Valonaara, the newest bleak offering from Finnish doom / sludge post metallers LÄHDÖN AIKA, tails the band’s third full-length Alku from 2019, stitching in the longest gap between their releases as well as presenting their new vocalist Eeli Helin who joined them in early 2021, indicating a new beginning of sorts for the band that’s been around nearly two decades. Today, we’re thrilled to give you an early stream of the record, paired with the band’s special commentary on its creative process and, most importantly, the themes, the amazing artwork and the lyrical content that lays its dark foundation.
Valonaara EP by LÄHDÖN AIKA is out December 10, 2021, on digital/CD/vinyl/tape formats via the band, Trepanation Recordings, Black Voodoo Records, and Bullwhip Records.
Lähdön Aika was founded in 2003 by then vocalist Marko Nyman and the remaining guitarist Akseli Kahra, who assembled the rest of the group around shared interests and vague ideas, and quickly after the standard trials and errors related to starting a new band, found their own, unique voice, and cemented their position in the local – and eventually domestic, underground scene. The band proceeded to release their debut EP S/T in 2004, and kept steadily putting out material in the form of three full-lengths and numerous smaller releases such as EPs and splits, up until the departure of Nyman and the pandemic threw some wrenches into their systematic process, slowing down their collective wheel on the release front.
After a while of serious discussions about whether to call it a day or to try to find a new vocalist and keep going, the latter turned out to be the only viable option; after all, the band wasn’t a stranger to hardships, not in the least due to founding themselves almost entirely on a strict DIY aesthetic. After laying low for a while, the band contacted a local vocalist Eeli Helin who agreed to give it a try, and officially joined Lähdön Aika after their first session together.
“In September 2020 we had about an hour’s worth of new material and begun to think about recording some of them, when suddenly our original vocalist left the band.” – comments the band. “After pondering the band’s future and whether or not we should start the search for a new vocalist, Eeli came along. We sent him some phone recordings of these songs, and a couple of days later he had written the lyrics to them. After our first jam together, it took about a month for us to start the recording process for the EP.”
“While we had no actual timeframe for it, the recordings took a bit longer than we had initially planned due to our bassist Anna still living in Denmark and couldn´t travel to Finland thanks to we-all-know-what. But soon she made the call to move back here in the spring of 2021, being able to practice again and finish up the recordings after a while.”
Valonaara represents Lähdön Aika in their most striking and unforgiving form yet, through four songs ebbing and flowing in and out of the mentioned stylistic leanings, together with a thematic concept about submission and loss mounts up to an intense and robust experience, showcasing the band on their prime.
Guitarist Akseli Kahra details the first and the last song from the record: “The first song “Hylkäys” is probably the oldest one of the four tracks on Valonaara. If I remember right, I wrote it sometime in early 2019, or at least the timestamps of the demos suggest that. Before Eeli joined us, we had planned to drop off the last riff on it but he convinced us to keep it, due to it’s nice pummeling nature, and keeping it intact turned out to be the right choice.”
“I think “Pahansuovat” is one of our best songs so far, but that’s just my opinion. Not too slow or too fast, but perfectly in the middle. I usually come up with rough ideas by playing my acoustic guitar on the couch while watching some crappy movies, and “Pahansuovat” is no exception to that.”
The pther guitarist Aki Heikinheimo adds: “”Aja Se Pois” is probably closest to Nirvana that we’ve ever been, whether or not that makes any sense, and was also actually the first song we started working on with Eeli, which in a sense was kind of a stepping stone for us a band. The song has an easy and straight to the point verse with a hard-hitting but simple chorus. Can’t go wrong with that formula.”
“”Lehto” went by the title “tililili” during the writing process, due to its chorus melody that represents an angle completely new to us; emphasizing the melody instead of the bone-crushing riffs. I think the guitars and bass hit the perfect sweet spot between their respective feel and notation. The hooking chorus and soul crushing verses make this song in particular quite amazing, in my opinion.”
The artwork depicts the moment between striving for something and giving up the struggle, without blatantly telling the viewer whether the subject is still trying to free himself or simply letting go in defeat. This is meant to metaphorically represent the surprisingly mundane thoughts ane turmoils most of us go through, not necessarily day-to-day, but eventually in some form or another during our lives. Do we keep on pursuing our goals that’ll benefit us greatly, or succumb to something greater than us since we think it’s futile and useless to do so?
The lyrics mirror this idea, albeit are more hopeless and dismal in nature. Valonaara roughly translates to Light Drag, the “drag” in this case referring to a hook used to, well, drag the waters either by means of fishing, locating drowned objects, or bodies of drowned people, for an example. The title is meant to convey the idea of us trying to find hope and things to live for, by any means necessary. Sometimes the journey is more important than the outcome, sometimes it isn’t.
“Hylkäys” (“Rejection/Abandonment”) is about being stuck in a desperate situation without the means to escape it. You’ve been left completely alone to deal with yourself, tied to a chair with a knife in your hand, in a doorless and windowless, cold room.
“Aja Se Pois” (“Chase It Away”) is about being haunted by something you can’t really shrug off. It might be caused by the protagonist’s past actions, or be more of a psychic byproduct of something entirely else.
“Lehto” (“Grove”) is about the inane search for a place of freedom and solace without realizing the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence.
“Pahansuovat” (“Malevolents”) deals with being in love with something — a person or an ideal — that’ll only ene up hurting you. The lyrics tell a story of our protagonist falling for the Finnish equivalent of a Nixie, trying to chase it down to be able to live a life with it, without realizing that the creature’s only object is to drag him into the depths to drown him and feed off of his remains.
The 10″ of Valonaara comes with an A5 pamphlet which includes the lyrics both in Finnish as well as officially translated in English.