This e-mail interview with the bassist / vocalist Niilo Sevänen of Insomnium was done by Sherrie Zemla in February 2004.

The melodic death metal band Insomnium began its journey in 1997. In 2002 they released their debut album "In The Halls Of Awaiting" which was a well-balanced mix of the brutality of death metal and Finnish melancholy. Now they have finished the follow-up "Since The Day It All Came Down". Bassist / vocalist Niilo Sevänen shared some of his time with us to answer our questions. [Vincent Eldefors, editor]

Hi Niilo, How are you? You're from Finland correct? Some people seem to be mislead, as I read an review (maybe two) that mentions you guys are from Sweden.
Good. Yes, we are from Finland. It would be a horrid mistake to think that we are Swedish! Heaven forbid :)

Have you played any shows outside of Finland?
We have played in Lithuania and Russia. Yeah I know what you all are thinking right know, but they were very nice trips! We travelled to Lithuania with our own car (about 800km and a ferry trip) crossing three borders. The idea sounded totally crazy but we did it anyway. The organizers were very nice and polite and they took good care of us. And the show went very well, though most of the people had never heard of us before.

The Russian trip we made with a bus with two other Finnish bands. We played in a hall of thousand people and it was a great experience. All the other bands were not that heavy so the Russians went totally bananas when they heard us! Great trip – most of the time we were drunk :)

Of course we´d love to come to North America, but it isn´t really up to us. A lot more Insomnium records needs to be sold before anyone pays our trip across the Atlantic.

Any tour plans transpiring to follow up the release of "Since the Day It All Came Down"?
We have a tour here in Finland and some summer festivals too. But no plans of any gigs outside our own country, yet.

I believe I could offer Insomnium to any fan of melodic death/thrash and leave them pleased. It especially reminds me of Dark Tranquility, not to say it mimmicks their sound, but there are definite similarities in elements of Insomniums music. Who are some of your greatest musical influences?
Yes, Dark Tranquillity is definetely one of those bands that have influenced us a lot. They make melodic, furious music which is also challenging enough, so it´s of course great to be compared with them! Thanks.

Most of the other bands that have influenced us are from Sweden or Finland: In Flames, At the Gates, Opeth, Amorphis, Sentenced – just to name the most important. Of course we all have listened to Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Paradise Lost, Type O Negative etc., but I don´t know if you can hear it from our sound.

What are some of your current favorite bands?
Many bands that I have liked a lot have made some mediocre albums lately. But the newest album of Arcturus was just great. Sentenced still makes very good music though they´re not that “metal” anymore. New great band from Finland is Swallow the Sun – playing melodic, doomy death metal. Actually I don´t have time to listen all the new albums so I might have missed a lot over the past couple of years.

What do you think of the recent movement towards a more commercial sound of many of the bigger names in European melodic metal?
As I said, many of the bands I have liked have made mediocre albums lately. Usually it means easier, shorter, more predictable songs, which isn´t a good trend. I understand that no one wants to play the same kind of music forever, so I´m not blaming anyone. Still, it seems to be very difficult for most bands to change their style and at the same time maintain their old glory...

When Insomnium came together what was the band setting out to accomplish? How’s it going? :-)
In the beginning, when we were 16-17 years old and in high school, we just wanted to play heavy metal and be in a band. That was it. Of course we dreamed of becoming big rock stars but basically it was just about having fun. And fun it has been ever since!

It took almost two years before we realized that we really had a chance of becoming something. During that time the idea of Insomnium slowly took shape. We wanted to make dark and dreary music, violent and soothing, fierce and wistful, full of changing atmospheres and contrasts, songs that would be catchy and yet challenging. Lyrically we want to make sad and desperate tales of love and death, such stories that would fit the melancholy of the tunes. Traditional Finnish poems have greatly influenced our lyrics.

Would you mind sharing a description of what Insomniums writing process is generally like?
So far I and our other guitarist Ville Friman have made almost all the songs. We both make riffs and melodies and try to arrange them into songs. Usual way of things would be something like this: I bring 3 riffs to the rehearsals, one of them is dumped right away (“Maybe we can use it on the next album” – yeah right...) and maybe the other 2 will be approved as decent material. All band members can say what they think of these riffs, and everybody´s word counts. I go back home to write some new riffs and maybe find some unused Ville´s riff from my computer which fits together with my stuff (we send the songs to each other as files). Then I try to build a real song out of all this mess, I take it to the rehearsals, and one part is dumped again... This process goes on and on until all are satisfied with the result. I believe one of our strenghts is the fact that every riff needs to be really good if it is going to end up on the album – all mediocre material is dropped out in some point.

Then when the composing is done it´s time to make the lyrics. Usually he who has done most of the song makes also the lyrics to it. But this part isn´t that simple either, since other band members want to see the lyrics, comment and revise them... So now you see why it takes us at least two years to make a new album.

Is anyone in the band involved in previous bands or side projects?
I and Ville Vänni have been playing in this band called Watch Me Fall, which has made one album. The future of the band seems a bit uncertain now, but we´ll see what happens. Ville Friman is playing in bands called Arrival and Enter My Silence (where he plays bass), which both have made one album. As far as I know, they both are preparing their second coming now.

Could you name an inspiring film or book you've encountered recently that readers might enjoy?
Something that perhaps everyone else hasn´t already read… Finnish novelist Johanna Sinisalo´s book has just been published in US, the name is “Troll – a love story”. It´s a great book though I haven´t read the English translation. Fantasy elements in an urban environment and some interesting narrative solutions. Once you start you can´t stop until you´ve read it through!

I think more people need to hear you guys, and they will! thanks for the interview!
Thank you for this! Hope to hear from you again!


Links of interest:

Candlelight Records