Control the Storm – Forevermore Review

Score9.5/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryUnited Kingdom
Runtime54:41
Release Date25 July 2019
Record LabelIndependent

With the end of the month approaching, I found myself (as usual) skimming around for July albums I might have missed a few days ago. My search yielded generally good results, but, just as I was going over my picks for July’s Top Ten Albums, I chanced upon Forevermore, the sophomore album of the female-fronted British power metal outfit, Control the Storm.

And ho. Ly. Fuck. I hardly expected to find something this awesome with the end of the month so close, nevertheless something I had never even heard of before! Control the Storm displays an absolutely deadly amount of power metal skill, individuality, and vision. Between the gorgeous vocal harmonies of Firouzeh Razavi and the fuzzy synth lines that flood the background, my attention was torn from all places at once into a bunch of wonderful places.

Now, that isn’t to say I don’t have a couple issues with this album. And, as usual, I’m gonna get through those first, because I have so much praise for this record that you won’t even remember the bad stuff by the time you go check it out for yourself. My first issue comes in the form of disappointment in the album’s first minutes. ‘Darkest Fantasy’, the opener, begins with a fucking explosion of epic orchestrations, riding riffs, and destructive drumming that promise musical ascension, but all-too-quickly we’re greeted with the weakest melody on the entire album, rather than a kickass verse of glorious, shiny metal destiny. The song picks back up in the chorus, which is super strong, but it’s a shame that the verses are so forgettable. My second (and pretty much only other) issue is also with an uninspired melody, which arrives in verses of ‘Curse of the Voiceless’.

But that’s it. Aside from these, the melodies in Forevermore are absolutely killer. The deliberate vocals of Razavi manage to convey every emotion she shoots for, from aggression to longing, with relative ease and, as I mentioned before, the floating vocal harmonies add a really nice, almost neoclassical touch. The harmonies are especially cool in the Middle Eastern-tinged ‘New Era’, where they take on a more mystical air.

Following suit with the vocals is, honestly, everything else. Axeman Rich Shillitoe is a solo berserker, and Iliyan Vasilev beats the piss out of the drums in the best of ways. Additionally, the colourful orchestrations and keyboards, crafted by Raedon Mac, build immense atmospheres around the already-lively instrumentation without disrupting the band’s balance. And I suppose I can’t leave out the other driving force under the band, Paul O’Shea, who brings some juicy basslines, especially in ‘Hidden Wonder’, where he really shines. All of this raw energy is directed into massive, dynamic arrangements. Oh, and, the song intros are fantastic.

As far as favourites go for me, I have a few. ‘Follow Me’ is basically a cheesy 80s pump up tune, so, by the ultimate laws of the universe, I have to love it (but seriously. that fucking synthwork!). Then there’s the ballad ‘In the Night’, which begins with a beautiful piano/vocal feature before building into an awe-inducing climax. I also really like the closer, ‘Forevermore’. Aside from the cascading crescendo of the outro, it packs nearly as much variety in its thirteen minutes as the entire rest of the album, containing elements like folk, symphonic metal (think Amberian Dawn), and even a blurb of Tchaikovsky thrown in for good measure.

I’m sure I could go on about more favourites for another four paragraphs, but you get the idea. Forevermore is a sick work of metal, and Control the Storm have effortlessly thundered their way into being one of my favourite power metal bands. I’m excited to see what their debut was like, and I’m even more excited to see what they bust out next!

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Týr – Hel Review

Written by Dungeon Shaker
Score7/10
GenreProgressive Folk Metal
CountryFaroe Islands
Runtime1:09:53
Release Date8 March 2019
Record LabelMetal Blade

Tyr is a band I have long held in high regard. The sound Heri Joensen has developed over the last twenty years has been flirting with perfection for a decade now. Valkyrja, released in 2013, has rightfully earned the lauded and elusive title of a masterpiece. Hel has the unfortunate distinction of following up that modern classic. The laborious six-year gap between releases feels almost strategic as Hel has a bit of a dark side: its length. Regardless, the important thing is that there is finally another Tyr record, and that is worth celebrating.  

The Heri Joensen-led act from the far-flung Faroese Islands expertly molds elements of progressive, folk, and traditional metal with viking metal themes. Heri’s approach to composing viking metal is far subtler and tactful than many of his contemporaries. Traditional Faroese folk melodies are adopted as a melodic base, revised, and deeply interwoven into the songs. A welcome and unique coloring of melody. The result is a sound which is extremely distinctive and comfortably familiar. 

Hel’s highlight is the ‘Ragnar Kvæði’ and ‘Garmr’ duplet; each showcases Heri’s brilliant use of melody in two distinct manners. ‘Ragnar Kvæði’s’ beautiful choral opening introduces the track’s dominant musical theme: variations on the vocal arrangement heard in those opening moments. A somewhat somber and epic mood is created as its instrumentation plays around Heri’s layered vocal work, itself a brilliant example of how a relatively standard-structured song can be transcended.

‘Garmr’, on the other hand, is entirely structured around its arrangement; numerous tempo changes allow Heri’s vocal lines to essentially dual with the numerous lead guitar breaks throughout the track. ‘Garmr’ does follow a pretty standard structure but the back and forth tempo changes create a sense of urgency, especially as the recurring lead breaks are all rooted in a similar and often the same melody. A shining example of that lead guitar parts can and should be used to accent thematic elements, without having to rely on virtuosic showmanship.  

‘Ragnar Kvæði’ and ‘Garmr’ are both two of the finest tracks Heri has penned for Tyr, and both are serious contenders for the best song of 2019. Yet Hel, an overall good release, is lacking in great tracks. Apart from the aforementioned, ‘Empire of the North’ and ‘Sunset Shore’ are the only other songs that flirt with greatness. Moments of brilliance are of course littered throughout the album’s massive seventy-minute runtime, namely ‘Fire and Flame’s’ flamboyantly Iron Maiden-inspired solo section. The task of having to labor through numerous good, albeit unmemorable songs can be rather off-putting, especially once the hour mark is reached. 

Hel is a very good album, but it is hampered by its excessive run time. The die-hard Tyr fan will find much to dissect and enjoy. I’ve lived with it for almost six months now and I am still unpacking it. Hel is simply a record with too many ideas spread across too many songs. Still, if you listen to only two new songs this year, make sure those are ‘Ragnar Kvæði’ and ‘Garmr’. 

Skál!

Dungeon Shaker has been an avid fan of the metal for almost two decades now. A simple journey that began with a cassette of The Black Album, has blossomed into a lifelong obsession. A lover of all genres of metal, collector of vintage (metal) vinyl, and a soon to be historian by trade. Dungeon Shaker runs his own personal blog, thunderousvoices.com, itself a menagerie of heavy metal writing.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Favorite Bands: Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Tyr, Running Wild, Moonsorrow

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Moonlight Prophecy – Heat Lightning Review

Score8/10
GenreProgressive Metal/Shred
CountryUSA
Runtime17:56
Release Date19 July 2019
Record LabelIndependent

I’m usually not a huge fan of one-man show albums (like Devin Townsend, for example). They always seem to have something missing from them. One of the most important elements of a successful band is the heart that each different member brings that, even through studio recordings, makes its way into the music so that you can sense a real connection and cohesion from the band. And more often than not, one-man projects lack this heart.

That being said, Moonlight Prophecy’s latest EP, Heat Lightning, is a damn fine piece of instrumental shred. It isn’t entirely a one-man show (as there is a bassist), but everything else is covered by multi-instrumentalist Lawrence Wallace. Its arrangements are lively, the drums are killer, and the shredding is, well, as shredded as Shreddies that have been in the bowl for too long. While there isn’t a whole lot of variety covered within its four tracks, but there’s enough variability to make it a really fun listen.

If there’s one area that Moonlight Prophecy suffers, it’s in the melody department. A lot of the space between solos is filled by repeated arpeggiations and the lead guitar doesn’t show a lot of restraint or tastefulness (which are he marks of an excellent shred album), except for the last half of ‘The Magic Carpet’, which shows both of these things very well.

And don’t even get me started on that fucking album artwork. God damn. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen worse; it looks like something an edgy 14-year-old would make on Microsoft Paint to promote his shitty YouTube channel. It’s so bad that it actually pains and amuses me all at once, so, while it has absolutely no bearing on the score, it should actually garner some bonus points, if anything.

Anyway, if you’re into five minutes of straight facemelting (or seventeen, if you tackle it all at once), this album kicks all sorts of ass. There are some really sick licks about a minute into ‘Oddities’ and ‘Heat Lightning’ carries some marks of late-2000s John 5. And ‘The Magic Carpet’ is just fucking insanity in its first half. Additionally, as I mentioned before, the drumming is right on par with the fury of the guitars, so there’s plenty to enjoy upon consecutive listens.

Any fan of guitar feature albums, and especially of Steve Vai and John 5, should give Heat Lightning a spin. Actually, make sure to check out some of Moonlight Prophecy’s older material, too, because this EP isn’t even the best.

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Stormrider – What Lies Within Review

Score6/10
GenreHeavy Metal
CountryEngland
Runtime22:53
Release Date27 July 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Following their 2018 EP Heavy Metal Machine, Stormrider’s What Lies Within is here. The English newcomers have evidently been hard at work, and their latest efforts will find favour with fans of classic heavy metal. While What Lies Within doesn’t quite achieve greatness, but it makes for an easy and enjoyable listen.

In a word, this EP is good. There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s a good classic metal album. There’s just not enough going on to really get me excited about it. All of the parts are pretty simplistic and neither the songs nor the melodies are very memorable. It’s a lot more laid back than I like my heavy metal to be, but it’s not bad.

Stormrider’s sound is akin to what Iron Maiden would sound like if they had a Swedish heavy metal singer who’s comfortable with singing exclusively in his speaking register (except for some falsetto shrieking). And, like Iron Maiden, Stormrider’s drums and bass parts, while not technically challenging, are a good driving force for the band; they coordinate well with eachother and provide a stable footing for the guitars and vocals above.

However, unlike Iron Maiden, the guitars and vocals fail to take advantage of their foundation and, rather than running with memorable riffs or powerful melodies, they sink back into the comfort of the rhythm section. Again, this doesn’t make Stormrider bad, but it keeps them stuck as being just another traditional metal band. Additionally, the guitar solos are decent, but they lack excitement or flare.

That is, until the last half of the final track, ‘What Lies Within’. As if out of nowhere, the presolo gets invigorated by a driving gallop and rides all the way to a great solo, before ending on an epic chorus filled with vocal layers. If the rest of the EP carried as much energy as these two minutes did, it’d easily be a 9.

So, if you want some straightforward metal to add to your summer playlist, give What Lies Within a go. It’s far from being a waste of time, and, who knows? You might find something about it I missed.

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Ariel Perchuk’s Odyssey Announces New EP

Argentinian progressive power outfit Ariel Perchuk’s Odyssey have announced that a new EP will surface soon. Aside from the title, Storm, and the album artwork, no further details have yet been revealed.

Ariel Perchuk’s Odyssey was founded in 2016 by (you guessed it) keyboardist and composer Ariel Perchuk. The group’s debut, Eastern Symphony, was released in January and mixes Middle Eastern folk music with neoclassical power metal compositions. So, if there’s one thing we can expect from the upcoming Storm, it’s sick keyboarding and a unique metal flavour.

Go follow the band on Facebook!

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Crow’s Flight Sign Record Deal

The melodic metal outfit Crow’s Flight have signed a record deal with Ram It Down Records ahead of the release of their second album, which is set to be released on 20 September.

The band released their debut, The Calm Before, under Scandal Music in 2011. So, after eight years of no new material, hopefully a fresh label will be just what the band needs to hit the scene with a fresh take on heavy metal.

The aptly named Storm is set to be released on 20 September.
Follow Crow’s Flight on Facebook!

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Narnia – From Darkness To Light Review

Score8/10
GenrePower Metal
CountrySweden
Runtime45:31
Release Date2 August 2019
Record Label Sound Pollution

In the second album since their hiatus, Narnia are back with From Darkness to Light. Compared to pretty much all of their previous albums, From Darkness to Light dials the neoclassicalism (is that a word? Fuck it. It is now!) to a point where it’s nearly non-existent. Additionally, Narnia have traded a good portion of their power metal energy for heavier riffs, a bit more variety, and a more prominent prog influence. They still have some killer synth tones, like “80s Fanfare Cheese” and “Black Dude Jazz Fusion”, so I’m not complaining.

From Darkness to Light begins with such fucking fire that I was immediately expecting the world from this album. That cheesy, epic 6/8 synth fanfare intro of ‘A Crack in the Sky’ stole my attention right away, and the rest of the track carried that excitement all the way through. However, all of this momentum is halted by the mediocrity of ‘You Are the Air That I Breathe’, which sounds like one of those poppy worship songs you got beat over the head with when you were dragged to church as a kid (well, if you were a kid any time since the late 90s, anyway).

Speaking of church, if you didn’t figure it out by the band name, Narnia is a Christian band. Now, while I do nearly burn from the inside out when I hear Christian music, the lyrical content has pretty much nothing to do with how I critique music. After all, this is coming from somebody who listens to songs about dragons and space battles. I just figured it was my duty to mention that before, you know, you find yourself victim to a surprise exorcism or something.

Anyway, don’t lose hope in this album just yet, because, despite a few duds (like the aforementioned ‘You Are the Air That I Breathe’ and ‘Has the River run Dry’) there are some awesome tracks on this record. Aside from the beginning track, ‘MNFST’ and ‘I Will Follow’ have some beastly riffage and fantastic facemelters. Then there’s ‘The Armor of God’, which is a more typical power metal tune, and ‘From Darkness to Light (Part 1)’, which has a massive, cinematic intro before backing off into light, acoustic reflection, which is really well done. Evidently, aside from a bunch of cool tracks, there’s a great amount of variety, too.

Even though it’s in a very different realm that its predecessors, From Darkness to Light stands as a great album; it carries a solid, driving vigour in most of its tracks. Narnia have proven their talent once again and, while it may not be their best, this album still kicks all sorts of ass. If you don’t usually partake in Christian metal, I urge you to delve into this one; you won’t be disappointed.

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Noora Louhimo Announces Solo Project

For those who are into metal, you’d be hard-pressed these days to find somebody that doesn’t know who Noora Louhimo is. But, if you’re one of those few, never fear, for I will shed some much-needed light on your sad life.

Noora Louhimo has been the frontwoman of the heavy metal band Battle Beast since 2012, when she replaced Nite Valo. With a past in jazz, blues, and rock, she stormed her way onto the metal scene and quickly made a name for herself with her powerful, raspy, and epic vocal style.

This morning, Noora made the announcement of a solo project that will pay homage to her roots.

Here’s what her official Instagram and Facebook post says:
This year I’ve been working on my first solo album with my band and can’t wait to get it out for you to listen. This might come as a shock to someone but my roots as a musicians comes from blues, jazz, soul and rock music. Before @battlebeastband I’d sing all other genres but heavy metal. I wanted to learn to sing in all possible ways but I didn’t know why – until 2012 when I was asked to join Battle Beast in which I’ve been able to use my voice in so many ways and is the best job to be the lead singer of the band. To give little bit something back to my idols such as Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Queen…. In my solo project it is time to go back to the roots…in many ways.

Excited for more information? Go follow Noora’s official Facebook page!

Empyria – Divided Review

Review Written by Musicgirl

Score9/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime17:10
Release Date16 July 2019
Record LabelScrape

Empyria are a progressive metal band from one of the world hubs of the subgenre, Vancouver, BC. They have been around almost 30 years. In their catchy melodies and playing skill, it’s easy to see why they have had staying power. Divided, while only EP length, is a significant part of the Empyria catalog. It features two new songs, the title track and ‘Dark Skies’. Divided is the larger work to pick up the band’s single from a few years ago, ‘Beyond the Doors’. That single’s B-side, a cover of ‘Green Manalishi’ (Fleetwood Mac/ Judas Priest) is also included on Divided. The new EP also delivers rerecorded versions of band staples, this time around with the moving voice of Phil Leite, the band’s vocalist not even 20 years. I did not relisten to the original versions of the rerecorded songs, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ and ‘The Test of Time’, for the reason of not wanting to favor one version over another. Thus, this review gives impressions of the songs as if heard the first time. (I did recently listen to Empyria’s epic 1999 EP The Legacy, just to get an idea of the heights this band reaches.)

Mike Kischnick is the only original member of the band. It is quite clear he is the tour de force here. Both his versatility and virtuosity on his instrument are top shelf. Divided actually features a two-guitar attack, which  gets pretty Sabbath doomy. Steve Bifford has been playing guitar in Empyria since 2010. If you just want to rock out, I would recommend playing Divided full blast on a powerful system. If you want to appreciate the intricate instrumental riffing, I would suggest a lower power, less bass-heavy system. Empyria, unlike many progressive metal bands, lacks keyboards. Kischnick’s ensemble is indeed a very heavy group. Yet the detailed percussive and instrumental work one would expect from progressive metal are certainly present. This particular combination of heaviness and complexity parallels Empyria’s inspiration in early Rush, an influence they thankfully don’t copy. Originality is one of Empyria’s trademarks.

One of Divided‘s strengths is the memorable songwriting. After you give a few spins to the well-crafted masterpieces on the EP, you are going to be singing right along. I believe these deep songs will only grow on the listener over time unlike your typical attention-grabbing but fairly superficial melodic hooks. Be on guard for whiplash! My two favorite tracks are the rerecorded ones, ‘Test of Time’ and ‘Behind Closed Doors’. Both weave in and out of the Phrygian mode, taking the listener on an emotional journey through darkness, light and beyond. ‘Dark Skies’ alternates between Phrygian passages and more conventional keys, as well. This song is a close runner up to my Divided favorites. I just find that ‘Dark Skies’ lags a little behind the other two in subtlety and overall development. 

Lyrically Divided is timely. ‘Beyond the Doors’ touches on moving beyond the abuse and pain in the rerecorded older song ‘Behind Closed Doors’. ‘Dark Skies’ perhaps echoes the prominent darkness theme from The Legacy.  The Divided title track, for which  an excellent video exists, urges society to bridge racial divisions and overcome bigotry, a theme reflecting alarming recent events.

Review Written by Musicgirl

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Interview With HammerFall’s Oscar Dronjak

“[I]t’s gonna be a really fun tour. . . If you like modern heavy metal music I think you can’t get much better than these two bands together.”

Oscar Dronjak, founder and guitarist of the legendary Hammerfall, was kind enough to invite me into his mind to discuss his feelings on Dominion, Canada, and, of course, beer.

Kane: So you guys have been playing heavy metal for more than 25 years. That’s quite the milestone! How have you seen the metal scene change in that time?

Oscar Dronjak: I think it goes in cycles. Ten years ago was different than twenty years ago, and it wasn’t the same as it is now, and it’s not the same as it was in the US or Canada twenty years ago, either. So it’s changed a lot. I think it’s gotten a lot better in a lot of ways. I mean, when we started in the mid-nineties this type of music we were playing, people weren’t really interested in that as much as, you know, grunge and the heavier stuff, the aggressive stuff.

So we didn’t really think that there was going to be a market for this and we were surprised when there actually turned out to be one, and then after that obviously, the interest grew a lot in the early 2000s. So, you know, it waves I guess. Ebb and flow. But it’s changed greatly on every level. And we haven’t even discussed the record industry that’s also changed tremendously since we started [laughs] so, everything has changed a lot.

For sure. It seems like more people have gone toward more melodic metal in more recent years, too, like it was in the 80s.

O: Yeah. I think that, for HammerFall, Canada has always been good, actually. Even, you know, like the first time we played in Canada I believe was 2005, there was such a big contrast between Canada and the US. Canada was much more like Europe, like we were used to. But nowadays it seems like the US has caught up a little bit in the last, say, five years or so. It seems like the interest level for melodic metal music in the US has almost come to Canadian levels. But Canada has always been stellar for us. There’s no question about that.

Well, that’s good to hear that my homeland is serving you guys well!

O: [laughs] Well, that’s why we keep coming back on every tour. We do, I think, six shows every tour in Canada, and there’s a reason for that, is what I’m saying. [laughs] It’s not just coincidence!

Are there any more recent bands in the past few years that you’ve been keeping your eye on?

O: Ah, not really. I mean, certain names pop up here and there but I don’t go out actively searching music the way I did twenty years ago, or even ten years ago. I don’t listen to music the same way I did either. You know, you get older, you have your sort of favourites you like listening to. You get complacent I guess is what I’m saying. But there are several new bands. We just announced a tour with Battle Beast in Europe in February next year, Finnish band with a female vocalist. Totally not like I’m used to but it’s a really good band, actually. I was very surprised to realize that I like it. So I guess what I’m saying is all of this is because of myself, you know. It’s on me; I need to give more stuff a chance and I have to admit that maybe I haven’t been as open-minded as I probably should have in the last couple years. [laughs]

So, moving on to Dominion, it’s clearly a very HammerFall album, but how do you think it stands apart from your previous releases?

O: I think it follows in the same path as we were going with both (r)Evolution and Built to Last. It’s pretty much an extension of that. What I do think we managed this time is that we captured a lot of energy on the album: a lot of the live energy that you have when you’re performing on stage. We tried to get that in the album recording as much as we could. And we have tried that a lot in the past couple of years, or probably for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think we’ve managed to capture it as much as we did this time. And if you’re talking about, like, the music and stuff, I believe this album might be the strongest one that we’ve ever released. At least up there with it, because it’s got a lot of variety and I like that in an album.

For example, The Number of the Beast is not my favourite Iron Maiden album. I mean, obviously some fantastic classics, but you also have a couple of songs that aren’t really up to par like ‘Gangland’ for example.

Yeah, like a lot of filler.

O: Yeah, exactly. I would prefer, let’s say, Somewhere in Time. That’s a flawless album from start to finish, in my opinion. Obviously, this is just opinion, but that’s what I’m comparing Dominion to because I think it’s a good comparison. You don’t have any downtime on the album, you know, it’s all really good in its own rite. Not just in the context of the album, but they can stand alone and I think that’s something that we’re really proud of that we’ve managed to achieve this time.

Yeah, I mean, listening to it myself I did sense a lot more energy and passion than the last few albums, and I think it’s actually my favourite HammerFall album so far, to be honest!

O: Oh, wow! Thank you. I love to hear that. Of course, any artist likes to hear that, but it’s really great because we tried to approach the songwriting in a different way. You know all those little details you have in every album? Those are the ones that make a good song great or a great one legendary. So we tried really, really hard to focus on all these details to try to do things a little bit differently to keep things fresh while still having the same base HammerFall sound. You know, if you were to listen to any one song on the album, you would instantly know it’s a HammerFall song because it has the HammerFall quality to it.

We also tried to give each song as much time as they needed. We had a lot of time this time. Last album was really stressful and the songwriting process was not fun at all, and we tried to avoid that at all costs this time. And we ended up having more-or-less all the songs ready several months before the album recording was about to start, so we could really put that time that we needed into it. And I think that’s a really important piece of the puzzle why the album sounds the way it does.

So the whole thing was more of a natural process, then.

O: Yes. Very much so. And also, you know, the songs in HammerFall are written mostly by Joacim and myself, and both of us tried to approach the songwriting in a different way this time. We both were writing songs on the road this time. Normally, for me, the touring part has always been creative-free, so to speak. You know, I don’t do anything creatively because because, if I do anything creatively, it just sounds like the songs I’m playing every night, which is HammerFall songs. I want to have a distance from the live setting when I start writing songs for the new album. But I decided to try to write songs on the road this time and it was extremely rewarding. I had no idea. I didn’t know I could and I didn’t know it was going to be this fun to write songs.

You know, when you come off stage, for example, you’ve got this adrenaline going from being on stage and several times I managed to capture that and write some really good songs with it and it’s a first for me, for sure. And also something I never thought I was capable of, even. And that’s why this songwriting process was really fun and I think you can hear that, with the passion and everything. You can sense that, I hope. You know, for me, it’s really difficult to talk about this album in these terms. I don’t know if I’m going to feel like this when I actually get some distance from the album. [laughs] But these are all things that were different with this album that I felt from day one, basically, when we started the songwriting process. Both Joacim and I had a lot of interaction. Usually I write parts at home and then I send it out to him when it’s done and he puts on his stuff and then we’re finished, but this time we had a bit more back-and-forth during the songwriting process and I think that helped a lot, too.

Do you have any favourite tracks on the album?

O: Sure, but also difficult to answer right now. We only played two of them live, the ones that have been released so far, and both of them have been enormously fun to play live. I have to say, some of my favourites to play live right now. We just premiered ‘One Against the World’ on Saturday for the first time live. The single came out a few weeks ago. And, so, those are among the favourites right now but, you know, it’s very difficult to say. I’m hoping that we can play ‘Testify’ live because I think that will go really well. It’s got that good, cool strength in it, but we’ll see. You know, ask me this again in a year and we’ll definitely have an answer for you!

So where did the concept for your first single, ‘(We Make) Sweden Rock’ come from?

O: It came from Joacim’s brain [laughs] as a lot of the stuff we do. He’s really good at brainstorming and he wanted to find an angle, you know, something we have never done before, or something nobody has ever done before. I don’t know exactly where it came from other than when we were talking about if we were going to play at Sweden Rock next year. I think that might have started it. You know, the Sweden Rock Festival that we have in the South of Sweden. But the idea, both lyrically and the video, came from the pitch he gave me, so to speak.

And I had a song that I was struggling with a bit. I couldn’t really get past the prechorus. Sometimes when you’re writing stuff it doesn’t matter what you do, it doesn’t feel right and nothing good comes out of it. I was basically stuck on this song, and then he talked to me about this idea and I mulled it over for a little bit and I thought, “Wow! This is actually a really good idea,” so I went out and continued writing the song and from that point on it was sorta like when you pull the plug out of the drain, all of a sudden whoosh, all of the inspiration came back to me because I thought it was such a cool thing to do, so I finished that song pretty quickly, and then, of course, the lyrics took a little bit longer. He had these ideas to incorporate the song titles or album titles or just phrases from songs of these artists that he sort of wove together in a story of some kind, the story being “Swedish rock music and metal music rules”, basically. [laughs]

And what about the album name? Who came up with Dominion?

O: Normally the process is I come up with the song titles, and this is also a title for one of the songs. “Dominion” is kind of a cool word, so when the song title was presented to Joacim he was like, “This might be the album title,” and we sort of agreed quite early on that it was a good fit for the album cover that we had in mind. And so when he started writing the song he also had the album cover, or well, the idea for it, in mind, but he still wrote it coming from that direction.

And the word itself is, well, I’m a pro wrestling fan, and there’s this company in Japan called New Japan Pro Wrestling, and they have, I believe it’s in June every year, the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dominion, or whatever. And I thought that was a cool word. I didn’t know what it meant, actually, so when I saw that I looked up and was like, “Yeah, I’m gonna use this one day for a song title,”. This was a couple years ago, or a while ago, anyway. And now it just fit the song and it just came to me when I was trying to find a name. So, that’s where it came from.

See, I like that. You chose a word because it sounded cool, rather than, you know, a five minute story about how the meaning is symbolic, or whatever!

[laughing]

O: Yeah, and also when I found the meaning of the word it cemented everything.

So, Dominion is your second release with Napalm Records after being with Nuclear Blast for nine albums. Is it safe to say that your current partnership is an ideal fit for you guys?

O: I mean, we left Nuclear Blast for a reason, but the reason was never like, “Oh, this sucks, let’s get outa here,” you know. We stayed with them for seventeen years, after all, like you said, nine albums. But we needed something fresh and Napalm was able to give us some fresh ideas, some fresh angles to come from when it comes to the release, and that’s why we switched record labels.

Right. So, moving on to your tour with Sabaton this Fall, what kind of shows can your North American fans expect?

O: Oh, that’s gonna be fun! I really can’t wait for that. That’s gonna be great. We toured with them once before ten years ago, actually, and the roles in Europe were reversed at that time, so they were our Special Guests, but they have such a strong fanbase over there in North America, which is really good for us to be a part of this tour. And I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not sure what to expect. You can expect a kickass show, of course you can expect that, no matter who the other band is that we’re playing with, but I think for me, or for us as bandmembers, it’s gonna be a really fun tour. It’s also pretty cool because they have a new album out, it came out a couple of days ago, and their stage show is always pretty impressive, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that, as well. It’s gonna be a great package. If you like modern heavy metal music I think you can’t get much better than these two bands together. I hope not, anyway. [laughs]

I mean, I definitely agree with that. I got my tickets as soon as I could!

O: Oh, cool! I heard several of the shows are already sold out and several other shows are almost sold out so it’s going really well, the ticket sales.

Is there anything you particularly like or dislike about touring in North America compared to Europe?

O: There’s one thing I particularly like, and if you were to ask anybody in the band, they would definitely mention this as part of it, because the tour buses are bigger and more luxurious than in Europe, because you have bigger roads and less regulations for the sizes, so that means that it’s always comfortable on the bus. We don’t have hotel rooms in the US anymore, it’s just a waste of money. We treat the bus as our home, you know, clean it and everything, make sure everything is good. You take care of your stuff, basically. Your dishes and stuff. And the couches are so much more comfortable and so much more well spaced out. It’s a total difference. Everything is just a little bit bigger and it makes a big difference. You were probably looking for an answer about the audience or something but that’s what comes to mind first. Being on the road in the US is a pleasure in that respect. It’s never uncomfortable. And, you know, when you’re travelling around in your home for four or five weeks, these things matter.

Yeah, for sure. The tour buses are obviously important, but what about the drinks? Do you prefer Scandinavian beer or American beer?

O: Ah, ok! That’s another thing I prefer. [laughs] My favourite beer is Bud Light, if you can believe that. And you can’t get it in Sweden. You can get Coors Light, but not Bud Lite. So whenever I go to North America I always make sure that there’s always Bud Light if I need it, just to make sure I can have it as much as I want to. I mean, I like it for several reasons: it’s easy to drink, it doesn’t taste that much but it still tastes good. And it’s also only four percent, which means, you know, when you’re drinking beer and having fun and everything is great, maybe you drink a little bit faster than you should, but if the beer is not so strong, then it doesn’t matter in the end! [laughs] So much, if you know what I mean. So, that’s part of it. It’s perfect for a summer day, or for any day, really. So I definitely prefer Bud Light over any other beer. If you ask our drummer that, though, he hates that type of beer. He wants, you know, the weird shit: stouts, and the ones that have strange mixes of everything. Licorice beer, or whatever. I don’t know.

That sounds a bit more like my taste!

[laughing]

O: Yeah, you know, he’s really into it. And I can see that. If you like tasting stuff, you know, stuff that tastes a lot, it’s fine. But I know what I like and I know what I don’t like more than anything else. I don’t like, for example, hard liquor. I don’t like whiskey or anything; I hate the taste of that, too. For me it needs to be sweet and easy, basically. And the beers he drinks are certainly not that! But again, I understand that we all have different tastes and I see where he’s coming from, where it’s fun also. It makes it a sort of process!

Absolutely! So, we’re just about out of time here, but I do have one more question for you. I know that HammerFall is home for you, but do you have any desire to eventually pursue other projects?

O: No. Well, never say never, right? But anything creatively I want to do I can do with HammerFall. Everything I want to do. I don’t have any desire to do anything other than this because I love this so much, you know. This is my first love, heavy metal, I guess you could say that. And I have a lot of say over what kind of songs we do and stuff, which means I can do basically what I want. I’m not saying that like, “fuck everybody else,” you know, but I have a lot of freedom. That’s what I’m trying to say. And, if I get the desire to do something else, maybe one day I’ll get into that, but right now, and this has been the same for almost my whole life, this is all I wanted to do. Heavy metal is all I wanted to do.

I think that’s the best answer we could hope for, especially from somebody who’s been in the scene for so long!

O: [laughs] Well, thank you.

Thank you very much for taking some time out of your day to chat with me a little bit!

O: Yeah, no problem at all! Thank you for the nice conversation.

Make sure to pick up Dominion when it comes out on 16 August! For information about special editions, tours, and everything else, visit the >>HammerFall Website<<!

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