JOHNNY HEDLUND: 'I Started UNLEASHED To Bring Old Viking Traditions Into The Present'

August 25, 2019

Tomislav of Antichrist Magazine conducted an interview with frontman Johnny Hedlund of veteran Swedish death metallers UNLEASHED at this year's Wacken Open Air festival, which was held earlier in the month in Wacken, Germany. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the band's latest studio album, 2018's "The Hunt For White Christ":

Johnny: "It's been going really well. It's a concept album that's been going on for four albums now. What we did is that, many years ago, I wrote the beginning to a book, like a story that's called 'The World Of Odalheim'. I figured since I probably will never finish the damn book; I never get the time. I really wanted to do it, but there's no time. I figured I'd take small chapters of the book and make them into songs. Since it's about a future world of Odalheim that I call 'Odalheim', it would be a smart idea to do that. It worked out very well, actually, and now it's the fourth album and we probably will continue on the next album. It's about the Midgard warriors and their struggle against White Christ, which is the opponent. People can say whatever they like about it, but I've only had a really good response so far. The thing with doing something like that is that nobody can really know what's going to happen. It's just me. The only guy who knows it is me because the book never got finished. Since I keep doing the albums and the lyrics to the albums, I can keep modifying things. I can keep doing small changes here and there, and nobody would know. If you write the book complete, then everybody knows from start to end and they know what it's going to be. When I start writing now, I keep writing for the next album, and I don't even know exactly what's going to happen. It's kind of fun. It's a new challenge after so many years."

On whether UNLEASHED's lyrical themes could be considered a reflection of present times:

Johnny: "What I've been thinking about, let's say, intensely for the past 10, 15 years, I would say even longer, maybe 20, 25 years, because I started this death metal thing with UNLEASHED to bring old Viking traditions into the present so that I could bring them forth to the future. There's more depth to that than most people might think. What it is, it is the past, the present and the future. I think all traditions, it doesn't matter which I talk about, but since I talk about the Viking tradition, obviously, that's what I do, I get influences from the past and I kind of work with them because of the future and things that happen in the future and what I think is necessary to bring to the future to our children in the future, to a future society. So, the world of Odalehim is a lot like that. But obviously a post-apocalyptic world. It's not really a very delightful world. It's a world where things have already gone sideways. There's nothing saying that it won't go sideways. We're in the middle of shit now that I think a lot of things are going to crash before we get a chance to do something about it. Maybe we're just constructed that way that we don't want to do something about it. Then, after chaos comes order, so let's hope for that anyway. I think that's what Odalheim kind of will be. It will be the chaos that will transform and transcend into order. That's pretty much what I write about. I do that in the Viking traditional way. You can do that probably in many other ways as well, but I use my tradition and where I come from to put that in perspective, so to speak."

On the reaction from the Swedish metal scene when he launched UNLEASHED in 1989:

Johnny: "See, the thing back then was there weren't so many people around where we lived. Shortly after [ENTOMBED precursor band] NIHILIST, there was, I don't know, a few hundred people in Stockholm that were seriously into death metal, wearing death metal patches. Well, there weren't any patches, so you had to write the damn logo. I had a DISMEMBER logo on my back; I had a MACABRE logo, an AUTOPSY logo on my back because I had no patch. I don't know if their reactions were lively. The scene was so small — it exploded a few years later — but it was so small back then that I don't think there was that many reactions from people other than the obvious bullshit from people at work, everybody would say, 'That stuff that you play will never hit the road. Never. Not even that, you will never get money to finance an LP. Never. Not going to happen. You're delusional. You're in space.' That's what everybody told us. I'm sure that's what everybody told NECROPHOBIC and MORBID ANGEL and all those bands, and AUTOPSY and BOLT THROWER. We all got that crap. I guess that's the reaction, I would say. We didn't give a rat's ass. We believed in what we did. I think we had a message, too, and we loved the music. Most of all we knew we were a metal family and it didn't matter if I go to fucking Chile or fucking Florida or Russia, I could go anywhere in the world, there would still be family around. That's something, man. That's something that is worthy of repeating, like a million times because a lot of other people don't have it. I see that all the time in Sweden. It doesn't matter where I [go]. A lot of people don't have that type of family. They have mother and cousin and father and they have that, but they don't have this family. They can't call somebody up in fucking Holland tomorrow and say 'Hey, you want to meet up for a beer? I'm coming over!' They can't do that. That's really, really strong, I would say. Really strong."

UNLEASHED's 13th full-length album, "The Hunt For White Christ", was released last October via Napalm Records.

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