(We present Comrade Aleks‘ interview of Kari Kankaanpää, vocalist of the Finnish death metal band Sepulchral Curse, whose most recent record Deathbed Sessions was jointly released last month by Personal Records, Transylvanian Recordings, and Lycanthropic Chants.)
There are three Finnish bands which are tightly entwined with each other. So guitarist Aleksi Luukka plays in death-doom band Solothus, the doom/black band Yawning Void, and the death metal act Sepulchral Curse. And I can tell you the same about vocalist Kari Kankaanpää who roars in the same three bands. Previously, Yawning Void’s drummer Tommi Ilmanen performed his duties in Sepulchral Curse too, and now his place is occupied by Johannes Rantala, who was noticed in Yawning Void as well.
It looks like a death metal focused Santa Barbara, but things are easier indeed, and though we did interviews with all three bands previously, now it’s Sepulchral Curse’s turn again because they have a new EP and took part in one compilation which we need to discuss too. Kari Kankaanpää is here to tell everything.
Hi Kari! Two years have passed since our previous talk and just take a look – the world turned to be an even worse place. So how did you spend this period?
We took the most out of it. We have been rehearsing like crazy and writing new music. We even hit the studio right away when all gigs got canceled to record our new EP. The biggest change that took place during these years was that our old drummer Tommi stepped down from the drum stool to focus on sound engineering and his other musical projects. This did not really slow us down at all as Tommi stepped down, because within 15 minutes of his decision we already had a new drummer Johannes from Yawning Void and other bands.
For us Johannes was the only drummer we could have added to the band. Sepulchral Curse is a very tight-knit group, so the atmosphere and balance is important to us, so we could not have had just anyone filling the drum throne. This situation worked in the best way possible for all parties involved as Sepulchral Curse is moving forward ever stronger and motivated!
You took part in the compilation For Ukraine, For Freedom. Tell us more about this project please.
My Ukrainian friend Angelika was putting up this compilation for the aid of her country and asked us to be part of it. Of course, we wanted to show our support for the cause, without hesitation. The funds raised by the compilation were spent for essential items, such as food, medical equipment, protective gear, things that help the people in dire need!
Do you know how successful this project has been?
Well, in all honesty I have not even asked. I trust 100% my friend to do the best job that she can do.
How do people react to the Russian “special operation” against Ukraine? Finland stands with one foot in NATO now, who could have expected that a few months ago.
I had one friend in Kharkiv who was there when the bombing started. I was chatting with her when she was in the bomb shelter. That really brings the whole matter closer to you, when you actually know the people under distress. Luckily at least she has found her way here to Finland to be safe. Yeah, things are working way faster in a certain direction, but actions cause counter-actions and all that.
However, despite all the odds, there was Steelfest in Helsinki on the 12th–15th of May. Did you visit it?
Not quite my cup of tea so to say. It is just too much a Black Metal oriented festival nowadays. There used to be cool Death Metal bands playing too, which I happily went to see, but things change. Instead of Steelfest we had a band meeting and multiple drinks at our rehearsal place!
Oh, really? Honestly I understand you, but is there a big difference nowadays (in ideological planes) if you play death or black metal? Isn’t it similar energy and so on?
There are many people into Black Metal and Death Metal, but ideologically I think they are quite far apart from each other. I am not the best person to talk about Black Metal as I am quite fed up with the whole genre and scene in general. I think both scenes share a lot of fanbase, at least here in Finland. I am not sure how it is everywhere else.
How actively do Sepulchral Curse play live nowadays? How have the scene’s rules changed since 2020?
We play as often as possible to put it simply. We do not want to play every gig that is offered to us, we are rather picky nowadays what to play. The fact that we signed a contract with Grey Beard Management really helps and boosts the gigs for us! Yet another thing showing that we are serious with the band and want to push it further. We are deeply honored to be part of Grey Beard’s roster. They host so many killer bands!
What’s the furthest place you have reached with Sepulchral Curse? How do you usually organize everything for… let’s say… one week-long tour?
At the moment the furthest we have played was in London. We were supposed to play in Newcastle this September, but the festival got sadly canceled. Be it gigs or tours, I have normally organized everything myself. I try to be connected and interested in the scene and things come naturally your way. Nowadays though, as I mentioned before, Grey Beard takes care of booking and organizing gigs for us, so we can focus on the music!
How popular is extreme metal nowadays among young folks from your point of view? Did it turn into a privilege of middle-aged nerds?
I think there was a bit of a dry season for some years but now it is booming! There are so many killer new bands coming up with younger folks playing! Look at bands like Cryptic Hatred, Morbific or Azatoth, just to name a few! We have been lucky enough to play with a few of them already. I think it is very important to make sure there is no gap between younger bands and us “older” bands. It is the same Death Metal scene we share after all!
Do you think that young bands have a chance to reach a higher level today without a big label behind them? If it was ever possible? It seems that Steelfest or any doom fests (I can’t judge regarding death fests) are organized by groups of enthusiasts, and there’s no much money involved.
To reach any higher level these days, you need to have a label behind you to get around. Being signed is a stamp of approval that tells the audience that okay, someone else than just the band itself believes in this. There are a lot of music lovers who follow labels and not necessarily bands, so they check out all that certain labels put out. At least that is what I do! I know some folks are totally opposite to this and want to do everything DIY, but I think you need to have the synergy and support from a label to get anywhere. I have been lucky enough to have always been working with different labels, so I have seen the benefit it gives.
What you say about festivals and gigs, yeah, they are mostly run by enthusiasts who do it for the love of music and that I can respect deeply. Even I have booked gigs and tours from the same belief!
We witness how this cosy little underground world changes too. It seems to be a lesser problem for humanity but still it’s a big part of your (and my) life. CD runs grow thinner, magazines are closed (at least in Russia), books have become a luxury item though some editions are luxurious indeed. Do these changes affect your attitude toward playing music?
Not really. I am here for the music and creating music. As some forms are growing smaller, other formats are taking more footholds. Bands and people just need to adapt to the world and how it changes. For example music videos and videos in general are becoming more prominent, so that is something that we are at least very interested in digging deeper into and are planning on doing so! I am not one to live in dreams of what used to be. One must always move forward!
You have the brand new EP Deathbed Sessions. What’s the background of this release?
After we released Only Ashes Remain, we had a couple of songs that did not really fit the concept and musical story. We did really like the songs, so we wanted to record them for an EP between full-lengths. I think the songs have a bit more progressive or different kind of feeling to them, but you can still say that they are clearly Sepulchral Curse. For example, ‘Dystheist’ is most likely going to be a song that we keep on the setlist for the gigs to come! Also, this time we were working with three different labels to have it out in all formats! Huge thanks to Steffen, Jimmy and Jacobo for making this happen!
Yes, I’d agree that Deathbed Sessions differs from Only Ashes Remain. Were these songs composed by different members or did it just happen naturally with all of you involved?
Sepulchral Curse has always had more than one composer, so each song is made by a different member! So, the same people who made the songs for Only Ashes Remain also wrote Deathbed Sessions. For our second album we are going to take a bit of a different approach and compose and arrange the songs as a unit. I believe we will get even smoother and tighter songs that way!
There are three new tracks and a Demigod cover, “Towards the Shrouded Infinity”. Why did you decide to pay a tribute to this band?
We wanted to pay homage to a Finnish Death Metal legend on the EP. There were of course numerous bands to choose from. Demigod is a band that we all really like, and they are originally from a city quite close to Turku, where we live. Also, there are some members in our rehearsal room who used to play in Demigod, so you know, they are a band close to us. Aleksi mentioned that song one time while we were drinking at my place and having a sauna night. The idea grew from there to fruition!
These songs were recorded by Battledragon’s Tomi Uusitupa. How did you work with him? Did he suggest you use some of his power metal tricks?
Tomi did the music video for the song “Dead Stars Drawing Spirals” and we were really impressed with how professional he was! He had also recorded an album for our brothers in Cumbeast, so we knew he is very talented and can get the job done. He sure as hell did! We are so damn happy and proud of how Deathbed Sessions turned out. You could say that it is spot-on what we were looking for sound-wise.
Well, here is a dark secret! Me and Jaakko still enjoy a little bit of Power Metal alongside Death Metal! We both grew up listening to Power Metal before journeying into more heavy and darker aspects of Metal, so the genre still has a soft spot in our hearts! Jaakko even played a guest solo on the new Gladenfold album! If someone reading this enjoys Power Metal, Tomi’s band Battledragon is cool stuff and about to release their debut album soonish!
What are your plans for the rest of 2022? Any special gigs, a new album or something? Any news from your other bands?
Sepulchral Curse has a bunch of gigs happening this year, so yeah, full speed ahead! Not all of them are announced yet. 10.6.2022. we will play in Bar Loose, Helsinki with Revulsion and God Disease, and this will be our first gig with the new line-up. We are quite anxiously looking forward to that! We are also about finished with recording two new tracks for some splits to come. We also will hit the studio later this year to start recording our sophomore album. So many things are happening at the Cursed Camp!
The only active bands for the members in Sepulchral Curse are Yawning Void and Solothus. Yawning Void has new material ready, but we have no plans yet on when we will record it. I think there are enough songs for an EP and new album. Solothus just finished its two-week European tour and has now entered a creative slumber. My full focus is now on Sepulchral Curse as we have so much going on and happening.
Okay, Kari! So I hope that we’ll speak next time when the new Sepulchral Curse album is done… or maybe Yawning Void will be first, who knows? So did we skip something?
I can guarantee to you that Sepulchral Curse will have the album ready before Yawning Void! We have already put everything on momentum, studio booked, etc! I guess that is that then! Lets talk again when we have unleashed our next opus! Stay Cursed dudes!