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Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson

Celebrating 20 years of The Rasmus: 10 essential songs you need to hear

the rasmus

December 23rd, 1994. Suutarila High School, Helsinki, Finland. A band called Sputnik play their first gig at the students’ Christmas party. The band is made up of four 15 year old pupils: Lauri Johannes Ylönen handles the vocals, Pauli Esko Rantasalmi rocks the guitar, Eero Aleksi Heinonen is on bass duties and Jarno Lahti beats on the drums.
1995. An evolution begins. Janne Heiskanen takes over Jarno’s seat behind the drum kit. Sputnik become Anttila. Anttila then soon become Rasmus. One year after debuting as Sputnik, in December 1995, Rasmus release the EP 1st independently. It’s such a success that Warner Music Finland take notice and sign the band up.
The albums Peep, Playboys and Hell of a Tester are released in 1996, 1997 and 1998, respectively. All three albums go Gold in Finland and Rasmus find themselves rocketing from success to success. During this time, a young man from Espoo named Aki Markus Hakala lands himself a job selling merchandise at the band’s gigs.
2001 rolls around, the band have added a “The” to their name, former merchandise salesman Aki Hakala has replaced Janne on drums, the album Into is released and The Rasmus as we know and love them today are born. Into is the band’s first album to be released outside of their native Finland and their first release on Playground Music. It showcases a much more defined and melodic style than anything they have produced up to this date.
2003. The album Dead Letters is released in Finland, featuring the song “In The Shadows”. Dead Letters represents the band’s heaviest and hardest rock album yet. 2004 hits, “In The Shadows” and Dead Letters are released internationally to unprecedented success. Dead Letters is then followed up with Hide From the Sun, Black Roses and the self titled 8th album, The Rasmus, in 2005, 2008 and 2012, respectively. Added to the mix are the compilation albums Hell of a Collection (2001) and Best of 2001 – 2009 (2009), as well as a re-release of The Rasmus in late 2012 featuring the new single, “Mysteria”.

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2014 marks the twentieth anniversary of The Rasmus. For ten of those twenty years, they have been my favourite band. Like most people outside of Finland, my first experience of them was when the song “In The Shadows” dropped internationally in 2004. The video for the song used to be on the music channel TMF all the time and I loved it. I actually still remember buying Dead Letters in Virgin Megastore on Henry Street in Dublin.
I was also fortunate enough to see them live later that year, in November 2004, at the Ambassador theatre on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. I remember that gig vividly. My friend Mark came with me and we were right up the front in the thick of things. The atmosphere was electric. They played hits from all 5 of their albums at the time, including a cool acoustic session in the middle. At that point, about half a year after first hearing of them, they’d already been well cemented as my favourite band.
I’ve decided to write this article to honour and pay tribute to the Finnish foursome’s mind blowing twenty year career and to share my thoughts on their musical output with fellow fans. At the same time, I also want to let non-fans experience what I believe to be ten of the band’s best and most accessible tracks, hopefully opening up some new minds to their music in the process.
For as long as I’ve been a fan of theirs, The Rasmus have been one of the most consistent of my favourite bands in terms of both productivity and quality. In fact, they only finished a tour of Russia three days before the publication of this article (on April 14th).
The Rasmus’s music is characterised by epic, masterful guitar riffs and melodic, catchy choruses. Their lyrics are rich with depth, emotion and meaning, as well as more often than not being thought provoking and relatable. Lauri’s fiery singing voice coupled with the band’s delightfully unique instrumentation work brings the songs to life in a chillingly beautiful way.
I’ve chosen the 10 songs on this list very carefully and for a number of reasons. For a start, I have purposely omitted any songs from Dead Letters. Let me just state for the record that I love that album. It may even be my favourite album of all time. However, in the interest of exposing those who may only be familiar with the likes of “In The Shadows” and “Guilty” to the broad and vast range of material they’re missing, I’ve decided to pick tracks from the rest of The Rasmus’s discography. I’ve also opted to include songs that I feel demonstrate that the band’s work has a much broader appeal than non-fans may realise.
So I invite any other Rasmus fans out there to comment on my choices and offer opinions on their own personal favourites, while at the same time I also invite and encourage everyone else to at least sample each of the tracks on this list with an open mind.

10. I’M A MESS
From the album The Rasmus (2012)

“I’m a Mess” was the lead single from The Rasmus’s self titled 8th album and my anticipation for it was high. The guys premiered the song during a live performance at the final for selecting Finland’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, in February of 2012. I caught the performance on Youtube the following day and I was hooked. Its sound combines the style of Into and Black Roses in the best way, while still managing to create something new and unique that represents a very natural progression of their previous work.
The chorus is extremely catchy, really sticking in your head after listening to it. The riffs and drum beat are easy on the ears and seem to almost command you to dance along. I love the instrumental segment in the middle coupled with Lauri’s “ooooh oh oh oh oh” vocals over it. I actually really love his vocal work in general on this song. It showcases his talents and range extremely well. I also like the apparent meaning behind the words; that the persona of the narrator might not have everything together but at least he has two things: the fact that he’s always stayed true to who he is and someone significant in his life that makes him feel appreciated.
My initial impression of this song was that it may have been the best they’ve released since “In The Shadows” in terms of selling them for mainstream consumption, so it seemed an appropriate starting point for my list.

9. OCTOBER & APRIL
From the album Best of 2001 – 2009 (2009)

I first remember hearing about “October & April” when Black Roses was in the production stage. I recall reading an article in which Lauri expressed his excitement that Anette Olzon, the vocalist of fellow Finnish band Nightwish at the time, had agreed to share vocal duties with him on a duet he’d written. I was excited. It sounded like a fresh, interesting idea and a logical collaboration. But the song didn’t make it onto Black Roses in the end.
Instead it was released a year later as an exclusive track on the Best of 2001 – 2009 compilation. I really enjoyed it when I first heard it. It’s not quite as dramatic as I was expecting a joint venture between The Rasmus and Nightwish to be, but I think that may make it better.
It’s a nice ballad with a very pleasant sound, despite the lyrics perhaps suggesting the opposite. I like the band’s subtle instrumentation work laced with classical hints. Ylönen’s quiet vocals complement Olzon’s quite well. There’s something very serene and touching about the whole thing that sounds really nice. It was also a welcome departure to hear The Rasmus collaborate with another artist vocally. I’d certainly be in favour of more duets in the future. Maybe Lauri could give Amy Lee a call!

8. RUN TO YOU
From the album Black Roses (2008)

When I first listened to Black Roses, “Run to You” was the song that caught my attention the most. It has a very grand feel to it. Right from the opening riff, it has the air of something that’s meant to transcend this world and echo into the great beyond. Are the words meant for someone that the narrator has lost touch with in this life or for someone that he hopes to be reunited with in the next? I don’t think it’s altogether clear and that’s what I love about it.
The chorus and music are loud and melodic yet solemn and contemplative. The entire sound is finely crafted in a very original way, yet there’s an inexplicable familiarity to the whole thing. I especially love Pauli’s guitar solo about two and a half minutes into it. It’s short but it’s great. I also love the outro, the choir effect that gradually takes over from the music closes things out in a delightfully haunting way.

7. STRANGER
From the album The Rasmus (2012)

When I first heard The Rasmus’s self titled album, I was immediately captivated by the opening track, “Stranger.” I’d read interviews with the band in which they singled this track out as a personal highlight for them on their then forthcoming album. I’m pretty sure Pauli even named it as his favourite Rasmus song of all time. And I understand why. “Stranger” gets the self titled album off to an amazing start.
It begins somewhat reservedly with a quiet mixture of background musical effects, slowly building up until the band finally kicks in with a heavier and more traditional Rasmus-esque beat to finish the track off in typically epic fashion. All the while it has one of their characteristically passionate choruses that makes you want to sing along as you’re listening.
I also love this song lyrically. There’s something very mysterious and profound about the content. It’s like a love song in the future tense. The words seem to be directed at the love of the narrator’s life whom he hasn’t met yet; the “stranger” who he’s felt he’s known all his life and who represents the pieces of the puzzle of his existence that he’s been missing. Or perhaps it’s directed at someone he already knows and he’s telling them that he always knew he’d find them. It’s all very poetic and like all good poetry I guess the meaning is open to interpretation, but I’ve always found it to be a deeply emotional and optimistic song.

6. SHOT
From the album Hide from the Sun (2005)

“Shot” opened up Hide from the Sun back in September 2005 in a very energetic and attention grabbing way. There’s a heaviness and strangeness to the guitar work that just works so well. I’ve heard Lauri characterise this song as being about friendship. There’s certainly evidence of that in the talk of taking the shot for someone and defending and protecting them.
But there’s also a very dark edge to the music and the lyrics. It doesn’t seem to be simply about a person you’d give your life for, it seems to be about having to protect that person from some kind of looming threat. There’s mention of having to escape and not letting “him” hurt whoever is the subject of the song.
It’s all very mystifying and that mystery is reflected in the musical vibe. There’s a certain upbeat energy to the whole thing but it’s mixed with a kind of darkness that gives the track a somewhat unsettling tone. It somehow all works together though for a track that is very catchy and very Rasmus. I also love the music video for this one. It’s very visually striking and reflects the tone of the song quite well.

5. SOMEWHERE
From the album The Rasmus (2012)

“Somewhere” is one of the band’s more acoustically based tracks. I think it might also be one of their more upbeat songs. The message I take from it: change is sometimes necessary but not necessarily bad nor final.
So “Somewhere” is a song about change. It’s about recognising when you’re stuck in a rut and things are stagnating. Sometimes you just have to do what’s right for you and unfortunately not everyone can always come with you to where you need to go. But that doesn’t mean the end of friendships, it just means the beginning of a new chapter.
There’s a positive, reassuring quality to the song’s sound that I like. There’s something about it that says hey, it’s gonna be fine. The music video also reflects that quite well, showing a montage of the band hanging out, touring and having fun.

4. CHILL
From the album Into (2001)

“Chill”, as the name might suggest, is just a great song for chilling out to. It has a vibe that encourages you to sit back and unwind while listening to it. The verses suggest the desire or the need to get away from it all and escape the stresses of every day life, while the chorus is loud and expressive and seems to vent built up emotion and frustration.
The simple yet cool riff that recurs throughout has a very tranquilising and laid back sound that has something of a calming effect to it. This is emphasized by its extension at the end that seems to want you to take a breath and give yourself a moment to contemplate things.
“Chill” is a very mellow, relaxing song that invites you to take a break from the problems of reality and allow your mind to let go of any issues or stress that’s weighing it down.

3. SAIL AWAY
From the album Hide from the Sun (2005)

“Sail Away” has a rather subdued and acoustic sound to it, with strings and violins added to the mix which all amount to a ballad that is extremely easy on the ears. The overall auditory tone has a very calming and soothing effect. I’ve often contemplated the lyrics though. There seems to be quite an ambiguity to them and the way I see it, there are two interpretations of their meaning.
There’s the optimistic interpretation. The narrator is in a good place in his life. He’s talking about a past relationship in which he and another swore to each other they’d always be together. It didn’t work out, but it’s okay. He’s moved on and is ready to start his life anew.
Then there’s the pessimistic interpretation. The narrator has been abandoned and lost a part of himself in the process. It has left him disillusioned and he’s decided to leave life behind. “The night is calling [his] name” and he is essentially sailing away towards depression, perhaps even death. The interpretation I choose to believe is often dependent upon my mood while listening to it! But either way, it’s a beautiful and peaceful song that makes for good listening whatever your mood may be.

2. LIVIN’ IN A WORLD WITHOUT YOU
From the album Black Roses (2008)

“Livin’ in a World Without You” is a track that I never seem to get sick of. It has a great tune and structure that gives it tremendous replay value.
While it doesn’t sport one of the band’s heavier or more complicated guitar riffs, it does have an exotic beat that extends through the verses and makes you involuntarily nod your head along to it. When the chorus kicks in, the music takes on a more technical, almost electronic kind of sound which I love.
The lyrics are relatively simple throughout but are sung in an awesomely melodic way, in perfect unison with the music. The vocal melody is very consistent as well between the low, whispered verses and the loud, impassioned choruses. I defy you to listen to this song more than once and not feel the need to bellow the words “livin’ in a world without you” back at your stereo!

1. SKY
From the album The Rasmus (2012)

If there’s such a thing as love at first listen, then I definitely experienced it with this song. “Sky” is, in a word, breathtaking. It is a wonderful sing along track that is imbued with a level of depth and emotion that always reminds me of why The Rasmus are my favourite band.
There’s something very spiritual and transcendent about this song, both in its auditory execution and its lyrics. It’s a song about regret and repentance and the desire to be given the chance to make things right before it’s too late. In some ways it seems downbeat, as if the time for redemption or turning things around has passed, but the opening and closing lines could be interpreted as containing some semblance of hope. “Maybe it’s not too late to regret now.” Maybe it’s not too late to regret and repair mistakes. Then again, maybe it is too late for anything other than regret. I’m not sure.
It’s yet another example of ambiguity in Lauri’s lyrics. All I am sure of is that I love this song more than any other on this list; great musical composition, great melody, great vocals, great band.

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So there you have my 10 picks and my thoughts on each one. Maybe I’ve made too many assumptions about Lauri’s lyrics and the band’s intentions with their music. They could well tell me I’m way off! I don’t know. But that’s what I love about The Rasmus’s music; it’s like poetry, rich with depth, emotion and ambiguity. I think that most people assign their own meaning to songs anyway, whatever the original writer’s intentions. And there’s certainly plenty of meaning to be found in the work The Rasmus have done over the past two decades.

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Thanks for reading and feel free to offer feedback in the comments section below.

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8 comments on “Celebrating 20 years of The Rasmus: 10 essential songs you need to hear

  1. kygos
    November 3, 2014

    I love your article! One of my favorite songs from The Rasmus is Chill because I’m in a unknown phase of my life right now (early 20’s, don’t know what to do with my life). Of course I love their biggest hits (In The Shadows, Livin’ In A World Without You, etc.) but Chill is great when I feel down…

    • Dave Simpson
      November 4, 2014

      Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, one of the best things about The Rasmus is that they have songs that are relatable to all moods and mindsets.

  2. margaret cundall
    November 30, 2014

    I ,,like you first saw the rasmus on tmf and I was utterly smitten with them,i went out and bought their album not knowing anything about them, who they were or where they came from,i totally fell in love with the album and them, this was the first time I,d ever bought an album that I actually loved every song on the album ,their music is like no one elses I,d ever heard, i have most of their albums except for the rasmus one as it didn,t come out in the uk, although I can still listen to it on u tube. After 20 years of listening to the rasmus I love them and their music just as much as I did all those years ago in fact it still seems ltke yesterday and I can,t believe it,s 20 years. long live the rasmus.

    • Dave Simpson
      November 30, 2014

      Nice to know I’m not the only who remembers their air play on TMF! Glad that their music has resonated so much you as well. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  3. Stacey
    June 2, 2015

    I missed the boat…just heard The Rasmus about two months ago and already bought ALL the songs. I have Lauri’s solo album saved to my desktop at work! I am not exactly sure what draws me to them, I am not sure how to verbalize how the music affects me. But it is an emotional connection for sure. Love al the songs on your list, but then again I just love them all. I do have some that are “more favorite” than others though – Guilty (it’s the first one I heard), Shot, Not Like the Other Girls, Friends Don’t Do That, Someone Else, forget it…it’s all of them! I hope we have not heard the last. I know it’s difficult to be a musician, live your life and have a family and everyone deserves to have those things. I would love to see them live, but don’t see that happening for me, so new albums every couple of years would be just fine!! I hope I have not heard the last. Health, Happiness, Prosperity and Love to The Rasmus and their families.

    • Dave Simpson
      June 4, 2015

      Yeah, I love them all as well, not just the ones on my list. My all time favourite is actually probably “Time to Burn”, even though it’s not listed above. Love the intensity and passion of that song. I wouldn’t worry about hearing the last of them. They’ve been fairly quiet recently but Aki’s been putting a few posts up on their Facebook page lately about being in the studio and stuff so hopefully that means some new material is coming real soon.

  4. Merete B. Bruun
    May 23, 2017

    Hello Dave

    Thank you for this great “rambling”, as you call it. I really enjoyed your view and words on these 10 songs from The Rasmus. I’m just surfing the internet for stuff on this fantastic band, because I for the second time has fallen in love with them. I fell in love back in 2004, because of music television and “In the Shadows”. Loved the sound, and got the album Dead Letters right away. Since that day I’ve been hooked, and I too am crazy about the facts that their lyrics are deep, and the songs easy to sing along to.

    Had a breakup years back, and I remember in feelings how “Sail Away” helped me cry my way through the hardest time of that breakup, because of the lyrics. It’s amazing how music can help you get higher when you’re happy, and join you in your sad emotions when you need that.

    Then I had kids, and everything went on hold for three years, and a couple of weeks back from now I got “reunited” with The Rasmus’ music, and I realized I had forgotten just HOW much I love it. At this time I simply cannot stop listening to “Run to you”. I think that track is so special in sound, and as you mention “It has a very grand feel to it”, and I think that is why the sound is special to me.

    All in all I must say, that the harder the sound of the Rasmus song the better – for me. My favorite is, and will probably stay “Time to burn”. That precision – that hard sound – that lyric. It just moves me every time, and I can relate so well to it.

    Anyways – now I, too, rambled.

    Thank you again!

    /Merete

    • Dave Simpson
      June 3, 2017

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading and sharing your own experiences with the band’s music.

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