Eurovision was a big moment for Blind Channel, the sextet from Oulu secured 6th place and cemented themselves in a line of successful rock and metal bands to have graced the Eurovision sphere. The rollercoaster did not stop there as they signed with Century Media, performed sold-out shows across Finland and are now planning on their first major European tour with many shows looking set to sell-out also.
Aptly dubbed 'Finnkin Park' (even though their 'Violent Pop' sound brings together a variety of rock and metal genres), Blind Channel released a music video for their latest single 'Balboa' (released back in August), echoing the core story of the Rocky films i.e. getting up and taking the fight head-on.
Blind Channel's Joel Hokka spoke to Global Metal Apocalypse about their journey since that evening in Rotterdam and how one of Finland's most successful musicians Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) came in touch with Joel about doing a special cover of 'Dark Side'.
Blind Channel gained overnight international success after the Eurovision 2021 finals, talk us through the emotions on that night. Additionally, what was it like signing with Century Media?
“Yep it happened pretty quickly with 'Dark Side' & the whole ESC thing. To be honest we didn’t expect that kind of success at all. We were thinking that if we hit the finals it’s already a win for us, and then we ended up in 6th place. But the real victory happened the day after when we saw that 'Dark Side' was #62 on the international Spotify global charts. I think we’ve been hyped up since that night until the last live shows of the summer ended last month. Century Media feels a great home for us. We want to be a massive alternative music outcome and CM / Sony has a great platform for us to be who we are without selling our souls!“
Your achievements have given bands not only in Oulu, but other Finnish cities too, hope that they can break out internationally. Thinking back to when you first started out, did you ever imagine you would be where you are at now?
“We always wanted to make it big internationally. There was no other choice. We were always looking up to Finnish exports like HIM, Children Of Bodom etc, and we thought if those guys can make it so can we! So yeah, we were pretty sure since the start!“
You released your new single / video 'Balboa' last month, first impressions are that the song is to do with the 'Rocky' film franchise, is this true? Either way what was the inspiration for 'Balboa'?
“Balboa is an anthem for the underdogs. It’s simply about getting up again and again. That’s how we’ve felt with our career for past 8 years. And yes, Rocky is the ultimate example of an underdog!“
Assuming 'Balboa' will be included on your forthcoming album (due out 2022), how far are you in the album creation process? When will the next single drop? Will this album be the darkest you've ever done?
“The album is right now in the hands of Dan Lancaster who will be mixing the whole thing next month. After that it will mastered in the US. The next single… hmmm…. maybe soon. The album itself will be the purest Blind Channel ever. We’ve gone through a lot while writing & recording this so there’s a LOT of stories to tell. Of course there’s always the darkness in our music. We come from the North. It’s in our DNA.“
Will the new album be released on vinyl? Will there be special, limited editions released? Maybe a mini-documentary of the band's rise from humble origins to international success?
“There will be many different forms of physical album. Vinyl's for sure for example! We’ve already documented a lot of stuff during 2021 but of course there’s a lot of things still to show for people so let’s see. Hopefully!“
Now you did a live duet with Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) on the song 'Dark Side', tell us how that came about? Could we see Blind Channel tour with The Rasmus in times to come?
“Lauri called me (Joel) and told me about the idea. I was blown away ‘cause Lauri is one of my childhood idols from early 2000’s and I really love The Rasmus. I really hope we can tour together ASAP! Maybe next year?“
Speaking of tours, you recently finished a string of dates across Finland, talk us through the logistics and emotions. Your next tour in early-2022 will be with Eskimo Callboy and fellow Finns One Morning Left; assuming you will be playing songs from the new album?
“The shows in Finland have been incredible. Thousands of people every night, pure insane adrenaline all the time. We played over 16 shows and had the best times of our life. The tour with Eskimo Callboy is something we really look forward to now. We will be playing brand new songs but also classics. Our set will be around 40 minutes per night so we need to be smart with the choices when it comes to songs!“
Regarding next year, are you looking to secure slots at festivals across Europe? Could we see Blind Channel at Download or Bloodstock in the UK?
“We’d LOVE to play some big European festivals but right now we don’t know about them yet. Only thing we know for now is that there will be MASSIVE festival slots in Finland for sure but Download, Rock Am Ring, Bloodstock, Reading etc. is always good for us!“
What plans do you have for the year ahead and into 2022 other than your tour supporting Eskimo Callboy?
“Album 4. Hell a lot of touring in EU / FIN (Hopefully US as well), new videos, cool TV things and tons of empty white wine bottles!“
Do you have any greetings and thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?.
“Greetings if you read this whole interview! We really respect that a lot, and also thank you for all the support. Without you (the people and the medias) we’d be nothing. See you at the shows!!“
With only a month to go before one of the biggest music competitions hits our screens, AWS from Hungary are raring to go to lay waste on the masses at this years Eurovision Song Contest which will be held in Lisbon following Portugal's win last year. It's not often a metal band gets put forward to represent their country, indeed the genre has only managed to secure one win - Lordi from Finland.
But following Lordi, a slew of metal bands emerged: Terasbetoni (Finland; following Lordi's win), Eldrine (Georgia), maNga (Turkey) and Adrian Lulgjuraj & Bledar Sejko (Albana), now it's Hungary's turn to put the volume up past thirteen and let the lads in AWS fly the flag for the metal music scene worldwide. GMA spoke to the lads who form this Post-Hardcore/Metalcore outfit about their trip through the national selection in 'A Dal', their home town, future plans and the meaning behind their chosen song.
See how AWS won 'A Dal' and began their journey to the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon below.
"We do hope there will be more metal at Eurovision from now on... it’s not as easy to consume as pop music for example.""
For those who do not know of AWS, can you give us a brief history of the band?
"Sure, we’re a five-piece band playing Modern Metal. We founded AWS back when we were in the same high school. We started with English lyrics (Fata Morgana album), but then switched to Hungarian (ÉGÉSFÖLD and Kint A Vízből albums). We’ve released three albums so far and we are working on the fourth one. We have toured Hungary many times and also played shows in Europe, for example we recently played a gig in London."
You chose the song 'Viszlát Nyár' to participate in the Hungarian preselection show 'A Dal' and subsequently won it, what does the song mean and were you surprised to win? What were emotions like on the night of the grand final?
"Of course we were surprised! We are a metal band that’s going to Eurovision (laughing). We were shocked at first but then we went to our favourite spot in town to celebrate with our friends. We were happy for our victory. Our song is about dealing with death. We think that in our culture we make things harder for ourselves by avoiding the topic of death carefully and sometimes forget about the fact that our time here is not infinite. Sometimes we forget to pay attention to the loved ones in our lives and we only realize these things when we lose them. If we could give more thought to the fact that we won’t be here forever, we could live a happier, fuller life and spend more time with the people and things that are important to us."
Will you be looking to do a tour before or after your Eurovision performance? Will 'Viszlát Nyár' be featured on a new album?
"Yes, for sure. Originally we wrote the song as a first single for our new album coming later this year. We will play a lot of festival gigs in the summer."
You play a mix of Post-Hardcore, Metalcore and Melodic Metal, do you feel metal music isn't well represented in Eurovision as much as it could be?
"We do hope there will be more metal at Eurovision from now on. Since this genre is quite heavy, full of strong emotions, it’s not as easy to consume as pop music for example."
Surely representing Hungary at the Eurovision Song Contest will be your biggest achievement; what made you enter 'A Dal' in the beginning?
"We didn’t think about the ESC in the beginning. We just wanted to show our music to a broader audience in Hungary. And we are going to Lisbon with the same goals: we are glad to have this opportunity and we would like to give our best shot to show people our music."
What did the judges say to your style of music during 'A Dal'? Has your song 'Viszlát Nyár' had any radio slots across Europe?
"Not yet, but there is an English version in the making, you might hear that soon! Not all the members of the jury were familiar with our style of music, but we received amazingly high from them in every round."
For those metalheads visiting your town of Budakeszi, what sights / attractions could you recommend seeing?
"You should check out our giant pines and our wildlife park with boars, bears and deer."
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
"We are sticking to our original pre-Eurovision plan: we are touring in Hungary and recording our fourth album. We are going to release it at the end of this year."
Finally what can Eurovision viewers and attendees expect from your performance?
"We can’t tell you too much about it in advance, but they can be sure to see a true AWS show full of power and pyro"
Being a female metal or rock musician over the course of history has always dragged up challenges and problems that otherwise might not be experienced by their male counterparts. Firstly the immoral and unforgiving stigma directed towards said musicians has always proved an issue, but it's one that has been been challenged head on through arguably a whole plethora of successful artists and bands.
From the likes of Siousxie & The Banshees to Annie Lennox, from Sabina Classen and Orianthi to Vanilla Ninja and arguably the most prolific all-female metal band, Girlschool. These are musicians who stood up to the male-dominated arena of rock and metal, stuck the middle finger up and alluded to the notion of 'who said girls can't rock or mosh?' As AC/DC once put it, 'for those about to rock, we salute you' and for the female rock / metal musicians and subsequent all-female bands, we do exactly that, we salute you. One of these bands is Conquer Divide, who are rampaging and setting the USA on fire with their own unrelenting and uncompromising style of Alternative Post-Hardcore / Metalcore.
Let's be honest, it does not matter who or what you are, as long as you are happy playing music then those who remark on it can stick their opinion where it should belong. As Tamara quite rightly put it when speaking to Blabbermouth, "We are all girls, and you cant hide that, but we want people to focus more on the quality of the music," (http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/all-female-metal-band-conquer-divide-to-release-debut-album-in-july/), so with that in mind we asked our own questions and Izzy (guitarist) duly decided to respond to them.
Will the ongoing debate about female musicians disappear or has it already seen the end? What about the youth of today, could Conquer Divide offer themselves as inspiration for female musicians (whatever style of music) to aspire to? Izzy believes they can (we do too):-
"No, I don't think it's something that will fade away easily. I mean its pretty common for our musicality to be undermined because we are girls, that's the sad reality. On the flip side being an "all girl band" in a male dominated industry has given us an edge to create something different and stand out from the crowd. We definitely want to have a positive impact on young girls and show them that there is always room for girls in metal, you just have to dedicate yourself to do it!"
It would seem logical that giving girls instruments would open doors for newer creativity and ideas, just like the Japanese Metal scene has recently experienced with the phenomenal yet completely unforeseeable rise of Babymetal; well they did go completely viral in a very short space of time, truth be told not many people knew of their existence outside of Japan. Here's hoping that more and more females worldwide grab hold of an instrument or harness some sort of musical skill and form a band, or at least join one. So what about their heritage? Well they do have members originally from the USA, the UK and Serbia and so did this work out for them? Well clearly it did!
"The concept for Conquer Divide was originally formed in Michigan, USA. However to complete the line up the band had to outsource to different areas. It's hard enough finding dedicated musicians to create bands, and when you're specifically trying to find female musicians that's even harder, so that's why naturally we are from different areas. We write music with each other via the internet! Yay technology!"
With their debut self-titled album already out, surely the chances of a tour to support it's release seemed likely, well actually this is not the case. See, Conquer Divide have done the opposite and toured prior to the album release in support of it as Izzy goes on to explain (as well as speaking about current endeavours):-
"We released our album last summer whilst we were on the 2015 All Stars tour, so I guess that was our album release tour! We just came off tour with Slaves, Capture The Crown, Myka Relocate, Outline In Color and currently we have no tours coming up. We are busy doing some writing but we would love to hit the road again soon!"
With the band essentially coming fresh off the block on the international stage, we asked Izzy if she could describe the album's sound without the ill-fated genre tagging, what track(s) are her favourites and why. Most musicians have a stand-out track and usually these take the form of a single or music video as a way to showcase the track(s) they're most proud of. Logically speaking differentiating your song styles offers you greater choice at electing a song you like the most, moreover it allows a plethora of fans from different style preferences to come to like the release in question. However Izzy offered some unique advice when it comes to their album, "We just would advise fans to listen to the album from start to finish to really get a taste of what we are about." before adding:-
"Our album is pretty varied, we have heavy songs like "Heavy Lies The Crown" and "Despicable You" which are more screaming / guitar orientated and then lighter songs like "Broken" and "What's Left Inside" which really focus on Kia's singing abilities. I honestly like all the songs on our album (I know I know, a cop out answer) but for different reasons, for example "Heavy Lies The Crown" has awesome riffs, which for me being a guitarist is fun, "Nightmares" has some sweet synth sections in it."
Creating music as a musician or band, or working in the music industry in one of many outlets such as PR or record labels, show promoters or engineers etc., can be a strenuous job sometimes and as a result it can take toll on your body to the extent you just want out, so to avoid this dilemma musicians often indulge in other interests and or hobbies to take a break from said profession(s). So what does Izzy like to do?
"We all have different hobbies which is pretty cool, I know Kristen really likes travelling because on tour we don't really get to "see" a lot. I still like jamming guitar outside of tour, I'm pretty into working out and I like snowboarding!
And obviously by travelling you are able to take your music with you and not just on tour. Naturally with the internet lending itself as a major driving force for globalization, bands are finding that their music is being picked up in the unlikeliest and remotest parts of the world unbeknownst to them. Even for GMA as a media outlet we see people from the likes of Greenland to French Polynesia take note in what we do, so we have to thank the internet for that. But what of Conquer Divide? Has Social Media aided them well, and what does Izzy think of it's darker side?
"We seem to have a lot of fans in South America which is pretty sweet, our album actually debuted in Japan as well and people seem to dig our music there too! We are actually hoping to tour Japan soon so that's super exciting. I feel social media has been nothing but positive for bands, but modern technology kind of killed CD sales which makes it harder to make a living from music... but as a musician you just have to go with the flow and constantly adapt to the changes."
And with changes in mind, could we see Conquer Divide's debut album take on the form of being released in vinyl format as it's unprecedented resurgence continues to grip tighter on music consumerism?
"We have talked about it yes, but we haven't got any solid plans for it because we are unsure how much demand we have for vinyl..... so if anyone is reading this and wants our album on vinyl let us know!!!"
So what plans alongside the potential for their self-titled debut album being released on vinyl is there and what greetings does Izzy want to send out?
"More tours (hopefully outside of the USA), writing an acoustic EP and getting stuck into writing our second album! I think I can speak for all the girls when I say we want to thank our team at Artery, our supportive family and friends and of course our awesome fans who inspire, motivate and have created a platform for us to live our dreams on."
Check out their lyric video for 'At War' by clicking the inserted video above this text.
Conquer Divide's self-titled debut album is out via Artery Recordings