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!"
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."
Metal music is unmistakably global, we've seen the rise of metal bands from all corners of the globe, from Brazil's Sepultura to New Zealand's Ulcerate and all the countries in-between and... basically everywhere. However it's multinational bands and projects that just show the solidarity this music brings irrespective of religious, cultural, political or societal traits... Metal is the Mecca of open-mindedness. Akheth, a project generally central to Canada features members from American, Dutch, Iranian and Mexican backgrounds and as they drop their debut single it's only right that they get all the attention they deserve because Akheth are not just a band, they are a prime example of 'metalisation' (a portmanteau of metal and globalisation; I just made it up); that is the power of metal music bringing different nationalities together under one roof.
Akheth gave us an insight into their world, their new single, their paths to metal and the challenges of being a project separated by vast lands and open seas.
How did Akheth come about? What does the band name mean and how did that come about?
"The band started from the first demo of 'The Asylum' we did back in 2015. It was a song that I had written in 2011 for my band at the time. When I saw a few YouTube videos of Mahafsoun singing I asked her if she'd be interested in recording vocals for the song. We finished that demo but didn't create Akheth as a band until late 2016. The name of the band is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents where the sun rises or sets. I chose this name for the band because I was looking for something original and short and Akheth was the name of the first song I ever wrote back in 2006, so it has a special meaning."
Seeing as you all live in four countries, do you send recordings over the net or do you meet up on occasion?
"Mahafsoun and I have met a few times but most of the work we do is through the internet. I send the guys complete demos with guide vocals or just the skeleton of a song when I'm still working on it. From there they learn it and add their own thing to it. There is also a new song that we are working on for the EP on which Mahafsoun wrote the main piano parts, it is the first song we are writing together. Next month (April) Mahafsoun and I will meet and practice the vocal lines for the new songs."
What (apart from the previous question) challenges do you face as an international band?
"Sometimes communicating ideas over the internet is difficult, you can't really explain for example a melody or a complicated section over an e-mail. Besides that recording everything separately, specially with a low budget is hard because you have to take all those different tracks recorded in different places and make them fit together. Of course with the technology we have these days it's a bit easier but some of us are still learning and getting more experience as we work more on recording music. Lastly the cost of getting all of us together in the same place, every time we want to do it one of us has to get a flight somewhere."
Mahafsoun, what was it like growing up as a metal fan in Iran? What does your family think of metal music?
"During the time I lived in Iran, I was only eight years old. Because of this I never got to experience what it's like to be a metal fan growing up in Iran. However my mum and dad nowadays enjoy some metal. In the beginning they didn't really care about it, but after I showed them the different sub-genres of metal, they each found one that they really enjoyed listening to. I believe that for each of them, they enjoy metal more nowadays especially because they know that I have such a strong connection to the music and the culture."
You released your debut single 'The Asylum' this year, what has the reception been like and how did you come up with the single title?
"At the time of writing The Asylum and other songs I had the idea of making them all fit together in a concept album. The story is about the human mind and how insane it can sometimes be. So at the beginning of the story everything is somewhat abstract but getting to this song, The Asylum, you start to figure out what it was all about. At this point we aren't even talking about the full length, since we are working on the EP, so we'll have to see if we keep the same subject.
So far the reception has been great! People from all over the world ordered our CD's and merch, as a new band we didn't really expect that so we are very thankful for the support. Not only that but people also liked our music and we were lucky to have Mark from Epica as a guest on the song!
Will the single be included on your impending EP / debut album in the future?
"Our EP will contain 5 new songs and we will include 'The Asylum' as a bonus. Although for our first full length album we talked about re-recording the song because this single was basically home-made and we had some comments about our production quality. So yes! we will have a much better version of 'The Asylum' but it'll have to wait until we record our full length."
How would you describe your style of metal? Who influences you?
"Right now we only have that one song out so it is still too early for people to really know what our style is. However in a review for Metal Injection they called us Progressive Symphonic Metal and we really liked that term because it doesn't limit us to play the same thing all the time. We have so many influences that go from Progressive Rock all the way to Black or Death Metal and everything in between. I think our music will definitely reflect that. Also each one of us has different tastes and styles of playing our instruments or singing.
The good thing is that we are all open minded and so is most of the metal community, our core will always be metal so I think most people will find something that they enjoy in our music. For our EP we are working on a ballad, also other longer songs with middle eastern vibes and instrumental sections. Some songs have more orchestra and others are more riff oriented so you guys can get an idea. The beauty of Symphonic Metal is that you can do so many different things with it and when you throw in the progressive part you get even more variety.
As far as specific bands that influence us I'd personally say Opeth, Dream Theater, Tool, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Evergrey, David Gilmour, Steven Wilson to mention a few. Mahafsoun likes Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Septicflesh, Moonspell. There would be too many to mention them all!"
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Our plans for this year besides the EP are making our first official videos together! We'd like to thank you and everybody for supporting Akheth and we hope you keep an eye out for our EP towards the second half of the year!"