Mantric Momentum – Heavy on the HooksMonday, 21st November 2022
A lot of productivity has taken place in terms of newer studio projects or bands due to the excessive time away from the stage over the past few years because of a well-known pandemic. Originally developing ideas the previous decade, Mantric Momentum has blossomed from a few single releases into a full-length debut album with Trial by Fire – featuring Divided Multitude guitarist Christer Harøy adding bass/drum duties as well as Pyramaze singer Terje Harøy. Rounding out the release with some special guest musicians in spots, this record has a boatload of appeal to those who love melodic metal with AOR, progressive, and powerful hooks on all fronts.
We reached out to Christer to learn more about the evolution of the group, differences between Mantric Momentum and Divided Multitude, the guest appearances/ choices, thoughts on doing triple duty for video shoots, how he captures his creativity best during the day/night, his concerns for the upcoming World Cup of soccer, plus a preview of future plans.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss how Mantric Momentum progressed from the initial singles with guest artists filling out the lineup into the debut album Trial By Fire with Pyramaze singer Terje Harøy, who happens to be your cousin, in this current incarnation?
Christer Harøy: First of all, I thought it would be a project that started with a song that I co-wrote with Jacob Hansen back in 2011, I think. Not much really happened, there was a lot of back and forth and we ended up with a song, a vocal melody with no lyrics. That song ended up being “Temple of My Fears” with Ralf Scheepers. In the meantime, I did a lot of stuff with Divided Multitude. It was a really slow-moving project. I just wrote a couple of more songs; I co-wrote those songs with Henrik Fevre from Anubis Gate. He wrote the lyrics and melodies for two singles, I recorded them with Yannis Papadopoulos from Beast in Black, Joey Vera from Fates Warning/Armored Saint, Truls Haugen of Circus Maximus, and Simone Mularoni did the guitar solo. It went a couple of years more. It was kind of coronavirus project for me, because in Divided Multitude we couldn’t do any tours or get together. I wanted to do another song, I brought Netta Laurenne in from Smackbound to do a single as well.
I wrote two more songs for the album Trial by Fire, and Terje sang guide vocals for the Netta song, and it sounded incredibly good, so I decided let’s do this together. We sent it over to Frontiers and they said, okay, let’s make an album. And that’s really how it started. We decided to do the album over a year ago, from just before Christmas in 2021 we wrote the stuff and recorded it, and here we are.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences in what you’ve developed as far as the songwriting and style for Mantric Momentum compared to your work in Divided Multitude? Do you believe this allows you to explore different aspects of influences in a unique way?
Harøy: The influences are mainly the same, but I wanted to make Mantric Momentum not so complex as Divided Multitude. It may end up in the same sound in a way, but I think it’s more melodic with Mantric Momentum. Pop music based, it’s based on writing good hooks and a heavier approach for the instruments but still have this melodic approach for the vocals, creating good hooks. It’s like In Flames meets ABBA or something (laughs). And that’s the whole idea behind the project.
Dead Rhetoric: That is one of the things I did notice, a strong emphasis on some huge vocal harmonies from Terje. Have you always been impressed with his range and delivery?
Harøy: We have played in so many projects together, I’ve always been a real fan of the power in his vocals. He’s got great range as well. I wanted the big choruses, massive hooks. So that was the idea of this. I also recorded the vocals for the two latest Pyramaze albums, so I know him really well as a singer. I write the songs to fit Terje’s voice as well.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the guest musicians’ spots come about for specific tracks on this record? Was this based often on your own personal abilities, especially for the drummer slots?
Harøy: (laughs). Let’s be honest, the first song I brought in a proper form was “Course of Fate”, I thought it would be really cool, but I couldn’t play it on the drums. I needed a fast drummer, and Lawrence Dinamarca is a beast on playing the fast double bass, he recorded it really fast. As for Frank Nordeng Røe, I had played with him in the past as he did a gig with Divided Multitude at ProgPower USA in 2014. I knew what he could do, I wanted to bring different drummers into a different approach to make it sound a bit different. I know how to play drums, but my bag of tools isn’t as big as Frank’s for example. As for the song Truls recorded, it was a song we recorded back in 2019, the drums and guitars. I was blown away by Tina Gunnarsson of Hexed, she is an amazing singer as well. For guitar players with Jimmy Hedlund, I recorded the Aldaria album, which is a metal opera thing, he did all the solo guitars except for a couple that I did. He is a really great guitar player, so I was very happy that he could do a couple of solos. I think I mentioned all the guests. I had this intro, and I couldn’t make it sound cool enough. I wanted a big orchestration for the intro, a kind of Symphony X-ish start to it, with film music in it as well. I have heard what Magnus Karlsson can do, it was great to hear his work, he said yes. It ended up sounding really cool. One of the parts in that intro is in the chorus melody for “Course of Fate”.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any songs that took on a great transformation from the start of the demos all the way to the final product – because a song like “Diamond” seems very special on the record?
Harøy: No, I think the demos were similar to the final output, except it’s just with a bigger production. The “Diamond” song, I wrote that song for my son, for his confirmation. We just recorded it, I gave it to him for his confirmation, and we just changed a couple of things on it before we released it on the album. Most of the songs were very much alike on the demos as they came out.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the video shoot for “In the Heart of the Broken” – as you had to perform multiple duties as guitarist, bassist, and drummer in the clip, did you feel like you had done a complete workout by the conclusion of filming?
Harøy: (laughs). I think you notice in the video as well, because I get more and more sweaty when I recorded the drums at the end. I was really tired. It was an intense day; I think it ended up really cool. It took a lot of takes on all the instruments, but it was a lot of fun. I had to change clothes many times, because it got so hot for me. I guess that’s rock and roll.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe this type of promotion is still important during the social media days compared to the impact of videos on major media outlets during the 80’s and 90’s?
Harøy: I think so. You used to buy the albums, and if you were lucky enough you could see the videos on Headbangers Ball. But now, all the music is so accessible, and to stand out you need to be represented on so many different media platforms. There are so many people releasing music, it’s way easier to release music than it was in the 1980’s for instance, or 1990’s. To stand out I think you need to have a couple of videos, and I think it’s important to be there.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell me about the cover art for the record? Was it a collaborative process between you and the artist to flesh out?
Harøy: Kind of. Giannis Nakos, I’ve seen his work in the past with Evergrey and I was impressed by it. I needed to send him a couple of songs. The idea with Trial by Fire is to face the ultimate challenges, and I wanted to visualize that. He did a great job; he is an amazing artist and I’m really happy he did the cover for me.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts of being a part of the Frontiers Music roster with this band – as they have a wide array of artists across the AOR, melodic rock, and hard rock/metal spectrum, and have been an active part of the scene since the late 1990’s?
Harøy: I think it’s really cool. I am now on the same label as bands like Eclipse and Magnus Karlsson who I have been working with. I think it’s a great honor to be on this label, and they seem to have faith in this project as well. I am happy to be at Frontiers. I also had the honor of meeting Alessandro Del Vecchio a couple of weeks ago. We had a good talk, he’s a great musician and a great guy. For me, it’s good to be on a label like Frontiers as they have this system with releases and really good promotion. It’s all taken care of.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of the biggest challenges for Mantric Momentum in establishing a presence or foothold in the scene, considering the multitude of releases and bands fighting for attention and space globally?
Harøy: I think if we can manage to create some great songs with some good riffs and good hooks, some people will like it. I’ve always been a fan of music with guitar riffs, I’m a big fan of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, riff-based music. If you make a good vocal melody with a riff, that’s important for me and I hope people like it. I just want to do my thing and I hope it’s enough to stand up. I just have to do what I can do – for me to try to do a different musical approach would be difficult for me. I want to make music that has the right range between the heavy stuff and songs with a bit more melody, the balance that is really down to earth. In the end, that’s what I do, and we’ll see what comes out of it.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your own personal creativity, do you find there are certain times of the day that are better for you when it comes to working on riffs and developing material?
Harøy: I don’t know. It depends, sometimes at work I have this guitar at my office, and my brain turns on and something comes out. Other times like the Trial by Fire album, I recorded every idea that came into my head, every melody and rhythm. I could be skiing, and I would have this idea. No particular time of day, often when I come to bed good ideas come. Sometimes I just have to get out of bed, record the ideas into my phone, and my wife thinks that is really strange.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you hoping to be able to assemble a live band to play some shows together for Mantric Momentum, or are you content to develop this as a studio-oriented outfit considering the work that you have with Divided Multitude and Terje’s duties with Pyramaze?
Harøy: We have talked about this. The process is on a thought level still. If we can get some cool gigs, we will try to make a live band from it. I have some musicians who are interested in joining a live band. Who knows, it might happen. Terje is recording a new Pyramaze album, and I’m writing a new Divided Multitude album. We are open, we will see what happens if the live shows can happen, we will find time for it.
Dead Rhetoric: What is some of the worst advice you see or hear being given in the metal music industry?
Harøy: If you are not true to what you believe in, that is the worst thing you can do. Try to be something you are not, it’s hard to be making some genuine, good music. So many people are really good at doing so many different things. I am so old; I don’t want to try to give anyone advice anymore. People just need to do what they like to do, because that’s when it’s true and you can give something that comes from inside.
Dead Rhetoric: When you listen to music for pleasure over the past six months to a year, what have you gravitated towards? Newer bands or the classics?
Harøy: Both really. I am discovering new bands. I am always so slow in discovering bands. I have been listening to the latest In Flames singles. The latest Nita Strauss single is amazing. A Sound of Thunder’s new album is amazing. I listen to music all day, really.
Dead Rhetoric: When you feel overwhelmed or you have lost your focus, what types of things do you like to do to regain perspective?
Harøy: A difficult question. I have my family around me all the time, they really support me and they are really good to have around – that gives life perspective, I think. I have other interests outside of music, watching soccer is great. I turn my brain off and listen to other music to get really inspired.
Dead Rhetoric: Speaking of soccer, are you looking forward to the World Cup and the teams you are rooting for?
Harøy: I’m looking forward to this. There have been so many things talking about boycotting the World Cup. I think it’s a sad story that people are dying to make a big tournament in a place that it should not be, people are violating human rights and that’s a bad thing. I love soccer, I will watch some of the games at least. I am not supporting breaking human rights. At this time of year, most of the major soccer leagues are going to have to stop as the top players will be going to this World Cup.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think your definition of success has changed from when you first picked up an instrument and started performing in bands to your outlook today?
Harøy: Maybe. For me, success has always been releasing music. That is success to me, (to be) given the opportunity to release music has always been something that I do. I’m so privileged to have the opportunity to do it. I’ve always wanted to be a professional musician. I’m so so on that, I have to work a bit more to be on that level. I’m not ready to quit my day job quite yet.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to Mantric Momentum, Divided Multitude, or any other musical activities for yourself over the next year or so?
Harøy: I am aiming to write a new Divided Multitude album; we are in talks with a new label. We will probably announce that before Christmas. Also, I will start recording new Mantric Momentum songs. I hope to have a couple of songs recorded before Christmas, or early next year at least. So, we can give ourselves a head start for the next album. We will try not to release the two albums around the same time. (laughs).