Interview with Noumena: Chinese Tour, Upcoming Album, and 21 Years Together

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Longtime Finnish melodic death metallers Noumena have returned from the shadows, with announcements of a new album in the works, as well as a headlining Chinese tour in early November.

Noumena’s current lineup. Photo credit: Kalle Komonen.

The band’s most recent opus was 2017’s Myrrys (Haunted Zoo Productions), a full-length sung entirely in Finnish. Although all seven members, including Hannu Savolainen (bass), Ilkka Unnbom (drums), Ville Lamminaho (guitars, mandolin, vocals), Tuukka Tuomela (guitars, vocals), Antti Haapanen (vocals), Suvi Uura (vocals, piano), and Markus Hirvonen (guitars, vocals), live elsewhere in Finland, they regularly convene in Ähtäri to rehearse and combine their creative forces.

Noumena’s collective talents are many, showcased in areas from Haapanen’s roaring growls, Uura’s deep female vocals and emotive piano work, Lamminaiho and Tuomela’s flourishing guitar sounds, and more. However, for those who may not immediately recognize Noumena’s doom-influenced body of work, they’ve also garnered internet fame as the subject of a meme which contends that “75% of a Finnish park ranger’s job is rescuing metal bands that get lost shooting album covers.” The meme, made even more popular once posted on the Very Finnish Problems social media page, depicts the troupe in a snowy, somber nature setting—the perfect conditions for a metal album.

Lamminaho, who also serves as Noumena’s chief songwriter, walked Metal Solstice through their upcoming activities, building anticipation for a sixth LP and their impending Asia travels. He also shed light on the content of both Myrrys and the yet-untitled new album, providing a window into the subject matter, especially for those whose first language isn’t Finnish. His insight pointed to the fact that although their touring schedule has been limited in recent years, Noumena continues to remain creatively active, and aims to deliver the results of that collaboration on their own terms.

Metal Solstice: Let’s talk briefly about Myrrys; it was the first album that Noumena released entirely in Finnish. What prompted that change? Will the new album be sung in Finnish as well?

Ville Lamminaho: The idea of making a Finnish album had been brewing in my mind for a long time. The motive was to challenge me and other members of Noumena who write lyrics for our songs. It’s a very different thing to write lyrics in one’s native language; it’s much more unforgiving and the rhythmic patterns are much different than the ones used in English.

During the creation phase of Myrrys, it became apparent that the lyrics revolved around the same themes and phrases as they’ve done before. I had already written lyrics for one song, “Syvällä vedessä”, in Finnish. It was made for my newborn daughter and I recorded an acoustic version for her naming celebrations. I had already made English lyrics for “Kirouksen kantaja” and translated those to Finnish. When we tried out the Finnish versions for those songs in rehearsals, they worked out very well. It became clear that Myrrys would be in Finnish.

The new album will be sung wholly in Finnish as well. We will probably provide non-Finnish listeners with English translations on our website, so that they don’t need to use Google translate or other similar services to delve deeper into the lyrics.

MS: For non-Finnish speakers, can you explain some of Myrrys’ lyrical themes? Similarly, what themes can we expect on the new album, and where did you draw inspiration from this time around?

VL: The lyrical themes on Myrrys are quite varied. The lyrics written by yours truly are as follows: “Kirouksen kantaja” is about overcoming weaknesses and finding strength—the inner flame—to tackle the challenges in one’s life. It was inspired by the Dark Souls game series, so maybe gamers will find the translated title familiar, “Bearer of the Curse”. “Sanansaattaja”, or “The Messenger”, is simply put a funeral song with some religious criticism involved. As I mentioned, “Syvällä vedessä”, or “Deep in the Water”, is made for my firstborn daughter. Hannu’s lyrics for “Metsän viha”, or “The Wrath of the Forest”, deal with the nature-consuming hunger for growth and prosperity from a folklore point of view. Roihu, or “The Blaze”, is quite a classical story of love and despair.

On our next album the lyrics are more cohesive and revolve around death. Lyrically themed, it will be “anatomy of death” in reference to our third album, though we still don’t have a clue about the actual title of the album. I lost one of the most important persons in my life a couple of years ago, and the two lyrics on the album made by me are for her. One is a sort of a poetic obituary and in another I tried to imagine myself as a person who knows she is going to die soon.

MS: How far are you into recording the sixth album? Do you have a release date in mind that listeners can look forward to?

VL: We have completed the drum recordings and will record the rhythm guitars during October. Bass, lead guitars and vocals will follow as soon as possible. The activities outside music – regular work, families and such – dictate our schedules quite a bit, so we’re not able to give a very detailed release date. Currently we’re aiming for early 2020. I don’t know about singles, physical or digital, but we are planning to release a lyric video for one song and a music video for one song in YouTube first.

MS: This will be your first full-length release since Markus joined the band in 2018. Has the addition of a new member brought additional creative elements to the band?

VL: Markus originally joined the band as a live guitarist to replace me on gigs. I had issues with anxiety regarding playing live. I didn’t play a single gig for three years, but eventually I found a new approach. Playing gigs is about doing things you love with the best people in the world, and I was ready to return to live lineup. Markus had already established a role, and it was apparent that he would be a valuable member of the band, so we asked him to join and decided to go on with three guitarists.

Markus has definitely brought a lot of creative elements and diverse visions to the band. He is a very creative person, and a talented guitarist with lots of eye and mind for detail. There will be one song made by him on the next album, and probably more on the one after that.

We have actually quite a lot of material ready for the album after the upcoming one. The next album will be more cohesive than a usual Noumena album. It’ll be quite slow with long songs, lots of doom and gloom, and a lot of clean vocals. We wanted to make this kind of album for a change, so we have lots of very good faster material put aside for the next one.

MS: In your opinion, what is Noumena’s “signature”, that sets you apart from others in the genre?

VL: In my opinion the diversity in songs and elements set us apart from others. We have always had slower doom-esque songs mixed with faster, more traditional melodic death metal songs. We have always used a variety of different vocal styles. Female vocals have been an integral part of our music since the beginning. Our songs provoke a variety of emotions, especially the gloom and desperation. All in all, we have always followed our own vision and path, regardless of what would maybe be beneficial to commercial success. This will be the truth as long as Noumena is alive and kicking.

MS: In November, you’re going back to China for almost a week. Why is it time to go back there? Also, will the setlist include any music from the upcoming album?

VL: The reason for visiting China is simple: we were invited to play there by a local promoter. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us. Last year we visited Japan and it is very nice to return to Asia. Lots of metal bands, also from Finland, have been touring in China and we have had lots of fan feedback already. We shall play as a headliner, so we have lots of old and new songs rehearsed for the tour. The setlist will include three songs from our upcoming album.

MS: Other than the Tuska Torstai competition in March and this upcoming Chinese tour, it has been a pretty quiet couple of years for Noumena shows. Do you have any further plans to play inside or outside Finland, or perhaps festivals next year?

VL: As mentioned, last year we did a small tour in Japan, but after that we have mostly concentrated on composing and rehearsing for our upcoming album. For the reasons of daily jobs and families with children, it is quite difficult to find time to play together, so we have to concentrate on one entity at a time. When the album has been released we have plans to do more shows and hopefully visit central Europe for a short tour. Anyway, we prefer quality over quantity. Unless a lightning of unexpected success hits us, we probably will never do a huge amount of gigs.

MS: How do you feel about being the band in the “75% of a Finnish park ranger’s job…” meme? Did the band know about that before it was posted online?

VL: Well, what can you say? It’s an honor. It has been circulating over social media occasionally for a few years. We took it as our own by doing the “Kirouksen kantaja” music video about it. The music video gives some background to the meme. We didn’t know about the meme before it was posted online, but we’ve been in contact with the original creator. He was very honored when he found out that we were making a music video about it.

MS: Metal Solstice’s readers, especially those outside of Finland, would be curious to know more about the band’s hometown, Ähtäri. Can you give a bit of a history lesson: what’s to love about it, how did it shape you as a band, and what ties do you still have to the area?

VL: Ähtäri is a small town in central Finland with around 5000 inhabitants these days. In Finland it’s mostly known for its zoo, which accommodates a pair of pandas nowadays. The bear in Myrrys cover, and the bear skull in the Haunted Zoo logo and Noumena backdrop is a nod to the important beasts in Ähtäri.

We all have grown up in Ähtäri, but the possibilities after high school are limited, so we have moved from there in our early twenties to different places in Finland to study and work. Only Markus currently lives there. Suvi resides in Jyväskylä, Tuukka in Joensuu, and the rest of us in the Helsinki area. However, Ähtäri was a wonderful place to grow up, and besides a few years of rehearsing in Helsinki, we have always had our rehearsals there. Our parents live there, so we still visit the town quite often.

MS: What have been a few of the factors that have kept the band together for so long? What have you learned from each other over the past 21 years?

VL: We are first and foremost friends and bandmates second. Some of us have known each other since kindergarten and we’ve been playing in same bands since teenagers. It is wonderful that we can still keep doing things we love together and provide music for others to enjoy. Of course we have changed over the years. Everyone has had their ups and downs, we all have lived through those and supported each other in paths of life. Noumena is another family for us, and will be till death do us part.

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