It’s always a pleasure when I contact a musician and they agree to do an interview for Blessed Altar Zine. I must say that I usually contact those artists whose music I admire, ‘cause I’m the first one interested in the answers they will give to my questions. This time it was Vesa Salovaara (vocalist in Vorna and in Ephemerald) who said “yes” to me; if you are curious about what he had to say, then go on reading.
Hi Vesa, thank you for doing this interview for Blessed Altar Zine. First thing I have to ask you, how excited are you with the imminent release of the new album by Vorna, “Aamunkoi”?
Vesa: Hi there and thanks for inviting me! I’m naturally very excited to let the world hear what we’ve been up to the past couple of years. Based on people’s positive reactions on the three singles we already released – despite how different they are in comparison to our previous releases – I’m not too nervous about letting them hear the rest of it.
For all the non-Finnish speakers, can you tell us about the title’s meaning? And what do the lyrics talk about?
Vesa: The title Aamunkoi means “Dawn” in English. The central motif of Aamunkoi revolves around the tenacity to survive in an uncertain world, where the fortunate few who awaken to a new day are given the opportunity to pursue a brighter future, while they still have the chance. Life is finite, unpredictable and unfair, yet one must persevere and discover a way to thrive in spite of the odds.
Talking about lyrics, who’s responsible for writing these, in the band? Where does he mainly take inspiration?
Vesa: I’ve written all the lyrics in Vorna since the beginning. My main source of inspiration have definitely been some sort of introspection through-out the years; just writing stream of consciousness and finding out what kind of stuff has filled my mind and subconscious. From that raw material I usually start to look for any possible gems that might have a potential to be a topic for a song. A strong topic, an idea, is the most important and the most difficult and time consuming thing to come up with when writing lyrics. But after getting that idea down and drafting the basic storyline and song structure, the rest is pretty fun and often even an easy process; just playing with words and phrases and finding the fitting clothes for the message in the context of a Vorna song. At this stage I almost always have a picture in my mind; what’s the environment where the song takes place. Most of the time my mind wanders in natural landscapes and thus the lyrics tend to be filled with nature metaphors.
For those who aren’t familiar with Vorna, how would you describe your music?
Vesa: It ain’t very easy for me to name a genre that would fit Vorna without any problems or exceptions, but we’ve started to call our music melancholic and melodic metal with Finnish lyrics. Our music draws in a plethora of influences and I like to think we have a fairly original and versatile sound. It has something for everyone: fast double bass and heavy guitar riffs as well as dreamy clean guitars, majestic keyboard arrangements and a wide range of vocals varying from screaming to clean vocals to big choirs.
Having the same lineup as in the beginning, more than 14 years ago, I’m sure it’s a good thing for a band, in terms of stability. Being “Aamunkoi” your 4th full-length album proves that you guys get along really well. What’s your secret for this?
Vesa: I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s considerably more important to have a “great guy” than a “great player” in the band. When we first started none of us were too accomplished on our instruments and the band has served as a school for all of us in that matter. But we have always got along with each other really well and I consider them as my best friends. Valuing that friendship and pacing Vorna’s activity so that it respects everyone’s personal lives and schedules plays a key role. And in the end we’re quite easy going, introverted fellas who don’t enjoy unnecessary drama or fighting.
Let me express like a “fangirl” of Vorna now; I must tell you that I love your music, the extreme melancholy that’s present in it, and the fact that you sing in Finnish confers a special sonority to your songs, because this is a strong language. What inspires or influences the band when writing your music? Do you think that the Finnish climate has something to do with it?
Vesa: Climate and surroundings definitely impacts at least my songwriting process. I often start to hear music playing in my head when enjoying beautiful landscapes, for example. The music I hear when in Finland is quite different than it is when travelling in some warmer countries. But usually life in itself throws enough anxiety to my general direction and that is what I’m most often channeling through music. And of course all other bands and artists I like to listen to will affect my writing at least subconsiously.
Having said all that, we have three main composers in the band – Arttu (Järvisalo, guitar), Mikael (Vanninen, drums) and me – and I can only speak for myself.
Do you have touring plans and/or schedules for this year?
Vesa: Yes! So far we have booked two album release shows in May, three summer festival gigs and are currently booking the autumn and the early 2024. At this stage all the shows are in Finland, but we are trying our best to get to tour abroad as well, as soon as possible.
Not only you do harsh vocals and also beautiful cleans in Vorna, but you also perform in a more aggressive way in Ephemerald. What can you tell us about this band’ status, as it seems you are a bit quiet lately on social media? (And let me congratulate you all guys for your album from 2021, “Between the Glimpses of Hope”, ‘cause it’s a total blast!)
Vesa: Thanks a lot! I’m proud of Ephemerald’s debut and it’s fun to get to express myself a bit differently in that band. Ephemerald is not a touring act – at least not at the moment – but in my understanding Joni (Snoro, guitar) has been constantly composing new songs. You might very well hear from Ephemerald in the future, but my own focus is currently fully on Vorna.
Now I’m going to ask you some more personal questions, in order to know a bit more about you. At what age did you start listening to Metal? And what band first got you into this kind of music?
Vesa: I think the first album that I would consider as “heavier” music was The Offspring’s “Conspiracy of One” which my brother had gotten as a gift. Still a great album! I was 9-year-old at the time and that soon led me to bands like System of A Down, Children of Bodom, Nightwish, Norther, Kalmah and Dark Tranquillity during the following years.
Which bands were you listening to as a teenager? Do you still listen to these nowadays?
Vesa: In my early teens Finnish and Swedish melodic death metal was by far the most important genre for me. CoB, Norther, Kalmah, Dark Tranquillity etc. Then I discovered black metal, first through bands like Dissection, Dimmu Borgir, Old Man’s Child, Mayhem and Satyricon, and later went deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. At some point bands with more folky vibes such as Moonsorrow, Ensiferum, Amorphis and Thyrfing came along. When Vorna was founded in 2008 by me, Arttu and Henri, we all shared a fairly similar “musical background” in terms of bands we listened to and were very passionate about discovering new music all the time, going to gigs together and so on.
I still listen to some of the mentioned bands, but mostly I feel like that music has sinked so profoundly in my DNA that I don’t really need to listen to those albums any more. They still have a special place in my heart, especially during cabin trips with friends when we’re feeling nostalgic.
Do you like “discovering” new Metal bands? Which genres do you prefer to listen to?
Vesa: Sure. I’ve noticed that I tend to shy away from genres that don’t seem to be able to renew themselves enough for my taste. For example, if I want to listen to good death metal or black metal, I rather listen to some of the older bands. But nowadays I’m not very interested in genres anyway, good music is good music, be it metal or not. Some of the most interesting “new” discoveries for me have been The Pineapple Thief, Blanco White, VOLA, Rioghan, Ren and Zeal & Ardor.
Is there any album, song… that means something special for you? In terms of being highly emotional, or giving you goosebumps… ?
Vesa: I never forget the moment when I first heard Dissection’s song “The Somberlain”. It was that live at Wacken in 1997 -version and I was completely blown away. I still get shivers listening to that song and album.
It’s been three years since the Covid shit started and nowadays it almost seems like a blurry nightmare. What did you think in the early days of the pandemic? About music, the Metal scene, society in general… Did you believe that all things would go “normal” again one day?
Vesa: Well, Vorna had just released our 3rd album “Sateet palata saavat” in the autumn 2019. Everything was rolling on like a dream, the first leg of the album release tour was truly amazing and then everything shut down in the middle of the greatest hype. We were pretty much in the state of waiting for the first two years, just eagerly waiting to continue our album release tour and get to play all around Europe. In late 2021, we kinda lost hope for a while in terms of touring, and started to shift our focus mostly on writing new music. Fortunately things are looking pretty good at last, even though the market has overheated with all the bands releasing albums and touring at the same time. So we are still very much cleaning up all the shit Covid left on the music scene.
How do you see the Metal scene in present days?
Vesa: I think the Metal scene is gonna do fine in the future as well. It’s a bit worrying, at least in Finland, that we don’t see too many youngsters attending shows etc., but in the end I’m a firm believer that great music will always find its audience. The road sure is rockier for new, small bands than it was even 15 years ago when Vorna was formed. There’s so much new music released every day that it’s hard to cut through the noise, not to mention to be able to make touring financially profitable, even for bigger bands.
What’s the thing you couldn’t live without?
Vesa: Moments of silence.
What does Metal music mean to you in your life?
Vesa: Metal music and Vorna have been the two most permanent things in my life, apart from family. It’s an integral part of my identity and it’s hard to imagine who I would be without it.
Many thanks for your answers, Vesa, is there anything you want to add?
Vesa: Thanks a lot for the interview, it has been a pleasure! I want to encourage everybody to support the bands/artists they love and take care of themselves and each other.
Interview by Sílvia
Check out Vorna for an overwhelming dose of Finnish melancholy. And check also Ephemerald if you like some powerful and melodic Extreme Metal combined with folk and some symphonic elements. Support the bands & artists, support the underground.
All photos by Serena Solomon
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.**