Grendel: Monstrous Skullcrushers

It´s not so easy to make it to the top as a metalband in Finland because you have to stand up to fierce competition. With their second album „A Change Through Destruction“ melodic metalband Grendel wants to prove that they are up to this challenge. With a rising degree of heaviness the guys not only made it easily to the final round of this year´s Tuska competition but also won the STALKER crew´s favor. Not too bad! Singer Mikko gives you the lowdown on the new album and how it will beat all competition!

Shortly before the release of your new album “A Change Through Destruction” in Finland, are you excited?
We are very excited – like kids before Christmas. We can´t wait to see what kind of reception the album gets. This album is very different from the debut, so this makes it twice as interesting for us. This time we had few advertisements in magazines, in the web and on the streets, so it´s also interesting to see how marketing affected the record sales.

How much blood, sweat and tears did you put into writing, recording, producing?
I would say this was quite an easy process even though we worked twelve-hour-days and needed to do some composing and writing still in the studio. Not much blood and tears, but maybe some sweat 😉

The title of the album, “A Change Through Destruction”, is it representative for the band´s state of mind while making the album or why was it chosen?
The name comes from the title of the second track on the album. I felt like it describes the way our music has taken a big step towards a more aggressive and brutal style of metal. In the song, the title points to changes in life caused by diseases, wars, death, changes in climate, etc…

What are the songs about, what´s your inspiration?
The inspiration usually comes from things that make me mad or sad. As an exception, there´s one song on this album that has kind of a positive idea behind it. “One Desire” is about passion for music, but even this song is presented from a negative perspective. Our lyrics are never fictional stories or preaching lectures.

What´s your personal favourite song of the album?
I don´t know… All the songs are good so it´s hard to name one favourite song. My opinion varies all the time and the favourite on the album might not be the favourite played live.

What are your expectations regarding the album´s reception? If it shouldn´t, for some reason, get the reception you were hoping for, how much of a disappointment would it be?
Well, I expect people to like the new album ´cause I think it´s good, but I also know that some people that liked our debut – because of it´s easier and more melodic songs – will probably be disappointed of the brutality of this new one. We are really down-to-earth guys and we´ve also become a bit cynical about everything related to the music business. I think we have quite realistic expectations about the reception of this album.

The band is now also signed to Firebox Records, how did this change things for you as a band? It has helped us a lot. A year ago we had to take care of everything by ourselves and now there are about 11 guys working for this band in a way. This work includes selling gigs, planning marketing, taking care of logistics and financial stuff, etc, etc… The fact that we don´t have to pay for everything ourselves anymore is also great!

As you are responsible for all artwork related to the band could you tell us a little bit more about the album cover. Who´s that lady?
First I have to say, that you might be the first one who thinks that the person on the cover is a woman – and that´s correct. She´s a Russian peasant and she has no connection with anything as a person. Her face just has so much expression, wisdom and mysticism that it affected me. It got your attention too so it´s working, I guess. The wrinkled face and aging are also kind of destructive changes, so that´s one link with the title.

Is there a certain artwork concept for the band in general?
Not determined, but maybe in my subconsciousness. If you look at all the artwork we have, you can see it´s always quite dark but not too harsh. I wouldn´t design any Cannibal Corpse stuff for Grendel. It just wouldn´t mix. I´m a big fan of Niklas Sundin (Cabin Fever Media) and if it would be possible, I would be happy to assign him to be responsible for Grendel´s artwork concept.

What are the biggest differences between this album and your debut album “Lost Beyond Retrieval”?
The biggest change is definitely the vocals. Me and Mika are the singers on both albums, but this time there´s a lot of aggressive screaming and growling throughout the songs, as on the “Lost Beyond Retrieval” there is only clean vocals. The non-melodic vocals give us more freedom of creativity with the instruments. The difference between the albums is also the fact that songs for the first album were composed during a five-year-period. The composing process for the new album took maybe about 1,5 years in max.

Are there plans to release the album also outside of Finland?
Yes, the album will definitely be released outside of Finland. We have already negotiated about licences concerning the whole of Europe and more will probably follow. We will see…

There are so many metal bands in Finland nowadays, do you think it´s rather an advantage or a disadvantage to have so much competition? Is it harder to get to the top?
There´s maybe more interest towards metal music, but on the other hand there´s so much excellent bands that it´s really hard to get attention. Yes, it is harder to get to the top.

What would you say let´s Grendel stand out from the masses?
Great songs with a scale of different moods and atmospheres. Clean vocals mixed with growls. Good, rocking live performances. I know you can say these things about many bands and this doesn´t really make Grendel to stand out. But we have years of hard work behind us and we´ve been together with the same line-up almost since the beginning. I think it shows in a positive way through everything we do.

What´s for you the most important thing in a song?
I would say that the most important thing might depend on the style of the song. The most important thing in an easygoing song could be the atmosphere and good melodies and in a heavy song the guitar riffs.

Checking the band´s milestones it appears to have gone very smooth so far. What has been your biggest struggle until now?
The first struggle (I think) was the time when former vocalist Jarno Blom left the band in 2001. It took about one year until I stepped in to replace him. The biggest struggle still has definitely been to get a decent record deal. It took 8 years.

The band name is taken from the Anglo-Saxon epic “Beowulf”. Isn´t a Finnish band rather expected to use something out of Kalevala ;)?
Yes, that is clearly expected and that´s why forbidden 😉

In the epic Grendel is the bad guy, a monster “feared by all” – how does the band name then connect to the band or the songs?
Not in any way. Although I – as a huge, monstrous skullcrusher – am feared by all, the name Grendel doesn´t have any meaning to us in that way. It´s just a name of our band. Jarno Blom – who came up with this name – isn´t even in the band anymore as I mentioned earlier.

How did the band come together in the first place? What were your goals back then and what are your goals right now?
We were all in the same school back in 1996. Grendel was formed in 1999 and the line-up stabilised in 2002. I think there were more things to achieve back then, but they are basically the same even now: to get more gigs, get more fans, make more albums, make better music, perform better. It would be great if we could just concentrate on the band and quit our day jobs.

What do you like/hate most about playing live?
I hate unprofessional people who you have to work with when you´re touring in different places. I also hate the moments when mixing is bad and you can´t hear yourself or everything just sounds like crap. I love the moments on stage when we sound and feel good and you can also sense this through the audience.

What´s next for Grendel?
Promoting the new album, a lot of gigs, new songs and planning the next album 😉

Thanks for the interview and good luck with the new album!
Thank you very much!

Photos: Grendel

Kathleen Gransalke

Editor for Reviews - translations, reports, photos - - - Favorite genres? - Punk, Rock, Death Metal, Mathcore - - - Favorite bands? - Coheed & Cambria, Black Dahlia Murder, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon