Title: When the soul is cored

The new and seventh long-play song-collection „Rise Of The Phoenix“ succeeded Tuomas Saukkonen and his group so much touching that it triggers deep astonishment. The talented Finnish eccentric kept the Melodic Death Metal formula, which is very specific, emphasized emotional and atmospheric, and the many fans of the popular Scandinavian exception will also be very pleased.

Founded in 1999, the band is thus on the bright zenith of their penetrating emotional creation after so many difficult career stages. Excessive emotional excitements, tormenting obsessions, and lots of naked revelations from the deepest, gather in a true storm of passions on this truly captivating album.

Founder, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Saukkonen is, in spite of all the fatal-biting hardness in the overall sound, still also very much interested in an aesthetic musical appearance.

How are you doing these days?

„Very good, thanx for asking. Been a bit slow beginning of the year and been mainly charging batteries and counting days until the busy times and gigs begin.“

Which noteworthy (small) differences to the previous Before The Dawn release(s) are waiting now for the curious listeners?

„The new material is faster, more aggressive, more melodic when it comes to the guitar melodies. Overall we have moved from Dark Metal with gothic influences into melodic Scandinavian Death Metal. Also one of the biggest changes is the total absence of clean vocals. When we parted ways with Lars we didn´t seek for a new clean vocalist since the new material didn´t really have any room for that anymore. I have been wanting to push the band into more aggressive direction for a long time but that was not possible with the previous line-up. Fast music demands a fast drummer for example.“

What’s your personal view about the artistic ‚spirit‘ of the new album?

„Victorious. When the line-up problems were in the past it was like a new beginning. After 6 albums in one certain music style I was really in a need for a change as an songwriter and with the new album I felt such a huge freedom and joy in the song writing process. It was like I was writing a 2nd debut album.“

Which spiritual aspects are the most relevant for you in your music, within a world full of societies' shame and lies?

„The main aspect has always been my own spiritual stuff. I might use political or even religious metaphors in my music but the center point is always personal issues or point of views.“

„Rise Of The Phoenix“ sounds often like an extremely powerful and furious, but very beautiful looking winterstorm on open range lands. Which is your preferred season?

„I like winter the most because of its fury and beauty. But I do love the whole circle of the 4 seasons we have in Finland. Each season has a big role in my creativity but I have noticed a certain pattern. I am usually the most active when it comes to the songwriting during autumn and early winter. I really like you way of describing the music since that kind of landscape I many times have in my head while writing new stuff for Before The Dawn or Black Sun Aeon.“

Sounds also on the new album, as if these band would be really your greatest love ever. Am I right with that? 

„I must admit that the past few years have been a bit cold but after some big changes inside the band I managed to re-ignite the flame. Bad chemistry and motivation inside the band can destroy the affection towards the band even though the music still comes from the heart. I have shared 14 years with Before The Dawn and I am very happy to be still standing tall and be able to release already 7th "love child". Sometimes the musical passion gets buried underneath all the work for the band. My company does partly the management for Before The Dawn and all of my bands, manages all merchandise, is the booking agency etc etc, but working with the new guys, new songs and the new album really reminded me again why I do all that work and how much Before The Dawn and the music I write for Before The Dawn means to me.“

Again you've reached it to preserve the individual style of Before The Dawn in an sheer awesome perfection. And that after all these years! What's your personal ‚secret‘ to get this result again and again?

„Always when I write music I write for myself. I don´t try to reach artistic or musical perfection but instead trying to describe emotions and feelings by music the best way I can. Of course I aim for the best possible quality in production and playing but the main key in the songwriting is very simple. What sounds good to my ear and matches my mood ends up on the album.“

How long was the songwriting for „Rise Of The Phoenix“ in total?

„About 2 months. After all the mess with the line-up change was behind and I had the new guys on board I got a huge inspiration boost. The decision to change the music style also had a huge impact because I have been wanting to write this kind of material for Before The Dawn for few years now but was unable because various issues with the previous line-up. Now I had 100 % freedom and no musical boundaries to overcome when it came to the skills of the musicians. I still love the playing of our previous drummer and he is extremely cool guy but if you want to write fast music you need fast drummer for the job. With the previous album i was pretty much unable to write fast songs with blast beats, fast double bass drum etc.“

With which expectation(s) have you begun the composing of the songs for the new Before The Dawn release?

„Just to write music 100 % for myself with no limits. That simple, hehe. I knew from the start that for some fans the change in the music style and in the line-up will be a big deal but while writing the music I was only thinking what I want the music to sound and what kind of album I want to make.“

From where you have got the new main ideas for the very special, dark and melancholic Metal art of Before The Dawn?

„I wish I had a cool and poetic answer to this one. Maybe with me with a wine class and some black candles, hehe. I very rarely play guitar for the actual fun of playing. When I get certain kind of mood I pickup the guitar and start working with new ideas. Can´t really point out where they come from. I think that it is so specific because there is a strong personal emotional and spiritual connection.“

When came the best song ideas into your mind?

 „Late evening or night. I very rarely write anything during day time. Rarely even wake up before 14.00 PM if not necessary, hehe. My head simply does not function before 18.00.“

Have you been the main songwriter also for „Rise Of The Phoenix“?

„Yes. I wrote 100 % of the music and lyrics. This time I also did raw demos with final arrangements so there was not much room for other members when it comes to the composing but they did play important role by being awesome musicians and delivering 110 % performance in the studio. Our lead guitarist Juho of course did his own solos and also recorded most of the album and did the mixing so he is very important "sidekick" for me when it comes to making albums. He has also mixed all Black Sun Aeon albums (my solo project).“

What is the lyrical main content of the new material?

„Victory in many forms. In the earlier albums I have mainly been documenting certain emotional situations, some dark circumstances etc etc but this time the lyrics contain a lot of processing and overcoming those kind of situations. We were in a bad place as a band and getting out from that with newfound motivation and energy really had a huge impact on the music and the lyrics.“

Why have your previous members quit the band?

„Lars had some problems in his personal life and that started to reflect heavily to the band also. Bad motivation, unprofessional behavior, a lot of drinking and mostly being drunk on stage. In the end we were unable to give 100 % performance to the audience and that started to create a lot of frustration inside the band. Eventually we came to the point where big changes were needed to be done and Lars decided to step away. I would have loved to keep Atte still as the drummer but also wanted to change the music style and Atte was not into starting rehearsing blast beats and faster double bass drums so he decided to step away, too.“

Please talk a bit about the recruitments of the new bass player and drummer!

„Both were already old friends of mine so it took 1 day to get the new line-up running. Was so easy and pleasant since both are professionals to the core and in the first rehearsals they knew the songs better than me. Suddenly no stress anymore, no frustration, no limits when it comes to the drumming.“

How were the work for the new album under the aspect of new members?

„Both did awesome job. And it was the most less stressing recordings for me since this time I only had to play my own guitar parts and partly the keyboards. They were totally the right men for the job in the studio. Also very easy going guys so the studio sessions were like hanging out with good friends, jamming some new material and as a result there was a new album recorded after less than 2 weeks.“

Why do you do this at all – better said, which is still the most inner driving force within your creative heart to play such emotional and extreme Metal music?

„I really don´t know, hehe. Music is my love and passion. I think it was something I was born to do since it comes so naturally for me. My life would be terribly boring and empty if I would not make at least 1-2 albums a year. Music is my way of dealing stuff that I don´t know how to talk about. Since I am a Finnish man there is a lot of issues like that, hehe. We are not a "talking" race, so to say. Music is like my diary and each album is pretty exact picture of that particular time of my life.“

What do you think why so few bands play really good and timeless Melancholic Melodic Death Metal nowadays? Is it a question of the broad und deep range of inner views and feelings?

„Can´t fully agree with you since now days I have very little time to check out any new bands. I believe that in all style of music the best stuff comes out when the writer of the music writes honest and soulful music. If you have nothing to say why should anybody listen to you. I think that applies to all fields of creativity. When you say what you feel or carry inside then there is also a part of you in the music and it becomes a tiny bit more and bigger than just music.“

Any additional words to the Before The Dawn fans?

„In this crossroad of Before The Dawn I want to thank you from the past years and welcome you to continue the ride!“

© Markus Eck, 08.04.2012

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