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Lantern's Cruciatus: "A basic aspect of survival / evolution (IMO): while some cease to exist, new forms of coping would spring from the wreckage. It sounds harsh and scary, but there are a lot of new opportunities at the same time."

Interview with Cruciatus from Lantern
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 03 July 2020, 2:36 PM

Possibilities, options, dimensions, did anyone say countless? It can easily unfold to become wicked game of chance, yet also an excuse for setting off the imagination for a joyride. It can be pleasant but can also be painful. The Finnish Lantern turned their gaze upon the void and decided to act upon it. With the upcoming release of their new "Dimensions", it is about to get messy and interesting. Steinmetal talked to Cruciatus of the band regarding the happening surrounding the album, Covid-19 pandemic, the foreseeable future and more…

Hello Cruciatus, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing, especially in these stressful times?

Greetings! I’m doing alright, thanks for asking. Socially, business as usual for me - no problem with that here in the countryside outskirts. Health-wise, things have been much easier here than in some other parts of the world, as well as outside the Finnish capital area, that has been our national virus hotspot. Regarding music, having to cancel our shows including the Central European tour we had planned for April hit us hard. The situation has also affected the release schedule of our third album in a way, so the band has had a rougher time than me personally. But that’s about to be sorted, as “Dimensions” will be released on July 10th.

How have you been perceiving this pandemic? Do you believe that there the second wave is upon us?

Difficult to predict, especially from our hermetic “bubble”. It’s hard even to imagine how much more chaotic things have been in Italy, Spain, the U.S. and so forth. I’m not the only one having trouble trying to foresee the scenarios to come. The Finnish experts thought in the spring that the infection peak would be on here in the midsummer, but the curve started to flatten the curve way harder way before. Although we’ve just had a few more cases again. I suspect calmer countries like ours could avert a second wave easier than places with bigger crowds, mass transit etc. A whole different story for some busier nations with a worse situation to start with.

The right kind of measures seem to help, but as countries slowly reopen, I suspect some won’t have it in them to take as drastic precautions the second time. So, a lot more might depend on the actions of individuals in the future, which does feel a bit scary… Here’s to hoping medical science will meet us halfway soon, as many reckon this type of virus might stick around for the years to come.

How would you say that the authorities in Finland have been dealing with this pandemic? Do you think that people will adjust to this newfound reality?

I’m very pleased with the Finnish authorities handling the situation in general. The health aspect has been taken care of properly, helping out some of the businesses like restaurants and bars could have been done better – but don’t ask me how. Not to forget the shady medical supply deals that kind of backfired, but guess we weren’t the only ones being sold snake oil at the expense of a crisis… I’m optimistic that supporting local businesses / produce, exploiting live stream opportunities, adding remote work and practicing better hygiene will be more common in the future, but especially for the latter, I’m afraid mankind’s short memory will kick in sooner or later.

While several countries lifted the lockdowns to the low rate of infections, some have been considering going back to lockdowns due to the imminent rise. In regards to the Metal scene in Finland, do you think that it will overcome yet another possible period of draught? I am merely talking about bands, promoters, venues etc.

Right now, people seem very wary about booking and promoting shows. We are supposed to have one domestic show coming up in October, but guess no one has gone public about it yet, just to avoid possible hassle. The coming autumn will tell if we’ll be facing a new dry spell, or if people have the guts to attend the shows. Chances are attendance would improve because of the bottled enthusiasm, who knows. In case of more restrictions for bars, I dread many good venues wouldn’t survive without help from the government or new innovations to help them pull through. And “watering holes” seem not to be on the top of their list. Many bands, promoters, venues, festivals etc. would definitely call it quits in case of a second wave - some have done so already. A basic aspect of survival / evolution (IMO): while some cease to exist, new forms of coping would spring from the wreckage. It sounds harsh and scary, but there are a lot of new opportunities at the same time. While the previous possibilities might be more limited, guess we would just have to make the most out with what we have access to and think of something new.

Without taking it slow in any form, Lantern is already back with a brand new full length, “Dimensions”. To be honest, when observing the artwork, and trying to connect it to the title, it is hard not to think about possibilities, even when some of them are quite dreadful. How do you perceive it?

The definitions of the word “dimension” are various. If you get stuck with the idea of space and wormholes, you will have a hard time connecting the art into something that makes sense. Although “Strange Nebula” does begin from the dimensions far above, this doesn’t mean “Dimensions” is a sci-fi album. It’s just one stab at one definition. The “third album, third dimension” link doesn’t work either, except maybe as a small dose of dry humor, as the amount of dimensions in that sense surpasses three - at least six that I know of currently, haha. Moreover, I’d say the cover connects with, like you mentioned, possibilities - various, if not infinite. The whole big picture of the album is to feed the listener’s imagination, not to preach or to guide them through a very specific mindscape, so I just hope people will make their own deeper transcriptions from the visual and aural content. I think the cover as well as the booklet graphics complement the atmosphere of the album more than well. There’s this desolate and deranged feel that goes with the music nicely, with the songs and especially their lyrics being the undertow that hopefully take the listener to places we don’t have any idea about.

What would you say that is the leading theme that is being looked at on “Dimensions”? What was the source of inspiration for the lyrical content on the album?

It’s a plunge from dimensions above to dimensions below, reaching out towards dimensions within, beyond and everything between while doing so. Abstract horror is the binding thread present in each lyric, as we wanted this to be a death metal album, not a musical ISO standard or something like that. It’s more like a collection of short stories than, say, the more theme-driven "II: Morphosis" with its clear life – dying – death – afterlife pattern. “Dimensions” is more about the imagery the listener is able to create for themselves from the framework we have established. The lyrics are inspired by various sources: of course, there are strong glimpses from my own inner realms, but also from the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, films by Lucio Fulci and certain works by Hermann Hesse.

While the album breathes old school Death Metal, I noticed that there is more than meets the ear, attempts to stray a little bit in order to find uniqueness within the massive wave of revamped old school Death Metal that has been sweeping the Metal Market. What do you think that Lantern brought to the label with the rising of “Dimensions”?

The whole old school revamping / revival thing sounds rather horrifying to me. I have not tried or even wanted to be old school, this is merely the kind of music I enjoy and that feels natural to me. I even have a hard time seeing Lantern as an old school band - somewhat on the contrary even. Like you said: there’s more than meets the ear, more layers beyond the first impression. I definitely prefer older and even vintage soundscapes over the modern ones and am kind of stuck in that, I’ll give you that. Hence, it’s only natural I write and play the type of music with the kind of tone I connect with.

I don’t want “Dimensions” to compete with albums by fellow bands really. We can only promise our listeners more deviant Lantern material, written with thought, played with emotion and produced to the (reasonable) max by Resonance Sound. For those who have appreciated our development, this album should not disappoint. We honestly feel we have succeeded in making our best effort to the date. Just being and sounding like Lantern is what counts.

How do you see the band’s musical progress with this album? Were there lessons of the past that taught you different measures or perhaps merely the benefits of experience?

The biggest change for the band took place around 2011-2014, when we started to play live and record as a five-piece instead of a duo. This led to us having to practice more regularly, not being able to leave as much air in studio. As a result, we have become tighter and more capable all the time. After and during "II: Morphosis" and the 7” "Lost Paragraphs", I reckon we’ve also managed to revitalize more of that air and loose feeling from the olden days. The duo releases are much more experimental, as I was in charge of all the instruments and could channel my vision quite purely - restricted mostly by my limited abilities, especially on the drums. Now, it feels great to focus just on one instrument, with our current live up also being in better symbiosis with the original Lantern mindset. It has taken time, but I feel we have now reached our top form.

One thing worth mentioning is that we’ve altered our gear and tone more or less drastically, release after release. The guitar equipment we used for the first two official releases didn’t translate too well in live conditions, so we had to start searching for a compromise. We’ve tweaked our setups almost every session, and now, we have finally cemented our settings that are the same in studio and on stage. Playing live has of course taught us a thing or two, not only regarding experimenting with sound and gear to make things sound a bit clearer, to make leads stand out etc. Perhaps we have now learnt from our own mistakes (and those made by others) and I could finally write that tech rider for coming shows… to avoid blackout moments during demanding lead parts, lighting that makes the stage look like a circus tent etc. - haha.

What kind of influences would you say were inflicted on you throughout the songwriting process of “Dimensions”?

I’ve reduced my music listening hours dramatically over the last decade, I must admit. I’m trying to write from as blank a canvas as I can. Having many projects going on occasionally, I also need to rest my ears quite a bit. Still, one can never avoid influences, be they musical or something completely different. The bands and genres I dig are mostly from 30-50 years back and the list would be too long to write here. I feel I’ve kind of managed to create myself a quite personal mindset for writing. I write when something wants to be written – there’s not much forcing going on. Sometimes a song title, a few words, a specific atmosphere can inspire me write the rest of the song. And of course, there’s good old riff farming, not to forget playing with new kinds of sounds and equipment or grabbing an instrument other than what you usually play. That often gets things running.

The album’s lead single, “Strange Nebula”, which I noticed earlier on prior to having the entire release, is a total old school shakedown, yet with a stronger and tighter melodic sense. Though it is an epic in proportion, it is a massive straightforward assault. What is your appreciation of this song? Was it your first choice for a single to represent the album or were there deliberations?

It’s over seven minutes long, but feels more like five, which says a lot. Choosing it as the first single was a mutual decision by us and Dark Descent. I had the chorus riff in my head at first, which led to the actual song title finding its final form, the rest of the song being built around it. It is very vicious, with just a little breathing space in the midpart of the song, until the storm is back on again. That being said, it represents Lantern and “Dimensions” pretty well: we definitely have the underground metal aggression in us, but don’t hesitate to be atmospheric and even epic. And in that order especially.

On the other hand, and probably one of the band’s most challenging, and provocative in a sense, songs, the closing lengthy “Monolith Abyssal Dimensions”, walks a different walk in musical terms. Along with being aggressive, the tune is also a pictorial of bizarre. Can you explain what was going on while writing this song?

“Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions” is what the name indicates: THE monolithic slab of the new album and possibly even the greatest challenge during our years of existence. One of my goals was to make it as vast as I could, so the massive duration was quite intended. The length also links to the theme and the atmosphere of the song: the dark, unexplored oceanic depths require vastness and certain dimensions from songwriting; a few big riffs and some more bizarre elements swimming around in that landscape, too. The warped riffs and solos definitely represent the latter group, as does the (coffin-shaped) cigar box guitar with cello strings played on the song. “Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions” is quite the bombardment, with no excessive ambient passages to add extra minutes. Of course, there are the dynamic breaks a song like that needs - the extremely ominous theme riff is something I’m especially proud of.

Looking forward, especially now with plenty of time on your hands, have you already started working on the next album? If so, any form of idea if it would be a sort of continuance for “Dimensions” musical prospect or perhaps even enhancing it?

2018-2019 was so hectic for me studio-wise that I’m still taking it easy regarding making new music. When my ears have rested, I will probably focus on recording and writing for some other projects I’m involved with for a while (Grip of Death, Proscription etc.), also trying to play more Lantern shows. Playing live is what we need most now, in my opinion, as soon as the current situation allows us to do that. But with the hypothesis of new material: it would have to be something beyond these current dimensions; bizarre and abstract material could probably be expected. I’d predict things would go out of hand pretty easily, which could be just positive.

Have you thought of promoting your material online not merely with promotional material, yet with an actual live stream show, perhaps even a virtual tour?

A live stream has crossed my mind, but we haven’t practiced with the full band since last winter, so there hasn’t been a proper chance to do anything like that. Our bass player lives in Helsinki and the capital area was isolated from the rest of the country this spring. With summer shenanigans following and no imminent shows in the horizon, we will reactive closer to the fall. We’ll see what the future brings…

Onwards to 2021, how do you foresee the reality of the Metal scene worldwide with the Covid-19 still a possible threat? Will it go back to packed shows, festivals etc. or a new wave of live shows, of a different kind, will be put to the test?

Right now, things do seem very dreary, but I’m an optimist. I reckon live opportunities will be more scarce in the near future, one can only hope at this point. Perhaps the focus could be more on outdoors festivals and then smaller / medium club gigs? Wouldn’t sound too bad to me. I also suspect more rugged, post-apocalyptic pop-up festivals could be a more common thing. I could definitely go for playing in the backwoods or some abandoned concrete building right now.

Cruciatus, I wish to thank you for your time for this interview. “Dimensions” may only sound old school at first, yet it crosses barriers for sure. Cheers and thanks.

Thanks for this interesting interview! Things aren’t like they seem or sound at first, especially with “Dimensions”. Our albums are all multi-layered and usually take more spins than just one, and I feel the new one is no exception. Perhaps even more so than "II: Morphosis". But who am I to say, I only write and play the music – I’ll leave the rest of the lister to decide. If our music stirs some feelings (positive, negative or mixed) amongst the audience, I’m pleased.



 



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