In these unprecedented, alien times of plague, isolation and paranoia, as the new normal takes hold like a spiritual cancer, it’s reassuring to learn that Finland’s premier purveyors of rotten cosmic horror, Corpsessed, are working on their as-yet-untitled third full-length. I reached out across endless plains of dust to guitarist / vocalist Matti Mäkelä to seek some details on the new record. We also discussed death as a motivator, the burden of living, the indefinite cessation of live hostilities, manipulation of the masses, the insignificance of humanity and long walks in the woods.
“A clinging fever, burning underneath the skin, ravaging plague, claiming lives by the millions…” Seems perhaps the prophecy of Corpsessed foretold on ‘Endless Plains of Dust’ in 2018 is coming to pass. Although, in all honesty, the pandemic has been a little underwhelming so far. I was expecting bodies to be piling up on the streets but it’s not happening that way. How have things been in Finland? Are there any restrictions in place or have you been able to get on with life as normal?
“Truth be told, I was as well expecting something much worse and more apocalyptic, that I indeed reflected in the lyrics of ‘Endless Plains of Dust’ from our last album. But who would have guessed that the way it actually went down was isolation, restriction and paranoia? A swift ending would perhaps have been way too merciful for a species as ignorant and selfish as humanity, now would it? Now we are just stuck in lonely self-reflection, which might be a good thing. Will we ever learn though? Remains to be seen – I’m not too optimistic.
“There were some strict restrictions in Finland earlier in the spring like closing the schools and child daycare centres, bars and venues, banning traveling outside of Finland and even the Southern / Capital area where we live was sealed off for a while from the rest of the country. They’ve since started lifting the restrictions one by one during the summer – but this seems to have backfired with new infections again on the rise. So, who knows how things will go? All I know is that I have been working remotely from home since late March with very scarce human contacts (I do acknowledge I’m quite privileged to have such an option). Band practices have also been very few during the whole year… I guess you can count them with the fingers of both your hands. I can’t lie that this isolation hasn’t affected my mood quite a lot in a negative way. To remedy it, I have tried keeping myself active with writing new music, doing some mixing jobs and taking very long walks in the woods multiple times a week for the past six months, which has made me at least a lot healthier physically than in a long time.”
Twenty-twenty will be remembered as the year of the virus and it has certainly been a time when people have been forced to consider their mortality and contemplate the possibility of death. I remember in March thinking ‘shit, I could die’. It was briefly alarming and then I realised that nothing had really changed … we are all going to die one way or another anyhow. Life is full of risk already. Death is coming – it’s just a matter of when and how. Probably no need for all the hysteria?
“This thing that you are describing here was actually the meaning behind the title of the last album – The ‘Impetus of Death’. Death can be a motivator and a force that when acknowledged, that your time is limited, it makes you do and create things – or at least can give you a reason to strive to be better. I remember Carlos Castaneda describing (or attributing quite likely this anecdote to his native American teacher Don Juan Matus in the book ‘Journey to Ixtlan’ – it’s been years I’ve read the book so don’t quote me on this one) Death as being only an arm’s reach behind each of our backs, and it can choose to touch and claim you any time. But instead of being a defeatist, using this as a force of personal power, and to live every day as if it was your last. Powerful message for sure, that we are reminded of quite often during recent times.”
Death has fascinated man since we first walked the planet – and understandably so. It’s such a big factor in everybody’s life: the final chapter, so to speak. Most of us fear death but, ironically, the only way to avoid it is to have no life in the first place! Thus, as a by-product of life itself, death is good. Suppose we should just try to focus on living?
“Exactly. Even though I’ve had a morbid obsession with death perhaps through most of my life – even in my weakest moments (and there have been many, I can safely say) I’ve never seen taking my own life as an option. Death will claim us when it chooses so, it is not up to me.
“The music I have written has always been coiled in darkness but this is my way of giving reverence to death, and at the same time fighting to carry the heavy burden of life – but instead of being crushed by it, my aim is to stand strong and defiant in the maelstrom, until the unforeseeable yet certain end, with the music as my banner or spearhead held up high.”
Speaking of impending death, Corpsessed have begun work on the follow-up to ‘Impetus of Death’. What stage are you currently at and can you disclose any further details about the forthcoming third full-length? Have you any idea when the new record might be ready for release?
“There is an album’s worth of new material written between the spring of 2019 and the early months of 2020. Just recently, we recorded demos (or pre-production versions) of eight of these new tracks in June / July of 2020. The plan is that these songs will form the main bulk of the next, at this stage still untitled, album – though there is always space for sudden changes and improvisation; creativity can and will happen in the heat of the moment.
“We did the same demo process with most of the tracks for the previous album, too. It’s good to have some sort of recorded version to get a greater perspective of the songs themselves and how everything sounds as a whole. It also gives us a more confident and nailed-down structure for the songs and is great preparation for doing the actual recording of the album – even though it’s a hell lot of work doing everything literally twice!
“I hope we can start the final recording sessions very soon. The idea is to now have an intense period of rehearsing and ironing out the last details, and then try to capture on tape the best rendition of these songs we are at the moment able to produce. It’s really difficult to guess any release dates at this point. There’s still lots of work to be done, not only on the audio side but also on the artwork. Then it’s also up to the labels when the release fits their schedules. What I can tell, though, is that the band is for certain not slowing down or wimping out. To the contrary, this might be our most brutal album yet and most defined songwriting with hooks and memorable riffs aplenty. I cannot wait to present these songs to people.”
Are you at liberty to reveal any of the song titles or to discuss any of the themes being dealt with this time around? Going by a teaser planted on your Facebook page, ‘Death-Stench Effluvium’ is one of the working titles. Suitably sick and gory. No danger of Corpsessed mellowing with the passing of time, then? More rotten, suffocating horror on the way?
“Some of the song titles are still pending, as is the album title, but perhaps I can reveal some… These might be subject to change, though: ‘Relentless Entropy’, ‘Spiritual Malevolence’, ‘Sublime Indignation’ and the aforementioned ‘Death-Stench Effluvium’. The themes vary from song to song, mostly based on who wrote the lyrics.
“Usually, in the past, the lyrics writing duties were handled by me or our drummer Jussi. On this album, though, Niko has chimed in a lot more than previously. He writes more from a perhaps nihilistic standpoint dealing with the insignificance of humanity on a cosmic scale and about human emotions like sublime hatred, which can be used as a tool of manipulation of the masses, etc. On the other hand, my lyrics deal this time more with the inevitability of death and rotting, and ghastly stories of spiritual possession, séances of the 19th century and cosmic horror. Hah! So, basically themes about corpses and possession – which embody the made-up word CORPSESSED.”
Last year, you took the unusual step of remixing your debut album, ‘Abysmal Thresholds’, adding rhythm guitars and revising the tracklist. The album was reissued digitally with a new title, ‘Beyond Abysmal Thresholds’. I have a few questions about this… what did you feel was wrong with the original mix / recording? I never noticed anything amiss myself, although the new version is certainly a vast improvement. Also, are there plans to give ‘Beyond…’ a physical release? And, finally, that you saw fit to revisit the debut album suggests that as a band you now have a much clearer picture of exactly what Corpsessed should sound like than you did five or six years ago. Is the fact that you are more focussed now, more experienced and more meticulous in turn mean that a lot more blood, sweat and tears will go into the third full-length to make sure it is a perfect representation of where you are at?
“The production on the original release of ‘Abysmal Thresholds’ has bothered me for a long time, mainly in that it sounds way more cavernous and messy than it was ever meant to be, and I can only blame myself and my inexperience in recording and mixing back then. The album hardly sounds like what the band does live, and all of the riffs get really lost in the mix making it sound like more of an amorphous black continuous piece (nothing wrong with that, though, but that was not the intention) while the songs are actually rife with riffs that I wanted to give more focus to. None of the compositions were changed, and I was able to re-use most of the original recorded instrument tracks (drums, bass, vocals, guitar leads) but the rhythm guitar sound was deemed too messy and unusable, so we ended up re-recording those for the sake of emphasising the riffs more and getting a better sound.
“I don’t want to erase the history of the band, though, and I know the original release holds a special place for some people. That’s why the remix was released as a separate entity and both versions of the album can co-exist, that was also why I chose to put it out just as a digital release for the moment. The tracklist was revised to make the album have a different flow. Some previously-discarded ideas (mostly transitions between songs, etc.) were also reinstated.
“There are some plans to print this remix on physical media as well (everything had been prepared for that already since January 2020) but the whole Covid business affected this, too, and it’s not really a high priority anyway. Would be perhaps nice to have it released to support the new upcoming album, so let’s see!”
I was fortunate enough to witness Corpsessed live once (in Dublin) before gigs were outlawed in the interest of public health. It was a devastatingly powerful performance. The authorities of the world who have never cared about the welfare and health of their citizens suddenly care so much about us that they are taking away the things we love most for our own good. Anyway, how much of a blow has this been to you? Have there been many gigs cancelled or postponed? How long has it been since you took to the stage? Are you confident that live concerts and festivals might be back by the time the new record is released? I’m assuming it would be a massive disappointment if you couldn’t perform some gigs to promote the new album?
“I have stated multiple times that Corpsessed has always been above all a live band. And now, suddenly when there were no gigs in sight – it did take some wind out of our sails, that is for sure. The last gig we played was on February 15th, 2020, in London, UK. This was the Finnfest 2020 event with just Finnish Death and Doom bands playing – a fantastic evening. I would love to be able to plan a tour to support the upcoming album, but at the moment that seems a distant dream. Previously when there was always a gig in sight or a new battle to be fought, it kept us more steadily active and rehearsing very regularly every week. At the moment, we have been the least active on the rehearsing front that we have ever been as a band… and it bothers me greatly. Impurity and vermin breed in stagnant pools – flow and movement is the natural way to cleanse the blood. And this is why I hope we return to active rehearse mode again, just to keep us sharp and ready, even though there may not be too many gigs in the near future. I have some plans, though, of what to focus on instead – the album being one of those, of course, but other ideas are brewing as well.
“I remember that Dublin gig also very well! It was the Dark Descent / Invictus Productions labels’ showcase mini festival. Some havoc was unleashed on those nights and it was a great exchange of energy between the crowd and the band. Fond memories. Hope to be back in Dublin someday, if it is possible.”
On previous albums, you have visited upon cosmic themes in some of your lyrics and songs, most notably on ‘Starless Event Horizon’. It’s amazing how small and insignificant we are within the infinity of space. None of us are important, really. Would you agree that a lot of the answers to the perpetual mysteries of existence can be explained by what is permanently happening across the universe? Nebulas creating stars and matter materialising through incomprehensible physics? I think it was Professor Brian Cox who said that we all come from the stars and will return to the stars…
“Yes, what you describe is the worldview of my all-time favourite writer H.P. Lovecraft – namely cosmicism. This view has affected me from very early on, and has always had a great effect not only in my thinking but in the music I create as well. Human comprehension is only limited to a very small scale of what we can sense and understand, which is only a microscopic portion of what really is out there. We can only take guesses and see glimpses in the dark of the true forms of the cosmos, but we will never truly fathom the great mysteries of the universe.”
The idea that humans could one day colonise Mars seems a bit fanciful to me. Do you think something like this is realistic? That, in order to continue, humankind will have to somehow set up colonies on other planets? Would we not be better off investing more energy into making the home we already have more habitable rather than rocketing off and wrecking another one? The elephant in the room, of course, is population – there are too many people living on Earth and the numbers continue to increase by about 200,000 per day … the planet surely cannot sustain this?
“Without even considering whether we have the technology yet to colonise or even travel to distant planets, or terraform them (speaks volumes if we think we can terraform an alien environment to support human life, but cannot do the same on Earth?) – in the long run for the species to survive, I guess there are only limited options. Either choose the path of consumption, which requires expansion to new worlds as the resources are insufficient on ours – or choose the path of moderation, which would require changing our ways of thinking and habits in a more ecological way and perhaps the distribution of resources. Neither are easy paths and both have perils. I don’t want to advocate publicly any sort of political narrative here, either, as there is too much bullshit and propaganda in whatever choice you make. Sadly, it always comes down to human selfishness and greed masquerading as noble ideas.
“All I know is, if the choice is not made, nature will do it for us – which brings us a full circle to the beginning of this interview. What can I say … Choose Death!”