Latest release: Viking Zombie (Independent)Website: www.armoreddawn.com

Armored Dawn are a Viking metal band from the most unlikeliest of places you would expect to find a Viking metal band. Formed in São Paolo, Brazil, in 2014, the sextet has now issued three albums the most recent of which, Viking Zombie, has just seen release in Australia. As further lockdown measures threaten to close in on his adopted home city, guitarist Timo Kaarkoski introduces us to the world of Armored Dawn.

How does a Finnish guitarist come to be playing in a Viking metal band in São Paolo?

Oh well, I married a Brazilian girl so I had been living here for a while. Then I met the keyboard player Rafael (Agostino) in another band that he played in, and we played together in different bands. When he formed the band with Eduardo (Parras) the singer, he called me. When Eduardo said he wanted to form a band, he said he knew a guy who lived here in Sao Paolo, and they called me. 

Viking Zombie is your third album. Tell us a little bit about the process.

We started writing the songs when we were touring the second album. The material was written about a year before we started to record. Eduardo had the idea for the lyrics, so he started writing all those weird lyrics about zombie Vikings. We have our own studio, so we can spend as much time as we need. We aren’t limited by any schedule, so that’s why we spent almost a year putting it together. Someone would come up with an idea, or a riff, so we would all go down to the studio and work on a song. It’s kind of great, but it’s also kind of horrible, because it can feel like you’ve never going to finish!

Now you can look back on it, what are your own thoughts about the album?

Everybody’s really happy. Everyone in the band is really happy with the album. This is the first time we’ve done practically everything ourselves. On the first two albums we had outside producers. The bass player Fernando (Giovannetti) and Rodrigo (Oliviera) the drummer did the production for us. It’s like a homemade album, because we got to make an album the way we wanted to make it. 

This must be much easier for you, because the first two albums were put together in Europe, weren’t they? That must have been a lot of work for you.

Oh yeah, a lot of work and lots of money, because you have to fly the whole band in to do that. On the first album we stayed in Tommy Hansen’s studio for almost a month. It’s a lot of money not just to spend, but you’re not working to make any more, and you need money to buy things like food!

You’ve also toured Europe several times now. Did you do any touring when you were there recording?

Yes we did. We’ve toured Europe three times now on the second album. We did a tour there with Fates Warning, with HammerFall and with Saxon. WIth this album we went out there once, but it was only short, and we were supposed to be going back in the summer – but of course, that’s not going to happen!

So what’s it like in Brazil at the moment? Here in Australia we really haven’t had it all that badly.

They’ve started closing everything. All the restaurants are closed. You can only get take-away or delivery, and the supermarkets and gas stations are open, but pretty much everything else is closed. ALl the stores, everything, and they are trying to limit the number of people just walking around on the street. They are thinking about a total lockdown. THe public health in Brazil is already overworked, but now is it just really bad. The hospitals are already filled 100% in the emergency units and there’s people in lines in the corridor waiting for treatment, waiting to hopefully get proper treatment before they die!

How are you dealing with it as a band?

Well right now we were supposed to be on tour with a lot of bands. We were supposed to be going all around South America, Guatemala, Ecuador… but that might have to wait until November or January. But we can’t waste time, so we’ve started writing a new album already. We are already writing new songs in the studio.

That’s one great aspect of this situation, that people are able to write plenty of material.

Oh yeah. I think that early next year, there will be a lot of new albums. Because no one can tour, everyone is at home, and we all just write songs! 

Are you finding some kind of inspiration from the whole situation? I don’t expect you would be writing songs about COVID-19, but are you finding some creative inspiration in what’s going on?

Well I think it will affect our lyrics. As you said, we won’t be singing about COVID-19, but about general desperation and similar situations and how we will come through, because whatever happens, life still goes on

That’s another thing to take away from this. That’s quite a positive message, because even if the crisis goes on for a couple of years, it’s not going to be forever. Generations before us had things a lot worse.

The generations before us had to go to war and see their friends die in front of them. All we have to do is sit on the couch. It’s been pretty easy for us! All we have to do it sit at home and eat pizza! 

Let’s talk a little about the origin of Armored Dawn now. This is a Viking metal band, from Brazil, which for some people might seem a bit of a strange thing. You’re Finnish, so if it had been you who had formed the band, that would be less surprising, but you said you were invited to join the band by the others.

Eduardo was always interested in stories of war and conquest, especially in Europe and Scandinavia. So he read a lot about Vikings, and he was writing lyrics and stories even before we had the band.

So were a lot of the songs already written when you joined the band?

We re-arranged a lot of the songs. The first album is a little bit more straight-forward: it’s almost rock and roll, more like 80s metal. So we rearranged everything to make it a little bit heavier, and it was for one guitar, so we had to rewrite it for two guitars. The second album everything got heavier, because in between the first and second album we changed drummers. Rodrigo was now in the band, and he had been playing thrash metal for 20 years, so when we started writing songs for the second album, everything became faster and heavier automatically. 

Is Viking Zombie a concept album? The songs definitely seem to be telling a story.

Oh yes, that was definitely Eduardo’s plan with the lyrics. Also, we’re hoping to make more videos and try to make each one continue from the one before. Because we have recorded a lot more material than we’ve released, and maybe in the future we can make like a short movie that’s a ten minute film for a four minute song. 

That seems like one way to go because with the way that people access YouTube now to listen to music, it’s important to have something up there for fans to find.

That’s definitely the way of the future. In the old days, you went on tour and then put an album out and went on tour again. Now, touring is going well but it’s not like it was in the 80s and 90s. Now you must have a video on YouTube. Many people don’t buy CDs anymore, sadly. 

Is there still a revenue stream for a band like yours. Do you sell a lot of CDs or songs through Spotify? Are you still able to make something from being a recording band or does most of it rely on touring? 

Touring is the most important thing. Most of what we sell is at shows. We are a relatively unknown band, so when we get booked with Saxon we are going to play in front of 5000 people who didn’t know you before, and after the show they will come and buy CDs and t-shirts. So that’s the best way for us to sell. We have all of our songs on Spotify but there’s not a lot of money that comes from there. The best way is through shows, but of course now we are not able to play!

Obviously we have had a lot of tours cancelled here in Australia, and in your case you can’t leave Brazil to do anything so it’s very difficult for everyone right now.

That’s right, we just have to wait and see when countries start to open up again. But I think when it does, it will be smaller bands like us that get to start touring sooner, because at first there will only be shows for 400, 500, maybe 1000 people. There won’t be any stadium bands like Iron Maiden or Kiss touring until maybe next year. Fear Factory was supposed to be playing in Sao Paolo yesterday, but of course that was cancelled. 

Maybe eventually you could tour Australia with Armored Dawn.

Well I have been to Australia already. I went at Christmas on holidays with my wife. We flew to Dubai from South America for 14 hours and then it was another 14 hours to Melbourne. It’s worth the trip though! Maybe next year, because we’re planning on taking the band to Japan and Asia, so maybe we can come to Australia as well.