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It's taken a while for Finnish outfit John The Baptist to bring their Reverend Bizarre-influenced debut full-length to fruition, but now it's arrived, Comrade Aleks wanted to investigate further...

Interview with John The Baptist.
"Jyväskylä, Keski-Suomi, doesn't look like a Doom Metal Mecca, but you know - there are well-hidden Doom talents in The-Land-Of-A-Thousand-Lakes' every corner. I bet you could easily miss John The Baptist's self-released digital debut, but - shame on you! - it's time to fix that. Although this band was formed nine years ago, 'John The Baptist' is their first big release, after 2015's demo 'Dead End, Lies and Death' and split 'Apocalyptic Rites' (with Black Metal crews Kuilu, Circle of Dawn and Unclean). But there's a chance you'll dig the heavy, raw and very alive sound of this band, featuring Kaptain S. Sträfe (bass), Vlastós, Disciple of Infernal Will and Fortitude and Voyager of Frozen Hell (drums), Haruspex H.P.J. Harhama (guitars) and Lord-Commander Keefas (vocals)… We have quite serious company here, and these four shed some light on John The Baptist's dark path."

Lord-Commander Keefas (Photo: Maija Ajomo).

Hi there! How is it in Jyväskylä? Does the quarantine make a big difference now or are people used to it?

Greetings! Things are hot and lazy and we are starting the midsummer celebrations. Quarantines are being lifted and people are starting to act normally. It is weird to see the city, parks, restaurants etc. full of people again. It was quite a shock at first actually, hah, and not too pleasant even after getting used to it again. I preferred the empty streets of winter.

Was the quarantine lifted because of mass vaccination or did your government find another way to make life a bit safer?

Infection rates went down enough so restrictions were lifted, the same as last summer. Now there's been talk about new lockdown next month. It's something that I was expecting to happen in the autumn at the latest.

Well, I was a bit surprised, as Metal Archives indicates John The Baptist's lyrics deal with antichristian themes, and I saw the song 'Space Cowboy' on your first demo. So is there really a big deal behind the band's concept? Or are the Archives mistaken?

Our lyrics deal with the absurdities of life in itself. Space Cowboy is a little story of a lone human traversing space in search of answers. He gets answers and a rejection. I don't see how that contradicts whatever credo one personally holds to.

Haruspex H.P.J. Harhama (Photo: Maija Ajomo).

Okay, okay, your argument beats mine! So what made you turn away from good old Christianity?

Initially it was the absurdity of faith and reliance in a higher power, the slave morality of it. The sacrificial offering of a god-made-flesh to himself and the blood thus given, washing away the sins of the believer, strips man of his own responsibility in his actions. It breeds a lowly cast of men when nothing you do really matters, in a spiritual sense, as you can just ask for forgiveness later and rely on the promise of the cross.

By the way, how did you like metal-archives.com's April Fool joke with all band photos changed for cat pictures?

It was funny at first but the humour of it tamed fast after everyone was posting their favourite/their own band's pictures in social media. Besides this, cats are assholes.

At least this version is the only one which works in Russia (the original one is blocked because of some NSBM bands as far as I understand), and it helps to keep connection with bands like John The Baptist… You took part in split album 'Apocalyptic Rites', alongside more extreme bands, in 2015. How did you get into this company? Is it because of Vesa's black metal background? That seems to be quite motley crew...

We all have extensive background in black metal. Keefas in Charnel Winds, Kaptain Necrocosmos (RIP) & Sombre Figure, Harhama in Necrocosmos. The split is actually a live recording from the first Apocalyptic Rites festival. I knew one of the organizers and sent him a message telling that we're coming to play there. I'm not into selling my bands to gig organizers or anything like that, but with Apocalyptic Rites a change had to be made. The total underground spirit of the event was something we really wanted to participate in. We performed there as a three piece, with Haruspex Harhama handling both guitar and vocal duties, as our vocalist Keefas had another gig the same evening. I was also supposed to do guest vocals for one Kuilu song after our but I was immobilized by weed and alcohol that it didn't quite work out, hah. The organizers had bought a shitload of booze for the bands so no surprise there. The event was our first gig and since then we got to play a few others. Hopefully more in the future, depending on the upcoming restrictions from the government of course.

Does alcohol seriously affect things you express through John The Baptist?

It doesn't really have an influence. We are drinking men but it doesn't influence the music any more than any other aspect of our lives.

John The Baptist - 'John The Baptist' (Full, 2021):

Three of you play in different bands, was that a reason why it took so long to finish the debut album?

I don't think that was an issue. We composed the songs in a relatively short time but to get the songs to flow in a desired level took a lot of rehearsals. Most of the tracks were recorded live during one weekend, with some additional recording on later dates. Vocals took most of the time and they were re-recorded couple of times. But these things didn't matter one bit, we were in no rush. Most of the time we practiced on a weekly basis but as we had the idea to record the album live, we needed to hone everything as tight as possible.

Kaptain S. Sträfe (Photo: Maija Ajomo).

Really? Did you record these songs live in the end?

Yes, drums, bass and first rhythm guitar was recorded live. Second rhythm guitar, leads, vocals, synths etc. were overdubbed.

Where did you record this material? What was your vision of this album when you entered the studio?

We recorded it in our rehearsal place. The guitarist and bassist had constructed a monitoring room there before the recording, which helped tremendously to get the sound right. I don't think we had any concrete vision before, just to make it heavy, loud, organic and something to put others to shame. We were very confident about the material and had rehearsed it a lot so we kind of knew it would sound good on record if we just recorded it like we'd been playing it.

Which qualities of Doom Metal did you aim to fulfill in these anthems?

First and foremost, the songs had to be based on strong riffs, not some half assed jamming. Sombre and gloomy atmosphere was also important. The lyrics deal with apocalyptic matters and the music should of course reflect this.

Could you name a few bands which provided the most exemplary Doom Metal from your point of view? Which bands shaped your vision of the right Doom?

Reverend Bizarre is our biggest influence for sure. The whole band started on a notation that me and Kaptain were blasting 'Doom Over the World' contentiously every time we were drinking together and talked about doing a jam session some week end and at least record a cover of the song even in nothing else would come of it. It didn't take long when Harhama and Keefas joined. Beside this our influences come mainly from the genre classics, Saint Vitus, Candlemass, Minotauri, Solitude Aeternus to name a few.

Vlastós, Disciple of Infernal Will and Fortitude and Voyager of Frozen Hell (Photo: Maija Ajomo).

How do you see John The Baptist's strong sides?

Our music is slow and heavy like the rumblings of the earth. Our message is grand and grim. They are sad tales ranging from primordial floods to the devastation looming in the future. Tales of the templar knights, mischievous shamans and self-discovery through crushing depression into a warrior out of time. Devoid of all the trends, of retro pastiches and lukewarm empowerment. Heavy Metal as it was, is and ever should be. In fear and spite of the Lord of this world.

You've released the album on your own, do you distribute it DIY too?

Well, we only released it in digital format in Bandcamp so there's not much distributing to be done. Unless we find a label to release it in physical format, we'll probably do it ourselves. Maybe once the digital sales have been enough to do a small cd print. Self distributing would be a tiresome affair but it doesn't matter. The main thing would be to get it out in physical format to close the lid on this and hopefully move on to new things. We have material written for at least two albums, if memory serves, but we haven't got to rehearse them. Kaptain S left the band shortly after the recording of the first album and we've been on hiatus ever since. Not because of not finding a replacement, that happened very fast, but he was sort of a driving force before.

I've read in John The Baptist's Facebook profile what you are quite disappointed with a lack of interest from labels. How actively did you search for a proper label for this album? Did you get any offers?

We sent out dozens of promos, to bigger and smaller labels. I think we might have gotten maybe one or two replies back. One fell through with finances of label, other label just stopped replying us for some reason. It is very weird because the feedback we've gotten after the digital release has been phenomenal!

Vesa and his mates from Blood Red Fog did have the project Lordamor, which seems to be inactive for years. Do you plan to return it back to life?

We recorded the second album years ago but didn't find a label to release it either. I'll be re-recording the vocals later this year and send out promos again. If a proper label is not found, I'll probably release it in digital format. It is a shame really, as I think this album is light years ahead of the debut in all aspects. Songwriting is much tighter, riffs more powerful, as is the sound, lyrical concepts more refined. The cover artwork is also ready, and has been for years, as Albert Witchfinder proposed a drawing of his to this shortly after the release of our debut album. It is sort of a twin picture of the one on the debut as he wrote in his artbook where it is featured.

What are your plans for John The Baptist for the rest of 2021?

No plans. Maybe we'll get together again in 2022, maybe not. Getting the debut album properly released might be the kick we'd need get things up and running again.

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Visit the John The Baptist bandpage.

Interviewed on 2021-09-14 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Thermal Mass
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