­ing pro­duc­tion re­al­ity when vo­cal­ist Linda Toni Grahn tried out for the band, lay­ing her vo­cals on Ken’s riffs.

“I au­di­tioned five peo­ple for the vo­cals and the last per­son to come in was Linda,” Ken re­calls. “Ev­ery­one else took four hours to au­di­tion but she took 15 min­utes. She’s the nicest per­son I’ve ever met in my life and she speaks so softly, but once she takes to the mi­cro­phone, she’s the devil her­self.”

Be­fore long, the band found them­selves play­ing their first gig at the Czech Repub­lic fes­ti­val Masters Of Rock, and soon af­ter the suc­cess of their maiden voyage, Nu­clear Blast snapped them up at their se­cond show which was, fit­tingly, Sa­ba­ton Open Air 2017.

“We had such a great show that day, the re­sponse was awe­some and I saw Markus Staiger from Nu­clear Blast head­bang­ing in the crowd,” Ken re­calls. “We met him af­ter­wards at the bar and he said he’d been keep­ing an eye on us for years. We were thrilled but also ner­vous as everything was new ter­ri­tory for us; we’d never made any al­bums be­fore and our pre­vi­ous bands never got this far.”

Follow The Cipher’s de­but al­bum cen­tres around the con­cept of a ‘cipher’, an enig­matic force whose lim­its even the band are un­sure of.

“The cipher is meant to be a mys­te­ri­ous metaphor for fol­low­ing a code,” ex­plains


Ken. “This first al­bum is taken from a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic ap­proach, so the cipher in this sense is about the mys­tery of the fu­ture. We have decided to keep the con­cept open so no­body knows what the cipher will mean for us in the next al­bum.”

Four years in the mak­ing, Follow The Cipher was no mean feat as line-up changes and seem­ingly never-end­ing pro­duc­tion work al­most saw the end of the band’s ca­reer be­fore it started. In pur­suit of a unique at­mo­spheric sound, Ken and co have es­tab­lished ‘cipher metal’, a genre of their own to avoid be­ing placed in a box them­selves. What more could they pos­si­bly do?

“This al­bum truly rep­re­sents a dream come true for us,” he replies. “We would like to send that mes­sage out to peo­ple who are lis­ten­ing to us to pick up their in­stru­ments and try to reach their dreams, too.”

Follow The Cipher: Sa­ba­ton-ap­proved sym­phonic power metal good­ness

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