It's plain and clear: Grand Magus are one of today's most consistent heavy metal bands and one of the few who have managed to find a way to play old-school metal and still sound fresh. What's their secret? It's the great guitar work, the epic feeling and JB's awesome vocals. On occasion of the release of yet another album-dynamite, we contacted JB Christoffersson, who turned out to be ...metal to the bone.
Greetings from Rocking.gr and Greece. First of all I want to congratulate you on your new album. Once again you deliver heavy metal in its nicest form...
Thank you. We are very pleased with the way this album turned out.
So, how do you regard "The Hunt" among your other albums? Is it a transitional album, or an album where you have found your sound and stabilized it?
We’ve never really thought about our albums that way. All our albums have been reflections of where we are as a band and as people at the time. That’s why all our albums are different from each other.
What is this "Hunt" you are talking about?
Well, that’s the whole point really. You have to find out for yourself. In essence it deals with humankind’s relation to nature.
Would you be kind enough to talk to us about the recording process of the album? Any ...bizarre stories from the recording sessions?
There are always unexpected things happening when you record. I think the most interesting thing this time was when we were recording "Son Of The Last Breath" and talked about adding cello to some of the parts of the track. Fox played cello in an orchestra when he was young, but he hasn’t been playing for many many years. Anyway, we’ve talked before about someday having cello on a song, but we never got around to it. This time the song was really perfect for this. So Fox brought his cello to the studio and played wonderfully! Crazy, it sounded fucking fantastic.
Your previous album went out on the USA on a digital-only release. Do you think there is ground for a heavy metal band on the other side of the Atlantic, or is it very difficult for a metal band to make a breakthrough there?
I still think there are a lot of people in the US who would love our music if they got a chance to hear it. This time the album will get a physical release and I’m really happy about that.
You’ve always had nice artworks, but your new album’s artwork is truly amazing. They say 'don't judge a book by its cover', but honestly, how important is that cover? Both commercially and artistically...
The cover is really important. I think we’ve been very lucky that the last three albums have all had artwork that suited the music and feel really well. I agree that Arik Roper’s artwork for the "The Hunt" is really extra special. I’m very happy with what he did.
Do you think that every kind of music has some lyrical themes that fit better? I mean, I can see how a song like "Valhalla Rising" has cliché lyrics, but also are the perfect ones to create feelings of 'epicness'.
Well you know, for me as a person who grew up with the Norse tradition, "Valhalla Rising" doesn’t have cliché lyrics. They are from the heart and they have deep meaning for me. For me, it’s the most natural way for me to express my feelings and ideas that Grand Magus music is about.
"Darksadd" is my favorite track of the album (alongside with "Silver Moon"). Can you tell us what it is about? What is "Darksadd"?
It’s actually "Draksådd", which is an old norse expression for "Dragon’s teeth", meaning actions that have terrible consequences. This is actually from Greek Mythology (Jason and the Argonauts, who planted dragon’s teeth in the ground and warriors rose from the soil to kill him) in the beginning and then transferred to Norse tradition.
On all your latest works, I can see a heavy Manowar feeling battling with a more hard rock Rainbow side. Which side will prevail in the future?
I think we will always be a combination of many different influences. We don’t want to copy or sound like another band. Manowar and Rainbow are definitely strong influences though.
What about your doom days? Are they over?
Who knows? Maybe we’ll do slower stuff sometime in the future, but I’ve never seen us as a doom band anyway. We play heavy metal.
I have talked to you three years ago and you said that "Wolf’s Return" is your favorite Grand Magus album. Is it still so? And if yes, why?
I said that? Hmmm... Well I don’t know which of our albums I like the most. I never really listen to our albums like that. I think they all have stuff I like. You can’t really listen to your own music the same way that you listen to other bands, you know?
Every year, when I am to pick out the best heavy metal releases, Sweden always has many entries (and also many relatively new bands). What’s going on there? What are they feeding you?
Haha, I don’t know. I guess we are a quite musical people. Also, I think Swedes are pretty good at picking up influences from the UK and US which makes it work in other countries as well.
Are there any new artists that you would like to point out?
I don’t really listen to any new bands. I like the old bands, haha
What are your plans for the future? Is it maybe a time to release a live album at last?
A live album? Hmm... I haven’t really thought about that. I didn’t think anyone did that anymore. I wonder if anyone would be interested in a live album. I’ll have to think about that... Plans are to tour and play as much as we can this year.
You have gone from Roadrunner to Nuclear Blast. Two of the biggest labels. How strong must you resist in a label of such caliber to keep them from interfering in your sound, or your image?
We’ve been very lucky in that no label we’ve worked with has ever tried to change us or our music. Maybe we’re a bit too experienced and stubborn to be pushed around, hehe. Also, they want us for what we do, not because they see us a something that can be shaped into something else.
What are your favorite epic metal albums of all time?
Well I’m not sure if 'epic metal' is like a genre of its own, but here are some epic metal albums at least:
Manowar - "Into Glory Ride"
Bathory - "Twilight Of The Gods"
Bathory - "Nordland I"
Candlemass - "Candlemass"
Solstice - "New Dark Age"
Confess some songs or artists that you secretly like!
Haha, I’ll never confess! I like a lot of stuff that aren’t metal, but I seldom buy albums that aren’t metal. A good song is a good song though, never mind if it’s metal or not. But one thing I hate is false metal... Anyway, I like country music, you know banjo stuff for example.
Name 5 albums that you have been listening to lately.
Saxon - "Call To Arms"
Saxon - "Unleash The Beast"
Manowar - "Warriors Of The World"
Unleashed - "Odalheim"
Judas Priest - "Stained Class"
Do you still buy albums? Can you remember the first album you ever bought?
Yes I do. Not as much as I used to, but that’s because all record shops have disappeared in Sweden. First album I bought was "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath.
To finish, tell us which is the thing you like the most about "The Hunt" and why people should listen to it (old and new fans).
"The Hunt" is a true metal album with honesty, power and melody. It is Grand Magus!
Thanks a lot. Stay heavy and keep your run of great heavy metal albums.
Thank you, we will!