October Falls created one of my personal favourite records from the first half of this year with The Plague of the Coming Age - which was reviewed here - and the combination of gorgeous sounds and black metal aesthetic is a truly a wonder to behold. Mikko Lehto (vocals, guitar) took a little time to answer a few questions about the album, the evolution of October Falls, and where they go from here.
Scene Point Blank: The Plague of a Coming Age is a little bit of a departure from 2010s A Collapse of Faith. What drove you to change the style in terms of the layout of the songs (long running times, the titles, etc.) to what we hear on the new record? Was it a conscious decision or something that happened naturally during the writing process?
M. Lehto: It certainly was a planned change and I had a quite clear vision where October Falls would go with this album. However, although I had a certain focus when I was composing it, the songs still evolved naturally. If some of them would've worked better with longer or more complicated structures then that would've happened, so it wasn't forced into this. My goal was to make an album that would be more about single songs rather than just pieces that make the album a concept, like it was with A Collapse of Faith. It was quite challenging for me to write short songs with more normal structures, than just compose long pieces that are tied together. Along with the more song-oriented material came the titles—as every song can stand on their own without the rest of the album backing them. I also wanted to name every song individually and not just use the album-title and numerals like on the previous full-lengths. In the end the album is still quite conceptual, but in a different way than before.
"Every mistake we make will be a burden for tomorrow's world, we are the plague of the coming age."
Scene Point Blank: As well as the album structure taking a different turn, the artwork is something new for October Falls. Does this signify a new chapter in the October Falls legacy?
M. Lehto: I'm not sure what will be the next step, but this time I wanted to change the already ”safe and familiar” form and started by writing shorter songs. Along with that I also wanted to use a different kind of artwork and searched for the right artist quite a while. Eventually I saw some pieces by Santiago Caruso and that was it. He had a great style and was not an overused or household name that everyone's using and that was it. He was a perfect choice. The first time I tried a bit different artwork was with The Streams of the End and that was also a new step music-wise so, in a way, this followed the same path.
Scene Point Blank: There's a current of bittersweet sadness running throughout the record. Is that feeling easy to tap into? What is your process for getting into that kind of headspace? Are you inspired by anything in particular?
M. Lehto: Personally I don't see the album completely bittersweet, hopeless or sad. Music and theme-wise it's quite melancholic but, at the very end, there's still strength and hope although the future is unknown. I haven't really thought about all this or really see it as a process because everything comes out naturally and there's no certain mood I'd try to achieve before working with new material. I guess in certain aspects tomorrow's world is doomed in many ways, but who really knows about the future, so I could say that I'm inspired by the history, heritage, and how every current act will affect the future.
Scene Point Blank: The Plague of a Coming Age is quite the evocative title and could mean a lot of things. If it's not too personal would you elaborate on your choice for this title?
M. Lehto: To write it somewhat short, it's mainly about our current world and how we abuse it and too often forget and even shame our precious heritage and that [leaving] a very different starting point for tomorrow's generations than what we got. I still vividly remember my own childhood and it was very different from the childhood that today's children will get. Surely it's not all bad changes, but it's often hard to acknowledge...that everything we do these days and in this time will be reflected into tomorrow and that's the heritage we're spreading, every mistake we make will be a burden for tomorrow's world, we are the plague of the coming age.
Scene Point Blank: You have Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) on guest vocals on the album. How did that relationship and collaboration come about? Was the decision to include clean vocals made early on?
M. Lehto: When the whole album was already written, I had an idea for a small acoustic piece that I wanted to use on the album as an intro for the title track, but when I was recording the demo from it, it just evolved into a full track instead and that became ”Boiling Heart of the North.” At that point it was obvious that we'd need clean vocals for the album as the verse of the title track would also work better with clean vocals instead of the harsher approach, so I decided that we'll get a guest singer as I couldn't sing those parts myself. At some point Marko (drums) suggested that we'd ask Tomi to sing the clean parts and, as I really like his vocals, I thought it was a great idea. Marko knew Tomi so we contacted him, sent the demos, and he agreed. After that it was all about finding the right time so we could go into studio together. It all went very smoothly and I'm really happy with the result.
Scene Point Blank: In addition to that, you now have Sami Hinkka playing bass for the project. Was the transition to a new player difficult?
M. Lehto: To be honest, not at all. Our previous bassist V. Metsola was always working quite slow and had to be pushed into work and, personally, I'm completely opposite to that so, although he was and still is my oldest friend, it was the best choice for everyone. When Sami stepped in we had already recorded the drums for the album but, as the demos were without bass, he had free hands with the bass-lines and basically every bass-line you hear on the album was arranged by him. When needed he's a very technical, idea rich, and open-minded player so he was a perfect addition.
Scene Point Blank: How much do you look to the future with October Falls? A lot of bands follow a rough cycle but I get the impression that's not the case here? By which I mean, write, record, release, tour, write.... is not a groove you allow yourself to fall into?
M. Lehto: There's never actual plans for the upcoming activities. When there's an inspiration and time, something will happen again but as October Falls is not a ”regular band”—there are no live performances or rehearsals—things only move ahead when there's an actual reason for it. After all, the band has been active 12 years and this was only the fourth full-length. Things have always moved quite slowly.
Scene Point Blank: That being said, is there anything you still want to achieve?
M. Lehto: Of course. I always have some point of reference ahead, even when I'm not sure what will happen next. Currently there are plans to re-release all older acoustic material and I hope to record more acoustic material again in the future, but as October Falls has always been about the current inspiration it's impossible to say what comes next—acoustic record or a harsher one or something else, the only certain thing is that there's no end.