Remember the name, Bloodywood. The Indian quintet have stormed out of their home nation and are rocketing towards international stardom, here is a band who have somehow managed to harness the Bhangra sound with a fruity blend of Nu and Folk Metal. Led by dual vocalists Jayant Bhadula and master of ceremonies Raoul Kerr, the New Delhi boys are joined by guitarist Karan Katiyar and touring musicians Vishesh Singh (drums), Roshan Roy (bassist) and Sarthak Pahwa (dhol player). We spoke to Karan at Bloodstock about their humble beginnings, acceleration to international acclaim and what the future plans are.
"The only reason we're political right now is because there is a huge disbalance all over the world when it comes to politics"
Your career started off from recording covers of well known Indian songs and uploading them to YouTube, from there it rocketed upwards, was it something you expected or wanted to happen?
“We always wanted it to happen but we never foresaw it, we never foresaw the intensity of it but we always wanted it to happen (being honest about it haha).”
For those who know the Indian metal scene, they would know Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos as the defining pioneers of the scene, are Bloodywood considered the 'new wave of Indian metal'?
“I wouldn't say that because those bands have been at it for a really long time, sometimes people say that the torch has been passed onto us, but I don't believe that because they're still doing their thing, we're doing our thing and I have a feeling that you're going to see a lot more from the Indian metal scene, there are some very promising metal bands coming up.”
Of course competitions like the Wacken Metal Battle have helped support the metal scenes across the sub-Indian continent, do you feel with this exposure that more metalheads in Europe will pay more attention to bands in that part of the world and wider Asia?
“Um, no I don't think that's going to happen. I think there's going to be an equal amount of attention throughout the world because that's just how metal is. I don't think you can really pinpoint a particular place to say that metal belongs 'here or there', it belongs everywhere. It just takes a few good bands for people to start listening to bands from that area, I feel it's still yet to happen for India but things are looking up.”
What are the modern challenges that bands in the Indian metal scene face nowadays?
“Id say there are just two challenges that we in particular face – One we don't get any gear in India, everything has to be imported which means we pay about 300% of the price, and two there are a lack of venues, because it's a very different way of how people work over there – venues decide if they want to let the bands in or not and no ones heard of metal, so they're very sceptical. Lack of venues and gear, that's the only thing that makes India different.”
Your music video 'Machi Bhasad', was that filmed with audio overlaying the video or with live music?
“No, none of the music videos have live audio, it's impossible to do that because you're going to catch so much of the ambience – if we actually sung into the mics we and record that, you're going to hear people all over the place, cars and horns, it's India man it's never going to be quiet, so that's impossible to do.”
So when you had the locals in the video, what did they make of the music?
“They don't understand any of it, but they really want to enjoy it, because it's a spectacle for them, you don't find metal bands rolling up to your village an start playing in the road everyday you know? They're just very supportive though, they'll never get in your way, if you want something you can always ask them, they'll just stand by and watch, that's all they ask for in return.”
Your debut album 'Rakshak' was released this year and was well-received worldwide, please tell us what the album is about.
“I can't put one particular topic to the album because there are so many things we talk about, but I'd say all the songs are in favour of a better world. I'd say the songs are political in nature, but we also want not to be extreme about it, we want a very balanced approach, the only reason we're political right now is because there is a huge disbalance all over the world when it comes to politics, literally all over the place and that's when we have to speak up, if things were in balance then we would not be a political band.”
What are your tour plans for the rest of the year and into 2023?
“We have a month-long USA tour in September / October, and then in 2023 we're coming back for a headline tour across the EU and UK... and there's talks about Japan too so we're all very excited.”
Do you have any greetings and thanks you that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
“I'd like to say hello to everyone who is reading this interview and everyone can check out the band across YouTube, Facebook, etc., if you catch us on tour you can buy a very limited edition of our vinyl, its called the 'naan vinyl' – it looks exactly like a naan, because the tour is called the 'Nine Inch Naan Tour', spoiler alert... it's not edible but is selling like hot naans.”
"Heavy Metal is still very very popular in Finland and every time a metal band brings out an album, it's always in the top 10 chart over here."
Ensiferum celebrate 25 years in 2020 and have just recently released their 8th studio album "Thalassic"; which in itself marks as a first as the band's first themed album. Sadly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as with all forms of entertainment and art, Ensiferum's plans have been put on hold or cancelled, sure they managed to do a live stream show, but the anniversary celebrations may have to wait until next year, that's if they do it. Stepping up to speak to GMA was vocalist / guitarist Petri Lindroos, he survived our interrogation as he confessed his passion for vinyl, his sorrow at the depletion of venues in Helsinki, his excitement at the new album being released and his nostalgia for the pastimes or indeed things he grew up with, that is as said vinyl, but also cassettes, CD's and going into a record store and being able to listen to a record before purchasing the item(s).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, how did you celebrate your new album "Thalassic" and your 25th anniversary as a band?
"That is an excellent question, well we did a live stream show and this was really the only form of celebration that we can pull off this year [Ensiferum had some shows planned prior to the COVID-19 pandemic]."
What in your opinion are the main factors that have made Ensiferum retain solidarity over the years?
"Well I would say we get along really well, our chemistry matches really well, we have a good crew that takes care of us on the road and stuff, we all still love and enjoy the things that we are doing - writing music, recording albums, going on the road and performing them."
You released the single "Rum, Women, Victory" prior to the "Thalassic" album release, what was the reception like and what can you tell us about the single? What does the word "Thalassic" mean?
"We received very positive feedback from it and for great reason as it's a killer track, we really love that track, it was a very good choice for our first single from the album. It's a nice starting point for the album, it gets your feet moving and head banging very nicely, even if it's a very metal-ish song from the Ensiferum repertoire, it's a very guitar-driven song and is definitely one of my favourites.
Thalassic means 'relating to the ocean and water', so it's not actually pinpointing anything specific but like water-related, ocean-related, this is the first ever themed album by Ensiferum, so this was a new approach for us - our bassist Sami Hinkka came up with this idea a couple of years ago and has been working every now and then until we started to actually form album material. He did a lot of research in historical events, ocean-related myths and things like that, so he is very much responsible for the whole theme actually."
Talk us through the "Thalassic" creation process from start to finish, was there any challenges you had to overcome?"
"Well the recording took around 5 weeks, and then it was mixed and mastered in 2 weeks by Jens Bogren in Sweden. Basically our style of writing music is really really slow, our guy Markus Toivonen one of Ensiferum's founding members brings across the ideas that he has, puts it down at the rehearsal place and plays around with them... we try all of the ideas including the crazy ones before we nail anything down, this takes a while as things change a lot and then when we were ready to hit the studio, we done it and then the final touches actually happen on-the-fly in the studio whilst we are recording."
Could you tell us what the track 'Cold Northland (Väinämöinen Part III)' means?
"Well the song is the 3rd part of the 'Väinämöinen' trilogy of what has been in existence with Ensiferum for a long time, since the first album... we also wanted to add a little bit of old school Ensfierum vibe into that song and I thought we pulled it off pretty nicely; you can hear that it's completely new but still has a lot of the old Ensiferum elements in it."
Most albums tend to have some songs that never make the final cut, did this happen with "Thalassic"?
"Actually nope, we have almost never had any leftover songs that does not fit into the album, we basically worked the material already and when it's almost ready to be recorded we start to figure out things for the studio; basically we don't ever have leftovers."
Therefore it keeps things tidy and not open for reflection in the context of what songs should have not been left out right?
"Absolutely! Then there is no questions of 'what if', what if this song should have changed to this one and why it didn't make it into the album, things like that, but also saves us getting a headache with that."
Do you have any funny stories to share through your touring experience?
"A lot of cool stuff has happened, it's usually in the middle of the night when people are drunk, when you're just coming out from a show and gear is packed up from the venue and loaded into the bus, ready to head to the next venue. All the funny things between the night and following morning, I cannot pull out any significantly funny moments out of my back pocket like that."
What are your thoughts on "Thalassic" being out on vinyl, was vinyl something you were used to growing up?
"It's very nice to see the album out on vinyl, actually I think that all of our albums are now pretty much on vinyl, even the first one, so the whole catalogue is out. I think that is just wonderful, I don't use Spotfiy at all basically, I just don't like to use Spotify. When I am at home, I listen to vinyls and have CD's, I also have a CD / cassette player attached to my stereo system which I also find very cool. I was listening to a mix-tape I made somewhere in the early 90's and was pretty surprising stuff what came out then, because the title just said 'Power Metal'.
When I was a child, we had this very old stereo system at home with an analogue radio, I think there was even a double cassette / CD player and vinyl player, so yeah there was vinyls back in the days when I was growing up. I actually bought myself a vinyl player a few years back and have started collecting vinyls now, I really do enjoy listening to vinyls, it feels very good."
Of course there are people who prefer digital and others like yourself preferring physical, do you feel at some point there will be a common ground?
"Yeah of course, I also have all of my music stored on my iPad, so of course the convenience of having all of your music on your little iPad or mobile phone, or you store it to the cloud so you can basically listen to it anywhere in time; that one comes to mind when I am travelling. I don't think it's that handy to be travelling with a vinyl player, amplifier and two huge speakers to pump music out you know? Travelling with dozens of vinyls could be tricky... so I think there are good and bad sides for both in a way, but I guess the older people from the 80's & 90's prefer the physical copy of the album in whatever format, that they can hold it in their hands.
But the new generation who have been growing up alongside this digital technology, they will appreciate it a lot more just to have it as a download in mp3 version or whatever it is on their mobile phones, etc.
In a way it is also nice that you can listen an album or at least parts of it online before you purchase them, back in the days you could just go to the record store, pick up an album and take it to the guy at the counter who would hand you over headphones so you could listen to it there, now you can do this at home or wherever you are, sitting on a bus, train, you name it... you can listen to so much music now in an easier way with this digital technology."
Some bands are not fussed about genre tagging and some are, where does Ensiferum sit in this?
"That is a very good question because I think it also depends on who you ask, we have a lot of songs that take influences from many different metal styles, it's hard to pick one specific genre and apply us to it, but we have these Pagan and Viking metal elements alongside Folk Metal... I think we are a part of all of those genres somehow, but we still do consider ourselves a Heavy Metal band which has folk influences in it."
With that in mind, given how distinguishable Finnish folk music is, how would you describe it, how does it differentiate from other folk music?
"That is a really good question actually, well to me when I listen to the Finnish bands from this genre, they all sound very different to each other, but they are easy to recognise - they have this 'Finnish' sound and touch on the music. If you listen to Turisas, they have very much got their own sound in contrast to say Finntroll who have a totally different sound, to me there is a lot of common factors with these two bands - for example, that they come from Finland."
Speaking of which, given how global metal music is with bands from Botswana, Syria, etc., what are your thoughts on the genre's universal appeal?
"Heavy Metal is very universal, that is something I can say. Every place that we have played at has had metalheads there no matter where it is. But these countries definitely have Heavy Metal bands from there, just that we over here in Europe or the USA haven't actually noticed them somehow, that's perhaps the trickiest part - I don't know that many bands though I have seen it on Facebook here and there, that there are metal bands coming from the Middle East and have been taking a listen and are like 'oh, this sounds very cool, why not'."
With respect to not just upcoming Finnish bands, but upcoming bands worldwide, what is the biggest bit of advice you could offer?
"Well first of all play the music that you want to play, play from the heart, never give up; it's a hard and rocky road, with COVID-19 obviously it's not easy for anybody. Just keep on doing what you do and believe in it."
For Metalheads visiting Helsinki, surely there are a lot of venues and so what venues have you most enjoyed performing at? What more can be done to support grass-root venues?
"Well unfortunately there was 3 venues that have just closed in Helsinki permanently, these 3 venues went down within a period of around 6 months. One of those venues was also working as a rehearsal room for dozens of bands, was knocked down and demolished and from what I know, office buildings will be built in it's space. This venue is actually looking for new premises to continue their work, hopefully they can find some.
The 2nd one which was called Virgin Oil is being converted into a hotel, so that one is gone and The Circus in down-town Helsinki is also being converted into an office building. So 3 major venues are gone from Helsinki, but we still have the classic Tavastia club - I guess this one will never go away, it's been there since roughly the 60's / 70's, a very long time. Then there are a couple of new ones popping up here and there, I haven't been to those ones so I don't know how they look and sound from inside, but hopefully we will get some new venues to replace the ones that we have lost so far.
I have seen many shows in these venues and seeing them go really sucks, the local crews from these venues have lost their jobs - both of which are very sad situations.
That's an excellent question, well I think a lot could be done to make this venue situation a lot better... I don't know, it's so much out of my field of knowledge and know-how to know how these things could actually work in being somewhat successful."
For Metalheads visiting Helsinki, what sights / attractions could you recommend, is metal still as popular in Finland?
"There are museums and a fair good number of record shops to visit just around the city centre, so I definitely recommend looking those ones up, they have very nice selections and great staff, decent prices too - so check them out and support the record shops. There used to be a lot of metal bars in Helsinki, but I am not sure if we have one left, that was one of the good things about Helsinki, a long time ago though.
Heavy Metal is still very very popular in Finland and every time a metal band brings out an album, it's always in the top 10 chart over here."
"Be impressive for the moment and live your life, because there could be no new morning for you, make your ideas now and not tomorrow"
Medieval Metal or Mittelalter-Metal is one of those rather obscure metal genres that often get lost by the way-side. Granted it's the likes of Subway To Sally who were early pioneers of the sound i.e. mixing traditional German folk / medieval sounds with the solidarity and steeliness of metal music. Quintessentially German, Medieval Metal to the German Metal scene is as what Oriental Metal is to the Middle East-North Africa metal scenes, reflecting their culture and becoming a product of that area. Leading the wave going forward is Feuerschwanz (lit. Fire Tail) whose 15 year career is bristling with 8 albums until the 26th of June when album #9 drops... "Das Elfte Gebot" (The Eleventh Commandment).
GMA interrogated vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hauptmann Feuerschwanz about the band's origins, how Medieval Metal became a thing, the excitement at signing with Napalm Records, what new fans should expect at a Feuerschwanz concert and what plans they have going forward.
This was their first interview with a UK metal media.
For those who have not heard of Feuerschwanz could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Feuerschwanz was founded in 2004 and originally played in the German Medieval / Folk Rock scene. In the beginning we were playing at markets and then year after year we entered the rock stage of the career; becoming heavier with each passing year and reaching the Hard Rock sound. Since 2012 we headed towards a rock sound and since the last album "Methämmer", we went into the metal scene, embracing this awesome transformation into a very heavy rock sound. So now we are a Medieval / Folk Metal band."
Medieval Metal / Rock is an interesting genre, arguably Subway To Sally were one of the pioneers of the sound, so what is it that makes Medieval Metal stand out uniquely?
"That's a good question, I think Medieval Metal is a really 'special-German-thing'; this kind of music I think is a little bit kind of like a lifestyle, so a little bit between metal, between old instruments, Folk, castles in Germany; we have many castles and they are very romantic, the time of the knight... this is a mixture of all of this."
So generally would a Bavarian Medievial Metal scene / band sound different to that say of a Hamburg Medieval Metal scene / band?
"OK! In former times the differentiation was between east and west, so Subway To Sally is a good example for a eastern band and they had a very special style, but now it's not so important from the north or the south, there are many bands with very good and interesting styles... there is no direction from the north or south. Feuerschwanz in former times made funny Thrash Metal music; a little bit like Alestorm, but now we're more epic with Thor and Odin (the gods) with us, but also we drink the special drink of Odin, mead, the honey wine."
Now the biggest news was that you signed with Napalm Records, surely this has to be the biggest news since Feuerschwanz started?
"Since the last album "Methämmer" our progression to metal music involved us finding our sound and this became a very good step to go to Napalm Records. In former times we were on a smaller label in Germany (not a rock / metal label), so we are very happy and proud to go with Napalm Records for the future."
Tell us what a typical Feuerschwanz concert is like, what goes into it, etc?
"Our idea is to bring people energy and a good example of this is the song "Metfest", we have pictures online from our last tour, you can see a little bit of the power; the idea is to celebrate the life, drink and have fun."
What does album title "Das Elfte Gebot" mean; how long did the recording process take?
"It has a very deep message, you be impressive for the moment and live your life, because there could be no new morning for you, make your ideas now and not tomorrow - this is the message.
We have a two year album cycle, we make our pre-production - we are self-made musicians, we make the production for ourselves and have all of the songs on the computer, then we go to the studio with our producer and make the last pieces, the vocals and so on. So we need a year for production.
We have one song that's not on the album, but it's a very good song and will come on the next album, because we wanted eleven songs on this album and so one song had to go."
Given that most of the internationally successful German metal bands have had to switch to English to gain more exposure (except Rammstein), will Feuerschwanz create English songs for the non-German speakers?
"We have a second bonus track album with cover versions and we cover some metal songs from the likes of Powerwolf ('Amen & Attack'), Sabaton ('Gott Mit Uns') but also the pop song 'I See Fire' by Ed Sheeran. We try to explain our idea of music with some cover versions, but it's the typical Feuerschwanz sound being used."
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, what has Feuerschwanz been doing at home and have you been doing any hobbies / interests?
"It's a hard time for us because we tried to promoted our new album and with no festivals or concerts, it's not going to be easy but we had an idea that we have started via crowdfunding, we stream a concert online for the day of our new album's release - we have a concert on a castle, now we have a lot of work to realize it and know where we stand at this time."
At what point during your life did you decide that you wanted to become a musician? Who did you get into first?
"Oooh! Very good question. During my childhood we founded a rock band at school, firstly I became a bassist and then I progressively go step-by-step to become the vocalist of the band. I listened to the likes of Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath, etc., then I started with the 'Ride The Lightning' tour with Metallica... I loved many metal bands from the 80's and in the 90's I explored folk music, the Medieval folk scene, now I come back to metal."
What does your family think of your music? Are any of them musicians?
"We have some singers in the family but I'm the only one who has a band, every time my brothers are asking me 'hey how's it going with Feuerschwanz?', it's also nice to have some nephews come to the concerts - I have a very big family."
For metalheads visiting Erlangen, what bars and venues, sights or attractions would you recommend?
"Erlangen is a city with a big university with many students, the bars are not so high-price and are more for students. It's a very cosy city of which I love to ride my bicycle through and around it, have some beer in the student pubs. There is one club in Erlangen with a 1,000 capacity, the E-Werk kulturzentrum (old power station) has many concerts... but not today (laughs)."
Speaking of which, Germany is known for it's beer and so what are your favourite brands of beer?
"We come from Franconia, this is a small part of Bavaria and we have many breweries... so we are specialists in beer. We have a special kind of beer which tastes a bit like English beer in a typical Franconian style, in fact I love to taste the beers from the small breweries.
Of course you would have heard of Oktoberfest, this is the hardest festival in Germany and it's a little bit 'too much', too many people although it's an international gathering... I don't like it. In Bavaria all towns and cities have it's own beer festival, so in Erlangen we have the Bergkirchweih fair, our special ale fest... but not this year (laughs)."
After the COVID-19 pandemic, would Feuerschwanz look to play in the UK? Are you concerned about Brexit? How are people coping with the lockdown?
"We are very curious about the reactions of some regions and countries, especially of the UK the godmother of music, but we know it's hard to have concerts in the UK - you get a can of beer and oh, now play. It's very hard to go to the clubs in the UK, so we are very curious at the fans reactions, we hope that there is a good reaction and that they love our music, and then we could go with Powerwolf or so, I don't know hehe.
As for Brexit, in a music context I don't think there will be much changes in music - most of the time we've played in Germany and only once in Russia. We hope it's not so difficult to come to the UK to play.
Russia involved playing a special concert in Moscow in 2009, it was a great experience to play internationally and gave us a taste of playing overseas.
Well the weeks have been quiet, the people are familiar with the regulations and are disciplined, now there are murmurings going around saying it's too long, we wan't more freedom and now it's bubbling a little bit; as a psychologist it's so clear that people are overwhelmed with the feeling of staying at home, to isolate also.
What do fans at your show's tend to shout, is it true that fans say the second part of the band name after the band says the first?
"Shouting is in many Medieval concerts, so the band would shout out the first part and the audience replies with the second part e.g. 'Feuer' 'Schwanz'. One fan in the crowd shouts first and then the whole crowd shouts out the other part of the name. It's all tradition, like a football song.
It is quite euphoric, our goal is to increase the energy and raise the roof, it's our job, it's our profession to 'blow up' the audience."
All things considered, what plans does Feuerschwanz have left intact for the rest of the year?
"That's a good question too, it could be we make one or two more videos of the new album, presented after the release and leading into the 2nd half of the year it could be we start writing for the next album, it's very hard this time."
Have you got any hello's, thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Greetings? Ok, well this was my first interview with a person from the UK and I'm very proud to have this interview, greetings to the UK and we hope you enjoy our next album. Many thanks also to our fans."
"We made a lot of friends at Wacken, and I think the most important lesson we learned there is the value of human connection."
It probably goes without saying that E-an-na are one of the most exciting and original metal bands to emerge out of Romania (if not Eastern Europe) for a while, it's not often you come across a band who mixes Folk Metal with Modern Metal in such a way it becomes mind-blowing. Despite this it's clear that E-an-na take everything in their stride, are very cool about their origins and where they are heading. Andrei Oltean (Vocalist and woodwind player) put himself forward for the interrogation as he discussed how the band was built on traditional Romanian folk music but with a sharp twist, why Wacken Metal Battle was more than just a competition and why as a band they treat their fans more like family (which is rather beautiful).
For those who have not heard of E-an-na could you please give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"“E-an-na” comes from ancient Sumerian and would be translated as something along the lines of “The Home Of The Skies”. When we created the band, we searched a lot for a name that would resonate with the concept, and finally found it in Mircea Eliade’s book “The History Of Religions”. E-an-na started out, like so much art in the world, powered by the concept of escapism, of creating a personal world devoid of all the negative aspects that try to bring us down in this one. E-an-na is a community, and each may feel and perceive it in their own way. Everybody is welcome."
Your sound is quite unique in the mixing of Modern Metal and Folk Metal, how did you come up with this sound? What would you call your sound?
"Well, of course it can be labelled, so we would call it simply Folk Metal. But the thing is, I don’t believe in labelling too much. I mean yeah, some of my favourite bands play Folk Metal, but they don’t generally fit into that labelling when it comes to the cliches. And neither do we. After all, music is movement, it’s not something static that you can point your finger on, and thus, it is ever-changing. You will find works in our discography that have absolutely nothing to do with Folk Metal whatsoever, and the future will make it seem like we are, at times, straying even further from it. Music is a journey of many paths, and it would be a shame to stick to only one just because you already know it."
What kind of Romanian folk music do you use given there are so many different styles?
"You’re right. Mostly we compose our own folkloric-like themes, as a result of listening and assimilating such music for many years, but we also have a few passages taken directly from centuries old songs. They are songs played on traditional woodwinds: “Fluier” (whistle) or “Caval” (which is a sort of low whistle specific to this area). Besides this, I am a huge fan of “Lăutărească”, which is a sort of mix between traditional music with Turkic influences, developed in the last century, maybe a century and a half, and often played by gypsies (to anyone out there knowing better: forgive me if I’m being inaccurate, I’m not an ethnomusicologist).
Again, there are no restrictions, so we will go for whatever we feel is right. In spite of our songs generating sometimes a sense of national pride in our Romanian listeners (which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong), we don’t feel compelled to stick to just that."
You came 2nd at the 2017 edition of Wacken Metal Battle, this surely gave you the boost to drive forward and aim higher?
"Well, yes, and no. You see, we stood true to music, and sometimes this might have been detrimental to the fastest way to, let’s say, success. There are certainly better marketing decisions that we would have taken, but our ultimate goal isn’t that. As I said, E-an-na is a feeling, something rooted very deep inside us, and a community, a family. Of course we do hope, like most of the bands, to get big and tour the world, but we shall get that on our own pace, whilst focusing on our sonic madness primarily. But yes, we made a lot of friends at Wacken, and I think the most important lesson we learned there is the value of human connection."
As you sing in Romanian, do you have any tips for non-native speakers in trying to sing along to your music?
"Just go with what you feel, I won’t judge you, ha ha. I myself just went for the sound without understanding a word for many years, mainly when singing along to Arkona in Russian whenever I caught them live. That actually led to an interesting perception of the human voice as solely an instrument, stripped of the meaning of the words, which I think shaped the way I compose stuff. So yeah, don’t be afraid to pour your soul out, even if you literally can’t put it into words."
Given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, what plans did you have that are either cancelled or postponed? Any plans for late 2020 / early 2021?
"We did have a bunch of shows (some announced, others not yet) that went down the drain... But we’re increasingly more fortunate than bigger bands that had to cancel whole tours for which money had been already paid for whatever reason (logistics, advances, etc.). We are trying to reschedule the gigs, but honestly half-heartedly, because we don’t know if (although highly probable) and when the second wave will strike. That’s why we aren’t saying things like “buy cheaper pre-sale tickets” and stuff like that to our fans at the moment. On the other hand, we are constantly working on new music. In fact, our next single came out on 23.05.2020, exactly the day I turned 25."
For metalheads visiting Sibiu, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Well, Sibiu is not a big city at all. It’s wonderful to visit it, but you will probably learn it in a few days. I totally recommend the village museum, right outside the city. I think it’s the largest in Europe, and extremely beautiful. Also the city centre is quite pretty, if you don’t mind flocks of tourists and pigeons. You can find the Evangelical Church there, right in my high school yard. It’s a nice area. In terms of venues and bars, Sibiu doesn’t have it so great. If you’re looking for metal, you’ll most definitely end up at the Rock & Bike Club, as do we."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"Stay strong. Each person is different, each reacts differently to such large-scale events. I, personally, besides the gigs and not being able to see my friends and family or to travel, am not too affected, as I work from home and am an introvert anyway. I’ve been composing and practising like a madman, so the time is put to good use. I’m not saying you’re worthless if you’re not productive. Not at all. It’s simply what works best for my well being. Take care of yourself, and don’t despair. Do a little something everyday. Check up on your loved ones. Listen to our music."
For a band whose lyrics revolve around topics involving fantasy and death, you would have thought that the single 'Stalingrad' would have been by a Black Metal band. Instead it's by Egyptian Progressive / Folk Metal entity Riverwood and as frontman Mahmoud went on to explain, the single is drawing a comparison to the second world war and the current war against COVID-19. During his interrogation he confessed as to how the band came about, why Egyptian Metal is embracing a revolution and what venues metalheads should go to in the city of Alexandria.
For those who have not heard of Riverwood, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band was formed only 2 years ago under the name of Riverwood. Our first album was released in the same year and its called "Fairytale". With 1 million streams online "Fairytale" has been chosen as one of the top 20 Folk metal albums in 2020."
You recently released your new single 'Stalingrad', what was the idea behind this - why a song about WW2?
"The song basically tells the story about a timeline that is almost the same as the current one, as the world is at war now with the COVID-19 virus. That's why we have decided to release it as a stand-alone single since it will not be a part of our second full album."
Your debut album "Fairytale" is out now, what was the reception like and have you had people outside of Egypt download it?; will it be on CD / vinyl?
"It has exceeded my expectations. I've never imagined it will be viral in the middle east that fast and also never imagined that it will reach one million streams online all over the world. The album is on CD as well and its sold outside of Egypt. We've sold CDs in Germany, France, Poland, Spain and many more international countries."
Do you feel that there is a rise in Middle Eastern / North African tinged metal? (Myrath, Riverwood, Blaakyum, Scarab, Orphaned Land, etc); how would you describe your sound?
"Unique. That's how I would describe the sound as all of the mentioned bands including Riverwood are injecting the Arabian sounds and Eastern cultures into their music and stories."
What is the current state of the Egyptian Metal scene? Is it going strong? When did metal music first arrive in Egypt?
"It was pretty much dead since 2010, but since 2018 it's being brought back to life with a lot of shows and releases."
For metalheads visiting Alexandria, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Sawy Cultural Wheel, Jesuit Center... these are the top notch venues for metal heads."
What plans does Riverwood have for late 2020 / early 2021?
"Currently we are working on our second full length album. Just like "Fairytale", the album will be telling a story that will be visualized in a book. The album also will be featuring more than one artist, of which 2 of them are big names in the metal music industry."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"As we rarely use the word fans, I would like to thank our family and warriors for all their support through out the "Fairytale" journey, it never could have been done without you and until we see you again on stage please stay safe. Wash your hands! Much love!"
"When we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool"
Arguably one of the most talked about metal bands from Asia alongside Babymetal and The Hu in the last few years, India's Bloodywood have shaken the foundations of metal with their aromatic and flavoursome blend of Bollywood covers, Indian Folk Metal and cultural panache that landed them a slot at Wacken Open Air last year, and a slot at next year's Bloodstock Open Air after the 2020 edition was postponed due to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. Vocalist Jayant Bhadula gave GMA the low down about their humble origins, the strength of the Indian Metal scene, how they became known across the country and why it's Asia'a time to showcase it's wealth of talent to Europe and the USA.
What was the initial idea behind Bloodywood?
"When we started we always had a plan to release original music, that has always been a goal for us, but we didn't find a way to get it out; because I think there are a lot of metal bands in India and that's the thing. We wanted our music to reach out and not just be restricted within our region, state or country, we wanted our music to spread worldwide. This is why we thought the best way to go round it would be by doing covers, actually it wasn't really covers, first we tried to make metal renditions, like give it our flavour 'Sinbad The Slayer'... It was a gradual process through trying to make our sound that we would be comfortable with and eventually it lead to 'Ari Ari' and then to others."
What was the reaction from both the Bollywood and Metal music scenes to your music?
"It was widely received well in India with the audience here, it was also seen as funny. Finding it funny and then actually appreciating the metal behind it too is what we got from the Indian audience, but I would have never imagined that someone from Bollywood would have actually acknowledged it.
The Bollywood industry I mean... it happened with 'Ari Ari' though; when we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool."
As you have only been going since 2016, to be where you are now (having played Wacken last year) it must be a dream come true for the band?
"Oh yes absolutely, I'll give you a little fun story. This was around the time when I was in my final year at college, I was like 'I should start saving money and go see Wacken Open Air', I wanted to there and experience what it's like so I started saving money, go to Germany and see Wacken Open Air. Then because Bloodywood was going on and then I was actually working with another band; I've got one more project alongside Bloodywood.
Bloodywood was getting busy and we eventually finally got the call for Wacken Open Air, that was personally for me and I can vouch for everyone in the band a dream come true for everyone; even the sound engineer he plays guitar with me in my other band, for him to be there to manage our sound was a dream come true for all of us."
You've shifted from covering Bollywood music and writing your own material, where does your inspiration come from?
"So it wasn't just the Bollywood songs that we used to cover, we used to cover almost anything that used to catch our eye. Literally from Bollywood to anything else, as long as we felt it was catchy we would just make a diddle on it. But the transition began when we started making ''Punjabi Metal', that was for the 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi'... because while we were composing 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi' around that time in the end we actually realised that and it was was Karan Katiyar who showed me that dhol goes really good with guitars and I took it as a joke, I was like no I don't think so, that's not going to happen. So he actually created the whole instrumental and was like now check it out, dhol which is a traditional north Indian folk instrument that was going perfectly with it. I felt it made the song more groovy, so what's where we got to the point where we should try experimenting with more Indian instruments and even then we're experimenting with more instruments."
Arguably that's how metal seems to be evolving, by utilising other sounds and non-traditional metal instruments like the dhol per se.
"I mean it depends on which metal act we're talking about, for Bloodywood at least I can say that when we started experimenting with folk instruments from our country, the idea was actually to incorporate instruments to make our sound a little more Indian. It's like Alien Weaponry who I don't think use folk instruments however they sing in Maori. I mean it really comes down to which bands you're talking about, I mean for example The Hu from Mongolia, they do use their folk instruments with metal so, but I don't think bands are introducing instruments for the sake of making a new sound. I feel that everyone is trying to express themselves in the best way they can like we did with Bloodywood, that's what I think the bands are doing."
With all the things that has happened to Bloodywood, surely it must make you pinch yourself in asking 'is this really happening?'
"Yes that happens quite a lot at least with me, because every time I go to the studio it takes me back to the time when I used to go to Karan's house and record a lot of stuff. But because a member in my other band owns a studio, we ended up going there thereafter; he's been such a nice guy about it all, given us his studio almost for free - just because he is friends with us and has supported us throughout. So when I look back I have a sheer amount of gratitude for those people, they didn't expect anything, they just wanted to help us out."
What do your parents think of your music?
"(laughs) my parents? My parents basically asked me 'you cool? Are you happy with what you're doing?' and I said 'yes' and so they said 'Ok we're cool too', they don't get metal. When I was in Chicago with my dad and we were sitting in the same room, Veil of Maya was playing nearby where we were staying and I put some of their music on the music system and my father looks at his uncle, and says 'this is what he does', my father looks at the screen and sees a guy screaming and guts out, and he's like 'yeah don't do that'."
For those who listen to Bloodywood for the first time, what languages are you singing in?
"'Ari Ari' is Punjabi but if you go to the rest of the songs after that it's Hindi."
Are they completely different or similar? Are they easy to understand?
"There's a lot of differences, I wouldn't say they're 100% different but there would be around 97% differences. There are a few little words here and there from what I use in Hindi and put into Punjabi. But there's a lot of languages in India, at least 100 plus (I'm not sure of the exact number) and lots of different dialects and they change as you travel in any direction. Yes we can understand each other, that's the funny part... English is actually quite useful in India... almost everywhere I think English is spoken and even though there are times when you get to the point where you are not sure what the person is saying, English comes in and saves us."
Has Bloodywood released any EP's or an album? If not will we see one this year?
"It's not out of the question that we will end up doing that, because I mean this year the festivals are shut, I don't think something will be happening anytime soon, I hope that the world gets better and we can go back to festivals. But as there are not a lot of festivals which are still happening, I think this year we will be focusing on creating and hopefully if everything pans out, an album might not be out of the question, but it's still not been decided yet."
Some people refer you to as a Folk Metal band, others a Nu Metal band, could you please clarify your sound?
"I like to call it Folk Metal because that is what we want to be seen as for everyone, we do incorporate modern elements because we embrace it - if you look at my influences they are all Deathcore, Metalcore bands. Our drummer Vishesh Singh is heavily into Death Metal, so because all of us come from different niche styles of metal, when we combine it together it comes out to me what the 'Bloodywood sound' is; which I like to call Indian Folk Metal; mainly due to the instruments we use."
On that note is it relatively easy or challenging to master the art of playing these traditional Indian folk instruments?
"It is tricky, for example the dhol we use there are multiple variations of it. But the instruments themselves are tricky, that's my take on it because I don't play them. So I'm probably not the right person to ask regarding this (laughs)."
Speaking about the Indian Metal, arguably Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos were the leading pioneers, would you therefore say Bloodywood is carrying the scene forward?"
"Well it does not just end with Bloodywood, Demonic Resurrection or Kryptos, it's actually all of the bands that are in the metal scene. The Indian Metal scene is small, but I say this in every interview and I cannot stress enough on it that it might be small, but it's really tight-knit. We've got Systemhouse33, Gutslit, Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection all of whom played internationally, there are just so many bands from India producing so much quality material that I think its all of us who are carrying it forward."
Nowadays what are the challenges that most Indian Metal bands tend to face (excluding COVID-19)?
"Don't even get me started on that (laughs), Indian Metal bands have been facing so many problems for so long. It started off with venues not being open to letting metal bands to play there, to not being paid or not doing tribute shows or, I mean it's not a bad thing to do a tribute show, but at the same time there used to be less scope for original music to come up because people tended to come out for more of the tribute shows, but now as the audience is opening up there but still there are lots of venues and not a lot of money being invested in it. I think it's going to get better because the number of shows last year at least were a lot, I've never seen a lot of shows like that.
There were a lot of bands from the US and Europe coming in, just in January we had As I Lay Dying come here, so I mean we've come a long away from just one metal band coming to India in a year, maybe for Bangalore Open Air per se where we get to see quality acts. Apart from that there was nothing, hardly any shows going on, but now even the promoters are getting into it."
Do you feel it's more important than ever for metalheads from Europe to pay more attention to bands from Asia per se?
"I feel the world has been sleeping on Asia for a long time and maybe now it will... maybe Bloodywood, or The Hu from Mongolia or Underside from Nepal; I love those guys, so I mean us Asian bands trying to get out and actually doing shows and getting a positive reception actually does make a way for other Asian bands to come out. I think people in Europe and the USA are actually embracing this. I actually met a guy in Osnabrück, Germany who was wearing a Gutslit t-shirt - Gutslit is an Indian band, I wanted a photo and send a message to the guys saying 'hey guys I saw a guy with your t-shirt in Osnabrück, Germany."
Finally have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I want to say hello to everyone who's going to believe in us."