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Gladenfold's Esko Itälä: "…we all are the blacksmiths of our own fortune. We are born in circumstances we do not choose and get lunch for life, better or worse"

Interview with Esko Itälä from Gladenfold
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 19 June 2022, 9:21 PM

The undying battle between the two ultimate forces that may have a control over people's fates, good and evil. Each to its own, holding back their cards, the fight is forever lasting. The nemesis is within each and every one of us, it feeds upon our lives and every decision we make. However, is it on our side or against? The Finnish Gladenfold unravelled their version of what the nemesis is, through a new album, "Nemesis". Finding the edge between extremity and melodic driven Metal, of the European kind, the Finnish warriors are in battle. Steinmetal had a talk with the band's Esko Itälä, and he had quite the experience to share

Hello Esko, it is great to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing my good man?

Thank you for having me. It has been pretty hectic, speaking of my private life, but the summer holidays are coming soon and seems like the summer is going to be a warm one so nothing to complain about.

In the last couple of years, it has been troublesome, in particular due to the pandemic merely shutting down people’s ordinary way of life. Even though it appears to be that Gladenfold championed the lockdowns, and other repercussions of the virus, how were you able to keep it together mentally?

During the pandemic, we were pretty separated in solitude, but it didn’t have that huge impact on us as a band for at that time we already had the new album pretty much figured out. It was obvious that we were not to hit the stage for a while, so we had time to focus on recording and finalizing the album. It wasn’t the optimal way to record, as we did almost everything separated in our own houses, but in a way it kept the band breathing as we were connected online, sending tracks and figuring the outcome of our individual makings. It was a slow and sometimes pretty lonesome process but still I think the pandemic period was the best time to record the album.

Talking about a mental state, it became apparent that motivation became an issue, to continue forward into writing for instance, to maintain the foundation of a musical act. Would you say that you found comfort in creating new music, new songs rather than being gloomy?

To me, composing has always been a source of mental welfare. As said the composing was pretty much done already before the lockdown. I guess that if the situation was different and I didn’t have the stuff already done it would have been just like you said. I would have spent my time making music and find happiness from there no matter how gloomy the situation may be. However, the recording process worked the same way and I think we all took great comfort putting the pieces of Nemesis together during the pandemic.

Titled “Nemesis”, Gladenfold releases its new album. With the album being out there for almost a month, how have been the reactions by your fanbase? What is the general impression of the outcome?

I think that fans have taken it pretty well. There is always the problem when making a complex and layered album as Nemesis, it is not that easy to digest. There might be a song or two that fits some but then the next two might be just too far from your league. Gladenfold has never been that genre-based band and the music combines lots of different styles, lots of musical elements. If you are a strict genre-oriented listener, Gladenfold might be just a bit too much for you.

The album’s title, “Nemesis”, is both interesting, and amorphic, at the same time. From what I could understand, the actual nemesis is within the person’s inner self, perhaps a cause effect of the constant battle between good and evil?

Yes, that is the idea. It comes from the basic idea that we all are the blacksmiths of our own fortune. We are born in circumstances we do not choose and get lunch for life, better or worse. We all have capacity for good and evil, no matter what the circumstances are or how big is the “lunch” we get. It is constant battle between good and evil, sometimes the odds are leaning toward evil, but you turn out to be good, or the other way around. It is the inner enemy, the Nemesis we have to fight within ourselves, and the question is how long you will fight if it seems that you are always losing.

You mentioned self-reflection, and connecting to one’s inner wickedness. Is that an example of a person that simply lost everything and gives in to its sort of evilized image? From your perspective, are you referencing a kind of a lost cause situation, man succumbing to a bitter fate?

That is exactly what it is. The question is where is the point that you feel you have lost everything and that there is no turning back.

Would you say that other than describing this constant struggle from within, is there a way out of this, perhaps a solution for a better life that is between the lines, simply waiting to be understood, or discovered?

Well, maybe there is no happy ending to be found in this story, but the thing is that there could be. This album is about getting trapped in your own darkness but it’s not that it’s destined to be that way but more likely that you have to go through the choices you have made and the things you have done.

Is there a relation between the main theme of “Nemesis” to our everyday lives, maybe the last period of time we were living in?

I wouldn’t say so. But I have spent much time thinking about these themes and have faced them through my job. I have witnessed many good-hearted people fall deeper and deeper until they are very lost and hateful, mostly for themselves.

There is an old saying about the nature of man, which is from birth evil. Do you believe in that notion? Are we born evil but being able, without our knowledge, to subside the effects of that evil within us as we grow?

Well yes, we are born as beasts through flesh and blood. We do not have moral, no comprehension of good and evil. It’s only the primal needs that define us. It’s about the development of intelligence and will of mind that later on makes us rise above that animalistic state, but for some reason not all of us develop. Or at least some of us are very easily to be drawn back to that state. Maybe the Nemesis is the infant within us that never grew old.

Conjuring the force of Power Metal and Melodic Death Metal, you continue to strive upon that fusion. Nevertheless, it seems that in order to grasp the nature of the theme of “Nemesis”, you reacted as such with the music, making it as if the album is a sort of battleground, between good and evil, softness against brutality. What can you tell about the musical development of the band, in light of “Nemesis”?

I think everyone got involved in the creative process much more than in the previous albums. Although I composed most of the stuff, everyone made their own changes and improvements. The fact that this the first Gladenfold album on which Toke and Ville are playing, their presence and musical ideas naturally took our sound to new directions. The soft and dark extremes in music indeed underline this inner battle between good and evil.  Also, some of the vocal and song arrangements are pretty twisted, even bipolar, which kind of support the lyrical themes.

Natural process, or not, “Nemesis” conveys qualities of drama that enriched the experience of listening emotive, touchy, inspiring to the point as if reaching out to an imaginary character that surrounds the album. What can you share about these qualities being part of the band’s songwriting on this record?

The sense of drama is definitely there. After releasing our second album “When Gods Descend”, we felt that the next release could be something different and darker. I had written many new songs already at the point, and the songs with these sentimental tones were the ones everyone liked the most. We decided to continue to that direction, and work on new ideas with that “mindset”.

I mentioned the battle between good and evil, how were you able to find that cohesion between the lyrical theme and the musical effort within the songs? What were your inspirations perfecting this sort of connection?

I got the overall idea of the album ready when I was composing the songs. Then after the composing was done and we had selected which songs make it to the album, I started writing the lyrics. The music is the big picture in which lyrics give perception. I did go through tough times as I wrote Nemesis and that maybe gave a bit of that darker inspiration to some of the songs.

We talked about the pandemic earlier, and since “Nemesis”’s making was within that period of time, meaning the tougher timeframe of the virus, how were you able to complete the entire process?

We pretty much did everything individually at our homes and sent tracks back and forth. I got my home studio in the basement and did most of the recordings after my family went to sleep so I could say most of the vocals are recorded in the basement by night.

With you being with the band for nearly two decades, along with taking several roles in the bands over the years, things are coming natural to you I bet. Nevertheless, I trust that there is always something to learn, from every form of experience. What can you say that you learned from “Nemesis”? What lessons did you learn from its making?

Well, maybe once again I learned that a simple solution can also be an option. After 2 AM every take you sing is going to sound shit the next time you listen to them. Avoid recording alone, you really should have immediate feedback and someone to tell to just leave it there.

Juhis Kauppinen & Joona Lukala engineered the record, providing it with the layer of sound that made it so majestic and supreme. How do you find the sound of Gladenfold in 2022? How do you appreciate the general result of the record’s sound?

I think I can speak on behalf of all of us that we are really satisfied how the album sounds. Even if this sounds obvious, we have noticed that if the songs are not arranged properly, like there are elements or parts that do not work together, the mixing becomes a real struggle. If you have to force it, the result won’t turn out as you wish. We have been there and this time we spent much more time arranging the songs and all those little details, and then mixing itself went pretty smoothly. Juhis and Joona did great job, they nailed the sound we wanted to achieve.

“Chiara’s Blessing” rapidly became a massive experience of melodic Metal, upon its extreme and classic driven artistry. Its hook is undeniable, and its musical creativity made it a major hit in my bill. What can you tell about this track? What form of emotions did you wish to convey?

It was actually our keyboardist Paavali who composed the song. I wrote lyrics and made vocal arrangements and it was very quick and easy process all in all. Emotional scale would go like, from regret, cold hatred, yearn to solitude.

The following energetic bomber, “Stone Of Storms”, as if continuing the efforts of its previous, blasts way with a heavier dosage of extremity, but gives in eventually to the passionate form of Power Metal that storms the scene. What is your take on the fusion of extreme meets melody on this particular song?

The idea for this song started from the chorus melody, and the song was originally supposed to be more like a pure melodeath song, but in the end, I wanted to put more power metal there in the vocals. Toke worked on the guitar riffs and some details, and this is how it turned out.

I guess that it is time to get busy on the live scene once again, what are the plans of the band in order to properly support “Nemesis”, what is on the live menu for you?

There are some live shows waiting just behind the corner. I’m sure the setlist will include many new songs from Nemesis as they are very inspiring to play.

Esko, it was a pleasure to have you ace, I was fortunate to listen to “Nemesis”, certainly an enjoyable album. All the best

Thank you Lior


 



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