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28 February 2010

Chapter 2.3

Chapter 2.2 - Index - Chapter 3.1

The five guys never stopped. At this time (keep in mind that fourteen months passed between the recording and the release of Suden uni, that’s a lot) they already had several songs written. In Marko’s words, “Me and Henri just sat at home composing new material every day, bringing new aspects to Moonsorrow´s music. We had some 100 minutes of new material. So it was easy to pick the best songs from that pre-production. Actually, we had some of [the second album’s] material ready when Suden Uni came out because its release was delayed.”

Drunken Viking Choir™
So in August (we’re in 2001, remember) they went to Tico-Tico Studios again to record the follow-up to Suden uni, which would be called Voimasta ja kunniasta (this means Of strength and honour). Initially, the release date was set to November 26th, but there was a little delay and finally it came out on December 3rd; which, compared to the debut’s delay, was quite an improvement. Then the year 2001 ended. They only did three concerts, all of them in Helsinki.

Let’s talk a bit of Voimasta ja kunniasta. This time it was recorded by four people: Ville, bass and voice;

2001 promo pic
Henri, guitars, keyboards and folk stuff; Mitja, more guitars; and Baron, percussion and 12-string acoustic guitar, which apparently he does quite well. Also, and for the first time, Baron wrote music together with Henri, actually the songs “Hiidenpelto” and “Sankaritarina” were mostly written by him. And Eurén? Eurén clapped his hands together with those two guys from Thyrane and Janne Perttilä (Handclap Squad), and also contributed to the Drunken Viking Choir. The cover art was made by Skrymer, guitarist of Finntroll. About the album’s content, I think it’s the most epic they have overall. It still has strong folk influences, but it’s less ‘dark’ than the previous; and some songs have quite quiet parts. The last three – out of five, which is quite a percentage (I’m not counting the intro).

Voimasta ja kunniasta artwork
Anyway, there’s much less difference between V&K and SU than between SU and TIT, for sure. The two first songs, “Sankarihauta” and “Kylän päässä”, are probably the most famous they have, and define perfectly the Moonsorrow sound. They described it as “Carrying the vein started with Suden uni far beyond epic and bombastic. Folkish as always and now also somewhat progressive.” The lyrics were written, as usual, by Ville, and it’s a concept album, although I personally had huge difficulties to find the concept – which obviously doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily difficult to understand, but I get lost with that English so poetic and baroque they use in the translations. It deals with a man who betrays his brother, by revealing information about the latter’s village to an enemy tribe, in exchange of riches.

Aurinko ja kuu

Chapter 2.2 - Index - Chapter 3.1

21 February 2010

Chapter 2.2

Short after recording (not releasing) Suden uni, the first Moonsorrow concert took place, on March 31st 2000 to be exact, and not in Helsinki but in Turku, in a venue called S-Osis. As they were only three and three people can’t play five instruments, they called two more guys: one for playing the guitar, called Mitja Harvilahti (b. December 29th 1979); and for keyboards, a man called Kharadrai, who only played with them in that concert. Actually, in the next concert (April 13th, Tavastia, Helsinki), he was replaced by Markus “Lord” Eurén (b. April 19th 1978), a childhood friend of Marko’s and with whom he had recorded several demos under the name Gorewinter. They were just session members back then. Later they did a couple of concerts in August, and that was all that year. The songs they played in the first two concerts were the same,

The first concert
as they were the only ones they had rehearsed with the full line-up; the titles were:

Ukkosenjumalan poika
Köyliönjärven jäällä
Kuin ikuinen

Before December, both Mitja and Markus were already official members, being Moonsorrow a five-piece line-up which still keeps nowadays.

Once the year 2000 finished, 2001 came (surprising, eh). This was undoubtedly the busiest year in Moonsorrow’s history, with three releases in nine months, as we’ll see later in this chapter. In April, Suden uni was finally released; some people said their music had slowed down a lot, etcetera, but the reviews were mostly satisfying. Anyway, it’s true that the songs in general are much slower; they have the same basis and a similar structural development, but the performance and rythms changed totally to more paused and melodic forms.

Plasmatica's Suden uni artwork
Description: “Epic heathen metal calmed quite a deal down from Tämä Ikuinen Talvi. Folkish and pompous.” The first pressing consisted of 1000 copies. Although the lyrics were in Finnish, they included an explaining paragraph next to each song telling what it talked about. Of course, after all the trouble and delays they had gone through with Plasmatica, they didn’t sign with them again.

While they were looking for another label, the band got an offer from the label Sagitarius Productions to re-release their second demo, Tämä ikuinen talvi, but this time they would do it properly: instead of tapes with poor sound, they chose CD format and improved sound. To be precise, what they did was to re-record all Ville’s vocals, because the original sounded quite crappy; adding choirs in some parts, with all five of the members participating; and re-mixing the whole thing again. Besides, and for the first time, the booklet included full English translations of all the songs, as well as a new cover artwork, perhaps the most beautiful of all the albums. This was done en May 2001, the same month during which they signed the deal with Sagitarius Productions to release it, who acted faster and put it in the market in August. “Without their offer, we wouldn't have done it at all”, emphasizes Ville. In that moment they stopped making dubs of the tape, so the cassette version was left limited to 500 copies. The CD pressing consisted of 1500, but the Russian company CD Maximum made another edition (licensed) which, although I think it’s already out of print, can be easily found on eBay – more easily than the Sagitarius version anyway.

Tämä ikuinen talvi, CD version
Later on, Sagitarius made more pressings, I believe the last one was done in the beginning of 2004. I don’t know if 1500 is the total number of copies or just the first pressing. Meanwhile, in July they signed with Spinefarm, by recommendation of Sami Tenetz (leader of Thy Serpent and owner of the subsidiary label Spikefarm), for two albums. It was also around that time when a Swedish fan called Stefan Lejon asked them permission to make a fansite. Moonsorrow didn’t have an official website at the time, so they said: do it for us! And so it happened. On June 14th, the first message appeared: “After months of relentless battling, Moonsorrow is finally online.” Nowadays, Stefan Lejon is still their webmaster, and he has even participated in an album, but we’ll deal with that in the right moment.

Talvi (2001 remaster)

16 February 2010

Chapter 2.1

Second chapter:
Frenetic activity
(2000 - 2001)

Chapter 1.3 - Index - Chapter 2.2

Everything was ready, they had gone through all required steps: they had recorded demos, they had a small fanbase, they were a full band, and they had a deal with a label, which provided them with a studio and promotion. They were ready to release their debut, so they got their hands to work without thinking twice. They wrote songs during the second half of 1999, and in February 2000 they went to Tico-Tico studios in Kemi (northern Finland, where the weather must be freaking cold, specially in February) to record them.

Oh wait a second... it's their chinese drummer!!! - Marko dixit
Basicly, Henri made the music of all songs (with Ville’s collaboration in two of them) and Ville wrote the lyrics, except those of “Ukkosenjumalan poika”, written by his girlfriend of that time. The album would be called Suden uni (which translates as A wolf’s dream), and the recording responsibilities were: Henri, guitars, keyboards, clean voices and traditional instruments (accordion, mouth harp and the likes); Ville, voice and bass guitar; and Baron, percussion, acoustic guitar and choirs. They also had some friends collaborating in handclaps and choirs: Avather and Blastmor of Thyrane, and Janne Perttilä, who later would gain importance in Moonsorrow. It was in these sessions where the “Drunken Viking Choir” ™ was born. The album was recorded and mixed by Ahti Kortelainen, who would work with the following albums too. The band didn’t know him before recording this album, but apparently they were happy with his job; some years later, Ville said: “We chose Ahti and Mika [Jussila, who mastered all of their later records) for the first album by chance; we listened to the albums they had made and realised that they could do a good work with our sound as well.

Ahti (left) and Mika (right)
Since then, we haven't felt the need to change the line-up. They are both utmost professionals in what they do, they know what we are doing and all in all we get well along. With them, we get the results we aim at”. Actually he was slightly wrong when he said this, as Mika Jusila worked with them for the first time on the second album; Ville later corrected himself: "The Plasmatica version wasn't actually mastered at all, didn't remember that. Only the Spinefarm version is mastered by Mika Jussila." We'll get back to this in the second chapter dedicated to the year 2003.

They spent some days recording and mixing, seemed like the album would be released soon, but again they had problems, not really technical this time but rather financial and even human, which led to the album not to be released until April 2001, i.e. more than one year later. Ville tells: “It was very irritating to wait for the release of the album. Whether it was a fault of the label or not does not matter anymore, after all one should be able to expect these kind of setbacks when dealing with small labels. They just don’t have the money to push things their way with the desired pace. There were all kinds of troubles concerning the supposed release, all the way from simple communication obstacles to the last-minute fuck-ups with the manufacturing company (they had the masters idle for two months or so, so I guess we should question their working morals a bit too).

Plasmatica Records logo
Surely many people question afterwards why did we choose Plasmatica Records, but why shouldn’t we have signed the best contract we were offered? Working with new and not well-known labels usually isn’t that efficient - as we have learned - but there are always two sides to a coin if you think about it. On a small label every band has priority and there should be no questions about artistic freedom unlike on some bigger labels”.

Ukkosenjumalan poika (original 2000 master)

Chapter 1.3 - Index - Chapter 2.2

07 February 2010


Henri Urponpoika Sorvali

Born in Helsinki on October 19th 1978, Henri is the oldest of the Sorvalis (at least, of the ones that play in Moonsorrow) and founding member of the band, as well as guitarist, keyboardist and main composer; absolutely all the songs of the band are signed by him, alone or not. He’s also the one who gave the band a name and a logo.

Son of Urpo “Upi” Sorvali, drummer of Kimmo Kuusniemi Band (considered the first heavy metal band in Finland), Henri is a real lover of music, and most of his professional life dealt with this form of art: he has taught at Sibelius music school in Helsinki, currently works writing music for mobile videogames and is an active member of a few bands and worked as a producer and/or guest or session musician for other bands. Currently, his two main bands are Moonsorrow and Finntroll, under the nickname of Trollhorn in the latter, and some of his collaborations are: keyboards in the second Shaman album (now known as Korpiklaani), in a Glittertind EP and in Ensiferum’s debut album; bass in Crimfall’s debut… and so on. He also had lots of bands which are nowadays split-up or inactive: Terrorthrone, Thunderdogs, The Wicked, Woods Of Belial… Anyway, his “cup of tea” is creating music; he doesn’t like performing live that much, so he has a substitute for the guitar in Moonsorrow (Janne Perttilä) and for keyboard in Finntroll (Aleksei Virta). Both did more concerts with their respective bands than himself.

Finally, he’s a huge fan of film soundtracks, as well as video games, and a follower of the Warcraft series. He had a son in late 2005, whose voice appears in "Kuolleiden maa".


Trollhorn in Finntroll (2007)

Nosturi 30.XII.2007

Finntroll - Den Hornkrönte Konungen
(music by Henri)