I’ve been a huge fan of Swedish doom trio Monolord since their debut Empress Rising. Their ultra-low guitar grooves and Thomas Jäger’s spacey vocals hooked me instantly, and despite the title track being over twelve minutes, I could listen to its main riff repeat forever. Since their 2014 debut, the band has gained International recognition, and later this month, they’ll release their third full-length album Rust! Easily dubbed their most ambitious release to date and already high on my list of top 2017 releases, the album sees the group venture into uncharted sonic territory with more complex arrangements and the addition of accompanying instruments . Bassist Mika Häkki was gracious enough to answer my questions about the making of the album, a U.S. tour, and more!
Indy Metal Vault: First off, congratulations on the new album. We were lucky enough to receive a copy and I absolutely love it. It’s more ambitious than your previous efforts, but still has the core groove foundation that fans have come to appreciate. What was the writing process like for Rust and did it differ from your previous albums?
Mikka Hakki: Thank you! We’re really glad to hear you liked it. We are in constant motion, so the writing process doesn’t really differ from previous works, but is quite natural development from the very beginning.
IMV: Is there a particular track that you’re most proud of or one that was difficult to put together, but turned out better than expected?
MH: I think that question will get a different answer depending on who of us you ask, and which day. Right now my favorite is “At Niceae.” It took a while to put together, but I really feel it was worth the effort. The slow build-up in the beginning gets me headbanging every time.
IMV: The songs seem especially unified and focused this time around, but each member still contributes something unique to each song, whether it’s the hi-hat work in “Dear Lucifer” or the bass guitar fills in “Where Death Meets the Sea.” How many hours went into these songs to get to this level of cohesion while maintaining a certain degree of individuality, or is it second nature to you guys at this point since you’ve been playing together for so long?
MH: I’d say it’s a bit of both. When we start playing a new song, from the very beginning we’re all seeking for those sweet spots of our own. Usually the pieces fall to places on their own pretty much immediately. But of course fine tuning all four elements takes some time.
IMV: And speaking of “Where Death Meets the Sea,” it’s probably one of the catchiest tunes you guys have ever written. The main riff has an almost ZZ Top like feel to it. Can you talk a little about how this one came together?
MH: The basic structure of the song was written by Thomas and it had a strong feeling to it that it was already a finished song. He really stepped up as a singer and writer on this album. Then at the rehearsal room we started going through the song and it took some unexpected turns and turned out really good. This song is good example of us finding our sweet spots. The verses really stand out once I turned off the fuzz for my basslines and the guitar stands down and leaves more room for the vocals.
IMV: I got to see you guys in Chicago last year with Beastmaker, and I saw that guitarist Trevor Church contributed a solo to the end of the song “Rust.” Did the collaboration come about from the tour?
MH: Certainly. We really like Beastmaker and it was great touring with such good guys. It can be difficult to tour six weeks with a bunch of musicians. If you don’t like each other, the weeks feel really long, haha. Fortunately we had such luck to tour with Beastmaker and Sweat Lodge. I wouldn’t mind doing it all over again.
IMV: Rust uses several accompanying instruments such as strings and organ which fit quite nicely, especially the violin in “Wormland.” I particularly love how towards the end, the violin picks up the octave from the guitar and rides the song out. It really struck me how well your riffs translate to being played with stringed instruments. Is this a direction you plan on exploring more with future albums?
MH: Salome Kent, who is a good friend of mine, is a musical genius. She has worked with some previous projects of mine as well. The first person that comes to my mind is Salome, when violins come to question. We haven’t really talked about the possibilities of more work with violins.
IMV: Since you’re being called the “Nirvana of Doom” and they added a cello player for their In Utero tour, are there any plans to add another member to help fill out these new songs live?
MH: Haha, no. We’re perfectly enough dysfunctional as a three piece.
IMV: We’re big gear nerds at Indy Metal Vault. Can you talk us through your rigs, so that I can impress my neighbors (and possibly the police) while trying to replicate the Monolord sound in my home?
MH: Both me and Thomas are using Orange Amps both live and studio. We’ve tried a lot of gear in our days, but just think that this works the best for our sound together. Esben has a big sized kit with shells that have long sustain, but short sustained heads with a very distinct attack and fat bottom. Me and Thomas have worked a long time as well to find the long sustain but still a distinct attack. But we all three really explore sounds more than gear. Sound is so much depending on the individual. What gear works for me, might not work for you.
IMV: Are there any plans to tour the United States soon? What can I do to get you guys to make a stop in Indiana?
MH: We’re definitely coming back to the United States. Plans are being made as we speak. What timeline or regions we’re talking about, is a bit too early to say.
Rust will be available on LP, CD and download on September 29th, 2017 via Riding Easy Records.