There are certain qualities that a band can possess to strive for greatness and the presence to stand out from the crowd to become truly special. To not only take the path less trodden in exploration of new sounds and continually reinvent oneself may not be the fast track roads to commercial gain, but can ultimately be the most rewarding aspects of all. A mantra, that without question can be attributed to Finnish act Callisto.
Since their origins in 2001, Callisto have never been ones to rest on their laurels or retread their steps; continually altering their sound and their style, whilst always proving near impossible to pigeon hole. With early roots centered in doom, 2006 saw the magnificent Noir (Fullsteam Records) emerge with a more daunting, post-metal influence, before the advent of their progressive rock elements on 2009’s Providence (Fullsteam Records), which saw the introduction of clean vocals to the fold. Guitarist and founding member Markus Myllykangas explains this sonic diversity: “When Providence came out, actually it started in ‘Noir’, we were getting really heavily into English progressive bands like Camel, King Crimson and a little bit of Yes, and we were really into 60’s psychedelic bands.”
6 years later and the follow up, ‘Secret Youth’ (Svart Records) sees another diversion into a rawer, more primal yet still experimental approach. “But on the newer albums id say it is more straightforward, more noise rock so it goes more to the hardcore roots in a way because we have a hardcore and metal background.”
Myllykangas appears particularly happy with the new album and its new direction, especially in comparison to its predecessor. “The last album, ‘Providence’, we had a new singer (Jani Ala-Hukkkala) and I don’t think it was 100% focused because we were in the middle of making songs and then we got the new singer. I was doing all the screaming vocals before he came in so the band wasn’t in a full shape, whilst in the new album I think every part is perfect and they all go into the music more compared to ‘Providence’. I’m really satisfied with the new album.”
The ever shifting nature, through more drifting sounds to more melancholic and aggressive tones is a very conspicuous change, as is their ever constant transformation over the years. As Myllykangas comments, this is not by chance: “It would have been an easy career for Callisto to just stick to the sound on our first albums; the post metal sound. But with ‘Providence’ we took a couple of steps away from that because we didn’t want to be categorized. People can decide but we don’t like to stick to terms because we like so many styles of music. I myself am a big fan of Wovenhand and 60’s hippy country bands like Birds. I play mandolin too so our influences are so spread out. When it comes to Callisto we like to make a mixture of our influences and not just sound like any band.”
A six year wait is a considerably long time, but particularly when it comes to album releases (unless you’re Tool that is), but the gap between Providence and Secret Youth was an especially turbulent and difficult time for Callisto, despite the album being ready a while before it finally saw the light of day:
“Basically we had the songs ready and we would have released the album last year or even 2013 but the band wasn’t in a full shape, and a couple of members moved to the Helsinki area and we had all these logistical problems. Three of our guys are living in Torku and the rest are now living 150-200km apart.”
The addition of Holopainen was clearly a perfectly natural and easy transition to make with such strong ties to the group already. In fact Holopainen’s addition to the band brought a huge change to the altogether atmosphere of Callisto and to its creative flow, freeing up Myllykangas to focus more on his own musical role, as he explains: “Tero has a really good sense of melody, he created a really nice atmosphere with his guitar playing, he can make really good hooks and melodies and is a very versatile player. But my role, I was composing a lot of the music, but my role as a guitar player, this was the first album I didn’t do any vocals. I left the vocalist to do all the vocals because I was concentrating on my guitar parts. My role was to create the heavier and noisier riffs and Tero was more elegant melodies and atmospheres, and of course every player has their place in Callisto and we have this natural connection.”
So with a new guitarist in tow, the mood in the band seemed to have finally lifted and renewed their purpose. But this period of time also saw the old cliché of record label troubles as they changed to underground champions, Svart Records. “Short story of this change, when we were sending emails to our old label (Fullsteam Records) that we had songs ready and we sent demos and they didn’t answer for a long time. This happened almost two years ago and eventually they answered that maybe it was time to go in different directions. It was kind of a relief for us because we had been their since 2002 but it wasn’t feeling quite OK being their. Svart started in 2009 and actually, the Providence vinyl was one of the first releases on Svart so even then we were cooperating. We immediately called them about releasing the new album and they said of course we will do it.”
After facing so many trials in keeping the band alive, and finding a new home, January 2015 will finally see the new album released. There is one thing that has dogged Callisto since its inception however, one that Myllykangas is clearly uncomfortable with; the misleading Christian tag that journalist have seemingly thrust upon them since their formative years: “When we started the band we had 4 of us with a strong conviction, we were listening to a lot of Christian hardcore bands; we were listening to a lot of stuff because we have never been narrow minded with our faith. In the beginning the lyrics were based on an Old Testament, mystical side of Christianity, but when we started we said we were not going to be labeled as a Christian band because we wanted to make music no matter what we believe.”
The area of religion for many can be a divisive area and in the world of metal it can also prove a highly volatile subject. Myllykangas is very clear in his belief and does not shy away from expressing his faith, but is far from forceful about it and is wary of the unnecessary and simply wrong tagging: “There are some things in the lyrics that reflect out past, I cannot speak for all the members because we have different views. I myself I’m a Christian but you could say one that is always searching and questioning, I’m not your average Christian. I know in my heart what I believe and a load of things that are happening under the banner of Christ gives me really bad feelings…I have lots of friends who are atheists, Christian friends and almost Satanic friends, and I don’t mind, we share a mutual respect. But for the original question we have always had a Christian label about us, and we don’t mind but we can’t be labeled as all members are not sharing the same view.”
From this topic it is obvious how easily people and bands can get tagged in ways that aren’t justified and how easily they seem to stick. This is nothing new for a band like Callisto who has always challenged the notion of these pigeonholes holes that we like to categorise people with, ever changing and proving unpredictable at every step. Bands like this are what makes our musical realms so special.