Numerous bands devote themselves to the literary works of British author J.R.R. Tolkien and pay homage to Middle Earth's diverse cultures and inhabitants. However, only a few bands live up to his extraordinary tales and are able to clad them into a fitting suit of armor. One of these bands is the Finnish formation BATTLELORE, who have enthralled countless fans with their unique blend of Epic Fantasy Metal. (from Napalm Records)
This interview was conducted via e-mail and it was answered by Jyri Vahvanen (guitar and lyrics)
Infernal Masquerade: First of all thanks for the interview, and let’s get started. After 5 albums, the Last Alliance shows your music and concept at its best, how do you think all your previous work and time together as a band has contributed to this?
Jyri Vahvanen: As a band we have grew older and wiser of course and so are our skills as a musicians and song writers. Everything has happened quite naturally and we haven’t had any strict plans or rules how to develop our music or where to aim. We have just made our music by our own rules and grew closer together as a band.
I.M: What musical direction do you think Battlelore is taking in their next release?, What are the current musical influences going through the band?
J.V: I do not know about the direction, as I said, we never plan anything like that. We just compose the stuff what feels and sounds good for us and that’s it. I believe that there won’t be any major changes to our previous album, but actually the final result can be heard in the studio when we record and make the final producing for the songs. It is very hard to describe our momentarily influences from the music scene because we have seven members in band and each of us have a very different kind of music taste.
I.M: I know you get millions of questions about your lyrics being Tolkien based, however I only have one. I noticed that in the last albums you have shifted from having specific Tolkien references to a more general description of events, did you, guys, have copyright issues with the Tolkien people?
J.V: We have never had any problems with the copyright things. We do know that there is a possibility for that kind of problems, but so far no one has bothered us with this matter. I wrote the lyrics for our latest album in more ‘common’ way that those are easier to understand even if you are not into Tolkien’s fantasy literature. That’s the reason why I dropped most of the names from the lyrics.
I.M: What do you think about bands quoting you as an influence in their musical style nowω Is that something you, guys, expected when the band was formed?
J.V: We feel very honored when people say that they are influenced by our music. I never thought that something like that might happen, but f course it makes us very happy.
I.M: Your cover art for The Last Alliance is pretty amazing, do you provide the illustrator with your music and lyrics to get him inspired? Or how do you pick an illustration for your album art?
J.V: Yes, I sent some demo songs and lyrics to the illustrator and we also discussed a little about the theme and the mood of the cover. It was actually our record labels idea to use this specific illustrator, Ingo Römling is his name, for our cover art, He has also worked with Leaves’s Eyes, Alestorm and Tyr for example so we knew that he is very talented and that we can trust his skills.
I.M: Your contract with Napalm Records is over, are you thinking about continuing with this label? Or are you going to shop around whenever you are ready to release something new?
J.V: At the moment the situation is still open. We have had quite many offers from the record labels and Napalm is one of them. Nothing’s signed yet so you just have to wait and see.
I.M: I was lucky enough to see you perform live in a Tuska, at the afterparty at Nosturi last summer, where you put quite a performance with the costumes and props. How do you get pumped for a live gig (liquid courage?), and if you can have or do anything you wanted as a prop for a live performance, what would you pick and why?
J.V: Usually when we put on our live costumes and make-ups it lifts our spirits for the up coming gig and it is very easy to get into the right kind of mood. Well, some of us might drink a ‘power potion’ or two before the gig also hahaha!
Fire breathing dragon would be nice!!!!! No, seriously it would be nice to decorate the full stage with the huge medieval and war-like props, but usually it is too difficult and way too expensive.
I.M: Do you have any plans of touring in the US? I know that your last album was well received in the United States.
J.V: There’s been some plans for US-tour so let’s hope for the best!
I.M: Any other festival performances other than Summer Breeze, Bloodstock, and Raismes? I know most festivals are pretty secretive about this, but can you give us any hints?
J.V: There will be some more Summer festivals around Europe, but I really can’t talk about those yet.
I.M: What direction do you think music from Finland is taking now that it’s gaining more and more world recognition with highly successful (commercially) bands like HIM or Nightwish?
J.V: It looks like that Finnish metal is raised quite high in Europe and at the moment it is very popular here in Finland. Hard to say the next direction, but it seems that so called extreme metal bands are getting more and more into main stream, which is not a bad thing at all.
I.M: After being in Finland for a few days last year for Tuska, I was amazed on how open everybody is to metal. Nobody looked weird at me for looking like a metal head and I was even able to hear metal music in a H&M store playing as ambiance music!!. Why do you think Finish people have embraced metal and it’s culture in this way? Do you think this has provided the foundations for more people in Finland to start playing metal music, or do you think is a current trend only?
J.V: I don’t think that it is a current trend or anything which could just fade away. At the moment the metal scene in Finland is so strong that it will last for a long time. Most of the big metal bands here are actually Finnish ones and playing only for Finnish audiences. Bands like Trio Niskalaukaus, Mokoma, Kotiteollisuus, Stam1na etc. have all sold gold/platinum and they have played one or two gigs in Germany but mainly they tour only in Finland. Bands like that have made it possible that you don’t have to tour for years around the Europe and that you can be ‘big’ metal band even if you don’t sell anywhere else but here.
I.M: What do you think about how the internet has helped bands to reach more people in the last few years? What do you think about the bad aspects of it also, like piracy?
J.V: Internet is a great way to promote your band, but in a way I really do miss those old tape-trading days. Nowadays it is just “check this link” and you can hear new demos from the new bands. In that way you reach a lot of people, but too often those songs get lost into the depths of the web after one or two listening. With a real concrete demo tapes/cd’s you have those products in your record collections and that’s what I like. Piracy sucks of course because in that way my bread gets smaller all the time, but it is nice that record labels have started to fight piracy with ‘special limited edition’ cd’s etc. with great bonuses and stuff. That’s a great thing for the fans.
I.M: What new (or relatively unknown) bands would you recommend for our readers to listen?
I.M: Very nice suggestions I might add!!
I.M: Well I think I’m all out of questions for now, so thank you very much for taking the time to answer this interview. Keep up the good work and hope to see you live in the US soon!.
J.V: Thanks for the nice intie!
Kaisa Jouhki - vocals
Tomi Mykkänen - vocals
Jussi Rautio - guitars
Jyri Vahvanen - guitars
Timo Honkanen - bass
Henri Vahvanen - drums
Maria - keyboards
Label: Napalm Records