Interview mit Erik Grawisö von Månegarm

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MÅNEGARM have been a force to be reckoned with in the Viking metal scene for years. „Ynglingaättens Öde“ is already the tenth album of the Swedish band and for this anniversary the squad releases perhaps their best album. As usual, it is about Swedish history and mythology, this time more specifically about the poem Ynglingatal about an ancient Norse royal family. Musically, the typical MÅNEGARM style is again clearly recognizable – we talked with frontman Erik Grawisö about whether this is good or bad. We also discuss the lyrical concept, the connection to history and the authentic effect of the band.

Manegarm Logo

Hello, thank you for taking time to do this interview. How are you these days?
Hi and thanks! I’m just fine. Quite much to do with the upcoming release but it’s really fun and inspiring.

Your last album “Fornaldarsagor” was released three years ago – 2019 seems like a whole different world today. How did you go through this hard times with the pandemic, how are you doing?
The pandemic was terrible in so many ways, but when it came to the album, we actually had more time to compose and record this album. I mean, there were zero gigs, festivals or rehearsals so all that time we used for composing and recording instead so we had a lot of time to really work with the songs. When the pandemic was at its worst, we couldn’t even meet each other for rehearsals, but I have my own little studio at home so I could record a lot of stuff anyway which was great.

Månegarm Ynglingaättens Öde Coverartwork“Ynglingaättens öde” is your tenth album. What does it mean to you to still be around after more than 25 years and have release so many great albums in this time?
It feels amazing and I’m really proud that we’re still here today, 27 years after we started the band, and still releasing good music! We all love this and MÅNEGARM is like our second family. I can’t even picture my life without the band and without my music.

„Ynglingaättens Öde“ is a concept album about the poem Ynglingatal. What is so fascinating for you about the content of the poem and how important is norse mythology and history of your ancestors to you?
That’s right, the album is based on the old Norse poem Ynglingatal and this poem details a Swedish old Norse dynasty of rulers and kings of Uppsala and about their deeds, their rule, and above all – their deaths. The house of Ynglinga claimed to have divine origin as the offspring of the Norse god Freyr and the kings were religious and military leaders and did often die in mysteries, grim and sometimes even unnatural ways. Jakob is the one that writes the lyrics, and he was or is really fascinated by this poem and got many cool ideas for the lyrics and we all thought that this was an interesting topic to write about.

The whole idea from the start in 1995 has been to tell stories about the Norse mythology and the Viking era in different ways and we stick to that. There are so many poems, sagas, myths, stories that you can explore and it’s really fascinating and interesting. Sadly to say there is very litte preserved of what once where and as time pass by, these stories and sagas will be forgotten more and more. For many people they already are. We believe, that if we can do our best to highlight historic material that still is preserved, this is our way of keeping the history alive!

As the Yngling saga is the first chapter of the Heimskringla: Would you be interested in writing more songs about other chapters?
I don’t know what Jakob has in mind but that could be a cool idea!

Manegarm Bandfoto
MANEGARM; © Isak Skageström

When you write a concept album, do you approach songwriting differently than when there are no lyrical guidelines? Do the lyrics come first and the music has to be adapted to that?
I compose the songs and then I send Jakob a rough demo where I just sort of sing the parts where I want the words. And then Jakob always does a great job in ”translating” my word-less singing into real words and stories.

I think Jakob had to work a bit differently on this album. The poem details the fate of 20 kings on the Swedish side – the Ynglinga kin then continues to include a couple of Norwegian kings but we have choosen to only write about the Swedish kings. It would have been easy if we had 20 songs on the album because then every king would have gotten their own song … but we didn’t had that many songs, not even close. (laughs) But a few selected kings have their own song on the album and the rest are mentioned in the song ”Freyrs Blod”.

The album, like its immediate predecessors, feels so incredibly relaxed and natural. Have you just found your sound and know exactly how a new MÅNEGARM album has to sound and feel?
Thanks a lot, that’s great to hear! We have definitely found our sound and I really like that, that’s a good thing for me. I can’t really say that I know how the album will sound or turn out when I start composing, but what I have noticed over the years is that even if I try to ”experiment” and do things a bit different, it always turn out to sound like MÅNEGARM in the end. (laughs)

After listening to „Ynglingaättens Öde“ a few times, the songs already felt like they had always been in the MÅNEGARM catalog, you immediately recognize your typical sound. Is this a good thing for you, or could it feel repetitive to some?
I guess some people think that we repeate ourselves but when it comes to this album, many that I have talked to in interviews have actually said that it’s a diverse album. But we like our sound, we like the way we do it and when you put on a new album from us you should hear that it’s a MÅNEGARM album you’re listening to. We try to develope things, try new stuff and make things better, but it will never happen at the expense of the MÅNEGARM sound. We have done our thing for so many years, we don’t change direction, sound or lyrical content now, no way! (laughs)

“Freyrs Blod” is your longest track ever with over ten minutes runtime. Was it intentional for the song to be that long or was this something that just happened during the songwriting?
It wasn’t intentional at first actually. The first parts I came up with are the two riffs in the beginning and the chorus. The soft, clean part in the middle was actually going to be an acoustic song but I didn’t come up with anything else than that riff … so I took it and placed it in the middle of ”Freyrs Blod” and I think it turned our really good. It makes the song ”breathe” and creates more dynamics which I think the song needs. It wouldn’t have been the same, not as good, if it would have been only ”metal” for 10 minutes.

It’s kind of unsusal to open the album with such a long epic track. How came the decision to choose a 10-minute track as the opener of the album? I think it’s a great track that includes nearly everything about MÅNEGARM, from soft and epic melodies to folk and heroic choruses to pagan and black metal.
The reason for having this as an opener is because of what you just mentioned. Maybe it’s not the best idea to have a 10 minute opener but we really thought that ”Freyrs Blod” had so many MÅNEGARM elements packed in one song. It’s like a nice summary of what we’re doing in just 10 minutes. The song also starts hard and fast which we really like and because of that we thought it was a great opener!

Manegarm Bandfoto
MANEGARM; © Isak Skageström

You added an English version of “Ulvhjärtat” as “The Wolfheart”. Why did you choose this song and in particular, what makes it special to you to sing mostly all of you songs in Swedish?
It’s easier for us to write lyrics and express ourselves in Swedish. I also think that the Swedish language sounds a bit ”harder” than English and maybe it also feels more authentic to sing in our native language when we sing about the kind of stuff that we do. We have done quite many songs in English over the years so it’s not that unusual these days for us.

For this album we actually had the idea to record the whole album in English as a bonus version, but we realised that we didn’t have the time for that. So we did this ”The Wolfheart” version AND something else really cool: We are releasing an exclusive wooden box that includes a 7” vinyl single with two other English versions for the songs “Auns Söner” and “Vitta Véttr”) These English versions are only included here so buy the box if you want to hear ’em. (laughs)

 Your music always seems honest and sounds like it comes from the heart. How important is it to you to convey a message with the lyrics and that the listeners understand the theme of the songs? For me as a non-Swedish speaking listener, the story is not understandable when hearing, but the music is still full of emotion and expression. But you have published an English explanation for each song and even your own cover artwork, which I think is great.
So glad to hear that, thanks! It comes from the heart, and we all put our hearts and souls into this. But it is easy to do that – this is the best thing to do in life! For me music is all about feelings and if we can create emotions and feelings and take the listener for a great 5-minute adventure, that is just amazing and makes every second in the studio worth it. That’s why we do this!

And great that the English translations are useful. We understand that the language barrier can be a problem but the translations can hopefully be helpful so everyone can take part of our stories.

To „En Snara Av Guld“ and „Ulvhjärtat“ you have made two very atmospheric videos. What meaning does the visual presentation have for you? Because of the language barrier, you can certainly reach many fans and convey the message of the songs better.
We like making videos and I really think that these two videos came out really nice. I personally think that ”En Snara Av Guld” visualize the story in a fantastic way and we are very proud of this one. My youngest daughter Lea is the one that sings in this song and my other daughter Tuva is playing the girl in the video. Am I proud? YEAH!

Manegarm Bandfoto
MANEGARM; © Isak Skageström

Let’s conclude with our traditional brainstorming. What comes to your mind first when you read the following words?
Current favorite album:
Running Wild – Death or Glory.
Best Movie-/Series-/Book-Universe:
I’m looking at the latest season of  the series ”Sinner” now, really good and thrilling!
Poor poor people! Stop the fkn war!
Something that makes every bad day better:
My wife, kids and music.
Best thing about touring:
The moment when you are on stage.
Worst thing about touring:
Most moments when you are not on stage… (laughs)
MÅNEGARM in ten years:
Still rockin’!!!

Thank you once again for your time! The last words are all yours.
Hope you give our new album a spin! We are really satisfied with it, and we hope you like it too! And come to our hometown Norrtälje this summer; the 26-27 of August it’s time for the 2nd edition of our own festival MÅNEGARM Open Air with great bands such as Moonsorrow, Grand Magus, Einherjer and more! It will be a blast so come and join us!

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