LANCER - Swedish Metal, With A Nod To Traditional Gods

April 2, 2013, 6 years ago

By Mark Gromen

lancer feature

No, not Thor and Odin, but rather IRON MAIDEN, HELLOWEEN and even relative newcomers/ countrymen, HAMMERFALL: a blast from the past! Like many of their young Swedish contemporaries, LANCER possess an affinity for '80s sounds, including the high pitched vocals of Isak Stenvall (often favorably compared to classic Michael Kiske). He introduces North America to the band, their eponymous debut (via Doolittle Group) and some worthwhile music. “Since IRON MAIDEN is a major influence, we use to say that our sound is somewhere between them, Helloween and HammerFall and that's pretty close. If you're more involved in the metal scene, we could mention Gamma Ray, and Avantasia too. We used to refer to Helloween, because they were the pioneers, but I can agree with you that there’s some Edguy-feeling in our songs. The track ‘Seventh Angel’ is the most Edguy-ish track on the album, but since we don't have piano ballads, orchestrations, synth figures and Hallelujah choirs, I think that our sound is closer to the Keeper era than Edguy. HammerFall guitarist Oscar Dronjak told our producer and friend Ronny Milianowicz that he listens to our album in his car, which is awesome, cause HammerFall is one of my favorite bands.”

The members began their journey as a cover band, called KELEMEN’S SALVATION ORCHESTRA, “We met at a music academy and our mission was to spread the word of Power Metal. Every week you could hear songs by Helloween, HammerFall, MASTERPLAN and NOCTURNAL RITES echo through the academy’s corridors.” Once they played live, it was on to original music, as the singer explains, “After the debut gig at our local pub we decided to start writing our own material: Power Metal with a lot of inspiration from the 80's NWOBHM era. The first two songs we wrote were ‘Don't Go Changing’ and ‘Young and Alive’ (both on the current CD), so we almost immediately found our sound.”

As often happens, in the transition to original material, line-up changes were necessary. “Everyone wasn't ready to go all in,” says the Swede, his understanding of English euphemisms impeccable. “So we recruited Sebastian (Pedernera), on drums and just before recording of the album, we recruited Emil (Öberg) on bass. The solid formation of Lancer was born and we felt ready to take over the world with our music.” But what to call this new entity? “Everyone in the band had their homework,” begins ‘Stenvall, “to think about a band name. On my way home, I saw “Lancer” on a parked Mitsubishi car outside of my apartment. It was like a revelation. Lancer, sounded fast, heavy and really powerful and when I Googled the word, it meant some kind of horsemen with a lance.” Bingo!

While Lancer is something of a metallic moniker, the album artwork is rather unconventional, sporting what the band describe as a “battle ostrich’ (lanky bird with studded collar, spiked knee pads and laser vision). Those familiar with the 80s arcade game Joust, might see some similarity. “None of us were aware of Joust,” contends Isak. “Our newly recruited bass player Emil (who is studying to be a psychology teacher), is a real video game nerd, said ‘Hey guys, we need to have a Joust arcade game in the rehearsal room.’ We looked at him and said, ‘What is Joust?’ He answered, ‘Don't you know what Joust is, our whole image is built on Joust.’ He showed us pictures of warriors riding battle ostriches, but the whole thing is a really strange and funny coincidence.” In fact, it was the singer, who painted the original concept. “When we had recorded our Reaching Higher demo, we needed a cover, so I painted a metal mistress, with a lance, riding some kind of dragonbird. My band mates said: ‘Well, it's cool, but what the fuck is she riding? It looks like a blind ostrich.’ Everyone laughed and then there was silence. We looked at each other and thought the same thing: we must have an ostrich as a mascot. It's so weird that it's genius. When we later on met with our record label, the boss said, ‘I love this crazy ostrich. No one will forget Lancer, the band with a battle ostrich mascot.” The crazy bird appears in their ‘Young And Alive’ video.

Speaking of promotional clips, the young Swedes already have a pair under their belts, including the 8-bit computer game inspired ‘Purple Sky’, a rather expensive proposition for a fledgling band. “We shot the ‘Purple Sky’ video when the EP (of the same name) was out,” explains the vocalist. “It was the first song that I didn't write the music for, the song was written by our guitarist, Fredrik Kelemen. I added the vocal melodies. I really like the NWOBHM feeling over the song, a great opening track. It has a catchy chorus and great guitar melodies. The tempo and harmony appeal to both power metal and traditional metal fans, but Lancer is so much more than our music. The whole theatrical and visualizing aura of the band is really important so we wanted to show the listeners what we’re about. When the debut was released, our record label wanted a new video to promote the album. Both the record label and the producers voted for ‘Young and Alive.”

After sneaking a listen, via YouTube, or the band’s website:, hopefully you’re intrigued enough to check out the remainder of the Lancer CD. Stenvall hopes so, elaborating on a couple of the standout tracks. “The best thing about power metal is that it can be heavy, fast, evil and funny at the same time. The dynamic between those elements are important for me, but it need to be balanced. Helloween and Edguy are masterminds of handling those things. An Edguy show is always filled with a great amount of humor and supreme heavy metal music. ‘Dreamchasers’ was that kind of song that wrote itself. I started to sing the chorus a cappella, ‘Here we are still,’ and everything fell into place. I sat down with the guitar and came up with the pre-chorus on the first attempt. I think I wrote the whole song in a single afternoon. It is very simple in the harmony and form, and I think that's why it's so good, a really nice naive heavy metal spirit.”

He continues, “Mr Starlight’ is a Helloween/KAI HANSEN tribute. It has typical ‘Somewhere Out In Space’ lyrics and the whole song is built as a Helloween song: cheerful chorus, the down tempo bridge with charging guitars, drum and bass solos and of course, the insane speed! The lyrics of the song are told by a stoned dude who sees aliens, watchers and spaceships on his street. He’s convinced that they are coming to take him away and the only one who could save him is his made-up friends: Mr. Starlight and his companion Mrs. Moonshine. It's always a blast to play that song live, the crowd loves it.”

Lots to love, and the rest of the world is already crowing (ostriching?) about Lancer. “Here in Sweden the album has got really good reviews, but we’ve received great responses in the rest of Europe too. The reviews have been nothing but positive. We were featured in the latest issue of the legendary Metal Hammer Greece, with an interview and a high score review. Greece has even showed the ‘Purple Sky’ video on national television! In Japan, we got a great review Burrn! We got in contact with a guy from Osaka who owns a metal shop. He wanted to get our first demo, Reaching Higher, and the Purple Sky EP. We sent him a package that sold out overnight. That's awesome!” The greatest metal loving nations on the globe are rarely wrong. Find out for yourself!

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