Finnish folk metal pioneers Ensiferum released their 8th studio album titled 'Thalassic' on July 10th via Metal Blade Records. 'Thalassic' is a is a concept album about the sea with references ranging from the British Royal Navy, the Greek story of Andromeda, and the loss of the sampo from the Kalevala.
We recently had the chance to speak with Bass player Sami Hinkka about their first ever concept album 'Thalassic', how he got into metal music and why he wants Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear on an Ensiferum track...
"I never thought that I would be 'a professional musician' because it seemed farfetched dream but sometimes small things just click and you find yourself in a situation that you barely dared to dream about. "
Firstly, I have to ask this at the moment, how have you guys been coping in the lockdown, what kind of things have you been up to since the lockdown came into effect.
We have been busy doing promo for ”Thalassic” and I actually recorded my very first solo release, it’s now being mixed and should be out in July/August. We have also talked about using this time to work with new Ensiferum material so let’s see now that the new album is out, maybe we’ll spend more time in the rehearsal room composing together. Overall, it’s a shitty situation but it’s better to focus on things you can do and progress instead of being miserable for the things (like tours) you can.’t do.
How did you get into writing and creating music? Was there a decisive moment or event that you remember that made you stop and think, wow, THIS is what I want to do with my life?
My big brothers made sure that I grew up listening to heavy metal music and my other brother played guitar and i thought it was so cool when he was playing songs like ”Stairway to Heaven” and I wanted to learn to play some instrument so that I could jam with him. I have always loved to jam and write with good people. I never thought that I would be ”a professional musician” because it seemed farfetched dream but sometimes small things just click and you find yourself in a situation that you barely dared to dream about. I studied two professions but all the time I also had many active bands/projects. I feel very privileged because I can do what I love the most and now that there are no gigs, I could get a dayjob from the field of my other profession. But I told the boss that once the touring is possible again, I will quit, heh.
Let’s be honest 2020 has been a weird year so far and things will probably be weird for a while. As an artist, especially an artist with an album that has just released. How has this affected your rhythm? This is the time you would be out there promoting the new album for all your fans!
That’s true. COVID-19 really messed up our plans. We had tons of festivals and tour planned but now everything is cancelled/postponed. But postponing the album release was never an option for us or Metal Blade. The album was ready and wanted to get it out for fans to enjoy. The tours will come eventually. Good thing is that then everyone knows the lyrics of the new songs, hah!
"The idea of making a theme album started during the promo period of the previous ”Two Paths” -album. Many journalists asked if that was a theme album and my standard answer was that ”because of the way we compose, we can’t really make a theme album”. At some point this self-built boundary started to piss me off "
Let’s jump back in time a little, how did you first get into metal? What were some of your biggest influences that got you into the genre?
Like I told earlier, my brothers were listening a lot to NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest but also other legendary bands/artists like Dio, Yngwie Malmsteen, Pink Floyd, ACDC, King Diamond... So i became ”a metalhead” very early. I would say that Iron Maiden is the most important band for me becoming ”a metalhead” and starting to play bass.
Your new album ‘Thalassic’ was released 10th July and due to the coronavirus, you did an online live stream show on release day to mark this. What was this experience like? How did the show go?
Yes, we sure did. It was interesting experience. I mean, it was fun but very weird because Ensiferum is definitely a live band and not having our crazy fans rocking with us it all just felt...hollow? I really miss gigs...
How did you arrive at the title ‘Thalassic’ which translated from ancient Greek as “of or relating to seas”?
I found it from English dictionary. Yes, the word has Greek root but it is also used in English language. It sounded like a good word and it told instantly the theme of the album so it was the perfect title.
I’ve seen in interviews with you before that ‘Thalassic’ is the first theme you guys have ever chosen for an album? What made you choose a theme at all? Especially for your eight album, why was now the time?
The idea of making a theme album started during the promo period of the previous ”Two Paths” -album. Many journalists asked if that was a theme album and my standard answer was that ”because of the way we compose, we can’t really make a theme album”. At some point this self-built boundary started to piss me off and I suggested to others that how about if we would have a theme for the next album and everyone liked this idea. It was good that the theme was chosen so long time ago so that everyone had the theme in the mind when we composed and arranged the songs for ”Thalassic”.
My power metal band ”Metal De Facto” is founded with the idea that every album is a theme album so it was easy to use this method now with Ensiferum’s lyrics. I don’t know if we keep doing more albums with a theme with Ensiferum but at least we did it once.
"the beauty of our way of composing is that the songs are really arranged together and everyone can stand behind every song."
Speaking of your new album, ‘Thalassic’ was released on July 10th. Can you go into your creation process a little for the new album?
Ensiferum’s composing process is always the same: everyone can bring ideas/riffs/melodies to the rehearsal room and then we arrange them to complete songs together as a band. This is much slower method than if someone would bring to others complete songs with every instrument already arranged. But the beauty of our way of composing is that the songs are really arranged together and everyone can stand behind every song.
How would you say the addition of your new keyboard player/lead clean vocalist Pekka Montin has influenced the bands sound?
Obviously when you get world class singer into your band, it would be stupid not to use his voice when ever it fits the song. Pekka has very good knowledge of music theory and different styles so I can’t wait for us to start working with the new material and utilize more his ideas.
‘Andromeda’ is an absolute power-house of a track. Is it always the ambition of the band to always push the limits of what the definitive Ensiferum sound can be?
We don’t push the limits on purpose but we want to explore new ideas but the most important thing is to write music that sounds good to us and that is fun to play. Ensiferum has quite wide range if you think about our material and that’s a good prove that everyone’s ideas are welcome and if everyone likes the idea, then it will be recorded.
"if I would need to introduce the general feeling of the band to someone, I would play old song called ”Victory Song” to them because it has the heroic atmosphere, catchy melodies, powerful guitar riffs, fast paced thunder drums and big and flamboyant choir in the chorus."
With everything still up in the air, what do you think the rest of 2020 will look like for you as a band and for the metal scene in general?
We have one festival in Finland coming up, in case the government doesn’t make the restrictions more tighter before that. There are tons of plans and many things are scheduled behind the scenes but the fact is that no one knows what the situation will be in one month. We just have to wait and see. But I can’t wait to get back on the road...
If you could choose any one person to do a guest spot on one of your tracks who would you choose and why?
We like to have these spoken words on our music every now and then and it would be a dream come true if my childhood hero Arnold Schwarzenegger would do that on some of our songs.
If you had to choose one song from the Ensiferum catalogue that you feel encompasses the bands signature sound, which song would you choose and why?
That’s hard because Ensiferum has so different kind of songs. But if I would need to introduce the general feeling of the band to someone, I would play old song called ”Victory Song” to them because it has the heroic atmosphere, catchy melodies, powerful guitar riffs, fast paced thunder drums and big and flamboyant choir in the chorus.
Finally, on ‘Thalassic’ you reference the British Royal Navy, the Greek story of Andromeda, and the loss of the sampo from the Kalevala, so you’ve got a really wide variety of sea tales from all over. How did you decide which stories you wanted to do songs about?
That was the idea this time, to really search myths/legends/historical events from around the world and not just Nordic tales. The biggest problem was that there were SO many cool topics and in the end I had much more raw lyrics than we had songs! I try to find the lyrical theme for each song as soon as possible, meaning that there is like the main melody and somekind raw vision how the song will be. Of course it’s much more complicated because songs might change a lot from the original ideas but this is something that I try to do. I think we did quite good job matching the songs with stories that fit their mood.