Cover art, photo by Simo Niiranen (Distress Of Ruin)

Lauri Ruotsalainen and Simo Niiranen – Music and Return of Distress of Ruin on the scene

Distress of Ruin is an awakened Snow White of Mordern Melodeath. The have been asleep for some time and their fans secretly hoped that the band would wake up. The miracle happened and Distress of Ruin opened their eyes in the new single “Solace of the Night”.  Their awakening sounds strong and promising. It may even be a promise of a new album. Distress of Ruin is definitely not one of the many Finnish Melodeath bands. They have their own, original sound, and precision with which they create every song, plus they don’t forget to think about the visual side of their presentation. They are not only a local band from Joensuu, they have the potential to find their way into the hearts of fans abroad. It can be said that they are at the start of their careers, although they have been on the scene since 2010, because after releasing the latest EP “Insights”, they had slept for some time.

What will their awakening look like? What are their plans? And what helps a musician survive long Finnish nights?

We talked to the frontman of the band, Lauri Ruotsalainen and the guitarist and composer Simo Niiranen about music and happy returns.  

 

Storms Of Humanity

Hi, Lauri and Simo, I have to introduce you to our readers, for whom Distress of Ruin is an below-the-radar band. You have been on the scene for ten or eleven years. In fact, you are not greenhorns, you have been on the Finnish Melodeath scene for a decade. So, who are DoRs?

Lauri: That is very true, we have been on the melodic death metal scene for a decade now. Time flies and it kind of feels like we started a year ago (LOL).

To describe Distress of Ruin with a few words I would say the band is an uncompromising Melodic Death Metal group whose music springs from the storms of humanity. The band is known for its unique blend of striking guitar riffs and beautiful melodies. The music is inspired by the mysteries of nature, the experience of time, emotions and loss of love.

If you are a fan of music that is a combination of interesting guitar riffs, beautiful melodies, tender vocal harmonies and powerful growling vocals – Distress of Ruin is a band worth listening to.

There have been many interesting phases during these years, and to put it shortly all of the things haven’t always gone exactly the way originally planned. 

 

Wolfheart’s Howling Wake Up Call

You disappeared for a while, after the release of EP “Insights” there was silence. I was a little afraid I wouldn’t hear anything new. Did you take a break?

Lauri: A lot of things happened at the time of releasing “Insights” EP in 2017. On a personal level, I needed to get away from the familiar surroundings and focus on my wellbeing. To do so I lived and worked the whole year of 2018 abroad. That meant basically working few months in Germany and the rest of the year in Canada. At that time, we needed to skip bigger festival gigs and other interesting offers because I wasn’t feeling mentally stable enough to jump back on stage. 

During those times also our bassist Sami Tolonen decided to leave the band and suddenly things started to fall apart. The usual inspiration wasn’t found in the group, so we decided to stay low for a while. If the inspiration is lost and you feel you have nothing to show to the people who like your music, it is better to stay away from the spotlights. In hindsight, this probably was the best decision we’ve ever made. It’s a cliche but I feel we are now stronger than ever.

Soon after coming back to Finland in 2019 Harri Säynevirta, our guitarist wanted to focus on his family and his photo- and videography company. It was kind of crazy realizing that a lot of the decisions made back in 2017 – 2018 affected the dynamics of the band, but this is how life sometimes is.

Have to add one nuance to this story, because it still makes me laugh a lot. As I was living in Canada, I ended up performing one song with Wolfheart in Toronto. To put it shortly, I commented on one of the band IG posts and asked Lauri Silvonen who is the bassist of the band, could I come and sell their t-shirts and other merchandise at their show. Within 15 min I received a DM from Tuomas Saukkonen, who was asking me to play one song with them. The funny part was that I kind of already decided to step away from the metal music scene for good. Luckily, I didn’t, and I went to the show. At the show the atmosphere was amazing, and I felt the spark of playing music for the first time in 1,5 yrs. You could put it this way, without that one song I wouldn’t probably be answering these questions. 

Interesting how things sort out! A big hail to Wolfheart!

 

Meet Distress Of Ruin 2021

As far as I know, there have been changes in the line-up in the band. Will your concept of music change?

Simo Niiranen (gui, voc), Lauri Ruotsalainen (voc), Riku Romppanen (drums), Miikka Hulmi (bass)
*Promo photo by Samuli Kuittinen

Lauri: And for the live shows, we have this amazingly talented and handsome guitarist on board as well. But it is not official yet.

The concept of our music has changed a bit I would say, but not too much. On the technical side of things, “the show off-factor” is lesser now and we are focusing more on the deep-rooted feelings of being a human. This is something that has always been there but now we are allowing the emotions to bubble into the surface.

You have released two EPs, “Predators Among Us” and “Insights”. Do you think we will see a full-length album or do you just like shorter formats? (Of course, I know, Finns are brief, but… I’m sure they release longer albums)

Lauri: Actually, at the moment we have a full-length album in the making, so at the end of this year, we’ll have another single release with a music video. After that, we’ll fully focus on the recordings. You might expect ~60min of new music in 2022. It feels amazing to see how the sound and themes have evolved during these years of absence. Some of the songs have been written already in 2015 or 2016. 

 

“The Great Wave” Of Emotions

After four years, you released the single “Solace of the Night”. Is it a harbinger of a new album?

Lauri: That is correct, we have eight or nine new songs somewhat ready. The songs represent different aspects of being a human. To give an example of what the songs are like, i.e these two of my favourites “The Great Wave” or “Deadweight” are two completely different songs but thematically both have a similar kind of story. BTW “The Great Wave” has probably the best melodies Simo have ever composed. The song draws you a picture of being in the midst of an emotional turmoil where the great wave of emotions are passing through you and the only thing you can do to survive is just to hold on and wait for the storm to end. “Deadweight” has crushing riffs and even doomish kind of structure – not a happy song at all 🙂 The lyrics on “Deadweight” are very personal to me and to put it shortly, I’m glad I got them out of my system. In this song, you will hear some black metal stylised screaming to get you to the right mood. 

So, it seems we have an album on the way. Interesting times ahead for sure.

 

The way how the songs end to the final format is somewhat a mystery to me (Lauri Ruotsalainen)

I hear a certain shift in your style. Solace is more melodic, maybe even softer. Did you want your music to sound different?

Lauri: It is true, the new single sounds different but not in a dramatic way I would say. You can find the usual and common Distress of Ruin elements there. But there’s something different as well…

Simo: I think compose-wise this is where we have been going all along. “Predators Among Us” was pretty straight energy, anger and frustration to what’s going on in the world. “Insights” were more complex and darker, introducing stronger guitar riffs and melodies. I think the new material offers a little from both of these worlds with even deeper emotions and melodies. “Solace of the Night” is just one piece from the palette of emotions coming up, so I wouldn’t make any conclusions of the overall style just yet.

Lauri: When making new music we don’t usually consciously think how the song should sound like. The way how the songs end to the final format is somewhat a mystery to me. When the new songs are in the making, Simo usually books a cabin just for himself and after the long weekend in the woods, he usually comes to us with a bunch of different motifs or even 90% ready songs. From there I start pondering what these songs mean to me, what kind of emotions, visions, pictures or ideas they end up me seeing or hearing. After these phases, I usually have an idea of what kind of lyrics I’m later going to write. From there on the whole band is putting their effort and ideas on the table.

The more your questions get answered the more you realize there is to be asked (Lauri Ruotsalainen)

In “Predators Among Us” you turned to the human psyche, “Insights” was a more philosophical album. Solace seems very Finnish to me, the kind I would expect from a Finnish metal band. Are you going back to roots?

Lauri: That is a nice way of putting it. 

“Solace of the Night” has something that has always been there. The guidance of the night sky, the light in the dark, the power that moves the oceans. We just haven’t been able to stand still and listen to the whispers. In a more concrete way of describing this, I would say the love for nature and the quietness of the woods have now been allowed to guide our work with the music. I feel we are not going back to the roots, we are more like letting ourselves be rooted in the inspiration that has always been present.

In “Predator Among Us”, we wanted to point out the evil we all can see in our society if you are willing to do so. At that time ⅘ of the members were working in health care, so it was rather easy to get inspired by the stories heard on everyday encounters.

For me, “Insights”  was an album that pushed me to think about the meaning of life and existence as a whole. At the time of making “Insights”, my mental wellbeing started to go down, so I kind of channelled those feelings and questions to the songs & lyrics. A lot of my deepest questions got answered at that time but eventually I noticed that the more your questions get answered the more you realize there is to be asked. 

 

I’ve spent countless nights alone gazing and photographing the night sky. (Simo Niiranen)

You always place emphasis on the art component of your albums. The covers are minimalist, very graphic. This time the single is accompanied by Simo’s photo of a lonely man under the night sky (By the way, Simo’s photos are excellent). Why was this theme used?

Simo: The song is heavily inspired by night. I’ve spent countless nights alone gazing and photographing the night sky. To be honest, I’ve always been a little afraid of darkness, but this hobby has been a great remedy for that fear. I think the art goes straight-forwardly hand in hand with the lyrics and the overall mood of the song.

 

The Unavoidable Matter

I know that it is not surprising for Finns when it comes to loneliness, isolation, social distance. But still, did the covid period affect you? Was it something else different for you? How has this affected your work on new songs?

Lauri: Of course, Covid-19 was something no one could expect and therefore it affected to out band as well. We managed to play two gigs at the beginning of this pandemic. I remember we took part in this band contest where the winner would get a chance to play at Tuska Festival in Helsinki Finland. That show went more than well and we managed to kill it big time and we were actually heading towards the semi-finals but then the world got shut down. Damn, maybe in 2022 will end up winning the contest and finalize what was started. Beware 🙂

On a personal level the pandemic has taught me to remember what is really important in life, you have gotten time to think what’s your passion etc… and for me it’s not knitting, lol. I know Simo loves doing that but for me it’s definitely music, books and sports and family of course.

You have also learned to cherish the precious moments because you’ll never know what is lurking and waiting behind the corner. The social distancing etc have felt ok, even though you haven’t been able to travel and meet people in a way you’ve used to. Other than that times of Covid-19 have been going rather smoothly here in the woods of Joensuu, Finland.

 

I’m responsible to deliver something that will give others the permission/tools to feel something too. (Lauri Ruotsalainen)

I don’t really know who composes the lyrics for you. You or Simo? Or do you have another poet?

Lauri: We both write lyrics – together and as separate writers. With these newer songs we have found this interesting phenomenon where the ideas flow in synchronicity even though we are not constantly sharing the ideas. We have a very similar way of seeing/thinking about life and music, so it is very easy to work like this.

What you sing about must be very important to you, you have a very emotional, strong expression. I always feel that you really need to perceive the lyric, to experience it. So, what about you and the lyrics you sing or to be more precise scream? 

Lauri: Thank you for the kind words! You are correct! When singing or screaming I tend to be in a mode where I’m putting all in and channelling whatever the song and the lyrics need. This method is emotionally draining but I think it gives this unique touch to the songs.

Personally, lyrics are very important to me. If you can’t stand behind the lyrics, why would you give your everything to the song? If the lyrics have something that moves you, it is possible that the listeners will feel the same. Eventually while recording the vocals you have to be able to re-live the emotions that were present when the lyrics were written. I feel that as a singer I’m responsible to deliver something that will give others the permission/tools to feel something too.

By the way, can I hear your clean vocal on the recordings or do you use only harsh?

Lauri: There might be tiny bits here and there in the background but I think Simo handles cleaner vocals better than I. So there is no need to do otherwise at this point. There will be more melodic harsh vocals, but not completely clean vocals even though this is something I’ve been training a lot during these past few years.

 

The Power Of Music

I have a theory that the singer is screaming instead of me, or for me. That I can be silent and that he expresses my anger, sadness, helplessness. It is very soothing, healing. Like small music psychotherapy. What does the music do for you?

Lauri: I agree! Personally, I think the listener and the singer is co-creating something together. If the listener can really feel and hear the emotions behind the singing then you are on the right track of doing things. As a big music fan myself, I tend to travel in time or just inside myself when listening to music. You can use music in so many ways, i.e the experience can completely be escapist or a way of boosting your mood before a demanding task, such as cleaning the house or starting a new project. 

I actually have a huge variety of different playlists for different situations. At work I usually listen to something that helps me to focus and when working out at the gym the music usually is something very different.

When finding myself stuck in obsessive thinking and feeling low, I usually scroll through my playlists to find the right track to get me going again. When that happens it’s like catharsis, like a great wave passing through your system and you eventually feel better. Music has power beyond our comprehension

With DoR you work on new songs, on a new single. What are your next plans?

Simo: The plan is to release another single Searching the Architect with a music video in November and after that we will focus on recording new material for our debut album. Maybe one or two singles within the first months of 2022.

 

There’s always a band who is willing to help (Lauri Ruotsalainen)

I know it’s hard to get to the top and become famous, especially in a country where there are 2,000 Melodeath bands. Is it difficult to build a fan base in Finland? How does the support of local bands work?

Lauri: I would say, yes and no. There’s a lot of Metal bands in Finland for sure, but the atmosphere is not like we all would be competing against each other. There’s always a band who is willing to help when i.e your band is going to a city where you haven’t been before. The fan base can grow very fast but not at a pace like in a country where there are less melodeath bands. 

Finally, I just have to ask, it is a duty: when will I see DoR on a stage in the Czech republic?

Lauri: I believe in mysteries and miracles, so I’ll use this moment as a manifestation practice. [Breathing slowly] Distress of Ruin is coming to Brutal Assault in 2022 or in 2023. If the promotor of the festival reads this, I can guarantee that taking us would be the best decision of your life.

 


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Distress Of Ruin online and their official merch & music store 


Interview taken by Miklaras, dear friend and colleague @ obscuro.cz! Thank you!

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