The Sun (Definitely) Won’t Shine

feature image

Considering winter has decided to rear its ugly head for most of the Midwest and Northeast (lucky you, those not afflicted), the need for bands of similar dreariness is predicated. Aside from the usual suspects whom shall not be named, there is a growing tide of bands emerging from the likeliest of all places: Finland. As we’ve come to learn through our Finnish friends, their winters make our winters look like a walk through a daisy-filled park. Darkness of the never-ending variety is the norm, while temperatures make little effort to get out of the sub-zero department. Definitely the right environment to make metal that is dark and dreary, don’t you think?

The first band out of the gate for 2013 is Hanging Garden, who have toiled in relative obscurity since their 2004 formation. This should change thanks to their brand-spanking new At Every Door (Lifeforce), an album that channels song-oriented death/doom, with the chilling and cold spirit of countrymen Swallow the Sun and better yet, Sentenced. There’s plenty of onus on melody on cuts like “Ten Thousand Cranes” and “The Cure,” while numbers such as “Wormwood” and “To End All Ages” smolder with an unforgiving atmosphere; a perfect offset to the bounty of melody on display.

We snagged guitarist Jussi Hämäläinen and vocalist Toni Toivonen for a round of queries regarding the new album, their slow-build, and most obvious of all: how they cope with Finnish winters…

Allow us to ask a cliché question: At Every Door is your third album and it’s widely known that a band’s third album is where they hit their stride. We certainly feel that you have…do you feel the same?

Jussi: In a way, yes.  I think the lineup is finally stabilized. We don’t have anything to prove. We know exactly what we’re doing and where we’re going from here.

Where does At Every Door succeed where Teotwawki failed? Not say its predecessor was a failure, but you catch my drift…

Toni: I didn’t have any part in the process of making the previous albums, but while listening to them, I have a feeling that they, while of course having their own merits, are somewhat made to fit a specific mold, when it comes to style and sound. I think that At Every Door succeeded in dropping the unnecessary self-censorship, and thus was able to breathe freely.

Jussi: On Teotwawki we felt we had to do something totally different from “Inherit the Eden”.  We didn’t want to do the same album twice; we wanted Teotwawki to sound exactly the opposite when compared to Inherit the Eden. Like Toni said, this time we didn’t feel the need to over analyze things. At Every Door is more like a “go with the flow” album.

In terms of building the album, what were some of the foundational tracks? As in, the songs that were easiest to put down that you knew would work?

Toni: I’m bound to go with the colossal “To End All Ages,” as you could already hear from the demo versions that it would carry a tremendous weight, even in a crappy rehearsal recording. That was probably why it was the last one to be finished. We nailed the hardest ones first. Another one would be “Ash and Dust.”

As a whole, the album has a melancholic, dreary feel. What themes did you explore?

Toni: The themes are about dystopic visions of tomorrow; a journey to the world of future, of what is likely to come if we do not take heed of our history. It’s a work of fiction, with several intertextual references to both fictive and actual events in our past.

To me, the album title reflects life, and how with “every door,” there is a new challenge. Am I off-base by thinking that?

Jussi: I love album titles that make you think. That’s your interpretation and it has a meaning for you so you’re not off-base at all.

Toni: I think the album title has many meanings. I didn’t come up with it, so I can’t give you an official answer. It’s also a tribute to another great piece of music, which shouldn’t be too difficult to find out…

Along with the melancholy and dreariness, the album is very digestible. Songs like “Ten Thousand Cranes” and “The Cure” have instant appeal. For you, what moments stick out the most?

Toni: I’m gonna go with “Wormwood.” On top of being the most interesting one to make and probably the most unlikely of the bunch, it goes with an entertaining anecdote: While recording the drums, we were using the software Reaper, which I wasn’t very familiar with. I botched the safe-copy, and the drum recordings of the first third of “Wormwood” were lost. I was crestfallen, as that was supposed to be the sure-fire metal song of the album. We considered building a drum track from samples, but that didn’t feel right. Fortunately, we decided to go all-out experimental with this one, and do a machine-drum filled eerie intro, with completely different vocals. What was supposed to be the most straightforward growl-verse-clean-chorus song came out a whole lot different.

Was there any temptation to use additional clean vocals? I think you did a tremendous balancing act between death metal vocals and cleans.

Toni: I was going to put clean vocals in many places that have growls now, but fortunately Jussi put me in my place. I agree with you: the balance is great right now.

You spent the early part of your career on Spikefarm, but have moved over to Lifeforce. What prompted you to make that move?

Jussi: After the release ofTeotwawkithere were a lot of changes in the Spinefarm/Spikefarm staff. The people we used to work with were gone. Both parties felt that it was time to move on. Lifeforce showed interest from day one as we started looking for a new label so it was an easy decision to sign with them.

What do you make of the current wave of Finnish bands playing dark and somber metal? It seems like Hanging Garden is going to be a permanent fixture in this movement…

Toni: There are a lot of great acts, especially the lesser known ones bubbling under. If I were to name one example, I would tell you to check out Mother Susurrus. Of course, the bigger acts like Swallow the Sun, are doing great releases after another.

Finnish winters. What do you to get through it?

Toni: Lots of booze and vitamin D. Also, we make musicJ

Do you ever tire of the ongoing darkness?

Toni: Every single winter. Right now the days are fortunately growing a bit longer: we already have six hours of daylight. The Lapland dudes have it harder: during the Kaamos time of midwinter, the sun doesn’t rise at all…

Finally, what’s on the agenda for 2013?

Toni: Doing a lot of live shows, getting out the new music video (be sure to check out this one, it’s something completely different!), and starting the recordings for the next album, for which we already have an abundance of raw material!


Leave a Reply

Privacy notice: When you submit a comment, your creditentials, message and IP address will be logged. A cookie will also be created on your browser with your chosen name and email, so that you do not need to type them again to post a new comment. All post and details will also go through an automatic spam check via Akismet's servers and need to be manually approved (so don't wonder about the delay). We purge our logs from your meta-data at frequent intervals.