Four years after their well acclaimed debut album, Arion is back with the crucial second album. PowerMetal.no had a talk with Arions guitarist and main songwriter, Iivo Kaipainen, about the journey so far and the work towards the new album Life Is Not Beautiful.
How has the songwriting towards your second album been different from the debut? You are older now and more experienced, but I guess the pressure also increase having to «match» the critically acclaimed Last Of Us?
Iivo: Well, right after the release of Last Of Us, it felt like it would be difficult to match the debut. Mainly because people outside the band said so. Luckily for us, the first three singles released [«At The Break Of Dawn», «Unforgivable», «No One Stands In My Way»] were born at the very beginning of the writing process, and having those simple and powerful songs helped a lot in relieving the pressure.
I also felt very relieved when I find out that the first songs writte for Lassi [Vääränen] matched him perfectly right away. When that happened, we stopped worrying. After that it was more about making the album interesting and different compared to Last Of Us. And I think that’s exactly what Life Is Not Beautiful offers; a very versatile album which is more experimental, yet much more straight forward at the same time, compared to our debut.
How is that possible? At least we feel that’s what happened, and that’s one of the things we’re very happy about!
Talking about your new vocalist Lassi Vääränen. How did the fact that your former vocalist, Viljami Holopainen, decided to leave the band affect the songwriting process, and the band as a whole?
Iivo: Viljami’s decision to leave the band came out of nowhere. and it was quite a surprise to every one of us. Our immediate reaction was to start working on finding a new vocalist as fast as possible. When it comes to songwriting, the process itself never changed because neither one of the singers has been a part of the writing process. But, I can’t say it didn’t affect the writing though. Viljami and Lassi have very different types of voices, and that’s something I had to take into account when it comes to writing. The songs written for Lassi are a bit heavier and much more straightforward, and that’s how it is meant to be. In my opinion, 60-70% of a good song is about matching it with the vocalist who performs it.
Where did you find Lassi?
Iivo: After Viljami’s departure, we immediately started to, «silently», look for a new singer, with some help from our musician friends. Lassi was one of the first names to pop out, and we decided to hook up with him right away. We invited him to Helsinki and asked him to perform a couple of songs in a kind of a stage rehearsal thing, and we felt that the whole thing just worked right away. So, in the end it was like super easy!
Going back to the beginning: the band was formed in 2011 by Topias Kupiainen, Arttu Vauhkonen and yourself, where you all were attending the Music School Sibelius Lukio in Helsinki.
Can you remember what the goal with the band was back then? Did you ever think or hoped for that the band would become so popular?
Iivo: Well, I have to say that when we started it was all about four guys playing together and loving metal Music. We didn’t have like a «goal» or something in our mind back then. We didn’t even have a name for the band. Things started to get more serious when we went to the studio and recorded our first demo With Matias [Kupiainen, Stratovarius] and understood that this might be a start of something more.
Even before the debut album was released you traveled to Japan and played your first concerts in Tokyo and Nagoya. And when the debut album is released the critics are up the roof! All that happened within a few years. What was going on inside your head at that time?
Iivo: Nothing special, actually! Of course, it was amazing to go to Japan and play for those awesome metal people there, and the album getting hyped after that felt great too. But at the same time, we were very tied to the reality of what it’s like to be a new band in the scene and the industry. It’s not easy, it’s hard work no matter how much hype you get. And so be it!
We are very down to earth type of guys, and despite having mainly positive reactions from both the media and the fans, we are never gonna let it go to our heads!
Review: Arion – Life Is Not Beautiful
We have talked about the approach towards the new album compared to the debut, and the fact that you have a new vocalist. How would you compare those two albums musically? Would you say that you have moved slightly in a new direction, or will the fans recognize the Arion sound immediately?
Iivo: I would say that we do sound different now, more straightforward and maybe a bit heavier, but also more versatile. But at the same time, the same Arion sound is there.
I think the new album mostly adds elements to the sound of our first album. I consider the first album quite mellow and somehow generic «Finnish metal», while the second album adds some of our most recent and more international influences to the «Finnish sound» in the very core of our music. I hope that makes sense, haha!
I think I understand, haha!
I missed the debut album when it was released, so Life Is Not Beautiful is my first encounter with Arion. And I must say that I really like what I’m hearing! What are your own reflection on the album?
Iivo: Well, thank you, happy to hear that you like it! We are very satisfied with it as well. To me, one of the best things on Life Is Not Beautiful is it’s diversity. Every song sounds different, and each and every one of them is important to the album. And to me it feels like there are no actual fillers on Life Is Not Beautiful, and every song is something to feel happy about. It also showcases Lassi’s talent and versatility.
And last, but not least, it feels like we’ve really evolved and made some progress with our sound, and it’s probably the single most important thing for a band and a songwriter like me. When talking about matching our debut; this album is different. And to me, it’s much better than the first one!
Lyric wise: what can you tell me about the lyrics on this album? Is there a theme throughout the album? Isn’t life beautiful? Haha!
Iivo: The main theme of the album is the darker moods of life and how to find a way towards the light. For example, «No One Stands In My Way» is about battling one’s demons (addiction, trauma, depression), «Through Your Falling Tears» is about dying to a disease and telling Your friends and Family about it. «Last One Falls» deals With the thoughts of a soldier in the middle of a scene, and «Punish You» is about karma.
The title «Life Is Not Beautiful» fits all of the lyrics and the main theme of the album perfectly, and that’s why it was chosen. It sounds dark, but it’s not meant to be depressive. Life isn’t always beautiful, but there’s almost always some light to it.
The album will be released October 19th. What are the plans afterwards regarding promoting and concerts?
Iivo: Our next show will be in Tokyo, Japan November 12th. There is also BIG news regarding a tour, coming very soon, but I’m not allowed to talk about those plans right now. Plenty of shows coming next year, and we will reveal more about that later.
And at some point we have to start working on some new material for our third album. We will most likely start the songwriting very soon!