Eurovision was a big moment for Blind Channel, the sextet from Oulu secured 6th place and cemented themselves in a line of successful rock and metal bands to have graced the Eurovision sphere. The rollercoaster did not stop there as they signed with Century Media, performed sold-out shows across Finland and are now planning on their first major European tour with many shows looking set to sell-out also.
Aptly dubbed 'Finnkin Park' (even though their 'Violent Pop' sound brings together a variety of rock and metal genres), Blind Channel released a music video for their latest single 'Balboa' (released back in August), echoing the core story of the Rocky films i.e. getting up and taking the fight head-on.
Blind Channel's Joel Hokka spoke to Global Metal Apocalypse about their journey since that evening in Rotterdam and how one of Finland's most successful musicians Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) came in touch with Joel about doing a special cover of 'Dark Side'.
Blind Channel gained overnight international success after the Eurovision 2021 finals, talk us through the emotions on that night. Additionally, what was it like signing with Century Media?
“Yep it happened pretty quickly with 'Dark Side' & the whole ESC thing. To be honest we didn’t expect that kind of success at all. We were thinking that if we hit the finals it’s already a win for us, and then we ended up in 6th place. But the real victory happened the day after when we saw that 'Dark Side' was #62 on the international Spotify global charts. I think we’ve been hyped up since that night until the last live shows of the summer ended last month. Century Media feels a great home for us. We want to be a massive alternative music outcome and CM / Sony has a great platform for us to be who we are without selling our souls!“
Your achievements have given bands not only in Oulu, but other Finnish cities too, hope that they can break out internationally. Thinking back to when you first started out, did you ever imagine you would be where you are at now?
“We always wanted to make it big internationally. There was no other choice. We were always looking up to Finnish exports like HIM, Children Of Bodom etc, and we thought if those guys can make it so can we! So yeah, we were pretty sure since the start!“
You released your new single / video 'Balboa' last month, first impressions are that the song is to do with the 'Rocky' film franchise, is this true? Either way what was the inspiration for 'Balboa'?
“Balboa is an anthem for the underdogs. It’s simply about getting up again and again. That’s how we’ve felt with our career for past 8 years. And yes, Rocky is the ultimate example of an underdog!“
Assuming 'Balboa' will be included on your forthcoming album (due out 2022), how far are you in the album creation process? When will the next single drop? Will this album be the darkest you've ever done?
“The album is right now in the hands of Dan Lancaster who will be mixing the whole thing next month. After that it will mastered in the US. The next single… hmmm…. maybe soon. The album itself will be the purest Blind Channel ever. We’ve gone through a lot while writing & recording this so there’s a LOT of stories to tell. Of course there’s always the darkness in our music. We come from the North. It’s in our DNA.“
Will the new album be released on vinyl? Will there be special, limited editions released? Maybe a mini-documentary of the band's rise from humble origins to international success?
“There will be many different forms of physical album. Vinyl's for sure for example! We’ve already documented a lot of stuff during 2021 but of course there’s a lot of things still to show for people so let’s see. Hopefully!“
Now you did a live duet with Lauri Ylönen (The Rasmus) on the song 'Dark Side', tell us how that came about? Could we see Blind Channel tour with The Rasmus in times to come?
“Lauri called me (Joel) and told me about the idea. I was blown away ‘cause Lauri is one of my childhood idols from early 2000’s and I really love The Rasmus. I really hope we can tour together ASAP! Maybe next year?“
Speaking of tours, you recently finished a string of dates across Finland, talk us through the logistics and emotions. Your next tour in early-2022 will be with Eskimo Callboy and fellow Finns One Morning Left; assuming you will be playing songs from the new album?
“The shows in Finland have been incredible. Thousands of people every night, pure insane adrenaline all the time. We played over 16 shows and had the best times of our life. The tour with Eskimo Callboy is something we really look forward to now. We will be playing brand new songs but also classics. Our set will be around 40 minutes per night so we need to be smart with the choices when it comes to songs!“
Regarding next year, are you looking to secure slots at festivals across Europe? Could we see Blind Channel at Download or Bloodstock in the UK?
“We’d LOVE to play some big European festivals but right now we don’t know about them yet. Only thing we know for now is that there will be MASSIVE festival slots in Finland for sure but Download, Rock Am Ring, Bloodstock, Reading etc. is always good for us!“
What plans do you have for the year ahead and into 2022 other than your tour supporting Eskimo Callboy?
“Album 4. Hell a lot of touring in EU / FIN (Hopefully US as well), new videos, cool TV things and tons of empty white wine bottles!“
Do you have any greetings and thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?.
“Greetings if you read this whole interview! We really respect that a lot, and also thank you for all the support. Without you (the people and the medias) we’d be nothing. See you at the shows!!“
Malicious Inc. are set to set the British Metal scene ablaze with their finely balanced sound of Groovy Nu Metal as shown on their debut EP 'Red Flag'; which was released through the Italian label Sliptrick Records. Morgan Weeds the band's lead guitarist filled in GMA with the details of their new release, what the Bristolian Metal scene is like and what metalheads can do down their, how they got in touch with Sliptrick Records and why in the space of 1 year 5 months they've managed to unleash a debut single and follow-up EP.
During the interrogation Morgan referred to Korn, Disturbed, Nu Metal, Bristol, Korn, and some more Nu Metal, Groove Metal and somehow... Bristol. Suffice to say he finished happy as Larry.
For those who have not heard of Malicious Inc. could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"The band was formed in January 2019 by vocalist Kyle Mortiss and myself. I heard him release some solo stuff under the name ‘Of The Wolf’ and has got a very Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God) feel to it and was looking to start a band of that sort of style. We put auditions out, which brought drummer Luke Hill on board. Kyle brought in former band mate Christian Elvins on rhythm guitars and friend Chris Watkins on bass and we began writing. Since then, Chris and Christian have left the band and Luke brought friends Kyle Zehtabi and Matthew Hulin into the band and we’ve been working away ever since. The band name comes from the legacy of vocalist Kyle Mortiss’ previous band “Malicious Intent” combined with the fact that we are a new incarnation with new music, new members, new feel etc and we mean business."
You recently released your latest EP 'Red Flag' via Sliptrick Records, what was the reception like and did you have anyone outside of the UK buy it?
"The reception seemed really positive to be fair. We weren’t sure what to expect from people as it was our first release but people are digging it, the industry seems to love it for the most part from the reviews and interaction we’ve had. We’ve had people all over the world listening via streaming services, downloading and / or buying physical copies which is an incredible feeling for us. To see our music hit everywhere from home turf in the UK, to America, Europe, South Africa and many more is an amazing feeling."
Talk us through the process of creating the EP - how long did it take to curate? Master? Mix? etc.
"The EP didn’t actually take that long to create. We hit the ground running as soon as the band was fully formed. We went from forming in January 19, to writing a stand alone single and the 5 tracks for ‘Red Flag’ and then recording it and producing it by the end of April the same year."
What was it like signing with Italian label Sliptrick Records? How did you approach them or did they approach you? Talk us through the partnership?
"We approached them. We were sent some contact details for Carlo who runs the label. After vocalist Kyle Mortiss made the initial contact, he handed proceedings over to me (Morgan Weeds - Lead Guitarist / Manager) to begin negotiations. They offered us a deal based off the final mixes as at the time we approached them it hadn’t been mastered by Martin Nichols yet. We finalised everything, signed in July, announced it in August and had the stand alone single and music video for ‘Bone & Mortar’ out by the end of September."
Given the UK is in lockdown, what plans did you have cancelled / postponed? What plans will you have late 2020 / early 2021?
"We were supposed to hit the studio this April just passed to begin the recording process for the songs we’d selected to be the singles out of the tracks we’ve created for our debut album, but due to the situation that has been put on hold until we know what’s happening regarding the pandemic and lockdown. The guys at Sliptrick Records are working on and have nearly completed a lyric video for our track ‘Wintered Trees’ so we’ll be putting that out as and when, dates to be confirmed, but basically we’re gonna be hitting the studio and planning on hitting the road around a release schedule for these singles. Sadly as everything is so up in the air we have no idea about when and how these things will come to pass yet though. Watch this space I guess."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging?
"It’s just brutal, honest, hard hitting heavy music. Deep lyrical content and emotive emotive execution."
For metalheads visiting Bristol, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"A lot of venues are close to shutting down right now which is a sad and scary thought, but The Fleece, The Exchange and The Louisiana are great venues that have wicked bands on all the time. The Crown is a kind of Metal / Biker pub with a venue underneath called The Trap. There are club nights of varying genres over at the Fleece and The Lanes. Rough Trade is a record shop opposite The Lanes that also has a stage. We played there back in February and it was a wicked show. We’ve got an O2 Academy.
There’s a fair bit to do if you’re fresh to the area, but with the current economical climate a lot of venues are struggling and a lot of the competing club nights all claiming to be “Bristols Best” can become much of a muchness, same as anything really. People dig it though which is the main thing. There’s always a crowd at these places which keeps the local scene alive which is important now more than ever, especially when things start to normalise. The independent venues will need that ongoing support."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Thanks to everyone who is continually supporting us and everyone that has helped us get to where we are. We appreciate all the support from our friends, families and fans and we hope everyone is staying well and safe during this time.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us."
"The Zambian metal scene is pretty underground. We conjured it here, in 2013 ha ha. There was a Zamrock movement in the 70's, but that was mostly made up of psychedelic and acid rock sounds."
Zambia during the 1970's was bustling with what was then known as 'Zamrock', however that has sadly died away and faded into the background of music history. However one band has set out to bring it back albeit a lot heavier, the first ever metal band from Zambia, their name? Statis Prey. Having released their debut album "Sanguine" last year, the quintet are continuing improving what they have built up since 2013 and are sure to put Zambia on the international metal stage. Much like their brothers Dividing The Element in Zimbabwe, they have a DIY attitude towards it all, after all they're the leaders of the scene and as such hope to lead the way for other potential bands to follow in their wake.
Stasis Prey survived their interrogation, we were kind to them. The Victoria falls however were not.
For those who have not heard of Stasis Prey, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"It all started with Tumelo (vocalist) meeting Lerato (bassist) who then asked Joshua (lead guitarist) to join the band. Then Joshua's cousin Sina (rhythm guitarist) joined later on. The band name is a metaphor developed by Tumelo in relation to the idle mind philosophy, which says that the mind that is in stasis / not in motion, is likely to be prey. So the name is pretty much an anthesis to that."
Last year you released your debut album 'Sanguine', what was the reaction like? Did you have anyone outside of Zambia check out it?
"The reaction was moderately well received online... the fun part was playing the songs on the album live. The energy was raw, organic, honest, and more heartfelt."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, given you play Alternative Metal; such a broad genre?
"That would be a different answer from everyone... blurring heavy distorted guitars with raspy hyper-tone vocals, and blurring powerful grounding bass with regimented drums..., for the most part."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"They have mixed feelings about it. Yes, some of our family members actually ARE / WERE musicians. Just not Rock / Metal musicians. Ha ha."
Tell us more about the Zambian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Zambia? What is the public opinion of metal? Is the scene active?
"The Zambian metal scene is made up of a minority movement. It's pretty underground. We conjured it here, in 2013 ha ha. There was a Zamrock movement in the 70's, but that was mostly made up of psychedelic and acid rock sounds. The public opinion of metal around here is mixed. Genuinely loved OR hated. No two ways about it. The scene is currently active in university dorms and male and female bedrooms laden with angst. Ha ha."
Do you feel there is a current trend of people outside of Sub-Sahara Africa paying more attention to bands from the region?
"Yes there is. A great Zambian band called W.I.T.C.H has been touring Europe for a while now and also had one of their songs featured as the opening soundtrack on an American TV show called "Watchmen" so... "
For metalheads visiting Lusaka, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"We would recommend the Victoria Falls (the city of Livingstone in general), the sinkhole and bongohive in Lusaka... and any dynamic live music show / event / platform... you'll most likely stumble upon interesting bands there."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We don't have fans... only friends... in many places.... here and across the globe. Ha ha. So a huge shout out and thanks to them for their support. And also a HUGE thank you to you too for your interest in us as well as your support! Cheers!"
Arguably Cinematic Metal is the biggest and freshest metal genre to emerge in the past few years, although it's closely related to the Symphonic Metal style, it's theatrical nature is what adds to it's uniqueness. Heeding the call and bringing the style to the Swedish metal frontier is Nocean, a quartet from Stockholm with big plans. Having started off in the Hard Rock style and progressively got heavier and more symphonic, Nocean are set to cause a buzz in the underground as they went to explain. They told GMA during their interrogation that they plan on bringing out an animated movie to complement their third album, how art, music and production all filter into their hobbies and job histories and why Nocean are not like any other metal band Sweden has seen before... this is no pantomime, they is the star of the show.
For those who have not heard of Nocean, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Nocean is a Swedish Cinematic Rock / Metal band who are currently writing our third album, combining music with a gothic, animated short film and a theatrical live show! Kind of like a musical. The band name plays on the words - “Notion” - and “Ocean”. An ocean of ideas!"
Tell us about this venture you're undertaking in 'Who Is The Creature?' and the subsequent saga you have laid out before you?
"‘Who Is The Creature?’ is the first chapter in our saga, our concept album, and with the music video we want to let people dive into the world for a bit. The saga is a gothic tale about a young girl, trapped inside a castle garden..."
How would you differentiate yourself from the plethora of Symphonic / Cinematic Metal bands out there? What enticed you to play this style of metal?
"From my side, I think this is our way to differentiate from Rock and Metal in general. Here in Sweden, there are lots of AC/DC-sounds but not so much Symphonic or Cinematic Metal. We have our own unique sound, attitude and image. We are creating more than just an album, we are creating a world, a saga and a live show that we haven’t seen from any other band at all before. Concept albums are common, but not metal musicals with animated movies made and written by the band members themselves. We are also truly independent, therefore it’s harder but I also see that it’s nice to be doing exactly what we want. It all started when we were discussing our third album, how we should proceed and develop even more. We were a Hard Rock band from the start, going into Alternative Rock / Metal and now this. We always want to think outside the box and when it came to genre, it felt natural as we began to write powerful, film-inspired Metal and all of us like this kind of music very much."
You're writing your 3rd album, what can you tell us about it so far? When will it be out?
"We are about half way through the writing process right now, with lots of ideas. The next single will be out this summer! The whole album is planned to be released during spring 2021, but that is depending on a lot of stuff like when we can finish the movie; COVID-19 depending, etc."
Outside of Nocean, individually what hobbies or interests do you have and do these filter into the band?
Hanna: "I work as a freelance TV editor, so that definitely filters into the band as I am producing almost all of our music videos and video content on social media. I also like to work with animations, so I will be doing that for the animated movie to (background sets and lightning). Other than that, watching movies and especially Tim Burton’s movies are my favourite. For me, his style (and Danny Elfman’s music) is a big inspiration for this album."
"I have been drawing and making art since I was very young and when music became my biggest hobby the two interests started to play off each other and I now usually draw whilst listening to music because it conjures emotions and images. I have created some visuals for this project and I am looking forward to keeping that going and see what these new songs and themes can bring out. I too am a movie enthusiast and John Williams in particular has created some of the most iconic movie scores I have ever heard, so that is a huge inspiration for me whilst writing melodies and cinematic parts."
"Lately I have been really into audio production and would also say that’s my biggest hobby outside the band, it’s just something fun and inspiring about striving for perfection in audio. But I have also always been inspired by great movies and especially the movies with good music in them. My latest job was as a movie theatre manager outside Stockholm."
"My big creative outlet has and always will be music and I’m not exactly talented when it comes to drawing and things like that, even though I would really like to! So right now my focus is on learning new instruments like guitar and piano. Other than music I have a big interest in comedy, mainly stand up comedy which is something I’d like to try myself at some point, gaming, science and movies that are so bad they’re good."
For metalheads visiting Stockholm, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"When COVID-19 is over, you should check out venues like Slaktkyrkan, Fryshuset or go to pubs like Harry B James and Pub Anchor!"
What are your plans in late 2020 / early 2021? Were any plans cancelled / postponed due to COVID-19?
"Our main focus is to write the album, make the movie, plan the tour for the album etc. But we will do a couple of shows as well, and hopefully not only on live streams… We had a couple of shows / festivals cancelled so that was really sad. We really hope to play more during fall 2020. During spring 2021 we hope to tour with the new album!"
Are there any thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, fans, family etc?
"Oh yes, a big thank you to all who have supported us through our “Who Is The Creature?”- release (including Global Metal Apocalypse!). Since we are independent, we don’t have the economical muscles as a record label, and we totally depend on our followers to reach out. People have been sharing, streaming, above our expectations and we are so grateful for that! We also just started a Patreon page so if you want to support us there, go to http://patreon.com/nocean."
Interview Interrogation: Ana Ignis and Carol Alexandru from Underwaves (Romania)
"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."
"Like Michiganders do, by getting piss drunk. We are making it through this pandemic by pure spite (laughs)."
Into The Void are not your generic American Metal band nor are they willing to accept the term generic; we don't blame them. The Alternative Metal leviathan that resides within Edmore, Michigan, gave birth to it's debut album "The Way We Are" back in January and immediately garnered attention worldwide. Now with a lot of plans shelved or postponed, GMA found the time to interrogate the Michiganders (we learned a new word today) about how Into The Void came to be, the album itself, the Michigan scene and where metalheads can go in terms of venues.
Vocalist / rhythm guitarist Dan Hernandez, drummer Jordan Campbell and bassist Cameron Allen survived the interrogation. Lead guitarist Brad White did not.
Can you explain to us how Into The Void came about and what the band name means?
"Into The Void came to be basically from me getting tired of my own bulls**t. I spent a lot of years trying to write what I thought people wanted to hear and dancing around my words so I wouldn't make anybody upset. It never went anywhere and no one was listening so I kinda said f**k it, I want to write something that I want to hear and that is meaningful to me instead of trying to make songs for other people. I'll put it out there for me and if people like it, awesome. Everybody else joined later on. I didn't want it to be a solo project but that's definitely what it was for a hot minute (laughs). As for the name, it's essentially a jab at my own mental health. Most people think it's a Black Sabbath reference but I didn't even realize it was a Black Sabbath song until later on."
What was the reception like for your debut album "The Way We Are"? Was there any interest outside of the US?
"We've actually had great reception so far. There's a few that have said that it's not their particular style but no one has really been able to say they hated it. We've actually grown really fast, even despite COVID-19. We've actually received a good bit of interest from the European and Russian crowds which is exciting, and even a little bit from the South American scene."
Talk us through the album process, how long did it take to make, how did you decide upon lyric themes, etc?
"It took what felt like forever (laughs). This album was, I think, 4 years in the making. There's hundreds of demo songs that didn't make the cut. As far as themes and writing process, it's really just about my life at the time. It was as real and as raw as I could make it. I was struggling with alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and a lot of inner demons and I just kind of poured it all into the songs. After I had all these songs, I had someone who really believed in me say that they were willing to fund an album and get me started.
I finally found Josh (Wickman - Dreadcore Productions) and he was losing his mind with the demos and we really just clicked. We set up our first recording date and I practised all the parts and went in to record 'Old Habits'. About a month later I went in and did 'Blurry Eyed'. I released those as singles and started hunting for a band. During that time I recorded 'Better Off Dead', 'Ready When You Are', and 'Shallow Grave'. After going through quite a few people who just didn't quite fit; love them all and am glad I got to meet all of them; I finally met Jordan (Campbell - drums) and we hit it off. He learned the songs insanely fast. He and another friend introduced me to Cameron (Allen - bass) and that was that (laughs). We went back into the studio and did the title track and a couple others. We went back one more time and finished recording the rest of the album. It was a long and messy process for sure."
"I helped write 'Hindsight', mostly. I wrote the drum part, huge influences from Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, and that marked the beginning of the end of the writing process it seemed. Shortly after that, we had the rest of it fleshed out and ready to record. I did my part, learned the last few of the songs we had to record; following that we hit the studio pretty hard. I think we were there for a week in total (myself only 2 days). I tracked all of my parts (5 songs) in 6 hours. The next day was editing that. Then everything else got thrown in pretty quickly. Mixing was the longest wait for me. It seemed like it was ready to go--but it wasn't. Once it got mastered, it flew out. Rather well received album, too. Not bad for our first FULL release, you know?"
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging? What sets you aside from the plethora of bands?
"Without genre tagging? I guess I'd have to say just dark, emotionally intense, and real. None of those sound like they set us apart but it's different from the common uses of those words in the metal scene (laughs). We've got a much different attitude than most people when it comes to our own music. It's not really following any trends or paying any attention to what others are doing. It's kind of like Nirvana meets Korn meets Slipknot meets Beartooth meets Deftones."
"A lot of people have mentioned that we have a defining rhythm to our music. It doesn't sound "generic" like we followed someone else's form. I think our combination of style influences helped with that. I drew my inspiration from punk rock, metal, and even jazz and marching percussion. I think what really sets us aside is that you can tell we play with purpose. We aren't just noodling around-so to speak. Our fills aren't just the same BS or extremely typical; they just make sense. It's perfect for people who relate to the lyrics and the emotion we convey. You can really relate to 'not being good enough' or 'I just want to be different'."
Given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, what plans did you have that are either cancelled or postponed?
"We had to cancel or postpone pretty much everything. We had plans to be releasing a music video in late April / early May but haven't been able to film. Had a bunch of shows that have been cancelled or postponed too. It's just been kind of rough. We really want to be out there promoting our stuff through live shows and meeting our fans and we don't really have any new music to release so everything's just been put on hold for us. Cameron, Jordan, and I all had to celebrate our birthday's from home as well."
"I had a few personal plans I wanted to do like dates, events, and just general 'vacation' days. With co-workers taking a lay off due to concerns with the virus, I was left to be one of the few who can do my job, so I ended up with more work than ever."
How are the folk in Michigan coping with the lockdown? Tell us about the situation there.
"Like Michiganders do, by getting piss drunk. We are making it through this pandemic by pure spite (laughs). No, but there are some people who are less than intelligent and they're out protesting and making us all look bad but most of us have really come together as a people and stayed the f**k home. We are tough people who love each other a whole hell of a lot and want everybody to be safe."
"I'm seeing a lot of people who are treating the lockdown as a loss of freedom we enjoyed as Americans. There was a rally in the capital, hundreds of people, maybe even a thousand or more all showed up. Traffic was backed up for a few miles, flags, signs... It has caused a shift in executive orders for sure. It's been incredible to see all the different kinds of people we have in the state of Michigan. We are a people who really enjoy being able to go and do what we want."
"What lockdown? This is god-damn Michigan. We ain't no bitches (laughs)."
For metalheads visiting your village of Edmore, or indeed your nearest city (Grand Rapids?) what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any bars, venues?
"There's really nothing to see out my way (laughs). A lot of the people around here call it Deadmore for a good reason. The nearest attraction is definitely the Soaring Eagle Casino though. Normally they have concerts going on all summer and have a smaller venue inside for the winter. Haven't really spent much time in Grand Rapids though. It's the closest big city to us. I know The Intersection is a pretty sick place and they have big shows at the Van Andel Arena. I've heard good things about Mulligan's Pub as well but I've never been there personally."
Do you have any greetings and thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I just wanna say thank you to everyone who has supported us and enjoyed our music or at least given it a listen. We love you guys. Stay safe out there."
Some people may remember the country as Swaziland, but for the past 2 years Swaziland has been known as Eswatini following the decision taken by King Mswati III to rename the kingdom; to reflect it's original name, the natives and in-part to avoid confusion with Switzerland.
So what about it's rock and metal scene... there is none except for one band looking to start one up. Out Cry are a Christian Alternative Rock / Metal band who present themselves with credentials, having played all over the world and released an EP, it was time for GMA to question the band on their origins, the power of music and how rock music is interpreted in arguably a heavily Christian country.
Their new music video 'Butterfly' drops on the 29th February and has a very emotional backstory as you will see later on as you read.
You read it here, Eswatini is embracing rock / metal and thus has become the latest to join the wave of emerging African scenes.
"Music is a universal language and there is nothing I love more than seeing people (everywhere) coming together to celebrate music and life.""
For those who do not know of Out Cry, could you give us a brief history of the band, what it stands for and what the name means?
"Almost 8 years ago now, Out Cry was formed in a tiny tin shack on the side of a mountain in Piggs Peak, Swaziland. I have no doubt you are aware of the of the HIV pandemic that has ravaged the country of the last few years, well this shack named Christian Life Centre Church provided a place for young people in the community to escape from the bad hand that life had dealt them to receive mentorship, food, aid and to connect with God. We as the young people from that little shack took it upon ourselves to spread a message of hope and acceptance, striving to connect people through music, a medium which transcends languages and culture barriers.
Now 8 years down the line and no longer the young boy I was back then, I am truly amazed to see how far we have come. In 2014 we won our first ever African Gospel Music Award held in London and in 2015 went on to be double nominated for the Crown Music Awards in South Africa and ended up performing in front of the President of South Africa. In 2016 we embarked on our first international tour to Nashville and Hyderabad, India of all places. If you have yet to go to India, I would highly recommend it for its rich culture and ability to give on an overwhelming sense of perspective, INSTANTLY! This message is not meant to brag about our achievements but rather aimed at giving context to myself and our story with Out Cry.
Story Behind our latest music video “Butterfly” due to be released on Feb 29th 2020:-
"In 2017, after receiving an opportunity to record with one of South Africa’s top music producers, Theo Crous, we faced a massive financial obstacle. Having started a crowd funding campaign to raise the needed amount, one of the rewards for donating the highest amount was that we would write the donor a personal song. Towards the end of the campaign we were stunned to find that one lady had done just that; and contacted her as soon as we could to thank her and to ask what we could write about with regards to her song. She went on to tell us that her daughter was far away from home and that their relationship had undergone a massive amount of strain in recent years to the point of disassociation. Definitely something we could write about…. 2 days and a big KFC bucket later, we had composed a song called, 'Butterfly'. A song is written from the perspective of a mother to a daughter, capturing all the unsaid words and placing them in an unspoken dialogue between these 2 individuals.
Song completed, and recorded I sent through the song to the mother confident and expectant for what her feedback would be. No immediate reply…. 3 days later I followed up with her asking, “Did you get the song? What did you think?’’ Her reply was that the song was great but there was only one problem. She couldn’t listen to it without crying…. The next day her daughter called me up out of the blue just to say, “Thank you. It was as if all the words were coming straight from my mum and I have never felt closer to her than I do now.” The two of them later reconciled their differences and it was an absolute privilege to have aided in their process."
You play Christian / Alt Rock, do you feel that rock and metal music specifically offers itself as a platform to sing about powerful topics such as religion?
"We are Christians in a band that love to create and play music that has substance, depth and meaning. What is the point of creating something if it doesn’t evoke a feeling within the listener. We therefore write about themes of love, struggle, acceptance, and perseverance. Themes which are at their foundation Christian but are universal in their dialogue."
Coming from Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), can you tell us more about the rock / metal scene out there and what challenges as a band you have to face?
"Swaziland has a predominantly African Gospel or Hip Hop music scene, Rock or even Indie is not widely accepted except at main stream big music festival like Bushfire."
Do you feel both music genres bring the world together (free of cultural / political differences)?
"Music is a universal language and there is nothing I love more than seeing people from different ethnicities, cultures, genders, income brackets and colour all coming together to celebrate music and life."
Have you performed outside of Eswatini?
"Yes, we have journeyed to Nashville (USA), London (England), India, Mozambique and all over South Africa as a result of our pursuit in music."
Outside of the band, what other hobbies and interests do you have?
"All of the band members are academically accomplished, all having minimum undergraduate university degrees and some having Postgraduate Masters degrees. I myself work part time as an architect and love 3D special design, a process very similar to that of the creation of music."
For the rock and metal music fans visiting Mbabane, what sights and attractions could you recommend?
"Malolotja Canopy Tour, Ngwenya Glass, House On Fire"
What plans does Out Cry have for the year ahead? Do you have any greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We have some massive shows in the pipeline and the release of our latest music video links to follow."
For Black Stone Cherry things cannot be any sweeter, for a band who has stuck together like a band of brothers for the past 18 years and yet not had one single line-up change, it's evident they are closer than you think. The great thing is they've stuck to their roots, hailing from Kentucky famed for it's chicken (obviously), this Alt / Southern Metal / Hard Rock band have been churning out albums left, right and centre. A total of six albums have been released and their latest effort 'Family Tree' is an absolute blast, has to be said. Now the Edmonton-natives make their second pilgrimage to the world of blues as they gear up to unleash their second blues-tribute EP 'Black To Blues Volume 2', rhythm / lead guitarist and backing vocalist Ben Wells was more than happy to talk about their year, including an unforgettable headliner at Ramblin' Man Festival in Maidstone, Kent, in addition to their love for the Appalachians and of course their affinition for blues music.
"We love Appalachian music... it's a big part of Kentucky’s culture and heritage."
Guys you played at the Ramblin' Man Fair festival in Kent this year, what was the reception like and what did you like most about the festival?
"We love Ramblin' Man Festival! It’s one of our favourite festivals! The atmosphere is electric, but still very relaxed. The mix up of bands from old to new and different genres is also really cool. We love that!"
Whenever you perform, what are your emotions like when the crowd reacts in the way they do to your songs and performance? (Question sent in from Black Stone Cherry fan Emily Williams)
"It’s overwhelming, really. When you write songs you never “expect” a ton of people to sing along or wave their hands in the air, or cry, etc. so when those emotions start happening... it’s the most rewarding thing for us."
Now you're set on bringing out your second tribute EP, ‘Black To Blues Volume 2,’ it's evident blues plays a huge part in your sound, but on a wider scope how important is blues to heavy rock / metal music?
"I would love to hear some Bluesy Heavy Metal! Haha. Honestly though, without the blues we wouldn’t have Rock 'n' Roll. And without Rock 'n' Roll we probably wouldn’t have Heavy Metal or Hard Rock. So I still think it’s very important."
Outside of the band, what hobbies or interests do you have? How did you get into playing music?
"I like playing golf when I get the chance! I love to run and have recently picked up swimming as well! But music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been drawn towards [playing the] guitar and entertaining people."
How tricky or easy was it to pick what songs you wanted to cover for your second tribute EP?
"It can be difficult at times because we are fans of so many different blues artists. We knew we wanted to do “Big Legged Woman” and “Death Letter Blues”. The others we kinda decided on the spot whilst in the studio. It’s never easy!"
Do you feel connected to the Appalachian section of Kentucky and does the cultural heritage play a part in your music? For those visiting Edmonton, what sights / attractions could you recommend in visiting?
"We love Appalachian music! It’s so great and yes, it's a big part of Kentucky’s culture and heritage. As far as Edmonton goes, there’s some cool little shops and stores and a great little place called Genes Freeze!"
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and leading into 2020?
"Touring the rest of 2019! For 2020 we plan to record and have a new album out, then back on the road!"
Do you have any greetings, or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"We always want to thank anyone who has supported us, listened to our music, been to a show, bought a shirt, etc. "We literally can’t make this happen without them! So, thank you!!"
We already know Australia and New Zealand are the most prominent metal scenes in the whole of Oceania, with the addition of smaller scenes in Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Guam... but one surprising scene has sprung up thanks to the Groove / Rock / Heavy Metal band Dropvkal from... Vanuatu.
It seems that metal music is finally touching the hearts of the most isolated island nations on earth, having won a music competition with their song 'Dangerous' (which is about climate change) and seemingly causing a buzz in that part of the world, GMA caught up with band member Braxton Cooper to find out how the band started and what their role in the Vanuatu Music scene is.
"Our aim is to get attention around the world... we have like not more than a thousand fans of heavy metal / rock in Vanuatu."
How long has Dropvkal been going? Who came up with the band name and what style of music do you play?
"Dropvkal is like 3 words joined together:- 'Drop' is for tear drops that our ancestors shed during the blackbirding in the 18 and 19 centuries, 'V' is for vision, the band has a vision of creating something unique that will touch the heart of peoples when they listen to our music. 'Kal- kalja', that's in our local dialect, which means culture, we are trying to mix up today's music with our culture, we even have some local instruments in our music that our ancestors used, we used that too to add some flavour to our music... we the band members came up with that name, We play any type of music, reggae, rock, latino zouk, African zouk, pop music, easy listening, blues, etc., we even have some songs written in local dialect..."
Is it relatively easy being a music in Vanuatu? What challenges are there as a band?
"It's a little bit hard back here, with our style of music tourists enjoy it, cause we played a lot in hotels back here, most of us are unemployed youths and we earned just a little to support us. The two main challenges that we usually face is money and families, we tried our very best in our gigs but we get just a little. Families sometimes they don't support us, we even get cursing words from our wives saying we are wasting our time with music, but its what we love so none of that stops us, we are still together till today for almost eight years."
What are your thoughts on rock and heavy metal music? Are there any rock / metal fans in Vanuatu?
"We have mixtures of music, we even try to mix rock with another type of music, but yes we have a lot of fans back here. They love our music.
In Vanuatu we have a lot of bands, mostly reggae bands, and we decided to play rock, heavy metal; we have few fans here but our aim is to get attention around the world with our acoustic rock. We love rock because it easily gets peoples attention and because it is a way you express yourself or how you do campaigns or fight for something, e.g. like our single 'Dangerous' which was released in early 2016 is about climate change; we won a music competition with that single. You can watch that on YouTube. We have like not more than a thousand fans of heavy metal / rock in Vanuatu."
Have you had any fans outside of Vanuatu get in touch with the band? Surely it would be hard to perform outside of the country?
"We have a lot of fans outside of Vanuatu, we played mainly in hotels so tourists enjoy our music, we have fans in the Solomon islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Caledonia, Germany, England, and many more."
Are Vanuatuans encouraged to learn music? What styles of music are most popular?
"In Vanuatu we have a music festival, called Fest'Napuan music festival and it happens in October every year, and during this festival we try to make it gender-balanced in our music, we don't have too many females in music so we trying to encourage females to take part in music, we don't have any proper music schools in Vanuatu we just learn music anytime or anywhere we feel like we want to, but yes we are encouraging people to learn music in Vanuatu. Reggae music is the only popular music in the whole of Vanuatu with our local music, called string band."
Do you feel music brings the world together? That it speaks a common language?
"Yes I feel that music brings the world together, the way we see when we play in the hotels we meet people from all around the world, we even feel the love and joy we share together with our fans, and even just between us the band members. With music, it is a common language that we musicians speak even if we are from different places around the world with different cultures but with that we understand each other very well, and with that you can see that music always brings people and the world together.."
What plans does the band have for the year ahead?
"One of the main plans for this year is an album. We are already practising for going into the studio by next month and with that we will be looking forward to touring in Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. We really want to expose our music to the world.."
When Skindred was announced to perform at Bloodstock 2017 there were a number of people who took their angst onto social media, raging at a band not being 'metal' enough being booked to play, when they should be at Download. Reality check, they've done Download, they've had their song 'Nobody' on the NFS Underground 2 game soundtrack, they've been going nearly 20 years, they've played Wacken for heaven's sake. That's metal enough for us.
Despite the whinging and whining on the net, the amount of festival goers Skindred pulled was more than adequate to put the elitists in their place. The well known 'Newport Helicopter' was a fitting way to end their set, even the ShowSec crew in front of the Ronnie James Dio stage got involved:- watch their song 'Warning' with the Newport Helicopter included here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpnPeFtUGkU); credit goes to YouTuber Jamiet1994 for the video - skip to 3:51 for the legendary Newport Helicopter.
Benji Webbe and Mikey Demus both were more than happy to spend time with GMA to talk about their origins, playing BOA for the first (and possibly not the last) time, plans ahead, the origin of the Newport Helicopter and much more... over to the Welsh Ragga Metallers.