Category Archives: 195 Metalbands (Interviews)

Arka’n Asrafokor: Togo heavy metal warriors

Togo is a country you probably haven’t thought about in a while. Maybe not even in the last 14 years, since the world cup participation of the African coastal nation. That’s likely going to change because Arka’n Asrafokor is turning heads with their specific blend of metal music.

With their debut album, Zã Keli , the band didn’t just set their own country on the heavy metal map. They made an impact on the whole continent. Telling us more about it is rapper and keyboard player Enrico Ahavi, with some additions from bandleader and guitarist Rock.

Due to a lot of circumstances, it took a while to get this interview done. That has a lot to do with the band being quite busy. But here it is: Togo heavy metal warriors!

Breaking the mold with Togo heavy metal

How is Arka’n doing? Has the pandemic been tough for you guys?

The pandemic has frozen many things. Many activities in many domains. And just the same way a doctor lives on his work, an artist lives on his art. An art they cannot fully express yet. It’s not only about having income but the public also. Being on stage and feel the crowd, these people’s energy and joy to be there. So yes it’s tough but we are holding on and we’ll get through this. We’re still working and we are working on new projects. The band is doing well.

Did you change the name to Arka’n Asrafokor in the meantime? I understand it means warrior, but can you tell more about this?

No, the addition of Asrafokor came prior to the pandemic. Asrafo means warrior in our mother tongue. And Asrofokor refers to the music of warriors. Warriors were icons in our culture. They were always ready to fight and die for the community. Ready to die for honor, justice, truth, peace, and love. And this state of mind and soul should always be alive and kept deep within each of us. That’s the spirit of Arka’n. That’s the kind of people we are. That’s the warriors we are, walking in our ancestors’ steps.

So can you tell me how you guys all got into this music, what bands inspired you and how you all met?

The musicians were all friends and playing here and there in clubs. Rock, the leader, was working on an album project meanwhile. He suggested to build up a band with the others. He explained the concept, the spirit behind it. They all agreed because sharing the same point of view, spirit, and culture. I (the rapper) was not hundred percent in the band. I used to sing a couple of songs with them on stage but later on joined the band as a full-time member.

We’ve been inspired by many bands. We can’t mention them all but we think the most relevant ones are Slipknot, Korn, Killswitch Engaged, Linkin Park, and more.

The African continent is known for having a very sparse metal scene and only a few notable exceptions. How was this in Togo when you were coming up and exploring this music? Did you have any musical peers?

Truth is it was really tough because there is not a single metal scene in Togo. There was no stage for us. And people don’t know what that music is. But we tried strategically to perform here and there in Togo. Not everywhere and anyhow. The places were selected according to our objectives. Little by little, we’ve started getting people to know what metal was. And specifically what our style was. And surprise surprise: they’ve loved it. Though some people had never heard of metal before. They’ve loved it because of the traditional aspect of the music. They could understand it. The music was the mirror reflecting their roots.

People know rock music here. There are good rock bands. But we are the sole metal band in Togo for now. Therefore we don’t think we’ll say we had musical peers.

What is often seen in emerging metal scenes is emulating the sound of the bands that inspire. But you guys came up with this whole new, distinct sound. What made you go in this direction and how did you shape your sound?

Instinct brought that distinct sound. It couldn’t be otherwise. Metal patterns and our traditional ones are twins. We took that direction because there was no other one to take. The path was there for us to take because it was who we are. Our culture. The culture we live in and that shaped us. We just did what we thought was right and natural for us to do. It would be out of tune trying to sound like this or that band.

Can you tell me a bit about the traditions, the past, that you put into your music with the tribal aspect? And how did it shape up through the years?

We all have a history. A real history. Not the one written by a couple of constipated guys who distort the truth because they are afraid of what you are and can become. So we cling to our history, our truth. Our values. Honor, justice, peace, and love, as mentioned above. I don’t mean we are perfect but at least it is for example impossible for us to decimate a race for land. This is not in our blood. This is not part of our values and history. Music is meant to teach also. Teach the youngest the best way to choose and why. And this is what we do. A mission we have to accomplish. This is what shaped our music. Our education made our music.

As I understand, there’s also a spiritual side to the band, could you say something about that?

Sorry not to deepen the spiritual aspect of the band but here is what we can say. It’s sad to live half a life when you can live a full and complete life. Like it or not the spiritual is the essence of life. There is no ‘here’ without ‘there’. There is no ‘middle’ without ‘here’ and ‘there’. There is no ‘you’ without ‘I’ but at the same time there is only ‘i’ and nothing else. So mind what you think, say, and do. Do the right thing to the world since you are supposed to be the world. Honor life and differences, honor your soul and laws that sustain the universe. Be as humble as the waves of the powerful ocean washing your feet at the seashore. Teach people and show the way. Spirituality is not about religion but it’s a way of living we as a band have adopted.

You’ve released the album last year‘Za Keli’. what can you tell me about the title, the story, the message on this record that is really quite amazingly good? What has happened since its release?

In our Ewe language, Zã Keli means Darkness and Light, Night and Day. We chose to give that title to the album to make us always remember this duality sustaining this world and the fact that we must accept it, fit with it and do our share. You can feel “Zã Keli ” duality in almost all the lyrics of the album. You can feel it when in some songs we talk about that inner journey of human beings, through bright sunny flowered hills or dark infernal valleys, through laughter and tears, learning, growing, but keeping the inner core of his soul safe, untouched, bright and human. Zã Keli is there again, when you listen to some of our songs, beautiful peaceful words full of hope, and in other songs, war cries calling for a merciless fight against those who spread death on our Mother Earth, those who destroy innocent lives, out of hatred and greed. This album is also like an overview of the story of the band members, what we have gone through, for many years, our musical and technical evolution, our human and spiritual journey. The oldest song of the album was written before 2005 and the most recent one in early 2019. The album came to the world during a memorable release party in a club we used to perform. The following days, the album was available online, and there were amazing reviews from metal magazines in Africa and then writers and blogs here and there from five continents! It was like a new beginning, a new journey. Our fanbase has been growing since then and we are connecting with communities and other bands. Now we are working on the next album.

Can you describe the writing and recording process? Like, how do you approach the whole creative side of it, and who plays what part in it?

Rock is the composer and the writer. He creates the music and we play it with some modifications if necessary.

How was the reception of the album, did it help you connect to the wider African metal scene?

The comments regarding the album were positive. The album confirmed Arka’n as a serious band as well as the style. It’s been proof we took some way and were part of the metal community. It helped connect not only with the wider African metal scene but also with the world metal scene. Many things were planned for this year but the pandemic put everything on hold.

Which bands do you feel we should really listen to from your part of the world, and why?

Metal in Africa isn’t something so rare, and there are many bands I could recommend from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Angola… Let me just name those who come to my mind now…Dark Suburb, a rock band from Ghana, a band of talented and committed brothers who always fights to raise people’s awareness of life in the slums, the hard reality there, but also all the huge potential of the forgotten souls there. Overthrust and Wrust from Botswana, which are the references of  African death metal scene, Skinflint, heavy metal from Botswana too. Seeds of Datura and Last year tragedy from Kenya,  the awesome Dividing the Elements, Myrath from Tunisia, one of the most worldwide known African metal bands, etc, etc…

How is your reception in Togo itself? Is there any censorship or social scrutiny you have to deal with?

Since we gave birth to our music from our roots there is no censorship. The listeners know what they are listening to. Even the ones living out of Togo. Like in Ghana for example, since we actually share the same rhythms and culture. Our messages are real and about life and society. Nothing eccentric or unethical. Unless being eccentric means to get up and fight for your future and freedom, for the ones we love. Unless being eccentric means following the footsteps left by those who’ve been here before us.

What is the biggest misconception you face as a band from Togo that plays metal?

We would be called ‘satanists’. That is how it was at the beginning. That western image of metal stuff. Wearing black and jumping here and there on stage, growling, etc… They thought it was western stuff that didn’t fit in here. But it changed quite fast as our fanbase grew and people wanted to understand what these crazy guys were doing on stage and what they were singing about.

What future plans does Arak’n have when the world turns back to normal?

Just one plan: hit the road and say hi to the world with more power and love.

 

 

Kadeem Ward brings psychedelica and black metal to Barbados

There are places where metal is still an oddity and Barbados is one of them if we can believe the stories Kadeem Ward has to share. Over a decade ago, he formed the band Conrad, together with two other musicians from other countries. The first extreme metal band from the island country.

You may know Barbados from its calypso music and, obviously, Rihanna is from the isle in the lesser Antilles. It’s a small place, known for tropical holidays and perhaps for its oddball world championship in Segway polo in 2009. Yet, there are deeper and darker traditions in the Caribbean to explore and doors to open. Kadeem Ward takes us on a flight through his fascinating career, that is still unfolding and filled with creativity. But also a number of setbacks and struggles he had to face on an island unwilling to embrace the darker sounds.

Kadeem is currently working on The Kadeem Ward Project, which has multiple sub-projects mentioned below. Enjoy!

Capturing Caribbean Darkness with Conrad

Let’s start at the beginning, how did you get into music and what inspired you to play rock music and metal?

When I was around the age of 9, I used to watch a lot of WWF shows. I used to like the theme songs that wrestlers used for their ring entrances. Theme songs for wrestlers such as The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin & Triple H. That was the first time I ever heard heavy metal; but of course, I didn’t know the genre had that name. I had no idea who Motörhead were and that they contributed to that Triple H theme. I never heard the term heavy metal until around the age of 12. One of my cousins introduced me to heavy metal bands such as Sepultura, Slayer & Behemoth. A few years after he did, I was able to watch the documentary – ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’. Through that documentary, I discovered Norwegian black metal; and bands such as Burzum, Emperor & Mayhem inspired me tremendously. I related to their idea of the rejection of Christianity, because where I’m from, Barbados, is heavily populated by people who blindly accept the faith, and disregard the fact that Christianity was introduced to our black ancestors who were captured as slaves as a means to mentally control & brainwash them. I’m a firm believer of practising whatever forms of spirituality my ancestors were doing prior to their enslavement.

The Norwegians that were a part of the black metal scene, Varg Vikernes, Ihsahn, Euronymous and others, were very aware of similar atrocities which occurred in their native country’s history as well. Christianity has been always used as a method of oppression throughout history. I refused to accept anything Christianity had to offer from an early age. It just manifested into something more as I grew older. Eventually, I began to make music about it when I was 19.

My first recordings were done at the age of 17, but back then I never made music about blasphemous activities.

By the time I turned 21 in 2013, I had completed recording instrumental rough mixes for Conrad’s second EP entitled: ‘Exu.21’. However, I was not able to record anymore because my laptop had an issue and eventually stopped working. It was that same year I decided to switch to psychedelic rock with a solo band called ‘The Kadeem Ward Project’ in an attempt to make enough money to purchase a new one. However, this never worked out, and even to this day, Conrad gets more sales than the Project. Still, it’s not enough money to buy anything, as the customer purchase rates are incredibly slow. So I’ve decided to stick to the psychedelic/progressive rock sounds, as I would like to have a more lucrative band for the Barbadian live settings.

What are the band that totally captured you and really inspire you to this day?

Honestly, I don’t listen to most of the bands that inspired me in the early days. I’ve moved on. Not saying that I wouldn’t listen to those bands ever again, but I’ve just been making the time for new music. I listen to a lot of ’60s & 70’s music. There’s a sea of psychedelic rock & progressive rock that I like to submerge myself in. One band that I’ve really been digging very recently is the Pekka Pohjola Group from Finland. They have a track & album released in 1980 called ‘Kätkävaaran Lohikäärme’ (The Dragon Of Käkävaara) that is just simply ingenious. However, if I had to choose a particular band it would be Saturnalia Temple from Sweden. I love their 2011 full-length ‘Aion Of Drakon’ is a major influence for me. I first heard it in early 2012, and it resonated heavily. It’s so bluesy, especially for a Doom Metal album. Some sections of it remind me of the legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson. Especially tracks like ‘Fall’. I don’t know if Johnson was an influence for that album, like, if the craft was intentional, but I hail Tommie Eriksson and the gang for their efforts.

As I understand it, you started the first metal band or at least the first extreme metal band, in Barbados. Your first project was called Tohara Harakati, where you started using the moniker ‘Veldt Soldaat’ (which is in Dutch ‘field soldier’, which piques my interest). Here you also started using the moniker ‘Emdeka’. Can you tell me how this came to be?

In 2009, I was looking for a band name. I wanted to have an African name. I used an online translator to attempt to translate Purgatory Process into Swahili. That’s how Tohara Harakati came to be. Unfortunately, it’s not an accurate translation. And yes, Veldt Soldaat translates to ‘field soldier’ in Dutch. I used an Afrikaans translator, and both that and Dutch are quite similar. But I didn’t realize that at the time, haha.

Emdeka just came to be influenced by Samoth of Emperor who took his birth name Thomas and spelled it backwards from each of the last two letters. My birth name is Kadeem, so if I did the same thing it would be ‘Emdeka’. In 2013, I added Exuma to the name, as a tribute to the Bahamian artist who sang about dark Afro-based entities and traditions.

This project then became Conrad, which is the main reason I got interested in your work. It’s driven sound, atmospheric passages and intricate passages are, to me, phenomenal. Can you tell me more about this project and how you shaped it?

I went to the public library in Bridgetown when I was 17 to find a text about Barbadian folklore so that I could choose a new band name. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to borrow that book in particular, so I read through it very quickly and came across two interesting entities. Ballahoo, a spectral hound with chains attached to him, which was known to devour people. The next one being Conrad, a ghost that was said to penetrate women and live in their stomachs, causing irritation. I chose the latter because it felt more intriguing, and I felt a strong spiritual connection with the name.

What was the concept behind Conrad? And what attracted you to the sound of black metal?

The concept behind Conrad is a spiritual one. It is connected with the past activities & rituals of the African people. It just so happens that I took the more sinister path of such a notion.

Also, I always loved how minimalistic black metal was expressed. These guys created a phenomenon through the use of poor quality equipment and recording styles. I also like the variation of speed that can accumulate within various bands.

You’ve said that you wanted to capture Barbados myths with Conrad. You also explored various languages and ideas related to your personal heritage, if I understand it correctly (perhaps afro-centric themes is the correct word?). Can you elaborate on that?

I’m trying to bring forth awareness and glorification of Afro-based entities such as Baron Samedi (found in the Haitian Voodoo tradition, Eshu/Exu (found in both the West African Yoruba & Brazilian Quimbanda traditions; the latter which I have been an active practitioner of from 2011 to 2013) & Shango (found in the West African Yoruba tradition). Our black ancestors suffered a lot and some even died trying to defend their culture. I think it’s fair that more black individuals accept these traditions again because it was our way of living and it was stripped from us!

For this band, you started working with Lord Ifrit from Jamaica, known from Orisha Shakpana. How did you guys get in touch and how did this steer the project to the darker sound on the last releases?

Lord Ifrit contacted me in 2010 via email and hailed me for my contributions to heavy metal. We then exchanged taste in music and eventually talked about collaborating. He wrote the lyrics and performed the vocals for the track ‘Purgatory Process’ which is the second track on Conrad’s first EP entitled ‘-Conrad Within-‘. The darkness of the sound came from me being very heavily influenced by bands such as Watain & Dissection; those two bands glorify the concept of Chaos as a source of liberation from the chains of the cosmic existence and the stagnation of the forces of Order.

New Horizons for The Kadeem Ward Project

I’m not entirely clear on how and why Conrad got quiet or even ended. Orisha Shakpana seems to have gone quiet at the same time according to what I can find. Since then you’ve worked on several projects in new directions it seems. So how did this project end and where did your interests shift towards?

Conrad never ended! The band is currently going through a very long hiatus. What happened with Conrad was a series of unfortunate & detrimental events. First of all, in 2013, during the recording of Conrad’s 2nd EP ‘Exu.21’, my laptop had issues and stopped working. It was my main work station at the time. I couldn’t continue with Conrad’s new material as a result. The DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) that I used was pirated and for some reason, entered a trial mode, and prevented me from recording. I also lacked space on my internal hard drive. So I knew I needed a new laptop.

So sometime in 2013, I worked very briefly at a hotel on the south coast of Barbados to acquire some funds for a new laptop; however, I was fired in less than a week. I managed to accumulate enough money for an external hard drive, and I figured that maybe I can try to form a new project that would be lucrative enough for financial assistance. I created a project called ‘De Adversaries’ which was based on dark psychedelic rock with metal influences, but this was really just an experiment for the development of my playing skills on the guitar. It was supposed to feature individuals from ‘the darkest corners of the world’, but it never worked out.

On November 30th 2013, I created The Kadeem Ward Project, and launched a brand new demo that featured about 9 mins of improvisation through an instrumental jam session. That demo was called ‘Austere’. Shortly after my laptop finally expired and I was forced to use my mother’s laptop in order to do more recordings with the Project. It just became so much easier to record with ‘The Project’ because it was entirely based around guitar improvisation, which I became very good at. With Conrad, everything was composed very carefully and strategically. This became too time-consuming for my situation, because my mother never liked the idea of me recording music on her laptop.

Another thing that took place in early 2013 was my manifestation of schizophrenia. I was doing lots of cocaine and marijuana at the same time and started hearing voices while having a rather painful and unusual increased heart rate. This went on for the duration of a year plus a few months. In 2014, I got in some trouble with my mother after someone I once considered a friend tried to push me out of a moving vehicle and I ended up in the island’s psychiatric hospital, a place called Black Rock.

I spent a duration of about 2 months there before going back home and then attending their walk-in rehab.

I can’t say what happened to Orisha Shakpana, because I was out of contact with Lord Ifrit for a while; but I believe that band is also on a very long hiatus.

One project I came across, that I found particularly interesting was Emdeka Exuma & De Adversaries. It made me think of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. Can you tell me more about that project? Is that the last mention of your moniker Emdeka?

For now, it is the last mention, you can say. I became very influenced by Selim Lemouchi’s work since I first heard The Devil’s Blood in mid-2011. Conrad’s 2nd and unfinished EP ‘Exu.21’ is heavily inspired by The Devil’s Blood. When Selim started his new project, I was so inspired that I changed the name of ‘De Adversaries’ to ‘Emdeka Exuma & De Adversaries’. As I mentioned before, ‘De Adversaries’ was an effort to have people from different parts of the globe muster ideas for dark psychedelic music.

You seem to have grown more fond of psychedelic music, but as I understand it from your personal story, there is little room our tolerance for that music on Barbados. You’ve had quite some personal and legal issues as I understand. Is that something you want to tell more about? Do you feel there is more acceptance regarding the music you make today?

I’d say psychedelic rock & progressive rock are a bit more lucrative within the Barbadian setting. It’s something you can get away with if executed correctly and accurately. Most Barbadians don’t like rock music in general. As Christians, they’ve acquired the herd notion that all rock music is Satanic. So they don’t ever step out of their comfort zones when it comes to rock, blues and especially heavy metal. However, the few that do appreciate the genre would probably find psychedelic rock to be interesting. If you play music in the vein of Jimi Hendrix, they’d gravitate towards it. But honestly, I didn’t choose the genre to have people think I’m the next Jimi Hendrix, it just came naturally as something I loved and wished to express. Honestly, I don’t mingle too much with the local rock fans, because in my opinion, they’ve stagnated themselves by listening to mainstream alternative rock bands that have really watered down the spirit of rock n roll. Rock n roll is a lifestyle of rebellion against oppressive forces, which is a notion that mainstream bands don’t cater to. I get quite annoyed while talking about it, but whining about your girlfriend and singing about being the least favourite student in high school (or whatever the fuck those bands sing about) is absolute weakness and has nothing to do with the true spirit of rock n roll.

As for legal issues, I actually appeared in court for the first time in 2013. January that same year, someone wanted to purchase a tobacco pipe I was selling for $40 Barbadian ($20 USD). They were a graphics designer that did posters for local dancehall shows. He said he didn’t have the money so I trusted that he would’ve returned with the money eventually. I realized that every time I met with him, he didn’t have the money, followed by some excuse. At one point he told me about a situation where he abandoned a girl after offering her ice cream, and he thought that was funny. Eventually, I started hearing stories about how he ripped off several of his clients who wanted to do shows for him, as he was a ‘promoter’. They never saw any money from him. So, after weeks of waiting, I sent him a warning with a picture of my Quimbanda altar and he panicked. He came into my workplace (at the time I was working at a supermarket located a few minutes away from my home in a place called Six Roads) and threatened me twice. When it was time for me to leave around 10:00 PM, he was in the parking lot waiting for me and spoke violently. After he attacked me, I stabbed him. My mother told me to turn myself in, so I did. I was in a jail cell for a few days before I was granted bail. Because of that incident, I lost my job at the supermarket, as they said they weren’t allowing violence on their compound. When I went to court, the judge dropped the charges against me and told me to be careful next time.

Also, I’ve been to the psychiatric hospital 4 times between 2014 – 2018. The 3rd time, in 2016, my mother made me homeless the day after I was discharged from that institution for my 2nd detainment. I refused her request to get a haircut and she called the police to escort me off of her residence. I was homeless for about 6 days. I was then approached by a neighbor who said that my mother wanted me back home. When I did return home, my mother called home from work and asked me what I was doing there, and called the police again. I verbally abused my grandmother because of that. Anyway that same night, I returned home and my mother called the police and I was detained for 9 months. That was the most inhumane experience I’ve ever been through, and I’ve been disgusted by my mother because of it.

Currently, I see project names like The Kadeem Ward Project, Kadeem Ward & His Mechanical Devices, Kadeem Ward & The Pillars of the Pilgrim’s Temple, and Supa Fly Don X Goon City, which is a hip-hop project, but you seem to have a fascination still for the magical element in music. Can you maybe give some insights into what all these projects mean and which role they fulfill in your total artistic expression?

Well, first of all, The Kadeem Ward Project is a medium for my creative energies & passions and I try to have as little restrictions as possible with that band. It’s a vessel that nurtures a field of possibilities, hopes & dreams. It’s one of the most naked experiences I’ve ever had, as in, the band caused me to reveal aspects of myself that I have never expressed on a musical & personal plane. I’ve been listening to my 2nd album: ‘Confection: A Syncretism Of Guises & How All Mad Men Go To Heaven’, and I came to discover how sonically advanced it is for a very minimalistic production. The compositions are very unique and original and I came to indulge in the fact that I was composing something quite progressive and ethereal. That album, along with my 3rd album ‘Dilemma Of Dispersal & Aging (Or A Continuum TO Departure)’ was released the same year. I personally believe that ‘Dilemma’ has a voluptuous role in my life. If I were to accumulate enough money to form a band, that is the album I want to perform live globally, because it has so much potential as a 2 hour plus progressive/jazz album. That album can build an economy, man. I want to use that album to give Barbados a new façade and a new aura & atmosphere. I want to do something like what Fela Kuti was doing in Nigeria during the 70’s & 80’s with ‘The Shrine’ where people can visit Barbados from all corners of the globe with the anticipation to hear my ‘exotic’ compositions. Who knows? That may inspire some locals to create more original and exuberant music. For the last 10 years or so in Barbados, guitarist & singers have just been doing the same bloody covers of mainstream pop/alternative artist and have been making a living off of it. My presence in the Barbadian music industry is to ensure that I denounce that notion of such stagnation, lack of originality & laziness for something more unique, potent & pure.

Kadeem Ward & His Mechanical Devices and Kadeem Ward & The Pillars Of The Pilgrim’s Temple are both subsidiaries of The Kadeem Ward Project. The Mechanical Devices is a live project, associated heavily with the use of a loop station. It’s for one-shot recordings. The Pillars is an acoustic-based project that gravitates primarily around world music.

The rap project came about as a side-interest and a means to support me financially. I used the alias Goon City for that. My cousin that lives here in Padmore Village, St. Philip goes by the name of Supa Fly Don. He’s an amazing freestyler. It’s stunning what he can do off the top of his head. I leave the rapping up to him, I just produce beats.

Religion, spirituality, magic, it all seems to play a big part in what you do musically. These things are, of course, always connected if we look at rock’n’roll history. How do you view this today and which bands are currently your biggest inspirations?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been practicing magick since 2014, because my mother discarded my altar. I haven’t had a steady job to be able to realign myself with magickal practices either. My schizophrenia didn’t help either, I lost touch with reality for many years. The only form of magick I’ve been practicing all these years was through my composition in The Kadeem Ward Project. It’s a medium to express a spiritual connection with entities through vibrations and sounds. I believe in sonic & voces magick (sound and spoken word), so I try to incorporate them into my music as much as possible.

It’s mandatory for me to have spirituality as a theme for my music because it helps me transcend the barriers of this mundane existence in order to find something greater. A lot of artists that I have been around just stagnated themselves with the idea of partying and accumulating material possessions to satisfy themselves. I look past this notion of brain dead entertainment. I want to manifest the energies of my ancestors into the present day in order to grow and to become a wiser, smarter, more progressive person. I do that with magick. I see this world as a grand illusion of false hopes & desires, so I try my best to animate life of sustainability and substance to detach from the false notions of this world.

The bands that inspire me in this sense would be Saturnalia Temple (as I’ve mentioned before), Watain, Dissection & The Devil’s Blood.

What does music mean to you now? To me, it seems like you treat it like a wide-open playing field. Do you see yourself returning to the recording of extreme metal with Conrad or a new project in the future?

Music to me now means mind-expansion. That’s what I’ve been craving more of these days. Developing my psyche and intellectual properties. Music, and good music at that, is a release. It’s hope. It’s the future. Interesting how you should refer to me treating music as an open field; and I do treat it that way. I try not to have a limit to what I listen to and create. I listen to everything expect gospel, country, & dancehall (well I listen to some dancehall tracks but it’s minimal. It’s not a genre I’m too fond of anyway).

Conrad will return someday, most definitely. As for when I can’t say. I plan to launch a new Doom band too called Mycelium Ghost, but that may have to wait a while.

What future plans do you currently have?

Accumulating money for the future of my musical journey.

If the Kadeem Ward Project was a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

A plate of psilocybin mushrooms, because it’s the key to the inner gate, the forbidden doorway.

Mental health is a concern for everyone. If you struggle, reach out to professionals, talk to people. 

Mileth: Galician Celts and Oral Traditions

Where the Atlantic Ocean beats onto the farthest edge of the country named Spain, is a region you may not know about. It’s not where you find your Costa Brava or Costa del Sol, but Galicia has a proud and long-standing identity, quite distinct from the rest of the country. Mileth is an expression of that.

Formed all the way back in 2009, the band plays its very distinct mixture of folk music and metal. Though the project started light-hearted, their sound is now rich and filled with Galician traditional stories, the language and a feeling you can only get there. The urgency of slowly loosing ones identity, a recurring theme in all my interviews, has pushed the band in that direction. It’s without any form of malice, for all the good globalization brings, it would seem that the responsibility of preserving what is ours rests with us.

The band was kind enough to answer my questions and tell me more about their unique background and history.

Galician metallers Mileth

Hello, how are you doing?

Hello Guido, Marcos here, willing to answer your questions with a good storm as a background soundtrack.

How did Mileth got started? 

We started playing with the excuse of having a few beers and playing songs from other bands that we liked, that’s been a decade ago. Then we realized that composing was more fun and we started looking for our own sound, we wanted to make the kind of music that we couldn’t find in our closest environment. This led us to look at our roots and delve into traditional Galician music. Taking our folklore as an inspirational element and bringing it to music was a slow process, as it has required and requires study time, but I think that today is our strongest personality feature.

Where you in other bands before you started Mileth?

For most of us, Mileth has been our first project as a band and our musical baggage has grown in the shade of this tree. Although many people have been in the group and yes, other colleagues have been or are linked to other Galician bands.

Could you tell me what Mileth means and how you came up for the concept of the band? 

The name of the group is taken from the Gaelic word Miledh. This name appears in the Lébor Gabála, the book of the invasions of Ireland, and refers to a warrior descendant of King Breogán (hero of our mythology). But Miledh can also be translated as the “sons of a Thousand”, the Milesians, who, according to the story, epically conquered Ireland after leaving the Galician coast to avenge the death of their druid Ith, son of Breogán, killed by the Tuatha Dé Danánn.

This book, written in the Middle Ages, despite having an Irish origin, is important to us because it contains references to our Ancient History from the point of view of myth. In Galicia we have a very rich mythology of oral tradition, but it is difficult to find stories referring to mythological heroes of the past. And this fact, which is wonderful in many ways, helped recovering some figures that would represent the values ​​of the resurgence of the Galician national spirit of the 19th century.

Perhaps it is convenient to clarify that today Galicia is a country without a state, or, seen from another point of view, it is a nation that is within the Spanish state (Like the Basque Country or Catalonia).

For a band like ours, where the lyrical concept revolves around our land and our culture, I think using the myth to build songs is a good way, not only to keep this alive, but also to express our current beliefs and emotions according to the pagan and folk spirit of our music.

Who were your inspirations when you embarked on this project? I feel a clear link to Slavonic pagan metal, but that may just be my perception. 

Yes, some people have linked our sound with Slavic Pagan Metal, and it’s funny because there is no conscious inspiration in it at first. I think that the possible relationship comes from the fact that in both folklores there are some similar elements: there are some melodic forms with similar figures, in both folklores the female voices have a lot of presence and there are similar modes of expression. Also, the use of instruments such as the hurdy gurdy , the violin or the bagpipes can reinforce this perception when mixed with the Metal. What’s more, groups like Arkona or Grai use the Galician bagpipe in their recordings … Perhaps the Slavic pagan metal is the one that sounds similar to the Galician pagan (just kidding, this has its explanation, but it is an indicator that we have a really alive folklore).

In short, I could not tell you who has influenced us directly, we have very eclectic tastes and we have fed from many sources. But I could tell you that my main references are Skyclad, the 90s melodic black metal and, above all, traditional Galician music.

All your lyrics are in Spanish, which I don’t happen to speak. Could you tell me a bit more about the Galician mythology, it’s fundamentals, and how that translates to your music? 

Our lyrics are written in Galician, not in Spanish. They are different languages. Galician, like Spanish, is also a Romance language, but in its origin it is as close to Spanish as it can be to Italian, Catalan or French. Yes, it is directly related to Portuguese since during the Middle Ages they formed the same language, Galician-Portuguese or Western Iberian. The Galician-Portuguese lyric of that time is well known for having a huge importance between the 12th and 14th centuries. Then, each language evolved independently; in the case of Galician, suffering different ups and downs. It has been an abused and even persecuted language over the years. Galicia’s history is complicated.

Answering your question, our mythology has lived through oral tradition until almost our days. There is a strong connection to the pagan world, with old cults to nature that, curiously, have mostly lived through Christianity. These cults have been transformed and adapted to the new religion, as it has happened in almost all Europe. But, under different forms, the stones, the sources and springs, the stars… they continue to be blessed. Rituals marked on the Celtic calendar are still being celebrated such as the Imbolc (here Entroido), the Beltaine (here Os Maios) … Hundreds of stories are collected about characters from the Hereafter, such as “os Mouros”, creatures who live under “castros” and dolmens. Galicia is a land where witches have had such a presence in society that it has attracted scholars from Europe to document this phenomenon. Different superstitions about witchcraft have remained alive almost to this day. But if there is a fundamental god in our popular mythology, it is Death.

Mileth Death

Last year you released ‘Catro Pregarias no Albor da Lúa Morta’, what can you tell me about this album and was it well received? 

Catro pregarias no albor da Lúa Morta is a journey through the paths of tradition and myth I was telling you about, it is a journey where a dialogue is established with the elements of nature, not always explicit, and where also Death has its leading role.

Musically, it is an extreme melodic metal with sounds inspired by traditional Galician music, but also connected with these natural elements of our landscape. It is really a canvas with many nuances that, despite being a humble production, public and critics have been able to understand and value very positively. So yes, we are happy with how it was received. Our expectations were low and the album has had almost no promotion. So it is incredible that it has reached its public outside our borders. Although publishing with a Russian label like SoundAge has made this a bit easier.

Mileth contains 8 members. Did you start out with this format? And what is it like to compose for such a sizable band? The sound feels still spacious. 

In the original lineup we were only two guys, but we immediately decided to look for more people to be able to take our proposal to live shows. Actually, composing for a big band is not the problem, the problem about being many people (and with many instruments) is that it sets a strong limit for us to tour and play live (paradoxically). The technical requirements, space and costs of each show are tripled. It is very difficult to be able to bring such an ambitious proposal to the stage as an underground band. Even so, we are always making our fixes and tricks.

Why is it important to you to specifically express your roots through music and has it become more important in recent years?

Globalization has positive things, but it has many others that are very negative, and on a cultural level, it means sentencing people to gradually lose their own identity marks. The paradox of this is that anyone in the world can access information about Galician culture, they can read about aspects that I have been talking about, or even that in Russia they can have Galician bagpipes or edit an album by a group called Mileth, unknown even in their land. But at the same time, here in Galicia, Galicians increasingly speak less of our language, we destroy important archaeological remains, or we cut down our native forests to plant more economically productive foreign trees. It could be said that our culture is being transformed, adapting to new times, or that it is being enriched by contact with others. In part it does, and it has positive points. Societies have always advanced through communication between people. But we should not allow omnipresent cultures to overwhelm and monopolize all aspects of our society, especially when they mock your roots and erase your identity. Let us build a free and connected world, but not from the culture of capital and economic powers that do not understand neither people nor cultures or nations.

Are there other Galician bands people should check out? I’m familiar with Sangre de Muerdago. 

Of course, Galicia has always had a small but high quality metal scene. I would recommend listening to other projects by people from Mileth such as Dioivo, Metalxis or Dysnomia. As well as I would invite you to listen to some of our most mythical bands such as Xerión, Balmog, Dantalion, Absorbed, Unreal Overflows, Machetazo, Kathaarsys, Talésien, In-verno, Fallen Sentinel, Barbarian Prophecies, Wisdom, Madame Germen … or fellow bands such as Atreides, Aquelarre, Lóstregos, Iron Hunter, Utopian Visions of Earth

And in terms of traditional and folk music we have a lot of renowned bands around the world such as Milladoiro, Berrugüetto, Leilía, Mercedes Peón, Luar na Lubre, Carlos Núñez, SondeSeu, Susana Seivane, Budiño … . or groups of musicians who have collaborated with us such as Caldo, Quempallou, Rodrigo Romaní trio, Güintervan … Sorry, I start and I can’t stop.

What future plans does Mileth currently have?

A vinyl edition of our album is going to be released through Darkwoods label, but we had to postpone it due to the pandemic. Although if everything goes well, in a few weeks (or in a few days) we will have a release date. Darkwoods had already released a special edition of the album that was impressive. It sold out very quickly, so those interested must be aware because this will also be a limited edition.

On the other hand, this year we had closed the participation in several festivals, even abroad. But we have passed from scheduling trips to not knowing when we’ll be able to rehearse again.

Mileth

If Mileth was a type of food, what would it be (and why)?

“Cocido galego” (a Galician stew). It is a mixture of vegetables, legumes and potatoes cooked with different parts of the pork (ribs, ham, tail, “chourizo”, “botelo”…). It’s usually accompanied with a good “do país” red wine. The richest parts are the ones that people are most shy to eat: the ears and the muzzle.

Why a stew? We make a mixture of various elements, and there is always someone who finds something disgusting, but if you do not like meat you can eat vegetables, and elsewhere, you will always have the broth, such an amazing thing to both have the body coldness removed or to get rid of a good hangover.

 

The Passion of Thomas Gabriel Fischer Completed

For anyone who has a special place in their hearts for heavy metal, Thomas Gabriel Fischer needs no introduction. Though many will know him as Tom G. Warrior. The man who fronted the pioneering Hellhammer and Celtic Frost are as much of an icon as the extreme metal scene ever had and this year he is releasing a new record under the banner of Triptykon; the live recording of the ‘Requiem’, performed live during Roadburn 2019, together with the highly esteemed Metropool Orkest.

This once in a lifetime performance was recorded and now will be released. We had the distinct honor to speak with the man himself about this record, the performance, the emotions attached to it, but also his future plans with Triptykon, Triumph of Death (his Hellhammer tribute), and a new project. Obviously, the COVID-19 outbreak was also part of our chat.

Tom is an easy person to talk to. Every word is carefully formulated, and he lets no opportunity pass to thank those who’ve helped him realize his musical ambition of performing the ‘Requiem’, a piece that took over 30 years to create and complete. Polite throughout the interview, you’d hardly imagine this man to be the guys who sort of crashed a Venom press conference to proclaim they were going to outdo them (more on that in the book ‘Only Death Is Real’). Enjoy.

Tranquillity, Gratitude, and Contentment

How are you doing, Tom?

Doing alright, I had some issues with my health two months ago and some of it is still lingering, but basically, I’m doing alright. Pretty much recovered.

How are you dealing with the current situation?

Well, there’s not that much to deal with as it is not up to my personal decision. It is as it is and I have to adjust to it. All the concerts that we had scheduled for Triptykon and Triumph of Death have been cancelled. That of course means that also my livelihood has been very much impacted. I have invoices to pay like everyone else. I simply have no income from this, so we’ll see what happens. For musicians, it is a challenging time. We were looking forward immensely to playing live. There’s a lot of concerts this year we were very much personally involved in and looking forward very much to play with both bands. It’s very difficult to know that these will not take place or in a year at the earliest.

We felt very refreshed in both bands, so it’s not easy to see everything get cancelled if you have a good connection with your audience. You go on stage with a lot of honesty and enthusiasm, so then it is very hard to let go of all these shows.

I can imagine that feeling, you’re personally and emotionally invested in this endeavour, so it is difficult. But it seems that there’s some shift now taking place. How is that in Switzerland?

There is some indication that things will open up slightly quicker than we anticipated. But I’m very careful with this because there are only very small events that are permitted and there’s still a lot of social distancing required and various measures in place. So I really don’t know, when we are talking about bigger concerts and festivals, there’s nothing right now that indicates when everything will restart. We are basically in unknown territory still. But it’s, like you say, a glimpse at the horizon that certain clubs and restaurants can open again. That’s something we didn’t expect a month ago.  

Let’s hope for better days. I suppose you can’t really plan anything in this situation?

No, we can’t. The entire year will now be focused on working creatively. Working on new material, recording new material, working on live recordings. We have some live material from Triumph of Death to mix. We have material to write for Triptykon, and so on… But even that is hindered right now because we record everything in Germany and right now the borders between Germany and Switzerland are closed. Half of Triptykon is German, half is Swiss, so we can’t even meet at the rehearsal room right now. We can’t go to the studio in Germany, so everything is sort of up in the air right now.

There’s a lot you can do online though.

Well… we send files back and forth, but I’m not a huge fan of rehearsing or playing concerts over the internet. I’m a bit oldschool in this regard.

There is a release coming up, the live at Roadburn recording of ‘Requiem’with the Metropole Orkest. What can you tell me about this?

Well, that’s a broad question. That’s a project that took over 30 years to finish, I would talk like… a day.

I wish we had time to do that. But I mean the release itself, as It was clear from the start you wanted to record it, correct?

Well, of course, if you do a project of that magnitude with so many special people involved… the conductor, the orchestra, the female singer, of course, you want to try and preserve this forever. It was clear from the beginning that if we were going to do this, we needed to record it. It’s a very complex project and a very expensive project, and it is in no way given that this will ever be performed again. In other words, it would have been very neglectful not to record it.

Has it become what you expected it to be?

I think so, yes. It was really complex on every level. Starting with the songwriting, then the arranging for the classical musicians, the preparations, the rehearsals… Even the performance itself. And then there’s the mixing of the uncounted tracks that we recorded, with all the individual musicians, cleaning the tracks from all the background noise. It was all very complex. But having said all of that, we are quite happy with the result. It’s a live album, so you don’t have the perfect studio conditions for a regular album. I think we did what we could, it is as perfect as it can be, while still capturing the live spirit that you really hear. We’re really happy with the result.

I was present during the performance at Roadburn and got to listen to the final record, so I can kind of compare and it is really capturing that experience. What I would like to know, having completed this, what did it mean to you to do this on a personal level?

First of all, it was an incredible honor to be invited to Roadburn to complete ‘Requiem’ and not do it on my own basically. It was an extreme honor Walter gave us this platform and all the people who work with him, but also to work with such an incredible orchestra. Walter suggested working with them, the Metropole Orkest. Jukka Iisakkila, the conductor… Like I said, a complex project, but all these people made it as easy as it can be because all of them were very experienced and professional. So I felt it was a big honor to be granted me to work with these people.

On a more personal record, it was quite a significant event to see this project completed that I started with Martin Eric Ain back in the mid-eighties. It was a beautiful feeling on one hand, and sad on the other, because I really wanted him to be part of it or at least hear it. Of course, since he died in 2017 that was impossible, but I literally was thinking of him while we were performing on stage. I carried him with me when we played in my heart. I’m not just saying this, he was very much part of my emotions and I hope in some way he would approve of this.

Tom G. Warrior on stage during the Roadburn performance, picture by Paul Verhagen

Has this also for you been part of dealing with his loss?

Well, of course, when Walter and I spoke about this whole thing for the first time he had just lost someone very close to him. I had just lost someone close to me, it was shortly after Martin’s death, so we were both mourning someone very close to us in our own individual lives. I think we both carried this in our minds when we discussed this. It was not just a professional proposal, there was much more to it.

Of the Requiem, two parts were already finished in a sense and ready to be played. The second part, however, is newly created. Can you tell me about its process?

The basic songwriting was done by me because the whole Requiem was an idea of mine. But for this third part, I was very open. I was working with people who are on one hand very experienced and professional, but on the other hand, were personally involved in it. There were no mercenaries and I know many people involved were genuinely part of it, not just hired guns. So I was very open to suggestions, especially when they came from our guitarist V. Santura, who was also the musical director, and Florian Magnus Maier, who was the classical arranger. Both of them are very close friends of mine and they had a lot of songwriting ideas that they contributed, which I was very open to. We had a million meetings in person and on Skype, to arrange this and to improve the piece and a lot of ideas were exchanged. It would have been egotistical in the face of such excellent people, to deny their ideas. I knew that if we combined all those, the piece would be much stronger then if I would enforce an ego. I really don’t have an ego, I was happy to be involved with so many good people so it was no problem to incorporate their contributions.

That’s good, because if it’s such a personal project, you want to be sure that everyone is in it for the right reasons.

Of course, but I never had to fear to miss the personal connection, as I wrote the whole thing. The basic construction and all, because at the end of the day it’s still my piece. This has just made the piece better. If you look at it as a memorial to people that have died in our circle of friends, then the better the piece, the better the memorial. It’s not about ego or being a star, it’s about creating something very, very special. If it’s about art, in my opinion, ego should be very far down the list. First and foremost, there needs to be creativity and the will to do something special.

I also wanted to ask you about the vocals by Safa Heraghi. Her vocals in the second piece just really carry it and hit the right spot. So how did you get in touch with her and considered her for this piece?

I first met her when she was playing a concert with Dark Fortress. She had done guest vocals on one of their songs and appeared later at one of their concerts in Zurich, my home town. I went to see them and her performance that night was absolutely brilliant and moving, so I went backstage and talked to her about one-day doing vocals on a Triptykon album. Traditionally, we have always had female vocals ever since the first Celtic Frost album. She was interested and when the idea for the ‘Requiem’ arose, I called her and asked if she would be interested in doing vocals. But not just backing vocals, but to be the co-lead vocalist in a classical metal collaboration. I’m very happy she said yes and she also contributed many ideas. She was heavily involved in some of the vocal melodies and the lyrics.

You know, we heard the ‘Requiem’ a million times by now, from the early demos till the final touches, but every time I listened to some of her parts towards the new middle part, we were all really moved to the point of tears sometimes. Even though we had heard it multiple times, this was how much her voice and performance moved us.

Sefa Heraghi singing the Requiem, picture by Paul Verhagen

The artwork for this release is the first one without H.R. Giger’s artwork. Giger passed away in 2014, but I understand you still have the artwork for the future.

There is one more album that has been designed with and approved by Giger, when he was still alive. That was always supposed to be the third studio album, and that’s what it is going to be when it comes out. This is the album we’re working on this year. It’s long overdue of course, but when Giger was still alive in late 2013 he approached us after the first Triptykon album and asked if we were interested in continuing our collaboration. Giger and the band, we all agreed on doing a triptych. So I went with him and we selected the artwork and designed it together, and he approved everything. We used one work on the second album, and the third is yet to come.

Because the ‘Requiem’ is a different project and a live album, it has a different feel to it. It is not technically the third of the three studio albums, so it has a different kind of artwork to make it distinct. But the next Triptykon album will have the artwork, which will in fact be the last album where Giger was personally involved in the design and approval of everything.

But you have now also dedicated ‘Requiem’ to him.

Yes, of course, it is dedicated to Martin Eric Ain and H.R. Giger, two of our closest friends and collaborators who have died in recent years since the second Triptykon album. By the nature of the ‘Requiem’, we felt we had to make this dedication. However small it may be, we wanted to dedicated this to people who were instrumental to the band and close to us.

One last one is in the works then?
Carmen Giger, his widow, has offered me to continue using Giger artwork even after the third record. But I’ve told her I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, even though it would be official, as she inherited it, has all the rights and would approve of it. I felt it was important to only do albums that Giger personally saw, oversaw and approved, so I don’t want to go on using his art past his death. After the third album, we will pursue a new direction at any rate.

Everybody knows how much of a fan of his work I am, and I feel infinitely honored for having been granted the possibility to work with him. I was a young teenager, many years ago, when I discovered the Emerson, Lake and Palmer album ‘Brain Salad Surgery’, and Giger’s artwork on that album impressed me to no end. At that time, I would have never thought I would be a musician and work with Giger. By now, I’m 56 and not only have I worked with Giger but I have done so on and on. It’s been four albums. I’m deeply honored and I don’t want to be greedy. I had these four albums with him, but I’m ok with going in a new direction, also as an artist. I’m not a capitalist in that I want more, more and more. I’m happy to say it’s enough, let’s do something else.

I want to ask you about the performance, because afterward you were part of a talk where you spoke with some finality. What you said was: ” I am no longer in tune in this world anymore and I really don’t know why I am still here. Now I finished the Requiem I guess I am free to leave.” I wanted to ask you how this was intended?

It was intended exactly in the way that I said it. When you discover some finality in this, that is exactly true. I’m not overly attached to the world as it is, given human conduct on this planet. I’ve been granted much more than I ever dreamt of as a teenager, when I had these daydreams of one day being a musician because music meant that much to me. I would have been happy to play in a local band, but I’ve been granted far, far more. As I said earlier, I’m not greedy, I’m not insatiable. I’ve been granted much more than I ever dreamt of so, I’m basically ready to call it a day whenever it’s the time and perhaps one day I’ll be instrumental in setting that time. There’s really not much joy in this world, giving the destruction of animals, the environment, ourselves and each other. Our ignorance, even after thousands of years of what we call civilization, we are still completely out of control, we haven’t learned anything and we destroy everything in our path, be it human, animal or environment in our endless egotistical narcissism. That’s not really a home I’m fond of, as much as it has given me. I’ve done a lot of things, fulfilled all my dreams, so I feel very free right now. When it’s time, I can go without hesitation, there’s nothing bad to that. I loathe the attitude of never having enough, always wanting more. It’s one of the big problems that us human beings carry with us, and I’m not like that at all.

Tom G. Fischer, during the Roadburn panel. Picture by Justina Lukosiute

Appreciate what you have, be satisfied.

Absolutely, and I have no problem with that fact that there’s an end to things. There’s no unlimited supply of everything. I’ve had my life and I’ve tried to live my life meaningfully, to try realize all my dreams. I worked on everything I wanted to achieve. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, so there’s really no regrets. I don’t need to hang on and say “I haven’t lived yet”, you know. I’ve always lived, against all obstacles.

As long as you are here, I do hope you keep creating…

Well, I’m still here, to my own surprise. And as I said, I’m working on a new studio album for Triptykon. I’m also working on resurrecting my side project that I was working on until November last year, but that I left with the drummer, but we are resurrecting it in a new form because the material is fantastic. I’m also working on the live recordings we did with Triumph of Death, which we hope to release some of this year. As long as I’m here, there’s always going to be some new material.

And of course, I love being on stage. The moments on stage are some of the most pleasant moments of my life.

The side project you mention, is that the mysterious Nyrith project?

Yes, it’s still called Nyrith, but we’re no longer part of it. The drummer and me, we left in December, but I do own the recording sessions, because my labe. paid for those recordings. I’m going back to the studio to work on this bit, I’m going to add some new music and we have some new songs to add and so on. The Nyrith album, everything was signed and ready for those sessions. The album was supposed to come out on April the 24th, but because we left… That departure was unavoidable unfortunately, but we feel very strongly about this project so we are resurrecting it in a new form and I’m very sure we will manage in spite of the COVID-19 situation. In spite of being blocked from the studio, we very much count on it being released this year. It’s very strong material.

You mentioned fulfilling dreams you had. Triumph of Death allows you to play the Hellhammer songs live, which were never played on stage in their own time. Is that one of those dreams?

Maybe not a dream, but it is simply fun. I have a band that is basically my career and is a business venture, which is Triptykon. It has big contracts and big pressure, AR-people, Sony, a label and so on, it’s a serious burden on my shoulders. Triptykon is a serious band. But Triumph of Death is simply fun. We’re playing very early, punkish metal that is simply primitive and powerful and there’s no business pressure or expectations or anything like that. We basically go on stage and have a good time with the audience and that is how we all started and how music should be. It’s punkish, proto-extreme metal and enormous fun to connect with the audience and to play this without the need to promote a new album or satisfy a record company. So far, it’s been fantastic and the audience experiences it in the same way and we’ve grown into a circle of friends. It’s just enormous fun. It’s a privilege to do this.

I really hope to experience that in the future.

Well, most concerts have been canceled, but most have also been rescheduled for next year already. Hopefully, we’ll be showering the world with primitive music again soon.                                                  

 Gratitude goes out to Never Mind The Hype for letting me conduct this interview. Thanks also to Paul Verhagen, who created the pictures and Justina Lukosiute for the interview shot. 

 

From The Vastland: The Haft Khan and Blackhearts

Perhaps you’ve already watched the documentary film ‘Blackhearts’,  which tells us about the global phenomenon that is black metal and the love of musicians around the world for the nation of Norway, where it all began. One of the bands featured in the film is From The Vastland and I got to ask Sina a bunch of questions about his latest album and the film.

From The Vastland is from Iran, a country known for its strict regime and limitations in expression. That is, of course, an oversimplification about a nation with a rich, long history and a situation much more complex than I could ever do justice to in a few introductory lines over here. The movie was filmed a few years ago, and by now Sina lives in Norway and is at liberty to explain a bit about that mysterious place he is from and why it still colors his music so deeply.

Here is From The Vastland

From Iran to Norway: Sina from From The Vastland

How is From The Vastland doing?

Doing good! Earlier this year we released the new album “the haft khan” and the feedback from the community has been great! Well, due to the pandemic situation we had to change/cancel some of our plans but still, everything is going good. And as always I’m also working on some new material for the next release plus slowly working on some other plans for the band. So, all very good.

I’ve always wanted to ask you about the name of your project. Could you tell me more about its origin?

Sure! Well, it took me a while to choose this name, was thinking about it a lot back in the days when I wanted to start the band. there were several different reasons that I chose this name. One of the most important ones was because I wanted the name of the band also represents the concept of the music. So, let’s put it this way that I am from Iran and all the lyrics are about the ancient Persian empire era (one of the biggest empires in history), Persian mythology, and history. So, like the music comes from the vast land of Persia…Well, there were also some other reasons which together made me think this is a perfect name for the band.

You’ve just released your new album ‘The Haft Khan’. I understand it’s a Persian myth, but it also is the name of a high mountain in your country of birth. Can you share the significance of this story and why you chose it for your album theme?

Right. Well, The Haft Khan is a Persian myth but not the name of a mountain. This is a very specific name that has a specific place in Persian mythology. It’s based on one of the stories from the great epic masterpiece poem, the most notable piece of Persian literature, “Shahnameh” (The Book of Kings – One of the world’s longest epic poems) which was written by the poet, the world-known “Ferdowsi” between c. 977 and 1010 CE.

“The Haft Khan” story narrates seven difficult challenges of a national hero, the greatest of the Persian heroes, called Rostam on his journey by his legendary horse “Rakhsh” towards the land of Mazandaran, to save and free the king “Kei Kavus” and his army who have been captured and blinded by a spell of the White Demon.
In the story, Rostam passes seven stages and fights against natural difficulties, fierce animals, demons, and at the end, the white demon. finally, by dropping the blood of the white demon’s heart in the eyes of Kei Kavus (the king) and his army, sight returns to their eyes again.
The story of “the haft khan” is full of metaphors and symbols and represents some of the most important characters, legends, and myths in ancient Persian mythology and history. So, I found this epic story a perfect theme for a concept album that I was thinking about for a long time.

What can you tell me about the creative process behind the creation of the album? Did you work together with other artists?

This time again I worked on the album for almost 2 years and I did my best to make the atmosphere of the album exactly as I had it in my mind, which was based on the picture you get from reading the real story in the book. Starting a song was more based on the visuals I had in mind but of course, I was taking care of everything with precision when it comes to the song structure, the arrangement, lyrics, etc. to make it a perfect fit for the style.

You know, as always I wrote all the songs and recorded the demo album first and I sent it to my bandmates to practice and record their lines. That’s how we always record the albums but at the same time, I also ask them to use their own creativity on their lines and let me know if they have any suggestions. So, usually, the final result is not far from the demo I have recorded as we are all on the same page and it’s more like they just have a little bit of their own touch in the album too.

From The Vastland

I was listening to the songs over and over again to make sure everything is exactly as it should be. When it comes to the sound of the album, I would say over the years, it got more mature but at the same time more aggressive and darker, still emotional and with the same style. And I believe it’s also a matter of experience, the way I write the riffs and how to make them sound richer, you know.

What makes it important for you to include these themes from your roots in your music, particularly within the framework of black metal?

You know, from many years ago I’ve been always very interested in mythology and history. I read about myths and ancient stories, not just Persian but also Scandinavian, Egyptian, Mayas, Greek…but then when I was growing the idea of my project, I found this combination perfect to make BM music with this epic, mythical theme. It is actually what some other bands in other countries are doing with their own but not about Persian myths.

You know, ancient Persian history and mythology are full of epic stories of the legends, the gods and demons, and the eternal battle between darkness and light.

So, not only I found this a perfect fit for black metal but also I wanted it to represent something from my homeland, a part of world history that goes back 7000 years or more. Something that even a lot of Iranians have forgotten about it. That’s also why I chose the “Rising from the ashes of the legendary past” slogan for the band.

The album, of course, landed in the middle of the pandemic. How has this impacted its release and you as an artist? Did you have many plans to cancel?

Yeah, definitely it was not the best time to release an album but you know, everything was already planned and I just thought it’s better to keep it instead of changing everything as we were already in the middle of the process. But yeah, of course, we had to change and cancel some of the plans like the concerts we had around the release time (which suppose to be the release concert for the album) here in Oslo and in another festival called Garasjefestival.

I was also preparing some more merch and just about to start making the cassette tape format of the album to release at the same time with the CDs but then everything was canceled or better to say postponed as they are still in the plan but let’s see how it will go…

Sina from From The Vastland

Obviously, I have to ask you about the Blackhearts documentary. How impactful has this been for your career?

Of course, Blackhearts had a big impact on my career in a positive way, you know. Just imagine all the attention my band and music got because of the film, especially during the releasing period of the film. And then afterward when the film was released and they were screening it on the festivals all over the world, in cinemas and different types of events. You know, in the first place it was my music that made the producer discover me and my band but then afterward it was the film helping me to spread the words about my band and music. Especially here in Norway, it was so helpful for me to keep on doing what I’m doing. Being known in the scene and making friends is always great and can make things easier, you know. So, really glad and thankful for that!

I didn’t know until recently about the Blackhearts EP you did, following the film. What can you tell me about this project? Did you try to get guys from Naer Mataton involved too?

You know, back in the days I got this idea since I was one of the main characters in the film; so, thought to record some music specifically for the film with the cooperation of other musicians who are also involved in the film. So, I wrote the music and for the recording, “Vyl” (Drums – Keep of Kalessin/Gorgoroth) and “Nul Blackthorn” (Bass – Luciferian), 2 of the other characters in the film, joined me. And since it was recorded specially for the film so, I called it “Blackhearts” and then it was also used for the ending title of the film.

And I was thinking to ask them too but we were in a really short time, I mean everything happened real quick from the time when I decided to do it until we were already in the studio. So, we couldn’t…

What must have been most impactful was your move to Norway. How do you feel about this now? And have you been back to Iran? How did this impact your family? 

True! Moving to Norway changed my life completely and I’m really glad it happened! I mean from many years ago I had the dream of moving to Norway and then finally it did happen. So, still today after all these years it seems unreal to me, the whole story and everything that happened in a really short time and changed my life, in a good way. I mean there was no doubt and still, today if I go back, I would do the same!

I haven’t been back to Iran since when I moved to Norway and probably it’s not a smart thing to do after all the threats I had (both back when I was in Iran and even later the first 2-3 years here in Norway). So, haven’t seen my family for the last 7 years which is not easy as you can imagine. So, I just talk to them on phone and sometimes we do video calls but it’s not the same, you know.

The documentary speaks about freedom/censorship you didn’t experience back in Iran. Yet, I’ve heard conflicting stories about that concerning metal music. There are quite some metal bands in Tehran and Iran according to Metal Encyclopedia and the band Avarayr (who are Armenians, living in Iran) stated they felt quite free to do what they pleased when I interviewed them. Could you respond to that and perhaps explain how we should view this? (because I must be wrong somewhere here).

Right, I understand that is kind of confusing for people outside Iran, and to be honest, it’s even hard to explain but OK, I try to explain it as short as possible…of course that’s true there are some other active metal bands in Iran but most of them are like real underground and since we don’t have any official metal scene, no record label to release the metal albums, no record store, festival or something; so, probably you never hear from them. Even though today it’s a bit easier to discover the bands because of social media but still…and regarding the Metal Encyclopedia, I can tell it’s really not updated and a good source to get the right info (…for Iranian bands). I know some of those bands in person! And the info there is not correct. Even the info regarding “From The Vastland” and my previous band “Sorg Innkallelse” is not right. Some of those bands are just a name, a one-man-band project with no release and at the same time there are bands which you can not find there but you know, that’s because there is no official scene going on.

Metal music in Iran is banned and the authorities consider it blasphemy but there is no official law about that. That’s when things get complicated, for example, if you want to release an album or play a metal gig you need to get a permit from the ministry of culture. First of all, they don’t give you a permit for a metal album and even if you get it, still it doesn’t mean you can do it! There are groups related to the revolutionary guard, religious groups, and different governmental organizations that easily can arrest you. They don’t need any permit or something to do that, they have guns and power! And that’s enough.

The thing is the regime pressure the artists whenever they feel like they should, every now and then. So, you never know when or how! it’s about their priorities. I myself at least know 3 metal musicians who had to run out of the country because of their music. probably you have heard about the Iranian band “Confess” and their story. That’s a good example of how things can go for metal musicians in Iran…

In your music, you tell about the legendary past. Extreme metal and tradition have a connection that is at times difficult. Many artists have at one point or another faced accusations of racism, spreading hate, etc. Often wrongfully (though there is the NSBM thing). I wanted to ask you how you feel about this from your perspective and what role does metal have when it comes to our past and identity?

You know, I think we should not forget that there is (or used to be) a strong family kind of feeling in the metal community, no matter who you are, where you come from, your race, skin color, personal preferences…That kind of freedom without feeling being judged or anything. I know in reality it’s not exactly like that or at least not today but we all share the same passion for the music we love and that’s what makes us connected. And when it comes to extreme metal or even metal in general, I think it’s is all about being true to yourself. it’s more than just music, it’s our identity. It’s the music that makes you think, to not forget and keep your roots, to break all the chains and fake rules that limit you. that’s the role it should play and that’s how it gets connected to your past, to your true self, I believe.

We see you walking a lot in the forests and nature in the documentary. How important are these to you and do you have special places you go for inspiration or that connect you to the past?

Nature is also where I get the inspiration for creating the music (one of the inspiration sources for me, you know). Especially mountain which brings back all my memories from childhood when I was going to the mountain around Tehran every weekend with my dad and that actually remained with me until today. And of course, the beautiful nature here in Norway which usually includes mountain and forest together is where makes me calm and inspires me a lot.

For the first four years of my life here in Norway I was living in a very small village outside Trondheim (up north Norway) and the nature in that area is spectacular. I had some favorite places where I could spend hours and hours just to relax, fresh my mind or listen to music. From the time when I moved to Oslo, nature is not that far but still, you need to get out of the town a bit, So, I usually just go for a walk by sea which makes me really calm and relaxed.

As I understand it, your inspiration was Marduk, Belenos, and Gorgoroth. What are you listening to now and would you recommend to others?

True! Well, there are tons of good bands from all over the world and still today I enjoy discovering new, unknown or less known bands. So, it’s a long list but if I would mention just one that I listen to these days then it would be Selbst!

From The Vastland Band

Are there any Iranian metal bands people should really know about?

Well, there are very good bands, especially death metal bands! but you know, as I said, the problem is that the metal scene in Iran is really underground and there is nothing like anything official going on. So, it’s really hard to keep up with the activities. I still have an eye on the scene and check with my metal musicians friends and their bands in Iran but probably I’m not so updated.

What future plans do you currently have for the band? Implied that the world turns back to normal.

Well, I’m working on some new material for the next album, however, I’m not sure if I’m going to release it next year. It all depends on how the writing process will go. I never plan a release an album before I’m 100% satisfied with the material. And when it comes to live shows, I would wait a bit and see how the situation is but I’m thinking about at least a show here in Oslo later this year but if not then maybe we can plan to stream live…Hard to say now when everything is uncertain. The music scene was hit strongly by the pandemic situation and changed all the plans for almost everyone but hopefully, things will get back to normal, slowly and we will see more and more activities.

If you had to compare From The Vastland to a dish, what would it be and why?

Hehe That’s a weird one! Never thought about it before. Well, let’s say “ghormeh sabzi” because it has a lot of ingredients, mostly herbs and even though not all of them are used only in this Iranian dish (well, some of the herbs are) but the taste of the food is so Iranian (I mean, this is a traditional Iranian dish. So, obviously)…Yeah, maybe I can compare my music to that! I don’t know…hehe

Dylan Carson and Earth’s Universal Vibrations

Our world still holds plenty of mysteries. There are intricacies, complexities and connections, we can hardly fathom, all around us. Some people tap into the beyond, into the mystery of sound and vibration. One of those is Dylan Carson, a modern day musical shaman and explorer, who by that time had just released ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’ with his band Earth.

On this album, he is exploring a more feminine spirit, a sensuality that is almost transcendental. Carson has his roots in the grunge scene, has gone through the darkness of addiction, lost his good friend to suicide (yes, Kurt Cobain) and somehow has emerged as an icon in a musical style that is entirely his own.

Carlson is often called the father of drone metal. Not a moniker he would pick, but one he gratefully accepts. Currently, as we talk over Skype with a bunch of disruptions on the line as friends try to reach him, he is staying in Los Angeles. For the film soundtrack he is making, but also because he will be moving there in December. It’s a lot more sunny in L.A. he concurs: “It’s way warmer up here, nicer weather for sure!”, he chuckles.

We talk about the new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, which recently came out. But also about his solo record Conquistador, on which he collaborated with Emma Ruth Rundle. And Bagpipes.

Never Mind The Hype let me interview Dylan for last years’ Le Guess Who? festival, a fest I’ve never visited. I was happy to do so anyway.

Good vibrations and universal harmonies

What do you think about the Le Guess Who? Festival yourself?
“It’s one of my favorite festivals. I’m not crazy about festivals, but this one always has an interesting program and many people are there that I’d love to meet. Not that I get to usually, but last time I was there I saw jazz icon Pharaoh Sanders perform. That is really cool!”

How does Earth fit within the confines of a festival like Le Guess Who? And how did you end up playing there this year?
“Well, The Bug is one of the curators and we did an album together, so I think that’s how it went. But why we fit in is that even though people love boxing us into genres or microgenres, Earth has always tried to do something new, always pushed itself into new directions. That fits within the confines of this festival very well. As a musician, I don’t feel confined to microgenres. I make music, as best as I can, but I can’t affect the way people deal with that. But we play all sorts of festivals, because we are not limited to just heavy music. We’ve done Hellfest, Primavera, but also Le Guess Who? and Levitation festival. That’s a big range. Big Ears in Knoxville is another one of my favorites by the way. We’re not stuck in a corner, we can go many different ways with Earth.”

Is that what gives you more freedom in starting up collaborations?
“Definitely. I’ve done a lot of those and I’m always open for new opportunities. It’s all about being open to possibilities and look for that ‘common ground’. If that’s not there, it won’t work. Our collab with Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin is a good example. Even though he grew up hating guitars, we have a lot of similarities in our taste for music and love for dub. Even though we come from opposite worlds, there was enough of a match to do something very cool. So kudos to Kevin for having the guts to do this.”

Do you ever worry if such a collaboration will work out?
“If it doesn’t work out, you just won’t release it. No one will have to suffer through it. I’ve had those in the past, where it just didn’t work out. But now, I think I’ve done this long enough to know early on if something will work or not, if the audience would like it or not. I believe in ‘happy accidents’, just letting things happen. If it’s a lot of work and effort, the magic just isn’t there.”

For your solo album ‘Conquistador’ you worked with Emma Ruth Rundle. How did that happen?
“She’s just fucking amazing. I seriously can’t praise her enough, both as musician and as a human being. I’m so happy to see all the recognition she is getting, because she deserves every bit of it. She is one of the few people I always love seeing perform. She is signed to the same label as us, Sargent House, though I met her earlier when we did a show with Marriages and Deafheaven in LA. I borrowed her amp and we’ve sorta become friends since. When I was working on ‘Conquistador’, our schedules matched and we met in the studio of Kurt Ballou to work on some music. So that’s what happened.”

How was it for you to create a solo record, instead of an Earth record?
“With Earth there are always multiple people involved, which makes the process more complex. Solo I simply have more freedom and a white canvas, possibilities for collaborations, but it also feels more free for me. Though Earth is not a formula, you always look for progress and continuity. Not that there’s a set course, but we don’t want to repeat ourselves while there may be directions I’d like to play with a bit more. The theme of an imaginary western you could here on ‘Hex, Or Printing in the Infernal Method’, so that was a done deal for Earth. ‘Conquistador’ allowed me to further explore that theme.”

“But what was also an influence, is that we had just left Southern Lord. I knew that finding a new label was going to take time and we had just toured intensively for our previous album Primitive & Deadly. There was need for a break, and I had all this music I wanted to work on. So I took the progressions I had and made my own songs with those. So it was a time of finding our bearings and experimenting.”

If I understand you correctly here, Earth is kind of your highway and solo work enables you to take all those interesting byways and explore, is that correct?
“That’s basically it. Earth is the main focus of my career, but there’s so much else I want to do. This enables me to do that and it helps my creative process. Making music is one of the few things in my life I haven’t had problems with. It helps me find the right flow, also in other aspects of my life. I feel very fortunate to be able to work on music all the time and I don’t want to waste any of that time. The fact that I once just… disappeared for 5 years, showed up again and was embraced, is something I’m very grateful for.”

But that’s also your own doing. You get called the father of drone for a reason.
“Well yes, that. The fact that people respect what I did so much and validate it, that’s an incredible honor. That’s what motivates me to try hard and keep innovating, not rest on my laurels. I could have made Earth 2 25 times, but that’s not how I want to be remembered.”

Does the solo work make you hungry for more?
“Definitely. I’m currently working on the soundtrack for the film From A Son and I hope this will be released as a solo album too.”

Conquistador (2018)

You’ve often said you’d like to make soundtracks and this is your second, right? How did this happen?
“I’ve made a soundtrack for a German film, called Gold. This is the second. The director of From A Son is Gilbert Trejo, son of Danny Trejo, who plays in the movie. His production manager Kyle pitched my music and Gilbert liked it. He tried what it would be like by using some Earth songs and music from Conquistador as place holders and it was a fit. Kyle happened to know my manager Cathy and contacted her. Long story short, I got to make a soundtrack.”

“The process itself has been pretty intuitive. I watched the movie, which gave me some ideas. We then played the movie and I basically jammed to it. Then it’s a whole process of cutting, pasting, filling, adding… Until you have it. Austin from Starcrawler added percussion to the recordings. All in all, this was a very straightforward process. Similar to Gold actually, though there they were shooting while I was composing, so I would get bits of the film sent my way. That was interesting.”

I’ve actually seen you play another soundtrack. In Ghent you did a live soundtrack for the 70’s psychedelic movie Belladonna of Sadness.
“Ah, but that was a different process. They actually expected us to play an Earth set, but instead we composed a whole soundtrack. We watched the movie a number of times, chose a number of themes and worked with that. That developed into what we played live that night and which has shaped part of the new album, like the song Descending Bella.

We actually should talk about your new album, but first, you did sign with Sargent House. What made you join their roster?
“Cathy Pellow was already our manager and that’s why my solo record is out on Sargent House. Going there with Earth was a natural choice. Cathy is fantastic, really good with artists, supportive and I like her way of doing business. We just click and Sargent House is a great label, with camaraderie between artists I haven’t experienced before.”

Full Upon Her Burning Lips is the first record you’ve done with Adrienne Davis as a duo. Why did you choose for that and how did it work out?
“I felt that on previous records, we had to give way to a lot of other instruments. That’s not a complaint, I worked with great people and I’m happy with those records. But I wanted to see if I could give more room for the essence. The drums also could do with more space I felt. By making this record with the two of us, we get to show what Earth sounds like at its core. And I got to play bass, which I like, so that is cool.”

“The process was very smooth. Most of the material was composed a month before we went into the studio, and there everything just got together naturally. It’s again a very intuitive process, where most of the overdubs, solo’s, and bass lines are improvised in the studio. The basis for the song was just there to complete.”

Did you have a clear concept for this record, like you did for previous ones?
“That’s actually one thing that was very different on this album. I had various ideas, but not one big concept. My wife, Polly, she’s a dancer and I thought a lot about music and dance, which are so separate in today’s world. I also read a lot of books from Tanith Lee, which have many sensual themes. I wanted to create a record that was more feminine, more sensual, as opposed to the hypermasculinity of heavy music, but also play with dance. Dance is not just for EBM, it’s a form of getting together, interacting physically, of ritual. It’s a communal thing that I find very important.”

I noticed that this whole record refers to that essence. Just the design of the cover, with its 70’s hardrock reference and the picture of you two, it really points to your roots.
“That picture was not intended for the cover, but when I saw it, I knew it was just right. It’s the band itself, and this design makes me think of classic albums like the debut by The Stooges. It was just right.”

Could you tell me what, in your view, is that core or essence of Earth. That which makes the band unique? Is that drone?
“I see drone as more of a technique. In music theory, it’s called an oblique motion and that can be found in numerous types of music. From Indian meditation, classical music, blues to even Scottish bagpipes. What attracts me to that sound is the open string you work with or against. I think that’s what I’ve always done in my music. Many people think of massive amps and volume when they hear drone, but there are drones in a hurdy gurdy or acoustic music. That’s what I love anyways. Tempo has always been less interesting to me so we’re sort of countering that, which was particularly interesting when we started out in a time when each band wanted to be the fastest in the world. Within those factors there are many directions to explore and as long as this is all in there, it’s Earth I think. Currently I’m using a lot of chromatic movements, which is something new in my music. But that’s still an oblique motion.”

All these examples you mention, like a hurdy gurdy and bagpipes, those create a sound that I think resonates with people. Isn’t that part of the charm?
“It might be my Scottish heritage, which makes me cursed with liking bagpipes. But did you know the bagpipe was really used everywhere until the accordion became available? I read somewhere the king of Hungary even burned all bagpipes then and forced people to buy accordions. Maybe that’s where bagpipes got their bad name, but it’s definitely a global instrument.”

“But I feel, making music, that I’m just a conduit for music that’s already there. Like a pipe, the way I’m shaped affects the final form. That vibration though, it’s already there, the universe is all about vibrations. Solid matter are standing waves and I like the idea of a sustained note, that is fed and keeps resounding, which touches us. It’s a shared, universal resonance. Music and dance are the original technologies for ecstasy and transcendence. When I play a really good show, I never remember it afterwards, I disappear into it. When I think too much, when it’s a lot of work, then I remember it. It’s still a good show, people enjoy it, but it’s where I don’t lose myself in that vibration of the music.”

Is that how you experience collaborations? Is there that shared resonance that you look for?
“I think so, but it’s also a form of synergy. The sum needs to be larger than the parts, if that’s all good, it’s going to work out.”

Descending into the world of Krigeist

Most of the interviews with an artist are because of the release of an album, or relevant news that involves the band. But, sometimes there is an artist that just that never sits still, continuously  working on a total of fourteen projects at the same time. Krigeist, also known as Andrew Campbell, plays in Barshasketh, Brón, Belliciste, Dunkelheit and who knows what other musical project he is involved in…

Andrew carries out everything he does with enormous passion and dedication. This is very fascinating if you keep in mind these are not only studio projects. Barshasketh visited the Netherlands several times. Andrew found some gaps in his busy schedule for us to answer questions about his music, inspiration, and how he keeps everything in balance, whilst traveling the world.

Interview originally published on Never Mind The Hype.

Header: Krigeist in Tampere, foto Porta Atra (Source: Facebook page Barshasketh)

Following the Left Hand Path

I was wondering if you could tell me about yourself. Where you originally are from and how you got involved with black metal and in so many projects.
I’m originally from New Zealand, but I’ve not lived there in almost a decade now. I’ve relocated several times since I left, but I’ve now been based in Serbia for a few years.

Since a young age, I’d been looking for a type of music that fits with what I had in my mind and went through many phases searching for it, until I discovered Black Metal, which was everything I’d been searching for, both musically and ideologically. I got into the genre quite late I suppose, when I was around 18 or 19 years old. I think it was Dissection first, followed by Gorgoroth, Emperor, Mayhem as well as newer bands, such as those on the NoEvDia roster. From there it spiraled out of control until I was utterly consumed.

Most of my own projects outside of Barshasketh started due to the fact that the material I had written didn’t suit any of my existing projects, so new ones were needed to accommodate them. The other projects I am involved with were a result of strong connections with other individuals. As well as the projects I’m involved with that already have releases, I’m working on a multitude of others which should see releases in the near future.

How did Bashasketh get started and how would you describe the concept and idea you are expressing?
For me, it feels like your themes and lyrics hold a high level of complexity, though the words themselves are very direct and strong.
I started the band as a solo project around 12 years ago, almost concurrently with my discovery of Black Metal. Since then a number of members have come and gone, but the current lineup of GM, BB and MH and myself has become a lifetime brotherhood. When I started the band, it was a vehicle for me to explore and understand my spirituality and now it serves the same purpose for all four of us. As it’s a natural exploration of our paths through this sphere and beyond, it’s inevitably complex, as these things are never straight forward.

I’m very curious about what that spiritual aspect entails and what directions it has grown into. Could you tell me more about what inspires you? And would you say other projects have sort of grown out of that personal journey?
In the simplest terms, it’s an exploratory approach to the Left Hand Path. We don’t adhere to any specific school of thought, but rather use our own experiences, which we make sense of through our music and lyrics. With the creation of the last album, we have come to realize that this involves a continual cycle of destruction, purification and rebirth. Each time we throw ourselves deeper into the pit and the spirit is reborn in a stronger cast, with more knowledge and more certainty.

The inspiration behind what led us to choose this path is something difficult to pinpoint, however, the reason we have chosen to follow it purely through our own experience was that it seemed to be the only honest way for us to do so. We believe that spiritual growth must come from within, hence we have shunned extraneous influences for the most part.

I wouldn’t say this path has had a direct link on my other projects, although it has an effect on my existence as a whole, so there is undeniably some underlying influence on my other endeavors.

You mentioned that the band is now a whole as such. Does this mean the creation of this latest album was more of a cooperative effort? And can you tell me more about the process?
It was definitely more of a collaborative effort in some ways. As before, either GM or I would write all the guitars for a song, but this time BB and MK were left to write their own parts and put their own stamp on songs-so basically less dictation from our part. All members put forward ideas that were considered and taken on board. MK also contributed some synth parts and provided backing vocals, which was a first for us. Lyrically, I was responsible for the entirety of the lyrics (except for the Latin phrase in Recrudescence, which was the work of GM), but it was something that was discussed and reflected all of us.

BB and MK have also led GM and I to feel less restricted in our songwriting, as they are more than able to handle anything we throw at them.

As for the creative process, it was quite drawn out, with some of the songs being completed in their larval stages even before the release of Ophidian Henosis. As we are all separated geographically, there were months of sending material back and forward in various demo forms. If I recall correctly, the four of us were never in the same room during this process, but we did have one or two occasions with most of the members present to work out the finer details and experiment with structures.

The lyrics came last and were a much quicker process, as the concept was firmly in my mind when I began writing. I feel I should say that a lot of the lyrics were written while in Hungary with the Inner Awakening Circle, so I must thank them for their inspiration.

Can you tell me anything about the Inner Awakening Circle? And what made them so influential.
The Inner Awakening Circle is a Hungarian group of individuals and bands including Lepra, Niedergang and Dunkelheit (who I’m now playing guitar for). They’re very serious about what they do and there’s absolutely no bullshit. The experiences I had with them pushed me out of my comfort zone and pulled me further down, and solidified my conviction that I’ve chosen the right path for me.

Do you believe that this exploration, leaving the known behind, is essential for your art form as much as for personal growth? And are there instances you can describe to clarify how this has impacted your art and person with an anecdote? 
Yes definitely, the two are completely intertwined. The personal growth from these experiences is reflected in the music. The music is the medium through which we make sense of the exploration and experiences.

As for specific instances or anecdotes, these are our own. All the things that we want to share in a public forum can be seen in our music and lyrics.

So you said that during the creation of your latest record under Barshasketh, you were never together in a room. But then I’m really curious how the process took place and how you arrange things. I also was wondering what makes you as a person so unbound by a place and how you relate the change of home perhaps to the music or vision you describe. As I see it, this could be a form of exploration too.
For the creation of the Barshasketh album, either GM or I would write all the guitars for a song, then we would send it to MK and BB to work out their drum and bass parts respectively. This involved a lot of sending demos back and forth until we were mostly satisfied. After that, when some of the members were able to get together, they would iron out details and small structural changes. It was quite an interesting way to do things as I’d often get one of my songs back sounding a lot different than I had originally had in mind.

When it comes to the various changes in location, it was all circumstantial really. It was mostly moving from place to place in order to stay in Europe so that Barshasketh could remain active, just keeping my head above water. The places themselves never had an influence on Barshasketh, but I think the upheaval of having to leave certain places without much warning did. The various places I’ve lived is something that is expressed more through Brón than any other of my projects.

Yeah, I was sort of steering in that direction because I’m very much fascinated by Bròn. Can you tell me how that entity came into being and how it has shaped up to be as diverse as it is?
As with all ‘side’ projects, Bròn came out of writing music that didn’t fit with any of my existing projects, both musically and thematically. Fògradh was written after I found out I would have to leave Scotland and it was inspired by my experiences living in that country. It was intended to be a one-off, but while living in Slovakia, shortly before moving to Serbia, Ànrach was written. The three songs deal with the influence that the natural environments of Scotland, New Zealand and Serbia had on me. It became clear at this point that this was a project dealing almost solely with the place.

I think I’ve reached something as absurd as 14 individual projects now – Krigeist

The diversity in material is due to the environment and the relationship to that environment that I’m expressing with each release. For example, the White City releases deals with Belgrade and day to day living in a huge urban expanse, which is quite far outside of my comfort zone. Black metal of any sort would simply have been an inappropriate medium to express those feelings. Ruins was unsurprisingly influenced by various ruins I have visited throughout Europe. Coming from New Zealand where such structures don’t exist, they had a profound impact on me. Again, black metal felt inappropriate, so a more folkish approach was taken. The black metal releases are invariably influenced by nature and an absence of human life, whether it be in New Zealand, Serbia or elsewhere.

I always feel that Bròn is a very personal project, because it just feels very well-conceived and every release is very cohesive and ‘whole’. Is that how you envision it and how do you feel about the term side project, because I don’t feel that any of this is done with a lesser form of commitment and passion?
All my projects are personal in their own right, they just express different aspects of myself. I have no problem with the term ‘side project’ as Barshasketh is more of an expression of my entire being and my perception of this sphere, whereas the other bands are intended to express one specific thing. Perhaps the fact that I share Barshasketh with people who are very meaningful to me makes it a more personal too.

How does Belliciste fit into this whole world as well? As that does seem to stick more northernly, in language at least.
As for Belliciste, this band also has no relation to place. It is an outlet for pure animalistic, reckless hatred with no bonds to anywhere in this world.

The lyrics deal with the filthiest side of my spirit. Absolute misanthropy, apocalypse and the eradication of all life in this world. There are numerous references to deities from various mythologies, but these are not limited to those from the North. There are also many references to the Maori pantheon, most specifically Whiro, but I believe these all to be some sort of archetypes of the Devil, just through a different linguistic lens.

Do you feel that your current projects and themes are for now it, or are you constantly finding new inspiration as you travel and explore and will new entities see the light of day?
I think I’ve reached something as absurd as 14 individual projects now, so there is a lot of new material on the horizon. Some are black metal, others are not. Some are solo projects, some are with other people I’ve met over the years.

These projects all stem from internal exploration and even just musical exploration, rather than anything geographic.

Ok, so I’d like to ask you if there are any ties you still have to the black metal scene in New Zeeland and if there’s anything happening that you’d like people to be aware of.
I never really had very strong ties to the NZ black metal scene, even while I lived there. I only knew and associated with a small handful of individuals, but I am still in contact with most of them and I’m even working on material with some of them. As for things happening within the NZ scene that people should be aware of, I guess most would already be familiar to those into black metal. Bands of note include Vassafor, Heresiarch, Vesicant, Ulcerate, Diocletian, Creeping.

Lesser known bands include Winter Deluge, Exaltation, Vicissitude. I’m surely forgetting a few more…

So what future plans do you currently have with your projects? What’s coming up next?
A lot at the moment. I’m currently working on two Brón releases. One will likely be part of the White City series and the other is back to the black metal style, but this time features a real drummer. It’s being done in a proper studio setting, so things are moving slower than usual.

Other than that, a few Barshasketh and Belliciste releases are in the works which should see the light of day soon. Dunkelheit and Svartgren albums have been finished and shouldn’t be too long either. The other projects are still being worked on, so news about those will follow.

We have some exciting performances lined up for Barshasketh and Belliciste is also becoming more active in the live arena again.

Bismuth: Existing in Sound

The primal movements of the earth can be felt when Bismuth plays its second set at the Ladybird Skatepark at Roadburn 2019. Slow, purposeful drone doom, delivered with a mantra-like repetition over a fundamental groundwork of drums by Joe Rawlings. The guitars produce a growling, textured sound that hits you like sonic waves with full force.

On guitar is Tanya Byrne, who also plays in Monoliths, Nadir and Dark Mother. Having been pummelled by the live delivery by the band, I wanted to know more about the duo from Nottingham and contacted Tanya to ask her some questions about Bismuth, sound, studying the environment, gear and, of course, playing Roadburn.

Interview with Tanya Byrne from Bismuth

 

I understand you are originally classically schooled, if I may use that term. How did you move from that to the music you create now?

That’s right. I play the piano, played clarinet in an orchestra and studied music theory and composition. I think I moved to drone when I discovered minimalism. Artists such as Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley. Space is an important feature of that, and I wanted to see if that could be explored within the sphere of heavy music. So much metal tries to bludgeon with riffs, but I feel contrast, space and dynamics are needed for something to remain heavy. That’s why I loved Lingua Ignota so much. It has a weight to it, without the usual metal and noise tropes.It would seem that this background really shapes your approach to music than, which is not based on, let’s say, the pop format songs. So where in this development did feel you transitioned that classic approach into a metal framework?

It happened when I was around 25. Through minimalism, I started to discover bands like Khanate, Asva and Sunn O))). For the longest time, I found guitar-based heavy music boring, but these bands showed me that heavy music could be interesting.

I like your mention of Arvo Pärt, because his music is for me essentially attentive listening and very heavy in its intentional nature, as every note has meaning… What attracts you to the minimalism and more so the slowness in music (as you play ‘very slowly’)?

The focus of minimalism is what drew me to it. You have to give each note your full attention. Playing slowly helps with that. Nothing can be rushed and you have to exist in the sound. Everything else falls away as the sustaining of the music becomes everything.

What does heavy mean to you and what role does volume play in that, which is what most people would assume to represent heavy?

Heavy is more of an emotional response. Volume can be helpful in reaching that intensity, but for me, the intensity in performance is so much more important. I’ve seen bands that are quiet in volume, but their music has a connection that makes it truly heavy.

I’ve seen you perform, but I wonder how you feel you put the heavy in the performance you deliver with Bismuth. Is it physical or in your own experience of the meaning and voice of the music?

A lot of my lived experience comes out in the music. Obviously, both Joe and I are fans of volume to add to this, so that comes out too. When we play, nothing else exists. I see nothing and just share what is normally hidden.

Is the meditative aspect of that sound on some level relevant to what you do? And by that, I mean the ritualistic or even religious aspect of music, but also may be a connection to your academic field?

Very much so, yes. Becoming lost in the sound is a form of meditation. It not so much religious for me, but I definitely think that playing so slowly helps me feel connected to the deep time of the geological record, in a small way. People need time and space to contemplate processes that take millions of years, and I think the state of feeling nothing but sound and time can tether me to that. Day to day worries fall away, and for a time, notes seem like infinity.

I am intrigued by the connection though, between your academic interest and music. Which came first and when did you first connect them like they are on ‘The slow dying of the great Barrier Reef’?

I’ve been playing music since I was five, but I only started studying environmental science within the last 6 years. Barrier reef was the first time I attempted to connect the two. The music and themes arose due to my increasing frustration with the world government’s inaction on climate change. I read journals pretty much every day showing the way in which humans are degrading our environment, and I can’t believe the inaction of governments around the world.

There’s a lot of disinformation going around, or fake news as we call it today. Was that attitude, the inaction, was it a driver for you to connect these two?

Or was it something brooding already to make this connection and just got this push here.

Both. As a scientist, it’s very frustrating to hear talk about ‘beliefs’ when there is solid evidence that climate change is happening, and that our species is causing it.

For you as a person, what does it mean to bring these two together? Is this a platform?

I’m not sure if it’s a platform so much as me trying to process the thoughts I have around this subject. It’s great if others are prompted to research, but joining music with this subject matter helps me deal with the anger and despair that I feel at times. It’s difficult to maintain hope when all you read about is destruction and death, but we must hold on to hope and work together.

For me, as a listener, your performance felt very cathartic too, as the music is delivered with a certain laborious effort. It helped to connect, to move in harmony with you as artists. Is that something you feel is important, this connection through the music?

The connection is one of the most important aspects. When you are playing with others, it’s important to get into the same space. I’m not very outgoing in real life, and the way I connect the most is through playing music.

How big is the role of your equipment when you play music like yours?

Very. Very important. I use multiple amplifiers set up so I can use each amp to cover a different frequency range.

Coming back to your approach of music not as simply bludgeoning with riffs, is this an example of your way of creating this heavy effect?

For sure. Cutting the bass amp and reintroducing it later can help add heaviness. I also run different effects chain for each amp. It’s important to have different amps for different tonalities.

So what is your process when creating music, because by what I read about your gear expertise it feels like an engineering job, so I was wondering if you could describe how that happens?

Generally, Joe or I will have an idea, a riff or a drum beat. We then work in that for a while and see if it’s something we can expand on. Vocals are always written secondary to this, as layers of sound are very important to us.

Is there a lot of tinkering with the equipment involved?

Yes…I tend to have a pretty precise idea of the sound in my brain. There have to be lots of playing around with pedals to match up the sound I am aiming for.

Do you consider yourself a bit of a gearhead?

Yes, in other aspects of my life I work as a programmer, so I get really interested in tech of all kinds.

Now, this is usually a pretty male-dominated terrain. Is that something that ever came across your path of an artist and do you notice the shift that’s happening and was very visible at Roadburn this year?

Yes, I have had a couple of amps and pedals custom made for me, and only I and the person that built it knows how to work them. This still hasn’t stopped some guys trying to tell me how to use my own equipment (they usually shut up after they see us play). Sometimes I feel like I need to be super nerdy about it so I can stand my ground in male-dominated spaces. It was very heartening to see that Roadburn is showing that creating experimental music is not just the domain of men.

So, can you tell me about your Roadburn experience and history?

Both Joe and I are so overwhelmed by our experience of Roadburn. Becky, Walter and the rest of the Roadburn crew are amazing. When they asked us to play a second set in the skate park. We couldn’t believe it. I watched the Lingua Ignota show there and it was amazing.

Bismuth started 8 years ago and we’ve recorded two albums and a few splits and EPs., but this was our first performance at Roadburn, yes. We’ve done a few tours in Europe and the UK. We have always wanted to play Roadburn and were so so excited to be asked.

But then to get a second set, what was that like?

Disbelief! When my friends told me about the queues for the first set, I really didn’t know what to think. It was a great honour for us.

Did the second one feel different?

Yes. I think we were both more at ease. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because it’s more similar to the usual places we play? I think its because its closer to the DIY spaces a lot of the bands are used to normally play. I definitely felt more comfortable there

Do you think Roadburn is a different place to play?

Definitely. I think many bands aspire to play there. The friendship and open-mindedness of the people that attend is something I’ve never experienced at any other festival. It’s really special.

What does the future hold now for Bismuth?

In the next couple of weeks, we are playing Northern Discomfort fest in Copenhagen, DIY fest in Nijmegen and Raw Power fest in London. We also have a show in Leeds with Thou and Moloch. That should be fun. After that, we are going to take a little live break to focus on writing for our third album and a few splits.

If your band was a dish, what would it be and why?

Hmmm well, it depends who you ask! Joe would definitely say kebab. However, I would say tasty lentil dahl, with rice and chipati. We would both agree on tasty Oreo brownie though.

Is that because you both like it or is there a more complex idea?

Haha nope, we both just think it’s tasty. I think it would match is as it appears sweet but can be intense.

Dymna Lotva: Belarussian pagan fires burning bright

Belarus, the last really mysterious place in Europe under the auspicious leadership of a president that seems to be boundlessly popular in a country that is prim and proper like you’ll never see a street in Western Europe. Belarus has a dark underside though, an underground scene full of exciting bands. One of those is folky doomsters Dymna Lotva.

The band has been quite prolific over the years and plays a very distinguished type of music. Their origin leaves a little in the way of the language barrier, but they were kind enough to answer my questions. This took some time, but I’m certain that it will provide you with many new insights on this exciting band.

Dymna Lotva might sound dark and misty, but also presents the listener with the other magic that is Belarus. A country with a long history and a mysterious past.  This is part of what Dymna Lotva is about.

From the fogs of Belarus

First of let me thank you for taking the time to do this. 

Thank you for the interview offer. We apologize wildly for the delay. We have been answering these questions for so long that during this time we have changed our lineup and had to start all over again.

First, can you introduce yourselves and how you got together?

Jauhien: Hi, I’m a Jauhien and I’m the father of Lotva 🙂
It all started with the fact that after writing about 5-6 demos, I made a post on a local music forum about the search for a vocalist to record an EP. Nokt wrote to me and we started to work on material. After the release of the single “A Solitary Human Voice” we began to receive proposals for the concerts and started thinking about a concert lineup.

Forladt: I am Forladt and I play guitar and do some back vocals in Dymna Lotva. For me, Dymna Lotva was the first and is still the only band I joined. I wanted to play in a band so I gave an advertisement on a forum and Nokt replied to me. We met, talked a lot about music and other things. Nokt and Jaŭhien were already making Dymna Lotva and she invited me to play with them. Since then I’m here.

Nokt: I am Nokt and I am the mother of Lotva. I work on vocals parties, lyrics, concept, costumes, etc. In short, in the band, I do everything except what is really important. And sing.

By the way, we were acquainted with Jauhien and played together for some time before Lotva. We just don’t usually mention it. That is why I immediately responded to his post about vocalist search. We got acquainted with Forladt on the topic of music and his own project (now this is Absence of Life), but I didn’t then consider him as a musician for Dymna Lotva because of a very young age. However, we quickly became best friends. And when Lotva began to look for a concert lineup, we listened to a lot of guitarists, no one approached us, and we still had to call Forladt. And I put him before the fact that he would sing (he didn’t know how to do it at all, but he had to learn quickly). Forladt brought us a young drummer, Shen. He played with us for 2 years, but recently our paths diverged. Now our drummer is Barmaley. We also couldn’t find a second guitarist for a long time, so our friends played at concerts like session musicians. However, a little less than a year ago, Igorr joined us.

Dymna Lotva

Do you guys play in any other bands or projects? And what bands inspired you to pursue the type of music you make?

Jauhien: I prefer to play my music, but recently Forladt asked to play in his band Absence of Life and I could not refuse. I was probably inspired by Mastodon, Amenra and Leprous.

Forladt: I have my own DSBM project Absence of Life. About the bands that inspire me… I listen to a lot of different music; it is difficult for me to highlight. But at the moment I joined Dymna Lotva, I listened mostly to DSBM.

Nokt: Everything around inspiring me. Singing is the most important thing in my life, so I’m ready to be involved in as many projects as I can. Unfortunately, free time is not as much as we would like. So besides Dymna Lotva I am the second vocalist in the Absence of Life. I also occasionally record guest vocals for various projects and prepare to start another project with my friends.

Barmaley: Darkthrone and Grazhdanskaya Oborona (seriously!) are my inspiration. I will not talk about playing in other bands, otherwise, it will be a too long interview. Favorite drummers are John Bonham and Buddy Rich.

Igorr: I play covers on Opeth, Tool, Lamb of God, Gojira, etc in a jam band.

Where you inspired by bands from Belarus to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands?

Nokt: I am fully inspired by Belarusian metal and folk scene. Unfortunately, it is not very well known in the world. And it is, even more, a pity that the negative towards all made in Belarus is very characteristic for our mentality.

Forladt: My first metal band ever was Accept, since I listened to lots of heavy metal, then it came to trash, death, black and so on. So I was inspired to start playing guitar and making music mostly from foreign bands.

Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Belarus? How did metal music come to Belarus in the first place?

Nokt: We are not so old, so we did not see the start of metal in Belarus with our own eyes. The most famous of our group was and remains the Gods Tower, they have been playing since the 90s.

You’ve released the single ‘Трудна, нудна на сэрдуньку’. A collaborative effort with Andrei Apanovich. How did this come to be? And are you working on anything new?

Jauhien: It was a very funny story. In fact, this single is the result of losing a bet. In the Russian-language social network VK under one post with voting for the best folk metal band, there was a huge discussion with calls to vote for one or the other side, and we jokingly decided to support Apanovich with his band Trollwald. It was like this: “If Trollwald wins, Dymna Lotva will record folk”. As you can understand – they won.

Yes, at the moment we are working in parallel on several releases. The main one is the second full-length album.

How do you work on creating your music? Is it something you do together as a band or do you have divided tasks?

Jauhien: In general, we have divided the tasks. I write music, and Nokt writes lyrics. Also with the writing of music Forladt helps a little. Well, I hope our new guitarist Igorr will also join this process.

Can you tell a bit about the way you approach creating music and how that process looks like for you as a band? I feel there’s a very distinct feeling to your sound and I really wonder where you derive your inspiration from.

Jauhien: I cannot say that I am inspired by nature, books, films or other music. I am rather inspired by the process of creating music, the search for new sounds and interesting moves and combinations. But one cannot say that I am engaged in such a dry business, for I still write based on my inner feelings and mood.

 

What themes and topics do you put in the music, what topics do you address with your lyrics? The imagery and overall feeling hint at the land, mysteries, and folklore. Can you tell more about this and perhaps provide some examples?

Nokt: Our country has a very sad fate. So at this stage, all our lyrics are somehow about Belarus. This may be the tragedy of a particular person (as in A Solitary Human Voice I and II). This may be something more abstract, general view of the problem (for example, the total passivity of the Belarusians in the “Into the Swamp” track). Of course, in each text, my own history is also explicitly or implicitly present. They are just on different levels. This year we twice used non-original lyrics – the folk song text in “Sick at Heart” and the poem of the Belarusian poetess in “Dying” – however, the approach remains the same.

In pictures, some Dymna Lotva wears traditional clothing. How deep are these aspects connected to Dymna Lotva? Is there a pagan religious side to your work too?

Nokt: In fact, these are not exactly traditional clothes. In any case, not a reconstruction. But yes, Dymna Lotva deep inside is a pagan band. We do not stick it out clearly in the music and lyrics (at least now). But personally, I have long been deeply interested in Belarusian old traditions and mysteries and YES, I am pagan. I really want to work with folk spells as lyrics. I still do not know whether it will be in Lotva or in some kind of side project, but it will happen necessarily. As for the other musicians, they are all pagans to one degree or another.

Do you face any sorts of censorship in Belarus as a musician or are you free to do and say as you please?

Jauhien: Dymna Lotva is not threatened by censorship. We don’t go into political and social issues, we don’t praise Satan and we don’t incite hatred. But yes, there is a lot of censorship in Belarus. Often concerts are canceled, or musicians are simply not allowed to perform. For example, I am sure that in Belarus you should not wait for concerts of such groups as Batushka or Behemoth.

Nokt: I do not fully agree with Jauhien. Almost any band can have problems with censorship in our country. For example, a concert of the Belarusian group TT34 was recently banned. The band has been playing for many years, and as far as I know, they had no problems before. They do not touch dangerous topics in their lyrics. As regards DSBM, rumors have long been circulating about the adoption of a new law on the promotion of suicide in Belarus. Theoretically, then the problem can become much more serious than just canceling concerts. If we talk about the situation specifically now, for example, I cannot cut myself on the stage if I want to be able to perform here in the future. And more recently, our lightest sounding song was not taken on the radio (it completely fits the radio format) because of the lyrics. We used poem of the Belarusian poetess, the winner of one of the national poetry contests. The poem tells about dying and did not pass censorship on the radio. Our folk song was also not accepted because of the lyrics (despite the fact that this is a folk text).

By the way, Behemoth performed in Minsk about 6 years ago.

Which bands from Belarus should people really check out? And why?

Jauhien: Oh, we have such great guys as Nebulae Come Sweet. In my opinion the top 1 in Belarus. Make a unique mixture of Doom and post-metal. It seems to me that in terms of interesting arrangements, they surpassed even some famous groups in the genre.

Forladt: I do not listen to a lot of local scenes, but I think that my favorite Belarusian band is Nebulae Come Sweet. Their music is really deep, sensual and unique, especially for Belarus where most of the music is folk or black metal. They are definitely worth checking out.

Nokt: Of course Nebulae Come Sweet is also in my top. But I have to mention other bands. My favourite are: Pragnavit (ritual folk ambient), Vietah (atmospheric black with bright live image), Dzivia (epic orchestral folk), Vicious Crusade (folk trash), Medievil (black), Massenhinrichtung (melodic black with folk elements), Zaklon (atmospheric black), Re1ikt (post-rock with folk lyrics and really fantastic clean male vocals).

What future plans does Dymna Lotva have?

Jauhien: World musical domination, not otherwise.

Nokt: after the new album release.

If you had to compare Dymna Lotva to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Nokt: We are smoked roach. For Russian-speaking people, this is consonant with our name (do you know that in our homeland we are affectionately called “Plotva”?) And it is good with beer =)

Forladt: I can’t say properly why, but Dymna Lotva for me is associated with mushrooms. Jaŭhien, for example, is boletus, Nokt is death cap, Shen is amanita and Igor is armillaria.

Jauhien: Alcohol is a dish, right? Then we are absinthe. Hard, but it is not felt; smells like wormwood, and you will like it. 🙂

 

 

Zarraza: spreading the virus from Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan definitely got a bad rep throughout the years. The country became the but of the joke, thanks to the Borat film and that pretty much might be everything you know about the country. Zarraza might change that with their slabs of grooving, thrashing metal on their latest album ‘Necroshiva’.

Nick Khalabuzar is one of the founders of Zarraza and to say he’s a passionate metalhead would be a vast understatement. His energy alone when it comes to his band might push them to big things in the near future. Nick was kind enough to tell us something more about his band and playing metal in Kazakhstan.

Raising the flag for metal

Hello, how is Zarraza doing?

Great! We just get approval for two SEPULTURA shows in Central Asia. Our first full-length album “Necroshiva” is gonna be officially released in China on May 11 through MusicDish. After that there will be some special local gig in June – I am working on details now.

How did you get started with Zarraza and what does the name mean (why did you choose it)?

About the name – I did not want to create another SUPER-BLOODY-KILLER-TORMENTOR kind of name. I liked irony behind ANTHRAX name. So one of the options for me was Infection – Zaraza in Russian. The word has second meaning – unbearable and annoying but maybe a funny person. So I liked it. Only after I realize there was a Russian metal magazine ZARRAZA – it was published through 1990-1991. I decided to keep the name – for me, it looks like we raise a flag dropped on the battlefield by a fallen soldier – the founder of the magazine was very supportive about all kinds of metal and unfortunately died in the 2000s.

About the starting point… It was me and my friend Max Saklakov – we decided it’s not enough for us to go to bars together so we should start a band! For a couple of years, we were looking for a proper drummer – and found Ruslan Konon. Then bassist Alex Filatoff came in. But Max left after we recorded the first demo – and from then there were few guitar players. Every one of them brought something special to the band so we are thankful to them. Damir Yunussov, Vladimir Grigoryev, Daniyar Aktayev…

What bands inspired you to start playing metal music?

Before I start to drop big names like MEGADETH, SLAYER and SEPULTURA… I should say it was my mother – she supported my passion and bought me my first guitar. She was patient when I spent my last money on tapes discovering not only big bands but something special like ACID RAIN, LAWNMOWER DEATH, POLTERGEIST, THERAPY? etc.

Can you share with us what sort of theme, message or idea is behind Zarraza?

Musically it is about energy and adrenaline exported into sounds. We considered our role on a scene as shamans who twist your muscles with sounds and then release it helping your inner demons to go out in mosh and slam.

Lyrically it is about spreading the infection of sarcasm. Viruses of free thinking. The face of gods, idols, and politicians should be erodingafter this infection.

And on live performances, it is about having fun in a mosh and slam as much as possible.

Ok, lets talk about Necroshiva, your latest record. How did the writing and recording process go?

From the starting point of writing, I wanted a record full of fast songs hitting listeners in a face. When it was recorded I was a little bit disappointed – not all songs seemed fast enough to my taste. Then we started to play it live – and I see how the audience became too exhausted too fast. We tried to put slow songs among fast and… Realized that all songs are pretty fast. Some of them have slow parts but finally, all of the shit is fast enough. So… Mission complete!

We work on songs very hard and carefully. The first demo was recorded in 2015 – and most of it was butchered. Some songs were re-composed, some – erased. The only song that remains the same is “More Than Hate” – except the title and lyrics. Initially, it was called “Government hates you”. The idea stays the same – I just decided that the new title is a bit cooler. Too much politics make music boring.

We were happy to work on the album with Arkadiy Navaho from Moscow, Russia. He is famous for his work with KATALEPSY, SIBERIAN MEAT GRINDER and a lot of other bands. He understands our style, is very open to our ideas and last but not least – very patient. There were few strong arguments between me and drummer Ruslan during mixing. Arkadiy waited silently the moment when the storm weakened and then just asked: “so where do we go now?”

What sort of record is it, what does it tell the listener?

It is short – we prefer to make it with “All killer – No filler” formula. That’s why we cut one song off the record before starting mixing. That’s why “Shadows” was written for an album few days before recording started – we needed something stronger than the removed song.

Three pieces could be easily released as concept EP – “Abyss Above Me”, “Echo Of the Future”, “Dead Star”. These songs tell one story.

AAM is the first part – it’s about Giordano Bruno story with some quotes from his revelations about the infinity of the Universe and narrow-mindedness of human-made gods. First lines inspired by the poetry of famous Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and it’s about the infinity of the Universe too. Two scientists from different countries and ages were talking about similar ideas… But story concentrated on Giordano Bruno – he realized he cannot be blinded anymore by church’s lies despite threats of inquisition. “Echo Of the Future» musically bonded with next song, “Dead Star”. «Echo» created on the same chord progression that you can hear in a middle part of “Dead Star” – but chords played backward with a different rhythm. It is the same but different. So the name for it was obvious – it’s like an echo of chords from song that will go next… Echo of the future.

«Dead Star” is lyrically the second part of Giordano Bruno’s revelation. But here listener will find him on his way to the inquisition’s stake. He is doomed but not broken still standing on his beliefs and visions of the future. Keeping in mind the picture helps me to perform the song with anger and emotions.

All three songs fit each other musically and lyrically. So I considered the triplet as hidden EP on the album.

As you can see from here it is anti-religious anti-state themes. “Shadows”, “More Than Hate” and “Necroshiva” follow the same agenda.

You guys have performed with bands like Arkona, Tyr and Ektomorf. Im particularly interested in the first two, is there an ethnic element to your music?

– No, but yes. No – there is no ethnic elements in our music except dombra intro on “wRRong Song” – you will hear it on upcoming release this year. Yes – I give you the names of our gods and you will give the name to my tribe: SLAYER, MEGADETH, NAPALM DEATH, DECAPITATED, CANNIBAL CORPSE, SEPULTURA… Probably you are one of us.

And how did you happen to end up performing with these groups?

About ARKONA and TYR it was as simple as that – I asked the local promoter to add us. He listened to our album before, he knew we were gonna play with EKTOMORF so the answer was positive. As far as I know, the promoter from Russia who was responsible for the whole tour attended our gig with EKTOMORF and agreed too.

Honestly speaking, ARKONA/TYR gig was worst gig of the year for me – I told it to my mates right after I came from the scene. My ear monitors went down, and I didn’t hear my voice, my amp had some issues and the whole day before was nervous. But the whole gig was ok. It was interesting to see ARKONA and TYR soundcheck.

There was a funny story. During soundcheck, we muffle a kick drum with a very old fur coat. Our drummer brought it from home – it was made from faux fur I guess. We need it to make drum kick resonate less. But TYR needs this resonance. Their drummer checked the kick drum and found our fur coat inside. He sighed very loudly – “OH MY GOD!” After he discovered it was very old fur coat he continued: “I will perform in this shit!” Other guys from TYR did not let it happen but during soundcheck, he was wearing our fur coat all the time. He really liked the old junk. Now, this relic is lying in our rehearsal room. Inside of the kick drum, of course.

And About EKTOMORF… I was impressed by their “Fury” album. I tolld my friend Arseniy from KASHGAR my desire to bring the band here with gigs. He contacts some promoters in Moscow and together we arrange a short tour for EKTOMORF and played with them.

Would you say your music could be created anywhere else than in Kazakhstan?

Definitely – yes. We don’t have any specific ethnic motives and I not fan of that kind of metal though I like a lot of ethnic music. I know it is possible, but it is not my way. Some people like to incorporate ethnic elements into metal, jazz etc. But it is not my way. No disrespect to others – I just don’t express myself this way.

Youve said on your website that you guys are on the wrong side of the planet. What is it like to be a metal band in Kazakhstan?

You are arrogantly ignored or someone is trying to make laugh of you. You are overdosed with boring revelations from neighbors, colleagues etc like “I used to listen to metal when I was a kid and then I grew up, so when will you grow up?” Never. Let me clarify that word. It is not me who will never grow up. It is you who actually never grow up. Never understand and never value metal music. It was a joke for you. Probably you were a joke. And still is. That is why you try to bring me down with these meaningless disrespectful words. My condolences to your betrayed and buried dreams and beliefs.

By saying “we’re on the wrong side of planet” I react to other kind of discussions and suggestions. “You should move with your music somewhere else, nobody listens to it here”. But somehow we gathered more and more people on our shows – from 100 to 250. Not bad!

Kazakhstan has 52 bands listed on Metal Archives. Now, I know this is not always representative of the actual scene, but how big is metal in your country and can you tell a bit about the history?

The scene is growing but it is not so big – local metal gigs are a pretty rare thing. One in two months approx. First metal bands started in the middle of ’80s. It seems strange but there are no proper releases from them like LP’s or CDs. Even a demo with good quality is a rare thing. Just total underground things.

One of the first important releases I like is tech-death band LEAD WEIGHT and their “Penetrator” album. As far as I know, it was the first album from Kazakhstan metal band officially released on a label outside the country – Russian “CD Maximum” is responsible for it.

Is your music socially accepted or not? Do you face any censorship?

Currently we out of sight of any censorship – probably we are too small for them. There is no official censorship in Kazakhstan but it exists In a form of oppression from so-called “Uyat” («Shame») groups – people who claim themselves as defenders of old traditions. They are very active against young girls wearing short clothes but never say anything against corruption which is really corroding the society. So, does it mean corruption is an important part of tradition or it is just a good way to finance these groups?

Beside that metal and rock in common are no strangers to the culture here in Kazakhstan. It is not so popular, but it is OK to wear metal t-shirts and long hair. Of course, some idiots can try to provoke you but if you can stand for yourself they will f- off.

Are there any bands from Kazakhstan or neighboring countries you feel people should really check out?

Kashgar, My Own Shiva and Shahid – all of them are from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Seven Sins and Tishina, Doubleface, ZeroVoid, Noise Execution from Kazakhstan. All these bands released full lentgh albums with good quality and you can easily listen to them on Bandcamp or Spotify. I believe we should call it new wave of Central Asian metal – and as for me those are the best releases from the scene in a whole time.

What future plans does Zarraza have?

Here is to-do list:

  • to release New EP this year;
  • to record a demo for the second full-length album for next year release. I got three new songs, Den bring another one so we are in the progress;
  • To film 2 new videos.

At the same time I’m trying to figure out the best options and headliner for second edition of Hellmaty Metal Fest – festival I started last year.

If you had to compare Zarraza to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Weak roasted meat with rings of red pepper or ginger. Because I like it, haha. And because I like music with blood, with adrenaline.