Eternal Tears of Sorrow: Melodic Death Metal, with a tinge of Dark Finnish Winter

Metal music is like a mysterious multi-layered vault. At the very top lie the most popular bands, while beneath them, story by story, rest those who you may or may not hear about in your transitory metalhead existence.

Some of the hidden acts are amazing, surpassing in musicianship many of the bands that get to be in the limelight (or candlelight, since we’re talking about vaults). But because of the record industry’s general and voluntary blindness, they will never hit you in the face like popular, sellable groups will.

It is our job to get our hands dirty and clean the dust off of some of these artists. So, foolish mortal, if ye have not heard about Eternal Tears of Sorrow yet, you may be damned to a life of infinite sonic deprivation, because these  dudes absolutely rock.  
Funerary metaphors aside, the band came into being in 1994 and released six amazingly melodic death metal albums, which can only be described as epic.
After a break (2002-2004) which nearly cost them their popularity, the guys returned in 2005 and have been struggling to deliver their specific brand of unholily atmospheric symphonic heaviness ever since.
Having heard that the band is busy working on their follow-up material to „Children of the Dark Waters” (2009), we caught up with Jarmo Puolakanaho and asked him some questions regarding the new record, the recipe for success, and the ever-so-dark Finnish winters.
Read the outcome below.
MRM: Eternal Tears of Sorrow is like a hidden star on the sky of Finnish metal. Despite the fact that your songs are amazing, you’re not as well-known as other bands singing in your idiom – Amorphis, Nightwish etc. It might seem like a stupid question, but I can’t help wondering: WHY?
JP: I suppose it has something to do with the break we had between 2002 and 2004. After some tours and releasing three albums between 1998 and 2001, we were really exhausted and all we could do was take a well deserved a break. This could prove to be a bad choice career-wise, but we just had to do it. After the break, we made a promise to ourselves that we’d slow down, and do things at our own pace. In the end, the most important thing for us is our music. And we have been lucky to do whatever what we want with it. That’s the real kind of success, in my opinion.

This summer there was talk of a new single & a new video. What happened to these plans? Are they still on?
The video and the single (called “Swan Saivo”) will be released in the near future and the album (“Saivon Lapsi”) will be released early next year. Sometimes things happen slowly, and releasing albums, singles and videos is never up to us; it’s the record companies who decide these things.

So far, you’ve released six full-length albums, all dealing with poetic, abysmal themes. What inspires you nowadays
Well, our inspiration still comes from anything that sets our minds into a creative mood. It can be a good book, a movie or anything that happens in our lives. And of course, it can also be a good song, not even necessarily a metal song. And, of course, the weather and the extremeness of the Finnish seasons always inspire us. In short: anything can be an inspiration.

As opposed to many symphonic death-metal bands, you have just the right doses of headbanging harshness and melody. Do you follow a certain compositional „recipe”
No, I don’t think so. We have six members in the band and all of us are sort of responsible for arranging the songs. And all of the six members have their own influences. However, every time we write a new song, it still sounds like EToS. So, I suppose we do have some sort of recipe in our heads, but it’s definitely not conscious. It’s more on the subconscious level. We just do what feels natural to us.
What’s your holy trinity when it comes to music – three bands that your music could not exist without?
Two bands are easy to pick: Paradise Lost and Edge of Sanity. In the early 90s, Paradise Lost was the band that made us realize that one could make extreme music without sacrificing the atmospheric element. A bit later, Edge of Sanity made us understand that you can make melodic and diverse music, while still sounding heavy. The third band, however, is much more difficult to choose. There are or have been twelve musicians in this band and all of them have had different influences. My personal choice would be Death, and anything Chuck Schuldiner made during his lifetime.

Would you say that the Finnish metal scene is over-saturated with bands and that’s why it seems to cling to certain big names, while completely ignoring others
I suppose the music industry has always been like that since the dawn of time (or more like since the invention of LPs). That’s life and you can’t do anything about it. The record companies naturally invest money in bands that will most probably be the most successful, because that’s how the record companies make even more money.

Your place of origin is set deep within the Finnish North. Would you say some of that dark gloom and poetry surrounding those places has „rubbed off” on your music
Absolutely. Our winters usually start in November and end in April, and December and January are the darkest months. That’s when the sun rises at 10 in the morning and sets at 2 in the afternoon. But we can be just as metal in summer, there’s no doubt about it :).
In a past interview I did with Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy she said something along the lines of „metal that is driven by keyboards is not as metal as metal driven by guitars”. Why do you think some people consider this, seeing as ETOS has always had a very strong melodic keyboard element, which only makes it more awesome?
I suppose Angela is an old-school metal musician and I understand her point of view. Twenty years ago, when EToS was taking its first steps, keyboards were not a usual thing in most sorts of metal. In the early 90s, the only death metal band that had keyboards was Nocturnus. And I remember Pestilence (a great Dutch death metal band) had written on its album sleeve the following words: “there are no keyboards on this album”. For us, having keyboards on our album has been a natural way of enhancing the songs and the atmosphere. We don’t use them to make our melodies softer, although keyboards tend to have that kind of effect. We just want to give our songs an extra touch, something more “three-dimensional”. We want to go beyond the usual bass-drums-guitars-vocals thing.

What’s the story behind your latest album, „Children of the Dark Waters”? Why the name, what inspired it
“Children of the Dark Waters” is the second part of the “Angelheart, Ravenheart” story, which began with our fifth album. It was a very mystic and weird dream Altti (Vetelainen; vocals) had one night, a dream about dead children rising from the lake. And in no time, the dream became a song that was a perfect sequel to the Angelheart theme.

Natural elements seem to play an important part in your music: the sea, the wind, the night, the moon, the sun. Your lyrics sound like spells sometimes. Are you up to some magical no-good in your songs
No, I don’t think so because, after all, they’re just songs that reflect our thoughts and emotions. For some reason, we just like to use nature in our music. Sometimes, these elements are employed as metaphors, other times they become a background for our stories.

So, what, when, where about the new album
“Saivon Lapsi” will be out in February 2013, we hope!
Kiitos paljon, JP & Eternal Tears of Sorrow!

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