(The Finnish doom legends Spiritus Mortis will release a new album named The Great Seal through Svart Records on September 16th, and at last Comrade Aleks reached out to them for the following wide-ranging interview.)
Spiritus Mortis wasn’t the most active band of the Finnish underground, but objectively it’s the first Finnish traditional doom metal band, that’s the real fact. Starting as Rigor Mortis in 1987, the band got its longer-lasting name in 1988, but the guys released only demos until 2004 when the self-titled debut seaw the light of day. Years passed, but brothers Jussi and Teemu Maijala have remained Spirtius Mortis’ priests since the beginning, carrying the torch of damn true doom metal.
Their 2016 album The Year Is One was recorded with Sami Hynninen (Reverend Bizarre, Opium Warlords, and a dozen more bands you maybe heard about) on vocals… this album was a killer! Honestly, I was wondering what else could they bring here after that masterpiece of glorious doom? Then Sami left the band according to their agreement, the new vocalist Kimmo Perämäki took his place in 2018, and then Markus Kuula replaced Jarkko Seppälä on drums.
All these changes didn’t distract the brothers Maijala from their holy task and Spiritus Mortis’ new album The Great Seal is to be released through Svart Records on September 16th. And that means that now is our turn to support the band.
Hi Spiritus Mortis! It seems that we can congratulate you on the band’s 35th anniversary, as the band was born under the Rigor Mortis name in 1987. What do you feel now regarding this big date?
Teemu: Thanks! There are very few things I’m proud of and SM is one of them!
Jussi: In Finland we have this phrase “mikä pahan tappaisi”, “nothing will kill evil enough”. I’m proud as a father things of the things we have accomplished.
Has the title of “the first Finnish doom metal band” ever helped you with promotion?
T: Nope 🙂
J: Yeah, not really, maybe not until now….
Back then in the ’90s were Minotauri and Reverend Bizarre. Did you communicate between each other or were you involved in tape trading with the bands from abroad?
T: Our former singer Vesa Lampi was in contact via email with Sami from RevBiz and Arska from Minotauri. Personally I did a very little tape trading, mainly in Finland.
J: Very little communication. Everybody doing their own special thing.
Why did you spend the ‘90s recording only demos? Was there a chance for Spiritus Mortis to get more attention if you could have focused more on the band’s promotion, etc?
J: Probably not really: In the ‘90s the only ways to communicate were damn expensive phone calls and “snail mail”. No record companies for this kind of music in Finland. No good contacts, no places to play SM.
T: I think yes, but like Jussi answered above, no internet, no contacts. And I (We) were such lazy fucks…
Svart Records is about to release your new album The Great Seal, which is scheduled for the 16th of September. What’s the story behind this album? How long did you take to create it?
T: Jussi will tell you more about the concept. It took, again, a long time to create. I suppose the music was recorded around 2020, but due to the corona epidemic there was no use to release it without promoting it with live gigs.
J: After our last “ultimate doom album” The Year Is One, we wanted to make an more groovy, rocking, even melodic, album with the Spiritus Mortis style. The theme (it is concept album) of The Great Seal is religious lunacy, great, weird, strange, sad stories, fact-based stories of witchcraft, self-immolations, mutilations, suicides.
Some songs, like “KHRISTOVOVERY” or “The Feast of the Lord” are written and arranged completely by Kari. And other songs, I bring a riff to rehearsals, we jam, and somebody brings another, and so on. IMHO, it’s a great strength that all of us can make a riff or complete songs so we can pick the best for the album.
Why did you pick up the Seal as a symbol of this album? The Walrus looks much more doomy!
J: Damn, I so know this will happen…
T: I am the Walrus!
The Year Is One is just a gorgeous album — I love it, and a lot of other people love it, or so I believe. So was it difficult to start writing material for The Great Seal knowing that you needed to keep that really high level of songwriting and production?
J: Not really. Two reasons: we knew we cannot make a better doom album than The Year Is One, our ultimate doom album. There is just no sense to make “The Year is Two” or “The Year is One – part II, Return“, you cannot just overdo it. Teemu says The Year Is One was our Reign in Blood and The Great Seal is our South of Heaven, I would say from Vol. 4 to Heaven and Hell…. Secondly, our living does not depend on music — it could be truly painful to believe “I must do good music which sells and is good (how can you yourself know that, by the way?), so my children get something to eat.”
Objectively The Great Seal has a good commercial potential: It’s epic, it’s melodic, it’s diverse, and still it’s doom metal. How do you value your chances to get out from the narrow doom metal inner circle?
J: Thanks, this sounds good. Later in this interview I will tell my “best of ” songs/bands 😉 SM is not a puritan doom only band.
T: On the other hand, putting SM into a narrow doom metal genre is ok if you want to explain/compare SM to somebody who hasn’t already heard us. On the other side of the coin, I personally like to play music when there is more variation, like in SM we have almost thrashy “The Man Of Steel” and some epic stuff and then really doom, like “Holiday in the Cemetery”.
Albert Witchfinder was your session vocalist, that wasn’t a big secret. How many candidates did you listen to before you found Kimmo Perämäki?
T: Albert was and is a great singer and performer! We have known Kimmo for around 20 years and he’s also a very talented guy. And also he lives about a one-hour journey from our rehearsal place so it was a rather logical choice. Heh, we rehearsed with Albert just two times during years…
J: Only the very best for Spiritus Mortis. I knew Kimmo is a talented singer and also thought his different kind of background in metal would be interesting and would fit nicely with the “New Spiritus Mortis”, Spiritus Mortis after Sami and The Year Is One. And I was right.
Kimmo sings in a more “epic” manner as it seems from the first impression. Did your work with him differ from the way you composed and recorded with Sami?
T: Yeah, like I wrote, Kimmo is a talented guy, and he’s also a wizard with recording software. We had around seven songs already ready for recording, but Kimmo made some new arrangements. Also Kimmo wrote at least one or two songs for the album.
J: This “Kimmo sings in a more “epic” manner” sounds correct.
Markus Kuula changed with Jarkko Seppälä behind the drum set at the very last moment before recording. Was it a problem to find the replacement that fast?
T: Again, like with Kimmo, we wanted a guy “around here,” so rehearsals would be a little easier. Kimmo knew Markus from some other project, and again Markus is a great guy and a great drummer.
Jussi: Such like the change of vocalist, the very best man (here) for the Spiritus Mortis.
Did you play live with the new line-up already?
T: Yes, if my memory serves me right, at least once at SaariHelvetti.
J: Yeah, but like a dozen gigs already with Kimmo. Everything worked nice and professionally.
You promoted the album with the official video “Death’s Charioteer.” Whose idea was it? Are you satisfied with it?
T: At first we did a video for “Feast of the Lord” but then we thought that it would be “too commercial” for old Spiritus Mortis fans. So then we did one and released it for “Death’s Charioteer”. I suppose it was Kimmo‘s idea, but no objections from me because I made the music 🙂
J: I and Kimmo searched a lot of suitable old pictures for the video. There were a lot of them because this case was famous in Finland. The story behind the video and song goes like, in 1930 they find a skull and bones in Tattarisuo. After investigation police find out there was group of witches (a group of 6…), who had robbed the skull and bones from a local poor persons’ cemetery for use in witchcraft. Music is great “Manowar“-style.
It’s interesting that you’re mentioning Manowar. I didn’t expect it. Can you name few more bands which influence you still?
Jussi: I just make a list o “best of” songs”: Black Sabbath, Venom, Judas Priest, Bathory, Candlemass, + some surprises. The first four Manowar are True Metal!
T: Jussi said it all! Personally I like to steal every decent idea I hear!
There are a few songs with quite interesting titles in the album. “Puputan” is dedicated to an Indonesian ritual suicide practice; ‘Skoptsy’ was an Orthodox sect of castrates; “Khristovery” (also known as Skoptsy) was another sect of Orthodox flagellants. Some other texts also bear shades of religious symbolism. Who’s the lyrics’ author this time? What make you turn your attention to these topics?
Marko (maker of lyrics): Greetings from my behalf! Marko Ylä-Häkkinen is the name. At least that is what my parents told me when I entered this world. So, as for a starter, gotta say that The Great Seal is the first ride for me in the doom-metal genre. Been working the past 25 years in the melodic heavy/rock genre mostly as the drummer/lyricist in the band “Masquerage“.
So, a few years ago I got a request from Spiritus Mortis asking if I would be interested to join the group with this role. I felt delighted for the challenge. Been actually knowing the guys for years already. Jussi had been my history-teacher years ago in high-school and Kimmo has been my “brother in arms” since we were kids. So, easy to work with the guys in that way.
And the main theme for this album was actually made by Jussi. “Religious lunacy,” as it can be stated with two words. He had lots of different ideas for the songs and I had the job to select a suitable story for each song from that huge group of hmm “interesting historical events”. And of course it took “some” time to chew the stories into lyrics that fit the songs and Kimmo‘s mouth. Me and Kimmo had some good laughs when recording some phrases! 🙂 But yep, it really was interesting to work with these stories and songs! Was like I got a history course when building the songs with stories you now can hear and read with the album.
J: Fact-based stories of witchcraft, self-immolations, mutilations, suicides….
It’s curious because Finnish bands like Mansion, Seremonia, and Vainaja also pay their tribute to sects — both real and fictional. And all these bands are doomy to some degree. Is it just a coincidence or do you feel there’s something common between Finnish doom metal and religion?
T: Just that there is so much insanity in religious circles! Endless ideas for songs.
Jussi: Maybe there is some familiarity between cults and underground rock. I remember how a young female reporter wrote, “In the Spiritus Mortis gig the audience was like a congregation in church”. Also the stories behind Mansion and the “Kartanolaisuus” sect are quite creepy, interesting, and totally suitable for doom lyrics.
Are there any songs on the album based on Finnish traditions or history?
J: Yes, in The Great Seal, as mentioned above, the song “Death’s Charioteer“ tells the tale about the famous Tattarisuo case in Finland that began in 1930.
What are your plans regarding Spiritus Mortis for the rest of 2022?
T: More gigs. Rehearsals, composing songs for the next album. ESSI!
J: Great co-operation with Marko will continue. Next two albums will also be “theme albums”, the lyrics of them will be about war and its insanity. Working title No Human Contact. But this is like a “10 years plan”.
Wait! How did it happen what you already have ideas for two more albums? Are you kidding?
J: Nope. One song already almost ready and lyrical ideas about human insanity, next album lyrics about war.
Well, okay… Thank you for the interview, god speed on you… or whatever!
J: Thanks brother! Stay Doomed!
T: Thanks! See you on gigs!