Hi! Can you provide an overview of the concept and narrative that underlies ‘Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle’? What themes and emotions are you aiming to convey through this album?
Haaska: I can’t really say that much about the themes since they are pretty much open for interpretation other than the lyrics which are pretty personal for Ruttomieli but on the emotional side the album is quite a rollercoaster ride. There is beauty, there is aggression, there is despair. All emotions from human life will be touched.
Loitsumestari Taikakallo (later mentioned as LT): Yeah, Haaska couldn’t say it better with the emotions in the compositions. I think there is something for everybody to get touch with emotionally.
Ruttomieli: Concerning the lyrics, I’ve tried to convey my inner self through magical realms of sorts. The longing for the unknown, reaching to the stars… Mysticism and romanticism play a big role in Moonlight Sorcery and that is something I’m really fond of. Some lyrics have a deep personal meaning to me, some not that much.
‘Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle’ is described as a combination of the atmospheres from your previous EPs. How did you successfully blend these elements to create a cohesive musical identity?
Haaska: I think our musical identity comes from our personal touch without trying to deliberately create something. We do what we do and what we enjoy and the songs are the end result.
LT: Moving from the EPs to the full length went pretty naturally. There were some short leftover riffs and licks left from the previous releases so it was easy to start to write the whole album around those pieces.
The addition of frozen synth walls is an interesting choice. How does this element contribute to the album’s unique sound, and what impact does it have on the overall atmosphere?
Haaska: I think the synths work in unison with rhythm guitars and bring more mass to the backlines. Without them, the music would sound hollow.
LT: The goal was not to use basic orchester synth voices. The synth sounds come more from the dance and electronic music which I think makes a huge difference compared to the other metal releases.
Ruttomieli: The synths indeed add more mass to the sound but they also serve as a magical ingredient to the overall sound and image of Moonlight Sorcery.
Collaborating with Dan Swanö for mixing and mastering is quite remarkable. How did his involvement influence the album’s final quality?
Haaska: Dan is a legend and a professional at work and the end result is the best we could have hoped for. Exactly as we envisioned when we first started the recordings.
LT: He understood immediately what kind of sound we were looking for. We wanted to go towards cleaner production so that the guitar work could blossom more and keep the synths as an atmospheric background ”support voice”. Ruttomieli’s vocal work gets now also more in its deserved spot.
How does the visual design enhance the overall experience of ‘Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle’?
Haaska: Well the visual thing is pretty much the same as we have done before. Conceptual artwork with progression without delving too much into the details. The listeners can build their own meanings for the art, although it is kinda personal vision of mine it is also meant to create new personal stories and interpretations for the fans.
Ruttomieli: I think of our records as works of art. From the point of view of the whole, it is very important that attention has been paid to every aspect, including the cover art. Actually, to the entire band’s image.
How did you ensure that the lyrics remain consistent with the overarching tale while still being engaging as individual songs?
Ruttomieli: If you refer to “Horned Lord…” as a concept album, that’s only a compositional thing. It is not a concept album in terms of lyrics. However, Sude tie (Wolven Hour part II) is a direct continuation of the song found on our first mini album, as you can guess from the name.
With a narrative-driven album like this, how do you envision translating its immersive storyline into your live performances?
Haaska: I wouldn’t say the album is narrative driven even if the lyrics follow similar themes so there basically isn’t any storyline to follow. The concept and continuity happens more in the instrumental side of things.
LT: Live performances should always be different from the album presentation. Nowadays bands just hit the stage and play their stuff from the beginning to the end without any difference from the album. When you go live you should bring something different to the show, everyone can just sit home and play the record themselves. So when the time comes in the future for the live performance you will see a totally different storyline than what they are represented in the albums.
The album promises a balance between rawness and atmosphere. Could you elaborate on the production techniques used to achieve this balance?
Haaska: Hard to talk on the specifics since we haven’t done the mixing and mastering by ourselves but using big reverbs makes the sound huge and somewhat dark. Like hearing sounds in a dark and damp cavern.
LT: The rawness and atmosphere are more about the songs and compositions rather than the production techniques.
Ruttomieli: I guess when talking about production techniques, it’s always a question of finding the sweet spot that makes justice for compositions and the atmosphere of the music presented, the balance. In our case, it’s a matter of audibleness in guitar department keeping it harsh enough at the same time.
How do you anticipate your existing fan base and new listeners will respond to the evolution of Moonlight Sorcery‘s sound on this album?
Haaska: I think we all agree that there will be haters who just can’t accept the evolution of the band since the production is more professional but you just can’t please everyone and we are not even looking to do it. Of course we appreciate the fans and their support allows us to continue on this path but we make the music by ourselves for ourselves without sacrificing our vision.
LT: This is how Moonlight Sorcery was meant to sound from day one, but without any budget in the beginning it hasn’t been possible for us. There most likely will be some haters after this but this is the vision we’ve been looking for and as an artist you have to do things your way and not try to please everybody else. I think our fans will understand after listening to this album why the cleaner production is better for our music.
Can you share a bit about the collaborative dynamics within the band during the creation of ‘Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle’?
Haaska: Everything kind of just merges in together. LT has his own songs and riffs and I have my own and if they work together we create a complete package from them. Then Ruttomieli always has some lyrics in reserve and we see what fits with what song. Some of the lyrics are made with certain songs in mind but usually we just blend everything together as a group and that’s when the magic happens. If the arrangements wouldn’t be finished as a group I don’t think it would sound like us.
As a Finnish trio, do you draw any inspiration from your cultural and geographical background in creating your unique black metal sound?
Haaska: I don’t think we draw any inspiration from Finland intentionally but I think being who we are it will affect the sound in some way subconsciously.
LT: Finnish melancholic will come naturally from us but it is not intentional. Finland in general and Finnish black metal hasn’t had any influence in the compositions at least.
Ruttomieli: For the lyrics, the Finnish folklore has inspired me directly and there sure is some hints of folkloric aspects blended to the soup. I’ve always been fascinated by history, folk customs and folklore in general. I’ve also been active in local history associations.
Beyond this album, where do you see Moonlight Sorcery’s musical exploration heading in the future?
Haaska: Well we have quite a many songs already composed that have not been recorded yet so they are bound to be released at some point as the second full-length album but now is way too early to even begin building the concept. Hopefully we can deliver quality and music that people enjoy without sacrificing our own vision and integrity.
LT: It will continue the path that is presented in ‘Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle’. Songs will get more technical since we wanna improve as musicians but we will stay true to our Heavy Metal meets Black Metal concept. Ambient music releases are not gonna be in our catalog. Also, we’re not gonna tune our guitars ever lower than the D-standard tuning which we have been in all our releases.
On a personal level, which track from ‘Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle’ resonates with each band member the most, and why? Thank you for your time!
Haaska: Well personally for me the track “Fire Burns the Horizon” is the most important for totally selfish reasons since it is the first full composition of my own making. I love the album as a whole but if I had to pick one that would be it.
LT: If I can only pick one then it has to be ‘Into the Silvery Shadows of Night’ since it has the best solo I have written so far. I have to also mention ‘The Moonlit Dance of the Twisted Jester’s Blood-soaked Rituals’ since I’m a huge fan of instrumental songs myself. That would be the second pick for me.
Ruttomieli: I have to say that “Into Silvery Shadows of Night” means a lot to me. “Yönsilmä” is another track that has a special place in my heart. Both are hugely personal and they share the same kind of cohesive structure between the music and the lyrics.
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