“NOUMENA” INTERVIEW by Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela
“DEATH from FINLAND”
Formed in 1998 in Ähtäri and ever since been offering everyone some melodic death, with their heavy and dark sounds… Taking You to a journey through Finnish mindscape… Melancholy, despair, frustration, a bit anger but also hope… The time has come to find out what these highly talented musicians are really up to… Let’s go, Hannu Savolainen is waiting !!!
So honored to have this chance to have a moment with You. How are You doing ?
We are doing fine at the moment! Maybe a little bit “band hangover” since releasing the latest album sure took some time and effort. That’s the price to have your own label. But otherwise just enjoying summer and trying book us some gigs for autumn and winter. Just now I’m traveling to Helsinki, where I’m going to enjoy Tuska Open Air Metal Festival with my friends. Looking forward to see at least Triptykon and Insomnium, to name a few.
As always I’m so damn curious about history… Would You tell us the story behind NOUMENA… When did You guys meet & decide the time has come to step forth and start kicking asses ?
We five guys, original members of Noumena, knew each other quite well before we formed Noumena during spring 1998, so guys even already from kindergarten. We had played in various bands and various instruments, but Noumena was the first we five metal heads getting together. Our drummer Ilkka and I shared steaming hot love for In Flames (Subterranean, Whoracle) and we really yearned to play some quality melodic death metal ourselves. It was clear from the beginning that after bands with different genres, now it was time for melodeath. Besides In Flames, Edge of Sanity was essential band for Noumena as well. And it still is!
Coming from not very big City of Ähtäri… How was the start of Your career, a true struggle or… ?
We established Noumena when we had finished high school and we were about to move away from Ähtäri to study or to go to the army. But we were convinced that this band was going to be a bigger thing than any of our former groups. After recording two demos we already got a record deal from Singaropean label. So it was fast proceeding: a deal about one year after forming the band. But the difficult years were only ahead of us that time, since the label went to bankruptcy and we had really hard time to find a new company.
How was the reception and what kind of comments did You get from audience and from those who know everything, the critics, after releasing a couple of demos and later Your first full-length album “Pride/Fall” ?
Both the first demo “Aeons” (1998) and the second “For the Fragile One” (1999) were well received and we got nice feedback from music magazines. Fanzine culture was alive and kicking that time and we got the first deal thanks to some fanzine review abroad. The story behind the debut album is interesting one. As I told earlier, the Singaporean label went down before they had paid studio costs to Anssi Kippo at Astia-studio (famous recording Children of Bodom’s Hatebreeder, for instance). So we couldn’t get the master tape out. We made a deal with Anssi to pay the bill in parts and get 1-2 tracks out per payment. It took time to gather the money and it wasn’t easy since we were students and obviously quite poor ones. Eventually we got the whole album out. But nobody wanted to release it that time. So, we recorded another 4 tracks as a promo called “Sala”. And then, out of the blue, this Australian guy Peter Walker contacted us and told he wanted to establish a label and release our debut album. So we took 6 songs from Astia sessions and 4 tracks from Sala into “Pride/Fall”. As the album name hints we had mixed feelings during that time about Noumena. Critics were ok, but years 2002-2004 we difficult years for us. Things changed when we got the deal with Spinefarm Records in 2004.
How hard is it to find time to get together since if I’m not totally wrong You guys live across Finland and don’t see each others that often ?
Yes, we live in different parts of Finland and our rehearsal place is in Helsinki (the capital of Finland). We are used to these distances since during Noumena’s history we have lived in the same place only for 4-5 months in the beginning. With all these communication devices and digital opportunities it’s not necessary to meet each other so often. We can share song ideas, riffs and song drafts with email and so on. Of course one can’t avoid thinking every now and then, how good this band could be if we had an opportunity to rehearse once a week.
Listening to Your albums makes me think like I’ve just witnessed a well-oiled machine just going on and on… You sure sound like a true team of highly skilled musicians, with the same visions and goals, knowing exactly what You’re doing… Do You just work Your asses off 24/7 or do You know how to relax and just take it easy ?
To begin with, we don’t rehearse together that much, like I explained earlier. I think we just have the right motivation towards Noumena. Everyone does their share, practice at home and really concentrate when we are at rehearsals. We enjoy playing and hanging out together, so there is almost always good atmosphere in the air. And I think that nearly 20 years in the same band makes you play well together, even if you lack talent. But to be honest, Suvi is a professional musician and music teacher and Ville and Tuukka have gifts with writing music.
Your every album contains so pretty damn dark, melancholic music… Tell us a little about Your songwriting process, where do You get Your ideas, who’s in charge etc. and Is Finland so damn cold and fucked up country that “happy” music is not even an option ?
We have grown up listening to different kinds of dark and aggressive yet beautiful music. I think composing this kind of music and playing it offers a good channel to deal with your desperate moments, inner demons and anxiety. And to shed some hope also. Our guitarist Ville and Tuukka are the main composers in Noumena. Rest of us write some stuff (songs, melodies, lyrics), too. Usually Ville or Tuukka come up with ideas which they refine to a complete song and record a demo version of it. Then it’s shared to the band for comments and practicing. Sometimes songs are 95 % ready in the first place and we make only minor changes in arrangement. Sometimes the song is restructured and arranged more thoroughly. We have had a couple of songs which have been built together from a riff of two. It has been refreshing change from the business-as-usual method. We are quite democratic band, but when the push comes to shove, Ville Lamminaho will say the final word as the artistic leader of Noumena.
You’ve had only 1 lineup change during these years… Another vocalist, Suvi Uura joined Your band… Was this something You had planned for years or did it just happen since having 2 vocalists surely means some changes ?
Noumena is more than a band for us. It is a precious creature we have created together and it also has kept us close during all these years. We have had our difficult times, but we are here with the founding members. We have had female vocals since the first demo “Aeons”. Our style of melodic death metal has always included clean vocals, both male and female. There have been and will be metal fans who criticize us for using female vocals, but it’s their problem. Noumena will continue to have diverse vocals where it serves the songs. Clean vocals don’t have intrinsic value for us. After three albums we wanted to stabilize the female vocalist situation with a permanent member. We know Suvi since she’s from Ähtäri as well. She’s great musician and singer and quite a metalhead among other things. She was interested to give a try with us and it turned out to be a good thing. Suvi has kicked us when we have lack energy and contributed greatly to our songwriting and live shows.
How would You describe Your music and You who make the music have changed during these years… Except everyone’s aged a bit ?
It’s metal for sure, melodic metal and melodic death metal. Melancholic Finnish melodic death metal. Antti’s growls are factor that mostly connects our music to death metal. “Clean vocals only” Noumena would be completely different story. Noumena’s main feature is the interesting and sometimes catchy guitar melodies. Add tight rhythm base, some boldness in arrangements and we are close to Noumena recipe. Our song material is diverse and we are not afraid to explore musically. We have slower and more epic tracks and faster upbeat melodeath hit songs. What has changed during these years is the courage to compose and arrange diverse songs. We have been criticized that we haven’t found our style or including too different songs on albums. Sound and arrangement wise we have found the guiding light years ago. And we will have diverse songs on albums in the future as well. We rather be a Noumena buffet table than a one trick pony, if I would exaggerate a little bit. And as we age and change as human beings it will surely reflect in our music.
There are many great moments, small and big. Every time when we play together a new song and “clicks” right away, reading the same feeling from the face of some other band member, it’s triumph! But if I have to choose some peculiar moment, maybe one was when I read email from Sami Tenetz (Spikefarm Records) offering a deal. It felt like a reward from hard work. And I hope there will be moments in the future that will eclipse previous high moments.
Your latest album “Myrrys” was just released, April 28th… What kind of comments have You received since You changed Your direction just “a bit”… It’s in Finnish ?
Feedback have been mostly good. Many people which know us, know their metal and who I respect have commented that this the best album from Noumena or at least side to side with “Absence”, which usually is mentioned as our best record. Then there are some complaints about how the album is too diverse, the phenomena I described above. The change in language has been received well among Finnish fans and metalheads abroad. I think everybody should spin the album 2-3 times and make their own judgement. There are some tracks for instant attachment but usually our albums open up only after a couple of runs.
How would You describe Your band and music Yourself… And what can we expect when coming to see Your show(s) ?
Noumena is an unholy mixture of melodic death metal, Finnish melancholy and traditional heavy metal. Ordinary guys with an extraordinary devotion towards crafting ever better metal songs. We have a couple of gigs in Finland in August and we are working our asses off to book some more in Finland and abroad. We haven’t toured in Central Europe since 2006 so it’s about time to meet our friends in Germany, Netherlands and beyond.
How does the future look like for Noumena… Maybe some secrets You want to share… Just between You and me (and over 50000 people reading this) ?
At this point we take one step at a time. Now we of course promote our new album and try to play gigs as much as possible considering our life situations and so on. Noumena will turn 20 years 2018, and definitely we are going to come up some nice things next year. Don’t want to shed too much just now, though.
Any last words (not literally) to people who are reading this, the Family of MHF, Your fans and Your soon to be fans ?
First and foremost we write music to ourselves, but it’s always great if there are people out there who enjoy our songs, get strong feelings, strength, sorrow or joy from them. It’s pleasure to get such a feedback. In the end of the day our possibilities to release more music depends on our fans. We have our own label and don’t have a large war chest to conquer the world. We have been metal fans and still are, so we know the both sides of the venue, so to speak. I want to treat our fans and friends respectfully. Spread the word, enjoy the metal and keep it true!
Antti Haapanen – Vocals
Suvi Uura – Vocals
Ville Lamminaho – Guitars
Hannu Savolainen – Bass
Tuukka Tuomela – Guitars
Ilkka Unnbom – Drums
Santtu “Rebel” Kaskela / MHF Magazine