Empressite is a melodic / progressive metal band from Sweden formed in 2012 by Velvet (vocals) and Chris (guitars and composition; who also plays with Bleeding Utopia and Prosector, ex-Decadence).
The couple have spent years writing material and ere joined in 2020 by drummer Nicke Olsson (Putrid Vision, One Day In Pain, Haven Devine, ex-Leprosy, ex-Centinex).
The trio recorded and released single and music video Exhumed in February 2021.
After the release, they recruited bassist Gastón Nanni and second guitarist Patrick Wahlberg (Ex-Nocean drummer). The EP "Road Of All Ends" is currently being recorded and is intended to be released Autumn 2021.
Here they survived their interview interrogation.
On the new music video 'Exhumed' -
Tell us how you chose the name 'Empressite', after all it's a rare mineral relating to silver telluride.
"When I was little, my grandmother used to take me with her outside to go looking for stones, which sparked my interest in minerals. Years later I came across an article about the Empress Josephine Mine in Colorado, USA, where this rare mineral 'Empressite' was found. I really liked the sound of it so I decided to use it for the band we started. The stone itself is black with a silver shimmer."
It has been a long time between your inception in 2012 and the release of your upcoming EP 'Road Of All Ends', what happened in this period; instability or were there other releases?
"When we (Chris & Velvet) started the band in 2012 we quickly realized it was the wrong time to get a band going, studies took time and other bandmates who joined moved, or studied or worked irregular days and hours, so we decided to take a break. We kicked the band into motion again in 2020 when our drummer Nicke joined us. After the release of "Exhumed" our latest additions Gastón (bass) and Patrick (guitar) completed the line-up".
You played Heresy Fest (Argentina) this year, how did you manage to get on the schedule? Will this be your first performance outside Sweden; even broadcasting overseas?
"Our fantastic bassist Gastón is from Argentina, hence the connections and amazing opportunity to join the festival.
Yes, that's right, this was the first time performing "outside" Sweden, even if this was online due to the coronavirus regulations. But we really hope for it to get better so we can actually travel sometime."
"The organiser of the festival is on pretty good terms with close friends and former band members I had back in Argentina, so when the opportunity came up it was pretty good to reach out and coordinate our participation."
Your new music video 'Exhumed' has a Nordic Noir feeling and tells a story, but what challenges did you face in creating the video?
"The video was made all by ourselves, so the biggest challenge was definitely the time consuming cutting and production process.
The whole video was filmed under just a couple of hours, the weather was cloudy, cold and damp. It got really chilly after a while, especially for Louise who was playing the part of Sorrow, standing barefoot almost all day. Take into consideration this was mid-November here in Sweden. Time was also extremely limited since the sun starts to set before 4:00 PM in November, we had to be well prepared and move fast with the takes, leaving almost no breaks at all."
Check out the new music video below
With that in mind your style features doom elements on top of your melodic / prog metal sound - who do you look to for inspiration in your sound?
"Nature, emotions, life, books and games. We want to move towards a more progressive sound with the new material we're currently writing, finding inspiration from bands such as Dream Theater, Haken, Rush, Symphony X, Katatonia, Swallow The Sun, to name a few."
What plans (all things considered) do you have for the year ahead?
"This year we'll release an EP called "Road Of All Ends" with another music video to one of the songs. We'll make a physical copy of the EP and we're having some pretty amazing merchandise ideas upcoming for the release.
We have considered to release a couple of the older rock / metal tunes we have as well before we move on to new material, and perhaps a couple of covers, those are always fun to do."
Could we see Empressite enter Melodifestivalen or Wacken Metal Battle sometime?
"Nothing is impossible, haha"
Do you have any greetings or thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, etc?
"I want to thank my mum for always believing in me, my daughter, E, Chris, our lovely mini-pigs Toffee and Truffle, and my best friends Louise, Sara and Joshua. I'd also want to thank Rockers.fi for sponsoring me with the most metal and Empressite-like jewellery there is."
"Of course I need to express my gratitude to the Swedish people for welcoming me with open arms into their house, and my family and friends back in Argentina, for believing and supporting me on this ride, most particularly the bands that I had to leave and closest band friends up on stage, Sentinel, Innerforce and Bloodcrown.
"I wanna thank my family for always supporting my passion for music, my girlfriend for pushing me and of course anyone who supports Empressite in any way, as well as Skull Strings for endorsing us with the best strings for metal!"
"Extended thanks to my bandmates for putting up with me. Toffee and Truffle, Edward, Josh, Josh, Tanja, Jacob, Dan, Solar guitars, Bare Knuckle Pickups, Skull strings.
"My daughter Matilde and all my amazing friends!"
Our Endorsers Skull Strings, Bare Knuckle Pickups, Solar Guitars, Rockers.fi jewellery
"We have already begun writing another album as we speak and we will be more active than we have ever been previously."
You might not be forgiven if you happen to forget that beneath the leviathans of Slipknot, 5FDP, Trivium, Metallica and the other greats of the American metal scene, are underground hotbeds producing the newest and exciting bands to lead the country and bear the flag. One such band is Pathways, whose journey from the Sunshine State aka Florida to the Pacific coast of Washington State has culminated in not only new recruits, but newfound vigour.
"Great Old Ones" is the quartet's newest single and is just one glimpse of what the lads have up their sleeves as they barrow towards their debut album seeing daylight. The lads managed to survive our interview interrogation and whilst they spilled their guts out about the challenges of playing live shows, why their sound is a cauldron of different sounds that make them extraordinarily hard to pigeonhole, how Washington state coped with the COVID-19 pandemic and what their plans are for the year ahead.
For those who have not heard of Pathways, could you please tell us how the band came about and what the band name means?
"Our last major release was in 2016, with a 5 song EP titled “Dies Irae”, released through Tragic Hero Records. Since then, our world has utterly changed in a progressive and exciting way. At the time, both Wil & I (Jon) lived in south Florida. Eventually circumstances led us out here to the Pacific North-West (PNW), where we really decided to seek out our musical identity (as a band). We knew the exact sound that needed to be achieved, and in order to do this properly, we needed help from other / newer members.
We spoke with the CEO of Tragic and we were able to release our contract from the label, parted ways with previous members, and as luck would have it - our search concluded with Caner and Kyle. With the new line-up solidified, we immediately wrote our first ever full-length album, and a separate single (Great Old Ones). The single serves as a catalyst to kick off the fresh sound and active condition of the band. The band has a specific sound in mind, and achieving it would take many different dynamics to come together - Pathways is a way of achieving an action, within multiple avenues (us as a collective)."
You play progressive metalcore and utilise 8 strings and classical influences, please discuss the decisions behind the two influences?
"We have always had a strong classical influence. Our identity has been shaped from having neo-classical metalcore / deathcore elements, to just being strictly metal now. The older tunes were designed with an aggressive and chaotic foundation, while the current work is focused on groove and purposeful melodies, while of course, maintaining that classical ominous vibe. We couldn’t be happier with how the sound has been defined. It took a long time to reach this exact point of musical maturity, but the wait will be worth every moment passed (especially for the fans)."
Each musician has their own influences, where does your influences come from and how do they fit in with Pathways sound?
"An extremely diverse musical pallet is on the table with the new Pathways line-up. Jon went to Musicians Institute in L.A. for 2 years and is classically trained. Wil has strong r&b and pop / hip-hop ties, which he incorporates into the pocket grooves of the music. Caner is all over the place with influences, but in a brilliant & diverse way. He has influences that stem from his Turkish heritage, all the way to rap and deathcore. His main strong suit is his vocal range. It is truly unique and unlike anyone we have ever heard.
He is our secret weapon for sure - raw talent. That leaves us with Kyle. Pathways has never had a real bassist - our previous 3 bassists were fill-ins for the instrument, since we either could not find a right fit, or because we just liked the member on a personal level and wanted to try it out on bass. It is truly insane to see what Kyle brings to the table. He is a funk bassist who listens to metal. What more could you ask for? He has all the talent / technique / chops to both play and write to the music, very well."
You have just released your new single 'Great Old Ones' (26/3), how long did it take to curate and will this be featured on your debut album?
"This process has always been easy for us, and with the addition of fresh talent, it was even more seamless. You definitely know when you gel with other musicians, and that is the case with us as a quartet. The musicianship & personality blend makes the relationship seem like fate, in a way.
The process actually started in 2017, with the symphony. It was a 42-piece overture written with a prime motive in mind - that every single melody from this orchestral piece would be referenced in each song on the album. Almost like a musical concept album that has melodic Easter eggs spread throughout. Not soon after the symphonic piece was released, the early writing stages of the album were underway.
The intro riff to 'Great Old Ones' is actually a variation melody that was rooted in the symphony. This is the main melodic line of the song and set the basis for the rest of the single. The main line was given to all members, and we just worked off of that motif until it was melded into GOO (pun intended)."
What can listeners expect from your debut album and will it be released independently or via a record label; as you're no longer with Tragic Hero Records?
"As this release is meant to showcase the newer music identity, brand, and pave the way for album promotion, we aim to go about this in a very bold and calculated way. We have learned so much about the industry (still learning) over the years, and have seen how much the pandemic & social climate is still affecting the future of it. We think it is definitely smart to be strategic with self-releasing music and distribution. Our catalogue now includes 4 music videos, a full-length album, a single, and tons of photo shoots - all to be self-released for now, in order to make way for future branding. We have already begun writing another album as we speak and we will be more active than we have ever been previously."
How tough is it for American metal bands to organise tours across the country? Do smaller bands tend to do state tours rather than national tours?
"It's more common for smaller acts to tour state to state or regionally rather than a nationwide tour. Many Seattle artists will cover the west coast from Vancouver BC all the way down to LA. It can be difficult for smaller acts to book multiple venues in one city let alone an entire state. It can be difficult finding venues on the way to larger cities that will cater to your sound. Not every city has a venue that would welcome a metal act."
Florida has a rich history of metal bands from Morbid Angel to Trivium to Deadstar Assembly, what is it in your opinion that makes the Floridian metal scene so successful at delivering a constant stream of talent?
"South Florida, being isolated from most of the rest of the US has a very tight knit scene. I'd say that's because not as many tour packages make it that far south if they have an option to book in north or even central Florida. Because of this, the local scene is constantly growing and engaging with itself to make up for the smaller tour packages that might not be willing to drive the extra 5 hours south just to have to drive back up the panhandle to tour in the rest of the country after one or two shows. So in essence Florida's scene is built to fill a void of live entertainment from the rest of the country. Add the fact that Florida is a cultural melting pot from native Floridians, snow birds of the east coast turned full time residents and people looking for a tropical change, you get all walks of life and plenty of scenery to inspire a creative song writing mental state."
How did Washington react to the COVID-19 outbreak? What restrictions and measures were put in place? What is the situation like now?
"Washington state began shutting down in March 2020 once west coast states started seeing cases. Our favourite bars and venues have been shut down since, some shut down for good because of limits on gatherings. Some establishments have been able to keep afloat with reduced capacity, mostly restaurants. Washington just went into Phase 3 of reopening, parks are opening again and people are getting out more. It's refreshing to see people outside again after being pent up inside their homes for a year!"
For metalheads visiting Seattle under normal circumstances, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What about bars, venues and pubs?
"A must for any metal inclined visitor would have to be down town at The Showbox Theater. The place has a great record of national/international touring metal bands stopping through. Some other great venues would be El Corazon and Chop Suey. Both have a great mix of local and national metal acts. While you're in the neighbourhood after a show you can waltz down Capitol Hill and hit up the many bars lining the streets. Then finish off your night at The 5 Point Cafe no matter how late/early in the day."
All things considered, what plans does Pathways have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings / thanks you wish to send out?
"Pathways is going to be releasing a ton of content this year in forms of video, photo,and interactive material to keep our audience engaged until live shows become commonplace again. We've got more singles with music videos lined up for release to introduce our full length album. We've adapted to the shift from live in person to at home interactive and are excited to merge both together for an experience for our audience like never before. Huge thanks to our pal Karl at Hot Karl Productions for helping us out with not only the music video, but for getting us back on track. Also huge thank you to Kirill Konyaev at Zerodbproductions for mixing and mastering the new single."
Pathways' new single "Great Old Ones" is out now via all streaming platforms
If you thought that Orphaned Land, Arallu and Melechesh was Israel's only metal exports, you'd be highly mistaken. Making a name for themselves is Scardust, their unique take on the progressive metal sound has received global acclaim and is evident in their latest music video "Tantibus II".
The song itself is taken from their new album 'Strangers', which was released on the 30th of October, 2020 via M-Theory Audio. The YouTube video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/C7uOQPjjiqM
Tantibus II continues the story of the song Tantibus (the first ever single and video the band officially released, back in 2015) in which the protagonist is stuck within a Sleep Paralysis and is looking for a way out. In Tantibus II the protagonist becomes addicted to this feeling, describing it as “taming her demon”, disconnecting from reality into her own mind in which she can now feel safe.
Yoav and Noa talk to GMA about the new album, how COVID-19 has impacted the band's plans and what metalheads can do when visiting the city of Tel Aviv.
Arguably, Scardust has emerged as one of the newest exports the Israeli metal scene, has it been a challenging journey for you guys?
"Well, it has been challenging, yeah. But I think that's just the way it goes you know? Trying to maintain a group of different people together with endless tasks over a long period of time is hard. We usually work on high gears so the grind never stops. Recordings, shows, videos, promotion, social media and so on."
Tell us more about the Israeli metal scene, we know about Orphaned Land, Melechesh and Arallu, but what about the underground?
"There are many local bands. There's a vivid death metal scene, if you're into old school stuff check out Kever, Venomous Skeleton, Promiscuity and Psynthesis. There is also Winterhorde who play Black Metal. In the more progressive direction you should check out Tillian and Subterranean Masquerade."
Reflecting on your new album "Strangers", what was the journey like in creating the new release? Talk us through the creation process.
"Firstly, Noa and Orr met to discuss the concept of the album. Through these meetings came up the idea to make a themed album from Noa's idea of estrangement and to build the album as pairs of songs. After that the writing process began, they wrote the lyrics and composed the main melodies and song structures with vocals and piano alone. Then came the orchestration as a full band, choirs and string quartet. When this was about half done we started rehearsals on the new material and gave feedback (for example, there was a whole song that was shelved), changed things a little bit, wrote solos and practised a lot. Almost the same as the way our previous album was made.
The recordings were quite different. Firstly there's the children's choir "Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir"; Noa travelled to England for their recording. Besides that, the pandemic hit us in the middle of the recordings, which meant that parts of the choir had to be recorded separately instead of a full section together. You can see that on our behind the scenes videos for the songs 'Break The Ice' and 'Mist'. Yadin and Yanai recorded their parts at their home studios instead of coming to the recording studio and having a technician help and make the process faster. That was quite a nightmare. But we made it through."
What was it like working with the legendary Jens Bogren? Was this your first time working with him or have you worked with him before?
"In addition to being legendary, Jens is a friend. I first contacted him in 2015, to master our first ever release, the EP “Shadow”, and then again in 2017 for our album “Sand Of Time”. In 2018 I worked closely with him, on writing and producing the choir parts (performed by my own choir Hellscore), and some female solo and backing parts, for Amorphis’s album “Queen Of Time”. Apart from that we both also worked on the Orphaned Land album “Unsung Prophets & Dead Messiahs” that year. It was only natural to work with him again on “Strangers”."
Check out their music video for 'Tantibus II' below:-
Noa, I think we can agree sexism is still prevalent in the global metal scene, but what is it like in Israel? If you have been subjected to it, how did you cope?
"Israel is the same as the rest of the world, or dare I say - slightly better, but I think that’s just because the scene is very small and most people in it know me personally. Unfortunately I have been subjected to sexism many times, and I’m afraid it’s probably safe to say that no woman in this industry can avoid that. It would usually appear in a form of man-explaining, or other forms of disrespect, or worse than that - objectification and / or harassment.
I know I can’t possibly educate adult people who behave in these ways, so I’m choosing to deal with it by being my strong self, and being confident in who I am, on and off stage. It’s also good to have bandmates who have my back at all times, I know I can trust them with my life :)"
Tell us how Scardust are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, did Israel have a lockdown? Word is you have had a 2nd lockdown?
"Naturally COVID-19 came with many challenges, to say the least. We had the worst luck. Two productions, that we worked on each for months, cancelled at the last minute because of an unexpected lockdown, twice. We had to rethink how to fund the album, since it was supposed to come from the summer shows. We had to come up with alternative solutions on how to promote the album, without any shows. We had to figure out how to finish the album production during lockdowns and restrictions.
It wasn’t easy, but luckily for us, we are surrounded by some amazing people who devoted themselves to help this album happen. All the people in the choir, the strings quartet, our main sound guy Kossov, our guest Patty, everyone just gave their hearts and souls to make this album happen, even when it felt impossible! Apart from that, we decided to produce as many videos as possible in order to promote the album, and we had some amazing friends and family helping us produce them with an impossible budget and impossible timeframes. We also received generous donations from our fans. Our management, label, and PR people are doing their very best every day."
Under normal circumstances, for metalheads visiting Tel Aviv, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
If you are into metal bars that play all genres from heavy metal to death metal and black metal, then you have got to go to 'The Rebel Bar'. Great atmosphere and Max the owner is the best guy ever. If you want a more rock to metal experience with some nu metal music I'd say that both 'Cheers' are good, 'Cheers Alenby' and 'Cheers Florentin'. For shows you should check the listings at 'Levontin 7', 'Ozen Bar', 'Barbie', 'Reading 3', 'Art Hall TLV' and 'The Zone'.
"And let’s face it, most metalheads are big nerds, so you should check the LVL UP Gaming bar as well. They usually have rock music in their playlists, and the staff are some of the coolest people."
What are your plans for next year (all things considered)? Will we see Scardust perform in the UK?
"I wish I could be the bearer of good news here, but unfortunately it’s still nearly impossible to make any plans at this point. That being said, we had some big plans that were cancelled in 2020, and we surely hope to be able to “pick them where we left off” in 2021. We love the UK and can’t wait to go back there, so this one is definitely on our to do list for as soon as it’s possible :)"
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Great! We would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in creating this album. So many wonderful and talented people, most of them being our friends and families. You know who you all are, and this album couldn’t have happened without you. Apart from that, to our amazing fans that support us and vouch for us. We love you all and can’t wait to see you live again!
And to you, thank you for having us here. Cheers from Israel!
"There's always the feeling that [Spanish] local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Born In Exile are here to prove that the Spanish Metal scene is alive and that it should no longer be ignored by the wider European audiences. Having dropped their stellar second album "Transcendence" earlier this year via legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records, this progressive metal leviathan are already gearing up for next year (due to COVID-19 decimating the entire music industry), the bulls are raging.
GMA spoke to the quintet about their new album, the whole identity crisis surrounding nationalism and regionalism - the Catalonia vs. Spain debate, attitudes towards female musicians in Spain and why local Spanish bands have the perception that they are pushed beneath international bands.
For those who have not heard of Born In Exile, can you give us a brief rundown of the band's history?
"We are a contemporary progressive metal band from Barcelona. Our music is characterized by a
powerful voice with many registers, very strong riffs, virtuous solos and unusual rhythm structures; but easy on the ear at the same time.
We've released two records: “Drizzle Of Cosmos” (2017) & “Transcendence” (2020). The band was
formed in 2012 by ex-members of another Spanish band. In 2015, Kris became the new vocalist of the band and brought a big change to the style of our music. "Transcendence" is the true sound that we wanted since the beginning.
You released your 2nd album "Transcendence" back in March, what was the reception like and how does it feel linking up with Art Gates Records?
"The record received very good appraisal online, but unfortunately we haven’t had the opportunity to give it the presentation it deserves live, even if there were quite a few shows in place. Working with Art Gates Records is great, we are very happy about our professional relationship with them. They are very active and constantly get involved in Born In Exile’s promotion and exposure activities."
Talk us through the entire album process from pre-recording to releasing, how you came up with the song titles, etc?
"It was a long process since we wrote the songs until we recorded them. Most of the tracks are composed by Carlos and the lyrics written by Kris, but we love to create music all together too.
Many things in "Transcendence" are involved. The theme of the song, what we want to express in it and the target. We like to be sharp but subtle in as many ways as possible. Our music talks about experiences from our past and subtle social critique.
The recording and the mixing faced difficult issues, because we self-produced our music. Carlos Castillo was in charge of everything, and it became hard work altogether. A lot of hours in the studio made the perfect sound that we wanted and Carlos worked really hard to make the band happy with the sound.
Carlos Arcay (Arcay Sound) did the mastering and we were more than happy with that, a very good tandem."
Do you as a band prefer to be known as Spanish or Catalonian? Is this cultural identity as relative now as it was years ago?
"We don’t have a common position about this issue as a whole. Born In Exile prefers to be called however you want to call us (laughs). The national identity issue in Catalonia and other regions of Spain (Basque Country, for example) is a very complicated topic that sometimes leads to strong confrontation between people in both extremes. Most of us are Catalan but we also have an Argentinian / Andalusian member (Joaco, lead guitarist) so we prefer to leave the identity issue aside as a band."
What are the challenges that upcoming Spanish metal bands tend to face these days?;
"People in our country tend to believe that the national bands are less professional or successful. We have more followers at home than anywhere else, but there's always the feeling that local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Kris, do you feel that sexism in metal is still an issue? In your own view has it improved or
"There’s a lot of work to do in fact. Fortunately the sexism in metal doesn’t exists as much in
Europe than in Spain, for example, or in other music styles or jobs dedicated to shows. Everything is getting better, but we need to keep on fighting more because it is not over at all."
How have you individually been coping with the lockdown earlier this year, what have you been up to in the time you're stuck at home?
"Everyone has stopped right now. We released the album one week before our lockdown. Even if all of our concerts have been canceled for 2020 (we had quite a few including a European tour) we tried to be as active as possible."
For metalheads visiting Barcelona in normal circumstances, what sights / attractions can
you recommend? What bars and venues?
"Everything is almost closed now, and maybe you cannot come to the best bars or venues, but you can search online for these bars - the “Undead Dark Club” in Sants, “HellAwaits” in Paralel, “Burning Rock Food” in Sants, the concert venues “Bóveda”, “Razzmatazz”, “Sala Monasterio” and “Sala Apolo”."
Do you have any greetings and thanks you wish to send out to fans, etc?
"Stay metal! Support localbBands and see you on the stages, friends!!"
"I'd be very delighted to see some of my peers turning up to learn instruments and work with me in a band"
It only takes one band or one musician to lay the very foundations for a metal scene to flourish, in some countries it's touch and go, but for others? The process is long and arduous. Take the African country of Malawi for example, here is a country bordered by Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania, the first three have one thing in common - they have metal scenes. Tanzania like Malawi has yet to produce one, however it's musicians like Blessings Chisama who are laying the foundations of change. Through teaching aspiring guitarists, he hopes that others may follow in his footsteps whilst hoping to change this negative perception of the metal genre, that is just a form of music and has no Satanic connotations at all. Perhaps may one one day in the future we will see the first Malawian Metal band... for now we have Moto Buu a rock band.
GMA spoke to Blessings about how he got into playing the guitar, the challenges musicians face in Malawi - mostly hardly a solid music industry and what plans he has for the future in music.
How did you first get into metal music? Who are your favourite bands? What do your parents think?
"I started my music journey in a rather not so conventional fashion for most metal guitarists. My uncles have a reggae band, and I used to be around them whenever they were playing their old box guitars at home whilst growing up at my granny’s house. However, as time went by I began to be exposed to rock through the music mix programme on Voice of America, which was aired here at midnight through Capital FM Malawi. At that time, my youngest uncle used to like leaving the radio on throughout the night in the bedroom. At some point they started recording using Fluteloops and Sonar and it was around that time that I also started learning how to record although I only used to play bass with few fingers.
Throughout this time I’ve listened to a lot right across the spectrum, from Christian metal bands (that uncle Evance had on his desktop) such as Seventh Day Slumber, Krystal Meyer, Jeremy Camp, etc. to ‘real stuff’ to get your head banging, bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium, Andy James, Dream Theatre, A Day To Remember, Animals As Leaders, Killswitch Engange, Stephen Taranto, The Helix Nebula, Periphery and lots more, with Andy James probably being one of my main influences on guitar because of his detailed instructional videos on guitar playing. In addition, anything shred, prog and djent has lately become my favourite!
I grew up mostly with my grandma which was the time when my uncles were all into music and when I moved to live with my mother; I had switched to hip-hop as it was easy to get tapes in my secondary school days. However, in 2008 I moved again to re-join one of my uncles (Peter Chisama) and that's where I started learning guitar. It was on the morning of 1st November 2008, two days after I moved to the house, when uncle Peter brought his Ibanez Guitar, a Roland amp and a photocopied book called “The Handbook for Guitar” by Ralph Denyer into my room when he was leaving for work.
He told me to start learning and ask him anything that am not understanding so the process was rather self learning. He also exposed me to the Famous Frank Gambale and gave me his pdf books and audio's which at that time I found very had to digest. As such I was left to explore without negative remarks and up until now I think it was the best thing to ever happen to me. However, I should say that mother doesn't really believe one can make a big fortune in the Malawian music scene and as such has been of the view that I should vigilantly pursue my education in something else other than music."
What is it like being a rock / metal musician in Malawi? What are the challenges you have to face?
"Rock music is not a popular genre to the masses and as such the fan base is extremely low. It's mostly comprised of the expatriate community and very few middle class Malawians who at some point had little exposure to pop rock music and video games, which is how I first heard the song “Hand Of Blood” by Bullet For My Valentine.
For me personally, it has been a journey I sometimes feel like giving up and thanks to the internet otherwise, I don't think Malawi is ready for it considering the religious stereotypes attached to it. I’ve however devised a different approach to buying in audience which at this level are fellow musicians within and I’ve incorporated element of music education and guitar learning in particular where I’m offering lessons and showing them that actually they can apply the same techniques into other styles of music. I'm a music major and that has been the path I’ve taken.
We don't have music stores that offer descent equipment so getting proper gear is problematic. Most so-called music shops are riddled with cheap and very poor quality instruments. I'm actually lucky that the equipment that I have been using was bought by my younger uncle from South Africa. I buy quality accessories like strings, music books, plectrums e.t.c. through the expat community based here for work coming in from their respective holidays.
What equipment are you using right now? What guitar, effects box, etc?
"My uncle has been kind to buy me the Boss GT 100 and an Ibanez GiO. My first owned guitar is an Aria STG series which I was given by someone I used to teach guitar who is now in the U.K. I’ve lately got the Cort X6 which I bought from an expat. And in additional I am exploring and investing in a couple of computer amp sims and impulses."
What is the general perception of rock and metal in Malawi? Are you aware of any rock or metal musicians in Tanzania?
"Metal music in Malawi is mostly considered a demonic music culture for the average masses and something difficult to achieve among Malawian musicians since music education is limited for many of the instrument musicians around. Adding to the problem is the lack of proper gear in most studios around. As such it is often times misunderstood and the knowledge of creation is almost non-existent.
I’m aware of a very strong metal community in Botswana and South Africa but I'm yet to come across metal music from Tanzania."
Will you look to release your own material in due course? Maybe form the first Malawian Metal band?
"Yes! But as a solo artist through platforms like Bandcamp. I’m yet to meet the right people to work with in a band setup so my performances for now are mostly through backing tracks whether be it my own recorded material or covers. So basically my computer is my band at the moment. I'd be very delighted to see some of my peers turning up to learn instruments and work with me in a band"
For metalheads visiting Lilongwe, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"I’m Blantyre based since birth so I haven’t heard much of Lilongwe in action with metal music except for the Moto Buu which sometimes perform at 4 Seasons. There’s a pop rock / 80's – 90's cover band in Blantyre called Rusty Nails which perform mostly within Blantyre and happens to be a band I’ve worked with in the past."
What plans do you have for the rest of 2020 and leading into 2021?
"Well, I lost my main job due to COVID-19 and I’ve gone to guitar teaching as my last point of standing financially to survive, so I'm back to studying licks and technique to become better."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc.?
"Shout out to all the metalheads all over the world and to my uncles Evance and Benjamin Chisama for their support and inspiration. I'm also thankful for my late uncle Peter Chisama who gave me his guitar, amp and a book to learn from, he was a music genius that our family will leave to remember."
For a band whose lyrics revolve around topics involving fantasy and death, you would have thought that the single 'Stalingrad' would have been by a Black Metal band. Instead it's by Egyptian Progressive / Folk Metal entity Riverwood and as frontman Mahmoud went on to explain, the single is drawing a comparison to the second world war and the current war against COVID-19. During his interrogation he confessed as to how the band came about, why Egyptian Metal is embracing a revolution and what venues metalheads should go to in the city of Alexandria.
For those who have not heard of Riverwood, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band was formed only 2 years ago under the name of Riverwood. Our first album was released in the same year and its called "Fairytale". With 1 million streams online "Fairytale" has been chosen as one of the top 20 Folk metal albums in 2020."
You recently released your new single 'Stalingrad', what was the idea behind this - why a song about WW2?
"The song basically tells the story about a timeline that is almost the same as the current one, as the world is at war now with the COVID-19 virus. That's why we have decided to release it as a stand-alone single since it will not be a part of our second full album."
Your debut album "Fairytale" is out now, what was the reception like and have you had people outside of Egypt download it?; will it be on CD / vinyl?
"It has exceeded my expectations. I've never imagined it will be viral in the middle east that fast and also never imagined that it will reach one million streams online all over the world. The album is on CD as well and its sold outside of Egypt. We've sold CDs in Germany, France, Poland, Spain and many more international countries."
Do you feel that there is a rise in Middle Eastern / North African tinged metal? (Myrath, Riverwood, Blaakyum, Scarab, Orphaned Land, etc); how would you describe your sound?
"Unique. That's how I would describe the sound as all of the mentioned bands including Riverwood are injecting the Arabian sounds and Eastern cultures into their music and stories."
What is the current state of the Egyptian Metal scene? Is it going strong? When did metal music first arrive in Egypt?
"It was pretty much dead since 2010, but since 2018 it's being brought back to life with a lot of shows and releases."
For metalheads visiting Alexandria, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Sawy Cultural Wheel, Jesuit Center... these are the top notch venues for metal heads."
What plans does Riverwood have for late 2020 / early 2021?
"Currently we are working on our second full length album. Just like "Fairytale", the album will be telling a story that will be visualized in a book. The album also will be featuring more than one artist, of which 2 of them are big names in the metal music industry."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"As we rarely use the word fans, I would like to thank our family and warriors for all their support through out the "Fairytale" journey, it never could have been done without you and until we see you again on stage please stay safe. Wash your hands! Much love!"
"[Melbourne is] definitely the best metal scene in Australia... lots of bands from Brisbane, Adelaide and other cities go to great pains to get to Melbourne to do shows"
They may have only been going a couple of years, but arguably Australia's Ironstone have so far had a really good run - supporting Rhapsody at a small festival, lining up their debut EP at the end of May, gathering fans from Europe, joining up with arguably Australia's finest PR in Black Roos and all at the average age of 20; Dan being the oldest at 22... they are destined to go far with their work ethic and attitude. Watch this space. To fill in the details, lead vocalist Dan Charlton and lead guitarist / vocalist Edward Warren spoke with GMA about said achievements, the Melbourne Metal scene, how they got their unique name and how Lewis Capaldi has had an impact on Dan Charlton.
Don't worry we know this is an interrogation, we didn't spit roast them on a BBQ on the beach... instead we inoculated them with Fosters... good call!
Hi guys could you tell us how Ironstone came about and what the band name means?
"It started quite a long time ago. It was initially a cover band with a couple of mates and I. We were just young kids. We played gigs in pubs; played AC/DC and all the classics and it developed over time until we started writing original music and creating our own sound. It came to a point where we wanted to take it more seriously and really define ourselves as original artists and not just be a cover band.
The singer at the time lived on ‘Ironstone Road’. We just liked the sound of that. We discussed the name and thought we’d leave out the ‘road’ part because it sounded a bit ‘country’. But we really liked ‘Ironstone’ because it's nice and ambiguous. It can mean anything in terms of genre and creative freedom and it sounds pretty cool too, so we just went with that."
Nowadays it's even harder coming up with band names due to names already in use or having to be changed due to legal reasons.
"Yeah one of the criteria of the name was that we could get the web address and social media handles, because some bands pick a really cool name then because a lot of people already have it they have to put 'official' or something after it, blurring the lines between who is actually this band or that band. So we were really fortunate with our name."
Now you've got your EP 'Prophecy' coming out on 29th May, are you doing at-home promotion for it? Would you release it on vinyl and CD?
"Yeah we're just plugging away with our social media, trying to keep as active as we can, which is important because of self-isolation. We're doing everything we can... including PR to help with international coverage which obviously leads to interviews and reviews. We think this is a weird time to be releasing, but might be slightly advantageous because more people are on the internet and the industry is pretty quiet at the moment.
Oh yes we want to release it on vinyl so badly. I love vinyl. If I had a CD right now and you said I'll give you $100 to play it, I would be pressed to find something to play it on.”
"The good thing about vinyl is that it's really coming back, CD's are not going out but a lot of the new cars don't have CD players any more. Everything is online now with Spotify where you can instantly play music, but I guess people some people still want to go analogue, old-school."
With the EP, have you got a favourite track that stands out for you?
"Well the thing is that we generally love all the songs so much. 2 weeks before the EP we will be dropping our new single and music video 'Downpour'. The video was shot just before all of the closures and was edited during lockdown. It's very thematic and has this kind of Middle Eastern, South-East Asian sort of flavour, it's really very exotic and spicy."
How long did it take you to write, record and finalise the EP?
"Half of the songs were written 12 or more months ago, the other half in the last six months since Dan joined the band and started writing with us. The drums, guitars and bass were tracked very quickly…in less than a week. Jack our drummer then sorted the stems out and got everything organised. Start to finish it was no more than a month I think. The whole process gave us confidence and experience that enabled us to push forward.”
"Vocals took the longest, vocals took about 3 weeks or so and then once we had it done we sent it through and had it mixed and mastered by Chris Themelco at Monolith Studios; absolute legend, who managed to do it so quickly. The first revision was almost perfect, apart from tiny nit-picky stuff. It was good as well because Chris really liked the songs and is a big fan of ours. We were rapt about that because we have so much respect for the guy. He is very highly respected here."
Would you therefore say that's the direction metal is heading, by tapping into other flavours to expand?
"I think it's heading in that direction, there will always be old-school, kind of more pure traditional metal, but I think for bands who are trying to be more progressive and cover ground in thinking, it's going to become more prevalent in exploring different cultural influences, scales, etc., I know there's a lot of Japanese scales, Middle Eastern scales that have already been explored. You could get into Bulgarian scales, Slavic scales, there is so much you can do musically because every single culture has a different slant on the scale of music.
It's inevitable that the progression will lead to change, making it something different."
"I think it's also the younger generation. Old-school metal in the 70's and 80's is a lot different to the metal in the 90's and early 2000's. Metal has has changed over the years in the same way other genres like pop have changed."
Outside of metal music, do you take influences from elsewhere?
"Oh for me even though I listen to metal, I'll also be listening to pop music - a lot of the chart stuff, I'm a massive fan of Lewis Capaldi's voice, specifically the tone of his voice which has brought a lot of inspiration to my vocal technique.
Our sound is like what Eddie says. You can show it to your friends who are really into technical metal and they get into the riffs, but then you can also show it to your parents and they'll be like 'Oh that's a nice song, I like that, that's catchy'. That's definitely not something to be afraid of, being commercial. I think it's a great thing; not aiming for super-duper niche, I just want people to listen and enjoy the music."
"You've got the case where a lot of Progressive Metal bands have really clean beautiful male vocals and then really brutal screams. Dan’s vocal style is kind of like a rock 'n' roll, grungy, really emotional voice over Prog which is something that gives us a particular sound that's really unique and kind of hard to place.
I do love movie soundtracks and stuff like that, people like Hans Zimmer for example, orchestral music, ambient stuff... I really get chills when I listen to stuff from soundtracks and video games; such as Battlefield.
Our drummer Jack used to make trap music, he used to make a lot of dubstep and stuff like that so that's crept its way into the band. I definitely appreciate dubstep for build up and suspense. I guess Prog Metal is kind of dubstep played with guitars, you kind of build it up percussively.
I think our music has a particular musicality and palatability at the same time. I love screams and complicated, percussive feels and breakdowns... whereas Dan's got a real mind for pop and structured melodies. When you combine the two, you get this sort of strange blend. You potentially get people who are normally into Meshuggah and Periphery style of music clashing against pop-influence metal."
Is learning music and music instruments encouraged by schools / colleges in Australia?
"I'd say so as much as anywhere else really, there's always school bands, school programs. There's always this constant reminder that it's an option or a path for you to go down, which I think is a really good thing."
Before now have you had any fans contact you from outside of Australia?
"Yeah we get messages on Instagram all the time. Since we started promoting the release internationally we’re suddenly getting fans from places like Latvia, Romania, you know all these places that we haven't considered as potential fan bases. It just makes us realise how big the world is.“
"Yeah we've got quite a few messages either personally or through the band page just saying that they found us over Instagram or YouTube, saying that they really like us and they want want to support us in any way in they can."
What is the Melbourne Metal scene like in general?
"Generally it's really good, it's definitely the best metal scene in Australia and there are a lot of bands from Brisbane, Adelaide and the other cities who go to great pains to get to Melbourne to do shows and gigs. We've been fortunate enough to play some really fantastic shows in Melbourne, so I'd say the scene is great. Unfortunately with the coronavirus everything has shut down, but I'm sure it will all wake up once this is over.
It's going to be a big deal as there's a lot of bands, not just in Australia but all over the world withholding releases and so when this is all over it's going to be insane."
Dan: "It's gonna be huge when it bounces back."
For metalheads visiting Melbourne, bars / venues and festivals could you recommend?
"That's kind of tricky because we actually live in Bendigo which is a 2 hour drive away from Melbourne, so we don't actually live in Melbourne.
Dan knows more about the venues than me. I've only just turned 18 and so I haven’t attended many things as a punter. Dan is 21 so he’s been to a lot of festivals and gigs."
"Venue wise there’s Festival Hall which has had a lot of really big acts play there. That’s personally one of my biggest goals… to play there, it's so iconic.
Another place I do like is Max Watts, it's like this kind of underground metal heaven really... it's just crazy and amazing, playing there was one of the best things ever. We supported Rhapsody there at the Southern Gathering festival which was awesome.
Aside from Download, there's a new festival that's just come out called 'Good Things' which is more towards Punk music, but over the past couple of years it's gotten heavier and had Parkway Drive headline last year; I went to that and it was absolutely phenomenal; there are some really good musicians.
[Edward chips in with Unified] Ahh! Unified is an awesome metal festival, alongside Download and Good Things, they are probably the 3 biggest metal festivals."
What are some of the everyday challenges that metal bands in Australia have to face?
"Certainly the biggest challenge musically would be trying to become well known, it's quite hard with music let alone being an Australian metal band."
"The thing is also we've got a country that's very large, something like 13 times the size of Germany and has a very sparse population. So if 1% of the population likes the music then out of the world's population that's like 709 million people, but with only 24 million in Australia it's considerably less with people being spread out. Plus it's hot so no one wants to do anything. It's just difficult trying to get that foothold and finding good bands to do shows with, finding a band that's within the niche Prog Metal / Djent, that sort of genre which is what we're going for.
The financial aspect also is there, if you're in Europe you'd play a gig and then could just pop through France. But we have to drive 10 hours and we've nearly reached Sydney! The distances here are vast. But we're really lucky, we live not far from Melbourne and it takes about 2 hours to get there for a gig"
What plans do you have for the back end of 2020 and going into 2021? Were any postponed?
"I think the ultimate goal from whatever means necessary is to do a UK / Europe tour (and to get our music out there). We just want this lockdown to end and for this thing to be over... we just want to do gigs."
"Yeah just play as much as possible in Melbourne, might travel up to Sydney and maybe Adelaide, but for now just want to focus on Melbourne and build on our following."
Have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to fans, friends and family?
"Thanks to all our fans for sticking by us at the start, and to all of the new fans that come after 29th May, and to the stadium full of people (laughs)."
"Thank you to the families for supporting us, the band members for always being consistent. We've got a unique case where all of the band members (except Dan) go to school together so we're already absolutely best friends. Then we've got Dan who may as well be my older brother; comes to my house all the time, stuff like that. Great people we work with like Chris Themelco and Michael Lueders from Black Roos Entertainment who make our life just so much easier. Thanks to everyone who helps us out and supports us."
"Prophecy" is out 29th May via an Independent Release
"isolation isn’t that bad when you’re a nerd and play video games a lot (you’re already kind of used to that lifestyle anyway)."
It's never easy standing out from the crowd when you play a genre that's arguably oversaturated, but there is always a way to make your music slightly more noticeable than others. Just ask Spanish Progressive Metalcore horde Flat Earth Society who seem to have found their rhythm and beat in 'la vida loca' that is the music industry. Having unleashed their debut album "Friends Are Temporary, Ego Is Forever" via Art Gates Records, it comes as no surprise that the quartet are licking their lips at what late 2020 and early 2021 could be winging their way. Given this achivement it was only fair for GMA to interrogatel the Madrileños and find out how they formed as a band, what metalheads can do in Madrid, what makes up their sound and what emotions were like signing to legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records.
Could you give us a brief history of Flat Earth Society, who came up with the band name and were you in bands previously?
"We came together from different bands actually. Alex and Carlos were part of a band that was kind of dying and we already had some decent songs built up back then (which are part of the album) and we wanted to see them fruition.
Drummers in Madrid (or in general) are very lackluster, so Alex receives lots of offers (besides him being really good at the instrument). He eventually auditioned for A Blackened Sight, which Jesús and Daniel were part of. After signing in with them, he noticed Daniel’s vocal prowess and told him about our idea. Daniel liked the project and joined in. Jesús eventually teamed up as well with us, playing bass instead of guitar (his regular instrument). Later on we found Guillem and he proved to be the perfect fifth for our band and signed him up right away.
The name came quite randomly. We were brainstorming ideas and the situation degenerated quickly, proposing dumber names each time. We chose the name Flat Earth Society because we thought it would be funny to parody that way of thinking while our lyrics treat scientific topics (Disarray, The Gravity Paradox, The Cataract). Later on we decided to just write whatever lyrics we wanted (Danko, Daniel’s dog, Ligma, a meme disease from Twitch etc…)."
You recorded your debut album 'Friends Are Temporary, Ego Is Forever' last year, talk us through the creation process and the album title meaning?
"Usually each one of us writes music on its own and then we put it in common. Then we decide which ideas we like and learn them to rehearse them. Then we start playing them over and over while introducing arrangements along the way until we like the final result. Then we took what we had to studio with Alex Cappa and Pablo Rousselon.
We originally wanted to release a 5-song EP after recording these tracks, but after signing in with Art Gates Records we decided to take their advice and put out a full LP, so we went back to studio and recorded Legfist, CC Chain and Tortuga. We feel the meaning of the title speaks for itself, although there are open interpretations about it. We’d rather people try to figure it out on their own."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres? What / who are your influences in and outside metal?
"Our sound is pretty experimental, we think that in a way some of our instrumentals are pretty ambiental, most of our songs are harmonious and pretty melody based, the rough part comes mostly with the vocals and the drums in certain parts. we classify our music as emotionally aggressive.
The most notorious influences reflected in this album may come from August Burns Red, Erra, Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Tesseract and maybe Periphery and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Outside Metal we have various influences, such as Salsa music, Flamenco, mostly hispanic music."
What was it like for you signing with such a prestigious label in Art Gates Records? Who initiated the contact first?
"We already had contact with them due to a friend who collaborated in the past with Noctem and AGR, so he recommended us. We showed them part of our music and the general idea around the project and the album. They liked it and we moved forward with it. Everything was going smooth until the recent crisis. Working with them has been an enormous learning experience regarding how things are done the right way for a band who wants to reach far away places. Now we have to wait until things get better and see how we can resume our course."
As Spain is amidst a lock down due to COVID-19, what have you been doing at home; both in and outside of music?
"We’re doing relatively fine considering the lockdown we’re suffering in Spain right now. However isolation isn’t that bad when you’re a nerd and play video games a lot (you’re already kind of used to that lifestyle anyway). Stay home folks, don’t risk your health or other people’s"
For metalheads visiting your home town / city (where?) what sights / attractions could you recommend (under normal circumstances)?
"You gotta check Madrid’s down-town, lot of museums, lot of great architecture and if you are a fan, you gotta check Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s stadiums. If you ever come here under normal circumstances, be sure to also check the local food."
What plans do you have for the foreseeable future (COVID-19) depending and what has already been cancelled?
"Most of what we had already talked through has been cancelled as for anyone else in the industry. We will try to take the album to the stages in and out of Spain as soon as it is logistically possible."