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!
Demonic Resurrection are one of the leading metal bands from the Indian Metal scene, having been around since the turn of the millennium they have released 5 albums, 1 EP and 1 split and in that time played across Asia and Europe; most notably playing twice at Bloodstock where this year Sahil (vocalist/guitarist) had a chat with GMA about why he was putting not only the band to rest, but his other bands as well. He spoke about his YouTube channel, the scene going forward, what you can do in Bombay and what religion means to him.
"Religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally "
Demonic Resurrection has come to an end, could you tell us how this come about?
"I don't know man I think after 18 years of doing this, I'm kind of a little tired and fed-up with the way things are. I don't mind the struggle and I'm happy to work really hard and put 110% behind what I am doing, but for me I feel like the struggle has been with the same things as opposed to being different struggles as you progress as a band. For me that's kind of where it sort of says it's not working; if you're struggling with the same thing you started 10 years ago then maybe you're doing something wrong. So I kind of need to at least for now just put this behind me and maybe focus on something that is really doing well for me right now, which is my Headbangers Kitchen YouTube channel, so that's the plan right now."
Regarding your YouTube channel, you recently become certified correct? And you contributed to a book?
"Yeah we got certified a while back but we just reached 230,000 subscribers, so it's pretty much become my full-time job now and has kept me quite busy.
I was approached by a publisher last year to sort of edit a book rather than write one, I wrote some stuff for this book but mainly edited a lot of their recipes too make them keto-friendly.
Keto is a sort of way of eating where you deprive your body of carbohydrates and it goes into burning fat for fuel, it's sort of become one of the hottest ways to lose weight because it kind of lets you do it in a more of a free-approach to it, rather than being restricting yourself in terms of what you can and cannot eat; though you are, but it doesn't feel as deprived as most diets do."
Out of all of the dishes you have done, which is your favourite?
"Oh that's a tough question man, I would definitely say one of my most popular dishes is the 'bacon bomb'; that is kind of my signature meat dish, but I'm also very proud of my buttered chicken. The 'bacon bomb' is half a kilo of ground pork meat seasoned beautifully with fresh herbs, stuffed with cheese, peppers, onions, wrapped in bacon, covered in BBQ sauce and baked. That would keep you going for the rest of the day."
So your other bands Reptilian Death, Demonstealer and Workshop are being phased out too?
"If anyone has been following me, I think it was about 2 years ago I put Workshop to rest and then a year ago I put Reptilian Death down as well. I don't know man just things stopped working for the band and like I said I don't mind working hard, but when all the odds are against you then you just need to know when to let go. With Workshop we just come to a point where we were just unable to book shows because whoever booked shows didn't like our music, so eventually we were not able to book anything and it just sort of died down because there were no gigs we could play and the other members became busy with their other musical careers, so we called it a day."
With Kryptos carrying on, what does the future of the Indian Metal scene look like in your opinion?
"Honestly I don't know, but what I do know is it will survive, it will go through it's up's and down's like it always has, I think as a genre metal still holds onto people in some way. Even though the Indian scene is not growing in the way it should, but you know we will have to wait and see the way it goes, but I do believe it will survive and have children always wanting to play metal, so you will always have some Indian Metal bands; whether they last or not, that's a different question."
With the metal band Bloodywood mixing Bollywood music with metal, do you see this as a step forward?
"Honestly, I don't know if that's a step forward but it is definitely a connecting point for people around the world to know that there's metal in India. I guess they've tapped into what I would call the 'YouTube Market' ,which is a huge platform for very creative content and creators to exploit, and I think they have found a formula what works for them. So I definitely think them as a band will do great things, whether they choose to go live or whether they choose to spend their energy on YouTube, it will definitely be and introduction for most people getting into the Indian Metal scene."
So how did Demonic Resurrection come round to playing Bloodstock this time? Do you keep in touch with past members?
"Yes I think Bio-Cancer dropped out and my agent said I could book in for Bloodstock, so I was like let me check the visa situation because the last time we came here we had to get a work permit, which is really expensive, but it turns out that there is a cheaper option and I was anyway planning to visit the UK for friend's wedding so it kind-of worked out. Especially as we have two members in the UK, so that's two people that actually needed to fly in now for the gig; myself and Virendra. As of now we have Shoi Sen and Arran McSporran from De Profundis who play bass and guitar, they're our live session members in the UK.
I'm still in touch with most of them yeah, they're always doing something or the other. Nishith Hegde and Ashwin Shriyan play in Bollywood, they're session musicians and as is Daniel Kenneth Rego, Mephisto chills at home and writes some of his own music but doesn't really put anything out so."
Could you tell us more about your last (and final) album "Dashavatar", what does it mean?
"'Dashavatar' is basically about the the primary avatars of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, it's actually funny that I even wrote something like this because I'm a staunch atheist and I have a lot of disdain for religion, but as stories there are interesting things here and my wife told me the story of
Narasimha the man-lion, and the way it was told to me was... it kind of showed a very brutal side to the story and the truth is I think, religion is very good fiction; they're great stories and it's unfortunate that people have taken them literally and f****d everything up, but they are great stories and they were stories that I thought would be good to tell through our music and I made sure that we didn't compromise the music that we made. I know we do have Indian instruments in the album, but they are there with a purpose, they are not us suddenly going all fusion, trying to create something, so that was an interesting thing to do."
For metalheads visiting India, aside from the Taj Mahal, what sights / attractions would you recommend seeing?
"Well if you're coming to Bombay (Mumbai) it's always good to get a look at the gateway of India, there are these caves called the Ajanta and Ellora caves which are nice to visit as well, you can go to the beach, Juhu beach, Marine Drive, yeah you can go around and eat some good food in Bombay. Honestly I always never know what to tell people to go and see in Bombay because myself I don't really care for sightseeing and stuff, it's all about food."
Signing off are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Thank you for having me and for doing this interview, thank you to anyone who has listened to any of my music and bought a CD or t-shirt, I appreciate it!"
Having previously been located around the Worksop / Birmingham area, Symphonic Metallers Aonia are now more or less based in Sheffield. The 'Experimental Symphonic' crew won their Metal 2 The Masses regional heats and laid waste on the fields of Derbyshire. Aonia spoke to GMA about their rise, playing Bloodstock and how sexism is STILL an issue to-date.
(on sexism) "big balls is what makes us... we have balls we wear them on our chest that are held in by our corsets."
How did Aonia form and what does the band name mean?
"A long time ago in a galaxy far away, James's band and my band split up, so his remnants and my remnants got together and made Aonia. There were a whole load of line-up changes and in 2016 we finally stabilized with the addition of drummer David Byrne and bassist Matt Black, but the biggest change happened in 2013 with the addition of Joanne Kay Robinson on vocalist, because it brought us into a whole sort of new genre and with Tim Hall coming on Keyboards as well gave the music a much wider dimension.
As for the name of the band it refers to the place near Helicon mountain where the muses dwell. Which is pretentious but kind of sweet, like us.
When we were trying to find interesting words in the dictionary, we didn't get past 'A', we just gave up and went 'Aaaa.... Aonia' that'll do. To be honest I'm surprised we got to 'ao', we could have been called 'Abyssinia'."
Is it easy or difficult to create music, especially when there are effectively seven different elements to contend with?
"You have no idea (all laugh), it's just time consuming more than anything else, but the nice part about having seven elements to a band, and we don't have one songwriter, someone will come up with an idea but it's the whole band that puts it together. Which means we have an original sound, we have a sound that really we don't get compared to, but there's no one element that really separates us and makes the other bands sound the same as us, we have an original sound because of that and it works. It takes time, there's a lot of arguing (all laugh).
I think it's a really creative conversation we have over a couple of chords or lines, eventually over seven minutes... forty minutes arguing over a chord. When I say seven, we don't actually listen to him (Przemek).
I suppose that makes it more interesting, considering how overloaded and over-saturated the Symphonic Metal genre has become?
"Well that's why we say we're not symphonic, we're symphonic to a certain extent and the keyboards are an important element in the band, but we have a very progressive rock basis to the band as well - do you know some of our sound links more to Iron Maiden than it does to Dream Theater, than Dream Theater to Nightwish; we have Dream Theater elements in it as well, we have a lot of elements in it, we have good musicians in the band and we like to show that as well, we have two fantastic female-fronted vocalists, we try and get all of the elements into the songs".
Speaking of having two female-fronted vocalists in Joanne and Melissa, do you feel sexism in metal still exists or has it lessened over the years?
"Well it's about 3-4 years ago, we were playing a local pub and somebody tried to pull my corset down whilst I was on stage, I would say sexism is still very rampant. I've seen comments like 'oh female-fronted metal is pop with heavier guitars', I've heard people say 'oh I won't go see a band if they're female fronted', 'I won't go to see a band if there's a girl in' and then you do also get sexism the other way round. I've got a friend called Kris who's a bassist in FireSky and her band is excluded from a lot of female-fronted stuff ,because she only does backing vocals and that's wrong as well, so Joanne do you want to wade in with your experiences?
Yeah I mean we get a lot of 'pull your corset down', I've not had as severe as that but I would like to say we've probably got bigger balls than most of the boys in the band so yeah (all laugh), big balls is what makes us... (just say testicles - you do have something bigger than us but it's not balls), we have balls we wear them on our chest that are held in by our corsets.
In which case, they are a lot bigger! We've had a lot people say 'you're not really my type of thing' but after the gig have said 'f*****g hell, that was absolutely amazing I didn't think I was going to like you', when they say it's female then Operatic Metal comes to the fore and judgements are made, but as soon as they've seen us live then their opinions have changed.
Can I just say when she says 'f**k she's spelt it 'phuq'... apologies for my language, another problem with the sexism is that people don't think about what they're listening to, they're just watching or looking at a picture - seeing the picture and seeing as girl in it makes them think they won't want to go see that band, this is stupid because we're not actors playing in movies, we're musicians playing music; listen to the band first and then see what they look like, what they sound like is more important than what they look like."
It's cliche but don't judge a book by it's cover; what are your thoughts on the term female-fronted metal?
"Absolutely! Although we have a good cover (all laugh). Female-fronted is not a genre, it's a gender. It's a description, the band is female-fronted, they don't say the band is male-fronted. I think a lot people use it as an excuse for a deterrent, like I say it's a label... wow.... you said that? I did. Got 'an excuse for a deterrent', yeah it's good I like that. Well it is. Like you say a lot people in metal are very male-orientated and soon as they hear the word 'female', they kind of switch off... I've been guilty of that myself but through experience, through being in a band it's opened my mind to a lot of new things. Hopefully we can change other people's perceptions too."
Surely playing Bloodstock is the biggest thing to happen to the band?
"So far absolutely, we know we're good enough to get to this stage because we believe in ourselves, but it's still an unbelievable experience - when they call our name out it was still that kind of speechless feeling... I wouldn't believe it until we had done it. I've been in the music business since I was about 15, so that's what 10 years? I've been playing for 35 years and it's by the far the biggest and best gig I've ever done and that's before I've played."
Are there any greetings / thank you's that you wish to send out to people?
"All the fans that have been loyally to us, all the new fans... they're our Aonia family. Mary Berry, my inspiration. Thanks for all the baking! Simon Hall, Simon Cliffe and Rob Bannister from Bloodstock. Our amazing PR lady called Angel."
Emphasis are not holding back nor are they slowing down, the Estonian Progressive / Symphonic Power Metallers have signed a deal with Japanese label Red Rivet Records. Thus giving the band the momentum to reach deep into the Asian market and help expose not only their music, but the rich vibrant sounds the Estonian Metal scene has to offer. It has been two years since the sextet dropped their debut album "Revival" and now they're revelling in their latest offering "Soul Transfer", deviating away from the structural guidelines laid before them in search of a truly inspirational sound for the album as the band go on to explain... it did not happen by sheer accident.
How does it feel to release your second album 'Soul Transfer'; especially on Japanese label Red Rivet Records? Where does this place itself in terms of the band's history and the wider Estonian Metal scene?
"Estonia is a small country and our metal scene is very small as well. Actually, there's only one metal label – Nailboard Records. Many years ago they signed bands, but now they work more as a distribution company. So it means that we have no choice and it's pretty common that Estonian artists sign deals with foreign labels. So, as you know, our previous album was released on the Italian label "Underground Symphony". This time we sent our record to a list of labels over the world and we were happy to get positive feedback from Japan. Red Rivet Records offered us reasonable conditions and we're still happy about our co-operation. And yes, for us every action and step forward is kind of achievement."
Regarding the 'Soul Transfer' track-list, could you explain the meaning behind the percentages?; Assuming it ties in with the album title?
"Soul Transfer is a concept album, an entire complete original story where the order of the compositions are arranged in a certain meaningful sequence. All the tracks are combined through smooth transitions or short instrumental sketches, which underlines and complements the full picture of the idea. In order to understand what we wanted to convey to the listener, you need to listen to the disc from start to finish in one session: from zero to one hundred percent with a total duration of 73 minutes. So, in the album, three main lines are closely intertwined: the inner world of feelings and memories of the character, the world of virtual reality created by a super computer, and the real material non-industrial world and its society, manipulated by gadgets and social media.
Using non-tradtional metal instruments can sometimes be considered unorthodox (in this case a saxophone and trumpet). What gave you the inspiration to include said instruments? How was it working with Raul Sööt and Allan Järve? Can we call the album 'Avant-Garde' or 'Progressive Jazz Metal'?
"I expected such a question... creating music for "Soul Transfer", initially I did not think about jazz instruments, as well as about violins. The album was at the stage of mixing... there were a lot of instrumental parties and it did not sound boring. But one evening, when the light at the end of the tunnel was already close, I went to the shower. Standing under the hot water, I thought: damn! I want to add something else, why not the jazz sounds? After two beers I opened my computer, sketched out my ideas, and messaged one saxophonist. In the morning I got a negative answer from him. I was quite mad and decided to make a last effort. I wrote a message to one of the best musicians in Estonia - my former harmony teacher and tenor saxophonist Raul Sööt. Next morning he answered me that it will be interesting for him to take a part in this project.
After that I was thinking about trumpet. Then I messaged to Allan Järve, who was my friend at the Viljandi Academy of Culture. He quickly came to my studio and we recorded a trumpet for two tracks in an hour. Raul Sööt took the task very responsibly. He recorded his parts at the studio with Cristo Cotkas, there were several sessions. When I mixed the album, including their parts, I realized that this is exactly what I would like to hear in the end. The other members of the Emphasis were shocked. They listened to the songs several times and said that it sounds cool, albeit unusual. Avant-garde it or not – let the reviewers to decide :) But for me this record is exactly what I always wanted to record, even at those times, when in our group were only three members - me, Katya and Vsevolod. Ten years passed and we did it! I want to say a big thank you to all the musicians who shared this work with us - Raul Sööt, Allan Jarve, my friend from Moscow - Oleg Lutskevich, and also my colleague Julia Mets and my student Alexander Smirnov."
Assuming there will be a tour to support the new album, are there any countries you would want to target? Will there be a music video released in support?
"Currently, we don't plan any tour activities. Our album release party took place in Rockstar's club in Tallinn on April 14. The most of the songs we played for the really first time in our lives and we really enjoyed that! The crowd was amazing. We decided to focus on promotional stuff. Yes, we have some great plans about music video .. but let's see! :)"
For metal fans travelling to Tallinn and wider Estonia, what sights / attractions could you recommend seeing?
"Rockstar's club – the oldest rock club in town, actually! Hard Rock Laager Open Air, of course. If you want to discover more, I totally recommend you to visit Narva, home town of three of our musicians, and got Art Club "Ro-Ro“. Believe me, there's really special atmosphere :)"
What plans does the band have for the rest of the year that have not already been indicated earlier?
"We are planning to open our online-shop, finally! There you can find our musical stuff and some really cool merchandise. As Anna said, we also have some plans about music video, but.... now we're not ready to discuss it. However, GMA will be the first source who'll get a link ;)"
Anna (vocals): "In autumn, we plan to play more shows. This spring was really hard for us!"
Max (guitars): "And we also plan to continue with the new material."
Pavel (guitars): "... 3,5 of the songs done :D"
Are there any greetings you wish to send out to fans, friends, family, etc?
All: "We wish you to visit more live shows and support local underground scene!"
Most people would associate Taiwan as one of those countries you could find labelled on the inside of some of the garments you own, but for metalheads it's known as a vibrant metal scene with ChthoniC as their leading export... following in the Oriental Black Metallers footsteps are a legion of metal bands who are ready to take the Taiwanese scene forward onto newer and greater heights.
One such band is Frost Tears (冰霜之淚), whose blend of Symphonic Gothic Metal and Oriental Metal is so amazing that you would lost in trying to find a band who can be compared to this majestic group. GMA spoke to the group to find out what life as a Taiwanese Metal musician is like, plans for the year ahead among other things. Answers are gratefully and surprisingly received in both Taiwanese and English.
"'Joyous shout' is a song which returns to the pure combination of power metal and symphony metal"
How long has Frost Tears been going and has any of the members been in previous bands?
"冰霜之淚迄今已經㒟立八年，到目前為止，歷經三任鼓手᧤現任鼓手 Ibara 第ℛ任᧥；三任貝㠾手᧤現任貝㠾手 Mone 是第ℛ任᧥；吉他手 Dio 是第ℛ任᧤鍵 盤手 Yu 則在 2016 年離團，主唱 Len
與吉他手 Taku 一直是原始團員。目前並不 積極尋找㠿任鍵盤手，因為㒠們覺得改變樂器編制也許是個有趣的ℚ情。在 2017 年在演出的配置加入了一位大提琴手 Tetsu.
It's been 8 years since Frost Tears was formed by Len (Vocal), Taku (Lead Guitar) and Ibara (Drums). The other present members include Mone (Bass) and Dio (Rhythm Guitar), who are the second members at bass and rhythm guitar. Tetsu, our current cellist, joined us in 2017, which may be an interesting idea or choice to change our band formation due to former keyboardists leave in 2016."
What is it like being a metal musician / fan in Taiwan? What is the scene like and is metal supported well?
都沒᭷幾個金屬樂團ྍ以ᡂ為主流，也因Ṉᡃ們在這八年來所學到的心態，便是 做ᡃ們想做的音樂即ྍ，要跟隨閃靈的 腳 ṉ並不是件容易的事，而即使像閃靈身 為ྎ灣最紅的金屬團，卸下樂手光環ᚋ，
ChthoniC as Taiwan's most known metal band has their own way of standing in Taiwan and so do we. In fact, few of Taiwan's (or maybe countries / religions besides Northern Europe) metal bands became famous. So even if we still try to fulfil our destiny in our own way, our conclusion for Metal in Taiwan is simply make perfect music, and THAT IS ENOUGH. "
You're about to release your fourth EP 'Conscious Being' in a few weeks time, will there be a tour in support of the release?
"目前還在企劃中，ྍ能在六᭶，因為ᡃ們沒᭷足 夠 的經費同時做 夠 多的ⓐ行 和ᐉ傳活動，所以也不急，一件一件的完ᡂ就好ࠋ
Actually, we are planning for a tour in Taiwan to begin maybe in June, so things like funds searching or promotion activity is now in process."
Have you played outside of Taiwan, if so where? What challenges as a Taiwanese band do you face when booking overseas gigs?
"ᡃ們曾經在 2015 年到過日本，2016 年到馬來西亞演出ࠋ對ᡃ們而言，演出內
容與器材ࠊ場地並不是問題，觀眾也都 夠 多ࠋ其實對ᡃ們而言，最困難的是籌ࠋ措旅費
We've been to Japan in 2015 and Malaysia in 2016. Shows were perfect for their own when the most difficult part is still the operation funds."
What did you differently for the new EP in comparison to your previous releases?
"因為團員變動，創作方式自然也會改變ࠋ新的 EP 除了首支單曲 Joyous shout 回到像 power
或 symphony metal 那種比較直ⓑ的音樂型態之外，另外三首則是以 現在的編制去重新改寫第一張
The new single 'Joyous shout' from 'Conscious Being' is a song which returns to the pure combination of power metal and symphony metal. Others are remade versions of 3 songs from our first EP which has improved tones, path of mixing and in some parts a change of lyrics and melody. It's a way for us to face and challenge our past."
For those visiting Taiwan, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What bars could you recommend?
"對於訪問ྎ灣的遊ᐈ，你ྍ以推薦哪些景點 / 景點？你ྍ以推薦什麼酒吧
'Jiufen' for 1 day touring and 'Revolver'͛ for alcohol."
What plans do you have for the year ahead?
The first priority is to complete our next new album despite our slow working progress, but we'll still make a try."
Do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
Hey guys we are Frost Tears from Taiwan! We welcome you to subscribe to us on our official Facebook page 'Frost Tears 冰霜之淚' to get the latest information of us! We wish to see you, Thank you!
Metal music is unmistakably global, we've seen the rise of metal bands from all corners of the globe, from Brazil's Sepultura to New Zealand's Ulcerate and all the countries in-between and... basically everywhere. However it's multinational bands and projects that just show the solidarity this music brings irrespective of religious, cultural, political or societal traits... Metal is the Mecca of open-mindedness. Akheth, a project generally central to Canada features members from American, Dutch, Iranian and Mexican backgrounds and as they drop their debut single it's only right that they get all the attention they deserve because Akheth are not just a band, they are a prime example of 'metalisation' (a portmanteau of metal and globalisation; I just made it up); that is the power of metal music bringing different nationalities together under one roof.
Akheth gave us an insight into their world, their new single, their paths to metal and the challenges of being a project separated by vast lands and open seas.
How did Akheth come about? What does the band name mean and how did that come about?
"The band started from the first demo of 'The Asylum' we did back in 2015. It was a song that I had written in 2011 for my band at the time. When I saw a few YouTube videos of Mahafsoun singing I asked her if she'd be interested in recording vocals for the song. We finished that demo but didn't create Akheth as a band until late 2016. The name of the band is an Egyptian hieroglyph that represents where the sun rises or sets. I chose this name for the band because I was looking for something original and short and Akheth was the name of the first song I ever wrote back in 2006, so it has a special meaning."
Seeing as you all live in four countries, do you send recordings over the net or do you meet up on occasion?
"Mahafsoun and I have met a few times but most of the work we do is through the internet. I send the guys complete demos with guide vocals or just the skeleton of a song when I'm still working on it. From there they learn it and add their own thing to it. There is also a new song that we are working on for the EP on which Mahafsoun wrote the main piano parts, it is the first song we are writing together. Next month (April) Mahafsoun and I will meet and practice the vocal lines for the new songs."
What (apart from the previous question) challenges do you face as an international band?
"Sometimes communicating ideas over the internet is difficult, you can't really explain for example a melody or a complicated section over an e-mail. Besides that recording everything separately, specially with a low budget is hard because you have to take all those different tracks recorded in different places and make them fit together. Of course with the technology we have these days it's a bit easier but some of us are still learning and getting more experience as we work more on recording music. Lastly the cost of getting all of us together in the same place, every time we want to do it one of us has to get a flight somewhere."
Mahafsoun, what was it like growing up as a metal fan in Iran? What does your family think of metal music?
"During the time I lived in Iran, I was only eight years old. Because of this I never got to experience what it's like to be a metal fan growing up in Iran. However my mum and dad nowadays enjoy some metal. In the beginning they didn't really care about it, but after I showed them the different sub-genres of metal, they each found one that they really enjoyed listening to. I believe that for each of them, they enjoy metal more nowadays especially because they know that I have such a strong connection to the music and the culture."
You released your debut single 'The Asylum' this year, what has the reception been like and how did you come up with the single title?
"At the time of writing The Asylum and other songs I had the idea of making them all fit together in a concept album. The story is about the human mind and how insane it can sometimes be. So at the beginning of the story everything is somewhat abstract but getting to this song, The Asylum, you start to figure out what it was all about. At this point we aren't even talking about the full length, since we are working on the EP, so we'll have to see if we keep the same subject.
So far the reception has been great! People from all over the world ordered our CD's and merch, as a new band we didn't really expect that so we are very thankful for the support. Not only that but people also liked our music and we were lucky to have Mark from Epica as a guest on the song!
Will the single be included on your impending EP / debut album in the future?
"Our EP will contain 5 new songs and we will include 'The Asylum' as a bonus. Although for our first full length album we talked about re-recording the song because this single was basically home-made and we had some comments about our production quality. So yes! we will have a much better version of 'The Asylum' but it'll have to wait until we record our full length."
How would you describe your style of metal? Who influences you?
"Right now we only have that one song out so it is still too early for people to really know what our style is. However in a review for Metal Injection they called us Progressive Symphonic Metal and we really liked that term because it doesn't limit us to play the same thing all the time. We have so many influences that go from Progressive Rock all the way to Black or Death Metal and everything in between. I think our music will definitely reflect that. Also each one of us has different tastes and styles of playing our instruments or singing.
The good thing is that we are all open minded and so is most of the metal community, our core will always be metal so I think most people will find something that they enjoy in our music. For our EP we are working on a ballad, also other longer songs with middle eastern vibes and instrumental sections. Some songs have more orchestra and others are more riff oriented so you guys can get an idea. The beauty of Symphonic Metal is that you can do so many different things with it and when you throw in the progressive part you get even more variety.
As far as specific bands that influence us I'd personally say Opeth, Dream Theater, Tool, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Evergrey, David Gilmour, Steven Wilson to mention a few. Mahafsoun likes Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Septicflesh, Moonspell. There would be too many to mention them all!"
What plans do you have for the year ahead and are there any greetings you wish to send out?
"Our plans for this year besides the EP are making our first official videos together! We'd like to thank you and everybody for supporting Akheth and we hope you keep an eye out for our EP towards the second half of the year!"
It is an undeniable fact that Africa, along with Australasia / Oceania, are the last frontiers of metal music, with the exception to a handful of countries e.g. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. Of course in Sub-Sahara Africa and North Africa there are far more metal scenes than in West Africa. However with Gabon's Iron Sliver, Nigeria's Threadstone and Ghana's Dark Suburb making noise, it was only fair for Cameroon to join the metal music movement.
Roar Of Heroes are a Symphonic / Gothic Metal unit who are comprised of two musicians - Azra-Freyja and Anarchist 1st), formed from the ashes of a previous moniker - 'Silent Echoes', a six-piece band whose activities did not last long and thus gave birth to this new entity.
GMA caught up with the duo and asked them what it is like to be metal music fans in Cameroon, what challenges there are and where do they see the African Metal movement in the future.
"Our society has never stopped judging this amazing philosophy, they still think metal is one of the devil's creations."
Could you give us a history of Roar Of Heroes, how it started and what challenges you face as a band?
"Roar Of Heroes' story is so long that a message won't be able to tell you the entire story in detail, so we summarize: in the beginning, the band was called Silent Echoes and had 6 members; a complete line-up with 2 female vocalists. The band performed together twice in February and June 2016, but after the June show, the band split-up and 6 months later was reborn as Roar of Heroes, with only two members of Silent Echoes, and this has been the same since then.
The Cameroonian Metal scene doesn't seem to have been around for a long while, when did it roughly start and what is the scene currently like?
"Cameroon doesn't have a real metal scene. We had here, the "Festirock" which we believe started in 2014 and today it's at its 3rd edition. But the last one was more of a "simple live show" than "metal show", including all types of music. So we don't really know nowadays if we can still consider it as a metal scene. But, another scene is about to be born, "Silent Night", organized by A Black Card, the label which is producing our forthcoming album. We all hope this one will be great."
Are you aware of any other metal scenes near you? Would you agree that Africa is fairly young in terms of metal music being produced?
"Personally, we think Africa will have it's place in the future of Metal music (even though 90% of bands we know only do Death or Heavy Metal, excluding South Africa and the Arabic countries!! according to us). Of course, people do not really know about metal bands in Africa, but we are sure, when the occidental communication will give attention to this continent, things will quickly improve. People really have a metal soul here."
How did you become interested in metal music and what do your parents, friends, etc think of it? How does society perceive it? Have you played any local gigs?
"We used to say, "we didn't adopt metal, metal adopted us", meaning that we always had it in our soul. When you are young, and you have the "chance" to see Michael Jackson or Metallica on your parents TV, you definitely know that you won't do country or pop music in your life. Parents and friends encourage us just because they know that we play music, we prefer things to be this way, than them judging us too. Because effectively, our society has never stopped judging this amazing philosophy, they still think metal is one of the devil's creations."
What are your main influences for your music and have you released any EP's, albums?
"Influences? Revolution is for the moment our only influence. We think everyday that things should improve around us, not changing, but improving. We recently recorded an EP, and started recording our first studio album, but unfortunately, we had a "bad wind" in April 2017, which carried with him all our files, and we were obliged to restart everything... from nothing. We finally returned to the studio back in September, and we think all will be okay very soon."
Would you agree that countries steeped in devout Christianity would perceive metal music as a threat?
"Yes we do. According to us, we think that they are focused on past metal images, which was unfortunately dominated by Death Metal and other s (with the satanic side of the genre). But that's not our philosophy, we have one different from that. In our songs, we encourage people to build themselves, to go further, to be free, to exist and so on. We have a simple philosophy: The impossible is unthinkable."
Given the location of your band, have you had any fans emerge from overseas on Facebook? If so where?
"We sometimes receive greetings from Nigeria, South Africa, France, Italy, Belgium and USA. People telling us that they like what we do. So encouraging to read mails and sometimes messages on our Facebook fan-page. We will never thank them enough."
Where do you see the Cameroonian Metal scene in 5 years time? What changes need to happen to support the growth of the scene?
"We are convinced that, in less than five years, Roar Of Heroes will make the Cameroonian metal scene to be known in Africa and all over the world. First of all, people have to assume with a firm conviction their love for metal. Secondly, they have to eradicate every judgement, so according to us, the problem starts from metal lovers, only them can extend the philosophy. But, this is about to happen, our revolution started this way."
Finally do you have any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out?
"We would like to send a message to everyone reading this article:- "Firstly thanks for reading, secondly never forget guys that every second in your life is a chance to change your story!!! Never stop believing in what you feel! Revolutionary yours!"
Perhaps they might be from the bygone cosmonaut era, or they could be the humanoid form of the daleks, whatever you make of Russia's (or in their case an extra-terrestrial planet) Sunwalter one thing is for certain... they're clearly onto something. Mixing together the elegant beauty of Symphonic Power Metal with the feel for alien and space topics... you read that right... let's call it 'Xenology metal' for the hell of it.
Having released their latest cosmic opus 'Alien Hazard' it was only fitting to go completely 'Men In Black' on them and torture them with klingon... beam me up Scotty
"I like sci-fi stories, films, books and computer games. Songs about Satan and demons are typical of the black metal genre"
Hi guys, firstly can you tell us about the band's history and who came up with the name Sunwalter, what does it mean?
"Hi, Earthman. The history of our band started in 2008, but it was the old period, when we played Melodic Black Metal. The most significant changes happened in summer of 2016, when our crew was abducted by the grey alien race for three days. After the event we got our own spaceship and were assigned as intergalactic mediums between the extraterrestrial intelligence and the human race. This role is very important for our team. Through our songs we deliver information from the deep space to Earthmen, revealing to them new knowledge, concealed by the governments of the Earth states. All our messages are encrypted with alien codes which are impossible to be broken by earth technologies. The name "Sunwalter" consists of two words in two languages: Sun from English and Walterfrom Deutsch. That refers to an extraterrestrial over mind. Some Earthmen directly contact him in their dreams."
You've just released your second album 'Alien Hazard' (via Sliptrick), what has the response been like?
"This album shows really WOW effect. A few people typically say: “It’s a good album”, but much more people define it like a perfect conceptual release of the year. Especially if we speak about something unusual, like our genre, for example, 'Sci-Fi metal'. First, try to show us a band who play 100% space music and dedicate all songs to the universe. Then try to find musicians, who follow this ideology in their image, arts, outfits and in technical equipment during live shows. Surely, after this you'll get the best response from the audience. This is because we offer original content. And it’s only a part of our truth, another side is classified as top secret."
As you're from Russia, what can you tell us about the metal scene? I bet it's hard touring Russia given there's only really 2 major cities - Moscow and St. Petersburg?
"That's false. You described a typical stereotype, applied when somebody doesn’t want to work hard. We have enough cities for touring. In fact, many Russians don’t feel like creating something new and original, and even more of them are not ready for big tours. For this, they need to check a lot of info, work on the organization itself, spend money, etc. Many young musicians think, that after their first album some rich producer will find them and they will become rock stars, like in Hollywood films. And after the moment their dreams are broken, they find a million reasons to avoid working hard and keeping on improving their bands, creating lots of gossip, that Russia is not a rock ’n’ roll country."
Touring Europe I assume you have to apply for visas? With Brexit are you as a band concerned about touring the UK?
"We don’t need visas! Our spaceship just lands in a secret prepared place near the venue, then we play live and go back again to the orbit of the Earth, where we spend a lot of time.
Miran: By the way, it will be really great to tour in the UK as well as in many other countries because we know that there are lots of abductees and people who share our interest in cosmic themes. We’d like to spread the word of alien races all over the world."
What does the authorities / government think of metal music, has there been any problems? Have your parents mentioned about rock / metal existing in the days of the USSR? What (if anything) can you tell us about said music in the USSR? (perhaps a question for Myutel?)
Myutel: "Is it about the Universal Space Systems Reunion (USSR)? Well, that's the union of planetary mining systems, isn't it? They united after the defeat in the civil war, that had broken out after the workers demanded an improvement of their life comfort and additional compensation for hard labour conditions. There was that, what's-his-name… Ah! I remember! Zchee GeVarro!
As for the music… The government pays too little attention to it. On the contrary, metal and other resources are top priority for them, that's the case. We try to get ourselves out as far as we can. But we feel equal to it!"
One question for Sol (Olga Salikhova), do you feel females are becoming more accepted in metal music? Do you receive any discrimination for being a female metal musician?
Olga Sol: "On my planet Sedna, other rules apply. There are males and females, but there is no discussion about equality and, definitely, about discrimination. Just everyone mind their own business. For you, Earthmen, it can look like Utopia, but for us it’s normal and remains so for ages. So, I don’t see here any problems in working with boys. They are cute!"
So guys, what made you decide to sing about aliens and space, assuming some of you are avid astronomers?
Alexio: "First, it was just an interesting topic. Because I like sci-fi stories, films, books and computer games. Songs about Satan and demons are typical of black metal genre, elves and dwarfs are hymned by power metal guys, and the history of the Earth itself changes every year… But space with its enigmas is quite original. And for me it’s a great honour to dedicate songs to the Universe."
What plans have you got for the year ahead and into 2018?
"We can't tell exactly, because our Grey alien friends arrange all our creative plans. But according to some information, we will engage some additional earthmen for our next saga.
Miran: I have already received a lot of encrypted information from outer space and every day I translate it into musical form. So we have some new material to share with Eafthmen and even now we can say that it’s very extraterrestrial and metal."
Finally do you have any greetings, thank you's you wish to send out?
"Thank you for the interest in space and our music. We hope we could find a place for landing somewhere near UK soon, so be prepared for alienization! May the universe be with you."
When you think of Black Metal, or namely the Symphonic version of it, you tend to think of the Nordic nations and maybe Germany in tow. But when you think of the Dutch Metal scene, usually bands like Within Temptation, Epica and Heidevolk spring to mind. However beyond the facade of said metal scene is a thriving Black Metal scene, one band is set or somewhat hell-bent on aiming to change the whole 'devilish aesthetic' normally associated with Black Metal and / or one of it's many varying subgenres.
Enter Carach Angren, a trio in the studio, a quintet on stage (with help from Nikos Mavridis and Diogo Bastos). Having been around since 2003, this hallowing outfit utilize ghost and horror stories as their lyrical subject and thus breaking free from the shackles that forgone Symphonic Black Metal bands have laid down. With an average album turnover of 2-3 years, 2017 heralds the new Carach Angren album "Dance and Laugh Amongst the Rotten" which is being ultimately billed as their darkest and most spine-chilling album to date.
With that in mind it was time to give the band a grilling as GMA interrogates them, finding out what sits within their darkened chambers of creativity, thoughts on Brexit, their finished tour with Italy's Fleshgod Apocalypse, the new album and other topics surrounding this ghoulish threesome.