(Latvian music writer Evita Hofmane re-joins us with the following interview of members of the Finnish death metal band Wrathrone, whose new album, Reflections of Torment, was released last month.)
Wrathrone strike hard with their sophomore album, fittingly titled Reflections of Torment. It’s safe to say that these Finnish death dealers have really found their rotten groove and sound on this bestial offering! Rumbling double guitars, low-grinding bass with blasting drums, topped with unearthly growls. Uncompromising cover art by Pierre Perichaud of Business for Satan depicts the horrors and defiled themes of the album perfectly!
Reflections of Torment was recorded during the autumn of 2017 at V. R. Studio in Turku and mixed/mastered at Wolfthrone Studios. It was released by Satanath Records with The Void Records in CD and digital formats in April 2018 and will be released by Cimmerian Shade Recordings in vinyl and tape formats in September 2018.
I dropped the band a line to find out more about it.
So, 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary of the band. When you started out with this band, where did you think you would be in 10 years?
Mikael Ruoho (drums): When I joined the band in 2011 I was really busy with my other band at the moment and didn’t really want Wrathrone to be anything too serious. I think all the other guys felt the same then. It was just something to have fun with. To be honest there were times when I didn’t think we would make it this far, haha! Remembering that, it feels kinda amazing to think that we have released two full-length albums and played 70 shows since!
Matti Vehmas (vocals): When we originally started this band back in December 2008, we really didn’t have any specific plan for long term continuity or anything. We were having a few beers (you didn’t see that coming!) and listening to some old time death metal favourites and from there the idea sprouted. I had been inactive personally for about ten years of any band-related stuff, Lauri had his thrash metal band Malvo going during that time. As I recall, Lauri asked me to do some growls for a few songs on Malvo’s recordings and those ended up working quite well. It felt like it would be a fun thing to start a dm-project to try out. Bit by bit, things evolved and Wrathrone ended up being the smoothly working death machine it is today. It has been a slow but steady road upwards, and things are looking great for future progress!
How would you look at the band’s musical evolution over that time?
Mikael: The first demos were really simple old school death metal. After those I feel that we lost our direction a little bit and made some songs that I’m not too proud of these days. But we started to get back on the right track with our debut album Born Beneath and with our new album Reflections of Torment I think we really found the right style for us. A proper rotten groove and catchy yet crushingly heavy songs.
Matti: There really has been quite a lot evolution. The first batch of songs we wrote back in, say 2008-2010, were quite straight-forward mid-tempo stuff. The music has always been mostly written by our guitarists and you can hear their signature on them, which I think is a cool thing. Since the first few years, I think the songs have been pretty versatile, what I see as one of our strengths. The main core of Wrathrone remains death metal for sure but with interesting variation in an old school vein. It is safe to say that the more recent material has more depth and sides to it. We have a lot of songwriting skill, in the band as both guitarists and also our bass player write music.
What keeps you going as a band, creatively?
Mikael: We all listen a lot of different types of music, and I think that’s a good source of creativity. At least for writing music. Writing lyrics seems to be sometimes a bit hard — we are not that angry anymore, haha. Personally I write lyrics mostly about movies and tv, and try to mix them with some personal aspects. Also as a group we have so much fun on and off stage, I think that also keeps us going, creatively and otherwise.
Matti: As mentioned earlier, the songs that our guitarists bring to the table still manage to surprise me in a good way. As the process of songwriting ends up with a killer track with the authentic Wrathrone-feel to it, it never fails to satisfy. As long as we have this kind of creative force working in the band, I think we have plenty to give!
When did you start writing for Reflections of Torment” How was the studio experience? What did you find most challenging about making this album?
Mikael: I remember that we played one song from RoT live already at the release show of Born Beneath in January 2016. We wrote about 15 songs for the album in about one and a half years, and ten of them made it to the album.
For the first time we decided to record the instruments live, and that was a nice but challenging experience. The recordings lasted just for three long days. We had plans to drink after the studio days since there now was a sauna at V. R. Studios and all, but we were all so tired after long days of tracking that we settled for a few beers and went to sleep, haha.
Even though the recording live was challenging I’m happy that we did it since it gives a really nice groove to the songs.
Matti: We tend to work with new material pretty much constantly. So some of the songs on the new album have been ready for some time and the last ones were finished last summer. We had a few extra tracks and we pre-produced the whole batch in the summer and then we chose ten that worked the best and those ended up on the album. We used the same studio (V. R. Studio in Turku) as with Born Beneath, so everything was pretty easy in that sense. The instruments were recorded live for the most parts and that worked really well for us! This time the mixing and mastering was done at Wolfthrone Studio in Pietarsaari, which was a really good fit for us too!
So, the new album is released, what does it sound like? What kind of influences have you honed in on musically this time?
Mikael: To my ears it sounds like the best moments of ’90s death metal mixed with some new influences. Also it still does sound like Wrathrone; I think there is something that connects all our releases. I’m happy with the overall sound and mixing too, it’s really not too polished or mechanical sounding, it sounds dirty and alive!
In addition to traditional death metal we draw influences from other genres too. For example we have some songs quite heavily influenced by black metal. On this album you can also hear the influence of crust punk and d-beat style music and drumming, I think that gives the album a kinda fresh sound, at least compared to our previous work.
Matti: I think this new album is more balanced in a way. There are still a few quite different songs, that is pretty much of a trademark of ours (try “Last Journey North” for a size), but the core is there from the start to the end. Definitely a Wrathrone album. The music is still mainly written by our guitarists Lauri and Vili, although this time Pekka (bass) also contributed by writing music for the song “Bloodline”. There are a couple of faster songs with hints of crust even; Mikael and Vili have been quite keen on that lately. Traditional nordic death metal is still the key feature to be found throughout the album. Also, although I think the production on our debut wasn’t bad, this time we nailed it even better.
Is there a moment on the new record you’re most proud of or excited for listeners to hear – either in the songwriting or the performance?
Mikael: I really like the faster d-beat songs “End of Your Sanity” and “Through Desolate Passage”. They are something we have never done before. Also the drums and overall arrangements of “Dead Inside Me” are something I’m really proud of, I think that song shows how dynamic we can be.
Matti: Really hard to pick something from the whole package as I see the album to be, but of course there are some favourites. Let’s say right now they would be “Throne”, “Bloodshroud”, and “Bloodline”. I furthermore can really say that every guy handling an instrument has stepped up his game on this one — I’m really impressed!
Who did the artwork? As a music fan, how much is packaging tied to the overall experience for you?
Mikael: The artwork was done by a French artist called Pierre Perichaud/Business For Satan. I don’t like our previous artwork too much, so we wanted to go in another direction with this one. We had an idea about a head split-open including demons and what not, we threw that idea to the artist and the result just blew our minds. The cover art is so filled with details that I’m sure our listeners will have fun moments trying to figure that out. It will look amazing on the vinyl cover for sure!
I’m a big fan of physical releases so the package is really important for me. Especially in vinyl format the cover is really important. A good cover art can attract listeners to grab the album and a bad one can turn them away.
Matti: For me the album is a collective piece of art, combining the music, lyrics, and the graphics. So yeah, the graphical aspect is important for us. This time we were looking to have a really old school feel to the art with a lot of details. Pierre Perichaud of Business for Satan did an awesome job on the cover, works like hell. Pekka finished the rest of the layout with style. Couldn’t be more satisfied with the final product.
If the world turned into a perfect utopia overnight, would you have any music left in you?
Mikael: I think that no matter what happens, music will always be a big part of me. I’m always listening to music, no matter what I do. Creatively I think playing and making music will always stay with me too, difficult to see that the urge for that would just die.
Matti: In my perfect utopia, we’d be able to concentrate fully working with music, so music would definitely play a major role.
What’s your favourite touring memory so far? What’s the most surreal thing you’ve seen at an Wrathrone show?
Mikael: All the tours we have done abroad have been great. The Born Beneath tour we did with Lacrima in the Baltics and Poland in 2016 was crazy, filled with good memories including being locked in a bunker/rehearsals place in Lithuania, Matti not being able to fit in his own face and having a drinking contest with the Polish guys (Poland lost).
Sometimes the venues are quite surreal, especially in other countries. In Estonia we played in one venue that was out of this word, it was like someone’s living room with big cats running around. Also each gig when the audience is really great always feels a bit surreal.
Matti: I think my favourite tour has been the last longer trip to the Baltics and Poland. It was springtime, warm weather, and cool new places added to familiar ones. It is safe to say, that during that tour I also reached a point when I stated to my mates: “I think I don’t fit in my face”, so the heavy drinking has its burdens also. 😀
Have you been writing new music?
Mikael: Yes we have, actually we already played one completely new song live. We have like six or seven new songs already, but we haven’t had time to rehearse all of them yet. Probably we will make some pre-productions for the next album already this year. Let’s see what the next step will be for us.
Matti: We’ve been rehearsing about five new songs now, and there are a few more waiting to be tested, so new material is really coming up nicely. Some of the new songs will find their way to the current set lists also.
What does the term “death metal” mean in 2018?
Mikael: It seems to mean too many things. A lot of bullshit bands use the term death metal for their music. Also I’m not a big fan of the modern death metal stuff — there is no soul to all that technical super-fast stuff. For me death metal should be served dirty and groovy, unpolished and violent. Those bands seem to be quite a rare breed these days.
Matti: For me personally the meaning hasn’t changed since the nineties when I discovered metal. I mean, for sure, there is a huge amount of different “sub-genres” within the death metal term, but I’m not that keen on labeling stuff all that pedantically. Wrathrone holds the old school flag high, we are not trying to invent any new genre, just working with the right parts to make furious and forceful metal that sounds like Wrathrone, and all the same it fits well under the death-metal-moniker.
What’s happening in the Finnish death metal scene right now?
Mikael: To be honest I don’t really know, we have never felt a part of the scene. A lot of old Finnish bands like Abhorrence and Festerday are making new albums — that will be interesting! There are quite a few death metal bands in Finland at the moment but not enough proper events and venues for that kind of music. And not enough people to go to see the shows.
Matti: A lot of the old dm bands from the early nineties have been rising from their graves to tour and even release new material. That movement has also couraged young bands to work with that classic vibe. The scene is really pretty active right now. Vili’s other band, Galvanizer, serves as a good example of young guys really going with the old school thing and doing it extremely well.
Are there any recent Finnish metal albums that have been getting regular spins in your house?
Mikael: Actually not really. I don’t listen to that much metal these days anyway. But two bands that we played with recently really stood out, so I’m going to add their releases to my playlist. Check out Dispyt (metallic crust) and Worthless (death metal)!
Matti: For years now, I’ve been really a quite passive music user. I tend to listen to old favourites mostly. But there is some interesting stuff I’ve been listening to lately. At this point I would point out a black metal band called Paara, with their new album Riitti, really enjoy that one. Also the dm-supergroup Barren Earth have released their newest work, “A Complex of Cages”, and that doesn’t disappoint.
What does the future hold?
Mikael: We have some plans to tour in the Baltics and Germany in the autumn, hopefully we can get some good shows for next year too. Probably we will start to work on some new release soon as well.
Matti: In the aftermath of the release of RoT, there’s definitely quite some touring, hopefully we manage to hit both Baltics and Germany next fall. Both areas have been good for us in the past! Our aim is always to reach a bit further, more professionally, better and harder! So we’ll surely be working hard to be seen and heard also in the future!
Contact the band:
firstname.lastname@example.org via Facebook.