Growing a local metal scene is no simple task when you’re from almost as far north as it gets, but Rovaniemi-based death metal outfit Suotana are used to the road. Fresh off a five-date tour of their home country with symphonic power metal-inspired Brymir, and Oulu-based melodic death titans Kalmah, the band- made up of Ville Rautio (guitar), Rauli Juopperi (drums), Tuomo Marttinen (vocals), Pasi Portaankorva (guitar), Rauli Alaruikka (bass), and Tommi Neitola (keyboards)- punctuated their run with a late-night set on Nummirock’s opening evening.
The six-piece opened up with a keyboard melody into the thunderous “Troutrace”, attracting early festival-goers under the Kaaos Klubi stage’s tent. A respectably-sized mosh pit opened up with songs such as “For My Iced Angel” from 2015’s Frostrealm and “Forgotten Soil of This Land” from an earlier demo. It was the band’s first performance with Alaruikka, who permanently replaced longtime bassist Harri Portimo after his 2018 departure. Although he was animated, Marttinen didn’t move much from his perch in center stage, nor did most of the band move from their positions. The set crescendoed into the nature-inspired “Wolfchasers” and “Thousands of Forests”, and energized the audience which swelled in number as the night continued.
The group will take a temporary break from touring to pour themselves back into songwriting for a follow-up to their 2018 sophomore release, Land of the Ending Time on Reaper Entertainment. Suotana sat down with Metal Solstice on the second day of Nummirock to reflect on their festival performance and the new lineup. Flanked by Juopperi and Portaankorva, the band’s founder Rautio also explained how he shares his creative vision with the group, and how they keep his undying love for power metal in check.
Metal Solstice: How are you feeling about last night’s performance?
Juopperi: Overall, it went fine. Our new bassist, Rauli Alaruikka, did his job fine, considering he only had two weeks to prepare. We had minor mistakes here and there, but nothing too serious! Nonetheless, it was maybe our best gig of the year.
MS: There were a lot of people packed under the Kaaos Klubi tent for a Wednesday night!
Juopperi: We were surprised, too, because we didn’t expect so much audience. After all, it was quite late on the first day of the festival.
MS: Did you have any nerves, being the first band on the schedule?
Juopperi: No, we didn’t have any pressure from that, actually. The only pressure we had was because it was Rauli’s first gig.
MS: Let’s paint the picture of the metal scene in your hometown, Rovaniemi. Is the scene robust, or do you usually have to travel to link up with other bands?
Portaankorva: Yeah, I think it’s a lot of traveling.
Juopperi: Yeah, the shittiest part of living in Rovaniemi is the distance, everywhere we go. The nearest big city is Oulu 200km away, and from Rovaniemi to here, it was almost 600km. That’s the main issue we have, because we have a single gig in Helsinki, it takes a whole weekend just to get there and back.
MS: What in your sound sets Suotana apart from the other melodic death acts out there right now?
Juopperi: The main point is that we pull in a lot of aspects from black metal, of course melodic death metal overall, but we have quite a strong influence from power metal as well. Ville’s a huge fan of Freedom Call, [laughs] and so some good melodies come from there.
Rautio: And I think the rich air, since we’re living so north, maybe it can be heard through our music.
MS: While we’re all staring at Ville to answer this one, tell me more about your approach to songwriting.
Rautio: I usually write the songs by myself, give it to them at the rehearsals, and together we’ll do a final exchange of the songs.
MS: So how do you communicate your vision to the rest of the band?
Juopperi: Ville writes the songs in Guitar Pro 5 midi player, shares them, and then we listen to it and give our opinions, and any changes.
MS: Are you super polite with your feedback?
Portaankorva: Hmmm…. [Laughs.] Quite polite! I think we just have to listen to as much power metal as Ville listens, so we get that same kind of feeling to it.
Juopperi: Ville really wants us to play power metal! We try to hold it back.
Rautio: I think the magic is that I want to do power metal, but these guys are holding me. That’s what Suotana sounds like.
MS: Are you working on any new material now?
Juopperi: We have three songs fully complete, and three more in progress. It’s coming together nicely, but there is still a lot more work to do.
Portaankorva: We are dreaming about doing some demos this year, but let’s see.
MS: You recently spent time in front of Finnish crowds with Kalmah and Brymir. What did you learn from being on the road with those two completely different bands?
Juopperi: We learned that they are really nice guys, because everything went so smoothly; there were no issues at all. Everything from the food to the hotels was arranged by Rauli Alaruikka, and he did a fucking good job. We were the first band on every night, so sometimes we had to make things go quite fast.
Rautio: We were the first band in the place, and the last band out because we also backlined, but it was fun. It was a learning experience for sure. And our set times were sometimes half eight, but still a lot of people came to see us play, even that early.
Juopperi: And the Teatria gig, it was always a dream of mine to play there. It was not the first gig, but one of the first gigs at the new Teatria in Oulu. That was a big highlight for me.
MS: What are some ways that you engage with your fans, especially living so far away from many of your listeners?
Portaankorva: The energy of our shows.
Juopperi: Yeah, for example, last night. I hope that our good feeling influenced theirs when they saw us play, and they pulled the energy from the show. We had so much fun! Of course we try to do some social media, but you have to be fast. The best way for us to reach people is to just gather with other artists and play shows.