Monday, April 9, 2018

Many Whelps! Handle it!




The good thing about video game bosses is that you can usually kill them again and again.

Just take a little break, log off and suddenly everything is back like it was never smashed down in the first place. The bad thing about your possible blog readers is that they probably thought this video game boss here was long gone, didn't respawn, and was probably bugged anyway. At the end they forgot me to my lair to write incomplete texts for years, plotting revenge....until one day a party of unfortunate brave souls wandered inside, noticing that I had suddenly respawn!



That's right, folks- I'm here to pester you again after a couple of years of my absence from this site. The past two years have been extremely busy balancing together my family, work, freelancing and band activities and thus this little blog has been on hiatus since then. Nevertheless, I'm back with a blast with a lenghty recap on the past, present and the future, so grab a mug of blood and start reading if you care!
The text also contains a lot of music links and other self- pompous bullshit, which some of you may find interesting.

Ok, so what happened after your last blog post...which was in March 2016? Two years ago?

As Moonsorrow's "Jumalten Aika" was finally wrapped in January 2016, I didn´t even want to touch a guitar for a year after that intensive mental marathon. I was completely drained musically and felt composing only to be a burden more than anything else. Nevertheless, at this point of my life and professional career as a musician I am aware that these phases come and go so I wasn't really worried about that. I just needed to channel my creativity into something else!

Instead of composing music, I finally built myself that studio room I always had dreamed of. I started small in March, and got things running soon enough. As everyone with experience on these things know, though, it's a neverending process but at least I had now properly equipped room to work at! Most...well, all of the year went in practicing mixing and mastering and as said, no new music was composed outside work premises. I did one (1) bad riff for Finntroll and spent way too much money and approximately 500 (no, I'm not kidding) hours in my studio room practicing the dark arts of mixing while still having that day job and spending time with my family. Needless to say, there really wasn't any time nor energy for any kind of writing. And to be honest, the whole 2016 was so chaotic I can't even remember much of it.

March 2016: This is where I started from.
May 2016: New speakers, old hardware and a sofa!
October 2016: New desk and some new hardware.
August 2017: The current situation, Space Station 2.0!
































Come 2017, I tried to concentrate more on music production instead of mixing and especially on orchestration and sample libraries.
In other words, when in 2016 I blew all my money and spare (lol) time to the studio room and mixing, in 2017 I spent all the resources I could on samples. Then again, it was really worth every single penny, as the production quality of my music went up by a zillion. All that gave me small inspirational outbbursts for composing music again- just too bad most of it wasn't metal, and certainly not Finntroll. And most of it wasn't that good either. But you need to start from somewhere after a longer break!

(It's completely different thing to compose for "demand" than compose "for fun" or your own bands, so while I was still doing quite much at work and even had some serious fun, I struggled to get anything decent made at home for quite a long time.)

Using this neglected, sad and lonely hardware
is sometimes just more fun than the usual, boring plugins.
During the whole year there were some unfortunate health problems within our family which were momentarily very heavy to go through, but at the end things are now a bit more under control. It took me a lot of energy and resources to cope with those, and many times my family needed me much more than my bandmates, colleagues or fans of our bands. Despite of that, I also took way too much work on my desk, ending up mixing two EP's, five full- lenght albums and mastered 9 others (I'm still not sure how I managed to squeeze the time for that). And naturally, tried to get the ball rolling with Finntroll whenever I had the chance.

Overall, 2017 was pretty much the toughest year in my life thus far, and most of the time I was only so exhausted I could just survive until the next day. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, so here we are in 2018.... alive and kicking, and if possible, even more fierce and definitely full of energy again!

I can already promise that 2018 will be busy as hell, with some new tricks on my sleeve. And most of that is related to music- especially creating it.



[FINNTROLL]

I know a lot of people have been dying to hear about the new Finntroll- album, so I kind of feel owing at least even a some sort of an explanation at. And I guess the same people are happy to hear that we are currently working rather heavily on that album!


Sometimes, there are minions watching over the music sessions.
While I am busy making music, Routa is busy taking selfies!

















When I started to write this text, we had been sitting down with Tundra (and sometimes Routa joining us) almost weekly since late December 2017 and were actually progressing with the new material again. We had many a ton of ideas and some half- made songs and thought seriously about finally entering the studio this year. (However, if that doesn't happen, please don't sue me. Or if you do, please get into the line!) We had been having quite some discussions about the musical styles, as I've been drawn more into faster and melodic stuff while other people have been more into riff- based midtempo material, which has many times left both parties unsatisfied with the compromises we've made.

Within the last weeks, though, we have been finding a lot of common ground instead of musical disagreements, and we've already finished a couple of new songs as we speak. I don't know what magic has happened, but we've definitely been on fire with Tundra lately, and I can't personally wait until the next composing sessions scheduled for the next week. My head is spinning with ideas and Tundra's contribution has been excellent and his ideas very refreshing whenever my own ideas may have been lacking some "twist".


[MOONSORROW]

(Photo: Kristiina Kiiski)
Everybody is still very happy about "Jumalten Aika" and we are all excited about the future of the band. We are also awaiting for the right time to start composing our next album when the time comes. Most likely when the Finntroll- album is done, we'll start working with the Moonsorrow one, if not earlier, as there is definitely a drive for that direction within us. The guys are also doing another European tour with Primordial in April, so make sure to check them out if you can!

Concerning the "Home of the Wind"- documentary: It's 100% shot and has been in post- production for a while now. At the time writing this, the project is still in the editing table and is indeed a bit late- unfortunately, the reasons for that are not for me to discuss in public. But I'm pretty sure that there will be something official concerning that rather soon anyway.

On left:
Ville got married in December and as a Finnish tradition, the bride was robbed and he needed to do some tasks in order to get her released. So he played a bass solo for us.


[OTHER METAL THINGS]

International scene- drenched,
Fenno- scandian viking greetings!
I never particularly left the metal scene, but suddenly I have been more involved in it than I've been in ten years- especially in the underground. And to be honest, I like it there. Guess the Pandora's box was opened again with my small mixing service , and I have suddenly been in contact with many old and new bands and people like it was fucking 2004 again. It's heart- warming to see that the flame is still burning like it was only getting more hungry year by year!

Besides mixing and mastering already multiple albums and demos, I arranged and played keyboards in two albums (Perdition Winds and Alghazanth), did some sporadic guestwork on some others and even promised to play live with Satanic Warmaster at Steelfest later this year. Which leaves me into a peculiar situation, as Moonsorrow is also playing there. And I've said many times "Hell freezing over before I see my own band playing live without being on the stage myself".

That being said, I seem to get one busy, metal- filled weekend in May.



[OTHER OTHER MUSIC THINGS AND COMPOSING]

Jakke and yours truly participating in a metal music- meets
game music- discussion after too many beers at Tuska 2017.
In January I wanted to really kick myself ongoing again, and decided that I start composing music more in order to get better and more fresh ideas out. For writers, there is this old advice to "write as much as you can, no matter the quality, just keep on writing and eventually you come up with better ideas". So, I thought that it should also work with music. Almost three months later, I can tell it really does work wonders. Plus, as a bonus, I am piling up a huge box of ideas which can be used later in different contexts! Some good, some bad, but we all know how it goes, haha!

I also took part to international Game Audio Awards in March, ending up being second among all the participants in the music category. The winner was my highly appreciated acquaintance and a Finnish game music veteran composer Jonne Valtonen, who I have been following since the early 90's when he was active in the computer music demo scene. I am not a competitive person by nature, so I don't participate much on these sort of things, but when losing to the best it doesn't feel like losing at all.


The best parts of working at Rovio? You can hire your
bandmates recording metal at Sonic Pump studios!
One of my biggest pet peeves has always been the constant shifting from "I'm a metal musician and a producer"- mode into "I'm a professional game and media music composer"- mode and back which has many times torn my brain like crazy.  But during the last year I've also happily combined those two a lot either at work, like this little Iron Maiden- thing at Rovio or giving some productional assistance for a new Finnish comedy movie about a metal band and composing something small and trollish for Tuska Festival's 20th anniversary song outside work.  We even participated in a composer round- table discussion with my friend Jakke Viitala from Crimfall (and Rovio) on combining metal music with game audio at Tuska and did a couple of lectures on the same topic at university as well!

The more I've been combining these two things together the more I have also started to realize that they shouldn't necessarily be treated differently all the time. There is absolutely no reason why I couldn't use my studies of modality on Finntroll and put some Finntroll into my game mus....wait, that's been done. Like, to death. As a sidenote- interestingly, last third of this song has seemingly been cut off from the game :(

But the point is that even if I subconsciously try to keep my metal more "unprofessional" on purpose in order to give room to chaos, it's unavoidable for me to bring some order into it as well. And as much as I want to pretend to be a plausible professional and serious composer, there is no way I can keep my darkness of Moonsorrow and wackiness of Finntroll out of it. It's just the way it goes, so it seems futile to make an issue out of it and hinder myself on purpose. And to be honest, usually the best music I compose on demand has a tint or two of my mental metal background in it anyway.

I've noticed that the more I have followed lately the "compose anything, compose often"- guideline on my more cinematic- styled music, the better results I have come up with. With Finntroll, I feel it would be a useful way to sit down and compose different ideas down on the fly, instead of just waiting for the right inspirational moment to strike. It will strike when I get the right idea down first, but waiting for the right idea to appear from emptiness before I can even start evolving and continuing it is really the same that a writer would write the next chapter of his new book when it suddenly strikes him while cooking pancakes. "What a great idea", said no writer ever. And to be honest, roughly 75% of the ideas I get first don't end up into the albums anyway. It's the inspiration and drive I get when continuing from those first ideas which usually transforms into a new and better song.

[THINGS]

Maybe I needed the last two years to concentrate on sharpening my skills. Maybe I was needed more elsewhere than in the world of metal music. Or maybe I was just lazy. Then again, reading this text retrospectively backwards, it seems that I have been actually doing way more things during these two years that I could even vaguely remember at first. So I guess I haven't been lazy after all!

For all those who expected a new Finntroll- album to be already out: I'm truly sorry I failed to match your expectations. Sincerely. Please keep in mind that I am a fan of many bands as well and I know how it is like. Heck, I'm still awaiting the new Bal- Sagoth album to be released! So please don't think for a split second I haven't spent countless of moments stressing myself out from the situation that "something needs to be done". And I know Tundra having the exact same thoughts as well. It's been five years since Blodsvept and I can fully understand your frustration. However, this will be fixed as long as it's up to me.

When everything else fails, cast curses.
The thing is also that no- one of us all isn't getting younger. When being close to 40 years old with three kids and something you could call a "professional career", it's impossible always to concentrate on music on your spare time with the same devotion and piety it was possible when I was 20 years old. Back then, it was the only thing I had in mind! Well, that and video games. When things like a broken car, acute health issues of a kid involving a hospital....or something as mundane as a fucking extra trip to supermarket come up, I can't just turn my back on those even if I wanted to. And while making music is as important as breathing to me, I also want to spend some time with my family- and especially with the love of my life as well when we're not too busy cleaning the house, washing clothes or cooking food which no- one suddenly likes because it has onions in it.

But hey, that's life. And during that, sometimes metal albums get accidentally done, too. Right after I've finished this blog text, checked out my work tasks, picked up the kids, driving them to their hobbies, accidentally disappearing into my audio room just before we are supposed to start preparing dinner, yelling that "I'm just finished, sorry!" and rushing to the table to answer questions about "why dad can always come later to the table but we all need to be here the instant mom yells that dinner is up?".

You know, the usual. Many kids....handle it!


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Frankenstein´s Mixing Facilities speaking, how may I help you?


EDIT:I AM ONLINE WITH THE MIXING SERVICE!


I´ve always loved mixing. To shape the sound into more suitable for my vision of the whole package, to practice making something too good first in order to destroy it later and to help the music finally coming alive in the best possible way. For any composer and producer, knowing how to mix is a great addition to your toolbox- and as a producer it´s almost near vital knowledge. 


For me, it´s my absolute favourite part of the whole process to pull the lever in that storm and see my creation finally arise. Just like in any creative form of mastery, you can never be “finished” with your studies and practices. There´s always things to learn, new techniques to try out and the endless set of rules to break.



WAIT, I THOUGHT YOU WERE JUST A MUSICIAN?

Not really. I got myself a 4- track cassette recorder in spring 1994 after a couple of years of begging. My stepfather used to be a sound engineer and he taught me the basics of recording- and the rest was me fiddling around with one cheap microphone from the 70´s and various instruments, mostly at my parent´s garage. Fast- forwarding into the year 2000, I had got myself a computer with audio software and recorded now usually everything in my own flat. Which was very inconvenient and lacked all possibilities to make noise louder than an acoustic guitar. So I went crawling back to my parents after some years, asking if they would still have some room left in a corner of that garage.

In 2004 I had saved some money from band- activities to build a modest home studio there. Sometimes I brought friends to record their demos in the weekends as I could now record even drums (which I had bought from Marko of Moonsorrow and I still have!) and vocals.
I didn´t have great gear at all, but it was still better than rehearsal recordings for most people. Because of small underground circles, the word spreaded fast about me being enthusiastic on these things and during 2004-2008 I ended up recording and mixing couple of dozen of different projects, pre- production demos and even some albums (for the albums we actually used a proper, now sadly defunct studio my friend owned and rented). Usually they didn´t sound that good as I was still learning, but at least nobody complained, haha! When I got myself a job as a composer/ music producer at Digital Chocolate, these projects started gradually dropping due to my lack of time. And ironically, I also got a lot better afterwards. 

I finally emptied the garage in 2008 and moved all my gear to the Dchoc office to continue using them at work. When I started working at Rovio in 2013 they provided me most of the equipment so I carried all my stuff to our new home and built myself a studio room there, spending now most of my time trying to shoo my kids away instead of actually working.


Recording drums for Impaled Nazarene pre- production, 2006.
Yep, that Impaled Nazarene. At my parents´garage. :D
Draugnim´s "Sworn to Waves"- demo recordings, 2007.
Notice the overheated PC cooling system (TM)!


















GAME MUSIC VS. METAL: THE POCKET-SIZED DIFFERENCE

On game music mixing, I usually need to be very smooth. No disturbing elements unless especially needed, a pleasant EQ treatment everywhere and rarely any tomwaits- esque percussion mixes either. Everything needs to sit tight, shut up and be nice. As modern game music is usually a combination of orchestral instruments and synthetic, sampled or real instruments we´re mostly obliged to play with the set rules for good reasons. While in metal music it´s completely possible to crank the bass guitar too loud from “normal” and bury the drums under a reverb sized of a mountain, typical game music mixing is unfortunately much more strict and set in stone because it´s one the genres which usually suffers from more experimental mixing. Generally, you want to fit the music in a game into it´s own pre- defined pocket which is there to enhance the gaming experience. If you step out of that pocket too much, you´ll just ruin the experience. Sometimes it´s needed though- usually not.

(Please also note that I´m talking ONLY about mixing. Composing, arranging and producing are completely different from this stage and they indeed leave a lot of room to experiment.) 

Metal, on the other hand, is supposed to be ruining everything. Or at least your neighbours´ and parents´ day. It´s dangerous and unpleasant. Powerful, disturbing, yet somehow clear and constructed from elements which combined make a package full of classical music´s best qualities turned on 11. You can´t fit metal into that pre- defined pocket or it kicks and bites itself out from it. Metal is freedom, anarchy and spitting on conventionality. One does not simply mix metal into that pocket.
While I welcome many of the possibilities the modern production tools bring, I tend to mix my metal in a more chaotic way. You know, the way it was supposed to sound like until studio Fredman and their friends killed it, making people think that this is how the genre should sound like. A metal mix doesn´t mean it´s supposed to be a lifeless tube of bass frequencies and distortion spreaded artificially three meters out from your loudspeakers with drums like a sewing machine. Of course I can align and quantize drums, tune all vocals and use triggers on everything percussive. Strip away all the non- conforming frequencies and finish the whole thing by making sure no transient in any track will ever exceed certain limit to make everything tighter than yours truly wearing a pair of speedos. And it wouldn´t probably sound as “good” as Fredman anyway. But I feel that a big part of the actual metal sound comes from the imperfection and those things should be used absolutely only when needed. Unless your drummer sucks so bad I have to use only triggers. Then I´ll just blame you instead.

When I mix metal, I prefer personality over perfection, war over conventionality and too loudly mixed delays on vocal tracks. Or maybe I´m just becoming old, grumpy black metal guy who thinks everything not done by Pytten is overproduced shit. Then again, everything not done by Pytten probably is.


TOTO, I´VE A FEELING WE´RE NOT IN THE 1990´S ANYMORE...

If I haven´t pointed it enough in these rantings of mine earlier, immersion is what really makes me tick. When I mix game music, I make sure the sound is serving the situation the best possible way with reverbs, EQ´s and everything you can imagine. And when I mix a Moonsorrow album, I really want the soundscapes to match the setting we´re trying to create as much as possible. With every musical style, it´s always important to give the mix what the music needs, but I dare to claim that game music and metal might be the two genres which really benefit (and need) that extra level of immersion. Feel free to prove me wrong, though!
Sometimes, the immersion can be achieved by creating something which gives you an impression of that music really being playing somewhere. In game and film music, it´s called “source music”, which means that it´s supposed to actually be heard by the protagonist, to make it really feel you´re there. For that, the carefully mixed (usually more contemporary) music gets another round of editing, making it sound more like it´s coming, say, from the nearby night club you´re approaching.
Or sometimes, it can be something completely different. Switching to metal again- Remember that H&M- spoof we did a year ago? That Lany- song for sure isn´t done in a rehearsal room somewhere in France, but at my work using Cubase during one boring afternoon. Like all those songs in that little campaign, everything was created immersion first in mind.

It shouldn´t be a surprise on that matter that I also love mimicking production styles and sounds. Sometimes I take a reference and try to get as near to it as possible, starting from (emulated) gear used into the tiniest things happening in whatever side- chain compressors. Remember that H&M- thing again? Yeah. That. Or this. I love to copy and mimic stuff for fun and challenge.
Besides, they just don´t do mixes like that anymore. There´s something in that imperfection and overall clumsiness trying to be as good as possible which makes me love it. That, or it´s just the Pytten- syndrome again.

(And to be honest, my perversion for mimicking might actually a very big reason I am now doing music for my living, because I got my first real job in the industry in 2003 when I happened to make a spoof from a right band at the right time, heard by the right person- but that´s another story I won´t bore you with today, hah!)



...WHICH IS WHY IT´S TIME TO KNOCK THEM BOOTS TOGETHER AGAIN.

During 2008- 2015 I have mostly concentrated on mixing game music, but sometimes when I have been asked and had time, I´ve gladly taken some mixing (and sometimes mastering) gigs from my friends´ bands just to have some fun. While I love my “professional” job as a composer and producer, there are always things I am not able to do in that area due to the fact that most game companies don´t use extreme metal on their game soundtracks. To keep my mind sharp, brain balanced and to satisfy my inner bad-behaving-necrosatanic-bulletbelt child, I need to work with metal music as well every now and then to preserve that natural balance.

After returning from mixing “Jumalten Aika” in late 2015 I felt like meeting an old friend I hadn´t seen for a long time and a couple of weeks later I found myself updating my audio computer and it´s software with a bit more in mind than just regular game music production I first intended. When everything was set up, I found myself going through my old mixes, looking for things to use for continuing practicing from where I had left off years earlier in that garage.
Working over two months almost every night with different projects to mix (luckily I have quite many musician friends who were willing to share their raw tracks for private remixing) I spent over 100 hours updating my skills, comparing my mixes to released albums, trying out different plugins to find what I need...and starting from scratch again if I felt it´s not sounding good until it sounded.
I tried different production styles for the same songs, and worked from metalcore to deathgrind and black metal to find out their nowadays typical sound processing tricks and repeated them until I felt ready to break those unwritten rules, only to mix them again with my own. And finally, I felt like I have the confidence to continue to the next step.

In March 2016 when I´m writing this, I´ve finally come to a decision to somehow revive my old semi- serious hobby of mixing and producing metal music. While I won´t be doing any recording for now, I will open a small- scale mixing and mastering service for bands soon for fun and keeping my skills in order. I won´t be planning doing any albums or bigger projects due to the commitment it demands, but bands needing for a proper treatment for their demos and even EP´s are more than welcome to get in touch with me in the future.

The next thing on my list before that is to replace that wobbly computer stand with a proper studio desk with room for some hardware racks, mount my new pair of huge- ass studio monitors up and then it´s time to make some use of them. I will make this more official when I´ve finished the renevation of the studio room, but you heard it here first!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Exercises in Futility, a.k.a. "What I´ve been listening lately".

While I´m still trying to find some time to write that little studio diary, here´s something I wrote before that. Music recommendations straight outta Trollhorn´s playlist, summer/ autumn 2015, var så goda!




Skogen: I Döden (Nordvis Productions, 2014)

Take one portion of Drudkh. Add a bit of Burzum and Agalloch, and boil for eight minutes. Then start slowly pouring that pinch of Satyricon from the bag to the mix...OOPS! Yeah, I said "a PINCH", you Skogskalle! Not the whole bag! Scraping the worst excessive Satyricon away, add some Kveldssanger while stirring the pot. Let the stew cook for an hour in slow pace and add shamelessly good pop- melodies and reverby choirs last. Serve warm from an unwashed wooden plate to be enjoyed in solitude. For drinks, the chef recommends a mixture of birch sap, blood and honey.



Mgla: Exercises in Futility (No Solace/ Northern Heritage, 2015)
   
Cholerny Polski jest językiem dziwne! Or something. While most people may find Finnish language as fucked up as Polish, I can´t blame them. However, if they skip this masterpiece, I´d blame them for ignorance and told them to go further down the nest immediately. Everyone and their friends have been praising Mgla for years to me, but each time I´ve tried them out, I haven´t been able to find that speciality they keep telling me about. Until now. The production is also superb, reminding me heavily of certain Swedish bands and the song material has an excellent balance between being hypnotic and still interesting. This album has already been considered as one of the best releases in 2015 in many people´s opinion, and I have to join the flock here. The record label has made a great move and put the whole album streamable in Bandcamp and Youtube, so there´s no really an excuse to not to check it out immediately and buy it because you got so convinced. I know I did!


Marduk: Frontschwein (Century Media Records, 2015)

One of my all- time favourite bands has returned with an album finally as strong as Rom 5:12 which I consider to be the cornerstone of their new era with Mortuus. While some people may have problems with production tricks lifted straight from earlier Funeral Mist- albums, I don´t. Then again, I don´t listen to Funeral Mist that much. This album simply makes my mouth dry and fills my lungs with sand, smoke and gunpowder and has absolutely not a single weak moment during it´s duration. In 2015, everyone probably knows how Marduk sounds like, and if you don´t, you really should find it out right away. Because Marduk sounds like war, blood and darkness in audial form. It´s raw enough, aggressive as fuck, and renews itself with something new combined with something more familiar. It´s Marduk, for Satan´s sake! One of my favourite songs in this album is once again Arditi´s contribution in the form of a (Mediabook) bonus track, "Warschau III: Necropolis". I just can´t stop listening to that. Or Arditi, on that matter. 



Klaus Schultze: Moondawn (Brain Records, 1976) 

As a fan of Tangerine Dream, I introduced myself to Klaus Schulze´s solo works earlier this year and have been really enjoying many of them lately. Moondawn, being Schulze´s sixth solo album, sports way more ambient elements than Krautrock, which is probably why I like it more than some other ones. It´s very hypnotic and evolving music which keeps you in it´s claws until it finally ends- leaving you to realize a minute afterwards that the music stopped and you didn´t notice it. This is an album I´ve been mostly listening in the evenings while sitting at the computer doing things, and when the nights are getting darker and colder as the autumn starts to creep in, I will enjoy this even more.


Graveland: Will Stronger than Death (No Colours Records, 2007)
  
While I find Graveland´s material usually rather clumsy, and am not really sure if Rob Darken´s grandiose visions of Aryan Übermensch dressed in viking outfits fighting Yetis (!!) are just a great fuck off to everyone, this album has been spinning a lot here lately. While being technically a black metal album per se, it´s really more close to death metal musically than some other works of Graveland. The album has a very strong monotonic and even hypnotic death metal- feeling all over it because of the constant kick drumming and downtuned guitars and reminds me of early 1990´s Bathory playing Incantation- cover songs from the same era. Iced with a horrible overuse of a synth choirs on top, it´s definitely an album worth to check. 



Sephiroth: Draconian Poetry (Cold Meat Industry, 2005)

While some might find Ulf Söderberg´s music disturbing, I found it rather soothing. For me, it doesn´t only tell a story of his travels around the world but it breathes of something lost, destroyed and long since forgotten. It feels like he´s not depicting the places he has seen as much as he´s somehow telling a story about what has happened to them in the distant future where the great places have fallen and the land has claimed over everything man- made again. I was listening this album while encountering an closed and abandoned holiday village/ activity park in eastern Finland this summer and it really nailed the atmosphere of the place: A pale echo of laughter, fun and leisure now standing silently on the side of the road with it´s vegetation- covered former greatness gone forgotten, soon to buried by time and dust.


Triarii: Muse in Arms (Eternal Soul Records, 2008) 

There´s something pervertedly powerful in the imagery of Triarii. While most of the people will get scared away by the themes they implement, it has to be said also here that they are not an ideological band in a sense one might first think. And in a way it´s actually pretty sad that one has to first state anti- political things before getting to the actual music. But the music! Mein gott, the MUSIC! It´s a soundtrack to the apocalypse, an ode to an imaginary empire, and an overture to Order itself. Best labelled to belong to the "martial industrial" genre, it implements a lot of orchestral elements and choirs combined with militant percussion and textures into itself, leaving the listener completely helpless under the crushing boots of the conqueror stomping out of your speakers.


Djevel: Saa Ra og Kald (Aftermath Music, 2015)

A while ago I found out that the vocalist of this band is actually in Kvelertak as well. Good thing it occurred me too late, as othewise I would had probably neglected this album as shit. Despite of that, I actually enjoy my first encounter with Djevel a lot. It has a strong Ljå- vibe both musically and thematically, but implements a lot more of old folk music to their sound and the late 1800´s rural culture of Scandinavia is heavily represented in the overall themes as well. If you have no idea what it is, just think of Emil i Lönneberga gone sour and Satanic. Did you know that Emil is actually called "Zozo la Tornade" in French? Goddamn Frenchies.


Steve Roach: Australia: Sound of the Earth (Fortuna Records, 1990)

If the red deserts gathered one day into a studio and decided to release themselves on audial form, I´m pretty sure this would be the result. Steve Roach has a rather vast discography ranging from tangerinedream- esque pulsating drones to more spacy sounds and back, but I tend to be most drawn to his more ritualistic and nature- inspired tribal albums. Despite of being American, Roach has always had strong ties to Australia, and this album pays a great homage to the land in it´s purest form. One of my favourite albums to be listened with headphones while reading.



Isengard: Vinterskugge (Peaceville Records, 1994)

VINTERRRRRSKUGGGGGEEEEEEE! Just like cleaning one´s home, sometimes you have to throw away the clutter to concentrate on the actualities. And this, my friends, is actuality at it´s best. While I´m not a great fan on the autopsyesque demos in the CD - being a compilation of all unreleased Isengard works- this "Vandreren"- demo included is pure killer stuff. The simple laid- back groove in Vinterskugge is almost enough to justify this choice, not to mention the excellent last track "Naglfar". It´s badly played. It´s completely non- produced. And the singing isn´t exactly Ulver either. But the archaic feeling the music breathes and emits is something which can never be surpassed by adding a top- notch production, cheap accordion samples and whatever nonsense "folk metal" is nowadays about. Definitely not for the fans of Ensiferum (hi guys! :D ) but definitely worth checking, especially if you haven´t heard of this earlier. No go fix that mistake now!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Digital Chocolate: This was my life


In summer 2004 I remember talking to a graphics artist at Spinefarm Records. He mentioned me that he knows a friend in a Finnish mobile game company who might be looking for an "audio guy". I was nervous and inexperienced with formal jobs, so for my own surprise I was invited for an interview after sending an application with some music. Being mostly thinking I´d never get the job anyway, we headed to northern Finland to mix Verisäkeet with Moonsorrow. I didn´t bother myself with futile hopes- until right in the middle of the mixing I got a surprising phonecall from them in where they told I was hired. I started working there in October 2004 and stayed until April 2013.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Where´s Wald....uhm, Henri?


Prologue
Many times I´ve been asked about why I don´t tour with my own bands I´m otherwise very active with. Having a steady job and kids are also very good reasons behind it, but as I had made my decision before I got either, it´s not the sole scapegoat. The real issue behind not seeing me on tours is because I have suffered from depression since the late 90´s and cannot contribute to longer trips due to that. During the years I´ve learn to recognize it, handle it better and accept it´s presence in normal circumstances, but for that I need a "stable" life more than your Average Joe. In order to keep myself in control, being on the road is the worst possible poison.

A part of me is always saddened about knowing my own band is playing our songs without me and I have felt like an asshat many times for not appreciating this awesome possibility life has given me. But I can´t make music either if I´m in a mental hospital and to prevent that happening, I stopped the things that would lead into that instead- so I could continue making that music with my best friends in the future, too.

I started touring in 1998. I had done some casual gig- trips before, but sleeping in a tourbus was a completely new experience for me at the time. I was 20, didn´t have any obligations to anyone except for loose studying and didn´t want to spend time at my lonely flat. I was depressed, broke, and craved for something to do instead of watching the walls collapsing on me. So when I was offered a live keyboardist´s job from a constantly touring Finnish pop/ rock band I didn´t hesitate for a second.
I knew the people in the band vaguely, but we didn´t exactly be close friends. They were hyped teenage idols who acted accordingly... while I was a chubby guy in a Marduk- shirt. I had never felt more like an outsider in my life, but at least it was a better job than handing out newspapers in the mornings. I performed my duties each night with professionality, but the more I spent time on the road the more depressed and introvert I became. When I got home from the gigs, I basically either stayed in bed or went to see any real friends possible- usually consuming large amounts of alcohol and metal music with them. When my assignment with the band ended at early 2000, I was a mental and physical wreckage and the depression had got way worse. I couldn´t study anymore properly. I couldn´t clean my home. I didn´t bother to clean my home. I played video games, consumed music and ate fast food. I only went outside if I had to. I didn´t even realize I was having a depression- I thought it was just normal to feel this miserable all the time. You know, black metal and stuff.

Fast- forwarding into 2001, things were looking a bit better. I had met my girlfriend a year earlier and lived with her, Finntroll was getting gigs abroad and I was actually enthusiastic about touring with my own band and own friends. But two years later, everything started to feel more like a funeral march again and mentally each trip felt consecutively harder to start and to recuperate from. I felt I was being slowly strangled each moment I spent on the road and someone had tied my guts into a knot three days before each departure from home. I just wanted to crawl somewhere and die, and I realized it was not because of the people I travelled with, but because of myself.
While I could manage to keep the depression somehow in control at home with various results, it was impossible after the first days on the road. I just needed much more of those "normal surroundings" to survive the unnormal ones. The doctors recommended medication a couple of times and I even tried it for a month but I turned it eventually down. I was actually quitting Finntroll due to this all, but the other guys convinced me that another live member could replace me on stage. I withdrew myself from all live performances and most social contexts in 2005 and stayed home as much as I could to tip that balance better. However, in spring 2006 that"normal" life started to collapse under my feet due to circumstances not entirely depending on me. Hävitetty was composed at the time, which probably depicts my feelings much better than any words and my girlfriend left me that summer.

Curiously enough, that shock and the aftermath was a turnpoint for my depression, changing it later into a more driving force instead of a paralyzing one. I spent over a year without doing practically any band- activities, trying to patch my abruptly shattered life together and concentrate on my son´s and my own future instead. Due to a lot of thinking and studying, I learned to understand my thoughts and actions better, and realized how to spot the symptoms of depression early enough to rationalize them down or trying to convert them into something creative instead- be it composing music, writing or even drawing. That year later I felt like I had found my own tools to fight and weapons to silence the Demons for most of the time- sometimes even making them work for me. And when least expecting it- met my clearly-meant-to-be-wife afterwards. As my life had begun to rebuild itself in the process, I hadn´t felt better in years.

7 years later, I´m still struggling with depression time to time. This destructive part will always continue living inside me, but I feel I am much more in control of it that I used to be. But I can´t go touring with my best friends because I WILL lose that control. I´ve tried it a couple of times and it didn´t exactly go "by the book". Unless you prefer The Call of Cthulhu, of course.
Even at home, sometimes it keeps strangling me for weeks or even months but I know I´ll eventually survive: escaping into my own worlds and surroundings meanwhile is a precaution for me not to lose it or be a monster to the people who deserve it the least. I just need to stay away from the things that cause this as much as possible, and touring is proven to be toxic in my case.
Having been seeing emotions within the audience ranging from sheer enthusiastic berserking into just standing there and crying, I am painfully aware how my music has given people moments every artist would kill to witness personally- and I miss that. I miss that a lot. My choice of dropping out from the stage wasn´t that much of a choice than a necessity- and given the life I live now going back there is also much harder than ten years ago. But whenever I occasionally join the stage, you can be sure I appreciate the situation as much as I appreciate the people coming to see us and showing me that the choices I have made have still given them the moments I live to create. 

Epilogue

It took me six months to finish this text and it was the hardest thing I´ve ever written in my life. The more I went back in time writing it, the more I realized there are still a lot of things I need to work with as of today. Despite of the eternal ongoing battles inside my head, I am still alive even in the days I wouldn´t necessarily want to be. And the biggest thanks for that goes to my wonderful wife, who has been there for me all the time- especially in the days I certainly wouldn´t deserve it.

I will never be something one would refer as "normal". The melancholic and gloomy thoughts, anxiety, the feeling of being an outsider and the longing for some dimension else will always be there but due to my family, friends and meaningful work I find so much joy in my life that I can live with it. I will find my peace when I´m dead....and quite likely I´d find it dull as hell within the next two hours anyway. Meanwhile, I´ll stick around and try to make the best out of this all without that touring! And yeah, finish that Moonsorrow album on time.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Time is money, friend!

I´d love to write this blog more. In fact, I find writing very therapeutical in a way that at least my head is not occupied with music when I write. As you can see, it´s been goddamn quiet on that front lately- and the reason is not surprisingly mostly Moonsorrow.

The last 2 weeks especially have been constant work as I´ve done approximately 14- hour days since I returned from my short summer vacation: first doing my regular job and then going home and continuing with Moonsorrow from the moment we get the kids to sleep. As my time is very limited- usually being able to work with the stuff after 21:30 onwards or occasional time on weekends- I haven´t been able to do almost anything else. But I´m not complaining- I need to get this done because I want to. "Woe is me", said the artist and expected everyone to pity the poor soul.

But when you´re as fixated on things as yours truly, at some point it actually becomes a burden because you don´t know when to stop. Or YOU might do, but your brain just isn´t obeying it. I even lost my sleeping abilities completely in June and either stayed awake for hours in bed or woke up in the middle of the night thinking of the arrangements of the songs. Or in some cases, went to my studio room to compose music 3 AM. But it´s like this for every Moonsorrow album. I remember completely flipping right before Verisäkeet, staring at the computer monitor in tears, screaming on the screen until I went to the rehearsals of which I have a complete blackout until I remember going home from there. I take my shit seriously, it seems.

I am a fucking professional composer. I should know how to work. But suddenly, when it´s about your soul and beliefs squeezed into a musical journey, all the aspects of professionality disappear and you become Odin hanging on that tree...with the difference that it´s not over in nine days.
Besides, Moonsorrow´s music is trying to combine the both sides of structured tonality and unstructured chaos. Without chaos, music becomes dull, boring and predictable. But without structure and tonality, you lose the very core of the idea of the composition itself. Unless you´re Bestial Warlust, though. The more professional and organized I become, the more hard it is to just "go with the flow" and I end up overthinking everything to death. And this whole spring and summer has been fighting that overthinking.

Now it´s been a bit less hectic lately- it seems that when I got the first song nailed the rest of the songs are molding noisily on their own in my head. I just finished the second final demo yesterday evening, which was a battle in itself though- I was fighting over drum arrangements for hours on three evenings until the guys convinced me the constant kick drumming does not bother them at all. Now I´ve made myself a strict schedule I´m following which means that as of today, it´s two weeks per song and then it´s onto the next one be it ready or not. We´ll figure it out in the rehearsals together before the studio if I can´t make it done on time by myself.

As I´ve said before, it´s not about the material. We got a fucking TON of it. But it´s the problem about "what parts to keep" and "what kind of direction we want this song to take". Finding the right balance between everything while still keeping the song interesting AND having enough time for different parts to evolve is fucking hell with this band. It´s been always like that since Voimasta ja Kunniasta. The first two albums were rather simple. But as you evolve as a musician, you tend to grab more challenges. Until at some point, it comes to this:

First you play part X for eight times. Then you play part Y. Then you realize you´re having parts X, Y, Z, ÅÄÖ and so forth each played once and the song is a mess. Remove Z, double the amount of Y. "But I liked Z! It´s better than Y!" Hmmm....what if I took Y and made that the main riff? "But the main riff is quoted on the riff Ä and if we take that away the whole purpose of Ä is obsolete."

Then I realize it´s 23:30 and I haven´t progressed anywhere. And when I go to bed, the arrangements play simultaneously on top of each other in my head.

As I´ve now finished two songs out of five completely, these problems seem to have diminished greatly as mentioned earlier. As I work only seeing the whole album with Moonsorrow (the songs are just manifestations of the bigger whole for me), the more there is "confirmed" material means that I don´t have to fit those parts anywhere else. As an example- one song has now a certain kind of acoustic part I wanted to use in the album. I know now that I don´t have to stress about fitting that element to any other songs, as it is already in the album somewhere.
One of my biggest issues as a composer is that I have a fixation in uniqueness- I absolutely HATE to repeat myself especially in the same context. Sure, we all have our own trademark gimmicks as composers but using the same ideas on purpose is just a slap in the face of creativity and self- respect. Writing a theme/ leitmotif- driven score is a completely other thing, though.

Speaking of scores, the Curse of the Witches´ Blood (the soundtrack is already out and is freely streamable here) just got FINALLY out of the sound edit last week. As I promised to the director to do the final sound post- processing myself, I´ve been spending some of my days at the office working with that whenever my workload allows it. It´s a great counter for creative composing to work with something more technical which still gives you the same immersion that great music does. Besides, I always get ideas from that to my sound design on our albums as well.
For a fun fact all foley FX, dialogue recordings and pre- processing were done by Esa Orjatsalo, who is also known for being the live audio engineer for Korpiklaani. And who is also going to record the newest Moonsorrow album in two months, so the circle is completed.

While I´m typing this, my daughters are playing in the floor besides me and we´re listening to martial industrial music. You know, that stuff all little children love to listen with their parents. And as soon as I get those little hellraisers to sleep, it´s going to be Moonsorrow tiem again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This week, I´ave mostly been eating...TARAMASALATA!


I have a couple of unfinished posts coming up, but meanwhile here´s something which might interest you while waiting. Did you know that we used to make a fanzine back in the 90´s with Ville and some other dudes? We used to publish our personal playlists there (while mocking each other for their bad taste of music), and I later continued it online in my personal homepage and in a couple of web forums. As I´ve not done it since 2006 or so, I´ve been thinking for some time to revitalize this utterly boring tradition to people who couldn´t care less.

So, here we go: Trollhorn´s playlist and recommendations for December/January 2015!


Trelldom (NOR): Till Et Annet... (1998)

Slave Til En Kommende Natt

I find this band, and especially this album to be an excellent example of withstanding time rather well, which is why I´ve been listening it again lately. The music has a great balance between a "serious" approach and a "piss on everything"- attitude and for all the kvlt hype surrounding mr. Gaahl, this album actually has something to back it up a bit. The vocals are one the greatest reasons to spin this disk again and again, being massively otherworldly and varied throughout the whole experience.

Aosoth (FRA): Ashes of Angels (2009)
Songs without Lungs

I got introduced to Aosoth a couple of years ago, and have been listening to their albums quite much since. Very chaotic (yet structured and organized) and dissonant songwriting with downtuned guitars in black metal is rather interesting concept and their albums seem to have a very strong aura drawing me to pick them up more often from the shelf I intend to. Don´t close your eyes while listening to this or you´ll end up staying there.

Gryphon (GBR): Midnight Mushrumps (1974)
Midnight Mushrumps

Medieval classical music meets progressive rock? Yes, please! I got a tip on this band from a comment in this blog last year, and am very grateful for that as the music was even more awesome I could had imagined. The musicianship and arrangements are absolutely top-of-the-notch and a must to check for everyone into medieval music and old progressive rock.

Byron Metcalf (US) feat. Steve Roach- Shaman´s Heart (2005)
Raven Medicine

I love Steve Roach and have a soft spot in my heart for any meditative music, so when you have stopped laughing at this new age- thingie for a moment, take a look at this with a more serious expression. This brilliant album, besides being all great meditative and hypnotic music, has also an interesting addition: so- called "Hemi- Sync" which is suppposed to stimulate and synchronize brainwaves using binaural music technology as it´s advantage. Not that I find much more than plain stereo spreading on everything instead of any pseudoscientific audio processing here, but nevertheless it´s hypnotic and minimalistic just in the way I like to soothe my brain with.

Tangerine Dream (GER): Goblins Club (1996)
Towards The Evening Star

I just love how this album reeks of the 90´s in all aspects. But what I like in this album the most is the weird, almost magical and somehow even pseudo- occult touch that is somehow lurking in the background all the time. Then again, at parts it sounds like it was composed into a skin- treatment commercial. And even though I know categorizing music into genres is rather futile and embarrassing at it´s worst, I have huge troubles to decide what this particular music style represents. Electronic rock? Electro- Kraut? Synthrock? Just check out the damn album, ok?

Bergthron (GER): Verborgen In Den Tiefen Der Wälder (1997)
Verborgen In Den Tiefen Der Wälder

Shitty vocals? Check. Bad drum machine? Check. Horrible melodies? Check. Only one, half an hour song? Definitely check. I really have no idea why I like this album so much. In all truth, I should probably hate it. But I dug it up from my hazy memories left in 1997 or so, gave it a listen and weirdly got attracted to it this time. Maybe it´s part of the fact that this type of music is rather rare these days and it contains many of the elements I like in my black metal? Not definitely an album I´d take to a deserted island with me, but I´ve still found myself listening many times during the evenings lately.

Satanic Warmaster (FIN): Fimbulwinter (2014)
Fimbulwinter´s Spell

BUT HOW CAN YOU LISTEN TO SATANIC WARMASTER BECAUSE....uhm, yeah, fuck you too. One of the most creative and talented metal composers in Finland, SW´s newest offering is actually sporting a very good sound this time, which might even scare the most puritan dictation-machine- lovers away. Representing the sharpest songwriting in his career to the date as well and including a Vornat- cover (infernal hails!) this is a must- check for people into more old school BM but with a rather modern sound. There aren´t many -if all- weak moments on this one...well, except for the last song which got ruined by some fat asswipe called Trollhorn, whoever that is.

Lie In Ruins (FIN): Towards Divine Death (2014)
Blood of the Dead

It´s crushing. It´s heavy. It´s occult. It´s evil. It´s DEATH METAL, in it´s literal meaning. The second full- lenght of LiR is a step from more traditional death metal into more blacker and occult grounds- meaning lenghtier and less technical songs, tons of uncommon instruments and soundscapes... and a heavy load or religious imagery. The artwork in itself is already worth checking out in it´s all detail.

Ophthalamia (SWE)- A Journey In Darkness (1994)
Castle of No Repair/ Lies from a Blackened Heart

When all the cool band names had already been taken, It and friends settled for no compromises! Despite of the rather eye- catching name though, the music is just the way I like it- black metal with doom- influences. The clever guitar harmonies everywhere deserve an extra credit here as well, and while Paradise Lost was once a rather entertaining band I´m sure Opth....Oth...Phot...salami have been spinning a disk or two of their early works before creating this album. Too bad they went all too gothic afterwards.

Urfaust (NL): Der Freiwillige Bettler (2010)
Vom Gesicht und Rätsel

As mentioned earlier, if you speed and pitch this up for 30%, you get a hidden Primordial album. While I´m not particularly a great fan of Primordial myself (hi guys :D), this album made me a fan of Urfaust. Not right away, though- I had to listen to it a couple of times to get rid of the "Primordial on Ritalin"- effect, but I´m glad I gave it a chance because it hit me like a truck after some repeats. Definitely worth checking out!


Bubbling Under:
 

TARAMASALATA/ Tzatziki split 7" - Hellenic Dish Kvlt

I can already taste an upcoming side- project of Varathron and Zemial members in my mouth. And as a bonus if you actually read thus far: here´s my playlist from late 1998, straightout scanned from Meathooked #2!