Silver Bullet interview

Steel Mill had a pleasure to have a pint with Hannes Horma – formerly known for his bass duties with the Finnish battle metallers Turisas – as we talked about his current band Silver Bullet, which is just about to release their excellent second album, Mooncult.

Hello Hannes, and welcome to the Steel Mill! Silver Bullet may not be familiar to all of our readers, so could you tell something about Silver Bullet’s music?

We’ve often been labelled as ”symphonic metal”, although I’m not sure if it’s absolutely correct. Our music is strongly based on traditional metal bands like Judas Priest and King Diamond, but there’s also a lot of symphonic elements which are often absent from that sort of bands, at least on our scale. We have a real choir and orchestrations, which makes the combination a bit different. So symphonic metal in a traditional way might be quite close.

Your second album will be out soon. What are the feelings in the Silver Bullet camp? From what I’ve seen, the first reviews have all been positive…

Feelings are just great! It’s been a long process, and when you work intensively, you become a bit deaf to your own music. You don’t hear it the same way as the people listening to it for the first time. The feedback is always a mystery, but this time the response, and especially the amount of it, has been surprisingly positive!

How was the writing process? I understood you’ve done all the writing yourself?

That’s what happened this time. There’s one song where there’s a riff from our other guitarist Henkka, otherwise it’s pretty much all done by me. Mooncult is a concept album, so I think that might explain the process. Basically, it was just getting an idea and then accomplishing it. It was completely different compared to the first album, Screamworks, where we just wrote different songs together. This time there was a storyline behind the music, which you had to keep in mind, so the usual method of writing together just didn’t work.

As mentioned, Mooncult is a concept album. How did you end up telling a story about a 16th-century witch-hunt?

We actually talked about making the next album a concept one even before Scremworks was released. Then I got this idea about a witch-hunt, but from a different point of view: the authorities using witch purges as a tool for their own perversions, for evil purposes. Do what I want, or your daughter will be burned…

That’s where it really started. Then Nils, our vocalist, did a lot of research and found the North Berwick witch trials, which took place in Scotland in 1590s. We took some facts and a few characters from there and started to add elements of magic and horror, until it turned out a proper heavy metal story.

The choirs and all the orchestrations, the ’pomposity’ of  Mooncult, reminded me of your previous band, Turisas. Do you recognise these elements?

Of course, there are these elements. Symphonic music has been a strong influence for me. I’ve studied classical music and classical singing, so it’s all already familiar to me. The things you have listened to or done before, they mix in the music you’re writing, on some level, making a whole new stew…

How was the recording? It must have been a time-consuming job to get all the things go  together.

Yes, it was a laborious job, especially with scheduling the different timetables. This time I recorded everything, which meant that every time there was somebody in the studio, I was there too pressing the rec button. The guitars and the bass were actually recorded in my own home studio. I ended up playing bass parts, because at that time our bassist had left the band, and we didn’t want to postpone the project because of this. Now the line-up is complete again, as we found Ossi, who is a great guy to work with.

That isn’t your first time with the bass, as you played bass for Turisas for quite a few years…

The guitar was my first instrument, and I’ve been playing it since I was 7 years old. This whole Turisas case was a bit of a strange co-incident. Our band, at the time, shared the rehearsal room with Turisas, and one night, probably after a few drinks with the Turisas guys, they asked me to play bass for their upcoming gig. I replied ’why not, no problem, I can do that’, although I’d never played bass before. A couple of months after that, I was on stage with Turisas at Tuska Festival, holding my brand new bass guitar…

This led to another gig – and a tour, until I found myself as a permanent member of Turisas. Those were great years, although extremely time-consuming. We probably had some 180 gigs a year, so there wasn’t that much time for other things. Eventually, I thought it might be time to do something else.

So, now it’s time to play 6 strings again, instead of 4. How do you build a guitar solo?

As a guitar player I might be a bit different, because my solos are often the very last part of the song. I try to make the solos serve the song as well as possible. A good solo has to give something to the song, bring it forward instead of just showcase your technical skills. When I have an idea about the solo needed I improvise quite a lot, and record numerous takes. Afterwards I pick the best parts and combine them together. The purely melodic solos are a bit different, though, because they are already written the way they should be played.

In Mooncult you also have a guest vocalist as Capri, from Amberian Dawn, sings the female vocals on ’The Chalice And The Blade’…

Yes, she sings the parts of an innocent young lady who, in the story, will be burned alive. Capri was our first option when we tried to find a suitable vocalist for this song. Her sound is just what we were looking for, we didn’t want an opera-style vocalist who seem to be quite fashionable nowadays… Capri is a talented singer, a real professional. When we managed to combine our timetables, it took us only 4 hours in the studio!

Mooncult will be released via Reaper Entertainment Europe, as you inked a two-record deal. In addition to this, there’s also a Japan release in the pipeline…

 Yes, the co-operation with Reaper has been just perfect. We are in contact with them almost on a daily basis. When choosing a company, you have to consider a lot of things, so it’s not just having an album out… it’s also the promotion part. During the past years the social media has changed the whole game. Nowadays it’s a almost a full-time job to keep all the social platforms updated. Of course we have to understand that the budget is limited, and there’s no money to do all the things we want, but we are very pleased so far!

The Japan deal was a total surprise. I received a message from the A&R manager of Spritual Beast asking if we would be interested in having Mooncult released in Japan. My first reaction was: of course we are! But then it was like… we already have a deal with Reaper… how do we solve this problem… Fortunately, these two companies worked it out, and the Japanese release will see the light of day. It feels great to be on the same label with bands like Running Wild and Denner/Shermann!

Will there be any ’Japan only’ bonus tracks?

There will be two bonus tracks: an unreleased Grave Digger cover The House, and then one demo from the Mooncult sessions.

How about your touring plans? Mooncult album release gig takes place in your hometown Hämeenlinna on the 29th of March…

Besides that we will, definitely, be playing more gigs, but unfortunately I’m not able to confirm them yet, so please stay tuned! Right now we are actively in contact with some festivals, as they would be our main interest at the moment. There is also a string of gigs confirmed for next autumn.

How do you see Silver Bullet’s future, and what makes you different from the other symphonic metal bands?

Right from the start, our main focus has been on the Central European market. That’s why also our first album was released via a German record company. When we talk about melodic metal, the main market is definitely in Germany. The response in the States has also been positive, as the number of our Spotify streams have increased quite a bit over there.

I think what makes us different from the other bands in our genre is the combination of traditional old-school heavy metal, horror themes and all the symphonic elements. These classical elements come from my background, so that’s why they are a natural part of my writing. The main thing right now, as I see it, is to stay active. Keep Silver Bullet’s name in people’s minds!

Now the last one: How’s your personal relationship with Judas Priest?

Priest has always been close to my heart, one of the cornerstones from day one! I have seen them several times, and they have influenced our music a lot. There’s no night out with friends without Judas Priest. At some point Priest will be played, always. Usually a lot – and with the volume up at eleven!

In 2009 I was on tour with Turisas, and we were opening for Dragonforce in Stockholm. Judas Priest played with Megadeth and Testament in Globen that same night, and we managed to get backstage passes. Our set that night started precisely on time, then a quick shower and off we went! We entered Globen when Megadeth was finishing their set. It was a magical moment to see this great band, with K.K. Downing in the line-up, from the side of the stage!