It’s really hard to classify the melodic death/folk/blues exc. Genre cluster that composes Sweden’s Gormathon. With their brand new album, Following The Beast they prove to be something of a strong contender in the metal scene. I spoke with legendary guitarist Stefan Jonsson (ex-Morgana Lefay) about this awesome new project and its confusing classification as well as the construction of the beast and the awesome look of their frontman, Tony Sunnhag. He looks like he had just walked straight out of Middle-Earth!
First off, tell me a little bit about how the band began. It’s a much different style of music than in the guitarist’s former bands, namely, Morgana Lefay and Tad Morose among others. What made you decide to play melodic death metal?
The main reason for Gormathon to play some kind of hybrid melodic death metal is just that I began to write harder music. I’ve always been a fan of harder metal, such as death and thrash, but my old band was more of a regular heavy metal band. So now I’m finally home. Or maybe it could be even harder, but that’ll show on our next album. (Smiles)
To be fair, it isn’t quite melodic death metal that you guys play, as there are still plenty of power metal and thrash elements present, as well as some folk influence on the vocals. What would you say are your influences in Gormathon?
Yeah, I think that’s correct. Everybody says that they can’t tell what kind of metal we’re playing. And I think that’s great! But we all have different kind of metal backgrounds and it’s the mix of all our influences that gives Gormathon a special kind of sound.
What exactly does Gormathon refer to? Who came up with the name and how does it relate to the band? I always think of it as some monstrous beast.
I came up with the band name, but it was just a brainstorm that ended up with the old norse name Gorm and the Egyptian sun god Aton. But the Gormathon is also a beast, a hybrid of an angel and a fighter. It is the almighty unknown.
Let’s talk about the new album, Following The Beast. What are some things that you wanted to do on this album that you weren’t able to do with the last record? I noticed some rocking blues elements on “World Of Sin.”
The biggest difference is that we now had more time to record the album and we felt more pressure. We had some great ideas and we managed to combine all of them into the songs. And the blues elements are just pure coincidence, nothing we did on purpose.
Tell me about the writing and recording process for this beast. How long did it take you to write and record the disc, where did you record it and what was the atmosphere like in the studio? Did you run into any problems?
We recorded everything in our own studio in our own pace. We had written and recorded this album for a long time now and when we were finally done, we sent the songs to Studio Fredman in Gothenburg for mix/mastering. They did a great job!
Lyrically, what is the record about? There are several topics here, but other than some wonderfully good playing and catchy choruses, what are some of the main focuses that you wanted to speak about on the disc? Some of this stuff seems like it might relate to your own personal life experiences, rather than mystical and fantasy realms.
The main theme in our lyrics is to push the boundaries between mythologies and real life. Then it’s up to the listener to choose. We don’t say what’s wrong or right, what is truth and what is fiction. For who can honestly tell?
Frontman Tony Sunnhag has got to be one of the most awesome frontmen in metal right now. The man looks like a wizard of sorts, especially here in the band photos where it looks like you’re being fronted by Gandalf the Grey or Saruman the White. With facial hair like that, how does he maintain it and what advice does he have for anyone who wants to grow out their facial hair in the same manner? Has he ever competed in events?
(Laughs) No, I don’t know if he’s ever competed with his beard. Maybe he should? I agree, as we have totally forbidden him to cut off his hair or his beard! He’s had that look for over twenty years now, so it’s nothing we came up with just for Gormathon. He’s just Tony…
Your last album, Lens Of Guardian was released on a smaller label by the name of Superior Records. But this is your first major label debut on Napalm Records. How did you get in touch with Napalm and how has your relationship with the label been since you’ve been signed?
It was a small metal label called Supernova Records, under the Swedish label Cosmos Music Group and the Lens Of Guardian album was just a demo, which they decided to release without any re-recordings. Napalm Records contacted us about a year ago and Cosmos released us and we signed to Napalm. We have a great contact with Napalm and we are very optimistic about the future!
What are some things that you guys do when you aren’t playing music? Anything that you’d recommend?
For me it’s just Gormathon, my family and my work (I simply need the cash) that I need. Maybe chilling out on the sofa and watching a hockey game with a cold one. That’s about all I have time to do. The band takes a lot of time and I hope it will be even more time consuming in the future!
What do you think of Morgana Lefay and Tad Morose now? Morgana hasn’t released an album in a while, but Tad Morose unleashed Revenant just last year.
We know those guys very well. We’ve all been playing together in many different constellations over the years and we have our rehearsal studios in the same house here in Bollnäs. I think it’s great that both Tad Morose and Morgana Lefay continue to play music. I hope Morgana will write some new stuff soon as well…
What are some of your favorite records of all time?
Oh, that’s a hard one. It’s easier to ask which are not… But Made In Japan – Deep Purple, Destroyer – Kiss, Ride The Lightning – Metallica, Iowa – Slipknot and Wrath – Lamb Of God are all great albums.
What can we expect from the mighty Gormathon in the future?
I’m writing new songs all the time so hopefully it won’t take another four years to the next album to be released. We hope to be able to play some cool festivals next summer too.
Thanks so much for answering my questions. I really love the band and can’t wait to hear more from you guys in the future. I’m a fan of this band and of all your previous acts, so being able to interview you is a truly great opportunity. – Eric
Thank you too Eric! – Stefan