Tomorrow, Monday April 28th, the sixth studio album by the Finnish melodic death metal band Insomnium will be unleashed through Century Media Records. We got together with the groups guitarist and the newest member in the band, Markus Vanhala, to pick his brain about the new release. Read our interview with Markus here
Hi! Let me just say that it's a pleasure to be able to interview you. First of I would like to congratulate you on your forthcoming album “Shadows Of The Dying Sun”. Could you start out by introducing yourself and tell us what part in the band you have?
-Hell’o, I’m Markus Vanhala, the guitar version of two Markuses on the band. You can also call me the new guy, as I joined the band back in 2011 which makes “Shadows Of The Dying Sun” for my actual debut album in the ranks of Insomnium.
Why did you choose this title for the record, does it have any special meaning?
- The album title was snapped from one of the song titles, and it described this chapter the best way… We, the people, are nothing but shadows of the dying sun and dust of the stars. Stars won’t live forever, not rockstars, or even our main star The Sun from which we suck the energy for our living. Not so good future in sight then for the mankind and our planet. It’s either misery or sorrow, hehe. …Or everyone can forge their own story when diving to the title and lyrics.
When did you start working on this album, how long did the process take from the first step to the final product? Was it hard to write new material for this record or did it come naturally for you?
- I think we pulled out the first new riffs and songs about a year ago. Mainly we worked alone at home, and send some ideas back and forth. We were still pretty busy with touring and all last, and I also released another album with my own band Omnium Gatherum, so we didn’t have much possibilities to rehearse together. We had an active peek month before we went to studio and had a two longer rehearsal sessions in one cabin in the woods (sounds pretty clichéd true and evil but actually this is the truth!) where we arranged, partied, rehearsed and had some drunken sauna on top of it to get the album stuff ready. I think this album went together pretty easily, we suddenly had more than enough material ready for the album, even the deadline pressures were haunting us a lot just weeks before the studio still.
This is your second record with Century Media. How has it been to work with them again for this album?
- Only words of praise for Century Media! Really professional and hard working label family, glaced with the nicest and warmest people on the business that always come to ours shows and all. So it’s nice, easy and lots of fun to work with these people.
From what I can gather this is the first time you've worked with producer Teemu Aalto. What was it like to work with him and to have a new producer for this record?
- I was the guy who promoted to use Teemu for the other band guys. I’ve been working with Teemu about ten years now with many of my album projects, the guy have been also even living in my sofa some months back in the day, and I knew that Teemu is die-hard professional and have a really fresh ear for producing. Everybody from the band liked to work with Teemu and were really satisfied for the recording result. We also used a new studio for album mixing this time, Fascination Street in Sweden and Andre Alvinzi who also did really good man’s job. Everyone should hear that we did pretty good decisions with the album production team I think!
How has it been to create an album with the change in lineup at guitar?
- I can also say from my part that it was a different band to be in the studio with since I’m the new dude, haha. I did some composing and arranging for the album too, so there’s a lot of my output in the songwriting too. Surely Ville Friman is the main professor and does the lion’s share from the music and lyrics still though. I’ve been really happy to work with mr. Friman, as I’ve found as passionate musical mind as I am too, and we’re having a really good artistic interaction and co-operation going on.
It's been more than 10 years since you debut album. Across all your albums I think you've managed to keep the Insomnium fingerprint while still evolving a bit each time. I hope you agree. If so, do you feel you've accomplished that again this time?
- There’s definitely the “trademarked Insomnium sound” and fingerprinted redline going thru the discography indeed. Especially the line from “Above The Weeping World” have been really identifiable and unconventional own sounding stuff, and the line continues with the new album too. There’s definitely some new spices and moments in an old familiar insomniumscape, but the old fans shouldn’t be worried as THE sound and feel is still there.
If I recall correctly you didn't use clean vocals in the first couple of albums. Is that something that you had to grow into or was it something that just seemed to fit the music?
- It’s something you can call to that “natural evolution”, as first there came in Niilo’s spoken vocals and then next came some clean vocals too. It’s a good spice and gives some variety and colour to the output. The main point is still that this is so-called-deathmetal, which means that the vocals are growling and aggression mainly.
Since I'm going to review "Shadows Of The Dying Sun" I am one the few lucky people who've had a chance to listen to it already. To me it sounds like there's a bit more aggression in some of the tracks than what was the case on "One Fore Sorrow" - do you feel the same way?
- It goes to both ends I think, to the extremities. I mean, there’s definitely some more aggression present and even some lil hints of black metal, but there’s also a fair share of these not-so-deathly-metal parts included. Like maybe the most “pop-sounding” clean vocal chorus that Insomnium have ever written, called “Lose To Night”. Few songs definitely flirt a bit with the 90’s meloblack and old melodeath, and it was also the case what we wanted, like especially on “The River”, and “Primeval Dark” is rhythmically something like paralyzed djent-mathcore…
Your last album "One For Sorrow" is a masterpiece in my mind. I happen to like all of your albums, but that one has a special place in my metal universe. Did the fans receive it as well as I did? And how has it been touring with that material?
- “One For Sorrow” and deal with Century Media definitely growed our recognisation and success all over the world, as we toured extensively in Europe and also in North America and Asia. So the direction at the moment is definitely skywards. I’m pretty sure that after that album we’ve travelled and seen the world more than average people during their whole lifetime..
Looking at the album covers for "One For Sorrow" and the "Shadows Of The Dying Sun" they definitely share a lot of traits. Colors, atmosphere, the birds etc. Is that on purpose? And if so, do you feel like the music on the two records are connected in the same way as the covers are?
- There’s lots in common with the covers as they are both done by the same artist, Wille Naukkarinen who’s also the guitar player in Ghost Brigade and Sons Of Aeon. There’s some stylistic similarities which are now quite like Insomnium trademark, the birds, the nature, the greyness. Of course the music also connects with the both albums a lot with the athmosphere.
What bands were you inspired by back when Insomnium was formed? Was the idea or concept of what Insomnium was going to be, clear right from the start?
- I don’t have the actual idea as I wasn’t there back then, but I’ve been knowing the guys since many many years and first time I played with them as a session live guitarist was back in 2007… What we’ve been talking we shared pretty similar visions and inspirations back in the day we formed our own bands. Highly influenced by Finnish bands like Sentenced and Amorphis, as also the Swedish scene like Dark Tranquillity, Opeth and Edge Of Sanity, some UK doom like Anathema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, classic death metal like Death, Obituary and Carcass, and some Norwegian blackness on top of it with Emperor, etc. Of course everyone loves Def Leppard too!
Have your inspirations changed since then?
- Still love all those bands above, but nowadays the musical taste is much much more broader. I listen to all kinds of music from progrock to electro to black metal to soul and everything in between. …And of course everyone still loves Def Leppard!
Where does melancholy come from? Is that a general trait for the band members or is just something that comes out artistically in your music? Or something completely different?
- Like it or not, but it’s something with the Finnish mentality, course of life and nature. It’s really natural kind of music for us to do, as it’s very natural for many different Finnish bands too. It’s the long dark time that secretly invades our brains and comes outside via the minor-voiced chords and melodies.
How is metal doing these days in Finland? The number of quality bands from Finland is quite impressive. Do you have any favorite colleagues from Finland? Some upcoming band that we should all know about?
- Insane amount of metal bands coming from Finland and many really good ones too. So metal is still alive an’ well in Finland, though not so mainstream anymore than few years back. Which I think it’s only a good thing. The honest and true ones will survive after the mainstream invasion. We don’t need any metal Eurovision or Idols winners anymore thanks. Few good new bands that I’ve came across lately are Hanging Garden, Shear and Nerve End for example. But now and forever the best Finnish bands for me are SENTENCED and STONE!
What are your tour plans for the summer? Any chance we'll see you in Denmark anytime soon?
- Some European festivals first and later in the year we’re embarking to our second headlining tour in Europe and more to come definitely. Don’t have the tour dates yet, so hopefully we’ll be bashing in Denmark too. We just played our first time in Denmark last year when we were touring with Children Of Bodom, sorry that it took so long to play our debut gig in your country.
Thank you so much for your time. Best of luck to you going forward and I hope to see you soon on stage!
- Thanks and all the best!
INSOMNIUM - Revelation (LYRIC VIDEO)
- Band/Kunstner: Insomnium
- Interview med: Markus Vanhala (Guitar)
- Interview dato: Mandag, 14 April 2014
- Samarbejdspartner: Century Media Records