ZT INTERROGATION: FINLAND’S ILLUSIONS DEAD WAKE UP TO TALK CELESTIAL DECADENCE…
Finnish firebrands Illusions Dead may be a bass player short of a picnic but it’s not silenced them when it comes to discussing their debut album. ZT’s Paul Castles gets the inside story from singer Johannes Katajamäki.
You must be looking forward to the release of your debut album, Celestial Decadence, on February 8.
JK: Indeed, we’re keenly looking forward to the release. It has taken a lot of time and work to get this far and we are very pleased with the results. We think it’s quite crushing and should be something fans of this style enjoy. Celestial Decadence was recorded in February 2014, so with almost two years in the making we are more than excited about the release, not to mention the future of Illusions Dead!
ZT:What can those people yet to hear Illusions Dead expect?
JK: Intensity and aggression, but also emotion and raw passion. We wanted to make sure that impact of the music is as crushing and memorable as possible, and believe we’ve achieved just that with Celestial Decadence. We are influenced by the likes of Gorgoroth, Dissection, Insomnium, as well as a bit of NYDM. We combine these elements into a cohesive whole to create a unique and interesting soundscape and atmosphere. Death metal and black metal naturally express highly negative and hateful emotions. This type of music should express the most genuine and sincerest emotions, and only through that can it live up to its full potential. At times, it can be a dichotomy of opposing elements that contrast and thereby highlight each other. And at other times it can be a perfect harmony of darkness and light.
ZT: Did the recording go to plan – any particular challenges in the studio?
JK: It did, yes. We had reserved eight days for the eight songs that we recorded, and the schedule was suitably tight to keep us focused on the session. The recording environment was a real challenge though; a rectangular room with mostly concrete walls, and the roof was about two metres higher on one end. We also learned much, and the experience has made us better musicians and a stronger band.
ZT: Does the album have a certain concept or theme?
JK: The decay of religion through war and violence, as well as its moral degradation. The title of the album, Celestial Decadence, has a double meaning of sorts, and the album cover represents both meanings simultaneously. On one hand, it shows the lasciviousness of religion, and the monuments built to celebrate its inherent corruption, created in the pinnacle of its earthly glory. On the other hand, it displays the gradual degradation of faith, as the cornerstones of religious dogma become increasingly abstract and immaterial in the light of science and new knowledge.
ZT: The album sleeve was by Moonroot Art in the Czech Republic. It’s like a glimpse through the gates of hell and apparently took something like 160 hours’ work. How did you meet up with the artist?
JK: Moonroot contacted us after the release of our self-titled demo in summer 2013. He has quite a unique style, so we got interested in his works. Later, when it was time to start looking for an artist to make the cover art, he was our number one pick. We hardly considered anyone else for the job, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome. We’re sure to use his services for any artistic needs in the future!
ZT: Do you all draw your influences from similar styles and sources or is there a divergence of tastes among the three of you?
JK: Johannes and Akseli listen to a lot of the same stuff, and those are the bands that influence our music the most. As far as guitarists go, there is actually a huge divergence in taste between Johannes and Jake but that doesn’t show in the songs since Johannes is doing basically all of the composing work when it comes to riffs.
ZT: Your bassist left around August time. How quickly were you able to fill his shoes?
JK: We’re still looking for a replacement. We want to make sure we find the right person with the skills and the right chemistry for the band, but we’re confident that it’ll work out.
ZT: Are you performing live purely as a trio now?
JK: No, unfortunately we’ve had to turn down some gigs. It is not an ideal situation, but we’d rather not play live without a full lineup, even though we did that once earlier on.
ZT: Have you all had experience with other bands in the past?
JK: Akseli only plays with us. Jake has played and jammed with a lot of different players, but this is his main band. I’m the vocalist for an international death/doom group called Gloaming. We released a full-length album last year.
ZT: Your debut is a self-release, would you hope to generate some interest from record labels or are you happy managing your own affairs for now?
JK: Currently, we’re able to manage things independently without any problems. So far it seems to be working out just fine. We’re interested in being signed, provided a worthwhile offer comes our way, of course.
ZT: How did things go when performing live in 2015, any particular stand-out shows?
JK: Lepakkomies in August, together with Cauldron Of Hate and God Disease, was very memorable and exciting. We were certainly taken aback by the amazing response by the audience, and playing there was an absolute blast. I dare say we’re becoming a reasonably good live act!
ZT: Finally, are there any plans to play outside Finland in 2016 and promote the album to a wider audience?
JK: There are no plans whatsoever, but if the opportunity presents itself then we will of course give it serious consideration. We are excited about the future possibilities!