Slovenia is a country in the south-east of Europe, one side facing the Alps, the other facing the Adriatic sea and the Balkan. Seceded from Yugoslavia early in the turmoil that tore the rest of the federation apart, Slovenia is a bit of a story on its own, having had independence since 1991 and paving its own way to be named the most sustainable country by 2018. Pretty rad if you ask me.
Malorshiga is a band, playing Istrian ethno black metal, by their own accounts. They hail from the area of Slovene Istria, which is the coastal part of the country. Their music explores deep emotional journeys, against the backdrop of the country’s long history which goes far beyond the federal and communist days to ancient times.
Having released their debut in 2019, Malorshiga reminds the listener of a bridge between the Greek masters of Rotting Christ and the Alpine bands from up north. Yet distinct sounding, Malorshiga is a force onto themselves. While the pandemic has severely hampered their rise, the band are now getting back on track and are willing to share something about their illustrious background. Dizghrazia (drums) and Oelka (vocals) provided answers, with additions from Mizheria (bass), Verghogna (guitar) and Dishpiazher (guitar). Where sometimes an interview is like pulling teeth, that was not the case here. Malorshiga goes deep. Thanks to them for their time and detailed response.
Pictures here by the band and Matija Zupan.
Malorshiga: krepat ma ne molat
Hails Malorshiga! It seems it has been quiet for you since the release of your album. How are you guys doing?
Hello Guido, first of all, thank you very much for reaching out and for your patience whilst waiting for us to put this together. Really appreciated. It’s been an interesting period since release to say the least. After releasing the album (October 2019) we managed to play a couple of headline shows, a festival and pulled off a weekend trip to the Czech Republic.
Things changed in mid-February for well-known reasons. It seems like we as a society seldom remember how the world got very confusing very fast.
We took the concerns pretty seriously – limiting social contact and therefore not practising as a band for the better part of 2020. We decided to end the cycle for Kvlt of Vitis et Olea on its first anniversary – instead of “pissing against the wind” and trying to book shows in an ever-changing intricate bureaucratic reality, we decided to lay low and focus on our sophomore release.
Most of the band is concerned with the initial phases of their professional careers, while Dishpiazher, the one who’s probably having the most fun of all of us right now is exploring the Baltic while wrapping up his studies.
Can you tell me a bit about Malorshiga, how the band started, the origin of the name and why you chose this musical direction and theme?
Dizghrazia: The beginning of the band was a bit hectic since everything happened very fast. My family is pretty active in their home community and has been part of the core organization team of a yearly event called “šagra”. A šagra is, traditionally, a festivity held in villages where people gather on a dance while an ensemble performs old-people music. They take place every summer on the name day of the local church’s patron saint. As you can see, it’s very old-school.
The 2017 šagra was right around the corner when the organization team decided that they won’t be doing a 2-day event, as they usually did, and that they would like to have the younger generation curate the Friday program with something … a bit different. That’s when things just clicked.
Me and Oəlka fantasized about starting a project for a couple of years beforehand, developing a rough conceptual framework around Istria, our place of origin. We took that opportunity to start that project and have our debut performance on that year’s šagra, which would be a black metal concert. When we presented this idea to the organizational committee they first though we were kidding, but as they realized we were actually serious and we explained how tough it is for newer generations to experience this kind of music being performed live in our region, due to clubs being very hard to approach regarding the organization of metal gigs, they had our back.
We formed a lineup on the same day since we are all basically a collective of buddies who hanged out quite regularly and went to gigs together. It was a pretty incestuous thing, since some of us has had other projects with someone from the band in the past – we always mixed and matched in various occasions but never managed to play all together. The lineup was thankfully on board basically instantly, which was the best possible thing at the moment because there was a far more pressing issue – we had two weeks to organize the whole event and prepare our set.
All except 2 songs from Vitis were written in that period, hence you can fairly say that they are not the most prolific of musical compositions. However, we kind of wanted to keep them as a reminder of that moment.
Regarding the name – we actually can’t remember how the name was chosen, we just needed to put a logo together in order to print the posters and create the promotional material for the event, so it basically just happened by itself. Malorshiga is a compound word. Malora means something really, really bad – from an etymological viewpoint it is itself a compound made out of male (bad) and ora (hour) in Italian. The suffix shiga is invented – it is used to give emphasis on the word’s root, while also achieving an interesting phonemic effect in our dialect – the word sounds like something animate because of it, so you could say that Malorshiga means dread incarnate or misfortune materialized.
The musical direction was a byproduct of the theme and the idea for the live performance – something theatrical, dark and with a possible mystic, primal undertone. We have a pretty varied music taste, but we’ve somehow decided that black metal could be a great foundation to experiment on. The project served as a vessel to venture into the Istrian history, explore what shaped this corner of the Earth and what hardships the people who inhabited this beautiful region endured.
Can you tell me a bit more about your origins in Slovene Istria? Most people will know Istria for its Croat part, so for me, there is little known about your particular region. It would seem that it is distinct from the rest of Slovenia?
Dizghrazia: Geographically, Istria is a peninsula at the northernmost part of the Adriatic Sea in the Mediterranean. It has a distinct climate, soil, vegetation, and culture. Politically, in the past this territory was under foreign rule and as empires came and went, we now find Istria divided between Slovenia and Croatia. It is in itself a very varied and colourful place, with many different dialects, many different traditions and many different people.
People from the Slovene Istria usually (somewhat jokingly) like to think of themselves as not really Slovene, since “whoever lives above the Karst edge (the geological border between the flysch coast and the karstic regions of continental Slovenia) is Slovene, we are Istrian”. It’s a common way to jokingly express a deeper connection with people who have the privilege of inhabiting this beautiful region.
Otherwise, the people are very warm, welcoming, friendly, and open. We are used to being surrounded by many different cultures, especially given the proximity of Trieste, which was a very cosmopolitan multicultural hub during the Austro-Hungarian rule. But the thing that really sets Istria apart from the other parts of Slovenia is the climate and the vegetation. To be honest, Slovenia in its entirety seems like something straight out of a fairytale – nature is just mesmerizing, but Istria, especially in the more rural areas, still untouched by modernization and over-building that characterizes the coast, is full of vineyards and olive groves.
We have been the only part of the country that has no snowfall in winter (well, by the looks of it, sadly this won’t be something exclusive to us in the future) and the quality of the air is something on a whole other level.
We are the seeds the gods planted in this soil, our home is this land and the skies above …
Istrian folklore is a big part of your thematic content. I, and probably many others, am not familiar with any of this. Can you shed some light on the basics of this folklore and how it translates to your art? Do you recommend any books or resources for those who want to know more?
Dizghrazia: The basis for everything is the sea, olive groves, vineyards and the people that work the land. The past has obviously been dominated by agriculture. However, the Istrian people had different “specializations” to say, compared to the classic agriculture and livestock common in the continental areas. They also engaged in fishing, saltworks, viticulture and olive growing, just to name a few. The folklore revolves around the hardships of working the land, everyday survival without all the gadgets we take for granted today, nature and people. We try to explore these feelings and capture them in our music and lyrics.
Oelka: We must mention the legend of Aepvlo, the last king of the Histrii tribe, to whom our upcoming song is dedicated. After being defeated by the Romans, he fled to Nesactium, the Histrian capital at the time. Before conquering Nesactium, the Romans destroyed other important Histrian cities. Later on, in 177 BC, the siege of Nesactium happend. The Histrians, of course, decided to fight, rather to surrender – hence the Istrian saying ’’Krepat ma ne molat’’ (To die, but never surrender). They killed their women and children and threw them from the city walls, so they wouldn’t be killed by the Romans. When Aepvlon realised they had lost, he is believed to have committed suicide by stabbing himself with a sword to avoid Roman captivity.
Dizghrazia: The problem with books is the fact that the majority of the material written in English or translated is focused on tourism. You may find bits of information with the general descriptions of the landmarks and some brief excerpts of history, but, to the best of our knowledge, there are not many books in English with any in-depth content. The best way to learn more about Istria is to come here explore and visit museums in Slovenia and Croatia, with a competent knowledgeable guide that will be happy to answer any questions.
You’ve released ‘Kvlt ov Vitis et Olea’ a while ago. Can you tell me more about the story you are telling us on this album?
Dizghrazia: It’s a collection of vignettes, of moments and feelings, as expressed above. The stories are based in reality, dealing with real-life issues, but the content itself is a product of our imagination. Each song presents a story, all of them are dealing with dark subjects, let’s say, a person sitting under a pergola, utterly broken because his wife and child were killed during a raid, or a person dealing with the thoughts of suicide ultimately deciding to hang himself off a branch of an olive tree sitting on top of a cliff. The title song is an introductory piece to our little universe, being the only song with lyrics in English: We are the seeds the gods planted in this soil, our home is this land and the skies above …
What was the process of writing and recording the album like? Do you have a cooperative approach as a band, or does everyone has their part to play in the creative process?
Dizghrazia: As we said before, all but two songs were written in the two weeks before our debut performance. The music for Vitis was written by me and the lyrics were written on a hot summer night with some glasses of wine at Oəlka’s home by the two of us, while laying out the plan for Črna Šagra. The other songs were made on the spot in the rehearsal room, Verghogna laid out the guitar riffs and gave direction for Mizheria’s bass lines, while I handled the drums and Oəlka the vocals. We discussed possible hooks and improvised, but at the end we did what felt most natural in the spur of the moment.
Dishpiazher joined the band sometime in the future. Funny story – on the way to the rehearsal room he and Verghogna had a minor vehicular mishap – he was trying to give way to a guy in a jeep on some very narrow country roads and was not aware that there was a small ledge just at the edge of the road. They ended up stuck there, but the jeep guy managed to get them out. Meanwhile, Oəlka and Mizheria were already at the destination, I called with the heads up of what happened and Oəlka wrote the lyrics about how an old cart fell off a cliff, Dishpiazher came out with some riffs and that’s how the song (and the alter-ego) Dishpiazher was born.
The album recording itself was also pretty hectic. We were on a tight self-imposed schedule timed in conjunctions with some headline shows. Verghogna recorded guitars at home, while I crashed at his place clicking drums and getting everything ready for the mix/master, Mizheria sent the bass DI’s, and Oəlka recorded the vocals at our former rehearsal studio. Dishpiazher was not actively involved in the recording process, being a relatively fresh member and not yet knowing the ins and outs of the other songs. We sent the recording for the mix/master to Jan Bajc Funa and provided feedback. We made the graphic layout while the artwork itself was commissioned to a dear friend of ours, Urška Vidmar.
Otherwise, the songwriting for the sophomore release has been way more relaxed, very cooperative and methodological. We are quite excited in seeing how things are shaping up.
I’ve seen some pictures of your live performances emerge, which seem to have multiple ethnic/ritual elements it seems. You raise horns in a symbolic gesture, which is as far as I know, something that ties into deep mythology around the Mediterranean. There are also masks that evoke an idea of other ‘cultic’ movements that predate or Christian past. I would love to know more about these elements of your show and why you choose to include those.
Oelka: The horns I raise during our live performances are boškarin’s horns. Boškarin is a famous Istrian cattle, one of the oldest and largest cattle breeds in the world. For me, personally, the act of raising its horns symbolizes the grandiosity of nature and its ability to overpower mankind.
The mask wear is ornamented with drawings of olive branches and tree roots, which symbolize sempiternity, immobility of the olive trees and impregnability of the Istrian consciousness.
We also cover the stage with fishing nets. Besides the aesthetic purpose, the nets indicate the feeling of being trapped and powerless in the grip of eternal pain.
The olive branches, on the other hand, symbolize the sublime beauty of mother nature.
I’ve always, personally, found it difficult to deal with our history in the right way. The past is like one’s roots, you can’t change them and yet they play a big part in who you become, yet you didn’t earn any of them. I’m Dutch, which entails a rich heritage but also many atrocities. Our past, in a way, is, but it does cast a shadow. Istria similarly has a complicated and complex history. It’s been a cultural melting pot, but it also has seen an exodus not even a century ago. What does it mean for you to be Istrian? Why is it important to you to translate this heritage into your art?
Dishpiazher: I haven’t really thought about what being part of Istria, geographically and culturally, actually meant to me prior to becoming a member of Malorshiga. I suppose I always felt a slight, yet subconscious, belonging to the region. However, I haven’t actively explored these feelings. Now, I think I can cherish our dialect, cultural influences, natural landscape and the Istrian outlook on life and its challenges a lot more. To me, that is what being Istrian means. Through art we keep such heritage alive and perhaps even rejuvenate it.
Dizghrazia: No one gets to choose their own heritage, and this is what makes it hard to develop a healthy conception of it. Some people will feel ashamed of the privilege they are given, others will feel shame because of the very difficult living conditions they have been cast into. There is no denying that Europeans, regardless of class, are some of the most privileged human beings to ever have wondered about the Earth. Regardless, we, as we dare say the majority of people, always felt a slight, yet subconscious, belonging to the region, given that your outlook gets influenced by the space and people surrounding you. There always was a sense of community, of helping your own neighbour, of sharing a dialect and cherishing the cultural influences, natural landscape, to live in harmony with the people who inhabit the same space and to be mindful of the nature that enables all of this.
There is an increase of right-wing thought in Europe, which has had a big presence in many parts of the continent for years. How is that in your country and does it affect the music and music scene? Have you as a band dealing with ethnic elements ever faced trouble being misunderstood?
Dishpiazher: Our current government is quite right-wing and the political landscape has remained populated by the same old, obsolete and backwards people since Slovenia’s independence. There exists a left-wing opposition, but it is too fragmented and not unified enough. I feel that the most politicised section of the music scene resides in the underground, both the right-wing and left-wing currents. I suppose this is nothing new, for the underground has always been a place of activism, radical ideals and unmitigated expression. Unfortunately, right-wing ideology has found its medium even in our small extreme music scene. That is why I am very conscious of the fact that we are a Black Metal band. It seems that there is an automatic connotation attached to this genre that evokes the worst kind of stereotypes and misconceptions. That is why I think some people may erroneously perceive us as right-wing or just put us in the generic category of Slavic Black Metal bands with lyrics about nature, folklore, paganism and hateful politics.
Mizheria: I think that one of the reasons for connecting black metal to the far-right political ideology is that many NSBM bands ironically come from Slavic countries (Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, etc.) and many of them share the folkish elements in their music. Because of the small size of the black metal scene in those countries, some members of the far-right scene may be involved with other bands that are not necessarily political. Those kinds of bands then usually perform at the same shows/festivals as NSBM bands so they are also treated as such. This is why we are careful when choosing who to get involved with regarding live shows since we obviously don’t support any kind of extreme ideologies. Luckily we don’t have any well known NS metal bands, record labels or events – our metal scene is predominantly apolitical or left-wing in some cases.
Dizghrazia: We’ve heard rumours of being blacklisted by certain organizers, since, according to certain individuals who’ve got no idea about what we’re trying to communicate, we are supposedly right-wing, so … yes, we’ve been misunderstood, but that’s the stigma that comes with performing black metal. We write songs about olives and vines. The sea. The challenges of the everyday struggle for survival and the mental torture that accompanies such efforts.
Right now, Slovenia is being ruled by a right wing “coalition” which is composed of the biggest Slovene party and some other poor souls, who joined the coalition in order to keep receiving a paycheck until the next election. All they have to do is not oppose the main party, which stands for some pretty radical policies. This can be seen as an increase of right-wing policies, but it can also be seen as a natural reaction to a very vocal, and sometimes even aggressive, left-wing. The issues being debated are some of the biggest non-issues you can possibly imagine. Same rights for all individuals? Sure bet. But somehow there’s a big enough chunk of the demographic that opposes such changes. You may demand things to be changed as of right now, and the older, more conservative generation’s perception to shift immediately, but it is simply not possible. The left gets impatient, the right reacts. Reaction – counter-reaction. It all leads to a bigger gap and more radicalization – extreme left vs extreme right, with a desensitized silent majority quietly observing, not really caring about anything.
The whole point of a democracy is to communicate, share opinions and tackle issues together, but one side does not understand that it is very hard to change an old person’s conception of the world if said person has survived for this long despite this outlook and no change is really needed in their eyes. The same applies to not really self-aware individuals, who take pride in something like their nationality, which is literally the thing they needed to work for the latest.
Impatience is driving radicalization and if this is the way we are a collective are going to approach future challenges … there won’t be much of a future ahead of us.
What are other bands from your region people should definitely check out and why?
- Elvis Šahbaz – he is just one man playing the classical guitar, but he is nonetheless amazing, expressive and authentic in the most relaxing way possible
- Spiral Mind – a group full of young musicians who are pushing the boundaries and simultaneously mixing so many genres, layers and ideas without sounding tedious
- Guattari – groovy, chunky and slightly off-kilter metal that makes you move whether you want it or not
- Jan Sturiale – a very competent fusion guitarist worthy of much more attention for his intricate playing
- Marko Brecelj – a veteran activist, performer, musician and overall oddball who despite his advanced age is able to capture the nonconformist spirit like few young artists can
- Hei’An – a group of young, but experienced musicians, mixing progressive metal with some modern, black metal and electronic elements.
- Spiral Mind – started off as an experimental project, but turned out to be so much more than that. The name says it all.
- Second Chance Blown – melancholic industrial band that started flirting with dirty electronics and low frequencies, but then got strangled with the rusty guitar strings.
- Guattari – the angriest band in the universe. Period.
- Ater Era – Koper based black metal band with an unusual tendency towards psychadelic interferences.
- NoAir – heavenly soudning alternative pop quartet
- Omega Sun – weed and riffs
- Ater Era
- Elvis Šahbaz
- Spiral Mind
- Zmelkoow – old local legends
Everything that was already mentioned, otherwise, in the broader Slovenian region, I’d warmly recommend Srd, Morost, Snøgg, Valuk, Grob, Agan, Kholn, Dekadent, Noctiferia, Mephistophelian, Within Destruction, Negligence, Teleport and Space Unicorn on Fire amongst others very hardworking bands. There are also other bands from the coast, which were active in the past, but are sadly disbanded, like Somrak, Grimoir, Krvnik and Torka.
There’s the perennial discussion of what black metal actually means. To me, it is about tapping into the mysteries that elude us in this hypertechno world, about finding connections to a greater whole and Malorshiga fits into that with the ethno element. Yet, others will say that if Satan is not a part of it, it’s not black metal. What is your opinion on this?
Dishpiazher: The clichéd and shallow representation of Satanism in Black Metal, or any type of music for that matter, has been irrelevant for decades and I don’t understand the appeal of it anymore. Its initial shock value has worn off and all that is left is a parody of a once rebellious answer to the Christian mainstream. To me, Black Metal can function as the sonic manifestation of certain feelings which dwell inside me and need to be released. Somehow, it is easier to accept and overcome periods of sombreness and numbness when you have their musical equivalents to listen to. That being said, I don’t really listen to such music regularly.
Mizheria: As Dishpiazher said – Satanism’s “shock value” kind of worn off through the years. Many new genres and mixtures of different genres came to light and the majority of them don’t involve Satanism. People started to enjoy different kinds of metal music thus distancing themselves from satanic themes. While I still respect old-school satanic metal bands (also those who still hold to the satanic imagery), I’ve outgrown the “rebellious satanic” phase and I wouldn’t include Satanism in my band.
Which bands do you feel take a similar approach and do you admire?
Oelka: I am compelled by my heart and soul to mention Der Weg einer Freiheit, Schammasch, Bölzer and Mgła, the four bands that have influenced me the most in the past few years.
Dizghrazia: The bands listed by Oelka are the exact same that I hold in really high regard. We went to see all of them on different occasions and each experience was something that completely shattered our perception of music, expanding our horizons and giving us a very strong motivation to be able to convey such strong feelings and atmosphere. I’d add Ulcerate to the list and I think Oelka’d strongly agree, but we hadn’t had the privilege of seeing them perform yet.
It also needs to be said that all the band members have a pretty wild taste in music, which encompasses many genres that have nothing to do with metal. We all draw inspiration from very different sonic worlds, which can be somewhat felt as being limited by the context of having a black metal project. In the end, it comes down to the mutual process of creation, where everyone brings their own ideas, which are in turn shaped by everything we “consume” as listeners.
What future plans does Malorshiga have at the moment?
Dishpiazher: We are writing a new album.
Dizghrazia: … vir prudens non contra ventum mingit.
If you had to describe Malorshiga as a dish (a type of food) what would it be and why?
Dishpiazher: Pasta with truffles and olive oil. It looks like a simple and straightforward dish yet it has a distinct and slightly funky taste. Olive oil is the life force that runs through our veins and pasta is the fundamental building block of every living entity in this region.
Verghogna: Ombolo v testu z gobovo omako, I refuse to elaborate further.
Mizheria: Cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese with olive oil and basil served in a skull of boshkarin. Nice taste but frightful yet interesting appearance.
Oelka: Every nonna’s bobići.
Dizghrazia: An empty plate. Glad and mižerja – hunger and poverty.