#LostInGrey #Interview (With Harri Koskela, Anne Lill Rajala and Miika Haavisto)

10 min read

A big greeting to the entire Blessed Altar Zine community, to all those who follow us, a big hug. I’m Elyna Steel, the woman of eternal reviews. Today I don’t bring you a review, but a charming interview that I conducted with the beautiful couple composed of Anne Lill Rajala and Harri Koskela, both founding members of the incredible Finnish band “Lost in Grey” plus Miika Haavisto. They have just released their fourth album called “Odyssey into the Grey” which I had the privilege of reviewing a few weeks ago. “Lost in Grey” are pioneer in the Theatrical Metal style, which contains different influences from power metal and the world of theatre, in addition to operatic and symphonic elements that make them a unique band in their style.

So, let’s set aside the noise of the world for a moment and dive into the depths of creativity, passion, and energy that define Lost in Grey. This isn’t just an interview; it’s a journey into the soul itself.

Hello and thank you Anne Lill, thank you Harri Koskela and thank you Miika Haavisto for this interview for Blessed Altar Zine.

First of all, can you share the most important themes or ideas that inspired “Odyssey into the Grey?

Anne Lill: When we started the band back in 2013, I spent a long time planning the plot or rough outlines for the whole Grey Realm saga that has been in the making ever since. There’s a continuous story or theme throughout all these four albums about Lillian, a young woman, who tries to escape all the cruelties of the world. She ends up in a place called The Grey Realms where she meets Odessa and Patrick, the rulers of that place. All these albums deal with her adventures, the things she tried to escape from, the development of the characters, and the things all of us can learn about the world and ourselves throughout this Odyssey into the Grey.

Really interesting background Anne. It reminds me a bit of the story of Sansa and Arya Stark from “Game of Thrones” in a certain way- You know, young ladies escaping from a cruel world, facing different experiences. On the other hand, Lost in Grey is known for its theatrical elements in both music and performance. How did you infuse theatricality into the creation of this album, and what role does it play in your overall artistic vision?

Harri K: Well, I’ve always wanted to tell stories with the music I write, and since the beginning of Lost in Grey my aim has been to create every album as a musical score for film – or in our case like a theatre play. I mean that all the songs of the album blend well together and tell an overall story musically too. This album was no exception regarding that, and actually, the first musical piece I wrote for this album was the opening track “The Entourage”, which in my opinion works quite nicely as the starting piece for this musical rollercoaster.

The roots for this might be that I’m a big fan of film scores and how they work within the story together, creating different moods and settings to which people can react and interpret in different ways. I’m not interested in crafting 2-3 minute radio hits, so this channel called ‘Lost in Grey’ which I’m able to use in creating music that I’d like to hear is perfect for me – therapeutic even.

I agree that Lost in Grey by no means is suitable for a short-term radio hit. I consider that “Odyssey into the Grey” is actually a kind of “sonic movie”, like a movie where the characters sing instead of performing in front of a camera, which is absolutely out of the norm.

Anyhow, we know that Finland is a cradle of extraordinary metal bands. In fact, you have the highest rate of metal music bands per 100,000 inhabitants if I’m not mistaken How do you think Lost in Grey contributes or stands out within the Finnish metal scene? I have super clear this aspect, it is interesting to know your vision though.

Harri K: Yes, we indeed have our fair share of metal bands here. 🙂 I personally would like to think that this has something to do with our education system, which at least in my days had excellent abilities to explore and study music in different ways, be it in school or as a hobby.
I haven’t actually ever thought about what we would contribute to the Finnish metal scene, except that we’re doing our own thing without compromises, and try to do it as well as possible. And I would love to believe that it is also something that makes us stand out from the vast number of different metal bands. However, as we as musicians draw inspiration from all kinds of different sources – be it Finnish metal or something completely different – I believe that in the end that’s what makes us stand out from the huge amount of bands is the combination of us as musicians, which makes us sound the way we do.

Lost in Grey’s music often blends various subgenres of metal with symphonic and progressive elements. How did you approach the fusion of these diverse influences in “Odyssey into the Grey”?

Harri K: Well, I always want to challenge myself on every album and try to make the composing process and the final result as interesting as possible, as well as create completely different kinds of moods and atmospheres for the musical storytelling. In order to achieve this, I’ve always felt that it’s necessary for me to implement different kinds of styles of metal together, infusing those with e.g. folk music elements, thus creating the musicaI feel Lost in Grey has – and how I hear it in my head when I first start composing songs.

I actually don’t have any certain kind of approach to this, other than I always try to do the first song demos myself quite precisely, exactly how I hear them in my head. After that, I’ll introduce the stuff to the rest of the band. That way it’s much easier to start to record the actual album with the rest of the band – especially as we don’t usually rehearse together before the recording process.
For “Odyssey into the Grey” I think I also went ‘the extra mile’ with the pre-production demos, etc, and thus I truly believe that it’s one of the reasons why I think this is definitely the best work we’ve ever done with Lost in Grey.

The album artwork for “Odyssey into the Grey” is striking and enigmatic. Could you delve into the symbolism or story behind the visual representation of the record?

Miika Haavisto: My intention has been to create a visual journey also in the album cover artwork. On the first album, we are introduced to the nameless cloaked creature portrayed in one way or another also on the other albums. On the 2nd album, it takes the form of the mountains of the wasteland, and on the 3rd, it is positioned in the sea, under the surface. The starting point for creating the cover art for this 4th album was the thought of the entourage travelling with a horse carriage guided by this creature through the gloomy landscapes of the Grey Realms. In the background, we can spot the mountains also visible in “The Waste Land” album cover art. 

I see Miika. So in a way, the artwork in the four albums is interconnected, like a musical saga. And regarding connections, collaboration is a key aspect of your music, according to what I have been unveiling. Several vocalists and instrumentalists have contributed. In “Odyssey into the Grey” is Andi Kravljaca in “The Entourage” among other songs, of whom I am an unconditional admirer by the way.  How did Andi’s involvement contribute to the enrichment and enhancement of the creative process?

Harri K: I have had the privilege to work with Andi already on Thaurorod’s albums, and truly honoured he has been happy to participate in Lost in Grey’s music as well. Not only is he a remarkable musician, but a great voice actor, so having him play the Aviator (or the Narrator) was a perfect fit from the beginning. I feel that his role in our storytelling has gotten more and more important on every album, and also on this album, I feel that he’s playing one of the key roles in the story.
Also one of the biggest collaborations on this new album for me was to get to work with Francesco Ferrinini from Fleshgod Apocalypse regarding the orchestrations. He was the absolute perfect fit to help us achieve the biggest sounding orchestral elements we’ve ever had, and I’m super honoured he also was happy to jump in and do his magic to the songs.

In general, I’ve always loved doing collaborations with other musicians, but there usually is some kind of personal connection when you just feel that ‘hey, it’d be great to have him/her on our album to contribute to the music’! Like on our previous album, we e.g. had Nils and Emma from Sirenia collaborating on one of the songs, as we got to know them when we were touring together before that.

I understand the point. And it’s awesome when you can join people you admire so much to support and collaborate with your creation. On the other hand. How important is narrative storytelling to Lost in Grey’s music?

Anne Lill: Many of our songs have themes which are universal enough that you can listen to the songs simply as such. However, I like to play with non-linear storytelling too… Also as I’ve described before, it’s better to view the songs and albums like onions. Simply scratching the surface won’t give you much, but if you’re willing, you can discover so many more layers and aromas when peeling the layers off one by one, even if you might have to cry a bit.
Yes! I could peel off this amazing “onion” and I could experience myself your point here Anne.

Another important aspect to mention is the fact that your live performances are known for their captivating theatricality. How will you translate the energy and emotion of  “Odyssey into the Grey” into your coming stage shows?

Anne Lill: Especially us vocalists, we are very emotional, which tends to show in whatever we do. Also, we live and breathe the art, and dive deep into the music and performances.. So the theatrical aspect also comes naturally from the interpretation of the story and interaction with each other. Some have commented that we are being ‘overly dramatic’, or something, but that is just who and how we are both on and off the stage. And who knows, perhaps those people didn’t get the “theatrical” part of the music description in the first place. 

Yes, it’s a possibility that this characteristic is not completely understood by certain People. By the way, one of the characteristics that catches my attention the most from Lost in Grey is the ability to navigate dark and introspective themes while still providing with a sense of empowerment or catharsis. How do you achieve it? 

Anne Lill: I’m happy to hear you feel that way. I’ve been through some rather dark episodes in my life, but found comfort and hope in e.g. art. and I wish that perhaps I could bring some comfort and hope to others as well through art.

And you absolutely nailed it, Anne. And following this, Finland has a strong tradition of embracing mythology and folklore. Did any Finnish myths or legends influence the lyrical and musical content in “Odyssey into the Grey?

Anne Lill: Like any author, I sometimes borrow elements from other texts and myths. Additionally, there are sometimes some similarities in myths and legends from all around the world. As an example, a river dividing the world of the living and dead can be found both in ancient Greek myths (Styx) and Kalevala (Tuonenjoki). On the first album, Lillian is indeed thinking she is heading towards the River of Styx but ends up in the Grey Realms. One should perhaps wonder what other things Lillian is confused or mistaken about.

What an interesting point! When she sang “I don’t want to play that person anymore” in The Entourage, who was that person that she didn’t wanna play?

And to conclude, looking a little towards the future, what do you hope listeners feel when experiencing your new album and what can we expect from Lost in Grey in the coming years?

Anne Lill: I hope the listener can dive into the music and story, a journey which doesn’t end once the album(s) has been listened to – that it continues and invites to dive in over and over again, the listener finding something new both in the music, the story, and most importantly, themselves, over and over again. And in the end, I guess I wish they will feel.. hopeful.

Harri K: In the coming years I hope we’ll get to do many more shows and tours and present people what our theatrical metal experience is about. Also, some new musical ideas are already brewing in my head, so we’re by no means of slowing down in any way – our journey has just begun.

Wonderful news indeed! I loved this fourth álbum guys and I am sure that Lost in Grey is giving a lot to talk about and will continue to do so in the future.

Thank you so much, Anne, Harri and Miika for this nurturing interview. It’s been a pleasure to have you twice in Blessed Altar Zine, always supporting the underground around the world

Harri K: Thank you so much for the lovely interview! Our greetings to everyone who’s reading this and wish you all the best, hopefully, we’ll get to perform live for you as well one day!

I really hope so! You know I will get dysphonic from singing and shouting your songs so much!

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