HOLY GRAIL "Quest For Metal"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Once upon a time, in an age of legend, a noble king set out on a quest to restore his kingdom. The object of his quest was THE HOLY GRAIL, the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper and which was also said to catch his blood.

In the modern day, there is a new quest to find true and pure heavy metal in a scene ruled by sub-genres, twisted mixtures and unworthy offshots. At the end of this quest there also stands a HOLY GRAIL, but this time it is a band of men, not a cup of gold.

Holy Grail has been stirring up a lot of interest in the metal world the last few years. Coming out of Hollywood, California, formerly the lair of hair-sprayed glammy legions, Holy Grail features former members of White Wizzard, Bonded by Blood and more and they are dedicated to metal of fthe purest strain. They hit with a mighty hand with first full-length album "Crisis In Utopia", but now their latest "Ride The Void" sees the band attempting a slightly more melodic and progressive take on "real metal".

Singer James-Paul Luna is the golden voice behind the Grail and he was gracious enough to answer some questions from yours truly about the band...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hails to you! I understand you guys played on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise not long ago. How was that experience?

JAMES-PAUL LUNA: 70k tons was totally rad! Every night was an endless party and every person we met was super nice and welcoming. We'd love to do that again!

WC:  Let’s talk about your new record “Ride The Void”. I think this may surprise some fans of your earlier work, it has a much more complex and progressive sound. Was this calculated or was it just the way things worked out?

JPL: We didn't plan this album to be that way it’s just what came out naturally. Eli is the big driving force behind the music writing and he really stepped it up this time around!

WC:  Is “Ride the Void” kind of an answer to those who might have thought you just played raw and basic metal?

JPL: Well, it’s hard to look at it that way if we didn’t intend that. I think "Ride the Void" is just our answer to modern music and it's our contribution to the metal world, so whether it's progressive or raw is up to the listener.

WC: I detect a good whiff of the more modern power metal sound on this as opposed to “Crisis in Utopia”. Was that a sound that you were more determined to bring into the Holy Grail style?

JPL: We weren't determined to bring anything different onto this record except better songwriting and better performances. I guess we always had power metal in us but didn't let it really show until this album... Or perhaps touring with Blind Guardian had that influence on us,  haha!

WC: How much do you write to please the fans as opposed to pleasing yourselves? Is it hard to balance the two sides?

JPL: It’s not that hard, we just write what we want to hear and luckily our fans like it. We'll see what happens on the next album :)

WC:  Another new element I’ve noticed are the hoarse deathcore kind of grunts that alternate with James Paul’s very melodic singing. Is this an element you see expanding in the future?

JPL: It's an element that was on the first record but wasn't really expanded on until RTV. I think there will be definitely the same style of vocals on future records but the death core grunts will likely always be for dramatic effect and not a main part of the song.

WC: You’ve been on the road with a lot of bands heavier than yourself. How has the response been in those situations?

JPL: We seem to blend in well to any lineup... perhaps our classic sound and intense live energy helps blur the lines between genres. I don't think we have ever had a huge problem with other heavy bands Although, there’s always those hard to please fans that don't like anything except for the one band they like, and you can never change that.

WC:  How does the reception for Holy Grail differ live between America and Europe?

JPL: America is still not so used to this type of metal we play whereas Europe easily accepts it. All of our shows in Europe have been a great success in terms of reception.

WC:  What are some of the lyrical ideas that drive “Ride The Void”? In particular, what’s the title track about specifically?

JPL: Most of the album is filled with themes of hope and overcoming obstacles. "Ride The Void" is about pushing forward and carrying on no matter how dark or bleak things might look in the future, because nothing is certain except the present.

 WC:  Another song that sounds like it has an intriguing concept is “The Great Artifice”. Is that about the phoniness that seems to be driving our society?

JPL: "The Great Artifice" is totally about phoniness and not just with our society but with our leaders and government systems.

WC: How would you describe Holy Grail’s lyrics on “Ride the Void”? Personal, political, fantasy-themed…or a mixture of all?

JPL: RTV consists of mainly personal lyrics with a touch of politics and a twinkle of fantasy.

WC:  It seems the kind of music you play has an uphill climb to popularity in the US. Do you see signs of progress as far as acceptance of melodic but heavy metal goes?

JPL: Yeah, there's definitely resurgence in old school metal and melodic metal in the States and we're very glad about it. The more the merrier!

WC: How well has Alex Lee integrated into the band? He has certainly made Holy Grail more of a “shredder” band.

 JPL: Yeah, Alex has fit in quite nicely and his leads absolutely add an extra level of shred to the band’s sound. He's like a long lost brother that was away at guitar boarding school for the past 12 years but magically shows up one day. Hah!

WC: What are some of the non-metal influences that the band draws on?

JPL: For me, it's 60s and early 70s psych rock, hard rock, and funky soul.

 WC: What’s the live support for “Ride The Void” going to be like?

 JPL: Right now we have a big tour planned for US and Canada with Anthrax, Exodus, High on Fire, & Municipal Waste! Then we hope to get out to Europe and Japan!

 WC: What was the last release you got just because you wanted to hear the artist?

 JPL: Goat..."World Music", I liked it, too!

 WC:  What was the last gig you saw just because you wanted to check the band out?

 JPL: I don't go to many live shows, but the Hookers opening for 3 Inches of Blood and Huntress was a great show. Although I also made it a point to see just about every band on the 70k tons of metal cruise!

WC: In the history of Holy Grail, has there ever been any “Spinal Tap” moment you could share with the fans?
JPL: Oh yeah we have plenty. One of my favorites is when we were on tour with Exodus in Canada. Eli was playing his guitar solo center stage and our fill-in bassist Sanchez came up next to him and started his windmill head banging but his hair got stuck in the headstock of Eli's guitar! Just as that happened Eli had to sing backing vocals so he ended up dragging Sanchez back to the other end of the stage with his hair and head still attached to the guitar. They ended up having to finish the song attached like two Siamese twins!

WC:  Any last word for the faithful out there?

JPL: Stay Hard and Shred On! See you in 2013! Keep on Riding the void!!