Finnish heavy metal group BEAST IN BLACK have at last released their debut album, Berserker. The band was created by former BATTLE BEAST guitarist Anton Kabanen, while the album itself has been two years in the making. Distorted Sound recently had a chat with Anton to discuss the band’s first record, their influences and more.
Berserker is BEAST IN BLACK’s debut album, how does it feel knowing that you now have a record out?
Anton: It feels very rewarding, as the feedback has been much better than what we could imagine and the reception has been very good. We had an indication when we released our first video that people were happy about it and really enjoying our music, so we are very, very happy as well.
What were the writing and recording processes like?
Anton: Pretty stressful! The actual process of recording isn’t that bad, but it’s all about mixing and figuring out how we want it to sound. The process took so much time and it was divided – it wasn’t recorded in one session, we had multiple sessions so that was a pain in the ass so to speak! But the writing processes is the easiest part when it comes to making an album, and it comes naturally so it’s a pleasure to write music. After that everything else was a bit more difficult, like lyrics is not my strong point so it takes time, even though the melodies and everything is there but it’s always the same with any album when it comes to lyrics. For the next album we’re hoping that the recording and mixing processes happen faster, and it will but we don’t know how much faster, we’ll be well prepared after this experience though for sure.
Are there any specific messages or themes that feature in the album?
Anton: Whenever I do an album I always divide it into two parts, and it’s the same with Berserker. There are five songs about berserk and Japanese manga, and the other half is about personal experiences and thoughts or stories; for example End Of The World is not a personal experience or anything, it’s just a meaningful story. The berserk related songs are actually also in a way personal too as there are themes in berserk which I relate to, and things that the characters in berserk go through. There’s some manga points there in the berserk story that I think many people can relate to, but when I wrote the berserk songs for BEAST IN BLACK I tried to make the references to berserk clear but if you want to as well you can see it from a personal perspective. The beauty of art and songs in general is that it’s to provoke thought and as long as it gives some thoughts or emotions then it’s great, but the listener doesn’t have to know what it is originally about.
BEAST IN BLACK were formed by yourself after you left BATTLE BEAST, so how much of an influence had they had when writing this album?
Anton: The first three albums from BATTLE BEAST were written entirely by me so this debut album by BEAST IN BLACK is kind of a fourth album, that’s how I see it. It’s the same continuum because the themes are the same; on the first three BATTLE BEAST albums there were songs about berserk and anime manga and personal stuff as well, and the music style was pretty much the same. In production it’s different, but it’s always about this traditional heavy metal, that’s what it’s been about to me. When I departed from BATTLE BEAST the idea was just to continue the same thing – the first album I thought “what do I want to do?” and quite quickly realised that I felt I hadn’t quite finished this journey, and actually felt like it was just about to start. I thought I’d continue this style, not try to change or anything; I even made the connection in the band name with ‘beast’ being in both band names, which was done on purpose as I wanted them to be connected and have a connection to the past as well. The name BEAST IN BLACK also has a connection to a character in the berserker manga so it really has two meanings.
Are there any bands that you look up to or take inspiration from?
Anton: Well first off looking at heavy metal bands I have always had a top five list, and right at the top is JUDAS PRIEST, that’s my all-time favourite band, then its MANOWAR, W.A.S.P, BLACK SABBATH, and ACCEPT. I listen to those bands quite a lot, and when I was a teenager I used to play their music so much that nowadays I rarely listen to them – not because I don’t like them, just that I want something else! I listened to so much of them that nowadays most of the time I listen to orchestral soundtrack music or acoustic music or synthesizer music. One of the bands I could mention that isn’t heavy metal is BLACKMORE’S NIGHT, they’re one of my favourites currently.
The first tour you did as a band was with NIGHTWISH, how was it to be sharing a stage with a band of that stature?
Anton: Super! It was beyond what we expected, and when we were asked if we wanted to support them we were totally blown away and it was a great start for us. Unfortunately it took two years after that for the album to be ready, and I wish it could have been ready faster so we could have continued the awesome start we had but we had that two year break to work on the record and make sure everything was right. We had one gig in 2016 which was a festival in Helsinki which was really good.
How do you feel the metal scene has changed over the years?
Anton: In my opinion there’s just too many styles in general in metal, and people are mixing all kind of weird things together and they’re not necessarily working out because people are so desperate in trying to come up with something unique and stand out from the mass. There’s that many bands it becomes harder and harder to stand out which is probably why metal has changed over the years, but not necessarily for the better. Luckily there’s always the past, there’s an infinite amount of treasures in the past if you start digging, which to me is enough and that’s why I listen to more of the older bands. I watch old movies as well, I’m a bit of a dinosaur myself so I don’t really know that many new bands – I might know the names but I don’t know their music that well except for maybe one song that comes across on YouTube or something. If it doesn’t appeal to me though then I won’t check out the other songs, I usually know enough within the first 20 seconds or so what it’s going to be like and what the rest of the songs are going to be like – I’m pretty picky when it comes to stuff that I listen to.
Finland has one of the more notorious metal scenes, so what was the reception like when the album was released?
Anton: Pretty good I think. In the charts our position was relatively good; it was number seven, but it was a busy week and there were a lot of big releases on the same weekend so the fact we managed to be in the top 10 was great and it was a good start. It’s funny because people always say that Finland is a metal country, and it is maybe more than other countries but the dominating music styles here are not metal, it’s mainly rap and that sort of stuff and I can’t stand it!
What are your future plans as a band?
Anton: We’re going on tour in December in Germany, and we’re there to support BEYOND THE BLACK and KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, which will be nine shows in Germany. After that we have a small break to work on the next album, but then next year is going to be very busy with lots of gigs. The summer is totally packed for us, we haven’t announced all the festivals we’re doing yet because we haven’t had permission from the festivals yet but we’ll be announcing them soon!
Berserker is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
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