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Armored Dawn's Timo Kaarkoski: "…playing just straightforward Metal tunes for 2 hours every night is pretty damn cool, but if you mix that up with some tango and great melodies, it’s a bonus"

Interview with Timo Kaarkoski from Armored Dawn
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 08 January 2020, 11:01 PM

Collaborating the Vikings with The Undead, well that is a refresher. If one can find a new shindig to get things started, to find an extra crispy angle, why not really? Especially, if there is good music involved in the newfound direction, the theme serves as a mere scenery to what really matters. With the new Armored Dawn's album out, "Viking Zombie", Steinmetal felt that it was right to talk to the band's Timo Kaarkoski about the new foundation, leaving AFM Records, ventures, songwriting and theme

Hello Timo, it is great having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Well, as Ted Nugent put it, “I’m alive and well, still raising Hell”… 2020 has just started and the band is getting back from holidays and getting ready to hit the road again.

A bit more than a year since Armored Dawn’s sophomore album, “Barbarians In Black”, and here we are again, with your third “Viking Zombie”. Let’s be straight here, what was the rush to release a new album so fast? Looking backwards, would you say the end result would have gone even better than you expected it to be if the band had taken a longer period of time to accomplish the new album?

As we had lots of material ready, we decided to just get them recorded. You know, we are getting older and you never know when Alzheimer hits us, so it’s better to get everything recorded while we still remember the songs. Lol Seriously, yes and no. I mean, if you start trying to get everything as good as it’s humanly possible, you’ll never finish. I mean, there’s ALWAYS something you think that could have been done better and if you always start fixing everything, you’ll never finish the album. On the other hand, while you think you’re making it better, it might actually be getting worse, so I think it’s better to give it up when most people seem happy about the result and move on to the next album.

 “Viking Zombie” was released as an independent album by the band. However, didn’t you have a contract with AFM Records earlier on for the sophomore release? Were the relations with AFM Records dissolved for a particular reason or was it a mutual agreement to terminate relations for the band to carry on its own?

Here’s the deal. I think the biggest problem was communication between the band and AFM. Yes, it was 2019 and yes, there IS actually internet even in Brazil, but it’s never going to be the same as if you can just drop by the office personally and talk about things. And as you know, AFM headquarters are in Germany, while the band is in Brazil… So, to make things easier for us, we decided to do things on our own this time.

More or less, since the band’s debut era, you guys have been focused on the Vikings theme, being mesmerized by it, attacking it from every angle. Now, with a title such as “Viking Zombie”, have you gone wild with the main theme? How did you relate Vikings with Zombies? I guess you are also fans of either Horror B-Movies or addicted to The Walking Dead?

Many of those B-movies are SO bad, they are actually pretty awesome. We just had the idea of putting two completely different themes, Viking and zombies, together to make a character, which is our Viking Zombie. But anyway, the Viking theme is something we’ve always been interested in. Myself, obviously, being born in Finland, Scandinavian culture has always been a part of my education. Now, when you talk about Viking metal, people automatically think about bands like Amon Amarth, so I see us more like a power metal band, writing songs about the Viking theme. Mixing that with a bit of zombie thing, might help separate us a bit from actual Viking metal.

Generally, what is the story that is circling “Viking Zombie”? Is it supposed to be kind of a tragedy, with a hero that is sacrificing himself for a cause or something in that fashion?

Well, “Viking Zombie” is a fiction that tells the story of a Viking who, due to some events, was turned to a zombie, and now he has to find his own place in the world. It’s something very different, we know. But you’ll see in the lyrics that everything makes sense. It’s important to say that all lyrics from ‘Viking Zombie’ are fiction and has no religious tendency. Armored Dawn admires Viking culture, beliefs and virtues, and respects all religions.

A bit off question, if you are a fan of the show, were you excited about the new season of Vikings, that debuted its first episode in December? Would you say that other than history, this show is somewhat of an inspiration for Armored Dawn?

Not really. After all, our singer, Eduardo, wrote “Viking Soul” from the first album long before the TV series and long before even I joined the band. It’s more like a happy coincidence.

The way I see it, “Viking Zombie” displays Armored Dawn as a band that doesn’t fear to go tango with variations of Power Metal, while also squinting towards modern Metal exports on the verge of being slightly Popish with its catchiness. In comparison to “Barbarians In Black”, is “Viking Zombie” is a sort of a change of course when it comes to the band’s musical development?

It just makes playing a bit more exiting. I mean, playing just straightforward metal tunes for 2 hours every night is pretty damn cool, but if you mix that up with some tango and great melodies, it’s a bonus. It keeps things more interesting. Basically we are just writing the kind of songs, we would want to go to see in shows ourselves.

With a sea of albums walking the walk and talking the talk similar to Armored Dawn’s exports, how would you say that “Viking Zombie” stands out in the front row? What makes it more special than the rest out there?

Good question… I think you’ll have to come to see us live to really see the difference. Anyone can record a perfect album these days, thanks to modern technology, but not all can play those songs on stage… We can!

Speaking of the rest of the albums out there, there has also been a constant flow of bands that have been putting technical playing in favor of the actual song. Nowadays, it has become rather common, everyone wishes to be progressed as it seems. What is your view on the matter? Does a band have been technical in order to make through as many ears as possible? Is the soul of the song lost?

As I mentioned in earlier question, thanks to modern technology, anyone can record a perfect album, but not so many can really play like that on stage. I’ve seen a LOT of younger bands who release fast, very technical things and then suck badly on stage trying to play those without computer editing. I’m an old-school musician and like to hear real musicians, playing real instruments while occasionally making some mistakes. You know, the things that makes them sounds like human and not a fucking robot. Many people seem to have forgotten that music is art and not sports. It’s about feelings and not speed. After all, there’s NO point in running, if you don’t know where you’re going to.

While writing the riffs and musical arrangements of “Viking Zombie”, which elements were provided with a lot more attention than earlier on? Any change of methods when it comes to ideas and inspirations that helped you?

This time we tried to do something a bit more modern sounding, so there’s a lot of keyboard stuff. Otherwise, it was basically the same as previous albums. First our singer comes up with basic melodies and then we work the rest around those melodies. For me, particularly, it would be a lot easier to start with riffs and just add the lyrics later on, but this way seems to work out as well.

How would you describe the actual songwriting process of “Viking Zombie”? Would you say that it is a group effort or rather commanded by a single songwriter that merely distributes its creation for the others to record their channels?
Mix of both. Some songs are written together starting from a simple idea for a riff or a melody, and sometimes someone brings a ready song. As long as it sounds good and sounds like an Armored Dawn song, either way works for us.

In your view, which of the album’s tracks tells the story properly of the long road that Armored Dawn has made to date? Which of the tracks do you find as number one? Please elaborate on your pick.

Well, I think the track “Rain of Fire” would be a good choice, because it says ‘Nobody knows who I am or what I have become’. Nobody knows the path we had to follow to get here today. Sometimes people may think that was easy but, definitely, it’s not. We worked and still work very hard to be where we are, to be who Armored Dawn is today. We finally found our place, you know, and no one knows what we’ve been through.

In your opinion, what kind of challenges Armored Dawn is facing, or will be facing, in the current state of the Metal market? Is there a reason to be always updated or adapt?

The challenges are pretty much the same to any new band. The biggest problem for everyone, is money. Album sales aren't what they used to be, and unless you’re Metallica, you can’t count on that to survive. Touring is expensive, but then again, that’s the reason we do what we do. Releasing your albums digitally is easy, but not very lucrative. I’m sure somebody makes a LOT of money with that, but sadly it’s not us, the musicians… But as I said, that’s a problem for everyone these days. Metal WILL live on forever and even we won’t be able to drive a Ferrari, we still prefer to play metal than work in a bank or something.

You just hit a few shots in Europe right? Was it supposed to be a part of your release parties, as we are talking about only three shows? Will there be something a bit more extensive in terms of supporting the album?

We did few shows in Germany and Italy in the end of 2019 and we surely will be back for more this year. Some summer festivals would be pretty cool… Let’s see how things work out, but surely there WILL be more touring worldwide.

What does the future hold in the upcoming years for Armored Dawn? Will you be signing with a European label again? Have you started working on yet another album? Would be exploring other sides of Metal music?

We will do lots of touring in 2020, South America, USA, Europe… Asia would be cool as well. Let’s see how things advance. We are negotiating with some labels, so let’s see what happens. New album, I think just in 2021, but we are already, slowly, writing some new tunes.

Timo, I wish to thank you for this interview. The new album has been a lovely experience of a pretty diverse Power Metal input. All the best.

Thank you so very much for having me talking here. Hope to see you somewhere on the road in 2020. Keep the metal alive!!!


 



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