Metalcore is arguably one of those genres that has fallen into the trap of being stigmatised for being too formulaic, relying too much on riffs, breakdowns and bland imagination. So where does this leave Windrunner? Well by adding melodies and progressive elements to the mix, the Vietnamese quintet have come up with a solution to bypass the clutches of being pigeon-holed as just another Metalcore band. It might as well be said that whilst Vietnam is famous for it's motorbikes and bicycles, with Windrunner in full throttle, soon Vietnam will be acknowledged for it's vibrant metal scene. Windrunner were more than pleased to chat to GMA about their deal with Famined Records, the Vietnamese Metal scene, how metal is viewed by the public and their plans for 2019.
"Society has been more and more accepting of metal, but it’s still nowhere it needs to be in a music scene dominated by V-pop and K-pop"
For those who have not heard of Windrunner, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band began about 6 years ago, when two local Vietnamese bands combined with current members of Windrunner. Mind you, the scene here is still small, so we have all known each other for years and a few of us have played in different bands together before. It's been kind of back and forth between acts, before this line up solidified. The band has been officially together as Windrunner only for 3 years, continuously growing and blending styles and ideas."
Please can you tell us the history of the Vietnamese Metal scene, it's current state, what festivals, media, support, etc., are present?
"Our scene is quite young, but pulsing. We regularly have shows of every genre you can think of - and the metal scene is doing great right now, with some fresh new acts and creative new directions. There are a few promoters that are pushing the scene and inviting some amazing international acts - Emmure is coming over in March, for example, so we are eternally grateful to them. It's young, it's thriving, and it's at that point where it just steadily keeps growing because it hasn't been around for long."
Bands like Ngũ Cung, Microwave and Black Infinity have gained international attention, for yourselves what is it that makes the Vietnamese style of metal (as it were) what it is?
"We look up to our big brothers in Ngũ Cung, Microwave (we just recently shared the stage with them!) and Black Infinity as the pioneers of metal in Vietnam, but we don’t draw much musical influences from them. Each band has a different style and we want to create our own style too. One thing that we all have in common though is we all have tried to incorporate some elements of Vietnamese traditional music into our own style of metal, one way or another."
It seems that neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia are producing metal bands too, do you have bands from neighbouring countries come to play in Vietnam?
"Yes, South East Asia is certainly growing more talented bands each year. We have a few notable bands from around the region from places such as Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, even Japanese bands are making motions to tour in our area."
What do your parents think of your music? On a wider scale how does Vietnamese society view metal music?
"As metal music has only been in Vietnam for a short time, the generation gap generally doesn’t allow for a good connection among us and our parents in terms of music. The same applies to how the society views metal music. Rock music isn’t even mainstream here, so metal is just another black sheep. Just over a decade ago, underground metal shows would always get busted by the authorities. Generally though, society has been more and more accepting of metal, but it’s still nowhere it needs to be in a music scene dominated by V-pop and K-pop."
Are you all self-taught? Or did you attend music school's (if there any?)
"Yes all of us are self-taught. Besides the general music classes in grade school, YouTube was and is still our best music teacher."
Obviously releasing 'Mai' your debut album through an American label must carry great feelings? Are you hoping you will expose Vietnamese Metal to the world?
"It’s an honour, so we are eternally grateful for Famined Records and the help they have given us. Our heads were exploding with the feedback and exposure we were witnessing on various internet platforms across the States and international scene in general. It’s truly humbling and so unbelievably exciting. Of course! We are hungry, and Vietnam has tons of quality acts ready to break out."
With the Metalcore genre saturated as it is, what is Windrunner hoping to bring to the table that has not been done already?
"Too right. Lyrical themes and structures are becoming a bit standardised for most genres of heavy music, so what we want to bring is a genuine fresh blend, and push for new sounds and combinations not heard before. We have a few ideas in the pot ready to go for our next release."
For metalheads visiting Hanoi, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What is the best way to get around?
"The city is rich in historical sights. Museums, traditional pagodas and temples are scattered across Hanoi, and the night life in certain areas will keep you busy for sure. The food alone is a landmark in Vietnam, so come hungry! Renting a motorbike or just good ol’ taxis are the best and fastest way to get around."
What are your plans for 2019?
"We already have some ideas brewing for our next release. We have an amazing tour coming up in March with Emmure across South East Asia and China, which we are beyond excited for. After that, we're definitely moving onto bigger and better things! If you liked what you heard so far, just wait for what's next."
Finally do you have any greetings, or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"We would simply like to thank everyone for their interest and support over the last few months. All the feedback, likes, posts, shares - each one means the world. We would like to thank our local supporters for coming to shows and making each one memorable. We would like to thank the team at Famined Records for believing in us and giving us a chance to grow in a way we would never have thought possible."
Skyforger are arguably Latvia's most successful and well known metal band, here is a Pagan Metal band who have stood against the test of time since their inception back in 1995; previously known as Grindmaster Dead from 1991-1995. Since then many changes have taken place, with vocalist / guitarist Pēteris Kvetkovskis and backing vocalist / bassist Edgars Grabovskis being the only members from the original line-up, both of which also take on duties of playing traditional Latvian instruments; joining them are Alvis Bernāns on guitars and Artūrs Jurjāns on drums.
Their latest album "Senprūsija (Old Prussia)" which saw daylight back in 2015, is their sixth album and provides more evidence that Skyforger are more than just a metal band, they're dedicated at pushing more of their cultural heritage, folklore and history to the fore. This is even more so evident with their new music video 'Nothing Is Forgotten' which was released in celebratory honour of the 100th anniversary of Latvian independence.
Peter was more than happy to chat to GMA about this momentous occasion, Skyforger's history, the importance of learning about one's national history and folklore, what makes Pagan Metal uniquely separate from the overarching Folk Metal genre and of course what metalheads can do in Latvia's heavily-steeped-in-history capital Riga.
Skyforger has stood the test of time with seven albums and 24 years under your belt - will you be celebrating your 25th in style?
"No, we don’t plan to celebrate 25 nor 30 years, if we will still be around, and have nothing more important to present our fans than retrospective on what we have done for all this years. But I hope not and that instead we get out new albums and new songs to show! Last year we did a concert dedicated to 20 years of our first album “Kauja Pie Saules”, but it was initiative from our friends to make such a concert happen, we just took part in there. However, it was all about the album, not the band. Personally I don’t like this kind of fake celebrations – who cares if a band is around 10 or 25 years, what matters is music they create. We do big shows when we have a new album out and could call it a “celebration”, but never cared about for how long band has been going."
How long did it take to make the latest video? Where was it filmed and who was involved?
"Well, the idea for this video was floating around in the air for some couple of years. We wanted to dedicate a song “Nekas Nav Aizmirsts”, or in English “Nothing Is Forgotten” for all those nameless Latvian soldiers and riflemen, who make freedom of Latvia possible 100 years ago. Since we had exactly a centenary date coming up, there was no more time to waste. The video clip was filmed in various locations near Riga during the Summer and September / October of 2018. Then we put it all together in one month and release date was decided to be 18th November, the day of our 100th independence day, which is a very symbolic date. We invited a great upcoming actress Maija Arvena to join the video clip and also used a couple of excerpts from some famous Latvian movies, like massive war scenes which we could not film ourselves, And we ourselves, of course ha ha. You can watch video online in YouTube."
Along with the other Baltic countries, how did Latvia celebrate 100 years of independence?
"Oh, there was a lot of stuff going on! Concerts, movies, various events, it is hard to name them all. The Government gave away money to special foundations, which took care of such events to happen. It was all around our country for some time. Needless to say it went on with high national pride and spirit. Also we had the annual Song Festival celebrations for one month. Skyforger also took part in these activities: we played a concert at the Soldier Remembrance Day on 11th November 2018, and most importantly, our biggest show ever – metal opera “Kurbads”, a whole spectacle based on our "Kurbads" album performed by dancers! You can watch it here: http://straume.lmt.lv/lv/kultura/kultura/kurbads/1001003"
Can people learn basic Latvian from your songs? Is it easy / hard to learn Latvian?
"Hmm hard to say, but I doubt it would be possible to learn basic Latvian just from our songs - few words, sure, but not the basic language, you need some dictionary for that. In my opinion the Latvian language is hard to learn - could be a lot harder than German, English, or Russian. We had a lot of those ķ, ļ, dž, ž, š and a/ā, i /ī, u/ū and so on. Very few words built on a Latin base like English or German have and even then those words are borrowed from languages I mentioned. So it would be quite difficult for foreigners to learn and pronounce words like kaķis (cat) or dzelzsceļš (railroad) ha ha I bet!"
With your lyrics are you hoping people would pay interest in Latvian history and folklore?
"Sure we do! That is one of our goals! That is why we have everything translated into English and even more – we always add some explanations and stories for people to understand what it is all about. Just check our website, it is full of explanations about what we sing and what we tell: http://skyforger.lv/en/"
Do you have any favourite songs from the albums you have done?
"No, they all are like my children, everyone is equal in the eyes of the father ha ha. But honestly, I never listen to my music at home. Probably it is because I hear those songs differently to anyone else from aside or they were in my ears already for so many times when I created, recorded and performed them, so I had enough already. Therefore I can’t name you any specific song I love from Skyforger, sorry."
What is it in your opinion that makes Folk Metal, or in your case Pagan Metal that bit special?
"Hmm, I can tell you what makes our music special, but if you ask how those (Folk / Pagan) styles stand out, I have a hard time today to tell something original here. So-called Folk Metal of late reminds me more of Power Metal than what it was (Folk) when it all started. Today I see Folk Metal as jolly Power Metal hymns with pathetic pompous choruses and of course bagpipes playing along the band, add here Odin and Vikings ad nauseam and you’ll get the picture. It is funny that even non-Folk Metal bands now sing about Vikings and add that folky stuff in their music. Like when you have Judas Priest and Saxon singing about Valhalla!
It is to the point that we as Skyforger feel a bit shameful to be named as Folk Metal band. I know it will sound like bragging, but here are a few things that makes us stand apart: we sing in our language, we sing about our Baltic heritage and history instead of Vikings, we try to play a more aggressive and grim style of music, we do real research about what we sing. So maybe it is better, in our case, to call it Pagan Metal. I know, I maybe take it all a bit too serious, but then again that is my personal attitude to the music."
For Metalheads visiting Riga, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What venues? Best alcohol drinks?
"Old Town of course - there is a lot to see, all that medieval style most of metalheads would love. Then there is the Ethnographical Open Air museum on the outskirts of Riga. What else… probably the folk club-pub Ala, with live Latvian folk music and dances and something like 30 kinds of beer. The Folk music shop Upe (you can buy traditional folk instruments there) and ancient jewellery shop “Baltu Rotas”. Some traditional food places, like Lido Dzirnavas. For best alcohol – beer - there is no better stuff here as we have old beer traditions. I can recommend Bauskas, Tērvetes, Valmiermuiža beers as good ones one can buy in shops and then there are countless craft beers in places like Labietis. Two of the best places for Metalheads to hang around with metal music and like-minded people inside is the tavern “Zobens and Lemess” and café Leningrad. If you come in Summer (June) we have our own Pagan Metal festival 'Zobens Un Lemess' or 'Kilkim Žaibu' festival in neighbouring Lithuania. So this is what comes into my mind right now."
What plans does Skyforger have for going into 2019? Are there any greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"We started to work on new songs, but I guess a new album will be out only in 2020 as it still goes slow due to not enough of free time and just one rehearsal in a week. But at least it is started! Then we have some great festivals ahead and few concerts here and there for this year. For example Party.San festival in Germany. Maybe some more opportunities will arouse as the new year is just started!
As always we want to say big thanks to everyone who supports our band, comes to concerts and listens our music – we appreciated it a lot! Thanks Global Metal Apocalypse for this interview and see you all soon around!"
Demonic Resurrection are one of the leading metal bands from the Indian Metal scene, having been around since the turn of the millennium they have released 5 albums, 1 EP and 1 split and in that time played across Asia and Europe; most notably playing twice at Bloodstock where this year Sahil (vocalist/guitarist) had a chat with GMA about why he was putting not only the band to rest, but his other bands as well. He spoke about his YouTube channel, the scene going forward, what you can do in Bombay and what religion means to him.
"Religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally "
Demonic Resurrection has come to an end, could you tell us how this come about?
"I don't know man I think after 18 years of doing this, I'm kind of a little tired and fed-up with the way things are. I don't mind the struggle and I'm happy to work really hard and put 110% behind what I am doing, but for me I feel like the struggle has been with the same things as opposed to being different struggles as you progress as a band. For me that's kind of where it sort of says it's not working; if you're struggling with the same thing you started 10 years ago then maybe you're doing something wrong. So I kind of need to at least for now just put this behind me and maybe focus on something that is really doing well for me right now, which is my Headbangers Kitchen YouTube channel, so that's the plan right now."
Regarding your YouTube channel, you recently become certified correct? And you contributed to a book?
"Yeah we got certified a while back but we just reached 230,000 subscribers, so it's pretty much become my full-time job now and has kept me quite busy.
I was approached by a publisher last year to sort of edit a book rather than write one, I wrote some stuff for this book but mainly edited a lot of their recipes too make them keto-friendly.
Keto is a sort of way of eating where you deprive your body of carbohydrates and it goes into burning fat for fuel, it's sort of become one of the hottest ways to lose weight because it kind of lets you do it in a more of a free-approach to it, rather than being restricting yourself in terms of what you can and cannot eat; though you are, but it doesn't feel as deprived as most diets do."
Out of all of the dishes you have done, which is your favourite?
"Oh that's a tough question man, I would definitely say one of my most popular dishes is the 'bacon bomb'; that is kind of my signature meat dish, but I'm also very proud of my buttered chicken. The 'bacon bomb' is half a kilo of ground pork meat seasoned beautifully with fresh herbs, stuffed with cheese, peppers, onions, wrapped in bacon, covered in BBQ sauce and baked. That would keep you going for the rest of the day."
So your other bands Reptilian Death, Demonstealer and Workshop are being phased out too?
"If anyone has been following me, I think it was about 2 years ago I put Workshop to rest and then a year ago I put Reptilian Death down as well. I don't know man just things stopped working for the band and like I said I don't mind working hard, but when all the odds are against you then you just need to know when to let go. With Workshop we just come to a point where we were just unable to book shows because whoever booked shows didn't like our music, so eventually we were not able to book anything and it just sort of died down because there were no gigs we could play and the other members became busy with their other musical careers, so we called it a day."
With Kryptos carrying on, what does the future of the Indian Metal scene look like in your opinion?
"Honestly I don't know, but what I do know is it will survive, it will go through it's up's and down's like it always has, I think as a genre metal still holds onto people in some way. Even though the Indian scene is not growing in the way it should, but you know we will have to wait and see the way it goes, but I do believe it will survive and have children always wanting to play metal, so you will always have some Indian Metal bands; whether they last or not, that's a different question."
With the metal band Bloodywood mixing Bollywood music with metal, do you see this as a step forward?
"Honestly, I don't know if that's a step forward but it is definitely a connecting point for people around the world to know that there's metal in India. I guess they've tapped into what I would call the 'YouTube Market' ,which is a huge platform for very creative content and creators to exploit, and I think they have found a formula what works for them. So I definitely think them as a band will do great things, whether they choose to go live or whether they choose to spend their energy on YouTube, it will definitely be and introduction for most people getting into the Indian Metal scene."
So how did Demonic Resurrection come round to playing Bloodstock this time? Do you keep in touch with past members?
"Yes I think Bio-Cancer dropped out and my agent said I could book in for Bloodstock, so I was like let me check the visa situation because the last time we came here we had to get a work permit, which is really expensive, but it turns out that there is a cheaper option and I was anyway planning to visit the UK for friend's wedding so it kind-of worked out. Especially as we have two members in the UK, so that's two people that actually needed to fly in now for the gig; myself and Virendra. As of now we have Shoi Sen and Arran McSporran from De Profundis who play bass and guitar, they're our live session members in the UK.
I'm still in touch with most of them yeah, they're always doing something or the other. Nishith Hegde and Ashwin Shriyan play in Bollywood, they're session musicians and as is Daniel Kenneth Rego, Mephisto chills at home and writes some of his own music but doesn't really put anything out so."
Could you tell us more about your last (and final) album "Dashavatar", what does it mean?
"'Dashavatar' is basically about the the primary avatars of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, it's actually funny that I even wrote something like this because I'm a staunch atheist and I have a lot of disdain for religion, but as stories there are interesting things here and my wife told me the story of
Narasimha the man-lion, and the way it was told to me was... it kind of showed a very brutal side to the story and the truth is I think, religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally and f****d everything up, but they are great stories and they were stories that I thought would be good to tell through our music and I made sure that we didn't compromise the music that we made. I know we do have Indian instruments in the album, but they are there with a purpose, they are not us suddenly going all fusion, trying to create something, so that was an interesting thing to do."
For metalheads visiting India, aside from the Taj Mahal, what sights / attractions would you recommend seeing?
"Well if you're coming to Bombay (Mumbai) it's always good to get a look at the gateway of India, there are these caves called the Ajanta and Ellora caves which are nice to visit as well, you can go to the beach, Juhu beach, Marine Drive, yeah you can go around and eat some good food in Bombay. Honestly I always never know what to tell people to go and see in Bombay because myself I don't really care for sightseeing and stuff, it's all about food."
Signing off are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Thank you for having me and for doing this interview, thank you to anyone who has listened to any of my music and bought a CD or t-shirt, I appreciate it!"
Bloodstock cherishes and relishes the opportunity to showcase metal bands from all over the world, this year they reeled in Nepal's Underside, a Groove Metal / Metalcore leviathan that is taking the Asian Metal scene by storm. But it has not always been plain sailing for the band as vocalist Avishek KC explained to GMA, he spoke to us about the Nepalese economy, challenges the scene and band faced, the importance of the Ghurka and how metal unites world cultures.
"No one bought CDs... you couldn't afford it, 20-30 US Dollars would be like 3,000-4,000 Nepalese Rupee (NPR)... my pocket money for 2 months to buy one album"
KC, how did Underside come about? What challenges have you faced?
"We started Underside after the country suffered war, we were tired of shifting from one band to the other so we go together and started this whole new project, with a lot of energy and anger.
Oh man, where do I get started? Ok, the survival itself in a country like Nepal is number one just in terms of the economy, everyone goes through that it's normal, then you have the police, the system, the security, the society, they hate everyone with long hair. There was a time where police used to grab you and chop your hair off, just for looking like different. It's not the first time, I've been through that on many levels and if you're walking in the middle of the night, get in. It's changed a little bit now comparatively but, and then there were the power shortages, we had power out for like 16 hours a day so imagine being in a band, and that was because the Government was selling electricity illegally to companies and they found out the whole country was in darkness for 10 years because of some corruption in the system.
When there is no light it has a ripple effect, on your job, timings, everything and itself being in a country that far is a big challenge trying to get your music out here so you talk to someone and it's like 'OK let's watch it if you're here' if you get a gig or two, I think those are some of the few challenges faced so far.
Getting gear in Nepal is fine, it's not that hard but they don't sell the expensive stuff because no one can afford it, so there are a lot of music stores that sell low-grade guitars from 200-400 USD so you can make do with what you can get."
How long has the Nepalese Metal scene been going? What is it like?
"It's been there but in it's infancy, it has been there for a while but not for a while, not very long. Now it's slowly coming up with our best but it's not an easy job, it's a struggle everyday so.
Yeah we have one we do as a band and as a team put on Silence Festival, the only metal festival otherwise there is no metal festival scene at all, so it's a brand new culture slowly coming out, it's a lot of hard work for us to, even to put one show on.
It's insane, even within the country Kathmandu is so centralized, now we've sort of taken over the city with our music and put show on in front of what 800 people in a venue a few days before Bloodstock. Now we're focusing on outside of the country and are going to the rural places, probably will be doing a little bit of India, so that's the plan to go on."
Would you play in neighbouring Bhutan?
"Yeah of course! I would love to play there with Underside, I think we have some fans from Bhutan who message us on our social media, so yeah that would be sick".
What do your parents think of your music? When did you want to become a musician?
"My parents have never... I think my dad once came to the show and just left after two songs, that was also because my nephew and niece wanted to come, so he came four hours early and I asked him to come again and then he came back and instantly left. My mum has never seen my shows so.
I don't know, I think I always use to want to become a musician when I was a kid and I guess it was what I wanted from the band, I think it was when I heard Pantera and then I wanted to play guitar, but I then said no you can't play guitar you got to sing. But it was always there, I always love the culture of being in a band, playing music it just spoke to me so... ever since I can remember."
What was the journey from Kathmandu to Bloodstock like? Tell us what happened. How did you get invited to play Bloodstock?
"Ah man, it's been pretty crazy with two flights, 6 hours on one plane and two hours break and then 8 hours on another plane and then our home and then a 4-hour drive to Bloodstock. So yeah that's pretty much a little journey, but before that there's been a lot of preparation where we were working on production, we were trying a smaller scale production pretty much for the first time, for Bloodstock we want to bring a little bit of home, just been talking to the production crew in the tent so yeah we worked pretty hard and prepared to do it.
Well we received an invite, I have got a few friends here and promoters who have been working for the festival in the past, so we started a good relationship over the years you know, I think it's from peoples love and friendship that has made the band what it is."
Do you feel that Nepalese band coming to play in the UK could aid tourism in Nepal?
"I think it does because like we're representing where we are from and people get to know where you are from and I'm telling you about this because you asked about the problems, if you ask me about the good stuff there are a lot of good things, good people, they're the most helpful and I think friendly people you meet going about disregarding the society, the police, the system. But yeah I think it does, when people get to understand and connect, I think it does help in some ways."
With the UK and Nepal sharing a long history together, do you feel it's ever more important to support the Ghurka's?
"I think it's a cool thing that we have that relationship with the Ghurka's and like, it's been there for years and it's always good to fuse and connect on a certain level, keeping a healthy relationship. So it's always good to cherish, improve it and make it better. I think it's great, times like this when conflicts are happening, problems with each other and everything all the time, I think it's a great thing that we connect."
Who was the biggest band to play in Nepal thus far? Has the Nepalese Government become more relaxed in recent times?
"I think Behemoth, Vader, but no I think Behemoth is still the biggest to have played Nepal so far. Yeah I mean even last year the police were just bar-standing, we had so many problems trying to get the Twelve Foot Ninja boys out of the airport because the Government did not understand the system of bringing in your own equipment and stuff, it's just like you can't do whatever the f**k you want; 'I've got it, everything in a letter' and they were like 'we don't know come back Monday' and I was like 'dude the festival is today, you can't tell them to come on Monday', and I had to be on stage in 30 minutes so we play after the band because I was still at the airport stressing."
So is Nepal still a slightly conservative country?
"Yeah yeah in regards to metal music and being out there with your long hair and looking like all of us here it still is, it is an open place for tourism as we get a lot of tourists, but when it comes to the society; they have a different attitude towards it, because we are from the inside and are kind of rebels. But you go there and do things that we do, so they have a different approach for how you're treated."
What did you listen to when you were in high school?
"A lot of Pantera, Metallica, Slipknot... I was in a Black Metal band, there was something about Black Metal that I really love, it's been a while when I was listening to Mayhem, Nargaroth, Burzum, I love that stuff back in the day and also a lot of alternative stuff. So there was a lot to listen to, you used to have a lot of friends into different things, we were listening to pretty much everything. Listening to the old stuff on vinyl, Hendrix, Manson and stuff, depends on who you hanged out with back in the day. I loved albums by the likes of Korn, anything you can get your hands on, but it was so hard to get music at that time - if it was metal, everyone would just listen to it and no questions asked.
No one bought a CD, you couldn't get it because you couldn't afford it, 20-30 US Dollars would be like 3,000-4,000 Nepalese Rupee (NPR) and that would be my pocket money for 2 months to buy one album. You couldn't get it even if you said you'd save up to buy it, so whatever you had you listened to it as much as you can. For the UK a £10-£15 album would be like 2,000 NPR and that's a lot of money for us at that time especially when we were children.
What could you buy for 2,000 NPR?
"Nothing man, just like cigarettes... a little bit more than that, not a lot, definitely not a lot. Maybe lunch and stuff, you could buy posters and stuff, bootleg albums, etc., Nowadays children have the spending access, they can buy guitars; I got my first electric guitar when I was 16 and it cost about 200 USD and it was a fight; my parents got it in but it was a brutal fight."
Do you have any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Yes, thank you to you man for talking to us or any other press that's talking to us at Bloodstock; it's amazing to be here, our crew, all the boys, our fans and people back home."
Obzidian are a Progressive Death / Thrash outfit situated in Staffordshire and ultimately slammed Bloodstrock with their infectious music, they spoke to GMA about the struggles in their local scene, their music backgrounds and why being social media savvy pays off.
Who came up with the band name Obzidian and what does it mean?
"I was doing A-level geography in college and basically it's a volcanic glassy rock that forms so quickly that it's like a sheet of glass but is black, so it's like a sort of reflective black glass so we thought that's a pretty metal thing, so we'll name out band after it, we just changed the 's' to a 'z' because there is already another band with that name using an 's'."
What was the emotions like in the Obzidian camp when being confirmed to play Bloodstock? Was there any hush-hush?
"Excitement and a little bit of terror because I was at work at the time, obviously our manager Dan just put messages on our group thread saying 'call me, call me', I'm like what's going on? I'm at work. I called him in the toilet and he was like 'mate we're playing Bloodstock', so I kind of had a little dance to myself in the toilet at work. We've been wanting this for ages and it finally happened, it's all a bit of a blur to be honest.
Yeah my dad was our sound-man for a very long time so he's fully engrained into our band, helped us and bought all of the gear we've got at the moment, drove us round the country week-in week-out. My mum's always supportive, she's not a musician herself but has grown up with my dad being a musician and obviously supported music and stuff - they've all supported us 100% and when I told them they were absolutely made up. They've back us through everything.
I'm from a big music background, my father toured the US in the 70's with his band, my brother is a semi-professional drummer, so they're really proud because I found my own way as I don't have the musical attributes they had, I don't have the musical talent they had."
How did you all get into Metal Music?
"I started off with more classic rock stuff like AC/DC when I was around 12, started playing guitar because of them and then just got heavier and heavier, started listening to Megadeth, Metallica and Pantera, then onto Meshuggah.
All of our parents have grown up with rock, classic rock, that kind of thing. My dad was a big Deep Purple and Motorhead fan, then Judas Priest, he got me into all of that and then by growing up with that, I was about 8 or 9 when I listened to the 'Black Album' and then that took me onto a different path and then I found Megadeth, then onto Metallica, then onto Sepultura, it all got heavier from there really.
Same with me the whole classic rock background with my dad, I think it was my brother really who started to dip his fingers into the heavier side of things, to be fair I think Sepultura was the first heavy band I listened to. It was an honour to play with them, so that's one thing ticked off the bucket list a few years back.
Was there any challenges that Obzidian had to overcome in the years past?
"I don't know if there's been any real challenges as such like some bands go through, money is always a challenge, trying to find how to travel, buying gear and merch, making sure we put our finances in the right areas, make some back and make a profit, being able to carry on doing it. It's always a bit of a risk when you want to carry on doing that kind of thing, when you have all those upfront costs. Apart from that not really, the only change we ever made to our line-up was in 2005 when Matty Jenks came in on vocals and we parted ways with our old vocalist / guitarist; more like a James Hetfield kind of character, we wanted to go heavier and he didn't, we kind of changed up a little bit.
For the past 13-14 years it's been this line-up and we really haven't faced anything apart from time and money. If someone has a problem they put it out there, when we need to argue we argue and when we need to complement each other we do. There's no stones or turbulence.
We've known each other for so long, me (Paul Hayward), Baz Foster and Matt Jeffs grew up together and went through high school, we've known each other since the age of 11 and it just formed a solid friendship that you can base music on. "
Could you tell us about what the Staffordshire Metal scene is like?
"Stafford is a semi-rural town, but it's starting to get better, there's not a lot of bands there, not a lot of live music there. There's a venue called The Red Rum where a guy called Nick is really trying to bring Hed P.E. and bigger bands in to the area to try and encourage people to come out and listen to more live music and we can't thank him enough for that as he's put us on 3-4 times already in various venues
I'm from the Staffordshire side of Wolverhampton, right by Birmingham which is the home of heavy metal as everyone says but for so many years there was just nothing there... but the way the underground scene has been rising in the past 2-3 years in Birmingham, it's beginning to feel like a real place again metal-wise. We did a lot of stuff up in Manchester for a while.
There's been times where we've had to drive hours and hours away from home to find a decent show, but now it's all coming back to the Midlands which is a really good thing. There's a lot of good promoters out there just sticking at it and getting the right bands on the shows.
FatAngel who we're with now, the label and promotions who are based in Coventry have really done wonders for the Midlands scene e.g. Mosh Against Cancer Festival, they've just been wonderful for us. Dan Carter who is our manager (also the bassist in Left For Red), he's the man who looks after us now and just waggled his hand just like 'oh you guys' (all laugh).
When growing up when did you realize you wanted to become a musician, what was your first instrument?
"I don't remember the exact point but I used to play guitar originally and used to jam with my dad who also is a guitarist and vocalist from back in the 70's. After about 4-5 years of that, getting my own gear and being in a couple of bands as a guitarist, my cousin who is a drummer let me have a go on his kit and the rest is just history, so I've been on drums ever since. My cousin probably influenced me the most on drums, but for guitar it was probably my dad and I think I was probably 7/8 when I properly started playing guitar and then changed to drums when I was around 12/13 and now I'm 34. For the last 10-15 I went into music production learning how to record etc.
AC/DC, from my dad's old vinyl collection, once I pulled out 'Power Age' it was f*****g awesome, stuck that on and went out to buy some AC/DC albums and that was it, I wanted to be like Angus Young.
I've played drums, I've played guitar, but I was s**t so I went to vocals and started screaming (all laugh).
Summarise Bloodstock in two words, what would you say?
"Bloody raining / awesome metal / absolutely incredible / metal family"
Have you had any fans from abroad contact you via social media?
"Yeah we've had a few guys from Norway, Sweden, those kinds of places, firstly they message us and then buy the album. They say they really love it and will play it to all of their friends. We've had radio play in Canada and the USA, so yeah we've had a lot of international contact - we just need to turn that into shows now and see what happens."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Hello to anyone whose bought stuff or who will buy stuff, check us out on obzidian.co.uk and on Facebook. A big shout out to those who visited the New Blood Stage at 10:30, cheers to the crew, everyone who knows us and has checked us out."
Although Trivax originated in Iran, the frontman Shayan S. moved to the UK in 2010 to pursue becoming a metal musician. The rest of the band members are from Birmingham with the exception of bassist 'S' who originates from Syria. So where East meets West and liberalist and conservative cultures clash, Trivax stands strong as a force of nature. Shayan spoke to GMA about growing up as an Iranian metalhead, challenges faced and what it's like being immersed in the British Metal scene.
"If you're religiously or politically against what the Government (Iranian) do or believes in then you can almost be executed"
Trivax didn't form in the UK, so could you tell us it's origins? What is the Iranian scene like?
"Eh no I originally formed the band on my own in Iran in 2009. I can't really say there's much of a scene because it's illegal over there to be doing this kind of thing. There are obviously some musicians who are trying to be active but obviously the quality of what comes out isn't quite as good because people don't really get to exercise the rights for music. So obviously because there's rarely any gigs or anything like that. As bands, they don't really have a great deal to offer but of course there's a lot of good musicians who have come out of there. From The Vastland is an Iranian Black Metal band formed by a friend of mine called Sina who is now based in Norway, and they're doing quite well at the moment.
The name Trivax translates to 'storm', it's a transcription of a war, of a name that's in Farsi and yes it came about nine years ago as I mentioned in April 2009. I just decided that this was what I needed to be doing, I didn't really have the circumstances to be doing it at the time, it's just the hunger to create and play extreme music and to light up the fire that's in you."
So would most Iranian metalheads leave the country to pursue metal music careers, etc?
"I wouldn't say most, no, they would like to but I don't think anyone can do it"
What can happen if someone in Iran was found to be supporting metal music?
"Well it can usually just start off with getting arrested by the culture police which means they'll cut your hair, eventually they'll let you go on bail, or if you're playing live music without permission from the Government, then that can go very badly... they can break your instruments and things, finally if you're religiously or politically against what the Government do or believes in then you can almost be executed."
What do your parents think of you playing metal music?
"I think they might have been slightly sceptical at first, but I have to say that they have been greatly, greatly supportive - it might not be something that they'd listen to themselves, but they really enjoy it, they support that it is something I believe in because they see that it's not just a hobby or just something for me to try to and impress my friends with. This is my life. They're open-minded about it."
Did you face any challenges when you wanted to learn to play metal music?
"None really, it'd a different environment to what it is like here, I was that desperate to actually play and I learned that whatever difficulties that were in the way, I would push through them."
How does it feel to be at Bloodstock?
"Feels pretty amazing, yeah so far everyone has been kind to us and we're very much looking forward to the show."
Do you get nervous when going on stage?
"erm... I don't, I... it's a very strange state of mind, I'm not sure if I can really talk about it and have it make any sense, all I can say is that it gets very intense and excitement."
Do you feel metal music in general and not just Bloodstock, brings the world together irrespective of socio-cultural and political differences?
"Absolutely, that's why we are here, we share this metal music together with people I've never met before, but we're all brothers and sisters in metal."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Many thanks to those who have supported us over the years and devoted the time to come, we're only really getting started with Trivax and we're going to do our best to get out there as much as possible, and conquer each one of you".
Having previously been located around the Worksop / Birmingham area, Symphonic Metallers Aonia are now more or less based in Sheffield. The 'Experimental Symphonic' crew won their Metal 2 The Masses regional heats and laid waste on the fields of Derbyshire. Aonia spoke to GMA about their rise, playing Bloodstock and how sexism is STILL an issue to-date.
(on sexism) "big balls is what makes us... we have balls we wear them on our chest that are held in by our corsets."
How did Aonia form and what does the band name mean?
"A long time ago in a galaxy far away, James's band and my band split up, so his remnants and my remnants got together and made Aonia. There were a whole load of line-up changes and in 2016 we finally stabilized with the addition of drummer David Byrne and bassist Matt Black, but the biggest change happened in 2013 with the addition of Joanne Kay Robinson on vocalist, because it brought us into a whole sort of new genre and with Tim Hall coming on Keyboards as well gave the music a much wider dimension.
As for the name of the band it refers to the place near Helicon mountain where the muses dwell. Which is pretentious but kind of sweet, like us.
When we were trying to find interesting words in the dictionary, we didn't get past 'A', we just gave up and went 'Aaaa.... Aonia' that'll do. To be honest I'm surprised we got to 'ao', we could have been called 'Abyssinia'."
Is it easy or difficult to create music, especially when there are effectively seven different elements to contend with?
"You have no idea (all laugh), it's just time consuming more than anything else, but the nice part about having seven elements to a band, and we don't have one songwriter, someone will come up with an idea but it's the whole band that puts it together. Which means we have an original sound, we have a sound that really we don't get compared to, but there's no one element that really separates us and makes the other bands sound the same as us, we have an original sound because of that and it works. It takes time, there's a lot of arguing (all laugh).
I think it's a really creative conversation we have over a couple of chords or lines, eventually over seven minutes... forty minutes arguing over a chord. When I say seven, we don't actually listen to him (Przemek).
I suppose that makes it more interesting, considering how overloaded and over-saturated the Symphonic Metal genre has become?
"Well that's why we say we're not symphonic, we're symphonic to a certain extent and the keyboards are an important element in the band, but we have a very progressive rock basis to the band as well - do you know some of our sound links more to Iron Maiden than it does to Dream Theater, than Dream Theater to Nightwish; we have Dream Theater elements in it as well, we have a lot of elements in it, we have good musicians in the band and we like to show that as well, we have two fantastic female-fronted vocalists, we try and get all of the elements into the songs".
Speaking of having two female-fronted vocalists in Joanne and Melissa, do you feel sexism in metal still exists or has it lessened over the years?
"Well it's about 3-4 years ago, we were playing a local pub and somebody tried to pull my corset down whilst I was on stage, I would say sexism is still very rampant. I've seen comments like 'oh female-fronted metal is pop with heavier guitars', I've heard people say 'oh I won't go see a band if they're female fronted', 'I won't go to see a band if there's a girl in' and then you do also get sexism the other way round. I've got a friend called Kris who's a bassist in FireSky and her band is excluded from a lot of female-fronted stuff ,because she only does backing vocals and that's wrong as well, so Joanne do you want to wade in with your experiences?
Yeah I mean we get a lot of 'pull your corset down', I've not had as severe as that but I would like to say we've probably got bigger balls than most of the boys in the band so yeah (all laugh), big balls is what makes us... (just say testicles - you do have something bigger than us but it's not balls), we have balls we wear them on our chest that are held in by our corsets.
In which case, they are a lot bigger! We've had a lot people say 'you're not really my type of thing' but after the gig have said 'f*****g hell, that was absolutely amazing I didn't think I was going to like you', when they say it's female then Operatic Metal comes to the fore and judgements are made, but as soon as they've seen us live then their opinions have changed.
Can I just say when she says 'f**k she's spelt it 'phuq'... apologies for my language, another problem with the sexism is that people don't think about what they're listening to, they're just watching or looking at a picture - seeing the picture and seeing as girl in it makes them think they won't want to go see that band, this is stupid because we're not actors playing in movies, we're musicians playing music; listen to the band first and then see what they look like, what they sound like is more important than what they look like."
It's cliche but don't judge a book by it's cover; what are your thoughts on the term female-fronted metal?
"Absolutely! Although we have a good cover (all laugh). Female-fronted is not a genre, it's a gender. It's a description, the band is female-fronted, they don't say the band is male-fronted. I think a lot people use it as an excuse for a deterrent, like I say it's a label... wow.... you said that? I did. Got 'an excuse for a deterrent', yeah it's good I like that. Well it is. Like you say a lot people in metal are very male-orientated and soon as they hear the word 'female', they kind of switch off... I've been guilty of that myself but through experience, through being in a band it's opened my mind to a lot of new things. Hopefully we can change other people's perceptions too."
Surely playing Bloodstock is the biggest thing to happen to the band?
"So far absolutely, we know we're good enough to get to this stage because we believe in ourselves, but it's still an unbelievable experience - when they call our name out it was still that kind of speechless feeling... I wouldn't believe it until we had done it. I've been in the music business since I was about 15, so that's what 10 years? I've been playing for 35 years and it's by the far the biggest and best gig I've ever done and that's before I've played."
Are there any greetings / thank you's that you wish to send out to people?
"All the fans that have been loyally to us, all the new fans... they're our Aonia family. Mary Berry, my inspiration. Thanks for all the baking! Simon Hall, Simon Cliffe and Rob Bannister from Bloodstock. Our amazing PR lady called Angel."
Having won Metal 2 The Masses - South Wales this year and slaughtered their set at Bloodstock, GMA felt it was time to grill the quintet known as Democratus. Stepping up to the plate was frontman Steve 'Moomin' Jenkins who divulged into the rapid resurgence of the South Wales Metal scene, what it's like being at Bloodstock, how important it is to support unsigned bands and the love for the Metal 2 The Masses initiative.
"Metal is like football, it's a universal language; there's always someone you can go up to in any country and go 'Judas Priest?'.... 'YES!!!', 'Iron Maiden?'... 'YES!!' and that's beautiful"
Steve what was Democratus's set like having played Bloodstock?
"It couldn't have gone much better to be fair, we kicked in and it just all sort of clicked together. We had plenty of people watching us, I do think the rain made a better promoter out of it because it had just more people in it that were trying to get out of the rain, but then I think once we got them into the tent they were like 'ooh I like this' and yeah it just went absolutely off the wall. We had pits, we had walls of death... when I said 'jump' they said 'how high?'; I love that because I love my crowd participation - I've always preferred putting on a show, I can't be one of those people who just plays staring at their feet throughout a set, so I like it when we get the crowd involved."
And what does the band name Democratus mean? When did you first get into metal music?
"I go by 'Democritus' and the reason for that being early incarnations of us thought right we need a band name and I suggested we need a couple of names to say what we're on about and they were like 'eeh not fussed' and I turned round and said that we all need to decide on something, we're in a democracy not a dictatorship. Our guitarist at the time turned round and said 'what about Democratus'? We all looked at him and went 'wooooh', so it stuck and given the nature of some of my political lyrics and stuff like that, it kind of ties in. I did a search to check there were not other bands with that name and it turns out it was a Greek philosopher; he was the foundation as it were of how democracy was set up.
I was a bit of a latecomer to it, I had friends who would try to play Korn to me when I was 13, 14, and at that point I didn't quite get it. I started to get into Hard Rock and then tiptoed into metal when I was around 18, 19 - I found Killswitch Engage and Slipknot and so it went all downhill from there. It's a kind of ongoing process because the people who say metal is dead, there is always new stuff to discover - you're just not looking hard enough if you think it's gone stale because it has not."
Do you feel at times that politics and music should not mix?
"Not at all, for starters you wouldn't have bands like System Of A Down or Rage Against The Machine, to be honest metal, rock, blues, it was all born out of the frustration of being angry at the man in question. If it's all about your art and when personal leanings come into it, then everything is open - if people don't want to listen to political lyrics, that's where free speech comes in, in that the choice of listening to something political or not comes into play. But the message is there, if people like it and want to hear it, if people want to respect or disagree with it, then I'm open to debate and it's a case of I do what I do.... A. because I enjoy it and B. because for me personally I prefer having lyrics that have some kind of meaning. I can't write throwaway nonsense, it's not me."
What sort of metal style does Democratus play?
"When I started us out I had the definition of wanting to go into Melodic Death Metal, that's where my favourite bands lie, the likes of Soilwork, Insomnium, In Flames (well early In Flames, they're not a Melodeath band anymore), but's that where my love lies and so that's where I kind of wanted to stick us. Since then with the line-up we've got, the music we've written since the first EP has branched out and is not strictly Melodeath, it's still heavy and brutal and still has it's melodies, but it opens us up to more options on where we want to go with writing music and more potential offers from promoters wanting to work with us and I'm happy with that. "
Tell us about the Welsh Metal scene, what's it like?
"What do you want to know my friend? At the moment it's good and buzzing, Sodomized Cadaver, Cranial Separation and us are at Bloodstock this weekend alone; Cranial finished as runners up to us at the Metal 2 The Masses final, straight-up Brutal Death Metal. As far as it goes there is a bit of everything for everyone, over the last couple of years (3-4) it's felt like a proper community; it wasn't always like that, there was a lot of bitching, a lot of sniping and that's just the way scenes fall apart basically.
With the closure of venues and things like that, it made a lot of bands realize that actually we're probably better off getting along with each other, support each other in order to get ourselves ahead of the game. The whole Metal 2 The Masses thing, I'll give a shout out to my boys in Incursion, Blind Divide and Cranial Separation who absolutely walloped us in terms of how they played, they pulled out sets of their lives."
Do you feel Bloodstock are leaders in supporting the underground by giving bands opportunities to play to vast numbers?
"Absolutely! I can't thank Simon Hall, Rob Bannister, all the crew here enough for helping us, even today and through helping us plug ourselves in terms of getting media sorted and things like that. There is no other festival that I can think of in the UK that gives unsigned bands and self-signed bands that platform, and it absolutely sets Bloodstock apart. What intrigued me the first time I came here in 2008, was the potential of seeing one of my local friends The Dirty Youth; I used to go to school with their bassist and I've seen bands like that who small at that time but have grown. It's always something that's intrigued me at Bloodstock, and they've got the Metal 2 The Masses stuff going.
I've entered it with previous bands for years and I've always tried to see the positive in terms of yeah we haven't got through until this year, but I've always networked and made friends, got new likes out of it; it's always the additions that some bands may struggle in taking the advantage of, I'm fortunate in the fact of I've pestered enough people and kind of think I know what I'm doing to make the most of opportunities I get. I hear of bands who win Metal 2 The Masses and think that things will come their way, no way, this is just the start of it and I just hope now that the opportunities keep coming.
Do you believe Bloodstock brings people together regardless of culture, politics and social differences?
"Absolutely, you only need to look at the list of bands who are playing this year, you've got Demonic Resurrection from India, Lovebites from Japan, bands from all over the place. Metal is like football, it's a universal language there's always someone you can go up to in any country and go 'Judas Priest?'.... 'YES!!!', 'Iron Maiden?'... 'YES!!' and that's beautiful, I love it, this festival in particular as well just has the good sense of community. Like I said I've been coming here since 2008, and there were friends who I've made in 2008 that I still see and came out to see us yesterday, that's humbling for me as a band but also it's really nice to know that the place that I know I can guarantee you'll make friends ever year."
Could you ever see a metal band sing in Welsh about Welsh mythology?
"I believe one of my friends from Agrona is already working on a project that does exactly that, I can't remember the name of them because it's a really complicated Welsh pronunciation, but yeah there is something actually in the works so again it's reason to keep an eye on the Welsh scene. (Most people trip over Llanfair PG in it's full name right?) I was born in Southampton, but moved to Wales when I was 2, I'm actually OK with Welsh pronunciations, so you're referring to 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' (just rolls off the tongue), it's lovely when drunk haha (I can imagine!!) - don't ask me to say what it means, that I can never remember.
Welsh is a great culture, I'm proud to be in Wales but I don't do the nationalism type of stuff unless it's in sports, but at the same time there's always cultures and heritage that's always interesting to look at."
Are there any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out?
"Massive thank you to everyone who has bought Democratus t-shirts over the months and years, everyone who has supported us to get through to the final. Massive shout out to Rachael Harrison for doing our media / PR stuff, also the usual Bloodstock crew; loved you for years and being behind the scenes has given me more respect for what you guys have done. To my friends who have turned up to watch us play, thank you, and for the rest, they know who they are :)."
No one can ever deny the fact that when a metal band dives into their national culture, be it through the lyric topics, outfits or simply the usage of traditional instruments, that it's not awesome. Because it bloody well is. Bringing their own folklore and stories to the fore are Mexico's Cabrakaän who are steadily in the process of relocating to Canada. Despite their transition from the sunny south to the Arctic north, this quintet remain in high spirits, come taco-loaded and are ready to face the music as they deliver the Jarabe Tapatío metal-style. The Mexican quintet spoke to GMA about their love for Mexican folklore, their relocation to Canada and how important it is to reflect your national culture.
"We also like to use pre-Hispanic mythology in our songs as an analogy to the economic and social issues Mexico is going through nowadays"
For those who don't know, could you give us a brief history of Cabrakaän and the meaning behind the band name?
"Cabrakaän is a project formed in 2012, in Toluca, Mexico by Pat Cuikani and Marko Cipaktli. We had the idea of making a metal band in which we could add a little bit of our culture in it. Since Mexico has both Indigenous and Spanish roots, pre-hispanic and symphonic elements were something we definitely wanted to combine.
Regarding the name, Cabrakaän is the Mayan god of mountains and earthquakes and he is mentioned in the sacred Mayan book known as 'Popol Vuh' (considered a bible to them). Based on the strong meaning of Cabrakaän, we thought it would be suitable for the project, we just added a second 'a' to make it look more interesting."
How does it feel to sign with Sliptrick Records? What is support for metal music like in Mexico? Was it easy/hard to relocate to Canada?
"It’s amazing to have the support of a label such as Sliptrick Records. We feel very pleased and way more confident in working with them. Mexico has a huge metal scene. There are even a couple of festivals that are considered the biggest in Latin America, but they have a huge preference for foreign big bands, which is sad considering that there is so much local talent.
You can find many bands with a very interesting sound all around the country. Although there is not much support for those bands and that's why most of them (including us, of course) look for more opportunities abroad. That’s something that needs to change in Mexico.
And yes, some of us are still in the process of relocation, it’s not easy, it takes time. Plus, it is always hard to leave one's homeland and adapt to another place and culture. The cold is another thing that is not easy at all… haha."
You sing about Mexican folklore alongside Meso-American mythologies, what inspired you to choose these themes? How important is it for metal bands to reflect their national culture and heritage?
"Spirituality is something we grew up with, its part of our lives even though we are not religious of any kind, we feel connected to our land in soul and heart. And instead of just telling an ancient story we also like to use pre-Hispanic mythology in our songs as an analogy to the economic and social issues Mexico is going through nowadays, so Mexican people can relate somehow. We want them to remember that once, we used to be the great Aztec Empire, and we can always be reborn as a new and much better nation. We think every metal band reflects a little of their roots and countries not only in their sound but in the message behind their lyrics as well."
With that in mind do you feel people can learn things they never knew from listening to metal music; so for example stories told within Mexican folklore?
"Absolutely, that’s the idea. Mexican folklore is quite different from the European, its indigenous roots make it quite interesting. And the mythology is so vast and rich that people will learn many things they never heard before for sure."
How did you get into metal music in the first place? Does your family members play metal music or any instruments?
"We all got into metal for different reasons at some point in our lives, but the truth is we listen to all kinds of music just because we love it. Although we all found a great way to express ourselves through metal, that's for sure. Some of us have a few relatives who are musicians but not in our immediate family. The biggest influence we had that really got us into music, I guess, was just our records we listened to since we were kids. We also used to play in different metal local bands since we were very young."
With your new album "Cem Anahuac My Home" due out next year, will you look to tour North America and maybe Europe in support of it?
"Oh yeah, absolutely!! We are looking forward to playing either North America, Europe, or both if possible."
Are there some phrases metalheads could say in Spanish at your shows to show support for the band?
Yeah, of course. A couple of phrases would be:
Are there any greetings or thank you's you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?.
"We would like to thank all our fans for supporting us and being a part of our family to this day. The feedback we get from you allows us to keep improving and making what we love the most. Music. Thank you so very much, and stay tuned because great things are coming next year!"
With a population that rivals the entire population of the British cities of Liverpool and Sheffield, you couldn't fault Suriname for having a close-knit metal scene. Despite it's size it has a strong and ever-growing scene. Flying the flag for the Surinamese Metal scene is Groove Metal / Metalcore outfit Asylum, who this year won the Wacken Metal Battle Caribbean (previously won by Trinidad & Tobago's Lynchpin; first edition winners) and ultimately went to Wacken Festival in Germany where they placed 9th internationally at the Wacken Metal Battle, not too shabby for a band who only formed six years ago and released their debut EP 'Domination' this year. GMA spoke to the band's vocalist Romeo about their scene, the band's history and their experience at being at Wacken Open Air.
"It (winning WMBC) put things into perspective... we were going to be ambassadors for the entire Caribbean region in Europe."
For those who have not heard of Asylum, could you give us a brief history of the band? Were you in previous bands?
"Asylum is a metal band from Suriname, South America, that formed in 2012. The name refers to the band being a safe haven for metalheads in a country where metal is severely frowned upon. Asylum incorporates traditional Death and Thrash Metal with their own South American style they dub “Srananmetal”. Asylum first had a long standing underground scene before they broke out and gained notoriety in the Caribbean metal scene. In 2018 Asylum headlined local festivals and won the Wacken Metal Battle Caribbean 2018 in Trinidad and finished 9th place internationally at the Wacken Metal Battle in Germany. 3 of the 4 members have been in previous bands and various projects."
What is the Surinamese Metal scene like? How long has it been going? Is it big?
"While metal dates back to the 1970’s, metalheads today are even more passionate about the music. Being a small country the scene is relatively small but it is healthy and growing."
What challenges as a metal band from Suriname do you face?
"First and foremost, the financial aspect. Since the scene is small, you have to do a lot of self-investment and organizing for shows and travels. Everything is paid out of pocket."
How did it feel to win the Wacken Metal Caribbean Battle this year? What was your Wacken experience like?
"In Trinidad it was our first time playing outside of the country. We did not expect to be so well received by the Trinidadian fans and the whole experience blew our minds. It put things into perspective as we realized we were going to be ambassadors for the entire Caribbean region in Europe. We not only wanted to make our country proud but every metalhead across the Caribbean.
Coming from a small country, none of us really get to see the metal greats perform. We rarely get to see any big shows or much less perform at one. Suddenly we shared the same stage as our South American heroes, Sepultura, and performed in from of thousands of cheering metalheads. It electrified us to our cores and this experience has given us the necessary tools and ambition to continue on this journey of metal domination. Big plans for 2019."
What nationalities for the battle were there? Is the wider Caribbean scene big?
"There were 30 countries and or regions represented. The wider Caribbean scene isn’t as big as the rest of the world. But the isolation has led to a lot of unique creativity from the bands and the scene is very lively and unlike anything you may see abroad."
For metalheads visiting Paramaribo, what sights / attractions could you recommend?
"We recommend you head on over to Unker Bunker Terras and get information on local shows and events. They are sporadic, but when they happen it’s a lot of fun and there everyone is welcome."
In general, how has 2018 been for the band? How will you sign off the year and enter 2019?
"2018 has been the most successful and fulling year for the band so far. It has left us motivated and we are pursuing new horizons in 2019. Our dicks are hard."
Are there any greetings, thank you’s, etc., that you wish to send out?
"We’d like to say hello to everyone who hasn’t heard about us and invite them to check us out and be part of the Asylum. We’d like to thank all our fans who made 2018 so memorable. We do this for the love of Metal, thanks GMA for this interview. Stay metal."