Battlebeast—how can that name not bring a smile to a metalhead’s face? The Finnish band combines power metal and traditional ’80s metal into something special: anthemic songs with big hooks and choruses to bring out that inner headbanger in us all. Formed in 2008 and originally featuring vocalist Nitte Valo, the band was left in a compromising position in 2012 when she had to leave the band prior to a coveted opening slot on a tour with Sonata Arctica. In stepped the wild-haired, big voice of a frontwoman, Noora Louhimo, who up until this point had never performed in a heavy metal band. Well, Noora (or as she had me pronounce it, New-rrr-a, with an emphasis on the tongue roll) now has become the heart and soul of Battlebeast, as the band prepares to release its third album with her as vocalist, Bringer of Pain (Feb. 17, 2017, Nuclear Blast Records). The band—rounded out by bassist/vocalist Eero Sipilä, drummer Pyry Vikki, guitarist Juuso Soinio, keyboardist Janne Björkroth and his brother, guitarist Joona Björkroth—will serve as openers, along with Leave’s Eyes, for Sabaton on a U.S. tour this spring. Live Metal’s Jeff Maki talked with Noora about Bringer of Pain, the interesting story of how she joined the band, it’s ’80s metal style and much more.
LIVE METAL: Even though I’m familiar with Battlebeast, I’m still pretty new to the band. After listening to some of the new album and watching the videos, right off the bat, I notice a heavy ’80s influence style to your music. Whether it was your intention or not, it reminded me of bands like Helloween, Grim Reaper and I think (“King for a Day”) even had a Twisted Sister feel. It’s definitely different that what’s in the current musical landscape. So what are your influences, and is it partly the ’80s?
NOORA LOUHIMO: Instead of one songwriter now, we actually have five songwriters in the band, so we have a lot of different influences from each songwriter … But the ’80s kind of heavy metal music and hard rock music, you just name it … It’s from different genres, from Michael Jackson to the Bee Gees. It’s a lot of different kind of influences, and yes, you can definitely hear that. I was surprised but in a good way (when you said) Twisted Sister, because I like that band and I love Dee Snider and his way of performing, but I never thought about that. But that is very nice to hear.
When I’ve been doing interviews, the reporters are saying what kind of vibes and feelings that they’re getting with the new album, and it’s great to hear that they all have this same kind of comment about ’80s vibes. I think we have developed our sound and the whole scale of our music. I think that’s just the normal way for musicians or artists to always want to go forward and develop their sound, so this is the direction that we’re going now.
The new album is Bringer of Pain. I did read a little bit about the album cover, but is that you depicted on the album cover or a different version of you?
Jan Yrlund is the artist, and this is his perspective here of what “Bringer of Pain” would look like. On the song, “Bringer of Pain,” this is actually a character, a female soldier character who kicks ass. (laughs) But you can definitely see that he has mixed some of me with something or someone else. When I saw the cover, she doesn’t look like anyone in particular in the face, but she can remind you of me. I think that’s good, because we didn’t necessarily want to put me (on the cover), but I actually think that it’s nice that it brings up a lot of questions like, “Who is she, that woman?” (laughs)
So you are the second vocalist of Battlebeast. Did you have to audition for the spot, or what was involved there? Was it the idea of the band to always to get another female singer or was there male competition, as well?
This is a funny story and really weird. They actually found me by accident on YouTube. Back then, in 2012, I was doing my own solo gigs in my hometown—acoustic gigs. I was singing Janis Joplin a lot, and on that particular YouTube clip that they saw, I was singing songs that I usually do, like “Piece of My Heart.” And because of that clip, they called me and asked me if I wanted to join the band. (laughs) I didn’t have to audition in any way, which I was really surprised about. Actually, I had just learned about Battlebeast just about two weeks before they called me. So it was really weird at first, and I thought that (guitarist/vocalist Anton (Kabanen) was some kind of stalker. (laughs) At first, I was like, “Yeah, right. This is some kind of bullshit. Yeah, I’ll get back to you.” This was something that just can’t happen.
Then he called me, and he had had my phone number from somewhere. He was very persistent about convincing me to join the band. He was saying that “(We have) this situation where the singer left and we have one month until we open a tour with Sabaton. Would you like to join the band?” (laughs) And I was like, “I have to think about it.” I was trying to be cool and because right away, I couldn’t put together Battlebeast and their music. I had heard them on the radio, but I had missed the name. Then I asked him to send me some demos, and he sent them to me and I was like, “Oh shit, I had just heard them!”
My situation, for me, as a singer, was that I had never sang heavy metal before Battlebeast, but I really wanted to have the challenge because I had been singing every single different kind of genres but heavy metal and I really wanted to try it out. I called him the next morning, and I said, “I’m in!” During the same week, almost the whole band came to see my show in my hometown, wanting to see me, of course. They wanted to see how I was performing and what I sound like live, and they were really pleased. The same evening, they gave me the scheduled recording sessions and for advertising the upcoming tour with Sonata Arctica, and we also started recording the next album, and I didn’t have any idea how I was going to sing. But I actually ended up saving their asses because they had already book the tour with Sonata, but without a singer, so they had to have a singer. (laughs) If there is a fate, this was the fate.[In fall 2012, after touring the Finnish rock festivals for the summer, it was announced that original vocalist Nitte Valo was leaving the band because of family issues.]
So then, Anton left the band before this album, correct?
Actually, yeah. He didn’t leave the band, we left him. It was really sad and a long process, but it came out as sudden news. For a long time, we tried to fix our relationships personally and workwise, but it just got infected—the whole situation. We couldn’t even talk to each other anymore. The last tour with Anton was with Sabaton two years ago, and it was the worst tour for me ever because (I was) locked in a bus with a guy who hates you. There are many reasons, not just between me and Anton, but me and the rest of the band didn’t click as friends as we wanted to. Also, he wanted to make the decisions about everything. He wanted to do everything by himself, and we weren’t on the same page there. We wanted to do things as a band, and that’s why we had to go separate ways with him, and I think that’s the best decision we could have done.
I can say that even though we had a really bitter breakup, I believe that time heals, and I really hope that some day all the scars are healed and we can all be—not friends—but on friendly terms. We’ll definitely meet at some festivals with our bands, because he has a new band and they will be successful—I’m sure of it. He is a really good songwriter, and we have never underestimated that. The other stuff just didn’t work, but I hope things go better with his other band.[Editor’s note: Anton Kabanen is now the guitarist and shares vocal duties in a new band called Beast in Black.]
I mentioned earlier how the band’s music reminded me of Twisted Sister and some other bands, because your music has an element of fun, which was a trait of a lot of the ’80s bands. There’s kind of fine line between being a fun, nostalgic-type band and then being taken seriously, as well. So how do you walk that line, with the imagery, the band name and the fun that you’re having, yet still be taken seriously?
I don’t know, it’s gone pretty naturally, I think. That is really great to hear, that everything you said is totally true. The vibes and the message from the band has gotten through to the audience, so that is really good to hear. I always wanted to be very theatrical and sing big and act big and do everything big. I think Yngwie Malmsteen said it well, in a documentary, “More is more.” (laughs) We do this and we want to give people good experiences, but we do it with very serious hearts. We are dead serious about doing this. Our task, as a band, is not to make frowny faces but make smiley faces and make them party like hell! That is our goal, and up until now, we have managed to do that.
It hasn’t been an easy road. We have shows when we have an audience that we have to win on our side, and those gigs are actually my favorite gigs. I actually have to do some work to get those people on our side. The best that I can imagine and that I have seen from the stage is when in the beginning there are like one or two rows banging their heads and raising their fists, but in the end of the show the whole crowd is going crazy, and that is worth it to see.
OK, Noora, good luck with the new album, and I hope to see you on tour here in Baltimore. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
To your readers, I am very thankful for the support. And I hope Bringer of Pain brings more fans and everyone picks up a copy. Let’s roar!
Pre-order Bringer of Pain now: http://nblast.de/BBBringerOfPainNB
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