"The biggest challenge was / is venues, especially in terms of putting on a quality show with lights, staging and adequate space etc. We have to source everything."
Africa is often considered as 'the last frontier' for metal and to be fair, it would seem that way. Even though there are a lot of countries on the continent who have had rock music stretching back into the 1970's, ultimately something pulled the plug on Zimbabwe's rock past... we'll leave you to ponder what that was. But now metal has arisen to revive the angst felt by the natives, too often is it that metal arises from negative events, be it war, poverty, corruption, hatred, you name it, it's on the back of the t-shirt as shamed tour dates. Stepping into the breach is Dividing The Element, arguably founders of the Zimbabwean Metal scene; following in their footsteps is the one-man project Nuclear Winter.
We spoke to lead vocalist / guitarist Chris Van about the band's origins, their new single 'Pakaipa' (it's in the Shona language) and why being a DIY band in a scene that's being built by yourself is probably the most metal thing to ever happen to this country... hats off to them, they make the scene work.
For those who have not heard of Dividing The Element, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"We are a metal band from Harare, Zimbabwe who sings and screams in Shona. The band was founded in 2012 by Sherlic White and myself. After a few line up changes the band settled on Archie Chikoti (Guitar), Nick Newbery (Drums), Mat Sanderson (Bass) and myself (Lead Vocals and Guitar)."
You've just released your new single 'Pakaipa', could you explain what it means and will this be included in an upcoming EP or album?
"'Pakaipa' is in Shona and literally means "It's bad". The theme of the song is about both being underestimated and misunderstood by society. No decision has been made yet as to whether it will be included in an upcoming EP or album. As the primary composer for the band, I don't want to have that kind of pressure on myself at this early stage of writing. Maybe there'll be an EP, maybe there'll be an album, maybe there'll be a bunch of singles. I'd like to see what comes out as it comes out this time."
The band has come a long way, but what about the Zimbabwean Metal scene - what is it currently like, what challenges are there?
"The metal community is still small but has definitely grown. Speaking as someone who has been in the front lines actively trying to grow the scene, it's been satisfying to watch the micro developments, witnessing the gradual increase in networking and turn outs to our shows and so on.
Pandemics and lockdowns aside, I'd say the biggest challenge was / is venues, especially in terms of putting on a quality show with lights, staging and adequate space etc. We have to source everything."
Have you had bands from nearby countries come to play in Harare? Where (if any) has the band played outside of Zimbabwe?
"There have been bands coming from outside [of Zimbabwe], just not metal bands. We were scheduled to play in Ghanzi, Botswana at Overthust's 11th anniversary of Winter Metal Mania Festival on the 30th of May, which would've been our first show outside of Zimbabwe. Sadly, Covid-19 took care of that."
What are the major challenges Dividing The Element has had to face since the band's inception, is metal frowned upon in Zimbabwe?
"Well, the experiences I've had with people's perceptions and attitudes on metal have mostly been positive, but then again the bias is that my interactions are mostly with people who support the genre. On the whole though, Zimbabwe is a conservative society so there are the typical judgements and misunderstandings that happen. I'd say the biggest challenge in the beginning was reaching out to the metalheads who were around and convincing them that they weren't the only ones. They were scattered few and far between and mostly stuck to themselves. Then I would say again... Venues!"
For metalheads visiting Harare, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Sadly there are no dedicated venues for metalheads in Zimbabwe. That said, I'd definitely recommend they come see us if we so happen to be putting on a show during their visit. It may not happen often, but when it does, we try to make it count."
Looking towards the end of 2020 and into early 2021, what plans does the band have left intact?
"Well, that's quite hard to say at this point. As much as it pains me to say it, my prediction is that this is just the beginning of the world's fight with the Coronavirus. There's little evidence to support that we are winning the battle and we're probably going to experience some growing pains trying to return back to the society we had before all of this. All things considered though, everything we've put out as Dividing The Element so far has been self produced, and in this digital age, quite a lot is possible, so I'd say new material would be on the cards."
Do you have any hellos or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Thank you Dewar PR for your invaluable service and of course thank you to all our family, friends and fans for your continued support."
"We rely on each other’s support and our own local crowds rather than seek approval from labels or people in Europe / the USA."
Readers will know how much GMA cherishes metal bands from all over the world and so our latest interrogation is with Cambodian Thrashers Nightmare A.D. (actually the band has 5 members originally from Singapore, The Philippines, New Zealand, Canada & The USA; basically the United Nations of metal). Back in April they released a cover of the Iggy Pop song 'Gimme Danger' and prior to that released their 2nd EP "Phantoms Of Our Ruin" back in 2018... it was going to come this interrogation and so it did, don't worry they are all fine, we were kind to these guys.
For those who have not heard of Nightmare A.D., could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Nightmare A.D. was formed in 2014 by Mia (guitars / vocals), 3 months after she arrived in Phnom Penh. Her flatmate Kandhi (guitars) joined the band and he convinced Todd (drums) and Gem (bass) to join the band as well. Nightmare A.D. originally started off as a Misfits cover band but soon evolved to a Thrash Metal / Crossover entity playing original music. The band currently comprises of Mia (guitars / vocals), Todd (drums), Genesis (bass), Jon (keys) and Ollie (guitars).
The band name Nightmare A.D. symbolises the current times we live in: a living nightmare of disinformation, crooked politics, looming threat of civil/global war, climate change, rising right-wing authoritarian governments and viral plagues that might just wipe us all out in the near future.
How did you all get into metal music and what do your parents think of your music?
"Generally speaking, all of us got into Metal music mainly from hanging out with friends / family members who exposed us to heavy music and we did our own research from there. All of us are from different countries (Mia – Singapore, Todd – New Zealand, Genesis – The Philippines, Jon – USA and Ollie – Canada) so there are many variables that affect how our parents thought about the music (some positive some not) and how we got into this form of music."
You brought out your debut EP 'Corruptors' as a digital download, what was the reception like and did you have people outside Cambodia check it out?
"We originally released ‘Corruptors’ as a Pro CD-R under the local label Yab Moung Records, then as a digital download on Bandcamp and then released on pro-tape with exclusive artwork and bonus tracks under Toxic Death Records (China). We have had great responses and support from people around the world (including you Rhys!) and it certainly makes us want to continue performing and record new material."
Mia, female musicians are often subjected to sexist or misogynistic remarks, is this something you've experienced in your time as a musician?
"Definitely. I feel that after a show, the crowd (mostly male) will end up talking to my bandmates rather than me. I get a few transphobic / transmisogynistic reactions at times but it generally doesn’t bother me. Most people tend to be okay but there are some who are definite f***wits."
Do you feel at times that the metal scenes in your part of Asia are often ignored or not looked upon by metalheads in Europe and the USA?
"Well the metal scene in Southeast Asia has always been quite self-contained in a way that is sustainable. We rely on each other’s support and our own local crowds rather than seek approval from labels or people in Europe / the USA. Most Asian bands are generally ignored by most metalheads who are outside of Asia. However, that being said, there is a small market for Asian Metal in Europe / the USA. There are a handful of Asian bands have actually made their names known on the global stage (Chthonic, Impiety, Wormrot, Sigh, Defiled, Rudra, Demonic Resurrection, etc) which isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. I do feel that we have to work harder to get our names out there compared to bands in Europe / the USA."
What challenges do Cambodian Metal bands face these days alongside with what COVID-19 has brought? What is the public perception of metal?
"Well, finding venues to play at is difficult. We do still have the support of two venues which are willing to host Metal shows but with COVID-19 looming in the background, shows have been cancelled until further notice. There is a small crowd of about 100 people in this city who turn up regularly for Metal shows, so that is pretty cool. Most Cambodian people find it either noisy or intriguing. The older generation definitely find it noisy and will complain if the music’s too loud."
For metalheads visiting Phnom Penh, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any good bars / venues?
"I recommend seeing Wat Phnom (temple on a hill), the Tonle Sap river, walking the grounds around the Royal Palace, visiting S21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields.
I recommend visiting and buying from: Yab Moung Record Store (https://yabmoung.com) which is partially funded by an NGO and D.I.Y. run (all proceeds go to helping impoverished and disadvantaged Cambodian Youth) and Metal Your Day (https://metalyourday.com/) which is a Metal-inspired art collective.
For bars and venues I recommend: Cloud (http://www.facebook.com/cloudcambodia) which is an arts venue with live music and bar, Zeppelin Café (https://www.facebook.com/zeppelinPP) that is a bar and café playing mostly Rock and Metal on vinyl and Oscar’s On The Corner (https://www.facebook.com/OscarsontheCorner) that has house bands and guest bands playing Rock and Metal music
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We want to thank all our families, friends and fans around the world for all your love and support and we hope to see you soon! Stay safe and be well."
"A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. "
If Dracula had ever listened to metal, it would definitely have to be an extreme kind of metal, something like Underwaves. Mixing various types of metal together, the quartet muster up a sound that is far more piercing than the vampire lord's fangs. Lashing together the genres of Melodic metal, Metalcore, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal, Groove Metal and Deathcore, you basically end up with Modern Metal Romania-style. Having been going since late 2017, the band has won the Rock'n'Iasi Festival Bands Contest last year whilst in the same year releasing their debut album. They are sure to make a name for themselves throughout the European underground metal scene. GMA spoke to them about their origins, the challenges Romanian Metal bands face and what to do in their home city of Brasov... home of Dracula. No vampires were hurt in the making of this interview.
Ana Ignis (vocals) and Carol Alexandru (guitarist) gave us the insight.
For those who have not heard of Underwaves, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"I made the decision very spontaneously, while I was at work and listening to music. I played in a few bands before, but none of them resonated musically with me. Whenever I was at concerts and saw the bands playing, I imagined what it would be like to be in their place. It was quite difficult for me to see others living their dream on stage, so I decided to do something about it. That day I picked up the phone, called our bassist, Bogdan, and asked him if he was willing to play with me in a band. We knew each other before, because we had a few more projects together. The next one I called was Dan, the drummer, and the last one was Carol, the guitarist, who initially rejected the idea.
"The name Underwaves implies duality, mystery, the fact that what is seen always has a meaning inside. The visible part of things hides certain factors that define those things. What is on the surface hides what is underneath. So is our music, it hides our feelings, emotions and feelings."
Seeing as the band had a good career start, what are your next batch of plans once the COVID-19 pandemic has calmed down?
"We had to cancel our entire spring tour due to this pandemic and we are planning to reschedule all the dates, maybe add some more tour dates in it."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags?; seeing as you use Metalcore, Deathcore, Groove and Alt Metal.
"Usually the genres are used in order to fit a band in a specific label, I wouldn’t say that we can fit in one single genre. Honestly, I don’t even know what we are playing if we take the word “metal” out of the description :) ) I would call it simply “metal”, nothing fancy."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We were a little bit stressed due to our jobs and we had to focus more on the financial part unfortunately. We still wrote some pieces of music, riffs and we have 2 new songs in progress. Regarding the hobbies, our drummer plays video games, our bassist is a movie watcher, Ana is shopping online and I do sports."
Would it be fair to say that there has been greater interest in metal bands from Romania and Eastern Europe over the past couple of years?
"Maybe so, Eastern Europe has always seemed to us the edge of the world in terms of underground music. Indeed, there are a lot of good bands on this side, many of them already big, some underrated. And in Romania there are a lot of strong bands with great potential."
Tell us more about the Romanian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Romania? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Rock music made its appearance in the Romanian music world in the early 1960s and continues to exist today. A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. Lately, more and more festivals have started to appear (obviously, we are talking about the period before the pandemic) and this is gratifying. Although it is a style with a niche audience, we still have many followers and many prestigious metal music festivals in Romania. I don't know what the other bands are facing, let's hope they are luckier than us, but the biggest problem we have is the financial one. It is very difficult to support yourself in music, this is the reason why we all have day jobs."
For metalheads visiting Brașov, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Definitely the emblem of Brasov when it comes to metal music is the Rockstadt bar. It is the bar in the heart of which Rockstadt Extreme Fest, the largest metal festival in Romania, also started. As for points of interest, we have several museums and cultural points, and 40 km away we have Dracula's castle which is not to be missed."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"I don't know how we could thank all those who have been with us all this time and who will be. It is clear that family and friends have supported us from the beginning, but the people who come to our concerts, buy our T-shirts and listen to our music are the real stars. All the people in this industry that we have known and who have helped us deserve our respect, from sound engineers, stage technicians and lighting technicians, to bartenders, bar managers, tour managers and bands and musicians that we met."
Whenever someone mentions the Mexican Metal scene, usually it's Brujeria that first pops up. But like any national scene, behind the leaders is a vast swathe of bands carving out their own stories, building up their own fan bases and acting as proponents in keeping the scene not only on it's toes, but to serve as the next crop of bands to step up to the plate. One such band is Velvet Darkness who released 3 new singles last year and have been around since 2014, now with big plans in 2020 on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have set their sights on 2021 on being the year they plant the bandera de México and the symbol of Tenochtitlan on European and British soil. During this interrogation we played nice with the los Mexicanos and indulged in a lavish serving of champurrado. The band spoke of the emergence of Mexican Metal on the international stage, how the lockdown has affected the band and Mexican peoples and why Europe is their first international destination.
For those who have not heard of Velvet Darkness, could you give us a brief history of the band and how you came up with the name?
"The band started with Charles and Joe having this dream of making a life out of music. It took a while for them to find the final line-up and went through lots of changes, but finally… here we are! We are a sextet from Ciudad Satélite, Mexico who plays Heavy Metal. We recorded our first EP “Delusion” in 2015, then our first album “Nothing But Glory” in 2018 and then came up with 3 more singles: “Death Eaters”, “God of War ‘19” and the latest, "Insomniac," which will also be part of our next record. The name “Velvet Darkness” is a metaphor about the dark side we all have but don’t often let out."
Tell us more about the quarantine / lockdown in Mexico, what are you allowed and not allowed to do? How is the band coping?
"People are allowed to go out only for very necessary things. Supermarkets are closing earlier, malls are closed and there are driving restrictions as well. However, as many people in Mexico can’t work from home and can’t stop working, the risk is still high.
As a band, we are staying home. We make video conferences each week to catch up and keep working on the new material. Of course, each one of us has been doing great job individually practising our instrument."
2018 was the year your debut album "Nothing but Glory" came out, what was the reception like? Where did you play in support of the album?
"The album had a nice reception. We had a funny listening party and the album presentation at the “Foro Cultural Hilvana” in Mexico City. We also took part in two metal contests and went on two tour dates out of town with Lvto and Erszebeth, and later on with Lvto and Trágico Ballet. That same year, our keyboardist John was named 'Keyboardist of the Year' at the Osmium Metal Awards."
Have you played outside of Mexico? If so where? If not, where ideally would you want to play your first international show(s)?
"We haven’t yet, although we have travelled a lot within the country. Our goal is to play in Europe, especially Germany, the UK and the Nordics."
What are the challenges most Mexican metal bands face these days (COVID-19) aside? Do you feel that Mexico is often ignored by the global metal community?
"The fact that we cannot get together to practice has been the main problem, but we’ve been working online, and we are sure most of the bands are doing the same. Another big problem for the bands has been cancelling shows and postponing recording plans. We really hope this gets better soon.
And yes, we feel that, but we have also noticed that it is changing as we already have some Mexican bands touring and rocking around the world! Hopefully there will be more of us before long."
Kate, it's all too often we hear about sexism in the metal community, what is the attitude towards female musicians in Mexico? Are there / have there been any misogynist remarks?
"Actually, I have never felt that. Lately I have noticed that people like seeing us women singing or playing an instrument. Nowadays, the media and fellow musicians work more in encouraging us to do what we love and that also makes us feel more confident when we go on stage or share something. Of course, I know misogyny is still a big deal, but luckily, I have been treated well in the Mexican metal scene since I joined Velvet Darkness."
For metalheads visiting Ciudad Satélite and nearby city of Naucalpan, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
"Satélite is a very tranquil zone, but still we rock. If you guys come here, you must visit McCarthy's Irish Pub, Rock Son Satélite, The Cross Tavern and ROCKSTORE Satélite."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"First of all, we would like to thank our families for always being there supporting us, no matter what (even if we get a little noisy sometimes). Our friends, who have been doing a great job sharing our music and supporting us on the shows. And our amazing fans, from whom we feel the love and great energy every time we go on stage and through our social networks. Our staff, they never fail, and we have been through a lot together. Thank you!"
"I know that a festival is held every year in Tahiti (French Polynesia). Why not a festival in the South Pacific, this is great! ;)"
When it comes to Oceania, we're fully accustom to the presence of Australian and New Zealander metal bands, but what about the other islands in this part of the world? Well New Caledonia has a metal scene, trouble is it's so small... 6 or so bands. One band has made particular waves across Europe due to their touring and having released music through the French record label M&O Music. GMA spoke to the quintet about the challenges of living on an island 2,000 odd miles away from Australia, how well their debut album "Immortal Voids" fared after it's release last year and why the thought of a South Pacific Metal festival would be awesome.
For those who have not heard of Redsphere, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Well, Redsphere was created in 2015. At the time the band consisted of 4 people. We worked on a dozen compositions and we chose 6. Then we went back to the studio to record our first EP "Facts" which was released in January 2016 through the label M-O Music. After several concerts in New Caledonia, in 2017 we went on headline tour in Europe with the band Master. In 2018 Redsphere changed line up (current line up) and returned to the studio at the end of 2018 to record "Immortal Voids" released in September 2019 under the label M-O Music once again.
This has to do with anger, an entity that devours everything in its path, like a black hole ;)"
Your debut album "Immortal Voids" came out last year, could you tell us how the album was created; the time it took to make?
"After coming back from touring, we were in an intense dynamic, that can be understood. We wanted to produce other songs in order to make an album. That's what we did. One year of work to compose and produce "Immortal Voids". In hindsight we would have to take more time. I'm sure it would have been even better."
It must have been challenging in the beginning to find a record label to release your music on, how did you come into be signed to M & O Music?
"The meeting with M&O Music was done before the release of "Facts". We were already in touch in 2015. This allowed us to anticipate and prepare well for it. The search for a label is not obvious, it takes time and energy. When we search we find!"
Can you tell us more about the New Caledonian Metal scene, when did metal first arrive, challenges bands face, the metal community, etc?
"Well, I don't know when metal arrived in New Caledonia, what I can say is that New Caledonians love AC/DC and rock in general. Regarding the current Metal scene it is composed of 5 or 6 bands of which 3 are serious; unlike a few years when there were about ten active bands. The difficulty is to endure over time, there may be an audience for this style of music that must represent about 250 to 500 people around. Then there are the places where to perform that disappear more and more. Currently there are 2 clubs where we can play and a rock / metal festival where we can play."
Have there been any bands from outside of New Caledonia come over to play? Have any New Caledonian Metal bands gone to play in Vanuatu and Australia?
"We had the honour of hosting Scorpions twice, the French bands Lofofora and Mass Hysteria, and the Israeli band Viscera Trail. The New Caledonian band Burst has been able to make some dates in Australia and no one so far has gone to play in Vanuatu."
Aside from Australia and New Zealand, are you aware of other metal bands across Oceania? Could you envisage an Oceanian Metal festival?
"Not for my part, I do not know of any other metal bands in Oceania. I know that a festival is held every year in Tahiti (French Polynesia). Why not a festival in the South Pacific, this is great! ;)"
For metalheads visiting Nouméa, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"I recommend as a bar the 3 brewers where the beer is good, Australian tourists love it. I recommend the Anse Vata beach for classic tourists. If you are looking for authenticity you have to go to the bush or the islands loyalties, it's beautiful and we eat well."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Redsphere thanks all the fans for your support. Be curious, attentive to what's going on around you. The world is changing! Be patient, after the rain comes the sun."
"The fact that bringing a new genre for most in Portugal, sometimes it's kinda hard for everybody to accept it all at once"
If you think of the Portuguese Metal scene, you tend to think of Moonspell (they aren't the only band)... for the best part it does seem at times like the Iberian nations of Portugal, Spain, Andorra and the dependency of Gibraltar become forgotten. Enter the new kids on the block in Downfall Of Mankind, who bring with them a totally new and fresh sound to the Portuguese Metal scene even if the sound is known more widely in the international metal scene. Slamming Symphonic Deathcore is the game and Downfall Of Mankind is the name, with this interrogation we tried to be tame, but in the end we were scorched by this Lisbona flame.
For those who have not heard of Downfall Of Mankind, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Downfall Of Mankind is a Slamming / Symphonic Deathcore band that was created with the purpose of bringing the best of both worlds together in trying something new. Bringing Slam and Symphonic Metal into Deathcore was something that we didn't expect to work out, it turned out to be something that we all enjoyed and doing, and we are super excited to show what we have got in store!"
Given you play Slam / Symphonic Deathcore, how do you distinguish yourself from the hordes of bands in this genre? How did you come to play this style?
"Our founding member (Lucas Bishop) was the one who came up with the idea of mixing the genres and seeing what comes out of it, given that pretty much all of the members were already fans of Slam and Deathcore, we've decided to come together and add the Symphonic sauce to it."
You recently confirmed that you're playing the 2021 XXXAPADA Na Tromba festival, can you tell us more about this festival? Have you played it before?
"Yeah, it's going to be our very first time at the festival, we are beyond excited to be part of such huge line up, sharing the stage with bands such as Stillbirth, Vulvodynia, Benighted and all the others its pretty much everything that a newborn could wish for, and we are more than happy to be part of the line up for this year's edition."
How has the Portuguese people and bands reacted to the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19? What plans of yours were cancelled / postponed?
"It's been difficult not just for the Portuguese people but for the whole world, see, the music industry suffered and is still suffering a lot from the outbreak situation, we are still trying to pick up the pieces from the damage done, standing tall and striving for the best we can get. We did have a couple of concerts cancelled and others postponed, luckily we are managing to re book most of it, all we want is to go back on stage and show what we are about!"
Given the turn of events, what plans do you have going forward in late 2020 / early 2021?
"We definitely will be releasing new material in 2020 still, maybe a new music video you never know, new merch, all i can say is we have got a lot of new stuff to deliver between 2020 and 2021, including tours."
Tell us more about the Portuguese Metal scene, what are the challenges that bands face, is there a great amount of support?
"Well the fact that bringing a new genre for most in Portugal, sometimes it's kinda hard for everybody to accept it all at once. Given for the time being Downfall Of Mankind has been receiving a lot of love from it's country; which is what's important, it feels good to bring not so new stuff into a country that never paid much attention to it."
For metalheads visiting Lisbon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"There's a lot of good stuff to see around town, sight seeing and walking around the city its definitely something you want to do while visiting Lisbon. Regarding venues and bars, we'd definitely recommend RCA, its a nice place to go if you want to enjoy some good music from time to time, it's our home and we love that place. If you want to experience different types of music you could go up to Bairro Alto where you can find a bunch of different bars for all kinds of tastes, overall Lisbon is a place for everyone."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We would like to thank everyone that has been involved in this band so far, everyone that has bought or will buy and support our music and merch, to all the fans out there that has been waiting for some slammy and juicy new tracks, all we gotta say is...
They are coming..
Lucas Bishop / Claudio Melo / Sergio Pascoa / Alejandro Puentes / Franscisco Marques
DOWNFALL OF MANKIND & CREW"
"I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
As far as metal goes in the Far East, there are a handful of scenes that exist and yet rarely get considerable amount of attention from outside of Asia, one such scene is South Korea. Dwarfed by the colossus of Japan, South Korea has a vibrant metal scene with a wealth of history behind it and it's thanks to bands like LandMine who are propelling it forward again. Having dropped their debut album "Pioneer's Destiny" this year, the Heavy / Power Metal quartet are sure to cause some buzz in the years ahead. GMA interrogated the guys and asked about the origins of South Korean metal music, the challenges bands face in the wake of the musical tsunami known as K-Pop and why it's highly unlikely (for obvious reasons) that North Korea will embrace metal music (we long for the day when it does).
For those who have not heard of Landmine, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"LandMine was formed in March 2012. In the early days of its formation, it released its first EP "Refect The Destiny" on May 26th, 2015, and released its single 'Brake From Route' on September 14th, 2018. Starting from "Pioneer's Destiny" on December 31st, 2019, the genre has been changed to Epic Metal.
LaneMine, which means "landmine", has a strong will to show the power of metal properly, like a landmine that looks calm but explodes when touched."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, how did you come to create Heavy Metal music?
"Leader Suchan Yun majored in piano and French horn and is composing based on classical music. I think it is right to describe it as Epic Metal, which is a fantasy story that expresses epic poetry, even though it is far from the commonly known Baroque Metal. We were greatly influenced by the music of the famous Korean rocker Kim Kyung-ho and the first-generation Korean metal band Blackhole."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"My parents cheered for me without opposing my hobby such as music. My sister majored in piano."
How is the band coping during the lockdown in South Korea due to COVID-19?
"In line with Korea's quarantine system, most live performances are being canceled. However, it is showing fans a live performance through live broadcasting in a new way called home-live."
Tell us about the South Korean Metal scene, when did metal arrive in South Korea? Would you be surprised if North Koreans came across LandMine? In your opinion, would a North Korean metal band happen?
"Korean metal bands were born in the early 1980's, and many first-generation metal bands debuted in the late 80's. There were indie bands such as Black Syndrome and Black Hole and major bands such as Sinawi and Baekdusan.
I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
What challenges do South Korean metal bands tend to face in general? What does the general public think of metal music?
"Unlike in the past, metal in the Korean public is rarely popular due to the influence of idols and K-pop. We are trying to popularize metal, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Although each band is planning performances and looking for overseas performances, no one is active with COVID-19 in 2020."
For metalheads visiting Daejeon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Daejeon is a bad town with nothing to play. Sungsimdang is the most famous bakery. I also recommend 'Sungsimdang'. But this is all."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"It is a pity that COVID-19 did not allow us to engage in external activities this year. As soon as the situation is settled, I will greet you with a great performance on stage. Thank you."
For a band whose lyrics revolve around topics involving fantasy and death, you would have thought that the single 'Stalingrad' would have been by a Black Metal band. Instead it's by Egyptian Progressive / Folk Metal entity Riverwood and as frontman Mahmoud went on to explain, the single is drawing a comparison to the second world war and the current war against COVID-19. During his interrogation he confessed as to how the band came about, why Egyptian Metal is embracing a revolution and what venues metalheads should go to in the city of Alexandria.
For those who have not heard of Riverwood, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band was formed only 2 years ago under the name of Riverwood. Our first album was released in the same year and its called "Fairytale". With 1 million streams online "Fairytale" has been chosen as one of the top 20 Folk metal albums in 2020."
You recently released your new single 'Stalingrad', what was the idea behind this - why a song about WW2?
"The song basically tells the story about a timeline that is almost the same as the current one, as the world is at war now with the COVID-19 virus. That's why we have decided to release it as a stand-alone single since it will not be a part of our second full album."
Your debut album "Fairytale" is out now, what was the reception like and have you had people outside of Egypt download it?; will it be on CD / vinyl?
"It has exceeded my expectations. I've never imagined it will be viral in the middle east that fast and also never imagined that it will reach one million streams online all over the world. The album is on CD as well and its sold outside of Egypt. We've sold CDs in Germany, France, Poland, Spain and many more international countries."
Do you feel that there is a rise in Middle Eastern / North African tinged metal? (Myrath, Riverwood, Blaakyum, Scarab, Orphaned Land, etc); how would you describe your sound?
"Unique. That's how I would describe the sound as all of the mentioned bands including Riverwood are injecting the Arabian sounds and Eastern cultures into their music and stories."
What is the current state of the Egyptian Metal scene? Is it going strong? When did metal music first arrive in Egypt?
"It was pretty much dead since 2010, but since 2018 it's being brought back to life with a lot of shows and releases."
For metalheads visiting Alexandria, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Sawy Cultural Wheel, Jesuit Center... these are the top notch venues for metal heads."
What plans does Riverwood have for late 2020 / early 2021?
"Currently we are working on our second full length album. Just like "Fairytale", the album will be telling a story that will be visualized in a book. The album also will be featuring more than one artist, of which 2 of them are big names in the metal music industry."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"As we rarely use the word fans, I would like to thank our family and warriors for all their support through out the "Fairytale" journey, it never could have been done without you and until we see you again on stage please stay safe. Wash your hands! Much love!"
"2021 is our 40th year anniversary we are booked for UK festivals and to return Europe to play in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands."
Too often are bands of yesteryear forgotten about or fall by the wayside, but in counteracting that there are times where bands are effectively pulled out of hibernation, such is the case for NWOBHM quartet Troyen who received the harking call to reform and drum out material to quench the thirst of their fans. Now armed with newfound rigour, the Cheshire natives are due to release a new album, hopefully play some UK and European shows next year to mark 40 years of the band and prove that it doesn't matter about your age, as long as your heart is in the music, endless things are possible as drummer Jeff Baddley told GMA during his interrogation.
Troyen has humble beginnings in that you started back in the 1980's, but the band was untenable, so surely it must have been a godsend to reunite?
"Unbeknown to us there was quite a cult Troyen fan base, especially in Scandinavia and the USA, and the guys who run the Brofest festivals in Newcastle had been approached by fans asking if they could get us back together to appear at Brofest#3 in February 2015. It was a bizarre feeling for me to get a message via Facebook messenger asking firstly if I was the Jeff Baddley who used to be in Troyen, and, if so, could I get the band back together again? Initially we reformed just for one gig but once it entered the public domain other gigs and festivals approached us so there was no going back. Following the response we decided to release an album consisting of our four original demo tracks and four new tracks."
Given you've seen the British Metal scene grow up as it were, what advice can you offer to the next wave of bands?
"The only advice I can give is work hard. The music scene is a different animal now in this digital age and all the platforms available need to be embraced, back in the 80's the only way fans could get to see you was by playing live. In many ways you have to work smarter now to keep your profile in the public domain."
In some respect you're role models in that age doesn't mean a think when it comes to playing music, would you agree?
"There is always a place for role models and having people to aspire to but ultimately there is no substitute for being your own person, after all we are all unique."
Given the current global pandemic grappling the world, do you feel that music has become ever more important and that a world without it, is a boring place?
"Absolutely, music means many things to many people. We all turn to music when we are happy, sad or all the places in between. The global pandemic would be much harder to endure without music to immerse yourselves in."
Outside of music what hobbies and interests do you have? How have you all been coping during the lockdown?
"Music is our main focus and it’s been difficult during lockdown especially for me as I don’t have the space at home to set up my drum kit and unleash my frustrations. We have all spent time doing all the jobs we had been putting off around the house and some that didn’t. We’ve been in constant contact with each other as we are collaboratively writing new material for our new album., whilst also spending time keeping our social media pages updated."
What do your families think of your music, are any of them musicians also?
"None of our family members are musicians although they are very supportive of what we do even though NWOBHM may not be their thing."
What next for Troyen? Are you drafting up late-2020, early 2021 plans?
"We have pretty much written off 2020 for live music, but we’ll have to see how that unfolds. We are writing a new album initially for release in November 2020 but that may be pushed back to early 2021 pandemic and social distancing allowing. 2021 is our 40th year anniversary we are booked for UK festivals and to return Europe to play in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We’d like to thank all our fans, friends and families for their continued support. Without you we’d be nothing. We will just continue to ride the wave and play for as long as people want to hear us after all you don’t stop playing music because you get old, you get old because you stop playing music. Stay safe."
"When we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool"
Arguably one of the most talked about metal bands from Asia alongside Babymetal and The Hu in the last few years, India's Bloodywood have shaken the foundations of metal with their aromatic and flavoursome blend of Bollywood covers, Indian Folk Metal and cultural panache that landed them a slot at Wacken Open Air last year, and a slot at next year's Bloodstock Open Air after the 2020 edition was postponed due to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. Vocalist Jayant Bhadula gave GMA the low down about their humble origins, the strength of the Indian Metal scene, how they became known across the country and why it's Asia'a time to showcase it's wealth of talent to Europe and the USA.
What was the initial idea behind Bloodywood?
"When we started we always had a plan to release original music, that has always been a goal for us, but we didn't find a way to get it out; because I think there are a lot of metal bands in India and that's the thing. We wanted our music to reach out and not just be restricted within our region, state or country, we wanted our music to spread worldwide. This is why we thought the best way to go round it would be by doing covers, actually it wasn't really covers, first we tried to make metal renditions, like give it our flavour 'Sinbad The Slayer'... It was a gradual process through trying to make our sound that we would be comfortable with and eventually it lead to 'Ari Ari' and then to others."
What was the reaction from both the Bollywood and Metal music scenes to your music?
"It was widely received well in India with the audience here, it was also seen as funny. Finding it funny and then actually appreciating the metal behind it too is what we got from the Indian audience, but I would have never imagined that someone from Bollywood would have actually acknowledged it.
The Bollywood industry I mean... it happened with 'Ari Ari' though; when we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool."
As you have only been going since 2016, to be where you are now (having played Wacken last year) it must be a dream come true for the band?
"Oh yes absolutely, I'll give you a little fun story. This was around the time when I was in my final year at college, I was like 'I should start saving money and go see Wacken Open Air', I wanted to there and experience what it's like so I started saving money, go to Germany and see Wacken Open Air. Then because Bloodywood was going on and then I was actually working with another band; I've got one more project alongside Bloodywood.
Bloodywood was getting busy and we eventually finally got the call for Wacken Open Air, that was personally for me and I can vouch for everyone in the band a dream come true for everyone; even the sound engineer he plays guitar with me in my other band, for him to be there to manage our sound was a dream come true for all of us."
You've shifted from covering Bollywood music and writing your own material, where does your inspiration come from?
"So it wasn't just the Bollywood songs that we used to cover, we used to cover almost anything that used to catch our eye. Literally from Bollywood to anything else, as long as we felt it was catchy we would just make a diddle on it. But the transition began when we started making ''Punjabi Metal', that was for the 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi'... because while we were composing 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi' around that time in the end we actually realised that and it was was Karan Katiyar who showed me that dhol goes really good with guitars and I took it as a joke, I was like no I don't think so, that's not going to happen. So he actually created the whole instrumental and was like now check it out, dhol which is a traditional north Indian folk instrument that was going perfectly with it. I felt it made the song more groovy, so what's where we got to the point where we should try experimenting with more Indian instruments and even then we're experimenting with more instruments."
Arguably that's how metal seems to be evolving, by utilising other sounds and non-traditional metal instruments like the dhol per se.
"I mean it depends on which metal act we're talking about, for Bloodywood at least I can say that when we started experimenting with folk instruments from our country, the idea was actually to incorporate instruments to make our sound a little more Indian. It's like Alien Weaponry who I don't think use folk instruments however they sing in Maori. I mean it really comes down to which bands you're talking about, I mean for example The Hu from Mongolia, they do use their folk instruments with metal so, but I don't think bands are introducing instruments for the sake of making a new sound. I feel that everyone is trying to express themselves in the best way they can like we did with Bloodywood, that's what I think the bands are doing."
With all the things that has happened to Bloodywood, surely it must make you pinch yourself in asking 'is this really happening?'
"Yes that happens quite a lot at least with me, because every time I go to the studio it takes me back to the time when I used to go to Karan's house and record a lot of stuff. But because a member in my other band owns a studio, we ended up going there thereafter; he's been such a nice guy about it all, given us his studio almost for free - just because he is friends with us and has supported us throughout. So when I look back I have a sheer amount of gratitude for those people, they didn't expect anything, they just wanted to help us out."
What do your parents think of your music?
"(laughs) my parents? My parents basically asked me 'you cool? Are you happy with what you're doing?' and I said 'yes' and so they said 'Ok we're cool too', they don't get metal. When I was in Chicago with my dad and we were sitting in the same room, Veil of Maya was playing nearby where we were staying and I put some of their music on the music system and my father looks at his uncle, and says 'this is what he does', my father looks at the screen and sees a guy screaming and guts out, and he's like 'yeah don't do that'."
For those who listen to Bloodywood for the first time, what languages are you singing in?
"'Ari Ari' is Punjabi but if you go to the rest of the songs after that it's Hindi."
Are they completely different or similar? Are they easy to understand?
"There's a lot of differences, I wouldn't say they're 100% different but there would be around 97% differences. There are a few little words here and there from what I use in Hindi and put into Punjabi. But there's a lot of languages in India, at least 100 plus (I'm not sure of the exact number) and lots of different dialects and they change as you travel in any direction. Yes we can understand each other, that's the funny part... English is actually quite useful in India... almost everywhere I think English is spoken and even though there are times when you get to the point where you are not sure what the person is saying, English comes in and saves us."
Has Bloodywood released any EP's or an album? If not will we see one this year?
"It's not out of the question that we will end up doing that, because I mean this year the festivals are shut, I don't think something will be happening anytime soon, I hope that the world gets better and we can go back to festivals. But as there are not a lot of festivals which are still happening, I think this year we will be focusing on creating and hopefully if everything pans out, an album might not be out of the question, but it's still not been decided yet."
Some people refer you to as a Folk Metal band, others a Nu Metal band, could you please clarify your sound?
"I like to call it Folk Metal because that is what we want to be seen as for everyone, we do incorporate modern elements because we embrace it - if you look at my influences they are all Deathcore, Metalcore bands. Our drummer Vishesh Singh is heavily into Death Metal, so because all of us come from different niche styles of metal, when we combine it together it comes out to me what the 'Bloodywood sound' is; which I like to call Indian Folk Metal; mainly due to the instruments we use."
On that note is it relatively easy or challenging to master the art of playing these traditional Indian folk instruments?
"It is tricky, for example the dhol we use there are multiple variations of it. But the instruments themselves are tricky, that's my take on it because I don't play them. So I'm probably not the right person to ask regarding this (laughs)."
Speaking about the Indian Metal, arguably Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos were the leading pioneers, would you therefore say Bloodywood is carrying the scene forward?"
"Well it does not just end with Bloodywood, Demonic Resurrection or Kryptos, it's actually all of the bands that are in the metal scene. The Indian Metal scene is small, but I say this in every interview and I cannot stress enough on it that it might be small, but it's really tight-knit. We've got Systemhouse33, Gutslit, Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection all of whom played internationally, there are just so many bands from India producing so much quality material that I think its all of us who are carrying it forward."
Nowadays what are the challenges that most Indian Metal bands tend to face (excluding COVID-19)?
"Don't even get me started on that (laughs), Indian Metal bands have been facing so many problems for so long. It started off with venues not being open to letting metal bands to play there, to not being paid or not doing tribute shows or, I mean it's not a bad thing to do a tribute show, but at the same time there used to be less scope for original music to come up because people tended to come out for more of the tribute shows, but now as the audience is opening up there but still there are lots of venues and not a lot of money being invested in it. I think it's going to get better because the number of shows last year at least were a lot, I've never seen a lot of shows like that.
There were a lot of bands from the US and Europe coming in, just in January we had As I Lay Dying come here, so I mean we've come a long away from just one metal band coming to India in a year, maybe for Bangalore Open Air per se where we get to see quality acts. Apart from that there was nothing, hardly any shows going on, but now even the promoters are getting into it."
Do you feel it's more important than ever for metalheads from Europe to pay more attention to bands from Asia per se?
"I feel the world has been sleeping on Asia for a long time and maybe now it will... maybe Bloodywood, or The Hu from Mongolia or Underside from Nepal; I love those guys, so I mean us Asian bands trying to get out and actually doing shows and getting a positive reception actually does make a way for other Asian bands to come out. I think people in Europe and the USA are actually embracing this. I actually met a guy in Osnabrück, Germany who was wearing a Gutslit t-shirt - Gutslit is an Indian band, I wanted a photo and send a message to the guys saying 'hey guys I saw a guy with your t-shirt in Osnabrück, Germany."
Finally have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I want to say hello to everyone who's going to believe in us."