Battering Ram – Old School in Our HeartsSunday, 3rd July 2022
Straight ahead hard rock and heavy metal never loses its charm when done as well as you’ll hear with this Swedish band Battering Ram. Driving power chords, bluesy and gritty vocals, plus a swinging rhythm section that elevates the energy and aggression you want out of this material. Their second album, ironically titled Second to None, bristles with that retrospective 70’s/80’s charm yet contains a bit more punch from the production and tones to keep up with many younger artists today.
We spoke to vocalist Johan Hallström to learn more about their development, cover art thoughts, performing at a Danish festival coming out of the pandemic, challenges that lay before them, thoughts on their domestic Swedish heavy music scene, plus some specific Swedish Rock Festival memories and his love of Ronnie James Dio.
Dead Rhetoric: Battering Ram started in 2017 in a small mining town of Filipstad. Discuss the development of the band in those early days – and what were your initial hopes and dreams that you laid out for what you originally wanted to achieve with this group?
Johan Hallström: We wanted to play hard rock. We wanted to play this live, and kind of do it our way. And that’s it. And see how far we could get! (laughs)
Dead Rhetoric: Second to None is the second Battering Ram album, and your first with Uprising! Records. Tell us about the songwriting and recording sessions for this effort – and where do you see the major differences between your self-titled debut album from 2020 to this outing?
Hallström: Oh wow. Regarding the recording sessions, it’s always the same. We write the stuff in rehearsals, and then we go to our producer, and we make the magic happen in the studio. I think this new album – we are (playing) the same style and genre of hard rock, we are really proud of it. It’s a great album, you know.
Dead Rhetoric: Playing in a mold of old school influences from the 70’s and 80’s, how do you balance out achieving the sound of Battering Ram to sound organic and authentic given the modern technology and tools at your disposal?
Hallström: Like you said, we like the old school heavy metal and hard rock and that’s in our hearts. Together with our producer, we see if we can get a much heavier and you can call it a more modern sound. It all came together when we met our producer for the first time, and we are really holding on to that sound. It’s great to have this old-fashioned, in your face aspect with a modern sound.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us regarding the cover art piece for Second to None? Who came up with this concept, and how do you feel the process went from initial idea development to the final product?
Hallström: The cover is – the artist had free hands to make it. We had a couple of suggestions, and we just love this one the most. The big battering ram monster versus the small members in the group. Call it the sheep who is just standing there. It’s nice – it wasn’t really lots of consulting. We decided to just go for this piece, more or less.
Dead Rhetoric: And when it comes to your lyrics, is it a combination of real-life experiences that you talk about in your lyrics?
Hallström: I write most of the lyrics. The lyrics will come to me after Jonas plays the guitar riffs on the songs. As we go along, and the process goes on, I get an idea. Writing lyrics are about life, your own experiences. That is a part of it. The idea for the lyrics come together almost at the end of the songwriting process. I go home, I have it in my head, and that’s it.
Dead Rhetoric: You recently got the chance to open for the Nordic Noise Festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. What was it like, as I’d imagine you haven’t been able to play many shows over the past couple of years due to the pandemic?
Hallström: It was an awesome experience. It was so fantastic. We were a bit nervous, because we had to open up the festival. It’s a big responsibility as a smaller band to open up for a big festival. The response, and all the people, the staff, the audience, it really exploded, and we had an awesome time. I think it was great, Denmark treated us well.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Battering Ram when it comes to the live stage performance? What do you try to get across to the audience?
Hallström: When we are playing live, we are like most bands, we want to connect with the audience. As my job as a singer, I want to connect with everyone and get them involved. When Battering Ram gets on stage, we have high energy, we just want to kick some ass and have a great time. We love to come out to the audience, and most of the time it works out really great.
Dead Rhetoric: In another interview I read of yours online, you mention a love of Ronnie James Dio and that Rainbow Rising is your all-time favorite album. What songs or memories do you have relating to that album, and did you ever get the chance to witness Ronnie live either in his solo band or with Black Sabbath before his passing?
Hallström: Yes. My first connection with the album Rainbow Rising I was eleven years old, and I was at my friend’s home. His big brother had these huge speakers, in the 80’s everything was big and it had a great sound. He put on an album for me – I sat there and listened. The cover was magic, and then I can’t explain it. Somebody put the record on, and I was blown away by it. Ronnie’s singing, Cozy Powell on the drums, everything about it. I had the chance to see Ronnie James Dio in 2007 in Oslo, Norway and at Sweden Rock with Black Sabbath in 2007. He was magic live. His connection with the audience, the great voice, I just love it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and struggles you face as a younger band trying to ascend up the ranks, develop more of a following, and stand out against the thousands of other bands in this hard rock/metal landscape?
Hallström: One factor is to come out and play live. When we are playing live, we can perform and meet a new audience. That’s a part of it. Making good music is important so that everybody will listen to it. There are lots of challenges. One challenge is to find a promoter who can get us out on the road. Let’s see where it’s going.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you view the state of the heavy music scene in your home country of Sweden versus other parts of the world? Are there things that you are happy about – or aspects that need improvement or change to make things better?
Hallström: Wow. I don’t know. Heavy metal and hard rock in Sweden is really good. We have a lot of great bands, a lot of role models out there. We all have a good connection with the genre, and everybody wants to help each other out. It’s really good. Somehow to come out and play, so the rest of the world can see the magic in these bands. But it’s a good climate.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned about music – or in your personal life – that you have applied for the greater good?
Hallström: Keep doing what you are doing – and believe in what you are doing. Always try to look ahead. Keep fighting, keep fighting. You have this stair that is almost invisible. You climb the stairs, and there are more stairs.
Dead Rhetoric: Given the blockbuster success of Volbeat and minor success during the 80’s for DAD, does it seem surprising to you that Mustasch from your home country hasn’t made a similar breakthrough in other parts of the world – as they seem huge in Europe, but have a minor, cult appeal in North America?
Hallström: Oh yeah. It’s really weird. Maybe Volbeat have better PR people with connections that Battering Ram and Mustasch don’t have. I really don’t know.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you heard comparisons with your voice and range to Ralf from Mustasch?
Hallström: Yes, a lot of times. Well, what can I say, that’s how I sing, and that’s how Ralf sings. That’s it.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your favorite memory of Battering Ram playing live?
Hallström: It must be the Nordic Noise Festival. It was so awesome, so great. We got response from the massive audience; it was kind of a breakthrough. It’s the greatest memory live for the band, so far.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us your thoughts and highlights relating to Sweden Rock this past weekend – how did it feel to take in a festival after the past few years not being able to go to shows like this due to the pandemic?
Hallström: I wasn’t there this year – the drummer and the bassist went this year. I haven’t talked to them to find out highlights. I have gone quite a few times. I remember myself and the bassist saw the band Q5 when they were playing “Missing in Action” and all these great songs, it was quite magical because I listened to that band as a young boy, to finally see them live. That’s what Sweden Rock is about – to see these old bands come alive. I saw Foghat, that was awesome. I could give you so many memories. The old bands I grew up with that I haven’t seen, those are the highlights.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s in the future for Battering Ram over the next year? Do the members have any other side bands or projects, guest appearances we may be looking forward to as well?
Hallström: No, not at this time. It’s full focus on Battering Ram. We are going to do some shows now in the summer. We have to produce some new songs and see where things can take us.