Bloodred Hourglass are hours away from their final festival performance of the summer season at Bloodstock Open Air in the U.K., marking another milestone in the middle of a prolific year. The melodic death metal (and sometimes thrash-inspired) outfit, comprised of Jarkko Koukonen (lead vocals), Lauri Silvonen (guitar), Antti Nenonen (guitar), Jarkko Hyvönen (drums), and Jose Moilanen (bass), are several weeks into the release of their fourth full-length album, Godsend.
Metal Solstice caught BRHG’s set at John Smith Rock Festival in Laukaa, Finland, on a scorcher of a July afternoon. The band’s intense but approachable style, with Koukonen firmly at the helm, led the largely male audience through “The Unfinished Story”, “The Last of Us”, “Waves Of Black”, and “Alysia”, among others. We met up with both Jarkkos after their performance to discuss BRHG’s creative and physical roots, the momentum of their first release on Germany’s Out Of Line Music, and the sacrifices they’ll have to make to propel the band even further upward. Since the interview, they’ve announced an autumn Finnish tour in support of Insomnium, and alluded to other live shows in the pipeline.
Metal Solstice: Alright, so how did you feel about the John Smith set?
Jarkko Koukonen (vocals): Actually, it was quite good!
Jarkko Hyvönen (drums): We had some technical difficulties, minor, in the first song but after that it was actually one of the best festival opportunities we’ve had, not bad at all!
MS: John Smith is a little bit lesser-known, but fans and artists only seem to have good things to say about it. What is the significance of this festival to you?
Hyvönen: Well, we’ve never been here before, and were psyched immediately to play here. I saw the area and though that this is going to be a nice little festival, pretty packed. The lineup is really good and we were happy to join it.
MS: It’s been a few weeks since the Godsend album release, and I’ve read more reviews than I can count. People seem to keep comparing you to a lot of the bands here at John Smith, such as Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium. Someone else even called out middle-years In Flames. Do you take it as a compliment, or does it bother you when people keep saying, “Do you know who they remind me of?”
Hyvönen: I think it’s not annoying, actually, I think in a way that it’s an honor. Someone is getting the same vibes from us and these bigger names in the scene. They’re great names after all. But then still we have also read some of those reviews, and have also gotten the comments, “This band is doing their thing in their own way.” Of course every time you listen to some kind of music you get the vibes from some other bands as well, but even though we’ve been working 13 or 14 years with our material now, the last year has gotten us some recognition outside of Finnish borders and maybe a bigger audience. I think that it is actually quite cool to have that kind of comment; maybe we are somehow following those legends but doing it in our own way.
MS: Walk me through recording with BRHG; is it a democratic process?
Koukonen: It always goes the same for us. Our lead guitar player, who is not here because of work-related stuff, he is still doing most of the pre-production and composing songs. He sends us pretty strong preliminary demos. From there we work together. For Godsend we had maybe 16 songs, and we picked the strongest ones. We started with drums, and nobody else was actually in the studio except me, then the other guys played their parts. We didn’t really work that much together in the studio, because we already knew what we were going to do.
Hyvönen: We don’t leave much room for change in the studio, so we just play as well as we can and get through it super effectively. Just like Jarkko said, recording these last two albums hasn’t been that huge of a “band thing” because everybody’s in different cities and countries, so to find a schedule that would fit for everyone is very hard. I think this actually worked well for us, and I see no problem doing every album like this.
MS: That leads me to your home base, Mikkeli. I think our readers in New York and elsewhere outside of Finland might not know much about it. What’s to love about the city,-
Koukonen & Hyvönen: [Laughs.]
MS: Wait, why are we laughing at me? I didn’t even get the whole question out!
Hyvönen: Well, I’m just thinking this MIkkeli thing is actually brought up all the time and we’re kind of bad in our mouth when we talk about Mikkeli. Maybe we should now try to sell it!
Koukonen: There’s not much coming from Mikkeli. With 50,000 people there’s not much else to do than get wasted and play music. I think that’s why we started back in the day. But, if you want some glorious image of the city, I don’t really have much to say.
Hyvönen: Well, the point is if you think about not just Mikkeli, but all of Finland, we have this very dark time maybe eight months out of the year. This summer is kind of totally opposite for what we actually experience normally in Finland. Mikkeli is actually a good example that home is alive and a nice city now, but during the wintertime it’s totally…how do you say it?
Hyvönen: Yeah, dead, and not that cool, but maybe it’s here in Finland almost everywhere the same situation. But it drives people to make the best of it!
MS: All of the lyrics on this album are pretty gloomy! Can you explain the title Godsend and how you chose it to represent these ten songs?
Koukonen: Well, I just came up with a cool name; that’s how it all started. I’m not sure if we even had that many songs made, but the name was there for a long, long time. In my opinion, you can get so much out of the title Godsend. There are a lot of things in the world that are a godsend to me personally, and I hope people can relate. I wish I had a cool story behind the name, but…
MS: Now’s your chance to make up a new backstory!
Hyvönen: WELL WE ARE THE GODSEND.
Koukonen: Yeah, let’s take it that way.
Hyvönen: Actually, I read that from somewhere! Well, that’s a different story. But yeah, on the album you can kind of see those lyrics from different points of view of what “godsend” actually means to different people. In one interview someone asked us, is there something religious behind it? Actually no, we are not a religious band. [Laughs.] I think it’s quite an opposite point of view that we have in kind of how we see the life.
Koukonen: There’s a lot of science stuff related if you read between the lines in the lyrics. Personally I feel science is a godsend for humanity.
MS: Godsend was your first album on Out of Line Records. What made you decide to go with them, and how did they support this album?
Hyvönen: Actually it started from our previous album, Heal. We were with the Finnish label Ranka Kustannus, and Out of Line licensed the album for worldwide release. During this release of Heal, Andrei from Out of Line spotted us on Spotify. During the year, all these good things that have been happening to us.
Koukonen: They are really driving us forward as a band right now, and we’ve got to appreciate that. The progress in the last year has been more that it’s been in the ten years before.
MS: Are you taking any risks as a band, and if so, have these paid off?
Hyvönen: We’re on the verge at the moment. If we want to make this bigger, most of us in the band will have to make some sacrifices in our personal lives. If you want to tour, you can’t be on a day job all the time. At the moment we’re trying to find the balance, but yeah, if we want to be bigger, we have to make some decisions.
MS: Besides the remainder of festival season, what other plans do you have to tour in support of Godsend? Any chance of New York?
Koukonen: Well, obviously we’ve got plans, but there’s something we still can’t talk about yet.
MS: Top secret?
Koukonen: Top secret! That’s why I closed the door!
Hyvönen: Bloodstock Open Air is the last one of the summer. As the album came out a few weeks ago, we haven’t yet had a decent album release tour. During the autumn there might be some kind of tour for the release, and I think there might be some shows outside of Finnish borders.
MS: You think?
Hyvönen: I think, but I cannot say, because it’s top secret!
MS: What else would you like to say to your fans and Metal Solstice readers?
Hyvönen: Whoever reads this should go to live shows, enjoy new music. All the old ones are dying and now it’s the time for new leaders.
Koukonen: The new wave.
Hyvönen: Yes, the new wave.
Koukonen: I just want to send hugs to everybody.
Hyvönen: You are so soft!