Five years had to pass before their much-lauded debut “Green Eyleen” received its due successor, but now the Finns take us along into their “Wilderness of Hearts”. Having built exceptional rapport with their earliest fans, the quartet practically wrote new songs in constant exchange with them. Within the framework of NWoBHM-inspired steel and astounding inventiveness when crafting melodies and structuring songs, come to discover the guys.
Hello Niko, five years have passed since your debut album “Green Eyleen” before we get your sophomore album “Wilderness Of Hearts”, a period of time longer than you thought?
Yes, it is much a longer time than we had planned. But with less time it’d been a totally different album. It took us five years to grow brave and honest enough to record an album as emotionally outspoken as ‘Wilderness of Hearts’, but now it feels like it was destined to happen. I am very proud of this album and I’d dare to claim it’s something different, something that hasn’t been done – at least in Finland – ever before.
This year 2020 is an awful chaos and many bands are postponing the release of their albums, but I guess you couldn’t wait more to see this “Wilderness Of Hearts” on the streets?
We finished the recordings in April 2019 and at that time no-one could’ve guessed what the year 2020 would bring us. We weren’t in a hurry so we started to look for a label and got High Roller’s interest fairly quickly, but they had a packed schedule for 2019. But as I said, we weren’t in a hurry, so we complied with their schedule. Plus we still had some things to do on our own before the album was ready for release: mastering, promo photos etc. Then 2020 happened, but we had no reason to postpone the release. Actually the timing was more appropriate than ever. The album (as well as Green Eyleen) also deals with the very subject of men overlooking the nature, and even forgetting about its very existence.
How long have you worked in “Wilderness Of Hearts” and how was the creative process?
The process was very shattered. Me, Eetu & Pekka recorded a rehearsal version of the song ‘First Morning: Collapse’ around 2015-2016 and not much after that we were working on songs those would eventually become ‘Flying Over Tiprinith’,’Tigers of Snow’ and ‘Princess of the Red Flame’. But we were not working on the band as actively as up to that point, from 2011 when we formed the band until the release and touring the Green Eyleen. We were also working on other bands, because all the members have many musical interests and different outlets for them. But I think that the worst blow was the unexpected and untimely passing of my father in late 2016. It didn’t passivate me too much – actually I was staying surprisingly active all the time – but since this particular band had no clear direction or leadership, and I had other projects going on… unfortunately this band was the one that suffered from the situation. Finally, somewhere around 2018 our singer-guitarist Perttu decided that he wants this band back in his life. He wrote riffs and ideas for 3-4 new songs. He called us up for rehearsals and everyone was ready to get to working on this band. Right off it was clear that we had enough ideas for the full-length so we started to put the songs together, Perttu’s new songs and the older songs, those were left unfinished after ‘Green Eyleen’. For the summer I was working at Lappeenranta (not so far away from Mikkeli), before getting back to finish my studies in Tampere. I knew that pre-production and recording for the album would be very arduous from Tampere so we had the end of summer as a sort of deadline and we quite confidently booked the drum recordings for the end of August, even though we barely had the arrangements ready enough for that. Drum recordings went down smoothly in one weekend and after that we proceeded to record other instruments whenever we could book the sessions. Eventually I think we spent four or five weekends between October 2018 and April 2019 to record the other instruments, vocals and solos. For us this was a very unorthodox way to make the album and we also did a lot of the guitar and vocal arrangements when recording. A lot of great ideas were summoned in the studio and made it to the record, but from a musician’s perspective it’s a bit nerve-racking going into the studio when you don’t know what exactly you are going to play! But some of the most magical stuff comes out through improvisation, especially when recording guitar solos.
Yes your work on solos is actually fantastic. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the current lineup is the same as in your debut album, I suppose there is a good understanding, but where is the trick to build that solid bond?
It is the strong friendship and our origins in Mikkeli, no doubt. We were all best friends before bandmates. Of course, in a little town we were brought together by same interests, namely underground music, but when we started as friends we were all playing in different bands (except for Eetu & Pekka who already played together in Faustian Pact). When we all finally joined forces in the same band, the friendship also went on to another, stronger level. The bigger group of friends around this band has also been very tight and many of them have been very involved with the band, making shirt designs, driving us and coming with us to shows, selling merch etc. When you come from a small town it’s always been like a gang effort, like “this is the band from MIKKELI, these guys are from MIKKELI”. I remember countless times seeing our drunken friends wearing our shirts, playing our music and mouthing about us for total strangers. It’s a very proud and supporting bunch of people that has made it easy for us to stick together.
How has that stability helped to the building of this new album?
Trust. Knowing that everyone can handle their own part when they are up against it.
The cover artwork is cool and has the same style as Green Eyleen’s, same artist behind it?
Yes, it is the same artist, Riikka Pesonen. Before ‘Green Eyleen’ she had done cover art for Finnish bands Wandering Midget and Ghastly. With ‘Green Eyleen’ she hit the jackpot so we had no other alternatives for the second album, really. We are so happy that she wanted to work with us again with ‘Wilderness of Hearts’, and blow our minds, again… She has also done great cover art for Anvil Strykez’ first album, check out all those cool records and her cover art on them!
What are the lyrics about?
The lyrics are all written by our singer Perttu. My personal opinion is that ‘Green Eyleen’ as an album, was about the relationship of the human race and the earth, with a more high-flying but loose story concept. On ‘Wilderness of Hearts’ the focus is on an individual human’s relationship with the earth and nature, a much more emotional and personal viewpoint. The album also plays with the notions of the wilderness and of the heart. For example, how many kinds of different animals and living things (in appearance) reside the wilderness, but how most of their hearts are very alike. It is just one of the ways how the Wilderness of Hearts connects us. Perttu drew inspiration from his dreams and memories. Many of the stories and events on the album happen in a partly alternative place or reality that is a lot similar to the Finnish region of Savo, that has hundreds of years of history. Our hometown Mikkeli and Varkaus (where Perttu’s relative’s cabin is located) are surely some of the most important surroundings that have fed his imagination. Living in Jyväskylä, Perttu also made friends with several fans of the band and he had numerous interesting conversations about how they saw and understood our first album. Those people and conversations had greatly inspired Perttu’s writing. He said it felt like those people wrote the lyrics of the album with him.
Classic Metal or NWoBHM-inspired steel, add good melodies and you will have it?
When done right, heavy metal is timeless. There is nothing retro about playing in standard tuning and having clean vocals. We just want to play melodic, epic, challenging, and deeply emotional heavy metal, the way we like it the best.
You have included an instrumental song, ‘Moonhalo’, even with some progressive touch
Yes, it was a very atmospheric piece written by our vocalist/guitarist Perttu. When we recorded, we didn’t quite have the place for it, but when we started to put the tracklist down for the LP it found a perfect place as an ender of the A side of the LP. Since our second release, I think we have had subtle progressive touches here and there, but on ‘Wilderness of Hearts’ they have been purposely toned down. On the next album it is very likely that those influences will have a larger role, but we’ll see.
As I said before, there are five years between your two albums, what difference do you see between them?
The debut album was an effort from a band that clearly was very young and hungry, a band that wants to prove itself for the whole world and was ready to go over the top to make it. The passion is still there but with age comes the realization of the brevity of life, while we are still here, we want to make the best use of our time, but you respect the time of others also, you don’t want to waste it. With age also comes the confidence. You don’t have to prove anything for other people, just for yourself. You have the courage to let your inner voice guide you and the hands playing the notes more freely. You know you are stronger than ever, but the result is more understated and sophisticated.
Any favorite song in the album?
It’s hard to pick just one or two songs. Usually I feel that my own songs won’t turn out as great for the final record as I wanted, but I’ve always felt that way. I’d say that the album opener ‘First Morning: Collapse’ is the favourite out of my own songs and ‘Wings Drawn in Our Minds’ is definitely one of my favourites of those that originated from Perttu’s ideas. I think that the album is very strong and there are only good tracks. But of course there are exceptionally emotional moments in the songs we’ve made the most cooperation writing and arranging together as a whole band. Those bring out the memories, both of the solemn and boisterous moments of pure joy, and of the presence of true heavy metal magic.
Listening to your songs I have the idea that you make it sound very easy and free-flowing, when you realize you have already finished the album and enjoyed it
Yes, that is something we were paying attention to when making this album. From the beginning of this band, we have just stacked riffs, after riffs, after riffs and with ‘Green Eyleen’ I don’t think we remembered to leave enough space for the vocals and vocal arrangements. As a result they came out a bit rushed and pushed. This band wouldn’t be anything without riffs, but this time we also tried to make more space for vocals and Perttu’s voice. There are lots of ambitious riffs, lead parts but the verses and choruses have more air in them. We also spent at least triple the time to arrange and record vocals compared to ‘Green Eyleen’ and you can hear the vocals are more relaxed, resonant and beautiful sounding. There’s more room for emotions. Some of the songs on the album are actually the hardest we’ve written, but the more refined balance makes it sound more easy and smooth.
“Wilderness Of Hearts” will be released by High Roller Records on November 20th, a great gift for Christmas time?
Haha, whatever makes your clock tick. For the end of the world, it surely is a fitting soundtrack and buy.
What are your plans for the promotion of “Wilderness Of Hearts” in the middle of this terrible pandemic?
Fortunately we have a label and promoter for the release, and that makes a lot. In addition to that there is a music video on the making. We’ll play at least two scheduled record release shows in December/January. In the spring/summer we’ll do more if it’s possible, but I’m most enthusiastic about getting to arrange new songs for the third record, so there will not be a five year gap between albums this time.
How are you dealing with the covid reality?
In Finland the great change in the prevalent order of things escalated around March and it all happened very quickly. Many public spaces like libraries (where I work) were shut down and I was laid off from work for an indeterminate amount of time. Suddenly we were just living in isolation together with my girlfriend in her then small flat with her two cats. You just tried to make good use of the time, playing guitar, reading books, watching movies, cooking… for me it wasn’t a nightmare, but of course the everyday became very repetitive in a short amount of time. But for me that lasted only about two months and I was called back to work in May and in June things seemed almost like normal. The summer felt the same as before with the exception of a total of zero festival trips and of course even less traveling than I’d normally do. But there was some shows already being organized. I’ve played surprisingly many shows this year despite the situation. Of course it is less than a half I’d play in normal circumstances, but still, I have soon played a dozen shows if the last few coming up for the end of year will not be cancelled. Right now it seems that the situation is getting worse again and more restrictions are coming up, but it’s very hard to see where the things develop from here.
Thank you very much for your interesting comments Niko. Wish you the best!
Thank you very much for the interview and review! We hope that someday we are able to bring our Finnish heavy metal to Spain! Cheers Niko (guitar) / LORD FIST