Satan’s Fall – On a Destructive DestinationSunday, 3rd December 2023
Photo: Toni Salminen
Probably paying homage to Mercyful Fate in moniker, Finnish act Satan’s Fall delivers a classic heavy/speed metal style chock full of addictive axe chords, pounding rhythm section foundations, as well as the gritty to melodic vocal delivery that keeps heads banging, fists clenched at the ready for the next aural salvo. They’ve moved up to Steamhammer/SPV through this second album Destination Destruction, which contains an interesting mix of originals as well as two special covers that showcase a quintet sticking to the purity and power of influences from the 70’s/80’s as they hope to bring audiences young and old into the passionate delight for this genre.
We reached out to guitarist Tomi Mäenpää and vocalist Miika Kokko for some quick hitting answers to the musical memories for these musicians – the early formative days, work behind the latest album including the video work, thoughts on cover art and its importance in the genre, favorite live shows they’ve played to date, discussion about favorite influences including W.A.S.P. and Iron Maiden, why they choose outside the metal genre covers, and future plans plus other side projects to investigate from the band members.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music growing up in childhood? At what point did you start listening to heavier forms of music – and eventually want to start performing your own music in bands?
Tomi Mäenpää: I think the earliest memories were when I was four or five years old my father was listening to some Finnish punk rock music. I started listening to heavy metal when I was seven years old. Bands like Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., and Kiss.
Miika Kokko: For me the first memories are listening to a legendary Finnish rock band when I was three years old or something like that. Those are my earliest memories. Heavier music, I started listening to when I was ten, my sister was into black metal bands. I listened to Mayhem, and I mellowed down a bit. I like the classic stuff now like Judas Priest, stuff like that.
I always thought it would be cool to be in a band, thinking of our own band names. It was a fantasy. Then make it a reality. I was 15 or 16 when I started to sing or think about starting a band.
Dead Rhetoric: Satan’s Fall originally began as Satan’s Cross – can you tell me a little bit about those early days?
Mäenpää: Yeah, we did start as Satan’s Cross but then there was some Mexican band that took the name at the same time, so we changed the name. The band started with Kride the ex-guitar player and with their other bandmates jamming out in their rehearsal space with these songs. They asked Tommi the ex-drummer and Markus the ex-singer to play. From there Markus helped us record the first demo at his studio.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you remember Miika when you joined the group, what was exciting about being in this band?
Kokko: (laughs). Well, I didn’t have any expectations. I was looking for a new band as my previous band had broken up a couple of years before that. I could think about joining another band – I found an ad online that talked about Satan’s Fall looking for a singer, gigs were lining up. I thought it was a cool band name, what have they released? I heard the Metal of Satan EP and knew that I could sing this. And that was in 2017.
Dead Rhetoric: Destination Destruction is the second album from Satan’s Fall – and first with Steamhammer/SPV after your previous record Final Day came out on High Roller Records. Tell us about the songwriting and recording process for this effort – where do you see the major differences in this record compared to the previous outing?
Mäenpää: The major difference is in the different lineup. Because the drummer and second guitar player changed. The songwriting process was quite different. We just did all the songwriting online, and changing the guitar parts and Miika’s vocal parts when we could. We only went to a real studio to record the drums.
Kokko: When the musical side was finished, I would throw around vocal ideas these little demos. Then I would write lyrics throughout, I thought about telling a story this time throughout the album. That was different, because on Final Day it’s a collection of songs when they were ready, they were released, compared to this new album telling a bit of a story.
Mäenpää: We have to record separately because the drummer, singer, and the other guitar player live in different cities. We only have six months to write the songs, because the deadline was the end of last year. We didn’t have that much time, so we had to record the album quickly.
Dead Rhetoric: You shot videos for “Lead the Way” and “Afterglow” – what can you tell us about the video shoots, any special memories/surprises, and how do you feel about the importance of the visual medium in promoting the brand through social media platforms, is it as important as video content was during the MTV / video channel era of say the 80’s and 90’s?
Kokko: We made two videos; we work with a professional director, so he tells us what to do. It’s a surprise to us that there are no surprises.
Mäenpää: I think that videos can have a big impact today, on how people view you. There are lots of lyric videos out on YouTube, but they are boring. An actual music video is much better, to promote more of what the band looks like.
Kokko: We like to create videos that show us straight out, rocking out. For social media, it’s important now.
Mäenpää: You have to get people interested, and keep people interested. And this is a good way of doing this.
Dead Rhetoric: UK artist Dan Goldsworthy designed the cover art for Destination Destruction. How did the process work from the initial idea to what we see for the final design? And how do you feel about the importance of cover art in heavy metal to set the right tone before people press play on a record?
Mäenpää: Dan actually did one sketch for us before this final cover, and we weren’t happy with the first one. The idea was to have a human slaughterhouse, and it looked like more of a factory where people go to work.
Kokko: And you don’t want to be reminded of going into work. (laughs). Especially on a heavy metal album.
Mäenpää: So, he came up with the idea of having the cover look a bit more surreal. And that’s what you can see from the final artwork.
Kokko: I think he did a great job with it. I think that (artwork) is very important. I just got my own copy of it.
Mäenpää: It’s always been important since I was a little kid going to the record store, you always end up going with albums that have the coolest album covers. The album cover catches your eyes.
Kokko: It’s how I ended up discovering Motörhead – the Snaggletooth.
Mäenpää: Just think about the Iron Maiden covers without Eddie on the cover. It’s really an important thing within heavy metal.
Kokko: And I think heavy metal audiences are the ones who still appreciate this aspect. We can deliver the whole package with the artwork, and maybe have it as a poster.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Satan’s Fall when it comes to playing live versus what people hear on the record? What do you want to get across with the audiences, and what have been some of your favorite or more memorable shows/festival appearances to date for the group?
Mäenpää: I think we sound pretty much the same live as what you hear on the records.
Kokko: Some of the vocal harmonies might be missing, it’s a bit rawer in that sense.
Mäenpää: Our albums though are not that polished. We have quite the same sound between the record and playing live.
Kokko: We just try to give the best show that we can every time.
Mäenpää: Favorite concert memories. I’d say the Headbangers Open Air festival. We had a good audience and atmosphere there.
Kokko: We played a gig in Sweden a couple of months ago. It was a small club near Stockholm, the city. It was going back to the roots, a really small club and its hot as hell inside. The people were banging their heads right in front of your face. We were soaking wet after the gig.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve made some interesting cover choices over the career of Satan’s Fall – including everything from Kenny Loggins to Marien-Hof and Power Rangers. What makes for an ideal tribute/cover idea for the band, is it better to think outside the realm of metal in your eyes to reinterpret material to keep things exciting and fresh?
Mäenpää: Yes, exactly. It would be boring if we did a Judas Priest or Iron Maiden cover, it’s much more fun to make covers from soundtracks or themes outside the metal genre. Sometimes we will do a video game cover.
Kokko: Who can do Judas Priest better than Judas Priest? To record something and listen to it, I think Judas Priest is better at it. We like those songs from different genres – I think it’s more fun. We didn’t expect to make a cover with a German soap opera theme song. That’s what happens.
Mäenpää: It’s fun also to see other people’s reactions. If it was a Judas Priest cover, people wouldn’t care. These covers get people’s interest.
Kokko: Yeah, there’s at least a reaction. Whether it’s good or bad. Sometimes people could be irritated – how could they do this? (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: What has heavy metal as a genre meant to you personally? Can you think of a specific time or album that really connected with you at a time in your life that pulled you through tough or difficult times to make things better in the end?
Mäenpää: I think heavy metal has always defined who I am and what I am today. It was W.A.S.P’s debut album that had this ‘aha’ moment for me. It’s a brilliant album, the cover with the guys in leather, it blew my mind when I was a little kid.
Kokko: What Tomi said, I don’t know what I would do without heavy metal, hard rock. Regarding the albums, I would have to say W.A.S.P. also – but perhaps the album Crimson Idol. That hit a nerve with me, the production, the songwriting, Blackie’s singing with such raw emotion. That is something that is in my top 10 list to listen to every year.
Dead Rhetoric: Where are you hoping to see the band’s career develop over the next few years? Is it a balancing act to achieve what you want in that area while also maintaining day jobs and family/relationships responsibilities?
Mäenpää: Hard to say where we will be in the future. We want to take things as far as we can – and hopefully some day we can leave our day jobs. That is more of a fantasy.
Kokko: The scene is not the same as it was say thirty years ago to be in a band. Now it’s like a fantasy to quit your day job. I don’t know, let’s see what happens. I hope in a couple of years we have a third album written, ready to be released. We have more good shows.
Mäenpää: Maybe four or five albums.
Dead Rhetoric: What has it been like to be a part of the Steamhammer/SPV roster, especially after your debut album being on High Roller Records?
Mäenpää: I find it really cool as there are so many of my favorite bands on the same label. Motörhead, Sodom, and Running Wild. Getting your own record out from the same label, it’s pretty cool. I never thought when I was a little kid, I thought the same albums from Motörhead that someday I would record my own stuff for the same label. And here we are.
Kokko: As far as what this label does, they are able to give us even more attention and resources. We have good promotion with them, it’s a step up. We will see what is up for us after this.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider three of the most important metal albums that shaped your views/outlooks on the genre? And what’s the best concert memory you have of attending a show as a member of the audience – plus what made that so memorable to you?
Mäenpää: W.A.S.P. – their debut album. Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time. And the first Kiss album.
Kokko: AC/DC – Back in Black. That inspired me to start singing. Crimson Idol – W.A.S.P. Then I don’t know for the third one. Seeing Iron Maiden at a festival, maybe ten years ago at a festival in Finland. There was a huge storm that wrecked the stages, lots of bands had to cancel. Iron Maiden was the headliner, I remember it was cool it started to heat up, mist in the air, people holding up their cell phones and they played “Fear of the Dark”, the mood was very awesome.
Mäenpää: For the concerts, it’s all the Iron Maiden concerts as they are basically my favorite band. They’ve never been bad. Every show has been inspiring, especially nowadays as they are not that young and still keep going. Nicko McBrain had a stroke and still played on tour after that.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of the biggest concerns you have about the world that we live in currently? If you could help the average person live a better life, what sorts of ideas or thoughts would you like to get across that could be beneficial?
Kokko: That’s a big question! (laughs). You can listen to the album, we talk about concerns like warmongers, and what’s happening in Europe now. Religious freedom, there is crazy stuff happening. How would I better things? Help your fellow man. Help your immediate surroundings, and ripple things out from there.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to Satan’s Fall over the next year or so for promotion, shows, etc.? Are there any other side bands/projects to also look forward to?
Mäenpää: I have another band that’s more 70’s rock influenced stuff. We are trying to make our first album, but it’s very slow. Not other stuff for me.
Kokko: We will tour this album as much as we can, playing the new songs. Any side projects, most of the time goes to Satan’s Fall. I do have a side project called Lionsnake, that’ll be more like 70’s rock, 80’s rock influenced stuff. I don’t know if there’s an album’s worth of songs written, we’ll see.
Mäenpää: Our bass player has a heavy metal band called Chalice, and they are making a new album right now, that will come out next year. People should check out their first album too Trembling Crown. Our other guitar player Ville has like four different side bands. He plays bass in a band called Psychework, they released their new album a few weeks ago Spark of Hope. It’s a bit more positive of a band than Satan’s Fall.