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Marianas Rest - Interview

The Finnish so-called "ambassadors of melancholic and melodic doom/death metal" Marianas Rest are back with a new flamboyant album, Fata Morgana. Full of misery, drama, emotion, yet filled with epic atmospheres and soul-shaking melodies. The band from the coastal town of Kotka was founded in 2013, and after the self-titled demo in 2014, they released the debut album Horror Vacui in 2016 via Sliptrick Records. It was followed by the amazing melodic doom/death opus named Ruins, released in 2019 by Inverse Records. Soon after that, the Finnish sextet signed with one of the most prominent European metal labels - Napalm Records and will release the poignant masterpiece named Fata Morgana on 12th March. The eight-song epos delivers atmospheric melodies that are endless and fascinating as the overwhelming beauty of Finnish nature. There's not much to be said but to enjoy in the melodically grasped melancholy made by Marianas Rest. No matter what, Marianas Rest certainly did their best album so far, but not only, it's one of the most prominent albums of the entire genre that were released lately. We talked with bands vocalist Jaakko Mäntymaa and guitarist Nico Mänttäri who gave us many additional details about the new album, lyrics, influences, video production, signing with Napalm Records and yet much more.

Interview with: Jaakko Mäntymaa and Nico Mänttäri
Conducted by: Tomaz
Edited by: Jerneja

Tomaz: Your new album Fata Morgana is going to be released on 12 March. I find it a big step forward for Marianas Rest if compared to Ruins. How do you look at it?
Jaakko: Thank you! Everybody says that their new album is the best so far, but I also think that Fata Morgana is our best album. Everything clicked just as it should. The songs somehow came together very naturally and unforced. We didn't argue about which direction should we go with the songs. It just happened. Maybe this is one of the reasons that the new stuff sounds more mature. I guess that also we as musicians are a bit better than before. I think that this is a step in the right direction for us.
Nico: Yes, I agree, and I think that after the last album, we found the thing that drives us in the same direction. No one feels a need to make his stands with his instrument. We just let the song evolve by itself.
Jaakko: Everybody was focused solely on the songs, and nobody has forced to do his own thing. The song is the only thing that matters.

Tomaz: Fata Morgana involves less death metal than your previous efforts, but more dark/doom metal, yet the music is now even more atmospheric, and I dare to say more captivating...
Jaakko: You are probably right. Our songs have always been composed of different kinds of metal genres. This time there's not a lot of death metal. We tried to tune it down a bit, and we have discussed not to insert too much double bass drums but to add more clean elements in the songs and see how that works. I was pretty surprised that in the end, the record feels even heavier than the previous two albums, at least I see it this way.
Nico: I think that the main difference is- if compared with the previous record when we were worried that songs wouldn't be heavy enough to suit the atmosphere, so we intentionally added some blast beats or something to make it drive a bit more. On the new album, we made a conscious decision that the song sets the limits. We didn't want to force or add elements that would not suit the song. Maybe this way it feels more coherent.
Jaako: I am pretty sure that if there would be a part where a blast beat is needed, then we would have made it, but this time it didn't happen.

Tomaz: Does Fata Morgana has any concept, or it follows the general concept of Marianas Rest? If I quote you: "Marianas Rest is a band that embodies the Finnish melancholy and sadness of the harsh winter landscape, the social coldness of the people. We’ve created a sound that has deep roots in our culture and a solid connection to the part of Finland we come from".
Jaakko: Yeah, many things in the promotional text are connected to the roots of this sort of music in Finland. A lot of it comes from the bands like is Sentenced, and a lot of music made here has that certain kind of tone in it, the way the melodies are structured, and that sort of things. But yes, we have a concept, or we have a story, which started on the first record and ends on Fata Morgana. It tells a story of a man starting to lose himself in the modern world and has hollow feelings, although it's not visible on the outside. Everything is plentiful, but he still feels this kind of hollowness. The Ruins album is all about the mental collapse that follows this sort of things, and the new album is about his former life and how he tries to move on. He starts this journey to the edge of the world and tries to figure out what went wrong and how he became this cold and numb. What are the costs of all this? From this also the name of the album comes. Fata Morgana is an illusion usually caused by extreme temperatures. Here it is reversed to the way that his vision has been distorted.

Tomaz: Yes, this is also noticeable in the latest videos you've made, but we will return to this topic a bit later. Your previous two albums, Horror Vacui and Ruins, were released by esteemed labels like Sliptrick Records and Inverse Records. Now you signed with the big player - Napalm Records. What kind of a difference does something like this bring to a band such as Marianas Rest? And how are you satisfied with their work so far?
Jaakko: I must say that everything has come so well with Napalm Records. They are very kind, helpful and professional people. I was a bit surprised by how well they took us. The main difference between this and previous releases is that now we had a lot more work. We had many interviews and all sorts of other promotional stuff, way more than ever before.
Nico: The distribution is also way huger than it was on previous labels.

Tomaz: And how this collaboration with Napalm Records started in the first place? Have they contacted you first, or you sent the material to them and waited what will happen?
Jaakko: Haha, this a funny story. They found us, although we didn't want to be. This story started more than a year ago when we were drinking beer and went to see the Amorphis show here in our home town. When the taxi drove us to the arena, our second guitar player Harri asked me to send our old songs to some of the big labels in Europe. I was strongly against it because I thought we don't have a chance to get in touch with any of them. We also didn't have any new material at that time. Album Ruins was released almost a year ago, and nobody at that point got in touch with us, so I thought it is a big waste of time. But as the evening went along, Harri and Nico managed to get my head around, and I sent the e-mails, and we got the response. We agreed to send the new demos as soon as we have anything. When we recorded the first demo songs, we sent them right away, but nobody responded, and we thought that the new songs were just not good enough. Then in the springtime, a couple of months later, I checked the junk e-mail folders, and the response from Napalm Records was there. That was a horrific situation. It was like a dream for us to end up on a record label like this. We have grown up listening to music released by labels such as Napalm Records or Nuclear Blast. I was so scared if we have fucked up everything this time, it passed some time since they responded, and we were not sure if they are still interested in us because we can't even use our e-mails properly. Luckily they were still interested, and that is how everything started. In the summertime, everything was already signed and planned. Nobody of us has ever dreamed that we would be in this situation.

Tomaz: That is a great story. On Fata Morgana, you again collaborated with special guest Timo Virkkala who played some great cello lines. And vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft of Antiqua/ex-Cradle Of Filth added to a couple of songs a soothing atmosphere. How did these collaborations start in the first place?
Jaakko: About Lindsay... this happened when we were doing the production for the album. We went through the songs with our producer, and there were some parts for which we all agreed that they miss something. So, we were toying around with some ideas, and a producer Teemu suggested to add some beautiful female vocal lines. He suggested contacting Lindsay, whom he worked with before, and ask her to do this stuff for us. The result is amazing, and we are most happy and glad for what she did. It fits perfectly.
Nico: Timo was already onboard on the previous album, Ruins, and when we made the new songs, we immediately knew that the cello would be on this album again. It was just perfect on the last album, Timo is a great guy, and it's a lot of fun working with him, and we are pretty sure that we will work with him again on the next album. The songs for Fata Morgana were already composed in a way to include cello in certain parts.

Tomaz: So it seems that Timo is almost a permanent band member now...
Jaakko and Nico: Hahaha, yes, almost. He's still on a trial for that...

Tomaz: The album was produced in the same place/studio, with the same producer, Teemu Aalto, like Ruins, but still, the sound is now thicker, more atmospheric and somehow more mystical. What have you changed this time to make it like this?
Nico: I don't think that we have changed pretty much anything. The main difference comes from the fact that we have worked with Teemu on the previous album, and we all had more focus on what we want and what we are trying to achieve this time. We were all on the same page, so to say.
Jaakko: The basic sound is almost the same, but there are, of course, some differences because Teemu this time knew better what we want. I asked him why this album has a better sound than the previous one, and he said that he got a little bit better. Sure, that this might be one thing, but I guess, also the songs were done in a way, he had more space when working with them. The songs were in better shape when we entered the studio, and he had a better idea of how we should make everything to sound. The last time there was a lot of figuring out how to make the songs sound due to much more variations in the song structures.

Tomaz: Your lyrics speak about the dark aspects of life. There is almost no hope and brightness in there. Tell me more about the inspirations and meaning...
Jaakko: I'm the kind of person that needs good lyrics before I listen to any music. For me, that's the main difference between a good and very good album. People often say that it doesn't really matter if you use growling vocals because nobody can understand the words, but I don't think that's the case. Most of the stuff in the lyrics is from the things that happened in our lives. I can't do fantasy lyrics or stories. I have tried that and failed horribly. So, many of the things come from something that has happened or from what I think is going to happen. It's about the things that are picked out of our heads in different sorts of metaphors or allegories. It's in a way hard to analyze your own lyrics, because everything has a meaning, but it tends to vary. Sometimes I think that this song is about one thing, then after some time, I might have a different kind of explanation. I think it's good that everybody reads them and analyzes them in his/her way. I don't like to say that there's only one way to interpret the songs. There are a lot of ways, and all are equally good. There are a lot of mental things in our lyrics.

Tomaz: The album title Fata Morgana must have a deeper meaning...
Jaakko: Fata Morgana is a metaphor about people who think that they see things clearly or know something, but many times it isn't so. Their vision is distorted, and it can be caused by many things, like, if you spend too much time alone, or if you spend too much time with the wrong sort of crowds, that can deeply affect your vision of things. Fata Morgana means the distortion in our every day lives. Many times we don't know if we see things correctly. When your vision becomes compromised, you can only see it correctly if you look back at your life and think about what went wrong or right, so you, kind of, learn from the mistakes you've made. That's the story behind the title.

Tomaz: And what about the album's artwork- I guess there is something behind it as well?
Jaakko: The picture has already been made before the songs were ready. The man who made the artwork, Kjetil, is from Norway, and we stumbled into him on the internet when we were trying to figure out how this record should look. His pictures were perfect, and we immediately knew that this is the guy when we saw his work. We contacted him, and he said that the music suits his pictures. We had to choose from a huge catalogue of his works, and we decided to pick eight pictures that would represent different songs, and that's how it all came together.
Tomaz: For the first single and video, you chose my favourite track, "Glow From The Edge". Since the video is so meaningful, I must ask you who created the screenplay for it and how was shooting it?
Nico: We had people who worked with us on previous videos also, at least a couple of them. This time we just handed them the song and asked them to make something out of what they see in the song. We didn't give any guidelines, and once we saw the screenplay for the video, we knew that they captured its meaning perfectly. They had pretty much the same kind of vision as we, and we just let them have their way with it.
Jaakko: Three of them, Riikka, Eero and Lassi..., by the way, Riikka and Eero are my sister and brother, and Lassi is the boyfriend of Riikka, so we had all the time kind of a direct line to the production crew, but we made the decision to not force with our ideas and gave them the total control. It was a bit horrifying because every other video we made before it was done by us holding the strings, and sometimes it was good, other times not that much. This time we tried a different way, and I'm glad we did. They were all very professional when we were shooting the video. There was quite a big production crew. We all had the screenplay of the video, everything was time-tabled, and we just needed to be there at the right time.
Nico: That was it. To make it short,... we showed up in the morning, we drank some beer, and at the end of the day, it was ready, haha.

Tomaz: It is a great video, which was also chosen for the video of the week on our web site... Jaakko, your voice is far from being typical for doom or death metal. I find it original,... But there are sections where you are on a border of a hardcore or metalcore style. I guess this is not strange because you are also a member of the metalcore band ID: Exorcist?
Jaakko: Yeah, thanks for that. I don't know if it's a good or a bad thing having a background like this. I needed to do a lot of practice to learn singing in a way to fit this kind of music. I had a lot of difficulties when we started because this is so different kind of stuff from what I did before. Ok, I think that with every album, I got a bit better, but that's also thanks to the fact that our producer Teemu and I know each other so well. We always try to make the vocals fit a certain part of the song, and we never think of different styles, like for example, this part should have growls, the other should have screamed, yet the next one death or black metal kind of vocals, we just want to make them feel like natural, to channel the meaning of the song naturally. That's what we try to do and the main thing is to achieve the right mood that fits the song.

Tomaz: Maybe some words about your major influences?
Nico: This is a tricky question, but if I say that all of us is, in a way, influenced by Sentenced, I can't be wrong. I think that Alice In Chains was the main influence on my guitar playing. When I heard the Dirt album for the first time, that was the essence of everything dark and gloomy for me. It's a very disturbing record, and I thought that this is the shit that I'll be doing.
Jaakko: Yeah, Sentenced is the band that comes first in my mind, but I think that all of us listen to many different kinds of music that bring various influences. That's the reason why we don't sound like a typical genre band, but more like a mix of everything. Beside Sentenced, I need to mention that also Paradise Lost had some influence on our music.

Tomaz: Here and there, I found also some similarities with Draconian. Are they one of the bands that influenced you, too?
Jaakko: Not for me, because I was never listening to them. The first time that I heard Draconian was last year, and somehow I have missed them.
Nico: Yes, the same story for me. Before, I haven't been listening to this band at all. I checked them out a few months ago since they are on the same label as we are now, just for curiosity. I stumbled across the name, I think that I read somewhere in a review where someone else has also found similarities with our music, and I thought I need to give them a listen. I understand and agree that there are similar things.
Jaakko: Our bass player, the other Nico, listens to them, and he introduced me to Draconian, but I can't say it's an influence at all since we didn't know the band before. They make good music, though.

Tomaz: I don't know how much you follow the recent music releases, but still, which were your favourite releases of 2020 that you would recommend to our readers?
Nico: I was listening mostly to the new album of Katatonia, the City Burials record.
Jaakko: Do you know the Swedish death metal band Lik? They released the album named Misanthropic Breed, and for me, that was one of the biggest surprises among the albums released last year. It has that kind of Entombed sort of sound yet done in its own way with a modern touch. It's a very good album, and I strongly recommend it.

Tomaz: Because there are also some black metal elements in your music, I wonder if the typical Finnish black metal stuff like Beherit, Horna, Sargeist, Behexen, and many others, also had any influence on what you are doing in Marianas Rest?
Nico: Yes, definitely, it's a subconscious thing. I have been listening to a lot of black metal, but I try not to involve it in our music. Maybe because of listening to it that very much, it comes naturally.
Jaakko: As a group, we all listen to quite a lot of black metal, maybe not that much only to Finnish bands, we still do, and it has to have some sort of an effect, but it's not a conscious thing.

Tomaz: Now, the obvious question in these times... How much effect has the Covid-19 pandemic had on Marianas Rest?
Nico: Everything that we have planned doesn't exist anymore. Luckily enough, we were able to get with the album recordings, writing and everything around it, so in this way, the pandemic didn't affect us very much. We all stayed healthy and got with it pretty easy.
Jaakko: Maybe if we were a bigger band, the effects would be harder, but we have a silver lining. Many other bands were hit much harder. Of course, it's hard if you can't plan anything after the release of the album, and for metal bands, it's really important to go on tour, to play the songs live and get new listeners that way. We can't do anything of that, and we must figure something else out.

Tomaz: But still, do you have any shows, a tour or festival appearances planned after the pandemic is over?
Jaakko: We have planned a couple of shows for this summer that actually might happen. The promoters are still keeping the things ready. But no big tours or something like that is planned right now. I think that nobody has been making plans for tours since the pandemic started. There are only those that were planned before and are just getting postponed or cancelled.

Tomaz: When and if it'll return to normal, and when the tours will be possible, and if you had infinite options, with which band would you like to tour the most?
Jaakko: I think that Paradise Lost wouldn't be a bad choice since I cannot say Sentenced anymore.

Tomaz: Thank you for taking the time for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to say or share with our readers?
Jaakko: Try to stay positive during this weird situation since there are still plenty of good things that will not disappear with the pandemic. Hopefully, after this, we will get on tour, and I hope that we will also play in Slovenia.
Nico: Eventually, it'll pass, and it'll get better. We will get to see again the live shows, and we will get to rock, drink and have a good time together. Thank you for the interview.

Marianas Rest line-up: Jaakko Mäntymaa (vocals), Nico Mänttäri (guitars), Harri Sunila (guitars), Niko Lindman (bass), Aapo Koivisto (keyboards), Nico Heininen (drums)

Marianas Rest discography:
- Marianas Rest [Demo] (2014)
- Horror Vacui (2016)     
- Ruins (2019)
- Fata Morgana (2021)

Marianas Rest links: Official website, Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, Napalm Records