Interview with bassist and vocalist Juha Alhfors
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 16, 2021
Juha Ahlfors (ex-Demolisher, Vainaja) has always liked the brutal side of music, the more brutal the better. Around 2014, he formed Korpsesoturi, inspired by Death Metal bands such as Dying Fetus, Immolation, and many others. He wanted to do things his own way with many of the elements he liked about brutal, fast, and mean Death Metal. He proceeded with a firm vision in his head and a self-titled, 4-track EP was released in 2017, on which he chose to sing in his native language, Finnish. A year later, the band's 10-song debut album, Malus Corpus, saw the light of unseen terrors. The album was well received among Death Metal maniacs around the world which surely added fuel to Juha's fire.
Two more years passed, and the band's follow-up album was released in November 2020. It was titled Korpskrist and presented ten new brutal assaults. That's when The Metal Crypt's curiosity was awakened, and we contacted Juha to obtain more information about the band. He kindly answered all of the questions we threw his way and explained in a detailed way what Korpsesoturi is all about. Read on...
How's life trying to get used to what passes for "normal" under the shade of this annoying virus...?
Juha: Well, life is good pretty much as always. The reason might be that over 15 years ago I moved from Helsinki and nowadays I'm living in the middle of nowhere with my family. It's safer for the kids but one of the main reasons is that I really love the silence. No other people and nature around me. On the other hand, I've been working remotely the last ten months and some days it is OK and some days it sucks. Being a lot at home during the Covid shit, I've had quite a lot of time thinking about new musical stuff!
CORPSE-SHREDDING DEATH METAL
Korpsesoturi was apparently born out of your love of old-school Death Metal, continuing where you left off with your previous band, Demolisher, in 2012 (or 2013?). What was it like to create a new band completely from scratch?
Juha: During my time in Demolisher, I tried singing some songs in Finnish and noticed how raw the energy was. It didn't fit Demolisher very well, so it stayed as a thought in my mind that I hoped to make happen in the future. In 2010 we started Vainaja and Finnish lyrics came to the surface for the very first time in my musical history. Vainaja is more like death doom metal so it's mid-tempo and nowadays very slow tempo. However, I've always loved fast, brutal Death Metal like Immolation, Deicide, Dying Fetus and many others. I started to write songs at my home studio. Lyrics came first most of the time and then the songs came together. It felt natural and then the story began. I've told many people that when Korpsesoturi was releasing the first full album that this is the band I am going to see how far it will go and that this will be the last time I push it to the limit. The most frustrating moments have been every time someone leaves the band, or I have had to show someone the door myself. Think about it - Korpsesoturi have had five or six drummers since 2014, hahaha!!! I know that I am an asshole but not that much! The main reason may be that as I have a very clear vision for Korpsesoturi, it chokes the creativity of others in the band. It's hard, but if you have a vision for how the band must sound, feel and taste, there cannot be any compromise or excuses. It has taken some time to get where Korpsesoturi is now and it has been fun. Sometimes a bit hard and even irritating but I still enjoy it a lot!
IN FINNISH I TRUST
Was it clear right from the beginning that you'd choose Finnish to get your message through in Korpsesoturi or did you have to give some thought to using the international language, English?
Juha: As I described a bit in the last question it was pretty clear from the beginning that lyrics would be in Finnish. I feel that it gives me more variations, more feeling to the vocal expression and many people who do not speak Finnish find that it sounds brutal and primitive. It has been nice to see that fans around the planet are taking the time to translate the lyrics! I have to say that English in Death Metal is okay if it is your native language but many bands that use it are not getting everything said that they might like to. There's a lot of bands using their native language for their lyrics and I really respect that! It's always very interesting to dig into the lyrics and find out what the band has to say. In my opinion, many bands using English sound a bit hypocritical and it doesn't raise them above the masses. Death Metal is not only music - it's connecting different people around the planet and it's fucking amazing!
Finnish Death Metal stalwarts Sotajumala (R.I.P.) were hugely popular, even abroad, when they commanded their fans around the world for nearly 10 years with their Finnish-sung Death Metal. How much of an inspiration were they for you when you started Korpsesoturi?
Juha: I followed Sotajumala when they were together. I don't think I ever saw them live and I never bought their albums. Why? I don't know! I respect their work and I can say that it has affected how I do things. However, for me their lyrics didn't mean so much until they released the Raunioissa album. Those lyrics were fucking awesome! I would say that the Nicole band which also uses Finnish in their lyrics has had more input to my work maybe. But yes, Sotajumala and also Nicole have been a part of the inspiration for using Finnish lyrics.
The debut album, Malus Corpus, released in November 2018 put the band's name on the international map of extreme music. Are you still satisfied with the album and how it was received among the extreme Metal community?
Juha: Malus Corpus is still a good album, but it is more like a combination of songs which were ready for release during that time. I had enough songs ready in 2017 but I wrote a few songs like "Itseinhon Tuhkasta" just before the recording of the drums. The album itself is two-sided in a way as there's very brutal and heavy parts but, on the other hand, there's also some Black Metal vibes. In Finland it was getting high ratings in magazines, but it was pretty obvious that the band's name was strange, even funny in Finland. Outside of Finland there was good feedback and that's maybe the main reason why Korpsesoturi was playing gigs mainly outside of Finland. Russians especially seemed to like the album a lot. Shortly after the Malus Corpus album was released, there were record labels offering second album contracts. It was nailed in late summer 2019 with Xtreem Music, but it seemed that many underground metal enthusiasts liked the first album.
Musically, your debut seemed to take its musical influences more from the American extreme Death Metal sound than either the Finnish or Swedish sounds. Does American Death Metal have a more special place in your disturbed mind and soul, perhaps?
Juha: Hahaha... I could say so, yes! That's one of the reasons why mastering was done by Zack Ohren in the USA who had also worked with Immolation. I was pretty surprised when he said yes when my friend Isto asked if he could do the mastering. I was like - what - are you sure??! I can say that I have been a fan of Nordic Death Metal bands too but somehow the American style is closer to the style I love.
How did Rotten Life Records come into the picture to release the debut?
Juha: I made the agreement with Rotted Life Records immediately after the self-titled EP was released in 2017. Jason sent me an email and asked if I would be interested in doing a full-length album. Funny that he didn't even know what kind of album it would be because the only songs he could have heard were the EP songs! Jason was just starting the Rotted Life label and Korpsesoturi's Malus Corpus was supposed to be the first album from the label. Unfortunately, as I parted ways with the drummer and guitarist in early 2018, it changed the plans and Malus Corpus was the second album the label released.
OK, moving on the band's second album, Korpskrist, which followed at the end of November 2020 on the fairly well-known Spanish label Xtreem Music. How did you hook up with Dave's (Rotten) label in the very first place? Was it sort of "slimy and rotten love from the first sight" when it came down to Xtreem Music's interest towards your band?
Juha: As I said earlier there were some labels showing interest soon after the first album was released. In 2019 I started to spread the word by through death metal connections and friends that Korpsesoturi was looking for a label for the second album. I contacted several labels and got quite a few offers. I am not sure I ever sent an email to Xtreem myself but one day I got a message from Dave Rotten that he would be interested in making a deal. One of the main things for me was to have the album on vinyl this time and that's what Dave was offering! Knowing some bands who have worked with Dave Rotten for years, I could ask them for feedback on how the co-operation has been for them. I got a lot of good feedback, so I decided to sign the contract.
Were there other labels trying to hand contract papers to you?
Juha: There were many interested labels from mainly from Russia, Germany and Mexico. I would say they were quite open-minded discussions and when I informed them that I signed the contract with Xtreem, they were happy that the second album was going to be released. In an underground genre like Death Metal there are a lot of labels but there are also quite a lot of scam labels. This is something that must remember when looking at the terms and conditions of the proposals. I used my connections to check backgrounds.
Korpsekrist, to my ears at least, sounds like a more refined and advanced version of your debut. It's a very intense and brutal slab of savage and hateful Death Metal that really doesn't leave much space for listeners to take a breath. Would you say you managed to squeeze all the elements into this opus that you originally wanted to in the first place?
Juha: As I've said many times over the years a musician must not hold back the creativity. Too much thinking and polishing will not make the song or album any better. Maybe one of the old-school Death Metal things is that you write the songs as they come and they feel correct in your bones. One of the differences between these two albums is that sounds were created from a scratch and the idea of what the album should sound like. I'm not saying we spent weeks to figure this out, but Jani had quite a good idea initially of what it should sound like and I was totally happy with this. Maybe the biggest difference between these two albums is that on Malus Corpus the bass was recorded straight from the amp line out but on Korpskrist it was recorded only with a capacitor microphone, which, in my opinion, works perfectly, even though I knew Jani would rip his pants mixing it, hahaha! One of the things that makes Korpskrist more intense is the lack of harmonic parts and shit like that. It was decided during the recording sessions to try and get every single drop of raw energy out of the songs what we could! This is one of the reasons we were a bit nervous about how the audience would take the new album even though I have always said since the very beginning of my Death Metal path that you should write your music for yourself first. It is more individual that way.
The recording lineup was a little bit different this time than on your debut. Would you elaborate on this subject a little bit?
Juha: For Malus Corpus in 2018, I was in a situation where I had no other musicians in Korpsesoturi. This was because I decided to carry on alone. I'm not going deeper into the reasons but let us say we're all humans. Anyway, that time I co-operated with the very talented session drummer Oskari from band Amoth. Guitars were played by my good friend Isto who I knew from Demolisher, but he is also the guitarist in Vainaja. Isto is also an original member of Mordicus. That was the lineup for that album. For Korpskrist, Jani was there as the main guitarist who joined Korpsesoturi in the summer of 2019. Jani is a very talented guitarist and has very good ear for different styles of music, especially metal as he can play almost anything with his guitar that he calls his "Old Lady"! There were a few drummers available so that wasn't an issue at all. The decision was made that Paul, who Jani knew, would play the drums. So, in the end, the lineup of Korpsesoturi has evolved quite a bit over the years as not many musicians can understand my ideas and what they should sound like.
POSITIVE ATTENTION WELL DESERVED
How happy are you with the reviews have been coming in for the new album?
Juha: When the Korpskrist album recordings were done, mixing was finalized and mastering was done, I had two-sided feelings. I felt that the songs I composed for the album were taking a step to another level in my personal point of view and that there was once again a piece of my soul sacrificed for it. Most of the lyrics are very personal but I felt that I managed to express my frustration and aggression behind the themes. On the other side, my feelings about the album were confusion and wondering whether anyone out there understand the album at all or is it just another blastbeat-filled, old-school Death Metal album which is just trying to be fast without a message. I discussed with this with Jani and he had the same kind of feelings. I sent the album to Xtreem Music and asked Dave Rotted what he thought about it. After a few days, he came back to me and said that it's fucking awesome and much heavier than he was expecting! We were happy that he liked it but before it was released and the audience gave their feedback we were still a bit nervous. Right after the release it was clear that the album was getting a lot of good feedback and a lot of people were sending messages that they really liked it! I have to say that with this second album we have received much more attention and we couldn't be happier. I've been playing Death Metal for around 30 years, so I am more than happy that my personal expression has been noticed and it gives people something to think about! But as always without fans and metal heads Korpsesoturi wouldn't be where it is today!! So, a big hand for all of you around the planet!
I also believe you really aren't the type of guy who wants to rest on his laurels too long, so can I ask if you have started composing material for the band's next release? What can we expect?
Juha: Slowing down will happen when my wrists are totally wrecked! There's a bunch of ideas and songs on the table already. I cannot say yet how the album will be constructed but it's not going to have melo-Death or clean vocals, that's for sure! I have to say that as Korpsesoturi is more a live torment band than studio band it creates the path for itself. The songs are brutal and there's only one guitar live so the main thing is the connection between the band and the audience. It's something primitive and hard to understand but I'm aiming to have the same feeling as I have and have had over the decades when going to gigs! Head banging, crazy jumping and stage diving; what is more relaxing???
... AND WHAT ABOUT PLAYING LIVE?
How much does the lack of gigs bother you due to these difficult times? Do you feel a burning call to get back on stage and entertain your fans?
Juha: It is like an internal flame which is getting larger all the time! Playing live, or live torment as I call it, is the main purpose for playing this music after all. I really love the feeling two minutes before going on stage and that adrenaline which flows through your rotten body! It's fucking awesome every fucking time! We have played for almost empty venues in the past but even when there's only a few people it's magical. Talking about the gigs and live torment, we started co-operations with s Finnish agent. They have done amazing work already, but I am not allowed to share any information about these things yet. Wait and see - I promise you it's going to be a fucking blast and a dream come true...
You also play in the Finnish Doom/Death Metal outfit, Vainaja. Is it easy for you to share your time between these two acts? Does one of them demand more time and dedication or do you see both bands as equally important?
Juha: I see both bands equal for me yes, but they work a bit differently. Korpsesoturi is moving forward like an old steam train without brakes. Vainaja is a bit slower and one reason is that our guitarist lives in Switzerland now. We have training sessions 2-3 times a year and create the songs during those sessions. We might play new stuff for 16 hours in a row and eventually we manage to create new songs. For Vainaja we work every now and then without any schedules. Korpsesoturi works weekly and if we look at all the promotion work, etc., it has been almost daily now for some months. I couldn't be a part of two very active bands because I also have a day job and family.
Predicting the future is tough, perhaps impossible, but what do you expect from 2021 as far as the band's comings and goings are concerned?
Juha: I really hope that this corona shit will vanish one way or another. I also have my fingers crossed that at least Europe will be open for traveling and if so, we would like to play more gigs for sure! We are composing the new material and we are planning to make an official music video too!
That is it for me. I sincerely want to thank you, Juha, for taking your time with my questions and wish you all the best with your future endeavors with your bands. May your road be smooth and easy with some unexpected and pleasing rewards. In and out... any last words, curses or whatever?
Juha: Stay heavy out there and see you at the live torments! Cheers from Finland!
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