"Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains."
Marax are a Symphonic Black Metal band from Slovenia whose lyrics revolve around Satanism... now to most metalheads the response will be 'not another Dimmu Borgir surely?' Well to answer this in the most cliche of responses, no they are not, they are their own sound and own style... probably what makes Slovenian Black Metal so unique, so much so Marax could not even explain why this is and thus just confirms that there clearly is something special about the said geographical variation of said genre. They have managed to deliver their debut album "The Witch" even in these dark times with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc worldwide. Here they talk to GMA about the album, the Europe-wide reception, the Slovenian Metal scene and why (as said) it's hard to explain why Slovenian Black Metal is different to other geographical variations of Black Metal.
For those who have not heard of Marax, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"The band was founded in the winter of 2017 by guitarist Nord Slayer (Cordura, Cvinger, Cursed Be Thy Flesh), drummer Morgoth (Cordura, Cvinger, Kholn, Cursed Be Thy Flesh) and vocalist Anin Astaroth (Morana) to play extreme, symphonic black metal. They joined forces with violinist Žica for the first two EP's ("The Abyss Of Illusions" in 2018 and "Dance Within The Flames Of Burning Fire" in 2019). In late 2019, violinist Mors Violinis joined the band, and in April 2020 we released our first full-length album "The Witch". The name designates the daemon Marax (also known as Morax, Forfax or even Ma’at), who is, generally, the daemon of justice."
Symphonic Black Metal is such an overloaded genre, with that in mind how would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging?
"We aim to compose and perform extreme metal music. The sound of the violin (or, in the future, of various bowed string instruments) is always present, as well as some symphonic elements. Otherwise, we are pretty open in style, there are usually some more death metal elements in our songs, and we create what we feel."
Regarding your debut album "The Witch", what was the reception like? Has anyone outside of Slovenia bought the album; any surprising places?
"In fact, even more people bought the album throughout the Europe (compared to Slovenia). For the digital format we cannot know exactly."
Talk us through the making of the album from the production to mixing and mastering, the whole process.
"For the latest album, "The Witch", Nord Slayer first composed all the songs, at least the foundations. He wrote and recorded the parts for the guitars, the bass and the keyboards. Next, Morgoth composed and recorded the drums, then Mors Violinis composed and recorded the violin parts. Lastly, Anin Astaroth wrote the lyrics and recorded the vocals. For some songs, the backing vocals were recorded by Anin Astaroth and Nord Slayer, as well as some additional “instruments”. Everything was recorded, mixed and mastered in Studio Toplica by Nord Slayer and Morgoth."
Slovenia seems to have a rather strong Black Metal (and related metal) scene, what is it that makes Slovenian Black Metal strong?
"The answer to this question is much more complex than we could explain here. We think it could, on one hand, be do to with the nature here, or on the other hand, with the historical background."
On a broader note what challenges do Slovenian Metal bands tend to face these days? (ignoring COVID-19)
"Probably it is relatively poor concert attendance, but still, it’s not so bad. There are approximately two million people in Slovenia, a minority of which are metalheads. In fact, there are a relatively large number of bands compared to the audience sometimes. But we don’t want to complain; as soon as this crisis is over, we cannot wait to perform again."
For metalheads visiting Savinjska Dolina, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Firstly, the members of Marax are not from this region only (contrary to what the internet says). They are from the mentioned valleys (the towns of Velenje and Šoštanj) and from Kranj and Ljubljana. In the surroundings of every town mentioned you could just encounter nature, there are some forests, lakes, mountains etc. Slovenia is such a tiny country you could visit several places in one day, from the seaside to the mountains. In the valley of Savinjska Dolina, you could visit venues like MC Šoštanj or any bar actually. In Kranj, the most “metal” or alternative venue is Trainstation Squat Subart, and in Ljubljana there are several places like Orto bar, Metelkova or Kino Šiška where the concerts are held."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Greetings to everyone who reads this! Keep supporting extreme metal \m/"
"Bands from the same regions try to stick together to organise gigs and we support each other as much as we can."
Mention the genre Metalcore and usually people will bring up bands from the USA, the UK and to an extent Australia... mostly because they tend to dominate the touring circuit. However if you look under the coveted swathe of stadium bands i.e. of the Asking Alexandria, Killswitch Engage and Parkway Drive, then you'll find a plethora of Metalcore bands from most of the known metal scenes. Emerging out of the Polish metal scene is Winds Brought Siberia who arguably have been causing a bit of a national stir, there is no doubt when things calm down (post COVID-19) we will see this quintet develop plans to play across Europe.
They went on to explain that they are not just a run-of-the-mill Metalcore band and certainly are not just another product off of the factory line. They told GMA about their origins, how their sound dabbles in global sounds, why it's hard for bands in Poland to gain a relative national following and that success tends to rely on being internationally known and of course, what there is to do in their home city of Poznań.
For those who have not heard of Winds Brought Siberia, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"Winds Brought Siberia is a Polish project that began in 2016. Since the very beginning we wanted to bring something that's full of emotions and allows us to share our feelings and thoughts with as many people as possible. In December 2019 we released our first EP “Consolation”, which features 5 songs that describe and respond to some of the problems and various situations we face nowadays all over the world. It is our voice, a word that we want to spread through people and raise awareness and touch their hearts and souls."
You play Post-Hardcore / Metalcore; describe your sound without using the genres, how do you make yourself different from other bands in these genres?
"We are a mix of people with various interests, and we take inspirations from every part of life. From the very beginning we wanted to not shut ourselves in the box of a single genre and deliver our music from our hearts. We also listen to music from all over the world, and every one of us have different favourite styles and genres, so you can hear sounds from all over the world in our songs. Sometimes we are more “post” and sometimes we are more “black”."
What is the Metalcore / Post-Hardcore scene like in Poland? Are there many bands?
"The Metalcore / Post-Hardcore scene in our country is fairly big. We have some recognizable bands e.g. Frontside (whose vocalist is a guest on one of our songs), who are one of the pioneers of these genres here, but it’s hard to achieve a local-iconic level like they did. There are also a lot of smaller bands and every month people form new ones, so the scene is developing right now."
What has the band been doing at home during the pandemic? What other hobbies / interests do you all have?
"Most of us have the privilege to work and learn from home, but in our free time we spoke, planned and worked on the future of the band, social media and new material that we want to release next. As of the hobbies we are mostly ordinary dudes, so our activities involve video-games, books, listening to music, learning new stuff like vlogging and photography, some sports and of course practising instruments."
What are the challenges that most Polish Metal bands face these days (ignoring COVID-19)? Is there established media in Poland?
"Not really. We have Facebook fan pages and groups, auditions at small local radios but nothing widespread - this may be one of the challenges we have to face. There is no specific channel for spreading metal music. We also have a feeling that attendance at concerts is also dropping. As there’s a lot of new bands that are in our country it’s getting harder to get recognized and being original, but we think that our strongest side is spreading emotions through our music."
Tell us more about the Polish Metal scene, when did metal arrive in Poland? What is the public opinion of metal?
"It’s hard to tell how old Polish metal is - from the information we could gather it began in the late 70's with the bands KAT and TSA; who don’t have much in common with modern metal. We suppose that metal as a genre is not very popular in Poland. Although we have some big metal stars like Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated or recently Mgła and Batushka - they are more popular abroad - the percentage of active metalheads in Poland is still very low.
Young Polish bands are also very promising but we lack support from the local environment, unfortunately local shows do not overflow with audience. Still, we cannot say that we don’t have support. Bands from the same regions try to stick together to organise gigs and we support each other as much as we can. For most of us it's a very expensive hobby we enjoy doing and people closest to us are always there."
For metalheads visiting Poznań, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"There’s a lot of great places to see in Poznań. As a band we probably played in all of the venues that are in this town and all we can say is that they’re great. U Bazyla and Pod Minogą are probably the most known and were visited by a whole lot of foreign musicians. When it comes to places not strictly linked to metal music, Poznań is a town full of great pubs, bars and clubs, all of them have their own unique climate and atmosphere. Basically it’s a place that makes almost everybody feel good and acclimatized. It’s clearly visible that we as a band are very connected to our city as we use our “slogan” - Greater Poland Metalcore (Greater Poland is a Polish voivodeship and Poznań is its capital)."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"For sure! We are grateful to people that helped us shape our music tastes and skills (as individuals and as a band). We would like to thank our friends as they are always at concerts in the first row. Also fans and people who discovered us and appreciate what we do. There are too many to count: but we thank you all! :)."
" [On venues] The problem is the same almost everywhere, I think, that the public has difficulty getting around to concerts by local groups"
Mention the genre Nu Metal and the response is either 'I love Slipknot, Korn, Disturbed, etc.' or 'that's not a metal genre, it's not metal'... such a simple diluted argument sparks a wildfire in the course of conversation. Nu Metal is a metal genre. No arguments. Now that's dealt with, time to focus the attention on French-Belgian stalwarts Through The Void who are predominantly based in Brussels, this quartet delivered their EP 'Aria' to well-received acclaim last year and ended up supporting Welsh Ragga Metallers Skindred. Through The Void have future in sights and are shifting from 4th gear into 5th, they tell GMA through their interrogation about their origins, what venues people should go to in Brussels, how they would describe their sound and how they are coping during the COVID-19 lockdown.
For those who have not heard of Through The Void, can you give us a brief history of the band and were you all in previous bands?
"Hey! The group was formed in Brussels in 2019. The group is composed of Chakib (lead vocalist and lyricist), Anthony (composer, guitars and backing vocals), David (drummer) and Roberto (bassist). Chakib and I (Anthony) had a previous project that was in some way the basis for Through The Void. David has a stoner project (Landing Planes) and Roberto before TTV was more into electronic music."
Now you play Nu Metal, do you feel at times the genre is under-appreciated or misunderstood by metal elitists?
"We don’t really care about this kind of thing. We make music that we love and hope that people can love too. We still need to choose some kind of “label” in order to direct people to our music, but we don’t really give ourselves any limit in our creative process in order to adhere to a certain “code”. It’s in any case a large genre, in which many styles contribute. As long as you can headbang to it, it’s good!"
How did you come to play Nu Metal in the start? Who are your influences in and outside of metal?
"Chakib listens mainly to metal, Chester Bennington is a real inspiration for him as a vocalist. He listens to a lot of Enter Shikari, Northlane and Of Mice and Men as well.
David listens to many different styles of metal, from stoner to progressive, his Spotify playlist goes from Monkey3 to Devin Townsend.
Roberto listens to a lot of progressive metal also, Jinjer for example, but also other styles like electro.
As for me, I'm a big fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I came to metal through listening to Linkin Park, Korn, and today where I love Gojira as much as Nasty for example. Recently I discovered Night Verses, unbelievable. Besides that, I listen to trip hop like Emancipator or Tor.
We tried to take 3 groups we liked and we selected Linkin Park, Slipknot and While She Sleeps as "influences".
You had a dream start in releasing an EP this year and supporting Skindred last year, you must be blown back by what's happened so far?
"We are really happy to have had this opportunity, it was a great night! We received great feedback on the EP which warmed our hearts. Now, we still have a lot of work to do and we are working hard to prepare the follow up to ARIA.."
Tell us more about the Belgian Metal scene, what challenges do bands face, is the underground scene still as strong?
"The number of places where it is possible to play is constantly decreasing, both in Belgium or in France. Most of the places hosting “amateur” groups are managed on a voluntary basis. The problem is the same almost everywhere, I think, that the public has difficulty getting around to concerts by local groups. It’s a very fragile balance. The Belgian scene has very good metal bands, you just have to take the trouble to support the scene by going to see local concerts."
For metalheads visiting Brussels, what sights / attractions and venues / bars could you recommend?
"Well then there is an unmissable bar in the city centre, the "Rock Classic" which organizes several concerts per week in the Rock / Metal style. The Hellhole Project association also organizes concerts in Brussels regularly, check their Facebook page for more."
How are you coping during this global pandemic? What have you been doing during the Belgian lockdown?
"We all respected the confinement measures, so no rehearsals face to face. But we have not stopped composing, and we will very soon release new music composed during confinement. Look out 😉"
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Thank you to all the people who listened to or bought ARIA, to all who come to see us in concert and follow us on the social networks. Continue to share our music if you like it and talk about it around you, your support helps us a lot! Thanks to André, our sound engineer / producer who brings us all his knowledge and who laughs at our poor quality jokes. Thank you to you for this interview, and to your work which allows to give a great visibility to many groups! We hope to see you soon for a concert as soon as possible."
"The Bible exhorts us to sing the Lord's praise with all our hearts. We find that Rock is a good way to do it."
It cannot be denied that Africa is the last frontier for metal, even if you threw The Caribbean and Oceania into that mix, Africa will still be last in line. Having said that, there is really glowing potential for the continent's metal music, OK it's a given that South Africa has been there ages ago, but elsewhere; even in the North, metal is waking up in Africa. We've seen bands from Botswana to Egypt play in Europe and establish their scenes, but what about the West, Central and East? Well for the East, the likes of Ethiopia are waking up, but a vast swathe are ahead. Central Africa? Behind their Eastern counterparts, scenes emerging in Gabon, Cameroon and Angola. West Africa? Here we are last in line, sure Nigeria and Togo are leading the West African segment but it's the slowest to build, joining the effort is Mali's first ever metal band, Shine.
Shine are a Gospel Metal band i.e. they play heavy music but lyrics are based on Christianity and the like, not that religion and metal hasn't combined together before (think Singapore's Rudra and their extreme metal + Hinduism combination, Indonesia's Tengkorak who incorporate Islamic influences), after all music is a beautiful thing and offers itself as a platform to sing about whatever topic you wish to (some however are too extreme, use your imagination).
GMA spoke to Shine about their origins, how religion plays a part in their music and what it's like being the first official metal band from Mali.
For those who have not heard of Shine, could you give us a brief history of the band and how you came up with the band name?
"Shine is a band created by young teenagers in 2008, we had at heart since that time to serve God through our talents."
By playing Gospel Rock / Metal, do you feel that through music, positivity can be spread in many ways including religion?
"Yes we play Gospel Rock / Metal music to share the love and hope that we live through our relationship with God, it is not boring for us but filled with life, joy and victory in the face of storms of life. For us music is a way to also share positivity with others."
How did you first get into playing your instruments? Are any of your family members musicians?
"Being friends for a long time, the acoustic guitar was our hobby, we learned from each other, each had their own way of playing. Some of us had musician parents, but what we had in common was our passion for praise and worship."
There is this on going argument that metal music is somehow Satanic, could you give us your perspective on Heavy Metal?
"We know that Satan is not a creator, he did not create music, he is a thief. The Bible says: The thief only comes to steal, slaughter and destroy; I have come so that the sheep may have life and be abundant. John 10:10.
God is the creator of this beautiful science / art which is music, it is a gift which comes from God and it is a means of expressing ourselves. Satan can seduce people to divert music to do awful things, it is a pity. But we have to understand that the music comes from God. It all depends on what man puts in it. Some people put the worship of Satan inside but in our group, we chose to put the worship of God inside, it is full of life, joy, energy. If for Men what we do is classified in the Rock / Metal category, it is not a problem.
The essence is that our goal has not changed, our message no longer has not changed. We proclaim love, deliverance, praise and worship. In addition, the Bible exhorts us to sing the Lord's praise with all our hearts. We find that Rock is a good way to do it. We find that Rock is a good way to do it and in a fervent way."
What are the challenges of being a rock / metal band in Mali? What is the public perception of this music?
"The challenge is to make this music speak to the Malian people. Mali is culturally and musically very rich. The challenge is also to provide a good mix between our Malian musical universe and the other genres of music that are part of our musical background like Rock. The perception of Rock / Metal music that we make is good, most of the time, people sing and dance with us with joy and strength. They are reassured by the words we sing. Others are surprised to see young Malians making this music without having tattoos and piercings."
For fans of rock and metal music, what sights or attractions could you recommend in Bamako?
"Here in Mali we don't have a specific site for Rock / Metal music. When our group is invited somewhere, if time permits, we play it. Very often the group is invited to churches and gospel concerts in the city of Bamako."
What plans does Shine have for late 2020 and going into early 2021?
"Shine is working on an album, this album promises to be rich and varied, it is filled with the first songs that we composed since the group started when we were younger. Other songs are also more recent from our experiences with God. For the moment this is our project and also continue to put our talents at the service of other artists in the country by the arrangement of their music."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We salute Mali, our country that we love so much and all those who for years have encouraged us in what we do. We thank our families who supported the start of the group when we didn't know where to rehearse until we got there. Thank to the churches who opened their doors to us and accepted us. We are thankful to God without whom we are lost and we are nothing."
"Be impressive for the moment and live your life, because there could be no new morning for you, make your ideas now and not tomorrow"
Medieval Metal or Mittelalter-Metal is one of those rather obscure metal genres that often get lost by the way-side. Granted it's the likes of Subway To Sally who were early pioneers of the sound i.e. mixing traditional German folk / medieval sounds with the solidarity and steeliness of metal music. Quintessentially German, Medieval Metal to the German Metal scene is as what Oriental Metal is to the Middle East-North Africa metal scenes, reflecting their culture and becoming a product of that area. Leading the wave going forward is Feuerschwanz (lit. Fire Tail) whose 15 year career is bristling with 8 albums until the 26th of June when album #9 drops... "Das Elfte Gebot" (The Eleventh Commandment).
GMA interrogated vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Hauptmann Feuerschwanz about the band's origins, how Medieval Metal became a thing, the excitement at signing with Napalm Records, what new fans should expect at a Feuerschwanz concert and what plans they have going forward.
This was their first interview with a UK metal media.
For those who have not heard of Feuerschwanz could you give us a brief history of the band?
"Feuerschwanz was founded in 2004 and originally played in the German Medieval / Folk Rock scene. In the beginning we were playing at markets and then year after year we entered the rock stage of the career; becoming heavier with each passing year and reaching the Hard Rock sound. Since 2012 we headed towards a rock sound and since the last album "Methämmer", we went into the metal scene, embracing this awesome transformation into a very heavy rock sound. So now we are a Medieval / Folk Metal band."
Medieval Metal / Rock is an interesting genre, arguably Subway To Sally were one of the pioneers of the sound, so what is it that makes Medieval Metal stand out uniquely?
"That's a good question, I think Medieval Metal is a really 'special-German-thing'; this kind of music I think is a little bit kind of like a lifestyle, so a little bit between metal, between old instruments, Folk, castles in Germany; we have many castles and they are very romantic, the time of the knight... this is a mixture of all of this."
So generally would a Bavarian Medievial Metal scene / band sound different to that say of a Hamburg Medieval Metal scene / band?
"OK! In former times the differentiation was between east and west, so Subway To Sally is a good example for a eastern band and they had a very special style, but now it's not so important from the north or the south, there are many bands with very good and interesting styles... there is no direction from the north or south. Feuerschwanz in former times made funny Thrash Metal music; a little bit like Alestorm, but now we're more epic with Thor and Odin (the gods) with us, but also we drink the special drink of Odin, mead, the honey wine."
Now the biggest news was that you signed with Napalm Records, surely this has to be the biggest news since Feuerschwanz started?
"Since the last album "Methämmer" our progression to metal music involved us finding our sound and this became a very good step to go to Napalm Records. In former times we were on a smaller label in Germany (not a rock / metal label), so we are very happy and proud to go with Napalm Records for the future."
Tell us what a typical Feuerschwanz concert is like, what goes into it, etc?
"Our idea is to bring people energy and a good example of this is the song "Metfest", we have pictures online from our last tour, you can see a little bit of the power; the idea is to celebrate the life, drink and have fun."
What does album title "Das Elfte Gebot" mean; how long did the recording process take?
"It has a very deep message, you be impressive for the moment and live your life, because there could be no new morning for you, make your ideas now and not tomorrow - this is the message.
We have a two year album cycle, we make our pre-production - we are self-made musicians, we make the production for ourselves and have all of the songs on the computer, then we go to the studio with our producer and make the last pieces, the vocals and so on. So we need a year for production.
We have one song that's not on the album, but it's a very good song and will come on the next album, because we wanted eleven songs on this album and so one song had to go."
Given that most of the internationally successful German metal bands have had to switch to English to gain more exposure (except Rammstein), will Feuerschwanz create English songs for the non-German speakers?
"We have a second bonus track album with cover versions and we cover some metal songs from the likes of Powerwolf ('Amen & Attack'), Sabaton ('Gott Mit Uns') but also the pop song 'I See Fire' by Ed Sheeran. We try to explain our idea of music with some cover versions, but it's the typical Feuerschwanz sound being used."
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, what has Feuerschwanz been doing at home and have you been doing any hobbies / interests?
"It's a hard time for us because we tried to promoted our new album and with no festivals or concerts, it's not going to be easy but we had an idea that we have started via crowdfunding, we stream a concert online for the day of our new album's release - we have a concert on a castle, now we have a lot of work to realize it and know where we stand at this time."
At what point during your life did you decide that you wanted to become a musician? Who did you get into first?
"Oooh! Very good question. During my childhood we founded a rock band at school, firstly I became a bassist and then I progressively go step-by-step to become the vocalist of the band. I listened to the likes of Ted Nugent, Black Sabbath, etc., then I started with the 'Ride The Lightning' tour with Metallica... I loved many metal bands from the 80's and in the 90's I explored folk music, the Medieval folk scene, now I come back to metal."
What does your family think of your music? Are any of them musicians?
"We have some singers in the family but I'm the only one who has a band, every time my brothers are asking me 'hey how's it going with Feuerschwanz?', it's also nice to have some nephews come to the concerts - I have a very big family."
For metalheads visiting Erlangen, what bars and venues, sights or attractions would you recommend?
"Erlangen is a city with a big university with many students, the bars are not so high-price and are more for students. It's a very cosy city of which I love to ride my bicycle through and around it, have some beer in the student pubs. There is one club in Erlangen with a 1,000 capacity, the E-Werk kulturzentrum (old power station) has many concerts... but not today (laughs)."
Speaking of which, Germany is known for it's beer and so what are your favourite brands of beer?
"We come from Franconia, this is a small part of Bavaria and we have many breweries... so we are specialists in beer. We have a special kind of beer which tastes a bit like English beer in a typical Franconian style, in fact I love to taste the beers from the small breweries.
Of course you would have heard of Oktoberfest, this is the hardest festival in Germany and it's a little bit 'too much', too many people although it's an international gathering... I don't like it. In Bavaria all towns and cities have it's own beer festival, so in Erlangen we have the Bergkirchweih fair, our special ale fest... but not this year (laughs)."
After the COVID-19 pandemic, would Feuerschwanz look to play in the UK? Are you concerned about Brexit? How are people coping with the lockdown?
"We are very curious about the reactions of some regions and countries, especially of the UK the godmother of music, but we know it's hard to have concerts in the UK - you get a can of beer and oh, now play. It's very hard to go to the clubs in the UK, so we are very curious at the fans reactions, we hope that there is a good reaction and that they love our music, and then we could go with Powerwolf or so, I don't know hehe.
As for Brexit, in a music context I don't think there will be much changes in music - most of the time we've played in Germany and only once in Russia. We hope it's not so difficult to come to the UK to play.
Russia involved playing a special concert in Moscow in 2009, it was a great experience to play internationally and gave us a taste of playing overseas.
Well the weeks have been quiet, the people are familiar with the regulations and are disciplined, now there are murmurings going around saying it's too long, we wan't more freedom and now it's bubbling a little bit; as a psychologist it's so clear that people are overwhelmed with the feeling of staying at home, to isolate also.
What do fans at your show's tend to shout, is it true that fans say the second part of the band name after the band says the first?
"Shouting is in many Medieval concerts, so the band would shout out the first part and the audience replies with the second part e.g. 'Feuer' 'Schwanz'. One fan in the crowd shouts first and then the whole crowd shouts out the other part of the name. It's all tradition, like a football song.
It is quite euphoric, our goal is to increase the energy and raise the roof, it's our job, it's our profession to 'blow up' the audience."
All things considered, what plans does Feuerschwanz have left intact for the rest of the year?
"That's a good question too, it could be we make one or two more videos of the new album, presented after the release and leading into the 2nd half of the year it could be we start writing for the next album, it's very hard this time."
Have you got any hello's, thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"Greetings? Ok, well this was my first interview with a person from the UK and I'm very proud to have this interview, greetings to the UK and we hope you enjoy our next album. Many thanks also to our fans."
Symphonic Metal arguably has become lightly stagnated over the years, the overused cliche of female angelic vocals against flowing symphonies and crashing dramatic sounds is almost formulaic if not too run of the mill, and so it needs fresh impetus to keep it churning. One such band to deviate from the formula is Germany's Beyond The Black who take a slightly darker approach and yet seem to bring in elements of pop or schlager to an extent in the vocal department, either way this quintet are a force that's ripping up the rule book and setting their own rules.
This will be evident on their forthcoming album "Hørizøns" which comes out on the 19th of June via Napalm Records on CD (standard and a limited edition box edition), vocalist Jennifer Haben spoke to GMA during her interrogation about how the band came to be, how she got into singing, where the band is heading given the current COVID-19 pandemic, the new album and of course why Beyond The Black are not your average Symphonic Metal band, they are in their own league.
"[on female looks in metal] it's always a combination of how somebody looks, if you like to look at skin and also if you like to listen to them, this is a combination that I don't really exactly want to combine"
For those who have not heard of Beyond The Black, could you give us a brief history of the band and what the band name means?
"The band started in 2014 and with the first album we started off with a more Symphonic Metal sound, and with this album (Hørizøns) we decided to make it a little less symphonic, but with a more electronic sound - changing a bit of the sound and in doing so add something that actually we're listening to right now on tour.
The meaning behind the band name is that it is showing what the band looks like and is showing what we're singing about, so 'Beyond The Black' - the lyrics connect with the emotional ballads (there are strong boys behind my back) as a contrast to the super-happy stuff you tend to find in Symphonic Metal. With the lyrics, we always have these sad and emotional stories - these are always 'Beyond The Black' moments.
I'd never try to be the 100% Symphonic Metal band that out often know... I just say it (hehe), I haven't been a metalhead always... I started making pop music, this comes also part due to that none of my family or friends at the time listened to metal. This is also why I am not copying things that other bands do, because I don't have it in my blood that says 'this is how Symphonic Metal should be', so I do it how I think it should be done.
When you're inspired by every single genre, there is always something unique that comes out I think."
You have your 4th album "Hørizøns" coming out 19th of June, in aid of the release you have released 3 singles, what was the receptions like?
"They reacted super-different to every song, but they didn't act super-surprised (hehe), because I knew a lot of people would like 'Misery' on the first time they heard it, so this was kind of the challenge for us and also for our fans to be open-minded for something that they don't expect. This is something new that the people would have to listen to, to be more understanding in what we're doing right now; what we're doing is showing the fans and other people that we're just not that one song or one sound, that we are different and can show other faces (which is what we did before). I think that was one song that was really a statement for that.
I think that 'Golden Pariahs' was different to 'Misery' in showing another face; we never stuck to certain things in the recording stage, I never did something like that in my whole life, this was something that I was looking forward to do because I love doing new challenges. I think we show a lot of different things in the singles before the album release."
Now at times bands will release special editions or fan editions of the album, with "Hørizøns" you have a 'limited box edition' coming out, please tell us more about that.
"There are not more songs if that's the line of thought, instead we use the term 'box' to make it super interesting to the fans. We have something special in it - it's a piece of our very first backdrop that we had used, so this is unique and you get it when you buy it. Normally I think something like this you would be able to buy (maybe) 10 years later at a super-expensive price. Of course this is helping us if people are interested in something like that, of course selling CD's has become a little more harder and are not selling as many as perhaps few years ago, so you always have to think about things that could be unique things to buy.
I think there are a lot of things in it that could be interesting for the fans."
Aside from the single releases, given that COVID-19 has put a huge halt on the music industry, what has Beyond The Black been doing given tours / shows are cancelled?
"Of course there are a lot of things that other people or other musicians are doing in general, we did some special things for our fans including a 'Golden Pariahs' home recording / stream, that was something special that we really enjoyed. We're really thankful for the fans for engaging with the challenges that we set, everyday there are people doing these challenges, to see how excited they are to listen to that album."
Given the success that Beyond The Black has had with album releases, signing with Napalm Records, etc., given your a young age, is this something that you have taken in your stride?
"I think that there are definitely times where it's been overwhelming for me, but I also think that because before Beyond The Black I did so many other things, I could understand how it was to be when I was 11. There are a lot of things like that before Beyond The Black, of course being on a big German TV show, 'Sing Meinen Song' was a big difference to everything else that I did before, because it was much more attention; the magazines are different because they want to tell you something that you have said in a wrong way.
But as far as the stage goes, I've been on stage since I was 4 years old so having more and more crowds, I'm super thankful for that and are really overwhelmed when I rewatch our Wacken show online and see what it's like from the crowd, you don't see that when you're on stage. When I see that I think 'wow!... what the f**k?!?!, what is happening there?!?!' (laughs). So I don't really think that it is big until I watch it, this is overwhelming when I watch something like this."
Is metal music in Germany still reaching the mainstream charts? Are the general public appreciating it still?
"I think it's strong in selling albums and that's why it's still super-high in the charts, but there are a lot of people who hear the word 'metal' and there are two ways of how they think about it, one way is 'oh I know Wacken Open Air, this is amazing! But everything else, I don't care' and the other way is 'oh metal? I don't listen to that'... not everyone, of course the metal scene is big, but it's not like everyone is listening or is open to metal. I really understood that when I was in a German TV show called 'Sing Meinen Song', people were writing me afterwards saying 'oh my god I never listen to metal, but I listen to other bands as well now, I always thought that metal was screaming and stuff, so this is something super awesome' - this is one reason why I wanted to make that TV show as well because it was a chance to show to people that metal is super-variant or can be super-variant."
This is the thing though, people will hear metal and think screaming, right? Would you say metal is more than just music, but an identity?
"Yeah! It's like that, but what is funny is what I said before, Wacken Open Air, it seems to be everywhere and for everyone. I see so many cars with the W.O.A. sticker on or on bags and stuff, so I think that there are also a lot of people who are not actually listen to metal a lot, but maybe the softer bands. A lot of older people who maybe don't listen to metal even attend (some have broken out of retirement homes to go), so this is something like a tradition where everyone is accepted - you can also compare it to a carnival to be honest (hehe), because it's that one time of the year where people come together even if they don't listen to metal.
Yeah for sure! That is the point and reason why people are acting the way they are, I think that also Wacken is getting more and more open each year or at least that's what I can see with the band's they are inviting - there's a lot more people that can go and be seen very easily."
You released your music video "Misery" this year, how long did it take to record and what is it about?
"We had like 10 hours in a day, but with every single music video that we do we tend to record until midnight, leading into the morning (around 3 am). The main theme for me was the adventure of being in a bubble, wanting to break out of this bubble and become herself, to be herself."
In terms of your fan base, where there any instances where you were surprised at where fans contacted you from, country-wise?
"I wouldn't say right now because I know our fans are everywhere, but I think the first time I said 'wow we have fans there?' was when a lot of people were writing to us from Mexico and the USA, places very far away and places we have never released any album there, it's on Spotify but we never released it internationally and so I didn't expect something like that; especially when releasing in German-speaking areas. That was a really 'wow' moment and there are other countries like Japan that we could play in, a festival there, I think the far away countries are always the most unexpected."
Addressing the sexism and misogyny issue that grapples not only the society in general, but musicians also, is this something you have personally received?
"I think I'm lucky with this because I have to say that I'm always thinking about how I present myself on stage, or on social media and I'm really looking over not to show too much sexiness or too much... my outfits are not 'not' sexy you know, but they are not showing a lot of skin or stuff and I don't want to be reduced to just how I look; it's always a combination of how somebody looks and if you like to look at skin and also if you like to listen to them, this is a combination that I don't really exactly want to combine - this is maybe the reason why there are not many people out there that wouldn't do that."
Putting that into context with the 'female-fronted' style, do you think it's an out-dated tag that should be gotten rid of?
"This is a question that is still not easy for me to answer, because I think I can understand why people could take that term as one thing that they could think about whether they like it or not, because maybe they like female voices more than male voices; I can understand that because I'm listening to everyone, but I think in some ways I enjoy female voices a bit more than male voices.
This could be something that people can decide whether they listen to it or not, of course there are people who listen to every female fronted bands because it's 'female-fronted'; if they like it, they like it. Of course you should say 'male-fronted' bands as well, I'm not sure about it and thinking about this question (a lot of people are asking me this) I still don't have this one way of looking at it."
Have you got any hello's or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"I want to say thank you so much for the interest in this interview, for the album, thanks to Napalm and the fans. Hopefully we will be doing the tour with Amaranthe towards the end of the year, we will not cancel any shows but only postpone if we have to."
"The closest thing to sexism I’ve experienced in music has been having venues put Ironvolt on bills with exclusively other female-fronted bands"
England has a sensational metal scene as a whole and yet if you microscopically looked at each city or region, there are even more metal bands than you can see at first. One such band is Bristolian quintet Ironvolt whose own brand of Groove Metal has caught some considerable attention in the underground, with a band name sounding much like the metallic, groovier version of AC/DC, they are sure to go full throttle after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Vocalist Minka Miles and lead guitarist / backing vocalist Aaron Miles faced our interrogation, we wer kind with them... the electricity was spared in this instance, but they had the burden of being weighed down by ten tonne lead.
For those who have not heard of Ironvolt, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"Ironvolt is literally just iron and volt put together. If I remember right, Aaron and I just made it up because it would have been funny to have two super macho metal-esque words smashed together to name a band that is really not at all super macho or particularly metal. As for a brief history, the band started with just me and Aaron, then Lewis joined, then we went through a succession of drummers and bass players right up until we got the magic blend we have today."
"Well, the actual concept for the band goes back to about 2015, where Minka and I formed the idea and name in the far corner of a Wetherspoons pub. Honestly, the name means very little... if anything it just aimed for a feel of the genre we first went for. Electrifying, exciting and solid in rhythm - we first had major influence from bands like Motley Crue, AC/DC, Black Stone Cherry etc. Of course the genre has since grown, quite substantially, but the name stuck somehow!"
You recently released your album 'Grimm', what was the reception like? Have you had anyone listen to your music from outside of the UK?
"The reception was really good. I think everyone who has given us feedback has been really positive and have a few favourite songs. If anything, only our parents have said anything negative, which is arguably the most metal thing which has ever happened in this band. According to Spotify and all that we have quite a lot of international fans! Places including America, Germany, Spain, Italy, and a fair few others have listeners, which is amazing!"
"People loved it and I love that people loved it! It's awesome to hear that the fan favourites are songs where we collaborated the most. The singles are getting a lot of attention outside of the UK which is always a pleasure to think about - which far corners of the world is our music baby reaching?"
What has Ironvolt been doing during the lockdown; any hobbies or interests? What plans do you have towards late 2020 / early 2021?
"I’ve been writing a novel and sculpting, and also working on other music projects. I think we’re all really keen to get back to playing shows as soon as we’re able to. We might even have new songs to add to our set by then."
"I've been playing more games than I know what to do with and practising almost every day! I'm a key worker so I still find myself up at 4:30 am... and just thinking about that makes me tired. I get home just after lunch time and get a good chunk of practice in before I relax like everyone else in lockdown!"
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, given you play Groove Metal; such a broad genre?
"I would just describe us as having heavy instrumentation with soul / pop vocals. I don’t think there’s any one genre we can ever honestly say we are. I feel like we just sound like rock / metal covers of pop songs which people can dance and occasionally headbang to, and honestly I’m happy with that."
"I guess it's kind-of unusual that the words Groove and Metal are how we would describe our sound, seeing as the genre tag of Groove Metal doesn't really apply to us when you consider bands like Pantera as your kind-of flagship of the genre - but our sound is groovy and, fundamentally, Metal as f**k."
Minka, do you feel that sexism and misogyny still exists in metal? Have you yourself received any remarks? If so how did / would you respond?
"I think it exists everywhere, although thankfully I haven’t actually experienced it within music myself. I would say the closest thing to sexism I’ve experienced in music has been having venues put Ironvolt on bills with exclusively other female-fronted bands, despite having no similarity besides that. We’ve played with completely different genres because of this and it’s very jarring. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened in a while and we usually get booked to play with similar-sounding bands now, but it used to really annoy me and the rest of the band."
Tell us more about the Bristolian Metal scene, is it stronger than it has been? What challenges do bands face?
"It seems to be extremely tight-knit, everyone knows each other. It’s pretty nice and I think there’s more support within that scene than there is with a lot of others. The Bristol metal scene also welcomed us really openly, despite our sound not being conventionally metal."
"Honestly there are so many good bands coming out of Bristol. There's a lot of unsung talent, sadly with either no means to get places or just haven't been noticed by the right people yet. That's why there's so much love for Metal 2 The Masses in Bristol. The community gets together and welcomes all these faces, some older 'veterans' of the Bristol scene who you just know you're going to enjoy, and some brand new faces with just as much kick-ass as the vets."
For metalheads visiting Bristol what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"For pubs there’s The Gryphon, The Mother’s Ruin and The Crown, I’ve spent a lot of time in all of those. As for venues it’s gotta be The Fleece, The Louisiana, and The Exchange."
"The Crown in St. Nick's market is a great place for all kinds of Metalheads, plus its club venue The Trap, as there's a great range of faces that regularly visit. The Gryphon is a landmark and it regularly tops the local pubs chart. The Hatchet is a super popular venue which hosts all sorts, and there's countless local venues that do regular "fresh talent" shows. The Fleece on St Thomas Street, The Thunderbolt on Bath Road and The Louisiana on Wapping Road are some that we've frequented and always had a great reception. If you just want a great night, though, check out the Fleece's monthly Metal club nights."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"Anyone who is listening to our music at the moment, thank you so much – and to everyone who has come to a show before. And of course, to everyone who is going to come to our shows in the future. Thank you, you’re lush."
"Keep it real homeslices"
As far as the Horror Metal style goes, lyrically it's self-explanatory, musically it's a lethal concoction of pure darkness, ghoulish atmospherics and sounds so spooky that they leave even those in the stiffest form of rigor mortis weak at the knees (OK that's perhaps a tiny bit too dark). Scream Baby Scream don't hold anything back and use their imagery, theatrics and lyrics to seep bleakness into the listener, making them feel cold and at best frozen-to-the-band. GMA gave this quartet a paranormal investigation, we had to make the ghostbusters redundant for these are no match for said group, they needed a proper exorcism... they survived suffice to say.
Well we say 'they' survived, only Becky and Damien awoke from the coffins... perhaps garlic doesn't work after all.
Would it be right in saying your band name came from the 1969 horror film "Scream, Baby, Scream"? If not where did it come from? Who came up with it?
"You are 99% right, in the beginning the idea was started by me with the acronym S.B.S., till now it has been a secret between us - the real meaning being "not everything should be said", and I think it will be for another 10 years at least, then we decided to give a name for our creature, as Charles Butler we have our spooky bloody ideal beauty so this matched perfectly."
For those who do not know of Scream Baby Scream, could you tell us how you formed? Were you in bands previously?
"Oh same old situation, as you know death does not look directly at anyone, so we've been buried in the same cemetery. In the beginning I've asked Damien to help us with first EP, but after 10 years, exhumations and a change of line up he's still there, we try and try to get rid of him, but it's hard... haha. All of us come from different bands and different influences, black metal, 80's glam, punk, power metal and industrial, as I previously told you they really have buried anyone; even the least recommendable."
This year Scream Baby Scream has been going 10 years, what challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
"10 years already...wow, like every band we faced too many challenges, some rookie mistakes, or some changes in our private lives... but the most important lesson we've learnt in these 10 years is that we don't need to play the blame game, and for sure sometimes our worst enemy is ourself, so the most important thing is to never give up!"
You play 'Horror Metal' - could you please explain to us what this comprises of? What is your sound musically?
"Actually the horror component wasn't decided in the beginning, but it came out. There are no rules in our lyrics, sometimes we are inspired by movies, books, nightmares or metaphors, in these days there is much more horror in real life, just look out of the window and there it is. "Too Much Heaven On Their Minds" will especially be an album which is also related to current events."
What plans did you have this year that have either been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19?
"Like all the artists, due to the coronavirus pandemic we had to postpone some gigs until 2021 and the recording of the new album until the end of 2020, but we tried not to stop. During the lockdown we have worked on the new songs and now we are ready to start rehearsing."
Speaking of which what plans do you have for late 2020 / early 2021?
"As you already know, the 10th of April we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the band and we released the video of our single “Mouth Of Madness”, taken from the upcoming album “Too Much Heaven On Their Minds”. As soon as this coronavirus pandemic ends, we’ll record and release the new album, some new videos and plan a 2021 European tour to promote “Too Much Heaven On Their Minds”...
For metalheads visiting Milan, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Our basement, if they are brave enough (laughs evilly)! It can be an amazing experience like meeting the Sawyers or Dr Satan! Just kidding... I guess the best place to visit in town, beside the city centre obviously, is the Rock’N’Roll club near the central station."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc?
"First of all thank you for giving us this opportunity. I’d also like to thank all the witches and ghouls out there for their great and constant support!"
"We hope all of you are safe because the coronavirus isn't a funny thing, a zombie apocalypse is much better so stay tuned for that!"
"Our influences vary from pop to progressive metal and musicals to death metal."
Right now the Modern Metal genre is massively hot with bands dabbling in pop, electronic music and other avant-garde genres that would otherwise make metal purists vomit in their mouth... guy's it's the 21st century, keep up... metal is evolving and so embrace it. Ember Falls have done exactly that and by bolting together the unmistakable sound of djent with pop and Groove Metal, the Finnish horde have crafted a sound that would be the ire of the elitists (who cares anyway, metal is about opening your mind and Ember Falls do exactly just that).
Now they are working on their new album which is destined to see daylight later this year or early next year, depending on the situation regarding COVID-19. GMA interrogated on their current plans, how COVID-19 has affected them, their past blessings in touring, future plans and what their sound consists of.
For those who have not heard of Ember Falls, could you give us a brief history of the band and what the band name means?
"The band was originally formed under the name Mekanism in 2010. We started out as a kind of attempt at a Pantera / Muse hybrid as we can recall. Later it became much 'djentier' and heavier for a few years, and then more and more electronic influences started creeping in. After some line-up changes in 2015 (Thomas joined on vocals and Olli joined on bass; Mikko - who’s since left the band - switched from bass to synths), we changed the name to Ember Falls and released the first song with the new name and image. In a way the Ember Falls sound is sort of a mixture of the earlier “Pantera-influenced” poppy stuff and the later electronic-influenced sound. But a lot better and more compositionally mature, we feel, of course.
Ember Falls is a name we came up with to stand for a fictitious city in an imaginary multiverse somewhere in the distant future. On the newer songs we are trying to paint this into the lyrics a lot more than on the debut, where the lyrics were a bit all over the place thematically."
You've had a good career so far through supporting bands like Amaranthe and W.A.S.P., surely this must have blown you back a bit?
"We’ve had great moments and shows definitely. Sometimes it’s hard to believe what we have actually accomplished so far. But we have also worked hard not just as a band but individually too."
How would you describe your sound as you have an eclectic style of metal music going on? What are your influences?
"Our influences are all over the place. We all share a passion for metal music sure, but our influences vary from pop to progressive metal and musicals to death metal. I think in some of our latest songs you can hear multiple different genres happening."
Were you in bands previously? If not how did you get into playing music, specifically the instruments you play?
"I was, and still am, the lead singer in a metal band called Everwave. I have a history as a drummer when I was younger but nowadays see myself clearly as a singer. I do dabble a bit with the acoustic guitar sometimes."
Jay V & Calu:
"We are brothers and we both started playing guitar as teenagers.We also had a Melodic / Technical Death Metal band called Damaging Fallout back in the days. Jay V was one of the founders of Mekanism and soon Calu joined in as a rhythm guitarist / vocalist."
"I started playing drums when I was 17. Played in one “semi-serious” band in high school / college, but Ember Falls (then ‘Mekanism’) was my first real band so to speak, and here we still are 10 years later."
"I've been a part of various projects ranging from pop to progressive metal but Ember Falls stands out as being the most serious one. I started playing the bass and the guitar at the age of 15 or so. I'm also writing and producing my own music."
You dropped your latest single 'We Are Become Fire', what was the reception like and have you had any listens from outside of Finland?
"The reception has been overly positive. We feel our music is now more “us” than it has ever been and people can probably hear that. Currently United States and Germany outrank Finland in streams but we do have have listeners all over the world at least according to Spotify."
What plans did you have before the lockdown set in and were any cancelled / postponed? What plans do you have for late 2020 / early 2021?
"We did have some live shows planned for the spring, which either got cancelled or postponed to next year. We also were planning to finish our second album which is still on the works. Depending on how this situation develops the album will be released late this year or early next year."
For metalheads visiting your city of Tampere, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Tampere is having a lot of construction done at the moment. Things don’t look very pretty down-town but we do like to sit in the parks and have a few beers when it’s warm out. The basic go-to bars for a metal head would be Jack The Rooster, Trasherie, Majava Bar and the legendary Klubi / Pakkahuone."
Do you have any greetings or thanks that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"Thank you for all the support! We hope you are staying safe and that this situation eases out soon so we can start touring again and say hello to as many of you as possible!"
"I'd be very delighted to see some of my peers turning up to learn instruments and work with me in a band"
It only takes one band or one musician to lay the very foundations for a metal scene to flourish, in some countries it's touch and go, but for others? The process is long and arduous. Take the African country of Malawi for example, here is a country bordered by Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania, the first three have one thing in common - they have metal scenes. Tanzania like Malawi has yet to produce one, however it's musicians like Blessings Chisama who are laying the foundations of change. Through teaching aspiring guitarists, he hopes that others may follow in his footsteps whilst hoping to change this negative perception of the metal genre, that is just a form of music and has no Satanic connotations at all. Perhaps may one one day in the future we will see the first Malawian Metal band... for now we have Moto Buu a rock band.
GMA spoke to Blessings about how he got into playing the guitar, the challenges musicians face in Malawi - mostly hardly a solid music industry and what plans he has for the future in music.
How did you first get into metal music? Who are your favourite bands? What do your parents think?
"I started my music journey in a rather not so conventional fashion for most metal guitarists. My uncles have a reggae band, and I used to be around them whenever they were playing their old box guitars at home whilst growing up at my granny’s house. However, as time went by I began to be exposed to rock through the music mix programme on Voice of America, which was aired here at midnight through Capital FM Malawi. At that time, my youngest uncle used to like leaving the radio on throughout the night in the bedroom. At some point they started recording using Fluteloops and Sonar and it was around that time that I also started learning how to record although I only used to play bass with few fingers.
Throughout this time I’ve listened to a lot right across the spectrum, from Christian metal bands (that uncle Evance had on his desktop) such as Seventh Day Slumber, Krystal Meyer, Jeremy Camp, etc. to ‘real stuff’ to get your head banging, bands like Bullet For My Valentine, Trivium, Andy James, Dream Theatre, A Day To Remember, Animals As Leaders, Killswitch Engange, Stephen Taranto, The Helix Nebula, Periphery and lots more, with Andy James probably being one of my main influences on guitar because of his detailed instructional videos on guitar playing. In addition, anything shred, prog and djent has lately become my favourite!
I grew up mostly with my grandma which was the time when my uncles were all into music and when I moved to live with my mother; I had switched to hip-hop as it was easy to get tapes in my secondary school days. However, in 2008 I moved again to re-join one of my uncles (Peter Chisama) and that's where I started learning guitar. It was on the morning of 1st November 2008, two days after I moved to the house, when uncle Peter brought his Ibanez Guitar, a Roland amp and a photocopied book called “The Handbook for Guitar” by Ralph Denyer into my room when he was leaving for work.
He told me to start learning and ask him anything that am not understanding so the process was rather self learning. He also exposed me to the Famous Frank Gambale and gave me his pdf books and audio's which at that time I found very had to digest. As such I was left to explore without negative remarks and up until now I think it was the best thing to ever happen to me. However, I should say that mother doesn't really believe one can make a big fortune in the Malawian music scene and as such has been of the view that I should vigilantly pursue my education in something else other than music."
What is it like being a rock / metal musician in Malawi? What are the challenges you have to face?
"Rock music is not a popular genre to the masses and as such the fan base is extremely low. It's mostly comprised of the expatriate community and very few middle class Malawians who at some point had little exposure to pop rock music and video games, which is how I first heard the song “Hand Of Blood” by Bullet For My Valentine.
For me personally, it has been a journey I sometimes feel like giving up and thanks to the internet otherwise, I don't think Malawi is ready for it considering the religious stereotypes attached to it. I’ve however devised a different approach to buying in audience which at this level are fellow musicians within and I’ve incorporated element of music education and guitar learning in particular where I’m offering lessons and showing them that actually they can apply the same techniques into other styles of music. I'm a music major and that has been the path I’ve taken.
We don't have music stores that offer descent equipment so getting proper gear is problematic. Most so-called music shops are riddled with cheap and very poor quality instruments. I'm actually lucky that the equipment that I have been using was bought by my younger uncle from South Africa. I buy quality accessories like strings, music books, plectrums e.t.c. through the expat community based here for work coming in from their respective holidays.
What equipment are you using right now? What guitar, effects box, etc?
"My uncle has been kind to buy me the Boss GT 100 and an Ibanez GiO. My first owned guitar is an Aria STG series which I was given by someone I used to teach guitar who is now in the U.K. I’ve lately got the Cort X6 which I bought from an expat. And in additional I am exploring and investing in a couple of computer amp sims and impulses."
What is the general perception of rock and metal in Malawi? Are you aware of any rock or metal musicians in Tanzania?
"Metal music in Malawi is mostly considered a demonic music culture for the average masses and something difficult to achieve among Malawian musicians since music education is limited for many of the instrument musicians around. Adding to the problem is the lack of proper gear in most studios around. As such it is often times misunderstood and the knowledge of creation is almost non-existent.
I’m aware of a very strong metal community in Botswana and South Africa but I'm yet to come across metal music from Tanzania."
Will you look to release your own material in due course? Maybe form the first Malawian Metal band?
"Yes! But as a solo artist through platforms like Bandcamp. I’m yet to meet the right people to work with in a band setup so my performances for now are mostly through backing tracks whether be it my own recorded material or covers. So basically my computer is my band at the moment. I'd be very delighted to see some of my peers turning up to learn instruments and work with me in a band"
For metalheads visiting Lilongwe, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"I’m Blantyre based since birth so I haven’t heard much of Lilongwe in action with metal music except for the Moto Buu which sometimes perform at 4 Seasons. There’s a pop rock / 80's – 90's cover band in Blantyre called Rusty Nails which perform mostly within Blantyre and happens to be a band I’ve worked with in the past."
What plans do you have for the rest of 2020 and leading into 2021?
"Well, I lost my main job due to COVID-19 and I’ve gone to guitar teaching as my last point of standing financially to survive, so I'm back to studying licks and technique to become better."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans, etc.?
"Shout out to all the metalheads all over the world and to my uncles Evance and Benjamin Chisama for their support and inspiration. I'm also thankful for my late uncle Peter Chisama who gave me his guitar, amp and a book to learn from, he was a music genius that our family will leave to remember."