By Octopi Mills

Sami Hynninen is perhaps better known as Albert Witchfinder, one of the founding members of Finland’s greatest doom metal band, REVEREND BIZARRE. But it’s a real disservice to think of him only in this way. As you’ll soon find out, the man is a living and breathing volcano of creative ideas and is involved in a dizzying number of musical projects.

Of these projects, the most notable is OPIUM WARLORDS, a band that uses much of the doom template of REVEREND BIZARRE but definitely adds its own unique flavor. The new WARLORDS album “Nembutal” is a bulldozing yet strangely beautiful work of musical dread.

The following interview is one of the most revealing and intriguing that we’ve posted here at Wormwood Chronicles. You will really find out just what makes Albert tick and all the musical projects he’s currently involved with, as well as an encyclopedic list of films, bands and books that influence him.

Prepare to enter the forbidding embrace of OPIUM WARLORDS...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Welcome to Wormwood Chronicles. How have you been lately and what are you up to at this point in your career? Are you involved with any other projects in or out of music besides Opium Warlords you would wish to talk about at this time?

ALBERT WITCHFINDER: Thank you! I have been quite well. I had to add one more pill, Latuda, to the coctail of my heavy dose medication, and it makes me a semi-robot, but otherwise everything is pretty good. This pandemic has actually been quite pleasant thing to me. I spend most of my time alone anyway, and I like it when there are less people in sight, and I have no trouble with following the instructions. I like control, and I have to admit that I get excited about the apocalyptic atmosphere!
Am I involved in any other projects… phew… yes I am. Do I wish to talk about them? I am not sure but I can try. Albums under production are:

Olli Hänninen+Sami Hynninen: “Chambers”, double LP. Some kind of avantgarde rhythm music.

Läjä Äijälä & Albert Witchfinder: “Centuries of Youth”. Minimalist electronic music, noise, and ambient.

Läjä Äijälä & Albert Witchfinder: “Ordeal & Triumph”. Same as above, but bit more melodic.

LOINEN: “Katso ihmistä”. Sludge, Doom, HC punk, and noise rock.

PUSSIES: “Pussies”. Sleazy rock in style of Stooges, MC5 etc… 

FRIENDS OF HELL: TBA. Old school Doom Metal. 

TAHTIPORTTI: “Marmorivuode”. Electronic music. 

OPIUM WARLORDS: “Strength!” The sixth Opium Warlords album.

Timo-Tapio Palmu and S. Albert Hynninen: “Noiseworks”. Harsh noise.

Besides these I work on SPIRITUS MORTIS-compilation, four reissues of REVEREND BIZARRE, reissue of “The Candles Burning Blue” album, some interesting merchandise, and a book I have written.

WC: How did Opium Warlords come to be? Is this a project you see as a long running endeavor or is it more of a creative tie to return to "doomish" metal?

AW: I am not sure did I ever leave “doomish”  metal, since I have been working with THE PURITAN, SPIRITUS MORTIS and LORD VICAR in the meantime, and I founded OPIUM WARLORDS already in 2004, when still working with REVEREND BIZARRE, so there is no gap in heavy music even on that sense.  I started it the same time as THE PURITAN. THE PURITANwas meant to become my main band after REVEREND BIZARRE, and for a while it looked like it is the one, but then everything went straight to Hell, and so, OPIUM WARLORDS, which was meant to be a side project to THE PURITAN, became my main band.  But I don’t necessarily consider OPIUM WARLORDS being metal at all, just music that I have inside of me. Anyway, I am going to continue it as long as I live. In the coming few years I hope to finally be able to concentrate only into it, maybe besides TÅHTIPORTTI, and some one-off projects with interesting artists. OPIUM WARLORDS is basically continuation to the alternative work I started in early 90s. I see it as my life-work.

WC: Your work with REVEREND BIZARRE is legendary, of course. Looking back on it all, do you miss this particular music or do you see it as buried now, and something you can channel through OPIUM WARLORDS?

AW: I am proud of everything we did, but I do not miss that band, or those times. At the moment I feel that I have done my share of traditional Doom Metal as a composer and lyricist, but I know that one day I will return to this music. I have some plans, but not any songs yet, and I don’t know how long it will take until I have that kind of vibe again. I guess I can channel these things through LOINEN, and FRIENDS OF HELL, but obviously OPIUM WARLORDS too has some roots in SAINT VITUS, TROUBLE, and earliest CATHEDRAL. Still, I see it more as an alternative or avantgarde band. Not Doom Metal. 

WC: What got you into metal music, and more especially, doom? Are there other forms of metal you still find yourself listening to, be it old or new?

AW: In 1984 - 1986 everyone seemed to be listening to Heavy Metal, and of course I was one of them. I was into KISS, W.A.S.P., MOTÖRHEAD, VENOM, ACCEPT, TWISTED SISTER, SCORPIONS, METALLICA, ANTHRAX, BLACK SABBATH, ALICE COOPER, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DEEP PURPLE, KING DIAMOND, URIAH HEEP, and IRON MAIDEN. Bit later I found CORONER, KREATOR, NAPALM DEATH, DEICIDE, BRUTAL TRUTH, MY DYING BRIDE, MORBID ANGEL, and CATHEDRAL. Through CATHEDRAL I got into Doom Metal, around 1993, but I had always liked the slow songs on the albums. In these times I was also heavily into alternative bands like HELMET, FAITH NO MORE, WEDDING PRESENT and GODFLESH.

I still listen to everything I ever listened to. I am also big fan of early Black Metal, and some of nowadays underground Black Metal bands too.

WC: I understand you are also involved or have been involved with several electronic projects? Would you care to say a few words on this matter?

AW: It is one of my interests. Before I found Heavy Metal in 1984 I had been listening to bands like HUMAN LEAGUE and ULTRAVOX, which where these New Romantic synth bands. From early age I got into noise and experimental music, which have strong electronic elements there as well. It is very natural field of music to me. I like repetition, minimalism, and cold sounds. BUT I want to underline that I am not able to operate any machines unless someone shows me how, and I don’t know how to program anything. I can only bring my ideas and voice, lyrics and enthusiasm into these projects.

WC:  How would you describe what being Finnish means to you these days, if anything? How would you say the country of Finland has influenced you in your music, if it has? Sometimes I can find in certain music; say black metal, that one can here the actual country. Norway, Poland, France, etc...Yet, with your music I cannot honestly say I could have said "this is Finnish". Is there something of Finland in all your works?

AW: I was born here, I know this culture, I like Finnish language and I love the nature here, but that is about it. I do not see myself as foremost “Finnish”, and there even is not one singular Finland. Finland is still very much a loose combination of “tribes”. West is different from East, North from South, and so on. I am from Uusimaa – meaning “New Land” – down here in South. That is maybe where I can relate to somehow, but even this does not mean that much to me, and ¾ of my family originates to Karelia, which has been since the wars part of Russia. But I am alone. I only present myself.

There is strong Finnish aspect in my work with TÅHTIPORTTI and KLV, not in some glorious nationalist way, but through our popular culture and history of shamanism. It is true that my other things are not particularly Finnish. I think I produce music to the whole wide world, which again is this lonely teardrop in the vastness of black hostile space.However, everything beautiful in my music comes from the Finnish nature. When I am abroad I miss the nature, and the weather. Not the people.

Metal is huge thing here, but almost all of the mainstream metal is pure shit. Finland’s hidden musical treasure lies on a bit more leftfield and fringe bands like PANASONIC, RADIOPULIHELIMET, KEUHKOT and OPEL BASTARDS. I am proud of them. Also, we had great progressive rock bands in 70s, HC punk in 80s, and Death and Black Metal in 90s.

WC: I found the new album to be quite interesting and crushing in regards to the sound but also in regards to the way the damned thing actually plays out. The sensation of time..the inertia...the slow movement that it unwinds like an old mallet that hammers a man's mind into oblivion .Any thoughts on this statement? Please, take your time, if needs be, on this matter.

AW: I like that description a lot. I am happy that the music is able to create such sensations. When ever I produce an album I only think about the album itself; what it needs to be. I use what ever it takes to reach there. But I do not think about the audience, or even myself, and my tastes. I serve this one purpose, which is the true soul of each album. However I am interested to hear and read people’s experiences after an album is out. Especially with OPIUM WARLORDS music, which is the most private, and closest to myself. In many ways it is me. “Nembutal” is very heavy and hostile album. The world there is pitch-black. But there is also sick kind of beauty. This beauty makes the subject matter even harder. I have to use the cliché: The light deepens the shadows.

WC: Within the doomish circles, which I suppose mostly goes back to SABBATH, at least from my own involvement, we often see a relationship to drugs. Smoking herbs seems to go with the style for a lot. Do you find any influence in this? I myself am more of a drinker of ales and beer, to be exact, but do you find the music seems to go hand in hand with the smoking herbs and psychedelics.  Does it matter, or is it strictly up to the artists themselves?

AW: OPIUM WARLORDS has been produced under completely sober mind, except my mental illness and the legal drugs. Not even alcohol. REVEREND BIZARRE then again was produced in a drunken state. For sure marijuana and hashish, or LSD, or for that sake speed, cocaine and heroine are connected to different musical styles, but my music is outside of what may happen elsewhere. And if I should choose I would take something to speed me up, not to make me mellow. My whole philosophy is of pure intensity. I am not into Stoner vibes, and laidback life style.
On gig level intoxicants may work for the benefit of everybody, but they can as well destroy everything, even lives.

WC: There does seem to be a certain theme in some of your works that relates to the occult, or esoteric literature. Is this something you have used as an inspiration or are there elements you hold to be beyond the inspirational kind?

AW: I think I have done quite little amount of lyrics dealing with the occult, when compared to how close I have been to the subject, but yes, it goes beyond inspiration.

WC:  I have heard you are a vegetarian, if this is even true? As boring as it may sound, what can you tell us about all this- how did you come to be one, and what have you found in this that you would share with others who are curious?  Do you have a relationship with herbs or grow your own plants yourself? I still comb the pages of Culpeper's old manual; the old drawings, the satisfaction of growing and even the old, weird lore.

AW: Yes, and naturally in my perfect world animals would not be abused at all in our societies. A strong part of my hatred towards human race is based on how the animals have been treated. It is atrocity.

I do not grow anything. To me whole concept of food is just something that is necessity. Not a passion. But I am glad that people are into gardening.  
I think  the much more important and justifiable question than why someone is a vegetarian, would be why someone is a carnivore, but no one ever asks that. It is “normal” to kill living and feeling creatures for one’s own pleasure. People are raised to this culture. It is vegetarians and vegans who have to explain their diet and lifestyle, even when it is completely absurd to eat dead beings, not to mention how extremely cruel and unethical it is. Many people say they do not want to preach their own ideals to anyone. I would love to preach a few things with force into the skulls of humans!

WC:  What does Albert Witchfinder do when he is not making music? Do you have any hobbies or such things that you enjoy in this life that you would care to mention to us now?

Most of my time goes to my different projects. I do not really have any hobbies, and I spend most of my time in solitude. I own lots of books, movies, records, magazines and comics. Maybe that would be my hobby, but even literature and cinema is somehow in the same sector as my work. I don’t see the meaning of my life as enjoyment or pleasure, but the work I do. I try to change that view, slowly. I try to learn to rest and enjoy life little bit more. It is not easy. But I do love quality movies, and old comic books… their aesthetics. I guess I could say 60s and 70s superhero comics are my hobby as they do not relate to my work at all.

WC:  Are there any films, music, or literature that you would like to share at this time that has inspired you or that you find to be great enough to mention in homage? It would be interesting surely to hear all three of these things that you find merit in or enjoy.

AW: Oh, I am great lover of cinema, as well as literature… but it would be difficult to give a good answer within reasonable limits. I leave all the Finnish stuff out so that your readers could have a chance to check these out. I can’t speak straightly about inspiration, because my inspiration comes from EVERYTHING in this world, and in the world beyond this, so I do not usually get any ideas straight from some work of art, but these ones are there in my top 50 of each category.

Movies: Fellini’s “Rome” and “Satyricon”, Tarkovski’s “Andrej Rublev” and “Stalker”, everything from Kubrick, except “Fear and Desire” and “Paths of Glory”, everything from Cronenberg, except his early short films, everything from Lynch, Noé, Haneke, Roy Andersson, Winding Refn, Aronofsky and Herzog, most of Peter Greenaway, von Trier, Miloš Forman, Hitchcock, Todd Solondz, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Terrence Malick, lots of Roeg, Weir, Polanski, Bergman, Boorman, Welles, Pasolini and Altman, some of Larry Clark, all Clint Eastwood westerns, his Philo Beddoe movies and “Dirty Harry” series, “Deathwish” movies, “Alien” movies, “Rambo” movies, original “Star Wars” and “Mad Max” movies. Some one-offs: “Deliverance”, “Bad Lieutenant”, “Buffalo 66”, “Mysterious Skin”, “Altered States”, “Babel”, “Butch and Kid”, “The Lighthouse”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Wicker Man”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, “The Longest Day”, “Marathon Man”, “Straw Dogs”, “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Exterminator”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1 and 2”, “Conan the Barbarian” by Milius, “Under the Volcano”, “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, “Taxi Driver”, “The Deer Hunter”, “Easy Rider”, “Safe”. (Whew!!!--Dr. M)

I am a keen collector of so called New French Extremity – “Breillat”, “Dumont”, “Denis”, “Aja”, “de Van”, “Gens”, “Maury” and “Bustillo”, etc… and other disturbing things like “A Serbian Film”, “The Golden Glove”, “Men Behind the Sun”, and so on. I own more than one thousand DVDs so it is very hard to do even a slightly accurate list. I love so many things, in so many styles and genres. 

TV-series I love: “Brideshead Revisited” (1981), “Twin Peaks”, Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett, “Doctor Snuggles”, “Riget”, “The Prisoner” (1967), “Battlestar Galactica” (1978), “Jerusalem”, “Fanny and Alexander”, “A-Team”, “King of the Hill” (animation), “Robin of Sherwood”, “Sapphire and Steel”,  “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1971) and “The Singing Detective”.

Literature – Lots of book I like are Finnish, but here are some “international” ones--  “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, “England's Hidden Reverse” by David Keenan, “Gaspard de la Nuit” by Aloysius Bertrand, “Krabat” by Otfried Preußler, “La-Bas” by J.K. Huysmans, “The Sea-Wolf” by Jack London, “Touching from a Distance” by Deborah Curtis, “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” by Lewis Carroll, “Les Fleurs du mal” by Charles Baudelaire, “The Castle” by Franz Kafka, “Les Chants de Maldoror” by Comte de Lautréamont, short stories by Guy de Maupassant, most of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, “Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of Coum Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle” by Simon Ford, Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood”, Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985” by Maurice Tuchman, Judi Freeman and Carel Blotkamp, “Panzram: A Journal of Murder” edited by Thomas E. Gaddis and James O. Long, “The Gnostic Gospels” by Elaine Pagels, “Junkie”, “The Wild Boys” and “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs, “Austin Osman Spare” by Phil Baker, “Shambhala” by Victoria LePage, “Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism & Nazi Survival” by Joscelyn Godwin, “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, works of Daniil Harms, “Nightmares of an Ether-Drinker” by Jean Lorrain, “The Holy Books of Thelema” by Aleister Crowley, “The Book of Ceremonial Magic” by Arthur Edward Waite, “Sex and Rockets:The Occult World of Jack Parsons” by John Carter, “Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons” by George Pendle, “Songs in the Key of Z: The Curious Universe of Outsider Music” by Irwin Chusid, “Standing In Two Circles” by Boyd Rice, “A Season in Hell” by  Arthur Rimbaud, “The Book of Jade” by David Park Barnitz, “How It Is” by Samuel Beckett, “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, “Kirby: King of Comics” by Mark Evanier, “The Marvel Age of Comics 1961–1978” by Roy Thomas, “Hagakure” by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, “Elric of Melniboné” by Michael Moorcock.

I have quite a wide appetite in music. Early progressive rock, early gothic rock, early punk, new romanticism, early Doom, Death and Black Metal, early Heavy Metal, experimental music, noise, classical music, modern music, THE FALL, Scott Walker, David Bowie, Arvo Pärt, SUICIDE, DEATH IN JUNE, CLASSIX NOUVEAUX, SKULLFLOWER, LAIBACH, BUTTHOLE SURFERS, NON, ROXY MUSIC, DANZIG, EYEHATEGOD, VIRGIN PRUNES, CURRENT 93, Neil Young, Elvis... 

WC:  Now I ask you a question that I have asked all who have passed here before me in my years at WC, and it is a question that I think is quite dear to many of the readers and staff...Have you ever had an experience with the supernatural, paranormal, or metaphysical that you would share at this time with us? If not, what can you say would be the strangest thing that you would mention? I understand that this is something not many would dare to answer.

AW: I have had at least three very clear UFO observations, and I was never alone. Another person saw it too, and here I want to underline that my job in Finnish army was to monitor ships and planes, so I have some background to these things.

I have also seen a ghost twice. The first one was probably of a living person, but from other time than where she might have been then. The second time I had a conversation – which I remember completely even when it was 17 years ago – with this strange person, whom I next morning learnt to have died a week ago. I have also seen some kind of living shadow beings, and so on. Once an unnatural light surrounded the cabin where I was. I simply did not dare to open the curtains, but there is nothing that would explain it, as it came from different directions the same time, and on that place there is no possibilities for any man-made machine being close to it. No road, lots of trees. And again I was not alone. Of course in the world of occultism  I have experienced all kinds if extraordinary things, like astral projection. To me all of these are part of the reality where I live.  I see myself as a realist. I see the WHOLE of the reality.

WC: The world seems to be getting stranger or on the brink of least mankind. This is perhaps just my opinion. Does this effect you in any way and what can you say about this? What gets you through hard times in this insane world?

AW: I see several signs of apocalypse of humankind everywhere, and all the time. It fills me with joy. The time of human beings is ending and it is a good thing for this planet. I am excited to see how it is in let’s say 2045… wars for water and food. Mad Max world? Third world war? I wish to live as long as possible to be able to see how it will be. The world will change and the chaos will increase. And then, finally, this Kali Yuga will end. Then again I have strong assumptions that we actually live in simulation.

WC:  Finally, I bid you goodnight or good day, Mr. Witchfinder. Thank you for being here with us in this interview. In parting I would ask, what advice would you have for artists, new or old, in getting their work heard in this day and age if nothing else works? Thank you, again, for your time.

AW: Thank you very much for having me. I am not right person to tell young artists how to get their music heard. They know it better than I do. I am completely lost in these social media worlds, and I have myself hard time getting my music through all the millions of other things that inhabit the digiworld. My physical records sells about thousand copies each, so clearly that does not help my cause that much. 

What I CAN say is that do not copy others, do not do it just for becoming famous, put your soul in there, and just be YOURSELF. If it does not work, then it does not, and you have to do something else… try sports or something, but if it does, you can be sure that you are there for the right reasons, and it will last! If an artist is true and pure it does shine out. In the same way falsehood shines out. You have to also weigh do you want to look back to your career in some distant future as a career of a whore or a career of original artist who followed own path, no matter how hard it was, and how little audience there was. If you are willing to be a whore then by all means do what others ask you to do, copy others, lick asses and reach the useless mainstream lifestyle.