Thoughts on the new Kiuas lineup – a tale of Sacrifice, Loss and Reward

“Running through the hourglass of time
Another day passes by
Turning into a sleepless night
Yearning for something I don’t know
Tension inside me still grows
Until the new chapter unfolds

Seems no matter how hard you try
The thorn still burns in your side
Throughout this test that we call life
We win and lose everyday
It’s like you’ve heard the Christians say:
“The Lord giveth and taketh away”

Breaking the walls surrounding me
Rising with integrity
Into a new supremacy
Forging dreams into reality

Reaching high into the stars
Beyond what once seemed too far
With the force that lives within
The new chapter shall begin

No scars, no wounds too deep to hide
Yet feeling hollow deep inside
As if something there has died
The restless heart of a child
That keeps visions, dreams alive
Still dwells waiting inside”

-Kiuas, The New Chapter

Indeed, this is the beginning of a new chapter for my beloved Kiuas. As every fan of the band probably already knows, the band is undergoing major changes in its lineup. The biggest of these is of course the departure of the vocalist – and a long time idol/favorite/demigod to many of us – Ilja Jalkanen who has been replaced by the pakistani born Asim Searah.  The drummer (formerly Markku Näreva) as well as the keyboard player (formerly Atte Tanskanen) have changed. The new lineup is as follows:

Mikko Salovaara – guitars etc.
Teemu Tuominen – bass
Asim Searah – vox
Jari Pailamo – keyboards
Rainer Tuomikanto – drums

I’ve been truly blessed because I’ve met both of the singers off stage after concerts once, and they both seem like excellent guys. Jalkanen was more of a “normal” guy while mr. Searah – who also seemed nice based on the brief chat I had with him – had a more traditional, heroic aura of a “metal singer”. Overall they are both very likeable fellows in addition to being awesome singers. And handsome too. ;P

I’m not going to go into the reasons behind the changes, they can be found on the Kiuas website by those who are interested. However, I’d like to speculate a bit as to what I think these unquestionably huge changes mean for the band’s future. A part of the fans seem pessimistic (based primarily on my short discussions in Kiuas gigs and on Last.fm) and think that Ilja’s abandonment of the band is a severe blow which Kiuas might not recover from. After all, Ilja’s supreme vocal range (especially with his clean vocals) combined to his radiant on-stage style of performance makes him the perfect heavy metal singer. But we have to remember he is going because he feels he can no longer commit fully to the band/genre and that Kiuas deserves better. Therefore, it could be said that he is commiting an act of self-sacrifice for the good of the band  and that’s something that needs to be applauded although I agree that him going away is indeed a great loss for all of us. But this is not the end.

Hyvästi Ilja. You will be missed.

I also had the honour of being present at Ilja’s farewell concert earlier this year, in which the both Ilja and Asim performed with Kiuas and there mr. Jalkanen specifically told his loyal followers not to make the classic mistake of saying “this band will never be what it once was” and crying themselves to sleep. And indeed, he has a valid point.

Although Searah’s style as a singer is a bit different, and his stage presence has to gain some experience before it reaches the level of smoothness and subtlety that his predecessor had, he is still a very, very talented singer. Unlike Jalkanen though, it would seem to me that his strong side – at least for the time being – is with the growl-vocals, which he performed admirably (better than Jalkanen even) both on the farewell gig and the one time I saw him on stage before.  He is also capable of singing cleanly, which means the new Kiuas will probably retain the mixed style of clean/growl-vocals, especially since the musical mastermind behind the band, Mikko Salovaara (a truly ingenous man) has not changed.

And what about the reward? I do believe the Salovaara will take this as an opportunity to take Kiuas to a slightly new direction. As to what that direction is I cannot yet say but I have a very good feeling about it. Kiuas is one of those bands that has been “on the edge” of a break-through for a long time. It  has toured with bigger names such as Turisas and Children of Bodom and gained some international fame but it still is nowhere near as popular as it deserves to be, at least not outside of this northern land. I’m hoping the changes in the lineup; the youthful passion of Searah combined with the off-the-charts guitar and composing skills of Mikko The Wizard will likely form something that we have never seen before. I await anxiously for the first album of the new lineup which hopefully comes out sometime in 2012.

To Atte, Markku and Ilja, I say: THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I’ve seen you guys live numerous times and you’ve never left me cold. I too am a bit saddened by your departure but changes are inevitable and I understand that. As for Ilja: you said you have to leave because you feel your heart is no longer fully in metal music. I respect that. You’re being honest and thinking of the good of the band. But nevertheless you have found your place among my pantheon of metal gods and heroes; whatever it is you will be doing after this, I will be sure to check it out. I wish you all the best of luck in your lives and your future endeavours.

To the new guys and Asim: Welcome and thank you for helping to keep this great band alive! Make it even greater and I will be ever thankful.  Looking forward to seeing you live again.

To my fellow fans: Don’t be taken over by depression, this is not the end. On the contrary, this might well be the beginning of something magnificent. Only time will tell that but for now show your support to the new guys, especially Searah. Together we can ensure that the awesome pagan metal of Kiuas will find its way into the hearts and minds of more and more people.

To those of you who have not yet listened to Kiuas: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? UNCIVILISED FOOLS. Go buy their albums, or listen to them in Spotify. That is the way to revelation.

The new face of awesomeness from 2011 onwards!

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