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Interview

Shape of Despair Discusses New Album "Monotony Fields"

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Band Photo: Shape of Despair (?)

After eleven years, Finnish masters of funeral doom, Shape of Despair, have returned with their fourth album “Monotony Fields.” Said album revisits the atmosphere heard on their first three albums. Rhythms drone on while female vocal harmonies and synth create a tranquil ambiance. While new vocalist Henri Koivula brings a another dimension to the band in his clean vocals, male vocals are primarily the abysmal growled type. These vocals are a harsh contrast when paired with Natalie Koskinen’s delicate voice. Each song is a bleak soundscape into realms of misery and tragedy.

Henri Koivula talked to Metalundergroun.com via email about “Monotony Fields.” With the help of guitarist/keyboardist Jarno Koivula tells us about such aspects as recording the album, why there was such a long wait between albums, delves into some of the lyrical themes and tells us about a special upcoming concert.

Rex_84: How do you feel now that “Monotony Fields” has been released?

Henri Koivula: It feels good. We made a massive amount of work with the album and now we can see that it was all worth it. So far the response has been very good, even better than we expected.

Rex_84: It has been eleven years since the release of your last album, “Illusion’s Play.” Why was there such a long gap between albums?

Henri: Well, there was a major change in the line-up when the old vocalist left and I joined in to replace him. That was in 2011. Before that the band was not so active and the band members were more concentrated on their other bands and projects. It took some time to find proper rehearsing place and write new songs. We were not in a hurry; we just wanted to concentrate on the quality of the material to make the album as good as possible.

Rex_84: “Illusion’s Play” was released through Spikefarm. “Monotony Fields” came out on Season of Mist Records. What led you to signing with Season of Mist?

Henri: The contract had expired with Spikefarm. We had some initial discussions with the mother label Spinefarm, but we didn’t find a mutual agreement. So we started to look for another label. There were few labels where we sent a demo tape of the new songs and luckily we got a deal with Season of mist. They are doing a great job, and we are very happy to be on their roster.

Rex_84: What was the recording process like?

Henri: It was very unorthodox, because some of the band members were on a long tour with their other band when the recordings started. So, at first we recorded guitars and synths, after that we recorded vocals with Natalie. After Samu and Sami came back from the tour some months later, we recorded drums. And finally about six months after we had started it was Sami´s turn with bass guitar.

Rex_84: Did you record the album at the same studio? How do you feel about the album’s production?

Henri: Yes, most of the stuff was recorded in a small “city lights” studio in Helsinki. The studio was formerly named “Hellhole”, which I think describes the place very well. I think the drums and bass were recorded at a rehearsal place. Production on this album is very good. We got a talented sound engineer who did a great job.

Rex_84: Is there a theme that runs through the album musically and lyrically?

Henri: I wouldn’t say that there is one common theme; the themes vary between isolation, depression, solitude and loss. The album is a collection of all these different themes.

Rex_84: How does the atmosphere of the album help express these themes?

Henri: I think it expresses them perfectly. The music itself is the biggest inspiration for me.

Rex_84: Where did you find the inspiration to write the album? Is it a reflection of how you see life?

Jarno Salomaa: Inspiration comes from so many different things and it's quite a long process from the start till end. Life, thoughts, music...I think everything affects when you'll create music but in the end, it matters quite much how you'll entwine all these together in the final process in making the album. These all sources from where you've got the ideas, first “sparks” so to call “molds” into one and I think in a way we can of course call it as an outcome of something from the life itself. This is mainly Shape of despair's life and I’m sure it exists at least inside of me.

Rex_84: How do you view Natalie Koskinen’s vocals? How do these vocals fit with the low growls?

Henri: Natalie’s voice is very unique and I think it gives the band its trademark sound. Her voice goes well together with the low growls. Working in the studio, I was very impressed how fast she could come up with vocal harmonies. You can tell that she is a real pro singer. I think there is still a lot potential in her voice that we can hopefully utilize in the future releases as well.

Rex_84: The album art contains a blurry figure inside of what appears to be a mirror. Who made the album art? What type of message were you trying to convey with the cover art?

Henri: The artwork was made by Mariusz Krystew. He has been doing artwork for Shape of Despair for a very long time. I really like his work, and the artwork for this album is brilliant. We sent him the songs and lyrics of the album and he made the artwork after that.

Jarno: For me, Mariusz's work reflects songs we have on this album very closely. It's like a hollow shell of a human figure, very depressive and isolated form... and it fits to our theme perfectly.


Rex_84: What message do you hope to convey to the listener concerning the album title?

Henri:

It’s a song title for the second song on the album. We chose it as an album title because it best describes the general atmosphere of the album.

Rex_84: What is a Shape of Despair performance like? What can we expect?

Henri: We try to perform the songs like they were originally recorded on the albums. We are playing with a very high volume, like this kind of music should always be played. We are usually looking for venues where we can have good control of the lighting. So, expect a good light show with a lot of contrasts between light and dark and heavy use of smoke machine.

Rex_84: Since Shape of Despair’s songs are quite long, how do you decide what songs to put in your set list?

Jarno: Yes that's the hard part to make the set list to work in a certain limits in time. We mostly try to play the songs we'd like to hear and play ourselves. Maybe some kind of an album so to say, played in a live situation. But we hope to play at least one or two new songs we haven't played live to each live show we attend to.

Rex_84: Where is Shape of Despair playing next?

Henri: We are performing in Transylvania, Romania at the Dark Bombastic Evening in August. It will be very interesting event as there are lots of other great bands like Skepticism and Manes, and of course the venue itself and the location of the venue is very unique.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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