Hooded Menace’s Never Cross the Dead is one of my favorite albums of 2010. It’s a sickening slab of vintage-style death/doom with no shortage of gnarly slow-motion riffs, not to mention some genuinely creepy, catchy melodies that will lodge themselves in your skull like the rusty swords of the bloodthirsty Blind Dead. I contacted Hooded Menace mainman Lasse Pyykko via e-mail for the following in-depth interrogation.
THKD: Tell us about the making of Never Cross the Dead. How did the recording process for this one differ from Fulfill the Curse?
Lasse Pyykko: It was pretty painless process apart from the vocal sessions. That always seems to be hard for me. Well, I didn´t practice it much at all so it was expectable… Anyway, everything came out great and we are very happy with the result. This time around we recorded the album in two studios. We just wanted to try something new. The one was a pro-studio (Bordercase Studio) and the other one my own “studio”… just a basic and simple recording gear that I call Horrisound Studios, haha!
THKD: Without revealing all of your secrets, what was your equipment setup for the new album? The guitars sound massive!
LP: Thanks but we keep these things to ourselves. Discussing about equipment and stuff like that is pretty boring anyways.
THKD: In addition to the crushing riffs, you’ve got a killer vocal style. Where does that deep, cavernous growl come from? Does it put a lot of wear and tear on your throat?
LP: For Hooded Menace I wanted vocals that are not very powerful.. you know, in a way like the vocals of L.G. Petrov, Matti Kärki and other tight death metal vocalist like that. They rule but I think that style wouldn´t fit so well with our concept. I wanted something more creepy and kinda more.. how should I put it… more growly and kinda “lazy”, zombiefied vocals, you know. I´m not so good at very powerful vocals so coming up with something like this was easier but still it is definitely not easy. Growling has always been hard for me and it´s not really my favorite task in a band. Doesn´t feel too good either. No pain no gain, I guess, haha! Glad to hear you like the vocals! It seems that some people into doom and into metal in general can´t cope with my vocals. Well, we are DEATH/doom so what do you expect? One more Ozzy? I can tell you I could make clean vocals, and in fact it would be easier than grunting, but we want it to be this way! As long as this feels the “right” way to do it, we´ll stick to it. I think with clean vocals we´d end up being more or less just another doom metal band. Then they´d whine that we are just a Candlemass clone or something, haha! I think our stuff is more original and fitting with deep death metal vocals. But what can you do.. can´t please everyone and we won´t. I have always dug doom metal, death metal, death/doom and whatelse… I have no problem with clean vocals or death metal growling. It´s whiners´ loss and more music to me, ha! If you are looking for “pure n true” doom, look somewhere else.
THKD: How would you describe your songwriting methods? Does your writing approach for Hooded Menace differ from your other projects?
LP: Not really. I just sit down and play until something good comes out. Then I record it and start building a song around it. I record everything from harmonies to solos and also program the drums to the songs just to make sure everything really does work. Then I send an mp3 to the other members and they´ll learn it. That´s the way it has been so far.
THKD: On this album you have several guest lyricists. How did this come about? What does each one bring to the table?
LP: We had the same people contributing the lyrics on the debut album as well. Billy from Razorback Records has been writing lyrics for us since the day one and he hooked up some of his horror obsessed friends for the task as well. This is great because I don´t like writing lyrics that much. I´m lazy at it. Those guys are like walking horror movie encyclopedias and they “get” what this band is all about so this procedure has been working perfectly for us. They are all great but Lucio Holocausto´s style stands out the most. Lucio is more poetic. Very cool style I think!
THKD: What made you decide to switch labels from Razorback to Profound Lore for Never Cross the Dead?
LP: Profound Lore offered a better deal. Simple as that. Now we get the promotion, distribution and support that we think we need and deserve at this phase. It was time to move on. I know it happened quickly but so what. Usually the first albums that bands put out are their best so why should we have waited? I wanted “Never Cross The Dead” to have better circumstances, so to speak.
THKD: Hooded Menace has gotten a lot of attention between Fulfill the Curse and Never Cross the Dead. Are you surprised by the great response you’ve gotten?
LP: Yes! It is quite amazing. When the band started I thought it would attract only a handful of die hard freaks. Of course I knew the stuff we had was really good and that it deserved recognition but I didn´t expect our death/doom to be this appealing. But yeah, it´s good to notice that people care about good music. It´s nice to get great feedback for a work that you are very satisfied with and proud of. It feels justified.
THKD: Hooded Menace is known for using imagery related to Ossorio’s Blind Dead series. What is it about those films that you find inspiring?
LP: The films just go so well with our sound. The slow and heavy pacing of the Blind Dead, the fog-shrouded graveyards, the menacing atmosphere… it´s all there in our music. To express these vibes musically feels quite natural and very inspiring. It gives depth to the whole thing.
THKD: Aside from the Blind Dead movies, what are some of your other favorite horror films?
LP: Here are some of my faves: The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Evil Dead, Toxic Avenger, Suspiria, Halloween etc. Probably forgot a few that I definitely should have mentioned and that will bug me later, haha! Anyway, my favorite stuff is mostly from the 80´s and 70´s.
THKD: You cover the theme from the film Return of the Evil Dead on the new album, and many of the melodies throughout Never Cross the Dead sound like could’ve come from a vintage horror movie. Would you ever consider doing soundtrack work?
LP: Of course that would be interesting and challenging. It´s a pity that I suck at keys tho. Horror keyboards would rule and if you really could play piano it damn surely would help. By the way, one track on the new album has a melody that I ripped off from the Blind Dead soundtrack! I´m not gonna tell you where it is. People can try to spot it out! Of course I´m not talking about “Theme From Return Of The Evil Dead”.
THKD: Beyond horror, what else inspires you creatively? Who are your primary influences?
LP: Early Cathedral, 80´s Candlemass, Asphyx, two first albums by Paradise Lost, Winter, Black Sabbath… I think those are our biggest influences. Also I get in the “doomy mode” by just wandering in old cities with great medieval architecture like Ghent, Brugge, Prague etc. I only wish I could do that more often, ha! Gotta stick with the books from the library, haha!
LP: Yes, we will! Right now he is working on the cover art for our split with the mighty Asphyx! Putrid rules! He is a great artist and an easy-going, nice guy too!
THKD: I know you guys are getting ready to do some live shows. Are you looking forward to playing live? Will you ever make it over to the US?
LP: Yes, we will play at Live Evil Fest in London and some other fests are under consideration or confirmed already. More about them later. I just wish we will enjoy playing these shows because if we won´t, we are probably not going to do it again. Of course we´d like to come to US too if performing live is what we really want to do. First we have to find out!
THKD: You’re also involved in several other projects (Claws, Phlegethon, etc). How do you find time for so many bands?
LP: Basically it´s just about using the time efficiently. I don´t play shows with any of these bands besides Hooded Menace so they don´t take as much time as one might think. It´s more like working in periods. Right now Hooded Menace rehearsals is pretty much all I do. I´m having a break from songwriting apart from my latest project Swarming with Rogga Johansson. We recorded two songs for a split with Zombie Ritual and it´ll be out on Doomentia Records this year. Once we get Hooded Menace live set together I think I will start writing more stuff for Hooded Menace, Claws and Swarming too. Vacant Coffin is on hold at the moment and I don´t know when/if we´ll return. So my life is not that hectic after all.
THKD: What does the rest of 2010 have in store for Hooded Menace, as well as your other various projects?
LP: As I mentioned, we will have a split 7″ with Asphyx out on Doomentia sometime in 2010. Also a split 7″ with Coffins is line up for this year. Doomentia will be releasing that one too. I´m really looking forward to the aforementioned Swarming/Zombie Ritual split 7″. It´s great to finally collaborate with Rogga!
THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?
LP: Thanks for the support! It was pleasure to answer to this interview! Take care!