Finland, the country known for saunas, salmiakki and Eurovision success. Speaking of Eurovision , Finland won for the very first time with Lordi who are a Hard Rock / Heavy Metal band, key words 'Heavy Metal'... Finland is awash with bands embracing it's power, infectiousness, atmosphere and of course it's ability to unite metalheads worldwide irrespective of cultural, religious and political differences.
Here we have Asylum 8, a six-piece metal machine who are set on dropping their debut album 'Repressed' this year with a new meaning to 'Modern Metal', that is mixing Melodic Death Metal with EDM... yes you read that right, EDM or if you prefer it's full name Electronic Dance Music. So the question is, will Asylum 8 fall into their own category and become pioneers of a new metal genre, or will they be laughed off for not being 'metal' or 'true' enough to metal itself as some elitists put it. GMA spoke to guitarist Anssi K, synth orchestrator Sami P and vocalist Henry H about their origins as a band, why they opted for a mash-up of EDM and Melodic Death Metal, the state of the Finnish Metal scene and their signing with Inverse Records.
"Most of our songs are today based on synths rather than guitars. That may not be the most traditional way of making modern metal, but we've come to like that, and it has worked well for us."
Could you give us a brief history of Asylum 8, has there been any challenges that were tough to overcome?
"We started in 2013. Henry and Sami P and myself knew each other from earlier projects already. We've had many changes in our line-up to be honest, and that was a big problem at the time. We almost quit entirely at one point because we could not seem to find a drummer. Luckily Pasi contacted us and he turned out to be a kick-ass drummer. We are extremely happy to have him aboard. That was sometime around late summer of 2015, when we actually had just one guitar player and Sami H was still on bass. Tatu took over bass duties at the end of 2015 and Sami H moved to become our second guitarist. That's how our current line-up was formed, and now it seems we have the right guys on all spots."
Would you consider yourself Modern Metal or Electro-Death Metal? Do you feel there are too many sub-genres in metal nowadays?
"I'd like to describe Asylum 8 as Modern Metal. That gives a broad description of our style, but doesn't give too much accurate information. There are definitely too many sub-genres in metal nowadays; I don't like categorizing music too much. While labelling bands according to different genres to some extent is a good way for people to discover new music they might like, I'd rather encourage people to listen to the music and not put too much value on any genre just for the sake of it. "If you like Modern Death Metal, you might like this" vs. "Check out this awesome regressive vegan grind-porngore band". Defining a genre too tightly will force the listener to have too many expectations about what the band will sound like. It kills the element of surprise and the joy of discovery and only enhances stereotypes."
"I've always hated narrow-minded categorizing and making up all kinds of sub-sub-subgenres, but now I seriously need the regressive vegan grind-porngore in my life. Thx Anssi!"
"I don't want to categorize our band in any genre. I would love to hear people think that Asylum 8's genre would be Asylum 8, but there are definitely too many of these "rock cops" who stand in the live crowd hands crossed, chin up and judge the band by it's genre in a way like: "That band sounds like The Bee Gees, but there are too many growling vocals so this is unpure bullshit!""
What is the current state of the Finnish metal scene, is it as popular as it has been?
"There's a huge amount of good bands and incredibly talented musicians out there, but the problem is just that. There's so much to choose from, and venues are swamped with artist requests particularly in the metal genre. Today when the overall popularity of metal has gone down from the early 2000's glory days, every new band has to make extra effort just to get noticed. Just playing tight and making good songs might sadly not be enough nowadays. "
How does it feel being signed to Inverse Records, who arguably are sweet at bringing up fresh Finnish talent?
"We were really surprised and happy that we got contacted though we didn't even send any demos to them. Joni has been a great help and motivator throughout the publishing process, and we have a good feeling about the album release."
Your debut album 'Repressed' is due soon for release, talk us through the making of the album - production, writing, inspiration, etc.
Sami P: (about songwriting)
"Writing Asylum 8 songs is all about the mental state. I cannot simply write songs if I don't feel anything mentally. All of the tracks on "Repressed" are very personal to me and when I listen to them afterwards I can feel the agony and pain in those tunes. Six tracks on "Repressed " (excluding 'Acceptance' which was mainly composed by Sami H) came together pretty fast. I made the core of the song with synths and then we started to put guitars and bass together with Anssi and Sami. Then Pasi his drum parts for the song with those insane blast beats and last but not least Henry floods his words of misery to those tunes and voila! When I'm composing metal songs I mainly listen to something like Michael Jackson, 2 Pac, Skrillex, Synth wave etc. I listen to everything else except metal! That is the way I get my inspiration."
Henry: (about lyrics and themes)
"I never really wanted to make up stories and fantasies or battle against corruption in Asylum 8's lyrics, I'll leave that stuff for other projects. Not really sure how I can describe the text I write without making it sound too emo, but in all honesty the lyrical theme of all I've written for Asylum 8 has always been about the hardships of life on a personal level. Battle against fears and mental distress. Songs featured on "Repressed" contain stories that all spring from anxiety, depression, neglect, fear of death and such."
Anssi: (about recording)
"We recorded the album on such a quite loose schedule. Most of the recording was done by ourselves (guitars, bass, synths and vocals). Drums were recorded at Studio 33 in Kuopio. Majority of the technical side of the production went smoothly, but there were a couple of setbacks, since one of our recording hard drives broke, and the guitar track files were corrupted once. Nothing major luckily, and we managed to stay on set publishing times for the single 'Deliverance' and the entire album as well. The album was mixed and mastered by Veli Pekka Kuronen in Kuopio."
Regarding your music video and single 'Thanatophobia' - was it always the vision to mix EDM with Melodic Death Metal?
"When we first started, we had some songs ready, that were more on the traditional melodic death side of things. Sami P brought some cool EDM elements to our songs, and we figured that it could be brought a bit farther. We joked about our music being called 'progressive night club metal'. Most of our songs are today based on synths rather than guitars like they were before. That may not be the most traditional way of making modern metal music, but we've come to like that, and it has worked well for us."
"When Asylum 8 was at it's weakest point, when Henry, Anssi and me were wondering should we go on or end the journey of A8 in late 2015, we decided to give it one last push. At that point everything had to change in our music. We wanted more action, different stuff and new elements incorporated to our music. We even thought that there should be something like "dubstep" in our metal songs, like there is in "Deliverance". 'Thanatophobia' on other hand came up when we were at a rehearsal somewhere around 2014-2015 and I was playing something randomly between our live set songs. Then I had the main melody playing in my head and instantly I went home and started composing that song. It wouldn't sound as it sounds now without other band members. We produce and arrange all our songs together for them to become masterpieces!"
What plans have you got for the rest of the year, leading into 2018?
"We're looking for a booking agent, since that would free us up a lot of time to focus on rehearsing and writing. At the moment we're selling our shows ourselves (mainly contacting Finnish venues for Q4 2017 and Q1 2018) We're also applying for any showcases possible (Tallinn Music Week for example). There's been some talk to start writing new material at some point, but that we'll look into a bit later."
Finally have you got any greetings you wish to send out?
"Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Do you what you love and be proud of it! "
Henry: "I like turtles."
"People think they have heard it all? Oh no no no, we haven't even started! Keep banging your heads till the end of times!"
Asylum 8's new single 'Deliverance' is out now / ‘Repressed’ is out 10th Nov via Inverse Records.