Is this really the Apocalypse? Titus Hjelm speaks out.
Finland has some great bands that have appeared and made a name for themselves, such as Nightwish, Tarot, Stratovarius and Sonata Artica and now Thunderstone. Thunderstone are no strangers to the world of Heavy metal having formed back in 2000 the band have become stronger with each album and having released 6 albums to date the band have gone from strength to strength.
With Pasi coming back into the band this new album 'Veterans of the Apocalypse' sees the band on a high delivering some of the bands best work in some time. Having this album released through AFM this is a great album and the future looks very bright for this band.
I managed to chat with bassist Titus Hjelm about the bands formation and the new album, here is what he had to say. In the meantime check out their new album, it's an incredible strong album.
Hi Titus, thanks for taking you're time out on the tour to do this interview. I hope it's going well for you. I'd like to ask you some warm up questions as this is the 1st interview I have done with Thunderstone. If I am correct the band was formed back in 2000 in Helsinki (Finland). How did you meet up?
"Hi Jason, good speaking to you, we didn't actually for as a band until we signed our 1st contract for the 1st album. It was at 1st a demo project for a while. (Ed: what band's were you all in before Thunderstone formed?) Well me and Nino were in a band thrash metal band called 'Antidote' and we did 2 albums for Shark records & 1 with another label, but I can't remember the name of the other band the other guys were in. So we knew each other for sometime from the Helsinki scene as it is a small scene. (Ed: Why did Antidote break up?)
Well the last album we did was made with a Finnish record label that wasn't really doing much and metal was not their scene and they were not really promoting the album. So it was time to move on and nobody really knows about the 3rd album and it did get release but I only in Finland. We did an album called 'The Truth', 'Total' and 'Mind Alive' on Blue Light Records.
I joined the band when 'Mind Alive' was released so I didn't play on any of the albums, but the 3rd one is my favourite as we use to play most of the songs from that album. So Thunderstone actually started off as a project after Antidote broke up and Nino wanted to play something more melodic after the band broke up. So he recruited the other guys to make the project come alive and the very 1st demo we did with the band Nino sang on it and it is a bonus track on the 3rd album I believe 'Tools of Destruction'.
We later on did 2 demos and then caught the attention of Nuclear Blast Records and the 1st 2 demos became the 1st album."
So I guess the 2nd album is actually for 1st new album with the debut been mainly old demo material?
"Well yes I guess so, on the debut we completely re-recorded the demos as an album with new songs as well for the debut album. As with most bands the debut is mainly demo songs re-recorded. For us we didn't actually play them live as a band and we only played them once we signed the contract and started planning the recording of the album."
So where did you all meet up? Was it through friends or other bands?
"Well we all use to rehearse in the same studio place and as I said the scene in Helsinki is very small. There are a lot of band but they seem to rehearse in the same places and that is how we become to know each other."
The debut album 'Thunderstone' was released through Nuclear Blast and how well did it sell for the band?
"It sold rather well actually, and we released it just as the downloads were coming into place and it was hard to sell records at that time. We did rather well considering and we did a big tour with Stratovarius in 2003."
How well did the 2nd album sell for the band 'The Burning'?
"That album did rather well too and we were rather disappointed that we didn't get to tour with Iced Earth which would of been great for us but Iced Earth pulled the plug on the tour and decided not to do Europeans tour at all. So we did a small tour with Axel Rudi Pell which was great."
Your vocalist Pasi left the band in 2007 to be replaced by Swedish singer Rick Altzi now with Masterplan, why did Pasi leave the band? Who else did you audition for Pasi replacement besides Rick?
"Well we had a tour coming up and he said he didn't want to do the shows, and there were clashes with timetables and he's back in the band and we are stronger than ever. Well we had to make a decision if we could put out a call for singers and we ended up with a lot of cool singers auditioning for the band. Rick was a accident actually, because he contacted up on Myspace and he said he hoped we found a new singer and he was not suggesting he would become the new singer. So we checked out his home page and check out is his work with 'At Vance' and we wasn't looking for a singer like Timo from Stratovarius who is a great singer.
When we heard Rick we knew he had a great voice and we asked if he had time to join us or if he was with At Vance. So he sent us some demos of our songs with his vocals over them and we liked what we heard. Later on when Pasi came back we knew the timing was right and we knew we had to give it another shot."
Prior to Rick joining the band between 2007-2013, which were you're favourite LP's before he joined the band?
"That is hard to say, as always the latest one is always the best album any band could do. I would say I am happy with the direction that we have taken since we have recorded the albums and our earlier albums were in the vain of Stratovarius and German like Power Metal. I think now we have involved into a well established band with our own sound, a more classic Heavy Metal sound."
Moving on, for what reason did you leave Nuclear Blast?
"Well we did one album with Rick which was 'Dirt Metal' and it was released on Sony and distributed by SPV. With Nuclear Blast we had one for option with them and they kind of of keep the band if the 1st albums does well and work with the band and if they don't then they might do 1-2 more albums with them. I think for the 1st album we did like 300 interviews and progressively they went down and down and they gave us another chance when we did the 'Eurovision' and we did rather well with that.
We represented Finland for that contest and in the end is was just a general lack of interest and it was a mutual decision to part ways with no hard feelings. So in the end we wanted to work with a label who wanted to work with us and we found AFM."
Tell me more about the Eurovision Song Contest, I didn't even know you were entered into it.
"Well when we did 'Evolution 4.0' Pasi was doing backing vocals for Lordi back in 2006 so the Finnish broadcasting company contacted us to ask if we wanted to be in the Finnish qualifying round and we were like 'Why not?' as it got like 10000 viewers and it was free promotion for us and we came 2nd in the Finnish qualifying round. We were in the process of writing 'Evolution 4.0' at that time we had a song called 'Forever More' & 'Face in the Mirror' and you have to have 2 songs to enter into the competition and we were not expecting that song the make it to the qualifying round ."
Besides approaching AFM who else did you approach for a new deal?
"Well we actually signed with a Finnish label ran by a friend of our who is in a Finnish band who sing in Finnish called 'Mookoma' and they have 4-5 bands under their label which is great for us and they got the deal with AFM for us and they are licensing our albums. We are happy with AFM as they are working with us on the other side of the fence and they know your requirements and needs and when you send them an email they respond right away. I think we have made a great record and the team we have also have a great booking team."
Tell me about the title of the new album 'Apocalypse Again', why the title and what other titles did you have for the new album?
"Well I think the title came form a Facebook post were a friend posted about the doomsday that would be expecting the end of the world, and I wrote under his post 'They are the veterans of the apocalypse' and I thought it sounded great. The record company thought they would not want to use it as it seemed too old, but we wanted to keep the apocalypse in the title and so it became 'Apocalypse Again'."
So who did the art work for the album and how does it reflect in the title of the album?
"Well the artwork was done by our friend Thomas Ewerhard who has done plenty of covers in the past and he worked with us on the 1st 3 covers. He is great to work with and I did the art direction on the 1st 3 albums and this new one. You just email him you're ideas and he comes back with the ideas you want. I do feel that the artwork does reflect on the title of the album, with the world exploding and you can see fragments of the earth breaking up with the fire in the background, it looks awesome.
We wanted something that wasn't dark like the last few albums and we wanted to move away from the Power Metal and go into a more darker style of dark work, it looks great."
The album was produced by guitarist Nino at Sonic Pump Studios in Finland, does he work with other bands as well?
"Well he has done all our albums and he has done the last 2 Lordi albums and other bands as well. We will use Nino to produce our albums and I think it maybe a good idea to get somebody else in to have two pairs of ears, but Nino knows our sound already."
How would you best describe your music? Also do you see your music progressive with each album?
"Yes like I said I don't care about having a band label with Power Metal, Speed, or whatever but I would prefer not to call it Power Metal like bands as Helloween, Stratovarius, Edguy so we like to be called melodic Heavy Metal."
How long did it take to record this album?
"Well it took a long time as I live in London, and the rest live in Finland. I work for the university here in London doing sociology. it took a while as Nino was recording other bands albums and he makes more money making other musicians recordings. It took about a year to record and mix the album and writing, we were in no hurry as it had been a couple of years."
What are your favourite songs on the new album and why?
"Well I really like the song 'Higher' because it is a slow one which I always prefer and I think we do better songs slower then faster to be honest. I also like the song 'Through the Pain' which is the last video we did and it is always our slowest song which reminds me of Deep Purple and there my favourite band. We recorded 11 songs but only 10 ended up on the album, the bonus song was for the Japanese version but the album has been out a year now the bonus song is now on Spotify I believe. That bonus song was our least favourite anyway so we gave it to the Japanese."
How well is the album selling for the band since it's release?
"Well I am not up to date with the sales of the album, and selling physical copies are hard to sell these days and we are selling CD's on tour."
How well is the tour with Sonata Artica and Striking going so far?
"It has been going great, personally I have lived in the UK for 10 yrs now and I like staying here as it is my 2nd home. Sonata Artica are much bigger in Germany but small here in the UK, but it's going great!! We are playing places we have never been to before like Ireland and Glasgow was amazing. We have played with Sonata Artica plenty of times ad we are good friends and the Striker guys are great too, good band."
How many videos has the band made for this new album so far?
"I think we have made 4 promo videos so far, we started with 'Fire & Ice', 'The Path', 'Veterans of the Apocalypse' was a lyrical video and 'Through the Pain' were our videos."
Do you plan on doing any festivals this summer?
"Yes we do plan on doing some festivals in Finland, but we have not been pushing ourselves to play too many festivals this summer. We are writing new material this summer for the next album and I will be back to London this October. So we want to take time off to write new material before I return to the UK."
Before we end the interview do you plan on releasing a live DVD?
"Yes that would be great, we haven't really planned on doing one yet. We want to make sure we get a good reception for the latest album before we thought about doing a live DVD."
Well thanks for the interview Titus, best of luck with the album and tours, hope we meet in London sometime. Do you have anything to say before we finish this interview?
"Yes thanks for the interview, thanks to our fans for their support and for buying our records. Please come and see us live if you can."
Thanks to Titus and Mike Exley @AFM for the interview.