"If you want to release your music legally in Iran and be able to sell it or perform live, you have to get permission from multiple religious authorities for every single release and live show. "
There are so many unsung or largely forgotten (overlooked at times) metal scenes worldwide, one of these is Iran. To think the country has over 80 bands and projects active and yet can anyone name any major ones? Might be worth for the rest of the metal media in the west to focus their coverage more on said scenes, but in the spirit of metal it's bands like Integral Rigor who take the D.I.Y. approach and do what they can to enjoy metal as much as they can.
The band have big plans to try and release their music through a label, potentially tour outside of Iran and in doing so put Iranian Metal on the international stage.
Guitarist Masoud Moghaddari filled us in with the details.
For those who have not heard of Integral Rigor, please give us a brief history of the band, what does the band name mean?
"Hi! I'm Masoud, guitarist of Integral Rigor, the band was formed in 2009 by Reza Rostamian (Guitars,Vocals) in Sari, northern Iran. Inspired by ancient Persian music, Integral Rigor released it's first album "No More Room In Hell" in 2011 and the second one "Alast" was released in 2018 in which our bassist Shahriar Rajabpour and I joined the band. Very briefly, the title of the band means the maximum purity and absolution of everything, in our case extreme music and art."
You released your 2nd album "اَلَست " back in 2018, what was the reception like and did you get attention from outside of Iran?
"I think we received good feedback especially in Russia and eastern European countries despite not promoting and advertising the album that much. I think oriental music sounds interesting to Russian ears. Also almost every blogger and reviewer who we sent our music to, enjoyed it. It takes some time get more attention from the metal fans worldwide."
What instruments or scales do you use to bring Persian / Oriental flavours into your own form of Death / Thrash Metal?
"Well, there are lots of scales in traditional Persian music which we call "Dastgah" or more anciently "Magham" - that are closely related to classic major / minor scales. These can be used to create cool sounding elements which could be unique to western ears. For example there are some scales that have different ascending and descending patterns, or there are some quarter notes in some scales."
Speaking of which you switched to being instrumental, what was the decision behind the change? Will you bring vocals back?
"If you want to release your music legally in Iran and be able to sell it or perform live, you have to get permission from multiple religious authorities for every single release and live show. Originally, the album had lyrics and vocals, but we were forced to remove it due to restrictions from said authorities. I think they do not like growl / scream vocals!"
What is it like growing up as a metalhead in Iran? Are restrictions not as harsh as they used to be? What challenges to bands face these days?
"The most noticeable restriction I think is that no bands tour or do live shows here. So as a kid you would grow up wishing to see your favourite bands live, but this wish would hardly be granted. It used to be harder to even listen to metal music back in the days as there are no metal music stores here! But it's not a problem any more thanks to the Internet. As I said earlier, bands have to get permission from various organizations in order to release albums or do live shows (which rarely happens) and it makes it very difficult for the bands because most of them cannot earn that much to continue doing what they love to do."
For metalheads visiting Sari, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any bars or venues also?
"Iran is a great country for tourists, especially for those who are interested in historical sites.
Sari is located in the north of Iran in the Mazandaran province, which is popular for being the most green province in Iran with having many amazing natural landscapes. There are various forests & mountains like "Badab Soort" which is a stepped travertine terraces and very unique in the world. Moreover, there is the "Shah Abbas I Mosque", "Fazeli Hotel", "Dasht Naz & Miankaleh Wildlife Sanctuary" and many more!
What are your plans for late 2020 / early 2021? Were any cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19?
"We are currently in search of a record label to help us reach a larger audience worldwide. Until then, we will release single tracks every few weeks to stay active and be seen on social media.
Also we have plans to tour outside Iran if possible and are really looking forward to that. About the COVID-10 situation, we had arranged some live events in 3-4 cities in Iran but had to cancel all of them. The annoying fact is that we have to go through the permission process again for future plan."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I would like to thank you for this interview and all your efforts, it means a lot to us. Just want to say that do not judge Iranians by what you see in the media. Iranian people are separated from politicians are very lovely and welcoming and love all the people around the world. Hope to see you someday soon! Stay safe!"
Latvia, one of Europe's forgotten metal scenes is alive and well in the underground, however it's on the surface that it lacks international recognition albeit for their torch-bearer's in the Pagan / Folk Metal band Skyforger. Focusing on the underground and you have bands like Stagnant Project, whose Modern Metal sound may be miles apart from the core Folk Metal sound that seems to engulf the national scene, but united they are with their fellow Latvian brothers and sisters. The quartet are not resting on their laurels having released their 2nd album "The Age Of Giant Monsters" back in 2018, they are in no doubt poised to release new material within the coming year, we will just have to sit and wait.
We therefore had to interrogate them, they elected Paul Rutkovsky to be the spokesperson. We spoke about the band's origins, the challenges that Latvian Metal bands face and have to overcome, their scene and what cool phrases fans tend to shout out at their shows.
For those who have not heard of Stagnant Project, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"A long time ago in 2010, when we were teens we had a dream to play in a bad ass band without any metal sub-genre limits or something that can cut off our music ideas. We were rehearsing hard and took up a sudden Punk Rock festival participation offer. But we had no name for our band and so we decided to name ourselves Stagnant Project - almost like "just another music project without future". Right after the first show, the next day another gig offer came and we decided to leave it as it is."
Could you tell us more about your latest single 'Khuemraz'? Will it also be re-released in Latvian given it's in Russian?
"Actually, we had some thoughts about English version re-release in nearest future."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags? What seems to be the more prominent metal genres in Latvia?
"The most prominent genre in Latvia is definitely Folk Metal, then Progressive Metal. But I would say we are influenced by bands from the Industrial, Death, Thrash, Nu and Metalcore genres, I think that it is one of the points why we are not really popular on the local stage. But our last release 'Khuemraz' made us really unique because of the Russian lyrics, that as far as we know, is one of the most popular languages in the world after English. And as we know, the Russian language has a huge poetry base that we can use to express ourselves from."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We are very careful under the restrictions and maintain all the distance suggestions, because we really want the live shows and touring to come back. So, the best way to reach the result is to be disciplined and begin with yourself. All of us are working from home and keep the distance. We are working on some ideas separately. Talking about myself, I found the isolation is a very nice time for my family and relationship, I dedicated a lot of time for my guitar tone, mixing / mastering skills and vocals. Also, I have found a lot of time for my comic book collection to be read. Talking about the guys - we have got a constant chat with memes and discussing our future plans and sharing thoughts on random thoughts. But nether the less we managed to print our new merch and continue to write music."
Are there some Russian or Latvian phrases fans tend to shout out at gigs? If not what are some cool Latvian / Russian sayings?
"Really cool question because we have got one like this. This phrase is "ebash", in the Russian language it is a swear word meaning 'working f**king hard', and actually our local fans scream the word during our live shows and to be honest it is more like a motivation word, no matter whether you are a pure Latvian or Russian, the spirit is the same. Also, Stagnant Project is to complicated to shout :)"
Tell us more about the Latvian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Latvia? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Actually we have got a lot of cool and unique sounding bands here and live shows are at a very professional level to be honest. But unfortunately the biggest part of them don't cross the borders of the country in meaning of international popularity. I bereave each of us, Latvian musicians, we try our best, but only a few names have got the popularity outside the country. But we, as Stagnant Project, really believe in ourselves and we will brake the wall saying "ebash" on our way."
For metalheads visiting Riga, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"The first venue you should visit is Melna Piektdiena, there were a lot of shows by big metal stars like Meshuggah, Vader, Arch Enemy, Cannibal Corpse, Decapitated etc. and even Little Big were here. I don't mean the giant bands stadium calibre, but have to say, it is the legendary metalhead place here in Latvia. Also, Latvia is one of the most green countries in the world, I suggest visiting our castles, ethnographic museums, parks and I have to say Latvia is a very small country, you can cross it in 4 hours by car, but most part of the roads will be across the woods; we are proud of this. "
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We wish everyone to take care of yourself and your relatives, the most important thing in your life are your family and your friends, because in hard times those are the closest people who will help you and care for you. Don't be lazy or too introvert, call your mum, dad or your best friend no matter what, just keep in touch with people who care for 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."
"Do not think that there was no heavy music in the USSR at all. Groups such as "Aria" and "Master" were prominent representatives of heavy metal and due to the fact that it was difficult for people to get albums of foreign bands, they became incredibly popular."
Promising Russian Melodic Death Metal outfit Drops Of Heart are set to unleash their second album "Stargazers" on the 22nd July and arguably is a huge step up from their debut, not just in terms of writing as the band went on to explain, but also the fact they recruited well known Swedish vocalists in Richard Sjunnesson from The Unguided (on "Frost Grip") and Bjorn Strid from Soilwork (on "Starlight"). 12 years have past since the bands inception and with this new album on the horizon, it was only fair for GMA to give the band a grilling... vodka was involved.
They divulged about the album writing process, challenges Russian Metal bands face in terms of recognition, touring and networking and how heavy music existed back in the Soviet Union era.
Guys you must be excited to drop your 2nd album "Stargazers", what (if anything) was done differently in comparison to "New Hope"? Will the new album be released on vinyl? Is Vinyl popular in Russia?
"It’s hard to explain, how much we are excited! Honestly, work on “Stargazers” was fundamentally different in comparison with “New Hope”. When we wrote our previous album, we suffered from a lack of professional experience. We didn’t know exactly how to do this. We tried to blindly imitate a sound of bands that influenced us and didn’t pay enough attention to the arrangements. Now the situation has changed radically. In “Stargazers” we wanted to reach the maximum of songs arrangements, make the whole album diverse and as entertaining for metal fans as it possible.
We can’t say anything about vinyl right now, but situation may change in the near future. If we talk about attitude to vinyl in Russia, it’s not as popular as in Europe or the USA, but this market is developing now, in comparison with CD."
Obviously COVID-19 has put a halt on a lot of events bands had planned, what events did you have planned that are no longer going ahead?
"Of course we planned a tour in support of the album, but the world situation made us stay home and deprived some of us of work."
On a greater scale can you tell us what the COVID-19 situation is like in Russia? What have you been doing outside of music in the mean time?
"The situation sucks. Not only because the number of infected is growing rapidly but also people's scepticism and dubious decisions of the authorities (the Government didn’t declare a state of emergency and made people stay home without salaries). Some of us work remotely, some stay home and have to wait."
Do you feel that Russian Metal has come a long way since the fall of the USSR? Do you know if rock / metal existed during the Soviet era?
"Metal in Russia was under a lot of pressure. The censorship of the USSR didn’t allow this genre to fully develop until the second half of the eighties, therefore, after its collapse, the bands had to create everything from scratch.
But years passed, globalization did its job, and the genre raised its head. But do not think that there was no heavy music in the USSR at all. Groups such as "Aria" and "Master" were prominent representatives of heavy metal and due to the fact that it was difficult for people to get albums of foreign bands, they became incredibly popular.
Unfortunately, there’s no world famous modern metal band from Russia nowadays. It’s really sad and we tried our best to make the world talk about Russian metal scene."
Looking towards the back end of 2020 and into early 2021, what plans do you have?; COVID-19 depending.
"After release of the album we will promote it online as possible. New merchandise, online live shows, maybe b-sides album. And, most importantly - due to the lack of tours, we plan to to record new songs as soon as possible. We recorded “Stargazers” for 3 years, and during this time we have accumulated a bunch of new material, which we are already eager to record and release."
It must be challenging to do a tour of Russia; do such tours exist? Given Moscow is 18 hours away?
"This is the biggest problem for beginner bands in our country. Big cities are located at a distance of 500 kilometres or more, and even a small tour can turn into a real adventure, for which new people in the field may simply not be ready. At the same time, problems can carry on if you have already covered this distance - today metal in Russia is going through difficult times, and it is sometimes very hard to gather a sufficient number of people in a not-so-well-known group."
For those metalheads visiting your city of Ufa, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any venues, bars, etc?
"Our city is full of Bashkir folk influences and bars with pop-cover-bands, so it’s probably the most difficult question, huh. But we have a really nice historical centre and some really good pubs like “Harat’s” or “Jagger”. By the way, our vocalist Denis brews great beer himself!"
Do you have any greetings, thanks, etc that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"First of all, we want to wish all people in the world to be strong and brave in this hard time. It’s important not to bow down and support each other. And we will try to make you a little happier with our music. Stay metal!"
"It's better for us to stay underground, it might turn really hostile if we went big in our home town"
It goes without saying that alongside Crescent, Scarab are spearheading the Egyptian Metal scene on the international front, although they are definitely humble in their origins and yet pushing harder than ever to reach new heights. Having released their 4th album "Martyrs Of The Storm" back in March via ViciSolum Productions, it was only fair for GMA to interrogate their frontman Sammy Sayed about the band's humble origins, the challenges bands in Egypt face, the lack of a fully functional scene i.e. barely any venues, media or market as such, why the album being released on vinyl was a dream come true and something about a word made up by guitarist Al Sharif Marzeban - that word? 'Verminejya'.
What was the reception like for "Martyrs Of The Storm"? What was the feedback like in Egypt; was there any resistance?
"I think it's very contradictory because somehow people related to it as it was something a little bit different to what we are doing; songs are heavier, shorter and more complex. So some people didn't really feel it, maybe it takes a while for it grow on them, and on the other hand we have also been showered with an intense positive feedback. But I believe that it is mainly controversial and that's a good thing; it got people to think and that's a good thing, perhaps it's not just music the you can listen to it and enjoy it, you have to dig deeper into it I believe.
And in regards to any resistance in our home town... Not at all, because anyway this kind of music is underground and I don't believe there will be any kind of market for metal - we try to push for this to happen, but it didn't happen and I don't think it will happen on a major scale. But for the Egyptian Metal scene itself, so far I think people are really digging the album, especially in Egypt because the inspiration comes from here, it comes from what we're going through energetically and it just speaks to them I guess, so they can relate and feel it."
"Martyrs Of The Storm" was released through ViciSolum Productions, will you sign with another label in the future?
"That is not something we have in mind right now, what we have in mind right now is working harder. With the album, we believe that it's not just music any more and the message has to artistically expand in the sense of more material to come in order to support the release, more things that we should say in order to explain what this album may represent or what it may mean for us. I don't know about expanding, so far ViciSolum have been really good to us and that's all what we need and this is something I would leave for the future; basically we are very happy with ViciSolum anyway."
Would you say this is the most ambitious album Scarab has ever done?
"It is to me, not just because of how musically it would sound, but the process itself of creating the album was much different to what we've gone through... we've learned a lot through this album and it's like... we were trying to perfect something and I believe there is nothing like called perfection but it is as perfect as it can get, I believe this is the most sacred work that we have done so far and it's an evolution of anything that we have attempted to do in all ways shapes and forms. "Martyrs Of The Storm" is the purification of Scarab's past."
From "Martyrs Of The Storm" which is your favourite song and why?
"This is a very hard question because we come up with the concept and I interpret the concept later on after the work has been finished, because our way of working (Marz and I) in terms of writing and composing music, it's like channelling or something - so for me when I started to write the lyrics it was also a from of automatic writing. I would unite with the energy of the song and Marz would give me the song titles mainly and I would start to contemplate and follow synchronicities of writing lyrics for the song depending on what it feels like. In the end what I want to say is to choose one song is hard because to us and to me, it feels like the Egyptian tree of life where the leaves are our chapters and every leaf is so important, it's like the human body.
But if you insist on me choosing then I would go with the first song 'Martyrs Of The Storm', because I think it speaks of what the album is going to be about, what the other tracks would be about - like a good introduction."
Can you tell us what the word 'Verminejya' in the song title 'Circles Of Verminejya' means?
"Ha-ha it doesn't mean anything, the title and concept of the song came from Marz and he was like telling me about the 'Circles Of Verminejya', so OK it's not English, it's not any language, it's a made-up-word and so I was like OK so what does it mean? What the f**k does Verminejya mean? He's like 'Verminejya' means danger, it's a magical word, you get the point? It's not something that linguistically means anything but the energy behind it means something. So we started to interpret it and he's like I think it's about Africa, it's about the tradition, the religion and the magic of Africa. We don't like to stick to gimmicks in the sense of trying to act like we are something from 4,000 years ago, so with this song it's like a magical mix between Voodoo in Africa and Ancient Egypt, what it would be like if we mixed both into one thing... that's what Verminejya is, it's a kind of a realm where the magician or priest would hop into a dance ritual for the gods; it's like a magical war. That's what Verminejya is, it's dancing in magical wars furiously, manoeuvring dangerous. It can be taken as a mantra and that's what I think it means for us."
What do your parents think of Scarab's music? Are they very supportive?
"They are very supportive, no one interfered; I'm lucky, there is a lot of freedom when it comes to my family. They never had a problem with the idea of 'what the f**k are you doing, why are you singing like that?' or anything like this. From my father or mother or any member of the family, they always thought of me as this weird kid who was an artist and is crazy, just leave him be."
Do you feel that it's becoming ever more important for bands to reflect their national culture?
"I guess so, but I have to say that I'm not sure if we fell into this idea of acting, the idea of music not being honest would lead it turning into a gimmick. But at the same time I think it's very important for bands to reflect their culture through their music, but it's not an obligation - if you don't feel it, do what you feel. There is one thing that I really hate, how can I explain this, it's not kind of a product where you are going to manufacture and represent, you know this kind of thinking? I hate it because for me, music is very spiritual and if you feel it, do it. If you feel that you have a message to be spoken about, then go ahead and do that, don't think that 'oh because I'm from Egypt, what is it that would make me different from others, I have to stand out' and then sell yourself as a manufactured product... that way of thinking for me, I am really trying not to judge but it's too commercial for me. And it is easy to spot it, simply honest music will always reach the heart."
Over the years you've had a number of line-up changes, were these all amicable or were there discrepencies?
"A little bit of both. We've been together as the same line-up until 2014, so from 2006 until late 2014 / early 2015 we started to have different views, interests, things like this. You know when you have had a relationship for a long time, that's how it is. I think we needed a break and some people just needed to break-up from this thing and I wouldn't say musical differences, it's about losing an interest somehow. The people who left had lost the interest in the essence of what they're doing and lost love towards the entity of Scarab itself, so they left; only Tarek Amr took a break and returned back again.
The only hard thing to do was to replace them, for Scarab it's not business but more of a friendship; we grew up together and have been through a lot, it's friendship before musicianship and so it was really hard to find the right people to replace them; that is the hardest thing we've been through, it was only Al Sharif Marzeban and myself whom were left to serve the band and in terms of writing the music that's fine, but in terms of finding people that can give the right energy, dedication, chemistry, just everything - that's really hard to find until Stephen Moss from the UK (who is a very good friend of ours) helped to record "Martyrs of the Storm" with Al Sharif Marzeban, then he departed.
We're still friends until now, the only reason I think this is not happening between us any more is actually the distance, that's the main problem; but now we're fine, Tarek Amr is back as a guitarist again and we have a new bassist Ahmed Abdel Samad, after another great bassist from the UK helped to record "Martyrs Of The Storm" (Arran McSporran from De Profundis and Virvum) as a recording musician.
It took us from around 2015 until 2020 to find the right people that we could feel right to us, because being a Death Metal band in Egypt is like 'swimming against tides', 'going through the abyss', something like that."
With exception of say Scarab, Crescent and say Mythos, do you feel the Egyptian Metal scene has yet to be fully recognised on the international stage?
"I believe so very much because, speaking from my own point of view when it first started, when I first started in trying to perform, most of the bands were cover bands and very early on you would find some who would make their own music. But right now it's the other way round actually, which is a very positive thing, there are a lot of bands right now writing their own music, playing and recording their own music. Back in 2009 there was this disbelief about the idea that any band that plays metal music would be able to break through internationally anyway, it was not possible at that time because there was no one else that had done it as far as I know.
I don't know if we were kind of lucky but we worked hard and luck served us, and we won 'battle of the bands' in Dubai and therefore played Desert Rock Festival alongside Nervecell (The UAE) who are our long-time friends and on the main stage of With Full Force Festival (DE) 2009 and that was the turning point, because for us it was a dream come true and was unbelievable like what the f**k is going on, it's how it felt like 'what was going on, is this magic?'. At the same time, it was an eye-opener I believe for a lot of great bands in Egypt, because there is not only just Scarab, there are other bands that are really good at what they do... the eye-opener is that 'yeah it can happen.'
I wouldn't say that Scarab is the reason why, maybe we were just mediums for this to happen, it could have been anyone else, it was bound to happen anyway, but Scarab was ready and that is why it happened to us. Also there are two bands who I feel are very successful right now, they are Crescent (Black / Death Metal); back in the days they were playing Black Metal and then they changed their theme into Ancient Egyptian theme and are now their music is being distributed through Listenable Records and have also performed a lot abroad - big festivals...
Also Odious who are a Symphonic Black Metal band from Alexandria, they've also performed abroad and they do tours, and their music is distributed worldwide. This is a good thing and there are a lot of other good bands that are coming up and I think that the more of this happening, the more it will lead the scene to expand at least internationally, not here... maybe I'm pessimistic OK? But I believe that if this kind of music went big and there was a market here, if you could actually tour Egypt and things like that, I think it's going to be negative, I'm really sorry but I think this is what's going to happen for the time being.
It's better for us to stay underground, it might turn really hostile if we went big in our home town I believe so - that's my own opinion."
Given the COVID-19 situation, what are some of the plans that Scarab had that are still intact (if any?).
"Now that everything is cancelled for everyone, so no shows, no tours, nothing, I think what we will be doing is writing new material... but before writing new material we will try to serve the album and maybe do more video material for every track... that's mainly what we are going to be doing and trying to figure out how 2021 would go, and if we're going to be booking shows... I think that's what we will be working on, but mainly since there is a lot of time we will be working on more video material."
For those metalheads visiting Cairo or indeed Egypt as a whole under normal circumstances, aside from the Pyramids, would sights / attractions could you recommend?
"Well man that's the problem, there are no metal bars in Egypt, not as far as I know and metal shows happen every now and then; it depends on the luck or the research the person who listens to metal is going to visit Egypt in the hope of finding metal stuff, I don't think that's possible unless there's a show. There is Metal Blast Festival, I believe that's a great festival in Egypt because they host international acts like Swallow The Sun, I don't remember what else but they bring decent international acts and make local Egyptian bands open for them. So this is a very positive thing and I hope there is more of this. There are no venues, there is only El Sawy Culture Wheel, in Zamalek, Cairo and there is also, it depends but there is also the Cairo Jazz Club in Agouza, Giza which you can play at as a metal band.
I would recommend anyone to visit south Sinai to see Saint Catherine's Monastery as well as the beach on the red sea, and also would recommend them to go on to the complete otherwise in Siwa - there is a lot of magic there. I believe these are the the two places that really speak of the essence of Egypt."
Given the resurgence of vinyl, what are your thoughts on Scarab's music being pressed on LP?
"I'm very happy for it because for me I've always had this as a dream to have Scarab's music on vinyl or record, however cheesy that may sound, but it is to me, the band, Al Sharif Marzeban - Marz was like I wish "Martyrs Of The Storm" would go on vinyl. We didn't ask for it, actually what happened was that Thomas from ViciSolum, as soon as I sent him the final master he was like 'this has to go on vinyl' and then that's when I started to think, I wanted to make the vinyl a bit different than the CD and also the digital version.
The CD is like a seamless kind of run, it feels like if you are listening to one song; all the tracks enter each other, but with the vinyl it's 5 songs on Side A and the other 5 on Side B - the energy of the first 5 songs on Side A is lighter before it gets darker on Side B with the last 5 songs. Like Side A is rage and anger, Side B is evil. Metaphorically speaking Side A would be the sun, Side B would be the moon. Side B has more of this Black Metal touch to it hidden inside somewhere."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"Yeah of course I want to thank everyone who supported us throughout the years, and all the musicians that have their energy in some way or shape in the album, the guitarists that Marz invited - Karl Sanders, Joe Haley to name a few, and basically everyone that had their hands into this collaboration. All of our fans, their patience, believing in us, Thomas from ViciSolum for believing in us and being patient for 5 years for us to actually put this together during this hindrance and hardships that we were going through in finding the right members. I wish everyone will stay safe through this process of transition in 2020, wish them peace, growth and wisdom".
"There's stuff happening (on band releases), and hopefully 2020 will end up being a golden year for Faroese metal."
Having released their 2nd EP 'Ódn' last year to widespread acclaim, the Faroese Melodic Doom / Death Metallers Hamferð are eternally grateful for the achievements they have made during the past 12 years. Sadly however 2020 marked a tricky time for the band as guitarist John Egholm left the band, that but also the global pandemic the whole world is grappling with in COVID-19; putting a halt to the vast majority of the bands plans. We speak to guitarist Theodor Kapnas about the reception their latest EP attracted, the challenges Faroese Metal bands face, the inspiration behind their on-stage attire and the COVID-19 situation on the Faroe Islands.
You released your 2nd EP 'Ódn' last year, what was the reception like and will there be a new album in 2021?
"The EP has been very well received. It does feel different from our other records though. One of the songs is a live recording of "Deyðir varðar" from 2015 which we did during the total solar eclipse, and the second one is a live recording from our release show in 2018 of our oldest song, "Ódn", which we've performed live extensively but have never released until now. So even if we released it as a new EP it's technically older material. People seem to have enjoyed it, and we're really happy to have the tracks out there.
We are working on new material and have quite a bit written, but it's too early to promise any release dates. I do hope that it'll be in 2021 though."
You may well have been asked this many times, could you tell us about the idea behind your stage attire (being suits) - who came up with it, etc?
"The stage suits are part of the original idea behind Hamferð. John founded the band because he was inspired to create Doom Metal in Faroese, and one of the main ideas was that our live show should be inspired by the atmosphere of a funeral. Traditional funeral wear in The Faroe Islands is either traditional Faroese clothes or a black suit, white shirt and black tie to a funeral. So the suit idea came quite naturally. It's something we feel works well for our shows, so we've stuck with it and probably will keep on doing so for the foreseeable future."
For those who cannot speak a word of Faroese, can you offer some tips in how to sing along to your music?
"That's a tricky one. I guess you can just learn the songs phonetically. We've all sung along to songs while having absolutely no idea what the lyrics were about. One way would also be to make your own version of misheard lyrics of the songs. And if someone does that please let us know, we'd love to see them!"
Are the Faroe Islands in lock down? If so what have you been doing at home both musically and in other hobbies?
"First and foremost, The Faroe Islands isn't in lockdown. Large gatherings are banned and social distancing rules are applied, but shops are open and a lot of people are still going to work. But it does of course leave you with more alone time than usual. This has given me time to be able to finish a few musical projects which have been laying around for too long, which now lets me focus fully on continuing with writing the next Hamferð record. I was supposed to do quite a bit of touring as sound engineer during the spring, but that has obviously been cancelled. The rest of the guys live in different places and have been affected in different ways, but this situation affects all of us.
When it comes to hobbies I've done the usual, I love being outdoors and now I suddenly have time for a lot of hiking, fishing, diving etc... The main difference is that people are now trying to avoid seeing other people and are therefore heading out of the towns. So hikers have appeared absolutely everywhere."
Would you say the Faroese Metal scene is growing stronger each year or has it been a rocky journey?
"The Faroe Islands is a very small place, so the metal scene moves in waves. A few years ago we had a lot of active metal bands, but as our generation has been getting older more and more guys have stopped playing that has obviously affected things. I don't think kids feel that it's as cool to be in a band as we did when we were teenagers, so there have been fewer new bands popping up.
Having said that, we still have some really good bands in The Faroes, and 2020 is looking like a very strong release year for Faroese metal. I can recommend checking out the band Ótti, which features two Hamferð members. They just released their debut album, definitely worth a listen. Impartial and Asyllex have also released new stuff, and I know that Goresquad and Iron Lungs are releasing new stuff this year. So there's stuff happening, and hopefully 2020 will end up being a golden year for Faroese metal.
What (in your opinion) are the biggest challenges facing the new crop of metal bands coming up the ranks in the Faroes?
"The challenges are the same as they have always been. The audience in The Faroes is limited, and it's harder than ever to find a rehearsal space which is a challenge for a lot of bands. However, the work that Upp Við Hornunum has done with local events and the Wacken Metal Battle competition has really helped. Bands have been given an incentive to perform live, and it has never been easier to get in contact with people from the international metal industry."
What plans for the year ahead do you have (COVID-19 depending); did you have before this pandemic?
"We have a few shows coming up later this year, if that will be allowed by that time. But apart from that this year is set aside to write a new record. We can hopefully start recording that later this year or early next year. So that's where most of our focus lies at the moment."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out? Any final words?
"Stay safe out there everyone, wash your hands and we'll hopefully see all of you when this virus situation is over..."