Interview Interrogation: Iris Goessens & Steven 'Gaze' Sanders from Spoil Engine (Belgium / Netherlands)
Spoil Engine have been rampaging in the Belgian Metal scene for 15 years and yet it's only in the recent years that they caught the attention of the more well-known labels, Arising Empire (owned by Nuclear Blast) in this case.
Their unique slant on the Melodic Death Metal / Metalcore crossover has made them distinguished guests in the world of metal and yet despite their original vocalist leaving in 2014, they've maintained their brutality through Dutch vocalist Iris Goessens. Word of warning, don't let the fact being the new vocalist is a female overthrow you or undermine this new instalment of Spoil Engine, because her vocals and charisma is ferocious enough to leave you spit-roasted inside and out.
Here Iris and Steve spoke to GMA about their crushing new album 'Renaissance Noire', it's meaning and origins. How they come to meet at their rendez-vous point of Antwerp (as Iris and Matthijs both live in The Netherlands), the Dutch and Belgian Metal scenes respectively and why the single 'Riot' has arguably come at the right time for the band...
"I think music is a beautiful way to make people aware of important topics."
You must be stoked to release your fifth album 'Renaissance Noire', could you tell us about the meaning behind the album title and give us an overview of the album topics?
"Yes we are! We’re very proud of what the album has become. The title translates as “Dark Rebirth”. After our last “Stormsleeper” shows Bart had to make the decision to leave the band (work & family were too difficult to combine with SE). We decided that we would move on as a 4 piece band and started writing. This whole process was a “rebirth” for the band. Also we felt inspired by the “Renaissance” age, which you can see in the artwork. We think this album is darker than the previous one so that’s why we added the “Noire” in the title. The song topics are very diverse but they are all about evolving (as humans and/or as a society) so it basically became the overall topic though the album."
Iris, having come from Maastricht would it be OK to assume you moved to Belgium instead of travelling to and from The Netherlands?
"No. I still live in The Netherlands. Our drummer Matt is also from The Netherlands. For rehearsals we meet in the city of Antwerp which is in the middle of where all the band members live. Before we do this we arrange as much as possible online & everyone rehearses and writes songs at their home studio’s."
Steven do you feel the Belgian Metal scene is often overlooked by the music industry as a whole? Iris the same for the Dutch Metal scene?
"I think there are many Dutch bands and musicians who made it big in the international metal scene. So I don’t think we’re overlooked… It just takes lots of time to build a brand."
"Well, I guess the scene wouldn't be overlooked if we had bands who really get all the promotion. We have some great Belgian bands (Aborted, AmenRa, Evil Invaders, Carnation,...) but these boys must work very hard to get something done in the global scene. If you compare with our Dutch friends (Epica, Within Temptation,..) they get much more support and credit from the bottom-up, meaning from their own country and their promo channels like BUMA. Dutch bands tend to help each other more where Belgian bands are more lone warriors. But it's good to see the Belgian scene is rising!"
Do you feel your single 'R!ot' has come at the right time when climate change protests, social unrest across the European Union and hatred towards the Trump administration is rife? Is the single a political statement?
"Yes, it just came together like that. We wrote this song at the beginning of 2019. I think music is a beautiful way to make people aware of important topics."
With that in mind, do you feel metal music offers itself as a way of venting fury, anger and discontent in a constructive way?
"For sure. Metal has a great energy to spread messages. I think most metal fans are conscious people who think for themselves. So it’s nice to spread messages through our music for a better world. "
For metalheads visiting Maastricht, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any good bars, clubs?
"We got some nice pubs here in Maastricht. Most of them are overflowed with students though. Same for the “clubs”. I’d rather recommend Maastricht for day visiting than overnight partying. We have many nice restaurants and a beautiful city centre."
What plans have you got for the rest of 2019 (along side the album launch) and into 2020? Do you have any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"We’ve launched the album and we’re ready to hit the road! Thanks for the interview. And to all the fans who read this: We hope to CU soon on tour!"
Whenever you think of Canada, the usual stereotypes come into being. Maple syrup, South Park (Blame Canada), the vast forests and of course ice hockey. But among all of that is a metal scene that has been chugging along nicely, just like their railways, their metal scene is vast, widespread and as solid as the rails their trains travel on. One band who over the years has grown and improved themselves to become one of Canada's most exciting exports in the past decade is Unleash The Archers. This Heavy Power / Melodic Death Metal leviathan is roaring and ready to unleash their latest EP 'Explorers'. Vocalist Brittney Slayes filled in the details of the new EP, their journey to where the band is now, their home city of Vancouver and what films she would have loved to written metal soundtracks for.
"Don’t you feel like in these new [Star Wars] films there should have been heavier riffs? Imagine if Kylo’s theme had been metal!"
Ten years have passed since your first album 'Behold The Devastation' saw daylight, the band has come a long way since then, what is it would you say has driven the band to where they are now?
"To be honest, there was never some grand scheme for greatness, never a plan or even a purposeful direction, we just keep writing new music and getting out on the road to tour it. We have always taken it day by day, album by album, just seizing the opportunities when they come and working as hard as we can to create something new and exciting each time we hit the studio. Music is our passion, we will continue to play as long as we can and if a little success comes along with it then that’s great, but it’s not why we do it. We just want to play our songs live in front of an audience that enjoys them as much as we do."
Canada seems to keep producing exciting and fresh bands, is it safe to assume the Canadian Metal scene is buzzing right now?
"Absolutely! The advent of digital music has allowed a lot more bands to get their music out there in front of a lot more people, whereas in the past it would have been up to the labels to pick and choose which bands get recognition and which don’t. I think Canada has always been full of killer musicians, it’s just hard to be noticed when you have huge markets like the USA and Europe constantly getting all the attention. You do have to go the extra mile in order to get your name out there, you have to tour those major markets as much as you can and look for coverage wherever you can get it, and I think a lot more bands are doing that nowadays. You have to be willing to put the time and energy in, no one is going to do it for you, and there are a lot of young bands up here that are finally understanding that."
If you had the choice of writing metal soundtracks for 5 films, what 5 films would you choose?
"When I was watching 'Aquaman' I felt like the soundtrack was so wrong, it should have been way heavier, it should have been metal, so I suppose that would be my first choice. I think Annihilation and the new Predator movie should have had metal soundtracks too. Of course, Star Wars has some of the best song writing of all time, but don’t you feel like in these new films there should have been heavier riffs? Imagine if Kylo’s theme had been metal! So perfect. Lastly, I would love to do the soundtrack for the Alien franchise, I think the last two films were so fantastically dark and would pair well with some progressive or even djent-y riffage. Could you imagine that in theatres? Just awesome."
What have you done differently for 'Explorers' in comparison with 'Apex'?
"The biggest difference is that ‘Explorers’ is just a two-song covers EP, not a full length, so we didn’t do any original writing, just some rearranging. ‘Apex’ is full of imagination, but ‘Explorers’ is full of heart. We are heading into the studio pretty soon here to do another full length, a sequel to ‘Apex’, so we will be returning to the same writing and recording style for that one. This EP was just a little something to keep the fans engaged while we write the next album."
You've covered Stan Rogers's 'Northwest Passage' for the EP and said it (quote) 'brings us right back home', do you feel it's important for bands to turn to musicians who epitomize a cultural identity in context with Stan travelling nationwide through the Rockies, forests, etc?
"We are all really big fans of Stan, and not just because he toured the same highways that we do, but because he has such a strong sense of Canadian identity inherently surrounding him. All of his songs invoke a reverence for our Canadian heritage that make you almost want to explode with pride for the beauty of it. He reminds you of where you’ve come from, and inspires you to use that as fuel for the fire. We knew that there were going to be tons of people that had never heard of Stan before, but we didn’t care, we wanted the metal community to hear the song and love it just as much as we do, all the naysayers be damned ;)"
Speaking of which, for metalheads visiting the city of Vancouver, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any festivals, bars, also?
"Number one on the list should definitely be to stroll the seawall through Stanley Park, from Coal Harbour all the way to English Bay and beyond if you can make it, maybe rent a bike because it pretty much surrounds the whole of down-town Vancouver and keeps on going! Granville Island is cool too, but save that for a weekday because weekends it’s PACKED. The Vancouver Art Gallery is worth it if there is an interesting exhibit going on, and there is tons of shopping around there as well so it’s easy to make a day of it. The Musuem of Anthroplogy out at UBC is worth checking out, as is the grounds of the university in general. Oh and you definitely want to check out the Capilano Suspension bridge! Super rad, unless you’re afraid of heights and a wobbly bridge packed with people ;).
As for festivals, we have Hyperspace each spring which is all power and melodic bands, and then we have the Modified Ghost festival in the summer that is all super heavy death and technical bands. As for bars, you definitely want to hit up the Moose! Cheap, tasty food and heavy metal music all day long!"
Aside from the EP, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
"We have begun the writing process for the next album and will be hitting the studio at the end of the year. We are hoping for a late spring 2020 release, and after that it will be tour, tour, tour! Plus, as many festivals as we can get our hands on."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out?
"Just wanted to say thanks to our fans for their amazing response to the ‘Explorers’ EP so far! We can’t wait to share the second track with everyone on October 11th! Keep an eye on YouTube ‘cause we’ll be releasing another cool video for that track as well J If you haven’t checked it out yet, the video for ‘Northwest Passage’ is up on YouTube right now, and make sure to bring your thinking cap because it’s a wild ride ;)
Thanks for your time everyone!"
Demonic Resurrection are one of the leading metal bands from the Indian Metal scene, having been around since the turn of the millennium they have released 5 albums, 1 EP and 1 split and in that time played across Asia and Europe; most notably playing twice at Bloodstock where this year Sahil (vocalist/guitarist) had a chat with GMA about why he was putting not only the band to rest, but his other bands as well. He spoke about his YouTube channel, the scene going forward, what you can do in Bombay and what religion means to him.
"Religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally "
Demonic Resurrection has come to an end, could you tell us how this come about?
"I don't know man I think after 18 years of doing this, I'm kind of a little tired and fed-up with the way things are. I don't mind the struggle and I'm happy to work really hard and put 110% behind what I am doing, but for me I feel like the struggle has been with the same things as opposed to being different struggles as you progress as a band. For me that's kind of where it sort of says it's not working; if you're struggling with the same thing you started 10 years ago then maybe you're doing something wrong. So I kind of need to at least for now just put this behind me and maybe focus on something that is really doing well for me right now, which is my Headbangers Kitchen YouTube channel, so that's the plan right now."
Regarding your YouTube channel, you recently become certified correct? And you contributed to a book?
"Yeah we got certified a while back but we just reached 230,000 subscribers, so it's pretty much become my full-time job now and has kept me quite busy.
I was approached by a publisher last year to sort of edit a book rather than write one, I wrote some stuff for this book but mainly edited a lot of their recipes too make them keto-friendly.
Keto is a sort of way of eating where you deprive your body of carbohydrates and it goes into burning fat for fuel, it's sort of become one of the hottest ways to lose weight because it kind of lets you do it in a more of a free-approach to it, rather than being restricting yourself in terms of what you can and cannot eat; though you are, but it doesn't feel as deprived as most diets do."
Out of all of the dishes you have done, which is your favourite?
"Oh that's a tough question man, I would definitely say one of my most popular dishes is the 'bacon bomb'; that is kind of my signature meat dish, but I'm also very proud of my buttered chicken. The 'bacon bomb' is half a kilo of ground pork meat seasoned beautifully with fresh herbs, stuffed with cheese, peppers, onions, wrapped in bacon, covered in BBQ sauce and baked. That would keep you going for the rest of the day."
So your other bands Reptilian Death, Demonstealer and Workshop are being phased out too?
"If anyone has been following me, I think it was about 2 years ago I put Workshop to rest and then a year ago I put Reptilian Death down as well. I don't know man just things stopped working for the band and like I said I don't mind working hard, but when all the odds are against you then you just need to know when to let go. With Workshop we just come to a point where we were just unable to book shows because whoever booked shows didn't like our music, so eventually we were not able to book anything and it just sort of died down because there were no gigs we could play and the other members became busy with their other musical careers, so we called it a day."
With Kryptos carrying on, what does the future of the Indian Metal scene look like in your opinion?
"Honestly I don't know, but what I do know is it will survive, it will go through it's up's and down's like it always has, I think as a genre metal still holds onto people in some way. Even though the Indian scene is not growing in the way it should, but you know we will have to wait and see the way it goes, but I do believe it will survive and have children always wanting to play metal, so you will always have some Indian Metal bands; whether they last or not, that's a different question."
With the metal band Bloodywood mixing Bollywood music with metal, do you see this as a step forward?
"Honestly, I don't know if that's a step forward but it is definitely a connecting point for people around the world to know that there's metal in India. I guess they've tapped into what I would call the 'YouTube Market' ,which is a huge platform for very creative content and creators to exploit, and I think they have found a formula what works for them. So I definitely think them as a band will do great things, whether they choose to go live or whether they choose to spend their energy on YouTube, it will definitely be and introduction for most people getting into the Indian Metal scene."
So how did Demonic Resurrection come round to playing Bloodstock this time? Do you keep in touch with past members?
"Yes I think Bio-Cancer dropped out and my agent said I could book in for Bloodstock, so I was like let me check the visa situation because the last time we came here we had to get a work permit, which is really expensive, but it turns out that there is a cheaper option and I was anyway planning to visit the UK for friend's wedding so it kind-of worked out. Especially as we have two members in the UK, so that's two people that actually needed to fly in now for the gig; myself and Virendra. As of now we have Shoi Sen and Arran McSporran from De Profundis who play bass and guitar, they're our live session members in the UK.
I'm still in touch with most of them yeah, they're always doing something or the other. Nishith Hegde and Ashwin Shriyan play in Bollywood, they're session musicians and as is Daniel Kenneth Rego, Mephisto chills at home and writes some of his own music but doesn't really put anything out so."
Could you tell us more about your last (and final) album "Dashavatar", what does it mean?
"'Dashavatar' is basically about the the primary avatars of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, it's actually funny that I even wrote something like this because I'm a staunch atheist and I have a lot of disdain for religion, but as stories there are interesting things here and my wife told me the story of
Narasimha the man-lion, and the way it was told to me was... it kind of showed a very brutal side to the story and the truth is I think, religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally and f****d everything up, but they are great stories and they were stories that I thought would be good to tell through our music and I made sure that we didn't compromise the music that we made. I know we do have Indian instruments in the album, but they are there with a purpose, they are not us suddenly going all fusion, trying to create something, so that was an interesting thing to do."
For metalheads visiting India, aside from the Taj Mahal, what sights / attractions would you recommend seeing?
"Well if you're coming to Bombay (Mumbai) it's always good to get a look at the gateway of India, there are these caves called the Ajanta and Ellora caves which are nice to visit as well, you can go to the beach, Juhu beach, Marine Drive, yeah you can go around and eat some good food in Bombay. Honestly I always never know what to tell people to go and see in Bombay because myself I don't really care for sightseeing and stuff, it's all about food."
Signing off are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Thank you for having me and for doing this interview, thank you to anyone who has listened to any of my music and bought a CD or t-shirt, I appreciate it!"
Obzidian are a Progressive Death / Thrash outfit situated in Staffordshire and ultimately slammed Bloodstrock with their infectious music, they spoke to GMA about the struggles in their local scene, their music backgrounds and why being social media savvy pays off.
Who came up with the band name Obzidian and what does it mean?
"I was doing A-level geography in college and basically it's a volcanic glassy rock that forms so quickly that it's like a sheet of glass but is black, so it's like a sort of reflective black glass so we thought that's a pretty metal thing, so we'll name out band after it, we just changed the 's' to a 'z' because there is already another band with that name using an 's'."
What was the emotions like in the Obzidian camp when being confirmed to play Bloodstock? Was there any hush-hush?
"Excitement and a little bit of terror because I was at work at the time, obviously our manager Dan just put messages on our group thread saying 'call me, call me', I'm like what's going on? I'm at work. I called him in the toilet and he was like 'mate we're playing Bloodstock', so I kind of had a little dance to myself in the toilet at work. We've been wanting this for ages and it finally happened, it's all a bit of a blur to be honest.
Yeah my dad was our sound-man for a very long time so he's fully engrained into our band, helped us and bought all of the gear we've got at the moment, drove us round the country week-in week-out. My mum's always supportive, she's not a musician herself but has grown up with my dad being a musician and obviously supported music and stuff - they've all supported us 100% and when I told them they were absolutely made up. They've back us through everything.
I'm from a big music background, my father toured the US in the 70's with his band, my brother is a semi-professional drummer, so they're really proud because I found my own way as I don't have the musical attributes they had, I don't have the musical talent they had."
How did you all get into Metal Music?
"I started off with more classic rock stuff like AC/DC when I was around 12, started playing guitar because of them and then just got heavier and heavier, started listening to Megadeth, Metallica and Pantera, then onto Meshuggah.
All of our parents have grown up with rock, classic rock, that kind of thing. My dad was a big Deep Purple and Motorhead fan, then Judas Priest, he got me into all of that and then by growing up with that, I was about 8 or 9 when I listened to the 'Black Album' and then that took me onto a different path and then I found Megadeth, then onto Metallica, then onto Sepultura, it all got heavier from there really.
Same with me the whole classic rock background with my dad, I think it was my brother really who started to dip his fingers into the heavier side of things, to be fair I think Sepultura was the first heavy band I listened to. It was an honour to play with them, so that's one thing ticked off the bucket list a few years back.
Was there any challenges that Obzidian had to overcome in the years past?
"I don't know if there's been any real challenges as such like some bands go through, money is always a challenge, trying to find how to travel, buying gear and merch, making sure we put our finances in the right areas, make some back and make a profit, being able to carry on doing it. It's always a bit of a risk when you want to carry on doing that kind of thing, when you have all those upfront costs. Apart from that not really, the only change we ever made to our line-up was in 2005 when Matty Jenks came in on vocals and we parted ways with our old vocalist / guitarist; more like a James Hetfield kind of character, we wanted to go heavier and he didn't, we kind of changed up a little bit.
For the past 13-14 years it's been this line-up and we really haven't faced anything apart from time and money. If someone has a problem they put it out there, when we need to argue we argue and when we need to complement each other we do. There's no stones or turbulence.
We've known each other for so long, me (Paul Hayward), Baz Foster and Matt Jeffs grew up together and went through high school, we've known each other since the age of 11 and it just formed a solid friendship that you can base music on. "
Could you tell us about what the Staffordshire Metal scene is like?
"Stafford is a semi-rural town, but it's starting to get better, there's not a lot of bands there, not a lot of live music there. There's a venue called The Red Rum where a guy called Nick is really trying to bring Hed P.E. and bigger bands in to the area to try and encourage people to come out and listen to more live music and we can't thank him enough for that as he's put us on 3-4 times already in various venues
I'm from the Staffordshire side of Wolverhampton, right by Birmingham which is the home of heavy metal as everyone says but for so many years there was just nothing there... but the way the underground scene has been rising in the past 2-3 years in Birmingham, it's beginning to feel like a real place again metal-wise. We did a lot of stuff up in Manchester for a while.
There's been times where we've had to drive hours and hours away from home to find a decent show, but now it's all coming back to the Midlands which is a really good thing. There's a lot of good promoters out there just sticking at it and getting the right bands on the shows.
FatAngel who we're with now, the label and promotions who are based in Coventry have really done wonders for the Midlands scene e.g. Mosh Against Cancer Festival, they've just been wonderful for us. Dan Carter who is our manager (also the bassist in Left For Red), he's the man who looks after us now and just waggled his hand just like 'oh you guys' (all laugh).
When growing up when did you realize you wanted to become a musician, what was your first instrument?
"I don't remember the exact point but I used to play guitar originally and used to jam with my dad who also is a guitarist and vocalist from back in the 70's. After about 4-5 years of that, getting my own gear and being in a couple of bands as a guitarist, my cousin who is a drummer let me have a go on his kit and the rest is just history, so I've been on drums ever since. My cousin probably influenced me the most on drums, but for guitar it was probably my dad and I think I was probably 7/8 when I properly started playing guitar and then changed to drums when I was around 12/13 and now I'm 34. For the last 10-15 I went into music production learning how to record etc.
AC/DC, from my dad's old vinyl collection, once I pulled out 'Power Age' it was f*****g awesome, stuck that on and went out to buy some AC/DC albums and that was it, I wanted to be like Angus Young.
I've played drums, I've played guitar, but I was s**t so I went to vocals and started screaming (all laugh).
Summarise Bloodstock in two words, what would you say?
"Bloody raining / awesome metal / absolutely incredible / metal family"
Have you had any fans from abroad contact you via social media?
"Yeah we've had a few guys from Norway, Sweden, those kinds of places, firstly they message us and then buy the album. They say they really love it and will play it to all of their friends. We've had radio play in Canada and the USA, so yeah we've had a lot of international contact - we just need to turn that into shows now and see what happens."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Hello to anyone whose bought stuff or who will buy stuff, check us out on obzidian.co.uk and on Facebook. A big shout out to those who visited the New Blood Stage at 10:30, cheers to the crew, everyone who knows us and has checked us out."
Although Trivax originated in Iran, the frontman Shayan S. moved to the UK in 2010 to pursue becoming a metal musician. The rest of the band members are from Birmingham with the exception of bassist 'S' who originates from Syria. So where East meets West and liberalist and conservative cultures clash, Trivax stands strong as a force of nature. Shayan spoke to GMA about growing up as an Iranian metalhead, challenges faced and what it's like being immersed in the British Metal scene.
"If you're religiously or politically against what the Government (Iranian) do or believes in then you can almost be executed"
Trivax didn't form in the UK, so could you tell us it's origins? What is the Iranian scene like?
"Eh no I originally formed the band on my own in Iran in 2009. I can't really say there's much of a scene because it's illegal over there to be doing this kind of thing. There are obviously some musicians who are trying to be active but obviously the quality of what comes out isn't quite as good because people don't really get to exercise the rights for music. So obviously because there's rarely any gigs or anything like that. As bands, they don't really have a great deal to offer but of course there's a lot of good musicians who have come out of there. From The Vastland is an Iranian Black Metal band formed by a friend of mine called Sina who is now based in Norway, and they're doing quite well at the moment.
The name Trivax translates to 'storm', it's a transcription of a war, of a name that's in Farsi and yes it came about nine years ago as I mentioned in April 2009. I just decided that this was what I needed to be doing, I didn't really have the circumstances to be doing it at the time, it's just the hunger to create and play extreme music and to light up the fire that's in you."
So would most Iranian metalheads leave the country to pursue metal music careers, etc?
"I wouldn't say most, no, they would like to but I don't think anyone can do it"
What can happen if someone in Iran was found to be supporting metal music?
"Well it can usually just start off with getting arrested by the culture police which means they'll cut your hair, eventually they'll let you go on bail, or if you're playing live music without permission from the Government, then that can go very badly... they can break your instruments and things, finally if you're religiously or politically against what the Government do or believes in then you can almost be executed."
What do your parents think of you playing metal music?
"I think they might have been slightly sceptical at first, but I have to say that they have been greatly, greatly supportive - it might not be something that they'd listen to themselves, but they really enjoy it, they support that it is something I believe in because they see that it's not just a hobby or just something for me to try to and impress my friends with. This is my life. They're open-minded about it."
Did you face any challenges when you wanted to learn to play metal music?
"None really, it'd a different environment to what it is like here, I was that desperate to actually play and I learned that whatever difficulties that were in the way, I would push through them."
How does it feel to be at Bloodstock?
"Feels pretty amazing, yeah so far everyone has been kind to us and we're very much looking forward to the show."
Do you get nervous when going on stage?
"erm... I don't, I... it's a very strange state of mind, I'm not sure if I can really talk about it and have it make any sense, all I can say is that it gets very intense and excitement."
Do you feel metal music in general and not just Bloodstock, brings the world together irrespective of socio-cultural and political differences?
"Absolutely, that's why we are here, we share this metal music together with people I've never met before, but we're all brothers and sisters in metal."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Many thanks to those who have supported us over the years and devoted the time to come, we're only really getting started with Trivax and we're going to do our best to get out there as much as possible, and conquer each one of you".
Having won Metal 2 The Masses - South Wales this year and slaughtered their set at Bloodstock, GMA felt it was time to grill the quintet known as Democratus. Stepping up to the plate was frontman Steve 'Moomin' Jenkins who divulged into the rapid resurgence of the South Wales Metal scene, what it's like being at Bloodstock, how important it is to support unsigned bands and the love for the Metal 2 The Masses initiative.
"Metal is like football, it's a universal language; there's always someone you can go up to in any country and go 'Judas Priest?'.... 'YES!!!', 'Iron Maiden?'... 'YES!!' and that's beautiful"
Steve what was Democratus's set like having played Bloodstock?
"It couldn't have gone much better to be fair, we kicked in and it just all sort of clicked together. We had plenty of people watching us, I do think the rain made a better promoter out of it because it had just more people in it that were trying to get out of the rain, but then I think once we got them into the tent they were like 'ooh I like this' and yeah it just went absolutely off the wall. We had pits, we had walls of death... when I said 'jump' they said 'how high?'; I love that because I love my crowd participation - I've always preferred putting on a show, I can't be one of those people who just plays staring at their feet throughout a set, so I like it when we get the crowd involved."
And what does the band name Democratus mean? When did you first get into metal music?
"I go by 'Democritus' and the reason for that being early incarnations of us thought right we need a band name and I suggested we need a couple of names to say what we're on about and they were like 'eeh not fussed' and I turned round and said that we all need to decide on something, we're in a democracy not a dictatorship. Our guitarist at the time turned round and said 'what about Democratus'? We all looked at him and went 'wooooh', so it stuck and given the nature of some of my political lyrics and stuff like that, it kind of ties in. I did a search to check there were not other bands with that name and it turns out it was a Greek philosopher; he was the foundation as it were of how democracy was set up.
I was a bit of a latecomer to it, I had friends who would try to play Korn to me when I was 13, 14, and at that point I didn't quite get it. I started to get into Hard Rock and then tiptoed into metal when I was around 18, 19 - I found Killswitch Engage and Slipknot and so it went all downhill from there. It's a kind of ongoing process because the people who say metal is dead, there is always new stuff to discover - you're just not looking hard enough if you think it's gone stale because it has not."
Do you feel at times that politics and music should not mix?
"Not at all, for starters you wouldn't have bands like System Of A Down or Rage Against The Machine, to be honest metal, rock, blues, it was all born out of the frustration of being angry at the man in question. If it's all about your art and when personal leanings come into it, then everything is open - if people don't want to listen to political lyrics, that's where free speech comes in, in that the choice of listening to something political or not comes into play. But the message is there, if people like it and want to hear it, if people want to respect or disagree with it, then I'm open to debate and it's a case of I do what I do.... A. because I enjoy it and B. because for me personally I prefer having lyrics that have some kind of meaning. I can't write throwaway nonsense, it's not me."
What sort of metal style does Democratus play?
"When I started us out I had the definition of wanting to go into Melodic Death Metal, that's where my favourite bands lie, the likes of Soilwork, Insomnium, In Flames (well early In Flames, they're not a Melodeath band anymore), but's that where my love lies and so that's where I kind of wanted to stick us. Since then with the line-up we've got, the music we've written since the first EP has branched out and is not strictly Melodeath, it's still heavy and brutal and still has it's melodies, but it opens us up to more options on where we want to go with writing music and more potential offers from promoters wanting to work with us and I'm happy with that. "
Tell us about the Welsh Metal scene, what's it like?
"What do you want to know my friend? At the moment it's good and buzzing, Sodomized Cadaver, Cranial Separation and us are at Bloodstock this weekend alone; Cranial finished as runners up to us at the Metal 2 The Masses final, straight-up Brutal Death Metal. As far as it goes there is a bit of everything for everyone, over the last couple of years (3-4) it's felt like a proper community; it wasn't always like that, there was a lot of bitching, a lot of sniping and that's just the way scenes fall apart basically.
With the closure of venues and things like that, it made a lot of bands realize that actually we're probably better off getting along with each other, support each other in order to get ourselves ahead of the game. The whole Metal 2 The Masses thing, I'll give a shout out to my boys in Incursion, Blind Divide and Cranial Separation who absolutely walloped us in terms of how they played, they pulled out sets of their lives."
Do you feel Bloodstock are leaders in supporting the underground by giving bands opportunities to play to vast numbers?
"Absolutely! I can't thank Simon Hall, Rob Bannister, all the crew here enough for helping us, even today and through helping us plug ourselves in terms of getting media sorted and things like that. There is no other festival that I can think of in the UK that gives unsigned bands and self-signed bands that platform, and it absolutely sets Bloodstock apart. What intrigued me the first time I came here in 2008, was the potential of seeing one of my local friends The Dirty Youth; I used to go to school with their bassist and I've seen bands like that who small at that time but have grown. It's always something that's intrigued me at Bloodstock, and they've got the Metal 2 The Masses stuff going.
I've entered it with previous bands for years and I've always tried to see the positive in terms of yeah we haven't got through until this year, but I've always networked and made friends, got new likes out of it; it's always the additions that some bands may struggle in taking the advantage of, I'm fortunate in the fact of I've pestered enough people and kind of think I know what I'm doing to make the most of opportunities I get. I hear of bands who win Metal 2 The Masses and think that things will come their way, no way, this is just the start of it and I just hope now that the opportunities keep coming.
Do you believe Bloodstock brings people together regardless of culture, politics and social differences?
"Absolutely, you only need to look at the list of bands who are playing this year, you've got Demonic Resurrection from India, Lovebites from Japan, bands from all over the place. Metal is like football, it's a universal language there's always someone you can go up to in any country and go 'Judas Priest?'.... 'YES!!!', 'Iron Maiden?'... 'YES!!' and that's beautiful, I love it, this festival in particular as well just has the good sense of community. Like I said I've been coming here since 2008, and there were friends who I've made in 2008 that I still see and came out to see us yesterday, that's humbling for me as a band but also it's really nice to know that the place that I know I can guarantee you'll make friends ever year."
Could you ever see a metal band sing in Welsh about Welsh mythology?
"I believe one of my friends from Agrona is already working on a project that does exactly that, I can't remember the name of them because it's a really complicated Welsh pronunciation, but yeah there is something actually in the works so again it's reason to keep an eye on the Welsh scene. (Most people trip over Llanfair PG in it's full name right?) I was born in Southampton, but moved to Wales when I was 2, I'm actually OK with Welsh pronunciations, so you're referring to 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' (just rolls off the tongue), it's lovely when drunk haha (I can imagine!!) - don't ask me to say what it means, that I can never remember.
Welsh is a great culture, I'm proud to be in Wales but I don't do the nationalism type of stuff unless it's in sports, but at the same time there's always cultures and heritage that's always interesting to look at."
Are there any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out?
"Massive thank you to everyone who has bought Democratus t-shirts over the months and years, everyone who has supported us to get through to the final. Massive shout out to Rachael Harrison for doing our media / PR stuff, also the usual Bloodstock crew; loved you for years and being behind the scenes has given me more respect for what you guys have done. To my friends who have turned up to watch us play, thank you, and for the rest, they know who they are :)."
Whenever metal bands in the west think they have it hard, very little thought is spared for their contemporaries in the war-ravaged, poverty-ridden or geographically-isolated nations on planet earth. It's bands from these parts of the world that ultimately deserve far more attention than your next big band who sells thousands of albums a month. When your recording and playing metal music whilst bombs around you go off and your effectively playing with your life in the balance, reality kicks in and the reality is the Syrian Metal scene has far more to lose than the vast majority of westernised metalheads can ever lose. This is why Absentation relocated to Germany, here guitarist / vocalist Salah Alghalayeeni speaks to GMA about the scene back home, the challenges that came with playing metal, the forthcoming album and the fact that having no festival in the MENA region has left some scenes without a live outlet.... this is his story.
"Hopefully someday we will gather at a big metal event in Damascus Castle, that would be f***ing awesome"
For those who have not heard of Absentation could you give us a brief history of the band?
"First of all, greetings to you Rhys and to Global Metal Apocalypse, Absentation is the first official Death Metal band formed in 2003 in Damascus, Syria. The first album was "Death Chapter" released in 2005, then "Mental Battle Resurrection" which was released by ADP records in 2007 (we were interviewed by Terrorizer magazine and got a killer review by Noisecreep), then we were preparing to release an album entitled "Claves Inferni", we released 2 singles but couldn’t complete it for the bad situation we faced in the country. We came back with "Ascending To Desolate" released in February 2018 and are actually mixing the upcoming album "The Intellectual Darkness".
It must be tough for Syrian Metalheads these days let alone bands, how do you ensure you're not caught; have you fled Syria? Any plans to evacuate?
"Well now I am in Germany, but the situation for metalheads in Syria nowadays is very good compared to old days, today nobody gets caught yet still there is no support, record labels, magazines…., etc, which is hell for bands and music careers."
It seems alongside Maysaloon that Absentation are flag-bearers for the Syrian Metal scene, but what about in the early days, when did the Syrian Metal scene first come around?
"Well we had in the 80’s a lot of rock bands and tribute bands to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden etc., and still we have a lot of tribute bands that are doing great. About the early days, we are proud that we were the flag bearers and are still in Death metal alongside Anarchadia (Thrash Metal), Netherion (Death Metal) NuclearDown, (Power Metal) and now Maysaloon joins the troops of flag bearers for them and for all much of success."
Are you worried about touring the USA and Europe because of the politics going on? Do you feel metal music brings the world together regardless of differences?
"I am not worried, because we all are brothers in metal, we all relate to this kind of music and we all trying to keep metal alive, as Chuck Schuldiner said, but of course it affects us a lot with visa granting."
You're currently working on your new album "The Intellectual Darkness", how is that going? Will this be released physically?
"Yes, this album I am proud of and are working hard on, the mixing of the album will be finished soon and thereafter entering the mastering process. Yes of course this will be released worldwide and we are in the negotiation process for now to pick up the best deal to get to the next level; there is a big surprise, I will leave it as a surprise until the release.
The album is talking about an intellectual man, who no longer fits in this fake society; his brain is eaten by them, so he is trying to find the equation (based on strings theory) to make the universes collide so he can join a higher civilization, will he succeed? Or will he turn to a very dark entity to take revenge? We describe here all the darkness he is suffering and sees, and how society manipulated his mind and was responsible in turning an intellectual man to a very dark entity, will he survive? That is what we will see and follow with this album."
For bands in the MENA region it must be hard not having any real metal festivals, so, would you hope that Desert Rock in The UAE revives?
"Yes sure, I hope so, and hope we have in the future big festivals that unites all metal bands worldwide."
Have you had any fans contact you outside of Syria? Any from countries you would have never imagined?
"Yes sure, we have a lot of fans from Germany, Belgium, France, the United States, even in China, India, and we got massive support from Brazil, Argentina… etc., we hope someday we will be known around the globe."
Obviously it's hard for metalheads to go on holiday in Syria at the moment, but, what sights or attractions in Damascus?
"You have old Damascus (Babtouma, Bab Sharqi, Damascus Castle, Qasiuon mountain... etc.,) Damascus is a very pretty city and it has it's magic. Hopefully someday we will gather at a big metal event in Damascus Castle, that would be f***ing awesome."
What plans do you have for 2019 and are there any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out?
"I am concentrating now on the upcoming album, as I am producing it, the release will be in early 2019. The plan is to do it as professionally as I can and to get the attention that in Syria we have a lot of talent that needs to be supported, and to be recognized as world class musicians. Also to continue in spreading the plague with our music. I want to thank the fans that believe in Absentation, and believe in our music . Stay tuned for "The Intellectual Darkness". I want to thank you Rhys for the support, I send hope for you and wish Global Metal Apocalypse much success."
Chile on the western side of South America has always had a vibrant metal scene with some notable musicians and bands making their names known far and wide, with bands like Mar de Grises and Criminal ending up with record deals with European labels in Season of Mist and Metal Blade, it's no surprise that the Chilean Metal scene goes on with bolder and greater ambitions. Leading the next wave is Weight Of Emptiness, a Doom / Melodic Death Metal outfit who released their debut album "Anfractuous Moments For Redemption" last year physically by themselves and digitally through the British label Sepulchral Silence. It was then later reissued through the Mexican label Sun Empire Productions. Thus showing their never-ending attempts to explore markets outside Chile.
Drummer Mauricio Basso (also plays in the Melodic Death Metal band Letargo) agreed to talk to GMA about the band's history, their complex sound, touring Mexico and life as a Chilean Metalhead.
"The main obstacle is that there is not much formality and guarantees for musicians in Latin America"
For those who do not know of Weight Of Emptiness, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"Three individuals from Buin (a town near the capital of Chile) plus two friends and musicians from Santiago gave shape to Weight Of Emptiness, all of the members came with experience from being in other bands, we came together to give shape to this new experience."
You've only been going two years and yet released an EP and an album, surely that's a dream start?
"It has been a lot of work and focus, besides that it is not our only activity, but there is always strength for what we want to achieve and everything so far has gone well. It has been a lot of work these last couple of years."
Your debut album "Anfractuous Moments For Redemption" was released last year, what was the reception like?
"It has been quite good from the public and the media in general, we are very grateful for that too. We have played many shows to promote it and the reception has been incredible, even with many interesting proposals going around."
You toured Mexico last year, how hard is it to tour Chile let alone organize a Mexican tour? What difficulties can you face?
"Well, the main obstacle is that there is not much formality and guarantees for musicians in Latin America in terms of contracts and that kind of thing. Everything is based enough on trust and goodwill, especially if you're not very well known, but with great effort they put on a lot of shows and quite a few producers were interested in the band.
In Mexico, there were also previous contacts with friends from a radio program there. It was an incredible experience, lucratively speaking it was not something important, but the experience was magnificent, the people were wonderful and there were very good vibes."
What would you say Weight Of Emptiness brings to the table that other bands have not? What makes you different?
"In truth I think that influences that are not very common together in the same band can be something that distinguishes us, and the other thing is that we care enough about the sound and the effect it has on the perception of the listener."
How did you get into metal music in the first place? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Well since I was little there was a lot of music in the house where I lived, the radio was always on in the morning where there were also radio theatre programs. My uncle's had enough vinyl's and cassettes with plenty of bands from the 70's and 80's era's, and that was what I was trained with. My dad is a drummer too and that's where the drummer comes from as an instrument of worship."
For those visiting Santiago, what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads?
"There are quite a few shows of national Metal bands playing. Locals like the Oxido Bar are frequented almost every day of the week. I recommend Pablo Neruda's house, that has a very special vibe and is full of beautiful objects. There are also interesting museums and parks, the restaurant El Hoyo and especially outside Santiago there are interesting landscapes."
With 2018 closing up what plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"A lot of work. Another album is waiting, a new process is coming full of interesting things, new people on this trip, presentations outside of Chile, video's, we hope to surprise you with this new stage of Weight Of Emptiness"
Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"A special greeting to all those people who take the risk of looking for new sounds and forms of expression and take them to extreme metal. Also to all the people who read your media I propose to know our band and join us on this trip. Cheers"
Scarab are arguably the leaders of the Egyptian Metal scene, and whilst they're purveyors of 'True Egyptian Death Metal', the sextet are always exploring new avenues in which to take their music down. Humbled by the past oppression seen across most countries in the MENA (Middle East/North Africa) region in terms of authorities viewing metal music as the 'devil's music'; watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDXqP49ZNE8, Scarab's origins start back in 2001 under their previous guise 'Hate Suffocation' from which became Scarab in 2006; carried on by three members (Sammy Sayed - vocals, Tarek Amr - guitars and Al-Sharif Marzeban - guitars/backing vocals); the original bassist Bombest left in 2015 and a year after that the original drummer Hatem El Akkad left.
Scarab are on the home run stretch in the completion of their third album "Martyrs of the Storm", Scarab spoke to GMA about the impending album, the current state of the Egyptian Metal scene, Rami Malek in the film 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and what to do when visiting Egypt.