"Any kind of content we can do we are doing. I'd argue that the pandemic probably helped our work ethic.""
Arguably Metalcore and Deathcore are genres that are overtly saturated and so it's either the case of either being very good or trying something new, something that Until The Dead Walk have achieved on both fronts. A new sound, a new line-up and a new set of work ethic, the Kentucky natives are raring to go. Not only have they done that, they have also gone and secured the services of guest vocalists Alex Koehler (ex-Chelsea Grin) and Tom Barber (Chelsea Grin & ex-Lorna Shore). Life cannot be sweeter.
One half of the vocals section, Dakota Myers, took it upon himself to be interrogated on behalf of the American quintet. He didn't even break a sweat during the interrogation unlike the chickens that were to become 'Kentucky fried' (sorry!! Could not resist). He spoke to us about the COVID-19 situation in the state along with the mask merch they made, their favourite places to play and why they're itching to get back on a stage ASAP.
For those who have not heard of Until The Dead Walk, could you give us a brief history of the band? What inspired your band name choice?
"Ren Young the other vocalist started the band in early 2014. One of the original members includes Sean Cook; now guitarist for Hollow Valley. They're sick you should check them out. I joined the band around late 2014 / early 2015. Ren and I were in a previous project together but had a falling out right before UTDW was officially named. Many line-up changes led to guitarist Austin Mellick and bassist Tracy Cook being band members, and a recent change of drummer which was a surprise. I don't suspect any line-up changes after this. We have our solid core. Our family.
Ren picked the name. Since I am the left to his right, I always hated it. Thought it was mad corny. But after a while I finally get it. After putting so much work into this. So much time, dedication, hardships, sacrifice, betrayal. We're not stopping. It took us a long time to find out who was really with us and who wasn't. But this core we have right now will make music until the figurative dead walk. Or maybe literally. This 'rona stuff is getting outta hand."
How would you describe your sound without genre tagging, given you play a mix of Metalcore, Deathcore and 'whatevercore' (love it!)?
"Our sound is just whatever we feel at the time, y'know. If we feel like making a metalcore song we make a metalcore song. If we feel like making a beatdown song on the same album. It's going on there ha ha. We try not to put ourselves in a box. Playing music makes us happy. I couldn't imagine playing music I don't like to play. It would drain me. "
At what point did you want to become musicians and were you in bands prior to Until The Dead Walk?
"I personally didn't grow up wanting to be a musician. I've always done vocals, and I've played guitar for about 6-7 years now. But I actually grew up wanting to do art. I still do art. I do a lot of our merch designs and designs for other people. But once I found out what it feels like on stage. It turned from a hobby into an addiction. Something I wake up and crave. I don't think I would want any other job in the world.
I was in a few other garage bands before UTDW but nothing serious. Tracy our bassist is the former bassist of Of Clarity."
You created your own face mask due to COVID-19, do you think this will become a regular merch item (thinking of those in DIY, carpentry, etc)?
"Uhm. I would be wishful thinking here but sure. I think a lot of our fans are really die hard dedicated. They post stories daily with our merch in them. Out and about. At work. Recently while quarantining at home. So I genuinely do think people are going to wear our masks outside of the pandemic. I think people are going to wear masks for a long time in general after this blows over."
What is the COVID-19 lockdown situation like in Kentucky? How did people react to it? How has the band coped?
"I might get in some trouble saying this but from my perspective a lot of Kentucky just doesn't care. If you've ever seen the meme of the guy racking a shotgun outside of his trailer going "I ain't scared no Nader" that's Kentucky with Corona right now. I don't think we were ever really under strict 'quarantine' I see people jogging, walking their dogs, life as usual. Yes there are more facemasks, and yes there less people out. But it looks pretty busy for a city that's in the middle of a pandemic. Yet somehow we are flattening the curve more than other states surrounding us. It's really odd.
We, on the other hand are really pushing hard to not let this affect our work ethic. Wer'e getting new merch out, we're working on new music, we're doing skits, and working on a podcast. Any kind of content we can do we are doing. I'd argue that the pandemic probably helped our work ethic."
What plans have you got for late 2020 / early 2021? Were any plans postponed or cancelled?
"We are looking to go touring as soon as possible. I know that sounds scary and there definitely is an Inherent fear going into that. But that's just another sacrifice for us to live how we want to live. We have all sacrificed a lot for this. Relationships, time with our children, our friends, our families. It's just another sacrifice for us.
We actually had a couple of tours and shows cancelled. Skatopia's Bowl Bash was one. It would've been our second year out and I absolutely love everything about that place. If there ever were a place that screams the do whatever you want unless you're hurting someone else attitude that UTDW strives for its Skatopia."
For metalheads visiting Louisville, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"There's a saying my mum used to say all the time. "Come to Louisville we got potholes and horses" ha ha. But no seriously, we don't have that many venues that I enjoy any more. My favourite venue and second home Trixies was very sadly sold a few months ago. After that we have Diamonds Billiard Hall which has now become my favourite venue in Louisville. We have Nirvana bar and Spinellis for smaller more personal shows. For attractions? Uh. We got. Horses? We got a bridge that lights up. We have a Kaiju themed bar that's really cool. If you're a fan of drama you can go to Taproom. Really any bar in the highlands. If you like art, the Speed Art Museum has beautiful works
that rotate pretty frequently."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"To all of our friends and family I'd like to say thank you and I'm forever grateful for all the support that we get from you. To be able to do what we do is a dream of many. The fact that you all help us do it I can't even begin to explain how"
"A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. "
If Dracula had ever listened to metal, it would definitely have to be an extreme kind of metal, something like Underwaves. Mixing various types of metal together, the quartet muster up a sound that is far more piercing than the vampire lord's fangs. Lashing together the genres of Melodic metal, Metalcore, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal, Groove Metal and Deathcore, you basically end up with Modern Metal Romania-style. Having been going since late 2017, the band has won the Rock'n'Iasi Festival Bands Contest last year whilst in the same year releasing their debut album. They are sure to make a name for themselves throughout the European underground metal scene. GMA spoke to them about their origins, the challenges Romanian Metal bands face and what to do in their home city of Brasov... home of Dracula. No vampires were hurt in the making of this interview.
Ana Ignis (vocals) and Carol Alexandru (guitarist) gave us the insight.
For those who have not heard of Underwaves, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"I made the decision very spontaneously, while I was at work and listening to music. I played in a few bands before, but none of them resonated musically with me. Whenever I was at concerts and saw the bands playing, I imagined what it would be like to be in their place. It was quite difficult for me to see others living their dream on stage, so I decided to do something about it. That day I picked up the phone, called our bassist, Bogdan, and asked him if he was willing to play with me in a band. We knew each other before, because we had a few more projects together. The next one I called was Dan, the drummer, and the last one was Carol, the guitarist, who initially rejected the idea.
"The name Underwaves implies duality, mystery, the fact that what is seen always has a meaning inside. The visible part of things hides certain factors that define those things. What is on the surface hides what is underneath. So is our music, it hides our feelings, emotions and feelings."
Seeing as the band had a good career start, what are your next batch of plans once the COVID-19 pandemic has calmed down?
"We had to cancel our entire spring tour due to this pandemic and we are planning to reschedule all the dates, maybe add some more tour dates in it."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags?; seeing as you use Metalcore, Deathcore, Groove and Alt Metal.
"Usually the genres are used in order to fit a band in a specific label, I wouldn’t say that we can fit in one single genre. Honestly, I don’t even know what we are playing if we take the word “metal” out of the description :) ) I would call it simply “metal”, nothing fancy."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We were a little bit stressed due to our jobs and we had to focus more on the financial part unfortunately. We still wrote some pieces of music, riffs and we have 2 new songs in progress. Regarding the hobbies, our drummer plays video games, our bassist is a movie watcher, Ana is shopping online and I do sports."
Would it be fair to say that there has been greater interest in metal bands from Romania and Eastern Europe over the past couple of years?
"Maybe so, Eastern Europe has always seemed to us the edge of the world in terms of underground music. Indeed, there are a lot of good bands on this side, many of them already big, some underrated. And in Romania there are a lot of strong bands with great potential."
Tell us more about the Romanian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Romania? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Rock music made its appearance in the Romanian music world in the early 1960s and continues to exist today. A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. Lately, more and more festivals have started to appear (obviously, we are talking about the period before the pandemic) and this is gratifying. Although it is a style with a niche audience, we still have many followers and many prestigious metal music festivals in Romania. I don't know what the other bands are facing, let's hope they are luckier than us, but the biggest problem we have is the financial one. It is very difficult to support yourself in music, this is the reason why we all have day jobs."
For metalheads visiting Brașov, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Definitely the emblem of Brasov when it comes to metal music is the Rockstadt bar. It is the bar in the heart of which Rockstadt Extreme Fest, the largest metal festival in Romania, also started. As for points of interest, we have several museums and cultural points, and 40 km away we have Dracula's castle which is not to be missed."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"I don't know how we could thank all those who have been with us all this time and who will be. It is clear that family and friends have supported us from the beginning, but the people who come to our concerts, buy our T-shirts and listen to our music are the real stars. All the people in this industry that we have known and who have helped us deserve our respect, from sound engineers, stage technicians and lighting technicians, to bartenders, bar managers, tour managers and bands and musicians that we met."
"The fact that bringing a new genre for most in Portugal, sometimes it's kinda hard for everybody to accept it all at once"
If you think of the Portuguese Metal scene, you tend to think of Moonspell (they aren't the only band)... for the best part it does seem at times like the Iberian nations of Portugal, Spain, Andorra and the dependency of Gibraltar become forgotten. Enter the new kids on the block in Downfall Of Mankind, who bring with them a totally new and fresh sound to the Portuguese Metal scene even if the sound is known more widely in the international metal scene. Slamming Symphonic Deathcore is the game and Downfall Of Mankind is the name, with this interrogation we tried to be tame, but in the end we were scorched by this Lisbona flame.
For those who have not heard of Downfall Of Mankind, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Downfall Of Mankind is a Slamming / Symphonic Deathcore band that was created with the purpose of bringing the best of both worlds together in trying something new. Bringing Slam and Symphonic Metal into Deathcore was something that we didn't expect to work out, it turned out to be something that we all enjoyed and doing, and we are super excited to show what we have got in store!"
Given you play Slam / Symphonic Deathcore, how do you distinguish yourself from the hordes of bands in this genre? How did you come to play this style?
"Our founding member (Lucas Bishop) was the one who came up with the idea of mixing the genres and seeing what comes out of it, given that pretty much all of the members were already fans of Slam and Deathcore, we've decided to come together and add the Symphonic sauce to it."
You recently confirmed that you're playing the 2021 XXXAPADA Na Tromba festival, can you tell us more about this festival? Have you played it before?
"Yeah, it's going to be our very first time at the festival, we are beyond excited to be part of such huge line up, sharing the stage with bands such as Stillbirth, Vulvodynia, Benighted and all the others its pretty much everything that a newborn could wish for, and we are more than happy to be part of the line up for this year's edition."
How has the Portuguese people and bands reacted to the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19? What plans of yours were cancelled / postponed?
"It's been difficult not just for the Portuguese people but for the whole world, see, the music industry suffered and is still suffering a lot from the outbreak situation, we are still trying to pick up the pieces from the damage done, standing tall and striving for the best we can get. We did have a couple of concerts cancelled and others postponed, luckily we are managing to re book most of it, all we want is to go back on stage and show what we are about!"
Given the turn of events, what plans do you have going forward in late 2020 / early 2021?
"We definitely will be releasing new material in 2020 still, maybe a new music video you never know, new merch, all i can say is we have got a lot of new stuff to deliver between 2020 and 2021, including tours."
Tell us more about the Portuguese Metal scene, what are the challenges that bands face, is there a great amount of support?
"Well the fact that bringing a new genre for most in Portugal, sometimes it's kinda hard for everybody to accept it all at once. Given for the time being Downfall Of Mankind has been receiving a lot of love from it's country; which is what's important, it feels good to bring not so new stuff into a country that never paid much attention to it."
For metalheads visiting Lisbon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"There's a lot of good stuff to see around town, sight seeing and walking around the city its definitely something you want to do while visiting Lisbon. Regarding venues and bars, we'd definitely recommend RCA, its a nice place to go if you want to enjoy some good music from time to time, it's our home and we love that place. If you want to experience different types of music you could go up to Bairro Alto where you can find a bunch of different bars for all kinds of tastes, overall Lisbon is a place for everyone."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We would like to thank everyone that has been involved in this band so far, everyone that has bought or will buy and support our music and merch, to all the fans out there that has been waiting for some slammy and juicy new tracks, all we gotta say is...
They are coming..
Lucas Bishop / Claudio Melo / Sergio Pascoa / Alejandro Puentes / Franscisco Marques
DOWNFALL OF MANKIND & CREW"
Deathcore, the very word and music genre causes seismic splits that are wider than the Grand Canyon, yet miraculously it still resides within the realms of the metal world to the dismay of the elitists. Whether you loathe or love the genre, it's one that has spawned off a endless stream of bands who've achieved great heights; yet some are so generic in their style it makes you cry. One band who aims to defy the generic formula of chugging, breakdowns and basically being musically boring, is Oceans Over Earth. Vocalist Andrew Lidgard spoke to GMA about the band's history, their direction and the whole debate surrounding Deathcore's legitimacy as a metal genre.
"I think the reason why it (Deathcore) gets such a bad reputation is because most of the bands don't have any sustenance... chug and chew on the microphone and claim its skilled work; (they) have a copy and paste formula for their writing."
For those who have not heard of Oceans Over Earth could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Oceans Over Earth (OOE) formed back in December 2010 in Grand Rapids, MI. It was just myself (Andrew Lidgard) and our old vocalist (Jordan Lawrence). Later we recruited a second guitarist Mike Bergsma who is still in the band to this day (now playing bass). Mike has been a friend of mine since childhood. We then found our drummer Corey Crawford through Craigslist believe it or not! We started playing shows heavily for a couple of years and released our first single in June 2011. To keep it short, we hit major rough patches with our old vocalist due to drugs and that made us lose any momentum we had for almost 2 years.
After finding a replacement vocalist we recorded our first EP 'Transgressions' in December 2014. In March 2015 we released 'Seer' to ramp up a new EP we were going to record with Joshua Wickman of Dreadcore Productions. Our newest vocalist at the time, David, decided to jump ship the week before recording the bands second EP. This halted all momentum once again for another 2 years whilst we searched for a vocalist. So, in those two years I put down my guitar and started heavily practising vocals. The practice paid off and now I am the current vocalist of the band and no longer the guitarist! Jordan French is now our main guitarist, Mike Bergsma is our bassist and Corey Crawford is our drummer! This line-up seems to be what we have needed all along! We released an EP 'Absolute Zero' in April 2018, a new single 'Worthless Existence' in September and a brand new single 'Crimson Era' a few days ago! Our goal is to release new music every 2-3 months to keep things fresh for our fans!!"
How did you yourselves get into playing music and what do your families think of your music?
" I was drawn to the guitar when I was about 14 or so and my friend Paulie taught me how to play 'Welcome Home' by Coheed and Cambria and it was from then on that I started learning as much as I could from other bands. It branched mainly in metal music from August Burns Red to Slipknot, All That Remains, Parkway Drive etc. My Dad was always for it! He was in a band himself when he was younger and I credit most of my starting passion to him. As far as metal goes, my Dad never understood why all the screaming and not singing, but after all this time I think its grown on him haha.
Corey (drums) was a musician for years before I met him. He was a drummer in his high-school band and has always been proficient at drumming. Corey took major influence from Joey Jordison and Matt Greiner, two amazing drummers. Practices are held at Corey's mothers house, so as you can imagine she obviously supports his musical endeavours or she wouldn't let us do that or attend shows!!
Mike (bass) and I would jam to our favourite bands music for hours together. We could play Killswitch Engage albums front to back and just have a blast the whole time. If I remember correctly, I taught Mike how to play guitar and then in his spare time he pushed himself to get better and better. Mike ended up dropping down to bass when we picked up Jordan for our main guitar spot. Mike's parents are very supportive as well.
Jordan (guitar) was in a band with Corey, our drummer, back before OOE formed. I don't personally know how Jordan started playing, all I know is he is damn good. He is much better than myself, that's for sure. As far as I know his parents enjoy and support him as much as they can."
Deathcore is a overly-saturated genre, how do you distance yourself from the cliche riff and breakdown overload some bands do?
"I'm sure my response is as cliche as the genre can be sometimes, but we aren't trying to fit any mould, we never have. We try to push ourselves personally and are trying to make music that simply we enjoy as individuals. Our goal isn't to make the most brutal music or catchy music. Our goal is to just write music that we like! If other people like it and call themselves fans of our work, that just makes us happy and pushes us to keep going! With releasing new singles every 2-3 months it allows us to do absolutely anything that we want with each release and not have to worry about having our music fit any concepts or tones/attitudes. We can just write whatever we are feeling that month and its definitely a freeing experience so far."
Would you argue for against that Deathcore is a metal genre? Why do you think it at times takes some bad rap from people?
"I personally believe that anything with drums, bass, harsh vocals and electric distorted guitar is metal. Saying Deathcore isn't metal is pretty elitist. You can not like Deathcore obviously, but it is metal. I think the reason why it gets such a bad reputation is because most of the bands that fit this category don't have any sustenance to their writing. They just chug and chew on the microphone and claim its skilled work. Out of 100 bands, there are probably only 3-5 worth listening to. The other 95+ bands have a copy and paste formula for their writing. Hopefully that'll change in the future and bands will stop trying to be "Deathcore" and will just follow their own spirit and write something captivating."
For metalheads visiting Grand Rapids, what sights or attractions could you recommend?
"Grand Rapids, MI as well as the whole state has some of the best venues! The Intersection is an easy pick, they have three stages! All separate from each other so there isn't any audio bleed. The main stage, The Stache and Elevation. They bring metal shows in all the time. The Pyramid Scheme is a pinball pub that also has a great stage and sound system. Some of the coolest / personal shows I've been to have been there. Recently 20 Monroe Live just opened up. I haven't been there myself, but I've heard wonderful things. There are bars everywhere in GR and they almost all have some sort of stage area for shows that typically support metal. Most shows at the bars are free."
How far has your music been listened to? You released 'Absolute Zero' in April, what was the response like?
"With the internet our music has been heard all over the globe! 'Absolute Zero' has had great response and great reviews by the people who have listened to it, but we have had a hard time getting the word out there that we are still together. As stated above, we hit so many rough patches and years of 'hiatus' that I think people have drifted away and its hard to bring them back. But, with the release of 'Absolute Zero' and our two newest singles 'Worthless Existence' and 'Crimson Era' people are starting to turn their heads again! 2018 has been a year of feeling like we are starting over. Its refreshing but also a little discouraging."
How has 2018 treated you guys and what plans do you have for 2019?
"2018 has been the best year for the band so far! Getting new fans, releasing music on Spotify and other major services has been a first for us and its awesome to watch it grow! It seems so obvious, but when people actually purchase our music it solidifies the fact that we are doing something right. People are willing to spend their hard earned money on something that four guys from MI created to help us continue and grow into something more. It makes it all worth it in the end.
Hopefully in 2019 we continue to grow and start playing some shows! New music, always!"
Finally do you have any hello's, thank you's, etc., that you wish to send out?
"A huge thank you to Lee from Lee Albrecht Studios who is our current producer for our latest two singles! Joshua Wickman from Dreadcore Productions who produced 'Absolute Zero' with us, thank you!! These two producers have really stepped up to help us out and make our music into something amazing. They are solid people and great to work with. Both very talented producers with a passion for making the best product they can!! Thanks to our fans for purchasing / streaming / sharing our music!"
Deathcore is either regarded as taboo within the world of metal music, or as a misunderstood genre baying for recognition as a valid form of metal music. Either way the fact remains it's an unrelenting force that continues to enthral and dominate in both the underground and mainstream realms of metal, from the high-fliers of Bring Me The Horizon, Thy Art Is Murder and Whitechapel to the newest practitioners of the genre; in this instance Denmark's Hanging The Nihilist. However despite the genre's viral appeal, it has on numerous occasions fell flat as becoming 'generic' through bands using the basic formula of riffs, breakdowns and nothing else. So, how does one escape that ever-growing void of unoriginality? It's simple, experiment and tinker with various sounds to create something people will dub as a 'signature tune' (think Whitechapel's frontman Phil Bozeman and his rapid-fire vocals, or BMTH's Oli Sykes's raspy screams, etc). For the Danish sextet in Hanging The Nihilist, this is exactly what they have done and are on course to bring to the fore the sound of 'Danecore'.
The band agreed to embrace hygge and speak with GMA about their forthcoming EP 'The Crow', the Danish Metal scene and how they aim to avoid the clutches of 'generic Deathcore'.
"The scene is small and most of us know each other in one way or another, however, it seems to be constantly growing"
For those who do not know of Hanging The Nihilist, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Jon, Berna and Emil (guitar, keys, drums) played in a band before Hanging The Nihilist (HTN) that broke up because of creative differences. They decided to not stop writing music and were joined by William (bass) in early 2016. Marc's old band had just gone on a hiatus, so he joined during the summer of 2016 after being persuaded by Jon for almost a year. We played without a second guitarist for a long time because we couldn't find the perfect fit, so we decided to write 'Crow' with just one guitarist. Right after we finished recording Crow, we found the perfect fit in Casper (guitar), who has been a a HTN member ever since."
How do you distinguish yourselves from the already over-saturated genre? What makes your style of music not generic Deathcore?
"We're naturally very inspired by the international Deathcore scene and the hype that's been built around it. We do try to add different elements that aren't as common, such as the piano (which is responsible for the creepy vibes), as well as the way Chris has mixed and mastered our EP which definitely makes it stand out. We're inspired by the way bands such as Lorna Shore add a horror "feel" or vibe to the music using a guitar, and we're trying to give our music a similar feel with the use of a keyboard rather."
You must be stoked to be releasing your 'Crow EP' next year, will you be touring in support of it?
"If the opportunity strikes. For now our focus is on making sure "Crow" will be well received, and everything past that, we'll deal with as it comes. "
Could you give us a brief breakdown as to what each song title means?
"Marc says:- lyrically...
How strong is the Danish Metal scene lately? What is the current scene like? What challenges are there?
"The scene is small and most of us know each other in one way or another, however, it seems to be constantly growing. People like Mirza (CEO of Prime Collective) does a wonderful job of furthering our scene and making sure that the Danish metal scene is taken serious internationally as well. A challenge for us, especially being a Deathcore band, is that we're one of few Deathcore bands here, which means that it's difficult to get a lot of shows going, without it being the same bands and line-ups every time. However, positively, geographically-speaking Denmark is in a great spot in-between massive metal countries such as Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany."
How did you get into playing metal music? Who did you grow up listing to?
Most of us seem to have either metalcore or heavy metal backgrounds at least.
Berna, do you feel that more and more women are engaging with metal music and that it's becoming less male-dominated?
"I think that it is kind of balancing out and I think that it is great. Women are being more and more accepted in the metal scene now more than ever. Since I was a kid I have always had big female idols in this scene such as the vocalists from Nightwish and Arch Enemy, and now seeing that it is becoming more accepted I also become more confident with my music and live performance and way more motivated than before."
For metalheads visiting Copenhagen and Hillerød, what sights and attractions could you recommend?
"All metalheads that visit Copenhagen must check out our friends in Cabal and their live-show. They're not just incredible musicians, they're incredible performers."
What plans do you have for the year ahead and the rest of 2018?
"For the rest of 2018, our plans are to play a show on the 14th December, as well as releasing 'Endless Crime' on the 7th December. We're working on merchandise and the release of 'Forgotten' as well as "Crow" in its entirety in 2019. We're mostly just looking forward to hearing what people think of "Crow", and we've already begun working on new material."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out?
"Thanks to you guys for reaching out, thanks to Prime and Chris Kreutzfeldt for the work on Crow, last but not least, thanks to everybody who checks out Hanging the Nihilist.
We're looking forward to seeing what you'll make out of this!"
With the exception of the South African Metal scene, the vast swathe of national scenes across Sub-Sahara have either come and gone or are on the rise just at a slow pace. Sure countries like Botswana might just be behind South Africa, but between them and the other scenes is a gap as wide as the African plains.
GMA spoke to Kenyan Metal musician Martin Kanja (Lust Of A Dying Breed and The Seeds Of Datura) about his native metal scene, which although isn't too far behind Botswana in terms of progression, still has a long way to go to make it's recognition internationally known; in doing so also sheds light on metal's spread across Sub-Sahara Africa.
So firstly how did you get into metal music? What do your parents think of metal music?
"I started out listening to rock and roll since high school. After I left high school I moved to Nairobi with the desire of forming a band as I am from Nakuru. I was just a teenager and I needed something heavier than rock. There used to be a show I would tune into called 'Metal To Midnight' hosted by one Shiv Mandavia, vocalist of Blackened Death metal act Abscence Of Light. I had started to formerly research about metal and I just got into it really good as I love the energy and positive power. My parents know I've always done what I love but the opposition was there. I can't fake so I just continue being myself."
Can you tell us the histories of Lust Of A Dying Breed and The Seeds Of Datura.
"I formed LOADB together with its bassist Timothy Opiko soon after I moved to Nairobi. He came up with the name and I dug it and we wanted to play metal in a fashion never seen here before in Kenya, let alone the world. Abdalla Issa Khalid came through after 4 months of it's formation. He was a student at JKUAT (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology) and he had passion like I never seen in anyone for metal. We got our permanent drummer Larry Kim after a lot of hardship as good drummers are so rare. We met guitarist Sam Kiranga sometime in 2011 and he settled in nicely as we loved his playing and dedication, and then year we went ahead and wrote the record "Cat Of Nine Tails" and released it in 2012; we formed LOADB in 2010.
We went into hiatus after its release due to various personal and economic issues in 2014. I Went into the sales and logistics end of the security industry until 2015. I became self-employed in 2015 and I could now relax and think what I wanted in life. I love metal and had always been writing music like everyday and every week. I met Dani Kobimbo as he wanted to interview me for a magazine he ran called 'Heavy And The Beast' that gives coverage on the Kenyan Rock and Metal Scene and our friendship took off. We found ourselves in studio one time in Kiserian ran by Last Years Tragedy's vocalist David Mburu, we jammed out and I was surprised how well he could sing. We decided to collaborate and and continue jamming. I went to manage my family's tourist camp in Masai Mara at the end of 2015 and I had a burst of creativity and I wrote lyrics like crazy. So I returned to Nairobi and we moved in with Dani and we wrote music and articles.
Our current drummer Lawrence Muchemi comes from my home-town and he had always hit me up, we hang out and he doubles up as the vocalist of Irony Destroyed. So we started hanging out looking for places to jam, just the three of us. Shortly after we went to Tigoni, to a studio called Realm Of Mist in June 2016. The owner Harvey Herr invited us to jam and chill at the studio and that's where we met our first guitarist Sultan Rauf as he worked there. On the same day we met Slammy Karugu whose is also bassist for the punk band Powerslide and our current bassist Mordecai Ogayo who was playing violin. We started regularly and Wilson Muia came through a few months later and we made a whole song the first day we met. The name Seeds of Datura came about one afternoon. To embody out our individual energies as one family and our thought provoking music for mankind."
What is it like being a metal musician in Kenya? What challenges are there? What is the public perception of metal music?
"First of all it's all about the degree of focus and passion you have for your art. It's not easy or anything but we don't do it for that. We do it for the love of it all. There are many challenges, Kenya being a dominantly Christian country has a negative perception towards Rock let alone Metal. Also getting equipment is also a challenge when bands are starting out. Shows don't happen all the time too and most times we have to organize shows ourselves. The scene is steadily growing and venues are steadily getting packed. The recording is also a part that musicians find a challenge in as getting the right sound for metal and getting a good producer who understands the music. They are a quiet few but The Powers have blessed us with always bumping into the right people. "
What do the authorities think of the music? Are youth encouraged to learn music?
"The authorities don't support our music of course because we embody a millennial counter-culture contrary to the popular. The youth have access to the internet at a very young age and they begin to get exposed really early. They are encouraged to do a lot of other stuff they don't like but they are seeing how much a waste it all is with all the corruption and extortion going on and they are choosing their own paths and thinking for themselves. At least from how I see things and what I've been exposed to."
How long has the Kenyan Metal scene been going? Do you know of any bands from South Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia or Somalia?; Could you see metal music reaching every African nation?
"The earliest I've heard that metal has been around must be around the early 2005's. Further back like the 70's, rock bands were In circulation. Yeah I know Threatening and Vale Of Amonition from Uganda. Haven't heard of metal bands from the other countries you've asked. Yes I do. There are very serious scenes in Mozambique, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Egypt, Angola, Morocco, Guinea, just to name a few. Personally I think Africa is the most Metal place on Earth with how we are portrayed in international media and shit. It's quiet different, but the dark spirituality and ancestral roots tie very deeply with the real issues that metal chants about."
For metalheads visiting Kenya, what sights and attractions could you recommend? Are there any places that aren't generally safe to visit?
"I'd recommend the Masai Mara, Tea Fields of Limuru, Aberdare Forest, Obsydian Studios, Sanctuary Farm Naivasha. Lol"
What plans does both bands have for 2018? and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Content, content, content, releases, releases, releases. Yeah shout out to all the real ones in the scenes doing their thing. Shout out to Tshomarelo Mosaka of the Botswanan Death Metal band Overthrust. Shout out to Austine Nwankwo of Nigeria's Audio Inferno. Shout out to Patrick Davidson of Metal 4 Africa. Shout out to Truka Kasser of African Metal. Got a lot of shout outs but I'll take all year. Keep it heavy my people. It's either a pinkie or its metal horns \m/"
Not many people could envisage Bhutan having a metal scene, for a landlocked country high up in the Himalayas, some would question whether this Buddhist country could ever spawn off a metal scene. Well despite the band Forsaken seemingly being inactive, they were fundamental to the scene nonetheless.
Kinley Phyntso was more than happy to give us a brief interview of how he got into metal music, the state of the Bhutanese Metal scene and how Forsaken came about.
How did you become involved in metal music? What do your parents think of the music genre?
"My entry into metal (music) would have to be back in 2006 when a friend of mine brought Linkin Park's 'Hybrid Theory' to class and made me listen to it. It was pretty heavy compared to what I was accustomed to (mostly 70's and 80's music thanks to my mum). Now I listen to way heavier stuff than Linkin Park but they definitely were my gateway band into metal. My parents and family being the open people they are have never had any issues with the genre. They don't particularly like it but they don't tell me to switch it off when it's blaring through my speakers either."
Could you tell us how Forsaken formed, the band history and challenges faced as a metal band in Bhutan?
"I was contacted around 2012 by Ujwal Pradhan to do vocals for a band he was putting together for a battle of the bands. That was where I met the rest of the guys; Arpan Tamang, Singye Namgay, Lhakpa, and Sangay Khandu. We took part in the competition, won it and kept playing at our local pub here, the Mojo Park.
Being a metal band in a small country such as ours which is still developing, it was and still is hard to stay afloat. Many people didn't really get why we headbanged on stage or why I was growling and screaming into a microphone. They just never considered it music and we were not really in demand so we did what was the logical thing to do. We started adding some well-known rock songs into our metal set-list so that we could get shows considering there are not many venues for any band to perform at here in Thimphu."
Could you tell us what the Bhutanese Metal scene is like? (studio's, venues, bands, media, metal music following, etc)?
"The Bhutanese metal scene is a very, very small niche of people. There are no metal radio stations or even metal played on mainstream radio. It's just guys and girls who have metal playing on their phones and iPods, wearing their favourite band shirts (which are hard to come by) and musicians who just play in their bedrooms. It is not dead but it is not thriving either. We maybe have like one or two festivals in a year but that is about it. There are not many venues which entertain metal music and metal bands that do form have mostly fallen to obscurity. "
How did the Bhutanese Metal scene start? What challenges are there on a wider scope, rather than band level - government opposition per se?
"In a year we try to do at least two metal festivals called 'Painkiller' in the winters and 'Namchag Duitoen' (Sky Iron Fest) in the summer.
And the turnout is about 100 to 150 people which is good by our standards. Budget is always a hassle since we don't have sponsors, mostly because we do our shows in small pubs and business owners don't see much of a point in investing money in a festival being held in a dimly lit setting. Outdoor festivals cost way too much money and just requiresway too much paperwork to get through.
Since the metal scene here is a very small one, finding bands to fill up a two day festivals bill can be tough especially since a lot of the bands cancel at last minute or don't even have proper equipment of their own. These festivals survive because a few of us put money in to proper advertising and getting the word out there as well as asking our friends to lend their guitars or amps or jacks to some of the bands who don't really have very good gear. Like I said, it's a very small scene with even fewer people who actually play this kind of music and the scene is usually very quiet until the festivals come rolling around. Then silence again."
Whitechapel. To some it's the area of East London famed for Jack The Ripper, but in metal context it's an American Deathcore band with a splattering of various influences pocketed here and there from Black Metal to Groove Metal. However this quintet (drummer Ben Harclerode left this year) are more than your generic breakdown-laden, riff chugging clone that seems to dominate the ever-exasperated Deathcore genre. They are the leviathan of the genre, avoiding the cliches and common aesthetics found entrenched in most Deathcore bands and thus pose themselves as truly unique.
They were welcomed back to Bloodstock this year with open arms and certainly gave the punters their monies worth.
GMA took time out to talk to Gabe Crisp, the Whitechapel bassist about the band's history,
"I'd love Whitechapel to be part of a video game, that would be cool. I'd be down for something action-packed for sure."
Whitechapel has been going for 11 years now, what has been the most challenging part of the band's career so far? Did the band name originate from the East London area?
"The fact that you're constantly leaving home and things like that, we're all home buddies... things like driving 5 minutes to work is a lot easier than flying across the world you know? But nah we love it, it comes as part of the territory.
Our band name came from the Whitechapel area in London, I was proposed to be the man to go on to call our band name and Phil said 'Whitechapel', I was like 'what the f*ck?' Why would you call it Whitechapel?' It's weird because that's where Jack The Ripper killed a bunch of sluts back in the day. I was like 'oh shit that's pretty hard, that's metal as f*ck' and so here we are.
I mean another thing, I'll give you this one, Whitechapel is kind of like in a similar way; not saying we're in any way like the band, but the name Black Sabbath... I thought about this a couple of years ago, Whitechapel, see it's like black and white, Sabbath and chapel and it's like it works, I think Whitechapel works, I don't hate our band name. Some bands they're like 10 years in and man I f*cking hate our name, it sucks."
Whitechapel is often regarded as a Deathcore band, but on 'Mark Of The Blade' you leaned more towards Groove Metal right?
"Yeaahh so, I mean we've been a band for 11 years so we try not to write the same record twice, we don't want to do that, we never have, what we were into and writing you know ten years ago... I don't know it's kinda hard for us to not evolve, that's pretty much what it all is - growing up and changing, we just want to be a metal band and not really sub-genre it and all that sh*t, keep it fun for us and try to play shit that people had gotten in to.
Whatever you refer to us I don't care, to me that term [Deathcore] reflects our early years kind of vibe. It's just 10 years ago for us, we already done that kind of sound you know what I mean? Not that there's anything wrong with it, but we just can't write the same record over and over like we're going to be on our 7th record. If you're talking 10 songs a-record, that's 70 songs sounding exactly the same and if you're putting yourself into that genre, defining yourself as such - there's sh*t all you can do there right?"
Aside from metal music, do you have any influences from outside of metal? What does your family think of your music?
"Yeah I was telling a guy earlier about this stuff, when I was 14 I started playing bass guitar and that lead me to become a part of this band. The first band I fell in love, went to see and why I got into guitars was Green Day actually and not a metal band. I was a big fan of Green Day back in the day, just thought that the bass, being loud and proud in that band was super sick, it was cool man.
My parents are awesome, they know I do big sh*t, they're stoked. It's not the greatest job in the world I guess for some people, but it is to me and that's how it works. My family usually come to the out-of-town shows once every a couple of years or so they'll come to a show, my dad loves to have a few beers and watch me play and my mum has no idea what's going on - she has a good time."
Would it be fair to say that Phil Bozeman is one of the fastest Death Metal-style vocalists out there?
"I hope so, sure why not? I think he's the best for sure, I don't know that's just me. I think he's the best for sure. I like watching some frontmen from other bands, but as far as vocals go yeah he's a bad ass - he's very good at what he does. I think he can stand beside anybody in anyway."
Regarding your song 'The Saw Is The Law', what does the song title actually mean?
"I have no idea man, honestly all it is we use that song live as like our logo, those two words rhyme and makes sense I guess? I don't write the lyrics but I think it was just a kind of play on words that kind of rhyme and everybody seems to like it so it works out. There's a lot of saws, we have a lot of saws in our designs, in our album artworks, something like that."
Are there any major festivals in Knoxville?
"No we don't really have anything like that, we play our home town once a year usually, and it's not really a metal town by any means. We're a local band that travels a lot, we have our fans but as far as metal music goes in general, there's not much going on. If there was a festival it would not be metal, how about that? Yeah we'd play a non-metal festival without a doubt, I mean we played Warped Tour which is considered non-metal, it's more metal than it used to be for sure. But yeah we'd play anything, we like good music but it has to be metal for sure; if they want to listen to us then we wouldn't want to play in front of people who wouldn't want to hear us but at the same time we'd love to play anything."
Credit goes to the Bloodstock Open Air Festival Team
You've just finished your set, how was it?
"It was a great time, it was early but at lot earlier than we're used to but everything went well, because we were having a good time. It was easy, played all the songs well so can't really complain. It would have been cool if it was a little sunnier out but I'll be honest, it's not hot right? It's not raining so I'm not going to complain."
For the New Blood Stage bands, some have only just started out, some have never played a major festival before, what advice could you give them (and future unsigned bands at Bloodstock)?
"I'm assuming that the shows are going to be bigger than they're used to or something like that, for me I never had a problem with the size of the crowd. Don't even worry about the crowd, it's easy just play your show on stage and whatever is happening down front don't even worry about it. Just play your show on stage, that's what I'd say."
Is it relatively hard for American bands to go on tours across the States?
"Nah nah, I mean for us we've always been lucky I guess but at the same time it's fairly easy as long as you have a somewhat of a following and, maybe starting up is kind of hard - I think that would be for anybody, shows in America go well."
When Whitechapel is on tour, what do you guys get up to to occupy yourself whilst travelling?
"PlayStation 4, some of us try to go to the gym every now and then if there's a way to get out and get the pump on, get a shower you know? Let's see, yeah usually just PlayStation, we play a lot of PlayStation. We've been playing a lot of NHL 17, Uncharted 4, but I'm usually watching Zach (Householder) whilst drinking beers - it sounds boring right? But it's what we do."
Speaking of PS4, if a game developer was to ask Whitechapel to provide a song for a new PS4 or Xbox game would you do it?
"As many as would, forever, why not yeah. I used to learn about bands who liked Tony Hawk back in the day, that had awesome soundtracks. I'd love Whitechapel to be part of a video game, that would be cool. I'd be down for something action-packed for sure."
Does Whitechapel have any plans confirmed for 2018 so far?
"So far I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about it, I talked about it earlier though in some form of it, but we're going to be back early Spring of next year and I don't want to say who we're coming back with, but yeah we'll be back early next year. I think it's mainly Europe stuff, maybe some UK stuff but it's very early stages but it looks like we're going to be over here next year, early next year."
Gabe, have you got any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out to fans, family, etc.?
"Well yeah I just got married, so I'll say hello Corinna, what's up girl? I'll figure out that she manages to read / listen to this, it's awesome. Anybody that listens to Whitechapel, that would be cool I feel like I'm a pretty lucky person in talking to you guys so, I just want to say thanks to anybody who has checked us out, liked us or not, who cares, I appreciate it - thanks to the bands."
Having already arisen from the fairly-ignored Irish Metal scene and pushed themselves onto newer plains be it Bloodstock or Japan, Dead Label are certainly one band that cannot be ignored - any reason given will be invalid upon deliverance. Having this year dropped their infectious second album "Throne of Bones", GMA wanted to discover what drives this three-piece force. Naturally seeing as Claire was at one point our Irish correspondent, she duly answered our questions - we promised to go light on her, but this was not to be...
For those who do not know your band, could you please give a brief background of the band and what your band name means
"We started eight years ago, just writing songs and playing local gigs. The three of us were in previous bands together too, but this was our first real one! After doing an EP we then went to record our album 'Sense of Slaughter' in the UK. This was our first step into the real world. We travelled to Japan for our first big festival and it all kind of came from there. When we started it was around the time of the murder of Sophie Lancaster. We wrote a song about her murders, which was called 'Dead Label'. When trying to think of a band name, we were saying we didn't want to be labelled within metal, just being metal so we ended up taking the name Dead Label, and we renamed the song called 'Rest in Pieces'."
Things have certainly sped up since your Bloodstock appearance, do you feel it's grass-root festivals like BOA that give bands that platform to gain exposure more easily?
"Bloodstock is an amazing festival. The people who run it are very helpful from the beginning, before you even book a festival, they can be seen helping bands with Metal to the Masses. They create a platform for bands to flourish and they encourage all the things you need in getting a band to the next level. I hope we can return to play Bloodstock for many many many years."
Claire, there seems to be an increase in female musicians over the years, do you feel that the stigma towards female musicians is still there or has it gone?
"I think the stigma is dwindling big time. There are still people who are surprised but in a more pleasant way. They're has been a big change in the attitude to girls in metal. Its not just about the vocalists any more, there are female musicians being treated equally to men, which is all anyone ever wanted!"
You released your album 'Throne of Bones' this year, what was the response like? What track(s) are your favourite and why?
"The response has been massive! We had been sitting on this album for some time, so we were nervous as to how it would go down, but all the reviews have been over and above what we expected! Everyone seems to really be liking it which is amazing and we are very excited by how into the risky things on the album! Like 'The Cleansing' and 'The Gates of Hell', these were both somewhat risky for us, we obviously liked them but we weren't sure how people would react!"
With the UK pulling out of the EU are you concerned it may hinder your chances at playing in the UK?
"Yes, when the vote came in my first worry was touring. Right now, it is so easy to come back and fourth to the UK. Also were bigger bands touring is concerned, if they do not go to the UK, they may not come to Ireland. I am hoping there will be provisions to ensure the ease of musicians playing in the UK. After all, it hosts some of the most amazing festivals and bands tour all the cities. They simply have to come to good method of maintaining the ease of musicians travelling in and out of the UK!!!"
Taking interest in the Irish Metal scene, what is the current status of the scene? Is the scene still going strong? What challenges specific to the scene are there?
"The biggest challenge for the metal scene here is the population. with the amount of people who live here, you have to consider how many like metal! Don't get me wrong, the metal heads here are die hard but its just not as many as you would find in other countries. There are a lot of amazing bands though and when you do find yourself at a gig it tends to be full of energy! But there are not many options within the scene itself. Hopefully the increased number of bands here will encourage the fans to get out more and go to gigs."
What plans have you got for the rest of the year and into early 2017? Have you got any greetings you wish to send out?
"We have a lot of touring plans in the works, and we are in talks with some cool festivals for next year! We hope to tour Throne of Bones as much as possible now that people have a chance to check it out before we come to their city! We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that supported us, particularly fans that took us on board on the Fear Factory tour. We played to a lot of new faces and so many people came up afterwards and bought merch and talked to us. That means a lot to a band and it helped keep us alive on the road!"
"French bands are now playing they own style of metal..... now we can feel the “French touch” in metal"
Having set the French Metal scene alight with their brandished form of 'experimental metal' to say the least, let's face it mixing together Groove Metal, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal and in later releases Deathcore into one sound, is a bold statement, not only for craving creativity but also sticking up the middle finger towards convention.
Now with their own signature sound echoing across Europe like a air-raid siren, it was about time GMA contained this unrelenting beast of a band, strap them down and give them our own form of grilling. Unfortunately all except Staif managed to escape, so he was forced to answer our questions, here they are:-
Your new album 'Ankaa' is now out, where would you place this in your discography? Would you say its the best one you've done to date? How is it different?
I guess that each band is pretty proud of its brand new album and thinks it's the best. Personalty, I'm really proud of "Ankaa", it was a huge work and I learnt many new things while doing it! It's my favourite for sure, I contributed my entire self in it as I composed the songs, wrote the lyrics (except 3 lyrics I wrote with my friend Faustine Berardo), engineered the parts and produced the album. I mixed many new styles with our metal and I think the result is described as “Modern Metal”, crossing between violent and ambient parts, but especially I believe it's a sincere and unbending opus. There is more electronic parts and more guests on it, that helped us to give a new vision of what can be ETHS. I tried to keep the essence of the band but, in the same time, to bring it in places where we never been. Each song has its own universe and I have built this album as a walk through these different atmospheres, like a passage from the oppressive darkness to soothing clarity.
French Metal music certainly seems to becoming more recognisable outside of France, could you please comment on what you've noticed regarding this?
I feel that French bands are now playing they own style of metal. For many years, the bands tried to imitate the US bands but now we can feel the “French touch” in metal, I'm really glad of this! We always had great bands who played all over the world (like Loudblast or Mass Hysteria) but since Gojira exported themselves, that, for sure, opened a door for all the other French metal bands playing good stuff. It's like if every one in the world was saying: “hey, French Metal bands can also make good metal, let's listen!” Many thanks to those bands who opened the path for the French Metal over the world!
With Eurovision coming up, have you ever contemplated playing the song contest for France?
No, I don't think we fit with the kind of music they're looking for! You can notice that no metal band has ever played for France in Eurovision. By the way that would be great to prove that France has got talent in Metal, but in France, Metal bands are seen like strange people who like to scream, the path is still long to enforce metal presence in French mass media's...
What language are you singing on your album? Could you give a brief summary of what each song means?
We are mostly singing in French, but also in English on two tracks and some parts are sung in Arabic. The name of each song give a good understanding of the lyrics, and I don't really like to explain song by song. I prefer let everybody find its own interpretation, we always wanted it like that but there are many keys in the lyrics and the artwork. "Ankaa" is the brightest star of the phoenix constellation, it's an idea of rebirth (for the band but also me personally) and in a way, a cyclical vision of time, “we go where we came from through the scale of the universe”. But it's also a vision of the human being, who can be as wonderful and creative than harmful and destructive. I find that pretty disturbing, for example, the song 'Nixi Dii' talks about infanticide, I just can't understand how a parent can kill his own child... some of my lyrics are quite violent because I need to externalize what bothers me.
How was it working with Soilwork's Dirk Verbeuren? Could you see yourselves working with him again?
That was really great, Dirk is a drums genius, it's so easy to work with such an awesome musician! He fed the drums parts and the songs with his incredible musicality, I was really happy each time I received a new song, he gave to 'Ankaa' its final touch. If we have the opportunity, that would be pleasure to work with him again! But I have to say that we also are really happy of our new drummer R.U.L who is doing a great job on stage.
Will you be undertaking a UK / EU tour in support of the album? Or have you got any dates already confirmed?
We deeply hope to make an 'Ankaa' UK / EU Tour as soon as possible! It's on booking as the album was just released one week ago. We have many shows in France for the first step and then we'll go everywhere we'll can to come present our brand new opus. I hope to quickly come in the UK because I really like to play there!
What song is your favourite firstly and for those new to Eths, what song would you recommend?
Hard to say, it's like choosing one of your children, but I would say “Anima Exhalare” which is on our second album “Tératologie”, I wrote the song and the lyrics, it's a part of me and of my story... On 'Ankaa', I like pretty much all of the songs but my favourite is the end triptych “Alnitak Alnilam Mintaka”, the lyrics mean a lot for me and the music is really a new step in our discography, a brand new horizon for the band.
Finally have you got any hello's and thank you's you wish to send out?
First, thank you for your interview and I deeply thank all those who helped us to make this album! I also really thank all of our fans that keep believing in the band despite hard times and all those who gave a chance to 'Ankaa' and listened to it. We hope to meet all of you on stage for the 'Ankaa' Tour!!!
'Ankaa' is out now via Season of Mist