While scanning the eternal fields of heavy metal (the internet) I came across a most interesting band, named Malakh. Malakh is Dan’s band, and Dan has an interesting history in the metal scene.
First of all, Malakh is a one man project from South-Korea. Malakh was preceeded by Apparation and Taekaury. The same band, with different themes and names, focussing on the black side of black metal with history and mythology from Korea.
With Malakh Dan approached the music in the form of unblack metal with religious themes of a Judaic and Christian nature. Where on previous artwork and photo’s Dan would appear with eastern garbs and weapons, this took on a peculiar religious look.
Dan was not too keen to answer my questions and felt that any implication that his projects were connected and that there was further meaning to it, was nonsense. Late in 2015 he dissolved Malakh and also Nemesis Divina Productions, his label. This is the interview without further editing of the answers.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and what it is you do, how you got into metal and what bands youe played in? Hi, i’m DAN(檀) from South Korea. i playing guitar and singer in MALAKH.
In all your projects, you did everything yourself. Was that a conscious choice?
The reason I do not find is actively seeking members, some guys that
music Cubs are often unrealistic. For me, music is neither faith nor unrealistic fantasy. Just Hobby.
You’ve had 3 bands (or performed under three names). Can you tell a bit about the seperate bands and what they were/are about?
I played Blackmetal and Deathmetal or Paganmetal during 20 years.
Before the current band, or bands, it does not give a significant meaning. The musical inspiration is own thinking. Thus, the musical inclinations take on the concept.
What are your main inspirations as a musician (musically and other)?
I playing my own music style, but when I try to make music with evil thoughts, God destroyed that ideas, thats all.
Can you tell a bit about the EP you did with Malakh? How did the recording and writing proces look and what story are you telling on this record? I was just creating music normally would. When I do not give meaning creation significantly.
The imagery you use on the cover of the Malakh debut is a peculiar mixture between Jewish and Eastern (Korean) garments, the bandname is Hebrew. Has your music and your own spiritual views developed in this way?
Do not take too serious about music or concept. Music and art is unrealistic. Many metal bands or enthusiasts are captivated by the idea unrealistic. Do not take the concept seriously look at that. And if Christians should respect the Jews. Jews are God’s eyes.
Can you tell a bit about your personal spirituality and how you put this into music?
These guys playing blackmetal Warriors? The battle is one to kill an opponent with a knife and a gun and fists. Not guitar or MIC. Music is just music as the techniques and concepts that will enjoy.
I’m interested in the blend of Christianity and Korean warrior mentality, like you demonstrate on various pictures with traditional weapons and such. How do you feel those two fit together?
My job is a korean martial arts and Israeli Krav Maga instructor. Many young children do not distinguish fiction and reality. If you give meaning to things that are unrealistic it is a psychopath. Breaking in a dream to live in reality a true warrior.
Do you see your three projects as a continuous proces or seperate entities?
All my projects are changed depending on the situation. MALAKH will change in the future as an ordinary metal music of different
genres. Recently there is no time to invest in the making music because of i’m so busy to my work.
Can you tell a bit about Nemesis Divina? What is your aim with this? What kind of releases have you done this far?
Nemesis Divina Production, which avoided the evil words or concepts. Released three albums so far there is no plan until early next year.
How does heavy metal fit in with Korean culture? There’s a stereotype of a strict society here, is metal accepted or is it a rebellious culture?
Metal music is not popular in Korea. I do not think carefully about metal music. North and South is a confrontation situation. Korea people have a lot of people who do not like unreal. South Korea men are obliged to go to the army. I was five years serving in the Korean Marine Corps. too. It will not have time to focus on something metal music.
What Korean bands are worth checking out for people who would want to learn more about the scene?
I have no interest in Korea metal scene.
You did an ‘open rehearsal tour’ recently. Can you explain how that works? What kind of response did you get to it?
My plan Open Rehearsal was to buy a CD for a small number of enthusiasts to better evaluate my music.
What is for you the meaning of the term ‘Unblack metal’?
I rule out the evil black metal music lyrics and dirty values.
So called the name Unblackmetal.
What future plans do you have with Malakh?
I am coming alive with musicians, those who like a little child, I witnessed a lot. Music is art. Art is derived to enrich cultural life of the people. Metal music or anything so do not give meaning to the ideological. The art is unrealistic and you are living in the real world.
I highly do not like to give meaning to human unrealistic. While Christian Metal many guys that this class. That Black Metal and metal music as a missionary? I’m not a missionary in my music. It is the illusion that the mission in metal music. If you want Missions, Put down the guitar and cut your long hair, Go to Palestinians or Syria.
I am detestable humans defile the name of God.
Please use this space to share anything you like to add. “MALAKH project is not Mission, just a temporary shelter”
Metal is a global phenomenon that takes all forms and shapes. When it connects to indigenous cultures, beautiful things can happen, but it can also inspire refreshing things elsewhere. One of those intriguing bands is Indoraza from Huancayo, Peru. This interview appeared originally on Echoes & Dust.
Bandleader Luis Pariona Avila was kind enough to answer some questions about their music and projects, vision and background. The band has been around since 1998 and released mostly demos and ep’s, but now is working on a bigger project.
Normally you’d associate Peru with the pan flute tunes and the colourful robes, but there is room within that culture to combine those indigenous elements with furious metal that tells the story of the darker days the country has faced, but also connects to the present.
Read about inspiration from Norway, Andean history and tradition and making metal in a place like Peru.
Can you introduce yourselves and tell us how you got into metal music? Do you have any other bands / projects you are working on?
Thanks for the interview, hello from Luis Pariona “Pishtaco” leader, guitarist and founder of the band. I was involved in other bands like Yana Raymi, which plays death folk metal and Ancestral, which makes pagan black metal … but now we’re doing hard work with Indoraza.
How did Indoraza get started as a band? What does the name mean?
Indoraza was born in 1998 with the sole intention of paying tribute to our ancestors, our culture and Andean worldview. Indoraza comes from two voices “indigenous and race”. Those voices refer to the blood lineage we trace to the ancient inhabitants of our American ancestors. Race we define as identity, not a term that can be mistaken as racism.
What is the history and the concept that you are telling us as a band? What inspires you?
Indoraza (indigenous race) traces back to early 1998 taking from other projects such as As Ayllu, Danger, Psycho. Back to the year ‘99 with a stable group and under leadership of Luis Pariona “Pishtaco” we started writing songs with Andean lyrics that speak about situations, that we witness and experience in various regions of countryside Peru. We also focus on customs, myths and stories of the land. The musical orientation is hard rock on a basis of rock’n’roll, blues and heavy metal.
After a while the group split and there was a break in the months following that. Luis Pariona (guitar, vocals) recruited Abel Fares (drums) and Jim Castro (bass), who were later joined by Jhon Castro as a second guitar. Indoraza kept this lineup for some time and recorded demos like:
‘The Inca and Ñusta’ on tape (2003)
‘Coro de leyenda’ on CD (2004)
‘Ayllu Sañachkan’ on CD (2005)
‘Ethnic death metal’ CD (2006)
The band also toured across Peru and Bolivia in 2007 with a tour titled ‘Ethnic Holocaust’. In 2008 Boris Camayo (drums) and Carlos Miranda (bass) were recruited, with the goal to record those themes that were in the air and for the fans that were waiting for that moment. On the 1st of june 2009 our CD ‘Yarawi’ went on sale, which is the first opus of a hardrock Indian trilogy made in Ayllu Sañachkan (Saño) – Huancayo-Peru.
In 2010, the following two discs ‘Miski Simi’ and ‘Chosheck’ were released. Our first album came out in 201, titled ‘Todas Las Sangres’, which is part of a new trilogy: “Los Andes No Creen En Dios” (“The Andes don’t believe in God “).
In 2015 the next opus ‘Ayahuasca’ will be released in honour of the ancestral people!
Don’t the Andes believe in God? Why did you pick that title for the new trilogy?
During the time since the European conquest and invasion they brought religion which was forced upon our land with violence and lies. Many communities and ethnic groups today have ceased to believe in the mercy of that European god and that omission of it remained deep in their heart.
The trilogy the band is producing now speaks about all that feeling covered in the harsh reality matched with the customs and traditions in danger of extinction. In the Andes it is not enough to believe in a single god but it still remains more ancestral gods’ beliefs because there is a need and faith in them. Ayahuasca is the title of our new album the second instalment of the trilogy “the Andes do not believe in God”.
Especially in this production we are including numerous Amazonian themes and atmospheres. We implement instrumental and lyrical stories that deal with the ritual of Ayahuasca, which is a drink that transports you to other dimensions to proper focus and balance your body, mind and spirit.
You describe your music as Andean metal, ethnic pagan metal and hard rock indigena. Can you describe or explain what you do musically?
Technically, the instrumental structure of our music includes many styles, such as thrash, death, heavy, power, etc. but the main theme and ideology of the band is based on our ancestral culture and Andean worldview. Our fans classified us as indigenous hard rock, folk metal or pagan metal etc. We prefer to call ourselves, following what we do, as Andean metal.
You’ve mentioned the Andean man a few times. Can you describe what the Andean man is like and where he comes from?
The Andean man is a human being who was born, inherited from the nature and remains alongside the rivers, niches, and homes that make up the Andes Mountains which extend throughout South America.
What are the bands that inspired you to get into metal and inspires Indoraza as a band musically?
We admire the greats as Manowar, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, AC / DC, Dio, Death, Slayer, Judas Priest, Bathory, Immortal … etc. and they inspire our band.
Can you explain a bit what the traditions and history are that inspire you for people unfamiliar with them?
We start with the history of the Inca Empire, its science, agriculture, astronomy, medicine and religion. These things we inherited from other nations such as Wankas, Chankas, Tiahuanaco, Nazca, Chachapoyas and many more cultures. Each of them contributed much to the development of a people with great goals. At some point, these cultures were cut short by the European conquest but they still achieved a balance and their legacies remained.
What do you think of metal as a global thing? Do you feel it is global or very local? Can you relate to a band from Norway or Russia?
The metal is a global overall musical structure that is shaped emotionally, ideologically and spiritually with local features that every artist wants to capture and honestly, it fits properly.Possibly by merging our national folklore and metal like the Norwegian or Russian bands do. We admire bands like Arkona, Turisas, Moonsorrow, Korpiklaani…
What sources inspire thematically (not musical)?
The sources are the traditions, our history and worldview of the environment where we live and what we witness every day. The Andean history was always a source of inspiration for the man of the Andes, Andean music is magic and fits perfectly to the heavy metal.
Can you tell me how metal music started out in Peru and how it developed? What bands were more influential and important to the national scene?
I’ll explain in a very broad sense about metal in Peru. It has its traces back to the late 70’s and early 80’s with a great wave of bands that appeared nationwide, but mostly in the Peruvian capital of Lima. Obviously, before that, there was hardrock, blues and punk music, which has its own history. Bands that came up then were Mortem and Kranium for example, who are still going strong and considered national metal icons. You would also start seeing bands in the provinces, like Hadez, Inri, Armagedon and Masacre.
What is the scene like these days? Are there important clubs, labels or venues that are worth mentioning? It is bigger in certain cities?
The scene is growing. In the last few years the country had the opportunity to bring great icons of the metal genre over and organise some festivals with a good reputation. It’s still all about maintaining clubs and labels and make the profitable. Maybe there are some doing that successfully in the capital, but it’s difficult to maintain this in the provinces. On the other hand, there is a lot of considerable talent, creativity and musical skill in Peru. This country is rich in music and art, there are bands that keep up the fight, regardless the limitations.
Does metal culture face any form of censorship or repression in Peru? From either the church, the state or society itself?
Not really, maybe because the metal scene is still growing and there are other major issues for the churches and the government to deal with. There is no tangible repression or censorship at the moment, but it might be worth mentioning that metal is not very much distributed by the media. Probably because it’s not as marketable in comparison to other countries. That might look like repression in Peru, but it’s just a disinterest of the media in this music. Another reason for its lack of visibility is a lack of proper instruments and affordable recording studios.
Though I can’t make out everything on your page on Facebook, it seems you are a band socially aware and active. Can you comment on that?
Well, we aim to pay homage and tribute to our culture and our ancestors, making and perfecting our art spreading it in the most honest way we know doing this kind of music. Our country had to go through many stages: one was civil war or revolution but it brought great harm from the government and it still subsists political elites who are even now trying to rule unfairly at the mercy of peasants and poors, thing that we do not tolerate and that we raise in our songs.
Can you name some bands that are now active in Peru, which you think everyone should listen to? And why?
The bands that I am listing should be mentioned because they have displayed great talent and originality.
Traker (Huancayo -Peru- Heavy Metal).
Chakruna (Tarapoto – Peru – Amazon Metal Fusion).
Rockpata (Puno -Peru – Hard Rock Altiplanico).
Ayahuaira (Huancayo – Peru – Pagan Black Metal).
Anal Vomit (Lima – Peru – Death Metal).
Do you think there is something typical about metal from Peru? That makes it different from the main stuff from the USA and Europe. Could you describe it?
Indeed, the history and culture that originates and comes out the veins of every Peruvian and the heritage which they carry in them are reflected in the “riffs” and songs. It contains a unique essence in its music that makes it fully different compared to other bands from other places in the world.
What does the future hold for you guys?
We do not know exactly, but we are dreaming about playing with great artists in great metal festivals all over the world.
Please use the space here to share anything you want to add. Also type where people can find your music.
I’d like to thank you for the interview. We hope it will be well spread. You can contact us directly and easily on our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/indoraza
Indoraza Folk band Metal / Hard Rock indigenous Peru
Original members: Pishtaco (voice guitar), Chosheck (drums), Illapa (guitar), Ccarccar (bass).
I’m truly excited to bring you an interview with a pagan-metal band from far-off Venezuela, namely Odosha or Odo’sha as it is originally written. The interview was kindly published by Echoes & Dust.
Metal is a global phenomenon, and I cannot stress enough how significant that becomes when you start looking into the more extreme genres in places that are less likely. South-America has in general a violent and intense extreme metal scene, of which most of us only see the tip with bands like Sepultura, Soulfly and maybe some Krisiun and Sacrofago.
In Venezuela the metal scene is much localized, but very aware of the outside world it appears. I found, in talking to the black metal band Odo’sha, that there are remarkable things that a band from a Latin America can derive from the Nordic fury that is the second wave of black metal. If any part of the world can boast of repression and washing away their history, it must be there.
And that is the surprising link and why it completely makes sense that black metal can be so much more than a European thing. Second guitarist Marco Leon was keen to answer some questions and was fortunately quite elaborate in providing information about extreme metal in Venezuela.
Can you introduce yourselves and maybe say a bit how you each got into metal music, if you played in other bands and such? First of all, thank you for the interest and support for our musical work. Odo’sha currently consists of Irwin Hernandez on bass, Yonht Figueroa on lead guitar, Marco Leon on second guitar and vocals and Juan Delgado on drums. We all come from bands with different styles. Irwin Hernandez and I (Marco Leon) are founding members of the band, Yonht Figueroa is also playing guitar in a thrash metal band named NWD. Juan Delgado, the newest member of our band, is involved in a death metal project, named Initium Vortex.
How did Odo’sha get started as a band? (is it Odosha or Odo’sha) What does the name mean, both literal and symbolical? It has a double meaning, has it not? Odosha was created as a band in 2005, with Irwin Hernandez and Marco Leon as founding members The initial idea was to create a band with influences like Bathory, Burzum, Necromantia, Dissection, Emperor and such. These were the black metal bands we listened to in those days. We also were inclined to bands like Moonsorrow and Windir, who had a more melodic sound to them, but from the start we wanted to make our identity about our geographical area. Away from the European styles and copying those, we wanted a sound that was from South-America. This is how we started out and adapted our musical influences and lyrics to the context of our indigenous cultures of our region.
We’ve taken all those beliefs and stories our ancestors held before the Spanish arrived. The band name is taken from the mythology of the indigenous ethnicity of our region. ‘Odosha’ according to its mythology is the protector of the great mountains of the south of our country, but also the god who thought man the art of war and hunting. It’s an evil deity, but not a necessary one. Originally it is Odo’sha, as it appears in our logo, but for easy writing Odosha can be used.
What is the theme or story you are telling as a band? According to Metal Archives your themes are South American primitive cultures and Paganism. I’m very curious what that actually contains for a band from Venezuela and how you bring it into you work? Well, when we started with Odosha there was nothing like what we wanted to do in Venezuela. Extreme metal bands with indigenous themed lyrics or who represented an ancestral heritage of our part of the world was pretty much unknown. Obviously as musicians we were influenced by the big bands in the scene, which were mostly European bands, but we always kept in mind that their lyrics are from their history and based on their roots.
For us it felt unnatural and even disrespectful to simply copy their styles and pretend we came from the same geographical or historical reality. Our approach has been from the beginning to take all that magnificent musical influence of all those bands and adapt it to our reality and context. This is how we became the first black metal band from Venezuela, who based all their lyrics on ancient cultures of our continent.
Here, as elsewhere and everywhere in the world, is an incredible cultural heritage full of stories of warriors, struggles and ancestral beliefs, mythology and paganism. That is the basis for our lyrics and the essence of Odosha and we are proud to open that way for many more bands with this idea. Many bands in Venezuela now reflect their regional identity in their lyrics,
Can you take us a bit more in debt on those themes? Well, all of our lyrics focus on aspects of the South American pre-Hispanic cultures, before the arrival of the Conquistadores. There were so many peoples living here before they came, who lived a total pagan way of life in communion and harmony with the elements. They worshipped the sun, moon, rain and thunder. Nature as a whole was very significant in their lives, it was full of superior beings to whom they paid tribute in ceremonies that were transmitted from generation to generation. They built miraculous monuments to those Gods in the forests in honour of them.
They were not benevolent or specifically kind, but they deserved respect and took their places in the balance of the universe. With the arrival of the Spanish a series of massacres started, the colonization was a process which enforced the Catholic Church with blood and death to worship one God that no one knew. The indigenous people fought fiercely, fighting big battles through obvious disadvantages across the continent. It is told in one of our songs, ‘Cultura pagana(Pagan culture)’ says:
The blood of our ancestors was cruelly shed Our gods were humiliated and defiled our land The strength of the cross was imposed, and temples to an unknown god rose
The brutal colonization deleted a cultural legacy and we walked away from our roots. We are not Catholic by choice, but by submission. So our lyrics are imbued with these stories, battles and rituals, with beliefs and paganism and the worship of the elements and the natural world. We take this cultural legacy and put it in our songs, which is the basis for our lyrical ideology.
Many black metal bands are trying to convey a vision of sorts, a view on the world or lesson. What is that for Odo’sha? Everyone should take their own position and accept the consequences of their words and deeds. We are not false prophets or preachers trying to impose our vision of what the world should be like. We are metalheads and musicians and that is our philosophy of life. Odosha is an extreme metal band and our purpose as a band is to transmit through a strong and aggressive sound our cultural heritage, which we believe has been underestimated and neglected.
Are you currently working on something and can you tell a bit about it? Sure, we are currently working on what will be our next studio album, which will hopefully contain 8 to 9 tracks. It should be out before the end of this year. A couple of months ago we released two songs a s a preview: ‘Solstice Ritual’ and ‘El Dorado’, both can be checked out on YouTube, to get an idea of what’s coming.
What are your main influences, both musical as non-musical, to make the music you make? It’s a bit difficult to define our musical influences, every band member has their own tastes. Those range from the black metal of the 90s to thrash and death from that period. Even folk and viking metal are a part of that influence. Beyond our music, the identity as South-American metal heads, with all the complications and difficulties of doing this kind of music in our part of the world.
What is a live performance by Odo’sha like? In the early days of the band we used war paint, but now it’s more focussed on the music. That what is heard live has to be as close as possible to the studio sound for us. So what you can expect is a presentation of Odo’Sha as an extreme, strong sounding metal band with energy discharging with every song. We are a metal band and as such we want to transmit the aggression of the genre in our presentation. We also often play covers of bands that have been very influential for us as Bathory, Emperor, Dissection or the old Samael.
Do you consider the metal scene in Venezuela locally orientated or more outwards? Do you get many bands playing in your country from abroad? Venezuela is currently going through a very difficult political and economic situation, the “bolivar” our national currency is in constant devaluation and free fall against the dollar, for that reason
Performances of foreign bands in our country have disappeared almost completely. There were better times, in which Venezuela would be a spot for touring bands to play, but this no longer happens. The situation for national bands and the projection to other countries is similar because of the unstable economic situation. Local bands are not able to open doors to other countries, there are virtually no labels or producers specialized in metal music in our country so everything is pretty much do-it-yourself. Some bands have managed to get their music to other places, but the presence of Venezuelan bands abroad is unfortunately something far removed from reality these days. Beyond the bordering countries like Colombia, it is almost impossible to play abroad.
When speaking of metal from South-America, it often focusses on Brazil. Can you say a bit about how the metal scene in Venezuela started, developed and grew into what it is now and what bands were major influencers? Certainly Brazil is the home of great bands in our part of the world, like Sacrofago, Sepultura and others. The history of metal in Venezuela is very diverse in terms of bands and periods. In the 80’s it was mostly heavy rock with bands like Resistencia, GrandBie and Arkangel. Thrash started as well with a band called SS. It was a period that paved the way for the metal scene that would harden with the passing of years and had this higher moment with extreme music in the 90s with bands like Bahometh, Noxius, Natastor, Krueger and many others. There is now a big and varied movement in Venezuela with great bands in many different styles like thrash, death, black, heavy or any other.
What is the current scene like in your country? Are there record stores, venues, clubs and such? The local scenes are quite underground, there’s no big stores, only small distributors in different parts of the country. There are not many places that are dedicated exclusively to metal. Concerts usually take place by renting places that have nothing to do with metal music. In the main cities of the country, you’ll find one or two pubs, but metal head pubs are very scarce. Play or listen to this music in these regions is always tricky, it has not reached the point where it’s respected and supported as an art form. These are lands with tropical rhythms and also with a very outdated mentality, where metal does not own any space.
As a metal head do you face forms of censorship or not being accepted in Venezuela society? As far as I gathered your country has a strong religious practise going on and some strong set values. Does that show in the metal scene? Yes, that is correct. Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country and extremely conservative. Metal is seen as an aggressor that violates the values and traditions of the region. The scene is growing though and getting stronger in a significant way. Those who listen to or played metal in this country for real are willing to go against the outdated and obsolete system in which we live.
Fortunately there are a lot of young people that are breaking taboos and opening their minds to a globalized and intelligent world, who start regarding Catholicism as a major obstacle to free thought and integral human development. We hope that at some point these walls of ignorance will be torn down.
What current bands do you recommend for people to check out?There are a lot of bands here, I personally prefer to let everyone judge for themselves. Pick one and listen, I assure you that you will get very good stuff.
To mention some, Funebria is an excellent band that plays blackened death. Noctis Imperium is another black metal band that has been around for years. Natastor is a thrash band with many years in the scene behind them and Hereja plays a brutal form of dark black metal.
That’s jus to name a few. If you ask others, I’m sure you’ll get some different replies.
Do you think there is something typical about metal from Venezuela? Could you describe it? Well, I am not sure. Maybe someone from outside the scene could spot something like that from an objective opinion. I think metal is a language that knows no boundaries. You can have a playlist with German, Dutch, Greek and even Venezuelan bands and all of them make you bang your head without even speaking their language, that’s the essence of metal.
Please use the space here to share anything you’d like to add. First of all, thank you for the opportunity to present our work. We hope this will be a door for many maniac metal heads to meet Odosha! We invite you all to check our stuff out on Youtube or on the Facebook page of the band.
You can also check out our page on Metal Archives. We’ll keep in touch, soon there will be new material from the band. Greetings and raise your horns up!
This is an interview conducted with Malthus from Vaalghul, originally published here on Echoes And Dust.
Metal is a many headed beast and mostly we hear about the bands that roam the western part of Europe or North-America. In the quest to find out what else is out there I stumbled onto the band Vaalghul from Macedonia. Now, just saying Macedonia causes bad blood, so usually the country is known as the Former Yugoslavic Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM). That depends on where you come from though.
I find that many people in my country don’t even know this place exists, which is quite interesting. It borders on Kosovo, which is another great unknown together with Albania. The main conflict concerning the countries name is with the southern neighbours, which is Greece. The country has bene heavily investing in its identity, even following a policy of antiquisation. Macedonian identity is a part of the music, Malthus readily admits, it seeps into things.
Vaalghul is a black metal band, which is currently unsigned. In 2014 the first EP was released and work is underway to fix the second release. Malthus answered them on e-mail and through the chat, because he’s currently residing in Australia.
Can you start with where the name comes from and how you started out with the band? Vaal is the name of a demon, ghul is just an addition to give it a better sound. Vaalghul is the ‘Tyrant Overlord’ (God of Terror). The vocalist got that name when we were wondering about a band name a couple of years ago. There were some other options but we felt this fits pretty well. Back in those days we weren’t entirely sure if we would be doing something serious. Not that it was a joke of course. We came with some good ideas and then recorded the first demo. The production was very raw and almost impossible, but some people liked it.
We recorded the demo in the classic way with one guitar amp, a shit soundcard and then this is the result you get. There are many ideas behind this project, but one of them was making something different in our country. We wanted to be unique in our country with some extreme music.
The lyrics were satanic initially, but the point of them was to provoke people. Shake them up from their regular ways of drinking coffee on Main Street and gossiping. They enter the church when they have to and that’s that. We did enjoy writing the lyrics. I guess the Satanism is mainly provocative, but it also is a tribute to those who want to live free and do what feels good.
You’re using the name Malthus, can you tell me why you chose that name?
In demonology Malthus is a prince of Hell and I liked the name. That’s why I took it.
Which are the bands that inspired you to get into heavy metal? I’m not sure I remember what I was listening to, but I’m sure I listened a lot of Death, King Diamond,Psychotic Waltz, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio and Slayer.
I read that you used to have some band members, what made you continue on your own? Which bands inspired you? Yeah, I used to have some band members. We were three people in the band, but one of the members never had time to record, another had no time at all… It wouldn’t work out that way.
What made me continue was my passion for the music. I also had the time to write and record music. It’s not that I had big hopes, but I wanted to make everything more extreme and more provocative. I guess the biggest inspirations were Mayhem, 1349, Dark Fortress, Isegrim, Leviathan and Setherial for me.
How did you, living in Macedonia, get into metal music? Where there any local bands inspiring you? I happened to have really good friends who were listening to all kind of metal music, when I was in my youth. My best regards to them! Actualy local bands were my inspiration and drive to record something new and more serious. There are lot of good bands though, but most are not my style but still unique in their own way.
Are you playing live shows? Back in the early days we never had plans to play live. We did want to at some point, but we didn’t had a drummer who was up to the challenge. There are quite good shows in Macedonia though, even though most are hardcore shows. At least they’re very energetic.
I don’t think the hardcore scene is much bigger, but it’s just more acceptable to people. It’s hard to find a true black and death metal music fan…
I read you’re working on a new album. Can you tell a bit about the record, the artwork and the message you’re trying to convey? It will take some time before I actually finish this album, it was supposed to be out a few months ago. It’ll be out sooner or later though. The vocalist of Septuagint (kick-ass band from Greece) will perform the vocals on the album as a guest musician. The artwork is going to be done by Gediminas Kiaunė (Manum Diaboli Art) from Lithuania. He is a really passionate artist, who makes the perfect artwork. If you need some artwork, he is your man. He just popped up on Facebook, which got my interest. I checked his work out and was amazed, so I got in touch and we struck a deal. I check his work again for new stuff every week.
On the new release the lyrics will be more spiritual satanic, the message itself I’ll leave in the middle. Each can figure out their own from it.
What to you makes a band a black metal band? It’s hard to give an answer to this that feels right. It depends, it can be thrashy, mixed with doom or anything these days. Many bands have been taking black metal to whole different levels. Look at bands like Dark Fortress mixing music but still good kick ass and still black metal maybe not pure like raw one line but still black metal. If you listen to the records ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ and then to ‘Ordo Ad Chao’, you hear two different worlds, but still both black metal. Both completely Mayhem. Uniqueness? I took these because of the good vocal range of the vocalists, Good “scream” “grim” cold evil vocals, good atmosphere in the music.
Can you tell a bit about the scene in Macedonia, its history and what bands are standing out according to you? Sure, back in the 80’s it got serious here with bands like Orion and in the early 90’s. They played thrash/death metal with some excellent riffs and solo’s. On their tail followed bands like Dismay and Sanatorium. Later band like Arhont and Hall Of Sins rose up in the 00’s. Those are the most important names I think.
I also think they represent the spirit of metal in Macedonia. There’re only a few extreme metal bands, but they have a good history behind them. The same goes for most of these bands. When you have the time, take a listen to each one carefully.
I noticed there are more bands than I thought in Macedonia, but I hadn’t found them due to the Cyrillic writing. What makes bands chose either? The Macedonian alphabet is in Cyrillic, so many bands just want to represent themselves in their own language, which is their choice. Personally, I prefer the English, because this way everyone can grasp your message, whatever the lyrics are. If you write in your mother tongue, it’s pretty hard for foreign listeners to get your lyrics and translating them is not really it I think. But what do I know, there are people who care nothing for the lyrics, so it doesn’t matter whatever language it is.
If I visit your country, what spots should I as a metal head definitely visit? There are many great locations in Macedonia to visit, especially in Bitola. The city has a history behind it, but as a metal head I think only summer is a good period to visit. Usually people (metal heads) are gathering in the park, drinking a beer. A lot of people do that anyways.
There used to be some good places to hang out, but not anymore. The new generation of metal heads is trying to change that and I think they are getting there. There are no real record stores you could go to, the only choice is to buy music online or go to Thessaloniki in Greece. That’s an option since my city is close to it. There are gigs though.
I understood there’s quite a rivalry between Greece and Macedonia, based on a name and cultural dispute. Is that in any way tangible in the metal scene? Yeah, a lot of people are curious and asking about that. For me, I have a lot of good friends in Greece here and there, these days not many people think the way about this as they did in the 90’s (when this was an actual political issue red.). Especially people involved in the metal scene and who don’t care or are against politics from both countries don’t care much for these issues. Governments are the problem I think, not the people.
Do you think anything of the Macedonian identity seeps into the music? Yes definitely.
What future plans do you have with the band? For now, it will be the new single that is going to be released. The album will be out later some time. Who know, for now when I think about the album release, I have no clue what’ll happen after.
I got in touch with Turkish metal band Seal of Solomon. The band hails from Istanbul, which is often described as the ultimate bridge between Europe and Asia. Geert Mak described the city as a metaphor for exactly that in his book ‘The Bridge: A Journey between the Orient and Occident’.
This is also found in the band name. Solomon is not only a biblical figure, but also a prominent feature in the Qu’ran. Something I was quite unaware of in fact. The seal of Solomon is also known as the star of David in modern use. It does sound a lot more brutal when you regard it as a means to control demons through this very seal. Stripping away the religious components, what remains is the story of a king that is totally metal.
Answering questions are the three main members of the five piece, Can Berk Öcalır (vocals), Ozan Murat Özfen (rhythm guitar) and Önder Dülger. We conducted the interview over a period of time over e-mail
How did you guys come together as a band? Have you played in other bands before?
Önder: We’re all active members of the Turkish metal scene. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we were able to get together in the first place. I met Ozan during a Undertakers gig. We were both in the audience back then. After I started playing with Undertakers, I started to see more of Ozan. We even fought together in the Turkish resistance Occupy Gezi Movement. After the resistance he invited me to join the Seal of Solomon project.
Ozan: Me and Can Berk (we are cousins by the way) wanted to work on a joint project for a long time. One day we decided to form a band. Other members as drummer and guitarists are people we used to or still work with on other projects, so it was not hard to gather a band. I played in plenty of bands (Nefas Lacus, Blaspheron, Razor, Yabgu, Furtherial) in the past and I still play in another band called Magilum.
Can Berk: We were in a band called Aggregate Pain, which played blackened death metal. Most of the current members of Seal of Solomon played together in that band until 2010, when it split up. While we played together, I established a band named Unfurling, which became Seal of Solomon. It was formed with the current members, except for one guitarist.
Can you tell me a bit more about this Occupy Gezi movement and what it meant?
Önder: Occupy Gezi actually started with 50 peacefully protesting environmentalists, trying to stop the demolition of one of the last green areas in our hometown Istanbul. That 50 people got brutally attacked by the cops (their tents were burned while they were sleeping in them) Ozan and I went there the next day to protest with maybe another a few thousand people.
And the riot force cops came to kill that day… We were stuck in the park with all 3 sides barricaded by the Special Forces aiming our heads with teargas grenade guns, shooting to kill. How we made out of there alive is a whole other long long, LONG story.
In May 31st, MILLIONS (literally) of people came out to the streets to avenge our asses. And to this day, I still feel like they’ve all came to save MY ass. We took over the Taksim Square with them and fought for almost a whole month to keep the cops out.
So I feel responsible for all 11 deaths and more than 8000 injuries caused by the fight we started there that day. Some were tortured, some are still missing. It’s not something you can forget or not be inspired by, when people you don’t even know stands up to guns with bare hands, ready to die, just because they think what was done to YOU was wrong. I don’t have the words to describe the terror we’ve been through together with those brave people for the whole month. I can say that i lived the best days of my life in that period. (Especially June 2nd).
I saw for the first time that I was not alone in what i’m standing for here in Turkey. Nietzsche said that, “Weak people won the fight when they made us feel ashamed of our power”. Ignorant people won it when they’ve made us feel ashamed of our knowledge. But the Gezi Park protests were the explosion of the anger of every silent fed up intellectual in Turkey. It was the beginning of the days we begin to finally win. And we were able to made it with the help of our foreign friends and fans we we know, with our instagram, facebook etc. pages, while our own media was ignoring the terror we were facing on a daily basis.
Where does the name ‘Seal of Solomon’ originate from? The concept has complex roots and connotations that can be found in various religions.
Ozan: Metaphysics and demonology are some of my personal interests. King Solomon is one of my idols in a way, who I feel envious of. I’m sure that people who share these interests will understand where this comes from, but the reason for choosing this name has nothing to do with religions.
We have all grown up with tales and stories of demons and djinns, which are a huge part of our culture and religion (for some of us). For the concept of our band, we didn’t need to do too much research, because we were raised with this.
Can Berk: The Seal of Solomon was the enchanted ring of Prophet Solomon. One day Ozan came up with the concept for this band and the name Seal of Solomon with it. The name was about the magical rituals, performed by the prophet Solomon, where he made demons his servants. We liked this idea and decided to keep it as a band name. When we reflect on the ideas about Solomon, we are not trying to use the religions that implement this figure in their stories. Still, the religions are part of the world, but we try to keep our own perspectives.
What inspires Seal of Solomons music? What themes do you put into your sound?
Can Berk: The concept is growing day by day, and includes things like the magical rituals and demons. We compose our music over a certain time, to evoke the right feelings. The notes must feel like complex algorithms in our minds.
Önder: We all have our own instincts to what we serve up musically. Speaking for myself, I was in a dark period of my life during our pre-production and recording sessions, which led me to contribute a bit aggressively I guess. One of the songs I wrote was “A Leader’s Indignation”, which helped me a lot to express myself lyrically at the time. “Leader” translates literally to my name “Onder” in Turkish, and all my inspiration came from the indignation I felt during that time.
Other than that, I worked on the pretty much completed guitar parts and lyrics, mostly written by Can Berk. He told me to feel free to change and even re-write parts as I saw fit. I tried to stay true to the blackened death metal roots of the band, while representing my own hardcore-based playing style.
The most signature sound of the album I think is what I called “Hell’s armies”.
Which is an octaved, ethnic slow guitar groove on a palmed hardcore guitar riff. Literally sounds like armies of hell are marching in. It can be found in songs like “Providence” and “I The King v2”.
You’ve released your album ‘I the King’ in 2014. Can you tell us more about the contents and story of this record? Did it grow from your EP, which contains some of the songs on it?
Önder: The idea of writing a tribute LP album to King Solomon was always an idea Ozan and Can had in mind. It has all the songs in the previous EP and much more new ones. I believe the album speaks well for itself.I feel like, it is a solid “Fuck You!” on both personal and general levels.
Can Berk: We released this full length with some doubts at first, but after a short time the comments and reviews came in and were quite amazing. I think this is only a taste of what’s to come. Our new single and second full length are on their way and I think they completely convey the idea behind our music. You’ll know what’s going on behind the curtains in our lives and the place where we live. We will all put something from there in the music.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Önder: It was therapeutic, for me at least. It helped me to cool down and channel my anger into more productive things. It gave me a routine to follow. Wake up, get to the studio, start writing, and start playing. Play again, again, again and again. And since the recording studio was our own, we’ve played and hung out there for hours and hours a day.
Ozan: Can Berk recorded the guitar demos, then we get together with Önder and retouch the sounds and shape the songs into some final demo recordings. After that, they are shared with the other band members, who then write their own instrumental parts. Can Berk and Önder do most of the work on the lyrics. When all this is done, we get to the studio and record our parts.
Can Berk: It’s not complex, but a little complicated to explain. Önder writes the lyrics together with me, but the music is composed by everyone together. I establish the general structure of the songs, but everyone adds a bit of themselves to them. We have the luxury of recording in our own recording studio, so there’s no hassle with time and money when it comes to recording.
Musically, what are your biggest inspirations as ‘Seal of Solomon’?
Ozan: As you probably can hear in our music, the texture of the sound contains a lot of Turkish folk music. In Metal I think Behemoth is out biggest inspiration, because Behemoth brought, as you heard, texture of our sound contains a lot of Turkish folk music. In metal, Behemoth is out biggest Inspiration. Behemoth is one of the most successful bands which brought oriental music and metal together.
Can Berk: Behemoth and Dark Funeral are our biggest metal inspirations, but the local music is the most important. Our country has a wide range of oriental music with a long history and profound culture. We build every note on that cultural heritage.
What is the perception of extreme metal music in Turkey? Is there any censorship you have to deal with?
Ozan: I don’t think the scene is as big as it is in Western and Northern Europe, but it’s also not as small as in in Asian countries. The late 2000’s were probably the golden years for metal in Turkey. We had plenty of festivals, even Sonisphere was organised in Istanbul twice. It would be better if Erdogan was not ruling the country, but the metal community is getting stronger. It may take a bit of time. We’re still flexing with 1KG dumbbells, but at least it’s better than none at all.
If you don’t have Turkish lyrics or a bizarre stage show, you don’t have to worry about censorship. The majority of society won’t understand the lyrics.
Önder: Television and radio are mostly scared of anything that comes from the heart in Turkey as well as anywhere in the world. I think that we’re all okay with that. I don’t think any of us would want to play to a daytime TV crowd. I’ve played in pop music festivals or contests with my other metal bands a few years ago and it’s not really a good scene when your audience looks at you like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick (lovingly stolen from Bill Hicks).
Most people who would want to censor our lyrics in Turkey are ignorant scum, who don’t know shit about English. So we didn’t really have any problems with that in Turkey.
Can Berk: The metal scene is still very underground, so there’s no real control mechanism dealing with extreme metal in Turkey. It’s relatively unknown this far, so we try to be friendly and accomodating, so extreme metal can have its place in Turkey.
Can you tell a bit about the general metal scene in Turkey and what the key bands or places are for its development?
Önder: There are a few metal bars and venues to follow, like Dorock Bar, Rasputin Live etc. that only put on metal bands and supports them. University gigs like Ege Rock Fest and Uludağ Music Festival are also about as good as it gets for a metal band, in terms of stage and crowd quality.
Ozan: Metal came up in the nineties here and got itself a bad name. A few people called themselves Satanists and in 1999 a girl was raped and killed by this group. This really put the focus on this subculture and the following years were hard for metalheads. We were harrassed throughout the country.
In the middle of the 2000’s, some alternative rock bands popped up on Turkish TV and people got more familiar with rockers and metal heads. We have one or two metal fests happening during summer and plenty of rock bars in Istanbul, though only few have a stage. Dorock bar in Istanbul is probably the best known rock bar of Turkey. It’s still hard for local bands to get on the stage. There are however the spring festivals at universities that offer a great opportunity for local bands, even if they only get to play in front of 20 people there.
The heart of the metal scene is Istanbul, smaller cities have very little. I can mention a band like Pentagram as a key player in the Turkish metal scene. There is also this one guy, who is not a metalhead, but really important for Turkish metal music. His name is Hayko Cepkin, who is one of the mainstream rockers that makes a living with his music. He is also the first person with screamed vocals, so even a peasant in the small villages of rural Turkey has heard this weird kind of singing.
Can Berk: There are some main places to play live, but they are limited. We are trying for a metal revolution in Turkey in the close future.
Many extreme metal bands in Western Europe have in some way or another opposed religious establishment. Is that something you let enter in Seal of Solomon too?
Ozan: Not really.
Can Berk: We are not especially opposed to any of the religious views but Seal Of Solomon always will have its own perspectives, which will be more clear on future albums. We’re not opposing religion, but we do oppose religious pressure and brutal religious ideas. In our band some of us believe in God and some do not. The conclusion is that this is not a problem, while it does feed and affect our concept and musical sound.
What intrigues me is that the name of your band takes a figure from Biblical/Abrahamic religions as the name. For a band from a country that is 96% Muslim, that strikes me as peculiar. Can you say something about that?
Önder: First of, I’m glad to say that this 96% is an overstatement by the government. A recent study of the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey showed that 20% of a test group of 22.000 people have never even touched a Qu’ran and 60% of them haven’t read it in Arabic (they don’t know the language). Even if 80% still considers themselves Muslim, they hardly know the texts well enough to either like or dislike Solomon as a figure. The same goes for any other character.
King Solomon, as you know, is kind of a unique character in history. He’s also largely mentioned in Qu’ran too. Everything about him sounds quite dark. The band choose to tell a post-biblical, fictional story about this king, losing faith in humanity and gathering an army of djinn to fight them.
Can Berk: That 96% is indeed not a measurement that corresponds with the actual views of every person. Also, if you think you’re a real Muslim, you shouldn’t close your eyes and mind to other ideas from the world.
Today’s problem is that people don’t think about where the borders are for what the holy books contain. Whether you are a religious person or an atheist, you’re free to think about things and have your own way of figuring things out. Solomon is a historical figure you can make up your own pros and cons about. Ideas can be held against other ideas, just uttering bad words makes no sense.
Ozan: Can Berk and Önder said enough about that percentage. About the main question, I can say this: Muslims accept all prophets of the four holy books, so Solomon is as much our prophet as Jesus, Moses and David. According to my own view, we are all playing in the same man’s garden.
What bands from Turkey should people really be checking out and why?
Önder: I’d say Furtherial is one to watch, along with TEC and Seth Ect.
Ozan: Pentagram (a.k.a Mezarkabul), Raven Woods, Furtherial, Baht, Soul Sacrifice, UCK Grind, Pagan, Infected, Mekanik, Thrown To The Sun.
Why? Because I like their sound hehe.
What future plans do you guys have as a band?
Can Berk: We hope to get more well-known in the future and make sure people have heard of us. At least everyone who likes extreme metal. We’re trying to get more support from local communities and hope to play around the world or at least Europe. I also see it as one of our main tasks to kick off the metal revolution in our own country.
Any things you’d like to add?
Ozan: Thank you for the interview and thanks to everyone who is reading it.
Can Berk: This was a great interview. Wish to talk again.
On behalf of the band: Check out our new album when it comes out in the late summer or early autumn of 2015. We’ll release a single before the EP, follow us for any news on our website and facebook page.
Lithuania has a small but dedicated metal scene, which can mostly be found in the south around Vilnius and generally in the bigger cities. I found a band from Telsiai, which happens to be where my partner originates from.
I’ve passed by the sole tattoo shop in town a bunch of times and it turned out that the owner is Žydrius “Hidra” Augulis, also frontman of the war metal band Meressin. We unfortunately didn’t succeed in planning a meeting and decided to conduct the interview over e-mail. This took a very long time and a second list of questions was not answered.
The Lithuanian metal scene appears to be rather introvert, turned into itself in a way and not really understanding or open to outside interest. I think this interview gives an interesting view into that scene and specially the region where Meressin comes from.
Samogitia is the north-west part of Lithuania, it was the last pagan region to be conquered in Europe and rituals have remained largely the same as they were before the conversion. On the west it’s bordered by what is known as Minor-Lithuania, which has a clear German influence due to its original Prussian and later German inhabitants, to the north is Latvia. Samogitians tend to identify not as Lithuanians, but as Samogitian. None as much as Zydrus Augulis, one would think.
Can you guys introduce yourselves? Who is in the band and did you guys play or still play in some other bands too? Hi, we’re a Samogitian War Metal band, named Meressin. Current members are:
Meressin has been around for ages. How did you guys start as a band? The band was started back in 1993 by 2 brothers. It was Darius “Zhaltys” Augulis (bass guitar) and myself that started the band (Zydrunas Augulis). Over the years we’ve had many different members in this band, composing it in various forms. What we wanted in the very start is to play extreme music, like the old school black metal stuff, so we started doing exactly that.
Meressin was inspired by the music of Venom, Celtic Frost, Bulldozer and other original black metal bands and black’n’roll acts. We also wanted to find our own sound, so some songs on the albums are more experimental.
What was it like to start playing metal in a recently independent country? We liked metal music already long time and independence gave us chance to play metal without any stress and fear. In the CCCP time we were not able to perform metal music, because that’s would have meant jail time for us.
On your website visitors can chose between English or Samogitian, do you identify as Samogitian? Yes, of course. Samogitia is my country, this is my nationality and I love my country. I think that says it all.
You chose to sing both in English and in Lithuanian. What is the reason for that? The last album I sang in the Samogitian language actually. We started in English and later went for Lithuanian and Samogitian. All albums are different in a way and created with long intervals, so the ideas we had with our band changed in the meantime. I guess that is the main reason for the differences in our choices.
Meressin faced quite some short breaks and problems as a band throughout its history. What do you think caused that? We come from a small town and people move away from time to time for various reasons. We have some problems with musicians, it is hard to find people that are willing to play metal music. They also have to be good of course. Many good metal heads and musicians have left Telsiai town, because it’s a small town that offers little to the young people as a future perspective.
You’ve reformed the band, and released an album. What can you tell about the new record and how was it written and recorded? The new album is called “Tik kars yr teisybi” (Only the war is the truth). In way, the album was born before the band reformed with new members, so I wrote the album by myself. I created the music and the words. I wrote the guitar pars as well. I recorded the whole album in my own studio. It did take me forever to do everything myself, about 4 to 5 years but maybe longer. I can’t even remember really. This is the first album in 13 years, the previous one titled ‘Alkis’ came out in 2001. It has 13 songs and is written in the Samogitian tongue. I think it creates a different and unique sound.
What is the story you try to tell on this album? In 2013, it’s been 600 years since the Teutonic Order conquered the last pagans in Europe in the name of Christianity. Those last pagans were the Samogitians. It took the crusaders 300 years to subdue the Samogitian nation and force them to convert to Christianity.
This album is dedicated to that struggle of the Samogitian people. It talks about the blooded and cursed moment when they took away our identity. Christianity was forced upon us and it should be rooted out. This album is about the Samogitians and who they really are. You can still see it, even in our religious rituals that our nature is still there. It’s in the blood.
You are the only ‘original’ member still in the band. How do you retain your identity as Meressin? Currently I’m the only, original member of Meressin. I guess I’m a little bit of a despot, which is mainly because I write all the music and lyrics. I believe that this band should not be too democratic, because then Meressin will lose its face and sound. That is just my opinion.
You played Kilkim Zaibu this year, an important festival in the region. Can you tell a bit about the festival and its significance and how you guys enjoyed it there? Oh yes, this is most important metal festival in Lithuania. We played the festival six times already and we remember the times when the festival started out. We have seen it grow to be the biggest of its kind in Lithuania. Hail to “Kilkim Zaibu” and raise your horns for a long life!
You also run a tattoo shop. Are tattoos in your opinion related to making metal music? It’s my job, I’m a tattoo artist and so is drummer Vainius. I don’t think it has much to do with my music, its two different areas in my life. I suppose there is some influence to be found in the cover art for albums.
Can you tell a bit about the Lithuanian metal scene and its history and maybe also what it is like to be the only metal band from Telsiai? Yes, we are the only metal band in Telsiai, we are veterans of the Lithuanian metal scene and I don’t really know what’s happening with young bands around here. It seems like people don’t like to play real metal music anymore and new alternatives are on their way. Good luck to them i suppose, there are still some bands making good music that have been around for a long time.
Some of these are Obtest, Nahash, Dissimulation, Luctus, Katedra, Zalvirinis and Dark Side, they’ve all been around for ever, so hail to them.
What future plans does Meressin have at this moment? In the future I hope to record some new material, that’s in the plans. We also want to release the album on vinyl and make one or two good videos for the new songs. I lack the time to do everything I plan to do, but I think we’ll do some good stuff.
Anything you’d like to tell us? Ok people, listen to true metal music and stay rockin’!
Metal arises in the most surprising places. One of the most unlikely locations for this kind of music to spring up is Iraq. Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is like a katalysator for metal in the country we know mostly for its dictator Saddam Hussain and the war-torn recent history of it.
The musician got into metal and started making music on his own, by himself. Metal in Iraq was the theme of a documentary, dealing with the band Acrassicauda from Baghdad. The band Cyaxares hails from Sulaymaniyah though, a predominantly Kurdic town in the northern part of the country. A region with a strong identity and historic awareness.
Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is thus pionering metal in a part of the world that this far has barely been touched by the genre. At this moment, his home is extremely close to the troops of IS and thus under threat. His other band, Dark Phantom, is from Kirkuk and has taken politics and religion as themes for their music. Unfortunately the contact with Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is lost at this moment. The last e-mail he wrote contained the following words: They Are Extremely Close, Neighbours With Kirkuk (Dark Phantom’s) And The Kurdish Peshmerga Is The Only Thing Holding Them Back.
All The Members Are Ok, For Now.
For the sake of getting his music out there, the interview should go out now. So enjoy reading about one of the most unlikely metal bands out there and be sure to check ou the music.
What does the name Cyaxares mean? Cyaxares was the third and greatest king of the Median, the most capable ruler and the Great Father of the Kurds. I chose this name, because it’s a proper name for this band and it matches what I do in my view.
The band started out as Voice Of Silence, with three members. We didn’t have any original tracks back then, because we just had gotten into metal. Some things then changed and we had a new name with three members, which was Beneath The Oceans Of Sands. Some of the swongs written for that band can be found on my album, namely ‘Whores Of Babylon’ and ‘Temples Of Fire’. Both songs where written by me.
After that I continued by myself as Cyaxares.
How did you get into metal music? It was in 2008, when I got into rock music and so I decided to get myself an album. I heard of a store that sells that kind of music, so I went searching for it to buy an album. My choise was: Iron Maiden. I bought the record A Matter Of Life And Death.
Listening to that record, I knew that this was what I wanted to do to. It actually took a while for me to learn that this music was called metal at this point, which was what I got more into. I moved on towards more extreme metal, after I started listening to Cradle Of Filth and Amon Amarth. They inspired me to do extreme vocals and music.
Do you do all the music yourself for Cyaxares? How do you go about recording stuff?
Indeed, I played and recorded everything on the album myself. As far as recording goes, I recorded it in my room without any professional or semi-professional equipment or what so ever.
Are there for you as an artist from Iraq any limits technically to what you can create? In fact I’m very limited to what I can do. It’s pretty much impossible to get good instruments and equipment let a lone a decent studio. I’m also not able to see a real live Metal concert or get a good teacher. I have to do everything by myself and the whole project rests on my shoulders. That means writing, recording, rhearsing, learning, funding and whatever comes with being a band.
Iraq is ofcourse for the ‘Western World’ (sorry for not being able to define this any better) one of the most unlikely countries to find metal. How do you regard this fact? Are there more metalheads and bands around?
True, metal is a very rare thing in Kurdistan and Iraq. The amount of bands from this region is in total six and thats it. The skills of most bands are limited, so they don’t really catch any attention, simply because they don’t live up to the global standard.
Is there any sort of repression you have to deal with, doing this in your country? How does being from Kurdistan matter? And how about your other band Dark Phantom?
Metal over here, like anywhere else, is fought by religious and old-fashionate people. As Dark Phantom, we’ve received multiple threats and Cyaxares is actually the only death metal band from Kurdistan, making it a band with ten times as much obstacles as bands in other parts of the world.
Is there anything typical for metal music from your country? Do you draw inspiration from where you come from that you put in the music?
Metal is a very obscure thing here, so there is too little to speak of typicalities. Yes, I have inspired others to start playing metal music, but it’s very limited at this moment. What I try to put in my music is the ideologies and mythic elements of my culture and I hope to make a difference and change things in this way.
Musically I draw inspiration from oriental music and the mythology. The metal influences, I would say, are mostly Behemoth and Lamb of God.
What are the main themes you try to weave into your music? The main themes are derived from ancient mythology and historical events in the Babylonian, Sumerian, Persian and ofcourse Median tradition. The call for leaving behind religion is a big theme in my music, but I’ve also put some classical poetry in there.
I’ve checked out your album ‘Whores of Babylon’. How did the writing and recording proces of that take place? What story are you trying to tell the listener on it? The writing process took me about four years, because I started from absolute zero. Actually I had to start by teaching myself all I needed to play this music, you know? It took me about three days to record everything by myself.
Every song has its own message, My message as Cyaxares is ‘Temples Of Fire’, a call for Zoroastrianism as an ideology. What I want to achieve is to make my culture known, to give the Kurdish people an independant voice and show its strenght as well. We are a people that have always managed to do so much with so little.
I did an interview with the band Melechesh a long time ago, who also indicated that they made ‘Mesopotamian/Assyrian metal’. Do you feel related to this band in any sense? “Melechesh” Is An Authentic Mesopotamian Metal Band, I Enjoy Most Of Their Work, But We Both Have Different Sound Of Our Own.
Would you be so kind to tell a bit about what ‘Mesopotamian metal’ is and what makes it so? Can you also elaborate a bit on the stories it involves and entities discussed in the lyrics? Mesopotamian metal is a combination of Arabic scales and rhythms in the music, combined with metal ofcourse. The oriental atmosphere in th esong and the lyrical themes then make up what I think is Mesopotamian metal. The themes should also incorporate mythology. A good example of a band playing this specific style of music is Aeternam.
What part does religion play in your music and are there dangers involved in it? I’m an atheist myself and my opposition to religion will always be a part of Cyaxares. It’s not a safe thing in this country to be an atheist but I will refuse any sort of religion, with or without music.
Can you also tell a bit about Dark Phantom, your other band? Dark Phantom is a thrash metal band from Kirkuk, that I joined last year on vocals and bass. We’re woking on an album right now. The main themes of the band ar war, and terror and it has five members. The situation in our country is part of the theme. I keep that out of Cyaxares though. [Video below – Dark Phantom]
What are your future plans for Cyaxares? The future plan for Cyaxares right now is a new album, titled ‘The House Of The Cosmic Waters’ and hopefully go abroad, get a label and create a full band.
The second album is progressing slow, three songs have been finished this far. I’m not sure how many songs will be on it, but it will probably take me about eight months to finish it. That’s mostly due to a lack of time and economic means to finish it faster.
The two song EP of Vanad Varjud from Estonia is a grim first encounter with the band. The songs last well over the 10 minute border and envelop you in depressive darkness. The slow starting ‘Tumm Rongkäik’ (Silent Procession) features silence and the occasional drum sound in the first ten minutes. Some eerie sounds can be distinguished, but are barely audible.
When the music starts playing, first there’s the cascading guitar riff, played in such speeds to create a static wave pattern. Slow drums are being played, as in a ritual setting. Slowly the sound becomes more menacing, more grim and full of cold hate. Like a torrent, the music drags you in, slowly nodding along, one barely notices the change where a melody is sounding through the layers of guitar, untill it gently comes to a close.
‘Absurdiinimene’ (Absurd Human) is the second track, which starts with the sound of an icy gale blowing. The sounds that seep through are ominious. Clean guitar tones are being played in the same minor setting as Metallica’s ‘One’. A thunderous drum sound reverberates though the air and in a flash the riffing starts. A furious roar and samples start playing in Estonian. `
The Estonian extreme metal scene is very hidden and mostly known through a few bands that have somehow captured the interest of the media, like their folk-metal outfit Metsatöll or the sludge duo Talbot. I talked to Sorts Aposta and Thon from Vanad Varjud about the underground in this far-off corner of Europe, where winters are long and cold and where faith is minimal.
Who are Vanad Varjud and in what other bands did you play?
(Sorts) Vanad Varjud is me, Sorts Apostata is the so called ‘main man’ of the band. The band was born in 2000. I was already far into other things, but this became the main project. Thon played the drums and did vocals, so the ‘main man’ started to become a bit blurrier. So far it’s my thing, but Thon is responsible for all the drumwork. We both have been around in the Estonian ‘scene’ for years, though it’s hard to still call it a scene. It might be just me, there are some new winds blowing.
(Thon) I have been in several metal bands over the years. For a list of all my bands and projects, you can check my bandcamp page (there is a lot to check out. ed). Most of the music can also be listened to there. There is a complete list of bands I was in or connected to.
(Sorts) I’ve been involved with Ignorabimus in the past. Also with the band Nihilistikrypt. The band Mass In Comatose is my brainchild, though we will have to see if it ever rises again. When it comes to the scene in Estonia, the best source to check is estonianmetal.ee, though it has moved more to facebook. What is happening and where the action is can usually be found there.
What does Vanad Varjud mean? What is the idea behind the band?
(Sorts) Vanad Varjud means in English ‘Shadows of the past’ (though there are multiple interpretations, literally Old Shadows, meaning that the night is a calm time). This is, as far as what I did goes, the crown jewel and my most important project. It is mostly mine, where I create atmosphere like I’ve never done before. It feels very natural to me to do this the way I feel like. Being free of dogmas is a theme, as in can we even do that? We move to live grabbing hold of these dogmas to give us meaning and answers. They prevent us from thinking and we obey them quite unquestioning instead of looking at ourselves and others as human beings.
The music needs to be slow. Watch a snowflake fall, watch how it rains and feel the beauty and eerie atmosphere, the timelessness… Think of the smell of old trees, the foggy moon and sunrise (don’t take this as sounding too much like hippie stuff). Whatever you believe is your way and yours alone. It is good to have some travellers with you though, maybe even to the end?
What is the general idea/thought you are trying to convey to your listeners?
(Sorts) I dont try to convey anything really. I give something and you can take from it what you want, like I take things from other artists in the same way. It’s a matter of sharing, growing and learning and always moving forward. This is not as easy as it sounds ofcourse, trying to be original and following your own parth. We all wear certain chains, though we link up and find connections, but that is not always easy. It can even be a painful proces, but through pain we might achieve even greater things and more happiness.
We obey others, we are mastering others, we enslave others and enslave ourselves. Who are these others though, what others are there and why don’t we try to master our own self first? I think that’s the hardest thing, to find meaning in all this. It’s not the most original dilemma, very Nietzschean…Take your pick: Socrates, Gailit, Tammsaare…
Where do you draw inspiration from?
(Thon) Inspiration is everywhere, in books, music, film and nature or wherever you look.
(Sorts) I can’t add much to that. Maybe what is inspirational to me is that feeling of pure loneliness that we humans feel. You are born alone and you die alone and in some way you always are alone. Growing is a solitary process, but we can try to share this maybe.
What is it like to be an Estonian black metal band. Does being Estonian have any influence on your music do you think?
(Sorts) There are bands here and some projects, but no tight knit scene in the way people would imagine. We meet, greeta nd have a drink now and then, but not too often I guess. Metal in Estonia, specially black metal, is quite underground. Everyone is doing their own thing in their little corner and I think that’s fine the way it is.
If you consider where and how Estonians have lived historically and geographically and what th weather is like, then the usic dfefinitely is influenced by being Estonian. Then again, it might be my thing, we are very closed off people.
I’ve listened to your 2 song EP. What can you tell about the writing and recording?
(Thon) The idea of VV has been growing in Sorts for years and it first came to life after we finished recording with a metal band. Me and Sorts had the studio to ourselves and started to record the dripping water from some pipe near the door. We messed around with effects and created this eeriesound that just needed some drums. We recorded those as well in some takes, then sorts did the guitars. We did the vocals in a second session, but the rest of it… It just happened.
(Sorts) In a basement in Põlva we built a studio. There were pipes all over the place, it was underground and you could hear people flush their toilets. For recording we had to predict when people were going to do their business… You never knew what you’d find in that place before you had opened the door. There was also a radiostation operating from there. It was a legendary and strange place with ice cold winters. When it started leaking one day we put a metal tub underneath it and started recording the dripping.
Thon was doing the editing for some other band and I was freezing, reading the book ‘Maagide Kool’ by Vladimir Weidemann (translation: School of Mages: Estonian Occult Underground 1970-1980 ). When ‘Talv’ for the band Sõjaruun was done, the drumkit was still there, so we did this basic stuff. It was spontaneous and pure joy to make and I wish every album could be done this way. The writing was done in my head and we had the basic recording. After that I spend some time to adjust things and do the vocals.
Is there a theme to it, do you chose specific messages for a release you make?
(Sorts) Its not like a story of any kind is integral to our music, there are themes that just follow and we pick up on what happens around us. The future material is planned to involve dark themes. It seriously will be very dark.
What are the samples from that are in the songs? Why did you chose them?
(Sorts) The ambient elements there are mostly recorded and modified by us. We chose those to creat a kind of eerie atmosphere, like a church/monastary atmosphere. These are things we just did, you know? It was very inspiring stuff to use and create. It was a cold november when this came from my mind, before I turned it into flesh.
The EP is out on Hexenreich records. How did you get on this label and why did you chose for tape as a carrier?
(Thon) I have known Volly (boss of Hexenreich) for many years. I talk to him almost every week, so it was quite a natural thing to happen.
(Sorts) Yeah, Thon did the talking on that one. I’ve known the same person for many years, but Thon was more on a business level with this I suppose. Hexenreich has been functioning as a label dealing with this music for a long time now and it’s not like there are that many places for our kind of music. He’s a good person to work with.
Actually we released a sort of split with Hexenreich and Eerie Moonlit Trees, which is a label I started to create an undergroundlabel. I have to see if that’s going to work out. Chosing the casette format is partly because it is simply very cheap. I would like to release material on cd, LP and MCD, but as long as we don’t have that kind of deal, we will work with what we have. Anyone who is interested in helping us forward is most welcome.
Can you tell us a bit about metal in Estonia and mainly extreme metal?
(Sorts) I don’t know that much of the new Estonian metal scene. There is stuff going on and if someone is interested in it, the best news source is estioniametal.com, though it doesn’t offer the most recent news right now. We’re simply outside of it I guess.
Some fresh things that are going on as far as I know, Ingmar Aasoja from Thou Shell Of Death has some interesting things going on. The bands Urt and Aghor are active and interesting, Tharaphita has some nice progress and Süngehel has new stuff going on that are worth checkin gout. Goresoerd you can look up on facebook, is definitely a cool band.
I’ve got a list of records that are, in my opinion worth checking out, which offer a good impression of the Estonian scene. My opinion also varies ofcourse, it depends on what I feel like.
Sõjaruun – Talv (2010) Mortified – Wilderness (1993) Tharaphita – All pool Lund Ja Jääd (1997) Aggressor – Legal Requirement (1993) Nihilistikrypt – I hate everything (2006) Skydancer – The Dawnhunter (1996)
Why do you think Estonia is the most atheistic country in Europe?
(Thon) I think it’s a good thing, it seems a natural fact to me really. Studies have indeed shown it’s the most non-religious country in the world and it feels like a good thing.
(Sorts) There are all sorts of studies, so I dont agree with Thon on this. Right, in reality we may not be on level with the classic religious countries, but we’ve been fucked by religion enough as a small nation. Religion in my opinion is like a slavery in the classic way. We are officially a Lutheran country in so far, but there is no official religion in our country. There are big churches and such, with big budgets, but where does that money come from? We live and believe in a more protestant way I think, more sober. I dont believe a God that promises good things for those that serve is a good thing, its a mental slavery, being fooled by these promises who tell us we are blessed if we obey. What bothers me most is why we behave like believers still, even when we claim not to believe.
Fun fact, the Lutheran church wishes to build a skycraper in Tallinn, which will be the biggest building in the city. What should we think of that?
Anything else you’d like to share?
(Sorts) Bottle of cheap whiskey and two dark beers? Thanks for this oppertunity and everyone, support bands that you enjoy and perhaps we’ll meet some day.
During answering these questions, I was listening to some old material and some weird stuff came to my ears. It feels like a great journey to answer this and get back into listening to old material.
“We might be the most sympathetic black metal band from the Netherlands”
It’s a chilly autumn evening and we are sitting down in Café het Rozenknopje in Eindhoven with half of satanic sleaze rockers Heretic. The band has had a busy year behind them and its time to talk to the gents about their new records, shows, Ván Records and what it is like to be the most sympathetic black metal band of the Netherlands.
Slight shocker, Heretic has been around for 18 years already. Sure, there have been some breaks, but Thomas Goat has been playing dirty black metal under this name for 18 years. Fun fact also, is that this band only played their home town only once. That was in a support of the mighty Danzig in 2011 (in the Effenaar). That is one of the future goals for the band, according to drummer Tom Auf Der Axe: play an awesome show in Eindhoven. The drummer is keen to talk about the turbulent year Heretic experienced in 2014.
For Tom, it’s all still very new, even with all the events of last year: “I really was lucky to join Heretic at this time. I got talking to Thomas at a metal record fair. He needed a drummer for Heretic and asked if I was interested. I decided to say yes and three weeks later we did our first show together. Not a show in some bar, it was immediately a show on Roadburn!”. Tom learned enough songs for the show in a couple of weeks, where the band with a full line up had their big test. It turned out to be just the start.
“And then there was Hellfest on the agenda in France, which was another incredible experience. We went into the studio to record or new album and we have an agenda that is filled with cool stuff. As if that was not enough, we signed with Ván Records and booking agency District 19 (known as the organizers of the Eindhoven Metal Meeting). It’s been a great year this far!” tells Tom full of energy and enthusiasm. Its just as if everything the band touches turns to gold this year. Singer Thomas adds to Toms story, that is is definitely not just their drummer that was lucky, but the whole band. He chooses his words carefully, as if he only just started realizing that it all really happened: “Things started rolling for real this year for Heretic. We have a band, where all members want to go in the same direction. Adding Jimmy Blitzer (bass, also known from Urfaust) completed the picture. He thought it was cool to play second bass, which sounds odd, but really creates the sound we want. He also happens to be an excellent showman.”
Before we start looking at the successes from 2014, we should have a look at the past of Heretic. Founder Thomas always had an artistic drive with the band to express himself: “I wanted to satisfy an inner urge to create something, something new. The black metal scene was doing something that I wanted to go against, which is how Heretic started out, playing a different form of black metal.” That is the way the proces goes for Heretic, rebel against the image people create of them, but also against themselves according to Thomas: “Every record is a response to its predecessor for me. Everyone thinks they can label you and say what you are as a band based on your record, so the next one has to be completely different. Apart from that, I’m the biggest fan of Heretic and listen to the records time and time again. I then hear what I would like to have changed, what could be better. It’s a drive to develop. Every record is just a moment from what you do as a band, when one is released I’m already working on the next one. ‘Alive Under Satan’ is almost out now and I know how I want the next record to sound.”
The result of all those years of development yields its very own sound. “The black metal of Venom, sex drive like the Dwarves, punk vibe of Zeke and the sleaze of Mötley Crüe, that is the Heretic sound!” says Tom. “Thomas writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. Tony Hellfire does the bass loops over that, like our very own Steve Harris. Jimmy does another layer of dough on top of that and I can fill the gaps with my drums and make it into a whole. Because of the success and energy this year we’re all facing the same direction. Everyone has ideas, which keep on rolling and make nice things happening. It’s almost going automatically.”
A good example of these amazing things that happened to Heretic is their signing with German Ván Records, a label that also released music by The Devil’s Blood, Urfaust and Dread Soverign. The label is known for beautiful releases and special attention for the fans. “I knew Sven (owner Ván Records red.) from shows and of course Jimmy has been working with him through Urfaust for longer.”, Thomas chips in. “Sven thinks about releasing records, like a fan and an enthusiast, who wants to make it into something special. If we would want to release our record in a leather sleeve, he would basically be open to it. As soon as we would make a record that sounded like we do live, he would be interested. With ‘Alive Under Satan’, we have that record so the deal was soon made. Selim (Lemouchi, THe Devils Blood red.) told me a lot of good things about the label.” Live is of course still where it really happens for Heretic. This is obviously the place where Heretic is at its best, when the fans are right opposite the band.
The big similarity between Ván Records and Heretic is the love and respect for the fans. “We may be the most sympathetic black metal band from the Netherlands. We get so much respons from our fans, so we love giving them something in return.” Specially at the shows the band plays in Germany, the band has amazing experiences according to Thomas: “It’s amazing to play a show and see that the first rows of people sing along with every song, but it does happen to us. On the stage it’s all a big show, but after the show we are at the merch stand as soon as we can for a chat a beer or anything with the fans. I’m still a huge fanboy about the bands I love, so I know how important it is.” Tom agrees fully on that: “I’ve been touring with many bands, where I stood next to the stage, like Peter Pan Speedrock and Reverend Horton Heat. We get those same kind of responses, which is an amazing feeling. Sometimes its almost real!”
“Metal fans are, in my opinion, enormously dedicated. When I was nine years old I heard Iron Maiden for the first time. I still get chills when I hear that music. It sticks with you, that is what makes metal fans different, “ concludes TOm. “We played a show in Montbéliard in France a while ago. The support act was a band named Spermafrost. Before the show they came to see us, shake hands and tell us how cool it was for them to play with us. If you receive such dedication and responses, you have to give that back and we do that with all love.” This is part of the reason for the first uncommon release on Ván Records: a red flexi-disc with the song ‘It’s On!’. “That was one of those things, we made that single as a nice object. Then the Deaf Forever Magazine wanted a couple of thousand copies to send to their subscribers. A month later the release was totally sold out!”
The new album by Heretic, ‘Alive Under Satan’, is now out on Ván Records. The recordings were done in Eindhoven in three days and Thomas is looking forward to the next session: “It was a lot of fun in the studio and it turns out we have a great team with this little gang. I’m looking forward to making a full-length. Our previous record, ‘Angelcunts & Devilcocks’, was recorded at home with a drum computer. That is hard to compare with the raw, energetic sound that can be heard on the new record. You can hear that these are real, organic recordings. “Without changing the songs too much, there is much more dynamic in this new Heretic,’ says Tom. “We find a balance between the elements, which makes this a representation of the Heretic you can hear play live. If you manage to pull that off in the studio, then you’re doing the right thing.”
So the gang looks forward to the next record, for which Thomas has plenty of ideas already. The attention of all band members is with Heretic, playing live and enjoying the chemistry within the band. The new video is also out for you to enjoy.
The year 2015 might be the year of Heretic, including that long awaited show in Eindhoven.
Romuvos is the kind of band you will find only when you start looking for it. Pagan metal, inspired by the ancient Baltic tribes that roamed the lands we now know on our maps as Lithuania and Latvia. One could include the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, though the Prussian Balts are long extinct.
Behind the band is one person who goes by the name Velnias, which is Lithuanian for Devil. Most pagan entities seem to have been taken over by devils, which is shown in the Žmuidzinavičius museum in Kaunas by a large collection of statues. If we look a bit further the name Velnias is taken from the Baltic god of the dead, similar to Odin in Norse mythology. A trickster of sorts, one could say.
I got in touch with Velnias and he was keen to tell us more about his music. Like the trickster he took his name from, there’s more to him than you would think. He doesn’t actually live in the Baltic region, but lives in Israel. He moved there as a child with his family and once in a while he returns to his beloved Lithuania. Because his father is Latvian, he has decided to represent in his music the Baltic tribes as a whole in their pre-Christian form. It’s only fitting then, that I write down these words in the heart of Samogitia, the last pagans to be conquered in Europe back in 1413.
Though Lithuania seems strongly Christian now, not surprising due to their long lasting union with devout Poland in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, there are still plenty of traditions and customs here that remind you of a pagan past and the deep roots they have in both the people and the land. Velnias longs to move back to his beloved country, but feels like the viking warriors who got stranded in far of lands. But one day perhaps, he will return.
Who is Romuvos and how did you get started with this act?
Romuvos is my one man band, the operation is entirely in my hands. I started playing folk music after being part of various black metal projects. I started digging deeper for my roots and the folklore that I hold so dear and decided to dedicate a musical project to it.
Romuvos is music dedicated to the Baltic pagan traditions and way of life. It has always been in my heart, but only now I’ve come to the point where I express it in song. Thus Romuvos was created, a name that refers to reviving the religious practices and pagan traditions of the Lithuanians and Baltic people before their Christianization.
Did you play in other bands before Romuvos?
Yep, though its nothing worth mentioning. Nothing that got into thte studio or anything. Every band I played in had many rehearsals, worked on songs for a long time until it was time to record and then split up. Most of those were black metal bands with folk influences.
I’m not sure if this is interesting to mention, but I fought in the Israeli army. I fought wars and most of this music I wrote under threat of missiles and bombs. I’m not saying I’m a warrior of old or some brave knight, but I experienced war. Those were not my battles to fight though, not my wars. That however is a different story altogether.
Romuvos is clearly a reference to the pagan religion of Lithuania. Can you tell a bit more about what it entails and also the Durwi spin-off?
Well, Romuva is a way of life, tradition and belief. It’s rooted in every Lithuanian heart and deep in the history of the Lithuanian people. Romuva is the name of the most important sanctuary of the Prussians, which was destroyed by crusaders in the 13th century.
One of the most important aspects in the Romuva faith is respect for nature. There are many gods, rituals and festivals that take place and form a part of the yearly calender in the tradition. Many old folksongs teach us about the ways of the Romuva and pagan people fromt he past. Those are the Dainos (folk songs), which play an important role in the religion. They are ancient songs and hymns. There’s so much to tell you about this, fortunately the internet offers much resources for the audience to find out more about this. Im very proud to let people know about our Romuva traditions in my music.
Durwi in old Prussian means faith, its also a revival of the Baltic ancient religions. You can csee how the Lithauanians and other Baltic tribes are untill this very day connected to their traditions and pagan beliefs from before their christianization. I hope the movement will grow and get stronger.
Can you tell a bit more about these traditions, what would these be like?
The Baltic people have preserved their traditions through the ages and Romuva is a direct expression of these unique traditions. It gives a name to the folklore and beliefs that have existed for a long time in the region. I will give you some examples
This refers to the rituals surrounding birth. Before a child was born, the ancient Lithuanians believed in spirits that would influence the unborn child in a bad way. One never directly referred to someone being pregnant to safeguard the mother and the future child. Expressions are still being used in Lithuania, like “The oven fell apart at Petras” or “It’s joyfull at Antanas”.
Once the child was born, it would be inducted into the community. The christening was bound up with various ancient rituals, which tie the new-born to the world, his family and community. These would be performed either at home or in nature when it is the time of the full moon. The room would be decorated with plants and greenery, birds made of straw would be hung from the ceiling and in the middle of the room the hearth would be lit at all time during the ritual. Other materials were prepaired, a bowl of water, clean cloth and scissors. The room would be well lit with candles. In the ritual the mother, father, child, name-givers, relatives and other childern would be present, together with the priestess – Pribuveja (midwife), who would guide the event and take care of the child
The child is dressed in a festive linen shirt. A sash woven with folk decorations is used as a waist-band.
The feast is a cake, brought by the name-givers. The food upon the table traditionally includes eggs, scrambled eggs, bread, cheese, beer and such. Gifts are brought to the new-born and the mother. It’s all part of this important moment.
Vestuves is the word for a wedding, which was not just the concern for the young lovers. The entire community had an interest in the marriage and joining in the celebration. Weddings are so important in the ancient taditions, that there were over 100.000 dainos (songs) for Lithuanian weddings. There’s an extensive set of dances that represent the wedding – starting with the match maker introducing the young couple to each other, the parents agreeing, the young bride weaving her trousseau, and then the wedding ceremony.
There’s a myth of Perkūnas and the Heavenly Wedding: On his way to the wedding, Perkūnas strikes a gold oak – an exorcism to repel evil spirits (Velnias frequently hides under the roots of an oak). When a young bridal couple comes into their new home, before they enter it, the lintel is struck, leaving a “cross” – to ward off evil.
Funeral/Burial – the traditions surrounding funerals are fairly standard the world over. It is a time of mourning, and of friends gathering in support of the grieving family. But, there are some differences. In villages the coffin would lie in “state” for approximately 6 days, and in cities about 2 days. Every evening there would be the singing of laments, and prayers for the dead members of the family for three generations – each one mentioned by name. Every evening after the prayers a funeral meal is served, prepared by the best cook in the community. If the family has a pig, it is slaughtered for the occasion.
In villages the dead are usually buried in the morning, with final kisses being bestowed upon the loved one.
Velnias has given much more info on the pagan traditions in ancient Lithuania. For the sake of readability, you will find these at the bottom of this article. He mentions the yearly calendar, essential in the pagan rites, and the deities that the ancient Balts worshipped. One deity he goes into very elaborately, which I’m glad he did: Velnias.
In Lithuanian folklore Velnias is the character you will find most often, he originates from the god Velnias or Velinas. He has a relation to the animals, underworld, the dead, economy and magical things. In later Christian times Velnias became the devil.
The folkloric devil in the ethnic legends creates the world together, either alone or with God or only God (there are different versions). God is in some traditions his brother. They both have the same goals in creating the world, but also some opposingones, mainly all the bad things are explained by interference of Velnias. The God creates useful animals and the devil creates ones that harm people and are useless. Velnias is also connected with horses, oxen and cows, of which he would keep herds. In the legends he often harnasses and rides the horses. From the wild life, the wolf, rabbit and bear are closest to him and he assumes their forms.
Velnias is associated with low and wet locations, like moors and lakes, or he may appear in the forest. His dwelling is under the earth, inside the mountain, behind the water. He also may appear in the sky, flying or seen in a storm. The relation between Velnias and treesis also emphasized, he might be found sitting on tree stumps (the reference to the chtonic world, the lower part of the Tree of the World) or hiding in trees (like he hid from Perkunas). The fir tree and birch tree are his trees.
Velnias, also in later times as the devil, would often appears amongst women (at the village parties devils dance with the village girls or the devil would celebrate a wedding with a hanged woman and dances with her) and, in general, he is interested in the weddings and funerals. He often appears when a person dies to take his soul. The devil under the influence of christianity becomes the ruler of the hell (in lith. “pekla”) and there he rules the dead mostly in shape of the animals.
Generally Velnias is close to humans, it is not difficult to find him or call him he also comes without any invitation, let’s say if people decide to play ripka or other games. He often offers his services in farming, to clear the field and such. The manifestations of the devil have a sense of music, often they contract a violinist, play musical instruments themselves and dance. Both life and death are under the jurisdiction of the devil. He is an intermediary or guide for the living, but also was involved with the fertility of people and the land. The harvest was also his. He is inbetween the world of the living and the dead, between earth and the underworld. Therefor he received the patronage of the people who are connected to the both parts of this worlds (i.e. priests, magicians etc). Also, musicians, poets and artists, who are inspired by both worlds fall under this patronage, as they are set in an old Indo-European tradition that associates them with magic and the devil.
What are your personal beliefs when it comes to these traditions?
I can say that my beliefs are very similar to the beliefs of my ancient forefathers. It relies mostly on the pagan past, but I have to say that I walk my own path in this and I walk that alone. I am much influenced by the Romuva. The paganism is a big part of my life, but I follow the path I feel is right to take. I don’t want to impose chains on my life, that are in the hands of another. I will find the truth that is out there for me, which will bring me closer to enlightenment.
I appreciate nature and the pagan religion embraces those elements with deities that are the key to harmony or chaos in what surrounds us as humans. I tyr to represent that in my music, though in a smaller scale. When I use the word pagan in relation to my beliefs, my view is very much connected to those ideas that are part of the pagan traditions. I participated in rituals in the past, spending nights outdoors, camping and having a fire, getting inspired by the sound of the fauna and earth that I feel when I’m out there alone or with my wife. I try to put those experiences in my music, those are they keys or muses for the atmosphere I try to invoke.
I have mentioned my interest in the Baltic history and that is a big part of my music. It’s something I grew up with, the tales told by my grandmother, the sculptures and paintings in my childhoods home. Those inspired me since the day I was born. When I put this to song, the subject is a bit more general and I try to make it larger than life.
Lithuania is now one of the most devout Christian countries in Europe, though the pagan traditions can still be seen in a slightly mutated form. How do you feel about that?
Well, I think we can all agree that Christianity and other missionary religions have utterly destroyed native cultures around the world. I don’t hold any hatred towards them, but I draw strenght from this, deep emotions I can put in my music. Each religion seems to face the same stages and now the Islam has come to a point where people commit atrocities in its name. It led me to believing that one should shy away from crowds and mobs of people. I’m not a misanthrophist, but it gets close to becoming one. I like to be outdoors more nowadays, groups of people make me claustrofobic.
Many bands that pay homage to culture or country get lumped into the NSBM category rather easily. How do you feel about that and is there any political side to Romuvos?
I have no political views, nor do I think people are entitled to express such extreme political ideas as metal heads tend to do these days. Yes, everyone is born and living in a ‘country’, which we consider to be ours. That we think will stand by us and have our back when we need something. That country has been formed by past rulers and is governed by whatever government it currently has. They also have taught us to be proud of it and stand by its laws and order. Well, that is not for me. I can understand and respect other opinions about this topic, to each their own, but that crosses a border when people try to hurt or offend another.
The way I see it, I have no country. I don’t look at it that way atleast, which might be because I left my ‘homeland’ or maybe because I dont hold a vision like the common herd. Therefor I won’t see a country as a value to stand for. Countrys are owned by their governments, which might even be corrupt, and filled with people I can’t call my brothers, yet I would be expected to stand by it in war. The same people that will curse, violate, interfere with and disrespect you while living next to you, while sharing the land you should call ‘ours’ with them.
Yes, I will seek peace in my lasnd and I have the right as a human being to live on such a piece of land that I call home. I will raise a family and will seek friends, but also defend it from foes, but not as an act related to an old ideology and herd mentality that is alient o mine. I would do it as a person who wishes to be left alone by the brainwashing of society that surrounds him. I try to be free in my own space and accept no shackles from others forced on me. So NSBM? No, thats not for me. I would also not like to live in the old days under a man with a crown who can decide my fate, whitout me having any say in it. I dislike the ‘nazi’ ideas and steer clear of them. If others go there, its their choice.
Why did you chose to make music on your own?
I can’t say that I consciously made a choice to make music on my own. Because most bands I was part of ended up splitting up or just fading away, this was the easiest wat to go about things for me. I create music on my own terms, with my visions and no distractions.
Do you plan to play live? How would you go about forming a band?
Yes, I think that in the future I will gather few session musicians that I will play live shows with. Musically I will keep things in my own hands though.
What is the general idea you try to get across to your listeners? What story are you trying to tell?
In some of the songs I tell stories from the Lithuanian folklore, in others I make up a story myself based on my ideas. Sometimes I will use old folk songs from the old days, other times I will write songs that represent Baltic faith and traditions. With Romuvos I wish to represent Baltic history and the pagan beliefs of the people in close relation to the nature.
Your record has a very clear sound that is not typical. What inspired you to make this style of music? To mind comes a band like Glittertind, does that sound like a fair comparison?
Well, Glittertind is a great band and thanks for the comparison though they are not my main inspiration. I can say that Falkenbach is a big influence and one of my favorite artists for sure, Summoning, early Vintersorg, Storm, Hades, viking era of Bathory and few more…
Even today I mainly listen to black metal, it still is my favorite style of music. Obviously, it is not the sound I create in Romuvos, but that was never my goal.
How did you go about recording this record? How did your writing proces go? All in all, how did you make ‘Romuvan Dainas’?
I have my own studio at home, so I just go and write the music first. Then I take a classic guitar and start playing, sometimes it can start with keboards or electric guitar as well as for the harmonica. Either way, after writing the main theme, i start working around it and build up the entire song. The next step is writing the lyrics and few more adjustments for the song. Ivecord all on my own and when the recording part is done, I mix it and finally do the mastering as well.
What is the general idea behind the record, its story and message?
The idea behind Romuvan Dainas is to make a Baltic folk metal album. In some of the songs you can find old stories from the Baltic folklore and on others tales of heroic battles and myth that I mostly invented. I dont get to see these days many folk bands representing this great area that surrounds the baltic sea and I am happy to take that subject into my music.
You say you invented some stories. Do you feel you put a lot into this record emotionally?
I think I put a lot of emotion and care into my music, it’s as if it erupts out of me and when it does I cannot stop it. I invest a lot of time and effort in it, because I have no other way of doing it. I enjoy every moment of making music, it is a very fulfilling thing to do. When I finish one thing, my mind is already on the next creation.
You released the record through No Colours Records. What kind of label are they and how did you get in touch?
No Colours Records are a label that mainly releases underground Black Metal music, They have some releases that made it to the big pantheon. I just sent a youtube link with a song to Steffen, the AR of the label, and after few weeks he came back to me, expressing a great desire to put out my album.
What are, in your opinion, the best metal bands from Lithuania and are you in any way in touch with either the scene in Lithuania or Israel?
There’s a few great bands from Lithuania, like Obtest, Ha Lela, Peorth and Žalvarinis (though they are not that metal). There are also some great folk bands, like Rasa Serra, Gyvata and Ugniavijas. I’m not connected to any scene at the moment though.
A few people from the Baltics did buy the album and asked me some questions about it. It’s important to me that they feel connected to my music, but that goes for anyone who listens to my songs. I’m not trying to reach a specific audience or region with my music, but it is a confirmation for me when people from the region and cultural background appreciate the music though. It shows that my message of longing for the Baltic area and its nature and history is clear.
What future plans do you have?
I am planning to get session musicians for recording in a a big and high quality studio for my upcoming albums and live shows. Hope mainly to just make great albums!
Disclaimer: I share no views with No Colours Records or any of the artists. Pictures (except header) by Justina Lukosiute