Interview with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum

Interview with Sami Hinkka of Ensiferum
By Beth Jones

Hi Everyone,

Beth recently got the chance to have a chat with Sami Hinkka, bassist of awesome Folk Metal band Ensiferum. I’d like to thank Sami very much for his time. Enjoy!

Beth: Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us, it’s really appreciated.

Sami: My pleasure! 😊

Beth: Firstly, for any of our readers that don’t know you, could you give us a brief history of the band?

Sami: Back in early 1990 Markus Toivonen was getting into heavier music and at some point, instead of playing cover songs he wanted to have his own band. It was Amorphis’ “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” that showed him the way: melodic metal with heroic/mythical lyrics. After few line-up changes, many albums and tons of gigs on every continent, here we are now!

Beth: You’ve just released your 8th studio album, “Thalassic” and it’s an absolute killer! It’s themed around the sea and water. Where did you get the inspiration for that theme from?

Sami: The idea popped in my head when we were promoting our previous album “Two Paths” and many journalists kept asking, ‘was it a theme album’. My default answer was that we can’t really make a theme album, because of the way we compose. This started to piss me off! Why would I as a lyric writer, and we as composers, set this kind of barrier to ourselves? So, I suggested to other members that we make a theme album next. Everyone was into it. I listed lots of rough demos we had of the new songs, while I did long walks around Helsinki. It’s a coastal city so very often I walked on a seashore, and many of the melodies took my imagination to sea battles, etc. So, there was the theme. Everyone agreed that it was a good theme, and broad enough, so I started to read about sea-related myths, legends and historical events around the world. In the end I had way too many cool topics for lyrics, but it was quite easy to find the perfect match for each song.

Beth: Personally, I think the themed nature of “Thalassic” was brilliant. Are you going to explore a theme in the future? And if so, what potential themes would you like to look at?

Sami: I really don’t know. We haven’t talked about it yet. We have bunch of raw songs for the next Ensiferum album under work. Let’s see what the future brings.

Beth: There are a lot of nods in this album to the sounds of early Ensiferum. Is this intentional, or is it just the way your sound is evolving, almost coming full circle?

Sami: We never compose stuff intentionally; I mean we don’t think “that seems to be popular song so let’s keep making more songs like it…”. We compose and arrange together as a band, and the point is to write stuff that we love, and that we love to play. We are very lucky that there seems to be many metal heads around the world that like the same thing as we do, heh!

Let’s see how the next album sounds, because we always want to go forward and push our music boundaries.

Beth: When you’re creating a work like this, how do you approach songwriting, especially with all the orchestration?

Sami: It all starts from a good melody, that’s the corner stone of every Ensiferum song. Harmonies, layering, orchestrations, folk instruments, etc. are easy to arrange once you have a good image of the song.

We have democracy in the band, so everyone can bring ideas, every idea is tried, every idea can be twisted and turned to something totally different than the original idea was, and the key thing for us is that we arrange the songs together. This way, everyone can stand behind every note of every song. It’s a slow method but that that’s the way we love to write music, as a band.

Beth: With all the recent weirdness in the world, what have you been doing to keep yourselves busy?

Sami: We have been having few sessions where we checked out new ideas, we played a stream gig and one real festival show, woohoo! I really miss touring…

In the spring, when COVID-chaos started, I recorded my very first solo release and made a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the mixing and professional artwork. I was lucky to find a day job to pay my bills, but the problem is that it slowed down all my music projects a lot. But now my solo EP is mixed, and I just found a professional person to make a world class lyric video for the first single so the EP should be out in early autumn.

Beth: I’ve just watched the ‘Festival Simulator’ video for ‘Rum, Women, Victory’ (awesome song by the way!). Was it fun getting all the crazy clips in from fans, and what do you think of the final cut?

Sami: This was an insane project! I think it’s our best video ever! It felt so awesome to see how many people sent clips and how they enjoyed the new song! I have always said it: We have the best fans in the world!

Beth: And you did a live stream on 10th July. How did it go and how did it feel playing live in a way that is still so alien to many of us? Was it more nerve wracking than usual?

Sami: It was very weird. I have always seen Ensiferum more as a live band, and the best part of playing live is the interaction with the crowd and seeing people having good time, moshing, singing along etc. So, when that element was missing, it just felt weird. It was nice to play the new songs and chat with fans during the breaks we had on the gig, but I dare to say it was once in a lifetime thing for us to do a stream gig.

Beth: The scene is flooded with emerging bands at the moment, and the current climate has allowed a lot of people to discover music, both through playing and listening, which is amazing. What would be your best piece of advice for people just starting out in a band?

Sami: Simply, have fun. Find similar-minded people and create music that you love. Don’t worry if your influences can be heard “too much” in the beginning, you will find your own style. And generally, for every musician; try to listen to, and play all kind of music, because that will broaden your musical horizon and give you tools to become a better composer.

Beth: Now we all have a different way of working, how do you think the music scene will change and adapt, and do you seen this evolution as an opportunity to grow your audience with things like virtual gigs and fan videos?

Sami: I really don’t know. I’m an old geezer who believes in hard touring to convince people with your music. Of course, modern ways give chances of “short cuts” to reach lots of people, and one can become “one hit wonder”, or whatever, and that’s totally fine for me. I think whatever you do, just do it honestly and don’t pretend to be something that you are not, because that’s gonna back fire in the long run.

Beth: This has certainly been a memorable year, for all the wrong reasons! Do you know yet if you’re going to be able to play live to any audiences this year, and if not, what’s in store for you in 2021?

Sami: We have few gigs still lined up for 2020, I really hope they will happen. For 2021 we have lots of plans and we have a new album to promote! So, I’m crossing my fingers for scientists to find the vaccine fast, so that we can get back on the road as soon as possible.

Beth: And finally, what message would you like to give to your fans right now?

Sami: In case you haven’t listened to “Thalassic” yet, please do. Stay safe and hope to see you all soon on the road!

Beth: Thanks again for your time. We absolutely love the new album here at Ever Metal HQ, and really hope that we get to see you perform it live sometime very soon!

Sami: Thank you very much for your kind words! 😊

All the best to you and hopefully we’ll see you soon somewhere! Stay safe!

Hello, it’s Rick again!

If you haven’t read Beth’s full review of Ensiferum’s latest album “Thalassic”, which was released on 10th July 2020 via Metal Blade Records, then hit the link below.

To keep up to date with everything Ensiferum related then visit the following links:

www.ensiferum.com
www.facebook.com/Ensiferum
www.instagram.com/ensiferummetal/
www.youtube.com/channel/UCJSZkYiD1tDoyw2icpflQRQ
www.open.spotify.com/artist/0krXCIkthz13P8o0v2tksH

Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Ensiferum – Thalassic

Ensiferum – Thalassic
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 10/07/2020
Running Time: 43:46
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

Well hello metal followers! Tis Sunday here at Ever Metal base camp. The idiots of our nation have gone back to the pub and the entire of England now has a collective hangover to deal with, as well as intense stupidity! But here in our little corner of Wales, we’re still being sensible. So, what better way to get our Sunday morning metal worship underway, than with a hefty dose of Folk inspired Melodic Death Metal from stalwarts of the genre, Ensiferum, in the shape of their new, and 8th studio album, “Thalassic”.

Hailing from the rugged shores of Finland, Ensiferum have been kicking it for a considerable length of time now, releasing their first album, of the same name, in 2001. They continue to delight fans globally with their brand of metal. It’s been three years since the release of their last album, “Two Paths”, and in that time they’ve been keeping themselves busy, writing, and exploring musically, in order to produce this new release.

Littered with huge orchestrations and traditional folk instrumentations, this album is the first of theirs to be based around one centralised theme: water and the sea. And it could not be a more fitting theme both for this style of music, and for the origins of the band. So much myth, legend and folklore are borne from the idea of the mystical waters that it provides a wealth of material to be explored.

And if there’s one thing that Ensiferum do spectacularly well here, it’s exploring. And after they’ve finished exploring, they’ve chucked everything they’ve found in the boat, and make it sing! It may only be the morning here, as I write this, but I really feel that I should have a large flagon of ale, and an equally large flagon of rum to enhance my listening experience!

The album begins with the sound of crashing waves, swirling wind, and the creaking bows of a ship. This progresses into the initial lamenting sounds of ‘Seafarer’s Dream’, an orchestrated opener to the album, with rolling timpani and strings setting the scene, and instantly bringing to mind wide shots of a grand vessel setting sail, big budget Hollywood period drama style.

And, what’s the first thing all good seafarers of olde want to do, once the shore is out of sight? Have a goddamn party, that’s what! And the second track, ‘Rum, Women, Victory’ provides the perfect soundtrack. Fast paced, ripping riffs, crazy folk fiddle, and chanted choruses make this a ridiculously riotous and bouncy track and I love it!

The album continues on in this style, melding folk fiddle, flute and Bodhran, with full string sections, chunky riffs, metronomic drumming at speed, and stunning melodies and guitar solos. This is all topped off with huge vocal diversity; crystal clear clean vocals, pentatonic harmonies, and guttural roars and screams, which not only deliver some fantastic lyrics, but also add so much colour and excitement to this already exciting sound.

And just when you think you’ve got the measure of this album; you get gifted with little extras – a whistling section akin to an old western movie soundtrack in ‘The Defence Of The Sampo’ being one such example.

From beautiful acoustic melancholy, to fluttering sea shanties, to rowing songs and rip-roaring pirate partying, this album has everything you need to cheer up a dull day.

Production wise it is equally brilliant. “Thalassic” was recorded and produced in Petrax and Sonic Pump studios by Janne Joutsenniemi, who is a renowned name in the industry, and has worked with the band before, so quality and precision were always a dead cert for this album. Everything is balanced and spaced perfectly, producing the depth and immersion that you would expect from a large live orchestral experience.

Its full-on cinematic qualities make it one of the most tangible albums I have heard this year. An absolute blinder of a record, stunning musicality, immense talent not just instrumentally, but in the sense of clever musical vision, AND they don’t have to fade out a single track to end it – see it can be done! These guys truly are the real deal, and long may it continue!

TRACKLISTING:
01. Seafarer’s Dream
02. Rum, Women, Victory
03. Andromeda
04. The Defence Of The Sampo
05. Run From The Crushing Tide
06. For Sirens
07. One With The Sea
08. Midsummer Magic
09. Cold Northland Vainamoinen Part III)
10. Merille Lahteva (Bonus Track)
11. I’ll Stay By Your Side (Bonus Track)

LINE-UP:
Petri Lindroos – Vocals/Guitar
Markus Toivonen – Guitar/Vocals
Sami Hinkka – Bass/Vocals
Janne Parviainen – Drums

LINKS:
www.ensiferum.com
www.facebook.com/Ensiferum
www.instagram.com/ensiferummetal/
www.youtube.com/channel/UCJSZkYiD1tDoyw2icpflQRQ
www.open.spotify.com/artist/0krXCIkthz13P8o0v2tksH

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.