Interview with guitarists Jökä Reinholm and Timo Ahlström and vocalist Jari Hurskainen
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: November 9, 2021
Thrash metal as a subgenre of heavy metal is doing well these days. It may have been buried under death metal, black metal, gothic metal and even grunge in the '90s, but it has never completely vanished.
Since the thrash resurgence, zillions of new bands have been popping up from every corner of the world, flying the flag for this aggressive and violent-sounding music with Finland's Demonztrator being one of the better ones.
Demonztrator started out as a cover band, recording a collection of old (mostly demo) songs from defunct yet underrated Finnish thrash metal bands under the title Forgotten Acts of Aggression, which eventually got a proper physical CD release in 2017 via Greek label Alone Records. This release also containing the band's 4-track EP, titled Myriad Ways of Dying, that showed the potential was there for them to write decent original thrash metal songs.
A lot of stormy water has flowed into the river Styx since those days and now the band is ready to proudly introduce their 10-song debut album, Sinister Forces of Hatred, to be released on Poland's Ossuary Records on November 1, 2021.
We decided to contact the band once again to get the latest updates from their camp. Read on...
SINISTER FORCES OF HATRED
When you started the songwriting process for Sinister Forces of Hatred, was the musical direction you wanted to take clear for all of you right off the bat or did this matter cause and conflicts within the band? To me it sounds like both ends of the musical world meet on your debut; the more aggressive and to-the-point as well as the more melodic?
Jökä: The process had been ongoing for a couple years prior to Seppo Tarvainen joining the process as a session drummer. Seppo brought in a pretty much finished song which became "Acid Remains". He also had some riffs that we finished with Timo and that song became "Murderlust". It was really easy to finalize writing the album and everyone's musical preferences blended effortlessly.
Was the songwriting process of the album a team effort?
Timo: The bulk of the music was written by Jökä and me and the stuff Seppo brought fit in perfectly. We rehearsed the songs and arranged them collectively as a band.
Could you describe to the readers of The Metal Crypt how it usually goes when you start giving birth to a new song? Does it start from a riff or two then build up from there until you have something concrete?
Timo: I start off by getting an idea in my head. It can be a riff, melody, lyrical line, anything and it comes from outer space if I'm not wearing my tin foil hat.
Jökä: Mostly it starts with a couple of beers, and I go from there on.
Writing lyrics is also a piece of the puzzle. Whose responsibility was it to write the lyrics?
Jari: Well, usually when Jökä or Timo writes some music they also tend to bring the lyrics to the table. Then I kind of digest them and may suggest some different viewpoints to the subject or some additions. But most of the time they are pretty much ready. For tracks that don't have ready lyrics, I tend to co-write with Kriba Gottberg. We've had this partnership since the days of my previous band The Scourger. We bounce ideas back and forth and write, and sometimes re-write the lyrics until we get the perfect fit for the song.
Could you tell us something about the recording process of Sinister...? How was it different compared to your previous recording sessions?
Jökä: The process was quite straightforward. We laid down the drum tracks first (some of the songs we played along with Timo and some Seppo recorded only with a click track) and then guitars, bass, vocals...
Timo: We also did demos of all the songs before heading in the studio so we could send them beforehand to the co-producer/engineer Pekka Laine.
While the recording process was going on, did you try to emphasize anything in particular about the sound?
Jökä: We tried to make it sound like a real band instead of making it sound robotic and overproduced. A real album played by real people.
Timo: I agree, we wanted to make it sound lively so you could feel like it's attacking you.
Did you face any obstacles while you were recording the album?
Jari: Minor, mostly. The drum sound took some time to get right. Then, on a personal level, I had some problems with my voice. I had an operation earlier in the year which made my voice act strangely. Sometimes I couldn't hit the high notes at all. In the end I got it working again, but it took some time.
PEKKA LAINE AND EAST SOUND STUDIOS
Which studio(s) did you use for the recordings and what made you choose them?
Jari: East Sound studios in Helsinki. Well, I was looking for a producer who would understand this kind of music and get the proper sound that we wanted. One day when I was chatting away with an old friend of mine and he mentioned this studio and that Pekka Laine was running it. I knew Pekka from all the bands he had been in, but I didn't know that he worked at this great studio nowadays. Anyway, I contacted Pekka, and he understood what we needed and then we were on our way to record the album that is now known as Sinister Forces of Hatred.
Who mixed and mastered the album? How long did that process take and did it cause any extra grey hairs?
Jökä: Pekka Laine mixed and mastered it. Because of the Covid we weren't in a hurry. The recordings started at the beginning of July 2020, and everything was pretty much finished before the end of August 2020. The mixing and mastering were done at the beginning of 2021. It took quite some time to find the right sound for the drums but other than that it was a pretty simple process.
Timo: We sent some reference tracks to Pekka so he could get an idea of what we wanted the overall sound to be like and he completely nailed it!
IT'S ALL ABOUT... THRASH METAL!
As I have been listening to and digesting the album for some months now, it's obvious Demonztrator's music will cause people to make different associations in their minds. I can hear some of Exodus' musical heritage, some Testament, some Kreator, etc. which speaks to your love towards the old guards of thrash metal. It's hardly a surprise why Demonztrator sounds like Demonztrator, i.e. you cannot hide from your original innovators and influences, right?
Jari: Yeah, it's all a big melting pot of influences really. We don't have any intention to copy any specific band. I think it would be rather strange if you couldn't hear all those influences from the great thrash bands whose careers we have been following and listening to for decades. All that said, Demonztrator will always have its own sound. It's not going to be that modern overproduced stuff or just pure old school thrash. We aim for something that will stand the test of time. I think we will always challenge ourselves and seek some new angles to keep it fresh and interesting.
As all of you have gotten some distance from the creation of this album and have had time to digest it, how proud are you?
Timo: I think it's a really good album that I personally feel proud of. Like you said earlier, the more aggressive and the more melodic elements meet on the album, and I think they blend nicely.
Jökä: We wanted to make an old school thrash album with a fresh approach, and I think we accomplished that.
What's your favorite song on the record and why?
Timo: It's honestly hard to pick one. I think all the songs are strong but right now I'll say "Crossing the Rubicon" because it's heavy, fun to play and I think it has really good hooks.
Jökä: "Nail Them All". It's really fun to play and reminds me of the vibe of Metallica's Kill 'Em All (the working title was actually Kill Them All :)).
UPCOMING SHOWS IN THE PIPELINE?
Covid-19 has prevented bands from playing live for a long time, but there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, at least here in Finland as I am writing this. What can we expect from Demonztrator in the coming weeks? A record release party would be nice, of course... [*wink-wink*]?
Jari: Very true. Like everybody else, we had to cancel gigs. And now when things start to open up, some of the gig offers have come too fast, with no time to rehearse a new set. We are currently looking into the possibility of playing some shows at the end of 2021, but I can't confirm anything at the moment.
What about 2022? Do you have anything in store for next year?
Jari: It's a work in progress. Our new record label, Ossuary Records, is looking into getting the album released in Japan and the USA. There has also been talk about summer metal festivals in Europe for 2022. We would also like to release an EP of some kind. We have part of the material ready, it's more a question of how to package and present it. At some point in time, I would like to release a proper live album. I don't know if all this will happen in 2022 but there's certainly a buzz ongoing, let's wait and see what happens...
That's all I had in my mind for this little "chat". I, for one, would like to thank you guys for getting this interview done and wish you all the best for your future battles with the band. Now you are entitled to wrap up this conversation with some final thoughts/words...
Timo & Jökä: Thanks again for all the support, Luxi. It's great that you do what you do promoting REAL METAL.
Jari: Luxi, you are a great "brother in metal", thanks again for a great chat. See you backstage, on stage and in the front row banging that metal head!
|Other information about Demonztrator on this site|
|Review: Forgotten Acts of Aggression|
|Review: Sinister Forces of Hatred|
|Review: Morbid Journey Into Chaos|
|Interview with guitarist Timo Ahlström on September 28, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)|
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