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Excalion

Excalion is een relatief onbekende band uit het barre Finland. Toch maken ze aanstekelijke muziek en vallen ze op tussen de eindeloze stroom Scandinavische releases. Onlangs is hun nieuwe album 'High Time' uitgekomen. Een prima, maar wel wat minder onderscheidend dan de vorige plaat 'Waterlines'. Tijd voor een babbeltje dus. Leer waarom dit album toch beter is dan het vorige en waarom we ze voorlopig niet op de podia zullen zien. Overigens ben ik het niet volkomen eens met de beweringen van bassist Tero Vaaja…

Door: Wilco | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

First of all: What is the reason for you guys to play metal? I mean, with other music you can make a lot more money...
That's probably true, hehe. I think it is the usual story, one grows up listening to a certain kind of music and then feels connected to that kind of music ever since. It is not a rational decision or anything. I listen to some very different music styles and enjoy also playing completely different stuff also, but Excalion is always a melodic heavy metal band, that's who we are.

What do you guys do for a living anyway? I don't expect Excalion makes enough money to live from, right?
You're right. Some years back, we made a decision that we will not try to make this a professional band. It suits us much better that we make our living elsewhere, and are then free to make music without taking enormous pressure from sales numbers and so on. Music is a creative activity that counterbalances other areas of our lives. A couple of our guys are in academic professions, some others work in IT and construction industries.

What bands are the main sources of inspiration for Excalion? What artists where responsible for you guys wanting to pick up an instrument yourself?
Excalion was founded when Stratovarius was a huge thing in Finland around 2000, so that was obviously a big inspiration. In my own case, there were Metallica and Iron Maiden albums, some non-metal bands like Bad Religion, and Finnish metal acts like early Amorphis and Sentenced. For me it happened around 1995-1996.

Recently your new album 'High Time' was released through Limb Music. How has it been received by the press on one side and your friends on the other?
As well as we hoped for. Almost all the reviews seem to be extremely positive, and people who liked our previous album 'Waterlines' have been very fond of this new one too. That's something we are very glad about. Of course we always hope to gain new listeners, but we know our main audience is the loyal fan base of this genre, and when that main audience likes our new material, we know that we have done something right.

In our region of the world you are relatively unknown. Do you think this new album is going to change that? And what can you tell us about your status in your homeland Finland?
We are a favourite of relatively small circles everywhere, in Finland too. Although, obviously, here we are better known than in other parts of the world. But I'm sure that every new release of ours makes us more recognized.

To be honest… I think 'Waterlines' was a better album than 'High Time' because it contains more remarkable songs. Of course you don't agree, so tell me where I go wrong.
For me, 'High Time' sounds more diverse and more exciting. There is more variation in style between the songs, and we took more risks in studio, trying surprising things. With 'Waterlines', we went more with a single approach throughout the album. Of course, 'Waterlines' is great and we love it too, so there is nothing wrong with it if someone happens to like those songs better than this new group of songs. But for us the latest album is the best.

What are, in your opinion, the differences between 'Waterlines' and 'High Time'?
One thing is that which I mentioned in the previous answer, there is more experimenting on 'High Time'. The general sound is also quite different. 'Waterlines' had this thick and low mass of sound which made it sound quite powerful, but we did not want to do that two times in a row. With 'High Time', we wanted a bright and clear, cutting sound, and I think we succeeded quite well.

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I have the impression that your lyrics, in general, are very down to earth, understandable and recognisable for all. Why did you choose for these kind of lyrics?
I can answer this on my own behalf only, maybe that's okay because I wrote most of the 'High Time' lyrics. In the past I tried to write very complex lyrics, the kind that would force people to interpret them in different ways. But later I started to think that it is a wrong approach for this music. Our style of music is made to be simple and approachable, so why should the lyrics not be also? Anyway, if you want people to understand you, you'd better be understandable.

Since I do not have the lyrics of the new album, can you tell what these are about?
Someone told me that the theme of travelling, or leaving and returning, is in many songs. I did not think of that, but maybe that's true. Mostly they deal with some familiar feelings or features of life, sometimes in a metaphoric form. The main thing is that we try to make the lyrics to match the song's atmosphere.

I suspect you will do a lot of live shows in Scandinavia, nut I never saw your name in the bill in our region. Any chance we can see you do a live show? Plans for any (big) festivals this summer maybe?
Right now duties with our day jobs are keeping us inside Finland. For the same reason any major festivals are not on our schedule this summer. Live shows will probably have to wait until next fall.

Since Finland has only about 5.200.000 inhabitants and counts really many, many metal acts, I wonder if the competition between bands is fierce.
The way I've seen Finland's metal scene, many people know each other well, and there is not much bad kind of competition, you know, that people would not be friends with each other or anything. But it is true that metal is big in Finland, there are lots of bands around, and because of that big venues are often booked full. So it is not always very easy to get tours organized.

So in that respect, why should all metal fans like Excalion? What is your unique selling point?
I think we have a couple of them. The amazing and instantly recognisable voice of our vocalist Jarmo is a unique feature of ours, as is our keyboardist-songwriter Jappe´s style of making music. Also, we have this combination of some amazing musicianship in the band with also the desire to keep the music traditional great heavy metal, simple and accessible to all. So whether people are looking for acrobatic playing with progressive influences or melody-driven, catchy heavy metal, I think they can find both in us, in a single package.

I whish you guys all the best and of course a big break through. Do you have any last words you want to address to the Dutch audience?
Thank you! For all the metal fans out there in Netherlands, check out Excalion, we have released a new album called 'High Time' and we love it, pick up a copy and give it a listen. You won't regret it!

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