GHOST BRIGADE 3 / 3 – Isolation Through Fear
One territory that lives and breathes the metal lifestyle these days in Scandinavia would be Finland. Whether it’s the lack of sunlight during the winter or just the general atmosphere, the music that comes from this country has an emotional component that’s second to none. Ghost Brigade are one of the latest groups that since 2005 evoke the contrasts I desire most out of a band. Alternative in their way of thinking, heavy with their approach, this doom laden approach pervades all three albums.
Their third album "Until Fear No Longer Defines Us" could be the major breakthrough in the market place – without compromising their work ethic or songwriting values. As a result I knew I had to speak to vocalist Manne Ikonen and discover what makes the thoughtful singer tick. While he measures his words carefully in this interview, I don’t doubt the man’s tenacity and desire to give Ghost Brigade ample opportunity for success.
Your new album "Until Fear No Longer Defines Us" appears to be a pinnacle achievement for a third album in a band’s career. Did you feel any pressure with the songwriting or studio sessions for this effort?
No – in fact we all think that this third album was the easiest. It was easier to write the riffs because we were more ready to do this compared to the earlier albums. Sometimes writing lyrics comes naturally – you don’t need any particular feeling or situation. In Finland we are gloomier and often people say the Finnish people are quieter and darker. The songs are dark because of who we are as people. I need to be in a quiet and calm place when I need to write something up. The stories I pick are from normal life.
Do they present you with the music first and then you come up with the lyrics or do you sometimes already have words ready?
Usually I have a few lyrics ready before we go to rehearsal and match up with the riffs. Then I start singing and we see if it comes together as a song. Composing stuff comes together in rehearsal. If it’s going to be a good song the lyrics will fit naturally.
Opening the album with a sparse acoustic track “In The Woods” may seem very ambitious and bold to some – but I believe you are showing people the parameters of your sound where you can still be quiet and also convey weight with the feelings behind the song. What are your thoughts behind this track?
The stories…, lyrics are a story, kind of an imagined character who has a friend who is a little bit twisted where he dug up a few graves and there are souls…, that kind of image I had and as a result I wrote up the story. A simple fairy tale so to speak, but it could be a real story as well. The acoustic song… Ville had that simple riff and we thought that it would work if we kept things acoustic. We always wanted to do an acoustic song, so there it is now.
Another standout on the album is “Traces Of Liberty” – for me the main riff just combines the best in Black Sabbath with slight alternative and death twists and turns as Manne roars with despair. Can you tell us a little bit more about the lyrical concept and how you work out the arrangement for this stellar song?
That one is written by Ville… The lyrics are…, when Ville writes his material there’s more of a personal touch to it. He had a feeling about one gig in our hometown, I never talked to him about those lyrics but that’s the basic base story for the lyrics. There is a Black Sabbath riff that comes there because we have in the band we have this stoner rock base in all of us. That’s why it’s heavy in this particular song.
It appears that you’ve really stepped your game in all aspects of your heavier vocals as well as your clean parts. Did you spend more time training your voice or do you think the live aspect has just improved all aspects?
I don’t really use my free time for practicing vocals, I just sing as good as I can in rehearsals. Of course when gigs come I have to be careful with my voice because it’s a rather new thing to me to use that growling or what you call grunting sound – before I used to use just a clean vocal in all the bands, but with this band I use both. It’s still there and there, sometimes I feel like I’m losing my voice and this scares me but I’ve been doing that more and slowly I am learning to use this voice to where I can blast and still have enough power for each show. All the songs are good, but if I had to choose one perhaps… I haven’t listened to the album in a long time after the studio sessions. “Clawmaster” is good, “Traces Of Liberty” as well, but honestly I love them all.
If money were no object, what could people expect in terms of a headlining show for Ghost Brigade? What types of stage show and/or multi-media special effects would you employ?
What can people expect – I hope they are expecting a good show. We are doing our best of course, this is different because we are headlining and we have now finally to play a longer set. We are going to play the whole forthcoming album from beginning to end, and we will play other songs as well. Hopefully people will like this. We have a plan to fix something up with projection of pictures, we haven’t discussed it any further until we get some gear and we find a good guy who can make these pictures happen. We have been discussing this and this will be cool, the effects will help and bring more to the show.
Where do you believe the music scene is going right in today’s times- and what do you think still needs improvement and/or is more of a work in progress?
Music business…. I don’t know much about this. Hard to say, I hope that people are more and more buying music. Go to the record stores and buy music. The internet is good, but it’s too easy. People don’t have to go anywhere from their homes, they can sit down in front of the computer and get it. That’s too easy, I like to go out to the record stores, check out vinyl and CD’s and buy them.
Do you think as a result of this easy access to music it’s tougher to get younger fans out to live shows?
Perhaps yes. At our shows if the show has younger people that are allowed to come, they do.
Can you tell us a little bit about the cover art, who designed it and was it a difficult or easy process to come up with this atmospheric piece?
Ville did the cover art, it’s all his work and he’s a very skillful guy. He does the webpage too. On this new album there’s a mountain picture behind all of the other stuff. He took that picture on tour with Amorphis last year, he took it through the car window and there was this big mountain in Austria. That also came as sort of an accident, we thought it might be a good cover.
As the band gets bigger, do you feel more pressure to balance the fun/music aspect versus the business relations for the group?
I don’t think so. We are still the same five guys that started in the beginning of 2005. We are down to earth people, and normal people. We are going to stay in this way. Of course fans would like to have more and more, but I think we are very aware of what we want to do and for example this record and our forthcoming fourth and fifth records, what they should sound like. We are close together and we are going to do what we want to do. Fans decide whether they like what we do or not.
Who do you think would be unique and out of the box touring opportunities for Ghost Brigade? It seems to me that your sound can pair the band with more than the normal metal bands…
Now we are touring with Intronaut and Storm Of Life… I’m expecting to meet them and have a good time with them. Who would we like to tour with? If you ask me, it doesn’t matter. I want to tour with good, friendly people. I don’t care if they are playing acid jazz or whatever. Maybe Soundgarden someday, that would be fun.