Interview with the main compositor and lead guitarist, Juha Raivio.
Metalship : Hail Juha! First of all, could you introduce your band and its origins for the Metalship’s readers?
Juha: Hello there. I put up this band in year 2000 when I had few songs that didn't fit my other band music style. It took couple of years to find right people to join the band and after that we did our first and only demo “Out of this gloomy light” in year 2003 and got signed right after releasing it. So far we have release 4 albums and one EP and toured a lot around the world. I guess if you think bands like My dying bride, Opeth and Type O Negative you have small idea how we sound like.
Metalship : Your new album, New Moon, was released on last november, it was well received by critics and fans, who considered it as a new start for modern doom-death metal. What can you tell about it and its title?
I think that we have taken the death/doom sound a bit further with this band and that is because we are not scared to go on strange directions with the music, so I guess you can say it could be also a “modern” death/doom sound. When I was doing music for our last EP “Plague of butterflies” it had quite progressive and also a bit black metal´ish approach on it and it worked out really good. So I took that spirit with me when I was composing the new songs, and this album turned to be more progressive and evil at the same time. The name New Moon is about starting new darker chapter of Swallow the Sun, we also have a new drummer “Kai Hahto” so it’s a new start for the band too, new era.
Metalship : Your music is such dark and melancholic, sometimes closer to Shape Of Despair’s funeral doom. What are your main influences, inside music and in life more generally?
My biggest musical influences are Type O Negative, My Dying Bride, Rush and Marillion. When I'm writing music most of the inspiration comes from the Finnish nature, woods, winter and all the seasons here. I dont think Swallow the Sun wouldnt sound like this without growing up in this dark country.
Metalship : Now, questions about your new release. Since The Morning Never Came album, Swallow the Sun have used awesome covers. Who made the New Moon artwork, and what should we understand through it?
Thank you. New Moon cover was made by Finnish guy called Rami Mursula. When we were on our last American tour I had this image on my mind about snakes swallowing the moon and we just put that idea to the cover artist. We wanted the whole art work look like an old book and I think he did really good job with it. Serpents on the cover are telling about the more evil sound that this album have and the snakes are in a way leading the band to the new era that starts with the new moon.
Metalship : Releasing a new album after the Hope success wasn’t an easy work… Did you feel some pressure about this new album?
Not at all. I didn't think that I have to make a better album than Hope or any other of our albums when I was writing it. I always do music only for my self to be happy, and if fans like it also then its only good thing. If you start to think how to make better albums or what people might want you to sound like, then you are going wrong with your music. You just have to write honest music for your self, that have to be the goal on doing music you love.
Metalship : I found New Moon more violent, darker and heavier than Hope, but it’s surely the most varied album you ever made, it going further than Plague Of Butterflies, isn’t it?
Yes, you're absolutely right. Plague of Butterflies was really hard album for many people because the song lasted 35 minutes and it was pretty progressive, but I feel New Moon have the same weird violent darkness made on shorter songs, and also because the sound on this album is so heavy it added more heavier sound on it. I think all the ends of our sound are taken even further on this album.
Metalship : The song “New Moon” is extremely slow, dark and melancholic. Is it a way in which one you’ll continue after this release?
I really don't know how next album is gonna sound like, it can be even more darker and beautiful at the same time, or it can go totally different direction. Next album is what ever will come out naturally.
Metalship : “Lights On The Lake (Horror Pt II)” is the second title mentioned with “Horror Pt”, like the Hope’s “Don’t Fall Asleep”. What is connecting these two songs?
There is no connection on the lyrics, but there is connection on the music with all these Horror songs. If you listen carefully you can find a connection in the music of all these songs. All these Horror songs have a ghost stories but they are not part of the same story.
Metalship : In 2009, the drummer Pasi Pasanen decided to leave the band. Now, you’re integrating Kai Hahto (Wintersun, Rotten Sound). Can you tell us the story of this collaboration?
Kai was the first and basically only person we wanted to join the band because we had already done one tour with him when Pasi couldn't come to our first American tour. Of course Kai is also one of the best drummers on this planet and because our kind of music is really hard for the drummer we needed the best man around to do it. Many people think that slow music is easy to play, but slower you go harder it gets with every instrument. We had only few days to rehearse the new album with Kai but he did fantastic job in the studio, we could not be more happier to have him on the band.
Metalship : Last December, you toured with Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum. There was a unique show in France (Paris, Glaz’Art), I remember your show like a communion with dark and heavy atmosphere. What’s your opinion about French public?
It was amazing to play in France, we really didnt expect the crowd to be so good because we haven't been playing that much in France and didn't know what to expect. It seems that France people understand this kind of music much better than some other countries, hope we can come back to play more shows soon.
Our music is not for partying and some countries does not understand the point of this when they come to the gigs. Our music is more about atmosphere and going deeper in it.
Metalship : What are your best/worst remembrances with Swallow the Sun? And which band would you recommend to the Metalship’s readers?
It's been fantastic to meet people and get mail from the people who have been “saved” by our music and lyrics. Many people have been getting over of the death of family members, and coming back from the edge of suicide by listening our music, that is the best response I could ever get when the music has really touch some one. The worst thing because Swallow the sun has been loosing my own home, just to be able to do this music I love, but anyway this music have give more than it have ever take.
Metalship : Thank you for your answers, I leave you the final words to conclude this interview.
Thank you. It's been so cold and so much snow here lately that you need 10 pairs of underwear to survive and not to freeze your balls if you come to Finland!
Have a gloomy new year and see you on Hellfest.