INTERVIEW WITH MIKA KYÖSTILÄ OF THROMDARR
When death/black metal was crawling into the Finnish underground, it was stamping ground for a new brutal and raw metal that has never heard on the Finnish soil. Bands started emerging more and more into the scene, leaving the immortalized carve in the metal history such as Beherit, Funebre, Barathrum and the list goes on. Of course there are a number of bands having started out in the same era, though they didn’t reach that immortalized cult status as the aforementioned bands. One of them hailing from the early days of the Finnish death/black metal underground was Thromdarr. The band guided by the founder and guitarist Mika Kyöstilä thru years, released a number of demos and a couple of full-length opus is going to release the comp. album of all the demos from their long career via the Finnish label Svart Records. Metal-Rules.Com talked to Mika Kyöstilä about the band’s past present and future.
Interview by Arto Lehtinen / pics from Mika Kyöstilä’s Thromdarr gallery archives
How’s it going there and what’s up in the Thromdarr ?
Hello to you too Arto and thanks for asking. Things are going well and we are waiting for a new demo collection album release. It is called MIDWINTER FROST-COMPLETE demo tapes 1990-1997 and it will be released by Svart.
When you started the band under the Necrobiosis moniker back in 1989, what were some bands and/or artists you looked up to for inspiration?
Well, for me the main influences were Bathory and Celtic Frost. But at the time in 1989, we loved Death Metal bands like Death, Possessed, Pestilence, Entombed, Morbid Angel, Sepultura and Obituary like the other metalheads did.
The 5-song rehearsal demo CONSUME THE LIFELESS CADAVER demo, recorded in 1990, was an uncompromisingly barbaric, brutal, and raw output. Did you feel you had accomplished something unique and special on that demo at that time?
The first version of the demo was recorded in autumn of 1990 in October or November, I can’t remember for sure, but we didn’t like the sound on it. It was not brutal enough, so we re-recorded it in January 1991. That is the official version of the demo, and we liked the brutal sound on it. Those 1990 demo songs are nowadays known as CONSUMED tracks. I don’t remember if I felt we did something special with that demo back then. That special kind of feeling was when we did the demo WINTER OF FLAMES in 1993, I guess.
Was your musical direction 100% clear from the beginning that the band’s style would be dark black metal?
Not at all. We liked mostly Death metal in 1989. Things had slowly changed in that direction in 1990 when we discovered Mayhem, Treblinka/Tiamat, Sarcofago and Blasphemy. I was already a fan of the first wave of Black Metal bands like Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost, so the change was very logical.
When Necrobiosis/Thromdarr was formed, there was no Internet, so promoting your band took lots of time and effort. How much time did you have to put in to try and make the name of the band known in the metal scene back in the day?
We didn’t use much time to promote the band, which was stupid. We should have done much more promotion back in the day, but that was not our thing. We had to send a lot of flyers and demos to the magazines and wait for a response. Tape trading was one good way to spread music too. Sami and Marko did almost all the promotion and tape trading in the early days. After they quit the band, there was no one left who did the promotion. Gladly our friends like you Arto, promoted the band.
As for the name of the band; what do you want to tell about the band’s name, Thromdarr – It isn’t any typical band name for a metal band for sure. It sounds mystical and grim, so could you kindly shed some light on your decision to name the band after Thromdarr from Necrobiosis?!
Our first Necrobiosis band photos in late 1990 were already on warpaints. Our music and lyrical taste had gradually evolved from Death / Gore to more Black Metal. After our first demo and gigs in the summer of 1991, we decided to change the name of the band and the musical direction as well. I remember coming up with the word Thromdam, which I had heard from my friends when they played Dungeons & Dragons or something like that. That word stayed in mind. I, Sami and Ave were in the car to head to Hikiä for rehearsals, and we discussed changing our name. I remembered the word Thromdam, and Ave said Thromdar would sound more aggressive. We all liked the name, and I came up later with another R to the end to make it sound even more aggressive. Phonetically, Thromdarr sounds like a thunderstruck, which is fucking awesome! I composed the song “NorthStorm Arrives” in 1993. That song was the inspiration for the cover art of our 1998 debut album NORTHSTORM ARRIVES.
Did you have other options for the name? And when changing the name, did you view that the lyrics must be about something else, not the gore and guts?!
I guess, I thought about Immortal Death at some point. Immortal Death was the title of my very first own lyrics in 1988 before I started playing in bands. Yes, our lyrical style had already changed more into the mythological and occultic direction as well.
Tell the readers about the demos that Thromdarr released?!
Well, there are many of those. AS A WIND CRIES 1992 was our first official demo, and the first time we were at the studio. The demo has a very raw and down-tuned guitar sound, and I still like “Dawn of the Samhain” and “Dragonmyrmidon”. WINTER OF FLAMES 1993 is the best demo we did in my opinion. We had two days to record and mix the demo, and the sound is very good at this one. The music was very bold and experimental, not typical Black Metal. SILVERTHRONE was recorded in 1995 February, if I remember correct. That demo had a very clear icy guitar sound, which I don’t like anymore. We still play “Silverthrone” sometimes live. In 1997 we did the WINDS OF THE FALL demo. This demo had many songs that ended up on our debut album. With this demo, we got a record deal with Solistitium. After NORTHSTORM ARRIVES cd, we did the PRO-MORTAL demo in 2001. We had down-tuned our guitar to Drop D. We had a much heavier sound, and basically, we were heading back to our heavier roots. “Burn for the Eternity” ended up on our next album ELECTRIC HELLFIRE and it is one of our best songs ever made, I think. In 2003 we made the DELETE EXISTENZ demo, which was never published. It is the only recording that features Mika Karma on vocals. The songs were good, but we were so drunk in the studio, so the final mixed version of the demo was horrible. In 2008 we did Promo 2008, which included 3/4 of the Skepticism line-up. All songs were included on the ELECTRIC HELLFIRE album a couple of years later.
The group used to gig in different places and play with several bands. What were the most memorable shows?!
On our first gig, we played with bands such as Disgrace, Amorphis, Menticide and Euthanausea. It was very memorable. I was quite drunk and threw up on the stage while playing. 1992 gig in Riihimäki Sports Hall was a great gig with a big audience and awesome bands such as Sentenced, Impaled Nazarene, Eternal Darkness, Belial, Demigod, Sceptical Schizo, Maple Cross and our friends Euthanausea. Our vocalist Ave and bass player Fibi were covered with blood on the stage and our drummer Lasse played the gig with a high fever. The Impaled Nazarene show was legendary. Mika Luttinen threw pieces of meat with maggots to the audience.
How do you see the band’s position in the Finnish death/black thrash metal scene? Do you view people are familiar with the band’s name or do you think you should have work(ed) on more to get the name spread?!
Well, our band’s name is no longer familiar in the Finnish metal scene. And we can only blame ourselves for the lack of promotion. Of course, we should have promoted Thromdarr more in the 90’s, but it was not our thing as I said before. In my opinion, it would be correct to be recognized as one of the pioneer Death/Black Metal bands of the Finnish Metal Scene. We were among the first bunch of bands in both scenes, which is now forgotten. But maybe our sound is too Death Metal for Black Metal fans and too Black metal for Death Metal fans, so we are not easy to mention in a particular genre.
The first Thromdarr album titled NORTHSTORM ARRIVES was released by the German label Solistitium. How did you land to have a deal with them?
I sent Carsten a copy of our 1997 WINDS OF THE FALL demo and he responded,” I am still willing to do an album with you guys” At that point, I was blown away; has he offered us a deal even before? I don’t recall seeing a letter with a deal offer, but that is ancient history.
Where did you record the album and how long did the songwriting process last?!
We recorded at Astia Studio in Lappeenranta, Finland. At that point, Astia wasn’t so famous or expensive as latter days. Children of Bodom had recorded their debut album there a year before, boosting their fame. Most of the songs were already on our demos. The oldest song on the album was written in 1991 and there were two new songs as well.
The second album ELECTRIC HELLFIRE came out in 2011 by the Finnish label Violent Journey Records. Did they approach you by offering a deal or did you take the contact them?!
We did the album first and then we contacted the record companies, and two companies were interested in making a deal. So, we decided to sign with Violent Journey Records.
In 2011, you released your sophomore album, ELECTRIC HELLFIRE, on Violent Journey Records. There’s a recording gap of ten years between your debut and Hellfire. What was the reason for the ten-year gap between the albums?!
It seems to be very typical for us. Now it’s ten years gone since ELECTRIC HELLFIRE came. There were some changes in the line-up of the band before we were able to write the rest songs for the album. When we got the Skepticism members on board, we quickly made the missing songs. Many of those songs are the best we have ever done.
What was the most significant difference between these albums from the point of view?!
The heavier down-tuned guitar sound and Markus came to play synthesizers in the band. The songs are more melodic and even more progressive than before. Our music style had evolved far away from where we ended at NORTHSTORM ARRIVES in twelve years.
From your point of view, how was the promotion of both the albums taken care of?!
Very poorly with NORTHSTORM ARRIVES. The album was released after a long wait in 2000 due to Solistitium’s financial problems. At that point, I recall I didn’t see ads anywhere to promote the album. In the case of ELECTRIC HELLFIRE, Violent Journey Records did its best with a small promotion budget of a small independent company.
How would you describe the style of Thromdarr? Do you view the stuff more black metal or death metal?! I find Thromdarr’s style has evolved quite a bit since the first demo release…
Maybe it’s easier just to say we play Extreme Metal nowadays. We started as a Death Metal band and evolved to be a Black Metal band in the 90’s. The puritans might say we did not play a sound typical of both genres. We didn’t exactly fit between the strict genre lines. But in my opinion, Black Metal is still more present in our sound, even though we have guitars tuned down.
Obviously both the albums have been out of print for years. Do you have any kind of ideas to release them on the digital platforms?!
ELECTRIC HELLFIRE has been released in digital format by Violent Journey Records. I have planned on releasing NORTHSTORM ARRIVES in a digital form maybe on Bandcamp.
How did you come up with the idea of putting all the reh. tapes and demos together for one release?! Were you approached in the first place or how did this come about?!
After releasing ELECTRIC HELLFIRE ten years ago, I thought it would be nice to release a collection of demo songs someday. I even came up with the name MIDWINTER FROST then. Almost ten years went by, and last January, I decided to find a deal for a demo collection. I approached companies in the old school way. I sent a letter only to four companies and included the WINTER OF FLAMES 1993 demo on CD. Olli Hänninen of Svart Records signed a deal with us to release the WINTER OF FLAMES demo.
Had you already thought of putting the band’s all demos out in one package, either as CD or vinyl before starting to negotiate with Svart Records!?
Not really. After Svart signed a deal with us, we had a discussion and Svart decided to publish a demo collection in vinyl- and CD format. And that is great! Big thanks to Svart Records for that!
What is that comp. album exactly technically to include after all?! All the demos, extra never seen pictures from the past, live tapes?!
The collection includes Necrobiosis demos: CONSUME THE LIFELESS CADAVER 1991, NECROBIOSIS CONSUMED TRACKS 1990. Thromdarr demos: AS A WIND CRIES 1992, WINTER OF FLAMES 1993, SILVERTHRONE 1995 and WINDS OF THE FALL 1997. We didn’t include the Thromdarr 1992 reh tape due to a lack of vocals. The booklet contains some never-before-seen pictures, gig posters and zine interviews also. Unfortunately, we don’t have any live recordings from the 90’s.
Could you describe what the whole package looks like and in general you must be very pleased with how it turned out?!
Double vinyl with gatefold sleeve, mainly black- and silver-colored covers and black and white booklet. Yes, I am very pleased! The vinyl looks amazing! Olli and Svart did a great job!
Those demos definitely sounded quite rough and raw and obviously the quality of old tapes must have suffered a little bit. Did you have to make them sound sharp for a release?! Or are the sounds on the upcoming comp.album as raw and primitive as on old original versions ?!
We didn’t do any mixing to improve the sound quality. Most of the demos are from original DATs or reels. The Necrobiosis stuff was from cassettes. Original recordings were only mastered. So, the sounds are as primitive as in old versions. The versions you hear on YouTube are really bad sounding and probably copied ten times.
Which demos are your fave ones and why?!
Definitely WINTER OF FLAMES is my favorite. In 1993 the sound of the demo was amazing, as it still is. In my opinion, we did something different on that demo, we stretched the boundaries of the Black Metal genre. Promo 2008, which we did with Skepticism members, was great. It was fun to do and the composing process was very innovative. Some kind of youthful energy was present again in the song-making process.
When listening to the old releases from the early 90s, what kind of memories does it bring to your mind from the recording sessions and playing those songs live on stage?!
In all the demo sessions, the single factor was that we were usually very drunk, and the same thing in live shows. That was very typical in those days for young Metal bands. I remember we played for the first and only time ever the song “Dragonmyrmidon” from AS A WIND CRIES demo in Turku 1992. FleshCrawl, Arch Goat, Depravity and Demigod were also at that gig.
What’s the status of your new material? What can you tell us about your new material?
Basically, we have all material written for the next album. We have done seven new songs and we are going to use a few songs from demos from 00’s. We have no plans on when, where, or what schedule we can make the album. We had some long practice breaks in recent years because people lived in different locations, so we have to practice all the new songs again. I think the new material is a direct continuation of the ELECTRIC HELLFIRE album. There are less slow songs and faster and even Black Metal type of songs.
All right, before concluding the interview, I ask you to pick up the five albums having a major impact on your metal fanatism?!
That is one tough question! Bathory: BLOOD FIRE DEATH, Celtic Frost: MORBID TALES, Mötley Crue: SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, Kiss: ANIMALIZE, Sodom: IN THE SIGN OF EVIL
I for one thank you for your time and interest in doing the interview for Metal-Rules.Com, therefore the concluding words are yours….
Thank you, Arto for the interview! MIDWINTER FROST demo collection will be released in 17.6. Check it out and the official video for “Frozen as the Moon” is coming to YouTube about the same time. Homepage is www.thromdarr.com and Thromdarr is on Facebook and Instagram @thromdarrofficial
The official THROMDARR sites