Hi guys. You’ve got a new album, new label, new line-up, so plenty of things to talk about. Let’s start with the label. You released two albums on Relapse, fulfilling the deal you had with them. Was it time to move on or was it simply the fact Season Of Mist offered the best deal?
After the contract with Relapse was fulfilled, we wanted to see what else there might be for us. We went after the best deal, which was offered by Season Of Mist. I guess we’ve never felt totally at home on any label, but hopefully our collaboration with Season Of Mist is going have a bit more longevity to it. Time will tell. Things have been great so far. We have a good communication with them, and the label staff seems very excited about having us on their roster, and we expect them to do the best promotion for us so far.
´Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed’ will be released in Japan through Ward Records. Is this the first time you have an exclusive Japanese release? And will this version have an exclusive track since that seems to be the case on many Japanese releases?
Yes, this is the first time we have a Japanese label to release our album over there and we’re pretty excited about it. It´d be great to play Japan in not too distant future. Joining forces with Coffins and Anatomia… that´d be something. Indeed, there’ll be two exclusive tracks on the Ward release. We gave them demos of ‘Sempiternal Grotesqueries’ and ‘Cascade Of Ashes’. These versions still have my vocals on them, which maybe adds some special value to this bonus material.
You have had some line-up changes too, and when it comes to recording I guess the biggest change is new vocalist Harri Kuokkanen. On all previous recordings Lasse took care of the vocals and in a live setting you have used various vocalists. Now Harri has taken over that role both live and on recording. Can you tell some more about the decision to have him record vocals too?
I was so sick of having to do the studio vocals. It was killing the fun for me a bit too much, and I must confess that it always bothered me that we didn’t have a singer that suited for live and studio purposes. In Harri we finally found a vocalist that can do both. I know my voice was pretty characteristic to Hooded Menace sound, but I felt limited as a death metal vocalist. Surely some people are going to be disappointed about this shift, but so far the response has been pretty positive, actually. Bringing Harri along just felt like the right thing to do. It´s like a new chapter for us.
Harri is also active in Horse Latitudes whom you released a split with in 2012. When did you actually decide to ask him to join? In addition Harri has a slightly different approach to the vocals and I do wonder if a lot of people will notice, but do you think his style changed anything to the way you sound?
It was sometime in 2016, around the time of recording our side for the split with the Canadian sludge/doomster Algoma. I was suffering with the vocal tracks and getting really annoyed and frustrated with the whole situation. That was when I decided to ask Harri. I knew he was a good singer, but I wasn´t sure at all if he was available or interested to begin with. Turns out he was willing to give it a try and I told him he could start right off on this split, so basically he auditioned by recording vocals to ‘Celestial Dissection’. Harri´s tone is not as guttural and deep as mine which is a good thing since the vocals come off more dynamic and powerful sounding. It fits great with the new songs, especially, but there’s new energy and a fresh element to the older material also. Having a new vocalist with slight different tone than mine didn’t impact on how I approached the song writing process though - not on a conscious level at least.
The drums on ´Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed’ were recorded by Pekka Koskelo, who has been in the band since 2010. He has been replaced now by Otso Ukkonen. Can you tell some more about this change in the line-up?
Pekka wasn’t comfortable with us relocating the headquarters (read: rehearsal place) from Joensuu to Helsinki where Teemu and Harri are already based in, and where I have been planning to move to also. Luckily Pekka wanted to play the drums on the album still, but after that it was going to be over. Things just got a bit too complicated for him to continue with us, and I totally understand and respect his decision. It put us in pretty tough situation where we had to replace a long-time band member and a friend, and such a skilled drummer as Pekka. Good drummers are always the hardest to find. However, it was sorted out easier and faster than we dared to hope as my friend hooked me up with Otso from the death/doom band Krypts. Things worked out with Otso on every level almost ridiculously well, and we heaved a sigh of relief.
Antti Poutanen has been added as the new bass-player, but he hasn’t recorded yet. So, Lasse took on this role again. So, you recorded as a four-piece. Was it an easy recording session this time around?
Yeah, we recorded as a four-piece with me on lead & rhythm guitar and bass, Teemu on rhythm guitar, Harri on vocals, and Pekka on drums. In our case, recording never seems to be too easy and stress-free. And as usually, we had some last minute tweaking to do and whatnot. We sent the material for mixing and mastering slightly behind the schedule and we were quite nervous about that.
This time you had the album mixed and mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano, who worked with bands such as Paradise Lost and Ghost recently. Why did you decide to work with him?
We were blown away by the drum sound, especially, that he created for Paradise Lost ‘The Plague Within’ album. Slowly but surely we got pretty obsessed about the idea of having him working on our new album. After spending some time on negotiating with Jaime and discussing about the guidelines, we hired him. He was really into the material and did a killer job. The drums sound huge and heavy, the way we like them, and the overall production is great as well. Thanks to Jaime there’s an unheard warmth for us on this record.
You have some guest vocals on the track ‘In Eerie Deliverance’ done by Jemma McNulty. She is mainly known as the guitarist of Coltsblood. So how did you end up using here for the spoken part?
We knew Jemma was a fan of the band and that Harri was in touch with her, so it was natural to ask her first when we figured we could use a female voice on ‘In Eerie Deliverance’. To our luck she was excited to do it. I always liked the little use of female voice in early Candlemass, Celtic Frost, and Paradise Lost. It was pretty new and rad idea in the context of “extreme metal” back then. There´s nothing new about it now, but we wanted to bring some of that nostalgic female voice vibe into Hooded Menace as we figured the middle section of ‘In Eerie Deliverance’ was screaming for a spoken part.
If you look at the progress of Hooded Menace you could say that you definitely have managed to create a trademark sound. The moment you hear a song you’ll know it’s Hooded Menace. I assume this might have a lot to do with the gear you use. Have you stayed true to the gear you used in the beginning or did you adjust a lot over the last ten years?
No, we haven’t stayed true to our gear, as you put it, but we have stayed true to our vision. We have tried to approach each album a bit differently from a technical point of view. Different gear, different engineers and studios…. There’s a clear difference in the production between our new album and the first album, for example, but it´s got the same vibe. No matter what, the trademark sound/style shines through, which is a good thing.
Even when you have your trademark sound you can say that you’ve become a bit more melodic over the years. It seems you have drawn some inspiration from the early Katatonia albums when it comes to melody on the new album besides the influences that already were present (like Paradise Lost, Cathedral and Candlemass). Could you comment on that?
Yeah, I´ve been jamming the early releases from Katatonia a lot, so I guess it´s only natural if some of it has crept into our music eventually. As much as they owed to Paradise Lost too, their take on death/doom was pretty unique on ‘Brave Murder Day’. I like the debut more actually, and ‘Jhva Elohim Meth’ demo is brilliant, but I appreciate the originality they achieved on ‘Brave Murder Day’.
We could playfully say that, if our band was a tree, bands like early Candlemass, Cathedral and Paradise Lost would make the tree trunk, and bands such as Katatonia , Anathema and My Dying Bride are the branches. Of course there’s a ton more to it, but you get the idea.
The first pressing as a digipack will include a cover of Celtic Frost’s ‘Sorrows Of The Moon’. Can you tell a bit more why you decided on this track? I guess the decision was already made before the unfortunate passing of Martin Eric Ain?
I have had this idea of a bit slowed down version of ‘Sorrows Of The Moon’ for long time. So it has been a long time in the making in our heads at least. I´m not sure about the other guys as this is such a fresh line-up still, but I know that Harri, Teemu and myself have a soft spot for ‘Into The Pandemonium’ album. It´s our common favourite in Celtic Frost catalogue. ‘Sorrows Of The Moon’ is one of the best tracks on that record, and it translates well into straight-up death/doom version. We even got Tom G. Warrior´s “blessing” to do the cover at Netherlands Deathfest, hehe!
Yes, the Celtic Frost cover was decided and recorded before the unfortunate passing of Martin Ain. R.I.P.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Anything else you want to share with our readers, like upcoming tours or other plans?
Thank you for having us! We hope to tour Europe in 2018 and play some well-selected one-off gigs. Some really special shows are coming up like the just announced ‘Fulfill The Curse’ set at Roadburn (NL). 2018 marks the ten year anniversary for our debut album and what better way to celebrate this than to perform it in its entirety at Roadburn. Other shows confirmed so far are the record release party with support from Krypts in Helsinki (FI) in February, and North Of The Wall festival in Glasgow (UK) in late April. Come see us play live and buy our new album! Thanks for the support! See you!