Emphasis are not holding back nor are they slowing down, the Estonian Progressive / Symphonic Power Metallers have signed a deal with Japanese label Red Rivet Records. Thus giving the band the momentum to reach deep into the Asian market and help expose not only their music, but the rich vibrant sounds the Estonian Metal scene has to offer. It has been two years since the sextet dropped their debut album "Revival" and now they're revelling in their latest offering "Soul Transfer", deviating away from the structural guidelines laid before them in search of a truly inspirational sound for the album as the band go on to explain... it did not happen by sheer accident.
How does it feel to release your second album 'Soul Transfer'; especially on Japanese label Red Rivet Records? Where does this place itself in terms of the band's history and the wider Estonian Metal scene?
"Estonia is a small country and our metal scene is very small as well. Actually, there's only one metal label – Nailboard Records. Many years ago they signed bands, but now they work more as a distribution company. So it means that we have no choice and it's pretty common that Estonian artists sign deals with foreign labels. So, as you know, our previous album was released on the Italian label "Underground Symphony". This time we sent our record to a list of labels over the world and we were happy to get positive feedback from Japan. Red Rivet Records offered us reasonable conditions and we're still happy about our co-operation. And yes, for us every action and step forward is kind of achievement."
Regarding the 'Soul Transfer' track-list, could you explain the meaning behind the percentages?; Assuming it ties in with the album title?
"Soul Transfer is a concept album, an entire complete original story where the order of the compositions are arranged in a certain meaningful sequence. All the tracks are combined through smooth transitions or short instrumental sketches, which underlines and complements the full picture of the idea. In order to understand what we wanted to convey to the listener, you need to listen to the disc from start to finish in one session: from zero to one hundred percent with a total duration of 73 minutes. So, in the album, three main lines are closely intertwined: the inner world of feelings and memories of the character, the world of virtual reality created by a super computer, and the real material non-industrial world and its society, manipulated by gadgets and social media.
Using non-tradtional metal instruments can sometimes be considered unorthodox (in this case a saxophone and trumpet). What gave you the inspiration to include said instruments? How was it working with Raul Sööt and Allan Järve? Can we call the album 'Avant-Garde' or 'Progressive Jazz Metal'?
"I expected such a question... creating music for "Soul Transfer", initially I did not think about jazz instruments, as well as about violins. The album was at the stage of mixing... there were a lot of instrumental parties and it did not sound boring. But one evening, when the light at the end of the tunnel was already close, I went to the shower. Standing under the hot water, I thought: damn! I want to add something else, why not the jazz sounds? After two beers I opened my computer, sketched out my ideas, and messaged one saxophonist. In the morning I got a negative answer from him. I was quite mad and decided to make a last effort. I wrote a message to one of the best musicians in Estonia - my former harmony teacher and tenor saxophonist Raul Sööt. Next morning he answered me that it will be interesting for him to take a part in this project.
After that I was thinking about trumpet. Then I messaged to Allan Järve, who was my friend at the Viljandi Academy of Culture. He quickly came to my studio and we recorded a trumpet for two tracks in an hour. Raul Sööt took the task very responsibly. He recorded his parts at the studio with Cristo Cotkas, there were several sessions. When I mixed the album, including their parts, I realized that this is exactly what I would like to hear in the end. The other members of the Emphasis were shocked. They listened to the songs several times and said that it sounds cool, albeit unusual. Avant-garde it or not – let the reviewers to decide :) But for me this record is exactly what I always wanted to record, even at those times, when in our group were only three members - me, Katya and Vsevolod. Ten years passed and we did it! I want to say a big thank you to all the musicians who shared this work with us - Raul Sööt, Allan Jarve, my friend from Moscow - Oleg Lutskevich, and also my colleague Julia Mets and my student Alexander Smirnov."
Assuming there will be a tour to support the new album, are there any countries you would want to target? Will there be a music video released in support?
"Currently, we don't plan any tour activities. Our album release party took place in Rockstar's club in Tallinn on April 14. The most of the songs we played for the really first time in our lives and we really enjoyed that! The crowd was amazing. We decided to focus on promotional stuff. Yes, we have some great plans about music video .. but let's see! :)"
For metal fans travelling to Tallinn and wider Estonia, what sights / attractions could you recommend seeing?
"Rockstar's club – the oldest rock club in town, actually! Hard Rock Laager Open Air, of course. If you want to discover more, I totally recommend you to visit Narva, home town of three of our musicians, and got Art Club "Ro-Ro“. Believe me, there's really special atmosphere :)"
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year that have not already been indicated earlier?
"We are planning to open our online-shop, finally! There you can find our musical stuff and some really cool merchandise. As Anna said, we also have some plans about music video, but.... now we're not ready to discuss it. However, GMA will be the first source who'll get a link ;)"
Anna (vocals): "In autumn, we plan to play more shows. This spring was really hard for us!"
Max (guitars): "And we also plan to continue with the new material."
Pavel (guitars): "... 3,5 of the songs done :D"
Are there any greetings you wish to send out to fans, friends, family, etc?
All: "We wish you to visit more live shows and support local underground scene!"
Metal music is unmistakably global, we've seen the rise of metal bands from all corners of the globe, from Brazil's Sepultura to New Zealand's Ulcerate and all the countries in-between and... basically everywhere. However it's multinational bands and projects that just show the solidarity this music brings irrespective of religious, cultural, political or societal traits... Metal is the Mecca of open-mindedness. Akheth, a project generally central to Canada features members from American, Dutch, Iranian and Mexican backgrounds and as they drop their debut single it's only right that they get all the attention they deserve because Akheth are not just a band, they are a prime example of 'metalisation' (a portmanteau of metal and globalisation; I just made it up); that is the power of metal music bringing different nationalities together under one roof.
Akheth gave us an insight into their world, their new single, their paths to metal and the challenges of being a project separated by vast lands and open seas.
How did Akheth come about? What does the band name mean and how did that come about?
"The band started from the first demo of 'The Asylum' we did back in 2015. It was a song that I had written in 2011 for my band at the time. When I saw a few YouTube videos of Mahafsoun singing I asked her if she'd be interested in recording vocals for the song. We finished that demo but didn't create Akheth as a band until late 2016. The name of the band is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents where the sun rises or sets. I chose this name for the band because I was looking for something original and short and Akheth was the name of the first song I ever wrote back in 2006, so it has a special meaning."
Seeing as you all live in four countries, do you send recordings over the net or do you meet up on occasion?
"Mahafsoun and I have met a few times but most of the work we do is through the internet. I send the guys complete demos with guide vocals or just the skeleton of a song when I'm still working on it. From there they learn it and add their own thing to it. There is also a new song that we are working on for the EP on which Mahafsoun wrote the main piano parts, it is the first song we are writing together. Next month (April) Mahafsoun and I will meet and practice the vocal lines for the new songs."
What (apart from the previous question) challenges do you face as an international band?
"Sometimes communicating ideas over the internet is difficult, you can't really explain for example a melody or a complicated section over an e-mail. Besides that recording everything separately, specially with a low budget is hard because you have to take all those different tracks recorded in different places and make them fit together. Of course with the technology we have these days it's a bit easier but some of us are still learning and getting more experience as we work more on recording music. Lastly the cost of getting all of us together in the same place, every time we want to do it one of us has to get a flight somewhere."
Mahafsoun, what was it like growing up as a metal fan in Iran? What does your family think of metal music?
"During the time I lived in Iran, I was only eight years old. Because of this I never got to experience what it's like to be a metal fan growing up in Iran. However my mum and dad nowadays enjoy some metal. In the beginning they didn't really care about it, but after I showed them the different sub-genres of metal, they each found one that they really enjoyed listening to. I believe that for each of them, they enjoy metal more nowadays especially because they know that I have such a strong connection to the music and the culture."
You released your debut single 'The Asylum' this year, what has the reception been like and how did you come up with the single title?
"At the time of writing The Asylum and other songs I had the idea of making them all fit together in a concept album. The story is about the human mind and how insane it can sometimes be. So at the beginning of the story everything is somewhat abstract but getting to this song, The Asylum, you start to figure out what it was all about. At this point we aren't even talking about the full length, since we are working on the EP, so we'll have to see if we keep the same subject.
So far the reception has been great! People from all over the world ordered our CD's and merch, as a new band we didn't really expect that so we are very thankful for the support. Not only that but people also liked our music and we were lucky to have Mark from Epica as a guest on the song!
Will the single be included on your impending EP / debut album in the future?
"Our EP will contain 5 new songs and we will include 'The Asylum' as a bonus. Although for our first full length album we talked about re-recording the song because this single was basically home-made and we had some comments about our production quality. So yes! we will have a much better version of 'The Asylum' but it'll have to wait until we record our full length."
How would you describe your style of metal? Who influences you?
"Right now we only have that one song out so it is still too early for people to really know what our style is. However in a review for Metal Injection they called us Progressive Symphonic Metal and we really liked that term because it doesn't limit us to play the same thing all the time. We have so many influences that go from Progressive Rock all the way to Black or Death Metal and everything in between. I think our music will definitely reflect that. Also each one of us has different tastes and styles of playing our instruments or singing.
The good thing is that we are all open minded and so is most of the metal community, our core will always be metal so I think most people will find something that they enjoy in our music. For our EP we are working on a ballad, also other longer songs with middle eastern vibes and instrumental sections. Some songs have more orchestra and others are more riff oriented so you guys can get an idea. The beauty of Symphonic Metal is that you can do so many different things with it and when you throw in the progressive part you get even more variety.
As far as specific bands that influence us I'd personally say Opeth, Dream Theater, Tool, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Evergrey, David Gilmour, Steven Wilson to mention a few. Mahafsoun likes Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Septicflesh, Moonspell. There would be too many to mention them all!"
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Our plans for this year besides the EP are making our first official videos together! We'd like to thank you and everybody for supporting Akheth and we hope you keep an eye out for our EP towards the second half of the year!"
Although metal music has been around for the past 4 decades (40 years), it is yet to fully touch every country in the world, and whilst Europe, North America, South America and Asia, with the addition of Australia and New Zealand have embraced metal music and it's culture (with the exception of the Vatican City and a handful of Caribbean islands), the African continent and Oceanian nations have yet to join the global legion.
However, there are a number of African countries who have metal music history established such as South Africa and Egypt, but, there are some Sub-Sahara countries like Uganda who are very underground and regularly get omitted from the New Wave of Sub-Saharan Metal.
Enter Vale Of Amonition, a Progressive Doom Metal band who have been romping the streets of Kampala for nearly a decade. Having released countless singles, 3 demo's, an EP, a compilation and their debut album, the Ugandan metal flag-bearers return with their second album "Those of Tartarean Ancestry", a solid effort given the slew of drummers who have come and gone over the last decade. GMA spoke to frontman Victor Rosewrath about Vale Of Amonition's current position, the Ugandan Metal scene and his thoughts on metal music.
"Metal has a rebellious energy attached to its ethos and construction... Metal will always find its people"
Vale Of Amonition and Threatening appear to be the only active metal bands in Uganda, what is new in the metal scene?
"There's probably a bit more underground or starting bands than we are aware of because we haven't really kept tabs on the development of the scene. I was aware of a few musicians trying to get things started here and there but I really can't say for sure."
How was 2017 for Vale of Amonition?
"2017 was one of the best years for the Vale. We released our long awaited second album, we headlined the Nairobi Metal Fest, I worked with an exciting new band called Doomcast with whom I released an E.P titled "Farewell To The Flesh" and we partied like crazy. It really has been thoroughly awesome."
You have just released your latest effort 'Those Of Tartarean Ancestry', what was the reception like?
"The reception for "Those of Tartarean Ancestry" has been great. We've matured tremendously as a band and we are in a much better position as songwriters to express the darkness of the Vale. I'm glad our fans and supporters are able to understand and appreciate what we are doing."
What do the Ugandan authorities think of metal music? What does society think of it? What do your parents think of metal music?
"They all hate it. But we never cared in the first place. We're not going to start giving a shit now."
Growing up as a musician, what challenges did you face? What challenges do you face these days?
"The challenges I faced were access to the equipment I needed until I realized there's ways around that and there's magic in making the most of what you have. I think my biggest challenge now is separating myself from the Vale and the Vale from me because I am really getting worried about my mental health."
There is a metal scene in Kenya, but do you know of any rock / metal bands from Rwanda, DRC or South Sudan? Do you envisage metal music to be present in every African country one day?
"Yes. I know metal will spread from one end to end of Africa someday. It probably won't happen but I'm an optimistic man despite what you might have heard."
What would you say attracts people to metal music? Living in war-ravaged areas? Corruption? Poverty? What are your thoughts on how metal has an affect on people?
"Metal has a rebellious energy attached to its ethos and construction. It's in the wiring of the music and the culture it has spawned...even the more depressive, introspective metal has a loner, me-against-the-world quality about it. That is very relevant today as it has always been. Metal will always find its people."
What plans do you have for 2018?
"More shows, more music."
Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Not particularly. I keep in contact with most people I care about. Maybe a shout out to Peter Steele in the nether regions. Thank you for the music, Green Man."
It's always nice to see individuals or groups giving the their input towards a relief effort and Omotai are no exception. Having provided a track for the Hurricane Harvey Benefit Compilation, this Texas unit are committed to bringing charity to those affected by the hurricane in late August / early September.
GMA had to catch up with the guys to talk about this sensational venture, their origins and the extreme weather Texas has to deal with, that being tornadoes as well as hurricanes.
Vocalist / Guitarist Jamie Ross gave the honours.
"Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around [from Hurricane Harvey]"
Hi guys, firstly could you give us a brief history of how Omotai came about as a band? What does the name mean?
"It all started back in 2010, when Sam Waters (vocals / guitars) enlisted the help of Melissa Lonchambon Ryan (vocals / bassist) and then-drummer Anthony Vallejo to record the debut EP, Peace Through Fear. That line-up remained unchanged through the next two releases, 2012's Terrestrial Grief (the debut full-length) and 2014's Fresh Hell--both released on local label The Treaty Oak Collective. I joined the line-up as a second guitarist in 2013, pretty soon following the recording of Fresh Hell, but prior to its release.
Anthony left soon after, his final show being at a 2014 SXSW appearance. Danny Mee took over drumming duties in time to complete some touring in support of Fresh Hell in 2014 and 2015. We've been hard at work ever since, writing and recording our latest double LP, A Ruined Oak, which is set to debut on October 6th on Tofu Carnage Records. A West Coast excursion is planned to promote the record. The name Omotai is the Japanese word for "heavy," which Sam felt was an apt designation given the artistic direction of the band. Credit for the idea goes to our friend Evan Jones, who taught English in Japan for a spell."
Would you say that the 2017 hurricane season has been one of the worst in recent years?
"Most definitely. Sam's family tragically lost their home in the Bellaire section of Houston, which was hit especially hard. The season would have been horrific enough if Harvey and its aftermath were the extent of it. But Irma came along and devastated much of the Eastern Caribbean and Florida, then Maria recently ravaged Puerto Rico (which is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis). Houston's had its share of weather-related disasters--especially in the last few years. But here we are a month out from the date that Harvey made landfall, and many areas are still impassable. Also, the waste from homes being gutted has built up into a logistical nightmare for removal companies that are still struggling to make inroads."
As you're from Texas, a state within tornado alley, have you ever seen a tornado? Has there been any notable ones hit Texas?
"We're a bit close to the Gulf of Mexico to be in the heart of tornado alley, but there were several in the area while Harvey was stalled over Houston. One hit the neighbourhood next to mine on that first Friday night--I could hear, but not see it. North Texas is the unlucky recipient of most of Texas' tornadoes."
Tell us about you getting involved in the Hurricane Harvey benefit compilation, where are the participating bands located? How can people donate?
"We were approached by Miss Champagne Records about contributing a track to the benefit record, Making Waves, the week following the Harvey disaster. It was the brainchild of the MCR staff and Mercy Harper from Football, etc. All of the bands are local to Houston, so the cause is obviously very meaningful to us all. We think it turned out wonderfully and we're honoured to be in the company of so many stellar Houston bands included on the compilation. All proceeds from the benefit comp go straight to Harvey relief, so it's a perfect way to donate AND listen to some rad music."
Did you sit out the hurricane or did you evacuate further inland? What were your thoughts at the time of Harvey's landfall?
"Danny was safely in Austin for the storm, but everyone else toughed it out here. When the storm finally hit, we knew that we were going to be in for an extended confinement at our homes (fully anticipated by the Houston masses, as evidenced by the the local grocery and liquor stores being completely fleeced), but no one anticipated how crippled the city would become. Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around. "
Would you agree that extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are a staple part of Mid-West and Southern American life?
"For sure. And, to make matters worse, the events are becoming more frequent and increasingly destructive."
Given the damage caused by Harvey, I can't imagine there being much band activity this year - please correct me if I'm assuming wrong and inform what you will be getting up to?
"There are several benefit shows sprouting up in the area, so the music community has been surprisingly resilient. As for Omotai, we've been concentrating on getting A Ruined Oak released, and we'll be embarking on a Western U.S. tour starting this Friday, September 29th. All of the dates are posted to our social media for those that would like to come out and hang."
Finally are there any hellos, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Firstly, our thoughts are with the Waters clan and all of our other Houston friends and family that are dealing with the loss of so much property, and coping with the resulting emotional challenges. Special thanks to Sean Mehl and Tofu Carnage Records for helping us put out the LP. And, finally, thanks to all who have supported us over the years--it truly means a lot."
Essex is known for many things, some of them and some bad. It's metal scene is one of the good things and then there's TOWIE (The Only Way Is Essex) which is the worst thing to happen since My Chemical Romance being classed as a metal band.
But focusing on the metal scene, it's had the likes of Tides of Virtue, Forged In Black, Sanctorum, Dismanibus, etc grace the fertile soil from Southend and Colchester respectively. However when one speaks of Basildon, one thinks of Depeche Mode, chavs, Basildon Bond paper, Denise Van Outen., etc, and now there is Raze The Void.
GMA caught up with the Essex mob to find out how they fared with Bloodstock, the Essex Metal scene, debut EP and plans ahead.
"the title itself 'Obsolescence' covers what the current state of the world really is; the system is obsolete"
Raze The Void has only been going a year, were you all in previous bands prior? How did Raze The Void come to be?
"We have all been playing together for around with each other for 15 years nearly and just managed to get together and start a band from that after realising we all wanted to start playing and touring and seeing the world. RTV literally came from out of a dustbin a few years before we started playing the scene."
The Essex Metal scene seems to be a little quiet at the moment, could you tell us the current state of the scene?
"From Essex, apart from it being quiet, to really. There are some amazing acts in and around Essex, but you just have to sift through the venues and have a look out there and see for yourself."
Having played Bloodstock, what was your experience like? How did you end up winning a slot? What advice could you give Metal 2 The Masses bands next year who are vying for a slot?
"Bloodstock and everyone who we met from it and regarding it were amazing, very supportive and the feedback from everyone and all the reviews have been awesome and extremely positive.
For anyone out there who is going to go into it; be serious but have fun. If you believe what you do it the best thing you do, you have fun doing it and you all have fun playing with each then do it, go for it, be the best band you can band!
If you doubt anything you say or do or if you're not professional enough or not having enough fun, the crowd will sniff you and not like what they are smelling. They are as much a part of you as you are of them, so be there with them, get them involved. That okay?"
As a band are you worried at the lack of local venues with only Chelmsford's The Asylum, Southend's Chinnerys, Harlow's The Square and the Colchester Arts Centre being the sole main ones?
"It's not a worry when you can book outside of Essex and in fact, to just book in Essex, from experience, people then just seem to feel like that they will miss that one and go to another one as it's only up the road or whatever. Bra chin out into other places and leaving home has not only proved well for us, but is something that everyone should do and we in fact recommend. The live music scene is dieting but it's not dead."
Outside of music, what other hobbies or interests do you have?
"We all work full time and between that and the band; writing, playing, re-writing and down time there isn't a lot between, but some of use do things like cycling, rock climbing, wind surfing, extreme ironing; mainly physical activities. We are all very involved in quizzes and chess and some of us have other music projects going. We are generally very busy."
Tell us more about your debut EP, where was it recorded? What does the title mean?
"We recorded the EP with one of the most talented and hard working men we have ever worked with who we honestly consider family now, a man named Dan Kerr or Avenue studios; absolute genius!
The EP and from that flowing into the upcoming album is all conceptional, revolving around human error, greed, the rising of the underground movement, corruption and the title itself 'Obsolescence' covers what the current state of the world really is; the system is obsolete."
What plans do you have for the year ahead? Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"The album is being written literally as this being typed out to you....now. We will continue gigging and getting the RTV name out there to people and then launching the new album along with more media stuff and hopefully some new merch. It's all going UP!
Shout out to Quimby, everyone who has helped us get this far, turned up and sung along with us, Nick Plews, Bob from Club 85, Ross, Phil and the boys for all their support and love and physical moves and to Neil- we hope you recover soon. "