The Finnish Tolkien fans Avathar released the demo Forlorn in 2009 and even if we got aware of it a bit later, it was too good to be ignored! Time to learn a bit more about the band!
All members of the band have stage names. Is this something you feel adds to the 'Avathar experience' of taking the fan into the world of Middle Earth?
Witch King : Music is the most important thing. If it floats you away to the realms of Tolkien or somewhere else, let it do that. With our stage names and masks the band tries to fuse more with the atmosphere and spirit of the music. I have always enjoyed stage names, they give me a more distant and mystical feeling of the band. If someone wants to use their real name then by all means, I don't care. Stage names just suited the original idea of the band better.
I notice Avathar is currently unsigned and given the quality of your demos I find this astounding. Is getting a record deal a priority for you?
Witch King : All the demos so far have been made completely by Avathar and we haven't yet reached the state were the sounds are good enough to really present all the things the way we would like it to. For our next release we wanted to get the best possible sound, so for the first time ever we entered a real professional studio to do all the mixing and crucial recordings. This is a rather expensive way to do it especially when all of the funding comes for our own pockets and promotional CDs don't really make money. The quality of the demos is now days just as important as good songs, though I find that rather irritating I can understand why the labels want only material that are ready to be published straight away. All our previous demos have been done in a genuine home studio and comparing to that they sound surprisingly good. In my opinion it would be ideal to get a label that really helps with the promoting and studio expenses, because its really hard to promote music on your own so that people can see and hear our stuff. In todays music scene especially in the metal scene there are thousands of bands that are in someway competing for a place in the spotlight. So the bigger friends you have the more likely you can get your music out on the open for anyone to hear. Yet another important function of a record deal is the thing that it's more easy to get more and better gigs, if you are on a label. Don't really know why but that seems to be custom at least in Finland. If you are lucky, you might get food and beer as payment for a gig.
Daeron : The numerous demos we've done have all been educating affairs. Our sound has grown hand in hand with the pile of demos recorded. The promo recording of 2010 will, in our opinion, be the best work we've done. So our hard work has paid off. As for the record deal, we are open to anything worthwhile. But we have and will go on whether we have the support of a record company or not.
Your Myspace blog says that Kadotettu will be the first and last song in your native tongue. Why is this?
Daeron : It was an experiment that went quite well. English is our main language for the lyrics, but who knows if something Finnish pops up again in the future. It's a matter of what kind of inspiration Witch King gets for the songs.
Witch King : It actually says that it will most likely be the first and the last. Avathar had been around for almost ten years before the first song sung in Finnish so who knows maybe it will take ten more for the second. I don't really calculate when I make music or lyrics, it depends on the vibes that I have that moment.
Avathar was originally formed as a two man band. Was it important to become a full live band or did you originally plan for it to be a studio project?
Daeron : Avathar went on as a studio project for 5 years, and after that Witch King wanted it expanded into a real band. There was no plan, it just happened.
Witch King, you went on tour with Battlelore in 2008, right? Did this help to improve the live performance with Avathar? What is the best memory you have of this tour?
Witch King : Yes, I was on tour with Battlelore replacing their singer Tomi Mykkänen. The tour itself was maybe the best experience that I have ever had, I learned loads of stuff on that trip and I would do it again, if they asked me to. The band consists of wonderful people and I am very glad to call them as my friends. Every time you get to go live with a band you learn new things, so I would say that any practice helps the live performance. I have lots of fun memories of that trip though some of them are a bit faint hehe. Maybe the best gig for me was the last show done in Wales at the Hard Rock Hell festival. Lots of people watching, good sounds on the stage etc and of course the intense partying afterwards. Maybe in the future Battlelore and Avathar could go on a tour together. At least for me it would be the ideal line-up.
There are a lot of comparisons drawn between Avathar and both Summoning and Battlelore. How much have you actually been influenced by them? Who are your main musical influences?
Witch King : I would say that Summoning was unquestionably the first blow that got us to form Avathar so in that way I think that they were and still are the ones that influence us the most. Battlelore is in my opinion a totally different matter and I would not call them as a big influence, though I am certain that they have in some ways affected my style of writing songs, after all I have toured with them and known them as a band way before they even got a record deal. Nowadays I mostly listen to stuff from the golden (dark) 90's, so I would say that the more melodic side of black metal is still the greatest influence for me.
Daeron : Avathar has definitely been influenced by Summoning. I'd say it's a rough mix between Summoning and 90's Norwegian metal. But still something quite different, unique you might say.
Many bands have been highly influenced by Tolkien. Do you ever find that people are, despite the quality of your songs, derogatory about your choice of theme and additionally do you ever feel constrained creatively by only writing about the world of Tolkien?
Daeron : Of course listeners have lots of prejudices and strong opinions. We are fine with that. Avathar will however be a metal band inspired by Tolkien. Take it or leave it, but I suggest giving it a try first.
Witch King : The world created by Tolkien is incredibly vast and filled with material to represent, so no I don't find it constraining. If someone dislikes the subject then that is their problem. As Daeron said take it or leave it.
You use a lot of sound clips from the LOTR movies. Are you all big fans of the film adaptations and do you prefer the films or the book?
Daeron : Avathar was formed before the films, so the books of course. We felt the movie samples fit quite well with the songs so that's what we went for.
Witch King : All the books relating to middle-earth and arda are in my opinion masterpieces. I fell in love with the world and its stories when I was a kid and I still read them in a regular basis. The films are also great and I don't think that anyone could have done them better than Peter Jackson, despite the fact that the story is just too large to fully manage in the length of three movies. I am also looking forward to the film version of the hobbit.
You recently underwent some line-up changes. How much has this affected the band?
Witch King : For the first time I don't have to think the capabilities of our singer when I compose songs, meaning that she really is the most suitable person for the band. Nowadays I don't have to worry about live gigs or recordings, because I can trust her to manage them a 100%. Also her devotion and attitude towards the band is marvelous, so we are really lucky to have her as a part of our unit.
Daeron: It has affected the band in a positive way. We are satisfied with our new singer and in her capabilities. So only in a positive way, nothing else really changed.
The difference in vocal styles between Finduilas and newcomer Miriel is quite big with Miriel having a much lower voice. Has this affected the older songs in any way?
Witch King : I think that even the old songs are better now with Miriel in charge.
She is also a much more versatile singer than Finduilas was so that really helps to get the job done as good as possible. Avathar is actually the first real band that Miriel has sung in and before that she has done only classical operatic stuff, so she is still evolving and finding her sound but the progress in her singing has been remarkable and I believe that we can expect great things from her in the future.
Daeron : Miriel has a much wider vocal range and a deeper tone. The old songs have not been affected, she does them like they've been done before.
Thanks to singer Witch King and drummer Daeron for taking time to do this interview!