|Interview with Finland's dark melodic death metallers Soulfallen. Many thanks to Kai Leikola (vocals)
and Aapeli Kivimäki (guitars) for all the patience and time they took with the questions.
Greetings from Bulgaria! Thanks in advance for the opportunity to do this interview. How would you describe the music of Soulfallen to the fans that haven’t been acquainted to it yet?
KL: Hails from Finland! And thank you for having us. During the years there have been quite many descriptions made about our music, which also shows that it is not perhaps so easy to categorize. A good description would be melodic dark/death metal with symphonic elements and a strong atmosphere. Or with just two words: aggression & beauty.You played under the name Blacksmith first – what’s your story so far?
KL: I see you’ve done your research. But that was just another band I played about ten years ago. My first band actually. We released a couple of demos and then the band came to its end and from its ruins we formed Soulfallen in 2003. So despite the name has come up here and there, it was never the same band. With Soulfallen we made a couple of demos, started performing live more regularly and signed a record deal with Off Records Finland in 2007. Our debut album World Expiration came out in same year and our latest Grave New World in 2009.You have released only two albums, but it seems to me that Kai is the only original bandmember left. What dictaded all those changes?
KL: Well looking back to the founding of the band, I am the only original member left, but our guitarist/songwriter Aapeli has been around since before the first album. But you are right, there have been quite many changes lineup during the years. I don’t think there is one single thing that dictated them, but I would rather call it evolution. People change and have other things in life that take priority. Playing in a band takes a lot of time and effort, and the bigger things get the more you really have to want to do it. So I think it’s only realistic that at some point some people wish to step out.
Since Grave New World we have a new drummer and we also took aboard our longtime keyboard collaborator as a permanent member of the band. Our latest addition is a new bass player since about a year ago I decided to concentrate solely on the vocals. So basically all the changes have derived from quite different circumstances. I know it is a cliché, but our current lineup is the strongest have had to date. But don’t take my word for it – check us out live if you have the chance!How does the entire compositional process of Soulfallen go – is there anyone in particular in charge of vocal lines, melodies, lyrics, etc., now when you’re a six-piece band?
AK: The process often starts with someone, usually myself or Simo, recording some riffs or even a whole song back home. Then we have everyone listening to them, and sharing their thoughts. Next step is playing the new material together at rehearsals. At this point it comes clear if it's any good, or just a piece of crap. If everyone agrees the new piece is good, the work goes on back home, arranging orchestral stuff and so on.
Last part of the process is Kai writing lyrics and doing the vocal lines. Usually we only get to hear the finished version of them. Sometimes we suggest some little changes to the vocal lines, but usually they are great as they come. The lyrical theme in your debut “World Expiration” was rather apocalyptic, while in “Grave New World” you take the listeners for a “postapocalyptic” ride. What inspires you for writing such dark and aggressive music?
KL: Glad to see you have taken your time also to examine the lyrical side of the albums and you are absolutely right about their themes. Most of my life I have listened to dark and melancholic music, so I guess it is very natural to write this kind of music since it is the style closes to the heart. In our band the music basically comes first and then I write the lyrics to fit the musical atmosphere of the songs. And when the music itself is this dark, the lyrics really can’t be about dancing ponies in the sunshine. It all has to come together. I do think about broader themes, ideas and even lines beforehand, but for the most part of the lyrics, they are always written for a particular song.
Apart from the songs themselves, I think I’m inspired by almost everything: life, music, book, poetry, movies, you name it. All of this is then converted and filtered into these kinds of dark tales of nightmares to
come. I don’t think I could write lyrics about happy things even if I tried, it just wouldn’t feel right. This is the kind of material that moves me and if something doesn’t move you, how can you expect it to move or be important to someone else.There’s a great step forward in terms of music for the entire band, congratulations on it! How would you describe “Grave New World”, compared to its predecessor?
AK: Thank you! I think Grave New World is more straight forward and massive than World Expiration. Or at least that is how I feel about it. Of course Simo joining the band made a big difference, since we then had one more songwriter.
KL: If the first album had a very dark undertone with the new album this has turned to sadness, realizing all is lost. I think on the new album we have evolved on almost every area: the production, arrangements, music-wise, etc. All in all I think it works better as a whole. The instrumental basis on the second album is even more advanced - all guitar, drum and keyboard passages can be heard very clean, also because of the great work of Mika Jussila. How did the musician changes affect the technical side of “Grave New World”? Are you satisfied by the result?
AK: Actually the only change musician-wise was Simo joining the band. The rest of the people involved were pretty much the same, although we had one more guy to work on the orchestrations, Sami Boman from Silentium. We also recorded Grave New World in the same studio and with the same sound engineer as its predecessor. Arttu Sarvanne did a great job once again with the recording and mixing of the album. And as You mentioned, the mastering of the album was done by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studio, of which neither needs further introduction. I personally am very satisfied with the results, time will tell if we decide to use the same formula on our third album as well.The artwork of the new album matches its musical side perfectly – we see a girl walking towards a nuclear blast dust cloud. Who drew the cover, did the concept idea come from the band?
KL: The artwork on the album was done by a Finnish artist known as Kaamos (http://www.kaamos.com). I gave him the lyrics of the album and explained the post-apocalyptic theme of Grave New World, and then basically just gave him free hands to draw from that. Needless to say, that we are extremely pleased with how it all came out. With this kind of music that carries a strong atmosphere and emotion, it is important that the lyrics and artwork match the music and I really believe we succeeded in that with Grave New World. On the closing theme “We Are The Sand” there are some great clean vocals by Lars Eikind. How did you come to work with him, are you fans of Before The Dawn, Winds or something?
KL: Glad to hear you enjoyed them. Well we live in the same city as him and have known him for years. In a small city like Jyväskylä everyone basically knows everyone in the metal scene. On World Expiration our friend Riina Rinkinen from Silentium did some vocals on one of the songs and on Grave New World we thought about doing something different. We had a song that could have some clean vocals and someone threw in the air the idea about having Lars and we all liked the idea. So we just asked him and he said “sure”. The result as you can hear from the album was just mind blowing beyond all our expectations. I think he really nailed that song and I couldn’t think of a better way for the album to end.How do you feel as a part Finland’s legacy and a scene which gave birth to bands such as Sentenced, Amorphis, Insomnium, Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Kalmah, Mors Principium Est? Is your music influenced in any way of your own countrymen who play in the same genre?
KL: Well of course I grew up listening to Amorphis and Sentenced, so naturally them and the whole melancholic Finnish mentality has influenced us in many ways. I also listen to a lot of Finnish metal bands among others, but despite this we don’t want to be the next Amorphis or anything like that. We are just people who share a vision of the kind of music we want to make. Of course this vision is influenced by the musical environment we live and have lived in, but we don’t want to sound like someone else. We want to sound like us. And I think we have found somewhat of a recognizable sound among t
he other bands.
All in all I feel honored a lot to think that we are in our own way continuing and contributing to this legacy with our music and hopefully years from now we will be mentioned along these bands for the next generation of metalheads out there.“Grave New World” is a fantastic mix of dark melodies, melancholic orchestrations, hauntingly beautiful keys and aggressive vocals. What (and when) can we expect from your next album?
KL: Thank you. We are currently writing new material for our next album, but since at the moment we don’t have a label, it is impossible to say when this will come out. In 2011 at the earliest. The new songs and the new album will be another step forward on our musical path, but not forgetting where we came from. One thing is sure though – it will sound like Soulfallen.If I remember correctly, you’re in the middle of a label search; both your albums were released by Off Records, but I guess you’re looking towards signing with a bigger and more renounced company. Which is the label to be signed to when you’re a newcoming band in Finland and which do you think would suit your music?
AK: The whole situation with record labels is very complicated at the moment. I guess one could say that the entire music business is in some sort of crisis. Labels are low on funds and are very careful with signing new bands. We are in a way lucky to already have two albums out, since the crisis probably hit the yet unsigned bands the hardest.
It's difficult to judge which labels would be best for a newcomer, because of the situation I just mentioned. Even the bigger labels are struggling. For a band publishing their debut album the main thing is to read the contract carefully and to make sure they understand what they are giving to the label and what are they receiving by doing that.
What comes to Soulfallen, the situation is still open. For us it doesn't really matter if the label is Finnish or foreign, if it just has motivation to work for our music and to distribute and promote it properly.In August you’ll get to tour the Baltics together with the mighty Cannibal Corpse. You’ve already played abroad in Russia, but this is something completely different. What are your expectations?
KL: Yes we are! Well we’re not actually touring with Cannibal Corpse, but we will be playing a show with them in Vilnius. Needless to say we are really looking forward to this and of course to the whole tour. We have been to Russia and Latvia for a few shows and really enjoyed both countries, so we do have some expectations of what to expect. I’m not sure, but I believe that our albums have not been released in the Baltic region, but despite this we hope that people will find the shows and enjoy our music. So basically what we expect is playing good shows, meeting great people and just having fun. Name the bands and albums which influenced you as musicians and a sole band for playing music, I guess everyone has his own personal inspiration, as always.
KL: Oh this is a hard one since there are so many. I grew up listening to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Amorphis, Sepultura, etc. and after them there have been so many bands that I have enjoyed. Too many to even try to mention. I don’t think there is any single band that has influenced us in a great way and even if there was, we probably wouldn’t sound anything like that. Like I said, we don’t aspire to sound like our influences. With this being said and the fact that the six of us all have different musical backgrounds, I think the safest thing to say is to say nothing. We are all inspired by a great many things.Tell something to your fans here, in Bulgaria! There’s a lot bands from your country playing here during the last few years, I hope one day we’ll be able to see you in order to take pleasure of your brilliant works live!
KL: Thank you for the interview. We are all the time trying to be more active in doing shows also outside of Finland and we would definitely love to come there too! And if many Finnish bands are playing there, there is a good chance that we will one day make it there too. Hopefully with a new supporting label and management this will be possible in the near future. But meanwhile we hope you keep enjoying our music and thank you for all the support!
AK: Well said.