Hello guys, and congratulations on your excellent album ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’. How are things?
Hi there and thank you very much! Right now, we're feeling quite positive. Having a new album released with praising reviews and nice reception by the audience in general plus an awesome European tour booked for the next spring with our Finnish friends from Battle Beast I can't find too much to complain about! Already feeling excited to rush into the next year, which is definitely going to be a busy one for us.
Since this is your first interview for Lords of Metal, please give us a short introduction to the band Arion.
To keep it relatively short, Arion is a modern Finnish melodic/power/symphonic metal band. I believe we're one of those bands who are quite difficult to fit strictly into one or two traditional genres, as on top of being a Finnish melodic metal band we also take tons of influence from elsewhere; I like to say we blend the generic “Finnish” sound with some American heaviness, heavy orchestrations and Pop metal hooks. Our career started in 2013 by entering, almost by accident, the Finnish qualifiers of the Eurovision Song Contest and ended up with a recording deal with an awesome Finnish indie label called Ranka Kustannus. After that we began recording our debut album and released it in 2014 through Ranka Kustannus and the Japanese Marquee. During the four years between the debut and our sophomore ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ album released in autumn 2018 we have released a good amount of singles, with the first one called ‘At The Break Of Dawn’ having good success on all of the main streaming platforms and Finnish radio as well. In Spring 2019, we are entering our first European tour with the Finnish Battle Beast.
Your debut album ‘Last Of Us’ already gave you a bit of a name in your home country and also in Japan. Maybe not in the last place due to some guy named Riku Pääkkönen, who paved the way for many a Finnish top notch metal act. What were the first moments when you realised that things might be getting a bit bigger?
Well, I've got to say that knowing a little bit about Riku's earlier career and work made us believe into something happening! It's actually quite fun to think about it now, we we're very young back then, seventeen or eighteen years old, and I believe having a guy like Riku with us gave us a lot of confidence. ‘Last Of Us’ got some super positive reviews indeed, but we never felt anything like things going big for us back then. Quite soon after the release of our debut, we had to go through a change of singer. Going through that right after releasing a praised debut album is not very easy, but somehow after that we really managed to rise to whole another level by releasing our most successful song so far as the first one with our new singer. That's why I like to think and say that ‘At The Break Of Dawn’ was the song that really made us break into the scene and made us believe that this band could become something, which is yet to be seen haha. That was the very moment I remember feeling super confident and realizing that the band could become “a bit bigger” like you said.
Now your second album ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ is out on AFM records, and though life may not always be beautiful, the album definitely is! Before we go into details, what are your first personal thoughts about how the album turned out?
Well thank you! Very happy to hear you like it. Personally, I'm very happy with this album. And the whole band feels the same too. There are many things on ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ to feel proud of: the album is very versatile having very powerful straightforward songs such as ‘No One Stands In My Way’, ‘At The Break Of Dawn’ and ‘Unforgivable’, for example, and on the other hand it features some very experimental songs like ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ and ‘Last One Falls’. And that's a very nice quality for an album made by a power metal band! Second: we decided to produce and record this album mostly by ourselves only having Matias Kupiainen of Stratovarius for recording drums and mixing. That's why the album feels super personal to me and I believe that's how it will always be. I'm also very satisfied with the lyrics of the album; not being typical to the genre but dealing more with real life, even serious stuff. I don't think there's nothing wrong with writing lyrics dealing with Vikings, dragons, swords, kings etc. but I believe not being very generic is almost always on the plus side!
After the intro the album opens with a strong song with the also strong title ‘No One Stands In My Way’. The chorus is simply written for live sing-alongs. The lyrics seem to reflect the title very clearly, a song about standing strong in life and standing through the shit you face every day, am I right?
To me, ‘No One Stands In My Way’ is one of the strongest tracks on the album! In general, the lyrics are within the theme you mentioned, but to be more precise the song deals with battling an addiction or depression. So, the story behind the lyrics is actually a bit darker than one might think.
The single ‘At The Break Of Dawn’ is really the odd one out in musical terms. Elize Ryd guests on your song, but the other way around would have been just as believable. Since it has the pop-like vibe that Elize’s band is known for, did she have any influence in the writing of the song?
The odd one? Haha! I personally don't hear it like that. To me, it sounds very Arion; the melody is very typical for our song. I believe it's Elize's voice causing that Amaranthe vibe to you. Also, it's possible that Amaranthe 's music has influenced my songwriting in general. And I'm sorry to disappoint you, but no, Elize did not contribute to writing the song. The song is entirely written by me. I believe the reason it fits Elize quite well is that I originally wrote the song as a duet around her voice. She was not added to the song at a later stage like in some cases featuring guest vocalists. I wrote the song as a duet for her and our then new singer Lassi out of a request made by Riku and I'm happy I did. It turned as our most successful song so far and was a real game changer for the whole band!
’The Last Sacrifice’ is the grandest song in terms of sound, and it reminded me of the big pieces by Stratovarius such as ‘Infinity’. As one of the founding bands of the ‘Finnish melodic metal sound’, how important was their music in your personal musical journeys in your teenage years? Do you consider them a large influence?
That's a nice thing to hear. In one way, you could consider ‘The Last Sacrifice’ as a tribute to Stratovarius. And yes, I consider Stratovarius as maybe the biggest influence to our music. All of us own plenty of Stratovarius records and have listened to their stuff a lot! They have also influenced us in a less traditional way. Matias Kupiainen of Stratovarius is the older brother of our drummer Topias. He has also mixed both of our albums and worked as the producer of our debut ‘Last Of Us’. He is also one of the biggest influences to my playing and songwriting. We have also written some songs together, for both Arion and Stratovarius. To wrap things up, Matias actually had a small but important role in the writing process of ‘The Last Sacrifice’!
Any other bands or musicians, being it metal or completely different music, do you feel have left their mark on the sound of Arion?
Well, the big metal bands of Finland have all influenced our sound in a way or another. Nightwish, Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica, Children Of Bodom.. all of them. Anyway, like I said before I like to think our sound as something that blends the Finnish metal sound with some American heaviness frp, Killswitch Engage, Lamb Of God, Five Finger Death Punch, Slipknot, Disturbed etc. and heavy orchestral arrangements. The orchestral stuff is obviously influence by Nightwish, but soundtrack composers like Hans Zimmer, Howard shore etc. deserve to be mentioned as well. Within Temptation is also something I like to mention as a big personal influence for my songwriting!
What is the story told on the magnificent ballad ‘Through Your Falling Tears’?
‘Through Your Falling Tears’ deals with the thoughts and feelings of a person dying to cancer or a similar disease/condition and telling his/her friends and family about it. A very personal song and story to me.
Another key song is the title track. It not only is the longest song on the album, but it also combines many of the elements found in various other songs on the album. With this song I just have to ask, what makes you say that life is not beautiful?
Yeah I agree, the title track has a lot to it. Those longer songs are always a high risk, high reward and I honestly think this one turned out quite good. This is the only song on the album in which I'm not the main writer(both music or lyrics) but I was involved just enough to tell that it's lyrics are a story of a person who never got what he or she dreamed of. I like to think of the protagonist as an artist drowning in the depths of the music industry. However, when it comes to the album title, it's a different story. The title was mainly chosen because all of the lyrics in this album fit under the title ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ quite nicely. The general theme of the album is the shit you face in life and simply leaving it all behind. While the title track pictures the ruins of hope, the album is meant to help dealing with the darker moods of life and finding one's way out of the misery.
Your first album ended with the song ‘Watching You Fall’, and this one opens with ‘The End Of The Fall’. Happy accident, or deliberate choice with some meaning?
Happy to see you pointing this out! Not an accident, not at all. ‘The End Of The Fall’ starts with a synth theme heard in the outro of ‘Watching You Fall’. And it means exactly what you might be thinking: with ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ we continue from where ’Last Of Us’ ended.
In a few months, you will hit the road supporting your fellow countrymen and woman of Battle Beast. How did this billing come together?
Yes, we are super excited to hit the road with Battle Beast! They're one of the best live bands from Finland and an amazing band in general. And well, we've been talking about touring together for years. When it was about time for ‘Life Is Not Beautiful’ to come out, we made direct contact with the band and they were happy to hear we wanted to tour with them. After that, the management people did their work and it was confirmed that the tour would happen.
After the tour with Battle Beast, what’s next on the agenda for Arion?
Well, right after the tour we will be hitting the festival summer! What's better than that LMAO! On top of playing shows, it's very important to start working with some material for album number three! No songs written yet, just a couple of decent song ideas to start with. It's going to be a long way to the next album, but I believe it's going to be very exciting as well!
And that was the last of my questions. Thanks for taking some time for the readers of Lords of Metal. Anything you would still like to say to the metalheads from the Netherlands?
Hey guys! Give a chance to our new album and if you like what you hear be sure to hit our show with Battle Beast at Leiden next Spring! We promise it's going to be one hell of a night.