Ensiferum – Seas, Water and VictorySunday, 21st June 2020
Heading into their 25th anniversary as a band, Ensiferum are a veteran folk metal outfit who continue to be relied upon to entertain and delight audiences globally with their records and live shows. Whether acoustic or electric, heavy or light, singing songs in English or their native Finnish language – the performances, the songwriting, and execution delight and have made them a mainstay on the scene. With their eighth studio album Thalassic, they finally decide to explore a theme of sea and water stories, although not a full-blown concept record, which has them reaching back into their favorite historical and myth-related tales.
We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Petri Lindroos during more of the lockdown phase of the pandemic currently keeping people in stay safe, stay home mode. He brought us up to date on the recent keyboard player addition, insight into the album including producer and cover art choices – acoustic show memories and possible future plans, as well as some more insight into his tastes in music and reflections on his past choices/changes over the years.
Dead Rhetoric: You have a new keyboardist/ lead clean vocalist in Pekka Montin – how do you feel about this new member and what do you believe he brings to the table in terms of his abilities to aid the Ensiferum style?
Petri Lindroos: He brings an awesome voice to the band, first of all. He brought and picked up the level of the songs to a new platform. He’s a really awesome singer, and he can pull out pretty much anything that we could ever want for these new songs. I can’t say how he will look live, but hopefully soon we can.
Dead Rhetoric: Thalassic is the eighth studio record for the band. What differences do you find with this record compared to say One Man Army and Two Paths – and how do you handle the challenge of keeping the songwriting and performances fresh without necessarily repeating yourselves?
Lindroos: Trying to always move forward and try out new stuff. Play around a lot with different ideas. And also with this new album, we have a new member in the band and he brings a different sound and element to this with his voice for the music of Ensiferum. While always paying attention to what we have done before when we are writing new material, we don’t want to sound the same as we have on previous albums.
Dead Rhetoric: For the first time in the band’s discography, you focused on a specific ‘theme’ relating to the sea and water. Why is now the right time to explore this, and can you tell us where some of the inspiration and content comes from related to the theme – as it’s not necessarily a full-on concept record, correct?
Lindroos: Yeah, we have a theme but it’s not a full-on concept. It’s not like a storyline that goes beginning to the end. All the songs are their own little stories in this (record). I think it was about time to try out a theme album. Sami our bass player was digging out a lot of historical events and myths related to the sea, where he picked up all the stories for the songs.
Dead Rhetoric: You recorded this album with Stone bassist/vocalist Janne Joutsenniemi – who last worked with the band in that capacity on 2009’s From Afar. What made you think back to working with him this time around, and being a thrash maven did you have any fond memories of Stone and their discography?
Lindroos: We are all very big fans of Stone, actually. Back in the days when we did From Afar, he did an awesome job with that album as well as he did with this one. It was a pretty good choice. We were actually very happy that he had the time and the effort to work with us again. He’s a very nice man, he’s really good to work with. He knows when he can push us over the limit with what we do in the studio – vocal-wise especially, he’s really good at kicking our asses off.
Dead Rhetoric: When it came to the recording, you had been working with more analog desks over the past few records- was this the same thing this time or did you incorporate digital technology?
Lindroos: This is done with digital technology completely this time around. It’s also a little bit for saving time, easier to work with in the end. Since modern day recording and producers are very used to using computers and programs. I have basically no idea except I can press a red button to record and some other button to complete the take, that’s my knowledge of it. When people know how to work with computers, the recording can get done very fast.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any specific songs on the new record that were more challenging to develop or record than others?
Lindroos: The vocals, yes, maybe all of them a little bit. Pekka has a very strong presence on this album, and I think his butt was really kicked. I think it’s still bruised a little bit in the studio. He did a magnificent job, same as everyone else on this album. All of the songs get equal attention. Nothing is left to chance, everything is gone through, tried out, and accepted by everyone. That’s the way that we go.
Dead Rhetoric: There are nine songs in the main plus two bonus tracks for the special edition – was it a tough decision to make for what stayed on the main record, or were “Merille Lahteva” and “I’ll Stand By Your Side” always destined for the bonus cuts?
Lindroos: We actually ran out of time to really figure out the bonus tracks, as they are always preferred to have. We didn’t have time before we had to go into the studio to figure those tracks out. We did those ones on the fly, after the studio we put these songs together.
Dead Rhetoric: Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsák designed the cover art again – his third piece for Ensiferum. At this point, do you have complete faith and trust that he will know what the best, striking piece for the band needs to be, or is it still a collaborative, back and forth process between him the band to reach the final outlook?
Lindroos: For the cover art, what we did – I don’t even know how many emails we send back and forth, but I’m thinking it’s in the hundreds. Every time we get a sketch from him, more ideas start to flow for things we want to add. Until we get what we want, basically. He takes a long time, but he’s really talented at this kind of stuff, so we have complete faith in this guy.
Dead Rhetoric: So you understand the importance of cover art in metal to tell the initial story of what people can expect out of a record?
Lindroos: Of course. It has always been very strongly present in heavy metal, cover art. I think it should also stay. It’s your selling card, also. The cover art needs to be good.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been fortunate in Ensiferum to only have two record deals to date with Spinefarm and now Metal Blade. Discuss the importance of their work in establishing a foothold for the band, and where do you see your relationship with Metal Blade at this point in your career?
Lindroos: That’s a really good question. Of course those (labels) play a huge role for Ensiferum to be where we are now, both record labels. To work with (Metal Blade) has been really good, they have been strongly present every step of the way. I think right now it’s becoming more important to have a record label than any time before, given the current situation with this virus. Stopping bands from playing shows and doing tours all over the world, the importance becomes very good right now.
Dead Rhetoric: At 40, how do you look back at what you’ve accomplished in your music career during your 20’s and 30’s? Are there things that you wish you could have changed, or do you accept what has happened based on the choices and decisions that you’ve made all along?
Lindroos: There’s been a little more time to reflect on what has happened in the last twenty years. Of course there could have been better choices made. We could say we were drunk and young at that point. Is it worth going all the way back to certain time periods that you wish you would have acted differently? There are those kind of times, but there is nothing you can do about it anymore. I have personally accepted just to live with it.
Dead Rhetoric: Are you satisfied with your status in the folk metal scene – or do you believe there are more ways to reach a higher level of respect and reach with your efforts and live shows?
Lindroos: So far, so good. I think we have a strong foothold, especially in this folk metal scene. I think it’s going to stay like that. Hoping to reach a wider audience, I think that statement is something that reaches every single band. Hopefully with the new album we can get some good stuff going on again.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think the acoustic shows you did a few years back were something that helped you reach out to a new audience?
Lindroos: Maybe, yes. I heard from a couple guys that it was their first Ensiferum show. They had not seen a metal show from us, but they saw the acoustic show first, and they really enjoyed it. Those acoustic shows were extremely a lot of fun. Because we can play around with the songs and put them in completely different formats. We rediscover the songs a little differently when you play them acoustically. So that was a lot of fun and I’m sure we are going to do more of the acoustic stuff in the future too.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you see possibly doing an acoustic record down the line with these reinterpretations?
Lindroos: Of course, yes. There (have) been thoughts about that one, but nothing really concretely set up. Hopefully we can do an acoustic album, that would be very cool.
Dead Rhetoric: On your personal Facebook page, I personally appreciated you showing your cooking side of life while extoling the virtues of old/new Testament and playing the Don Johnson solo album from the 80’s on vinyl. Has diversity in your musical tastes always been important to keep you sane, especially while we are all on lockdown – and please let us know more of your out of the box favorites for music tastes, metal or otherwise?
Lindroos: Yeah, it’s been always like this in my life. I was introduced to heavy metal in the early 90’s, I have an older sister who is ten years older than me, so all the 80’s pop music was very strongly present growing up as a kid. Madonna, and everybody else at that point. I have a pop music background, I have Madonna, Michael Jackson, Don Johnson, and heavy metal also. Glam rock to black metal – all music is good when you like it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe you’ve changed your mind about the most over the last five years of your life – it could either be something related to music or in your own personal world?
Lindroos: That is an excellent question, you know? I have maybe finally accepted that not everything is in your own hands. There are so many moving parts in life that affect the decisions that you make, and it’s really impossible to make extremely solid plans because everything can change in a heartbeat. Right now, we have this coronavirus taking over the world, so basically we are in lockdown. Nothing is happening really, except in the virtual world right now. Maybe there is some higher being who decides something, but I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to say. Accepting your own fate, kind of.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months shaping up for Ensiferum – will there be any special promotion, video content, social media contests to help in the downtime while we await when touring can finally, safely progress again?
Lindroos: The album is coming out on the 10th of July. We are shooting a new music video, and that is in the editing process. That will come out in June. We are also planning a stream show – we have some news coming out in the upcoming weeks.