Latest release: Ride the Void (Prosthetic/Rocket)

Holy Grail kicked off 2013 with their second album, Ride the Void, taking their classic metal sound in a modern direction, without compromising what makes old school metal so intoxicating. Guitarists Eli Santana and Alex Lee gave LOUD the rundown on their new album, their huge list of influences, and the smallest wall of death they ever saw.

So, new album, positive reviews, plenty of touring, how’s everyone feeling in the Holy Grail camp at the moment?
We’re feeling really good about it and, surprised, you know. We knew that we had something that was really special to us and we were really proud of it. Everything went the way we wanted it to on the record but it was just kind of one of those things that you never know what people are going to think of it. Overall it’s been getting a really good response, even from friends and colleges hitting us up and telling us how much they enjoyed the record. It’s awesome and a little surreal, but everyone’s really stoked with where we’re at right now.

Did the final master sound even better than your expectations?
When we were making the album, we pretty much knew what was going to happen in the studio. We had a really good feeling about it when we were recording it, and as time went on, when it was going through the mixing and the mastering, listening to the songs it hit us. By the time it was finished we were all wowed, and with the release and all the reviews we’ve gotten from it, our mouths kind of dropped even more after that.

Plus it’s not just a new album, it’s the first album on your new label home, Nuclear Blast. How’d you guys wind up there and what’s it like to work with them?
Our label in North America, Prosthetic Records, they were talking with our management about maybe going with someone else in Europe. We knew that was kind of happening and then, we just got an email one day [laughs] asking if we wanted to be on Nuclear Blast which is just awesome because they have so many amazing bands. The cool thing was we’d already finished the record when that happened, so they’d heard the record and really wanted to work with us. It was kind of nice not to have the pressure of recording. We always knew they were a good label, but we had no idea until we started talking to some people in Europe, how big of a deal that was.

Ride the Void is firmly embedded in that classic metal sound, as was your first album, but with a modern twist. When you’re writing and recording, what do you guys do to the classic metal sound to give it that contemporary edge?
We weren’t really thinking about whether something was classic or modern, or anything like that, we just started making as many songs and riffs as we could, and moulding the stuff we really got excited about. The stuff that was fresh to our ears, we went with that. But that being said, we’ve always taken an old school songwriter approach, taking the new wave of British heavy metal formula as a starting point, but not really following it to a T. I think a big thing is that our vocalist James Paul Luna is heavily influenced by new wave of British heavy metal, so the melodies he naturally comes up with have that old school vibe. Guitar and riff wise, we had no intentions of trying to bank on any old school revival. We were pretty hungry as far as wanting to create something new, and if it was taken from heavier, newer bands so be it. It was nice not having any boundaries with that.

That leads into the next question actually, people always ask you about your classic influences, but what are some modern bands you love that influence your sound?
We weren’t trying to aim for a certain band, but a lot of bands we toured with, hearing them play their best songs every night influences you, especially when you’re fans of the band. One that I noticed was Amon Amarth, as far as the epicness Blind Guardian, although I guess they’re not that new, but technically neither is Amon Amarth. Some that were surprising and worked their way in were Toxic Holocaust, and another called Krum Bums, who’re a punk band from Austin Texas that we toured with. Some of that was showing up in there which was kind of strange. And then a lot of Dragonforce, Exodus, but Exodus were already in there, ingrained in our DNA. Touring with them really drove that influence home. A band I really admire as far as song writing and heaviness is Soilwork, I’m really into them.

Another band that really gave us the courage to do what we’re doing and make heavier stuff but still be melodic was Three Inches of Blood, they were the first band we ever toured with, and they’re really, really good at what they do. We toured with this band called Royal Thunder, and they were really great. I think they’ve got one album out and it’s got a really cool vibe to it. And I’m into the new Faithless record, just got into them.

A lot of the bands that created that early metal sound are getting older now, some are talking of retiring, do you think that once they’re gone there’ll still be a yearning for that old school metal among new generations?
I think so, because, I’m fairly young, 24, and I love old school Maiden, early Metallica, Megadeth, and even though those bands established themselves way back before I was born, I discovered them and became big fans of them. I feel that, even within a couple of decades from now, the future of metal will continue like that, newcomers will discover old bands. It’s how we search for the holy grail of music, we keep searching and looking for bands, and we never really stop because there’s so many amazing bands out there. It’s just a hunger for new music and you never ever stop.

I saw you guys at Soundwave last year, Holy Grail opened the festival at 11am, and by 11:15 you had a circle pit going. Do you get that kind of crazy response everywhere you play?
It varies. Definitely in the States, people are a little standoffish at first, standing there, arms crossed, waiting to see what we’re going to do and we have to prove it to them. But in Europe and sometimes Canada, they’re ready to tear people’s heads off! Overall we’ve been getting some good crowd responses and even on the Hellyeah tour where nobody had heard of us, and no one in the audience had listened to any new music since The Great Southern Trendkill came out, they eventually came around and were digging on us. We had a few rough shows on that Toxic Holocaust, Krum Bums tour though. You know you show up, see a bunch of mohawks and you’re like “oh no” [laughs] because it was a bunch of punkers who really didn’t want to get into us and they weren’t impressed by shredding, sweeping arpeggios whatsoever. But it was kind of nice and kind of humbling, because it made us hungry to go back on stage and go even crazier.

And the million dollar question of course is how do Australian audiences compare to the rest of the world in terms of crowd response?
Definitely the top and I’ll tell you why. I’m not sure which Soundwave you saw us at.

I was at Sydney
Oh yeah that was awesome! But we played this show in Perth and we had to play before they really opened the gates, so we basically started playing to no one. But there were seven or eight kids who showed up, and they were so pumped they were even pitting on their own. When more people came in, they made the only thirteen person wall of death I’ve ever seen in my life, which doesn’t cause much destruction, but it was awesome.

The Sydney show was amazing, it had the perfect mix of people pitting and people paying attention that I kind of like. As much as you want the whole place to go crazy, you want at least someone to notice that you’re pulling off the hard licks you practiced, and forfeited a social life in high school for.

And finally, it’s only been a year, but we really want you to tour again. If we promise you another 11am circle pit will you come back in the near future?
Absolutely, we had so much fun on that festival and in the country in general. You could even put us on at 9am and we’ll be there. But please don’t, because that’s really early.