Music as treatment for illness? Power metal unit New Horizon is the cure: interview with Erik and Jona

Singer Erik Grönwall and multi-instrumentalist Jona Tee are well known for being in the highly successful AOR/melodic rock band H.E.A.T.. This spring, the dynamic duo adds power metal to their CV, premiering brand new project New Horizon. Debut album “Gate of the Gods” is being released in March. Stargazed talked to both performers about New Horizon and beyond.

How did you come up with the idea of a power metal project?

– That’s Jona’s craziness, laughs singer Erik Grönwall.

– I grew up with the power metal greats, counters keyboardist Jona Tee. I listened to it a lot during my most fragile years in the late 1990’s and thereafter. And I’ve always written songs which are too metal for H.E.A.T. to play, so in fact the power metal has been piling up in the studio. I wrote “Stardust” already at fifteen. “Gate of the Gods” is a tune I originally wrote for H.E.A.T.’s “Tearing down the walls” album (2014). “Cry for freedom” was the starting signal for the New Horizon project.

You even mention Gamma Ray in the latter…
– But it’s not a tribute to the band. I just googled what power is the strongest, and that’s Gamma Rays. To be honest, I’ve never really been a fan of Gamma Ray. I love Kai Hansen’s songs for Helloween, but I’ve never developed into Gamma Ray territory.
Speaking of the old greats, is New Horizon a pure tribute or do you feel that you add something new to the genre?
– It’s not a tribute at all, but rather being part of the whole thing in the same way that H.E.A.T. is part of the 80’s metal thing. Also, Erik contributes with freshenss. No singer in power metal sounds like him.
– Maybe it has to do with me being totally ignorant of the genre, offers Erik. I’ve got no preferences in the genre whatsoever. I guess one could call it humble ignorance
The band’s first single “We unite” was released in autumn 2021. Why was that song chosen as first single?
– Jona was sceptical at first, replies Erik, but I was in favour of it. There’s one song in the history of rock which is more powerful than all others, and that’s “Painkiller” by Judas Priest. I feel that “We unite” bears the same kind of strength. Besides, the record label wanted it as a debut single.
There are a few additional musicians on the album. What do they contribute?
– Guitar solos and drums, says Jona. I play fair rhythm guitar, but I leave the solos to the pro’s. Also, all drums are real. Some people have insinuated that the drums have been programmed, but that’s not the case. They’re all played by Robban Bäck of Mustasch.
Erik ended up doing all vocals on the record, but originally other singers were being planned as well. What singers were left off?
– I would have wanted (current H.E.A.T. singer) Kenny Lackremo for two songs. Nisse Molin from Dynazty, the YouTube phenomenon Rob Lundgren and Seventh Wonder’s Tommy Karevik.
– I offered my place in H.E.A.T. in exchange of Kenny’s two songs for New Horizon, jokes Erik.
Will New Horizon perform live?
– We’ve had a few offers already, which is nice, considering the album isn’t even out yet, says Jona. We really want to go out gigging and we’ve got a live lineup planned, the same musicians as in the “Stronger than steel” video.
Jona, you play keyboards in H.E.A.T., but with New Horizon you add guitars and bass to your CV. Have you always been such a multi-instrumentalist?
– I’ve never bothered to become shit-hot on anything, so I’m half-good at everything! Also, I love working by myself in the studio. Put down some guitars, having a coffee, recording some bass… I love to make the decisions, and New Horizon is not a democracy!
Are you a schooled musician?
– I went to Rytmus high school, playing keyboards with bass as a second instrument. Thing is, all instruments are basically the same. You just have to translate the chords from one instrument to the other, then getting them into your muscle memory.
Erik, you’ve been battling leukemia lately. Has it affected New Horizon?
– It has, both negative and positive. Negatively in that I recorded the album and undergoing treatment simultaneously. When you go into treatment, recording vocals is not a top priority… so it has taken time. Also, the cortisone affects your voice. But at the same time, I’ve never appreciated making music as much as I do now. I feel a hunger which is totally new.
You’ve done some remarkable cover versions on YouTube. Is there a purpose behind?
– The thought was pure survival. We set up a studio at home and I sang as part of my rehab, and suddenly there was a whole community following the clips.
I’m thinking especially of Black Sabbath’s “Headless cross”, where you almost out-sing original vocalist Tony Martin.
– Thanks, that’s very kind of you. One can almost see my healing in those clips.
Here in Sweden, you might be more famous for being in the “Idol” TV contest than for your ten-year tenure with HE.A.T..
– I guess H.E.A.T. has taken over the trophy now. But being on TV in front of a million people certainly means a lot. People have been wondering where I’ve been, just because I’ve been out of the TV limelight. They think I’ve been “gone” because of my illness and other weird interpretations.
Over to you, Jona, what’s H.E.A.T. up to, these days?
– We shot a music video yesterday (March 1st) and the new album will be released in the spring.
– It’s a damn fine album, interrupts Erik.
– Erik is our quality control, jokes Jona.
Is there a risk for competition between the two bands? 
– Off course there’s a risk that New Horizon could be offered gigs at the same time as H.E.A.T. are scheduled for a world tour, admits Erik.
– But there’s no competition music-wise, counters Jona. The music comes from different worlds, totally. If somebody would call New Horizon AOR or melodic rock, I’d certainly question that person’s musical knowledge.

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Music as treatment for illness? Power metal unit New Horizon is the cure: interview with Erik and Jona

March 4, 2022

Also, all drums are real. Some people have insinuated that the drums have been programmed, but that's not the case. They're all played by Robban Bäck of Mustasch.

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