Scattered into Dark – Exclusive Interview with Hooded Menace

Hooded Menace (Left-to-right): Pekka Koskelo (drums), Lasse Pyykkö (guitar and bass), Harri Kuokkanen (vocals), Teemu Hannonen (guitar). Photograph courtesy of Mikko Saastamoinen.

Finnish death-doom gods, Hooded Menace, released their sixth album last month and show no signs of slipping into a comfortable existence. The music on The Tritonus Bell is slimy, sinister, and as riff oriented as ever, yet this time around they opened their ears to the brighter sounds of traditional heavy metal. It adds texture to the grime and gives the finished product an extravagant flavouring of mid-range dynamics to counter the drop-B guitar hooks. Fans of the macabre doom passages have nothing to fear with this new approach, nor should the death metal crowd wince. Hooded Menace are masters of their morbid craft.

As part of the prestigious roster at Season of the Mist, the Finns have no shortage of fans in the media, including the mighty Banger TV. But founding guitarist and song writer, Lasse Pyykkö, is keen to retain some of the mystique of the band, including his famous reluctance to drop everything for the demands of the tour cycle.

We spoke to Lasse to find out more about the recording process for The Tritonus Bell and the band’s future plans.

Above: Founding guitarist and song writer, Lasse Pyykkö. Photograph courtesy of Mikko Saastamoinen.

Let’s start with the fans you have in the media. Blayne Smith of Banger TV is a big supporter of Hooded Menace and included you on the metal family tree for the episode on death-doom. How often do you hear people say they discovered the music of Hooded Menace through Banger TV?

Yeah, I’ve seen some comments how people have found out about us via Blayne Smith. That’s really awesome of course! We appreciate a lot what he has done for us, and how he has done it in an entertaining way.

While we’re on the subject of death-doom, we said in our review of your latest album that ‘Hooded Menace are the best death-doom band in the world.’ What are the positives and negatives of being associated with a niche sub-genre?

Oh, really? Thanks! First of all, I like the fact that, despite more and more death/doom bands coming up left and right, the genre isn’t nearly as saturated as, say death metal, hence it has remained more fascinating, to me at least. Some might say it’s a restricted genre, but I’ve always thought that there’s room for development.

On the negative side, if I must think of something, I would not like to be lumped together with the cheesy end of death/doom bands. I don’t want to mention any names, but let’s just say that we feel more at home among the rougher type of death/doom bands and the classic ones.

You were keen to explore a traditional heavy metal angle on your latest record, The Tritonus Bell. What were you listening to besides King Diamond and Mercyful Fate when writing this album?

Too many to list, but let’s say Accept, Ratt, Van Halen, Ozzy, Dokken, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Dio, and the usual suspects like early Paradise Lost and 80’s Candlemass. And of course, Retribution for the Dead EP from Autopsy played on the wrong rpm (33rpm) – brutal!

Photograph courtesy of Mikko Saastamoinen.

How did you complete your pre-production work on the latest album with all the restrictions and disruptions caused by Covid-19?

The pandemics didn’t really affect the pre-production. As usual, I composed the music and recorded the demos. Then everyone learned their parts based on the demos, and we started practising the songs together at the jam space. Okay, we played some of the latest rehearsals with the facemasks on, but that’s all. Harri (vocals) lives like a five-hour drive away from the rest of us, so he didn’t attend the rehearsals – pandemics or not. He just did his homework, and everything came together great in the end.

Death-doom is not famous for its humour, but Hooded Menace appear to be enjoying their selves on The Tritonus Bell. What is the funniest thing that occurred during the album’s recording process?

Hmm, I can’t think of anything (laughs). I would not describe the recording of an album an enjoyable process, let alone humorous. It’s pretty stressful, actually, but very rewarding.

Okay, let’s talk about the song, ‘Blood Ornaments’. The lyrics are intriguing to this one: “Fall, cherish the raw numbness/ Undressed from carnal masquerades/ Where the carcass vines grow long/Slowly downwards/ Slowly engage.” Tell us more about the meaning of this track.

We prefer not to explain our lyrics too much, but rather leave it up for people to come up with their own interpretations. The less we explain the more explanations there are, and we like it like that. Everyone can have their own “truth”.

Fair enough. The song ‘Scattered into Dark’ is almost prog metal in the way it goes through numerous modulations and explores different genres of metal. How likely are you to go in a more progressive direction in the future like, say, Opeth?

Probably not too much, and certainly it ain’t going to sound anything like Opeth. 

Photograph courtesy of Mikko Saastamoinen.

Of course, musicians need diverse income streams these days to make a living. How did the inability to play live affect your livelihoods over the last eighteen months?

No impact at all. We don’t live off from the music anyway, and we don’t play live very often.

You did a split record with Asphyx in 2011. What are the chances of a joint tour with Asphyx in 2022? Or do you leave these decisions up to your record label and management?

Sure, it would make a nice bill, but at this point, I’m not even sure when we are going to play live, or if we are going to play live at all. Frankly, I’m not too interested in performing live, but never say never. I’ve changed my mind before so…

What is the highlight of your career so far as a band?

Right now, it’s the new album, I suppose. I have such a great feeling about it, and it’s so exciting that it’s finally released, and everyone can hear it. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this satisfied with anything we’ve done.

Final question: What consideration have you given to writing a double album in the future?

Well, I can’t say it’s totally out of the picture, but, basically, I prefer the running time around forty-five minutes for our kind of music. 

*** Hooded Menace released The Tritonus Bell via Season of Mist on 27 August 2021. You can read the original SBR review here.