Swedish death metal veterans Unleashed return with The Hunt For White Christ, their thirteenth studio album. I caught up with frontman Johnny Hedlund, who briefs us on the new record, switching record labels, touring, their upcoming 30th anniversary and other topics.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for The Hunt For White Christ?
Johnny Hedlund: Nothing we haven’t done before really. I’d say our songwriting process has been the same on the past 5-6 albums. Well, almost the same anyway. And I think it works out very well and if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, so to speak…
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Perhaps how I closed the storyline this time. I had my entire living room filled with various books and computer screens for more than a full weekend. Well, I did this twice actually. Nothing out of the ordinary in the way of working the material only I was alone in the house so I could have many many things open without putting them back again for a few days. It looked a bit like a laugh to be honest. This was actually really helpful and saved some time since I spend some serious time doing research.
How would you compare this one to Dawn Of The Nine, soundwise?
I think Fredrik (guitar and producer) really did a slightly better job than on the last album. It is in the smaller details of course. The production is a little heavier, and I think the vocal sound is more raw than last time. I have a little something to do with that as well off course. But the overall production is very satisfying in my estimation, and again, slightly better than last time.
This is the fourth album with the World Of Odalheim storyline. Did you have the entire story mapped out ahead of time, or do you newly add to it on each album?
I had most of the story written more than ten years ago, but truly, there are many details that change along the road, hence the research time I spend on it. And of course planning and trying out every single line onto the riffing, etc. But story wise, I had a lot worked out already. But that’s like the main content of different chapters into songs so to speak. And sometimes it just doesn’t work out. And then I have to re think a lot of stuff and start over. Oh well, I guess this is common for many lyric/story writers.
How long do you think the storyline will last?
I am not sure. It is funny you should ask that. I used to get the question, “will it end on the next album?”, which I think it won’t unless the band members get tired of the storyline as a whole. There is a lot more where this all came from.
What led you to sign with Napalm Records for this one?
We figured it was a good time for a change. We are still very good friends with Nuclear Blast and their crew, we are all good with them. This was more a business decision and well, we changed a few more things in the way we do things in general and so it was time for something new. We now have a really nice cooperation with Napalm so it feels very good and I think we made the right choice.
Has what you expect from a record label changed over the years?
Not really. Times are changing and so does the environment of the business, the internet and all its possibilities of course. But fundamentally I think the labels deliver the same. It will change a bit from label to label so I am speaking more generally here.
Any chance of a full North American tour for this album?
I know we will play in the USA next year but I am not sure if we’ll do a tour or just festivals yet.
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
Many places. Australia, Japan among others.
There has been a vinyl renaissance, and the new album is being released on vinyl. Are you a record collector at all?
Hell yes! I have a pretty wide collection of LP’s, CD’s and cassettes!
You’ll be celebrating your 30th anniversary next year. Did you think the band would have that much longevity?
Yes I did. In fact, we started the band knowing this was a way of life, not just a band. And since Unleashed has always been all about the Viking traditions and values, past present and future, this is also a lifetime commitment. And ending this way of life doesn’t really seem like an option. Perhaps if I get too darn old and I can’t travel anymore (laughs), but then I would just not be a “touring” musician I guess.
Anything special planned to commemorate the anniversary?
We do have quite a few things in the pipes, but they are not confirmed just yet so I can’t give you any more info. It will not pass by unnoticed though.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I spend most of my time apart from Unleashed with my eight year old son. Well, as much as I can. We go to soccer games, play ice hockey, go to festivals, skiing, listen to metal (obviously), and do lots of other stuff. I bring him along on all the things I love and he seems to like it, too! (laughs) I choose to include him in all the things I like about life.
Who are your all-time top 5 Swedish death metal bands?
Grand Magus,(not death metal but…) Necrophobic, Dismember, Grave and Entombed.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Just to say thanks a lot for this interview and hope to come back to North America a lot more than we have done lately.
(interview published October 26, 2018)