In the Spotlight: Finnish melodic death metallers Crystalic

Crystalic is the first band in Europe to win a Metal as Fuck spotlight feature, having scooped the pool by a long way. Of course, these guys didn't dare to think that they would win; or that they had fans and supporters, not just at home but also abroad, sufficient to see them charging to the post.




I talked to guitarists Mikko Mattila and Toni Tieaho about winning the spotlight, and they gave me the low-down on Crystalic. They were incredibly surprised that they'd won, and that they were the first Euro band to have scored the spotlight.


'First? Damn that's killer!' Toni exclaimed. 'Absolutely, we didn't dare to think that we would win. There were a few good local bands, and I also thought that our local people were not going to support us like this. It seems that we are getting fans little by little; it was a nice surprise for us.'


The band was first formed in 1998. Eleven years ago, the band was styled much more along black metal lines, especially vocally. Between then and 2002, the project was put on ice, and it was resurrected in 2002. Although Crystalic has experienced several lineup changes, the band itself has been around for approximately ten years.


Mikko gave me the run-down on how the band has dealt with line-up changes.


'I have been in the band during our vocalist changes and all I can say is that when you have someone in the band that isn’t giving his 110% and the other band members always are, then it’s time to go and we’ll get a new guy in who is really into it,' he said. 'We really dragged a stone sledge (as we say here) a long time during the last few years, all because our vocalist at the time was not really giving his all. Fortunately things have really changed for the better since Lasse came aboard and we have the best feeling within the band since I joined.'


At the time when I talked to Crystalic, they still had Thundering Records listed as their label. Being curious about that, I asked Mikko and Toni whether they were still signed to those guys. I got a response that was a little bit surprising.


'Hopefully not,' Mikko said, adding that Thundering simply put the first album in stores and then didn't do anything. ' We need a label that does some promoting and tries to push the band forward,' he said.


Both Toni and Mikko were on the same wavelength in this regard. 


'I absolutely agree with Mikko,' said Toni. 'And now we have such a strong and positive feeling within Crystalic, which gives us the best possible result to create our songs, I think you actually can hear it from the songs. I believe it's just a matter of time until we find a good label.'


Crystalic play what is essentially melodic death. 


'There’s the thrashy bits, the old school death metal stuff and some very melodic and emotional passages which all combined makes it sound like Crystalic,' Mikko explained.


But Toni was more specific, point out that, while comparisons are inevitable, in some sense you can never hope to be completely unique.


'I think people always take some band in which to compare us to; no matter what kind of music you do it's never distinctive enough. If we mix Death and some Swedish melo-death stuff... that would sound like Crystalic, I guess.'


Toni has a good point: many of the leads in the music are heavily influenced by Chuck Schuldiner's work, and yet the band retains a very individual feel to it.. Toni himself, who is the lead guitarist in Crystalic, and one of the band's primary writers, is a massive Schuldiner fan.


'Usually [the writing] starts with Toni's riffs and ideas. Then we work on the stuff together at rehearsals, and sometime along the way we have a new song,' Mikko explained, telling me that he's really very happy with how things are ticking along at the moment.


'Our second album is at it’s finishing stages and we have already one song finished for the third album and a second one missing only its lyrics and vocal arrangements.'


Given that these guys have been around for a decade, I figured that they would've been pretty active in their live scene. I asked Toni and Mikko what the best and worst shows were that they'd played.


'We have played so many gigs here in Finland,' Toni said. 'I think the best one was in Turku '07 when we were a warm up band for Before the Dawn. We gave such an energetic, killer show that the audience made just an awesome mosh pit there, it felt so good that we were able to do that as a warm up band. And the second best show was in Oulu '07, cause there were something like 250-300 people watching our show and that doesn't happen often for us.'


But which would they consider the worst? They had to think about it.


'Ermm,' said Mikko. 'Maybe the one private party gig last year where me, Toni and our previous vocalist were all too drunk. Sure, we had lots of fun but thank god nobody has that gig on video.'


Toni laughed. 'I don't want remember that show!! Seriously, four of us took our t-shirts off and threw them to the audience. We NEVER do that; and after that audience asked that we would take pants off even! Thank god obviously we were too drunk to manage that.'


'Oh fuck I had forgotten that part!' Mikko exclaimed, telling me: 'We had placed a bet in the backstage with the guys from Pressure Points, that if they come to the stage in their underwear during our show, we would take our shirts off... maybe there was something more to it too but luckily I don't remember.'


But Crystalic doesn't really tour much, even locally. They've found that there are always the same bands playing gigs all over the place, and that it's hard to book shows. 


'Our hometown, Tampere, just recently lost it’s only really good metal bar, that had a good stage for bands to play and it fucking sucks for the scene here [now],' Mikko explained.


Having said that, the band are currently negotiating for a possible European tour in 2010. While nothing is pinned down yet, the guys told me that it looks good and they're keeping their fingers crossed that it can happen.


In the interim, though, Crystalic are just finishing off their new album, which has been in the works for over a year.


'Things are slow when you have no choice but to fire your vocalist and the guy who happens to be responsible for the recordings in the middle of it all,' Mikko said. 'But things are looking good now, and we are soon approaching record labels in hopes of a new deal.'


Before they had to go, I asked them if they had anything further to add. 


'Cheers to the Metal as Fuck team, and don't forget to check out our new songs!'


If you want to hear Crystalic, hit up their MySpace at this location