Tomb of Finland – Prepare for EntombmentThursday, 4th August 2022
Finnish metal encompasses a wide array of influences – the common thread throughout most of the bands is this purity and sensibility regarding the channeling of emotions through musical passages that touches the heart, brain, and soul in a collective catharsis that everyone can relate to. Tomb of Finland is another act that blend together melodic death / doom into this hypnotic cocktail, where multiple layers can catch the ears at any given point track to track. Their third album Across the Barren Fields brings about elements of Edge of Sanity, Insomnium, and Sentenced depending on the song – that versatility sure to appease a wide array of underground metalheads.
We reached out to guitarist Jasse Von Hast, vocalist Olli Suvanto, and bassist Ville Kangasharju to learn more about their musical development in childhood and path to heavy metal, the importance of melodies to help define their direction, the struggles of being taken seriously by certain followers based on their name, plus human intellect and mental health concerns and what other bands to look out for from these musicians.
Dead Rhetoric: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding music in childhood? At what point did you discover heavier music and metal bands – and how did you make the transition into wanting to pick up an instrument and perform in bands?
Jasse Von Hast: It was somewhere in the late 70’s when my father played some songs with a fipple flute to me and my brother. A bit later, when I was 5-6 years old, we got cheap mandolins from my grandfather. Then my brother and I had some kind of rock show in our bedroom with mandolins and funny clothes. It was the first time I felt some attraction for playing in a band.
I liked some Finnish rock and roll songs and how the guitar was played in them. It was the first time I noticed a separate guitar sound on songs. If my memories are correct, it was somewhere in 1980-81. I got my first LP from my father somewhere in 1982. It was a collection of Finnish rock and punk songs. I listened to it almost every day and that was the point of no turning back. I lost my soul to band music. A couple of years later my friend’s big brother played me some heavy metal albums. They were Kiss, Motörhead, W.A.S.P., etc. Those gave me the last kick to heavier music.
My first touch to playing in a band was somewhere in 1988. I started rehearsals with my drummer friend. We played Anthrax, S.O.D., and Metallica covers. During the same year I wrote my own first songs. By natural musical evolution, there was more to come. I was always seeking for more brutal music. In 1989 death metal crawled into my stereo.
Olli Suvanto: I can remember quite well when I heard my cousin playing some black metal in the 1990’s. Luckily, he is a musician himself and I got my first touch with the guitar. In that moment I knew that this is the thing. Somehow, I got my parents to buy me a guitar that I played for hours almost with no end. Quickly after I found Cradle of Filth that made me want to grab the microphone. It took years for the first band to establish myself as a vocalist, but I haven’t put the guitar down ever since.
Ville Kangasharju: My parents were luckily really into music in general when I was a little kid. I remember dancing to Santana, and we’d often play the “22-Pisterpirkko” seven-inch single with my brother which had the song “Frankenstein”. With heavier music I’ll always think I’m a late bloomer compared to when my friends got into this. I got into metal in my teen years when I discovered Nirvana’s Bleach and Alice in Chains’ Facelift. Then Pantera and Carcass, etc. Around this time, I also picked up the guitar which I played for about ten years before realizing the bass is a lot cooler instrument!
Dead Rhetoric: Across the Barren Fields is the third and latest studio album for Tomb of Finland. Tell us about the songwriting and recording sessions for this effort – and where you see the major differences between this record and your previous two albums Below the Green from 2015 and Frozen Beneath in 2018?
Von Hast: All the songs were mostly written by myself and Mikko (Hannuksela) alone at home. Then we recorded demos and gathered to our rehearsal camp with the whole band to arrange them. The latest album includes more variation between the songs. There are also some new arrangement decisions and musical styles combined. We have spent more time together and played more gigs and arranged all the songs to fit together with the whole band. That time has tightened our sound as a band.
We feel that this album is breaking the limits both musically and graphically. The cover art is not very typical for a death metal band, but it fits the songs perfectly.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any specific songs that presented more of a challenge, or took on a great transformation from the initial demo stages to the final version that appears on the record?
Von Hast: Almost everything got to the final version quite easily, but the song called “The Gallows” took a bit more time and changed the most from the first demos to the final version.
Dead Rhetoric: Where does the band want to come across lyrically on this record? Do you draw from personal experiences to match the mood and atmosphere of the songs?
Suvanto: The lyrics come in pieces that I write down when a line pops up in my head. Mostly the lyrics are melded in a mold that they can be read for different situations, but there is no red line or strict direction for the substance in general. The album name and lyrics are well compatible with the meaning of across the barren fields, that is, life. Some of the lyrical themes are from living life and others from situations that can be, some sort of templates so to speak. The final track with vocals has a story of a person that is about to end his life but dies before he can reach the gallows that summarizes why, it is barren fields. It just went towards this type of outcome.
Dead Rhetoric: Would you say there are specific trademarks or aspects that make an ideal Tomb of Finland song – and how does the band balance out the diverse influences across the doom, death, and extreme metal platforms, do you take things on a song-by-song basis to fit the needs of each track?
Suvanto: Certainly. I can point out the melodies. Jasse is a master in creating them and while some bands have a certain type of feeling in their style, Tomb of Finland has the richness of melodies.
Kangasharju: Mikko has the brutal riffs and Jasse finished them with beautiful melodies, and that is topped masterfully with Olli’s various styles of growls.
Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe Tomb of Finland live versus what people hear on the record? What do you want audiences to get out of your performances, and what have been some of the best or most memorable shows to date for the group?
Suvanto: The live shows are energetic despite the fact that we have really doom-ish songs. The cemetery is always present in our live shows, we have tombstones with us! Our music jumps alive differently live than on a record. You should come and see yourself.
Dead Rhetoric: What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in the metal music industry? And where do you think you’ve grown the most as a musician from your early years to today?
Von Hast: This is very difficult. I can’t remember any bad advice. I have only got good or realistic advice during my musical career. Maybe I haven’t met any real fuckfaces yet! (laughs) I feel I have grown mostly as a songwriter and of course I am a more realistic person about everything in the music industry.
Kangasharju: Most of the growth for me has been in how you generally manage things in a band, and I hope I manage my practicing when it’s time to shift your focus between the bands I play in.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts these days on the Finnish metal scene? You’ve always had a wealth of talent in many different genres making international impact, are there specific newcomers that you believe we need to look into?
Von Hast: Our scene seems to be strong. There are many potential bands, but it’s hard to choose any specific names.
Kangasharju: The Finnish death metal scene seems to be really strong and active, lots of new good bands (Sadistic Drive, Cryptic Hatred, etc.) and many of the older bands are still active.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that friendships and band chemistry are important to achieving all that you want to achieve with Tomb of Finland? And what do you consider some of the greatest challenges or obstacles in establishing a stronger following and footprint in the scene?
Suvanto: Band chemistry is a really important thing always. Even if you wouldn’t interact with others outside of playing, the chemistry is important.
Von Hast: I really agree that band chemistry is the most important thing to get the best out from the band. One minor problem has been that in Finland there are some people who don’t understand our name. I mean that they may think we are a joke band. The name of course will be compared to the Finnish gay artist / illustrator from the late 50’s who used the artist name Tom of Finland. We don’t have anything to do with that, our message is to create a vision about death, funerals, and cemetery atmosphere with our name. And of course, that we come from Finland. I am a big fan of old school horror movies. There are some connections to them in our name, stage visualization, etc. The name has caused some misunderstanding and even discrimination in our scene. Some will never understand, but mostly we have gotten really positive comments about it.
Dead Rhetoric: What would surprise people to learn about yourself away from the music that you create? And what has heavy metal meant to you personally – can you think of specific times, albums, songs, or moments where the music was able to help you through tough times and turn out better in the end?
Suvanto: I used to paint occasionally besides doing music. I play MTG, collect occult literature, and try to wake up from the Matrix (laughs). Music is therapy, either creating it or listening to it. I had really strong support from specific albums years back.
Von Hast: I am a nature photographer. I like to also build some useful wooden furniture. Metal music has always meant some kind of rebellion and uncontrolled chaos for me. Listening to metal doesn’t help me over the hard times, but when I write songs, they are pieces from my dark times. By writing them down, I throw away some darkness from my mind.
Dead Rhetoric: What worries or concerns do you have regarding the world that we live in today? If you had unlimited resources, energy, time, and finances to tackle one or two specific areas that would make things better worldwide, what issues need to be worked on and resolved?
Suvanto: If we had unlimited resources, energy, time, and finances, we likely wouldn’t have these issues we are baffled with today. Human intellect could be running out so either way the solutions for a better world could lead anyway to the end. One thing I would concentrate on is getting the real people on the right job. Mental health is a real thing and personality disorders could have a strong link to many issues the world has to encounter today. There are too many things already fucked up so badly that there is no return for paradise or creating utopia. The ‘behavioral sink’ or ‘universe 25’ could be a thing to look more deeply into. This globe needs to breathe.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for Tomb of Finland over the next twelve months once the record comes out? Do any of the other members have other side projects, guest appearances, or other releases in the pipeline?
Suvanto: More gigs, more music, more everything. I’m working as a vocalist in a band called Kaunis Kuolematon, go and check it out! There is a new album coming into existence probably in the next year or so.
Von Hast: Yes, maximum attack to the scene! Ville plays death metal in Deathgoat and together with Janne they play in a folk metal band called Elvenscroll. And Janne plays drums also in a melodic death metal band called Slow Fall.