Moonsorrow – Hardly Blending In

Friday, 29th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

Not to call metal journalism a risky profession or hobby, but when a scribe takes the call from an overseas artist, a myriad of things can go wrong. Language barriers, response delays, the propensity to talk over each other, and worst of all, a dropped call. Personally, there’s only been one instance of phone trouble and that just so happened to be when I was chatting with Hansi from Blind Guardian. Great timing…

Anyway, the helpful people at Spinefarm’s newly-minted US offices set up an interview with Blistering and Moonsorrow guitarist Mitja Harvilahti to discuss the band’s mammoth new EP, titled Tulimyrsky. That was to be the main topic of discussion, along with their V:Havietty album from last year, which is far and away the best thing to come out in the 2007 calendar year. But, the international phone lines had another thing coming for the two of us, forcing the call to be dropped a total of three times. After the third attempt, we just gave up and called it day. Ever the resilient one, Blistering tracked Mitja down with some email Q’s to round out the chat…

The new Tulimyrsky EP, does it consist of all new material or are there any leftovers from V: Havietty?

Mitja Harvilahti: It’s new material. We didn’t have anything left from the last album. The EP is not your typical EP – it’s more like a soundtrack with a cinematic feel to it. We had some new material and the cover of “From Whom the Bell Tolls” ready to go.

Blistering.com: What prompted you to put a new take on “For Whom the Bell Tolls?

MitjaWell, originally we had made a demo version of the song already in 2003, but during the Verisäkeet session in 2005, we had an extra studio day to use as we wanted, so we thought of recording some bonus material for some future album or compilation. We had no idea that it would take almost 4years to release it, but when we started to plan the Tulimyrsky EP, we had a clear vision about having the cover on that release as a bonus song.

Blistering.com: Do you follow modern day Metallica?

Mitja: Not really. I don’t have their new album yet. I guess the best thing they have released since 1992 is the Some Kind Of Monster documentary! It’s an excellent chance to see what happened behind the scenes. It really depicts a rock band that has grown totally out of their proportions, and how they find it difficult to find the spirit that they once had, as well as the balance in their daily lives. Very interesting and amusing film and it shows the courage the band still has to show the band in the most fragile state.

Blistering.com: Take me back to the time when you did Kivenkantaja. Did you have any idea as to what the future held? At the time, your style of epic metal was still so new. Did you have any clue it would catch on like it has?

Mitja: There were already clear signs that folk metal would become a big trend. Finntroll was a big name in the scene and many of the bands that ride the wave now, were already gaining recognition. I always thought that this folk/pagan metal would have potential to make it big time, because it really was a new thing. Probably the only new genre of metal since black metal. In 2003 we weren’t yet touring internationally, even though there was demand for it already. But yeah, I had no idea that we would tour extensively around the world as we do now. I assumed that we would never make it to USA, but I was wrong, eventually. So hey everybody! I wanna to see you at the Heathen Crusade festival November 14-15th!!!

Blistering.com: I know some of the guys in the band do time in other groups like Finntroll, etc. Have you pursued any outside projects?

Mitja: I’ve had a bunch of them, but Moonsorrow takes a little too much time right now. The most recent projects were a black metal band called Shadow Cut. We made only one album, but it was an interesting band because I played bass in it. Another one is called Itäväylä, and it’s a very experimental band, playing a mixture of western rock, electro, boogie and noisy doom metal! We have four guitar players in the band and with nine musicians on stage, it becomes a crushing sound of wall. Like a heavyweight version of ZZ-Top. I’ve also had some guest appearances on different albums. Mostly playing leads and singing.

Blistering.com: Is this ever an issue inside the band or does this help keep Moonsorrow fresh?

Mitja: It’s never been an issue, and while Moonsorrow is inactive we all like to do other stuff, just to be able to play something. There are loads of new stuff coming from the Moonsorrow members. Marko (Tarvonen, drums) has a new band, and Henri (Sorvali, guitars) and Ville (Sorvali, vocals) are producing bands all the time.

Blistering.com: It was pretty unfortunate when Moonsorrow got labeled as Nazis andracists. Is there still any backlash from this?

Mitja: Oh well, I don’t know. Mostly we get these comments like: “What the hell? how can anybody think you’re Nazis?” But I don’t have any idea if the ordinary people in Germany and Austria still remember our name being linked to Nazis. That false propaganda was all over the press in Germany. And just one guy behind it all…

Blistering.com: Did it take you by surprise? I always saw Moonsorrow as being proud of its heritage and country, not racists…

Mitja: Well the scale of it was surprising. Some words can mean so different things in different countries. If you use the word “national romanticism” in Finland, everybody links it to the arts and to a specific era when Finnish artists started to seek the aesthetic values of Finnish nature, language, etc. as a source to their art. If you say the same words to a German, he will most definitely link it to Hitler and far-right nationalism!

Blistering.com: Is this a prominent problem in Finland? Do people have a problem with being nationalistic? In America, it’s deemed OK, but from other bands I’ve spoken to, having too much pride in one’s country is discouraged.

Mitja: It’s not a problem in Finland really. And Moonsorrow is not very nationalistic band after all. If you try, you’ll probably find just couple songs that has anything to do with Finland or Finnish history and nation! And even those aren’t very nationalistic in any way So, it’s really stupid to call Moonsorrow nationalistic.

Blistering.com: We often get the perception of these epic/folk metal bands of being people that like to hang out in the woods and live a primitive life. I’mguessing that’s not the case for you, right?

Mitja: I like to hang out in the woods a lot! I’ve always had a very kind of spiritual relationship to nature, but I find living in the concrete jungle just as amusing. We really don’t live primitive way, no way in hell! I leave that to the dirty new age hippies that don’t wash themselves! Unfortunately. Finland is such a cold place that they will find their way home sooner or later when the temperature drops below zero degrees.

Blistering.com: Being in a metal band in Finland is pretty big deal (from what Igather),do you do a good job of blending into society?

Mitja: Finland is the promised land of metal. Here, heavy metal is mainstrem music, and everything from the Idols winner to a vegetable juice TV-commercial are “METAAAALLL”!!! So if you want to blend to the masses more easily, just wear black clothes and look like a metal kid.

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