Metal music and war, the two somehow seem to come hand-in-hand at times and yet it's usually the war-ravaged nations that get ignored in the metal music community. How is it that bands across the world risk their daily lives to not only play metal music, but to survive the climate they find themselves in and yet barely receive little if any coverage from the more-established media? Dark Phantom are a Heavy / Death Thrash Metal band from the city of Kirkuk, Iraq. Having released their debut EP 'Beta' (2013) through the Swedish label Salute Records and their debut album 'Nation Of Dogs' (2016) through the Belarusian label Symbol of Domination Prod., (as well as an independent digital release), Dark Phantom are looking to venture onto greater things, become a beacon of light in the Iraqi Metal scene and show to the world that Iraq has another side to the country other than what is shown on the news. Dark Phantom are more than just a metal band, they are a metal band advocating the voice of peace.
Guitarist Murad explains to GMA the difficulties of being a metal band in Iraq, their plans to tour with their Syrian brothers in Maysaloon and why Iraqi metalheads burden so much oppression in the face of socio-cultural resistance.
"(Metal is) an art and by this art we can send our message worldwide about how we are living in war and corruption"
For those who do not know of Dark Phantom, could you please give us a brief history?
"Dark phantom is an idea that was born after the Iraqi war in 2003, when we listened to rock and metal music. Many bands influenced us, bands like Metallica, Slayer, Lamb Of God, Megadeth, and many others. The two guitarists Murad and Rebeen are relatives, they started playing guitar in 2007 and by practising decided to form the first metal band in Kirkuk. They began looking for other members to join; a bassist, drummer and a vocalist, they found them in University and through social media.
After joining the band, we practised in Murad’s room as a heavy metal band and played our first show in Kirkuk in 2011. It was a good show, playing in front of more than 300 people even when the situation was dangerous in our city. After the show in the mosque during Friday pray, they spoke about our show and that a satanic band played music in Kirkuk and that they did a show. Because of this we stopped playing shows in Kirkuk as we were really worried about our lives and family.
In 2012 we recorded our first EP ('Beta'), the record was bad because we didn’t have good equipment and there wasn’t any experience in recording, we played other shows in the north of Iraq in the Kurdistan region, because its safer. In 2014, 2 other members left the band, the drummer and the vocalist; the vocalist left Iraq because his brother was injured in a car bomb explosion, and the drummer said he must go to find a job. We found new members and a new genre that is more extreme than the old Dark Phantom. We recorded and released our first single and debut album (('Nation Of Dogs') in 2016."
It must be hard to be a metal band let alone a metalhead in Iraq? Can you tell us the challenges both as musicians and everyday persons face?
"It’s definitely not an easy thing being a metalhead with the problems you’ll have to face just for simple things like having long hair, tattoos or just black cloth, these things are seen as bad and taboo in the national culture, and you're faced with bad words, a bad reputation and in some cases death or harassment. Metal is an excellent way to show a unique way or style to people who’re old fashioned and let them know that there are other styles of living and different ideologies from what they’re used to and that everyone is different in it’s own way."
How long has the Iraqi Metal scene been going? Some say Acrassicauda were the first metal band from Iraq, is this true?
"It’s really unclear when or who was the first metal band in Iraq, but it goes beyond Accrasicauda however they were the first band who made some publicity and attracted attention."
What do your parents think of your music? Are they musicians themselves? How hard is it to obtain instruments and equipment?
"No they are not musicians, they are normal people; they think we do satanic work and get angry about it. However when we explain to them metal is not satanic work, its an art and by this art we can send our message worldwide about how we are living in war and corruption, they understand what we do and they become supportive. About the music instruments and equipment, it's so hard to find good instruments and equipment here, we work and calculate money and order it from the USA; the cost becomes very expensive but we do our best because there are no other ways to get it".
Do you talk to other metal bands in the MENA region? Such as Maysaloon from Syria, Belos from The Oman, Nervecell from the UAE, etc.?
"Yes we have a strong bond together and we’re usually aware of each other’s plans"
Arguably the greatest dream for Dark Phantom would be to perform in Europe, how far are you from reaching that goal? What plans do you have for the rest of the year and into 2019?
"Arguably it is the greatest dream for Dark Phantom to tour Europe and the USA, and play with big bands. We are hoping that by 2019 we will be able to play at a festival or two in Europe. We have some good plans, but it’s too early to say and we also hope that we can go to Syria before 2019".
Are there any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out? For those visiting Kirkuk, what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads?
"We are thankful for everyone who stands beside us through our good and bad times, special thanks for those who support us by buying our album and who donated for our Syria concert , we never forget them, they are a part of Dark Phantom.
None, there is nothing metalhead-related in our city".
Metal music takes on a variety of different sounds and cultural slants across the world, through the likes of Brazil's Sepultura and their Latin Metal period (think 'Roots Bloody Roots') to Israel's Orphaned Land drafting in traditional Israeli Music (think 'El Meod Na'ala'), metal music has been configured with each metal scene that embraces it.
New Zealand on the other hand is one scene that often gets overlooked by most Western metalheads, either because of it's location on the world map or through the lack of effort to explore scenes other than that what dominate in Europe and North America. Alien Weaponry aim to change that with their infectious and riveting blend of Te Reo Māori Thrash Metal, the sound is combined with a Hardcore-Thrash approach with the battle cries found within the Te Māori language; one the trio are aiming to preserve through metal and one they learned through two ways...
GMA spoke to Lewis De Jong (Guitarist / Vocalist) regarding this, their past and how in 2 weeks Alien Weaponry have reminded Europe that New Zealand is still there.
"I would not feel offended because if you do a haka to someone, if they have achieved something or if they have done a performance, that's what you call a 'haka tautoko' which is basically in support of what someone is doing, it's an honour to have a 'haka tautoko' - I feel it would add to what we are all about."
Alien Weaponry hasn't been going all that long, so could you give us a brief history of the band? Tell us about your Māori heritage and meaning behind the band name.
"Henry and I started the band about 8 years ago and Ethan joined around 6 years ago, so yeah we haven't been going for 'that' long but we've been around for a fair bit.
Yeah my brother and I are descendants from the Ngati Pikiāo which is a Māori Iwi (Maori Tribe) and we have Māori family and blood in us, so that's how it kind of came about doing this. We named the band Alien Weaponry when Henry and I first started and this was before we had touched any of the Māori stuff, that's actually named after the sci-fi film 'District 9'; film had alien guns in it so we called it Alien Weaponry and because of that the name kinda stuck. But now when you think about it, when muskets were introduced into New Zealand, to the Māori muskets were a form of 'alien weaponry', so I suppose that kind of connects a little bit, but it wasn't originally planned like that."
Having played to an overflowing crowd on the Sophie Lancaster stage, what are your afterthoughts of your set?
"I'm pretty blown away by how massive and into it the crowd was, that was a really pleasant surprise."
Having played Wacken and being the youngest band in terms of band-members age to do so, did you feel any pressure whatsoever?
"Pressure? I mean Wacken's been our dream since we started the band, so I guess it's more of a... there's not really pressure, I feel like as long as you're confident in what you do and practise hard out, we feel like we get more of a buzz before going on stage, we're just trying to enjoy the experience as much as possible. But yeah it was a really insane feeling playing in front of all those people at Wacken. The crowd f*cking blew us all away, actually quite a lot of the crowds at these festivals have blown us away because the response has almost bettered New Zealand sometimes, and it's really different because this is our first time touring Europe; it's really great to be doing this."
With your brand of Te Māori Thrash metal, would you hope that neighbouring Oceanian countries become inspired by your music and start scenes up?
"Yeah I feel like we're kind of being a statement to quite a few indigenous cultures that have been suppressed and colonized, I feel like we're trying to reach out to the entire world with this and it's really cool to see the response this big being picked up from it."
Tell us about your debut album "Tū", what do the song titles mean? Tū charted on the New Zealand charts, that's got to be awesome right? Any response from the Māori Iwi?
"The album has a lot of different stuff on it, we've got anything from historic battles to unjust actions by the Government you know hundreds of years ago. Some of our more recent stuff has been more about current issues, like we've got a song called 'Holding My Breath' which is quite personal and is about the feeling of anxiety that a lot of people go through when they're quite young. We've written songs about basically things we feel passionate about, so the album's a really passionate album.
Yeah the album hit #1 when we released it, two other big New Zealand artists released albums on the same day and we were really surprised when we saw that we were ahead of them on the charts. That was a really good feeling when we hit #1, it feel like we've achieved something, something we never thought we would when we first started the band.
The reception from Māori in general has been overwhelmingly positive and when we started writing in Te Reo Māori we didn't quite know how people would respond to it, but they've responded very well and I feel like a lot of Māori are kind of 'coming out of the closet' in listening to metal, Māori wasn't really associated with metal before we started what we are doing."
How long did it take your first music video 'Rū Ana Te Whenua'? What is the meaning behind it and was it easy learning Māori?
"That was probably about two days in the studio and also a day of shooting the music video, that was the first music video we shot, but it was not the first one we released - we've been holding onto that for a long time (eight years) before we released it and when we finally did it was really satisfying for us, because you know we have been waiting all that time.
That was actually based on a battle that our great great-grandfather fought, it is basically a story about triumphing against all odds because the Māori were outnumbered, they had around 200-300 soldiers and the British had like over a 1,000 soldiers, but how they won (Māori) was they built this 'Pā' (which was the first recorded case of trench warfare) with underground trenches and bunkers. The British bombarded the Pā over a day and a half with cannons and when they stormed the Pā there was no-one there, as soon as they rode back to General Cameron who led the attack saying they had captured the Pā, while that was happening the Māori jumped up from underneath the ground and slaughtered them all - it's a brutal but cool story to write a song about.
That was our first song that we written in Te Reo Māori and we really took a chance doing that, but I feel the reception's been overwhelming. Henry and I grew up speaking Māori, we went to a Kura Kaupapa which is a Māori language school... I went to a Māori kindergarden and then I went to Kura Kaupapa for about two years and Henry went about for four years, but then we switched schools and Henry and I, Henry not so much but I lost the language quite heavily so actually singing in Māori now is actually... I'm still in the process of learning the language. I feel like singing in Māori is encouraging a lot of people to discover their own heritage and learn Māori, which is not really a common thing in New Zealand."
Would you hope that bands follow Alien Weaponry in terms of tapping into their indigenous culture and expressing it through metal?
"Definitely, I think that's one way we're trying to keep the culture alive in New Zealand and spreading it through music, people are pretty passionate about music and I guess the culture comes with Alien Weaponry. I feel like it's a great way to educate people and add something different to what you do"
If you were invited by the New Zealand rugby team to perform before a game, would you accept it?
"I think we probably would because that would be an amazing thing to play to a packed-out stadium before a rugby game, and I feel like that the energy we would bring would suit quite well, so yeah that would be really cool to do."
How has the New Zealand Government reacted to metal music?
"The New Zealand Government how has it reacted to metal music? Hmm. That's an interesting question, I guess the music industry is probably the closest thing... because the Government hasn't really said anything to us. I guess everyone in the music industry in New Zealand has been supportive of what we're doing... it's a hard question to answer because I actually don't know what the Government feels about what we're doing."
Tell us what the New Zealand Metal scene is like?
"There is a bit of a New Zealand metal scene but I feel like there's not many people in New Zealand (population is around 5 million; around half of Greater London), I guess there's not the hugest metal scene in New Zealand... put it this way there's probably more metalheads at Wacken than there are in New Zealand. The New Zealand metal scene is weird, it's hard to describe - there is still a metal scene in New Zealand. New Zealand's more known for it's reggae and R&B, Lorde and Lord Of The Rings. There is a metal scene in New Zealand with bands like Devilskin, Seas Of Conflict., there are quite a lot of good bands but I feel like there does seem to be a little bit of bickering from genre to genre, I feel like that's a little bit negative, but all in all scene's not that bad in New Zealand."
For metalheads visiting New Zealand, what sights and attractions could you recommend doing / seeing?
"If you go to New Zealand you've got to go to the beach, but before you go to the beach you've got to learn how to swim properly (laughs). In New Zealand there's a tradition that a lot of New Zealanders do it's called 'popping manus', which is basically jumping into the water and making the biggest splash possible, that's something we do in New Zealand and is pretty unique to our country. New Zealand is a beautiful place and I'm like feeling kinda homesick".
What exactly is the haka? Could you explain it's meaning please? If a crowd member was to haka before Alien Weaponry started playing, would you feel offended?
"A haka is a traditional Māori war dance, if two tribes were going to fight they used to do a haka to each other beforehand and I guess if you did a good enough haka, you might be able to scare the enemy into backing down so that it potentially doesn't have to be war. It's really designed to be in your face, scary and powerful and I feel it really works well with what we're doing.
I would not feel offended because if you do a haka to someone, if they have achieved something or if they have done a performance, that's what you call a 'haka tautoko' which is basically in support of what someone is doing, it's an honour to have a 'haka tautoko' - I feel it would add to what we are all about.
It's all about context, haka these days is mostly used in a theatrical, performance kind of environment and basically sometimes what happens is a couple of haka groups that perform and do well, will see a group in the audience jump up and do a 'haka tautoko', kind of instead of an applause and that's something that happens in New Zealand".
What are some phrases metalheads should shout at your concerts?
"A lot of Māori at our concerts say 'Tu Meke' which is kind of saying 'too much', which I kind of guess is a way of supporting someone, you say 'Tu Meke' it's like saying cheers.
Outside of Alien Weaponry what hobbies or interests do you have?
"Me personally I like to make music outside of the band and metal, I mess around with my friend and making lutes and sh*t. I also do a bit of drawing and painting, I'm quite a creative person so, I'm into that kind of stuff. I'm also into long-boarding which is pretty fun, basically just floating around, hanging out with mates and doing whatever."
What plans do you have after Bloodstock? New album? Any thanks?
"We're basically just continuing our European tour, that's the plan. Regarding a second album we've already got some concepts, I've already started coming up with riffs, I feel like you can definitely be expecting a follow-up album and another follow-up after that, everyone stay tuned.
Thanks to everyone who has been supporting us thus far, you guys are f*cking amazing and keep it up, because at the end of the day we wouldn't be doing this without everyone who supports us, so cheers!"
It's hard to know how long the Czech Metal scene has exactly been around as the Czech Republic (aka Czechia) has only been an independent nation since 1993 following the breakup of Czechoslovakia; originated from the Austro-Hungary Empire back in 1918. Despite it's obvious youthful existence the Czech scene has been a hive of activity for the past 2 decades. With MetalGate being such a prominent record label, bands like Awrizis, Godless Streams Of Elegy and Cruadalach springing to mind, and festivals like Brutal Assault and Metalfest Open Air becoming staple festivals within the metal music calendar, there is a bright future for this Central European nation. Awrizis filled us in with their scene knowledge.
"(Czech) bands want to be famous and rich after the first album and two gigs, it doesn’t work like that.""
For those who do not know Awrizis, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Awrizis was created back in 2011 just as a side project for our previous bands. Then we released our first EP "Shapes of Imagination", which was very well received, we then signed and started to take this band more seriously. Our debut album "Final Hybridation" was released in 2013 and it received a lot of awards and nice reviews. After some line-up changes we started to work on a split album and went on the road again. After years of touring and some changes we could finally work on the second album…
There are no other words to describe Awrizis. If you have like 15 seconds, open YouTube, write our name and there are some evidence of who we really are. That’s the best way to describe our name."
It's been 5 years since your debut album 'Final Hybridation' and your new album 'Dreadful Reflection', what have you done differently on this album?; your original drummer left the band, was it on good terms?
"Yes, it seems like a long gap between two albums. But we’ve been busy with touring, also we recorded a well-accepted split album "Damnation & The Rotten Brood" and we wanted to do the best for our second full length album and don’t rush it. That was the main difference on this album - patience and hard work.
Our original drummer left the band after recording this album. Life on the road and work that is necessary with being in a band is not for everyone. But there is no bad blood between anyone around the band. New members are the main reason for developing this band, comparing to old times this is something completely different and better."
Will you be touring Europe in support of your new album? If not where will you be playing?
"We are right now on the road in our country doing release shows to support our new album. There are certainly some plans for the second half of the year and of course we want to bring our music to all our fans."
What struggles do most Czech Metal bands face these days? What is the scene like at the moment?
"Actually the Czech scene is right now very promising. There are some really great bands compared to the rest of the world. But the main problem is that people in or outside the bands don’t know that only patience and hard work brings the fruit… everyone wants to be famous and rich after first album and two gigs … and it doesn’t work like that."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres? What do your parents think of your music?
"I am doing what I feel. There’s no analysis or need to describe. I write music for open minded people and I don’t force anyone to listen to it. I am fortunate to have great support from people around me."
For those visiting Havirov, what sights or attractions could you recommend?
"Whole part of Czech Republic called Silesia is well known for it's industrial environment, but there is also a beautiful nature location called Beskydy. So this unique contrast can be attractive for people I think."
What plans do you have for the year ahead? Will you looking to the play in the UK?
"There’s a lot of work to do. We need to support our "Dreadful Reflection" album. But I really can’t wait to start jamming with actual band members and bring to life some new fresh tones. I love the UK! A lot of awesome memories from touring with Dissolving Of Prodigy back in the day. It would be an honour for me to go back with Awrizis but also my second band Postcards From Arkham as well."
Are there any greetings or thank you's you wish to send out?
"Thanks to all, who feel music and passion."
South Korea is often overlooked as an emerging and strong metal scene in the Far East, of course the metal scene seems to have originated back in the late 80's with Sinawe leading the line, but on an international level bands nowadays are more or less confined to that part of the world. Wasp Sting Danger is a Crossover Metal band whose blend of Thrash and Punk is simply captivating, GMA spoke with the guys about the scene, their band, cultural issues and the recent meeting between the South Korean leader Moon Jae-In and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. We are still yet to find out if metal music has entered North Korea and been listened to by it's peoples - we live in hope.
Answers by (L-R): Seongwu (guitar), Zeztto (bass), Wesley (drums), Alo (vocals) & Woncheol (guitar).
"it is relatively hard to put on shows in South Korea. This, I think, is mostly due in part to the lack of a strong metal culture here."
For those who have not heard of Wasp Sting Danger, could you give us a brief history of the band?
SW: "After I found myself a day job in 2015, I put an ad online to look for band members. That's how I met the guys, except for Alo; my friend told me he knows this dude who broke a karaoke mic with his voice while singing metal, and there he was."
WC: "Yes, the ad was how I came to join the band in summer 2015. At first it was just SW, a drummer (can't remember his name) and myself. I used to be in a K-pop cover band before that, but it obviously wasn't the music I wanted to do. After talking with the guys, I felt that we had similar pursuits in music, so I was in. But the drummer quit before our first practice. A while later, the first official practice took place with SW, Alo, Shane (ex-drummer from Ireland) and myself, where we covered Napalm Death's 'Scum'; I've been the guitarist for WSD ever since."
Alo: "I was introduced to the band by SW's friend after I broke a karaoke mic while scream-covering Korean girl group songs on a very drunk night. After a few different attempts at music (pop, hip hop, alternative rock, musical theatre, etc), I wanted to be in a Woncheol (WC) - Guitar Alo (Alo) - Vocals Wesley (WS) - Drums Zeztto (ZT) - Bass Seongwu (SW) - Guitar band where I could experiment and create with different genres. After meeting SW and WC and sharing our thoughts, I was in."
SW: "Our first show was on summer 2016. I have been taking guitar lessons from Chuck Jenga of Fecundation (Korean technical / brutal death band), who liked my songs and introduced us to Lee Yuying of LxPxP (Korean grindcore) and Sulsa (Korean goregrind), who runs a metal venue called GBN Live House. On the first night, Alo was out of town because of his day job as an AD in film, and we didn't have a bassist; I had to play guitar and sing. Still, I felt like that day was the reason I had been alive."
WS & ZT: "Internet ad brought us here. ZT was the latest to join."
Who came up with the band name and what made you play Thrash Metal / Hardcore?
SW: "Actually it was our ex-drummer Shane who came up with the name. He went hiking on Bukhansan Mountain one day and just spontaneously sent us a picture of a sign that read "wasp sting danger". He was joking about making this our band name, and I seriously thought that it was a pretty funny and unique name for a band; after a vote, it really came to be. Musically, we were influenced by various genres: Thrash (Big4, Lost Society), Swedish Death Metal (At the Gates, The Haunted), Melodic Death (The Black Dahlia Murder), Metalcore (Darkest Hour), Hardcore Punk (Banran, No Turning Back, Things We Say, The Geeks, Comeback Kid). We wanted to put the things we liked from these genres all in one, somewhat random and new, but heavy as fuck.
Alo: "You could say that we were influenced by a whole lot of things. Us bandmates all come from different backgrounds, and we're taking that as our advantage. Genre-wise, it would be hard to put us in a single category, but I believe our experiments will lead us to something fresh, something sharp and entertaining that you could only experience through us."
ZT: "I just play for the sake of playing. I don't care about genre, I just love playing my instrument and being in a band."
You released your debut self-titled EP this year, what has the reception been like? Did you do a show in support of it? Would you / did you tour in support?
SW: "Bands like us rarely draw any attention in Korea. We were invited to do a gig after our EP release, but the reaction was so-so. However, the online sales are doing much better than expected. I guess it's because recorded tracks are more approachable than live performances. As for touring, it sounds a bit unrealistic for us because of our day jobs."
WC: "I would love to tour, but it's hard to take time off my job. However, if the touring country is close enough to Korea, I'd be more than glad to go."
ZT: "I'd go anywhere in the world for a gig. But, of course, my job comes first in priority."
Alo: "I would love to tour, but the country won't let me get out of Korea so easily. In Korea, every male adult is required to do a mandatory military service, for approx. 21 to 24 months; I still haven't done mine, and it's becoming a huge pain in the ass. Every time I want to apply for a passport, I have to run a bunch of papers and shit, and prove that I won't run away. But still, I'd gladly go through all that shit if its for a WSD tour."
Recently the North and South Korean leaders met for the first time, surely this would make most South Koreans excited to see peace is on the horizon? Could you ever see a metal band emerge from North Korea?
SW: "Many people are excited by the idea of Korean unification, but one of my friends pointed out that Trump is trying to retract American troops from Korea upon unification, which is in fact a possible threat on national security. I think that this is more persuasive. We have almost no access to North Korean metal, or North Korean anything. I think I have heard a North Korean death metal band before, but there's no way to check its validity."
WS: "It would be unbelievably awesome to see a North Korean metal band emerge from out of Pyongyang. What would be even cooler is seeing South Korean bands perform in North Korea first, and potentially have an influence on North Koreans to begin making metal music."
Alo: "I would have to go with SW's friend on unification. We were taught in schools to believe that "unification, coming together of the Korean people is our dream", but I think there's much more to think of when ending this politically and culturally complex state that Korea has been stuck in for over 60 years. If two Korea's do unify, it would be awesome to play in North Korea."
ZT: "Give me some of that TRVE Pyeongyang Naengmyun (cold noodles, traditional Korean food)."
What are the challenges that South Korean Metal bands face these days? Is it easy putting on shows, tours (both regional and international) and festivals?
WC: "Metal is very unpopular in South Korea, so a vast majority of Korean metal bands need day jobs to keep the food on the table. In a country with such a shitty work and life balance, that's the biggest challenge; but maybe it's the same for other countries too."
SW: "South Korean listeners don't appreciate metal. Our CD's won't sell and our gigs won't pay, so we all have to work full-time to survive. Being an artist in Korea is tough."
WS: "From what I've observed over the past three years, and also from what I've heard from those living here is that it is relatively hard to put on shows in South Korea. This, I think, is mostly due in part to the lack of a strong metal culture here."
ZT: "Fuck Korean music."
Alo: "Korean culture, even among Asian cultures, is very hierarchy-based, conservative and totalitarian. If a trend is set, it is considered the law to follow it - people take popularity way too seriously. Moreover, Christianity is the most popular religion here, which makes Korea pretty much a barren land for metal bands to grow on. But we wouldn't have started a metal band if we ever gave a fuck about it."
What do your parents think of your music? Are they into metal music?
Alo: "My parents came across one of our videos (this is how I found out my Facebook friends can see the shit I press like on), and now have started going to prayer nights on Friday to pray for my soul. Yes, they consider it the devil's music."
SW: "They often refer it to the sound of a pig being slaughtered. This is the norm in Korea."
WC: "I never let them listen to our music. When I was in my teens, they saw the artwork for Blizzard of Oz in my room, and they fucking hated it (they are Catholic). I have never talked with my parents about music since then."
WS: "My family doesn't like metal the way I do. They can't stand it for the most part. My mom, for the most part, supports it in other ways like feeding the band and showing up to some shows with earplugs at the ready."
ZT: "I'm not close with my family."
Do you feel that metal music brings people together regardless of religion, race, political beliefs, etc? And that it is one of very few interests that do so?
WS: "I find this question rather silly. The whole purpose of music's existence is to challenge people's thoughts and feelings while appealing to certain groups of people. All of it is subjective in nature. However, for the sake of this question, yes. I think the metal community is special in that because it is usually in small groups, we tend to hold onto it and hold it close. It very much is an open group to anyone who wishes to enjoy the same pounding excitement that is metal."
ZT: "There are plenty of idiots out there making heaps of shit about politics or religion. There's no need to say such 'idiotic' things in metal."
SW: "Yes. At least I think us bandmates have become good friends regardless of political and religious preferences."
Alo: "I believe the meaning of music lies in its being a communicator, or, like in the question, "bringing people together". Not just metal, but music in general. In music, sounds and rhythm are put in a specific balance and order to transfer a certain emotion / thought / or something in between: sometimes it overpowers common language, and moves us in a very primitive & intuitive way. As for metal, I believe there isn't a language as energetic and powerful, and the emotions / thoughts involved are also intense. This is probably why closer ties are formed among metalheads than fans of other genres."
What plans do you have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
ZT: "Thank you kindly for your attention. My plan for the year is to return to Azeroth 4 months later."
SW: "Best of wishes to everyone who's reading! I'm learning drums, and thinking of starting another band."
WS: "Hey y'all. Peace."
WC: "My plan is to keep WSD going, and do some side projects on grind, power metal, blues rock, etc."
Alo: "Thank you for the interview, and greetings to everyone who's reading! We are writing new songs whenever we can, and I hope we can finish enough songs to put together into an album by this year.
And.... Fuck personal plans. Time is overrated. Eat, drink and fuck more. Be happy. Peace!"
Croatia has had it's fair share of rich metal music history, however it has only recently spawned it's first ever Pirate Metal band; the genre itself popularized by Scotland's Alestorm in 2004 although it's antecedents originates back with Germany's Running Wild releasing the album 'Under Jolly Roger' in 1987. GMA caught up with Marko Vučković (drummer and band manager) otherwise known as The Admiral and looked into what makes these scallywags tick, Croatia's pirate history and what the Croatian Metal scene is like.
"We grew out of the cliche that everyone thinks they [Alestorm] are the only pirate metal band that exists"
Could you give us a brief history of Rum Smugglers, how you started out, etc.
"We started as a duo back in 2011, playing a variety of blackened thrash with pirate themed lyrics. We soon recruited the bassist and the rhythm guitarist, to further explain; we regularly switched those band members due to differences in styles and then not being able to comply to the regime of the band. In 2015 we released our demo, 'Hemp Rope Justice', and later on found the new addition to the band, our keyboardist, thus switching to a more folk / power metal method in our songs. He left in the Autumn of 2017, being with us only for a short time, around 9 months. We re-recorded our single during the time he spent with us, and after his departure we are currently trying to employ two violinists. Hopefully they will prove to be better band members then most of the aforementioned."
Presuming one of your influences is Alestorm, what are you aiming to bring to the Pirate Metal movement?
"One of our influences was Alestorm in the beginning but, we grew out of the cliche that everyone thinks they are the only pirate metal band that exists. We also take influences from Skyclad, Running Wild and Swashbuckle, we are trying to freshen up the scene with our more 'thrashy powery' approach on the subject at hand."
What is the Croatian Metal scene like? Tell us about the festivals, media, venues, bands, etc
"It's a bit poor at the moment, there are some great bands here, but everyone's focus is mainly on tribute bands and on some weird avant-garde and experimental type of music, thus disregarding the metal scene as it was a few years back. There are some great venues like OKC Palach in Rijeka, and Insomnia in Slavonski Brod, Epic club in Osijek and Kset and Močvara in Zagreb. The Croatian metal scene is still strong though, pushing out bands like Flesh, Frozen Forest, SpeedClaw, Uma Thurman, Decomposing Entity and many others. Just type in Croatia on the Encyclopaedia Metallum website and hope for the best, and check out YouTube links with the same search.-"
You say you combine gypsy melodies, where do you get your influences from?
"Yea, gypsy melodies, well we are on the crossroads between the Mediterranean and the eastern front, so we get our influences from both sides of folk melodies and folk culture."
Are there any Croatian pirate stories you could tell us?
"Of course there are! Mainly representing bandits in the Adriatic sea but there are also many more, check this link and try to translate it to English :) https://hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gusari"
What plans do you have for 2018?
"We are currently practising new songs and making new material with our new violinists. So you can expect a new album with fresh and not so fresh tunes to hit the internet soon."
Do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"Do what you want, cause a pirate is free!"
Madagascar, an island situated in the Indian Ocean off the coast Africa has always been renowned to have luscious beaches and a tropical climate, however recently a film series based on the country emerged and just last year an outbreak of the bubonic plague arose, killing hundreds. Counteracting that negativity is Madagascar's underground-yet-vibrant metal music scene.
It started in the late 80's with Apost and Kazar being the first-recorded metal bands, forwarding onto 2002 and Sasamaso was born, arguably the first female-fronted metal band from this African nation. GMA spoke to Sasamaso about the Malagasy Metal scene, it's history, what the band is up to and the challenges of being isolated from the mainland.
"Often in Madagascar, a person who listens to metal music has a father who listened to rock music in his time"
For those who have not heard of Sasamaso, could you give us a brief history of the band? Band name meaning? Lyric topics, etc
"Sasamaso is a metal band from Antananarivo, Madagascar, created in 2002. Our style is based on thrash metal, often merged with another metal style (heavier or lighter), sometimes also merged with decent Malagasy music. Literally Sasamaso means eye wash:- in Malagasy, sasa = washing, maso = eye. Our lyrics talk about everyday life here in Madagascar, frequently in metaphor."
What challenges as a musician do you face living in Madagascar?
"The situation in Madagascar is that the music becomes too commercialized; most TV and radio channels don't diffuse your music if you don't have enough money. Also, compared to other music, metal music is not yet appreciated by popular mass here. Till now, it's very difficult to find a producer who wants to support a metal band. However, many Malagasy like soft rock. So for a band who plays metal, it's necessary that he has passion, patience and strain to do his best."
How long has the Madagascarian Metal scene been going? Was there any opposition from the Government initially?
"As far as I know, the metal scene has existed in Madagascar since the 80's. In the beginning, the government censored the broadcast on TV and radio of the few groups existing at that time, but afterwards it has improved especially because of the creation of private channels. At this time, there are many metal bands who play well, there are some special metal radio and TV broadcasts, and there are mostly underground metal shows, at minimum once a month since 2017, we can say that after all, metal scene has evolved a lot at this time."
Do you see a time where every African nation has a metal band in it's history?
"If possible, it's really very nice. To prove that metal is an universal music, no discrimination."
Have you had any metal bands from overseas come perform in Madagascar?
"In 2004, Watcha, a French Nu Metal band performed here in Antananarivo; it was great. There was also an American band who played here maybe in around 2014, but I don't remember the name. If I'm not mistaken, that's all."
Are you surprised about metal music reaching Africa, let alone the world? What do your parents think of metal music?
"For us, metal music is among the best. That's why we listened and played everywhere in spite of political and cultural constraints in each country. For us, and often in Madagascar, a person who listens to metal music has a father who listened to rock music in his time, so there is no trouble between us."
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"For Sasamaso, for this year we will produce new songs, videos, and also our official album. We want also to convince producers here so that we can get on a larger stage. We would like to thank you sincerely for your interest for our band, and we hope that this interview will help people know that Sasamaso, a metal band from Madagascar exists :) ."
Forged In Black are arguably the best thing to come out of Southend since the expansion of London Southend Airport, Phil Jupitus' career taking off and of course (dare we say it) Busted. Forged In Black were originally called Merciless Fail and it was under their former name that they secured a slot on the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Festival 2012.
Forward on a year and Merciless Fail changed their name to Forged In Black after their first EP 'Forged In Black'. Since 2013 Forged In Black have released 1 album - Forged In Black (2013) and 3 EP's, The Tide (2013), Fear Reflecting Fear (2016) and Sinner Sanctorum (2017).
Chris 'Stoz' Storozynsk gave GMA the low down on their past success, the current state of the Essex Metal scene, touring plans and their new music video 'Pay The Price'.... be prepared to be Forged In Black.
"The song ['Pay The Price] has an anti-war theme... a concern that world leaders are not thinking of the consequences of their actions."
Forged In Black has not stopped working since your Bloodstock appearance, will we see you back at Bloodstock next year?
"Hi GMA, Stoz here, and good to speak to you again. We had a fantastic time at Bloodstock 2012 after winning the Metal to the Masses competition. We’d love to return at some point on a bigger stage with our music, and are looking to book up quite a few festivals throughout Europe in 2018 alongside the release of our new album, which we are currently writing. We have just released our newest EP “Sinner Sanctorum” which is available to download on iTunes or purchase via our social media channels."
You just released your new music video 'Pay The Price', what has the reception been like?
"The reception has been great, lots of people liking and sharing on social media, it was a very well produced video and really hammers the song home. We have released two music videos for songs on our new “Sinner Sanctorum” EP which can be viewed on YouTube and our social media pages."
Are you worried about being perceived as politically motivated with this video?
"Well, not really. The song has an anti-war theme yes, and a concern that world leaders are not thinking of the consequences of their actions. It’s my observation of the current state of affairs. We have written many songs now about many different themes."
Andy Pilkington (Very Metal) created the video, what was it like approaching him? Does the video reflect the song's meaning?
"Andy has done a fantastic job on the video and we are all very proud of the result. Our management team put us in contact with Andy and we are glad he had space in his very busy diary to fit us in and work with us on it."
It seems that things are going your way a lot lately, where do you see Forged In Black in 5 years time?
"Well I'm sure we will still be forging away on new music and our live shows, but ultimately a record deal would be nice."
The Essex metal scene doesn't appear to be as pro-active in recent times, what are your thoughts on this?
"Yes unfortunately the Essex scene seems quieter then others, I think because of venues closing and the lack of new young promoters putting shows on, but that is understandable in this current financial climate. There are still some great musicians and bands coming out of Essex though and the talent is still well and truly there waiting for a light to shine on it."
Will you be doing a UK tour in late 2017 / early 2018, are you looking to play abroad?
"We are currently writing for the new album, which we will be recording in April 2018 and is being produced by Romesh Dodangoda, so all hands are on deck to write some great new stuff, which we’d love to show off in the UK and Europe."
Since Tim Chandler left last year, will you look to recruit another guitarist or stick as a four-piece.
"Well Tim actually left I think about 2 years ago, and since then we recruited the talents of one fine Mr Chris Bone, who is on our new release “Sinner Sanctorum” and has been playing live with us for some time."
'Sinner Sanctorum' EP is out now
When you think of Liechtenstein, you tend to think of it's football team and how easily they are beaten in almost every international football game, save face for a few of which they proved victorious in. But casting aside the woes of Liechtenstein's footballing perils, there is something far more enthralling to substitute (see what I did there?) the aforementioned with. That is a small but active metal scene.
Arguably the most prolific Liechtensteiner metal bands are Elis and Erben der Schöpfung, but with bands like Dark Salvation and Shotgun leading the next wave, can they match their predecessors in what they have achieved and carry forward the Liechtenstein Metal scene? I spoke to Shotgun to gain an insight into this landlocked country (between Austria and Switzerland), Shotgun's heritage and future, and Liechtenstein's flirtation with the Eurovision Song Contest...
"Looking for new members, that can be pain in the ass since the area is rather rural..."
Could you give us the history of Shotgun, who the current line-up is and what the band name means?
"Shotgun was founded at the end of 2010 as a free-time project, when Mischa Rucker and Matthias Marxer exchanged some riffs and ideas. After a while they thought that what they were doing might have some potential and they started to look for full time members for a fully operational band.
In April of 2011 Shotgun was complete, Mischa Rucker and Matthias Marxer on guitars, Patrik Schächle on bass, Sergio Garcia on drums and Bruno Lombardo as vocalist. Shotgun eventually parted their way with Mischa because of musical differences. Patrik switched from bass to guitar and Mäcky Lampert took up occupation as the new bassist. After a few years of live activities and recording sessions where we never found satisfaction in the sound, Shotgun started a major recording session for the first demo EP which now is released as 'First Shots'.
Shortly after completing the drum-track, Sergio left the band to settle back to Barcelona, his native city. Nonetheless the remaining members completed the recordings later in 2016 and released it in May 2017. Mäcky decided to leave Shotgun due to different personal future plans, which were not compatible with the bands plans. Tobias Schädler, former guitarist of I Am Chaos was found as the new man on the bass. After over a year and a half David Walch joined forces with the band as the drummer. This is he current line up."
You've released your debut EP this year, what was the reception like? Did you have a EP release show?
"Since it took us so long releasing it, a lot of people were looking forward it with high expectations. We got some good reviews from different online magazines, and that we do appreciate highly. Also we had many messages coming in from around the globe asking where to purchase our EP, (text us, PayPal us, get your copy).
Sadly not, since we had no drummer we were not able to play live. We had a listening, we were not really happy with that but at least it was a cool party but we will make it up with the live shows, at least to our fans in the area."
What is gigging in Liechtenstein like? Tell us more about the metal scene - venues, festivals, labels, etc - do you tend to travel to Switzerland or Austria for gigs?
"It sucks big time, we don't have a proper location and nobody is in to it to make something, also it lacks the people if something happens once in a while. In May 2016 we had the first Metal Open Air, which was cool since almost every band from Liechtenstein played there. We're always going to watch and play gigs in Switzerland and Austria since the scene is way bigger."
Is it hard being a metal band in Liechtenstein? Bands like Elis and Erben der Schöpfung broke out the national scene, are there any other well known bands?
"Well it’s not harder than anywhere else unless you are looking for new members, that can be pain in the ass since the area is rather rural and there is not a whole bunch of people living around here, compared to bigger cities. For playing live we have a good market in Switzerland, Austria and Germany so that is not an issue at all.
Well for the bands, I would not say there is anything famous out there but we can gladly recommend our friends from Tankfist and Dark Salvation."
Regarding your debut EP 'First Shots', can you tell us what each song means?
"Pretty self explanatory. Murder, possession, genocide, shotguns, beer, sex, and Thrash metal, many songs have included double meanings like ancient genocide which deals about the dying semen during sex, or shotgun blasting which is another form of a shotgun blast in the face. Actually, what you hear on the EP is the early primitive days of Shotgun, our future material will be more critical and mature, especially for the lyrical content. 'First Shots' is like a summary of the early Shotgun days."
Liechtenstein has flirted with the Eurovision on numerous occasions, what are your thoughts on the competition?
"F*ck that sh*t. We are in for metal not for a bunch of circus clowns. It's all just paid bullsh*t where honest music does not count wet sh*t. It is another fashion show on TV which we don’t need frankly."
Given the small size of Liechtenstein, what do you do for hobbies / activities outside of music?
"Drinking beer and metal is one of the best activities you can do here, hiking would be an option but the weather sucks most of the time. Back to beer and metal."
What plans have you got for the rest of the year and do you have any hello's you wish to send out?
"To play as many gigs as we can and have a huge party with some other crazy maniacs out there. Those we do greet for the support through the years for sure. For the extended hello and thanks list check the booklet of our EP."
Some metal music fans might not know it, but the Chilean Metal scene has been around for quite some time, at least since the 1980's. One Chilean-born-German Anton Reisenegger was a part of this movement and still is involved with other metal bands. He is a member of Pentagram, Fallout, United Forces, Lock Up and of course Criminal of whom we interviewed him about.
Criminal have had a remarkable 26-year career thus far with a healthy amount of albums and demoes in their discography, but of course one of the more momentous periods of their career was in 2001 when Anton upped and left Santiago in favour of Ipswich, Suffolk - quite the change right? The thing is with the South American metal scenes is that sure there are great bands, great achievements but the one thing that seems to hinder most bands is the travelling and gigging potential. Whereas in the UK you have within a 4-hour drive of London the cities of Birmingham, Manchester, Portsmouth, etc so forth, to tour in South America predominantly involves flying and so logistics come into the fray.
Last year Criminal released their eighth album entitled 'Fear Itself' which marked five years since their previous album 'Akelarre'; the longest period between any two albums in their career, moreover it marked their 25th anniversary since their inception and they are without any doubt one of Chile's finest ever metal bands. GMA spoke to Anton to find out what life was like back in the 80's Chilean Metal scene, how they came to move over to England and the whole issue with metal elitism.
"sometimes to have a little gimmick works as well in terms of popularity" (Anton on one of the ways young bands can develop popularity)
Criminal as a band started in Chile, is this correct? When did you move? What does the name mean?
"Yes, yes, the band started in Chile back in the early 90's and well we made the first years of our career over there and moved over to Europe in 2001. We moved to England first, it was only half of the band actually, it was only Rodrigo our original guitarist and I, we started working with Zac O'Neill who had been in Extreme Noise Terror... or was in Extreme Noise Terror at the time, for a while we had ex-Cradle Of Filth bassist Robin Eaglestone... who left after a couple of years, so kind of kept the band going through a very difficult time because of moving to a different country, a different continent even, it's not easy but we managed to keep going and here we are on our eighth album.
"We've had a few high points in our career, we've supported a few of our favourite bands from Motorhead to Slayer, even Metallica. Lowest point? We got dropped from our label at the end of the 90's (BMG Chile), but that was exactly why we decided to move and it was a good thing in the end because it was a new beginning (they signed with Metal Blade Records). It was very cool supporting Metallica, the crew were super cool, very accommodating, the guys took a minute or so to speak to the band, was very nice."
"There's not a real meaning as such, we wanted something that sounded aggressive and was the same in Spanish and English; which is the case."
So Anton, what was the early Chilean Metal scene like? Is it true that in South America tapes and vinyls are still very popular?
"It was very passionate but also very improvised, everything you know you had to... there wasn't any really good gear so you had to go and like find whatever amp that sounded okay, bands would have to share their equipment in order to play shows. Everything was very, very grass-roots, but I think that it kind of gave it it's character you know? That passionate people really believed in it and that gave it that sort of thing that the Europeans appreciate a lot about, you know about Brazilian Death Metal, Chilean Death and Thrash Metal, etc.,"
"Yes it is true, I wouldn't say it's still very popular... they're popular again, I understand vinyl - it's a beautiful form you know you have the big artwork, it smells nice and sounds good. Tapes I really don't care much for, I don't understand that trend well... but whatever makes people happy hahaha, if they like it then why not?"
Brexit is a huge topic at the moment, so what are your thoughts on it, would it affect the band?
"I don't know, it all depends on how they work it out really, but I see it could affect the band in terms of you don't have the freedom to travel that you have now and then maybe you would have to have a Visa to come over here you know, because I live in Spain now but our centre of operations is still in the UK because Danny (Biggin) our bassist has got a studio which is where we record our albums, prepare for tours and stuff like that. I can see it being a problem really."
For those bands playing on the New Blood Stage, what advice (if any) could you give them?
"First of all be true to yourself, but also make sure that you have something different to offer. There's no point in sounding exactly like Megadeth, or exactly like Slayer or this or that. You have to have something that makes you stand out and also I would say that sometimes to have a little gimmick works as well in terms of popularity, you know bands like Alestorm it's that kind of stuff you know? They're a little Pirate-gimmick or whatever you know, Ghost with the costumes and hidden identities and all of that. So yeah think of something cool, something original and go for it. It's getting harder as there are so many bands out there to make themselves noticed, so you have to work hard and really believe in what you want to do"
80's Thrash was seminal to it's time, however would you agree that there is a new Thrash Metal movement emerging?
"Oh yeah, but a lot of it is just rehashing the past. I appreciate what the band's are doing, appreciate the fact the bands want to keep it alive and there's always room for a good Thrash band if you ask me. But, the originality factor is sometimes not there"
If Criminal were to cover a song, what would you choose?
"Well we've done a few covers in our career, but I don't know. Nowadays I try to maybe find some obscure band I used to like in the 80's or something like that, that maybe a lot of kids nowadays don't know and maybe do a take on that"
Would you say some metalheads are elitist when it comes to certain metal genres?
"Oh yeah absolutely, I see it all the time I really don't have any time for that because like everyone can listen to what they want. I think it's very arrogant to go around telling people what they can and cannot listen to, what is true and what is not, who are you to say that? They can say whatever they want but it's still like from the old Thrash Metal bands of the 80's to Pantera to Gojira, you know I don't give a f*ck"
If you had to pick a song from your entire discography, which one would it be and why?
"Ooh that's difficult, I really like a song that we played today called 'Stillborn' which is from our first album ('Victimized'), it's a slow song which has harmonies and stuff, it's maybe not a typical song but I think it showcases the band from a different angle, that one I like"
Most bands have a figurehead to go to talk to with any issues, problems, etc, does Criminal have one?
"Hahaha, I don't know... the drummer because it's his fault hahaha"
What was the response to your set? What plans do you have after Bloodstock and leading into 2018?
"It was good, we would have liked a bigger crowd, but I understand with so many bands and you know three days into the festival, people are tired and stuff but we got the crowd going and I was telling the guys at least the crowd was bigger and not smaller"
"First I'm going to chill out for a bit, take a holiday and then go into the studio to do some recordings for my old band Pentagram. In October I start a tour with Brujeria (with Lock Up) playing in Australia and New Zealand (support for Napalm Death). This will be the first time I will be playing in New Zealand, really looking forward to it as I love to explore even though a lot of the time you don't really have the time to go out and do the tourist thing..."
"We want to thank everyone who went to the stage to check us out today and we'll be back, probably with a new album next year"