Marianas Rest – Revealing More WoundsSunday, 19th March 2023
Together now for a decade, Finnish sextet Marianas Rest didn’t let the lack of live gig opportunities bring them down to support their third album Fata Morgana released in March 2021. They did what many other creative musicians felt the urge to do – hunker down and deliver new material, which became Auer. It’s the fourth album that while continuing to explore the doom/death genres they’ve become known for musically, chooses to showcase expanded angles of light plus darkness, incorporating aspects like indie tones or clean voices that work brilliantly into the songs on hand.
We reached out to vocalist Jaakko Mäntymaa recently to bring us up to speed about the latest tracks, the guest support appearance from Aaron of My Dying Bride, how the workload and relationships develop amongst the six-piece, the challenges of day jobs/families against band activities, as well as hopeful future touring/recording plans.
Dead Rhetoric: Auer is the fourth studio album for Marianas Rest. Considering the prolonged absence of any live shows/touring due to the global pandemic, how do you think this helped shape the material, recording process, and overall outcome for this record compared to your previous discography?
Jaakko Mäntymaa: Well, the first thing is because we didn’t have any shows to play after releasing the last album, we figured out in order to keep ourselves busy we had to do something. So, we started on the new songs immediately after releasing that last album, there was no break. We just hung out a lot in our rehearsal studio, did the demos, and maybe they were ready a bit more early than previous records. We got more time to make the finishing touches and figure out the problems that you always have with demos. That is the biggest thing.
The songs, at least some of the songs, are at least a year and a half old. They are not new to us anymore, we have been listening to them over hundreds of times I think. We are already sick of them! (laughs). Luckily, it’s a different thing to play them live, when we get to do that as they always get to be interesting to us as well from playing them live. We have heard the demos and finished tracks quite a few times. That’s the main effect that the pandemic had on making this album.
Dead Rhetoric: Given that much time to work on the new material, was there a song or two that took on a massive transformation from the initial idea or demo to what we hear for the final output?
Mäntymaa: Yeah, I think “Light Reveals Our Wounds”, the third single to be released – that’s one of those songs. The initial idea was to have it the same melody going all the way through the whole song in the background – but the song around it was really different than what it turned out to be in the end. Another song that comes to mind is “White Cradle”, in the middle of the album it breaks the album in two. That one has a long part with clean vocals that we did ourselves, that was the first time we have ever done that on a studio album. I think we were so scared about it, we pushed it back until it had to be done. It’s one of those songs that you have to do, you can’t just do it in a rehearsal room, you have to hear it and work on it in the studio to get it done. It’s hard to just jam and make that song that way. It changed its shape a bit. We tried to push our limits and learn new things. We tried expanding the way we can express ourselves on this album, that was one of those songs that did that the most. Now we know if we want to, we can make these sorts of things that have long, calm, clean parts. We felt on this album we had to do this to tell the full story.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the guest vocal appearance of Aaron Stainthorpe from My Dying Bride come to be on “Sirens”? Has the band been a big influence on your approach to music – or how you approach your vocals?
Mäntymaa: Yes. For all fans of this genre, My Dying Bride is a big thing. It shaped the whole music genre, and it’s one of those bands that even though we have very different musical tastes in our band, but this is one of those bands that everyone appreciates. There are not too many of those. We knew we wanted a guest vocalist on at least one of the songs on the album. We threw many names in the air, what would be the best way to go and the right choice. Then Aaron’s name came up when we had a mutual friend that we didn’t know of. When we knew that, we had an epiphany that Aaron’s name wasn’t in the mix before then. This is actually the only reasonable choice – of course he wanted to hear the song first. We were pretty scared about how he would react, if he didn’t like it, it would have hurt a bit, but he did like it very much. He liked the lyrics and the moods that are in the song. After that it was really easy – he’s so professional that he didn’t need too many takes to do it in the studio. He knew the mood which we wanted, he figured it out immediately, the kind of fragile… it’s really hard to do those kinds of vocals because you have to sing at a really low volume, and to get that much emotion into it, it’s really hard. We are very pleased with how it turned out. And it’s a big thing for us to have our musical heroes to join us on record – it was hard to believe that it really happened when we heard it the first time. A weird moment.
Dead Rhetoric: You worked with Greek digital artist Gogo Melone for the cover art this time around. What do you enjoy most about her work and what she was able to achieve the band?
Mäntymaa: What we wanted wasn’t easy. We wanted to have a moment of serenity amongst destruction. We wanted to have the man cutting himself in half, the statue in front of it, representing martyrs that try to change the world. The idea is to have a cycle of destruction from black to white, from darkness to total destruction and the brief moment of light after that. And then hope, that maybe now after everything is gone, we realize we don’t want to do this again, to change track and maybe people work together to get new kinds of results. Eventually it goes in the wrong direction again, at the end of the record we are where we started. The world needs more people, even though it’s hard to change, they are big things that one or two people can’t do it – we need people who don’t care about that, they just do it. They don’t mind losing themselves in the process, sacrificing themselves for bigger things. That was one of the things we wanted to have on this album, to appreciate these kinds of people.
These are all the things we told Gogo. We wanted this on the cover art. She’s really … we have never worked with a professional on this level for cover art. Everybody before was professional, but not in the way that Gogo is. The first draft, it was immediately near the exact way that we pictured things in your head. These sort of things… we wanted to fix small things, but when you have the overall image as ready as it was from the first draft, it’s easier to focus on the small things. It was fun working with her.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to looking at the career arc of Marianas Rest, what do you consider some of the benchmark or pivotal highlights to date? Either specific songs, albums, gigs, tours, or festival appearances where you knew you were making an impact with your musical endeavors?
Mäntymaa: I think playing live, we played with Dark Tranquillity last year. Even though we are not melodic death metal per se, or the Swedish/Gothenburg sound, we all have listened to that style when we were younger. Dark Tranquillity is a big thing, to play with them in the birthplace of this music had relevance to us. A full crowd, awesome bands, new people. That’s one of the evenings that really made an impact on me. The last album Fata Morgana, which of course was our first album for a bigger label. That was a huge thing, we learned a lot in the process of releasing albums. The first two albums were kind of do it yourself type of releases, we had a lot of new stuff to take into consideration. It opened up doors in a whole different way.
Every band always says that the new album they are releasing is the most important and the best – but I really think that we maybe only now are really finding ourselves, and the sound that’s only in our band. Not just taking parts of other bands’ music and mixing them together, but to generate a sound just for us. I think we are now beginning to be there. We don’t think of our music as doom metal, death metal, or even actually metal. Our producer said that this is an indie band with distortion guitars, and maybe that’s not it but it resonated with me. It has some kind of quality to it, that was a nice way of putting it, at least a different way. It’s hard to put ourselves just in the doom genre, at least now.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the working relationships within the band – is it a challenge to get six members to consistently agree on the goals, visions, and what you want to achieve over time?
Mäntymaa: In a lot of bands I’ve been in, it can be – but not in this band. We have a pretty clear vision of what we want to be, and what we don’t want to be. It’s a trial and error type of learning process. We have to make mistakes in order to not make them again. The way we do our songs, everybody has their say in them. We make them as a band, the demos we bring to the rehearsal place, they are sketches, they sound like crap and they have only one or two riffs, the general ideas of the themes of what the track could be. And then we start to work on them together. When you do things that way, everybody has the feeling it’s our song, it’s not Nico’s song, or Harri’s song, it’s our song. You become emotionally attached to it. We feel it when we play it live, it’s easy to get in the mood because you feel like it’s your own (song).
It’s a democracy. We don’t have a dictator. And it can make things a bit slower to decide about things. We’ve tried to organize it in a way that we don’t have to vote about everything. We have a couple of members that handle the merchandise, a couple of us deal with the label, and one takes care of everything revolving logistics and gig organizing. Everybody has their own place and gets to do decisions. On the main issues we always ask for everybody’s opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the state of melodic doom/death worldwide? What do you enjoy most about these genres – and what changes (if any) do you think need to happen for the overall health of the movement?
Mäntymaa: I feel like it’s a hard question. The genre is doing very well at the moment. At least we have a lot of great bands to carry the torch. It’s hard to say how popular this kind of music is compared to let’s say ten years ago or twenty years ago. The reality is that streaming platforms are a big thing nowadays, and it’s not the best solution for long songs, and songs that depend on playlists, that sort of stuff. The fact that records are not selling as much as they used to can make life a bit difficult for bands, at least financially. For all bands, but in the Spotify world, this type of music may deliver a bigger blow. There are a lot of good bands, the music itself flourishes. That’s the main thing, everything else, people adapt. Just as long as the music stays alive, everything else will sort itself out eventually.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance band activities with day jobs, careers, and personal relationships/family obligations? Do you think it’s possible to be able to make a living from the music endeavors alone for Marianas Rest?
Mäntymaa: I think it’s definitely a possibility in the future. Not now. If we really put our backs into it. It would require sacrifices, I don’t think any of us could keep our jobs, our daily lives. No matter how much the record sells, I don’t think we could sell enough to keep up the way we are living right now. Our families would have to make sacrifices. That’s kind of a dream, to someday be able to support yourself through music. We will see. The balance on our day jobs, we all have them, spare time, family time, it’s not easy at this point. Although we don’t get a lot of money from it, it takes nearly as much time as a day job. It’s cyclic, it’s not always seven and a half or eight hours a day, but all the weekends are gone. You have to do a lot of different things in the evenings when you are finished your day job. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work, and everyone wants to do it – it’s not a hard question whether or not to do it. We are lucky to have our families and girlfriends, all that in the inner circle. They all support us, and try to find a way to have enough time to organize their lives in order for us to do shows, rehearse, and do new music. We owe a lot to them. Hopefully it stays that way – I think it’s an important thing for everybody in our band, that we don’t have an option. We have to do this in order to keep sane.
Dead Rhetoric: Is it also a challenge for Aapo Koivisto to balance his work in Marianas Rest and all the recording/touring he does with his other band Omnium Gatherum?
Mäntymaa: Yeah, I think so. We have an agreement because Aapo has played in Omnium Gatherum a long, long time – much longer than with Marianas Rest. OG comes first for him, and after that he does everything he can possibly do with us. That makes everything easy, you don’t have to make a lot of choices, it comes naturally. It’s always great when he gets to do a show with us. We are going to have a couple of shows coming up when he will be with us. He makes the songs bigger and better. We love to hang out with him. Maybe he has the most trouble finding time. This works for us. It is a good solution for us. We don’t want to complain.
Dead Rhetoric: When you feel overwhelmed or you have lost your focus, what types of things do you like to do to regain control and perspective?
Mäntymaa: Lyrics. I think I just need to take time on my own for myself. Disconnect myself from the daily routines. Go for a run in the forest, or skiing. Something like that. When I do those types of things, it always clears my head, organizes my head. Only in those kinds of situations I can be creative. It’s hard to do it when… my day job can be a bit stressful, I need to have a border between that world and this world. Music, free time, and work. I need to get out for a moment to reach across the border, the creative world.
Dead Rhetoric: What is on the agenda for Marianas Rest over the next twelve months to support the new record? Will you be looking into more touring opportunities to make up for lost time?
Mäntymaa: Yes. The wheels have been in motion for a long time, but the world still isn’t the same. There are maybe more bands doing shows and tours than ever in the history of the world. The world is fully booked. It’s not easy, eventually it must return to normal, it takes time. We want to tour, and we have plans for it. We are just trying to put the pieces together. We can’t talk about things until everything is ready. That’s the plan, to hit the road and see towns, meet new people, play new songs. That’s what we enjoy the most. Touring is the best thing in this hobby. We have a few other songs we have been wanting to record for a very long time, they are not the type of songs that would come into a long album, but something in between. That’s still under consideration, we will have to see how busy we are after releasing this album.