Metal has many different faces. For some, it’s a way to live; for some, it’s a way to die; and for some, it’s a way to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. If you live in Finland, where metal screams out on every corner, you have to be really good at what you play to be able to go on. It’s the law of the metal “jungle” – either you smash people off their feet with your music or they smash you and you lose it all.
It seems that Finnish band Profane Omen falls under the first part of this law. Fighting their way through the “jungle” for 10 years now and still being alive more than ever, the band managed to achieve great success in the local scene. After having two official album releases (Beaten into Submission, 2006, and Inherit the Void, 2009), as well as one EP (Disconnected, 2007) and the endless live shows all around Finland and a few abroad, Profane Omen kicked some major ass at Tuska Open Air 2009.
After this face-smashing performance, we got to talk to the band’s vocalist, Jules Näveri, who was still high on the energy charge.
“Today was the second time that we have played at Tuska, after 2007, and that was the best gig for us until now. Today was the best one ever. I was so amazed when we got on stage. I looked at the audience and it was so full; I was totally blown away by this.”
This is no surprise. The band’s live shows can make a person give up all the negative energy people tend to hold in themselves. However, it doesn’t mean that Profane Omen’s music has a negative point; quite the contrary.
“We always try to have a positive message in every song. For example, the album that came out recently was about the void that people are living in, and when you let go of this void, you can become so happy. You can basically live your life the way you should and you don’t have to run around, having a full bank account, and stuff like this. Enjoy it, don’t think about it. This is the kind of message that we try to send through our songs. Maybe the previous album was a bit negative, but I think we always try to have a positive meaning also.”
In general, there is a little bit of both positive and negative mixed together, as there are two people writing the lyrics – Jules and the band’s guitarist, Williami Kurki. Some of the verses come from the musicians’ personal life experiences.
“On our first album, there are songs called “Painbox” and “FMH,” and both are about relationships. I wrote “Painbox” in about 5 minutes. There was a relationship that I had quit and I just had to let it all out. When I wrote it, I thought that ok, the lyrics suck, but it’s honest. “FMH” was about a relationship that had already ended, but kept on going on and off.”
Along with singing in Profane Omen, Jules was and is involved in several other projects and bands, such as a German band, Enemy of the Sun, with whom he is currently recording a new album. He also used to sing in a Finnish band called Misery Inc., but had to quit it due to lack of time. Even with all these engagements, Profane Omen is always the priority.
“I have done a lot of hard work for this band and it feels like my own, in a way. I couldn’t be going on without it; my blood is basically in this band, so if nothing bad happens, I could go on with this forever.”
Ten years is a long time and through that period, many things have changed. Jules joined the original lineup back in 1999, and right now he is the only member of the band who has remained since then. It is always important to find the right components to make any project work properly, and Profane Omen seem to have found their own version of “E=mc²,” which would be a hard nut to crack even for Einstein. The other band members are the main components of their formula, each of them unique in their own way.
“Our guitarist, Antti, is a punk rocker and he has found his peace in life in a way that I envy him a bit. He is a funny character in every way. The other guitarist, Williami, is a more philosophical guy; he is always wondering about stuff and he writes the songs and he is definitely one of the backbones of the band. Our bass player, Tomppa, is a great musician; I think he is the best guitarist we have because he plays the bass. He is a very lovely guy. When you start talking to him, you immediately fall in love with him, so don’t talk to him [laughs]. Our drummer, Samuli, is practicing every day; he is the most eager guy I have ever met and he is always developing himself. For myself, I don’t know what to say. I’m just a jackass who loves the world, loves being on stage, and I hope that it shows. So right now, there is such a great atmosphere going on in the band, I think nobody even thinks about quitting, so this is the band that we really want to have. Now we have a good chance to move ahead. We need the right people to drive us forward.”
Any formula has to be tested before it is applied. In some cases, time is the best test a band can go through. It will bring all the necessary changes, as well as all the exciting and disappointing moments that make up a history in the end.
“The most exciting moment I think has been today [the gig at Tuska]. Everyone was waiting for it so much. The most disappointing moment happened in 2005. We were on the verge of breaking up. We had our second drummer, with whom we were playing in Germany. We got to have a break there for a few days, just drinking. We ended up fighting and that’s the saddest thing you can get with the band that tries to get along, going somewhere. The fight that we had was actually the most crucial one for us ever; it was the turning point for the whole band. Our drummer decided to quit and we found a great new drummer Samuli. So it was a point where we just had to put everything together again and move forward. That way we ended up publishing our first album. I think what happened was just about to happen.”
Any young musician has to have his own idols to look up to, to be stock-still in silent admiration when meeting them and someday possibly even overcome those cult-figures.
“We have so many idols. But all time favorites of the whole band are Guns ‘n‘ Roses, Metallica, Cannibal Corpse, and Pantera. If I could speak for myself, my personal favorite vocalist is Mike Patton; I was so happy to see Faith No More, it just blew my mind. Then another one I love is Layne Staley. I have a tattoo of Layne Staley from Alice in Chains over here [shows his arm], one of my mentors, may he rest in peace. From the growling part, I like is Rich Ward from Stuck Mojo. He is the one that I always try to go for. I like his voice and I like the way he sings. We listen to many different kinds of music, so I think all the elements are in a way combined in what we do.”
Metal penetrates most aspects of the music scene in Finland; even an Idols winner can become a metal idol. Though many bands still prefer the old traditional way of getting their recognition, nowadays you can have it all in a shorter period of time and with a lot less effort. So why struggle? Just win the Idols and have your dream come true.
“When you win Idols there are always backstabbers, and when you win it with metal music, the whole metal audience does not accept it in a very nice way. So in this case, I don’t respect the whole Idols thing because I myself would never try that. But of course it helps people to go forward and, for example, Ari Koivunen was very successful with his audience, so if that was what he wanted, then it is good. I wouldn’t try this thing, because if it became popular, I wouldn’t be able to respect it as much as what we have been doing for 10 years, coming up and playing a show like this today. We did it ourselves, so this is the way we want to go.”
In the metal kingdom of Finland, it is not so easy to stand out from the crowd, to prove to everybody that you are really worth it. You have to overcome everything and everyone to get what you wish for.
“When we started the band, my dream was that someday we would have an album out, play outside of Finland, and someday we will play at Tuska. All of those dreams have become true so far. We hope that it goes further, because we need to grow and I know it. Now everything that comes ahead is a bonus, and we tend to pick up as many bonuses we can.”
At the end of the day, hard work is always valued more. Nothing is impossible, dreams and goals get achieved, but the most important thing is to have climb a higher step and be able to break through your personal ceiling once you’ve hit it. Profane Omen are a very good example of what Mr. Phil Anselmo used to sing about: “You either do it or don’t waste your time.”
Text: Tanja Caciur | Photo: Lene L.