Finnish doom metal act MARIANAS REST were recently signed to Napalm Records for the release of their third full-length record, “Fata Morgana.” The album is to be released on March 12th, 2021. We had the opportunity to chat with singer Jaakko Mäntymaa and guitarist Nico Mänttäri about the record deal, the new album, and much more. Read the complete interview below…
Hi guys! First of all, welcome and thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me and chat about your new album, “Fata Morgana.” How are you doing today?
Nico: Very well, thank you!
Jaakko: Thanks for having us!
No worries! Now, you guys only recently signed to a bigger label, Napalm Records. Congratulations! I can imagine, however, that some people haven’t heard about you yet. Could you briefly talk a little bit about MARIANAS REST’s history?
Jaakko: It all started in 2013. Niko and Harri, our other guitar player, got together over a couple of beers and thought they could start a… was it a doom band?
Nico: Yes, a doom band.
Jaakko: Then when other people joined, it kind of evolved. We started thinking of maybe playing music with a Swedish death metal sound and all that, but I think that finally, we are returning back to our roots and go a bit more doomier.
Jaakko: Everything has kind of evolved naturally. We really haven’t made a decision of which direction we go in, but instead, we always try to create things that feel the right way and that’s how we are here now. This is our third album; the last two, “Horror Vacui” and “Ruins” were released through smaller labels, so I think not a lot of people know we exist, but hopefully that will change.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that with being on such a big label like Napalm Records will quickly change things for you. Now, you mentioned you switched from some smaller labels – I think you worked with Inverse Records for the previous one. What is the story with the collaboration with Napalm Records, how did they find out about you?
Jaakko: Well, it was about a year ago. The bunch of us were heading to an AMORPHIS concert here in Lappeenranta and in the taxi, Harri seduced me into sending an email to Napalm Records and a few other labels. We didn’t have any new stuff yet, so I was strongly against it because I thought it was a waste of time. Eventually, he got my head turned around, I sent the email and surprisingly, they were interested. Then, we had to send them our demos, but then there was nothing in a few months or so. We thought that they had forgotten about us and we had kind of moved on already. Next, Harri or someone else from the band, found their return email in the junk folder, which was kind of a horrific situation, because we thought maybe they had crossed our name off their list in the process because we didn’t answer. Luckily, they believed us that when we explained the situation and they understood it’s not our fault. They liked the new songs and that’s how it got started.
I guess the moral of the story here is to always check your junk folder! Now, let’s talk about the title of your title, which obviously comes from the song. Why did you choose this specific song as the title track?
Jaakko: I can’ remember for sure, but I think it was so that we had all the songs ready and there was already a song that was called “Fata Morgana” and we just thought that that name is something that represents the whole album as a concept. If I remember correctly, something like that. It’s a bit of a different album than the rest too and it ties the story a bit together, it has something old, but also something new.
What do you think is the main difference between the previous album and “Fata Morgana?“
Nico: I think this one is a bit more artistic. The last one was a bit more to the point, but “Fata Morgana” has more feelings and is maybe a bit slower and has darker songs, I guess.
Jaakko: Yeah, there are more layers. We kind of tried to bring lighter elements together that wouldn’t sound so light when you hear them together. We managed fine to do that and of course, there are female vocals on this album, which we didn’t have before and it kind of adds new level of depth to the songs.
Yeah, so with this third album, obviously you as a band know each other better, you have developed your own identity and style meanwhile, was it easier for you to write this album than the previous two?
Nico: Yeah, definitely. I think this time around it was easier because, on the last two albums, it all went okay even though we had doubts. This time around we didn’t think we’d have to have the songs ready before we entered the studio, we knew we could finalize them there and that it would work.
Jaakko: Yeah, we had less pressure. It was kind of weird considering this was the kind of the album that would make it or break it for us, because if we wouldn’t succeed then Napalm Records wouldn’t have signed us, or any other label for that matter, but we didn’t feel pressured. The songs, we had faith in them and tried to avoid the mistakes we made the last time we tried to learn, there are many things to learn. I think it turned out to be the best one so far.
What were the mistakes, do you have any examples?
Nico: I guess the biggest mistake we made is that we tried to sometimes force a song into a certain direction, for example, if we had a mellow song, you started thinking, oh shit this is too mellow and we need something fast or hard, but this time around we just went along with what it was and it turned out fine.
Jaakko: Yeah, we didn’t force it. The thing that helps with taking it easy is that we have the same guy helping us along the way, Teemu Aalto. We have a certain process that hasn’t changed, it stayed the same and that helped. We knew that if the song sound like something at a certain point, it’s enough, we don’t need to figure out all the answers to every question, we can leave some of it to the studio and figure it out later.
So more in general, what is the songwriting process like for you?
Nico: We start with the guitars, sometimes our bass player has some ideas too and we start making these very rough demos. Once we have some sort of a main riff or main theme or something like that we start figuring out, maybe some chorus stuff, or something along those lines. When we have the theme, we present it to the band and then we start working on it together.
Jaakko: They are really rough demos, so we start working on them together pretty early on and then we move pieces and some of them get dropped along the way. Some of them become the main theme on the song, probably at that time when we are at the training grounds, I start to think of lyrical themes and then the last part is when Aapo comes in with his Casios and kind of glazes it all.
You mentioned the lyrical themes – how important for you as a band are the lyrics and do you base them on the mood of the songs, especially if you have the song structures there first?
Jaakko: Yeah, I try to get the feel of the song. I think the lyrics are an important thing – I know that not everyone thinks so, because they are growls, no one can understand anyway – but I try to kind of, well everyone pitches in, it’s not just me, but we try to give something of ourselves in each and every song. The concept is the thing that comes first, it helps to narrow down the whole theme of the album and then I just kind of try to figure out which songs would go first and which would go last on the record, to have some sort of story and a timeline kind of, then it’s easier to write the parts of the story.
So, in that sense, is this album a concept album?
Jaakko: Yeah, maybe not in the sense of the word… You have smaller and bigger concepts, the concept is not as important as the music and the songs, but it helps, so in that sense, yeah it’s a concept album. It tells a story and it’s all themed, so yeah, all three albums had the same story and this is the last part of the story.
What can you tell us about the story?
Jaakko: Well, on the first album… All three of them kind of revolve around mental issues and stuff. The first album starts with the narrator kind of losing himself in the modern world, he feels empty, although everything is plentiful and then on the second album, the feeling becomes so overwhelming that he breaks down and the third album is after the breakdown when he starts to rebuild, he takes a long journey to the edge of the world and tries to figure out what caused the breakdown and how he can continue after that.
Now you also mentioned already that you think this album is more artistic in a way, I do think that you have a very specific atmosphere in your music videos and cover art is this something you carefully plan in advance with the theme of the album, or how do you come up with the ideas?
Nico: I guess it’s not planned beforehand but when the songs start to take shape, it’s easier to follow just the songs.
Jaakko: Yeah, it would be great to say we have had everything figured out since the start, but the pieces fall into place along the way, along the process and for example, the cover art, we found the guy Kjetil [Karlsen] from Norway, a great dude, a great artist, the pictures were already there before the music, we found him on Instagram and we thought they’d fit perfectly with the music. We were in luck because he thought so too, then we just handpicked 8 pictures, and they all represent a certain song on the album, of course, we tried to kind of see that everything goes with the other, it’s an important thing, because the mood is very important for this kind of music.
Yeah, in that sense, you also have some guest performances on this album, can you talk a little bit about those, how did you get the idea to get those artists involved?
Nico: We’ve had the cello player, Timo, on our previous record. We just thought it would fit very well with the music at that time, I think at this time we had already when we wrote the songs, we kind of thought we had a few parts that could fit also a cello. Lindsay [Schoolcraft] was, I think we were at this production camp where we started finalizing the songs and we just thought we had a few places that needed something else, then we thought about the idea of female vocals, our producer Teemu, had worked with Lindsey before and suggested to ask her and I’m glad he did.
Jaakko: She’s the perfect siren.
Your music video also stood out to me because it felt more like a short art film than a music video. Who came up with the idea?
Jaakko: Well, it’s the vision of the group that made the video, my brother Eero, my sister Riikka, and Lassi who filmed it. In the past, we have always made our videos more or less ourselves, or have been holding the strings. This time around, we thought it would be good to have someone else take charge. We didn’t ask them, they didn’t tell us, we didn’t even know what we were going to do when we got on location. They just told us what to bring and when to be there and of course, we had the synopsis, the short version of the script. It was kind of like, it was a nice and good thing to try to make a video this way, but what it all means, you’d have to ask them. We can tell our version, but it’s their vision eventually. I think that it revolves around the futility of it all, we are drawing delicate figures in the sand and everything comes pouring down, and then it all starts again, the main character has to deal with something from the past, he is lured by the glow from the edge, this time he doesn’t go into the glow, but into the dark. But they nailed it, it visualizes the song pretty perfectly.
So, due to the pandemic, of course, many shows in Finland are getting canceled. I was wondering, as we can’t really talk about live shows if you were interested in or planning to do a streaming concert at some point?
Jaakko: Yeah, something like that. We are planning to make something around the time that the album comes out.
Nico: Well it has to remain a secret at this point!
Jaakko: It’s kind of a weird situation because the rules here in Finland around COVID-19, they change pretty often and we waited for quite a long time before we made the decision that we have to kind of need to have a backup plan because it would suck if we wouldn’t have anything when the record comes out. So yeah, we have something planned.
Did you ever think about postponing the album release?
Jaakko: This situation can last… we don’t know how long it will last. You just have to kind of push through. In summer, when we were planning the schedule of the release, nobody had an idea how long this would last, it could have ended before that, we didn’t know. When we decided that this would be the date, you can’t really go back from that, it would suck and people need to have new music during these dark times.
That’s true! Anyhow, that’s it for my questions, our time is almost up. Do you have any last thoughts for people reading this?
Jaakko: Well, the cliches, stay safe, listen to black metal, try to kind of enjoy yourselves, the little things, it’s not all grim and eventually this will blow over… And listen to our new alubm!
Nico: Purchase the new album!