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Air Raid

Het Zweedse Air Raid behoort al sinds de release van hun magnifieke debuut EP, ’Danger Ahead’ (2012) tot één van mijn meest favoriete bands van de nieuwe old-school stroming. De band maakte meteen indruk met hun prachtige traditionele heavy metal in de stijl van collegae/landgenoten Ambush, Steelwing, Katana en consoorten, en uiteraard grootheden zoals Iron Maiden, Grim Reaper en vooral Judas Priest. Daarnaast maakte men vooral indruk met hun sterke muzikaliteit, techniek en magnifieke songwriting. Na twee succesvolle langspelers, ’Night Of The Axe’ (2012) en ’Point Of Impact’ (2014), kwam Air Raid gewapend met een nieuwe zanger en een nieuwe vocalist, eind september vorig jaar met hun sterkste release, ’Across The Line’; wederom een album vol prachtige traditionele heavy metal, echter nu met nóg meer gitaarvuurwerk en neoklassieke invloeden. Het heeft even tijd gekost om gitarist/hoofdcomponist Andreas Johansson te pakken te krijgen – wat ongetwijfeld ook te maken had met het zoektocht naar een nieuwe drummer, daar men onlangs de switch van drummers heeft aangekondigd – maar de man vond eindelijk de tijd om ons kort te woord te staan over het nieuw meesterwerk.

Door: Nima | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

Hi Andy, congratulations on your new killer album, ‘Across The Line’. The album has been released for a while now and the reactions are again very positive. Before the end of 2017 you did a European tour and also a gig in Japan. How did the fans react to the new material?
Thanks a lot, man! I am really happy for the great response for ‘Across The Line’. The European tour was a success. Lots of hard work of course, but we met so many cool fans that made the experience fantastic! About the Japan gig, what can I say, it’s an amazing place to play. The people, the culture, the dedication. It’s a pleasure. The feeling when people are singing along to your songs, on the other side of the world, is very hard to beat!

’Point Of Impact’ was an important release for the band. Not only because it was the second LP that had to proof that the success of the ‘Danger Ahead’ EP and your debut LP, ‘Night Of The Axe’ were not “just lucky”, but also because you introduced a new singer in Arthur. Fortunately the album was received very well, and thing were going pretty well. However, in 2015 guitarist and co-founder Johan left the band, and last year you also parted ways with Arthur. What influence did these events have on the band?
The decisions to part ways with Johan and Arthur was really logical and without hard feelings. But it was a very difficult period with lots of uncertainty and stress about the future. The songwriting and planning were all put on hold during this time. So we started to hunt intensely after a new singer and managed to find this gem, Fredrik Werner, in our hometown Gothenburg, of all places!

I think the last line-up was quite strong. However, your new guitarist Magnus had already proved on stage to be a true addition to the band, and your new singer Fredrik… oh my god, a gem indeed! What a voice this man has. He is truly from a different calibre and fits so perfectly to the overall sound. In my opinion his voice is even more traditional and old-school as his predecessors and adds a magical, nostalgic vibe to the whole sound. Please tell a bit about your new band mates…
This is definitely the strongest overall line-up we’ve ever had, both musically and regarding personal chemistry. I knew Magnus since some years before already, so I didn’t hesitate to ask him to join Air Raid. He was already in another band but those things never stopped me, I’m used to stealing members, haha. We are very happy to have such a skilled axe-man in the band! Fredrik also sings in an AOR-style band from Gothenburg since several years. He is a beast for sure, as he reminds me of Joe Lynn Turner and Jeff Scott Soto! We knew briefly about him from before and started to listen closely to his voice. I clearly heard that he was a diamond, though still a bit unpolished, so I knew this is a guy that will fit perfect voice-wise. I contacted Fredrik through Facebook, and he was really interested straight away. Then after meeting up, we found out that he is also very down to earth and professional, so it was an easy decision!

You are the main songwriter in Air Raid. This time you had to consider both a different type of guitar player and especially a different type of singer who has a very different kind of voice, style and range as his predecessors. Did that have any influence on your songwriting and also the direction of the new material?
Because of Fredrik’s melodic voice, it came really natural to also compose in this way. I wrote most of the vocal melodies and I had his voice in mind all the time. For me it’s very important to write songs that fit the singer perfectly, without compromises. The first thing we did was to find out what keys to use and what keys to avoid, and this was crucial to find his “sweet spot” as vocalist. As you can hear on the album it’s solid and straight-through from first to last note. Very impressive vocals!

Also with the success of the previous works and especially of ‘Point of Impact’ in the back of the mind, and introducing a new line-up again, was there more pressure on you as on the previous releases?
‘Point of Impact’ was very well received, so the pressure for ‘Across The Line’ was definitely high. Especially since we changed vocalists. That’s always a difficult thing, since people already had gotten used to Arthur’s voice.

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Personally I think ‘Across The Line’ is without doubt your strongest effort so far. Excellent songwriting, excellent musicianship and performance, amazing guitar work and mesmerizing vocals. This album has it all, man! Musically this record of course has all the signature Air Raid elements, but in general the guitars play an even bigger role and it is most of all the neo-classical guitar wizardry a la Malmsteen that has the upper hand here. On the last album these influences were already quite obvious in songs such as ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Vengeance’, but this time you have taken it all much further…
Both Magnus and I like the neo-classical style, so it was obvious that it was included a bit more. We grew up listening to guitar heroes like Malmsteen, John Norum, Blackmore, Paul Gilbert, Tony Macalpine etc. so I guess it shines through in our playing. I’m also listening to a lot of Baroque, Classical & Folk music in general, so it will always be audible some way in our music. But it’s very important to mention that I categorize our music as 100% heavy metal. We will never be a regular “Neo-classical” metal band.

Fredrik’s voice of course speaks for itself when it comes to the general “new” sound, but in how far were Magnus and Fredrik involved in the songwriting itself and the even more traditional and neo-classical heavy metal vibe of the album?
The majority of the material were written by me, or occasionally together with Magnus. There was a short period of adapting him to the “Air Raid sound”, but after this it was running smoothly. Fredrik was not a part of the songwriting this time, but I’m sure he will be involved one way or another on the next album.

You’ve been active in the scene for some years now and have grown to be one of the more-respected names of the new traditional heavy metal movement. One of the things I’ve always admired about Air Raid was that although your music is not original (what band is, anyway?) and obviously influenced by the classic heavy metal from the 80s, you have never sounded like most of the colleagues and have always had a sense recognizability that many new bands lack. I think especially with the developments you show on ‘Across The Line’, and also Fredrik’s voice you have set yourselves even more apart from the rest of your colleague bands…
I have always been a person that doesn’t follow what’s trendy, or what someone else is doing. I formed Air Raid in early 2009. Back then I didn’t even know of any other young bands in Sweden that played traditional style metal. Then some years later suddenly there was an explosion of bands in whole world. And many of them even ripping each other off. I never understood the point in copying someone else. Also Fredrik and Magnus are not much familiar with the current heavy metal “scene” so we simply develop our own style even more now. That’s what Air Raid is about, we walk our own path.

During the years you have of course developed your technique style of playing, songwriting and your own sound, and listening to ‘Across The line’ you definitely seem to have found your drive. Can you already give an indication of in what direction the band will go from this point on?
Our next album will probably hint towards ‘Across The Line’ as it’s very fresh in mind. But I really don’t think too much about how it will sound in the early stage. I just write whatever comes up in my mind first. Then of course comes the selective phase where we decide which songs fit together etc. As you said the creativity and drive is really on top now, much because of a like-minded and strong band chemistry.

What’s next on the menu for Air Raid? Are there any plans for more touring, and maybe some festival this year?
There are no more gigs planned except for Metal Assault Festival in Germany in February. We will basically only focus on songwriting in the near future. However, there will be some killer tour-news coming up for late 2018, so stay tuned!

Well Andy, I guess we can call it a day for now. Unless of course there is something left that you’d like to mention…
I want to say thanks to all true Raiders out there, see you on the road!

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