Insomnium | Interview with Ville Friman

Ever since ‘In the Halls of Awaiting’ come out from the frosty and dark lands of Finland in 2002, Insomnium have been producing some consistent, creative and lugubrious death-metal without ever putting a foot wrong. Their latest work ‘Across the Dark’ is no exception and delivers another superb dose of melodic, progressive and sorrowful death metal and is regarded as one of the strongest metal albums to have been released in the past year. David Alexandre found out from guitarist Ville Friman what has changed in the Insomnium camp in the last few years and the inspirations that led to the creation of their newest record. Read more…


Your previous record ‘Above the Weeping World’ was highly regarded amongst death metal fans and specialized press. Did this place any added pressure on the band while working on new album ‘Across the Dark’?

“Yes a bit, at least I was. I think we nailed everything so well with ‘Above the Weeping World’ so I thought it would be very hard to do it better without repeating yourself too much. However, the stress waned away rather fast as the new songs started to take shape and we got going with ‘Across the Dark’. It’s important to not stress too much in the process but just try to have fun with it and enjoy the ride!”

The press release for the latest album, ‘Across the Dark’, calls it your most inspired and diversified album to date and indeed the record often ebbs and flows between melodic and progressive death-metal and epic, atmospheric and folk-inspired sections. Was there a conscious effort to make the songs more varied and diversified when you were working on the album?

“No there wasn’t, the songs just came out like they did. I think it just got something to do with us developing in creating different kind of moods and styles and incorporating them better to our songs and music. At least our personal music tastes have diversified and widened during the years and maybe this has also something to do with the bit more diverse musical expression on ATD.”

One of things about ‘Across the Dark’ that also grabbed my attention is the perfect balance struck between heaviness/aggressiveness and catchy melodic song writing, the songs are heavy and pounding, but also melodic and catchy, there’s even a taste of clean vocalizations to be experienced for the first time I believe. It was important for Insomnium to find a good balance between these different moods for this new album?

“I think we just try to keep our music interesting for us and try to remember also the listener’s viewpoint. We rehearse always the forthcoming songs live and of course you experience the music bit differently when playing compared to mere listening. So you add thing here and there to keep it interesting in playing wise. In the studio you might give more attention to some other things that you don’t realize even to think about at the rehearsing room. I mean, making music is a process where you have to try to step out your own doings and analyze songs from different perspectives. There are no boundaries or rules how things should be done and you just need to find the solution that works best in your own opinion. For us it’s incorporating lots of stuff without losing the red line I guess.”

How would you describe your overall approach to song writing this time? Is there a main composer in the band or is ‘Across the Dark’ a more collaborative effort?

“Niilo did composed 2 songs and I composed 7 songs of which one, ‘The New Beginning’ is only available on the ltd version. I think I made most of the songs on ‘Above the Weeping World’ and ‘Since the Day It All Came Down’ but on ‘In the Halls of Awaiting’ it was a more even effort. I try to get songs as finished as possible at home. Sometimes we just jam and try out some parts we have in store and sometimes we even arrange whole songs at the rehearsing room. Some first demo version might not differ from record version at all while some demos won’t be used ever. But we do rehearse the songs before hand so everybody’s bringing their own share to the songs and have right to give some ideas and develop things further. Normally everything goes pretty smoothly and suddenly we have a new song at our hands. I think we share similar perspective when coming down to music.”

This time Insomnium have also included some clean vocals, which were provided by one Jules Näveri. Will you be replicating them live, are you confident about that part in a live environment?

“Yes, I have been replicating the vocals live and I think I’m getting better slowly but surely. I did record the demo version for Jules in the studio and they weren’t complete shite. So I guess you might even hear my voice on the next album. We’ll see!”

The new album has been getting rave reviews in music publications like Kerrang (They have mistaken the band for Norwegians), Terrorizer and Soundi. Are you pleased with the reaction that ‘Across the Dark’ has garnered so far?

“Yes we are. I mean, it’s always nice to read good reviews :) Of course not everyone likes you so you get the bad ones as well. But of course we are always honored when bigger magazines likes our stuff.”

The band’s progression from album to album has been significant, yet totally natural sounding. How do you feel you’ve matured as a band and how would you compare ‘Across the Dark’ to the rest of the Insomnium discography?

“Thank you! I agree that the development has been natural and we have just focused on doing everything bit better every time. I think the ATD is quite close to ATWW while the first two albums are efforts of their own. First album consists basically from our demo songs re-recorded with few new songs. The second album is very progressive and experimental. But there are good things on every album even though I like the two newest ones most.”

From the song titles there seems to be a common theme running through ‘Across the Dark’ lyric-wise, as all of them refer to dark and sorrowful feelings. Yet I’ve read that the lyrics for this new album are more rooted in reality and daily life, is that right? Where do you draw your lyrical inspiration from?

“For me lyrics are basically some outlooks on life nowadays. Of course they are written in more poetic and enigmatic way to not give all away too easy.  Basically the inspiration comes from life in general, what you go through yourself or what you experience through other people around you. Our lyrics have always been quite sorrowful but there are some glimpses of hope in here and there as well. So there’s the reality but on the other hand there has to be also something bigger and some mysterious. I think all the people are basically yearning big themes and big stories and explanation for their existence that for example religion can offer. So, we do color the gray reality as well…”

I’ve also read somewhere that following the tours Insomnium did for promoting the album ‘Above the Weeping World’ and before the recordings of the new record, you had some time off to focus on other projects. What other projects are the band members of Insomnium currently involved in?

“Well I finished my PhD in evolutionary biology and we have been building our careers on working front and just spending time with our families. You cannot sacrifice everything on the mad altar of rock and roll! Musically we just took time off.”

The band have recently completed a European tour with country mates Swallow the Sun and Omnium Gatherum, which was something close to a Finnish invasion across Europe. How did that tour go? What other plans does the band have stored for the remainder of this year, and what should we expect from Insomnium next year?

“I think the tour went really well, the people came to see some metal action and we delivered some! Really great crowds, good places and good times. We were bit sick with all kinds of flu and I even got Pneumonia at one point but otherwise everything went smoothly!
2010 looks pretty busy on the gig front as well. We will be continuing Finnish tour on January-February, have a one show in northern Sweden on March and possibly another mini European tour on May. We’ll do as many festivals as possible during summer both in Finland and Europe and hopefully we get something good going on autumn as well. Meanwhile I’ll be writing new material as fast as possible and hopefully we get new album out faster than the previous one!”

David Alexandre

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