Label: Pulverem Mortis Productions Band: Qayin Regis Origin: Spain
No one expects the dark inquisition! On first sight, the Spanish black metallers might evoke the idea of Batushka, but QayinRegis is something else. This debut EP ‘Blackthorn’ is their first offering to the realm of dark music and little information is available about this band.
‘Blackthorn’ kicks off with ‘Niantel’, which offers much what you’d be expecting to hear from this band. This grim and dark record explores vast crypts and impressive, vast castle walls made of cold stone. An ominous gloom is represented in the cold riffing and ghostly vocals, while the rhythm simply batters on in merciless bashes.
The band sticks with the classic black metal sound, enriched with some ecclesiastic chanting here and there. The catchy heavy metally riff on ‘Sceptre of the Shadow of Death’ also catches on in a big way. I particularly like how within the construct of the music, the vocals consistently evoke the feeling of shady halls in an abandoned mountain castle. Dark, looming shadows fill the rooms, where the unearthly denizens dwell. That’s the thing with a vampire’s abode.
The vocals are guttural, like an evil priest muttering incantations over repetitive blast beats. There’s a constant surge of atmospheric effects, over what in essence stays close to an almost death metal-esque rigidity. Pounding drums hammer ever onwards, while the guitars add minor feeling to the sound. The progression is steady on both tracks, while ‘Prunus Spinosa Litourgiya’ functions as an outro for Qayin Regis. What a trip.
Metal music, like any cultural expression, is shaped by its surroundings. TheStone hails from Serbia and started out in 1996, in the wake of the black metal boom. Not much later the Yugoslavian civil war broke out, turns out this is actually audible on their debut record.
This did not put any breaks on the band though. The Stone has been going steady for more than 20 years, creating a steady output of records with classic black metal. Their sound is powerful, without trying to sail along with any trends or movements, simply black metal.
The band has recently released a new album, titled ‘Teatar Apsurda’. That and seeing them live was reason enough for me to get in touch and ask some questions to singer Nefas and guitar player Kozeljnik.
Serbian black metal kings
How are you guys doing? Nefas: Not bad. Kozeljnik: Doing fine so far. Busy with promoting the new album we’ve recently put out.
For people who are not familiar with The Stone, can you tell a bit about how the band got together originally?
Nefas: Classic story…that begins in 1996. We were just kids who wanted to play music they like. The Stone is some kind of artistic pact between Kozeljnik, as the composer, and me, as the lyric writer. It works last 22 years…and it works fine so far. Kozeljnik: Back in time of our gathering the initial idea was to form the band, the entity of Black Metal which defines the art within uncompromised line of musical and lyrical expression.
Many black metal bands go through periods of lesser inspiration, sometimes years, before releasing new albums. The Stone has consistently been delivering new music at regular intervals over the last 2 decades. What is the drive or motivation behind the band that makes you keep on delivering top class music?
Nefas: Simply, we really enjoy creating the music. Some kind of artistic madness drives us…
Kozeljnik: A sort of creative appeal madness which takes us every time when the art leads the way to the upper states of creativity. It’s not a cliché when saying you are dealing with a certain kind of ritualization of your art. It’s the rite of your subconscious which delivers magic.
In line with that, you also all have plenty of side-projects. Can you say a bit about those and how do you keep those going at the same time?
Nefas: Actually, I never had a side-project. Kozeljnik always had a surplus of ideas he presented through his other bands/projects like Kozeljnik, Murder, MayResult, Occulus…
Kozeljnik: Sometimes the creativity extends the defined lines, so there’s a need of having other artistic sources, like different bands and projects where you can execute your ideas, is a natural step for the artist.
Your latest release is Teatar Apsurda, which is your eight full length. What can you tell about this album, it’s creative process and it’s message/expression? To me, the title itself might be a good reflection of the world at large in at this time, is that something that you took along in creating this album.
Nefas: Yes, Teatar Apsurda is a view of the world through the eyes of pessimist, satiric review of human grotesqueness. It’s fast, aggressive, intensive black metal, yet chaotic and epic in the same time. We are very satisfied with this album. Definitely, our best shot so far.
Kozeljnik: We’re about to say that after many years we finally recorded the album the exact way we wanted to sound. It’s not that we are displeased with previous works, but this new one simply transcends our expectations.
How do you guys go about creating an album? Is it a similar process for every record? Since there’s definitely a continuity in your sound and the overall feel of music from The Stone through the years. What does the process look like?
Nefas: First and the most important step would be making a vision, the common vision that will be driven with no compromise. Everything else would be just a routine after all these years. It just got out of us.
Kozeljnik: On the other side every new record has a different perspective of creating, a dimension which goes beyond the borders we’ve delivered for the previous ones. It’s a challenge, to express your inner state within the new, refreshing ideas and forms which are, at the same time, carrying the mark of your own identity. We decided not to walk the familiar footsteps, but still keeping the same path.
Your record is out on Mizantropean Records, is that your own label? What prompted you to release through Mizantropean instead of Folter records, which you’ve released the previous albums?
Nefas: We wanted to have an absolute control and freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want. MizantropeonRecords is our own label formed primarily to provide better work conditions for The Stone. And for the beginning, we are very satisfied indeed.
Kozeljnik: It’s not a secret if we say that bands and labels are natural enemies since the creation of music business, especially when it comes to controlling the freedom of creativity. After many years of dealing with other labels, we have decided to be enemies to ourselves, trying to control something which hardly can be controlled. So far, we do not regret our moves.
In your early days you used Slavic paganism as inspiration, later it was more nihilism, misanthropy… In an earlier interview, I read that you expressed that these were never meant literally, but more a starting point for your expression. Can you explain how that looks for both the paganism and the more recent themes? What is the idea you try to put into your music and what do you hope listeners take from it?
Kozeljnik: The Stone’s lyrical side was most of the time misinterpreted in the past, especially by the non-speaking Serbian media circles which declared our band as pagan just because our 2nd and 3rd albums deal with times before monotheism took its role. Judging from that point of view they can easily proclaim Mayhem as a pagan metal band, just because they have a song called Pagan Fears. Not so professional way of giving a conclusion. Anyway, we’ve never considered our band as pagan oriented, despite the fact that in the past we used heathen inspired lyrics which were based on Nefas’s individual approach strictly. His quill has the most significant poetic role in expressing The Stone’s message and definitely, it’s a powerful tool in the band’s arsenal.
The Stone started out as Stone To Flesh during the time when your part of the world was in a total uproar due to the civil war. As I’ve understood from previous interviews and other articles, the scene in Yugoslavia was just beginning to appear at that time. I’d like to ask you how that scene started out and which bands were instrumental in it and how the civil war influenced it and you as a band in your ability to create music. Can you tell about that?
Nefas: The civil war has changed many things in our lives, but I’m not sure it had any influence on our music in a creative way, maybe on our subconscious. Technically speaking, everything was harder to do in war surrounded country, isolated…, but we survived. On our first album, we included the intro, the true sound of NATO bombs falling on Belgrade heating a plant. That’s the exact piece of the warlike atmosphere in which we worked on our debut album.
What’s happening in the current Serbian metal scene? And is it in any way connected to the neighboring countries of former Yugoslavia or are you drawn more towards other countries? Which bands should people really check out from the current scene (and why)?
Nefas: We never had a massive scene, but we have some quality bands to mention. My personal favorite is deathrash legion Infest. As for black metal, try with Kolac, Zloslut, Wolf’sHunger, Samrt…
What does it mean for The Stone to be a band from Serbia? Is there something typical and unique that you take from your culture, history or even nature in your country that to your view, colors or impacts the way you and/or other bands from Serbia make this sort of music?
Nefas: We took the pillar of our culture, Serbian language. Native language gives you the opportunity to express yourself better.
Kozeljnik: Serbian language, with its strong accent, gives us more radical, yet aggressive audible approach to the art we create. During the years we’ve created our own style and usage of our native tongue definitely has a strong impact on that.
Black metal has been gradually changing and taking new forms in recent years. I’m interested to know, what to you defines black metal? Is it something ritualistic, does it need to be ugly or can it be beautiful… How would you define this music now, after having played it for so long?
Nefas: For me, Black Metal is the art of controlling sonic madness in order to make the obscure atmosphere suitable for expressing the negativity and narrating the inner gloom. It’s the darkest corner of musical art.
What future plans does The Stone have at the moment? What are you aiming for in 2018 or will this be a time for the side projects (if so, what are you focussing on)?
Nefas: We have tour plans with Inferno and IXXI settled for March and after that we will enter the studio to record 2 new songs for the upcoming 7”ep. That’s the plan for next six months.
If you had to compare The Stone to a dish or type of food, what would it be and why?
Nefas: A piece of bread and a glass of water, if you are hungry, you will enjoy it.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Please add it below.
Nefas: Nothing more, the point is said. Just to thank you for the support.
This may indeed be the Droid you are looking for. The progressive thrashers from Ontario, Canada have released an album that incorporates everything that is awesome. It’s considered progressive, but with the raw energy of thrash metal. These guys have an eclectic mix that just screams enthusiasm with this debut album ‘Terrestrial Mutations’.
Even the band name is very, very awesome. The sci-fi theme is something that always appeals to me and with a sound that puts them in league with the likes of Voivod (yes I went there), we’ve got some fun listening time ahead of us. The band has been releasing some stuff before, but since 2012 this is their first full length. It’s rather important for me to note, that they were called Wesley Crusher before, the character from StarTrek played by Wil Wheaton. Since my blog originally was titled ‘Wheaton’s Law’, I think we have a click.
The sound is remarkably clean, with a lot of space for frivolous guitar fidgetting and kick-ass riffing. The freedom that a lack of distortion allows is definitely a contributing factor to a great sound that is vibrant and full of crackling energy. The listening pleasure Droid offers stems from the same source, which also allows some little reverb here and there to make things sound just bigger than they are. What I’m also quite amazed by, his the freedom you feel in their music. Listen to the at times almost post-metal sounding ‘Temptation of Terminal Progress’, with its spun out passages. Sometimes it’s that little guitar riff in the thrashing, vibrant sound, like on ‘Abandoned Celestial State’ that does the trick in grabbing your attention.
At times the band has the frantic thrashy energy, that even leans towards some first wave black metal at times. Other moments, the vibe is much more old school thrash or even straight-up rock’n’roll. The futuristic themes and effects often add a different flavor to the music, that is hard to really pin down the style. On ‘Mission Drift’ it even seems like the band leans towards some mathcore at times. Just saying, this album is awesome. If a beardy guy in brown robes comes up to tell you this isn’t your thing, just tell him to fuck off.
The Mediterranean island of Malta is a peculiar place. The two (inhabited) islands of Malta and Gozo are a haven for many and the land has a rich history. It’s also a great soil for heavy metal apparently, which it proudly has been displaying for years.
In fact, it inspired the making of a documentary ‘Brotherhood: A Story of Metal in Malta‘, which will be coming to you soon (keep an eye on their page). If there’s one man in Malta, that can tell everything about metal on the island, it must be AlbertBell. Bell has been playing in bands and organizing gigs for ages and I found him willing to answer some questions.
Albert plays in Forsaken, NomadSon, and Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus at the moment, while organizing Malta Doom Days as well. The festival is a growing feature in the agenda’s of doom-aficionados all over, so put it on your agenda! Due to that, it took some time to get this together, but now you can learn everything about metal music on the small island.
Metal Malta History
What bands are you currently playing in and for those not familiar, what sort of bands are they?
I am the bassist for both Forsaken (established in 1991) and NomadSon. Both are doom metal bands, but while Forsaken tends to thread to epic doom path drawing inspiration from the likes of Candlemass and SolitudeAeternus (while incorporating other influences and obviously our own approach to the genre), I formed Nomad Son in 2006 to realize my passion for 70s heavy rock/metal. I think Nomad Son may be best described as a cross between doom metal and 70s heavy rock with some touches of NWOBHM.
In 2011 I started by own project – Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus which combines various influences (creating a sound that I call blackened, primeval, epic doom heavy metal). The latter celebrates my passion for all things old school and also underscores my passion for the likes of Venom, Motorhead, Candlemass and so forth.
How did you get into metal music in the first place? What bands were the first to capture your attention and what was the charm of the music to you?
I started taking music seriously in early in my teens and possibly the first band that fascinated me was KISS. I guess it was the band’s energy and somewhat dark imagery which attracted me to them. The contrast with other chart hitting bands at the time was quite evident. BLACKSABBATH had an even more profound effect on me in this sense. I still remember hearing tracks like ‘Am I going Insane’, ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Changes’ on National Radio and their mystical, obscure aura was quite gripping.
Through my older brother’s collection, I discovered other important 70s bands and artists – from Peter Frampton, to Rush, Bowie, T-Rex and so on. After that like my brother, and our close English friend Roger I was swept away by the whole punk thing and we used to spend hours on end listening to the most important punk bands at the time, from the Pistols, to the Clash, The Stranglers, Sham 69 and the like. Our image was also heavy influenced by the punk fad that was quite popular even in Malta in the period in question and I even sported a very short, skinhead style hairstyle for some time! Haha!
We were fans of a local punk-ska band called the Rifffs who were quite big in Malta at the beginning of the 80s, and the first shows I attended were local punk gigs. However, one day while we were hanging out at home – our English friend told us that he has this single called ‘Ace of Spades’ by this killer band Motorhead and he made it a point that we to listen to it! Once it started spinning on our turntable, I was totally blown away!! And that was my first real musical epiphany really. I started getting into more and more Motorhead stuff and by 1981 I was totally dedicated to all things metal, getting more and more into the 70s heavy rock/metal bands that I had already enjoyed like Purple, Sabbath, Priest, Lizzy. Rainbow and so on and then really delving in NWOBHM, worshipping the early stuff from Maiden, Saxon, and even DefLeppard.
However, when I turned 15 in 82 I crossed paths with VENOM and that was another important epiphany for me! The sheer energy of that unholy trio totally blew me away and it was very easy for me to embrace the early thrash explosion to the extent that I formed my first band in 1984 (first called Exorcist and then Kremation after I found out that a US band with the same name was in circulation – love that album by the way haha!) with the scope of introducing Thrash/Speed metal to the local scene. Thrash/Speed metal remained my staple diet (without however foregoing the other bands I was always into) until the end of the 80s, but by then also perhaps due to CELTICFROST’s influence on me I started searching for different stuff – which was more based on heaviness and dark atmosphere vs high speed riffage. And this is where doom came in – a genre that I also love with a passion – without ever, however, losing sight of my formative influences.
Malta is a small country, but with a lot of international influences. How did metal music get started there? I think you were in one of the first bands from Malta, but did foreign bands play Malta first or how did the metal scene develop?
You have to keep in mind that though somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of the continent, Malta was under British colonial rule till 1964 with a strong presence of the British forces remaining on the Island till 1979. So basically Malta at the time was imbued with Anglophile influences in various respects. Much of what was played on the local radio at the time reflected chart trends in England and the US and we also had music mags here from abroad like Sounds and Melody Maker and later even Kerrang and Metal Forces (still miss that one), so those of us who were bothered to delve deeper into things were really quite well informed and I already had a cool collection of vinyl at the time.
I used to order stuff from local record stores in cases where the stuff I wanted was out of stock and I also used to get stuff directly from England through my family connections. Moreover, the metal scene at the time was really tightly knit and we used to tape-trade like mad! Discovering obscure bands was our main mission in life really! Haha! There were also several of us active in metal bands in the 80s. However, the genre has even earlier roots. For example, there was a band called EvilGrave in the early 70s that was gaining popularity here at the time strongly inspired by Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Purple. Marc Storace (who later emigrated to Switzerland and after a band called Tea was to join the seminal Swiss rockers Krokus) was already active in local bands like theBoys. You also had great Prog bands like Over and Mirage very active in the early 80s and some great ballsy hard rock/metal bands like B3 (two members of which went to Germany to join High n dry), Acid, Centaur, Overdose, Stratkast and Unexplained. Sphinx was another important band at the time – a sort of fusion between Rush and Rainbow.
Other metal/hard rock important bands in the 80s included IvoryCross, Passion Blade, Coven, Brainstorm. Entract, Epicure, Kremlin, Kraken, Hellequin and the Tarxien based Vandals. The latter was instrumental in introducing Thrash/Speed metal to Malta. By 1985 Speed metal really started to take root here and apart from Vandals (still going on in the form of X-Vandals) my bands Exorcist/Kremation helped to gravitate the scene towards more extreme stuff.
By the 90s then you had a strong wave of death metal bands coming to the fore (with local legends Beheaded being a great case in point, and others like Amentia, Sceptocrpyt etc), doom of course with Forsaken and later ObliqueVisions, Victimsof Creation, WeepingSilence and so forth, some black metal etc. We did not have that many foreign bands visiting the Island (unlike nowadays), so there was something intrinsically Maltese in all those metal bands that pioneered the scene. Even though perhaps small when compared to other countries, Maltese metal has a rich and quite eventful history. The above is just a snippet of its progression.
Which bands really pioneered the scene?
I sincerely think that all the above bands and several more that I haven’t mentioned were all pivotal for the genre’s propagation and entrenchment on the Island. However, I think that it was the 90s wave that helped to internationalize Maltese metal really. It was Forsaken and Beheaded that first started exporting local metal with record deals and tours abroad and then many others followed and also left their indelible mark in this regard to the extent that today you have quite a good number of Maltese metal bands touring abroad, releasing albums regularly, hosting festivals on the Island and networking well within the global metal scene. Bands like Loathe, AbysmalTorment, WeepingSilence, Martyrium, ThyLegion, WeepingSilence, Victims of Creation, NomadSon are now all active in the international circuit and really pushing Maltese metal forward in their own niche scenes.
You played in two bands, which as far as I can tell are the earliest ones in Malta, namely Vandals (later X-Vandals) and Kremation. When you started out this music, was everything available (like instruments, recording studios, other people playing, places to play shows?
Everything was much more an effort then things are today really. Equipment was much more expensive and band shows were concerts really versus the club shows that you have in most cases today. We used to rent out huge halls and basically build stages, with drum risers, doing all the promotion ourselves (designing, printing and running around putting up posters on bus stages at strong personal risk because it was illegal to do so!) and so forth.
Professional studios were few and far between and everything was totally DIY. The younger bands today really cannot fathom the immense effort we used to put into things. I know this sounds patronizing but it is true really. We used to leave no stone unturned to ensure that our shows were a success. And the thing can be said on our efforts to reach out abroad in the early days… the amount of time and money spent on physically writing to people and spreading the word on Forsaken’s first demo was incredible for example. If I had to use one word to describe the scene at the time it would be passion.
Perhaps, today’s bands might be more skilled, and have better equipment, better-sounding demos and recordings, better-designed fliers and all the works – but I think that somehow they lack (obviously one cannot generalise) the gusto to do things their own way, without expecting some higher power to drop manna from the skies. Things just do not happen that way.
How was the response to the music in those early days of Malta metal?
Totally incomparable to what it is today really. 350-500 punters attending shows in the 80s was a regular and realistic expectation really. In many instances even more than that. By the mid-90s this was not the case anymore. The fragmentation of the scene didn’t help really plus the big concert hall shows had ended, and all the bands gravitated towards club shows – and with some exceptions, a 200 plus crowd at a local gig since then is somewhat of a rarity these days. Moreover, merchandise sales have also dwindled with less and fewer fans keen on getting physical albums and so forth. This said I have to say that in my bands’ case we are blessed by a very loyal and committed core of fans and supporters and we have ventured on despite the difficulties. It is also encouraging to see younger fans and bands also taking up the call to arms to take metal forward in the years to come, with some exciting prospects looming on the horizon.
What sort of interest does metal music generate in Malta nowadays? Is there anything typical about bands from Malta and their music, especially since there is a relative isolation of the island?
The virtual, digital world has made this isolation less evident over the years and today one can reach out beyond our shores at the click of a button. Perhaps the scene has lost some of its charm and specificity as a result, but in my opinion, there is still something particular about Maltese bands in whatever style. Our social context does leave an indelible mark on who we are and what we do (of course as a sociologist I cannot say otherwise, but it is true). If anything, quite often, vs. Foreign, especially Nordic bands, Maltese bands (and fans) are still very passionate about what they do and this oozes out in their stage performances. It is never simply about going through the motions. Perhaps, this is a reflection of our national (rather) exorbitant and Latin character….but it’s there.
You’ve later started with bands like Forsaken and Nomad Son. Both in the artwork and lyrics, the theme of Christianity seems to be a returning factor. It seems to be an element of Sacro Sanctus as well. Why is this theme so significant; is it the historical context or something personal?
I guess what I have just said above answers your question. Christianity in Malta (especially in my personal trajectory; it may not necessarily be so for the younger kids with Malta shifting towards a much more secular and multi-cultural society) has strong and profound roots. It is omnipresent really and a strong feature of one’s socialization and personal moral development. Of course, I also rebelled against the over-bearing and often suffocating presence of the institutionalized forces of Christendom on the Island. However, I never really let go of those formative values that were passed on to me by my parents and elders. I am talking about the universal values of respect, community, tolerance, responsibility for one’s actions, solidarity and personal sacrifice (fundamentally rooted in Christ’s teachings in my opinion). Moreover, various personal experiences helped me to rediscover my spirituality over the years. And Christianity/Catholicism offers profound insights in this regard and these often surface (proudly I might add) in my song-texts. Though I often use lots of metaphor, symbolism, and allegory in this respect, to entice the reader/listener to build his/her own opinions on the subject matter at stake. It is certainly not the boring pulpit preaching of some of the more fervent Christian bands out there! And I am open to listening to anything. Exposing yourself to different worldviews often makes you more convinced of yours!
Sacro Sanctus, often presented as Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus, seems to really be the project closest to you. You seem to be quite a busy man, why did you start this project and what story are you telling with it. Do you work with other people for this project?
Sacro Sanctus is entirely my vision. I have been in bands since I was a teen. I was 16 when I started my first band. Band democracies may be very enriching on various levels. They are also quite often sources of frustration, as in any situation where decisions are not entirely your own and where you need to pace yourself and adjust to other people’s expectations, situations and ways of doing things. I would best describe it as the best laboratory for developing the art of compromise which after all is very important in various aspects of life. But with Sacro Sanctus, I wanted a different approach. It provides an opportunity where I can realize things (both from a management and musical perspective) my way. And that is how it has been so far and will remain.
I handle all the compositions, the song texts, the vocals and most of the instrumentation, bar for the drums. I have had different approaches to the drums in the project. On the first two albums, I built the drums on midi with the help of Chris from NomadSon (who pre-produced those first two albums) and then brought in a professional drummer (Robert Spiteri, one of the finest and busiest on the Island) to bring them to life in the studio. On the next album ‘LIBER III: Codex Templarium’ I am working differently and totally forgoing the midi process, which was very time-consuming really. So now I have a new drummer called Steve Lombardo (who has also helped me with the album’s preproduction at his cool studio) who basically recorded the drums from scratch after I finalized the guitar and vocal guides and proper bass takes.
The end result sounds really encouraging so far and it has been awesome working with Steve who has a real old school approach to things. I have also roped in a guitar wizard – Owen Grech – for some solo shredding on the album but still did all the rhythm guitars and melodies and arrangements on guitar. So yes, I am ready to get the right people in the project if I am uber-convinced that they share my vision and are excited to participate in Sacro Sanctus. As was also the case with Alexia Baldacchino who guested on the first two albums on a couple of tracks and Luciano Schembri who laid down some awesome organ work on a Death SS cover I did for an upcoming tribute to the Italian horror metal masters on Black Widow records. And this is the great thing about Sacro Sanctus not being a typical band as I can rope in people as requisite without difficulty while keeping total control on things.
Obviously, there are difficulties in respect of threading this path. The financial burden is one them. But I have to say that the end result is really gratifying and I am excited at the prospect of releasing more Sacro Sanctus stuff in future, as long as God gives me the strength and the inspiration continues. As far as the lyrical dimension goes, all these first three album chart important episodes in the history of the Knights Templar combining both fact and myth and imagination in the process. I just love it! Haha!
Do you have anything in the works right now for any of your bands or projects that you can tell us about? I read that Forsaken signed an album deal with Mighty Music?
Yes after a seven-year wait, we (Forsaken) released our new (fifth) full-length album on Mighty Music records last October. It is called ‘Pentateuch’ and basically is inspired and centers on the first five books of Moses. We are also hoping to be touring soon to support the album apart from some local shows. As far as Nomad Son go, we are taking a bit of a breather right now which will possibly extend until the end of 2018. The plan is that we start working on a new album and start gigging again.
Apart from a very busy musician, you also have an academic career. It seems to me from your research fields, that you’ve found a way to at least partly bring the music and the academic side together in your research field. Can you say something about that?
Correct again. One of my main research interests is music subcultures. My Phd and various academic articles culled from it in fact focused on a sociological appraisal of Maltese metal subculture and I am also planning further research to this effect, which will hopefully be realized next year. Basically, my research area marries my love for metal/music and sociology. I enjoy researching and teaching the subject at University – something that I have done for well over 25 years now.
How did you start out organizing the Malta Doom Days as well? Another avenue you’re active in, which I can imagine takes a lot of time, effort, money and love. Also, which shows where the absolute highlights for you personally?
There have been several personal highlights like hosting Leif Edling this year with his new project The Doomsday Kingdom and in previous years, Pagan Altar, ManillaRoad and The Black – all legends that I have long worshipped. But hosting Venom.inc in 2015 surpassed all and hearing classics like ‘Black Metal’, ‘Countess Bathory’, ‘Witching Hour’, ‘Prime Evil’ etc. on our stage was a very proud, emotional and moving moment. Plus meeting and hosting Mantas, Abaddon and Tony Dolan on the Island were awesome as they are really great people and so easy to work with. So basically, despite the huge mammoth effort behind Malta Doom Metal (MDM) – dedicated to all things doom and old school; instances such as this make the whole thing worth it plus of course seeing all those smiling happy faces of the MDM regulars (now from all over Europe) which is ultimately the main reason why I started the festival – to create a quality, international festival where doom and old school metal fans can come and enjoy a great weekend of killer music and like-minded company – a little heaven in the Mediterranean of the doom and old school elite!
If someone was to visit Malta, which they should do during the Malta Doom Days obviously, but outside of the event, what places are go-to ones for metal/rock fans in Malta?
Metal clubs and oriented venues are few and far between right now. However, there’s a great new club called The Garage in Zebbug which hosts metal gigs on a weekly basis. Plus we also have other cool metal festivals throughout the year here including Metal Over Malta which is also another great festival, now running in its fourth year. There’s practically a metal festival occurring every month here next year, so there are quite a few things to do for metalheads on the Island now!
During the Doom Days, I noticed that it’s generally a very passionate scene. I saw as well and heard that there’s a lot of divides in Malta. Between the two islands, between the English and Maltese speaking parts. Are those also visible in the metal scene? For example, apart from Saħħar I haven’t come across bands with Maltese lyrics. Vandals also had some songs in Maltese way back. And Norm Rejection (featuring Sean from Forsaken) was perhaps the first standard bearers for that in the local Metal scene, but you are right Saħħar is certainly the most prolific at present in this respect, and for me personally one of the most exciting bands in the scene along with our label mates Chaotic Remains. I wouldn’t say that our scene here is that representative of the sources of class and status distinction that you find on the Island. I think that the main source of distinction/fragmentation in Maltese metal is music preference and perhaps age and peer groups too as is also the case world-over.
Which bands from Malta should people really be checking out, and why so?
As I mentioned before, there’s loads and loads of bands mirroring different styles and preferences – and most offer high-end quality and passionate stuff. I do not wish to single anybody out, but I cannot end this interview without mentioning X-Vandals (my former band between 89-91 and I have to admit still my absolute faves when it comes to local metal) who are still going strong and released a new killer album just last month called ‘Exhume the Truth’. Killer stuff. 12th Ode is certainly also one of my favorite local bands – very well done old school heavy metal with all the right ingredients and I will be on the lookout for Wolven Hour’s (featuring Leo from Forsaken) to see the light of day for some more old school metal worship. Those looking for something more vintage may check out Frenzy Mono (featuring members of Nomad Son) and prog masters Mirage – who have recently reformed and also rank among my favorite local bands. I am sticking to my personal tastes here, but as I said before the sheer volume of quality bands in diverse styles is quite bewildering really. Hats of to all!
What future plans do you have in music currently?
There’s the new Sacro Sanctus album which as I said above is currently and quite vehemently work-in-progress and should be out on Metal on Metal Records next year – so that is keeping me really and happily busy, plus I have several other songs already written for the project which I will be short-listing and be organizing for future reference soon. We can also expect the Death SS tribute album featuring Sacro Sanctus to be released soon.
I am also expecting 2018 to be quite busy for Forsaken with both local and foreign shows and perhaps some more song-writing too. These will be the main priorities music-wise for me in 2018 and MDM X of course which is an ongoing and pivotal concern right now too.
If you could have your dream line-up for Malta Doom Days, who would be playing?
Haha…this is a trick question! Slowly but surely we are attracting bands that I have always wished to see in Malta. I won’t be revealing any names but if things go to plan then we should be realizing another dream in 2018…enough said though!
If you had to compare the music of your bands to a dish, what dishes would they be and why?
A plate of pasta arrabiata – not too overdone, basic ingredients yet still quite angry, potent with lots of gusto and a dash of chilli hellfire!!! Hahaha!
Label: Dungeon Synth Compilation Artist: Anglachel, Il Cinghiale, Morgan Muir Woods, Anglezarke, Mörkt Slott, Conqueror’s Mourn, Erang, Machina Coeli, Vandalorum, Krampusnacht, The Inquisitor Origin: Various
The Dungeon Synth Compilation is a bold project, to unleash a compilation every month of the last year. Records that revolve around a concept or story, oozing that uncanny feel of abandoned crypts and dark passages. Old ruins and abandoned tombs are part of the visions invoked by this music.
This edition, titled ‘Codex of Lost Voices’, revolves around the library. A place once filled with tomes and manuscripts is a magical place filled with mystery. Here this record takes us, to a place where the lure of secret knowledge is a deadly trap for those too eager to withstand its call. Writings that consume the souls of those, trying to harvest their knowledge, as depicted in the artwork by JDecker.
The opening tune comes from Anglachel, whose languid tones and twinkling keys, are playfully filling the silence of the abandoned structure, as the listener strides towards it. Imposing, but also tickled with curiosity, we enter to ‘The Journey of Vindyamar’. A grand hall stretches out with ‘Brittania’ by Morgan Muir Woods, with grand arches and a trudging, booming rhythm. The contribution following is by Il Cinghiale, bringing a bit more of an organic, folky sound with fingerpicking guitar (it’s always tricky to really resolve the origin of the sound), with a thick echo. I feel the incredible sad melancholy of an abandoned place of knowledge with this tune, titled ‘Tale of Hiems’.
Here The Inquisitor picks up with the brief ‘The Winter Hare’. Classical, wavery synths merge together and form a tapestry of sound. The music truly flows, offering an intermezzo from the empty halls. Vandalorum then steps back to ambient with sparse keys, to really evokes the feeling of abandonment, loneliness in these vast halls. A feeling Krampusnacht mainly prolongs with ‘Nos Galan’.
From there on, songs from Anglezarke, MörktSlott and Conqueror’sMourn stick with a dowsed, atmospheric demonstration of their skills. Never does it really demand your attention, but it always sets the mood like a set of scented candles. The more pronounced notes by Mörkt Slott and horn-emulations by Conqueror’s Mourn create a certain build up for the song, which all leads to MachinaCoeli’s ‘Creation’, which is the most futuristic-sounding song on the record, with some interesting use of bells and chimes, to create a very different moment in the journey. The tones filled with echo are there still, but the energy is higher, seeming to take us to the crescendo of the record. It’s climax if you will.
Erang then takes us to the the aftermath, with warm and regal tones. The whole sound has a taste of nostalgia, the last look over your shoulder at the great times. That’s what makes this so good. Nothing but praise for the person who put this together to weave a story with songs that are not naturally connected. Great stuff.
ΚΑΤΑΠΥΓΩΝ or Katapygon translates best as ‘the finger’, so that should be clear. The project combines ancient Greek music with electroacoustic and ambient sounds in order to create a uniquely flavored concoction of blips, chants, and ancient rituals. It makes up a rather miraculous release altogether.
ΜΗΟΥΣΑ, in turn, translates probably best as ‘muse’. The description with this record is strange, to say the least. Suggestive and shrouded in mystery, the notes refer to a poem by Paul Celan, to the philologist Wagenheim (which might be a Latinized name). The Russian group creates a record with all these references, that suggests the dispersion of humans from the islands of Hellas millennia ago in music that defies description.
From the operatic opening of ‘Jenseits Der Menchen’ onwards, you’re drawn into a world of mystery and wonder with this mixture of folk, ambient, and drone. Classical samples and odd incantations fill the air, as this collaborative effort with Noises of Russia rolls forward. Spoken word passages whisper over the droning, heavy drums, which only hid after large intervals. By the time we get to ‘Пчёлы Персефоны (feat. Sal Solaris & Noises of Russia)’, a full on martial, throbbing beat takes over as a whispering voice pronounces the words. It’s odd, wet sound is almost uncanny if it weren’t for the supporting regal drones.
The chanting ladies on ‘O Phosphor Hecate’ take it all to a more ethereal level, with dense, vast beats and that traditional ecclesiastic singing in an uncomfortable disharmony. The chanting evokes a melancholy and yearning, that harks back through the aeons that separate the suggested origins from the obtruse age we live in, where magic and art no longer are an intertwined, integrated part of life. As we move towards ‘Persephone (feat. Neznamo)’, we are once more taken on that journey of mythical chanting and fat, physical beats. You can feel this in your gut.
This record is quite something. It defies proper description, but really rattles the listener. Recommended audio-experience!
Label: Les Fleurs du Mal Productions Band: Flešš Origin: Canada
Vampiric metal is a very specific undercurrent within the black metal movement.The unholy blood drinking entities inspire groups like Flešš (pronounced flesh) to develop unique sounds that express the harrowing nature of these monsters. This leads to listening material that often is out of the ordinary. Truly unnatural.
Originating from Canada, this is is the second release from the mysterious raw black metal entity, that you’d best listen to at night. Nothing else I can tell you about the origin of the record, which I find rather unpleasantly mysterious.
The raspy nature of the opening riffs on ‘Frenzied Bloodlust Underneath A Black Moon’, the opening track of two songs on this album, are like the scraping of tombstones in the dark. Eerie keys and sound effects add to the uncanny feeling you’ll get listening to the opening of this tune. The guitars are gritty and distorted, concealing whatever it is that skulks in the shadows. And then it pounces, with thin battering riffs and unearthly wails, gasps and gibbering. It’s a frightening ordeal to listen to.
‘Vampyric Drain Through Hypnotic Force’ is a whole different story. A gloomy, hypnotic tune with barely any outbursts, but repetitive and slowly, but surely, reeling you into the maw of doom. Creepy and overwhelming, that really brings the whole thing back home to towering peaks and ancient castles in Transylvania… or maybe something less tangible, even more, slithering and always around us, hiding just in the dark.
Judging by the currency, the artist Oghoryt hails from Poland, but apart from that, no information is available. I’ve tried ye olde googles, but the mastermind must be busy in his laboratory, creating new sounds to bespell and bewitch the masses, like he does on these two releases. In autumn, the record ‘My journey through the sleeping forest of the past’ was unleashed, soon followed by ‘In the cave plunged through the magical power’. I’ll give both a spin.
My journey through the sleeping forest of the past
This release has a magical, hand-drawn cover of gold on black. It shows mountains and a thick pine tree forest, castle gates and a peculiar tower. Illuminated by the gold in the middle, we find the magical path. The music itself is condensed to a bare minimum of droning effects and very muted keys on ‘The wizard who stole the stars’. It’s so subtle, you might just pass it by as you stumble past like loud big-folk do.
‘A village of shady dwarfs hidden in a mountain cave’ puts up a bit more sound, mostly using the droning, metallic clang of the synths to put up a feeling of secrets and magic. Repetition is key for the tunes of Oghoryt, with ever rehashing of the same sequence in a sense. The sound is solemn, with a stately quality to it on the final track, titled ‘Witches’ Sabbath of purple froggy swamp’. It’s a journey for sure, but way to brief.
In the cave plunged through the magical power
Intense soundbites open up the second EP, titled ‘In the cave plunged through the magical power’. A crackling, lo-fi sounding drone is added to the music, which works much like an unnerving buzzing in the lower realms of the sound.Oghoryt sounds less gentle here, grander and more open on ‘I’. The buzzing is accompanied by even some slight bombasticism in the sound. In ‘II’ we ever so slightly move back to that intricate, minimal sound of the first EP, which made this act so alluring to me.
Oghoryt shows a lot of potential for the dungeon synth scene. Let’s hope for more soon!
What if the reality you see before you offers more struggle, than any imaginary hell or dark realms you can conjure? For A Village In Despair, that must have been the line of reasoning. The band from Sri Lanka plays a peculiar brand of black metal, inspired by the situation in their country.
As tourists, you probably see a nice place when you go somewhere. According to the band, this is only a facade. Behind the pretty pictures, most of the people in Sri Lanka live in poverty and subsistence. It’s been that way on the former Brittish colony for a long time, since it changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.
A Village In Despair doesn’t make music about the big stories, but the small suffering. That makes them stand out, so I was very eager to get in touch with them and learn more.
The realities of rural life
Hey guys, how are you doing?
Hi Guido, Thank you for taking the time to speak to us.
Can we start of with an introduction to A Village In Despair? How did you guys get started as a band, how did you meet and how did you get into metal?
A Village in Despair (AVID) is a fairly new band, almost everyone in the band plays for other bands and has done so for quite some time. I am the vocalist of Plecto Aliquem Capite and the former vocalist of ForlornHope. Kasun plays with me in PlectoAliquemCapite alongside a host of other metal bands from Sri Lanka. Sandun too, is the guitarist of the black metal band Rathas and we’ve crossed paths many times.
I mulled over the idea of starting an atmospheric black metal band for a while. It really didn’t take off till I had a chat with Sandun who was on the same wave length as I was. Concepts were discussed, riffs were created and Kasun was brought on board to do the drums, recording, mixing and mastering of our first EP. I spoke to my friend Melani about this concept and asked her if she could lend a hand with the female vocals, it was meant to be one-off but it worked so well that we decided to bring her on board as a full-time member of the band.
It seems that A Village in Despair has had a pretty fast start. As I understand it, you guys joined up in 2017 and a single and EP followed quite rapidly. You also signed to PRBM from the UK. How did everything happen so fast and how did you end up with PRBM (and can you tell a bit about them)?
Yeah, things that usually take years took only a couple of months for AVID. Every member was on the same page, I think that helped immensely.
PRBM is a very small operation, a niche underground label if you may. Their main focuses are extreme metal and noise and it is indeed an honour to be on their roster. We got several offers from labels, this was the most sensible option for us.
Your artwork seems very unique. Can you tell me where it is from and why you chose it?
The artwork was designed by our guitarist, Sandun Harshana. We wanted to reflect what we sing about, the artwork was influenced by day to day life in rural Sri Lanka and nature.
I’ve been listening to your music and reading the lyrics, it seems that the band name is in fact also the theme for your music. Struggle, despair, poverty… I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk a bit about that and maybe tell us why you’ve chosen these topics. Does this village physically exist and how does it relate to you?
There are hundreds of families living in rural parts of Sri Lanka without access to what you and I call basic necessities. People forget this quite easily if they don’t have to deal with these hardships themselves. The aim of AVID is to bring these issues to the fore and do something to help them.
We have been fortunate enough to not have been affected by any of these problems, but we feel that it’s not right to turn a blind eye when these issues are still very prevalent in the country we live in. If you look beyond the tourism brochures promoting Sri Lanka, you will see there’s a vast number of people who still live in rural, underdeveloped parts of the country. Life for them is nothing short of a struggle, farming is their main source of income but it is by no means enough to help them meet their basic needs.
What you and I have taken for granted, like having clean drinking water, access to healthcare or access to education doesn’t come too easily for them. Their lives are simple, they don’t have major aspirations and getting through another day is considered a victory by some. Yet they somehow manage a warm smile despite their hardships.
How do you go about making your music? Do you do things DIY? Do you start with lyrics or with the songs and how does everyone work together within the band?
We start off with a concept and lyrics follow soon after. We use lyrics as a guide to set up the song structure. We usually discuss our ideas via Facebook chats and video calls because we are all quite a distance away from each other.
On your EP, which is self-titled, I feel there are some typical elements that truly distinguish you from other bands. It’s as if you’re not encumbered by the rigorous ‘rules’ of the genre and there are these odd spoken word passages. Can you tell something about this EP, those spoken word elements and if you feel your sound is perhaps unique to where you are from?
Yes, the spoken word passages have caught a lot of people off-guard. The spoken passages are done in Sinhala which is our native language. These offer the first-person view of the issues discussed in the song and add a more personal feel.
We try not to restrict ourselves and be confined to the particular genre. We try our level best to include elements that capture the essence of life in rural parts of the country. We will be experimenting a lot more on our next record.
I’m curious about the scene in your country Sri Lanka. Mostly, where I am from, we take the facilities and freedom we have for granted. How are those things in your country? Do you have things like rehearsal spaces, venues to play, instruments and so forth available? Are you free to sing about whatever you want?
The metal scene in Sri Lanka had very humble beginnings. There weren’t many recording studios, rehearsal spaces or even venues during the early 2000s. A lot of individuals put in a lot of time, effort and money into the scene and most of the new bands don’t have to go through the hardships faced by bands back in the day. Things have definitely improved with time in Sri Lanka.
The scene is pretty underground in Sri Lanka and censorship hasn’t been a major concern for local bands. Things might change if the metal scene gets a massive following in Sri Lanka but that is quite unlikely just yet.
What is the scene like in Sri Lanka and maybe can you tell a bit about its history and who pioneered metal music in Sri Lanka?
The metal scene in Sri Lanka is thriving to say the least. The country is blessed with a lot of talented musicians who are in bands that range from black metal and death metal to grunge and punk. The origins of the current metal scene date back to the early 2000s, but there has been a couple of bands in the 70s and 80s as well. It’s a bit difficult to say who really pioneered metal music in Sri Lanka, what I can say though is that everyone who’s a part of it has contributed to its growth.
What bands from your country should people really check out and why?
There’s a lot of great bands from Sri Lanka across a lot of genres and sub-genres of metal. We would recommend you check the Encylopedia Metallum page for Sri Lanka and pick bands that play the genres they fancy.
What future plans does A village In Despair have?
We are hoping to release a 4-track EP by mid/late 2018. We might look at the possibility of playing live towards the end of next year, but nothing’s confirmed. It will be based on the concept of ruin. It will talk about how the 4 elements of nature affect people in rural parts of the country.
If you could choose 3 bands to share the stage with, who would it be? Have any of them ever played in your country?
We are likely to pick Drudkh, Wolves in the throne room and I shalt become. Unfortunately, two of these bands don’t play live and the other hasn’t played in Sri Lanka as of yet.
If you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?
We haven’t really thought about it….. nope still can’t think of anything.
Label: Casus Belli Musica/Independent Band: VVilderness Origin: Hungary
It took me a while to really explore who VVilderness is, but I felt little surprise to see that Ferenc Kapiller, operating under the name vvilder, was operating this band. The previous project of Kapiller was ReleaseTheLongships. As much as a continuation, this is also a break with the previous sound, to create something new within the same context of northern mythology.
‘Devour The Sun’ imagines Ragnarok from an ecological perspective, as a cleansing of the world. A rebirth aftwerwards without the human infestation that has been slowly killing it. The sound is firmly lodged into the blackgaze niche, thanks to the shoegaze that is embedded in the soothing sound on ‘Devouring The Sun’.
The peculiarity of VVilderness is that the sound really is, as they describe it, akin to Alcest. Perhaps with a bit more brawn and postrock sensibilities, which come forward in the gradual build-up and conscientious craftsmanship that goes into creating an album so solidly connected. ‘Starless Dark’ is a slow ascent to the heights where the band operates, with sonorous tones and emotion-evoking strings. When it launches into the track ‘Sól’, this is where we get the black metal influences. Though I get the comparison with Harakiri For The Sky, I imagine a bit of Lantlôs too in there.
Though the music holds an intensity, that overwhelms the casual listener, the darkness eludes you. VVilderness offers tranquility, soothing beauty, like hazy rain on a sunny day. The sound is optimistic, warm and beautiful. On ‘Devour The Sun’, the guttural vocals disturb that peace and a slightly melancholic tone hits home. Well, it’s the end of the world so that makes sense. The undeniable majesty and force of the event takes over and dilutes this human emotion though, which fits the theme. From there we move to more acoustic music. ‘Life’ introduces the rebirth, with the sweeping ‘New Earth’, that simply offers a pure, meandering sound with high notes that sound like little bells heralding a new, beautiful age.
We leave with the glowing sounds of ‘Afterglow’. A bright ray of hope perhaps, though not for humanity.