When you think of Finnish metal, death and black metal tends to be what comes to mind more frequently than some of the other sub-genres. But there are groups out there flying the old-school speed metal and thrash flags as high as possible. Excuse is a perfect example, as the band formed in 2009 and has released a demo and EP that put their own spin on aggressive, blistering thrash/speed metal. Three years after the ‘Path to Extinction’ EP Excuse is back with a new four-song EP titled ‘Goddess Injustice’, which will see a vinyl release from Hells Headbangers and Shadow Kingdom Records on September 30th. With the release date so close, we’re excited to have the opportunity to present you with a full stream of the EP alongside an interview with three of the members of the band.
‘Goddess Injustice’ flies by in close to eighteen and a half minutes, but Excuse crams a lot into that short time period. What you’ll notice right away is that not only do these guys have the aggression and energy level that makes speed metal and thrash so damn fun to listen to, but they’ve gone for that analog sound with clear bass lines that makes the songs sound like they could have been ripped right out of the 80s. But this isn’t just another retro band throwing together some Slayer riffs and calling it a day, as while the core of the material is thrash/speed metal you’ll hear some black metal and proggier influences during some of the key moments. Riffs that hold your attention go a long way, and it’s sure to give Excuse a good deal of mileage with listeners. Add in the biting vocals of Oskar Lindström, and you have a package that’s worth checking out. This may only be release number three, but you can already hear these guys starting to branch off and head off in a direction of their own.
Crank this one up while you read the interview, which contains answers from:
Anselmi Ahopalo (Lead Guitar)
Oskar Lindström (Vocals, Guitars)
Atte Aaltonen (Bass, Backing Vocals)
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): For those new to Excuse, tell us about how the band formed and what brought you guys together.
Oskar: We started the band in 2009 with Atte Aaltonen and had a few years of line-up changes and struggling with finding a line-up to take the band out of our garage. Then in 2012 our current lead guitarist Anselmi Ahopalo joined the band as some sort of a manager and helped us to finally record a proper demo in early 2013 when we also found the long awaited drummer and lead guitarist to really start the band. With that line-up we wrote and recorded the ‘Path To Extinction’ EP during 2013 and played gigs around Finland until the spring of 2014 when the drummer and lead guitarist wanted to take a different direction in music and left to start their own act Rapid. After their departure Anselmi took the spot of a lead guitarist and Tatu Lybeck joined the band from another group we had played a lot of shows with. There we had the first line-up to really share the same vision and motivation to explore speed metal further than the traditional standards. Since then we have been writing new material and played shows around Finland, Estonia and even Japan.
TO: You mentioned that there were some problems and delays leading up to this year’s release of the ‘Goddess Injustice’ EP. What happened and what did you take away from these experiences.
Anselmi: We knew the process would be pretty painstaking when we started working on this EP because we wanted to really go all-in with it. It was really essential for us to record the EP fully analog since it would be released as vinyl and to have an original hand-drawn cover art to make the whole package really unique. In addition with the slower techniques in use we had our master tape reels shipped to the wrong address and they were completely lost for quite some time. Also there was some insane stuff like the guy who drew the cover art going through cancer during the drawing process.
TO: Compared to the writing/recording process for your first demo and ‘Path to Extinction’, what aspects did you approach differently this time around? How did the additions of Tatu Lybeck on drums and Anselmi Ahopalo on lead guitar change the dynamic of the band?
Oskar: On the previous releases I had basically written all the songs and many of them were even from the garage days so they weren’t so refined. This time the process was different because all the guys were bringing strong vision to the equation and I got to write the guitar parts together with Anselmi so they became much more versatile than ever before. Also the dynamics have to be stronger than ever because we managed to create really solid results as a cooperative effort and it was actually very natural process.
TO: Speaking of the recording, where did you record this time around? I feel you nailed that raw, high energy sound, and it feels like what I’m hearing on the record is very close to what I’d be able to experience live. Was this an aspect you took into consideration when you hit the studio?
Anselmi: We recorded the EP in Black Floyds Analog Studio, a really underground fully analog studio in the countryside of Finland with insane equipment that the wizard behind the place Tapio Lepistö have been collecting and upgrading for the most of his life. He really had the hardware and knowledge to make the raw energetic sound happen as long as we nailed our part and I think we did. We recorded the rhythm tracks live to capture the controlled but chaotic feel of our live shows because that’s what we think heavy metal should be even on studio album, unpredictable and dangerous. Also we don’t want to hide behind fancy studio technology but to show exactly what we can do when we play together.
TO: There is a lot happening on this EP, with plenty of fast thrash riffs, traditional heavy metal, and even hints of black metal. What have been some of your strongest influences as you were developing these songs?
Anselmi: We are all into 80’s speed metal, first wave black metal and traditional heavy metal/NWOBHM stuff so the influences from all of those scenes are definitely there. Atte is very into evil sounding stuff like Treblinka and Blasphemy, Oskar has a thing with Iron Maiden and I’m really enjoying progressive stuff like Watchtower and King Crimson so those influences are most definitely showing and our music is more evil sounding, melodic and complex than your average speed metal. Mainly we are trying to progress speed metal from its late 80’s state where it kind of died rather than playing the old standards because we think there’s a lot more to explore in the original speed metal sound.
TO: The cover art is fantastic, and seems like a perfect fit for the EP title. Who created it, and how does it fit the original vision you had in mind?
Atte: Oskar and Anselmi came up with the concept of the corrupted version of lady justice theme and we all thought it was great because it symbolizes our political standpoints since there are lots of injustices going on in the western world and religious values today. Oskar sketched the original idea and we got the artist Sami Haavisto to finish the work after I met him at an Inquisition show in Estonia. I was familiar with his previous works from other album covers and knew he could capture exactly the dark and iconic feeling cover we were after and he took the task and really did fantastic work.
TO: ‘Goddess Injustice’ is a co-release between Hells Headbangers and Shadow Kingdom Records, two well respected metal labels. How did this collaboration with the labels come about?
Anselmi: We aren’t exactly sure what’s behind that but I know they’ve done that kind of collaboration before. It could have something to do with the fact that it’s a vinyl only release.
TO: A few years back you had the chance to do two gigs in Japan. Can you tell us more about that experience? Where are some other places you’d be interested in playing that you haven’t been to yet?
Oskar: The Grandmaster of Metal Mikitoshi Matsuo from Rockstakk Records took our 2013 demo for sale in his shop and it sold out immediately and the same happened time after time when we sent a new batch to him. The same happened later with the ‘Path To Extinction’ EP and ultimately we sold most of both pressings in his store. Later in 2014 Mikitoshi organized a one day festival in Osaka and invited us to play since we seemed to have quite a bit of following in the Osaka area. We took the opportunity and had the best week of our lives there playing two gigs and doing crazy stuff with Mikitoshi, his Japanese-Canadian friends Brian and Elvin and of course other bands playing the festival like Demona and Riverge. In the future we would be stoked to visit Japan again and to tour in USA, also South America would be a really wild ride.
TO: Finland tends to be known for other metal genres rather than thrash. What’s the state of thrash like in your area, and what other bands are doing the style justice? What do you think it would take for Finnish thrash to be better known abroad?
Anselmi: Well the state of this style isn’t exactly great at the moment in my opinion. Most of the bands are really stuck into straight old school worshipping or the beer and party thrash standards and neither of those options is evolving the style in any direction. But there are at least few bands that are doing the old school thing so well that they are really comparable with the original scene like Ranger and Rapid and I’m really happy that we have really close cooperation with both of those acts. I think Finnish thrash metal could be better known if more bands did something unique and brought something new to the table.
TO: With the EP finally almost out, what do you have planned for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
Oskar: We are heading to Eastern European on a tour through Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary right after the release of the EP with other Finnish speed metal band Radux. After the tour we are starting to really work with our upcoming debut full length album which has most of its tracks already written and we are hoping to hit the studio in early 2017.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Goddess Injustice’ or Excuse?
Oskar: I would say that the ‘Goddess Injustice’ EP is really only a warning of things to come and Excuse will be hitting hard with more leather and bullets in very near future!