(In this post, Latvian music journalist Evita Hofmane presents her interview with vocalist Matti Vehmas of the Finnish band Wrathrone, whose debut album Born Beneath is coming out next month.)
How many death metal bands are in Finland? Nobody knows.
Wrathrone saw the darkness of the day at the end of the year 2008, when Mr. Holm and Mr. Vehmas started to think how great it would be to start playing some good old death metal. And that is what they did.
The band is about to release their first full-length album Born Beneath on January 22nd, 2016, via Inverse Records. The album consists of eight slammering old-school death metal hits. The pre-sale has now begun worldwide at the Inverse shop (here) and at Levykauppa ÄX (here).
To promote the album they will begin the Born Beneath tour this December with two exclusive shows in the Baltics. After the release, the band will continue the tour in Finland and hopefully abroad as well!
Here are confirmed tour dates:
17.12. Depo, Riga, Latvia
19.12. Red Emperor Bar, Tallinn, Estonia
22.1. Brummi, Rauma, Finland
23.1. TVO, Turku, Finland
30.1. Baarikaappi, Pori, Finland
5.2. Lepakkomies, Helsinki, Finland
4.3 Keila- ja Pelihalli, Huittinen, Finland
18.3. Motör Pub, Lahti, Finland
19.3. Bar Rock Bear, Vantaa, Finland
It is the right time to talk with Mr. Matti Vehmas.
You describe Wrathrone’s music as death metal “with a few sickening twists here and there”. What death metal is, that’s quite clear, so I would like to hear more about those “sickening twists” in your music, ‘cause sickness can manifest itself in so many different ways. What can we expect from you?
I think what we are saying by that is, that in our music you can find some little smells and tastes of, for example, black metal and thrash metal carved in the body of solid traditional death metal.
Your latest EP Left Unburied was released in 2013. We want to hear everything about it!
Yeah! That winter we finally got around again to do some recordings, and five songs ended up on the Left Unburied-EP. In my opinion this time we got pretty much just the sound we wanted; clear, all instruments hearable, and enough bottom in the growls and the whole of it. It’s quite a good example of what Wrathrone is, pretty varying songs but all of them equally recognizable as us.
Can you fill me in with a brief rundown of what’s been happening in Wrathrone’s camp since then?
With pleasure! It’s been a slow but steady uphill from there on. The mini-tour in the Baltics with Lacrima in the spring of 2013 was loads of fun, great shows and the audience was seemingly enjoying themselves, the same way we did! In February 2014 we got a chance to play three shows in Germany with Final Depravity, Axolotl, and Thy Great Empire. We played one of our best shows to date there in Oberhausen at the Helvete Metal Club.
This year has been both difficult and amazing at the same time. We finally decided to start working on our first full-length album, and so we did the preproduction in the spring. At that time our longterm guitarist Samuli was forced to leave our ranks due family and work-related reasons. That was a definite drawback, although we were lucky enough to find a replacement relatively quickly. Young and talented Vili joined in and we could continue working. The actual album recordings took place at V.R. Studio in Turku, and finally in January, Born Beneath is coming out! The album is finished and in the print as we speak. The pre-sale begins first thing in December and the album is out 22.1.2016 via Inverse Records. It will be available in most parts of Europe and digitally worldwide. We are excited and really looking forward to start touring supporting it!
How is Born Beneath distinct from the previous releases in terms of lyrics and sound?
It was clear from the beginning that this time we wanted to use a professional studio with producer to work with us. That way we gained a lot, resulting in a powerful, yet natural-sounding album with all the instruments and vocals in balance. Jussi Vuola of V.R. Studio did a great job recording, mixing, and mastering the album. Born Beneath is quite low-end driven with the bass and drums really driving the songs forth, it sure turned out great!
Speaking of lyrics, this album has four different writers. I wrote half the material, Mikael did two songs, Lauri offered lyrics for one song, as did Nina Hurme, who has contributed a lot on our previous releases as well. All the lyrics still work together quite well, the undertone being similarly dark and grim.
Why did you choose “Eternal Salvation” to be the promotional single?
“Eternal Salvation” is quite a straight-forward headbanger and therefore a good choice for first promo-single off the album. It gives a good taste of the material of the album.
You also have a new video for this song.
We did a promotional video for “Eternal Salvation”, basically featuring shots taken from various shows this autumn added with some footage from the studio and some rehearsal jams. We do have various plans for more storyline-oriented music video. We shall see how it gets together.
What do you hope that listeners will gain from listening to your music?
We believe in the overall feel and atmosphere. I for one can really ease a lot of stress and bad feelings listening to extreme music, let alone playing it live! It’s such an adrenaline rush, we hope to give the same sensation to the audience every time!
What are your plans for the next year?
As the album comes out, we will head out for a bunch of shows in Finland with various other bands. In the early May we are planning to tour the Baltics again and with some luck, add some dates in Poland, too. For the summer there is lot of work being done, hopefully we’ll get to play elsewhere in Europe as well, we’ll see!
What can people expect from forthcoming dates?
This past autumn, we’ve done more gigs in a short span of time than ever before, so I can promise that Wrathrone is a really tight, aggressive, and entertaining live act right now! So the upcoming gigs will be violent and energetic nights of serious headbanging, you don’t want to miss them!
Can you tell us a bit about your feelings before the gigs and during the concert, and what are your first thoughts when you’re backstage after a performance?
In my opinion the most difficult time is the waiting before the shows — first waiting to haul your gear in, then waiting for the sound check, and finally waiting for your own show… And at this point you just can’t get wasted yet ’cause you still have a gig to play. (Laughs.) When we kick off our show, we aim to hit hard from the first note! So it’s all about giving it all and trying to deliver a great show! After the gig it’s pretty much about first catching your breath, then going through the show with mates, and no need to mention, obsessive use of alcohol and seeing fellow bands play!
It’s not a secret that you Finns love to drink. What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done while drunk? And maybe you even did something smart under the influence of alcohol?
No secret at all! And we fit that stereotype just right! Alcohol hasn’t so far gotten the better of us, so although we’re happily drunk during gigs and sometimes pissed as parrots afterwards, nothing that special has happened. Well, there was of course our first-ever show where our former bass player was quite drunk to begin with and after the show he thought he’d lost his bass (it wasn’t really lost at all) and we got his drunken ramblings on video. That has given us a few good laughs afterwards. Most of our songs are probably written under the influence of alcohol, so I’d count that as something smart done. (Laughs.)
Why is Finland so metal?
That’s a good question and hard to answer! I think most of Scandinavia (Finland, Sweden, Norway) can be described the same way. Some say it’s the long and cold winter that feeds metal music, maybe there is some truth in that. Still, a lot of the early, classic death metal bands come from Florida, and that kind of makes that argument invalid, heh! It’s one of those things no-one can truly explain, but I’m really glad that it is so — the amount of rock-solid metal acts from Northern Europe is phenomenal, and even more so if compared to population!
Do you notice a change in the way extreme metal fans consume music these days?
I think it’s the same with all music today, everything is getting more and more digital. We understand that to a certain point and deliver our material in that form also, but at the same time we feel that the physical album with all the covers and imagery combined with the music create the whole piece of art. That is lost in the digital format. It’s also sad to have witnessed that people don’t come to live shows like before. And this is happening all round, not just with us or in the metal genre. So everybody, if you like music, remember to support live shows, that’s what it’s all about! Check out the album and see you at the shows!
To what do you owe your dedication and perseverance? What keeps you motivated?
The most important thing for us is that we do music we like and we have fun doing it! Of course it’s always a pleasure to see that the audience is enjoying the feast also! We’ll keep on banging as long as it feels this great!
What is the main conclusion you have learned during these years about life and music being two inseparable things?
Whatever you do, in life or in music, do it for real, if you want it to matter!
And let’s finish this chat with some bloody epic and cold Finnish joke, please!
A young female reporter from a British newspaper was sent to Finland to write an article about Finnish soldiers returning from the Winter War. Interviewing one infantry-man, Jussi, she asked:
“When you came home, when the war was over, what was the first thing you did?”
“I screwed my wife,” Jussi replied bluntly.
The journalist went red, and tried to change the subject.
“After that, I mean. What did you do after that?”
“I screwed her again,” he answered.
The journalist turned an even darker shade of red.
“Other than that! Uh – what did you do when you were finished with all that?”
“I took off my skis and had a beer.”
Thank you! Kiitos, Matti!
Thanks again, Evita, for your dedication and hard work promoting metal!