Stonegard - 03/09/2008

STONEGARD is a heavy metal band from Oslo, Norway. They have two official releases in the form of full length albums, ĎArrowsí and ĎFrom Dusk Till Doomí. When the band released their first album ĎArrowsí, they received excellent reviews from national newspapers television and radio in Norway. After the release of ĎArrowsí in 2005 it was by many described as "The best Norwegian metal debut of all times". ĎArrowsí became a success selling more than 7000 copies in Scandinavia alone. The band  have spent their first years in Scandinavia touring heavily and opening for mastodons like Black Sabbath, Korn, Slipknot, Motorhead and SOAD.

 

Their second album ĎFrom Dusk Till Doomí has so far reached 5000 sold albums in Scandinavia and for the European release they have upgraded the album with a new mix, re-recorded guitars and bass and brought in no other than Ted Jensen (Slipknot/ Machine Head) for the mastering. Produced and recorded by Daniel Bergstrand (In Flames/Meshuggah), Mixed by Stamos Koliousis/Vangelis Labrakis (Mencea / Superpsychics) their new record sounds nothing but outstanding. Nine killer, unique and diverse songs Ė no fillers, no bullshit.

 

STONEGARD will embark on a monster-tour as special guests to Enslaved. ďThe Vertebrae Tour 08Ē runs through all of Europe and no doubt close to where you might be.

 

 

So there is much to talk about, drummer Erlend Gjerde was available at the Wacken Open Air festival to answer our questions. Here you can read what he has to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

First of all, I heard your new cd but I donít really know your band so could you tell me something about the band in general?

 

We started off in 2000 and we released our debut in 2005, we worked at it for quite a while. We had some success with that in Scandinavia, we were on a Scandinavian label then called Bells Go Clang / Bonnier Amigo. We played a lot of festivals back then and we got to open for Black Sabbath, Korn, Slipknot and did some great shows. But we never got to get it out in Europe until now. Our debut ĎArrowsí was re-released by Candlelight in Europe in 2006 but it was really a soft release, there was no promotion or touring involved. So weíre really looking forward to coming out this time and going on tour with Enslaved and to get people to hear our music. Thereís four of us in the band.

 

Can you tell me a little about your music? I read that Stonegard is sometimes compared to bands like Seemless and even Opeth and Tool but I must say that I donít really hear the reference.. Itís very hard to put a label on your music so how would you describe it?

 

Thatís a good thing! The bands that you named are inspirations to us. It is hard for us to describe our own music but we tend to name the references, the things that inspire us. The Beatles are also very important to us. Me and my brother (he plays the bass) grew up listening to nothing but The Beatles. We try to keep a strict song-structure in the music. There are not that many long, elaborate songs, itís hard to describe though. Our singer is kind of rooted back in the 90ís singers, some people hear a bit of Eddy Vedder (Pearl Jam) in him and others hear a bit of James Hetfield (Metallica) in him. He listens a lot to Tom Waits and that kind of stuff as well. I think Iím the only one in the band that ever listened to Opeth, actually!

 

Would you say that you guys have created your own style?

 

Thatís a bit ambitious but whenever people say that they hear something in us that they have never heard before or that they find it hard to describe, I think itís a compliment. Because thatís what we try to do, we try to create something that is not confined within a certain genre or that has not been done before. Although if we did end up writing a song that feels like something weíve heard before, we wouldnít leave it off an album if it was a good song. The idea of the band is to do whatever we feel is right. Some songs on the album go in a sort of blackish direction and others go in a sort of poppish direction, thereís quite some variety within the album and that is because there are no rules. We just do whatever we feel like and try to have fun.

 

 

And where does the name Stonegard come from, what does it mean?

 

It means nothing. Our singer played around with the letters, he wanted to find some letters that looked good together. The word has a cool melody to it, thatís pretty much it.

 

How did you guys launch into writing the material for this album?

 

We actually wrote this album in a very short time. From 2001 until 2003 we just kind of played around in the Oslo rock scene, we were like kindergarten rock stars amongst the 200 people that did what we did. Then we decided to try to produce a proper album and we got in touch with Daniel Bergstrand and when we came to him it was quite a wake-up call for us. The level that he demanded things to be on was way above our capability at the time so we had to really rise to the occasion and work like hell in the studio to nail the stuff at the level he wanted things to be at. That album came out in January 2005 and we did a lot of touring in Scandinavia because the album was only out there. And then we decided that the next album, our latest album, would have to come out in the fall of 2006. We wrote it from September till December 2005. It was pretty fast and pretty intense. Weíre not one of these bands where thereís one person at home writing stuff, thereís not one person with the grand scheme. The band does not produce music if weíre not all together in one room. We go to the rehearsal space and then at first thereís silence. Then, for instance, Iíll start playing a beat and then the guitar player does a riff and then we just take it from there. So it takes a lot of time in the rehearsal space and a lot of arguing to get a song ready. Everyone will have a certain idea, four creative people will have their own vision of a song when they hear it and then the four of us have to work it out together and thatís quite challenging.

 

What is the most important ingredient for a Stonegard song?

 

The vocals, I think. Strange as it may be, as we donít even start working on the vocals until we have a complete song-structure. We create an intro, a verse, a chorus, a middle part and then we start working on the vocals. And then when we start working on the vocals we sometimes need to thrash around the song and redefine it based on that vocal line because that is what turns out to be the essence of the song. So in that respect I think the vocals are the most important. Also on this kind of strictly arranged music which I think we make, vocals are the main ingredient as they are for The Beatles for instance. Itís all based on a very defined vocal line.

With The Beatles, during the first ten seconds you can hear whatever song it is. Thereís no song thatís anywhere near another song. Thatís also something we try with Stonegard; to keep a strong identity within each song, just like the songs on our previous album. Thereís only nine songs on this album and on the last album there were ten, so there are nineteen totally different Stonegard songs.

 

How important is it to you that people actually listen to the vocals?

 

Thereís no way around it because whenever listen to our songs, it is the vocals that you will remember. Some metal bands think itís more about the energy, the aggression, the beats. But for Stonegard itís more about the identity of the song and for this the vocals are the main ingredient. Itís a story thatís being told. When the vocals come in, thatís when the emotions in the music start to grow. So I think itís very important. I donít know the words to the songs of many of my favorite albums but I just listen to the music and the words and to what the emotions in their voices tell me. I donít think you need to know all the lyrics though, not for the music that we make anyway. Maybe our singer will kill me now ha ha!

 

What are the main themes in your songs?

 

Our vocalist pretty much sings about becoming an individual, the everyday fight we have with ourselves. Love, hate, the classic stuff. He also sings about treating others with respect, heís just trying to tell people to behave, basically.

 

I read that you guys are very opposed to drugs?

 

Where did you read that? On Wikipedia, right? Actually, someone put this on Wikipedia out of irony but itís not true. Not that weíre drug addicts or anything but itís not a theme for us at all.

 

Who writes the lyrics for your songs?

 

The lyrics are mostly written by our singer and our guitar player writes some, too. He wrote a song about his father who passed away during the recording sessions. He died of cancer. So that songs is special to us. But songs mean different things to different people and our lyrics are very metaphorical, we donít spell out what they mean so you can read into it what you like. Itís what I like about lyrics.

 

Any favourite songs on the new album?

 

I think the last one is a very well-composed song. Itís the closest thing to an Opeth or Tool song that weíve done. Itís a longer song and itís more progressive than the others. Our songs can go over from one side of In Flames-like catchiness to more progressive and dark stuff.

 

You already mentioned Daniel Bergstrand, what made him the perfect guy for you to work with?

 

His experience, his knowledge and his ability to get the best out of us. When we recorded these albums he was very important in that he made the band ready for the level that we are at today. As I told you when we first came in the studio, it was like kids coming unprepared to the job. Thinking we were all that but we were not ha ha! But we just went in and did it because we had to. Daniel is a great guy, heís smart, relaxed and on a personal level we get along very well, heís a friend and not just a guy that we hire.

 

Can you hear his influence on the new album?

 

Well, for this album he only recorded stuff. When we put the album out in 2006 he did the mix and the mastering together with us and everything. But before we put out this one we actually mixed it, re-recorded some guitars, we changed the album a bit and he didnít do the mix this time. It was a bit more mellow-sounding before, we had a bit of a Perfect Circle-ish kind of thing going. It sounds harder and more compressed now. I did the mixing myself together with a couple of guys from Berlin. The album needed a brush-up and now it just sounds more 2008.

 

 

Are you quite satisfied with the outcome or are there things that you would have liked to have changed in retrospective?

 

I always want to change everything because Iím never happy. So we just have to set a date and after that date weíre not allowed to make any more changes. I could work on material forever but you just canít do that. Weíve spent enough time as it is on this album as we released it first in Scandinavia and now itís finally out here. Weíve been writing for the next album too, we already have a couple of songs ready for that. Itís going to be something totally different again. Well, not totally different but definitely more complex and mature.

 

You guys are pretty popular in Norway, what do you think of the Norwegian metal scene these days?

 

I think itís better than ever! The rise of Dimmu Borgir and Satyricon and such bands has been really important for the whole scene. It showed everybody that it is possible to come from Norway and become a big metal band. It used to always be just about AHA. Thereís also other great bands around now like Animal Alpha and Keep Of Kalessin. A lot of blackish bands, the black metal scene in Norway is very powerful but other bands like Animal Alpha are also becoming popular now. Of course weíre nothing compared to Sweden. But Sweden, they invented the whole damn thing! Iím just curious if people in general are going to take an interest in Norwegian non-black metal. Thereís a lot of bands in Norway doing the more American thing like for instance the Pantera kind of sound but those bands are having a really hard time getting interest from Europe and the U.S.

 

One last question: where do you see Stonegard going in the future?

 

Weíre doing a tour with Enslaved in November/December and then weíll have to run home and record the next album real fast and if we make it, weíll put out the new album in May or June next year. Thatís pretty soon after this one but we havenít put out anything in Scandinavia for a while and thatís our home territory, you know. And then hopefully weíll do a proper summer festival tour next year! I hope we get to play Wacken..

 

Thank you for your time!

Youíre welcome!

 

 

Members:

Torgrim Torve - Guitar and lead vocals

Ronny Flissundet - Guitar and backing vocals

HŚvard Gjerde - Bass and backing vocals

Erlend Gjerde - Drums

 

Albums:

Arrows (2005)

From Dusk Till Doom (2008)