"There's always the feeling that [Spanish] local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Born In Exile are here to prove that the Spanish Metal scene is alive and that it should no longer be ignored by the wider European audiences. Having dropped their stellar second album "Transcendence" earlier this year via legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records, this progressive metal leviathan are already gearing up for next year (due to COVID-19 decimating the entire music industry), the bulls are raging.
GMA spoke to the quintet about their new album, the whole identity crisis surrounding nationalism and regionalism - the Catalonia vs. Spain debate, attitudes towards female musicians in Spain and why local Spanish bands have the perception that they are pushed beneath international bands.
For those who have not heard of Born In Exile, can you give us a brief rundown of the band's history?
"We are a contemporary progressive metal band from Barcelona. Our music is characterized by a
powerful voice with many registers, very strong riffs, virtuous solos and unusual rhythm structures; but easy on the ear at the same time.
We've released two records: “Drizzle Of Cosmos” (2017) & “Transcendence” (2020). The band was
formed in 2012 by ex-members of another Spanish band. In 2015, Kris became the new vocalist of the band and brought a big change to the style of our music. "Transcendence" is the true sound that we wanted since the beginning.
You released your 2nd album "Transcendence" back in March, what was the reception like and how does it feel linking up with Art Gates Records?
"The record received very good appraisal online, but unfortunately we haven’t had the opportunity to give it the presentation it deserves live, even if there were quite a few shows in place. Working with Art Gates Records is great, we are very happy about our professional relationship with them. They are very active and constantly get involved in Born In Exile’s promotion and exposure activities."
Talk us through the entire album process from pre-recording to releasing, how you came up with the song titles, etc?
"It was a long process since we wrote the songs until we recorded them. Most of the tracks are composed by Carlos and the lyrics written by Kris, but we love to create music all together too.
Many things in "Transcendence" are involved. The theme of the song, what we want to express in it and the target. We like to be sharp but subtle in as many ways as possible. Our music talks about experiences from our past and subtle social critique.
The recording and the mixing faced difficult issues, because we self-produced our music. Carlos Castillo was in charge of everything, and it became hard work altogether. A lot of hours in the studio made the perfect sound that we wanted and Carlos worked really hard to make the band happy with the sound.
Carlos Arcay (Arcay Sound) did the mastering and we were more than happy with that, a very good tandem."
Do you as a band prefer to be known as Spanish or Catalonian? Is this cultural identity as relative now as it was years ago?
"We don’t have a common position about this issue as a whole. Born In Exile prefers to be called however you want to call us (laughs). The national identity issue in Catalonia and other regions of Spain (Basque Country, for example) is a very complicated topic that sometimes leads to strong confrontation between people in both extremes. Most of us are Catalan but we also have an Argentinian / Andalusian member (Joaco, lead guitarist) so we prefer to leave the identity issue aside as a band."
What are the challenges that upcoming Spanish metal bands tend to face these days?;
"People in our country tend to believe that the national bands are less professional or successful. We have more followers at home than anywhere else, but there's always the feeling that local bands are perceived as of a lower category than international acts."
Kris, do you feel that sexism in metal is still an issue? In your own view has it improved or
"There’s a lot of work to do in fact. Fortunately the sexism in metal doesn’t exists as much in
Europe than in Spain, for example, or in other music styles or jobs dedicated to shows. Everything is getting better, but we need to keep on fighting more because it is not over at all."
How have you individually been coping with the lockdown earlier this year, what have you been up to in the time you're stuck at home?
"Everyone has stopped right now. We released the album one week before our lockdown. Even if all of our concerts have been canceled for 2020 (we had quite a few including a European tour) we tried to be as active as possible."
For metalheads visiting Barcelona in normal circumstances, what sights / attractions can
you recommend? What bars and venues?
"Everything is almost closed now, and maybe you cannot come to the best bars or venues, but you can search online for these bars - the “Undead Dark Club” in Sants, “HellAwaits” in Paralel, “Burning Rock Food” in Sants, the concert venues “Bóveda”, “Razzmatazz”, “Sala Monasterio” and “Sala Apolo”."
Do you have any greetings and thanks you wish to send out to fans, etc?
"Stay metal! Support localbBands and see you on the stages, friends!!"
"isolation isn’t that bad when you’re a nerd and play video games a lot (you’re already kind of used to that lifestyle anyway)."
It's never easy standing out from the crowd when you play a genre that's arguably oversaturated, but there is always a way to make your music slightly more noticeable than others. Just ask Spanish Progressive Metalcore horde Flat Earth Society who seem to have found their rhythm and beat in 'la vida loca' that is the music industry. Having unleashed their debut album "Friends Are Temporary, Ego Is Forever" via Art Gates Records, it comes as no surprise that the quartet are licking their lips at what late 2020 and early 2021 could be winging their way. Given this achivement it was only fair for GMA to interrogatel the Madrileños and find out how they formed as a band, what metalheads can do in Madrid, what makes up their sound and what emotions were like signing to legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records.
Could you give us a brief history of Flat Earth Society, who came up with the band name and were you in bands previously?
"We came together from different bands actually. Alex and Carlos were part of a band that was kind of dying and we already had some decent songs built up back then (which are part of the album) and we wanted to see them fruition.
Drummers in Madrid (or in general) are very lackluster, so Alex receives lots of offers (besides him being really good at the instrument). He eventually auditioned for A Blackened Sight, which Jesús and Daniel were part of. After signing in with them, he noticed Daniel’s vocal prowess and told him about our idea. Daniel liked the project and joined in. Jesús eventually teamed up as well with us, playing bass instead of guitar (his regular instrument). Later on we found Guillem and he proved to be the perfect fifth for our band and signed him up right away.
The name came quite randomly. We were brainstorming ideas and the situation degenerated quickly, proposing dumber names each time. We chose the name Flat Earth Society because we thought it would be funny to parody that way of thinking while our lyrics treat scientific topics (Disarray, The Gravity Paradox, The Cataract). Later on we decided to just write whatever lyrics we wanted (Danko, Daniel’s dog, Ligma, a meme disease from Twitch etc…)."
You recorded your debut album 'Friends Are Temporary, Ego Is Forever' last year, talk us through the creation process and the album title meaning?
"Usually each one of us writes music on its own and then we put it in common. Then we decide which ideas we like and learn them to rehearse them. Then we start playing them over and over while introducing arrangements along the way until we like the final result. Then we took what we had to studio with Alex Cappa and Pablo Rousselon.
We originally wanted to release a 5-song EP after recording these tracks, but after signing in with Art Gates Records we decided to take their advice and put out a full LP, so we went back to studio and recorded Legfist, CC Chain and Tortuga. We feel the meaning of the title speaks for itself, although there are open interpretations about it. We’d rather people try to figure it out on their own."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres? What / who are your influences in and outside metal?
"Our sound is pretty experimental, we think that in a way some of our instrumentals are pretty ambiental, most of our songs are harmonious and pretty melody based, the rough part comes mostly with the vocals and the drums in certain parts. we classify our music as emotionally aggressive.
The most notorious influences reflected in this album may come from August Burns Red, Erra, Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Tesseract and maybe Periphery and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Outside Metal we have various influences, such as Salsa music, Flamenco, mostly hispanic music."
What was it like for you signing with such a prestigious label in Art Gates Records? Who initiated the contact first?
"We already had contact with them due to a friend who collaborated in the past with Noctem and AGR, so he recommended us. We showed them part of our music and the general idea around the project and the album. They liked it and we moved forward with it. Everything was going smooth until the recent crisis. Working with them has been an enormous learning experience regarding how things are done the right way for a band who wants to reach far away places. Now we have to wait until things get better and see how we can resume our course."
As Spain is amidst a lock down due to COVID-19, what have you been doing at home; both in and outside of music?
"We’re doing relatively fine considering the lockdown we’re suffering in Spain right now. However isolation isn’t that bad when you’re a nerd and play video games a lot (you’re already kind of used to that lifestyle anyway). Stay home folks, don’t risk your health or other people’s"
For metalheads visiting your home town / city (where?) what sights / attractions could you recommend (under normal circumstances)?
"You gotta check Madrid’s down-town, lot of museums, lot of great architecture and if you are a fan, you gotta check Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s stadiums. If you ever come here under normal circumstances, be sure to also check the local food."
What plans do you have for the foreseeable future (COVID-19) depending and what has already been cancelled?
"Most of what we had already talked through has been cancelled as for anyone else in the industry. We will try to take the album to the stages in and out of Spain as soon as it is logistically possible."
Spain has always had a decent metal scene manifesting in itself, with a handful of bands going on to establish international recognition. But what about it's Metalcore sect? It's hard to think of Metalcore existing in the Iberian nation, but it's bands like Flames At Sunrise who make it known - their infectious blend of Metalcore, Post-Hardcore, Nu Metal and Heavy Metal all come together to create a sound that is truly modern yet truly distinct as it cannot be easily classified as any one genre.
Having signed to Wormholedeath in support of their debut album "Born In Embers", this ten-legged rampaging bull needs to be tamed and thus it was right for GMA to give Flames At Sunrise a right grilling interrogation.
"In Spain, most media attention goes to the greatest hits of the 80's and 90's and to the new stars of programmes such as Operación Triunfo."
For those who have not heard of Flames At Sunrise, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"We are a metal band from Barcelona who formed in 2011. We always wanted to bring our personal visions of music, based on our influences from different modern metal styles, and create a new message from the sound experimentation.
After 3 years on the stage, we released our first EP called “Never Coming Home”. This EP contains 4 songs: “Never Coming Home”, “Take It Down” and “Bitch” (with a video-clip for each one), and “Grievance”.
The release of "Born In Embers" came out with two video-clips: “III Faces” and “Ark Flesh”, and a lot of good news. The first one is that “III Faces” got more than 1,000 visits in less than 12 hours and is proposed as one of the best Spanish video clips in 2017 by “METAL ESPAÑOL"
How does it feel to sign with Wormholedeath? What is the support for Catalonian / Spanish Metal bands generally?; do you prefer to be referred as Catalonian?
"We are very proud to have signed with Wormholedeath and it’s a real pleasure to work with people who take our project as seriously as we do. We really hope we grow up together.
About the support, is something a bit hard to talk about. There’s a real fan base who support a lot of projects in the underground, but, obviously, metal is not a mainstream in our country, or at least, not modern metal. But we try to stay optimistic and work so hard to offer something special to everyone who wants to listen to us a few minutes.
We don’t really mind nationalities. Is up to everyone consider where they came from, and where the want to belong. We belong to our music and to every place where we play it."
How would you describe your sound, sounds like you have elements of Nu Metal, Post-Hardcore, Metalcore and Heavy Metal in your music.
"We tried a lot to put a genre to our music, but it got no sense. Everyone in the band got their own influences and their own way to understand music and work with it. We just try to put all of our ideas together and get to an agreement. Maybe is the time to kill all those genres in metal and talk about something more global. We like to call our music capsule core because we like Dragon Ball and ‘cause it contents a lot of different kind of genres in a song."
What challenges as a band have you had to face thus far and as musicians personally?
"As a band we still struggle with the Spanish metal tradition of the eighties. It's hard to get a new audience to listen to your songs and get involved, but little by little we are seeing results.
Each one of us has had problems dedicating ourselves to music, bearing in mind that we cannot live professionally from it yet. But we are still training as musicians and trying to expand our knowledge to become self-sufficient as a band."
Barcelona Cathedral / source: Spain Attractions
What does the song title 'Ill Faces' mean? Did you have any ideas to put forward for the music video itself?
"'III faces' refers to a Japanese proverb that speaks about the three faces that each person has inside them: the first is the one you show to the world; the second is the one you show to your friends and family; and the third is the one you only know and defines who you really are. Thus, in the music video we try to expose the three faces of a character and how the real one, the one that defines you, drags you and ends up showing itself."
Will you go on tour in support of your debut album? What was reception like for the album?
"Yes. We’re going to be touring in Spain and some places in Europe in the next few months. The reception of our album was better than we expected. We knew we were releasing an album with strange ideas and we didn't know how the public would react, but we were surprised by the wide acceptance of a single like 'III faces'."
Would you say the overall Spanish Metal scene has had more attention drawn towards it over the last decade or so?
"We don’t think so. In Spain, most of the media attention goes to the greatest hits of the 80's and 90's and to the new stars of programmes such as Operación Triunfo. The metal scene continues to be nourished by old groups and tributes, but little by little it opens up to new experiences."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"We’re going to be touring and we’re going to be working on some new things that, with luck, you’ll be able to hear and see in September of this year. Thank you very much for the interview!"
Spain has a very vibrant metal scene that sometimes gets overlooked when it comes to what bands emerge from the sun-soaked nation, so when the Symphonic Metal 'forajido' group Diabulus In Musica joined up with Finnish Neo-Classical Metal exports Amberian Dawn, it was only right for GMA to grill this five-piece ensemble and interrogate them as if they were our amigos (of course they are!).
Having been around for a decade and only two founding members remaining in keyboardist / growler Gorka Elso and vocalist Zuberoa Aznárez, it was the latter who stepped up to the plate to share their thoughts on their tour, the critique of their latest album "Dirge For The Archons", music, politics and the much 'beloved' Eurovision...
Hi guys, firstly how was your UK / EU tour? What were the highlights?
"We had a blast! We really enjoyed every show, but we keep special memories of London, Pratteln and Haarlem. In general they were very enthusiastic about us playing there. We had lots of fun with our label mates Amberian Dawn and our great crew."
You released your latest album 'Dirge for the Archons' last year, what was the reaction like?
"The reviews were really great! And the fans wrote us several messages telling us 'DFTA' is their favourite album so far. We are also very happy with it. We also have had the chance to play some of the new songs live and the reactions of the audience have also been great."
How did you gain inspiration for your band name Diabulus In Musica? Who came up with it?
"I founded the band and chose the name. “Diabulus (or Diabolus) In Musica” is a Latin medieval word which means ‘The Devil In Music’. It was like that as they called the triton or the interval of the augmented fourth. The medieval ear was used to hearing perfect fourths and perfect fifths, (early music instruments are tuned different, in mean-tone tuning). The augmented fourth, being half-way between these two most common intervals, was about the worst discord imaginable. That’s why they thought that the devil was inside the triton.
The reason I chose this name was because of my music studies and my passion for early music. I studied classical singing but I’ve been above all focused in historical singing. The name was perfect for us not only because of the meaning it has to me, but also because it sounds a bit dark, as our music sometimes. We like this ‘dark romantic aesthetic’ as well as early music (actually we have included these elements in our music more than once), so we thought Diabulus In Musica was the name that fit us the best."
With Eurovision coming, as a band would you ever put yourself forward to represent Spain?
"I don’t think any of us would dream about going to Eurovision, but if we were proposed to go we would probably accept because it is a good way of promoting ourselves. However we all know Spain always ends up in the low-scoring positions hahah so it probably would not be a good idea. We all know all the results are manipulated, so it’s not a very “fair” contest. Anyway, I admit I usually see it, it’s a good moment to gather for a dinner with friends and have a good time and some laughs."
With Brexit impending, as a band are you concerned about touring the UK or fairly calm about it?
"For the moment we are calm and we hope it will not be a problem in the future because the UK is one of our favourite places to tour. We have only played twice, but the reactions have always been so great. The best part of our European tour last year was the one in the UK. It was a pity that last year our guitar player couldn’t come because he is from Russia and he couldn’t get his visa to enter UK.
This year he finally got a visa and could come with us. It’s weird and a backwardness that nowadays it is still so important to get papers and papers, bureaucracy is really annoying, above all when you go just to play a couple of shows. I’m not going to give any opinions about politics, but I only hope things are easier and faster in the future."
What is the Spanish Metal scene like right now? Any bands you would suggest to your fans to check out?
"Well, I honestly don’t follow the Spanish scene, so I don’t really know very much about it. What I can say is that the metal scene like in every country is a small one and here, people prefers to listen to the typical “Spanish Metal”, which is generally heavy music from the 80’s sung in Spanish. That’s what you get in every metal festival in Spain. There is also a new scene, but it is not supported enough to grow, at least for the moment."
You hail from Pamplona, home of the famous 'running of the bulls', what are your thoughts on the tradition? Have you ever participated?
"No and I will never do so. I’m personally totally against the bullfights and I hope they are forbidden one day. I simply cannot understand that any human being can call that tremendous brutality “culture”. Regarding the running of the bulls, well, that’s different because bulls and people are on the same conditions and bulls don’t get harmed. It’s a very settled tradition in our city and in that case the bull doesn’t suffer, so I don’t have problems with that, but of course I have strong feelings against bullfights."
Finally what are your plans for the year ahead? Any greetings, thank you's that you wish to send out?
"We are headlining three festivals here in Spain in spring and we hope to play more until the end of the year. We will also start writing new material. Thanks a lot for the interest and your questions and thanks to the readers also for taking the time to read. We hope to meet you all on the road!"
Spanish Modern Melodic Death Metal outfit SynlakrosS have been rampaging around the block since 2008 and since then have released one demo and two albums, the second "Death Bullets For A Forajido" dropped back in May. With their sharp rise in the Spanish Metal scene and the line-up only changing the one time, things are looking bright for this hot property.
Check out their music video "Curly Wolves" below.
We aimed to keep the band cornered but as they ran and hid, the band's front-woman Patricia Pons was more than happy to seek the members up and bind them together, whilst she directed her answers to our questions.