Interview by Kimmo Tattari & Klaus Toivonen, all photos by Mari Lehmonen
Deep from the underground of Finnish heavy metal rises Angel Sword with their second full length album. Steel Mill had a chat with the frontman Jerry Razors, as we talked about the band and their new album, Neon City.
Hello Jerry! Angel Sword obviously has its roots deep in the old school heavy metal. How do you describe Angel Sword’s music? What are your musical influences?
Rough-edged heavy metal! Our style is relatively simplistic, catchy and often mid-tempo. Some influences I can mention are Running Wild, Accept, Judas Priest, Heavy Load, Angel Witch and Diamond Head, as well as countless small bands from the golden age of heavy metal.
Tell us something about the start. It’s always interesting to see younger generations find the good old heavy metal…
The idea for the band formed around 2010, when I got together with our ex-guitarist Sylvester Shredder (with whom I studied at the university back then), and we started playing together and writing songs. We wrote a handful of songs, put some of them on a demo, and then started looking for a permanent vocalist, bass player and drummer. Eviltaker and St. Peter joined in 2011, which is when we started rehearsing properly as a band.
During that time, we had some people audition for vocals, but none of them worked out, so in the end I had to do the vocals. We kept rehearsing the songs we had at the time, and a few years later we released our first EP called “Ripping the Heavens”.
During the release of your debut album you had a line-up change, as Lightning Mike joined the band. Was it hard to find a new lead guitarist?
Yeah, I think it was soon after the album was released. It’s always difficult to replace band members, and finding not only someone who can and wants to play the type of music you’re playing, but also fits in personality-wise, is even more challenging. In the end we put out an ad and out of the tryouts who wanted the job Mike was the obvious choice.
The new album, Neon City, was just released. How would you describe it?
If our debut, Rebels Beyond the Pale, was set in the post-apocalyptic wastelands of a radioactive landscape, Neon City is humanity rebuilding itself using whatever means necessary. The album is set some years in the future from where “Rebels” left us, in a dystopian city with glimmers of hope here and there. The songs and the overall sound of the album reflect this atmosphere. Whereas “Rebels” had a late 70s to early 80s sound, “Neon City” sounds perhaps more mid-to-late 80s. And what you can always expect from us are catchy tunes and big choruses, except this time they are even bigger!
Sounds like an interesting concept. What inspired you in this continuous theme? Do you have a vision where it’s heading after Neon City?
A lot of it stems from a fascination with 80s movies with cyberpunk and/or post-apocalyptic themes. Both the visual side and the worlds themselves are inspiring, as well as the stories of course. There’s something in them that fits well with heavy metal. Even in the old Cyberpunk role-playing game rulebook from 1988 they imagined that the most popular music of the future would be heavy metal. They were wrong of course (unfortunately), as were most old cyberpunk movie predictions of what the world would look like in 2020. But I imagine it all as an alternate timeline. Like a future we never got. And it’s perfect for writing heavy metal songs about.
As for what’s next, I have a working title in mind — “World Fighter” — and it’s set some years after where “Neon City” takes place. Possibly a bit darker and faster than this album, but we’ll see. I don’t want to go much further than that on this imagined timeline because nobody cares about heavy metal concept albums set in the year 3000. At least not me. After that, who knows!
The first single of the new album is called Evil Eye. Twin lead guitars, vocal harmonies and great groove… was it an easy choice for a single, or were there other options?
There were other options such as “Hardliner”, which is a little different and will be the second single, but I wanted a song that reflects the whole album and gives you an idea of what’s to come. For the same reason I wanted “Evil Eye” to be the first song to be mixed. This way we could get the overall sound right as soon as possible, because it has a bit of everything.
How was the writing process? Was everybody involved this time?
Usually I write the music and the lyrics and then send the demos to the others and we start arranging the songs (i.e. arguing) as a band, with everyone’s input here and there. Six of the songs were done like that. This time Mike came up with two demos, to which I wrote the lyrics and the vocal lines, and then we arranged those songs as a band.
How is the underground metal scene in Finland nowadays? There seems to be a lot of good stuff bubbling under…
The underground metal scene is quite lively, if you count all subgenres like death metal and black metal. There’s a decent number of underground heavy metal bands too. In fact ten of us were supposed to play together at a heavy metal festival in Helsinki, but unfortunately the venue was destroyed for several months by a burst water pipe.
Angel Sword has been playing with some legendary old school metallers, such as Manilla Road and Satan. How does it feel to share a stage with your own idols??
It feels great! Opening for Manilla Road and playing on one of the biggest stages in Helsinki was definitely one of the highlights of our band career.
2019 was a busy year for Anger Sword. Besides finishing Neon City you also toured in Germany and France with your German friends Tension. How was the Midnight Riders Tour? This time you had an honour to play with NWOBHM legends Tygers Of Pan Tang… and later at the Courts Of Chaos Festival with Jag Panzer and Tokyo Blade…
The tour went, perhaps surprisingly, well and it was fun to play eight shows with Tension, and of course all the other cool bands. The ride from Würzburg, Germany, to Courts of Chaos in Plozévet, France, was long and hand, but well worth it. Big thanks to Thomas (from CoC) and Phil (from Tension) for putting it all together! And a shoutout to Hexecutor who were playing at the warmup just as we arrived, awesome show, probably my favourite of the whole weekend!
Now the final question: as you are heavily influenced by the NWOBHM, please name your all-time classic album, and also the hidden gem from that era?
Classic: Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations, Hidden Gem: High Power – s/t.
Thanks for your time Jerry, keep the Metal Faith alive!