Mongolia is an unfamiliar place to most of us. Vaguely known through historical references, such as the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan. Even longer ago, the place where the Xiongnu people lived, the likely ancestors of the Huns who burned Europe under Attila (with the same surname). Currently it is a remote land we know little about, Yet metal appears to have deep roots in Mongolia. Everyone knows The Hu, with their mix of tribal music and metal, but there is much more. We talk to one of the bands representing Mongolia in metal: Aravt.
A vast country with vast steppes and farmlands, perhaps the most sparsely populated country in the world (according to some sources, that’s not a maybe). Thanks to a band like The Hu, the country is back in our sights, and despite being sandwiched between China and Russia, it has its own identity, history and sound. And you can hear that in Aravt’s music.
A vast land for heavy metal
How is Aravt doing after the pandemic?
Not too bad, we have completed recording our third album and preparing for its release.
Can you start by introducing yourself or yourselves? How did you guys get into metal music? What was the album that started it all?
Frontman – Nyamaa
Lead guitar – Tugsuu
Guitar – Orgil
Bass – Bayart
Drums – Ganaa
Everybody has a different story. Some of us started in high school, and some of us just started recently. You can notice some influences from Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy in our music. Most commonly, we were listening to Children of Bodom, Slipknot, Cannibal Corpse, early albums of Immortal, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth.
Can you tell me more about the band’s origins and how you guys got together? Do you have any other musical projects going? What does the name mean?
Our band was formed back in 2014 with Tugsuu, Ganaa, Nyamaa and two previous members Voovka and Battur and we released our first album, ‘Nomadic warriors’. This album is about legendary warriors of the old times, great battles, historical events, and nomadic culture. You can find a music video for the song ‘A Plea’ online. After former guitarist Turuu was replaced by Orgil, we released a second album called ‘Empire’ – the concept is the same. The ‘Last Light’ music video was released from this album. The third album was recorded with new bass player Bayart, our newest member of the band in its current form. The writing of this album was much different than the other two melodic death metal albums. This time you will hear more riffs, death metal, brutality, and aggression in it. These are the only projects we are working on as musicians. The meaning of The Aravt is the system of 10 soldiers of Chinggis (Dzjengis, ed.) Khan. This is a war management system that divides the army into ten units.
In your music, you make some references to Mongolian history, for example, in the artwork. Why is this important to you, and what are particular aspects you find inspiring?
One of our friends is an artist. His name is Abo. We asked him to draw us a warrior for the album cover. He did a great job, and it goes well with the album theme. Everybody has his imagination of Mongolian warriors, we liked his perspective.
Your last album ‘Guren’ was released in 2017. What is your process like as a band when writing new music? Are you working on something right now?
Tugsuu composed everything on both albums. Then the rest of the band reviews it, and makes a few minor changes before recording. At the moment, we are focused on the third album release, we haven’t yet agreed on the final mastering, but we are sure it will be ready near future.
On the third album, we mainly focused on ourselves, i.e. we played everything that we wanted. It doesn’t have a single concept or theme. It is different from the two other albums, but we tried to keep the atmosphere of Aravts metal music perception. It has many different contrasts in every song. Furthermore, it might sound more death metal than melodeath.
What do you hope people take away from your music? Do you have a specific message or theme you want to convey, and what do you hope people will learn after listening to Aravt?
Our music is straightforward, true, and honest, with no hidden messages. It is exactly what you hear and feel – pure flow of energy, sacrifice, raw power of warriors clashing on the battlefield. It is about brotherhood, honesty and dedication. It is about great times when kings and generals ruled the world.
What are, according to you, the most important bands from Mongolia that we may not know about?
If we represent outer Mongolia Altan Urag was the first band to embrace national folk style with metal music. Ayasiin Sallhi is the first death metal band, who started from 1985 – they made extreme metal available in Mongolia. Nisvanis are other pioneers of rock music, which made it mainstream in our country. Growl of Clown is currently a growing metalcore band. Karmatic is one of the finest black metal groups from Mongolia. I haven’t mentioned inactive bands – which are also as important as currently active bands and play a crucial role in passing on metal music to the next generation. Unfortunately, many had to break up for their own reasons.
There are a few bands that are frequently mentioned that use Mongolian influences in their music, such as The Hu, Tengger Cavalry and Nine Treasures. Only the first one is actually from Mongolia, the others from Outer Mongolia. How has the success of these bands influenced the Mongolian metal scene?
They are all Mongolian bands, but divided in inner and outer Mongolia. We appreciate “the Hu” for evolving the Mongolian metal scene concept to the world.
What is the scene like for you? Is it centred in Ulaanbaatar or is it more widespread? Is metal accepted in your country as an art form?
It is still growing in our country. At this stage, it is a genre of music that you can find mostly in the capital of the country; still, you can find some metalheads in other towns but not as much as in Ulaanbaatar.
Do you use any special instruments or traditional music elements in the music of Aravt and if so, what are they?
The horse fiddle was used on both released albums. “Nuudliin daichid” was the song from the first album where it was used; however, the goal was not to use national music elements but to go with the music the way it sounds. Outro from the second album, which also used this instrument, might have some traditional feelings to it. You will understand once you hear it.
Metal music faces a lot of oppression in some parts of the world. Do you face any censorship or oppression of metal culture and music in Mongolia?
Fortunately, we passed the phase where this type of music was oppressed and prohibited a few decades ago. We do whatever we want and never have problems with that.
Are you or any members religious?
Every single one of us is atheist; we are not religious at all, especially in Buddhism. Our song from the first album, called “superstition” or “suseg” defines what the relation of Aravt to any kind of religion is. It is referred to as blindfolded by religion, you will never see the truth.
What future plans do you currently have as a band?
Sustain and survive the financial disadvantage in the metal music scene of Mongolia, convey metal culture to the next generation, spread metal in our country and enjoy metal ourselves.
If Aravt was a type of food, what would it be and why?
Interesting reference; it must be something raw, bloody with a high amount of caffeine.