SURVIVORS ZERO – Pre-listening session of CMXCIX at Seawolf Studios,
Helsinki, Finland, on Feb 12th 2009
Report and studio pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
I was using the so-called “Hotel Relief” at my work on February 5th when my mobile rang all of a sudden: ”Hey Luxi! This is Sami here (playing guitar in Survivors Zero). I hope I didn´t call you at a bad time or anything…?” First I didn’t know what to say back to him, but then just replied something like: “No, not at all. I was just… Eh, never mind. So, tell me what do you have in mind?” Sami: “I was just wondering whether you might be interested in coming over to Suomenlinna at Seawolf Studios on next Thursday? We are arranging a pre-listening session of our debut album there at that time (Suomenlinna is an inhabited sea fortress built on six islands, and located in front of Finland´s capital, Helsinki). Would be great if you came…"
A week later I was standing on the stairs of Record Shop Äx, together with a couple of friends of mine, anxiously waiting for one reporter from Terrorizer magazine to join us. After a few phone calls it appeared that her flight was like 1 ½ hour late, so we were left no other choice but to jump into the taxi that was arranged to pick us up, and drive us to a ferry, which would carry us to Suomenlinna from the Helsinki South Harbour.
When our taxi driver finally got us to the harbour, both Sami and Wilska from Survivors Zero met us there. Everyone was in a good mood and spirit, so obviously it supposedly meant two things: Either there was one hell of a drinking party coming up for each of us, or somewhere deep down there in the back of our minds, we already somehow knew that the forthcoming pre-listening session of Survivors Zero´s debut album (which, by the way, is titled CMXCIX) would offer something between beyond outstanding and breath-taking – or at least give us a good punch in our faces.
15 minutes later the ferry had reached the dock of Suomenlinna, so it was the time to walk out from the ferry and head out to the nearest grocery store and get some alcoholic beverages (Karhu, Koffi, Otto long Drink, etc. – you name it) for this listening party ahead of us. It´s kind of funny how such a wonderful spirit raiser a few beers (or any other %-beverages for that matter) can be whatever occasion you can think of. Anyway, a bit more about all that later, ok? ;o)
We were all sitting comfortable on the couches and armchairs at the studio (Markus Laakso from the horror-oozing metallers Chaosweaver, Jussi Helenius, PR-man of Cobra Records and vocalist of the madly raging thrashers Axegressor, Wilska, Sami and Tommi from SZ´s killing team, Jonas Kjellgren of Scar Symmetry; sharing his outstanding skills as a main producer for this recording) and me, holding our cold beer cans and anxiously getting ready to hear what´s to come within the next hour or two regarding Survivors Zero´s debut album. The guys of the band told us beforehand that 5 out of 10 songs had the vocals recorded for them; the rest of the songs unfortunately were still waiting for Tommi´s (aka Rotten; ex-Deathchain) vocal input for them, but we would certainly get a good idea of what was to come from them.
From L to R: Markus (Chaosweaver) and Jussi (Record Shop Äx, Axegressor)
So, 5 yet unmixed songs were hammered down at huge volumes, with Tommi´s vocals recorded for them all (two of the songs out of these 5 songs being titled “The Lucifer Effect” and “Embrace the Inferno” – and all I can honestly say is that I have just never been as impressed at pre-listening session of band´s forthcoming album as I was in SZ´s case. In fact, right after the first spinning was over, it left all of us somewhat speechless with sheer amazement (this is where the band´s true solo monster, Jani Luttinen, stepped in the studio, too). Maybe it has also something to do with a few alcoholic drinks we had just purged through our dry throats, or maybe not after all…
The thing, however, is that the songs did sound massively heavy, catchy, brutal, genius, etc. (I could go on and on) – and they were full of strong, cleverly thought out ideas that basically left our jaws wide open the more we let the songs enslave our ears and minds. I mean, they indeed did sound totally mind-blowing. Think something along the lines of Arch Enemy´s debut album BLACK EARTH - and then spice it up with a tad more technical playing, blistering and sharp solo outbursts that should make the Amott brothers envious – and finally, add some infamous growls of Tommi that will surely scare enemies back to their miserable holes. Then we are kinda close to how CMXCIX sounds like actually. ;o)
After 3 or 4 more intense and focused rounds of those 5 finished songs for CMXCIX, I have to admit that I myself was sincerely yet completely stunned even. Wish I could say that I am just licking these crazy muthafukkas´ ugly and hairy asses by confessing this, but believe me, I didn´t simply spit all this out from my mouth because I may know the band members personally. From the days of two demo songs that they recorded last year (“Embrace the Inferno” and “Fortress of Lies”) onward, the SZ´s kill team have clearly improved and matured even more as a tightly and professional playing unit – from every damn aspect, bringing their songs on a whole new level in which it´s overall been possible to create a perfect match between their earlier musical experiences in other bands (Impaled Nazarene, Messiah Paratroops, Finntroll, etc.) they have played with so far, and a determined drive to come up with something totally new and earth-shattering for which they can honestly be very proud of. And all this really shows and shines through the stuff that they have been able to put together with Survivors Zero.
As if those 5 songs weren´t enough, both Markus and me also got an extraordinary opportunity to listen to the other five songs that were still without Tommi´s vicious beast-like vocals. What can I say, but we may well have a new chart breaker in our hands here as far as the Finnish death metal overall is concerned.
Then bring in some true legends, Kreator. As it goes nowadays, almost every band tends to record at least one cover song for their album(-s) at some point of their career. In Survivors Zero´s case, it may well happen with the band´s debut album already – who actually knows. Anyway, these lads´ own cover version from a Kreator song, “People of the Lie” sounded also very good – played precisely like our Teutonic thrash warriors did on COMA OF SOULS. Somehow I´m glad they chose to cover this particular song in question – and not Testament´s song, “Low”, which also was one option for them for cover. After this, Jonas suggested whether we could all participate in a song called “Armageddon Cult” and repeat the words “Serpent rise” – and then “Rise up!” as long as he could get what he was looking for that song. With a good injection of alcohol in each of our veins, we yelled those words from the top of our lungs ´til Jonas was happy with the end result. In fact, it seemed like everyone of us was happy with what we just had accomplished a moment ago. All of a sudden that song sounded a whole lot different and simply stronger – getting even bigger balls than it already had. You see, 6 pair of hairy balls make a great difference after all – than, let´s say, only 4 pair of hair-free balls, right? Ha-ha! ;oP
A successful, and yet so highly entertaining pre-listening session even, had come to its end. I can tell you that the band´s songs really crushed, but so did Markus and me with some thrash type of shouts backfire for “Armageddon Cult” (at least we thought we did, he!). Not so surprising that everyone was more or less drunk at that point of evening – and dear Lord, in a darn good spirit to carry our parties out into the depths of Hell-sinki. Back to the ferry – from there to a taxi, we found ourselves from one big metal bar that had got some bands booked to play there at that night, Amoral (fronted by the Finnish Idols winner Ari Koivunen these days respectively) and Omnium Gatherum being just two of them. The rest is history…
Survivors Zero are definitely on fire, and a nailbomb named CMXCIX will soon be dropped on all of our necks with some very lethal results. Just wait tíl you hear it, and prepare to be positively amazed by it, our dear fellow metalheads! ;o)
In the meantime, be sure to check out also: