lauantai 27. syyskuuta 2014

perjantai 1. elokuuta 2014

Crowdsourcing for inspiration.

How coincidental. Yesterday I got an angry email from a certain person working with a certain band I´m involved in, stating basically that "what the fuck is taking so long with your new album, you´re ruining all the future plans here". I tried to reason him with the very fact that we thought the music we had done earlier for the new album didn´t match the standards we have set on this band, and thus it has taken a bit longer to find the proper approach.

 Or, to quote myself straight away-
"...we´ve been basically working on this album "for real" since early April. Everything done before that has been ditched, as we have now found the approach we are heading towards."

As I´ve been telling the people- be it the record label, manager, or you the reader out there- Yes, there has been some serious problems with finding the inspiration for the right approach (see the entry from last year) but in early April I made something that felt like curtains had been drawn off my eyes. And when Marko had the same approach on one of his new songs, we knew exactly what is our plan for the music. And since April, we´ve been working on that direction very heavily, sporting 3-4 new "quarters of a song" already.

So it was about the creative process being blocked, which we managed finally to overcome. Nothing extraordinary, nothing unusual, albeit a bit too long period which I can admit. But for some people, things are not that easy. You could also get drown into a swirl of neverending perfectionism and blame the lack of even better equipment for being the sole reason why the album isn´t on Time.

Which, I both get and don´t get at all.

I´ve been doing albums since 2002 with a computer- based setup, and when I started I had only a hint about studio technology and mixing. My demos back then were sounding like shit, but at least we could try different things and hear the music "in action" before going to the expensive studio to make it properly. During the years the demos got better and even more polished/ well- thought until at some point we reached the stage when we only started to enter the studio to just "perform" them as a band- but with some additional ideas, tweakings and inspirations come flying by. All the demos were done twice- first the mockup for the basic ideas and the arrangement, and then the latter and final version would be extremely close what you´d hear when the album is released. Yet, the equipment used for both is basically the same- things are just done a bit differently. In the final demo, e.g. all acoustic instruments are real, the sound is mixed more closer to the direction we wish to achieve in the studio and there are all sorts of small tricks and hooks added to the cake.

When I start composing, the gear I use at home is quite modest- not because I don´t necessarily have the better stuff available, but because I try to keep everything very simple and non- distracting while I create something. If it gets the work done it is enough, is my principle. Musicians should never surround themselves with fancy equipment in the creative process, because those things have pretty much zero input to the actual creation of the music. Just like most of the film and game composers use a fucking PIANO ONLY to get the composing process rolling, we shouldn´t be needing a noise- isolated mixing rooms for trying out ideas or a fucking stack of guitar amps and microphones for cranking some riffs on tape. When has it come to this that the musicians need a goddamn € 100,000 studio equipment for composing and creating music? When the second phase, a.k.a "the proper demo" comes to picture, I start to experiment more and actually bother even to use a pre- amp and channel strip for the microphones. But it´s still far for perfection...and will always be. Imperfection and the human element is what makes music what it is. Just ask Glenn Fricker if you don´t believe me!

I have the fortunate chance of living in a house now instead of flat, where I have one room for my equipment and can technically make as much noise as I will without interfering the neighbours. But before last year, I was living in a place where I had no musical equipment available at all. Yet, I somehow managed to do quite many albums. since 2006 I have recorded and mixed all the proper demos (read "polished/studio quality") at my workplace on evenings and weekends, where I could scream my lungs out and play acoustic guitars as much as I wanted. Sure, the air conditioning sometimes hummed. And sometimes someone else was making coffee in the next room, which uhm...spilled to my takes. But I didn´t give a fuck. I even did some extra album instrument recordings there, because in the music I make, certain small badness just adds to the blend just fine. :D
Of course, if you´re making a new Sting- album, you probably wouldn´t like to do that then. Or, a Wintersun album on that matter. So I do get the point that music needing the perfect production cannot be produced in sub- par conditions. But in all seriousness, the line should be drawn somewhere.

If the guitar sound in the studio takes me weeks to get, I´m doing it wrong. If my € 8000 computer cannot handle orchestral samples, I´m doing it wrong. And if I need months for mixing, I´m definitely doing it wrong. Just as a reference point, Bohemian Rhapsody was done with a 16- tracker. While I agree we shouldn´t go back to those days, I am a sole advocate of "instead of the boring option which is anyway out of your reach right now, try something creative instead".
We need to KNOW WHAT WE WANT, or we´ll never get anything finished. Period. A producer must have a clear vision in the studio, a vision which has been tested out earlier in less expensive and stressful conditions. The studio is a place where you´re supposed to go to finish the product, not to create it. And when you run into problems, you overcome them. You shake your fist at God, defying the Almighty and fucking NAIL IT. You might also lose your sleep in the process and cause a lot of quarrels, but you´ll sort it out. At least I cannot remember a single session where we had to give up doing something we really, really needed because of technical limitations. When there´s a will, there´s always a way. And the answer is not always about buying your way out of it.

In this mess of technology, money, record labels and expectations people are sometimes dreadfully forgetting what is the key element to music that stands against Time and dust of forgetfulness. It´s good music, simple as that.

And nothing can ever replace good music.

perjantai 13. kesäkuuta 2014

The Zen (of Social Media)

I have to confess something. Though I´m one of those people who have deliberately tried his best to chain technology to work for me instead of holding me on it´s grips, I have a bad habit of using my tablet for reading news and books after I´ve gone to bed. As I´m fully aware that too much of that light is quite inevitably fucking up your hormone system -and your sleep in the process- I´m using the screen in the dimmest setting possible and have dark background for the apps I use for all reading. However, there´s one thing I won´t do with it in the bed- and actually pretty much nowhere, and it´s called interacting. That´s something I do with my wife instead.

At some point, thanks to mobile internet and social media, we privileged folks with smartphones and whatnot have developed a very bad and stressful habit of being always reachable by anyone at any time. Due to the endless need for the human brain to be liked and accepted, we crave for thumbs, retweets and attention like our lives depended on those. We crank up the volumes of our communication devices so loud it´s humanly possible to not to miss a mention in Twitter or getting notified of that random instahorribilized and color- distorted picture of Jimmy´s feet on a beach. But is our life so meaningless without the social media we couldn´t shut it down for certain periods? Do we need to get constantly reminded of John´s birthday or Anna´s vegan food party at her neighbourhood, 150 kilometers from your home (where you´re not going anyway)? The social media- as useful as it can be at it´s best - can also be quite a burden for people who cannot separate their time online from their time offline. A research shows how much it can distract you from your work and productivity instead of being a "break" (like it should)- and I don´t personally see any difference between work or home for what it comes to getting distracted per se. To put it straight, if it distracts you at work, it most likely is doing it at your home as well.

During regular workday I´m taking care of emails and also interact with people in Facebook, Twitter and this little blog every once in a while when I have time and energy for it. After the computer is shut down, there´s a fat chance you won´t hear from me until the next day or the day after that. I have email in my phone and tablet for emergencies, but they are set not to fetch anything automatically. I have no social media installed on any of my portable devices, and am basically unreachable from the point I leave the office for anyone who doesn´t have my phone number. In this time and age, we could probably find anyone at any time we could interact with, so I just choose to opt out from that because I already have three other people at home to do that with me. With the possibilities social media and technology bring us, I still choose them to serve me and not being their humble henchman instead.

Another thing why I´m not so keen on being available at any time for anyone is privacy. Being the tin foil- helmeted warrior that I am, I´m extremely anal on my privacy everywhere in the internet (and quite frankly- you should too) and am not very fond of spreading my personal life around any more that I choose. In the social media, my Facebook- account is only meant for friends I know personally and for interacting with people who do not belong to that particular group I use Twitter and this blog instead. Even though I´m quite far away from being a "public figure", I still get a lot of friend requests from people who like my music, but I just don´t wish to share my personal, boring life with just anyone in the world. So I use these other abovementioned channels for that instead.
For me, accepting a random Facebook- friend request is the equivalent of giving my phone number and home address to anyone. It´s already a tough battle fighting the corporations stealing your data and selling it to advertisers, so I choose to not make it even tougher by handing my private information and life to everyone on a golden plate.

But please don´t get me wrong- though being the raging self- proclaimed elitist misanthrope that I am, there´s still a soft spot (pun intended) in me which likes to interact with people. Otherwise there wouldn´t be much point writing this, don´t you think? It´s just that when I opt out from the interactive flood, I opt out. I sign out, clear my cookies and close the browser.

Well....ok, I´ll just quickly check out Twitter before that. Hush!

torstai 29. toukokuuta 2014

MetalSucks - The Director´s Cut

This text was published at as a part of their "Idol Listening"- section. As it was only concerning the albums found from the upcoming Moonsorrow vinyl box set, the last chapter- concerning Varjoina...- album and the future, was left out. So, for those who are interested, here is the whole story in it´s whole bori...uhm, epicness. If you´ve already read it, skip to the last part straight away, as the rest of the text is completely identical with the already- published version.

a.k.a “how we managed to steal everything and never got caught”
Written by Henri Sorvali 2014

Andi Fara/ Prologr”
This story begins in a boring suburbs of Helsinki, Finland, in summer 1995 at my parent´s garage.
When we weren´t tape- trading together like hell and hanging at the record stores with my cousin Ville, we spent our time doing project- esque rehearsal demos with my four- tracker at that garage. And among others, there was something called Monhzur.

1995- 1998 : The early years.
Our feeble, partly Finnish- sung attempt to rip off Burzum (sic!) recorded half of a demo, which we found not good enough to even finish (especially because of the cheap drum machine we used at the time) and left us quite a load of ideas and riffs for future use. After the halted demo recordings, we still wanted to do black metal, so it evolved into something we called as "Sorrowwoods". I remember us being quite influenced by Carpathian Forest, Bethlehem, Emperor and Celtic Frost at the time and blended it all together badly, resulting in "Thorns of Ice", which was recorded in different takes during the year 1996. Shortly after making the demo covers, we thought Sorrowwoods was a rather bad name for a band and thought we could use "Moonsorrow" instead, (being a song from Monhzur, actually) and thus the name you nowadays recognize better was used instead.
In early 1997, being heavily inspired at the time by Enslaved´s debut and the last Behemoth demo, we started creating a proper demo instead of using different takes and recordings, resulting into "Metsä". Originally called "Thrymgjöll" but changed in the last minute, we were proud of the result and this time we actually thought this could be worthy to release to other people as well. I guess it´s also safe to confess now that as we didn´t have any "medieval battle"- samples available for our intro nor we had the possibility to record them straight from Conan The Barbarian like they did, we actually took them straight out from Demoniac´s "Prepare for War"- album. Recycling at it´s best!
When I finally got a real sequencer and recording facilities in 1998, we thought only the sky would be the limit. Tämä Ikuinen Talvi was something that had to be done in order to realize that it wasn´t the musical direction we wanted to go after all...but the visual, almost theatrical audio was definitely there to stay, though! Both Enslaved´s “Eld” (obviously) and Emperor´s “Anthems” were a huge influence to us, especially the latter with all the synthwork, and there are traces of Immortal, old Dimmu Borgir and tons of Obtained Enslavement (especially in the last song) scattered everywhere. The demo earned us our first record deal, but before it was even released to the public, we had already dwelled into more slower, heavier- and most of all- folkier sounds, which would be known more as of our style in the following 15 years.

1999- 2003: Slowing down a bit.
Less than two months after the release of the last demo, we were already rehearsing our first full- lenght album with Marko- the strongest influence being Bathory´s “Blood on Ice”, which had completely blown our minds earlier. Combined with a dose of Hades´ “Dawn of the Dying Sun”, Borknagar´s debut, Thyrfing´s “Valdr Galga” and Einherjer´s “Odin Owns Ye All”, we felt we had found our spiritual and musical home. One can still find traces of Enslaved and Ulver scattered every here and there, but the "Finland´s answer to Bathory" was probably the most used term for our debut album.
We continued the path onwards and Marko participated on composing for the first time with us on the next album, “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta”. The creation of the new material already begun a couple of months after the recordings of our debut album, and while we were still influenced by the abovementioned albums -Bathory being even stronger influence than ever- this time we brought even more folk music to the package. I was listening a lot of Scandinavian folk at the time (Garmarna, Annbjørg Lien, Hedningarna and Nordman (!!!) being my favourites), and picked a ton of influences from there, while Marko also brought in some ideas from 70´s proggressive rock for the first time. We also listened a lot of punk and vikingarock while drinking together, and brought some ideas from there too- especially in the song "Kylän Päässä".
The natural evolvement of our sound and tendency for dramatic pompousness led to creating the massive opus "Kivenkantaja", which was the first album we had the artistic courage to blend in any kind of elements we had previously thought not to fit our music. Like Marko, I also have a history with progressive rock, so we listened a lot of old prog vinyls (Rick Wakeman´s “King Arthur” being the most influential record for us at the time due to the historical themes it sported as well) and experimented with all sorts of instruments we could think of. We felt we combined every single musical influence we had ever had in our lives, resulting in a rather interesting blend of metal, folk and progressive music. Jumalten Kaupunki was very much inspired by Bal- Sagoth, and Kivenkantaja bows heavily to Windir, who we all loved. The sampled vocals in the beginning of Tuulen Tytär were taken from a Mari Boine- album, and even though I don´t like Pink Floyd, I had to borrow some influence from them to the ending of Raunioilla with the guitars. (And as you probably know, that sure wasn´t the only one “being inspired by” - part done with that song, hah!)
But when everything is done, topped, creamed and are you supposed to do it even better? With Kivenkantaja, we felt we had painted ourselves into a corner and there would be no way to make another, even more epic and over - the- top Kivenkantaja #2.
So we decided to BLOW THE FUCK OUT THAT CORNER instead.

2004- 2008: Speeding up again.
When me and Ville gathered for the first time to think what would we want to do with the next album, we both agreed to wave goodbye to the overproduced epicness and concentrate more on moss, woods and more "traditional" production. The first song which was completed was “Jotunheim”, and it had a completely different, Kivenkantaja- sounding music in the middle of it at the time. After having started with “Karhunkynsi” and turning it into the enslavedesque it became, I quickly went back to Jotunheim to realize it needs more of that "traditional approach" as well, which was the turning point for the whole sound to become. Soon we were basically inhaling our records shelves like crazy, being heavily inspired by pre- 2000´s era Satyricon, Enslaved, Burzum ...and many other less pompous Norwegian bands who were a big influence for us in the beginning. When the recordings were finished, we were sure no- one would like the album but us. To this day, still I consider Verisäkeet having the best atmosphere from any of our records thus far.
Picking up from where Jotunheim was left, we continued working with Hävitetty in spring 2006. As a band of eternal opposites and controversy, it was pretty natural move to make a way slower album after a rather fast one. During the time we composed and recorded the album I was also having the worst period of my personal life ever, which reflected quite much on the musical side and production as well. I was listening to tons of Cold Meat Industry bands (In Slaughter Natives and Puissance in particular), but held Drudkh, Esoteric and the debut albums from Katatonia and In The Woods extremely inspiring at the time. For what it comes to the biggest influences, though, I can safely say that without “Forgotten Legends”, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Disintegration” (The Cure) we would had probably sounded way different. My purpose musically was to create a web of music where tones and timbres tangle into each other, forming into a tightening and suffocating grip resembling of drowning, depicting how I felt at the time. I still cannot listen to Hävitetty due to the memories it brings me from the time it was recorded, and consider the album being the most personal I have ever done in my life.
In 1992, there was Conquest of Paradise. Twelve years later, there was Arns Rike. And as I couldn´t wait my turn to rip Vangelis off at 2018, we did Tulimyrsky already in 2008 to break the tradition. The composing of the song started with Marko´s main riff (4:50 onwards) and ended up being probably something Jethro Tull or Yes could had sounded like if they played Enslaved- inspired black metal. The song was probably our most technical entity thus far, it´s structure and arrangements resembling more of a progressive rock song from the 70´s or classical music rather than straightforward Bathory- rip- off. While we had implemented quite much sound effects to our music earlier, Tulimyrsky also took that to completely into another dimension and featured even acting and foley sounds behind the music. (The tradition which kept continuing in “Varjoina”- album later). We were doing the album at our friend´s studio with no strict schedules, so we had time to test ideas, drink beer and have fun as well instead of extremely organized working we were used to do under pressure. While we make extremely visual, dramatic and pompous music on purpose with absolutely no irony on it, we often tend to hide some musical "tributes" here and there for our own amusement. And as usual, all sorts of them were also present this time. Vocal delays done purposedly out of time in the true Norwegian tradition, some parts sounding so much like old Amorphis that we actually asked our friend Tomi Koivusaari to grunt on top of them, and in one riff the vocal arrangement was mimicking Ulver´s "Soelen Gaaer Bag Aase Ned" as closely as possible. The best thing for myself, however, was to actually have a chance to finally hide a Wilhelm scream to the part where the ships were attacking, haha!

2009 onwards: The heavier combination of everything above.
Dust settling and firestorms slowly extinguishing in early 2010, I wasn´t totally satisfied with Tulimyrsky as a composer. I felt it had way too many parts and sometimes stumbled into it´s own technicality. As a personal statement, I wanted to open the next album with something slow, crushing and celticfrosty, resulting into the first minutes of "Tähdetön". We were completely sick of post- black metal (spit!) bands popping out of everywhere and wanted to make a clear distinction on them as well, and thought it had the perfect start for the album. And as the whole concept and tracklist was written before the composing started (!), we ended up creating all the songs in the order they were intended to be, in where the first chords of Tähdetön served us as a great starting point from where to continue onwards. We took inspiration from other stuff as usuall- from the metal side I listened a lot of albums like Thyrfing´s “Hels Vite”, Melechesh´s “Emissaries" and Raate´s “Sielu, Linna” to name a few, and you can spot traces from Gentle Giant, Paul Simon (!!) among other weird influences. And believe it or not- 1800´s traditional Scandinavian funeral music (played with pedal harmonium and other folk instruments, which I unfortunately couldn´t find from Youtube, so this was the closest reference I could dig up and has nothing to do with folk music in particular) was a huge source of inspiration throughout the process, which can be mostly heard in especially in “Kuolleiden Maa”. Perhaps the most influential record during the arrangement- process, however, was the stunning debut album of Triptykon, which inspired us to take heavy (pun intended) advantage on guitar department- adding quite a lot of feedbacking and very bottom string- structured playing to our music besides our usual string arrangements. Which, I believe, will also play a huge part in our upcoming album we are working with as we speak.

Epilog/ Slaget”
As a music fan first and then a musician, I have never found any shame on giving credit to the artists who have inspired me in my own art. Without the abovementioned artists, albums and songs Moonsorrow wouldn´t probably existed in the first place and I´d like to express my sincere gratitude towards all the people behind my inspiration and influences. Hopefully this wall of text has shed a bit light on the creation of Moonsorrow´s sound throughout the years, and I thank you for actually reading this far. We´re currently in the process of composing our new album, which is scheduled to be recorded at end of 2014 if everything goes as planned. Expect to hear traces of everything listed here with a ton of new elements and other nasty tricks up our sleeve.
Henri Urponpoika Sorvali, Moonsorrow.

perjantai 23. toukokuuta 2014

Elvis has just left the building.

Okey, I kid you. It wasn´t Elvis, but mr. Beast Dominator instead. Who, as you probably know, quit Finntroll a couple of weeks ago. As a band who isn´t keen on using the traditional communication- methods, I wrote a little story instead of a boring statement about someone leaving the band. It´s a story about friendship, meat and trolls- and may it also serve as my personal tribute to the past 15 years I´ve enjoyed (and sometimes hated, as it always goes, haha) with Mr. Beasty.

(The story was originally published in our Facebook- page, yet I decided to also include it here. If you have read it already, you may as well go now and surf Kotaku instead, which contains so much more awesomeness compared to this page.)

perjantai 4. huhtikuuta 2014

Is this metal band awful?




Recently I stumbled across a very interesting blog- entity run by a group of American “folk metal heads”, who have an uncontrollable urge to spread people the gospel of Righteousness. And the more I read it, the more I started to think that when the purpose of the blog was "listing all the dangerously stupid people in the metal scene" they, sadly, forgot the mention themselves. While I´m not an expert on labeling and judging things on their outlooks, I´m pretty sure these peeps are. At least the clear- sighted knowledge on the matters shine through their articles like a beam of light into a dark, wartime bunker. And today, ladies, gentlemen and all-those-who-wish-not-be-labeled-into-anything-because-it-might-offend-their-freedom-to-choose, we are in that bunker: bathing in the light of Truth, admitting our sins and repenting for all those who died. Amen, sister!

  ...Well, if you have to ask, it probably is.

The foreword of this epitome of an American Inquisition starts with -how I would see it- as an almost sorry- sounding excuse. Itエs almost like you could actually listen to our band despite of ME. However, Mitja is completely fine, because he once said that he hates the nazis. (I guess the Illinois Nazis are not qualified, as everyone hates them.) I mean, with these compliments I almost feel like I should dedicate all our musical works to the author solely:

"I LOVE MOONSORROW A LOT. When they say epic metal they mean EPIC and IT´S SUPER GREAT and hey looks like they´re majority not dicks, that´s good."

While not being completely sure what "they´re majority not dicks" is, I suppose it refers to the presume that most of the people in the band are not resemblant to penises. I could be wrong, though, as I´m not a native English speaker. But if I´m correct, it must be your lucky day, because one member of Lakupaavi - a band which is a clear "no- no" to the author- actually looks like a dick. Good thing he is not a Moonsorrow- member, or the author´s day would had probably been ruined. You see, she clearly doesn´t appreciate the fine offensive art of Lakupaavi- 
"which, yes, we understand is supposed to be an offensive joke and sort of parody of Anal Cunt or something, but dudes?? please don´t wear Hitler masks." So, I take it as Anal Cunt singing about rape, uncle Adolf or whatever semenburgers and sexual minorities is completely fine because they don´t wear those dreaded hitler- masks? Next time we´ll write a song about "ha ha you´re an american internet blogger" while steering away completely from such sensitive subjects as rubber masks of some dead dictator.
After all, it´s completely ok and funny to piss off everyone else but you, so we completely understand the issue here.

Another fun fact is also, that apparently at some point of my life, I´ve become a "public figure". And you see, public figures aren´t sadly allowed to wear shirts that may offend someone. Completely understandable though, as it wasn´t allowed in 1940´s Germany either. Verboten!
About 70 years, a zillion dead and one particular living Norwegian nazi later, a picture taken from the recording sessions of Varjoina- album showed me sporting a Burzum- shirt, which was wished to be censored in the future from our public imagery. Cencored, by someone who has absolutely no idea of what else Burzum  represents as an artist to people like me, people who actually were actively involved in the “scene” when this second- to- hitler -madman made his famous albums. And even is she had, why on earth should I follow the subtle and polite hint of “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, HENRI SORVALI, PLEASE STOP WEARING BURZUM SHIRTS IN PUBLICLY POSTED PHOTOS”? Would the next thing be maybe removing all the Burzum- influenced parts from our music as well? Heck, let´s actually ban whole Moonsorrow from the surface of the Earth because I´ve heard that someone in the band heard Burzum at a party in 1996! No- one expects the American Inquisition!!

Then again, as long as the children feel safe, I´m later being allowed to wear my garderobe. Ironically, just like some tiny souls telling the gay peeps to stay in the closet, the gay people now tell me to wear my shirts somewhere privately, “OR AT LEAST NO BURZUM SHIRTS WHERE THE KIDS CAN SEE.” Children? Seriously? Is my antichristian and aggressive, screechy and noisy Pagan music with the vengeful and bloody lyrics completely fine...just as long as the children don´t surf into a Moonsorrow website and see some fat bloke wearing a black t- shirt with some random letters printed on it? Are the children in America perhaps told about the "dangers of Burzum" before they go to school?
I love children- in fact, I have two of my own who unfortunately have already been exposed to this foul and smelly shirt- but this reminds me of something else....yes, that was it.

“It’s not about imposing some sort of sanctions on [subject] …It’s about protecting children from such information,” Mr [spokesperson] said.

Yes, it was the Russian President Vladimir Putin, explaining about the new laws against homosexuality in Russia just a couple of months ago. How could I forget that, silly me? And he did it also for the children´s protection, to care about our precious little new generations, just like you folks out there! How adorable! Just like in the 80´s when the PMRC had taken kids´ and teenagers´ needs into a special attention while attacking musicians like Dee Snider and Frank Zappa, we must always think of the children today as well! Even now, 29 years later, the Moral is still strong in the U.S. and no children shall be exposed to something denegerate, immoral and offensive as a t- shirt.
On the matter of censorship on Artists The Blogger Doesn´t Personally Agree With, I´d like to dwell a bit deeper into the PMRC- court case and quote my absolute hero, mr. Frank Zappa from  the Statement for Congress, Sept.19, 1985:

“The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of Moral Quality Control Programs based on “Things Certain Christians Don’t Like”. What if the next bunch of Washington Wives demands a large yellow “J” on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine? 

Record ratings are frequently compared to film ratings. Apart from the quantitative difference, there is another that is more important: People who act in films are hired to pretend. No matter how the film is rated, it won’t hurt them personally.
Since many musicians write and perform their own material and stand by it as their art (whether you like it or not), an imposed rating will stigmatize them as individuals. How long before composers and performers are told to wear a festive little PMRC arm band with their scarlet letter on it?

maanantai 17. maaliskuuta 2014

An open letter to Ihsahn

In Inferno Magazine 10/13 Ihsahn points out that (freely translated) "I think that anyone who does music for living or has a past like this [Emperor], understands the fact that it´s not always easy to relate to people who think you were at your best when being seventeen years old". However, I remember reading the same kind of sentence from various places before, like in 2010 here and in 2012 here and I started to think how irrititating it must be for a musician, who is definitely not a "one- hit- wonder" or some untalented luck of the draw.

Ihsahn´s past being taken up in every single context really seem to bug him for obvious reasons. I get the point, though- no matter how good you get or good music you put out, you´ll be always compared to something you did 20 years ago when you barely could play your instrument, while being referred as the "high point of your career." So, as a musician and a someone who loves old Emperor albums but doesn´t find saxophones sexy at all, I felt like spilling my guts over the matter- directed straight into the accused himself-

Mr. Ihsahn.

I´ve been following your career since In the Nightside Eclipse, loved Anthems,...not sure if liked IX and thought Prometheus was pretty much the "Spheres" of your band. But I never thought "you´ve lost it". On the contrary, I thought you (and still think) as one of the most talented musicians on this planet who could probably do whatever he wished and pull it off easily. The thing is just that I didn´t like the style you went on with Emperor, that´s all.
Just like in a smaller scale people would like to hear only trollhammarens from Finntroll, in your case people would rather have a thousand innoasatanas mixed by Pytten. This is something we musicians with a long career history have to live with, or start dwelling in the past like there was no tomorrow. Which is something that a true musician and a self- respecting individual would never do, so I guess we just have to move on instead of cheesing and reissuing it out the Swedish way (no names mentioned, but you can probably figure it out anyway if you aren´t Blinded By anything).

Obviously, we musicians tend to -or at least should- evolve. I don´t think Sibelius was born with a filled orchestra sheet on his hand before he learned how to play piano nor do I think Steve Vai´s first crappy acoustic guitar was a 7- stringed one. But when we evolve, we always leave a bit of something behind -or at least more to the background- when we push forward.
I tend to think this musical evolvement as a sort of a trade- off, really. When we were 19 years old, our composition skills, musical theory or knowledge on e.g. orchestration wasn´t exactly what it is today. Not to mention the production values of our recordings, which were close to "weekend at this guy´s parent´s garage with a 8- tracker" instead of now actually getting weeks (!) at a professional studio. Our main creative force was sheer passion (and love for the bands we listened to) and what we lacked on skill, we replaced with that passion. I´m not saying that either of us lacks it nowadays- quite the contrary- but I´d say it has become more sophisticated, more controlled and more "evolved" passion. Besides, still composing the way we did it 15-20 years ago would be rather uninspiring and regression- driven, don´t you think?

For what it comes to the cause of your irritation of people comparing your different works in the same context, I´d like to draw parallels into the world of painting; if we were impressionists in the beginning and mostly known because of that style, many of those admirers back then would have gone rather apeshit if we´d go total Caspar David Friedrich (or Hans Gude, if you prefer).

Wrath of the Tyrant 
Das Seelenbrechen


Why? Because they just happened to like impressionism over romanticism. Our sophisticated use of colors and shadings would only pale in comparison on our TRVE EARLY WORKS, even though we´d think quite the contrary. But they liked it that way we used to do it in the beginning, just like we preferred ..And Justice For All over Black Album.

Audience Reaction
I think everyone who has ever done anything creative in their early 20´s while still doing it in their mid- 30´s (especially if you do it full- time) finds that many times it´s not about being good or bad; it´s about the star signs, what you had for breakfast and did that passing car have a bumper sticker or not. In other words, sometimes you succeed with a piece and sometimes you fucking blow.  No reason. Live with it, love it. I know I do.
And as it all is a sum of it´s parts, I dare to claim that you couldn´t pull off another Cosmic Keys, just like I couldn´t do another Jaktens Tid. If we tried, it most likely would sound a watered- down, calculated piece of shit. Add a production either too good - or intentionally too bad- with everyone playing on beat detection like their lives would depend on it and the result would be just horrible. All sum of their parts again, stars aligned.

Could we actually recreate that one fun day again -just the way we remember it- if we all just put the same clothes on we wore then?

Like everyone creative person looking retrospectively on his works, among the more common works of ours we also find either "oh god this is just so bad, what was I thinking" or "jesus fucking christ how could I compose THIS even though I barely knew how to play, fuck, I´m gonna sell all my gear and start driving a truck instead"- type of stuff.

The most important thing, however, is that we do not let our past affect us unless it´s in all aspects 95% better than what we do nowadays. Which it probably isn´t.

Sincerely yours,

Henri "Trollhorn" Sorvali,
a colleague, fanboy and a music freak.
(who sucks on using Blogger layout, so sorry about that)