Although their fur-trimmed, woad-painted uniforms appear to scream ‘notice me’, Brothers Of Metal’s formative ambitions were surprisingly humble and insular.
“All of us came from different bands that tried to make it, and be on those big stages, but never really succeeded,” admits Mats Nilsson, the hairiest of the octet’s three vocalists. “This band was more just, ‘Let’s get together and make fun music’, with never even a plan to play live or make an album. Eventually we realised we had enough good songs to record, but I think within that mentality of just having fun, you drop the notion of how to be successful.”
This 16-legged Viking war machine was forged in Sweden’s beautiful Dalarna county more than 10 years ago, just eight mates entertaining themselves in isolation for half a decade before sharing it with the world.
“The first thing we did was a really bad lyric video of our first song Son Of Odin, which was just clips from the first Thor movie with lyrics in a really bad font,” laughs Mats.
“We did no PR, just put it on YouTube and forgot about it. Then a month later we checked back, and we’d had 30,000 views! There were tons of comments, and we were like, ‘How did people find this?!’ Since then, we’ve been growing organically through word of mouth. All this attention and the cool things we’ve gotten to do, we’re just lucky.”
Entering Germany’s Top 10 with their second LP, 2020’s Emblas Saga, proved it wasn’t just luck – though it doesn’t hurt that they have hometown connections to friends in high places. The Sabaton guys and Brothers Of Metal go way back, drummer Hannes Van Dahl even recommending the Vikings to the German label - and power metal specialists – AFM.
“The first contact I had with Sabaton was in a regional music competition for teenagers,” recalls Mats. “They were great, obviously – not as great as they are today! But they played heavy metal, and it was super-fun. I’ve followed them ever since. Pär [Sundström, bass] and Joakim [Bróden, vocals] are a couple of years older than us, so we looked up to them. There is a great music scene here - Sabaton, us, Civil War, Twilight Force, Astral Doors. There are so many talented people, it’s very fertile soil for musicians. It’s a small community, so if you’re not into sports, or doing vast amounts of illegal substances, you end up making music!”
After playing Bloodstock Open Air Festival for the first time in August, the Brothers will be putting the finishing touches to their as-yet-untitled third album. On that front, Mats isn’t giving much away; asked if any particular inspirations have informed the creative process, he hesitates.
“It’s so hard to pinpoint specifics. We’ve been writing this album over several years now, and we have so many people writing, all of us are involved. Obviously Norse mythology is still a big part, but the range of songs is very diverse; we find inspiration in the weirdest places. Sailing under the flag of Brothers Of Metal is nice because some say we’re a power metal band, some say we’re symphonic or epic, but we figure we’re just a metal band, so we try to have fun with the different styles of metal and make them our own.”
‘Having fun’ is perhaps the most important factor in the band’s appeal – both for audiences and bandmates, as attested by the remarkable feat of maintaining the same eight-person line-up for more than a decade. Even so, Mats is keenly savvy when it comes to navigating the fine line between a ‘fun band’ and a ‘silly band’.
“That’s probably the trickiest part of Brothers Of Metal,” he concedes. “Obviously, some people will find us silly. Especially, old-school ‘true’ black metal fans don’t like us at all! So, the key for us has been to do whatever we do 100%. That’s been our motto the whole way. We had the leather armour and make-up and everything at the first gig that we ever played, because we always knew that playing our songs in a t-shirt and jeans is not the way to go. We need to do this all-out. Allowing yourself to be that eccentric onstage and believing what you’re doing is the best thing in the world, that creates a lot of joy. I’m a hardcore Manowar fan, but I’m also allowed to think their style is over the top and fun!”
Given that Brothers Of Metal find themselves on an upward trajectory that none of them planned for or imagined, have they started thinking more ambitiously now?
“You need to have goals, but we’re on different levels about what they can be,” Mats ponders. “Obviously supporting Iron Maiden or Judas Priest would be super awesome - or standing onstage and shouting ‘Scream for me, Hammersmith!’ We’re still fanboys of metal, that’s what we grew up with, so meeting a lot of the people we idolised as a kid has obviously been great. We don’t have goals like, ‘Oh, we need one million Spotify listeners’ [the band currently have more than 932,000 monthly listeners] – that’s useless, it’s not something that can drive you to be better. It’s more about playing cool places and meeting cool people.”