(Comrade Aleks interviewed the three men in Finland’s Caskets Open — Timo Ketola, Antti Ronkainen, and Pyry Ojala.)
Saint Vitus didn’t invent the wheel back then in the ‘80s, but the environment formed their sound and it was natural that one of the first doom metal bands had some punk influences in their songs. However, this mix didn’t turn to be a trend, and Caskets Open from Helsinki sound like a pretty original band.
This trio mix gloomy doom metal and an aggressive punk aesthetic, and it seems that after two full-length albums they’re going to go deeper down in their explorations and add more savage tunes in their songs. Their second record To Serve the Collapse was released two years ago, so I needed some fresh news from the band first-hand. I sent a request to Caskets Open, and they answered.
Hi gents! How are you? What’s going on in Caskets Open?
Hi! Life’s sweet. All good with Caskets Open too. A few small gigs coming up and then we’re switching mode to rehearse some new yet unwritten stuff. It’s all three of us here answering the questions.
Well, the Caskets Open style is tagged as doom metal with punk influences. However, even your “pure” doom tracks sound pretty refreshing and strong. What formed your vision of doom which you fulfilled through the band?
Timo: First time I try to dice this up completely: At the very beginning we wanted only to make doom metal when completely mesmerized by Reverend Bizarre and Saint Vitus, but still didn’t think it should’ve been “pure” or anything that stupid. We are not that kind of a band.
My personal aesthetic taste as a songwriter comes from marinating in Black Sabbath, Danzig, Carnivore, Type O Negative, Discharge, Terveet Kädet, Reverend Bizarre, Saint Vitus, Amebix, … (only to name a few). Those are sticky favourites of mine but every now and then I hear something fresh to me and that affects EVERYTHING I write – I don’t categorize doom influences apart from everything else.
When years passed we occasionally got tired of the slow stuff and we sometimes started to speed things up. Hardcore/punk and other kinds of faster riffs just started to emerge, remembering old favourites like Carnivore which appeared to influence arrangements also. We have our roots in doom metal but nowadays we just do anything we want. There’s no barriers or genre limitations but only within our own taste of music. As long as it sounds like CO it’s all good.
How do you see this combination of doom and punk aesthetics in Caskets Open? What’s common between the two genres?
Timo: Raw power. Plus Saint Vitus did it too! Punk is aggressive, doom is depressive – a perfect combination right there. But Caskets Open is not just a contrast between those two different styles. Even in To Serve the Collapse there are only like two songs that could be labeled as punk.
Actually, the upcoming album doesn’t contain much punk but more like black and death metal influences and some more surprising stuff. Explaining your band’s music (or more like why every member does it like they do) by writing is hard because where everything comes from is far more complex and chaotic… “doom metal with punk influences” doesn’t really cut it.
There was the demo record In the End, which Antti did just together with Timo in 2013. Was it difficult to work as a duet?
Antti: No, it wasn’t. Everything went really smooth with that demo! Timo tried drums and it worked out right away, so we recorded everything except vocals in a couple of hours in our rehearsal room. Of course without a drummer we couldn’t have proper rehearsals or gigs, so that sucked. Well, luckily that was a short period. Caskets Open is all about being and doing stuff together as a band. I think we also did a short demo in 2009 just together with Timo but that’s surely nowhere to be heard.
Timo: At that time, and even before, I was very involved with drum arrangements because I actually played drums before I ever was a bassist. It came out pretty naturally and since we were in that pickle without a drummer and the demo had to be done – we just had to get it out of our system. A psychologically important and almost necessary part proceeding towards the full-length at that time.
To Serve the Collapse” developed the major ideas of But You Rule and enforced the band’s position. Can you say that you got some recognition with that album? What was the feedback?
Timo: Feedback has been mostly positive but some people haven’t liked it, of course. Basically, To Serve The Collapse was a good bunch of both old and new songs arranged with a fresh new guy in the band. There’s songs from the time we didn’t even have a drummer. We wanted to make a long piece that had elements from years back but something new also. That’s why it sounds more versatile or sometimes even disoriented, but that’s the whole idea.
Antti: We got some quite unexpected praise from Finnish music magazines, but then it feels like there’s not too much feedback from outside Finland, apart from reviews. This is actually one of the first English interviews done about the album, hehe.
Then probably it’s good to mention that I’m Russian! By the way, your label Ranka Kustannus works with KYPCK who are pretty famous here. How do you manage the questions of promotion? Did you do the whole job or has the label helped you?
Antti: Ranka Kustannus handled promotion of the album when it was out. I think that’s the reason we got some small visibility in Finnish media back then.
Caskets Open – Voodoo
Do you have a plan to rework some ideas from To Serve the Collapse or did you reach the optimal sound on this record?
Timo: I think that every album we make is its own journey and it steals some part of your mind. You end up empty-headed after the work is done. In a couple of years time you vomit every lyric and riff that’s inside you and after that you don’t want to go back. It’s a picture of that exact time period and after that you look forward. Of course, the sound of Caskets Open is constantly evolving, but there are certain natural repeating manners that each of us do. So there’s still always something familiar.
Antti: I hope every future release will sound somehow different to the previous ones. I love To Serve the Collapse but I’m relieved that the upcoming album has different dynamics to it, especially considering the material. Soundwise there’s no huge difference, but you’ll hear the band’s been playing together for some years now. And our sound man Pekka is awesome.
The album’s title To Serve the Collapse sounds self-destructive. Is it the subtext of the whole album or of Caskets Open in general?
Pyry: The title wasn’t intended to be self-destructive but I can see your point. I guess “serving” means that one human is a cogwheel in the machine that is the World. I have to say that the record was a really hard one to name. 11 songs with 11 different themes to put under a title of some kind. In the end it still came kind of spontaneously. The album is a soundtrack to a personal collapse while the bigger collapse takes place in the background at the same time. A world coming down in slow motion… I still don’t think that the title defines Caskets Open in general.
The song “Subwoman” from your previous album To Serve the Collapse is based on Teuvo Tulio’s classic movie Sensuela. Why did you choose this topic for Caskets Open?
Timo: I saw the movie once and I thought it was hysterical. Not really any better explanation here, sorry.
The next track after “Subwoman” is the anarchic “Humanist”, and I wonder how much of your own is in these stories? Are they totally fictional or do they have some autobiographical parts?
Timo: Actually pretty much. Most of our songs with few exceptions are based on true life experiences, but they sometimes are exaggerated and fantasized. So there is some fiction but almost always a true story behind it.
The “Humanist” lyrics are based upon one show and backstage experience with a staff douchebag. “Mayhem” is about colonoscopy. “In the End” is about depression after a breakup. “Phantom Wood” is about a totemistic maggot-infested tree in our summer place. “I Don’t Mind” is an aftermath of a close person’s suicide. “Funeral Home” is about rotting memories and lost childhood. At least those stories are true.
In the year 2017 the band will have its 10th birthday. Isn’t that a good reason to do the third full-length album?
Antti: The third one is actually already almost done and very likely will come out next year.
Pyry: Yep, the album is indeed recorded and mixed now. We still need to do the cover artwork and discuss the releasing schedule with the label. Besides the album, we’re planning to maybe revisit some older songs live on the upcoming gigs next year.
Caskets Open – Humanist
Finally some good news! How does the new stuff differ from what you recorded for To Serve the Collapse?
Antti: It’s again doom metal pushed through the Caskets Open-filter.
Timo: The songs and the album as a whole are less complex but with more soul and atmosphere. There are really strong pieces that I still get goosebumps myself listening to them. Less rock, more metal I would say, if that makes any sense. Lyrically very personal. Comparing this to To Serve The Collapse, I think this one is more grim. Best thing we have ever done.
Pyry: The new one is more of a solid and monolithic whole, a TOTAL and uncompromising album in a different sense than Collapse was.
Will you do some EP or split-album before the release of third full-length?
Antti: No, we like to put all the effort to full-lengths.
Timo: No, I don’t see any point in that.
Antti you also played moog in Horse Latitudes, but their last album Primal Gnosis was done with you…
Antti: Yeah I’ve played with Horse Latitudes since early 2013 and still do so as a full member. Moog’s there but just lately we played some gigs where I played bass instead of synth. Depends on the songs we play what instruments are used.
I saw that Caskets Open shared the stage with Lyijykomppania in July. The band is great, but the combination of Caskets Open with them is strange. How did you get such company?
Antti: That one gig we played with Lyijykomppania was their 35th anniversary tour and they played in Keuruu, our old hometown. Our friend plays in their current line-up so they asked us to join. We also hadn’t played in Keuruu after 2009, so it was about time!
Pyry: There really was a special ambience hanging in the air that night. A sort of tension, neither the band nor the audience knew what to expect really because there isn’t too much of this type of raw underground music played in that venue, Bunkkeri. I think the Keuruu thing was definitely the best gig we played this year.
Timo: Truly special! A long time since we played in our hometown, old friends hangin’ around and still a relatively cold reception from the audience. Most of them just stared at us. It was great.
Keuruu is a small town in the middle of Finland — how was it to live there? What drove you from there to Helsinki?
Antti: It’s a pretty place surrounded by lakes and a great place to live when you’re a kid, but when you grow up you just need to get out. Like all the small places anywhere! It’s still a pleasure to visit there and that’s what we often do.
Timo: So many memories but so much pain in a bit over 10,000-citizen village. Still, the band scene there when we were teenagers was open enough for anyone to start a band. Me, Antti, and Petteri (the former drummer) were high school friends and had played together in different groups already before starting Caskets Open.
For me, Keuruu is a major influence still. There’s something dark and miserable in that place and lots of things happened that have formed into Caskets Open songs. A certain silent gloom that you can caress only if you’re from a small place yourself.
Have you played outside Finland? Or did you get invited to some fests outside?
Antti: We played two gigs in Germany and one in Lithuania last year. Apart from those, our only time abroad was in Estonia in early 2009. We sure plan to do some more in the future.
Okay, thank you for the interview men, it was nice to do it, I like it. So let’s resume it – what should we expect from Caskets Open in the nearby future?
Antti: Well, the new album at least! Maybe we’ll try to get out from Finland for some days too.
Pyry: Thank You. Really good questions, way better than usual, hehe.
Timo: Thank you very much. Good interview! In nearby future we will play in Helsinki with Cardinals Folly and Murder Hollow. After that I will try to break my writer’s block and we will start to make some new noise again.