From pandemic blues to concept album bliss – Escherian

In the beginning, there was COVID, a guitar and boredom. That's where it all started.

So, when the pandemic became our companion in 2020, I began contemplating what Lucidity could do next. After releasing our previous album, 'Oceanum,' in 2019, the plan was to create an EP first, allowing us more time to prepare for the concept album.

Why a concept album? I've always been a fan of concepts. The bigger, the better. The more epic, the better. The first one that left a lasting impression on me was Edge Of Sanity's 'Crimson' (1996). I loved it so much that I had to buy two different versions — one with a single 40-minute track and another divided into sections. Since then, I've come across many fantastic concept albums, like Green Carnation's 'Light Of Day Day Of Darkness' or Waltari's 'Yeah Yeah Die Die!', which was more of a symphony. Then, as I delved into 60s-70s music, especially prog, I discovered more masterpieces such as The Who's 'Quadrophenia' or Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' (okay, it was released in 1982). Anyway, all these and many other epic works increasingly fueled my desire to create something similar. And so, in 2007, I did. However, the courage or understanding to embark on such an ambitious endeavor as a debut album was lacking, and this attempt later fell apart, evolving into several Lucidity songs.

But when we were working on our second album, 'Oceanum,' the idea of a concept album resurfaced. I began discussing it with the other band members and mustered the courage to start making it happen. For some reason, tackling such a project felt like a monumental task, perhaps due to the excellence of the aforementioned albums, and it seemed like the bar was set high. But taking action took time. Then came the pandemic.

Locked in our homes due to the pandemic, I suddenly seized the opportunity and started envisioning the concept album. Being a music and documentary nerd, I remembered a snippet from The Who's 'Quadrophenia' documentary, where Pete Townsend talked about building the theme of the album on paper, creating a kind of blueprint, and then constructing the whole thing. This turned out to be an incredibly fruitful approach, as ideas started pouring. The plot of the story began to take shape, and the first version of the lyrics was ready in less than a week. I let it simmer and dove into composing.

Initially, I composed music freely, without any idea of where each part might fit. Then I began structuring the compositions into a cohesive whole. However, at this point, we realized that the project was almost 90 minutes long. Although I love epic albums, epicness doesn't necessarily require such length. We went through all the songs together and concluded that cuts had to be made. This process took quite a while, but suddenly, the pieces, or rather the songs, fell into place.

This time, I worked on vocals alone at first to get the story in place, and the arrangements took some time. After that, I went to Teemu Liekkala, our trusted collaborator and somewhat sadistic tormentor, to do the vocals. Teemu's ideas are often quite the opposite of what I have in mind, and that's precisely the contradiction I want to incorporate. The collaboration on this album was equally experimental and challenging as it was on our previous album. For example, the choir at the end of the song 'Threads To Follow' is something I had never done before — many layers of elaborate singing and unusual rhythms. In such situations, I'm often bewildered, as the vision for that particular section was solely in Teemu Liekkala's mind. I was in the vocal booth with headphones on, and suddenly Teemu grabbed a new harmony from somewhere that needed to be recorded. In that particular choir, there are 10-12 different harmonies creating various patterns. And that's why we go to Teemu Liekkala!

After finishing vocals, we realized we were done with the overall structure. We could start working on everything else. We went to the familiar and reliable SN-Audio studio to record the backbone of the album — the drums. Teemu Liekkala operated the equipment while our drummer, Pekka Parantainen, set his feet and hands in motion. The plan was to do mic placements and other preparations on Thursday and record the drums from Friday to Sunday. I was working a regular job on Thursday and Friday, and I visited the studio on Friday afternoon. To my surprise, Pekka had recorded more than half of the songs by then. In the evening, I visited the studio again, and the surprise was even greater when I heard that almost all the songs had been recorded. The next day, we needed to go through the songs and see if any fixes were necessary. On Saturday, we made some adjustments, and the drums were ready. In my opinion, this album is significantly more complex than previous, so Pekka's performance was astonishing!

Next up were the guitars and bass. This time, we decided to have a concentrated session with them. We rented a cottage in central Finland, in Karstula, by the beautiful lake Pääjärvi, which provided a fantastic recording environment with minimal distractions — excluding a considerable number of mosquitoes. During that weekend, we managed to record almost all the guitars and basses. I left a few solos and clean guitars to be recorded at home. Overall, this session went quite well. The challenge was maintaining the tuning, especially with the bass. I don't know if it was due to the weather or some other factor, but keeping the instruments in tune was really difficult, at least during the first day. Fortunately, we managed to resolve this issue with the guitars, but the bass caused a bit of trouble. We were well aware of Teemu Liekkala's extremely discerning ear, and in the back of our minds, we were concerned that our recorded instruments might not meet the tuning standards, leading him to put us back to work. But in the end, everything got on tape, and Teemu approved of our achievements.

After that, I locked myself in my "home studio" to work on the keyboards. A significant portion of them was already done, as I usually create all keyboard parts while composing songs. This time, I wanted to go through everything more thoroughly and explore possible changes or if there could be something more unique to program into the synthesizer. I found a few points for improvement, and also, the vocals had changed slightly in the studio, so I had to make some adjustments in certain parts to ensure that the keyboards integrated better into the overall composition.

Then everything was bundled up, and with a mix of excitement and fear, we awaited Teemu Liekkala's comments. I was fully expecting Teemu to call soon with the following message: "Hey! Overall, it's good, but all rhythm guitars are out of tune. Half of the basses are played wrong. Synth sounds are terrible and unusable. The vocals don't match these synths at all, so either the synths or vocals need to be redone." But that call never came! I did want to make a few changes myself, but suddenly, we were done! Mixing and mastering happened at the end of 2023 almost as if by magic, and suddenly, we had an album ready.

But as always before, something has to be rushed, and this time it was the singles. We had no clue which songs would work as singles. For some reason, we're absolutely clueless when it comes to making songs with a single format in mind. We started going through the songs, and soon realized that a significant number of them lacked a chorus altogether. We concluded that it's a point of no return, and we picked two songs. Fuck it!

Now, today, January 28th at 2:06 PM, reflecting on this journey, I must say that as a process, this album has gone as it always does with Lucidity: we ponder schedules and methods a bit beforehand, and about 12 months later, we find that all planned things have gone as intended. The unplanned things, however, remain undone. We always find a few things to do differently next time. Probably next time, we'll discover new things to do differently, but still, we're unlikely to be able to produce an album in, say a 3-month schedule. But we are completely at peace with this. Perhaps this is how Lucidity makes albums, and that Prussian discipline might not align with our methods. The main thing however, is that we can be proud of the kind of music we've created. And in that sense, this third album is no exception. Some songs were such that even I had no specific vision for them, but suddenly, they turned into something extremely fantastic. That's why, for example, our guitarist Jari Kinnunen often prefers not to comment on my new songs. He'd rather say they work when they're on the album and ready. And now that the album is finished and about to be released, we can say that this album sounds like the best Lucidity ever. Maybe this album sounds like what we imagined this band would sound like in the future when we founded it.

Thank you if you managed to read this far. This blog is just a stream of consciousness, and I couldn't be bothered to structure the content any further. Hopefully, you'll also enjoy the upcoming album.

Peace and love.


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