When it comes to the Hungarian Metal scene, despite it's flourishing there have been far too few bands breaking out into the wider metal world. Bands like Dalriada have taken around 10-15 years to get noticed by the European elite, alongside them are the wider-known Thy Catafalque, Ektomorf, Tormentor and the recent AWS; the latter being Eurovision finalists. But what does this say about the Hungarian Metal scene? The bands are great, but the lack of attention from the wider metal community (labels and all) needs to be addressed.
In spite of this, Hungary has given birth to it's own labels (most bands signed are Hungarian naturally) such as Edge Records, Hammer Music Prods, Hammer Records and Nail Records to name but a few.
Enter Mytra, a sci-fi themed Progressive Metal band of whom are set to release their second album "N.I.R.A." via Nail Records; their debut album "Beta" was also released through this label.
GMA spoke with Robert Hocza to find out more about the band's history, the state of the Hungarian Metal scene, their latest single and the industrialisation of their home town...
"Metal in the past, was completely suppressed in Hungary. Nonetheless, many people like it, although it has always been banished from the mainstream media."
For those who do not know who Mytra are, could you give us a brief background history?
"Hi Rhys and greetings to the readers of Global Metal Apocalypse! Our band was founded in 1996 in Kazincbarcika, a small town in the northeastern part of Hungary. Our name comes from the name of an ancient Roman god, written in a special way. Over the years, we've written songs in different musical styles, ranging from melodic, complex death metal to instrumental rock. Our primary musical goal has always been innovation and eccentricity. Essentially, our songs have a futuristic feeling with sci-fi themed lyrics. We have self-published three singles, and our first album titled "Beta" was released in 2014 by the Hungarian publisher Nail Records. Our second album is to be released in a few days, also by Nail Records."
You just released your new single "N.I.R.A", what was the response like and what does the song title mean?
"The feedbacks on the single are actually much better than we expected. It seems like our new album will reach out to a broader group of people. We will see this more precisely in a few months. The title of the song is an abbreviation for "neural intelligent research assistant". This is a fictive character who has already played a role in "Beta". In fact, it is a brain implant with advanced artificial intelligence. The theme of the song, in a broader sense, is based on an occurrence that emerged recently. It's called digital solitude, which will develop even greater dimensions thanks to more advanced technological tools.
People, as individuals, will seek the company of a submissive, personalized, well-programmed machine, rather than their fellow human beings, which can sometimes lead to serious conflict. This will result in complete alienation within our society."
Your second album "Logos" is due out next month, will you be doing a tour of some kind to promote it?
"We are aiming to distribute the album to as many places as we can, and make it available on as many platforms as possible, with the help of our publisher. Like most bands, we would also like to perform these songs at concerts, because we believe this is the best way for listeners to become acquainted with us. We know there is a lot of work ahead, but this doesn't pose any difficulties for us, because we love to play and deal with the band."
Is metal music popular in Hungary or is it still relatively underground given AWS going to Eurovision last year?
"Metal genre in the past, was completely suppressed in Hungary. Nonetheless, many people like it, although it has always been banished from the mainstream media. Fortunately, things have started to change in the last couple of years. You can hear rock and metal performances on radio and television more and more often, which is very encouraging for Hungarian artists. AWS is an excellent band and we were all very happy that they participated in the Eurovision Song Contest, showing the world that rock music is actually alive in Hungary!"
Do you feel there is a lack of 'Cyber Metal' bands these days? What influenced you in creating your 'sci-fi metal' sound?
"Honestly, I never followed the current trends in the world of metal music, and as to which sub-genre is favoured by more people at a certain time. I know a few bands, who write songs with a similar theme, but the work of the New Age composers such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Vangelis, Enya had the greatest impact on our music. Old electronic artists: Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Aphex Twin also affected our work. Eternal favourites from the metal genre include Death, Cynic, Atheist, and Morbid Angel."
What is the Hungarian Metal scene like in terms of venues, festivals, media, etc?
"There are many metal festivals organised in the summer in Hungary, and these events attract large audiences. There are clubs nationwide, but these don't generally have many visitors. Fortunately for the media, things are getting better: there is press available in print and also on the internet, and we have internet based radio. There used to be a Rock TV channel, but if I'm not mistaken, it doesn't work any more."
For metalheads visiting Kazincbarcika, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any favourite places of yours?
"We used to have favourite places... since the late '90s, things have been getting worse in our area. Poverty, desolation. These are the characteristics of our region for the most part. As a result, the clubs were closed down one after the other, and the audience slowly disappeared. The last club in town closed in 2018 on New Year's Eve. We were the last performers at the club. We are hoping that this downtrend will end one day, and that there will be active musical life in the city once again. "
What plans does Mytra have for 2020 after the album release? Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Organizing concerts, shooting a new music video, and writing new songs. Fortunately, we have collected plenty of ideas for the next album. And we'll see the rest! Thank you for the interview Rhys, and we would also like to thank Global Metal Apocalypse for the opportunity. Our special thanks goes out to the dear readers, for reading this, and devoting a few minutes of attention to us!"
Some people may remember the country as Swaziland, but for the past 2 years Swaziland has been known as Eswatini following the decision taken by King Mswati III to rename the kingdom; to reflect it's original name, the natives and in-part to avoid confusion with Switzerland.
So what about it's rock and metal scene... there is none except for one band looking to start one up. Out Cry are a Christian Alternative Rock / Metal band who present themselves with credentials, having played all over the world and released an EP, it was time for GMA to question the band on their origins, the power of music and how rock music is interpreted in arguably a heavily Christian country.
Their new music video 'Butterfly' drops on the 29th February and has a very emotional backstory as you will see later on as you read.
You read it here, Eswatini is embracing rock / metal and thus has become the latest to join the wave of emerging African scenes.
"Music is a universal language and there is nothing I love more than seeing people (everywhere) coming together to celebrate music and life.""
For those who do not know of Out Cry, could you give us a brief history of the band, what it stands for and what the name means?
"Almost 8 years ago now, Out Cry was formed in a tiny tin shack on the side of a mountain in Piggs Peak, Swaziland. I have no doubt you are aware of the of the HIV pandemic that has ravaged the country of the last few years, well this shack named Christian Life Centre Church provided a place for young people in the community to escape from the bad hand that life had dealt them to receive mentorship, food, aid and to connect with God. We as the young people from that little shack took it upon ourselves to spread a message of hope and acceptance, striving to connect people through music, a medium which transcends languages and culture barriers.
Now 8 years down the line and no longer the young boy I was back then, I am truly amazed to see how far we have come. In 2014 we won our first ever African Gospel Music Award held in London and in 2015 went on to be double nominated for the Crown Music Awards in South Africa and ended up performing in front of the President of South Africa. In 2016 we embarked on our first international tour to Nashville and Hyderabad, India of all places. If you have yet to go to India, I would highly recommend it for its rich culture and ability to give on an overwhelming sense of perspective, INSTANTLY! This message is not meant to brag about our achievements but rather aimed at giving context to myself and our story with Out Cry.
Story Behind our latest music video “Butterfly” due to be released on Feb 29th 2020:-
"In 2017, after receiving an opportunity to record with one of South Africa’s top music producers, Theo Crous, we faced a massive financial obstacle. Having started a crowd funding campaign to raise the needed amount, one of the rewards for donating the highest amount was that we would write the donor a personal song. Towards the end of the campaign we were stunned to find that one lady had done just that; and contacted her as soon as we could to thank her and to ask what we could write about with regards to her song. She went on to tell us that her daughter was far away from home and that their relationship had undergone a massive amount of strain in recent years to the point of disassociation. Definitely something we could write about…. 2 days and a big KFC bucket later, we had composed a song called, 'Butterfly'. A song is written from the perspective of a mother to a daughter, capturing all the unsaid words and placing them in an unspoken dialogue between these 2 individuals.
Song completed, and recorded I sent through the song to the mother confident and expectant for what her feedback would be. No immediate reply…. 3 days later I followed up with her asking, “Did you get the song? What did you think?’’ Her reply was that the song was great but there was only one problem. She couldn’t listen to it without crying…. The next day her daughter called me up out of the blue just to say, “Thank you. It was as if all the words were coming straight from my mum and I have never felt closer to her than I do now.” The two of them later reconciled their differences and it was an absolute privilege to have aided in their process."
You play Christian / Alt Rock, do you feel that rock and metal music specifically offers itself as a platform to sing about powerful topics such as religion?
"We are Christians in a band that love to create and play music that has substance, depth and meaning. What is the point of creating something if it doesn’t evoke a feeling within the listener. We therefore write about themes of love, struggle, acceptance, and perseverance. Themes which are at their foundation Christian but are universal in their dialogue."
Coming from Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), can you tell us more about the rock / metal scene out there and what challenges as a band you have to face?
"Swaziland has a predominantly African Gospel or Hip Hop music scene, Rock or even Indie is not widely accepted except at main stream big music festival like Bushfire."
Do you feel both music genres bring the world together (free of cultural / political differences)?
"Music is a universal language and there is nothing I love more than seeing people from different ethnicities, cultures, genders, income brackets and colour all coming together to celebrate music and life."
Have you performed outside of Eswatini?
"Yes, we have journeyed to Nashville (USA), London (England), India, Mozambique and all over South Africa as a result of our pursuit in music."
Outside of the band, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
"All of the band members are academically accomplished, all having minimum undergraduate university degrees and some having Postgraduate Masters degrees. I myself work part time as an architect and love 3D special design, a process very similar to that of the creation of music."
For the rock and metal music fans visiting Mbabane, what sights and attractions could you recommend?
"Malolotja Canopy Tour, Ngwenya Glass, House On Fire"
What plans does Out Cry have for the year ahead? Do you have any greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We have some massive shows in the pipeline and the release of our latest music video links to follow."
Kazakhstan has come a long way since the fall of the Soviet Union, generally it feels freed from the shackles of it's Communist past ruling within the dark days of the USSR. Now it stands tall and proud as a booming nation within the Central Asian region, exporting heaps of oil and other natural gases to the world. Yet culturally it's rock and metal scene is growing with renewed vigour and purpose, from the early bands of the 90's like Holy Dragons to the modern wave featuring bands like Zarraza; of whom released their third EP 'Rotten Remains' back in November last year.
With this in mind GMA spoke to Zarraza about the current state of the Kazakh Metal scene, their new EP, the challenges faced of being outside the European and American markets and how neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turmenistan fare when it comes to touring and having bands arrive from said countries to play in Kazakhstan.
"The [Kazakh] fans feel connected to a global scene! We are not isolated any more."
Guys for those who have not heard of Zarraza can you give us a brief history of the band?
"We are an Extreme Thrash Metal band from Kazakhstan. We released our debut album "Necroshiva" back in 2018 and our recent EP "Rotten Remains" last year – fully re-recorded songs from early demos. Both efforts received positive reviews from Metal Hammer, MetalSucks, AngryMetalGuy and other webzines all over the world. It helped us to step on stage as opening act for Sepultura, Ektomorf, Arkona, Tyr.
We cannot be labelled as Old School Thrash Metal because we added some other flavours to our extreme cocktail. Try to listen to just two songs to get an accurate impression - "150 words" and "Failed Apocalypse". Check out our video for "Apocalypse" on YouTube – it was filmed at an altitude of 3300 meters (10,826ft) in snowy mountains!
And last but not least — we practise tour trades and brought a lot of underground metal acts to Kazakhstan: Katalepsy (Russia), God Syndrome (Russia). I proud of it."
You released your new lyric video "Bullets & Beliefs'19", what was the reaction like, who designed it?
"Some people here in Kazakhstan never heard the story of what the song is about and won’t believe it. The song is not just about the first infamous robbery of bank collectors in Kazakhstan in 2001 - it's a song about people who do it for religion... back in the day, 19 years ago, it seemed nonsense in Kazakhstan - but today we live with it and call it "religious terrorism". Attackers claim they did it to finance some terrorist groups...
The lyric video was created by our good friend Nikita Cherevko. He is good friend of ours and filmed almost all our videos — Shadows, Necroshiva, The Grudge, Failed Apocalypse…"
In recent years it seems the Kazakh Metal scene has grabbed attention from people all over Europe, in your opinion, what changed? Would you say Holy Dragons were one of the early pioneers?
"Of course it is great! Metal fans here are proud of some bands — now they have the proof that Kazakhstan has some good metal bands and the fans feel connected to a global scene! We are not isolated any more.
As far as I'm concerned, the first real Kazakh metal band was Accent, formed by the Tarnovsky brothers in the middle of the 1980’s. The band played Heavy / Speed Metal — they not very active now but played some gigs recently. In the 90's there were many more bands – from classic Heavy Metal outfits to Death-Grind brigades. Izverg, Deathtrack, Requiem, Holy Dragons to name a few... the last one survived through all these years and are still active which is cool."
Tell us more about the Kazakh Metal scene, it's history, challenges, support (oppression?), festivals, venues etc.-
"Some people believe it does not exist at all but now we can perform with “Necroshiva”! The metal scene is very small and independent. We are outside of the mass media radar which is not so bad I think because the media is full of prejudice towards rock music in general. So we build the metal scene here by ourselves – it's not easy but I love it because it is our scene! We practice tour trades with bands from different cities and even countries and it works very well!
You can see – the scene is a wholly underground thing. As a result even the most active bands release one or two releases and then stop. Very few bands are persistent through time. My favourite band from Kazakhstan is Doubleface. Their “Falls and Decline” album is available on Bandcamp and it should be checked by every Chuck Shuldiner fan!
Another class act is Seven Sins – their latest Symphonic Black release is very impressive! And they worked through years of fighting all obstacles which is a great example of persistence. Metalcore band Tishina (inactive now) worked with producer Tue Madsen from Denmark and the result was good! I was happy when their bass player Eugene Hablack joined Zarraza in 2018 and helped to record “Rotten Remains”. Unfortunately he moved to other city and left.
I told you we are doing tour trades – and we also running our own metal fest. Metal Clan Fest was held in 2017 and united Kazakhstan's extreme metal acts. Then it was transformed into Hellmaty Metal Fest in 2018, headlined by Ektomorf from Hungary. Also we did a Metal United Worldwide (MUWW) gig in 2019 with Katalepsy (Russia) as headliner. MUWW is a special event which started a few years ago in Australia with one simple idea: different countries and cities, hundreds of bands but on the same night – we all performed metal as loud as possible!"
I assume you have bands from neighbouring countries come to play in Kazakhstan? Especially from the other 'Stan' countries?
"First of all let me speak of the misconception behind the "Stan". It’s just a word from a map of the world but in reality we don’t have a lot in common with other Stans. Kazakhstan almost doesn’t have any connection — political or economical — to Pakistan and Afghanistan. A wholly different culture, history, traditions, politics and economy. Relations with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are not very active also, but Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan — yes, we have shared common history and heritage.
We played a lot with bands from Kyrgyzstan there, they play in Kazakhstan very often and I like a lot bands over there. Kashgar, Shahid, My Own Shiva to name a few. Uzbekistan just started to open for us — we played there twice, last time in May 2019. The gig and whole travel experience was great — you can find the video diary on YouTube. The rock scene over there is really strong and interesting. I hope they will come to play in Kazakhstan and we will go there again."
On that note on a larger scale, do you feel there is a gradual increase in attention being given to bands from Central Asia?
"Yes. We see that a lot people are surprised that a metal scene here is existing at all, haha. We have a lot of hungry active bands who wish to surprise metalheads all over the world and I hope you will hear a lot of new impressive releases from Central Asia."
What plans do you have for 2020? Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"Our main goal is a new release — we are demoing it right now. That’s why we don’t have any big plans about gigs — just a couple of local shows in mind. If you watched and liked our videos filmed in the mountains – stay tuned for more! We got some interesting ideas to be released as soon as new songs will be ready.
Just keep listening to some metal! The music erases borders created by politics, religions and other alienating cults – so keep it going!"
Watch the "Bullets & Beliefs 19" video here: https://youtu.be/Veif3-hBlkM