Interview with Nemecic: Tuomo Salonen and Niko Anttila Introduce Album “The Last Magic in Practice”

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Jyväskylä, Finland-based Nemecic—we’ll pause for you to pronounce it correctly, like “nemesis” but with Greek spelling—have released their second album since reuniting in 2017. Unleashed on October 29, 2021 via Inverse Records an expeditious few weeks after the prior single, the album represents the creative offerings of drummer Niko Anttila, guitarist Pasi Rajakallio, guitarist Tuomo Salonen, bassist Emil Borg, and vocalist Aki Salonen.

The album kicks off with the riffy “Hekau”, which builds anticipation for “Dodecahedron Avenue”, the energetic main single. Salonen’s growling vocals are a standout on this track, Anttila’s drumming is unrelenting, and it’s deserving as the clear listener favorite per Spotify streams. “Galateia” is another highlight that weaves together catchy grooves, and we’d nominate “Invocation for the Muse” as “Most Likely to Immediately Incite a Circle Pit”. Genre-fluid “Orbis De Ignis” waxes poetic; clocking in at 6:39, this track punctuates the album with moody dynamics, lush guitar work including a solo, and spoken-word quotes adopted from Lord Byron’s “Darkness”.

In a chat with Metal Solstice, Salonen and Anttila didn’t shy away from detail, discussing the occult and magical themes on The Last Magic in Practice. They also commented on genre—or rather, the desire to stay out of that debate—and even gave the recipe for the “yucky black concoction” that was spilled over each band member for the “Dodecahedron Avenue” music video.

Metal Solstice: Let’s jump right in to The Last Magic in Practice. Can you discuss the underlying themes, whether musical or lyrical? Similarly, please share the inspiration behind some of the song title choices (looking at you, “Dodecahedron Avenue”!)

Niko Anttila: The Last Magic in Practice is definitely a concept album. It deals with all the emotions and mind-states one goes through creating something artistic and thus exposing oneself for others to evaluate and judge. Tuomo and I had extensive correspondence on the subject, best described as “how to be creative and what it means”, and many aspects of that conversation boiled down into texts on the album.

The story in “Dodecahedron Avenue” is a vision I had long before we even knew we would be writing this album. In it a lone wanderer walks on the street of imaginary city towards the sun rising at the end of the street. Night as well as all its sins are washed away by golden morning light and replaced by greater understanding and meaning.

In time this vision got more specific and the street got its name, Dodecahedron Avenue, for all its alleys and lanes, in this case represented by the spokes of a dodecahedron; these are the paths one may end up taking. The whole song is basically allegory for a bohemian way of thinking. 

To lift another song title up, “The Chatter of Teeth” is inspired by ancient Sumerian necromancy. They used to dig up a skull of a deceased person, put it on the table, then anoint it with sacred oils to attract ghost from the underworld to settle in and ask what you might want to know from this spirit. Answers would come by teeth clacking together. In this text, the ghost of a painter is called back from the dead to unleash his art upon the world post-mortem. There are many great masters who never got the recognition they deserved while alive. This song is tribute for all of them.

This album is a kind of an extended philosophical ramble wrapped in occult guise with mythology and magic sprinkled on top it. Just the way I like it! [Laughs.]

Tuomo Salonen: Our first album was a practice work in a way, since I had written exactly zero songs for the band at that point – and I ended up writing nine! The new album is a lot more mature in terms of songwriting, largely because I have been getting better at my craft. It was a conscious decision as well; I remember often stopping and thinking, “How do I do this without sounding like a demo band?” [Laughs.]

MS: Staying on the “Dodecahedron Avenue” train for a second, the music video for this one was a first for Nemecic. Can you discuss the creative process for the video, from design to shooting to the ink/photo negative effects? What part of the process was a highlight for you?

Jaakko Manninen was the director of the video and he came up with the idea of sharp-dressed men soiled with black paint. This concept was a bit less “metal” visually and that was how Jaakko sold it to us. There’s high contrast between the song and visual realisation on the video.

Best part of the shoot was without a doubt when I got to throw that yucky black concoction over my bandmates’ faces. Very satisfying and therapeutic! [Laughs.]  One of the most challenging parts was to come up with a less sticky recipe for the paint. If we would have used normal paint we’d all be bald now and still trying to peel the paint off from our skin! We used mixture of glycerol, sodium bicarbonate, food coloring and water to make it non-toxic and a bit more easily washable.

Tuomo Salonen: The paint could have been even stickier; the floor was slippery as hell! My legs were totally destroyed for a week because I really had to struggle to stay upright.

MS: This is Nemecic’s second full-length opus since 2009, and the follow-up from 2017’s The Deathcantation. In a time when there can be pressure from various sources to release albums frequently, how did you protect your creative timeline?

Tuomo Salonen: The only pressure to get an album out came from us. We are not the most productive of bands, so we didn’t want the time between albums to be five years or something like that. We also seem to need deadlines to get things done; you can’t just sit on your ass and wait for inspiration.

The first two demos, “Invocation for the Muse” and “Crowing of Swans” were written in the spring/summer of 2019. “Sphinx” came next and it was also the first song that was completed and played live. I think it was around that time when we started contemplating making an album and we booked the studio in early 2020, if my memory serves me. Then Covid hit, making rehearsing with a full band difficult. I think I wrote and arranged five or six songs in about five months and rehearsed with Niko when possible.

I was pretty burned out already when the album recording began, so the atmosphere was a bit tense at times. Some of the lyrics and vocal arrangements weren’t finished until the day of recording. Six months of intense working followed by six months of sitting on a finished album. Life’s a bitch!

MS: Similarly, the short time (three weeks!) between the album’s due date announcement and its birth was something of a pleasant surprise. Had you planned that date all along, or did you wait until a live album release show was certain?

Tuomo Salonen: We were in no rush to put the album out because we knew there wouldn’t be many live shows due to the Covid stuff. We had a rough timeline for the singles since spring, but no set release date for the album other than “sometime in the fall”.

You’re mostly right about the album release show! We landed the opening slot for Wolfheart in late September, so it took a day of furious organizing and a little luck to be able to release “Dodecahedron Avenue” and the album in the time frame of four weeks.

Nemecic, 2021.

MS: Although you’ve historically categorized yourselves as death/thrash, I’d venture to say that this album definitely leans in the melodic death metal direction. Where do you feel Nemecic currently sits on the genre spectrum?

Tuomo Salonen: Ah, the eternal genre talk! The two EP’s in the band’s early years were definitely death/thrash and there are still some of those elements on the two albums, but I find it difficult to keep the music interesting without including some melodic elements.

I have never been too eager to label us “melodic death metal” because I don’t feel that stamp does our music justice. I immediately think of guitar harmonies, keyboards, bad lyrics and generic album covers! [Laughs.] It’s such a wide thing as well. Death and Carcass could be thought of as melodic death, and so could In Flames and Soilwork. We don’t really sound like any of those bands either. But that term gives people a vague idea of what our music is like, so I don’t mind.

MS: Let’s talk about the recent album release show at Jyväskylä’s Lutakko Club on October 30. The members of Nemecic are from all over, but you list this as one of your hometowns; whose hometown is it? Are there further plans in the works to support The Last Magic in Practice live?

Niko Anttila: Tuomo and I live here in Jyväskylä. It’s been our hometown for some 15 years now. Lutakko is basically our home arena, so to speak, and we have our rehearsal room there as well. Aki lives in Tampere but all the other guys reside in the central Finland area.

Tuomo Salonen: The band was founded in Heinola, but most of us happened to relocate to central Finland at around the same time, so it made sense to get a rehearsal space from here as well. The album release show was excellent; it’s always really fun to play at Lutakko. We played six songs off the new album and shot a music video for the track “Crowing of Swans”.

The reception was great, and we really seemed to surprise a lot of people in a positive way. We have plans to play more shows next year, but unfortunately things aren’t looking too hot on that front at the moment. We just have to wait and see.

The Last Magic in Practice album art, 2021.

MS: Now for the album art; can you explain the symbolism behind the cover image? Did you (Anttila) design it, or choose another artist, and why?

Niko Anttila:
We knew in very early stages of the process that theme of the album would be creativity and art and the fact that we knew so early on was a bit of a double edged sword. I knew I had plenty of time to come up with a killer idea which would perfectly capture the essence of the album—and on the other hand, I had too much time to change my mind constantly, you know?

I did one traditional painting which I think worked really well but it worked well only on its own. When I started building up the layout for physical album, I found out this piece would not work in the end. Suddenly I was facing a much, much more familiar situation: staring the deadline straight in the eye! I think this approach works well for me though; diamonds and all things worthwhile are made under pressure. I did this design in really short time and I think it helped me to keep it simple and effective.

The “chaos cross”, made familiar by chaos magicians, has become in my mind a true symbol for freedom of expression and liberty. I cannot say that I am a chaos magician myself, but I have used their practices in my art process to some extent and I still do, so in the “heat of the moment” it became very clear for me that chaos cross is the symbol under which everything we have to say on this album fits perfectly. 

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