sábado, 13 de mayo de 2023



Good afternoon, thank you very much for answering these questions, how is everything going in Oulu?

Ville: Cheers, everything is well here. Just preparing for the upcoming shows in Finland and trying to keep up with other daily duties.

1. Qwälen's career began around 2017, why did you decide to create the band? Why did you choose the name Qwälen and what does it refer to?

Ville: Qwälen started actually a bit earlier, around 2015-2016, however the current line-up was settled in 2017. I think Samuli felt the need to do something completely different in addition to our other band, and I think he had the idea of doing music in the vein of Immortal and Young and in the Way. We’ve known each other with Samuli for close to 20 years and been playing together in different bands for maybe 16 years to date, I think a lot of our ventures are based on having each other’s back for such a long time. Since we shared a lot of views about music and an interest in black metal as well, he asked if I wanted to join the project and here we are. 

A short summary of the beginning would be that our drummer Henri joined soon afterwards in 2015-2016, the three of us are from the same town so we’ve known each other for quite some time, but had never played in bands together. We were handling dual-guitar duties with Samuli at first, I'm not completely sure anymore if we had a couple of rehearsals as a three-piece with Samuli and Henri or not, but our friend Ari played bass for the band for a couple of years. Samuli did vocals in the very beginning, then a bit later Aino, who’s also in Kantamus, joined as the vocalist for a short while, but didn’t have the time and energy to do this, so Eetu joined the band maybe sometime in 2017. After Ari moved to Helsinki I switched to bass and Antti joined in as a second guitar player, this was maybe sometime between 2017-2018. So that’s our brief history as I remember it and this is already almost 8 years ago, time sure flies.

The word Qwälen is a mock-up of the German verb “quälen”, which means “to torture”. We’re always basically on the edge of our physical abilities while playing so it’s some form of torture to us, so there’s that, but in the beginning we just thought something that refers to torture might be suitable for this style of music we were intending to do.

2. In 2021 you released your first album "Unohdan sinut" an album that earned you very good reviews in general terms, despite not fully fitting in with the more orthodox side of the genre, what do you think made this release album Will it work so well, in terms of the press and the public, and despite being launched in a situation as complicated as the one experienced after Covid-19?

Ville: We played one show in 2020 and a couple in 2021 due to looser restrictions that occurred at some points during the covid-situation. So we got to perform stuff from the album before it was released and also when it was still fairly fresh. Some might say we got lucky, but I think there was a growing interest in us way before the release of the album, since we had played some gigs in 2018-2019 before we had even recorded the album. We also had gigs planned for 2020, which were obviously long postponed due to the covid situation. So when the album was released during the second year of the epidemic, it definitely didn’t just come out of nowhere. In addition, the release wasn’t postponed, like many other releases at that time. People might have different views on the matter, but that’s the way I see the situation now.

When we started Qwälen with Samuli, we didn’t have the intention to fit the orthodox side of the genre. I guess most people operating on that side would not even consider us as a black metal band, but who cares about that anyway, being outsiders suits us. Another thing to take into consideration is that we were very open about our anti-fascist stance from the very beginning and being part of black metal scene or any particular scene wasn’t a target for us. I think due to these reasons people might find our music more accessible and relatable to them.

Samuli: In retrospect, I guess the album brought something fresh into the scene although it was never our goal. We just wanted to do black metal our way. We wrote songs without too much thought and they came out ok enough that people really took a liking to them. Besides the promo by Time to kill Records and Anubi press, there were a lot of people within the Finnish non-orthodox BM and alternative metal scene promoting the album via social media. We are grateful for everyone promoting our music.

3. With two years apart and with the ground fertilized with three singles that precede the release, your second album “Syvä hiljaisuus” arrives. Have you felt in any way the pressure of having to live up to “Unohdan sinut”? How has the process of writing and recording “Syvä hiljaisuus” been? What do you think has changed in your sound between these two albums? What brands of instruments have you used in the process?

Samuli: No pressure felt at all before the record was ready. I guess after everything was ready and we got to hear the final album, at least I started feeling a bit anxious about how people would react. The core idea of Qwälen is present and sharper than ever but songwise the album is different. The raw production is exactly what we wanted so I guess we felt no pressure but more of excitement in the sense that we wanted people to hear the album. Besides, the first album had not even come out yet when the majority of songs were already written.

I've never considered that we would need to live up to "Unohdan sinut". The music we write is not thought or aimed to be better than what we did before. The songs come out when they need to and our art exists as expression. It is not conscious evolution. It moves and shifts alongside our There might be long periods where no Qwälen songs come up as the need is not there or things might happen when I am compelled to write a lot. There is no pressure or I guess I refuse to take any.

In terms of songwriting there is now a much clearer understanding of what Qwälen is and that is the main thing that has changed. We're tighter as a band and we're better at playing our own riffs.

As gear we use a lot of classic stuff. I used a 100w Marshall jcm-900 sl-x that I bought for the studio. I use a Schecter V both live and in the studio. I don't actually dare buying really expensive guitars as I tend to punish my instruments quite a lot on stage. We gear ourselves with stuff that is rooted in classic rock sounds and stuff that's not overly complicated. One of the main ideas for Qwälen in the beginning was to go back to basics. Guitar and an amp. Armed with riffs. Nothing too complex. I have always frowned at amps and multi-fx pedals that have all the options in the world with dozens of buttons and whatnot. I like my gear simple. At one point the lead guitarist of The Sword had a tube amp with controls only for power and volume. What else do you need?

Ville: Both in studio and live I try to keep my setup as simple as possible. I mainly play a (Fender) Precision bass with volume and tone pots wide open. Amp-wise, any robust amp with enough headroom works well. I actually don’t own a bass head right now so I’ve been mostly using Samuli’s Peavey Mark IV head, which is great. That amp was also used in the studio. I have a Mesa-Boogie 2x15” cab at the rehearsal space, but we hardly travel with a full backline, so in live situations I just try to adapt to whatever cab is available. In the past I’ve used mainly RAT-style pedals for distortion and in the studio I used Earthquaker Westwood for the core bass-tone. I do have a distinct taste for gear but I wouldn’t say I’m too picky. I think Brad from Pissed Jeans said in an interview that he tries to tour with gear that doesn’t matter too much to him, so if anything breaks or gets stolen it’s not the end of the world, and I’ve been trying to keep that as advice for myself.

4. I previously commented that your sound does not agree with the more orthodox part of the genre, it seems that somehow the past of the band members, related to hardcore bands above all, has found its way into Qwälen's sound. What influences from bands and styles are present in your sound? Why do you think hardcore plays a fundamental role in defining your sound? How would you describe the sound of your latest album for those who haven't heard it yet?

Ville: I don’t think black metal and hardcore punk are that far away from each other. Both are very raw forms of expression without technical gimmicks and share that “no gods, no masters” attitude. Discovering black metal and a bit later on hardcore as a teenager had a huge impact on me, so I definitely draw a lot on my playing from those days. I don’t consider myself technically a very skillful player, so most of the time I just have to trust on raw power.

Samuli: I guess it comes subconsciously from the past as having punk/hardcore elements was not planned. And I don't really think about it when I write but that side creeps in. I remember sending some demos out years ago to a friend who commented that there is a cool punk vibe with the black metal side as well. I was baffled and dismissed it completely as I could not hear it. Then the album came out and reviewers wrote of us as FINNISH BLACK METAL PUNKS. One becomes rather deaf towards your own sound. Although I don't really listen to punk at home nor have I played in serious punk groups, I've been hanging within the Oulu scene in which people could play any kind of alternative music and still have punk ethos in the center. Or be punk yet not actually play it. I guess it somehow comes from there. 

The new album is raw and intense. It trusts in riffs and sonic power. It nods to the beginning of black metal when there were no rules. The sound attacks the listener relentlessly.

5. Your lyrics are written in Finnish and far from any theme related to satanism, rather you focus on personal issues, at the same time that you openly declare yourself anti-fascist, why do you choose Finnish for your texts? Why do you choose these more mundane themes for the lyrics? Do the lyrics adapt to the music or vice versa? Do you consider it “still necessary” to have to position yourself politically and personally away from all extremism within a scene like black metal?

Samuli: Starting with anti-fascism, we feel it necessary to declare our position as sadly black metal nowadays is a genre in which people silently tolerate and accept questionable thematics. We want to make it known that we are not on the same team with bands that promote symbolism or lyrical themes that deal with national socialism, xenophobia, racist ideologies etc. However, we're not here to start a revolution but rather to state that not everyone is okay with everything. And the whole genre is in a state where sides can not be declared in an easy way. You are either seen as accepting all if you do not state your ground. This is the only way that is clear enough. Black metal is music of honesty and we're honest of our values to others but also to ourselves.

As satanism is not a thing that connects us together as a band, writing solely about it would not be a "true" theme for us. Black metal needs to be honest in all of its forms. Art needs to be honest either consciously or done in a state that taps straight into the subconscious. Still the concept of Satan is meaningful for us yet it does not hold any theistic meaning but is more of a primal rebellious force within. Satan conceptualizes a lot of what is seen as unwanted or negative sides within the human soul. 

The themes chosen are meaningful for us. That is all that has to matter. Black metal has never been a genre that caters to people's expectations or cares what other people think. It has to connect to the artist's reality in a meaningful way. For some it is the occult, some focus on the spirit of nature, some deal with death but all topics are introspective in relation to the artist. All are honest as they should be. Writing about the occult or satanism with no actual real-life connection to the themes would be superficial. 

6. Finland and the Nordic countries have always been standard-bearers when it comes to leading pioneering movements within extreme metal at an international level, why do you think the Nordic countries have excelled in this facet over the years? Do you feel that maybe the scene is saturated and accommodated with respect to the past? Do you think that somehow your music fits better in a scene like the American one where there is a greater diversity of styles and influences?

Samuli: In terms of black metal our music definitely connects more with the scenes in North America. Especially I feel a lot of similarities with the raw USBM scene of the 2010 onward maybe not si much sonically but approach and philosophy-wise. A different kind of variety and diversity of topics exists within that scene. Artists are not confined or made to conform to any specific subject. In the Finnish scene the themes accepted within are rather narrow and to me this feels limiting and contradictory to the original ideas of black metal. Not to even mention the xenophobic and future-frightened thematics that have no connection to the past of the genre in any way.

Finns tend to be stubborn and fixated on what they see as important. I guess that might be one reason why Nordic extreme metal can be seen as standard bearing. Mental world along with the nature around might have something to do with that. I don't really know.

7. Both of your albums have been released through Time to Kill Records. How did you get in contact with them to be able to release the album? Cd, cassette and vinyl, ignoring digital of course, in what format do you feel most comfortable using the time to offer your music to your followers?

Ville: I prefer vinyl myself since you really have to take your time to listen and pay attention to the records, not just have something playing in the background. Also 12” records serve artwork the best since you get it in a nice big picture format.

Samuli: When we had the first album ready with everything, our singer Eetu started sending out emails to different labels and TTK records wanted to release the album. The label has since believed and supported our vision and we are happy working with them.

8. Who designed the album cover, what does it represent and how does it relate to the content of the album?

Ville: All of our graphics are designed by Jussi Pohjanen and he was given the responsibility to design the cover of the second album as well, since we have been really satisfied with the work he has done for us. Both our album covers are scratchboard drawings.

Our singer Eetu sent Jussi the album and the lyrics and he got the idea of ​​the hands rising from the water. Furthermore we asked to add a candle with a black flame and a goblet to the drawing. The black flame is obvious and the goblet is a reference to the Fernet ritual of our live shows. The three symbols on the goblet sum up the essence of Qwälen: against war and fascism, in league with Satan.

9. There isn't much information about the process of recording and mastering the album. Have you taken care of this process yourself or have you received external help from a professional or from a recording studio?

Samuli: No, there really is not much info about that side and it is a conscious choice. We do not really feel the need or point to update from the studio. Very few people and myself included really are interested in what goes on during the production process of bands. Besides when we record, we want to be solely in that mode.

The album was mostly recorded in the Waiting Room recording studio in Tampere two years ago. It was a bit of an accident how we ended up there but we are superbly pleased with everything. We recorded there for three days with the instrument players. Eetu's vocals were recorded in Oulu and I recorded background vocals in the basement of my work place. 

Mikael was our recording and mixing engineer and nowadays we want to focus on playing and delivering the music. When we were younger, there was a rather strong DIY-spirit going on in terms of recording, mixing and mastering partly because we were broke. Now I myself prefer to leave that to people who are more skillful. I also like for the band to be able to concentrate solely on playing and delivering the music. It is quite important to be able to just play and focus on listening to your band members as we like to record live as a whole band. In the past I have recorded instruments separately and it is just not for me. This live mentality is something that differentiates us from a lot of bands within the scene. In Finland I have talked with a lot of people within the metal band scene who just cannot understand why we prefer live recording. Look at bands in the 80s and early 90s as everything was done this way. Band members knew how to play and did not care too much. Bands should play as a band and not as individuals.

Ville: In regards to mastering, I had heard Will’s (Killingsworth) prior work on many Youth Attack releases and those records sound very powerful with a nice cutting edge. I read about his working-concept and thought that this guy might be suitable for us as well, so I suggested that he would do the mastering and others agreed. I think Will got right-away what we were after and absolutely nailed it on the album master! Obviously I also have a lot of respect for him for his work in bands like Orchid and Ampere, which were quite influential to me, so this was a great experience.

10. I suppose that you will compensate yourself this time when it comes to being able to offer concerts with respect to the situation of restrictions that prevailed when you released your first album, how is the live presentation of the album being?

Ville: We don’t come together that often since we’re scattered in different cities, some members are fairly active in other bands and we all have family matters and other duties keeping us busy as well. I don’t see the situation is going to change anytime soon, but that’s fine for us. We’re not super active when it comes to live shows, but the shows we’ve played have been very rewarding. We have a few shows coming up in May, some shows are cooking up for later this year and material from both albums are present on the setlist.

Samuli: Playing live is important for all of us but at the same time I at least do not want to do it too much. It is good to have a little mystique by not playing every weekend somewhere. The few shows that we do play I hope people will come. 

We've got plans to do shows outside of Finland as well, so if any EU promoters want to have us play, get in touch!

11. How were your beginnings in music: first concerts you attended, first albums you bought? What event in your lives pushed you to want to be musicians?

Ville: Megadeth was one of the first concerts I attended, I think I was 13 back then. One of my friends picked up guitar at school around the same time and I think he got me into it also. We took lessons together but we were playing mostly classical back then, I got an electric guitar a bit later. I can hardly remember the first albums I bought, probably some random compilation with Aerosmith on it, later on some Iron Maiden albums and W.A.S.P.’s first album. Classic shit, which I hardly listen to on a daily-basis anymore.

I think going to concerts and watching live-videos had a much greater influence on the idea of playing music than any particular event during my teenage and early adult years. I still don’t consider myself a musician, since this is not a day-job to me, but it sure is a big part of my life.

Samuli: I can't really remember my first concert but properly I started going to shows when I was 19 I guess. That was the early 2000s and among the first ones were Soilwork, Finntroll, Kuolleet Intiaanit (one of the members went on later to form Oranssi Pazuzu) and other Finnish metal bands. During the same time I started playing in bands I also started going to shows and just being involved and seeing ordinary people play music out of joy to play had a pretty big impact on me. 

The first album that I consciously wanted and bought was The fat of the land by The Prodigy. That is still one of my favorites of all time. Then a few that were meaningful in pushing towards my musical track were Ride the lightning by Metallica and Nattföd by Finntroll. I don't really listen to Metallica anymore but Finntroll is still among my favorites in terms of my early musical impacts.

From early childhood I have enjoyed making sounds and the drive for musical creation has always been there. At my grandma's place I gravitated towards the keyboard in her room and always wanted to try the different sounds. I got my sister's super cheap Yamaha keyboard when I was about 9 and I used to put a tape recorder on, put on a drum loop and just bang the keys. Then I wanted to form a band with my friends so we came up with new lyrics to existing songs on the radio and sang those on tape. When I got older, listening to music became a big part in my life. Skateboarding and snowboarding movies had awesome soundtracks and for example you could first hear Slayer, then some obscure punk band and then you would get a Gang Starr track so those exposed a lot of different sides of music to me. At some point around when I was 19, I picked up my brother's guitar and after learning a bunch of easy riffs I started writing my own songs in our garage. Over the years it has grown to be a way for processing my thoughts and emotions. Now it is a part of ny life I would not know how to live without.

12. What album represents for you the essence of black metal? What last albums have you bought?

Ville: If I had to pick just one that would be Craft’s “Total Soul Rape” or Beherit’s “Drawing Down the Moon”. I think the last albums I bought were Sonic Poison’s “Eruption”, “Cries the Mocking Mother Nature” and Public Acid’s “The Beat Sessions” tape, absolute killer stuff. In addition I just copped a reissue of Koro’s first EP and Kriegshög’s 2016 EP.

Samuli: To me Behexen's "The poisonous path" is the most important black metal album. Rather clear sounding record and not so blown out as BM albums usually are but still risky and attacking. Other albums that come close are Darkthrone's "Under a funeral moon" and Gorgoroth's "Ad majorem Satanae gloriam".

The last albums that I bought were Lamp of Murmuur's "Submission and slavery", Daeva's "Through sheer will and black magic" and Entombed's "Left hand path". ETERNAL HAILS LG PETROV.

13. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions for Black Metal Spirit, if you want to add something for Qwälen fans this is the place. I hope the questions are to your liking.

Samuli: Thank you for good questions! It was a pleasure. HAIL SATAN.


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