Working for MetalTalk.net is great because it allows me to discover new music often before it is released. Last year's top discovery was Dragonland's 'Under The Grey Banner', an album I reviewed back in November and rated so highly that I chose it as my 'Album Of The Year 2011'.
I was therefore delighted to be asked by MetalTalk to visit The Borderline club on a wet Monday evening to interview Dragonland's lead guitarist and songwriter, Olof Mörck, currently on tour with his other band, the excellent Amaranthe.
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With the growing influence of social media and online blogs, anybody can have an opinion or review an album. But not everybody gets the opportunity to meet with and speak to the artists directly. I was excited therefore to meet Olof in person to ask a few questions about his music and give him my honest appraisal of the new record.
Looking fresh and alarmingly young, despite a heavy touring schedule, Olof assures me he looked awful the day before but has managed to shave, shower and catch some sleep! He's due on stage in about thirty minutes with Amaranthe, who are earning rave reviews, but we're here to talk Dragonland.
It's hard to define an album like 'Under The Grey Banner' because it covers a diverse range of styles. "It's symphonic power Metal," Olof confirms. I'm ok with people calling it that.
"But we really worked to create something unique and shy away from clichés. We wanted to make a unique album and build on the Dragonland story we established over the previous two records. There's also a website - www.thegreybanner.com - to support the album."
There's a real talent at work here and when I dig deeper, I find out that Olof comes from a long-line of talented musicians: "Yes, I have a family tradition going back to my great grandfather who was a composer and I have always been musical. I started when I was young playing the piano but in later years learnt the guitar and was inspired by bands such as Metallica, and of course, being Swedish, Yngwie Malmsteen."
Olof in fact co-wrote the entire album with fellow Dragonland band member Elias Holmlid who plays keyboards on the record.
That brings me to a key question. How on earth does Sweden constantly produce so many exceptional bands? "It's the sense of community," Olf explains. "The Greek Metal scene is so competitive they don't help each other as much as they could. But in Sweden we all work together.
"Back in Gothenburg in the 90s there was such an exciting and creative scene, led by In Flames, and they helped bands to put on shows and play live. They were a great influence on us and pioneered the more melodic style of power Metal."
Taking that creative theme, I try to find out what is in store for Dragonland in 2012 and whether Olof will find time for the band, outside of his commitments to Amaranthe. "We'd like to do more with this for sure. For example we have the website which is a teaser for the band and there are elements on there you cannot get on the record.
"But we are open to ideas. We really want to take this as far as we can. Ideally we would play live and create a great experience."
I allude to Game Of Thrones and it's clear Olof is a big fan! "Yes, I watched that on TV and you can see the inspiration in the throne of bones which we created for the album cover."
There's a real theatrical feel to some of the album too which for me suggests it would be an entrancing live show.
Talking of live shows, Olof has just completed a European tour with Amaranthe, but bizarrely it's Tunisia which gets him excited when I ask what his favourite album of 2011 was. It transpires he was in Tunisia playing a live show at a festival with Myrath around the time of the Tunisia uprising which added a surprising emotional depth to the show.
"This band is fantastic. We thought we'd be playing a small venue, but it turned out to be a huge crowd and it was just such a powerful moment, for music, and of course with the political background at the time. If you like Dragonland, you will love this band!"
So, his favourite band of 2011 is Myrath. But the Swedish influences still remain strong as I finish up by enquiring what Olof's all-time favourite guitar solo is. 'The Final Countdown', naturally!
Dragonland's 'Under The Grey Banner' is available now through AFM records.
Jonathan Churchill. MetalTalk.net
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