Do you like honest, pedal to the floor, melodic metal, with a hint of power & progressive metal trimmings? Well, then you need to check out the debut from Swedish band Manimal, called The Darkest Room, which is out now on AFM. Nine tracks of high-octane, high quality heavy metal, which signal a band that is sure to stick around for quite a while and cause plenty of commotion on the scene. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with lead vocalist Samuel Nyman recently to talk about the history of the band, the brand new album, and his take on both the Swedish metal scene and what else is hot worldwide.
SoT: The band has been together since 2001, yet your debut album is only just coming out now. Can you talk a little bit about the formation of Manimal, the pressures of being a metal band in Gothenburg, and why it took so long for your first album to be put together and released?
Samuel: MANIMAL was formed when I joined the band back in 2001. Before that Henrik, Richard and Pether had been playing together for several years, along with different singers.
From the very beginning, I think we all felt there was a great chemistry between the four of us. We also had a common idea of how "good" metal should sound. We started out by playing some old cover songs in our rehearsal room, but pretty soon we wrote some of the very first MANIMAL songs together.
I don't think we experience that much pressure of being a part of the Gothenburg metal scene. Instead, I think we get some advantages compared to many other bands. Since Gothenburg is well known for giving the world high quality metal, media seem to take more notice as soon as you mention you're from Gothenburg. But of course, it lays a small amount of pressure on us, since we don't want to ruin that good reputation! (laughs) Why it took us so long to release our first album has a lot to do with us being very self-critical, when it comes to song-writing and performing. We have always been comparing ourselves with more established artists. And it's not until the past three years that we've started to think that we've begun to reach a professional level. So, from now on, I can promise it won't take us eight more years to make another album.
SoT: How did you come up with the name 'Manimal' ?
Samuel: I can't recall how we actually came up with the name,but when we came up with it, we thought it was a cool name for our band, and I think it describes our music in a good way. We try to assent to the animal within us by playing this kind of bestial music. After all, we're all animals. It's just our well developed intellect and way of having feelings that makes us humans.
SoT: Did the band get approached by AFM, or did you seek them out?
Samuel: It was us, who made contact with AFM through our German publisher. At first AFM didn't seem to pay attention to us or our album,but as soon as we announced The Darkest Room entering the Swedish album chart, we got an email saying they were interested in signing us.
SoT: The Darkest Room is filled with plenty of classic metal sounds, especially in the guitar department. How important was it to come up with a metal album that strays far from what we usually expect from Gothenburg bands, and also to avoid the modern 'power metal' trappings of speedy drum work and lyrics about fantasy, swords & sorcery, and dragons?
Samuel: It has never been a self-purpose, from our side, to create something new and different. When we wrote the songs for the album, we just wanted to create good and interesting music, according to our own taste – something we'd like to listen to ourselves. We've never been into traditional power metal that much. So, writing lyrics about dragons and stuff has never been an issue. But speedy drum work is not to be despised. Used in the right way, and the right amounts, it can be really cool.
SoT: "I Am", "The Life We Lived", "Shadows", and "Human Nature" are some
of my favorites on the CD, but what songs are the band most proud of on The Darkest Room?
Samuel: It's hard to pick favorites among your own "babies". They're all special in their own way. But if I have to pick a favorite, I would definitely say the title track; "The Darkest Room". That song is based on a very simple but yet, heavy rhythm figure that appeals to me in a certain way. And I'm especially satisfied and proud of how the chorus turned out. I think there's a perfect symbiosis between all the different vocal harmonies in the chorus. And the synth pads playing along the entire song, in the background, add an extra depth and dark feeling to the song. Though I have listened to "The Darkest Room" maybe a thousand times, I've not become tired of it yet. I'm also keen on "The Life We Lived". It's an interesting song with lots of twists and turns.
SoT: Has the band taken part in many live gigs since the CDs release?
Samuel: We've done more shows the past year than any year before. And recently we got the opportunity to tour outside Sweden for the first time. That was great! Our European trip included two sold-out shows in Czech Republic together with German metal legends U.D.O.
SoT: This type of metal has really started to gain in popularity here in the US in recent years. Has there been any talk of the band coming over for some shows in the near future?
Samuel: It would really be a dream come true, to tour the U.S. But unfortunately there are no such plans right now. At the same time, if we'd get an offer we can't refuse, we wouldn't hesitate a second crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Hopefully there will be U.S. shows in the future, but not at this point.
SoT: AFM has a solid roster of acts right now, like Brainstorm, Mob Rules, Heavenly, and Jon Oliva's Pain. How does Manimal fit in, and are you friendly with some of the other acts on the label?
Samuel: AFM's line-up stretches over a very wide range of genres. But almost all AFM artists have one thing in common; the melodic part. So therefore I think we fit like a glove in AFM's roster.
Last year we were invited by AFM to Wacken Open Air, to promote our album and meet some of our fellow colleagues. That was the first time we met some of our label-mates like, for example, Schmier from Destruction, Bernie and Marco from Axxis, the guys from Paradox and Yves from Nightmare. Unfortunately we didn't get to speak to Doro Pesch at Wacken, but I and Henrik got to meet her after Doro's gig in Gothenburg later that year!
SoT: What is your take on the current metal scene? Are there any specific sub-genres you like or follow closely?
Samuel: I like progressive metal a lot, but besides that, I listen to almost everything that includes well-written harmonies. Good harmonies are my addiction you know.
Lately I've been trying to get more into heavier stuff like, for example, death metal. But I'm having difficulties to reconcile myself to the screaming and growling. But I'm learning to like it.
SoT: Can you name some bands and recent CDs that you have played close attention to or have been into?
Samuel: The last CD I've bought that really got me knocked out, was Isolate by Circus Maximus from Norway. That album has it all. And damn, those guys can play!
Other than that I've been listening a lot to bands like Kamelot, Gamma Ray and In Flames lately.
SoT: What's next for Manimal, say over the next 2 years? What time frame do you think your fans can expect a follow up release?
Samuel: Next to come is actually the follow up to our debut. We're writing new material as we speak. And hopefully we will have the album released in late 2010/early 2011. That is our goal at least. With the release of our second album, we hope to get to do a major support tour together with a headliner. After that, who knows what will happen? - A third album followed by our own headliner tour?
(Click here to read our reviews of The Darkest Room)