Finnish melodic metal act BLOODRED HOURGLASS are releasing their new album, “Your Highness,” on October 29th, 2021, via Out of Line Music. We had a chance to talk with vocalist Jarkko Kaukonen about the release of the upcoming record. Watch the interview here or read the complete transcript below.
Hi Jarkko, thank you so much for doing this promo day. How are you doing?
Jarkko: Fine, thanks for asking. I hope you’re fine as well. Yeah, busy times, you know. [There’s] a lot going on currently and can’t complain.
Have you talked to many people today about the new record?
Jarkko: Not that many. To be honest, you’re the second of the day, or the third. I was visiting Radio Rock at the start, but yeah, [there’s] a lot to be done as we’re getting closer to the release of the album.
Your previous album, “Godsend,” was a big hit all over the world. Having had a lot of good critique on your prior albums, do you feel like creating its follow-up maybe gave you the pressure to be able to produce something equally good?
Jarkko: This time it kind of did that because our main songwriter, Antti, decided to leave the band. And, of course, we faced new kinds of challenges to start with the next album, and for a while, we really didn’t know what to do. But we announced Joni joining the band quite soon or basically right away when Antti decided to leave, and things just started to fall into place, sooner than we actually expected. Then, we decided to bring Eero into the pre-production of the album because he’s the brother of Lauri and a very talented young guitar player and composer. Eero had a bunch of cool ideas, which started to develop into the songs by a group effort that we were all very much into – as a group, this time – and pressure… I don’t know, I think – I don’t know how stupid it may sound – but I think we’ve reached the point where pressure is not present anymore. I think we can produce good albums after another, so it’s kind of easy to just go all-in this time with a completely new approach than what we’ve done, never before. [We’re] really happy with the results.
Do you feel that that’s also the main reason why there’s some sort of a new energy in this album, at least in my opinion?
Jarkko: Yeah, we kind of wanted to create something different this time because it just would have been super uninspiring to continue creating the same sound. Of course, we could not have even done the 100% old sound anymore since there was a big change in the lineup, but yeah, there’s a lot of new stuff. I mean, there are clean vocals, we have more modern metal elements, even some metalcore stuff included, and we have some… I think there’s a great variety in the song material this time, so yeah it’s really hard to analyze myself. I’m just really looking forward to hearing people’s or listeners’ opinions about the whole album.
The clean vocals are obviously one of the main differences in the sound. How was it for you to experiment with your voice?
Jarkko: It was kind of like a step into the unknown, for me personally. When the guys started to drop the new demos of the tracks, it was apparent that I just cannot scream them through anymore. The songs are so much more dynamic, so I simply had to bring it in. And from the very get-go, I think I had a pretty clear vision [about] what I wanted to do with the clean vocals. I wanted to introduce as much contrast as possible. In contrast to the harshness that you can hear in the sound, I just wanted to create something more fragile and just to get a lot more closer to the listener.
I can definitely hear that. I know that a lot of growlers have difficulties stepping out of their comfort zone with clean singing. Was that the same for you?
Jarkko: That was exactly the same for me because I’m not a singer by any means and, of course, I had to work on it really hard and kind of struggle with it, but in the end, I’m quite happy with the results. Now the gates are open, I can do the same in the future if I feel like it. It was definitely a challenge and a struggle in the studio as well, but I made it through and it’s there. I’m super happy it’s finally… introducing our sound because it’s not like… I’ve always kind of wanted to do them, it’s just been such harsh stuff, so there have never been great spots, and we tried it on one track that was supposed to be on “Godsend,” that was never there, but long story, whatever. But yeah, they are there now and that’s the spirit.
Are there any vocalists that inspired the sound of your clean vocals?
Jarkko: I kind of followed my own vibe with that, to be honest. Of course, there’s the good old IN FLAMES who are always influencing me a lot. I can’t deny that, so why do that? But yeah, as I said, I just wanted to create something super fragile when it comes to the clean vocals and so it’s sort of like my type of approach for that stuff, but I didn’t have many influences, I think.
Since we’re talking about clean vocals now, I guess the track “Tell Me About Yesterday Tomorrow,” is the one that kind of stands out most, and might sound odd at first. What can you tell us about that song?
Jarkko: That is the first song that Lauri has ever composed for BLOODRED HOURGLASS, and it was a last-minute addition to the album. The original idea for the song was alive for a long time. I think it was already back into the “Godsend” days that he kind of had the demo of the song, but it was nowhere near complete enough to be introduced on that album. And it was nowhere near to be introduced on “Your Highness” either, until 2 weeks before we hit the studio. He brought it in and I have had a vision for the vocals and so, for a long period of time, so I kind of just went back in time and try to refresh my mind on what it’s all about, and rewrote the lyrics. Jarkko came up with the name “Tell Me About Yesterday Tomorrow,” and of course, it’s about a love [that is] always out of reach, that’s what it’s about. I don’t want to go into details but I hope everyone can relate to something like that. I think it’s pretty easily approachable.
It’s funny because to me, judging from the title, it made me think about GREEN DAY.
Jarkko: Oh, that’s bad. [laughs]
I did not know what to expect and then, I was surprised. It didn’t sound like anything you have done so far – it also didn’t sound like GREEN DAY. [laughter] Another song that I really liked is “Gone For Now”; what can you tell me about that one?
Jarkko: I think that was the first song that Joni wrote for BLOODRED HOURGLASS. So, yeah, that’s kind of one of the game-changers for our overall sound on this new album, because that was the first demo that he threw in and everyone immediately fell in love [with it] because it just sounded so fresh and modern, and [there was] a bit of a metalcore vibe to the song, for our taste at least. And yeah, we were all like, yep, fuck yeah, this will be huge. It’s another love song, like the whole album. [laughter] It’s about lost chances of life and love, that’s the main theme for the whole album. It’s stories of our personal experiences, one song after another. Nothing super dramatic but personal stuff. It’s like a diary, the whole album, in a way. And, yeah, [it’s a] very different song for us, if you compare it to our previous material but everyone seems to really like that song.
Actually, the singles you have released are all in a similar style to “Godsend.”
Jarkko: They are kinda like that. Of course, the record label has its own requests and we kind of need to respect that as well. But yeah, they are the ones that are kind of closer to the stuff we’ve done before and I think many people will be surprised what the rest of the album is about.
Are there any reviews out there yet?
Jarkko: We got the first review of the album two days ago. It was 9.5 out of 10. So I think we got… the first seal of approval is there. So whatever the rest, [laughter] this one has a 9.5/10. Yeah, but that was a really great review and it really felt like, when reading the review, that we managed to deliver exactly what we were looking for with the album, so I was super happy to see that. Yeah, people got it.
What is it that you wanted to deliver?
Jarkko: We wanted to emphasize the importance of sounding modern and fresh. We are still a melodic death metal band, but we kind of wanted to get rid of that super traditional metal/death metal sound. I’m not sure if “Godsend” was super traditional but we wanted to include more modern elements and, you know, widen the spectrum of the whole album, make it more easily approachable, make it more straightforward, and hopefully more catchy with big choruses and some singalong stuff as well. So yeah, reading that review, that was spot-on.
You mentioned that you wanted to sound more modern and refreshing. Do you feel like altogether this album is an experiment to re-establish yourself as a band?
Jarkko: That’s exactly what it is. And, yeah, what else can I say, I mean, it sums everything up perfectly. That was the plan, to reintroduce our sound, and we succeeded.
Cool! The album closes with “Until We Meet Again.” I was actually quite surprised because, when the intro starts and then the riff begins, it seems like it’s kind of a slower song, but then it takes a little bit of twist. Was it intentional to place it at the very end?
Jarkko: That’s Jose‘s song. The only song on the album that he wrote and you need to ask him [laughs] but, yeah, from the very get-go, it was clear that it’s sort of a… it sounds a lot like a record closing track. We have three extra tracks on the deluxe edition of the album, no matter if they ended up on the album or not, which they did not, because we felt that they just didn’t really fit that well into the album’s concept. They’re not there but still I feel that “Until We Meet Again” is clearly the last track of the album. Anyway, it was not written to be the last track of the album, for sure, it’s just written to be more traditional metal, that song.
I think it works well. Now, you already talked a little bit about the theme of the record. It’s very clear that there are a lot of love songs on “Your Highness.” I was wondering if that’s also where the title came from?
Jarkko: It’s exactly what it’s about. I mean it’s us, looking up to the females of our present and our past, and it’s our appreciation towards all the beautiful girls in our past lives. That’s what it’s all about.
Sometimes people use “Your Highness” in a more sarcastic tone. It’s meant to be positive, right?
Jarkko: Yes, that’s not it. It’s about as real as it can get.
Altogether, do you feel like these stories are more meant in a motivational way?
Jarkko: I’m not sure if the album is super positive. It’s about lost chances of life. So, not good vibes really, to be honest, but it’s sort of a diary and some personal situations in the band when we created the album that lyrically, it just felt like, these are the things that we need to put out right now. And that’s how we came up with the whole theme of the album, it just kind of automatically fell in place with everything we had planned lyrically, for the album.
The cover art is also really beautiful. We talked in a different interview about “Veritas” and the Goddess of Truth. Is that where the idea for the cover came from?
Jarkko: Originally, the idea was just, since we noticed that okay these songs tell stories about females, to maybe put a female figure on the cover of the album. And yeah, we struggled a bit with finding perfect the photo or artwork for that, but I had – back in the day – come across this somewhere and I just ran across it, and I’d saved that photo to my hard drive. And now that we were looking for the perfect cover art to represent the “Your Highness” title, I ran across that photo again and then we brought it up, and I did some research, went back to Google, and try to find it again. I did and I asked the artist whether it’s cool for you if we would like to use this as cover art, and he was like yeah sure, go ahead, sounds like a cool idea. Then, I asked the model, if I can get her approval to be featured on our cover, and she said yes, and also the guy who took the photo of her said yes, so it was sort of a super struggling, long road to the cover art that we now have that was not the original image that was planned at all. But, whatever, it’s there and I love it.
I like it because it’s something else. The representation of females in metal is, unfortunately, usually really different. You also did some music videos for this record. The most special one was “Kings & Queens.” What can you tell us about that video?
Jarkko: A very good friend of ours, Miika Saari, directed and wrote the video. He runs this entertainment company Tuoni Studiot in Tampere, and we’ve been friends since he saw our first proper festival gig in Jurasic Rock 2010. [We’ve] known him since that day and we had some talks about bringing in the murder mystery that he’s doing for a living into a music video, and “Kings & Queens” felt like a song where it just clicked with the team, bringing in the murder mystery and so we shot the band playing sections at Tampere, and then we rented the Finlayson Palace, spend the whole day there shooting the story side of the things, but that was completely given to Miika, just like here’s an idea, take care of it, handle it, do it, bro. [laughs] And he did. He delivered, that’s something really cool, [we’re] super happy with the results.
Are you a fan of murder mysteries?
Jarkko: I can’t say so to be honest. It’s just something that we felt that will fit. I don’t know anything about it. [laughs]
Now, you’re recently signed to NEM Agency again as a booking agent. Do you already have concrete plans for a shows?
Jarkko: I’m super happy to check the email daily with NEM agency. Rowan [Rafferty] is just super awesome, such an efficient guy, and I can’t speak about anything yet, but it’s looking really good for the rest of the year and early next year, and also the summer is starting to form up, so it’s only been a few weeks now in cooperation again, but it just works.
Good things for the future then, I hope!
Jarkko: I wish we had. Unfortunately, today I have the information that it will get postponed again. I think it’s fourth or fifth time already. Since the capacity of the venue can only be 50% and you need to provide the seats for everyone, so unfortunately it’s not going to happen. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to play in Mikkeli. It’s going to be our own festival or concert, called Blackbox Mikkeli, which is going to be the biggest production in our history of live productions so far. We’re going to play the whole “Your Highness” album from start to finish and then do a little break and bring in the good old hits, as well. And that’s now going to be the official album release show on 29th of October, and tickets are €29 if you want to see that show. But yeah, we’ll be back in Helsinki in February again. That’s the next try then, unfortunately.
I guess we are quite used to it by now. Well, but I guess the Mikkeli show is happening,
Jarkko: That’s happening because we have no restrictions and the situation is really good in that area, so yeah.
You mentioned it’s your own festival. A lot of smaller bands are doing that nowadays, OCEANHOARSE also have their own festival. Is this something you’d like to do annually?
Jarkko: I think that’s the goal. We’ll see how it starts. And, yeah, to be honest, that’s the plan, and we wanted to do something different in our hometown, home city, and it’s super cool that we got some partners in crime, big partners in crime. It’s the biggest indoor venue, it’s possible to do in Mikkeli Saimaa Stadium, and get a lot of cool sponsors, and stuff. So it’s going to be a huge event for us. And that’s something that we’ve always wanted to do when it comes to live production, and now we finally have a chance to do that so I’m really looking forward to that show for people.
Yeah, that’s going to be cool. Is it different for you guys to play in your hometown. Are people crazier there?
Jarkko: I’m not sure, Mikkeli is getting tougher and tougher for us, to be honest, because we started as a band that used to play for friends, for 100 people, and now it’s been 10-15 years. And I’m not sure if the youngsters are finding us. Times have changed so quickly, it’s kind of a small city to play in. Now, about the wild people I don’t know, I mean I prefer Helsinki. Sorry to say that. [laughter]
Alright! That’s a show to look forward to then. I think that’s it for my questions, do you have any last thoughts you’d like to share?
Jarkko: Check out the new singles, preorder the album, we got a lot of cool stuff, and there’s a special box edition, vinyls, and double CDs and so on, and if you really want to see BLOODRED HOURGLASS, show up at the Blackbox Mikkeli on October 29th.