They hail from Finland and -contrary to common belief- they are not depressed. The words are about Swallow the Sun, who may have barely released their first album a few months ago, but whose reputation is steadily growing due to rave reviews, award nominations and...gigs with David Bowie. Enough reason to meet up with sympathetic lads Pasi (drums) and Aleksi (keyboards) during their promotional trip to London which was organized by Firebox records. Here's the account of this very pleasant meeting:
Let's start with a question out of curiosity; do you guys know doom-metal.com?
A: Oh yes, I have been reading the message board. That way, I got to know some bands which were unknown to me.
StS is also in the bandlist.
A+P(laughs) indeed, that's true!
Since the band is relatively unknown to most visitors on the site, would you like to introduce yourselves first to those who haven't heard of Swallow the Sun?
P: We used to play in a band called Plutonium Orange. When I joined, I was asked to stay after rehearsal and try out a few songs that were not in the line-up. So we tried them with only drums and guitar.
P: Yeah, and then we thought "maybe we should get more band members". Then I forgot about it for two years,
and in 2002 we decided to find other musicians. In January 2003 we made a first demo.
A: It got us signed at Firebox.
P: We recorded the album in August.
How would you describe the sound of the band?
A: It's like doom/death metal
P: There have been many comparisons. We believe it's in the vein of MDB, but not exactly the same. Doomy death metal.
A: If I was to compare to any other bands, I would say MDB, Opeth and early Katatonia. Some parts might even remind of Death.
P: Some people even say that we sound like Saturnus, but I've never heard of that band.
Do it if you can! Especially the first album is a must. There is mainly one thing that connects both bands, and that would be a feeling of melancholia. But personally, I would use Paradise Lost as reference if I was to describe the sound of StS.
P: Juha who has made most songs on the first album, doesn't listen much to Paradise Lost. He is
more a fan of MDB.
Either way,despite some obvious influences, I don't think that Swallow the Sun sounds like any band in particular.
P: I'm glad that you said that; we all have different musical backgrounds, so everyone brings different
influences in the music.
Generally though you are a very melodic band.
A: Yes we are, but luckily we also have some headbanging parts (laughs).
P: We try to keep it interesting with some hooks and the rhythm on drums and bass. It's not all the time
like this (imitates drummer who hits the drum monotonously at funeral doom pace).
A: We like to keep it heavy, but not too fast.
is it a deliberate decision to always play mid tempo then?
A: No, there is not an agreement, but we like to keep it heavy, because many bands have a lighter sound.
What about HIM then? (points at HIM shirt of Aleksi).
A: (laughs) We just bought this.
P: I must show what I bought (shows Tool shirt). I like them very much. However, the most important thing about HIM is that they support Finland!
A: Many people don't listen to them, even though they have some really good songs. So this is kinda a 'fuck off' to all those people (laughs). I like HIM. I think that there is a lot of closed-mindedness in the metal scene about these things. I like to show that I can listen to anything.
So you think that many people are mindlessly bashing bands like HIM because they come often on TV or so?
A: Oh, yes. They have some good songs, they also have some crap songs, but many good songs.
In the bandlist entry of doom-metal.com it says 'Melodic Death/Doom act from Finland. This relatively new
band was formed in 2000 and plays very easy on the ears Doom-metal. Grunted male vocals are combined with
weeping guitar lines and a mid to slow tempo. The band also uses a lot of keys to create atmosphere`.
Do you agree with this, or would you describe your sound differently?
A: Only about that doom/death part. Some people are very careful about genre names. We are not traditional doom. So we decided that we are 'doomy death'.
P: Death metal puritans would say that we are not death metal (laughs). Unlike Death for exaple, they are the fathers of death metal.They are the greatest band in the world in my opinion.
I am very curious to hear about how you came to this band name, it is very unusual!
A: We were very drunk at a local bar and we were just running in circles and drinking. We had some words in mind and then we suddenly came up with it out of nothing. We were lucky to remember in the morning! No, I'm joking. It has some connection with Norwegian and Chinese mythology. In China they have dragons, while in Norway they have giant wolves that swallow the sun, which means the end of the world. I saw recently in the news that a few years ago, the sun shone only for half an hour during the whole of November in Jyväskylä! So it's a bandname that can be interpretated in many ways.
Finnish bands sound often very melancholic. Can you give an explanation why in your point of view?
A: The suicide rates in Finland are the highest in Europe. Perhaps it's something in the culture?
P: Also the traditional music of Finland is very melancholic, but I don't know why. It has always been so.
-But don't you wake up some days thinking 'I want to make a happy drinking song?'
A: i don't like happy songs.
P: I don't like them neither.
A: I'm probably a bad doomster because I'm happy (laughs), but I don't like happy songs.
P: We are not sad or depressed people.
A: You should spend a Saturday night with us! It's Sunday by the way and we have some vodka with us!
(laughs) thanks for the invitation.
P:Our musical side is depressing...
A: Melancholic music and depressive music raises more emotions than happy-go-go music. I think there is more to explore in depression.
Speaking about Finnish bands, I'm quite surprised that in such a small country, there are some many bands, especially in metal, which are successful both in mainstream and underground. F.i. mainstream bands like Nightwish...
P:Children of Bodom are big!
A: I think that in Finland the scene is very active and alive. There are lots of great bands like Machine Men and Deathchain...
P: And Before the Dawn.
A: Their first album is not that good, but their coming album that is being released this spring is going to be excellent.
What style of music is it?
P: They sound like Katatonia, but even better.
That's a strong statement!
A: Also Insomnium, their new album comes out in April. But none of those bands are doom metal.
P: Speaking about doom metal: Reverend Bizarre is a great band!
I just saw in your website something about a gig the 20th of June with...David Bowie?
A+P (laughs) A: It's a big festival in Finland, we play on Sunday but we don't even know if we play on the same day!
P: Also Testament, Exodus and Hypocrisy will be playing.
A: It's not a metal festival though, they even have hip hop and reggae bands! In Finland most of the festivals are mix/general festivals, only three are metal festivals. Metal bands play between pop bands, Cradle of Filth plays at one of the festivals, it could be that they play after a hip hop band or so.
That's an interesting combination.
P+A (laughs) A: There are three Finnish metal festivals: Tuska, Pellavarock and Nummirock. You also have the Sauna Open Air in Tampere.
Sauna Open Air???
A: It's going to be hot (general laughter).
From what I saw on your website, you play quite often live.
P: Yes, we have a booking agency now, it's the same agency from... (unfortunately due to some noisy interruption of a drunk Englishman I missed the name of the artist mentioned- if you read this it's all your fault!)
Have you played outside Finland?
P: Not yet!
A: The person who handles our gigs, is very competent, he is also the agent of the Finnish stoner band Sunride. We rehearse in the same room with them. They have been touring quite a lot, especially in Germany.
The distance seems to be a problem for Finnish bands.
A: That's the reason that many bands don't come often to Finland.
What about Russia then?
A: I would like to play in Russia! Insomnium had a gig in Sint Petersburg, they said that the crowd were going totally nuts!
What do you think about the internet? Does it help artists like Swallow the Sun?
A: Our album was released only a month after the date that it was spread on the internet. It only raises sales,because people get to know you. We played in Helsinki last year, a German girl who had come to Finland came to me. She wouldn't have known about the band without the mp3's. She had bought the album after she had heard the mp3`s. So the only problem is when the album is spread on the internet too early before the release.Myself, I have learned about a lot of new bands thanks to mp3's.
You make quite accesible music, yet you use mainly grunted vocals. Do you plan to use more clean vocals in the
P: We thought quite a lot how to place the clean vocals in the songs and we quite succeeded in that because it takes only half an album with grunts and then we have a clean part.
But there are still more grunts than clean singing in the album.
A: There are going to be some clean vocals on the next album, but it will be mostly grunts.
I read somewhere that you were nominated for an award in Finland?
P:Yes, from Inferno magazine.It's the biggest metal magazine in Finland. We have been competing with Machine Men.
A: They are good friends of ours, I play in the same band with their guitar player. They play melodic heavy metal like Iron Maiden.
How were the reviews of the album thus far?
P: They were very positive, except of the English Metal Hammer.
A: They said something along the lines of 'this goes straight in the category "boring gothic crap".
P: It was really funny, I was laughing my head off.
A: In a big Finnish magazine, there was even a news item about the bad review of the Metal Hammer! (general laughter).Most reviews give us 8/10 or something. We knew that we had made a good album, but we had not expected such positive reactions.
To finish with a cliched question: what are the future plans of the band?
P: We have some live shows coming. I totally love playing live shows!
A: I hope that we are going to play soon in Europe! We also have four new unfinished songs and they are good. Because the first album was received so well,perhaps the second album is going to get worse reviews, even if it is good!
That's a very healthy way to look at it (laughter). So the live aspect seems to be very important for you. Can you describe how is a typical Swallow the Sun show?
P: We were very scared about our first gig, because we didn't know how people would react. But from the first notes already we had something like: "this really works!"
A: We have played 7 gigs thus far.
Not bad for being together for such a short time! So what makes live gigs so enjoyable?
P: It's the crowd! People banging their heads...it's absolutely great.
Ok, let's call it a day. Would you like to add anything before we end?
P: Greetings to our friends in Finland, especially to JV, he is the guitar player of Machine Man.
A: If you want to write something, add "wish you were here"!
That's a nice way to close, thanks a lot.
Visit the Swallow the Sun bandpage.