Taiwan is a strange country to most in the west, yet it has brought forth some fascinating metal groups. The small island state is also known as the Republic of China and Chinese Taipei. Its history and identity is complex, but bands like Bloody Tyrant take up the deep, cultural roots that dwell there.
Bloody Tyrant (暴君) has been around for 11 years and has released 5 full-length albums to this date. One of their topics is the Sun Moon Lake, where the band originates from and which inspires them to share the native stories of the island. The band was kind enough during this time to answer my questions and tell a bit more about metal in Taiwan and their latest album: ‘Myths of the Islands’.
Lords of the Isles: Bloody Tyrant
How is Bloody Tyrant doing?
We’re doing pretty well. Has the band suffered from the COVID-19 outbreak much? How has it hindered your efforts as a band?
A lot of shows were canceled, but we’re glad that Taiwan is doing a good job at handling the pandemic, and we’re getting more and more shows back on.
Please, tell me something about your background and how you got into metal music. I understand some of you also have different projects.
Most of us started with school activities back in the days, and started listening to heavier and heavier music, then started to get our own bands going.
Can you tell me something about the formation of Bloody Tyrant and how the band has evolved?
In the beginning, Bloody Tyrant was an extreme black metal band. But as time moves forward, and tastes and creative directions change, we are now more of a folk metal band.
Taiwan has a fairly lively heavy alternative music scene and a lot of bands merge folk with black metal, like yourselves. What made you choose to blend these styles and create a distinctive and unique sound for yourselves?
Actually, there aren’t that many bands in Taiwan like that, or I would say there aren’t that many bands in Taiwan.
What is the reason to make your country’s mythology part of your theme? How important is it that your music reflects something of your heritage?
Part of the reason why we started using those traditional instruments was that some of the members were in those Chinese traditional orchestras and studies traditional instruments back in the days.
On Metal Archives, special reference is made to Sun Moon Lake. Can you tell me more about why it is so significant and an important topic in your music?
Sun Moon Lake is located in the only county in Taiwan that’s almost next to the sea – Nantou, and that’s also where Bloody Tyrant started. So to have mythologies about Sun Moon Lake as our theme was a way to be connected to our land.
In the middle of this pandemic, you have released a new album, titled ‘Myths of the Islands’. What can you tell me about the recording and writing process of this record?
Actually, we started to work on this album back in 2018, where we started to look for those mythologies about the aboriginals. And just like the two previous albums, we tracked and mixed the album in 2019.
What story can listeners learn by listening to this album? Most songs you’ve shared are introduced as stories from your land. Can you provide a small introduction to these stories?
The stories from the album are all from the Taiwanese aboriginal mythologies, and just like many other cultures of religions, there are mythologies about the genesis, the flood, shooting the sun, and plague and that kind of story. Some of those mythologies are related to their rituals, totems, and such.
How has the reception of this record been this far?
Although the style is very different from our previous albums, for the folk metal fans they have been enjoying the album, and for some people who are into the Taiwanese aboriginal cultures, they are also happy to see a Taiwanese metal band promoting such stories.
What’s happening right now in Taiwan’s metal scene? What bands should people really check out today and what interesting things are happening?
There aren’t many metal bands in Taiwan, but slowing getting more. And since there aren’t that many metal bands, so the styles are very limited. Again, because there aren’t that many metal bands, so the bands with styles that aren’t as modern would be very interesting, such as melodic death metal band Sacrifice, Taiwanese folk style gothic band Crescent Lament, black metal band Efflore, symphonic black metal band Raven Skull, etc.
As an island nation, do you connect to scenes from neighboring countries?
Although we use the instrument that is commonly seen as a Chinese instrument – Pipa, a lot, and indeed the instrument was imported into China way back in the days and became populated by China, but this kind of instrument also got into Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Ryukyu, etc and they each became their own, so we just call it an oriental instrument.
Taiwan was ruled by Japan for a period of time, so not only the domestic development was influenced by the Japanese, but also culturally, even until this day, and that’s why we had the album HAGAKURE.
Politics are often involved when bands talk about their origins, history, and legends. Being a band from Taiwan, is that a part of what focus on as a band, especially today?
It’s actually kind of sad, as when rock n’ roll, metal, or the freedom movement were at their peak back in the 70s or 80s, Taiwan was actually under martial law, so that inhibited our cultural development by a lot. In order to have Taiwan be known in the global artistic field, Taiwanese bands would really have to catch up, and also we really have to have some political views to get rid of the old, outdated way of thinking.
Also, politics is about people, it influences how we live our lives, everything is connected to politics, every culture, every language, and every story is a byproduct of politics.
What future plans do you currently have and do you plan to tour Europe again?
We will be going into the promotion phase for our new album. We will definitely be planning to go back to Europe after the pandemic, as we received really good feedback from our European tour this year.
If Bloody Tyrant was a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
I’d say we would be Japanese style Naples pasta. Because Bloody Tyrant fuses different cultures together and it became its own kind, just like Japanese style western food, when different cuisines were imported to Japan, they became their own Japanese food.
Paraguay is one of those places that you can truly consider the South-American heartland. Full of hints of ancient civilizations, strange traditions and a spiritual mystique. It’s also one of those nations subjugated under colonial rule for centuries, and having walked the long road to democracy since 1811’s independence.
It’s also a rare country that has kept its original language. Guaraní is still spoken and at the core of the band Blasphemer. A once-upon-a-time studio project, now a full band that flies the Paraguayan flag proudly.
Band founder, leader, and around grateful dude Luis Battilana was happy to tell me more about his project, country and metal music.
Positivity, past and present
How is Blasphemer doing? How have things been going for you during this global pandemic?
Hello Stranger Aeons, a pleasure to be here, because here in Paraguay as in the whole world it has been quite difficult, so we have dedicated ourselves to rewriting the second album, but always keeping the Guarani stamp, in our Latin American countries it is very difficult conceiving a metal band but I think that is what gives it the magic of passion for what we do, on the other hand, what we have done is to go out more and it is about knowing our art more.
How did you guys get together and get started as a band and what are your biggest inspirations?
It all started in 2011, my person here is the one who answers the interview (Luis Battilana). Guitarist and founder of the band, I wanted to play extreme metal so I decided to get together with session musicians to carry out this, the name came from the Sodom ep ” in the sign of evil “because at first, we were doing black-thrash metal, but over time I decided to talk about the history of my country, so the musical line also changed to melodic death metal because I considered that the melody with something extreme was a good driver to take our history as a country everywhere.
And the aspirations I believe that every band that considers their art for real and loves what they do, reach all possible places and that the message of music and visual concept reaches as many people as possible that translates into fans, and economic profit that In the case of Blasphemer I would like to continue offering better things with higher quality because joining an ancestral language with metal is a titanic challenge that requires hours of practice if you are not going to do it well better not do it, those are the aspirations of Blasphemer and continue in Europe shortly already.
You mention that Blasphemer started with session musicians, but now it’s a band that works together. When did it become that way and how did you meet like-minded musicians?
In the middle of the pandemic haha. As the Chinese say: ‘crisis is equal to opportunity’. Everything became more about streaming and it was used to expand the music of Blasphemer more. I just got to know more people from different countries and that coincided with a band from Colombia, Fernando from Altars of Rebellion and another from Italy, Andrew Tower from Lahmia who really liked to join my ship. So this is 2021 and I already hope and I’m sure the album will come out, it will also attract a lot of attention that comes with being a band that sings in the original language. I managed to unite people from other countries.
Which bands inspire your sound as Blasphemer?
Many really, any band from classical music or rock and roll to the most brutal that can be, if it has a melody, vocal line, or arrangements that catches my attention, it is a direct source for me of inspiration for the music that Blasphemer develops, But always keeping in mind that you are looking to compete with other bands, to show that you also have your own essence and vision without copying anyone.
So Blasphemer sings in Guaraní, even calling your style thus, can you tell me what using this language means for you as a band? And can you give some background on it and where you guys are from?
Of course, first, we must start with the name. Many wonder, hey, why is the name in English, if you sing in Guarani? and I understand it but the public must also understand that artists or bands have a philosophy and why we put this or that name to the things that surround our art, the name was not only because of the EP by Sodom, but also because in 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from our country by the Spanish crown and it was forbidden to speak Guarani, leaving the person who will speak it as a heretic and a blasphemer before the church, so the name also evokes that rebellion against the dogmas or impositions of other people in the case of religions and politics that are a pest.
We call our style Guarmetal because of the fusion of Guarani with metal, we really want to be that 1% of bands within metal that come with a musical proposal that is different from the rest, so we decided that Guaraní is our seal and also carry our culture to all possible places, coming from the heart of America such as Paraguay, we were already tired of having to sing in English as everyone else does, so we value and respect the bands that break that mold and do it in their local language. Where do they belong because that means having a personality and above all their own identity, even more so if one talks about what concerns that country or area such as its history or important historical events, the history, and traditions of a people is the hallmark of one before the world.
You’ve released a full album in Guaraní, titled ‘Arasunu’. I’m curious what tales you tell about on this record?
In the first album Arasunu, historical events are recounted from the colonization to the last war we had as a Nation, which was the Chaco War that happened in the 30s, there was no line even when it was well defined of what historical line we wanted to handle because We really like our story so we choose the most important events in our opinion.
Now, that was 5 years ago when it was released and this year you released a new single. What can you tell me about that?
It has been difficult jajajaja, as I said at the beginning of the interview it is our case coming from a country with many difficulties like Paraguay one of the things that delayed us the most to be able to create new material was that we had to prioritize work and academic issues for which to write material was made slowly, ‘Vapor cue’ was the first advance of ‘1811’, the second album, and it was a surprise that it was chosen in several countries, quite a liking for what we could notice, that song speaks of one of the most important naval battles of the Great War against the Brazilian Navy so I think we did a good job
What is the writing and recording process like for Blasphemer, does everyone have a specific role?
Well, all part of the guitar, when I create a melody or structure that I like, the next thing is to unite and polish it with the ideas of others to finally give it the body, then when the theme is ready, it is to take the history books and looking for an echo that we consider is in accordance with what we hear, sometimes it is quite difficult because there is a lot of material from our history but I always think we choose the best and it is according to the theme, I am in charge of creating the themes, the lyrics, and the concepts the other musicians who accompany me what they do is help me to refine the ideas, and it is recorded in our home studio and then they take everything to the studio where they are finally given all the necessary adjustments to be as it should be with our producer.
I’ve noticed that there are other bands playing Guarmetal. Which bands should people really check out?
If so, well for the moment, as far as Paraguay is concerned, we are the only ones who have released an album so far and soon the second one in Guarani, but other bands use our language but very timidly, because as I also mentioned above it is a titanic effort that requires hours to be able to merge both concepts and well to achieve a well done and interesting music, many use a maximum word or phrase, where there are other bands that also do everything in Guarani but from the Tupi branch, which is in Brazil, where there are like 2 or 3 very good exponents of the Truth. What people should hear or see I think that depends clearly and exclusively on how one’s art reaches people
I always believe that the most important thing is to achieve in the instrumental field the correct fusion of technique and melody more united to a lyrical concept that people grasp that is what makes it good, and secondly, to make that art reach people by moving one too. Today, we have a great opportunity, which is that the networks allow us to reach many places, which was unthinkable in previous times. If you did not have a label, you had nothing and it was thrice as difficult today so I think we are in a pretty good time. It costs a lot, yes. But what doesn’t cost in this life, right?
So, I understand there are ‘Guarmetal’ bands from Brazil, correct? Which are they?
That’s right, there are 2 that I know of, which is Arandu Arakuaa, who are great brothers of us, they make a metal groove but in Tupi Guaraní with highly recommended Brazilian folk elements, and the other is more of the Black metal line than It is Corubos that is more for people who like the more environmental Burzum, those 2 only bands are the ones that follow the line of metal in Guarani.
What sort of reception do you get in your own country? Is metal generally accepted and respected? Is there any form of censorship you have to take in account?
Ough, quite difficult, when the first singles began to be released, I liked it a lot but also many people did not accept the fact that other people wanted to get out of the mold that the rock or metal that is made here is not in English, but that always was the case. There will be the passion and magic of the art that one makes depends on not listening to those opinions and always following what one’s heart and soul dictates to the music that one makes the more you show that you are genuine and love your art, the more true the purpose will be, If it is true, there will be moments that you do not believe to continue but when you start to see that it travels countries or more people share your art, there you will know that your effort and love of what you do is true and genuine. If not, focus on art.
Is there any censorship in Paraguay, can you sing about anything?
No, that is the good thing where we are, nobody censors us in what we do or what someone here wants to speak in their art or music, what there is not is diffusion and support that is the most difficult thing in Latin American countries they see culture as something Without meaning or value in part it is due to the military dictatorships that existed from the 50’s until relatively recently that were the 90’s, some even still do not need to be a political scientist or specialist in politics to see the situation in Venezuela and Cuba. They are in a hole, the Latin reality for the subject of culture is really difficult because it has been implanted that it is unnecessary and also that it will never be of benefit to anyone.
What are the future plans for Blasphemer?
Future plans are to go to Europe to continue with this, but the first thing is to release the second album, promote it to all possible places and see the reaction outside, we know that it is difficult but not impossible when one sets goals and objectives and pursues dreams. You fight for them, you don’t expect things to fall from the sky because I’m a good person or because I deserve it, no, if you deserve it, earn it based on effort, dedication, and goals, I’m going and the important thing is to finish this second album and come out now.
Your next album is 1811. You mention a war against the Brazilian navy. Can you tell a bit more about this, because like the Chaco war, these are stories I simply don’t know about. I think many readers may also be unfamiliar with these events. Please, could you give some insights?
This is the naval steam battle of vapor cue, that was the bloodiest battle against Brazil where our navy was unfortunately outnumbered by the Brazilian, and in order not to be taken the Paraguayan ships decided to sink them, the 2 wars that our Country had simply were epic, and with courage the battle of curupayty for example with 5,000 Paraguayan men fought against 20,000 allies and won, imagine they are stories and events that unfortunately our country and government is not interested in telling the world that is why nobody knows them if we had the gigantic entertainment infrastructure like hollywood there are thousands and thousands of stories and feats that it would take at least 30 years to cover even 40% of both wars.
If Blasphemer was a food, what would it be and why?
jajaja this question is great !! I do not know if food, but if I would like it to be an energy bar, for when someone feels that they can no longer continue, they decide to eat a Blasphemer energy bar and say hey, I don’t have to abandon my dreams and goals by eating this I feel that I have the strength to continue more and more it is time to continue and not give up.
Metal pops up all around the world, but sometimes you find the scene can be surprisingly small in some ends of the world. Oman has a grand total of two metal bands. And yes, I asked my interviewee about it and he’s adamant that this is probably it. I’m talking about Shabeeb Al Haremi, frontman of Arabia.
Shabeeb currently lives in the UK, and he doesn’t make a secret of the fact that metal was the reason for him to move. Not that Oman is that strict, there was just no scene. He as eager to tell me about Arabia and though I’ve redone his words (Shabeeb has had a car crash and only has one functioning eye, so writing is a challenge), I hope his love for the music shines through in his words.
Get ready to dig into Oman’s very own Arabia.
Arabia, Arabian Blood, War, Metal
Hey, could you introduce yourself and tell me how Arabia got started?
My name is Shabeeb Al Haremi, frontman and founder of the black metal band Arabia from Oman. A nation in the Arabian Gulf and my bandmates names are:
Tarik Al HaremI – Guitar
Said Al Mahmoody – Keyboard
Tarik Abdul Rahman
What got you into metal music in the first place? Well, I used to be in boarding school when I was 13 years old, and one day I met a fellow student, and he made me listen to Iron Maiden. The music blew me away, and I never heard anything like it before. It gave me a crazy rush inside, and when I went back home to Oman, I tried looking for the record that I heard when I was in school, but at that time, metal music was not known that well. I had a friend who used to go to Europe for vacations, and he got it for me, so when I went back to the UK, I started just buying all sorts of metal bands, which is how I went deep in the music. I just wanted heavier music, and that’s how I got in extreme metal. I never used to know the styles. Anything heavy? Just buy it! I fell in love with it ever since.
Arabia has relocated by now; what is the main reason for this, and where are you currently? When we were here in Oman, I wanted to start a band, but there were no real metalheads at the time. So I tried so hard to find them, making flyers for in music stores and everyone who called me were into shitty stuff, like Bon Jovi and other bands that are nowhere near what I was looking for. Then I met Nasser Bahwan. At first, he liked things like Metallica, but I was trying to make music instead of playing covers, so we tried to do that, then my nephew got interested, and I started to teach him what I knew, and that’s the tritone, which others call the Devil’s note. When Said Mahmoody got amazed by the music, he wanted to try and join, and that’s how we first got together and just playing and nothing else than just making music. We got cheap recording equipment to build up the music and make a demo. It took so long to do, but we did it, and the recording was kind of fuzzy. After working so hard, we wanted to get gigs here in Oman, but everyone rejected us, claiming this is dark satanic music (Shabeeb finds this hilarious). We tried to send our stuff to local record labels and they rejected us too, so we had no choice but to leave Oman for the UK because we wanted to be heard. Anything to make that possible, so we left. That was in 2009. Now we are recording our upcoming album in Florida, ‘Where Evil Lies.’ The other three, we did those in England.
Various bands from the middle-east have moved abroad, and some, like Saudi Arabia’s Al Namrood, stay put and work in anonymity against the ruling forces from within. What do you think about this situation? Well, yeah. A lot did leave. It’s all because we are very passionate about music. Some bands from where I’m from had to do that. Others stayed in there because they couldn’t leave, such as Al Namrood. They’re good friends of mine. We met through the Internet, and they came over to see us for a couple of days. We had fun, but to me, they make their music by hiding and being low profile about it. But you know, metal is about standing your ground and doing whatever it takes to do what you love. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it’s strict when it comes to metal, but it’s a risk you have to take and not get caught. In Oman, it’s cool, but you won’t get support from many people. I think Al Namrood is very brave to do this, but it’s a shame that you get arrested if caught. They are doing a great job by mixing our Arabic vibes with black metal.
Can you tell me what concepts and stories you deal with in Arabia and what your origin means to you in the context of your music? Well, the context of Arabia is based on Arabian wars. The past and the history of the invasions we had through the ages. This is basically what we sing about nothing against religion, or we would get in shit because we come from a Muslim country. Plus, we don’t believe in disrespecting any religion. Al Namrood is the opposite. They sing anti-Islam songs, and their music is about stuff from the Quran like their name. Namrood was the enemy of the prophet Ibrahim.
I understand in your music you put a lot of history and mythology. Can you tell me a bit about those stories or maybe give some examples for people like me not quite familiar with Oman and its past? Well, the songs that we have are about the past in Oman. Some are about when Portugal came and invaded us in the 1500s, and the mythology of our past was about the pagan gods the Arabs use to worship before Islam. The gods were kind of similar to the Vikings and the Romans. Not much difference, but they don’t have a real storyline, like how the other mythologies do. Stories, like Hercules and stuff. That’s different because we Arabs used to believe in a creator back in the day, but we used to worship God through idols. There were no temples like the Greeks had; they used to just put the idols around the Kaba which is the direction of the Muslim for worshipping the one true God, which is the holy city of Mecca i
Your last release was the album ‘Arabian Blood’. When was it released, and how did you record and create this record back then? ‘Arabian Blood’ was released in 2010 after the ‘Black Pearl’ in 2007. We made the album in Liverpool, UK. We did the start at home and then in the studio, making it sound better by mastering the music and mixing it properly. The demo of ‘Arabian Blood’ is on YouTube, just type: ‘arabia arabian blood album.’
How do you work when creating new music. Is someone taking the lead in it, or are their specific roles within the band? Well, it’s me who starts everything in writing the music, then the band follows what I made and add into it till we like what we made and take it from there. I write, then we record and experiment by recording at home. Finally, we hit the studio to do perfect the music.
Are you currently working on any new material, and where do you see this going in the future? We are now working on recording the upcoming album, ‘Where Evil Lies.’ Our label will handle where we will be after that. Arabian dark records, it is called.
They found us on the internet, the label did, but also through metal mags such as Zero Tolerance UK and Metal Hammer Germany and other metal mags that interviewed us.
I understand that there’s one other band from Oman, named Belos. They are still there, and I’m wondering how they are different and in what way there is censorship and the like in your country. Belos is a gothic metal band. It’s only us two from Oman who play metal. I heard them on the net, but here in Oman, you can play such music. It’s just that it’s not recognized. Not many people listen to this type of music. They are more into hip hop and all sorts of shit. Belos, I don’t hear much about them… and I don’t know much of them.
What was it like to start playing metal in Oman? Did you have things available, like instruments, rehearsal space, music, and all? What sort of response did you get from people?
Here in Oman, you can practice in places anywhere. Still, we prefer at home because we have more freedom to express ourselves, and playing here doesn’t lead anywhere, unless you are the type who just wants to stay in the same spot—just moving forward in improving the music without being heard being in the radio. They don’t care about metal music. If its the other stuff, you’d reach something, but not with metal, which is sad. We all want to have a metal scene here like in Dubai, but sadly it doesn’t work here.
Why not? There’s just not enough fans, too little support. I should be possible, but it has never worked out.
Are there any other bands, perhaps relatively unknown, active in Oman that make metal, which is currently not known? Or from neighbouring countries that you feel connected with? Well, in Oman, it’s just Belos and us. You have more in Dubai, where the most recognized band is Nervecell. They’re an awesome death metal band. I know them too. You should check them out, and there are a couple of them in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also. I’m only friends with Al Namrood because we play the same kind of black metal music.
What future plans does Arabia have? The future of Arabia is just making music and playing around the world and in all kinds of places. Just keep making boiling metal music, bro!
If you had to describe Arabia as a dish, what would it be and why? A dish? Well, that would give people nightmares. Let’s just say lots of bashed up brains with metal music!
The world of dungeon synth is filled with remarkable individuals. One of those is Oytun Bektas, a musician with origins in Turkey, but currently residing ‘down under’. His music has been well-received in the world of synth lovers as being of remarkable, singular quality. Performing under the moniker Tir, Bektas has redone several of his albums in a quest for more perfection, exploring the ancient past, myths and the Cosmos.
Bektas was willing to tell more about his remarkable project, his journey to where he is right now and his vision of the sound he strives for. There’s a depth to his approach to music, but also a well-condensed form to his answers and explanations I found most enjoyable.
The dungeon synth experience of Tir
How are you doing?
Thanks. I’m pretty busy, but I’m fine.
How did you as a musician arrive at Dungeon Synth? What musical projects have you been in, who are your inspirations?
Actually, it wasn’t a special choice for me to meet DS music style. I think that the fact that I have been dealing with classical music since I was very young maybe the first factor in this situation. I believe that along with the education I have received, I have developed myself in the field of polyphonic music production. Of course, the bands and musicians I have listened to for the past 20 years have been the second-biggest influence in capturing this music. Wongraven, early Mortiis and Burzum to name a few. Of course, I also got inspiration from some neofolk, dark folk and ambient artists because I didn’t directly produce DS. By the way, I’ve never been involved in any projects before Tir.
For anyone not familiar with Tir, how would you introduce yourself?
A one-man project based on Dark Folk / Dungeon Synth, whose main theme since 2016 is the depiction of Cosmos, myths, history and nature. I think that’s the ideal definition.
How did you get to the name Tir? I was drawn to it as it has a meaning in Tolkien’s languages, but also refers to the Norse god of the sword. I read for you it has to do with the Turkish meaning, which is closer to solitude, can you tell more about that and what that means to you?
I know a lot of people were confused by that name when they first heard it. Tir is a word of Central Asian origin. It’s an old name of Turkish origin. So it has no relationship with Tyr.
Secondly, On my U.S.V. album, there were people who thought I was doing the Tyr song for my band name. But that song was only about the album’s depiction of Nordic mythology. In its clearest sense, Tir (not TIR) means alone and deserted. But I think it’s a very impressive detail that the language we use has taken on different meanings in itself.
When I found out about your music, at first I was under the impression Tir was a Scandinavian project. Only then I understood you’re located ‘down under’, but you are originally from Turkey. Can you tell me a bit how you ended up there and is there something of your travels that has seeped into your music?
This was a decision I made about the direction of the world I live in. Sometimes when you think you cannot solve something, you have to create a new path. Otherwise, you will start to rot. You can think of it in every sense. I have the same instinct in the art I have produced. While in Turkey, Tir’s adventure bore the traces of European folk, and on the other hand, the different effects of the dark geography. Now I feel like I am on a different planet here. I think this will improve Tir’s needs and orientations a little more.
When you moved you did a funding campaign for equipment. How come you didn’t have the gear anymore?
Yes, we were only able to bring a limited number of personal items of goods when we travelled to Australia. That’s why I created a charity campaign on this issue. Some followers, whom I’d like to thank again, helped me buy a midi keyboard. Later, I ended the campaign in order not to force more people on this issue. I continued to see my works with an old laptop 🙂 But now, those who want to help can reach me through PayPal.
You released an album titled Mountains, which you later gave a Redux version. As someone who loves mountains, I wanted to ask you what you find inspiring about them? What do they mean to you?
For me, mountains album was the artistic expression of my musical experience for so many years. It was a reflection of the books I had read until then, my communication with nature and perhaps more. Mountains were actually an image. I can say that the journey of man and nature was in a way the intersection of the universe. I tried to present this as minimally as possible. Redux was a move to further enrich this simplicity.
What do you mean when you talk about simplicity, which you describe as key to what Tir is and does not mean simple? Or in other words: what is your vision on the sound of Tir?
By simplicity, I mean, I have a completely dissimilar understanding of music. As I mentioned earlier, it is a wealth for me to produce a very vocal harmony. In other words, since I did not produce music in a narrow and routine pattern, Tir’s position in this genre is a little different. I would say, little intensifying the effect of dark art. Also, Tir basically intensifies its music without leaving the DS patterns. Even this detail keeps it away from its understanding of standard and simple composing.
Your recent album brings the theme of your music much closer to your region of origin. What prompted to switch from the Nordic darkness on ‘Nigritude’ to the mysteries of ‘Persepolis’? And can you say something about what you are telling on this album, what stories etc.?
In fact, there was no deviation in the depiction of dark art. Nigritude had a more edgy number of songs than just being an EP album. But the fact that the cover art was gifted to me by Markus Stock and the design was made by Peter Bursky (who also owns Brilliant Emperor Records) brought a lot of interest to this EP. Persepolis, on the other hand, was a rich serving of DS and Dark Folk art. During my visit to Iran many years ago, Persepolis left a very deep impression in my mind. In that red-painted land, I felt war, art and more with excess. I mean, in the middle of the desert, there was a source of life. I even felt the emotions of that period. I wanted to create a sound from ancient times on this album today. I’m happy to talk about the brutality of the old and bring history to life. Some places are ignored only for political reasons, but we have a detailed history that offers tons of importance.
For me, ancient history and the middle-east is a topic that is filled with mysteries. I believe you could build a whole body of art around this, expressing stories and ideas. Do you plan to continue with this?
In fact, not only men (I had made a type in my question, hence this reference, ed.), but for many women in the Middle East and Anatolia there are many heroism stories. The female warriors and the female hierarchy was much stronger than now. With religion, a regression and patriarchy began to emerge in this process. On the other hand, the most important bend of civilization’s crossing arms is in that land. Actually, I have the idea of continuing this depiction not through Tir but through my side project Ruins of Xibalba. My primary target is old Anatolia and Central Asia.
What is your process of writing and recording music like, particularly for your last album?
My musical composition processes are all about my visual experiences. I start to experience the subject I depict visually and start to read these details. Then comes the technical part of the job. Which is not a process that runs without any blockages. So I can say that it sometimes happens that I can finish a few songs on the same day.
So, what is the scope of topics for Tir and since you also have a side project, how do you decide what fits the Tir concept and what needs a different moniker? Also, can you tell me something about Ruins of Xibalba?
When I founded Tir, I decided to depict history, nature and war, as well as loneliness in nature. I think I’ve brought out these concepts through the music in a way I’m happy with, but of course, these depictions are also influenced by the dark face of Black metal. It is of course more symphonic, but it’s pure. When I founded Ruins of Xibalba, I wanted to shape the dark ambient elements in my musical understanding more. In other words, it is a circled state that imprisons the listener in it, and I wanted to draw the audience into the dark world of Xibalba. At this point, I’m trying to bring it back to the universe we live in a little bit. So, R.O.X.’s first album describes the Mayans. They are a unique civilization that is very difficult to describe. I still think the Mayans are World Masters. Without being changed by this truth, my side project will continue to process both the mysticism in history and the role of past civilizations in the universe. Maybe this project can connect cosmically outside this world? Cosmic Ambient, sounds good, doesn’t it? 🙂
You are one of the artists in this genre who have decided to perform live. What does it mean for you to perform live and what sort of vibe do you go for?
I’m not the kind of person who looks warmly at live performances. But after my concerts at festivals such as Peru and the Northeast Dungeon Siege, the positive feedback made me very happy. As I said before, listeners and viewers can feel many different effects due to my not performing standard and simple music. I think that makes Tir’s influence different. Sometimes the listener is comforted by melancholy, while on the other hand, they can imagine themselves in a different universe with a mythological breeze. I think the biggest thing about such activities is that they lead people to more collective unity, especially during the pandemic period. The texture of underground music brings together many different elements. If I can contribute to it as a Tir, it’s flattering for me.
Dungeon synth has become a genre dense with meanings and offshoots. Sub-styles (or genres) like comfy synth, winter synth and so forth are disrupting the definition of the genre. How do you feel about this?
It's certainly possible for music to diversify in itself. Each production and composition can have its own form of narrative. The most important point here is how much it retains the main theme. For example, how stupid and unnecessary it would be for a Black Metal band to give you pop tunes and images, wouldn’t it? Seeing Dungeon Synth only in the form of game fiction reduces its great
strength. I’ve always defended this. DS Black Metal’s backyard; symphonic face. There will always be differences, but basically avoiding anathema can be the biggest mistake.
Which artists are you currently listening to and do you think should receive more attention?
Although I listen to Black Metal with intensity, I devote time to other genres from time to time. If I have to recommend it, I think the She Past Away is very strong. Again, from the same musical genre
Oul is a very successful band. On the other hand, I am looking forward to the new Tenhi and Summoning albums with great curiosity!
What are your future plans with Tir?
Persepolis is the last album before we see a shift in direction for Tir. For my next album, I want to produce slightly different content with the main difference from the current style being that more live instruments will accompany it. I guess there is no need to give more details, let’s wait and see together.
If you had to describe Tir as a dish, what would it be and why that one?
It’s a point I never thought about. But I’d definitely say water. I think it’s the right match. It points to the plain and clear simplicity of Tir.
What’s happening dungeoneers? The dungeon synth scene is steadily growing and many good releases are available, but I’m a bit behind so some of this may be olders stuff but methinks good enough to still share, with Frost-Rimed Iron, Toadlickers & Criptadel, Fog Castle/Foglord/Fogweaver and Forest Shrine.
Header image is a picture of the cosy tea house in the gardens of Château de Courances in France, near Paris in the forests of Fontainebleau. I photographed this in July 2021.
What’s happening in dungeon synth?
I did notice that lately there’s been a growing level of attention from non-niche media for dungeon synth. Mostly, they place it in the corner of retro-nerdism, like dungeons & dragons and video games, but I think it overlooks the complete zeitgeist of which this movement is a part. Dungeon synth definitely fits the craving for the mysterious, the limited, the tangible, but it is also different from people buying retro-consoles and getting hooked on boardgames. It’s not like a beer with the flavor of the week, but more like a whisky that required extensive aging to be ready to drink. Certainly, that zeitgeist fuels its popularity, but its seed was planted years ago.
That’s me meandering about, here’s some music for you while you think that through.
Frost-Rimed Iron – Blood Oath
Defender is the spirit behind Frost-Rimed Iron, and he has already released three instalments of his epic dungeon synth saga. The last of the three demo’s, which means next we can expect a series of albums by the artist. Clean, epic sounds great us and bombastic computed drum sounds complete the tapestry. There’s a hint of mystery and far-off places to the music on this 17 minute tune, titled ‘Blood Oath’ (Sworn to Avenge). All in all, the Conan-like vibe is strong in this one.
Soundwise, ‘Blood Oath’ follows in the steps of ‘Northern Raids’ and ‘Heroic Death’. Heavy on the atmosphere, with little playfulness strewn throughout the song. There is not much development to be heard on the three EPs, only here and there Frost-Rimed Iron manages to sound a bit more free from the confines of traditional dungeon synth. This final release comes closest to the steady, compact and atmosphere-driven sound we are most familiar with. I feel there could be more to it though, so looking forward to those albums.
Origin: Unknown Label: Self-released
Toadlickers & Criptadel – Tabernaculum
The mighty ruiners of pleasant nights in taverns return! Toadlickers and Criptadel teamed up for this wild all-nighter of subterranean mayhem. Toadlickers are a mysterious entity from Goblin town, whereas Criptadel hails from the unlikely country of Argentina. Together, they’ve woven together a wonderfully folky, albeit burpy, series of immersive, repetitive bar stool songs. And what I mean by repetitive here is not the endless meandering often heard in dungeon synth, but the typical aspect of classical folk music, where repetition serves as a low threshold to partake in the festivities.
The intro takes us down a dark alley on ‘The Troll Alley’, where a dirty little door takes us down to the underground where we set to party on ‘Tabernaculum’. ‘Goblin Feast’ takes its time next to build up, but after a few minutes, we hear a waltzy, rocky, bumpy tune emerging. But here comes the catch; if you are looking for a record that is as rowdy and crazy as the Toadlickers debut, this isn’t it. In fact, even ‘the Last Drink’, which could potentially be the most insane tune there is, never really lives up to its potential. And that is fine because it makes the music a bit more… normal. That’s just not as much goblin as I would have enjoyed, though. Still, cool release.
Fog Castle/Foglord/Fogweaver – In the Kingdom of Fog
Some artists are just asking for it you’d think, with this overly foggy release by what I gather are 3 artists from the United States. It’s funny, but it takes away some of the majesty that is put out into the world on this release. I mean, I feel a strong Final Fantasy vibe on the opening track by Fog Castle, titled ‘Dreams of Mist’. Promises hidden behind a veil of… well, you get the picture, but the power of suggestion in the music is tangible. The second track, ‘Sanctuary of the Gemcarvers’ feels more subterranean, yet offers plenty of space for the listener to let the imagination run free. Foglord takes us around the corner with a darker sound, more gloomy and introverted on ‘Light in the Mountain’. It relies more on repetitive phrases and droning sounds, like glittering caves in the depths. ‘The Essence’ sticks to that formula, or slowly flowing, key-drones.
Fogweaver wraps up the party with three tracks. The music is more fragile and small. ‘Werelight’ is as sparkling lights, in the palm of your hand, slowly and carefully unfolding themselves. Its gentle, trickling sound takes you to a wholly different place again, with a more magical, open vibe. I guess you can listen to this music and hear different things. For me, there’s the tranquillity of the forest, the beauty and silence of caves, but as in the description, I can also find the mountains in there. Fogweaver just brings it all home with ‘To Call Upon the Fog’ and ‘Aihal the Silent’.
Origin: United States Label: Fableglade Records
Forest Shrine – Secrets of the Forest
The act Forest Shrine appears to be a side project of Werendia, a Swedish music outlet for A. Virdeus. The act has been prolific in autumn 2020 it seems and the last release was this one which I will therefore focus on. Two songs with a total playing time of 30+ minutes then. I can hear hints of Burzum’s ‘Hliðskjálf’ in the music, which demonstrates the ability to entrance, but also offers moments of wonderful tranquillity. Certainly, there’s also the incessant beat on the first part, that I associate with Summoning, but let’s not make this a name tagging contest. By the time those drums truly start driving the heat, the sound has changed from its languid notes to something much more urgent and pressing.
The second part of the recording holds pretty tightly to that formula, yet feels more subtle, darker, and brooding. The drumming is more subdued, less pulsating. Yet the repetition remains and takes all the time it needs to build the song up to its crescendo, leaving room for a lull here and there, but always ascending. It makes this release so captivating and dreamlike.
In recent years, the Dutch black metal scene has shown a number of prodigies. Young acts with a fresh approach to the iconoclastic genre, with little regard for purism and conservative views. During Roadburn, you’ve already been able to sample their wares throughout recent editions, but this year on Roadburn-Saturday (13th of April) they will unleash their full creative force with Maalstroom in the Patronaat.
Maalstroom, which translates as… well, maelstrom, is a cooperative piece, especially done for Roadburn, with band members from Terzij de Horde, Fluisteraars, Turia, Laster, Verwoed, Grey Aura, Witte Wieven, Verval, Nevel, Project Nefast, Svartvit and Hadewych. During the day you will first witness rituals by a number of these bands, followed by the commissioned piece itself. We had the pleasure to ask O. (Turia, Iskandr, Galg, Nusquama and others) and C. (Witte Wieven) about the project, the group of artists and what we can expect at Roadburn 2019.
How did the whole Maalstroom concept take shape? O: Maalstroom sprung from an idea that Walter proposed. He felt that there’s a lot happening creatively with a group of relatively young bands and musicians, who are all creating ‘black metal’ in their own image. He then contacted Johan van Hattum (Terzij De Horde, red.) to address and connect a number of people with the question if they considered it possible to create a unique piece of music together for Roadburn and perform that during this edition. This happened last summer and obviously we were all interested.
It’s an enormous honour and privilege if a festival of such importance and renown gives you full confidence and the liberty to do this, even though it’s a young group of musicians. So we’ve been working on it ever since. Conceptually it is, at least to my eyes, a non-linear narrative about the conflictive nature between the monotonous life in a small town and the chaotic upheaval of living in a city, including all conflicting emotions this brings.
How do you even start realising something like this? And was the group of involved artists determined from the start? C: Working with a larger group of musicians is obviously not the most practical format during writing, so we formed smaller groups and duos to start working on the core ideas of the piece, which we later connected. We found our inspiration in a fictional tale created by the more literary minds in our company. Based on musical ideas, we gathered some additional musicians to complete the formed groups. These are all people from the Dutch black metal scene, who are now involved in the execution of the piece.
New release by Laster:
Who exactly is involved in the project and how did you work on connecting the separate pieces of the performance into one? And do I understand correctly that part of the group has created it and part is involved purely for execution? C: Some members of Turia, Terzij de Horde, Fluisteraars, Laster, Verwoed, Grey Aura, Witte Wieven, Verval, Nevel, Project Nefast, Svartvit and Hadewych are involved in Maalstroom. I think in the end, we’re all contributing to this project in a creative manner, whether that’s musically or visually. We did invite some guest musicians, of whom we are convinced they fit in well with this piece. Some people have been appointed to really watch the whole and the tension throughout the piece, though we took each other’s work into account during writing. This has worked out pretty well and I believe the four parts of the piece flow together seamlessly.
All of this actually sounds like it requires some serious project management. How do you get all of this coordinated?
O: Yes, this was indeed quite some project management. That’s of course always the case with bands, but on a smaller scale. Some people take the lead in planning and coordinating, others are more involved with the contents and musical execution. It really requires a lot of talking, meeting, and organizing.
Could you share a bit more about the theme and how it all connects?
O: As C. explained already, we started from a sort of narrative, a text that was written on beforehand by a couple of members. The musical whole follows this as a non-linear narrative, which makes it easier to make choices in music and visual design. More might be announced beforehand, but I would prefer not to give away too much at this point. The continuous theme is the process many of us have experienced: moving from a smaller village or municipality to a larger city or instead, moving back. The peculiar interaction between the boring familiarity of the known and the overstimulation of being in an anonymous mass. This may sound a bit pretentious now, but I think it will be pretty recognizable when it is combined with the lyrics.
Recent release by Grey Aura:
Was the choice for Patronaat one you made or was it simply practical?
O: After Walter initiated this project, it was pretty soon clear that this would take place in the Patronaat. That’s the choice made by Roadburn, so it’s not like we asked for it. But obviously, this is something we are quite happy with: it’s a beautiful and intimate venue and it will be the last time Roadburn uses it. That makes it an even greater pleasure for us to be able to play there.
Now, Roadburn has a pretty open-minded audience that appreciates innovation. Is the response positive to the project elsewhere, for example in the black metal scene itself, which is not always as tolerant of innovation?
O: The response we’ve received has been supportive and positive, at least everything that I did hear about. The project consists of people who’ve released plenty of records and played numerous shows, so the connection to the black metal scene would appear evident. It is important though to state that we do not intend to represent the Dutch black metal scene in any way. We’re not ‘the definite product’ or ‘best of’, but a group of artists that follow their own artistic vision. If people feel that this music should be different, we can only encourage them to pursue their vision. But a backlash? I don’t think so. C: I feel the same way. The project is definitely not meant to be a showcase of the Dutch black metal scene or to be representative of it, but rather intended as a performance that shows a new branch of the genre.
I would like to ask you what connects you as a group, apart from the project and playing a form of black metal. What are your common grounds?
C: I honestly can’t put my finger on what our ‘common grounds’ are, but I think we all have a knack of experimentation within the music. Whether that’s in sound, song structure or themes, and unorthodox instruments. O: I think it’s what C. says, that we mostly find each other in the far corners of what can be called black metal. There are the clear black metal elements, such as tremolo picking and blast beats, but also influences from psych and post-punk show-up. This open attitude enables us to be pretty liberal in our creativity, even though some of us only just met.
I mentioned the black metal scene before, and whether intended or not, Maalstroom is affecting its definition. How could you capture what black metal is or what it means in this context?
O: Black metal is very important as a musical tradition to each and every one of us. Most of us have grown up listening to it and each is active in the scene in one way or another in the Netherlands, which I think is currently a very healthy scene. I don’t think Maalstroom really shapes or impresses on that genre in any way. Apart from, maybe, the fact that these are all young bands with individually different approaches to the genre. If you happen to follow some of these bands for a longer period of time, you’ll probably appreciate it. And if you don’t, you should probably see something else. We’re not there to fill in anyone else’s expectations or direct them, that conformist idea conflicts with what black metal means to me.
As artists, you mostly knew each other before you started. Has working together and finding inspiration changed something in this group? Do you inspire or influence each other in some way?
O: The cooperation is working very well so far. I think that in itself is an inspiring way to bring people together. In the end, we’ll be getting on the stage together and everyone will do their part to make this a special occasion. That ensures a connection and I’m certain this will persevere after Roadburn as well, even though it was already there before. If this will take other shapes or forms in the future, time will tell. C: I really enjoy working with this group. It has really helped me find a lot of creativity within this project and I’m really proud of the piece I’ve been a part of, musically and thematically. What I can say about that is: expect something atmospheric. We’ve all experienced each other’s creative process, so I expect some of us will explore this further, perhaps in a different form, after Maalstroom.
Will Maalstroom be a one-time thing?
O: This project will be a one-time affair, because it’s a massive challenge to turn this into something beautiful for Roadburn. I think that will be enough…
Can you maybe share a little bit of what visitors can expect during Roadburn?
O: What visitors can expect is an hour of high-quality black metal, approached in different forms but very consistent in itself and with the style of music the joint bands represent. At least, that is what we strive for. The rest of the day is very self-evident; all Dutch black metal bands, one after the other. The rest visitors will have to see during the day for themselves.
So what about the Maalstroom beer that will be available at Roadburn?
O: I’m afraid I can’t say much about the beer yet, as I haven’t tasted it yet. But the brewery that made it, Nevel, produces numerous fantastic beers so our expectations are high. It’s made with herbs grown locally, so in that sense, it connects to our background: from the villages and towns to the big city from the farmlands to the cups of Roadburn visitors. Pretty cool.
What acts do you hope to catch during Roadburn?
O: Personally I’m really looking forward to seeing Triptykon with a full orchestra, Pharmakon, Have a Nice Life, and Peter Brötzmann. C: I would love to see Molasses, Anna von Hausswolff, Heilung, Lingua Ignota, Treha Sektori, and Craft. But of course, I’ll be heading to see Drab Majesty for some dancing, yet mostly I will just enjoy what I run into.
Distance may make the heart fonder, and when it comes to Svarrogh this seems to be the case. Multi-instrumentalist Dimo Dimov has been living in Germany for years now but returns to his native Bulgaria with his main project Svarrogh frequently. It’s not his only project, but perhaps the one closest to himself.
After a long time, this year finally saw the release of the latest record of Svarrogh, titled ‘Aether’. A record out of time and out of its time, but that’s in many ways what the band is all about. It’s the 6th full-length in the band’s 20-year existence and a true work of art for those who love pagan metal or folk metal with deeper levels.
Dimov is also a bit of an expert on paganism but turns out to not be a blind follower of stories from our past. His views are quite critical, in fact, spiced with realism and a sense of wit as I found out. We talked about his work, blending metal and folk, retracing your past and, most importantly, how to treat that past when we think it must have been better back then. Thanks to Dimo for his time and honest answers.
History, Folklore, Svarrogh
My first question would be, how are you doing and how has this pandemic been for you. Has it affected your artistic endeavours?
Hello! I am doing quite fine, but yes, the pandemic has affected plans for concerts (but not for Svarrogh, as we don´t have a live line-up, it affected the gigs of my other projects Alto Lago and 16 Strings Under) as well as personal travel plans very much.
Moreover, the administrative restrictions to combat the pandemic have proven that art and culture is very much system- and life relevant, and not just a “nice-to-have” side phenomenon of society. We need culture and art, otherwise, our life´s are reduced only to a very existential, almost survivalist form of being.
You released ‘Aether’ in February, I assume the follow up didn’t go as planned. Can you tell me a bit about his album and its creation?
The album “Aether” has been a long journey so far. I started recordings in 2009, then followed some turbulent years, Svarrogh also even seized activity – and finally, I decided to mix, master and release it in 2020, and to finally close this old chapter.
It is actually quite different than any other Svarrogh album. On the one side it goes back to the Folk/Black Metal roots, but also
merges the Neofolk/Post Folk phase (if I have to use categories), so it somehow closes the circle logically. Overall the production sounds raw, even after having put a lot of effort in the mix and especially in the arrangements of many different instruments, such as the drums and piano. Interestingly, this album contains much less Tamboura which is typical for Svarrogh and has been used extensively on every record since (and also on gigs).
Overall the release is a real relief. My ambitions to be recognized are however not very high and I am not part of a scene or community at all. I just want to do music for myself and when the feedback is good, I can´t complain. Many leftover ideas of the album were channelled 2012 into a side project called MoonOrchard, containing instrumental compositions, but they can be linked semantically and atmospherically to “Aether”. Because the music industry changed dramatically in the past few years, a digital release was primarily aimed for, however, a limited edition of 100 copies has just been printed and is available.
What can you tell me about Aether, and the stories shared on that record?
Aether is a conceptual album where everything revolves around a very aetherial, surreal and atmospheric perception of nature and natural mysticism combined with folkloristic motives and the amazing poetry of Ezra Pound creating unexplainable, naturalistic, eerie landscapes (somewhat Nietzschean as well) where you have to sleep with lynxes amid a moon orchard, where elm trees are from iron and marble or where the sun is dragging her stars among time and space – as Ezra Pound stated: “Moth is called over mountain, the stars are not in her counting. To her, there are just wandering holes.”
But in the same way, it is also a surreal depiction of Slavic mythology where you have a being like the firebird, where eerie forest creatures are trying to deceive your spaced out cognition and where apples are treated as gold treasures. So yeah, the lyrics are quite psychedelic although I am not a stoner dude.
On your earlier notion of culture: culture, to me, is a word that embodies much. I think. It’s an organic part of our ‘living together’, but also of where we come from. What is your view on this? And why is it important to you to share, through your art, the Bulgarian/Slavic culture?
Sorry, I was thinking in much simpler terms, in fact, your first argument was right. I mean, culture in its artistic, metaphoric, metaphysical, crea(c)tive and educational form. I didn’t mean culture as anything related to ethnicity or a nation. It is not important, I just view it as interesting to share my views and interpretation of Bulgarian history, ethnography and music, due to nostalgic reasons and to represent (in a way) a kinda under-represented nation, that is not very famous with its true beauties.
And of course, to present new paths of musical expression, by modernizing certain folkloristic elements and even creating some sort fusion with other musical styles coming back to your statement “where we come from”: Yes, I think it is in our very nature to seek identity (be it in culture, music, fashion, whatever), and especially in a very confused and globalized world, heritage and traditions play a very important role to a healthy personal identify development, but in the same time discarding the politicization, backwards mentality and right-wing romanticisms.
I like your notion of culture. Though I understand how you used it in the first answer, it made me immediately think about how it so much is a part of us organically. How it shapes us and is part of our daily lives. Hence my question. Your interpretation echoes how Einar Selvik often explains his work as not romanticizing, nor reviving the past, but taking lessons and inspiration from it for today. Is that your approach to Svarrogh too?
Yes, I like the explanation also. You have to keep in mind, that neopaganism and any yearning for a past that you have never experienced may come from the inability to cope with the modern world which itself, of course, is a confusing and disappointing (but then please give back your higher life expectancy and central heating). However, this inability reoccurs in almost every generation since the beginning of time. People who are dissatisfied with the present are either progressives or the opposite, and if you put them in a time machine 1000 years back, they will be still unhappy. People seek for peace and liberation, which is something that they don´t have and this is where romanticism and critique to the modern world start. But you can´t hide in your basement and read backwards ideology such as Julius Evola over and over again. To put it in very simple terms, Svarrogh itself, of course, was very different when I was younger and was engulfed by self-given constraints that had to fulfil a sort of neopagan romanticism, but now it matured and it acts even more as inspiration and as a bridge between timeless folklore and modernity. Especially Bulgarian folklore and mythology are very inspiring as they very often blend seamlessly with nature and i want to capture this specific yearning and folkloristic tragic which is rooted very deep in the Bulgarian soul, which had to bear a lot of suffering, hardship and scarceness. But on the other hand, folklore has always a fantasy or dream world aspect to it and acts as a temporary escape from everyday life.
On Metal Archives, I fond listed that you are inspired by Slavic heathenism, Bulgarian folklore and Tengriism. These are topics I know little about. Do you consider your this pure inspiration for your art or is your art a vehicle to share about these topics? And could you tell a little about these things? They are not well known to me and I’m interested in your view on these.
Tengrism is an Altaic, Mongolian religion whereas Tangrism is the naturalistic religion of the Proto-Bulgarians between the 6th and 9th century before Christianization. I was always very fascinated by the first Bulgarian (Danubian) empire which is a multicultural fusion of southern Slavs and Proto-Bulgarians. The difference is that the Slavic pantheon is polytheistic and can be somehow compared to the germanic or nordic one (Perun vs. Thor, Svarog vs. Odin, this, of course, may come from the Varyags) whereas Tangra itself is the ancient and eternal sky (the sky, not the sun plays the most important role) and embodies more shamanistic and ritualistic forms. However, I am not a neopaganist, nor is Svarrogh´s music. As I stated, I use these themes to create atmosphere.
So, just to get some clarity on this, the original religious views are much more in line with harmony with nature? It’s often hard to see that in the Germanic/Nordic pantheon and mythology, as the stories are now told through the lens of Christian writers. But I do know the Baltic pantheon is really very closely related to nature and the philosophy of it focuses very strongly on balance and harmony with all these elements. Embedded in daily life so to say, of our ancient ancestors. Is that how I should see it?
Maybe, I assume so. I am not a religious nor a very spiritual person, I just think that this earth has such amazing beauties, lakes, mountains, forests, meadows which are very related to our yearning for peace and liberation. Svarrogh also doesn´t have any religious aspect, if any, then rather a symbolist one related to folklore (which has pagan elements). And music can resemble feelings and thoughts which you can find in nature, by a particular atmosphere, for example, the Tamboura, reminding you of shepherds and meadows, guitar riffs which sound and smell like wind, rain or misty mountain valleys. Also, moving to Germany in 1992 as a child, created a sort of vacuum and nostalgia, that I tried to fill with Svarrogh ever since. A big inspiration has always been the Rodopi mountains in South Bulgaria, I really recommend you to visit this place that can be a journey in time. Germany itself offers also amazing landscapes (the Alps, Rhoen Mountains, Black Forest, etc.) and maybe a part of my mentality is already German in a sense.
When we played in Lithuania in 2007, I totally understand what you mean. Baltic people are very rooted in their culture. I just remember the performance of Kulgrinda and their evocation of the son “Saulala Motula, uztekek uztekek”.
How does the form of inspiration work in your writing and recording process? Where do you start and how do you create music for Svarrogh? I’m also curious how you got into this kind of music and how you transition between folk and metal styles in your work.
Well, I started listening Heavy and extreme metal as a kid and then Viking, pagan and folk metal, when I first heard Nokturnal Mortum´s ‘Nechris’t, I was blown away by the fusion of very harsh black metal and gentle Slavic folklore. Now, I know that NM are just a bunch of pathetic nationalist idiots, supporting Ukrainian terrorists.
The music for Svarrogh usually starts with the basic song arrangement, chords and guitar riffs and I try to do the combination of guitars, tamboura and bass as polyphone as possible without getting lost in complexity. Tamboura fits very well with electric guitar and adds a very folkish taste to a rock or metal riff regarding the non-metal phase of Svarrogh, the songwriting was much more difficult because it was non–conventional for me and although the musicality was simpler on ‘Balkan Renaissance’ or ‘Temple of the Sun’, you have to play much cleaner, there must be more room and space tones and keep the rhythm section as simple as possible on those two albums, as well as later with ‘Yer Su’, the Tamboura was the most important instrument, on ‘Aether’ it has less focus
Yet, I feel there is a clear balance in your sound now and to me, there is also a very natural connection between folk and black metal. How do you feel about that?
Thank you, this has always been my intention, although Svarrogh had a clear neofolk non-metal phase 2006-2010. In fact, I feel that most music styles are very interchangeable if you break down the songs to their baseline (especially in simple chord progressions). It just the different instruments which add colour and define a specific style.
Also, you have mentioned NM and regressive use of tradition by certain entities. Yet, you have founded a pan-European pagan magazine. I am curious about your take on how paganism fits in our modern world in a positive and perhaps progressive manner?
Yes, I found a Pan-European pagan magazine named Svarga in 2009 (but then had to drop it after 3 issues due to lack of time) but I can do that just out of interest for specific themes without supporting regressive ideas or the “conservative revolution”. In my view, there is no such thing as paganism and it wouldn´t fit. I regard that as a very symbolist idea in order to: preserve nature and the environment as well as to be aware of history, folklore and traditions (which would be a big pity if they were lost). But that´s it. Nothing more.
About traditions, I agree it is a shame we lose them but sometimes they just lose their relevance. I think it is like that with everything. If it doesn’t fit our worldviews, like a quite uncomfortable celebration we have in the Netherlands, it is time to let go.
Lets put it very frankly: This world is very dynamic and change is very often inevitable. Thus, in a very generalized way, we have the two antagonist powers which drive humanity forward (in some way you can put here Jordan Peterson vs. Slavoj Zizek). So change is important, but we have to be careful that this change doesn´t eradicate valuable things that have a high value for our minds as humans. Also putting a pantheon above your head is just another “holding-to-something”-mindset (but everyone should do whatever makes them happy, I just speak for myself).
Take the Bulgarian Kukeri for example: In the last 20 years, this tradition (the masked rites for the welcoming of spring originating from the Thracians) experiences a boost in terms of social attention and interest. That´s great, and it is mostly accredited to the fact of economic and cultural recovery in Bulgaria.
On the other hand – many paganists (especially in the metal scene) deny (or don’t admit) the influence of Christianity in Europe. So when you want to go back to some pagan fantasyland you forget the fact, that Christianity shaped not only the European continent (in negative as well as in positive ways) but also our society and mindset. To put it short: I am a strong opposer of fanboy-ideology, either this or that like in a football game. Live is too interesting
to be one-sided, it is much more of a fusion. By the way, Tangrism was the official religion in pre-Christian Danube Bulgaria (681-865) and of the ruling caste, whereas the Slavic polytheistic religion was not suppressed (there is a theory of relatively good religious freedom in the empire), but pushed away from public life.
What can I say else, I am a geoscientist and not dogmatic about this topic. It´s just very intriguing.
What do you hope listeners take away from the music you release with Svarrogh? Like, I feel your motivation to create now comes from a deeper drive.
Very simply, I want listeners to enjoy the atmosphere. I don´t have the motivation to persuade others from my worldview. 🙂
Are you much connected to the scene in Bulgaria at the moment? Are there bands you recommend?
Not so much, but I have some good friends that play in bands that i like very much. For example Demonism (Black Metal), Voyvoda (Post Punk), Dimholt (Black Metal) and Corvus Records from Sofia who releases very interesting stuff. What I can recommend else is: Khanъ (interesting folk metal), Kayno Yesno Slonce, Vrani Volosa, Kayno yesno slonce (atmopheric ambient folk music).
What are currently your plans for the future (in a virus-free future of course)?
I am working on new material right now, live gigs will be anyway impossible. Also, I am working with my 2 bands Alto Lago (Stoner Rock) and 16 Strings Under (Folk) – there I hope it will be possible to play live in 2021, post-covid tour.
Do you maybe want to share a bit more about these projects?
Alto Lago exists since 2013 and consists of Max Marquardt (formerly in the German Pagan Black Metal band Helfahrt) and Raphael Schütze (also known from the German atmospheric band Tav). We play a mixture of stoner punk rock, somewhere between Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Solstafir and Motorhead.
16 Strings Under is a side project, mainly based on 2 tambouras, and is basically a mixture of Balkan Folk, Folk and Americana.
My final question is: if Svarrogh was a type of food, what would it be and why? ( I have been told this is a difficult question haha).
Uuh that’s though! It would be a roasted goose or something. Haha.
Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t you’d like to share?
We live in digital times and the physical releases on CD have completely lost significance. Nevertheless, we decided to release. ‘Aether’ on CD, limited edition 100 copies. But from now on we will move to vinyl for the future releases. That is actually growing again, good to see. In this regard, I am super old-fashioned and I don´t think that all music should be digital. Moreover, it is a jungle nowadays and of course, digitization simplified processes of recording (which is good! although analogue technique and tapes have a great sound quality, nobody wants to cut and glue tapes) and publishing, but that generated a flood of music as musicians somehow have a narcissist notion which drives them to share their music. And unlike printed books, CDs are dying, because you would still rather read on real paper (which is good for the eyes), but most of the time you listen to music from your smartphone, Spotify and so on.
Music is a world of visionaries, and some of them are wildly misunderstood or not even seen. Blame it on convenience or simple algorithms that guide us through the online wasteland, it does let a lot of great stuff go to waste. Call it outsider music if you will, but the most fascinating sounds can be found by those who look a bit deeper. Through thematic digging in online archives, through one of his projects, I found one of those exceptional musicians. Lovidalf Ranemmak VI is one of those projects that are hard to understand. Lovidalf is an individual, but to be honest it’s more an artistic entity… The man who created his very own music genre called Ordo Fantet.
Now, Lovidalf has many projects and for the sake of mystique, we shall refer to him by this alias here. Inspired by game music, but more so by a classical training in music and fascination for bygone times, he created a style that may be closest related to dungeon synth and renaissance music. And to provide a corpus to this style, he has started a range of projects so numerous that one would be challenged to list all of them (he insists he has no problem with that).
Lovidalf is convinced it seems, as I conclude from our interactions online, that his style is not particularly interesting. Neither is he. He is wrong, but it speaks about intent that he’s doing it all anyway, dedicating his life to a remarkable creation. I want to thank him for his time and hope that this interview will shed some light on his voluminous work. Enjoy!
As I had published this on Echoes & Dust I received some messages from the artist in question, due to a statement I made regarding the number of projects. I considered, based on his words, he would not have a full overview. He disagreed heavily with that tongue-in-cheek remark. Also based on a typo, the term ‘Fantet’ was exchanged with ‘Cantet. I hope to have rectified these here. I also would like to state that, going through many of the pages and identities of the artist, I have not been able to verify many of the statements made. Not only does the artist have many fictional identities, a lot of band members appear to be fictional too. Due to the elaborate nature of this invented narrative, I have some reservations about how ‘natural’ this is. I decided the music is worthy of attention.
Escapism, Ordo Fantet and Happiness
How are you doing? How has the pandemic been for you as a Polish artist abroad?
The pandemic was very epic for me. At the beginning, back in 2019, I had to leave France, back to my parents in Moscow. Also, I had to postpone many of my projects, because my studio was closed for quarantine. I am not allowed to be in my studio, but I am very much allowed to pay taxes on it… In general, I am bankrupt this year.
So, I’m particularly curious about your path towards the artist you are now. The person behind a variety of projects and a whole genre, if I may so. How did you get so interested in this style and medieval times?
I became interested in the Middle Ages at the age of seven or eight, when my grandmother brought me to her homeland in France. My grandmother has a dad from France (Aquitaine), a mom from Poland. In this story, there is a whole historical novel that stretches from the time of the Napoleonic wars. As a result, for the fact that my Polish ancestors fought on the side of Napoleon against Russia, they were arrested and sent into exile in Russia. So, my genealogy ended up in the land of bears and vodka. On my mother’s side, my German, Swedish and Finnish origin.
Therefore, as a child, I travelled with my parents to many places of their birthplace. I was in France when I saw ancient castles, especially Aquitaine, but not far from Paris there are mesmerizing, beautiful places.
Who are your musical inspirations? And what instruments do you actually play yourself?
In Poland, at the age of five, my parents sent me to a music school, violin class. A little later, I myself entered the classical guitar class, and from the age of eleven, I became interested in old stringed instruments such as gittern, viele, rebec, citole, medieval harp and all kinds of lutes. Now, I have dozens of medieval instruments in my collection.
When I found myself in Russia and transferred to a Russian music school, I became interested in orchestral classical music, especially the Russian school of the “Mighty Handful” represented by César Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. So at the age of eleven, I was already composing an incomprehensible symbiosis of medieval and orchestral music, which I later named Ordo Fantet.
I have always taken inspiration in music from books. At about 10 years old I began to write small stories and poems myself. And after reading a series of books by David Eddings, the Elenium, I myself have already invented my own fantasy universe, which was more like a real historical novel than, for example, Tolkien’s. By the way, I read Tolkien much later.
Regarding musical instruments, I don’t really like the word “multi-instrumentalist”, but I have to write it in the description, because it takes a very long time to list all the instruments I play;) My whole life is music, I wake up in the morning and instead of weights I take guitar or lute, or sit down at drums with tambourines … And then grab kettlebells and swords … ahaha
Ok, so tell me about Ordo Fantet. What is its musical origin and what is the relation to the dungeon synth genre?
Ordo Fantet is symbiotic. A symbiosis of medieval music and orchestral symphonies. Fantet can be in minor (sad) and major (funny). The main difference from other existing genres is the fantasy context. Both in music and poetry. There are huge differences from dungeon synth, or rather the only thing that makes Ordo Fantet in common with dungeon synth is the use of a synthesizer on some compositions. But mostly, Ordo Fantet is performed on live medieval and orchestral instruments. Plus, Fantet uses vocals, both growling and pure male and female.
How big is this genre? You told me that this is really a micro-genre, but what other artists should people check out for example?
The Ordo Fantet genre mainly consists of my side projects or projects with a girlfriend of mine, a minstrel from France. For example, if in a true Ordo Fantet, no electric guitars with distortion or other overdrive are acceptable, then we have projects where, for example, I mix symphonic black metal with elements of Ordo Fantet, or funeral doom. Most of the artists in this underground genre can be found by the #ordofantet tag for example on the same bandcamp.
You work with numerous alter egos, which fits with the roleplaying that clearly is a big inspiration to you. Is Lovidalf Ranemmak your primary one, and can you tell me a bit more about him?
As for my large number of projects, with my alter ego, everything is simple. Each of my projects contains some differences. For example, somewhere it is musically, somewhere it is pure ordo fantet, somewhere mixed with dark ambient, somewhere there is a lot of medieval folk, and somewhere it is only in a different conceptual approach. For example, will a dungeon synth on the Elder Scrolls, or other game universes. Or space synth, or the eclecticism of the 60s of America, etc. That is why I always create a new project for my new ideas. I’m a non-commercial, I don’t need all these bureaucratic contracts with labels, and other freeloaders, I work for music, not money.
And I object to sculpting a new genre on each album, like Mortiis, when he had dark dungeon music, and after that there was a pop disco for drug addicts;) I don’t accept that! Therefore, many, including my iconic ones, call me Alexander Dumas in the world of music, because he had an incredible number of books, and I have an incredible number of albums and projects! 😉 ahahah
Lovidalf Ranemmak VI is my main pseudonym, my main character. Here, too, everything is simple, Lovidalf is the name of one of the NPCs from the Elder Scrolls, from the very first part, which is called Arena, I received this game as a gift at the end of 94, from my first computer. Arena is my first love and the first RPG game in my life. Ranemmak, this is my mother’s transformed surname, Reinecke, in my made-up language (Kell-Galluish from my fantasy universe, the main dialect of the inhabitants of Fractria).
Going further on that, I feel by checking your socials, that your commitment to Ordo Fantet goes beyond music to a lifestyle. You seem to really embrace this identity in a day-to-day approach?
In fact, Ordo Fantet is just music, strange, incomprehensible to many, but it’s just music. But my way of life, yes, maybe it’s already epic! 😉
Maybe I’m crazy, but I live according to the principles of LCSO – (Le Chevaliers Scolastique Ordre) I live in poverty, I don’t pursue fame, I don’t do PR and advertise my work, I just live like a knight-monk, I do reconstruction, sword fencing, I write books and music and play computer games. I don’t need rich apartments, a cool car, I don’t have a car at all, for that I have a gorgeous collection of swords and musical instruments, and this is quite enough for me for my happy life. I’m an escapist.
Which games do you primarily derive inspiration from?
About computer games. Until 2014, I just adored The Elder Scrolls and the entire universe. But after working a little at Bethesda as a writer for lore, I realized that a lot would change in the future game and I didn’t like it. Therefore, gradually, very slowly, I began to work on my role-playing game, which will be in my fantasy universe – Codex Draggriffe.
You make a lot of music, so how does your creative process look like and what is your way of determining what fits into which project best?
I write music every day, practically I record only when the material is going to be a full or mini album. It all depends on my mood and state of health. Here, the thing is that earlier for the cover of my albums I had to ask permission to use the art I liked, now from January 1, 2020, when my parents presented me with a graphic tablet, I have been drawing covers for my already released albums.
So now, I draw a lot, although I don’t know how to draw, and the last time I painted was at school. Although, at school, my knights and dragons liked a lot …
I understand you also produce black metal and other types of music, what other projects are you working on and what is currently your primary focus?
Black metal, but not all. For example, for me this genre was the personification of non-commercial and original music. Unfortunately, today this genre has turned into a pile of dung, with its posers and merchants who write music not for the sake of music, but for the sake of populism and money. Unfortunately.
I, on the other hand, stick to rawness and originality in my black metal projects. Landmarks for the black 90s, when there was still gunpowder …
You also frequently address your writing. What sort of writing have you one and where can one find your work? Do you consider your music and writing a ‘united piece of art’?
Yes, my music comes entirely from my books, my universe. But, at first, I still tried to write in French, when in my childhood I lived with my grandmother in France, but later I gave up this idea, because I wrote with a lot of mistakes, to be honest, and now I do not speak French very well, although I know German well and Latin. At one time, I was very fond of studying the Old French language, as well as Hochdeutsche Dialekte. Now all my books and stories are written in Russian and Polish. I still have to print, there is not enough money for this, sponsors are needed. But I myself read my books on my YouTube channel.
You also mention a lot of cooperative works, for example with Swiss musicians on the project Trobar Clus. Do you travel a lot or how do you realize this sort of projects? Can you tell me about your collaborations?
Trobar Clus is one of the projects in which I am introduced as a session musician. In fact, I don’t have as many projects in metal music as it might seem. I can name it.
Sci-fi Black Metal with the eclecticism of 60s America: The Proggs
Ok, so my biggest question is how you maintain all of this. All the pages, all the socials, all the projects. Like, how do you get the time for all this?
I don’t have enough time. Therefore, I have a work schedule for every day. I have not officially worked for a long time, as is customary for normal people. In my life I worked as a music teacher at a state music school, I was also a teacher at home, for a long time I worked in music stores, where I sold classical musical instruments as well as guitars and synthesizers. I even worked for Bethesda, the one that produced the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series of games.
Now, I will never go to work for the “owner” who has the right to humiliate you, having only the status of the employer, but not the name of the crown or the rank of lord, in Russia, unfortunately, the law on employment is very clumsy, and there is a lot of injustice with regard to payment wages and working day. Therefore, I put all my savings into my studio. Unfortunately, for a year now, my studio has not been working, and now I have really very difficult financial days. Nevertheless, I compose music, drink cheap wine, write book material, wave a sword in the forest and play various role-playing games, I am happy in my own way! 😉
What are the future plans for you as an artist?
I have plans, all the same that have always been. Compose material, for books, for musical projects. And I will continue to draw covers for my albums. I have a lot in my book, taken from medieval and renaissance poetry. Including Dutch legends like Vrouwtje van Stavoren or Beiaard and Grutte Pier! But basically, my main character is a knight monk, his guardian angels in the form of generous hares and Reintje de Vos! 😉 ahahah
If Lovidalf Ranemmak VI was a dish, what would it be and why that?
As for the dish, I can’t even think of anything. But I really love venison meat on a fire under wine sauce with garlic and a lot of French oak wine !!! ;))
Thank you Guido Segers! For your attention to my unpopular person. For your interview.Take care of yourself from any illness, all the best!
Life sometimes catches up with bands and writers alike. Automb split up shortly after this interview was completed. Danielle Evans is continuing with a solo project, named Stridskvinna. Serge Streltsov has started his own band, named Selfgod. Yet, the album ‘Chaosophy’ stands as a great record, unfortunately without a follow-up in the future.
Black metal is and always has been a genre revolving around the darker themes. Dark has many faces and by now we should know better than to consider the dark evil because some forces in the universe just are. Automb sees this clearly and pays homage to one of them on their album ‘Chaosophy’.
Without chaos there is no order and vice versa, it’s one of those facts of life we sometimes forget. Without restrain, there is no freedom either. Yet, limitations of our time hit bands hard and Automb is one of those. Their album is an absolute gem and worthy of recognition, but without the ability to tour and promote a record, not much happens. Luckily, I received a copy of the cassette release through Knekelput and discovered the powerful, yet compact and focused sound of this band. Originally a side-project next to Necrophagia for band member Serge Streltsov, now the band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the focus of him and comrade in arms Danielle Evans, supported by drummer Scott Fuller (MorbidAngel, Annihilated).
Even better, they were willing to answer some of my questions, which I hope you’ll enjoy. Thanks to Serge and Danielle for their time.
Automb and the Laws of Chaos
First, how is Automb doing and how have you been treated by the global pandemic? Did you have many gigs fall through or did you manage to salvage something from this period?
The pandemic has been tough for us the same way as it for any other band. We had to cancel tours, but luckily got to play 2 gigs during it. Other than that it’s been a very slow year for us. All the time went to writing the new album.
How did Automb get started and what are your musical backgrounds (and how did you arrive in the realm of black metal)?
Serge: Automb was originally supposed to be my black metal side project back when I was playing guitar for Necrophagia. I had all this material that was basically ‘too black metal’ for Necro and plus I always played stuff like that prior to Necrophagia.
I started playing guitar at 13 and drums at 16. I’ve been into metal since I was 8. I got into black metal in my mid teens after being into Death Metal for some time. It was the next logical step. Then years later me and Danielle wanted to make our own band so all the pieces fell into place. After the passing of Killjoy and Necrophagia being done, Automb became a full-time project.
Danielle: I started playing the guitar when I was 9 and fell in love with it. Then in high school, I went on to play in a program called “School of Rock” that had students learn classic rock songs and then perform them together at shows, which was awesome. That really gave me the confidence I needed in my guitar skills, as well as vocals. Then in college, I received a minor in music and learned tons of theory and classical guitar. Then in my second year of college, I met Serge and we formed Automb. I got into black metal in high school and Automb was the first band I was ever in so it was the first time I actually played black metal, aside from learning covers prior to that.
This year, you’ve released the fantastic ‘Chaosophy’ album, following the 2018 release of ‘Esoterica’. What happened in the time in between in ways of band development?
We wanted to progress and improve songwriting. Our goal was to focus on the aggressive side of the material that was successful on ‘Esoterica’. The objective is always to outdo the previous record. So we focused on the things we do best.
So, tell me about this album; its concept, creation, recording, warts and all?
The idea was to focus on the darker side of spirituality in this concept. We wanted to focus on one side rather than representing many points of view like on the previous record. But yet still within this concept which is ‘Chaos’ we got to include interpretations from many different cultures, For those of you that heard Dissection’s ‘Reinkaos’ know what we’re talking about. It’s our pagan take on those ideas.
Recording took place in two studios. Me and Danielle recorded in our home studio and Scott worked in his. We live very far from each other – he’s on the whole other side of the country. So it wasn’t possible to work physically together. We worked through demos and phone calls mostly.
One change is your label, how did you end up at Witching Hour productions and how’s that been for you?
Once our time was up with our previous labels we decided to seek a new one and Witching hour ended up being the best option plus we were already fans of the label and the bands that are/were on it.
You’ve also ended up releasing Chaosophy on cassette at Knekelput Recordings, which is what I have in my possession and it looks great. How did that come to be and are you pleased with the result?
We originally thought our previous cassette label was going to release but they went out of that sort of business and couldn’t do it. So we started looking around for the best cassette label we could find. After reviewing our options, Knekelput ended being the one. We were blown away by their cassette designs and thought it was very unique.
You draw inspiration from various traditions and cultures, you’ve said in other interviews. Can you tell me a bit about what you look for and maybe share some examples of ideas or philosophies you take with you into the songwriting of Automb?
Basically what we said in the previous question. Chaos philosophies from many angles of the world. Left-hand path side of paganism.
When I look at the lyrics, I see many cultural/religious references. In a way, it feels like a cultural-religious smorgasbord. How do you approach the process of using all these in your work and what is your method of gathering information? Are you avid readers?
A lot of it was stuff from commonly known mythologies from different cultures. Slavic, Germanic, Hindu, Egyptian etc. We are definitely big readers and researchers of all things ancient. For this particular record, it was focused on the destruction of the worlds and all creation and how those said cultures viewed that. Some songs are based on certain deities which happen to be gods of death and destruction. From a spiritual point, it was just a collection of Chaos Gods. There’s definitely a certain left-hand path Cult that follows exactly that. A lot of that is covered by, once again, Dissection. Who influenced that particular concept a lot and this record is dedicated to the memory of Jon Nödtveidt.
Your logo represents organic/natural forms, which were strongly represented on your previous album, yet this seems to be slightly different on ‘Chaosophy’. Is that still a part of your inspiration and in what form?
Everything we do is interconnected. The logo represents the world tree Yggdrasil and its roots which one of them is in Ginnungagap ‘Chaos’ There’s no Chaos without life. The logo represents life and death. Which in the songs ‘Trishula’ and ‘Ragnarok’ on the new record we talk about renewing the creation through destruction. Another meaning of the logo is the name Automb in general. It is a combination of the words ‘Autumn and tomb’ which represents the season of death that is Autumn. But it is a temporary death from which everything returns renewed.
There has been much ado in recent years about ‘female-fronted’ as a term to define certain bands. That has seen a major shift (for the better I think) where we stop segmenting in that way, how do you feel this has changed? And are there still struggles with acceptance for you as an artist?
Danielle: I personally do not mind that title so much because it is just a reality. A female-fronted band is still more rare than another band with all guys in it, which has usually been the case in metal, especially extreme metal. I think it becomes an issue when that’s the focus or the only reason why people listen to us. If a band is female-fronted and good, then awesome if there are male fronted and good, then awesome. It should not be completely about the gender of the vocalist, it’s about the quality of the content.
I very much enjoyed your album, so I’m curious what future plans there are, like tours perhaps across the pond? Obviously, as soon as this global pandemic allows us a semblance of normality.
Glad you enjoyed it! Right now we are in the works of doing a live stream. Besides that, we are also working on album #3 and yes once the pandemic is over we are going to tour. We already have plans for a North American tour to start. But obviously, no one knows when it’ll be allowed so everything is mostly ideas. For Europe, we already had a festival appearance rescheduled for summer 2022.
I enjoy asking this final one: If you had to describe Automb as a dish, what would it be and why?
We have no idea haha. Never thought of that before!
Another round of the dungeon synth sounds currently haunting the chapel, the forest, the ancient ruins. This time, the epic journey to ‘Persepolis’ with Tir, cruising the ‘Deep Form of Cosmic Signals & Psychonautic Sphere of Nothingness’ with Aldebaran’s Nebulah, checking in on Castellan on ‘Demo III’, and have a bite with Stuffed Crust on ‘Sacrificial Slice Upon The Blackened Stone’.
Let’s enjoy some dungeon synth.
Dungeon Synth Digest
Tir – Persepolis
Tir never seems to be truly satisfied with his work, and ‘Persepolis’ is once more a Redux version of an earlier release. Building on the carcass of ‘The Vanished Civilization of Xattoth’ (recently released on cassette by the ever-impressive Heimat Der Katastrophe label), Tir takes us into the shadows of the past. Clocking over 57 minutes, this is truly a journey. Tir doesn’t use an overly rich amount of sounds but relies on strong melodies en good sound. You can instantly feel this as the rhythm of ‘Daemon of Desert (Ahzi)’ swells. The music is sonorous, deep and slow, never going to briefly over what it has to say to you. I like to compare the music of Tir to breathing, as it waxes and wains with a patience, that feels particularly organic and natural.
Yet, there is also a melancholy in the sound. Certainly, a song like ‘Summoning Alborz’ has a more pressing urgency and tension to it, and ‘Righteous Viraz is even playful, but at its more pensive moments Tir feels like reminiscing. The extended version of ‘The Stone Thrown From Cinwad Bridge’ and ‘The Song of the Cosmos is Heard from Persepolis’ are illustrative of that. The record is diverse, that is definitely true. It can lean towards lighter sounds, with a classic notion, on songs such as ‘Empire of Stars’, or dwell in darkness that feels like black metal. Particular shout-out to the contribution of Varkâna on ‘Forgetten Prophecy’. This is a masterful record, full of atmospheres, places and ideas to wander through, to get lost in, to forget yourself in… among the ancient, crumbling stone of Persepolis.
Artist: Tir Origin: Turkey Label: Brilliant Emperor Record
Castellan – Demo III
There is a lot to like about Castellan. For one, the music is great, but I also love how the music is packed up into adventure modules. Dungeon synth is about nostalgia for imaginary places, and D&D references to embody exactly that. This story is about princesses, dragons and a once peaceful green valley. I don’t need much more. Castellan uses that 8-bit sound, which I particularly enjoy. There’s a level of abstraction to the games of those eras that fully activates the imagination. Music does a lot to make that feeling resurface, particularly opener ‘Doom of the Savage Kings’. Majestic, yet basic, with those regal, clean synth tones. I just love this sound. The cavernous notes on ‘The Illusion of the Decapus’ for example, are monumental. Oh, so just to be clear, you get two versions of each song. One ‘clean’ and one 8-bit. Both ‘sides’ are great, this rules.
Aldebaran’s Nebulah – Deep Form of Cosmic Signals & Psychonautic Sphere of Nothingness
You can always wonder if things are or are not dungeon synth. I guess Aldebaran’s Nebulah isn’t but that doesn’t stop me from including it here, because this is my blog. Also, I think it has become abundantly clear that dungeon synth is an umbrella term more than ever, and encompasses a broader concept. Wintersynth, goblinsynth, comfy synth, why not space synth. And with further ado, this record from Poland. I get Berlin School vibes from this set of synthy drones and astral projections, which are also a bit Jean-Michel Jarre of course. There’s something creepy in the music, it’s that obvious prelude to darkness in the depths of space, where one last signal can be traced from a lost vessel. Some fool goes to investigate because… don’t they always? We hear the pulsations of the astral depths, the soaring sounds of planetoids moving by, the droning of an approaching ship. It’s a magical journey to the great cold beyond. Synth has many dimensions, and so does space, greatly conveyed on this strong release.
Artist: Aldebaran’s Nebulah Origin: Poland Label: Vicious Mockery Records
Stuffed Crust – Sacrificial Slice Upon The Blackened Stone
This record is pretty much what I would imagine if you particularly labeled it ‘American-Italian Dungeon Synth’ and that’s fine. It’s wacky and wonky as is vividly illustrated by opening track ‘Willy’s wacky pizza party’. There’s some black metal stuffed into this, but that’s what you get when the pizza stays in the oven too long I would assume. I do not approve of stuffed crust by the way, I find it the most abhorrent addition to a food that is good as it is. It just didn’t need that, you know? Anyways, the second track has a bit of that black metal screaming, but still feels very comical due to the sounds. It’s not a serious record, you got that right? But it does blend the stuff nicely together, as ‘extra cheese and good times’ really embodies that comfy synth sound in turn. The constant changing, yet consistent pizza-focus is in itself admirable. A song like ‘pizzazzzaazzz’ could just as well be from some forest synth group, that’s how well done it is. My favorite is the secret bonus track, ‘gabberoni pizza’, with some true gabber beats. YES!
Artist: Stuffed Crust Origin: USA Label: WereGnome Records