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Domination Black's Teppo Heiskanen: "We've had some experiences with - let's say - interesting and difficult persons in the past, so that gave us lots of fuel for the lyrics…"

Interview with Teppo Heiskanen from Domination Black
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 26 July 2020, 2:37 PM

It is always good to make a comeback, in particular when having a reinforced backing to one's advantage. There are cases where the past haunts, and it has to be met in level, yet, for some it is a sort of a brand new start, an opportunity to come out strong without restrictions, simply making something that would make an impact. The Finnish Domination Black returns to the scene after a while, a different kind of scene, yet a one that accepts it. Pending the release of “Judgement IV”, Steinmetal talked to guitarist Teppo Heiskanen, regarding the new album, signing to a new label, and more…

Greetings Teppo, many thanks for taking the time for this interview, it is a pleasure. How have you been doing sir? I trust that this time period hasn’t been the easiest?

Hi, we're all doing fine here, thanks for asking! This Covid period didn't really have much effect on us since we just got the new album finished before it all started. And now that the album is out we can start booking gigs again. We actually have our next gig coming already in August.

Truth be told, I haven’t heard from Domination Black ever since your “Dimension: Death” album, and the band simply went numb, if you take out the 2014’s single, “Master Of Deception”. So I think you guys pretty much invited the incoming question, what happened after 2014? Did life have a go on the band and called for a hiatus or there was something deeper and startling?

Well, what happened was that we tried to have rehearsals to write and arrange stuff for the next album but as time went on it became clear that some members weren't motivated enough to get themselves to the rehearsal place. We kind of waited too long until we made the crucial decisions.

Domination Black took a step backwards from a Metal scene that was on a constant change, especially with the massive introduction and placement of modernized subgenres in Metal. Which kind of a Metal scene did you come back to recently? What is your make of it?

I don't know, it's hard to say really. It seems like at least here in Finland the whole metal scene is in some kind of recession. Metal isn't as popular as it was about 10 years ago. These modern subgenres we know nothing about. Our influences come mainly from the 80's and 90's.

Talking about the return to the Metal scene of the present, how were you received by the fans and newcomers one you were back in the fold? I bet that it inspired you to head on and write new music right?

All feedback we've received so far has been very good so we cannot complain. Of course now with the new line-up we have some new energy write more songs. This time everybody in the band is motivated to develop the music to new dimensions.

Energized by the recruiting of two new musicians for the band’s lineup, and there we have a new album to be released, “Judgement IV”. In parallel to the album, there was a fresh contract signed with Pride & Joy Music. No doubt, you found a proper home for the band and record. What can you tell about this new relationship with Pride & Joy Music?

Well, everything has been going smoothly with Pride & Joy Music so far. I like their efficiency and it's very easy dealing with them. They are very open to different ideas and we have good teamwork with them.

I can only assume that the “IV” in the album’s title is due to the album being fourth, yet the “Judgement” is rather puzzling. On what exactly are you guys being judged? Can you shed some light on the mystery please?

It's not us being judged but more like we're coming back with the vengeance and giving the actual judgement, heheh! It's a comeback album for us so that's why the title is like that. Also the opening track of the album is called "The Judgement" so it has another connection.

In your opinion, which theme is leading the lyricism on “Judgement IV”? What kind of connection to find between the album’s lyrical direction to our very own reality, within the pandemic and prior?

The most common theme in lyrics on this album is how the human mind works and overall madness of people. We've had some experiences with - let's say - interesting and difficult persons in the past, so that gave us lots of fuel for the lyrics, heheh! The pandemic started after all the lyrics were already done so it didn't have any effect.

Even after years of silence, Domination Black appears to remain on the melodic course, without too much looking back to its roughed up past. However, I did feel that there is further exploration into Gothic areas, such as Amorphis for instance, that made the outcome quite interesting. What is your opinion about that?

We've seen this gothic thing mentioned here and there and I don't really know why. It must be a coincidence, hahah! I mean, really, we don't know much about gothic rock or metal but get our influences mainly from the traditional metal or rock genres, even from progressive music. Maybe it's got something to do with the melodies? This must be something you cannot predict or plan. Maybe the next album will sound different again? We don't know yet.

How do you find the musical development on “Judgement IV”? How do you think that you made it to be a standout in today's market, which is highly demanding?

Well, first of all, we didn't want to make the last album again. Also we didn't plan much. All the development comes from all the experience we've gained during the years. You learn different kind of ways to write, arrange and produce music. This time we didn't actually have any external producer or co-producer in the sessions. For example, our keyboardist Juuso made lots of post-production work on the songs and it really helped them to come alive and lifted them onto the next level.

I think that your vocalist, Matias Palm, built his character on “Judgement IV”. It seems that he pushed himself to become a pretty diverse vocalist, displaying various tones. What is your appreciation of his abilities and his personal development?

Well, I'm no expert on vocal techniques really… It's been 8 years between the albums so maybe he used that time for vocal training, hah!

Generally, the album is pretty memorable, as if every line, every melody was well thought, right in the nick of time. How would you say that this album developed you guys as songwriters? What lessons did you learn from your past?

Nice to hear that you liked it! The thing was that we explored different ideas and melodies and didn't always accept the first melody that came to mind. It had to please everyone so we made demos of the songs with different melodies and then kind of had votes on which melodies would suit best the songs.

Spreading a cloud of emotions, there is the exceptional epic of “Beyond The Shadows”, pulling its full weight, showering a melodic rain of Heavy Metal and AOR. I think it is one of the album’s crown achievements, picturing the thin line between Metal and melodic Rock. What is your perception of this song, and that stellar soloing? What can you tell about its creative process?

This is actually one of the first tracks that were written for the album. It was co-written with our old guitarist Ville Viren before he left the band. In the recording process we put a lot of work into the song. I think the keyboards' arrangements really shine here! And so it also has lots of layers. We recorded lots of acoustic guitars and different melody lines here and there. Also the solo part had to fit the song perfectly. There was first a bit different solo but it was recorded again to fit the atmosphere of the song and we think we succeeded!

Right from the get go, I could understand why you picked “Center Of The Universe” to become a prominent, leading single, and awarded with a video. Were there any dilemmas?  What can you tell about the video?

Not much dilemmas here. This song is very easy-going and melodic so it was a nice choice to be the first single. The music also works nice with the video. The idea for the video came actually from the old Domination Black singer Kari Killgast. We didn't have any co-operation with him since 2009 when he left the band but this time he was interested to help us with the video and I think the outcome is stellar. The video has lots of humour in it but also it looks good. You can actually see Kari in the video, too. He's the driver of the car. And I got to mention that Kari was also involved on another track: he sang a verse on the song "VAT".

Now with plenty of time on your hands, have you already considered the possibility of starting to work on new material for a next album? This pandemic actually allows, in its own crooked way, for artists to simply write a sea of material

We already have our hands full dealing with our schedules since four guys in the band have families with little children and everybody has a day job so it's not always that easy to find the needed time. But of course we already have some ideas for the next album too. We just need to sit down together with all those riffs and try to build songs out of them.

Have you considered this new platform bands have been exploring, this virtual tour thing? Apparently, instead of actually touring, it is the next best possibility.

Well, not much really. For the time being we'll concentrate on booking real live shows. But of course, if a decent offer comes for doing a web-broadcast live gig, then why not!

Teppo, it was awesome, much appreciated for your time and effort for this interview. You won me over with this record. Cheers and thanks!

Thank you too! And we're glad you liked the record!



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