Pakistan's metal scene has fluctuated over the past 2 decades since it's first emergence way back in the late 90's, but despite this the scene has grown and grabbed ever-expanding attention from the wider global metal community... and now, is perhaps one of the most exciting scenes to emerge on the international stage, further enhancing the need for the western metal music industry to take note and a chance on the flagbearers of the Pakistan metal scene.
One band who carries the flag is Primaeval, a mixture of heartfelt experimenting and ritualistic heavy metal, quite the contrast to many other bands in this part of Asia; whose extreme metal faction is unsurmountable.
Farhan Rathore spoke to Global Metal Apocalypse about the band's humble origins, international recognition following their debut EP launch, sexism within the scene, the origins of the metal scene and the challenges bands faced, among other topics.
"Our love for metal won't die because this is a genre that has saved many lives."
Tell us about your band name Primaeval - why and how did you choose it? After all it relates to the earliest times in history.
"So it's a funny story. The band is founded by one of the oldest active metal musicians in Pakistan, Farhan Rathore. Who has been a musician since 2010. He approached a couple of his friends in 2020 with the idea of creating this band, after taking a break in 2017. They thought it was a great idea and we had named the band Nephilim, but we found out there are a dozen more bands with this name, so we started working on coming up with new names, and then medieval popped into my mind, but I thought what can be more earlier, so that's where Primaeval came into my mind. Basically signalling to the fact that we are old school metalheads."
You released your debut EP 'Horcrux' at the back end of 2021, how was it received locally and overseas?
" 'Horcrux' was not as well received as we'd have wished for locally, but outside of Pakistan the response was good as always. Mostly because of the quality of listeners is far better outside of Pakistan. Nothing to take away from our loyal fanbase here locally who have been brilliant always. But generally it didn't do well as good locally as it did overseas."
As it's your first release, how did you come up with the song tiles and lyrical content? Was the EP's creation straightforward?
"It's actually quite interesting. 'Doom' and 'Bleed' from the EP were written by Farhan in 2013 when he was with his old band, but we got the chance to record those songs now since he wanted those lyrics to be used. Nocturne (alternate version) is our full length album's title track basically (a small chunk of that) used in the EP in a toned down way. It was a pretty personal approach with the material because we are emotionally attached to the songs in the EP. To round off we covered 'I Long' from one of our favourite bands Saturnus. And yes the process was very straightforward because we had recorded the instruments before even planning to put these songs in the EP."
Has Byzma Aref your female vocalist, received any sexist comments by those in the Pakistani metal scene? Generally speaking, what is the attitude towards female musicians in Pakistan?
"First of all, Byzma is talented. A voice that our metal scene hasn't witnessed, you'll be hearing brilliant work from her end soon. And about anything negative being thrown her way, we can confidently say NO.
Females are generally mistreated in the local scene, but with our female vocalist, this hasn't been the case luckily."
What challenges do metal bands in Pakistan face? Is there an established music industry in Pakistan (focusing on the mainstream)?
"Metal has never got the recognition it deserves unfortunately. One band recently made it to a mainstream music show, only to upset the fans because it was a pop themed show. The mainstream industry is more established around pop and hip-hop, and it looks down upon metal like it's a bad genre or something and doesn't give equal opportunities or exposure to a lot of metal musicians.
So it's a day to day struggle building up your audience and putting out original music which is self funded. Not to forget arranging gigs from your own money with free for all entries. Which demotivates us all. But our love for metal won't die because this is a genre that has saved many lives."
Have there been any well-known international bands play in Karachi or elsewhere in Pakistan? If so, who?
"To our knowledge, no well known rock or metal bands from the international scene have been here. Mostly because of the hostile situations and the religious fanaticism. Religious extremism still exists but we've learnt to stay away from it now. But we don't see any big acts coming here to play. Not like India where many big bands have played shows and festivals. We probably will never get to see that sort of thing here unfortunately."
Tell us about your day jobs, what do you do (if employed) and do you talk to colleagues about metal music?
"Farhan is a Senior Customer Success Manager at a multinational company and works at night (as they work according to the US time zones). Byzma is a Data Analyst for a Canadian company (remotely employed), Athar is in the lead HVAC designer for a construction company and Rumi is an Architectural Engineer.
We all talk to our colleagues and friends about metal all the time. We are trying to build a large scale community so that Metal can thrive. We engage with like minded people to discuss ideas and share knowledge where needed. It's well received too."
How did you get into metal music and what do your parents think of the genre?
"Farhan has been into metal since the 9th grade of school, so that makes him a metalhead for 18+ years now. Athar and Rumi got into the metal scene after being hardcore Metallica and Opeth fans for a long time, deciding to make music of their own and have been active musicians for 10 years now. Same goes for the other members, all have been metalheads all their lives and just stepped into the music scene when they felt like it basically.
Initially all of us got some stick for this loud, aggressive music that we listened to. But now that we've grown up, we get little to no stick for it hahaha."
2022 is upon us and so what plans does Primaeval have for the year ahead? Could we see the EP be physically released?
"Good question. We're looking for a label that can sign us and distribute our music physically. Though we're in talks with a local distribution label that might do it digitally, it's not done yet though. It's very hard to find a label or publications that might help you market your work.
About 2022, we can promise a full length album is on the way, it is something Pakistan has never witnessed. It's progressive and very dark. We've put all of our emotions and experience into it. The album will bring the wow factor for all of our listeners locally and overseas. The album is named "Nocturne". We are in the recording phase, it'll be out later this year."
The fact that metal music is a global phenomenon has been established since the turn of the millennium and as such is no longer a secret, this is a music genre that has traversed the world across all factions and even to this day, more and more bands are forming and scenes being established, leaving lasting legacies not only just in the metal community, but in their own national community also.
The challenges metal music poses vary from country to region and seeking resolutions have not always been easy, but the spirit of devotion to arguably the world's most connected genre lives on and so will the people behind it.
Yet ironically where it is no surprise that metal exists in every corner of the globe, the fact that new scene discoveries are so fascinatingly exciting just underpins the gravity of why global metal music is a treasure to behold.
Enter Toxic Roulette, the first metal band coming from Yemen. The band spoke exclusively to Global Metal Apocalypse about their origins, the possible emergence of a Yemeni metal scene; the challenges that will come / are coming with it and how they are perceived by the Yemeni people.
For some bands it was relatively easy to establish a scene, for some it was the choice between life and death. For Toxic Roulette, their emergence was thanks to meeting in a talent competition, and that they discovered metal music through various means as they go on to explain:-
"Heavy metal came to Yemen mainly because of the people who lived abroad, they came back with guitars and metal CDs, and the second reason is the internet. There was a small talent show and we gathered from different places. Some of the talents had similar taste of music and we thought why not make a metal band. It was a pure coincidence."
Much like when Morocco went through a period of censoring metal music, jailing metalheads and labelling it as Satanic music, Yemen could enforce a similar if not the same method of constraining a harmless 'threat to cultural norms'. For now it seems that metalheads in Yemen are wanting the music to remain ironically underground and not gain a wider national interest, maybe the values presented in Sharia law outweigh the freedom of playing metal music and so would rather keep it hidden in secrecy until open dialogue is established – look at Creative Waste playing their first open air concert in Saudi Arabia for example....
“The general perception of heavy metal in Yemen is very bad, they think it’s only related to Satanic rituals. But at the same time the majority of people are yet still to know more about it. Heavy metal in Yemen is still not well known enough, and the authorities are not well informed about it, but if more people follow heavy metal, then the authorities will ban it 100%.”
This view then begs the question of what the bandmembers families think of metal music, naturally it's expected for family members to be supportive of what their relatives undertake within reason (no prizes for coming up with any suggestions of what is not appropriate). Also, as the band mentioned earlier, the importation of metal CD's were a fundamental resource in building up a metal community in Yemen, they go on to explain who they got into first:
“We got into heavy metal after listening to great bands like Metallica, AC/DC and Megadeth. Also, we loved the sound of electric guitars. Our parents thought it sounds loud and doesn't make sense, but they too love guitar solos.”
Forming a band and releasing music is one thing, forming a band with no pre-existing scene and then looking to release music is an entirely different challenge in itself. For Toxic Roulette, the latter applies as they go on to explain they are only doing covers for the time being, with 2022 aiming to be the band's first time creating original material:
“We are still yet to release a demo. We mainly play covers of famous metal songs, but hopefully we can release a demo next year.”
We look forward to the first ever metal release to come out of Yemen, but like the rest of the world this is not the biggest challenge being faced... in 2019 a then-unknown pathogen emerged out of Wuhan, China which later came to be called 'COVID-19', plaguing the world in a battle and race against time to suppress this lethal killer. Since then vaccine developments have been heralded as major step in attempting to limit the long-term damage of the disease, however a whole host of countries (chiefly those of the Third World) are yet again being left behind by the First World. It is no secret that Yemen has suffered years of famine and poverty and still continues to suffer, to coin a phrase it's like 'kicking a man whilst he is down'. So how has the country dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and what limitations have been posed?
“COVID-19 didn’t have much effect in people's lives in Yemen, since the authorities didn’t do much to protect the people. We are not under a lockdown.”
As mentioned earlier Toxic Roulette are the first metal band from Yemen, so with no pre-existing scene the challenges are exceptionally difficult - let alone not performing outside of Yemen. One such challenge is equipment sourcing and so they have to rely on travellers to carry out favours for them:
“Obtaining good equipment is always a challenge in Yemen. We rely mostly on people who come from abroad to provide us with good instruments.”
Since 2019 air travel has been at an all-time low and as such many destinations were off-limits or strongly advised travelling to, but under normal circumstances the band recommends visiting the historic sites Yemen has to offer including old Sanaa (Bab Al Yemen).
Naturally the global metal community is a tight-knit one and it's considered the norm to herald any major achievements by bands from the lesser known metal scenes. Of course it's great hearing bands like Ghost getting a GRAMMY award, but what about Orphaned Land (Israel) and Khalas (Palestine) touring together? Considering their two nations are against one another, that milestone is something that should be celebrated more than winning an award no?
The MENA (Middle East-North Africa) metal scenes have come a long way and are making sensational progress in establishing themselves, it's inevitable that more and more entities within the Western music industry will pay more attention to bands from this region... it's got to happen, there is so much talent being overlooked just because the next Swedish export so happens to be the next Amon Amarth per se, Europe is no longer the big boy on planet metal and it's about time we accepted that.
“We think that heavy metal has made great progress in the MENA region despite all of the obstacles and challenges. We have seen many great metal bands from Jordan and Egypt get noticed.”
And so where does Toxic Roulette go now as we head towards the end of 2021 and welcome in 2022?
“Our plan for next year is to make original heavy metal music.”
"Many expats from Germany and the US turned up at our shows and became supporters. They probably could relate to the [music] style much more than the locals."
It goes without saying that Arcana XXII was not just another metal band, they were creating their own metal music and presenting it to a country whose scene was non-existent, let alone not having any appreciation for metal music.
The flag-bearers of the Namibian metal scene (no matter how small it is) have dived head-first into the archives and have amassed a collection that despite covering only a 5-year period, has the indisputable honour of being an important piece of metal music history, having been the very first Heavy Metal songs to be released in Namibia... possibly the earliest on the entire African continent.
They epitomised the very essence of what it was to be a D.I.Y. band, sure there will be bands in Europe and the USA who have this view on their work... but they will never be in the same league as Arcana XXII as the band explained in our interview with them.
Johan, Sven and Johann Smit explained all.
Would it be fair to say that the Namibian Metal scene is a cursed one? It seems that only Arcana XXII and subMission existed. Could you tell us the history of the metal scene, what the current situation is in general and where you personally see it going in the years ahead?
"There never really was a scene in Namibia. After we started there were a few acts (probably fuelled by what we had done) but none of them made a lasting impression in terms of releases or longevity. So as for the future I can’t really say that anything will happen there. Sven started subMission and I continued with projects like D.O.G. or Lockjaw, before moving to Germany.
South Africa is different, with numerous acts coming out or being around for many years. Examples are Bulletscript, LA Cobra, Mind Assault, Abaddon, Woltemade etc. Then of course there is neighbouring Botswana with bands like Overthrust or Wrust, which go into more of a death metal direction.
What was it like growing up as metalheads in Namibia, forming the first metal bands nationally and arguably providing the foundations for African Metal to grow upon?
"We had very little access to metal, be it in the form of LPs or live shows, so tape trading was huge. Every time someone went to Europe, they brought back cool releases which were transferred onto tape and shared. That’s how we got to know more bands and new genres. The only releases you could find in local record stores were bands that had major label deals. Like Def Leppard, AC/DC or Van Halen etc. This made us appreciate every piece of music we could get our hands on. Even a poorly dubbed cassette copy of Accept or Exodus was considered holy.
As for the band, it was fun but also hard work to start something in a market where the majority of the population is African and listens more to hip hop, kwaito or rap. There were no other musicians that could boost your enthusiasm in a healthy sort of rivalry. Nevertheless, I think it is exactly what made us stand out more. Since there was little happening, and no acts would visit Namibia, we motivated ourselves to create our own music. Our shows always had a high attendance, with people from different walks of life often coming for the pure energy of the live experience."
Some would see metal as purely a white person's music, but as we've seen this is untrue, surely it must be exciting to see other ethnicities across the world engage in metal music? On that note, do you feel metal music has helped to breakdown racial connotations that otherwise exist in the mainstream?
"It’s definitely exciting. I really enjoy seeing that, especially Botswana bringing out bands that are so devoted to metal. I think music has always been the universal language, but I don’t know if metal is really having that kind of impact on the mainstream in Southern Africa as you mentioned."
"I think many black Namibians regarded us as some kind of freak show, harmless but strange :-). A large part of the conservative white establishment definitely did not like us, which we were perfectly fine with. Many expats from Germany and the US turned up at our shows and became supporters. They probably could relate to the style much more than the locals."
Surely you must be pleased to be releasing this historic compilation in "Return To The Darkland"? Will it be released on vinyl in the future alongside a digital and CD release?; Can you tell us more about the DVD from the physical version, what does it cover?
"We're really excited about the historic compilation release of "Return To The Darkland". It would be totally awesome to see this release on vinyl in the future, alongside the CD and DVD. That would just complete the set. The DVD is presented in a documentary style, from within three timespans in which Arcana XXII was active, i.e. circa 2001. Narrated by Namibian musician and TV personality, Boli Mootseng, it includes interviews, live clips and 5 full length music videos (And who knows, maybe the last 3 music videos, 'Remember Forever', 'Untold' and 'Breathing In Me', would be included)."
Do you feel as a whole that African Metal for years was largely ignored or not taken notice of by metal media in Europe? Could you envisage years down the line a festival much like Bloodstock Open Air, but based in Africa?
"Absolutely, I think metal from Africa has indeed been largely ignored. But I also think that African acts haven’t really done enough to achieve that acclaim either. It would require touring and frequent solid releases. The first band that ever set foot on European soil in terms of touring and playing live, was my ex-band Voice Of Destruction. Then there was Groinchurn also. But there were never follow up tours etc to stay in the game."
"In my time with subMission I organised the annual Windhoek Metal Fest where we invited bands from neighbouring countries, that worked really well and contributed to the unification of the scene on the subcontinent, at least a little bit. We had three editions, all sold out. We also had requests from international bands, like Heaven Shall Burn, Tankard and Orden Ogan. We couldn't find sponsors for flight tickets, so that was it."
For metalheads visiting Windhoek, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend (under normal circumstances)?
"Oh wow, I think those would be purely from a tourist point of view. I would definitely recommend Namib Naukluft Park and the Namib Desert, which offer vast landscapes and really take you out of the rat race almost instantly. Also interesting is the coastline. Skeleton Coast has many historical ship wrecks, and the name says it all. A really treacherous and rough coastline."
"The first and only metal pub in Windhoek "Blitzkrieg Bunker Bar" died at the same time as subMission did, around 2010. So visitors are left with the usual tourist traps, like Joe's Beerhouse. Or some nice beach bars at the coast. I would recommend the Desert Tavern in Swakopmund."
What are you plans for the year ahead and leading into 2021?
"We view "Return To The Darkland" as a sort of retrospective view on all the material we have written and also a the closing chapter of the band. There will be no further music or live appearances as all the members have their own lives now in different parts of the world. Logistically it just would not work. Perhaps only with a new line up, if at all."
Do you have any greetings or thanks that you wish to send to out to friends, family and fans?
"Really only to the fans who show support to this day and of course Einheit Produktionen for making "Return To The Darkland possible."
Arcana XXII – “A Return To The Darkland / Untold” Digi CD+DVD expected to released 25.02.2021.
"The biggest challenge was / is venues, especially in terms of putting on a quality show with lights, staging and adequate space etc. We have to source everything."
Africa is often considered as 'the last frontier' for metal and to be fair, it would seem that way. Even though there are a lot of countries on the continent who have had rock music stretching back into the 1970's, ultimately something pulled the plug on Zimbabwe's rock past... we'll leave you to ponder what that was. But now metal has arisen to revive the angst felt by the natives, too often is it that metal arises from negative events, be it war, poverty, corruption, hatred, you name it, it's on the back of the t-shirt as shamed tour dates. Stepping into the breach is Dividing The Element, arguably founders of the Zimbabwean Metal scene; following in their footsteps is the one-man project Nuclear Winter.
We spoke to lead vocalist / guitarist Chris Van about the band's origins, their new single 'Pakaipa' (it's in the Shona language) and why being a DIY band in a scene that's being built by yourself is probably the most metal thing to ever happen to this country... hats off to them, they make the scene work.
For those who have not heard of Dividing The Element, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"We are a metal band from Harare, Zimbabwe who sings and screams in Shona. The band was founded in 2012 by Sherlic White and myself. After a few line up changes the band settled on Archie Chikoti (Guitar), Nick Newbery (Drums), Mat Sanderson (Bass) and myself (Lead Vocals and Guitar)."
You've just released your new single 'Pakaipa', could you explain what it means and will this be included in an upcoming EP or album?
"'Pakaipa' is in Shona and literally means "It's bad". The theme of the song is about both being underestimated and misunderstood by society. No decision has been made yet as to whether it will be included in an upcoming EP or album. As the primary composer for the band, I don't want to have that kind of pressure on myself at this early stage of writing. Maybe there'll be an EP, maybe there'll be an album, maybe there'll be a bunch of singles. I'd like to see what comes out as it comes out this time."
The band has come a long way, but what about the Zimbabwean Metal scene - what is it currently like, what challenges are there?
"The metal community is still small but has definitely grown. Speaking as someone who has been in the front lines actively trying to grow the scene, it's been satisfying to watch the micro developments, witnessing the gradual increase in networking and turn outs to our shows and so on.
Pandemics and lockdowns aside, I'd say the biggest challenge was / is venues, especially in terms of putting on a quality show with lights, staging and adequate space etc. We have to source everything."
Have you had bands from nearby countries come to play in Harare? Where (if any) has the band played outside of Zimbabwe?
"There have been bands coming from outside [of Zimbabwe], just not metal bands. We were scheduled to play in Ghanzi, Botswana at Overthust's 11th anniversary of Winter Metal Mania Festival on the 30th of May, which would've been our first show outside of Zimbabwe. Sadly, Covid-19 took care of that."
What are the major challenges Dividing The Element has had to face since the band's inception, is metal frowned upon in Zimbabwe?
"Well, the experiences I've had with people's perceptions and attitudes on metal have mostly been positive, but then again the bias is that my interactions are mostly with people who support the genre. On the whole though, Zimbabwe is a conservative society so there are the typical judgements and misunderstandings that happen. I'd say the biggest challenge in the beginning was reaching out to the metalheads who were around and convincing them that they weren't the only ones. They were scattered few and far between and mostly stuck to themselves. Then I would say again... Venues!"
For metalheads visiting Harare, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Sadly there are no dedicated venues for metalheads in Zimbabwe. That said, I'd definitely recommend they come see us if we so happen to be putting on a show during their visit. It may not happen often, but when it does, we try to make it count."
Looking towards the end of 2020 and into early 2021, what plans does the band have left intact?
"Well, that's quite hard to say at this point. As much as it pains me to say it, my prediction is that this is just the beginning of the world's fight with the Coronavirus. There's little evidence to support that we are winning the battle and we're probably going to experience some growing pains trying to return back to the society we had before all of this. All things considered though, everything we've put out as Dividing The Element so far has been self produced, and in this digital age, quite a lot is possible, so I'd say new material would be on the cards."
Do you have any hellos or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Thank you Dewar PR for your invaluable service and of course thank you to all our family, friends and fans for your continued support."
Whenever someone mentions the Mexican Metal scene, usually it's Brujeria that first pops up. But like any national scene, behind the leaders is a vast swathe of bands carving out their own stories, building up their own fan bases and acting as proponents in keeping the scene not only on it's toes, but to serve as the next crop of bands to step up to the plate. One such band is Velvet Darkness who released 3 new singles last year and have been around since 2014, now with big plans in 2020 on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have set their sights on 2021 on being the year they plant the bandera de México and the symbol of Tenochtitlan on European and British soil. During this interrogation we played nice with the los Mexicanos and indulged in a lavish serving of champurrado. The band spoke of the emergence of Mexican Metal on the international stage, how the lockdown has affected the band and Mexican peoples and why Europe is their first international destination.
For those who have not heard of Velvet Darkness, could you give us a brief history of the band and how you came up with the name?
"The band started with Charles and Joe having this dream of making a life out of music. It took a while for them to find the final line-up and went through lots of changes, but finally… here we are! We are a sextet from Ciudad Satélite, Mexico who plays Heavy Metal. We recorded our first EP “Delusion” in 2015, then our first album “Nothing But Glory” in 2018 and then came up with 3 more singles: “Death Eaters”, “God of War ‘19” and the latest, "Insomniac," which will also be part of our next record. The name “Velvet Darkness” is a metaphor about the dark side we all have but don’t often let out."
Tell us more about the quarantine / lockdown in Mexico, what are you allowed and not allowed to do? How is the band coping?
"People are allowed to go out only for very necessary things. Supermarkets are closing earlier, malls are closed and there are driving restrictions as well. However, as many people in Mexico can’t work from home and can’t stop working, the risk is still high.
As a band, we are staying home. We make video conferences each week to catch up and keep working on the new material. Of course, each one of us has been doing great job individually practising our instrument."
2018 was the year your debut album "Nothing but Glory" came out, what was the reception like? Where did you play in support of the album?
"The album had a nice reception. We had a funny listening party and the album presentation at the “Foro Cultural Hilvana” in Mexico City. We also took part in two metal contests and went on two tour dates out of town with Lvto and Erszebeth, and later on with Lvto and Trágico Ballet. That same year, our keyboardist John was named 'Keyboardist of the Year' at the Osmium Metal Awards."
Have you played outside of Mexico? If so where? If not, where ideally would you want to play your first international show(s)?
"We haven’t yet, although we have travelled a lot within the country. Our goal is to play in Europe, especially Germany, the UK and the Nordics."
What are the challenges most Mexican metal bands face these days (COVID-19) aside? Do you feel that Mexico is often ignored by the global metal community?
"The fact that we cannot get together to practice has been the main problem, but we’ve been working online, and we are sure most of the bands are doing the same. Another big problem for the bands has been cancelling shows and postponing recording plans. We really hope this gets better soon.
And yes, we feel that, but we have also noticed that it is changing as we already have some Mexican bands touring and rocking around the world! Hopefully there will be more of us before long."
Kate, it's all too often we hear about sexism in the metal community, what is the attitude towards female musicians in Mexico? Are there / have there been any misogynist remarks?
"Actually, I have never felt that. Lately I have noticed that people like seeing us women singing or playing an instrument. Nowadays, the media and fellow musicians work more in encouraging us to do what we love and that also makes us feel more confident when we go on stage or share something. Of course, I know misogyny is still a big deal, but luckily, I have been treated well in the Mexican metal scene since I joined Velvet Darkness."
For metalheads visiting Ciudad Satélite and nearby city of Naucalpan, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
"Satélite is a very tranquil zone, but still we rock. If you guys come here, you must visit McCarthy's Irish Pub, Rock Son Satélite, The Cross Tavern and ROCKSTORE Satélite."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"First of all, we would like to thank our families for always being there supporting us, no matter what (even if we get a little noisy sometimes). Our friends, who have been doing a great job sharing our music and supporting us on the shows. And our amazing fans, from whom we feel the love and great energy every time we go on stage and through our social networks. Our staff, they never fail, and we have been through a lot together. Thank you!"
"I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
As far as metal goes in the Far East, there are a handful of scenes that exist and yet rarely get considerable amount of attention from outside of Asia, one such scene is South Korea. Dwarfed by the colossus of Japan, South Korea has a vibrant metal scene with a wealth of history behind it and it's thanks to bands like LandMine who are propelling it forward again. Having dropped their debut album "Pioneer's Destiny" this year, the Heavy / Power Metal quartet are sure to cause some buzz in the years ahead. GMA interrogated the guys and asked about the origins of South Korean metal music, the challenges bands face in the wake of the musical tsunami known as K-Pop and why it's highly unlikely (for obvious reasons) that North Korea will embrace metal music (we long for the day when it does).
For those who have not heard of Landmine, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"LandMine was formed in March 2012. In the early days of its formation, it released its first EP "Refect The Destiny" on May 26th, 2015, and released its single 'Brake From Route' on September 14th, 2018. Starting from "Pioneer's Destiny" on December 31st, 2019, the genre has been changed to Epic Metal.
LaneMine, which means "landmine", has a strong will to show the power of metal properly, like a landmine that looks calm but explodes when touched."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, how did you come to create Heavy Metal music?
"Leader Suchan Yun majored in piano and French horn and is composing based on classical music. I think it is right to describe it as Epic Metal, which is a fantasy story that expresses epic poetry, even though it is far from the commonly known Baroque Metal. We were greatly influenced by the music of the famous Korean rocker Kim Kyung-ho and the first-generation Korean metal band Blackhole."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"My parents cheered for me without opposing my hobby such as music. My sister majored in piano."
How is the band coping during the lockdown in South Korea due to COVID-19?
"In line with Korea's quarantine system, most live performances are being canceled. However, it is showing fans a live performance through live broadcasting in a new way called home-live."
Tell us about the South Korean Metal scene, when did metal arrive in South Korea? Would you be surprised if North Koreans came across LandMine? In your opinion, would a North Korean metal band happen?
"Korean metal bands were born in the early 1980's, and many first-generation metal bands debuted in the late 80's. There were indie bands such as Black Syndrome and Black Hole and major bands such as Sinawi and Baekdusan.
I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
What challenges do South Korean metal bands tend to face in general? What does the general public think of metal music?
"Unlike in the past, metal in the Korean public is rarely popular due to the influence of idols and K-pop. We are trying to popularize metal, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Although each band is planning performances and looking for overseas performances, no one is active with COVID-19 in 2020."
For metalheads visiting Daejeon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Daejeon is a bad town with nothing to play. Sungsimdang is the most famous bakery. I also recommend 'Sungsimdang'. But this is all."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"It is a pity that COVID-19 did not allow us to engage in external activities this year. As soon as the situation is settled, I will greet you with a great performance on stage. Thank you."
"2021 is our 40th year anniversary we are booked for UK festivals and to return Europe to play in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands."
Too often are bands of yesteryear forgotten about or fall by the wayside, but in counteracting that there are times where bands are effectively pulled out of hibernation, such is the case for NWOBHM quartet Troyen who received the harking call to reform and drum out material to quench the thirst of their fans. Now armed with newfound rigour, the Cheshire natives are due to release a new album, hopefully play some UK and European shows next year to mark 40 years of the band and prove that it doesn't matter about your age, as long as your heart is in the music, endless things are possible as drummer Jeff Baddley told GMA during his interrogation.
Troyen has humble beginnings in that you started back in the 1980's, but the band was untenable, so surely it must have been a godsend to reunite?
"Unbeknown to us there was quite a cult Troyen fan base, especially in Scandinavia and the USA, and the guys who run the Brofest festivals in Newcastle had been approached by fans asking if they could get us back together to appear at Brofest#3 in February 2015. It was a bizarre feeling for me to get a message via Facebook messenger asking firstly if I was the Jeff Baddley who used to be in Troyen, and, if so, could I get the band back together again? Initially we reformed just for one gig but once it entered the public domain other gigs and festivals approached us so there was no going back. Following the response we decided to release an album consisting of our four original demo tracks and four new tracks."
Given you've seen the British Metal scene grow up as it were, what advice can you offer to the next wave of bands?
"The only advice I can give is work hard. The music scene is a different animal now in this digital age and all the platforms available need to be embraced, back in the 80's the only way fans could get to see you was by playing live. In many ways you have to work smarter now to keep your profile in the public domain."
In some respect you're role models in that age doesn't mean a think when it comes to playing music, would you agree?
"There is always a place for role models and having people to aspire to but ultimately there is no substitute for being your own person, after all we are all unique."
Given the current global pandemic grappling the world, do you feel that music has become ever more important and that a world without it, is a boring place?
"Absolutely, music means many things to many people. We all turn to music when we are happy, sad or all the places in between. The global pandemic would be much harder to endure without music to immerse yourselves in."
Outside of music what hobbies and interests do you have? How have you all been coping during the lockdown?
"Music is our main focus and it’s been difficult during lockdown especially for me as I don’t have the space at home to set up my drum kit and unleash my frustrations. We have all spent time doing all the jobs we had been putting off around the house and some that didn’t. We’ve been in constant contact with each other as we are collaboratively writing new material for our new album., whilst also spending time keeping our social media pages updated."
What do your families think of your music, are any of them musicians also?
"None of our family members are musicians although they are very supportive of what we do even though NWOBHM may not be their thing."
What next for Troyen? Are you drafting up late-2020, early 2021 plans?
"We have pretty much written off 2020 for live music, but we’ll have to see how that unfolds. We are writing a new album initially for release in November 2020 but that may be pushed back to early 2021 pandemic and social distancing allowing. 2021 is our 40th year anniversary we are booked for UK festivals and to return Europe to play in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We’d like to thank all our fans, friends and families for their continued support. Without you we’d be nothing. We will just continue to ride the wave and play for as long as people want to hear us after all you don’t stop playing music because you get old, you get old because you stop playing music. Stay safe."
Whenever you think of Canada, the usual stereotypes come into being. Maple syrup, South Park (Blame Canada), the vast forests and of course ice hockey. But among all of that is a metal scene that has been chugging along nicely, just like their railways, their metal scene is vast, widespread and as solid as the rails their trains travel on. One band who over the years has grown and improved themselves to become one of Canada's most exciting exports in the past decade is Unleash The Archers. This Heavy Power / Melodic Death Metal leviathan is roaring and ready to unleash their latest EP 'Explorers'. Vocalist Brittney Slayes filled in the details of the new EP, their journey to where the band is now, their home city of Vancouver and what films she would have loved to written metal soundtracks for.
"Don’t you feel like in these new [Star Wars] films there should have been heavier riffs? Imagine if Kylo’s theme had been metal!"
Ten years have passed since your first album 'Behold The Devastation' saw daylight, the band has come a long way since then, what is it would you say has driven the band to where they are now?
"To be honest, there was never some grand scheme for greatness, never a plan or even a purposeful direction, we just keep writing new music and getting out on the road to tour it. We have always taken it day by day, album by album, just seizing the opportunities when they come and working as hard as we can to create something new and exciting each time we hit the studio. Music is our passion, we will continue to play as long as we can and if a little success comes along with it then that’s great, but it’s not why we do it. We just want to play our songs live in front of an audience that enjoys them as much as we do."
Canada seems to keep producing exciting and fresh bands, is it safe to assume the Canadian Metal scene is buzzing right now?
"Absolutely! The advent of digital music has allowed a lot more bands to get their music out there in front of a lot more people, whereas in the past it would have been up to the labels to pick and choose which bands get recognition and which don’t. I think Canada has always been full of killer musicians, it’s just hard to be noticed when you have huge markets like the USA and Europe constantly getting all the attention. You do have to go the extra mile in order to get your name out there, you have to tour those major markets as much as you can and look for coverage wherever you can get it, and I think a lot more bands are doing that nowadays. You have to be willing to put the time and energy in, no one is going to do it for you, and there are a lot of young bands up here that are finally understanding that."
If you had the choice of writing metal soundtracks for 5 films, what 5 films would you choose?
"When I was watching 'Aquaman' I felt like the soundtrack was so wrong, it should have been way heavier, it should have been metal, so I suppose that would be my first choice. I think Annihilation and the new Predator movie should have had metal soundtracks too. Of course, Star Wars has some of the best song writing of all time, but don’t you feel like in these new films there should have been heavier riffs? Imagine if Kylo’s theme had been metal! So perfect. Lastly, I would love to do the soundtrack for the Alien franchise, I think the last two films were so fantastically dark and would pair well with some progressive or even djent-y riffage. Could you imagine that in theatres? Just awesome."
What have you done differently for 'Explorers' in comparison with 'Apex'?
"The biggest difference is that ‘Explorers’ is just a two-song covers EP, not a full length, so we didn’t do any original writing, just some rearranging. ‘Apex’ is full of imagination, but ‘Explorers’ is full of heart. We are heading into the studio pretty soon here to do another full length, a sequel to ‘Apex’, so we will be returning to the same writing and recording style for that one. This EP was just a little something to keep the fans engaged while we write the next album."
You've covered Stan Rogers's 'Northwest Passage' for the EP and said it (quote) 'brings us right back home', do you feel it's important for bands to turn to musicians who epitomize a cultural identity in context with Stan travelling nationwide through the Rockies, forests, etc?
"We are all really big fans of Stan, and not just because he toured the same highways that we do, but because he has such a strong sense of Canadian identity inherently surrounding him. All of his songs invoke a reverence for our Canadian heritage that make you almost want to explode with pride for the beauty of it. He reminds you of where you’ve come from, and inspires you to use that as fuel for the fire. We knew that there were going to be tons of people that had never heard of Stan before, but we didn’t care, we wanted the metal community to hear the song and love it just as much as we do, all the naysayers be damned ;)"
Speaking of which, for metalheads visiting the city of Vancouver, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any festivals, bars, also?
"Number one on the list should definitely be to stroll the seawall through Stanley Park, from Coal Harbour all the way to English Bay and beyond if you can make it, maybe rent a bike because it pretty much surrounds the whole of down-town Vancouver and keeps on going! Granville Island is cool too, but save that for a weekday because weekends it’s PACKED. The Vancouver Art Gallery is worth it if there is an interesting exhibit going on, and there is tons of shopping around there as well so it’s easy to make a day of it. The Musuem of Anthroplogy out at UBC is worth checking out, as is the grounds of the university in general. Oh and you definitely want to check out the Capilano Suspension bridge! Super rad, unless you’re afraid of heights and a wobbly bridge packed with people ;).
As for festivals, we have Hyperspace each spring which is all power and melodic bands, and then we have the Modified Ghost festival in the summer that is all super heavy death and technical bands. As for bars, you definitely want to hit up the Moose! Cheap, tasty food and heavy metal music all day long!"
Aside from the EP, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
"We have begun the writing process for the next album and will be hitting the studio at the end of the year. We are hoping for a late spring 2020 release, and after that it will be tour, tour, tour! Plus, as many festivals as we can get our hands on."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out?
"Just wanted to say thanks to our fans for their amazing response to the ‘Explorers’ EP so far! We can’t wait to share the second track with everyone on October 11th! Keep an eye on YouTube ‘cause we’ll be releasing another cool video for that track as well J If you haven’t checked it out yet, the video for ‘Northwest Passage’ is up on YouTube right now, and make sure to bring your thinking cap because it’s a wild ride ;)
Thanks for your time everyone!"
One could argue that the Japanese Metal scene has only really broken into the Western hemisphere and began to establish a respectable presence here. Sure it's true that if you look at the history of the Japanese Metal scene, you would notice that it's origins are firmly placed in the 1970's, echoing a similar backstory to the British Metal scene. It has to be said though that the Visual Kei movement certainly spurred the overall Japanese Metal scene on and pushed it outside the country with bands like X Japan gaining overseas attention. Fast forward to the turn of the century and bands like Crossfaith, Babymetal and now Lovebites are riding the tides of the New Wave of Japanese Metal.
Lovebites are definitely pretty, but don't let the looks fool you as this all-female Heavy / Power ensemble have enough brutality, grit and power to leave you in awe, given Lovebites have only been going 3 years. In these 3 years they have played at Wacken and Bloodstock Open Air and have signed two record deals, subsequently releasing 2 albums and 2 EP's.
Drummer Haruna spoke to GMA about the girls backstory, rise to global success and the debate of whether to call their music Heavy / Power Metal or Kawaii Metal.
"Maybe people say we are Kawaii Metal because of our looks... listen to our music... we are a Heavy / Power Metal band!"
Festival appearances, a headline tour, two EP's and now two albums across two years since the band's inception, that must be a dream start right?
"I have never thought I could experience this much in such a short time. However, I was sure that this band was going to be a good band because of these great members. I am very pleased to get good reviews for all of our songs. Playing overseas was great too. I have never experienced these kind of things so I just really hope the band will be grow up bigger by footing these chances."
When you were informed you were to perform on the main stage at Bloodstock (instead of Sophie stage), what were emotions like in the band?
I was very surprised. The happiness was bigger than the nervousness. I felt like the luck was on our side. I could do my best and did the best performance, I wanted to make good use of this opportunity. It felt so good to play Bloodstock Open Air, it was the first outdoor festival to play as Lovebites. It was raining that day, but when we played the sky became clearer and many people came out to see us."
You all seem to have different tastes in music: Asami listens to Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin, Miyako learned to play a classical piano; do you use these as influences in Lovebites' music?
"Halloween triggered me to get into metal music. The first album I listened to was “Master Of The Rings” and I was inspired by Ulrich Kusch’s drumming style. His style became my basic drumming style.
Do you feel that the Japanese Metal scene has gained more attention from Europe over the last decade or so? It seems Japanese Metal is on the rise?
"I believe it’s getting bigger. Loudness and Babymetal are playing often overseas. I hope Lovebites to get in to the boom."
In your own words could you tell us the difference between Visual Kei and Japanese Metal? Is the Visual Kei scene still active?
"I think it’s just the look. Visual Kei bands are mainly guys dressed up, their music styles vary, sometime metal and sometimes not. Somehow people mix up Visual Kei with Metal and think it’s the same thing in Japan. Visual Kei is still highly popular though.
With your new album "Clockwork Immortality", what did you do differently that wasn't present on "Awakening From Abyss"?
"Regarding drumming, I wanted songs to stand out. So sometimes I play aggressive, sometimes I go for something simple to let the vocals and guitars sound stand out. Through the entire album, we wanted and tried to make stronger heavy metal."
Some say your music is Heavy / Power Metal, some say it's Kawaii Metal, how would you describe your music?
"Maybe people say we are Kawaii Metal because of our looks. Just listen to our music or come see us play live, you’ll know we are a Heavy / Power Metal band!
With 2019 in full swing, what have you been up to and what plans have you got for the year ahead?
"We played a Japanese tour in January. I hope to play a lot inside and outside Japan in 2019."
Do you have any greetings, thank you's etc you wish to send out?
"The new album “Clockwork Immortality” shares strong points from “Awakening From Abyss” and “Battle Against Damnation”. Plus it became more powerful with greater melodies, I hope you’ll notice the evolution of Lovebites. You will see us before long. See you there!"
The Heretic Order are a horror-inspired Heavy Metal band dwelling in the mass graveyards of London, this year they performed at the revered and internationally-attended Metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air. They also released their second album this year, 'Evil Rising', guitarist Count Marcel La Vey stopped all cremation proceedings for the day and spoke to GMA about the band's haunting history, ghoulish gear and paranormal performances... OK enough with the horror-style puns.
"In the UK there's plenty of bands that are amazing, they just don't get the chances that they should"
What does the band name The Heretic Order mean? Tell us the band's history.
"Well it's the order... (you've put me on the spot there aha), it's basically the order where the four of us connect, we're the heretics.
We've been around for about four years, the kind of music we do has a kinda classic metal feel to it but it's modernised, it's got an old-school feel to it but we keep it modern. We like the occult, history and so all the lyrics are about that kind of stuff, it's all dark subject-orientated.
Funny enough our influences include the headliners tonight (Judas Priest) as well as Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, etc, so it's dual guitars playing off each other, we get heavy and doomy but we also have our small songs as well, there's a lot of variation in the music."
How was it to play at Bloodstock this year, what are the emotions in the camp like?
"We're excited to play, it's not for a few hours yet and have only just got here, settling in and are looking forward to the show" (any nerves?) "Not yet, simply because of the rush we had to get here, just getting over that; it was a nightmare to get here... so hopefully the rain doesn't spoil the rest of the day for us."
Who is the go-to band member if anyone has any issues or problems?
"We're all pretty good with each other to be honest, we don't really have the one person to go to you know what I mean? We all have the same feelings towards each other and are comfortable with one another, so there's no one particular person."
With the vast amount of international bands playing at Bloodstock, are you surprised at metal's global spread?
"Nah, not surprised at all as music comes from all over the place and like any market it's usually dominated by one or two countries, one of them being America but you go anywhere in Europe; even in the UK there's plenty of bands that are amazing, they just don't get the chances that they should. Metal is all over the world, you just got to have the people to put it out there for everyone else or if you're very keen you can go find them yourself - there's plenty of bands I want to see that can't make it to the UK, so whenever we travel to their countries we try and see them, and they do the same (for us)."
What (if any) challenges does the London Metal scene face right now?
"London has a lot of bands who want to play and get noticed, so there's a lot of competition in London, the trends are the same for us as probably across the country - you see it often in every festival (rock or metal), that every year the styles of metal are different. A few years back Megadeth played and now this year we have Judas Priest, it changes... but yeah London is quite tough, it's always the way it has been down there."
Do you feel Brexit will have an impact (good or bad) on British Metal bands?
"It's going to make travelling across Europe a lot harder, we're just going to have to play it by ear and see how it all ends up, it's not going to be easy getting to Europe or to come in to the UK. We're not looking forward to it, but we'll find a way; it's the way it always goes, you want to go do something or get something done, you want to play or get your music heard, you have to find a way to do it and it's always been like that".
You supported Soulfly, what was it like playing alongside the legend that is Max Cavelera?
"The guy's a legend, what can you say? He's got his family travelling with him, playing with him, the guy just has to open his mouth and the crowd reacts to anything he says. So it was great, we said a quick hello and all of that, great guys in a great band - it was a great night to play but also to watch the band."
Do you feel Social Media is still as relevant for bands, or is it overused?
"Unfortunately it still has to be there, I say unfortunately because I'm not great on it but it's got to be done, it's part of the business so you have to do what other bands are doing, and get noticed doing it in a different way. Social Media is here to stay for a while longer.
There's bands who of course will use it differently, different people equals different tastes, but for myself I think there are bands who do too much of it - I might like certain bands but I find myself just swiping through their stuff because I know they're going to have something else up in the next couple of hours again, or whatever, you can always go back and look.
But it can also turn people off, so you got to be careful and play it right and hope you're doing it right."
After Bloodstock what plans do you have for the rest of the year leading into 2019?
"We have a tour that we're trying to line-up, we got a few dates sorted out so we're trying to finish that for September / October. We're organizing a European tour for the beginning of next year and working on new songs. We've just released our second album "Evil Rising" back in June, but we're already working on our next album so whenever we get the chance, we're basically working on new music and tour dates."
Summarise Bloodstock in two words, and explain why. Any greetings you wish to send out?
"'Real festival' - why I say real is because I like going to metal festivals and this one is the only one I really do feel is a metal festival; other festivals I have been to, they have some metal bands... I don't know maybe it's just my taste is changing - the atmosphere here is a different thing and whoever I speak to who has been to Bloodstock has said the same thing; Bloodstock is unique and hopefully they keep it that way.
Just to the usual people they know who they are, I won't mention any names but I just want to thank the people in advance who will come to see us - make some noise for us when we see you tonight."