Following my recent review and enthusiasm towards Second to Sun‘s album The First Chapter, I had an opportunity to ask Vladimir Lehtinen, a guitarist and mainman, questions about forming the band, the album, and more.
Let’s start from your early music beginnings. How did your musical career begin? When did you start playing? Which groups have been your favorites as a young man? Please tell us something more about your early life.
I started my career in music around 14, when my father died. I didn’t know what to do with my life and as a result slowly started making money with music – not a lot of options for a 14-year-old kid, you know. When I was about 10 years old, I had heard two Metal Hammer compilations – Hardcore and Black metal bands that were on those compilations (such as Pantera, Immortal, Emperor) ended up greatly influencing my musical preferences from there on.
How did you go about forming Second to Sun? Who was the most influential when the band started its musical journey?
I’m still the main driving force behind the band’s wheel and forming it was entirely my initiative. I tried playing what I liked in my previous project, which was extremely raw black metal. Later I tried blending it with math metal, which was popular back in 2010s and is not entirely dissimilar to groove metal that I really like. I think that the influences of Scandinavian metal are pretty obvious as well, especially in the black metal part. I also like In Flames circa 1994-2006 and thrash metal like Sodom and Kreator. Sepultura also played a major part in influencing our music. Then Dimmu Borgir released a great album with some pretty solid grooves back in 2002. I can really go on forever. [smiles]
In the beginning, did you have some “fixed” tempo in composing songs or everything was a product of jamming, improvising?
You know, I still utilize various different approaches to writing songs, where some take a day to complete, and some take four years. I don’t have some universal recipe or a master plan – it’s not like cooking or building an aircraft carrier from a blueprint. Some songs really are partly improvised (like “Narčat,” for example). We try to make different songs in different ways…
How would you describe Second to Sun’s music on your own?
It’s metal music that can be appreciated not only by metalheads. It’s dark and melodic.
Your second full-length album, Blackbound, is a follow-up to 2015’s debut The First Chapter, and both were released as instrumental releases. What can you tell me about these two releases?
Only that they are worth a listen. They reveal our music from a different angle. Any band without vocals is practically a demonstration of what it’s really worth without a frontman to draw the attention away from the music. I don’t think we would have found such a great singer if our music was bad to begin with.
The First Chapter was re-released in 2017 with a completely new artwork, tracklist order and it includes vocals by singer Gleb Sysoev. Why have you decided to go the vocal route? How hard was it to include vocals in those songs especially knowing that they were written as instrumentals?
Fans both abroad and in Russia really wanted to hear our albums with vocals on them. I couldn’t let them down, and we ended up compiling the vocal releases into their own unique musical concepts.
I try to imbue all the songs with such melodies and rhythms that allow for easily adding vocals on top later on. Gleb just started following these melodies and rhythms – that’s it. It’s wasn’t difficult, as I usually make a vocal demo myself and then Gleb records the vocals properly with feeling and passion.
Do you have in plan also to re-release Blackbound with vocals?
Yes, we’ll do it this year.
You have just launched a music video for the song “Me or Him” taken from The First Chapter album. What is the story behind this song in particular, and where does it stand in the scope of the full album?
This song is about an ancient curse of an Urdmurt kin that dwells in Ural. Throughout the entire song the story is told in first person, which is why the music video stars only Gleb. It’s one of the most melodic, yet at the same time avant-garde songs on the album.
You pay attention to atmospheric and ambient elements in your music. How important it is for the structure of your songs?
Since our music can be quite heavy, such elements help diffuse it and allow listeners to concentrate on the sound design and all the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the music. Or they simply serve as openings for heavy songs. The First Chapter has two such tracks.
How do you see the Russian extreme metal scene? There has been many, many great bands coming from Russia in the recent years. Recommend us some of your favourites.
Do you guys consider yourselves a part of any specific cultural movement, however peripheral?
I think so, yes. We try to give our music that special execution, artistic value, make it into a performance. It’s a very thin line, as many of the more orthodox metalheads dislike this kind of thing – but we try to find a compromise.
Are you also involved in any other projects or bands beside Second to Sun?
I have a feeling that your music and art would be a perfect fit for the vinyl format. Have you thought about doing a limited editions for the two albums in this format?
We get asked this a lot. I hope that one day we’ll do it.
So, what comes next for Second to Sun?
Reissue of Blackbound with Gleb‘s vocals. We’ll give the album a new name and make it even more powerful than before.