Interview with Torchia — “We spread darkness and worship the ancient ones.”

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If you haven’t heard of TORCHIA yet, relax! You aren’t alone. We came across the melodic death metal act from Tampere a couple of months ago when they performed at Dark River Festival and we were pleased to discover the band had released their new album, “The Coven,” on 27 March 2020 through Rockshots Records. We had the opportunity to talk to lead guitarist Ville Riitamaa and singer Edward Torchia about the release of their new album. Read the entire interview below.

Read more: REVIEW: Torchia – The Coven

Hi there, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. You’re releasing your upcoming album “The Coven” on 27 March 2020, how are you feeling about the upcoming release?

Edward: Thank you for having us! The making of “The Coven” was quite intensive as the writing, rehearsing, and recording process was all done in about a year. A lot of sleepless nights have been poured into making this album and we couldn’t be happier with it, now that it’s released!

Ville: It’s interesting to see how people react to this kind of melodic death metal and I’m very eager to get to play these new songs live!

Can you give a brief history of the band for those who haven’t heard of TORCHIA yet?

Edward: TORCHIA was formed in order to make fast music for the true metal maniacs! We come from Tampere, Finland, and we got our current lineup in 2016. After that, we’ve released two full-length albums: “Of Curses and Grief” in 2017 and now “The Coven.”

Ville: We’ve always had a great ambition to play live and we’ve toured a lot in Finland and in the rest of Europe and all the way in Taiwan, too. Our sound has always been characterized by diversity but to understand our musical core, I’d advise you to take a listen to “Gallows” and “Memoirs” on the new album!

You already released a couple of singles to promote the album. Can you tell us a bit about the songs – how were they written, how were they chosen as singles, and more importantly, how were they received?

Edward: “Moon, Rise!” was the obvious first single for us, since it was something quite different from what we had done on the first album. The song just has a crushing and unique theme riff you can’t ignore on first listen.

Ville: The second single, we knew needed to be a very typical TORCHIA banger – a fast, straight to the point death/thrash assault! At that time, we didn’t have a song like that, so I set out to make one. That spawned the aforementioned “Gallows” and “Memoirs” of which the latter got to be one of the singles.

Edward: The final single, “Plague Peasant,” just sounds like a single, doesn’t it?! It actually sounded so much like [a single] that we hesitated to keep it on the album. We thought an old school melodeath sound would be too different next to the more aggressive tracks, but ultimately, we think it gives the album a nice balance. Luckily, we had a chance to play all of these songs live at least once before the pandemic! The audience seemed to be very pleased with the new material, which gives us confidence for the album release.

I find TORCHIA’s sound pretty interesting; basically, to me, it feels like it’s pretty straightforward melodic death metal, but somehow, especially in the melodies and solos, it feels like you’re also inspired by eg. power metal and thrash metal. How would you describe the sound of “The Coven?

Ville: That is true that we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from many genres, but it comes naturally so we don’t really have to think about it. When it comes to the sound, we wanted to go on with the raw soundscape like on “Curses,” because for us it is one of the essential things of what metal music is about. Nowadays, it is a risk, the majority of metal releases being very polished, but we think it is worth taking.

Edward: What makes the early albums of bands like AT THE GATES, CHILDREN OF BODOM, and DARK TRANQUILITY so great is that they took inspiration from every single genre of metal – a recipe that would later be known as melodic death metal. The problem with the genre nowadays seems to be that bands are only inspired by other melodeath bands, which makes them all sound quite homogenous. Though we are huge AT THE GATES and BODOM fans, most of our influence comes from thrash, death, and old school heavy metal. On “The Coven,” we wanted to move especially in the direction of death metal!

The title of your upcoming album is “The Coven” and looking at the tracklist, it feels like you have a bit of an occult-related theme going on. Is there a theme present on the album and if so, can you tell us the story behind “The Coven?”

Ville: Every song is a story in itself, but they aren’t very straightforward. They leave a lot of room for your imagination. For example, in “Memoirs,” the story is read from a diary that belonged to some sort of man of magic. Maybe we’ll have some continuity to this story to reveal more on the next album.

Edward: When we created the witch hunt music video for “Moon, Rise!”, it made us interpret the entire album through witchcraft. All of the songs are dealing with some sort of black magic after all. The haunting cover art by Santiago Caruso was also originally inspired by the “Moon, Rise!” music video, although it developed into a very surreal scene of its own.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the songwriting process that went behind “The Coven?” How do you usually write songs?

Ville: Usually, I start composing from a riff or a feeling. Sometimes from a line of lyrics that gives me some sort of atmospheric ideas that I start to hunt. From there on, the songs take over and they might go to directions I never intended in the first place. Like the song “Sky,” it wasn’t supposed to be how it ended up.

Edward: I remember the first version of “Sky” being a bit lighter, but when we started talking about making it the opening track, Ville came up with the sinister verse riff and made the song a lot more aggressive. Just to make clear from the beginning that we are a death metal band by heart!

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?

Ville: We spread darkness and worship the ancient ones.

Edward: In the words of Marshall McLuhan: “the medium is the message.” Heavy metal has some values and beliefs tightly embedded to it and we are bearing that torch. Whatever feelings our music and aesthetic evoke, that is our message. Non serviam.

The production of the album is very raw and organic, almost as if you are playing it live. Is that a conscious choice?

Ville: It truly is. To us, metal is not supposed to be the most polished product. Especially death metal. These days it’s risky to carry that out but that is what we think suits us the best. Our approach to our sound is some sort of a statement against the industry standards which make all metal music sound the same these days.

Edward: We also want to carry that real performance onto the stage as well. That means we compose our songs so that they can be played live with little to no backing track. That’s why you’re not hearing any synthesizers or orchestras on TORCHIA albums or shows. Only the raw sound of electric guitars being played right in front of you!

Something that I personally really enjoy about your band is that your visual aesthetics, be it on stage, or every music video, or cover art you produce, seem to be very consistent. Is this important to you, and if so, why?

Edward: To us, metal music is about transcending the ordinary and we want the experience of listening to our band to be as immersive as possible. These songs are about treading strange realms and encountering unknown forces, so we couldn’t convey that idea wearing t-shirts. In the first years of the band, we struggled to find an aesthetic for our music, partly because melodic death metal bands are expected to look quite casual. Eventually, we just decided to embrace our passion for dark fantasy and morbid tales. Since then, the story has evolved on its own with everything revolving around death and darkness.

Talking about cover art, I’d like to know a little bit more about how the cover art is connected to the story. Did you give the visual artist any guidelines, or did you give them a free hand in designing it?

Edward: We were once again working with the amazingly talented Santiago Caruso for the cover art. Like I hinted before, Santiago was very struck by the image of us being hanged and singing at the gallows on video for “Moon, Rise!” We talked about this idea and combining it with witchcraft and eventually, Santiago used his vast knowledge on symbolism to create this very unique and surreal image. It shows a coven of witches chanting to the moon, the branches of bats and birds being a symbol for the singing. As you might suspect, there’s also a link between the artwork and the intro and outro of the album.

Unfortunately, we live a little bit in uncertain times, especially when it comes down to touring. Is TORCHIA planning to have a tour for “The Coven?”

Edward: We had a great tour already booked for this Spring, the highlight being playing in Tokyo and returning to Taiwan. But obviously, the entirety of the tour is very likely to be canceled. Maybe mother nature is telling us something about our careless ways on this Earth. However, we already have great plans for the autumn and many of the canceled shows are being moved to later this year. This band exists for the sake of playing live music and it’s hard to not be able to bring these new songs to a new audience. But these are strange times and we have been fortunate enough to stay healthy and been able to work!

Lastly, is there anything else about the band/music you’d like to share that I didn’t ask about, or do you have any last thoughts you want to share with our readers?

Edward: Hopefully you enjoy “The Coven” as much as we do! All you true metal fanatics who do, never let the black flame die out!

Ville: Listen to music and enjoy little things during these dark times! And remember, from darkness comes light.

Interview by Laureline Tilkin