With its wintery power/symphonic metal, combined with the manga inspired art style, Everfrost is hoping to bring people joy and an escape from reality – and a whole world to escape into along with the music. Now they are soon to release their second album, Winterider. PowerMetal.no had a talk with founder Benjamin Connelly about the world of Everfrost.
When preparing for this interview I found out that Everfrost is so much more than just a band; it’s a whole concept. Was this the idea the whole time, that you wanted to create something bigger than just a band?
Benjamin: That’s pretty much correct. I always dreamed of a band that could combine its music with a fictional world and the tales of its characters. I was familiar with bands doing concept albums, or alluding to other works of fiction but I’d never found any artists putting forward a whole fictional universe of their own and making it just as important as the music. So, I decided to attempt it.
How important is the concept around the music for you as a creative person? Does the concept around drive the music and your creativity forward?
Benjamin: When it comes to Everfrost very much so. The world of Everfrost and the characters seem to always give me inspiration and a story to tell. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had to get out of bed and write stuff down, whether it be plot points, lyrics or musical ideas. But I like to be inspired by other things too when writing for other projects of course.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Everfrost concept or world. Can you give a short introduction? Because, we have the manga theme, and we have the story that was introduced on the first album; is that all connected?
Benjamin: Without revealing too much, the first album gives a first look at the lives and back stories of four characters who live in a town called Everfrost. It’s a place hidden by forest and surrounded by high walls, the residents are strictly forbidden to leave because of knowledge of a nuclear catastrophe that happened outside the town. However, the characters discover something the town is hiding that could be even more sinister.
This concept is inspired by the secret cities of Russia and USA during the atomic race and cold war, where citizens were moved to hidden towns to research and manufacture atomic weapons. Their identities back home were erased and declared missing to everyone else, and if they tried to leave, they were executed. The characters featured in the first album however are from many generations of people living in the Everfrost town, so the history for them is hazy.
Speaking of the manga theme that is visualized in the artwork, the characters etc. How did you come up with the idea of combining power metal and manga?
Benjamin: When I was in high school I became heavily interested in Japanese anime and manga. I drew a lot then so I started creating my own anime characters, as embarrassing as that sounds! But those characters and the town concept were basically born then. I was of course listening to a lot of metal at the time and writing my first metal songs, I found myself writing about the characters so I realized I should try to combine them. For example, «Silver Nights, Golden Dreams» was in an early form at that point.
Everfrost debuted in 2015 with the album “Blue Eyed Emotion”, that introduce us for the story of the town with the cursed tower. Will the story continue on the upcoming album? What can you say about that?
Benjamin: Winterider is going to be a sequel story to Blue Eyed Emotion that takes place some years after the characters discovered that tower. It’s much more focused on one event however. The two younger characters from Blue Eyed Emotion are now young adults and have three new friends, but the start of their lives has been interrupted by a never-ending winter that has caused a social and economic depression in Everfrost. The story is of course going to show how they try to escape this, but the ‘winterider’ concept and lyrical themes are also built heavily on trying to cope in horrible times.
I asked a similar question above, but how important is it to have a story to build the music upon? Or is it not how it works? In other words: how does the story affect the songwriting?
Benjamin: The reasons for this whole thing are quite many, so I will try to answer this as clearly as possible. I noticed a strange pattern that happened when I started working on the new album, that having the story manuscript in place and writing music and lyrics to this caused me to write the whole album almost like filling in a puzzle. Rather than writing song by song, the entire album slowly took this audible shape in my mind, sections of songs, parts of lyrics etc. At this point in my song writing, this process to me feels like one key to making such story-based albums.
The thing is, we don’t really have any proven examples of how to combine something like a manga comic with concept music. When I finished Blue Eyed Emotion, I realized how hard it is to achieve a smooth marriage between a work of music and visual story, so with each album I’m trying to improve our attempts at this. Realizing that ‘puzzle-style’ of writing an album was a much-needed insight.
The reason I am so in pursuit of this concept working is because people have no shortage of bands giving the time-proven escape into music with their albums. I make music because I want to bring people joy and an escape from reality, but with Everfrost I want to also bring a whole world to escape into along with the music. I hope to get closer to achieving this with each effort.
You have said that the band is aiming to raise the bar of what an album experience is traditionally expected to be. What do you mean with that?
Benjamin: A lot of work is being put into this album in all areas, i.e. music, lyrics, visuals, story, production sound… An ‘experience’ is obviously subjective but integrating a manga comic into a metal album is something you don’t see every day. It gets a little boring seeing bands releasing fantastic albums without giving any reason to buy the physical product. Of course, it’s a loyal way to support a band’s music, but when you open an album booklet only to see white text on a black background, it’s a little underwhelming. Things also go a little deeper yet with Winterider, all I can say is if you look hard, you will find.
We are young though of course, and we stand at the foot of a huge mountain of amazing work done before us. Our goal with this is to give the best we can and aim for that outcome.
Musically you have said that you are focusing on getting stronger and clearer melodies; more catchy elements. Is that a good description of the new album?
Benjamin: That’s what we are aiming for yes. Of course, we want to bring a lot of creativity and detail but refining the Everfrost style is a big goal.
In the press release it says that the new album will include the band’s first ballade, your fastest song, and the first epic song (over 10 minutes). Is that a sign of a band that has matured regarding songwriting, or a band that is more courageous regarding songwriting?
Benjamin: I think it shows we want to achieve both. As a songwriter, I am always trying to improve and ‘mature’ my approach to the craft, but at the same time I dearly hold onto that young innocence to keep pushing the boundaries.
For how long have you been working on the upcoming album, and is it you that writes most of the lyrics and music? Or how does that work?
Benjamin: The writing for this album began in the summer of 2017, I came up with the chorus for «Cold Night Remedy» while in sauna and then chose the story direction not long after. Thus far I am the one writing the music and lyrics, plus I also mix the albums. During recording though each member puts their own feel into the parts, and when recording Mikael’s vocals, he will often suggest harmonies for choruses etc. We are planning though for the third album to have other members of the band involved with songwriting too which will be fun!
As I mentioned you released your debut album back in 2015. And in 2018 you released a live album. That is maybe not so common, having only released one album prior to that? Why did you go for a live album?
Benjamin: Yeah, we released one of our shows as a live DVD and four of the songs as a small live EP. There are a few reasons we did that. Not many bands have their early years well documented, so we wanted to release something that will always show people where we started. Another reason is we always try to have content for our fans and followers. It takes a long time to make albums so we always try to give something. We also make small ‘documentaries’ and making of series so people can ‘join’ us in our adventures, more so for the entertainment value because we usually end up doing a lot of dumb stuff! It’s also rather hard for us to tour at this point, so we want as many of our fans around the world to at least be able to watch the show somehow.
Who are the members of Everfrost today? Is Hew Wagner still present?
Benjamin: Currently the lineup is: Mikael Salo on vocals, Markus Laito on guitars, me on keyboards, Allan Hasanen on bass and Joonas Salminen on drums.
However, we are looking for a second guitarist to join us, in fact there is someone we are looking at currently who could fill that position. We are still in contact with Hew but he is heavily involved with opera duties nowadays, so he isn’t an official member as of this point. We will release a statement about this soon, however we have plans with him to do some backing vocals on the new album. Winterider is going to be Mikael Salo’s first Everfrost album as the sole lead vocalist.
What are the plans after the album is released? Will there be a tour, and what about summer festivals?
Benjamin: The biggest goal after the release is of course further promotion but also upgrading our live performance and stage show. Unfortunately, at this point it looks like we will only be able to do some shows in Finland. We would love to take the show on the road but it’s very difficult without a touring agency. We are hoping though to make this possible as soon as we can. The same goes for summer festivals.
And one final question to Mikael Salo, if he is around: what is the latest news regarding Northern Seer, when will the debut album be released?
Benjamin: Mikael says it should be ready earliest end of summer 2019 or fall. I’m aware though that most of the music is recorded so it is definitely on the way. It’s going to be a great album!