UNSHINE – Tales of valuable and forgotten old new druidic lore

Finnish druid metal band Unshine has recently released their fifth LP “Karn of Burnings”. In this extensive interview, the mastermind and guitarist Harri Hautala speaks with our editor Cristina about recording “Karn of Burnings” in complete isolation and how the visit to a pre-historic burial ground influenced the lyrics. Let’s learn more about it from the band’s new release in this interview.

Finnish druid metal band Unshine has recently released their fifth LP “Karn of Burnings”. In this extensive interview, the mastermind and guitarist Harri Hautala speaks with our editor Cristina about recording “Karn of Burnings” in complete isolation. And how the visit to a pre-historic burial ground influenced the lyrics. Let’s learn more about it from the band’s new release in this interview.

Unshine band photo
Photo by Asko Jonathan photography

Hi guys, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine! How are you doing?

Hi, thanks for the interview, we’re doing good, hope you are too! Our new album is out with the second video, we have received excellent album reviews and yesterday we got our artist copy CDs from our label! Sun is also shining and spring’s finally winning the too-long Finnish winter. Today, when I’m answering this interview, we celebrate Hiisi Day in Finland. Hiisi refers to sempiternal holy places, and the spirits guarding them. Our album has a deep connection to this day, so today is a special day in a spiritual sense.

The coronavirus’s impact on Unshine new album

Your fifth album “Karn of Burnings” was released on March 22nd, what can you tell about its genesis and lyrics?

The album recording process and progress were heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Luckily, the songs for the album were created just before this global isolation time. We were also lucky enough to manage to rehearse the songs properly with the whole band before that terrible period. So were well prepared to start the recordings.

Working at the Sound Supreme Studios

Drums, guitar re-amps, and mixing of the album were done during several periods at Sound Supreme Studios in Hämeenlinna. Janne Saksa was our recording engineer, and the quality of his work was just outstanding. Besides, that he is a nice and humble guy. He has recently recorded no more than new albums of Korpiklaani and Mokoma, which tells something about his professional level.

Recording in an isolated studio in the woods

The rest of the recordings were made at my small home studio in Vantaa. It is a fantastic thing to have your studio because you do not have to pay for the expensive hours. The small downside here is, of course, the fact that sometimes you get stuck. Or even a little bit lazy with recording progress when you have this “unlimited” time. The album was recorded bit by bit. We tried to do the recordings very carefully, but also so that the playing would sound natural and relaxed.  

The visit to a pre-historic burial ground

I mentioned earlier the Hiisi Day. The album name “Karn of Burnings” reflects the thematic context of the album. And it is connected centrally to the word ‘Hiisi’. Around the time of the first song I was writing for the album, which is “Tara”, I visited a pre-historic burial ground in Isokyrö, in Western Finland. This place was deep in the countryside, and I did not know the exact location of it. I only knew that it was scattered around a large dark forest cape. When I left my car on the roadside near the place, a local guy suddenly appeared almost from nowhere. And asked whether I was looking for an ancient grave.

The local farmer in a pre-historic burial ground

I said ‘Yes, how did you know?’ The guy was a local farmer, and the burial ground was actually on his land. He then led me to the first grave of the four ones in this place and told me that when archeologists in the 1930s excavated the grave, they found the skull of a young woman along with some jewelry. This person was also buried on top of a much older grave from the Bronze Age. This special double burial was only 50 meters from the roadside where I had parked my car and was the only known grave in Western Finland, which included a pre-historic skull of a human.  

The connection

During this visit (and during my many visits later to this place), I started feeling a very deep connection to the bygone people of the place and their stories. This feeling was later enhanced by the fact that I even found out that my very first forefather with my family name (Hautala, freely translated as a ‘collection of graves’) was born in a house which was located under 3 kilometers from this place.

Unshine band photo
Photo by Asko Jonathan photography

The main lyrical influence of “Karn of Burnings”

So, this strange and wonderful encounter with my ancestor significantly influenced the album’s lyrical and musical content. There is one song, “Aettarfylgja”, which is homage and recognition to these bygone people. And as I wanted to also have their real contribution to this album, I recorded triangle and nature sounds on the top of this grave I mentioned, you can hear these sounds at the beginning of “Hjul”, the first track of Unshine “Karn of Burnings”.

Unshine reworked sound

What are the main differences compared to the previous albums?

Music is much more concentrated in the ‘real’ band instruments, vocals, drums, bass, and guitars. We wanted to reduce the presence of excessive topping of synths. I modified and twisted them a lot to fit more seamlessly to the guitars, vocals, etc. Some of the electronic sounds, when isolated from the other instruments, sound very odd, esoteric, and strange. But with the band, they fit perfectly and create this special, a bit folkish sound to the whole album. The more you hear these, songs, the more you can distinguish these odd sounds in the mix. My love of these kinds of sounds comes from the old 1970s ambient music, which is my favorite type of music.


Do you have a favorite song on the album?

I would love to say that the whole album is my favorite song because it is so compact! If I think about this from the perspective of the whole band, maybe they love “Tara” or “Hjul” the most, I’m not sure. This depends upon the day. If I think subjectively, my favorite song right now is “Aettarfylgja”. It is one of the most challenging, but also one of the most fun songs to play.

Where do you get inspiration for your music from? And how does the composition process work, does the melody or the lyrics come first?

I’m a seeker type of person who finds his true home and safe place in nature and history. Since my childhood, I’ve been attracted to the countryside and to remote forests from where I always seek ‘the connection’. Unshine new songs arise when I picture a new and interesting theme (just like in the birth story of this album) in my mind. The theme can arise on a burial ground (like on this album) or from a book about ancient Celts. Suddenly, you just get a single word or phrase along with a certain type of musical mood into your mind and it gets from that. There is no certain order with a melody or the lyrics. Sometimes everything starts with a rhythm.

Some live dates announced

So far you have announced some dates for late spring summer in Finland and Hörnerfest in Germany, are there any more dates coming up?

Many, hopefully. Unshine is looking for tours 2024-2025, where to join in. If you are looking for a nice tour company for your folk metal tour, we are here! Unshine headline tour would be certainly our ultimate dream.

Unshine most memorable tour done so far

Looking back at all the shows you have played so far, which has been the most memorable and why?

We have had many memorable shows for different reasons, but the most memorable one must be Unshine tour with Haggard and Sound Storm in Germany and Switzerland, all the concerts in it. Everything, starting from the organization to people on the tour, to arenas, and personal enjoyment, was just perfect and the stars aligned there. I’d re-do it starting tomorrow if it would be possible. We were living the rock’n’roll dream there, eletään sitä unelmaa, as we say in Finnish!

The Finnish scene

How do you see the druid/folk metal scene in Finland at the moment?

I’m not possibly the best person to answer this, as I do not listen to metal music very much and I also do not follow the current scene that much. Days of folk metal popularity peaked already a few years ago, but of course, it is still doing well in Finland, look at the success of Korpiklaani, for example.

Unshine's singer Susanna Vesilahti
Photo by Asko Jonathan photography

The dream of Unshine

What is one thing you have not done yet as a band but would like to do in the future?

Haha, we would like to play in the Wacken Festival! We joke this about a lot in our rehearsals: When we fuck up our own song during rehearsals and everyone stops playing, there is always one who shouts: “Hello Wacken!” And we hope this does not happen one day in Wacken if we get a chance to play there…On a serious note: Unshine would love to play in all those countries, but we haven’t played still yet.

Thank you very much for your time, do you want to say something to our readers?

Thanks for your time, go and check our album and two videos, hope to see you at our concerts!

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