Aleksi Munter (Swallow The Sun) Interviewed

I’ve often felt STS songs are like album-form movies. At this point, where does the cinematic inspiration come from?Aleksi: Mainly Twin Peaks, it has always been an inspiration, especially to the songs musically, but also lyrically to some extent. On Hope we tried to go for The Shining-type of vibes, but in hindsight that could’ve been more apparent.

If you were to pick three movies to describe Emerald Forest and the Blackbird which movies would they be? And why, of course?
Aleksi: This is a difficult one for me, as I don’t watch that much movies… but maybe something a bit surreal [and] dark tale like Pan’s Labyrinth, topped with dark humor of Delicatessen and then some dirt, hopelessness and violence from Se7en.

I also feel there’s a bit of innocence to STS’ sonic attributes. Like there’s a ton of doom and gloom, but there’s also hope and a bit of child-like naivety. Am I onto something here, or am I slightly crazy in my assessment?
Aleksi: There’s always a glimmer of hope. I personally think that sort of emotional contrast is the key element in keeping things interesting, I can’t listen to funeral doom albums that are all black. The heavy and depressing elements seem more so in contrast to some lighter elements. About naivety; well, there is always some really simplistic riffs there that can be seen as naïve. But hey, that’s heavy metal.

How would you compare Emerald Forest and the Blackbird to New Moon? A major development or an album of tweaks and twists to the recipe?
Aleksi: Major development for sure. Like, we took all the things we started toying with on New Moon (and already on Plague of Butterflies) and took them a bit further, such as the black metal influences and the acoustic, ballady-type of songs.

You recorded at a few different studios. I heard the Drumforest studio was in the middle of, if you’ll pardon my American expression, Bumfuck, Egypt. You’ve said it was dream-like and impossibly remote. Did that experience influence the album at all?
Aleksi: Well, actually I recorded my parts in a different studio in Helsinki, but yes, your American expression regarding the location is correct. Though almost every place in Finland is like that. I’ve visited there on another project, and I have to say it has certain appeal to it. It’s very idyllic and quiet there. And the studio owners are awesome.

There are two different female vocalists on Emerald Forest and the Blackbird. Aleah and Anette. Did you have particular voices in mind for the songs/atmospheres?
Aleksi: As we have worked with Aleah before it was obvious she’s going to be singing the background vocals, but for “Cathedral Walls” we wanted someone new. Juha was going through female singers and when he heard some of Anette’s solo production he decided to ask her, as he heard that her voice is very versatile. And honestly, I had no idea what to expect, but I think it turned out perfect.

Is there a song on Emerald Forest and the Blackbird that speaks to you? I think the “Cathedral Walls” track has a particular magic to it. As does “Labyrinth of London”. To me, anyway.
Aleksi: “This Cut is the Deepest”, “Hate, Lead the Way”, “Labyrinth of London”, and to my great surprise, “April 14th”. I hated that song when we recorded the demos, but it turned out to be one of the strongest songs on the album.

What the hell does Emerald Forest and the Blackbird mean? Nonsense or are things to pick out for listeners by separating words to create different meanings?
Aleksi: It’s the story the narrator of the first song is telling. Juha got inspired by this old Finnish lullaby called Sininen Uni, The Blue Dream.

Why hell did it take so long for the U.S. release to follow the European release? These days, there’s no reason for territorial restrictions.
Aleksi: Don’t ask us. We’re as baffled as anyone else.

I think STS is one of the few Finnish metal acts to tour the U.S. without major breaks. And I also think the lineup pairings are always a bit off. Has the constant touring and lineup diversity helped STS grow in the states?
Aleksi: Most certainly, we’ve grown a decent fan base there, and it’s mostly thanks to touring because our distribution hasn’t always been top notch in there.

Of course, this time around you’re with Kreator and Accept, two old-school German metal acts. I guess you’re not into preaching to the converted, so to speak.
Aleksi: It depends. Touring with a band that’s in our musical genre is good in a way, that we’ll get to play to people that might’ve not heard from us, but are already into this type of music, so it’s easier to perform for them. Then again, the chances are lots of them have already heard of us, at some level at least. On varied lineups you get to play to the completely new audiences, and thus it can expand your fan base more, but they’re harder to impress. Anyway, in states the lineup diversity doesn’t matter as much in Europe. Here, people are often really stuck to one genre in their listening habits.

What’s the one thing you’d want a new fan to walk away with after listening to Emerald Forest and the Blackbird?
Aleksi: A boner.