Insomnium have just released their brand new album Heart Like A Grave to much praise from both fans and the media alike. On the day the release, bassist and vocalist Niilo Sevänen took some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation about both the new album, the addition of Jani Liimatainen and the upcoming run of shows around the world.
Heart Like a Grave has just been released today. I know it might be too early to say, but how do you feel it’s been received so far?
Well it looks really good. I had a really good feeling already since we released the “Valediction” video in mid-August which people really liked. We then released the title track which people seemed to like even more and then we released the third one which people have been saying is their favourite. I think the feedback from the fans has been good already from the songs we have released and I was really confident that our fans are going to like the album as it sounds like us. The feedback from the media has been really good as well so it looks really good so far.
With Winter’s Gate, people at first were baffled by it for sure as it is just one 40 minute song. The majority of our fans however loved it and it was our most successful album up to that date. With this album, I have seen no negative comments at all about it aside from one or two people commenting about Jani joining that we would end up sounding like Sonata Arctica! I can assure people though, that is not the case and the stuff Jani has been writing for us is sounding like Insomnium.
This was also the first album with Jani Liimatainen as a full member. Did that make the process of writing any different?
Yes as there’s now four guys writing music but it worked really smoothly. Jani already took a big part in the writing and “Mute Is My Sorrow” is entirely his composition and two other songs have his parts in there. He’s a great songwriter with good ideas so I think we are stronger than ever now with the 4 of us writing. We can now pick the strongest ideas which is a really ideal situation. This time around, Ville was only able to write one song as he was so busy so the rest of us ended up writing more of the album. Markus Vanhala ended up writing 6 songs for this album so he was super productive. There was very little fighting or anything when we were doing the music this time around as in the past we sometimes fought over some little details but I think it was a super smooth process this time.
I’m amazed that Markus (Vanhala) has written so much music. He’s one of the busiest people I know!
That’s true! He’s a very talented guy and he practically wrote most of these songs in 3 weeks last summer. When he gets into the mood, he’s really fast doing the writing as well whereas I like to take time and slowly develop the ideas. Like Jani, I did three songs on this album and I think there’s good variety on the album now. When there’s just one guy composing it can kind of sound the same. Everyone has their own trademark things as composers which can be found but with the 4 guys, there’s a lot more variety and it becomes more of a ride.
You went to Jens Borgen this time for the mixing/mastering of the album. What was the main reason behind that?
He’s been doing a lot of good albums that sound great recently and we wanted to try and see what it would sound like. We think he did an amazing job and it’s our best sounding album. With Winter’s Gate, Dan Swano was the perfect choice as he is the master of this 90’s death/black sound which was perfect for the kind of sound we wanted. We’ll see what we want to do on the next album but both of those guys are really good.
You also worked with Teemu Aalto again for this record.
He’s kind of our trusted guy as he’s done the past 3 Insomnium albums and practically all the Omnium Gatherum albums. It works really well with him and I really like recording with him as he can get the best vocals out of me. I wouldn’t want to record with anyone else as he’s got some very good ideas and is an integral part of the band. If it isn’t broke, why change it?
When it comes to writing the lyrics, what would you say inspires you?
Of course, the Finnish countryside inspires me and is the soul of Insomnium. I think the main inspiration for this album came from something that occurred a few years ago. The biggest newspaper in Finland had this competition where people could vote for the saddest Finnish song ever which garnered a lot of participation from people and it was really interesting to see the top 10. We got the idea to use some of those themes that our grandparents and older generations have been listening to in the heart of Finnish psyche that’s melancholic and everybody has listened to in Finland. The song that was number one, I took the story and rewrote it to make “Bells They Toll” on the album.
I was also inspired by this young poet who wrote poems about death and dreams who was a kind of suffering artist archetype. The topics were really fitting for Insomnium so there were 2 songs inspired by those. There’s also some inspiration from a part of popular Finnish song about golden youth and things were brighter and better. That’s pretty much where most of the Heart Like A Grave inspiration came from.
For sure, of course. We’ve spent the past year pretty much making the album and haven’t toured much. The Finnish tour is already sold out three weeks before the first show which is incredible. We’ve never had this happen for us before so I’m looking forward to those. We then have the European tour which is the biggest headliner that we’ve ever done. Both Black Dahlia Murder and Stam1na are really good live bands so that’s going to be good. There’s a few other tours at the start of the year which haven’t been announced yet and then we’ve got America as well. We are going to be very busy over the next year.
I know that there’s a bit of political uncertainty affecting things at the moment, but are there any plans to play some UK shows soon?
Well, we’re kind of seeing what Boris (Johnson. Current Prime Minister) is going to do next! So, that’s one of the reasons we’re not coming to the UK on this European run. Because nobody knows what’s going to happen or even if we can get into the country! There are plans in motion though for a tour with more than just a few dates around the UK and Ireland next year. I’m really looking forward to that as the UK was where we really started touring and playing those little pubs! There’s a special place in our hearts for the UK and it always feels good to come back.
With Ville now working in York, it makes it a bit more difficult for him to do the longer tours. As he’s teaching there as well at the moment that was one of the reasons we asked Jani to join. We’ll see if he can come along to any of the UK shows so that we can do it as a three piece but that might not happen. We’ll see though.
What would you say is your favourite song to play live?
That’s a tough question.
We put some older songs back into the live set recently. We played the whole Across The Dark album at a Finnish festival which had some songs we’d not played in a long time. One of the songs from that album, “Into the Woods” worked really well which we’re going to keep in the set going forward. We’re probably going to add “In The Groves of Death” into the set as well. it’s a long song but people really want to hear that.
It’s been mentioned in the past that you were the director of culture in Kotka. Is that still the case?
For a couple of years now that’s not been the case. I was doing it both for some time but I had to stop doing that as I couldn’t do both. I wanted to make sure that I was doing the day job properly and it was a big responsibility so couldn’t be done half-heartedly. After the band started getting more and more tours, I had to make the decision and decided to do the music full time. I’ve been doing that for a few years now like I said and I’ve been really enjoying it.
A guest question from Port Noir: If you were to switch instruments in the band, who would play what?
Well, this happened on one show in Florida. Both Markus dudes swapped instruments and we played the song “Mortal Share”. It was a kinda punk show though. I’m not a really good drummer so I would maybe do rhythm guitar. Markus H would do the lead guitar as in the very early days of the band he did that so we could do the guitars. Jani would probably do the bass and Markus V likes to play the drums so he would take those. So yeah, Markus H on lead, myself on rhythm, Jani on bass and Vanhala on Drums.
If you had to choose between tea or coffee, which would you pick?
Coffee. I used to be a tea drinker in my 30’s but then I got into coffee and now I’m deep into it. I have about 5 cups a day which keeps me going.