Metsatöll - 12/03/2010

METSATÖLL is an Estonian folk metal band. The name "Metsatöll" is an ancient Estonian euphemism for wolf, which is reflected in the harshness of their lyrics. Much of their material, featuring flutes and other traditional instruments, is based on the wars for independence of the 13th and 14th centuries. The band started playing in 1998 as a three-piece (Markus – vocals and guitar, Factor – drums, Andrus – bass), playing epic heavy metal with subtle influences from ancient Estonian folklore. Their debut album called ‘Terast Mis Hangund Me Hinge’ (Steel Frozen In Our Souls) was released at that time.

 

In 2000, a good friend Varulven joined the band. Thus far he had observed the activities of the band and had from time to time joined them on stage. Varulven is a self-taught player of a number of ancient Estonian folk instruments and they soon realised that metal and old Estonian folk fit together perfectly. Since then, the music of Metsatöll has intertwined more and more with old Estonian runo-singing and traditional melodies. After several line-up changes, Metsatöll released their second album, called ‘Hiiekoda’ (My Home, My Sacred Grove) in late 2004, which was critically acclaimed by both metal and non-metal fans from all over Estonia. It is a heavy metal album strongly combined with old Estonian traditional instruments. In 2005, Metsatöll released a remake of their album ‘Terast Mis Hangund Me Hinge’ which they called ‘Terast Mis Hangunud Me Hinge 10218’ . The number stands for the world's age according to Estonian chronology. On the remake the folk music element is more prominent and the album has a much more professional sound in general.

 

 

In 2009, Metsatöll signed with the Finnish record label Spinefarm Records and they recently released their new album which is entitled "Äio". In order to get to know the band a little better, we recently talked to Markus (Vocals, Guitar), Raivo (Bass, Vocals) and Lauri (Vocals, Guitar, Flutes, Torupill). Here you can read what they had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

First of all, how are you doing? Congratulations on your new album ‘Äio’, of course we’d like to ask you a couple of questions about it!

 

Could you start this interview off with a little update of what’s been happening since your previous release ‘Livakivi’?

 

Markus: After the release of ‘Livakivi’ we toured Estonia and Finland for a bit, followed by a few gigs elsewhere in Europe. We filmed a DVD called ‘Kõva Kont’ and all of a sudden we found ourselves negotiating with Spinefarm. And about half a year after the contract was signed, inspiration for a new album arrived…
 

Raivo: And in order to get rid of the inspiration, we started writing new songs. But the more we worked on the news songs, the weightier the inspiration on our shoulders became. We could have written several albums in one go, but luckily we ran out of time and had to embark on the European tour.
 

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

 

Markus: It happened in the spring of last year, in March, when new material kept accumulating and we realized that a new album was inevitable, even though we knew our European tour had already been settled. At first we did some demos in our rehearsal room, but early in summer we travelled to the other end of the country, to a solitary farmstead. I guess composing the songs took about four months. After that, we began recording them.


Raivo: Some songs were born in a matter of minutes, some failed to mature enough to end up on the album. They will have to wait for their time.
 

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?

 

Markus: I think that Äio is recognizably Metsatöll, but we added something more intellectual as well as raw speed to our new songs. I think we took a step forward compared to our previous albums.


Raivo: There was no prior conception, the only condition was that the album must not copy our previous releases. The songs came out the way they did, the way we are right now.

Lauri: I think that with Metsatöll, the approach will choose the songwriter, rather than the songwriter choosing the approach. Everything is born spontaneously and in accordance with our low brows.

 

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

 

Markus: The reason for recording the new album was precisely that the inspiration was so good. Nothing had to be dragged out of us forcefully. Writing this album was really quite easy.


Raivo: There were no big birthing pains, just the happiness for getting a new litter of songs. And then a lot of work elaborating the songs.

 

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies?

 

Markus: This is different each time, but specifically with ‘Äio’ it was melodies first, and only then the lyrics. Or to be more precise, first we had the riffs (the basic tracks), then melodies and then lyrics.


Raivo: Indeed, for this album the emotions coming from the basic tracks told us what the song would come to be about.


Lauri: Lyrics and melodies. But, of course, a metal song consists not only of lyrics and melodies, but lyrics, melodies and the damn heavy drumming. So, it doesn’t matter what comes first, the lyrics or melodies, the drumming finally smothers it all anyway.

 

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

 

Markus: The goal was to turn the inspiration into good songs and to make sure no song would repeat itself, and then to definitely use a real male choir; previously, we sung the choir parts ourselves, but this never turned out like the real thing. There is also more room for different traditional instruments. We also wanted the best possible production values for our music, to make sure it sounded properly powerful.


Raivo: The choir bits were a separate goal. We have co-operated with the National Male Choir before and it would be a great loss to leave it just with that one project, since a male choir fits perfectly with Metsatöll’s music.

 

Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

 

Markus: We were hoping that Äio would turn out the way it did, and we are more than satisfied with the results. Karmila is God!

 

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

 

Markus: It goes both ways. Mostly, each member of Metsatöll will generate their ideas somewhere else than together in the rehearsal room. In the rehearsal room, we will start to try and fit the different ideas together. It has happened that one member has written an entire song from start to finish, but this is very rare.


Raivo: For me, various different riffs were born in the rehearsal room as well. The studio equipment in the rehearsal room allowed us to make proper recordings of the songs before heading off to the studio, so that we could discover the merits and faults of our brainchildren by listening to the rehearsal recordings, and in this way it was simple to make things better and get rid of the unnecessary parts. The end result was down to group effort, everybody added something and if most people thought that some idea is crap or we had already heard it from somewhere, its life was ended by the Delete button.


Lauri: It really depends on the song, every song embodies its own and unique creative process: there are songs written by one person, songs spiced up with additional details from others, and then there are true mathematical constructions all banged up together, with which nobody remembers who came up with what.

 

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

 

Markus: I like it when there are interesting bass guitar riffs; an interesting and different use of the bass guitar adds melody and natural power to our music.


Raivo: The song must have emotion.


Lauri: Different components work with different music. If we take a wider perspective, not just with this album and band, the most important component of a song is its message, and that it will reach the target audience. Music is a conscious or subconscious means of communication and it is important to make sure that what you communicate with the song would be well within the competence of you as a songwriter, you must know what you are doing and are about to do, what you want to say. If you do not know, or cannot take responsibility for the information you are shooting out of your mouth and heart, your song is no more valuable than the crowing of cocks or the shrieking of pigs. Then again, the shrieking of pigs does have its own aesthetic value, at least then you know that soon you will be having some good sausages.

 

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

 

Markus:Äio’ is the essence of sleep. Sleep is the brother of death. ‘Äio’ gives people sleep to rest from daily troubles, lets the soul free and allows it to soar. Sleep makes the aching body and soul strong again.


Lauri:Äio’, which appeared in the older South Estonian literary language as “Äiu”, in more recent times and even today appears in the choruses of lullabies: “Äiu-äiu, kussu-kussu” (English match for “kussu” is “hush”, in South Estonian “tšuu-tšuu” – everywhere it sounds the same). Putting the child asleep was a magical activity and lullabies were kinds of magical spells that work quite well even today – the child does fall asleep. Thus was the child hushed to sleep. ‘Äiu’ or ‘Äio’ was the essence of sleep that came upon people and took them into its power. ‘Äio’, similar to other essences or powers (these are not gods as they appear in the world-view of a western person, even the word “jumal” which corresponds to “god” means in the Estonian language a power or essence, not an old geezer sitting on a cloud), such as Taara (subsequently the Scandinavian male god Thor), or the earth-mother, is a female essence. Not a male, as it is with the concept of God in the Christian tradition. In Finland, the word for mother is “Äiti” – the one who hushes. Before Äiu there was definitely also “Uni” (sleep) who was called upon – this is also readily apparent in old lullabies. Meanings change in time, as do beliefs.


In olden times, the following was sung to children: “Äiu-äiu towards death, grow towards cold grave, move towards a sandy hole” – sleep, too, was like a small death. Remember that small children are afraid of going to sleep, because they do not know, once they fall asleep, whether they will ever see the next morning, the sun and the hushing mother again. This is where the “brother of death” comes from. Or was it the sister – I can no longer remember.

And thus like children we all go to sleep each night, but we have become accustomed to waking up every morning, and that each day the sun will rise again and that every day our life-keeper will be there, be it the hushing mother, the mother of our own children, or the earth-mother. But one day death will take sleep’s place.

 

Who was responsible for the lyrics on this album and where do you get your inspiration from? Are there any stories behind the lyrics?

 

Markus: Quite honestly, it was Kuriraivo who gave his best with the lyrics. The topics that we sing about are timeless, they are legends and fantasy.


Raivo: Like the music, Metsatöll’s message has become ever more grown-up as the years go by. With our next album our goal is to reach yet another level and then Metsatöll’s lyrics will turn into the senile grumbling of old geezers.


Lauri: I’m always in favor of one person writing all of the lyrics of one song, because world-views are different and ways of expressing as well. It is the same way with this album, too – every song is its own unique story.

 

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?

 

Markus: Recording this album was truly unique. We recorded in three different studios. The drums were recorded in Finnvox studios in Finland. Guitars, bass and vocals were recorded in Tallinn, and the traditional instruments and some vocals were recorded in Tartu, in South Estonia. Mixing was again done in Finland, once we got back from the European tour. Recording took about three months.


Raivo: We were very precise even about the smallest of details, while at the same time trying to maintain a natural feel. I believe that we succeeded in this.

Lauri: What I liked was recording my instruments, we chose the closest possible location for me – I only had to drive 86 kilometers from home, while the capital is over 300 km away. In the Tartu studio I could take my time and, having nothing but alcohol-free drinks, I could immediately record whatever whacky idea came to mind. Most of the time was nevertheless spent not on playing and recording, but on unpacking and tuning the instruments. I guess I overdid it a little bit. To console the listener, however, I can admit that not all of the instruments were used on the album!

 

Do you have any favourites on the album?

 

Markus: Just as with previous albums, I like all of the songs on ‘Äio’. We will not put a song that we don’t like on our album.


Raivo: It depends on the moment, but there are no children on this album that do not receive our fatherly love.


Lauri: My favorite is “Come Now My Kindred” mainly due to Kuriraivo’s lyrics, it is a damn pity that non-Estonians will not get the full pleasure out of it, since the English language is simply unable to express everything that a proper Estonian sauna does to a man!

 

Have you received any feedback on the album yet?

 

Markus: It’s too early to tell! I guess that perhaps in a month or so a few reviews will have been published and then I can give a better answer.


Raivo: My brother said that it’s a pretty good album.

 

 

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

 

Markus: This again goes both ways, in the sense that it is very good if people care about what we do, but we are all down to earth and understand that you cannot appeal to everyone. We make our music the way we like and it’s the best this way. Because if you allow yourself to be influenced by the opinion of others, you may end up doing nothing at all.


Raivo: Surprisingly, we have not had to take others into account, because if we like it ourselves, there’s a good chance there is somebody somewhere who will buy the album, and with us, there are in fact several of these somebodies. We haven’t changed ourselves according to other people’s pointers and I think you can hear that on the album.

 

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

 

Markus: I like the album cover and the back picture.


Raivo: The album is quite long, but no song can be excluded, everything is the way it has to be.

 

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

 

Markus: I am mainly motivated to write by the nature and life around me. I can’t really answer this question because inspiration cannot be commanded.


Raivo: I want to write about things that have substance. It was not hard to find motivation for ‘Äio’, all sorts of different topics keep circling around.


Lauri: To create motivation for anything, there’s nature all around. It is great that in Estonian, “loodus”, the word for nature, means “in the creation”.

 

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

 

Markus: I have several that I like to play the most. It is more difficult to play faster songs at the end of gigs, because the heat and sweat on stage do their work, but damn how I love it.


Raivo: It depends on where you play. If you get a good contact with the audience, then the gig will be good. Naturally enough, it is more difficult to play the more complex songs, but it is precisely this that is exciting.

 

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

 

Lauri: I am certain the answers would be different if the concepts were in Estonian or in Dutch!

 

Metal :
Markus: Music
Raivo: Ugly guys

Lauri: Anvil
 

Underground :
Markus: Spirit
Raivo: Closed circle

Lauri: Mole
 

Internet :
Markus: Electricity
Raivo: Efukt

Lauri: Loss of time
 

Religion :
Markus:
Poison
Raivo: Control

Lauri: Cicero
 

Politics :
Markus: Chess
Raivo: Power struggle

Lauri: Tactics

The Netherlands :
Markus:
PESTILENCE!!!!
Raivo: Bicycle

Lauri: Hailander
 

Estonia :
Markus: Home
Raivo: Sweet home

Lauri: Coin with two sides

 

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

 

Markus: Fifteen years ago I couldn’t even dream of recording albums and going on tours. At the end of the 90s, metal in Estonia was dead as a doornail. I assumed that I would stay in Estonia, play only in small clubs and make albums when we would get the money for it, and burn our own CD-s. I’m happy that we have made the choice in favor of making more music, that we pulled ourselves together and kept pushing forward. Life has been interesting, and there’s no point in denying that it is always great to play live. And the emotion you get from playing in a band is not measurable in money.


Raivo: After every year with Metsatöll, I’ve looked back in surprise and thought, what a successful year, does it get any better than this? And then the next year will be even better, and so on. 

 

 

What were the highlights and low points throughout your career?

 

Markus : 1999 24.02: the decision to create Metsatöll.
                2002 Video for Hundiloomine (The Creation of the Wolf)
                2004 Hiiekoda
                2008 Contract with Spinefarm
                2009 European tour with Ensiferum.

 

Lauri: Were these the highlights or the low points? :)

 

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?

 

Markus: I like it that there is a lot of metal. Metal music has widened its borders and we’ll see where particular genres develop in the next few years. I don’t think there’s anything missing from the metal scene, I’m more interested in seeing when the development will stop and what sorts of bands will remain. I wouldn’t worry about there being too many bands, because for every new band to appear, an old one will disappear… Where to? I cannot tell.

 

Raivo: I don’t really have the time to keep up with everything, I usually hear the bands that have somehow gotten the upper hand in the competition and thus are high quality. There is a lot of repetition though – I wish bands were more original.


Lauri: Are there too many metal bands? I’m not up to date, either – I can’t even remember when I last listened to a new metal album from beginning to end – perhaps a year ago? Jokes aside, I think the problem is not the number of bands in any given genre, but rather the endless possibilities for using means of communication, the staggeringly easy access to recording equipment and the stupendously fast spread of information. I do believe that there is the same number of good musicians across centuries.

 

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

 

Markus: Currently we have a couple festivals coming up, no talk of tours as of yet.


Raivo: We’ll just have to see what kinds of doors does ‘Äio’ open up for us, there will definitely be a lot of gigs all over.


Lauri: For tomorrow I’m planning a small tour of my home forest – I don’t yet have sufficient firewood to last me through the year after.

 

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?

 

Markus: I cannot say what will become of us and it is too early to discuss the next album, because ‘Äio’ is still so fresh.


Raivo: The musical direction of the next album will become apparent during the next few years, when new ideas and thoughts begin to sprout; we ourselves are constantly changing as well.

 

A last statement?

 

Markus: See you on the battlefield!!!!
 

Raivo: See you at coffee shops!!!

 

Lauri: Raisk!

 

Best regards,

Eugene Straver

 

 

Members:

Markus Teeäär – Vocals, Guitar

Lauri Õunapuu – Vocals, Guitar, Flutes, Torupill (Estonian bagpipes) & other traditional instruments

Kuri Raivo – Bass, Vocals

Atso – Drums, Vocals

 

Former members:

Silver Rattasepp – Drums

Andrus Tins – Bass 

 

Albums:

(1998) - Terast Mis Hangund Me Hinge

(2004) - Hiiekoda 

(2005) - Terast Mis Hangund Me Hinge 10218  

(2007) - Curse Upon Iron (Live album) 

(2008) - Iivakivi  

(2010) - Äio

 

EP’s:

(2006) - Sutekskäija