"We continue to combat the rejection of metal music as the authorities and the media do not understand this style of music and view it as a part of the ideological weapon of the enemy of the north."
When you think of the Caribbean island nation of Cuba, you tend to think of the ever-lasting Cuban cigar, rum, Spanish-colonialism and the historical Cuban Missile Crisis; fronted by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. But beneath that is a metal scene that's practically built on a DIY attitude, just like our ancestors did when they first created the boat to enable voyages across the seven seas.
Perhaps it's then fitting for the quintet Mephisto to deploy their Latin-infused style of Black Metal, a sound that would rival the very ferocity of a barraging hurricane. For a band that has been around since 1996, a revolving-door of musicians coming and going and their debut album coming 20 years later, you would have thought it was curtains for the band... alas you'd think wrong, they are set to deliver their second opus in the form of "Pentafixion". It was therefore fitting for Global Metal Apocalypse to grill the quintet and find out info relating to the album, why you need a 'can do, will do' attitude just to survive in the Cuban metal scene and why bands (like Mephisto) look outwards to Europe (in their case) and the USA for exposure.
This culminated in them signing with Italian label WormHoleDeath. Now whilst Mephisto plans a national tour of Cuba (slated for mid 2021) and a run of dates later in the year in Nicaragua, check out the birth of "Latin Black Metal" courtesy of Cuba's veterans Mephisto.
Hi everyone, first of all tell us what is it like to sign with WormHoleDeath and what this means for the band?
"Signing with WormHoleDeath means a huge step forward for the band. The visualization of Mephisto in the European and Asian markets, where I am sure that people from those regions do not even know that there is even a small island called Cuba in the Caribbean and even less that European metal is made on that island. This exposure is important as it’s what Mephisto does, although future fans will notice that the influences of the Spanish and African mix of our culture are noticed in our music.
We have been ostracized for years due to the little attention that metal in general has in our own territory and the little we have achieved has been through perseverance, work and talent, so the opportunity to belong to the family of such a prestigious record company gives us a visibility on the map that we could not achieve with our own means or with the help of Cuban record companies that have little reach."
Not many people would associate Black Metal with the exotic climate of Cuba, what makes your style of Black Metal different?
"Not having contact with other leading bands of the genre worldwide, not having access to international festivals and due to the scarce exchange on stage with bands from other countries, means that we have few external influences that mould our music, so our Black Metal takes on a rare originality. That is the reason why several bands in the world, when they go to compose or record an album, isolate themselves in remote places, so that their product is genuine. It happens to us for reasons of force majeure.
The different musical tastes of each member also make a difference, the same in metal as in other musical genres, so do not be surprised if we are caught listening to Jazz. Also the amalgamation of Caribbean sounds that we are surrounded by influences us indirectly. In Mephisto you can find patterns that jump from 4/4 to 3/4 or 6/4 and 7/4, or the use of syncopations, Latin jazz patterns on the drums, and even the Cuban keys. Of course, deep down, if you know music you will notice."
Arguably, the Caribbean has some pretty good metal scenes, but those in Europe are often not noted, what do you think is missing or owed to those in Europe who don't explore Caribbean metal?
"Because death metal and brutal death abound. The consumption in Europe is mostly more in the symphonic styles, and even perhaps melodic or symphonic death metal. I think Europeans are more attracted to black, folk and death metal trends that I mentioned earlier. The metal market is in the USA, mainly Florida and New York, so the Caribbean bands try to enter that market. There is a rejection between both parties. In the case of Mephisto we have a special interest in Europe, because it is the market that suits us best. Although if we’d welcome success in America too."
Logistically, would we ever see a Caribbean Metal Festival take place? What is the general perception of metal music by the general public?
"If you mean Cuba, well ... there are about 9 metal festivals throughout the island, but only some have an international character and few bands from the USA and Europe have participated due to the poor logistics of each of them. It must be taken into account that the government of the island, of a socialist nature, is not interested in financing this type of event for ideological reasons and all are carried out by a small but strong non-governmental organization called AHS that puts its funds to carry out these events. International groups that have an interest in acting on the island must do so with their own financing, and not everyone does that because it is a great expense.
As for other regions, in Central and South America there are events that can afford to have first-rate bands, but let's bear in mind that they operate in a market economy where they invest and obtain benefits. That way everything can be done."
You are preparing to release your new album "Pentafixion", can you tell us what the album is about and how did you come up with the lyrics? Tell us about the process of recording the album.
"Pentafixion is composed of songs from different eras of the band. Songs that were collected in poorly recorded demos, with a sound impossible to commercialize. Due to technological advances in music production we managed to make this recording with a lot of effort and group work. The sessions were held in my house (Mole's Home Studio) with minimal conditions that will seem impossible when you listen to the sound of the album. The orchestration was done with Kontakt software without acoustic conditions of any kind. But I repeat, you will not believe it when you listen to the CD since the software, plug-ins, etc., have helped to clean up the mix and give it the professional studio environment that you will listen to. As we have had the need, we have become experts in these software programs and in sound engineering. What else could we do with no access to professional recording studio in Holguin?
Once the album was mixed, we took it to a private studio of another sound lover: Samuel P. Santiesteban (Botija Productions), who was in charge of the mastering. I was then charged to make the DDP file, guided by a YouTube tutorial. As I said before: necessity is the mother of invention. As for the letter of Pentafixion, it is simply the fact of the crucifixion on a pentagram for the performance of a ritual of evocation for the materialization of evil on earth (Mephistopheles). As for the other topics, I can summarize it this way:
Tell us what it was like to grow up as metalheads in Cuba, the challenges, the difficulties, how has COVID-19 impacted the country in general?
"Difficulties have grown perseverance. Necessity is the mother of invention, and surrender is not an option for Cuban metalheads. It is not new history, the metalheads and bands of Eastern Europe went through the same thing and bands like Behemoth and Vader did not see the light at the end of the road until the fall of the Berlin wall. We are in the same situation and we have had to invent our equipment and instruments until we had access to branded equipment with outside help. There has also been the production of t-shirts with their own means by fans and a thousand other curiosities.
We continue to combat the rejection of metal music as the authorities and the media do not understand this style of music and view it as a part of the ideological weapon of the enemy of the north. Of course, over the years some of these things have changed and there is some openness and some other space on radio and TV, but the anthropological damage has already been done in the population, so metal is still minority music.
The Covid-19 has achieved that in 1 year there are no metal events or concerts in the country except in our city, Holguin, where the rate of infected is lower, and there were a few months that it reached 0%. Of course, only groups from the city and other nearby cities have been able to participate, since the west of the country has not had respite from this new disease.
Under normal circumstances (i.e., without a pandemic), what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads visiting Havana?
"There is only one place: the Maxim Rock room on Bruzón Street, in Ayestarán corner, Plaza municipality. It's where the only metal concerts are held."
What are your plans for next year taking all things into account? Do you have any greetings or thanks that you want to send to friends, family, fans, etc.?
"We are preparing another album, this time a conceptual work on the myth of Dracula. It will be titled Carpathian Tales. It's more of a remake of an album that we recorded in Cuba but we couldn't do anything with it due to the sound quality. Later we will do the same with our first two demos and while this happens (in a space of two or three years); we will be composing a totally new album with unreleased songs. 5 songs out of 10 that are in process are ready but as you can see, there is work for a while.
Also, depending on the epidemiological situation, we plan to tour Central America and Europe, but we still have to wait to see what happens for now. It’s frustrating not being able to tour but we have the time now to effectively promote the Pentafixion album in all possible ways."
Official Website – https://mephistoband.com
Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/MephistoCubanMetalBand
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.
"There's always the feeling that [Spanish] local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Born In Exile are here to prove that the Spanish Metal scene is alive and that it should no longer be ignored by the wider European audiences. Having dropped their stellar second album "Transcendence" earlier this year via legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records, this progressive metal leviathan are already gearing up for next year (due to COVID-19 decimating the entire music industry), the bulls are raging.
GMA spoke to the quintet about their new album, the whole identity crisis surrounding nationalism and regionalism - the Catalonia vs. Spain debate, attitudes towards female musicians in Spain and why local Spanish bands have the perception that they are pushed beneath international bands.
For those who have not heard of Born In Exile, can you give us a brief rundown of the band's history?
"We are a contemporary progressive metal band from Barcelona. Our music is characterized by a
powerful voice with many registers, very strong riffs, virtuous solos and unusual rhythm structures; but easy on the ear at the same time.
We've released two records: “Drizzle Of Cosmos” (2017) & “Transcendence” (2020). The band was
formed in 2012 by ex-members of another Spanish band. In 2015, Kris became the new vocalist of the band and brought a big change to the style of our music. "Transcendence" is the true sound that we wanted since the beginning.
You released your 2nd album "Transcendence" back in March, what was the reception like and how does it feel linking up with Art Gates Records?
"The record received very good appraisal online, but unfortunately we haven’t had the opportunity to give it the presentation it deserves live, even if there were quite a few shows in place. Working with Art Gates Records is great, we are very happy about our professional relationship with them. They are very active and constantly get involved in Born In Exile’s promotion and exposure activities."
Talk us through the entire album process from pre-recording to releasing, how you came up with the song titles, etc?
"It was a long process since we wrote the songs until we recorded them. Most of the tracks are composed by Carlos and the lyrics written by Kris, but we love to create music all together too.
Many things in "Transcendence" are involved. The theme of the song, what we want to express in it and the target. We like to be sharp but subtle in as many ways as possible. Our music talks about experiences from our past and subtle social critique.
The recording and the mixing faced difficult issues, because we self-produced our music. Carlos Castillo was in charge of everything, and it became hard work altogether. A lot of hours in the studio made the perfect sound that we wanted and Carlos worked really hard to make the band happy with the sound.
Carlos Arcay (Arcay Sound) did the mastering and we were more than happy with that, a very good tandem."
Do you as a band prefer to be known as Spanish or Catalonian? Is this cultural identity as relative now as it was years ago?
"We don’t have a common position about this issue as a whole. Born In Exile prefers to be called however you want to call us (laughs). The national identity issue in Catalonia and other regions of Spain (Basque Country, for example) is a very complicated topic that sometimes leads to strong confrontation between people in both extremes. Most of us are Catalan but we also have an Argentinian / Andalusian member (Joaco, lead guitarist) so we prefer to leave the identity issue aside as a band."
What are the challenges that upcoming Spanish metal bands tend to face these days?;
"People in our country tend to believe that the national bands are less professional or successful. We have more followers at home than anywhere else, but there's always the feeling that local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Kris, do you feel that sexism in metal is still an issue? In your own view has it improved or
"There’s a lot of work to do in fact. Fortunately the sexism in metal doesn’t exists as much in
Europe than in Spain, for example, or in other music styles or jobs dedicated to shows. Everything is getting better, but we need to keep on fighting more because it is not over at all."
How have you individually been coping with the lockdown earlier this year, what have you been up to in the time you're stuck at home?
"Everyone has stopped right now. We released the album one week before our lockdown. Even if all of our concerts have been canceled for 2020 (we had quite a few including a European tour) we tried to be as active as possible."
For metalheads visiting Barcelona in normal circumstances, what sights / attractions can
you recommend? What bars and venues?
"Everything is almost closed now, and maybe you cannot come to the best bars or venues, but you can search online for these bars - the “Undead Dark Club” in Sants, “HellAwaits” in Paralel, “Burning Rock Food” in Sants, the concert venues “Bóveda”, “Razzmatazz”, “Sala Monasterio” and “Sala Apolo”."
Do you have any greetings and thanks you wish to send out to fans, etc?
"Stay metal! Support localbBands and see you on the stages, friends!!"
"Maybe they will think metal music is so dope, just kidding. They'll think this kind of music is so noisy." [Bhone on their parents thoughts of metal music]
When you think of metal music from Asia, Burma (Myanmar) is probably one of those countries that does not come to mind as having an active metal scene. In truth it does... just a very small and underground one, one that has not had a great deal of international coverage by the mass metal media. It just seems that this corner of Asia is often largely ignored, or not explored by the Western metal media thus leaving metal scenes, like Burma (Myanmar), often in the shadows and confined to only regional, if not continental press.
Flying the flag for the Burmese Metal scene is A Letter From Caeser among other bands, whose unapologetic style of Metalcore may be seen as run-of-the-mill for the hardcore fans of the genre, but would that thought ever stop this quintet? No chance. In fact, back in March they released their latest music video in 'Pyan Lar Mae Nay' and having checked it, GMA thought it would be only appropriate to give the band an interrogation... guitarist Bhone Zay Yar elected himself as spokesman for the band.
For those who have not heard of A Letter From Caesar, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"We started our band in September 2011, in the beginning it was Soe Pyae Han on vocals and myself on guitars. Later we found another guitarist and bassist, but lacked a drummer and keyboardist. In 2013, we found both a drummer (who played in the band Last Will) and a keyboardist. We had a few line-up changes and settled on our new bassist, Zin Mg Thant.
Towards the end of 2014, our former drummer quit and we recruited a new drummer. Like other bands, we tried to come up with a band name - there were so many names that we discovered and were so confused at the whole issue, we didn't know which name to choose! Funny times.
Finally our former guitarist (Tu Tu) chose one name and we all thought that it would be cool for us, so we chose the band name A Letter From Caesar. However, in 2016 Tu Tu quit and we brought in our new guitarist Kyaw Gyie, establishing our current line-up."
Back in March you released your new music video 'Pyan Lar Mae Nay', what does the song mean? Are all of your songs in Burmese?
"It's about a soldier who is missing his family & home, whilst he is away on a battlefield. All of the other soldiers are dead & he is the only one left, he is wounded and found a way to come back home.
Yes, all of our songs are written in Burmese."
Check out their music video "Pyan Lar Mae Nay" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3lhbiGzEak
What do your parents think of your music? What is the public opinion on metal music?
"They don't say a lot about our music. I think maybe they are used to it, we have been listening to this kind of music since we were young, they heard what we listen to & I think it's OK for them.
Maybe they will think metal music is so dope, just kidding. They'll think this kind of music is so noisy."
Have you had people outside of Burma (Myanmar) listen to your music? Have you played outside of Burma?
"Some of our Burmese friends who travel and live abroad listen to our music. No we haven't played outside of Burma."
What was it like growing up as metalheads in Burma (Myanmar)? What are the challenges that Burmese Metal bands face?
"I think that there is nothing different from other people. We do what we want and that's it."
For metalheads visiting Yangon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Well, there's a lot of places that you can go and see / do in Yangon, I don't know which places to recommend for metalheads. Maybe you should do a Google search or use social media to search for things, I think that both options will work."
What plans do you have towards late 2020 and into early 2021?
"For 2021, we are preparing for our new album."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"We would like to thank our fans, family and friends but also yourself for interviewing us."
"Heavy Metal is still very very popular in Finland and every time a metal band brings out an album, it's always in the top 10 chart over here."
Ensiferum celebrate 25 years in 2020 and have just recently released their 8th studio album "Thalassic"; which in itself marks as a first as the band's first themed album. Sadly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as with all forms of entertainment and art, Ensiferum's plans have been put on hold or cancelled, sure they managed to do a live stream show, but the anniversary celebrations may have to wait until next year, that's if they do it. Stepping up to speak to GMA was vocalist / guitarist Petri Lindroos, he survived our interrogation as he confessed his passion for vinyl, his sorrow at the depletion of venues in Helsinki, his excitement at the new album being released and his nostalgia for the pastimes or indeed things he grew up with, that is as said vinyl, but also cassettes, CD's and going into a record store and being able to listen to a record before purchasing the item(s).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you celebrate your new album "Thalassic" and your 25th anniversary as a band?
"That is an excellent question, well we did a live stream show and this was really the only form of celebration that we can pull off this year [Ensiferum had some shows planned prior to the COVID-19 pandemic]."
What in your opinion are the main factors that have made Ensiferum retain solidarity over the years?
"Well I would say we get along really well, our chemistry matches really well, we have a good crew that takes care of us on the road and stuff, we all still love and enjoy the things that we are doing - writing music, recording albums, going on the road and performing them."
You released the single "Rum, Women, Victory" prior to the "Thalassic" album release, what was the reception like and what can you tell us about the single? What does the word "Thalassic" mean?
"We received very positive feedback from it and for great reason as it's a killer track, we really love that track, it was a very good choice for our first single from the album. It's a nice starting point for the album, it gets your feet moving and head banging very nicely, even if it's a very metal-ish song from the Ensiferum repertoire, it's a very guitar-driven song and is definitely one of my favourites.
Thalassic means 'relating to the ocean and water', so it's not actually pinpointing anything specific but like water-related, ocean-related, this is the first ever themed album by Ensiferum, so this was a new approach for us - our bassist Sami Hinkka came up with this idea a couple of years ago and has been working every now and then until we started to actually form album material. He did a lot of research in historical events, ocean-related myths and things like that, so he is very much responsible for the whole theme actually."
Talk us through the "Thalassic" creation process from start to finish, was there any challenges you had to overcome?"
"Well the recording took around 5 weeks, and then it was mixed and mastered in 2 weeks by Jens Bogren in Sweden. Basically our style of writing music is really really slow, our guy Markus Toivonen one of Ensiferum's founding members brings across the ideas that he has, puts it down at the rehearsal place and plays around with them... we try all of the ideas including the crazy ones before we nail anything down, this takes a while as things change a lot and then when we were ready to hit the studio, we done it and then the final touches actually happen on-the-fly in the studio whilst we are recording."
Could you tell us what the track 'Cold Northland (Väinämöinen Part III)' means?
"Well the song is the 3rd part of the 'Väinämöinen' trilogy of what has been in existence with Ensiferum for a long time, since the first album... we also wanted to add a little bit of old school Ensfierum vibe into that song and I thought we pulled it off pretty nicely; you can hear that it's completely new but still has a lot of the old Ensiferum elements in it."
Most albums tend to have some songs that never make the final cut, did this happen with "Thalassic"?
"Actually nope, we have almost never had any leftover songs that does not fit into the album, we basically worked the material already and when it's almost ready to be recorded we start to figure out things for the studio; basically we don't ever have leftovers."
Therefore it keeps things tidy and not open for reflection in the context of what songs should have not been left out right?
"Absolutely! Then there is no questions of 'what if', what if this song should have changed to this one and why it didn't make it into the album, things like that, but also saves us getting a headache with that."
Do you have any funny stories to share through your touring experience?
"A lot of cool stuff has happened, it's usually in the middle of the night when people are drunk, when you're just coming out from a show and gear is packed up from the venue and loaded into the bus, ready to head to the next venue. All the funny things between the night and following morning, I cannot pull out any significantly funny moments out of my back pocket like that."
What are your thoughts on "Thalassic" being out on vinyl, was vinyl something you were used to growing up?
"It's very nice to see the album out on vinyl, actually I think that all of our albums are now pretty much on vinyl, even the first one, so the whole catalogue is out. I think that is just wonderful, I don't use Spotfiy at all basically, I just don't like to use Spotify. When I am at home, I listen to vinyls and have CD's, I also have a CD / cassette player attached to my stereo system which I also find very cool. I was listening to a mix-tape I made somewhere in the early 90's and was pretty surprising stuff what came out then, because the title just said 'Power Metal'.
When I was a child, we had this very old stereo system at home with an analogue radio, I think there was even a double cassette / CD player and vinyl player, so yeah there was vinyls back in the days when I was growing up. I actually bought myself a vinyl player a few years back and have started collecting vinyls now, I really do enjoy listening to vinyls, it feels very good."
Of course there are people who prefer digital and others like yourself preferring physical, do you feel at some point there will be a common ground?
"Yeah of course, I also have all of my music stored on my iPad, so of course the convenience of having all of your music on your little iPad or mobile phone, or you store it to the cloud so you can basically listen to it anywhere in time; that one comes to mind when I am travelling. I don't think it's that handy to be travelling with a vinyl player, amplifier and two huge speakers to pump music out you know? Travelling with dozens of vinyls could be tricky... so I think there are good and bad sides for both in a way, but I guess the older people from the 80's & 90's prefer the physical copy of the album in whatever format, that they can hold it in their hands.
But the new generation who have been growing up alongside this digital technology, they will appreciate it a lot more just to have it as a download in mp3 version or whatever it is on their mobile phones, etc.
In a way it is also nice that you can listen an album or at least parts of it online before you purchase them, back in the days you could just go to the record store, pick up an album and take it to the guy at the counter who would hand you over headphones so you could listen to it there, now you can do this at home or wherever you are, sitting on a bus, train, you name it... you can listen to so much music now in an easier way with this digital technology."
Some bands are not fussed about genre tagging and some are, where does Ensiferum sit in this?
"That is a very good question because I think it also depends on who you ask, we have a lot of songs that take influences from many different metal styles, it's hard to pick one specific genre and apply us to it, but we have these Pagan and Viking metal elements alongside Folk Metal... I think we are a part of all of those genres somehow, but we still do consider ourselves a Heavy Metal band which has folk influences in it."
With that in mind, given how distinguishable Finnish folk music is, how would you describe it, how does it differentiate from other folk music?
"That is a really good question actually, well to me when I listen to the Finnish bands from this genre, they all sound very different to each other, but they are easy to recognise - they have this 'Finnish' sound and touch on the music. If you listen to Turisas, they have very much got their own sound in contrast to say Finntroll who have a totally different sound, to me there is a lot of common factors with these two bands - for example, that they come from Finland."
Speaking of which, given how global metal music is with bands from Botswana, Syria, etc., what are your thoughts on the genre's universal appeal?
"Heavy Metal is very universal, that is something I can say. Every place that we have played at has had metalheads there no matter where it is. But these countries definitely have Heavy Metal bands from there, just that we over here in Europe or the USA haven't actually noticed them somehow, that's perhaps the trickiest part - I don't know that many bands though I have seen it on Facebook here and there, that there are metal bands coming from the Middle East and have been taking a listen and are like 'oh, this sounds very cool, why not'."
With respect to not just upcoming Finnish bands, but upcoming bands worldwide, what is the biggest bit of advice you could offer?
"Well first of all play the music that you want to play, play from the heart, never give up; it's a hard and rocky road, with COVID-19 obviously it's not easy for anybody. Just keep on doing what you do and believe in it."
For Metalheads visiting Helsinki, surely there are a lot of venues and so what venues have you most enjoyed performing at? What more can be done to support grass-root venues?
"Well unfortunately there was 3 venues that have just closed in Helsinki permanently, these 3 venues went down within a period of around 6 months. One of those venues was also working as a rehearsal room for dozens of bands, was knocked down and demolished and from what I know, office buildings will be built in it's space. This venue is actually looking for new premises to continue their work, hopefully they can find some.
The 2nd one which was called Virgin Oil is being converted into a hotel, so that one is gone and The Circus in down-town Helsinki is also being converted into an office building. So 3 major venues are gone from Helsinki, but we still have the classic Tavastia club - I guess this one will never go away, it's been there since roughly the 60's / 70's, a very long time. Then there are a couple of new ones popping up here and there, I haven't been to those ones so I don't know how they look and sound from inside, but hopefully we will get some new venues to replace the ones that we have lost so far.
I have seen many shows in these venues and seeing them go really sucks, the local crews from these venues have lost their jobs - both of which are very sad situations.
That's an excellent question, well I think a lot could be done to make this venue situation a lot better... I don't know, it's so much out of my field of knowledge and know-how to know how these things could actually work in being somewhat successful."
For Metalheads visiting Helsinki, what sights / attractions could you recommend, is metal still as popular in Finland?
"There are museums and a fair good number of record shops to visit just around the city centre, so I definitely recommend looking those ones up, they have very nice selections and great staff, decent prices too - so check them out and support the record shops. There used to be a lot of metal bars in Helsinki, but I am not sure if we have one left, that was one of the good things about Helsinki, a long time ago though.
Heavy Metal is still very very popular in Finland and every time a metal band brings out an album, it's always in the top 10 chart over here."
"Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains."
Marax are a Symphonic Black Metal band from Slovenia whose lyrics revolve around Satanism... now to most metalheads the response will be 'not another Dimmu Borgir surely?' Well to answer this in the most cliche of responses, no they are not, they are their own sound and own style... probably what makes Slovenian Black Metal so unique, so much so Marax could not even explain why this is and thus just confirms that there clearly is something special about the said geographical variation of said genre. They have managed to deliver their debut album "The Witch" even in these dark times with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide. Here they talk to GMA about the album, the Europe-wide reception, the Slovenian Metal scene and why (as said) it's hard to explain why Slovenian Black Metal is different to other geographical variations of Black Metal.
For those who have not heard of Marax, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"The band was founded in the winter of 2017 by guitarist Nord Slayer (Cordura, Cvinger, Cursed Be Thy Flesh), drummer Morgoth (Cordura, Cvinger, Kholn, Cursed Be Thy Flesh) and vocalist Anin Astaroth (Morana) to play extreme, symphonic black metal. They joined forces with violinist Žica for the first two EP's ("The Abyss Of Illusions" in 2018 and "Dance Within The Flames Of Burning Fire" in 2019). In late 2019, violinist Mors Violinis joined the band, and in April 2020 we released our first full-length album "The Witch". The name designates the daemon Marax (also known as Morax, Forfax or even Ma’at), who is, generally, the daemon of justice."
Symphonic Black Metal is such an overloaded genre, with that in mind how would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging?
"We aim to compose and perform extreme metal music. The sound of the violin (or, in the future, of various bowed string instruments) is always present, as well as some symphonic elements. Otherwise, we are pretty open in style, there are usually some more death metal elements in our songs, and we create what we feel."
Regarding your debut album "The Witch", what was the reception like? Has anyone outside of Slovenia bought the album; any surprising places?
"In fact, even more people bought the album throughout the Europe (compared to Slovenia). For the digital format we cannot know exactly."
Talk us through the making of the album from the production to mixing and mastering, the whole process.
"For the latest album, "The Witch", Nord Slayer first composed all the songs, at least the foundations. He wrote and recorded the parts for the guitars, the bass and the keyboards. Next, Morgoth composed and recorded the drums, then Mors Violinis composed and recorded the violin parts. Lastly, Anin Astaroth wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals. For some songs, the backing vocals were recorded by Anin Astaroth and Nord Slayer, as well as some additional “instruments”. Everything was recorded, mixed and mastered in Studio Toplica by Nord Slayer and Morgoth."
Slovenia seems to have a rather strong Black Metal (and related metal) scene, what is it that makes Slovenian Black Metal strong?
"The answer to this question is much more complex than we could explain here. We think it could, on one hand, be do to with the nature here, or on the other hand, with the historical background."
On a broader note what challenges do Slovenian Metal bands tend to face these days? (ignoring COVID-19)
"Probably it is relatively poor concert attendance, but still, it’s not so bad. There are approximately two million people in Slovenia, a minority of which are metalheads. In fact, there are a relatively large number of bands compared to the audience sometimes. But we don’t want to complain; as soon as this crisis is over, we cannot wait to perform again."
For metalheads visiting Savinjska Dolina, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Firstly, the members of Marax are not from this region only (contrary to what the internet says). They are from the mentioned valleys (the towns of Velenje and Šoštanj) and from Kranj and Ljubljana. In the surroundings of every town mentioned you could just encounter nature, there are some forests, lakes, mountains etc. Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains. In the valley of Savinjska Dolina, you could visit venues like MC Šoštanj or any bar actually. In Kranj, the most “metal” or alternative venue is Trainstation Squat Subart, and in Ljubljana there are several places like Orto bar, Metelkova or Kino Šiška where the concerts are held."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Greetings to everyone who reads this! Keep supporting extreme metal \m/"
"Bands from the same regions try to stick together to organise gigs and we support each other as much as we can."
Mention the genre Metalcore and usually people will bring up bands from the USA, the UK and to an extent Australia... mostly because they tend to dominate the touring circuit. However if you look under the coveted swathe of stadium bands i.e. of the Asking Alexandria, Killswitch Engage and Parkway Drive, then you'll find a plethora of Metalcore bands from most of the known metal scenes. Emerging out of the Polish metal scene is Winds Brought Siberia who arguably have been causing a bit of a national stir, there is no doubt when things calm down (post COVID-19) we will see this quintet develop plans to play across Europe.
They went on to explain that they are not just a run-of-the-mill Metalcore band and certainly are not just another product off of the factory line. They told GMA about their origins, how their sound dabbles in global sounds, why it's hard for bands in Poland to gain a relative national following and that success tends to rely on being internationally known and of course, what there is to do in their home city of Poznań.
For those who have not heard of Winds Brought Siberia, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"Winds Brought Siberia is a Polish project that began in 2016. Since the very beginning we wanted to bring something that's full of emotions and allows us to share our feelings and thoughts with as many people as possible. In December 2019 we released our first EP “Consolation”, which features 5 songs that describe and respond to some of the problems and various situations we face nowadays all over the world. It is our voice, a word that we want to spread through people and raise awareness and touch their hearts and souls."
You play Post-Hardcore / Metalcore; describe your sound without using the genres, how do you make yourself different from other bands in these genres?
"We are a mix of people with various interests, and we take inspirations from every part of life. From the very beginning we wanted to not shut ourselves in the box of a single genre and deliver our music from our hearts. We also listen to music from all over the world, and every one of us have different favourite styles and genres, so you can hear sounds from all over the world in our songs. Sometimes we are more “post” and sometimes we are more “black”."
What is the Metalcore / Post-Hardcore scene like in Poland? Are there many bands?
"The Metalcore / Post-Hardcore scene in our country is fairly big. We have some recognizable bands e.g. Frontside (whose vocalist is a guest on one of our songs), who are one of the pioneers of these genres here, but it’s hard to achieve a local-iconic level like they did. There are also a lot of smaller bands and every month people form new ones, so the scene is developing right now."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"Most of us have the privilege to work and learn from home, but in our free time we spoke, planned and worked on the future of the band, social media and new material that we want to release next. As of the hobbies we are mostly ordinary dudes, so our activities involve video-games, books, listening to music, learning new stuff like vlogging and photography, some sports and of course practising instruments."
What are the challenges that most Polish Metal bands face these days (ignoring COVID-19)? Is there established media in Poland?
"Not really. We have Facebook fan pages and groups, auditions at small local radios but nothing widespread - this may be one of the challenges we have to face. There is no specific channel for spreading metal music. We also have a feeling that attendance at concerts is also dropping. As there’s a lot of new bands that are in our country it’s getting harder to get recognized and being original, but we think that our strongest side is spreading emotions through our music."
Tell us more about the Polish Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Poland? What is the public opinion of metal?
"It’s hard to tell how old Polish metal is - from the information we could gather it began in the late 70's with the bands KAT and TSA; who don’t have much in common with modern metal. We suppose that metal as a genre is not very popular in Poland. Although we have some big metal stars like Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated or recently Mgła and Batushka - they are more popular abroad - the percentage of active metalheads in Poland is still very low.
Young Polish bands are also very promising but we lack support from the local environment, unfortunately local shows do not overflow with audience. Still, we cannot say that we don’t have support. Bands from the same regions try to stick together to organise gigs and we support each other as much as we can. For most of us it's a very expensive hobby we enjoy doing and people closest to us are always there."
For metalheads visiting Poznań, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"There’s a lot of great places to see in Poznań. As a band we probably played in all of the venues that are in this town and all we can say is that they’re great. U Bazyla and Pod Minogą are probably the most known and were visited by a whole lot of foreign musicians. When it comes to places not strictly linked to metal music, Poznań is a town full of great pubs, bars and clubs, all of them have their own unique climate and atmosphere. Basically it’s a place that makes almost everybody feel good and acclimatized. It’s clearly visible that we as a band are very connected to our city as we use our “slogan” - Greater Poland Metalcore (Greater Poland is a Polish voivodeship and Poznań is its capital)."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"For sure! We are grateful to people that helped us shape our music tastes and skills (as individuals and as a band). We would like to thank our friends as they are always at concerts in the first row. Also fans and people who discovered us and appreciate what we do. There are too many to count: but we thank you all! :)."
" [On venues] The problem is the same almost everywhere, I think, that the public has difficulty getting around to concerts by local groups"
Mention the genre Nu Metal and the response is either 'I love Slipknot, Korn, Disturbed, etc.' or 'that's not a metal genre, it's not metal'... such a simple diluted argument sparks a wildfire in the course of conversation. Nu Metal is a metal genre. No arguments. Now that's dealt with, time to focus the attention on French-Belgian stalwarts Through The Void who are predominantly based in Brussels, this quartet delivered their EP 'Aria' to well-received acclaim last year and ended up supporting Welsh Ragga Metallers Skindred. Through The Void have future in sights and are shifting from 4th gear into 5th, they tell GMA through their interrogation about their origins, what venues people should go to in Brussels, how they would describe their sound and how they are coping during the COVID-19 lockdown.
For those who have not heard of Through The Void, can you give us a brief history of the band and were you all in previous bands?
"Hey! The group was formed in Brussels in 2019. The group is composed of Chakib (lead vocalist and lyricist), Anthony (composer, guitars and backing vocals), David (drummer) and Roberto (bassist). Chakib and I (Anthony) had a previous project that was in some way the basis for Through The Void. David has a stoner project (Landing Planes) and Roberto before TTV was more into electronic music."
Now you play Nu Metal, do you feel at times the genre is under-appreciated or misunderstood by metal elitists?
"We don’t really care about this kind of thing. We make music that we love and hope that people can love too. We still need to choose some kind of “label” in order to direct people to our music, but we don’t really give ourselves any limit in our creative process in order to adhere to a certain “code”. It’s in any case a large genre, in which many styles contribute. As long as you can headbang to it, it’s good!"
How did you come to play Nu Metal in the start? Who are your influences in and outside of metal?
"Chakib listens mainly to metal, Chester Bennington is a real inspiration for him as a vocalist. He listens to a lot of Enter Shikari, Northlane and Of Mice and Men as well.
David listens to many different styles of metal, from stoner to progressive, his Spotify playlist goes from Monkey3 to Devin Townsend.
Roberto listens to a lot of progressive metal also, Jinjer for example, but also other styles like electro.
As for me, I'm a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I came to metal through listening to Linkin Park, Korn, and today where I love Gojira as much as Nasty for example. Recently I discovered Night Verses, unbelievable. Besides that, I listen to trip hop like Emancipator or Tor.
We tried to take 3 groups we liked and we selected Linkin Park, Slipknot and While She Sleeps as "influences".
You had a dream start in releasing an EP this year and supporting Skindred last year, you must be blown back by what's happened so far?
"We are really happy to have had this opportunity, it was a great night! We received great feedback on the EP which warmed our hearts. Now, we still have a lot of work to do and we are working hard to prepare the follow up to ARIA.."
Tell us more about the Belgian Metal scene, what challenges do bands face, is the underground scene still as strong?
"The number of places where it is possible to play is constantly decreasing, both in Belgium or in France. Most of the places hosting “amateur” groups are managed on a voluntary basis. The problem is the same almost everywhere, I think, that the public has difficulty getting around to concerts by local groups. It’s a very fragile balance. The Belgian scene has very good metal bands, you just have to take the trouble to support the scene by going to see local concerts."
For metalheads visiting Brussels, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
"Well then there is an unmissable bar in the city centre, the "Rock Classic" which organizes several concerts per week in the Rock / Metal style. The Hellhole Project association also organizes concerts in Brussels regularly, check their Facebook page for more."
How are you coping during this global pandemic? What have you been doing during the Belgian lockdown?
"We all respected the confinement measures, so no rehearsals face to face. But we have not stopped composing, and we will very soon release new music composed during confinement. Look out 😉"
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Thank you to all the people who listened to or bought ARIA, to all who come to see us in concert and follow us on the social networks. Continue to share our music if you like it and talk about it around you, your support helps us a lot! Thanks to André, our sound engineer / producer who brings us all his knowledge and who laughs at our poor quality jokes. Thank you to you for this interview, and to your work which allows to give a great visibility to many groups! We hope to see you soon for a concert as soon as possible."
"The Bible exhorts us to sing the Lord's praise with all our hearts. We find that Rock is a good way to do it."
It cannot be denied that Africa is the last frontier for metal, even if you threw The Caribbean and Oceania into that mix, Africa will still be last in line. Having said that, there is really glowing potential for the continent's metal music, OK it's a given that South Africa has been there ages ago, but elsewhere; even in the North, metal is waking up in Africa. We've seen bands from Botswana to Egypt play in Europe and establish their scenes, but what about the West, Central and East? Well for the East, the likes of Ethiopia are waking up, but a vast swathe are ahead. Central Africa? Behind their Eastern counterparts, scenes emerging in Gabon, Cameroon and Angola. West Africa? Here we are last in line, sure Nigeria and Togo are leading the West African segment but it's the slowest to build, joining the effort is Mali's first ever metal band, Shine.
Shine are a Gospel Metal band i.e. they play heavy music but lyrics are based on Christianity and the like, not that religion and metal hasn't combined together before (think Singapore's Rudra and their extreme metal + Hinduism combination, Indonesia's Tengkorak who incorporate Islamic influences), after all music is a beautiful thing and offers itself as a platform to sing about whatever topic you wish to (some however are too extreme, use your imagination).
GMA spoke to Shine about their origins, how religion plays a part in their music and what it's like being the first official metal band from Mali.
For those who have not heard of Shine, could you give us a brief history of the band and how you came up with the band name?
"Shine is a band created by young teenagers in 2008, we had at heart since that time to serve God through our talents."
By playing Gospel Rock / Metal, do you feel that through music, positivity can be spread in many ways including religion?
"Yes we play Gospel Rock / Metal music to share the love and hope that we live through our relationship with God, it is not boring for us but filled with life, joy and victory in the face of storms of life. For us music is a way to also share positivity with others."
How did you first get into playing your instruments? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Being friends for a long time, the acoustic guitar was our hobby, we learned from each other, each had their own way of playing. Some of us had musician parents, but what we had in common was our passion for praise and worship."
There is this on going argument that metal music is somehow Satanic, could you give us your perspective on Heavy Metal?
"We know that Satan is not a creator, he did not create music, he is a thief. The Bible says: The thief only comes to steal, slaughter and destroy; I have come so that the sheep may have life and be abundant. John 10:10.
God is the creator of this beautiful science / art which is music, it is a gift which comes from God and it is a means of expressing ourselves. Satan can seduce people to divert music to do awful things, it is a pity. But we have to understand that the music comes from God. It all depends on what man puts in it. Some people put the worship of Satan inside but in our group, we chose to put the worship of God inside, it is full of life, joy, energy. If for Men what we do is classified in the Rock / Metal category, it is not a problem.
The essence is that our goal has not changed, our message no longer has not changed. We proclaim love, deliverance, praise and worship. In addition, the Bible exhorts us to sing the Lord's praise with all our hearts. We find that Rock is a good way to do it. We find that Rock is a good way to do it and in a fervent way."
What are the challenges of being a rock / metal band in Mali? What is the public perception of this music?
"The challenge is to make this music speak to the Malian people. Mali is culturally and musically very rich. The challenge is also to provide a good mix between our Malian musical universe and the other genres of music that are part of our musical background like Rock. The perception of Rock / Metal music that we make is good, most of the time, people sing and dance with us with joy and strength. They are reassured by the words we sing. Others are surprised to see young Malians making this music without having tattoos and piercings."
For fans of rock and metal music, what sights or attractions could you recommend in Bamako?
"Here in Mali we don't have a specific site for Rock / Metal music. When our group is invited somewhere, if time permits, we play it. Very often the group is invited to churches and gospel concerts in the city of Bamako."
What plans does Shine have for late 2020 and going into early 2021?
"Shine is working on an album, this album promises to be rich and varied, it is filled with the first songs that we composed since the group started when we were younger. Other songs are also more recent from our experiences with God. For the moment this is our project and also continue to put our talents at the service of other artists in the country by the arrangement of their music."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We salute Mali, our country that we love so much and all those who for years have encouraged us in what we do. We thank our families who supported the start of the group when we didn't know where to rehearse until we got there. Thank to the churches who opened their doors to us and accepted us. We are thankful to God without whom we are lost and we are nothing."