Track 3 focuses on nature being a soldier’s worst enemy. The lyricist Steven Parham, a British and Swiss citizen, explains his take on Finnish nature:
‘Writing lyrics about Finland’s natural environment is a fraught theme and teeters ever on the brink of cliché, especially in melodic death metal. To me, a non-native who has lived in this land of a hundred thousand lakes for over a decade, the seasons are fierce in their predictability, and harsh on the mind. Finnish nature must have been an army’s worst enemy, with plague and cold slaying more men than any human opponent; and this environment is innately heavy. To those subjugated to its whims, the Angel of Carnage lives in every single fen and forest – and she is not a humane force.’
At the time of the Great Northern War (1700-1721), famine and exhaustion were common among the infantry ranks, and diseases abounded. The cold climate on the Finnish and Russian fronts also took its toll, as common soldiers often lacked proper clothing. Microbes were not yet known, so the various diseases such as typhus, dysentery and pneumonia were collectively referred to as the ‘field disease’. It was normal for at least 10% of the army at any given time to be sick – not sick with a bit of a cough and runny nose, but sick to the point of being unconscious.
In addition to his experiences in Finland and the historical context provided in Dr Keskisarja’s book Murhanenkeli (verbatim: Angel of Murder), Steven drew inspiration from the Ottoman empire when writing this piece:
‘This lyric was the first I wrote for DMB, and it was the first demo I heard from the album that was being born. Stripped of anything except the drums and lead guitar riffs, and decorated with nonsense syllables designed to give me an idea of the amount of text we needed, I sat in a run-down extreme metal bar in central Istanbul and found despair. The melodies of Finland jarred with the narrow, sweating streets of the old Ottoman empire’s former capital city. Byzantine Constantinople was far from the fresh forests and lakes of tranquil Fennoscandia – scripting an album on the Great Northern War between Sweden and Russia while squatting on the shoulders of the Bosporus appeared…blasphemous.
A story was called for, and as I sat on the edge of the Golden Horn I discovered the connecting piece between the view before me and the view that surrounded the band in their studio in the forests of Karelia: empire. Empire as narrated by its servants, who experienced it through the blades of war and the plague of change. Empire as propelled by an Angel of Carnage who jealously broke all songs that sought to compete with her own terrible ballads.
The repetitive nature of the verse structure in this track emphasises the dreariness of Finnish seasons, and Murktide was my attempt to bring the beloved landscapes of the swamp-ridden subarctic to the heart of another empire…one whose heart formed the most prized loot for Crusaders from Christendom as well as Turks from the steppe. The Byzantine and Ottoman empires that centred on Constantinople/Istanbul were also thirsty lands drenched in blood and bones, yet nature itself was never the enemy: successive conquerors of the Bosporus never had to contend with the sheer malevolence of the weather. Swedes and Russians in Finland simply did not share such fortune in their centuries of conflict.’
Truly, the staunch women and men of this land can never be free of the ineluctability of the terrible, terrorising sun, both in its presence as well as its absence. Here, the Angel of Carnage is indeed a harsh mistress, unforgiving and unimpressed. In the lake lands of Finland, murder thrives in the seasons of winter’s murk as well the days of summer’s undeath.