Interview – Natalie Koskinen from The Abbey & Shape of Despair

For some, music is merely a distraction or background noise. For others, it is the very fabric of their existence. For Finnish musician Natalie Koskinen, music is as important as the air she breathes. Involved in the Metal scene since she was a teenager, Koskinen made a name for herself as the angelic voice in the Doom Metal act Shape of Despair. Going on to offer her talents to other projects including Depressed Mode, as well as on various Black Metal tracks, in recent times she finds herself a part of a new band called The Abbey. 

Founded by Jesse Heikkinen, The Abbey lineup includes Koskinen on vocals, Henri Arvola on bass, Janne Markus (The Man-Eating Tree) on guitar, and Vesa Ranta (Sentenced) on drums. A who’s who of Finnish Metal stars, The Abbey is unique to anything any of the members have done previously. A mix of styles – ranging from Gothic to Doom Metal – they recently put out their debut album Word of Sin, and it is quite compelling. Feeling exhilarated by the new project, Natalie Koskinen recently sat down to talk about her career, Shape of Despair, The Abbey, influences, and much more.  

Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music professionally for over two decades now. From your time with Shape of Despair, to Depressed Mode, to now The Abbey, you have certainly done a lot. What has the journey been like for you?

Natalie Koskinen – Music became a part of me from the age of 5, so I think it can hold quite a lot of all kinds of experiences. I started with Classical music and later discovered other styles of music. I can’t imagine my life without music. I’ve never been the loudest person, I’m more of a thinker and dreamer. Music is probably the best way to channel my thoughts and feelings, I guess. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with several very talented people. It’s been a great journey and some of the musicians have become very close friends of mine.

Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear you have found success in something you are very passionate about. One of your most pronounced projects has been Shape of Despair. A part of the band since the beginning, Shape of Despair has created some beautiful material through the years. What has the creative process been like for you with Shape of Despair?

Natalie Koskinen – I joined Shape of Despair when I was 16 years old. This band will always be a very important part of my musical career and my inner. It is quite clear that this style of music is not for everyone. It’s not enough just to listen to our records, you also must feel the music. Without it, it’s impossible to internalize our style of music. We were never supposed to perform live, but over the years we have decided to do a few selected gigs from time to time. SOD is probably one of the most difficult bands I’ve been in when it comes to performing live. On stage you really must focus on your parts because the music is so slow and hypnotic.

Shape of Despair – Angel of Distress / Spinefarm Records
Shape of Despair – Illusion’s Play / Spinefarm Records

Cryptic Rock – Yes, you are absolutely right… Shape of Despair’s music is something you must take in internally on a far deeper level. Shape of Despair put out a brand-new album in 2022 entitled Return to the Void. The band’s first album in over 5 years, what was the writing and recording like for the new

Natalie Koskinen – I could say that the writing/recording process was a bit different this time. A few songs were composed a few years ago and Jarno originally composed them for other projects. However, he later came to the conclusion that those songs were better for us. Putting the songs together has been done by everyone. I think that over the years, our way of doing creative work has expanded and this is how it should go. Our drummer has done a great job with the mix. We sat with him for several days and worked on the sound. It wasn’t easy, but definitely worth it, because we couldn’t be happier this time.

Cryptic Rock – It is a fantastic record and was worth the wait for long-time fans. You now have a new band called The Abbey featuring a really great lineup of accomplished musicians. How did The Abbey come about for you?

Natalie Koskinen – About two years ago, our drummer (Vesa Ranta) contacted me and asked if I would be interested in trying out my vocals for a new project. Although I had decided that I would not join any new band, the song sent by Vesa was so different and interesting that I recorded my vocals on it. There are absolutely great musicians in The Abbey, it’s been absolutely insane to collaborate with these people.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, you are working with Vesa, formerly of Sentenced, Janne Markus from The Man-Eating Tree, and band leader, Jesse Heikkinen. The Abbey is an interesting mix of styles. Different from Shape of Despair, what was the work behind The Abbey’s debut album Word of Sin?

Natalie Koskinen – The Abbey is indeed completely different from SOD. Of course, the way of working is also different. Jesse (founder of the band) is an incredible composer and he sent us a new song almost every day. He wrote almost all the songs. One song, “Starless,” was composed by our other Guitarist Janne Markus, and I wrote the lyrics for two songs – “Starless” and “Queen of Pain.” The cooperation so far has been really inspiring and things went very easily. We have already started to write new songs for the next album.

The Abbey – Word of Sin / Season of Mist

Cryptic Rock – Wow, that is a quick turn around and exciting to hear. So, what are the future plans for The Abbey? Would you say this is a full-time band at this point?  

Natalie Koskinen – It is a full-time band. As I already mentioned, we started to write songs for the next album already. We have rehearsed for shows. Our first show was in Oulu, and two shows later the same week with Insomnium at Tavastia/Helsinki. We are planning more shows and even tours in the near future.

Cryptic Rock – It sounds like something special has come together with The Abbey. As mentioned, The Abbey is different from Shape of Despair stylistically. One key difference in the recording is that your vocal arrangements feel more upfront with The Abbey. How have you approached The Abbey differently as far as vocal arrangements?

Natalie Koskinen – The music style is different, so obviously my vocal arrangements are also different. That’s the reason I joined this band; so, I can use my voice in a very different way. This has been really rewarding and fulfilling for me. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be singing in this type of music, I probably wouldn’t have believed it back then.

Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields / Season of Mist
Shape of Despair – Return to the Void / Season of Mist

Cryptic Rock – It is good to have the diversity and ability to try yourself in different styles. You have also offered your vocals to Black Metal projects as well. Out of curiosity, what are some of your musical influences?  

Natalie Koskinen – Yes, that is true. Jesse and I started a new Black Metal band called Monachopsis Art and the first single was released on March 3rd The full album will be released on March 31, 2023, you should check it out! Jesse is the main composer and I write lyrics. Jesse has also mixed all the songs. We decided not to stress about this project, but let things take their own course and see what happens.

My music taste is really broad these days. If we must speak only about Black Metal style here, I must say that I discovered BM bands when I was 12 years old. There are so many different sub-styles that it would take forever to go through them all. Bathory, Burzum (music only), Ved Buens Ende, Dödheimsgard, Kvist, Emperor, Ulver, just to mention a few…

Cryptic Rock – Sounds like a solid mix of Black Metal. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-fi movies, what are some of your favorites and why? 

Natalie Koskinen – Yes and yes! There are a lot of really good movies, but I will mention only two now. Hellraiser (1987) definitely made an indelible impression on the little girl that I was when I saw this classic. Also, Interstellar (2014); an absolutely insane work of art that didn’t leave me cold. Not to mention mind blowing music by Hans Zimmer! 

Hellraiser / New World Pictures
Interstellar / Paramount Picture

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