"Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains."
Marax are a Symphonic Black Metal band from Slovenia whose lyrics revolve around Satanism... now to most metalheads the response will be 'not another Dimmu Borgir surely?' Well to answer this in the most cliche of responses, no they are not, they are their own sound and own style... probably what makes Slovenian Black Metal so unique, so much so Marax could not even explain why this is and thus just confirms that there clearly is something special about the said geographical variation of said genre. They have managed to deliver their debut album "The Witch" even in these dark times with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide. Here they talk to GMA about the album, the Europe-wide reception, the Slovenian Metal scene and why (as said) it's hard to explain why Slovenian Black Metal is different to other geographical variations of Black Metal.
For those who have not heard of Marax, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"The band was founded in the winter of 2017 by guitarist Nord Slayer (Cordura, Cvinger, Cursed Be Thy Flesh), drummer Morgoth (Cordura, Cvinger, Kholn, Cursed Be Thy Flesh) and vocalist Anin Astaroth (Morana) to play extreme, symphonic black metal. They joined forces with violinist Žica for the first two EP's ("The Abyss Of Illusions" in 2018 and "Dance Within The Flames Of Burning Fire" in 2019). In late 2019, violinist Mors Violinis joined the band, and in April 2020 we released our first full-length album "The Witch". The name designates the daemon Marax (also known as Morax, Forfax or even Ma’at), who is, generally, the daemon of justice."
Symphonic Black Metal is such an overloaded genre, with that in mind how would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging?
"We aim to compose and perform extreme metal music. The sound of the violin (or, in the future, of various bowed string instruments) is always present, as well as some symphonic elements. Otherwise, we are pretty open in style, there are usually some more death metal elements in our songs, and we create what we feel."
Regarding your debut album "The Witch", what was the reception like? Has anyone outside of Slovenia bought the album; any surprising places?
"In fact, even more people bought the album throughout the Europe (compared to Slovenia). For the digital format we cannot know exactly."
Talk us through the making of the album from the production to mixing and mastering, the whole process.
"For the latest album, "The Witch", Nord Slayer first composed all the songs, at least the foundations. He wrote and recorded the parts for the guitars, the bass and the keyboards. Next, Morgoth composed and recorded the drums, then Mors Violinis composed and recorded the violin parts. Lastly, Anin Astaroth wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals. For some songs, the backing vocals were recorded by Anin Astaroth and Nord Slayer, as well as some additional “instruments”. Everything was recorded, mixed and mastered in Studio Toplica by Nord Slayer and Morgoth."
Slovenia seems to have a rather strong Black Metal (and related metal) scene, what is it that makes Slovenian Black Metal strong?
"The answer to this question is much more complex than we could explain here. We think it could, on one hand, be do to with the nature here, or on the other hand, with the historical background."
On a broader note what challenges do Slovenian Metal bands tend to face these days? (ignoring COVID-19)
"Probably it is relatively poor concert attendance, but still, it’s not so bad. There are approximately two million people in Slovenia, a minority of which are metalheads. In fact, there are a relatively large number of bands compared to the audience sometimes. But we don’t want to complain; as soon as this crisis is over, we cannot wait to perform again."
For metalheads visiting Savinjska Dolina, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Firstly, the members of Marax are not from this region only (contrary to what the internet says). They are from the mentioned valleys (the towns of Velenje and Šoštanj) and from Kranj and Ljubljana. In the surroundings of every town mentioned you could just encounter nature, there are some forests, lakes, mountains etc. Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains. In the valley of Savinjska Dolina, you could visit venues like MC Šoštanj or any bar actually. In Kranj, the most “metal” or alternative venue is Trainstation Squat Subart, and in Ljubljana there are several places like Orto bar, Metelkova or Kino Šiška where the concerts are held."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Greetings to everyone who reads this! Keep supporting extreme metal \m/"
"The Welsh metal scene is doing well... we have quite a sense of community and comradeship, which is important"
It could well be that all Welsh metalheads have fire in their hearts and beer in their bellies, well they are of course from the land of the dragon, so it fits. However, Black Pyre bring to the fore the icy atmospherics of a snow-capped Snowdonia in their own brandished form of Black Metal. The quartet released their debut EP "The Forbidden Tomes" last year to international acclaim having scored coverage not only in the UK, but as far away as Australia and sold copies to metalheads across Europe and as far away as Brazil. GMA felt it was therefore only fitting we interrogated the spawn of Cymru and by this we don't mean the sheep or goats that marauder the hills (have you seen those horns?!?!?!?)... we simply mean Black Pyre.
For those who have not heard of Black Pyre, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"We originated from the dark realms (of Wales), forming aeons ago, and created a frosty EP by summoning a daemon and channelling his dark power into our music… We then walked the permafrost to find many other great bands to play with, such as Grá, Arvas, Uburen, Wolvencrown, Necronautical and many more, and even adding another wielder of strings along the way. What does Black Pyre mean? A pyre is a part of ancient funeral rites, whereby a body is burnt on a large pile of wood - the pyre is this fire."
You recently released your latest EP 'The Forbidden Tomes', what was the reception like? Did anyone download it from outside of the UK
"Our frosty little EP was well received, and had excellent reviews and coverage from several outlets, notably Metal Hammer, South Wales’ Musipedia Of Metal, and Australian extreme metal reviewer Kelly Tee. We also had purchases and plays of the EP from Germany, Austria, Norway, Brazil, and Poland. So yes, you could say it had some global outreach."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, given you play Black Metal; such a broad genre?
"We take influences from the old school Norwegian sound, but also bring our own unique styles to the band. We all like a variety of subgenres of metal and other genres of music and so we like to allow that to influence how we write our Black Metal. Just think of what daemon shrieks harmonising with nails down a chalk board would sound like… That should give you a rough idea of our style."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Parents? Ah you mean the elder daemons who spawned us. Yes they approve."
Tell us more about the Welsh Metal scene, what challenges do bands face, is the scene vastly different in the south compared to the north?
"The Welsh metal scene is doing well, both North and South. There are plenty of fantastic bands, and many of us know each other. We have quite a sense of community and comradeship, which is important."
Do you feel that British Extreme Metal is facing a massive revival or has it always been active in the background?
"The British Extreme Metal scene is definitely having a bit of a comeback, but as you mention, it has always been active in the background. It is great to be part of this scene with so many amazing bands and fans."
For metalheads visiting Cardiff, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"In Cardiff there are many great places to visit. Fuel Rock Club is an amazing venue and bar which hosts some of the best underground and grass-roots metal gigs. Tramshed, and The Globe are both fine venues which put on excellent gigs for medium sized bands."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We would like to thank: Timothy Vincent, Naomi Sanders (and by extension Metal Hammer), Musipedia Of Metal, Gavin Davies (Welsh Hagrid), Carl & Zoe, Sepulchre, Deus Mori, Arvas, Tim & Alyn, Olly’s Big Beard (for being so nice), Chris Bowes, Adam Bell, Janice Clonefield, Papa Johns (for their delicious buttery dip), Ben Smith, Kelly Tee, Victor Marot (he’s the reason Dominus has to take cold showers every day), Marco Silva (for the toilet party), Lewis Read-Jenkins, Jack Wilson, Tabitha Attwood, Step-hen & Gregus Maximus, Kate (I’m not sure what you’ve done but thanks anyway), Sean Bean, Father Grimster, Everyone at Fuel Rock Club, The Gryphon, Global Metal Apocalypse (😉), all our fans."