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!"
Most people would associate Taiwan as one of those countries you could find labelled on the inside of some of the garments you own, but for metalheads it's known as a vibrant metal scene with ChthoniC as their leading export... following in the Oriental Black Metallers footsteps are a legion of metal bands who are ready to take the Taiwanese scene forward onto newer and greater heights.
One such band is Frost Tears (冰霜之淚), whose blend of Symphonic Gothic Metal and Oriental Metal is so amazing that you would lost in trying to find a band who can be compared to this majestic group. GMA spoke to the group to find out what life as a Taiwanese Metal musician is like, plans for the year ahead among other things. Answers are gratefully and surprisingly received in both Taiwanese and English.
"'Joyous shout' is a song which returns to the pure combination of power metal and symphony metal"
How long has Frost Tears been going and has any of the members been in previous bands?
"冰霜之淚迄今已經㒟立八年，到目前為止，歷經三任鼓手᧤現任鼓手 Ibara 第ℛ任᧥；三任貝㠾手᧤現任貝㠾手 Mone 是第ℛ任᧥；吉他手 Dio 是第ℛ任᧤鍵 盤手 Yu 則在 2016 年離團，主唱 Len
與吉他手 Taku 一直是原始團員。目前並不 積極尋找㠿任鍵盤手，因為㒠們覺得改變樂器編制也許是個有趣的ℚ情。在 2017 年在演出的配置加入了一位大提琴手 Tetsu.
It's been 8 years since Frost Tears was formed by Len (Vocal), Taku (Lead Guitar) and Ibara (Drums). The other present members include Mone (Bass) and Dio (Rhythm Guitar), who are the second members at bass and rhythm guitar. Tetsu, our current cellist, joined us in 2017, which may be an interesting idea or choice to change our band formation due to former keyboardists leave in 2016."
What is it like being a metal musician / fan in Taiwan? What is the scene like and is metal supported well?
都沒᭷幾個金屬樂團ྍ以ᡂ為主流，也因Ṉᡃ們在這八年來所學到的心態，便是 做ᡃ們想做的音樂即ྍ，要跟隨閃靈的 腳 ṉ並不是件容易的事，而即使像閃靈身 為ྎ灣最紅的金屬團，卸下樂手光環ᚋ，
ChthoniC as Taiwan's most known metal band has their own way of standing in Taiwan and so do we. In fact, few of Taiwan's (or maybe countries / religions besides Northern Europe) metal bands became famous. So even if we still try to fulfil our destiny in our own way, our conclusion for Metal in Taiwan is simply make perfect music, and THAT IS ENOUGH. "
You're about to release your fourth EP 'Conscious Being' in a few weeks time, will there be a tour in support of the release?
"目前還在企劃中，ྍ能在六᭶，因為ᡃ們沒᭷足 夠 的經費同時做 夠 多的ⓐ行 和ᐉ傳活動，所以也不急，一件一件的完ᡂ就好ࠋ
Actually, we are planning for a tour in Taiwan to begin maybe in June, so things like funds searching or promotion activity is now in process."
Have you played outside of Taiwan, if so where? What challenges as a Taiwanese band do you face when booking overseas gigs?
"ᡃ們曾經在 2015 年到過日本，2016 年到馬來西亞演出ࠋ對ᡃ們而言，演出內
容與器材ࠊ場地並不是問題，觀眾也都 夠 多ࠋ其實對ᡃ們而言，最困難的是籌ࠋ措旅費
We've been to Japan in 2015 and Malaysia in 2016. Shows were perfect for their own when the most difficult part is still the operation funds."
What did you differently for the new EP in comparison to your previous releases?
"因為團員變動，創作方式自然也會改變ࠋ新的 EP 除了首支單曲 Joyous shout 回到像 power
或 symphony metal 那種比較直ⓑ的音樂型態之外，另外三首則是以 現在的編制去重新改寫第一張
The new single 'Joyous shout' from 'Conscious Being' is a song which returns to the pure combination of power metal and symphony metal. Others are remade versions of 3 songs from our first EP which has improved tones, path of mixing and in some parts a change of lyrics and melody. It's a way for us to face and challenge our past."
For those visiting Taiwan, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What bars could you recommend?
"對於訪問ྎ灣的遊ᐈ，你ྍ以推薦哪些景點 / 景點？你ྍ以推薦什麼酒吧
'Jiufen' for 1 day touring and 'Revolver'͛ for alcohol."
What plans do you have for the year ahead?
The first priority is to complete our next new album despite our slow working progress, but we'll still make a try."
Do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
Hey guys we are Frost Tears from Taiwan! We welcome you to subscribe to us on our official Facebook page 'Frost Tears 冰霜之淚' to get the latest information of us! We wish to see you, Thank you!
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!"
It is an undeniable fact that Africa, along with Australasia / Oceania, are the last frontiers of metal music, with the exception to a handful of countries e.g. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. Of course in Sub-Sahara Africa and North Africa there are far more metal scenes than in West Africa. However with Gabon's Iron Sliver, Nigeria's Threadstone and Ghana's Dark Suburb making noise, it was only fair for Cameroon to join the metal music movement.
Roar Of Heroes are a Symphonic / Gothic Metal unit who are comprised of two musicians - Azra-Freyja and Anarchist 1st), formed from the ashes of a previous moniker - 'Silent Echoes', a six-piece band whose activities did not last long and thus gave birth to this new entity.
GMA caught up with the duo and asked them what it is like to be metal music fans in Cameroon, what challenges there are and where do they see the African Metal movement in the future.
"Our society has never stopped judging this amazing philosophy, they still think metal is one of the devil's creations."
Could you give us a history of Roar Of Heroes, how it started and what challenges you face as a band?
"Roar Of Heroes' story is so long that a message won't be able to tell you the entire story in detail, so we summarize: in the beginning, the band was called Silent Echoes and had 6 members; a complete line-up with 2 female vocalists. The band performed together twice in February and June 2016, but after the June show, the band split-up and 6 months later was reborn as Roar of Heroes, with only two members of Silent Echoes, and this has been the same since then.
The Cameroonian Metal scene doesn't seem to have been around for a long while, when did it roughly start and what is the scene currently like?
"Cameroon doesn't have a real metal scene. We had here, the "Festirock" which we believe started in 2014 and today it's at its 3rd edition. But the last one was more of a "simple live show" than "metal show", including all types of music. So we don't really know nowadays if we can still consider it as a metal scene. But, another scene is about to be born, "Silent Night", organized by A Black Card, the label which is producing our forthcoming album. We all hope this one will be great."
Are you aware of any other metal scenes near you? Would you agree that Africa is fairly young in terms of metal music being produced?
"Personally, we think Africa will have it's place in the future of Metal music (even though 90% of bands we know only do Death or Heavy Metal, excluding South Africa and the Arabic countries!! according to us). Of course, people do not really know about metal bands in Africa, but we are sure, when the occidental communication will give attention to this continent, things will quickly improve. People really have a metal soul here."
How did you become interested in metal music and what do your parents, friends, etc think of it? How does society perceive it? Have you played any local gigs?
"We used to say, "we didn't adopt metal, metal adopted us", meaning that we always had it in our soul. When you are young, and you have the "chance" to see Michael Jackson or Metallica on your parents TV, you definitely know that you won't do country or pop music in your life. Parents and friends encourage us just because they know that we play music, we prefer things to be this way, than them judging us too. Because effectively, our society has never stopped judging this amazing philosophy, they still think metal is one of the devil's creations."
What are your main influences for your music and have you released any EP's, albums?
"Influences? Revolution is for the moment our only influence. We think everyday that things should improve around us, not changing, but improving. We recently recorded an EP, and started recording our first studio album, but unfortunately, we had a "bad wind" in April 2017, which carried with him all our files, and we were obliged to restart everything... from nothing. We finally returned to the studio back in September, and we think all will be okay very soon."
Would you agree that countries steeped in devout Christianity would perceive metal music as a threat?
"Yes we do. According to us, we think that they are focused on past metal images, which was unfortunately dominated by Death Metal and other s (with the satanic side of the genre). But that's not our philosophy, we have one different from that. In our songs, we encourage people to build themselves, to go further, to be free, to exist and so on. We have a simple philosophy: The impossible is unthinkable."
Given the location of your band, have you had any fans emerge from overseas on Facebook? If so where?
"We sometimes receive greetings from Nigeria, South Africa, France, Italy, Belgium and USA. People telling us that they like what we do. So encouraging to read mails and sometimes messages on our Facebook fan-page. We will never thank them enough."
Where do you see the Cameroonian Metal scene in 5 years time? What changes need to happen to support the growth of the scene?
"We are convinced that, in less than five years, Roar Of Heroes will make the Cameroonian metal scene to be known in Africa and all over the world. First of all, people have to assume with a firm conviction their love for metal. Secondly, they have to eradicate every judgement, so according to us, the problem starts from metal lovers, only them can extend the philosophy. But, this is about to happen, our revolution started this way."
Finally do you have any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out?
"We would like to send a message to everyone reading this article:- "Firstly thanks for reading, secondly never forget guys that every second in your life is a chance to change your story!!! Never stop believing in what you feel! Revolutionary yours!"
Perhaps they might be from the bygone cosmonaut era, or they could be the humanoid form of the daleks, whatever you make of Russia's (or in their case an extra-terrestrial planet) Sunwalter one thing is for certain... they're clearly onto something. Mixing together the elegant beauty of Symphonic Power Metal with the feel for alien and space topics... you read that right... let's call it 'Xenology metal' for the hell of it.
Having released their latest cosmic opus 'Alien Hazard' it was only fitting to go completely 'Men In Black' on them and torture them with klingon... beam me up Scotty
"I like sci-fi stories, films, books and computer games. Songs about Satan and demons are typical of the black metal genre"
Hi guys, firstly can you tell us about the band's history and who came up with the name Sunwalter, what does it mean?
"Hi, Earthman. The history of our band started in 2008, but it was the old period, when we played Melodic Black Metal. The most significant changes happened in summer of 2016, when our crew was abducted by the grey alien race for three days. After the event we got our own spaceship and were assigned as intergalactic mediums between the extraterrestrial intelligence and the human race. This role is very important for our team. Through our songs we deliver information from the deep space to Earthmen, revealing to them new knowledge, concealed by the governments of the Earth states. All our messages are encrypted with alien codes which are impossible to be broken by earth technologies. The name "Sunwalter" consists of two words in two languages: Sun from English and Walterfrom Deutsch. That refers to an extraterrestrial over mind. Some Earthmen directly contact him in their dreams."
You've just released your second album 'Alien Hazard' (via Sliptrick), what has the response been like?
"This album shows really WOW effect. A few people typically say: “It’s a good album”, but much more people define it like a perfect conceptual release of the year. Especially if we speak about something unusual, like our genre, for example, 'Sci-Fi metal'. First, try to show us a band who play 100% space music and dedicate all songs to the universe. Then try to find musicians, who follow this ideology in their image, arts, outfits and in technical equipment during live shows. Surely, after this you'll get the best response from the audience. This is because we offer original content. And it’s only a part of our truth, another side is classified as top secret."
As you're from Russia, what can you tell us about the metal scene? I bet it's hard touring Russia given there's only really 2 major cities - Moscow and St. Petersburg?
"That's false. You described a typical stereotype, applied when somebody doesn’t want to work hard. We have enough cities for touring. In fact, many Russians don’t feel like creating something new and original, and even more of them are not ready for big tours. For this, they need to check a lot of info, work on the organization itself, spend money, etc. Many young musicians think, that after their first album some rich producer will find them and they will become rock stars, like in Hollywood films. And after the moment their dreams are broken, they find a million reasons to avoid working hard and keeping on improving their bands, creating lots of gossip, that Russia is not a rock ’n’ roll country."
Touring Europe I assume you have to apply for visas? With Brexit are you as a band concerned about touring the UK?
"We don’t need visas! Our spaceship just lands in a secret prepared place near the venue, then we play live and go back again to the orbit of the Earth, where we spend a lot of time.
Miran: By the way, it will be really great to tour in the UK as well as in many other countries because we know that there are lots of abductees and people who share our interest in cosmic themes. We’d like to spread the word of alien races all over the world."
What does the authorities / government think of metal music, has there been any problems? Have your parents mentioned about rock / metal existing in the days of the USSR? What (if anything) can you tell us about said music in the USSR? (perhaps a question for Myutel?)
Myutel: "Is it about the Universal Space Systems Reunion (USSR)? Well, that's the union of planetary mining systems, isn't it? They united after the defeat in the civil war, that had broken out after the workers demanded an improvement of their life comfort and additional compensation for hard labour conditions. There was that, what's-his-name… Ah! I remember! Zchee GeVarro!
As for the music… The government pays too little attention to it. On the contrary, metal and other resources are top priority for them, that's the case. We try to get ourselves out as far as we can. But we feel equal to it!"
One question for Sol (Olga Salikhova), do you feel females are becoming more accepted in metal music? Do you receive any discrimination for being a female metal musician?
Olga Sol: "On my planet Sedna, other rules apply. There are males and females, but there is no discussion about equality and, definitely, about discrimination. Just everyone mind their own business. For you, Earthmen, it can look like Utopia, but for us it’s normal and remains so for ages. So, I don’t see here any problems in working with boys. They are cute!"
So guys, what made you decide to sing about aliens and space, assuming some of you are avid astronomers?
Alexio: "First, it was just an interesting topic. Because I like sci-fi stories, films, books and computer games. Songs about Satan and demons are typical of black metal genre, elves and dwarfs are hymned by power metal guys, and the history of the Earth itself changes every year… But space with its enigmas is quite original. And for me it’s a great honour to dedicate songs to the Universe."
What plans have you got for the year ahead and into 2018?
"We can't tell exactly, because our Grey alien friends arrange all our creative plans. But according to some information, we will engage some additional earthmen for our next saga.
Miran: I have already received a lot of encrypted information from outer space and every day I translate it into musical form. So we have some new material to share with Eafthmen and even now we can say that it’s very extraterrestrial and metal."
Finally do you have any greetings, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Thank you for the interest in space and our music. We hope we could find a place for landing somewhere near UK soon, so be prepared for alienization! May the universe be with you."
When you think of Black Metal, or namely the Symphonic version of it, you tend to think of the Nordic nations and maybe Germany in tow. But when you think of the Dutch Metal scene, usually bands like Within Temptation, Epica and Heidevolk spring to mind. However beyond the facade of said metal scene is a thriving Black Metal scene, one band is set or somewhat hell-bent on aiming to change the whole 'devilish aesthetic' normally associated with Black Metal and / or one of it's many varying subgenres.
Enter Carach Angren, a trio in the studio, a quintet on stage (with help from Nikos Mavridis and Diogo Bastos). Having been around since 2003, this hallowing outfit utilize ghost and horror stories as their lyrical subject and thus breaking free from the shackles that forgone Symphonic Black Metal bands have laid down. With an average album turnover of 2-3 years, 2017 heralds the new Carach Angren album "Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten" which is being ultimately billed as their darkest and most spine-chilling album to date.
With that in mind it was time to give the band a grilling as GMA interrogates them, finding out what sits within their darkened chambers of creativity, thoughts on Brexit, their finished tour with Italy's Fleshgod Apocalypse, the new album and other topics surrounding this ghoulish threesome.
1. Battle of Atlantis
2. Earthly Illusions
3. Marble Embrace
5. Crimson Gale
6. Ring Around Dark Fairies' Carousel
7. A Speck in the Universe
8. Hiding from You
9. The Voice of Your Dreams
10. The Hawk's Lament
12. The River of Loss
14. Lies in Your Eyes (live)
15. St. Michael's Nightmare (live) 08:34
With Brexit impending, as a band are you concerned about touring the UK or fairly calm about it?
"For the moment we are calm and we hope it will not be a problem in the future because the UK is one of our favourite places to tour. We have only played twice, but the reactions have always been so great. The best part of our European tour last year was the one in the UK. It was a pity that last year our guitar player couldn’t come because he is from Russia and he couldn’t get his visa to enter UK.
This year he finally got a visa and could come with us. It’s weird and a backwardness that nowadays it is still so important to get papers and papers, bureaucracy is really annoying, above all when you go just to play a couple of shows. I’m not going to give any opinions about politics, but I only hope things are easier and faster in the future."
What is the Spanish Metal scene like right now? Any bands you would suggest to your fans to check out?
"Well, I honestly don’t follow the Spanish scene, so I don’t really know very much about it. What I can say is that the metal scene like in every country is a small one and here, people prefers to listen to the typical “Spanish Metal”, which is generally heavy music from the 80’s sung in Spanish. That’s what you get in every metal festival in Spain. There is also a new scene, but it is not supported enough to grow, at least for the moment."
You hail from Pamplona, home of the famous 'running of the bulls', what are your thoughts on the tradition? Have you ever participated?
"No and I will never do so. I’m personally totally against the bullfights and I hope they are forbidden one day. I simply cannot understand that any human being can call that tremendous brutality “culture”. Regarding the running of the bulls, well, that’s different because bulls and people are on the same conditions and bulls don’t get harmed. It’s a very settled tradition in our city and in that case the bull doesn’t suffer, so I don’t have problems with that, but of course I have strong feelings against bullfights."
Finally what are your plans for the year ahead? Any greetings, thank you's that you wish to send out?
"We are headlining three festivals here in Spain in spring and we hope to play more until the end of the year. We will also start writing new material. Thanks a lot for the interest and your questions and thanks to the readers also for taking the time to read. We hope to meet you all on the road!"
There are very few Dutch 'Symphonic' Metal bands that have made a name for themselves or indeed established themselves as truly unique in various ways. Delain is one of them, well, one of the big four Dutch Symphonic Metal bands of whom stand alongside Within Temptation, Streams of Passion and Epica in this almost-exclusive group. Having released their latest music video 'Suckerpunch' back in February this year, their new EP 'Lunar Prelude' and album 'Moonbathers' in February and August respectively, the sextet from Zwolle are poised to celebrate the anniversary of their debut album release 'Lucidity', which dropped 10 years ago.
Martijn Westerholt, Delain co-founder (along with Charlotte Wessels) and subsequent keyboardist / lyricist, was more than happy to spend time with GMA and to talk about the current state of the Dutch Metal scene, Brexit, their forthcoming anniversary show, tours and much, MUCH more.
What is the current status of the Dutch Metal scene, is it still as strong as years past?
"Well, there is always a good basis for metal.. a scene for it, but I think that support from radio stations is really, really poor and that they totally forgot about what kind of events they have. For the scene itself it's really good and also the venues, there are a lot of really good venues - that regarded it's really, really good".
Regarding the whole Symphonic Metal movement in The Netherlands, aside from Delain, WT and Epica, is there a bright future for it?
"Well there's also a new band, End Of The Dream (www.facebook.com/endofthedreammusic/) which is upcoming and there will always be some bands, but in general it's those three bands indeed. Of course there's also Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering, The Gentle Storm) who is doing a lot and is also involved with Ayreon; I'd call them progressive 'sci-fi' metal, but those I think are the main active bands in the genre and certainly regarding the future because the musicians in those bands are not very old, so I would say yes (laughs)".
Regarding Delain, upon releasing the 'Suckerpunch' single (Lunar Prelude EP) and 'Moonbathers' album, what has the reception been like? Was the production plain-sailing?
"Fantastic, absolutely fantastic, firstly with 'Suckerpunch' which we released in February just before we went on tour in the USA with Nightwish, that was really good as people asked for new material and this is why we released this prior to the record... and then of course the record itself in August which I think has been received well too; accompanied with really good ticket sales for our European tour (a good sign of favourable response).
Every album recording I love album productions because you learn every single time that there's new stuff. This time we really learned that to not record everything in one big chunk and not mix everything in one big chunk, but split it up into pieces because it makes you far more flexible, you have tours in between it doesn't matter you can go on tour and on top of that, which is more important you are flexible because if you write a song, record it and then immediately mix it, then you can take a step back and later on look at it again and say 'oh I love this, this is a really good thing' which we should do more.
Or I don't like what came out, you have to go back to the drawing board and so it makes you very flexible and there's not a lot of pressure like we have to record now because THIS IS IT and there's no second chance, so it will also reduce a lot of pressure and it's also a more modern way of writing intense music. People write a song, they immediately record it and master it themselves even and put it out. I wouldn't go that far to master it myself, but I would like to do it song by song and that's a very new thing I discovered which works really, really well for us.
We also had Arch Enemy's Alissa White-Gluz guest on 'Hands Of Gold', she was really easy to work with and was so wonderful. We of course meet each other when on the road now and then, when we're touring, she is also present when we played with Nightwish and Sonata Arctica in Montreal (Canada) where she's from.
In this song we really wanted a really heavy growl, a really heavy grunt in there and so it was very easy for us to ask Alissa for that because we know her and she was very open to do that, we sent her stuff and she recorded and sent it back and I tweaked around with it, and it worked fantastic - it's very nice that she will be at our Amsterdam show in December as a guest for our 10th anniversary, and so she can do the song live; concert is sold out and will also feature Liv Kristine, Burton C. Bell, George Oosthoek (Delain session member) as guests, as well as 'potentially' more guests, however Marco Hietala (Nightwish) and Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) won't be present.
Marco has shows already confirmed in Finland, a Christmas tour with another artist and Sharon has privately a lot of stuff on her plate, so she's not available either otherwise I'm sure she would be very open to guesting".
Over the years many people have labelled you as a Symphonic Gothic Metal band, would you agree with that genre-tagging?
"Well this is where you will get the cliche type of answer for this kind of question, I don't really care that much about the genre-labels, I never understood the term 'Gothic' and I also don't like the term 'female-fronted' because what does it actually apply? That there is a female fronting a band? Well there are a lot of females fronting a band and there are a lot of males fronting a band, why don't you say 'male-fronted band'?
So I never understood this terminology in general anyway, I do understand the 'Symphonic' part because this is really applying to the music itself, there are a lot of 'Symphonic' elements and melodies in the music and of course also 'metal'; although some people would not agree to that because they are into 'true metal' - they would say "this is not really metal, this is just pop", but if you look at the kind of guitars used and that we make riffs based on rhythm, that's definitely metal.
So I think Symphonic Metal is a very accurate term, the only thing with Symphonic Metal is that it doesn't cover other sounds in the music, for example there are a lot of electronic elements in the music and this doesn't cover that. We also have got a lot of pop influences in the music, in the themes, in the structures of the songs; how they are built, so I do think 'Symphonic Metal' is a better term to use but it doesn't cover everything".
Do you agree the term 'female-fronted' could be considered sexist?
"I think Charlotte would say yes. I don't really care about that, I'm so feminist that I would say that for me it's given that both sexes are equal, I just don't understand the whole terminology of 'female-fronted' because why say 'female-fronted'? It doesn't even say what kind of music it is, you can even say that Janis Joplin was an artist of a 'female-fronted' band, it doesn't say anything and I do have some people who want to say "we mean a metal band with a female singer", but still that doesn't mean anything... I think it's a stupid term and on top it's not all about the singer, it's about the music and personally I don't really care if a male or female does it, just as long as it is done well and I like the voice, that's of course that's a matter of taste.
Take Nightwish for example, what makes Nightwish 'Nightwish' for me is the guy writing the music, of course you need a good singer and I think Floor [Jansen] is a really good singer, I think Tarja (Turunen) was a really good singer, but to me that doesn't make the charm for it, to me the music makes the charm".
With that crossover of electronic and pop elements with metal, do you feel metal needs to tap into other music genres in order to constantly evolve?
"Well it needs to do nothing, I think people should make what they want to make and if they like to make music that has been there a long time, then that's fine, there will always be people liking that. If you want to have something brand new then yeah you have to think of crossover combinations and this is still done today with really modern approaches, you see bands tapping into that and with that way it does evolve. I don't have a judgement about either way, but if you want it to develop into new things you have not heard before, then of course it's really good to use new elements."
On the new album 'Moonbathers', Delain did a cover of Queen's song 'Scandal', are you personally a Queen fan? How did this come about?
"Absolutely yeah I love Queen, Queen has been a childhood thing of mine; discovering Queen end of the 80's when I was like 8-9 years old, the song 'Scandal' I noted that in the early 90's so far after the release of 'The Miracle' and that song really appealed to me. It wasn't a well-known song - not a lot of people know this song from Queen and then I lost track of it, but then later on I rediscovered it again and I thought it has a really good Delain vibe, but I actually don't like touching Queen songs because I think it's musical suicide by doing that, and if you take Freddie Mercury's voice it's one-of-a-kind. Don't try to get to that level, his voice is not of this world (and he is not any more of this world either man, of course).
The only thing I wanted to do was to take this song; I actually asked Brian May for permission and we got it, that was fantastic and was such an honour and we just tried to give it the Delain 'sauce' without trying to 'cover' a Queen song by respecting all the elements in there, that's what we did.
The contact was from the manager and he didn't know the band (Delain), he checked us out and said it's really good, I'll give you permission up-front. Normally a label or publisher will say 'well let us first listen to the song', because if they don't like it then you've spent all that time, money and energy in doing a cover for nothing and Brian May said he liked the band (Delain) so much that he you already get permission up-front and the only thing the publisher can do is follow. I recently sent the result to him, but I don't have a response yet so I'm very curious... but he will get it still (laughs)".
As 'Brexit' is such a hot topic at present, as a band are you worried about possible issues arising when coming to the UK to tour?
"Nah not at all, I'm very interested in politics and look for example Norway, Norway is not in the European Union but there a lot of treaties that we don't even notice when crossing the border and I think it will go the same way with the UK.
I do wonder if there is going to be a separation between Scotland and the UK, if that's that the case then of course Scotland would enter the European Union again I think, but I do think that this is not a very likely scenario and that it will stay more or less the same in terms of immigration, visas and stuff, i don't see that happening because of treaties that I think will be the same or similar to those in Norway".
Surely with that in mind, countries would keep borders open for musicians because of the revenue that they generate?
"Yeah that too, although I wonder if this is even on the agenda of politics, probably not I don't think so... this is peanuts in comparison to other industries but ah it will be OK, we even toured the US and the US has a very elaborate Visa application system and with the UK I don't see that sort of thing happening anytime soon".
With 2016 coming to a close and 2017 beckoning, what plans does Delain have for the rest of the year and beyond?
"Well this year was the most crazy hectic year ever for Delain, we did so much - toured the US, Europe, released an EP and album, a headline tour across October and November. What we have left is an anniversary show in December at the Paradiso (The Police and Nirvana played here) in Amsterdam. This show is going to be recorded both in audio and video formats and is going to be released on DVD next year so we will be preparing for that, it's kind of a birthday party as it's the 10-year anniversary since our first release, so I'm really looking forward to that.
We deliberately haven't booked any support because we need all the day, the time to prepare for the show as we have a lot of guests and effects in the show, so we didn't want any distractions with support bands.
2017 will be festivals and tours, we will be doing a couple of Dutch shows in the Spring I think six. We are going to tour Russia, Greece and Italy will follow and then indeed it's the Summer season and so we are going to do festivals, so we're busy with that right now. The past festival season was fantastic, best festival season we've ever had with Download, Hellfest, Graspop, a couple of big ones in Germany, we went to Finland, Spain, so yeah next year I expect a festival season with big festivals, really looking forward to that".
Obviously touring is strenuous and a tiring lifestyle, so how does Delain chill out and keep calm when on the road? Any advice for smaller bands?
"That's a very good question, last tour for example I think was the most heaviest one I ever did and I've done a lot of tours; think about over 20 tours in my career. It was really heavy because it was long, it was a headline tour, it was a very successful one but often was very demanding, a lot of production things had to happen that had to be decided every day and so the 'off-days' were really needed, and on those days for example I take a hotel room and be asleep in the room all-day, watching a film or playing a game and for the rest absolutely nothing (laughs) and that really works, but sometimes an off-day we use as a travel day in the tour bus so it's sleeping time.
Very boring actually but it's nice, sometimes when you're in a nice city for example I can remember being in Madrid and we went to a restaurant, eating tapas in these classical Spanish dishes which was really nice. However, whilst touring you don't really get to see much because what you see is another venue every single day, when you wake up you're at a new venue and you don't have time to see the city, you only have time for that on off-days. To give you an idea on this tour we had 9 off-days, of which at least half were travel days and so that means in 5 weeks you have about 5 days to see cities and that's not that much, also most of the time those are cities you've already been to on previous tours.
For example, Budapest I've already been there about four or five times, so if you really want to see something for example we did Dublin for the first time, so I saw Dublin for the first time it was really, really nice and so next time I will have to hire a rent car and drive through the countryside and there you really see something, but the thing is you need those days to rest so much for the time you take in the hotel and do absolutely nothing, and again you don't see much then (laughs)....".
I love my job, I think it's the best job in the world for me at least, it's fantastic I really really enjoy it very much, I appreciate it very much and feel spoiled and privileged. But it's very, very hard work and people only see the glamour part of it, they don't see the problems they don't see the building up part and so if you have ambition to tour, yes go for it it's fantastic it enhances your experience in life, meeting people from different cultures, etc, but you have to really work hard for it and it's not a given that you can earn money from it, it's a very crazy job and so don't expect to drive a Porsche with it, anyway expect to have a huge debt and if you're lucky your band will do well and then you can earn a little bit of money with it.
But that's the thing, you're not a musician for the money (at least some aren't), you're a musician for the kind of job you want to do and if you achieve that then really appreciate it, because you're there because of the fans, they pay your sandwich, your meal let's say, treasure them because without them you can't do what you do".
Regarding culture, Delain's fanbase in particular, are there any countries you were surprised at for having a huge support for Delain?
"Well the UK for a start, I remember when we were at Roadrunner they didn't want to release our first or second album and they said 'you're also not playing here', but when I said I wanted to play there, they said 'but you don't have a release, it doesn't make any sense' so it was kind of the chicken and the egg story and at a certain point we thought 'you know what, screw it, we're going to play there (UK) and I don't care if we have a release or not' and so we played there and were received so warmly... leading onto Roadrunner releasing our debut album. So in the UK it really took off really fast and I love to tour the UK, so that's an example of a country where we're special and has a huge support... I also experienced this in the US; they're very enthusiastic there as well...
Most of the the time the venues are of poor quality and there is not a money supporting system like there is in The Netherlands for example where the venues are really new and really luxurious, so that's another cultural aspect difference, but it doesn't really matter in the end because it's about the fans and if they support you then you can come there and play there.
We did a support tour for Nightwish last year in South America and we were received really warmly there as well which was fantastic, so you are surprised that how truly widespread the support is and how far people travel to see you. It's absolutely astonishing, we had people from Korea coming over to Europe to see us, and Japan, Chile etc., so yeah it's fantastic.
It shows that metal music has a very loyal fan-base too, there are not a lot of other styles of music that you can say something like that to so we should really cherish that".
What hobbies do you and the other members of Delain have outside of the music world?
"I love to watch documentaries about history, I'm a big history addict. I love to play games, especially strategy games like Total War which is a big favourite of mine. I also love to ski, I'm into winter sports - I remember last year we toured the USA and I managed to ski in the Rockies which was fantastic and near Calgary in Canada. Oh by the the way I'm also a Trekkie, I love Star Trek and Star Wars as well, so I'm a sci-fi geek.
I know that Timo & Ruben (respective guitarist and drummer) are very much into gaming, Ruben is also a big food fan, he loves to eat and Charlotte loves to read... that's it really.
Speaking of Star Wars actually I thought that 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens' was fantastic, it has a little bit of the vibe of the first three films (Ep 4-6), I personally don't despise the films that came out in the last decade (Ep. 1-3) I like them too, but I do understand why some fans really like this one (Force Awakens), it has captured part of the vibe which was missing in the first three of the trilogy (Ep.4-6)... which is of course the last three actually (laughs).
Moreover Kylo Ren struck a chord in my heart because I'm curious to see how the character will develop. Maybe you could write a song about him on the next Delain album? (laughs) well yeah of course because what inspires you, you start making music about so perhaps I should!"
Martijn wishes to express his gratitude to thank readers and fans for taking the time in following and giving support and interest to Delain. Without them Delain cannot do what they do so you might actually call our fans our 'boss' when it comes to our job so they are very important to us.
It's conceivable that the Finnish people are metal-music crazy, with a hole host of bands making names for themselves and achieving mainstream success. From Children of Bodom to Nightwish and HIM to Lordi (who won Eurovision 2006) and Apocalyptica who still to this day remain as the sole Cello Metal band. But gnawing at the latter's heels is the nonet Ravenia of whose self-styled Symphonic Metal sound takes on an epic dramatic twist, with the symphonies being engulfed by film-score/operatic elements that leave the listener entranced by this sensational outfit.
Having released their debut album "Beyond the Walls of Death" back at the end of April, it was about time GMA locked the group away in a Lapland cabin, waited till dark and under the night sky watched the Northern lights dance away whilst we interrogated Armi Päivinen, Ravenia's vocalist. It begins with the background story of Ravenia's past...
"I don't think that metal music is very well represented in the the history of soundtracks but maybe we can fix that"
"Back in 2013 Samuli Reinikainen asked me to sing on a couple of his songs, so I wrote the vocal arrangements and lyrics for them. The vocals had already been recorded when he decided that he no longer wanted to work with me. Well, we figured why waste the vocals when they were already recorded, so we decided to compose new songs around them. Hence Ravenia was born. After that we started composing music for our full-length. Samuli knew our other violinist, Ville, so we asked him if he wanted to be a part of the album, he also recruited the other guys.
We previously worked with Veikko in the group In Silentio Noctis, so we really wanted him to be a part of this as well, he was an obvious choice for us. Samuli has also played together with our bassist Toni Hintikka, so he asked him to tag along, we felt that his style would fit our album perfectly. After we finished recording in the summer of 2015, the album was then mixed at Sonic Pump Studios and mastered at Chartmakers. Finally, our debut ”Beyond The Walls of Death” was released April 29th via Inner Wound Recordings."
Ravenia is called a 'Epic Film score Metal' band, what is inspiration behind this and do you hope it will enable you to create your own genre?
"Who knows, it would certainly be cool. We really love film score / trailer music and we really wanted to get a chance to do that ourselves. Since metal has always been the thing closest to our hearts, we didn't really want to stray too far from it, so we figured why not combine the two. The trailer music elements are definitely our main focus, so the guitars and drums are there really to support that theme and not the other way around."
Because of your distinct sound, could you see Ravenia writing the score for a film? What upcoming film(s) would you love to pen the score for? Do you feel that metal music is not well represented in film soundtracks?
"We could definitely see ourselves writing a score to a fantasy or a war film. It would have been fun to be involved in writing the music for the Assasin's Creed movie but since it's already coming out in December, it's a little late for that. I don't think that metal music is very well represented in the the history of soundtracks but maybe we can fix that, hahhah!"
As Ravenia is a nonet (nine-piece), is it hard to maintain stability and write music together? What challenges has the band faced?
"Since Samuli and I write all the songs together, it makes it a lot easier than having nine people all pitching in with their ideas. We've had quite a few challenges, of course budget wise and more than our fair share of difficulties with the studio computer not working because of the massive amount of tracks. Sometimes we are forced to do things really slowly and it's wasting a lot of valuable time, so we certainly hope that once we start making our next album we would have been able to fix that issue."
Your debut album 'Beyond The Walls Of Death' is now out, what has the response been so far? Do your plan to tour the UK / Europe in support of the album?
"So far the response from most people has been absolutely incredible, it's truly wonderful to see that the emotion is coming through in our music. I have never really heard such beautiful things that
some of our listeners have said, it is very touching. We don't have any touring plans at the moment because of the size of our group, also we have quite a large amount of backing tracks, so unfortunately the venue needs to be quite large in order for those things to work well in a live setting. We have kind of dug a little grave for ourselves with that."
Could you give us a brief breakdown as to what each song means, which was the easiest and hardest to record and what one is your favourite?
"Here it goes, I'll do my best to break them down..
- ”For Those We Forsakened” is about everything going wrong, feeling like giving up and there's really no one you can lean on. Finally ending up losing everything because you didn't really have any strength to fix things alone.
- ”Into Oblivion” is a song basically about suicide and giving into the darkness, it's sort of a continuation to ”For Those We Forsaken”.
- ”We All Died For Honor” tells the story of those who were left behind when their loved has passed at war.
- ”There Is But One Path” is about you letting go of a loved one.
- ”In Silence” is about crossing to the other side really. I wouldn't call it a very positive description of that though.
- ”When Darkness Rings” is actually a ghost story, being possessed by a spirit.
- ”The Fallen” is about not forgetting who you are and what you were meant to be even though it seems like all hope is gone.
- ”We Stand As One” I would call almost an end of the world song, fighting to survive but standing united even when it all comes to an end.
Hmm, the hardest one to record for me was probably ”In Silence”, I don't know why, it just took the longest. The easiest one for me, I would say was ”For Those We Forsaken”. It's hard to name a favourite, parents love all their children equally but ”Into Oblivion” has always been close to my heart musically, it really has the best of both worlds I think."
Your music video 'We All Died For Honor', what is it about? Is it about the Lapland War against the Soviet Union in WW2? Or something else?
"We didn't want it to be about a specific war, so it's more of a general description. The point of the video is not so much on the war itself as it is in those that were left behind to mourn. We wanted that to be the main focus."
Barack Obama acknowledged Finland's long history of successfully exporting metal music at the Nordic summit, what is it do you think that makes Finnish Metal music so popular? With Lordi's Eurovision win arguably being the most outstanding achievement for any Finnish musician, let alone metal, would Ravenia contemplate putting themselves forward to represent Finland at any forthcoming edition of the ESC?
"For some reason, you are not the first person to ask us that. Lately quite a few people have been
asking the same thing. We can't really see ourselves participating in the contest at this point but who knows what crazy plans we'll come up with in the future! It's kinda hard to say what makes Finnish metal so popular but it might have something to do with that that it's cold and dark almost all year long and what else is there to do in Finland besides making music?"
Finally have you got any hello's, thank you's, greetings you wish to send out?
"First of all thank you for the interview and to all our listeners a huge thank you for all the kind words and support. Stay epic."
Ravenia's debut album "Beyond The Walls Of Death" is out via Inner Would Recordings
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