It’s been a big year for Finnish melodic metal band, ARION! They’re off to a great start after the Emma-nominated hit that was their first release, “Last of Us,” and now they’ve recently swapped out Viljami Holopainen for Lassi Vääränen on lead vocals. With a new album on the horizon, Musicalypse grabbed them after their recent show at On the Rocks in Helsinki on September 17th, 2015, to check up on how things are going!
You guys are fresh off the stage from your first show with Lassi on lead vocals – how’d it go?
Lassi: It was pretty amazing, actually. It’s always awesome to play with these guys.
Iivo: Yeah, I feel the same. I have the feeling that the show was quite right. Lassi is great and everything went all right.
Lassi: I tried my best!
Iivo: Maybe a little bit of basic mistakes here and there.
Lassi: It was fun.
Naturally, the first time is never perfect. How did it feel for you, Lassi, on stage with the other guys for the first time?
Lassi: It was fun, like I said. I was really nervous the whole week. I’ve been nervous all the time. I’ve been trying to learn the lyrics and the songs, also. I did my best tonight and I think I remembered all the lyrics.
Iivo: One mistake.
Lassi: Aww shit! But yeah, it was awesome! Like I said, playing with these young guys… I’m actually 6 years older, but it has been awesome. There is a young energy that I get from these guys.
These guys are pretty different stylistically from your other bands, CÖNSTANTINE and LOUDGUNS. What’s new or exciting or challenging with this style of music for you?
Lassi: I don’t know. Challenging is that Iivo has made such hard songs to sing. I can’t even explain it. Actually, this music style that ARION is playing is playing is my favorite music style. I love KAMELOT, SYMPHONY X, and those bands, so this is like a dream come true, to play in this band. This music style… I love these songs and all that stuff.
How did you guys meet one another and join forces?
Iivo: Viljami was telling us that he was quitting the band in late June or something like that. Our first reaction, of course, was to search for a new singer. We went onto the internet and checked out YouTube and everything, if there were any talented guys left without a band. Then, I think it was a couple of days only, our orchestral arranger, Perttu Vänskä, he was like, “I found this guys called Lassi. He sings quite nice. What do you think, Iivo?” I was like, “That’s freakin’ rock n’ roll, man! I like it very much!” It’s a little bit different than Viljami, but I liked that kind of sound for the new songs – I was secretly hoping for that. I was quite happy.
Then we had a studio-live session where we tried Lassi out with a couple of our songs. They were “Seven” and “Shadows” and “You’re My Melody” and “I Am the Storm” and those kinds of songs. Lassi did them perfectly. I was like, “Who is this guy? How can he sing this cleanly with that great sound?”
Lassi: Thank you!
Iivo: I was very impressed and, straight-up when he sang “Seven,” I was sure that this was our guy. We were gonna take this one. On that same day, I actually said he would be included.
Lassi: I think the first song that we played together was “Seven” and after that song, Gege and you just came to me, you did this [makes fist bump with Iivo], and I knew then that okay…
This is going well.
Lassi: This is going really well!
What new element do you feel that Lassi brings to the band vocally, and how do you think it’ll affect the upcoming material for the next album?
Iivo: I feel it’s going to be a little bit of a change, but it’s a good direction for me. I have written songs which are more straight-up rock n’ roll compared to progressive/epic songs like “Burn Your Ship” or “Watching You Fall.” Those will be left behind a little bit and we will do more stuff like “Seven” and the song we did here today – I’m not going to say the name of that song, actually. I just realized that I don’t know if it’s going to be the final name, but for example, “I Am the Storm” fits Lassi perfectly. Songs with that kind of vocal sound and vocal tone suit Lassi very well, I think. It’s going to be a little bit more simple and straight-up. Simpler and a bit more pop, but also with the manly vibe Lassi gives to the band. I’m feeling that with the new songs. I’m really liking the direction we’re going. What do you think?
Lassi: I think the new songs are, like you said, made for me. When we first went to the studio to do those demos for our new three songs, we did that in like 4 hours and it was there. The song that we played here tonight, I think that’s the best song in the whole world. It fits me and my voice perfectly.
Was any of this new material written before Lassi joined?
Iivo: Actually, I had already written every single song before Lassi joined the band, but I started writing the lyrics after Lassi joined, so I tried to reflect Lassi’s voice to those lyrics, to be more aggressive and that kind of stuff, because it fits Lassi perfectly and he has very strong articulation. It’s really aggressive and I like to bring that out in the lyrics when writing for him.
Now you’ve had your first show and you’ve already released the teasers from that other session. How do you think the fans have reacted? Are they going for it?
Lassi: The first video was “I Am the Storm” and it was really positive.
Iivo: It was a great response, I think.
Lassi: I did not go to Facebook to check the new comments on our studio-live song from “Shadows” because I didn’t want to see those before this show.
Iivo: Lassi wasn’t quite satisfied with that one. I don’t know why. I liked it very much. That second session we gave out, “Shadows,” it wasn’t that well-received compared to “I Am the Storm” but for the band, it actually sounds awesome. We are really happy with that one. I think that the fans have taken Lassi very well. Of course it always raises feelings for some that Lassi is a little bit different compared to Viljami, and some people may feel that it’s a bit difficult to adapt to, but I think Lassi will bring us up.
Lassi: It takes time. Even with big bands like NIGHTWISH, it’s not easy.
Do you guys have any hopes or expectations going into the studio to record the next album?
Iivo: Hopes or expectations…
Or comments at all, I suppose.
Iivo: I have a lot of faith in those songs. I think that this might be the start of something really big and good.
Lassi: I feel the same.
Iivo: I have really high hopes for that. I have really, really good faith in those songs. My expectations are really high. I’m also very excited for our fans and many people to hear Lassi sing for the first time in the studio. It’s really important for everyone. For now, everyone is judging Lassi just for those live sessions and our lives concerts, so it’s not comparable with a fully-recorded studio album. I’m really waiting to release the first song with Lassi. It’s going to be really important.
Lassi: Iivo has written really amazing songs. I can say that.
Do you guys have any final comments to give to the fans out there?
Lassi: I think we’re gonna do our new single really soon. It’s coming out maybe in a few months.
Iivo: I really don’t know about that, but we hope so!
Lassi: We hope so, so keep waiting and come to our shows! I think we’re going to have a few shows really soon, so see you guys there!
Great! Well we can say that we’re on board, we loved the show, and we’re really looking forward to the next album! Best of luck in the studio and we’ll see you again soon!
Interview by Bear Wiseman