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Domination Black

Line up:

Juha Beck - drums
Lauri Eerola - bass
Juuso Elminen - keyboards
Teppo Heiskanen - guitars
Matias Palm - vocals
Ville Wiren - guitars

Tonight is sold out in Club PRKL, Helsinki. Finntroll is coming, but what we are more interested about right now is their support: Domination Black. These guys from Kotka have just released their third album, the first with the new singer Matias Palm. And it’s with him and the rest of the band that in the smallest backstage room ever we had this nice discussion before the show:

Marco: First thing, thanks for having this interview! I would like to ask you if you can briefly introduce the band to our readers, and provide some background for who hasn’t heard of you yet.

Lauri: We are Domination Black, now we are here in Helsinki at Club PRKL, here is Matias, our singer, Ville, our guitar hero, and then there is Jukka, who’s our guest here… it’s sort of a birthday present for him today. The others guys of the band are now setting the stage and stuff.

M.: Ok, so what are the main influences that create the sound of this band, where do you take inspiration?

L.: I think we like many different kinds of music.
Ville: For example, when we did our first album I made all the songs. I have never listened to Judas Priest, and then when I read all the reviews they were like "this sounds so much like Judas Priest", "how? I have never listened to them much!", "oh but this sounds like really good music!".
Now I know that it was because our previous singer was really into that. They said "you look really good live, he has really nice moves" and so on. Then I saw Judas Priest and I was like "Uhm… now I see!" [laughs]
L.: Yeah but we had many influences, like KISS, Judas Priest, and many Thrash metal bands.
V.: And everyone of us has a different style, I play more like Slayer and Metallica, Matias has a much more melodic approach, Iron Maiden, Queen… And when it all comes together I think it’s really good stuff! This is the music I want to play.

M.: Alright, sounds good then! But besides for the EP in 2008, this album, "Dimension: Death" comes six years after the previous one. With the major difference that there’s now this guy here (points at Matias) as a singer!

V.: Yeah, it’s a really big difference.

M.: So how do you think your sound has changed compared to the previous record?

V.: Everything has changed really much. Matias brings more melody and more… "balls" to the band.
L.: I think the songs we have now in "Dimension: Death" have improved when Matias joined the band, since he had many more ideas. Then we cut the pieces, and put all together again. And when we tried them we noticed that Matias added a lot of melody to them.
V.: What I like of these songs is that the base is really straightforward, like Slayer, but Matias have really good melodic vocals, and I don’t know how he makes it sound like that, but it’s really nice! It’s a mixture of heavy, melodic, and fast ingredients.
Juha: I think when Matias came in, the melodies and arrangements got so much better than before…

M.: (to Matias) And what do you think you have brought to this band?

Matias: Well, I think I heard a lot of potential in those demo tracks that they had. They didn’t have any vocals in them… and there was this one song which is one of my favorites now, since we changed it so much. Basically we had a demo background track for each track that was ready, so everything I had to do was to compose the melodies, and maybe I changed a few chords here and there. But it was fun! [laughs]

M.: So as you all said, the style is definitely different, and the record in general is much more melodic. You’ve certainly given some "restyling" to the band!

M.: You mean me? I think those songs were already quite melodic, way more than, for example, the second album, which didn’t have really lots of that in it. So I just added the vocals, cause I cannot really arrange a song without a vocal melody. That is how I see it. So that might be the main reason of why the whole album sounds different.

M.: And would you say that you had to "adapt" more the songs to your style, or yourself to the songs?

M.: I didn’t really have to adapt myself, I was probably singing in a more aggressive way at times, but it was good because it was a good rehearsal for me.
V.: I think the vocals of Matias in this record are the best I’ve heard from him. Because normally he has really good clean vocals, and here now he got more rough, more aggressive.
M.: Yeah, because the songs were of course really "pounding", heavy metal stuff… so you cannot just put like some sort of clean and easy power metal "Timo Kotipelto"-voice there!

M.: Of course! But if we come back to the album, I assume that the composition of the songs began already when there was the previous singer.

M.: Yes!
J.: There are lots of demos with his vocals in them.
M.: They are completely different.
V.: Yeah, they are really different. When we first began with the demos there are these 2 or 3 tracks we were recording, and they sounded like the two first albums. The base is pretty much the same, but now the result is really different.

M.: Ok. Did you also change something in the way you have recorded and produced the album?

V.: No, I don’t think so, it pretty much just happened.
M.: Of course it was easier in a way for us, because we already had all the demo tracks before, so we knew how it would have sounded like in the end. We didn’t really have to think about it that much.
L.: And we have played live those songs many times.
M.: Yes I think almost half of the album had been played live already before we started to record.
L.: And that’s why then it was easier to record that.
V.: In the first album we did like this: the song is ready from a really long time, then we just went and recorded it. But for the second one we were always like "the song is almost ready", but then we were going to the studio and "we must make this and that"… ahhh, horrible! [laughs]

M.: And can you explain a bit the concept behind the artwork of this album, as well as for what concerns the lyrics?

L.: The artist was Jarkko Vanhala, and he had this idea about the guy you see in the image, behind some kind of gate, and behind him there is hell.
M.: You’re forgetting something now, because the original idea for the cover was a little different, it was supposed to be based on the "Angel Dark" song and lyrics. Which means that this guy would have been pictured with a spiritism table, or something like that. And that’s how all the "Dimension: Death" theme came out, since most of the songs I would say have something to do with "connecting with the dead". So that’s how we got this image of him standing at the gates of the "dimension death".
L.: Basically that’s the same guy we had in the first and second album.
M.: So now you can see that this has to do also for example with the song "Porter At The Gates of Hell". This is actually the porter, which is our mascot.
V.: He is been away six years, but now he is back from summer holidays, and he is a really angry one! [laughs] After holidays and sauna, he’s back!
L.: After sauna, two beers and one bottle of Koskenkorva! [laughs]

M.: I don’t see why he should be pissed off then! The record has been released by this Kanki Records, from your hometown, Kotka. I guess is some kind of small label?

L.: Very very small.
V.: No, it’s Finland’s biggest! [laughs]
L.: It’s very small. Actually it isn’t really a record company at all. We have one bar in Kotka, and behind the bar is this company, or organization, and so we thought that we could also produce the record ourselves. Since we were in a situation where we didn’t really have many good choices for a record company. And there is another guy in that company, Jussi Serengil, who has a band called Wolftrap. They had our same problem, so we both thought that it would have been a good idea. We found that name, Kanki Records.
And I think it’s a good way to make records, being in the band and also in the record company. Then we are in the same boat, and we have the same interests. If the band is good enough then it reflects in the record company, and if the company is good, then the band thinks that the company is good also. [laughs]
M.: Basically you can just say that we are good!
L.: Yeah, we are good! And both the band and the company have the same goal.
M.: To be good!
L.: Yeah, to be good! And famous! [laughs]
M.: Also to be cool!
V.: At this point I have to say that Lauri sounds like Mika Häkkinen! [laughs]
L.: When you are driving a Formula 1…!
M.: It’s the most important thing when you’re running a record company!

M.: Or when you’re running in Formula 1…

M.: Yes, it’s like running in Formula 1! [laughs]
V.: But if I have a record company and someone makes this kind of album, I’d be really happy. It’s a fucking great album.

M.: And is there many "indie" labels like this in Finland? Do you think it’s easier in a way to find a way to record an album in here compared to some other European country for example?

L.: I think so. But the whole truth is that is not so easy to come here and make a deal with some record company nowadays, because the market isn’t so big. And then now most of the record companies keep what they already have, the "old" bands, and are not so interested in the new bands. That is why we decided to make our own record company, and also to get good promotion for this album. Then we got Playground Music, which helped us for the promotion, and they have done a pretty good job.
M.: I would say that the promotion has been even better than I expected. Because there are even some major companies in here, releasing metal albums, and even they don’t get such good promotion in my opinion. We have seen our album in really weird places after this promotional campaign! [laughs] Which wouldn’t have happened maybe with some different, bigger company that wouldn’t have had time for us.
L.: Yeah, if we were in a big record company then we would have just been one of many small bands, but since we are in Kanki Records we are the biggest band there! And then we get all the promotion and all the interest.

M.: And you also had two songs on the radio, if I’m right.

M.: I think three or four. Radio Rock has played it almost weekly now.
V.: Now one of those songs is number two in the most downloaded songs at Radio Rock.
M.: And the album has been in the top three for two weeks or something like that.
L.: Two or three weeks, yeah.
M.: Which is very surprising for me, because I didn’t really expect it.

M.: Well, that sounds pretty good!

M.: Yeah! Then also I don’t know how many albums did they sell there, but…
V.: I remember they played this "Cold Touch" song in daytime, at 1PM or something like that, and soon after it was number six, then it got to number four, and now it’s number two. It’s a really good song!

M.: I believe so! And tonight you’re playing here in Prkl with Finntroll, which is a really strange combination, I would say!

M.: I would say it’s interesting, because people who comes for Finntroll probably haven’t heard of us. So maybe they can catch something from our music, maybe something sticks to their head, and they can think that "ok that was shit".

M.: That’s really positive thinking!

M.: I know! [laughs]

M.: Well, the show is sold out, as you told me… so it seems like it would be a pretty good opportunity for you. So what do you expect from tonight?

M.: I don’t know. It’s a tough thing because we don’t really know what those people who like Finntroll will think about us. But we hope that maybe we can "win them over", so that maybe at the end of the set they will like us. I hope so! [laughs]
Because sometimes it happened that we started our set and everybody was like standing and watching, but at the end of the set they were going mad. It’s always better to be that way.

M.: Yeah. And how did you end up playing here with them [Finntroll] anyway?

M.: We asked to the guy that runs this place if he might have had a spot for us. Eventually he said "Yeah, you can play with Finntroll". So we were like "Ok, yeah, sure!".

M.: Why not? I mean.

M.: Yes, it could be worse, I would say!
L.: Now it seems that this is going to be a very good evening, it’s sold out, everything seems to be good and this is our first gig here in Helsinki after the release of our record. This is actually almost the first show as a whole after the record came out, we have done one in Karhula and now we give the chance to the Helsinki people, or "Helsinki city boys" [laughs] to listen our new music!
M.: And we will be coming back in like two months to play our own headlining show here in Helsinki.
L.: Now we are only opening, but after two months we are headlining! [laughs]

M.: By the end of the year you will have your own festival!

V.: Big tours and everything.
J.: The next tour will be in Ice Hall, and then at the Olympic Stadium!
M.: I guess it could be also Ice-land!

M.: Uhm… good luck with that! But now you’ve been touring for the promotion of the album… do you have some plans in mind afterwards already, or you haven’t thought that far yet?

M.: Of course we have some plans. Our next goal is to try to get some gigs outside of Finland, so we have some negotiations going on, but we don’t know yet if anything is going to happen. We will try that first, and at the same time we are of course building up basis for new songs, and thinking about new stuff.
V.: We are trying new stuff from like a couple of months now. We don’t need to rehearse this album now since we can play it even in our dreams.

M.: Ok then. Would you say instead, that the Finnish metal scene has maybe lost a bit of its "popularity" lately? Since in the last few months, for example here in Helsinki, some metal clubs and bars have been closing or they became disco clubs… like Dante’s, where you played a couple of years ago.

M.: I would say that what happened with Dante’s, and DOM [the new name], has nothing to do with the metal scene itself, but basically the idea behind that club was wrong, it didn’t work. It was ilke a night club for metal bands, or metal people, something like that… with fancy drinks… and it didn’t really work.
L.: And metal people is not that kind of people, they want a kind of place like for example here in Club Prkl.

M.: Yeah, but what I meant is that nowadays the nightlife for people who listen to metal music here in the heart of Helsinki is reduced basically between here at Prkl and Bar Bäkkäri.

L.: There is a couple of good places in here where to play metal music. If there is enough people then maybe someone will make a better place, but if not I think this is enough here.

M.: Well, a few years ago there was this saying: "Helsinki Metal Capital".

L.: Yeah, probably now there is a little bit of hangover from that. [laughs]
A couple of years ago everyone was so metal, and they were high with metal, after the Eurovision and everything… Now I think there is a little bit of hangover from that, and because of that, we take more beer! [laughs, and opens another beer]

M.: Yeah, that’s how you get rid of the hangover! But is there anything else that you want to add to this interview?

M.: Go and buy the album!
L: It was a really great honor for us to get this interview, and it was really fun!

M.: So thank you guys, and good luck for tonight!

M., V., L.: Thank you!

Intervista di  Marco Manzi

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