Monday, 13 February 2017

Of Of Woe or: The conclusion of the behind the scenes series

Now it's time to wrap up this series of blog posts. We hope you've enjoyed reading these texts as much as we did writing them, and we also hope we can keep up the posting, not quite as often as lately, but every now and then, so that it won't be years between posts. But without further ado, the last two tracks on the album, the shortest and the longest.

Ibn Qirtaiba
Otto: The last song to be written for the album. I remember thinking that the closing track of the album, "These Are Ashes", began too abruptly – especially if it was following the delicate outro of Lenore, like we originally planned – so it needed a mellow, quiet introductory part of sorts. A short moment of peace and tranquility to catch up your breath before the final song.
This is a peaceful little piece composed really with nothing more than several overlapping guitar parts, followed by a few rumbling bass chords that serve as messengers of what's to come.
What I really enjoy in this little song is how naturally the first part flows despite being played in a slightly odd meter (one whole phrase lasts for a 15/4).

These Are Ashes, These Are Roots
Otto: Clocking at over 15 minutes, "These Are Ashes" is a real behemoth of a song. This song is truly a Frankenstein's monster, built piece by piece, sometimes picked apart, sometimes built again with the same pieces but in a completely different order. Although superficially it is a rather simple piece consisting of just parts 1a, 1b and 2 (the last one played entirely in 6/4), its structure is tremendously complicated beneath the surface. Taking its complex structure, occasionally really odd time signatures and long playing time into account, it’s hilarious we managed to play this song correctly from the first notes to the last ones not later than in our third attempt to rehearse this song! Somehow the different parts just flow smoothly from one to another so I must say it's surprisingly easy to play a song consisting of 20 parts (most of which are never repeated) without thinking about it much.
I also must say that my favorite part of this song is that proggy, heavily syncopated, off-beat bass-driven part I came up with one time when a big thunderstorm struck us. As the thunders started rumbling, I took my bass to the balcony and just sat there, playing different melodies off my head and looking at the thunderbolts flash all around me. That specific bass melody just stuck with me and I quickly came up with a guitar lead that somehow both follows and contrasts the bass melody. It fit this song like a glove.
Henri: I absolutely nailed the vocals on this one, I must say. I mean, I like my performance on the other tracks as well, but this one just sounds so massive. Also, at this point I’d like to give a standing ovation to Olli Hipeli, who played the keyboards on the album: throughout the album, he brought out just a bit more from each of the songs, but nowhere more so than here.
Otto: Hear, hear. I must echo that opinion: Olli really did some real magic tricks to this album. "Of Woe" is definitely not a keyboard-driven album, but his parts really are really vital to the atmosphere of many songs, furthering their sonic depth and complexity tremendously.
Henri: The final rumbling part after the clean guitars bit was fun to record. We just kept adding guitar tracks with slightly different tones like “this tone starts here and eight bars later we’ll add this one and then that one.” I’d just gotten me a Black Arts Toneworks Black Forest overdrive/fuzz pedal and while it was used on all my distorted guitar tracks, I recall here we did one (or maybe even more) of these rumble bits with my amp and pedals and Otto’s guitar.

And then the choral shouts, I think I came up with the idea. We basically had everyone who came by the studio (rehearsal room, basically) do some takes. I was actually quite surprised when we recorded Otto growling, he’d never really tried it as I recall, but his voice was awesome. Others who contributed included Ykä and Antti from IA and Jere from Desecrated Grounds. In the end, we had something like 15 tracks of screams, shouts and growls. Can’t remember if we ever played the song live before starting to record the choir bits, but afterwards we’ve had Otto and Sami do the choir shouts. And the audience, if they’re awake and willing (so far, we’ve managed to get only one audience to scream along).

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Of Of Woe or: How do we manage these song structures, really

We are not ones to write straight verse/chorus/verse material, and if you've listened to our songs, you know that already. This time it's time for one of the most progressive song structures on the album and the penultimate part in our behind the scenes series.

Otto: This is definitely one of the most impressive things we've done. Mainly this song is based on a structure by Henri, which the rest of the band fleshed out.
Lenore really includes some of my favorite moments of the album. The part about two and half minutes in, where we use some odd time signatures, rhythms, syncopation and whatnot, was great already in its original form (and it beats the hell out of me how Henri ever came up with it!), but once Niko started playing a small part of it with a laid-back back beat groove, it transcended to being just simply awesome. Furthermore, how this part ends with an extended drum fill going well past the bar the riff ends up with was originally an accident: Niko never got the hang of it how the riff ended and when the next riff started, so he always started to play this extended drum fill towards the end of the riff in order to catch us up once the next one started!
Henri: I named the aforementioned part “the winner riff” when writing the song. It was years ago, so I’m not exactly sure why, but it might’ve had to do with the feeling I got from the riff, like “Yeah, I’m a winner! Huh!”
Thematically sort of related to Coeur, musically also follows the philosophy of “go anywhere, return if you feel like it”, although decidedly less of a quilt composition. At some point in time I realized we are pretty progressive with our song structures. And hey, that works for us. Also, I remember the first time we played this song live and when the 5/4 outro kicked in I saw a couple pairs of eyes brighten in the audience along with an audible “OOOOOHHHH!”

Otto: I'm not surprised by their reactions; after all I, too, find the outro of the song really great. That 5/4 melody seems to flow with remarkable ease despite the odd time signature and our album version just gets better once the acoustic guitars kick in. I really love that folky atmosphere of the outro when two acoustic guitars play the lead melody an octave apart while a 12-string acoustic guitar keeps up the harmony backdrop intact with its almost mandolin-like sound.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Of of Woe or: Chapter V... which the protagonists talk about a song called "Deeper", which is probably the song on the album you didn't expect would be on the album.

Otto: This song is in the album because I felt we needed a more mellow song somewhere in the middle of this album, so that the record would have more dynamics and nuances – it needn't be just full blast doom metal from the beginning to the end, like our previous effort, The Silence from Your Room. I wanted to write a song that would employ no distorted guitars nor growled vocals, yet be doomy and atmospheric enough to fit the album.
Henri: I feel the need to point out “Silence” wasn’t just full on doom through and through, since it was punctuated by the grind of “Dear Eva pt. 2” and the noise of “Beasts of Flesh and Iron.” However, Otto’s point still stands, since those two tracks didn’t relent from the oppressive feel into something mellower. So, lots more dynamics this time ‘round.

Otto: Good point, Henri. Anyhow, this is a song I pretty much wrote and played through and through. Of course, Henri rewrote a major part of the original lyrics I had written and sang half of the vocals parts while Niko of course wrote and played his drum parts, but other than that, this is pretty much just me, doing the guitar, bass and vocal parts.

Henri: While Otto is an excellent writer, he was a fledgling writer of poetry at the time he came forward with this song (Otto: I'm afraid there has been very little progress there!), composition and text and all. I had nothing to add to the music, but the words I thought I could improve upon. The result was a continuation of an ongoing narrative through “Dear Eva”, “In the Trench” and “Challenger Deep”, where we’ve now progressed to utter despair, so there’s no option left but to sink to the bottom of bottoms. The title also references “Challenger Deep” quite directly. We often try to be witty like that.

Otto: I was inspired by several songs when I wrote this one, but my major influences were "Steel That Sleeps the Eye" by Baroness, "Harvest" by Opeth, "Comfortably Numb" and "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd and "Tonight the Sky" by Sun Kil Moon. "Harvest" served as the inspiration of what I set out to achieve; the intertwining vocal harmonies were inspired by the Baroness song; the C part with the classic "Iron Maiden" chord progression (VI-VII-i) before the final solo was influenced by the powerful C part in Tonight the Sky; and the idea of using a clean guitar solo to close the song came from Comfortably Numb. And finally, overall I feel that the song is like a gloomy, dark take on "Wish You Were Here".
I think that the thick bass sound is really great here, giving the song a very colossal feel. The sound is not just Rickenbacker 4003, but it's also doubled by a guitar part that has been transposed one octave lower, just to give the bass sound a nice Fender VI Bass kind of ring to it.
I'm tremendously pleased with the vocals here. Even though Henri is not much of a clean singer (although he is getting better by the day! (Henri: Too bad the vocals were recorded in 2013.)) and I am even much less, the end result is definitely something you can listen to without cringing. Much, at least. I'm especially happy how we tackled through the intertwining vocal harmonies, which were quite challenging a task for beginner-level singers, to say in retrospect. Yet they sound pretty great and give the song nice harmonic complexity I enjoy very much.
I also love the simple counterpoint melody I used as a blending element between the C part and the final solo: the last vocal lines descend and at the same time the first notes of the guitar solo ascend.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Of Of Wow or: A glimpse behind the curtain, part 4

This time we've written something about the only lengthy instrumental track on the album.

Challenger Deep
Otto: One of those songs I came up with almost during one single sitting. I just sat at my computer with my guitar and bass and the song really wrote itself. Completely instrumental, this song rather obviously betrays my love for post-rock and post-metal.
Henri: If my memory serves me, we had this idea of a song that would be sort of like a continuation of “In the Trench”, and we even had the title ready: moving from the Mariana Trench into Challenger Deep, the deepest point on the surface of Earth. Wasn’t long when Otto came up with this thing. Instrumental, so the theme is carried on in name only, but it’s picked up in words also in the following song.

Otto: I enjoy how this song contrasts really massive and heavy parts with parts that are quite light and airy, yet never feeling too abrupt.

Although we've managed a few times to tackle this song through in our rehearsals, I really doubt that this song is ever going to be a mainstay in our live shows. The album version is so moody, I find it hard to replicate the song's crushing atmosphere live.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Of Of Woe or: A third look behind the scenes with ECW

This time the topic is the official old song on the album. It's so old it was on our 2011 EP, Chapter III, already. That, however, does not make it any less good or it wouldn't have been included on the album. We're not entirely daft, you see.

In the Trench
Otto: The first song written for this album – I remember us jamming this tune back in early 2009 with Arttu, our previous bassist.
This version differs from the earlier EP version with some minor additions: there are some keyboard parts there adding some depth and harmony and there's a gong. Yes, gong. As we were recording the drums for the album, we discovered a great big shiny gong in the studio, so we decided that we definitely need a gong in our album. We recorded several good hits so that we could use one as soon as we had any idea where would be the best spot for a gong. Ultimately, it found its place in this song.
Henri: Another obvious difference is the addition of the subtitle "(Dear Eva pt. 3)" to the song title. Now, this has always been a continuation of the Dear Eva narrative, and I can't recall why we decided to drop it from the EP, but we did. This time we decided to include it to easily differentiate between the two versions as well as to make the relation to the other tracks explicit.

What we retained from the EP version, however, is that the second “verse” (“swallowing the brine…”) is one repeat (counting by the guitars) shorter than the first. This is because Niko, who recorded and mixed the EP as a school assignment, accidentally cut one repeat out and we didn’t notice until later. It would’ve been easily rectified, but we thought hey, why not give it a try like this? The lyrics were so sparse, I didn’t have to cut a single word, just shorten the long “LOVE” scream, which I couldn’t scream as long as I wanted to anyway.

I remember the thing that got me started on the lyrics in this one was accidentally getting some water down the wrong pipe. While coughing the water out, I thought of the line “I need you like I need the water I breathe”, i.e. not at all. Thematically, this is a sequel to “Dear Eva” (both parts) on our first album, but here the longing of part one and anger of part two have been replaced with bitterness. The theme then carries on to the two following tracks.

Otto: Oh, in the case you have wondered about the structure of this song, it's: Country - Moon - Naut*- Country - Moon - Cowboy**- Naut - Conflict - Slowdown - Astral*** - Slowdown.

* Henri: It refers to a band called The Naut
** Henri: The name of this part is after the movie Midnight Cowboy, which I was watching when coming up with the riff

*** Henri: This part is directly lifted from “Dear Eva pt. 1"; while the rhythm of the lyrics is otherwise different, the “Dear Eva” line is intact; hence the song's subtitle “Dear Eva pt. 3

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Of Of Woe or: The second look into our brand new album

Last time we talked about one of the oldest songs on the album. Turns out this one is nearly as old, but it feels more fresh to us and it certainly sounds more fresh. Read on to find out why.

Otto: I originally wrote this song pretty much verbatim how it ended up in the album, excluding the extended outro part. Originally the song just faded away once it transitioned from the main riff to the clean part. However, as we rehearsed this song, it tended to end up with extended jam parts and whatnot, so we figured out that there was probably some room to expand this song. What resulted was a bass solo, an extended guitar solo, a clean vocal interlude and a new, more powerful outro.
I remember originally presenting this song to Henri and he just discarded the idea off the bat, as the song didn't sound like us, according to him. I disagreed, but decided to wait. The next time I presented the song he was totally open to the song and we took it into our rehearsal regime.

Henri: I like to think we grew into the song, Otto just happened to be ahead of his time when writing it. In any case, I, too, am glad we added it into the repertoire.

Otto: Currently this is definitely one of my favorite songs of the album, if not even THE favorite. And why wouldn't it be? After all, in addition to being doomy as hell, it has got two very distinct guitar solos, a death metal part, a goddamn bass solo, really odd time signatures (at times even several different meters going on at the same time) and great clean parts. It's really one hell of a song.

Henri: I think the death metal part is more like thrash metal, though that is open for discussion. And that gives me a segue to mention that due to Niko’s insistence, we bumped the tempo up a notch in that part. We’d practiced it a bit slower and the increase in tempo made it quite hard for Otto and me to properly downpick the riff, not to mention how Otto was in a bit of a rush during the solo.

Otto: Despite these tempo-related difficulties, I'm pretty glad how the guitar solos turned out to be. I wanted this faster first one to be short, abrupt and somewhat atonal to suit the feel of the aggressive death / thrash metal part, whereas I wanted the second one to contrast the earlier parts by having more of an airy, Pink Floyd vibe to it with a clean guitar tone and some nice, soulful bends.

Henri: I tried to remember if I wrote the lyrics to this first, or this very short piece of prose (in Finnish) that was basically the same thing. Had to check it and the lyrics came first. Probably would have been cooler the other way around, but oh well. The clean bit at the very end was added considerably later, though, and that is also where the album title originally comes from, “icy fingers creep in slow / the ever-circling wolves of woe”, though later we decided to add the subtitle.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Of Of Woe or: Behind the scenes with ECW, part 1

It's been nearly five years since we began recording the album called Of Woe or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gloom, and now it has finally been unleashed upon the public. To commemorate this joyous occasion, we thought we'd share some insight into how the songs on the album came to be, since it's something we ourselves would be interested in reading, coming from bands we like. Furthermore, we decided to do it piece by piece, or rather song by song. In this first part, we'll, however, cover the intro track as well as the first song proper, Cœur.

Sunrise Has Gone
Henri: This, the intro track, sprung forth from the soft arpeggio it starts with and the idea that it would get progressively louder, until becoming overwhelmed by distorted guitar, which then, in turn, becomes overwhelmed by noise that carries it over to Cœur, which we were already at the time playing with Otto making noise in the beginning. The original version was something like 7 minutes long, but we edited it down to less than three. I can’t recall who thought of the bitcrusher drums or why, but they were added because we could.
Otto: I have a vague memory that the idea of using bitcrusher drums was your idea, Henri, and your reasoning behind it was "because we can". I found no remarkable holes in that plan.
Henri: Yeah, that’s probably it. I recall programming them with this app I had on my phone. It turned out surprisingly good.
Otto: It did. I'm especially content how my idea of having a chromatically descending chord progression in the background turned out: it could've ended up sounding just pure wrong, but instead it added this kind of nice, jarring kind of effect to the song. A little bit of dissonance has never killed anybody, right?

Henri: The second song to be written for this album, thrown together from previously written riffs from here and there, some added to tie the whole together and the result works rather well.

Otto: As this was one of the oldest songs of the album, having been written probably already in 2009 or early 2010 and also recorded for the first time during our drum recording sessions as a studio live take, I felt the version we were recording for the album needed some retouches here and there. Probably the most obvious part is our poor man's "choir" which is used for a few times here. I came up with this background vocal part while we rehearsed the song, originally singing those vocal lines just by myself. Once we were recording the vocals, I introduced this background vocal idea to Henri and Asa (our recording engineer) and then asked them to do nothing more than just come stand next to me by the mic and sing whatever they wanted to in the key of C# minor, us all three together. I think that the result worked really well (Henri: and would probably have worked a lot better without my input) and we've been singing that part together with Sami when playing the song live.

Henri: The age of this song shows in the evolution it went through over the years, prime examples being the choir bit Otto mentioned and a screamed vocal bit in the middle, which are notably absent in some early live videos.