It's heavy, it's crushing, it's filled with many layers and textures, touches on death metal and doom, and has many progressive and folky elements. We are talking about the new release from Finland's Swallow the Sun called Hope, which has been one of the most talked about and acclaimed metal releases this year. Guitarist Juha Raivio was eager to speak with Sea of Tranquility about this new release and all things in the world of Swallow the Sun.
Read on for Pete Pardo's interview!
SoT: Hope seems to be an odd choice for a title of this CD, yet for me it seems to make all the sense in the world, as the album is a signal for hope for the genre itself. Can you talk a bit about Hope, how long it took to put together, the writing process, figuring out a title, etc. ?
Juha Raivio: We started working on the album on the spring of 2006, and this time the writing process was a bit different than before. On the first two albums most of the songs were not ready when we started working on them, but now Raivio had already recorded demo versions of the songs. It was quite hard to concentrate on writing, as we were doing festivals and other gigs at the same time, but somehow we managed, I guess.
We thought of the title for quite long until we realized that all the lyrics deal with the concept of hope, so we decided to go with that. It had been suggested already in the beginning, but we weren't sure about it at first.
SoT: The band seems to have really matured musically and lyrically since the last album . How has the last few years of touring, writing, being around other bands and musicians, influenced Swallow the Sun?
Juha: We have become more aware of song arrangements, I'd say. This time we really went through all the songs dropping everything that wasn't necessary and important for the song.
SoT: The mix of clean and growled vocals work really well together on Hope. How hard is it to mix the two, and mix them effectively?
Juha:On the first two albums it was always rather problematic, but as Mikko has developed vastly as a singer and has become conscious of what he can do with his voice all the vocals lines came quite naturally.
SoT: The band is not afraid to add keyboards and acoustic guitars in spots to add extra elements of atmosphere and melody, similar to what Opeth, Katatonia, and Amorphis have done to great success. Have you been influenced by these bands at all, and are these progressive type elements going to continue to play an important part of your music in the future?
Juha: All three bands are a major influence to us, although depending on the person. I think we have achieved in finding our own sound on Hope, and I think we'll continue on the same road.
SoT: Do you like being called a "doom" band?
Juha: Well, yes and no. I like that people call us doom because it pisses puritanic people off, but I don't like it because we are not doom in the traditional sense. I like the term death/doom, because it tells people a lot about our music and places us in the same category with similar bands.
SoT: What is the extreme music scene like in Finland these days? It seems like, from this vantage point in the US, that is is thriving there in your country with all the death metal, black metal, doom metal, and even progressive bands that are coming out.
Juha: Metal is doing great in Finland and it's become a hype thing in the mainstream. There's lot's of TV shows, nationwide radio programs and stations and metal albums hit the charts constantly in good positions. There's lot's of good things about it, for example there's shitloads of live shows nowadays, but then again the hype brings so much crap up that it's sometimes unbearable. But Finland's reputation as a metal country is not exaggerated at all.
SoT: Do you have any touring plans for the new album?
Juha: We just did a extensive Finnish tour and an European tour with Moonsorrow and now we'll start playing the summer festivals. We have some plans for the fall, but I can't discuss them yet, sorry.
SoT: Any plans to come to the US?
Juha:As I said, we have some plans for the fall...
SoT: Ok, guess we shall wait and see! What other bands on the scene are you listening to these days?
Juha: Lately I've been listening a lot to Moonsorrow. I liked their latest album a lot even before we toured with them, but the tour kinda opened my eyes for their older material also.
(Click here to read our review of Hope)