Two years after the release of Exerpts From A Future Past, Hällas are back with the final installment of the trilogy.
What was the original concept behind the formation of Hällas?
Marcus Pettersson: I was not around for the formation but the band was formed by Kasper and Tommy who started out playing covers of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple in a garage in Jönköping. The usual story I guess! I met Kasper when he moved to my hometown Linköping in 2012. He showed me a recording of one original song (not released) and I immediately fell in love with Tommy’s vocals. I knew that I had to join the band and was asked to sometime in 2014. Most of us had never played in a serious band and I actually did my first live show with Hällas. Me and Alex (guitars) had previously played black/death/heavy metal together while the other guys had mostly jammed hard rock. So we all had different musical backgrounds but met somewhere in the middle with acts like Rush and Uriah Heep. When Nicklas (organs and synthesizers) joined the band in 2015 and brought his synth influences to the table I think the influential starting point was complete and we went onwards from there.
“The antagonist was left for dead by the Star Rider and on Conundrum he is brought back to life”
Two years after the release of Excerpts From A Future Past, you’re back with Conundrum, the final installment of the trilogy. What’s the story behind this final installment?
Story-wise Conundrum started out with a meeting where we decided to continue and pick up where we left off on the kind of loose ending to Excerpts. The antagonist was left for dead by the Star Rider and on Conundrum he is brought back to life and on his path for revenge and ultimately for the answer to the question of life, the Conundrum. Musically we wanted to expand on the complexity with more instrumentation and further development of our own writing abilities. We did work a lot, however, to keep the feeling and style of the previous albums.
How do you usually approach music making?
Usually we start out with the general plot for the album. On Conundrum Kasper and Tommy wrote the story that we used as inspiration for the song writing. We then expand on the story and the music interdependently where new musical passages can dictate a new direction of the story and, conversely, where the story can implicate what kind of mood or feeling the music should have. All of us are very involved with the writing, both musically and lyrically, and we are not limited by our respective instruments either, allowing, for instance, Nicklas to write vocal melodies or drum rhythms.
What’s the concept behind your albums?
The albums center around the knight, Hällas, who is destined to participate in a religious war but so anxious about his future that he sets out to find The Astral Seer who, according to the legends, controls the stars, the future and the past. The story is set within the lands of Semyra ruled by a tyrannical queen. The quest for answers makes him lose track of reality and the lost sense of the present leads to his inevitable demise. There is a lot of twists and turns and we have had lots of fun discussing the plot but the lyrics themselves we try to keep vague in order for the listener to interpret and hopefully be able to fill in the gaps and create their own adventure while listening. Kind of like in an RPG. I think there are even different interpretations to the story within the band, which might sound like lazy song writing, but is actually quite intentional.
What kind of equipment did you use and who was the producer? How many hours did you spend in the studio?
We were very lucky to be able to record Conundrum in the beautiful studio of Riksmixningsverket in Stockholm. This is where a lot of ABBA’s old instruments are kept and you can be sure we used as many of those synthesizers as we could! A part from the usual bass, drums and guitars we also used percussions and analog effect devices (a metal thunder sound making thing!?) and stuff like that. We were in the studio for two weeks working about 10-12 hours a day. Nicklas was the producer and also mixed the record at his studio back in Jönköping. This allowed us to have total control of the music but with the comfort of a fully equipped high end studio.
What were the influences and inspirations for the songs recorded?
With five individuals all taking heavy part in the songwriting there is a wide range of influences and inspirations for the songs. The common denominators, however, I think is the love for old prog music like Rush and Genesis as well as the interest in movies, video games, books and board games. All predominantly, but not exclusively, with sci fi or fantasy themes. Since the concept spans over all three albums I think the previous albums were also an inspiration for me. Constantly playing those songs live kind of have an influence on your current song writing process whether you like it or not. It has happened that I have presented a new riff to the other guys that turned out to be just one of Tommy’s bass lines on Excerpts. It is a good thing, though, as I hope to keep a sort of continuity across the albums.
How pleased was the band with the sound of the album? What, if anything, would you like to have been different from the finished product?
We were very pleased with the end result, I think! Personally (of course) I would have wanted to have more time to experiment to get the guitar sound exactly right. With the tight time schedule we basically just plugged in the guitars and played it like we do live. There is nothing wrong with that approach, and it turned out alright after all, but it would have been fun to see where we could have taken it with some more time put into it.
Do you often play live?
Yes, we are now in the midst of our Scandinavian tour playing in the major Scandinavian cities every weekend. In March we go on a longer European tour for about a month and then we have some more in store. We like to play live as much as we can balancing with family and other commitments.
What are some future plans?
After the European tour we will play some European festivals in the summer and are very much looking into touring new territories in the fall. We have started to put some bits and pieces together for new songs. I am very excited about the future!
Thank you. Last word is yours.
Well, thank you for having me and thanks to all of you for the support!
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