“this time we thought we should pump it up even more to get that raise your fist style going”

Imperial Dawn is the latest album to be released from Melodic Metallers REXORIA. Ahead of this release, Rock Out Stand Out’s Lotty Whittingham spoke to lead vocalist Frida Ohlin and guitarist Jonas Gustavsson about the album, their music style and mental health amongst other things.

For those who haven’t heard Rexoria before, how would you describe your sound?

Jonas:  Melodic, quite fast. Want to add anything else Freida?

Frida:  Pure melodic and energetic. We play a lot of styles; power metal, heavy metal and some folk influences. Mostly standard hard rock with fast melodies.

I heard some similarities to Battle Beast, particularly in the first few songs of your latest album Imperial Dawn. Am I hitting the nail on the head or am I way off?

Frida:  You’re hitting the nail on the head; Noora [Louhimo] has been an inspiration to me for many years and there is in some inspiration from Battle Beast in the music and melodies. That’s one of our influences.

Is there any particular influences you have Jonas?

Jonas:  We mix our influences. Frieda also has some pop influences with melodic stuff. I am more influenced by eighties stuff such as Iron Maiden, Saxon in my guitar playing that I really love. We then combine those together to something a bit new and fresh.

The song Rage And Madness brough the Battle Beast song Bringer Of Pain to mind.

Jonas:  We decided in the band at the point we had seven or eight songs for the album and realised we didn’t have any faster, heavier songs. So we thought we needed to do something heavier and faster than we have written so far on the album. We didn’t have that song you mentioned in our mind when writing it but now you say it, it sounds like there could be some inspiration from that song. We didn’t think about it at the time but now you say it I understand your point.

Not a band thing by the way as it’s a great song. This is your third album, how is it different to your previous releases?

Jonas:  Pretty much everything more or less. 

Frida:  We have tried to step up our game for each album. This time we felt that even if we had faster songs before, we didn’t really get that power and speed when we played them live. So this time we thought we should pump it up even more to get that raise your fist style going. So we turned up the tempo and added more keyboards in the melodies this time that keep the rhythm going. I have also been trying to elevate my voice as well, trying to sing with more raspy power than before. There is a lot of change, I think people will still hear Rexoria but it might be a big leap from the previous albums.

That’s interesting you say that Frieda as I made a note about your vocal style, do you already have in mind when you’re going to use the raspy/soft vocals or is it a case of trying out both styles in the recording process and seeing what works?

Frida:  I always have in mind what ones I am going to use the raspy voice for but sometimes we feel it doesn’t fit or it’s better with my softer voice; particularly if the melody is heavy and we want to create that dynamic. I record the vocals in the studio and each time we record it, we discuss what we think if I need to ramp up my voice or tone it down. It becomes what we feel fits the music best when it’s done.

A lot of album releases were pushed back due to COVID, was 3rd February 2023 the intended release date for the album or was this pushed back?

Frida:  This was the intended release date because we were writing songs during the pandemic and we were trying to find a label. So we took a step back and tried a new style of song, it wasn’t until a year back we got in contact with Black Lodge who liked us and we had some discussions regarding that. When we made a co-operation with Black Lodge, we set the release date for 3rd February so it was in the plan.

We were kind of bummed after the release of the previous album as a few days after the release, everything shut down. We all started to pull back on everything so for half the year, we waited it out to see if it would get better but it didn’t. So we decided to work on Imperial Dawn and take our time to decide what we wanted to do with the music next.

As well as COVID pandemic, what was the most challenging part of recording Imperial Dawn?

Jonas:  I don’t think we had lot of issues this time, we recorded mostly in my studio which we had done before. So we were a bit used to it already. I guess it was the timeline; we first had a timeline for a few months and we got over that timeline several times. I think that was the hardest part, to keep to that timeline we had set up from the beginning because we went over it for four or five months. Otherwise, I think everything was working very smoothly and we were very aligned on how we wanted it to sound so we didn’t discussions or arguments like we usually have. I would say keeping to the timeline was the hardest part.

I would like to ask about the track Enchanted Island, video games came to mind. Was it influenced by video games?

Frida:  No, not really. In the beginning, we wanted a what we call an anthem for the end. A big song to wrap it up so we went back to some influences from the earlier power metal styles and listened to that so that’s why it became what it is. We felt this was the song to wrap it up and close the whole album, it was a good one to finish up with.

It definitely is, it will be a great song to end a live show too.

Frida:  Yes absolutely, particularly if that fans want that extra number.

Is there any songs on the album you are looking forward to playing live the most?

Jonas:  I would say Paradigm and Set Me On Fire.

Frida:  For me, it’s Paradigm as well. As band, we have a special love for that song as it was the first song we wrote for the album and it sets the sound for the whole album. For me, it’s also Devious Desire; I like that it has a more folk sound and I can use my voice in another way, take it down a bit and have more emotion.

One of the things we do at Rock Out Stand Out, we spread mental health awareness. What’s mental health awareness like in your local area?

Frida:  With regards to mental health, it’s become an active topic in Sweden; a lot of people talk about it in music and media people talk about it in general. It’s much more open now, there is still a long way to go but I believe it’s starting to open up more. I think even health care is seeing that it’s not only physical pain you can have, it’s other pain as well. So, in general Sweden is working pretty well with that topic. Of course, you always know someone who is in battle with their mental health.

Jonas:  If your mind works differently, you talk about it. It’s not just physical health you’re talking about, you’re also talking about mental health and so on. I think like Freida says, it’s more open.

As family members, friends, partners, band members; is there anything you think we can do more of so people feel comfortable reaching out if they are struggling?

Frida:  From a band point of view, I really believe we can use our social media and our channels to reach out to talk about this stuff. For me, it’s important to be a role model, in particular for younger girls; as in not trying to look a specific way and always to be themselves. As a band, people in general have a big responsibility to talk about it and be open. If you need someone, you should never be afraid to talk to the person you want to talk to. Of course, as a band we can write about it and talk with our loved ones.

Jonas:  Also at live shows in between songs, we can talk about it and I have seen many bands who have done that. I think it’s getting more open the more we speak about it and read about it. 

Frida:  Also trying to catch up with all the fans at your shows who want to buy a CD or anything, just talk to them. Not just get a selfie with them and that’s it. We got a comment about our previous album saying how the music on it helped them feel better when they have periods of depression so that felt good as a band that through music you helped someone without knowing it.

What do you like to do to unwind and relax after feeling overwhelmed or after a bad day?

Jonas:  I usually go to the gym, that helps me a lot. There’s been a lot to do at work mentally but the gym helps a lot and it feels great afterwards. Sometimes, I will play the guitar. It’s important to have hobbies you really like and can go to if you have had a hard day.

Frida:  I’m so bad, I try to be everywhere all the time. So right now, I have an extreme stress period that I need to push back. So for me, it’s trying to let go of the computer and phone to put on a movie to watch with my boyfriend or go to the stables, I love to ride horses. You really do need to find those hours in the week where you can disconnect.

Listing your influences earlier, who would be in your dream band?

Jonas:  It would be nice to have Freddie Mercury and Ronnie James Dio as backing singers. They would also have their solo lines.

Frida:  It would be cool to tour as a trio with Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley.

Do you have a message for Rexoria fans and our readers?

Frida:  We hope that you check out everything that’s coming up. Hopefully we will have a lot of gigs coming this year and stay updated with our social media. If you want to contact us to buy CDs, vinyls and everything, look at our webshop. Hope you enjoy this album.

Jonas:  Hope that many of you as possible will see us and hope that you all like us. If anyone has any questions or messages, send it to us and we shall reply.

Thank you so much Frieda and Jonas for joining Rock Out Stand Out today and best of luck with the album.

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