Extreme metallers Bloody Falls unleashed their sophomore album Burn the Witch on October 29, 2021 via Art Gates Records. The Valkeakoski, Finland-based fivesome—comprised of Antero Hakala (vocals), Marko Mäkinen (guitars), Mika Lehtinen (bass), Rami Vartiainen (drums), and Stavros Mathios (guitars)—solidified their current lineup in 2019 and have spent recent years both honing their sound and finding a new home in the Spanish label.
If there’s one must-listen song on this album, it’s “Soul Ripper”, the full-length’s first single that put Bloody Falls back on the map. Exploding out of the gate with enough energy to immediately launch a circle pit in any room—and we mean any room, your living room included—and rife with some of the catchiest riffs we’ve heard in a while, this track is a proper call to action: “Feel my agony, feel my desperation//Become a part of us and join the legion.”
First on the album, “Insurrection” sets the tone for the remaining nine tracks, with dark lyrical themes and a solid guitar solo among the evidence of the band—with their groove and melodic death metal tendencies—growing into their potential. “A Reason to Live” is another standout that offers relentless blast beats, a welcome bass-heavy mix and layers of group growling vocals. The title track’s opening organ and piano motif is a sensitive intro alongside spoken word to propel the storyline along.
In an interview with Metal Solstice, Mäkinen and Mathios served up their thoughts about the Burn the Witch creative process, their collaboration with vocalist Salla Flinkman, and navigating their season of change.
Metal Solstice: ”Soul Ripper” has been a standout song so far; it was the first single in three years and is the frontrunner in terms of social media response and Spotify streams. Which song is most personally important to you personally on this album, and why?
Marko Mäkinen: It has to be “Insurrection” for me. I originally made a bunch of riffs in different order, and overall it was a bit too thrashy for this album. Then Stavros gave it “the Bloody Falls treatment” and we molded the song into the form it’s known today.
Stavros Mathios: My personal favorite is “Burn the Witch”; everytime I hear that song I get goosebumps. It’s still to this day one of my favorite ever creations, and trust me, I have a lot of those.
MS: Can you explain more about your new partnership with Art Gates Records, and why they became the right home for this release?
Mathios: The moment we received an email from AGR we did some extensive research on them and their roster of bands. What we saw completely agreed with what we were/are looking for. So without second thought we decided to sign with them and we couldn’t be happier. Everything has become incredibly better since we signed with them and the band is really progressing well!
MS: What was the inspiration behind the Burn the Witch album title? Is it a hint at a recurring lyrical theme or storytelling on the album?
Mathios: I created the “Burn the Witch” song around 2016, and since the day I created the song it became literally my favorite song that I have ever created. That was the moment I knew that this song deserves an album around it and so I pitched the idea to the band. Instantly everyone loved the idea and started brainstorming. The idea of the trilogy of the witch was mostly Marko’s idea and that’s why Marko has co-written the second and third songs from the trilogy. It took many years but it was completely worth it!
MS: Salla Flinkman was a vocal guest on Descend; how and why did you choose to collaborate with her, and can you share more about the other two songs on which she appears?
Mäkinen: We got the idea of female guest vocalist pretty early on and all of us agreed that asking Salla was the most obvious option, as we knew from her solo stuff that she had an amazing voice. Luckily for us she loved the idea!
Mathios: Salla also sings on the title track “Burn the Witch” and on “Last Rites”. The whole idea was that since these three songs are a trilogy about a witch, there should be female vocals in all of them for better immersion and variety of the experience. Salla was the only guest appearance in this album.
MS: In July, you posted an open social media call for folks to show up at the music video filming. Can you explain more about which song’s video it was, who showed up, and the experience of creating this video?
Mäkinen: It was the “Insurrection” video, we needed people for the crowd and moshpit scenes. Our friends and their spouses answered the call and we got a nice vibe going on there! The end result turned out awesome, and our background devil Mikael did an amazing job with shooting and editing the video.
Stavros and I wrote the script, and the original location was supposed to be the old closed fibre factory Säteri here in Valkeakoski. Soon we noticed that it would be virtually impossible to get permits for a large group to shoot a music video on the premises, as the site has multiple teardown notices and understandably no insurance would cover anything if someone got hurt. So after a lot of scouting we decided to do the video on the premises of our studio. Either Mikael or I half-jokingly said that it would be fun to shoot the video on the roof, and soon we were hauling the drumkit up the escape ladder!
MS: Bloody Falls describes yourselves as “Chaos from the North”. What do you consider to be your musical signature elements, and how do these differentiate you from other melodic death metal bands? What does “Chaos from the North” look and feel like on stage?
Mathios: We wanted to create something that really gets everyone moving, and if this album doesn’t make people headbang then I don’t know what will to be honest. We really believe that our music is unique, and we still cannot fully label what genre of metal we are exactly, so the best way of describing it is ”extreme metal” I guess. “Chaos from the North” looks like it sounds: chaotic, full of energy, with five bloody-looking people on stage headbanging and having the time of their lives!
MS: You’re uniquely positioned in Valkeakoski, a small town outside of Tampere. For readers who havent been there, can you share a bit about the town, and any challenges to get your music heard in Finland and beyond?
Mäkinen: Yeah, it is a small 21,000 people industrial town approximately 35km south of Tampere. It’s basically surrounded by two big water fronts and split in the middle by a canal. Beautiful place especially in the summer. It used to be a pretty active place for bands and musicians back in my teens, but since then the band culture has diminished a lot. There simply aren’t town-run rehearsal places anymore; all have been either torn down or sold to private ownership.
Biggest challenge is probably gig-wise. Tampere and all the other bigger cities have their own fair share of rock and metal bands and naturally the local bands get the preferential treatment when booking shows because of their fanbases. Fortunately during the years we have been creating a great network of contacts with other bands all over Finland so we will definitely have many “trade gigs” coming up as soon as the venues are running at full steam.
MS: Lineup, logo, label- it’s been a season of change for Bloody Falls. In what ways do you feel the band has matured since the release of Thanatos in 2018? Have there been any other major changes, such as the way you assemble new songs or exchange feedback, that have pushed the growth of the band?
Mäkinen: With the current lineup it really feels like the missing pieces have found their places and we’re finally a well-oiled machine. Stavros still brings the main bulk of the song ideas but the band as a whole has been contributing much more towards the final versions than on “Thanatos”, which was pretty much Stavros and me. There’s no friction whatsoever and we really enjoy each others company. Big factor is that I’ve known the three ”new” guys for around 15 years now, so it really was an easy choice to bring them aboard.
MS: Saving a fun one for last- share some rapid-fire facts about the other band members- the secrets are safe with Metal Solstice readers!
Mathios: Let’s see what dirt I can dig up! Marko is the only person in the band that is banned from playing a certain band on drinking nights; he is the only one that likes Opeth so much when no one else really does. Antero is actually kind of a farmer! He has two horses, a pony, sheep and fields, and he certainly doesn’t look like the type according to how he looks in the band.
Mika is definitely a big time Twitch gaming streamer, he had the number one record for speed run on the Resident Evil 2 remake. Rami almost always plays drums wearing weights on his ankles for training to build up speed.
And last one me, for the first year of Bloody Falls rehearsals of the new songs from the album I did not bother to learn my own solos properly, I wasn’t proud of it, but on the other hand I knew I could play them when I needed to. Now I do remember how to play them, so don’t worry when you see us live! [Laughs.]
Mäkinen: As Stavros mentioned earlier, he really has shit ton of material in his drawer. When he goes into full writing mode he can produce like two songs in a day, where I make like max 10 songs a year. Rami is probably the busiest drummer in Valkeakoski right now, just recently he swapped from bass to drums on our second band Deathing and we resurrected our old death metal band Obscenity Inc. after being inactive for 10 years.
I got to know Antero around 2008 when he was rehearsing with a black metal band at a mutual rehearsal place at an old dairy plant. A year later we snatched him to our oldschool death metal band Ruindom and we made one EP and two full albums with him before disbanding. We also have a long history with Mika, we met as teens and he also graduated around five years ago from instrument luthier school so we’re pretty much covered on instrument maintenance front.
I keep myself busy with three bands, hobby instrument building courses and with a sidejob as a contributor for oldest Nordic gaming magazine Pelit. I hate excessive noodling at rehearsals but I tend from time to time annoy the shit out of guys by jamming a certain catchy song from a band called Electric Six.