We’ve really been blown away over the past few years by the musical riches of Finnish heavy progressive music including the quirky creativity of Standing Ovation (PMZ interview HERE), the great band Simulacrum (led by keyboard wizard ChrisM – review and interview links HERE and HERE) as well as a ton of other bands that we’ve grown to love including Amoral, Constantine, Liquorworks, Montage, Oddland, Pressure Points and many, many others. Now into the mix we have a band that really lets their prog cred shine forth with abandon! Perihelion Ship is one of the rare bands that seems to have come to progressive metal from the prog rock ethos rather than metal first. Honestly, for these boys, they probably take more inspiration from early 70’s progressive and psychedelic rock than anything more overtly metal but of course add in a ton of heaviness when needed. When you hear their work you’ll immediately be struck by how seamlessly they integrate those timeless keyboards, the Hammond B3 Organ and Mellotron into their sound.
On the band’s recently released debut album, the evocatively named, A Rare Thunderstorm In Spring, we commented earlier this year that “Perihelion Ship‘s debut full-length album draws a lot of inspiration from Opeth’s seminal fusion of progressive acoustic rock and death metal but these Finns have their own unique spin on this style that draws heavily from early 70’s prog rock including great use of heavy keys and the Mellotron. The 21 minute epic finale is a total stunner of heavy prog from a band that cites inspiration from those great 90’s Swedish prog rock bands Anglagaard and Anekdoten.”
We recently chatted with band founders Andreas Hammer (Guitar, Vocals) and Jani Konttinen (Hammond Organ, Mellotron) who along with Jouko Lehtonen (Bass) and Jari-Markus Kohijoki (Drums) have put out this excellent debut album and got to find out who the hell these newcomers are and what they feel is their unique spin on progressive music. After the interview you can check out all of A Rare Thunderstrom In Spring via the band’s BandCamp.com stream where you can also purchase a copy.
Hey guys, thanks for spending some time with us and helping us to get to really know your music.
Andreas: Thank you for having us on your website. Judging by your January’s new release posts, you’ve been quite busy.
Jani: Hey! Thank you for inviting us!
Can you tell us how the band met and came up with the concept for your fusion of early 70’s mellotron-drenched prog rock and modern progressive metal?
Andreas: We founded this band after mine and Jani’s old symphonic metal band disbanded for several reasons. At this time we were just getting into Opeth (you can’t turn back from that road) and I had one song written (‘Lantern Light Isolation’) which we decided to record. We started to learn some basic recording and mixing processes and especially Jani seemed to have interest in it. During this period Jani wrote ‘Maven’ and we managed to get these songs on YouTube and we started searching for a drummer and a bassist. It took almost a year and in late December 2014 we found Jari-Markus Kohijoki (drums) and Jouko Lehtonen (bass). To answer your question on our influences: I’ve basically listened to nothing else than 70’s progressive rock since my father gave me his ‘Selling England by the Pound’ in high-school. When I started getting into metal, these influences obviously transport to your music naturally. Jani was already a Metalhead before I introduced him to Prog Rock
Jani: That’s accurate, I think. One could add that we also wanted the music to have a more analogue, vintage and natural keyboard presence, like on those early seventies records, and perhaps even to a larger extent than what some metal bands have done before.
Who have been some of your main musical inspirations? I really love how you guys say you’re influenced by those great 90’s Swedish prog rock revivalists, Anekdoten and Anglagaard (both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of seeing perform live)
Andreas: I have too many influences to list. In prog I’ve always liked the so called ‘symphonic prog’ bands such as Genesis and Yes but also the darker bands such as King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. When I write songs, I try to think of a feeling which some band have used very well and try to use those influences as best as I can. For example there’s a lot of Tool influences which some might not be able to recognize at all, and then there’s the obvious Opeth influences, which aren’t subtle at all. J
Jani: I think Jon Lord from Deep Purple is pretty much unmatched in the hard rock/heavy keyboard department, and he has always been my go-to inspiration when it comes to keyboards and organs. However, some of my playing is heavily influenced by Ray Manzarek from The Doors as well. I’m inspired by the lyrics of John Lennon, Peter Hammill and Peter Sinfield, and bands that inspire me probably the most are King Crimson, Iron Maiden, Opeth and Wintersun (and of course the aforementioned Anekdoten and Änglagård).
Even though you cite Opeth as an influence and the style of Perihelion Ship does have a similar light meets dark ethos, your musical style has many aspects unique to your music. What do you feel is the most unique aspect to your band’s sound?
Andreas: The revival of the distorted Hammond B3 is our unique aspect in a sense, because it is our lead instrument and I think that in our upcoming albums we can use it to a better extent. Also I’d like to think that our bass lines are unique as well, as I try to write them more as a separate instrument rather than simply playing the root note of the guitar riff.
Jani: In addition to what Andreas said, I’d say that the fact that we only have one guitar, rather than the traditional two, forces the direction of songwriting and arranging in a positive way.
Please tell us about your band name. Does it perhaps refer to your band’s desire to metaphorically fly close to the sun?
Jani: Yeah, why not!
Andreas: The name is actually a ‘misheard lyric’. I was reading some history on General Relativity and I found out that the Mercury’s shift of perihelion was correctly derived already in 1909 by ‘Paul Gerber’ but through wrong/different theoretical means. Anyway as I found this interesting, I suggested the name ‘Perihelion Shift’ to Jani and he heard ‘Perihelion Ship’ – that’s pretty strange, so we went with that.
We’re just seeing a ton of great progressive metal bands coming out of Finland these days. Is there a real renaissance in your country for this type of music?
Andreas: Perhaps there is! I’d like to think so because Finns have never been very big on the classic prog scene. There are a lot of Finnish bands that I should listen to and Oranssi Pazuzu is definitely one of those bands.
Jani: Here’s hoping. In the end, Finland, like Sweden and Norway, are great countries for all sorts and forms of metal, and I personally enjoy them all.
I love how you start the album with only a Mellotron intro. How much is the uniqueness of that instrument an important part to your sound?
Andreas: The Mellotron is a wonderful instrument if used correctly. One of the things we struggled with this album was the Mellotron sounds, especially in the first couple of songs. We wanted more of a raw, haunting Mellotron sound in the style of Anekdoten or King Crimson but it seems it’s very hard to integrate this sound with the distorted guitars as they eat up a lot of frequency spectrum.
Jani: It’s important for sure. We do our best to incorporate it as one of the instruments of the band rather than just using it as a gimmick or an effect. It has a character and personality to it which only a handful of other keyboard-type instruments have. That being said, one needs to be careful not to overuse it.
Your music has a very strong progressive folk element, especially on the beautiful and haunting “Fool Of White Antlers” How do you create such soft music that still has such blistering intensity?
Andreas: ‘Fool of White Antlers’ came out pretty strange. Jani had written these lyrics and we wanted to make something akin to ‘Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles’ by Alcest. So I just started to improvise something to go along with the lyrics and the song came out naturally, albeit nothing close to Alcest. I’m pretty proud of the intro bass line of that song.
I really love your song titles – they’re so evocative with songs like “The Poet From The Mad Moon” and the album title of course. Is there a strong literary influence going on here?
Jani: I’m glad you like them! “The Poet” was actually written as a tribute for Mervyn Peake, whose poetry and literature is just as weird and crazy as I am myself. But don’t get me wrong, there aren’t huge and profound literary influences going on here. The lyrics and the titles are mostly influenced by the absurd and crazy lyrics of John Lennon and Peter Hammill. Some might call them pretentious, and perhaps rightfully so (I’m one pretentious-douche, let me tell ya!), but there really isn’t anything “deep” or “profound” going on – it’s more of a serious joke, kind of like a boy running to his mom with a piece of paper and yelling “Look what I did with all these letters and words!”. Sometimes the ideas are crazier than others (in our early demos we had a song about a shopping cart transforming into a lobster), and I often spend a lot of time on the titles so that they would convey that craziness.
The 21-minute album title finale is quite an achievement that harkens back to great prog rock epics of earlier days but still adds in massive elements of heavy intensity and fantastic riffs. Great job guys! Can you tell us a bit about the sci-fi story concept behind The Godmachine referenced in the piece? Honestly, that song really reminds me of some of what the great German 70’s band Eloy did so well back in the day.
Andreas: Thanks! It was a pain in the ass to write. I wrote the first couple of parts to Jani’s intangible demo lyrics, but the parts came together quite quickly. The third part was the hardest to write since I didn’t want too much aggression there as the first parts are quite fast paced. I took a lot of influences from ‘Close To The Edge’ by Yes with the final parts. Jani can certainly tell you more about the lyrical side of our band.
Jani: You got the Eloy connection, huh? Nice one. I was really inspired by sci-fi stuff like Blade Runner, 2001: Space Odyssey and some sci-fi video games and wanted to write a song that would have these glimpses into the minds of more evolved species than us. That’s when I came up with the concept of having a narrator tell us about it; “The Godmachine”, a sort of computer that has evolved to the point of Godhood, of being able to tell the future and the past, basically knowing everything there is to know about the universe. But that’s as far as the “logical” backstory stuff goes. The rest is just some crazy shit. It’s not like it’s totally random like the word SHDBARUM, but it’s pretty close.
Your music has quite a theatrical element to it. Is that part of your live show – that is if you guys are playing live these days?
Andreas: We have only had three gigs as of now, none of which have had any theatrical element. Even though I love Peter Gabriel’s antics in early Genesis – I can’t see myself dressed in flower costumes while changing stomp effects. But we certainly have to think of something unique to keep our shows interesting.
Jani: I’d love to have a giant flashing lobster in the background like Yes did at some point. But no, I don’t think our live shows will be that theatrical.
Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Andreas: I hope you enjoy our music. We will be creating it more and hopefully will be able to gather enough fans to start a crowdfunding campaign for our second album. We are currently totally broke as we put all our money in the production of this album.
Jani: I don’t think I have much to add to that. We do this because we love what we do and even without funding we’d probably find a way of picking mushrooms or something to keep doing it. Thanks again!
Interview by Jeff Stevens
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