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"