pondělí 14. září 2020

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Interview - SHRAPNEL STORM - I don't think there are rules that define war death metal.

Interview with death metal band from Finland - SHRAPNEL STORM.

Answered vocalist Yka and drummer Mikko, thank you!

Translated Petra, thank you!

Questions prepared Jakub Asphyx.

Ave SHRAPNEL STORM! Greetings to Finland. This year, you came back into battle with a new album, which took me straight into the battlefield. Five years ago, I also got your previous record "Mother War" and to tell you the truth, I didn't like it very much. But the new record is great. I totally feel like I'm presented right in the war. What has changed in those five years and how did the new album come about? 

Hello Jakub! To speak the truth, it's difficult to hear the change yourself that happens between albums until you go back listening to the older records. I believe that the "soul" of music changes with people as they age. Different experiences we encounter, different music we listen to shape what we compose. We have never decided that the next demo or album should sound like something predetermined. That it why I believe there are elements borrowed from outside death metal in our music. We just do what we like. 

Before we approach the questions about your new record, could you please tell us how the idea of starting a band was born, who was at the birth of the band? Please guide us through the history of SHRAPNEL STORM. 

I haven't been in the band that long, I joined in 2012, so I will let Mikko answer this one: 

"Yeah, all started long ago somewhere back in the start of new millenium. I was studying and actively looking for mates to jam with. The university I studied had a common band rehearsal room in an air-raid shelter with complete (and free!!) gear, so the threshold was not so high to go there and play with bunch of unknown people. Well, I found some cool guys to jam with, but it did not last so long. Matti, our former guitar player (and a hell of a solo guy!) was one of those cool guys and we rehearsed couple of years just by two of us together. At that point we played some thrash related stuff and had no clear idea about the direction. 

At some point me and Matti fed up and started to look more guys to start a serious band and we caught up Aki. He joined to the group as a lead vocalist, and had also some killer death metal riffs in his backpack, so why not? I guess the year was 2006 or something, I can't remember it clearly, but I'd say that was the starting point of Shrapnel Storm. Pete (bass) and Tohtori (guitar) joined briefly after that. We had friendship connections with the guys, so it was quite easy to put the pieces in the puzzle together and start to raise hell! 

We rolled up the sleeves immediately and recorded our first demo (Battlefield) late 2007. That was a session with lots of alcohol and not so ready songs but definitely worth doing. It at least teached us a lot about studio technique and recording. However, my ears are still bleeding listening it, haha! 

We've had only two major changes in the line-up during the years. First one was when Matti quit playing in 2012 due resettlement and family reasons. We replaced him by vox master Ykä. At the same time Aki jumped from lead vocalist place to play guitar. Afterwards thinking, that was a good swap because Aki is writing 99% of the music and can support in vocal growls, too. The second change is from the near history; Petri quit the bass playing duties this year, after the latest album was recorded. It came a bit unexpected, the cuts are still visible and we've not been talking about it before this interview. We found a replacement from our old buddies, a guy called Henkka Leppänen. Henkka is an experienced musician, a truly likable and loyal person, so I hope we'll do some extreme and eternal stuff with this line-up for long!" 

When I first heard your actual album "Shrapnel Storm", I had previously watched an old documentary about the First World War. I can tell you that I did one thing then. I watched the documentary again along with playing your new record as a background to it. All fitted perfectly together! As if the sound was made exactly for such a movie. Where and how did you record, who is signed under the mix? The production reminds me of very good old stuff from BOLT THROWER. Was that the purpose? 

Both our new and previous album was mixed and mastered by Daniel 'Danko' Rantanen of Danko Tones Studio, and all the stuff in new album was recorded in his studio. We felt like he understood what we wanted the album to sound like and he did deliver it. There were also producers Aadolf Virtanen (from major finnish metal act Diablo) and Tom Gardiner (a well-known metal musician) who gave their input and insight. Bolt Thrower being one of our most important influencer I am not surprised there is similarity in our music and sound. 

I have an original CD in my hand and I'm thinking about what the cover of the record should represent. The motive looks like an explosion. Subconsciously, I like the cover, I just need help. Tell us who is the author and how is the motif connected to your music? 

Our former bass player Petri Saarenmaa drew the album cover and I colored it. Not sure if I can go ahead and say "that's shrapnel storm", but it is also meant to reflect extreme conditions of war, just like our band's name Shrapnel Storm. It's destruction, despair, annihilation. 

Wars are crap, but it is also true that, from a historical point of view, they are, of course, very interesting. How did the lyrics to the new album come about? Are you searching in the archives, watching war-themed movies? And are the lyrics historically accurate? I remember the HAIL OF BULLETS once telling me that a history professor came to them after the concert and rebuked them for being inaccurate in one passage. Who creates lyrics for SHRAPNEL STORM and how? 

When we start writing a song, the topic is somewhat set with the riffs, melodies and rhythm. I just translate the mood of the song to lyrics. That's how our tracks come to be. We do have a common interest in history. What are the most common and well-recoreded events in human history? The answer is wars, unfortunately. I do watch quite a bit documentaries and movies about war, but I try not to write historically accurate lyrics. They're mostly timeless and placeless, they could happen pretty much anywhere in recent wars. 

Besides the obvious theme of war, I find myself writing sometimes about my own personal conflicts as well that gets fused within the story. I don't do it on purpose, but I think it's a great add to the song because there are actual feelings behind them. 

What about you and the concerts? Do you perform a lot, and do you like it? And what do you like more, bigger festivals or small clubs? What is the scene in Finland? I recently watched the movie “Heavy Trip” again. Does it really reflect the scene in Finland, haha? Now seriously, I wonder how the death metal underground looks in Finland. I really like PURTENANCE, NECROPSY, SOLOTHUS, DECYING, I did an interview with these bands and each one has a different view at your scene. How do you perceive it? 

We would certainly like to do more concerts that we currently do. Fortunately the Covid-19 situation here in Finland is now moderately good, so live shows are slowly coming back to the scene. Hopefully, a possible second wave of the pandemic won't screw that up. Can't say that we have a lot of experiences from festivals, since death metal is usually something you get to hear only in clubs, even in Finland, unless you're globally recognized act. To answer your question if we enjoy doing concerts? Hell yes! 

From my perspective, the death metal in scene in Finland is doing as well as it always has. Pretty good. Not great, not bad. People still come see death metal bands to play live, but you couldn't propably fill an entire stadium with them. Some club festivals like Helsinki Death Fest do sell tickets quite well I think, so in that sense we do have our own bigger events annually, when there are no pandemics around. 

I haven't seen "Heavy Trip" movie but I bet there is a lot of truth behind it. 

Also shout-out to our friends in Purtenance! 

Finland is a land of promise concerning the metal for me. I mean now death metal, which most of your bands combine with doom metal. I like your doom metal bands. In both styles, you can add a kind of sadness to the music, such a strange vibration. You are not only brutal, raw and harsh, but the songs also have melodies and a special mood. Do you think it can be caused by the place where you live? Environment, history? For example, in the Czech Republic, we have twice more inhabitants but we don't have a lot of death metal bands here. 

Environment and history definitely has something to do with it. I don't think it is coincidence that our neighbours Norway and Sweden also puts out a lot of great death and black metal bands. Maybe the northern atmosphere and polar nights are behind it? Maybe it's in our genes? In Finland a lot of other music than metal also has that distinct melodramatic feeling to it. 

In Finland it is also socially greatly accepted to listen or play metal music. You don't see everyone wearing shirts with pentagrams on it, but when you do, it 's okay. 

"Shrapnel Storm" is about war. In modern history, Finland went through the so-called Winter War (I think it is a “Talvisota” in your language). It took place between November 30, 1939 - March 13, 1940 with Russia. Then World War II followed. The wars must have drained your country terribly. Do you still feel the links from the history in the society even now? We had socialism for many years, and in some moments, it is returning to us in various forms. Is the Winter War also your theme when it comes to music? 

There are certainly some influences in our music from Talvisota, take for an example the track (you guessed it) Heart of Winter. The wars definitely had an impact on Finland. Those experiences our grandparents and great-grandparents went through is still visible today. It left mental scarring in our veterans and that combined with the harsh times in economy and our serious mindsets, many took their lifes after the war. 

Finland being often called the happiest country in the world, we do have moderately high suicide rate and a lot of mental illness. Maybe those mental scars were passed down from generation to the next. Perhaps we are such a "happy country" because sad people end their days. Or start playing in a metal band, haha! 

You play war death metal, for me personally it's one of the most favourite types of this style. You will probably agree with me that the founding fathers were once BOLT THROWER. They were followed by HAIL OF BULLETS, more recently DECYING, MEMORIAM, DEATH KOMMANDER, JUST BEFORE DAWN, SCALPTURE. VADER also often deals with war topics. Why do you think the war is so interesting for death metalists? How would you even define what an honest war death metal should include? 

I agree those bands are amongst the first to have war as a re-occuring theme. Black Sabbath also has a lot of war-themed songs, maybe that is where the seed was planted. War has such depressing and horrifying things to it, that it's no wonder it's an interesting subject for people who write / compose death metal. War is where people suffer and die. 

I don't think there are rules that define war death metal, I am not a purist in nature at all. 

I am sure, SHRAPNEL STORM are definitely planning some concerts, events for fans. What about a tour of a new record? Please tell us what's new in your camp and what are you planning next? 

A lot more concerts, some in Finland, some hopefully abroad. New merch coming soon, maybe a new music video at some point. Future is very uncertain with this covid-19 pandemic rummaging around. But a new record? Who knows. That could be 2 or 6 years away, we'll see. Now we just want to enjoy the album we just made and share it with others! 

I think you definitely won the war with your new album this year. I listen to it very often. I definitely enjoy your music. Thank you so much for that! And thank you for this interview. I will be looking forward to the next battlefield and I wish you good luck also in your private lives! 

Ok, it's nice to hear that the current stuff is delivering! Our battle is definitely not over yet, and we are actively looking for gigs from abroad too. Maybe we'll see in Czech Republic some day! Cheers!

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