Horror lurks everywhere around us and we wouldn’t have it any other way. As a society, we are fascinated by tales of serial killers, both real and fictional, as well as monsters of all shapes and sizes. Take a look at how many installments get made of even the most mediocre slasher film or how many streaming documentaries there are about anyone and everyone who has ever even thought about killing someone if you need further proof of mankind’s love of the mad and macabre. With such a solid chunk of our mental bandwidth taken up by the darkness, it’s no wonder that plenty of bands from all areas of music, but particularly extreme metal, have found a home in the madness.
Since forming in 2021, Finland’s Tramalizer has given a voice to the darkness and the terror lurking at the heart of existence. The band’s 2021 demo paved the way for this year’s debut full-length, Fumes of Funeral Pyres, released in February. The record is a killer dose of death metal with inspirations ranging across the spectrum of that specific subgenre. I recently caught up with bassist T. Oranen to chat about his band’s opening statement and what appeals about the more morbid side of life.
First off, how did Tramalizer get started? What made you want to start this type of band?
Oranen: I [was] born in [the] seventies and during my early teen years, thrash metal was a big thing. So in 1991, I was something like 17 years old when death metal started to take over. It was so fascinating and I was at that fragile age where I have started to play in bands and stuff like that. So it hit hard, it hit so goddamn hard. But even if death metal was our favourite music, our bands still played more hardcore punk, spiced with metal influences. Of course we would have played more death metal, but just couldn’t, so the music we played was more primitive and straightforward.
After some years my skills and interests evolved and I found black metal in the mid-nineties. Gotta say that I was quite puritanist at that time. Listened to nothing but black metal and wore only black clothes and so on. So for years, I listened to nothing but it and dubbed over my death and thrash metal tapes. One [thing you’ve] gotta remember is that I was young and things hit hard when they do so. But when you get older, you also get wiser. So sometimes in my adult years I started to listen to all those old albums that I listened to when I was younger. Especially those which came just in that time when the thrash metal era was changing to death metal. So that got me thinking how great it would be to play death metal in its purest form. So some years ago I started to talk with my bandmate – Jokelainen from MARRAS – about gathering a death metal band. Still remember that short conversation we had in the lobby of the local grocery store. That was the start of it and the rest is history. One could say that nowadays we have a band that we should have had thirty years ago.
What got you into death metal in the first place and who are some of the bigger influences for this particular band?
Oranen: Pretty much covered that in previous question. Of course you can feel the moment that we had when the buzzsaw hit us with Left Hand Path. But there are also many bands like Pestilence who’s first two albums were good examples of how a thrash metal band sheds its skin and evolves into death metal shape. And check Cannibal Corpse’s debut album. It’s pure thrash metal but in death metal form. We all have listened to lots of Slayer and the energy and rage is influenced from there. So sometimes I get frustrated when people always compare Tramalizer to Entombed and Dismember. If you just could see behind the guitar tone, you would find and learn much of bands like Incubus, Vader, Benediction or Cancer. Wait a minute, now I got it! One can even say that if you take bands from the glory days of Earache and Nuclear Blast, mix them together, and you have something that influenced us most.
What makes you guys all work so well together as a band and how do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
Oranen: We aren’t newbies. All of us have been active in bands for decades. Me and Jokelainen [Guitars] have our roots in black metal, Laanto [Drums] has been doing thrash and death metal, and Tarvonen [Vocals] has been doing thrash metal and sludge-something-metal. But we all have lived and loved that certain era of death metal. It’s the same skeleton in our closets. So we have that same passion and know what it takes to do good metal of death. It’s so much more than just low-tuned guitars, distorted sound, and lyrics about brain-eating zombies. So we have passion, we have a vision, we have skills and understanding how to achieve our goal. Death metal is something more than what you hear at first. If you sound crushing or play fast as Hell or can do some really guttural and frightening vocals or [your] album sounds like rotting tomb, that is just a shallow shell if the music doesn’t have a soul. Same thing like when doing black metal. If it sounds like black metal with distorted sound and stuff like that, it isn’t enough. It might be metal, but no black metal.
What’s your process like for writing the music side of things? Has that changed at all over the years?
Oranen: Usually it’s Jokelainen who comes up with demo songs. Together we check if there is anything we should rearrange with it or which direction the song should go. I also do some compositions, but they are more moody parts which are more suitable for bridge parts or outros. If you listen to the album and hear thrashy riffing, that is composed by Jokelainen and if you hear a more darker part, that is most likely from my drawer. For forthcoming stuff we will continue doing so, but this time also our drummer – Laanto – who also happens to be the best lead guitarist I know, will take a part of doing songs.
How do you write the lyrics for the band? What do you turn to for inspiration for the songs?
Oranen: For this debut album it was me who wrote all the lyrics. But it wasn’t intentional, it just happened. At first we thought that everyone writes the lyrics, but when I got in the right mood, we soon noticed that all the demo tracks had lyrics written before others even started. I usually suck at writing lyrics because I don’t get the right idea and even when I get one, don’t know how to write it down. If you know the expression “The writer’s block” you know what I mean. But every now and then that block breaks and all these ideas start to burst out of my head. And when that happens, there has to be pen and paper nearby.
The debut, Fumes of Funeral Pyres, is a killer first record! How did getting to record this one come about and what was that process like? What did you learn from the process that you’ll take to future recordings?
Oranen: We recorded and mixed the album ourselves. So we didn’t have any schedules and could do retakes whenever we wanted. So doing it like that was stress free and more natural when we could work in familiar circumstances without outsiders. Also it helped a lot that one of us has a semi-professional studio in his hands and is a capable sound engineer. But there were also some downsides when doing it without schedules. Some things took longer to record than they should have and there were some small details we refined maybe too much. So with schedules or outsiders we might have been more effective, but then, would the album have been the same then? So to answer your question, most likely we learned nothing.
I wanted to ask about a few songs on that album to get the musical/lyrical origin of them. What’s the story behind “Hating God?”
Oranen: “You created me as your own image
But now it’s finally time to tear it down
With this knife I shall reshape this canvas
and paint it all over again with my own blood”
“Hating God” is about how god created man to his own image. So we have this person who hates himself and his life. That has made him hate his creator, because he has given that life and that human form. He has nothing to lose and the only way to [get] revenge [on] god is to harm his own flesh. To disgrace and mutilate it. Cut your flesh to desecrate the gods’ work.
How about the origin of the “Curse of the Lake Drag?”
Oranen: “Should been left to lie and should not be alive
Light in drowned eyes is refusing to die
You shouldn’t even be the one from under the water
The curse eternally will always be upon her”
“Curse of the Lake Drag” is a more traditional horror-themed song like we used to have in the early nineties. It actually started from the title. Had it in my mind way before I knew how the story itself would go. My hometown PIEKSÄMÄKI has these smaller villages and I live in one called NAARAJÄRVI. Here is a short Finnish lesson for all of you; “NAARA” (or NAARAUS) means “DRAG” and “JÄRVI” means “LAKE.” So my village’s name means “The Lake of Drag.” Don’t know what is the etymology or history behind the name, who have been dragged from the lake. So this is my version of that legend and it’s also a small homage to my beloved home village.
What about the story behind “The Rostow Ripper?”
Oranen: “Fragile flesh and skin so pale
Lying at the end of a bloodtrail
Rostov Ripper, the beast in me
Through its eyes the world I see
Fragile flesh so young to die
Cut deep in red she lie”
Lazy as I am, copied this straight from the Wikipedia; “ANDREI CHIKATILO (1936 – 14 February 1994) was a Soviet serial killer nicknamed The Butcher of Rostov, The Rostov Ripper, and The Red Ripper who sexually assaulted, murdered, and mutilated at least fifty-two women and children between 1978 and 1990 in the Russian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, and the Uzbek SSR.” I have known his story for decades and since I’m quite obsessed with serial killers, he happens to be my “favourite.” He was a cold and sick bastard who lived in a gray and cold world. It’s actually shocking that many people haven’t even heard of him, still they are talking about media sexy killers like Dahmer or Bundy or Gein. Well, maybe they should do some reading and not just watch whatever Netflix recommends to them.
How about the story behind that closer, “At the Night of Feast?”
Oranen: “So easy to track down, I can smell your blood
Soon I will reach you, you shall meet your god
With inhuman powers, instincts of the beast
Howling at the moonlight, on human flesh I’ll feast
Even though I’m human, the beast lives inside me
We are the unity giving a reason to be”
“At the Night of the Feast” is to continue this serial killer theme that can be found from our album. This time it isn’t about any one specific serial killer, but more like about the mindset of one. It’s about the beast that lives inside man, it’s about the hunt more than about killing and it’s about celebration that comes after the satisfying hunt. It’s not about glorifying the killing but more like trying to understand what makes a man kill another human being. Our mission is not to judge but to observe and learn.
What’s your local scene like where you’re at in Finland? Is there a pretty active scene and do you feel it has had an effect on the band in any way?
Oranen: Death metal scene is active here and young and hungry bands are doing lots of gigs. It’s actually a more active scene than in black metal, where everyone seems to be thirty-forty years old. But in the death metal scene there are lots of young dudes that are in their late twenties. So it’s energetic and things are happening fast and all the time.
Lastly, what’s next for Tramalizer? What are your goals for the future of the band?
Oranen: Maybe some gigs at some point. Some new tracks have been demoed but there haven’t been any talks about what we shall do next. But one thing is certain, the stench will continue to spread. Maybe not immediately, but at some point. One has to remember that we are old farts and need our time. We aren’t in a hurry, so be patient. Death shall reach you sooner or later.
Band logo at top provided to Metal Plague by Oranen.