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Hooded Menace's Lasse Pyykkö: "We’ve become more daring with melodies over the years, but we don’t want to become “cheesy” though, if you get me…"

Interview with Lasse Pyykkö from Hooded Menace
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 October 2021, 11:17 PM

After a while, with a career that has been progressing, to implement influences that were always there, but never used, now that is something, because why not really? It is not about being brave or bold, but rather adding yet another dimension to one's music. True to fact that there is a heritage to consider, but at times, it surely needs that refinement, an extra kick. The Doom / Death Metal band Hooded Menace did just that. They maintained their core base, but enriched it with past traditions. With the new album “The Tritonus Bell” being out, Steinmetal had a talk with Lasse Pyykkö about the new experience, diving into the music and less on the lyrics.   

Greetings Lasse, it is a pleasure to have you for this conversation for Metal Temple online Magazine, how has it been on your end?

Greets! Thanks for having me! It’s been alright. Enjoying the Fall season, my favourite.

This last period of time with the pandemic taught people the value of culture, and how easily it can be shut down for the sake of protecting the public, and that goes for other areas of life overall. Since Hooded Menace kept going, creating and such, what kept you motivated, especially in times of lockdown and strong restrictions?

Introvert as I am, it wasn’t a big deal for me to stay home a lot, but of course I’m glad the society and the world are opening again. We saw our European tour being flushed down the toilet in 2020, as well as one interesting gig that we didn’t even get to announce. But apart from that, the pandemic didn’t have much impact on the band. Writing, rehearsing and recording was pretty much business as usual. Hooded Menace are not an actively touring band anyway, so I can’t say that I have been waiting to play live again, really. We have zero dates planned actually - pandemics or not. That being said, never say never.

That motivation to push forward, resulted with your next album, “The Tritonus Bell”, and the album is already out there. What are the reactions towards it? From your side of the table, are you satisfied with the final product?

The feedback has been pretty amazing. Seems like people are actually digging the refined sound a lot. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had a really great feeling about the new material and how we managed to capture it on the album. You know how it is, you just try to express yourself in the most honest way, do the best you can, and the rest is beyond your control. I’m very satisfied how the album turned out, and if people are into it as well, that’s great.

What can you tell about the meaning of the title? What does this bell symbolize? The artwork is largely straightforward, as if we are looking at a bell that is like a vacuum for lost souls

We prefer not to explain the titles or lyrics too much, but rather leave it up for people to come up with their own interpretations. The less we explain the more explanations there are, and we like it like that. Everyone can have their own “truth”. I can reveal though that the cover artwork spawned the album title.

Talking about the pandemic, there has also been a measure of escapism in nearly every album that has been out since this dreadful venture started back in 2020. Would you say that this happens also within “The Tritonus Bell”?

Hooded Menace have always been about fantasy and escapism.

Is there a personal dimension for “The Tritonus Bell”, when it comes to you sharing experiences from the past, only to pass as metaphors into the album?

Perhaps subconsciously at least, yeah.

There has always been a sense of melody within Hooded Menace, nonetheless, “The Tritonus Bell” felt fluent in contrast to the earlier records. It portrayed that the band can stick to the cohesion of Death and Doom Metal, yet in the same breath, implementing traditional Metal elements that showed creativity. How do you find this step forward on “The Tritonus Bell” in the band’s music?

80´s heavy metal is what I grew up on, that’s the stuff that is ingrained the deepest into my brain, basically, and it feels totally natural to channel some of that into our music, especially now that we are already at our 6th album. Also, it really helps that Harri (who joined the band in 2016) has a voice that allows for more dynamics. The Tritonus Bell would have never happened with me on the vocals, because my voice is so guttural and one-dimensional. It goes well with the slow stuff, but not so well when the we pick up a tempo. It’s important to keep things interesting and always evolving. After 15 years (soon) with six albums under our belts, plus plenty of other recordings, we are still as relevant as ever, and that is a great feeling.

One of the aspects of the songs, which I found on several of them, is the fact that the tempo has risen a bit, converging on mid tempos in comparison to a vast majority of slowness. Did it change anything in your perception of how a Hooded Menace song should sound like?

Well, yeah, it’s like we can play a bit faster and still make it work, and make it sound like Hooded Menace. There’s more dynamics and diversity to the music, and it is fun stuff to play too. It’s like a new chapter for us. Writing the album was really inspiring and I can’t wait to see how things develop in the future. Just don’t expect us to incorporate “Slayer-beats” or blast-beats into our music. That’s something we’re most probably never going to do. We are not playing any faster than the doom legends Trouble.

We talked about melodies. In your opinion, how does the importance of the melodies, in this case the riffs, influence the impact of your songs on the record? Are these melodies a mere addition to the band’s musical plethora or rather the heart of everything?

It’s all about riffs, be it melodic or less melodic, but I’d say melody is the core, or the heart, if you will. That’s usually the hook, that’s what you end up humming, but it depends on the song. We’ve become more daring with melodies over the years, but we don’t want to become “cheesy” though, if you get me. There’s a fine like that we don’t want to cross. Never Cross the Line (a reference to our own catalog), haha!

There is never a day when a person doesn’t learn new things, even stuff that is minor. Songwriting wise, you have been out there for quite a while, even so, did the work on “The Tritonus Bell” teach anything in regards to your approach to songwriting?

If anything, it taught me to be more open-minded for different influences, and not hold back too much. I guess the process made me a tad more confident songwriter.

The song “Blood Ornaments” expresses in such an impressive form, your ability to blend the extremity of Doom and Death Metal along with verses of passages of traditional Metal. For me it was like listening to Death, My Dying Bride and Mercyful Fate in an exquisite dance. What can you tell about the structure of the song? What can you share about its creative process?

I can remember that King Diamond-ish riff being the kickstarter for Blood Ornaments. It was one of those moments when I was a bit doubtful whether I can use it for Hooded Menace or not. Soon I decided that I absolutely have to keep it. It’s quite often that the ideas that I’m first a bit shy to use, end up being some of the album highlights for me, personally. I like how the song develops with different moods and tempos, going from crawling, melodic doom to punchy heavy metal to epic sounding sections to death metal whirlpool and back… It’s a good sample of what The Tritonus Bell is made of.

The instrumental track, “Instruments Of Somber Finality”, an interesting name for a final tune, which made it quite obvious, is certainly an uncanny beast in the sack. It is heavily different from the vibe you have been channelling on the record. What was your inspiration to write this one to begin with? Would there be more examples of this direction in the future?

I guess the inspiration came from the same sources as for the other songs, such as Dio, Ozzy, and King Diamond. The difference is that Instruments of Somber Finality has no death or doom metal to it. It’s a short-ish instrumental track and it’s easier go a bit “crazier” with that sort of stuff. I don’t know about the future, but I’m pretty sure the 80´s heavy metal vibes are here to stay, more or less.

It was great to listen to your perspective of the W.A.S.P. tune “The Torture Never Stops”. At first, I couldn’t really recognize it, and I am glad that I didn’t. Why exactly was this song chosen? Mainly fandom, or was there a point ?

We figured it would be a fun idea to underline the 80´s heavy metal influence of the album by covering a classic 80´s metal band. WASP is a collective favourite in Hooded Menace camp, so we didn’t really have to argue about it. The debut album from WASP is one of my first heavy metal LP´s, if not the first, so for me personally covering one of their tracks was quite special. The original vocals aren’t too melodic and the song has that killer riff, so the track translated quite well, I think.

This time around you worked with Andy LaRocque on the sound of the record. I have to admit that it maintained the filthiness of the sound, but a tad cleaner and it is a good thing. What is your appreciation of the album's sound?

The new song material needed a bit more clarity and punch to it, and we figured Andy would be our guy. He did a stellar job with the mix and mastering. I think the production is our best so far.

A lot of tours aren’t really happening in the latter stage of 2021, is there a plan taking shape for Hooded Menace for 2022?

Nothing lined up as we speak. Like I mentioned earlier, we are not the most active touring band. I’m just not too excited about the idea, but time will tell, I suppose. When the band started in 2007, there was no intention or interest at all to perform live. It was more the Bathory-way: just albums, no gigs. And look what happened! So, whatever I say, doesn’t have much credibility anymore, I guess… (laughs)

Lasse, plenty of thanks for your time and effort for this conversation. The new album is amazing, certainly inspiring and sounding awesome. Thank you sir and all the best.

Thanks!


 



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