If you thought that Orphaned Land, Arallu and Melechesh was Israel's only metal exports, you'd be highly mistaken. Making a name for themselves is Scardust, their unique take on the progressive metal sound has received global acclaim and is evident in their latest music video "Tantibus II".
The song itself is taken from their new album 'Strangers', which was released on the 30th of October, 2020 via M-Theory Audio. The YouTube video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/C7uOQPjjiqM
Tantibus II continues the story of the song Tantibus (the first ever single and video the band officially released, back in 2015) in which the protagonist is stuck within a Sleep Paralysis and is looking for a way out. In Tantibus II the protagonist becomes addicted to this feeling, describing it as “taming her demon”, disconnecting from reality into her own mind in which she can now feel safe.
Yoav and Noa talk to GMA about the new album, how COVID-19 has impacted the band's plans and what metalheads can do when visiting the city of Tel Aviv.
Arguably, Scardust has emerged as one of the newest exports the Israeli metal scene, has it been a challenging journey for you guys?
"Well, it has been challenging, yeah. But I think that's just the way it goes you know? Trying to maintain a group of different people together with endless tasks over a long period of time is hard. We usually work on high gears so the grind never stops. Recordings, shows, videos, promotion, social media and so on."
Tell us more about the Israeli metal scene, we know about Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Arallu, but what about the underground?
"There are many local bands. There's a vivid death metal scene, if you're into old school stuff check out Kever, Venomous Skeleton, Promiscuity and Psynthesis. There is also Winterhorde who play Black Metal. In the more progressive direction you should check out Tillian and Subterranean Masquerade."
Reflecting on your new album "Strangers", what was the journey like in creating the new release? Talk us through the creation process.
"Firstly, Noa and Orr met to discuss the concept of the album. Through these meetings came up the idea to make a themed album from Noa's idea of estrangement and to build the album as pairs of songs. After that the writing process began, they wrote the lyrics and composed the main melodies and song structures with vocals and piano alone. Then came the orchestration as a full band, choirs and string quartet. When this was about half done we started rehearsals on the new material and gave feedback (for example, there was a whole song that was shelved), changed things a little bit, wrote solos and practised a lot. Almost the same as the way our previous album was made.
The recordings were quite different. Firstly there's the children's choir "Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir"; Noa travelled to England for their recording. Besides that, the pandemic hit us in the middle of the recordings, which meant that parts of the choir had to be recorded separately instead of a full section together. You can see that on our behind the scenes videos for the songs 'Break The Ice' and 'Mist'. Yadin and Yanai recorded their parts at their home studios instead of coming to the recording studio and having a technician help and make the process faster. That was quite a nightmare. But we made it through."
What was it like working with the legendary Jens Bogren? Was this your first time working with him or have you worked with him before?
"In addition to being legendary, Jens is a friend. I first contacted him in 2015, to master our first ever release, the EP “Shadow”, and then again in 2017 for our album “Sand Of Time”. In 2018 I worked closely with him, on writing and producing the choir parts (performed by my own choir Hellscore), and some female solo and backing parts, for Amorphis’s album “Queen Of Time”. Apart from that we both also worked on the Orphaned Land album “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” that year. It was only natural to work with him again on “Strangers”."
Check out their music video for 'Tantibus II' below:-
Noa, I think we can agree sexism is still prevalent in the global metal scene, but what is it like in Israel? If you have been subjected to it, how did you cope?
"Israel is the same as the rest of the world, or dare I say - slightly better, but I think that’s just because the scene is very small and most people in it know me personally. Unfortunately I have been subjected to sexism many times, and I’m afraid it’s probably safe to say that no woman in this industry can avoid that. It would usually appear in a form of man-explaining, or other forms of disrespect, or worse than that - objectification and / or harassment.
I know I can’t possibly educate adult people who behave in these ways, so I’m choosing to deal with it by being my strong self, and being confident in who I am, on and off stage. It’s also good to have bandmates who have my back at all times, I know I can trust them with my life :)"
Tell us how Scardust are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, did Israel have a lockdown? Word is you have had a 2nd lockdown?
"Naturally COVID-19 came with many challenges, to say the least. We had the worst luck. Two productions, that we worked on each for months, cancelled at the last minute because of an unexpected lockdown, twice. We had to rethink how to fund the album, since it was supposed to come from the summer shows. We had to come up with alternative solutions on how to promote the album, without any shows. We had to figure out how to finish the album production during lockdowns and restrictions.
It wasn’t easy, but luckily for us, we are surrounded by some amazing people who devoted themselves to help this album happen. All the people in the choir, the strings quartet, our main sound guy Kossov, our guest Patty, everyone just gave their hearts and souls to make this album happen, even when it felt impossible! Apart from that, we decided to produce as many videos as possible in order to promote the album, and we had some amazing friends and family helping us produce them with an impossible budget and impossible timeframes. We also received generous donations from our fans. Our management, label, and PR people are doing their very best every day."
Under normal circumstances, for metalheads visiting Tel Aviv, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
If you are into metal bars that play all genres from heavy metal to death metal and black metal, then you have got to go to 'The Rebel Bar'. Great atmosphere and Max the owner is the best guy ever. If you want a more rock to metal experience with some nu metal music I'd say that both 'Cheers' are good, 'Cheers Alenby' and 'Cheers Florentin'. For shows you should check the listings at 'Levontin 7', 'Ozen Bar', 'Barbie', 'Reading 3', 'Art Hall TLV' and 'The Zone'.
"And let’s face it, most metalheads are big nerds, so you should check the LVL UP Gaming bar as well. They usually have rock music in their playlists, and the staff are some of the coolest people."
What are your plans for next year (all things considered)? Will we see Scardust perform in the UK?
"I wish I could be the bearer of good news here, but unfortunately it’s still nearly impossible to make any plans at this point. That being said, we had some big plans that were cancelled in 2020, and we surely hope to be able to “pick them where we left off” in 2021. We love the UK and can’t wait to go back there, so this one is definitely on our to do list for as soon as it’s possible :)"
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Great! We would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in creating this album. So many wonderful and talented people, most of them being our friends and families. You know who you all are, and this album couldn’t have happened without you. Apart from that, to our amazing fans that support us and vouch for us. We love you all and can’t wait to see you live again!
And to you, thank you for having us here. Cheers from Israel!
"Many expats from Germany and the US turned up at our shows and became supporters. They probably could relate to the [music] style much more than the locals."
It goes without saying that Arcana XXII was not just another metal band, they were creating their own metal music and presenting it to a country whose scene was non-existent, let alone not having any appreciation for metal music.
The flag-bearers of the Namibian metal scene (no matter how small it is) have dived head-first into the archives and have amassed a collection that despite covering only a 5-year period, has the indisputable honour of being an important piece of metal music history, having been the very first Heavy Metal songs to be released in Namibia... possibly the earliest on the entire African continent.
They epitomised the very essence of what it was to be a D.I.Y. band, sure there will be bands in Europe and the USA who have this view on their work... but they will never be in the same league as Arcana XXII as the band explained in our interview with them.
Johan, Sven and Johann Smit explained all.
Would it be fair to say that the Namibian Metal scene is a cursed one? It seems that only Arcana XXII and subMission existed. Could you tell us the history of the metal scene, what the current situation is in general and where you personally see it going in the years ahead?
"There never really was a scene in Namibia. After we started there were a few acts (probably fuelled by what we had done) but none of them made a lasting impression in terms of releases or longevity. So as for the future I can’t really say that anything will happen there. Sven started subMission and I continued with projects like D.O.G. or Lockjaw, before moving to Germany.
South Africa is different, with numerous acts coming out or being around for many years. Examples are Bulletscript, LA Cobra, Mind Assault, Abaddon, Woltemade etc. Then of course there is neighbouring Botswana with bands like Overthrust or Wrust, which go into more of a death metal direction.
What was it like growing up as metalheads in Namibia, forming the first metal bands nationally and arguably providing the foundations for African Metal to grow upon?
"We had very little access to metal, be it in the form of LPs or live shows, so tape trading was huge. Every time someone went to Europe, they brought back cool releases which were transferred onto tape and shared. That’s how we got to know more bands and new genres. The only releases you could find in local record stores were bands that had major label deals. Like Def Leppard, AC/DC or Van Halen etc. This made us appreciate every piece of music we could get our hands on. Even a poorly dubbed cassette copy of Accept or Exodus was considered holy.
As for the band, it was fun but also hard work to start something in a market where the majority of the population is African and listens more to hip hop, kwaito or rap. There were no other musicians that could boost your enthusiasm in a healthy sort of rivalry. Nevertheless, I think it is exactly what made us stand out more. Since there was little happening, and no acts would visit Namibia, we motivated ourselves to create our own music. Our shows always had a high attendance, with people from different walks of life often coming for the pure energy of the live experience."
Some would see metal as purely a white person's music, but as we've seen this is untrue, surely it must be exciting to see other ethnicities across the world engage in metal music? On that note, do you feel metal music has helped to breakdown racial connotations that otherwise exist in the mainstream?
"It’s definitely exciting. I really enjoy seeing that, especially Botswana bringing out bands that are so devoted to metal. I think music has always been the universal language, but I don’t know if metal is really having that kind of impact on the mainstream in Southern Africa as you mentioned."
"I think many black Namibians regarded us as some kind of freak show, harmless but strange :-). A large part of the conservative white establishment definitely did not like us, which we were perfectly fine with. Many expats from Germany and the US turned up at our shows and became supporters. They probably could relate to the style much more than the locals."
Surely you must be pleased to be releasing this historic compilation in "Return To The Darkland"? Will it be released on vinyl in the future alongside a digital and CD release?; Can you tell us more about the DVD from the physical version, what does it cover?
"We're really excited about the historic compilation release of "Return To The Darkland". It would be totally awesome to see this release on vinyl in the future, alongside the CD and DVD. That would just complete the set. The DVD is presented in a documentary style, from within three timespans in which Arcana XXII was active, i.e. circa 2001. Narrated by Namibian musician and TV personality, Boli Mootseng, it includes interviews, live clips and 5 full length music videos (And who knows, maybe the last 3 music videos, 'Remember Forever', 'Untold' and 'Breathing In Me', would be included)."
Do you feel as a whole that African Metal for years was largely ignored or not taken notice of by metal media in Europe? Could you envisage years down the line a festival much like Bloodstock Open Air, but based in Africa?
"Absolutely, I think metal from Africa has indeed been largely ignored. But I also think that African acts haven’t really done enough to achieve that acclaim either. It would require touring and frequent solid releases. The first band that ever set foot on European soil in terms of touring and playing live, was my ex-band Voice Of Destruction. Then there was Groinchurn also. But there were never follow up tours etc to stay in the game."
"In my time with subMission I organised the annual Windhoek Metal Fest where we invited bands from neighbouring countries, that worked really well and contributed to the unification of the scene on the subcontinent, at least a little bit. We had three editions, all sold out. We also had requests from international bands, like Heaven Shall Burn, Tankard and Orden Ogan. We couldn't find sponsors for flight tickets, so that was it."
For metalheads visiting Windhoek, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend (under normal circumstances)?
"Oh wow, I think those would be purely from a tourist point of view. I would definitely recommend Namib Naukluft Park and the Namib Desert, which offer vast landscapes and really take you out of the rat race almost instantly. Also interesting is the coastline. Skeleton Coast has many historical ship wrecks, and the name says it all. A really treacherous and rough coastline."
"The first and only metal pub in Windhoek "Blitzkrieg Bunker Bar" died at the same time as subMission did, around 2010. So visitors are left with the usual tourist traps, like Joe's Beerhouse. Or some nice beach bars at the coast. I would recommend the Desert Tavern in Swakopmund."
What are you plans for the year ahead and leading into 2021?
"We view "Return To The Darkland" as a sort of retrospective view on all the material we have written and also a the closing chapter of the band. There will be no further music or live appearances as all the members have their own lives now in different parts of the world. Logistically it just would not work. Perhaps only with a new line up, if at all."
Do you have any greetings or thanks that you wish to send to out to friends, family and fans?
"Really only to the fans who show support to this day and of course Einheit Produktionen for making "Return To The Darkland possible."
Arcana XXII – “A Return To The Darkland / Untold” Digi CD+DVD expected to released 25.02.2021.