Remote Control, Arched Fire’s debut album, has some history. It is where the past meets the present.
“We’ve only been doing this for a couple of years, but there was a thirty-year gap in between,” explains Ari, the rhythm guitar player.
Formed in the small town of Kemijärvi in Finnish Lapland in 1989 by Aslak Purojärvi (drums), Mika Rytilahti (bass), Janne Särkelä (guitar) and Ari Väntänen (guitar), Arched Fire started from scratch.
“We were 14, 15 years old and had no idea what we were doing, but we did it all in the right order: 1) formed a band 2) bought the instruments 3) learned to play. And we always wrote our own songs.”
Having started as a heavy rock band, they soon steered towards harder and darker metal, inspired by American and Finnish speed/thrash bands.
“If our generation had a punk revolution, this was it. Speed/thrash was a real game-changer.”
Meanwhile, the global metal scene started to take shape – not that the guys knew anything about it.
“There was no metal scene whatsoever in the middle of nowhere. We played a handful of gigs with local pop and rock bands that sounded nothing like us. A radio DJ called us ‘heavy speed’ because he didn’t know what our genre was called, which we thought was hilarious. But it was all great; we even got to play live on the air twice and didn’t even think it was a big deal or anything!”
Along with some live and rehearsal recordings, Arched Fire made a four-track demo. When it was (favourably) reviewed in Soundi magazine in late 1990, the band had already split up.
“It was our first real band, and we were just teenagers. Things changed fast and life went on, and all we really needed was someone to buy us some beers. But although we went our separate ways, we never forgot Arched Fire.”
As life happened, they lost touch with each other, but not with music. They all kept on playing in different bands, from power pop to black metal, from prog fusion to folk music. Decades flew by until the time felt right to get back together.
“We listened to our old recordings and began wondering what we would have sounded like, had we known what we were doing. We decided to find out, just for the fun of it.”
That required some serious work. They kept their old, simple, energetic riffs, but completely re-arranged the song structures and wrote some new parts where needed.
“We realized the vocal lines had to be totally re-written. Back in the turn of the 90s, we talked about finding a singer and a front-man. We never did, because there simply weren’t any in our tiny home town. But now, we all lived in different cities and knew a lot of musicians.”
Soon, Kristian Herkman–an old band mate of Rytilahti’s–joined the band.
“As soon as he sent us his first demo version of ‘Escape’, he just felt right. He sounds the part and writes fantastic vocal lines. He really took the band on a whole new level.”
Adding a couple of new songs among the old material, the re-born band started to work on an album.
“We wanted to keep the songs simple like they used to be, but with the know-how we have now. Production-wise, we wanted it to sound old-school, but with present-day standards. The plan was to make our teenage kicks meet our present skills as musicians, and it was a lot of fun.”
As soon as the first video single ”Remote-Controlled End” was released, the band got signed: Wormholedeath Records wanted to release Arched Fire’s debut album ”Remote Control” worldwide. A deal was done, and the record was out on April 30th 2021.
And when it came to coming up with a genre, it turned out it had been there since 1989.
“We used to joke about the silly ‘heavy speed’ moniker that the radio dj came up with ages ago, but it’s actually an apt description of what Arched Fire sounds like; heavy metal meets speed metal. So, a heavy speed band we are!”
SHORT STORY LONG: ARCHED FIRE 1989-1990
It was such a long time ago. But I do remember. Tiny steps for mankind, giant leaps for us.
“You know, in a year or so, we’ll have a great band”, Assu assured me. It was late 1988 or early 1989, and the weather was freezing, and we were sitting in the staircase of some random apartment building in our tiny hometown. We were on our way to this stupid confirmation school thing, a rite of passage that everyone our age attended and I hated. I was shivering with high fever that night, which probably was why I didn’t doubt his words.
That was all I, a hopeless rock geek with a mullet, ever wanted – to have a great band. But in a year? Couldn’t it happen any faster? Even the WWF match on TV that night with Jake “The Snake” Roberts against The Ultimate Warrior seemed to be far away in the future. Time moves slowly when you’re fifteen and living in a tiny provincial town in Finnish Lapland, waiting to attend some silly Kumbaya class at the congregation hall just to keep adults happy.
I had met Assu – Aslak Purojärvi – a few years before, when we were ten or so. There was this sand field adjacent to my home, and he was there playing football with his two brothers. We were polar opposites, I guess. He was an extroverted, easy-going kid who would talk to anyone, whereas I was painfully shy and quiet. But, we started chatting about computer games and became fast friends. One thing lead to another – fast forward three years and we had a band called Danger Zone. He was singing and playing the drums, and I was the guitar guy, and our friend Jussi was on the bass. I tried my best to write songs, and we also played “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath, the only heavy rock cover song easy enough for us. I had gotten my first guitar by mail order from Hobby Hall just a few months earlier.
In late 1988, we managed to land an interview in the local newspaper (“Keep Out! Danger Zone!” was the headline – a good advice, probably). That was the only thing that happened to the band before they kicked us out from our rehearsal room, the music class of the upper secondary school. They told us we were too young to play there (we were 14), but I’ve always suspected they wanted to get rid of us because we were such a nuisance. Like, once we found some sandwiches that had been prepared for a wedding reception to be held at the school gym later that night, and ate some. Nobody except us thought it was OK.
At the time, we were listening to all kinds of rock, hard rock and metal. Basically any band with long hair and distorted guitars was cool by my standards. In 1988 the hair metal era was giving way to more edgy bands. I was listening to State of Euphoria by Anthrax, Megadeth’s So Far, So Good… So What! and Metallica’s bassless …And Justice for All, and the first Stone album, but also a lot of rock bands like Guns N’ Roses and Hanoi Rocks. All these were big bands you could read from big magazines. I had no clue about anything indie or underground. We had our mainstream rock and metal magazines, and Music Television with Headbangers’ Ball, and Finnish music shows like Rockstop.
Danger Zone split up before we got to play any gigs, but we weren’t to be stopped. Assu got his first drum set (he had to shovel a lot of snow before his dad agreed to buy it), and in early 1989 I convinced my long-suffering parents to let us rehearse in our garage. We also had to find a new bass player. Assu said there was this guy living close to him who would be up for it. He was called Rytky, Mika Rytilahti. One day he joined us, apparently after three days of persuading. We had a bass guitar for him, and it was hand-made – by some other kid in the junior high handicraft class. It looked like a B. C. Rich Widow, which was cool.
Rytky had never played bass or been in a band before, but was excited about it. The amp we had for him blew up as soon as he started to play, so he brought his tiny Marshall stack in. It was a practice amp for guitar, not bass, but who cared? We did not. We’d rehearse after school, and then he’d stay at my place until late and draw band logos and dragons and warriors. I was too shy to tell him he should go home already, so he just sat there quietly and kept drawing. It was him who came up with the name Arched Fire. Apparently he just wanted to tie the words “Arch” and “Fire” together, because it looked good. We didn’t know how to pronounce our name, but again, who cared? Also, Rytky designed all our early logos.
We kept playing and smoking stolen cigarettes and hoping my Mom wouldn’t notice the smell. Pretty soon we had a bunch of songs of our own. Rytky came up with a tune called “Ramparts of Hell” that sounded like early Metallica meets Venom, and I think he was singing it as well. It was the first actual speed/thrash metal song Arched Fire ever played. I managed to persuade my parents to buy me a Marshall combo, turned the distortion up and wrote a song called “The Pestilence” that had Metallica written all over it, so much so that the term “rip-off” may not be inappropriate. But the rest of the songs we had were hard rock.
Part II: It’s Alive
In May 1989 we got a chance to play our first gig. The local live music association Sessio had this idea of bringing back something they called “school parties”. It meant a bunch of local bands playing in a school gym hall. The party we played at ended up being the first and the last they organized, but they did a lot of other happenings and got us some more gigs later. They were also good at promoting their stuff. There was a write-up in the local newspaper. “Our music is better than it used to be. “Fast heavy metal”, Assu commented in it, referring to the Danger Zone days.
Or, that was the plan, at least. One of the first things we did was to have a poster printed. Assu got us some sponsors to cover the costs, Rytky drew us a new logo, and we had our photo taken, and then we had hundreds of these ugly gig posters. Bold for a band that played ten gigs.
The headliner that night was Nightflight, a local hard rock band with members a few years older than us. The first on the bill was Oasis (no, not them), a new band formed by friends of ours. They were a prog rock group like we were a metal band – more so in theory than in practice. My memories of the gig are hazy. I remember useless things, like I was wearing a sleeveless black t-shirt with a wide blue stripe in the front, and that we started with a song called “Get Scorched” (the title quite obviously inspired by “Get Stoned” by our Finnish metal heroes Stone). I remember seeing the singer of Nightflight watching us play from the side of the stage, and then we were watching them play. After the show, the little brother of Oasis’ singer Mika was telling me that our band was great. The kids say the strangest things.
Because Sessio wanted to help us out and because Assu’s mom was working foe the local youth organization, we had more gigs lined up. Thus, we needed to upgrade our equipment. The closest music store was 90 kilometres away, but we got a ride there and back and picked up some new gear with mom & dad’s money. Rytky replaced his school-built black beast with a sunburst Washburn bass. I got a white Charvette guitar. It was like a budget Charvel for those who couldn’t afford the real thing, but I liked the piece of crap at first, because it was white and not too sharp-edged, unlike many of the metal guitars of the day. It had all kinds of pointless features like tuning locks and a Floyd Rose type bridge that I had absolutely no fucking clue how to use. It also had the thinnest neck and really heavy body, very unbalanced. All in all, I would have been better off if I’d just bought new pick-ups for the Strat copies I used at the time, but what did I know.
Our second gig was at the auditorium of the local house of culture on the same day we got our new gear, and we played again with Oasis. I didn’t think playing gigs was fun, because I didn’t like being looked at, but I felt I had to do it because that was what real bands did. I had a stage fright, and I remember pushing the backstage wall with all my might and both hands, because I had heard it helped. (It didn’t.) Had I known how the gig turned out, I would have been even more nervous. I was hopelessly out of tune, and it took a while before I figured out why: While playing, I was constantly pressing the stupid floating bridge down with my hand. It sounded like I was using the whammy bar badly for every chord. Kind of psychedelic in a bad trip way, I suppose.
Rytky made some notes about that fateful day, and they miraculously survived and surfaced in 2021!
We didn’t even go to school today because Arimal and I went to Rovaniemi to buy a bass a guitar… We got to play with Soundiässät’s gear, GREAT! We didn’t even have enough time to get familiar with our new instruments because the gig was on the same day. The soundcheck was excellent. The feeling of nervousness and the excitement got more and more intense. Tabell was cursing about our gig salary of five marks each and threatened to make them eat it, but to the organizers’ luck, the money went up to 40 marks each (supposedly because they thought we were so good). On Sunday at the rehearsals, an audience of 20 people appeared during our song “Desire”. It was a good day for Helisten, because he got his old broad back. Cool-looking type. Sippis was exactly like he is, I’d say he has no nerves at all. Assu I really couldn’t figure out, and Arimal was lumbering here and there with a wandering gaze in his eyes. Fuck, I was nervous about our second gig. M went to the bathroom in every ten minutes. They blew the start of the show, because they ran out of smoke. AV’s guitar was out of tune. Otherwise it went well. – Rytky, 25.5.” (1989) Set list: “Get Scorched”, “Desire (to Revenge)”, “Pestilence”, “Out of the Cell”, “Downtown City”
Next, we played at a small indoors festival. It was held at Tökäri, the People’s House, and again, arranged by Sessio – those guys really made an effort for the local musicians, kudos to them. The happening was called Sessiorock IV and had six bands. Since Oasis and Arched Fire were the youngest we were naturally at the bottom of the showtime totem pole. “Are you going to start with ‘Get Scorched’ again?” asked Jorma, the talented drummer in Oasis. I told him no. We were going to start with a new one called “Downtown City”.
It would have been Oasis’ turn to play after us (we took turns), but unfortunately (to them) we couldn’t make the first showtime, because our somewhat eccentric bassist Rytky was nowhere to be seen. Oasis agreed to play first, and while they went onstage, Assu and I rushed to the nearest landline telephone and started making calls to track down the missing person. It turned out he was at his girlfriend’s place. After a short conversation (“Why aren’t you here!?” “Where should I be?”) Rytky was on his way.
Meanwhile, Assu and I were interviewed in the radio. That was another crazy thing about those early gigs of ours: we played live on the air twice and didn’t even think it was a big deal or anything. Hasn’t happened since – thank you again, the local live music association and other powers that be. The DJ called our music “hevispiidi”, “heavy speed”, which I guess said something about something, like the state of contemporary metal music in the northernmost town in Finland.
As soon as the wayward son-of-a-bitch arrived, we went on to play our gig, with “Downtown City” broadcasted by Yle Lapland. I still hadn’t even heard of palm-muting the strings (let alone of any more advanced playing techniques) which made it pretty hard for me to sound metal, but there we were on the air. Radio’d. The paper called it our “trial by fire”. I have a recording from that gig, and “Downtown City” probably was the most radio-friendly song in our amateurish set.
One of the funny things that happened during the gig was that the Oasis guys, still a bit bummed about having to play first, got in front of the stage and started heckling Rytky for some playful retribution. Rytky pretended to kick them, and his bass strap broke mid-song. Luckily, the stand-in bass player in the night’s headliner, the Tampere-based hard rock band Horsepower, was watching us play and came to save the show. He borrowed Rytky his strap (which was too short especially for someone who liked his bass hanging low), but we went on. This class act of a man was Hannu Tervaharju, a well-known Finnish musician and a literature translator. Thank You.
Just a few days later we were back at the House of Culture for our fourth gig, this time an outdoors show. The annual Wood Sculpting Week booked some bands to play, which was an opportunity for us and our favourite progsters Oasis. There are a couple of photos from that gig, and you can see there are two similar Marshall combos onstage. One is mine (I still have it), and the other belonged to Mika, the guitar player in Oasis. He was one of my closest friends at the time, but it never crossed our minds to bring just one amp to the gigs we played together, although they were identical apart from the handles. But I guess there was a lot I didn’t get back then.
The gig was alright, nice summer vacation day, elderly folks applauding politely to the noise we made. The Metal Massacre and Speed Metal Party nights held in Southern Finland were like on another planet from where we were, but it was what it was. We got reviewed by the local paper, and I ended up arguing with my Mom whether the write-up was positive or not. The guy wrote that we played “with pathos”. That’s positive, right?
By the mid-June 1989 we had played four gigs in less than four weeks. By our standards, it almost qualified as a tour.
Part III: Turning Rock Into Metal
We kept rehearsing in my parents’ garage, and I came up with some new songs, but the guys weren’t happy with them. Too much rock. Not enough metal. The stuff I wrote just wasn’t tough enough to separate us from the hair metal (that wasn’t yet called hair metal) scene. “Rock the Crowd? Why Rock the Crowd? Why not Kill the Crowd?” Rytky asked with a cigarette dangling from his lips, seemingly frustrated, referring to one of my new songs. I started to think he may have a point.
I heard “Ton of Bricks” by Metal Church and thought I should try to write something similar. The next couple of new songs we rehearsed, “Choir of Damned” and “Fear of Death” were not hard rock anymore. They were my first stabs at trying to write metal. And by then, I had the mysterious palm-muting down and everything! I still remember how amazed I was when I accidentally played like that for the first time. It sounded so cool! I had no-one to teach me how to play rock or metal.
The next gig we played, our fifth, was at the local sports hall during the annual Ruska Swing jazz festival in September 1989. Oasis had split up that summer, and it was us playing with older guys, local bands like Nightflight and Rocktonic. Again, as unbelievable it may sound, we got to do a radio live. This time two new songs of ours were broadcasted on the mo*******king air. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a disaster. Assu had a laryngitis or something that made him sound really raw, and Rytky had tuned his bass down to D, which I didn’t know and it sounded like he didn’t either, and it didn’t go well with my standard tuning, and I wasn’t good enough a player to handle all the guitar duties by myself. The big boys in the other lame bands playing that night thought we sounded ridiculous.
And in a way, they were right. Listening to the recording from that night, I thought we should just call it a day and go home. But on the other hand, what else was there to do? Go water-rallying with snowmobiles or something? Never. Musically, we had already taken the right direction. Now, we just needed to improve ourselves. And we needed another guitar player. And a singer and a front man, so that Assu could focus on drumming. But how? Who? When? There weren’t any metal singers around. There were no other metal bands in town (except for a group called Noise Pollution, but they didn’t play live), and no audience for metal in our neck of the woods. And we didn’t know any good guitar players. There was no scene in the middle of nowhere.
But then, I just happened to hear Janne Särkelä play.
Part IV: Refining Metal
He was just 14, a year below me, and was sitting in the music class in our school with his white Ibanez guitar. I had been playing for a couple of years, but Janne was waaaay ahead of me. He was not only cranking out riffs but was doing simple solos as well. I had no idea someone roughly my age could play that well. I knew right away he was exactly the guy we needed. I told Assu and Rytky about him, and they were all for asking him to join the band.
And who knows, this guy could be a great singer as well!
A bit later, I went to talk to Janne at school. He seemed to be a lot like me, a shy, friendly kid who was all about music. He mentioned he had seen us unloading our gear for our first gig. To my astonishment, he told me he had only been playing the guitar for four months. He had obviously been practicing a lot, but was also a natural talent. I asked him to come to my place and see how it goes. He seemed to like the idea, even though he apparently had heard us on the radio in September, which I wouldn’t call a recommendation.
He lived close to our school, far away from the town centre and my place, but his sister gave him a ride to his first rehearsal . It was October 4th 1989, and the Finnish metal band Airdash was on TV that night. (Janne told me this, he remembers stuff like that.) One of the first songs I ever played with him was “From Dust to Dust”. I plugged my guitar and my distortion pedal in the stereo to record the riffs for him to learn. (He still has the tape, he keeps stuff like that.)
With Janne on board, we started rehearsing with a newfound determination. He fit right in and came up with a lot of cool riffs, some of which were hard for me to play, but I tried. For the next few months in the fall of 1989, we were a real creative unit with all of us writing and throwing in ideas. We soon had a bunch of new songs that made us the metal band we were supposed to be in the first place. Also, we left our garage and started rehearsing in Tunturila, which was a youth centre on the other side of town. One day, when we were there, and Rytky saw me yawning, he threw a coin into my mouth and I almost choked to death. Could have made us famous, like Mayhem!
And yes, we made Janne try singing at one of our early rehearsal, just in case there was a Hetfield hiding in his throat. There was not.
When he joined, we – of course – had a new gig poster printed. Again, Rytky drew us a new logo, but since we had no photos of the new line-up and it didn’t occur to us to have some taken, we used a cartoon from Pahkasika magazine as graphics. (No, we didn’t know it was illegal. We didn’t know much of anything.) Now we had even more gig posters that were never to be used.
Janne played his first show with us in the end of January 1990, when Assu’s mom got us a gig in Savonlinna. We were invited to play at some youth event with bands and dancers and whatnot. I thought it was fantastic news. I mean, Arched Fire would travel 700 kilometres to play a 15-minute set and then ride all the way back – wasn’t that exactly what real bands did? The downside (for me only, probably) was that we’d go there together with all the other young performers. I always felt like a freak among people of my age, and the mere thought of spending hours on end in a bus with dozens of teens I didn’t know filled me with dread.
However, there was a silver lining: this middle-aged alcoholic lady we knew had promised to buy me a bottle of hard liquor. Anis flavoured. So, I figured if I’d endure the way there and back, I could get wasted in a new city! Plus, a couple of my friends would join the adventure. Jani and Mika, the bassist and guitarist of Oasis, respectively, tagged along as our “roadies”. Those lanky boys weren’t actually what I’d call road crew material, but it was fun to have them there.
As soon as we got there and were shown our dwellings, we left the building like a bunch of Elvises. We went to a guitar shop where Janne tested a real Gibson Les Paul, and to a record store where I bought a stack of classic Alice Cooper albums – School’s Out, Love It to Death all that classic stuff that I still love (to death). And soon enough. I cracked the anis booze open. Drinking was a strict no-no and hush-hush thing in the youth centre scene, obviously. Their events were organized to give the kids something else to do than loiter in the streets and drink, and we were way under-aged anyway.
As the winter night fell, we kept walking around the city and drinking, then singing, and eventually I was so fucked up I couldn’t see straight. I don’t really remember anything about getting back to our accommodation, but the guys told me they had to clean up my puke from the hallway, and apparently it was just plain luck they managed to smuggle me inside without anyone getting caught booze-handed. What I do remember is the morning after. I was horribly hung over and everyone was laughing at me. Served me right.
Considering the circumstances and the hangover, the gig went alright. But, we watched it later on VHS, and it wasn’t much of a show. Rytky was great onstage, moving around and actually performing, but Janne and I were just standing there like a couple of shoegaze musicians. The band played better than ever, our songs were better than ever, but there still was room for improvement. If only we’d find a singer and a frontman to rule the stage…
Part V: Thrashing Around
But in a way, things were happening. That spring we came up with a lot of new songs, like “Against the World” parts I and II, “Escape”, “Remote-Controlled End”, “…And Ride Away” and “Crawling Down”, and we played some covers as well, like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Metallica and the anthraxed version of Trust’s “Anti-Social”, I think.
I remember I came up with the main riff for “Remote-Controlled End” when I was at home waiting for the sauna to heat up, as Finns often do. I was playing guitar half-naked (because I was going to have a sauna!) in the fireplace room that served as the sauna dressing room, too, when Rytky stormed in, saw me shirtless and burst into laughter. He thought I was posing alone for the mirror with a guitar and with no shirt on.
“I’m going to have a sauna right about now! That’s why I’m dressed like this, goddamned!”
“Yeah, right, I’m sure you were…”
It took some convincing.
Anyway, in the spring and early summer we had two pretty good gigs at Assu’s school, Lepistö, and also decided to make a four-track demo tape. We chose “Remote-Controlled End”, “Crawling Down” and “…And Ride Away” for the demo, probably because they were the latest additions to our repertoire. The sessions took place at the Tökäri rehearsal room with Jari, the guitar player in Rocktonic, doing us a favour by recording us. In my eyes, he was a seasoned pro. However, we did it all too hastily, didn’t even bother to fix the obvious mistakes anyone could hear. I don’t know why. We didn’t make many copies of it anyway, just for ourselves, and Assu sent one to Soundi magazine. When the somewhat favourable demo review came out in November 1990, the band was long gone.
Later that summer, the band wasn’t doing too well anymore. We had some silly issues with each other, corny stuff, like teens do. I was constantly angry, moody and depressed and couldn’t take a joke. Assu was hanging out with new friends and I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore. Rytky didn’t seem to be that interested in rehearsing. So, some heated words and silent treatment were provided for everyone, especially by me, the sulking expert. Janne was always cool and calm. He was sensible enough not to bring his issues to the rehearsal room. But mind you, we were just kids and acting accordingly.
There were some fun rehearsals too. One day Rytky came in with his new friend Ville, who was this rocker dude who had just moved into town. At the time I didn’t know who he was, and because no-one had told me anything about anyone coming in to sing with us, I decided to dislike him and wanted him to leave, but naturally didn’t say anything about it, like I never did. By the end of the rehearsals I would have paid him to join the band, he was a really cool guy and a good vocalist. We became friends that day. But he wasn’t ready to be a singer (he was a guitar player) and never actually joined the band.
In June, we got a gig at the Wood Sculpting Festival, another absurd function with us playing nasty speed metal and some goody two-shoes playing clarinet right after us. That day we were a trio, because Rytky couldn’t make it. I don’t know where he was and still don’t, but apparently he got there in time to see at least the end of the gig. I don’t remember us talking about it at all, let alone arguing or pointing fingers… Which is weird if you think about it. But then again, we were weird.
About a month later, on July 19th 1990, we had a gig in Falcon, which was this disco hellhole smack in the middle of our little town. It wasn’t a good place for a metal band, but then again, nothing within hundred miles’ radius was. Besides, it was cool to get to go inside a real alcohol-serving night club as a 16-year-old, so we happily took the gig. The DJ played Maxi Priest, Roxette and MC Hammer, we played hevispiidi.
After a quick sound check we left the venue to have some beers at a friend’s place nearby. We had a good time there, and at some point Rytky asked what we’d give him if he’d squirm out of the small kitchen window and hang from the window sill by his bare hands. “I’d give you some hammer on your fingers”, offered our host to everyone’s delight. Rytky took on the offer, and ta-dah, soon he was hanging outside the window. Meanwhile, Assu rode his bicycle down to meet us there and saw him. “Go get a hammer and hit my fingers!” Rytky yelled in drunken despair. I can’t remember if he climbed back in or fell down. Could have been either way, it was only the second floor.
By the time we got back to the Falcon disco inferno, most of us were more or less drunk, and Rytky passed out on the floor of the club’s toilet. His girlfriend was pouring water on him to no avail. So, the bassless power trio was back in action. We started with “Remote-Controlled End” and my low E string was terribly out of tune, and all the neatly-dressed Backwoods Disco Dudes in the audience looked like they’d love to give us some hammer on our fingers. BUT there was this one guy head-banging right in front of us! He had long hair and a denim thrash vest and everything! Stuff like that just didn’t happen there, like, ever! He was Jarmo Villanen, the drummer in Noise Pollution, the band we had never heard play. We should have played gigs with them, but I don’t think they ever did.
That was the night when speed/thrash culture finally arrived in Kemijärvi. It left town in a panic that same night.
Part V: The End
The end began in the late summer of 1990, when we decided Rytky had to go. It must have had something to do with the two gigs he missed, but it was also because he never really practiced and you could hear it in his playing. He took the news well, but was sad about it.
That day we walked downtown from our rehearsal room, me, Janne and Rytky, who was walking like 20 meters ahead of us the whole way. He seemed mildly shocked. When we got to town he walked straight into the first barber shop he saw and told the lady to shave his head bald. I guess it was his way to say it was over. I didn’t feel good about it at all, but I remember thinking it was best for the band. At the same time I wasn’t sure if we’d get our act back together anymore.
So, we needed a bass player. At the time I was hanging out with a small gang of good friends, including all the former Oasis members, and I asked Jani to be our new bass player. Metal wasn’t really his thing, but he seemed happy to play in a band again, and I was glad to have one of my best friends in the band.
We had a couple of rehearsals with him and we tried some new songs. One of them was called “The Helpless One”. The title made me smile, because I thought it was a clever stab at me. Previously, I had somewhat rudely told Assu he shouldn’t write anything reminding Metallica in the lyrics, because I thought we were too obviously influenced by Lars & co. Most likely annoyed by my orders, Assu had combined the title from two Metallica song titles! Take that!
Things were… not great, but at least alright. The band spirit wasn’t there anymore, it hadn’t been for quite a while, but still, we sounded pretty good with Jani. But then he got an offer that was hard to refuse.
“I gotta tell you something”, he told me one day when we left ther rehearsal room, sounding slightly nervous. “Rocktonic asked me to be their bass player.”
To me, that was a no-brainer. It was a good gig, at least there in the sticks. Rocktonic played a lot of shows, and they had already cut a single, whereas Arched Fire was running on fumes and most likely going nowhere.
“I’d do it if I was you”, I said with a shrug.
“I thought you’d get mad”, Jani laughed, relieved.
Nope. He would have been silly to say no.
It was an end of an era. The summer of 1990 was fading, and speed/thrash was giving way to death metal. I think we all could sense that it was the end.