Before the Dawn – First (North American) DoomSaturday, 30th March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
Phoning at the very-metal hour of 1 AM Finnish time, Before the Dawn mainman Tuomas Saukkonen asks Blistering “To go easy on me. I’m very tired.” Considering the promotional blitz Saukkonen is currently engaged in, it makes sense – new label Nuclear Blast is working the Finn like a dog. In comparison to the minimal promotional push the band’s previous albums received, Saukkonen didn’t sound the slightest bit bothered to be on the phone with a pesky North American journalist like yours truly in support of Deathstar Rising, the first BFD album to receive a proper North American release.
When you break it down, Deathstar Rising is worth being shoved in people’s faces. It’s the embodiment of everything that Finnish metal stands for: Icy melodies, climatic choruses, easy-to-handle song structures, and deeply personal lyrics. There’s a handful of songs here (read: “Deathstar,” “Unbroken,” “Sanctuary” and “Wreith”) that are mind-numbingly good and addictive, aided by Saukkonen’s hearty rasp and bassist Lars Eikind’s versatile clean vocals. All this results in one of the year’s most satisfying albums and Before the Dawn couldn’t have timed it better.
With a groggy, but energetic Saukkonen on the other line, Blistering wanted to get to the bottom of the band’s slow-climb out of Finnish metal obscurity, what the studio process was like for Deathstar Rising, and more importantly, if the man’s facial tattoos actually hurt…
Blistering.com: This is your first big North American release for the band, so in relation to some of the previous labels you’ve worked with, how is it like working with Nuclear Blast?
Tuomas Saukkonen: [pauses] It all started about two years ago. We started getting contact from bigger labels because we were stuck on some “indie” label category since the beginning of the band. It took about two years to negotiate the whole thing with Nuclear Blast and it came into reality two days before Christmas last year. It was a really cool Christmas present. I didn’t think anything about it until it was actually signed. It wasn’t a not-so clear situation because we still had the deal with the indie label that released Deadlight and Soundscape of Silence. The new one had already been completed, so it was just a matter of who was going to release it, so we were hanging in the air.
When we signed, we immediately started to do the promo; celebration time lasted maybe a few days. A company that size and that big, demands quite much from the band. The amount of work for the band was ten times more than what we had before. I found that to be a good thing; I’m not complaining at all. It was always really frustrating with the first five albums. When we did the deal, it was clear a lot of things will change. We’re very excited the whole to see how much they’re willing to work for the band.
Blistering.com: Was it frustrating not being as well-known in North America?
Saukkonen: The first two albums from a Spanish label [Locomotive Records]…it sucked. Playing a lot of shows in your home country for six years, but no albums were released [in Finland]. With each album, things have gotten bigger, but it was frustrating because it looked like things were starting to move along. The goal all along has been to reach out of Europe. Not having any actual releases in North America until now has been frustrating.
Blistering.com: As for Deathstar, how old are some of these songs?
Saukkonen: Everything is completely new and written in a very short time. I think it took about four months to write the songs. I’m in the middle of my side-projects, with Black Sun Aeon, I started to work in a different way by improvising everything in the studio. Book the studio, have somebody on hand, and make an album. The same mindset followed me for the new Before the Dawn. We did it for two songs on the new album. We did a demo track for the drums so he could follow them and I had one riff and everything else was built on the spot. For me as a songwriter, it makes everything fresh. We didn’t over-produce; we didn’t play any of the songs life, so it was really, really fresh. There was a lot of room for improvisation. The drums were recorded at the same time I was in the room with a guitar, so every time we wanted to change something, it was like being at the rehearsal space. We did all of it face-to-face in the studio; it was a much more musical way of making an album. We let the songs evolve on their end instead of thinking too deep in this environment.
Blistering.com: Lars’s clean vocals are a huge part of the album like on “Deathstar” or “Unbroken.” What’s it like having such an asset in the band?
Saukkonen: He’s really fast [laughs]. He’s definitely the most talented singer I’ve worked with. I’ve never heard of anyone working the way he does. He’s really awesome. It’s really easy in the studio – we never do any pre-production in the studio with the vocals. It’s just way too easy in the studio…we always keep his parts. On “Sanctuary” he does the whole song and when he came into the studio, it was the first time he had heard the structure of the song. Usually, I write 95% of the lyrics in the studio – I’m very impulsive and I never, ever have writer’s block [laughs].
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