Interview with vocalist and guitarist Eero Tertsunen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: August 18, 2017
Renascent is a Christian-themed symphonic Black/Death Metal band originally from Finland that relocated to Bloomington, Indiana, USA, in 2015. The band has recorded two studio albums, both of which have raised a stir among extreme underground Metal followers. Renascent's second album, titled Praise of the Lord God Almighty, was released digitally in 2016 but physical copies are in the works via Indiegogo.
The Metal Crypt contacted Renascent's main songwriter Eero Tertsunen to learn more about this still relatively unknown extreme Metal act. This is what Eero kindly shared about the band with us...
Luxi: How's life in the States, Eero? Settled down in your new home turf over there?
Eero: I have been living here for two years. It's cool, two years left and then it's back to Finland.
Luxi: It's been awhile since people got to hear new music from Renascent. Your debut album, Through Darkness, was released in 2005 and the follow-up album, Praise of the Lord God Almighty, was released digitally in 2016, so there was a long 11-year gap between releases. Why did it take so long to get the second album recorded and finished?
Eero: We wrote almost all the songs and riffs for our latest album between 2005 and 2008, then the band kind of went passive in 2007. After that we didn't have much activity because the keyboardist, who is co-songwriter, was concentrating more on her studies and other things than composing Metal so we just left it there and did other things. I could say I was also pretty passive towards my own music at that time even though I played in several other bands/projects. In 2012, I decided to get at least some recordings going and hired Rolf Pilve to record drums for the album. This was just before he joined Stratovarius. In 2015, we started to focus on our own material again which finally led to this latest album and I am motivated to do more.
Luxi: Are you afraid that people may have forgotten about Renascent due to the big gap between albums?
Eero: Yes, that could happen but at the same time there are new people who will discover our music since it doesn't really get old. Markets like to push new stuff upon you and they have created a rule that an album is old when it has been out for one year, but there is plenty of good music around yet to be discovered and to me it doesn't matter whether it was recorded 20 years or one year ago, if it's good. In our case there have been people who have discovered our band in 2014-2015 and asked if we are releasing new material, so they didn't have to wait for it so much. Yes, you lose some but you also gain if you are present and your material is available.
Luxi: What was it like to get this follow-up album completely recorded and finished? Were you afraid that you might lose the vision and/or direction you wanted this album to be about, musically and lyrically? In eleven years, ideas or visions may change or even be completely abandoned...
Eero: Musically yes, most of the tracks and riffs were written a long time ago so I had the temptation to start rewriting material but since the album was a direct follow-up to the last album we put it out pretty much as it was, just a little late. There are maybe two riffs/parts I replaced AFTER drums and bass had been recorded in 2012 that I just couldn't stand. We saved writing lyrics to the end. We had ideas for each song since the beginning (2005-2007) and when it was time to record vocals and write lyrics it was cool to notice that the lyrical theme was exactly how we had felt for each song even after all that time.
Luxi: There's a strong, even blatant Christian message with Renascent. Do you see the band as messengers of Jesus Christ and do you believe this strong Christian connection may put off some metal purists out there that get hives from Christian related values and stuff?
Eero: It depends on how easily each one is triggered. Of course, I understand those who have had bad experiences with Christianity and there are some ideologies that are as much a turn off for me off so I can relate. Otherwise Renascent is a band and we write music as an art form. Since we write lyrics about what is important to us and personally to me, my faith is important. If we take music seriously then we take lyrics seriously also. If you have a band that has lyrics like "stupid hoe x10" there is a great probability that they haven't really poured their heart into that music. It doesn't even have to go that far -- you can do music in a more calculating way or you can do it as your art.
As Christians, everyone is personally a "messenger" and is supposed to fulfill the great commission the way they see fit. I can only speak on my own behalf that I am a Christian first and everything else is supposed to come after.
Luxi: As far as the music goes on Praise of the Lord God Almighty, many seem to label it as symphonic and blackened melodic Death Metal. Do you see that as a fitting description about your stuff or do you have a problem with it due to the Christian element within your lyrical approach?
Eero: I have described us as a symphonic Black Metal/melodic Death Metal band but symphonic and blackened melodic Death Metal sounds actually more accurate and that is what I will use from now on, thanks Luxi. To me it doesn't matter much how our music is described as long as it is musically accurate, everything else is just gimmicks.
Luxi: Some musical comparisons have been made to other bands, like Dimmu Borgir for example, due to your keyboard-laden musical approach on Praise of the Lord God Almighty. Has Dimmu Borgir been a musical influence (not a lyrical influence for some very obvious reasons) on you personally?
Eero: Sure, at the very beginning when we started to write music together with Mikaela, Dimmu had just released Puritanical... That album and some other bands in that era gave us some examples on how to incorporate keyboards into extreme music, some of them, of course, were not so extreme but I could drop a few names like Children of Bodom on the Follow the Reaper album, pre-2001 Nightwish and Symphony X. Our style in arranging synths is kind of old school, we don't do orchestral but rather just keep doing "Pop" layer upon layer. On this album, there are some parts that are filled up with synth layers playing different stuff over each other but still keeping it musical. I doubt we will ever write something like that again since it gets easily buried under the guitars and will go unnoticed. In a way, we are searching for a proper way to combine brutality with melody and have developed our own style with it and it is evolving all the time. For the next release, I am thinking of a different way to do it. This album followed techno structure; same key, not much chord progression, just adding layer upon layer with keyboards. With guitars, it was more riff than melody based, don't know if that makes any sense to anyone other than me.
Luxi: The guitar sound is exceptionally heavy and crispy on this new record, reminding me of the guitar sound that can be found on Arch Enemy's debut record, Black Earth. How important was it to get the guitar parts sounding heavy and totally crushing on this record?
Eero: Well, the guitars were originally a little too crispy but when I remixed this album I softened them a little bit for clarity. Yeah, it is important but you also need to hear everything else. I made that sound by mixing in different guitars, I don't recommend it since it may sound like a big mess but I had the same guitars in three different sounds, one of them was the dominant sound and then I added a little bit of the other two. Personally, I don't really care how guitars are done, I am not a gear maniac, I just care if it sounds good and anything goes in search of the proper sound.
Luxi: While we are at it, talking about some musical influences that may have directly or indirectly influenced your songwriting process on Praise..., when I listened to the title track, besides the Dimmu Borgir comparisons, it made me think of a band called Vital Remains due to its fast, in-your-face and absolutely ground-ripping musical approach with all the solo work and stuff. I assume Vital Remains isn't a completely unknown outfit to you musically either, or is it?
Eero: Yeah, I have heard the Dechristianize album from them but haven't followed or listened to them much, the only comparison IMO is that there are a lot of things happening with the rhythm guitar on the intro riff, so much that it is "physical" to play, and neoclassic leads.
Luxi: I know I am asking kind of specific questions related to this new record, but I hope you don't mind, eh? My next question is about your distorted vocals on the record. Why did you end up using so much distortion? Was there some purpose behind this particular decision?
Eero: There was some distortion on the vocals but I removed it when I remixed the whole thing. The purpose was to make them sound proper or good in the mix by using mild distortion and/or saturation to make them stand out better in the mix. It's common practice but should not be overused.
Luxi: Was it an easy decision to take over Barry Halldan's vocal duties after he sang the main parts on both the Demons' Quest EP and on the debut album, Through Darkness? Did it ever cross your mind that you might find a replacement for him, instead of taking all vocal duties for yourself?
Eero: Yeah, I was trying to find a replacement a long time ago but then I did demo vocals myself and it was OK, so I decided to do it. It is always easier if there are fewer people involved. If I had gotten a chance to have Barry on the record that would have been awesome but since he was not around, I did it myself. Actually, the vocals on the Demons' Quest EP are mine so I just switched back to vocals.
Luxi: For me personally, one of the finest and most impressive tracks off this new album is a song called "The Reign of the Ancient of Days", which starts off with an extremely ominous and exceptionally wicked guitar riff right after a short keyboard prelude. What can you tell us about the song?
Eero: Well, I wrote most of the riffs in my workplace during a night shift when I was working at a homeless shelter in Helsinki, mainly the beginning riffs. This is one of those songs where we wrote some parts with keyboards first then guitars, like the chorus, for example. Maybe there is something from that "watching shadows dancing on security cameras at 4am" atmosphere. But for real nothing beats that dark autumn evening feeling in Helsinki, Finland. Those times are gold for inspiration when writing something like this.
Luxi: What can you tell us about the album cover of Praise of the Lord God Almighty?
Eero: A friend who has done all our album covers since the beginning did it. I have always liked his style of embedding Christian symbolism in dark themes so this one has some of it, too. There are three crosses on a skull-shaped mountain, blood pouring from it, and a character covered in blood blowing on a shofar. In the Old Testament/Biblical times the shofar was used for military purposes, coronation of king or God, worship, and prophet's warning. Generally, blood symbolizes victory over the power of sin and death through the sacrificial blood of Christ shed for the sins of mankind. There are many ways to interpret the symbolism here, only the artist knows what his intentions were but within the band we see different meanings depending on who you ask. The name of the intro "Cry for the Sins of Mankind" and the general themes of our lyrics should speak for the cover.
Luxi: As mentioned earlier, Praise... was released in November 2016 only digitally but your plan is to get a physical CD format out as well. How are things standing at the moment regarding these plans? Are you planning to release it on your own or do you have some negotiations going on with some record label representatives as well?
Eero: At first, we were planning to print CDs on our own and we currently have a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for it.
Luxi: Supposedly you have some plans to test the waters by doing a few gigs in the future with Renascent. Do you have anything you can reveal on the gig front?
Eero: Yeah, we would like to play some gigs, either in the US and/or in South America. Mikaela and I live in the States and our bass player Voitto spends half of the year here in the US so we have a full line-up. It wouldn't require much to play live, just the drummer coming here.
Luxi: How much passion and determination to play live, to bring Renascent to places all over the world, and to pull off proper live shows for the fans of this band do you have?
Eero: Personally, I have plenty of passion to play live, I enjoy it always if I have prepared early and well enough and when band plays tightly. It is just that you cannot do this alone and you pretty much depend on other players but I will do what I can to make this a live band.
Luxi: As your lyrics have strong Christian themes incorporated into them, is it completely out of the question that Renascent would share the same stage with some satanic band someday?
Eero: No, it's cool. We play wherever we are free to play and say what we want.
Luxi: The importance of a well-done promotional video cannot be underestimated. Do you have any plans to shoot one or two perhaps, to promote the release of this album?
Eero: For now, we haven't been thinking about it. I may have to do something more untraditional when it comes to video and promotion. I haven't been following music business rules when operating with this band.
Luxi: The year 2018 isn't that far away, do you have some special plans for 2018 as far as the comings and goings of Renascent are concerned?
Eero: Well, as I am writing this it's summer 2017 and our plans with Renascent are to at least print promotional copies of our last album with a better mix and mastering during the autumn, write some more music for next release, and possibly play live in Mexico and Central America in the summer 2018.
Luxi: I think that's all from my part, so thank you Eero for taking your time with my questions and all the best both to Renascent and you in the future too. If you have any last words, the battlefield is entirely yours now...
Eero: I guess that's all. Thanks for the interview.
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