Frequencies and sounds – read the story

A little while ago, I finished a short story. It was for a course I was taking on creative writing, which I had abandoned for reasons of limited inspiration around 5 years ago. And now I have a short story, which also has a playlist.

It’s just sitting on my desktop. Why? Because I don’t want people to say it sucks. Yet, now, it has been read by one single person and the course members who reviewed it. So it has literally a readership of about 4 people and that is just… Well, a waste of a good amount of hours. Obviously, I also have a thesis flying about the internet (recently for sale on Amazon even), but that’s less… sensitive for me.

So, here it is. Please read it and tell me what you think. I created a playlist too, because some people may frown at the mention of bands like Ulver, The Angelic Process or other doomy stuff. Maybe they are weird choices, but for me this was a process of conveying experiences and emotions to a story, where they are disconnected through iterations from my own life. Yet, for me, there are clear lines between the story and my surroundings.  So, I decided to put this on here and hope people read it, because I’d rather have that someone enjoyed it even a little and still told me it sucks, than have this on my desktop for eternity.

Here’s the PDF. Here’s the EPUB.

Amenra: building a Gesamtkunstwerk

Amenra’s seventh album ‘De Doorn’ is yet another emotional eruption of sorts. But different and yet familiar. It is the first non-Mass release from a band that has been around for more than two decades, creating and overwhelming. The band from society Amicitia Fortior, seems to be rising to new heights. But why really? And how? What is now the raison d’etre of the Flemish band, with roots in the H8000 scene of yesteryear. A band with perhaps the most coherent oeuvre, with everything always completely in keeping with their image and identity. We search for answers with the enigmatic yet so accessible frontman Colin van Eeckhout during this interview.

Pictures in this article by Justina Lukosiute and Paul Verhagen. Originally published on Never Mind The Hype.

As a person climbing into the pen, you often get a chance to listen to the record in question beforehand. Also in this one, but in addition, an extensive interview by José Carlos Santos with Colin is also provided. The question lingers for a moment whether we’re being steered in one direction with that: “Oh no, I answer all the questions fired at me. That’s the bio actually. Those are often very abstract and very poetic in articulating what is difficult to explain. A lot of imagery is used to explain that, I get that.”
Fine, we can go in all directions so….

De Doorn

This album is different in many ways, but also not. That it is Amenra is indisputable, but the pain feels different on ‘De Doorn’. Colin agrees: “Until Mass IV, the albums were a direct result of traumatic experiences that some of us went through in our lives. During such a period, when we had then cashed in enough, we came together to make an album. In this case, right after the last record, we started writing for some rituals or ceremonies. The first was a commemoration of World War I and reconstruction. It is then searching for hope in all that misery. For that, we were in line. Several fire rituals also followed for which we wrote accompanying music. So the dynamics of communication changed completely.”

“With the Mass albums, the listener witnesses our story, which emphatically focuses on the five of us and our families. Now the viewer became an active part of what was happening. Listeners were addressed themselves, for instance by participating in the fire ritual. The why of that being together that night. That’s the big difference for us. We weren’t aware that we were writing this record. Normally that’s a very conscious process. One of us remarked that we had written enough for an album. That’s when the franc fell with us…” Of course, then follows the process of – what Colin calls – kneading the material into a whole. A unified story, because that’s ‘De Doorn’, but with a different name thus: “We asked ourselves the question ‘is this Mass IIV?’ The answer was no, this is something else and we acted accordingly.”

Believing in quality

Amenra’s process is very hermetic. What the group commits to is right for them. Yet this is a step outside the comfort zone. Was there doubt or conviction? Both, Colin explains: “We were convinced that this documents what Amenra is now. This comes out of us as creators. I was more behind it than with previous albums. But the doubts come when you start releasing the record. The biggest label we’ve ever been with (Relapse, ed.) and we come out with a Flemish-language record… Listeners have known Amenra in English for 20 years. Most won’t understand an iota of this. Then you have doubts anyway and you have to build the confidence that the essence of our music will do its job.”

That confidence in their own choices is typical Amenra, as evidenced by the addition of Caro Tanghe (Oathbreaker) on this record. It fits. Colin agrees: “That’s how we experience it too. We don’t always agree with each other immediately, but we are lucky to know each other so well and to be friends. An idea often requires little argument. If someone throws something on the table, it is soon the case that we agree. If one hesitates, the rest will get them to agree. Dragging Caro in was a natural idea that formed. Lennart had been playing with her in a band for super long. The way she wrote and played was already right, so we asked her. She lived in the States and this was also a perfect time to get together.”

Every person has their own thorns

The story on ‘De Doorn’ is a different one: it revolves around the collective, considering and opening a dialogue, according to Colin. “On the previous record, it’s us fighting things. Here it’s like ‘it’s coming from someone else.’ It’s a voice that feels familiar and draws the listener in. What that story is I can’t pinpoint, it’s a feeling and offers a platform for introspection.” Traditionally from the title to the lyrics, the long-player is full of Christian symbolism, but the subject matter also feels very current and it is a record of the present. “That is certainly true and yet it is a universal story of grief and loss which has been told billions of times in the arts. Not that we had thought of this beforehand, but it revolves around the things that concern us as human beings: your place in the world and how to act properly when things are against us. The essence of questions that come to the fore in human life under pressure. I think people who have never sincerely suffered in their lives will not understand what we are doing. If you have, you may find something in our music. But that’s just my thought.”

I ask further on that title anyway, as it seems to have direct references to Biblical stories. It turns out that I’m wrong, when Colin pulls out about six thorn branches cast in bronze. “During the forming of the plate, I look for an image that is descriptive and can symbolise. In this case, I was obsessed with different types of thorns and branches. This is because I liked how nature had developed a weapon for its creations. Flowers are given weapons to protect their beauty, other plants their seeds and fruits. I transposed that to humans, as we develop our own thorns through our lives. We learn not to trust another and to arm ourselves against suffering. By regularly getting the lid on your nose, you develop those thorns as your own defence mechanism. Similarly, we carry the wounds and scars that another’s thorns inflict on us. Consequently, I had these six branches cast. A branch for each musician on this record, for each one’s own world and frame of reference. Together these form a collective that is the story of ‘De Doorn’.” An opposition, then, between something abject of pain and the sublime of beauty, which is inherent in Amenra’s work. Colin can agree with that: “It’s in everything: darkness and light, death and birth, wound and healing. I believe in some kind of balance and that it’s not a bad thing to seek it. Also in collaboration with other artists and people who cross our path, that everyone always walks away feeling good. For that, keeping balance in mind is very important.”

The power of vulnerability

However, balance is not for everyone, especially those who go for themselves. “Those will run into themselves one day,” Colin believes. “Empathy and solidarity is very important, we always want to share our success with others. That’s why we always dragged people along and involved them in Amenra because we felt they deserved it. There are many more, but you can’t help everyone. Maybe that’s the social assistant in me talking here now.” Colin has become interested in what brings us together anyway, the communal in the magical and folkloric. “That folkloric we got back more often over the years about our performances. Terms like tribal, modern ritual or ceremony, that’s the feeling people have with it. We also wanted to do more with that and the fire rituals are one such expression. In particular, the ritual at a sculpture with slots in it, where people could leave messages of unacknowledged loss that would be burnt during the ritual. Small losses, about which we are told not to be squeamish. That your dog dies, getting older and having to give up physically or mentally starts a grieving process in yourself. We are not allowed to brood over that and yet we have to be able to give a place to it and that is what these rituals are. It was crazy to see how many people left messages. That was incredibly beautiful.”

We are missing something, according to Colin. He no longer sees that communal in Belgium. That’s why this was so transformative and impressive: “We miss those platforms and places to drop our cover. Sometimes you can’t even do that within your own family. I think the cold, distant and closed in society is getting worse. I want to push that away in this way. Religion has its drawbacks, but it also had a function. It was necessary to step out of the everyday for a while. That is why standing around such a fire with two thousand people, holding your mouth, holding your breath and taking it all in is abnormal in our society. And the fact that it succeeds is a sign of that need for togetherness and not being alone in your grief. Such a ritual gives energy, insights and strength to give grief and loss a place. It is something we try to embrace and which I am incredibly proud of. It’s more fulfilling than a good review for a record, honestly. It makes you feel like your time was well spent.”


I suggest to Colin the fact that Amenra is ready for this album, for sharing grief and going through the catharsis with the listener, perhaps heralding a next step in the band’s life. Colin hesitates: “You look at things more from a distance and you get more overview with time. Besides, it is also a fact that not many extreme things happened in our lives, which gave us a chance to look at others more. Whether that’s why we made this record I don’t know, but we follow what feels right. It happens organically and instinctively and without putting a goal on it. It’s now, during all these interviews, that I look for answers to that myself.” Although Colin describes it as organic, everything Amenra does is very deliberate. You don’t catch the band doing frivolities in their career. “No, it has to prove its service to us as human beings. If this is the case, then we believe others will feel the same way. We have learnt that over the years, because in the beginning, we didn’t know anyone would connect with our music. That was never the target.”


Colin touched on it briefly; the record is Flemish-speaking. The first time I heard Amenra in their own language was the Zjef Vanuytsel cover Het Dorp during the Acoustic Alive shows. This is an important song for Colin: “Thanks to that song, this record is in Flemish. Our generation hasn’t produced much credible stuff in its own language. Often it’s flat, poppy and with little depth. We used our own language occasionally, but also French and German. That cover changed my outlook on it. It started with a friend asking me to do a song for a film. We brainstormed about it and he suggested Zjef Vanuytsel. Then I started writing in Dutch and developed an affinity. I could go deeper than with other languages thanks to a larger vocabulary. More thorough I think.” The rituals he mentioned also provided a great opportunity to experiment with this. It gave the band a direct line to their audience in their own language. “It comes in heavier than the same lyrics in English. I want to explore that further, but whether that would be the next record already we’ll see. We’re not looking too far into the future…” Indeed, that’s also something Amenra is facing now, people who think the Mass series has come to an end with this. Nonsense according to Colin: “That hasn’t been said. But that will come when it comes. We’re not going to shout 2027 because it fits into the strategic timeline. That’s not how it works for us.”


Amenra is the Church of Ra and it is a collective of people looking and working in the same direction. That’s why band members’ ‘projects’ don’t feel like stand-alone affairs. They are islands within the spheres of Amenra, at least that’s how it feels from the outside. “Yes, some people don’t like to hear that, but I feel the same way. You see riffs that don’t fit into Amenra and therefore are cast in a different mould. But also, one guitarist takes a riff from another into a project. It’s nice to see that there are projects that kind of hang on to us and then stand as a house in another genre. That creates an entourage of people who are doing well. That stimulates, inspires, everyone asks each other’s opinions and helps each other. And that’s very cool to see.” Of all the projects, CHVE feels to me as the most directly connected to Amenra. There’s plenty going on with that too, says Colin: “Well, from me it never has to be so much of a big deal. Things happen all the time. I recently did a ritual with a friend who has a workshop for unrecognised loss called Beyond the Spoken. Together we do rituals one-on-one and the latest one was the loss of the embrace which has everything to do with the pandemic. I also recorded some for Grauzone…”

“Oh, I’m also working on an opera, where I’m playing with CHVE. That’s with a soprano, a double bass known as Innerwoud and we’re playing in Rotterdam in August.” I ask Colin what he actually listens, reads and watches himself. Surely he has to find inspiration somewhere between all the doing? He gets that question very often seemingly… “I always have to disappoint then, because I hardly read. I am too restless for that. For me, inspiration mainly comes from doing. For example that bronze casting, you are doing something and see bronze lying around and an idea comes into your head. I listen a lot to the Irish folk band Lankum and the new 7″ by Broeder Dieleman. I recorded a Dutch-language record with that a fortnight ago; CHVE and Broeder Dieleman. Apart from that, I listen to music that we are working on or that I need to do something on. I meet up with people a lot… But films, books, directors… Unfortunately.”


What is Colin’s relationship actually like with his own music and to himself as an artist? We don’t want to start talking about the hang-ups, but as an artist he is someone who goes beyond many others to a point where you can only find similarity in performance art. Does he see a separation between the person and the work? At this, he has to laugh a little: “No, I am just. Identity forms around what you do and make. With us, it is so closely linked to that bond we have had for half our lives. We live in service of that band, get inspired, travel, all for that… But I don’t mind that, it just adds up. I don’t keep up an act, it takes no effort.”

But what is that band then? Why is it such a monolithic thing that we can understand a priori, but cannot interpret? The accompanying press photo shows it nicely; the band in the foreground with behind them a pyramid-shaped mountain of rubble jutting towards the sky. The spot is near Kortrijk. Colin thinks for a moment: “We see it as building our fortress. We build that and everything is very clear to us. Every decision we make is right or wrong within that thing, but what that thing is is hard to pinpoint. There are people who understand very quickly what we do and what it is about, without having to be interpreted. There are also people to whom the whole thing passes by, who find it just a boring thing. That is also allowed. The why it’s right or just not, I don’t know. It’s a feeling. It’s an experiential kind of music and everything we do, how it looks and how we send it to people, that has to stand like a house.”

“When we started this band, we knew we didn’t want to be just a band. After 20 years, I can only conclude that we are getting closer and closer to the one goal we set for ourselves. And that is to form a gesamtkunstwerk, where there is no stick between us. The longer that lasts, the harder it becomes, the harder it is to get that down.”

The Devil’s Trade returns for Roadburn Redux

It’s the second stream performance at Roadburn for Dávid Makó, a.k.a. The Devil’s Trade. Unfortunate, because his performances are ones that work best in the intimacy that a live setting only can provide. But for Roadburn Redux, it promises to be a special one too and if ‘The Call of the Iron Peak’ is any indication, one you wouldn’t want to miss.

Call of the Iron Peak 

Dávid was kind enough to talk to us about this show, the last year and the new record:

How are you doing?
I don’t want to complain, as I am much luckier than others. Although, I live from day to day.

For those not familiar with you, should there be any, how would you introduce The Devil’s Trade?
It is always a difficult task. I usually say that I stand alone on the stage and perform sad songs. But for someone who is not into undeground music it is almost impossible to describe unusual soundscapes, so I stopped trying. I just read a nice description about my music:

“Perfect music for dramatically walking away from a 1900’s town on fire” – Factory92

Q: What is it you draw from, creating your music? You’re also quite outspoken on social media on environmental and ethical issues, is that something that makes its way into your music?
D: I started to write most of my songs when I was late from somewhere, and yet I was sitting with my instrument humming almost perfectly unconscious. Such an uncomfortable excuse for being late. When the song reaches a certain point, which can be different every time, I stop and hopefully recorded it somehow. I have a huge amount of notes like this and when I feel like or when I am forced by a deadline I look through them to see which are the ones that are worth the struggle. Yes those issues you mentioned are there in the songs but I’m trying so hard not to write protest songs and keep them in a more personal point of view as the main inspiration is always the energies that I can not use in any other way. Writing and performing music and also martial arts and lifting heavy things are my therapy.


Q: I wondered if there’s something of your origin interwoven in your music, something of folk music from your country?
D: Yes, very much. Hungarian folk music is a very ancient and deep tradition for what my knowledge and time is not enough. But as I’m getting older it becomes the main inspiration musically and spiritually. It is more like a shelter for me. Something that helps me disconnect from modern life and find a way back to real values.

Q:You’ve signed with Season of Mist after a long time playing shows with a wide range of artists. How did it happen and has this changed things for you as an artist?
D: It is all about the hard work of my manager and old friend Zoltan Jakab. He has way more faith in me than I would ever have. So we started to work together in 2016 and the first turning point was when I supported Crippled Black Phoenix in Budapest. I will always be grateful to Justin Greaves and Nathan Gray for taking me on the first Europe Tours and Timo Siems of Golden Antenna for releasing my second album. From there more and more doors opened till the point where I had to record three songs for Michael Berberian.

Signing to Season Of Mist is something I would have never dreamed of. So many of my favourite artists have worked with them! I almost feel inappropriate when time to time I realize I became a Season Of Mist artist. It gives great inspiration to evolve, and their trust makes me feel safe. Also gives me opportunities I could have never had.


Q: You have performed with artists from black metal to folk, what makes you pick that sort of tour mates, because I imagine you’ll not always play to a receptive audience if you open, for example, for Der Weg Einer Freiheit. What are your thoughts on this? And what sort of listener do you feel your music speaks to?
D: I’m not the one who picks. I was invited to join these tours and I said yes immediately every time. I guess I’m lucky because whoever invites me must have thought it through before asking me. The Der Weg tour was the greatest experience for me so far. Of course, you can have a few disrespectful people that makes it harder to perform but I can deal with them and the majority of the audience always appreciate making them shut up. Supporting Der Weg was a huge proof for me that the energies I can give can work with any audience that is open and honest and doesn’t want easy satisfaction.

Q: You released your latest record in the middle of the pandemic. How much of an impact has the current situation had on your plans?
D: Nothing surprising. Tours and shows got cancelled. I would have played at Roadburn which is just like being signed by SOM the greatest thing that could happen to me as a musician. What can be said about this that is not already said a thousand times. It is a disaster and the financial loss is the easier part of it. It took away the main reason I’m doing this, the most important part of the therapy as I mentioned before and the financial part of it makes it impossible to go a real therapist that I would really need now or I would rather say I have needed for a long time.

Q: Can you tell us more about ‘The Call of the Iron Peak’? Where or what is this peak, and why is it calling us?
D: The peak is in the Austrian Alps where I first experienced absolute peace in the deafening silence. I don’t know about others but I have been searching for that peace for my whole life and I didn’t even know about it. I’m not sure if it is a calling for others but It would help everyone a lot.

Q: Musically, ‘The Call of the Iron Peak’ is obviously in line with your previous work. As your t-shirts say: happy music is shit. Yet, the sound is more open, more gloomy.
D: I guess it is a natural evolution. My sound and the way I sing changes a little every time I play according to my momentary sate and how the energies can flow.


Q: This performance will be your second ‘live performance’ at Roadburn. What makes Roadburn so special to you, that you have gone to such great lengths for this performance. And as a music fan, what does Roadburn mean to you?
D: If we can say the live stream I had on their Instagram last April was the first one then this will be the second time. But the first one was only an accoustic gig from my living room with my dog panic sleeping in front of me. For me Roadburn is the most important festival and the highest peak of the underground. I never had the chance to attend and never been such a lunatic to think of playing at it. I had four shows at Eurosonic a year ago and after one of the gigs Zoltan messaged me that Walter was there and saw me. That was one of the greatest moment of my life.

Q: What can you tell about the location of the Tárnok Quarry, and why did you pick it for this performance? What can we expect?
D: The Roman Empire started to mine there, and it had been a quarry till the Russian came in. They made it a landfill… Later in the early 90s someone had the chance to buy it for dimes. He reopened it and it became a rentable location. The second Blade Runner and one of the Hellboy movies were shot there for example. I was invited to shoot a pilot there but it never made it to the tv. So when I was asked to perform at Roadburn Redux I wanted a very special location and it is one.

Q: What future plans do you have right now?
D: I have some projects to work on but I can’t talk about them till they are public. Some black metal, dark ambient, traditional folk music and a band version of The Devil’s Trade.

Originally published on All pictures by Justina Lukosiute.


XieJia: the internationalism in metal from Hongkong

As I set myself the goal to interview bands from each country in the world, obviously, I set myself up for disaster in some cases. Hongkong is a separate country in some forms and not in others. Yet it is a region with a separate identity and a different history. It flies a different flag and is the stomping ground for many creative, interesting bands who balance the west and east in their art. XieJia is one of those bands.

XieJia has been around for a long time and has gone through many incarnations. Their style shifted, and so did their names and line-ups, but the group remains. The topic of their homeland is complicated, but their passion for music is not. Thanks to Michael Leung, for taking the time to answer my questions.

How is XieJia doing, and would you be so kind as to introduce yourselves (so it is clear who is answering)? 

I am Michael Leung, the guitarist from XieJia. We are now recording a new single, which will be released around late 2022 to early 2023. However, for some reason, our members are now living in two separate countries and will not do live performances in the next few years. 

How was the band started, and can you tell us a bit about its connection to the previous bands Orthon and Dark Vampire? Why did the name change?

Dark Vampire was formed in 2002 and disbanded in 2006. Some of the band members reorganized the band and changed the name to Orthon due to the change in the music style. Afterwards, Orthon was disbanded in 2012, and XieJia was formed by some members of Orthon. The music style was changed evidently from symphonic black metal to extreme black metal if we compared the music style from Orthon and the early XieJia. However, I think XieJia is a special case that even though the line-up and music style has obviously changed, we didn’t change the name of our band. Most of the new members agreed to use XieJia as the band name during this decade so we continued to use this name to represent our band. 

As I understand, you’ve gone through quite some changes in the lineup; how has it affected your sound? 

Our line-up has been frequently changed until 2020. It has caused some significant changes in our music. In the beginning, our music is strongly inspired by some traditional black metal and death metal bands like Dimmu Borgir, Fleshgod Apocalypse and CHTHONIC etc. Due to the change in our line-up, our music has become more diversified. We are now inspired by some metalcore and modern metal bands like Trivium, Periphery, DEVILOOF etc.

Your last release was ‘Order of the King’ from 2016. What can you tell me about the themes and stories you are telling through your music on this record?

The central theme of ‘Order of King” is mainly about some traditional stories and Histories about wars in the Orient. We hope our audience can know more about our homeland through our music. 

What is your writing and recording process like as a band?

We usually jam in the rehearsal room and record the demos at home. Afterwards, we will modify the demos and re-record it and send the tracks to sound engineers for mixing and mastering. 

You’ve released some new music this year; what is the direction you are taking XieJia in from here? 

As I have mentioned, our music style has strongly changed to be more modern and diversified due to the change of our line up. Both of the tracks that we’ve released this year can strongly show that, especially our newest track, Mourning The Apocalypse. This track contains some metalcore-like breakdown, Orchestral, and clear chorus that we have never tried before. Hope that can let our audience feel fresh to our music.

I wanted to ask you about the theme of Chinese folklore. Can you say something about how your origin in Hong Kong explicitly finds room there?

This question is a tough question. Due to some historical factors, sometimes we strongly agree we are part of Chinese folklore and sometimes we think we are a bit different or even an outsider from the traditional idea of  “Chinese folklore”. That’s why some of our early music expressed a strong connection with the theme of Chinese folklore which our newest music didn’t. Our newest music mostly focuses on some more general ideas on human beings such as greed, betrayal and wars etc. since we don’t want to just focus on the theme of Chinese folklore. We would like to show that we have a broader and more international understanding of our world. However, such ideas are still strongly connected to the idea of some Traditional stories and Histories in the Orient or the “Chinese folklore”. 

How does, in your opinion, the Hong Kong metal scene relate to that of mainland China? Do you feel like a Hong Kong band or a Chinese band?

From my point of view, I don’t really think Hong Kong metal is related to mainland China musically. Most of the Hong Kong metal music theme is about Hong Kong or the global. It shows that what the Hong Kong metal musicians care about are either our homeland Hong Kong (due to some historical reasons, there are some differences between Hong Kong and mainland China in some sense) or the whole world.

I don’t think we are a Hong Kong band or Chinese band since I don’t think distinguishing bands by their geographical area is appropriate. What I would like to say is that we are a black metal band on planet Earth and we appreciate musicians and audiences around the globe. 

Can you say something about the scene in Hong Kong? How did it get started? Which bands are really worth checking out?

To my mind, the scene in Hong Kong is getting much better (if we compare it to the past 20 years). However, I think it’s a global trend due to the growth of the internet. We can easily share our music on the internet nowadays. Also, there are tons of new musicians in Hong Kong who put a lot of effort into their works. Unfortunately, due to the strict restrictions of live performance (due to Covid-19) by the Hong Kong Government, the live music industry is undergoing a hard time, and many live houses are closed down. It’s strongly affected the scene of independent music in Hong Kong. 

There are quite a lot; here are some personal suggestions: The ancient metal Gainorva Jason kui (a solo guitar artist), Meowmeow, Mourning, Thy Truth, NiLiu, Relinquish, Soul of Ears, and Uchu Yurei.

Do you use traditional instruments in your music? From some of your videos, it seems you do.

Yes, we have tried to use an Oriental traditional instrument called Zither in one of our track ‘Kings of Hell’.  Also, we will try to use more traditional Japanese instruments in our upcoming tracks.

I’m fascinated by the looks of the band in ‘corpse paint’, as it is not the typical black metal look. Can you say something about the aesthetics of XieJia? (this picture in particular)

We took reference to some black metal bands’ outlook in the early years. However, due to the intended change of our music style, we have abandoned the traditional black metal outlook and have some casual dressing during performances.  

What are your future plans? When can we expect a new release?

As I have mentioned, we are recording a new single which is about a famous Japanese historical event, Honnō-ji Incident. The progress of the recording is almost reaching its end, and we are excited to release this track. We hope the song can be released from late 2022 to early 2023.

If XieJia was a type of food, what would it be and why?

I will say XieJia is “Swiss Chicken Wings” which is a famous food that can be found in Hong Kong. It strongly represents the culture diversity in Hong Kong, expressing the Western and the Eastern Culture. As the “Swiss Chicken Wings”, our music reflects the diversity of cultures such as the Orient, Japanese (The instruments and the myth, story and history inspired the theme of our music) and Continental Europe (The origin of black metal) etc. 

Aravt: thundering from the Mongolian steppes

Mongolia is an unfamiliar place to most of us. Vaguely known through historical references, such as the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan. Even longer ago, the place where the Xiongnu people lived, the likely ancestors of the Huns who burned Europe under Attila (with the same surname). Currently it is a remote land we know little about, Yet metal appears to have deep roots in Mongolia. Everyone knows The Hu, with their mix of tribal music and metal, but there is much more. We talk to one of the bands representing Mongolia in metal: Aravt.

A vast country with vast steppes and farmlands, perhaps the most sparsely populated country in the world (according to some sources, that’s not a maybe). Thanks to a band like The Hu, the country is back in our sights, and despite being sandwiched between China and Russia, it has its own identity, history and sound. And you can hear that in Aravt’s music.

A vast land for heavy metal

How is Aravt doing after the pandemic?

Not too bad, we have completed recording our third album and preparing for its release. 

Can you start by introducing yourself or yourselves? How did you guys get into metal music? What was the album that started it all?

Frontman – Nyamaa

Lead guitar – Tugsuu

Guitar – Orgil

Bass – Bayart

Drums – Ganaa

Everybody has a different story. Some of us started in high school, and some of us just started recently. You can notice some influences from Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy in our music. Most commonly, we were listening to Children of Bodom, Slipknot, Cannibal Corpse, early albums of Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth. 

Can you tell me more about the band’s origins and how you guys got together? Do you have any other musical projects going? What does the name mean?

Our band was formed back in 2014 with Tugsuu, Ganaa, Nyamaa and two previous members Voovka and Battur and we released our first album, ‘Nomadic warriors’. This album is about legendary warriors of the old times, great battles, historical events, and nomadic culture. You can find a music video for the song ‘A Plea’ online. After former guitarist Turuu was replaced by Orgil, we released a second album called ‘Empire’ – the concept is the same. The ‘Last Light’ music video was released from this album. The third album was recorded with new bass player Bayart, our newest member of the band in its current form. The writing of this album was much different than the other two melodic death metal albums. This time you will hear more riffs, death metal, brutality, and aggression in it. These are the only projects we are working on as musicians. The meaning of The Aravt is the system of 10 soldiers of Chinggis (Dzjengis, ed.) Khan. This is a war management system that divides the army into ten units. 

In your music, you make some references to Mongolian history, for example, in the artwork. Why is this important to you, and what are particular aspects you find inspiring?

One of our friends is an artist. His name is Abo. We asked him to draw us a warrior for the album cover. He did a great job, and it goes well with the album theme. Everybody has his imagination of Mongolian warriors, we liked his perspective.

Your last album ‘Guren’ was released in 2017. What is your process like as a band when writing new music? Are you working on something right now?

Tugsuu composed everything on both albums. Then the rest of the band reviews it, and makes a few minor changes before recording. At the moment, we are focused on the third album release, we haven’t yet agreed on the final mastering, but we are sure it will be ready near future.

On the third album, we mainly focused on ourselves, i.e. we played everything that we wanted. It doesn’t have a single concept or theme. It is different from the two other albums, but we tried to keep the atmosphere of Aravts metal music perception. It has many different contrasts in every song. Furthermore, it might sound more death metal than melodeath.

What do you hope people take away from your music? Do you have a specific message or theme you want to convey, and what do you hope people will learn after listening to Aravt?

Our music is straightforward, true, and honest, with no hidden messages. It is exactly what you hear and feel – pure flow of energy, sacrifice, raw power of warriors clashing on the battlefield. It is about brotherhood, honesty and dedication. It is about great times when kings and generals ruled the world.

What are, according to you, the most important bands from Mongolia that we may not know about?

If we represent outer Mongolia Altan Urag was the first band to embrace national folk style with metal music. Ayasiin Sallhi is the first death metal band, who started from 1985 – they made extreme metal available in Mongolia. Nisvanis are other pioneers of rock music, which made it mainstream in our country. Growl of Clown is currently a growing metalcore band. Karmatic is one of the finest black metal groups from Mongolia. I haven’t mentioned inactive bands – which are also as important as currently active bands and play a crucial role in passing on metal music to the next generation. Unfortunately, many had to break up for their own reasons.

There are a few bands that are frequently mentioned that use Mongolian influences in their music, such as The Hu, Tengger Cavalry and Nine Treasures. Only the first one is actually from Mongolia, the others from Outer Mongolia. How has the success of these bands influenced the Mongolian metal scene?

They are all Mongolian bands, but divided in inner and outer Mongolia. We appreciate “the Hu” for evolving the Mongolian metal scene concept to the world.

That is the reference that Mongolians use: we are Outer or north Mongolia. Nine Treasures visited us several times before during the music festivals. It is our privilege to play with fellow Mongolians on the same stage.

What is the scene like for you? Is it centred in Ulaanbaatar or is it more widespread? Is metal accepted in your country as an art form?

 It is still growing in our country. At this stage, it is a genre of music that you can find mostly in the capital of the country; still, you can find some metalheads in other towns but not as much as in Ulaanbaatar.

Do you use any special instruments or traditional music elements in the music of Aravt and if so, what are they?

The horse fiddle was used on both released albums. “Nuudliin daichid” was the song from the first album where it was used; however, the goal was not to use national music elements but to go with the music the way it sounds. Outro from the second album, which also used this instrument, might have some traditional feelings to it. You will understand once you hear it. 

Metal music faces a lot of oppression in some parts of the world. Do you face any censorship or oppression of metal culture and music in Mongolia?

Fortunately, we passed the phase where this type of music was oppressed and prohibited a few decades ago. We do whatever we want and never have problems with that. 

Are you or any members religious?

Every single one of us is atheist; we are not religious at all, especially in Buddhism. Our song from the first album, called “superstition” or “suseg” defines what the relation of Aravt to any kind of religion is. It is referred to as blindfolded by religion, you will never see the truth.

What future plans do you currently have as a band?

Sustain and survive the financial disadvantage in the metal music scene of Mongolia, convey metal culture to the next generation, spread metal in our country and enjoy metal ourselves. 

If Aravt was a type of food, what would it be and why? 

Interesting reference; it must be something raw, bloody with a high amount of caffeine. 

Primaeval: Full on Metal from Pakistan

Metal is a strange beast, and it emerges in places that you wouldn’t normally expect sometimes. One of those is Pakistan. Not the first place to think of when hearing heavy metal music, right? Let alone the often blasphemous but always rebellious black metal. Primaeval is the band that is changing all that.

With deep roots and a complex series of influences, their sound offers something new and fresh, but also is an expression from a band that breaks multiple stereotypes you may have of their country of origin. Metal has often been a male-dominated genre, and to have a band from Pakistan with a lady on vocals is groundbreaking. And as admitted by the band, the scene doesn’t treat women well, yet here they are. Paving the way for a change.

Get to know Primaeval, as Farhan Rathore kindly takes time to answer my questions and share more about his band, the metal scene in Pakistan and more. 

Fighting for acceptance: Primaeval

How is Primaeval doing?

Primaeval is doing pretty well, although there are a lot of challenges we face as individuals and a band also, like lack of exposure to heavy metal and lack of acceptance from society for our extreme style of music.

How did you folks meet and what were your individual inspirations to start making extreme music?

Farhan Rathore was the guy actively doing heavy metal music for 12+ years who went to his old friends ( Rumi and Athar ) and discussed the idea of forming a band that can showcase all sides of heavy metal. Hence creating a unique sound. Later the band found Byzma and we loved her vocals. All of us have pretty common musical inspirations, mostly old-school but also modern metal sounds. The bands we all love are Katatonia, Electric Wizard, Burzum, Candlemass, Opeth, Empyrium, Draconian, Gojira, Black Sabbath, Emperor, Celtic Frost, and the list goes on.

Am I correct in seeing that you folks are in various other bands and projects? Can you say something more about that? 

Farhan had 2 bands prior to this, Athar was associated with a band also. But as of now, we have no side projects. And we are all totally committed to Primaeval.

What kind of idea is behind Primaeval? Who are the main inspirations for your band?

The idea behind Primaeval is to bring a sound that has never been heard in our part of the world (South Asia or Asia in general). We are inspired by Progressive music, Doom Metal and elements of Death and Black Metal. We are basically a band that ranges from extreme sounds to very emotional melodies. And we want to create our own sound of genre if you want to put it that way.

I’d like to know more about the story you are telling with your music. The name of your EP is ‘Horcrux’, which appears to be a Harry Potter reference.

The main idea behind our EP was to put out songs that were personally close to us and some of our work that would let people know why we are different from the contemporary metal bands in our region. One of the songs named “Nocturne (Alternative Version) is a chunk from our full length album. This album speaks about our individual and collective sorrow and mental health related issues maybe at points. And about the EP name, yes of course we are Harry Potter fans lol. And the idea was to establish a name that makes our EP immortal for us at least. It is very close to all of us. So that is that.

What is the process for you in writing and recording the record?

Our writing and recording process is very simple. We are at the studio every weekend, from the evening to the next morning. We take our music writing very religiously, and we don’t compromise. We have spent almost a year recording and writing the EP. Farhan does the lyrics writing, while Athar and Rumi are always creating instrumentals that can draw the sound we are looking for. It’s a constant experiment with scales and tunings. We love it this way. We want to stand out.

Which bands should people really check out?

Yeah we are strictly metal. We’ve always been. Farhan’s previous band is listed in the archives as well. But with our latest EP, Metal Archives labelled it as “Not so metal. And rather a rock EP”. Which offended us since we don’t understand their point with that. But we will be patient and try again once our full length album is out. Because that will be explosive. We can promise people that. So as of now, we have left chasing Metal Archives to be acknowledged or recognized. Because our listeners are our bosses, and if we are metal to them, we are metal for everyone. Platforms need to stop making things complicated for artists with original music.

There’s a general idea that not much metal is made in your part of the world. Pakistan, however, seems to have a lively scene. What is it like and which bands are really the originators? What styles are prevalent? Basically, tell me everything.

Good question. Presently, Pakistan is pretty dull in Heavy metal area. There are hardly 4 to 6 bands actively putting out music. The mainstream music here is mostly rap and RnB. Pop also is a very popular genre in this part of the world. People treat metal as something evil and satanic labels are put on metal artists. We have been subjected to a lot of hatred and abuse due to that. Nobody is willing to give Metal bands shows or even market our music. Although Pakistan has a good history in Metal back in the 90’s and early 2000’s with bands like Dusk, Karachi Butcher clan, Dionysus, Multinational Corporations and others. Right now, Takatak is the standout band in our local scene. And we are trying to make our mark in the metal scene also. So let’s hope the new generation can get exposed to good metal music. Metal is treated as a lower-grade music genre. Although that’s a totally bad idea of treating any genre.

Which bands should people really check out?

I’d suggest people to listen to Dusk, Takatak and Karakoram to get a wider picture of how diverse our heavy music can be. And you can listen to our work also. Lol

Can you shed some light on what place metal has in society, if there is any censorship level, and what you can and cannot sing about? Just for context, in neighbouring Iran, metal bands have been prosecuted.

Metal has no respect in our country, and there is little to no support for metal artists. There is no such censorship on music other than nudity or blasphemy. Since we are in a country that is very extreme towards religion. And again, society treats metal as a source of noise and a symbol of satanism. So it’s very heartbreaking for artists and listeners. Because there are no shows unless artists organize the shows themselves. It’s not a good place for Metal. And I have heard about Iran and Afghanistan, it’s very sad to see musicians being prosecuted anywhere. Art should be promoted rather than being choked.

A metal band from Pakistan is for many people a rarity, a metal band from Pakistan with a female member even more so. You mentioned in a different interview that women were not well-treated in the scene. Can you elaborate on that and why this is the case?

Yes, a female working for a Heavy metal band is a rarity here. And women are generally hurled with offensive and sexist comments here and there, generally in this part of the world. Imagine a woman making metal music in a place where men are not safe with their art. But luckily, Byzma is an outspoken woman who can stand up for herself. And she has us to support her. And we hope she stays safe from all the abuse that women can face here. She has such a beautiful voice.

Is there anything from your origins that you put into your music? Like traditional instruments, musical themes, etc.

We generally don’t. But in a couple of the songs of our full-length album are in scales that are used in our traditional “Qawwali” music. You will love those songs. We are working on fusing traditional scales and instruments to establish our geographical identity in our sound also.

What are your future plans right now?

The immediate plan is to finish with our full-length album recording and then write the next album. We are also looking to collaborate with different local artists and bands that are interested in making a different brand of heavy music.

If Primaeval was a food, what would it be and why?

Hahahaahah it would be “BIRYANI” since biryani is the most loved food in our region. You should come here and try it. We’d love to host you for some days and show you around 🙂

Solar Temple: Blood Meridian mysticism

Not before has the project from M. (Fluisteraars, Nusquama) and O. (Iskandr, Turia) performed live on stage. Where else to have a first than on the very nexus of dark, heavy music than Roadburn? They’ll perform their commissioned piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’. Time to find out what we can expect.

Solar Temple was one of the most spectacular acts on Roadburn Redux. This interview preceded the performance and was published on Never Mind The Hype. It also was supposed to be part of the daily Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. It’s been forever and one could argue that it may not be super relevant anymore, but I was proud of this as it is one of my favourite artists involved in this. In fact, I did a new interview a year later, which can be read here

Into the beyond with Solar Temple

You have been working together on making music for some time. How did this project come about and where do you draw from?

The idea for the band came from a recording session in which we flouted every possible rule. We were guided by instinct and spontaneity and the resulting demo had an alienating and unique sound. It went down pretty well in the underground scene and soon we had inspiration for a full album. Our interest in old, experimental and psychedelic music resulted in a strange impression of sounds that we are now trying to explore further and further.

How is your process in co-creating music for Solar Temple?

Unlike our other musical collaborations, such as in Iskandr, where one of us is clearly the standard-bearer of a creative vision, Solar Temple comes about completely without any preconceived division of roles. We both take care of all aspects of the whole: from composition to performance to production. This works mainly because we both want to push our personal boundaries in all aspects of music.

Until recently, it was a purely studio-oriented project, where the creative process in particular, was of much greater importance than any notion of an end goal, more important than any image of how it should be. An embrace of spontaneous creation. This is significantly less the case in many of our other projects: there, composition and purposeful work toward a clear creative vision is actually decisive. Both impulses can be satisfying and productive. Maintaining separate projects to pursue both avenues proves to be a good method for us.

The style, feel and sound of Solar Temple is exceptional. In the artwork there is a lot of classical imagery, marble, the term Dionysian is used on the debut ‘Rays of Brilliance’, the word transcendental is often used. In short, what is the meaning?

It’s hard to add to the description, as you already put it here. The references in the artwork and lyrics are not very literal but translate the feeling we are trying to introduce the listener to; ideally, it opens doors to an experience that is beyond the mundane.

What makes you guys choose to do a live performance and then also in the form of an online version?

First of all, because Walter asked us to make a commissioned piece together, and we were already interested in doing that. That this would be under the name Solar Temple was far from certain. The restrictions on getting together, among other things, meant that we were soon experimenting with ways of writing and rehearsing music in pairs. Only later did we realize that this method might work well as a duo, also for the end product, and we decided to focus entirely on a duo performance. This fitted in very well with what we were already working on in Solar Temple. When we were clear that we were going to perform this piece of music under the name of this umbrella project, it released a lot of creative energy in us.

You have worked on a commissioned piece for Roadburn before. What makes it so appealing for you to make something that, in a sense, is a one-off?

It is indeed a challenge to put so much energy into something that is somewhat ephemeral in nature. I think it’s just a huge creative challenge for both of us: it’s a kind of external motivation that you don’t often encounter as a relatively obscure underground artist. Normally you make something, and you put a lot of energy into it, and then you hope that there is a demand for it. In this case, it’s the other way around: the demand is already there, from Roadburn who say: “we believe in you, go make something” and then you go and make it happen. Combined with a concrete deadline and the emphasis on live performance, this is just totally different from how you normally operate. And that is challenging and refreshing.

The creation of the piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’ was a deconstruction. Can explain what that means?

We can be brief about this: in the studio you can do anything, a live show with two musicians is much more limited. That necessitates deconstructing what we want with Solar Temple. The rest the Roadburn Redux viewers will see for themselves!

Can listeners expect a continuation of the already ‘familiar’ Solar Temple sound?

It really will be completely different. Not completely unrecognizable for those who are familiar with our further output (also in our other bands) but really completely new.

Will this also be a harbinger of a new release?

We shall see.

What would you like to see at Roadburn?

We’re especially curious about everything concerning Neptunian Maximalism and of course what our friends in Dead Neanderthals have in store for us!

I hope you didn’t miss this back in lockdown-days; Solar Temple laid down the Cormac McCarthy-an mysticism with a vengeance. 

Soul Glo: changing the shape of punk to come

Remember when Refused dropped that record, “The Shape of Punk to Come”? Or is that an ‘old guy’ thing… Anyway, Soul Glo fits that description very well. An injection of black music into punk rock with a record so full of influences, intertextuality and loaded messages that you can’t really get around it in good conscience. Soul Glo is hardcore as it should be, on substance and not by putting it very big on their shirts.

Bands like Zulu, Scowl, Ballista, Gel, Move and so on (seriously, fill it up, everyone should check out these bands) show that hardcore is not dead, and also provides a platform for diversity, inclusiveness and a stage for the issues that are going on right now. So the new sound, and Soul Glo is part of that. The band is from Philadelphia, and there is clearly plenty to be angry about, and they show it with wry humor and a musical arsenal that rocks. Oh and live they are bold too.

‘Diaspora Problems’ has been out for a while now, and soon the band will also be coming to our capital city along. We asked Pierce Jordan to talk about it, so you can get to know them in advance. get to know the band.

Hey Soul Glo, how are you doing? What’s happening over there? How did Soul Glo get started and how did you get into punk/hardcore music yourselves?

Soul Glo got started in 2014. We got into punk and hardcore from our families and friends.

Did you like the second installation of ‘Coming to America’? And why did you pick the name Soul Glo, which as far as I know can only be a reference to the first film?

I thought it was just okay. It was nice that they restored the original cast but it wasn’t that funny. We picked the name as a reference to a classic piece of Black movie history as well as an explanation of how music represents an individuals innermost self.

What can you tell about that fantastic record ‘Diaspora Problems’. In your words, what is the album telling us and what was the process like to make this gem? 

The album is telling you about aspects of my life and emotions and how they reflect a commonality of experience that any given listener may have the chance to tap into. The process was long, arduous, sweaty, and fulfilling.

What is your approach to music like, in terms of influences, genres, styles? I hear so much things on ‘Diaspora Problems’. From heavy metal to post-punk/noiserock, trap/rap and do I hear ska? Where does this all come from? And does this tie into the extensive list of guest musicians on the album.

Our approach to our music is collaborative and a result of all our influences. It comes from all we enjoy about music, but all we enjoy isn’t reflected on this album. There is much more for us to offer. The guest musicians are friends of the band. We admire their work and want them reflected as a part of ours.

Another thing I was dazzled by is the lyrics and titles. This complete play with brackets, capitals, etc. to add layers of meaning to every title, but also that a song can switch from aggressive hiphop-like lyrics (I don’t know how else to express this) to poetic expressions of dark emotions. So, can you say something about your approach to writing, and what inspirations shine through in your diversity on this album? 

My approach to lyric writing is pretty much based on a combination of my influences, which include Audre Lorde for her emotion, sentimentality, and analysis of both, The Watts Prophets for their intertwined sardonic humor and vengeful anger, and Tim Kinsella for his technical use of alliteration and consonance. I’m influenced by the way people talk in the city we live in, Philadelphia. 

The way I talk in interviews and around my friends and family is different because of the way I was raised. Some people are like this, and some people aren’t. I like to show both in my writing because we are all made up of different selves that come out at different times in order to survive in this world.

When I listened to this record the first time, I was blown away. I was taken back to ‘The Shape of Punk to Come’ by the Refused, thinking: here it is, the shape of punk to come. Punk/hardcore is undergoing a massive shift, and Soul Glo is in my opinion part of that movement, but what is happening in American punk/hardcore?

In the United States there’s both innovation and a lot of celebration and worship of previous styles from past years. I imagine we aren’t very different from the rest of the world in this way.

The hardcore/punk scene has historically been pretty white. I read on Brooklyn Vegan that you had said: “I wanted the album to feel like it was a very broad look at American music, and highlighting all of the best Black influences of American music.” To me, this can only be to the benefit of the music genre, which has only had some minor links to hiphop through hardcore. What would be the shift you’d love to see happen through music like yours in punk?

I’d like to see more perspectives and types of personhood represented within the genre and in all genres in general. That’s what pushes the forms forward.

There are some specific references on your album I understand, and I wish I could write the “Every Rap Reference on Diaspora Problems” article. Do you hope people will pick up on certain artists specifically?

I do. Everyone seems to hear the Cannibal Ox references but not many people have said anything about the 2Pac references.

So punk and hiphop are both styles that speak up against what is wrong in the world. I think that’s the most broad way to describe it. I would think that there is more than ever to speak up against (though I bet every generation says that), but your home country is particularly divided. What are the important messages Soul Glo wants to share with the world, what issues particularly come up in your music? 

Though I’m sure it’s already clear, the message that I personally want to share with the rest of the world is that the problems that our country creates for those of the rest of the planet are largely not supported by the majority of the citizens of the United States. They don’t give a shit about us either.

How did you end up on Epitaph, what’s the story? 

Essentially Jeremy Bolm extended all his resources to us and single-handedly changed our lives. This includes setting up a meeting with Epitaph, though the label was already aware of us.

You’re gearing up for a European tour. Have you been over the big pond before? What are your expectations? Are you looking forward to visiting the Netherlands?

We’ve been to Europe once before, and even though we had our share of difficulties, the shows were great. The Netherlands in many ways is the polar opposite of the United States, so yes, visiting again will be quite a treat.

So what are the future plans for Soul Glo right now?

A whole lot of shows.

If Soul Glo was a dish, not a fictive hair product, what would it be and why?

Not sure entirely, but it would probably be very spicy.


Zvijer – The Barbaric Roots of the Balkans

From the former Yugoslavian Republic hails the band Zvjer, a multi-national entity that brings a type of black metal that feels and tastes like its origins.  Balkanian Barbaric Black Metal is what they like to call it themselves. The band has been going strong since 2013 and last year they released their second full length, titled ‘Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta)’.

Zvijer is Serbo-Croatian for beast. The band is currently located in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Knjaz is the bandleader and founder, running the horde since its early days.  It’s not his only project, he has many, and they cross borders. Yet, with a small scene, there are also many challenges. We discuss these at length, including the folklore and ideas that inspire the band in their unique brand of black metal.

Thanks to Knjaz and drummer Insanus for their time to answer my questions.

How is Zvijer doing? How has the pandemic affected you guys and your band?
KNJAZ: Greetings. All is well. A new album is coming out soon and we are preparing some new songs. I would say that this pandemic has not changed many things in our work and attitude towards music, and life in general. We do our jobs, we play, everything is in the best order. Although you can’t travel abroad, it never meant much to us anyway.

First things first, how did Zvijer get started and what has been your path towards the style of music you play as individuals? You also have plenty of other projects, could you tell something about those?
KNJAZ: The former guitarist and I started the band back in the summer of 2013. We wanted to make a band through which we would be able to deal with topics like the cult of night, Balkanian old funeral customs, the dark folklore of the Balkan countries, and so on. Then, in 2016 Insanus join the band and after the first album we continued as a two-man band. We work easiest when the two of us are alone, everything goes faster and without problems. Our music is a reflection of our thoughts and all personal attitudes that we express through words and tones. The basic motive and mover that fuel fires in us is freedom. The absolute freedom we have at work is all we need.

HIBERNUM is a death/black metal band that will release a debut album in the second half of 2021 in their 18 years of existence.
SUTON is a doom metal band that will also release a new album next year after a few years of silence.
BLACK CULT is the parental band of Insanus, it’s also a great black metal.

What does the phrase Barbaric Balkan Black Metal mean for you guys? How did you arrive at this definition of your sound?
KNJAZ: “Balkanian Barbaric Black Metal” is a phrase that we have adopted as the best description of our music. We play black metal, our roots are in the Balkans, and our regions are known for a very cruel and barbaric history with a lot of bloodshed and dead people. It is one of the sources of our inspiration. Therefore, it was natural for us to take that determinant for our sound.

You are about to release a brand new album, titled Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta)’. What can you tell about this album and its concept?
KNJAZ: Yes, our second album “Navia (Zadah Jalovog Svijeta)” is officially out on December 4th, and it will be released by Seance Records from Australia.
The concept behind this material is human alienation from the world. It is possible to function “normally” among people, and at the same time be lonely and cut off from humanity. The idea is to evoke a feeling of isolation and enjoyment in solitude through music and lyrics. Musically, this album is quite different from the previous one, but for us it is a logical step forward. We evolved with sound, so this came to us quite normally, and it’s up to the fans to listen, compare and see if they like the new material or not.

Zvjer by Miroslav Tanasković
Photo by Miroslav Tanasković

What was the writing and recording process like?
INSANUS: Before entering the studio we had some skeletons of the songs, but in the process of creating and recording songs those skeletons were changed almost to the point of unrecognizability, so we can say that we are creating our songs directly in the studio. Having in mind that we are a two-man band, and I’m responsible for all instruments, that proves for us to be the easiest and quickest way of creating music. I recorded all instruments in my own studio. Vocals were recorded at the peak of the first wave of COVID-19  and all studios around Knjaz were closed, so he did his vocals in an improvised studio in his room or attic, I’m not sure, with even more improvised equipment which gave us that raw sound that fits our music perfectly.

As I have not had the luxury to listen to it, can you tell what listeners can expect from this record and in what way your sound is changing from the previous album to this one?
KNJAZ: I could not give an objective answer to this question. People will have to wait a little longer to listen to our album. The material will be available on most major streaming platforms but probably also on many pirate download sites very soon, so it will be available to everyone. In my personal opinion, the album is much better than the first one, but in terms of the evolution of the band. Every song we’ve done, I’m proud of it, but I think “Navia” is the current band’s highlight. I will enjoy it until we release the third album, with which I hope we will be able to surpass this one.

As I understand it, Zvijer is originally from Bosnia but currently ‘based’ in Serbia. Can you explain how that works? And as an outsider, what are the relationships like with other bands and artists from former Yugoslavian countries?
KNJAZ: Zvijer was originated from Banja Luka (Bosnia), I am still in Banja Luka. Insanus is from Rijeka (Croatia), but currently lives in England. Honestly, I wouldn’t know. The internet has made it easier to interact, but we have a fairly small circle of people we work with and are in contact with.

What is the Black Plague Circle?
KNJAZ: If you think of the Black Plague Circle; that is a group of people and bands like Obskuritatem Nigrum Ignis Circuli, Deathcircle, Niteris, Master’s Voice and Void Prayer.

How is the regional scene doing and what bands should people really check out?
KNJAZ: There’s a few good bands in Balkan region; bands like Nadsvest, Arjen, Void Prayer, Old Night, Zlobnik, Zloslut. That is from the metal scene, but I am more into punk bands.

Is there a political component to Zvijer or the regional scene? I couldn’t help but notice some association to certain ‘politically inspired’ bands from a former band member.
KNJAZ: Zvijer has nothing to do with politics. As I said above, all we are interested in the band is the history of Balkan, the concept of death, and dark folklore. We are not politicians but musicians, so there is nothing that would interest us in the world of political malarkey.

Yes, our former member is in NSBM. You see, generally, metal scenes in ex-Yugoslavia countries are quite small, and the black metal scene is even smaller. So at this or that moment, everyone will always be in touch, no matter if you are NSBM, Antifa, Satanist or pagan. So everyone does what they want, we don’t mind as long as it doesn’t touch us. Insanus and I know how we want our music to sound and what it should be inspired by.

What sort of concepts or stories inspire your music? As I understand it folklore is a part of it. I would love to get a bit more insight into what sort of dark folklore it is that inspires you, as it is obviously not familiar to me (and I’m curious).
KNJAZ: These areas are rich in stories about werewolves, vampires, local demons, and also a large and rich part of our history is occupied by Slavic gods. It is all part of us, our origins, our pride and our history. We want our music, in its originality, to have authentic lyrics behind them in topics that are close to us and that are familiar to us. That is the main reason why we write about it. Every slightly larger village here and in rural areas surely has 10 or more stories of local demons, necromancy, vampirism, fear of the night, etc.

What are the future plans for Zvijer at this moment (if the pandemic lets us do normal stuff again)?
KNJAZ: I don’t know what is meant by normal things. We are continuing our plans in this pandemic period as well. We are preparing new songs, we have some concepts that we want to materialize. One is sure, we have no plans of doing any live gigs in the near future.

If Zvijer was a dish, what would it be and why?
KNJAZ: Probably pale white aged bone, torn from a bear’s carcass on mountain Kozara. Someone sees that as a dish.

The Open Gate for Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies

This interview was published in Dutch originally in 2013. It was conducted in autumn that year, at Selim’s house. In March 2014 he had passed away. I published it here in my own translation, as done later in that year for Wyrd’s Flight. For posterity, for remembrance, for a fire that never truly goes out (and websites where this was originally published do). For me personally, this is the defining article I wrote. Nothing will ever top this I think, in intensity of experience and impact on me and my life. The light never falters.

Pictures kindly provided by Brendy Wijdeven and Paul Verhagen

The Devil’s Blood is no more. The band that gained worldwide fame under the rule of bandleader Selim Lemouchi suddenly called it quits early in 2013. The record ‘III: Tabula Rasa or Death and The Seven Pillars’ was released, but after that, this chapter was closed. A few months later, a new band appeared as a support act for Ghost. Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. Lemouchi later played a gig for the Eindhoven home crowd on July 13th in Café Oude St. Joris.
Now the debut album ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ is ready to be released. Time to check how things are going, so on a Sunday afternoon we ring the doorbell at the Lemouchi residence.
Imagine the house at the end of the street. You know, on the corner, the odd one out. The one house where the curtains are not proudly opened wide to let people look inside. It was different from the Dutch stereotype in that way. There were stickers on the door, depicting various band logos. Inside the place was crowded and filed up with books, records and cigarette butts. In between all the stuff a huge dog is walking up and down, well mannered but quite shy. One wall is covered in traces of blood and in the corner is an altar set up, just like everyone has seen in the documentaries and interviews. Contrary to what many people have assumed based on my interview, there was no gloomy atmosphere, no foreboding feeling to the words Selim spoke to me. His home was a regular terraced house, on the corner of a regular street that just housed an extraordinary person who was very welcoming and friendly.

A New Path

Since we were raised with the right manners, we thank Selim Lemouchi for making the time for us. Today the musician has enough time: “It’s Sunday, the last day of rest before we really have to start working towards the seventh of December. We must start building up for the show at TAC (Temporary Art Centre), so it’s really time to act now. Sugar or milk?” Lemouchi goes into the kitchen to make some coffee and continues talking enthusiastically. While the coffee drips from the pot, Czech black metal makes sounds on the background. Sitting down on a flight case, Lemouchi continues his story: “I want to offer people more during the release show than just another rock show. Everything needs to be perfect. The music is not the most important, I’d almost say. They used to have better words to describe that, a complete experience, a happening. Music should never become a mass product, no ready made music that gives away all it has to offer on the first play. I want music that sticks to you. If I don’t experience that myself, then it’s not good enough. That’s how I always worked with The Devil’s Blood, I didn’t care what others thought of my music, as long as I liked it.”
He continues: “With the Devil’s Blood, I would always work with the same mould, I had to let that go of that on the new record. The formula went overboard and I decided to let the inspiration go it’s own way, letting it flow out, so to speak, and choose the direction it wanted to go. That has been a huge step, alongside opening up to others and work together. Robbie Geerings (Alabama Kids, mostly known from record store Bullit) even wrote two songs for this record, namely ‘Deep Dark Waters’ and ‘Next Stop, Universe B’. We produced the record together.”

Were these ready made moulds and formulas perhaps the reason for The Devil’s blood to quit, that is the question. “No, I think that within one form you can do endless variations and have an enormous spectrum of possibilities. All music already exists, I truly believe that. That means that one can go anywhere within certain parameters. All the records we made, I’m very proud of. I just think that with this way of working, I said everything I wanted to say. It was time for a change.”

‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’

On ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’, the musical journey of Selim Lemouchi continues. There is a new sound and a changing group of musicians who surround him. “I keep wanting to change things. At this moment in time I listen to plenty of black metal. Maybe that is the next kind of record I would want to make. For ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’ I took it onto myself to not hold back, not to limit myself with goals and targets. It was mainly experimenting, letting in others and collaborate on music making. That was the biggest challenge for me after being in full control for seven years. I try to steer the others, motivate them, but also to learn from myself as much as I can.”
A cup of coffee is placed in front of me on the stuffed table. It’s a mug with the Tasmanian Devil on it and the text reads ‘100% Animal’. Lemouchi drops down on the couch and grabs his phone to let me hear a bit of music. “When Robbie (Geerings) moved in here after Bullit closed, I handed him a guitar. He hadn’t touched one in years, but was he just sitting on my couch, doing nothing? I wasn’t having that. So this is what came out, which made me think: we can probably work together!”
Lemouchi  was sometimes named the dictator of The Devil’s Blood. Is he now more the manager of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies? “That’s a good description actually, I think of myself more as a director or producer though. I tell people about my ideas and let them work with those in their own ways.”

The next step in his journey wasn’t a casual step forward, it evolved. First there was the  EP ‘Mens Animus Corpus’ (Mind, Soul, Body) was released. A title that seems to be more focussing on the ‘I’ in relation to its surroundings. “That is very true, that record was the first step outwards, it’s like a bridge between how I used to work and the new way; I didn’t feel like letting go of the reigns yet, I needed a sense of control. I recorded demos until I felt it was safe to hand over the music to others, which was still very difficult for me. But I did it and and took this new course I’m on now. From element A in the music, you need to get to element B and there’s only one right path. You have to find that, otherwise it doesn’t make sense, it’s not what it potentially could be and that’s the inspiration you need to unleash, for yourself and others.”

The hard path

Lemouchi blames himself for the difficulty of the path he chooses when making his music: “I demand the best from myself and I’m painfully honest towards others about their input. I expect the same hunger and critical position in return from them as well. Some people have a hard time with this attitude, the current group of musicians I work with as well. At the start, we’d almost get into fights in the rehearsal room. Now everyone knows what I want to achieve and the drive and motivation I have and expect. The music must be great, emotions and egos have to be put aside to achieve that. This is just as true for myself. I think a band loses its quality, when people stop telling them ‘No’. When the keenness and challenges fade. I want to avoid that, but that’s not easy. Artists have to unite creativity with their narcissistic side. Of course, all of it has to do with money as well, but money is something I never really understood much of anyways. My role in this band, is to challenge others and hone them into critical musicians. That way, the band is bound to produce great things. Maybe the choice for the name ‘His Enemies’ has something to do with that, the hostility towards each other now and then. The art is the most important thing in the end.”

Art needs inspiration, but the question that inspires Lemouchi will obviously not receive a standard answer. He gives some examples: “I listen to a lot of music, music is something that’s as broad as you can imagine, when you let go of categories and genres. Take what I am listening to right now, for example (Master’s Hammer from the Czech Republic is playing, red.): I read that a lot of the inspiration for this band comes from Bathory and other classic black metal. It was a review that totally missed the point. My thought was that the writer was incapable to hear the Czech folk influences in the music or the classical influences. People limit their framework of reference and that annoys me. Music is like a spider web, everything is connected and all inspires everything else. Without the Beatles there would not be any Pink Floyd and without them none of the bands that followed and so on. Don’t limit yourself to a genre or a scene by locking yourself up in it.”

Two Faces


“When I’m making music, I only listen to my own music, nothing else. When I have something and record it, I just get into that for days and delve into it. I listen to the recordings a hundred times over, until I think its perfect or I’m utterly sick of it. Then I start writing my lyrics and fill in the gaps in the music. I don’t even know what is popular right now, I only focus on my own music. Of course I do listen to things now and then, I have a list of songs that I think are the best…” The mobile phone comes up again and a series of band names are read out loud: “Jethro Tull, Czech band Root, Coil, Thin Lizzy, Beatles, King Crimson and Black Sabbath… and so on. I listen to this when I feel my own obsessiveness is making me go insane, but even then I have to force myself to let go and listen to something else.” The term ‘Occult Rock’ doesn’t say much for Selim Lemouchi: “I once wrote that in one of those boxes on iTunes for The Devil’s Blood. I love those boxes that you fill in with style names and inspirations… The term fitted with The Devil’s Blood and our sound at the time. Later they asked me what I thought of the occult rock scene, but I don’t know of any scene. Is Occult Rock a scene? It’s not like we and other bands that get this label meet up and hang out at shows, most of these bands don’t interest me at all or I’ve never heard of them. Ghost did make some good music, but the comparison between us and them? Nah, I don’t see it…”
Many books are being read by Selim for ideas and inspiration, but sometimes he reads nothing at all. Lemouchi describes himself as a peculiar reader. “I like to read on the toilet, I always keep a pile of books there that I read randomly. Lately I’ve been reading a lot from the French poet Rimbaud. I enjoy reading the Compte de Lautréamont, who wrote extensively on cruelties. Of course I read plenty of books on theology and theosophy. I started reading ‘An Antarctic Mystery’ by Jules Verne again and I’m reading ‘The Dark Tower Saga’ by Stephen King. I’ve always been able to draw a lot of inspiration from those books. ‘Bloody Meridian’ by Cormac McCarthy is also a great book, which takes place in the early days of the United States. Like you’d expect I read plenty of religious books, grimoires and books on archeology. The Bible and the Koran keep providing ideas and inspiration as well. It’s always good to read books in which others try to find the truth. You should always rely on your own ideas, but those of others can definitely stimulate you.”


This inspiring mode works the other way around as well, as can be heard on the record ‘Earth Air Spirit Water Fire’, which is presented on the 7th of December. An album where Lemouchi inspired the band with his ideas. Lemouchi asks the first question about the album himself: “When you listened to it, did you hear one album or five pieces?” I answer it’s double, the songs are very different, but it feels like one. Some songs remind you of Pink Floyd or doom metal, others are more dreamy and kraut rock inspired, enthusiastic he replies: “I recognise that. For myself, I only listen to the full album in a file of 43 minutes, which I got after the recordings. I have the separate mp3’s as well, but it’s the whole that feels good. The peculiar thing is though, that these are indeed very different pieces of music, written separately, that form a whole. The album feels like the time between sunset and sunrise, the night. Some songs, like ‘Chiaroscuro’ and ‘The Deep Dark Waters’, are simple by design, with just one riff. These songs have a very narrative style and are basically quite simple, containing just one guitar riff that is reshaped, bent and repeated. They never get too complex, too stifled with extra stuff. ‘Next Stop, Universe B’ sounds dreamy. It seems like a very simple song, but it keeps changing although it’s hardly noticeable. It’s like the song ‘Just Dropped In’ by Kenny Rogers, never the same; if feels logical, but it’s completely irregular. It’s almost like we let go of the standard structure of a song in that one. Robbie (Geerings red.) hated it. If I couldn’t write a normal song, he asked me. That told me it was right where it had to be. We fought a lot over that song, but it really became a very good one.”

A predator

Having arguments with people is definitely a side of Selim Lemouchi, very different than the friendly spring of words today would seem to be. In his terraced house in Eindhoven he is calm and patient. It is as if he becomes someone else. I confront him about his two faces. I wrote about his friendly side and his artistic side in my review. “Yeah, I read that, but I think I have more than a thousand faces really… No, I think you were right. The friendly side may be a mask, a screen; I present myself as nice to be able to work in this society. On stage, with my music, I become a predator. I leave the herd behind and I see a red glow in front of my eyes. I think that’s where I open up, I show myself, because there I have to be in full control and everything must be right. I’m exactly where I should be and do what I have to do. Everyone else around me is required to do the same. The normal values fade away in those moments.”

Lemouchi looks away thoughtfully, he is not entirely happy with that darker side: “I keep working on it, that’s part of the task of collaborating with others. However, I need to express myself sometimes, even when I don’t want to. I can’t control that. There is a side of control and order to me, but also the creative, chaotic side. Those are intertwined and I’m still looking for the right balance.”