Formed in 2008 by Einar Sveinsson, Epicland combines symphonic black metal with folk and Celtic influences. Epicland’s first album, “A Madman and his Angel,” was released in 2009, followed by two more albums, “Songs of Ancient Times” and “Bound for Greatness” (featuring guest narrator Wes Johnson), in 2011. Our very own Mark McBride recently spoke with Sveinsson about his music.
What got you started playing music? When did you know you wanted to do it as more than just a hobby?
I started playing and recording my own music in 2005. I knew right from the start I wanted it to me more than a hobby. I used to listen to a bunch of different types of metal and though to myself why not just start playing this type of music myself since I love it. The first songs I ever recorded sounded terrible, but I loved doing it so I stuck with it because it was important I stuck with expressing myself musically.
What music was it you were listening to as you were learning? How much of an influence did that have on the music you’re playing now?
The stuff I was listening back then is the same stuff I listen to currently, which is power/black/folk metal, as well as Celtic music and film score sound tracks. I have tried to incorporate all my influences into the sound that Epicland is.
How did the whole concept for Epicland come about?
After recording a few albums for my other projects, I really always wanted to do something that had a lot of meaning and that could be more than just a typical sounding metal album. I wanted to combine instrumental Celtic style music, with heavy metal, good quality sound, and a meaningful fantasy themed story that would give a positive message. That was when Epicland was born.
How would you best describe Epicland to someone who had never heard you before?
I would describe it as something unique they probably never heard before. Expect to hear lyrics that tell of fantasy, love, and battles. Not all songs sound the same, so there is something that everyone could enjoy from my music. As for specifics, I would say part instrumental Celtic music, part epic black metal, part emotional film score music.
How would you classify Epicland? Is it a personal musical project that other musicians contribute to? A studio band? A gigging band? Or something else entirely?
Epicland is more than just a personal music project to me. It is way to combine an epic fantasy story with music to give the listener a unique experience. The fantasy lyrics take a look on aspects on life including hate, war, truth, personal accomplishment, and especially love.
I have worked with a two guest musicians on the last album, and hopefully I will again for an upcoming album. I would love to be a full band and play concerts, but unfortunately people here in the Los Angeles area are either not into this type of music, lazy, or expect to be paid to be in a band. It really is sad that local people are not into this type of music.
I have already have been writing for a novel and a video game. I believe the story and lore ofEpicland has great potential if it were expanded into other outlets.
There’s a real soundtrack feel to some of your tracks – is that part of your thinking when you’re composing and recording?
Since I was a teenager, bands like Rhapsody, Battlelore, Manowar, and Bal-Sagoth have really influenced me since all their music is heavily symphonic and sounds like a movie at time. The symphonic element of Epicland really lets the user feel the emotion of the story, whether it be a sad or happy feeling.
Do you think in terms of songs or albums? How does the writing process work for you?
When I start recording an album, I generally have an idea of how I want it to sound, but I don’t have a plan in place. I usually just start playing a riff on the guitar or keyboard and usually the first thing I play evolves into a song. Sometimes part of that song sounds good but doesn’t fit, so it splits into its own song. Having no plan or idea of the type of song you want to write makes it easy to create something you totally were not expecting to make.
It may be a surprise, but I rarely play guitar or keyboards. I only play when I start to write and record a new album. I never took any lessons, studied music theory, or even was taught by anyone. I think this was important to to develop my music style because since I was never taught anything, I have no rules to follow and I can write music purely based on what I feel sounds good.
How much is story an influence on Epicland? What stories have influenced you musically?
The story is what Epicland’s lyrics and music are based on. The main story focuses on a young couple in love that get seperated by war. Each believe the other had died, and they live two separate lives.Ten years pass and the male character becomes drivin by his grief and sorrow to eventially become an evil lord conquring the lands. Once he discovers his true love is still alive, he gives up all his power and kingdom to be with her. I try to emphasise the power of true love and how it can overcome all evil.
The Lord of the Rings and the Forgotton Realms book series have had a lot of influence on my music.
There’s the classic story of the “difficult” third album. The current Epicland release, Bound for Greatness, is a third album, so do you feel this has been more difficult at all? How do you feel Epicland has progressed since your first album, A Madman and his Angel?
In some ways the third album was more difficult, and in some ways it was not. After the first album there were a lot of things I did not like and some issues with the quality of the tracks. Learning from my mistakes, I took extra time to make everything sound better. There was only one album planned after the first one, but as it progressed, I had so many songs that I decided to split all the songs into two albums, the other being the instrumental one “Songs of Ancient Times”. I guess you could say one of the major factors that made the third album difficult was writing and recording two albums at the same time. Since the first album, I believe Epicland has progressed to be better musically and express more emotion.
How did the collaboration with Wes Johnson come about on Bound for Greatness?
I was talking to Wes in the early stages of recording the third album. He was kind enough to record with me and he seems to like the music. It was great recording with him. He is a truly nice guy.
Wes will be familiar with many readers because of Skyrim – so how long before Epicland, the video game happens?
A role playing video game that takes place in the same setting of the albums is currently in production, but still in the early stages. I am hoping the team can come up with a gameplay trailer by this summer.
For all the musical gear heads out there, what’s your current setup?
My main guitar I use a custom build one that looks similar to a PRS. I also use an ESP F50 and a Jackson Dinky guitar. For recording, I use a combination of Line 6 Pod 2 and Gearbox, M Box, Amplitube, Guitar Rig, and various synth VST programs for the keyboards. For the final mixing and editing, I use the program Cool Edit Pro 2. Its old but one of the best ones out there.
What’s on your playlist that you’ve been enjoying listening to recently?
I have been listening to the new albums this year from Alcest, Ancient Bards, Iron Savior, and Celtic Woman. I still listen to older stuff when I can though, as it seems not that much good music has been released in the last few years.
What’s next for Epicland?
I have been working a few new cool ideas. The next album is in its early stages and it will be called “Seasons”. It will be a four track album, which each track will focus on each season (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn). The lyrics will be a poem to each season and will be sort of experimental in how it is recorded.
I have also been working on another Celtic style album, this time with a female vocalist on each song. It will have a sound like Celtic Woman and Enya. The song “Spread your Wings and Fly” is also being re-recorded as a slow balled and so far sounds beautiful!
For more about the band, visit their website.