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I'm not saying that i'm the kind of person who is immersed in melancholy all the time; in this music, there's much more than that.

Interview with Shape Of Despair.
Last year, Shape of despair's debut 'Shades of...' surprised us with its emotional, icecold funeral doom that seemed to come forth right from this icecold pool from which so many original Finnish doom bands lend their inspiration . Only one year later (what an incredible tempo for a funeral doom band!), the band finds us once again unprepared with their new sorrowful masterpiece 'Angels of distress'. We at doom-metal.com decided that it was about time to drag this promising band out of its Northern isolation and to introduce them to our critical, yet grateful doom audience...ladies and gentlemen...  Jarno Salomaa, the  person behind the mysterious initials J.S. and at the same time the brain behind this band,  answers our questions, patiently unveiling some of the mysteries behind Shape of Despair...

Greetings Jarno, and thanks for doing this interview for doom-metal.com! How is the temperature there in Finland, at the moment? We have the impression here -in the less Northern parts of Europe-that your country is eternally veiled in an icecold, dark shroud of mist...

"Hello, heh you've got a wrong impression of Finland. For me it gets hot enough here, in the summer for example. Right now it's been raining for almost a week .. it's looking pretty grey outside ."

One week of non-stop raining...how doomy! Since Shape of Despair is a relatively new star on the doom firmament, I think it would be wise to start by giving a short overview of the band and its history...

"We started in '95 at young age. We made our first demo in '98 of those first tracks we wrote in '95 and later in the same year we released a promo-tape containing two songs. After this promo release, Spikefarm offered us a deal for a couple of albums, of which the first one appeared in '00 and the second one the year after. We haven't had a stable line-up since our first record. Our singer Toni Mäensivu went to Lapland to study and left Shape of Despair. We replaced him with Pasi Koskinen. We dropped the flute (Johanna Vakkuri) from this new record and replaced it with a violin (Toni Raehalme). And right now we may have a new guitarist. I hope we can some day in future play some shows but it's really up to members and music.."

Speaking about gigs: I know that slow bands like yours are usually anxious that they might bore the audience, but I think that a 'doom package' with Shape of Despair and a few other extreme doom bands, might turn out to be a truly metaphysical experience...

"I hope we can arrange something some day, as soon as we have everything in control here. It may take time but it's better though."

This is the obligatory question, but I think it's very appropriate for Shape of Despair: what drives a metal musician or metal band to make such unrelentingly slow and depressive music? Is it a need to express your darkest emotions, your inner fears? Or is it rather a reflection of your environment? Does that cold Finnish weather somehow 'create' bands like Shape of Despair?

"Nowadays, it's more an expression of my feelings. It's hard to tell.. it seems so logical to me to play this kind of music, since all the tranquillity etc.. basically mirrors myself. I'm not saying that I'm the kind of person who is immersed in melancholy all the time; in this music, there's much more than that. It's necessary for me at least to improve or to move forward so don't really know what is to come."

Angels of Distress cover I received your new album 'Angels of distress' last week and since then, I'm incessantly listening to it and it keeps growing every time I play it...is there a secret in composing such soothing, simple and yet so emotionally complicated music? Or does the music rather flow naturally and spontaneously, as if it was always there?

"Pretty much so.. there's no hidden secret in this music, just a right mood."

I noticed there are some important differences between 'Shades of...' and your new album, 'Angels of distress': the rhythm is not exclusively in 3/4 any more (which gave Shape of Despair the surname 'Funeral waltz band' among doom fans), the flute has been replaced by a violin, the keyboards sound rather 'symphonic' than 'dark'...is all this the product of a deliberate decision to change the sound of the band?

"Funeral waltz?! heh.. nice. Well.. since the music did change, it became important to move along with it. Don't really want to stick on to something, it's natural for us to move ahead. And after all there are a couple of years between the first and the second album ...so it's a "natural" progression."

Any particular reasons why the violin has replaced the flute from 'Shades of...' on your new album? I must admit that -although I think the flute is what set the first album apart from other doom releases- I think the violin suits more the music on this second album...

"Yes, you're right on this. I think personally that the violin backups more these feelings than the flute which doesn't really enhance those emotions so much, it more likely "annoys". The flute just fit the first album and this time we had the possibility to use a violin."

I wouldn't use the word 'annoys' regarding the flute, but I think I get the picture... I see in the booklet of 'Angels of distress' that the tracks are composed between '97 and '99.  Why did it take the tracks so long to be released?

"Never hurry on things."

A very healthy philosophy, I think... I heard about the possibility that your demos will be released? Curious to compare with the new material, always interesting to see how a band refines its sound and evolves with the years...

"We did speak about this with Spikefarm but we'll have to see what we'll release and when. I'm still planning to release another full-album before we release any older unreleased stuff...There are very interesting things to come. I have a couple of shorter songs quite ready, really nice sounding pieces, even still the familiar atmosphere is there."

Already curious... As I understood, some members of your band are involved with other projects. I heard -among others- the band names Rapture and Thy Serpent. Can you clear up things a bit for us?

"Ok, our bassist Tomi Ullgren has his band Rapture where I'm assisting on guitars. He also plays guitar in Thy Serpent. Our drummer is involved with Finntroll-nutz and several other bands. He is a real  drum-machine in flesh and blood..."

What drives, you think, someone like Pasi from progrock band Amorphis to growl for Shape of Despair? In any case, I'm very glad he wanted to do this, I think he's a worthy succesor for Toni Mäensivu 's deep growls of the first album...

"As he said, it's just a therapy for him to let his growls loose..."

I'm glad that the poetic lyrics from your new album are published on your official website...I was a bit disappointed that they were not included on the album sleeve.

"I think that it was much better to keep the album sleeve clear without any distracting texts... to keep it simple (thanks to Mariusz) like our music."

Shades of... cover Are you satisfied with the cooperation with Spikefarm records? It seems to be a small, but promising label...

"I'm satisfied enough, we didn't have any problems with them. It's great that even although we aren't the best selling band on that label, they still want to work with us. Although  perhaps they won't even get their money back...Spikefarm is small, but it's growing all the time."

Your music is usually characterized as 'funeral doom', although the new album has, in my opinion, some more 'modern' doom influences...are you familiar with the extreme, depressive doom scene of Finland, with bands like Thergothon, Unholy, Skepticism, Dolorian...?

"I've heard all those bands except Dolorian. Don't know them personally, but I like all of them though. Unholy's Second ring... is something very unique. And Thergothon's new band (This empty flow)  first album is something really great..."

We are quietly moving towards the end of this interview...is there anything you would like to add? Any famous last words?

"Not anything famous, but do visit our website www.shapeofdespair.net to see what we'll do next. We update it quite often. Thanks for the interview and good luck with doom-metal.com!"

Also thanx you for this interview and keep up the doom spirit!

Visit the Shape Of Despair bandpage.

Interviewed on 2001-10-18 by Kostas.
Aesthetic Death
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