In the past few months, several books have been published which put the underground scene of certain countries in the spotlight. Some time ago, there was the excellent book “Todessehnsucht” written by Andreas Hertkorn which highlighted the German scene. With “Rotting Ways To Misery”, a book was published recently that puts the Finnish scene in the spotlight. The book is written by Markus Makkonen (NERVE SAW, SADISTIK FORREST ex – HOODED MENACE) and Kim Strömsholm (ex – …AND OCEANS, ex – FESTERDAY) and paints a perfect picture of a scene that is often somewhat overlooked.

When did you get the idea to write this book? What would you say was your biggest motivation to write this book?
Markus: “I guess the idea dawned to me for the first time, when the marvelous Swedish Death Metal book by Daniel Ekeroth had come out. I was thinking that there would be a lot of stories from the Finnish scene to be told too. Around 2015, there was still no action in sight, despite the demand I knew being there. So I started toying around with the idea of writing the book myself. I contacted Luxi Lahtinen, who would have been my number one bet to be the author for the hypothetical Finnish Death Metal book, but he said he didn’t want to do it as it is was too much of a task. Yet, he convinced me to move forward with the idea and there I was, drawing the blueprints to the project. The biggest motivation for the book itself was a myriad of things. First of all, I knew the demand was there. After playing gigs around the world with SADISTIK FORREST and HOODED MENACE, it has started to occur to me that the interest in Finnish Death Metal among the underground Death Metal maniacs was huge. Globally. People were always asking me if I knew what this and that (Finnish) band was doing now, if they were disbanded or active and things like that. So, I thought these people would need a book to read all about it. Secondly, Finnish Death Metal was never too mainstream, like bands like ENTOMBED, MORBID ANGEL, CARCASS or PESTILENCE were. Mainstream Death Metal fans did not know bands from here too well, so I was hoping to raise awareness on the subject in the global Death Metal scene. The last big thing was to enlighten people here in Finland too, as Finnish Death Metal has been somewhat ignored here in the home front, despite the global appreciation it has. Folks from here were always a bit puzzled when they realized bands like DEMILICH and INFERIA have played in more countries around the world than the average Metal names from here, they thought would be the big international Finnish artists.”

Was it difficult to define a sort of ‘concept’ for this book and to decide what you wanted to write about and what not? And to sort of ‘define’ how you wanted to approach the content of the book?
Kim: “Defining the concept was not a problem, but having in mind the process of the execution was. We knew it would take shitloads of time due to the fact of spinning several rounds of interviews with the same people. Some individuals even were interviewed 3-4 times, so we were probably like ‘the stone in the shoe’ for some. Approaching bands was not a problem as we knew pretty much everyone. We also defined what we want out of the content, and that we planned at an early stage of the whole process.”

You contacted Jason Netherton (Extremity Retained) and Daniel Ekeroth (Swedish Death Metal) for consultation. Were they able to help you a lot? What kind of hints did they give you?
Markus: “Yeah, I did contact both of these gentlemen on the very early stages of the process to get a better picture what I was up against. They both told how many years it had taken for them to get their books together, so I was pretty puzzled about the time it had taken for them. As green as I was, I thought we’d get our book done much faster, but that did not happen. The guys were right, it definitely is time consuming, if you want to be thorough on the subject. They both also spoke about the things they would do differently now, if they were starting their projects at current day, so that helped us the most, I think. To avoid some hiccups we could have stumbled on otherwise.”

When people talk about the international Death Metal scene, often only the American and Swedish Death Metal scenes are mentioned. Why do you think? And what makes the Finnish Death Metal scene special in your opinion? What would you say are the ‘trademarks’ of Finnish Death Metal?
Kim: “I guess it has to do with the wide range of bands popping out from Sweden and the US. Finland is a small country and the music industry was back in the days very narrow compared to the States and Sweden, and still is. Finnish Death Metal has a certain tonality in itself and it’s not as refined soundwise. Finnish Death Metal acts had a sound based on area (of the country) and bands used very odd studios all around. That pretty much designed the whole palette together with brutal edges. The Finnish Death Metal trademark is ‘Talk less, drink more’.”
Markus: “Finnish Death Metal bands never signed to big labels either. They all worked in the underground (with AMORPHIS and SENTENCED being an exception later on in their career) and did not have videos rotating in MTV for example. This sure had a say on how they did not land such a ‘hit status’ as bands from the UK, the US or Sweden did. Also, the uncompromising nature of the music itself and the fact Finnish bands very rarely used basic Thrash Metal songstructures – intro-verse-bridge-verse-bridge-chorus etc – and rather relied on obscure structures and somewhat artistic lyrics instead of regular gore, were also some of the reasons why they weren’t that easy to digest than, say, Swedish bands for example.”

If you look at the early and sort of ‘bigger’ Death Metal tours from the late 80s, early 90s, these tours often focussed on the countries Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Would you say that the fact that many of those bigger and international acts didn’t come to Finland also sort of helped many Finnish bands to create their own sound? In a way that they were left to focus on their own bands / scene?
Kim: “It’s hard to say, but I doubt that because we still had a functioning post office and electricity in this country. We are not that primitive or off the edge (laughs). And of course we had some bands from abroad playing here, even if not as much as nowadays. The sound derives from the environment itself: dark, cold and doomed.”

Apparently, you worked for several years on Finnish Death Metal. Did you work on this book all the time? Or did you also maybe take a long break in between?
Markus: “I started planning the book around 2015. First, I made a plan how to proceed and which bands to include. How to do the actual writing itself, the methods and approach. Then, it was time to start collecting materials, going through old zines and contacting people from the old scene. Kim came on board around 2017, from where on things started to move faster towards the goal. We did not have really big breaks, but we had a job, kids and a handful of bands going on the side as well for both of us, so we worked on the book with the remaining time left after all before mentioned.”

When you work on a book together with somebody else, would you say that it makes things a lot easier? How do you decide who will take care of what? Did you both have the same goal and did you both want to go in the same direction with this book right from the start?
Markus: “Kim called me around 2017 as he had heard I was working on a project like this and he had been planning of doing a book about the subject as well. We decided quite soon that world would not need two same kind of books, so we rather joined forces instead. It made things definitely easier. After all, Kim has been in the scene since the late 80s, so he basically had all the phone numbers we needed already in his phone. From there on, he started contacting people and interviewing them, so I could focus on the writing itself. It made things a lot smoother. Also the fact, that I could call whenever somebody who had been in the scene since day one and ask how this and that was, back in the day, was a huge asset.”

Would you say that it was easy to get a hold of all the bands that you wanted to feature in your book? Were there also bands that you didn’t get a hold of or just weren’t interested in it?
Markus: “We wanted to include more or less the whole early scene in the book. Of course, we could not interview all of the bands, so some of them are ‘just mentioned’ and not interviewed. But out of the people we wanted to talk to, I think we got almost everybody involved. Only a handful of people said no to the interview, mainly due somewhat hazy memories of the era. The fact that we knew pretty much everybody already before the project was started, through our own bands and involvement in the scene, surely made things a lot easier with the actual interviews process.”

You’re both musicians yourself as you both played or still play in bands like HOODED MENACE, …AND OCEANS, FESTERDAY, SADISTIK FORREST and NERVE SAW. Would you say that this also helped while working on this book? Maybe in a sense that it made it easier to approach bands for interviews?
Markus: “Yes, it definitely helped. I had already met most of the musicians interviewed in the book in person and Kim knew basically everybody I did not, so it sure made things easier. In some cases, I think we could make them talk a bit more ‘in depth’ too, as we knew them in person and I could interview them more based on a friendship, rather than in regular formal manner of journalism.”

Would you say that the writing of this book went pretty smooth and that everything went as planned? Or did you also bump into difficulties and / or obstacles that you didn’t expect and that you had to overcome? Would you say that your writing-experience for the magazine Miasma also helped you a lot?
Markus: “Besides it taking many years to make, it was more or less smooth sailing. The more we dived into the subject, the more interesting the actual writing became, so the writing process itself was not too much an effort. If we had had more time on our hands for the actual writing and interviewing, it would have been surely faster. But all in all, I have no complaints. Writing for Miasma Metal magazine sure did help, but as Miasma operates in Finnish and we wrote book directly in English. It was a good starting point, but a writing of a book surely is more demanding than writing a mere article. Being a music journalist was a good starting point. And the rest I had to learn along the way.”

When you would ask us about the first wave of the Finnish Death Metal scene, the bands that immediately come to mind are AMORPHIS, SENTENCED, DEMIGOD, DEMILICH, ABHORRENCE, FUNEBRE and CONVULSE. While reading your book, we also sort of re-discovered bands like XYSMA, BELIAL, ADRAMELECH, A.R.G., DISGRACE, PHLEGETHON, NECROPSY and PURTENANCE which sort of slipped our mind. Did you (re)discover a lot of (new) bands / releases yourself while working on this book?
Markus: “I knew the majority of them well already and had played gigs with quite many of them as well. But what the writing of the book really did, it made me respect some of the discographies even more when digging deep into them. UNHOLY, for example, is a band whose greatness was very much underlined, while listening through their material analytically for the book. Same thing goes for PUTRID and GODFORSAKEN, for example.”

You also put a personal ‘Top 10’ in your book. Markus, you have put ROTTEN SOUND’s album “Exit” on number 1. What makes that album stand out for you personally?
Markus: “Well, “Exit” is my favourite Grindcore album, right after “World Downfall” by TERRORIZER, so I rank it rather highly. It has the songwriting, arrangements, performance and the sounds all honed to perfection. The cover art is brilliant as well! But the fact it holds such importance to me is maybe due the time it was released, namely the year 2005. Around the time, Finnish Death Metal had been more or less dead for almost a decade, with mainly ROTTING SOUND and INFERIA soldiering on from the ‘old days’. Around the time, there started to be some early signs of the return of the sound, but it was nothing short of perfect for me personally, to hear ROTTEN SOUND releasing such an unstoppable album and convincing everybody that Finnish Death Metal and Grindcore were far from dead. Rather just waiting to re-surface again.”

Are you satisfied with your book? Did everything turn out the way you wanted? Would you say that you also had a sort of feeling of ‘relief’ when the book was finally printed and done after having worked on it for several years? How’s the response to the book been so far?
Kim: “Yes we are. Nothing turns out 100%, but if it would have been absolutely perfect, there wouldn’t be anything left to work on, right? It damn sure was a relief to get this almost 4-year-long project off the shoulders. It’s like when you work on your debut album. The massive effort and energy you throw in for getting the best outcome. So you could say that this is our written version of MORBID ANGEL’s “Altars Of Madness”.”
Markus: “I think we achieved more or less perfectly what we were after in the first place. To be thorough, but not dwell on one subject for too long, so it becomes jarring. To also look informative in lay-out matters, but also capture the spirit of a scene that worked completely in the area of demo tapes and fan made zines, while it was around. Making the book look too posh and flashy, would not have suited the purpose at all. Also, there was no point making it as hard to read and comprehend as zines sometimes were, would not have served the material. Working with Dayal Patterson helped a lot on this matter as it was his experience that helped us to find a balance between readable, informative and loyal to the undergroud, from where the subject matter at hand comes from.”

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
Markus: “As far as writing goes, no. Not yet, at least. I will definitely be writing something in the future and have already a bunch of ideas, but Rotting Ways To Misery is just released and it was a big effort. So I think it is time to take a breather right now. But both of my bands, NERVE SAW and SADISTIK FORREST, are working on material for our next albums, the second in line for NERVE SAW and the fourth for SADISTIK FORREST. As soon as the global plague subsides, we will be ready to go in the studio and start recording some Finnish Death Metal! Kim then again, will release a couple of really interesting collaborations in a time range of a year or so. This I know already. So, all I can say is watch this space. Thank you for the interview man!”,

Steven Willems

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