Convocation- Art Without Compromise
Ashes Coalesce is the new masterwork from Convocation. It is an immense and immersive release that builds on the Finnish duo of Lauri Laaksonen (all instruments) and Marko Neuman (vocals) ability to be bold and unafraid to create Avant Garde soundscapes without compromising the sheer heaviness of their music. It is introspective yet all encompassing, testimony to art without compromise.
How does Ashes Coalesce differ from you debut Scars Across?
L: For me it's vastly different in many ways. For starters, I had a clear vision of what I want to do - a conceptual framework in my head that made the song writing way easier. There was no need to find out your sound, experiment, iterate that much compared to Scars, instead having a vision really clear helped me to focus the song writing a lot. I also think that the melancholic and chaotic sides of the bands have been taken into new dimensions.
MN: More complex, stronger.
It has arrived relatively quickly compared to your debut?
L: Not from my point of view. The songs for Scars were all recorded and mixed before it was released. Even way before we started contacting any labels. Making an album is a long, long process. Was the song writing process easier this time? And the time to write compared to your debut?
L: I kind of answered this in the first question already, but way easier. I had lots of difficulties with Scars and we probably made music for at least two albums' lengths before finding “our way & sound”. Now, with the Ashes, the painful labour of the groundwork was already set and done.
MN: True. And in terms of vocals, I was (I am) more confident how I want to present my voice in Convocation. That’s why the vocal composing and recording process was easy and I enjoyed it. With Scars Across I was kind of doing something I knew I could do better. Were you surprised by the overwhelming response to Scars Across and did you feel any pressure on following it?
L: Yes! I was happy how people responded to it. I know it's a good album but there's probably ten good albums released daily nowadays so getting some attention was really a positive surprise. It didn´t really give me any pressure though, as I already had accumulated a lot´s of ideas, melodies and riffs in my head and I somehow knew where the band should go next.
MN: Yes, we were. No pressure. Pressure destroys art.
You also have a guest on this release?
L: Yeah, we have A.Mäkinen from Profetus doing guest vocals in “The Absence of Grief'' which was a great idea - really makes the long some more interesting. Also, a bit more hidden guest is featured in the same song overdubbing the speech part. This happened semi-accidentally: this guy has been doing all kinds of radio-stuff previously and has this super low movie-trailer-tone, was hanging at my place and I remembered the old-school 90's dramatic speech-part and asked if he wants to record that for me. So he did. Lyrically does Ashes Coalesce continue the theme of grief and loss?
MN: Lyrically AC is about different forms of death. Spatial conditions under which death prevail. Martyr, father, inheritor.
Does your lyricism come easily or is it a cathartic process?
MN: When I'm surrounded by silence, I start to hear voices. It’s been that way since I was a child. Those voices give me the words and phrases that form the lyrics.
How does you music end up so heavy? Is there a lot of ideas that don't make the cut?
L: There´s a LOT that doesn´t make into the product. This time I scrapped one whole 14-minute song because it wasn't “quite there”. From the Scars era there's also probably an album´s length worth of good material too. I'm sure that at least some of these “leftovers” will find their place sometimes and somewhere. And by saying leftovers I don't mean they are bad at all. I really want to make each song to be cohesive and well thought entities and that dictates what goes into a song. This means that lots of parts gets left out. Arrangement and flow is everything - even if it means that I have to leave out the best riff I've ever done. Is it an organic process through rehearsal?
L: Nope. I write all the songs by myself. Your music is more a journey or soundtrack. Does metal still play an influence in your music?
L: Good question. I adore a lot of soundtracks because they paint a story or a picture and take you to otherworldly places. I wouldn't say our albums are “soundtrack albums” but instead more like theatrical plays or operas the way how the albums are thought out. Each song is a chapter or an act with a thematically different approach than the one that follows.
Metal does play some role, but a minor one. If metal bands draw inspiration mostly (or only) for their peers, other metal bands, that will in the lead to fucking boring music. Not always, of course, but at least I can't stomach any more bands that doesn't have anything of their own to say or give and are merely carbon copies of each other. I´m not claiming us to be super original and different than everyone else, but if I'd listen to doom pioneers non-stop while writing songs, we'd lose something that makes us what we are.
MN: Yes, metal plays an important role in Convocation. But, as a vocalist, I don’t want to go with the standard death/doom recipe and just growl through every song. I flirt with different techniques. I can, so I will.
Are there any plans to reproduce Convocation live?
L: Killtown Deathfest 2020! If the pandemic doesn´t fuck it up
Lauri provides artwork for the album? It is beautiful and how does it thematically fit?
L: I do, thank you. It's closely tied to the concept. Are there any plans for multimedia (video) to expand on the concept of the band?
MN: Not at the moment.
Does the tag of doom death still suit, or do you find it limiting?
L: I don't think in genres that much. For me, and in the context of Convocation, that label is fine. I tend to think more of what I want to portray in the form of music and go from there, not thinking whether I am overstepping arbitrary genre-borders or rules.
MN: Me personally, I don’t give a fuck about the genre tags. To me it’s art aka music.
Do you have time to listen to New music and is there anything that has got your attention?
L: When I'm writing music, no. Even if I had time, my brains are filled with music that I'm at the moment working with so I´m not responsive, interested or capable of listening to music then. When I´m not writing music, I finally listen to all the albums I might have missed. MN: I sometimes get new band/album tips from the musicians I work with. For example, on tour. But I usually find myself listening to the old jazz classics instead of the new promising death doom metal acts. But there are exceptions. I liked the latest Teitanblood record. L: Heh, I have that Teitanblood LP, but I haven't listened to it even once. I started doing this “random album of a day” thing just to force myself to listen to music. It's been quite fun, and I found myself liking the, I guess it´s 2010ish release of Charon and the latest Embrace of Thorns. That's really good.
What is next for the band?
MN: Hell, on earth.
L: Maybe. Or I´ll start writing new stuff after a small break. For now I feel like I have a lot of juice in my mana pool to drink from. No sign of running out of ideas. Is it a world view or a deeply introspective one?
MN: To me, introspective. L: Most certainly.
Do you let outside influences inspire your music e.g. art, literature or world events?
What influences and inspires you?
MN: Breathing, not breathing, surviving.
L: While writing Scars, it was mainly death and it´s many faces. Right now - nature. Next album might be filled with samples of birds and wind. A lot of acoustic guitars and more psychedelic influences.
Or might not. I won't count it out though.