Interview conducted 16th November 2010
Interview with Timo Niemistö, Simo Silvan and Antti Hakulinen

Many thanks for agreeing to this interview. When did the band form and have you been through many changes to arrive at the present day incarnation?
Timo: We have played together with Jari (drummer) and Antti (keyboards) since we were kids. Along many projects and cover bands, we have made music of our own from the start. We have gone through many line up changes through the years, we just couldn’t find the right guy for the bass and vocals. Gladly we found Klasu for bass in 2006 from open stage jam session at a local music bar. He was jamming some Jaco Pastorius staff with a band and I knew immediately he was the guy we were looking for. Couple of years ago Antti and Simo (vocals) shared the same day job and Antti played some old demos to Simo who liked our music and joined the band at late 2008.

What was the common goal with the band members for the band and have these always been the same?
Timo: We have always wanted to keep the ball in our own hands as much as possible, which is why we recorded our debut ourselves in our rehearsal garage/studio. We don’t use external lyricist, songwriters, producer etc. What comes to the Anthriel I have always been a workaholic and I personally like to dive into the discomfort zone to do things or solve problems, I believe it bears fruit at some point. There is plenty of time to rest in a coffin 😉

Your debut album “The Pathway” has recently seen release on Lion Music. When did work commence on the album?
Timo: After drum recording session at late 2007, we noticed we could manage the rest of the recordings and mixing with our equipment so we did some cover gigs to cover the expenses of a new computer, recording software, pre-amps and such stuff. The studying to use of the new equipment was more time-consuming than the recording itself so our progression was slow and frustrating. The vocalist change in 2008 did hasten up things a bit as most of the lyrics had to be re-written. We got vocal tracks done in spring 2009 and after a mixing and mastering “The Pathway” waited for release for some time, about the year.

How did you hook up with Lion?
Timo: We had a lot of interested offers along the way. We wanted to have label that was specialized on our type of music, had the experience and had strong distribution. We knew about Lion for long time and we also know personally some artists signed to them so we heard positive feedback. We knew the fact that Lion Music had announced to not sign any new bands at the time but they contacted us and made an offer we couldn’t refuse.

The album got a very positive review here at V1, for a debut this a very clear picture of what the band is all about. What was the hardest and easiest aspect of making the album?
Timo: Yeah, thanks for good review. The easiest part was the actual playing, of course we had to practice a lot individually and as a band. The hardest part for me was the learning to use a new equipment, recording software and recording techniques during the recording. Crashing computers didn’t help at all. I curse all computers, they have to be one of Satan’s creations. However, the making of record from scratch can be really frustrating but very rewarding at the end.

I believe the album is concept based. Can you give us an overview of the story line?
Timo: The Pathway is the story of a man who finds himself grown against his former principles and philosophy of life. He decides to leave his past behind and begin a journey to find his own personal promised land and balance. As the path gets rough good and evil starts to battle in his mind where the reality and fantasy gets mixed. He puts the blame to the Gods for playing with his life and turns his adversities to the divine entertainment with consequences that ultimately lead to the discovery of perfect harmony from within his own soul.

The concept is based on a series of events in our lives, individually and as a band. Told as a timeless adult fairytale. You could say it is a kind of biography of the rough road the band has gone through. Naturally “The Pathway” was the perfect title for the album. There is a pretty clear highlights in music and lyrics, for example some years ago I found myself stuck in to lousy day job that totally killed the energy and inspiration 24/7. Still every morning I just automatically dragged myself there to pay the rent and food, knowing that me and my musical ambition were wondering their separate ways. That is simply the story behind “Devil’s Lullaby”. After a five frustrated years I was experiencing the most beautiful sunrise and ”awakened” by that I gathered my courage and quit my job to try my wings as a musician. That is the story behind “Light Divine”. We don’t want to chew it up too much on behalf of a listener or tell what kind of emotion an audience should get out of each song. I prefer to let the audience be an artist who paints the fantasy world around our music and dives into it.

What did you decide to make a concept album?
Timo: I don’t want to accentuate too much “The Pathway” as a concept album, because we are not trying to reinvent the wheel. But I have always been a fan of concept albums as they force the listener to see a series of songs as a whole. Concept also gives the listener the joy of discovery from the relations between of a songs, melodies and lyrics.

What has worked in the bands favour is that these tracks also stand on their own, i.e. they don’t need to be heard as part of the album to be understood. How vital was this aspect of songcraft for the band?
Timo: First of all I try to make strong solid songs. Secondary I think the album should include as many versatile songs as possible because I feel it very exhausting to listen to, for example,  power metal songs for sixty minutes. Like I said, we have made music together for pretty long time now so we got material from which we can choose, of course we want to use also new material as possible to capture the freshest sound of the band. After all every song has its own feeling so we don’t want to combine lyrics and music by force to fit it in a concept. For example we have recorded a couple of most beautiful love ballads but we think our traveler from “The Pathway” concept isn’t right there yet on our second album;) Mp3 shopping has gone and gets more common nowadays but there is always a risk that someone preconceives an opinion on a sound from a randomly picked mp3 example of some web shop. For example the instrumental song “Glance of Dawn” is a short classical orchestra piece so we can only hope that if someone downloads it randomly, he likes short classical pieces 😉

Timo, your guitar work is stunning. Who were your influences growing up and today in 2010? What gear did you use on the album?
Timo: Thanks, I must say that I am not so interested of shredding. I try to develop myself as a composer and a guitar for me is just a tool among the other instruments to express my emotions into the music. I have had my moments and it is overwhelming if someone feels my playing interesting. My very first instrument as a child was the keyboards, inspired by Uriah Heep and Deep Purple along my father’s music hobby.  I also played drums in a couple of bands, later on I earned my living as a cover band bassist. So I am not in any way directed solely guitar as a musician, I have had an opportunity to study other instruments among the guitar and that has helped me a lot as a composer to built rhythmic patterns, odd time signatures and such.

Back to your other questions, as a guitarist I have been most influenced by Tony MacAlpine, David Gilmour, Eric Johnson and Michael Romeo to name a few.
The recording gear that was used on “The Pathway” was: guitars-Customized Ibanez Prestige 1527, Ibanez J-Custom, ESP M-II Custom,Customized LTD Viper, Landola Classical guitar, Takamine acoustics and Fender Lab steel. Amp system was: Mesa Boogie Triaxis->DBX 166 compressor/gate->DBX 231 EQ->Mesa Boogie 2.90 power amp-> Marshall cabinet.

How did you go about mic’ing your amps? Any specific mic locations you found worked well?
Timo: I used Shure SM57 and Sennheiser MD421U together close at a same speaker in 45 degree angles. On acoustics I used Rode NT1A mixed with piezo-microphone signal.

Is there anything you’d do different on the second album guitar wise?
Timo: Of course, making an album and especially listening to it afterwards is very educational.  I learned a lot and I can’t wait to begin the recordings of our next album.

Simo, your vocals are up there with the metal elite. Who are your influences and what were you looking to express on the album?
Simo: Well thank you for giving me such overwhelmingly kind words about my singing! If I were to name some singers who have influenced me the most I’d say first and foremost Mr. James Labrie of Dream Theater. He is just so incredibly talented singer with a huge package of nuances that when I first heard James sing I was totally blown away by his voice. Then to name a few singers more there’s always these guys whose voices have influenced me as a singer: Geoff Tate, Ronnie James Dio, Marco Hietala, David Coverdale and Roy Khan. Well as you’ve heard by now, our music on The Pathway album is very versatile. That also means that there were a huge amount our various feeling that I was to bring out with my singing. So I hope that these various feelings and moods can be sensed from my singing during the whole album.

How do go about bringing a lyric to life?
Simo: Bringing a lyric to life in the sense how I do it is simple. First I must make up my mind about the topic of the song. Then the words just come to my head as I listen to the instrumental tracks I supposed to sing on. Of course much of our lyrics bind together so we often share ideas, Timo and I, where we wish to go with the story and how it relates to the things that have already happened and so on..

Do the band have any particular favourite moments on the album, or perhaps a song that you feel is definitive Anthriel?
Antti: Haven of grace is good example of definitive Anthriel and it’s my personal favorite.
It has softer and heavier parts while maintaining melodic and partly epic feeling in the piece throughout the song. Almost every part has a piano in the song so that I love very much; also I think the name of the song is brilliant.

When will work commence on album #2 and do you have any ideas in mind for the direction?
Timo: We have demoed plenty of songs for the next album and I believe we start record new material in the beginning of a next year. Again, there is going to be a lot of different kind of songs; fast, slow, short and long. And again our traveler from “The Pathway” acts a main role.

Any plans to play live outside of your native Finland in support of the album?
Timo: Finland only for now. Bringing Anthriel to the live stage wasn’t easy, we rehearsed a lot because we wanted to minimize any need of backing tracks. Of course it wasn’t our plan to play everything exactly as in record so we added some extra live parts. When it comes to touring, we’ll go anywhere we’re booked and wanted. We’re working for possibilities regarding different festival appearances in 2011.

Any final messages for our readers?
Thanks for your interest and time.  Prog on and stay tuned for Anthriel!!!

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Symphony X return after 5 years with the highly anticipated “Paradise Lost” which many fans hoped would see the band return somewhat to their classic “Damnation Game”/”Divine Wings Of Tragedy” sound.  It more or less goes without saying that the bands rapid fans will buy this regardless of what critics say so this review is aimed more for the un-initiated.  Simply said Symphony X have proved over the last decade or so that they are one of the best bands in the progressive metal genre and “Paradise Lost” is an excellent starting point for anyone yet to sample the bands brand of metal.  Gloriously pompous with lush orchestral keyboards arrangements by Michael Pinella, sublime guitar riffs and solos from one of Metal’s best players in Michael Romeo, a superb rhythm section of drummer Jason Rullo and bassist  Michael Anthony LePond all topped off with arguably one of metals best vocalists since Ronnie James Dio in Russell Allen

Instrumental opener “Oculus ex Inferni” is complex and film score like before “Set The World On Fire (The Lie of Lies” comes hurtling out the gates of hell with an intensity and purpose that it totally satisfying.  “Domination” begins with a complex bass guitar part which is then backed up Romeo and crew and it’s another all round sonic delivery with massive riffs, soaring vocals and a tightness rarely heard – this is metal with spirit and a highlight.  “The Serpents Kiss” repeats the previous tracks overall hugeness with its scolding main riff yet the band allow melody to also shine in tandem.  The title track “Paradise Lost” is another in the line of magical Symphony X compositions that the band throw into nearly every album which is a very special own brand of melodic progressive with numerous sections and beautiful melody which grows as it progresses and Russell Allen’s vocals are truly mesmerising.  “Eve Of Seduction” sees the band work through some complex instrumental patterns before another manic riff which even Pantera fans would get a massive kick out of.  “The Walls Of Babylon” is complex in arrangement yet quite digestible thanks to one of Allen’s best vocals on the album and its a definite highlight with all the Symphony X ingredients here in abundance.  “Seven” sees some neo-classical inflections which is sure to please fans of the bands earlier releases.  Here Romeo’s guitar and Pinella’s keyboards are unleashed to dramatic effect before Michael Anthony LePond lays downs a complex bass line, Romeo surprisingly delivers a very short and relatively simple solo before launching back into the main riff.  “The Sacrifice” sees the band return to grand epic majestic tone which again is a sheer sonic treat in all respects and another vocal master display from Allen.  “Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia)” ends the album on a definite high with a riff count high enough to win gold medal at the riff Olympics, yet luckily this is also backed up by more delicious melodies all topped with a grandiose extended middle instrumental section where each band member shines.

With “Paradise Lost”, Symphony X has made the album many fans felt they needed to make.  After 2 relatively ordinary albums (by their own standards) with “The Odyssey” and “V: The New Mythology Suite” this new work seems them return to the quality heard on their classic earlier albums yet with the best elements from the aforementioned “Odyssey/New Mythology”.  Simply said the wait has been worth it and this is an essential purchase for long-term fans and newbie’s alike.  Welcome back.

RATING  – 94%