LOST SOCIETY – The Antidote
Jyväskylä, Finland-based thrash metal outfit Lost Society was founded in early 2010 by vocalist / guitarist Samy Elbanna, inking an album contract with Nuclear Blast Records in late October 2012. An initial pair of full-lengths were issued in the shapes of March 2013’s Fast Loud Death and April 2014’s Terror Hungry. Third studio effort Braindead arrived in February 2016.
“After releasing Terror Hungry in 2014, we toured a lot that year, and travelled around the world, and stuff like that,” Samy remembers. “Basically with all of the free time that we had, we started writing tracks at the rehearsal space – just writing songs and jamming, and stuff. The writing process and the writing period for the new record was basically the end of 2014 up until two weeks before we hit the studio. One of the most important things that we noticed when we started writing the new songs was just that we basically knew at an early stage that it was gonna be a different record. I’d just say that it has maybe a more mature sound, and we were basically more open to taking in different kinds of influences into the music. We basically weren’t afraid to try new things, and I’d say that that’s why for us, the third record? We really love that shit.”
An array of influences informed the resultant Braindead. “For all of us, it’s always been really important that basically the stuff we listen to hasn’t been just limited to metal,” the singer notes. “So, there’s lots of different kinds of elements to the new record. We took in a lot of guitar harmonies that wouldn’t have been possible maybe for the first two records, because they were so fast all of the time. We definitely took in the guitar melody / harmony thing with this record, though – we took a lot of that kind of influence.
“Then of course with the slower stuff, there was a clear kind of death metal, the Finnish kind of death metal influence in it. Some of the songs, I’d say they have a little bit of even hardcore / punk influences and stuff like that. At the end of the day, because we love to listen to all kinds of music, the cool thing in that is that you never know what kind of music can influence you and inspire you. We could be listening to some fucking Shakira and get inspired (laughs). You never know.”
Predecessors Fast Loud Death and Terror Hungry could arguably be categorised as being more straightforward thrash. “I’d say that, in a sense,” Samy agrees. “For example, the first record – like it is usually with all bands – has basically the back catalogue of the start of the band’s career. Then for the second record, we were so fast, hard and furious that the songs that we wrote were a lot of the same style and stuff. I’d say now for the third one though, it definitely wasn’t a conscious decision. We didn’t say to each other that after making two thrash records, now we have to make a slower one. It was just more that we wanted to try and see what our limits were. We wanted to try out totally different things for a change, because at the end of the day, who wants to listen to the first record just over and over again?”
In Lost Society attempting to see what the group’s limits are, the quartet are perhaps discovering their identity more. “I’d say that it’s still gonna be a few records until we find out what the band’s style is, but I’d say that we’re definitely getting closer at least,” the axeman muses. “For us, I’d say one of those things that I think is cool with the band is just that for every record, people can expect the unexpected. You never know what kind of music we’ll put out. The most important thing is just that we’ve always loved the music ourselves, and that we’re proud of it. That’s the stuff that we’ll always release.”
One particular musical influence has become more apparent on Braindead. “I’d actually say that one of the biggest influences on this album was probably Children Of Bodom,” Samy cites. “They’ve always been an influence, but with this album you can really hear it. For all of us, they’ve been a huge band since we started playing. When we did the full-on thrash thing, we maybe couldn’t incorporate it as much as we wanted. With this album though, I think they’re the number one band that you can hear on almost each song (laughs).”
The Lost Society frontman enjoys material by other acts within the Finnish metal scene. “With the Finnish metal scene, there are so many bands out there now,” he states. “Of course one of the oldest Finnish thrash metal bands is Stone, and of course their guitarist wrote a lot for Children Of Bodom. He was their guitarist as well, so of course there’s Stone and Children Of Bodom, Amorphis, Nightwish. We all enjoy all of that music, but there’s tons of bands. There are some good old rock ’n’ roll bands – there’s one called Peer Gunt. They’re one awesome Finnish band; they’re basically like the Finnish equivalent of Motörhead. There’s just tons and tons.”
Finland’s metal scene is a vibrant one. “It definitely is,” Samy seconds. “We were really lucky basically when we founded the band, because in Finland I’d say that it’s easier than in many countries to actually get your band out there. There are so many possibilities. There are lots of venues that offer underage bands the chance to play, and then when you’re over 18 you can basically play anywhere.”
Braindead’s lyrical content marks a shift in tone for the assortment. “The lyrical side for this record was definitely I’d say the most complex throughout the whole career, because the first two records had a lot of the kind of party thrash meanings and stuff like that,” the axe-slinger critiques. “This record… I noticed that it was a much darker and gloomier album.
“I also wanted to basically make the kind of lyrics that reflect the music, so there’s basically all kinds of stuff about the braindead kind of style of living that there is nowadays. People don’t think for themselves any more; it’s just blindly following, basically just being braindead and shit like that (laughs). Then there’s of course a lot of the fictional kind of horror scenes, like ‘Mad Torture’, ‘Only (My) Death Is Certain’ and shit like that. Mostly though, I’d say it’s just about the kind of rebellion against everything that is known, with songs like ‘Riot’, ‘I Am The Antidote’, or ‘Rage Me Up’ and stuff like that.”
Among Braindead’s collection of tracks is a cover interpretation of the Pantera number ‘P.S.T. 88’, its original rendition appearing on May 1988 outing Power Metal. “I think it was the first time that we actually talked about covering a Pantera song – it was actually the recording session for the first album,” Samy recalls. “We’ve listened to Pantera a lot, because they’ve been a huge influence on us. We kind of decided at an early stage that ‘Okay, there’s really no point in trying to cover anything by that band because it is already as perfect as can be’ – everything from Cowboys From Hell onwards (July 1990) – but then we started thinking that there might be a way that we can get away with it.
“It was basically by covering a track from the earlier albums, because we’ve been listening to those too. It’s funny, and not just as a joke. By playing around at the rehearsal space with the song, we just decided ‘Hey, fuck it. Let’s just do this from the album,’ because we had done Kiss and Twisted Sister previously. I think it came out really cool.”
Pantera’s 80s chapter seems to be a period which the Texas-based metallers wish to forget. “The albums they released before Cowboys From Hell, they rarely speak of them or have spoken about them,” the lyricist concurs. “I don’t know if they are ashamed of them or anything, but we think that they’re kick-ass albums. We’re blasting them out all the time (laughs).”
Recording sessions for Braindead took place in the summer of 2015 at Sonic Pump Studios in Helsinki, Finland with producer Nino Laurenne. “He’s done every single album for us until now,” Samy highlights. “We’ve done tons of demo sessions and stuff with him, and I’d say that he’s become more or less like the fifth member of the band at this point. We really enjoy doing work with him, because he can basically bring out all of the hard work and the spirit in all of the guys in the band. It doesn’t feel like working, but he still pressures us to do the best that we possibly can. I’d say that’s why he’s always with us. It’s just such an atmosphere too, where everyone’s having a good time. He has definitely made the band. We have found our sound.”
In pressuring Lost Society to strive towards the best sound they can achieve, this has extended towards the guitars, for example. “We look for a good guitar sound,” the mainman discloses. “Me and Arttu, we always enjoy giving ourselves a lot of gain so it’s not as hard to play. With Nino for example though, he takes a lot of the gain off and says ‘You’ve gotta fucking play tighter.’ When you don’t get it the first time, he just says ‘No, you fucking do it again and again until you get it right.’ That was for the first album. After that, we all started practising just more and more. Basically then every time we hit the studio with him, the next time he doesn’t have to say that again. So, it’s the small things that in the end make a huge difference in the guitar playing, or the bass playing, or the drum playing and everything.”
Nino’s given approach doesn’t cause initial tension. “Oh, definitely not,” Samy stresses. “It’s all in good spirit, always. When we go to the studio, everyone has one particular thing in mind, which is just to make the best possible album ever.”
Guitar wise, the Lost Society frontman is complimentary towards Braindead. “The guitar work, I’ve said it so many times, but I’m so proud of the guitar work this time around,” he enthuses. “Me and Arttu, we’ve just… I think it’s a combination of the fact that we’ve been playing together for so many years, and now we’ve got that whole twin guitar lead thing down. We’ve pulled it off really well, in my opinion. And all of the solos that Arttu did too… I mean, he is a kick-ass guitarist. So, I’m really happy about the guitar work on this album. I think it’s the best so far.”
And as well, the Lost Society frontman is complimentary towards Braindead’s vocal aspects. “When we listen to the album, from start to finish, you can notice that there’s different kinds of things that we’re doing that I haven’t necessarily done before,” he endorses. “I’d say that with every album, we record the instruments and stuff. Then me and our producer Nino, we just sit down and listen to each song, and then we start thinking of if there’s any possibility of trying some different things out.
“This time around, it just so happened that with a couple of the tracks like ‘I Am The Antidote’ and ‘Only (My) Death Is Certain’, there was a great possibility of trying out some cleaner vocals and some melodies and stuff. I’m definitely really happy that we took that step because I’ve always liked to do the more clean vocals and stuff, and I’m really happy that we’ve now got it very well incorporated into the Lost Society music. I think that in the future, we’ll definitely do more of that.”
Braindead’s cover artwork reflects the album’s overall theme. “It was kind of an unanimous decision to name the album Braindead, because it’s becoming a sentiment for the band Lost Society,” Samy shares. “We got in touch with the guy who did the second album cover also, which was Jan Meininghaus. We just told him basically that we’d love for the artwork to have the Lost Society symbol, the triangle X symbol on it, and then something that reflects the album’s lyrics and the album title a lot. Then he sent us an almost finished cover. We all just felt so stoked about it, and said ‘Hell yeah. Let’s do this’.”
Jan Meininghaus’ respective artworks for both Braindead and Terror Hungry are more serious in nature compared to March 2013 debut Fast Loud Death. “Yeah,” the vocalist offers. “For us, there’s been a lot of people who have been asking us ‘Okay. Now that there’s Braindead and it’s very dark and shit, does that mean that you don’t have the humour or anything any more?’ Every album is always a different story, though. First we had Fast Loud Death, and that was very fun. Then we had Terror Hungry, and that had the speed and it was a bit darker. Now we have the dark, but you never know. The next one might be, again, just like the kind of tongue-in-cheek shit that we did ages ago, but it’s always gonna be that each album tells their own story.”
Some prefer musical ensembles to be more serious in nature, while others favour a more tongue-in-cheek demeanour. “It depends so much on the band that you’re talking about, because basically it wouldn’t really make a good point if there was a black metal band that was tongue-in-cheek,” Samy chuckles. “It depends, though. I remember the first Anthrax album (Fistful Of Metal, January 1984). You could see that with those guys, especially in their live act, it was all about the tongue-in-cheek and having fun and stuff. Then you could see at the same time though, on the album it’s totally serious. It depends on the band. Of course for us, it doesn’t really matter what you do on the albums. You can be as serious as you want as long as when you tour live, you’re not afraid to show a little bit of smiling and that you can show people that you’re having a good time.”
Braindead has largely opted for the former, with music videos being filmed for the tracks ‘I Am The Antidote’ and ‘Hangover Activator’. “We were actually really stoked because for Terror Hungry, we only did one,” the guitarist remembers. “No… we did two music videos. We were working with this one director a lot who we really like in Finland, this guy called Ville Juurikkala who has filmed a couple of music videos for some good buddies of ours. I think the video came out really cool, because we were initially thinking that it could be a bit boring to make a six-minute video where we were just playing. In the end it came out really cool though, and I think it doesn’t come across as boring at all.
“I think it was really cool, and then he did the music video for ‘Hangover Activator’. It’s just clips and stuff from our gig trips, our shows and everything. I think it’s a music video that gives a little bit of insight into what it feels like to tour with this band, and stuff like that. With music videos, we always want to film videos that are fun for the audience and our fans. We don’t want any unnecessary bullshit on video.”
At the time of writing, Lost Society is in the midst of a European trek supporting Exodus. “The tour so far has been just amazing,” Samy praises. “We’re over halfway already. It’s just blown me away; each show has been better than the previous one. The crowds have been so good. This is like the best tour that we’ve ever had so far. The guys are so nice to us, and we have a really good time with them. I remember the first night, where we were just talking. They were telling us how 20-30 years ago, they were in the same place as us right now – that they started touring with a big band and stuff like that. They’re giving us good, fatherly advice if you will, and stuff like that. For me, Exodus has always been a huge, huge influence. They’re one of the best thrash metal bands out there, and just seeing them night after night playing their asses off, I can definitely say that they’re one of the tightest thrash metal bands that play nowadays.”
Braindead was released on February 12th, 2016 via Nuclear Blast Records.
Interview published in March 2016. All promotional photographs by Ville Juurikkala.
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