Meridian – Entering the Next DimensionTuesday, 20th September 2022
Displaying a catchy brand of melodic metal with throwback 80’s/90’s influences at the helm, Danish act Meridian may not necessarily be the flashiest act around – but their attention to the right riffs, tempos, hooks, and songwriting ethics can’t be denied. Their latest album The 4th Dimension explores a mix of hard rock, heavy metal, and even AOR-style elements, possibly producing their most versatile and strongest front to back outing to date. We reached out to bassist Peter Bruun and drummer Klaus Skjoldborg Agerbo to learn more about the work behind the new record, the special covers EP they delivered previously plus the decision making behind those choices, the realistic views of where Meridian slots in terms of time/energy versus careers and family lives, the changes within the Danish heavy music scene, as well as upcoming live performance plans.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest Meridian album is The 4th Dimension. Where do you see this record slotting in the collection of material for the band – as well as the major differences or strengths that appear for this record compared to your previous discography?
Peter Bruun: I feel that this album is a bit more diverse, a little more melodic. That’s the main difference, I think. All the songs offer something different.
Klaus Skjoldborg Agerbo: I think we all agree within the band that this is our strongest release, ever. When bands work with songs for a longer period of time and then record, listening to mixes you kind of get tired listening to your own stuff. We haven’t had that feeling with this material in the same way. Every fourteen days or so we’ve been communicating with each other and still feeling that this is really good. It’s still strong, and after you have had a couple of gigs where we have been playing the new material, the fans underline the fact that these are great songs. For the first time, we’ve been playing many of the new songs in a live setting because they are just so fun to play, great songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe the pandemic had any effect on the output this time around?
Bruun: The way we worked on writing these songs was different. We used to get together and jam, riff on ideas and develop them into songs together. This time during the lockdown we were working much more apart. In that way, it did affect things.
Agerbo: The majority of the songs have been written by Martin and Marco, the two guitarists. I think it’s only one song that we developed and jammed together, and that was a song that was a late edition to the album, the song “Dreamers” which turned out to be the first single. We were all fresh, and if you ask me, I definitely prefer the jamming way of working together. Having said that, when Martin sent his demos where he put other instruments as well, and Marco did the same – even then we could hear that these were great songs. I couldn’t wait to meet up with the guys and start jamming on these songs and record them.
Another thing that was different. In the past, Lars our singer lived in Copenhagen which is quite a bit of distance from where we are in the other part of Denmark. Many of the songs were jammed and rehearsed by us, and then we would send them to Lars, and he would put the melody lines on as the last thing. This time around, Lars was involved pretty early on, as soon as we got the demos from the other guys, he started working on melody lines for the songs. Peter, Marco, Lars, and I contribute with lyrics through the years. Whenever Lars had a rough idea for the melody lines, we got to work on the lyrics. For the first time, the songs were almost completed in demo form before we actually started recording, and that’s a first for the band.
Bruun: When we finally got to the recording of the album, it was very easy because we have worked in Marco’s studio several times, so we knew how to do it. It was just going in; the songs were very complete.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel the band has an additional advantage with guitarist Marco Angioni also being a seasoned producer for the group?
Bruun: Yes. It makes the recording a much more comfortable situation. We take the time that we need. It’s cheaper working within his studio. We are not looking at the clock, everything is relaxed and the process within the band, he knows everything about it. What we don’t have is someone coming from the outside with different input. So far, it’s been working.
Agerbo: Also, Marco’s studio doubles as our rehearsal space. We have our gear there, we’ve been there so many times, it just feels so familiar. He also has accommodations there, so we can stay for days in a row. It felt as relaxing as the other times, even more so I think because we were comfortable with the songs in the demo form. We knew we had something more special this time around, stronger songs. It was great fun. Peter and I are the first ones to be recorded, then Martin and Marco, Martin lives close to where Marco lives so they had some evenings where they just worked out much of the guitar sound and started playing their parts. We had two weekends where Lars came in and did the vocals.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between the two guitar players?
Bruun: Martin is the lead guitar player, and he’s been in the band for nine years now. He was always the only lead player. When Marco joined, he only recently started playing leads. They are very different lead-wise. They both offer something different and something special. Martin, his musical influences are definitely based in the blues. He loves the blues as well. Many metal and hard rock bands base their lead guitar play on the blues anyway. He can also shred and play fast as well. He likes to improvise a lot. Marco writes his solos out, maybe that’s the biggest difference between the two.
Agerbo: It has added to the expression of the band that they both have solos, and in some songs they both even do solos one after another. Marco doing stuff is pushing Martin to do more.
Dead Rhetoric: During the pandemic you also released the Taking Cover EP, a six-song collection of diverse offerings outside of the metal spectrum. How did you decide which songs you wanted to cover, and does this showcase the band’s appreciation for a wide array of styles, beyond your expected hard rock/metal comfort zone?
Bruun: It was not a pandemic thing; we started this EP earlier. When we did the last album, Michael from the record company said, there was a song that sounded like Skagarack, a Danish band. He wanted us to do a cover of one of their songs. That started it, and then instead of just doing one cover song, we decided let’s do an EP where we choose songs. We ended up with twenty or thirty suggestions that we couldn’t decide upon, so everyone decided to pick one song. It is our influences I guess; we didn’t want to go with the obvious (songs). We didn’t want to go too close with what we would be expected to do. One funny thing – all the songs are coming from only a few years in the 80’s.
Dead Rhetoric: I definitely enjoyed this – I appreciated your take on A-Ha with “The Sun Always Shines on TV” plus the “Out in the Fields” cover with Gary Moore and Phil Lynott…
Bruun: Yes, thank you. They both sound so much different than the way they were written. It’s hard to compete with the originals…
Agerbo: Definitely the A-Ha song was easier to Meridian-ize if you can say that. Also, with “Out in the Fields”, that was pretty difficult, as it’s such a killer song, the original. Martin sings in his blues band, so it was obvious he could do the Phil Lynott parts to that vocal, and Lars would do the Gary Moore thing. The only major difference is I played some double bass, where the original didn’t (have any). That was my way to make it ours. We didn’t want to ruin it by having a different tempo or making a doom version, it felt nature to play things close to the original.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest challenges Meridian faces in establishing yourselves more as a band to make a bigger impact and footprint on the scene?
Agerbo: Time is a thing. We all have day jobs of course, families. It’s really hard to get gigs in Denmark. Our kind of music is not that popular in Denmark. We’ve gotten a lot of praise from reviewers for the earlier releases as well, but you can’t take all those reviews and go to a booker – hey they like us, why don’t you book us? Peter has been taking time off, calling the venues around here, and it’s like running into a brick wall sometimes. They don’t call back, because there are many bands fighting for getting to play. The venues can treat bands like that in Denmark. I hope we get a break in countries that are more appreciative of the style of hard rock/metal that we play. It’s much easier to get the music out into the world. On Spotify you can see where the audience is. We have a lot of listeners in the US, Germany, Sweden, different places in Europe.
Dead Rhetoric: Performing in a style with a lot of old school 80’s-oriented characteristics across the hard rock and metal landscape, is it difficult to develop original material in such a way that brings vitality and energy without necessarily retreading or repeating specific artists of that time period?
Bruun: Yes, I guess it always is. Maybe we are repeating stuff, but I don’t think we are that focused on being really original. We are not young; we have been playing the stuff that we like. We just hope that other people like it too. We don’t want to try and be something that we are not.
Agerbo: Sometimes when we are jamming and someone suggests, ‘let’s do a “Sad but True” type part’, but it’s not calculated. Because we have the age that we have and we grew up in listening to heavy metal and the hard rock of the 80’s and 90’s, up until today – some of us at least try to keep up with new stuff as well. When it comes to the drums, I feel things by the music, sometimes in a half-time beat with the riffs, other times I take the tempo up or further down. To me, things are just natural. I don’t try to calculate if we need a Slayer or Metallica part.
Bruun: The mindset on this album was different. On the last one, we had a song called “Second Best”, and we were a little scared of that one. Is that too commercial? And then the next writing session we wrote faster and heavier stuff. We were a bit scared to make something more AOR-oriented. This time, we forgot about that, and we just wrote what we wanted.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the relationships between the band members of Meridian? Do you believe that’s just as important to have friendships and understanding outside of the music and business responsibilities that take place within a group?
Bruun: Yes, definitely. For us, we aren’t making any money on this…
Agerbo: Not yet! (laughs).
Bruun: For us it has to be fun. We have had other band members where it wasn’t as much fun, but with this lineup, we are all friends. It’s always fun together.
Agerbo: Marco is the latest addition to the band, and when he came into the band – Peter and I started the band back in 2005, so we’ve seen a lot of people walk in and walk out. It just felt right. We spent the first ten years finding the right guys. It works right both live and recording-wise. We are all on the same page. Lars is having his third child pretty soon, so the other day we rehearsed without him because it was just the way it was. He should be ready to perform when we have the album out, we have some release gigs coming. Peter and I have older kids, so we know what he is going through. We try to find common ground.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important bands that helped shape your views and outlook on the heavy metal genre – and possibly influence the ambition and energy you deliver for Meridian?
Bruun: I think it’s different for all of us. Iron Maiden definitely – we all love Iron Maiden, for sure. And also, Metallica I think. We would end up naming a lot of 80’s stuff.
Agerbo: Martin came from the blues; the funny story is Martin and I played in a band together in the 90’s – I was the singer at the time. I knew the guy because I grew up in the same area Martin lives in today. When we needed someone to play leads on our debut album, I thought of Martin. When the guitarist at the time didn’t pan out, we called Martin to have him join us. He’s got the blues background, Marco loves Iron Maiden but also the progressive scene of the 70’s and 80’s. Lars listens to a lot of Killswitch Engage, and a lot of younger bands. We bring him up to speed with the old bands. Peter loves the older bands – he’s the oldest one in the band.
The band that got me into hard rock with an edge is AC/DC. I’m still a big fan, from the drumming point of view Phil Rudd is the clock. Soon after that, I discovered Metallica with Master of Puppets and I never looked back. Metallica would be my favorite band, with Iron Maiden a close second.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the Danish metal music scene – do you receive proper respect and support from the venues, promoters, other bands, and get decent respect/ response when playing out live in your home country?
Bruun: There is a lot of extreme black metal, death metal here – but not as much regular melodic metal as in Sweden.
Agerbo: Denmark is a relatively small country, and Peter and I live near the coastal city called Esbjerg, which in the 90’s was like the capital of metal in Denmark. Bigger bands from other countries came and played here, and I moved here later on. Everything changed, no metal anymore, and people these days just want to listen to cover music here, and don’t support original bands or amateur bands anymore. And that’s a shame. It’s not easy selling us as a boy band (laughs)!
Dead Rhetoric: What are some hobbies, interests, and activities that you like to pursue away from music when you have the free time and energy to do so?
Bruun: We all have families. I like to run, try to keep in shape. We have day jobs, all of us. Marco has the studio and his music.
Agerbo: Lars plays acoustic stuff and has gigs with that. Music is for all five of us the thing that takes up the most time besides our jobs and families. I would love to be able to fish some more, I can’t really find the time. I have kids, I drive them to different sports activities. If you want to get together to play gigs and rehearse, you still have to put in some family time.
Dead Rhetoric: What is some of the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed to other musicians when it comes to heavy metal and the industry?
Agerbo: It’s difficult to know. In these times, like Peter said, it’s easier to distribute your music without having a label or big company behind you. It should be easier. I remember back in the 90’s when we did demos in another band that I played in, we were all searching for a record company, and never found one – so we had to self-finance our own CD for ourselves. It’s not like that anymore.
Bruun: We have been doing this for over thirty years. We are not trying to make a living from this. We are doing what we like, playing music we like.
Agerbo: Good advice for up-and-coming bands. If you want to get out there and play, you can do these buy-ons for support tours for bigger bands. You could really get disillusioned by doing that. You can get no soundcheck, no accommodations – and some have the stomach to do it and slowly grow but that wouldn’t really work for us now. We are hoping to do something that has consideration for us still having day jobs. I am a schoolteacher. We are realistic about our situation. I don’t think we’ve had that much bad advice or seeing bad things in the industry.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Meridian over the next twelve months to support the new record?
Bruun: We have a small tour in Scandinavia set up right after the album release. We are going to book more gigs for the new year. We plan to get out there and play, we are definitely a live band.
Agerbo: We have some confirmed festivals too for next year.