Despite having recorded their first demo nearly five years ago, Finland’s STENCH OF DECAY have only released a total of two recordings, both of which are demos. This year saw the release of their second demo, "Where Death And Decay Reign" on the quickly ascending Detest Records label. After the new demo rapidly sold out, Detest Records released a vinyl version of it. In the wake of the sudden reemergence of Death Metal, it has becoming more difficult to find bands that truly have the same ability to capture the reverence for death and decay that characterized the work of the Death Metal from the late 1980s and early 1990s. STENCH OF DECAY are among the few bands that reveal through their music their comprehension of the essence of Death Metal. Playing in the Finnish tradition, their demos demonstrate their ability to construct dark riffs and competently piece them together seamlessly to form complex and dynamic song structures. Moreover, their music is presented in a genuine fashion without pretention and without any desperate attempt to appeal to the current trends within the Death Metal genre. I sent guitarist and songwriter, Rami Simelius, some questions concerning his band and his outlook on the Death Metal scene past and present. Despite his increasingly challenging schedule, Rami provided these insightful responses.
Being a new band, most readers are not likely to be familiar with your history. Can you take a moment at the outset of this interview to describe how STENCH OF DECAY began?
"In the summer 2004 me and our bass player Tommi got an idea of forming a Death Metal band that continues the spirit of old gods. Rhythm guitarist Ville and drummer Jesse were old friends of ours and they agreed to join the band. We rehearsed actively until in the summer 2005 Jussi Rajala joined the band to do vocals instead of Tommi, who decided to concentrate playing bass only. Soon after that we recorded our first demo which wasn’t spread very wide, but got a little recognition. Then there was a long period of silence when we only did a couple of gigs and nothing remarkable happened. In the autumn 2008 we started rehearsing for the latest demo. "Where Death And Decay Reign" was released as a tape in May 2009 by Detest Records. So far the demo is coming up as a 12" MLP too by Detest Records and Me Saco Un Ojo Records."
At this point, I have only heard the recent "Where Death And Decay Reign" demo. Your first self-titled demo was released some four years ago. What was the reason for such a long period of inactivity? How does this new demo compare to the first?
"The reason for that long silence between our demos is probably the fact that I’m not a productive composer and I don’t want to force the notes out of my mind. There were also some other activities with every member that lead to the silence. Our first demo is more MORBID ANGEL influenced and thus faster and "technical", but we weren’t that good with our instruments and so the demo had some flaws in it. "Where Death And Decay Reign" on the other hand is more mid-paced and raw than our Demo ’05. We focused more on creating a slimy and ominous atmosphere and I think we succeeded in it at least somehow. Four years ago we didn’t know much about recording and the sound was sterile and less brutal. Our rhythm guitarist, Ville, did great work with this new demo as the sound on a whole gives really great support for the atmosphere of the songs."
STENCH OF DECAY’s line up has five members at a time when it seems that most underground bands only have three or four band members. What benefits come as a result of this line-up? Does it produce any difficulties as well?
"Good question! I think that every band (not dependent of the genre) has the same problem that organizing rehearsals with five or more members is difficult. The same goes for us, except that we don’t live in the same city anymore and so it’s even harder for us to arrange a meeting with all members involved. When considering Death Metal, I think the use of two guitars gives great opportunities to compose harmonies that could be impossible with one guitar and bass only. Also, it can give bass some freedom from following basic guitar riffs."
How is the songwriting process divided among you? Does everyone contribute to the writing of the music and lyrics?
"Usually it’s me who writes the songs and Tommi or Jussi write the lyrics after that. I have a bad habit of being a little perfectionist and that’s why it takes so much time for me to finish a song. Other members don’t probably like that situation and an outsider can think of them as zombies without their own free will, ha! But I hope that’s not the case, as the other members have the right to use their creativity too. It would be great to record rehearsals that base on improvisation and to see how it works or to try writing lyrics first and then music to fit them."
On your recent demo, you chose to cover ABHORRENCE’s ‘Vulgar Necrolatry’. What prompted you to choose to cover ABHORRENCE?
"We have been playing that song for four years now and during that time it sort of became a part of our set list. First it was our attempt to reveal the past of Finnish Death Metal that had been under the shadow of Swedish Death Metal for over a decade. The whole song is about what we think is the ideal glorification of death: supremacy of death over time and space, death as an experience for all senses and exposing the aesthetics of death. It was great to have the original singer, Jukka Kolehmainen, to do the vocals for our cover version of that song. That describes the fascination of death between generations. "Death will eternally stay!""
The label that released your recent demo, Detest Records, has been getting a lot of attention in a very short period of time. As a result there already seems to be a lot of discussion about STENCH OF DECAY. How did you begin working with Detest Records?
"A Finnish friend of Jerry / Detest Records recommended us to him when he was starting up his label and after that Jerry e-mailed us about wanting to release our upcoming demo on tape. Although it was new label at the time, we knew we could rely on him. There hasn’t been any problems at all since he keeps his promises and informs everything in time. He knows how to promote his releases and is totally reliable. I hope to work with him with our future releases as well, if possible."
In spite of the geographical proximity of the two nations, the Death Metal produced in Finland has historically been markedly different from that of Sweden. Swedish Death Metal has arguably been more popular over the years, however. Is there something about the landscape or culture of Finland that you think has contributed to the brooding darkness of Finnish Death Metal?
"This is the question I’ve been thinking too. One can easily hear that Swedish Death Metal is more faster (with a few exceptions) than Finnish Death Metal and that the so-called Sunlight guitar sound is less heavier than the guitar sound on some Finnish milestones. Some people may think I’m terribly wrong when I say that one of the main principles in creating an authentic feeling of death and darkness is having a heavy and low guitar tone together with gloomy atmosphere. Those are probably the main reasons why I find Finnish Death Metal more enjoyable than Swedish. I don’t want to say there’s something in the Finnish culture that has contributed to this. Everyone in Finland has seen this same situation in the public discussion when after the success of Lordi, Children of Bodom, Nightwish, etc. people started to think what is so special in our northern country that leads to young people spending their free-time with Metal music. It’s no use to create theories like that, but I must say that Finnish people are usually very modest about what they do. If you think about this popularity question between Sweden and Finland, it’s possible that Finnish bands didn’t promote their music much back then, which probably caused why some great bands remained long unknown."
Recently it seems that a great deal of attention has been redirected toward classic Finnish Death Metal bands such as Convulse, Demilich and Demigod. Do you perceive a resurgence of interest in this style of Death Metal? How influential were these and other Finnish bands on STENCH OF DECAY’s sound?
"It’s been really nice to see people all around the world have found out the greatness of Finnish Death Metal. I wouldn’t want to mock Swedish Death Metal, but it’s about time for all these Finnish bands to rise from the position of being "little brothers" of Swedish bands. As I previously mentioned, there are clear differences between the Death Metal of these countries and it should be brought into general knowledge. I think it’s obvious for everyone who have heard us that those and other Finnish Death Metal bands have been a big influence for our sound! On the other hand I don’t want to reduce STENCH OF DECAY to sound like "Finnish Death Metal from 1988 to 1993". Every band needs to have something unique in their sound (excluding "worship bands") and that can’t be achieved by being a cocktail of older bands."
Does STENCH OF DECAY intend to continue the tradition of this classic Finnish Death Metal?
"I must say you got the point there. We try to both recover the tradition of Finnish Death Metal and to produce our idea of pure glorification of death. Using the phrase "oldschool Death Metal" divides the whole history of Death Metal into two different sections that both have their own characteristics. So, when categorizing music as "oldschool Death Metal" it gives freedom of being some another kind of Death Metal as well. For me bands who value rawness, immaturity, aggressiveness and praise death are the real Death Metal bands. STENCH OF DECAY is Death Metal."
What is the current status of the Death Metal scene in Finland?
"The scene in Finland is getting better and better. The most important thing is that there are many bands with unique sound in Finland now. Although some bands seem to split up (such as Nerlich and Slugathor), a new generation of younger bands are getting a lot of attention, which is good. Lie in Ruins, Krypts, Ascended, Vorum and Swallowed among others are worth mentioning here."
Name some of the bands that have had an influence on STENCH OF DECAY and briefly describe that influence.
"Demigod – probably the biggest influence for me. Use of eerie and haunting guitar melodies to create an atmosphere to back up magnificent lyrics changed my way of thinking about Death Metal. Morbid Angel – first influence for us as a band. Mainly first three albums affected our playing in the beginning when we tried to find our own style. Sentenced – almost the same kind of influence as Demigod. I learned how to visualize the lyrical concept of "Shadows Of The Past" (death, rotting, diseases) by listening those songs as instrumental. Huge effect on my songwriting. Bolt Thrower – recently we have found a common language inside the band using Bolt Thrower – like simple and rolling chainsaw riffs with double-bass drum beat. That sounds like a you’re about to get run over by a marching army of legions of the dead."
Does STENCH OF DECAY derive any influence from non-Metal sources (i.e. literature, film, other genres of music, nature, drugs, etc.)?
"A majority of our influences are related to Metal, but of course we use other sources as well. Horror literature from authors such as Poe and Lovecraft are obvious influences for many Death Metal bands and the same goes for us. When reading, I use to imagine the music that would fit to the story line and after that I write those riffs down. Movies have pretty much the same effect. We all listen much music besides Metal, but it’s hard to say which one is an influence and which one not. I’d like to use some influences from kraut rock and no wave music, but I haven’t found a way yet! Simple and minimalistic ritual-like stuff fascinates me."
What are your sources of inspiration for your lyrics?
"Jussi and Tommi write the lyrics as they have more talent to use their imagination to write fiction than me. Both read much books and probably those are their sources of inspiration. I can’t really answer more of this question, sorry!"
In recent years there has been a rise in a strain of highly occult influenced Death Metal. Many Death Metal bands over the past few years have relied on this imagery. STENCH OF DECAY seems to adhere to more traditional 1990s Death Metal imagery. What is your opinion on these two seemingly divergent strains of Death Metal aesthetics?
"I think that this interest towards occult Death Metal can be seen as a counter reaction to superficial, gory, "brutal" and more approachable Death Metal. I noticed that people from the Black Metal scene used to dislike Death Metal because of its quasi-brutal lyrics and lack of being serious. Occult Death Metal is a step towards complete and coherent worldview in Death Metal and offers more intellect way in interpreting it than general Death Metal. I totally appreciate bands who have chosen this way to praise Death himself, because it’s a way of life as well and thus demands more from the members. I have no interest in "extreme for extremity’s sake" Death Metal, but Death Metal can be serious without an occult touch. Nunslaughter and Necros Christos – both suit me."
Additionally, Death Metal in general seems to be enjoying a resurgence of popularity as the popularity of Black Metal seems to be waning a bit. Do you share in this observation? What do you think are the causes for this shift and what do you predict will be the result?
"I agree with you on that. My opinion is that this isn’t a dramatic change at all. Trends shift as cycles in underground Metal too and probably after a few years Death Metal isn’t as popular as it is now. I think that boundaries between Death Metal and Black Metal aren’t so clear in the future. We can see there are some bands already that can’t be categorized so strictly. In one way occult Death Metal stands between these two genres. It’s really hard to predict the future of underground extreme Metal, but I’m sure Death and Black Metal move closer to each other instead of strict duality."
Do you think the dominance of Black Metal over the past decade has altered the character of the new generation of Death Metal? If so, in what way?
"As can be seen from my previous answers, I think that the critique from the Black Metal scene towards Death Metal shaped a lot this new generation of Death Metal. It’s possible that this resurgence in popularity of Death Metal affects on Black Metal too. This subject is dealt in my other answers already, so I have nothing more to say about this."
What lies ahead for STENCH OF DECAY? Are there any bands or labels that you specifically want to work with in the future?
"We concentrate on rehearsing new songs and doing a couple of gigs. A new 7" should be released by Detest Records sometime in next spring. We have also been talking about releasing some special stuff on one or two compilation albums, but there isn’t anything confirmed yet. I see there’s no need for us to change our label, if Detest Records wants to work with us in the future too. A split with our fellow hometown Death Metal band Ascended could be nice!"
Do you have any last thoughts with which you would like to close out this interview?
"Thank you Jason for this interview! Really great questions and it was an honor to answer them. Check out our MySpace for upcoming releases and releases and other news. Death is eternal!"