Mysterizer – Hidden AdversaryTuesday, 27th August 2019
Finland comes up very often in the conversation of best countries for heavy metal. It’s hard to argue with the output in the power, folk, and extreme sectors – but there are also some straight-ahead bands who keep their sound within classic/traditional parameters. Mysterizer are another act from Oulu that deliver solid hooks and catchy songs with a load of 80’s-oriented influences, where Judas Priest, Accept, Iron Maiden, and Dio ruled the airwaves to lead to legendary status across multiple generations. Their debut full-length Invisible Enemy showcases a quintet aiming squarely at the heart of the genre – featuring high octane vocals, spirited gallops and solid rhythm section work – plus the right shred activities during the lead sections.
We reached out to guitarist Mike Hammer to fill us in on more of the Mysterizer story. He takes us through the band’s transformation from a cover act to an original band, their label deal with Inverse Records, the behind the scenes work for their two videos from the record, and thoughts on why Finland has been such a prolific country for heavy metal.
Dead Rhetoric: Mysterizer began out of the deceased remains of a cover band playing heavy metal tunes. Discuss the transformation from covers into an original act – and do you believe seasoning your chops on classic tracks helped the band understand what it takes to develop strong, original material?
Mike Hammer: As I joined the band, I had already made some demos and had visions for the sound of my own music. You can obviously hear the influence of the classic 80’s heavy metal (bands), though. However, when people hear the material of our band, they will hear the very own sound of Mysterizer.
Dead Rhetoric: In 2018 your debut EP Tales from the Mystery Days hit the streets. What are your memories surrounding the development of the songwriting and studio sessions for this recording – and how do you feel about the overall final product?
Hammer: Joining the cover band, I already had some material but I waited for the moment when the others would ask if I had made anything of my own. As they then asked me, I wanted to know if they had a certain genre in mind. I then offered them the forthright song “Breaking the Rules”, which can be heard on the EP. It was a coincidence in a way, as my wife heard me jamming the song and asked whose it was. I told her I was just playing for fun and she suggested I make a song of it. She is the one to hear my ideas first, although I’ve sometimes received not-so-positive feedback. ‘Another song, again?’
Despite the tight schedule, I am quite happy with the outcome. Listening to the songs afterwards, it is easy to say I would have done something differently with the arrangements, for example. This time we refined our album for over six months.
Dead Rhetoric: You signed with Inverse Records – what intrigued you most about signing with this label? Do you believe being a domestic label aids the trust factor between band and staff, beyond their healthy roster of acts?
Hammer: We offered our material to foreign labels, too. The terms of the agreements were quite similar to Finnish ones, so we decided it would be for the best to work with an internationally networked domestic label specializing in metal music. Our lead singer Tomi had collaborated with said label, so we knew how they tend to do things.
Dead Rhetoric: The new album Invisible Enemy just came out – and it’s a solid traditional metal effort with a boatload of influences from Primal Fear to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden to Accept among others. Where do you see the major differences between this full-length and your previous EP? Were there any specific challenges, obstacles, or surprises that came up during the sessions?
Hammer: For the new album, we had enough time to compile a good set of fresh, unpredictable songs that represent our style. The album was published two months later than planned due to our vocalist’s flu, as a result of which he lost his voice. It was not too bad after all, since Janne and I had time to rearrange some vocal and guitar parts.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve filmed a couple of videos for the record – including “Take and Go” and “Trails of Blood” – the latter obviously recorded in your wintertime with lots of snow in the background. How do you feel these shoots went and what are your thoughts on the importance of the video medium to showcase the band through social media versus the 1980’s when music television channels ruled the promotional airwaves?
Hammer: Especially on the music video for “Trails of Blood” we wanted to show where we are from: the icy, snowy and dark north. This image is not entirely true, though, since in the summertime the sun is shining 24/7 and tourists can’t sleep at night. Filming the music video, the temperature was only -5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit), but since Oulu is located in the shore of Gulf of Bothnia, a cold wind was blowing from the sea. Between the takes, we had to go inside and warm our fingers, since we could hardly move them. The shooting session in general was fun, though, and as we already knew the cameraman, everything went as planned.
Social media is, indeed, an integral part of promoting music to the public nowadays. The supply of new music is much larger than in the 80s, since today studio technology is more common and easier to use.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the incredible vocal range of Tomi Kurtti – as it seems like the man can channel everything from Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson to Geoff Tate and Michael Kiske with his power and versatility? Do you believe his melodies and personality takes the Mysterizer material to another level?
Hammer: Certainly. Tomi’s strong and versatile interpretation lifts our songs to the level we desire to achieve. We have already practiced the songs that will be on our next album – I can’t wait to record them.
Dead Rhetoric: Finland has a strong reputation for heavy metal – many bands hitting the national charts, receiving strong international record deals, and making their mark on the touring/ festival landscape as well. Where do you see the strengths of the scene, and who are some of the bands/musicians you believe that have made the most impact from your country?
Hammer: For some reason, you can find a metal band in every town and even little village in Finland. The fan base of this subculture is huge, so naturally new talents come up. Some of them have their international breakthrough after gaining popularity. To my mind, bands like Hanoi Rocks, Stratovarius, Nightwish and HIM were trendsetters that put Finland on the map as a country with spectacular rock bands.
Dead Rhetoric: How important is imagery and attitude when it comes to Mysterizer? Do you believe that these aspects enhance the music output and performances for a band?
Hammer: It really is crucial to be seen as hard-working and driven to perform internationally. On stage we give everything of ourselves. I believe that the audience can also feel our energy there.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your favorite heavy metal albums from the 1980’s and 1990’s – and who is an underrated band or two within the scene that you believe more people need to go investigate and check out?
Hammer: My personal favorites are The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden, Back for the Attack by Dokken, Hurricane Eyes by Loudness and Odyssey by Yngwie Malmsteen. In my opinion, the Finnish band Tarot is underrated. I recommend their entire discography, especially the album Follow Me into the Madness.
Dead Rhetoric: Where would you like to see Mysterizer in terms of a career within the next three to five years? Do you have to balance out careers/education and the music activities, as well as relationships/families – and do you have the support of those people when it comes to Mysterizer?
Hammer: I believe we have made at least three albums and found our own fan base among metalheads, to whom we can give great performances at various concerts and festivals. I myself work as a freelancer DJ, so performing live music alongside my job is easy. My wife and children support me completely with my music career.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have a preference for the studio or the stage when it comes to the band – or do both equally please you, just in distinct and different ways?
Hammer: Brainstorming and creating new music in the studio is fun but playing live will always be my number one.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe the individual personalities within Mysterizer – and what does each person bring to the table to make things unique and special?
Hammer: The rhythm section – our drummer and bassist – are the loud ones! We get along well, which is important. I make demos of songs and perform them to Tomi. Then we go through the melodies I have created, and Janne starts to play and sing, arranging them in the process. Janne and I arrange our guitar melodies to demos made by Tomi. Jari writes lyrics and I pick the songs they would fit well to; then we go through singing melodies. Pasi arranges the drum parts with Tomi and Hammer acting as conductors. Bass lines are largely the responsibility of Jari and Mike. All in all, our songwriting is versatile and variable.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for the next year for Mysterizer to support the record? Has work already begun behind the scenes on the follow-up effort – and if so, what sort of direction is the songwriting taking?
Hammer: At the moment we are working hard on the marketing of our new album, interviews, gigs and possibly new collaborations. I have made demos of nearly twenty new songs, some of which we have already arranged. Janne and Tomi have also written some pieces. The new songs are 80’s-styled, more fast-paced and aggressive. We’ll see what happens to our second album in the studio.