Viking metal–something I don’t cover very often, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love it all the same. Sweden’s Månegarm have, over the past thirty years, presented an evolving mix of black metal, folk metal, and, of course, viking metal to communicate their love of Swedish history and folk tales, and they’ve been a consistently good band while doing so. Many expect the Viking sound to be, I don’t know, commercialized and oddly happy, but Månegarm communicate their historic tales with a morose air of tragedy, setting traditional folk melodies to a deeper, darker backdrop. We spoke with vocalist Erik Grawsiö about thirty-plus years of Månegarm, history, and the newly released Ynglingaättens öde in an exclusive interview which can be read below.
Is there anything special about Ynglingaättens öde that you would like to share?
This album is a concept album and is based on the old Norse poem “Ynglingatal.” This poem details a Swedish old Norse dynasty of rulers/kings of Uppsala (Uppsala is very close to where we live) and about their deeds, their rule, and above all – their deaths. The house of Ynglinga claimed to have divine origin as the offsprings of the Norse god Freyr and the kings were religious and military leaders and did often die in mysterious, grim and sometimes even unnatural ways. Really cool stuff here and Jakob, our drummer, got this idea a couple of years ago and now it was finally realized.
We’ve seen the Viking concept and sound come and go in waves over the past thirty years in the greater music scene. What is it about this historic period that continues to inspire Månegarm over such a lengthy period of time?
The whole idea from the start in -95 has been to tell stories about Norse mythology and the Viking era in different ways and we stick to that. There are so many poems, sagas, myths, stories that you can explore and it’s really fascinating and interesting and I believe history is very “connecting” for many people. And to explore your own history makes it even more interesting, at least for us.
Sadly to say there are very little preserved (poems etc.) of what once were and as time passes by, these stories and sagas will be forgotten more and more. For many people they already are. We believe that if we can do our best to high-light historic material that is still preserved, this is our way of keeping history alive!
With so many folk metal bands in a post-Paganfest world, there is still a distinctly and pervading “Månegarm” sound which sets your music aside from other folk and Viking metal bands. What goes into making sure your music maintains a sense of unique identity?
Thank you, that was very nice to hear. I don’t really know but when I compose songs it seems like they go through some sort of “Månegarm-filter” because when they come out from the oven, so to speak, when the songs are arranged and mixed; they just sound Månegarm.
I’m very happy and also proud of these new songs. We have spent thousands of hours creating and composing and the new album feels very honest and genuine. We want to renew ourselves for every album but it can never happen at the expense of the “Månegarm sound.” We want it to sound Månegarm 100 %!
Though I’ve referenced a continuation in the Månegarm sound from its inception, how do you feel the band has evolved since its inception almost thirty years ago?
In my opinion, Månegarm went from a black metal oriented sound to a more “Viking metal” sound back in 2003 when we released our third album Dödsfärd. We kept that Nordic/Månegarm vibe but the Dödsfärd album was much more “folkish,” the pace was slower, the songs were catchier and the violin and clean vocals played a bigger part. From that day we have just tried to make it better and evolve within that “Månegarm-frame” with the goal to deliver good music. We like our style, we like what we do and that’s it.
Your music deals with your own heritage, but you’ve also spoken out against heritage-based supremacy in other interviews (like this one with metal.de), which is sadly unique for a heritage-forward and runic Scandinavian metal band in 2022. What is it about your heritage that makes you want to communicate it through your art, and why do you suppose your fellow Scandinavians use it as a means of expressing supremacy otherwise?
I had to check it out, and I don’t remember what I said back then, but that was the short answer… My position is even clearer today. I completely despise racism and Nazism and I don’t even want to look at those who are into such shit. I have too many Facebook friends and sometimes you’re too quick to press “accept.” But if I later find out or see that a person as much as leans towards these standpoints, they’re fucking GONE!!! Almost every day I have good conversations with my wise daughters about being a good friend, a good fellow human being and the importance of treating ALL people with respect!!
Månegarm deal with history; sagas, myths and stories from the Norse mythology and Viking era and we do so because we find it so very interesting. And we have done our thing for so many years, (too many? haha) and we don’t change direction, sound or lyrical content now, no way haha!
How do you look to honor Odin through your music?
No but maybe we look (or try) to honor history. At least in the best way that we can!
Do you think Odin would like metal?
Of course! He would probably like whatever you do, as long as you are genuine and put your honest heart and soul into it.
Is there anything about Månegarm that people get completely incorrect? That is to say, is there anything about the band that you want to “set the record straight” about?
Actually I don’t think so… nothing that I can think of now anyway. Overall, I must say that we have had a smooth ride over the years!