Sami Kujala (guitar/vocals) and Lauri Virén (drums) from the finnish Melodic Death Metal band Thy Kingdom Will Burn answered my questions about their second album The Void and the Vengeance.
Review of The Void and the Vengeance – soon
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Thy Kingdom Will Burn without using the usual “Metal” labels?
Sami Kujala (guitar/vocals): Thank you for having us. My name is Sami Kujala, I’m the vocalist and guitarist and the main songwriter of the band. Thy Kingdom Will Burn is a band from Kouvola, Finland.
Lauri Virén (drums): Hey, thanks for having us! My name is Lauri Virén and I am the drummer for the band. I also try to take care of our social media stuff mainly.
How did the band meet?
Sami: I met Lauri and Esa 2003 or 2005 when I joined the band called Hateframe, I think, correct me if i’m wrong, (hah ha). After that we have met and been in different bands during the years, I was counting a while ago that this is the fifth time we’re in the same band with Esa (hah ha), there are quite small circles between bands. Janne I met for the first time when we formed Thy Kingdom Will Burn and I’m glad I did. He’s the nicest guy and great bassist.
Lauri: Well if we go way back to the past, I met Esa the first time in 1987, as he is my little brother, hehe. We’ve had some small bands with Esa in the past also, but nothing bigger. With our band Wiréns we did a few gigs somewhere in the 2010’s. But with Esa my musical journey started from our shared bedroom, Esa played guitar and I banged drums. With Janne I think our first introduction was in like 1992, when our family moved to this small suburb in Kouvola called Keltakangas. Janne lived there and we became classmates and best friends ever since. With Janne we also played some stuff in my bedroom and started to learn our instruments. Janne actually is a guitarist, but we managed to lure him to play bass in Thy Kingdom Will Burn. Although we have been playing music for a long time, Thy Kingdom Will Burn is the first proper band that me and Janne are playing together. Sami already told the story of how we met actually. My first memories from Sami might be when I heard his old band Chaos Breed from some compilation album that was released somewhere in 2000 I think. First time we played together in Hateframe and then in Wiréns, which was a band formed from my relatives aka Virens. Sami replaced our father in the band, when he decided that he won’t play anymore.
Where does the band’s name come from, and what is its link with your music?
Sami: It comes from a World of Warcraft game commercial. There was this frase « kingdoms will burn », it sounded cool so i stole it (hah ha), i changed it little, ad « thy » infront and that was it Thy Kingdom Will Burn. No deeper meaning with it. It is quite metal sounding, ominous name isn’t it? Hah ha.
The band is about to release its first album named The Void and the Vengeance, how do you guys feel about it?
Sami: I must correct you here, this is our second album. We released our self-titled debut album last June. But for your question, we are very proud of what we accomplished on this one, this is big leap forward for us, i think we are very close of what we want to present with our music, of course we are always evolving but this time the songs turn out to be very strong and i think they are gonna endure time and we’re gonna have lot of fun playing these songs a long time.
Lauri: I must say that I am starting to have quite high expectations for it! I feel that this is what we are meant to play. I’m a huge sucker for beautiful melodies, so I am really playing the music that I also love to listen to!
How does the composition process happen? Was it different from your previous releases? Did you have some guidelines for your artwork?
Sami: The composition proses have been more or less the same for a long time now. I write songs at home. I do almost finished song demos with all instruments and then present them to other guys, then if everyone approves the song then we try it on rehearsals. We know quite early if the song will work or not, if it works we keep working with it until everyone is happy on their own parts. If the song doesn’t feel good we throw it back to our archives, maybe later use some parts of it or maybe not. For our artwork we gave free hands to Jarkko Vanhalakka, who did artworks for this one. He presented us his ideas and we shared ideas together, saying what we liked and what we didn’t.
Lauri: I feel like I am in a good company, because Sami is just a riff-machine. My strengths are not in the song composing, so this style where Sami is our main songwriter suits me better than well. I also feel that Sami has nothing against it if the other members contribute to songwriting in the future also.
Even if you guys stick to a Melodic Death Metal basis, I feel a lot of Thrash/Groove influences, what are the band’s roots? Musical or not.
Sami: I think we all have been listening to Thrash Metal bands back in the day. Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Anthrax, etc… So we can’t escape some Thrash influences to come up. There were more Thrash riffs on the first album, but I think on this new one there are less of them. I must admit I tried to avoid doing traditional Thrash riffs this time, and wanted to take our music to some different paths. But groove is important, that you can bang your head with the song, you know. I have played in many kinds of bands in my time. Death Metal, Punk, Finnish Pop Rock.. But mostly I have played in Melodic Metal bands, it is something that I am drawn into, like with this band. At first the idea was to do this very simple non Melodic Death Metal, but it didn’t take long that the melodies allured me back in their embrace, hah ha.I love bands like Cradle of Filth, Death, Children of Bodom, Sentenced, Paradise Lost, etc… But I also listen to a lot of Pop and Rock bands, even The Beatles nowadays. Guns ‘n’ Roses was the band that inspired me to start playing guitar.
How do you decide of the vocals’ place in the song? How do you write lyrics?
Sami: First comes the music, or while writing the song I usually know roughly which parts are for vocals and which are not.. Sometimes I add vocals in places that I wasn’t planning them to be but the song evolves during the writing process. But the lyrics always come after the song is finished. After the music is done I start to listen to it over and over again and try to figure what kind of mood it gives and just try to write little parts of lyrics here and there that could fit in the riffs, feeling things, you know. Writing lyrics is a hard process for me, sometimes they come easy, but really rarely, other times it is one big pain in the ass, hah ha. I always first try to find the good structure that flows nicely with the music then I try to come up with lyrics within the structure.
About the video clips, how do you decide of the universe you want to create?
Sami: Video ideas are mostly always the creators’ visions, they have free hands to do what they want with them. Naturally they have to fit in the song and make the song even better, hah ha. In the case of the Fortress of Solitude video, the idea came straight from the lyrics, the video tells the same story as the lyrics. That video needed to be that kind. Mostly i like videos where the band is playing, since we are a music playing group, videos need to be about music, we are not some short of actor club so the videos are about us playing our songs, hah ha. But if someone comes up with some really cool idea that is not about music we are open to it.
Lauri: Yeah basically we give quite free hands to the artist making the video. We may have ideas and the stories for the video, but mostly we leave the process from there to the artist.
Since 2020, Covid-19 crisis fucked a lot of things up, how did you face the situation as a band? Did it have an impact on the album?
Sami: Well we had a little break on practises after things started to escalate.. But in the writing process it didn’ affect at all, on the contrary we had all the time in the world to create this new album. I think it affected the lyrics a little bit, there is more personal stuff this time, more about the isolation feel…
Lauri: Covid did affect us in some ways, yes. In the beginning when it all started, we were very cautious of the disease. I think we didn’t even have rehearsals at the beginning. There were no gigs in sight so we just started the rehearsals at some point, and Sami already had many ideas for new songs. Maybe we can say that covid served us well in some way, cause we are getting 2 albums out when it is roaming.
Do you already have plans for the future after the release of the album?
Sami: Yeah, we try to do as many gigs as we are able.. This year is still quite silent but next year there’s gonna be some short European tours, and some festival shows around.. Germany, UK, France, are on the list.. This time try to concentrate on doing gigs, the next album will come maybe 2024. There are a lot of demos waiting…
Lauri: I want to be able to perform for a live audience, so gigs are something I am eagerly waiting for! This point it seems that our touring starts more or less in the summer of 2023. But I am waiting for the new album to serve us well for getting the gigs for this year also!
What can you tell me about the evolution of the Metal scene around you?
Sami: There are a lot of cool bands here in Kouvola, Horizon Ignited, Soulwound…
Lauri: I must admit that i don’t really pay much attention to the scene around me, but at least in our hometown Kouvola, there are many potential Metal bands, from young hungry dudes to old farts like us, and i like to believe that the Metal music is making its way back up again for the big masses also.
Do you think you still improve yourselves as musicians?
Sami: Sure, as our music taste gets wider, so will our music find new angles where to explore… And the more we play together the tighter we get and more we learn what are our weaknesses and what our strong sides.
Lauri: I have so much to improve! I am never satisfied with the level I am at. I feel these days, especially in the Metal scene the drummers are just freakish machines ! So many exceptional players around. The tempos go nuts and the guys just blast them away. I am not nearly there and sometimes I kinda feel that I am not enough when watching these guys go for it. My biggest goals are to perform our songs perfectly with drum beats that suit them, the 320bpm blastbeat doesn’t fit for every song/band. You can ruin a great song by not understanding what the song needs. More is not always more… I always remember the words of the late Tonmi Lillman (Known as Otus, drummer for Lordi, To/Die/For, Sinergy and Ajattara, ed.) when he said that “drums are a beating instrument”. So I think that’s kinda my philosophy when it comes to playing. I may not be the fastest, but I hit them hard ! Also i really like to play guitar or piano and sing with it and that’s something i try to improve also. In The Void and The Vengeance actually me and Janne got to sing some clean background vocals on a few songs, that was a cool experience for me.
What are your best and your worst experiences as a musician ever?
Sami: Hmm.. I think my highlights in the music scene were the To/Die/For show a few years back, i was playing bass on their live line up, same time Esa was on guitar. We played shows around Finland, Russia and Estonia. One of my personal highlights was a sold out halloween show at Tavastia club here in Finland with The 69 Eyes. And the John Smith Festival is also here in Finland. They were something unreal! Worst moments, hmm, I have played a few times at a gig that started like 2 am, that was frustrating but all in all just good memories.
Lauri: So far my best experience as a player must be when I joined with the guys of Hateframe, to help them rehearse when Tonmi left the band just to return to the band some time after. I then got to play with many of the guys I have looked up to. I was and am a huge To/Die/For fan, so when I got to play with Jope and Make, and later got to know Tonmi also a bit, that was a dream come true then. Parting with our former guitarist and my cousin Jussi was a tough spot for me, but on the other side I couldn’t be more happier that it led to Esa joining the band!
What led you to the Metal universe back in time? What was the very first album you ever bought?
Sami: Well like i said i started playing because of Slash and Guns ‘n’ Roses back in 1993 or something… Things evolved fast back then Guns lead to Metallica, they lead to Pantera, they lead to Entombed, Carcass, Death… I honestly can’t remember what album I bought first. I listened to Kiss, W.A.S.P. and Iron Maiden when I was about 5 years old.. First thing that came to mind is that my mom bought me Iron Maiden‘s Iron Maiden when I was very young, Hah ha. But First Cd i bought was Death’s Symbolic 1995! Still one of my top 5 albums.
Lauri: I believe my older brother Ossi is the one responsible for my Metal liking. His Sentenced, Children of Bodom, Cradle of Filth and Stratovarius albums were the ones that I grew up with. The CD’s i owned back then were like Backstreet Boys and Captain Jack, so I think the story got a happy ending after all, haha.
What do you know about the French Metal scene? Which French bands do you know and like?
Sami: Gojira! Brilliant band! Awesome live band and amazing players!! Love them!
Lauri: From France obviously Gojira, I never get tired of watching and listening to Mario Duplantier play. I have also listened to a band called Penumbra in my youth. Especially the album The Last Bewitchment. Moaning on Earth was my top1 song from it. I know Anorexia Nervosa because they did a cover song I’ll Kill You from one of my all-time favorite bands X Japan. Eilera I know also, did a few albums for Finnish label Spinefarm in the early 2000’s, so that’s when I got introduced to it.
What if I ask you to compare Thy Kingdom Will Burn’s music with a dish? Which one and why?
Sami: Hah ha! Nothing too grease but nothing too light..
Lauri: Thy Kingdom Will Burn would definitely be a pizza. Italian Scarlet Records as the dough that is topped with very tasty Finnish ingredients !
Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with?
Sami: That is a hard one, hmm, Trent Reznor. Love the early Nine Inch Nails albums, he is such a brilliant mind, great lyricist and creative guy, it would be interesting what he could do with our music. Another that comes to mind is King Diamond, he creates such gloomy atmospheres with his music, well he and Andy LaRocque.
Lauri: Yoshiki from the band X Japan. One of my favorite bands and favorite drummers. So just to get to do anything with him would be a dream come true.
Last question: which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour with Thy Kingdom Will Burn as opener and three other bands!
Sami: Cradle of Filth, Gojira and Paradise Lost. If we could get to go back in time it would be Pantera, Death, Slayer.
Lauri: Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren and Cradle of Filth. Dimmu Borgir might be my all time favorite Metal band, so I just want to meet them and see them live. Carach Angren might be my most played metal band in recent years and I’ve been a huge fan of Cradle of Filth for so long that they would be a dream come true. Don’t know how we would fit in this company, but I’d take these!
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Sami & Lauri: Hey, a huge thanks for this in-depth pattern of questions! Was a fun stuff to answer. Check our new album The Void and The Vengeance and definitely come say hi to us if we cross our roads somewhere around the globe!