Bloodstock Open Air always loves to support unsigned talent across the UK and overseas, the 2022 edition saw Viction trample the scorching fields of Catton Park (having won the Norwegian Metal 2 The Masses final) and unleash their wizardry upon the masses during their New Blood Stage set, sparking off their first ever circle pit - a hallmark of appreciation for great music.
Viction spoke to GMA that very evening before their eventual trip home to Oslo via Derby and London.
Who came up with the band name and what does it mean? How long have you been going?
"It just popped in to my head and that was that, I don't have any meaning for it – it was just a cool name for the band.
The band has been an idea since 2019, but the four of us as a band have been going since 2020, it was born right before COVID hit, we were born 2-3 months before it, we won the first heat of that year's M2TM right before COVID hit. It was like 'oh we just won, ah no'. It was 6 days before everything locked down.
First we started out as a quartet, had our first practise and then immediately after signed up to M2TM, we played our heat and win and then 'blows raspberry', nope. The people hosting it were really cool with us and other bands reached the semi's, was about 2 other bands and had a direct ticket to the semi's this year... so technically 2-in-1 I guess..."
You won the Metal 2 The Masses Norway heats, that must have been spectacular for you?
"It was absolutely incredible, it took us up until the day we left for Bloodstock to realise 'oh my god this is happening, we are going to play Bloodstock!' and even now it's still unbelievable to think this has happened."
Tell us about your trip from Norway to the UK, was it straightforward?
"Well there is a story. We travelled to Oslo Gardemoen airport and the SAS guy behind the counter tells us 'oh you have to bring your guitars as hand-luggage because they are not in hard cases' and we were like 'excuse me, what??' and luckily some older, more experienced guy came over and was like 'this guy is new, he does not know what he is talking about, just throw it with the rest of your luggage'.
Here in the UK, shout out to the taxi services here... improve! It's been impossible to get taxis, we're a bit excited to see how we would get back to Derby after this. We almost missed our train to Derby yesterday because the taxi driver was 30 minutes late. Super frustrating. Other than the taxis, everything has been great."
When people think of Norwegian metal, black metal comes to the fore, but what metal genres are the current trend right now?
"There has been quite a few death and doom metal bands going on lately, there is always the occasional black metal, but there are very few black metal bands who can really make it nowadays because 99% of the time you'll get a black metal band who tries to sound like Burzum or Mayhem, or maybe Darkthrone, everybody goes 'I've seen it before', that's why we want to give a shout out to our friends in BOLZÖ, modern black metal, very influenced by Keep Of Kalessin and Emperor, but with their own unique twist on it – catchy and demonic."
Trollfest entered the Norwegian national heats for the Eurovision Song Contest, so would you guys enter for next year?
"Weelllll..... Eurovision (laughs), we don't think Viction really fits Eurovision – maybe if we were a Finnish band, they always want to enter metal bands. Plus we have a hard time writing 3-minute songs (laughs all around), we have one song that's marginally near that time length, but we don't want to mime.
However Trollfest should have represented Norway, our bassist loves Eurovision and Trollfest is the perfect fit for Eurovision, they have a catchy song, fun costumes and original music. 50% of Eurovision is like boring ballads, it's the fun colourful stuff that actually gets votes, but Norway always ends up sending it's s***y ideas, and what we haven't won anything since 2010 with Alexander Rybak, that wasn't bad but there now needs to be something fresh, Trollfest was a breath of fresh air.
[Instead you sent Subwoolfer]
Yeah, not a fan of that, I'm not going to feed any wolves bananas....
As Norway geographically is a huge country, how would you organise a Norwegian tour? Surely you'd have to fly to Tromso?
"Haha, we have the most expensive plan tickets in the world, like you could fly to the USA for the same price as flying to Tromso and this is the problem with the Norwegian metal scene, everything north of Trondheim is often left behind. When bands tour Norway, they usually always head to Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim or Stavanger, and even then it's difficult. Another thing is that, most of these Norwegian tours, most shows are on the weekends, like Friday's and Saturday's etc., not like one day or every other day, so it kind of makes it more convenient to drive to shows – saving money by not flying, but at the same time it's not one of the best countries to tour in.
Unless you're a big band, you can't do shows on weekdays. After COVID, the metal scene was struggling a lot, especially in Oslo where there not many people going out unless there was a huge band playing. So we've been very lucky and feel blessed to come and play in the UK.
We heard the scene in the UK is way better now, of course it's cheaper for us to come play in the UK rather than the other way round. We bought some ham from Tesco the night before our show, you could buy a steak for £5 but in Norway at least £12 for that... and that's the cheap kind!
From the songs you have released, which ones are your favourites and why?
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
"Finishing our album is our main priority and we will be supporting Indian thrashers Kryptos in November, they are awesome and I've been a fan of them for years, so when we were booked to be their support I was over the moon.
After the build-up to our visit to the UK and playing Bloodstock, we would love to come back to the UK, we're already in talks with some people for shows in 2023. We will be back."
Summarise Bloodstock with only one word.
Any hello's or greetings you wish to send out?
"Thank you to everyone who came and saw us, thank you to anyone who has been listening to our songs, thank you to everyone who has been following us over the past couple of years. We cannot wait to show ad bring everyone more music.
What he said (laughs all around).
Thanks to everyone involved in this, it's amazing and I could not have imagined this 2 years ago, so the fact that we are here now and played the New Blood Stage, it's insane."
Parody Metal is a genre that stands on it's own two and away from the other metal genres, why you ask, well simply put it's a genre that pokes fun at metal music and is not to be taken seriously (yes you elitists, it's designed to miff you off). Italian bards Nanowar Of Steel have been in jest for the past 2 decades and show no signs of slowing down with the camaraderie; not even their attempt at representing San Marino at the Eurovision put them off letting off a few wisecrack comments in the interview (at least that's what it seemed, it had to be translated from the 'Nanowarian' dialect as this is what vocalist Potowotominimak spoke and Gatto Panceri 666 duly translated)... let the chaos commence.
"I think the main challenge is the challenge itself, you have to be challenging to challenge yourself, to be challenging and then challenge everyone else, before you can complete the challenge."
For those who have not heard of Nanowar Of Steel, please provide a short history of the band.
“We play music and write lyrics on top of the music that we play, we go on stage and people come to see our shows, !&!*”!(!&!)”~!*!&(), I'm sorry I need to translate, so we started back in 2003 which is almost 20 years ago.”
What does the band name Nanowar Of Steel mean?
“It's an ancient name of an Egyptian deity and it stands for the god that brings you water when it is dry.”
What do you bring to your stage performances and what will you bring to Bloodstock?
"“£”(“”)”&!)”&)!!!(... so he just said that we get on stage that we will perform some live farming, so we drop the seeds on the floor and ground, then we expect them to grow, we make seeds grow at record speed and that's what our shows are about, about farming. (That's what I said!); I was just translating and explaining it.”
So sometime next year you'll be over in the UK to see how the seeds are doing?
“Oh no no it's a magical seed that grows instantly”.
Italy has a rich heritage in metal music, so is the scene still as strong or even stronger? Is the industry still strong?
“@”&!)”&)~)(*!””)!”!)!!)!”&”)!%$!&!%.... he said the scene sucks because we don't have bands like Iron Maiden... (editor: he's cracked).
I think the main challenge is the challenge itself, you have to be challenging to challenge yourself, to be challenging and then challenge everyone else, before you can complete the challenge.
&!!”)!&!)!&!)!)... I totally agree. I could not explain it better... I was saying there are not enough beauties (editor: now he's broken character).... wha? %!!(!”)!^!*!^!"
After Bloodstock what are your plans for the rest of the year?
“After Bloodstock which is the 11th August, the plans will be the 12th August, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th.... (you can tell where this stopped... 31st August), so these are the plans for the future, we already know the calendar days so this is until end of August, regarding September we think it starts with the 1st and then there's the 2nd, we spoke with the Government and they agree that will be in the pipeline.”
When it comes to the creative process, who usually takes the lead or do you all have an input?
“We us artificial intelligence called GPD3, it was developed a couple of years ago and we use it to generate music and lyrics, when it doesn't work it makes songs for metal.”
How did you get into metal music and become musicians?
“We started out as non-musicians, when I was in the womb of my mother that's when I started and then it was very hard to get an instrument, I remember the struggle to get an instrument and my mother was opposing that for obvious reasons, it wouldn't fit. Eventually I got out and 15 years later... (that's not so true that musical instruments do not fit into your mother lol 😂😂), not a full drum set!”
You all have fun personalities, so who gets up to the most mischief?
“Why? Why are you talking about fun? I mean, I don't understand the question, it's a job, it's a serious thing, there's nothing fun about being Nanowar Of Steel.”
Who did you aspire to and look up to when growing up?
“I looked down to, I only looked at dead musicians, Freddie Mercury I would say is one. We only get inspiration from dead people because they're easy, they cannot do better than us, they cannot apprehend us if we steal their music, they cannot shoot us, it's very legally safe.”
People call you parody metal, but you don't see yourselves as parody metal?
“We are an office hour metal band, we are doing this because it's a serious job for us so please stop laughing, we want to be taken seriously. We are only looking for beauty in a world of ugliness with our songs. Our band rehearsals are like business meetings.”
When Måneskin stormed to victory in last year's Eurovision Song Contest, in Rotterdam, the feeling that a swathe of rock bands that would enter the 2022 edition was soon to be expected. Alas it came to be.
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Slovenia, Moldova, Georgia, Czech Republic and Bulgaria all sent bands, and not just rock bands either. However, Bulgaria's Intelligent Music Project arguably were a unique entry, why you ask? They are a supergroup.
I might be wrong in saying they are the first supergroup to enter Eurovision but I am positive this is factual, either way they gave a great performance (find the video down below) and evidently showed the world that Bulgaria can turn it up past 11 (if you know the reference, you know), Intelligent Music Project spoke to us about Eurovision, rock music in the contest and their future plans.
It's not often supergroups enter Eurovision, let alone rock supergroups, how did you find out BNT had selected Intelligent Music Project (IMP) as their entry?
"Probably you should ask BNT about this decision. We applied for the contest with all our expertise and music experience - like everyone else. This year is the 10th anniversary of our first album "Power Of Mind" where the main vocalist is the late John Lawton - our dear friend. We have 6 albums until now, and have had a lot of world famous musicians play on our albums - like Joseph Williams and Simon Phillips from TOTO, Bobby Rondinelli from Black Sabbath and Rainbow, Todd Sucherman from Styx, Carl Sentance from Nazareth and many more. In the last few years we made a lot of concerts in Bulgaria and probably all of this made BNT confident to trust us to represent Bulgaria on the ESC."
Bulgaria in the past has typically sent ethnic or pop music, how did it feel to be the first rock group representing Bulgaria at Eurovision?
"We're honoured to be the first rock band representing Bulgaria at Eurovision, because there are a lot of great rock bands in Bulgaria. We know and we're friends with many of them. I believe we did not disappoint the world of rock not only in Bulgaria, but all around Europe and the rest of the world."
You've all been in various successful Bulgarian and overseas bands (esp. Romero) outside of the IMP, how do you maintain a balance in your sound given the various influences?
"There is a certain structure in our organization. The founder of the band, and author of the music and the lyrics of al IMP's songs is Dr. Milen Vrabevski. He is the one who decides how the songs should sound like. Then we, the musicians, take care to reach his expectations and of course to upgrade the sound with our long year expertise in the field of music. It is not hard to keep the balance because all of the band members are professionals and very nice people.
Talk to us about your song 'Intention', what is the back story behind the song? Musically it's prog rock mixed with heavy metal elements; arguably the sort of song you would hear on an action film soundtrack, how did you devise the song's sound?
"“Intention” meets the criteria for quality dynamic festival rock. And gets the best of it with the great Ronnie Romero, the catchy guitar riffs of Bisser Ivanov and the amazing Simon Phillips on drums! He is also the music co-producer of the song. What a team! The song speaks of the personal struggles in our thoughts and minds to break free from old patterns of belief and behaviour that hold us back. As of the very title the author wants to emphasize a very simple fact – It’s never too late to set foot on the right path – the path of growth, dignified existence, and life with a mission.
The shadow you are chased by is actually your former self. Turn your back on the ego and selfishness and start living for the people around you… but change often means a strong internal battle, within your soul... even a war with yourself. If the better part of you wins, you feel free & happy! And the freer you feel, the farther you walk away from real life. A paradox at first glance, but the environment you’re in is not meant to make you happy by default.
The sense of freedom and happiness is a state of mind that you teach yourself to prevail in your thoughts. It is the result of a meaningful everyday usefulness. So, find deep within yourself the inner signals of the incomparable feeling of happiness, the sense of freedom, and spiritual satisfaction with existence. For all this to happen you need a firm intention."
As Stoyan Yankulov-Stundzhi is a band member, he brought a lot of Eurovision experience to the group - did he offered any words of wisdom, or did you treat it as a full-on rock show?
"Eurovision is different every year, so there is no universal advice. But probably the most important thing he told us is "Whatever happens, just have fun!".
Arguably Måneskin caused a shock last year as the last time a rock / metal song won ESC was by Lordi in 2006, do you feel since Finland and Italy's wins, rock and metal has gained greater exposure in the Eurovision realm?
"It is not a secret that rock music nowadays is not in the same mainstream place as in the 80's and 90's. This is why it is always good when rock music goes on the top of the charts, the contests, etc. So, yes, Maneskin's and Lordi's win definitely gave a push and inspiration towards rock musicians."
What plans does the IMP have after Eurovision? Could we see a follow up album to 2021's "The Creation"?
"Yes, in July we're releasing our new album "Unconditioned". Intention will be part of it. Also, a couple of days ago we released second single from the album, named "New Hero". Check it out on our YouTube channel."
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."