Magnuss Karlsson (Primal Fear) has formed Heart Healer to release the album The Metal Opera by Magnus Karlsson. It features seven female vocalists such as Anette Olzon (ex-Nightwish), Noora Louhimo (Battle Beast) and Adrienne Cowan (Seven Spires). He fills us in on his new endeavor.
Chad Bowar: What led you to put together this project?
Magnus Karlsson: I’ve become more and more interested in orchestral music the past years and I thought to make a metal opera would be the perfect format to try it all the way. I asked Frontiers if they would be interested in a project like this and they were onboard right away.
What inspired you to use all female singers, and how did you decide on them? And once you had the singers, how did you determine who would play each character?
I have worked with a lot of great singers, but not so many female singers and thought that this would be a great opportunity. I decided early in the project that I wanted Adrienne to sing the main part as the Heart Healer. The others demanded a little thinking along the way. And one singer can sing several characters to make the story work.
Describe the songwriting process for The Metal Opera. What came first, the lyrical concept or the music?
Normally I start with riffs or melody, but here I started with the orchestra parts and then added the guitars drums and last the lyrics.
It is more difficult to write a metal opera, or just different than a typical album?
It was more planning because normally I just have to try to write a good song and then move on to the next one. Now everything has to fit together, both music and lyrics.
Briefly describe the plot of the metal opera.
The story is about The Heart Healer (Adrienne) who wakes up with no memory and doesn’t know who she is. She soon finds out that she can heal people just with a touch but every time she does it she gets weaker. On her journey to find out who she is, she meets those who wants to help her, those who want her help and those who are scared of her and start to hunt her.
Was the recording process affected by the pandemic?
It actually made it a little easier because nobody was away on tour and they had time to do it. But of course we all had to record in separate studios.
As a producer, how do you go about getting the best performance from a singer?
Because we don’t meet in person I put a lot of work in the demos to make the singer understand the vibe. I listen a lot to the singers to learn their style and when they sound best and try to write parts that will feel comfortable for them.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
It was a great memory when we recorded the string musicians. It was the first time for me and that was really cool. I learned a lot.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
I’m just happy that Frontiers Records and all the singers and musicians believed in the project and wanted to do it. We did our best and of course it’s great if the listener enjoys it.
Would you like to tour behind the album once shows get going again, or even play a one-off show with all the vocalists?
Well, if the album sales are great and everyone wants to do it, I would love to make a couple of shows.
Primal Fear and Magnus Karlsson’s Free Fall both released albums last year. What was the response?
Very good! I get so much lovely feedback from metal heads all over the world.
What other projects are you currently or have recently worked on? Are new The Ferrymen and/or Starbreaker albums on the horizon?
We just finished Anettes Olzon’s solo album and we are recording the next Ferrymen right now. After that I will start the next Free Fall album.
How did the pandemic affect you personally?
I’m mostly teaching and working in my studio and I don’t tour anymore, so for me there wasn’t any big changes work wise. But of course the rest of life has been quite strange.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’m exploring the black metal scene. I only knew about Dimmu Borgir before but now I checking out Satyricon and other cool bands.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I hope that you take the time and sit back and relax and listen to the whole Heart Gealer from start to end because this is not a bunch of different songs, it’s one song with different chapters. Cheers!
(interview published March 24, 2021)