Noumena – The Burning Burden

Thursday, 25th July 2013

To demonstrate the amount of time that has lapsed between album releases for Finland’s Noumena, this scribe interviewed the band in 2007 for a print publication, Metal Maniacs. Back then, it appeared that in all likelihood, the Finns were next up in the Finnish metal derby, boasting a sound reminiscent of early Amorphis, combined with the melancholy of Sentenced and darkness of Katatonia. As fantastic of a combination of sounds, the band’s songs were like death dirges for a funeral procession; gristled thanks to the use of gruff death metal vocals, yet melodic enough to be colored with every shade of grey possible. 

As bassist Hannu Savolainen will go onto explain below, the cards never quite fell into place for Noumena after Anatomy of Life, but in the seven years that have passed, the band has gained renewed focus and energy. Death Walks With Me (Haunted Zoo Productions) is the culmination of several years worth of tinkering, along with a near break-up, yet, the album gains a newfound edge via female vocalist Suvi Uura, proving that while time may have stood to a standstill for the band, their creative vision certainly hasn’t. Here’s Savolainen, giving DR the scoop… 

Dead Rhetoric: Let’s start with the obvious: You had all sorts of momentum going after Anatomy of Life, but activity suddenly stopped for the band. What happened?

Hannu Savolainen: We released Anatomy  in November 2006, played bunch of gigs in Finland and toured in Europe in June 2007. Then our label Spikefarm Records told us they won’t use the option to release our next album. When we should have taken the next step, we found ourselves in the difficult situation. We recorded new songs and tried to find a deal suitable for us. At the same time they were lots of things going on in our lives: finishing studies, new jobs, children and so on. We had released two albums in a 1.5 years, so maybe we just took the time as we didn’t have record deal. In the beginning of 2012, we decided to form our own record label in order to release the great new songs we had written. We wanted to do it for ourselves and for Noumena fans, even though we realized the risks in all this.

Dead Rhetoric: Surely people have this misconception that all Finnish metal bands are able to survive and be self-sufficient. Were you happy to get off Spikefarm and start something new?

Savolainen: There are lots and lots of metal bands in Finland so the competition is harsh. I don’t mean any stabbing [in] the backs, but there are limited amount of venues, audience and money. Every band wants to play live and get their stuff sold. In the meantime record labels sign fewer bands and even kick them out. So it’s a hard life in the promised land of heavy metal. For most of the bands this is a really expensive hobby.

The deal with Spikefarm was a reward for a stubborn work and we were really happy about it. But we were just one band in a large roster, so they wanted to see if we could step out with an ordinary marketing and promotion. We did sell okay, but not enough. After we had recorded the new album we got a couple of deal proposals. From a band point of view, those were more or less rip-off deals with no good plan for promotion etc. We wanted to take the whole package in our own hands, keeping all the immaterial rights to ourselves even if it meant smaller promotion budget and other resources. And we are quite happy with the decision. Of course, this requires lots of time and energy, but we are willing to contribute that.

Dead Rhetoric: Did you think it would take this long to come up with a follow-up album to Anatomy?

Savolainen: No, we didn’t. After we had recorded a three song promo in 2009 and we didn’t get good deal proposals, we realized this will be a long haul. We were somewhat frustrated and decided to clean the table, meaning deleting the songs we didn’t find good enough. Only “Sleep” and “Only the Silent” survived that cleansing. Then we wanted to take the time to write a solid album even though it meant that lots of people would forget us.

Dead Rhetoric: Was there ever a time you thought there wouldn’t be another Noumena album?

Savolainen: We had a serious discussion about our future in 2011. Do we want to release the next album and undertake all the things it requires: composing, rehearsing, paying a lot of money and so on. But we didn’t want Noumena to end in silence, but give at least a great farewell album. Suvi had joined the band in 2009 and I think she was a little bit confused when nothing happened. But she kept kicking us forward, which was quite an important thing! Then we began to get the motor humming and we once again really excited about writing new stuff.

Dead Rhetoric: Death Walks With Me was started all the way in December of 2010, but wasn’t finished until last year. Did the songs ever become stale over that time frame?

Savolainen: Back in 2010 we had a bunch of songs and we chose three of them we wanted to record. We kind of decided that time these tracks are so good and strong that they’re going to end on the album. When we rehearsed for the studio session 2012 we had 14 songs altogether and we chose 11 of them. “Nothing,” “Let It Run Red” and “Season of Suffocation” had them place in the qualification and deserved to be on the album.

Of course those three songs were old in some sense, but we gave them a facelift during the 2012 studio session. By the time new album is out, you have listened those songs hundreds of times. It’s always hard to keep them fresh until the fans and audience hears them. That’s why we deliberately keep pauses in listening them so that we can approach them again with fresh ears, so to speak.

Dead Rhetoric: The album has all of the great Noumena trademarks, but still sounds fresh. What was the approach going in?

Savolainen: Our main songwriter Ville Lamminaho wanted the new album include more tracks from Tuukka Tuomela and myself than Anatomy. We composed somewhat diverse material, but were able to keep the red thread between them. This time we tried to keep our minds open for new ideas and instruments. That’s why there is mandolin, French horn, “football fan choir” and Suvi’s growling on the album. I think back in the days we wouldn’t have the guts to do that. This might be the key for the freshness. And we didn’t want to participate [in] the loudness war that much or overly compress our music, which happens to be the case in the metal music. We wanted to keep the soundscpace breathing and instruments sounding quite natural. Earlier we used to double lead guitars parts and growling vocals. This time we stripped all the excess use of doubling.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve always had guest vocalists in the past, and in this instance, female vocals are pretty prominent. How do you go about weaving them in?

Savolainen: Besides Antti’s growling, we have had female vocals and clean male vocals since our first demo. We have always wanted to use diverse vocals and I think it’s one thing that separates us from many other melodeath bands. It’s also one reason some people don’t like our music; they preferred only growling. Even though we have had female vocals such a long time in our songs; just Suvi Uura is an official member of Noumena.

We try to use different vocal styles with a good taste and avoid naive “the beauty and the beast” -arrangements. I think we managed to do that well on DWWM. There are moments for growling and moments for clean vocals. Ville has received lots of influences from The Gathering, Dissection and Tiamat when talking about clean vocal melodies and using them. There are melodies and atmospheres which can be delivered only by female vocals.

Dead Rhetoric: Why didn’t you use Tuomas from The Man-Eating Tree/Fall of the Leafe on the new album? Was he not available?

Savolainen: Well, we didn’t ask him this time, but I guess he would have helped us. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves but seek a different way to deliver the songs. Tuomas is really gifted, has a unique voice and is a great person. He has performed with us every now and then and we might work together in future, no one knows.

Dead Rhetoric: I read some of the lyrics from the new album and they’re suitably dark and dreary. Needless to say, is this your lyrical forte?

Savolainen: Our lyrics tend to deal with some darksome themes. It fits our music and it’s a good way to handle depressing feelings. Most of the lyrics on the new album deal with death and loss from some point of view. During the past years, we have lost family members and friends, and all this has affected us, of course. But there are also lyrics of loyalty, friendship, growth and love on DWWM, as well. I don’t want to point you the tracks, just read them yourself.

Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on deck for the rest of 2013?

Savolainen: We are working to get our new album distributed in central Europe and maybe in US. Tour in Finland will take place during the autumn. At the moment we are enjoying a brief summer vacation and we’ll hit the stage in the beginning of August. I want to thank all our fans for support. Horns up!

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