October 23rd, 666
REQUIEM - THE ARRIVAL - SOUND RIOT
InterviewsThe Arrival is an ironic album name for a band called Requiem, isn't it? Then again there is much about the young and upstart Finnish act which is different and makes for good conversation. The band, comprised of singer Jouni Nikula, guitarists Arto Räisälä and Teemu Hanninen, bassist Pasi Kauppinen, drummer Jari Huttunen and keyboardist Henrik Klingenberg may not be on a bigger label and have the recognition which their country-mates Amorphis, Nightwish or Sonata Arctica enjoy. That does not detract from their musical qualities. In this context, singer Jouni Nikula and guitarist Teemu Haninnen answer the summons and contact Ali "The Metallian" in order to introduce Requiem to the readers - 19.05.2002.
Teemu and Jouni, it is good to hear from you. Why don't you begin by giving us the traditional background story to Requiem. I suspect most readers would not be familiar with the band.
Teemu: I'll start. In the autumn of 1999 guitarist Arto Räisälä founded Requiem with several of his friends. They played melodic death metal with clean vocal parts. In late 1999 they recorded their first demo called Gods of War and played several gigs. In the spring of 2000 the line-up was changed as Jari Huttunen (drums) and I joined the band. Then we recorded our second demo Into the Night which had a more technical approach than Gods of War and had more keyboards and clean vocals. Then somewhere in the early autumn of 2000 Jouni Nikula joined the band as the new vocalist. We re-recorded the vocals on Into the Night and sent it everywhere we could. Sound Riot offered us a contract and we made a deal. We recorded our debut album entitled The Arrival and we're now doing interviews and promotional stuff.
Before proceeding further, are any band members currently involved in other bands? Were any band members previously in other bands?
Teemu: Our bassist Pasi Kauppinen and our keyboard player Henrik Bo-Kristian von Klingenbergh are involved in a band called Silent Voices. They play progressive metal in the Dream Theater vein. They recently released their debut album which is called Chapters of Tragedy. They are signed to the Finnish label Low Frequency Records.
Jouni: Before joining Requiem I played guitar and sang in a band called Mysterium. I joined Requiem after Mysterium broke up. At this moment I am doing the vocals in Finnish metal bands called Unitar and Altaria. They are both more 80`s-orientated heavy metal bands.
Speaking of heavy metal bands, given how there are several other Requiems on the metal scene, do you regret your moniker? Have you heard from the other Requiems?
Teemu: Well, we are the best one (laughs)! In fact, I haven't heard of any other Requiems, really!
There are several bands using the moniker with the German band being the better-known. Let me ask you, though, how did you find Sound Riot Records? How long were the negotiations?
Teemu: Sound Riot found us! We had not even heard of a label called Sound Riot ever before one day they mailed us requesting us to send them our demo. They were looking for a progressive or power metal band to sign and they were interested in Requiem. We sent our demo to Sound Riot and after only two weeks were offered a contract. The negotiations were not long and we changed only a few details in the contract. Unfortunately I can't speak of contract's terms because it must be kept secret!
How has the relationship developed so far?
Jouni: Everything has gone pretty well with Sound Riot. You know, they are still an underground label so, of course, there could be much more promotion and stuff like that. But it's always just a question of money. They are working hard to get us bigger distribution channels and licensing deals, so hopefully everything will start to work out well with our album!
OK, Let's get into the album. Why don't you two use your own words to describe and introduce it.
Teemu: The Arrival is an album full of power, melody and emotion! It could be described as "Yngwie Malmsteen gone progressive rock". (It offers) furious guitar playing, powerful drumming, massive orchestrations and intense vocals. If you are a fan of progressive or power metal, you surely will love this one!
Surely your music is not as accessible as that description depicts.
Jouni: The important aspect in our music is that even though we have many technical parts and impressive solos, we still feature catchy melodies and choruses in every song! As such, The Arrival is not too difficult to listen to.
If that's the case, what sets you apart from other bands? To begin with, is it necessary or important to be different from other groups?
Teemu: I think that the most important thing that sets us apart from other progressive/power metal bands is that while we play both technical and intelligent music, we still have the true heavy metal attitude. We have a lot of fury and brutality in our music - especially live. I think that Requiem will develop in the future to a more original style, but it takes time to grow as composers and players and to make decisions about where our musical direction is going.
That is true and speaks of your mature attitude. Still and for a debut, your album has much variety within it. Noting your classical music influence, would you say that some of the variety stems from this influence, or that you have simply adapted and played classical pieces within your songs?
Teemu: I have listened to classical music all of my life so it's an obvious influence. Not only influencing the melodies, but also the instrumentation, arrangements and dynamics. In the song Revival, for example, there are several riffs originally composed by Beethoven.
Fair enough and we will come back to the songs shortly. For now, please speak about the vocals. The singing is strong and several ranges and tones are used. Furthermore, on occasion there are two voices on one song. Is that a backing vocalist or merely the singer singing in different tones.
Teemu: There are several choir parts sung by me and Arto Räisälä, but all the lead vocals are sung by Jouni. Arto and I always write the vocal melodies for every song and during the recording sessions we encouraged Jouni to use different vocal styles. For example, in Revival and Liquid Hours there are aggressive vocal parts in verses that Jouni would never have sung like that without our advice, because Jouni is mainly a "clean vocals only" kind of a vocalist.
Is the album a concept story? Either way will you please explore the lyrics.
Jouni: No, the lyrics do not form a concept story. Each song has its own theme and feeling. For example, the song Revival is a song of irresponsibility and is filled with pure anger. I got the inspiration for its lyrics last summer when much of my belongings were stolen. We were celebrating the Finnish mid-summer festival called Juhannus with some of my friends and taking a little bit of alcohol (laughs) and just hanging around, you know. I left my belongings in my car, which was next to our tents. Sometime early in the morning when we returned to our camp I realized that my stereo, cellular phone, all the clothes and drinks were stolen. They had even taken my CD's, including the demo versions of Requiem's new album! It was the end of that party. I wrote the lyrics to Revival the very next day with an impulsive touch! I can say that a part of my anger and "vitutus", as we Finnish people might say, were directed into that song! Broken Alliance is more of a fantasy story of a town that has been lost in time and devastated by an ancient civil war. By the way, this song was first called Tower of Shadows and there were phrases in that song like "this land of ashes, broken glass before my eyes, etc." The name and most of the lyrics were changed after the W.T.C. tragedy. Masquerade is based on the novel Masque of the Red Dead by Edgar Allan Poe. I really think that this song has succeeded in capturing the dark and horrendous atmosphere that the novel. You can not escape death, no matter how hard you try to hide from the fragile reality into your castle of dreams. The true power metal piece The Invisible Touch got its inspiration from a close friend of mine. At the time (of my writing the song) she was having some strong depressing feelings and was worrying almost about everything... like a scapegoat. It's regarding a hypothetical situation where all the negative feelings were directed into a one person so that all others may live with peace of mind. So, as you can see, the inspirations come and go. You just have to pick the right ones and dress them with words. Who knows though, perhaps one day we will create a strong concept album.
Elsewhere, the album cover is a successful fantasy piece. Are you happy with it or feel it could have been better or different?
Teemu: It could have been less fantasy-oriented. I don't see Requiem as one of the fantasy metal bands, like Rhapsody for example. But it's ok, it looks fine and everyone but me seem to like it a lot.
Regarding Rhapsody, in fact most people don't see them as a metal band period! Speaking of which, have you considered abandoning the keyboards in favour of an all-guitar approach? It seems a cliche (especially a Finnish one) to have a keyboardist in the band.
Teemu : It would be interesting to write for guitar, bass, drums and vocals only. But keyboards bring more possibilities to the songwriting as opposed to using only the guitars. For example, you can create a lot of dynamics with the keyboards. You can add lots of strings to the chorus and so on, you know? It is certain that the keyboard parts will not be as dominant on our next album. The new songs I have written are more guitar-based than on The Arrival and the keyboards are more in the background.
What about my contention that, to an outside observer, it seems a Finnish trend to incorporate keyboards?
Jouni: Yes, we can say that it's a trend over here nowadays. Many popular metal bands have really strong keyboard parts, i.e. Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Children of Bodom, etc., in their production. I think it's pretty much the same thing with our album as well. As Teemu said though, in the future the role of keyboards in Requiem will be diminished. It will become a more natural and heavy atmosphere and sound in the songs. If you are using too many orchestrated elements the music may come to sound too clinical.
While on the topic of the country, why don't you take a moment to speak a little about Finland the country.
Teemu: Finland is a nice country to live in but the weather sucks! It's too cold in the winter. you know, when you're walking down the street in December during a real blizzard, it feels like an arctic inferno! I guess it's quite similar to Northern Canada. Another thing I don't like about Finland are the high taxes. Especially alcoholic drinks are very expensive because of the taxes. If you, for example, want to buy a bottle of vodka which would cost fifteen Euros, then 14 Euros from the price are taxes and go to the government.
Yet higher taxes are a sign of progression and conducive to betterment and the common good.
Jouni: Yes, of course. Our basic security in Finland is at a high level thanks to high taxes.
What about you guys personally? Which bands do you personally listen to or admire?
Teemu: I listen a lot to progressive, power metal stuff, classical music and sometimes some black, death or thrash metal. Nowadays I am listening to many of the Sound Riot Records bands like Nightside and Svartsyn. As for Canada, I know Rush and Annihilator! Dream Theater's vocalist James LaBrie is Canadian.
Jouni: Rush and James LaBrie of course! In fact, James LaBrie is one of my biggest influences, and when it comes to Rush, their new album is brilliant!
Here at Metallian Towers, the halls shimmer with older Rush only! Regardless, thank you for calling and let us conclude with your giving us the band's latest developments.
Jouni: In the summer we will play several festival gigs here in Finland. Furthermore, I can say that we have just been licensed to Japan's Soundholic Records and our album will be released over there on the 26th of June. We have recorded a bonus track for the Japanese version of the album. The new song is called Tomorrow's Dream and it is a very up-tempo and power metal tune. The Japanese really seem to love our music and we have had a lot of a great feedback from there! Hopefully we will be able to tour there someday!
Additionally, our song Broken Alliance will be featured on the CD-sampler to Powerplay magazine from UK. This is on the June issue and has a circulation of over 20 000 copies. Finally, we have already over two hours of new material for our second album. The songs are very melodic and perhaps a little bit heavier than before. We will hopefully get a very strong production for it. I think that if everything goes well we will fashion heavy metal history in our hands!
For further information on the band please either check the news section or visit http://www.requiem.kpnet.com.