Ghost Brigade – Fear Is the Key, You See

Sunday, 31st March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

The follow-up to a breakthrough effort is far and away, one the hardest obstacles to overcome for a band. We’ve seen plenty of stumbles at this career mark, with some bands unable to recover for a variety of reasons, so when a band (like Ghost Brigade) successfully navigates this stretch, it’s like crossing over one of those beat-up and shaky bridges seen in a movie. Once you’ve made it past, the rest is smooth sailing.

Until Fear No Longer Defines Us is the third album from the Finns, the successor to 2009’s invincible Isolation Songs, an album that quickly won adoring praise from critics (like Blistering) and thrust the band onto the European tour circuit. So instead of being victimized by the success of Isolation Songs, Ghost Brigade were able to cajole new elements into their atmospheric post-metal sound on Until Fear, while honing in the melodic, urgent, and confrontational elements that worked so well in the past. While Until Fear doesn’t topple Isolation Songs, it has given the band additional breadth and confidence to go out on a limb, just check out the album’s opening acoustic rock number, “In the Woods” and climatic finale, “Soulcarvers.”

Primary songwriter and guitarist Wille Naukkarinen was kind enough to be subjected to Blistering’s pesky questions, thus expanding upon the unforeseen expectations the band was faced with going into the new album and how they managed to work around them. Read on…

Blistering.com: When we last spoke, we talked about the tremendous growth the band had from Guided By Fire to Isolation Songs. So, fromIsolation Songs into Until Fear, where can you attest to the band growing?

Wille Naukkarinen: I don’t think there is as huge gap between the last two records as there was with the first two. There is growth for sure, but it’s more in the way we work together today and in the attitude/spirit in the band. That being said, I also have to say that on the new album we have taken a huge step forward when it comes to arranging the songs. We have finally learned to listen to what an individual song needs, rather than leaning on methods we have used in the past. ”Chamber” is a good example of this. If ”Chamber” had been on Isolation Songs, the chorus would’ve kicked in much, much sooner but on this album, we learned that this particular song needs longer verses in order to chorus really work. So we play with the verse melody for almost two minutes before the chorus kicks in. So it’s little things like that that make the difference. Probably 99% of these “improvements” are something that a normal listener won’t even notice but for us, they’re a pretty big deal.

Blistering.com: In relation to where you were around the time Guided By Fire was released four year ago, how far has the band come?

Naukkarinen: We’ve come a long way, for sure. In all possible aspects. We are better songwriters, we know better what we want from this band and most importantly, we are finally a team. In the beginning, playing this kind of music was very, very difficult for us, and thus we had a lot of arguments and we basically broke up during the recordings of both of our first two records. It was intense and in retrospect, quite ridiculous behavior. Now, after five years of doing this, I finally feel like the growing pains are over and we can just concentrate on the relevant things instead of arguing and whining all the time. It’s a good feeling and I truly feel we have our best days ahead of us.

Blistering.com: With the tremendous praise lavished toward the band and subsequent round of touring, how have things changed for Ghost Brigade?

Naukkarinen: In terms of how many people know about us or how we handle the business side of things, things have obviously changed drastically, but other than that, we are still the same five guys who recorded the demo tape in 2006. Inside the band, nothing’s really changed. We’re all over 30 years old guys and have been playing in touring and recording bands for over 15 years now so we have pretty realistic attitude to everything that’s happening to us as a band. We have quite punk rock attitude to all this.

Blistering.com: Are you the type of band that takes stock in what others are saying? Meaning, is the opinion of the metal press important to you?

Naukkarinen: Reviews, people’s opinions and press in general don’t have any impact on the music we write. My goal with Ghost Brigade has always been to write music I would like to hear myself, simple as that. Honest and from the heart. I write music for myself, not for others. If other people like our music too, good but if they don’t, I really couldn’t care less.

And I know that sounds like a cliché but it really is the truth. I mean, when we formed GB, we didn’t even think of releasing an album. We were just old friends who wanted to play and rehearse together and then go to a bar for a pint and discuss how good or bad that or that riff is. That’s what it’s all about to us, not commercial success or the hype or how big festivals we get to play. Again, we have a very punk rock attitude in our band towards all this. We respect bands like Tragedy more than we do those who’d do anything for attention or exposure in mags.

listering.com: Was it different for you to compose an album that you knew would have such expectations around it?

Naukkarinen: No. This was the easiest album to write and record, actually. I don’t know why though, must be one of world’s great mysteries he-he

Blistering.com: Being that you had so much success with Isolation Songs, there surely was some type of impetus to make Isolation Songs Part II, but clearly the new album is not like its predecessor at all. Did you have to take any time away from the previous album to get your head around on composing the new one?

Naukkarinen: We actually started writing this new one right away. I think we had one or two songs ready at the time the previous record one came out. But that’s how we work, we never stop writing. I already have loads of ideas and skeletons of songs for album #4, so things are on the move already. And about making IS #2: I have to say that we all are people with strong opinions so I don’t think it would’ve been even possible to do IS #2 and get away with it. If I had brought songs to them that reminded them too much of IS, they would’ve for sure mentioned about it a million times, then made some fun at my expense and the song would’ve been thrown into trashcan right away. So no thanks, I try to avoid doing part two’s ha-ha.

And myself personally, when I write songs, I always try to avoid repeating myself because repeating something you’ve already done once is boring and totally unmotivating. I rather try to do something fresh to keep things interesting for myself and to others also.

Blistering.com: As a composer, are you finding that Ghost Brigade’s scope is becoming as wide as ever? Is there nothing you’re not afraid to try now?

Naukkarinen: Record after record I feel more adventurous which sometimes is a scary thing. I mean, we should and will explore and try out new things but at the same time, I think that we should stay inside certain frames with Ghost Brigade. I don’t want to go too far from home. Exploring is good but remember your roots, that’s my view on this matter. If you want to do something totally different, there are side projects that serve that purpose.

Blistering.com: As for the new album, it sounds like Manne’s [Ikonen] vocals are very much in focus. He must be a nice asset to have, right?

Naukkarinen: Definitely and that’s something we also noticed during the writing period. I also think that he has so much more to offer vocal-wise than you guys have heard so far on these three records. He’s a very good singer and can sing anything from pop to black metal-ish stuff so I am sure that’s a territory that will be explored even more in the future.

Blistering.com: “Clawmaster” is an absolute gem. It’s one of those songs that totally encapsulate your sound. What made it the right choice to be the first real “heavy” song on the album?

Naukkarinen: I don’t know, to be honest. It was just one of those things that everyone agreed on when we did the tracklisting to this album. We knew that “In the Woods” would be the opener and “ “Clawmaster” would follow and “Soulcarvers” would be the last song.

Blistering.com: The decision to open with “In the Woods” was a bold one. Why open the album with such a laid-back song?

Naukkarinen: Why not?

Blistering.com: Do you think you’ll see an increased workload in terms of touring for Until Fear?

Naukkarinen: We have decided that we will be always doing this as a hobby so we have very limited possibilities to tour. Families, children and day jobs take most of our time so I don’t think there will be any more touring than there was for Isolation Songs.

Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2011, going into 2012?

Naukkarinen: This year we’re doing a few more shows, then in early 2012 we have this new release coming out on Season Of Mist. Can’t tell you yet what it is though. Then I think in the spring we do one more Euro tour if everything goes as planned and we already have a few bigger festivals booked for summer 2012. That’s about it I guess. And of course keep writing new songs all the time.

 www.myspace.com/ghostbrigade