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Time with Grand Magus vocalist Janne “JB” Christoffersson is limited ahead of the release of their ninth studio album, Wolf God.
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Given the longevity of the band, 23 years on the scene, and the calibre of this release, it’s only now that interest has really peaked in more mainstream media–but why? “We’re the kind of band that if we don’t do anything in particular, we just shut up when we don’t have anything to say, really,” says Christoffersson.
“Last year we were completely focusing on making a new album, so we didn’t do any live stuff at all–and if you don’t do that, or drive into a tree or beat someone up, there’s no point in being that visible.
“It was a conscious decision to take time between albums and I think people have waited for a new album, now they’re rewarded with a really good album.”
In 2016 Grand Magus released Sword Songs, and keeping their heads down and keeping busy has paid off. Wolf God is fantastic. Grand Magus draw from so many classical metal bands as influences and slam their own wonderful style on top–but who, or what, is the Wolf God? “I don’t think there’s a definite answer to that,” muses Christoffersson. “My idea of the Wolf God is one thing, and the listener’s might be something else. I’m not saying it’s completely open for interpretation, but let’s put it this way …
“When I heard Exciter [by] Judas Priest when I was 13 [years old], Rob Halford went into an interview and said ‘Yes, the Exciter is a very good friend of mine. I dedicate the song to him’–no one knows what the Exciter is.
“But for me, when I heard that song for the first time, I made my own image, my own image, about Exciter, or Metal Gods, or Jawbreaker, or any Judas Priest song. That’s the way I would like things to be for our listeners as well.”
The basic things, I think, with the lyrics and everything, is that they deal, for me, with everlasting things. Life, death, love, joy, sorrow, power, lack of power, stuff like that.
[ Janne ‘JB’ Christoffersson ]
Christoffersson believes the combination of the album artwork and the lyrics will mean you’ll end up in the right neighbourhood. And that’s a sentiment shared by many other bands from Sweden, like In Flames, who too have similar views on their latest works. And Christoffersson, like his peers, says he could explain his perceptions of Wolf God but that it would ruin it. “What we do is not for everyone,” he says, “But I think those who gear toward our music and listen to what we do, they don’t need an explanation because they know it in their hearts anyway.
“All the stuff we’ve done has been done on intuition, instinct, and emotion, rather than be calculated.
“It’s a bit like trying to explain poetry. I’m not trying to say my lyrics are poetry, but they’re made in the same way. My personal fantasies, ideas and the whole construct of me is in there somehow.”
The elaborate responses that are so far removed from the concise mean Christoffersson, though waxing lyrical, is revealing poetic intricacies that add to the intimate depths of Wolf God. Christoffersson is a natural storyteller, the way he writes his stories is in the music, the notation, and the lyrics. Intuitive, instinctive and emotional musicians are the perfect words Christoffersson could use to describe Grand Magus. “I’m not always like that,” he says, “but when it comes to Grand Magus, it’s always been a very honest representation of who we are as people and of course, of that given point in time.
“It’s hard to explain. ‘Who are you?’ ‘I don’t know, I am who I am and the music is what it is.’ It’s like with everything, I’m the creator but the one who reads it is the one who makes it something.”
At this stage of Grand Magus’ career, pushing 25 years, the band are more than comfortable in allowing others to interpret their music. “The basic things, I think, with the lyrics and everything, is that they deal, for me, with everlasting things. Life, death, love, joy, sorrow, power, lack of power, stuff like that.”
“That makes it, for me at least, universal on a human level. There are many bands who are like that, and the good thing is there’s something you can take that is only ours from things that are universally formulated. But it’s also not excluding.