"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."
Metal music and war, the two somehow seem to come hand-in-hand at times and yet it's usually the war-ravaged nations that get ignored in the metal music community. How is it that bands across the world risk their daily lives to not only play metal music, but to survive the climate they find themselves in and yet barely receive little if any coverage from the more-established media? Dark Phantom are a Heavy / Death Thrash Metal band from the city of Kirkuk, Iraq. Having released their debut EP 'Beta' (2013) through the Swedish label Salute Records and their debut album 'Nation Of Dogs' (2016) through the Belarusian label Symbol of Domination Prod., (as well as an independent digital release), Dark Phantom are looking to venture onto greater things, become a beacon of light in the Iraqi Metal scene and show to the world that Iraq has another side to the country other than what is shown on the news. Dark Phantom are more than just a metal band, they are a metal band advocating the voice of peace.
Guitarist Murad explains to GMA the difficulties of being a metal band in Iraq, their plans to tour with their Syrian brothers in Maysaloon and why Iraqi metalheads burden so much oppression in the face of socio-cultural resistance.
"(Metal is) an art and by this art we can send our message worldwide about how we are living in war and corruption"
For those who do not know of Dark Phantom, could you please give us a brief history?
"Dark phantom is an idea that was born after the Iraqi war in 2003, when we listened to rock and metal music. Many bands influenced us, bands like Metallica, Slayer, Lamb Of God, Megadeth, and many others. The two guitarists Murad and Rebeen are relatives, they started playing guitar in 2007 and by practising decided to form the first metal band in Kirkuk. They began looking for other members to join; a bassist, drummer and a vocalist, they found them in University and through social media.
After joining the band, we practised in Murad’s room as a heavy metal band and played our first show in Kirkuk in 2011. It was a good show, playing in front of more than 300 people even when the situation was dangerous in our city. After the show in the mosque during Friday pray, they spoke about our show and that a satanic band played music in Kirkuk and that they did a show. Because of this we stopped playing shows in Kirkuk as we were really worried about our lives and family.
In 2012 we recorded our first EP ('Beta'), the record was bad because we didn’t have good equipment and there wasn’t any experience in recording, we played other shows in the north of Iraq in the Kurdistan region, because its safer. In 2014, 2 other members left the band, the drummer and the vocalist; the vocalist left Iraq because his brother was injured in a car bomb explosion, and the drummer said he must go to find a job. We found new members and a new genre that is more extreme than the old Dark Phantom. We recorded and released our first single and debut album (('Nation Of Dogs') in 2016."
It must be hard to be a metal band let alone a metalhead in Iraq? Can you tell us the challenges both as musicians and everyday persons face?
"It’s definitely not an easy thing being a metalhead with the problems you’ll have to face just for simple things like having long hair, tattoos or just black cloth, these things are seen as bad and taboo in the national culture, and you're faced with bad words, a bad reputation and in some cases death or harassment. Metal is an excellent way to show a unique way or style to people who’re old fashioned and let them know that there are other styles of living and different ideologies from what they’re used to and that everyone is different in it’s own way."
How long has the Iraqi Metal scene been going? Some say Acrassicauda were the first metal band from Iraq, is this true?
"It’s really unclear when or who was the first metal band in Iraq, but it goes beyond Accrasicauda however they were the first band who made some publicity and attracted attention."
What do your parents think of your music? Are they musicians themselves? How hard is it to obtain instruments and equipment?
"No they are not musicians, they are normal people; they think we do satanic work and get angry about it. However when we explain to them metal is not satanic work, its an art and by this art we can send our message worldwide about how we are living in war and corruption, they understand what we do and they become supportive. About the music instruments and equipment, it's so hard to find good instruments and equipment here, we work and calculate money and order it from the USA; the cost becomes very expensive but we do our best because there are no other ways to get it".
Do you talk to other metal bands in the MENA region? Such as Maysaloon from Syria, Belos from The Oman, Nervecell from the UAE, etc.?
"Yes we have a strong bond together and we’re usually aware of each other’s plans"
Arguably the greatest dream for Dark Phantom would be to perform in Europe, how far are you from reaching that goal? What plans do you have for the rest of the year and into 2019?
"Arguably it is the greatest dream for Dark Phantom to tour Europe and the USA, and play with big bands. We are hoping that by 2019 we will be able to play at a festival or two in Europe. We have some good plans, but it’s too early to say and we also hope that we can go to Syria before 2019".
Are there any greetings, thank you's, etc you wish to send out? For those visiting Kirkuk, what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads?
"We are thankful for everyone who stands beside us through our good and bad times, special thanks for those who support us by buying our album and who donated for our Syria concert , we never forget them, they are a part of Dark Phantom.
None, there is nothing metalhead-related in our city".
"He’s (Kylo Ren) shown so far that his only way to cope with that (his inner conflict) is to let his rage run rampant"
What are your thoughts on 'The Last Jedi' and will you be watching the new anthology film 'Solo'?
"We were all big fans of The Last Jedi and will absolutely be going to see Solo. I doubt you’ll find any of us not going to see any piece of the Star Wars saga."
Your first opus set the galaxy alight and got the thumbs up from Darth Sidious, what will you be bringing to the new album due out on May 4th?
"Our new album was our opportunity to explore the pieces that we wanted to explore. The first album needed to have all the big ones, but we are now able to delve into some of the deeper cuts from the past films and explore some of the newer material. It’s definitely much heavier and more technical."
It's rare for themed-bands to make an impact internationally, so who came up with the idea of having a Star Wars instrumental metal band?
"Our drummer, Grant McFarland (aka Bobs Sett) was the one who hatched the idea initially. He had made a drum video for The Imperial March a few years prior and eventually had the idea to add other instruments to the arrangement, which is when he got the rest of us involved. His perfect pitch and excellent ears are due the most credit, as he was the one to pick apart every piece of the orchestra and map it all out for us to play. I don’t think we’d have made the same impact without his efforts. "
Do you feel Kylo Ren will redeem himself in Episode 9? Or could Kylo and Rey form the Grey Jedi?
"I don’t think there is any coming back for Kylo. He fulfilled the same prophecy as every other Sith or Dark Side oriented individual before him, which was to eventually outsmart and kill his master. I think his inner conflict will still play a factor, but he’s shown so far that his only way to cope with that is to let his rage run rampant. I suppose, however, we could always be thrown a total curve ball. I guess we’ll have to wait and see."
Surely it must get hot under your outfits, are the suits breathable? Does it take long to put them on?
"The live costumes are not nearly as bad as they look. They are designed to be as movable and breathable as possible. The original costumes used in our music videos are the real burden. Incredibly hot, heavy and always falling apart. Unfortunately for us, those are what we also spend the longest continuous periods of time in, since videos take up to eight hours to shoot. The live show is just an hour, then we’re back out of them. "
Ultimately would Dark Vader love to play a lightsabre-shaped guitar?
"I currently play a guitar with a red fretboard, courtesy of Kiesel Guitars, that we have aptly named “The Lightsaber”. I’m not sure I’d ever want the full shape just because of how skinny that would be. I’m a bigger guy, so tiny guitars look a bit silly on me."
Initially was it difficult converting the orchestral pieces into metal music? How did you go about it?
"As I said, that was all Grant. The cool thing is these songs already lend themselves very well to the metal adaptations. I think classical compositions in general are very easily adaptable in that way."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and into the light years ahead?
"Our next tour is set for June. We will be heading back to Europe to play a number of great festivals, with some equally great names. There are some other things in the works for the remainder of 2018, but none I can talk about just yet! "
Whenever attention is directed towards the Americas, we usually as metalheads think of USA, Canada and to an extent Brazil. But it's the countries in between the northern and southern ends of the vast continent that we tend to forget about. Bordering the USA, Mexico has a vibrant metal history with a plethora of bands coming and going, with perhaps Brujeria being the most internationally-recognised bands to emerge. But like all scenes, the hive of activity resides on the streets i.e. the underground. One such band Doxa MX (originally called Doxa) knows all about this and as they prepare to release their latest album in 4 years, GMA spoke to Manuel Rojas (Vocals / Lead Guitars) to understand what makes this scene tick, what the bands plans are, challenges within the scene and a taster of what torta ahogadas is like.
"It (C3 stage) is in a street filled with bars and restaurants to which you can go before and after seeing some great international bands."
For those who have not heard of Doxa MX, could you give us a brief history of the band? Were you in bands previously?
"The band started in 2012 with my friend Erick (Doxa's bass player until this day) and I, one day in college we decided to form a metal band, I had been playing guitar and working on my harsh vocals for a few years up to that point and he was already a very talented multi-instrumentalist. After that we recruited the rest of the group and after a couple of line-up changes, we had a stable formation. We started playing regularly in the local circuit and managed to record and digitally self-release our debut album in 2014.
In early 2015, we had to put the project on a forced hiatus due to various personal problems that needed attention at the time, until late 2017 when we reformed with a new line-up (with Erick and I as the original members), an updated name and logo (in order to avoid confusion with other bands with very similar names), as well as an updated cover for our first album. Currently we are getting ready for our second LP and playing a few warm-up shows before returning to the live setting with full force."
You play a blend of Heavy and Melodic Death Metal, who or what gave you the inspirations to play such music?
"Honestly, that tag doesn't apply 100% to us, but it is the closest I could think of regarding our sound, as well as "Experimental Death Metal". We chose it because, well, we had to have one tag associated with our music and we play Death Metal-based music, while our biggest influences are Heavy Metal giants like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest, although we like to seek and gather influences from everywhere inside and outside the metal realm. We basically do what we like, without worrying about sounding a certain way in order to fit a certain mold, to me that is just limiting your creativity, and I don't want to do that, besides, it would become boring for us after a short while to play straightforward death metal, thrash, or whatever style all the time."
It has been 4 years since your debut album 'Aniquilación', will you be releasing a new one very soon?
"Yes! We are almost done with the composition process (I would say around 90% done) and hope to record it and release it sometime in late 2018 or early 2019. It's about time!"
You sing in Spanish, would you consider singing in English to expand out into the wider metal scene?
"It is something we are not completely against, but I as the lyricist, decided to write the lyrics in Spanish because it seems like a more honest approach, as well as a more distinctive one. Basically I asked myself "Where is this band from?", "What language is spoken here?" however, we are all bilingual to different degrees and don't rule out making entire albums in English in the future, it depends on what feels right at the moment."
What is it like being a Mexican Metal band? What challenges do you guys face these days?
"Basically there are two kinds of challenges: economic challenges and scene-related challenges. Regarding the economy, Mexico is one of the countries with less average vacation days a year and more average hours worked per week, so there are lots of times it becomes really hard to find the time to focus properly on a project like this, due to the fact that we all have jobs and bills to pay, and we are young and... well, everyone knows that it is really hard for our generation to come by these days all around the world and here is a bit more rough, I think. Also the costs are an issue, it takes a really high percentage of one's pay if you wish to book a studio, buy a new amplifier or get a new microphone here, basically because salaries are way lower that those in the U.S. or Europe, among other places; and the cost of them is even higher than in those countries, so it is a considerably bigger sacrifice.
Scene wise, I have read comments stating that it is very similar in most places, in the sense that here there are very few venues for local metal bands and many of those require you to sell a lot of overpriced tickets and / or bring your own amps, microphones, P.A. and everything, and even those who don't do such things usually never pay, not even with a few beers. It is easy to say "well, just don't accept it" but without that we simply wouldn't play a lot. Also, one huge problem is that most big opportunities (I would say around 95% of them) of opening to big bands, playing big festivals and so on, are only either for a couple of bands who are family members and friends of people organizing the gigs, people who can give favours to the promoters or simply pay-to-play scenarios."
For metalheads visiting Guadalajara, what sights / attractions would you recommend seeing? Are there any customs that tourists should be aware of (so not to cause offence)?
"I would recommend to them to eat some Torta Ahogadas (a delicious meal only available in this state [Jalisco]), some good tacos and basically spend all day eating, because Mexican cuisine is one of our biggest prides and is recognised as one of the best in the world. You can also check ahead which gigs are going to be happening in the city those days, there's a venue, the C3 stage, that every month has really good metal shows and it is in a street filled with bars and restaurants to which you can go before and after seeing some great international bands.
Tourists should take the precautions of planning their activities well, because it is very easy to get lost due to the fact that our traffic signals are very bad and, in many places, non-existent, so, if you bring your car, try to stay on the highways most of the time to avoid getting terribly lost. Also, avoid the yellow cabs, they are not reliable nor safe at all, just take Uber everywhere, it is cheaper anyway."
What plans do you have for the year ahead?
"We are currently working on our second album, which is our main focus for these year. We'll also play a few shows here and there."
Are there any greetings or thank you's you wish to send out?
"To all the people reading this, please keep on supporting Global Metal Apocalypse."