"I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
As far as metal goes in the Far East, there are a handful of scenes that exist and yet rarely get considerable amount of attention from outside of Asia, one such scene is South Korea. Dwarfed by the colossus of Japan, South Korea has a vibrant metal scene with a wealth of history behind it and it's thanks to bands like LandMine who are propelling it forward again. Having dropped their debut album "Pioneer's Destiny" this year, the Heavy / Power Metal quartet are sure to cause some buzz in the years ahead. GMA interrogated the guys and asked about the origins of South Korean metal music, the challenges bands face in the wake of the musical tsunami known as K-Pop and why it's highly unlikely (for obvious reasons) that North Korea will embrace metal music (we long for the day when it does).
For those who have not heard of Landmine, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"LandMine was formed in March 2012. In the early days of its formation, it released its first EP "Refect The Destiny" on May 26th, 2015, and released its single 'Brake From Route' on September 14th, 2018. Starting from "Pioneer's Destiny" on December 31st, 2019, the genre has been changed to Epic Metal.
LaneMine, which means "landmine", has a strong will to show the power of metal properly, like a landmine that looks calm but explodes when touched."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, how did you come to create Heavy Metal music?
"Leader Suchan Yun majored in piano and French horn and is composing based on classical music. I think it is right to describe it as Epic Metal, which is a fantasy story that expresses epic poetry, even though it is far from the commonly known Baroque Metal. We were greatly influenced by the music of the famous Korean rocker Kim Kyung-ho and the first-generation Korean metal band Blackhole."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"My parents cheered for me without opposing my hobby such as music. My sister majored in piano."
How is the band coping during the lockdown in South Korea due to COVID-19?
"In line with Korea's quarantine system, most live performances are being canceled. However, it is showing fans a live performance through live broadcasting in a new way called home-live."
Tell us about the South Korean Metal scene, when did metal arrive in South Korea? Would you be surprised if North Koreans came across LandMine? In your opinion, would a North Korean metal band happen?
"Korean metal bands were born in the early 1980's, and many first-generation metal bands debuted in the late 80's. There were indie bands such as Black Syndrome and Black Hole and major bands such as Sinawi and Baekdusan.
I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
What challenges do South Korean metal bands tend to face in general? What does the general public think of metal music?
"Unlike in the past, metal in the Korean public is rarely popular due to the influence of idols and K-pop. We are trying to popularize metal, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Although each band is planning performances and looking for overseas performances, no one is active with COVID-19 in 2020."
For metalheads visiting Daejeon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Daejeon is a bad town with nothing to play. Sungsimdang is the most famous bakery. I also recommend 'Sungsimdang'. But this is all."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"It is a pity that COVID-19 did not allow us to engage in external activities this year. As soon as the situation is settled, I will greet you with a great performance on stage. Thank you."
For a band whose lyrics revolve around topics involving fantasy and death, you would have thought that the single 'Stalingrad' would have been by a Black Metal band. Instead it's by Egyptian Progressive / Folk Metal entity Riverwood and as frontman Mahmoud went on to explain, the single is drawing a comparison to the second world war and the current war against COVID-19. During his interrogation he confessed as to how the band came about, why Egyptian Metal is embracing a revolution and what venues metalheads should go to in the city of Alexandria.
For those who have not heard of Riverwood, could you give us a brief history of the band?
"The band was formed only 2 years ago under the name of Riverwood. Our first album was released in the same year and its called "Fairytale". With 1 million streams online "Fairytale" has been chosen as one of the top 20 Folk metal albums in 2020."
You recently released your new single 'Stalingrad', what was the idea behind this - why a song about WW2?
"The song basically tells the story about a timeline that is almost the same as the current one, as the world is at war now with the COVID-19 virus. That's why we have decided to release it as a stand-alone single since it will not be a part of our second full album."
Your debut album "Fairytale" is out now, what was the reception like and have you had people outside of Egypt download it?; will it be on CD / vinyl?
"It has exceeded my expectations. I've never imagined it will be viral in the middle east that fast and also never imagined that it will reach one million streams online all over the world. The album is on CD as well and its sold outside of Egypt. We've sold CDs in Germany, France, Poland, Spain and many more international countries."
Do you feel that there is a rise in Middle Eastern / North African tinged metal? (Myrath, Riverwood, Blaakyum, Scarab, Orphaned Land, etc); how would you describe your sound?
"Unique. That's how I would describe the sound as all of the mentioned bands including Riverwood are injecting the Arabian sounds and Eastern cultures into their music and stories."
What is the current state of the Egyptian Metal scene? Is it going strong? When did metal music first arrive in Egypt?
"It was pretty much dead since 2010, but since 2018 it's being brought back to life with a lot of shows and releases."
For metalheads visiting Alexandria, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Sawy Cultural Wheel, Jesuit Center... these are the top notch venues for metal heads."
What plans does Riverwood have for late 2020 / early 2021?
"Currently we are working on our second full length album. Just like "Fairytale", the album will be telling a story that will be visualized in a book. The album also will be featuring more than one artist, of which 2 of them are big names in the metal music industry."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"As we rarely use the word fans, I would like to thank our family and warriors for all their support through out the "Fairytale" journey, it never could have been done without you and until we see you again on stage please stay safe. Wash your hands! Much love!"
"2021 is our 40th year anniversary we are booked for UK festivals and to return Europe to play in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands."
Too often are bands of yesteryear forgotten about or fall by the wayside, but in counteracting that there are times where bands are effectively pulled out of hibernation, such is the case for NWOBHM quartet Troyen who received the harking call to reform and drum out material to quench the thirst of their fans. Now armed with newfound rigour, the Cheshire natives are due to release a new album, hopefully play some UK and European shows next year to mark 40 years of the band and prove that it doesn't matter about your age, as long as your heart is in the music, endless things are possible as drummer Jeff Baddley told GMA during his interrogation.
Troyen has humble beginnings in that you started back in the 1980's, but the band was untenable, so surely it must have been a godsend to reunite?
"Unbeknown to us there was quite a cult Troyen fan base, especially in Scandinavia and the USA, and the guys who run the Brofest festivals in Newcastle had been approached by fans asking if they could get us back together to appear at Brofest#3 in February 2015. It was a bizarre feeling for me to get a message via Facebook messenger asking firstly if I was the Jeff Baddley who used to be in Troyen, and, if so, could I get the band back together again? Initially we reformed just for one gig but once it entered the public domain other gigs and festivals approached us so there was no going back. Following the response we decided to release an album consisting of our four original demo tracks and four new tracks."
Given you've seen the British Metal scene grow up as it were, what advice can you offer to the next wave of bands?
"The only advice I can give is work hard. The music scene is a different animal now in this digital age and all the platforms available need to be embraced, back in the 80's the only way fans could get to see you was by playing live. In many ways you have to work smarter now to keep your profile in the public domain."
In some respect you're role models in that age doesn't mean a think when it comes to playing music, would you agree?
"There is always a place for role models and having people to aspire to but ultimately there is no substitute for being your own person, after all we are all unique."
Given the current global pandemic grappling the world, do you feel that music has become ever more important and that a world without it, is a boring place?
"Absolutely, music means many things to many people. We all turn to music when we are happy, sad or all the places in between. The global pandemic would be much harder to endure without music to immerse yourselves in."
Outside of music what hobbies and interests do you have? How have you all been coping during the lockdown?
"Music is our main focus and it’s been difficult during lockdown especially for me as I don’t have the space at home to set up my drum kit and unleash my frustrations. We have all spent time doing all the jobs we had been putting off around the house and some that didn’t. We’ve been in constant contact with each other as we are collaboratively writing new material for our new album., whilst also spending time keeping our social media pages updated."
What do your families think of your music, are any of them musicians also?
"None of our family members are musicians although they are very supportive of what we do even though NWOBHM may not be their thing."
What next for Troyen? Are you drafting up late-2020, early 2021 plans?
"We have pretty much written off 2020 for live music, but we’ll have to see how that unfolds. We are writing a new album initially for release in November 2020 but that may be pushed back to early 2021 pandemic and social distancing allowing. 2021 is our 40th year anniversary we are booked for UK festivals and to return Europe to play in Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and The Netherlands."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"We’d like to thank all our fans, friends and families for their continued support. Without you we’d be nothing. We will just continue to ride the wave and play for as long as people want to hear us after all you don’t stop playing music because you get old, you get old because you stop playing music. Stay safe."
"When we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool"
Arguably one of the most talked about metal bands from Asia alongside Babymetal and The Hu in the last few years, India's Bloodywood have shaken the foundations of metal with their aromatic and flavoursome blend of Bollywood covers, Indian Folk Metal and cultural panache that landed them a slot at Wacken Open Air last year, and a slot at next year's Bloodstock Open Air after the 2020 edition was postponed due to the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. Vocalist Jayant Bhadula gave GMA the low down about their humble origins, the strength of the Indian Metal scene, how they became known across the country and why it's Asia'a time to showcase it's wealth of talent to Europe and the USA.
What was the initial idea behind Bloodywood?
"When we started we always had a plan to release original music, that has always been a goal for us, but we didn't find a way to get it out; because I think there are a lot of metal bands in India and that's the thing. We wanted our music to reach out and not just be restricted within our region, state or country, we wanted our music to spread worldwide. This is why we thought the best way to go round it would be by doing covers, actually it wasn't really covers, first we tried to make metal renditions, like give it our flavour 'Sinbad The Slayer'... It was a gradual process through trying to make our sound that we would be comfortable with and eventually it lead to 'Ari Ari' and then to others."
What was the reaction from both the Bollywood and Metal music scenes to your music?
"It was widely received well in India with the audience here, it was also seen as funny. Finding it funny and then actually appreciating the metal behind it too is what we got from the Indian audience, but I would have never imagined that someone from Bollywood would have actually acknowledged it.
The Bollywood industry I mean... it happened with 'Ari Ari' though; when we released 'Ari Ari', a famous Bollywood actress Ileana D'Cruz liked it and actually posted about it on Instagram, that was pretty cool."
As you have only been going since 2016, to be where you are now (having played Wacken last year) it must be a dream come true for the band?
"Oh yes absolutely, I'll give you a little fun story. This was around the time when I was in my final year at college, I was like 'I should start saving money and go see Wacken Open Air', I wanted to there and experience what it's like so I started saving money, go to Germany and see Wacken Open Air. Then because Bloodywood was going on and then I was actually working with another band; I've got one more project alongside Bloodywood.
Bloodywood was getting busy and we eventually finally got the call for Wacken Open Air, that was personally for me and I can vouch for everyone in the band a dream come true for everyone; even the sound engineer he plays guitar with me in my other band, for him to be there to manage our sound was a dream come true for all of us."
You've shifted from covering Bollywood music and writing your own material, where does your inspiration come from?
"So it wasn't just the Bollywood songs that we used to cover, we used to cover almost anything that used to catch our eye. Literally from Bollywood to anything else, as long as we felt it was catchy we would just make a diddle on it. But the transition began when we started making ''Punjabi Metal', that was for the 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi'... because while we were composing 'Mundiya Te Back K Rahi' around that time in the end we actually realised that and it was was Karan Katiyar who showed me that dhol goes really good with guitars and I took it as a joke, I was like no I don't think so, that's not going to happen. So he actually created the whole instrumental and was like now check it out, dhol which is a traditional north Indian folk instrument that was going perfectly with it. I felt it made the song more groovy, so what's where we got to the point where we should try experimenting with more Indian instruments and even then we're experimenting with more instruments."
Arguably that's how metal seems to be evolving, by utilising other sounds and non-traditional metal instruments like the dhol per se.
"I mean it depends on which metal act we're talking about, for Bloodywood at least I can say that when we started experimenting with folk instruments from our country, the idea was actually to incorporate instruments to make our sound a little more Indian. It's like Alien Weaponry who I don't think use folk instruments however they sing in Maori. I mean it really comes down to which bands you're talking about, I mean for example The Hu from Mongolia, they do use their folk instruments with metal so, but I don't think bands are introducing instruments for the sake of making a new sound. I feel that everyone is trying to express themselves in the best way they can like we did with Bloodywood, that's what I think the bands are doing."
With all the things that has happened to Bloodywood, surely it must make you pinch yourself in asking 'is this really happening?'
"Yes that happens quite a lot at least with me, because every time I go to the studio it takes me back to the time when I used to go to Karan's house and record a lot of stuff. But because a member in my other band owns a studio, we ended up going there thereafter; he's been such a nice guy about it all, given us his studio almost for free - just because he is friends with us and has supported us throughout. So when I look back I have a sheer amount of gratitude for those people, they didn't expect anything, they just wanted to help us out."
What do your parents think of your music?
"(laughs) my parents? My parents basically asked me 'you cool? Are you happy with what you're doing?' and I said 'yes' and so they said 'Ok we're cool too', they don't get metal. When I was in Chicago with my dad and we were sitting in the same room, Veil of Maya was playing nearby where we were staying and I put some of their music on the music system and my father looks at his uncle, and says 'this is what he does', my father looks at the screen and sees a guy screaming and guts out, and he's like 'yeah don't do that'."
For those who listen to Bloodywood for the first time, what languages are you singing in?
"'Ari Ari' is Punjabi but if you go to the rest of the songs after that it's Hindi."
Are they completely different or similar? Are they easy to understand?
"There's a lot of differences, I wouldn't say they're 100% different but there would be around 97% differences. There are a few little words here and there from what I use in Hindi and put into Punjabi. But there's a lot of languages in India, at least 100 plus (I'm not sure of the exact number) and lots of different dialects and they change as you travel in any direction. Yes we can understand each other, that's the funny part... English is actually quite useful in India... almost everywhere I think English is spoken and even though there are times when you get to the point where you are not sure what the person is saying, English comes in and saves us."
Has Bloodywood released any EP's or an album? If not will we see one this year?
"It's not out of the question that we will end up doing that, because I mean this year the festivals are shut, I don't think something will be happening anytime soon, I hope that the world gets better and we can go back to festivals. But as there are not a lot of festivals which are still happening, I think this year we will be focusing on creating and hopefully if everything pans out, an album might not be out of the question, but it's still not been decided yet."
Some people refer you to as a Folk Metal band, others a Nu Metal band, could you please clarify your sound?
"I like to call it Folk Metal because that is what we want to be seen as for everyone, we do incorporate modern elements because we embrace it - if you look at my influences they are all Deathcore, Metalcore bands. Our drummer Vishesh Singh is heavily into Death Metal, so because all of us come from different niche styles of metal, when we combine it together it comes out to me what the 'Bloodywood sound' is; which I like to call Indian Folk Metal; mainly due to the instruments we use."
On that note is it relatively easy or challenging to master the art of playing these traditional Indian folk instruments?
"It is tricky, for example the dhol we use there are multiple variations of it. But the instruments themselves are tricky, that's my take on it because I don't play them. So I'm probably not the right person to ask regarding this (laughs)."
Speaking about the Indian Metal, arguably Demonic Resurrection and Kryptos were the leading pioneers, would you therefore say Bloodywood is carrying the scene forward?"
"Well it does not just end with Bloodywood, Demonic Resurrection or Kryptos, it's actually all of the bands that are in the metal scene. The Indian Metal scene is small, but I say this in every interview and I cannot stress enough on it that it might be small, but it's really tight-knit. We've got Systemhouse33, Gutslit, Kryptos, Demonic Resurrection all of whom played internationally, there are just so many bands from India producing so much quality material that I think its all of us who are carrying it forward."
Nowadays what are the challenges that most Indian Metal bands tend to face (excluding COVID-19)?
"Don't even get me started on that (laughs), Indian Metal bands have been facing so many problems for so long. It started off with venues not being open to letting metal bands to play there, to not being paid or not doing tribute shows or, I mean it's not a bad thing to do a tribute show, but at the same time there used to be less scope for original music to come up because people tended to come out for more of the tribute shows, but now as the audience is opening up there but still there are lots of venues and not a lot of money being invested in it. I think it's going to get better because the number of shows last year at least were a lot, I've never seen a lot of shows like that.
There were a lot of bands from the US and Europe coming in, just in January we had As I Lay Dying come here, so I mean we've come a long away from just one metal band coming to India in a year, maybe for Bangalore Open Air per se where we get to see quality acts. Apart from that there was nothing, hardly any shows going on, but now even the promoters are getting into it."
Do you feel it's more important than ever for metalheads from Europe to pay more attention to bands from Asia per se?
"I feel the world has been sleeping on Asia for a long time and maybe now it will... maybe Bloodywood, or The Hu from Mongolia or Underside from Nepal; I love those guys, so I mean us Asian bands trying to get out and actually doing shows and getting a positive reception actually does make a way for other Asian bands to come out. I think people in Europe and the USA are actually embracing this. I actually met a guy in Osnabrück, Germany who was wearing a Gutslit t-shirt - Gutslit is an Indian band, I wanted a photo and send a message to the guys saying 'hey guys I saw a guy with your t-shirt in Osnabrück, Germany."
Finally have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I want to say hello to everyone who's going to believe in us."
"[Melbourne is] definitely the best metal scene in Australia... lots of bands from Brisbane, Adelaide and other cities go to great pains to get to Melbourne to do shows"
They may have only been going a couple of years, but arguably Australia's Ironstone have so far had a really good run - supporting Rhapsody at a small festival, lining up their debut EP at the end of May, gathering fans from Europe, joining up with arguably Australia's finest PR in Black Roos and all at the average age of 20; Dan being the oldest at 22... they are destined to go far with their work ethic and attitude. Watch this space. To fill in the details, lead vocalist Dan Charlton and lead guitarist / vocalist Edward Warren spoke with GMA about said achievements, the Melbourne Metal scene, how they got their unique name and how Lewis Capaldi has had an impact on Dan Charlton.
Don't worry we know this is an interrogation, we didn't spit roast them on a BBQ on the beach... instead we inoculated them with Fosters... good call!
Hi guys could you tell us how Ironstone came about and what the band name means?
"It started quite a long time ago. It was initially a cover band with a couple of mates and I. We were just young kids. We played gigs in pubs; played AC/DC and all the classics and it developed over time until we started writing original music and creating our own sound. It came to a point where we wanted to take it more seriously and really define ourselves as original artists and not just be a cover band.
The singer at the time lived on ‘Ironstone Road’. We just liked the sound of that. We discussed the name and thought we’d leave out the ‘road’ part because it sounded a bit ‘country’. But we really liked ‘Ironstone’ because it's nice and ambiguous. It can mean anything in terms of genre and creative freedom and it sounds pretty cool too, so we just went with that."
Nowadays it's even harder coming up with band names due to names already in use or having to be changed due to legal reasons.
"Yeah one of the criteria of the name was that we could get the web address and social media handles, because some bands pick a really cool name then because a lot of people already have it they have to put 'official' or something after it, blurring the lines between who is actually this band or that band. So we were really fortunate with our name."
Now you've got your EP 'Prophecy' coming out on 29th May, are you doing at-home promotion for it? Would you release it on vinyl and CD?
"Yeah we're just plugging away with our social media, trying to keep as active as we can, which is important because of self-isolation. We're doing everything we can... including PR to help with international coverage which obviously leads to interviews and reviews. We think this is a weird time to be releasing, but might be slightly advantageous because more people are on the internet and the industry is pretty quiet at the moment.
Oh yes we want to release it on vinyl so badly. I love vinyl. If I had a CD right now and you said I'll give you $100 to play it, I would be pressed to find something to play it on.”
"The good thing about vinyl is that it's really coming back, CD's are not going out but a lot of the new cars don't have CD players any more. Everything is online now with Spotify where you can instantly play music, but I guess people some people still want to go analogue, old-school."
With the EP, have you got a favourite track that stands out for you?
"Well the thing is that we generally love all the songs so much. 2 weeks before the EP we will be dropping our new single and music video 'Downpour'. The video was shot just before all of the closures and was edited during lockdown. It's very thematic and has this kind of Middle Eastern, South-East Asian sort of flavour, it's really very exotic and spicy."
How long did it take you to write, record and finalise the EP?
"Half of the songs were written 12 or more months ago, the other half in the last six months since Dan joined the band and started writing with us. The drums, guitars and bass were tracked very quickly…in less than a week. Jack our drummer then sorted the stems out and got everything organised. Start to finish it was no more than a month I think. The whole process gave us confidence and experience that enabled us to push forward.”
"Vocals took the longest, vocals took about 3 weeks or so and then once we had it done we sent it through and had it mixed and mastered by Chris Themelco at Monolith Studios; absolute legend, who managed to do it so quickly. The first revision was almost perfect, apart from tiny nit-picky stuff. It was good as well because Chris really liked the songs and is a big fan of ours. We were rapt about that because we have so much respect for the guy. He is very highly respected here."
Would you therefore say that's the direction metal is heading, by tapping into other flavours to expand?
"I think it's heading in that direction, there will always be old-school, kind of more pure traditional metal, but I think for bands who are trying to be more progressive and cover ground in thinking, it's going to become more prevalent in exploring different cultural influences, scales, etc., I know there's a lot of Japanese scales, Middle Eastern scales that have already been explored. You could get into Bulgarian scales, Slavic scales, there is so much you can do musically because every single culture has a different slant on the scale of music.
It's inevitable that the progression will lead to change, making it something different."
"I think it's also the younger generation. Old-school metal in the 70's and 80's is a lot different to the metal in the 90's and early 2000's. Metal has has changed over the years in the same way other genres like pop have changed."
Outside of metal music, do you take influences from elsewhere?
"Oh for me even though I listen to metal, I'll also be listening to pop music - a lot of the chart stuff, I'm a massive fan of Lewis Capaldi's voice, specifically the tone of his voice which has brought a lot of inspiration to my vocal technique.
Our sound is like what Eddie says. You can show it to your friends who are really into technical metal and they get into the riffs, but then you can also show it to your parents and they'll be like 'Oh that's a nice song, I like that, that's catchy'. That's definitely not something to be afraid of, being commercial. I think it's a great thing; not aiming for super-duper niche, I just want people to listen and enjoy the music."
"You've got the case where a lot of Progressive Metal bands have really clean beautiful male vocals and then really brutal screams. Dan’s vocal style is kind of like a rock 'n' roll, grungy, really emotional voice over Prog which is something that gives us a particular sound that's really unique and kind of hard to place.
I do love movie soundtracks and stuff like that, people like Hans Zimmer for example, orchestral music, ambient stuff... I really get chills when I listen to stuff from soundtracks and video games; such as Battlefield.
Our drummer Jack used to make trap music, he used to make a lot of dubstep and stuff like that so that's crept its way into the band. I definitely appreciate dubstep for build up and suspense. I guess Prog Metal is kind of dubstep played with guitars, you kind of build it up percussively.
I think our music has a particular musicality and palatability at the same time. I love screams and complicated, percussive feels and breakdowns... whereas Dan's got a real mind for pop and structured melodies. When you combine the two, you get this sort of strange blend. You potentially get people who are normally into Meshuggah and Periphery style of music clashing against pop-influence metal."
Is learning music and music instruments encouraged by schools / colleges in Australia?
"I'd say so as much as anywhere else really, there's always school bands, school programs. There's always this constant reminder that it's an option or a path for you to go down, which I think is a really good thing."
Before now have you had any fans contact you from outside of Australia?
"Yeah we get messages on Instagram all the time. Since we started promoting the release internationally we’re suddenly getting fans from places like Latvia, Romania, you know all these places that we haven't considered as potential fan bases. It just makes us realise how big the world is.“
"Yeah we've got quite a few messages either personally or through the band page just saying that they found us over Instagram or YouTube, saying that they really like us and they want want to support us in any way in they can."
What is the Melbourne Metal scene like in general?
"Generally it's really good, it's definitely the best metal scene in Australia and there are a lot of bands from Brisbane, Adelaide and the other cities who go to great pains to get to Melbourne to do shows and gigs. We've been fortunate enough to play some really fantastic shows in Melbourne, so I'd say the scene is great. Unfortunately with the coronavirus everything has shut down, but I'm sure it will all wake up once this is over.
It's going to be a big deal as there's a lot of bands, not just in Australia but all over the world withholding releases and so when this is all over it's going to be insane."
Dan: "It's gonna be huge when it bounces back."
For metalheads visiting Melbourne, bars / venues and festivals could you recommend?
"That's kind of tricky because we actually live in Bendigo which is a 2 hour drive away from Melbourne, so we don't actually live in Melbourne.
Dan knows more about the venues than me. I've only just turned 18 and so I haven’t attended many things as a punter. Dan is 21 so he’s been to a lot of festivals and gigs."
"Venue wise there’s Festival Hall which has had a lot of really big acts play there. That’s personally one of my biggest goals… to play there, it's so iconic.
Another place I do like is Max Watts, it's like this kind of underground metal heaven really... it's just crazy and amazing, playing there was one of the best things ever. We supported Rhapsody there at the Southern Gathering festival which was awesome.
Aside from Download, there's a new festival that's just come out called 'Good Things' which is more towards Punk music, but over the past couple of years it's gotten heavier and had Parkway Drive headline last year; I went to that and it was absolutely phenomenal; there are some really good musicians.
[Edward chips in with Unified] Ahh! Unified is an awesome metal festival, alongside Download and Good Things, they are probably the 3 biggest metal festivals."
What are some of the everyday challenges that metal bands in Australia have to face?
"Certainly the biggest challenge musically would be trying to become well known, it's quite hard with music let alone being an Australian metal band."
"The thing is also we've got a country that's very large, something like 13 times the size of Germany and has a very sparse population. So if 1% of the population likes the music then out of the world's population that's like 709 million people, but with only 24 million in Australia it's considerably less with people being spread out. Plus it's hot so no one wants to do anything. It's just difficult trying to get that foothold and finding good bands to do shows with, finding a band that's within the niche Prog Metal / Djent, that sort of genre which is what we're going for.
The financial aspect also is there, if you're in Europe you'd play a gig and then could just pop through France. But we have to drive 10 hours and we've nearly reached Sydney! The distances here are vast. But we're really lucky, we live not far from Melbourne and it takes about 2 hours to get there for a gig"
What plans do you have for the back end of 2020 and going into 2021? Were any postponed?
"I think the ultimate goal from whatever means necessary is to do a UK / Europe tour (and to get our music out there). We just want this lockdown to end and for this thing to be over... we just want to do gigs."
"Yeah just play as much as possible in Melbourne, might travel up to Sydney and maybe Adelaide, but for now just want to focus on Melbourne and build on our following."
Have you got any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to fans, friends and family?
"Thanks to all our fans for sticking by us at the start, and to all of the new fans that come after 29th May, and to the stadium full of people (laughs)."
"Thank you to the families for supporting us, the band members for always being consistent. We've got a unique case where all of the band members (except Dan) go to school together so we're already absolutely best friends. Then we've got Dan who may as well be my older brother; comes to my house all the time, stuff like that. Great people we work with like Chris Themelco and Michael Lueders from Black Roos Entertainment who make our life just so much easier. Thanks to everyone who helps us out and supports us."
"Prophecy" is out 29th May via an Independent Release
"Like Michiganders do, by getting piss drunk. We are making it through this pandemic by pure spite (laughs)."
Into The Void are not your generic American Metal band nor are they willing to accept the term generic; we don't blame them. The Alternative Metal leviathan that resides within Edmore, Michigan, gave birth to it's debut album "The Way We Are" back in January and immediately garnered attention worldwide. Now with a lot of plans shelved or postponed, GMA found the time to interrogate the Michiganders (we learned a new word today) about how Into The Void came to be, the album itself, the Michigan scene and where metalheads can go in terms of venues.
Vocalist / rhythm guitarist Dan Hernandez, drummer Jordan Campbell and bassist Cameron Allen survived the interrogation. Lead guitarist Brad White did not.
Can you explain to us how Into The Void came about and what the band name means?
"Into The Void came to be basically from me getting tired of my own bulls**t. I spent a lot of years trying to write what I thought people wanted to hear and dancing around my words so I wouldn't make anybody upset. It never went anywhere and no one was listening so I kinda said f**k it, I want to write something that I want to hear and that is meaningful to me instead of trying to make songs for other people. I'll put it out there for me and if people like it, awesome. Everybody else joined later on. I didn't want it to be a solo project but that's definitely what it was for a hot minute (laughs). As for the name, it's essentially a jab at my own mental health. Most people think it's a Black Sabbath reference but I didn't even realize it was a Black Sabbath song until later on."
What was the reception like for your debut album "The Way We Are"? Was there any interest outside of the US?
"We've actually had great reception so far. There's a few that have said that it's not their particular style but no one has really been able to say they hated it. We've actually grown really fast, even despite COVID-19. We've actually received a good bit of interest from the European and Russian crowds which is exciting, and even a little bit from the South American scene."
Talk us through the album process, how long did it take to make, how did you decide upon lyric themes, etc?
"It took what felt like forever (laughs). This album was, I think, 4 years in the making. There's hundreds of demo songs that didn't make the cut. As far as themes and writing process, it's really just about my life at the time. It was as real and as raw as I could make it. I was struggling with alcoholism, anxiety, depression, and a lot of inner demons and I just kind of poured it all into the songs. After I had all these songs, I had someone who really believed in me say that they were willing to fund an album and get me started.
I finally found Josh (Wickman - Dreadcore Productions) and he was losing his mind with the demos and we really just clicked. We set up our first recording date and I practised all the parts and went in to record 'Old Habits'. About a month later I went in and did 'Blurry Eyed'. I released those as singles and started hunting for a band. During that time I recorded 'Better Off Dead', 'Ready When You Are', and 'Shallow Grave'. After going through quite a few people who just didn't quite fit; love them all and am glad I got to meet all of them; I finally met Jordan (Campbell - drums) and we hit it off. He learned the songs insanely fast. He and another friend introduced me to Cameron (Allen - bass) and that was that (laughs). We went back into the studio and did the title track and a couple others. We went back one more time and finished recording the rest of the album. It was a long and messy process for sure."
"I helped write 'Hindsight', mostly. I wrote the drum part, huge influences from Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit, and that marked the beginning of the end of the writing process it seemed. Shortly after that, we had the rest of it fleshed out and ready to record. I did my part, learned the last few of the songs we had to record; following that we hit the studio pretty hard. I think we were there for a week in total (myself only 2 days). I tracked all of my parts (5 songs) in 6 hours. The next day was editing that. Then everything else got thrown in pretty quickly. Mixing was the longest wait for me. It seemed like it was ready to go--but it wasn't. Once it got mastered, it flew out. Rather well received album, too. Not bad for our first FULL release, you know?"
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging? What sets you aside from the plethora of bands?
"Without genre tagging? I guess I'd have to say just dark, emotionally intense, and real. None of those sound like they set us apart but it's different from the common uses of those words in the metal scene (laughs). We've got a much different attitude than most people when it comes to our own music. It's not really following any trends or paying any attention to what others are doing. It's kind of like Nirvana meets Korn meets Slipknot meets Beartooth meets Deftones."
"A lot of people have mentioned that we have a defining rhythm to our music. It doesn't sound "generic" like we followed someone else's form. I think our combination of style influences helped with that. I drew my inspiration from punk rock, metal, and even jazz and marching percussion. I think what really sets us aside is that you can tell we play with purpose. We aren't just noodling around-so to speak. Our fills aren't just the same BS or extremely typical; they just make sense. It's perfect for people who relate to the lyrics and the emotion we convey. You can really relate to 'not being good enough' or 'I just want to be different'."
Given the current COVID-19 global pandemic, what plans did you have that are either cancelled or postponed?
"We had to cancel or postpone pretty much everything. We had plans to be releasing a music video in late April / early May but haven't been able to film. Had a bunch of shows that have been cancelled or postponed too. It's just been kind of rough. We really want to be out there promoting our stuff through live shows and meeting our fans and we don't really have any new music to release so everything's just been put on hold for us. Cameron, Jordan, and I all had to celebrate our birthday's from home as well."
"I had a few personal plans I wanted to do like dates, events, and just general 'vacation' days. With co-workers taking a lay off due to concerns with the virus, I was left to be one of the few who can do my job, so I ended up with more work than ever."
How are the folk in Michigan coping with the lockdown? Tell us about the situation there.
"Like Michiganders do, by getting piss drunk. We are making it through this pandemic by pure spite (laughs). No, but there are some people who are less than intelligent and they're out protesting and making us all look bad but most of us have really come together as a people and stayed the f**k home. We are tough people who love each other a whole hell of a lot and want everybody to be safe."
"I'm seeing a lot of people who are treating the lockdown as a loss of freedom we enjoyed as Americans. There was a rally in the capital, hundreds of people, maybe even a thousand or more all showed up. Traffic was backed up for a few miles, flags, signs... It has caused a shift in executive orders for sure. It's been incredible to see all the different kinds of people we have in the state of Michigan. We are a people who really enjoy being able to go and do what we want."
"What lockdown? This is god-damn Michigan. We ain't no bitches (laughs)."
For metalheads visiting your village of Edmore, or indeed your nearest city (Grand Rapids?) what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any bars, venues?
"There's really nothing to see out my way (laughs). A lot of the people around here call it Deadmore for a good reason. The nearest attraction is definitely the Soaring Eagle Casino though. Normally they have concerts going on all summer and have a smaller venue inside for the winter. Haven't really spent much time in Grand Rapids though. It's the closest big city to us. I know The Intersection is a pretty sick place and they have big shows at the Van Andel Arena. I've heard good things about Mulligan's Pub as well but I've never been there personally."
Do you have any greetings and thanks you wish to send out to friends, fans, family, etc?
"I just wanna say thank you to everyone who has supported us and enjoyed our music or at least given it a listen. We love you guys. Stay safe out there."
"Do not think that there was no heavy music in the USSR at all. Groups such as "Aria" and "Master" were prominent representatives of heavy metal and due to the fact that it was difficult for people to get albums of foreign bands, they became incredibly popular."
Promising Russian Melodic Death Metal outfit Drops Of Heart are set to unleash their second album "Stargazers" on the 22nd July and arguably is a huge step up from their debut, not just in terms of writing as the band went on to explain, but also the fact they recruited well known Swedish vocalists in Richard Sjunnesson from The Unguided (on "Frost Grip") and Bjorn Strid from Soilwork (on "Starlight"). 12 years have past since the bands inception and with this new album on the horizon, it was only fair for GMA to give the band a grilling... vodka was involved.
They divulged about the album writing process, challenges Russian Metal bands face in terms of recognition, touring and networking and how heavy music existed back in the Soviet Union era.
Guys you must be excited to drop your 2nd album "Stargazers", what (if anything) was done differently in comparison to "New Hope"? Will the new album be released on vinyl? Is Vinyl popular in Russia?
"It’s hard to explain, how much we are excited! Honestly, work on “Stargazers” was fundamentally different in comparison with “New Hope”. When we wrote our previous album, we suffered from a lack of professional experience. We didn’t know exactly how to do this. We tried to blindly imitate a sound of bands that influenced us and didn’t pay enough attention to the arrangements. Now the situation has changed radically. In “Stargazers” we wanted to reach the maximum of songs arrangements, make the whole album diverse and as entertaining for metal fans as it possible.
We can’t say anything about vinyl right now, but situation may change in the near future. If we talk about attitude to vinyl in Russia, it’s not as popular as in Europe or the USA, but this market is developing now, in comparison with CD."
Obviously COVID-19 has put a halt on a lot of events bands had planned, what events did you have planned that are no longer going ahead?
"Of course we planned a tour in support of the album, but the world situation made us stay home and deprived some of us of work."
On a greater scale can you tell us what the COVID-19 situation is like in Russia? What have you been doing outside of music in the mean time?
"The situation sucks. Not only because the number of infected is growing rapidly but also people's scepticism and dubious decisions of the authorities (the Government didn’t declare a state of emergency and made people stay home without salaries). Some of us work remotely, some stay home and have to wait."
Do you feel that Russian Metal has come a long way since the fall of the USSR? Do you know if rock / metal existed during the Soviet era?
"Metal in Russia was under a lot of pressure. The censorship of the USSR didn’t allow this genre to fully develop until the second half of the eighties, therefore, after its collapse, the bands had to create everything from scratch.
But years passed, globalization did its job, and the genre raised its head. But do not think that there was no heavy music in the USSR at all. Groups such as "Aria" and "Master" were prominent representatives of heavy metal and due to the fact that it was difficult for people to get albums of foreign bands, they became incredibly popular.
Unfortunately, there’s no world famous modern metal band from Russia nowadays. It’s really sad and we tried our best to make the world talk about Russian metal scene."
Looking towards the back end of 2020 and into early 2021, what plans do you have?; COVID-19 depending.
"After release of the album we will promote it online as possible. New merchandise, online live shows, maybe b-sides album. And, most importantly - due to the lack of tours, we plan to to record new songs as soon as possible. We recorded “Stargazers” for 3 years, and during this time we have accumulated a bunch of new material, which we are already eager to record and release."
It must be challenging to do a tour of Russia; do such tours exist? Given Moscow is 18 hours away?
"This is the biggest problem for beginner bands in our country. Big cities are located at a distance of 500 kilometres or more, and even a small tour can turn into a real adventure, for which new people in the field may simply not be ready. At the same time, problems can carry on if you have already covered this distance - today metal in Russia is going through difficult times, and it is sometimes very hard to gather a sufficient number of people in a not-so-well-known group."
For those metalheads visiting your city of Ufa, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any venues, bars, etc?
"Our city is full of Bashkir folk influences and bars with pop-cover-bands, so it’s probably the most difficult question, huh. But we have a really nice historical centre and some really good pubs like “Harat’s” or “Jagger”. By the way, our vocalist Denis brews great beer himself!"
Do you have any greetings, thanks, etc that you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"First of all, we want to wish all people in the world to be strong and brave in this hard time. It’s important not to bow down and support each other. And we will try to make you a little happier with our music. Stay metal!"
"It's better for us to stay underground, it might turn really hostile if we went big in our home town"
It goes without saying that alongside Crescent, Scarab are spearheading the Egyptian Metal scene on the international front, although they are definitely humble in their origins and yet pushing harder than ever to reach new heights. Having released their 4th album "Martyrs Of The Storm" back in March via ViciSolum Productions, it was only fair for GMA to interrogate their frontman Sammy Sayed about the band's humble origins, the challenges bands in Egypt face, the lack of a fully functional scene i.e. barely any venues, media or market as such, why the album being released on vinyl was a dream come true and something about a word made up by guitarist Al Sharif Marzeban - that word? 'Verminejya'.
What was the reception like for "Martyrs Of The Storm"? What was the feedback like in Egypt; was there any resistance?
"I think it's very contradictory because somehow people related to it as it was something a little bit different to what we are doing; songs are heavier, shorter and more complex. So some people didn't really feel it, maybe it takes a while for it grow on them, and on the other hand we have also been showered with an intense positive feedback. But I believe that it is mainly controversial and that's a good thing; it got people to think and that's a good thing, perhaps it's not just music the you can listen to it and enjoy it, you have to dig deeper into it I believe.
And in regards to any resistance in our home town... Not at all, because anyway this kind of music is underground and I don't believe there will be any kind of market for metal - we try to push for this to happen, but it didn't happen and I don't think it will happen on a major scale. But for the Egyptian Metal scene itself, so far I think people are really digging the album, especially in Egypt because the inspiration comes from here, it comes from what we're going through energetically and it just speaks to them I guess, so they can relate and feel it."
"Martyrs Of The Storm" was released through ViciSolum Productions, will you sign with another label in the future?
"That is not something we have in mind right now, what we have in mind right now is working harder. With the album, we believe that it's not just music any more and the message has to artistically expand in the sense of more material to come in order to support the release, more things that we should say in order to explain what this album may represent or what it may mean for us. I don't know about expanding, so far ViciSolum have been really good to us and that's all what we need and this is something I would leave for the future; basically we are very happy with ViciSolum anyway."
Would you say this is the most ambitious album Scarab has ever done?
"It is to me, not just because of how musically it would sound, but the process itself of creating the album was much different to what we've gone through... we've learned a lot through this album and it's like... we were trying to perfect something and I believe there is nothing like called perfection but it is as perfect as it can get, I believe this is the most sacred work that we have done so far and it's an evolution of anything that we have attempted to do in all ways shapes and forms. "Martyrs Of The Storm" is the purification of Scarab's past."
From "Martyrs Of The Storm" which is your favourite song and why?
"This is a very hard question because we come up with the concept and I interpret the concept later on after the work has been finished, because our way of working (Marz and I) in terms of writing and composing music, it's like channelling or something - so for me when I started to write the lyrics it was also a from of automatic writing. I would unite with the energy of the song and Marz would give me the song titles mainly and I would start to contemplate and follow synchronicities of writing lyrics for the song depending on what it feels like. In the end what I want to say is to choose one song is hard because to us and to me, it feels like the Egyptian tree of life where the leaves are our chapters and every leaf is so important, it's like the human body.
But if you insist on me choosing then I would go with the first song 'Martyrs Of The Storm', because I think it speaks of what the album is going to be about, what the other tracks would be about - like a good introduction."
Can you tell us what the word 'Verminejya' in the song title 'Circles Of Verminejya' means?
"Ha-ha it doesn't mean anything, the title and concept of the song came from Marz and he was like telling me about the 'Circles Of Verminejya', so OK it's not English, it's not any language, it's a made-up-word and so I was like OK so what does it mean? What the f**k does Verminejya mean? He's like 'Verminejya' means danger, it's a magical word, you get the point? It's not something that linguistically means anything but the energy behind it means something. So we started to interpret it and he's like I think it's about Africa, it's about the tradition, the religion and the magic of Africa. We don't like to stick to gimmicks in the sense of trying to act like we are something from 4,000 years ago, so with this song it's like a magical mix between Voodoo in Africa and Ancient Egypt, what it would be like if we mixed both into one thing... that's what Verminejya is, it's a kind of a realm where the magician or priest would hop into a dance ritual for the gods; it's like a magical war. That's what Verminejya is, it's dancing in magical wars furiously, manoeuvring dangerous. It can be taken as a mantra and that's what I think it means for us."
What do your parents think of Scarab's music? Are they very supportive?
"They are very supportive, no one interfered; I'm lucky, there is a lot of freedom when it comes to my family. They never had a problem with the idea of 'what the f**k are you doing, why are you singing like that?' or anything like this. From my father or mother or any member of the family, they always thought of me as this weird kid who was an artist and is crazy, just leave him be."
Do you feel that it's becoming ever more important for bands to reflect their national culture?
"I guess so, but I have to say that I'm not sure if we fell into this idea of acting, the idea of music not being honest would lead it turning into a gimmick. But at the same time I think it's very important for bands to reflect their culture through their music, but it's not an obligation - if you don't feel it, do what you feel. There is one thing that I really hate, how can I explain this, it's not kind of a product where you are going to manufacture and represent, you know this kind of thinking? I hate it because for me, music is very spiritual and if you feel it, do it. If you feel that you have a message to be spoken about, then go ahead and do that, don't think that 'oh because I'm from Egypt, what is it that would make me different from others, I have to stand out' and then sell yourself as a manufactured product... that way of thinking for me, I am really trying not to judge but it's too commercial for me. And it is easy to spot it, simply honest music will always reach the heart."
Over the years you've had a number of line-up changes, were these all amicable or were there discrepencies?
"A little bit of both. We've been together as the same line-up until 2014, so from 2006 until late 2014 / early 2015 we started to have different views, interests, things like this. You know when you have had a relationship for a long time, that's how it is. I think we needed a break and some people just needed to break-up from this thing and I wouldn't say musical differences, it's about losing an interest somehow. The people who left had lost the interest in the essence of what they're doing and lost love towards the entity of Scarab itself, so they left; only Tarek Amr took a break and returned back again.
The only hard thing to do was to replace them, for Scarab it's not business but more of a friendship; we grew up together and have been through a lot, it's friendship before musicianship and so it was really hard to find the right people to replace them; that is the hardest thing we've been through, it was only Al Sharif Marzeban and myself whom were left to serve the band and in terms of writing the music that's fine, but in terms of finding people that can give the right energy, dedication, chemistry, just everything - that's really hard to find until Stephen Moss from the UK (who is a very good friend of ours) helped to record "Martyrs of the Storm" with Al Sharif Marzeban, then he departed.
We're still friends until now, the only reason I think this is not happening between us any more is actually the distance, that's the main problem; but now we're fine, Tarek Amr is back as a guitarist again and we have a new bassist Ahmed Abdel Samad, after another great bassist from the UK helped to record "Martyrs Of The Storm" (Arran McSporran from De Profundis and Virvum) as a recording musician.
It took us from around 2015 until 2020 to find the right people that we could feel right to us, because being a Death Metal band in Egypt is like 'swimming against tides', 'going through the abyss', something like that."
With exception of say Scarab, Crescent and say Mythos, do you feel the Egyptian Metal scene has yet to be fully recognised on the international stage?
"I believe so very much because, speaking from my own point of view when it first started, when I first started in trying to perform, most of the bands were cover bands and very early on you would find some who would make their own music. But right now it's the other way round actually, which is a very positive thing, there are a lot of bands right now writing their own music, playing and recording their own music. Back in 2009 there was this disbelief about the idea that any band that plays metal music would be able to break through internationally anyway, it was not possible at that time because there was no one else that had done it as far as I know.
I don't know if we were kind of lucky but we worked hard and luck served us, and we won 'battle of the bands' in Dubai and therefore played Desert Rock Festival alongside Nervecell (The UAE) who are our long-time friends and on the main stage of With Full Force Festival (DE) 2009 and that was the turning point, because for us it was a dream come true and was unbelievable like what the f**k is going on, it's how it felt like 'what was going on, is this magic?'. At the same time, it was an eye-opener I believe for a lot of great bands in Egypt, because there is not only just Scarab, there are other bands that are really good at what they do... the eye-opener is that 'yeah it can happen.'
I wouldn't say that Scarab is the reason why, maybe we were just mediums for this to happen, it could have been anyone else, it was bound to happen anyway, but Scarab was ready and that is why it happened to us. Also there are two bands who I feel are very successful right now, they are Crescent (Black / Death Metal); back in the days they were playing Black Metal and then they changed their theme into Ancient Egyptian theme and are now their music is being distributed through Listenable Records and have also performed a lot abroad - big festivals...
Also Odious who are a Symphonic Black Metal band from Alexandria, they've also performed abroad and they do tours, and their music is distributed worldwide. This is a good thing and there are a lot of other good bands that are coming up and I think that the more of this happening, the more it will lead the scene to expand at least internationally, not here... maybe I'm pessimistic OK? But I believe that if this kind of music went big and there was a market here, if you could actually tour Egypt and things like that, I think it's going to be negative, I'm really sorry but I think this is what's going to happen for the time being.
It's better for us to stay underground, it might turn really hostile if we went big in our home town I believe so - that's my own opinion."
Given the COVID-19 situation, what are some of the plans that Scarab had that are still intact (if any?).
"Now that everything is cancelled for everyone, so no shows, no tours, nothing, I think what we will be doing is writing new material... but before writing new material we will try to serve the album and maybe do more video material for every track... that's mainly what we are going to be doing and trying to figure out how 2021 would go, and if we're going to be booking shows... I think that's what we will be working on, but mainly since there is a lot of time we will be working on more video material."
For those metalheads visiting Cairo or indeed Egypt as a whole under normal circumstances, aside from the Pyramids, would sights / attractions could you recommend?
"Well man that's the problem, there are no metal bars in Egypt, not as far as I know and metal shows happen every now and then; it depends on the luck or the research the person who listens to metal is going to visit Egypt in the hope of finding metal stuff, I don't think that's possible unless there's a show. There is Metal Blast Festival, I believe that's a great festival in Egypt because they host international acts like Swallow The Sun, I don't remember what else but they bring decent international acts and make local Egyptian bands open for them. So this is a very positive thing and I hope there is more of this. There are no venues, there is only El Sawy Culture Wheel, in Zamalek, Cairo and there is also, it depends but there is also the Cairo Jazz Club in Agouza, Giza which you can play at as a metal band.
I would recommend anyone to visit south Sinai to see Saint Catherine's Monastery as well as the beach on the red sea, and also would recommend them to go on to the complete otherwise in Siwa - there is a lot of magic there. I believe these are the the two places that really speak of the essence of Egypt."
Given the resurgence of vinyl, what are your thoughts on Scarab's music being pressed on LP?
"I'm very happy for it because for me I've always had this as a dream to have Scarab's music on vinyl or record, however cheesy that may sound, but it is to me, the band, Al Sharif Marzeban - Marz was like I wish "Martyrs Of The Storm" would go on vinyl. We didn't ask for it, actually what happened was that Thomas from ViciSolum, as soon as I sent him the final master he was like 'this has to go on vinyl' and then that's when I started to think, I wanted to make the vinyl a bit different than the CD and also the digital version.
The CD is like a seamless kind of run, it feels like if you are listening to one song; all the tracks enter each other, but with the vinyl it's 5 songs on Side A and the other 5 on Side B - the energy of the first 5 songs on Side A is lighter before it gets darker on Side B with the last 5 songs. Like Side A is rage and anger, Side B is evil. Metaphorically speaking Side A would be the sun, Side B would be the moon. Side B has more of this Black Metal touch to it hidden inside somewhere."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out to friends, family, fans etc?
"Yeah of course I want to thank everyone who supported us throughout the years, and all the musicians that have their energy in some way or shape in the album, the guitarists that Marz invited - Karl Sanders, Joe Haley to name a few, and basically everyone that had their hands into this collaboration. All of our fans, their patience, believing in us, Thomas from ViciSolum for believing in us and being patient for 5 years for us to actually put this together during this hindrance and hardships that we were going through in finding the right members. I wish everyone will stay safe through this process of transition in 2020, wish them peace, growth and wisdom".
"isolation isn’t that bad when you’re a nerd and play video games a lot (you’re already kind of used to that lifestyle anyway)."
It's never easy standing out from the crowd when you play a genre that's arguably oversaturated, but there is always a way to make your music slightly more noticeable than others. Just ask Spanish Progressive Metalcore horde Flat Earth Society who seem to have found their rhythm and beat in 'la vida loca' that is the music industry. Having unleashed their debut album "Friends Are Temporary, Ego Is Forever" via Art Gates Records, it comes as no surprise that the quartet are licking their lips at what late 2020 and early 2021 could be winging their way. Given this achivement it was only fair for GMA to interrogatel the Madrileños and find out how they formed as a band, what metalheads can do in Madrid, what makes up their sound and what emotions were like signing to legendary Spanish label Art Gates Records.
Could you give us a brief history of Flat Earth Society, who came up with the band name and were you in bands previously?
"We came together from different bands actually. Alex and Carlos were part of a band that was kind of dying and we already had some decent songs built up back then (which are part of the album) and we wanted to see them fruition.
Drummers in Madrid (or in general) are very lackluster, so Alex receives lots of offers (besides him being really good at the instrument). He eventually auditioned for A Blackened Sight, which Jesús and Daniel were part of. After signing in with them, he noticed Daniel’s vocal prowess and told him about our idea. Daniel liked the project and joined in. Jesús eventually teamed up as well with us, playing bass instead of guitar (his regular instrument). Later on we found Guillem and he proved to be the perfect fifth for our band and signed him up right away.
The name came quite randomly. We were brainstorming ideas and the situation degenerated quickly, proposing dumber names each time. We chose the name Flat Earth Society because we thought it would be funny to parody that way of thinking while our lyrics treat scientific topics (Disarray, The Gravity Paradox, The Cataract). Later on we decided to just write whatever lyrics we wanted (Danko, Daniel’s dog, Ligma, a meme disease from Twitch etc…)."
You recorded your debut album 'Friends Are Temporary, Ego Is Forever' last year, talk us through the creation process and the album title meaning?
"Usually each one of us writes music on its own and then we put it in common. Then we decide which ideas we like and learn them to rehearse them. Then we start playing them over and over while introducing arrangements along the way until we like the final result. Then we took what we had to studio with Alex Cappa and Pablo Rousselon.
We originally wanted to release a 5-song EP after recording these tracks, but after signing in with Art Gates Records we decided to take their advice and put out a full LP, so we went back to studio and recorded Legfist, CC Chain and Tortuga. We feel the meaning of the title speaks for itself, although there are open interpretations about it. We’d rather people try to figure it out on their own."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genres? What / who are your influences in and outside metal?
"Our sound is pretty experimental, we think that in a way some of our instrumentals are pretty ambiental, most of our songs are harmonious and pretty melody based, the rough part comes mostly with the vocals and the drums in certain parts. we classify our music as emotionally aggressive.
The most notorious influences reflected in this album may come from August Burns Red, Erra, Veil of Maya, Born of Osiris, Tesseract and maybe Periphery and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Outside Metal we have various influences, such as Salsa music, Flamenco, mostly hispanic music."
What was it like for you signing with such a prestigious label in Art Gates Records? Who initiated the contact first?
"We already had contact with them due to a friend who collaborated in the past with Noctem and AGR, so he recommended us. We showed them part of our music and the general idea around the project and the album. They liked it and we moved forward with it. Everything was going smooth until the recent crisis. Working with them has been an enormous learning experience regarding how things are done the right way for a band who wants to reach far away places. Now we have to wait until things get better and see how we can resume our course."
As Spain is amidst a lock down due to COVID-19, what have you been doing at home; both in and outside of music?
"We’re doing relatively fine considering the lockdown we’re suffering in Spain right now. However isolation isn’t that bad when you’re a nerd and play video games a lot (you’re already kind of used to that lifestyle anyway). Stay home folks, don’t risk your health or other people’s"
For metalheads visiting your home town / city (where?) what sights / attractions could you recommend (under normal circumstances)?
"You gotta check Madrid’s down-town, lot of museums, lot of great architecture and if you are a fan, you gotta check Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s stadiums. If you ever come here under normal circumstances, be sure to also check the local food."
What plans do you have for the foreseeable future (COVID-19) depending and what has already been cancelled?
"Most of what we had already talked through has been cancelled as for anyone else in the industry. We will try to take the album to the stages in and out of Spain as soon as it is logistically possible."
"There's stuff happening (on band releases), and hopefully 2020 will end up being a golden year for Faroese metal."
Having released their 2nd EP 'Ódn' last year to widespread acclaim, the Faroese Melodic Doom / Death Metallers Hamferð are eternally grateful for the achievements they have made during the past 12 years. Sadly however 2020 marked a tricky time for the band as guitarist John Egholm left the band, that but also the global pandemic the whole world is grappling with in COVID-19; putting a halt to the vast majority of the bands plans. We speak to guitarist Theodor Kapnas about the reception their latest EP attracted, the challenges Faroese Metal bands face, the inspiration behind their on-stage attire and the COVID-19 situation on the Faroe Islands.
You released your 2nd EP 'Ódn' last year, what was the reception like and will there be a new album in 2021?
"The EP has been very well received. It does feel different from our other records though. One of the songs is a live recording of "Deyðir varðar" from 2015 which we did during the total solar eclipse, and the second one is a live recording from our release show in 2018 of our oldest song, "Ódn", which we've performed live extensively but have never released until now. So even if we released it as a new EP it's technically older material. People seem to have enjoyed it, and we're really happy to have the tracks out there.
We are working on new material and have quite a bit written, but it's too early to promise any release dates. I do hope that it'll be in 2021 though."
You may well have been asked this many times, could you tell us about the idea behind your stage attire (being suits) - who came up with it, etc?
"The stage suits are part of the original idea behind Hamferð. John founded the band because he was inspired to create Doom Metal in Faroese, and one of the main ideas was that our live show should be inspired by the atmosphere of a funeral. Traditional funeral wear in The Faroe Islands is either traditional Faroese clothes or a black suit, white shirt and black tie to a funeral. So the suit idea came quite naturally. It's something we feel works well for our shows, so we've stuck with it and probably will keep on doing so for the foreseeable future."
For those who cannot speak a word of Faroese, can you offer some tips in how to sing along to your music?
"That's a tricky one. I guess you can just learn the songs phonetically. We've all sung along to songs while having absolutely no idea what the lyrics were about. One way would also be to make your own version of misheard lyrics of the songs. And if someone does that please let us know, we'd love to see them!"
Are the Faroe Islands in lock down? If so what have you been doing at home both musically and in other hobbies?
"First and foremost, The Faroe Islands isn't in lockdown. Large gatherings are banned and social distancing rules are applied, but shops are open and a lot of people are still going to work. But it does of course leave you with more alone time than usual. This has given me time to be able to finish a few musical projects which have been laying around for too long, which now lets me focus fully on continuing with writing the next Hamferð record. I was supposed to do quite a bit of touring as sound engineer during the spring, but that has obviously been cancelled. The rest of the guys live in different places and have been affected in different ways, but this situation affects all of us.
When it comes to hobbies I've done the usual, I love being outdoors and now I suddenly have time for a lot of hiking, fishing, diving etc... The main difference is that people are now trying to avoid seeing other people and are therefore heading out of the towns. So hikers have appeared absolutely everywhere."
Would you say the Faroese Metal scene is growing stronger each year or has it been a rocky journey?
"The Faroe Islands is a very small place, so the metal scene moves in waves. A few years ago we had a lot of active metal bands, but as our generation has been getting older more and more guys have stopped playing that has obviously affected things. I don't think kids feel that it's as cool to be in a band as we did when we were teenagers, so there have been fewer new bands popping up.
Having said that, we still have some really good bands in The Faroes, and 2020 is looking like a very strong release year for Faroese metal. I can recommend checking out the band Ótti, which features two Hamferð members. They just released their debut album, definitely worth a listen. Impartial and Asyllex have also released new stuff, and I know that Goresquad and Iron Lungs are releasing new stuff this year. So there's stuff happening, and hopefully 2020 will end up being a golden year for Faroese metal.
What (in your opinion) are the biggest challenges facing the new crop of metal bands coming up the ranks in the Faroes?
"The challenges are the same as they have always been. The audience in The Faroes is limited, and it's harder than ever to find a rehearsal space which is a challenge for a lot of bands. However, the work that Upp Við Hornunum has done with local events and the Wacken Metal Battle competition has really helped. Bands have been given an incentive to perform live, and it has never been easier to get in contact with people from the international metal industry."
What plans for the year ahead do you have (COVID-19 depending); did you have before this pandemic?
"We have a few shows coming up later this year, if that will be allowed by that time. But apart from that this year is set aside to write a new record. We can hopefully start recording that later this year or early next year. So that's where most of our focus lies at the moment."
Do you have any greetings or thanks you wish to send out? Any final words?
"Stay safe out there everyone, wash your hands and we'll hopefully see all of you when this virus situation is over..."