Latvia, one of Europe's forgotten metal scenes is alive and well in the underground, however it's on the surface that it lacks international recognition albeit for their torch-bearer's in the Pagan / Folk Metal band Skyforger. Focusing on the underground and you have bands like Stagnant Project, whose Modern Metal sound may be miles apart from the core Folk Metal sound that seems to engulf the national scene, but united they are with their fellow Latvian brothers and sisters. The quartet are not resting on their laurels having released their 2nd album "The Age Of Giant Monsters" back in 2018, they are in no doubt poised to release new material within the coming year, we will just have to sit and wait.
We therefore had to interrogate them, they elected Paul Rutkovsky to be the spokesperson. We spoke about the band's origins, the challenges that Latvian Metal bands face and have to overcome, their scene and what cool phrases fans tend to shout out at their shows.
For those who have not heard of Stagnant Project, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"A long time ago in 2010, when we were teens we had a dream to play in a bad ass band without any metal sub-genre limits or something that can cut off our music ideas. We were rehearsing hard and took up a sudden Punk Rock festival participation offer. But we had no name for our band and so we decided to name ourselves Stagnant Project - almost like "just another music project without future". Right after the first show, the next day another gig offer came and we decided to leave it as it is."
Could you tell us more about your latest single 'Khuemraz'? Will it also be re-released in Latvian given it's in Russian?
"Actually, we had some thoughts about English version re-release in nearest future."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags? What seems to be the more prominent metal genres in Latvia?
"The most prominent genre in Latvia is definitely Folk Metal, then Progressive Metal. But I would say we are influenced by bands from the Industrial, Death, Thrash, Nu and Metalcore genres, I think that it is one of the points why we are not really popular on the local stage. But our last release 'Khuemraz' made us really unique because of the Russian lyrics, that as far as we know, is one of the most popular languages in the world after English. And as we know, the Russian language has a huge poetry base that we can use to express ourselves from."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We are very careful under the restrictions and maintain all the distance suggestions, because we really want the live shows and touring to come back. So, the best way to reach the result is to be disciplined and begin with yourself. All of us are working from home and keep the distance. We are working on some ideas separately. Talking about myself, I found the isolation is a very nice time for my family and relationship, I dedicated a lot of time for my guitar tone, mixing / mastering skills and vocals. Also, I have found a lot of time for my comic book collection to be read. Talking about the guys - we have got a constant chat with memes and discussing our future plans and sharing thoughts on random thoughts. But nether the less we managed to print our new merch and continue to write music."
Are there some Russian or Latvian phrases fans tend to shout out at gigs? If not what are some cool Latvian / Russian sayings?
"Really cool question because we have got one like this. This phrase is "ebash", in the Russian language it is a swear word meaning 'working f**king hard', and actually our local fans scream the word during our live shows and to be honest it is more like a motivation word, no matter whether you are a pure Latvian or Russian, the spirit is the same. Also, Stagnant Project is to complicated to shout :)"
Tell us more about the Latvian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Latvia? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Actually we have got a lot of cool and unique sounding bands here and live shows are at a very professional level to be honest. But unfortunately the biggest part of them don't cross the borders of the country in meaning of international popularity. I bereave each of us, Latvian musicians, we try our best, but only a few names have got the popularity outside the country. But we, as Stagnant Project, really believe in ourselves and we will brake the wall saying "ebash" on our way."
For metalheads visiting Riga, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"The first venue you should visit is Melna Piektdiena, there were a lot of shows by big metal stars like Meshuggah, Vader, Arch Enemy, Cannibal Corpse, Decapitated etc. and even Little Big were here. I don't mean the giant bands stadium calibre, but have to say, it is the legendary metalhead place here in Latvia. Also, Latvia is one of the most green countries in the world, I suggest visiting our castles, ethnographic museums, parks and I have to say Latvia is a very small country, you can cross it in 4 hours by car, but most part of the roads will be across the woods; we are proud of this. "
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We wish everyone to take care of yourself and your relatives, the most important thing in your life are your family and your friends, because in hard times those are the closest people who will help you and care for you. Don't be lazy or too introvert, call your mum, dad or your best friend no matter what, just keep in touch with people who care for you."
"A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. "
If Dracula had ever listened to metal, it would definitely have to be an extreme kind of metal, something like Underwaves. Mixing various types of metal together, the quartet muster up a sound that is far more piercing than the vampire lord's fangs. Lashing together the genres of Melodic metal, Metalcore, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal, Groove Metal and Deathcore, you basically end up with Modern Metal Romania-style. Having been going since late 2017, the band has won the Rock'n'Iasi Festival Bands Contest last year whilst in the same year releasing their debut album. They are sure to make a name for themselves throughout the European underground metal scene. GMA spoke to them about their origins, the challenges Romanian Metal bands face and what to do in their home city of Brasov... home of Dracula. No vampires were hurt in the making of this interview.
Ana Ignis (vocals) and Carol Alexandru (guitarist) gave us the insight.
For those who have not heard of Underwaves, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"I made the decision very spontaneously, while I was at work and listening to music. I played in a few bands before, but none of them resonated musically with me. Whenever I was at concerts and saw the bands playing, I imagined what it would be like to be in their place. It was quite difficult for me to see others living their dream on stage, so I decided to do something about it. That day I picked up the phone, called our bassist, Bogdan, and asked him if he was willing to play with me in a band. We knew each other before, because we had a few more projects together. The next one I called was Dan, the drummer, and the last one was Carol, the guitarist, who initially rejected the idea.
"The name Underwaves implies duality, mystery, the fact that what is seen always has a meaning inside. The visible part of things hides certain factors that define those things. What is on the surface hides what is underneath. So is our music, it hides our feelings, emotions and feelings."
Seeing as the band had a good career start, what are your next batch of plans once the COVID-19 pandemic has calmed down?
"We had to cancel our entire spring tour due to this pandemic and we are planning to reschedule all the dates, maybe add some more tour dates in it."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags?; seeing as you use Metalcore, Deathcore, Groove and Alt Metal.
"Usually the genres are used in order to fit a band in a specific label, I wouldn’t say that we can fit in one single genre. Honestly, I don’t even know what we are playing if we take the word “metal” out of the description :) ) I would call it simply “metal”, nothing fancy."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We were a little bit stressed due to our jobs and we had to focus more on the financial part unfortunately. We still wrote some pieces of music, riffs and we have 2 new songs in progress. Regarding the hobbies, our drummer plays video games, our bassist is a movie watcher, Ana is shopping online and I do sports."
Would it be fair to say that there has been greater interest in metal bands from Romania and Eastern Europe over the past couple of years?
"Maybe so, Eastern Europe has always seemed to us the edge of the world in terms of underground music. Indeed, there are a lot of good bands on this side, many of them already big, some underrated. And in Romania there are a lot of strong bands with great potential."
Tell us more about the Romanian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Romania? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Rock music made its appearance in the Romanian music world in the early 1960s and continues to exist today. A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. Lately, more and more festivals have started to appear (obviously, we are talking about the period before the pandemic) and this is gratifying. Although it is a style with a niche audience, we still have many followers and many prestigious metal music festivals in Romania. I don't know what the other bands are facing, let's hope they are luckier than us, but the biggest problem we have is the financial one. It is very difficult to support yourself in music, this is the reason why we all have day jobs."
For metalheads visiting Brașov, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Definitely the emblem of Brasov when it comes to metal music is the Rockstadt bar. It is the bar in the heart of which Rockstadt Extreme Fest, the largest metal festival in Romania, also started. As for points of interest, we have several museums and cultural points, and 40 km away we have Dracula's castle which is not to be missed."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"I don't know how we could thank all those who have been with us all this time and who will be. It is clear that family and friends have supported us from the beginning, but the people who come to our concerts, buy our T-shirts and listen to our music are the real stars. All the people in this industry that we have known and who have helped us deserve our respect, from sound engineers, stage technicians and lighting technicians, to bartenders, bar managers, tour managers and bands and musicians that we met."
"French bands are now playing they own style of metal..... now we can feel the “French touch” in metal"
Having set the French Metal scene alight with their brandished form of 'experimental metal' to say the least, let's face it mixing together Groove Metal, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal and in later releases Deathcore into one sound, is a bold statement, not only for craving creativity but also sticking up the middle finger towards convention.
Now with their own signature sound echoing across Europe like a air-raid siren, it was about time GMA contained this unrelenting beast of a band, strap them down and give them our own form of grilling. Unfortunately all except Staif managed to escape, so he was forced to answer our questions, here they are:-
Your new album 'Ankaa' is now out, where would you place this in your discography? Would you say its the best one you've done to date? How is it different?
I guess that each band is pretty proud of its brand new album and thinks it's the best. Personalty, I'm really proud of "Ankaa", it was a huge work and I learnt many new things while doing it! It's my favourite for sure, I contributed my entire self in it as I composed the songs, wrote the lyrics (except 3 lyrics I wrote with my friend Faustine Berardo), engineered the parts and produced the album. I mixed many new styles with our metal and I think the result is described as “Modern Metal”, crossing between violent and ambient parts, but especially I believe it's a sincere and unbending opus. There is more electronic parts and more guests on it, that helped us to give a new vision of what can be ETHS. I tried to keep the essence of the band but, in the same time, to bring it in places where we never been. Each song has its own universe and I have built this album as a walk through these different atmospheres, like a passage from the oppressive darkness to soothing clarity.
French Metal music certainly seems to becoming more recognisable outside of France, could you please comment on what you've noticed regarding this?
I feel that French bands are now playing they own style of metal. For many years, the bands tried to imitate the US bands but now we can feel the “French touch” in metal, I'm really glad of this! We always had great bands who played all over the world (like Loudblast or Mass Hysteria) but since Gojira exported themselves, that, for sure, opened a door for all the other French metal bands playing good stuff. It's like if every one in the world was saying: “hey, French Metal bands can also make good metal, let's listen!” Many thanks to those bands who opened the path for the French Metal over the world!
With Eurovision coming up, have you ever contemplated playing the song contest for France?
No, I don't think we fit with the kind of music they're looking for! You can notice that no metal band has ever played for France in Eurovision. By the way that would be great to prove that France has got talent in Metal, but in France, Metal bands are seen like strange people who like to scream, the path is still long to enforce metal presence in French mass media's...
What language are you singing on your album? Could you give a brief summary of what each song means?
We are mostly singing in French, but also in English on two tracks and some parts are sung in Arabic. The name of each song give a good understanding of the lyrics, and I don't really like to explain song by song. I prefer let everybody find its own interpretation, we always wanted it like that but there are many keys in the lyrics and the artwork. "Ankaa" is the brightest star of the phoenix constellation, it's an idea of rebirth (for the band but also me personally) and in a way, a cyclical vision of time, “we go where we came from through the scale of the universe”. But it's also a vision of the human being, who can be as wonderful and creative than harmful and destructive. I find that pretty disturbing, for example, the song 'Nixi Dii' talks about infanticide, I just can't understand how a parent can kill his own child... some of my lyrics are quite violent because I need to externalize what bothers me.
How was it working with Soilwork's Dirk Verbeuren? Could you see yourselves working with him again?
That was really great, Dirk is a drums genius, it's so easy to work with such an awesome musician! He fed the drums parts and the songs with his incredible musicality, I was really happy each time I received a new song, he gave to 'Ankaa' its final touch. If we have the opportunity, that would be pleasure to work with him again! But I have to say that we also are really happy of our new drummer R.U.L who is doing a great job on stage.
Will you be undertaking a UK / EU tour in support of the album? Or have you got any dates already confirmed?
We deeply hope to make an 'Ankaa' UK / EU Tour as soon as possible! It's on booking as the album was just released one week ago. We have many shows in France for the first step and then we'll go everywhere we'll can to come present our brand new opus. I hope to quickly come in the UK because I really like to play there!
What song is your favourite firstly and for those new to Eths, what song would you recommend?
Hard to say, it's like choosing one of your children, but I would say “Anima Exhalare” which is on our second album “Tératologie”, I wrote the song and the lyrics, it's a part of me and of my story... On 'Ankaa', I like pretty much all of the songs but my favourite is the end triptych “Alnitak Alnilam Mintaka”, the lyrics mean a lot for me and the music is really a new step in our discography, a brand new horizon for the band.
Finally have you got any hello's and thank you's you wish to send out?
First, thank you for your interview and I deeply thank all those who helped us to make this album! I also really thank all of our fans that keep believing in the band despite hard times and all those who gave a chance to 'Ankaa' and listened to it. We hope to meet all of you on stage for the 'Ankaa' Tour!!!
'Ankaa' is out now via Season of Mist
Since their inception in 2008, Moldova's Infected Rain have been making waves across the European continent with their unique mix of Nu Metal, Melodies and elements spanning many other styles of metal. Their music video 'Me Against You' shifted their attention to a more natural and original sound and as such, their premier release "Asylum" carries on that unique sound that the quintet mustered over the five years. As they plan on expanding further outside of the Eastern European corner of Moldova and Romania, GMA shifted it's usual interview style to accommodate a new type of interview that involves free-thinking questions and answers as you can see below:
If you were stuck on a desert island and were only allowed one album, what would you choose?
Vladimir – 30 Seconds To Mars - A Beautiful Lie
Vidick – Korn – Untouchables
Sergey – Metallica – Black Album
Lena – Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
Eugene – Rush – Hold Your Fire
Who in the band is considered the party animal? What is the craziest thing you have done?
Sergey is the craziest one of us at parties we go to. Once, whilst Vidick was driving the car, he was riding the roof of the car, he wanted to get some adrenaline rush and he got it because a police officer stopped the car… It’s a long story.
What hobbies outside of music do you as a band have?
Soccer, Tennis, Sex, Boozing, Dancing.
If you were in charge of the world for a day, what would you do?
Vladimir - I would save all the people from diseases
Vidick - I'd give myself the ability to fly
Sergey - I'll offer a beer for everyone
Lena – I’ll make all drugs disappear
How do you unwind after a gig? Do you watch a movie?
Party all night long
Your music video 'Me Against You', how was it to ride motorbikes?
We actually never rode any motorbikes that day, but it was such an amazing experience just watching the professionals doing their job.
What do you hope to achieve through Infected Rain?
Infected Rain it’s not a way to achieve something, it’s a way to say something.
If you could meet any famous person from any point in history, who would it be?
Lena – Marilyn Monroe
Vidick - Albert Einstein
Vladimir – Alexander Pushkin
Eugene – Kurt Cobain
Sergey – Nicola Tesla
Finally what are your phobia's? Your worst fears?
Vidick – Height & Insects
Sergey – Fearless
Lena – To be alone
Vladimir – Snakes
Eugene – Anybody playing with my drums