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Altaria's Marko Pukklia: "…in 2020 we reformed and we had plans to do a 20 years' anniversary tour that year but then the Covid came and everything got postponed"

Interview with Marko Pukklia from Altaria
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 17 September 2022, 3:57 PM

Even when there are fragments of bad luck, here and there, nothing is bound to fail in the long run. The Finnish Metallers, Altaria, decided to return to the Metal scene after several years being disbanded. Nonetheless, they made their return when the world started to go crazy with a pandemic. After delays and postponed events, the reunion was made, playing and shows, signing with a new label, and also a new album, "Wisdom". Steinmetal talked about the new era of the band with the veteran Marko Pukklia.

Hello Marko, it is great to have you for this interview with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Hello, thanks for asking. It´s been a busy summer for us. Everything is looking great here.

After shutting yourselves, meaning Altaria, down after the release of “Unholy”, it was hard to understand whether it was the actual end of the band or not, like most bands splitting up. Now, I won’t ask for the reasons for the early disbandment, yet I will ask what made you reform? What was the cause for that itch to get back at it?

After UNHOLY we kind of took a break And in 2016 we decided to quit. We had our farewell show at Nummirock Festival in the summer of 2016. After we quit our fans kept on asking us if there were a chance that we would reform and do more music and a lot of fans also wanted new music etc. So we talked about it with the guys and in 2020 we reformed and we had plans to do a 20 years' anniversary tour that year but then the Covid came and everything got postponed.

Not being around for a decade, now that is something. In terms of the local scene in Finland, along with the European flavors constantly changing, trends coming and going, how do you see Altaria continuing to fit in?

Well the music scene has changed here in a decade. A decade ago we had most power metal bands coming from Finland, now we have a lot of AOR and softer bands like Brother Firetibe and One Desire and so on. I think we still fit in the music scene over here.

Sadly, your return celebrations were cut a little short due to the pandemic, which meant no shows, and also delays on various things. Talking about that pandemic, how were you able to continue the state of the band without the ability to so-called re-introduce yourselves properly on a stage?

We worked on the new album during the pandemic. We got more time to concentrate on album when we didn´t have any shows or tours booked. Of course it would have been great to have the new album out already in 2020 when we had our 20th anniversary year. But as mentioned earlier the pandemic came and changed the music business totally for a couple of years.

Part of the efforts to return was to sign with the German label, Reaper Entertainment, and that led to the reissue of your 2004’s “Divinity” album and your comeback album, titled, “Wisdom”. Prior to getting into the halls of “Wisdom”. Why was “Divinity” chosen to be reissued exactly?

I think it was Reaper Entertainment´s idea to release Divinity first. We had plans to re-release Invitation and The Fallen Empire also a bit later. All remastered, but then the pandemic came and it got postponed. And now with the new album coming out the record label got the idea about doing a limited boxset that included all the first three album remastered as well as the new album.

You were one of the members that left the band prior to “Unholy”, finding your way back into the band in 2019. How was it to get back into the band and work on new songs with the guys, which most of them continued the band?

I have been good friends with all of the guys even though I left the band prior to Unholy. There was no drama included. And it was actually my idea to reform Altaria in 2019. I made contact with the other guys and said that people still asks us if there will be new music or are we going to play live again, that they would be interested to reform the band and put out our three first albums, which all were sold out, and also work on a new album. Everyone were really excited about it and I had some song written and I sent them out to the guys and they loved them. So we started to work on the new songs and it was like we´ve never split.

What is the source of that “Wisdom” that you chose to be the title of your fifth album? Talking about a quite a big word to follow, and no doubt that it raises quite a lot of questions, no matter the easiness of the songs surrounding it

I had an artwork that a graphic artist had made for me some years ago. I had never used it anywhere and when we started to work on “Wisdom” and I remembered the artwork and I thought it would be a good follower to the earlier Altaria artworks. So I showed the artwork to the guys and we decided to use it. I think it was our drummer Tony who came up with the idea that the album would be called Wisdom. We had a song called Wisdom, so we thought we would use that title.

Crossing further, and quite strongly, into the qualities of 80s Hard Rock, and I might even fuse AOR into the blend, “Wisdom” is the hooking arm, the catchy twist, a rightful exploration of the 80s fling to serve as a comeback release. Nonetheless, there is a portion of Metal to go around, so there is a measure of heaviness. In your view, is “Wisdom” a continuance of the past or rather an evolutionary stage?

We started Altaria over 20 years ago. Our first albums were heavier than Wisdom. I think that the new album sounds like Altaria nowadays. We have always played melodic 80s metal/hard rock and we still do. Maybe the production is different also nowadays. It's not that metal any more than it used to be. So the new album is kind of a mix between continuance of the past and evolutionary stage.

Earlier on, we talked about Altaria’s fit to the current Metal scene, which shared changes in the last decade. In your view, in light of “Wisdom”, is there still a heart for fans to take pleasure in the simple things, the catchy notations rather than being driven by technical aspects of musicianship and complex songwriting?

We have gotten really good response from the fans. They love the new album. And a lot of fans say it was better than they ever thought it would be.  Some fans maybe expected a bit heavier album if they had listened more to our first album. But the fans that have stayed with us all the way through all albums loved it.

Within the Covid-19 pandemic, you guys had your songwriting sessions, what can you tell in regards to how it was done? Were you able to write together as a group or rather each to his own at his home?  If the latter was the case, would you say that it contributed to the general end result of the album?

Luckily we had the songs written already before the pandemic. It was when we were about to enter the studio when the pandemic hit the music scene. Luckily we have our home studios where we could record our own parts etc. which made it a lot easier to record the album during the pandemic.

In your view, what were the leading elements on “Wisdom” that received more attention than others? How did these aspects make their way into the recording and what was their impact on the songs?

We wanted the album to sound like an Altaria album. We have always written songs with catchy song melodies and sing-a-long choruses as well as great guitar hooks etc. So when we started to work on the new songs these where the elements we wanted to include to this album also, the elements Altaria´s songs are known for. And from the feedback we have gotten from fans they have said that the album totally sounds like an Altaria album.

Listening to your returning vocalist, Taage Laiho, is quite the experience, that guy has one hell of a voice, so rich and it appears that the years have been smiling at him. His performance on “Wisdom” is exceptional. What is your take on the vocals on the record?

Taage did an excellent job on the album, once again. His voice gets better year after year. I was not in the studio when he recorded the vocals. But when I got the songs with Taage´s vocals on them, I was totally blown away.

With all the songs it was so easy to sing along with, nearly every number is hooking to the point that it is no less than mesmerizing. Nonetheless, that tune that interested me was actually “Crimson Rain”, which lasts over 8 minutes. With your kind of songwriting, it interested me how you were able to write such an epic tune, continuing the same formula as the other songs on the album. What can you share about how this song was created? How do you view it yourself?

Crimson Rain was originally a normal 4-minute song. When we started to work together on the song we wanted to add something more to it and make it a little more special. Not just a “normal” Altaria song. We remembered some songparts that we had worked on that might fit to the original version of the song. So we tried them out and it turned out great. So it's kind of a mix of two songs, two different songs that matched perfectly so they became one longer song.

Now with the band back, energized I presume, along with the live scene opening quite rapidly, what are the plans of the band going forward into the remainder of 2022? Are there festivals in line or something like that?

We have played some festivals here in Finland this summer. And we some shows booked for October. Hopefully we will get the chance to tour outside of Finland too.

Marko, many thanks for your time for this interview, much appreciated. Also, thank you for a great record, a good return and showing the melodic edge of the 80s. All the best

Thank you Lior. It was great to talked with you. Take care!


 



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