"The Welsh metal scene is doing well... we have quite a sense of community and comradeship, which is important"
It could well be that all Welsh metalheads have fire in their hearts and beer in their bellies, well they are of course from the land of the dragon, so it fits. However, Black Pyre bring to the fore the icy atmospherics of a snow-capped Snowdonia in their own brandished form of Black Metal. The quartet released their debut EP "The Forbidden Tomes" last year to international acclaim having scored coverage not only in the UK, but as far away as Australia and sold copies to metalheads across Europe and as far away as Brazil. GMA felt it was therefore only fitting we interrogated the spawn of Cymru and by this we don't mean the sheep or goats that marauder the hills (have you seen those horns?!?!?!?)... we simply mean Black Pyre.
For those who have not heard of Black Pyre, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"We originated from the dark realms (of Wales), forming aeons ago, and created a frosty EP by summoning a daemon and channelling his dark power into our music… We then walked the permafrost to find many other great bands to play with, such as Grá, Arvas, Uburen, Wolvencrown, Necronautical and many more, and even adding another wielder of strings along the way. What does Black Pyre mean? A pyre is a part of ancient funeral rites, whereby a body is burnt on a large pile of wood - the pyre is this fire."
You recently released your latest EP 'The Forbidden Tomes', what was the reception like? Did anyone download it from outside of the UK
"Our frosty little EP was well received, and had excellent reviews and coverage from several outlets, notably Metal Hammer, South Wales’ Musipedia Of Metal, and Australian extreme metal reviewer Kelly Tee. We also had purchases and plays of the EP from Germany, Austria, Norway, Brazil, and Poland. So yes, you could say it had some global outreach."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, given you play Black Metal; such a broad genre?
"We take influences from the old school Norwegian sound, but also bring our own unique styles to the band. We all like a variety of subgenres of metal and other genres of music and so we like to allow that to influence how we write our Black Metal. Just think of what daemon shrieks harmonising with nails down a chalk board would sound like… That should give you a rough idea of our style."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Parents? Ah you mean the elder daemons who spawned us. Yes they approve."
Tell us more about the Welsh Metal scene, what challenges do bands face, is the scene vastly different in the south compared to the north?
"The Welsh metal scene is doing well, both North and South. There are plenty of fantastic bands, and many of us know each other. We have quite a sense of community and comradeship, which is important."
Do you feel that British Extreme Metal is facing a massive revival or has it always been active in the background?
"The British Extreme Metal scene is definitely having a bit of a comeback, but as you mention, it has always been active in the background. It is great to be part of this scene with so many amazing bands and fans."
For metalheads visiting Cardiff, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"In Cardiff there are many great places to visit. Fuel Rock Club is an amazing venue and bar which hosts some of the best underground and grass-roots metal gigs. Tramshed, and The Globe are both fine venues which put on excellent gigs for medium sized bands."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"We would like to thank: Timothy Vincent, Naomi Sanders (and by extension Metal Hammer), Musipedia Of Metal, Gavin Davies (Welsh Hagrid), Carl & Zoe, Sepulchre, Deus Mori, Arvas, Tim & Alyn, Olly’s Big Beard (for being so nice), Chris Bowes, Adam Bell, Janice Clonefield, Papa Johns (for their delicious buttery dip), Ben Smith, Kelly Tee, Victor Marot (he’s the reason Dominus has to take cold showers every day), Marco Silva (for the toilet party), Lewis Read-Jenkins, Jack Wilson, Tabitha Attwood, Step-hen & Gregus Maximus, Kate (I’m not sure what you’ve done but thanks anyway), Sean Bean, Father Grimster, Everyone at Fuel Rock Club, The Gryphon, Global Metal Apocalypse (😉), all our fans."
Having won Metal 2 The Masses - South Wales this year and slaughtered their set at Bloodstock, GMA felt it was time to grill the quintet known as Democratus. Stepping up to the plate was frontman Steve 'Moomin' Jenkins who divulged into the rapid resurgence of the South Wales Metal scene, what it's like being at Bloodstock, how important it is to support unsigned bands and the love for the Metal 2 The Masses initiative.
"Metal is like football, it's a universal language; there's always someone you can go up to in any country and go 'Judas Priest?'.... 'YES!!!', 'Iron Maiden?'... 'YES!!' and that's beautiful"
Steve what was Democratus's set like having played Bloodstock?
"It couldn't have gone much better to be fair, we kicked in and it just all sort of clicked together. We had plenty of people watching us, I do think the rain made a better promoter out of it because it had just more people in it that were trying to get out of the rain, but then I think once we got them into the tent they were like 'ooh I like this' and yeah it just went absolutely off the wall. We had pits, we had walls of death... when I said 'jump' they said 'how high?'; I love that because I love my crowd participation - I've always preferred putting on a show, I can't be one of those people who just plays staring at their feet throughout a set, so I like it when we get the crowd involved."
And what does the band name Democratus mean? When did you first get into metal music?
"I go by 'Democritus' and the reason for that being early incarnations of us thought right we need a band name and I suggested we need a couple of names to say what we're on about and they were like 'eeh not fussed' and I turned round and said that we all need to decide on something, we're in a democracy not a dictatorship. Our guitarist at the time turned round and said 'what about Democratus'? We all looked at him and went 'wooooh', so it stuck and given the nature of some of my political lyrics and stuff like that, it kind of ties in. I did a search to check there were not other bands with that name and it turns out it was a Greek philosopher; he was the foundation as it were of how democracy was set up.
I was a bit of a latecomer to it, I had friends who would try to play Korn to me when I was 13, 14, and at that point I didn't quite get it. I started to get into Hard Rock and then tiptoed into metal when I was around 18, 19 - I found Killswitch Engage and Slipknot and so it went all downhill from there. It's a kind of ongoing process because the people who say metal is dead, there is always new stuff to discover - you're just not looking hard enough if you think it's gone stale because it has not."
Do you feel at times that politics and music should not mix?
"Not at all, for starters you wouldn't have bands like System Of A Down or Rage Against The Machine, to be honest metal, rock, blues, it was all born out of the frustration of being angry at the man in question. If it's all about your art and when personal leanings come into it, then everything is open - if people don't want to listen to political lyrics, that's where free speech comes in, in that the choice of listening to something political or not comes into play. But the message is there, if people like it and want to hear it, if people want to respect or disagree with it, then I'm open to debate and it's a case of I do what I do.... A. because I enjoy it and B. because for me personally I prefer having lyrics that have some kind of meaning. I can't write throwaway nonsense, it's not me."
What sort of metal style does Democratus play?
"When I started us out I had the definition of wanting to go into Melodic Death Metal, that's where my favourite bands lie, the likes of Soilwork, Insomnium, In Flames (well early In Flames, they're not a Melodeath band anymore), but's that where my love lies and so that's where I kind of wanted to stick us. Since then with the line-up we've got, the music we've written since the first EP has branched out and is not strictly Melodeath, it's still heavy and brutal and still has it's melodies, but it opens us up to more options on where we want to go with writing music and more potential offers from promoters wanting to work with us and I'm happy with that. "
Tell us about the Welsh Metal scene, what's it like?
"What do you want to know my friend? At the moment it's good and buzzing, Sodomized Cadaver, Cranial Separation and us are at Bloodstock this weekend alone; Cranial finished as runners up to us at the Metal 2 The Masses final, straight-up Brutal Death Metal. As far as it goes there is a bit of everything for everyone, over the last couple of years (3-4) it's felt like a proper community; it wasn't always like that, there was a lot of bitching, a lot of sniping and that's just the way scenes fall apart basically.
With the closure of venues and things like that, it made a lot of bands realize that actually we're probably better off getting along with each other, support each other in order to get ourselves ahead of the game. The whole Metal 2 The Masses thing, I'll give a shout out to my boys in Incursion, Blind Divide and Cranial Separation who absolutely walloped us in terms of how they played, they pulled out sets of their lives."
Do you feel Bloodstock are leaders in supporting the underground by giving bands opportunities to play to vast numbers?
"Absolutely! I can't thank Simon Hall, Rob Bannister, all the crew here enough for helping us, even today and through helping us plug ourselves in terms of getting media sorted and things like that. There is no other festival that I can think of in the UK that gives unsigned bands and self-signed bands that platform, and it absolutely sets Bloodstock apart. What intrigued me the first time I came here in 2008, was the potential of seeing one of my local friends The Dirty Youth; I used to go to school with their bassist and I've seen bands like that who small at that time but have grown. It's always something that's intrigued me at Bloodstock, and they've got the Metal 2 The Masses stuff going.
I've entered it with previous bands for years and I've always tried to see the positive in terms of yeah we haven't got through until this year, but I've always networked and made friends, got new likes out of it; it's always the additions that some bands may struggle in taking the advantage of, I'm fortunate in the fact of I've pestered enough people and kind of think I know what I'm doing to make the most of opportunities I get. I hear of bands who win Metal 2 The Masses and think that things will come their way, no way, this is just the start of it and I just hope now that the opportunities keep coming.
Do you believe Bloodstock brings people together regardless of culture, politics and social differences?
"Absolutely, you only need to look at the list of bands who are playing this year, you've got Demonic Resurrection from India, Lovebites from Japan, bands from all over the place. Metal is like football, it's a universal language there's always someone you can go up to in any country and go 'Judas Priest?'.... 'YES!!!', 'Iron Maiden?'... 'YES!!' and that's beautiful, I love it, this festival in particular as well just has the good sense of community. Like I said I've been coming here since 2008, and there were friends who I've made in 2008 that I still see and came out to see us yesterday, that's humbling for me as a band but also it's really nice to know that the place that I know I can guarantee you'll make friends ever year."
Could you ever see a metal band sing in Welsh about Welsh mythology?
"I believe one of my friends from Agrona is already working on a project that does exactly that, I can't remember the name of them because it's a really complicated Welsh pronunciation, but yeah there is something actually in the works so again it's reason to keep an eye on the Welsh scene. (Most people trip over Llanfair PG in it's full name right?) I was born in Southampton, but moved to Wales when I was 2, I'm actually OK with Welsh pronunciations, so you're referring to 'Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch' (just rolls off the tongue), it's lovely when drunk haha (I can imagine!!) - don't ask me to say what it means, that I can never remember.
Welsh is a great culture, I'm proud to be in Wales but I don't do the nationalism type of stuff unless it's in sports, but at the same time there's always cultures and heritage that's always interesting to look at."
Are there any hello's, greetings, etc you wish to send out?
"Massive thank you to everyone who has bought Democratus t-shirts over the months and years, everyone who has supported us to get through to the final. Massive shout out to Rachael Harrison for doing our media / PR stuff, also the usual Bloodstock crew; loved you for years and being behind the scenes has given me more respect for what you guys have done. To my friends who have turned up to watch us play, thank you, and for the rest, they know who they are :)."
When Skindred was announced to perform at Bloodstock 2017 there were a number of people who took their angst onto social media, raging at a band not being 'metal' enough being booked to play, when they should be at Download. Reality check, they've done Download, they've had their song 'Nobody' on the NFS Underground 2 game soundtrack, they've been going nearly 20 years, they've played Wacken for heaven's sake. That's metal enough for us.
Despite the whinging and whining on the net, the amount of festival goers Skindred pulled was more than adequate to put the elitists in their place. The well known 'Newport Helicopter' was a fitting way to end their set, even the ShowSec crew in front of the Ronnie James Dio stage got involved:- watch their song 'Warning' with the Newport Helicopter included here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpnPeFtUGkU); credit goes to YouTuber Jamiet1994 for the video - skip to 3:51 for the legendary Newport Helicopter.
Benji Webbe and Mikey Demus both were more than happy to spend time with GMA to talk about their origins, playing BOA for the first (and possibly not the last) time, plans ahead, the origin of the Newport Helicopter and much more... over to the Welsh Ragga Metallers.