From the ashes of adversity the phoenix rises to bathe the world in light. It’s from those dark days that a galvanised Tuomas Saukkonen strides into the light armed with a brand new album and a bright future for Before The Dawn. Simon Holland reports.
From all indications, Before The Dawn frontman Tuomas Saukkonen is a consummate perfectionist. His hardline approach to the music and a slew of ex-members speak of a working intensity that few are willing to match. That, combined with a look that makes a Kerry King cuddle seem warm and appealing, would result in one of the most fearsome and uncompromising images in metal. Instead, the warm and friendly Scandinavian spoke passionately for over an hour simply to provide the best possible explanation for each step of the story up until this point. “There have been way too many struggles, too many obstacles in the history of Before The Dawn that will hopefully not be in the future,” Saukkonen reflects.
The new album, titled Rise Of The Phoenix, is an apt description of the band's career up until this point. “We have never known any other way. Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be y'know? I'm not one of those guys that takes a lot of time to think about what has happened. A lot of things we really had no control over. It's got nothing to do with the music you are making. There is a hundred other obstacles that stand in your way. It's always about the timing.”
For years, Before The Dawn lay somewhere underneath the rubble of a collapsing melodic death genre, however Saukkonen was not your average corpse, his was a bright and beating pulse of the survivor simply trapped in a shitty situation and biding his time. So what took so long? “Well, every time we introduce a new member there is a lot of work that goes into getting the member in and the line-up working,” Saukkonen explains. “It takes a long time. I believe the best possible line-up makes you the best possible band. The last two albums, Deadlight and Soundscape Of Silence were a good example of that. We used session members to get the job done or I just did it myself; 'Do your own job, play your own instrument, rehearse on your own. You are a musician.' It's a lot of responsibility but if you are a musician and you play in a band that has an album coming out I would expect that you do the work required to be the best kind of musician in the studio. That's your only job,” he details, before highlighting his most important component. “I'm pretty demanding when it comes to drummers.
“They are so critical to the music,” adds Saukkonen. “They are the backbone of the music. You can't have awesome music if you don't have a brilliant drummer. Either you can play or you can't. What I mean is, you can use samples and can cheat that way but you can't create that groove which something that is immediately apparent. It really is a big part of your sound and very important for Before The Dawn.”
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Saukkonen's professional approach has begun to pay dividends, scooping Musician Of The Year at the Finnish Metal Awards two years running. A particularly impressive feat considering the illustrious metal landscape. “It's really cool especially considering Before The Dawn is not the biggest or best band around, well, yet at least,” he laughs. “There are some massive bands here! I feel unbelievably privileged to be recognised in that way. Even when it comes to the actual musicianship I have no way of competing with the Alexi Laiho's [Children Of Bodom] or that. They'd get all the awards for being the fastest or the best, but I think I got the award for simply my songwriting with the different bands, and it's that songwriting that I consider to be my craft.
“The music and the instruments are simply the tools that serve that purpose. I really didn't think it was going to happen and definitely not two years in a row. I was top five for three years and I thought that was cool. To win back-to-back for writing good songs, yeah, that's amazing.”