As the Metal 2 The Masses (M2TM) kicks into full swing with heats across the breadth of the UK and abroad taking place, bands progressing whilst some fall by the wayside, it's once again time for GMA to probe the bands who have entered this prestigious competition that allows the eventual region winners to earn a slot at playing the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Open Air Festival near Burton-Upon-Trent.
Second up is Black Atlas from Luton; questions answered by guitarist Peter Hunt.
How did Black Atlas form and what is the meaning behind the band name?
"Black Atlas formed through a want to get back out on the local scene and play music we enjoyed. We had all been in previous bands at one point with one member or another. We gelled together pretty quickly, working on a few song ideas which have stuck with us since the beginning.
The name came through the normal pain of us passing ideas around. Black Atlas was an idea Peter had knocked about for a while. As a few of our favourite bands are Black Sabbath and Black Label Society we went with it. The idea behind it is a simple combination of Black signifying the music as it simply defines Heavy Music. Atlas is to show we pull influences from a range of bands, and that we don't want our music to be defined by borders."
What range of influences do you take? Band-wise and sound-wise?
"This question would have a massive list of bands, but I guess our main core influences fall as;
Kyuss; Corrosion of Conformity; Fu Manchu; Black Sabbath; Black Label Society; Alice in Chains. Those bands show what we are about and capture the sound we want to put across."
Is this your first time participating in M2TM? (If yes are you / were you nervous? If no what emotions were / are you feeling?)
"We actually took part last year as well. It was great fun. Even though we were did not progress we really enjoyed it. The mix of bands was great, showcasing all varieties of heavy music.
We are also fortunate to know previous winners in bands such as Scar City and Countless Skies. That makes it a lot more real, seeing local bands we've played with or know from the scene. We've all seen BOTB competitions, and with rubbish on TV like X Factor and the Voice manufacturing bands and artists, M2TM is something which is a lot more relatable and to us will have a greater longevity and meaning than the others. It's just what real music needs."
What is the Luton / Bedfordshire Metal scene like?
"We've been knocking around the scene for a few years now. We once got refereed to as the 'old guards' even though we consider ourselves still young. Overall the scene is healthy, there is always young blood coming in so there is never a shortage of bands. I think the main struggle we've seen is the willingness for venues to support heavy music. Getting a crowd down and making nights successful for a venue has been what has hit the scene the hardest. We've seen a few venues close, and some fortunately open up again.
Too many people would prefer to pay money to see someone play a cover of a song someone else sings, and was most likely written by another person. The best thing about metal though is it doesn't die. With ongoing support from promoters like Luton Lives and Bedford Alternative Music it has all lived and will always live."
What hobbies does the band have outside of music?
"We've all got a collective mix really. Peter is into his cars, running a Japanese car club and probably spending too much money on them. He also enjoys his photography and is a keen cinema goer. Wilson also has a passion for cars, and usually if you don't find us playing music we will be tinkering on our cars. He also has his own business. SWFX (swfxpedals.co.uk) He designs and builds custom stomp boxes/pedals. We actually use a lot of them in our sound. From fuzz pedals, to custom wahs and delays.
Mikey recently became a father for the second time. So he has his hands full looking after a the little one currently. Aside from that he enjoys his 5 a side football. He used to also scout bands back in a previous life, working with Basick Records finding some great new artists. Jimi is a big horror fan and a prominent gig goer. He used to support the local scene by putting on gigs around Luton and support Luton Lives in its early days. We all like to keep fit as well, through either the gym or running.
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"Our main goal for this year is to be gigging more, building up a solid fan base and then spreading too some wider locations. We're working on some new material as well, writing new songs and developing our overall sound.
We are also looking to do some more recording to follow up our debut EP, and then hopefully tie that in with a video. And while all that's going on we will have a right old laugh as well. As you've got to enjoy what you do."
Possibly one of the more controversial interviews we have done, given the current crisis in the eastern half of The Ukraine.
Melancholic Orchestra are a duo who play Gothic Doom Metal in it's instrumental form, the band formed in Donetsk, The Ukraine in 2009 and to date have one demo and two albums out. The most recent album "Forest of Insomnia" was released online in August 2014 and features ten tracks.
GMA sat down with Viktor Chelgy and spoke about the Ukrainian Metal scene, including current problems and the lack of exposure alongside the band's history
Hi Viktor, could you give us a brief history behind Melancholic Orchestra?
Hi!!! The start of our creative path originated back in 2009, when we had a different name. It is not easy to determine the style, in fact we wrote songs in different genres ranging from Ambient to Gothic. But in early 2013, we decided to release a demo album and create it by using different styles, in fact it was an experimental release to see how our people and fans would react.
Since Melancholic Orchestra are from The Ukraine, could you give us an insight into the metal scene (places to gig, the scene history, problems faced there, etc)
Yes we are from The Ukraine, and we have a very difficult situation within the metal scene, especially in our hometown of Donetsk, rarely are there any concerts, the television channels do not broadcast or promote any metal bands, instead they mostly cover pop and rap, I find it difficult to even call it music.
The conflict between Russia and The Ukraine, how is this affecting the scene? Are there less gigs?
The conflict does not affect the scene because the music is not linked to the policies.
Melancholic Orchestra have just released their second album "Forest Of Insomnia", can you tell us the background behind it?
It was very hard work when recording and producing the album "Forest Of Insomnia", as there were technical issues. Currently we decided to take a break and start writing new material for the next album.
You play Gothic / Doom Metal, but of the instrumental kind, what made you choose this?
Basically it's just that this style is closer to us in spirit at present.
How did you get into playing music and who influences you?
I personally have been going long in the music scene, I work as a teacher at the music school. My colleague Vitaly also soon began to play music but only as a composer.
What can fans of Forest of Insomnia expect from you in the near future?
From us you can expect anything, so expect more experiments and good music
Are there any greetings you wish to send out to fans, friends, etc?
I would like to convey a message to all of the fans of our music, a huge hello and listen only to good music!!
Rhys, thanks for the interesting conversation, good luck to you!!
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