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Interview with Winterlong's lead guitarist Thorbjorn Englund by Nicky Baldrian

Out now on Lion Music is the stunning debut album "Valley Of The Lost" from Sweden's Winterlong. What is interesting about this band is that there isn't a single band member over the age of 25.They play big solid grandiose power metal a'la Hammerfall, Stratovarius, Yngwie Malmsteen, Blind Guardian and Manowar and songs such as the amazing "Nosferatu" and "Written In Blood" will please fans of this genre. I got together with lead guitarist Thorbjorn Englund and here's what he had to say..

Hi Thorbjorn I love your album can you our readers all about the history of Winterlong?
Well we have known each other since the schooldays, and we all grew up in the ruins of the 80´metal wave. Toni (drums) and myself played together even before Winterlong. We left the band we were in (as a matter of fact I was playing bass in that setup) and formed Winterlong with our long-time friends Hussni (rhythm guitars) and Erik (bass) who where aiming for the same goal as us, to get serious in the fight for a career on the metal scene. The years went on as we practised, performed and recorded…It was tough, but with a 100% devotion to the music that we play, we managed to finally sign our first and well earned record contract. And here is where we stand today!

You have just released an excellent new CD on Lion Music, can you tell me about the songs and how you got together with Lion?
A lot of the material on the "Valley of the lost" is kinda´old, due to the fact that this is our debut-album. But some songs are new such as "From heaven to Hell" and "Written in blood". We did two tracks in the studio as well, the instrumental opening to "Written in blood" and the last one "Driven by insanity". We have got to give credit to Lasse (the president & producer of Lion Music), for the amazing keys in the end of that one. I think Lion Music is the right place for a band like us to be, cause they really put their heart and soul into what they do…feels great!

What inspires you musically and spiritually?
The songs are very much influenced by bands such as Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray and others with a more complex way of structuring the music, the unique thing though is the "Viking-style sound"-which is hard to describe, but once you'll listen you'll understand. There's also a little touch of Manowar, as well as some neo- classical elements, mainly influenced by Yngwie Malmsteen. About my choice of notes as a guitar player it's musicians like Yngwie Malmsteen, Vanessa Mae, Joe Satriani and Kee Marcello who are the greatest inspiration sources. The spiritual inspiration however, can strike when you least expect it…it has happened that you got up in the middle of the night, hearing something in your head, and just got to pick up the guitar, and
out comes a melody, riff or whatever!

I was surprised by how young you guys are, how old are you all and have you done anything prior to Winterlong and what made you put the band together playing this style of music when most bands your age seem to want to play black and death metal or alternative indy music?
It feels great to be young in this business, in that way we have a long future! I just turned 22, so did Erik our bass player. Our singer Hussni and the drummer Toni are both 20. Prior to Winterlong? Yes, Toni and me had a band back in the days, we even got to play as an opening act for John Norum, I think it was in 97´. We recorded some demos and did a lot of gigs, but since I got to fiddle with the bass in that band it didn't feel right, so we teamed up with Hussni and Erik and formed Winterlong together!

Do you think that because your young and fresh that this has worked to your advantage in the tough music industry? I believe that you may be one of the youngest bands out there.
I really don't know. It's possible that a lot of people find it interesting in the sense that we have so much more to offer! After all, this is our first album, and there's plenty where that came from!

What's the craziest thing that's happened to you and the band since you launched your musical career?
That's a tough one. We're quite calm by nature, (the spirit of Kalix, where we live) so we don't go smashing hotel rooms and things like that, but a funny thing I can recall was when we did a gig at a club and some drunk stumbled up the stage to tell us we where to loud, only to fall on Hussnis guitar set-up…that was quite annoying!

What are your goals in life, both personal and musical?
Our goal has always been to succeed in the fight for our music, whether it's to become a multimillionaire-star or not, the money is not the object, it's the music and the passion that drives us! I can't think of a life without my guitar!

There are thousands of bands trying to make it out there - what do you think Winterlong have to offer that makes them that more likely to succeed?
We're not better than anyone else still struggling out there, it's just that we finally found someone brave enough who believes in us and our music. The key to succeed I think is to never ever doubt yourself, no matter what people say and no matter how many times you're being denied by record labels. Just believe in what you're doing and be true - then success will come your way sooner or later.

When you start piecing your songs together, do you go with the natural flow of what comes out or do you start looking for some form of inspiration?
As I mentioned before inspiration is the strangest thing. What we often do is when we're at the rehearsals we all contribute little pieces to the songs which we kind of "have in store", whether it's a guitar run, riff, drum fill, vocals, bass or whatever, those things have all come to us during inspiration, and then it often turns out to be a very powerful song that you really like to play! Sure one can come up with an entire song on it's own to, but then it's not the essence of the whole band.

Why did you decide to become a musician?
I've never decided to become a musician, it has always been natural to me. Playing guitar and create music is like breathing, without it one would surely die. I've created music since the age of six when I got my first keyboard, then I picked up the guitar at 10, and at age 16 I watched a video with Yngwie Malmsteen and where totally amazed with what you could do with a guitar, and it was at that point I decided to really focus on the guitar. Everything was put aside, and the guitar stuck to my arms for sometimes 8-9 hours a day!

What's in store for the future? Any live shows planned?
At the present time our drummer is away for a while on a job, but when he returns we will surely play as much as possible, the only dull thing is the lack of clubs and gigs in this part of Sweden. Also in the near future we'll start writing material for the next album!

Is there anything you would like to say to all the metal fans out there to help Winterlong's cause?
We hope that people will find our music interesting, and we are hoping to meet up with our fan base when we're on the road in the future! A very special thanks to all the Winterlong-fans out there, you're the best!!!