Interview with MTUK Metal 'Zine
With this Finnish bands debut album ‘Through Fragments Of Christianity’ leaving me scratching my head on first listen, I was struck by a band who were doing two tried and tested things with their music, and blending them together to make something rather new. This was one of those groups that on listening to the album and writing my thoughts down, I discovered I had a few questions in my head and wanted to find out a bit more about them so without further ado here are some answers to them provided by Elias Vihma and Armi Päivinen.
PW: Firstly can you give some background information about the group; how did you all come together and have any of you previously been involved in any other projects? I believe a couple of you were also in Exsecratus - did you leave them to form In Silentio Noctis?
Elias: The band was formed quite quickly after me and Armi left Exsecratus in 2006, as you correctly mentioned. In Silentio Noctis wasn't quite the reason for the break-up, there were quite a lot of musical and personal issues involved. When we left, we didn't exactly have a plan of forming a band or anything, it sort of just happened. After spending, give or take, two years in a melodic death metal band with little to no artistic fulfilment, we just thought it was time to do something that was really straight up our alley.
PW: You released a three track demo in 2007, ‘Symphonies Of Death,’ which contains songs from the new album. It strikes me that these are akin to three chapters of a novel. Did you have clear ideas of what you wanted from the full length album at this point and did you perhaps have most of it written then?
Armi: Additionally to those three songs, we had already written a few of the songs that now appear on the album. When we contemplated about the choice of songs for the demo, we just tried to put together songs that we thought would fit together best. All the songs that we finally chose had a death-theme going on, and that's also where the record's name came from. Thematically, we didn't have anything special in mind for the full-length, but since I write all the lyrics, there always tends to be some kind of connection between them, even though I try to avoid repetition.
PW: What happened between the release of the demo and the album, and how did you end up signing to My Kingdom Music? That must have been quite an achievement considering this is your debut album.
Elias: It saddens me to say it out loud, but practically nothing happened! We did virtually everything we could do to get things rolling, but there always was some brick wall in the way that we either needed to tear down or circumvent. We recorded a one-track internet release of the song 'Signum Crucis', but we don't even remember when that was. So it just came to be, that in 2009 we decided to record a full-length album - and so we did. We sent the mastered CD off to a quite sizeable amount of labels, and received mostly polite declinations. Fortunately though, label manager Francesco Palumbo of My Kingdom Music showed interest in our work, we had already been in contact concerning the aforementioned demo. So, we negotiated a deal and celebrated! Of course it was an achievement for us, at least we didn't go broke for nothing. :)
PW: I found your music very easy to get to grips with, but then again, it perhaps did not quite make sense. In a nutshell I described you as a combination of styles with the instrumentation, fast symphonic black metal akin to Dimmu Borgir and operatic female vocals slightly in the vein of Epica? Firstly would you say this was a fair assessment and secondly how would you describe yourselves musically?
Armi: Of course, everybody is entitled to their own opinions and references, and that is completely acceptable even though we wouldn't compare ourselves to either of those two bands, and they neither are, nor will be, of any influence to our stuff. We completely suck at describing our music to other people, we prefer the 'just listen to it' approach. If someone really wants an answer to the question, our answer usually is plainly symphonic black metal.
PW: It’s the combination of styles that particularly interests as try as I might I cannot think of any other band who do anything quite like you do. Sure you play in the style you do and have a singer with an operatic range, but is the way you sound through circumstance or were you always looking to play music that was a bit on the different side?
Elias: We do strive to do things our way, and I think that's where that 'different side' aspect comes from. You could say the sound is just a coincidence of circumstances, since it is what it is. We haven't tried at any point to force our music to go one way or the other, it has evolved and continues to evolve into a more and more lunatic direction though. I think it has something to do with my mind. Also, we never try to meet any criteria of 'well written music', we just let things fall into place.
PW: Singer Armi Päivinen was one of the band members previously in Exsecratus. I was wondering if she had any formal vocal training or experience in any other form of music perhaps? She has an incredibly natural sounding voice.
Armi: Thank you, I take vocal lessons once a week. There I mostly sing classical Arias and Lieder, for example Mozart, Schumann and Schubert. Still, black metal is the only style of music that I want to pursue at this moment.
PW: Tell us a bit about the recording of the album please. How long did it take and where was it recorded? How did you find the process as it was a debut album?
Elias: We did the planning and budgeting in early 2009, so the really horrible stuff was finished before we got to the real deal. The recording work was done at the same studio where we produced our demo - in Klaukkala's D-Studio, except for the choir parts which were earlier recorded at another venue. We took the mixing part to Sonic Pump Studios and Nino Laurenne's expert hands, and polished it off by mastering it at Finnvox studios, where Minerva Pappi did an excellent job with it. The process was fairly smooth, regardless of some scheduling issues, but since we had planned it through we had a pretty good overview of how things were progressing. I sat through virtually every minute of recording, mixing and mastering, and I can say that time went by like a breeze. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we can't wait to hit the studios again.
PW: I would like to get a bit of background behind the actual narrative of the album. I have not seen the lyrics but it really strikes as though there is some sort of concept taking place here. I get the idea of a man of God finding forbidden knowledge and being overwhelmed by it and discovering the dark side, leading to his inevitable damnation perhaps?
Armi: The album in itself is not a concept album with a continuous storyline. Somehow people seem to think that we are more imaginative than we can take credit for! Of course, the lyrical content between the songs are more or less akin to each other, but I couldn't think of one general theme to describe them all. Broadly, each song deals with the darker side of humanity in some way. So no, no single man of god, just god and stupid people.
PW: In line with this is the great artwork (again I have only seen cover and back image) but it is very striking. This was done by group’s guitarist Elias - was he also responsible for most of the story behind the album and is he involved in doing illustrations on other levels?
Elias: Thank you! I did only the front cover, the rest of the album artwork and design was done by Matti Viisainen, and a hell of a great job he did! Actually, I haven't got anything to do with the lyrical side of things, that's all Armi's awesome handiwork. I've dabbled in illustration and that kind of stuff forever, and I've also done some web design, most notably our own website and our myspace layout.
PW: It’s perhaps a cliché but it seems to us over in England that practically everyone in Finland is in a band, or at least a fan of metal. How easy is it for a group like yourselves to get any sort of recognition both home and abroad?
Armi: In Finland, we're still almost at square one, without barely any recognition at all. At least here that would definitely require some extensive gigging, which we cannot do at this point. We haven't got the slightest idea if anybody here has even bought the album! There was also an issue with our original Finnish distributor fading out of the business, which means that almost the only way to buy our album here is as an import CD with a price tag to match. Most of the response we have gotten so far is from abroad, so it does seem to be slightly easier there.
PW: I was wondering what sort of reaction you have had to the album from press on the whole. I have just read a rather negative review on Metal Archives saying the band have the two styles that do not combine and are not ‘the right fit’ for each other. I don’t agree with that line of thinking but are you noticing others saying these sorts of things and how would you defend such comments?
Elias: The reactions are spread throughout the whole scale, ranging from said reviewer's 25/100 to a full 10/10. Of course reviews like this drive me stark raving mad, although it just is what it is, another opinion. Having written the music, I just can't identify myself with that line of thought at all, and I tend to feel pity for these cliché-riddled scribblings. I also don't quite understand this combining of genres that we seem to be involuntarily practicing, I don't tend to think in genres. Our music is what it is, and I don't know why it is or what it is but I do think that it's worth more than that crap.
Armi: First of all, I'm starting to get pissed off with people comparing me to an almost ten years older singer. It just isn't a fair assessment. When I'm in my thirties, I'll gladly take on the criticism - but at this point, I still have almost ten years to catch up. Also, I don't know why the hell everybody seems to think that all female singers want to sound like Tarja Turunen, she hardly is the world's one and only classical singer. Clearly, certain Nightwish fans have a hard time realizing, that not everybody likes said band or their former vocalist. Simply put, it starts to get really, really old. They really could come up with something new if they feel like bashing us.
PW: The live section of your site states ‘no confirmed gigs at the moment.’ Any reason for this (guessing lack of drummer at the precise time), have you much live experience in the past at home and further afield and do you hope to get on tour soon?
Elias: You got it! We did a gig in Turku with Raikku filling in the drum spot - well, it did not go well. So, we've postponed gigging until we find a permanent holder of the sticks. We have some negotiations about the spot going on, but since there's nothing definitive yet we'd rather shut up about it. Of course we hope to get to play gigs as quickly as possible, since it really is such an important aspect of this stuff.
PW: What are your plans for following this up, do you have any ideas for a second album at present?
Armi: We do, and we really hope that we can do a second album at some point. We've started to write new material, and it sounds fucking good. It's safe to say at this point that whoever enjoys our debut should enjoy the sophomore even more.
Elias: I agree.
PW: Anything at all you would like to add?
Armi: Thank you for the interview!
Elias: My thanks as well. And to everybody else: Buy the album!