Interview with bassist Pasi Osmo
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 29, 2012
When talking about some of the very first and most obscure Finnish Thrash Metal bands ever, Altars of Destruction surely belong in that category. A.o.D. started out in 1986 and, being hugely inspired by Slayer, they recorded two demos and one EP before splitting up in 1989. They brought their troops back together again in 2008.
Gallery of Pain, the band's official debut album, saw the light of day in 2010 on a small independent Finnish label called Violent Journey Records. It contained both old and new A.o.D. material. Since the release of that album, A.o.D. has kept its engine burning hot by playing shows around Finland including appearances at Nummirock as well as the Jalometalli festival.
In the summer of 2011 A.o.D.'s original vocalist Mika Luoma left the band for personal reasons, and his place was taken by Jarno Samppala, who truly has some big boots to fill. The band was back in action in no time, continuing to write new material like they never stopped.
One of the founding members of Altars of Destruction, bassist Pasi Osmo, shared his thoughts about the past and present of the band for The Metal Crypt, so read on...
Luxi: First off, after resurrecting this Finnish Thrash Metal corpse, changes to the line-up and some festival appearances, how's it going with Altars of Destruction these days?
Pasi: It is going great. Thanks for asking. We have good energy and positive spirits. The new line-up is working great.
Luxi: As I said, Altars of Destruction went through a line-up change in the summer of 2011 when the band's longtime vocalist Mika Luoma left the band. Did you actually see his departure coming or was it something that took you by surprise?
Pasi: It was a sort of surprise and then again not a surprise. Originally, we decided just to record those songs on the album and that's it. Fortunately, our hunger grew and we began to talk about doing a few gigs. We rehearsed the set with Mika but eventually his lack of time and his health situation became an obstacle so he decided to leave the band.
Luxi: Jarno Samppala, who's also a drummer for both of his other bands, Tyrant Disciple and Swollen Eye View, took Mika's place as vocalist in A.o.D. How did that happen? Was it easy for him to switch from being behind his drums to being a vocalist?
Pasi: Now you have mixed up the brothers (oh no, where has my mind been? Luxi). Jussi plays drums in the bands that you mentioned. He also plays in Three Pound Trigger, where Jarno also sings, growls and plays bass. Jarno did not have any problems coming to sing in A.o.D. He has been screaming his lungs out for a while now.
Luxi: Mika obviously left behind big boots to fill when he left the band. Many people, over the years, have compared Mika's voice to Tom Araya from Slayer or Kam Lee from Massacre, so obviously the band had to work hard to replace him. Do you believe you succeeded?
Pasi: Yes, Mika's boots were not easy to fill at all, but we found a great replacement. We actually did not really need to look for a singer. Due to Mika's lack of time he could not make the rehearsals very often and it is not very fun to play without vocals, so we needed a rehearsal singer. Jarno was a natural choice because Three Pound Trigger shares the same rehearsal space with us. The fans, of course, needed to get used to the idea of a new singer. After the first few shows we did not get much of a response, but after the shows at the Nummirock and Jalometalli festivals our new singer was praised quite a bit.
Luxi: Almost at the same time, a guy named Jussi Arkela was added to the A.o.D. line-up as a second guitarist. Was he added because you wanted more firepower for playing live or was your new material going in a direction that made it hard to carry on with one guitar?
Pasi: We have always been a five-piece band with two guitars. When we recorded Gallery Of Pain a second guitarist was not available so Kimmo handled all the guitars. We asked Arkela to play a few leads on the album. As a bonus, he played the second guitar on "Suicide." When it was time to do the gigs we asked Jussi to play the second guitar. He put his knee pads on and was eager and willing to hop on board.
Luxi: Now, while we are at it, do you guys have new songs written for your next release, which will hopefully be A.o.D.'s second full-length album?
Pasi: We are basically a couple of tracks short of a full album but, after we get those songs done, we are planning to start recording. We might do some bonus tracks, too.
Luxi: How would you say A.o.D.'s new material compares to the songs that the band recorded for your debut studio album, Gallery of Pain? Will there be any drastic changes or would you say that you'll stick to the old recipe that made Gallery of Pain such a tasteful and enjoyable album?
Pasi: Same shit, different day! Yes, I think we will stick to the old recipe. Of course, the songs are different but the style will be as A.o.D as possible.
Luxi: Has your composing style changed during these past 4-5 years? I mean, now there's this whole new studio technology around you that can be easily harnessed for making music and allowing you to record all the instruments entirely alone. Have you ever tried out that in A.o.D.'s songwriting process?
Pasi: The songwriting process has not changed much. It is still the guys in rehearsal space blasting it out. Someone brings in a riff or a song idea and we take it from there. Occasionally someone may bring a full song, but we make the arrangements together. We haven't used much of the technical possibilities that you mentioned. As I said, we pretty much do it the old fashioned way.
Luxi: When creating new stuff for A.o.D., what are the most important things that you think about when determining if this or that riff or rhythm is meant for A.o.D. and not something that would probably appeal more the masses?
Pasi: We do not have any specific formula. What sounds good to our ears makes a definitive A.o.D masterpiece?
Luxi: Gallery of Pain, A.o.D.'s 9-track debut album was released in April 2010 via Violent Journey Records, and it contained songs that span nearly the band's entire career, including some of the oldest A.o.D. songs that were created back in the early days. When that album was finally out, did you feel some sort of relief?
Pasi: Yes it was as sort of a relief to get our songs on CD, with good production and with great sound. And we got it released through Violent Journey Records!
Luxi: There are 5 or 6 songs on Gallery of Pain that were meant to appear on the band's unreleased 11-track debut album in 2008, including a Celtic Frost cover song, "Circle of the Tyrants." Were you thinking of releasing this album the way it was recorded, maybe after a remixing and remastering process first? Is this still something that could be done at some point or is this idea completely out of question now?
Pasi: The thing started when we wanted the old demo tapes to be converted to a modern format, with little enhancements here and there. There were only 50 copies made for close friends and not for sale. People have been asking for it a lot over the years. Let's see what happens. Never say never...
Luxi: What about you signing a deal with Violent Journey Records? I know the owner of the label has always been a big fan of A.o.D. How much did that have do to with why you singed to VJR?
Pasi: Vesa from Violent Journey Records basically dug the band from the grave. He asked if he could release our material. Without Vesa's enthusiasm we would not be here today. I have made it clear to Vesa that if the new songs meet his standards he can release them if he wants.
Luxi: As for some more recent past activities, the band appeared at the Jalometalli festival on August 11th, replacing Heathen who cancelled their whole European tour. As you were obviously called in at short notice, was it easy to say ‘yes' to the festival promoter and drag your asses to play? How was it for you, as an experience? Something a bit more than just another gig among other gigs, I guess?
Pasi: A few quick calls, some rescheduling of work shifts, the cancellation of a Tyrant Disciples gig and after that it was easy. It was A.o.D.'s biggest show so far. With that stage and the facilities, playing was a fucking blast. Everything worked perfectly.
Luxi: Are there some songs in your set list that people insist you to play every time A.o.D. performs live, apart from some cover songs that you have played ever since A.o.D. was reformed?
Pasi: Mostly, people want to hear "Suicide" and also "Children of Misfortune" and "Testament." About the covers: we have been playing them since the 80's. We might drop some of them from the set after we get new material.
Luxi: Have you already planned some gigs for the end of 2012?
Pasi: We are thinking of concentrating on recording. We have a few gigs in our schedule for the end of the year. After those shows, that will be it for this year.
Luxi: What about the area where you live, is it easy to play gigs in your area?
Pasi: Sure there are pizza restaurants and corner bars that you could play every weekend but, to be honest, they do not inspire us very much. In reality, there are very few good venues in the area. Rytmikorjaamo in Seinäjoki is one of the few. It is a killer venue.
Luxi: Moving on, when do you think it will be realistic for you to enter the studio again and start recording the follow-up to Gallery of Pain?
Pasi: Probably in September. Like the previous record, this one will not be recorded in a fancy studio. It will be done with a portable studio in our rehearsal space and some other locations.
Luxi: Have you been discussing whether it would be nice to feature some guest appearances on your forthcoming release?
Pasi: We haven't discussed any guest appearances. If you have any suggestions, we are open to them.
Luxi: What is in store for A.o.D. in 2013, a new record from you guys, perhaps? Trying to play as many (Metal) festivals as possible, record an acoustic album and participate in the Eurovision Song Contest in order to get more media acceptance and start making millions?
Pasi: Yes, Eurovision song contest and a progressive album with an orchestra. Naah, just kidding. I hope we get the new album out and get to do some good gigs and maybe some festivals, too. I think we will keep our schedule very loose because of our other obligations. Three of us have children and families and so on.
Luxi: If you got an opportunity to become a mentor to Slayer for a day, what would be the three things you would teach them so Kerry and co. could find their way back to playing the kind of evil-oozing and blood-spitting Thrash Metal for which we know them best on albums like Hell Awaits or Reign in Blood?
Pasi: I reserve the right not to tell Slayer what to play. I have always considered Slayer the best and hardest Thrash Metal band ever. Every record is a masterpiece in its own right. If I should give some advice, it would be: Don't play with spiders!
Luxi: I guess that would be the end of it, so I want to sincerely thank you for taking the time to get this interview done and wish all the best with any future endeavors with A.o.D. Thrash on...!
Pasi: Thanks! Pasi / A.o.D.
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