Concrete Icon – Triumphant through Troubled Times

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There are few metal bands in Turku playing the slower, more crushing and oppressive style. With their combination of sludgy riffing with more majestic doom metal, Concrete Icon enters the picture. Through numerous line-up changes, they’ve managed to thrive and put out top-notch releases. After having released their debut Perennial Anguish this summer, the idea sparked to ask a number of questions from main man Jake.

1. Greetings, Jake! Let’s start off with a bit about your musical history and the overall history of the band.

Hey, it was summer 2007 when me and TK (bass) had some serious hangovers and listened a lot of Crowbar, so we decided that we should start a project that would be heavy as balls. We had no idea who else to get to play with us, and in the beginning we had only one song, “Flood of Darkened Thoughts,” which was the first song ever written for the project. So, we were jamming it together through and through with me playing drums and TK playing guitar. Back then we were calling the project Frightening Silence, and that name was influenced by a hangover state of mind, haha.

Then we had Pete from Cumbeast (at the time) playing drums for us in the few first rehearsals, but we wanted someone else behind the drums, as I was already pulling a double duty with Cumbeast and Concrete, and we didn’t want it to be entirely the same guys. We heard that TK’s friend Timo from Helsinki was moving to Turku and played drums, so we asked him, and he agreed to join. At first I didn’t want to sing, so I asked Vesa (also Cumbeast at the time) to do some vocals and my brother Juho to play lead guitar, as he is a really good player.

At that time the band name changed to Concrete Icon, as I thought it would describe the band’s dark and melancholic approach to music better. This incarnation of the band was pretty much like me and TK + session musicians, as Timo quit right after the studio recording of the first demo Flood of Darkened Thoughts. To paint you a picture of the member situation, Juho and Timo never even met each other during their time in the band, haha! So after Timo left, Mace from Trailer Trash Terror (my hardcore side project band at the time) stepped in to play drums.

After another year, we were thinking about hitting the studio for a second demo, but then Juho quit, and we had to move the studio time. Kipi joined to replace him, and with that line-up we went on to record the stuff that was released as a split CD with The Seventh Gate from the U.S. Right after we had that out, Vesa informed that he wasn’t interested in doing live gigs at all, so it was a mutual decision that he stepped out, and I decided to try to do the lead vocals too. I went to the studio and quickly re-recorded the vocals for the split CD stuff, and it was also remixed, so it became our second demo Desecrating the Throne. So there are like two different versions of that stuff in circulation, haha, one with Vesa’s vocals and another one with mine.

Anyways, from that on we thought we had a steady line-up, and everything looked bright until we went to record Where the Horns Reign EP in early 2012. We had the album in the can and were waiting for our copies from the label, when Mace told me he wanted to quit – I was just bummed, couldn’t see that coming, haha. So we were like, “shit… what are we going to do now?” Luckily for us, the situation that looked hopeless solved itself within two months, as I heard that Sami from Frostbitten Kingdom was telling some of my other friends that he might be interested in stepping in. I immediately got in contact with Sami and showed him the Horns EP stuff, and he liked it and joined the band.

So we threw a few gigs and got a record deal from Black Vulture Records from Sweden, as the label guy liked the Horns EP that much. We started rehearsing for our debut album, and then Kipi said that we should find someone for his place, as he is so busy that he wouldn’t be attending rehearsals that much. However, he also said that if we can’t find anybody, he would rehearse the album stuff on his own and record with us anyway. I made one phone call to my old friend Kride (Unsphered) to ask if he would be interested in joining Concrete, and he was totally into it. So we finally managed to pull our shit together after all those changes within a year, and entered the studio to record the album. Recording sessions were pretty smooth, and the end result is pretty satisfying, but of course there’s always something you could have done better. The album should be out right now as I’m typing this, Perennial Anguish is the title, and people are telling me they hear influences from Morbid Angel to newer Satyricon, haha… well, you be the judge.

2. Concrete Icon could be described as death/doom metal. You have a history of more brutal and faster stuff in your résumé. So, what is the thing in the slower metal for you?

Well, I’ve been a fan of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride since the mid 90’s, so the slower and more melodic stuff has been there with me since my school days. In my first real band where I played drums we used to play more classic and melodic heavy kinda stuff, so Concrete Icon is pretty much like coming back home for me.

3. Has there been any evolution in your sound and music, if you compare the first demos with the debut album?

I think the evolution could be seen in the compositions, as I see myself getting better with guitar. On those first two demos the lead guitar stuff was pretty much written by my brother Juho, as I was afraid to try it myself, but when he left the band I was kinda pushed into learning to do solos and melodies. I’m completely self-taught on guitar and have zero knowledge of theory, so I have to work by ear on those things, but I’m slowly getting somewhere, I can sense it, haha. So I’d say that the songs are now tighter packages than what they used to be, on the first demos the stuff was pretty much written for one guitar, and then I just told Juho: “hey, I need melodies and leads on these, do it” – haha!

4. You are just about to release (or have already released when this interview comes online) your debut album Perennial Anguish. To tell you the truth, this is an album I have been waiting for quite a bit. How did the recording process go?

Like I said earlier, it went pretty smoothly, but to add, the studio thing is always a learning process for the band. Everyone hears clearly what they are playing, and some difficulties may pop up that you haven’t noticed when crushing at the rehearsals all cranked up to ten with everybody messing at the same time. So it always teaches you what to do better next time.

5. Tell us a bit about the album. What can people expect from this CD? Solid death/doom metal, I presume?

I think it’s a sum of all our influences musically, but I promise you, it is sinister and dark, and it has doom, black and death in it, haha.

6. You also play in Cumbeast. How do you manage to have time for both bands? Cumbeast seems to be a very active band. Also, members in Concrete Icon seem to have other bands, too. Have there been any clashes of schedules yet?

I think the biggest fucking mess considering rehearsals these days is when people have different kind of jobs, some have these evening shifts and morning shifts and night shifts etc. So when more than one member in the band has a job like that, of course it messes things up. And add to that some of us having kids already, too, so it is sometimes a bit clashing, but you gotta take it slow and not stress about it (yeah, as if I could, haha). But the fact is, as we all are adults, it’s not the way it used to be when you were 14 or 15, and spent the whole day at the rehearsal place jamming and drinking beer, haha.

7. What bands have inspired the music and sound of Concrete Icon? Any newer bands that you have been into lately?

I’d say maybe the biggest influences in the beginning were Crowbar and Paradise Lost, but I don’t want to limit myself when I write stuff. I’m a cross-dresser when it comes to my music, haha – I always tend to cross over boundaries, even if I try to stay in some specific category. I think these days it just comes out naturally; when I have a riff idea, I hear it in my head and know if it is Concrete Icon or something else.

8. So, what next? Any plans for the future? Gigs, tours, splits?

It would be really cool to throw some gigs to promote the new album. I have also been thinking that it would be cool to do a 7-inch vinyl release or something, as I’ve never done that with any of my bands.

9. Can you tell me a bit about the lyrical aspects of the band? Seems to me that they aren’t exactly your average “horror” lyrics.

You got that right, with this new album there are songs where I like to point out the irrationality of all religious bullshit and all that it does to people, the guilt and the fear it awakes. I love all kinds of religious cult stories, so there’s one song about kartanolaisuus, which was a Finnish cult in the early 20th century. Really fucked up shit, check that out from Wikipedia or something, haha. Then I remember reading an article from a newspaper where those who drive trains for their living told about people committing suicides on railways. Poor guys have to deal with that and all the anxiety and shit that comes with it just when doing their daily job. Then there’s one about family murders, and one about anxiety and depression, and what it does to a person’s mind. Anyways, I like to write about the dark side of the human mind, how fucked up that can be, and some stuff that I see in documentaries, read in a newspaper, or some bad shit that really happens in peoples’ lives.

10. The cover art on your last few EPs and the album looks really cool! Can you shed some light on the artist(s) and the ideas behind the artwork?

The artist is my lovely wife Saana. She is really good at drawing and painting, and I always try to push her like “hey, draw me a cover.” Then she’s like “what you have in mind?” and then I’m like “something with a goat in it!” and she’s “always a fucken goat, draw a goat by yourself!”, haha! She likes to work spontaneously rather than me telling her what to draw, and when she’s ready I’m like “whoa, I can use this in that and that etc.” So basically I always tell her to draw me a goat, she draws something else, and then I always find a place to use the art where it fits. J Like for example the cover of the Horns EP, it was a pretty old painting, but back then when she did it I knew I will use it in something, because it was so cool-looking.

11. How would you describe the scene in Turku, and how about the rest of the world?

I think Turku has a few really good bands, but the lack of venues is kinda dragging it down a bit. Generally I think it’s really hard to get your name out in Finland, as the Finnish people are a bit close-minded when it comes to new bands in my opinion, they rather stick with the old stuff than give new bands a chance. You can really see that in the attendance of shows with the newcomers or more underground bands. I think the old school death metal has been in a huge rise within few years out there, so it will never die, this stuff goes in circles, during some periods it stays in the shadows a bit and then it comes back again.

12. Name your top 5 things at the moment in your life.

Family, good friends, good music, health and food, haha.

13. Thank you for the interview! Doom on!

Thank you, it was an honor!

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