Brymir – Bigger, Stronger, Faster, BetterTuesday, 23rd August 2022
Finnish metal has this certain charm that translates globally across all the various subgenre platforms. In the case of Brymir, you can expect a sound that has melodic death, folk, power, and symphonic elements – where hooks, melodies, and dynamic contrasts all come together for an exhilarating audio experience. Their latest album Voices in the Sky sees the band step up to Napalm Records, hopefully garnering an even stronger push that’s well deserved based on the quality songwriting plus deeper attention to the smallest details.
We reached out to bassist Jarkko Niemi to bring us up to date on the major differences with this latest Brymir record, the unique cover art this time around, the challenges of establishing the band at this point in their career, favorite memories surrounding Children of Bodom’s final Finnish tour before Alexi’s passing, the role of bass in this band, plus future plans.
Dead Rhetoric: Voices in the Sky is the fourth Brymir album – and first for Napalm Records. Tell us how you were able to sign with the label, and where do you see this record sitting in the catalog of the band – do you see any distinctive, special strengths or differences that you were able to achieve this time?
Jarkko Niemi: The first part, how did we get the deal with Napalm. We were in a very lucky position since we produce the music ourselves, and Viktor is the mastermind being the vocalist as well as the production master, he pulled all the strings when it comes to the production part of this. We make the music and then sell the product. We had this very good ability and our management has been getting better all the time. We could pick and choose from different potential partners, and Napalm made the best offering and we were very excited to do this. We have been very happy with them so far; they’ve been doing very excellent things for us so far.
About when thinking about the Voices in the Sky album when compared to the other albums. For the first time, we’ve gotten a very good balance between our original sound, more folk and power metal elements, as well as our newer sound. While at the same time our production values and our vision of how the band is going to sound has gotten into a very good place. Compared to the previous album, this is a much heavier metal album, more umph in the guitars, and it’s more guitar driven than the previous stuff. There are these symphonic elements, these folky elements, and you can say it’s more metal. That’s the best summation I could give for how this album differs from the others.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering Viktor is the singer and producer, how do you think he handles the multiple duties to achieve the best possible outcome for the group? Do you believe he knows when to take the creative hat off and get into director/executor mode?
Niemi: Well, considering that is how he works, both of those things go hand in hand. He creates stuff, he has the production idea of how to make things sound good. It’s fascinating to watch him work on stuff. He turns out like a hundred different ideas and starts working them into songs right away. All the initial demos sound like they could just be on an album. And he tells us it’s a work in progress. The process is very unique, there is this ongoing process all the time that is getting material ready – but at the very late point is where he gets into this crunch time, and now we are making the album. Then it becomes production, Excel sheets, timetables and what we want to get done at what point. It’s mesmerizing to see how all the pieces fall into place, from my perspective I have this little idea I work on, and it already sounds like this big, massive song. I am very privileged to see him work.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any songs on this new album that may have been a bit more challenging than others?
Niemi: There were a lot of things that almost didn’t fit in, that were like last minute fixes, and we were able to find the solutions almost at the very end. For instance, the song “Far from Home”, which starts with that lovely clean singing from Antti, who plays live guitars for us whenever Joona doesn’t, that was a very late addition of how we do the vocals and make it work on that song. It was very last minute, and we almost didn’t put the song on the album. All these kinds of things that are moving, we almost panicked. We were very happy with the end result. Usually there are some things that need tweaking, and then things are like, now it’s done.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it an easy choice to make a video clip for the title track? And can you tell us about the video shoot – which contains narrative sequences that cut back and forth against the band performance footage?
Niemi: It was a very natural choice. “Voices in the Sky” the song, sums up the whole album. The title track is the first song on the album, it’s a very good calling card on what this album is going to sound like. It moves, it changes. The video shoot was pleasant. It was fortunate, the time pressure to get things done so we didn’t have to mull over the details too much. We were told the dates we get to shoot this, Viktor had a good idea, let’s do this. The filming process in itself was very fun. The narrative sequences, we were very excited, yes, we get to jump around in costumes and do all kinds of dramatic stuff. Especially as we had a good crew, we got the end results to look competent. We weren’t ashamed of ourselves at least. It was very professional, and we got things to move at a nice, rapid pace.
I think there is that sort of symbolism in the song of letting go the chains of anger. Viktor could tell you more about the song details themselves, this relief and letting go of the anger. I think the world needs more of this right now.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the bonus cover of Dark Funeral’s “Diabolis Interium” come into play for this record? Has it always been important to inject that extreme spirit into the Brymir style of melodic death/symphonic/pagan-style metal?
Niemi: Yes, the Dark Funeral song in itself… Patrik our drummer felt a bonding with us when he entered the band, to take this band into a more blast-beat oriented, faster stuff. We were like yes, we really like Dark Funeral, and he was like, that’s awesome. It’s exploring this rawer, faster side, and it’s so much fun to get into. Don’t look back, it’s so refreshing. Choosing that as a bonus track, it shows us more of the punk spirit and not overly producing everything, going for it full blast. It’s something that is in our musical blood, we want to go fast and do extreme stuff, and you can hear that in Brymir, a lot of our songs have the extreme metal stuff, especially in terms of Patrik’s drumming.
Dead Rhetoric: Tuomas Valtanen is the cover artist for Voices in the Sky. What can you tell us regarding the concept and his work – as it’s quite different than previous records, especially in terms of the black and white, illustration nature that possesses more of an oil painting atmosphere?
Niemi: We definitely wanted something different for this album. It’s a striking piece. It gives the whole thing with Tuomas more of an iconographic thing there, you can take some snippets out of this, and it’s not over colored or epic. It’s a bit darker, a bit more shocking, you can take these figures out of this and make posters with them. You could say it’s more of a composite idea there. But it’s striking in itself, the figure is giving this offering up. It was a definite change in pace to our previous albums. We wanted more of a dramatic reveal, we are now on Napalm, now things are going to be different. I know people have said it looks more like a black metal album cover, let them say that, we are fine with that.
Dead Rhetoric: Obviously guitarist Joona Björkroth also has major recording/ touring obligations with his other band Battle Beast – yet still is a vital part of Brymir. How does the band handle his double duty obligations – as you also have a live second guitarist in Antti Nieminen that is a part of the picture?
Niemi: It’s been going very well thus far. The shows, we have done everything well. Joona is a big part of the production side of the album as well, he does the guitar solos in the studio, and produces the guitars with Viktor. Viktor and Joona have this amazing chemistry as a songwriting duo and what they do in terms of the production, they are always on the same page, natural flowing. I’m very sure that Joona has been in this since the beginning, I certainly hope that he doesn’t have to choose what band to play in. We’ve been very fortunate that Antti is excellent live, he’s almost the sixth member of the band at the moment. As you can hear on “Far from Home”.
Dead Rhetoric: You were familiar with Antti because you also work with him in his other band IA, correct?
Niemi: I recently joined IA, but I’ve known Antti and IA for a very long time. They needed a bass player, and they asked me. I joined IA because I’ve known Antti from Brymir. In that sense it’s more of a connection.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see Brymir as far as establishing yourselves career-wise at this point? What sort of challenges come up that you are hopeful to breakthrough as a result of the work behind this latest album?
Niemi: Career-wise, the challenges as with all artists is how to be able as a band to put more time into touring more, be out there more. One of those, you don’t know how it’s going to end or how it’s going to figure itself out, but things have been moving steadily upwards all the time in terms of every album has been taking us forward, all the time. In that sense, we are fortunate that we can prepare for this sort of steady growth. The main thing with us at the moment is to get us out there more. We are now doing that with the European tour in November. This big, time consuming tour, and making new connections, to have more opportunities further on. Things seem promising at the moment, definitely.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the differences between Brymir when it comes to your live performances versus what people hear on record? And what have been some of your most memorable shows, tours, or festivals to date for the band?
Niemi: The main difference with Brymir on record and Brymir live is how fun we are live. The music hits you hard, and the energy of us as a live band that we can give. It’s definitely not doom and gloom. Some people may be expecting that based on the music, but it’s a contrast. Definitely the most important thing for me personally is getting to play as a warm-up band for Children of Bodom’s farewell tour in Finland. Those were huge shows. That band has done so much to Finnish metal in general, and the melodic death metal sound that we are sort of carrying forward. Being able to join these childhood idols on their last tour. Now that Alexi Laiho has sadly passed, it’s even more precious that we got there and got to do that. It’s very difficult to find another thing to find that would be as emotional. Our first tour in Japan, first time playing at the Tuska Metal Festival in Helsinki on the main stage, those are things that you dream of as a band.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the state of symphonic, melodic death, and pagan metal currently? What excites you about the scene, and what things would you like to see changed or improved upon?
Niemi: The scene is doing quite well. There are always new and interesting bands. I don’t know how to analyze it in terms of things being different. All of the bands have their own thing they are doing, and the more the merrier. I have very little idea how big this style of music is abroad in Europe at large or in North America, South America. It’s difficult to wrap my head around how big is this scene. If I had to say there’s one thing I’d like to change, it’s get more Brymir out there (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: When looking at the career of Brymir, can you think of a specific failure that happened that may have set you up later down the line for a future success? And how do you end up handling setbacks and obstacles personally when it comes to your musical career?
Niemi: The main setback for Brymir in terms of the growth as a band was when our first album came out through Spinefarm Records, and they didn’t pick us up for the option on a second album. We got dropped off a major label, and we were like what now? It forced the band to be very quiet for three years, we didn’t have much movement, but it was the place where Viktor managed to produce music on his own. It forced us to do things ourselves, and after the fact was very much a strength continuing on. And now we can do what we want with the resources that are available, that’s why we are doing the very cool things we are doing right now. That was the setback to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps, start going against fighting the windmills.
I have a very good ability to distance myself from the stress of the (music business). If you go day by day, there are obstacles and things that go wrong. Since it’s not something you can really do anything about, not at least by raging about it, you are not in such a hurry. You only have a set amount of time to be around (on Earth), what happens, happens. You do your best, and if you stay calm, most likely the end result is going to be better. It’s always good to have some pressure, but not to stress yourself out. You will burn out and you will start hating what you are doing.
Dead Rhetoric: As a bassist, what is your outlook on the type of players you enjoy and what you feel your role is as a musician in this band?
Niemi: For me, bass players in metal, as a performer I’m more inclined towards the Gene Simmons goal of how to play bass. We have two guitar players who are awesome technical maestros, doing complicated stuff with huge riffs and there has to be a certain element there that ties the root note. How to make sure that people are following what is going on with the chord changes. It gives me more freedom to be the goofball, the energetic dude who fools around on the stage and does funny faces, shows his tongue. That’s my role in this band, even though I take my playing very seriously. I work on things sounding as good as they need to be, if I mess up and the bass isn’t tight, then the guitars sound like they are playing off time. The whole collective has to be airtight in this type of music. I have more liberty to look at the audience, point to the guitarists and make the audience look at how great they are.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Brymir over the next twelve months as far as plans with touring, promotion, etc.?
Niemi: The main thing is the European tour. We have some future plans for the summer of next year, but the world is crazy, and you never know what’s going to happen until it happens. Definitely the main thing moving forward now that the album is coming out are shows. Try to play as wide a variety of places as possible. Get this train rolling, and this November/ December European tour with Finntroll is the very first big step that we are doing, it will be the most intense and longest tour that we have ever done. We are looking forward to that, and to similar tours in the future.