Interview by The Flâneur
Hello and thank you for your time! Please, introduce yourself and your role in the band.
Ruttomieli: Vocals and lyrics
Loitsumestari Taikakallo: Lead guitar, keyboards
Haaska: Rhythm guitar
Why Moonlight Sorcery? How was the project formed?
Loitsumestari Taikakallo and Ruttomieli knew each other beforehand going back years, and in 2017 an idea about playing black metal was born. Things got started in early 2018 when the first demos were recorded. Loitsumestari had also met Haaska during 2017 and after the first demo recordings he asked Haaska to join and play rhythm guitar. The name just came out of nowhere one night. It sounded cool so we decided to go with that. No deeper meaning behind it but looking at the material it is really descriptive.
You recently released your first EP, Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity, to glowing reviews. Did you ever expect this to happen?
We certainly did not expect anything to happen to be honest. When the EP was finished, the only goal was to get it released physically. Personally we all were very satisfied with the end result and the quality of the tracks and we are glad people are liking our vision.
What aspect of working on Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity did you enjoy the most?
Loitsumestari Taikakallo: I enjoyed most of the actual composing and recording of the EP. I’m not so into the other stuff that is part of the making of the album like example how the cover art should look like or what the lyrics tell about. Of course another enjoyable phase was the drum recordings. After that you could really hear how the songs would sound like with real recorded drums.
Haaska: As almost all the material on this release is composed by Loitsumestari, I have had my biggest enjoyment and also biggest challenge in learning all the material and it has also been great to see how the songs take a form after a single guitar tracks evolve into this whole grandiose piece of work which really comes alive after mixing and mastering. When you learn material someone else has written it really pushes you forward in your own skill and understanding.
I read that Avantgarde Music signed you less than a week after the release of the EP. Can you tell our readers a little more about how that came to be?
We sent promotional material for a few potential labels without any particular hurry after we had set the digital release date. Avantgarde was among those labels and they were also one of the first ones to really show interest in the material and releasing it physically. They really liked our music and had no issues in supporting our vision. So, everything came to be in a classic way by sending a demo, or rather a finished EP in our case. We negotiated with a few other labels but Avantgarde turned out to be the most suitable home for us. We seem to have really hit the right spot in some aspects as there was potential interest in us even before we had released any audio or sent any promotional material to labels out there.
The release was originally only available as a Bandcamp digital download. Now, Avantgarde Music has added a jewel case CD, a cassette, and a sold out LP in three versions, two of which are splatter. Did you ever expect to see the EP in all these physical formats? Do you think any of them are particularly conducive to its enjoyment?
When things got more serious, we were expecting the EP to be released in all those formats. It was our goal after all to get it released physically. When a deal with Avantgarde was made and the EP was already released in Bandcamp, a number of little labels were eager to release a tape or vinyl version. I guess we’re divided within the band whether a CD or vinyl is the best way to listen to music. Most of the fans seem to prefer analog audio in vinyl format as the first pressing in 3 versions did indeed sell out in the preorders! I think and the second pressing is already on its way.
Your sound could be characterised as rather ‘old school’. Was this a conscious decision on your part?
The sound politics were indeed a conscious decision. The modern or polished production doesn’t fit with black metal at all. We knew that Trollhouse Audio were up to do that old school sound we were after, so the mastering was done there. Ruttomieli and Haaska are somewhat enthusiastic when it comes to black metal and most of the best albums in our opinion were made in the 90s so it is only to be expected to hear our own interests in our music.
You are clearly very technically proficient in not only playing your instruments of choice, but also song writing and composition. Have you had extensive experience in this prior to forming Moonlight Sorcery?
Thank you! Glad you can hear it because that was one of the goals with the band to make material that would showcase the musicianship builded over the years. There’s not much of a band experience among the members but everyone has ‘’crafted’’ their skills and knowledge with their instruments and composing for many years already.
Finnish black metal has always been a real underdog of the genre, but it seems to be more and more on the rise with the recent recognition projects such as Kalmankantaja, Havukruunu, and Druadan Forest have garnered. Would you say that the contemporary Finnish black metal sound could be defined in any singular way?
Ruttomieli: I have to disagree on this; Finnish black metal has always been among the most respected acts since bands like Beherit, Impaled Nazarene or Barathrum. Of course, we didn’t have a scene on par with Norwegian or Swedish ones. Of the bands you mentioned, Havukruunu really deserves all the recognition they have garnered. I would say that the Finnish sound today is built upon subtle melodicism and a certain kind of groove a lot of bands are using. However, Moonlight Sorcery really doesn’t fit that mould.
Loitsumestari Taikallo: Can’t say anything on the matter because I don’t listen to black metal really that much.
Haaska: I’m kind of in the same direction with Ruttomieli here. Finnish black metal has its own distinctive sound and the history also is behind it. Personally I think that Finnish black metal scene is nowadays indeed one of the most respected.
I’ve been seeing comments recently remarking that black metal cover art in blue or purple always guarantees that the album will be excellent. What do you think about that?
Yeah, that’s something we’ve noticed as well. Perhaps this is to blame for a particular Norwegian band, Necrolord and the ongoing trend of old school symphonic black metal. It’s no secret that it’s an intertextual reference to the days of glory. Nothing against that if only everything is done properly. Back then we started, there weren’t that many similar bands playing this kind of symphonic black metal, so this is something that has come along the way.
Who created the cover art for Piercing Through the Frozen Eternity?
The cover art was painted by Linda Piekäinen. Many thanks to her for catching our vision! She really had it right from the first drafts after we told what we were looking for.
Do you have any plans to play live?
This is something we have discussed within the band. There seems to be a demand for playing live, so we’re definitely taking it under consideration. However, this is most likely not going to happen in the near future. Currently all the members reside in different cities so rehearsing will take more effort.
Could you tell us a bit about your metal influences? How about your non-metal ones (i.e. literature, films, art, other genres of music)?
Our influences vary from here to eternity. As a band, the most obvious musical influences come from the albums like In the Nightside Eclipse, At the Heart of Winter and all those classic symphonic or melodic black metal albums as well as classic heavy metal and some melodic death metal.
Ruttomieli: My metal influences come from the good old 1990s black metal scene.Being raised with records like De mysteriis dom Sathanas and Under a Funeral Moon gives a quite good idea of my influences. As for the lyrics, the inspiration comes from the Finnish nature and the occult. I have a fairly noteworthy collection of books about Finnish folk tradition and mythology, so that’s also a source for inspiration. Of course I listen to non-metal music as well, anything really.
Loitsumestari Taikakallo: My metal influences come mainly from 80’s and 90’s Heavy Metal: Dio, Iron Maiden, Helloween, Judas Priest, Savatage to name a few. Also the early 2000’s melodic death metal and metalcore play a big part in my influences. None-metal influences vary from Abba to Rihanna and beyond. I really like all kinds of music. Of course most non-metal influences for me comes from the old school video game music (even though some video game music is definitely metal as f*ck). The keyboard work is mainly influenced by that and 90’s electronic music.
Haaska: My biggest influences as far as metal go are in black and thrash metal and most of the variations made from them. Some death metal too. Without sounding like a broken record the most obvious ones like Emperor and Immortal are also the ones which give me ideas during composing of my tracks. However, since our own vision has come into reality this clearly, I would have to say that today my biggest influence in writing music is Loitsumestari Taikakallo himself. He has pushed me forward on so many levels.
Non-musical influences would most likely come from fantasy literature. From a young age I have been able to “see” everything I read, so for example all those hours in landscapes created by J.R.R. Tolkien and other great fantasy writers have taken a part in shaping what art is for me.
Are there any new releases you’d recommend that our readers try?
Ruttomieli: For this year, be sure to check the new albums by Shape of Despair, Ereb Altor, Vampirska, Greve and Bekëth Nexëhmü. Grieve, Strange Horizon, Vultyrium, Fer de Lance, Ebon Reliquary, Luzifer, Stangarigel and The Mist from the Mountains gave us really good debut albums. Keep an eye on Wolftower as well. This comes from a fellow music journalist.
Are there themes or musical directions you wish to explore more in your future work?
Loitsumestari Taikakallo: Musically the songs will not change that much (we are definitely not gonna start to do some electronic or ambient style music). The old school heavy metal and black metal hybrid direction will be the one that we will continue to pursue onward. We try to do our own thing and not take any pressure for the future releases.
I’d like to finish off with a couple of random questions. To corpse paint or not to corpse paint?
As we consider the visual side very important to the band, we have to choose corpse paint. Not necessary, but it adds something sinister to the whole picture of the band. A corpse paint and a pseudonym allow us to be something more behind the music.
It’s an open bar. What’s your order?
Ruttomieli: Craft beer
Loitsumestari Taikakallo: Lonkero
Haaska: A beer is fine, not too picky.
Thank you for your time! Do you have any final words for our readers?
Thank you for your interest! The EP is out now. All vinyls are sold out but there’s a second pressing coming soon. We’re already composing our debut album, so keep an eye on us!