The Swedish Viking/folk/black metal trio Manegarm are back with Fornaldarsagor, their ninth album. Frontman Erik Grawsio fills us in on the new album, their inaugural Manegarm festival, the importance of videos and more.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Fornaldarsagor compared to the typical Manegarm album?
Erik Grawsio: The songwriting process for the “typical” Manegarm album has been that me and Jonas (Almquist, guitar) compose the songs, even if I did more and more of the songwriting on the later albums. On the last album Månegarm (2015) for example, I came up with all songs except one that Jonas wrote. Jonas left the band after that album so on Fornaldarsagor I did the composing myself. So it was a new situation, guess you can call it unique, but it wasn’t that strange since f I was already used to taking greater responsibility for that part. Anyway, we have a really nice feeling/vibe in the band nowadays so the composing and recording process went very smooth.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
It was when Ellinor Videfors was in the studio to record her part for “Ett sista farväl.” It was beautiful, her voice is pure magic!
What’s the lyrical theme of this one?
Fornaldarsagor is not only one story, but many stories. Fornaldarsagor is literally a Norse saga genre that contains several old sagas with supernatural elements. For many years they have been neglected by historians because of its supernatural contents but today they are more acceptable to historians, since they are treated as mythical sagas, more like the Norse poetry. On this album the sagas have been the inspiration for the lyrics, but we have carefully changed the words but not the contents.
Nonetheless, the album is a concept album because the lyrics are based on the Fornaldarsagas as a source material. Even if the lyrics aren’t exact the same as in the original sagas, the contents are as close as possible embedded in the music. On this album we wanted to take a step further with the lyrics than before and not only tell stories about the Norse mythology, but to tell the REAL Norse sagas and myths that most likely were orally traded in Scandinavia during the Viking age. We wanted to bring the audience as close to the Norse saga and myth tradition as possible, yet in a metal way.
What inspired you to cover Motorhead’s “(Don’t Need) Religion” as a bonus track for some editions?
Because Motörhead is the best band in the world!! We haven’t played many covers but “(Don’t Need) Religion” was actually the first cover we ever did somewhere back in ’95 or ’96, so we thought that this one would be perfect as a bonus track. Running Wild is also the best band in the world! Just wanted to let you know. (laughs)
How has your sound evolved from your 2015 self-titled album?
I think that this album is more straightforward, more “in your face.” We only have one acoustic song (the last track). Otherwise there are only metal songs. The album is faster, more “direct” and we have picked up the pace a bit since the last album, which had more mid-tempo songs. Fornaldarsagor is also a bit darker I would say.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
I try not to have super high expectations but its hard not to because we really think that it’s a very good album. It’s no bullshit to it; just eight powerful metal tracks right in you face. Our goal is to spread these songs to old and new listeners so that they can hear what Viking metal is all about.
How was the video shoot for “Hervors arv”?
F***ing cold! We did our part in an old shabby barn in the countryside. It was in the beginning of January and it was windy, snowy and just really unpleasant! (laughs) Fingers and feet froze to ice but we kept on rockin’ until we were done. The side-story is filmed during three days and we had some fantastic help from these actors that you can see in the video and Svarta Film, who made the video and came up with most ideas for the story, did an amazing job!
How important are videos these days?
Quite important I think. Music videos and lyric videos are really cool and I think that the fans/listeners will appreciate and enjoy the song much more when it comes with a nice video. A cool and well-produced video is a good way to create an interest and reach out to more people with your music.
What are your upcoming tour plans?
We have some plans but nothing is final just yet. We’ll keep you all updated.
Tell us about your inaugural Manegarm Open Air festival coming up in August.
We have had the idea for a couple of years now but finally we decided to go for it. It will take place in our hometown Norrtälje the 23-24th of August this year and will be a two day festival. The first day will be a “warm-up”/exclusive day where we will play an acoustic gig. On the main day there will be 7 great bands playing. We have asked bands that we really like and that we have played/toured with several times. I think that it will be a really nice festival with a really good lineup, some of the best bands in the genre will be playing if you ask me. There will be nice food and drinks, tattoo artists, folk musicians playing in between the bands and the environment is just outstanding.
You released Live In Moscow about 10 years ago. Any plans for another live album/DVD?
That DVD is just terrible. (laughs) The organizer for the Russian gig asked us if he could record our performance but he didn’t say that it was for a live DVD. He was pretty bad at English so we didn’t really understood what he was talking about so we said yes. A couple of weeks later our record label received a package in the mailbox and there it was; our first live DVD! The sound and lights are just bad and our performance, well, it isn’t that good either. Anyway, it would be cool to make a proper live album/DVD someday, but no plans for that now.
Is there a Manegarm album that you think was overlooked or underrated when it was released, but in retrospect has held up really well?
Hard to say. I don’t think I can pick out a certain album. But all our early albums are all cool albums and I think that we made some really nice Viking metal stuff back then. But we were signed to a small record label and the albums didn’t get that much attention. But of course, we were nobodies back then and no one knew about us. But I think that it’s all good music on these albums so it’s a bit of a shame that they didn’t reach out to more people.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Jakob and Markus are interested in beers. They try out many different labels and rate them and so on. I work out. I’m much healthier. (laughs)
Are you able to make a living from music, or do you have a day job?
Wish we did but no, we all have day-time jobs. Of course we make some money out of this, but not enough to pay the mortgages!
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Running Wild and Motörhead, as always. But in fact I listened to the new Kampfar song “Ophidian” just the other day. Good one!
How do you consume music the most?
I mostly listen to music in my car so therefore CD and Spotify. Yesterday while driving I was listening to Black Hand Inn by Running Wild for like the millionth time, but I just love it. Awesome stuff!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Our new album Fornaldarsagor is out 26th of April! Be sure to check it out, it’s a killer!
(interview published April 25, 2019)
Watch Manegarm – “Hervors arv”