"We have already begun writing another album as we speak and we will be more active than we have ever been previously."
You might not be forgiven if you happen to forget that beneath the leviathans of Slipknot, 5FDP, Trivium, Metallica and the other greats of the American metal scene, are underground hotbeds producing the newest and exciting bands to lead the country and bear the flag. One such band is Pathways, whose journey from the Sunshine State aka Florida to the Pacific coast of Washington State has culminated in not only new recruits, but newfound vigour.
"Great Old Ones" is the quartet's newest single and is just one glimpse of what the lads have up their sleeves as they barrow towards their debut album seeing daylight. The lads managed to survive our interview interrogation and whilst they spilled their guts out about the challenges of playing live shows, why their sound is a cauldron of different sounds that make them extraordinarily hard to pigeonhole, how Washington state coped with the COVID-19 pandemic and what their plans are for the year ahead.
For those who have not heard of Pathways, could you please tell us how the band came about and what the band name means?
"Our last major release was in 2016, with a 5 song EP titled “Dies Irae”, released through Tragic Hero Records. Since then, our world has utterly changed in a progressive and exciting way. At the time, both Wil & I (Jon) lived in south Florida. Eventually circumstances led us out here to the Pacific North-West (PNW), where we really decided to seek out our musical identity (as a band). We knew the exact sound that needed to be achieved, and in order to do this properly, we needed help from other / newer members.
We spoke with the CEO of Tragic and we were able to release our contract from the label, parted ways with previous members, and as luck would have it - our search concluded with Caner and Kyle. With the new line-up solidified, we immediately wrote our first ever full-length album, and a separate single (Great Old Ones). The single serves as a catalyst to kick off the fresh sound and active condition of the band. The band has a specific sound in mind, and achieving it would take many different dynamics to come together - Pathways is a way of achieving an action, within multiple avenues (us as a collective)."
You play progressive metalcore and utilise 8 strings and classical influences, please discuss the decisions behind the two influences?
"We have always had a strong classical influence. Our identity has been shaped from having neo-classical metalcore / deathcore elements, to just being strictly metal now. The older tunes were designed with an aggressive and chaotic foundation, while the current work is focused on groove and purposeful melodies, while of course, maintaining that classical ominous vibe. We couldn’t be happier with how the sound has been defined. It took a long time to reach this exact point of musical maturity, but the wait will be worth every moment passed (especially for the fans)."
Each musician has their own influences, where does your influences come from and how do they fit in with Pathways sound?
"An extremely diverse musical pallet is on the table with the new Pathways line-up. Jon went to Musicians Institute in L.A. for 2 years and is classically trained. Wil has strong r&b and pop / hip-hop ties, which he incorporates into the pocket grooves of the music. Caner is all over the place with influences, but in a brilliant & diverse way. He has influences that stem from his Turkish heritage, all the way to rap and deathcore. His main strong suit is his vocal range. It is truly unique and unlike anyone we have ever heard.
He is our secret weapon for sure - raw talent. That leaves us with Kyle. Pathways has never had a real bassist - our previous 3 bassists were fill-ins for the instrument, since we either could not find a right fit, or because we just liked the member on a personal level and wanted to try it out on bass. It is truly insane to see what Kyle brings to the table. He is a funk bassist who listens to metal. What more could you ask for? He has all the talent / technique / chops to both play and write to the music, very well."
You have just released your new single 'Great Old Ones' (26/3), how long did it take to curate and will this be featured on your debut album?
"This process has always been easy for us, and with the addition of fresh talent, it was even more seamless. You definitely know when you gel with other musicians, and that is the case with us as a quartet. The musicianship & personality blend makes the relationship seem like fate, in a way.
The process actually started in 2017, with the symphony. It was a 42-piece overture written with a prime motive in mind - that every single melody from this orchestral piece would be referenced in each song on the album. Almost like a musical concept album that has melodic Easter eggs spread throughout. Not soon after the symphonic piece was released, the early writing stages of the album were underway.
The intro riff to 'Great Old Ones' is actually a variation melody that was rooted in the symphony. This is the main melodic line of the song and set the basis for the rest of the single. The main line was given to all members, and we just worked off of that motif until it was melded into GOO (pun intended)."
What can listeners expect from your debut album and will it be released independently or via a record label; as you're no longer with Tragic Hero Records?
"As this release is meant to showcase the newer music identity, brand, and pave the way for album promotion, we aim to go about this in a very bold and calculated way. We have learned so much about the industry (still learning) over the years, and have seen how much the pandemic & social climate is still affecting the future of it. We think it is definitely smart to be strategic with self-releasing music and distribution. Our catalogue now includes 4 music videos, a full-length album, a single, and tons of photo shoots - all to be self-released for now, in order to make way for future branding. We have already begun writing another album as we speak and we will be more active than we have ever been previously."
How tough is it for American metal bands to organise tours across the country? Do smaller bands tend to do state tours rather than national tours?
"It's more common for smaller acts to tour state to state or regionally rather than a nationwide tour. Many Seattle artists will cover the west coast from Vancouver BC all the way down to LA. It can be difficult for smaller acts to book multiple venues in one city let alone an entire state. It can be difficult finding venues on the way to larger cities that will cater to your sound. Not every city has a venue that would welcome a metal act."
Florida has a rich history of metal bands from Morbid Angel to Trivium to Deadstar Assembly, what is it in your opinion that makes the Floridian metal scene so successful at delivering a constant stream of talent?
"South Florida, being isolated from most of the rest of the US has a very tight knit scene. I'd say that's because not as many tour packages make it that far south if they have an option to book in north or even central Florida. Because of this, the local scene is constantly growing and engaging with itself to make up for the smaller tour packages that might not be willing to drive the extra 5 hours south just to have to drive back up the panhandle to tour in the rest of the country after one or two shows. So in essence Florida's scene is built to fill a void of live entertainment from the rest of the country. Add the fact that Florida is a cultural melting pot from native Floridians, snow birds of the east coast turned full time residents and people looking for a tropical change, you get all walks of life and plenty of scenery to inspire a creative song writing mental state."
How did Washington react to the COVID-19 outbreak? What restrictions and measures were put in place? What is the situation like now?
"Washington state began shutting down in March 2020 once west coast states started seeing cases. Our favourite bars and venues have been shut down since, some shut down for good because of limits on gatherings. Some establishments have been able to keep afloat with reduced capacity, mostly restaurants. Washington just went into Phase 3 of reopening, parks are opening again and people are getting out more. It's refreshing to see people outside again after being pent up inside their homes for a year!"
For metalheads visiting Seattle under normal circumstances, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What about bars, venues and pubs?
"A must for any metal inclined visitor would have to be down town at The Showbox Theater. The place has a great record of national/international touring metal bands stopping through. Some other great venues would be El Corazon and Chop Suey. Both have a great mix of local and national metal acts. While you're in the neighbourhood after a show you can waltz down Capitol Hill and hit up the many bars lining the streets. Then finish off your night at The 5 Point Cafe no matter how late/early in the day."
All things considered, what plans does Pathways have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings / thanks you wish to send out?
"Pathways is going to be releasing a ton of content this year in forms of video, photo,and interactive material to keep our audience engaged until live shows become commonplace again. We've got more singles with music videos lined up for release to introduce our full length album. We've adapted to the shift from live in person to at home interactive and are excited to merge both together for an experience for our audience like never before. Huge thanks to our pal Karl at Hot Karl Productions for helping us out with not only the music video, but for getting us back on track. Also huge thank you to Kirill Konyaev at Zerodbproductions for mixing and mastering the new single."
Pathways' new single "Great Old Ones" is out now via all streaming platforms
"[to tour] you need to get a tour permission, which is issued by a commission (none of its members have any relation to music). And they can refuse to issue it because of “low artistic level”, even if your music is literally a masterpiece"
Whilst most of Europe's metal listeners are so transfixed on what's happening in the metal scenes within Western, Northern and Southern Europe, on the other side of Europe a handful of countries often get forgotten. OK so The Ukraine has Jinjer and Moldova has Infected Rain leading their respective scenes charge, but how long did it take for those metal scenes to receive widespread acknowledgement from the metal masses? Exactly. Well now it's the turn of the Belarusian metal scene to stake it's claim on European soil, the band leading the charge and flying the flag for Belarus is Belle Morte. The symphonic metal quartet are set to unleash their mastery through their debut album "Crime Of Passion", which will be released through Italian label Wormholedeath sometime in 2021.
GMA spoke to 4 of the 6 members about the debut album, how Belarus has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, what it was like growing up as metalheads and why people should check them out... discussing their unique take on the symphonic gothic metal sound.
The two guitarists who did not answer questions are
What does it feel like signing with Wormholedeath? You must be excited seeing your debut album being released internationally?
"It feels like we are starting a new chapter: very thrilling and we can hardly wait till the album is out :). Signing with Wormholedeath is a huge step forward and it gives us more confidence in what we are doing."
SB: "This is definitely really cool and we have high hopes for this collaboration!"
Your debut album "Crime Of Passion" is based on the John Fowles novel "The Collector", how did you get into his writings and what aspects of the novel inspired the album?
"It happened literally by chance. My mum’s best friend lent her this book, I was hooked by the cover and annotations, and read the whole book in one night. If I say this book became my fav, that would definitely be an exaggeration, but it was really exciting to read the same story told by both sides, to know how they both felt towards the same events. Besides, to me it was interesting to try to get into the main character’s shoes and think the way he did. To feel this boundless desire, this need in possessing someone, which goes beyond any logic, ethics, or human law. That’s how the song 'To Get Her' appeared, consequently other tracks followed. By the way, I was surprised and happy to find out Sergey read this book too, because it made our work easier - I didn’t have to explain the feeling each song should trigger."
"That’s true :) besides, it made things easier for me as well: I had no troubles telling Belle what I wanted her to sound like when we recorded vocals. Something like “this verse should sound like you are an arrogant moron, whose one and only skill is butterfly collecting”. Speaking about the novel, I read it in 2005 and it left quite an impression on me. This struggle between sophisticated and straight-forward personalities, sharp minds and blindness, inner freedom and narrowness. My main criterion of whether the book is good or not, is whether I have thought “it would be nice to compose a rock-opera or at least a song based on this” during reading. I had this thought :) so I was really enthusiastic towards the idea of having the whole album inspired by "The Collector"."
Would you say your album is more of a story than simply just a collection of songs? Which aspects of the album are your favourite?
"It’s definitely a coherent story, chapter by chapter. From the very beginning we had this theme, and all we did was setting about filling the gaps and finding the correct means to tell this story. One of my favourite aspects is definitely leitmotif usage. For example, the instrumental part in 'Lace' has a battle of the 'To Get Her' theme (which is obviously the main theme of the murderer) and the 'My Legacy' theme (which is the girls’ response) - and we have lots of such Easter eggs here and there."
"I really like the fact this album is close to a mono rock-opera. We used the leitmotif component, which Belle already mentioned, starting from 'Overture' and till the very end; the plot can easily be grasped without any synopsis; we have a fully-fledged duet between the abductor and his victim, besides, it’s not just some abstract exchange of characters’ emotions turn by turn (how it often happens). It’s a dialogue, turning into an argument in the end. Besides, we gave a lot of thought in how to craft the choral parts and backing vocals (for instance, in 'Beauty and the Beast') and orchestral parts, where they fitted.
Given the glut of Symphonic Gothic metal bands worldwide, how does your music distinguish itself from the rest? Where do your music inspirations come from?
"I think our most distinctive feature is balancing between genres, augmenting symphonic metal with different elements, such as progressive, industrial, black, rock opera, Celtic music, Argentinian tango - whatever we feel is appropriate for a particular track. We are not really bonded by any genre strict rules, we focus on “music first” and see where inspiration takes us. Besides, we combine catchy and easy to remember melodies and complex multi-layered orchestral arrangements."
Tell us what it is like growing up as metalheads in Belarus? What challenges do you face within the Belarusian Metal Scene?
"I have nothing to compare with, but from my personal perspective Belarusian metalheads are the nicest people, they are super friendly and helpful. I wouldn’t say I faced any significant challenges with the local scene. Unless we count the fact that it’s almost impossible to make a living doing music here, most musicians have to combine their “hobby” with a job where they get paid. It does lead to certain limitations."
"It’s complicated :) there are a lot of metalheads here, but in general society perceives them as somewhat marginals. Government doesn't embrace the fact that metal music has the same rights to exist as music of the other genres. Soviet legacy is still very prominent here. On the other hand, it’s getting better and during past years we have had a lot of great bands come here. But organizing a gig is still a very stressful and complex thing to do. For example, you need to get a tour permission, which is issued by a commission (none of its members have any relation to music). And they can refuse to issue it because of “low artistic level”, even if your music is literally a masterpiece :).
Local gigs are like swings. We used to have pretty wild underground gigs; then everything died out for a while. Then there was a period when we had great concert organizers, who put in a lot of effort and their own resources in holding top-level concerts. And then the pandemic happened. The bands also suffered from missing quality booking agencies, labels etc. The majority have to work somewhere else to make a living, and take care of organizing concerts, printing merch, releasing albums etc. on their own. We have many talented musicians, but not all of them are ready to deal with all of that, and it’s sad."
How has Belarus coped with the COVID pandemic; what restrictions / lockdown protocols were put into place?
"There is a huge difference in answer depending on whether we talk about the Government or people living here. The Government shamefully failed to take any measures at all. We didn’t have any restrictions, all the borders were open, the severity of the pandemic was denied and laughed at in official media. Medical workers were not provided by appropriate protection means. And real numbers of those who got infected and those who died, were concealed. Medical workers, who had courage to tell publicly how bad the situation was, got fired and repressed.
On the other hand, Belarusian people have shown the level of solidarity we didn't see here before. They created special funds to help medical workers and provide them with protection means, food and other supplies. They distributed printed instructions telling older people how to protect themselves, and again - helped with delivering foods and medicines. Although officially there were no protocols whatsoever, people started following WHO recommendations by their own initiative."
For metalheads visiting Minsk, what sights or attractions would you recommend (in a normal world)? What bars, venues, festivals are there?
"TNT club (which might appear very ordinary if you don’t live here) :). The biggest festivals are Kupalskaje Kola, Our Grunwald, UMF (United Metal Festival)."
"In good old times when we went to bars and clubs, if I wanted to hang out in a friendly atmosphere, I went to TNT club. You could always meet someone from your mates there!"
"In addition to what Rostislav already mentioned, Brugge club. But it looks like it didn’t survive the pandemic…"
Aside from the album launch, what plans do you have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out?
"We try to stay positive regarding the COVID situation and prepare ourselves for a productive year. For sure we’d like to have the album presentation (hopefully not just online, and hopefully more than one gig). Besides, we are doing a lyric video for 'Broken Things'. In the parallel we still have a lot of work in the studio, as we want to record our second EP this year. We have a very clear concept for it, and expect it to have a lot of unusual collaborations and musical instruments we haven’t used before. Last but not least: we are thinking about shooting our third music video."
"I am very grateful to Kirill and Arthur, who helped us with guitars’ recordings at the times when we didn’t have a permanent line-up, long before Ilya joined us. And we are thankful to our families and friends for their support during the whole time!"
"Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains."
Marax are a Symphonic Black Metal band from Slovenia whose lyrics revolve around Satanism... now to most metalheads the response will be 'not another Dimmu Borgir surely?' Well to answer this in the most cliche of responses, no they are not, they are their own sound and own style... probably what makes Slovenian Black Metal so unique, so much so Marax could not even explain why this is and thus just confirms that there clearly is something special about the said geographical variation of said genre. They have managed to deliver their debut album "The Witch" even in these dark times with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide. Here they talk to GMA about the album, the Europe-wide reception, the Slovenian Metal scene and why (as said) it's hard to explain why Slovenian Black Metal is different to other geographical variations of Black Metal.
For those who have not heard of Marax, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"The band was founded in the winter of 2017 by guitarist Nord Slayer (Cordura, Cvinger, Cursed Be Thy Flesh), drummer Morgoth (Cordura, Cvinger, Kholn, Cursed Be Thy Flesh) and vocalist Anin Astaroth (Morana) to play extreme, symphonic black metal. They joined forces with violinist Žica for the first two EP's ("The Abyss Of Illusions" in 2018 and "Dance Within The Flames Of Burning Fire" in 2019). In late 2019, violinist Mors Violinis joined the band, and in April 2020 we released our first full-length album "The Witch". The name designates the daemon Marax (also known as Morax, Forfax or even Ma’at), who is, generally, the daemon of justice."
Symphonic Black Metal is such an overloaded genre, with that in mind how would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging?
"We aim to compose and perform extreme metal music. The sound of the violin (or, in the future, of various bowed string instruments) is always present, as well as some symphonic elements. Otherwise, we are pretty open in style, there are usually some more death metal elements in our songs, and we create what we feel."
Regarding your debut album "The Witch", what was the reception like? Has anyone outside of Slovenia bought the album; any surprising places?
"In fact, even more people bought the album throughout the Europe (compared to Slovenia). For the digital format we cannot know exactly."
Talk us through the making of the album from the production to mixing and mastering, the whole process.
"For the latest album, "The Witch", Nord Slayer first composed all the songs, at least the foundations. He wrote and recorded the parts for the guitars, the bass and the keyboards. Next, Morgoth composed and recorded the drums, then Mors Violinis composed and recorded the violin parts. Lastly, Anin Astaroth wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals. For some songs, the backing vocals were recorded by Anin Astaroth and Nord Slayer, as well as some additional “instruments”. Everything was recorded, mixed and mastered in Studio Toplica by Nord Slayer and Morgoth."
Slovenia seems to have a rather strong Black Metal (and related metal) scene, what is it that makes Slovenian Black Metal strong?
"The answer to this question is much more complex than we could explain here. We think it could, on one hand, be do to with the nature here, or on the other hand, with the historical background."
On a broader note what challenges do Slovenian Metal bands tend to face these days? (ignoring COVID-19)
"Probably it is relatively poor concert attendance, but still, it’s not so bad. There are approximately two million people in Slovenia, a minority of which are metalheads. In fact, there are a relatively large number of bands compared to the audience sometimes. But we don’t want to complain; as soon as this crisis is over, we cannot wait to perform again."
For metalheads visiting Savinjska Dolina, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Firstly, the members of Marax are not from this region only (contrary to what the internet says). They are from the mentioned valleys (the towns of Velenje and Šoštanj) and from Kranj and Ljubljana. In the surroundings of every town mentioned you could just encounter nature, there are some forests, lakes, mountains etc. Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains. In the valley of Savinjska Dolina, you could visit venues like MC Šoštanj or any bar actually. In Kranj, the most “metal” or alternative venue is Trainstation Squat Subart, and in Ljubljana there are several places like Orto bar, Metelkova or Kino Šiška where the concerts are held."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Greetings to everyone who reads this! Keep supporting extreme metal \m/"
Symphonic Metal arguably has become lightly stagnated over the years, the overused cliche of female angelic vocals against flowing symphonies and crashing dramatic sounds is almost formulaic if not too run of the mill, and so it needs fresh impetus to keep it churning. One such band to deviate from the formula is Germany's Beyond The Black who take a slightly darker approach and yet seem to bring in elements of pop or schlager to an extent in the vocal department, either way this quintet are a force that's ripping up the rule book and setting their own rules.
This will be evident on their forthcoming album "Hørizøns" which comes out on the 19th of June via Napalm Records on CD (standard and a limited edition box edition), vocalist Jennifer Haben spoke to GMA during her interrogation about how the band came to be, how she got into singing, where the band is heading given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the new album and of course why Beyond The Black are not your average Symphonic Metal band, they are in their own league.
"[on female looks in metal] it's always a combination of how somebody looks, if you like to look at skin and also if you like to listen to them, this is a combination that I don't really exactly want to combine"
For those who have not heard of Beyond The Black, could you give us a brief history of the band and what the band name means?
"The band started in 2014 and with the first album we started off with a more Symphonic Metal sound, and with this album (Hørizøns) we decided to make it a little less symphonic, but with a more electronic sound - changing a bit of the sound and in doing so add something that actually we're listening to right now on tour.
The meaning behind the band name is that it is showing what the band looks like and is showing what we're singing about, so 'Beyond The Black' - the lyrics connect with the emotional ballads (there are strong boys behind my back) as a contrast to the super-happy stuff you tend to find in Symphonic Metal. With the lyrics, we always have these sad and emotional stories - these are always 'Beyond The Black' moments.
I'd never try to be the 100% Symphonic Metal band that out often know... I just say it (hehe), I haven't been a metalhead always... I started making pop music, this comes also part due to that none of my family or friends at the time listened to metal. This is also why I am not copying things that other bands do, because I don't have it in my blood that says 'this is how Symphonic Metal should be', so I do it how I think it should be done.
When you're inspired by every single genre, there is always something unique that comes out I think."
You have your 4th album "Hørizøns" coming out 19th of June, in aid of the release you have released 3 singles, what was the receptions like?
"They reacted super-different to every song, but they didn't act super-surprised (hehe), because I knew a lot of people would like 'Misery' on the first time they heard it, so this was kind of the challenge for us and also for our fans to be open-minded for something that they don't expect. This is something new that the people would have to listen to, to be more understanding in what we're doing right now; what we're doing is showing the fans and other people that we're just not that one song or one sound, that we are different and can show other faces (which is what we did before). I think that was one song that was really a statement for that.
I think that 'Golden Pariahs' was different to 'Misery' in showing another face; we never stuck to certain things in the recording stage, I never did something like that in my whole life, this was something that I was looking forward to do because I love doing new challenges. I think we show a lot of different things in the singles before the album release."
Now at times bands will release special editions or fan editions of the album, with "Hørizøns" you have a 'limited box edition' coming out, please tell us more about that.
"There are not more songs if that's the line of thought, instead we use the term 'box' to make it super interesting to the fans. We have something special in it - it's a piece of our very first backdrop that we had used, so this is unique and you get it when you buy it. Normally I think something like this you would be able to buy (maybe) 10 years later at a super-expensive price. Of course this is helping us if people are interested in something like that, of course selling CD's has become a little more harder and are not selling as many as perhaps few years ago, so you always have to think about things that could be unique things to buy.
I think there are a lot of things in it that could be interesting for the fans."
Aside from the single releases, given that COVID-19 has put a huge halt on the music industry, what has Beyond The Black been doing given tours / shows are cancelled?
"Of course there are a lot of things that other people or other musicians are doing in general, we did some special things for our fans including a 'Golden Pariahs' home recording / stream, that was something special that we really enjoyed. We're really thankful for the fans for engaging with the challenges that we set, everyday there are people doing these challenges, to see how excited they are to listen to that album."
Given the success that Beyond The Black has had with album releases, signing with Napalm Records, etc., given your a young age, is this something that you have taken in your stride?
"I think that there are definitely times where it's been overwhelming for me, but I also think that because before Beyond The Black I did so many other things, I could understand how it was to be when I was 11. There are a lot of things like that before Beyond The Black, of course being on a big German TV show, 'Sing Meinen Song' was a big difference to everything else that I did before, because it was much more attention; the magazines are different because they want to tell you something that you have said in a wrong way.
But as far as the stage goes, I've been on stage since I was 4 years old so having more and more crowds, I'm super thankful for that and are really overwhelmed when I rewatch our Wacken show online and see what it's like from the crowd, you don't see that when you're on stage. When I see that I think 'wow!... what the f**k?!?!, what is happening there?!?!' (laughs). So I don't really think that it is big until I watch it, this is overwhelming when I watch something like this."
Is metal music in Germany still reaching the mainstream charts? Are the general public appreciating it still?
"I think it's strong in selling albums and that's why it's still super-high in the charts, but there are a lot of people who hear the word 'metal' and there are two ways of how they think about it, one way is 'oh I know Wacken Open Air, this is amazing! But everything else, I don't care' and the other way is 'oh metal? I don't listen to that'... not everyone, of course the metal scene is big, but it's not like everyone is listening or is open to metal. I really understood that when I was in a German TV show called 'Sing Meinen Song', people were writing me afterwards saying 'oh my god I never listen to metal, but I listen to other bands as well now, I always thought that metal was screaming and stuff, so this is something super awesome' - this is one reason why I wanted to make that TV show as well because it was a chance to show to people that metal is super-variant or can be super-variant."
This is the thing though, people will hear metal and think screaming, right? Would you say metal is more than just music, but an identity?
"Yeah! It's like that, but what is funny is what I said before, Wacken Open Air, it seems to be everywhere and for everyone. I see so many cars with the W.O.A. sticker on or on bags and stuff, so I think that there are also a lot of people who are not actually listen to metal a lot, but maybe the softer bands. A lot of older people who maybe don't listen to metal even attend (some have broken out of retirement homes to go), so this is something like a tradition where everyone is accepted - you can also compare it to a carnival to be honest (hehe), because it's that one time of the year where people come together even if they don't listen to metal.
Yeah for sure! That is the point and reason why people are acting the way they are, I think that also Wacken is getting more and more open each year or at least that's what I can see with the band's they are inviting - there's a lot more people that can go and be seen very easily."
You released your music video "Misery" this year, how long did it take to record and what is it about?
"We had like 10 hours in a day, but with every single music video that we do we tend to record until midnight, leading into the morning (around 3 am). The main theme for me was the adventure of being in a bubble, wanting to break out of this bubble and become herself, to be herself."
In terms of your fan base, where there any instances where you were surprised at where fans contacted you from, country-wise?
"I wouldn't say right now because I know our fans are everywhere, but I think the first time I said 'wow we have fans there?' was when a lot of people were writing to us from Mexico and the USA, places very far away and places we have never released any album there, it's on Spotify but we never released it internationally and so I didn't expect something like that; especially when releasing in German-speaking areas. That was a really 'wow' moment and there are other countries like Japan that we could play in, a festival there, I think the far away countries are always the most unexpected."
Addressing the sexism and misogyny issue that grapples not only the society in general, but musicians also, is this something you have personally received?
"I think I'm lucky with this because I have to say that I'm always thinking about how I present myself on stage, or on social media and I'm really looking over not to show too much sexiness or too much... my outfits are not 'not' sexy you know, but they are not showing a lot of skin or stuff and I don't want to be reduced to just how I look; it's always a combination of how somebody looks and if you like to look at skin and also if you like to listen to them, this is a combination that I don't really exactly want to combine - this is maybe the reason why there are not many people out there that wouldn't do that."
Putting that into context with the 'female-fronted' style, do you think it's an out-dated tag that should be gotten rid of?
"This is a question that is still not easy for me to answer, because I think I can understand why people could take that term as one thing that they could think about whether they like it or not, because maybe they like female voices more than male voices; I can understand that because I'm listening to everyone, but I think in some ways I enjoy female voices a bit more than male voices.
This could be something that people can decide whether they listen to it or not, of course there are people who listen to every female fronted bands because it's 'female-fronted'; if they like it, they like it. Of course you should say 'male-fronted' bands as well, I'm not sure about it and thinking about this question (a lot of people are asking me this) I still don't have this one way of looking at it."
Have you got any hello's or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"I want to say thank you so much for the interest in this interview, for the album, thanks to Napalm and the fans. Hopefully we will be doing the tour with Amaranthe towards the end of the year, we will not cancel any shows but only postpone if we have to."
"Nowadays we have promotion going on in our releases, but in the beginning people outside Finland found us mostly accidentally."
Metal has to evolve naturally and in doing so has to embrace what some might see as unorthodox sounds. One such band who is devoid of being restrained and willingly exploring the music avenues in pop music and disco, is Finland's Memoremains of whom released their latest single and music video "Pounding Heart" to critical acclaim. If you were to strip Amaranthe of it's Death Metal influences and inject it with ABBA or the BeeGees, then you get Memoremains. Given their sound, it almost seems inevitable that they will go far and become another Finnish Metal success story.
Filling in the details of their history, their sound, plans and what metalheads can do in their city of Seinäjoki, the band clearly have a roadmap of where they're aiming to go and showed no weakness in their interrogation... determination radiating from this quintet.
For people who have not heard of Memoremains, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"Memoremains was founded 2016 in Seinäjoki, Finland. The band began to build its career by releasing singles. In 2018 the band released its first EP, “Louder”. Memoremains started touring late 2018. Their first gig in Bar15 was chosen as “The Best Gig of the Year at the Venue”. Since the very first show, the road has already taken the group on an European tour and to summer festivals in Finland - including Provinssi, one of the biggest festivals in Finland.
2019 was a roller-coaster and climaxed with gigs and a new single. Always flirting between metal and pop it was probably just a matter of time when this genre-bending band would release their first pop cover song: Madonna’s “Sorry”.
Memoremains wastes no time and is already fiercely writing new music after COVID-19 cancelled all of the spring and summer gigs. Well received new song "Pounding Heart" was released in early April. As a release party Memoremains set afoot on new territories and dived in the world of streaming as they had their first live streamed gig on YouTube. Memoremains is locked and loaded! Ready to release their debut album this fall and hit the stages ASAP!"
How would you describe your eclectic sound seeing as you bring in influences from Symphonic Metal, Groove Metal, pop and disco?
"We don’t use time thinking about what genre we play or are some musical influences right for our music or not. We listen to a wide variety of music and bring the best parts to our music. We haven’t yet found any limits where we could not lead our songs."
You released your latest single and music video "Pounding Heart" (taken from your debut album out this Autumn), what was the reception like and have you had views outside of Finland?
"Reception was awesome! Thanks to everyone who has given feedback for us! People have said that the song is catchy, fast and well-produced. They have liked the music video as it presents the song genuinely. We have got fans outside of Finland already from our very first releases. It’s actually a bit strange how music can spread nowadays all around the world. Of course nowadays we have promotion going on in our releases, but in the beginning people outside Finland found us mostly accidentally."
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, what plans have you had postponed or cancelled? What have you been doing whilst under lockdown?
"We had a few gigs in April / May and those have been moved to the future. We had to have our support gig with Battle Beast in April in our home city cancelled; it was very sad that it was cancelled. But we have used this time by making our debut album “The Cost Of Greatness”. We still have some recording to do, but we have progressed quickly. We also had a live stream on the 3rd of April when we released the “Pounding Heart” single."
What plans do you have for late 2020 going into early 2021? With Brexit, are you worried about the financial cost of coming to play in the UK?
"Our debut album should come out 16th of October and we have few gigs already agreed during autumn and winter. We try to get some more gigs and plan a tour outside Finland in 2021; and who knows if we write new music also. About Brexit. Well, it makes things of course more complicated, but we don’t think it would be a problem to come to play in UK if we had a chance!"
Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of Memoremains? How do you unwind at the end of the day?
"We all have jobs because Memoremains is not working full-time yet. So most of our time goes to our work. Music is the biggest hobby in our free-time and some of us has other bands running on. We also try to do sports and sometimes we are just hanging out together, which has nothing to do with music."
For metalheads visiting your city of Seinäjoki, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"For metalheads we would definitely recommend to check out “Rytmikorjaamo” if there would be interesting gigs for you. It’s our city’s biggest venue, you can also find more live shows and underground metal at “Bar 15”. But we recommend to explore Seinäjoki open-mindedly, we have a lot of nice pubs and bars all around the city. There’s not many any mind blowing sights. We recommend to look around and enjoy the rivers, lakes and nature or whatever makes you feel comfortable."
Do you have any hellos or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"Hey everyone! Follow our journey! We have awesome singles and music videos coming out over the coming months. And don’t forget to check out our debut album in October!"
Arguably Cinematic Metal is the biggest and freshest metal genre to emerge in the past few years, although it's closely related to the Symphonic Metal style, it's theatrical nature is what adds to it's uniqueness. Heeding the call and bringing the style to the Swedish metal frontier is Nocean, a quartet from Stockholm with big plans. Having started off in the Hard Rock style and progressively got heavier and more symphonic, Nocean are set to cause a buzz in the underground as they went to explain. They told GMA during their interrogation that they plan on bringing out an animated movie to complement their third album, how art, music and production all filter into their hobbies and job histories and why Nocean are not like any other metal band Sweden has seen before... this is no pantomime, they is the star of the show.
For those who have not heard of Nocean, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Nocean is a Swedish Cinematic Rock / Metal band who are currently writing our third album, combining music with a gothic, animated short film and a theatrical live show! Kind of like a musical. The band name plays on the words - “Notion” - and “Ocean”. An ocean of ideas!"
Tell us about this venture you're undertaking in 'Who Is The Creature?' and the subsequent saga you have laid out before you?
"‘Who Is The Creature?’ is the first chapter in our saga, our concept album, and with the music video we want to let people dive into the world for a bit. The saga is a gothic tale about a young girl, trapped inside a castle garden..."
How would you differentiate yourself from the plethora of Symphonic / Cinematic Metal bands out there? What enticed you to play this style of metal?
"From my side, I think this is our way to differentiate from Rock and Metal in general. Here in Sweden, there are lots of AC/DC-sounds but not so much Symphonic or Cinematic Metal. We have our own unique sound, attitude and image. We are creating more than just an album, we are creating a world, a saga and a live show that we haven’t seen from any other band at all before. Concept albums are common, but not metal musicals with animated movies made and written by the band members themselves. We are also truly independent, therefore it’s harder but I also see that it’s nice to be doing exactly what we want. It all started when we were discussing our third album, how we should proceed and develop even more. We were a Hard Rock band from the start, going into Alternative Rock / Metal and now this. We always want to think outside the box and when it came to genre, it felt natural as we began to write powerful, film-inspired Metal and all of us like this kind of music very much."
You're writing your 3rd album, what can you tell us about it so far? When will it be out?
"We are about half way through the writing process right now, with lots of ideas. The next single will be out this summer! The whole album is planned to be released during spring 2021, but that is depending on a lot of stuff like when we can finish the movie; COVID-19 depending, etc."
Outside of Nocean, individually what hobbies or interests do you have and do these filter into the band?
Hanna: "I work as a freelance TV editor, so that definitely filters into the band as I am producing almost all of our music videos and video content on social media. I also like to work with animations, so I will be doing that for the animated movie to (background sets and lightning). Other than that, watching movies and especially Tim Burton’s movies are my favourite. For me, his style (and Danny Elfman’s music) is a big inspiration for this album."
"I have been drawing and making art since I was very young and when music became my biggest hobby the two interests started to play off each other and I now usually draw whilst listening to music because it conjures emotions and images. I have created some visuals for this project and I am looking forward to keeping that going and see what these new songs and themes can bring out. I too am a movie enthusiast and John Williams in particular has created some of the most iconic movie scores I have ever heard, so that is a huge inspiration for me whilst writing melodies and cinematic parts."
"Lately I have been really into audio production and would also say that’s my biggest hobby outside the band, it’s just something fun and inspiring about striving for perfection in audio. But I have also always been inspired by great movies and especially the movies with good music in them. My latest job was as a movie theatre manager outside Stockholm."
"My big creative outlet has and always will be music and I’m not exactly talented when it comes to drawing and things like that, even though I would really like to! So right now my focus is on learning new instruments like guitar and piano. Other than music I have a big interest in comedy, mainly stand up comedy which is something I’d like to try myself at some point, gaming, science and movies that are so bad they’re good."
For metalheads visiting Stockholm, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"When COVID-19 is over, you should check out venues like Slaktkyrkan, Fryshuset or go to pubs like Harry B James and Pub Anchor!"
What are your plans in late 2020 / early 2021? Were any plans cancelled / postponed due to COVID-19?
"Our main focus is to write the album, make the movie, plan the tour for the album etc. But we will do a couple of shows as well, and hopefully not only on live streams… We had a couple of shows / festivals cancelled so that was really sad. We really hope to play more during fall 2020. During spring 2021 we hope to tour with the new album!"
Are there any thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, fans, family etc?
"Oh yes, a big thank you to all who have supported us through our “Who Is The Creature?”- release (including Global Metal Apocalypse!). Since we are independent, we don’t have the economical muscles as a record label, and we totally depend on our followers to reach out. People have been sharing, streaming, above our expectations and we are so grateful for that! We also just started a Patreon page so if you want to support us there, go to http://patreon.com/nocean."
Whenever someone mentions the Mexican Metal scene, usually it's Brujeria that first pops up. But like any national scene, behind the leaders is a vast swathe of bands carving out their own stories, building up their own fan bases and acting as proponents in keeping the scene not only on it's toes, but to serve as the next crop of bands to step up to the plate. One such band is Velvet Darkness who released 3 new singles last year and have been around since 2014, now with big plans in 2020 on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have set their sights on 2021 on being the year they plant the bandera de México and the symbol of Tenochtitlan on European and British soil. During this interrogation we played nice with the los Mexicanos and indulged in a lavish serving of champurrado. The band spoke of the emergence of Mexican Metal on the international stage, how the lockdown has affected the band and Mexican peoples and why Europe is their first international destination.
For those who have not heard of Velvet Darkness, could you give us a brief history of the band and how you came up with the name?
"The band started with Charles and Joe having this dream of making a life out of music. It took a while for them to find the final line-up and went through lots of changes, but finally… here we are! We are a sextet from Ciudad Satélite, Mexico who plays Heavy Metal. We recorded our first EP “Delusion” in 2015, then our first album “Nothing But Glory” in 2018 and then came up with 3 more singles: “Death Eaters”, “God of War ‘19” and the latest, "Insomniac," which will also be part of our next record. The name “Velvet Darkness” is a metaphor about the dark side we all have but don’t often let out."
Tell us more about the quarantine / lockdown in Mexico, what are you allowed and not allowed to do? How is the band coping?
"People are allowed to go out only for very necessary things. Supermarkets are closing earlier, malls are closed and there are driving restrictions as well. However, as many people in Mexico can’t work from home and can’t stop working, the risk is still high.
As a band, we are staying home. We make video conferences each week to catch up and keep working on the new material. Of course, each one of us has been doing great job individually practising our instrument."
2018 was the year your debut album "Nothing but Glory" came out, what was the reception like? Where did you play in support of the album?
"The album had a nice reception. We had a funny listening party and the album presentation at the “Foro Cultural Hilvana” in Mexico City. We also took part in two metal contests and went on two tour dates out of town with Lvto and Erszebeth, and later on with Lvto and Trágico Ballet. That same year, our keyboardist John was named 'Keyboardist of the Year' at the Osmium Metal Awards."
Have you played outside of Mexico? If so where? If not, where ideally would you want to play your first international show(s)?
"We haven’t yet, although we have travelled a lot within the country. Our goal is to play in Europe, especially Germany, the UK and the Nordics."
What are the challenges most Mexican metal bands face these days (COVID-19) aside? Do you feel that Mexico is often ignored by the global metal community?
"The fact that we cannot get together to practice has been the main problem, but we’ve been working online, and we are sure most of the bands are doing the same. Another big problem for the bands has been cancelling shows and postponing recording plans. We really hope this gets better soon.
And yes, we feel that, but we have also noticed that it is changing as we already have some Mexican bands touring and rocking around the world! Hopefully there will be more of us before long."
Kate, it's all too often we hear about sexism in the metal community, what is the attitude towards female musicians in Mexico? Are there / have there been any misogynist remarks?
"Actually, I have never felt that. Lately I have noticed that people like seeing us women singing or playing an instrument. Nowadays, the media and fellow musicians work more in encouraging us to do what we love and that also makes us feel more confident when we go on stage or share something. Of course, I know misogyny is still a big deal, but luckily, I have been treated well in the Mexican metal scene since I joined Velvet Darkness."
For metalheads visiting Ciudad Satélite and nearby city of Naucalpan, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
"Satélite is a very tranquil zone, but still we rock. If you guys come here, you must visit McCarthy's Irish Pub, Rock Son Satélite, The Cross Tavern and ROCKSTORE Satélite."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"First of all, we would like to thank our families for always being there supporting us, no matter what (even if we get a little noisy sometimes). Our friends, who have been doing a great job sharing our music and supporting us on the shows. And our amazing fans, from whom we feel the love and great energy every time we go on stage and through our social networks. Our staff, they never fail, and we have been through a lot together. Thank you!"
"The fact that bringing a new genre for most in Portugal, sometimes it's kinda hard for everybody to accept it all at once"
If you think of the Portuguese Metal scene, you tend to think of Moonspell (they aren't the only band)... for the best part it does seem at times like the Iberian nations of Portugal, Spain, Andorra and the dependency of Gibraltar become forgotten. Enter the new kids on the block in Downfall Of Mankind, who bring with them a totally new and fresh sound to the Portuguese Metal scene even if the sound is known more widely in the international metal scene. Slamming Symphonic Deathcore is the game and Downfall Of Mankind is the name, with this interrogation we tried to be tame, but in the end we were scorched by this Lisbona flame.
For those who have not heard of Downfall Of Mankind, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Downfall Of Mankind is a Slamming / Symphonic Deathcore band that was created with the purpose of bringing the best of both worlds together in trying something new. Bringing Slam and Symphonic Metal into Deathcore was something that we didn't expect to work out, it turned out to be something that we all enjoyed and doing, and we are super excited to show what we have got in store!"
Given you play Slam / Symphonic Deathcore, how do you distinguish yourself from the hordes of bands in this genre? How did you come to play this style?
"Our founding member (Lucas Bishop) was the one who came up with the idea of mixing the genres and seeing what comes out of it, given that pretty much all of the members were already fans of Slam and Deathcore, we've decided to come together and add the Symphonic sauce to it."
You recently confirmed that you're playing the 2021 XXXAPADA Na Tromba festival, can you tell us more about this festival? Have you played it before?
"Yeah, it's going to be our very first time at the festival, we are beyond excited to be part of such huge line up, sharing the stage with bands such as Stillbirth, Vulvodynia, Benighted and all the others its pretty much everything that a newborn could wish for, and we are more than happy to be part of the line up for this year's edition."
How has the Portuguese people and bands reacted to the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19? What plans of yours were cancelled / postponed?
"It's been difficult not just for the Portuguese people but for the whole world, see, the music industry suffered and is still suffering a lot from the outbreak situation, we are still trying to pick up the pieces from the damage done, standing tall and striving for the best we can get. We did have a couple of concerts cancelled and others postponed, luckily we are managing to re book most of it, all we want is to go back on stage and show what we are about!"
Given the turn of events, what plans do you have going forward in late 2020 / early 2021?
"We definitely will be releasing new material in 2020 still, maybe a new music video you never know, new merch, all i can say is we have got a lot of new stuff to deliver between 2020 and 2021, including tours."
Tell us more about the Portuguese Metal scene, what are the challenges that bands face, is there a great amount of support?
"Well the fact that bringing a new genre for most in Portugal, sometimes it's kinda hard for everybody to accept it all at once. Given for the time being Downfall Of Mankind has been receiving a lot of love from it's country; which is what's important, it feels good to bring not so new stuff into a country that never paid much attention to it."
For metalheads visiting Lisbon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"There's a lot of good stuff to see around town, sight seeing and walking around the city its definitely something you want to do while visiting Lisbon. Regarding venues and bars, we'd definitely recommend RCA, its a nice place to go if you want to enjoy some good music from time to time, it's our home and we love that place. If you want to experience different types of music you could go up to Bairro Alto where you can find a bunch of different bars for all kinds of tastes, overall Lisbon is a place for everyone."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We would like to thank everyone that has been involved in this band so far, everyone that has bought or will buy and support our music and merch, to all the fans out there that has been waiting for some slammy and juicy new tracks, all we gotta say is...
They are coming..
Lucas Bishop / Claudio Melo / Sergio Pascoa / Alejandro Puentes / Franscisco Marques
DOWNFALL OF MANKIND & CREW"
"the water... was real and so cold that we had to stop in between shots to try and warm up... I remember at some point I was like 'OK I'm going to pass out'" (on the 'Charles Francis Coghlan' music video)
In truth the Dutch Metal scene is as complex as it's train network - remember that a 'Sprinter' train service is slower than 'InterCity' and oh that most trains are double decker, the quiet zone at the top and the trains as quiet as Black Metal... anyway moving on from the differences in train services and onto one of the most prominent metal exports in Carach Angren, who are gearing up to release their latest offering 'Franckensteina Strataemontanus' on 26th June 2020.
But what is it exactly that makes this band run along smoothly, is it their inept ability to conjure up songs that are designed to make you sweat profusely or make you lose sleep at the rate of a thunderstorm's lightning strike? Whatever it is, it works and their own 'Horror Metal' style is not one for the faint hearted as Ardek explained to GMA.
We spoke to him about how Carach Angren got to where they are now, the forthcoming album (guts, bones, the lot), the eloquency behind the outfits and the torture the band endured in filming 'Charles Francis Coghlin'.... prepare for some serious goosebumps reading this.
Carach Angren has been going 17 years or so, what is it that has kept the line-up so strong?
"It always has been very natural, I remember when I started I played in a couple of bands and I started to write the composing part which was more than anything else, so with other bands I had to compromise of which sometimes would lead to really great stuff. But with Carach Angren I had my place as a main composer where I could make up compositions and Seregor, is really good at the guitar when it comes to the melodies and coming up with his act on stage; visuals, lyrics, but my brother was good with rhythm so all these things together were a natural combination; like a machine without discussion of who's doing what.
This developed and I remember when we made the first release it would be cool to make one story and build everything around that - this stuck with us whenever we did research for a concept album. Unfortunately he (my brother) decided to leave this year, it's sad but I always say you have to like what you do, especially when it comes to music."
Focusing on the lyrics, were these all researched or were some based on stories you heard / learned over time?
"It differs per album I know that, for example "Lammendam" is a story that actually took place near Seregor's place where he lives in Schinveld, it's a very small town and the legend was really unknown, but it always has fascinated him, he even wrote one song about it in previous bands. So when we got the opportunity to sign with a record label in 2007 (Maddening Media), the idea of a full length came up immediately and this story was right in front of us; that's why we picked that one.
After that I read about the story of Van Der Decken (Death Came Through A Phantom Ship) which came through on a completely different album, it felt completely liberating to do something different and so with all of our albums they connect with us through maybe a movie, or a book or an idea and that's the cool thing about our band - we can do whatever we want within the ghosts or horror genre, story-telling of course and sure it's not easy, because you cannot just pick something random and do it, it has to connect with you and focus upon something inside ourselves as a band.
This echoes with the new album 'Franckensteina Strataemontanus' whereby Frankenstein has been done so many times in so many different ways, it's so popular that for me it wasn't the case of 'lets do an album about Frankenstein', you know? That's not going to cut it. But through a really great way, I found a connection to the story via a nightmare where I was floating in a house and I heard distant piano sounds so I walked towards what seemed to be a portrait of an old-looking man, he was really angry (laughs) and then I woke up and I wrote that down, I was fascinated by this dream; I even made a drawing of the face that I saw and basically ignored it, until later when when I started to read about Frankenstein and was fascinated by it.
So much so I researched it and came up with this theory that Mary Shelley originally was inspired by Johann Conrad Dippel, so I googled this guy and a portrait showed up in google images of him and he looked exactly the guy I dreamt of (haha). So that for me and Seregor became a lead, you need a lead that pulls you instead of pushing yourself, this was something interesting what we had - no one knew who Johann Conrad Dippel was, so we started making up stories connected with Frankenstein. This is usually how it happens with every album, but I have to say every album becomes a bigger challenge as you've already done so much and it's easy to go in the same direction, so I like a challenge (haha)."
Arguably with Carach Angren you've created your own sound in 'Horror Metal', do you hope that other bands will follow the same style?
"That's a good question, I don't know but I see sometimes people are inspired by us and do covers, stuff like that which is really cool. The reason we choose 'Horror Metal' is because we didn't feel completely good with the 'Symphonic Black Metal' genre because especially to me, that genre has always felt like a big container of different kinds of things and bands. I felt we do several different things so 'Horror Metal' isn't really a genre in that sense, but if you have to give it a name then it's 'Horror Metal', but yeah we were inspired by bands and so we hope we inspire other bands and people, be it music, art, paintings, photography - there was no ultimate cause or effect, we invent all the time - art in that sense."
Arguably bands say their next / latest album is their best or favourite, out of all of Carach Angren's albums, which is your favourite?
"It's cliche but it's the upcoming one (haha) because it feels closest to your personal development as a musician, because we always give everything when we write. When I was working with the music for 'Lammendam' I was a different person, I was like 23 years old and now I'm 36. I'm proud of every album and I thing that we've really done everything we could possibly do at that point, but of course when you listen back you will always do things differently; but that would be wise things because probably you would f*ck up and I think that every album has it's charm. "Death Came Through A Phantom Ship" was nautical, it has an adventurous tone to it and so the production was more film-score like, "This Is No Fairytale" is much more in your face-like, complex and raw but they're super different in that sense.
But yeah what makes me proud of the new one is that basically, we took almost like an extra year to work on it, because usually it's a two year cycle - play play play, writing an album, releasing it and now I felt like this is too soon, it would not be fair to hurry an album... I felt like I need that extra time as sometimes you feel that you've lost that perspective, sometimes you need time away from it to gain new ideas."
Given that extra year, did that help you in researching ideas for the song titles too? How was the process?
"It was a really in-depth process with what I did in 2018 and 2017, I started reading the book and other gothic novels and got fascinated by Frankenstein, the funny thing is in 2018 it was exactly 200 years ago that Mary Shelley wrote the book, so I found it to be my investigation. I went to a museum called Boerhaave Museum in Leiden, it's like a science museum and they had an exhibition about Frankenstein in an historical context; it was written in about Mary Shelley and also about the future of robotics, basically a projection of Frankenstein in this day of age and there was also a little exhibition of a woman called Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, she's a scientist but also a performing artist and she was planning an art performance of taking an organ out of her own body and bury it.
This fascinated me so I wrote down her name and contacted her, had an interview with her discussing all these kinds of things and I got on a really deep trail; I started investigating laboratory experiments where they decapitated mice to find out brain functioning in the moment after death and I definitely found out that the separation between death and life is something that is mostly cultural, medically we say that the moment of death is when the heart stops beating and yet we see some cells in organ systems multiply after death; that was kind of fascinating that there's no clear line and that inspired me in the song-writing process in that I started writing some ideas, some fictional ideas - some ended up on the album like 'Operation Compass' and it was in that time that we slowly started gathering musical ideas and these ideas, but I never at the time had an idea of what this could become."
Are you surprised about how global metal has become and seeing bands from the likes of Syria, Botswana, Indonesia emerge?
"I think that's really great that we are as a world, since the internet and everything going to more globalisation, it has some worrying sides maybe, but there is a very good side and music... if you see how accessible music is these days from bands in difficult regions, who are outreaching to global audiences, it's really great. So I'm excited about that and it's a fantastic thing."
The new album 'Franckensteina Strataemontanus' is to be released on black and glow-in-the-dark vinyl, was this your idea or Season of Mist's idea?
"We worked together on these things and we will have a silver one on our web store, we also have a limited edition vinyl where we hand make little bottles of oil and I always try to come up with ideas to give the release something special, almost a four-dimension like we did with the last album - pitch black box, so we really try that but it's like an exploration because everything is possible, but not everything is a good idea, I think I have very good ideas but the label is like some of these aren't going to work commercially - we always have to find some kind of balance, but I am very happy what we have come up with altogether. By coming up with a great album it enables teams around us to come up with great ideas to match it - such as the artwork which is done by Stefan Heilemann, he's a brilliant guy and artist - I emailed him the entire concept story and before we even started recording he came up with this artwork."
Some people on YouTube have commented that Carach Angren should do their own horror movie, or music should be included in one, what are your thoughts on this?
"Well the cool thing is that it already happened, there was a Canadian horror film called "Pyewacket" and they licenced one of our tracks 'There's No Place Like Home' and it's in the movie, so that's really cool; there's also some key visuals from us in the movie, so that's something to definitely check out, so what you see is it's already happening. Some Dutch people ask us do you want to make your own movie and to be honest I really like what we do, I like to make sound for non-existent movies in our heads and to make a movie would be something completely different, so why not, but it's not something that we are trying to do."
On the topic of videography, how demanding was it to make the music video 'Charles Francis Coghlan'?
" (laughs) I want to forget about this, it was extremely demanding for everyone, we did it with Rick Jacops who is a film-maker from The Netherlands and a really great guy. But he is like us in his field, a perfectionist, it never ends with him nor us and basically we had to build everything ourselves; what you see there is built by the band, we did have some help from friends and family but besides that we did it over a period spanning 2 months. Literally the recordings you see we are in the water, that was actually real and was so cold that we had to stop in between the shots and try to warm up... I remember at some point I was like 'OK I'm going to pass out', like what are we doing here, we're crazy.
To give you an example we had these shots like all day and then in the afternoon I was going to the other scene, to bury a hole for the grave because we needed to put a coffin and water in there and was also recorded in May - the weather was really nice and we only had very little time to record because we had to record at night as it was outside, so we were literally recording from like midnight to like 5am, stop and sleep for the next couple of hours and then wake up because we had to rebuild the set - it was basically horrible, I was dead at the end from sleep deprivation and all the crap. But I mean we were very proud of the end result, I don't know if we would do it again though, looking back at it it was too extreme, like a movie with a couple of people."
It seems with each new album comes new on-stage outfits, what inspires you each time?
" (laughs), I could come up with a very elaborate story but a lot of things we do in the band happen naturally, I'll give you two examples like first we have a story in The Netherlands where we love to go to check out clothes... which we have done since the beginning as we go there, we check out what's there and for some reason there's always something really cool and during the latest years Seregor has been getting better at customising some of the clothes that we get, so his touch is definitely on there. What is really funny is that people always contact us asking where do we have it made, where do you get this stuff? The funny thing is just it's commercially available, but we know very well what we connect with.
I remember when Seregor and I once went to the store and there were these PVC / latex pants and we looked at each other and we were like 'I think this could be cool' but at the same time we said we wouldn't have done this four years ago, we would be like 'this is too much' and for some reason we tried them and felt like OK this is weird and not a Black Metal purist look, but it worked with what we were doing and that also made us move in different ways live... like almost Michael Jackson kind of moves. But it all happened in a natural way, another example is like last year we needed something to promote the headline tour - something for an instagram video.
I had no idea and was literally out of ideas and Seregor called me and said well come over and let's try something, so I came over to his and he had a couple of masks and was fooling around and also said he had this fake tongue, so I said yeah why don't you just cut it or something and so we were just goofing around and filming with my phone and it turned out to be really something strange. So I took it home and made it a little bit darker, adding sound effects and it turned into this gross kind of thing, I put it online and it went viral. I said why don't you do that live, everyday you cut your tongue on stage, OK so we ordered like 38 tongues (laughs) and we had ordered the wrong ones because they were too sticky and so had to order different ones - nowadays like the mouth piece crisis we had a tongue crisis."
Regarding the masks we see around the 'Lammendam' and 'Death Came Through A Phantom Ship' era, are they still being made?
"Yeah Seregor makes them and has his own web store, he sells them there and makes all kinds of masks - usually horror and that's like a little side business. He's extremely good at it and always comes up with new ideas in life and for the band as well sometimes, in the visual area he's very talented"
Given the COVID-19 situation, looking towards the back end of 2020, what plans do you have?
"We're working on touring plans for the Autumn, USA hopefully after that Europe, we already have Mexico's Metalfest confirmed so with the virus it creates a lot of uncertainty, but we have really great booking agents and management who would try to be on that; making plans which I am really happy about, because that was the initial plan, we are really lucky that the album is coming out. But some bands had tour plans which they've had to cancel which is really bad, but music is now a secondary problem and sits behind personal welfare, societal health, etc., but our tour plans are definitely being drafted right now and hopefully we can be a bit more precise when this is all over."
For those metalheads visiting Landgraaf, what sights / attractions could you recommend?
"This is actually a funny thing, Landgraaf is a town where we used to have rehearsals and our previous band, none of us actually live there. So somehow that name made it onto our Wikipedia page. But we are located in the province of Limburg. In general you have the town of Maastricht which is nice to visit, it's a nice town, that is something I would recommend."
Where there any ghost / horror stories you were told as a child?
"Well I always remember our father would tell us fairytales and stories, but I have a funny memory as a child, I was sitting in the bathtub and I called out to my mother that someone was under the water by my feet; I have a vague memory of that so it was a cool ghost story."
"Franckensteina Strataemontanus" is out 26th June 2020 via Season of Mist on CD, vinyl and tape.
Interview Interrogation: Alexander "Aor" Osipov and Jane "Corn" Odintsova from Imperial Age (Russia)
Russia, the largest country in the world has throughout the decades (and centuries) played hosted in delivering some stellar musicians in all walks of life. As for metal, first it was Arkona and now the call for Russian Metal has been heard once again, this time in the form of Symphonic Metal sextet Imperial Age of whom have developed and brandished their own unique sound.
Set to embark on their forthcoming UK tour, GMA spoke to Alexander "Aor" Osipov (tenor vocalist) and Jane "Corn" Odintsova (mezzo-soprano vocalist) about said tour, the Russian Metal scene, the relationship between classical and metal music, as well as the ongoing discusssion surrounding sexism in metal; whether Symphonic Metal or in an overall purview with bands featuring female musicians.
"With the phenomena of reincarnation... everything evolves... Beethoven and Wagner would for sure be playing Metal today"
For those who are not aware of Imperial Age, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Officially the band formed in 2012, though Aor and I had spent about 2 years preparing everything for the start. We work hard and the band is getting bigger with every year - slowly but consistently."
"We have 2 albums and 1 EP to date and we are working on the third album. If you want something to start with, go and grab 7 free songs from our website. If you like those, buy 'The Legacy Of Atlantis' - our latest album. If you like it - buy all the rest :)"
Arguably Imperial Age and Arkona are the most internationally successful metal bands from Russia, yet the scene is mightily huge, from your own perspectives, what are the challenges Russian Metal bands face?
"It is true about Arkona and us, and we are honoured to be spoken of in such a way. It's a dream come true. The scene in Russia is actually small and is dwindling every year. We are not putting any effort into there. Instead, we focus on the entire world, especially the West, where everything happens. 90% of our fans are from the US, UK, Germany and France. We also have a strong fan club in Portugal and (surprise) a lot of fans in Poland. Because we love and respect our Polish brothers and sisters and we are not some political jerks. We would also love to play in Ukraine, but we are not sure its safe for us there because not everyone understands that we have nothing to do with our (or their) government - we play metal and metal knows no borders and bows to no politicians. We get a lot of interviews from Australia and we have a license deal in Japan. Our distributor is Swedish. I dont think it gets more international than that :)"
"The biggest problems bands face in any country is their own laziness :) they think that it’s enough to just write an album. Then a fat guy called the “producer” should appear and make them the new Metallica. Most people (not only in Russia) are not ready to work hard, to put tons of their own money, time and energy into the band for many years before the band starts earning any cash. They are not ready to sleep in the van or not to sleep at all on the tour. They have a lack of persistence. They have too romantic a view on all this music business, thinking that its only about having fun - sex, booze and shows... forgetting that shows are very hard work, that there are tonnes of non musical work that has to be done in order to maintain the band. They are not serious enough about their intentions which means they don’t really believe in their own success. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” (C) Darth Vader
Your tour in April will be the 5th time you've played in the UK, each time must have been more successful than the previous?
"Yes, this is our second headliner tour in the UK (previous times we played as support) and it has already sold twice more tickets than last year although last year it was 5 cities and this year its 4. It's going to be a fantastic tour and we will play songs from the upcoming album for the first time ever!"
With respect to your three vocalists in Alexander, Jane and Anna, did you have classical training in the past or did you master your vocal levels respectively?
"Jane & I have had no formal training but have been working a lot with vocal coaches over many years. Anna graduated from a classical music college. However, over time and while working with so many musicians, we have found that education is completely irrelevant and actually its not always good if you are in metal because more often than not it narrows people’s horizons and makes them think within set rules, while we need maximum creativity and artistic freedom.
Classical music was made 200-300 years ago, and everything has changed since that time. Unfortunately, many people just don’t want to acknowledge that. We are very lucky to have had a classical coach with a very broad and open mind who understands metal music, although she has never been a metal fan :)."
Would you agree that classical and metal music are very closely related?
"Despite what I wrote above, yes! But not all genres. For example Death, Thrash and Black Metal are built on harmonies which are prohibited in classical music. However, in Heavy, Power and of course Symphonic Metal, if you look at melody, harmony, rhythm – they are extremely closely related to classical music - especially the 19th century romantic period: Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky etc. There are also a lot of 17th - 18th century Baroque influences in metal as well, especially in progressive metal genres – just play Paganini or Vivaldi on an electric guitar and you will have your familiar Heavy Metal solos and shreds :)"
So much so would you say Mozart, Tchaikovsky, etc were metalheads of their time?
"Outside music, we work a lot with the phenomena of reincarnation and I have a very strong suspicion that some great modern musicians are the reincarnations of classic composers. Time flies by, everything evolves, and so do the people. I’m not sure about Mozart, but Beethoven and Wagner would for sure be playing Metal today. Can you imagine those guys doing pop or trance? I can’t."
Symphonic Metal at times is at the receiving end of sexist remarks; especially when female musicians are involved, is this something you've endured in Russia?
"This is a very good question. And I have quite a few thoughts on it. Why is Symphonic Metal associated with female singers so much? There are some really good bands with male vocalists, for example all three Rhapsodies :)
When we are talking about sexism, why is it always about women? How are women different from men in Heavy Metal? Frankly, I have never seen or received any sexist remarks from anywhere, but there is this ‘objectification’, sexualisation and feminist thing going on, not only in music but in the film and modeling industries as well. And I dont understand it at all.
They speak of equality, but for some reason it is ok for a man to use his sex appeal on stage and to promote the band and attract new fans through his looks, but if a woman starts doing it, it is called objectification and reducing her value to just her body. Why isnt anyone saying that Ville Valo was being reduced and oversexualized? His fans are mostly girls (myself included). Why is it ok for men to pump up their muscles and show off their bodies (Manowar, Rammstein, Misfits etc), and not ok for a beautiful woman to show off hers? For example I really respect Alissa White-Gluz for how she uses her appearance to promote Arch Enemy and herself, but some people critisize her for that. Why don’t they critisize her boyfriend Doyle, who plays half-naked and is a body builder? Alissa actually has much more clothes on!
I am not only a producer of art but also a consumer and I find it much more pleasant to watch shows or music videos which have attractive people in them, as opposed to unattractive... of course it's about the music, but if you are adding a visual part - and shows / videos are precisely that - then make it look good! It's like wearing clothes or wrapping up your product. Of course the inside is what its all about but if you are wrapping it, do it beautifully so that the outside reflects the inside! Otherwise just listen to the CD or Spotify. When I watch movies, I prefer those with handsome male actors. Is that sexism and reduction too?? Should I force myself to enjoy less attractive guys instead just so they dont get pissed off?
Most feminists whom I have seen are unattractive and unsuccesful in their love lives. I think that all this social activity, for example the ‘body positivity’ movement, is just an excuse for not starting to eat properly and start going to the gym. It's much easier to say “accept me the way I am” than it is to raise your ass and go pumping it in the gym. There are two types of people - those who blame others and those who blame themselves.
Why do they put warning pictures on tobacco but not on burgers? Obesity is much more dangerous than smoking - 60% of deaths in developed countries are from heart-related problems. Trust me I have a degree in medicine and worked 2 years at the hospital as a doctor. What is the point in promoting ‘plus size’ while banning the promotion of drugs, tobacco and alcohol? Its just as unhealthy.
Dont get me wrong - there is nothing wrong in being unhealthy. Actually there is nothing wrong with anything as long as its your conscious choice, you are ok with it and accept the consequences. Personal freedom is everything. But if you aren’t ok with what you have, don’t complain - go and change it! Make yourself what you want yourself to be! Become your better self! Thats what all our music is about. If you are doing something anyway why not try to do something great?
Yes, some people are luckier than others and have a better body or other talents such as a good voice presented to them on a silver platter. But it is also well known that talent is overrated (there is a book with the same name) and attributes to just 10% of success - the rest is hard work, blood and sweat. There are tons of people who look better than Bella Hadid and play guitar better than Paul McCartney, but we have never heard of them and never will. Why? Because talent alone is never enough and hard work always beats lazy talent.
For example - I'm too short to be a podium model. They only accept from 170cm and I'm 160cm. But I dont go around trying to change the modeling rules - because they are there for a reason! I'm also not trying to stretch my height. I'm cool where I am and with what I'm blessed to have and all I try to do is make the most out of it. I'm quite happy being a singer in my own metal band and occasionally a photo model (and I didnt get all of this from birth, I had to work my ass off for a decade and to limit myself in everything to get there, and this work will never stop), to tour the world and be able to answer this interview :)
And whats even more important, it's not enough to just be born lucky, it also takes a huge effort to maintain what you have. There are multiple examples of really talented people who didnt look after themselves and lost those talents, people with great gifts who have never developed them and have never benefited the world with them just because they didnt put in the required effort.
Also, if you have an asset, its stupid not to use it. If you have something to show - show it. Make people’s lives better.
So, in short, I don’t see any sexism. I see men liking beautiful women - and it has always been like that, and always will. There is nothing wrong with that, I also like handsome and clever men."
Would you ever be tempted to try and represent Russia at any Eurovision Song Contest?
"Imperial Age does not participate in any contests, just out of principle - we shall not bend to any rules and we shall not be judged, because who the hell are the judges to judge us? Only our fans are allowed to judge us. Thats their sole privilege and everyone else is welcome to f**k off. We are an acquired taste, not a $100 banknote to be fancied by everyone. The only ones who benefit from rules are the ones who make them. The house always wins. Rock is all about rebellion and we shall not comply. It is all totally rigged in this country and the state only supports the local pop culture which has zero chances to break internationally. TaTu were close to it but that was looong ago…"
Jane: "I’ve never been interested in any type of contests."
What are your thoughts on the ESC?
"Honestly, I have never watched it :) But I was happy when Lordi won it. That’s probably my only touch with this contest."
Jane: "No thoughts."
Should more metal bands apply for it?
"I think every band should maximize its chances for exposure, so yes, if they get this opportunity, why not? But be careful not to lose yourself. Metal is all about authenticity while the pop culture is refined and artificial."
For the year ahead, what plans aside from the UK tour does Imperial Age have in store?
"We have enormous plans, which we can’t reveal right now because we need contracts to be signed and confirmations to be made, but watch us closely – its coming soon! However, we can say that we will tour more than ever before and the new album will come out before the year is out!