Kiuas  - 06/05/2010

The Finnish band Kiuas has become an established name in their home country, with one of their records in the top ten album ranking. Their music contains influences from power metal, folk metal, different styles of extreme metal and even some influences from progressive metal can be heard in certain songs. The band has had a steady line-up ever since they formed and just recently their fourth album which is entitledLustdriven’ was released. 

 

The album was produced by Janne Joutsenniemi, who previously worked with the band on the pre-production of their last album, ‘The New Dark Age’. Mikko Karmila mixed the CD at Finnvox studios while the mastering duties were handled by Svante Forsbäck at Chartmakers. Kiuas is still relatively new to the Dutch public and so we talked to Mikko Salovaara (guitars) in order to get to know the band a little better and to find out more about their new album. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com.

 

 

Could you start this interview off with an introduction of the band and could you give us little update of what’s been happening since your previous release ‘The New Dark Age’?

 

Mikko: Well, many of the members of Kiuas have known each other since high school, but the story of Kiuas really starts with our first demo in 2002. The following year we recorded our second demo which got us signed with Rage of Achilles records. That contribution was quite short – we only released the EP ‘Winter in June’ through ROA, and after that we signed with Spinefarm Records  who we’ve been with ‘till this day. The new album ‘Lustdriven’ is our fourth full-length assault of epic metal.

 

How did you launch into writing material for ‘Lustdriven’ and how much time did you spend on creating the songs?

 

Mikko: Well, it's hard to count the hours or months or whatever, but basically I started writing the songs pretty soon after we were done touring with the previous album, so all together the material came together during a period of about one and a half years, but only about half a year at the end of that period was really intensive work.

 

Which approach did you choose to create this album, did you go for a more raw exposition.. Or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?

 

Mikko: This album is maybe a bit more melodic than the previous one, but that direction came naturally, it wasn't really a choice. The album is still heavy, so we didn't really hold back on that side either. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the melodies on this album are a bit more accessible to the average listener than on the previous one.

As for arrangements, this time we added more to the orchestral side, so it's definitely more massive and sonicly thicker.

 

Did ideas come easily so that you just had to write them down or was it more of a careful composing thing?

 

Mikko: Well, they don't rule each other out in any way, in my opinion. The best ideas come very easily and instantly feel right, but after that comes the hard work, which means hours and hours of fitting the pieces together. In the later stages of songwriting, I do a lot of “mechanical” composing, where I fill the gaps and tune the details in a more cold fashion, as opposed to the romantic idea of receiving ideas and inspiration out of the blue. Both methods are necessary – it's naive to assume that great songwriting happens only by chance. But still, good ideas are never forced either, the key to good composing IMHO is to keep the balance between “true” inspiration and pure work.

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies?

 

Mikko: They grow together, but usually I finish the music first, and then might change it a little after the lyrics are ready. When I write the music, I usually already have some lyrics, a punchline, or at least a theme that sets the atmosphere for the whole composition.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Lustdriven’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

 

Mikko: Yes. By the time we wrote our third album ‘The New Dark Age’ I think we had come to a point where I personally felt that we had really found our sound and style, so there was definitely no need to start looking for anything radically new. The question was more of which aspects we wanted emphasize, what direction we wanted to expand to. And as the songs came together, it seemed like a natural move to develop the orchestral elements, for one. With that in mind, we commissioned a talented guy called Sami Boman to do the orchestral arrangements for the songs “Of Love, Lust and Human Nature”, “The Visionary” and “Winter's Sting”. Although it's a synthetic orchestra, the result is stunning!

Other than that that, the album pretty much follows the tradition of the previous ones – heavy explosive tracks with death/thrash metal style riffing, catchy and melodic choruses to sing in the shower, some folky acoustic numbers, and mostly epic and massive songs which take the listener on a journey through his/her sweetest, darkest and deepest fantasies! How about that for advertising? :D

 

 

How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for Kiuas? For example, is it a group process or did some people contribute more than others?

 

Mikko: Well, I'm pretty much responsible...I try to construct the songs as specifically as possible, and record complete demos of them myself. This time I even sang some horrible demo vocal tracks! :P When I have some solid ideas ready and have more or less recorded them, I'll send mp3’s to the other guys. Usually I'll do this when I have at least some kind of song structure with the basic parts and whatnot. Then I'll keep dropping updated versions, and we'll start practising, and the rest of the band give their input as well. Sometimes I might have the whole song ready when I send it to them.

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song according to you?

 

Mikko: Well...that's almost impossible to define, it's some kind of special quality that makes you wanna hear it again and again. It has partly to do with the catchiness of a melody, riff, or rhythm, but the overall feel and atmosphere is very important to me. There's a difference between a “good catchy song” and a composition that really takes you to another place, sort of sucks you into another world. For most people this can be achieved more easily with a movie or a book, but a song – or why not a piece of visual art – is great when it does the same. This might apply more for certain types of songs, mainly for the ones with more of an “atmospheric” or “epic” quality. The more straightforward ones function more to grab the listener more physically and make them tap their feet, bang their heads or whatever.

 

Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Lustdriven’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

 

Mikko: Yes, well its first meaning is exactly what it means: lust meaning sexual desire. There are some songs on the record which deal with lust and related matters, like – rather obviously - “Of love, LUST and human nature”. The name also has a wider spectrum of implications: lust for life in general, what drives us etc. We can get very philosophical with this, but I'll leave the rest to the reader.

 

Who was responsible for writing the lyrics on this album and where do you get your inspiration from? Is there a story behind the lyrics?

 

Mikko: Well, I partly answered both questions already. Once again the title“Of love, lust...” could describe some of the other songs as well, though presented from different angles, and there are other themes as well. Some of those songs are very dark, but I'd say the overrall message is positive. I like to dwell on the idea of lust for life and taking whatever it has to offer. Although I also like to write about it in a very individualistic manner, my aim is to get the listener to relate to that.

 

How did the recording process proceed this time, did you work differently than on previous albums? How much time did you spend in the studio?

 

Mikko: Well, this time was a bit different because we recorded most of the instruments in our own studio Crom. Otherwise the process was very similar compared to the previous ones: we took about a month to record everything, and then Mikko Karmila mixed the songs in about one and a half weeks.

 

Your sound on ‘Lustdriven’ is excellent, what made  Janne Joutsenniemi the perfect man for Kiuas?
 

Mikko: We had worked with him before for the pre-production of ‘The new dark age’, and it felt very natural to work with him. He had a good overall view of the whole situation and provided us with both the necessary encouragement and criticism.

 

In which things/songs on the new album can one clearly hear his vision and ideas?

 

Mikko: In all of them! Seriously. All of them are very important for me. But now that you asked, the song “The Visionary” actually deals with the whole theme of visions and putting them to practice. It's a HUGE song btw, if I may say so. :D

 

What are the main differences between your last album ‘The New Dark Age’ and your new opus ‘Lustdriven’ in your opinion?

 

Mikko: Like I stated previously, I'd say the melodies are a bit more accessible to the average listener, which is neither a good nor a bad thing. That's just how the songs turned out. It's partly a result of musical means, for example melodies and harmonies in more conventional minor keys as opposed to church modes or other derivative keys such as the phrygian dominant. This might lead the ignorant reader to presume that the previous record was more interesting harmonically or whatever, but I'd like to emphasize that although the “less accessible” or “interesting” harmonic and melodic phenomena are not thrown in your face in the chorus of every song, they are placed cunningly in the texture of the songs, so that the enlightened listener will definitely find them, while the common peasant can just tap his foot approvingly with the catchy choruses.

 

One of the most typical songs on the new album I think is “Aftermath”, a thrashy, fast, raw and powerful song with a lot of variation. Is this an influence you wish to develop more in the future, or do you prefer the more bombastic songs on the album  like, for instance, “The Visionary”?

 

Mikko: That's a nice comparison, since those two songs might be my favorite representatives of those two styles in the musical spectrum of Kiuas. If you listen to our older works, it's pretty clear that throughout our career we've favoured a somewhat similar combination of styles. I like both worlds, so I definitely want to continue writing in those different formats, and the same goes for all the other sides of Kiuas as well. We might incorporate new stuff as well. For example, on the previous record we brought in a middle eastern influence, which was new for us. For no particular reason, I didn't exploit that sound so much on this record, which doesn't mean I wouldn't use it in the future.

 

‘The New Dark Age’ was already a step forward, but ‘Lustdriven’ is actually the first album on which Kiuas shows its full capabilities: What are your thoughts on this statement?

 

Mikko: Thanks! Once again I must refer to my previous answer. :) ...and therefore disagree a little, the middle eastern sound being one example. I wouldn't change a thing on ‘Lustdriven’ and I see it as a good representation of where Kiuas is right now, but not a demonstration of our full potential, not even close!

 

 

Do you have any favourites on the album?

 

Mikko: Hahah...too hard to choose! But if I try to force it a little, thanks to you helping out a little, “Aftermath” and “The Visionary” are very close to me on more levels than some of the other ones, also lyrically.

 

Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

 

Mikko: Oh yes...it went to number 8 on the Finnish charts and to nr 1 on an independent chart, and we've had packed clubs to play to, so that tells it all! Also, most of the reviews have been great, which is important.

 

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

 

Mikko: Well, after months of sweat, stress, insomnia, ulcers...not to mention pouring your darkest emotions and secrets into the songs, it's VERY NICE to hear someone say they really like the record...HOWEVER, after you've let yourself cool down a little and distanced yourself from the album, what really counts is whether or not you yourself stand behind it 100%. AND I DO.

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective? Which aspect of the album are you the most proud of?

 

Mikko: See previous answer. :) Just plainly: the songs. The sound, production, nice vocal harmonies, cool solos, cool effects, samples, tricks etc. (which the album is full of btw, hehe) don't really matter THAT much. And I think with this kind of music it's actually hard to separate the songs from the arrangements, so it's really hard to say what I really mean here, haha...but you know when they say that a good song is a good song even when you perform it with just a piano or an acoustic guitar...that doesn't go with most of these songs, “Aftermath” wouldn't work on an acoustic for example! But still, that stripped-down essence of the songs is what still makes them, and that's what's most important for me, what makes the album, it’s what I'm most proud of.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?

 

Mikko: We also touched this subject a little...generally I'd say personal experiences and personal issues are very much behind the lyrics, but they might be hidden so that it doesn’t seem that way. I also like to use other arts, nature, history, myths, literature and other stuff as  sources of inspiration. The main themes on this record are desire, the pain it can cause, dreams and visions, personal struggles and achievements, and just shouting at the world and beating your chest, as in “Kiuassault”! :D

 

Which song is your favourite one to play live? Which song do you find is the most challenging one to play live?

 

Mikko: “Aftermath” requires a precise right hand with all that thrash-riffing going on! “Cry little Angel” works great live with its straightforward approach, it always gets the crowd. “The Visionary” is fun because we can get very theatrical on stage.

 

Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:

 

Metal : YEAH!

Underground : bands that don't sell which are supposed to be cool, and when you're mainstream you can make better records with more money but you're not cool anymore...fucking stupid!

Internet : chaos, both good and bad

Religion : MOSTLY herd mentality, tradition, and something people grow into without thinking for themselves

Politics : necessary but problematic

The Netherlands : a nice, liberal country, I have relatives there too!

Finland : also a nice, QUITE liberal country...we have our problems but it's home

 

With several albums under your belt, how far has Kiuas surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?

 

Mikko: Hmmm...when we started out I didn't know what to expect. Of course we've always worked hard to become as big as possible, without sacrificing the art itself in any way. But though we might have dreamed of selling a lot of records and touring with big bands or whatever, when some things actually happened, the experience felt very unreal. Such events have been our trip to Tokyo, where we played one great show and hung out for 5 days; a similar trip to the Maldives, where we lived in our on bungalows in a five-star hotel for a week and headlined for 7000 people; and opening for Judas Priest in the Ice Hall of Helsinki. It's also very rewarding to simply hear your work is appreciated, and that happens every night we play, even though we'd be playing to a small club of 200 people instead of a hall or a festival with thousands. It's important to remember to appreciate that and not let those few spectacular events go to your head.

 

What were the highlights and low points throughout your career?

 

Mikko: Oh, I'm ahead of you once again! Well, I can add some more: of course when we signed our first record deal, that was the start of it all. The release of each record is always a high point. Our first tours abroad where great – we did a european tour and a tour of Britain with Firewind in 2008. Luckily we haven't really had a low point that would compare to the high points – at most they are nights with small crowds, fucked up schedules and that kind of stuff. I wouldn't even call those low points. This reminds me though of the few times our NAME was misspelled: in our backstage door at Bloodstock 2007 in the UK it was spelled “Kiaus” and in a german article it was once...”KLAUS”. Hahahaha...that's a joke for us that will never die.

 

What is your opinion on the metal scene these days? What do you think about the overload of bands at the moment and is there anything missing in the scene?

 

Mikko: Yes, originality! And I'd like to point my finger towards the metal audience more than the bands. For example, some critics just don't get the fact that we combine the heaviness of modern metal with melodic and rock influenced vocals and that kicks ass! I mean, for some dumbass critics we're not “power metal” enough because our singer has BALLS, and for some we are too “power metal” because he actually can sing! It seems that if your riffs and arrangements are hard and heavy, you SHOULD stick with the code and have a basic growling vocalist.

 

Now this is just a small example of what the metal scene is for many people: the SCENE and its labels are more important than the music, which SHOULD be imaginative, and maybe rebellious somehow. Of course this happens with all scenes and subcultures, so it's nothing new. But to get back to your question, I think it's good that there are a lot of bands around, it's just that too many of them are operating within the established “boxes” which the metal scene loves to maintain.

 

My solution to this in my own writing is just simply USING ALL THE BOXES and adding stuff from outside as well, while having the boxes recognizable since we do like those sounds there too.

 

What can we expect from Kiuas in the near future, any touring plans?

 

Mikko: At the moment we're touring the clubs in Finland this month, then some summer festivals, and working on a tour outside of Finland at the end of the year.

 

Where do you see the band going within the next couple of years and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?

 

Mikko: It's impossible to say before the writing starts, but now that we have four albums out, and have a recognizable sound which I'm proud of, I'll work as well as I can within that palette, and add new stuff as I go along.

 

Any last statement, here is your chance?

 

Mikko: Yes! Check out the new album ‘Lustdriven’, and if you don't know us, our back catalogue as well. Our website www.kiuas.net is updated often, so keep checking in. See you on tour!

 

Thanks for your time!

Eugene Straver

 

 

Members:

Ilja Jalkanen - Vocals

Mikko Salovaara – Guitars, Vocals

Teemu Tuominen - Bass

Markku Näreneva - Drums

Atte Tanskanen - Keyboards 

 

Former Members:

 

 

Albums:

(2004) Winter in June (EP)

(2005) The Spirit of Ukko

(2006) Reformation

(2008) The New Dark Age

(2008) Kiuas War Anthems (EP)

(2010) Lustdriven