When it comes to new bands who stand head and shoulders above the metal warrior brigade, Finland’s Mausoleum Gate are one of the first names that comes to mind. Their 2014 eponymous debut album was a shock to the system and of the best albums of that year. Now the band is back with a brand new 7” single (‘Metal And The Might’) so we took the chance to have a catch up with Count L.F. (guitars), Wicked Ischanius (bass so far, keyboards from now and on) and Oscar Razanez (drums)…
Two years after your debut album, how do you reflect back to those days and is there is something you might have changed?
Count: I am very satisfied with the response. Absolutely better than we could expect. Our way of doing things is so different that one must be amazed at this response. I am also glad that we didn’t have to please anyone.We had basically a freedom to do what we like.
Ischanius: I am still very very satisfied with the end product. It’s testimony of what Mausoleum Gate had been so far! Like with every release, it’s a product of its time and all the factors surrounding it. I personally always have a feeling that after releasing something, it’s time to look forward. I almost went nuts while doing the first album. Of course there are some small details one might have done differently, mastering stuff, playing-wise and, for example, the insert on the vinyl pressing was originally supposed to be purple, but I stand behind the album 100 percent and I think we gave everything we could at that moment.
Oscar: I think the debut is perfect the way it is; it represents that time and era of our band, and it was done with passion and guided with natural intuition. Personally there are a pair of songs I don’t really musically like, and a couple of arrangements, but now time has passed I feel better with them.
So why a 7″ single now? Is it a new tradition, since you already released one back in 2013 [‘Obsessed by Metal’] or is it an appetiser for the new album?
Count: Well, it’s partly a tradition, I guess. And also this makes a kind of journey towards the second album. We pretty much see our releases as a sort of a journey where the listener can participate.
Ischanius: After a few gigs in the beginning of 2015 , we started to concentrate on new material. At the end of the year we had something like six new songs. At the start of 2016, for the first time in the history of the band, we did good pre-production demos of our new material. After that we rehearsed something like four songs more, and did demos of them too. We also had two songs we did during the debut album sessions, so in total we had 12 songs. Then we started thinking what songs played well together, and in what format etc. And listening to the whole material through, ideas came out that these two songs should definitely be together, since they make nice pairing. Also as songs go they didn’t fit the concept we came up for our upcoming second full-length album! So in saying this, the 7” single stands as independent release on it’s own, like our previous 7”.
Oscar: Together they form a diverse 7″ single, and Timo Raita’s artwork [ed – he did their full-length artwork too!] with flames and the pentagram, well, it just had to be the ‘Metal And The Might’!
While ‘Metal And The Might’ is an ode to metal music, the other song of the 7″ single (‘Demon Soul’) is a nod to the left hand path and occult. Lyrics should be important for each metal band, so which are the things that inspire you and who are your favorite lyricists and writers?
Count: ‘Metal And The Might’ is truly an ode to all old school underground metalheads out there. I had an honour to participate in the pre-party of Keep It True Festival in 2015 and actually seeing all these metalheads there gave me inspiration for the lyrics.
Ischanius: ‘Metal And The Might’ is a truly bone-headed, old-school heavy tribute, perfect material for a 7” release. Underground madness. I like a lot of stuff that goes with the feeling of music and gives a scenery to music. If you have more abstract music, then use more abstract lyrics that leave a place for your own imagination. If you have more straight-forward and adrenaline-loaded music, like for example old-school thrash metal, then we definitely need zombies, the apocalypse and other nice things. Of course, the devil is always present in metal music. It’s hard to say which are my favourite lyricists, since there are so many, but Jon Anderson of Yes is one of my all time inspirations.
Oscar: Count L.F. wrote all the lyrics on this single, except the ‘Metal And The Might’ chorus, which is from my pen. I personally perceive vocals as an instrument, how they sound with the song and how the words flow in the melody; that’s the most important thing in lyrics. I am bad at reading lyrics with thoughtful meanings and rarely even understand them [laughs].
How do you see this occult rock hype that dominates the scene of late?
Count: I don’t see us as a part of it really but if someone does it’s okay. I mean the label occult rock has been given to many bands after the fact. Surely, I have listened to bands like Coven from the early ’70s but I think they didn’t know they were playing occult rock back then, did they? It’s a bit like doom metal, I was listening bands like Candlemass back in the ’80s and they were just a metal band. Our aim is to be open-minded musically. We don’t think about the genre when we make music.
Ischanius: To be honest, I haven’t been on the map with what the latest thing in this scene is… and there’s a reason too… I haven’t liked any of the occult rock bands I have heard [laughs]. They do things that should be good, but for my ear they just don’t sound right, something is wrong and something that I’m looking for is missing. For me they seem to be more about image than about music. And call me old-fashioned, or something, but music is for me the thing that counts. It’s all about the feeling! As long as the feeling is right, it’s right… As long as it isn’t, count me out!
Oscar: I believe it will calm down. Nothing against occult themes, but occult rock itself gives me bad thrills.
You already have your own music identity and style and that’s something rare. How would you describe your music, who are your inspirations and the new bands you respect from the present metal scene?
Count: Well, my inspiration comes from the ’70s basically: Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rainbow etc. Also ’70s Scorpions – the Roth-era- is important. Inside the band, influences vary pretty much and everybody brings their own spices to the mix. One important thing that we have brought is improvisation. We leave a very free section in the songs which may vary from time to time. For example, the rhythm guitar in ’Demon Soul’ is completely improvised. It is different everytime I play it.
Ischanius: More and more I have started to view Mausoleum Gate as a band that could have been, but probably wouldn’t have been possible in the heyday of old heavy metal. In a way I see our band as a continuum of what could have been. I think this will go a bit further once we progress more and more with our band’s endless work. We are kind of a possibility of what could have happened if progressive rock and ’70s and ’80s traditional heavy metal wouldn’t have gone out of fashion. I see that the progress in both genres of ’70s prog and traditional heavy metal kind of seized after their heyday since it wasn’t cool to play it anymore. Of course there came a lot of variable genres and so on, but the genres in themselves didn’t develop as far as I can see them. And this is the aspect I’d like to explore even more. How to keep it traditional but still take it further. There are a lot of possibilities both harmonically and rythmically to explore, sometimes they are small, but I still believe they are there.
As for inspiration I listen to different styles of music, stuff that sounds interesting to my ear. For example, at the moment I have been obsessed by Shostakovich String Quartets and Darkthrone’s ’Under A Funeral Moon’, as it has for the past 20 years. It’s a is perfect example of how everything matches up to create a mood that’s not of this world. Total darkness! And those Shostakovich String Quartets mentioned before are very psychological and out of this world stuff also; really challenging both mentally and harmonically and at the same time raw and brutal, yet there is certain beauty which can be found. For me most modern metal bands are annoying, especially their sound and attitude. I’m mostly interested in bands playing traditional styles of metal. Tarot from Australia and Lantern from Finland came to mind first, and of course there are others.
Oscar: It’s funny that people who don’t really know a lot about heavy metal hear us as just another retro-sounding band, or saying ‘this has been done so long ago and so much better’. I’d describe our music as musical heavy metal with no boundaries, with a progressive feeling. We do what we feel like, and with drums and percussions I’ll try to get that ’70s progressive touch and feeling, even if the music and arrangements are not. For me the inspiration mostly comes from the most obscure ’80s metal. Epicness, esotericism, unusual synths and rancid percussive work are always welcome! My favourites of the present scene are Magister Templi, Tarot, Trial, Moros Nyx, Wytch Hazel, Legionnaire, Tyfons Doom, Angel Sword and of course Black Sword Thunder Attack, I am dying to hear their new stuff!
What kind of emotions can be found in the heart and soul of Mausoleum Gate?
Count: Tragedy. Darkness and tragedy. I think those are the main emotions in heavy metal to me. Just listen to Black Sabbath’s ‘Solitude’.
Ischanius: I try to reach to places that exist in our imagination only. To reach beyond common sense. Raw feeling and power. You have to trust your instincts and never forget the search!
Oscar: The curiosity to explore the darkest and deepest corners of music in the name of heavy metal.
What about live shows? I remember your awesome performance in Keep It True last year even if you didn’t open the gate, as in you didn’t play the ‘Mausoleum Gate’ song.
Count: I have to be honest with this one: we really didn’t know the song was so popular. Okay, it had a lot of views in Youtube but still. On the other hand we felt we couldn’t get it to work without keyboards. Now we can! Seeing Mausoleum Gate live is completely different than listening to our records. Anything might happen!
Ischanius: We will do a couple of shows in Finland this year. And it would be great to play somewhere outside Finland also. There has been some discussion, but nothing is confirmed so far. Playing Keep It True was a dream come true for us! We now have a line-up with keyboards for live purposes so the titular track might appear, especially in long club sets. A nice story about our title track at Keep It True is that our guitar player heard some people singing the song on the first day of the festival while waiting to get inside the hall! That took us by surprise! Talking about live performances, for me they represent a totally different area than the recording environment. In live we can play more freely than in the studio setting. In my mind there is always more room for freedom and improvisation in the live setting. I take chances! And of course there’s the feeling of the audience being there watching you do your thing.
Oscar: Yes, we did not open the gate because we had not rehearsed that song, what a loss! Currently we are recording a second album and rehearsing the live set, we will strike the stages as soon as we are ready.
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