In 2009 I and my very close comrade and a genius zinester too, mr. Antti Korpinen, decided to make a zine together. We thought that there is so much good death metal around that it must have a zine of itself. So The Serpent Bearer and Kaleidoscope united as Serpentscope and we had lots of fun while doing this. Lots of ideas, variations, try-out etc. It was very refreshing to do this “same ol’ thing” with somebody else after all these years.
And the result was very good – maybe a bit too traditional, but the content itself was strong, and the line-up was very impressive: Autopsy, Cauldron Black Ram, Daniel Ekeroth, Diocletian, Embrace of Thorns, Grave Miasma, Hooded Menace, Invidious, Portal, Rippikoulu, Sepulchral Aura and Teitanblood. The zine sold very well too, but it took three years when we got back to make the issue #2. But more about that later.
I was responsible of the interviews with Autopsy, Cauldron Black Ram, Hooded Menace, Invidious, Rippikoulu and Sepulchral Aura, and everyone except Invidious succeeded satisfyingly. Here is one of those interviews, a chat with Lasse Pyykkö from Hooded Menace. Although I have been little bit disappointed with the latest HM album Effigies of Evil – it keeps its quality but doesn’t get higher – this band is still quite unique in what it is doing.
And to beef this interview a bit, here’s something what Pyykkö said about Candlemass’ Epicus Doomicus Metallicus in an article about his biggest sources of inspiration (originally published in Imperiumi.net 2009):
– I bumped to this album around 1988 and with time it really hit me. The desperate, slow and heavy feeling of the music made a big impact. I guess the music had to be either extremely slow or extremely fast to make an impress, haha! Candlemass seemed to be a band which is dark and serious to the bone, and this really excited me. But then I saw the video of Bewitched from Nightfall album and this feeling flattened a bit, heh. I was like, “okay, it’s all about being pigs after all”! Well, you took every bit and piece very seriously back then, especially if it was your favourite band. Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is the best doom metal band ever, and it is a big influence on Hooded Menace too.
Horror has always been a great weakness but also a tool of power for us humans. You can control masses with the images and threat of horror, but if man wins his biggest fears, he grows stronger. But I guess there will never be a man without fear: there is always something that brings up horror and shivers, be it boogiemen, cramped places or simply death.
However, in this “modern” world we search for horror to bring us excitement and the feeling that we are still alive. There are amusement parks with their stomach-turning machines, there are bungee jumps and there are of course a wide variety of horror movies to satisfy our darkest and most terrifying needs. And there is music; I can remember that when I was younger I used to listen to Elend’s Umbersun while I was sleeping to get my imagination going and to create more horrible nightmares.
One expert on this topic is Lasse Pyykkö and his band Hooded Menace, which is however far from neo-classical music. No; if Elend’s musical realm of nightmares can be compared to The Ninth Gate, Hooded Menace travels with cheap horror movies full of witchcraft, deformed monsters and blood rituals. The band really lives up to its name: like an obscure figure in the window, this sludgy doom/death band stares at you with heavy, agonizing eyes, full of hollowness and torments. Pyykkö sees the unholy union between death/doom metal and horror as something quite natural:
– Fear and death will always be involved in our lives. As long as death metal sounds foreboding it evokes evil and horrifying imaginary. Horror is rooted to death metal.
But there is a gap between bands that are truly exploring the backyards of horror and fear and bands that are more or less playing with basic imagery of skulls, witches and nightly creatures – on the other hand you have Hammer movies, on the other hand you have The Silence of the Lambs; on the other hand you have somewhat childish vampire stories, on the other hand you have H.P. Lovecraft, who created his own twisted and occult world of extraterrestrial torments. I’m not suggesting that one is better than the other or that these genres couldn’t be mixed together, but it’s suitable to ask, does Hooded Menace try to be a truly horrifying band or is this all just a costume or a way of doing things.
– Horror films just go well with this stuff and it’s very natural for us to use them as an inspiration and an influence. I couldn’t even think of anything else. I have my up’s and down’s just as everyone else but I’m not a suffering artist that needs to cry out his anguish to the world. Perhaps that would give some depth and ”real” horror to Hooded Menace but that would be totally pretentious. Besides I don’t even write any of our lyrics. Fictional tales of horror is what we are all about and that’s all we need. It’s just perfect.
Oh yes, the lyrics. Lasse says that he’s extremely lazy when it comes to writing lyrics so it was better to leave the task for people who were more inspired to do the job. And so only the most devoted horror freaks were invited: Billy Nocera from Hooded Menace’s label Razorback, horror writer Lucio Holocausto and some other experts of guts and gore. Lasse is all slimy smiles when talking about the lyrical process:
– Billy asked his horror obsessed friends to write some lyrics for Hooded Menace so basically it was Billy who got this circle of horror fiends together. We’re really happy and grateful to have this crew of talented people around us helping us out. I hope they will stick around for a long time!
But was it easy to contour limits and orders to them about the themes or did you just give 100% freedom to the lyricists?
– Everyone wrote what they wanted to. I’m not sure if Billy had recommended a certain film to write about for someone. We just checked the lyrics and ascertained that they were great. Some of the stuff had to be scissored since there were too many lines. We never had any problems with the content itself. It was always perfect.
If the lyrics are painting canvases of death and terror, it should be asked, how much the main brain Pyykkö sees his music as pictures and visions before it transforms to riffs and actual songs.
– Yeah, sure some riffs/songs can paint a picture in a head. Since our stuff is closely connected to The Blind Dead films it’s obvious that the pictures from those films start rolling in my head once I hear or write Hooded Menace’s music. Gloomy graveyards, slow motion pacing of the zombies, riding blind dead templars, the swing of the sword, the undead rising from their tombs, virgin sacrifices… it’s all there.
IT’S NOT A MATTER OF TIME
Pyykkö is talking the words of wisdom here. The aforementioned description suits very well with the audial assault of Hooded Menace: the pace of these songs is somewhere between slow crawling of the zombies and riding templars, the riffs are anguished and breath-taking like a moldy tomb around you, and Pyykkö’s hollow grunts and growls go well together with the first sounds of the rising undead. The reviews of Fulfill the Curse have been raving, and also Pyykkö says that this album turned out almost perfect and he’s pretty damn proud of it. However, before this blossoming season there were many dry years in Pyykkö’s musical life:
– I wasn’t musically very active during the years ‘96 – 2004. After Phlegethon (one of the Pyykkö’s first bands) was buried in ‘92 we started playing music with the same line-up under various names until half of the guys moved away from Joensuu. After that I jammed in occasional line-up, I was working and then went to studying. Making my own music was always in my mind but somehow I didn’t quite get anything that serious done until 2005 when I started working on new Phlegethon material. Before that I was just drifting without aspiration and true passion. After founding a spark to write metal again it felt very natural and right thing to do. I guess heavy metal has been dwelling under my skin all these years since Phlegethon split up and now it all needs to get out, ha!
So like a tumor in your system, the virus of true metal never dies but just transforms and evolves. You could say that Hooded Menace and Fulfill the Curse are the result of this progression and momentum, but Pyykkö doesn’t totally agree with my assumption:
– Basically I could have written songs like that because I dug the same bands back then. We (Phlegethon) just lacked the interest in forming a band or a serious project that was just doom/death. We wanted to be more versatile at the time. Obviously we knew Candlemass and we got into Cathedral very early since we were tape-trading and Teemu got the Cathedral demo in his hands when it was released. We liked that stuff much better than what Napalm Death was doing at the time, so we definitely thought that Lee Dorrian made the right move, ha! I didn’t care too much about Napalm Death after Dorrian and Steer left. We were just so focused on Phlegethon that we didn’t even consider a serious side-project.
– However we did a fun project in ‘90 or so and played “doomcore”, meaning extremely slow and short songs. That sounded like a stupid idea enough to execute, haha! Doom was an influence for Phlegethon anyway. We blended some doom to our death/thrash and that was it. We even recorded a Candlemass song with death metal vocals during the recording sessions of our first demo in ‘89 but it was never mixed. The vocals were pretty half-assed since it all became a big laughter. Death metal vocals in a doom song were a bit funny to us at the time… We were more interested in playing complex stuff with lots of tempo variations from slow doom to fast death metal (not blastbeat) than playing just slow and simple doom/death. Now as I’m older I enjoy playing simpler stuff. I don’t have to prove anything as a player. I might be a lousy guitarist but I am good enough for Hooded Menace and Vacant Coffin and that’s enough.
Like many of you know, Hooded Menace is not Pyykkö’s only band. There is a list of great or at least promising metal groups, which fulfill Pyykkö’s curse (eh) of creating metal, like the aforementioned Vacant Coffin with its splendid and nostalgic mix of death metal and grindcore, a death metal band called Shrouded with Decrepitath main man Elektrokutioner, and a psychedelic doom/death metal combo Acid Witch. This variety of bands gives a picture of Pyykkö being a hyper-active multi-instrumentalist who plays and writes and breathes and shits metal 24/7. Is this true or is there any space for other activities in your life?
– There’s space enough for other things as well. It’s about using the time efficiently. My occupation is a visual artist so I need some time to paint also but I have to admit that I spend more time on music. I also do some paperwork for a company and of course spend time with my girlfriend. Music is not everything though it’s a lot and every now and then I do get pretty stressed about it. When that happens I just take a break.
The man sounds quite rational after all, if we compare this to the teenagers’ way of thinking in the 80’s the 90’s or even today, who just go rampaging everywhere with their metal, spikes and gory lyrics – like the youngsters of Sepultura, Possessed or Nihilist. This progressing during aging has two different sides however: while others think that when you live and learn, you get a deeper picture about things, others say that only the young flame is pure and untamed enough to create significant works of art. This latter road got for example Repugnant to end their journey and move on to pastures new, if the rumors are correct. Pyykkö, who was involved in six releases in 2008, chooses the first road but always finds some reasons from the modern times also.
– I can remember that the urge to create music was extremely strong back then and it hasn’t changed a bit. Actually nowadays I’m way more productive but that’s very much because of this modern technique… Back then all I had was a crappy acoustic guitar and a recording tape player. Anyway, the passion to create music is still the same although it’s 2009 and all these ideas are used for many, many times before. It’s almost retarded, haha! However, the “flame” keeps burning just as it ever was but sure I’m not as naive as back then and I’m a bit more relaxed also and try not to expect too much. I guess I have realized that there’s more to life than just music, heh!
Still Pyykkö is not recycling the same ideas in every band, and so Vacant Coffin sounds different to Acid Witch, and these two bands are in turn miles away from Hooded Menace. Because Hooded Menace is still Pyykkö’s main love, I guess Vacant Coffin and Acid Witch have a some sort of effect – positive or negative – on Hooded Menace?
– The only negative effect or a negative thing is that sometimes I have hard time deciding which band I should use this and that riff for, Pyykkö answers surprisingly, and continues: – As I recently wrote songs for Claws (my solo project) I could have used a few doomy riffs for Hooded Menace as well. Sometimes things like that give me a headache.
Yes, Claws. Another name to be carved to Pyykkö’s musical tombstone. Explanations please!
– Claws is a pure death metal “band” in the vein of Crematory (Swe), Abhorrence (Fin), Incantation, Nihilist/Entombed etc. I wanted it to sound really raw and ugly. Just as it were a lost demo tape from the late 80’s/early 90’s. I also didn’t care too much about the mistakes, especially for the drums. The process was pretty unique. I improvised all the drum tracks except for one song that was written before the drums were recorded. So, I had to make the riffs match to the drums and also make real songs. Not just mindless riff after riff -thing though sometimes that’s what death metal is about, ha! Perfect arrangements aren’t needed.
– So, I tried to make good, solid songs and I think it turned out cool. Also my attempt was to write and record everything very fast to avoid the pickyness and perfectionism. As I said I wanted it to sound really nasty and not “perfect” in the modern terms, you know. Despite the fact that I had all the time in the world since I was recoding on my own gear I managed to be careless and impatient enough to get everything written and recorded in about two weeks. I only need to record vocals for six songs and then it’ll be ready for the mix. There will be eight tracks + an intro on the album. The process was quite easy though I hadn’t been playing drums much lately so I was a bit rusty and pretty worried about how it’s gonna work but it turned out ok. It is a cool performance for this type of thing.
– Working like this wasn’t a totally new thing to me because with Shrouded I improvised the drums and Elektrokutioner added guitars and created the actual songs. In Claws I get to play guitar to my drums and create the songs so this was more exciting to me. Once again I got lyrical help from Billy Razorback, Tanya and Elektrokutioner. The album is entitled Absorbed in the Nethervoid and it’ll be out this year on Razorback Records. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that also Claws’ The Funeral Barge 7” EP will be out this year by Doomentia Records. That stuff was recorded last year.
BACKWARDS BY NATURE
As they say, you have to strike while the zombie is hot, and it seems that Hooded Menace spewed out Fulfill the Curse when the time was absolutely right: reviewers like it, buyers like it and people are hunting down the vinyl versions like Attila the Hun his enemies. But at the same time we can see how bands like Reverend Bizarre are climbing to the charts here in Finland, and doom metal seems to be the new black in metal circles. The reasonable man he is, Pyykkö doesn’t care about naysayers and sees that the success of Fulfill the Curse doesn’t depend on today’s trends.
– Trends come and go. There are always posers within the scene. As time goes by they will be somewhere else.
But it is a bit surprising to notice how even people who usually prefer black metal are digging Hooded Menace like maniacs. You could almost say that this band is universal among extreme metal genres: all the people from doom, death and black metal are gathering to praise this slimy monster. Pyykkö doesn’t find any particular reason for this hype among black metal listeners.
– I guess we sound evil enough or something… Whatever it is, it’s cool that also black metal people can enjoy our stuff, although I only listen to a handful of black metal bands. Classic stuff like early Bathory, Beherit and some Burzum and Darkthrone are great but mostly I find the genre quite boring and sometimes tragicomical.
Besides the indifferent and weak second rate black metal, which Hooded Menace could crush with one heavy slab of the guitar, Pyykkö has also showed his despise to modern times in one or two interviews. The man himself backs up a bit and says that for example myspace and the modern recording equipment work fine for him, but the main spirit itself is coming from the dusty sewers of the past.
– I’m looking backwards by nature. That’s the stuff I know, that’s what I grew up with and what I love the most. It doesn’t even feel like I’m looking back or forth or anywhere. I’m only trying to make good music and I know that it usually turns out to be more like old fashioned than modern. It’s not a choice really.