With a Rome-themed album in the making and a slogan saying «Make Power Metal Great Again», the expectations for Metal De Facto’s debut album Imperium Romanum is sky-high. PowerMetal.no had a chat with founder Esa Orjatsalo about the upcoming album and the fascination for ancient stories and myths.
According to the bio Metal de Facto was founded by you and Sami Hinkka (Ensiferum). When was this exactly?
Esa: The band was founded it September 2017, I was working (and still am) as technician for Ensiferum and we started to fiddle around with the idea of the band backstage and on the long van rides to different venues. Most of the time life on the road is waiting and being in transport, so you have a lot of time to plot and scheme different ideas.
The idea was originally to make a Rome-themed album. Can you tell me the reason for that? Was there a personal interest, or what was it that made you write a concept album about that?
Esa: Well, the thing is that I can’t even remember when the idea of a Rome themed album first occurred to me, but I gradually grew fonder of the idea and here we are… I’ve always held interest in history and Rome especially, it is fascinating concept as it spans over such a long time and goes through different times. Also, the fall of such huge empire and the consequences for Europe when the Roman empire fell. It took Europe a long time to recover (well, that’s a bit wrong word for it, but you get the point) from the fall of the empire.
Had you already written lyrics with that theme in mine at that point? And what about the music? I know that you had already composed some music; did you have the theme in mind when composing the music?
Esa: Actually not. I had the general ideas for some of the songs what their stories will be, for instance I had songs which had working titles «Germanicus» and «Ides of March». When I wrote both of those songs there wasn’t any lyrics, but I still followed the story with the music as weird as this might sound. What I mean is that I know how Germanicus’ story goes, I know the main events in his life, the song follows this and that makes the music also more interesting as it is not just lyrics that deal with the story, the music also follows the same story and tries to convey the emotions associated with it. Same goes for «Ides Of March», the song follows the story musically as well. I think this makes the songs more interesting, not just a song on top of which some lyrics…
The idea with the Rome-themed album soon evolved into a new band. And not only a band, but the music would be the best power/heavy metal ever made. I like the ambition, but what exactly made you come up with that? Aren’t you afraid that people will be disappointed?
Esa: There will always be people who will be disappointed. That can’t be helped, but personally I want to make albums that I can be proud of. To make music which I can stand behind and proudly say: I made this! That’s why it took MdF a long time to finish the album, we spent countless hours of making it so that it is what we like. Sound may not be most convenient, but it is very much exactly how we wanted the album to sound. A mix of new and old, taking all the best of both worlds. I don’t see the point of doing anything artistic if you don’t do it with all your «heart» (as cliched that sounds). You pour countless hours into it, so don’t think what others think, make something that you want to make.
You also have the slogan “Make Power Metal Great Again!”. I’m all up for that, but again: what is it with today’s power metal scene that you feel it is necessary to “make it great again”?
Esa: Of course it’s said with a bit of humor, but I have to say that there hasn’t been that many great power metal albums lately… The genre has become some sort of pastiche of itself. I’m not saying I have invented the wheel (again…), but at least I try to approach it by not just doing the conventional structures, conventional sounds. And definitely not going the «symphonic» route, I think that starts to be a path bit too much traveled. I made a decision early on, that MdF will not use backing tracks live and kept that in mind when doing the arrangements for the songs. For the most part songs are done so that everything can be played with two guitars and one keyboard player. We will see how the choir parts work when we sing them, haha!
And from one theme album, you decided to make every album theme based; that every album would concentrate on a new ancient story. What type of stories do you have in mind? And how will you convey the stories/themes and, in your own words, avoid being a “Wikipedia-band”?
Esa: Well, we have already the theme for the second album and we have been talking about the third (but there’s few choices still, we will see how it will evolve). We try to make historical events into stories as music is mostly storytelling. We want to tell the story, not just state the facts, we want the listener to feel some connection with people and events of which we write about.
And I must ask: what’s the story behind the name Metal de Facto?
Esa: Again I must say that I can’t really remember when the name came up, but I suppose it was because of this that we joked this music and lyrics will be fact metal and somehow it evolved from there. But it’s a great name, it immediately tells you what the band is about.
Besides you and Sami, the band consist now of Mikael Salo (vocals), Benjamin Connelly (keyboards), Mikko Salovaara (guitars) and Atte Marttinen (drums). Everyone have other bands they play in, but as I have understood this is not a project – it’s a full-time band, is that correct?
Esa: Yes, this is a real band. That was for me and Sami 100% certain since we started «building» the band. We wanted members who are committed to the band and don’t think this is some sort of ’all-star’s project’. It was surprisingly easy to find the right people for this band and I think we have now very good line up. Everyone brings something of their own to the mix.
If I remember correctly you have now recorded the debut album, Imperium Romanum. I asked earlier about the songwriting, but I’ll ask again: how has the songwriting for the debut album been like? Have most of the music been written after the lineup was completed or will there be songs on the album written by you before the band was founded?
Esa: I had few songs written before the lineup was completed, but we also wrote some material after that. We spent a long time arranging and working with the songs to make them really shine. The oldest song on the album is the opening track called «The Conqueror», I think some of the melodies in that song were meant to be used with Dreamtale when I was still in the band about 15 years ago. Of course, the song is completely different, but I think I’ve been recycling those melodies for a long time trying to find a song in which they fit. As I mentioned earlier, «Ides Of March» and «Germanicus» are also older songs (I think I wrote them around 2014 or something). Song called «Bacchanalia» is also old one, I think it was originally meant to be the opening song of the album, but it might have given a bit wrong impression of the album as it is a bit different that other songs of the album.
We decided that we do not print individual writing credits to the album as everyone has worked on the songs and the arrangements. That’s why it’s just going to say all music by Metal de Facto. As this is essentially true. For instance, a lot of the songs don’t sound at all like the first demos etc.
As we all know by now the debut album is a Rome-themed album. What can you tell me about the lyrics; is there all fiction, or have you spent a lot of time doing research?
Esa: Sami and Mikael wrote most of the lyrics. I mainly gave titles for some of the songs. They did actually spend quite a lot of time researching the subjects. For instance, there is a song called «Naturalis Historia» which deals with Pliny the Elder’s writings. Not the most common subject for power metal bands lyrics!
And what about the music; is that also inspired by the Roman history in any way? Or how will you describe it?
Esa: The thing is that not much of Roman music has survived to modern day. The thing is also that we don’t know which enharmonic genre system they used as they don’t write it to down anywhere. Then again, what we as modern people associate with Rome, you can definitely here some influences on the album. But as I said don’t expect any orchestral stuff, as there is none on this album.
When will the album be released, and what are the plans until then? Will there be released singles?
Esa: We are currently [late May 2019] just in the process of signing a record deal. What we talked with the label it looks like the album will be released late summer or early autumn. We have made videos for couple of songs and at least one of these will be released before the album release same time working as a single release.
I know that you have already started writing for the next album. What can you tell me about that?
Esa: Well, some person already spoiled the theme by telling it in some interview, but hopefully people have forgotten it! The first album will deal with the empire, second album will focus more in certain feudal culture with very strong military tradition and tendency to love heroic stories. The first album will hint to the theme of the second album with one of the bonus songs, but you’ll have to wait until it is released to find out!
Do you have planned any touring abroad?
Esa: We don’t have any tour agreed at the moment, but we have plans to tour as much as possible after the album is out. Technically speaking we have already toured abroad, but that was of course with our «spin off» band Trio de Facto (which is an acoustic band that mostly plays covers, but we played also some original material) on the Ensiferum acoustic tour December 2018. When we get the album out I hope we can also announce some tours very soon.