On 24 April 2020 the Finnish metal band BABYLONFALL released their debut album, “Collapse,” on Inverse Records, which we also reviewed and you can read about it here. We took the time to ask them a few questions about the band’s inception and discuss their upcoming release, from the singles to the influences and themes that shaped the music, to their views on streaming and the Finnish metal scene.
How are you doing?
Okko: Very well, thank you! Even though we are in quarantine, we’re still very excited about the upcoming album release.
Ossi: Same here!
Esa: Also very well, waiting for the release.
Let’s start with a little presentation. Who is BABYLONFALL and how was the band formed?
Ossi: We are five metal-guys from the small town of Kouvola, Finland. I am Ossi Viren, I play guitar, and my brother Esa Viren also plays the guitar. There is Matti Huopainen on the bass and Mikko Huopainen on the drums, and guess what, they are also brothers. We also have Okko Solanterä on the vocals, and he’s about a decade younger than the rest of us. So we have kind of a wacky lineup going here. We’ve known each other for ages and had bands in the past, but BABYLONFALL really started in 2016 when Okko came along. It was some party at my place where we decided “Let’s start a kick-ass band!” and from there it went.
How would you describe your music to someone who doesn’t know the band?
Esa: Melodeath with groove. Influences from modern music also, but old-school since we don’t use any synths or backing tracks.
What band(s) / artist(s) have inspired you to become musicians?
Okko: We all have different answers to this one, but here are mine: AMORPHIS, OPETH, DEVIN TOWNSEND, and LINKIN PARK.
Ossi: QUEEN and GUNS N’ ROSES got me into rock music as a kid, but METALLICA was the band that got me to pick up the guitar.
Esa: GUNS N’ ROSES was the reason I started playing guitar at the age of 5. Things got serious at the age of 13 when I first heard CHILDREN OF BODOM and CRADLE OF FILTH.
What kind of band are you, in terms of songwriters? Are you storytellers? Do you write music to change the world or spread a message or do you simply do it for the sake of creating music?
Okko: Mostly for the sake of making music, at least on my part. I don’t think that the songs have any bigger message behind them, just fantasy/sci-fi stories and some personal stuff from my life, feelings, and thoughts.
Esa: No politics in “Collapse.” Just good music.
Who is the main writer in the band, or are you all equally involved in the creative process?
Okko: We are pretty much all involved in the songwriting process. Of course, in different songs the writer(s) also differ. For example, in the song “Awakening”, Esa (guitar) did most of the songwriting, and “Celestials” was done by Matti (bass).
Esa: Yeah. We mostly write our songs together at our rehearsal place. Some riffs and ideas are done before but we always finish them off together.
Your debut album “Collapse” will be out on April 24. What can you tell us about it in terms of lyrical content? Is there an overarching theme to the album?
Okko: There are a few recurring themes like, well, collapsing, hence the name of the album. Also conflict, depression, and death are explored. Then there is some sci-fi stuff in the songs; “We Become One” and “Celestials” for example.
Musically, the album feels like a mix of groove metal (“Silence”) and melodeath metal (“Murder of Crows”). What can you tell us about “Collapse” from a musical standpoint?
Esa: I think “Collapse” is a combination of the five of our own musical tastes. There are many influences heard on “Collapse,” from 80s pop melodies to black metal, but somehow we manage to keep it together in the right shape.
I really like the variety of sounds that is on the album, especially vocal-wise. How did you approach the vocal melodies?
Okko: The instruments tend to always come first. The vocals are then just laid over the complete songs in a way. Or at least I don’t recall any song being made vocals-first. Basically, when the song is taking shape, I listen to the songs and start to hear some vocal lines in my head that could work with the instruments and then it’s just trial and error until we’re happy with the vocal lines.
“Stars and Constellations” was released as a first single, followed by “Murder of Crows” and “Celestials.” Why were these tracks chosen as singles? How well do you think they reflect the album as a whole?
Ossi: The band and our label both agreed that these were maybe the catchiest tracks on the record. That was the biggest reason I guess. “Stars and Constellations” was the number one choice for all of us and the song has a little bit of everything the band has to offer. “Murder of Crows” is just a straightforward, all-growls melodeath song which opens up the record, so it just seemed to be a good follow-up and a counterpart to “Stars.” “Celestials” has a big melodic chorus and it was also one of the first songs we ever made, so there is a little bit of “circle coming together” [ed: coming full circle] going on. I think these three songs combined reflect the album quite well. I don’t think there will be any shocking surprises on the album after these.
How did the public react to these songs? Which one has received the best feedback?
Esa: All three singles have been received surprisingly well. “Celestials” is the most-streamed at the moment.
“Celestials” was added to the Metallia Suomesta playlist, Death Metal & Beyond playlist, as well as the Support Your Local Band 2020 (Tuonela Magazine) playlist, all on Spotify. Would you say you are beginning to taste a bit of fame with this one, or did that happen earlier with “Murder of Crows” and/or “Stars and Constellations”?
Okko: I think we’re still far from fame at this point. “Celestials” is clearly the most well-received single right now, judging by the streams on Spotify at least.
And speaking of “Stars and Constellations” and “Celestials,” how does this sci-fi theme mix with death metal? You hear a lot of this in progressive metal, but I don’t know of any in melodic death metal. Are there any examples that you can give me?
Okko: There are some great examples of sci-fi stuff in death metal. HYPOCRISY comes to mind. They have a lot of alien stuff, especially in the album “Arrival.” Then there’s SCAR SYMMETRY that also tackles the sci-fi themes quite heavily, and of course CYNIC with their album “Traced in Air.” I think that (melodic) death metal and sci-fi are a great combo!
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Blood Will Be My Crown.” Can you tell me about the inspiration behind the lyrics and the music?
Okko: The lyrics tell a story about a man who is killed in a ritualistic sacrifice. He then ascends to be something far greater than just a mortal soul. Other than that, I’ll leave it to the imagination.
Esa: This was actually the last song we wrote for “Collapse.” The idea for the song came from Matti. Brutal and simple song with some beautiful melodies.
What do you hope fans will take away from the album?
Ossi: I hope people will have a blast with it, banging their heads and screaming along. Maybe it could also help them deal with negative emotions like anger, fear, and depression.
Okko: Exactly. We all have some ups and downs in life and this album is mostly about the downs. Well, you can see that in the album title as well (laughs)! Hopefully, someone will find some comfort while listening to the album, that they are not alone with their problems. And of course, if everything is well, just some good metal that makes you wanna headbang!
What are your biggest wishes, dreams, and hopes regarding this new release?
Okko: Well, I do hope that people will enjoy the album, buy it, and that they’d come to check us out live as well. Maybe someone will read the lyrics and it gets them to think and maybe help them with their daily struggles or something, I don’t know. Hopefully, it will be well-received!
Esa: I’m just hoping that our music brings joy and goosebumps at least to someone. I was dreaming of some cool festival spots, but maybe next year.
With tours having been canceled and now festivals reporting either postponement or cancellation, how do you approach the touring aspect that would follow a recent release?
Ossi: Well, the situation sucks big time for everybody in the music business. We are a small band with an independent label, no massive tours booked, so we’ll manage like before. Our album release show at our hometown was canceled, which was a bummer. Gigs for the summer and fall were in the works but now we don’t know what will happen to them. I’m not that interested in streaming shows but maybe we have to take that into consideration if this thing doesn’t pass soon.
The Finnish metal scene is a very rich and established one, especially in the melodic death metal department with such names as INSOMNIUM, OMNIUM GATHERUM, and WOLFHEART being at the heart of it. How hard, or easy, do you expect it will be for you to make a name for yourselves?
Ossi: It won’t be easy that’s for sure. There are so many bands and so many good bands that you need to stand out in one way or the other. That is the great challenge that we are trying to unlock here, how to be original and create our own sound. We are not the most technical players so we just have to focus on making good and memorable songs, and that is what we’ll do in the future too. Will that bring success, that is up to the listeners.
Vinyl sales continue to grow, but streaming is also becoming more common. What is your position on the physicality of music? Is an album only an album when it is in some form on the store shelf, or would it be enough for you, for example, to find the album on streaming services only?
Ossi: I love physical albums and I will keep buying them as long as they make them. I want to see the cover art and read the lyrics and other stuff. Some albums can be life-changing experiences so I definitely want to own them in a concrete way. At the same time, I like streaming, making playlists, and finding new exciting bands. I know people who have thrown their CDs in the trash and use streaming only, and people who listen to vinyl only, so there should be various options for us all.
Okko: Same here. I do have Spotify and I use it more than my CDs, but I still buy them just because I like to have them, and of course to support the bands that I enjoy.
Esa: I love to stare at the booklet while listening to an album. But I also love streaming services and I use them daily. I don’t think that they exclude each other.
Rock and metal bands generally have lengthy careers, some with more than 20 years doing this. Why do you think that is?
Okko: I think that metalheads are the most dedicated and loyal fans in the world. When a band keeps getting constant support throughout the years, why stop doing it, especially if you enjoy it? Look at Ozzy for example. He’s way past his prime but he still does whatever he can to keep the music coming. He doesn’t need to, but he wants to.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Esa: Hope you like our album! Peace and love!
Okko: Agreed. Also, stay safe and wash your hands!
Interview by Andrea Crow