INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Formed back in 2006, and with each member having played in bands since the Nineties, Finnish four-piece Axegressor have a wealth of musical experience, which they have been putting to good use, gaining a large fan base, both in their home country and across Europe, with a style of thrash metal that has gradually evolved towards the progressive sound that we hear today.
In addition to this, they have supported live the likes of Soilwork, Cannabis Corpse and Municipal Waste, and released three albums, all to great acclaim.
With an eagerly-awaited fourth album, ‘Bannerless’, coming out next month (the band’s first offering since 2014), Axegressor spoke to me recently about its recording process, what can be expected from it, as well as just some of the experiences that they have had over the last 12 years.
How did the band get together?
SEBA FORMA (lead/rhythm guitar): At first, we played covers and did some live gigs. I think we called ourselves Bay Area Teutonics, so maybe you get the idea. It was mostly fun with friends and lots of beer drinking, but after a while, you start to think that maybe you could do something of your own.
After our first release, ‘Axecution MCD’, we departed with the another guitarist, and it’s just been four of us ever since.
From where did the name Axegressor originate?
JOHNNY NUCLEAR WINTER (vocals): I came up with the name for my friends who had formed a thrash metal band. Pretty soon after that, they were in need of a vocalist, and I joined them.
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
SEBA: After our previous album, ‘Last’, we started to feel that you need something new or something different.
I was a bit frustrated of my techniques as a guitar player, as I felt like I was playing the same riffs all over again, so I expanded my knowledge and started to listen to more bands outside of metal, and that gave us a wider view on how to make a song.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
SEBA: In our early years, it was mainly old heavy and thrash metal, bands like Kreator and Exodus, just a few to mention.
In ’Last’, and particularly in our upcoming album, ’Bannerless’, you can hear different kinds of approaches to riffs and compositions, more along the lines of progressive rock and 80’s heavy metal, the stuff I listened to when I was a kid.
What inspires the band lyrically?
JOHNNY: Frustration, hate, nihilistic views of life. The fact that people are fucked. The vision of a mushroom cloud liberating us all from this misery, and the slight glimpse of hope that something could be done before that happens. Also watching news and random social media vomit-outs tend to be somewhat inspiring.
So far, you have brought out three albums. How well do you think they were all received?
JOHNNY: We haven’t seen any hate-filled reviews so far, yet I bet not many would bother to write such an article if they would despise our stuff! (laughs)
Next month, the band will be releasing a fourth album, ‘Bannerless’. How has the recording process for that been up to now?
SEBA: Actually, we recorded it in January of last year, and it took us about a week. We practice a lot before going into the studio, so 5-7 days is usually enough. Everything went really smoothly, I really enjoy my time in studio sessions, although it can sometimes be a little bit nerve-wracking.
JOHNNY: For me personally, the process of writing lyrics and arrangements for the 11 songs of ‘Bannerless’ has been a road paved with frustration, desperation, blank pages and zero inspiration, and somehow, somewhere, finding that inspiration in the end when the deadline was drawing near.
Recording the vocals was also the most painful process ever, at least physically, since I got sick with flu and fever the day before I was supposed to start the vocal recordings, so basically, I managed to almost scream my lungs out with pints of mucus, and had to treat myself with excessive amounts of painkillers to be able to perform for three days or so. Fucking lovely.
And how will the upcoming album be different to the work you’ve put out so far in the band’s career?
SEBA: It has more diversity than previous albums, and I hope that people who listen to it for the first time will be like, “What is this shit?” (laughs)
The songs and the actual album are longer than, for example, ’Last’ was. There are still fast songs, and it is heavy metal, for sure, but there are more progressive parts and nuances.
JOHNNY: At first, I had a really strong love/hate relationship with the new songs we came up with for this album, and this also affected, negatively, writing lyrics for these songs.
However, with time, I have learned that there are lots of things that more than meets the eye, and even if I cannot probably “understand” 100% everything on the album, my feelings towards the songs are more settled now. (laughs)
In your home country, you have supported such bands as Soilwork, Cannabis Corpse and Municipal Waste. How were they as experiences for you all?
JOHNNY: They were good showcases to play our music for people who might have not heard from us before, but I don’t know if that shows anymore, anywhere, though!
The band have also played many gigs and festivals across much of Europe, but the UK is one country you’ve yet to play. Is that something you hope to do in future?
JOHNNY: Sure, arrange a mini-tour for us there? We have played shows in Ireland, so basically, that’s almost like the UK for us. (laughs)
What are your plans for after ‘Bannerless’ comes out?
JOHNNY: Play live. Release cassette versions of the first three albums. Print some new t-shirts. Play live. Have fun. Play live. Did I say that we’d like to play live as well?
The band have been together for 12 years now, and all four of you have been in metal collectives since the Nineties. How has the music industry changed for you since you first started out?
JOHNNY: Not much for us as an underground band. No big sales are to be expected, nor luxury touring conditions. For bigger bands who try to earn their living with their music, it must be a pain in the ass nowadays.
And finally, are there any tips you would give to any budding metal bands out there?
SEBA: Well, I hope somebody would give me a tip! (laughs) It’s a cliche, but what I have learned is that do whatever you want, be brave and just fucking love the music, because it gives you so much in return.
‘BANNERLESS’, THE FOURTH ALBUM FROM AXEGRESSOR, WILL BE RELEASED, THROUGH BRUTAL RECORDS, ON APRIL 13. YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT NOW HERE.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.axegressor.net