The long-awaited sophomore release by dystopian modern melodic metal masterminds EMBER FALLS is finally upon us! “Ruins” was released on December 17th, 2021, via Ranka Kustannus, so we popped up to Tampere to talk to vocalist Tuomas Välimaa and vocalist/guitarist Kalle Laakso about the release! Check out the video on YouTube or read the full transcript below…
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview today! How have you guys been since… well, I guess it was your last album release show that we did our last [full] interview. So have you guys been since then?
Tuomas: Well, [laughs] a lot has happened since… was it 2016? 2017?
Kalle: Four years. A long time. Yeah, a lot has happened, like a pandemic or something.
Tuomas: Yeah. Something like a pandemic. Well, we’ve been good. It took us a long time to finish the second album, but finally it’s done. And tomorrow, it’s gonna be out. So we’re very excited about that. Beyond that, well, those 2 years we didn’t have any shows. So we had to focus on making the album, but it was good nonetheless.
Kalle: We had pretty good luck because the pandemic didn’t hit us too hard. We hadn’t just published something and we didn’t quite need to do live shows at the time. So we could just focus on making new stuff. And here we are.
In the past, you guys have done a lot of your recording in Denmark. Were you still able to do that?
T: Yeah, well, we did… the first few singles, we actually went to Denmark to record. After that, we basically recorded almost everything by ourselves and we did some vocal production here in Tampere. So for the rest of the album, we didn’t actually go to Denmark, but it’s still mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen. So we continued that cooperation with him by long distance.
Was Jake E. also involved in this album, or not this time around?
T: Not this time around. We did send him a message or two, but when we figured out… we felt that we needed to do this album by ourselves, basically, so we can figure out who we are and what we are capable of just as a group. So that was basically more about… not that we didn’t have fun with Jake E. and not that he didn’t do an awesome job, like he did. But it was basically just to prove ourselves that we can do this by ourselves.
K: That makes us sound a lot more like us, I think, at least at the moment, or what we sound like.
So is there anything… well, first things first, you guys don’t have a synth player anymore. So that’s a bit different. So how did you guys go about doing that this time?
T: Well, our bass player, Olli, has taken a lot of room in the production phase and he’s basically… of course, along with JV and Jussi who also composed a lot of the stuff on this album, like, I think they did some kind of collaboration and Olli did from basically the last fixes to the synths and the production phase. But yeah, it’s maybe not as synth-heavy an album as the last one.
K: Yeah, and I think what changed also, is it went more from the synth-industrial sound to more orchestral sound, a bit more. There’s still some heavy synths, here and there, but more orchestral sounding.
Definitely, it still feels like you guys, but it definitely also feels like an evolution from the first album. It’s certainly not a rehash of what you did before.
K: That’s good to hear.
T: Yeah, I think after Mikko left, I think we took a lot of liberties on the songs. Not that Mikko had something to do about it, but we felt more free to do things we wanted to do on this album, like we didn’t have any kind of restraints. Because on the first album, we had this kind of mentality that we need to do – at least in some ways – a bit of mainstream and catchy stuff, and on this album, we of course have those things, but we had more liberties on song structures…
K: … and you can pretty clearly see the songs are longer by like a minute and a half on average, maybe.
T: Yeah, we didn’t think about any radio plays or anything. We just wanted to make good songs and a good album.
One of the things I love so much about your [band] is that I feel like you guys put a lot of care into every aspect of it, not just the music, but also like the visuals, the design, everything. So do you find it hard to work through the entire package? Because I know you do a lot of it yourselves?
T: Yeah, especially on the visual side, because basically, I do most of the visuals and graphics and things. So it’s a lot to take on. But I guess when we’ve done it from the beginning ourselves, it’s easy to sort of make it all come together and have some kind of red line somewhere, that it’s coherent and works together with our older stuff as well.
K: Still, I guess we’ve always had the mentality that everything good would change in a minute, just like that. Like anything in the music or in the design, everything. It also can be kind of hard at times, like in that “kill your darlings” kind of way.
T: Sometimes, when we have a song ready and we’ve basically also recorded vocals on it already and it’s basically a ready thing, we might come and change some kind of things, some kind of chords, some song structures. Anything can change, even when we think the song is ready. So that’s one of the reasons why it’s taken us so long to finish this album.
Do you guys struggle with that perfectionism that so many bands have a problem with?
T: I guess, to some degree, yes. Yes, I think that’s… and also it’s not perfectionism, just, it’s also our way of organizing things and stuff. And we’ve tried to improve that, like, in these last few months, that we actually have some kind of projects that we actually have. Everyone has a list of things to do and made it more organized. Yeah.
So talking about the songs then a little bit, of course, you know, coming in at this point we’ve heard most of the songs already, but that said, I was really, really interested in the intro track. I can’t really think of anything off the top of my head, anyone has done the [overture] as the intro track before. So how did that come to be?
T: I’m not sure whose idea was it, since I guess this isn’t exactly a concept album, we still wanted it to have some elements that could be reprised. I think the intro “overture” as you could call it is very musical.
K: Yeah, it’s a musical kind of thing or symphonic thing, but I don’t actually remember many metal bands doing this kind of thing. DREAM THEATER might have had an overture in one of their albums.
The closest thing I could think of was the “Imaginaerum” track at the end of NIGHTWISH’s “Imaginaerum,” but that’s more like the final score at the end of the movie sort of thing, which is different than the overture. So, again, it felt really unique.
T: Yeah, I think everyone in our band loves these sort of reprised themes. If you hear, listening to an album, and you hear a song and then there’s a sort of sort of small… it might be an instrumental or might be vocal, some kind of line that is basically from another song, and it fits the current song perfectly. We wanted to sort of make the intro, like, this is our album and these are the themes that you can hear on the album. So when you listen to the album from top-to-bottom, you hear the different things going on in different songs.
K: That’s probably something we’re gonna do more of in the future, if our perfectionism bends a little bit.
Well, another thing about this album I noticed is that lyrically, it’s really diverse. You’ve got a lot of songs about the basic stuff that’s really easy to connect with, you’ve got some really political stuff, some love songs, you’ve got “The World is Burning,” which… I could do an entire interview just about that song. [laughter] So how do you piece together what songs are going to fit together, considering you’ve got such diverse themes that you cover?
T: I think with this album, we didn’t do much thinking about how they work together. I think we just chose the songs that, at the demo phase, [had] the most potential, that we liked the most, and the lyrical themes are usually the last thing that refines the song. Usually there is one idea when we start doing the demos, there’s one theme or idea that we start to develop the lyrics out of.
K: We usually start doing melodies from like, really rudimentary lyrics that are themes and feelings and stuff like that and sometimes it doesn’t even make sense. It’s like ralli-English. [laughter]
Are there any interesting stories behind any of these songs, like how they came to be, how they got any of their particular quirks?
T: I think the most interesting, at least for me, is the song “For All,” since that demo is originally from like…
K: Oh yeah, it’s really old.
T: …2013 or something. It’s a super old demo that we started to work on… it’s been in our boxes for a long time, but we knew that this is a song that needs to be made. And the chorus basically stayed the same. It didn’t have almost any quirks in it, but the [rest of the] song was sort of developed beyond that. We started from the chorus and the main riff that’s in the song, and then we started to develop it from there. I think that the song itself is one of our most interesting ones, like it’s a long song, it has very interesting parts and different kinds of moods.
K: Sorry, I was listening to Tuomas, what was the question? [laughter]
Interesting stories behind how the songs came to be.
K: My personal favorite is “We Are Become Fire,” because it also has a lot of stuff, like different genres and it also had a lot of different lyrical themes at some point. Some even came through in the music video. It still has like a lot of stuff that fits together really well. It has a lot of stuff there, musically and visually and lyrically.
T: Yeah, and then there’s also the sort of ballad, I don’t know if you should call it that, the song called “Broken” that hasn’t been released yet. That was Olli‘s old demo, he didn’t even think it was for EMBER FALLS, but I went to our archives and found it and I listened to it, I was like, this is awesome. Then I made the vocal line for it and it’s basically… we didn’t do much more of anything to it beyond basically that. So it was very quick, very fast, and very different than what we’ve done before. Of course, we developed it further, adding the orchestrations and the riffing, but I think that’s also an interesting song for us.
That’s actually one that I was going to ask about because… it is kind of like a ballad, but it also feels like it kind of works as an intro to the next track.
T: It is.
Do you have any plans to then do this live together [with the following song]?
T: Well, I guess of course, when we have our album release show here in Tampere, we’re gonna have to play the whole album from top to bottom. Of course, we will have some oldies but goldies, but yeah, it was invented or was made to be an intro for the last song, basically.
K: And we actually kind of tested it out last gig, which was really, really cool. Like, Tuomas went almost alone on stage and the lighting went to him and there was this quiet moment in the gig and I think it works really well. Yeah, we didn’t do the last track yet because it hadn’t been released back then, like it is now. Yeah, it’s gonna be really fun to do them together.
T: Yeah. I think it’s gonna be like the calm before the storm in effect.
Well, I was there. [laugher] I saw it and it was really interesting to see and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like with the next song coming afterwards. Now you mentioned “We Are Become Fire”; I love that and I’ve noticed so many people commenting, “what’s with the English in the song title?” And I keep… do people not know the quote from Oppenheimer? So I was curious how you came up with this song title, particularly, and what it means?
K: It was Jussi‘s – our drummer – idea. I actually don’t remember where the idea came from. We’d had lyrical themes that have a lot to do with nuclear arms and the end of the world kind of stuff. Do you have any[thing] more concrete?
T: I guess it came from that, like when we started to think about this nuclear kind of theme and maybe there’s some kind of secret nuclear cult in the world or something like that, then it came to us that we could maybe add the quote. We did an article for the song and used it on on the song trailer. And I guess it came from that. Jussi is basically our English master. [laughter]
Resident linguist, yeah.
T: So he came up with the idea, and I think it was a good idea and something that I haven’t heard anyone doing.
K: It was like… twisted just enough to be cool.
T: We thought that maybe this will arouse some discussion about the song. That way, maybe you can get some publicity. Also, almost like a [provocation].
The other big heavy-hitter, I feel like, on that train of thought was “The World is Burning.” It’s maybe one of the most poignant critiques of society I’ve heard in a while, especially with that music video and all the visuals to go with it. Tell me a little bit about that.
T: Well, I don’t think the song itself was meant to be that way. Like, it just came at the right time, I think. When I started to work on the video, I guess I wanted to have it have an impact, like what’s happening in the world today, and especially when there’s the news[paper]s and everything. We actually did this AI thing that wrote us news articles for the papers. You can actually read, when you pause the video, you can actually read that there are weird stories in the newspapers. I think it was only to have an impact on the music video and that way, the song becomes more… it has more political or societal impact.
The last song I wanted to ask about was, of course, the last song on the album, “Absinthe Children.” The name itself is very interesting, but the song is also really interesting, like fairly progressive, and it’s also the one that you didn’t choose to release. So tell me a little bit about that one.
T: But I guess why we didn’t want to release it, was because it has the intro track, sort of, that we wanted it to stay that… you don’t have to, but you can listen to both of the songs before and after and it gets the full impact of those two songs. Also I guess, because it’s the last song of the album, so we didn’t want to spoil the epic ending of the album and stuff. I guess that’s the reason why we didn’t release it.
Makes perfect sense.
K: Yeah. I’m kind of on the fence about it. Like, we did accidentally release single after single. It wasn’t our intention. But it’s also… it feels good to have every song on the frame at their times when they’re released. On the other hand, people don’t get to listen to the full album like it was intended [on] the first listen and that might be a bad thing for some people.
Well, you’ve got pandemic delays and you’ve got to keep people interested, so singles are good for that. It makes sense.
Then, my next question was that you guys have changed your style a little bit. So you’ve dropped the black and red face paint and I guess you’ve dropped the stage names as well?
T: Yeah. Well, I guess everybody has to update the wardrobe once in a while. I guess we had the idea that seems… since we’re now only five players and having a new album on the way and I guess we wanted to have some something new, some kind of evolution [from] the old stuff. And I guess the old stuff didn’t quite well suit this new stuff. At least that’s how I feel. Well, I think we do still have the sort of red and black theme, although not on our faces. [laughs] Yeah, but I personally wanted to have a bit cleaner look, maybe because I didn’t feel like the sort of ripped out things tell who we are. I feel our music and everything is very polished, at least, I think so. So I think our clothes and everything that should be sort of representing that.
K: Yeah, that was more like a natural evolution for us.
T: But there might come changes in the future also, so these are not permanent things.
Oh yeah, even the folk metal bands of the world have updated their face paint and whatnot over the years. [laughter]
K: Yeah, so why can’t we?
Did you use a different designer for your outfits this time around?
T: We basically designed them ourselves… at least most of it is from pre-existing things that we just hand-tailored to fit the new look.
I hear most Finnish people learn how to sew when they go to university and they get their overalls [haalarit], and they have to sew all the badges on, [laughter] so that’s that’s why everyone in Finland has basic sewing skills.
T: I got my sewing machine from my mother. [laughter]
Amazing. Do you have any other interesting stories about how the album came together?
T: Are there any interesting stories?
K: I think one of the most interesting stories that we have at the moment is in the “For All” music video. We went to Japan and that somehow epitomizes the whole song. It’s one of the greatest stories [on] the album.
T: It’s made for all! Yeah, I think the song is dedicated to our fans and people who have supported us even though we haven’t had any live gigs recently, at least not [many], and still have stood with us even though it’s taken so long to release this second album, and we’re grateful for that.
The video’s from your trip to Japan, so were there… well, let’s say, no, it’s stupid to say were there highlights, so what were some of the highlights of the Japan trip?
K: Olli actually did a chopstick competition with a Japanese person. Like who picks more beans or peanuts from a cup. Needless to say, he lost totally. The guy like totally crushed Olli, and then arose up and yelled “me gusto challengo!” [laughter]
T: And it was weird baseball bar, like there was only this one baseball team’s merchandise and everything was basically… the whole bar was themed to this one team.
Incredible. There’s some real quirky bars in Japan.
T: Of course, the highlights were the people and the fans who came to see us and our tailor, who made the previous clothes, he actually made us fifty of these small sort of voodoo dolls -looking… like who had dreadlocks and everything. He made fifty of those plushies to us to take to Japan and give them to fans. So I think one of the best things was when Chris [Lee, manager] took them on stage and we just started throwing them out to the people. They were so excited about those. But I think the gig and the people were amazing. I remember vividly, me and Olli‘s taxi trip when we had finished the gig and we went to a party in Shinjuku. And we just sat in the taxi and looked down and had this sort of surreal realization that we are actually in Japan. ‘Cause it’s been, I think, every one of our dreams for as long as we can remember.
K: For some reason, I remember about the little dolls that looked like Tuomas, the next day, someone posted on social media a Tuomas in a little dollhouse [laughter] having a tea party. That was the cutest thing.
T: And of course ramen.
K: Oh yeah.
T: We basically ate nothing but ramen when we were there.
As is only [right]. Except maybe the sushi buffet.
T: Yeah, I guess our label manager said that it’s not that different there as it is in Finland.
K: I’m still not sure.
I don’t know if I agree with that. [laughter] You just have to go back again sometime. Well, you guys have your album release show coming up next year, I guess. Also next month. Have you guys played at Olympia before?
T: I’ve seen a lot of gigs there, but I’ve never got to play there. I liked the venue and I like the place itself. It’s very atmospheric.
K: We used to have our… Jack the Rooster was the place where we usually went to gigs in Tampere, and that place no longer exists. So I guess Olympia would be a really good a standard place to have gigs, hope to get people there.
Yeah, that’s a shame. That was a nice venue and they had good food, too. This keeps happening in Finland. It’s really a shame.
T: It’s that pandemic. It shut down a lot of great clubs.
Truly a shame. Did you guys have anything else going on for the rest of the year, or coming up? I know it’s hard to say with corona, what the gig situation is going to be, but anything else you want to tease that’s going on?
T: Well, today we released the BLIND CHANNEL cover song, so I guess people already know about that. It was a sort of Christmas bonus, since we didn’t didn’t have so many new songs on the album we had to figure out something. Yeah, but besides the album, I don’t think we have a lot coming, at least this year. Next year, new things.
K: Nothing in the next 15 days. Just just the album.
T: Yeah. But it’s good to get it out and it’s good to finally get rid of it. [laughter] Make way for new things, I suppose. We’re hoping to get some more gigs next year. We have some already booked beyond the album release show.
You have some summer festivals already, right?
T: Yeah, we hope to get some more about we’ll see. We’ll see how that turns out. But yeah, I guess we will release an album and go hibernate for Christmas. [laughter]
K: Would we already have some some new songs on the way? Actually pretty long along the way but yeah, I can just like go on gigs with the new album and then start thinking about it more seriously.
Awesome. Well, do you have anything else you want to share? Anything else I didn’t ask about? Any final words?
T: I guess we want to thank everybody for supporting us and taking the time to listen to our songs and stay on track with what’s happening with us and hopefully you’ll like the new album. It took us a long time and I hope you can hear it from the songs that it’s made with love and sweat and everything.
K: Did you say blood already?
T: Also blood.
Love, blood, and tears. [laughter]
K: Way too much fire.
Incredible. Well, thank you again so much and best of luck with the album release and we’ll absolutely see you at the show.
T: Thank you so much.