(Comrade Aleks returns to NCS with this interview of guitarist Keränen, co-founder of the Finnish band Sunken, whose debut album was released on July 10 by Argonauta Records.)
Sunken from Tempere, Finland was founded in 2009 by guitarist Keränen and drummer Korpi. They’ve chosen a path leading towards doom-death isolation from the start, but Sunken took shape very slowly: Jokipii (vocals, rhythm guitars) joined in 2013, Tuomi (bass) entered in 2017, and only since then has the real darkness started to take its form from sketches and the riffs that Keränen and Korpi had in their minds for years.
Song by song, their debut album From Slow Sleep Like Death grew, blossomed, and soon was discovered by Argonauta Records, who made the decision to support this ascetic doom choir. So I do as well.
Hail Keränen! Thanks for your time. Are you busy now with the release of your debut album From Slow Sleep Like Death?
Hey! Thanks for checking out our tunes and contacting us. As we’ve now finally unleashed the album, it’s been cool to catch up with the reviews and to see all the positive feedback. Great to have the songs out there for everyone to hear. It’s awesome to have Argonauta Records carrying out the distribution duties. Otherwise, not too busy, we’ve started arranging new material and hope to play some gigs in the near future as well.
Sunken is a new name in the underground doom scene. How was the band born? What’s your musical background?
Sunken was born as I met Korpi back in 2009. We immediately noticed that we were riding the same wave when it comes to the feel and mood of the music, feeding on the same dark well one could say. I played a riff and Korpi followed, no words needed. Things just clicked.
We’ve been through a lot of line-up changes since 2009. It was not until 2013 when we found our vocalist/rhythm guitarist Jokipii and in 2017 our bassist Tuomi that we felt complete as a band. In the meantime of course riffs and songs were born and we rehearsed regularly. Before Jokipii entered the band, we were pretty much an instrumental band in search of a proper growler. Finding a bassist wasn’t that easy either. There were various bassists in the band before Tuomi entered the rehearsal room, blowing us away with his sound.
About musical background, well, Sunken is my first proper band. I was pretty much a solitary guitarist up until I crossed paths with these dudes. It’s not always easy to find musicians who really get you and feed on each other’s sounds and ideas. I feel very lucky for it. I’ve always felt it’s not technical skills that matter the most, it’s the connection you have with a person and the music that comes out.
You spent a damn lot of time preparing this album, and indeed it was worth waiting, but didn’t you want to see it in the flesh as soon as possible? Didn’t you feel the thrill of the chase?
It certainly took its time, but things are ready when they are and we haven’t had the feel to rush it at any point. We’ve known these songs must see the light of day eventually. Now the time was right and things moved on their own weight. We couldn’t be happier to finally have it out. One of the highlights of my life for sure!
Sunken – Island
The album sounds absolutely solid as all of its elements are well-written and work perfectly together. What kind of ideas did you want to express through your songs?
Thank you! Music is one output of subconsciousness into reality. It’s a way to channel emotions, to exorcise demons. I’ve always written riffs in an ’automatic writing’ sort of way. I think the most important ingredient in the band is the fact that we all like the same kind of music, we know how things must feel and sound. There’s usually not many words needed.
I introduce some ground riffs, melodies, Korpi joins in, Jokipii adds his riffs and harmonies, and Tuomi builds up the bottom end. We eventually finish and arrange the songs together as a band. We didn’t have any particular theme on the album, but overall, the songs portray a singular character’s flow of emotions, a subjective feel of solitude, regrets and hopes, frustration, anger, you know the kind of dark feelings within. The songs balance between light and darkness, life and death. I believe there’s a redemptive quality in them, perhaps a glimmering light at the end of the tunnel even with how gloomy things get. I always tend to express subjective themes in the songs instead of taking an objective view or particular stand on the world.
What was your vision behind From Slow Sleep Like Death? Which influences would you mention as general ones in this album?
We wanted to have an album with a cohesive, tight structure that has an arc. It’s a collection of songs from a quite lengthy period of time we felt fit well together. The beginning, middle, and end of the album were easy to decide upon. It starts calmly, builds up, has a calm midpoint, and finishes off with the longest song on the album (also the oldest of the bunch). As a side note, “Dolor Sunlit” was among the first riffs I ever composed for Sunken. I personally feel it’s an essential tune that captures the deepest core of Sunken’s sound. I enjoy the funeral doomish qualities of it.
I’m personally influenced by a mixture of art that draws me in each day, whether its films, horror fiction, literature, music all the way from classical to film scores and melancholic music, and of course doom/funeral/death metal in its various incarnations. Life influences. The personal struggles, the up and downs. I think we have our own sound, but of course our influences come through, however subconsciously that might be. That’s for the listener to decide I guess.
Although doom-death has few variations, you’ve chosen probably its purest distilled form. Is it a more suitable instrument to channel your message?
Interesting and cool to hear that. We’ve never restricted our writing or sound into a certain genre. This is the music that comes out naturally. But yeah, I guess doom/death describes it the best. Overall, I feel it’s important to have dynamics within a song. It’s not always the amount of distortion that makes a song ’heavy’. A fingerpicked clean melody can be fucking evil.
By the way, how important are the lyrics for Sunken?
Lyrics bring in that final component, give the song meaning, deepen the feel, emphasise certain moments. I’ve usually come up with a working title that describes the feel I have for the song. Many have stuck all the way to the finished tune and lyrics have been written around that theme. I’ve written some words, as have Korpi and Jokipii. As another side note, I wrote the beginning riffs for “Island” on a loaned acoustic guitar in early hours as I was on a holiday at the Canary Islands. Self-explanatory song title there. Jokipii later wrote the lyrics around the title and riffs. It’s truly been a joint effort on this album. Our minds work alike also when it comes to lyrics.
Sunken – Unfalter
How did you work over these songs at the studio? Did you face any obstacles during recording?
We recorded the album at our rehearsal room, later named Sunken Lair. We took our time and the recordings lasted from December 2018 to June 2019 on various sessions. Jokipii was the headmaster, twisting the knobs and did excellent work. As the recording sessions were carried out in a true DIY spirit, we wanted to have the album mixed/mastered by a pro in a pro studio. Ulf Blomberg turned out to be an excellent choice. He did the work at his HoboRec studios in Sweden. We enjoy the fact that we were able to capture that live rehearsal sound for the album. The rawness and dynamics are there, just the way we wanted.
Of course, there’s pros and cons in recording everything by ourselves. A definite good thing is that we had a flexible timetable and saved some money. The process was a great learning experience for us all.
How do you see Sunken’s prospects now, when quarantine reigns and there’s no opportunity to play live?
The quarantine restrictions are loosening up here in Finland and hopefully soon things will be close to what they used to be gig-wise. We cannot wait to play some gigs! Songs on the album have been played live only once.
The scene is overcrowded nowadays, and there are new releases even despite the quarantine. How do you see Sunken’s prospects? Do you have some healthy ambitions?
Certainly there’s great music coming out from left and right and that’s cool. We do not care about how we compare to others or in which box we are put genre-wise, we do our thing, what comes out comes out. There’s no better feeling than coming up with a new song, riffing with these dudes. We already have a bunch of songs ready for our next recording and several in the early stages. Sometimes life comes in the way and we don’t have a chance to rehearse, to get together as much as we’d like to. Anyways, we cannot wait to get on stage, record some new songs, and continue our way onto Sunken chapter no. 2.
Thanks for the interview, enjoy the album!