Nillo Sevänen (vocals, bass) from Insomnium
Another chance of an interview for Reflections of Darkness came with a Finnish Melodic Death metallers INSOMNIUM. They have just released their fifth and impressive album ‘One For Sorrow’, which we have discussed along with some other matters...
Reflections of Darkness (RoD): I understand you took the title for your album ‘One for sorrow’ from a nursery rhyme about symbolism of seeing magpies; did folklore affect your album in more ways than this, and in particular Finnish one?
Niilo Sevänen (Nillo): Starting point for the lyrics was this old English nursery rhyme called One for Sorrow. It’s about counting crows in a tree: “One for sorrow, two for luck, three for a wedding, four for death…” It has a very brooding and eerie feeling which in our opinion fits our music perfectly. It has ten rhymes as we have ten songs on this album. It forms this loose frame or concept for the lyrics. The lyrical themes are pretty much the same as always: the universal topics love, death, sorrow, loneliness, heartbreak, regret, longing, finding your inner strength and so on. Each song is like a small tale. I also read a lot to find interesting themes for lyrics. This time I was inspired by German poet Christian Morgenstern and Finnish poet Kaarlo Sarkia among others. But folklore is something which affects in the background: I think my lyrics tend to get this traditional Finnish rhythm pretty often.
RoD: There’s a poetic bent to your lyrics, kind of feel of E.A. Poe in my opinion, was he or some other poet an inspiration, what was it that inspired the lyrical content if none of the aforementioned applied?
Niilo: Poe is one poet that has affected my writing but for this album I didn’t “borrow” anything from him straight. :) We had German influences this time as the lyrics of ‘Song of the Blackest Bird’ are actually arranged from Christian Morgenstern’s poem ‘Vöglein Schwermut’. Original German poem is quite short so I had to add some material to make it a working INSOMNIUM song. The dark story perfectly fits the mood of the song.
RoD: I gather traditional Finnish poems are also sometimes a source of inspiration for your band, was it a case for this album too and if yes, can you explain why and explain what you love about your country’s traditional poetry?
Niilo: ‘Unsung’ has some folkloric feel in it so in some way it’s affected by the traditional stuff. But with this album the traces of traditional poetry are in the background and not so obvious. I’ve studied literature in university so I’ve grown to really love and appreciate Finnish poetry; both the traditional and the more modern.
RoD: Metal has been going for decades, what do you think makes for its longevity and what are your own reasons of choosing it as means of your artistic expression?
Niilo: This is something you do with your heart so it’s not possible to explain really. This is the kind of music we love and what we want to make. Metal is passionate and honest music and people who like it often love it with all their soul. At its best metal is strong, fierce and beautiful at the same time.
RoD: Why do you think Scandinavia has given the listeners so much of this genre, especially Black and Death Metal in particular? What do you think are reasons of its success?
Niilo: It’s easy to explain it with climate but that’s not the whole truth. Finnish music tends to be melancholic and sad so metal suits us pretty naturally.
RoD: You’ve also been on the scene since 1997, what are your insights about it over the passage of time, its changes?
Niilo: Metal has become more popular in Finland and more respected. You don’t need to justify yourself and your music so much anymore. More and more bands make it outside Finland as well so we have many successful bands nowadays.
RoD: What was touring alongside bands such as AMORPHIS, KATATONIA, ENSLAVED and SATYRICON like? How was your experience of the crowds you played for?
Niilo: Our tours have generally been really good. SATYRICON with black metal crowds was the toughest - but still we had some great shows there. KATATONIA in US was great experience and AMORPHIS in Europe was when we first realized that we do pretty well in Germany:) Probably the best was last year with DARK TRANQUILLITY when we toured the whole Europe and played awesome shows every night.
RoD: There’s something in your music very connected to natural, dramatic, landscapes - is this hunch wrong and if not, does nature make an impact on how you write music, do you try to consciously evoke it or is it something that comes alongside the expression of feelings/stories quite naturally?
Niilo: Your hunch is right. But it’s something that comes naturally and we don’t try to overdo it. That’s why we also want to have nature themes in our graphics. This music is meant for Finnish landscape.
RoD: Would your band ever consider having a song or more sung in Finnish maybe in your future album?
Niilo: Why not. We’ll see!
RoD: With each album you seem to be seeking to further your possibilities, whilst many bands settle to follow one path, what keeps you motivated to keep exploring and expanding what you can do?
Niilo: We feel it’s stupid to stay stagnant and repeat yourself. We want to make something new and fresh without changing our style totally. So far I think we’ve succeeded pretty well with this agenda. This keeps things interesting! If you just want to put out albums to sell more records and get touring again then you are losing your inner flame for sure.
RoD: What are your plans regarding touring with this album?
Niilo: As much touring as we can takeJ We have a European tour coming in November and half of the shows are in Germany. Also next summer I believe we have several festivals over there. Germany is our favourite place to tour so this is great.
RoD: Any messages for your fans and listeners?
Niilo: If you like strong, fierce and sorrowful music then check us out! And come to see our live show when we come to a city near you! Check www.insomnium.net for more info.
On behalf of Reflections of Darkness, thank you very much for answering these questions!
Niilo: Thank you!