Tucked away in the Eastern corner of Europe is Belarus, a country born from the ashes of the former Soviet Union. Belarus in it's literal translation means 'White Russia', but the metal music scene it has is far from white, in fact it's rather dark, bleak and atmospheric. Enter the Atmospheric Black Metal band known as Raven Throne and their sixth album "I Miortvym Snicca Zolak", which focuses on Slavic poetry as it's main topic and delves into the Belarusian poetics of yesteryear. GMA spoke to Raven Throne about the challenges faced as a metal band in Belarus, the new album and how they came to use their mother tongue as choice of language for the songs.
"Our late lyrics are in Belarusian, so we are definitely in the segment of Slavic culture"
How did Raven Throne form and what do your parents think of your style of music?
"Raven Throne was formed in 2004 in the town of Polotsk, Belarus, by the people who are keen on the philosophy of black metal. The line-up has changed many times since that time, but the band has been moving forward making records and playing concerts."
Will you be doing a tour in support of your impending new release - "I Miortvym Snicca Zolak"?
"Yes. We are going to play some gigs in support of the new album. Details will be later."
For those who cannot read Belarusian, could you give us a break down of what each song means?
"It was always difficult for me to explain or interpret my own lyrics. There are many personal, many things I have experienced, many images and metaphors in my lyrics. I like the flow of consciousness, images from the subconscious. I can quote Sergey Dovlatov on this subject “I thought I was writing a history of the human heart”.
If we talk about the new album lyrics, then the songs were written based on the poems of Belarusian poets who worked during the most terrible and merciless years for individuals. That’s why the key for understanding should be found in those years."
What is it like being a metal band from Belarus? Easy? Difficult? What challenges are there?
"It happened that Raven Throne was always in certain isolation from the community, hangouts, etc. Is it difficult to be a metal musician in Belarus? Now it is much easier, but there are fundamental differences with Europe still."
For those metalheads visiting Minsk, what sights and attractions could you recommend?
"There are many examples of Soviet Empire architecture style in Minsk. There are some more ancient monuments and very clean streets in the city. Minsk is a very organized. It is not much inferior to other European capitals."
Would you prefer your music to be called Atmospheric Black Metal or Slavic Metal? What are your thoughts on sub-genres?
"We do not attach much importance to genre frames, cliché, labels and titles, etc. Traditionally this is called atmospheric metal but historically our roots are in black metal. The forms of our music may differ from the canons of the genre, but this is the result of our natural evolution and development only. Our late lyrics are in Belarusian, so we are definitely in the segment of Slavic culture.
Who designed your artwork and did you have any input into the design e.g. ideas for it?
"The ideas for the artworks belong to us. Sometimes our friends help us. The label also participates in the realization of the final result."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year? Are there any greetings you wish to send out to fans, etc?
"We have many plans. These are creative ideas, writing of new material, preparation for the future gigs. Stay true, be yourself. Improve yourself in everything."
Romania has a rather solid underground metal scene with perhaps Negura Bunget being the sole metal band leading the scene forward and onwards. Far from it's shackled Soviet history, Romania has emerged as a driving force within Eastern Europe and has offered itself as a rather promising nation on many fronts, metal scene included. One new band on the block is the Post-Black Metal entity Váthos, having only formed last year they have released two singles to date, both of which were met with appraise from the Romanian Metal community but also older, established bands, GMA spoke to the band about their scene, the future ahead, the band's origins and the best things to do in their dwellings, that is the capital city of Bucharest.
Could you give us the history of Váthos, where the members in previous bands? What does the band name mean?
"We are a newly formed band and consolidated our line-up in 2017, when our vocalist and bassist, Radu Alexandru and Dany Ice joined the band to fulfil the remaining roles. As of 8th February, the official line-up is as follows: Ducu Rusul (solo/rhythm guitar), Alexandru Gainusa (solo/rhythm guitar), Gigi (drums), Dany (bass) and Radu Alexandru (vocals). We are fairly new, but the feedback that we received from our community was positive and really exploded as we launched our first single, "Curse of Apathy", it reached 4,000 views in over 4 months. We followed up with our second single, "Shape of..." that received positive feedback as we've tried to "bend" the black metal sound, to add even more of our influences.
We received positive and supportive feedback from local bands, and also multiple invitations to participate and support artists that have 15-20 years activity in the local scene (more about local bands, activity and the Romanian metal scene vibe below).
Our members had previous projects and/or bands but right now Váthos is our main band/project and focus as we strive to add our influences and ideas to project our vision in the black metal genre (more details about this bellow).
Our band name, Váthos means "depth" and it's of Greek origins; original word spelling: βάθος. We wanted to go with a name that reflects the depth and quality that we want to add in our songs, from guitars, drums, bass to vocals, lyrics and of course the image/artwork (that we are starting to work on)."
You released your first two singles, what has the reception been like? Will we see a debut demo / EP this year?
"We released our first single "Curse of Apathy" on 29th November 2017, and the feedback received from friends, family and the Romanian metal community blew our minds to a degree that we could not believe it. It shocked us to hear words such as, "bringing a fresh and unique sound to the black metal genre", "quality of the music and the live performance was on par to a old experienced band from the first live performance" (keeping in mind that we just started our live performances) and also the constructive criticism, words of wisdom if you will, from improving our sound and live performance, interacting with the crowd, improving our equipment and overall idea of presenting our songs and sound to the public, unreal and excited that empowered us even more, we want more it. Our second single, "Shape of.." was released on 3rd March 2018 following the vibe of our first single and we wanted to present more of us and as a follow-up on to our first single.
A brief description, "Curse of Apathy" was written drawing inspiration from the daily life in Bucharest as it reflects the vision in which each individual spawns the feeling of apathy, following the same routine, over and over again. "Shape of.." was written to continue the story of our first single. What would happen if an individual wakes up from their apathetic daily routine? They will see the shape of.. (things that revolve around them). This is where we wanted to leave it open for interpretation as each listener will have their own thoughts to reflect upon when they do wake up.
After our next concert on 18th of May (where we will have the honour to play along side Akral Necrosis and eterans of our local scene Mercy's Dirge) we will focus on our future album to be named "Underwater", from artwork to finishing the rest of our 5 songs as we would like to feature 10 songs in total on the album. We currently do not have a set date for release as our wish is to record the full length album at once when the songs will be ready and we are confident enough that the Váthos sound and vibe is perfectly mastered as we will not settle for less."
You play Post-Black Metal, what are your inspirations behind the choice of sound (bands and lyrics)?
"The post black metal sound came from each member of the band, through influences that our favourite bands inspired us to achieve a sound of our own.
Bands that we love are many and different in genre, a few of them would be, Belphegor, Harakiri for the Sky, Kistvaen (Romanian band), In Flames, Disarmonia Mundi, Kataklysm, Cradle of Filth, Taine (Romanian band), Rammstein, Paradise Lost, Dark Tranquility, Whispered, DevilDriver, Sopor Aeternus, Uaral, Between the Buried and me, Gojira, Carach Angren, Deftones, and so many other bands that are a big inspiration to us and if we continue, it will just make up the all interview of just our favourite bands.
Lyrically speaking, our vocalist Radu Alexandru came in with ideas that reflect the human nature of man, written in a narrative way, in some cases depicted in images that reflect the idea of each song, emphasizing on suiting the inner eye and not just the ear.
What are the challenges that most unsigned Romanian Metal bands face?
"The challenges that most unsigned Romanian Metal bands face are many, there aren't many labels that will sign a heavier sounding band. In our country, extreme metal is still seen as an "outcast" genre as the mainstream scene is filled with pop music that is heavily supported by our media, TV, radio and through heavy publicity.
Metal music is supported mainly through our underground scene which isn't that big to start with even though we have so many great bands and artists covering almost all genres / subgenres and lately the quality started rising up and up as with our favourite bands.
We highly recommend if you want to check some of our bands out, you can do so at the following, Browse bands by country - Romania - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives"
Would you agree that in Eastern Europe, Black Metal is well supported? What makes the Exteme Metal scene out there special?
"We have our share of black metal bands and the scene is rising in Eastern Europe, that is true and we get more and more exposure and support as we are known for our Folklore, eccentric sounds and instruments. The extreme scene gets bigger and bigger through outdoor festivals and concerts."
What do your parents think of your style of music? Are they into metal too?
"Well, all the members of the band are fully grown adults, each with their own job and responsibilities. Our parents were very surprised and supportive of our band, live performances but had no impact on our decision of making and playing what we love."
For metalheads visiting Bucharest, what sights or attractions could you recommend?
"One of our country's forte would be the beauty of nature, landscapes and our festivals, so why not combine them? We know and recommend a lot of outdoor metal festivals, Rockstadt Extreme Fest (Rasnov, near Brasov County) Dark Bombastic Evening (Alba Iulia Fortress, Transylvania), Ghost Gathering (Rasnov, Valley of the Fortress), ARTMania (Medieval Fortress of Sibiu), OST Mountain Fest (Busteni, Romania) and so many more. Also, we have many indoor festivals in the capital alone."
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year (that have not been mentioned above)?
"Our future plans for the rest of the year, finishing up the album, recording it and creating the artwork that will bring the visual aspect to life. We are currently debating on which of our songs to do our first music video and many live shows as possible as we love to interact with the public and our audience's reaction is really important when presenting new material.
We would like to thank Metal Global Apocalypse Team and Rhys Stevenson for the support and implication in the Metal community, not just in UK but all around the globe."
Croatia has had it's fair share of rich metal music history, however it has only recently spawned it's first ever Pirate Metal band; the genre itself popularized by Scotland's Alestorm in 2004 although it's antecedents originates back with Germany's Running Wild releasing the album 'Under Jolly Roger' in 1987. GMA caught up with Marko Vučković (drummer and band manager) otherwise known as The Admiral and looked into what makes these scallywags tick, Croatia's pirate history and what the Croatian Metal scene is like.
"We grew out of the cliche that everyone thinks they [Alestorm] are the only pirate metal band that exists"
Could you give us a brief history of Rum Smugglers, how you started out, etc.
"We started as a duo back in 2011, playing a variety of blackened thrash with pirate themed lyrics. We soon recruited the bassist and the rhythm guitarist, to further explain; we regularly switched those band members due to differences in styles and then not being able to comply to the regime of the band. In 2015 we released our demo, 'Hemp Rope Justice', and later on found the new addition to the band, our keyboardist, thus switching to a more folk / power metal method in our songs. He left in the Autumn of 2017, being with us only for a short time, around 9 months. We re-recorded our single during the time he spent with us, and after his departure we are currently trying to employ two violinists. Hopefully they will prove to be better band members then most of the aforementioned."
Presuming one of your influences is Alestorm, what are you aiming to bring to the Pirate Metal movement?
"One of our influences was Alestorm in the beginning but, we grew out of the cliche that everyone thinks they are the only pirate metal band that exists. We also take influences from Skyclad, Running Wild and Swashbuckle, we are trying to freshen up the scene with our more 'thrashy powery' approach on the subject at hand."
What is the Croatian Metal scene like? Tell us about the festivals, media, venues, bands, etc
"It's a bit poor at the moment, there are some great bands here, but everyone's focus is mainly on tribute bands and on some weird avant-garde and experimental type of music, thus disregarding the metal scene as it was a few years back. There are some great venues like OKC Palach in Rijeka, and Insomnia in Slavonski Brod, Epic club in Osijek and Kset and Močvara in Zagreb. The Croatian metal scene is still strong though, pushing out bands like Flesh, Frozen Forest, SpeedClaw, Uma Thurman, Decomposing Entity and many others. Just type in Croatia on the Encyclopaedia Metallum website and hope for the best, and check out YouTube links with the same search.-"
You say you combine gypsy melodies, where do you get your influences from?
"Yea, gypsy melodies, well we are on the crossroads between the Mediterranean and the eastern front, so we get our influences from both sides of folk melodies and folk culture."
Are there any Croatian pirate stories you could tell us?
"Of course there are! Mainly representing bandits in the Adriatic sea but there are also many more, check this link and try to translate it to English :) https://hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gusari"
What plans do you have for 2018?
"We are currently practising new songs and making new material with our new violinists. So you can expect a new album with fresh and not so fresh tunes to hit the internet soon."
Do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"Do what you want, cause a pirate is free!"
Without a shadow of a doubt, God Dethroned are veterans of the Dutch Metal scene despite having split-up twice (1993, 2012) and whilst some might have cast them off as just 'hanging around', it goes without question that the quartet have arisen once again with newfound vigour, a sense of passion and pride, but above all the feeling that they have left business unfinished.
Starting off back in the old days with Satanism as the core topic of their lyrics, God Dethroned mid-career switched to a more death-orientated stance which transgressed into their modern self as a band who sings about war, specifically the First World War; as shown on their 2009 album 'Passiondale (Passchendaele)'.
26 long years down the line and God Dethroned are set to deliver their 10th opus titled 'The World Ablaze', ending the WW1 album trilogy. In promotion of the album God Dethroned have released three blazingly brutal music videos:-
Fending off the aggression of this Dutch horde, GMA came into calling truce with frontman Henri Sattler who laid out the band's battle plans for the campaign ahead, speaking of their local division, politics and their latest weapon 'The World Ablaze'... prepare for mortar fire.