Metalcore is arguably one of those genres that has fallen into the trap of being stigmatised for being too formulaic, relying too much on riffs, breakdowns and bland imagination. So where does this leave Windrunner? Well by adding melodies and progressive elements to the mix, the Vietnamese quintet have come up with a solution to bypass the clutches of being pigeon-holed as just another Metalcore band. It might as well be said that whilst Vietnam is famous for it's motorbikes and bicycles, with Windrunner in full throttle, soon Vietnam will be acknowledged for it's vibrant metal scene. Windrunner were more than pleased to chat to GMA about their deal with Famined Records, the Vietnamese Metal scene, how metal is viewed by the public and their plans for 2019.
"Society has been more and more accepting of metal, but it’s still nowhere it needs to be in a music scene dominated by V-pop and K-pop"
For those who have not heard of Windrunner, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band began about 6 years ago, when two local Vietnamese bands combined with current members of Windrunner. Mind you, the scene here is still small, so we have all known each other for years and a few of us have played in different bands together before. It's been kind of back and forth between acts, before this line up solidified. The band has been officially together as Windrunner only for 3 years, continuously growing and blending styles and ideas."
Please can you tell us the history of the Vietnamese Metal scene, it's current state, what festivals, media, support, etc., are present?
"Our scene is quite young, but pulsing. We regularly have shows of every genre you can think of - and the metal scene is doing great right now, with some fresh new acts and creative new directions. There are a few promoters that are pushing the scene and inviting some amazing international acts - Emmure is coming over in March, for example, so we are eternally grateful to them. It's young, it's thriving, and it's at that point where it just steadily keeps growing because it hasn't been around for long."
Bands like Ngũ Cung, Microwave and Black Infinity have gained international attention, for yourselves what is it that makes the Vietnamese style of metal (as it were) what it is?
"We look up to our big brothers in Ngũ Cung, Microwave (we just recently shared the stage with them!) and Black Infinity as the pioneers of metal in Vietnam, but we don’t draw much musical influences from them. Each band has a different style and we want to create our own style too. One thing that we all have in common though is we all have tried to incorporate some elements of Vietnamese traditional music into our own style of metal, one way or another."
It seems that neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia are producing metal bands too, do you have bands from neighbouring countries come to play in Vietnam?
"Yes, South East Asia is certainly growing more talented bands each year. We have a few notable bands from around the region from places such as Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, even Japanese bands are making motions to tour in our area."
What do your parents think of your music? On a wider scale how does Vietnamese society view metal music?
"As metal music has only been in Vietnam for a short time, the generation gap generally doesn’t allow for a good connection among us and our parents in terms of music. The same applies to how the society views metal music. Rock music isn’t even mainstream here, so metal is just another black sheep. Just over a decade ago, underground metal shows would always get busted by the authorities. Generally though, society has been more and more accepting of metal, but it’s still nowhere it needs to be in a music scene dominated by V-pop and K-pop."
Are you all self-taught? Or did you attend music school's (if there any?)
"Yes all of us are self-taught. Besides the general music classes in grade school, YouTube was and is still our best music teacher."
Obviously releasing 'Mai' your debut album through an American label must carry great feelings? Are you hoping you will expose Vietnamese Metal to the world?
"It’s an honour, so we are eternally grateful for Famined Records and the help they have given us. Our heads were exploding with the feedback and exposure we were witnessing on various internet platforms across the States and international scene in general. It’s truly humbling and so unbelievably exciting. Of course! We are hungry, and Vietnam has tons of quality acts ready to break out."
With the Metalcore genre saturated as it is, what is Windrunner hoping to bring to the table that has not been done already?
"Too right. Lyrical themes and structures are becoming a bit standardised for most genres of heavy music, so what we want to bring is a genuine fresh blend, and push for new sounds and combinations not heard before. We have a few ideas in the pot ready to go for our next release."
For metalheads visiting Hanoi, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What is the best way to get around?
"The city is rich in historical sights. Museums, traditional pagodas and temples are scattered across Hanoi, and the night life in certain areas will keep you busy for sure. The food alone is a landmark in Vietnam, so come hungry! Renting a motorbike or just good ol’ taxis are the best and fastest way to get around."
What are your plans for 2019?
"We already have some ideas brewing for our next release. We have an amazing tour coming up in March with Emmure across South East Asia and China, which we are beyond excited for. After that, we're definitely moving onto bigger and better things! If you liked what you heard so far, just wait for what's next."
Finally do you have any greetings, or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"We would simply like to thank everyone for their interest and support over the last few months. All the feedback, likes, posts, shares - each one means the world. We would like to thank our local supporters for coming to shows and making each one memorable. We would like to thank the team at Famined Records for believing in us and giving us a chance to grow in a way we would never have thought possible."
Demonic Resurrection are one of the leading metal bands from the Indian Metal scene, having been around since the turn of the millennium they have released 5 albums, 1 EP and 1 split and in that time played across Asia and Europe; most notably playing twice at Bloodstock where this year Sahil (vocalist/guitarist) had a chat with GMA about why he was putting not only the band to rest, but his other bands as well. He spoke about his YouTube channel, the scene going forward, what you can do in Bombay and what religion means to him.
"Religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally "
Demonic Resurrection has come to an end, could you tell us how this come about?
"I don't know man I think after 18 years of doing this, I'm kind of a little tired and fed-up with the way things are. I don't mind the struggle and I'm happy to work really hard and put 110% behind what I am doing, but for me I feel like the struggle has been with the same things as opposed to being different struggles as you progress as a band. For me that's kind of where it sort of says it's not working; if you're struggling with the same thing you started 10 years ago then maybe you're doing something wrong. So I kind of need to at least for now just put this behind me and maybe focus on something that is really doing well for me right now, which is my Headbangers Kitchen YouTube channel, so that's the plan right now."
Regarding your YouTube channel, you recently become certified correct? And you contributed to a book?
"Yeah we got certified a while back but we just reached 230,000 subscribers, so it's pretty much become my full-time job now and has kept me quite busy.
I was approached by a publisher last year to sort of edit a book rather than write one, I wrote some stuff for this book but mainly edited a lot of their recipes too make them keto-friendly.
Keto is a sort of way of eating where you deprive your body of carbohydrates and it goes into burning fat for fuel, it's sort of become one of the hottest ways to lose weight because it kind of lets you do it in a more of a free-approach to it, rather than being restricting yourself in terms of what you can and cannot eat; though you are, but it doesn't feel as deprived as most diets do."
Out of all of the dishes you have done, which is your favourite?
"Oh that's a tough question man, I would definitely say one of my most popular dishes is the 'bacon bomb'; that is kind of my signature meat dish, but I'm also very proud of my buttered chicken. The 'bacon bomb' is half a kilo of ground pork meat seasoned beautifully with fresh herbs, stuffed with cheese, peppers, onions, wrapped in bacon, covered in BBQ sauce and baked. That would keep you going for the rest of the day."
So your other bands Reptilian Death, Demonstealer and Workshop are being phased out too?
"If anyone has been following me, I think it was about 2 years ago I put Workshop to rest and then a year ago I put Reptilian Death down as well. I don't know man just things stopped working for the band and like I said I don't mind working hard, but when all the odds are against you then you just need to know when to let go. With Workshop we just come to a point where we were just unable to book shows because whoever booked shows didn't like our music, so eventually we were not able to book anything and it just sort of died down because there were no gigs we could play and the other members became busy with their other musical careers, so we called it a day."
With Kryptos carrying on, what does the future of the Indian Metal scene look like in your opinion?
"Honestly I don't know, but what I do know is it will survive, it will go through it's up's and down's like it always has, I think as a genre metal still holds onto people in some way. Even though the Indian scene is not growing in the way it should, but you know we will have to wait and see the way it goes, but I do believe it will survive and have children always wanting to play metal, so you will always have some Indian Metal bands; whether they last or not, that's a different question."
With the metal band Bloodywood mixing Bollywood music with metal, do you see this as a step forward?
"Honestly, I don't know if that's a step forward but it is definitely a connecting point for people around the world to know that there's metal in India. I guess they've tapped into what I would call the 'YouTube Market' ,which is a huge platform for very creative content and creators to exploit, and I think they have found a formula what works for them. So I definitely think them as a band will do great things, whether they choose to go live or whether they choose to spend their energy on YouTube, it will definitely be and introduction for most people getting into the Indian Metal scene."
So how did Demonic Resurrection come round to playing Bloodstock this time? Do you keep in touch with past members?
"Yes I think Bio-Cancer dropped out and my agent said I could book in for Bloodstock, so I was like let me check the visa situation because the last time we came here we had to get a work permit, which is really expensive, but it turns out that there is a cheaper option and I was anyway planning to visit the UK for friend's wedding so it kind-of worked out. Especially as we have two members in the UK, so that's two people that actually needed to fly in now for the gig; myself and Virendra. As of now we have Shoi Sen and Arran McSporran from De Profundis who play bass and guitar, they're our live session members in the UK.
I'm still in touch with most of them yeah, they're always doing something or the other. Nishith Hegde and Ashwin Shriyan play in Bollywood, they're session musicians and as is Daniel Kenneth Rego, Mephisto chills at home and writes some of his own music but doesn't really put anything out so."
Could you tell us more about your last (and final) album "Dashavatar", what does it mean?
"'Dashavatar' is basically about the the primary avatars of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, it's actually funny that I even wrote something like this because I'm a staunch atheist and I have a lot of disdain for religion, but as stories there are interesting things here and my wife told me the story of
Narasimha the man-lion, and the way it was told to me was... it kind of showed a very brutal side to the story and the truth is I think, religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally and f****d everything up, but they are great stories and they were stories that I thought would be good to tell through our music and I made sure that we didn't compromise the music that we made. I know we do have Indian instruments in the album, but they are there with a purpose, they are not us suddenly going all fusion, trying to create something, so that was an interesting thing to do."
For metalheads visiting India, aside from the Taj Mahal, what sights / attractions would you recommend seeing?
"Well if you're coming to Bombay (Mumbai) it's always good to get a look at the gateway of India, there are these caves called the Ajanta and Ellora caves which are nice to visit as well, you can go to the beach, Juhu beach, Marine Drive, yeah you can go around and eat some good food in Bombay. Honestly I always never know what to tell people to go and see in Bombay because myself I don't really care for sightseeing and stuff, it's all about food."
Signing off are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Thank you for having me and for doing this interview, thank you to anyone who has listened to any of my music and bought a CD or t-shirt, I appreciate it!"
Obzidian are a Progressive Death / Thrash outfit situated in Staffordshire and ultimately slammed Bloodstrock with their infectious music, they spoke to GMA about the struggles in their local scene, their music backgrounds and why being social media savvy pays off.
Who came up with the band name Obzidian and what does it mean?
"I was doing A-level geography in college and basically it's a volcanic glassy rock that forms so quickly that it's like a sheet of glass but is black, so it's like a sort of reflective black glass so we thought that's a pretty metal thing, so we'll name out band after it, we just changed the 's' to a 'z' because there is already another band with that name using an 's'."
What was the emotions like in the Obzidian camp when being confirmed to play Bloodstock? Was there any hush-hush?
"Excitement and a little bit of terror because I was at work at the time, obviously our manager Dan just put messages on our group thread saying 'call me, call me', I'm like what's going on? I'm at work. I called him in the toilet and he was like 'mate we're playing Bloodstock', so I kind of had a little dance to myself in the toilet at work. We've been wanting this for ages and it finally happened, it's all a bit of a blur to be honest.
Yeah my dad was our sound-man for a very long time so he's fully engrained into our band, helped us and bought all of the gear we've got at the moment, drove us round the country week-in week-out. My mum's always supportive, she's not a musician herself but has grown up with my dad being a musician and obviously supported music and stuff - they've all supported us 100% and when I told them they were absolutely made up. They've back us through everything.
I'm from a big music background, my father toured the US in the 70's with his band, my brother is a semi-professional drummer, so they're really proud because I found my own way as I don't have the musical attributes they had, I don't have the musical talent they had."
How did you all get into Metal Music?
"I started off with more classic rock stuff like AC/DC when I was around 12, started playing guitar because of them and then just got heavier and heavier, started listening to Megadeth, Metallica and Pantera, then onto Meshuggah.
All of our parents have grown up with rock, classic rock, that kind of thing. My dad was a big Deep Purple and Motorhead fan, then Judas Priest, he got me into all of that and then by growing up with that, I was about 8 or 9 when I listened to the 'Black Album' and then that took me onto a different path and then I found Megadeth, then onto Metallica, then onto Sepultura, it all got heavier from there really.
Same with me the whole classic rock background with my dad, I think it was my brother really who started to dip his fingers into the heavier side of things, to be fair I think Sepultura was the first heavy band I listened to. It was an honour to play with them, so that's one thing ticked off the bucket list a few years back.
Was there any challenges that Obzidian had to overcome in the years past?
"I don't know if there's been any real challenges as such like some bands go through, money is always a challenge, trying to find how to travel, buying gear and merch, making sure we put our finances in the right areas, make some back and make a profit, being able to carry on doing it. It's always a bit of a risk when you want to carry on doing that kind of thing, when you have all those upfront costs. Apart from that not really, the only change we ever made to our line-up was in 2005 when Matty Jenks came in on vocals and we parted ways with our old vocalist / guitarist; more like a James Hetfield kind of character, we wanted to go heavier and he didn't, we kind of changed up a little bit.
For the past 13-14 years it's been this line-up and we really haven't faced anything apart from time and money. If someone has a problem they put it out there, when we need to argue we argue and when we need to complement each other we do. There's no stones or turbulence.
We've known each other for so long, me (Paul Hayward), Baz Foster and Matt Jeffs grew up together and went through high school, we've known each other since the age of 11 and it just formed a solid friendship that you can base music on. "
Could you tell us about what the Staffordshire Metal scene is like?
"Stafford is a semi-rural town, but it's starting to get better, there's not a lot of bands there, not a lot of live music there. There's a venue called The Red Rum where a guy called Nick is really trying to bring Hed P.E. and bigger bands in to the area to try and encourage people to come out and listen to more live music and we can't thank him enough for that as he's put us on 3-4 times already in various venues
I'm from the Staffordshire side of Wolverhampton, right by Birmingham which is the home of heavy metal as everyone says but for so many years there was just nothing there... but the way the underground scene has been rising in the past 2-3 years in Birmingham, it's beginning to feel like a real place again metal-wise. We did a lot of stuff up in Manchester for a while.
There's been times where we've had to drive hours and hours away from home to find a decent show, but now it's all coming back to the Midlands which is a really good thing. There's a lot of good promoters out there just sticking at it and getting the right bands on the shows.
FatAngel who we're with now, the label and promotions who are based in Coventry have really done wonders for the Midlands scene e.g. Mosh Against Cancer Festival, they've just been wonderful for us. Dan Carter who is our manager (also the bassist in Left For Red), he's the man who looks after us now and just waggled his hand just like 'oh you guys' (all laugh).
When growing up when did you realize you wanted to become a musician, what was your first instrument?
"I don't remember the exact point but I used to play guitar originally and used to jam with my dad who also is a guitarist and vocalist from back in the 70's. After about 4-5 years of that, getting my own gear and being in a couple of bands as a guitarist, my cousin who is a drummer let me have a go on his kit and the rest is just history, so I've been on drums ever since. My cousin probably influenced me the most on drums, but for guitar it was probably my dad and I think I was probably 7/8 when I properly started playing guitar and then changed to drums when I was around 12/13 and now I'm 34. For the last 10-15 I went into music production learning how to record etc.
AC/DC, from my dad's old vinyl collection, once I pulled out 'Power Age' it was f*****g awesome, stuck that on and went out to buy some AC/DC albums and that was it, I wanted to be like Angus Young.
I've played drums, I've played guitar, but I was s**t so I went to vocals and started screaming (all laugh).
Summarise Bloodstock in two words, what would you say?
"Bloody raining / awesome metal / absolutely incredible / metal family"
Have you had any fans from abroad contact you via social media?
"Yeah we've had a few guys from Norway, Sweden, those kinds of places, firstly they message us and then buy the album. They say they really love it and will play it to all of their friends. We've had radio play in Canada and the USA, so yeah we've had a lot of international contact - we just need to turn that into shows now and see what happens."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Hello to anyone whose bought stuff or who will buy stuff, check us out on obzidian.co.uk and on Facebook. A big shout out to those who visited the New Blood Stage at 10:30, cheers to the crew, everyone who knows us and has checked us out."
Having previously been located around the Worksop / Birmingham area, Symphonic Metallers Aonia are now more or less based in Sheffield. The 'Experimental Symphonic' crew won their Metal 2 The Masses regional heats and laid waste on the fields of Derbyshire. Aonia spoke to GMA about their rise, playing Bloodstock and how sexism is STILL an issue to-date.
(on sexism) "big balls is what makes us... we have balls we wear them on our chest that are held in by our corsets."
How did Aonia form and what does the band name mean?
"A long time ago in a galaxy far away, James's band and my band split up, so his remnants and my remnants got together and made Aonia. There were a whole load of line-up changes and in 2016 we finally stabilized with the addition of drummer David Byrne and bassist Matt Black, but the biggest change happened in 2013 with the addition of Joanne Kay Robinson on vocalist, because it brought us into a whole sort of new genre and with Tim Hall coming on Keyboards as well gave the music a much wider dimension.
As for the name of the band it refers to the place near Helicon mountain where the muses dwell. Which is pretentious but kind of sweet, like us.
When we were trying to find interesting words in the dictionary, we didn't get past 'A', we just gave up and went 'Aaaa.... Aonia' that'll do. To be honest I'm surprised we got to 'ao', we could have been called 'Abyssinia'."
Is it easy or difficult to create music, especially when there are effectively seven different elements to contend with?
"You have no idea (all laugh), it's just time consuming more than anything else, but the nice part about having seven elements to a band, and we don't have one songwriter, someone will come up with an idea but it's the whole band that puts it together. Which means we have an original sound, we have a sound that really we don't get compared to, but there's no one element that really separates us and makes the other bands sound the same as us, we have an original sound because of that and it works. It takes time, there's a lot of arguing (all laugh).
I think it's a really creative conversation we have over a couple of chords or lines, eventually over seven minutes... forty minutes arguing over a chord. When I say seven, we don't actually listen to him (Przemek).
I suppose that makes it more interesting, considering how overloaded and over-saturated the Symphonic Metal genre has become?
"Well that's why we say we're not symphonic, we're symphonic to a certain extent and the keyboards are an important element in the band, but we have a very progressive rock basis to the band as well - do you know some of our sound links more to Iron Maiden than it does to Dream Theater, than Dream Theater to Nightwish; we have Dream Theater elements in it as well, we have a lot of elements in it, we have good musicians in the band and we like to show that as well, we have two fantastic female-fronted vocalists, we try and get all of the elements into the songs".
Speaking of having two female-fronted vocalists in Joanne and Melissa, do you feel sexism in metal still exists or has it lessened over the years?
"Well it's about 3-4 years ago, we were playing a local pub and somebody tried to pull my corset down whilst I was on stage, I would say sexism is still very rampant. I've seen comments like 'oh female-fronted metal is pop with heavier guitars', I've heard people say 'oh I won't go see a band if they're female fronted', 'I won't go to see a band if there's a girl in' and then you do also get sexism the other way round. I've got a friend called Kris who's a bassist in FireSky and her band is excluded from a lot of female-fronted stuff ,because she only does backing vocals and that's wrong as well, so Joanne do you want to wade in with your experiences?
Yeah I mean we get a lot of 'pull your corset down', I've not had as severe as that but I would like to say we've probably got bigger balls than most of the boys in the band so yeah (all laugh), big balls is what makes us... (just say testicles - you do have something bigger than us but it's not balls), we have balls we wear them on our chest that are held in by our corsets.
In which case, they are a lot bigger! We've had a lot people say 'you're not really my type of thing' but after the gig have said 'f*****g hell, that was absolutely amazing I didn't think I was going to like you', when they say it's female then Operatic Metal comes to the fore and judgements are made, but as soon as they've seen us live then their opinions have changed.
Can I just say when she says 'f**k she's spelt it 'phuq'... apologies for my language, another problem with the sexism is that people don't think about what they're listening to, they're just watching or looking at a picture - seeing the picture and seeing as girl in it makes them think they won't want to go see that band, this is stupid because we're not actors playing in movies, we're musicians playing music; listen to the band first and then see what they look like, what they sound like is more important than what they look like."
It's cliche but don't judge a book by it's cover; what are your thoughts on the term female-fronted metal?
"Absolutely! Although we have a good cover (all laugh). Female-fronted is not a genre, it's a gender. It's a description, the band is female-fronted, they don't say the band is male-fronted. I think a lot people use it as an excuse for a deterrent, like I say it's a label... wow.... you said that? I did. Got 'an excuse for a deterrent', yeah it's good I like that. Well it is. Like you say a lot people in metal are very male-orientated and soon as they hear the word 'female', they kind of switch off... I've been guilty of that myself but through experience, through being in a band it's opened my mind to a lot of new things. Hopefully we can change other people's perceptions too."
Surely playing Bloodstock is the biggest thing to happen to the band?
"So far absolutely, we know we're good enough to get to this stage because we believe in ourselves, but it's still an unbelievable experience - when they call our name out it was still that kind of speechless feeling... I wouldn't believe it until we had done it. I've been in the music business since I was about 15, so that's what 10 years? I've been playing for 35 years and it's by the far the biggest and best gig I've ever done and that's before I've played."
Are there any greetings / thank you's that you wish to send out to people?
"All the fans that have been loyally to us, all the new fans... they're our Aonia family. Mary Berry, my inspiration. Thanks for all the baking! Simon Hall, Simon Cliffe and Rob Bannister from Bloodstock. Our amazing PR lady called Angel."
When you think of the Scottish Metal scene you tend to think of the likes of Alestorm, sure their Pirate Metal sound is popular among the masses but they aren't the only Scottish Metal band with a sumptuous sound. Entering the affray is Dumfries' own Turbyne, whose mix of Melodic, Death, Prog and Metalcore have left the Bloodstock faithful in awe, with their sound not like anything that has been heard before but yet use the very basics of said metal genres, what they done with those genres is bent and snapped them to pieces, to create something they can call their own.
After rampaging on the New Blood Stage, GMA caught up with the now sextet and explored their past, what two vocalists bring to the band and the current status of the Scottish Metal scene.
Answers given by various members; indicated where possible.
(on song lengths):- "It's nothing to do with how long the song is, it's all about the ideas and how well you get them across".
Hi guys, firstly tell us who you are, what you play and how did you become involved in Turbyne?
"Hey I'm Calum, I'm the guitarist and I was here at the start; started the band with a few of my friends. Hey I'm Gary, I joined the band in 2012, I sing and I also play keyboards.
Hi I'm Brian, I play bass and I think I joined around like 10 years ago or something, I'm not quite sure, but through a friend; they were looking for a bassist and so I joined.
I'm Kyle the drummer and I'm co-founder with Calum here as creator of the band, the one and only. Hey I'm Keith, I'm the vocalist and I joined way way back in the day in the beginning.
I'm Jamie, I was the last to join and I kind of just invited myself into the band, I didn't actually be asked to join, I just sort of said I'll come along and play keyboards for you, so yeah that's what I do now."
So you have two keyboardists? Who is best at playing them?
"Absolutely Jamie, I (Gary) just pretend to play the keyboards, ah he's just started. It's a new addition that we're actually bringing to Bloodstock tomorrow, so it's the first time that it's done properly and Jamie holds the whole fort in terms of solo's and proper synth, I just kind of fill in with my backing strings, so hopefully its goes well tomorrow - I'm not nervous at all... I absolutely am.
Before I played keyboards you had two vocalists, so erm Keith and I were full-time vocalists so that's something we introduced when I joined the band really. But yeah we're trying it out to see if we can push ourselves to make a bigger sound and push ourselves harder basically to add more on the stage show or to the live sound as well, so we're going to be adding more live guitars as well, we're all going to be very busy."
What's it like being a sextet when recording music? Hard and tricky surely?
"Ages, ages and ages. We do all what we can before we hit the studio, there's a lot of demo's, a lot of kind of coordinating... maybe I'll have a practise with Jamie and we'll go over what we're going to do and the singers will get together and they'll practise their bits and then it all kind of comes together in the practise space. So yeah it takes a long time before we're ready to record anything, but it works for us."
Who came up with the band name and what does it mean?
"....erm, (silence), Kyle can answer that one. I believe it was actually Kyle who came up with the name, there was a bit of a catch of course we created the band during the Nu Metal years when it was invoked to spell your name incorrectly (laughs), hence the 'y' rather than the 'i' but at least it makes it original. There's not a literal meaning to what it is, we like to leave it interpretable, but it means certain things to us, there's not a concrete origin if that makes sense?"
What was going through your minds when you were confirmed to play Bloodstock? What did you parents say?
"I was actually at work, which is quite a formal job - I wear a suit, I won't mention what I do, but I was sitting with a client at the time and I think I made some sort of an excuse to leave the room to do a small to big lap of the office, kick over one of the desks and go back to the client and finish the interview that we had. I couldn't contain myself, I couldn't send enough text messages at the same time, not to mention we couldn't actually tell anyone at the time. So yeah it was insane to be fair, because we got the invitation as oppose to you know winning on our Metal 2 The Masses night, so to actually be asked to come along and play we feel is an absolute privilege and pleasure, to have someone say we want you to come along and showcase what you can do. It was a magnificent moment for me anyway, it was almost like a mark of approval from people we've been waiting to hear from for a very long time.
They were happy aye, they've supported us through... well my parents have supported us through Metal 2 The Masses heats and have been gutted when we didn't get it so they were chuffed.
I think my mum had to ask what Bloodstock was (laughs), it took about 45 minutes to explain, I probably went through the whole roster of the bands that are playing and not one rung a bell, so we just ended up with 'it's a big thing mum, be happy for me' (laughs), so she was.
My parents are into music anyway, so they were happy for us yeah.
Aye they were chuffed, my family have always been big supporters of what we do and they travel to come and see us at gigs, and yeah just happy.
I'm adopted... (laughs), no my parents were over the moon as well and I think as well as our close family and friends who were elated just as much as we were.
Yeah I've been getting congratulations from around the world, people all over the place and well none of them know what Bloodstock is, but you know it's the words festival, stage and playing that hit the net, so yeah they're really thrilled for the band. Lot of support from people who talk to us and are with our music so that's really good to have."
Sum up Bloodstock in two words and no more.
"Big deal", "enough said", "f*cking awesome", "pretty decent", "i'll take three - ask me sunday", "I really have no idea, all that can come to mind is 'pretty decent', 'f*cking awesome', so yeah I'll go with 'f*cking awesome' too" (laughs all around).
Can you tell us more about your eclectic style of metal?
"It's heavy and kind of based in experimental progressive metal, but with this kind of NWOBHM stuff going on as well, there's a lot of metalcore... basically it's what we've come up with, with a kind of collective styles of music that we all like and that we're all into. We just play the kind of music that we want to do and that we think would be interesting and new, it's very hard to describe as there's a lot of different substances in there. It's all very diverse and we keep ourselves guessing never-mind, there's nothing off-limits when it comes to the style of the band, nothings off-limits with us. The best way to define it is to listen to it and then decide for yourself what you actually think it is, and then if you put a label on it then you can identify it easily.
For the six years I've been in the band, we've been called how many different genres? We've tried different genres... but we bring out the next song and then all of a sudden they'll define us as something else, so as Jamie said it's best to listen to it and decide what part of it's new and pick your own genre, we don't mind - we've been called a lot of things.
I like that... (all laugh), if somebody else started to play 'Turbyne Metal' I think that could become a thing, yeah that would be nice if that was a thing to kind of lead a trend or something by everyone."
Most Prog Metal bands tend to deliver 7-10 minute songs, what are your thoughts about that?
"To be genuinely progressive I think that sounds about right, there's a lot of ideas and in our case anyway there's a lot of ideas in one song and it's difficult to pick the ones that are right from the ones that are wrong, so in our case yes we do tend to be a bit longer, but we do try and chop them down so they don't seem indulging you know what I mean? I love prog music but some of it is drawn out, we try and be cautious of not making item seem too much for what we're going for.
I think we try and find a balance between your heavy part and as that starts to draw out, we'll change it up for something that might suit someone else in the same song and I think that comes across really well with us, I think you can really break it down into a nice clean sound and then bring it right back as heavy as you want to... as long as it doesn't betray the song, as long as it feels right and feels natural in the progression of the song.
To be fair Turbyne has always been known for the length of it's songs but I don't think when Calum our main songwriter is writing a song that the clock is a big factor, I think the narrative of the song and what he's trying to express is more important than how long it's going to take to do it. But yeah having said that songs reach between 3-10 minutes, maybe over, there's a real diversity in what the band plays.
I'm used to playing classical music as well so I also play 45 minute symphonies and two-and-a-half musical theatre shows, so a 5-7 minute Turbyne song is a pretty short space of time (all laugh) to fill in with noise so I'm quite glad that they just end nicely, it doesn't matter anyway as long as the idea is strong, that's the main part - it's nothing to do with how long the song is, it's all about the ideas and how well you get them across in delivering them to your audience - if it takes a while, it takes a while."
What challenges do Scottish Metal bands face these days?
"Getting out there really, we're from quite a small town so the biggest obstacle we often face is getting onto bills and expecting to bring in people, that's a problem because you know we're from a smaller town, it can sometimes stand in our way. I'd say getting a fan-base and getting out to new people, new fans, new areas is the hardest part for our fans from Scotland.
I think our biggest problem is locations, so even if we head northwards (we're on the borders of Scotland; 45 minutes from Carlisle) up to Glasgow, Edinburgh, then Dundee and Aberdeen, but even driving up to Aberdeen takes us four and a half hours. Don't get me the wrong the band is completely committed so we will travel everywhere, anywhere that wants to hear us, we'll bring the sound to them, but it is the hardest part is getting on bills, finding that niche market where people are doing to appreciate what we're doing and finding out bands that are similar to us which is very, very difficult with the type of music that we are.
Because of the music we play as well we don't really fall into one category or the other, we're not the heaviest metal band but we're too heavy for non-metal music as well, so I think that is another obstacle as well is that exactly where we sit in the market and bills that we can play on, bands that are likewise with the fans that might go out to see, bands like us.
I think playing this festival is exactly what we need though because you're playing in front of people that would never see us otherwise, so this is the best opportunity you've got."
Have you had any fans from outside of the UK get in touch with you?
"Yeah there's a Finnish guy, I could probably name a bunch of Australians who listen to our music now, but yeah erm remember... was it Finland or Norway that guy was from?
I think it was Norway, his named sounded Finnish but was from somewhere up there, yeah he got in touch through Facebook saying he came across us and really appreciated what we done and hopefully we would go over there soon and play and we were like alright, that's good stuff.
It's always nice to hear from people that are that far out and either have stumbled across us or someone's told them about our music, it's nice when they feel they have to message us and say they enjoy it; it's crazy to have a few people from the USA, mainly Florida just to say they love the music, so if anybody wants to give us a contract to Florida (laughs), I'm due a holiday so anytime.
Business class right?
At least business class and I'm expecting our own private jet, maybe Air Force One, I might settle for that."
What are your plans after Bloodstock?
"We've got a few more gigs mostly in Scotland and north of England, we're just going to keep padding for shows, we're preparing for our second album so the song's are nearly there, we're still kind of writing and perfecting them - we're hopefully going to start tracking by the end of the year, hoping for a 2019 release so that'll take a lot of attention, a lot of energy, but yeah just keep looking for shows and stuff like that, see if we can chase this and hopefully get a few things out of it as well. Trying our best to network over here as well, see what comes."
Finally guys are there any greetings, thank you's or hello's you wish to send out?
"Yeah just to everyone that has supported us, those who get us here you know we had a lot of help from the people down our way, we owe them a lot of thanks, all the fans back home as well and everywhere else. Everyone that has supported us, watched our videos, listened to our music, bought our album - yeah it's all for them, we just hope we can do them proud.
Thanks to every single person who went out their way to give us that one step up or just spread our music about, talking about and supporting us. Thanks to everyone around us, they're always supportive and it's a nice environment to be in.
Same again thanks to everyone for supporting us, every listen counts so.
Aye just everybody, everybody who has ever been to a gig or has supported us.
Perhaps a big shout out to Simon for taking a chance on us, it's beyond appreciated and we plan on to corner him and tell him that in person. To take a risk on a band who is kind of different as us, it's a big leap of faith but we fully intend to live up to and exceed his expectations.
Simon and also anyone else who has seen the band live and just take a chance with, we know these guys are good, but will they be the right act for the stage. Our road manager deserves a shout out too."
With the exception of the South African Metal scene, the vast swathe of national scenes across Sub-Sahara have either come and gone or are on the rise just at a slow pace. Sure countries like Botswana might just be behind South Africa, but between them and the other scenes is a gap as wide as the African plains.
GMA spoke to Kenyan Metal musician Martin Kanja (Lust Of A Dying Breed and The Seeds Of Datura) about his native metal scene, which although isn't too far behind Botswana in terms of progression, still has a long way to go to make it's recognition internationally known; in doing so also sheds light on metal's spread across Sub-Sahara Africa.
So firstly how did you get into metal music? What do your parents think of metal music?
"I started out listening to rock and roll since high school. After I left high school I moved to Nairobi with the desire of forming a band as I am from Nakuru. I was just a teenager and I needed something heavier than rock. There used to be a show I would tune into called 'Metal To Midnight' hosted by one Shiv Mandavia, vocalist of Blackened Death metal act Abscence Of Light. I had started to formerly research about metal and I just got into it really good as I love the energy and positive power. My parents know I've always done what I love but the opposition was there. I can't fake so I just continue being myself."
Can you tell us the histories of Lust Of A Dying Breed and The Seeds Of Datura.
"I formed LOADB together with its bassist Timothy Opiko soon after I moved to Nairobi. He came up with the name and I dug it and we wanted to play metal in a fashion never seen here before in Kenya, let alone the world. Abdalla Issa Khalid came through after 4 months of it's formation. He was a student at JKUAT (Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology) and he had passion like I never seen in anyone for metal. We got our permanent drummer Larry Kim after a lot of hardship as good drummers are so rare. We met guitarist Sam Kiranga sometime in 2011 and he settled in nicely as we loved his playing and dedication, and then year we went ahead and wrote the record "Cat Of Nine Tails" and released it in 2012; we formed LOADB in 2010.
We went into hiatus after its release due to various personal and economic issues in 2014. I Went into the sales and logistics end of the security industry until 2015. I became self-employed in 2015 and I could now relax and think what I wanted in life. I love metal and had always been writing music like everyday and every week. I met Dani Kobimbo as he wanted to interview me for a magazine he ran called 'Heavy And The Beast' that gives coverage on the Kenyan Rock and Metal Scene and our friendship took off. We found ourselves in studio one time in Kiserian ran by Last Years Tragedy's vocalist David Mburu, we jammed out and I was surprised how well he could sing. We decided to collaborate and and continue jamming. I went to manage my family's tourist camp in Masai Mara at the end of 2015 and I had a burst of creativity and I wrote lyrics like crazy. So I returned to Nairobi and we moved in with Dani and we wrote music and articles.
Our current drummer Lawrence Muchemi comes from my home-town and he had always hit me up, we hang out and he doubles up as the vocalist of Irony Destroyed. So we started hanging out looking for places to jam, just the three of us. Shortly after we went to Tigoni, to a studio called Realm Of Mist in June 2016. The owner Harvey Herr invited us to jam and chill at the studio and that's where we met our first guitarist Sultan Rauf as he worked there. On the same day we met Slammy Karugu whose is also bassist for the punk band Powerslide and our current bassist Mordecai Ogayo who was playing violin. We started regularly and Wilson Muia came through a few months later and we made a whole song the first day we met. The name Seeds of Datura came about one afternoon. To embody out our individual energies as one family and our thought provoking music for mankind."
What is it like being a metal musician in Kenya? What challenges are there? What is the public perception of metal music?
"First of all it's all about the degree of focus and passion you have for your art. It's not easy or anything but we don't do it for that. We do it for the love of it all. There are many challenges, Kenya being a dominantly Christian country has a negative perception towards Rock let alone Metal. Also getting equipment is also a challenge when bands are starting out. Shows don't happen all the time too and most times we have to organize shows ourselves. The scene is steadily growing and venues are steadily getting packed. The recording is also a part that musicians find a challenge in as getting the right sound for metal and getting a good producer who understands the music. They are a quiet few but The Powers have blessed us with always bumping into the right people. "
What do the authorities think of the music? Are youth encouraged to learn music?
"The authorities don't support our music of course because we embody a millennial counter-culture contrary to the popular. The youth have access to the internet at a very young age and they begin to get exposed really early. They are encouraged to do a lot of other stuff they don't like but they are seeing how much a waste it all is with all the corruption and extortion going on and they are choosing their own paths and thinking for themselves. At least from how I see things and what I've been exposed to."
How long has the Kenyan Metal scene been going? Do you know of any bands from South Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia or Somalia?; Could you see metal music reaching every African nation?
"The earliest I've heard that metal has been around must be around the early 2005's. Further back like the 70's, rock bands were In circulation. Yeah I know Threatening and Vale Of Amonition from Uganda. Haven't heard of metal bands from the other countries you've asked. Yes I do. There are very serious scenes in Mozambique, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa, Egypt, Angola, Morocco, Guinea, just to name a few. Personally I think Africa is the most Metal place on Earth with how we are portrayed in international media and shit. It's quiet different, but the dark spirituality and ancestral roots tie very deeply with the real issues that metal chants about."
For metalheads visiting Kenya, what sights and attractions could you recommend? Are there any places that aren't generally safe to visit?
"I'd recommend the Masai Mara, Tea Fields of Limuru, Aberdare Forest, Obsydian Studios, Sanctuary Farm Naivasha. Lol"
What plans does both bands have for 2018? and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Content, content, content, releases, releases, releases. Yeah shout out to all the real ones in the scenes doing their thing. Shout out to Tshomarelo Mosaka of the Botswanan Death Metal band Overthrust. Shout out to Austine Nwankwo of Nigeria's Audio Inferno. Shout out to Patrick Davidson of Metal 4 Africa. Shout out to Truka Kasser of African Metal. Got a lot of shout outs but I'll take all year. Keep it heavy my people. It's either a pinkie or its metal horns \m/"
Emphasis are not holding back nor are they slowing down, the Estonian Progressive / Symphonic Power Metallers have signed a deal with Japanese label Red Rivet Records. Thus giving the band the momentum to reach deep into the Asian market and help expose not only their music, but the rich vibrant sounds the Estonian Metal scene has to offer. It has been two years since the sextet dropped their debut album "Revival" and now they're revelling in their latest offering "Soul Transfer", deviating away from the structural guidelines laid before them in search of a truly inspirational sound for the album as the band go on to explain... it did not happen by sheer accident.
How does it feel to release your second album 'Soul Transfer'; especially on Japanese label Red Rivet Records? Where does this place itself in terms of the band's history and the wider Estonian Metal scene?
"Estonia is a small country and our metal scene is very small as well. Actually, there's only one metal label – Nailboard Records. Many years ago they signed bands, but now they work more as a distribution company. So it means that we have no choice and it's pretty common that Estonian artists sign deals with foreign labels. So, as you know, our previous album was released on the Italian label "Underground Symphony". This time we sent our record to a list of labels over the world and we were happy to get positive feedback from Japan. Red Rivet Records offered us reasonable conditions and we're still happy about our co-operation. And yes, for us every action and step forward is kind of achievement."
Regarding the 'Soul Transfer' track-list, could you explain the meaning behind the percentages?; Assuming it ties in with the album title?
"Soul Transfer is a concept album, an entire complete original story where the order of the compositions are arranged in a certain meaningful sequence. All the tracks are combined through smooth transitions or short instrumental sketches, which underlines and complements the full picture of the idea. In order to understand what we wanted to convey to the listener, you need to listen to the disc from start to finish in one session: from zero to one hundred percent with a total duration of 73 minutes. So, in the album, three main lines are closely intertwined: the inner world of feelings and memories of the character, the world of virtual reality created by a super computer, and the real material non-industrial world and its society, manipulated by gadgets and social media.
Using non-tradtional metal instruments can sometimes be considered unorthodox (in this case a saxophone and trumpet). What gave you the inspiration to include said instruments? How was it working with Raul Sööt and Allan Järve? Can we call the album 'Avant-Garde' or 'Progressive Jazz Metal'?
"I expected such a question... creating music for "Soul Transfer", initially I did not think about jazz instruments, as well as about violins. The album was at the stage of mixing... there were a lot of instrumental parties and it did not sound boring. But one evening, when the light at the end of the tunnel was already close, I went to the shower. Standing under the hot water, I thought: damn! I want to add something else, why not the jazz sounds? After two beers I opened my computer, sketched out my ideas, and messaged one saxophonist. In the morning I got a negative answer from him. I was quite mad and decided to make a last effort. I wrote a message to one of the best musicians in Estonia - my former harmony teacher and tenor saxophonist Raul Sööt. Next morning he answered me that it will be interesting for him to take a part in this project.
After that I was thinking about trumpet. Then I messaged to Allan Järve, who was my friend at the Viljandi Academy of Culture. He quickly came to my studio and we recorded a trumpet for two tracks in an hour. Raul Sööt took the task very responsibly. He recorded his parts at the studio with Cristo Cotkas, there were several sessions. When I mixed the album, including their parts, I realized that this is exactly what I would like to hear in the end. The other members of the Emphasis were shocked. They listened to the songs several times and said that it sounds cool, albeit unusual. Avant-garde it or not – let the reviewers to decide :) But for me this record is exactly what I always wanted to record, even at those times, when in our group were only three members - me, Katya and Vsevolod. Ten years passed and we did it! I want to say a big thank you to all the musicians who shared this work with us - Raul Sööt, Allan Jarve, my friend from Moscow - Oleg Lutskevich, and also my colleague Julia Mets and my student Alexander Smirnov."
Assuming there will be a tour to support the new album, are there any countries you would want to target? Will there be a music video released in support?
"Currently, we don't plan any tour activities. Our album release party took place in Rockstar's club in Tallinn on April 14. The most of the songs we played for the really first time in our lives and we really enjoyed that! The crowd was amazing. We decided to focus on promotional stuff. Yes, we have some great plans about music video .. but let's see! :)"
For metal fans travelling to Tallinn and wider Estonia, what sights / attractions could you recommend seeing?
"Rockstar's club – the oldest rock club in town, actually! Hard Rock Laager Open Air, of course. If you want to discover more, I totally recommend you to visit Narva, home town of three of our musicians, and got Art Club "Ro-Ro“. Believe me, there's really special atmosphere :)"
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year that have not already been indicated earlier?
"We are planning to open our online-shop, finally! There you can find our musical stuff and some really cool merchandise. As Anna said, we also have some plans about music video, but.... now we're not ready to discuss it. However, GMA will be the first source who'll get a link ;)"
Anna (vocals): "In autumn, we plan to play more shows. This spring was really hard for us!"
Max (guitars): "And we also plan to continue with the new material."
Pavel (guitars): "... 3,5 of the songs done :D"
Are there any greetings you wish to send out to fans, friends, family, etc?
All: "We wish you to visit more live shows and support local underground scene!"
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!"
Although metal music has been around for the past 4 decades (40 years), it is yet to fully touch every country in the world, and whilst Europe, North America, South America and Asia, with the addition of Australia and New Zealand have embraced metal music and it's culture (with the exception of the Vatican City and a handful of Caribbean islands), the African continent and Oceanian nations have yet to join the global legion.
However, there are a number of African countries who have metal music history established such as South Africa and Egypt, but, there are some Sub-Sahara countries like Uganda who are very underground and regularly get omitted from the New Wave of Sub-Saharan Metal.
Enter Vale Of Amonition, a Progressive Doom Metal band who have been romping the streets of Kampala for nearly a decade. Having released countless singles, 3 demo's, an EP, a compilation and their debut album, the Ugandan metal flag-bearers return with their second album "Those of Tartarean Ancestry", a solid effort given the slew of drummers who have come and gone over the last decade. GMA spoke to frontman Victor Rosewrath about Vale Of Amonition's current position, the Ugandan Metal scene and his thoughts on metal music.
"Metal has a rebellious energy attached to its ethos and construction... Metal will always find its people"
Vale Of Amonition and Threatening appear to be the only active metal bands in Uganda, what is new in the metal scene?
"There's probably a bit more underground or starting bands than we are aware of because we haven't really kept tabs on the development of the scene. I was aware of a few musicians trying to get things started here and there but I really can't say for sure."
How was 2017 for Vale of Amonition?
"2017 was one of the best years for the Vale. We released our long awaited second album, we headlined the Nairobi Metal Fest, I worked with an exciting new band called Doomcast with whom I released an E.P titled "Farewell To The Flesh" and we partied like crazy. It really has been thoroughly awesome."
You have just released your latest effort 'Those Of Tartarean Ancestry', what was the reception like?
"The reception for "Those of Tartarean Ancestry" has been great. We've matured tremendously as a band and we are in a much better position as songwriters to express the darkness of the Vale. I'm glad our fans and supporters are able to understand and appreciate what we are doing."
What do the Ugandan authorities think of metal music? What does society think of it? What do your parents think of metal music?
"They all hate it. But we never cared in the first place. We're not going to start giving a shit now."
Growing up as a musician, what challenges did you face? What challenges do you face these days?
"The challenges I faced were access to the equipment I needed until I realized there's ways around that and there's magic in making the most of what you have. I think my biggest challenge now is separating myself from the Vale and the Vale from me because I am really getting worried about my mental health."
There is a metal scene in Kenya, but do you know of any rock / metal bands from Rwanda, DRC or South Sudan? Do you envisage metal music to be present in every African country one day?
"Yes. I know metal will spread from one end to end of Africa someday. It probably won't happen but I'm an optimistic man despite what you might have heard."
What would you say attracts people to metal music? Living in war-ravaged areas? Corruption? Poverty? What are your thoughts on how metal has an affect on people?
"Metal has a rebellious energy attached to its ethos and construction. It's in the wiring of the music and the culture it has spawned...even the more depressive, introspective metal has a loner, me-against-the-world quality about it. That is very relevant today as it has always been. Metal will always find its people."
What plans do you have for 2018?
"More shows, more music."
Are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Not particularly. I keep in contact with most people I care about. Maybe a shout out to Peter Steele in the nether regions. Thank you for the music, Green Man."
It's always nice to see individuals or groups giving the their input towards a relief effort and Omotai are no exception. Having provided a track for the Hurricane Harvey Benefit Compilation, this Texas unit are committed to bringing charity to those affected by the hurricane in late August / early September.
GMA had to catch up with the guys to talk about this sensational venture, their origins and the extreme weather Texas has to deal with, that being tornadoes as well as hurricanes.
Vocalist / Guitarist Jamie Ross gave the honours.
"Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around [from Hurricane Harvey]"
Hi guys, firstly could you give us a brief history of how Omotai came about as a band? What does the name mean?
"It all started back in 2010, when Sam Waters (vocals / guitars) enlisted the help of Melissa Lonchambon Ryan (vocals / bassist) and then-drummer Anthony Vallejo to record the debut EP, Peace Through Fear. That line-up remained unchanged through the next two releases, 2012's Terrestrial Grief (the debut full-length) and 2014's Fresh Hell--both released on local label The Treaty Oak Collective. I joined the line-up as a second guitarist in 2013, pretty soon following the recording of Fresh Hell, but prior to its release.
Anthony left soon after, his final show being at a 2014 SXSW appearance. Danny Mee took over drumming duties in time to complete some touring in support of Fresh Hell in 2014 and 2015. We've been hard at work ever since, writing and recording our latest double LP, A Ruined Oak, which is set to debut on October 6th on Tofu Carnage Records. A West Coast excursion is planned to promote the record. The name Omotai is the Japanese word for "heavy," which Sam felt was an apt designation given the artistic direction of the band. Credit for the idea goes to our friend Evan Jones, who taught English in Japan for a spell."
Would you say that the 2017 hurricane season has been one of the worst in recent years?
"Most definitely. Sam's family tragically lost their home in the Bellaire section of Houston, which was hit especially hard. The season would have been horrific enough if Harvey and its aftermath were the extent of it. But Irma came along and devastated much of the Eastern Caribbean and Florida, then Maria recently ravaged Puerto Rico (which is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis). Houston's had its share of weather-related disasters--especially in the last few years. But here we are a month out from the date that Harvey made landfall, and many areas are still impassable. Also, the waste from homes being gutted has built up into a logistical nightmare for removal companies that are still struggling to make inroads."
As you're from Texas, a state within tornado alley, have you ever seen a tornado? Has there been any notable ones hit Texas?
"We're a bit close to the Gulf of Mexico to be in the heart of tornado alley, but there were several in the area while Harvey was stalled over Houston. One hit the neighbourhood next to mine on that first Friday night--I could hear, but not see it. North Texas is the unlucky recipient of most of Texas' tornadoes."
Tell us about you getting involved in the Hurricane Harvey benefit compilation, where are the participating bands located? How can people donate?
"We were approached by Miss Champagne Records about contributing a track to the benefit record, Making Waves, the week following the Harvey disaster. It was the brainchild of the MCR staff and Mercy Harper from Football, etc. All of the bands are local to Houston, so the cause is obviously very meaningful to us all. We think it turned out wonderfully and we're honoured to be in the company of so many stellar Houston bands included on the compilation. All proceeds from the benefit comp go straight to Harvey relief, so it's a perfect way to donate AND listen to some rad music."
Did you sit out the hurricane or did you evacuate further inland? What were your thoughts at the time of Harvey's landfall?
"Danny was safely in Austin for the storm, but everyone else toughed it out here. When the storm finally hit, we knew that we were going to be in for an extended confinement at our homes (fully anticipated by the Houston masses, as evidenced by the the local grocery and liquor stores being completely fleeced), but no one anticipated how crippled the city would become. Just the sheer number of people that lost everything is hard to wrap one's head around. "
Would you agree that extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes are a staple part of Mid-West and Southern American life?
"For sure. And, to make matters worse, the events are becoming more frequent and increasingly destructive."
Given the damage caused by Harvey, I can't imagine there being much band activity this year - please correct me if I'm assuming wrong and inform what you will be getting up to?
"There are several benefit shows sprouting up in the area, so the music community has been surprisingly resilient. As for Omotai, we've been concentrating on getting A Ruined Oak released, and we'll be embarking on a Western U.S. tour starting this Friday, September 29th. All of the dates are posted to our social media for those that would like to come out and hang."
Finally are there any hellos, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Firstly, our thoughts are with the Waters clan and all of our other Houston friends and family that are dealing with the loss of so much property, and coping with the resulting emotional challenges. Special thanks to Sean Mehl and Tofu Carnage Records for helping us put out the LP. And, finally, thanks to all who have supported us over the years--it truly means a lot."