Wolfheart’s new album, Wolves of Karelia, has arrived on April 10th via Napalm Records. While many bands are starting to push back their release date due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these Finnish melodic death metallers released their album as planned. We recently caught up with the group’s mastermind Tuomas Saukkonen to discuss their latest effort, his response to the Devastation on the Nation tour being rescheduled, to our new uncertain reality from the coronavirus outbreak.
What have you done differently on the recording process of Wolves of Karelia compared to your prior work?
With the recordings, nothing much has changed. I’ve been using the same sound engineers for over a decade now. We have our own way of doing stuff nowadays. But the biggest change was to writing, because I usually write constantly throughout the year, little bit more mainly during the winter, but still there’s no longer pauses, usually. But after the previous album, Constellation of the Black Light, we played almost 140 gigs in 10 months. We did two North Americans tours, two European tours, one South American, one Asian, one Russian, and two tours in Finland. So I didn’t have any energy to write any music for that whole 10 months of time. So this album was written basically within one and a half months. When I was done with the last tour last August, I felt like a balloon ready to explode with all of the ideas in my head, no time at all to actually write the songs. And the whole album just came out in a super short amount of time, so that was the biggest difference this time.
You guys always seem to have a new album every year or two years, what keeps your ideas so fresh?
That is an interesting question, because the ideas being fresh or not is actually the opinion of every listener. When I’m writing music, I don’t compare those ideas to anything I’ve done before or try to sound fresh or try to come up with something new. It just comes out, what I have in my head. While writing the songs, there’s no goals. I don’t aim to do anything else other than write music that I would like to create. So the whole being fresh and pushing the production somewhere actually happens only at the studio when we are making the album. But there’s no connection when I’m writing the songs, because again, how could I be able to predict what people would like to hear on the next album? What is fresh in their opinion? Should I try something that I never tried just because things needed to be fresh? It’s an endless list of options there, if you start thinking like that. So I’d rather just write music for myself. Naturally, I hope that the fans will like it, but it has to be mainly for myself in the writing.
Can you actually talk more about the video for “Hail of Steel?” I really liked you guys being surrounded by a circle of fire.
We used fire in previous videos also, but now we’ve been a little bit bigger, and it’s a very complicated element that we noticed this time. It was really windy and… I do like the chaotic element of fire, and that’s why I want to use real fire instead of, like this show Pyros, having the flame with the gas or something like that, that you can control better but it looks too industrial to me. Live fire actually just goes wherever it wants. It reacts to the wind differently. But it got really complicated this time. We had a little bit too much fire, considering the elements of nature. And when you have a drummer inside a flame circle, and it gets a little bit too hot, it’s apparently not a very pleasant thing, at least according to the feedback that I got from my drummer. He wasn’t too happy about how it felt. It is fire. It will get warm, really, really warm. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future because it’s going to be quite complicated to always build bigger fires.
Speaking of fire, can you talk more about the song “Born from Fire?”
Yeah. All the lyrics on the album are based on the stories I read or interviews I was listening to from the veterans of the Winter War, and that’s the whole theme of the album. And the war took place during the second world war between Finland and Russia, and Finland doesn’t have that long of a history when it comes to battling wars. Then again, Russia is a huge nation. It was a huge nation back at that time also, with a really long history with conquering other worlds. And at the same time, Finland has none of that or didn’t have any of that. So I don’t know if the Finnish soldiers or Finnish people were prepared. They didn’t know what it’s going to be like when you are in a war. So that was mainly about how it felt when, for them, completely out of the blue. You need to leave your houses and farms in the middle of the winter when it’s 40 degrees outside, and a lot of the guys burnt their own houses so it wouldn’t be left for the enemy. And having that kind of experience and how they saw the whole war taking place like there was some unearthly demon army sustaining their world completely on fire. So that’s what that song is about.
What was the entire experience like for you when the Devastation on the Nation North American tour had to get rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
That was pretty fucked up. I’m really happy that it is rescheduled. A lot of the other tours got completely canceled, but the result is still the same for us. There’s not going to be any North American gigs for this whole year. And, of course, it was quite a complicated thing. We had all the flights booked, we had all the visas applied and paid, tax waivers, the bus advances. We had printed several hundreds of shirts. Everything was ready and we just weren’t able to start the tour. There’s still a lot of work to solve that mess. It could have gone worse because our friends, Insomnium, for example, they already flew to the U.S.A. before it got canceled. That was a lot more complicated. When you are already there and everything. How to get home, how is the crew going to get home? So it could have gone worse. But it was really, really complicated.
I can only imagine. What have you been doing during this time of isolation to keep yourself busy or sane?
Well, luckily I was able to go directly back to work, so I didn’t have to stay at home just wondering what just happened. And the label has been really active with the promo and the interview schedules. So everyday there’s a lot of work I still have with the album release, so that’s a really good thing. And we hosted this virtual gig on the 9th of April. So there’s something keeping the whole band active, but it is quite a big drop, when you were planning to play 30 shows all around North America and then you’re stuck at home, especially now with the bars thing is shutting the whole Finland down. So that’s the only thing you can do. I’m still able to go to work, probably until the end of this week, but no guarantees after that. So it’s weird times, I can’t make any promises about my sanity yet, because it seems like every new day has a lot more complications coming.
It’s definitely a time of uncertainty. We have no clue what’s going to happen. I’m curious, once this crisis is hopefully over, do you think things will change or just go back to normal?
That’s a interesting question. That’s one I’ve been thinking a lot lately, I’ve been worried about, because basically, I’m worried about the whole music scene. Many of the venues are not going to be able to survive if they are being closed for months. What’s going to happen with the agencies that their own income is the tours they’re booking, all the managements, all the T shirt companies? Our European company already emailed me last week that they’re probably going to go into bankruptcy now because they lost all of their jobs. So eventually this virus thing will be over, but it’s not going to be normal. I think at least up to a certain point, the normal that was here just a few months ago is not going to be there when the virus is over.
These are scary times and it’s sad seeing what’s happening. Hopefully, people will come together and find a solution for a new normal, I guess. But to end things on a positive note, is there anything that you want to say or add about the new album?
I don’t actually know. Probably there would be, but I’m just so consumed with this whole situation around everything that it’s been quite complicated to actually think about the album itself or anything involving the band, even, because it’s just the whole world is shutting down. I think this is the biggest crisis and event since the second world war in a global sense. Actually, honestly, it’s been really difficult to focus on the album in the past few days and weeks, because the whole world is just getting fucked up around. So the album itself starts to feel quite small. It’s just an album. People are going into survival mode, but maybe the album would provide people a little bit of a breather, not to think about the current situation, but just enjoy music.
It’s definitely difficult to focus on day-to-day life and projects while the whole world is on lockdown. But yeah, new music is a useful escape from what’s happening.
It feels like I’m inside of a really weird movie.
Yep. I’m in a science fiction film.
Yeah, exactly. Well, I guess the good thing that everybody is inside the same movie, so everybody, at least a little bit, knows what other people all around the world is feeling at the moment. So everybody’s in the same boat, and hopefully that makes people help others a little bit more than we usually do. Human beings can be really, really selfish. So I hope this brings people together a little bit better.