(What we have here is Comrade Aleks‘ extensive interview with two members of the Finnish band Saatue, whose first release under that name came in 2004 and whose latest album (their fourth) was released last October.)
I got in touch with Tero Kalliomäki because of his involvement in Yearning, a Finnish melodic doom band which was active from 1994 until the premature death of its founder Juhani Palomäki in 2010. We spoke about Yearning as part of a short interviews’ series for Doom Metal Lexicanum II, but I kept in mind that Tero also performed guitars and keyboards in the authentic death-doom outfit Saattue since 2004. “Authentic death-doom”! They call it “Saattoo Metal” and the fourth album in this style, Vain Toinen Heistä, was released DIY in October 2021.
It’s strange to do interviews in times like this, but it makes sense and helps to keep at least an illusion of “normality”. The answers were provided by Tero Kalliomäki himself with some help from the band’s bass-player Samu Lahtinen.
Saattue’s story started when you created Kiduttajat in 2001, and after recording two demos the band was renamed Saattue in 2004. Did you consider it as your personal continuation of Yearning?
Tero: Actually I didn’t create Kiduttajat, it was Hapa Lampinen and Vesa Mänty who put first semens to that band. Soon they took me in and I started to compose all our songs and the style changed from simple heavy/doom to more complex and melodic doom.
I owe much to Juhani, learned how to write songs and play different styles in one song. I have called him many times my guitar master.
You’ve called your music “Saatto metal”. Why did you choose this tag?
Tero: Saattue means funeral procession and we call our music Saatto metal cause any of the existing genres didn’t really match our style. It’s a little bit of playing with the Finnish language. We have done similar things with song titles and album names like Jäähyvästi and Vuoroveri.
You released a first EP DIY way back in 2004, and the first full-length Jäähyvästi appeared only in 2008. What slowed you down?
Tero: After the Kivisydän EP there were changes in the line-up and that slowed things. In 2006 the Ikiuneen EP was released with new singer Tuukka Koskinen and that gave Saattue its original sound and style. This release was noticed by record companies and audiences and lead to a record deal with Spikefarm.
There are three guitars in Jäähyvästi, so how did you write these songs? Did you have triple guitar harmonies from the start?
Tero: I compose all songs in Saattue, and yeah, I also did lots of harmonies and it was a good thing to have three guitars, especially in live situations.
What are your memories about the Jäähyvästi recording? Was it fun or stressful?
Samu: For me it was all fun. Of course there was some level excitement when recording for a big record company, but just to boost performance. One thing which made this recording a bit more difficult for me was my broken wrist. So I had to play with a plaster cast on my wrist with the help of painkillers 🙂
The album was released by Spikefarm. Did that make things easier with such a label behind you? Or was it a kind of pressure?
Tero: It didn’t really have a big effect on the band but of course it made our music more visible and we got more interview requests and album reviews, and got noticed by gig promoters.
Samu: We got to Spikefarm the “old school way”, just sending our demos to different labels, and yes, it really felt like success when they offered a deal to us.
How do you see your progress on the album? Was it noticeable for you?
Samu: Well, I feel every new recording session as progress because of getting experience. However I see this recording as progress for the whole band as unit.
Saattue’s song lyrics are in Finnish. Did it provide you stronger support of the local scene and medias? Did you tour outside the country?
Tero: It has positive and negative effect. Sometimes we were compared to the famous Finnish band Timo Rautiainen ja Niskalaukaus just because of the dark slow-tempo music with Finnish lyrics, but if our music were in English it would have lost its originality.
How much of Finnish cultural and social background do you see in Saattue? You know there are bands like Amorphis and Tenhi who do it in their own obvious way, and probably we can add Skepticism to this list too. How much of Finland is in your songs?
Tero: Nice that you mentioned Tenhi, that’s one band that has influenced me a lot! Well, quite many people think that all the Finnish people are introverts and like to be alone. That’s not actually true, but we use that ‘stereotype theme’ in our songs often. In our songs that theme just goes much deeper and usually there’s no happy endings.
And Finnish people love melancholy and minor chords in music, so that’s definitely us. Saattue‘s song themes are quite modern. There have always been the same problems and grievances in the past but we tell about those in the modern era.
Which ones for example?
Tero: For example loneliness, we have used that theme many times, now in the song ‘Yksinään’. It tells a true story of an elderly person suffering from loneliness, and her/his only consolation is a nurse who visits once a day.
And of course loss of a family; we concentrate on that theme now in the song ‘Lehtometsä’. A man wants to return to his roots in the forest and to die there after he has ruined his life.
The sophomore album Vuoroveri was finished much faster — you had it on CD in 2009. How did you manage to finish it so fast?
Tero: Because of a major record company, It was important to release the second album as fast as possible and we had material and resources available. At that time Saattue was in a good boost and the line-up was a really good co-operating organization.
It seems that Vuoroveri is more heavily “symphonozied” than Jäähyvästi. How do you see your progress on the album?
Tero: One remarkable reason for that was our recorder-producer Jarno Hänninen. He gave us good tips on how to sound bigger and stronger and we had found our style and direction on the debut album so it was easier to get things together.
The band entered its low period after this release. Did you have a kind of creative crisis or were you more occupied with different projects between Vuoroveri and Kärsimysnäytelmä?
Tero: There is no one reason for that. There were other projects (such as Embassy of Silence, 0xist, Concrete Swine, Kallomäki) affecting Saattue‘s activities, also personal reasons of band members, and the fact that Finland is a small country with lots of metal bands — it’s not easy to stay visible with marginal music.
Kärsimysnäytelmä appeared on the very underground Russian label Endless Desperation Productions. How was it after Spikefarm?
Tero: Spikefarm was no longer interested in our production and Endless Desperation Productions seemed to be a good option to get our material published. It was of course different after Spikefarm, as all recording, producing, etc., was done by ourselves in Tero’s KillHill home studio. Only the mixing was done in D-Studio like previous albums.
What drove you to to disband Saattue in 2017?
Tero: Well, we made the decision to concentrate on other projects as it looked like there was really no time for Saattue. There was still the thought that maybe some day…
…And what made you return Saattue back to life right in the middle of the Covid pandemic in 2020?
Tero: After we decided to split up, take a break or something, I concentrated only on Uinuos and Kallomäki. At the time those bands were not so metal and I wasn’t interested in guitar playing anymore, because I was so into Jouhikko (bowed lyre). But after a couple of years I got my inspiration for guitar music back and wanted to start a traditional pagan metal band. I made a couple of songs and started to look for members. But when I talked to Samu we decided not to start a new band but bring Saattue back to life. With our ex-singer that was not possible, so we started to look for a new singer. Vain Toinen Heistä was actually composed for that ‘other band’ but it was so good that it ended up for Saattue.
Did you ever have periods when you were thinking to stop playing in bands? A situation like futile searches for a label to release your album, or a worldwide pandemic like two years ago… or prospects of WWIII like it’s expected now from the Russian side?
Tero: Not really. There has been some kind of thinking in bad times like “how would it be to live a normal life”.., you know, meet friends often, fix cars, have a sport hobby, etc. But no, music has been at least 80% of my life since my teen years and I wouldn’t change it to anything else. It takes lots of time but it’s worth it. It’s a lifestyle, not a hobby or day job for me.
Tero, Samu, Harri – there are only three “old” members who took part in he recording of the new album Vain toinen heistä. How did you manage to recruit new members?
Tero: Well, actually four, because Mikael Ahlsten was on our two first albums also. We didn’t want to have a third guitarist anymore so we only had to find a new singer.
Why did you switch to the twin-guitar mode with the new album Vain Toinen Heistä? Didn’t you aim to keep three guitars further as one of Saattue’s features?
Tero: In the new songs there’s less guitar harmonies on top of rhythm guitars so there’s no more need for a third guitarist. Also, me and Harri are very good to play together, with 20 years of experience for that. In older songs we give more space to bass and we don’t play all the harmonies that were in the records.
What would you point to as other features of the new material? Actually it sounds recognizable – just like “Saatto metal” should, but who knows…
Tero: Well, yeah it is still Saatto metal and most of our recognizable elements are there. What is new, and I like to point to (besides the new main singer Otto), is my vocals. I have finally trained my vocals a lot and I think I’ve found good sounds like those in the whole ‘Vain toinen heistä’ song, which is sung by me.
Funny thing is that when I made “comeback” demos and released those in social media, nobody even noticed that there weren’t Tuukka‘s vocals (those were mine). We didn’t tell at that time that Tuukka wasn’t our singer anymore.
How did you find Otto Haaparanta? I see that he didn’t play in any metal bands before but he sounds very organic on Vain Toinen Heistä, like he was part of the line-up long ago.
Tero: I found Otto from a local bar’s karaoke night 😂 I was amazed by his skills. He sung pop, rock, metal, and all the styles sounded good. Afterwards I heard that he is Helena Haaparanta‘s (Crimfall etc.) brother. I have worked with Helena many times, she’s a pro vocalist and my friend from southern Finland.
Saattue’s lyrics are written in Finnish just as usual. May you reveal the songs’ themes for Vain Toinen Heistä? “Just one of them”, right?
Tero: I don’t like to translate song names and lyrics, but yes, that’s something like “Just one them/,those”. It’s a sad song about a mother who hears that she has a bad cancer and only a couple of months’ time to live. She decides not to tell her man and children about it and try to live as normally as she can.
As far as I understand, you released the album DIY digitally. Do you have any news regarding a physical release of Vain Toinen Heistä?
Tero: Yes, it is DIY and it is already released as a CD. You can buy it through our Bandcamp site.
The quarantine deprived bands from playing live and made it hard to gather and record in studios. How do you solve these issues?
Tero: Saattue don’t do so many gigs nowadays so that was not a problem for us. And when it comes to studios, I have my own studio, Studio KillHill in Riihimäki where I have recorded my own albums for years already.
The only negative side when you have your own studio is that everything takes more time than in commercial studios.
What were the band’s highlights considering live activity? How far did you get on tour?
Samu: There were many good gigs, especially at the beginning of Saattue’s active live period. For example the Steelfest festival. Basically we only toured in Finland, but we did one gig in Tallinn, Estonia, with the local thrash metal band Nitrous.
What are your plans now for 2022?
Tero: We try to get more gigs and spread the word that those lazy bone-diggers have gotten up from the depths. There’s already one gig for next month, it’s in Bar Rock Bear, Vantaa 26.3.