Interview with Nicumo’s Hannu Karppinen: “Inertia” and Reflecting on 2020

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Nicumo’s Inertia was a 2020 album release not to be overlooked. The Northern Finnish band, including Hannu Karppinen (vocals), Atte Jääskelä (guitars), Sami Kotila (bass), Aki Pusa (drums, percussion), and Tapio Anttiroiko (guitars), delivered a melancholy opus whose sound sits at the intersection of metal, rock, and melodic Gothic-inspired flavors reminiscent of Charon and Sentenced.

They felt the sting of Covid-19’s timing, forced to limit their performances in support of their third full-length, which was released on March 27 via Inverse Records. However, the album served as a sorrowful, cathartic backdrop to a year where perhaps it was needed most.

A solid listen from start to finish, the follow-up to 2017’s Storms Arise features the hard-rock “Witch Hunt”, and “Same Blood” takes a risk with a saxophone and guitar intro that pays off. “Time Won’t Heal” illustrates the somber mood that Nicumo creates best, and Karppinen’s clean vocals especially shine. “Black Wolf”, the final and perhaps most moving song on the album, is nearly seven minutes and soaked in emotion: “Try not to breathe, useless/Let the darkness fill your lungs/And calmly close your eyes with its cold touch.”

In an interview with Metal Solstice, Karppinen explained that after a temporary respite following Inertia’s release, Nicumo is back in songwriting mode and ready to see what’s on the other side of 2020.

“Inertia” album cover, 2020.

Metal Solstice: Besides the release of Inertia, tell me something good that happened to Nicumo this year.

Hannu Karppinen: Many new listeners have found our music and the feedback on Inertia has been amazing! We got almost a million streams in one year on Spotify and that’s huge for us.

MS: Inertia was unleashed right around when the pandemic started to surge. Although there wasn’t much opportunity to play live, how did you work around that to engage with listeners?

Karppinen: Well, we didn’t do much, actually; we fell into a hiatus of some sort. We’re not quitting or anything, just needed a break.

MS: The band has been relatively quiet on the social media front; is there anything in the works behind the scenes, perhaps new music?

Karppinen: That’s just maybe what we are. Quiet. But yeah, there’s been even fewer posts than normal, and when it comes to new music, we are actually in songwriting mode. We have been writing new stuff and personally I am very excited about these new songs! But I’m afraid I can’t tell any details about when the new music is coming out.

MS: What are your preferred songwriting conditions: is there anywhere you need to be, physically or mentally, in order to compose new music?

Karppinen: I’ve always needed the comfort of solitude when I am composing and especially when writing lyrics. I think we all enjoy the creative process in the comfort of our homes and when it’s finally time to make something out of those, then start the collaborative effort.

MS: Which songs on Inertia hold the deepest personal meaning to you, and why?

Karppinen: “Time Won’t Heal” was a tough one for sure, but “Black Wolf” has a very special place in my heart and recording vocals to that song was emotionally excruciating. I am not good in explaining my lyrics, and I am not keen on doing that anyway. Let the listeners have their own stories merge into those lines and into those words.

MS: On future releases, are there any themes that you plan to carry forward? Also, will you continue to play with occasional nonstandard instrumentation, such as Mikko-Ilari Ojala’s saxophone on “Same Blood”?

Karppinen: The melodies and the melancholy will always be there for sure. That’s just how and what we are music-wise. When it comes to themes, as a main-lyricist I find sorrow and loss as an endless inspiration for songs. It is sad to say, but people have always felt sorrow and grief and they always will.

When it comes to visiting musicians as Mikko-Ilari, I hope and I’m almost certain that there will be more like that in the future of Nicumo.

MS: What is something that you’d like to achieve together with Nicumo?

Karppinen: Make even better music that resonates with the listeners. Hopefully get opportunities to play bigger shows and festivals, when those come back. I personally loved our little trip to Japan so I would absolutely love to go back there someday!

MS: What are some other bands on the current Finnish metal landscape that you would like to perform with, once live gigs resume?

Karppinen: There are amazing bands we’ve already had the privilege to play shows with, but if you get to choose anyone I think we all would really enjoy playing with Amorphis!

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