- Interview by Faye Coulman
Russian black metal horde Second to Sun talk creative motivation, mysticism and brand new material
In an age of heavily marketised trends, overnight superstardom and vapid, attention-seeking celebrities, the concept of forging a reputation off the back of nothing but the pure and authentic merits of artistic talent has long been a largely obsolete one. And yet, without so much as a whiff of publicity to bolster their profile, Russia’s Second to Sun have done a more than successful job of bewitching extreme metal fanatics from all corners of the globe with their electrifying fusion of searing, white-hot aggression, coldly abrasive riffage and exquisitely glimmering atmospherics. Compositional mastermind and riff-master Vladimir Lehtinen gives Dark Matter a glimpse into the fascinating innerworkings of this mesmerising musical unit.
“I see how other musicians work, pretty big names sometimes, at least in terms of Russia, and it looks like they don’t give a fuck about music at all. In the album recording, they see a possibility of touring. I, unfortunately, still see creativity in music,” observes Second to Sun creator Vladimir Lehtinen on the woefully commercialised state of the music industry circa 2022. Having taken his first tentative steps as a songwriter at the tender age of just 12 years old, it’s clear that the act of creating music has long been as vital and innate a part of Lehtinen’s being as breathing – judging, at least, by the highly instinctive and organic terms in which he defines his relationship with the creative process.
“It reminds me of an artist’s obsession when he is painting without the realisation of why is he doing it,” the composer muses. “I feel that in some way. Probably, I am giving too much of myself for it, not getting anything in return. Now I am 32, and, perhaps, every album is a specific time period of my life and its musical influences, and the experience that I got during that time. I have my playlists on Spotify, where I put things that made me interested in a musical way when I was writing songs. Probably you will learn something about the roots of my creativity. If I could make playlists for books and movies, I would make them with pleasure.”
Citing influences as varied as Emperor, melodic death metal and movie scores, genre-smashing eighth opus ‘Leviathan’ is awash with evidence of these vibrant and boundlessly creative energies. And from insanely paced episodes of percussive warp speed and gargantuan slabs of tautly muscled groove to airily entrancing melodies that audibly glimmer with ethereal beauty, theirs is a rare and relentlessly compelling craft.
Lehtinen elaborates, “I think the band sounds as it does because this is a one-man-band in its core, where also my friends and comrades play. I am trying to make the material in a very conceptual way, same for when I’m writing instrumental parts, when I’m writing lyrics and when I’m writing melodies and riffs. Musical influences of Second To Sun are centred around the second wave of black metal and very different albums of heavy music, may it be ‘Come Clarity’ by In Flames, for example, and full Emperor discography at the same time. I am also exploring the area beyond metal, I love movie scores, Ennio Morricone’s works are absolutely genius.”
While a swift internet search unearths relatively limited information regarding the lyrical and thematic aspects of this darkly absorbing collective, a smattering of intriguing references to ‘mysticism’ and ‘social decay’ are sufficient to entice us to enquire further...
“Oh, you’re talking about Metal Archives,” Lehtinen clarifies. “It’s shamefully described, I was fucking shocked when I saw which genre they added there – how is my music connected to groove metal? I don’t have any songs about alcoholics and naked women. But I think mysticism is a perfectly understandable element of our creativity, because we live in Russia. Russia is a mysterious country, we have Cyrillic alphabet. It’s unique, because it’s created by religious people, which spiritualises our writing system. The cultural element of Uralian folks, which I am actively using, takes this moment into account. That’s why the band is singing in Russian, but for your conceptual understanding I translate lyrics and titles.”
“We represent the people of cold mentality,” he continues. “Of course, such an approach of the world’s understanding as mysticism is inherent for us. Fate is a straight road, and there is no way to stand out of this path. Perhaps, a Catholic Christian would say – no, there is no such thing. There are Seven Commandments. A Satanist would say – everything is in your hands. I think my own point of view goes against both of these directions, towards the more radical key. There is a word ‘toska’ in Russian, and it’s kinda difficult to translate into English. Finnish has ‘tuska’, same meaning. ‘Toska’ is the understanding of fate. And social decay is only the aftermath.”
With the year 2022 soon to bring with it a thrilling and expansive wealth of brand new material, the ever-productive songwriter and guitarist confirms, “I have around thirty new songs. I want to release a unique compilation for the band’s 10th Anniversary, for which we will re-record five songs from ‘The Black’ anew; one will be the newest and four more from older albums we have already re-recorded in the studio, in the church in one Siberian town. Adam Burke made the album cover, I think this release is going to be special.”
For more on Second to Sun, visit their official Bandcamp page HERE