Interview with Volymian – “One single-celled being showed us that despite all we’ve achieved, we’re not necessarily at the top of the food chain after all.”

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In January 2016, a band known as VOLYMIAN released a very nice, straightforward power metal album entitled “Maze of Madness.” Now, in 2021, with two new vocalists and a completely new (and dare I say improved) sound, they band are back with an EP, They Never Come in Peace.” We sent some questions over to vocalist Tuomo Vänskä and drummer Ville Velasco about the changes in style, as well as the new release. Be sure to check out our premiere for “War Machines” tomorrow morning at 10:00!

Hello guys, and thank you for doing this interview with Tuonela Magazine! How have things been in the band during these crazy times?

Tuomo: Hello, nice to be doin’ this with you! Well, simply put, on one hand it’s been quite peaceful, but on the other hand, it’s been pretty hectic. Since we haven’t been able to do any gigs, we’ve had plenty of time to get our new material into releasable shape, which has been quite a process in itself. Right now it seems like our work has been noticed, which of course feels really good.

I know each artist had a different creative response to the pandemic; some were inspired by the downtime while others suffered from the walls closing in. How did it affect you?

Tuomo: For us it was both a bliss and a curse. I mean, after Nitte and I joined the band in the summer of 2019, we’d been rearranging old songs and making new ones at a really good pace. We also had a few gigs scheduled. So when the pandemic broke out, things pretty much halted completely. No gigs, just plenty of time on our hands. It was a huge bummer, but it was also a good way to channel our frustration into making new songs even better.

In 2016, you released “Maze of Madness,” followed by a single in 2018. After that, it has been radio silence until now. What happened in those in-between years? 

Ville: Well, after “Maze of Madness,” we thought about putting out a second album with the same style of music. But honestly, we didn’t manage to write enough good songs. So we dropped a few singles out. Then we were at a point where Timo and I realized that we didn’t have anything to give to the band. It was time to make a drastic change of direction or call it quits for VOLYMIAN. We decided to give it a try with something totally new for us.

We know that part of the time-jump involved some big changes in your lineup. Your new EP shows that you’ve also developed an entirely new sound. Which came first, the changes to the lineup or the changes to the sound? 

Tuomo: Ville might have the exact answer to this, but as far as I know, the decision to take things into a new direction had been boiling up for a while already. The way I see it, the sound has evolved by itself as we’ve been discovering the possibilities of the new lineup.  

Ville:  Yeah, Tuomo is right. We wanted to add more aggression and a darker tone to our music. We made a song called “Project Alien” as a test and it turned out to be just what we wanted. So I’d say the idea of changing the direction came first, then the lineup changed and the sound shaped itself along the way.

Your new vocalists are Nitte Valo and Tuomo Vänskä. What made you decide to take two vocalists this time? How did you find these two specifically? 

Ville: The whole idea of adding grunt/growl into our sound had cooked in our minds for some time. We, however, wanted to accomplish this so that the grunt wouldn’t take anything away from the melodic singing. There are not many singers out there who can handle both growl/grunts and clean power-style singing well, so it was more or less obvious we needed two singers and they would need to be very good in their own style of singing. When composing “Project Alien,” we started to fiddle with who was going to sing it. I knew Piipponen from MACHINAE, so I asked him to grunt. The bigger question was the clean vocals. I decided to ask Nitte and I was a little surprised when she said yes right away. We booked a studio. When we were recording the vocals, I already knew Piipponen wouldn’t have time if we decided to continue as a new lineup. I wanted people who would give 100% to VOLYMIAN, not somebody who saw VOLYMIAN as a “second project.” I knew Tuomo was a killer growler, but the big question was if he’d have the time. I asked Nitte if she knew somebody, and it turned out she did. After short negotiations, Nitte and Tuomo joined the band. Now we knew our weapons and what we could do with them. So we were all set to make new songs!

Does VOLYMIAN have a main songwriter or do you all write together? What sort of process went into the making of the new EP?

Tuomo: Ville and Timo (Mikkonen, the other founding member/guitarist) mainly compose the songs, as it’s been pretty much throughout VOLYMIAN‘s existence. I write the lyrics. On this EP there were three songs by Ville and two by Timo, if I remember correctly. Ville had (and still has) a shitload of songs that he presented to us at a breathtaking pace. Timo also had his own pile of creations. There were a total of sixteen songs of which we [weeded] out those that didn’t suit our act at the moment and required more refinement. As time went on, we decided to split the hunk of material into smaller bits, mainly because we wanted to get something published already. This first bit turned out as “They Never Come in Peace.”

Ville: Yeah, we eventually recorded drums for eleven songs. When the pandemic started, it meant no gigs and no incoming funds. Time went on and the urge to have something published grew stronger. At some point, we decided to split the album into two EPs. The other half is waiting there and as soon as we can, we will finalize that.

The artwork for this EP is really interesting, as the dove is white (a symbol of peace) at first, but then is inverted to black, in keeping with the title, “They Never Come in Peace.” Whose idea was this and who did the artwork?

Tuomo: It is, isn’t it? Ville’s wife, Satu Velasco, who did the artwork for the EP. The idea came from the theme that runs through the entire EP.

Ville: Satu has been VOLYMIAN’s A.D. from the start.

Considering the EP’s name, are there any themes or messages that are passed on in the lyrics? Are they all related to the EP’s title in some way?

Tuomo: Like mentioned, there is a certain theme that carries on through the entire EP. The main thing is the idea that in this time we live in, no thing passes with a clean pair of hands, so to speak. All the songs do indeed involve the same theme, but the point of view varies within each song. We inspect things as individuals who do things and are held responsible, as bystanders who are powerless to have any control over matters at hand, and on a wider scale in how our collective nature is affecting things. 

You chose to release “Inhale Me” as your first single. How did you choose that song specifically and are there any interesting stories behind its creation?

Tuomo: “Inhale Me” is without a doubt our “corona song.” It reflects everything there is to COVID-19 and how it affects us all. There have been diseases throughout the history of mankind, but this time we were facing something completely new. This tiny little bastard of a virus was able to put a stop to the entire world, economics, and all branches of industry, including music and performing arts. It also showed the inability of a modern human to comply with the restrictions when needed, which then led to a total lockdown. We were forbidden to have any interaction with each other and some of us even had to face sheer isolation. One single-celled being showed us that despite all we’ve achieved, we’re not necessarily at the top of the food chain after all. “Inhale Me” was the most natural way of putting all of this into comprehensible form. 

For a story behind the creation of, say, “Inhale Me,” I could throw in this one: like with every song, our vocal producer/recording man Mikko Herranen had this cool method of getting the singer into the right kind of mood. We would first sing through the song in question once, so that Mikko would know what’s going on and which things to point out. He’d ask very clever probing questions, such as “what’s happening in this song?,” “what’s your role in it?,” “what do you want to say in this song?,” and so on. He’d continue asking these questions for quite some time, basically trying to get you immersed in the innermost feeling of the song and the story behind it. If the song needed anger, for example, he’d dig in so deep under your skin that you were almost pissed off at the imaginary people you’d be addressing with the song. Once there, he’d ask something like “what’s that feeling?” and you’d answer “fuckin’ hate!” and he’d be like “lovely, stick with that, let’s go!” [laughter]

The release has a very modern feel to it. Are there any contemporary bands that you would count among VOLYMIAN’s influences?

Tuomo: Well, I’m gonna answer this every time asked, but CHILDREN OF BODOM and amorphis for me!

Ville: I’d say AMORPHIS and SENTENCED. Both bands do and did music with the terms of music. I get huge inspiration from those bands.

Finally, do you have any last thoughts or news you’d like to share with our readers?

Tuomo: We’re getting back there, y’know. Things will get better. Let’s just not fuck things up anymore, okay?

Ville: We are back with heavy guns. Hope to see you at gigs, when the world is safe again.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with Tuonela Magazine! We wish you all the best!

Tuomo: Thank you! Horns up n’ shine on!