Russian band Trna have not made things easy for themselves and after their well-received ‘Lose Yourself To find Peace’, they’ve adopted the genre indication blackgaze. A style indicator usually associated with those bands black metallers are eager to avoid. Nonetheless, it seems fitting in the navel-gazing haze that is Trna to use this term.
‘Earthcult’ is a more verdant record, that takes you into the splendor of nature. Not sure if that’s intended, yet it is the effect the music has on me. It is the third release from the Saint-Petersburg trio in a relatively short period of time and like the previous ones it is well worth to give a listen.
The blast beats immediately call you to attention as the record opens with the title track. A brief burst of brutality soon melts away in the lush realm of the dense atmosphere, like that of a great forest. The black metal elements are there, but soaring above is an almost ethereal melody, more akin to postrock bands in both energy and soothing beauty. The music truly flows, even more so on the rhythm driven ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’, which is a great track to just ride along with.
What I find most peculiar and fascinating about Trna, is how they blend that postrock feeling with black metal ferocity, to create something truly strong and condensed. As an everflowing stream, their music rolls ever onward, like a river through the forests, in violent turmoil but with a natural harmony on ‘The Heart of Time’. On ‘Thaw’, the band truly opens the floodgates and I feel like I’m listening to Amusement Parks on Fire or RedSparowes. A magnificent outpouring that touches the heart through the ear. Trna have truly moved on to greatness on this record.
Bolivia is a South-American nation, still struggling at some fronts to become one of the stable entities on the continent. Life is interesting there and the metal they play is fierce and proud. Two words that aptly describe black metallers OscuroMito. Often overshadowed by other nations, like Brazil, in music, they are carving out their place on the map.
Bolivia is a nation without an obvious origin, perhaps even more in existence for the mutual benefit of its elements. South-America, like Africa in a way, was chopped up by colonial powers and when nations declared independence, the shape had little to do with any original ethnicities or state-entities.
Bolivia’s borders have been sifting through the years and even in 2003 a dispute raged with Chile over part of the nation’s borders. Oscuro Mito expresses a particular part of the ancient cultures, which have become muddled through the ages, unfortunately. I had some questions for the band and vocalist Fernando and guitar player Andres had time to answer them.
Dancing untill death follows with Oscuro Mito
Hey guys, how are you doing? Can you introduce yourself?
Fernando here, I’m the vocalist
Hey! Andres, here I’m guitarist and make some chorus
We are the founders of Oscuro Mito
How did Oscuro Mito get started? How did you guys meet and what got you into metal in the first place?
Back in October 2008, Armin, Fernando, and Andres decided to make something different mixing music common among them. They used Black Metal and folkloric Bolivian music (it would be Andean music more precisely). Bolivian Traditions and tales are full of stories, experiences, and myths; we chose to talk about that traditions, but we only took that dark gloomy and those that have mystic energy.
As an influence, you name bands like Bathory and Windir alongside Bolivian folk groups. Can you tell me what you took from these Scandinavian bands and what you found appealing in them? Following that, how did you bring these two aspects together?
It had started as a rebellion, burning churches as a repudiation of Christianity. Throwing what it had been self-imposed and embrace back what you are as sons of Odin, it was the clear message. Oscuro Mito are not Scandinavian, Oscuro Mito is from Bolivia.
In your music, you put ancestral legends of the Inca and Aymara heritage. What made you chose to do this and can you also shed some light on what sort of stories these are for people who are completely unfamiliar with it?
Because Scandinavian speak their own heritage and people from Bolivia should talk about their own.
How do you make sure your sound is black metal, but not in the Scandinavian style. What to you makes your music similar but at the same time distinct?
That’s a really good question you know, I think it’s only the feeling when you do compose the songs. I think music leaves things on your soul and this comes out when you are making music. Music is about feelings it’s been said, and you hear this on Oscuro Mito, it’s music inspired on Black Metal from the north but it’s done by Bolivians and it doesn’t have to sound like the north.
We use traditional instruments on all three songs on our demo. About song structures I’d rather say that we mix traditional rhythms than structures, and example is ‘Danza en trance’, it mixes a traditional rhythm called pujllay and electric guitars and metal riffs, basically in this song we used this rhythm for the chorus and verses.
I’ve been listening to your demo/EP ‘Mientras las nubes ciegan la luna…’. The sound is very specific, very unique and I find it very captivating. Can you tell me how you shaped this sound and of course this record and did you find any inspiration in bands that approached black metal similarly?
The three songs were inspired by Bolivian traditions/myths. We tried to concentrate that energy on these topics on the sound of the music. ‘Murmullos de espectros’ is a very common tale that happens on the countryside in a small town. A goblin that lurks in the trees scares a person who was kind of drunk and was going home. So basically, it’s the energy taken by the goblin and the rush to get home.
‘Danza en trance’ is an old underground tradition where a person dances until dying, mixed with a traditional rhythm called ‘pujllay’ (this word is in Quechua another ancient tongue spoken in Bolivia). I think we have found on this song a good mix between metal and Bolivian folklore. It is also very the preferred song for our fans, it also has a video clip that you might like to see.
‘Danza en trance’ is a tradition that has a person dancing until dead. This idea would call your attention, wouldn’t it? Dancing till dead, who would ever dance till they die. It has to be something else… who would choose dance till dead? The answer comes with the culpability of something. Something that makes you feel really bad until the point you want to die. Betraying and killing your best friend for nothing, Killing your mother or whatever really bad to get you broken and wishing to die. This kind of stories on somehow chills you or scare you. This kind of stories is what we want to talk about.
Then we have ‘Luz naciente’ represents a well-known tradition, it is the Inca’s new year tradition that is celebrated on 21 of June Most likely it is on Bathory music in Twilight of the gods or Hammerheart discs. You can hear in ‘Danza en trance’ some chorus that has been used as Bathory started to use with clean voices.
Also ‘murmullos de espectros’ moves to a more black metal sound perhaps touching something of Windir or traditional black metal.
I think the 3 songs are talking about the same, thanks for asking this question and I think what is explained on this, it’s the key for understanding the Oscuro Mito demo.
I’ve gathered that you use traditional instruments in your music. What instruments are those and can you describe them? Do you also use them in a live setting and what is the motivation to put these in your music?
Yes, they are called Andean wind instruments; they vary in the size and the sound they produce. We can have zamponia, quena, quenacho, malta, zanca and toyos. All of them look like a pipe maiden of wood, quite like a flute but wider and large. When you blow they produce a sound depending on the length and width.
Yes, we use these instruments alive. We are not Oscuro Mito if the winds are not present, we are dependent on them.
What process do you follow in creating new music? Do the traditional elements have an effect on the songwriting? Do you start with a story or maybe with music and what roles do all band members have?
I can say we didn’t follow a specific flow on composing the songs. Each song followed a different way like writing first the lyrics than the music, thinking about the wind melody and then the guitars, or having a complete song then doing the winds arrangements.
We also said we wanted to compose a song for a specific myth and then I came with a couple of melodies, then each one gave the remaining pieces.
What sort of experience is a live show by Oscuro Mito? As you find inspiration in black metal, do you also apply the ritual elements to a live show?
We are making to watch OscuroMito performance a good experience, we have corpse painting as our basic beliefs, headbanging, chorus with the people and I think we transmit the energy set on our music. Once we have a presentation where a person with the same mask that is on ‘Danza en trance’ danced along this song.
South America has a rich and vibrant metal scene all over, but some countries are lesser known here for their metal music. I’m curious if you can tell me a bit about the scene in Bolivia, about its history and bands that really shaped the scene.
It has started in the 90s very narrow, there were a bunch of bands though. Very few are active now: Subvertor, Hate, Bael, Estertor, InfernalMalice, Lilith, and Subterfugio are some names to share on that starting.
Other great bands that are and they are not active I can mention: Necromancy, Katalepsy, Sabathan, Track, BestialHolocaust and AtmosferaFunebre.
What are things like in a more practical sense? I understand there are quite some cool festivals happening. Are there plenty of places to play and is everything like instruments, rehearsal spaces, studios etcetera easily accessible for metalheads or is it more DIY?
The only problem I’d say is that the music is not well supported; you cannot live here doing metal so for that the studio is not quite accessible.
Yes, there are good amounts of places for shows, most of them are pubs. Nowadays the scene is getting bigger I think because of the internet and its easy way to spread the news there.
Often we take liberties for granted here in my country, so I’m curious if you can sing about whatever you want and if the metal music is tolerated in Bolivia. Is there any sort of censorship or public discouragement?
Not at all, there are shows every city most of the weekends. There are many bands here in Bolivia. You can sing whatever you want.
What bands from your part of the world should people really check out and why?
We’d probably lead you to really big bands and you’d probably think we would, but not, I’d say look into the very bottom of the box you will find really interesting things. Such as the case of Al-Namrood or other middle east bands. I think when you feel and like the things you are doing, you will do some of the best work in music, especially if it is metal.
So you have to look for it, sometimes it takes hard but it worths.
What makes it important for you to put your Bolivian identity in your music?
I’d say it’s kind of a pride of our origins, but I’d say it’s something philosophic idea for our lives, ‘first embrace your culture then you will who you really are’. We admire our culture, we try to honor our culture and we think this can be shared with music as well.
Are you working on any new releases? And what future plans do you have?
We are finishing a new work with 10 songs, and then we will start the production of this work. We are planning to have this ready in next three months.
Alright, if you had to compare Oscuro Mito to a type of food, what food would it be and why?
Well… it would’ve been something very traditional very Bolivian. It would’ve been a very spicy ‘pique macho’.
Thanks for the patient, thanks for your time, thanks for all!
Label: Grandad Records Band; Antre/Underdark Origin: United Kingdom
Underdark is a gritty sounding band from Nottingham, who combine screamo and black metal. Their message seems to be both in the Forgotten Realms and anti-fascist, with a name referring to the dark under-realms of evil dark-elves. The Britons have one EP to their name and plenty of shows on the calendar.
Antre hails from the same parts, and you can find the bands Bandcamp page here. These guys, likewise, have one EP out. Both groups add one song to this split, with pretty bad-ass cover art that I find, makes the record more appealing instantly.
Whether it’s a nod to Mortiis or not, ‘The Smell of Autumn’ by Underdark has an environmental take on the topic of rain and the unique scent it leaves in the air. The hazy riff sounds lazy, it hangs in the air as the omnipresent smell the autumn brings, with its lingering haze. Thudding drums keep the focus on the sharp guitar play, thanks to the dulled sound, as the atmospheric black metal progresses slowly. When it does pick up the pace, it somehow feels muffled, distant and reminds the listener of the distance between the self and the natural realm. One we slowly destroy with our human inventions.
Antre takes a more melodic approach, bringing down vast waves of sound, that surge over the listener. The sound is pleasant, yet remains strong and comes on in full force during this track. The vocals are uttered in a foul, harsh bark, which makes them mildly hard to make out, but then again isn’t that a regular feature in the genre? In a constant onslaught, the band hammers down on the listener. Never relenting with a harrowing beauty to their sound.
A small taste of a new breed of bands. Make sure to check them out for more endeavors.
Label: Self-released Band: A Cunning Man Origin: Scotland
This duo of metallers hails from Scotland, where they formed the project A Cunning Man. This is their second EP after the futuristic looking debut. It shows a hint of fantasy-themes in the nifty artwork and all-over atmosphere of the work, titled ‘To Heal A Broken Body’.
Ged Cartwright and Theo Le Derf bring some very different perspectives together in their music, which sounds unique and different from the very start onwards. Thanks to the particular musical expression, they stand out and will definitely not appeal to any listening ear in a positive manner. Something the duo is probably well aware of.
What stands out instantly is the build-up of the songs, which is almost cinematic in its singular grandeur and focussed approach. The music really seems a bit cut and pasty at times, all to provide a frame for the vocals of Cartwright on ‘ Lemegeton & The Leaden Saviour’. The vocal style is more or less proggy with a clear pronunciation of the words that I can only really compare to early Marillion.
Every track refers to ancient books of esoteric wisdom and magic, and so does the second title ‘Picatrix & The Calcine Alchemist’. Noteworthy are the audio samples, where we hear a lady speak words in a thick Scottish accent. The songs have a grand build-up and remarkable charm to them. Even though some of the music feels a bit to contrived, it works in the end in an intense and overwhelming manner. We close off with the sweeping, majestic ‘Abramelin & The Silver Hand’, which sticks to lyrics that play with the title themes, but builds it into something harder to grasp, difficult to really comprehend and grab.
I have to say I really enjoyed this record, regardless of its strange sound and nature. The delivery is powerful and genuine, and the songs are well composed and layered. A pretty odd, but surprising listen.
Label: Seasons of Mist Band: Drudkh Origin: Ukraine
Into the vast east with Drudkh
I have little understanding for the way many Ukrainian bands seem to be disregarded. Drudkh is amongst those that are often shunned, due to alleged politics. It is true that Roman Saenko, the brain behind the band, was once a part of HateForest. A band now considered problematic in certain circles. But perhaps, metal should not care about that kind of circles anyways? I don’t have the answer to that, but I can tell you that this record is great.
Drudkh may be one of the best atmospheric black metal bands in the world and would be lauded for that if not for these politics. That means they technically are according to me. This is the eleventh album by the band from Ukraine in their existence and production remains high and qualitative as ever on this fine record. Notable is the cover, that shows an urban environment and not the traditional type of art the band uses. It perhaps embodies a slight shift in its course, but it’s definitely not to the detriment of the music.
The opening riff grabs the listener instantly. The dark melancholy, weary expression and torment in the vocals all pull at the heartstrings instantly. It hits where it hurts, right in the heart. ‘Накрита неба бурим дахом…’ clocks about 10 minutes of music that defies words. Ever stood in the cold wind, at precisely the moment when the cold breaks through your warm coat? That shiver is where the piercing voice, the swooping guitars and rattling drums come from.
The sharp guitars lace the songs, particularly on a track like ‘Vechirniy Smerk Okutuye Kimnaty…’, where meandering melodies take the listener along on the path Drudkh walks. Most remarkable to me is always how the flow really keeps you into it. Listening to the band is like taking one of those theme park rides, where you are constantly filled with wonder and awe as your ride takes you from section to section. When the vocals come in, the flow opens and gives space for the words to be uttered clearly (though in guttural vocals obviously), before closing once again. The final track resounds strongly. ‘Bilyavyi Den’ Vtomyvsya I prytykh…’ feels like a continuous progression to the summit, the peak of the album.
But I’m not because Doctor McCoy is right in pointing out the enormous danger potential in any contact with life and intelligence as fantastically advanced as this. But I must point out that the possibilities, the potential for knowledge and advancement is equally great.
Risk is our business.
That’s what this starship is all about.
That’s why we’re aboard her.
– Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek TOS ‘Return to Tomorrow’
Watching sci fi, then and now
I watched scifi tv-shows and read fantasy. As a small boy, my options were limited and from a very young age onward I enjoyed whatever was available. Some of it, admittedly, was pretty horrendous. As the amount of tv-channels expanded, I was able to watch dinner-time tv-shows like Xena, the X-files and Angel at some point. You can tell from the titles I’m listing, that it wasn’t all gold at the end of the rainbow.
Now, many years later, the choice is endless. It’s amazing how many shows are available and some of it is really good. I was really excited about a show like Stranger Things for example. Revamps hit the screen, like there’s no limit to available budgets and potential comebacks. That is clearly not always worth your time either. Even the new Star Wars films apparently rely on paper thin storylines and badly suggestive futurism (I have to add that I think Star Wars by now hardly fits underthe sci-fi umbrella, since it has really become knights in space). So what is it, that makes sci-fi attractive? Why is an episode from, what has become my favorite, Star Trek , so much more on point? Why are you on the edge of your seet for the X-files? What makes Asimov’s books still superb?
The three pillars of sci-fi
There’s probably enough written about what makes something sci-fi, but I’m more concerned with what makes it work. For that, I’m relying on a speech by the one and only Capain James T. Kirk. Granted, I grew up in a time, when Star Trek was Jean Luc Picard, but watching the show as a kid on the BBC at a very young age, was what made me fall in love with it (even though I understood little).
It’s about the potential, the possibilities and, obviously, the danger.
One of the key elements of scifi, is its ability to show the potential of what we can be as human beings. Not just that though, it can show us a tiny thought and then inflate it to enormous proportions. It starts with a very simple, basic thought. A suggestion if I may, like the idea of a non-violent society that seeks harmony. Not such a far-fetched idea, we have plenty of examples in our world even. But what if you really let the potential of that sink in. Not the half-arsed attempts that we see in our modern-day politics, but the fully expanded, enormous potential of the United Federation of Planets. What could it mean, if there was a vast conspiracy to hide alien life from us? What potential do interstellar gateways have for us? What if artificial intelligence can truly be achieved?
These are not just phantasms, these are ideas that already exist, which are taking shape as you are reading this (well, you know what I mean). That’s where the potential lies, in these suggestions, humble beginnings we can instantly relate to. Because that’s what this starship, gateway, android a galactic empire and so forth is all about. It’s why they are there, to allow our minds to explore the potential of our ideas.
You would think that the potential and possibilities are the same, but the potential works through in the imagination of the receiver. To help that along, you need to show the possibilities. For example, Star Trek shows the concept of an intellectual, advancement-pushing civilization that seeks to coexist. That is the meta-narrative, the big idea, but what does that entail? It would be easy to simply shrug and say ‘if only it could be!’ and go on with your life. You need the possibilities, the concrete elements to help you along. What if you could make a machine that replicates whatever you need from basic materials? What would that do? If we could travel at warp speed, where would that lead us and if we could predict the future, where would we end up. Is artificial intelligence life too, but what does it even mean then to be alive?
Questions, that allow us to grapple with the very real consequences of realizing the potential. This is a key element of science fiction because it makes it fully tangible for us. Not just abstract idealisms or imagination, but very concrete examples. This is what makes it fully real to us.
As said by the exceptional Captain Kirk, the risk is our business. It’s in that boldly going where no one has gone before and even ‘may the force be with you’ has a taste of diving into the unknown to it. Risk or high stakes make it worthwhile, it gives meaning to the story and actions of the characters and gives tension to the experience for you as reader or viewer. It can strangely be in the small things. Star Trek was always a very human series, with analogies to reality taking place in the episodes. Sometimes the whole stream of time is at stake, other moments it is about one single life.
Whatever scifi you check out, if there is no stakes, there is no adventure. If there is no meaning, why would you watch? It may seem redundant info, but nonetheless one of the essential elements.
So keep going beyond…
… keep exploring new things and discovering new stars and let the beauty of this genre of fiction inspire and bewilder you. It’s not without reason we have certain inventions now, that was conjured in tv studios or on typewriters in the past. It’s because people boldly envisioned the possibilities and potential of the future and reasons why we needed to explore those. Risk of confinement perhaps? Anyways, keep dreaming!
The land-locked nation of Laos, or in full ‘Lao People’s Democratic Republic’, is not a place known to be brimming with heavy metal artists. There is a thriving underground scene happening and interaction between the south-east Asian countries occurs often. One of those bands is HadesGhosphell.
The band plays black metal, which does make them stand out a scene that is overwhelmingly death metal of the more brutal kind. The band was kind enough to answer some of my questions about playing metal in Laos.
Photo credits: 906 Photography
Could you start by introducing the band? How did you guys get together, can you give me a bit of a history of the band?
The current line-up consists of Lounty (Drums), Tun (Bass), Ben (Guitar) & Aof (Vocals).
Ben: the band was initially formed by Aof and me. I was in Laos for 2 years already and was desperately looking for an underground scene, to no avail. One day a friend brought me to a fun little bar, where there was an acoustic duo playing covers. The singer went on break, grabbed a beer at the counter and asked the owner to play some heavy shit. That was Aof. We spent the rest of the night gulping beers and talking about metal, about the local scene, and how we definitely had to start a band. That’s how Hades Ghosphell started.
We struggled a bit to recruit a drummer and a bassist but eventually managed to cover a couple of classics and organized our first concert (and the first black-metal concert ever in Laos!) in October 2010. I then moved to Thailand for 3 years and our vocalist has had some serious health issues. But we are now back in full force, with a new line-up ready to lay down some devastating shit!
Do I understand correctly that you are French? So how did you end up in Laos?
You understood correctly indeed, je suis Français. I came to Laos 10 years ago as a Trainee for 2 months (on a hydropower project), as part of my university graduation in Supply Chain. The Project then proposed me a 2-year contract at the end of my internship, which I immediately accepted. I joined a logistics company afterward, moved to Thailand for 3 years, then moved back to Laos 3 years ago and here I am!
What made you guys get into metal music and which influences do you consider your most important ones for the sound of Hades Ghosphell?
It was proposed by our singer, Aof, and it was immediately adopted. We liked how the imagery of ritual chants in honor of the Underworld could be interpreted in several ways, both literally and figuratively, as our humble and dedicated contribution to the underworld that the metal scene is.
Did you play in other bands before Hades Ghosphell?
Ben: DCS (punk-HxC) back in France, Sapanakhith (brutal death metal) in Laos, REMAINS (thrash metal) in Thailand, Dissevered (brutal death metal) in Laos.
Tun: Acclaim of Sinner (slamming death metal), Rotkin (brutal death metal), Buddhlust (brutal death metal), Dissevered (brutal death metal) and another dozen bands. This guy is everywhere!
Lounty: Morrana (brutal death metal), Killerz Virginal (grind/death)
What story does Hades Ghosphell tell in the music? What sort of themes do you weave into your own works?
The main themes are centered on the denunciation of religious fanatism, the deceptive and manipulative aspects of any religion under their great holy truths. Desecration, basically.
We will talk a bit about our personal battles, as a band, in our future works as well.
Are you currently working on any releases? If so, can you tell more about it?
We are currently preparing a demo and should start recording real soon. We are truly itching to record our first material after so many years and so many struggles. The current line-up is working very well, we have a good alchemy and shitloads of energy to insufflate in our songs.
What is available from you guys this far, is a couple of covers of true originators of black metal. Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem. You even have the pigs heads on stage. Are these bands your main inspirators and how far will Hades Ghosphell emulate that sound and feel in their music and live shows? Or are you intending different directions?
These classics are undeniably a special influence, among many, many others. But as said, we now have a solid line-up and are more able (and inclined) to pursue our own sound, our own style. We have been and will continue going for an even rawer sound, more black/death vocals, war drums and incisive riffs.
The original black metal wave fiercely rebelled against Christianity. In your country, Laos, the dominant religion is Buddhism followed by Laotian folk religion. There’s hardly any Christianity to rebel against. How do you look upon these religions in relation to the satanic and profane in your music?
There is a quite consequent Christian community in Laos, but nowhere near important or influent as the Buddhist main base. We are more in an open rejection of the holy, the sacred, and all the deviances it brings and justifies. Buddhism here is very much tainted with Animism, which is more a belief, than a religion as such.
It’s an acceptation that spirits exist in all things and that they can manifest or that you can interact with them. Ethnic animistic ceremonies are more rituals, animal sacrifices are pretty common and it can sometimes be related to black magic. There are a lot of folk’s tales about ghosts, evil spirits and it really can make a good inspiration or base for our materials, as the underworld, the dark and incomprehensible side is omnipresent.
I’m curious about the metal scene in Laos. How big would you say it is and where does it center mostly? What sort of styles are dominant in your country?
It’s definitely still a small scene, with its positive and negative sides, gathering around 30-40 core members. Everything metal happening is in the capital, Vientiane. The good thing is that it is pretty much united, there is no segregation between genres, as soon as it remains underground enough. Everybody knows each other and each concert is like a kinda family reunion hahaha.
But that also means a limited musician pool, with many bands sharing the same guys. Our bass player, Tun, is playing in almost all the bands here! You always have some bitching, people that used to play together and for some reason came to hate each other’s guts, but all in all it remains a very united scene. Brutal death metal is big here, there is also a bit of thrash and Hades Ghosphell for black metal. People do listen to quite a wide spectrum of underground music and usually know their stuff, just not enough musicians to represent more styles.
Can you give me a bit of history of metal in Laos. How did metal come to the country, which bands pioneered the scene, are there any important venues or festivals?
There are some old-schoolers, like Sapphire and The Exile (Canada & US), who played during the 90’s and are actually considered the pioneers of the heavy stuff here. It’s more heavy-metal, but all generations of metalheads here acknowledge and respect them.
Very few die-hard metal fans at that time but they never gave up and although not playing music themselves, they always supported and continue to support the scene. Big Joe is the most prominent figure in this respect.
Then came the next wave circa 2005 (Sapanakhith, HadesGhosphell, Dictator, AwakentheDreamer…) and the beginning of the Metal Destruction shows (THE metal event in Laos), organized every year by Big Joe.
Today there are 6-7 active bands, including some youngsters from the new generation who are willing to take on the torch. The Vientiane Death Fest was introduced in 2016 and a new 2018 edition is under preparation, mostly for brutal death. All concerts are organized at bars/discos/restaurants, whose owners are somehow related to the metal scene and are willing to sponsor the gigs.
Do you face any sort of censorship in Laos by the government or other institutions? And how does society look at metal music?
Censorship is real in Laos but luckily the metal scene is not big enough to attract Big Brother’s eyes, so we are not exactly bothered by the communist institutions. We don’t have issues with gigs either, as it is always very friendly. There is, however a strong societal weight on anything or anybody not going with society’s flow.
As you may know, the weight of social rules and regard is pretty important in Asia as a whole, and Laos is no exception. Losing face or appearing shameful to the eyes of society is a much greater humiliation or failure than breaking the law for example. In this context, the external appearances and the musical violence of metal in any form do stand out. As a result, a lot of kids actually stay away from the scene, precisely not to stand out. I personally believe it takes a lot more balls and commitment for Laotian kids to get and stay into metal than, say, in Europe or in the US.
Perhaps a weird question, but is everything easily available to you? Like music, instruments, rehearsal space, recording studio and venues to play live?
Music and merch are now easily available thanks to online stores and it’s really easy to import from neighboring countries, Asia or even internationally. Instruments are another story: there are very few shops and they usually don’t carry a lot of stuff designed for metal musicians. There again we have to rely on import, but it’s always tricky to purchase an instrument/parts without testing beforehand.
The one thing that is easily found in Vientiane is rehearsal studios. There are quite a few and it’s pretty cheap (~5 $ / hour). The equipment provided is crap, but as soon as you have your own gear, no problem. The recording is not an issue either, with a couple of really talented guys for recording & mixing. We are very lucky to have our own rehearsing & recording space with my other band, Dissevered, so we can take all the time needed for practice and recording, it really is super convenient! We plan to record there with Hades Ghosphell, maybe even mix ourselves.
As said previously, all the concerts are organized through connections with bars or discos. They mostly lent us the venue for free, with a percentage of the entrance fees. Plus they are guaranteed to sell quite a nice amount of beers.
Are there any bands from Laos that people should really check out? Can you name them and explain why? Dissevered (brutal death metal). It’s the first Lao band to sign & release albums on an international label (New Standard Elite, USA). Both Tun (bass) and Ben (guitar) play in this band. Straightforward, ultra-brutal stuff!
Buddhlust (brutal death metal). Another spearhead of the brutal scene here, they just recently joined Reality Fade Records (Ukraine) and are to release their debut album in 2018. Rotkin (brutal death metal). With just a demo available for the time being, they are the youngsters of the metal scene. Great dudes and tracks, a debut album should be released soon.
What sort of connection do you have with the metal scenes from surrounding countries? Is there any sort of contact and cooperation happening?
Most definitely, we are in touch regularly with the neighboring metalheads, especially in Thailand. No language barriers as Lao people all understand the Thai language. Metal shows in Laos will always see Thai counterparts joining the party and Lao metal heads regularly attend major shows in Thailand. But we also have good friends and contacts in Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia…
It’s a small scene everywhere (except in Indonesia where metal, especially death metal, is huge) so it is pretty common to have gigs with regional bands.
I’m interested in what the connection with Thailand in general is. I’ve noticed that a lot of metal musicians from surrounding countries have moved there. Has this got to do with liberties? On paper, it is not exactly a good time for liberties in Thailand with the current regime. But in reality, nobody really gives a fuck if you play in a metal band or organize metal gigs, it is just another form of music. So yes, unless you criticize or instigate hate towards the monarchy (which is really not recommended), I would say that the freedom of speech and of being yourself completely is better in Thailand, compared to most of its neighbors.
Plus the scene is good, the public is good, there are some really active organizers who manage to book great international bands…
Traveling to Bangkok from surrounding countries is usually pretty cheap and easy, and staying there for a couple of days will not bleed your bank account dry. You will not have any visa/immigration issues on arrival even if you carry your whole drum set with you.
So yes, all-in-all, Thailand is an easy place to go or to be for underground musicians.
What future plans does Hades Ghosphell have?
A demo very, very soon. Then more composing, more shows too if possible and why not a debut album within early next year… we are back from a long slumber and more eager than ever get things moving forward!
If you had to compare Hades Ghosphell to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
A cured ham. One that you forgot you had, until the day you discover it hidden in a dark corner your fridge and devour it with tears of joy in the eyes.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for the interview man, and keep an eye (and an ear) on the growing Laotian Metal Scene!
Karelia is a fascinating part of the world for me and hearing bands from there, it always evokes a certain imagery. This goes as well for Is, who hail from these northern realms. They captivate their homeland in atmospheric black metal on the album ‘Into My Own’
Is revolves around the sole member and creative mind behind the project, named Nøkken (a reference to a mythic water spirit). In the four year existence of the band, he has produced an immense load of music in various formats. Always the theme revolves around life in the far north, nature and all that it embodies, since that is the magic of Karelian life.
Slowly the music oozes out, with big, lurching movements and a minor melancholy in the guitar arches. Immediately, clouds block the sun as Is delivers their atmospheric black/death. Guttural vocals come up as if rising from the Karelian bogs. On ‘Into My Own’ you really hear the different sides of the band. A clean guitar part, soaring and speaking in its own distinct voice, yet clashes with the heavy battery of blast beat drums and roaring vocals. The guitar-play in an intermezzo even has a bit of jazzy groove to it, which makes these guys so interesting, because at the same time they throw in these eerie synths. Full on contrast, that seems to be the thing for Is.
‘All that is Gold’ takes us into the Opeth realms, with the intro full of feeling. The guitar really becomes the sentimental instrument in the work of Is, where the rhythm section and vocals offer sheer brutality, with again grooving riffs that almost hark to Pantera if the endings were less stiff. But there’s the peculiarity about their sound, it’s very accessible. It flows quite casually, due to an excellent production and now hooked corners to it. Yet you could at some times even lump it into the post-black metal corner, if it wasn’t for the blunt beating of the drums and concrete-grinding roars of the vocals, who take it back to a rougher corner.
Is holds a very own regal beauty, and that’s why you should listen to their music.
Label: Out of Season Band: Sequestered Keep Origin: United States
Magical sounds, lost keeps
Like most dungeon synth artists, the man or woman behind SequesteredKeep remains a mystery. What I managed to find out, is that he/she is a metal music as well. This Barbarian Skull interview is probably the most information available. Check it out, they do great stuff. Anyways, the moniker Wanderer is used for the genius behind the project.
The logo of ‘Wandering Far’, designed by Dan Capp from Wolcensmen, and all previous records since ‘Might of an Ancient Tale’ looks very fitting. Sequestered Keep hails from Salt Lake City in Utah, so that much is clear. Remarkable, since the music reminds me of lush forests in ancient England more so. The artwork as well, though that is in Germany… A rocky ruin, called Drachenfells, painted by CasparScheuren in 1852. A fitting cover.
The sound of Sequestered Keep is clean and regal. Calm tones, that are more used like a paintbrush, than the angry sketching of a pencil. Everything smoothly flows into one another, from ‘Once a Warrior of Forestcloaked Mountains’onwards. This one feels like an indoor song, near a fire in ancient stone chambers of old castles. The gentle picking of a harp resounds, as the wavery synths come in. By the time you get to the title track, the sounds resonate in sonorous harmony and connect smoothly to display the outdoors, the wide-open world.
In a similar manner, the booming effect on ‘Firelight Swordshadows’, feels as if the darkness obscures the sound, hies it from a clear perception in shadows. We get more light-footed on ‘Elvenwoods’, where light pierces through the leafy, natural roof. One imagines as if here the gentle flutes are playing, in a bright mood. The next dish serves melancholy on ‘Battles in Falling Mist’, a slow and gentle tune with a certain calm grandeur to it, while never really expressing fierce clashes. Now we come to the special part, with a dungeon synth Bathory cover. ‘Hammerheart’ achieved a special place in many metal-fan hearts, therefore this version brings it to the very essence.
Madagascar probably invokes very different images, but metal has been on the island for decades and Kazar are one of the first bands on the African island. Center of the band are Lallah and Milon Kazar and have been since the start.
I got in touch with Nix Adkin, the latest addition to the band that is still growing strong. With only two albums in their decade-spanning carreer, the love has not diminished for the music genre that caught their attention back in the eighties.
Nix was kind enough to answer my questions about metal on tropical Madagascar.
How are you guys doing?
First, we are full well!!
How did you guys get into metal music? What bands inspired you to make this music? We got heavy metal through IronMaiden’s songs! that’s our first influence and by the time, we discovered Slayer, Coroner, Metallica, Overkill…
Lazar was started by the high school classmates! they have seen Lemmy (Motörhead) so, the band began to play. In the band, we’re not a really a family but we act like a true family.
Kazar is probably the oldest active band on Madagascar, is that correct? What is your secret recipe for staying together this long?Yes, Kazar is one of the oldest active metal band from Madagascar, the secret is just the mutual understanding and respect! It’s a Malagasy wisdom
You’ve released, as far as I understand two full length albums, one in 2002 and one in 2004 (titled ‘Two’). What was the reason that your production in 30 years is so limited and yet both albums came out very short after each other? Kazar has 2 albums since 30 years. The reason is just that in your country, Madagascar, heavy metal can’t be considered as a job (showbiz) so the production wasn’t the priority.
What stories are you telling in your music? What messages and such do you try to put in your lyrics? Kazar often tells scared scene, in order to encourage people to be brave to face fear.
When I listen to your music I hear thrash, power, and prog all in one. Would you say that describes the sound of Kazar adequately? Thrash, prog, speed… Let’s be cool and just say “heavy metal”.
Madagascar as a country is a francophone nation from the past and now Malagasy is the dominant nation, your musical tradition has had influences from all over the place, how did metal come to Madagascar? Was it through French metal music or English?
Metal came to Madagascar through English music. After the discovery of glam, metal came to Madagascar around the 80’s under the influence of Motörhead, JudasPriest, Iron Maiden… Different metal Malagasy bands were formed such as Green, RedMetal, Lokomotiv, MartùGass, Kazar, Apost… The main metal genre at this time was heavy and thrash.Those groups often gave shows together through festivals such as Tohivakana metal and Big Rock.
Having your own traditions in music, is there anything of Malagasy musical tradition, instruments or songs that you use in heavy metal? Do you find there’s anything typical about Madagascar metal music? I have the feeling there’s something there.
You are right! We use Malagasy roots music with heavy metal! check the song titled “Mmpangalatr’omby” on YouTube.
How big is the metal scene in Madagascar and how did it get started? Can you give me a bit of history on it and your place in it? What bands pioneered the genre?
Big rock festival was one of the biggest Malagasy metal moments! It was started in the middle of the 90’s. This festival was conceived by some Malagasy journalists, the latest date was in September 2000… The reason was just no more promoter.
Are there any problems in acquiring instruments, rehearsal space, a place to perform etcetera? Do you face any limitations being from a country like Madagascar?
In Madagascar, metal is still an underground music genre! we really have problems with instruments, music tech, promoters, sponsors,…
Is there any censorship on music, any form of repression in your country? Do people understand what you guys are doing? There is no censorship nor repressions but with the trunching-system (marketing system based on giving money to radio an TV tech to broadcast songs and video clips) tropical Malagasy music overruns all places on radio and tv.
Which bands from your country should we be checking out? And why? Have you seen a lot of them come and go? About other bands, let me suggest you some young guys such as Behind the Mask, Beyond Your Ritual, Urban X Tribe(UXT Mada).
What future plans does Kazar have? For the future, Kazar hopes to go abroad to participate in metal festivals.
If you had to compare your band to a dish (food) what dish would it be and why?
You make me laugh with this last question,😄…if we compare Kazar with a dish, it will be a Malagasy sausage + beens+ tomato sauce!!