"If you want to release your music legally in Iran and be able to sell it or perform live, you have to get permission from multiple religious authorities for every single release and live show. "
There are so many unsung or largely forgotten (overlooked at times) metal scenes worldwide, one of these is Iran. To think the country has over 80 bands and projects active and yet can anyone name any major ones? Might be worth for the rest of the metal media in the west to focus their coverage more on said scenes, but in the spirit of metal it's bands like Integral Rigor who take the D.I.Y. approach and do what they can to enjoy metal as much as they can.
The band have big plans to try and release their music through a label, potentially tour outside of Iran and in doing so put Iranian Metal on the international stage.
Guitarist Masoud Moghaddari filled us in with the details.
For those who have not heard of Integral Rigor, please give us a brief history of the band, what does the band name mean?
"Hi! I'm Masoud, guitarist of Integral Rigor, the band was formed in 2009 by Reza Rostamian (Guitars,Vocals) in Sari, northern Iran. Inspired by ancient Persian music, Integral Rigor released it's first album "No More Room In Hell" in 2011 and the second one "Alast" was released in 2018 in which our bassist Shahriar Rajabpour and I joined the band. Very briefly, the title of the band means the maximum purity and absolution of everything, in our case extreme music and art."
You released your 2nd album "اَلَست " back in 2018, what was the reception like and did you get attention from outside of Iran?
"I think we received good feedback especially in Russia and eastern European countries despite not promoting and advertising the album that much. I think oriental music sounds interesting to Russian ears. Also almost every blogger and reviewer who we sent our music to, enjoyed it. It takes some time get more attention from the metal fans worldwide."
What instruments or scales do you use to bring Persian / Oriental flavours into your own form of Death / Thrash Metal?
"Well, there are lots of scales in traditional Persian music which we call "Dastgah" or more anciently "Magham" - that are closely related to classic major / minor scales. These can be used to create cool sounding elements which could be unique to western ears. For example there are some scales that have different ascending and descending patterns, or there are some quarter notes in some scales."
Speaking of which you switched to being instrumental, what was the decision behind the change? Will you bring vocals back?
"If you want to release your music legally in Iran and be able to sell it or perform live, you have to get permission from multiple religious authorities for every single release and live show. Originally, the album had lyrics and vocals, but we were forced to remove it due to restrictions from said authorities. I think they do not like growl / scream vocals!"
What is it like growing up as a metalhead in Iran? Are restrictions not as harsh as they used to be? What challenges to bands face these days?
"The most noticeable restriction I think is that no bands tour or do live shows here. So as a kid you would grow up wishing to see your favourite bands live, but this wish would hardly be granted. It used to be harder to even listen to metal music back in the days as there are no metal music stores here! But it's not a problem any more thanks to the Internet. As I said earlier, bands have to get permission from various organizations in order to release albums or do live shows (which rarely happens) and it makes it very difficult for the bands because most of them cannot earn that much to continue doing what they love to do."
For metalheads visiting Sari, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any bars or venues also?
"Iran is a great country for tourists, especially for those who are interested in historical sites.
Sari is located in the north of Iran in the Mazandaran province, which is popular for being the most green province in Iran with having many amazing natural landscapes. There are various forests & mountains like "Badab Soort" which is a stepped travertine terraces and very unique in the world. Moreover, there is the "Shah Abbas I Mosque", "Fazeli Hotel", "Dasht Naz & Miankaleh Wildlife Sanctuary" and many more!
What are your plans for late 2020 / early 2021? Were any cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19?
"We are currently in search of a record label to help us reach a larger audience worldwide. Until then, we will release single tracks every few weeks to stay active and be seen on social media.
Also we have plans to tour outside Iran if possible and are really looking forward to that. About the COVID-10 situation, we had arranged some live events in 3-4 cities in Iran but had to cancel all of them. The annoying fact is that we have to go through the permission process again for future plan."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I would like to thank you for this interview and all your efforts, it means a lot to us. Just want to say that do not judge Iranians by what you see in the media. Iranian people are separated from politicians are very lovely and welcoming and love all the people around the world. Hope to see you someday soon! Stay safe!"
Latvia, one of Europe's forgotten metal scenes is alive and well in the underground, however it's on the surface that it lacks international recognition albeit for their torch-bearer's in the Pagan / Folk Metal band Skyforger. Focusing on the underground and you have bands like Stagnant Project, whose Modern Metal sound may be miles apart from the core Folk Metal sound that seems to engulf the national scene, but united they are with their fellow Latvian brothers and sisters. The quartet are not resting on their laurels having released their 2nd album "The Age Of Giant Monsters" back in 2018, they are in no doubt poised to release new material within the coming year, we will just have to sit and wait.
We therefore had to interrogate them, they elected Paul Rutkovsky to be the spokesperson. We spoke about the band's origins, the challenges that Latvian Metal bands face and have to overcome, their scene and what cool phrases fans tend to shout out at their shows.
For those who have not heard of Stagnant Project, could you explain how the band came into being and where the name came from?
"A long time ago in 2010, when we were teens we had a dream to play in a bad ass band without any metal sub-genre limits or something that can cut off our music ideas. We were rehearsing hard and took up a sudden Punk Rock festival participation offer. But we had no name for our band and so we decided to name ourselves Stagnant Project - almost like "just another music project without future". Right after the first show, the next day another gig offer came and we decided to leave it as it is."
Could you tell us more about your latest single 'Khuemraz'? Will it also be re-released in Latvian given it's in Russian?
"Actually, we had some thoughts about English version re-release in nearest future."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tags? What seems to be the more prominent metal genres in Latvia?
"The most prominent genre in Latvia is definitely Folk Metal, then Progressive Metal. But I would say we are influenced by bands from the Industrial, Death, Thrash, Nu and Metalcore genres, I think that it is one of the points why we are not really popular on the local stage. But our last release 'Khuemraz' made us really unique because of the Russian lyrics, that as far as we know, is one of the most popular languages in the world after English. And as we know, the Russian language has a huge poetry base that we can use to express ourselves from."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"We are very careful under the restrictions and maintain all the distance suggestions, because we really want the live shows and touring to come back. So, the best way to reach the result is to be disciplined and begin with yourself. All of us are working from home and keep the distance. We are working on some ideas separately. Talking about myself, I found the isolation is a very nice time for my family and relationship, I dedicated a lot of time for my guitar tone, mixing / mastering skills and vocals. Also, I have found a lot of time for my comic book collection to be read. Talking about the guys - we have got a constant chat with memes and discussing our future plans and sharing thoughts on random thoughts. But nether the less we managed to print our new merch and continue to write music."
Are there some Russian or Latvian phrases fans tend to shout out at gigs? If not what are some cool Latvian / Russian sayings?
"Really cool question because we have got one like this. This phrase is "ebash", in the Russian language it is a swear word meaning 'working f**king hard', and actually our local fans scream the word during our live shows and to be honest it is more like a motivation word, no matter whether you are a pure Latvian or Russian, the spirit is the same. Also, Stagnant Project is to complicated to shout :)"
Tell us more about the Latvian Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Latvia? What is the public opinion of metal? What challenges do bands face?
"Actually we have got a lot of cool and unique sounding bands here and live shows are at a very professional level to be honest. But unfortunately the biggest part of them don't cross the borders of the country in meaning of international popularity. I bereave each of us, Latvian musicians, we try our best, but only a few names have got the popularity outside the country. But we, as Stagnant Project, really believe in ourselves and we will brake the wall saying "ebash" on our way."
For metalheads visiting Riga, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"The first venue you should visit is Melna Piektdiena, there were a lot of shows by big metal stars like Meshuggah, Vader, Arch Enemy, Cannibal Corpse, Decapitated etc. and even Little Big were here. I don't mean the giant bands stadium calibre, but have to say, it is the legendary metalhead place here in Latvia. Also, Latvia is one of the most green countries in the world, I suggest visiting our castles, ethnographic museums, parks and I have to say Latvia is a very small country, you can cross it in 4 hours by car, but most part of the roads will be across the woods; we are proud of this. "
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We wish everyone to take care of yourself and your relatives, the most important thing in your life are your family and your friends, because in hard times those are the closest people who will help you and care for you. Don't be lazy or too introvert, call your mum, dad or your best friend no matter what, just keep in touch with people who care for you."
"We rely on each other’s support and our own local crowds rather than seek approval from labels or people in Europe / the USA."
Readers will know how much GMA cherishes metal bands from all over the world and so our latest interrogation is with Cambodian Thrashers Nightmare A.D. (actually the band has 5 members originally from Singapore, The Philippines, New Zealand, Canada & The USA; basically the United Nations of metal). Back in April they released a cover of the Iggy Pop song 'Gimme Danger' and prior to that released their 2nd EP "Phantoms Of Our Ruin" back in 2018... it was going to come this interrogation and so it did, don't worry they are all fine, we were kind to these guys.
For those who have not heard of Nightmare A.D., could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Nightmare A.D. was formed in 2014 by Mia (guitars / vocals), 3 months after she arrived in Phnom Penh. Her flatmate Kandhi (guitars) joined the band and he convinced Todd (drums) and Gem (bass) to join the band as well. Nightmare A.D. originally started off as a Misfits cover band but soon evolved to a Thrash Metal / Crossover entity playing original music. The band currently comprises of Mia (guitars / vocals), Todd (drums), Genesis (bass), Jon (keys) and Ollie (guitars).
The band name Nightmare A.D. symbolises the current times we live in: a living nightmare of disinformation, crooked politics, looming threat of civil/global war, climate change, rising right-wing authoritarian governments and viral plagues that might just wipe us all out in the near future.
How did you all get into metal music and what do your parents think of your music?
"Generally speaking, all of us got into Metal music mainly from hanging out with friends / family members who exposed us to heavy music and we did our own research from there. All of us are from different countries (Mia – Singapore, Todd – New Zealand, Genesis – The Philippines, Jon – USA and Ollie – Canada) so there are many variables that affect how our parents thought about the music (some positive some not) and how we got into this form of music."
You brought out your debut EP 'Corruptors' as a digital download, what was the reception like and did you have people outside Cambodia check it out?
"We originally released ‘Corruptors’ as a Pro CD-R under the local label Yab Moung Records, then as a digital download on Bandcamp and then released on pro-tape with exclusive artwork and bonus tracks under Toxic Death Records (China). We have had great responses and support from people around the world (including you Rhys!) and it certainly makes us want to continue performing and record new material."
Mia, female musicians are often subjected to sexist or misogynistic remarks, is this something you've experienced in your time as a musician?
"Definitely. I feel that after a show, the crowd (mostly male) will end up talking to my bandmates rather than me. I get a few transphobic / transmisogynistic reactions at times but it generally doesn’t bother me. Most people tend to be okay but there are some who are definite f***wits."
Do you feel at times that the metal scenes in your part of Asia are often ignored or not looked upon by metalheads in Europe and the USA?
"Well the metal scene in Southeast Asia has always been quite self-contained in a way that is sustainable. We rely on each other’s support and our own local crowds rather than seek approval from labels or people in Europe / the USA. Most Asian bands are generally ignored by most metalheads who are outside of Asia. However, that being said, there is a small market for Asian Metal in Europe / the USA. There are a handful of Asian bands have actually made their names known on the global stage (Chthonic, Impiety, Wormrot, Sigh, Defiled, Rudra, Demonic Resurrection, etc) which isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. I do feel that we have to work harder to get our names out there compared to bands in Europe / the USA."
What challenges do Cambodian Metal bands face these days alongside with what COVID-19 has brought? What is the public perception of metal?
"Well, finding venues to play at is difficult. We do still have the support of two venues which are willing to host Metal shows but with COVID-19 looming in the background, shows have been cancelled until further notice. There is a small crowd of about 100 people in this city who turn up regularly for Metal shows, so that is pretty cool. Most Cambodian people find it either noisy or intriguing. The older generation definitely find it noisy and will complain if the music’s too loud."
For metalheads visiting Phnom Penh, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any good bars / venues?
"I recommend seeing Wat Phnom (temple on a hill), the Tonle Sap river, walking the grounds around the Royal Palace, visiting S21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields.
I recommend visiting and buying from: Yab Moung Record Store (https://yabmoung.com) which is partially funded by an NGO and D.I.Y. run (all proceeds go to helping impoverished and disadvantaged Cambodian Youth) and Metal Your Day (https://metalyourday.com/) which is a Metal-inspired art collective.
For bars and venues I recommend: Cloud (http://www.facebook.com/cloudcambodia) which is an arts venue with live music and bar, Zeppelin Café (https://www.facebook.com/zeppelinPP) that is a bar and café playing mostly Rock and Metal on vinyl and Oscar’s On The Corner (https://www.facebook.com/OscarsontheCorner) that has house bands and guest bands playing Rock and Metal music
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We want to thank all our families, friends and fans around the world for all your love and support and we hope to see you soon! Stay safe and be well."
"I know that a festival is held every year in Tahiti (French Polynesia). Why not a festival in the South Pacific, this is great! ;)"
When it comes to Oceania, we're fully accustom to the presence of Australian and New Zealander metal bands, but what about the other islands in this part of the world? Well New Caledonia has a metal scene, trouble is it's so small... 6 or so bands. One band has made particular waves across Europe due to their touring and having released music through the French record label M&O Music. GMA spoke to the quintet about the challenges of living on an island 2,000 odd miles away from Australia, how well their debut album "Immortal Voids" fared after it's release last year and why the thought of a South Pacific Metal festival would be awesome.
For those who have not heard of Redsphere, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Well, Redsphere was created in 2015. At the time the band consisted of 4 people. We worked on a dozen compositions and we chose 6. Then we went back to the studio to record our first EP "Facts" which was released in January 2016 through the label M-O Music. After several concerts in New Caledonia, in 2017 we went on headline tour in Europe with the band Master. In 2018 Redsphere changed line up (current line up) and returned to the studio at the end of 2018 to record "Immortal Voids" released in September 2019 under the label M-O Music once again.
This has to do with anger, an entity that devours everything in its path, like a black hole ;)"
Your debut album "Immortal Voids" came out last year, could you tell us how the album was created; the time it took to make?
"After coming back from touring, we were in an intense dynamic, that can be understood. We wanted to produce other songs in order to make an album. That's what we did. One year of work to compose and produce "Immortal Voids". In hindsight we would have to take more time. I'm sure it would have been even better."
It must have been challenging in the beginning to find a record label to release your music on, how did you come into be signed to M & O Music?
"The meeting with M&O Music was done before the release of "Facts". We were already in touch in 2015. This allowed us to anticipate and prepare well for it. The search for a label is not obvious, it takes time and energy. When we search we find!"
Can you tell us more about the New Caledonian Metal scene, when did metal first arrive, challenges bands face, the metal community, etc?
"Well, I don't know when metal arrived in New Caledonia, what I can say is that New Caledonians love AC/DC and rock in general. Regarding the current Metal scene it is composed of 5 or 6 bands of which 3 are serious; unlike a few years when there were about ten active bands. The difficulty is to endure over time, there may be an audience for this style of music that must represent about 250 to 500 people around. Then there are the places where to perform that disappear more and more. Currently there are 2 clubs where we can play and a rock / metal festival where we can play."
Have there been any bands from outside of New Caledonia come over to play? Have any New Caledonian Metal bands gone to play in Vanuatu and Australia?
"We had the honour of hosting Scorpions twice, the French bands Lofofora and Mass Hysteria, and the Israeli band Viscera Trail. The New Caledonian band Burst has been able to make some dates in Australia and no one so far has gone to play in Vanuatu."
Aside from Australia and New Zealand, are you aware of other metal bands across Oceania? Could you envisage an Oceanian Metal festival?
"Not for my part, I do not know of any other metal bands in Oceania. I know that a festival is held every year in Tahiti (French Polynesia). Why not a festival in the South Pacific, this is great! ;)"
For metalheads visiting Nouméa, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"I recommend as a bar the 3 brewers where the beer is good, Australian tourists love it. I recommend the Anse Vata beach for classic tourists. If you are looking for authenticity you have to go to the bush or the islands loyalties, it's beautiful and we eat well."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Redsphere thanks all the fans for your support. Be curious, attentive to what's going on around you. The world is changing! Be patient, after the rain comes the sun."
"The most exotic (for us) places, where we had watchers, were definitely Uganda and New Zealand. Metsatöll has not yet managed to perform there, but maybe we should!?"
Metsatöll, arguably the most successful metal band from Estonia performed a concert on 20th March 2020 with a unique twist, there were no concert goers... at least physically. The band played a concert to people all over the world by streaming their set through Facebook and YouTube with only the band, tech and venue team in attendance.
What a surreal experience that must have been and yet the band that celebrates 21 years this year, certainly felt taken aback by the overwhelming response they had, even if a vast swathe of viewers do not speak or understand an inch of Estonian; the band sings in their mother tongue. Irrespective of the language barrier, the band gave it their all in what could be described as an event that they ironically hope never happens again, that is, playing a concert to no one physically present because of a global pandemic.
Both lead vocalist / rhythm guitarist Markus "Rabapagan" Teeäär and vocalist / guitarist / instrumentalist Lauri "Varulven" Õunapuu spoke to GMA about the concert, the challenges for non-Estonian speakers in singing to their songs, their quarantine and end of year plans.
Hi guys, firstly it's a tough time for all of us with COVID-19 savaging the world and so how are Metsatoll keeping in touch with each other?
"I live in a really separate country house in the middle of nowhere, a four-hour drive from the others, so there really aren't many opportunities to meet with the band. However, given the current situation, it is not a very wise thing to meet someone at all. Of course, if there are issues to discuss, we will contact using all sorts of 21st century tools.
And to be honest, communicating with the rest of the band over the Internet seems to be one of the few possibilities of communication for several more months. Because at the moment organizers are starting already to cancel festivals and concerts, that were supposed to take place at the beginning of the summer. For a freelance musician, it's a hit below the belt - even during the war, the musician has a job, but now..."
"The internet does wonders these days. So we keep in touch every day. But that internet concert gave us a little boost and we are thinking what to do next."
Are you generating new ideas from your own homes whilst the lockdown in Estonia carries on? What are your restrictions?
"Restrictions are pretty strong and I'm happy that our people take it seriously for a few weeks. We hope that things will get better. Until then we make new ideas and things from our homes. You can record a riff or melody and send it to others. Somehow we deal with music everyday."
"As it is currently forbidden for more than two people who are not related to each other to meet in Estonia, it is, of course, difficult to rehearse. But a musician never rests, of course you have to write music and lyrics, not just for Metsatöll. Just play music, give music lessons over the internet, compose. Record demos, think through your friends' musical ideas, and give advice when needed. It is also possible to dig out your own old demo recordings and listen again, recompose, rewrite new words, etc .. There is always something to sow for yourself in the wide field of the music."
You played a live stream over Facebook last week, what was the reception like? Where were your most views and obscurest (country wise) views from?
"The reception was very good. Although we might have hoped for a little more audience. Because, look, the total number of views on YouTube and Facebook is currently about 80,000. However, calculating the number of minutes viewed, and figure over the Facebook and YouTube calculation widgets, the actual number of viewers may be around 10,000.
The Metsatöll concert was watched in about 30 countries. The reason I say "about" is because we still have countries in the world where Facebook and YouTube are banned and these channels are explored through other countries' VPN. The most exotic (for us) places, where we had watchers, were definitely Uganda and New Zealand. Metsatöll has not yet managed to perform there, but maybe we should !?"
The event itself must have been a surreal experience playing to an almost empty hall; technicians and venue staff aside?
"For me the experience was exactly like a real concert. I was nervous and I went to feeling all alright. Maybe because the RGB team and our own crew are so professional, I didn't feel any difference. It was 100% LIVE so LIVE will always be LIVE for me. I think we all felt that."
Arguably Metsatoll is Estonia's most successful metal band, what bands are following your footsteps in terms of getting international attention?
"In fact, there are quite a few bands around the world that tour and give dozens of concerts a year. Compared to the total number of bands. In this sense, it could be remarkable that in one small country there could be, for example, ten touring bands. But of course there are good new musicians coming up who want to play all over the world. For example, a trio of my good friends: “Trad Attack” - it would be worthwhile for every Estonian ensemble to learn from them something in terms of production and organization. At the moment, however, it still seems that many good technical crew members from Estonia are touring the world a lot more than different Estonian bands."
Given your songs are in Estonian, have you got any tips for those who want to sing along to your songs; seeing as some letters are unique to the Estonian language?
"Õ, õ is really cool letter. Now Lauri can talk about it about thousand words. Lauri?"
"In fact, as far as the 'Õ' letter is concerned, it can be said that there is more than one 'Õ' letter in the spoken language in Estonia. In southern Estonia at least two, different similar sounds in Western Estonia on the Islands, even more. Even an ordinary Estonian does not know exactly how different vowels are pronounced in different counties. Therefore, of course, it is difficult to give a foreigner some hints to start with. Language learning usually starts with learning the spoken language, imitating someone or something.
I think it would be a good start for a Metsatöll listener to learn some of our songs by listening. And then send it to us. Probably all of us, after a short pause of laughter, will send our own instructions on how to move on with your life later, without having to think much about Estonia. Of course, this is not very easy, because, not joking - in Seattle, for example, it is possible to study Estonian culture and language freely at the University of Washington - our culture has drilled so deep into different parts of the world that the drill has long since jammed."
What sights / attractions could you recommend to metalheads visiting Tallinn?; under normal circumstances*
"The Old Town is very beautiful with its architecture and all kinds of bars and pubs. But If you have time go outside Tallinn. There is something historic to discover everywhere in our country."
"I would not recommend Tallinn. Come to the country, breathe fresh air, go to the sauna."
What plans do you have for the rest of 2020 (all things considered) and do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"We still dont know what 2020 brings but we wanna send best regards to our listeners! We are lucky to have you and we feel your support! Thank you so much! Aitäh! Stay healthy!
Or even METAL HEALTHY!"
"In order to grow; we need to bring in some international bands"
If you mentioned the country Bangladesh, the usual thoughts of clothes manufacturing, cricket and the Ganges delta spring to mind, but if you ask anyone who has knowledge of the metal scenes in Asia, they'll tell you about the bristling Bangladeshi Metal scene.
In 2019 history was made as not only did Dhaka's Trainwreck win a slot to perform at India's most prestigious metal festival Bangalore Open Air, at the very same festival they won a slot to perform at the largest metal festival on the planet, the Mecca of global metal if you like, Wacken Open Air.
This was the first time a metal band from Bangladesh had performed at both festivals, for a band who have been around since 2007 and dropped and changed musicians along the way; culminating in a line-up featuring no original members, this ultimately would be a surreal experience and so GMA spoke to vocalist Abir Ahmed about their fabled journey to Bangalore and Wacken, the current status of metal in Bangladesh, the growing attention towards Asian Metal bands and future plans; COVID-19 depending.
You played Wacken Open Air last year, courtesy of winning the Metal Battle Indian sub-continent edition, what was the experience like?
"It was a glorious day for the band and a historic moment for the music industry in Bangladesh, as a Metal band has never before set foot in the grand stages of the likes of Wacken Open Air in Germany and of course Bangalore Open Air in India. We got to experience the metal Mecca of the world with the most humble and generous audiences, from whom we have gathered tons of good wishes and a handful of positive criticisms, which we believe is going to help shape us in the coming years. "
Could you tell us about the journey you took from Bangladesh to Germany, procedures, travelling, etc?
"As we had to win two back-to-back shows in Dhaka and Bangalore before getting the wildcard to play at WOA, we had to prepare ourselves for a variety of expenses that would follow down the road to Wacken. But before getting on with the expenses, we had to get the visas first. As it was for the first time that a band from Bangladesh was going to such a prestigious and renowned festival to represent its nation, there had to be an extensive background check. We had to provide our individual bank statements with all the necessary papers along with the official invitation from the Wacken Foundation at the embassy. The German Embassy in Bangladesh kept in contact with the Wacken Foundation and both parties had been immensely helpful, understanding and considerate to our situation and agreed to grant us a Schengen visa for 13 days. We are a local metal band and as you can imagine, it does not pay as much to fund for an Europe tour yet. So we did a crowdfund, both inside and outside the country, and raised a generous amount from our core fans of a few neighboring nations.
We left for Hamburg on the 24th of July and returned to Bangladesh on the 5th of August. In these 13 days, we were blessed with the generosity of the German people and our fellow Bangladeshi citizens living in Hamburg. They made sure that we had a great time, showed us around and attended one of our shows which was hosted by the Wacken Foundation at the infamous Kaiserkeller music club. The gig was called "The United Metal Nations", dated 27th of July, 2019. The Hamburg government arranged our accommodations for a couple of nights in Hamburg. The Government arranged a full metal cruise for a few bands who travelled from Asia including Trainwreck. So yes, in spite of all the troubles that we have faced regarding our journey, the people along the way have been tremendously helpful and supportive to turn it into one of the most memorable one for the band."
For those who do not know about Trainwreck, can you give us a brief history of the band? What do your parents think of your music?
"Trainwreck is a metal band, originated from Dhaka, Bangladesh. The band was formed in 2007 and has been actively doing music and live acts since 2009. Since its inception, there had been a number of changes in the line-up, and currently the band has no founding members present. Today, Trainwreck is:
Our parents look at our choice of music; more like an adventure down a new road. There used to be times when they thought it's just a phase, but it never passed really. They are very supportive and understanding of our career, now more than ever."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres?
"Upon a question as such, we always say that we're just a metal band. But from our listeners perspective, they have often entitled us to "Groove Thrash" more than anything. So let's try to put it as simply as we can. Our music comprises of the guitars played through the dirty channel of an amp with a tube screamer before that. The Bassist puts up a crushing tone that rather compliments the entire sound of the band. Drummer sets the groove but he can still be punchy and in your face. The vocalist strikes when the time is right to send the message. Altogether, we get a tight sound which you guys like to enjoy. This sound that we achieve, gives the band the right tools to express our musical views and philosophies."
Bangladesh seems to have a rather good metal scene, but what are the challenges that Bangladeshi metal bands face?
"Bangladesh has a very enriched music scene, regardless of genres. But when it comes particularly to Metal, the problems that we have faced performing and managing various shows, are mostly with sponsors. The turn-up at a full metal show can vary from 200 to a 1,000 core crowds depending on the line-up. Sponsors are often not interested to invest at such small gatherings that will probably not bring out the best outcome in their favour. And it's a Muslim country, alcohol is illegal here, so no liquor sponsors either unlike all the neighbouring nations. So most of the times, you can see independent organizers who have a knack for metal music, teaming up and investing themselves to put up a great show for the audiences, where they are happy if they can just break even.
Another point that I'd like to mention is, in order to grow; we need to bring in some international bands, bands that are doing great in our part of the world as well as the big names around the world. I believe with the right people on board, this can see the light of the day, and it would be a great experience for our people and the scene."
In general is there a lack of attention from metalheads in America and Europe towards bands from Asial?
"I wouldn't say that there is a lack of attention, because some of us are actually breaking the boundaries and taking our music to the world. But you have to admit, the process to be heard is not quite an easy path. It's expensive, it requires a lot of dedication, and when you are coming from a third world country, everything along the way gets a tad bit harder to be honest. But whenever we have encountered a metal connoisseur from a distant land, they have always greeted us with admiration and beer of course haha."
What sights / attractions would you recommend to metalheads visiting Dhaka?
"There is a lot of sightseeing to do for one coming to Bangladesh for the first time. But when it comes to the capital Dhaka only, few names that has to be mentioned are; the old town, Ahsan Manzil, Lalbagh Fort, Dhaka University, Jahangirnagar University etc. Dhaka is just the place for a foodie, if you have the stomach for it. We like our foods spicy, so keep that yogurt near. You can also visit The Beauty Boarding, a hotel and restaurant located in old Dhaka, a historical centre of the intellectual gathering of Bengali authors, poets, cultural activists, and politicians."
What are your plans for the year ahead (COVID-19 depending)?
"We had some confirmed tours lined up in The Philippines and India, also some pending gigs in Thailand and Indonesia, but as you can see we are going through a pandemic, everything is on halt now. We're staying home, trying to think positive thoughts, raise awareness regarding the situation. We hope this settles down sooner than we can expect. We were planning to come up with an album later this year, but now in this troubled times it seems so distant. We want to get back on the stages and do what we do best, in the presence of our people, where we will always belong."
It goes without saying that the Middle Eastern Metal scenes are bulging with brilliant talent, no matter how underground the bands are (and if we talk about Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria or Iraq then they have to be really quiet). One problem. It's apparent that there is a lack of support from the music industry in this region apart from Jorzine, those based in Israel and The UAE and of course a small contingent of loyal Middle Eastern metalheads. But even more pressing is there sheer lack of attention from western record labels towards the brilliance of these bands in the Middle East (you know who you are; because you don't have any bands from there on your roster).
One label from North Macedonia decided to do something about that and sign Jordanian Thrash Metal outfit Exile, in turn releasing an album and plan on expanding their music operations. Israel has Orphaned Land, The UAE has Nervecell and now Jordan has Exile. Vocalist / Guitarist Nader Elnatsheh filled in the details of this monumnetal event in the band's history, spoke about growing up in Jordan and spoke out against the major labels across Europe turning blind at the Middle East Metal contingent; albeit Nervecell (Lifeforce), Orphaned Land (Century Media), etc.
Nader on Exile signing with North Macedonian record label Darzamadicus Records:
For those who have not heard of Exile, can you give us a brief history of the band?
"Hi Rhys, this is Nader the guitarist and the vocalist of the band. First of all, thank you for interviewing us. Well, Exile was formed in 2008, I had a couple of songs so I started to look for members to join me, Hasan (former bassist) joined me and he introduced me to Tayyem (the drummer). The first EP (Dead Thrashers Rising) was based on aggressive riffs, the songs somewhat short but fast and it was released in 2009.
Afterwards, Hasan had to leave the band to pursue his career out of Jordan in 2010, so Ibrahim joined us right away and started to rehearse on our full length album which was releases in 2012. (Suspended Society... Mutilated Variety) was more technical as we musically evolved than the previous record. We did a lot of gigs in Amman promoting the album as well as playing in Istanbul and Cairo, of which these two events gave us a boost to continue. We have received a lot of positive feedback from all over the world, from reviews and interviews, and many radio stations all over the world played our album in their national stations.
The following years of 2012 we somehow lingered, both Ibrahim and I got married and during these years we were looking for a fourth member to join the band to expand the sound of Exile but we couldn’t find any, so we decided that we are going to continue like this. In 2017 I started to complete and shape the songs I had, to release a new record. In December 2018 we released a new record (Unveiling Insanity). The album is more melodic and technical and we have received and still receiving positive feedback.
Now I am writing new songs hoping to release something at the end of this year or the next one."
What is it like growing up as a metalhead in Jordan? Is the music frowned upon there?
"It’s difficult, because the majority of the Jordanian society is closed minded. They think that we are devil worshipers."
Jordan seems to have a good history of metal exports in Ajdath and Bilocate, what does the future hold for the Jordanian Metal scene?
"Yeah, we had a couple of good years when metal was thriving in general. We had gigs and bands, however, all of that ceased to exist. Most of the bands split up either to play Arabic alternative music which I despise or to play covers in bars which is sad. As far as I know Bilocate is one of these few bands that still active."
How does it feel to be signed to North Macedonian record label Darzamadicus Records? What are your thoughts of your label mates in the Syrian Death Metal band Absentation?
"It’s good; it’s a feeling of progress that we have achieved something since the major record labels are turning a blind eye on the Middle Eastern bands. We have a good deal with Darzamadicus Records but we are looking forward for a better one of course. Frankly, I haven't had the chance to listen to them yet but sure I will."
You recently had air play on a Guatemalan Metal radio station, do you feel metal music brings the world together in ways no other genre can?
"Of course, the internet is very important for new bands, it gives the exposure that none of the old bands had before. But it is also creates a competitive medium which in my opinion is a good thing to see where are you at in the metal community."
For metalheads visiting Amman, what sights or attractions can you recommend? Any good venues?
"For a normal tourist I would say, we have a lot of historical places in Jordan, such as Petra and Roman Ruins of Jerash and in Amman you can visit the Roman theatre in the downtown. For metalheads, hmm, nothing to see really, there are no record stores no metal bars no venues."
What plans does Exile have for the rest of the year?
"As I mentioned I am writing new songs hoping to release something this year and we are really looking forward to play the new songs live."
Do you have any greetings you wish to send out to friends, family etc?
"I would like to thank my family and friends. All the fans for their great support. Thank you again for the interview and cheers \m/\m/"
Kazakhstan has come a long way since the fall of the Soviet Union, generally it feels freed from the shackles of it's Communist past ruling within the dark days of the USSR. Now it stands tall and proud as a booming nation within the Central Asian region, exporting heaps of oil and other natural gases to the world. Yet culturally it's rock and metal scene is growing with renewed vigour and purpose, from the early bands of the 90's like Holy Dragons to the modern wave featuring bands like Zarraza; of whom released their third EP 'Rotten Remains' back in November last year.
With this in mind GMA spoke to Zarraza about the current state of the Kazakh Metal scene, their new EP, the challenges faced of being outside the European and American markets and how neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turmenistan fare when it comes to touring and having bands arrive from said countries to play in Kazakhstan.
"The [Kazakh] fans feel connected to a global scene! We are not isolated any more."
Guys for those who have not heard of Zarraza can you give us a brief history of the band?
"We are an Extreme Thrash Metal band from Kazakhstan. We released our debut album "Necroshiva" back in 2018 and our recent EP "Rotten Remains" last year – fully re-recorded songs from early demos. Both efforts received positive reviews from Metal Hammer, MetalSucks, AngryMetalGuy and other webzines all over the world. It helped us to step on stage as opening act for Sepultura, Ektomorf, Arkona, Tyr.
We cannot be labelled as Old School Thrash Metal because we added some other flavours to our extreme cocktail. Try to listen to just two songs to get an accurate impression - "150 words" and "Failed Apocalypse". Check out our video for "Apocalypse" on YouTube – it was filmed at an altitude of 3300 meters (10,826ft) in snowy mountains!
And last but not least — we practise tour trades and brought a lot of underground metal acts to Kazakhstan: Katalepsy (Russia), God Syndrome (Russia). I proud of it."
You released your new lyric video "Bullets & Beliefs'19", what was the reaction like, who designed it?
"Some people here in Kazakhstan never heard the story of what the song is about and won’t believe it. The song is not just about the first infamous robbery of bank collectors in Kazakhstan in 2001 - it's a song about people who do it for religion... back in the day, 19 years ago, it seemed nonsense in Kazakhstan - but today we live with it and call it "religious terrorism". Attackers claim they did it to finance some terrorist groups...
The lyric video was created by our good friend Nikita Cherevko. He is good friend of ours and filmed almost all our videos — Shadows, Necroshiva, The Grudge, Failed Apocalypse…"
In recent years it seems the Kazakh Metal scene has grabbed attention from people all over Europe, in your opinion, what changed? Would you say Holy Dragons were one of the early pioneers?
"Of course it is great! Metal fans here are proud of some bands — now they have the proof that Kazakhstan has some good metal bands and the fans feel connected to a global scene! We are not isolated any more.
As far as I'm concerned, the first real Kazakh metal band was Accent, formed by the Tarnovsky brothers in the middle of the 1980’s. The band played Heavy / Speed Metal — they not very active now but played some gigs recently. In the 90's there were many more bands – from classic Heavy Metal outfits to Death-Grind brigades. Izverg, Deathtrack, Requiem, Holy Dragons to name a few... the last one survived through all these years and are still active which is cool."
Tell us more about the Kazakh Metal scene, it's history, challenges, support (oppression?), festivals, venues etc.-
"Some people believe it does not exist at all but now we can perform with “Necroshiva”! The metal scene is very small and independent. We are outside of the mass media radar which is not so bad I think because the media is full of prejudice towards rock music in general. So we build the metal scene here by ourselves – it's not easy but I love it because it is our scene! We practice tour trades with bands from different cities and even countries and it works very well!
You can see – the scene is a wholly underground thing. As a result even the most active bands release one or two releases and then stop. Very few bands are persistent through time. My favourite band from Kazakhstan is Doubleface. Their “Falls and Decline” album is available on Bandcamp and it should be checked by every Chuck Shuldiner fan!
Another class act is Seven Sins – their latest Symphonic Black release is very impressive! And they worked through years of fighting all obstacles which is a great example of persistence. Metalcore band Tishina (inactive now) worked with producer Tue Madsen from Denmark and the result was good! I was happy when their bass player Eugene Hablack joined Zarraza in 2018 and helped to record “Rotten Remains”. Unfortunately he moved to other city and left.
I told you we are doing tour trades – and we also running our own metal fest. Metal Clan Fest was held in 2017 and united Kazakhstan's extreme metal acts. Then it was transformed into Hellmaty Metal Fest in 2018, headlined by Ektomorf from Hungary. Also we did a Metal United Worldwide (MUWW) gig in 2019 with Katalepsy (Russia) as headliner. MUWW is a special event which started a few years ago in Australia with one simple idea: different countries and cities, hundreds of bands but on the same night – we all performed metal as loud as possible!"
I assume you have bands from neighbouring countries come to play in Kazakhstan? Especially from the other 'Stan' countries?
"First of all let me speak of the misconception behind the "Stan". It’s just a word from a map of the world but in reality we don’t have a lot in common with other Stans. Kazakhstan almost doesn’t have any connection — political or economical — to Pakistan and Afghanistan. A wholly different culture, history, traditions, politics and economy. Relations with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are not very active also, but Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan — yes, we have shared common history and heritage.
We played a lot with bands from Kyrgyzstan there, they play in Kazakhstan very often and I like a lot bands over there. Kashgar, Shahid, My Own Shiva to name a few. Uzbekistan just started to open for us — we played there twice, last time in May 2019. The gig and whole travel experience was great — you can find the video diary on YouTube. The rock scene over there is really strong and interesting. I hope they will come to play in Kazakhstan and we will go there again."
On that note on a larger scale, do you feel there is a gradual increase in attention being given to bands from Central Asia?
"Yes. We see that a lot people are surprised that a metal scene here is existing at all, haha. We have a lot of hungry active bands who wish to surprise metalheads all over the world and I hope you will hear a lot of new impressive releases from Central Asia."
What plans do you have for 2020? Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"Our main goal is a new release — we are demoing it right now. That’s why we don’t have any big plans about gigs — just a couple of local shows in mind. If you watched and liked our videos filmed in the mountains – stay tuned for more! We got some interesting ideas to be released as soon as new songs will be ready.
Just keep listening to some metal! The music erases borders created by politics, religions and other alienating cults – so keep it going!"
Watch the "Bullets & Beliefs 19" video here: https://youtu.be/Veif3-hBlkM
The Chinese Metal scene can be traced all the way back to the days of Tang Dynasty, which set the ball rolling for the metal scene to flourish. From the first wave of Chinese Heavy Metal spawned even darker and more extreme bands... the Black Metal sector for example is perhaps the darkest in the global metal community.
But China plays host to all metal variations and it's bands like Explosicum who keep the Thrash Metal alive in China... having signed to Italian label Punishment 18 Records this year, this could well be the dawn of China finally being accepted as a major player in the global metal scene. Qiu Jian Hua spoke to GMA about the band's history, the Chinese Metal scene and what it's like in the band's home city of Nanchang.
"The biggest challenge is how can we make music... without sounding like pure copying of classic bands."
For those who do not know Explosicum, can you give us a brief history behind the band and the name?
"We were founded in 2005 and in the same year, signed with Area Death Productions. The Chinese name "爆浆“ is from the Hong Kong movie "The God Of Cookery" which was directed by Stephen Chow, Our friend Guo Ya Fei helped us to translate it into English; he created the word "Explosicum" based on its meaning. In 2008, we released our debut album "Conflict" and released the second album "Raging Living" in 2014, we then released our third album "Living's Deal" in 2017.
How does it feel to be signing with Punishment 18 Records? This surely has to be one of the best moments of the band's career?
"Yes, we never thought we could sign with a European label. We know that Punishment 18 Records is a very famous label, and we feel excited and proud to achieve this. It was definitely one of the highlights of our band's career."
Talk us through your latest album "Living's Deal', what is the theme of the album and how was it received in China?
"Most of our songs are about our social environment, our feelings in life, our anger and helplessness, including the dark side of human nature, someone who knows China's history in recent decades can relate to this.
I don't know how to describe the word "received", after all, Thrash Metal is not a popular style now. But I think there are many people who like our album, they have their own views on society, and like speed and aggressiveness as much as we do."
What is the Chinese Metal scene like right now? What challenges as musicians do you have to overcome or have overcome?
"From what I've seen, there are many metal bands that are active in China, some for a long time, some for a short time. In China, metal music still has a large audience. It just can't become the mainstream of society.
We all have jobs, don't need to make money by playing metal music, so we don't need to do music just to please others. To us, the biggest challenge is how can we make music that we love and that thrashers love, without sounding like pure copying of classic bands and music."
Do you feel that more labels and media should pay attention to bands from that part of the world? Not just China but the Far East in general?
"Yes of course. We have been to other countries and regions in Asia, where there are a lot of good metal bands, I hope they will have more opportunities to let more people know."
For metalheads visiting your city of Nanchang, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What is the local metal scene like? Any bars, clubs?
"In Nanchang, rock and metal music has a big audience. Most metal shows don't have more than 500 people. The only place where rock music is regularly performed is the Blackiron Livehouse, which is run by our lead singer Tan Chong. Any metalhead visiting Nanchang should be there. It's one of most famous live houses in China, touring bands and artists perform every week, metal bands included of course."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and leading into 2020?
"We don't have a specific timetable, we just take it step by step. We're working on the next album, we rehearse every week, the songs will be modified and improved during rehearsal. Unfortunately, we're very slow, so we don't know when the next album will come out. If we are invited by the organizer to perform, we are all happy to attend."
Are there any hello's, greetings, etc that you wish to send out to friends, family,
"Thank you to all our friends and family, including the directors of the various labels and all the organizers who invited us to the show. Without you, we might not have been able to make it this far."
Obzidian are a Progressive Death / Thrash outfit situated in Staffordshire and ultimately slammed Bloodstrock with their infectious music, they spoke to GMA about the struggles in their local scene, their music backgrounds and why being social media savvy pays off.
Who came up with the band name Obzidian and what does it mean?
"I was doing A-level geography in college and basically it's a volcanic glassy rock that forms so quickly that it's like a sheet of glass but is black, so it's like a sort of reflective black glass so we thought that's a pretty metal thing, so we'll name out band after it, we just changed the 's' to a 'z' because there is already another band with that name using an 's'."
What was the emotions like in the Obzidian camp when being confirmed to play Bloodstock? Was there any hush-hush?
"Excitement and a little bit of terror because I was at work at the time, obviously our manager Dan just put messages on our group thread saying 'call me, call me', I'm like what's going on? I'm at work. I called him in the toilet and he was like 'mate we're playing Bloodstock', so I kind of had a little dance to myself in the toilet at work. We've been wanting this for ages and it finally happened, it's all a bit of a blur to be honest.
Yeah my dad was our sound-man for a very long time so he's fully engrained into our band, helped us and bought all of the gear we've got at the moment, drove us round the country week-in week-out. My mum's always supportive, she's not a musician herself but has grown up with my dad being a musician and obviously supported music and stuff - they've all supported us 100% and when I told them they were absolutely made up. They've back us through everything.
I'm from a big music background, my father toured the US in the 70's with his band, my brother is a semi-professional drummer, so they're really proud because I found my own way as I don't have the musical attributes they had, I don't have the musical talent they had."
How did you all get into Metal Music?
"I started off with more classic rock stuff like AC/DC when I was around 12, started playing guitar because of them and then just got heavier and heavier, started listening to Megadeth, Metallica and Pantera, then onto Meshuggah.
All of our parents have grown up with rock, classic rock, that kind of thing. My dad was a big Deep Purple and Motorhead fan, then Judas Priest, he got me into all of that and then by growing up with that, I was about 8 or 9 when I listened to the 'Black Album' and then that took me onto a different path and then I found Megadeth, then onto Metallica, then onto Sepultura, it all got heavier from there really.
Same with me the whole classic rock background with my dad, I think it was my brother really who started to dip his fingers into the heavier side of things, to be fair I think Sepultura was the first heavy band I listened to. It was an honour to play with them, so that's one thing ticked off the bucket list a few years back.
Was there any challenges that Obzidian had to overcome in the years past?
"I don't know if there's been any real challenges as such like some bands go through, money is always a challenge, trying to find how to travel, buying gear and merch, making sure we put our finances in the right areas, make some back and make a profit, being able to carry on doing it. It's always a bit of a risk when you want to carry on doing that kind of thing, when you have all those upfront costs. Apart from that not really, the only change we ever made to our line-up was in 2005 when Matty Jenks came in on vocals and we parted ways with our old vocalist / guitarist; more like a James Hetfield kind of character, we wanted to go heavier and he didn't, we kind of changed up a little bit.
For the past 13-14 years it's been this line-up and we really haven't faced anything apart from time and money. If someone has a problem they put it out there, when we need to argue we argue and when we need to complement each other we do. There's no stones or turbulence.
We've known each other for so long, me (Paul Hayward), Baz Foster and Matt Jeffs grew up together and went through high school, we've known each other since the age of 11 and it just formed a solid friendship that you can base music on. "
Could you tell us about what the Staffordshire Metal scene is like?
"Stafford is a semi-rural town, but it's starting to get better, there's not a lot of bands there, not a lot of live music there. There's a venue called The Red Rum where a guy called Nick is really trying to bring Hed P.E. and bigger bands in to the area to try and encourage people to come out and listen to more live music and we can't thank him enough for that as he's put us on 3-4 times already in various venues
I'm from the Staffordshire side of Wolverhampton, right by Birmingham which is the home of heavy metal as everyone says but for so many years there was just nothing there... but the way the underground scene has been rising in the past 2-3 years in Birmingham, it's beginning to feel like a real place again metal-wise. We did a lot of stuff up in Manchester for a while.
There's been times where we've had to drive hours and hours away from home to find a decent show, but now it's all coming back to the Midlands which is a really good thing. There's a lot of good promoters out there just sticking at it and getting the right bands on the shows.
FatAngel who we're with now, the label and promotions who are based in Coventry have really done wonders for the Midlands scene e.g. Mosh Against Cancer Festival, they've just been wonderful for us. Dan Carter who is our manager (also the bassist in Left For Red), he's the man who looks after us now and just waggled his hand just like 'oh you guys' (all laugh).
When growing up when did you realize you wanted to become a musician, what was your first instrument?
"I don't remember the exact point but I used to play guitar originally and used to jam with my dad who also is a guitarist and vocalist from back in the 70's. After about 4-5 years of that, getting my own gear and being in a couple of bands as a guitarist, my cousin who is a drummer let me have a go on his kit and the rest is just history, so I've been on drums ever since. My cousin probably influenced me the most on drums, but for guitar it was probably my dad and I think I was probably 7/8 when I properly started playing guitar and then changed to drums when I was around 12/13 and now I'm 34. For the last 10-15 I went into music production learning how to record etc.
AC/DC, from my dad's old vinyl collection, once I pulled out 'Power Age' it was f*****g awesome, stuck that on and went out to buy some AC/DC albums and that was it, I wanted to be like Angus Young.
I've played drums, I've played guitar, but I was s**t so I went to vocals and started screaming (all laugh).
Summarise Bloodstock in two words, what would you say?
"Bloody raining / awesome metal / absolutely incredible / metal family"
Have you had any fans from abroad contact you via social media?
"Yeah we've had a few guys from Norway, Sweden, those kinds of places, firstly they message us and then buy the album. They say they really love it and will play it to all of their friends. We've had radio play in Canada and the USA, so yeah we've had a lot of international contact - we just need to turn that into shows now and see what happens."
Are there any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out?
"Hello to anyone whose bought stuff or who will buy stuff, check us out on obzidian.co.uk and on Facebook. A big shout out to those who visited the New Blood Stage at 10:30, cheers to the crew, everyone who knows us and has checked us out."