"We made a lot of friends at Wacken, and I think the most important lesson we learned there is the value of human connection."
It probably goes without saying that E-an-na are one of the most exciting and original metal bands to emerge out of Romania (if not Eastern Europe) for a while, it's not often you come across a band who mixes Folk Metal with Modern Metal in such a way it becomes mind-blowing. Despite this it's clear that E-an-na take everything in their stride, are very cool about their origins and where they are heading. Andrei Oltean (Vocalist and woodwind player) put himself forward for the interrogation as he discussed how the band was built on traditional Romanian folk music but with a sharp twist, why Wacken Metal Battle was more than just a competition and why as a band they treat their fans more like family (which is rather beautiful).
For those who have not heard of E-an-na could you please give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"“E-an-na” comes from ancient Sumerian and would be translated as something along the lines of “The Home Of The Skies”. When we created the band, we searched a lot for a name that would resonate with the concept, and finally found it in Mircea Eliade’s book “The History Of Religions”. E-an-na started out, like so much art in the world, powered by the concept of escapism, of creating a personal world devoid of all the negative aspects that try to bring us down in this one. E-an-na is a community, and each may feel and perceive it in their own way. Everybody is welcome."
Your sound is quite unique in the mixing of Modern Metal and Folk Metal, how did you come up with this sound? What would you call your sound?
"Well, of course it can be labelled, so we would call it simply Folk Metal. But the thing is, I don’t believe in labelling too much. I mean yeah, some of my favourite bands play Folk Metal, but they don’t generally fit into that labelling when it comes to the cliches. And neither do we. After all, music is movement, it’s not something static that you can point your finger on, and thus, it is ever-changing. You will find works in our discography that have absolutely nothing to do with Folk Metal whatsoever, and the future will make it seem like we are, at times, straying even further from it. Music is a journey of many paths, and it would be a shame to stick to only one just because you already know it."
What kind of Romanian folk music do you use given there are so many different styles?
"You’re right. Mostly we compose our own folkloric-like themes, as a result of listening and assimilating such music for many years, but we also have a few passages taken directly from centuries old songs. They are songs played on traditional woodwinds: “Fluier” (whistle) or “Caval” (which is a sort of low whistle specific to this area). Besides this, I am a huge fan of “Lăutărească”, which is a sort of mix between traditional music with Turkic influences, developed in the last century, maybe a century and a half, and often played by gypsies (to anyone out there knowing better: forgive me if I’m being inaccurate, I’m not an ethnomusicologist).
Again, there are no restrictions, so we will go for whatever we feel is right. In spite of our songs generating sometimes a sense of national pride in our Romanian listeners (which is totally fine, don’t get me wrong), we don’t feel compelled to stick to just that."
You came 2nd at the 2017 edition of Wacken Metal Battle, this surely gave you the boost to drive forward and aim higher?
"Well, yes, and no. You see, we stood true to music, and sometimes this might have been detrimental to the fastest way to, let’s say, success. There are certainly better marketing decisions that we would have taken, but our ultimate goal isn’t that. As I said, E-an-na is a feeling, something rooted very deep inside us, and a community, a family. Of course we do hope, like most of the bands, to get big and tour the world, but we shall get that on our own pace, whilst focusing on our sonic madness primarily. But yes, we made a lot of friends at Wacken, and I think the most important lesson we learned there is the value of human connection."
As you sing in Romanian, do you have any tips for non-native speakers in trying to sing along to your music?
"Just go with what you feel, I won’t judge you, ha ha. I myself just went for the sound without understanding a word for many years, mainly when singing along to Arkona in Russian whenever I caught them live. That actually led to an interesting perception of the human voice as solely an instrument, stripped of the meaning of the words, which I think shaped the way I compose stuff. So yeah, don’t be afraid to pour your soul out, even if you literally can’t put it into words."
Given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, what plans did you have that are either cancelled or postponed? Any plans for late 2020 / early 2021?
"We did have a bunch of shows (some announced, others not yet) that went down the drain... But we’re increasingly more fortunate than bigger bands that had to cancel whole tours for which money had been already paid for whatever reason (logistics, advances, etc.). We are trying to reschedule the gigs, but honestly half-heartedly, because we don’t know if (although highly probable) and when the second wave will strike. That’s why we aren’t saying things like “buy cheaper pre-sale tickets” and stuff like that to our fans at the moment. On the other hand, we are constantly working on new music. In fact, our next single came out on 23.05.2020, exactly the day I turned 25."
For metalheads visiting Sibiu, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Well, Sibiu is not a big city at all. It’s wonderful to visit it, but you will probably learn it in a few days. I totally recommend the village museum, right outside the city. I think it’s the largest in Europe, and extremely beautiful. Also the city centre is quite pretty, if you don’t mind flocks of tourists and pigeons. You can find the Evangelical Church there, right in my high school yard. It’s a nice area. In terms of venues and bars, Sibiu doesn’t have it so great. If you’re looking for metal, you’ll most definitely end up at the Rock & Bike Club, as do we."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"Stay strong. Each person is different, each reacts differently to such large-scale events. I, personally, besides the gigs and not being able to see my friends and family or to travel, am not too affected, as I work from home and am an introvert anyway. I’ve been composing and practising like a madman, so the time is put to good use. I’m not saying you’re worthless if you’re not productive. Not at all. It’s simply what works best for my well being. Take care of yourself, and don’t despair. Do a little something everyday. Check up on your loved ones. Listen to our music."
Interview Interrogation: Ana Ignis and Carol Alexandru from Underwaves (Romania)
"A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. "
If Dracula had ever listened to metal, it would definitely have to be an extreme kind of metal, something like Underwaves. Mixing various types of metal together, the quartet muster up a sound that is far more piercing than the vampire lord's fangs. Lashing together the genres of Melodic metal, Metalcore, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal, Groove Metal and Deathcore, you basically end up with Modern Metal Romania-style. Having been going since late 2017, the band has won the Rock'n'Iasi Festival Bands Contest last year whilst in the same year releasing their debut album. They are sure to make a name for themselves throughout the European underground metal scene. GMA spoke to them about their origins, the challenges Romanian Metal bands face and what to do in their home city of Brasov... home of Dracula. No vampires were hurt in the making of this interview.
Ana Ignis (vocals) and Carol Alexandru (guitarist) gave us the insight.
For those who have not heard of Underwaves, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"I made the decision very spontaneously, while I was at work and listening to music. I played in a few bands before, but none of them resonated musically with me. Whenever I was at concerts and saw the bands playing, I imagined what it would be like to be in their place. It was quite difficult for me to see others living their dream on stage, so I decided to do something about it. That day I picked up the phone, called our bassist, Bogdan, and asked him if he was willing to play with me in a band. We knew each other before, because we had a few more projects together. The next one I called was Dan, the drummer, and the last one was Carol, the guitarist, who initially rejected the idea.
"The name Underwaves implies duality, mystery, the fact that what is seen always has a meaning inside. The visible part of things hides certain factors that define those things. What is on the surface hides what is underneath. So is our music, it hides our feelings, emotions and feelings."
Seeing as the band had a good career start, what are your next batch of plans once the COVID-19 pandemic has calmed down?
"We had to cancel our entire spring tour due to this pandemic and we are planning to reschedule all the dates, maybe add some more tour dates in it."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags?; seeing as you use Metalcore, Deathcore, Groove and Alt Metal.
"Usually the genres are used in order to fit a band in a specific label, I wouldn’t say that we can fit in one single genre. Honestly, I don’t even know what we are playing if we take the word “metal” out of the description :) ) I would call it simply “metal”, nothing fancy."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We were a little bit stressed due to our jobs and we had to focus more on the financial part unfortunately. We still wrote some pieces of music, riffs and we have 2 new songs in progress. Regarding the hobbies, our drummer plays video games, our bassist is a movie watcher, Ana is shopping online and I do sports."
Would it be fair to say that there has been greater interest in metal bands from Romania and Eastern Europe over the past couple of years?
"Maybe so, Eastern Europe has always seemed to us the edge of the world in terms of underground music. Indeed, there are a lot of good bands on this side, many of them already big, some underrated. And in Romania there are a lot of strong bands with great potential."
Tell us more about the Romanian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Romania? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Rock music made its appearance in the Romanian music world in the early 1960s and continues to exist today. A great social and musical influence had the fall of the Romanian communist party and the transition to democracy. Lately, more and more festivals have started to appear (obviously, we are talking about the period before the pandemic) and this is gratifying. Although it is a style with a niche audience, we still have many followers and many prestigious metal music festivals in Romania. I don't know what the other bands are facing, let's hope they are luckier than us, but the biggest problem we have is the financial one. It is very difficult to support yourself in music, this is the reason why we all have day jobs."
For metalheads visiting Brașov, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Definitely the emblem of Brasov when it comes to metal music is the Rockstadt bar. It is the bar in the heart of which Rockstadt Extreme Fest, the largest metal festival in Romania, also started. As for points of interest, we have several museums and cultural points, and 40 km away we have Dracula's castle which is not to be missed."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"I don't know how we could thank all those who have been with us all this time and who will be. It is clear that family and friends have supported us from the beginning, but the people who come to our concerts, buy our T-shirts and listen to our music are the real stars. All the people in this industry that we have known and who have helped us deserve our respect, from sound engineers, stage technicians and lighting technicians, to bartenders, bar managers, tour managers and bands and musicians that we met."
Romania has a rather solid underground metal scene with perhaps Negura Bunget being the sole metal band leading the scene forward and onwards. Far from it's shackled Soviet history, Romania has emerged as a driving force within Eastern Europe and has offered itself as a rather promising nation on many fronts, metal scene included. One new band on the block is the Post-Black Metal entity Váthos, having only formed last year they have released two singles to date, both of which were met with appraise from the Romanian Metal community but also older, established bands, GMA spoke to the band about their scene, the future ahead, the band's origins and the best things to do in their dwellings, that is the capital city of Bucharest.
Could you give us the history of Váthos, where the members in previous bands? What does the band name mean?
"We are a newly formed band and consolidated our line-up in 2017, when our vocalist and bassist, Radu Alexandru and Dany Ice joined the band to fulfil the remaining roles. As of 8th February, the official line-up is as follows: Ducu Rusul (solo/rhythm guitar), Alexandru Gainusa (solo/rhythm guitar), Gigi (drums), Dany (bass) and Radu Alexandru (vocals). We are fairly new, but the feedback that we received from our community was positive and really exploded as we launched our first single, "Curse of Apathy", it reached 4,000 views in over 4 months. We followed up with our second single, "Shape of..." that received positive feedback as we've tried to "bend" the black metal sound, to add even more of our influences.
We received positive and supportive feedback from local bands, and also multiple invitations to participate and support artists that have 15-20 years activity in the local scene (more about local bands, activity and the Romanian metal scene vibe below).
Our members had previous projects and/or bands but right now Váthos is our main band/project and focus as we strive to add our influences and ideas to project our vision in the black metal genre (more details about this bellow).
Our band name, Váthos means "depth" and it's of Greek origins; original word spelling: βάθος. We wanted to go with a name that reflects the depth and quality that we want to add in our songs, from guitars, drums, bass to vocals, lyrics and of course the image/artwork (that we are starting to work on)."
You released your first two singles, what has the reception been like? Will we see a debut demo / EP this year?
"We released our first single "Curse of Apathy" on 29th November 2017, and the feedback received from friends, family and the Romanian metal community blew our minds to a degree that we could not believe it. It shocked us to hear words such as, "bringing a fresh and unique sound to the black metal genre", "quality of the music and the live performance was on par to a old experienced band from the first live performance" (keeping in mind that we just started our live performances) and also the constructive criticism, words of wisdom if you will, from improving our sound and live performance, interacting with the crowd, improving our equipment and overall idea of presenting our songs and sound to the public, unreal and excited that empowered us even more, we want more it. Our second single, "Shape of.." was released on 3rd March 2018 following the vibe of our first single and we wanted to present more of us and as a follow-up on to our first single.
A brief description, "Curse of Apathy" was written drawing inspiration from the daily life in Bucharest as it reflects the vision in which each individual spawns the feeling of apathy, following the same routine, over and over again. "Shape of.." was written to continue the story of our first single. What would happen if an individual wakes up from their apathetic daily routine? They will see the shape of.. (things that revolve around them). This is where we wanted to leave it open for interpretation as each listener will have their own thoughts to reflect upon when they do wake up.
After our next concert on 18th of May (where we will have the honour to play along side Akral Necrosis and eterans of our local scene Mercy's Dirge) we will focus on our future album to be named "Underwater", from artwork to finishing the rest of our 5 songs as we would like to feature 10 songs in total on the album. We currently do not have a set date for release as our wish is to record the full length album at once when the songs will be ready and we are confident enough that the Váthos sound and vibe is perfectly mastered as we will not settle for less."
You play Post-Black Metal, what are your inspirations behind the choice of sound (bands and lyrics)?
"The post black metal sound came from each member of the band, through influences that our favourite bands inspired us to achieve a sound of our own.
Bands that we love are many and different in genre, a few of them would be, Belphegor, Harakiri for the Sky, Kistvaen (Romanian band), In Flames, Disarmonia Mundi, Kataklysm, Cradle of Filth, Taine (Romanian band), Rammstein, Paradise Lost, Dark Tranquility, Whispered, DevilDriver, Sopor Aeternus, Uaral, Between the Buried and me, Gojira, Carach Angren, Deftones, and so many other bands that are a big inspiration to us and if we continue, it will just make up the all interview of just our favourite bands.
Lyrically speaking, our vocalist Radu Alexandru came in with ideas that reflect the human nature of man, written in a narrative way, in some cases depicted in images that reflect the idea of each song, emphasizing on suiting the inner eye and not just the ear.
What are the challenges that most unsigned Romanian Metal bands face?
"The challenges that most unsigned Romanian Metal bands face are many, there aren't many labels that will sign a heavier sounding band. In our country, extreme metal is still seen as an "outcast" genre as the mainstream scene is filled with pop music that is heavily supported by our media, TV, radio and through heavy publicity.
Metal music is supported mainly through our underground scene which isn't that big to start with even though we have so many great bands and artists covering almost all genres / subgenres and lately the quality started rising up and up as with our favourite bands.
We highly recommend if you want to check some of our bands out, you can do so at the following, Browse bands by country - Romania - Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives"
Would you agree that in Eastern Europe, Black Metal is well supported? What makes the Exteme Metal scene out there special?
"We have our share of black metal bands and the scene is rising in Eastern Europe, that is true and we get more and more exposure and support as we are known for our Folklore, eccentric sounds and instruments. The extreme scene gets bigger and bigger through outdoor festivals and concerts."
What do your parents think of your style of music? Are they into metal too?
"Well, all the members of the band are fully grown adults, each with their own job and responsibilities. Our parents were very surprised and supportive of our band, live performances but had no impact on our decision of making and playing what we love."
For metalheads visiting Bucharest, what sights or attractions could you recommend?
"One of our country's forte would be the beauty of nature, landscapes and our festivals, so why not combine them? We know and recommend a lot of outdoor metal festivals, Rockstadt Extreme Fest (Rasnov, near Brasov County) Dark Bombastic Evening (Alba Iulia Fortress, Transylvania), Ghost Gathering (Rasnov, Valley of the Fortress), ARTMania (Medieval Fortress of Sibiu), OST Mountain Fest (Busteni, Romania) and so many more. Also, we have many indoor festivals in the capital alone."
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year (that have not been mentioned above)?
"Our future plans for the rest of the year, finishing up the album, recording it and creating the artwork that will bring the visual aspect to life. We are currently debating on which of our songs to do our first music video and many live shows as possible as we love to interact with the public and our audience's reaction is really important when presenting new material.
We would like to thank Metal Global Apocalypse Team and Rhys Stevenson for the support and implication in the Metal community, not just in UK but all around the globe."