Metal is a strange beast, and it emerges in places that you wouldn’t normally expect sometimes. One of those is Pakistan. Not the first place to think of when hearing heavy metal music, right? Let alone the often blasphemous but always rebellious black metal. Primaeval is the band that is changing all that.
With deep roots and a complex series of influences, their sound offers something new and fresh, but also is an expression from a band that breaks multiple stereotypes you may have of their country of origin. Metal has often been a male-dominated genre, and to have a band from Pakistan with a lady on vocals is groundbreaking. And as admitted by the band, the scene doesn’t treat women well, yet here they are. Paving the way for a change.
Get to know Primaeval, as Farhan Rathore kindly takes time to answer my questions and share more about his band, the metal scene in Pakistan and more.
Fighting for acceptance: Primaeval
How is Primaeval doing?
Primaeval is doing pretty well, although there are a lot of challenges we face as individuals and a band also, like lack of exposure to heavy metal and lack of acceptance from society for our extreme style of music.
How did you folks meet and what were your individual inspirations to start making extreme music?
Farhan Rathore was the guy actively doing heavy metal music for 12+ years who went to his old friends ( Rumi and Athar ) and discussed the idea of forming a band that can showcase all sides of heavy metal. Hence creating a unique sound. Later the band found Byzma and we loved her vocals. All of us have pretty common musical inspirations, mostly old-school but also modern metal sounds. The bands we all love are Katatonia, Electric Wizard, Burzum, Candlemass, Opeth, Empyrium, Draconian, Gojira, Black Sabbath, Emperor, Celtic Frost, and the list goes on.
Am I correct in seeing that you folks are in various other bands and projects? Can you say something more about that?
Farhan had 2 bands prior to this, Athar was associated with a band also. But as of now, we have no side projects. And we are all totally committed to Primaeval.
What kind of idea is behind Primaeval? Who are the main inspirations for your band?
The idea behind Primaeval is to bring a sound that has never been heard in our part of the world (South Asia or Asia in general). We are inspired by Progressive music, Doom Metal and elements of Death and Black Metal. We are basically a band that ranges from extreme sounds to very emotional melodies. And we want to create our own sound of genre if you want to put it that way.
I’d like to know more about the story you are telling with your music. The name of your EP is ‘Horcrux’, which appears to be a Harry Potter reference.
The main idea behind our EP was to put out songs that were personally close to us and some of our work that would let people know why we are different from the contemporary metal bands in our region. One of the songs named “Nocturne (Alternative Version) is a chunk from our full length album. This album speaks about our individual and collective sorrow and mental health related issues maybe at points. And about the EP name, yes of course we are Harry Potter fans lol. And the idea was to establish a name that makes our EP immortal for us at least. It is very close to all of us. So that is that.
What is the process for you in writing and recording the record?
Our writing and recording process is very simple. We are at the studio every weekend, from the evening to the next morning. We take our music writing very religiously, and we don’t compromise. We have spent almost a year recording and writing the EP. Farhan does the lyrics writing, while Athar and Rumi are always creating instrumentals that can draw the sound we are looking for. It’s a constant experiment with scales and tunings. We love it this way. We want to stand out.
Which bands should people really check out?
Yeah we are strictly metal. We’ve always been. Farhan’s previous band is listed in the archives as well. But with our latest EP, Metal Archives labelled it as “Not so metal. And rather a rock EP”. Which offended us since we don’t understand their point with that. But we will be patient and try again once our full length album is out. Because that will be explosive. We can promise people that. So as of now, we have left chasing Metal Archives to be acknowledged or recognized. Because our listeners are our bosses, and if we are metal to them, we are metal for everyone. Platforms need to stop making things complicated for artists with original music.
There’s a general idea that not much metal is made in your part of the world. Pakistan, however, seems to have a lively scene. What is it like and which bands are really the originators? What styles are prevalent? Basically, tell me everything.
Good question. Presently, Pakistan is pretty dull in Heavy metal area. There are hardly 4 to 6 bands actively putting out music. The mainstream music here is mostly rap and RnB. Pop also is a very popular genre in this part of the world. People treat metal as something evil and satanic labels are put on metal artists. We have been subjected to a lot of hatred and abuse due to that. Nobody is willing to give Metal bands shows or even market our music. Although Pakistan has a good history in Metal back in the 90’s and early 2000’s with bands like Dusk, Karachi Butcher clan, Dionysus, Multinational Corporations and others. Right now, Takatak is the standout band in our local scene. And we are trying to make our mark in the metal scene also. So let’s hope the new generation can get exposed to good metal music. Metal is treated as a lower-grade music genre. Although that’s a totally bad idea of treating any genre.
Which bands should people really check out?
I’d suggest people to listen to Dusk, Takatak and Karakoram to get a wider picture of how diverse our heavy music can be. And you can listen to our work also. Lol
Can you shed some light on what place metal has in society, if there is any censorship level, and what you can and cannot sing about? Just for context, in neighbouring Iran, metal bands have been prosecuted.
Metal has no respect in our country, and there is little to no support for metal artists. There is no such censorship on music other than nudity or blasphemy. Since we are in a country that is very extreme towards religion. And again, society treats metal as a source of noise and a symbol of satanism. So it’s very heartbreaking for artists and listeners. Because there are no shows unless artists organize the shows themselves. It’s not a good place for Metal. And I have heard about Iran and Afghanistan, it’s very sad to see musicians being prosecuted anywhere. Art should be promoted rather than being choked.
A metal band from Pakistan is for many people a rarity, a metal band from Pakistan with a female member even more so. You mentioned in a different interview that women were not well-treated in the scene. Can you elaborate on that and why this is the case?
Yes, a female working for a Heavy metal band is a rarity here. And women are generally hurled with offensive and sexist comments here and there, generally in this part of the world. Imagine a woman making metal music in a place where men are not safe with their art. But luckily, Byzma is an outspoken woman who can stand up for herself. And she has us to support her. And we hope she stays safe from all the abuse that women can face here. She has such a beautiful voice.
Is there anything from your origins that you put into your music? Like traditional instruments, musical themes, etc.
We generally don’t. But in a couple of the songs of our full-length album are in scales that are used in our traditional “Qawwali” music. You will love those songs. We are working on fusing traditional scales and instruments to establish our geographical identity in our sound also.
What are your future plans right now?
The immediate plan is to finish with our full-length album recording and then write the next album. We are also looking to collaborate with different local artists and bands that are interested in making a different brand of heavy music.
If Primaeval was a food, what would it be and why?
Hahahaahah it would be “BIRYANI” since biryani is the most loved food in our region. You should come here and try it. We’d love to host you for some days and show you around 🙂
Not before has the project from M. (Fluisteraars, Nusquama) and O. (Iskandr, Turia) performed live on stage. Where else to have a first than on the very nexus of dark, heavy music than Roadburn? They’ll perform their commissioned piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’. Time to find out what we can expect.
Solar Temple was one of the most spectacular acts on Roadburn Redux. This interview preceded the performance and was published on Never Mind The Hype. It also was supposed to be part of the daily Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. It’s been forever and one could argue that it may not be super relevant anymore, but I was proud of this as it is one of my favourite artists involved in this. In fact, I did a new interview a year later, which can be read here.
Into the beyond with Solar Temple
You have been working together on making music for some time. How did this project come about and where do you draw from?
The idea for the band came from a recording session in which we flouted every possible rule. We were guided by instinct and spontaneity and the resulting demo had an alienating and unique sound. It went down pretty well in the underground scene and soon we had inspiration for a full album. Our interest in old, experimental and psychedelic music resulted in a strange impression of sounds that we are now trying to explore further and further.
How is your process in co-creating music for Solar Temple?
Unlike our other musical collaborations, such as in Iskandr, where one of us is clearly the standard-bearer of a creative vision, Solar Temple comes about completely without any preconceived division of roles. We both take care of all aspects of the whole: from composition to performance to production. This works mainly because we both want to push our personal boundaries in all aspects of music.
Until recently, it was a purely studio-oriented project, where the creative process in particular, was of much greater importance than any notion of an end goal, more important than any image of how it should be. An embrace of spontaneous creation. This is significantly less the case in many of our other projects: there, composition and purposeful work toward a clear creative vision is actually decisive. Both impulses can be satisfying and productive. Maintaining separate projects to pursue both avenues proves to be a good method for us.
The style, feel and sound of Solar Temple is exceptional. In the artwork there is a lot of classical imagery, marble, the term Dionysian is used on the debut ‘Rays of Brilliance’, the word transcendental is often used. In short, what is the meaning?
It’s hard to add to the description, as you already put it here. The references in the artwork and lyrics are not very literal but translate the feeling we are trying to introduce the listener to; ideally, it opens doors to an experience that is beyond the mundane.
What makes you guys choose to do a live performance and then also in the form of an online version?
First of all, because Walter asked us to make a commissioned piece together, and we were already interested in doing that. That this would be under the name Solar Temple was far from certain. The restrictions on getting together, among other things, meant that we were soon experimenting with ways of writing and rehearsing music in pairs. Only later did we realize that this method might work well as a duo, also for the end product, and we decided to focus entirely on a duo performance. This fitted in very well with what we were already working on in Solar Temple. When we were clear that we were going to perform this piece of music under the name of this umbrella project, it released a lot of creative energy in us.
You have worked on a commissioned piece for Roadburn before. What makes it so appealing for you to make something that, in a sense, is a one-off?
It is indeed a challenge to put so much energy into something that is somewhat ephemeral in nature. I think it’s just a huge creative challenge for both of us: it’s a kind of external motivation that you don’t often encounter as a relatively obscure underground artist. Normally you make something, and you put a lot of energy into it, and then you hope that there is a demand for it. In this case, it’s the other way around: the demand is already there, from Roadburn who say: “we believe in you, go make something” and then you go and make it happen. Combined with a concrete deadline and the emphasis on live performance, this is just totally different from how you normally operate. And that is challenging and refreshing.
The creation of the piece ‘The Great Star Above Provides’ was a deconstruction. Can explain what that means?
We can be brief about this: in the studio you can do anything, a live show with two musicians is much more limited. That necessitates deconstructing what we want with Solar Temple. The rest the Roadburn Redux viewers will see for themselves!
Can listeners expect a continuation of the already ‘familiar’ Solar Temple sound?
It really will be completely different. Not completely unrecognizable for those who are familiar with our further output (also in our other bands) but really completely new.
Will this also be a harbinger of a new release?
We shall see.
What would you like to see at Roadburn?
We’re especially curious about everything concerning Neptunian Maximalism and of course what our friends in Dead Neanderthals have in store for us!
I hope you didn’t miss this back in lockdown-days; Solar Temple laid down the Cormac McCarthy-an mysticism with a vengeance.
e across an album that defies categorization, that simply is out there in a way little else is. Dordeduh released one of those albums this year, their sophomore release ‘Har’. It’s a celebration of Romanian culture, but also an embrace of the future and crossing over into new domains. It tells of deep history and myths yet opens its arms to whoever listens to it. It’s a statement and testament to what the band is about.
Dordeduh is often described as a project that sort of split-off from the well-known Negură Bunget . Yet, that does injustice to the people behind the project, their vision and creative drive. While the roots may be similar, Dordeduh has paved its own path. It did take years for the follow up to ‘Dar de duh’, which came out in 2012, but hey, here it is finally!
Though Edmond ‘Hupogrammos’ Karban is enjoying his time off outdoors, he did take time to talk about this new album and share some insights into the process behind the band and the album, the current state of the world, and playing Prophecy Fest (hopefully) where they’ll do a Negura Bunget set.
Hello Dordeduh, how are you guys doing?
Hello there. I am in vacation and I enjoy some free time in the wilderness of our mountains, with no internet and telephones and technology.
You’ve released the monumental album ‘Har’ this year, still in the midst of the pandemic. Did you consider not releasing it yet or had you already postponed the release?
We had the album ready already in July 2020. We had some chats with the label if it would be wise to release it in the winter of 2020, but in the end, they decided to have it in the late spring of 2021. But for me, seen from the artist’s perspective, I wanted it out asap, to see the album released and have it out of my hands.
Dordeduh was formed in 2009 and in 2012 you released your debut. We had a long wait for ‘Har’, so the question is; what took you so long? And what has driven you to create music again? I have read, for example, that you were never entirely happy with the ‘Dar De Duh’ sound. Does that have much to do with it?
It took so long because I became the father of 3 boys and family became the main priority in life. When kids started to grow, I started to feel more secure as a parent, I started to write music again. Regarding “Dar de duh” I think that it was never about not being satisfied with the result, it’s more about having a perfectionistic point of view. Judging the compromises we had made on that record, I think that the result is pretty good.
Har has two active concepts in the background. One is related to the title, which means “grace, or divine grace”. This aspect is important because, in order to have such a moment of epiphany where one feels that divine grace, one needs a specific inner balance, a specific openness and a specific state of mind. One has to be mentally and soulwise fit for such connections. And this leads to the second concept, the practical aspect that this album is talking about; more precisely it invites to undertake a journey into our own depths. This journey most of the time does unveil unpleasant aspects about ourselves. The things that we are confronted with during such a transformation process are related to trauma, to different contents that lie dormant or hidden in the subconscious mind. In order to heal all these aspects one needs to be confronted with his own darkness, but also with the craving for pleasant experiences. The wanted state is one of equanimity. It’s a very lengthy process and after the initial confrontation a long integration period is needed. This has to be part of our everyday life, of our routines, of our daily practice. Another aspect related to the conceptual background of this album is related to our lost and forgotten cosmic memory. I strongly believe that we have a cosmic heritage that lies dormant in us, way beyond what can we perceive in our normal state of consciousness. This heritage occasionally gets unlocked during the journey I mentioned before.
As a parent yourself, it’s a horrible question to be asked, but is there a song on this record particularly close to your heart?
Yes, “In vielistea uitarii”. Even most of the material I wrote for Negura Bunget and Dordeduh was always impersonal, this time there are personal touches in that whole impersonality.
You’ve stated that the recording process for the album was very relaxed, though under hectic circumstances. Can you elaborate on that and also share what the process was like for this particular record?
For me, the ideal environment for writing and shaping an album is to have an isolated place where I can freely work exclusively on the material. To be able to keep the focus and an appropriate mood for writing is crucial for me. Otherwise, every time when I turn back to the writing process I need some time to adjust and to create the right atmosphere to dive into the album. This time I did not have anything close to that. I wrote most of the things after 9 PM when I placed my kids in their beds. So the process probably took a bit longer.
But having our own studio allowed us to record some of the stuff already in the composing phase and allowed us to have some basic pre-production. I think the critical aspect for us while recording and producing our own album is that during this process we can’t work on anything else in the studio. And we rarely can afford that, because we also have to have our basic incomes. But we managed well all the things, made this record and we’re pretty happy about it.
I can’t define what style of music Dordeduh plays, but it hits all the right spots for people that love both folk, and metal music, with the mystery of ethnic elements. If any sort of umbrella term would fit its folk metal, yet I always feel that there’s a massive discrepancy between a band like Dordeduh and some guys in pirate costumes who happen to add a tin whistle. Your music feels like a whole, where you can’t separate the elements. Nothing is added. How do you realize that sound from songwriting to production, is it the original vision or do you layer the elements and ethnic instruments?
I think the key element in making all these materialize is to preliminarily have a vision of what one wants to achieve, as detailed as possible. Of course, while the process starts to form a body, the vision gets from the realm of the ideas to something concretely manifested and the image becomes clearer and clearer. At that stage sometimes an added element can improve and support the overall image.
On the other hand, this used to be the job of a producer for the cases of the bands that preliminarily had no vision, or had only a general vision about what they want the next album to sound like. The producer was the one that shaped the whole production in certain directions. Nowadays producers exist only in the area of a big-budget production. On the any other cases, this input could come only from sound engineers who are willing to dive into producing and mixing an album. In the underground scene, it’s close to impossible to find a good producer. And that’s because of a very simple and pragmatic reason: there are no budgets for producers anymore.
Can you perhaps tell a bit more about the instruments you use, such as the Tambal, toaca, tulnic, nai, dube and timbale (etc.) and what they mean or tell in your music? I read somewhere that there is a reflection of different places and regions in your music, which is hard to detect for those not in the know. Is that something you are willing to expand on?
I know that it’s probably hard to imagine, but we don’t use these instruments because we have to use them in order to be cool, different, exotic or name whatever other label. It’s used to enhance a different state, to put more emphasis on certain aspects and so on. We never planned anything regarding these instruments like: “this album should be more folkish”, or “this song should have more traditional instruments”. I want to keep a nice balance between the instruments. I only use them where they are relevant. I prefer to have a general vibe of good taste and not overdo them on the whole length of the album.
The “tambal” is a hammered dulcimer that is present in traditional cultures from all around the world from east to west. The instrument has some variations that varies from culture to culture. With the “nai” it’s the same story. The nai is a panflute that is found in different shapes, materials and sizes around the world. We also use traditional flutes that are pretty specific to our culture, but similar instruments are again found in many traditions. The “toaca” is a hammered wood that nowadays is used in orthodox churches. It’s not really known as an instrument, but it’s dated in ritual contexts for thousands of years. I remember that I envisioned having this instrument present in my music since the first album. I always found it’s percussive sound appealing with huge amounts of long reverb on it. The xylophone, the timabels or “dube” are usual percussion instruments. The types of “dube” we use come from Romanian oldschool fanfare kits. The “tulnic” is probably the most Romanian instrument we use. It’s originated in the Apuseni Mountains and initially, it was a tool to transmit different signals between the villages in different hills or mountains. It’s interesting that in our culture it’s attested that it was mainly used by women and it’s known through history that there were choirs of women who were playing these instruments. It’s the first instrument we used and again I always envisioned that image of a distant mountain where these beautiful songs were played on this instrument.
-The spiritual aspect is very important to you. You’ve also stated that in writing ‘Om’, you meditated a lot. I was curious what you talk about when you mention spirituality?
Yes, spirituality is important for me. I rather dislike using this term because it’s vague. Generally speaking, I prefer to keep this subject to myself. And I do it so because it’s really easy to be placed in contexts that I actually don’t belong. Considering the criticism and the opinion entitlement that everyone has these days it’s probably the worst environment to be mentioned with these kinds of subjects. For me this aspect is a private one, I don’t want to convince anyone to do anything, I don’t feel that I have to prove anything to anyone and I definitely don’t feel that by having a spiritual interest I have something more than other people have. Spirituality is not a virtue by default. It’s a predisposition like any other predisposition. But through practice one can make it a virtue. So, talking about this has no relevance; practice on the other hand has all the relevance.
The ethnic aspect of your music is another thing that fascinates me. As I perceive it, this is very much connected to the land itself, to regional identities and particularly to nature. I’ve read some strong opinions on the state of our world and nature and I wonder how important this is to you as an artist, but also in the music of Dordeduh.
Until I had kids I preferred to not have any kind of convictions concerning the outside world. Nowadays, having a family I started to form and voice my opinion towards different things that are happening in my country and around the world. At this very moment, the outside world got to be quite intrusive and started to affect more and more the inner world, especially with this pandemic context. All the artists around the world are strongly affected by this new context. Even before the pandemic, the artistic profession was already nearly impossible to be sustained, now anything related to arts is almost eradicated. And if I see it from a factual point of view, I can’t predict a bright future.
Your music breathes an identity of Romania, but how has your country changed since your previous record, and has it affected your music and perception?
Happily, we’re not very tuned with the social, cultural or political life of Romania. I admit that I live in my own bubble, secluded from most of the trends that apply to most of the people. This is a good and bad thing in the same time. It’s good because we’re dependent on very few things around us and it starts to be bad in the moments when we’re inevitably confronted with the reality we’re living in.
I’ve got my tickets for Prophecy Fest and I was happy to learn you are part of the Prophecy roster (which I had missed because I forgot Lupus Lounge is one of the iterations). I feel it is a great label and a perfect match for an artist that defies the definition. How is your relationship with the label?
Our relation is pretty straightforward, quite transparent and if there are any kind of misunderstandings or differences of opinions we found a pretty flexible team at Prophecy. Another aspect that I appreciate with them is the fact that they support “unusual” ideas. If we come up with a crazy idea they don’t dismiss it right from the start. They are willing to experiment and they are usually open to new ideas and weird projects. So, we can’t really complain about them.
I sincerely hope we can go enjoy the festival and I can finally hear Dordeduh live. You will also be playing Negura Bunget songs. What is it like to play music from that band for you now, so long after the split? And have you played in a cave before? Apparently, no one had asked Mortiis to play in one before the 2019 edition.
I look forward to the event especially because it’s going to be a special show for us, but also it will be an opportunity to meet up with friends that I wasn’t seeing for some time. Playing Negura Bunget songs seems to me a bit un-actual; it’s a part of our past that defined us for that time around, but not very representative for what I am nowadays. And don’t get me wrong: I love those songs, I even love playing those songs nowadays because I feel I can have an expression that is much close to the initial aim of the songs. It’s also a big and important part of me and my personal history. But nowadays I would like to focus more on the future and less on that past. I personally hope that this will be the last time I will play Negura Bunget songs. Unfortunately for me, my colleagues have a different opinion.
A hard question to answer, but what are your future plans?
Having close to no predictability for the future, all that we can do is to be prepared for any possible live activity. For that we prepared two possible sets, one with a reduced budget for promoters, where we offer a reduced travel party and we play with a minimal setup and line-up. The other one is a bigger production, with a larger travel party and with an extended setup and line-up for the shows. Another thing we can do is to prepare the work for a possible new album and start this process as soon as possible to have a minimal gap between the albums.
If Dordeduh was a dish, a type of food if you will, what would it be and why?
It would certainly be a simple dish with a lot of subtle colourful tastes Why? Because I think our message is simple and can be heartfelt, without falling into much intellectualization, but it contains a lot of layers that reveal a lot of details.
Perhaps you’ve already watched the documentary film ‘Blackhearts’, which tells us about the global phenomenon that is black metal and the love of musicians around the world for the nation of Norway, where it all began. One of the bands featured in the film is From The Vastland and I got to ask Sina a bunch of questions about his latest album and the film.
From The Vastland is from Iran, a country known for its strict regime and limitations in expression. That is, of course, an oversimplification about a nation with a rich, long history and a situation much more complex than I could ever do justice to in a few introductory lines over here. The movie was filmed a few years ago, and by now Sina lives in Norway and is at liberty to explain a bit about that mysterious place he is from and why it still colors his music so deeply.
Here is FromThe Vastland
From Iran to Norway: Sina from From The Vastland
How is From The Vastland doing?
Doing good! Earlier this year we released the new album “the haft khan” and the feedback from the community has been great! Well, due to the pandemic situation we had to change/cancel some of our plans but still, everything is going good. And as always I’m also working on some new material for the next release plus slowly working on some other plans for the band. So, all very good.
I’ve always wanted to ask you about the name of your project. Could you tell me more about its origin?
Sure! Well, it took me a while to choose this name, was thinking about it a lot back in the days when I wanted to start the band. there were several different reasons that I chose this name. One of the most important ones was because I wanted the name of the band also represents the concept of the music. So, let’s put it this way that I am from Iran and all the lyrics are about the ancient Persian empire era (one of the biggest empires in history), Persian mythology, and history. So, like the music comes from the vast land of Persia…Well, there were also some other reasons which together made me think this is a perfect name for the band.
You’ve just released your new album ‘The Haft Khan’. I understand it’s a Persian myth, but it also is the name of a high mountain in your country of birth. Can you share the significance of this story and why you chose it for your album theme?
Right. Well, The Haft Khan is a Persian myth but not the name of a mountain. This is a very specific name that has a specific place in Persian mythology. It’s based on one of the stories from the great epic masterpiece poem, the most notable piece of Persian literature, “Shahnameh” (The Book of Kings – One of the world’s longest epic poems) which was written by the poet, the world-known “Ferdowsi” between c. 977 and 1010 CE.
“The Haft Khan” story narrates seven difficult challenges of a national hero, the greatest of the Persian heroes, called Rostam on his journey by his legendary horse “Rakhsh” towards the land of Mazandaran, to save and free the king “Kei Kavus” and his army who have been captured and blinded by a spell of the White Demon.
In the story, Rostam passes seven stages and fights against natural difficulties, fierce animals, demons, and at the end, the white demon. finally, by dropping the blood of the white demon’s heart in the eyes of Kei Kavus (the king) and his army, sight returns to their eyes again.
The story of “the haft khan” is full of metaphors and symbols and represents some of the most important characters, legends, and myths in ancient Persian mythology and history. So, I found this epic story a perfect theme for a concept album that I was thinking about for a long time.
What can you tell me about the creative process behind the creation of the album? Did you work together with other artists?
This time again I worked on the album for almost 2 years and I did my best to make the atmosphere of the album exactly as I had it in my mind, which was based on the picture you get from reading the real story in the book. Starting a song was more based on the visuals I had in mind but of course, I was taking care of everything with precision when it comes to the song structure, the arrangement, lyrics, etc. to make it a perfect fit for the style.
You know, as always I wrote all the songs and recorded the demo album first and I sent it to my bandmates to practice and record their lines. That’s how we always record the albums but at the same time, I also ask them to use their own creativity on their lines and let me know if they have any suggestions. So, usually, the final result is not far from the demo I have recorded as we are all on the same page and it’s more like they just have a little bit of their own touch in the album too.
I was listening to the songs over and over again to make sure everything is exactly as it should be. When it comes to the sound of the album, I would say over the years, it got more mature but at the same time more aggressive and darker, still emotional and with the same style. And I believe it’s also a matter of experience, the way I write the riffs and how to make them sound richer, you know.
What makes it important for you to include these themes from your roots in your music, particularly within the framework of black metal?
You know, from many years ago I’ve been always very interested in mythology and history. I read about myths and ancient stories, not just Persian but also Scandinavian, Egyptian, Mayas, Greek…but then when I was growing the idea of my project, I found this combination perfect to make BM music with this epic, mythical theme. It is actually what some other bands in other countries are doing with their own but not about Persian myths.
You know, ancient Persian history and mythology are full of epic stories of the legends, the gods and demons, and the eternal battle between darkness and light.
So, not only I found this a perfect fit for black metal but also I wanted it to represent something from my homeland, a part of world history that goes back 7000 years or more. Something that even a lot of Iranians have forgotten about it. That’s also why I chose the “Rising from the ashes of the legendary past” slogan for the band.
The album, of course, landed in the middle of the pandemic. How has this impacted its release and you as an artist? Did you have many plans to cancel?
Yeah, definitely it was not the best time to release an album but you know, everything was already planned and I just thought it’s better to keep it instead of changing everything as we were already in the middle of the process. But yeah, of course, we had to change and cancel some of the plans like the concerts we had around the release time (which suppose to be the release concert for the album) here in Oslo and in another festival called Garasjefestival.
I was also preparing some more merch and just about to start making the cassette tape format of the album to release at the same time with the CDs but then everything was canceled or better to say postponed as they are still in the plan but let’s see how it will go…
Obviously, I have to ask you about the Blackhearts documentary. How impactful has this been for your career?
Of course, Blackhearts had a big impact on my career in a positive way, you know. Just imagine all the attention my band and music got because of the film, especially during the releasing period of the film. And then afterward when the film was released and they were screening it on the festivals all over the world, in cinemas and different types of events. You know, in the first place it was my music that made the producer discover me and my band but then afterward it was the film helping me to spread the words about my band and music. Especially here in Norway, it was so helpful for me to keep on doing what I’m doing. Being known in the scene and making friends is always great and can make things easier, you know. So, really glad and thankful for that!
I didn’t know until recently about the Blackhearts EP you did, following the film. What can you tell me about this project? Did you try to get guys from Naer Mataton involved too?
You know, back in the days I got this idea since I was one of the main characters in the film; so, thought to record some music specifically for the film with the cooperation of other musicians who are also involved in the film. So, I wrote the music and for the recording, “Vyl” (Drums – Keep of Kalessin/Gorgoroth) and “Nul Blackthorn” (Bass – Luciferian), 2 of the other characters in the film, joined me. And since it was recorded specially for the film so, I called it “Blackhearts” and then it was also used for the ending title of the film.
And I was thinking to ask them too but we were in a really short time, I mean everything happened real quick from the time when I decided to do it until we were already in the studio. So, we couldn’t…
What must have been most impactful was your move to Norway. How do you feel about this now? And have you been back to Iran? How did this impact your family?
True! Moving to Norway changed my life completely and I’m really glad it happened! I mean from many years ago I had the dream of moving to Norway and then finally it did happen. So, still today after all these years it seems unreal to me, the whole story and everything that happened in a really short time and changed my life, in a good way. I mean there was no doubt and still, today if I go back, I would do the same!
I haven’t been back to Iran since when I moved to Norway and probably it’s not a smart thing to do after all the threats I had (both back when I was in Iran and even later the first 2-3 years here in Norway). So, haven’t seen my family for the last 7 years which is not easy as you can imagine. So, I just talk to them on phone and sometimes we do video calls but it’s not the same, you know.
The documentary speaks about freedom/censorship you didn’t experience back in Iran. Yet, I’ve heard conflicting stories about that concerning metal music. There are quite some metal bands in Tehran and Iran according to Metal Encyclopedia and the band Avarayr (who are Armenians, living in Iran) stated they felt quite free to do what they pleased when I interviewed them. Could you respond to that and perhaps explain how we should view this? (because I must be wrong somewhere here).
Right, I understand that is kind of confusing for people outside Iran, and to be honest, it’s even hard to explain but OK, I try to explain it as short as possible…of course that’s true there are some other active metal bands in Iran but most of them are like real underground and since we don’t have any official metal scene, no record label to release the metal albums, no record store, festival or something; so, probably you never hear from them. Even though today it’s a bit easier to discover the bands because of social media but still…and regarding the Metal Encyclopedia, I can tell it’s really not updated and a good source to get the right info (…for Iranian bands). I know some of those bands in person! And the info there is not correct. Even the info regarding “From The Vastland” and my previous band “Sorg Innkallelse” is not right. Some of those bands are just a name, a one-man-band project with no release and at the same time there are bands which you can not find there but you know, that’s because there is no official scene going on.
Metal music in Iran is banned and the authorities consider it blasphemy but there is no official law about that. That’s when things get complicated, for example, if you want to release an album or play a metal gig you need to get a permit from the ministry of culture. First of all, they don’t give you a permit for a metal album and even if you get it, still it doesn’t mean you can do it! There are groups related to the revolutionary guard, religious groups, and different governmental organizations that easily can arrest you. They don’t need any permit or something to do that, they have guns and power! And that’s enough.
The thing is the regime pressure the artists whenever they feel like they should, every now and then. So, you never know when or how! it’s about their priorities. I myself at least know 3 metal musicians who had to run out of the country because of their music. probably you have heard about the Iranian band “Confess” and their story. That’s a good example of how things can go for metal musicians in Iran…
In your music, you tell about the legendary past. Extreme metal and tradition have a connection that is at times difficult. Many artists have at one point or another faced accusations of racism, spreading hate, etc. Often wrongfully (though there is the NSBM thing). I wanted to ask you how you feel about this from your perspective and what role does metal have when it comes to our past and identity?
You know, I think we should not forget that there is (or used to be) a strong family kind of feeling in the metal community, no matter who you are, where you come from, your race, skin color, personal preferences…That kind of freedom without feeling being judged or anything. I know in reality it’s not exactly like that or at least not today but we all share the same passion for the music we love and that’s what makes us connected. And when it comes to extreme metal or even metal in general, I think it’s is all about being true to yourself. it’s more than just music, it’s our identity. It’s the music that makes you think, to not forget and keep your roots, to break all the chains and fake rules that limit you. that’s the role it should play and that’s how it gets connected to your past, to your true self, I believe.
We see you walking a lot in the forests and nature in the documentary. How important are these to you and do you have special places you go for inspiration or that connect you to the past?
Nature is also where I get the inspiration for creating the music (one of the inspiration sources for me, you know). Especially mountain which brings back all my memories from childhood when I was going to the mountain around Tehran every weekend with my dad and that actually remained with me until today. And of course, the beautiful nature here in Norway which usually includes mountain and forest together is where makes me calm and inspires me a lot.
For the first four years of my life here in Norway I was living in a very small village outside Trondheim (up north Norway) and the nature in that area is spectacular. I had some favorite places where I could spend hours and hours just to relax, fresh my mind or listen to music. From the time when I moved to Oslo, nature is not that far but still, you need to get out of the town a bit, So, I usually just go for a walk by sea which makes me really calm and relaxed.
As I understand it, your inspiration was Marduk, Belenos, and Gorgoroth. What are you listening to now and would you recommend to others?
True! Well, there are tons of good bands from all over the world and still today I enjoy discovering new, unknown or less known bands. So, it’s a long list but if I would mention just one that I listen to these days then it would be Selbst!
Are there any Iranian metal bands people should really know about?
Well, there are very good bands, especially death metal bands! but you know, as I said, the problem is that the metal scene in Iran is really underground and there is nothing like anything official going on. So, it’s really hard to keep up with the activities. I still have an eye on the scene and check with my metal musicians friends and their bands in Iran but probably I’m not so updated.
What future plans do you currently have for the band? Implied that the world turns back to normal.
Well, I’m working on some new material for the next album, however, I’m not sure if I’m going to release it next year. It all depends on how the writing process will go. I never plan a release an album before I’m 100% satisfied with the material. And when it comes to live shows, I would wait a bit and see how the situation is but I’m thinking about at least a show here in Oslo later this year but if not then maybe we can plan to stream live…Hard to say now when everything is uncertain. The music scene was hit strongly by the pandemic situation and changed all the plans for almost everyone but hopefully, things will get back to normal, slowly and we will see more and more activities.
If you had to compare From The Vastland to a dish, what would it be and why?
Hehe That’s a weird one! Never thought about it before. Well, let’s say “ghormeh sabzi” because it has a lot of ingredients, mostly herbs and even though not all of them are used only in this Iranian dish (well, some of the herbs are) but the taste of the food is so Iranian (I mean, this is a traditional Iranian dish. So, obviously)…Yeah, maybe I can compare my music to that! I don’t know…hehe
If you are from a country that most of the world doesn’t know how to find on a map, it’s probably best to go for a name that sticks. SarcotrofiA started out as Sarcomaticaposa, which would definitely not help them any further. Playing metal music in Mozambique is definitely not an easy thing, which is part of the reason why the band has relocated to Sweden. Still, the ties run deep.
Though things are relatively quiet in Mozambique, the climate has still been rocky since conflicts have been erupting again since 2014. This has not affected the band much, since they decided to leave years ago. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out as planned and drummer Goro Fast was the only one to locate to Scandinavia. Having rebuild the band, he is now eager to pursue a heavy sound of Mozambique death metal.
Goro Fast was kind enough to answer a bunch of my questions. Enjoy!
Mozambique death metal
Hello Sarcotrofia, how are things going for you?
Hey! We are doing great!
Can you tell me how the band started and about the history of the band?
Well! Long story but will try to sum up. The band comes from the ashes of another past band called Sarcomaticaposa founded by Goro Fast (Drummer) in 2006…then after several lineup changes it became SarcotrofiA…from there until now we have been working hard trying to bring the best-unexplored side of music to the listeners and lovers of this musical genre in attempt to create an identity as SarcotrofiA!
How did you guys get into metal music and what bands inspired the sound of Sarcotrofia?
Each member got into music in a different way, some by influence and others by self-interest, guess. we got many influences through everything connected to the music in general and some weird sounds/rhythm that’s why we don’t have a specific base just because we are from a society within a vast multicultural music background and we are always open for whatever may contribute to make us versatile musicians. So we individually might have specific bands that pulled us into metal, but SarcotrofiA is more into TechGrind and brutal death metal.
Your themes are listed as ‘Ghost Monks’ on Metal Archives. Can you tell me what that is about? What are the overall stories you want to tell with Sarcotrofia?
Ghost Monk track is more a metaphoric metamorphose theme within a contest that can be inserted or used in an imaginary situation.
We normally don’t have a specific contest or storyline, we mostly write about what comes to mind at the time, within all the issues involved from politics to a daily bases.
I’m particularly interested in the logo you use with the elements of the Mozambique flag. Can you tell me more about these symbols and what role Mozambique plays in what Sarcotrofia is about?
We had all those elements in our logo as identity and also to honor our nation due to we were all Mozambicans in the band at the time, but now with a new line up within new members from other nations, it will also be changed.
Yah! The symbols according to our constitution has its political meaning, but for us, it expresses a determination, focus, objectives, and goal.
You moved to Sweden as a band. Why did you move and how was it to start again over there?
Yeah well! to make it clear, only one member moved. we were supposed to move as a band within all original members of the band but unfortunately only Goro Fast the Drummer moved to Sweden and the other members of SarcotrofiA decided to step back and fall apart from the band to pursue a different paths in life because combining a normal life and a job became too stressful for some members to manage a SarcotofiAs heavy tour schedule and future plans.
We moved because we got a proposal from a record label that wanted to work with us, in a terms agreement of two years contract and a full-length album to record and promote.
It was Fucking hard to start over here, due to at first we had to get new members that would fit in the band and above all those which are willing to take further steps with us in serious and professional level, we had to face cultural shock, atmosphere, communication, lifestyle etc…it was a big challenge to face. But we are getting there and we are making any opportunity that will make it all worth it.
You know: no risk, no fun! ☺
How do you go about creating music. Is it a collaborative effort or do band members have their own separate roles? Do you start with lyrics or music?
We basically make music together, but most of the tracks were created by Goro Fast the drummer, which is weird, because he makes songs out of rhythmic melody then he makes a transposition of the rhythm to a bassline tab and transcribe it into guitar charts afterwards, then the other member collaborate in making arrangements and give it a music sense line. So and about the lyrics, we don’t have a sequence, can be both at the same time or one task at the time no particular order.
Are you currently working on anything new? What direction are you taking Sarcotrofia in?
YES! We are still focusing on our length album, it takes time but we are working hard on it and soon will get there. The new material is more into Tech, grindcore, and brutal death metal, so let’s see where is it going to take us.
How did metal music originally come to your country Mozambique? What bands pioneered the genre in the country? It seems that the scene is very young, but various bands are doing things now.
How it came? I can’t precise! Because we don’t have archives registered. But, we grew up while metal music was there already and there were some bands from the 80’ & 90’s, such as: Panzers, Ostais, Moz-artes, Violent Desire, InvadersStrangers, Rude, Garganta, PneusFurados, SPuG, PunkVibration, Paranoia and etc…Then on the 20s’ we had new wave of metal as well which is still active so far.
Yeah, our scene is comparably young but is very solid and it ’s growing each day either in a number of bands or the crowd, we are in a good way, I can’t complain.
How is it now in Mozambique with facilities like recording studios, rehearsal space, availability of instruments etcetera…? Was or is there any censorship, either institutional or social? How much are you still in touch?
We don’t have a metal recording studios so far, the few recording studios we have are more focus in the Mozambican tropical vibes, jazz and traditional stuff and never rock and its ramification.
We have some public rehearsal space, just need to book it and go there to bang bang, but most of the metal bands have their own practicing spot where they get together their gear and go to practice to keep in shape and sharp.
We also have some music stores, where it’s easy to get whatever instrument you want either acoustics, electrics or digital, otherwise, we order online. We are constantly in touch, the roots are there and need to be updated time to time.
Which bands from Mozambique should people really check out and why?
This is a very tricky question, but there are lots of bands out there, and also depends on what music genre is on the bill. The easiest way is to dig them into social media or google about Mozambican metal scene lots will pop up.
What future plans do you currently have with the band?
The band is now focused in getting sharp and steel with new members, we also have a recording session on the go and a MASSIVE Attack tour for near future.
If you had to describe Sarcotrofia as a dish, what would it be and why?
Would be ‘Nhapfutela or Xipatsinheta’ because is a multicultural super joint band within a huge miscellaneous of everything, kinda all’in.
Is there anything you’d like to say that I forgot to ask?
…for those who want to follow us, check our FB page, click ‘’like’’ and get informed about everything related to the band and stuff.
Metal music, like any cultural expression, is shaped by its surroundings. TheStone hails from Serbia and started out in 1996, in the wake of the black metal boom. Not much later the Yugoslavian civil war broke out, turns out this is actually audible on their debut record.
This did not put any breaks on the band though. The Stone has been going steady for more than 20 years, creating a steady output of records with classic black metal. Their sound is powerful, without trying to sail along with any trends or movements, simply black metal.
The band has recently released a new album, titled ‘Teatar Apsurda’. That and seeing them live was reason enough for me to get in touch and ask some questions to singer Nefas and guitar player Kozeljnik.
Serbian black metal kings
How are you guys doing? Nefas: Not bad. Kozeljnik: Doing fine so far. Busy with promoting the new album we’ve recently put out.
For people who are not familiar with The Stone, can you tell a bit about how the band got together originally?
Nefas: Classic story…that begins in 1996. We were just kids who wanted to play music they like. The Stone is some kind of artistic pact between Kozeljnik, as the composer, and me, as the lyric writer. It works last 22 years…and it works fine so far. Kozeljnik: Back in time of our gathering the initial idea was to form the band, the entity of Black Metal which defines the art within uncompromised line of musical and lyrical expression.
Many black metal bands go through periods of lesser inspiration, sometimes years, before releasing new albums. The Stone has consistently been delivering new music at regular intervals over the last 2 decades. What is the drive or motivation behind the band that makes you keep on delivering top class music?
Nefas: Simply, we really enjoy creating the music. Some kind of artistic madness drives us…
Kozeljnik: A sort of creative appeal madness which takes us every time when the art leads the way to the upper states of creativity. It’s not a cliché when saying you are dealing with a certain kind of ritualization of your art. It’s the rite of your subconscious which delivers magic.
In line with that, you also all have plenty of side-projects. Can you say a bit about those and how do you keep those going at the same time?
Nefas: Actually, I never had a side-project. Kozeljnik always had a surplus of ideas he presented through his other bands/projects like Kozeljnik, Murder, MayResult, Occulus…
Kozeljnik: Sometimes the creativity extends the defined lines, so there’s a need of having other artistic sources, like different bands and projects where you can execute your ideas, is a natural step for the artist.
Your latest release is Teatar Apsurda, which is your eight full length. What can you tell about this album, it’s creative process and it’s message/expression? To me, the title itself might be a good reflection of the world at large in at this time, is that something that you took along in creating this album.
Nefas: Yes, Teatar Apsurda is a view of the world through the eyes of pessimist, satiric review of human grotesqueness. It’s fast, aggressive, intensive black metal, yet chaotic and epic in the same time. We are very satisfied with this album. Definitely, our best shot so far.
Kozeljnik: We’re about to say that after many years we finally recorded the album the exact way we wanted to sound. It’s not that we are displeased with previous works, but this new one simply transcends our expectations.
How do you guys go about creating an album? Is it a similar process for every record? Since there’s definitely a continuity in your sound and the overall feel of music from The Stone through the years. What does the process look like?
Nefas: First and the most important step would be making a vision, the common vision that will be driven with no compromise. Everything else would be just a routine after all these years. It just got out of us.
Kozeljnik: On the other side every new record has a different perspective of creating, a dimension which goes beyond the borders we’ve delivered for the previous ones. It’s a challenge, to express your inner state within the new, refreshing ideas and forms which are, at the same time, carrying the mark of your own identity. We decided not to walk the familiar footsteps, but still keeping the same path.
Your record is out on Mizantropean Records, is that your own label? What prompted you to release through Mizantropean instead of Folter records, which you’ve released the previous albums?
Nefas: We wanted to have an absolute control and freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want. MizantropeonRecords is our own label formed primarily to provide better work conditions for The Stone. And for the beginning, we are very satisfied indeed.
Kozeljnik: It’s not a secret if we say that bands and labels are natural enemies since the creation of music business, especially when it comes to controlling the freedom of creativity. After many years of dealing with other labels, we have decided to be enemies to ourselves, trying to control something which hardly can be controlled. So far, we do not regret our moves.
In your early days you used Slavic paganism as inspiration, later it was more nihilism, misanthropy… In an earlier interview, I read that you expressed that these were never meant literally, but more a starting point for your expression. Can you explain how that looks for both the paganism and the more recent themes? What is the idea you try to put into your music and what do you hope listeners take from it?
Kozeljnik: The Stone’s lyrical side was most of the time misinterpreted in the past, especially by the non-speaking Serbian media circles which declared our band as pagan just because our 2nd and 3rd albums deal with times before monotheism took its role. Judging from that point of view they can easily proclaim Mayhem as a pagan metal band, just because they have a song called Pagan Fears. Not so professional way of giving a conclusion. Anyway, we’ve never considered our band as pagan oriented, despite the fact that in the past we used heathen inspired lyrics which were based on Nefas’s individual approach strictly. His quill has the most significant poetic role in expressing The Stone’s message and definitely, it’s a powerful tool in the band’s arsenal.
The Stone started out as Stone To Flesh during the time when your part of the world was in a total uproar due to the civil war. As I’ve understood from previous interviews and other articles, the scene in Yugoslavia was just beginning to appear at that time. I’d like to ask you how that scene started out and which bands were instrumental in it and how the civil war influenced it and you as a band in your ability to create music. Can you tell about that?
Nefas: The civil war has changed many things in our lives, but I’m not sure it had any influence on our music in a creative way, maybe on our subconscious. Technically speaking, everything was harder to do in war surrounded country, isolated…, but we survived. On our first album, we included the intro, the true sound of NATO bombs falling on Belgrade heating a plant. That’s the exact piece of the warlike atmosphere in which we worked on our debut album.
What’s happening in the current Serbian metal scene? And is it in any way connected to the neighboring countries of former Yugoslavia or are you drawn more towards other countries? Which bands should people really check out from the current scene (and why)?
Nefas: We never had a massive scene, but we have some quality bands to mention. My personal favorite is deathrash legion Infest. As for black metal, try with Kolac, Zloslut, Wolf’sHunger, Samrt…
What does it mean for The Stone to be a band from Serbia? Is there something typical and unique that you take from your culture, history or even nature in your country that to your view, colors or impacts the way you and/or other bands from Serbia make this sort of music?
Nefas: We took the pillar of our culture, Serbian language. Native language gives you the opportunity to express yourself better.
Kozeljnik: Serbian language, with its strong accent, gives us more radical, yet aggressive audible approach to the art we create. During the years we’ve created our own style and usage of our native tongue definitely has a strong impact on that.
Black metal has been gradually changing and taking new forms in recent years. I’m interested to know, what to you defines black metal? Is it something ritualistic, does it need to be ugly or can it be beautiful… How would you define this music now, after having played it for so long?
Nefas: For me, Black Metal is the art of controlling sonic madness in order to make the obscure atmosphere suitable for expressing the negativity and narrating the inner gloom. It’s the darkest corner of musical art.
What future plans does The Stone have at the moment? What are you aiming for in 2018 or will this be a time for the side projects (if so, what are you focussing on)?
Nefas: We have tour plans with Inferno and IXXI settled for March and after that we will enter the studio to record 2 new songs for the upcoming 7”ep. That’s the plan for next six months.
If you had to compare The Stone to a dish or type of food, what would it be and why?
Nefas: A piece of bread and a glass of water, if you are hungry, you will enjoy it.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Please add it below.
Nefas: Nothing more, the point is said. Just to thank you for the support.
Angola is an unlikely place for heavy metal, but a small scene has started to develop in the African country. The documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’ showed this to the world. One of those bands is Horde of Silence, who refuse to remain quiet in their homeland. The documentary showed how metal is taking root in this corner of the world, brilliantly showing its force.
Photos byJosé Alves
The country came out of a civil war in 2002 and peace hasn’t come cheap. A generation grew up with conflict and strife. The country is still recovering from the years of turmoil and people have been displaced. Metal music seems to be one of the most fitting forms of expression from people who have had a lot bad luck coming their way. This is a way to find their voice and identity once more
On behalf oof the band YannickMerino was kind enough to answer questions about Horde of Silence, Angola and metal music, so that the world may learn a bit about their refusal to remain silent.
Could you start by introducing yourselves and telling us how the band got started?
A: William Sazanga: Vocals, Denilson Jayro Cardoso: Guitar, William “Seth” Neto: Bass, Yannick Merino: Drums
The person that had the idea to startthe band was Edilson “Pagia” Chitumba (currently he’s the vocal / bass player for DorFantasma. He wanted a band with fast riffs and heavy tunes, similar to Divine Heresy. He invited Jayro, also from Dor Fantasma to join the band and the two called me to be on the drums. They asked me, because at the time I was one of the few drummers that was able to play fast double bass and blast beats.
We first met at a concert in Luanda, at King’s Bar, in February 2009. Jayro and Edilson went from Benguela to play with their band (Dor Fantasma). I was one of the organizers of the concert and I played in a band called LastPrayer (a Groove Metal band). Horde of Silence started at the end of 2009 when I moved to Benguela and we first played live in January 2010.
What bands inspired you to start playing this kind of music?
A: The bands that inspire us are Behemoth, DarkFuneral, Sodom, RottingChrist, My Dying Bride, CannibalCorpse, DivineHeresy, FearFactory.
How did you settle on this name, what does it mean to you?
A: This name was chosen by Denilson Jayro, it’s supposed to be contradictory, because we aren’t silent.
What is the theme in your music, what sort of stories are you telling the world?
A: We talk about religion, mythology, wars. The main focus in the songs is the Angolan culture, we talk about the different religions that are in the country and the Angolan mythology. The wars is a normal thing that most of the bands in here talk about, we exited a war in 2002 and some of us still feel some repercussions. We try to put our history, the things that we lived through in the past into the songs, the conflicts, the deaths, the mysticism…
So you’ve recorded a song for a split album ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ with some of the bands from the Angola metal scene. Can you tell us how that record came to be?
A: All the bands that recorded ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ are from CubeRecords. The idea was to each band record one song and tell Angola and the World that in Angola we have metal bands. It was a bit hard to record because we recorded in a home studio, but it was worthy.
How do you guys go about writing your music, who is responsible for what element of it?
A: The lyrics are the responsibility of the vocalist, as for the instrumental part, the main parts are done by Denilson Jayro and Yannick.
You’ve mentioned you are working on your first EP. What can we expect and how is the progress? Where will it be available?
A: We are working in the EP, it’s in a slow process but we expect that it will be done in the end of the year. We will launch it through Cube Records, but it’ll be online a bit later probably.
Angola’s scene got quite some attention thanks to the documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’. How has that impacted you guys as a band? Did it open doors for you guys?
A: It did open a few doors to the Angola bands, we receive some invitations to play in other countries, so has a lot of bands, such as Dor Fantasma (that’s Denilson Jayro main band), BeforeCrush, LastShout and many others.
What is super typical about metal from Angola?
A: The speed, the heaviness, the mosh pits , and especially the union that exists in the metal.
How did metal come to Angola, what was the thing that made the scene start and how big is this music where you are from?
A: I honestly do not even know how to respond to this, I know there were a few metal bands in the early 90’s, but the main scene here in rock was punk and hard rock. I think the metal bands start to came out because of the speed and the heaviness in style. In the 2010’s there was a boom on the metal bands, but right now is starting to fade a little bit, metal bands right now are not as much we would like to.
So do you have things available like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music stores, venues etcetera? Or how do you cope with the lack thereof.
A: In Angola to get good instruments is hard, especially for metal. Most of our instruments are bought outside of the country. In terms of rehearsal spaces are to limited, most of the bands (90%) rehearse in a part of their homes.
What do you feel is typical about the music scene you have over there. What is its beauty and what are its downsides? And how do you connect to metalheads from neighboring countries?
A: Most of the people in Angola dont listen to metal, they say that’s noise, so it’s difficult for us to show our thing. When we have the opportunity to do it, the people are amazed with our performance, and most of them ask if we are from another country hehehehehe. We connect to the metalheads in other countries through social media (Facebook, WhatsApp).
What sort of position does metal music have in your country now, how does society respond to it? Is there forms of censorship?
A: Its very low, the people in Angola prefer to listen to soft music, for most of them, Metal is noise. We are censored all the time, even by the local rockers, they state that we should play soft like Coldplay or U2. We only play in certain places at certain times, if we played another rock genre we would be more acceptable.
What other bands from Angola should people really check out (and why)?
A: You can check DorFantasma (Thrash Metal, they sign in Umbundu – a dialect from Angola) , Mvula (2 time winner for best rock band in Africa from AFRIMA), BlackSoul (winner of the best rock band in Angola from Angola Music Awards), SentidoProibido (winner of the first battle of the Bands), Singra, ProjectosFalhados, OvelhaNegra.
What future plans do you guys have right now?
A: Right now the plan that we have is to finish recording our EP.
Final question: If you had to compare your music to a type of food, a dish, what would it be and why?
A: That’s difficult, but we think it would be palm oil beans with grilled fish, because it’s a dish that represents a little bit what’s the Angolan culture, and we sign in our songs some elements of the Angolan Mythology.
Romania often gets less credit than it deserves, but the country has a wealth of history and a pretty intense and intriguing metal scene. Many interesting sounds come from that neck of the woods, and one of them is the band named Bucovina. A thriving folk metal project with a distinct flavor to it.
Bucovina is also a region of the country, which the band is named after.In the east of Europe, Romania often gets lumped in with other countries as part of the Eastern block. That’s a shame, since the country definitely has a history of its own. The region called Bucovina is part of that but due to history’s unfolding events, it is now part of Ukraine.
Florin “Crivăţ” Ţibu is the man behind the group. Crivat was willing to answer some questions over email, which took quite some time due to various reasons. I’m glad to say that he really gives a lot of information.
Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell what your role is in the band?
Hi there, I am Crivat, I play guitar and vocals in Bucovina and I am the mastermind that put everything together.
How did you guys get into metal?
They say that it’s metal that finds you, not the other way around, haha. Each of us, back in the day, happened to listen to the right song and meet the right people. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to describe what exactly got us into metal, but we’re ever so glad it happened. On the other hand, what KEEPS us into metal is the fact that we really enjoy what we do.
How did Bucovina get started? What were your inspirations, both musical as well as thematic?
I started the band after I went to college, with the bass player from the bands I had back in highschool. I’d say that the biggest thing that made me want to have a band and write music was Vintersorg’s first CD, the Hedniskhjartad EP. I was struck when I had listened to it for the first time and felt like there are things that needed to be said through music I could write.
The first Bucovina tracks were mixture of viking/norse/pagan/call-it-what-you-like and black metal, even though it was obvious since that early stage that we might not fall that easily into just one category. Then things evolved, yet we’re still dealing with a lot of influences, most likely because we have different backgrounds.
As for the lyrics, they go from nature, philosophy, old lore and magic, to more mundane themes, but they all relate in one way or another to whatever purpose human existence has in the universe, and how the noblest goal is to be able to understand at least minute fractions of all that existed, exists or will exist.
You combine a folkish sound with metal. What is the reason or motivation you chose to go this way with your music?
Again, it was music choosing us; and we’re lucky for this, because we don’t feel like „hey, let’s write a song like X, or Y, or Z.” In my book, what we are doing is proper neofolklore because we just don’t pick up traditional songs and add distorted guitars and heavy/black metal sounds. Most of the songs start as mere tunes I hum and record using whatever tool I happen to have at hand, and it’s the smartphone almost all the time.
Then, as I get home or to the studio, I grab a guitar and replicate the tune. Most of the time it turns out into a part that is useable or even an entire song theme. Sometimes it’s just useless crap 🙂 In a way, it’s like the peasants of old, who went out into the fields to work the land or to hunt, and they would sing. That’s why I say that we’re doing is actual modern folklore.
In the past bands that work with national/historical themes have often been criticized for or linked to the far right. How do you feel about this and has Bucovina had to face such issues?
Well, I guess there will always be people who feel like they MUST add some of their improperly-founded opinion to the game. Likewise, there will always be people who feel that the NEED to feel offended by one thing or another. Our paths crossed several times and, what can I say, I pity these folks. Instead of trying to see what lays beyond what they BELIEVE things are, they prefer to stir up shit and call bands names, put words in their mouths and so on. Thankfully, we know better and make do and mend.
We simply like Romania and would love to see it fare better these days, and leave a nicer place to live for our kids. We never agreed with the political views of the guy who owned the label that released our first album, and that’s why we put an end to the collaboration. The fact that we dealt with a label that was perceived as being a spearhead in the NS direction affected us in the early years, but through hard work we managed to shake off that burden.
Bucovina is named after a region. Can you explain the choice of name and the significance of the region? I understand that half of Bucovina is part of Ukraine, is that a cause for tension?
Indeed, Bucovina is a region in the north of the country, with its northern half beyond the Ukrainian border. We went for this name because I and Luparul, the other guy playing guitars and vocals, are from Bucovina and wanted to do something for that amazing part of the world.
Well, tension I wouldn’t call it. It’s more like regret, regret for a past where the Soviet Union used to rule that part of Europe and when the western countries left the entire East Block go fuck itself under Soviet dominion.
Honestly, I believe that the wounds of the aggressive Soviet regime will never heal, and this is so fucking disheartening. Nevertheless, I do believe that it’s worth not forgetting the errors of the past and passing a rich heritage to our offspring.
What are the themes and subjects in your music? Can you tell us more about them, since little is known about Romanion paganism, history and so on in this part of the world (and I’m most interested in these).
Well, it would take years to tell you about Romanian lore. We have stories and legends that seem like they could go hand in hand with whatever fiction masterpiece modern history produced, and we are slowly showcasing them in our songs, albeit in a rather laconic way.
Mostly it’s about the relationship between man and nature, and how certain gifted individuals rise above the human condition to become better integrated with the forces that govern the universe. From merely abandoning yourself in contemplation of a sunset in Bucovina’s mountains, to traveling through vales and woods, to the high plains where horses roam by the hundreds, from the secluded small villages where magic is still a part of everyday life, to the everyday thoughts, aspirations and fears, we’re one with them.
Is there in any way a mission or message that you try to convey with Bucovina?
Of course there is, and maybe this is why our albums are rather short. They simply seem to end when we feel like we said what needed to be said in a certain moment. There is no bullshit on any of our albums, and I do hope we keep it that way despite people way they’d enjoy longer albums. If we will have a lengthier message to pass on, you bet your asses that the album carrying it will be longer.
The main message, although it’s not that easy to understand by everyone from the first spin, is that people would do better to try and be who they really are deep inside, while also trying to make the world a better place. Life is too short for crap, and it can end quite abruptly in a thousand ways, so trying to understand as much as possible from the universe almost sounds like a must.
We are a part of nature, whether we like it or not, and despite the fact that some religions are trying to hijack and downplay the message. We often describe our music as being “Of mountains and magic,” and at times, it just couldn’t be any closer to the truth. We like the nature and the magic way it can still oppose the dumbness of the people who think they are the supreme being. We, as a species, may be cool, indeed, but we’re definitely not the icing on the cake 😉
What can you tell about your last album ‘Nestramutat’, which came out in 2015? What is the story you are telling on this record?
The name of the album could be translated to “Unswerving,” and it speaks about how certain individuals with a strong spirit cannot be broken or changed. In a way, it’s like nature/the planet itself: you fuck with it, it will fuck you up in ways that are far worse, and then there is nothing you can do about that. It’s just the fact that you can’t mess with the planet/universe and get away with it.
Or, speaking about people who are so dear to someone that their memory lives on and on even though they have been dead for a long time. A lot of things change, but some don’t. The latest album is about the latter.
What was the recording and writing process like? Does every band member have a specific role in it?
It’s so fucked up that it almost pains me to remember doing the last two albums. We are so chaotic and so reckless that I keep wondering how do we make it. The truth is that we are incredibly lucky to work with DanSwano for mixing and mastering.
The guy is a genius and a gigantic name in metal and prog, and even though we’re not even able yet to tap into a tenth of his true potential, he gets the job done where other would simply fail or deliver mediocre results.
I’ve learned a ton from him and keep doing so each time I get to talk to him. Also, Dan is an amazing person and we get along very well; and I have to thank him for his patience, too. We are independent so we don’t have a production crew, so sometimes, things are friggin’ difficult and downright nasty, but we always manage to pull through.
As for the studio work, another round of thanks go to Maanu, our former keyboard player. He’s the conductor of the NationalOpera choir and his duties and schedule prevent him from touring with us, so we had to part ways. Even so, we’re still in excellent terms, he even has a set of keys to our studio. He helps us with tracking when I am not able to, and we’re also writing some choir parts together. As for roles, everybody is taking care of their own stuff.
Lately, Dan Swano became quite busy and with us not having a very clear schedule of how a new album should progress, things are becoming a bit harder. Nevertheless, we worked with Martin Buchwalter, the drummer of Perzonal War, who is also a studio producer, and the first results – the Asteapta-ma Dincolo (de Moarte) single turned out great. We’ll see what the future brings…
Currently you’re self-releasing your music. What prompted that choice? What is the story with the label Lupii Daciei?
It was a lousy choice we made without fully understanding that the fellow with whom we were dealing (a chap from an obscure label that had signed us) was more interested in pursuing his dumb neo-nazi racist shit than he was in metal. We are a bit nationalist, but not in a way that relates to such political crap.
We disliked (and still do) the direction things were heading for, because we’re not fighting a fucking racial war here. We don’t hate Jews, black people, the Slavs, we don’t believe in Aryan ideology, race purity, untermensch and all the crap. We don’t need any Heil Hitler and swastikas in our music to find a purpose for what we are doing.
We realized that the label’s purpose was in no way close to our expectations so we called it a day. If anything, I could be mad at ourselves for making the deal in the first place, but young people DO make mistakes, ain’t that true?
As for releases, yes, we are a completely independent band and we plan to stay that way. We’re doing just fine, as it looks like being true to yourself and not write music just to have another track on the upcoming CD pays off. We have the money we need to produce top-notch digipacks, we have our own studio and bus, we can afford mixtering by Dan Swano, also do our own booking and merch.
We can deal for small endorsement deals ourselves, but we’re in no hunger for gear, because we are able to buy what we need and plan to not sell out for the sake of some guitars or other stuff. We CAN manage our own shit. Why would we change that?
Hire some fuck who only thinks about money? Why, it doesn’t make any sense. We are also making our own deals for shows abroad and we enjoy touring on our own efforts. We already toured in Brazil in 2016 and booked nice festivals in Germany this year, with more gigs coming up in Poland, UK, the Czech Republic and more. We are extending our operations, for lack of a better word.
What is the Romanian metal scene like currently? What bands do you think are worth checking out?
Still, the Romanian metal scene is a fairly young one. Before 1989, the Communist regime did not take good of rock and whatever metal people made then, so we can say that we’re a bit behind schedule. Nevertheless, I do perceive some sort of crystallization, with some bands understanding the need of good production, good and – if possible – original sound (even though being completely original is rather impossible).
Without being too stiff, I’d say that we are far too busy trying to make things right here (in the band) to have the time to analyze what exactly is going on around. People have better gear, have learned more about music and some of them are really putting up serious efforts to make it as big as possible.
The Romanian metal scene may be a rather small one but certain things are not different from any other part of the world. We do need people with money to put up records companies and distribution networks, we do need support from the public, and no – nobody becomes a star overnight. We’ve spent like 15 years of sacrifice and hard work until results started to show up the way we wanted. Making good metal is hard. As it ever was.
We do have certain interesting bands, such as Dor de Duh, Hteththemeth, Adamo Caduco (though it’s not metal). Also you could check out Ashaena’s new release, Implant pentru Refuz, Asemic, Bucium or Dara.
Can you tell a bit about the history of metal in Romania? Which bands got it started and when?
There were some feeble metal acts before 1989, but it all started in a rather primitive way after the Revolution, with a mixture of punk, thrash and hardcore-ish bands which are no longer active. We were so hungry for rock back in the day that we enjoyed everything and everything seemed like a godsend for the masses.
Unfortunately I haven’t dedicated time to becoming a metal historian for the scene, therefore it’s impossible for me to speak about this subject. I’d rather say we’re still in the “history in the making” stage.
In 2015 there was the fire in a nightclub in Bucharest that has not only shaken the metal scene, but Romania as a whole. In what way did it affect Bucovina?
The blaze at ClubColectiv put an untimely end to the life of one of our best friends, AdrianRugina. He was not only a great guy, but also one of the best show producers in the country, having worked with the likes of Metallica and Madonna and everything in between. He played drums in Bucium, a folk-rock band we toured with, with whom we released albums together and was a true friend.
He died after returning to the burning club several times and saving other guys, and he became a national hero. Sad to see that people forget way too easily about guys like Rugina. We don’t; both me and Mishu, the drummer, have his name tattooed on our bodies and we wrote a song to his memory. Eventually, the song became the Asteapta-ma dincolo (de moarte) single and we even shot a video for that particular song. Adi goes with us wherever we may roam, he’s not alone and neither are we. He just lives on inside our hearts.
Other thing that changed in Romania after the blaze was that the number of people who can attend a show is now much smaller. Safety, laws, shit like this. In a way it’s better and safer, that’s true, but when you can no longer host 400 people in a place that can handle these guys, things are nasty; and this is because of some small inconvenient stipulated by the law. I do hope things will be better in the future as far as this goes. We have even done two shows back to back in the same place to have all the guys who wanted to see us play well and happy.
What future plans do you guys have as a band?
We are working on a new album for 2018, a special show for the end of 2017, but I can’t tell you more details about this one, at least not now 😉 We intend to dedicate more time to playing shows in Europe and become more professional. Also, new videos are being worked on, albeit in the planning phase, so far. Expect to see us more in Europe in 217 and 2018, with a big South American tour in 2019.
Please use the space here to add anything you feel should be mentioned.
We do feel that we are part of a new wave of bands that managed to raise their heads independently and without having someone pumping money to make us grow. The fact that we are an independent act has its pros and cons, of course, and maybe, when the time is right and the deal is fair, we’ll even take that step to sign a deal with a big production company. Until then, we’re working our asses out to deserve that fair deal. Otherwise, we’re doing fine, and that’s why we’ll keep on delivering fine metal to our fans.
I did an interview with lovely black metal innovators from Berlin Sun Worship. It appeared in Rockerilla magazine (Italian) and on Echoes & Dust
For this interview Lars (guitars/vocals) and Bastian (drummer) answered some questions, while busy touring and spreading their great music.
Can you guys introduce yourselves a bit, for the ones new to Sun Worship? L: Sun Worship is a band that started in early 2010, has drums, guitars and voices and was started with the intention to write songs and play them live.
B: We play what pretty much everyone calls black metal. We like to make music that is fast, harsh and dark. It is supposed to generate a trance-like experience.
Why did you guys pick the name Sun Worship? L: Because the Sun will be the death of everything around it in the end!
B: Yeah man! There is an interesting paradox in worshipping the sun. You’ll never be able to reach it and if you do, there will be nothing left of you. However there is a lot of interpretational dimensions of the name. I like that it refers to the religious aspects of black aesthetics by somehow turning the cliche into the opposite. Also, people think we’re hippies because of the name, I like that this causes some irritation.
Do you have any funny experiences, due to people thinking you’re hippies? L: We had a funny experience once when people threw their beer cups at us (and missed) because they couldn’t handle the fact that we didn’t look like them. Provocation is not something we actively pursue, that would be kind of dumb and not what we are about. We put our hearts and minds in the music, so it’s kind of offensive when people think we’re about that. I prefer to do things for my own good and pleasure and according to my own rules and standards, and if that rubs people the wrong way or fails to live up to their expectations and upsets them, fine with me. Saying that you enjoy the irritation you stir in people once in a while doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to that cause. We are perfectly aware of the fact that we don’t live up (haha) to some of the ‘standards’ people have come to associate with what they call black metal. We see things differently.
How did you get started playing with this band and did you guys have any previous bands (either seperate or together)? L: We didn have bands together, but we shared the stages and sceneries. That is how we knew eachtother. The idea for Sun Worship had been around for a while, since our drummer and me had been into this kind of music since our teens. It did take us some time to get started with it though. Bringing in a third person was necessary to make it work, because we have rather chaotic minds.
B: In German terms it was a so-called ‘Schnapsidee’, Lars and me got pretty wasted one night in a bar and then the conversation was basically like: ‘Dude i want to play in a black metal band…’ Which got the response: ‘Yeah man, me too!’No further intentions, i guess… We just did it.
L: We had to get wasted a couple of times to remind ourselves of that idea actually.
What is it you guys do when not making music? L: Sleep, eat, work.
B: That’s pretty much it. I play squash and do yoga… Spiritual enlightenment. I also help organizing shows in a DIY space.
What are the main inspirations for your sound, the main purpose and goal behind Sun Worship? L: There’s music in my head ever since II roamed the forests around the place where I grew up. Itś been with me since childhood and it wants to get out.
B: Reaching a higher state of consciousness by exploring the limits of speed in relation to physical abilities. Creating a dark and negative atmosphere to gain a positive experience. That’s what I like about it. For me it is a lot about canalizing the concrete nature of Berlin. At some point i realized that living in Berlin can be quite challenging.
I’m interested in the aspect of Berlin as an inspiration for your sound. Can you elaborate on that? Would Sun Worship sound different, if it was from any other city? L: Would Sun Worship even exist in another city? Probably not… Of course your everyday surroundings are going to influence you no matter what, but I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that this city as a place inspires me. If anything, it inspires negative energy which I need to vent. I am inspired by other things and other places and I’d rather use the music to escape from here. That said, people in Berlin have created an open infrastructure over the years which is both inspiring and helpful. It’s an ambivalent relationship and this ambivalence is an inspiration in itself.
Black metal is a genre known for its amount of cliché elements and such. You guys seem to take your own approach to it. Can you tell a bit about that? L: I have no interest in dressing up to look tough or whatever. Anyway, there’s a lot of cliché elements in our music (and artwork too) but we celebrate those. We take our art dead serious, not so much ourselves though.
For many bands and fans black metal is more than just music. What do you think about that? L: I think it’s a bit of a childish concept especially considering the alleged ‘rules’ and ‘values’ of black metal, but hey, for me pizza is more than just food so who am I to judge?
B: For me music is more than just black metal, an emoticon would make sense now. Anyway, I wouldn’t go so far, and judge peoples attitude towards the genre, but I must say that i don’t really like the concept of scenes and their aesthetic rules in general.
How would you describe the genre, what does it mean and what makes a black metal band? L: It’s been dead for at least 20 years, for better or worse. Once in a while I hear a band which captures the spirit at least musically (Murg would be a good recent example) but generally all the good bands today are black metal influenced (us included) only anyway. I find that a lot more respectful than to try to desperately reenact what some Scandinavian teens did back in the 90s.
B: The last few years it has become very popular again. A lot of kids from the hardcore and punk scene just realized that it’s by far more than just corpsepaint, torches, spikes and full moon nights. I think the genre and its development profits quite well from it.
So do you think there is some sort of core to the genre? L: There isn’t any. It’s just been canonized one way or the other, for all sorts of reasons and due to all sorts of perspectives. That’s the way I see it. To me, black metal – or the essence of it, if you wish – is closer to ambient music, krautrock and early hardcore punk than to any other heavy metal subgenre. Monotony, minimalism, repetition, that certain kind of atmosphere, a refusal to play by the rules. One of the very few bands that I can actually apply that to are Darkthrone circa 1992-1994 (and they were very much inspired by 80s heavy/thrash/black metal actually.) It’s a complex matter. Suffice to say that you’d rather find “my” essence of black metal on a Swans, Phill Niblock or Mt. Eerie album than on any “black metal” album released during the last 20 years.
How was it to play Roadburn earlier this year? L: It was a very good experience. Very professional, but very friendly and exceptionally down to earth at the same time. The enthusiasm and attitude of the people there were very inspiring.
In some preview I read that you guys were music nerds, is there any truth to that? (I think its a good thing) L: Definitely.
B: Can’t deny it. No.
L: There’s so much good stuff out there. And it’s easier than ever to access it. I suppose that ‘music nerdism’ allows us to approach our music with an outsider perception. Not in the sense that we tyr to incorporate all kinds of weird stuff into our songs, but just for the sake of it. It’s the mindset that matters.
Your record ‘Elder Giants’ is my favorite Roadburn purchase. Can you tell a bit more about its creation proces and the general concepts behind the album? L: Thanks for the compliment. We had five new (at the time) songs in summer 2012 which we went on to record by ourselves. Two of them became the ‘Surpass Eclipse’ 12″ which was released in early 2013. the other songs partly lacked lyrics and were sitting around until we discovered that the rough mix of the recorded versions suited them quite well. So we finished them, vocals and all, and basically sent the rough mix off to be mastered. We added the ambient track and thought we had an ok sort of demo tape (which us and View From The Coffin planned to release in a small edition) to fill the gap between the split 12″ w/ Unru and whatever would become our first album… but then it actually became our first album. So there was no masterplan or that kind of thing really. And no clearly cut out concept either – however, the album turned out to be a very personal retrospective on and tribute to the music which initially inspired its creation, hence the title.
The album feels more like a big whole, a unity, than just a collection of songs. Is this intentional? L: The songs were all written within three month or thereabout, that would perhaps explain it. As I said, there was no plan to create an album the way it turned out.
B: A huge amount of the songwriting process happens in the rehearsal room. We listened to the same records during that time, somehow we got into a vibe that lasted a few songs.
How has the reception been, both inside the scene as well as outside? L: I have no idea about the scene to be honest. Reviews were mostly good and people tell us we made a good album. I’m largely satisfied with it myself and that’s what ultimately important.
Black metal from Europe seems to be returning to full power. What bands from Germany do you think people should listen to (and why)? L: Unru, Ultha, and Antlers, because they’re damn good and because they have their hearts and minds in the right places.
What are the future plans for Sun Worship and what do you hope to achieve with the band? L: We’re working on new songs and ultimately a new album, getting that one finished and released is the main goal right now. It’s going to be darker and heavier, but we disagree on that.
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.