Maniac Abductor – Throwing Down DamageSunday, 5th June 2022
Always a staple of this scribe’s listening palate since the inception of the movement in the 1980’s, thrash metal has gone through its ups, downs, twists, turns, and transformations. Some musicians though love to stick to the principles of crunchy riffs, energetic tempos, tight transitions, fierce vocals, and gang-like ammunition to bring these songs from the studio to the stage. Such is the case for Finnish act Maniac Abductor – delivering potent material for their second full-length Damage Is Done. It’s an outstanding mix of influences from the Bay Area and Teutonic thrash mold – injecting elements of punk, NWOBHM, and death metal in certain instances to establish their own niche.
We reached out to vocalist Niklas Pappinen and guitarist Jesse Elo to find out more about the latest record, the 50/50 process of creating cover art between the band and artists, lots of discussion on the thrash scene and viewpoints across Finland, discussion on learning lessons touring with Evil Invaders, plus future thoughts including the head start working on album three.
Dead Rhetoric: The latest Maniac Abductor album is Damage Is Done. How do you believe the songwriting and recording sessions went for this set of material? And where do you see the major differences between this record and your debut album from 2019 Casualties of Casualty?
Niklas Pappinen: I believe this album had a lot of thought process behind it. It was more planned out; we took the time to make sure that the songs that we take to the studio sessions were solid true and true. I believe that we had a lot of help from Mikael Neves our producer in the demo versions also. He managed to get the potential out of the songs before we hit the studio.
Jesse Elo: With ourselves we started composing the first tracks maybe two years ago and then we went to our rehearsal space for the whole summer, with just ourselves, and we demoed every track and took the songs down to pieces and put them together. Some songs from Damage Is Done had maybe five different versions two years ago. When the final versions were ready at the end of the summer, then we contacted and hired the producer of the album. He helped with the final touches.
Pappinen: On our first album there were lots of like typical thrash metal jam riffs. We just put them together when we were hanging out on our Maniac mansion, our band place, rehearsal space. You can hear the difference; those songs are more chaotic, and these songs are more structured. We have taken steps forward. I believe that you can hear it from the songs on the first album versus the latest album.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think during the rehearsing and composing process, you were more critical of what you wanted to achieve with the songwriting and performances this time that maybe the first time around you accepted what was available at the time to you?
Elo: Yes, I can agree with that. We were critical more to ourselves, which in my opinion was very much needed after the first album. We wanted every possible note to be the best possible version that it can be. Every part from one song is as tight as possible to make the whole song as tight as possible.
Pappinen: We were not taking our full potential (into account) at that moment two years ago. I believe that we took it to our limit in the studio this time around, that will lead to a positive loop to keep on improving now. We are already starting to write new material, and we have learned a lot from this album already, even though it’s been out for only a week.
Elo: The follow-up to Damage Is Done is already in the planning stages. The main reason we wanted to push ourselves to the limit with Damage Is Done is because the third (album) can be even better.
Dead Rhetoric: Even though you hail from Finland, it seems like to these ears you have many influences that travel through North American and German acts from the past. What first attracted you to the thrash genre, and what would you say are some essential qualities that have to be there to make the final grade for an ideal Maniac Abductor composition?
Pappinen: I believe that for myself, the greatest motivator to write and play thrash metal is in the Bay Area scene. I was a huge fan of thrash metal when I joined Maniac Abductor. The whole thing is so well put together, it lit a spark. I believe that in our music you can definitely hear the influence from Exodus and Testament, maybe even some parts of Suicidal Tendencies for example. I believe that for me, it is the Bay Area scene that’s most important.
Elo: Also, for me, bands like Testament and Exodus are kings of thrash. When I was younger, I only listened to a couple of thrash metal albums, I wasn’t as into it back then. When we started Maniac Abductor, I started focusing on what everyone was doing. From Germany I really admire Kreator, and from the USA Testament. In the span of thirty years both have really rose up, are versatile, and release a lot of albums that I really admire. We want to add different kinds of elements to our music to make things unique. Like when you compare Kreator- Pleasure to Kill versus their new stuff.
Pappinen: There are a lot more influences in our influences apart from thrash metal. I believe that I can speak on behalf of other members, the NWOBHM side of things, as well as death metal and punk music. And the Finnish metal music scene. We are mixing it all up in our sound. I would like to think that if you ask our fans, that’s what they would think. For myself, it’s a mix of all those aforementioned genres and bands.
Dead Rhetoric: Did Finnish bands like Stone and Airdash have an important influence for Maniac Abductor as well?
Elo: Of course. With our band, Stone is a great band. And Prestige, an older thrash metal band from Finland.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems like there’s a strong resurgence within Finland when it comes to newer bands playing thrash. I’ve heard a lot of bands from that genre. Do you think the newer bands enjoy adding different influences compared to the older acts that had to pull from the NWOBHM and punk scenes for their sound?
Elo: I personally think in the last couple of years the thrash metal scene in Finland has been in changing stages. Many bands haven’t tried to mix these elements, and they have gone all the way into metalcore music. The genre has actually changed, thrash metal bands have gone away. There are a couple of thrash metal bands that are coming up again though from Finland.
Pappinen: There are always changes. It’s definitely not only a bad thing, it’s narrowing thrash metal as a genre here in Finland. Which is kind of sad, because it’s much tougher than when you can play other gigs with other thrash bands. It’s a larger scene if you have similar bands with the same kind of vibe to it. I see the same change that thrash metal is narrowing as a genre in our country, which is sad.
Dead Rhetoric: Where does the band come across as far as the lyrical content? As I’d imagine it’s a mix of social/political topics and commentary, plus a love of the thrash movement that comes up, correct?
Pappinen: Yes, you are correct. The topics are taken from the real world, not as much fantasy or fiction. Mostly it’s based on ongoing events around the world, and thoughts that come to mind when I see something happening in the world and I try to imagine some point of views, different people and what they must be thinking. It’s like bits and pieces of the real world mixed together. A lot of things that may sound like opinions or statements, actually it’s more of a picture from some part of the world, the events that are happening there. We do not try to be so politically colored. There is a little bit of thrash metal talk in there – a little bit of horror, mixed up into it. Some grim verses and lines, which make up good thrash metal lyrics.
I believe they come to mind very much in the moment. There (are) not a lot of changes made afterwards to the lyrics.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover concept to the new album take shape? Is it a collaborative process between the band and artist from initial ideas to the final product – and what have been some of the most important works of art in heavy metal for you personally?
Elo: I can draw a few things myself; I make some sketches for general ideas based on the lyrical themes for the album. In the beginning the Damage Is Done album was going to be called Ghost of the Killing Fields based on the final track. And there are elements of this in the final cover art, you can see the ghosts in front of the dead bodies. After those planning stages, we talked with the artist a couple of weeks. We wanted to picture ourselves in the cover world, it’s a 50/50 process between our ideas and the cover artist’s ideas.
Pappinen: Usually myself and Jesse Elo start to make the thought process, what might be on the album cover, and then Jesse starts the sketching and usually thinks about who might do the artwork and so on. My favorite heavy metal artwork definitely comes from bands like Slayer. The Reign in Blood artwork might just be my favorite. It has lots of details on it, and it’s a piece of art in itself. There has been a lot of cool artwork lately in the Finnish scene. I would like to give a shout out to Tuomas Valtanen, who makes cover art for bands that has more of a comic book vibe to it.
Elo: My personal favorite cover artists of all time are Derek Riggs and Ed Repka. Pretty classic stuff, especially from Iron Maiden and Megadeth. In modern times I have enjoyed cover art painted by hand. Especially Nightmare Logic by Power Trip.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve moved over to WormHoleDeath as a record label from your previous work with Inverse Records. How do you feel about the work of each label in relation to Maniac Abductor – and where do you see the importance and main duties for labels in the current music industry model, where bands have a lot of access to similar tools of promotion and influence that these labels possess?
Elo: In the span of one month since we signed with WormHoleDeath we have been in pretty tight contact with Carlo and Natasha the main forces of the label. We have been really happy with the relationship with the label. It’s really 50/50, both parties keep each other updated and tell each other what they think, we are treated as people and not just numbers. It’s something we have not really experienced before.
Pappinen: We are treated well. Our previous label Inverse Records who released our first album, they were a good partner to us at that point where we were, we were starting our discography and they were a huge help. Now we have this new deal with WormHoleDeath, and it’s a very pleasant place to be because we are treated as human beings and not just numbers. I believe that even though we have the option to do the work for ourselves, it’s still a benefit to work with a label if the processes are handed out to the world through third parties behind a label who represents the band. Third parties appreciate one representative working as one part of the conversation, between the band and the third party. That is the benefit of having a label.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Maniac Abductor when it comes to the stage? What do you want to get across to audiences through your performances, and what have been some of the most memorable shows to date for the group?
Elo: The main thing about our live shows, we put 150% into our live shows. It’s really in your face, punchy, and everyone will have a good time. It will be hard to stand still when we play, after a couple of songs you will know it. And it’s really energetic, the live show for us.
Pappinen: We live to play live. The whole thing has been built up for the live performance. Thrash metal has always been about the gigs, more than the albums. It’s the pure power that’s delivered when thrash metal is played live.
Elo: The live show is the essence of the band, and when you see us live you will get the full Maniac Abductor experience. The most memorable shows of our career so far. The first time when we went outside of Finland, our first tour ever, was an eye-opening experience. You can see the different cultures within the metal scene all over Europe. The second tour after the first one when we got to open for Evil Invaders from Belgium, we played bigger clubs for the first time and got to experience what kind of live show we can put on in bigger stages.
Pappinen: For me, every show is memorable. No matter where we play, it is a great feeling to be on stage. If I have to mention one (show), it will have to be when we were playing on tour with Evil Invaders during the Feed Me Violence tour. We played in Minsk, Belarus and the club just went crazy there.
Elo: That was a memorable show. It was sold to over-capacity, it looked like a scene from the 1980’s.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think you learned about yourselves touring with a seasoned band like Evil Invaders across Europe?
Pappinen: Definitely we learned a lot from those guys. At first, we learned how much work has to be done on our own band, our own live show. How much more the thought process it takes to get the most out of everything. Every part of what you do has to work step by step to the one bigger picture, and that is what we learned from that tour. I believe that we grew during those three weeks that we were touring, we grew the most during our whole career. I have to pay respects for those guys from Evil Invaders for that.
Elo: I agree with everything that Niklas said. We learned how much really goes on when you are planning and playing bigger shows, especially a tour when you compare things to a local, underground, rock and roll bar. That really helped us to see the bigger picture versus looking at local shows.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the state of the world currently? Where do you think the leaders need to put the biggest focus on to make things better for the globe overall – and do you have any suggestions for the average person to think about and contribute for a better society?
Pappinen: I believe that the state of the world right now is really messed up because we have a war on European soil again. It’s a terrible thing. I really believe this is the end of an era which started after the cold war and the Iron Curtain was broken in the 1980’s and 90’s. Klaus Meine from the Scorpions said he had to change the words to “Wind of Change” because of that, and I really do feel the same way as he does about this being the end of an era and an end of a stress free time for European people. For people all around the world, and especially Europe, I would like to say that you should give help if you can to people that are suffering from the actions of these states and superpowers. All the wars that are now on our soil, this definitely is not a time to take sides and wage more aggression, think more about the people around you and the ones who are suffering in far away lands.
Elo: I want to continue the conversation regarding live music. It’s returning little by little all around the world, festivals and local shows. A lot of bands are starting over financially, everyone has the responsibility to support that part of art in general. We have seen in Finland, because of low ticket sales a couple of festivals have had to cancel. We got used to festivals and shows being cancelled because of the pandemic, but we took live music for granted. We are getting this back again, and we should support this. Buy tickets from your local bands, support music, buy albums.
Pappinen: I hope the music will act as a unifying glue between people. Let’s hope for a better future.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you see taking place over the next year for Maniac Abductor to support the new record?
Elo: In the fall of this year, we see ourselves touring Finland. Maybe next year in 2023 we will play more festivals and tour again outside of Finland. We want to tour as much as possible and promote the album as much as possible. Also compose the follow-up in the meantime. We don’t want to stop making music, we want to be ready for the third album when the time comes.
Pappinen: The physical copies of the album are coming out this summer. That’s the first part of our master plan. During the fall, we will tour Finland as Jesse said. We will keep promoting the album. I believe there is merchandise coming along with it. There are lots of things going on. You should stay tuned! (laughs).