PREMIERE: Ember Falls – Avalon; A Farewell to Ember Falls (2015-2023)

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It’s May 17th, 2023, and one of my former Musicalypse journalist/photographers, Lene Lempola, and I are texting back and forth. You see, one of our mutual favorite bands, EMBER FALLS, have just announced that they’re calling it quits. With such unfortunate news laid before us, we’re premiering their final song, “Avalon,” which will be out officially on May 19th, 2023, via Ranka Kustannus, as we reflect on the band from back when we discovered them in 2015, up until today. We bid these fellows a very fond farewell and a big thank you for all the wonderful music and memories to go with!

Hearing the News

Bear: Hearing this news immediately elicited a complicated response. On one hand, of course I’m devastated to know that my favorite band circa 2016 is not going to be releasing any new material after this upcoming Friday, but at the same time… how many bands can you name with a flawless discography? Assuming they don’t miraculously botch their finale, I think it’s safe to say that EMBER FALLS will go down as a band who had a 10/10 career (in my modestly humble opinion). Two flawless albums, a flawless cover EP, multiple flawless shows at clubs and festivals… suffice to say, they’ve treated me well over the years. If their time has come, you may as well quit while you’re still flawless, no?

Lene: Yeah, I have to agree. It’s been difficult to name any band I could truly and honestly call my favorite band – something to blame on the years of music journalism, perhaps – but I guess that at this point it’s only fair to admit that EMBER FALLS have been at the top of my ever-rotating top three for years now. Wow, that’s a lot of words for saying “hey, I really love what you guys are doing,” isn’t it? But jokes aside, I don’t really have much to add here; there’s no single track I haven’t loved to bits (although I do skip “Freedom” more often than not, but that’s mostly by the virtue of being a ballad. And, well, it could probably win some awards in cheesiness, but I’ll let that slide, I’m a big fan of cheese anyway). Okay, now I’m really putting the jokes aside, because as much as it saddens me to see a band like this go, I wholeheartedly empathize with the decision – the thought processes aren’t far off from what made me quietly leave concert photography and music journalism a few years ago. But funnily enough, it’s been these guys that could be used to lure me back for a moment at a time.

Promo image, early years

READ MORE: Album Review – Welcome to Ember Falls (2016); Album Review – Ruins (2021)

Band Origins

Bear: I first heard about EMBER FALLS in around 2015-2016 when Lene introduced me to “Shut Down with Me.” There were all sorts of things going around the metal scene about this song – the huge production quality, the story of how it was made, the fact that it caught the attention of Spinefarm in just one song! And I also vaguely recall some trademark/copyright shenanigans with another band called FIREAL who had thought EMBER FALLS ripped off their look. All of this, paired with a truly awesome debut song, made us wildly curious about these guys, so we met up with them at the 2016 edition of South Park Festival in Tampere, where we did an interview, which I still recall very fondly to this day. 

Lene: In my case, the story goes even further back in history: for a moment I was tempted to log onto Twitter and dig up some ancient discussions with my little brother, who had found this new, cool band called MEKANISM. I can’t for the life of me tell you what the year could’ve been, but I’m going to throw a wild guess that it was somewhere around 2012 or 2013. And now I’m going to ruin all the fun in piecing this together yourselves, but that band was more or less the foundation EMBER FALLS was built upon, but for that you’d need to fast forward a couple years. Anyway, even back then, the song material was strong and I remember sitting one spring evening in 2014 in a bar in Tampere, utterly convinced my friends’ band didn’t stand a chance in this Wacken band competition against them, but one couldn’t even be disappointed because they were just that good. (Incidentally, that competition was won by one BLIND CHANNEL, but that’s a whole other story). With some more fast forwarding, I could tell you that, some time after the band competition, they were looking for a new singer and that was around the time I met the heroes of this story. From then on, these guys were firmly stuck on my radar, and when they finally came out of hiding not only with a new singer, but also with a new name and complete, elaborate concept for their thing, I knew they’d found exactly what they were looking for.

READ MORE: (2016) Interview with Ember Falls; Photoshoot – Interview with Ember Falls @ South Park Festival

That First Show

Bear: The first time I got to see them live was at that 2016 edition of South Park Festival in Tampere (the same place where we did the interview). I remember that show for a variety of reasons. Among them was the lighting quality, which really made their outfits, makeup, the whole deal, all of it really stood out as dystopian and a bit survivalist, while looking and feeling new and fresh. Also, that was the year that BLIND CHANNEL played on the other day, so they did a vocalist swap for “Darker than Black” and “Shut Down with Me” with vocalist/guitarist Joel Hokka. They were both playing fairly early in the day, but they were also probably the two hottest shows of the weekend, for those in the know. Having gotten a taste, it seemed I had developed an unyielding craving, as I distinctly remember bailing on GHOST headlining at Tuska 2016 so I could get another chance at seeing EMBER FALLS live again ASAP. In hindsight, that shows some dedication on my behalf! I also remember there was one fellow who was at almost as many of their shows as I was, who would dress up in Tuomas Välimaa’s stage outfit, makeup and all – they had some dedicated fans!

Lene: As a former gig photographer, I’m both sad and a bit disappointed with myself when I admit that those shots I got at South Park still remain the best I’ve shot of EMBER FALLS to this day and, well, remain so for the unforeseeable future, as it now seems. But I’ll give credit where credit is due, the lights in the tent were probably the best I’ve shot in any festival tent during the whole five-or-six-ish summers I spent in the festival circuit. And Bear’s 100% on point about the energy in those shows – other concert photographers know what I’m talking about, when there’s a gig you can just party through the whole three songs you’re in the photopit, almost everything you catch turns into gold, and then you just continue spending the camera battery in the audience because you just have to get more. Those kinds of gigs are few and far between, but mood-wise, EMBER FALLS was always a sure-fire bet, and more than being disappointed in the quality of later photography adventures, I’m disappointed I didn’t go shoot them more often. I only shot, what, three shows from them for Musicalypse?

Ember Falls @ South Park -festivaali, Eteläpuisto, 2016; photo by Lene L.

READ MORE: Festival Report – (2016) South Park Festival; Gallery – (2016) South Park Festival; Festival Report – (2016) Tuska Festival Afterpary; Gallery – (2017) Nummirock Festival

The Early Years

Bear: EMBER FALLS and BLIND CHANNEL grew up alongside each other, in many ways; one might notice that they both played at a lot of these same events and festivals (like South Park and Edge Nordic Festival in Helsinki later that year) and released their debut albums in the same year, so it was nice to see that, as both of them were approaching those first releases, that EMBER FALLS was the main opener for BLIND CHANNEL’s album release show, and then Niko Moilanen features on EMBER FALLS‘ album. Virgin Oil Co. was always a cringe venue, sound-wise, but the wizards these bands had on-hand that night made it worthwhile. This was a fun night as well, as we got to follow them around backstage for a while and capture what was going on on this iconic night. I remember one of the photographers lost her memory card though, so who knows what other photos we may have had from the event that never saw the light of day? I also know that we have some backstage mini-interviews that never came out. Maybe I’ll dig those up and publish them sometime.

Lene: Oof, I hadn’t even heard the lost memory card part of the story! I remember hyping you guys up all the way from the Netherlands, and that show is one of the few things I was bummed to miss while living there.

Backstage at Virgin Oil Co., 2016; Blind Channel’s album release show

READ MORE: Festival Report – (2016) Edge Nordic Festival; Live Report – (2016) Blind Channel’s Album Release Show w/ Ember Falls @ Virgin Oil Co.; Gallery – Blind Channel’s Album Release Show w/ Ember Falls @ Virgin Oil Co.; Photoshoot – (2016) Backstage at Blind Channel’s Album Release Show; Photoshoot – (2016) Behind the Scenes at Blind Channel’s Album Release Show

New Releases

Bear: I straight-up gobbled up every song EMBER FALLS ever released. After doing journalism for so long, you go through waves of energy when it comes to writing. There was a period in which I was writing a lot of featured singles, which happened to coincide with the timeframe in which EMBER FALLS were releasing a lot of singles. After writing a Featured Single for the first two singles, which were released considerably earlier than the ones that followed, I made an arrangement with myself to only feature the singles that were really good afterwards. But then “We Are Become Fire” was really good. Then “The World is Burning” was really good. “For All” was really good. And suddenly I’d basically reviewed the entire album song-by-song before the album had even come out. I even did my first-ever IGTV live interview about a single with them (shame that IGTV doesn’t exist anymore).

Lene: Oh gosh, yes to all of that. I’ve hit the kind of slump where no new music interests me in the slightest more than a couple times, but somehow every new song EMBER FALLS released between albums ended up in my rotation immediately. I’ve very rarely gushed about new music in social media after leaving my active journalist days behind, but honestly, it’s even more rare to hear a band exceed themselves every single time they put something out there. But when I finally got to hear all of “Ruins,” even if it was just a couple tracks more after all the single releases? That was in a whole another ballpark entirely. It’s an uniquely exhilarating feeling to get to hear something that makes you simply laugh in disbelief, because there’s really no other way to react to something so ridiculously great. Somehow, these guys seemed to find all the things that tickle at least my brains in a way no other band has ever managed to – maybe one or two songs here and there, but certainly not with an entire album.

READ MORE: Featured Single – Heart Shaped Black Scar (by Bear); Featured Single – Heart Shaped Black Scar (by Laureline); Featured Single – Divine (by Bear); Featured Single – Divine (by Laureline); Featured Single – We Are Become Fire; Featured Single – The World is Burning; Featured Single – For All; Featured Single – The Wall; Featured Single – Cloud Connected; IGTV Interview – The World is Burning

Live on Stage

Bear: I remember a moment in time when my partner made a declaration: “Ember Falls is just not a band that you want to miss live.” Well, he may not have been able to catch all of their shows but I probably came damned near close to catching them on every tour they had. In fact, I owe a lot of my live music dalliances to the fact that EMBER FALLS opened up for so many bands, and they were often really well-paired with other acts, if I may say so: AMARANTHE, SONIC SYNDICATE, CYHRA, PAIN, and DEAD BY APRIL, to name a few. One thing that was fairly consistent was the effort these guys put into their live shows. Seeing them in a low-energy mood was rare, as these guys always put a lot of time and dedication into making sure that their time on stage would be memorable. With phenomenal music that sounded fantastic live, there was just no reason to not go see all of their shows.

Lene: You know what, even though I would’ve loved to shoot them more, I’m now going on record to say that some of my fondest gig memories have been made as a member of the audience, partying with my friends at an EMBER FALLS show. Especially after “Ruins” came out, it would’ve honestly been such a struggle to be on camera duty, because that more or less always meant watching the show through lenses and definitely missing something in the whole experience. It’s kind of like what I remember talking about when we teamed up like this for MYGRAIN’s (at the time) final show – those kinds of bands, whose shows are just an absolute delight and a chance to let loose, are way too rare. No matter the venue, or amount of audience, I’ve always left an EMBER FALLS show as happy as a bucket full of otters, to quote a friend of mine, and I’m right now extremely glad I took the chance to check out the new rock bar in Tampere last winter with my partner, as it turned out to be the last time we’d see these guys live.

Ember Falls @ The Circus, Helsinki 2017; photo by Kirsti Leinonen

READ MORE: Live Report – (2017) Amaranthe w/ Blind Channel & Ember Falls @ The Circus; Gallery – (2017) Amaranthe w/ Blind Channel & Ember Falls @ The Circus; Live Report – (2017) Sonic Syndicate w/ Ember Falls @ Virgin Oil Co.; Gallery – (2017) Sonic Syndicate w/ Ember Falls @ Virgin Oil Co.; Live Report – (2017) Cyhra w/ Eyes Wide Open & Ember Falls @ Nosturi; Gallery – (2017) Cyhra w/ Eyes Wide Open & Ember Falls; Live Report – (2018) Pain w/ Turmion Kätilöt & Ember Falls @ Nosturi; Gallery – Pain w/ Turmion Kätilöt & Ember Falls @ Nosturi; Live Report – (2019) Dead by April w/ Blind Channel & Ember Falls @ Nosturi; Gallery – (2019) Dead By April w/ Blind Channel, Ember Falls, & My Favorite Nemesis @ Nosturi; Live Report – (2019) Ember Falls @ Bar Loose

Journalist or Fan?

Bear: I probably made an effort to support this band more than any other act that has interested me, which likely has to do with the fact that they were one of the first bands that I ever interviewed who were genuinely friendly and interested in me as a person, and didn’t just dismiss me as a random journalist. It was a sadly rare thing, back in the early 2010s, to find a friendly metal band in Finland. As such, they made it onto my best-of lists for the year every time they released music, dating all the way back to Musicalypse’s Best of 2016 in Metal, continuing into the personal best-of lists from myself (and a few other staff members) in the years after the media merger in 2021. I even made an excuse to include two of them in our old running interview series, Playlist of My Life, by invoking vocalist Tuomas Välimaa‘s other band, EVERWAVE, as an excuse to include another member. I tended to include them in any lists and blogs that I did as often as it was reasonable. I probably own all of the shirts they ever released (with the exception of one color variant). Heck, you can find artwork from Tuomas on both the wall in my office as well as my website, and he did the intro video for my podcast as well, I’m that much of a fan. Also, he’s done a spectacular cover of “Evermore” from the Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast, if that interests you (and it should).

Lene: I 100% agree with you on that: music, and especially the metal scene needs more people like these guys, both in terms of musical excellence and, you know, treating everyone around you with respect. It’s a taller order than one would think at first. And even though I miss the beat of music journalism every now and then, I’m also glad I don’t have to try to keep my hype person self so contained outside of work these days – just the normal, reasonable amount. It was always a fine line between shoehorning in something you believed to be great, and simply being a fan, and it also ties into why I understand these kinds of decisions of calling it quits so much: when something that was fun and easy, something that you really loved, starts to give you more stress than joy, it’s better to take a step back.

Promo image 2022, Ranka Kustannus

READ MORE: Best of 2016 in Metal (Musicalypse); Best of 2017 in Metal (Musicalypse); Best of 2019 in Metal (Musicalypse); Tuonela’s Best of 2019 (by Jana); Tuonela’s Best of 2020 (by Bear); Tuonela’s Best of 2021 (by Bear); Tuonela’s Best of 2021 (by Jana); Tuonela’s Best of 2022 (by Bear); Ten 10/10 Albums; 10 EPs from 2022 Worth Giving A Spin; Playlist of My Life w/ Mikko McMenamin; Playlist of My Life w/ Tuomas Välimaa; 25 Great Albums from 2021 (by Laureline);

The Full Package

Bear: They were also one of my favorite bands to interview, since they had such a fully-thought-out concept. Every time an album was released, I got to delve into the content and sound and themes, and I knew there would be something interesting to learn, something deep and insightful to think about. They always had fun stories to share as well, like how the label folks mistook Mikko McMenamin‘s high vocals on “Rising Tide” for a female singer or how the newspaper AI went hogwild when they were making the lyric video for “The World is Burning.” Oh also, I wanted them to give me EMBER FALLS-style makeup after the interview for the debut album release show, but instead, they mixed black and red paint and someone put their hand on my face (I think Jake E. was the first victim of this imprint), and left the impression of a red mustache on me that was unfortunately reminiscent of that of a certain dictator from around the 1940s… That said, I loved that everything, from color branding to digital design, to makeup and outfits, quality of lyric and music videos, all the way to the morals and messages… they had the full artistic package here and no detail was left untouched in their entire presentation. Few bands put as much true dedication into their overall presentation as these guys.

Lene: Oh yeah, I’m so glad I was around to capture some evidence of the face-paint shenanigans! We simply couldn’t have lived without photos of what I like to call “the negative hand of Saruman.” Truth be told, that fine balance between the intricate band concept and prospect of fun times have worked a couple times in your favor to drag me out of a photographer/journalist hiatus – it was always a great decision to tag along to interview EMBER FALLS with you, all post-break jitters aside. I can’t believe I’m actually referencing Shrek here, but every time we chatted with the guys, it felt like peeling back layers on what EMBER FALLS really is at its core, both band and the city in their concept story – and you’d always want to know more. Paired with an impeccable eye for the visual side of things (I mean, come on, I can’t be the only one who saw subtle hints to some sci-fi book covers from the ’70s and ’80s in the cover of “Ruins”; the Finnish translations of Asimov’s Foundation series in particular). I’m just as amazed as Bear as to how on earth these guys didn’t blow up big time?

Bear W., Tuomas Välimaa (vocals), Jake E. (vocals, production); Christopher Lee (manager)

READ MORE: (2017) Interview with Ember Falls & Jake E.; (2017) Ember Falls – Welcome to Ember Falls Album Release Show @ Jack the Rooster; Gallery – (2017) Ember Falls – Welcome to Ember Falls Album Release Show @ Jack the Rooster; Photoshoot – (2017) Interview with Ember Falls & Jake E. @ Jack the Rooster; (2022) Interview for Ruins; Photoshoot – Tuomas & Kalle Interview;

Making Memories

Bear: One other thing I loved about EMBER FALLS was that you could share them with pretty much anyone, and they’d get on board. It makes you really wonder how they didn’t get a thousand times huger than they were, just based off how much everyone liked them. From best friends and family, to the love of my life, I’ve brought all of them to see EMBER FALLS and they all loved the band almost as much as I do (few can manage the degree of appreciation I have for these guys). As it stands, for a long-time journalist, many of my memories of seeing bands live are just of the band playing (because I was attending alone), but with EMBER FALLS, I had date nights and road trips and family outings and friend gatherings… all sorts of events that attach them to so many wonderful memories.

Lene: Oh this is definitely a thing I wanted to point out too – ever since “Shut Down with Me,” I’ve wanted to share this band with everyone. From appointing myself as the DJ of a car ride or a hangout hyping new songs on social media, spamming unassuming friends who had no idea what they’ve got into with song links, and throwing their name to almost any requests for music recommendations, to dragging friends to a pre-listening or a show, I’ve made it pretty clear that I don’t want anyone to miss out on this. And those who took my word for it never looked back and I know quite a few of you might even read this, because I know you care as much as I do. Until today, there haven’t been all that many seasons when we didn’t find ourselves wondering where the next show would be – the last time being yesterday. I have a feeling in my gut it won’t be just one or two times we’ll find ourselves listening to EMBER FALLS and still wondering the same question, until someone remembers the answer. So, there. I promised Bear and myself I’d get sentimental just this once, and that’s probably as close to a love letter as most bands will ever get from me.

Jussi (drums), Tuomas (vocals), Bear W., Kalle (vocals, guitars), Lene L. – the infamous interview photo taken just as Lene was holding in a laugh

READ MORE: (2022) Arion w/ Ember Falls @ On the Rocks; Gallery – Arion w/ Ember Falls @ On the Rocks; (2022) Ember Falls w/ Ikinä – Ruins Album Release Gig @ Olympia-kortteli; (2022) Nummirock – Day 1; (2022) Nordic Metal Cruise; Gallery – (2022) Nordic Metal Cruise; (2022) Dark River Festival – Day 3; Gallery – (2022) Dark River Festival – Day 3; Gallery – (2021) Saarihelvetti – Day 2; (2021) Saarihelvetti – Day 2

Written by Bear W. & Lene L.