HOLY GRAIL (Eng.)

– Hi, thanks for your time. What are you currently up to? How is everything doing right now with HOLY GRAIL?

Thank you for taking an interest in us. We are all gearing up for the release of “Ride the Void” and everyone is kind of embracing the calm before the storm in their own ways. Holy Grail is in a really good place right now. We have a lot to be excited, anxious and nervous about. I am currently visiting my girlfriend in Austin, Texas where I’ve been drinking Lone Star Beer, eating barbeque, giving guitar lessons and practicing some of the annoyingly difficult guitar licks on the new album.

– You are a relatively young band and will soon release your sophomore album so, first off, for all those who don’t know yet about you, could you please make some history of the band?

Holy Grail is based out of Pasadena in Southern California. We started out about 2008 when Vocalist James Paul Luna, Drummer Tyler Meahl and Guitarist James Larue defected from retro metal band White Wizzard to start something less confined and heavy. I (Eli Santana) was brought in as a second guitarist to create a dual lead sound that was reminscisent of some of the great New Wave of British Heavy Metal Bands and Shrapnel Records Shred Artists. Blake Mount was brought in for bass duties shortly there after. We signed with Prosthetic Records quickly after playing in the Los Angeles Music Scene and released the “Improper Burial” EP and started touring non-stop. We then teamed up with Danny Lohner (NIN, A Perfect Circle) to record our debut album “Crisis in Utopia” in our breaks from touring. Right before the release of our first album James Larue left the band and we carried on with a fill in guitarist until finally bringing Alex Lee (Bonded by Blood) in as a permanent member. After solidifying our line up we recorded the “Season’s Bleedings” EP and then tracked our sophomore effort “Ride the Void”.

 

– This sophomore album is «Ride the Void», which will be released in just a few days so, after the pretty good acceptance your debut album got, «Crisis in Utopia», what are your expectations on your new effort? As I guess with a second album you may have a better idea of what to expect.

We are really trying not to expect anything with this release so we can focus on enjoying this time in our career. That being said, we are extremely confident and proud of this album so there is a really special feeling surrounding it. They great thing about “Crisis in Utopia” doing well is that we are able to use that momentum to spring board “Ride the Void”. The fun thing about this is getting to see what fans of our debut think of the new album, we obviously didn’t have that luxury on the first album.

 

– In fact you have managed to release this album with none less than Nuclear Blast, one of the biggest and most important labels in Metal. How are you feeling about it?

Photo by Alex Solca

Having Nuclear Blast release this record has a lot do with why we are so pumped. Being teamed up with one of the biggest metal records in the world really couldn’t have put us in a better position for the album. We had toured with bands on Nuclear Blast and heard great things the label and watched those bands accomplish some great feats. One of the main things we are excited about is how dominant Nuclear Blast is in Europe where we haven’t had much of a presence before. Can’t wait to spend more time overseas.

 

– Digging into this new opus, the first thing that caught my attention were its lyrics, as are way darker than on your previous album. Why did you decide to change a little bit the lyrics theme? And what do some of the lyrics on the CD deal with?

We never planned on straying away from fantasy lyrics but the vibe of the songs coming in were so dark and heavy that it only seemed natural to write lyrics that fit that. We have nothing against fantasy lyrics and we’re not saying that we will never write that stuff again but that’s just not where our heads were at this time around. The main theme of the album is triumph of the human spirit and overcoming insurmountable obstacles. “Rains of Sorrow” the album’s final track is based off a series of text messages I received from my Uncle while he was battling cancer. We also had a couple of other themes like serial killers and schizophrenia sneak their way in there too.

 

– In fact I personally think music is heavier and more forceful. Was this something you were looking for in order to fit the lyrics?

That’s awesome to hear you feel that way because I think it’s heavier and forceful too. The heaviness just kind of occurred out of a hunger to out-do our debut. Most of the lyrics were written after the music was finished except for the songs that Luna brought in. Luna likes to write the melodies first but we still brought in lyrics last. We actually changed some of music to be more accommodating to the vocal melodies.

 

– Seasoned Matt Hyde took production duties so, could you say his work on the album had something to do with that darker sound?

Matt was great at taking the vibe and vision of the songs we were writing and getting them to the exact place they needed to be. And achieving the darker sound was right in Matt’s Wheelhouse. He knew exactly how to arrange harmonies, melodies and tones to evoke the maximum amount of emotion. Working with Matt was one of the most enjoyable and informative experiences of my life. I would wake up in the morning so excited to record or go to pre-production.

 

– Changing a little bit the approach both for lyrics and sound, did you also face the songwriting process differently?

Overall we approached songwriting the same, basing everything off our favorite riffs and arranging them into song forms. The biggest difference was how Producer

Matt Hyde made us really approach the songs as a songwriters and not just a metal band with a bunch of riffs. Matt’s expertise in music theory and arranging really took our songs to a more succinct and polished level. Matt also played a major role lyrically, pushing Luna to rewrite lyrics over and over again until they achieved the desired vibe of the song. Lyrically we stayed pretty much in one theme without being a concept album, that’s something we didn’t do on our debut.

 

– This refreshed new approach next to your all time elements have created a more diverse album than your debut, with darkness, epicness, a dark and rough feeling but also victorious… Is this versatility something you strive for?

We didn’t consciously strive for all the dark, epic and victorious feeling you spoke of. Thank you for saying that by the way. We just started writing and that was the vibe that arouse from that. There were a couple songs from the “Crisis in Utopia” sessions that had that vibe but we didn’t have enough time or the maturity to tackle those songs at that time. The lyrics are very bleak and dark but convey a sense of hope and encourage the listener to never give up. The artwork was a great representation of that too, I feel. We definitely wanted to achieve a sense of versatility by trying not to repeat ourselves or falling into a rut. We hoped to be versatile while staying in the genre of metal. We didn’t throw a country-western song on there for the sake of being different. We just want to write good metal tunes.

 

– You haven’t loose your essence still renewing your sound so, could you say you are still shaping your own personality?

I feel that we are shaping our own personality and hopefully bringing something to the table that is specifically ours. I feel like we are really starting to identify and become comfortable with what we feel Holy Grail is. “Ride the Void” is the best representation of what we feel is the essence of Holy Grail.

 

– In fact it gives the feeling «Ride the Void» is also a more compact and complete opus. Do you feel like this is your best album or the album you have always wanted to do?

I really feel like this our best album. I know every band says their most recent effort is their best when they are releasing a new album but I really feel that way. I am insanely proud of “Crisis in Utopia” but there were some things that didn’t go the way they were intended. But with this album we spent so much time in pre-production making sure every note was exactly where it should be that we entered the studio with more confidence than when we left the studio on our debut. We even had ideas of the sequence of the album before entering the studio. We basically wanted to make this album right after we finished “Crisis in Utopia”.

 

– You have even had a classic guitar on the track «Wake me when it’s over». Could you please tell us how did this arise?

The classical influenced track “Wake Me When It’s Over” is actually an intro to “Rains of Sorrow”. We knew we wanted to do a more classical based song on the album and this seemed like a great opportunity to do so. I studied classical guitar in college so I really wanted to make myself feel better about still having plenty of student loans to pay off. The main melody is based off the chorus vocal melody of “Rains of Sorrow” and that motif is expanded throughout the track. It was really amazing when an mp3 of the track was sent to us while on tour after the cello was added. Matt really wanted some strings to give it emotional weight and he brought in a cellist who just killed it. I just wish I could’ve been there for the tracking of that.

 

– All this about «Ride the Void» being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?

Photo by Alex Solca

Baronial, Epochal, Metal

 

– And finally; what are your near-future plans?

We are going to film a video for the title track in the next week or so. We are aiming to finish filming it before we leave for the 70,000 tons of Metal, which is a cruise that has 40 Metal Bands playing to a boatload of metal fans. Then after that we are going to leave for the Metal Alliance Tour with Anthrax, Exodus, High on Fire and Municipal Waste. We are hoping to hit all the European Summer Festivals after that.

 

– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.

Thank you so much. We hope to thrash and party with all our future friends in Spain in the near future. In the immortal words of Raven “Stay Hard, Stay Wet”.

 

Tania Giménez

tania@queensofsteel.com

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