After three demos, Helsinki’s Ranger is ready for the next step. This autumn, the vinyl only mini-album “Knights Of Darkness” will be released by the Finnish record label, Ektro Records. Judging by their demo-material, this is going to be a totally ripping speed metal-affair with hints of both thrash as well as pure heavy metal. While we’re awaiting this release, Metal Squadron got in contact with three of the four members of the band, Dimi who takes care of vocals as well as bass, drummer Miko and guitarist Jaakko.
The band that is known as Ranger today, was apparently formed under the moniker Turbin. It would be interesting to know which members of Ranger were involved back then. Why did you decide to change the name?
– We started out as Turbin in 2009 including current members Dimi on vocals along with guitarists Miko and Jaakko. On bass we had Jokebi and on drums Ville Kojonen of Swallowed. Turbin was the first name we came up with since we had to have a name to do a show. All of us knew that it wouldn’t be the final name of the band. Then someone came up with ‘Ranger’ and we all thought it ruled.
Did you set yourself a specific goal when you started the band, something you wanted to achieve, or are we dealing with one of those bands formed just for fun and to have someone to hang out with?
– We all had the same goal to form a heavy metal-band. It was the core members, Miko, Dimi and Jaakko who came up with the idea. We’ve been talking about it for a long time and it was natural to go and play covers from bands such as Anthrax, Angel Witch and Saxon. After some time Miko and Jokebi brought in some original tunes and we were getting t more and more into it all the time. Ranger was always about double guitar leads, fast and epic songs, dominating vocals and pure adrenaline metal.
The first time I heard Ranger, was when I ordered a copy of the “Metal Gear”-demo, but if I am not completely wrong, you released a demo already back in 2009. Tell us a little about this recording, will you say it’ s on par with your last two demos both in terms of songwriting and production? How would you say your sound has developed since this early recording?
– Yeah, “Enter The Zone” was a demo that was recorded at our friend’s garage in April 2009 He’s Samu Salovaara from Swallowed, and he also drew the inner sleeve art of our upcoming album and also handled all the graphic design for it. We are not ashamed of the material on “Enter The Zone”, but we have certainly developed our sound further into maximum metal overload just the way we always wanted it to sound. “Enter The Zone” was recorded in a big rush and we just wanted to nail those songs on tape. Maybe we’ll put it out on a compilation tape in the future!
On the “Metal Gear”, Ranger was a trio consisting of Dimi, Jaakko and Miko. Why have you since expanded to a quartet – is this perhaps because of the live situation and you wanting to add an extra guitarist? Where did you find Verneri and what is his musical background?
– Ranger was always supposed to have double guitars. Miko used to play the other guitar back in the day, but when Ville left, he changed to drums. It was just a matter of time until we found the other guitarist though. Verneri was old friend of ours and a real maniac on guitar so it was a perfect match. He’s a huge fan of Richie Blackmore and Iron Maiden, so his style fits our heavy metal, and he completes what Ranger is about. Verneri delivers the goods with his olympic, white Stratocaster and shares our passion for the music. We are thrilled to have him on board.
I think you had to repress both “Combat Metal” and “Metal Gear”. How many copies did you make of each the first time around, and how many have you pressed later? How many copies do you have left?
– After doing over 300 copies of both tapes, we lost count since we did more every time we ran out of them. There’s the Fanatic’s Lodge-version of 100 tapes in UK and a Japanese pressing out on Record Boy, also 100 copies of “Combat Metal”. We’ll hopefully have a compilation tape out including both demos as soon as possible since we are almost out of copies. At the moment, we focus on the release of the “Knights of Darkness” mini-LP though.
More about the mini-LP later of course, but I am not finished talking about these tape-releases. Many bands feel that tape is a format well suited for demos. It also gives many people a flashback to the eighties when it was the only valid format for bands releasing their first recordings. Why have you chosen to make your demos available on tape as the only physical format?
– “Metal Gear” and “Combat Metal” were both recorded on analog tape, so it was just logical to release them on the same format. Tape has the soul that cd-r’s lack and releasing a demo as a seven inch vinyl is far too expensive and over the top.
Fanatic’s Logde Records which was involved in releasing “Combat Metal” is already mentioned. The guys shed some light on the cooperation with this UK-based label…
– Ty Tuuka is a great friend of ours and he was excited about the material we had recorded. Fanatic’s Lodge and the band decided to split the costs. He did 100 copies in the UK and we did another 100 here. It was great to have the demo out on the other side of Europe and it really helped spreading the tape around. We dig what Fanatic’s Lodge is about and Ranger will surely work with Ty in the future as well.
Tell us a little about the songwriting process in Ranger. Does each member write separately, or do you work on the songs together in your rehearsal room? Will your latest recruit, guitarist Verneri contribute to the song writing as well?
– A typical Ranger-song is pieced together at the rehearsal room. For example Miko comes up with great riffs by himself which make a core for a song for all of us to work on. We get inspired from everyone’s ideas and work on them together. Verneri will contribute more and more in the future. He’s already been great help to Jaakko with the double guitar stuff he came up with for the “Knights Of Darkness”. When we hang out, there’s always new song ideas flying around and we feel the desperate need to go to our rehearsal place and forge a new Ranger-anthem every time. When we get into the right mood, the songs just flow out naturally. Usually there’s like three new songs forming up, so we constantly have new stuff bubbling in our heads.
After three demos, your next step is, as we have mentioned several times already, a mini-album. Why have you chosen this type of release instead of a full length album? Is it about the amount of songs you have available?
– We felt that the five songs we had ready would make a perfect mini-LP. Also doing this kind of a release was a logical next step and we are completely satisfied with the results. Of course the limited studio time and money had to be considered too, but the mini-LP we got in our hands will take Ranger to the next level and really show what the band is about.
“Knights Of Darkness” consists of two songs from the Combat Metal-demo as well as three previously unreleased songs. Are the songs from “Combat Metal” rerecorded versions, or are we talking about the same recordings featured on the demo? Do you feel that the demo songs are on par with the new material?
– All of the songs on “Combat Metal” deserve a proper studio recording. “Supreme Evil” and “Touch of Death” fit perfectly along with the new material and of course they are re-recordings made in the same studio sessions. We will also re-record the title track of “Combat Metal” and songs from “Metal Gear” as well for inclusion on future releases.
The guys share some information on the Long Bridge Militia Headquarters which has been used to record the demos as well as Black Floyd, the studio where they recorded the brand new mini-album.
– Both demos were recorded at the Long Bridge Militia Headquarters. It’s our own rehearsal place equipped with a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder and a Fostex 8-track reel-to-reel. The mini-album was recorded in Black Floyd’s analog soundhouse in Hämeenkyrö, Finland. As the name suggests, the recording was 100 percent analog. It was recorded by Tapio Lepistö and Saku Tamminen and it was produced by ourselves. The studio guys also had some great ideas and they totally got what Ranger is about. They really captured the Ranger-sound. This was the sound we were always looking for, with massive drums, guitar leads that shock your skulls, thunderous bass, and vocals that cut the night like a switchblade.
Ranger see Ektro Records as a perfect fit for the band at this point in time.
– For now we’ve been only focused on “Knights Of Darkness”, but things are going so great that I see us working with him in the future too. Jussi Lehtisalo, the boss of Ektro, really knows his heavy metal and he understands how our release should look and sound. We’ve got like dozens of offers, but Ektro Records suited us better than all of them. We knew the guys from before, both the communication and distribution is great and we know that they only will put out quality releases.
Ranger is sometimes described as thrash, other sources claim speed metal, and on your Facebook-page it says “Skull Splitting Metal” while you use rangerheavymetal as your Facebook-address. One explanation might be that you have elements from all these genres in you sound. Do you feel any need at all to categorize your music? If so, what tag would you put on it?
– You can call it heavy metal, speed metal or thrash metal, but personally we like to call our music Skull Splitting Metal! There is nothing wrong with categorizing, but many bands nowadays seem to let the tag limit their music, for instance thrash bands writing only fast songs. There has to be variety to the songs and a constant feeling of danger when you listen to a record!
It should be fairly safe to say that both your two latest demos as well as the songs I’ve heard from the mini-LP has an old school approach both when it comes to the sound, the performance and the songwriting. As you seem to look to the eighties for inspiration, what is wrong with the more modern thrash and heavy metal today?
– The mini-LP sounds the way we think metal is supposed to sound like. Modern “metal” is pretty far away from that! Not only the sound and gear used, but the playing too has turned really bland at some point. Heavy metal should be loud and intense. You simply can’t get the real sound with triggers and amp modelling software! We prefer to work with tube amps,real drums and analog recording equipment.
There are many bands performing old school metal at the moment, both pure metal as well as thrash or speed. Do you feel that Ranger have an originality that separates the band from many of the other acts, or do you feel that your strength is the fact that you are good at what you are doing?
– We think we have developed our own sound that makes us Ranger. As we said, we play metal the way we think it should be played and the crowd seems to appreciate it.
Do you feel that you have already written the ultimate Ranger-song, or is it yet to come? Do you write lots of stuff, throwing away the songs that are not good enough, or do you work more slowly with your songs, making sure they are up to the desired standard
– Every time we write a new song, it should feel like the ultimate Ranger-song. If a riff doesn’t gets the adrenaline flowing and heads banging, it’s simply not good enough for us. We have a couple of songs coming up at a time, but we’ll keep up the high standards. If a new song idea or riff doesn’t sound worthy to be called Skull Splitting Metal, we’ll ditch it right away!
Do you have enough own material for your concerts, or do you usually perform a couple of cover songs as well? If so, which songs?
– We have played some covers such as “Hell Bent For Leather”, “Show No Mercy” and “Evil Sinner”. Lately we have been playing only our own stuff. We do have enough original songs to fill the set list.
I have to say that there is a lot of crap, so called metal, coming out of Finland, but Speedtrap and Solitaire are two bands I really enjoy. Which other bands do you recommend?
– We totally agree on that! We’d recommend you to check out Forced Kill, Foreseen, Pyöveli and Lord Fist.
After this interview was conducted, Ranger has been confirmed as one of the opening acts for next year’s edition of Keep It True. A chance for everyone that has secured a ticket (it’s already sold out) to see what these Finnish guys are capable of on stage.