Seventh Crystal – Living in WonderlandTuesday, 21st February 2023
There’s a wealth of musical talent within European countries these days – content to churn out influences often rarely heard in the modern scene. Seventh Crystal out of Sweden is a sextet that straddle the lines of melodic rock, AOR, hard rock, and metal – pulling from a host of bands across the 80’s, 90’s all the way up to the current crop of contenders such as H.E.A.T., One Desire, and more. Their second album Wonderland contains all the requisite stellar songwriting trademarks one could ever hope for – those undeniable hooks plus melodic choruses that cement themselves deeply into the body and brain for a lifetime.
We reached out to vocalist Kristian Fyhr to give us the scoop on his early memories in music, the songwriting outlook / teamwork within Seventh Crystal, his additional duties as a songwriter / vocalist for other bands/projects, thoughts on the melodic hard rock/metal scene currently, valuable lessons learned from veteran musicians, plus future plans with the band, Ginevra, and Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about your first memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you start listening to heavy forms of rock/metal, and eventually want to start performing in bands?
Kristian Fyhr: I guess I started to play the piano about (the age of) five or six. We had an acoustic piano at home, eventually my mom bought me one. Growing up in the 1990’s, I grew up listening to Max Martin and all of these pop songs like Backstreet Boys, stuff like that. When I was nine or ten, my uncle gave me a Kiss record – and that was the beginning of the heavier stuff. When I started high school, we had some friends that made a band together, we would play covers of Poison, Mötley Crüe. That was the good journey.
Dead Rhetoric: When did you start singing – obviously you mentioned learning music on the piano, but did you pick up other instruments as well?
Fyhr: I played the drums for several years in a blues band. We were playing together from fourth or fifth grade until we were 19 or 20. Many years together with that band, it was boring playing the blues. I didn’t want to play that. Singing – it started really, really late. I didn’t start singing until I was around 20. I always wanted to write songs for others and be a musical producer. I’ve studied sound engineering for many years, I know studio equipment, stuff like that is really my thing. At one point, I wanted to be able to show the singers that come to my studio how to do it, from there it just went forward.
Dead Rhetoric: From a previous interview I read on the band, the lineup contains musicians who have worked with diverse acts from Toto to Behemoth among others. Do you believe this gives Seventh Crystal a deeper well to pull from when it comes to the approach and execution of this style?
Fyhr: Yeah, definitely. Different roots and different styles of music definitely influences each and every one of us to write different, and in different directions. Our main goal when we write a song together is to make the song as good as possible. I think it’s a really good thing.
Dead Rhetoric: Wonderland is the second studio record for Seventh Crystal. How would you assess the songwriting and recording sessions for this set of material – and where do you see the similarities or differences between this album versus your debut from 2021 Delirium?
Fyhr: We started writing for this album a week before the release of Delirium. You write the stuff, send it to the label, and the label has to process it so during that time you have nothing to do so we started to write the music for this album. “Wonderland” was the first song, both the main track for the album but also the guideline for the album. Where we wanted the album to be. The process, Emil (Dornerus) one of the guitar players wrote the background, I did a top line and we sent it back and forth. We tried some drums on it, and that’s usually the way that we record. We go to the rehearsal place, try the ideas out, sleep on it, go over things again. It goes on like that.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you believe you learned more about the tones, production process for this record compared to the first one?
Fyhr: We are so creative. Both Emil and I, we are already done writing for the third album. We have about 30 songs to choose from. You always are learning; you always adapt to the people that you are playing with. No matter what I’m writing in my home studio, when Emil and I get together, we form the structure of the songs together. You learn from the first album – in the beginning it was me, the bass player and the keyboard player in the band. Then we got Emil, and Anton (Roos) the drummer – at first, we thought we should have them as hired players, they were not supposed to be in the band. We did an acoustic video for “So Beautiful” in the studio, and one or two days later Frontiers contacted us. From there we just moved on – it feels like we have always had to adapt to a new situation. Sometimes I don’t know how to handle it, we figure it out. So far things are going pretty well.
Dead Rhetoric: For this album were there any songs that took on great transformations from the initial demo stage to the final product?
Fyhr: I don’t know. Maybe “Imperfection”. I heard that song in so many versions. I developed the song on piano when I was fifteen, so it’s over seventeen years ago when I wrote it. I have always had it with me, but I never figured out what to do with it, in which context to put it until now. I showed it to the keyboard player, he fooled around with it, and now we are home with it. There was a house version of it, I’ve made several versions of it, this is the biggest transformation now of it.
Dead Rhetoric: The songwriting and performances intertwine a mix of modern hard rock with AOR/classic-oriented influences across the melodic hard rock/metal spectrum. Are there specific elements or qualities that you guys as musicians consider essential to make the grade for Seventh Crystal?
Fyhr: It has to do with the background of each musician that we can write in these different directions. Having different backgrounds in music, it’s one of the things that shapes things. The most important element is that everyone is listening to the song. We do not have a goal when writing, if it’s a good song, it’s a good song. But of course you need to, you can’t have any loose threads, you have to have the right wire going through the whole album. We started with “Wonderland” and “Higher Ground”, those two songs are pretty… not similar, but they shaped the rest of the way for the album.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to your voice and vocal parts/melodies, are there specific times of the day or atmosphere/circumstances that need to be in place to achieve the best work? Were there specific parts on the new record that maybe took a bit more time to reach what you had in mind to appear on the final track?
Fyhr: Yes, some of the songs are a bit heavier for me to sing. You need to sleep well of course. Usually when I record since I have my own home studio, I have a 600 kilo vocal booth here behind me. I can sing every day. If one day it doesn’t fit me, I go down to the couch and watch tv or whatever. In my opinion I experience many bad days because I have the opportunity to do this every day. It would be one thing if I had to book a studio, you have to be mentally prepared for going to the studio and working in the studio. In that way, it’s easy to do it when I have the time to do it. But in the morning, oh no (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve released two videos for “Higher Ground” and the title track, directed by Patric Ullaeus. Do you enjoy the video making process, and where do you see the importance of this medium in spreading the word of Seventh Crystal through social media platforms – as it definitely differs from the days of MTV/VH1 or major media channels when videos were so important during the 80’s/90’s?
Fyhr: I think today since you can make your own home videos with a telephone, it’s so important to work with professional people like Patric. He’s super talented, and everything goes quickly – we were able to do two videos in one day. Doing a performance video, it can give you the feeling of what mood we are in when we write the song. We choose something that is about listening to the music – but I think the next two videos for “Million Times” and “In the Mirror” we will have storylines across the performance of the videos. It’s storytelling with those. If you compare things to MTV, there was hundreds of thousands of dollars put into those (videos). I haven’t heard of many bands today that have that kind of money to work with videos. Everything goes much faster, and there’s this accessibility to just take your telephone and record stuff. It’s hard to stand out throughout the masses.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you also tell us about the cover art that you developed for Wonderland? Was it a back-and-forth process between the band and the artist to come up with the final product?
Fyhr: It’s always back and forth with cover art because there are six people in the band and six opinions. The first song “Wonderland”, when we wrote that one the lyrics are about being in a wonderland, everything can happen. We all believe those types of lyrics would fit with the cover art we wanted. That window, when she is looking out through the world, she can see it in both in color and black and gray. The meaning of two different worlds, that things don’t always appear as they seem. That’s also the main point in the song.
Dead Rhetoric: You are also a part of Ginevra and will be appearing on the forthcoming Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall album. What would you say about your approach to each act or project makes things unique – do you believe this also stretches your abilities as a singer to enhance your work for Seventh Crystal?
Fyhr: Definitely. Seventh Crystal is my main band, and it lies closest to my heart, and always will. Doing stuff with other musicians and other producers, I always learn something. I love working with other people – working with Magnus, he is a complete genius, all the way through. The songs that he sends, they are the best demos I’ve ever heard. They sound so complete, like many records coming out today, when he delivers the demos. Doing a vocal line over the top of this, it’s like ‘oh my God!’. Ginevra is a much harder band – to keep those two things apart I spent a lot of time talking to Serafino and Mario on Frontiers before doing those albums. I really wanted to make sure that one another didn’t collide with each other. We needed Ginevra to be much heavier, I sped up the tempos and also the songs are written in higher pitches. I use even more force in my voice to sing these songs. My voice is more aggressive, whereas with Seventh Crystal we have elements of AOR, but people were talking when we released “Higher Ground” that it sounds like a pop song – now we are talking. Seventh Crystal is a bit more… not easy listening, but more commercial, arena rock is a word that fits, huge synth pads, the arrangements are made for being on the bigger stages.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of melodic hard rock/heavy metal in the current marketplace? Do you believe it’s harder to make a strong impression and gain an audience compared to the arena-level, million selling album days when these styles were bigger/more mainstream during the 1980’s and 1990’s?
Fyhr: Yeah, it’s definitely harder. Every melodic rock band you can find, they are either on Frontiers, or you don’t know of them, because they are really great. It’s hard to write good songs these days, because every time I write a top line, I’m like, ‘I’ve heard this before’. And then you have to think about it for a while, and you can’t figure out what it is you are thinking about. You can’t write a completely unique song, it’s different. Throughout a couple of hundred bars of music and melodies, there will always be something someone thinks of another band. You can try to make it unique, and what makes it unique is of course the vocalist but also the way of writing when several people get together and try out different things without having any specific aim. Just writing music for writing music, and that’s where the magic happens.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about Frontiers Music as a label and the promotional team behind them that push your work into the global landscape?
Fyhr: I like them. I have nothing bad to say. It’s been since 2020 since we signed, we are on our third year with Frontiers. I have worked a lot with Alessandro, writing several songs for James Christian, Harry Hess, Toby Hitchcock, Giant, Revolution Saints. I have written for many of their musicians because Serafino and Mario asked if I could collaborate and do things. They are a great label.
Dead Rhetoric: How does it feel to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of those legends and veteran musicians in the melodic hard rock/metal platform?
Fyhr: The most valuable lesson is when starting with this – I’ve always been writing music, but when you work with someone on that level, take for example James Christian. He’s awesome to work with, he doesn’t say, ‘oh – this is not good, can you do it this way?’. He’s like ‘no this is not good- try something else!’. I really like that; I am learning from it. When I wrote one of the songs for Revolution Saints, when I got back Deen Castronovo’s vocals I was blown away – it is so cool. Looking in the rear-view mirror these past three years, there are a lot of things happening around me. You get blind, you continue to do things and you never hit the hand brake. When you realize that, it feels so good.
Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people to learn about Kristian the person away from being a musician – as I understand that one of the things you like to do in your free time is play disc golf and spend time in nature, correct? Does this help you get grounded and energized for your musical pursuits?
Fyhr: Of course. Playing disc golf is really good. Getting out in nature, doing things outside, having that fresh air. Just being inside of the studio, that creates tons of creativity but then getting outside and going back in, it’s a reset for your mind. The bass player Olof, he also plays disc golf too with his best friend. It’s nice to play with him, we talk about band stuff too when we are outside playing.
Dead Rhetoric: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Or do you have a favorite failure of yours that took place in your career, and how did you end up pushing through?
Fyhr: I don’t know about failure. Since you are a performer, you always want to perform your best. Have you heard of a band called Dawn Patrol? I played with the drummer and the guitar player, and the singer was a mentor. I started playing with those guys when I was 21, and I met them when I worked in a store in Gothenburg. I thought it was old guys playing covers and stuff like that. When I got to their rehearsal room, they started playing some Deep Purple and I was like ‘wow, what is this?’. The most challenging time, those guys formed my voice into what I’m able to sing today, the way of how things was done old school. I do like new school and the way of technicalities you can use. Going old school doing it for real, I’ve learned that has helped me a lot.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you think of three specific albums that are all-time favorites that resonate with you in the rock/metal landscape – and what’s your favorite concert memory, purely attending as a fan – plus what made that show so special to you?
Fyhr: The best album is not a rock album. It’s Michael Jackson – Dangerous from 1991. A split second place would be Foreigner – 4 and Agent Provocateur. And on third place would be Waking Up Your Neighbours – Bryan Adams. The last three albums have all been produced by Robert John Mutt Lange. The number one is Michael Jackson. The best concert memory – I have been to so many. One I remember the whole concert, and this may come as a shock to some people is HIM in 2007. I remember the whole concert from when Ville Valo came out with a cigarette to the end. Also, Rage Against the Machine in the same year, Ed Sheeran last year, also a really good concert.
Dead Rhetoric: What is your approach to the live performances as a band compared to what people hear on record?
Fyhr: With my voice, we try to do nothing. We try to keep it the same, that’s why we rehearse with the songs. We do have background rehearsals – all the guys in the band except for the drummer do background vocals. We try to think about arranging the songs in the way that we can perform them, without backing tracks.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for activities related to Seventh Crystal or any other bands/projects you are a part of over the next twelve months or so?
Fyhr: For Seventh Crystal now, we have been doing several radio shows, playing acoustic to promote the album. The 10th of March we will play with Treat in Gothenburg, Sweden. On that Saturday we will do an acoustic set at a local pub called 2112. We will go to Stockholm and play, and Germany as well. Things are starting to happen with this album. The Magnus Karlsson Free Fall album, since we worked together with Ginevra, I couldn’t turn this down. Next up will be trying to write the next Ginevra album and work on album number three with Seventh Crystal.