Consistency is an art form in itself, and Finnish epic Pagan Metal greats Moonsorrow have been dazzling their fan base since 1995 crafting cinematic, expansive masterpieces fraught with depth, drama, and sizzling intensity. Two-thousand and sixteen sees them releasing their seventh studio album, entitled Jumalten Aika, on April 1st via Century Media Records. No April Fool’s joke here, only epic Pagan Metal with tasteful Folk instrumentation to augment the journey. Recently, we managed to get a hold of Bass Player and Vocalist Ville Sorvali to take a peek into the world of this Finnish juggernaut. Read on to see what goes into crafting lengthy compositions, the myths behind the racket, as well as who they like to tour with, and where they want to go with the band.
CrypticRock.com – Moonsorrow has been in existence since 1995. Looking back on all that time, did you ever think you would still be doing this twenty-one years later? What has the journey been like for you?
Ville Sorvali – We just wanted to make music that pleased us on a personal level. We were already surprised that our last demo tape sold 500 copies (laughs). We really didn’t have big dreams. We just wanted to do something that felt right. It’s been an exciting ride with the band. I never knew I was going to say at this point that I actually spent more than half my life, but it happened. We even forgot our 20th anniversary. We were going to do, if not something special with the band, if not a special show, at least go out and eat dinner together or something. We completely forgot (laughs). We were in the middle of recording and writing the music for Jumalten Aika.
CrypticRock.com – Jumalten Aika is set for release on April 1, 2016. What can fans expect philosophically, lyrically, behind the album? Meaning, what are some of the concepts?
Ville Sorvali – When we found the right direction for the music, we had already decided that we wanted to build the album around myths. We wanted to go back in time to the age of gods, and also, musically, go back in time to when there was actually Folk Metal, but no one called it Folk Metal. We wanted to explore those things and take the old myths, and not retell them, but make our own interpretations and observations on them. To try and figure out what people were actually thinking when they came up with these myths.
CrypticRock.com – Any particular kind of myth? Was there a specific focus or pantheon in mind for this album?
Ville Sorvali – The overall concept could easily be translated universally. It could be about Paganism and ancient belief systems anywhere in the world. These myths that we based the stories upon were taken from Finnish and Scandinavian mythology, a subject on which we are all quite educated, but they can apply to anyone in the world.
CrypticRock.com – Your music has been appreciated so feverishly by your American fans, because it speaks to them in a way because something deeper is going on. In a nation as young as the USA, with its relatively brief history and oppressive Christian culture, there really is something deeper going on underneath which gives great meaning. Your efforts are definitely noticed and appreciated.
Ville Sorvali – That’s really cool, thank you. I noticed in America a rise in people trying to seek their origins in Europe they came from, because you all came from Europe. Many people actually want to put in some effort and do some research and locate what culture their family came from.
CrypticRock.com – Especially as modern life distances us from all of the old cultures, with mono-culture and technology, its good to reach back for something real. Can you go into the writing and recording process for Jumalten Aika?
Ville Sorvali – Well, we did everything almost exactly as the previous album, because we had found a good recipe that is working. We did the music in Anders’ home studio. He was writing most of it. When he had enough material, he called us in to visit him and review the material and perhaps direct him onto paths he might not have been thinking about. For myself, I was working on the lyrics and was having a lot of conversations with Henri (Sorvali – cousin, guitars) about the theme, making sure that Henri and I were both making the same movie. It took a long time. We actually started in 2012, but we had to eventually throw it all away. It wasn’t in the direction we wanted to go. We just had to take our time, to actually figure out. Basically, without mystifying it, we had to wait for the lightning strike. When that happened in 2014, that’s when we began writing the songs that became Jumalten Aika.
CrypticRock.com – That is how it is though. You are not forcing the material to come, so it takes time.
Ville Sorvali – It’s only the start that takes the most time. Once you figure it out, it’s down to hard work to get it finished. There’s not much divine inspiration in that, but it’s the beginning that is the hardest.
CrypticRock.com – It is the same thing with most art. Writing prose, writing music. Beginning is always the hardest, and takes the most time. Speaking of time, Moonsorrow has always been known for long, epic length songs. That is something that is not common in the greater Pagan Metal genre. The only band that comes to mind in similar vein is Finsterforst, who are sometimes referred to as the German Moonsorrow.
Ville Sorvali – (laughs) That is probably merited.
CrypticRock.com – Is this something that you guys feel is the best way to tell the story? How did you get comfortable writing songs of that magnitude?
Ville Sorvali – When we start writing, we are already in the mode of writing a story, or even writing a movie without the picture. It just tends to be long. If we have just five minutes of music, we know it isn’t going to be ready. So we keep extending the song until the song itself lets us know it is ready. It’s like reading a book. If you have 200 pages to read, you can’t read 110 and put it aside and say you read the whole book.
CrypticRock.com – To look at past examples, such as the 2008 Tulimyrsky EP, or 2007’s V: Hävitetty, the latter of which is split into two 25+ minute songs, that is not easy to do. Moonsorrow does it in such an engaging, interesting way that is not at all boring. This definitely sets your band apart. Jumalten Aika is reputed to incorporate even more Folk elements into the songs. Can you go into how you as a band are integrating this type of instrumentation into the Metal?
Ville Sorvali – Yes, that is true. When we set on our concept of going back to the age of gods, and set our musical direction, we knew we had to incorporate a lot of Folk music, but not in the way that most bands do it. We wanted to achieve a very ancient and primitive sound, which I believe we accomplished. Korpiklaani’s old violinist contributes to the album. Of course we have the mouth harp, and a lot of different stringed instruments. We have traditional Folk instrument mimicking sounds from the synthesizer, that are actually so good you can’t even tell the difference because the software is so good nowadays.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds really exciting. Does Moonsorrow feel that it is more of a Pagan Metal or Folk Metal band, or do you consider yourselves aligned more so with Pagan Black Metal, or does this type of delineation matter only to journalists? Also, with whom do you enjoy touring the most?
Ville Sorvali – To the first part of the question, we definitely consider ourselves to be a Pagan Metal band. It’s a nice, broad definition that does not limit the music. And well, the Pagan word is quite obvious because we are – well, we are modern Pagans. We don’t believe in the gods; we believe in Nature. The Black Metal thing is, well we could never be or never were a Black Metal band, but we have a lot of influence on a personal level from Black Metal, particularly Black Metal from Norway in the 1990’s. So there is always a Black Metal heart beating behind the sound of Moonsorrow. As far as the bands we like to tour with, the actual music doesn’t matter as much as the people. Because, we have to be on the same bus for a month so we really have to get along (laughs). For example, we are doing a European tour this year with Korpiklaani. They are an ideal partner because they are different music from us, but we feel it is the other side of the same coin. We do have some of the audience in common. I like their live shows; I’m not saying I like their music on the album, but we like their live shows. They’re so energetic and it kind of lifts me up seeing them perform every night.
CrypticRock.com – They are definitely a fun band to see live. So as far as your personal influences, the bonus disc of Jumalten Aika includes a Rotting Christ cover and a Grave cover. Would you say bands like that represent your musical influences? If so, what other bands set you on this lifelong path creating Heavy Metal music?
Ville Sorvali – It is definitely bands like Rotting Christ and Grave. When I was 14 years old and those albums were released, I was blown away by both of them. It was natural for us to cover them. Back then, Moonsorrow didn’t even exist in our heads. We got a lot of influence from the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the 1990’s, and a lot of Death Metal. I prefer the old Swedish sound from the American one, and that is one of the biggest debates we have in the band, actually (laughs). The album that really got me into the stuff I’m doing now with Moonsorrow is Tales from the Thousand Lakes (1994) by Amorphis.
CrypticRock.com – That is certainly an undying classic album from Amporihs.
Ville Sorvali – We would love to tour with Amorphis. We love those guys.
CrypticRock.com – That would make a lot of fans’ dreams come true. Regarding touring, where is it that you have not played yet that you dream about playing as a band?
Ville Sorvali – Well it would have to be South America. Partly because we haven’t done it, and partly because I’ve heard from so many friends in bands that it is such an incredible place to play, because fans are crazy and I would love to experience that.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds exciting. Do you have any other exotic destinations coming up?
Ville Sorvali – We are actually going to tour China in about a week. It’ll be our second time in China. Its very exotic for us, a lot of culture shock, but it is a good shock. It is so different from Europe. I enjoy that corner of the world, though. Whenever I get time and money to go on holiday, I enjoy exploring Eastern Asia. It is a very spiritual culture, an ancient culture, and I enjoy being there. Maybe that’s why I like it. Spiritualism kind of shows in their everyday lives.
CrypticRock.com – That is amazing. You mentioned earlier that you are deeply into studying the historical and mythological concepts your music is based around. Are there any particular sources or authors that you draw from in order to shape the albums you write?
Ville Sorvali – I read the national epics of Finnish and Scandic mythology long ago. Once in awhile, I go back to them for reference. Nowadays, as non-Viking as it sounds, I like to browse the internet, because it has many interesting details when you stumble upon the right pages. It’s probably the biggest revelation we have had since fire.
CrypticRock.com – That is an excellent way to put it.
Ville Sorvali – That isn’t mine. I stole that from the guy who recorded our vocals (Laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Well we appreciate your honesty. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers all area of music as well as movies, particular Horror movies. If you are a fan of Horror movies, do you have any favorites?
Ville Sorvali – I’m not really into Horror movies, apart from a few classics. One of these classics is waiting for me to watch it again right here on my desk. The Shining (1980), my absolute favorite. It’s a cornerstone of the whole genre in a way.
03.36.16 Inferno Festival, NO
04.01.16 – Virgin Oil, Helsinki, FI
04.08.16 – Durbuy Rock Festival, Bomal-sur-Ourthe, BE *
04.09.16 – Les Tanzmatten, Selestat, FR *
04.10.16 – Melkweg, Amsterdam, NL**
04.11.16 – Le Trabendo, Paris, FR *
04.12.16 – Rock School Barbey, Bordeaux, FR *
04.13.16 – Arena , Madrid, ES *
04.14.16 – Razzmatazz 2, Barcelona, ES *
04.15.16 – CC John Lennon, Limoges, FR
04.16.16 – Carène, Brest, FR *
04.17.16 – Antipode, Rennes, FR *
04.18.16 – CCO Villeurbanne, Lyon, FR *
04.19.16 – Les Trinitaires, Metz, FR *
04.20.16 – O2 Islington Academy , London, UK *
04.21.16 – Club Academy, Manchester, UK *
04.22.16 – The Button Factory, Dublin, IRE *
04.23.16 – The Limelight 2, Belfast, UK *
04.24.16 – The Classic Grand, Glasgow, UK *
04.25.16 – Leeds Uni Stylus, Leeds, UK *
04.26.16 – Academy 2, Birmingham, UK *
04.27.16 – The Fleece, Bristol, UK *
04.28.16 – The 1865, Southampton, UK *
04.29.16 – Matrix, Bochum, DE *
05 07.16 Dark Troll Fest, Germany
06.17.16 Tampere Metal Meeting, Finland
06.18.16 Hellfest, France
06.19.16 Graspop, Belgium
07.09.16 Jalometalli Festival, Finland
07.17.16 Ilosaarirock, Finland
07.23.16 Ragnard Rock, France
08.06.16 Porispere Festival, Finland
08.12.16 Rockstadt Extreme, Romania
08.19-20.16 Summer Breeze, Germany
* w/ Korpiklanni
** w/ Heidevolk
Pre-order Jumalten Aika here