Never Again / Lionheart, Anti-war And The Grace Of A Dragonfly

Lionheart will release their new album, The Grace Of A Dragonfly, on 23 February 2024. As a spoiler, the album is exceptional. In Part Two of an interview with Steve Mann, MetalTalk’s Paul Monkhouse discovers the thoughts behind the album theme, and we discover the concept behind the album cover from artist Tristan Greatrex.

The Grace Of A Dragonfly is not a concept album, per se, but it’s very anti-war and themed around remembering those who struggled at home and abroad and the sacrifices made.

“None of us have ever done a concept album before,” Steve Mann said. “I was just thinking, how can we take a step forward with this album from The Reality Of Miracles? I came up with the idea of doing a concept album, but it’s turned out to be a themed album, as you say.

“I mentioned it to the other guys, and Lee [Small, vocals] jumped at it because he has a healthy interest in the Second World War. Clive [Edwards, Drums] does too. They collect memorabilia and Lee has all of this stuff on his wall and photographs. So he said, can we do it about the Second World War?

“For me personally, I don’t want to be involved in a project that glorifies war in any way whatsoever, even celebrating the Allied victory. I don’t want to get involved in that. I’m very anti-war, and everybody agreed.”

Steve Mann - Michael Schenker Group - Shepherd's Bush Empire - 30 November 2023
Steve Mann – Michael Schenker Group – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 30 November 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

“Lee writes exclusively the lyrics for the band. So, his approach to it was to write about people. Not to write about the political side of things. We all accepted the fact that the people who start wars aren’t the people who have to go to the front line and fight them. It’s the innocent conscripts who have to go out there and get maimed or, at worst, lose their lives.

“We wanted to recognise them. My dad was one of them. He was in the Second World War. We wanted to recognise the people who were the true heroes, but at the same time, focus on the misery and the anguish and the grief that’s caused by these idiots who, for want of a better word, are in their nice comfortable palaces. We need to send troops here. Let’s conscript another 300,000. It’s obscene, it really is. War is not the answer.

“That’s what we wanted to get across with the album. I take my hat off to Lee because he conveyed that absolutely fantastically. I’m very happy with the way lyrically it’s come out.”

I say this is a theme that our generation can see illustrated so beautifully in Blackadder, where General Melchett sends everyone else to the front. “That’s how it is in war,” Steve says. “Let’s not have wars. That’s the best answer to it. Get round a table talk, and if you can’t thrash it out, then keep talking. Don’t start blowing up innocent civilians. It’s obscene. We are now at a stage in human development where we shouldn’t be doing this anymore.”

Lionheart - The Grace Of A Dragonfly
Lionheart – The Grace Of A Dragonfly

The Grace Of A Dragonfly is written with beautiful lyricism. There’s no hint of jingoism. There’s no hint of flag-waving. It’s a very soulful album and a very personal album to many. I tell Steve Mann that my grandfather was in charge of the workshops that repaired all of the Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain. Dragonfly was the nickname for The Spitfire.

“There’s also another aspect to it, which is the dragonfly represents change, transition and spirituality,” Steve says. “We really like that kind of juxtaposition, which Tristan Greatrex, our graphic artist genius, brought across so well on the cover. You have the Spitfires with the round walls on the wings, and then you have above them, the dragonfly. It’s almost like the dragonfly is rising from this whole terrible war situation and moving towards spirituality.”

For Tristan, it was a fortunate and unique position to be able to work on the Lionheart artwork. “The band values and encourages packaging design as a gateway to their music,” he told MetalTalk. “The cover design consists of a dragonfly flying high above London at night during the early 1940s, flying in formation with the two Spitfire fighter planes defending the city, caught in the searchlights.

“Dragonflies have long been associated with new beginnings, birth, and transformation. During their life span, dragonflies grow in the water before taking to the air and flying. A dragonfly undergoes metamorphosis and transformation within itself. From being unseen to spreading their wings above ground and showcasing their beauty, dragonflies symbolise new beginnings on the horizon. We wanted to convey hope and optimism for the future.”

Steve says that he is an eternal optimist. “I really hope and believe that mankind, despite what’s going on in the world at the moment, is bit by bit moving towards a state of higher spirituality and will eventually realise that war is absolutely not the way.”

The ideas and concept for the album began before the wars in Ukraine and Gaza started. The invasion of Ukraine did start before the last track had been written. This would prompt Lionheart to write the final track on the album Remembrance, Praying For World Peace.

“It was always obviously gonna be the last track of the album as a kind of array of optimism,” Steve says. “Lee mentions Ukraine in the lyrics there. I think the album is wide-ranging enough that it can relate to any country and any conflict anywhere.”

While the bulk of the writing comes from Steve and Lee, some is also from Dennis [Stratton] and Rocky [Newton]. “When we did Second Nature, we established our basic method of writing,” Steve says. “I think we work best over the internet. I like to work on my own without anybody going well, try this. I just like to work in silence. I have these ideas in my head, and having my studio at home, I can just get up in the middle of the night if I want and switch the studio on, and two minutes later, I’m putting ideas down.

“I did a backing track at the beginning of Second Nature and sent it to Lee and said, can you put down a guide vocal on that? Let’s kind of start to thrash this out. So he sent it back, and I said, well, that sounds good. He said, well, that’s the finished vocal. I went, oh, right. I’ve never worked that way before. I thought, actually, it’s great. Why treat it as a demo when it sounds so great?

“Lee is a bit like me. With producers pushing the talkback button going, ok, let’s try it one more time. He doesn’t like all of that. He likes to just sit in his own studio, put his headphones on, sing and try some ideas. He knows if something’s working or not. There’s no pressure on him, and if he does a bad take, he just goes back and does it again. He doesn’t need a producer to actually work with him.

“There might be times when he sends stuff back to me, and I will say, can you just change this bit? He’s got no problem with that. He’s absolutely fine doing updates. But the basic track, he likes to do it himself. So that’s how we did the whole of Second Nature, Reality Of Miracles and the Grace Of A Dragonfly. We have developed this understanding between us.

“It’s almost telepathic. When I write something, it’s almost like he’s been waiting for that particular style to arrive in his inbox so he can get the vocals down. So it’s a very, very productive and very creative partnership.”

There is much more to come from Steve Mann and Lionheart this week at MetalTalk. We have more in-depth news of Lionheart’s new album, The Grace Of A Dragonfly, and the band that Steve would have joined had the Lionheart reunion not happened.

Lionheart – The Grace of a Dragonfly – will be released through Metalville on 23 February 2024.

Lionheart 2024
Lionheart 2024

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