Insomnium is a melodic death metal band from Finland. Their sixth studio album, “Shadows Of The Dying Sun,” conveys the melancholy, sorrow and dreariness of the long winter nights of their home country.
The band recently concluded the U.S. leg of a 150-city, six-continent tour with legendary Swedish headbangers Dark Tranquillity. On the last night of their stay in the U.S., The ONE Magazine’s Brandy Brown O’Bar and Allan O’Bar sat down to visit with Insomnium frontman Niilo Sevӓnen.
I can honestly say that when I was asked by Century Media to review “Shadows of the Dying Sun” by Insomnium and told that they were a melodic death metal band from Finland, I was a little worried at first.
I had heard of death metal and other kinds of metal, but surprisingly, had not reviewed anything melodic up to that point. What can I say, I’m behind the times?
Needless to say, Insomnium gained a huge fan in me after I began listening to their album. I was entranced and in awe of the sounds that they were able to create and mold out of thin air. It was inspiring. And I haven’t stopped listening to it. That being said, I had been waiting for an opportunity to interview Insomnium and my chance finally came in Dallas, Texas on January 29th — the last night of their North American tour with Dark Tranquility.
Brandy: “How is Texas treating you so far?”
Niilo: “So far so good. We were in Lubbock yesterday. No one had even heard of that place before and there were not that many people, but they were very enthusiastic and it was fun and they were really happy that we were there.”
Brandy: So the crowd wasn’t that big?
Niilo: No it was the smallest on this tour. But it was still really fun and they were really happy that we were there. I’m pretty sure it will be a huge show here in Dallas.
Brandy: Well hopefully the next time you guys come through Texas you can hit Houston. We traveled to Dallas just to get an interview with you. I’ve been waiting to do this interview for a year. Ever since Century Media gave me your album to review for our magazine! Who are some of your musical influences? How did you get into playing the type of music that you do?
Niilo: For Insomnium, in the early stages when we formed the band, the most influential bands were Scandinavian melodic death metal bands of the 90’s like In Flames, Amorphis, Dark Tranquility. Stuff like that. Of course before that, when I first got into metal it was Metallica, Sepultura, Slayer, stuff like that. But I think we get influences from many places and different sources and everyone has a bit of a different kind of taste in music and I think we all have a lot of wide taste. We listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Not just metal or rock. It can be anything.
Brandy: How do you get your voice prepped for that growl you have throughout the set?
Niilo: Actually it’s very simple. I start practicing one week before the tour starts, first one day I practice for maybe five minutes, the next day ten minutes then fifteen, and when the tour starts I am ready and it will last the whole tour. If I don’t get sick. It has happened and you can lose it completely, but in normal situations it will last.
Brandy: “Do you do any of the clean vocals or is that all Ville (Ville Friman — Guitars)?”
Niilo: “Ville does the clean vocals. I do some of the speech stuff but Ville does the clean vocals.”
Brandy: “What kind of toll does all this touring have on you? By the end are you ready to be done with it or do you enjoy every moment?”
Niilo: (laughs) “Well this is the last day of this tour and clearly everyone is tired. And we had a good party last night and drank a little bit too much, and first thing in the morning is like ‘why did I do this?’ I’m a grown up man. But yeah you can feel it in your body. On this one month tour we had only one off day and so you can feel it. A little bit sore everywhere and kind of tired, but it’s been a very good tour and very good shows… and we are very happy at the moment. Tired but happy.”
Alan: “How did you arrive at your particular bass tone? Everyone is pretty specific on what kind of tone or sound they want to create with the bass and how it will work better with the rest of the music. What was that process like for you? Or was it just ‘hey I plugged it in and it sounded good, let’s do it?'”
Niilo: “More like that. (laughs) I trust the sound engineer guys. I’m not a gear nerd at all. Actually I’m not that interested in the sound. I just want to make music and I want to play, but I’m not that interested in the technical side. But luckily I’m surrounded by people that understand sound things much better.”
Brandy: “What inspires you to do what you do? Get up every day and play the music.”
Niilo: “This is exactly the kind of music we love and we want to do and we are not making any compromises and we’re not trying to please anyone. Not even our record label or the fans or anyone. We are doing exactly what we want and that’s the best thing and the reason we are at the level we are at now. We are really honest about what we do. We do exactly what we want and we really enjoy it. And every time we go on stage we are still enthusiastic about it. I think it’s really cool to always perform your own music live, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
Brandy: “Is there anything that you would want your fans to get out of your music? Any particular message?”
Niilo: “We don’t try to convey any message or have any agenda or stuff like that. We are not a political band at all. But everyday people come to tell us how much the music means to them and how much they get out of the lyrics or some way it has contributed to their lives, so clearly people are touched by our music. But there is nothing that we would try to make them feel. Let them feel what they want.”
Brandy- “What are some of your pet peeves or something that irritates you on this tour… Or any tour?”
Niilo: “Touring on a bus like this is nice, but things like shower and toilet sometimes are hard to find and you have to just deal with it somehow. And we’ve done so many tours, so we know how it works and it will be alright… but you miss your home and the shower and toilet.
Brandy- “Any favorite TV shows or movies?”
Niilo: “There are so many but what should I say? Well at the moment, Game of Thrones, the books and the series as well. and I’m hung over (laughs) but yes I watch a lot of movies and I like mini-series but nothing comes to mind right now.”
Brandy: “What’s one of the funniest things that have happened on this tour?”
Niilo: (turns to tour manager) “Jorge what’s the funniest thing to happen on this tour? Every day is very funny and a lot of small funny things go on all the time, but one of the highlights… I think our drummer is causing a lot of funny moments on this tour. What is it called… a unicycle? The one you see in the circus. He has been doing that. He brought it with him from Finland and is practicing with it and it is really funny to watch.”
Brandy- “We really need a video of that.”
Niilo: “Actually he is pretty good now. Everyone else is trying it and almost dying so it’s really funny. But the fact that he brought it here to USA. That’s something.”
Alan: “How to clear a unicycle through customs…”
Brandy: “I saw a documentary and you said that sometimes the lyrics are complete when you get to the studio to record. Tell me a little about what process you go through to get those finished.”
Niilo: “Well usually we try to finish all of the lyrics before the studio, but sometimes it has happened that one song is not completely finished, so then you just take your time and try to write it there… find some moment. But we try to make everything as ready as possible when going to the studio. I can’t understand bands who go to the studio and start composing or jamming there. If they have a lot of money I guess they can do that, but that is very expensive. We want to have everything ready to go to the studio when we go.”
Brandy: “Is there anything you want to add or tell your fans?”
Niilo: “Well, we love America. It’s always great to come here, and the plan is to do a headlining tour. We will see when that happens.”
We certainly hope to see them in Houston.
Alan and I were able to catch the show after the interview and Insomnium did not disappoint. Most of their set consisted of songs from “Shadows of the Dying Sun,” and I will say that after seeing a lot of live shows, many bands do not sound much like their album but Insomnium was spot on.
They were energetic and responsive to the crowd, and the audience loved them in return. I can’t wait to see them again, and we will definitely catch them on their headlining tour in the US when that comes about.
If you haven’t checked them out, check them out on Facebook and Twitter (links below).
Check out the photo gallery from Insomnium and Dark Tranquillity at Trees in Dallas, Texas on January 29, 2015.
Niilo Sevänen − vocals, bass
Ville Friman − backing vocals, guitar
Markus Hirvonen − drums
Markus Vanhala − guitar
Photos by Scott W. Coleman