WRATHRONE – REFLECTIONS OF TORMENT – SATANATH
Do you often think about pain and suffering? These Finns do! Depending on your perspective it could either be a good or bad thing too that the quintet package it in a little round silver thing and share it with the masochist of us. This is an interview Ali “The Metallian” conducted with Wrathrone immediately before and after a German mini-tour the band undertook. The band is singer Matti Vehmas, guitarists Lauri Holm and Vili Mäkinen, bassist Pekka Wärri and drummer Mikael Ruoho. – 18.11.2018
METALLIAN: Let’s talk about the music and the second album Reflections Of Torment in a moment. Firstly however, who came up with the band's monicker and why? Is there any deeper meaning in it other than a combination of words?
LAURI: We had a huge load of name suggestions and then people present and sober enough voted for the best. Wrathrone, indeed a combination of two nice sounding words, won. It doesn’t mean anything literally, but reflects the musical style and sets the listener in the right mood.
MATTI: Yeah, back in the early beginnings we took a vote on the name. Wrathrone was my conception, obviously an unorthodox combination for Throne Of Wrath. Still a fucked up monicker to pronounce though (snickers).
METALLIAN: When did you each join the band? How did the members first meet?
LAURI: I founded the band with Matti. I had some earlier band stuff and Matti also had some ancient history. As we knew each other from school times, we joined heads to create a death metal band as we both loved the genre.
MATTI: I remember Lauri asking me to do some growling for his other band’s recording. It had been almost ten years since my last music activities. It left a certain craving for more, shortly after we started to try and boil up some old unused material together and it slowly grew on that. We weren’t that serious with the project at first but when the line-up took form and more songs were done, it became a real band. Glad it did.
MIKAEL: I got a message from Matti in 2011 saying that their previous drummer quit the band and asking if I would like to come and try out. I wasn't too into that style of music those days, but started to rehearse the songs and they were surprisingly fun to play. I went to band rehearsals and the rest is history.
METALLIAN: What was the other band’s name where Lauri did some growling?
MATTI: At the time Lauri was leading a thrash metal outfit called Malvo being the main writer and guitarist. They were finishing recording of their Tulikomentoja EP to which I added some background growls for a few songs. So, just a little thing really, but it showed that I can still pull it off and gave a spark to do more.
METALLIAN: Let’s zoom in on the newer album. The band's second album, Reflections Of Torment, is on a new label for the group. Does the band and Satanath have a long-term agreement or is it a one-off? Moreover, what is the connection between the band and The Void Records?
LAURI: I think the deal was for this one album’s release and distribution. The Void Records helped to split the expenses.
MIKAEL: We just communicated with Aleksey from Satanath but to my understanding they co-released and distributed the album, as Satanath is from Russia and the Void is an Italian label.
METALLIAN: Let's talk about the album more then. Is there one theme running through the record for example a collection of 'torments'? Perusing the lyrics it is hard to find one story running through the lyrics.
LAURI: It is not a theme album in a traditional sense, but as you cleverly noticed all the songs tell a different tale of man’s torment and misery.
METALLIAN: Referring to the line "inferior race of man," from whose perspective is the song Throne written? Could you elaborate?
LAURI: I have not written the lyrics, but this is how I see the song: Throne is told from the perspective of the earth, nature and forests. An idea of ‘Gaia’ claiming back everything humankind has destroyed and taken from it.
MIKAEL: I see the lyrics in the same way. The reign of human species will come to an end inevitably. We weren't the first creatures here and we won't be the last. We tried to reflect these ideas in the video for Throne. Nature will reclaim its own.
MATTI: The actual line is “Inferior race of men” and as mentioned above, it involves all of humankind. I see this progress somewhat inevitable at this rate. Some major disaster or disease will erase the mistake called ‘human’ in some given time; natural way of taking care of the pestilence.
METALLIAN: Thanks for the answer and correction. Here at Metallian Towers we have nothing against humans expressing their love for one another by, for example, enchaining women in the basement as espoused by End Of Your Sanity. After all, we should all celebrate diversity of needs and differences in approach amongst us all. With that said, what will the authorities discover if they ever find their way to your basement?
LAURI: A Shitload of video games, some vinyl records and empty cans of beer! If I remember correctly, End Of Your Sanity’s lyrics were written mostly by me and the song got its inspiration from a certain horror TV show.
METALLIAN: Which TV show are we speaking about?
MATTI: Lauri wrote these lyrics and would rather leave this to be discovered by the listener. Keeping the mystery alive!
METALLIAN: In that case, let us shift our attention elsewhere. Musically, the band veers to good old glorious Swedeath. Was this a conscious decision?
LAURI: Swedish (and Finnish) death metal is a shared favourite of all the members so I think it was not conscious, but rather a natural and obvious choice of sound.
MIKAEL: I see it as a natural progression. The first demos were quite different, but especially Vili joining the band changed our course a bit. He has shown us many bands from that genre.
METALLIAN: In that case, how does Reflections Of Torment differ from the band's debut?
LAURI: It’s better played, better arranged and all the songs are rather new as opposed to Born Beneath of 2016 for which we rehearsed longer as we were still learning to play together.
MIKAEL: Also whereas our first album was mainly composed by Lauri now also Pekka and Vili write songs.
METALLIAN: On occasion, the band has a dual-vocal approach. Are these both performed by Matti?
LAURI: Matti does both the low growls and the higher more ‘black metal’ styled screaming. Indeed, however, Vili does backup vocals also and half of the chorus in Dead Inside Me for example.
METALLIAN: While it is clear that Wrathrone has successfully emulated the old Sunlight sound and production the sound is certainly not world class or high end. In fact, it is occasionally muddy. How much of that is due to either a limited budget or the desire to be true to one's heroes? Speaking to Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse years ago he was talking about how analysing the debut Blasphemy album Cannibal Corpse's producer and he reached the conclusion that the Canadians had deliberately piled on distortion and noise into the recording.
LAURI: Well, we recorded most of the album in one weekend playing together in studio not taking turns as the more common approach is. So we could say it’s a budget issue. It is a positive problem anyway because we love a little bit mud and dirt in death metal especially. I think more money and time would not have made this album significantly better. Every hi-hat strike does not need to be heard and some guitar stuff may need several listens to clearly open up. We didn’t have any sound to emulate, just adjusted the amps to our liking.
MIKAEL: I think it was mostly a conscious choice and also a sum of many things. Actually the studio we used for recording wasn't on the cheap side. Like Lauri mentioned, we recorded all the instruments live, which gives the album a nice groove. Also we worked with Owe - Wolfthrone studio, mixing and mastering - for the first time so that resulted in the final outcome. I think the album sounds good but in my opinion there are some things that we could do differently.
METALLIAN: That is an interesting or coincidental studio name. There is an interesting pattern in the songs. Most tracks' lead guitars are towards their respective ends. Why is that?
LAURI: We enjoy a common and ‘easy’ way of arranging songs as tension builds up and things get more massive towards the end. It gives the feeling song is progressing and going places instead of just playing different riffs in a row.
METALLIAN: By the way, are you familiar with God Macabre? That band kept coming to mind as we listened to Reflections.
LAURI: I hadn’t heard God Macabre, but now checking it out I hear the similarities also. And it sounds awesome. I think I have to listen to this more.
METALLIAN: God Macabre is a good recommendation for all death metal fans. Celine Dion fans should also listen. It would be fun watching them die. Speaking of other bands, Wrathrone cites old Amorphis, In Flames and Opeth among its influences. For such a good band, why would you publicly humiliate yourself and admit to a weakness? Since Opeth was never any good, would you say the reference to In Flames and Amorphis goes back to those band's very early works before they turned mallcore and folk rock respectively?
LAURI: I really don’t think it’s a weakness to mention which bands have influenced your style and taste. I listened a lot to Amorphis, In Flames and Opeth when I was 15 years old and learning to play. We are talking 1998 and still love their old stuff. Of course I am talking about albums that were actually death metal, for example The Jester race. Opeth is a different case. They continue the magical and excellent music today. Maybe you are right however. Listing those as influences don’t emit the right sound and image we have.
MIKAEL: (laughingly) Actually the list of influences is ancient and will be updated. We tend to draw influences from every music to which we listen. In our band we honestly have some weird tastes in music. I don't see listening to any kind of music as weakness or embarrassing. Expanding your horizons is always good! Yet talking about the new album I would list Entombed, Dismember, Vallenfyre and Bolt Thrower as bands that influenced us during the writing process.
METALLIAN: Thanks for the list. Could you tell Metallian’s readers what is next for the band or any updates and news you could share?
MATTI: We are preparing for our ten-year anniversary gig right now. It will take place in Turku on the first of December. The circle comes together nicely because our first ever show took place in Turku also. Some old material will surface along with some totally new tunes in a longer than normal set list. Should be something quite special. We also have a brand new shirt design coming out just in time for the anniversary show. We are still hoping also for the vinyl and tape release of Reflections Of Torment to be released in time for that, but that remains to be seen.
There are quite a lot of new songs in the works also. So I think we'll concentrate on finishing them next to be able to start making plans for future releases. Hopefully we will manage to pull off a few cool gigs also next year. It keeps you motivated and for us that is one of the main things why we do this. There are not many things better than blasting a show with a furious audience.
So, readers of Metallian, go on and blast some ROT from Spotify or give us a shout for a physical copy. If we happen to play live near you see you there. Hail Metallian!
METALLIAN: Finally, and as you know, Metallian is the world's hippest metal website. Everyone comes up with their own reasons why. What is your perspective on why Metallian is the best?
LAURI: I think you are good at making interesting interviews. I usually don’t bother to say this much. Cheers!
Thanks to the band members for their time and the music. Death metal fans know what to do.
If you enjoyed this, read Celtic Frost