CONVULSE “The Finnish Chameleons!” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

As an experienced medical practitioner, I know hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder when I see it. A restlessness in mind and body, extreme difficulty in staying put, an energy that must be expended by constantly changing focus are all symptoms. I know, I’ve got it myself. And I see it in bands as well as individuals.

Finland’s Convulse is one of the most restlessly creative bands you will encounter in the metal scene. You can never pin them down to one style or subgenre. They are metal chameleons! They began as the grisliest of old school death metal practitioners, specializing in gruesome riffage and corpse-like growls on their classic “A World Without God”album. Then they made the first of their radical shifts on the “Reflections” album, adding upbeat rock and psychedelic elements to the deathly sound. Apparently “Reflections” was too much for the time it was released, because Convulse called it quits shortly thereafter.

But they wouldn’t stay down forever. They returned in the 21st century with “Evil Prevails”, a return to their death metal roots. But true to form, they have morphed again with their latest album “Cycle of Revenge”. It’s a record that adds strong folk and progressive traits to the usual pounding metal. Can the fans keep up with Convulse’s stylistic shifts?

Long time singer and mastermind Rami Jamsa probably doesn’t loose sleep over it. It’s up to the fans to keep up with Convulse, not the other way around. I recently spoke to Rami about the long, strange journey of Convulse…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings, Rami! I just heard the new “Cycle of Revenge” album. Did you know as soon as you finished “Evil Prevails” that you would be going in the more progressive direction? Or did it take a while before you knew what direction you were going to take?
RAMI JAMSA: The whole process broke out when we started to play as a trio in the beginning of 2014. At the same point we begin to play more freely and jammed a lot at rehearsals. Gradually we found our new combination. We focused on groove and dynamics in our playing and new songs wrote themselves quite spontaneously. I threw also all the expectations away when writing the new album. We wanted to challenge ourselves properly this time and managed to get our music on the next level on the "Cycle of Revenge" album. The more progressive approach was obvious for us in the end of 2014.

WC: Your 90’s album “Reflections” really caused a stir with its different style when it came out. How have people been reacting to “Cycle of Revenge”?

RJ: As you may know, I have always listened to music very open mindedly. "Reflections" was an ambitious effort to realize some new influences in our music. I suppose we weren´t so ready to record "Reflections" after all. We didn´t rehearse enough and most band members already had different interests going on. Nowadays I am (and the rest of Convulse) over 20 years older and more experienced. It has a great influence on the output. This time we were ready to make this album. "Cycle of Revenge" has gotten a few hate comments. Some think that we are not allowed to write this kind of music. But I am the man who decides where "Convulse" will go. We are more active now than over 20 years ago. Otherwise "Cycle of Revenge" has got a lot of great reviews in music press. I suppose the reactions depend on how open minded you are and how ready to listen to "Cycle of Revenge" album.

WC: Are fans more accepting of such a change now than they were in the 90’s? Or are they less?

RJ: I really don´t know. Basically I make music for myself. I have to satisfy my hunger and keep things interesting for me. It doesn´t mean that I don´t care about the opinion of old Convulse fans. But I have to challenge myself as a musician and composer. 

WC: Do you think more people have come to realize how revolutionary “Reflections” was? At first, people rejected “Into the Pandemonium” by Celtic Frost but it’s come to be recognized as a classic.

RJ: It takes a little time to get people to understand new things. If you can´t label the music you are listening to, you may get confused. But my advice is that you keep on digging and you will find some interesting things in life and music, too.

WC: “Cycle of Revenge” is said to be influenced by the Finnish prog band Kingston’s Wall. Like most Americans, I don’t know much of this band. What can you tell us about their influence on you?

RJ: Finnish rock/progressive trio Kingston Wall have inspired me for over 20 years and I am flattered, if somebody compares our new album to KW. During this interview I am listening to RUSH and the "Power windows" album.

The next album in my turntable can be from Undergang or Napalm Death. Good music is good music. The genre doesn´t matter.

WC: Finland had a great prog rock scene in the 70’s. Tell us how this influenced Convulse as a band and what are some of the Finnish prog bands you recommend?

RJ: The strong Finnish prog scene in 70´s is a fact. Especially I admire Pekka Pohjola and Wigwam. I can recommend also Tasavallan Presidentti, Piirpauke, Anssi Tikanmäki (started in the 80´s), Tabula Rasa and Haikara.

WC: What’s the meaning behind the title “Cycle of Revenge”? Does it refer to individuals, society as a whole or nature?

RJ: It refers to nature of humankind in general. I recommend to read the lyrics properly when the physical album is released.

WC: The lyrics seem to be very philosophical, with songs like “God Is You” and “Nature of Mankind”. You seem to be getting away from the more typical lyrics of “Evil Prevails”. Do you find the “expected” death metal lyrics too limiting?

RJ: Well, there is the same main theme in lyrics as the previous album. I see the circle of evilness going on. 

WC:You do keep the very deep growling vocals on “Cycle of Revenge”. Are you just more comfortable with them or is there another purpose to keeping the death vocals?

RJ:I have also expanded the vocal expression in "Cycle of Revenge". But deep growling is certainly still my cup of tea.

WC: One song where the vocals are notably different is “Ever Flowing Stream”. Why the change for this particular song?

RJ: I tried different vocals to "Ever Flowing Stream" song. I growled, shouted, whispered…nothing worked so well. So I just tried to almost clean singing and it worked just fine. So it wasn´t a preconceived decision to do clean singing.

WC: I hear a certain resemblance between Convulse and Amorphis on “Cycle of Revenge”. Would you agree there’s a resemblance?

RJ: I agree with you. There is some ethnic music influences in  the "Cycle of Revenge" track.

WC: Your guitarist Kristian left the group. Will he be replaced or will you continue without him? How will this affect your sound?

RJ: After Kristian left the band, we pretty soon noticed that we can deliver quite a huge dynamics as just a trio. So there is no need of expanding Convulse with a second guitarist. Old songs work just fine also with just one guitar after we all have understood, that we just have to play more surely and tighter together. It´s somehow easier to play as a trio. Everything is grooving better with this way.

The fact is that the decision to stay as a trio shaped a lot how Convulse sounds nowadays. I don´t see any reason why we should have to change that.

WC: Finland is certainly one of the most “metal” countries in the world. How pleased are you with the current Finnish scene versus the time in the early 90’s?

RJ: Times are different, so I don´t see it as worthwhile to compare the present and the past. But, it´s a pleasure so see young people still playing and writing a new music.

WC: Have you given any thought as to how the next Convulse album will sound?

RJ: Nope. We have started to jam a new riffs. I suppose the songs will come as naturally as for the "Cycle of Revenge" album. We have to let the songs that will come naturally, compose themselves. Perhaps we are ready to record a new album in the end of  2017.

WC: Any touring plans for 2016? Will you play any dates in America?

RJ: We don´t have any tours scheduled so far. The problem is that we don´t have a promoter. We have some appearances at Finnish metal festivals, but a tour in Europe/US will be highly unexpected!!!

WC: If you could ask any 3 people in history to dinner, who would they be?

RJ: My father, Dalai Lama and Ramses II.

WC: What’s the last band you checked out just because you wanted to hear them?

 RJ: Finnish occult rock band Deathawks.

WC: In the history of Convulse, is there any “Spinal Tap” moment where things went crazy that you could share with us?

RJ: I think I´ll keep those things just for myself and my band mates :)

WC: Any last words for the fans?

RJ: Keep your mind and ears open! All the best for you!