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Månegarm Frontman Erik Grawsiö Discusses New Album, "Ynglingaättens Öde," Lyrical Inspiration And More

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Band Photo: Manegarm (?)

Metal music and Scandinavia go together like bread and butter, or peanut butter and jelly. The incredible mythology, the ice cold landscapes, the colourful history, it all combines so well to create the perfect breeding ground for metal. While every Scandinavian scene will likely think of themselves as having the most to offer, today we focus on Sweden and one the most eclectic bands to come from the nation, Månegarm.

Månegarm has been active for nearly thirty years, having formed in 1995 and releasing their first album three years later. Their mesh of black metal, folk and Viking metal crafts something truly astounding and many will argue that they've not let their audience down yet. So it is with their new album, "Ynglingaättens Öde," set for release next week via Napalm Records, which tells the amazing stories of nine Swedish kings from over a thousand years ago. It's sure to go down a treat and to discover more about the album, Metal Underground caught up with vocalist and bassist Erik Grawsiö. You can watch the interview in full at the bottom of the page or read a transcript below.

Diamond Oz: The new album, "Ynglingaättens Öde" is out on April 15th. Where does the title come from?

Erik Grawsiö: The title is about a royal family, or dynasty you might say and they were called the Ynglinga. It's a concept album and it's about in the 900s or so there was a poem called Ynglingatal, which details this royal kin and the lives and deeds of a lot of kings. The poem consists of fifty four verses I think and details the lives of twenty Swedish kings. So we built the album around these stories, so each song is about the life of one king.

Oz: Is this a subject you'd been wanting to discuss for a long time?

Erik: Yeah. Jacob the drummer is the one who writes the lyrics and today he's a history teacher at university. When he started to become a teacher, he had a class with a professor named Sundquist about the Ynglingatal, which is where Jacob got the idea that he wanted to do a concept album, but at that time we were working on our previous album, "Fornaldarsagor," which is also a tricky name! But he kept the idea and when I showed him some songs and some riffs for the new album, he told me about this idea and he really thought that the concept and the lyrics he had in mind would fit the new songs perfectly. So for a couple of years, it's grown.

Oz: Musically, what separates this from "Fornaldarsagor"?

Erik: I often think that that's quite a tricky question. I don't know really. I think it followed the same path in a lot of ways, maybe it's more melodic. For me, it's perhaps a more honest album and the reason why I chose the word "honest" is that I really have been working on this album a lot. I write the music and Jacob writes the lyrics. But we've had this fucking Corona virus and I'd just finished building my little home studio, so for me it was like some well needed therapy to work on this album and write songs and deal with arrangements, vocal harmonies and everything. I've put my heart and soul into these songs and maybe that's why I feel it's so honest, but I don't think it's too different.

Oz: You could definitely tell it was very heartfelt when the first single was released. As for the recording itself, as you mentioned, you'd built your own studio and everything, were other members able to come to the studio as well or did you all have to record things separately?

Erik: We recorded a lot of stuff together. We went to a big studio in another town (Studio Underground in Västerås,) where we've recorded most of our albums and recorded the drums there and Pelle, the owner of the studio who also works as a producer, he mixed and mastered the album too. To record the drums is above our pay grade! You need a good studio and a lot of knowledge and microphones, which we don't have, so we went there where we also recorded the rhythm guitars just to save some time. We went there for like a weekend and did the whole rhythm guitar package. But at my little studio, I recorded the bass and a lot of the vocals. It's pretty nice, especially with the vocals because it's not every day that I feel in the mood to sing, but sometimes I do, so it's so nice that I can just go down into the basement and sing.

Oz: I guess that's part of why you feel that it's such an honest album, because every time you sang you were in that mindset. Like I mentioned, you have recorded a video, "Ulvhjärtat," which is very cool and has that Winter landscape. How much input did you have with the concept of the video?

Erik: We have two guys, Tobias (who also plays guitar with Månegarm) and Isaak and they have this company, Scartna Film. We had some thoughts about what to do but we don't have as much money as we would like. We're on a pretty tight budget, so you have to cast the story in the right way with the budget that you have and I think Isaak and Tobias did a great job thinking about how we should present the story and I think that it came out really nice.

As I said, the whole album is about the Swedish kings of the Ynglinga dynasty and this is about the last king on the Swedish side, because after that the kings from the dynasty are Norwegian, so this is about Ingjald Illråde, who was a terrible king actually. As a young boy, he got the advice to eat wolf hearts to become stronger, so he did but also got the mind and temper of wolves, so he became an evil king and did a lot of terrible things to expand his kingdom, like burning people. So in the video, when the young boy eats the wolf heart and meets the warrior, played by me, this is the way of showing the transformation from a young boy to a warrior.

Oz: Something else very eye-catching is the artwork itself which was done by a longtime collaborator of yours, Kris Verwimp. What is it about his style which you think fits the band perfectly?

Erik: I don't know, but it just does. As you said, we've worked with Kris for so many years. Not for the first album, a Swedish painter named Roland Pantze did that, but since then Kris Verwimp has done every single album. On the original release of "Nattväsen," we had another cover artist, but then we remastered it and released it again in 2016 and Kris did the new artwork. For us, Kris is a part of Månegarm. When we think about making a new album, we think of him because that's the thing. We're going to need very good cover art. We come up with some ideas for the cover, how we want it, for the last time Jacob has presented the idea in text and he's just amazing. Then, out of Jacob's explanations, he paints this fantastic art.

Oz: I've noticed as well that there seems to be artwork for every song on the album too.

Erik: Yeah. Kris himself calls them sketches but I think they're almost as good as any cover artwork. It was important to have art for every song on the album to convey the story better. We wanted to do this concept album fully, so for us it was important to have a painting to represent each and every song in a good way. That was the idea from the start and Kris made great work of it.

Oz: Just finally, what's the plan going forward? Do you have any shows or festival appearances lined up?

Erik: Yeah, a couple. On the release day we'll be playing in Stockholm. We live in
Norrtälje, which is just seventy kilometres north of Stockholm so it's really close. The weekend after that we'll be playing two more Swedish shows in Örebro and Linköping, so that will be cool. It's like a mini mini tour! In May we'll be playing a Norwegian festival called Karmageddon, which is only about three thousand people but there's great bands and it has great organisation, as well as a German gig at the end of May. Maybe the highlight of the Summer will be playing Sweden Rock Festival. We've been booked for the festival since 2020 but then came COVID, but that will be amazing. As a Swedish band, it's a dream. I think we're playing on Saturday, when the headline band will be Guns N Roses and I haven't seen them so that will be cool.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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