"We continue to combat the rejection of metal music as the authorities and the media do not understand this style of music and view it as a part of the ideological weapon of the enemy of the north."
When you think of the Caribbean island nation of Cuba, you tend to think of the ever-lasting Cuban cigar, rum, Spanish-colonialism and the historical Cuban Missile Crisis; fronted by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. But beneath that is a metal scene that's practically built on a DIY attitude, just like our ancestors did when they first created the boat to enable voyages across the seven seas.
Perhaps it's then fitting for the quintet Mephisto to deploy their Latin-infused style of Black Metal, a sound that would rival the very ferocity of a barraging hurricane. For a band that has been around since 1996, a revolving-door of musicians coming and going and their debut album coming 20 years later, you would have thought it was curtains for the band... alas you'd think wrong, they are set to deliver their second opus in the form of "Pentafixion". It was therefore fitting for Global Metal Apocalypse to grill the quintet and find out info relating to the album, why you need a 'can do, will do' attitude just to survive in the Cuban metal scene and why bands (like Mephisto) look outwards to Europe (in their case) and the USA for exposure.
This culminated in them signing with Italian label WormHoleDeath. Now whilst Mephisto plans a national tour of Cuba (slated for mid 2021) and a run of dates later in the year in Nicaragua, check out the birth of "Latin Black Metal" courtesy of Cuba's veterans Mephisto.
Hi everyone, first of all tell us what is it like to sign with WormHoleDeath and what this means for the band?
"Signing with WormHoleDeath means a huge step forward for the band. The visualization of Mephisto in the European and Asian markets, where I am sure that people from those regions do not even know that there is even a small island called Cuba in the Caribbean and even less that European metal is made on that island. This exposure is important as it’s what Mephisto does, although future fans will notice that the influences of the Spanish and African mix of our culture are noticed in our music.
We have been ostracized for years due to the little attention that metal in general has in our own territory and the little we have achieved has been through perseverance, work and talent, so the opportunity to belong to the family of such a prestigious record company gives us a visibility on the map that we could not achieve with our own means or with the help of Cuban record companies that have little reach."
Not many people would associate Black Metal with the exotic climate of Cuba, what makes your style of Black Metal different?
"Not having contact with other leading bands of the genre worldwide, not having access to international festivals and due to the scarce exchange on stage with bands from other countries, means that we have few external influences that mould our music, so our Black Metal takes on a rare originality. That is the reason why several bands in the world, when they go to compose or record an album, isolate themselves in remote places, so that their product is genuine. It happens to us for reasons of force majeure.
The different musical tastes of each member also make a difference, the same in metal as in other musical genres, so do not be surprised if we are caught listening to Jazz. Also the amalgamation of Caribbean sounds that we are surrounded by influences us indirectly. In Mephisto you can find patterns that jump from 4/4 to 3/4 or 6/4 and 7/4, or the use of syncopations, Latin jazz patterns on the drums, and even the Cuban keys. Of course, deep down, if you know music you will notice."
Arguably, the Caribbean has some pretty good metal scenes, but those in Europe are often not noted, what do you think is missing or owed to those in Europe who don't explore Caribbean metal?
"Because death metal and brutal death abound. The consumption in Europe is mostly more in the symphonic styles, and even perhaps melodic or symphonic death metal. I think Europeans are more attracted to black, folk and death metal trends that I mentioned earlier. The metal market is in the USA, mainly Florida and New York, so the Caribbean bands try to enter that market. There is a rejection between both parties. In the case of Mephisto we have a special interest in Europe, because it is the market that suits us best. Although if we’d welcome success in America too."
Logistically, would we ever see a Caribbean Metal Festival take place? What is the general perception of metal music by the general public?
"If you mean Cuba, well ... there are about 9 metal festivals throughout the island, but only some have an international character and few bands from the USA and Europe have participated due to the poor logistics of each of them. It must be taken into account that the government of the island, of a socialist nature, is not interested in financing this type of event for ideological reasons and all are carried out by a small but strong non-governmental organization called AHS that puts its funds to carry out these events. International groups that have an interest in acting on the island must do so with their own financing, and not everyone does that because it is a great expense.
As for other regions, in Central and South America there are events that can afford to have first-rate bands, but let's bear in mind that they operate in a market economy where they invest and obtain benefits. That way everything can be done."
You are preparing to release your new album "Pentafixion", can you tell us what the album is about and how did you come up with the lyrics? Tell us about the process of recording the album.
"Pentafixion is composed of songs from different eras of the band. Songs that were collected in poorly recorded demos, with a sound impossible to commercialize. Due to technological advances in music production we managed to make this recording with a lot of effort and group work. The sessions were held in my house (Mole's Home Studio) with minimal conditions that will seem impossible when you listen to the sound of the album. The orchestration was done with Kontakt software without acoustic conditions of any kind. But I repeat, you will not believe it when you listen to the CD since the software, plug-ins, etc., have helped to clean up the mix and give it the professional studio environment that you will listen to. As we have had the need, we have become experts in these software programs and in sound engineering. What else could we do with no access to professional recording studio in Holguin?
Once the album was mixed, we took it to a private studio of another sound lover: Samuel P. Santiesteban (Botija Productions), who was in charge of the mastering. I was then charged to make the DDP file, guided by a YouTube tutorial. As I said before: necessity is the mother of invention. As for the letter of Pentafixion, it is simply the fact of the crucifixion on a pentagram for the performance of a ritual of evocation for the materialization of evil on earth (Mephistopheles). As for the other topics, I can summarize it this way:
Tell us what it was like to grow up as metalheads in Cuba, the challenges, the difficulties, how has COVID-19 impacted the country in general?
"Difficulties have grown perseverance. Necessity is the mother of invention, and surrender is not an option for Cuban metalheads. It is not new history, the metalheads and bands of Eastern Europe went through the same thing and bands like Behemoth and Vader did not see the light at the end of the road until the fall of the Berlin wall. We are in the same situation and we have had to invent our equipment and instruments until we had access to branded equipment with outside help. There has also been the production of t-shirts with their own means by fans and a thousand other curiosities.
We continue to combat the rejection of metal music as the authorities and the media do not understand this style of music and view it as a part of the ideological weapon of the enemy of the north. Of course, over the years some of these things have changed and there is some openness and some other space on radio and TV, but the anthropological damage has already been done in the population, so metal is still minority music.
The Covid-19 has achieved that in 1 year there are no metal events or concerts in the country except in our city, Holguin, where the rate of infected is lower, and there were a few months that it reached 0%. Of course, only groups from the city and other nearby cities have been able to participate, since the west of the country has not had respite from this new disease.
Under normal circumstances (i.e., without a pandemic), what sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads visiting Havana?
"There is only one place: the Maxim Rock room on Bruzón Street, in Ayestarán corner, Plaza municipality. It's where the only metal concerts are held."
What are your plans for next year taking all things into account? Do you have any greetings or thanks that you want to send to friends, family, fans, etc.?
"We are preparing another album, this time a conceptual work on the myth of Dracula. It will be titled Carpathian Tales. It's more of a remake of an album that we recorded in Cuba but we couldn't do anything with it due to the sound quality. Later we will do the same with our first two demos and while this happens (in a space of two or three years); we will be composing a totally new album with unreleased songs. 5 songs out of 10 that are in process are ready but as you can see, there is work for a while.
Also, depending on the epidemiological situation, we plan to tour Central America and Europe, but we still have to wait to see what happens for now. It’s frustrating not being able to tour but we have the time now to effectively promote the Pentafixion album in all possible ways."
Official Website – https://mephistoband.com
Official Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/MephistoCubanMetalBand
This time round our interview interrogations turn to one of Sweden's most underground record labels, one that specializes mainly in Extreme Metal (Black, Death, Doom, etc) from far flung countries, from Colombia to Morocco and from Pakistan to a forthcoming release by a band in Kazakhstan.
Salute Records is run solely by one Satanic Tony Sundstrand, who also owns various projects amongst his band Demorian. It is also very safe to say he has seen the Swedish Metal scene expand and grow ever since 1981 when his musical career began; he also used to run Pure Black Heart Productions until it was closed around 2012 (it started 30th December, 2009 and catered for Extreme Metal)
With an ongoing list of releases forthcoming and a terrific catalog of years by-gone, GMA felt it was time to shine the spotlight on one of Sweden's greatest underground musicians and record label owners, what Tony has to say is an absolute eye-opener to those thinking of setting up their own label and / or distribution channel. Take note.
Hi there Tony, so how long has Salute Records been going, why 'Salute' and what bands do you generally sign / release material of?
I started the label in December 2007, and from the beginning the plan was to put together a compilation album with some smaller and very underground bands that I liked or felt that needed extra support. This is because I knew all the way back since the 1980´s and 1990´s how hard it was for myself to play in a band and get anywhere further from nothing. So it was more of a fun idea and from that everything grew bigger, nowadays the label has almost produced 200 releases with bands from almost the entire world; ranging from Extreme Black Metal, Death, Doom, Crustpunk, Dark Ambient, DSBM, Thrash, NSBM, Grindcore and regular Heavy Metal and Rock.
You have your own projects and bands, could you give a brief overview on what they are and what the future plans are?
Yes I am active in several bands and a couple of one-man band projects, but some of those also involve guest musicians. The bands that I am involved and active with are Demorian (active first from 2001, but fully since 2007) and have released a couple of albums, EP´s, demos and splits, and are working on a new release called "From Marduk To Gaia", this will be very different & will come out in 2014.
Then we have Wintercold which has been active since 2008 and has released five full lengths so far and features a mix of both Doom, Goth Rock & raw Atmospheric Black / Folk Metal, Curse Of Wotan is another band / project that first started playing acoustical Black Metal (which I think is very original) and released the last album in early June this year, future plans include having a forthcoming album, however the band will be put on hold or will end with this last album; which features more regular Black Metal in it.
Magiska Krafter is another band that I am involved in, it is an Indian / Swedish band and the front man is from Skool of Dead & Burn The Water, who I appeared with as a guest vocalist. The band released one album back in 2012 and are now working on something new.
Luciferian Blood is another band that is international & features me as vocalist, the rest of the line-up is as follows: Martin from Prayer of The Dying (Malta) on drums and Invisus from Terra Australis (Australia) on guitar & bass. The band started in the early summer of 2013 and plays very raw old school Black Metal, we are no working on a second demo or EP / mini album to be released later this year.
Doomsday Prophet is another project that was created back in 2012 and has released two demos / EP´s & one full length so far, with this project I play funeral-like Doom Metal with a high dose of Ambient / Drone in it.
Voxra is also another project, but it is now buried after two albums and one demo.
Another band that I can also mention is Dawn of Apocalypse, it is very new and features me taking up all instrument duties and my wife and soulmate Malin "Big Blondiee" on the lead vocals. We have done one demo and when this is written, we also have a debut mini album "Forces of Darkness Reigns" out on Satanica Productions.
Some work for splits and a compilation to come out in Bangladesh is also in my plans. Also I can inform all that a number of months back I became lead vocalist for the Black Metal / Ambient band Nostalgie Depression from Chile as well, so my vocals are on the band's first album and an EP.
One other band that you can look for in the future is called A Perfect Day, this band I will be playing guitars in, the band plays some kind of Depressive Post-Black Metal / Shoegaze and it will be interesting to see what more things await us around the corner.
One thing for sure is that the older I get, the more I burn for creating music and have no plans to stop ;)
In your opinion what countries are the most obscure for metal?
The countries that I think have some of the most obscure and unique Extreme Metal / Extreme Music scenes, are also ones that I have had the honor of releasing band music from, therefore these must be: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, China, Tunisia, Morocco, Bahrain, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia.
What would you say is the hardest challenge for labels these days?
To survive as underground label without losing the right feelings and grip for it I guess. One thing that is often the hardest thing to get is money to last for more than you actually have and then of course another thing that I know many complain about (same for myeslf) is the expensive cost to send cds and tapes across the world to other countries.
That is one truly hard challenge for all small and underground labels. But one thing that I have learned all through the years is to never quit just because some things go straight to hell for a moment. Simply because before you know it, some things can really change to become more positive. A way that you never really expected to see. For me it has happened several times.
You seem to deal with mainly bands from far flung countries, do you feel more labels should do this?
Hmmm that is up to them. I think it is better nowadays than back in 2008 / 09, as more labels these days are concentrated and have more focus on bands from obscure countries and areas. So I think that the feeling and support for bands has reached even to the more small and obscure distant places.
And then it is of course good and positive that not all labels do it the same way. I have through theyears discovered that many labels start up their activity and believe that they can and want to become big and famous, but that is not the right goal to choose (same with many bands I believe). As you can often see, many of these labels that follow those terms are born to fail in the end.
What was the hardest and greatest challenge for Salute Records?
One of the hardest challenges must be last year when I recently released the second album for
the Egyptian Symphonic / Black Metal band Zatreon and the "so called" twist that went shortly after with the Dutch Metal band Toxic Grind Machine. The issue is now history and I don´t want to do some explanation on that topic here.
My conclusion after that problematic situation is that I still love the band Zatreon and their music, and what is true or false I now don´t really give a f*** about anymore ;) The release with Zatreon is nowdays "officially" sold out ;). One of the best or some of the most positive feedbacks and feelings for running Salute Records must begin with all of the great contacts I have with numerous bands, people, zines and labels, there are too many to count as it is more than you can find on any of the pages for Salute Records, haha.
And then of course from time to time when regular people make some really huge orders from the label as this really helps the label to survive and continue the work and plan for the future. For that I say thanks to you all.
What future releases can we look forward to?
Planned releases that you can expect from us include firstly from the band Detention from Kazakhstan, it is really nice to co-operate the release together with the Ukrainian label Depressive Illusions Records.
Then it is the Mexican Black / Death band Seed of Evil. We have Nigra Locust (Black Metal from Mexico) and it is a re-release of their only & first demo from 2012. A coming split with Wintercold (Sweden) and Nicrotek (Indonesia). A split with Nostalgie Depression (Chile) and Nicrotek (Indonesia). A four way split with bands like Necrolepsy from Bangladesh and more. A big Grindcore / Death Metal compilation (probably out when this interview is written) with 24 various bands. Some of the bands are Multinational Corporations, Pro-Past, Yattai, Parasite, Sloppy Teen Pussy, Fetus Slicer and many more. Another planned production is a new bigger compilation for download and perhaps on CD too. Discussions and plans with bands for a sort of deal and coming releases is always in my plans (every day), haha :)
Finally are there any greetings you wish to send out?
A big thanks for this interview (the first officially made one so far), a big thanks to all those who support me, any of my bands / projects and all who in some way or another supports Salute Records and the bands on it. You know who you are, so it is not needed to write some kind of long list here. Don´t support the profit labels as they destroy it for all of us. Support the real underground! Hails & salutes from the land in north \m/
GMA Interview Interrogation: Ruzlan Ahmed (Mortuary Productions Owner) and Hridoy Rayhan (Metal Monger Records Owner) - Bangladesh
By GMA Bangladesh Correspondent Nabil Abaddon
In the last 4 years, Bangladesh has been going through a major upheaval in the underground Metal scene. Although the country saw its international exposure originate with bands like Weapon, Severe Dementia, Barzak, Orator etc during the mid & late 2000’s, it was after 2010 / 2011 that the local scene had developed a level of consistency in producing some quality Extreme Metal acts at it's own pace, earning accolades from places around the world.
Recently this year, two dedicated Extreme Metal labels called Mortuary Productions and Metal Monger Records emerged out of the blue in the local scene and announced two well assembled international compilation albums. One of them is "Luxury Of Pain", which is a double disk album and is going to be released via Mortuary Productions. Looking at the bill, it seems that Ruzlan Ahmed, the owner of Mortuary Productions wanted to make sure that the local acts receive maximum exposure. That is the majority of bands are Bangladeshi, are immensely talented and have great reputation.
Apart from that, the compilation not only comprises of some of the best Extreme Metal acts from the South-East Asian region like Orator, Homicide, Plague Throat, Dying Out Flame, Abominable Carnivore etc but also some amazing Thrash, Death, Black Metal and Grindcore bands from countries like Italy, The Philippines, USA, France, Spain, Thailand, Sweden and Pakistan.
On the other hand, Metal Monger Records is coming up with a heavy weight compilation album called "Total Chaos: Volume 1". Hridoy Rayhan has done a brilliant job by bringing together some supreme and malevolent acts in the form of Sabbat, Ungod, Gehennah, Orator, Nafarmaan, Lobotomy, Savage Deity and lastly, Twisted Fate. Following them, there are some promising young bands on the bill: Enmachined, Mortar, Graveyard Ghoul, Revealing Hecate, Ego Kill, Exalter etc. The compilation is a “must have” for the old school lovers.
With this in mind, it felt right for GMA to catch up with both of label owners and get to know more about their endeavors.
Greetings Ruzlan and Hridoy. How is it going with you guys?
Ruzlan: Thanks brother! I’m doing great.
Hridoy: Hey Nabil! I'm doing great! Thanks for asking!
Lets start from the beginning. How did Mortuary Production and Metal Monger Records happen in the first place? What were the directions and the motivational factors?
Ruzlan: Well, Mortuary Production started when my band Necrolepsy needed a label to release and distribute it’s EP in Bangladesh. After the release we thought of taking the label seriously and continue farther. And also, it is really hard for the Extreme Metal bands to find a label in the country, so we thought of giving them a platform too.
Hridoy: Well, I always had intentions to support the Metal scene of this country. I knew most labels would not sign up or release an Extreme Metal album. I felt the need to start a label based on Metal and Metal only. That was my inspiration. That is what drove me to start Metal Monger Records.
Both of the labels are coming up with two different compilation albums. Why did you choose to start off your journeys with compilations? Are they coming out physically?
Ruzlan: As I mentioned earlier, our first release was an EP. So no we didn’t start off with this compilation. Compilations are a great platform for bands to spread their music throughout a great number of listeners. In case of an international compilation, when a listener buys a copy of it he checks out all the other bands along with the band from his country. So I really think it’s a great way to spread the music. Yes, our compilation which is called "Luxury of Pain" is a double disk compilation. To be honest, I never really liked online releases. So yeah that pretty much sums it up.
Hridoy: Yes the compilation is coming out only in physical copies and are numbered to 100. Well, I started off with a compilation because I wanted to reach a certain audience overseas with my label and the following bands in the album. I think a compilation is a great way of introducing newer bands to people. This compilation will set the ground for future releases from Metal Monger. I also plan to release further volumes of "Total Chaos" in later years.
Recently, there have been a lot of compilations coming out from home and abroad, both online and physical. It seems to be the ongoing trend now. Do you two think these compilations, including yours, help the bands and the scenes overall?
Ruzlan: Yes why not? I get to see many compilations releasing from my country and abroad. This is a good thing only if these compilations are going to the right listeners which is the sole purpose of these compilations. These releases help a band to increase their fan-base in places where they never even thought of and of course a good compilation works as a benchmark for a scene.
Hridoy: Well, in my opinion compilations are a ground where bands who have proven their sound to their audiences, can introduce newer bands to them. In other words, a compilation can give younger bands a head start and the scene evolves around the bands.
The Bangladeshi Metal scene has been flourishing and has spread outside of Dhaka to places like Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Khulna, and as a result quality shows are happening. More bands are touring abroad and it seems that signing to foreign record labels are becoming the holy grail for a lot of local bands.
Please tell us about your thoughts as to how your labels can play important roles in farther developments of the local scene and what do your labels have to offer to the bands and the fans that other labels don’t?
Ruzlan: It is really great to see such great bands coming from places outside Dhaka. The metal scene now is at a great stage. The shows in Chittagong, Sylhet and others places are usually filled with Metal enthusiasts. Mortuary Productions will always support the local scene and the bands. A good number of quality releases from a label will surely increase the number of listeners and will help the bands in creating a fan-base of their own. It is really important for a scene to have a good number of listeners. Listeners who look forward to the releases of the local bands, show up in the gigs and support them. Mortuary Productions have a countrywide distribution and our releases will also be distributed by a few foreign labels and distros. So it is easy for the fans to grab a copy of our releases.
Hridoy: What I think is bands should sign up with local labels and the local labels should market them worldwide. But that's not the case in this country. Since we have only a handful of mainstream labels to start with, it is acceptable for the bands to sign up with labels from outside the borders. Not until recently we have labels that are based on Metal. So, we can only comment on this after a certain amount of time passes. I think the availability of labels based on Metal would have impacts on the decision making of the bands. If the labels do their part well, more bands will sign up with local labels and if the labels are willing to, they can sign up bands from other parts of the world and altogether the scene will go the right way. My label has nothing out of the ordinary to offer for the time being. Maybe if you ask this after a year or two I might have something
Have you guys signed any bands yet? What are the other releases / projects and future plans of Mortuary Production and Metal Monger Records?
Ruzlan: No we haven’t signed any bands yet. After "Luxury Of Pain", we will release a Black Metal split called "Lucifuge Rofocale of Xarkrinur and Krayl" and also the full length of Necrolepsy.
Hridoy: We are working on Exalter's (Bangladesh) EP release and Nekrofilth's (USA) EP "Street Bitch" and developing our website. Metal Monger Records is also organizing a gig called "Reign In Blasphemy Fest" in August which will comprise of some of the best Extreme Metal bands in Bangladesh.
Watch Reign In Blasphemy Fest’s trailer here
A label’s success depends a lot on its distribution channels as well as the promotion. Music must be made available to its consumers in distant places. How do you go about these two factors?
Ruzlan: Mortuary Production’s releases will be distributed through out Bangladesh and also by many labels and distros abroad like Salute Records (Sweden) and Six F Productions (Thailand). We promote bands and their releases so that their music spreads through out a huge number of people. The local bands have our full support.
Hridoy: As I mentioned earlier, I am working on Metal Monger Record's website. After it's done you can order the releases from any part of the globe anywhere and anytime. The releases will be available in a few outlets in Dhaka for now and I also wish to attend concerts with stalls for Metal Monger Records.
Looking at the bills of the compilations, both of them are pretty amazing. How did you go about selecting the bands? Have you had any difficulties dealing with them?
Ruzlan: I looked for some good Grindcore bands along with some promising Extreme Metal acts of from all over the world. Well I didn’t have any difficulties. The bands have been really supportive and I’m glad to work with such great bands.
Hridoy: Initially I knew what the compilation should sound like. I approached bands selectively. I haven't faced much problem in commencing with the bands. As a matter of fact, I got a lot of help from the band members. They were super supportive and I can say, without their support this would have been impossible.
Do you ever wish to make a career out of this? Apart from running the labels, what else do you lads do?
Ruzlan: No, I run this label only because of the sheer fun of running it and to help the scene and the bands grow. I’m also the vocalist of a Brutal Death / Goregrind band Necrolepsy and an old school Death Metal band Nordic Shadows.
Hridoy: I have a day job haha. I do want to make my career around my label. I love to spend my life doing what I love. But I am not counting on it.
How do you guys set your compilations apart from other compilations? How are they unique?
Ruzlan: LOP has great bands like Dying Out Flame, Plague Throat, Orator, HOMICIDE and many other killer acts from all around the globe. It also has some good Grindcore bands which is still a growing genre in bangladesh.
Hridoy: The bands make it unique.
Thanks to both of you, Ruzlan and Hridoy, for your time. Best wishes to all of your initiatives. Any final comments for the readers out there?
Ruzlan: Gratitude to you and GMA for the support. I would want everyone to buy original releases and listen to good music and always support metal. Ave!
Hriody: Keep supporting Metal!
Mortuary Productions Facebook & "Luxury of Pain Event page"
Metal Monger Records