Standard Interrogation Techniques: Five Questions for Kuolemanlaakso (Interview)

Although I’d ideally love to be able to conduct hard-hitting, in-depth interviews, who has the time these days? In lieu of this, I’ve thrown together the below question template, hopefully to gather some interesting and informative results, without taking up too much of anyone’s time.

Introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?

I’m Markus Laakso, the guitarist-keyboardist of Kuolemanlaakso. I write most of the material for the band and take care of most of the non-musical things for the band, too. I’m an easy going dude from Kuopio, Finland, with an appetite for art and all cool things.

Tell us about your latest release and why people should listen to your music

Kuusumu is our most diverse album to date. The nucleus is still built on death doom, but there’s more than meets the eye, when you stir the surface. If you enjoy massive guitar sounds, melancholic melodies, bombastic keyboard spices and the voice of Mikko Kotamäki (also Swallow the Sun), I recommend giving the album a spin. It’s pretty solid, even from my personal and annoyingly perfectionistic point of view.

What’s the most important thing to you about your music? What meaning does it give you and what purpose does it serve in your life?

Well, self-expression is obviously a key element. I have been a fan of metal music since my early childhood, so it’s a huge privilege and honour to get to record and release albums internationally. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if making music wasn’t such an important and defining element in my life. I do a bunch of other stuff for a living, but writing songs is the thing that I live for.

Some musicians live for the road, I live for the studio. I enjoy playing shows, but creating and recording songs is very much my number one thing. It gives me great pleasure and joy to get the songs out of my system and unleash them upon people that might find some happiness and comfort in them. I make heavy and somewhat depressive music, but it’s honest and cathartic. The aim is not to make people suffer, though. It’s the complete opposite. I wish to make them feel alive and bring them joy.

Tell us a lesser-known interesting or funny anecdote about your band or music

I only found this out a couple of years ago, but our singer Mikko Kotamäki claims that he was cheated into joining the band. According to him, our guitarist Kouta had asked him to sing on our debut album Uljas uusi maailma (2012), but here we are ten years later with a bunch of albums and shows under our belt!

Finally, what are you listening to at the moment that you especially enjoy and wish more people knew about?

I wish that people would check out Jonathan Hultén’s (ex-Tribulation) solo album Chants from Another Place (2020) and his beyond fantastic music videos. He’s insanely talented, a true artist in every sense of the word. The album is closer to Simon & Garfunkel than metal, but his compositions and singing is so damn beautiful that it captivates the listener completely. Truly amazing and inspiring stuff.

I recently discovered the album Devoured by the Oak (2021) by the Swiss band Cân Bardd, which I highly recommend, too. The album is basically blackened folk metal – or folkened black metal – with killer orchestrations that flirt with fantasy elements. Sounds weird, I know, but the formula works. Check ’em out if you wish to expand your horizon!

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