Interview with vocalist and guitarist Tuomas Karhunen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: July 24, 2015
Forgotten Horror, a bastard child of Tuomas Karhunen (Deathchain, Jess and the Ancient Ones), was formed under a funeral moon in 2004. Forgotten Horror has released two studio albums since the black blood was initially poured over this unholy creation. The debut album, The Serpent Creation, was released in 2011 and the follow-up, Aeon of the Shadow Goddess, four years later and both represent Lilithian Black Metal at its finest.
For many, the name Forgotten Horror does not ring a bell so The Metal Crypt decided to have another conversation with Tuomas (the first one took place in November 2011) to talk about Aeon of the Shadow Goddess, line-up changes and other stuff. Tuomas was eager to provide The Metal Crypt all the necessary information about the new Forgotten Horror creation and more...
Luxi: How's it going Tuomas? Are you pumped up that you can finally enjoy the fruits of all the hard work you put into Forgotten Horror's second album, Aeon of the Shadow Goddess?
Tuomas: Hi there Luxi! To put it mildly; yes, I'm extremely fucking pumped up hahah! Actually, I'm always busy with a million activities and projects so I don't have time to sit back and relax. I immediately move on with the next thing! But this one is special for me and thus I've tried - unsuccessfully - to arrange some time off to reward myself a little bit. At least I tried.
Luxi: How did the record release party for Aeon of the Shadow Goddess go? You shared the stage with cult act Demilich at Henry's Pub in Kuopio on the evening of May the 2nd and celebrated the birth of a new Forgotten Horror monster. Was there some magic on the stage?
Tuomas: It went great man, the place was almost packed and the whole evening exceeded all my expectations. I arranged the release gig and party for Walpurgisnacht and it turned out to be a night of Metal, intoxicants and having insanely good times with old and new friends! Ten years ago when I moved away from Kuopio, my home town, I promised myself I'd return some day with Forgotten Horror which I have now done. This whole album release was the final chapter of a long period in my life and a rite of passage of sorts.
The gig itself went well and we got a lot of positive feedback afterwards. At some point, due to rust with my live vocals, I had to start skipping some vocal lines because I was so out of breath. During the latter half of the show I had to struggle just to remain conscious hahah! But I pulled it off and I certainly gave it my all. It's all about correct breathing but it's easier said than done if you don't rehearse enough and at the same time you are playing all these fucking guitar leads and solos with technical extreme Metal riffs.
Luxi: How did you choose Demilich for this grand feast of Metal? I assume you have known Antti (Boman) for several years and that was part of the decision to have them to celebrate this album release?
Tuomas: They were a good choice in every way. I know Antti and the Demilich gang and they are good guys who are also from Kuopio and I like their music so it felt like a good idea. Since both bands play different stuff, together we made a very sick Metal combo.
Luxi: What are some of the biggest differences between your debut album The Serpent Creation and this new album? What things did you bring along with you from the sessions of The Serpent Creation to this new Forgotten Horror opus?
Tuomas: I think we found our identity as a band with this album. I've grown a lot as a musician and as a person during the time between these albums and since I write all the music and lyrics, you can hear it in the end result.
Forgotten Horror walks hand in hand with my spiritual and esoteric growth, which is not a walk in the park heheh. It takes a lot of guts to grow and to change. With Forgotten Horror my intention is always to express the things I've gone through and discovered in my life so a new Forgotten Horror release is a very natural continuation from the previous one.
Luxi: Are you still pleased with what you accomplished on The Serpent Creation? Four years have passed since its release and you can now look at things from a different perspective...
Tuomas: Of course you have always more perspective and vision when you compare your work to something you did years ago. That's how you know you're doing things right. I don't really listen to my old recordings or look back that much, I'm so goddamn busy all the time. I don't want to look back. I'll reserve that for when I'm an old man... but wait, I AM old hahah!
All recordings are time stamps from that particular period in my life and all that matters to me is the knowledge that I've given 100%. I have a golden rule; always do everything in terms of the music not outside expectations or demands. I've always followed that guideline and that is something I'm proud of.
Luxi: Back to Aeon of the Shadow Goddess. Having listened to the album 3-4 times in a row now I guess it's not too far-fetched to say that there's a fair dose of Dissection's ghost haunting your songs, especially your vocal approach and guitar sound. Plus, perhaps it's just me but somehow Melechesh's name also popped into my head while listening to Aeon of the Shadow Goddess...
Tuomas: I love the music of Dissection and I've listened to them a lot during the past 20 years so that is an influence for sure. I think the Dissection comparison also comes partly from non-musical things such as occult-oriented lyrics, the fact that I live in Sweden, etc. Perhaps my vocals really do sound a bit similar, I don't know. I don't spend time thinking about those kind of things, I just do stuff. To be honest, I myself don't hear that much Dissection in Forgotten Horror's music. My vocal style is just my natural tone, I don't try to sound like anything specific but this time I tried for something more dynamic with more high screams and low growls than before.
My all-time favorite extreme Metal albums are pretty much all from the mid- and late 90's, so you can probably hear a lot of echoes from that era. That's the sound of Forgotten Horror in a nutshell; many metal genres forged into our own thing.
Luxi: Can you explain to me what "Lilithian Black Metal" is as this term has been used to describe Forgotten Horror's music on this new album?
Tuomas: Our guitarist, Kennet, came up with the "Lilithian" term. He's a PhD. and an expert in Western and contemporary esotericism and we discuss FH in that context quite often. Given the band's orientation towards the dark feminine goddesses in a Qliphothic initiatory "light" he thought the term Lilithian described our music on many levels.
This is true and since I simply like the sound of that phrase I chose to label our music officially as Lilithian Black Metal. When one listens to this album they'll probably think, "why not?" as well.
For the record, all the occult Rock/occult Metal genre categorizations are exactly that to me; musical genres and nothing more. I think a vast majority of these so-called occult-evil-this-and-that bands have actually nothing to do with ritual magic, real esotericism or anything beyond the mundane manifest plane. Sticking feathers up your ass doesn't make you a chicken. Not to mention serious, systematic study of the dark arts and putting those doctrines in practice by incorporating them as a living part of one's world view. There are exceptions to this, of course. It's just that I don't link Metal music and the dark arts together anymore.
Luxi: I notice that you are personally responsible for the album artwork on Aeon of the Shadow Goddess' cover. It's an amazing piece. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea of using this specific artwork? Did you go through several different options before you found the right way to express the band's ideals visually?
Tuomas: Thank you. It's a pleasure to hear that the cover artwork pleases your eye! I first consulted a clothing designer to create a unique garment for The Shadow Goddess, which is kind of a combination of all the dark female deities I've encountered or worked with. Then we did a separate photo shoot with a model, a photographer, make-up artist and an assistant. The photos turned out great but I also snapped a few shots of my own with my DLSR in the background and I really ended up liking one photo in particular. I wanted to use that photo in the cover but my camera isn't hi-tech enough and I couldn't make posters from that photo. So I thought "what the hell, I'll paint it digitally myself"!
So I did and it took me over 100 hours to do so. I stopped with the details when I noticed that I couldn't separate it from the actual photo anymore. If magnified to real size the painting is like two meters tall with very fine details and shading. The concept was always there but it took a lot of work to find the visual direction I wanted to go in.
I like to make graphics for Forgotten Horror. I'll start editing our upcoming music video soon and in the future I'll most likely do all the Forgotten Horror artwork myself.
Luxi: From the sound of things you have put a lot of time and effort into the song structures on this new Forgotten Horror album. Is that one of the reasons it took four years to get this album completed? I remember there being skeptical people out there who thought the band had broken up due to the silence from Forgotten Horror's direction...
Tuomas: Well I definitely put a lot of effort and an insane amount of work into the material! But that wasn't the real reason for the long wait. It's a long story but I'll do my best to put it in a nutshell...
I began making new songs immediately after The Serpent Creation was out. At that time, I was also working magically with my Qliphothic second initiation. As it sometimes the nature of those specific energies (Gamaliel and Samael in particular) to manifest in this Malkuth plane, my life began getting very chaotic and there was a lot of inner and outer turbulence. Basically I had a two-year streak of difficulties such as serious and sudden illness within my closest circle, financial problems, problems with my health, etc. Pretty much everything that could get fucked up, got fucked up; my personal life, with Forgotten Horror, with all my plans. I had never experienced anything like it. But I dug deep and struggled through it and now I couldn't be happier. Life definitely taught me a lesson or two.
So these four years weren't spent only on making the album, it was a struggle for survival as well. But I did use this time to polish the material as much as possible and I reached my furthest limits as an artist. I could only make changes, not improvements. It's a huge thing as a musician to have made an album you're totally satisfied with.
Luxi: The primal core of the band has been built up around Kassara (on drums) and you, making Forgotten Horror a 2-piece recording unit. Have you ever thought of recruiting more permanent members for Forgotten Horror so each of you can concentrate on specific roles both in the recording situation as well as playing live? Or would you rather keep Forgotten Horror as it is at the moment, to keep better control over things?
Tuomas: The more I make music, the more I like to give others free hand with my material. It's fascinating to have a fundamental idea for a song and let go of the strings and let others put their own spin on it. But with Forgotten Horror I definitely want to keep on being the main composer and probably I'll always write all the music and lyrics.
I was already used to recording demo stuff for all my bands and with Aeon... I learned a lot by recording and editing all the guitars, bass, keyboards, female vocals and my own vocals myself. During these sessions I found many ways to make the work even more efficient and I like how you don't have to explain to anyone what part you'd like to change or re-do, you can just do it yourself immediately while recording different takes. One of the great things about the times we live in is that one can do an incredible amount of things with a small laptop.
I am a bit of a perfectionist and workaholic to the point of being neurotic with details so I ended up having a couple of last-minute, 72-hour recording stretches without breaks, without sleep and without food! I probably look like some goddamn nutty professor when I'm in the middle of working. One time during these long sessions I was working with all lights off with the only light being that of the computer screens. Corpse (my brother from Jess and the Ancient Ones) came in and greeted me but I didn't notice him. I didn't notice him even after he turned the lights on! I have so much enthusiasm for experimenting with ideas that I get carried away, you know?
I know I'll die much younger because of this album and I hope I'll never put myself through anything similar again.
Luxi: How did you find Kennet Granholm to play with you in live situations? Does he share similar views of what Forgotten Horror should be all about musically and visually?
Tuomas: If I remember correctly, we met at a summer BBQ party at Christofer Johnsson's (Therion) place in Sweden some years ago. In any case, it was something related to the dark magical organization Dragon Rouge of which I was a member of back then. As I mentioned, he is an academic mind and his input with the band is not only as a live guitar player. By the next release he'll probably be promoted to "ordinary" band member heheh, so he is a part of Forgotten Horror for sure.
Luxi: You don't have any need for hiring a bassist to play live in Forgotten Horror? You don't feel that would bring extra value and/or power to your live performances?
Tuomas: Yes, it would be awesome to have a bass player, someone who could play live and give their own input in the bass arrangements. I'd love that! We actually had a live bass player for the album release gig but it was a total clusterfuck and it didn't work out at all. This cancellation happened right before the gig in the worst manner possible and this issue ended up taking all my time away from my already hectic schedule of arranging the gig and the album release.
We have found a new bass player from Sweden who's eager to join the band and we'll see how it goes. I definitely learned my lesson and we'll have a fucking audition roast session waiting for him!
Luxi: Do you find playing live is a "necessary evil" or is the opportunity to perform new music for an enthusiastic crowd a rewarding pay-off for all the hard work in the recording studio?
Tuomas: Gigs are definitely not a necessary evil, gigs are a privilege! I really want our live show to represent my vision of Forgotten Horror and I've found the best way to do that is by keeping things minimal and by being ourselves onstage. We've felt no need to dress up in armor and corpse-paint. Maybe in the future we'll add some theatrics but it should support an existing strong foundation, not fill gaps.
Luxi: Whenever you play live are there some mandatory things that you do onstage that are vital parts of Forgotten Horror's stage presence? What I'm referring to is the way you communicate with the crowds and if you get lost in your songs and just spit words out without really thinking about what you are saying.
Tuomas: We've had so few gigs that there are no routines or anything like that but due to our participation in the band Deathchain, Kassara and I play very tight together. Playing this kind of music is a bit similar to playing sports in that preparation and practice are important. Fortunately, I have played a lot of live shows with many bands so I know how to prepare myself to be in the right place mentally before going on stage. With Forgotten Horror there's the extra twist of being the front figure and lead vocalist, which makes it even better.
Luxi: Are there some mandatory or favorite "war anthems" that you always want to include in a Forgotten Horror set?
Tuomas: No, usually I like to play new stuff since that best represents my thoughts at the time. This new beast of a full-length has such strong material though, that I wouldn't be surprised if one or two songs end up as permanent future classics in our live set list.
Luxi: You guys must have some plans for future gigs. Is there anything that you can officially announce yet?
Tuomas: We have recently signed to Incantation Agency and we're hoping they can book shows for us both in Finland and abroad. We are now in great shape and hungry for more gigs and we don't want to have such a long break from playing live again. Just give us a venue or a festival and we will DESTROY that fucking place with our energy!
Luxi: What else should we know about your plans for the next couple of years? I guess you won't enter the studio again to record new material any time soon so is there anything else you'd like to accomplish in that time?
Tuomas: Actually, I'm planning to go into the studio with Forgotten Horror as soon as possible! We'll probably start composing and arranging new material this summer. I guarantee the next release will not take four years to manifest. You ain't seen nothing yet.
Luxi: Everything comes to its an someday so how would you like people to remember Forgotten Horror when the band is put eventually 6.66 feet under?
Tuomas: Gosh, I have never thought of that. Let's see...I think, or at least at the moment, I feel like Forgotten Horror will stay with me forever. I cannot imagine living without Forgotten Horror being there, it's so close to my heart and I've shed so much blood, sweat, swearing and tears for it.
But I've learned one thing in this life for sure and that is to never say "never". The essence of life and existence itself is that it is constantly changing and it'll be interesting to see what happens with all the current Black Metal bands when the musicians grow real old, you know? Like now with Motörhead, Manowar, Iron Maiden... I wonder if anyone can play stuff like Nile when they're pushing 80???
Luxi: Thank you for taking some time to talk about Forgotten Horror with us Tuomas and all the best with your future endeavors with the band. It's time for the closing comments...
Tuomas: Thank you Luxi! I really appreciate this and it was a pleasure doing this interview. I should have a planned out a speech to throw in here but I have none hahah!
Let's improvise. Last thing I'd like to mention to your dear readers is the latest challenge I've put myself into, which is to become a cage fighter (MMA, mixed martial arts)! You can find my band news, MMA training video blog, podcast, artwork and all kinds of crazy shit I do at:
Never give up and always stay true to yourselves! Till the end!
|Other information about Forgotten Horror on this site|
|Review: Aeon of the Shadow Goddess|
|Interview with Tuomas Karhunen (vocals, guitar) on November 12, 2011 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
|Video: The Serpent Creation|
Copyright © 1999-2018, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.