BRHG will „HEAL“ our ears! (Interview)

Tomorrow Bloodred Hourglass (BRHG) from Mikkeli in Finland will release their third full-length album „Heal“. And as the band is spread all over the country – in terms of space – it did not work out for us to meet in person.

I tend to identify ‚new‘ bands by following the tracks of musicians from one of their bands to the next and so I had followed Lauri Silvoinen (bass) whom I met in January while touring with Wolfheart to BRHG. And this music hit a nerve in me. Damn, this ‘Valkyrie’ and ‘Castle Ashtray’ or ‘Where Sinners Crawl’ – I heard them and could not let go. I don’t like fast stuff – mostly. But that … Funny enough, the reason why I actually had checked out Lauri’s doing was his incredible fan management I experienced.

Soon the band announced the new album was about to be finished. The first album ‘Lifebound’ was released in 2012. Most of the songs were composed by Antti Nenonen (guitar). There was a series of EP release ahead of the powerful first album. The band’s first demo even dates back to 2006. Jarkko Koukonen (lyrics) writes most of the lyrics and played with Antti and Jose Moilainen (bass) together in „The Nocturn“. He also has stood in several times in Wolfheart for Lauri during this summer. Last not least the drummer is Jarkko Hyvönen. Despite from the position of the second guitarist, Lauri joined the band in 2013, there have been no changes in line up – and this for more than ten years. Remarkable. In 2015, the second album „Where the Oceans Burn“ showed an evolution in their style pretty much towards their first two singles „Quiet Complaint“ and „Last of Us“ from the forthcoming third album. The second album also contained the song that delivered a good deal of attention to the band: ‘Valkyrie’.

‘Valkyrie’ has been quite a success story for BRHG. What does this mean to you?

Lauri: “Valkyrie’ was the second single from our second album and showcased the musical direction we wanted to go, instead of more thrashy-hc-like sound we did with the debut ”Lifebound”. The video for ”Valkyrie” turned out really well and naturally, we are really happy that it started to spread more rapidly than anything BRHG had released before. „Valkyrie“ was one of the key songs of „Where the Oceans Burn“ and even though we are not talking like millions of views/listeners, it still took us back to the game because there was a bit too long silence after the first album ‘Lifebound’. At least too long for a relatively young band nowadays. If you want to stay out of the shadows you have to be doing something pretty much all the time.”

You did also quite some shows over the last year. I’d regard that and the success of ‘Valkyrie’ hints that the fan base is growing and the band is getting more noticed. How did you experience the last year or two years compared to the earlier band history?

Lauri: “Especially doing some festivals felt really good but that’s over a year ago. We didn’t do any festivals last summer because we wanted to get all the possible festival shows for the summer right after the release of our newest album. There were also some really good club shows, e.g. Helsinki has always treated us well. I also recall shows we did with “Turmion Kätilöt“ – big venues, big audiences, good times. What’s amazing is that there seems to be some really hardcore BRHG fans in Finland – guys and girls who drive insane lengths just to see us playing 45 minutes. You got to respect that.” I agree. All the more in times of declining record sales, loyal fans can’t be appreciated enough by the musicians. But then again, I am not that surprised. I mentioned the fan management before and I learned myself (from the reach of festival photos I posted) that explicitly the younger and more locally known bands apparently have very loyal and active fan communities.

I love the good old homepages that really provide information on the bands, their music and doing. And so I was truly happy to read all the background of the songs and lyrics. As lyrics often give only a limited set of puzzle pieces the bigger picture in the imagination of the reader/audience can easily go astray from the lyricist’s actual intension or association. So Jarkko’s explainations were very welcome and also made me even more curious to learn more of the band and ask: I like your homepage giving all the information on the songs. It seems to highlight how important it is for you that your lyrics are not only understood but comprehended. Wasn’t it easier then to come up with Finnish lyrics?

JARKKO K: “Thank you, its nice to hear there are still those who appreciate good old informative websites instead of only social media. As the lyrics goes, Finnish is one of the most retard-sounding languages known to our universe, so from the early days it has been clear it’s not gonna happen in our music in any form. I almost feel my brain works in English when I’m into this whole music thing. Song meanings are there because I like to think it’s all stitched together well enough both lyrically and arrangement-wise, so I want to highlight them over there for those who are interested.”

Oh, I am. So naturally the foundation of all, the creation of the actual music is a of great interest to me. Usually it takes some time and even trial and error turns before the creation processes within a band have a chance to settle. So could you describe a bit how the creation process of the ‘Heal’ album has changed compared to the first and second album?

Lauri: “The creation process was pretty much the same with ‘HEAL’ than with the previous ‘WtOb’: Our main composer, Antti, had recorded demo versions of something around 20 songs, and we chose collectively which ones to rehearse. A different thing this time was that we rehearsed all the chosen songs and made the last arrangements together in one intensive week. It’s because we don’t live near to each other anymore. In the past, we could to gather up to rehearse on a weekly basis.

Usually Antti’s demos are instrumentally quite ready and it’s more about minor details and seeing which songs seem to work when playing them.

And the process seems to be going like this at the very moment; we have already got plenty of new killer demos from Antti. So the casting of foundation for the fourth album is already going on in the background.”

Incredible. It seems the recent success has inspired the band to work even harder. I know from Lauri that he had a very busy time in day job and both bands during this summer’s festival season and all the more I wonder how they’ve made it to come up with the album, meaning being busy with post production stuff like vids and marketing and still start working on the next album already? Speaking of the new album, from what I can hear in the teaser the new album “Heal” is going to be stylistically closer to the second album than the first. No surprise. Still, could you describe the stylistic evolution of BRHG and if there were which external influences are reflected in the music and/or lyrics?

Jarkko K: “The variety of the influences has grown tremendously but I also think we have reached this level where you really don’t need to bow no-one. We have found our sound with the last record and this is where you continue more and more on your own strict vision in the creating process. There are of course bands and artists you listen to and you gain from but it’s subconscious if it ends up into our material. Like Lauri said before, we also got rid of certain elements and this also has been the key point to the evolution of our sound. It has made us more classy and I personally love it.”

Me too! And I agree, as far as the two already released songs reveal the coherent BRHG sound is there and it tells the band from the rest.

As far as I know the band members do not all live in or near Mikkeli. What does that mean for logistics, rehearsal and organising the band in general?

Lauri:I mentioned something about this before but yes, some of us live in different cities and some even abroad. The almighty world-wide web makes it easy to share songs and to be connected. Biggest change is rehearsing as a whole band. Nowadays we just have to plan rehearsals earlier and check our calendars more carefully. Naturally we don’t rehearse as often as we used to – and there are times we don’t rehearse at all. But its ok, none of us is a newcomer when it comes to doing this, so everyone just prepares for the shows and all during their own time. I have an idea of course, what he means and still I wonder how a tight playing works in the end. I have come to the notion that this is a result from knowing each other for quite some time and are used to play together with some routine.“

I think it is time to learn more of the individual members. In order to introduce the band I use questions to the individual band members concerning something beyond their instrumental/vocal part in the band. I know that these questions might be a bit difficult to answer. As most likely not all member can/will join the interview we can adjust that to the situation, of course, like use a written answer or if more than one of you will be present see if we can distribute those questions different. 

Jarkko (K), if you work on a song and you seem to clue to this one passage, your thoughts spinning around this passage again and again, but you’re not getting it done. Who is the one you ask to help (perhaps within the band) or what do you usually do to get out of the situation? “Well yea there have been situations where I’ve got stuck in some chapter of a song but in these cases I usually just leave it be. Move on to the next one or call it a day. As far as I recall, I’ve managed to get over all of them sooner or later without further assistance from anyone else. I feel it’s still my duty, it usually goes to the very last minute with the production, but that’s my way and it’s rewarding after all. I feel comfortable when it’s all in my hands. It can be a hell though. Sometimes a head-sized glass of red wine can also be a really great mind opener.” I smile on the image in my head…

Lauri, as you were the last to come: what was the hardest and what the easiest to find your niche in the band? “I’ve felt everything been going really smoothly from the beginning. I knew the guys before they asked me to join the band – and before they asked me I had sometimes thought to myself that it would be really cool to play with them. So, not much to complain here. Hardest thing was rehearsing the songs for the second album; I’ve guitarist background in metal music but there was a period when I only played pop and rock cover songs for a couple of years before BRHG. I had to do a lot of work to get on top of some of the songs. Also one new element I think I’ve been able to bring to BRHG is those melodic screams/backing vocals which weren’t on the first album.” Agreed and this part adds much more than only one vocal track. It is a tool the band uses efficiently to achieve more depth and emotional variety.

Jose, what is your driving momentum in making music as a bass player? “Hanging out with these guys is always a lot of fun but for me the thing has always been playing live shows. That’s when I really feel alive.” I have heard and read this a couple of times before and each time I try to imagine what is like. You go on stage while still it is dark and when the light’s are switched on you find yourself in the core focus of attention of all those people who have come to see you play! For you! Amazing, overwhelming, addictive.

Antti, do you express yourself more by composing songs or by playing them live on stage? “Playing live gives you a lot of energy and it is pretty damn fun activity to do but I do express myself better when I compose songs. Although, I have to say that I don’t process my composing that much. I just pick up my guitar and go with the flow. Usually it turns out great that way.” It does!

And Jarkko (H), what was your hardest moment in making music? “The hardest part nowadays for me in our process of making music is, that I don’t like compromises. I admire our songwriter Nenonen: he is definitely one of the most talented musicians around and his strength has always been in writing whole, complete songs. But it has also raised the bar today quite high and then caused some conflicts as, for example, I tend to manifest my opinions pretty straightforward. But what truly counts is the end result and to get results you sometimes have to be, so to say, a fucker.” I love the fact that the musicians I have interviewed so far have rarely cared for too much diplomacy rather than stating clearly, openly and very much straightforward what they think. Thank you all. Thank you Jarkko for being straightforward!

What are the near-future plans of BRHG? Will we see you tour to present ‘Heal’ and if so where?

Lauri: “Yes, touring is the first plan after the release. A ten show album release tour in Finland with bands like “Harakiri for the Sky” and “Whispered” is already public information. And as mentioned earlier, we are strongly focusing to hit as many good festival stages this summer as possible. Were are also really aiming to play outside Finland in support of the album and there’s more than one thing already under discussion.”

Finally: if you read (one of) my other interview(s) you will have noticed that they usually end in an odd question or even more than one of those. As replying on those is most authentic if you cant think to long on them, I would decide which to ask only during the actual interview. 

Lauri: “If that’s the case we would like to thank you for the interview and wrap this up with a question for you! Two first singles ‘Quiet Complaint’ and ‘The Last of Us’ are out there already – what do you think?!?”

I am very happy to reply!

When I heard ‘Quiet Complaint’ for the first time, I fell in love with the song – immediately. What did I hope to get before listening? ‘Where the Oceans Burn’ is full of passion, aggression, speed and strong riffs never leaving you bored but always touched. Usually I don’t cope too well with whatever exceeds mid-tempo. So Thrash and HC are mostly beyond my liking. No offense! But then BRHG’s mix of catchy riffs and strong tunes full of variety and meaningful lyrics made their way into my core. Just like in ‘Valkyrie’ I hear and feel pain and disappointment in ‘Quiet Complaint’. Both new songs make a coherent beginning for the forthcoming ‘Heal’ album and continue the development as from ‘Lifebound’ to ‘Where the Oceans Burn’.

‘Last of us’ as well as ‘Quiet Complaint’ make use of the revolving harsh vocals of Jarkko and Lauri. It is statement and reply used as a repetitive tool in both of the songs, adding depth and momentum to the lyrical context.

The dark and tragically storyline of ‘Last of us’ is announced and highlighted or simply perfectly supported by the instrumentals – arrangements and tunes. You can feel the horror approaching as the approaching of the apocalyptic lyric scenario is reflected in the instrumental intro. Coherence at its best! I feel panic and horror in the quicker passages in the mid parts of the song. …

Although I find ‘Quiet Complaint’ a bit easier to access, ‘Last of us’ is the more impressive song to me, while I frankly admit, the difference is hardly to be measured at all.

Thank you guys and all the best – I can’t wait to hear the remaining songs and even less to see you play live! See you at Metal Crane Festival so your loyal fan base is not limited to Finland! Let’s have a beer on this together at Nosturi!

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BRHG will „HEAL“ our ears! (Interview)

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- "It has always been this way!" - I heard this phrase too often and it became the best reason for me to make it (whatever it is) my own way.

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