Interview: Sovereign Korpituli – Iku-Turso

The Progressive Cave Ogier was stirred from a deep summer slumber recently, as Sovereign Korpituli, “maybe the most productive black metal mastermind from Northern Finland,” released a new album with Iku-Turso. Residing just below the arctic circle, Sovereign graciously took some time away from the creation of his art to answer some questions. And ever the black metal enthusiast, the PCO had many questions to ask. What follows is, indeed, a fascinating conversation. Enjoy.

Artist: Iku-Turso

Release title: Into Dawnless Realms

Label: Korpituli Productions & Wolfspell Records

Release Date: 06-05-2022

Format: Digital, CD, LP, Cassete

Genre: Nordic Black Metal

Country: Finland

PCO: Hi Sovereign and Iku-Turso! How have you been and what have you been up to as a band in recent times?

SK: Hi. Thanks for the interest in our band. We had a gathering at this year’s Steelfest, in Hyvinkää, where we played our second gig ever which was a long way coming for pandemic reasons. Most importantly we had a chance to connect again with our vocalist Lafawijn as he made it to the festival from The Netherlands to meet up with the current line-up. It was also the first time with Ari XIII (The True Rietas, Curse Upon A Prayer, Coraxul) on stage with us as a live guitarist who brought a healthy dose of youthful energy to our live performance.

We just released the third album “Into Dawnless Realms,” and enjoying the fruits of our labor with that one and finalizing new material for release.

PCO: For The Metal Wanderlust readers that are not familiar with the band, could you please describe the sound and aesthetic of Iku-Turso for them poor souls? And what on earth does your band name stand for?

SK: The sound and aesthetics of the band go back to the 2nd wave of black metal, especially to the output of our Norwegian colleagues of times gone by. There was this magical breeze of cold northern spirit in the sound mainly rooted in Scandinavian Pagan roots and the rebellion against the organized religion that tried to suffocate that legacy. That is the spirit that we’re trying to invoke in our modern times and infuse in the mix varying doses of Finnish Pagan mythology. This is where the band name also comes from. Iku-Turso – Äijön Poika, countless poems, spells, and stories include this mythological entity, sometimes as a primordial entity, other times as a monstrous sea serpent – Turso, The Eternal. The grand scale of the concept is why the name was chosen – vast, majestic, primordial.

PCO: Was black metal always your musical weapon of choice, or have you meddled with other genres of music as well?

SK: I am a music enthusiast so of course, there are lots of interesting music styles or bands that grab my attention as the seasons pass. But the most important one since the mid-90s has definitely been black metal. It always comes down to that. 

I’ve been exploring some mythological shamanic death metal with Khanus and some jazzy avant-garde metal with Selcouth. I’m composing some death metal with a new project called Tomb Liquid. Then there are varying shades of black metal with Iku-Turso, my one-man band Korpituli, more 90s avant-garde BM vibes with Alkuharmonian Kantaja, some more dissonant and underground BM tones with Nachtvrucht (includes the Iku-Turso vocalist as well), and some vocal duties with Universal Disorder. And have had some guest vocalist duties on one Kalmankantaja album last year, and another to come very soon.

PCO: Iku-Turso’s line-up is “international,” whereas I would say your music is very Scandinavian in every sense of the word. Has it ever been complicated to explain some of the ideas behind the music to the band? And how did this line-up come together?

SK: I like to think of ourselves as a Finnish band with a Dutch vocalist. The sound is not very Finnish, though. As to what people are accustomed to nowadays, but more in the Scandinavian style with a strong focus on the Norwegian scene of the 90s. The main creative force is me and F., our keyboard player who mainly creates the songs. I grew up with him in the same circles in the late 90s, so we both have the same roots and base from where we create this dark art of ours. So it’s very easy to just drop in the ideas and wait for the results. 

We’ve had fantastic drummers in the band. Very hard working and capable, which is also very true with our current drummer Anzillu (Serpentfyre, Curse Upon a Prayer, Order of Nosferat, etc.), so there is seldom any input needed on the drum arrangements. And Lafawijn, our Heretic from the Netherlands, is taking sole care of the vocals and lyrics and, usually, there is little to no feedback needed to get the right arrangements and tone to the releases. 

Of course “Storm Over Isengard” was a bit different project having some Finnish vocals there, which I took care of. So Iku-Turso is a very independent and fluently running black metal juggernaut that I steer to the best of my abilities.

PCO: You personally live just below the Arctic Circle. Do you think it has affected the sound and soul of Iku-Turso to some extent? What are the pros and cons of living so far up north on the planet?

SK: Of course, nature is much more present as you live in the countryside, which is where I’m from originally. And the harshness of nature increases the further North you go. So, I think that is a very fertile soil as a foundation from which I create, and my local band mates all share that with me as well. Especially now as I’m in my “mid-life crisis,” investigating my own roots and trying to find the wisdom of the ages in a quest for meaning and purpose. Nature is always there – the ever-changing giver of life – but also a harsh life-taking force if you don’t respect it to the extent you should. 

Also, having some more distance to the “scene” of my countrymen tends to give us a more distinct sound. But then again, one has to be more active and perhaps take more roles in the creative process, as there are not that many other people to create with or collaborate with. Also, everything tends to be a bit far from here if you want to perform live in Finland or in other countries.

PCO: When you compare the timeline of Iku-Turso, from your debut album The Great Tower, the amazing Pakana (“Heathen” in English), and into your most recent album, Into Dawnless Realms. How do you think the sound or the songwriting of the band has changed? Does Iku-Turso as a band want to create an album under a certain umbrella, or would you rather see things changing as they go? Stability, or experimentation? Shoot!

SK: I am a very intuitive person. I get inspired a lot which usually ends up in a creative spree. And as you might have noticed from our albums, splits, and EPs we’ve done, no two sound exactly the same. So, I definitely like to take a new fresh look into the world of black metal each time I start composing. The songwriting has stayed pretty much the same throughout the years, just the focus of inspiration wanders.

With The Great Tower, it was a pure flow of intuitive black metal riffing and a few enthusiastic individuals performing for the love of the game. A very efficient and rewarding process all in all, with a unique harsh yet melodic atmosphere with quite a lot of variance inside the album. Yet nicely entangled into a common sound to give it a feeling of a good solid album. 

Then again, with Pakana, I got a vision of this tale. This journey of a protagonist in the days of the old in ancient Kainuu going through loss and growth. That story needed a different type of album. Not riff-oriented but a more emotional and atmospheric narrative which is best served in full on one listen. And all this started from one riff I made for the song “Ashes.” Very visual and full of emotion.

The third album, Into Dawnless Realms, was basically composed at the same time as Pakana, but I made the decision to first release Pakana and follow that up with a more epic, riff-oriented journey. Not into the past of our lands but into uncharted territories. Realms beyond our sight and knowledge. Very visual in a way, at least to me, of something that perhaps never existed but was always there. I think this third album has the best compositions I’ve ever done. In a style perhaps closer to the debut, but on a more grand scale. I hope people find it a journey worth indulging in. 

PCO: Besides Iku-Turso, you are quite an active member of underground black metal circles in Finland. Having also Alkuharmonian Kantaja and Korpituli going for example. What are the main differences between these three bands, musically and non-musically, and do you start a band in a spontaneous fashion, or rather as a tool to create something else musically?

SK: I start every project on a spontaneous whim of inspiration as a tool to create something else musically. So Yes, and Yes. 

Iku-Turso started as more of a therapy project for me after some laborious album projects. I wanted something fresh and uncomplicated. Something where I am at my strongest “comfort zone,” and it did that, but evolved into a somewhat main band of mine, with a steady line-up and live performances. Here my main focus is the sound and thematics of Iku-Turso. The message of the songs is more handled by our vocalist, Lafawijn. He writes pretty much all the lyrics, and I like to have great like-minded people co-creating with me, making the songs more than the sum of one. 

Korpituli, which is perhaps the closest in sound to Iku-Turso, is my very own one-man band that I started in 2021. The debut was released on 20.7.2021, my 40th birthday. I have total control and freedom in whatever I want to do with it. I perform each instrument and vocals myself. I also record, mix and master it, and handle the graphical side and releasing as well (except for the vinyl version where I collaborated with Essential Purification Records from Austria. I ended up co-releasing the CDs with Wolfspell Records as well). So, it’s about autonomy; about challenging myself and my skills and doing pretty much whatever the fuck I want, which is highly refreshing. So Korpituli has taken pretty much the therapeutic role from Iku-Turso now. 

Korpituli is all about the atmosphere. The somewhat dreamy, otherworldly realm between a dream and a nightmare in respect to the dark forces of the night, learning, observing, experimenting, and indulging in. There might be vastly different releases coming under the banner of Korpituli as well, but we’ll know that if and when it happens.

Alkuharmonian Kantaja (Engl. “The one who carries the original harmony”) is a more abstract vessel of fluent experimental whims of emotion. It is an introspective journey deep into the depths of the human mind, spirit, and self. A duality of ýearning and satisfaction. A deep dive into our primal beastly animal nature with glimpses into the soothing nostalgic realms of the mind, dwelling in toxic depressive darkness on a quest for something that perhaps never even existed. A playful yet bitter play of words and sounds of human nature in constant conflict. Of disappointments carried through generations and the search for eternal understanding. From the mundane observations of this carnal reality to pondering the universal truths of existence we all might realize one day (maybe too late), that which we all carry within us – The Original Harmony (Alkuharmonia).

PCO: What would be the main influences of each of these three bands before mentioned?

SK: Iku-Turso’s main influence, thematically, would be the ancient Finnish mythology and ways of days gone by. Musically, some of the Norwegian grandmasters of the 2nd wave black metal like Emperor, Satyricon, Immortal, etc. The good ones we all know.

Korpituli’s main influence is my internal burning for the unknown. The certain glimpses I get as “visions,” or during sleep, and respect for the highly magical forces of nature one can experience out there in the woods. Musically, I’d say Burzum has a big role as an influencer, but also some of the previously mentioned bands as well.

Alkuharmonian Kantaja is conceptually more of a tool to process my own personal internal struggles and understanding through art, and a lot of the musical influence also stems from the more adventurous mid-90s Norwegian avant-garde black metal bands, such as Ved Buens Ende (and later Virus), Fleurety, Arcturus, etc.

PCO: All of your musical works are released more or less independently. Is this a choice, or are you still looking for a perfect label to share your vision in music?

SK: Well, I take what is given and do what feels right. I’ve enjoyed working with Luciano & I, Voidhanger Records tremendously with the more experimental side of my musical projects (Khanus, Selcouth, Alkuharmonian Kantaja), but I don’t see traditional black metal tones fitting that catalog and thus wouldn’t make sense. On the other hand, I’ve worked a lot with Wolfspell Records with Iku-Turso, and I co-released the Korpituli Digipak CD with him as well. He’s got the right kind of catalog and audience for that. 

I do have my own underground cassette-focused label Korpituli Productions setup at the same time as the Korpituli band in July 2021, which is where I like to release all the works I’m involved with on cassette format as well as some interesting works of my friends in the business. Perhaps some local underground gems that have not received the amount of attention they deserve and other underground oddities that tickle my fancy. 

I do enjoy doing this so I’m trying to do as much as the stuff that I enjoy and perhaps outsource some of the less interesting stuff to others.

PCO: You obviously work a lot with Bandcamp. How do you see the platform as a tool for an underground metal band, and has the selling of Bandcamp to other companies changed anything in your routines with it?

SK: I think it is a fabulous platform for an underground artist or label to gain the basic toolkit to start your journey and gain some grounds. I haven’t noticed drastic changes yet with the new owner except for them asking for the tax information, and I hope it stays that way. The Merch side of things could use some extra features (like bundling things from existing stock) as it’s very basic now but overall it’s pretty much the only channel I use and not planning to utilize other tools for the time being.

PCO: Ok… Now, we go full-on zine-ish. Please bear with me. Haha!  What is your favorite Finnish black metal album of all time and why?

SK: Well I’m gonna do this all wrong and select a demo. ThyraneBlack Harmony. These guys are from Northern Finland like myself.  They have the right type of melodic black metal sound that I very much enjoy. This is their debut release originally as a demo, and it’s ridiculously good in both the musicianship and production side. Aggressive yet highly emotional, a true masterpiece.

PCO: If you drink, what do you drink?

SK: I was very much a beer enthusiastic until I turned 40, which is when I stopped that cold turkey. Now that it’s summer, and it’s been very warm in Finland, I do indulge in quite a lot of Sangria to keep me hydrated. But I’m trying to keep it down to a minimum.

PCO: Conan the Barbarian or Väinämöinen?

SK: Damn! Fuck…tough one…CROM!!! Väinämöinen in the Finnish epic Kalevala is not my favorite character, so let’s go full Arnold on this one. 

PCO: Who has the best corpse paint?

SK: Not that I care, but I do feel a kinship to the grin of Abbath or Apollyon.

PCO. Emperor or Marduk?

SK: Emperor, any given day.

PCO: What black metal album has disappointed you the most? Ever. And why? 

SK: The Shepherd and The Hounds Of Hell by Obtained Enslavement. After Witchcraft and Souldblight, I was really anticipating a third masterpiece of classical music infused black metal, epic long melodies, and fantastic orchestrations, but straight from the horrendous cover art I felt utterly betrayed when I spun that album. The first track had some okay riffs but the rest of it was very disappointing. I guess a lot of the visual style has Napalm Records to blame but the music side falls to the band.

PCO: Are you a Heathen? If so, how does this manifest itself in your life?

SK: I don’t like to restrict myself by labeling myself to a certain box that has boundaries. I am ME. An ever-changing intrigued vessel of the mundane and otherworldly on a chaotic sea of life. But having said that, yeah I guess Heathen or Pagan would be somewhat of a fitting word to describe my thoughts and beliefs.

I do have a renewed interest in old Finnish spells and chants that I try to include in my everyday life. The kind of things you thought as a kid were just riddles and such but now, as you put conviction and meaning to the words that you pronounce, you manifest a spell. I am also hoping to relocate to the countryside one day to properly embrace my connection with mystic nature and its ways.

PCO: Any famous last words to the readers of The Metal Wanderlust?

SK: Thanks for having me here – SUPPORT THE UNDERGROUND!

PCO: Thank you for your time!! Hails!!

Iku-Turso of the Dawnless Realms is:

S.Korpituli Guide To The Realms Beyond

LafawijnHowls Of The Night

F.Nightside’s Majestic Symphonies

RutoDark Shadows

MyrrysOne Final Battle

Iku-Turso on Bandcamp

Korpituli Productions on Bandcamp

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