WASHINGTON, May 5, 2013 – On first listen, Holy Grail’s “Ride the Void” recalls a simpler and better time. It honors heavy metal’s infancy, an era when denim and leather-clad bands ruled the airwaves plying their craft. Decades after the style’s genesis, Holy Grail reminds us what heavy metal sounded like in its heyday.
On second listen, though, “Ride the Void” reveals more than a mere throwback album. It boasts an aggression that’s thoroughly modern in its approach. Conversing with vocalist James-Paul Luna on their current tour, we talked the past, present and future of his band’s heavy music.
Mark Hensch: It’s a pleasure speaking with you today James. I really appreciate the opportunity given the size and scope of the tour you’re on now.
Speaking of which, how’s the trek going so far? As a metalhead, what’s it like touring with such revered bands as Anthrax, Exodus, Shadows Fall and Municipal Waste?
James-Paul Luna: It’s gone really well so far. The first few days you’re kind of star-struck on a tour like this. After that, you forget that Scott Ian, the guitarist of Anthrax, is walking by you daily. It’s wild.
As far as the off-dates go, we’ve had way too much fun together. On a day off in Pensacola, Fla. the other night we all got just annihilated. It was Exodus, Anthrax’s crew, Municipal Waste and us. I can’t even remember what happened, but there are photos on the Internet and they look pretty bizarre.
MH: One of the greatest things about the Metal Alliance Tour you’re on is that Anthrax is playing their classic album “Among the Living” every night. What do you think makes music like that so beloved and timeless in the metal community?
Luna: It starts with good song-writing. After that, it’s because bands like ours do something unique and people identify with that. For example, we play music more in the classic style of metal, and for the younger generation, that helps them share in a part of that era.
MH: Your band plays traditional metal decades after it started. What differences and similarities do you see between your band’s style and classic metal?
Luna: A lot of traditional metal doesn’t have death metal riffs or intense soloing like we do. We definitely have a modernized production on our albums as well.
We didn’t necessarily set out to play metal in the traditional vein. We just play metal the way we like it, and it just so happens our roots are mainly in classic metal.
MH: Holy Grail formed when you and several other members left another heavy metal band called White Wizzard. What prompted that exodus and how does Holy Grail differ from White Wizzard?
Luna: White Wizzard was strictly within an Iron Maiden and Judas Priest dish with which they were working. In Holy Grail, we incorporate more sludge, shredding and thrash parts than they do. We try not to limit ourselves.
MH: You released your new album “Ride the Void” earlier this year. Now that it’s been out for a few months, how do you feel about it as a record?
Luna: When we entered the studio we were just so anxious to record our new record that we didn’t feel any pressure about the “sophomore slump.” Now that it’s out, it’s a lot of fun as a record.
I wish we could play a lot more of it live. We’d love headlining a tour, for example, but we’re still working it out. For now, we’re trying to get stuff ready for this summer but we don’t have any plans just yet.
MH: What meaning does the title “Ride the Void” have for you?
Luna: When I wrote the song “Ride the Void,” it was about pushing beyond your limits even though you don’t know what lies beyond where you’re currently at. It’s about going to the max blindly and having as much courage, hope and power behind that as possible. As we wrote more songs, we realized we had many more that dealt with those same topics of triumph and hope. It became the theme of our entire album, and that’s why we chose it as the title.
MH: Have you picked up any tips about performing live watching legendary bands like Anthrax and Exodus play every night?
Luna: We’ve definitely learned some new things. You don’t realize it until you’re onstage, but with bands like them less is more. For example, Anthrax’s singer Joey Belladonna makes little flourishes as he performs that makes the songs more powerful. It’s something you’re not conscious of until you see it often offstage.
MH: As a metalhead, what bands inspired you growing up? What groups do you enjoy now?
Luna: What started me off was Metallica. Eventually I got into the other big names like Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest, Rainbow and Ronnie James Dio.
In terms of stuff I enjoy now, these guys we just toured with called High on Fire are awesome. Cauldron is putting out some great stuff. Ryan Waste of our current tour mates Municipal Waste has a great traditional metal band called Volture he does on the side.
MH: What’s next for Holy Grail?
Luna: We’re trying to tour Canada or the U.S. this summer. We’re just looking at all our options now and seeing what’s possible. I’d also like doing a tour next fall and getting back overseas. We did a few dates in the U.K. last year for festivals like Download Festival and Hammerfest. It was amazing, but we haven’t had the right chance to go over there and do a proper European tour yet.
Here’s the link to the official Holy Grail Facebook page.
Read more of Mark’s work in Heavy Metal Hensch at the Washington Times Communities.
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