INTERVIEW: Niilo Sevänen – Insomnium

INSOMNIUM have been at the top of the pile of melodic death metal for years now. Since 1997, the Finnish outfit have crafted their art, creating a soundscape that is both beautiful and utterly destructive. 2016 has seen the release of the band’s seventh studio record, Winter’s Gate (read our review here), the band’s most ambitious effort yet. One epic 47 minute track, it’s a bold move and one that captures how INSOMNIUM are refining their craft. Recently just as the record was released, we caught up with bassist/vocalist Niilo Sevänen to talk about the record and its concept, the Finnish metal scene and the band’s eagerly anticipated headline UK tour in January next year.

Your new album, Winter’s Gate, has just come out. How have you found the early reception?

Niilo: The feedback from the fans has been amazing. Most people are commenting something like “this is your best album”. The reviews have been excellent also so looking good!

Unlike your previous record, Winter’s Gate is ambitious in the sense that the record is just one epic song. Can you explain how this idea first came about?

Niilo: We had this idea of making a one long song when we were listening to EDGE OF SANITY’s classic Crimson album in the rehearsals of our previous album. It felt like a good way to do something different and challenge ourselves and keep things interesting.

The record comes two years after 2014’s Shadows of a Dying Sun. How has the band progressed in this time?

Niilo: I think we’ve gone steadily forward and upward the whole time. Making solid albums one after another is finally paying off, the last years have been a really interesting time for the band.

Really, the story of the album comes from history and Scandinavian mythology. Can you explain the story on Winter’s Gate?

Niilo: It’s a short story I wrote in 2007 and back then it won this one competition here in Finland. It’s a historical fiction/fantasy hybrid that tells a story of a group of Vikings seeking riches and venturing towards unknown island even though the winter is already near. There are three point-of-view characters in the story. Each showing their own perspective of the events.

This is the first time INSOMNIUM has attempted a record in this style before, can you explain the writing and recording process and shed some light on any difficulties you faced in the creation of this record?

Niilo: It was different, but not that much. The story set the mood for the whole project so we all were on the same page right away. Putting the parts together was actually pretty smooth. We had the dramatic arc ready pretty easily – and it of course follows the events of the story.

Despite Winter’s Gate being one song, there is quite a lot of variety in terms of the pace and mood of the album. What musical influences did you look to when you wrote the record?

Nillo: I think all the influences came in subconciously. We knew that the music has to be dark and cold, so lot of black metal elements crept in. We didn’t plan this, it just happened. There is a magic element in creating music that can’t be explained! But looking back now I think we were mainly influenced by the Scandinavian metal bands of the 90’s, like EMPEROR, DISSECTION, OPETH, EDGE OF SANITY etc. Good old stuff!

And now, with the album released, what are you hoping to achieve with Winter’s Gate?

Niilo: Total world domination, nothing less! Well, I hope we can get to places like South America, where we haven’t been before.

The band has been active since 1997 and in that time you’ve really risen to the top of melodic death metal. I’m interested to know since your time in the band, how has the metal scene developed? Do you think the scene is in a good place today?

Niilo: Metal will flourish and survive. There is so much honesty and integrity and genuine friendship between fans and bands that you won’t find in mainstream pop. Metal will always be a bit underground thing, for those rebel souls, wanting to go their own way, and wanting to think with their own brains. So I’m not worried.

Finland has always been renown for it’s heavy metal scene and the sheer amount of bands that originate from the country. How does your metal scene in Finland compare to say the UK and the United States?

Niilo: Per capita we have the highest amount of metal bands in the world. There are many bands and usually everyone’s really supportive towards others. I don’t know what it’s like to live in UK and have a metal band so it’s a bit hard to compare!

2017 will also mark 20 years of INSOMNIUM. Usually around these major milestones bands do something special to celebrate the anniversary. Do you have anything planned to celebrate this milestone?

Niilo: Let’s see! We have some very special shows planned for next year so we shall see…

And come January we will see INSOMNIUM return to the UK on a headlining tour. We know that you will be performing Winter’s Gate in its entirety. What else can fans expect from the upcoming tour?

Niilo: Yes, it will be a rare chance to see us play the whole thing live. Probably not going to happen after these tours. And of course we are going to play older stuff as well since it’s a headliner tour and we have plenty of time. The whole package is very strong with three Finnish bands, so I hope people will show up early and see both BARREN EARTH and WOLFHEART!

And to close, we will offer you the floor, do you have anything to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?

Niilo: Embrace Winter’s Gate with open arms and soul! It’s not the easiest album in the world but rumour has it that many people have totally lost themselves there in the darkness – and they don’t ever want to find their way out again.

Winter’s Gate is out now via Century Media Records.

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