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!"
Whitechapel. To some it's the area of East London famed for Jack The Ripper, but in metal context it's an American Deathcore band with a splattering of various influences pocketed here and there from Black Metal to Groove Metal. However this quintet (drummer Ben Harclerode left this year) are more than your generic breakdown-laden, riff chugging clone that seems to dominate the ever-exasperated Deathcore genre. They are the leviathan of the genre, avoiding the cliches and common aesthetics found entrenched in most Deathcore bands and thus pose themselves as truly unique.
They were welcomed back to Bloodstock this year with open arms and certainly gave the punters their monies worth.
GMA took time out to talk to Gabe Crisp, the Whitechapel bassist about the band's history,
"I'd love Whitechapel to be part of a video game, that would be cool. I'd be down for something action-packed for sure."
Whitechapel has been going for 11 years now, what has been the most challenging part of the band's career so far? Did the band name originate from the East London area?
"The fact that you're constantly leaving home and things like that, we're all home buddies... things like driving 5 minutes to work is a lot easier than flying across the world you know? But nah we love it, it comes as part of the territory.
Our band name came from the Whitechapel area in London, I was proposed to be the man to go on to call our band name and Phil said 'Whitechapel', I was like 'what the f*ck?' Why would you call it Whitechapel?' It's weird because that's where Jack The Ripper killed a bunch of sluts back in the day. I was like 'oh shit that's pretty hard, that's metal as f*ck' and so here we are.
I mean another thing, I'll give you this one, Whitechapel is kind of like in a similar way; not saying we're in any way like the band, but the name Black Sabbath... I thought about this a couple of years ago, Whitechapel, see it's like black and white, Sabbath and chapel and it's like it works, I think Whitechapel works, I don't hate our band name. Some bands they're like 10 years in and man I f*cking hate our name, it sucks."
Whitechapel is often regarded as a Deathcore band, but on 'Mark Of The Blade' you leaned more towards Groove Metal right?
"Yeaahh so, I mean we've been a band for 11 years so we try not to write the same record twice, we don't want to do that, we never have, what we were into and writing you know ten years ago... I don't know it's kinda hard for us to not evolve, that's pretty much what it all is - growing up and changing, we just want to be a metal band and not really sub-genre it and all that sh*t, keep it fun for us and try to play shit that people had gotten in to.
Whatever you refer to us I don't care, to me that term [Deathcore] reflects our early years kind of vibe. It's just 10 years ago for us, we already done that kind of sound you know what I mean? Not that there's anything wrong with it, but we just can't write the same record over and over like we're going to be on our 7th record. If you're talking 10 songs a-record, that's 70 songs sounding exactly the same and if you're putting yourself into that genre, defining yourself as such - there's sh*t all you can do there right?"
Aside from metal music, do you have any influences from outside of metal? What does your family think of your music?
"Yeah I was telling a guy earlier about this stuff, when I was 14 I started playing bass guitar and that lead me to become a part of this band. The first band I fell in love, went to see and why I got into guitars was Green Day actually and not a metal band. I was a big fan of Green Day back in the day, just thought that the bass, being loud and proud in that band was super sick, it was cool man.
My parents are awesome, they know I do big sh*t, they're stoked. It's not the greatest job in the world I guess for some people, but it is to me and that's how it works. My family usually come to the out-of-town shows once every a couple of years or so they'll come to a show, my dad loves to have a few beers and watch me play and my mum has no idea what's going on - she has a good time."
Would it be fair to say that Phil Bozeman is one of the fastest Death Metal-style vocalists out there?
"I hope so, sure why not? I think he's the best for sure, I don't know that's just me. I think he's the best for sure. I like watching some frontmen from other bands, but as far as vocals go yeah he's a bad ass - he's very good at what he does. I think he can stand beside anybody in anyway."
Regarding your song 'The Saw Is The Law', what does the song title actually mean?
"I have no idea man, honestly all it is we use that song live as like our logo, those two words rhyme and makes sense I guess? I don't write the lyrics but I think it was just a kind of play on words that kind of rhyme and everybody seems to like it so it works out. There's a lot of saws, we have a lot of saws in our designs, in our album artworks, something like that."
Are there any major festivals in Knoxville?
"No we don't really have anything like that, we play our home town once a year usually, and it's not really a metal town by any means. We're a local band that travels a lot, we have our fans but as far as metal music goes in general, there's not much going on. If there was a festival it would not be metal, how about that? Yeah we'd play a non-metal festival without a doubt, I mean we played Warped Tour which is considered non-metal, it's more metal than it used to be for sure. But yeah we'd play anything, we like good music but it has to be metal for sure; if they want to listen to us then we wouldn't want to play in front of people who wouldn't want to hear us but at the same time we'd love to play anything."
Credit goes to the Bloodstock Open Air Festival Team
You've just finished your set, how was it?
"It was a great time, it was early but at lot earlier than we're used to but everything went well, because we were having a good time. It was easy, played all the songs well so can't really complain. It would have been cool if it was a little sunnier out but I'll be honest, it's not hot right? It's not raining so I'm not going to complain."
For the New Blood Stage bands, some have only just started out, some have never played a major festival before, what advice could you give them (and future unsigned bands at Bloodstock)?
"I'm assuming that the shows are going to be bigger than they're used to or something like that, for me I never had a problem with the size of the crowd. Don't even worry about the crowd, it's easy just play your show on stage and whatever is happening down front don't even worry about it. Just play your show on stage, that's what I'd say."
Is it relatively hard for American bands to go on tours across the States?
"Nah nah, I mean for us we've always been lucky I guess but at the same time it's fairly easy as long as you have a somewhat of a following and, maybe starting up is kind of hard - I think that would be for anybody, shows in America go well."
When Whitechapel is on tour, what do you guys get up to to occupy yourself whilst travelling?
"PlayStation 4, some of us try to go to the gym every now and then if there's a way to get out and get the pump on, get a shower you know? Let's see, yeah usually just PlayStation, we play a lot of PlayStation. We've been playing a lot of NHL 17, Uncharted 4, but I'm usually watching Zach (Householder) whilst drinking beers - it sounds boring right? But it's what we do."
Speaking of PS4, if a game developer was to ask Whitechapel to provide a song for a new PS4 or Xbox game would you do it?
"As many as would, forever, why not yeah. I used to learn about bands who liked Tony Hawk back in the day, that had awesome soundtracks. I'd love Whitechapel to be part of a video game, that would be cool. I'd be down for something action-packed for sure."
Does Whitechapel have any plans confirmed for 2018 so far?
"So far I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about it, I talked about it earlier though in some form of it, but we're going to be back early Spring of next year and I don't want to say who we're coming back with, but yeah we'll be back early next year. I think it's mainly Europe stuff, maybe some UK stuff but it's very early stages but it looks like we're going to be over here next year, early next year."
Gabe, have you got any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out to fans, family, etc.?
"Well yeah I just got married, so I'll say hello Corinna, what's up girl? I'll figure out that she manages to read / listen to this, it's awesome. Anybody that listens to Whitechapel, that would be cool I feel like I'm a pretty lucky person in talking to you guys so, I just want to say thanks to anybody who has checked us out, liked us or not, who cares, I appreciate it - thanks to the bands."
It's always nice to see individuals or groups giving the their input towards a relief effort and Omotai are no exception. Having provided a track for the Hurricane Harvey Benefit Compilation, this Texas unit are committed to bringing charity to those affected by the hurricane in late August / early September.
GMA had to catch up with the guys to talk about this sensational venture, their origins and the extreme weather Texas has to deal with, that being tornadoes as well as hurricanes.
Vocalist / Guitarist Jamie Ross gave the honours.
"Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around [from Hurricane Harvey]"
Hi guys, firstly could you give us a brief history of how Omotai came about as a band? What does the name mean?
"It all started back in 2010, when Sam Waters (vocals / guitars) enlisted the help of Melissa Lonchambon Ryan (vocals / bassist) and then-drummer Anthony Vallejo to record the debut EP, Peace Through Fear. That line-up remained unchanged through the next two releases, 2012's Terrestrial Grief (the debut full-length) and 2014's Fresh Hell--both released on local label The Treaty Oak Collective. I joined the line-up as a second guitarist in 2013, pretty soon following the recording of Fresh Hell, but prior to its release.
Anthony left soon after, his final show being at a 2014 SXSW appearance. Danny Mee took over drumming duties in time to complete some touring in support of Fresh Hell in 2014 and 2015. We've been hard at work ever since, writing and recording our latest double LP, A Ruined Oak, which is set to debut on October 6th on Tofu Carnage Records. A West Coast excursion is planned to promote the record. The name Omotai is the Japanese word for "heavy," which Sam felt was an apt designation given the artistic direction of the band. Credit for the idea goes to our friend Evan Jones, who taught English in Japan for a spell."
Would you say that the 2017 hurricane season has been one of the worst in recent years?
"Most definitely. Sam's family tragically lost their home in the Bellaire section of Houston, which was hit especially hard. The season would have been horrific enough if Harvey and its aftermath were the extent of it. But Irma came along and devastated much of the Eastern Caribbean and Florida, then Maria recently ravaged Puerto Rico (which is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis). Houston's had its share of weather-related disasters--especially in the last few years. But here we are a month out from the date that Harvey made landfall, and many areas are still impassable. Also, the waste from homes being gutted has built up into a logistical nightmare for removal companies that are still struggling to make inroads."
As you're from Texas, a state within tornado alley, have you ever seen a tornado? Has there been any notable ones hit Texas?
"We're a bit close to the Gulf of Mexico to be in the heart of tornado alley, but there were several in the area while Harvey was stalled over Houston. One hit the neighbourhood next to mine on that first Friday night--I could hear, but not see it. North Texas is the unlucky recipient of most of Texas' tornadoes."
Tell us about you getting involved in the Hurricane Harvey benefit compilation, where are the participating bands located? How can people donate?
"We were approached by Miss Champagne Records about contributing a track to the benefit record, Making Waves, the week following the Harvey disaster. It was the brainchild of the MCR staff and Mercy Harper from Football, etc. All of the bands are local to Houston, so the cause is obviously very meaningful to us all. We think it turned out wonderfully and we're honoured to be in the company of so many stellar Houston bands included on the compilation. All proceeds from the benefit comp go straight to Harvey relief, so it's a perfect way to donate AND listen to some rad music."
Did you sit out the hurricane or did you evacuate further inland? What were your thoughts at the time of Harvey's landfall?
"Danny was safely in Austin for the storm, but everyone else toughed it out here. When the storm finally hit, we knew that we were going to be in for an extended confinement at our homes (fully anticipated by the Houston masses, as evidenced by the the local grocery and liquor stores being completely fleeced), but no one anticipated how crippled the city would become. Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around. "
Would you agree that extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are a staple part of Mid-West and Southern American life?
"For sure. And, to make matters worse, the events are becoming more frequent and increasingly destructive."
Given the damage caused by Harvey, I can't imagine there being much band activity this year - please correct me if I'm assuming wrong and inform what you will be getting up to?
"There are several benefit shows sprouting up in the area, so the music community has been surprisingly resilient. As for Omotai, we've been concentrating on getting A Ruined Oak released, and we'll be embarking on a Western U.S. tour starting this Friday, September 29th. All of the dates are posted to our social media for those that would like to come out and hang."
Finally are there any hellos, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Firstly, our thoughts are with the Waters clan and all of our other Houston friends and family that are dealing with the loss of so much property, and coping with the resulting emotional challenges. Special thanks to Sean Mehl and Tofu Carnage Records for helping us put out the LP. And, finally, thanks to all who have supported us over the years--it truly means a lot."
They've been making a name for themselves since their inception a decade ago, not just because of their age at the beginning but also due to their bold move at performing live in Times Square which took the social media world by storm. Having racked up the press attention, fan numbers and even striking a monumental deal with Sony Music, it was about time that GMA gave the trio Unlocking The Truth an interrogation to find out what ticks these three lads from Brooklyn and what it means to 'unlock the truth'... all three lads - Malcolm Brickhouse (MB), Jarad Dawkins (JD) and Alec Atkins (AA) - gave their answers.
Hi guys, so firstly how did you get into metal music? Are you surprised by it's global spread?
MB: "We got into metal music by hearing the genre through the intro music to WWE and the background music of anime. No, I'm not surprised by metal's global spread. There's a crowd for every kind of music and I know from experience that people can really connect to this music."
AA: "I got into metal music through Ana, me, Jared and Malcolm ."
JD: "I got into Metal music, by an entertainment network known as the WWE. In addition, AMV also known as, Anime music videos, were a source of entertainment that introduced me to metal music. Bands such as, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Three Days Grace and more."
What did your high school friends and your family think of your choice of music? What do you aim to achieve?
MB: "My high school friends support me. They may not listen to metal, but they think it's cool that I am doing something unique and making something out of it. I aim to carve our own path in metal. Making it okay for people who are scared to stand out and be themselves, feel like they can show the world how unique they are. I also want our music to touch people's souls."
AA: "My high school friends think highly of my music and most of my high school friends like my music because in order for you to be considered my friend you have to like what I do"
JD: "They believe my choice of music is unique. I aim to achieve a platinum album, and a few Grammys"
You performed in Times Square, that surely must be a highlight of your career? Would you do it again? Perhaps organize a festival?
MB: "Performing in Time Square was a highlight of my career. It pushed us into the mainstream and got us used to performing in front of a large crowd, but I would not do it again. That was only chapter 1 of our journey. We have to keep improving and moving forward."
AA: "Yeah it would be cool to organize a festival but I don't see us going out to Times Square playing for four hours with a bucket."
Since NYC is steeped in music history e.g. hip-hop being a popular choice of music, was it hard to break out of that social convention and do something different? Do you / have you ever been subject to racial discrimination for playing what some still call a 'white man's music'?
MB: "I think the fact that hip-hop is so steeped in New York City, it was good for us because it helped us stand out from a lot of other artists. Also being black helped us stand out, so I can't complain. We did not necessarily face racial discrimination. We would show up at venues and people would automatically assume we were rappers or called us the Jackson 5. But they were surprised when we started playing metal."
AA: "Yeah it was kinda hard to break out and do something different, but the real thing is people want different so it was easy for us to get our name out there and for people to get in on unlocking the truth. Some people think we play white people's music but that's not true because we know that the origin of the Heavy Metal table comes form rock 'n' roll, rock 'n' roll key from the blues and soul and that's black peoples music so we didn't care about what people said as far as race."
JD: It wasn't hard to break out and, do something different because in NY, people don't really care on what you do until they see it, and the improvements you make for yourself. I've also been subjected to racial discrimination, and it wasn't just for music."
How do you feel signing to Sony Music? Surely this blew you back at the time, signing to one of the world's largest labels?
MB: "Signing to Sony was a huge part of why we are where we are today. It was a great opportunity and even though everything didn't workout, I am still grateful for everything that came along with signing the deal."
AA: "Signing to Sony music was a blessing, even to have the opportunity despite the fact we are no longer with them."
JD: "Signing to Sony gave the band a fresh start to the music industry. Also it gave the band, a new start to the music industry and the people to help you succeed. Furthermore, being independent is better."
Do you have any plans in touring Europe? Where have you played so far?
MB: "We have not played in Europe yet but we are finalizing the deal for two shows in Warsaw, Poland this coming May."
AA: "We do not have any touring plans for Europe as of yet. But we have played at Coachella Bonnaroo warped tour etc."
JD: "Yes we do have plans of touring in Europe. Furthermore we have toured the states and parts of Canada."
You've just released your debut album last year, what was the reaction like?
MB: "The reaction to our debut album was great. We received tons of great feedback too. Now for our next album, we'll just have to capitalize on what we did so far."
AA: "People reacted nicely to the album, gave us good feedback and we gained a good fan base from it."
JD: "The reaction was okay, its our first album and, we have much more improving to do."
What advice could you share with aspiring metal bands or indeed the youth in the metal music community?
MB: "I think that aspiring metal bands and the youth should try to find ways to be different. People want new, not recycled artist. When times are the hardest (and they can get hard), just keep pushing through it and never give up. Thank you for this interview."
AA: "My advice stay true to yourself and do what you want to do and don't do what others want you to do."
JD: "Be the best you can be, don't let nobody stop you from what your trying to achieve. Always do better, exceed the average, never want to be the average. Furthermore, surround yourself with people that want to win and, you'll win."
Halloween is once a year, or is it? Not according to American quintet Eternal Halloween whose demonic stature is sure to garner attention from overseas as arguably the States answer to the UK's Evil Scarecrow. Moreover this Los Angeles (or as they might call Los Hellos), California-based horde have only been around a year and are already causing a buzz across the American Metal underground, let's just hope their name is not a reference to the Aiden song otherwise things could get quite confusing. Eternal Halloween were happy to spare some time to answer some questions GMA had in store for them...