As part of a new series called “Albums of Influence,” we begin with the great Markus Makkonen, vocalist and bassist for Sadistik Forest and Nerve Saw. Both bands are favorites here at the TMW camp, so it was extra exciting to get to ask Markus the following question: Can you pick one album that has helped shape who you are as a musician, which you feel is deserving of more attention and discussion?
Markus Makkonen (MM): This is easy: Celtic Frost – “Monotheist.“ It’s quite a monolith.
Back in the day, when “Monotheist” came out, it was like a big wake up call. Had walked away from extreme Metal around the millennium, but it was coming back. And when “Monotheist” came, it kind of woke me up from the musical world I had drifted into and plunged me back to the deep end of extreme again.
Made me think the bands I was in , at the time, were not heavy and extreme enough.
So, when Antti [Heikkinen, guitars] contacted me about forming Sadistik Forest the next year, it was easy to say yes to the idea.
In a way then, without “Monotheist”… there would perhaps be no Sadistik Forest. Were you familiar with Celtic Frost before that album came out?
MM: At least that album had a huge influence on how things went. Bought “To Mega Therion” from them in the 90’s. It was the most untrendy stuff back then. My mates, who were all into Norwegian Black Metal, joked about all the “outdated, obsolete thrash” I was listening to. When “Monotheist” came out, there was maybe curiosity above anything, how they sound today. That album plunged me back to the world of Celtic Frost with full force and made me respect them even more than I had done before it.
Your buddies thought “To Mega Therion” was outdated trash? I would have thought 1990’s Norwegian black metal fans would still be into Celtic Frost. Although, I suppose they had done a bit of damage to their early reputation by then. A little too much experimentation, perhaps?
“Monotheist” really does stand out compared to the previous CF records, though. That guitar sound is fucking relentless! Right from the jump!
MM: That went in three parts: The first song I heard from the album was “A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh.” That already raised a lot of interest towards the record, but the album opener “Progeny” was such a primal expression of power that it captivated me and hypnotized me completely. The third moment of awe was the first listen through as the album closes with “Winter.” I was completely awestruck! Wow!! Damn!! I knew I had heard something really exceptional. After all these years and countless spins, my favourite tune from the album is “Obscured.”
“A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh” is an absolutely perfect song, if you ask me. I’m so glad you mentioned that one! Extremely dark and powerful. Almost hypnotizing, and certainly terrifying. “Obscured” is a little more straightforward and, at least to my ears, has a bit of a Godflesh vibe. Maybe even a little Bauhaus in the vocals.
MM: Yeah, Celtic Frost were never really afraid to mix a lot of different elements and influences to their music. Already on “To Mega Therion” they had classical instrumentation and operatic female vocals.
It seems to me, the music that hits the hardest always mixes genres. Bands like Celtic Frost invent genres.
MM: Absolutely!! I agree on this. Originality, or at least an individual point of view to music is an important factor in greatness. At least in my book.
Agreed. And doesn’t it also seem this originality comes from musicians who don’t realize how original they’re being? Just musicians creating exactly what they wanted to create. No more, no less.
As I write this, I’m listening to “Down In Ashes,” and I can’t imagine this guy trying to be anything he isn’t. You can say the same thing about many Cannibal Corpse songs. Haha! Or Elvis Costello, for that matter. The idea being that this music takes you places you’ve never quite been before. Very honest, and deeply personal.
MM: Yes! And you can hear the person behind the music in it. If it’s cloned, copied or a product – music created for popular demand – the artist behind is lost as the songs sound like any other band, or artist.
So, to me, extreme music means music that ventures to final frontier, so to speak. Challenges the listener with something new! Unheard of.
Music can be monstrously heavy, but if it only creates something that satisfies the audience alone, it is still safe. Brutal pop. Not extreme.
So, in that sense, minimalistic, but marginal sound can be more extreme than Slam Deathcore for example.
Haha! Yes! There are Bob Marley songs more extreme than some Deathcore.
MM: Hahaha!!! But I can publicly say that many Björk songs are far more extreme than many brutal Metal acts, that are only duplicated sound for targeted audience.
I do see what you mean, though. No matter what genre it is, disingenuous music is fairly forgettable.
What do you think of the Celtic Frost songs Tom G. did with Triptykon last year? (2020’s “Requiem: Live at Roadburn 2019.)
MM: You mean the orchestral live album?
As live albums go, that one is glorious. It ends, as “Monotheist” ends, with “Winter.” So, so great.
MM: Still eagerly awaiting the new Triptykon studio album, though. Nevertheless, that live album was by far the best of the year.
Speaking of live… do you have any plans to perform live with Sadistik Forest?
MM: We are booked to Helsinki Death Fest, but at the moment nobody can tell how it goes. We are writing the new album in the meantime, and are doing fine progress with it.
Very exciting! Getting back on the road would do everybody some good, that’s for sure. And you’ve got the EP (“Obscure Old Remains”) coming out on Transcending Obscurity in a few weeks. Quite excellent, indeed, I must say. Four songs isn’t enough Sadistik Forest for us, though, Markus. We’ll be aching for a full length as soon as you can pull it off. Anything else in the works? With Nerve Saw, perhaps?
MM: Doing demos for the new Nerve Saw as well. We have the music pretty much written. Now we just wait for the plague to subside so we could record the 2nd album. When band members live in two countries, the current situation sets some limits to things.
Well, you know all of us at TMW will be itching to get our ears around all of that stuff, man! Hopefully the remainder of this year brings about some normalcy.
One last bit of advice from you to our readers: After beginning an adventure with Monotheist, where would you suggest a listener venture to next? More Celtic Frost? Just more extreme Metal in general? What was your own progression like?
MM: Well, I got into music in the very beginning of the 90’s. ZZ Top, Alice Cooper, AC/DC… stuff like that. From there it started to expand to electronic music and Punk. From Punk to Thrash and from Thrash to Death Metal. The hunger for more extreme was always there. Got into Black Metal as well, around 1996, after speaking against it at first. The album that turned it around for me was “Dusk… And Her Embrace,” by Cradle of Filth.
Then, around the millennium it started to feel that extreme metal had become all about countless copies of In Flames and Dimmu Borgir. There I ventured off to worlds of garage rock and Prog.
Stayed there until 2005 – 2006, when bands like Rotten Sound and Celtic Frost, Dark Funeral and Kreator hauled me back to worlds of extreme metal.
So… what albums to listen to after “Monotheist?” Hmm…
I’ll name drop a few, that restored my faith in extreme metal around 2005 or so:
So, instead of 90s classics, try Rotten Sound “Exit,” “Annihilation of the Wicked” by Nile, “Attera Totus Sanctus” by Dark Funeral, “Enemy of God” by Kreator, “Kill” by Cannibal Corpse and “Stinking Up the Night” by Death Breath. All these albums had their say around the times we were starting Sadistik Forest out.
And about the new SF and NerveSaw music…. Stay tuned! There will be news to come when the time is right. Cheers!