Ghost Brigade – Fear Is the Key, You See
By: David E. Gehlke
The follow-up to a breakthrough effort is far and away, one the hardest obstacles to overcome for a band. We’ve seen plenty of stumbles at this career mark, with some bands unable to recover for a variety of reasons, so when a band (like Ghost Brigade) successfully navigates this stretch, it’s like crossing over one of those beat-up and shaky bridges seen in a movie. Once you’ve made it past, the rest is smooth sailing.
Until Fear No Longer Defines Us is the third album from the Finns, the successor to 2009’s invincible Isolation Songs, an album that quickly won adoring praise from critics (like Blistering) and thrust the band onto the European tour circuit. So instead of being victimized by the success of Isolation Songs, Ghost Brigade were able to cajole new elements into their atmospheric post-metal sound on Until Fear, while honing in the melodic, urgent, and confrontational elements that worked so well in the past. While Until Fear doesn’t topple Isolation Songs, it has given the band additional breadth and confidence to go out on a limb, just check out the album’s opening acoustic rock number, “In the Woods” and climatic finale, “Soulcarvers.”
Primary songwriter and guitarist Wille Naukkarinen was kind enough to be subjected to Blistering’s pesky questions, thus expanding upon the unforeseen expectations the band was faced with going into the new album and how they managed to work around them. Read on…
Blistering.com: When we last spoke, we talked about the tremendous growth the band had from Guided By Fire to Isolation Songs. So, from Isolation Songs into Until Fear, where can you attest to the band growing?
Wille Naukkarinen: I don't think there is as huge gap between the last two records as there was with the first two. There is growth for sure, but it's more in the way we work together today and in the attitude/spirit in the band. That being said, I also have to say that on the new album we have taken a huge step forward when it comes to arranging the songs. We have finally learned to listen to what an individual song needs, rather than leaning on methods we have used in the past. ”Chamber” is a good example of this. If ”Chamber” had been on Isolation Songs, the chorus would've kicked in much, much sooner but on this album, we learned that this particular song needs longer verses in order to chorus really work. So we play with the verse melody for almost two minutes before the chorus kicks in. So it's little things like that that make the difference. Probably 99% of these “improvements” are something that a normal listener won't even notice but for us, they're a pretty big deal.
Blistering.com: In relation to where you were around the time Guided By Fire was released four year ago, how far has the band come?
Naukkarinen: We've come a long way, for sure. In all possible aspects. We are better songwriters, we know better what we want from this band and most importantly, we are finally a team. In the beginning, playing this kind of music was very, very difficult for us, and thus we had a lot of arguments and we basically broke up during the recordings of both of our first two records. It was intense and in retrospect, quite ridiculous behavior. Now, after five years of doing this, I finally feel like the growing pains are over and we can just concentrate on the relevant things instead of arguing and whining all the time. It's a good feeling and I truly feel we have our best days ahead of us.
Blistering.com: With the tremendous praise lavished toward the band and subsequent round of touring, how have things changed for Ghost Brigade?
Naukkarinen: In terms of how many people know about us or how we handle the business side of things, things have obviously changed drastically, but other than that, we are still the same five guys who recorded the demo tape in 2006. Inside the band, nothing's really changed. We're all over 30 years old guys and have been playing in touring and recording bands for over 15 years now so we have pretty realistic attitude to everything that's happening to us as a band. We have quite punk rock attitude to all this.
Blistering.com: Are you the type of band that takes stock in what others are saying? Meaning, is the opinion of the metal press important to you?
Naukkarinen: Reviews, people's opinions and press in general don't have any impact on the music we write. My goal with Ghost Brigade has always been to write music I would like to hear myself, simple as that. Honest and from the heart. I write music for myself, not for others. If other people like our music too, good but if they don't, I really couldn't care less.
And I know that sounds like a cliché but it really is the truth. I mean, when we formed GB, we didn't even think of releasing an album. We were just old friends who wanted to play and rehearse together and then go to a bar for a pint and discuss how good or bad that or that riff is. That's what it's all about to us, not commercial success or the hype or how big festivals we get to play. Again, we have a very punk rock attitude in our band towards all this. We respect bands like Tragedy more than we do those who'd do anything for attention or exposure in mags.