Interview: Lantern (2020) / From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Lantern

Would you deem Dimensions just a collection of emotions and ideas that you translated to sound, by squeezing out what was in your hearts and souls over the last three years, or an effort that should represent something deeper and more substantial than nearly 40 minutes of musical escapism?

Cruciatus: More weight on the first statement, yet less emphasis on the word just. Whereas Dimensions is more like a collection of horrendous aural short stories rather than a musical study of death, esoteric topics or whatnot, it has a distinct progression and a more profound purpose as a whole. The album descends from dimensions above towards dimensions below, making stabs to dimensions within, beyond and whatever may lie between. The individual songs capture the different aspects and definitions of dimensions, dealing with distinct emotions and ideas as more separate cuts, for sure, but only to turn the album itself into a monstrous entity of its own. This abomination called Dimensions is the peak of the Lantern album trilogy up to the date, capitalizing our road so far and hopefully illuminating our previous works even better. So, it’s the progression of the album that funnels the different songs through that one-dimensional loophole, hopefully taking the listener to places other than this secular world. That being said, while escapism isn’t a bad word in this case, it has happened to us before that the listeners or even we ourselves have found further meanings even years after the songs have been written and released, and the potential of Dimensions having similar traits is strong.

Considering that each of the songs, as you said, has its personality and is good enough to stand on its own, were you consciously striving to make them separate musical journeys rather than somewhat forgettable stations of a much longer one that this album could have possibly turned out to be, had your ambitions and efforts been any less considerable?

Cruciatus: We’ve always consciously avoided self-repetition as much as possible, and on Dimensions, I think we’ve simply succeeded very well. As I mentioned, Dimensions can be thought of a collection of short stories put in music, and the end result works very well in that sense. There’s also the factor of keeping things Lantern-sounding, so it’s easier said than done maintaining the balance between those two. Of course, self-repetition between Dimensions and our previous releases is more possible, but even so, I really believe we’ve managed to squeeze, like you said, a lot of personality for the songs on this album.

Speaking of longer opuses, writing albums exceeding 40 minutes is pretty much a no-go for me. The one 12” vinyl length is like a poetic meter to me, anything longer, with this kind of music, starts to lose its edge fast. I’ve been involved in making longer albums outside metal music, where it can work at times, but more aggression necessitates less length, if I’m being asked. On the other hand, anything shorter than a 12” has also proved to be challenging for Lantern. We managed to make Subterranean Effulgence and Lost Paragraphs relevant pieces of the Lantern discography, but it’s very hard for me to consider recording another EP in the future. 12” is the optimal meter for us. We need enough stations, just not forgettable ones (laughs).

Notwithstanding the fact that in most cases the only proper way to delve into a certain album is to experience its content chronologically, when it comes to Dimensions, an argument could be made that one could learn more about the album listening to it backwards, as its end is where it reaches its highest peaks. Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions for example, the last track on the record, feels like an apex of all the knowledge and experience the band garnered over the years, with its monumental-sounding title contributing greatly to that notion. How difficult, time-consuming and mentally exhausting it was to write those 14 plus minutes of music?

Cruciatus: An interesting point of view and seed for a transition you have there. Theme-wise, Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions takes into the deepest of depths, but musically, it is the definitive apex of the album and perhaps even the highlight of our discography. The writing process was surprisingly natural, or maybe the time has just gilded some memories here (laughs). One lead bit in the B part ending was pretty much the only gear/cog that didn’t find its place as effortlessly and we had to leave the ultimate solution be until the actual guitar recording sessions, while the amount of bars and beats were set in stone beforehand. Making demos of everything before starting the final recordings also helped, this being the case for Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions especially. But in the end, I really think an epic piece like this had been waiting to be spewed out from my system for a long time, so there was a lot of subliminal pressure that made it easy to immortalize the final track. Doing the same trick again could prove more difficult, though.

On that backward journey through the Dimensions soundscape, Shrine Of Revelation is the track that comes next, the one that features some of the most memorable, evocative riffs this album has to offer. Was it just a coincidence that it ended up being an opener to the album’s grand finale that is Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions or do you maybe see it as an integral and equally important part of that grand finale?

Cruciatus: Shrine Of Revelation is, in fact, from the pen of St. Belial, with me in charge of lyrics, the lead compositions and general quality control. It’s the only Lantern composition thus far not written by me, maybe that’s why it pairs so well with Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions. The theme of the song is tied to Those Long Perished from Subterranean Effulgence, taking the listener further from the dim ancient corridors to unseen planes, and beyond. The lyric part also makes it natural for Shrine Of Revelation to precede the final piece of the album, as the listener gets spat into a cold, barren desolation upon entering the overwhelming immensity of Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions. On our previous albums, the final song has always had an interlude of sorts upfront, like a park in front of a grand building (a saying I’ve been cultivating a lot lately). I guess Monolithic Abyssal Dimensions needed an entire song for the entrance, although in this case the entrance itself is more than worthy of attention. I’m very pleased how well St. Belial handled this song and made it as Lantern-sounding as he did, it’s one of my favorites and works really well live.

With his powerful, stirring voice, that resonates almost like another instrument, Necrophilos keeps proving wrong the stereotype that death metal vocalists are in most cases predictable and unable to deliver any distinguishing emotion to the forefront. Was developing that peculiar singing style something he put a lot of effort into and would you say that his voice and his personality have a lot in common, that he’s the kind of person we hear him to be?

Cruciatus: During our first days, Necrophilos tried to apply a more traditional old school death metal type of vocal output, but as the years have gone by, he’s just tried to use as much of his own, natural growling sound as possible. Hence, he has let go of some of the more conventional death metal tones to give way to a more personal style that differs from most vocals in the genre. His voice is an integral part of Lantern now, so glad he has done his tonal expeditions over the years. Singing with a cleaner yet still raspy voice for Grip Of Death, a doomier band we’re both involved in, has allowed him to develop even further during the last couple of years, bringing a lot of power and edge to his voice.

As for the second part of the question, I’d say his voice represents what and who Necrophilos is. We all undergo some kind of transformation when we perform these songs, getting closer to whatever subliminal demons there are within us. His output would be a lot more easygoing, if his voice worked as a mirror for his everyday personality (laughs). The style Necrophilos has adapted compliments the lyrics more than well, as you can usually discern what he’s singing. The amount of emotion he channels with his singing can be grasped best when you see him perform on stage, there he deservedly takes the Lantern front man scepter with his near-theatrical presence and gestures.

By making Portraits more of an intermezzo than a proper track, it feels as if you robbed the listeners of what could have possibly developed and unfolded into one of the most interesting, unusual and haunting Lantern tracks to date. How come you didn’t feel the urge to explore that emotion even further and see where it might take you, considering how promising the beginning of that journey was?

Cruciatus: The framework for Portraits had been stuck in my head for a long time, mostly in the interlude form per se. I don’t see it as a short song only, but as an integral part for Beings and Cauldron Of Souls, entwining those two into a bigger slab of side A. I never thought it could be a longer tune, but now that you mentioned it, I started to get intrigued (laughs). I challenge someone else to continue it! Just let me know how it sounds.

How does the front cover of Dimensions correspond with the mood and the purpose of the album? Does this album even have any particular purpose that separates it from your two previous ones or were you only hoping to record something that would be bigger and better than them, in strictly musical terms?

Cruciatus: Take the word dimensions and its many definitions. Then take the cover in your hands, there’s one dimension. Set your eyes on the drawing and enter the desolation that’s captured there, that’s another dimension. Behind the cover is the record and the music, the final dimension, eventually reaching out to various different dimensions. The barren shades and the lifelessness of the cover are key when you interpret the album itself through the drawing. Timo Kokko, our local visual art force, did very well capturing the hues of Dimensions. There’s a lot of emotion to it. The songs on Dimensions are like building materials for an abomination that is, once again, somewhat different than its predecessors. All of our full-length albums have their specific aura and Dimensions is no exception. It just looks at the topics Lantern deal with in a different fashion, putting our representation to a slightly different light. I see our three full-lengths as three different kinds of monstrous entities, each distinct but legit in the Lantern discography. Musically, we’ve always followed our natural progression, which I believe has been pointing upward all the time. We’ve played more as a band and become better musicians and, in my opinion, better songwriters, with the end result being tighter and more solid than before. Some agree that Dimensions is the ultimate Lantern album musically, whereas some might see Below as the peak of our creativity. To each their own, but to me, this is as great a third album as we could ever make. It sits well alone and next to our previous works and it also summarizes a lot from alongside our path.

When it comes to lyrics, it would be fair to say that you have mastered the discipline of condensing horror fiction stories to a tiny song format, which is the approach you have been cultivating since day one. That said, does migrating towards somewhat different means of expressing yourselves, either in terms of subject matters explored or the way those subject matters are presented, feel like a viable option for the band and something that could happen for Lantern in the future?

Cruciatus: I appreciate your words here greatly, as the lyric department is something I have always put a lot of effort into. I also think our lyrics bring a lot of added value for the listener, so I advise people to explore them. Lantern is my output for this kind of horror/death/esoteric amalgamation, hence I feel no need to expand to different fields. I have different outputs for different matters, a few other projects I have written different kinds of lyrics for. We do have some more profound and personal lyrics, like Manifesting Shambolic Aura and Invocation Of The Fathomless, but they all have a similar undertow and a death metal horror twist. When thinking outside music, I have thought about writing novels or short stories for a long time. Time will tell if there’ll ever be something concrete in that field from my pen, but one can always dream. Still, I strongly feel music and lyrics are my comfort zone and something I should focus on, regardless on the matters explored.

Below feels more and more essential the older it gets, as none of the subsequent Lantern releases didn’t manage to render it obsolete, regardless of the significant evolution that was taking place between them. It’s subterranean production values, refreshingly peculiar vocals and enigmatic riff progressions made it seem like a record difficult to grasp at first, only to turn into a gift that keeps on giving shortly after, a proper slow burner that fully maintained its relevance in coming years. How special is that record for you and, if you were to put it in correlation with the other two full-lengths you put out since then, would you say that II: Morphosis and Dimensions are better than Below, or just different?

Cruciatus: The gift that keeps on giving thing is quite typical to Lantern, I think it applies to all of our albums. Below is still very special, I give you that. It’s a relic of an era, something we can’t replicate. To me, it doesn’t take anything away from the later albums, yet it still is in a league of its own regarding the dark energy and aura. There is a certain truth in those who say the demo and the first album are the best, as the earlier works of many bands usually have more of that youthful energy and feeling of danger that tends to evolve towards a more solid representation, as skills and self-analysis get a sturdier stranglehold. That’s the case with Lantern as well, and Below is definitely the go-to album, if you’re seeking wilder vibes.

Does the Below material still have the same sentimental value for you, now that you are seven years removed from the whole experience of writing and recording those songs?

Cruciatus: It does. I rarely listen to my previous works, but we just spun a few Below tracks at our drummer’s place a few months ago and I could instantly time-travel to that era and the sentiments back then. I couldn’t hope for a better debut album for this band, there’s a lot of my heart’s blood left on Below. We still play quite a few of those songs live too, even though more songs from the second and the third album have naturally made their way into the set recently.

Lost Paragraphs EP, briefly mentioned earlier, was a release that went by relatively quiet. Its title indirectly implies that we are presumably dealing with leftovers from II: Morphosis sessions, yet the quality of the material on the EP makes it hard to believe that’s actually the case. What kind of lost paragraphs those two tracks are and were they indeed recorded during the II: Morphosis sessions?

Cruciatus: I would say the EP consists of material that we couldn’t incorporate on full-length releases. Both songs are custom tailored for EP purposes, to summarize it. They work better as obscure little gems on a 7” vinyl rather than having them devour a whole lot of space in an album concept. That’s the way they were written, and hence, the only way they could be published. Invocation Of The Fathomless was originally designed for a split release with Anhedonist, but with the plan backfiring, we needed another EP project to use it somewhere. It was a similar deal with Lost Paragraphs, the ideas there were mostly very old, pretty much from after the first demo, with the final version varying from the original just a little. The recordings were totally separate from the album sessions, and we have actually made at least three attempts to record a 7”, with the first being around 2008-2009 and the last session finally being a success. It was very important to get these songs out from the system, you know, to be able to clean the slate.

One could argue that, by naming your debut EP Subterranean Effulgence, the band laid the semantic groundwork for its future endeavors and properly anticipated what those future endeavors are going to feel like. Indeed, it seems that no other phrase, title or a verse from a song captures the band’s purpose with more nuance and poetic awareness. Does everything Lantern delivered up to this point feel like subterranean effulgence to you as well, or do you perhaps find such a sentiment way too pretentious? Can you think of any other words that could encapsulate the same essence with the same effectiveness?

Cruciatus: Subterranean Effulgence, a pick from the paragraphs of a H.P. Lovecraft short story, is a strong root for our current sound and poetic approach for sure. While the first demo was quite raw and experimental, the promo/EP had a steadier, dark Finnish death metal touch and was much more ready regarding the lyric department. It set a lot of standards for our story-wise content especially. This, of course, evolved slowly towards what Lantern is now, acknowledging the twistedness of Below, the thrashiness of II: Morphosis (an album with a lot of old Lantern, in fact), all the way to Dimensions, which I feel gathers elements from all of our eras in the best way possible. We even continue a story from Subterranean Effulgence on our new one, and there is the occasional stronger 2010-2011 Lantern echo in songs like Strange Nebula and Beings. Subterranean Effulgence as a pair of words surely describes our path perfectly, they sound underground, obscure, but still hold a hint of brightness to illuminate and highlight the horrors along our path. Hence, I won’t even consider robbing the ideal encapsulation from you, trying to figure out another set of words other than that.

In one of your post II: Morphosis interviews you stated that the sentiments you derived to music reflected the deeper end, the darkest regions of your mind, your abstract inner realms, your philosophies and even your beliefs. Are those deep ends, dark mental regions, philosophies and beliefs something you can grasp and articulate? For instance, what particular philosophical principles and belief systems you feel your music provides a fitting soundtrack for, for lack of a better metaphor? Would you go so far to say that your music has a spiritual component to it?

Cruciatus: Throughout the years, I’ve mostly tried to decipher my own visions, fears, delusions and glimpses from my rather individualist stance. I’m not a big fan of common principles or systems. These glimpses include sights of otherworldly darkness, the beyond, the unexplainable, the potential afterlife, to give a few directions. I guess it has a lot to do with myself trying to analyze the existence and my place in it, in the end. Trying to understand, trying to evolve, trying to be free. I tend not to cling into any dogmas, although I’ve been influenced by many, many occult, esoteric, philosophical or even religious ways. They’re too many to mention, as I’ve tried to observe different views quite openly. Most directions have provided something useful for my journey, but none has been the absolute answer. I see belief and religion as two immensely separate entities, of which the other one is much more toxic. Awareness is my belief, I would say. Acknowledging that there is more. Being open. And yes, the main manifestation of the aforementioned topic for me is my music, it’s the tool with which I’m trying to leave my mark. Music is magic, let it speak for itself.

Was your decision to name the band Lantern influenced by your affection for lanterns as physical objects that you presumably collect and use in your everyday life or did you find that moniker fitting primarily because of its metaphorical connotations and the fact there are so many archetypes hardwired deep into it?

Cruciatus: Mostly influenced by the Mortuary Drape song by the same name at first, then attaining definitions, aspects and a lot of poetic value. The idea of the smallest flame and smallest light being able to ignite and illuminate what was necessary for us had the most potential back then. The logo also came to my head pretty swiftly, so I started to feel it was meant to be. So, poetic and metaphorical connotations exclusively. I did purchase one immensely stunning lantern in Lugano, Switzerland, the one you can see in the Subterranean Effulgence band photo. Unfortunately, I have misplaced that one and haven’t really invested in physical lanterns during my days. All emphasis on metaphorical ones now.

The latest Solothus and Convocation records exceeded the expectations that were considerable in the first place, both are truly remarkable. When it comes to that Convocation record especially, one could even argue that L.L. overshadowed his entire previous body of work, Desolate Shrine material included. Assuming that you have had a chance to hear both albums, would you share the same sentiment?

Cruciatus: I have heard both albums, yes, and I do agree, they are some of the very best manifestations by the people involved. I wouldn’t take too much away from Desolate Shrine, even if the Convocation album is magnificent. I think it’s more like an apples and oranges kind of thing, really. While Desolate Shrine is a more blistering soundtrack of horrendous nightmares, Convocation is a different kind of platform for L.L. and should be very refreshing, not just for us listeners, but probably for his own musical labor too. Great job by both parties.

In a recent interview, a musician whose name doesn’t need to be revealed here, as it doesn’t have any relevance to the point he made, stressed that he willingly sacrificed family for music and that his success came as a result of love and fanatical dedication to music that prevented him from ever getting married or even engaging in some deeper, more meaningful relationship with a woman. Have you ever spotted traces of this kind of fanaticism within yourself and do you think that artists prone to developing extremely zealous mentality, devoid of any balance and flexibility, are more likely to benefit from it or to suffer a detriment because of it? Would you say that dwelling exclusively on one side of mental, emotional or any other extreme is destined to have a negative impact on creativity in the long run?

Cruciatus: Actually, I have found myself mulling over this topic every once in a while and I think it’s strongly related to a cycle of causes and consequences. Does one write music because they are depressed, anxious or suffering, to purge the darkness from their system? When the grit is eliminated, does one consciously or subconsciously seek to bring more distress, depression and suffering into their lives, just to be able to write more music for a feeling of relief or even an ecstatic rush? It can happen. This cycle can be destructive, if you can’t spot it from a distance and realize how to break it. Or unless you want to be destroyed, as I know some people say they find satisfaction in their own suffering and ruin. I don’t believe in that particular destroy yourself for the void doctrine. Call me boring, but balance plays a key role in how I see the world, really, and I am constantly trying to keep myself from not being caught in that vortex. I am not being judgmental towards the ways of light nor the ways of darkness. What I am saying is that being balanced demands embracing both sides and occasionally succumbing to one way or the other if a taking plunge is necessary. Putting your emotions and even your soul on the line is vital in order to create music that really speaks to people, but also knowing how to close the door behind you can also be a handy mental/spiritual trait. I wouldn’t say this less radical view has diminished up my love for music, on the contrary, I have more discipline and focus to really do what I want nowadays, which can result in unleashing wilder ideas and better music, if I only manage to keep some of that fire, that youth’s rage smoldering. Also, feeding one’s inspiration with emotions higher than depression and anxiety could be effective. This could even be seen as an esoteric process, to conjure such otherworldly thoughts and visions that you don’t need your mortal agony as kindling to light up the inner flame. Just a thought.

Lantern (Imprint)

Unlike the early days of the genre, when death-related imagery was merely a matter of aesthetics, over the last several years philosophically and intellectually driven contemplations about death have become a predominant discourse in the death metal scene. How do you feel about that subject, do you take death for what it is, without aspirations to penetrate the mystery behind it, or do you prefer to contemplate the beyond after all, like many of your peers?

Cruciatus: Personally, I can’t really accept the concept of appreciating death without appreciating life, or vice versa. I don’t see death as a target of worship or an ultimate goal, I see it as an enigma. My own fascination towards death was stirred already in my childhood and came fortified after a near-death experience I had in 2000. Overconsumption of alcohol and extremely cold weather are a bad combo. While hospitalized by hypothermia, with just an inch distance between me and death, I was floating in a sea of darkness, in a tunnel of light, until an old man in that dream advised me to go back for some time. And here I am, still persisting. Before that, my teenage brain had been quite sure I would not live to see the age of 25. But that view changed then, I decided to be alive as long as I live and undergo death after dying. In the meantime, I’ve used music to unravel the enigma and view life, death and dying from various angles. The idea of us using but a small percentage of our brain capacity intrigues me greatly. The remaining percentage, the vast entities we don’t understand, probably hold keys to wonders literally unimaginable. Information from this, what, 85-90% could most likely answer many questions about death and the beyond, as well. Maybe what I saw in 2000 was a glimpse of the hereafter, or maybe it was just some psychophysical phenomenon, electricity passing through my brain. Maybe it was the sensation of my body and my system preparing to withdraw back into nature? Who am I to say? As a transition, maybe the overall fascination of death, for some, is another way to try to reduce fear towards it, which I think similar to how secular religions and cultures work. Someone smarter than me wrote that the concept of heaven and hell would have a lot to do with calming people’s fear towards the end of the I, another phenomenon at the gates of death that’s really beyond comprehension. The festivities in different religious and cultural communities also dance around the fear of death, this reflecting to rituals, traditions and such in the field of darker occult and thus even metal.

What about Finland makes Finnish death metal bands so uncompromisingly filthy and insane?

Cruciatus: This is a hard one. Guess we still live with one foot in an age of soot, horses and smoky cottages. And I’m not saying this with a negative tone. Bleakness and suffering have been integral to our nation through ages, some of it being inherited to our grandfathers, fathers, then to us, thanks to wars, depressions, etc. On the flipside, we haven’t had the ability to express ourselves and alleviate the burden enough, except maybe until now. We’re still quite the cavemen emotionally, compared to the high context cultures of the world. We are a nation with a bit somber but definitely one of a kind personality, as well as a language spoken nowhere else. I’m sure all this reflects into the style of music our country spits out, too. On a serious note, the small size of the early scene must’ve also had an impact. This could’ve given birth to traditions, influences, silent bonds, etc. being formed and integrated to the circle of bands and personnel. The environs especially the older bands endured were far from today’s tolerant metal is for everyone jibber jabber. It must have taken some northern insanity to cope and prosper in some more or less backwater, even religiously driven surroundings. That mentality is still alive, and it will be, as long as our nation stays a bit rough around the edges. Until them fine rainbow city folks finally manage to convert us into civilized world people.

What are some of the most negative Finnish mentality traits?

Cruciatus: People here can be very impolite. I know I can seem impolite at times as well, but there are plenty of Finns whose impoliteness annoys even me. Customer service here can really suck big time. Guess there are more stuck-up and overly elusive personnel in certain Finnish tribes than there are in a few others, say, the joyous and comfortably twisted Savolax tribe, whom I represent. As a nation, we also have relatively low self-esteem and always compare ourselves to other neighboring countries, Sweden especially. That should stop.

What are some of the records or songs that never fail to elevate your mood and lift you up when you’re down and depressed?

Cruciatus: Bloodied Yet Unbowed by Primordial is among my top power songs. Listening to extremely well done, freely flowing and almost out of control music like my all time faves old Genesis and Yes also picks me up, reminding me of the power of innovativeness and really letting things go. Then again, Tropical Hot Dog Night by Captain Beefheart will also probably do the trick.

There is a famous quote by Mark Twain if you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed, if you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed. Do you feel there is something disturbingly accurate about this reasoning, especially in this day and age?

Cruciatus: I do. Like with music, trying to keep a blank canvas is vital, even though it’s hard. To quote Nick Cave, we live in a world where everybody fucks everybody else over, and as far as I see it, this reflects to the news, politics, etc. I honestly think every medium, every political party and every instance representing some cause on the face of this earth has reasons to misinform or alter the truth for someone’s advantage. I tend to say I am afraid of people who think they have got it right, or people who think the cause, ism or whatever they stand for is the correct one and doesn’t feed them lies every now and then. I’d say just say stay wary, but don’t fall into nihilism. It might seem like a hard combination, for sure, but then again, life can be hard, if you take it that way. In the news some time ago, there was talk about future technology allowing us to manipulate media beyond imagination. Soon we can alter video footage in ways that the modifications will be impossible or at least extremely difficult to trace. Maybe one day we can alter how this material reality appears in our eyes? Nothing seems to be impossible, as the past century has proven. I’m not completely against technology, but huge development also casts huge shadows over us and we should be aware of that. For the longest time I used to contemplate how I should just leave the city, buy some land, cultivate it, fish, hunt, you know, stick to lanterns and shit, and I’m proud to say that I have now bought that piece of land and made progress towards that ideal.

 

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