What a year it’s been for Hällas. First they drop an incredible album in Conundrum and then they embark on a European tour to support that album. Then all gosh darn hell breaks loose and COVID-19 absolutely takes over and destroys everyone’s lives. Hällas has to turn back and cancel their tour returning home to Sweden to undergo whatever isolation measures and regulations are in place at this moment. And, a personal note, if there was ever voice that I didn’t want damaged by respiratory illness, it’s this one. It’s no secret that I adore this album, and I can assure you that I am not alone in that adulation, as many members of the crew are simply head over heels for Hällas. If you haven’t heard or read about this album yet, you can check out our review here and you can press play on the Bandcamp embed or official lyric video below. Also, there’s a special documentary at the bottom!
I’d like to begin by talking about auras. People who are in touch with higher planes of existence often see auras surrounding people, claiming the aura is their soul. Your music seems to be alive in that it projects an aura. What color aura, in your mind, does your music project? Is your music a living being or is it static?
The aspect of auras is an interesting perspective that I haven’t put any thoughts to before in regards to music. Thinking about it now, though, I believe we might have scraped on some kind of surface of this perspective. Ever since the first EP we have had discussions at the late stages in the recording processes about what kind of color each member of the band felt the music was projecting. Quite interestingly we all heard the same color each time. In the case of Conundrum, for instance, it just inexplicably felt green. This is also something we have used as guidelines for Adam Burke, who has done the cover art for all our albums, in that we—other than providing him with the story—asked for a green theme, etc. This is also the themes we use for the lights in our live shows.
You guys have created your own universe not only lyrically but sonically. Can you explain a bit about what you envision this universe to be? Are there characters that you think of when writing? Are there plot lines that you want to resolve on future albums? Feel free to delve into the origins of the world and what makes your imagined universe so enthralling and inspiring for you.
The universe is parallel to ours, set in something similar to the medieval times where religion similarly, albeit not necessarily the ones we recognize from here, are very prevalent and where treacherous tyrants reign lands on the verge of the apocalypse and where seers have gained so much strength that they can dictate the future and the past. The story revolves around the knight, Hällas, who is destined to join a religious war but anxiously sets out on a quest for answers about his future. A quest that leads him to the Star Rider. The world is inspired by various things that interest us like books, video games, movies, etc., but also from a general interest of history, psychology and mythology. Sometimes we draw parallels to RPGs in that lyrically there are distinct story frames and plot key points, but the story itself is deliberately vague in order for the listener to create their own adventure that doesn’t necessarily have to be the same for every listen. Sonically, the plot has been a way to dictate what kind of mood the music should convey but, conversely, the sound or mood of riffs or passages have also pointed out in what direction the story should go. Maybe this is also related to the auras you mentioned before somehow? Although Conundrum marks the end of the character Hällas—the band will carry his banner forward into new, as of now uncertain, dimensions on future albums.
Do you view yourself as existing within the world of metal, or are you specifically outside the sound and genre of metal? Does it matter?
Musically to us it really doesn’t matter. Whatever we feel is good, is good. We definitely acknowledge that there are metal elements in our music that of course will appeal more to certain people than others. Same goes with the other elements. An important part, though, is the compromise premises within the band. Unless all five of us are onboard with a certain idea, we tweak it or scrap it until it feels right. As we all have quite different musical backgrounds and influences, this can be a very interesting task. We have played on rock festivals, pop festivals and black metal festivals, and it has all been great experiences, albeit different. The audience is usually quite mixed, which I think is great! Personally, I attend all kind of shows of different genres of music, and I would not define myself neither within nor outside of any subgenre. It’s nice to see that others also don’t limit themselves.
Conundrum features a lot more keyboards (and synthesizers) than your previous work. What brought about that decision? What have you guys been listening to for inspiration in those regards?
Interesting! To me it feels like there are just about the same amount of keyboards used on Conundrum as on Excerpts [From a Future Pas]. I think it’s just that we decided to let the guitars take a step back at times, and perhaps to a greater extent compared to the previous album. To us, the dynamics are very important, and we decided to take that in consideration even more this time. However, we did use a wider variety of synthesizers this time around. We were very lucky to be able to record Conundrum at Riksmixningsverket in Stockholm, where many of the old ABBA equipment is stored, which we got to use. Even though Nicklas was very reluctant to use anything just for the sake of using it, more options enabled us to create and use the sounds we wanted to.
I constantly see your band described as “adventure rock.” Is that something you guys started? What even is adventure rock? If you could take an adventure anywhere, where would you guys go and why?
This is what Nicklas called our music back when we recorded the EP at his studio, just before he joined the band. I think it fits very well because the feeling of an adventure is exactly what we want to achieve with the music. The music should feel like a journey through different environments, landscapes and settings, with feelings of joy, despair, fulfillment and loss and everything in between. Just like any adventure in books or games or what have you. However, I don’t know or don’t remember how the term was spread outside of the band. Nowadays, we embrace it.
I want to talk about fashion. You guys have certainly had some forward-thinking styles of dress that somehow seem timeless. With the latest album, the promo photos are verging on cult-like status of dress. Do you guys plan your outfits for a certain mood that you want to convey? What is that mood? Do you think the way you dress can influence your overall outlook on life? How do you guys maintain an adventurous outlook? Do you meditate or do yoga? Any group activities aside from rehearsal?
We try to work with the band from an holistic point of view where, in the case of the outfits, they both complement and derive from the music itself. I’m glad you describe them as somewhat timeless as this is something we aim for. There should be an otherworldly presence of the stage show, yet somewhat familiar; conveying a parallel universe that could be either in the future or the past, either on Earth or otherwhere. The adventurous outlook, I think, mainly comes from the music we create and by discussing the story and the world of the music. I think you need to have an open mind and be curious of what you can create and what other worlds there are to explore within your art. In that sense, I’d say we are driven by escapism rather than mindfulness activities like meditation or yoga. We are all close friends, and because most of us live in different regions, we do get to do a lot of group activities because we have to spend entire weekends with each other in order to rehearse. In the evenings after rehearsal, we often have a nice meal, play some Heroes of Might and Magic III (etc), watch movies, play board games or just have a beer and discuss life, the band and everything in between.
We’re hoping you could settle a debate for us: what is the best candy bar ever made? And, since I believe you guys have a sort of third-eye into the future, what will be the best candy bar ever made?
We are currently in Finland and they have a chocolate bar here called Tupla. I just had one of those with a cup of coffee and it’s a new favorite! I’m not sure what the future holds for candy bars. Some years ago, we had Hällas polka sticks at the merch stand and all I can tell you is that they were not a top candidate (pun not intended) for the best candy ever.
What is your favorite Running Wild album? And, if you’re not into Running Wild then what is your favorite traditional metal album?
I’m not into Running Wild. My favorite traditional metal album is probably Stronger than Evil by Heavy Load. I haven’t listened to that one in ages. I should! And so should you!
Pick up their latest album Conundrum (and maybe some other merch) via Napalm Records (USA) or RMV Grammofon (Rest of the World)