October Obituaries: Category XII – Jonas Bergqvist
5th September 1986 – 9th September 2011
“Smiling, I throw myself into infinity
To be embraced by my destiny
This water of possession becomes my tomb”
-Lifelover “Besatt” (“Possessed”)
Former guitarist, songwriter and co-founding member Jonas Bergqvist (under the pseudonym ‘B’) of the now defunct Swedish dark metal band Lifelover was on the verge of reaching ever-expanding glory in the summer of 2011. With the release of a new album, getting signed onto a new label and about to embark on a European tour, plans for a future U.S. tour and also a personal engagement… all of these prospective aspects of the future came to a bitter, unforeseen downfall on the night of 9th September 2011 when Jonas slipped away in the unconsciousness of his sleep. In spite of the negative connotations and sarcastic, self-loathing and all-round spiteful themes included in Lifelover’s music, the cause of death was an unintended, proscription drug overdose among ongoing long-term health problems which took their turn for the worse and far too soon. It was quite clear, for those who saw the driven potential which possessed his soul for music, that his death was far from a suicide. Jonas’ dreams and passion for making music always came first and could never be put to rest, such was the inspiration and musical legacy he left behind for his fan base and the popularity of the band which only continues to flourish in Lifelover’s spirit to this day.
For those who knew him outside of just a surface level, he was everything that embodied and embellished the life-blood of Lifelover. “I leave a cloud of disappointment, doubt, and wonder behind me. While you try to find your meaning, in a world where no new ground can be broken”(English translation of “Bitter Reflektion” off the 2008 release, Konkurs). Although well over 98% of Lifelover’s lyrics were written in their native Swedish language, the tones of mental and emotional turmoil in any language speak to us more than just a mere, lackluster translation. Notably, his other lyrical endeavours can also be found in two black metal projects Dimhymn (now laid to rest) and IXXI which he was also heavily involved in. Tones of anger and bottomless pits of self despair are universally recognised and something which Jonas had perfected each in their own individual ways, in separate fragments of his being channelled into different projects and equally dedicated to all.
The most well-known and controversial project which either shines with support or gets showered with a shitstorm (as it has always been) was inevitably, Lifelover. Although the band had formed in 2005 and released a 2 track “ambient” demo, the first release which initially kicked off the band’s career was the first full-length in 2006, “Pulver” released through GoatowaRex Records. Being quite notorious for its explicit cover, it sparked a bit of attention and interest to a handful of people at the time and its debut delivered quite successfully. The band since the Pulver days have released 3 full-lengths and 1 EP – the last release titled “Skjukdom” – before it was agreed on mutual terms to terminate the band after Jonas’ passing. Although Lifelover did not hold up to “extreme” standards like some, they certainly had and still continue to influence those who have partaken of ‘depressive’ music genres and have inevitably become the founders of such without any intention of doing so. Although with this said, Jonas himself did not consider Lifelover to be a standard ‘black metal’ band by any means, and hence the term “narcotic metal” was coined and created by himself and vocalist/co-founder Kim Carlsson “( )” and was then their own official trademark.
As a person, his general attitude was “live and let live” and for a human being who expressed so much contempt and feelings of hopelessness for all of modern society and its demonising monotony through his lyrics, there was warmth and ‘realness’ in his heart – on a personal level, although he spoke with few words, they were genuine every time – such as it is engrained in Swedish culture. In general, he was open to communicate with. Even in these times of digital communication which most try to keep limited, as well as on a surface level, he was always one to reach out to those who didn’t have anything in particular to discuss but the love and inspiration of his music. In essence this meant a lot more to him than the average reclusive musician, and he always reminded people of such gratitude.
The closing chapter of this October Obituary dedication is a bit more personal, but profoundly impacted the drive for me to partake in this column. As time progresses and the seasons keep changing, and people change equally as much, there still is, and will always remain, un-lived memories to be made which are not yet, nor ever will be dead. It is the same liveliness that thrives each time the first piano notes in “Förspel & intrång” echo through my speakers, or envisioning an overcast sky above me on a desolated beach, awaiting the impending storm as the ocean waves wash upon the shore as those heard in “Bitter Reflektion”. For even these two tracks, many other visions and stories live as well.
Then came the day when a part of my own vision was in front of me – after 2 years of endless reflection and since the passing of Jonas… the milestone mark had finally shown itself. As I stood there facing where he lay now tended by the Earth, there were many words which were spoken, but in the language of silence. There are souls which forever stick with you, or remind you that they will always be there. This band, the art which he poured his spirit into, and all else which embellishes and rekindles a certain nostalgia, can never be replaced, forgotten or overridden.