Greetings Mr Laakso – welcome to Sentinel Daily! What was the best new album you heard in 2016? “I’ve been rather impressed with the forthcoming Trees of Eternity debut Hour of the Nightingale. Aleah’s voice is beautifully eerie, and I have a lot of respect for Juha Raivio as a composer and as a human being. Those guys just nailed it with this release”.

They certainly did. Such tragic circumstances to releaese an album in, but I’ve a feeling it’s an album I’m going to be returning to a lot over the next few months. What about old stuff – did any reissues grab your attention this year? “I haven’t purchased the Sisters of Mercy vinyl box sets yet, but they are definitely something that grabbed my attention”.

Really, you’re a Sisters fan? I’d never have guessed… Jokling aside, can you tell our readers what was your non-musical highlight of the last twelve months? “Becoming a father for the second time, no contest there”.

None whatsoever! And what have you found particularly disappointing about the wider world in 2016? “Don’t even get me started… The whole planet is chaos politically, environmentally, economically, war-wise – you name it. People are probably feeling worse and worse every day. This is the most depressive time that I’ve ever had to witness during my short period here”.

That seems to be the general consensus amongst everyone  contributing to this feature, so let’s move on to something I hope will garner a slightly more positive response: Do you think the music scene – and our sort of music in particular – is in good shape at the minute? “Not necessarily. The decrease of sales and artist income has infected the whole scene with cynicism and bitterness, and there’s very little that anyone can do about it. Other than that, domestic hip hop has become the largest popular music in Finland, and I just don’t get why people dig it so much. I listened to a lot of hip hop back in the day, but you can’t compare N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan, Eazy-E, Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill to the utter crap that’s feasting in our charts. We are supposed to be “the metal country” of the world, you know… (laughs). Having said that, there are tons of great metal albums coming out every year. I personally think that the whole global – as well as Finnish – scene has lost its edge, but these things come in cycles: sometimes nothing new and spectacular presents itself, but bands like Ghost have taken the metal world by storm. Great music never dies”.

And thank the maker for that! Did anything disappoint you musically in 2016? “Well, not having the time and energy to record the next Kuolemanlaakso full-band album”.

But that merely gives us all something to look forward to in the future! Which practitioners of your own musical role impressed you most this year? “I listen to songs and albums as entities, and in my opinion, the individual performances are not meant to be taken out of the context, so to speak. As a guitarist, I’m far from being a “shredder”, and I couldn’t care less for unnecessary outbursts of technical brilliance. I listen to the full composition and the arrangements for each instrument, including vocals. So, I’m perhaps the wrong guy to ask a question like that from (more laughter)…
Having said that, we played an album release show of my solo album M. Laakso – Vol. 1: The Gothic Tapes on my 40th birthday in August. V. Santura of Triptykon and Dark Fortress produced the album, and acted as a guitarist on it. He also played at that particular show, and his skills just blew me away – again! He’s produced all the Kuolemanlaakso releases and played guitar on each of them, and he’s just insanely talented. I’ve never played a show with such a skilful axeman. He’s tight as fuck, and he just nails everything perfectly”.

Best live act you’ve seen this year? “I was blown away with Behemoth’s set at Tuska Open Air in July. I hardly ever listen to their albums, but they just killed it live. Another pleasant surprise was Myrkur. Her vocals and performance were mesmerizing”.

I hear a lot about Myrkur – both good and not so good. I must seek some of her stuff out. What does the next twelve months hold in prospect for you? “I have a new dream/nightmare pop project in the works behind the scenes. The working title of it is The Ghost Lake Chronicles. We’re demoing material with a Finnish producer/musician Jaani Peuhu, who’s a friend of mine. It’s kind of like the Twin Peaks score meets Lana Del Rey – dream-like, catchy and outer worldly. Not too many bands make music like that. I also hope to have time for the next Kuolemanlaakso attack. There will be a very interesting re-release coming out in a couple of months, but I’m not sure if I should go into details yet. Well, let’s just say that it will include music and something audio-visual that the fans will surely appreciate”.

Exciting, tantalising news! But I won’t press you for more details. Which band, if any, do you think is primed to break out into the wider consciousness in 2017? “Hopefully The Ghost Lake Chronicles!”

We’re fast approaching the festive season – best night for a party – Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve? “Don’t care for either of them. I usually spend both nights at home – partly due to the fact that it’s freezing here in Finland during those times, and I can’t stand the Finnish winter. I should move to California or something”.

Don’t you think you’d become a bit too cheerful with all that year-round sunshine? Now, we’re not going to ask for a New Year’s Resolution – but what musical feat do you hope to attain next year? “I’d love to have The Ghost Lake Chronicles debut out next year, but let’s see how it goes. I just started a day job for the first time in a decade, as well as literature and Finnish studies at a university, so I have far less time to spend on music than I used to. I will keep buying cds and vinyls, and supporting the art of the artists in its full form, that’s a promise”.

Good man. While we’ve got you, is ther anything else you’d like to say to the readers of Sentinel Daily? “Since you’re Australian, this might be of interest to you: We, meaning the death metal choir, just recorded our vocals in a studio two days ago, and the live performance is in a few days. It will be shot on video, so you’ll have a chance to see it at some point. Very cool stuff! Take care, and be excellent to each other”.

Thanks for taking part!

M. Laakso’s excellent solo album M. Laakso – Vol. 1: The Gothic Tapes is out now on Svart Records