Published on November 8th, 2013 | by Rob Rubsam0
Interview: Domovoyd’s Oskar Tunderberg
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute: most doom metal treats you, the listener, like an idiot. I don’t just mean because of the genre’s plodding nature, its emphasis on the groove; all that’s fine enough. But the problem is that so many bands seem to think that’s all they need. Take Electric Wizard: they have a raft of seminal albums with titles that shoot way short of clever (‘Dopesmoker’; no way, I couldn’t have guessed), they’re full of riffs that just go on and on, and are defended by fans with phenomenal attention spans but very little imagination. And they’re considered among the best in the genre.
So now’s the part where I tell you about ‘doom for adults,’ right? Not quite. After all, one of the best qualities about the style is its emphasis on gut over brain. If this seems like a contradiction in terms, let me explain: stressing one doesn’t mean you have to completely negate the other. Even at its most relentlessly intellectual, the best metal could probably still realign the axis of a planet if played at the right volume. The key, then, is balance.
That brings me to Domovoyd. This Finnish group has just released their first full-length, ‘Oh Sensibility,’ on Svart Records, and it fuckin’ rips. Stripped down to its simplest components, this could be bargain-bin stoner metal, but it’s everything else that matters, from incandescent vocals buried in static to guitars that shoot off cold delay in all directions. On the album’s closing pair, ‘Effluvial Condenser’ and ‘Argenteum Astrum,’ the contradiction that powers all metal comes out in full-force, and the band swings to either side as necessary, sometimes focusing on pure groove crunch, spinning out wildly at other times. Thrilling stuff.
I spoke to singer-guitarist Oskar Tunderberg over email, and we went over the band’s compositional style, their group dynamic, and how they all came together.
Rob: How did the band form? Did you have a vision or common touchstones at the start?
Oskar: We consider Seinäjoki as our band’s hometown, because that’s where most of us originally come from and that is where we practice nowadays. However, it all got started in 2010, in Kaustinen College of Music, where we were studying together. You could describe the school as a small community of young ‘bohemians’ in the middle of this small place called Kaustinen with population little over 4000.
Kaustinen is probably best known as the location of Finland’s biggest folk music festival, but it’s also known as a quite narrow-minded place. It was like living in two worlds at the same time. You could really feel yourself at home inside the school community, but outside, that it often felt like wilderness where small and skinny long-haired guys like us were the targets of the local rednecks. So the place itself was the perfect source of inspiration with all of the ups and downs and the mental growth that we were going through as the teenagers that we were.
We started jamming together as these four good friends with the vision that we wanted to create something fresh and heavy at the same time. Our cultural and musical inspirations have always been quite mutual in a way, but we all had and still have some personal interests which are a big part of what we do as a collective. Maybe that is why people are having difficulties categorizing us, which I consider as a good thing ’cause sounding like Domovoyd and not some other band is one of the very few guidelines we give to ourselves. As I’ve said before, we’re painting the same picture but with different colors.
Rob: In writing songs, do you generally jam out parts, or do you bring in structures individually? I’ve noticed that the songs tend to go through various movements. Considering you all went to music school, is orchestration a part of what you do?
Oskar: We don’t have much in advance when we give birth to new songs. They kind of pop up [in] jamming as a result of improvisation. Usually we have a simple riff, rhythm, melody or a feeling of what the song should manifest and then we just start adding our own individual ingredients into it. So far any formal orchestration [hasn’t] been a part of the process and the structures of the songs are often defined by pure feeling, although we consider that it’s important for the songs to have powerful dynamics and some sort of dramatic arc. Still, the creation of those kind of structural matters are often quite spontaneous.
I know it’s bit of a cliché, but we really don’t mind about what is considered ‘orthodox’ in writing music. At least for me, it’s all about manifesting what is happening inside. It’s about making an abstract or transcendental experience as something you can share with others and others can make that experience into something of their own. We noticed that this is the style that is very suitable for us when we were recording ‘Oh Sensibility.’ We had no actual plans so we just had fun and suddenly we had a full album in our hands. However we’ve had discussions about structuring the next album with a bit more organized mentality just to try a different approach. We’ll see.
Rob: Did you find it a challenge to transfer those jams into songs to record in the studio, or to flow as a record?
Oskar: We didn’t actually transfer any jams into songs, because when record button was pressed, we started jamming and when we finished we had a song. Nothing was forced so there was this magical flow present all the time. Of course if we weren’t satisfied we had another take on the song and every take we made was a bit different from the others. The atmosphere in the ‘studio’ went a bit hazy at times so we might have recorded one song for eight hours, if I remember correctly. Still, it wasn’t an actual challenge even though we wanted to get it right. Almost everything was recorded live and most of the material was born along the recordings, in a pretty much same state of mind, so maybe that is why the songs flow as a record quite nicely.
Rob: So is it fair to say you went in with little idea of what you’d get out?
Oskar: Yeah, you could say that. Our dear friend Vezard, who recorded and mixed the album, lured us [into making] it. The plan was pretty much to have fun for five days, do some musical experimenting and record something. Although I think that we knew already during the first day that [it was] going to be a full-length album and it [was] going to be good. All in all it was really enjoyable experience.
Rob: How does the dynamic work within the group, between the four of you?
Oskar: We know each other and our capabilities so well that I’d say it all works very well. We work in mutual understanding and support each other in music and outside of it. But of course, we have arguments too and everything is not always easy when everyone has their own opinions and some of us are more eager with them, but that is why patience [plays an] important role and that is why we try to maintain [constructive discussions]. Powerful personalities plus constructive discussions are hard but [a] very effective combination. Still, most of the time everyone seems to know by nature what to do and how to do it.
Every one of us has dedicated to this in some personal level and that is why we are equal, although we have these kind of ‘roles’ also. I do most of the promotion, web mastering, e-mailing and all of the boring tasks with Niko [Lehdontie, guitar], while Dmitry [Melet, bass] and Axel [Solimeïs, drums] are more in the background, but they are not silent. Even the smallest things are considered thoroughly as a group before doing anything.
Rob: When you were getting the group together, did you each look for specific musical qualities in the others?
Oskar: I haven’t really thought about why I asked specifically these guys to join me besides of them being friends of mine. Now that I think of it, they all are people who I look up to in different ways. Axel was my flat mate and he is someone who I have always thought of being a spiritual guide of some kind. He’d be one hell of a cult leader! Dmitry is a real multi-talent in music and a strong personality [that] I admire. Niko is just beyond words with [his] six-string and yet so humble about it. He’s also the most easy-going dude I know, so when he’s around you can easily forget all of your troubles. So rather than musical qualities, I think I was more looking for people who would inspire me in different ways and hopefully in some way I have been an inspiration for them also. I think the only musical criterion I had in mind at the beginning was that I want to make music with people who also enjoy a heavy riff as much as I do.