Category Archives: 195 Metalbands (Interviews)

Dylan Carson and Earth’s Universal Vibrations

Our world still holds plenty of mysteries. There are intricacies, complexities and connections, we can hardly fathom, all around us. Some people tap into the beyond, into the mystery of sound and vibration. One of those is Dylan Carson, a modern day musical shaman and explorer, who by that time had just released ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’ with his band Earth.

On this album, he is exploring a more feminine spirit, a sensuality that is almost transcendental. Carson has his roots in the grunge scene, has gone through the darkness of addiction, lost his good friend to suicide (yes, Kurt Cobain) and somehow has emerged as an icon in a musical style that is entirely his own.

Carlson is often called the father of drone metal. Not a moniker he would pick, but one he gratefully accepts. Currently, as we talk over Skype with a bunch of disruptions on the line as friends try to reach him, he is staying in Los Angeles. For the film soundtrack he is making, but also because he will be moving there in December. It’s a lot more sunny in L.A. he concurs: “It’s way warmer up here, nicer weather for sure!”, he chuckles.

We talk about the new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, which recently came out. But also about his solo record Conquistador, on which he collaborated with Emma Ruth Rundle. And Bagpipes.

Never Mind The Hype let me interview Dylan for last years’ Le Guess Who? festival, a fest I’ve never visited. I was happy to do so anyway.

Good vibrations and universal harmonies

What do you think about the Le Guess Who? Festival yourself?
“It’s one of my favorite festivals. I’m not crazy about festivals, but this one always has an interesting program and many people are there that I’d love to meet. Not that I get to usually, but last time I was there I saw jazz icon Pharaoh Sanders perform. That is really cool!”

How does Earth fit within the confines of a festival like Le Guess Who? And how did you end up playing there this year?
“Well, The Bug is one of the curators and we did an album together, so I think that’s how it went. But why we fit in is that even though people love boxing us into genres or microgenres, Earth has always tried to do something new, always pushed itself into new directions. That fits within the confines of this festival very well. As a musician, I don’t feel confined to microgenres. I make music, as best as I can, but I can’t affect the way people deal with that. But we play all sorts of festivals, because we are not limited to just heavy music. We’ve done Hellfest, Primavera, but also Le Guess Who? and Levitation festival. That’s a big range. Big Ears in Knoxville is another one of my favorites by the way. We’re not stuck in a corner, we can go many different ways with Earth.”

Is that what gives you more freedom in starting up collaborations?
“Definitely. I’ve done a lot of those and I’m always open for new opportunities. It’s all about being open to possibilities and look for that ‘common ground’. If that’s not there, it won’t work. Our collab with Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin is a good example. Even though he grew up hating guitars, we have a lot of similarities in our taste for music and love for dub. Even though we come from opposite worlds, there was enough of a match to do something very cool. So kudos to Kevin for having the guts to do this.”

Do you ever worry if such a collaboration will work out?
“If it doesn’t work out, you just won’t release it. No one will have to suffer through it. I’ve had those in the past, where it just didn’t work out. But now, I think I’ve done this long enough to know early on if something will work or not, if the audience would like it or not. I believe in ‘happy accidents’, just letting things happen. If it’s a lot of work and effort, the magic just isn’t there.”

For your solo album ‘Conquistador’ you worked with Emma Ruth Rundle. How did that happen?
“She’s just fucking amazing. I seriously can’t praise her enough, both as musician and as a human being. I’m so happy to see all the recognition she is getting, because she deserves every bit of it. She is one of the few people I always love seeing perform. She is signed to the same label as us, Sargent House, though I met her earlier when we did a show with Marriages and Deafheaven in LA. I borrowed her amp and we’ve sorta become friends since. When I was working on ‘Conquistador’, our schedules matched and we met in the studio of Kurt Ballou to work on some music. So that’s what happened.”

How was it for you to create a solo record, instead of an Earth record?
“With Earth there are always multiple people involved, which makes the process more complex. Solo I simply have more freedom and a white canvas, possibilities for collaborations, but it also feels more free for me. Though Earth is not a formula, you always look for progress and continuity. Not that there’s a set course, but we don’t want to repeat ourselves while there may be directions I’d like to play with a bit more. The theme of an imaginary western you could here on ‘Hex, Or Printing in the Infernal Method’, so that was a done deal for Earth. ‘Conquistador’ allowed me to further explore that theme.”

“But what was also an influence, is that we had just left Southern Lord. I knew that finding a new label was going to take time and we had just toured intensively for our previous album Primitive & Deadly. There was need for a break, and I had all this music I wanted to work on. So I took the progressions I had and made my own songs with those. So it was a time of finding our bearings and experimenting.”

If I understand you correctly here, Earth is kind of your highway and solo work enables you to take all those interesting byways and explore, is that correct?
“That’s basically it. Earth is the main focus of my career, but there’s so much else I want to do. This enables me to do that and it helps my creative process. Making music is one of the few things in my life I haven’t had problems with. It helps me find the right flow, also in other aspects of my life. I feel very fortunate to be able to work on music all the time and I don’t want to waste any of that time. The fact that I once just… disappeared for 5 years, showed up again and was embraced, is something I’m very grateful for.”

But that’s also your own doing. You get called the father of drone for a reason.
“Well yes, that. The fact that people respect what I did so much and validate it, that’s an incredible honor. That’s what motivates me to try hard and keep innovating, not rest on my laurels. I could have made Earth 2 25 times, but that’s not how I want to be remembered.”

Does the solo work make you hungry for more?
“Definitely. I’m currently working on the soundtrack for the film From A Son and I hope this will be released as a solo album too.”

Conquistador (2018)

You’ve often said you’d like to make soundtracks and this is your second, right? How did this happen?
“I’ve made a soundtrack for a German film, called Gold. This is the second. The director of From A Son is Gilbert Trejo, son of Danny Trejo, who plays in the movie. His production manager Kyle pitched my music and Gilbert liked it. He tried what it would be like by using some Earth songs and music from Conquistador as place holders and it was a fit. Kyle happened to know my manager Cathy and contacted her. Long story short, I got to make a soundtrack.”

“The process itself has been pretty intuitive. I watched the movie, which gave me some ideas. We then played the movie and I basically jammed to it. Then it’s a whole process of cutting, pasting, filling, adding… Until you have it. Austin from Starcrawler added percussion to the recordings. All in all, this was a very straightforward process. Similar to Gold actually, though there they were shooting while I was composing, so I would get bits of the film sent my way. That was interesting.”

I’ve actually seen you play another soundtrack. In Ghent you did a live soundtrack for the 70’s psychedelic movie Belladonna of Sadness.
“Ah, but that was a different process. They actually expected us to play an Earth set, but instead we composed a whole soundtrack. We watched the movie a number of times, chose a number of themes and worked with that. That developed into what we played live that night and which has shaped part of the new album, like the song Descending Bella.

We actually should talk about your new album, but first, you did sign with Sargent House. What made you join their roster?
“Cathy Pellow was already our manager and that’s why my solo record is out on Sargent House. Going there with Earth was a natural choice. Cathy is fantastic, really good with artists, supportive and I like her way of doing business. We just click and Sargent House is a great label, with camaraderie between artists I haven’t experienced before.”

Full Upon Her Burning Lips is the first record you’ve done with Adrienne Davis as a duo. Why did you choose for that and how did it work out?
“I felt that on previous records, we had to give way to a lot of other instruments. That’s not a complaint, I worked with great people and I’m happy with those records. But I wanted to see if I could give more room for the essence. The drums also could do with more space I felt. By making this record with the two of us, we get to show what Earth sounds like at its core. And I got to play bass, which I like, so that is cool.”

“The process was very smooth. Most of the material was composed a month before we went into the studio, and there everything just got together naturally. It’s again a very intuitive process, where most of the overdubs, solo’s, and bass lines are improvised in the studio. The basis for the song was just there to complete.”

Did you have a clear concept for this record, like you did for previous ones?
“That’s actually one thing that was very different on this album. I had various ideas, but not one big concept. My wife, Polly, she’s a dancer and I thought a lot about music and dance, which are so separate in today’s world. I also read a lot of books from Tanith Lee, which have many sensual themes. I wanted to create a record that was more feminine, more sensual, as opposed to the hypermasculinity of heavy music, but also play with dance. Dance is not just for EBM, it’s a form of getting together, interacting physically, of ritual. It’s a communal thing that I find very important.”

I noticed that this whole record refers to that essence. Just the design of the cover, with its 70’s hardrock reference and the picture of you two, it really points to your roots.
“That picture was not intended for the cover, but when I saw it, I knew it was just right. It’s the band itself, and this design makes me think of classic albums like the debut by The Stooges. It was just right.”

Could you tell me what, in your view, is that core or essence of Earth. That which makes the band unique? Is that drone?
“I see drone as more of a technique. In music theory, it’s called an oblique motion and that can be found in numerous types of music. From Indian meditation, classical music, blues to even Scottish bagpipes. What attracts me to that sound is the open string you work with or against. I think that’s what I’ve always done in my music. Many people think of massive amps and volume when they hear drone, but there are drones in a hurdy gurdy or acoustic music. That’s what I love anyways. Tempo has always been less interesting to me so we’re sort of countering that, which was particularly interesting when we started out in a time when each band wanted to be the fastest in the world. Within those factors there are many directions to explore and as long as this is all in there, it’s Earth I think. Currently I’m using a lot of chromatic movements, which is something new in my music. But that’s still an oblique motion.”

All these examples you mention, like a hurdy gurdy and bagpipes, those create a sound that I think resonates with people. Isn’t that part of the charm?
“It might be my Scottish heritage, which makes me cursed with liking bagpipes. But did you know the bagpipe was really used everywhere until the accordion became available? I read somewhere the king of Hungary even burned all bagpipes then and forced people to buy accordions. Maybe that’s where bagpipes got their bad name, but it’s definitely a global instrument.”

“But I feel, making music, that I’m just a conduit for music that’s already there. Like a pipe, the way I’m shaped affects the final form. That vibration though, it’s already there, the universe is all about vibrations. Solid matter are standing waves and I like the idea of a sustained note, that is fed and keeps resounding, which touches us. It’s a shared, universal resonance. Music and dance are the original technologies for ecstasy and transcendence. When I play a really good show, I never remember it afterwards, I disappear into it. When I think too much, when it’s a lot of work, then I remember it. It’s still a good show, people enjoy it, but it’s where I don’t lose myself in that vibration of the music.”

Is that how you experience collaborations? Is there that shared resonance that you look for?
“I think so, but it’s also a form of synergy. The sum needs to be larger than the parts, if that’s all good, it’s going to work out.”

Descending into the world of Krigeist

Most of the interviews with an artist are because of the release of an album, or relevant news that involves the band. But, sometimes there is an artist that just that never sits still, continuously  working on a total of fourteen projects at the same time. Krigeist, also known as Andrew Campbell, plays in Barshasketh, Brón, Belliciste, Dunkelheit and who knows what other musical project he is involved in…

Andrew carries out everything he does with enormous passion and dedication. This is very fascinating if you keep in mind these are not only studio projects. Barshasketh visited the Netherlands several times. Andrew found some gaps in his busy schedule for us to answer questions about his music, inspiration, and how he keeps everything in balance, whilst traveling the world.

Interview originally published on Never Mind The Hype.

Header: Krigeist in Tampere, foto Porta Atra (Source: Facebook page Barshasketh)

Following the Left Hand Path

I was wondering if you could tell me about yourself. Where you originally are from and how you got involved with black metal and in so many projects.
I’m originally from New Zealand, but I’ve not lived there in almost a decade now. I’ve relocated several times since I left, but I’ve now been based in Serbia for a few years.

Since a young age, I’d been looking for a type of music that fits with what I had in my mind and went through many phases searching for it, until I discovered Black Metal, which was everything I’d been searching for, both musically and ideologically. I got into the genre quite late I suppose, when I was around 18 or 19 years old. I think it was Dissection first, followed by Gorgoroth, Emperor, Mayhem as well as newer bands, such as those on the NoEvDia roster. From there it spiraled out of control until I was utterly consumed.

Most of my own projects outside of Barshasketh started due to the fact that the material I had written didn’t suit any of my existing projects, so new ones were needed to accommodate them. The other projects I am involved with were a result of strong connections with other individuals. As well as the projects I’m involved with that already have releases, I’m working on a multitude of others which should see releases in the near future.

How did Bashasketh get started and how would you describe the concept and idea you are expressing?
For me, it feels like your themes and lyrics hold a high level of complexity, though the words themselves are very direct and strong.
I started the band as a solo project around 12 years ago, almost concurrently with my discovery of Black Metal. Since then a number of members have come and gone, but the current lineup of GM, BB and MH and myself has become a lifetime brotherhood. When I started the band, it was a vehicle for me to explore and understand my spirituality and now it serves the same purpose for all four of us. As it’s a natural exploration of our paths through this sphere and beyond, it’s inevitably complex, as these things are never straight forward.

I’m very curious about what that spiritual aspect entails and what directions it has grown into. Could you tell me more about what inspires you? And would you say other projects have sort of grown out of that personal journey?
In the simplest terms, it’s an exploratory approach to the Left Hand Path. We don’t adhere to any specific school of thought, but rather use our own experiences, which we make sense of through our music and lyrics. With the creation of the last album, we have come to realize that this involves a continual cycle of destruction, purification and rebirth. Each time we throw ourselves deeper into the pit and the spirit is reborn in a stronger cast, with more knowledge and more certainty.

The inspiration behind what led us to choose this path is something difficult to pinpoint, however, the reason we have chosen to follow it purely through our own experience was that it seemed to be the only honest way for us to do so. We believe that spiritual growth must come from within, hence we have shunned extraneous influences for the most part.

I wouldn’t say this path has had a direct link on my other projects, although it has an effect on my existence as a whole, so there is undeniably some underlying influence on my other endeavors.

You mentioned that the band is now a whole as such. Does this mean the creation of this latest album was more of a cooperative effort? And can you tell me more about the process?
It was definitely more of a collaborative effort in some ways. As before, either GM or I would write all the guitars for a song, but this time BB and MK were left to write their own parts and put their own stamp on songs-so basically less dictation from our part. All members put forward ideas that were considered and taken on board. MK also contributed some synth parts and provided backing vocals, which was a first for us. Lyrically, I was responsible for the entirety of the lyrics (except for the Latin phrase in Recrudescence, which was the work of GM), but it was something that was discussed and reflected all of us.

BB and MK have also led GM and I to feel less restricted in our songwriting, as they are more than able to handle anything we throw at them.

As for the creative process, it was quite drawn out, with some of the songs being completed in their larval stages even before the release of Ophidian Henosis. As we are all separated geographically, there were months of sending material back and forward in various demo forms. If I recall correctly, the four of us were never in the same room during this process, but we did have one or two occasions with most of the members present to work out the finer details and experiment with structures.

The lyrics came last and were a much quicker process, as the concept was firmly in my mind when I began writing. I feel I should say that a lot of the lyrics were written while in Hungary with the Inner Awakening Circle, so I must thank them for their inspiration.

Can you tell me anything about the Inner Awakening Circle? And what made them so influential.
The Inner Awakening Circle is a Hungarian group of individuals and bands including Lepra, Niedergang and Dunkelheit (who I’m now playing guitar for). They’re very serious about what they do and there’s absolutely no bullshit. The experiences I had with them pushed me out of my comfort zone and pulled me further down, and solidified my conviction that I’ve chosen the right path for me.

Do you believe that this exploration, leaving the known behind, is essential for your art form as much as for personal growth? And are there instances you can describe to clarify how this has impacted your art and person with an anecdote? 
Yes definitely, the two are completely intertwined. The personal growth from these experiences is reflected in the music. The music is the medium through which we make sense of the exploration and experiences.

As for specific instances or anecdotes, these are our own. All the things that we want to share in a public forum can be seen in our music and lyrics.

So you said that during the creation of your latest record under Barshasketh, you were never together in a room. But then I’m really curious how the process took place and how you arrange things. I also was wondering what makes you as a person so unbound by a place and how you relate the change of home perhaps to the music or vision you describe. As I see it, this could be a form of exploration too.
For the creation of the Barshasketh album, either GM or I would write all the guitars for a song, then we would send it to MK and BB to work out their drum and bass parts respectively. This involved a lot of sending demos back and forth until we were mostly satisfied. After that, when some of the members were able to get together, they would iron out details and small structural changes. It was quite an interesting way to do things as I’d often get one of my songs back sounding a lot different than I had originally had in mind.

When it comes to the various changes in location, it was all circumstantial really. It was mostly moving from place to place in order to stay in Europe so that Barshasketh could remain active, just keeping my head above water. The places themselves never had an influence on Barshasketh, but I think the upheaval of having to leave certain places without much warning did. The various places I’ve lived is something that is expressed more through Brón than any other of my projects.

Yeah, I was sort of steering in that direction because I’m very much fascinated by Bròn. Can you tell me how that entity came into being and how it has shaped up to be as diverse as it is?
As with all ‘side’ projects, Bròn came out of writing music that didn’t fit with any of my existing projects, both musically and thematically. Fògradh was written after I found out I would have to leave Scotland and it was inspired by my experiences living in that country. It was intended to be a one-off, but while living in Slovakia, shortly before moving to Serbia, Ànrach was written. The three songs deal with the influence that the natural environments of Scotland, New Zealand and Serbia had on me. It became clear at this point that this was a project dealing almost solely with the place.

I think I’ve reached something as absurd as 14 individual projects now – Krigeist

The diversity in material is due to the environment and the relationship to that environment that I’m expressing with each release. For example, the White City releases deals with Belgrade and day to day living in a huge urban expanse, which is quite far outside of my comfort zone. Black metal of any sort would simply have been an inappropriate medium to express those feelings. Ruins was unsurprisingly influenced by various ruins I have visited throughout Europe. Coming from New Zealand where such structures don’t exist, they had a profound impact on me. Again, black metal felt inappropriate, so a more folkish approach was taken. The black metal releases are invariably influenced by nature and an absence of human life, whether it be in New Zealand, Serbia or elsewhere.

I always feel that Bròn is a very personal project, because it just feels very well-conceived and every release is very cohesive and ‘whole’. Is that how you envision it and how do you feel about the term side project, because I don’t feel that any of this is done with a lesser form of commitment and passion?
All my projects are personal in their own right, they just express different aspects of myself. I have no problem with the term ‘side project’ as Barshasketh is more of an expression of my entire being and my perception of this sphere, whereas the other bands are intended to express one specific thing. Perhaps the fact that I share Barshasketh with people who are very meaningful to me makes it a more personal too.

How does Belliciste fit into this whole world as well? As that does seem to stick more northernly, in language at least.
As for Belliciste, this band also has no relation to place. It is an outlet for pure animalistic, reckless hatred with no bonds to anywhere in this world.

The lyrics deal with the filthiest side of my spirit. Absolute misanthropy, apocalypse and the eradication of all life in this world. There are numerous references to deities from various mythologies, but these are not limited to those from the North. There are also many references to the Maori pantheon, most specifically Whiro, but I believe these all to be some sort of archetypes of the Devil, just through a different linguistic lens.

Do you feel that your current projects and themes are for now it, or are you constantly finding new inspiration as you travel and explore and will new entities see the light of day?
I think I’ve reached something as absurd as 14 individual projects now, so there is a lot of new material on the horizon. Some are black metal, others are not. Some are solo projects, some are with other people I’ve met over the years.

These projects all stem from internal exploration and even just musical exploration, rather than anything geographic.

Ok, so I’d like to ask you if there are any ties you still have to the black metal scene in New Zeeland and if there’s anything happening that you’d like people to be aware of.
I never really had very strong ties to the NZ black metal scene, even while I lived there. I only knew and associated with a small handful of individuals, but I am still in contact with most of them and I’m even working on material with some of them. As for things happening within the NZ scene that people should be aware of, I guess most would already be familiar to those into black metal. Bands of note include Vassafor, Heresiarch, Vesicant, Ulcerate, Diocletian, Creeping.

Lesser known bands include Winter Deluge, Exaltation, Vicissitude. I’m surely forgetting a few more…

So what future plans do you currently have with your projects? What’s coming up next?
A lot at the moment. I’m currently working on two Brón releases. One will likely be part of the White City series and the other is back to the black metal style, but this time features a real drummer. It’s being done in a proper studio setting, so things are moving slower than usual.

Other than that, a few Barshasketh and Belliciste releases are in the works which should see the light of day soon. Dunkelheit and Svartgren albums have been finished and shouldn’t be too long either. The other projects are still being worked on, so news about those will follow.

We have some exciting performances lined up for Barshasketh and Belliciste is also becoming more active in the live arena again.

Bismuth: Existing in Sound

The primal movements of the earth can be felt when Bismuth plays its second set at the Ladybird Skatepark at Roadburn 2019. Slow, purposeful drone doom, delivered with a mantra-like repetition over a fundamental groundwork of drums by Joe Rawlings. The guitars produce a growling, textured sound that hits you like sonic waves with full force.

On guitar is Tanya Byrne, who also plays in Monoliths, Nadir and Dark Mother. Having been pummelled by the live delivery by the band, I wanted to know more about the duo from Nottingham and contacted Tanya to ask her some questions about Bismuth, sound, studying the environment, gear and, of course, playing Roadburn.

Interview with Tanya Byrne from Bismuth

 

I understand you are originally classically schooled, if I may use that term. How did you move from that to the music you create now?

That’s right. I play the piano, played clarinet in an orchestra and studied music theory and composition. I think I moved to drone when I discovered minimalism. Artists such as Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley. Space is an important feature of that, and I wanted to see if that could be explored within the sphere of heavy music. So much metal tries to bludgeon with riffs, but I feel contrast, space and dynamics are needed for something to remain heavy. That’s why I loved Lingua Ignota so much. It has a weight to it, without the usual metal and noise tropes.It would seem that this background really shapes your approach to music than, which is not based on, let’s say, the pop format songs. So where in this development did feel you transitioned that classic approach into a metal framework?

It happened when I was around 25. Through minimalism, I started to discover bands like Khanate, Asva and Sunn O))). For the longest time, I found guitar-based heavy music boring, but these bands showed me that heavy music could be interesting.

I like your mention of Arvo Pärt, because his music is for me essentially attentive listening and very heavy in its intentional nature, as every note has meaning… What attracts you to the minimalism and more so the slowness in music (as you play ‘very slowly’)?

The focus of minimalism is what drew me to it. You have to give each note your full attention. Playing slowly helps with that. Nothing can be rushed and you have to exist in the sound. Everything else falls away as the sustaining of the music becomes everything.

What does heavy mean to you and what role does volume play in that, which is what most people would assume to represent heavy?

Heavy is more of an emotional response. Volume can be helpful in reaching that intensity, but for me, the intensity in performance is so much more important. I’ve seen bands that are quiet in volume, but their music has a connection that makes it truly heavy.

I’ve seen you perform, but I wonder how you feel you put the heavy in the performance you deliver with Bismuth. Is it physical or in your own experience of the meaning and voice of the music?

A lot of my lived experience comes out in the music. Obviously, both Joe and I are fans of volume to add to this, so that comes out too. When we play, nothing else exists. I see nothing and just share what is normally hidden.

Is the meditative aspect of that sound on some level relevant to what you do? And by that, I mean the ritualistic or even religious aspect of music, but also may be a connection to your academic field?

Very much so, yes. Becoming lost in the sound is a form of meditation. It not so much religious for me, but I definitely think that playing so slowly helps me feel connected to the deep time of the geological record, in a small way. People need time and space to contemplate processes that take millions of years, and I think the state of feeling nothing but sound and time can tether me to that. Day to day worries fall away, and for a time, notes seem like infinity.

I am intrigued by the connection though, between your academic interest and music. Which came first and when did you first connect them like they are on ‘The slow dying of the great Barrier Reef’?

I’ve been playing music since I was five, but I only started studying environmental science within the last 6 years. Barrier reef was the first time I attempted to connect the two. The music and themes arose due to my increasing frustration with the world government’s inaction on climate change. I read journals pretty much every day showing the way in which humans are degrading our environment, and I can’t believe the inaction of governments around the world.

There’s a lot of disinformation going around, or fake news as we call it today. Was that attitude, the inaction, was it a driver for you to connect these two?

Or was it something brooding already to make this connection and just got this push here.

Both. As a scientist, it’s very frustrating to hear talk about ‘beliefs’ when there is solid evidence that climate change is happening, and that our species is causing it.

For you as a person, what does it mean to bring these two together? Is this a platform?

I’m not sure if it’s a platform so much as me trying to process the thoughts I have around this subject. It’s great if others are prompted to research, but joining music with this subject matter helps me deal with the anger and despair that I feel at times. It’s difficult to maintain hope when all you read about is destruction and death, but we must hold on to hope and work together.

For me, as a listener, your performance felt very cathartic too, as the music is delivered with a certain laborious effort. It helped to connect, to move in harmony with you as artists. Is that something you feel is important, this connection through the music?

The connection is one of the most important aspects. When you are playing with others, it’s important to get into the same space. I’m not very outgoing in real life, and the way I connect the most is through playing music.

How big is the role of your equipment when you play music like yours?

Very. Very important. I use multiple amplifiers set up so I can use each amp to cover a different frequency range.

Coming back to your approach of music not as simply bludgeoning with riffs, is this an example of your way of creating this heavy effect?

For sure. Cutting the bass amp and reintroducing it later can help add heaviness. I also run different effects chain for each amp. It’s important to have different amps for different tonalities.

So what is your process when creating music, because by what I read about your gear expertise it feels like an engineering job, so I was wondering if you could describe how that happens?

Generally, Joe or I will have an idea, a riff or a drum beat. We then work in that for a while and see if it’s something we can expand on. Vocals are always written secondary to this, as layers of sound are very important to us.

Is there a lot of tinkering with the equipment involved?

Yes…I tend to have a pretty precise idea of the sound in my brain. There have to be lots of playing around with pedals to match up the sound I am aiming for.

Do you consider yourself a bit of a gearhead?

Yes, in other aspects of my life I work as a programmer, so I get really interested in tech of all kinds.

Now, this is usually a pretty male-dominated terrain. Is that something that ever came across your path of an artist and do you notice the shift that’s happening and was very visible at Roadburn this year?

Yes, I have had a couple of amps and pedals custom made for me, and only I and the person that built it knows how to work them. This still hasn’t stopped some guys trying to tell me how to use my own equipment (they usually shut up after they see us play). Sometimes I feel like I need to be super nerdy about it so I can stand my ground in male-dominated spaces. It was very heartening to see that Roadburn is showing that creating experimental music is not just the domain of men.

So, can you tell me about your Roadburn experience and history?

Both Joe and I are so overwhelmed by our experience of Roadburn. Becky, Walter and the rest of the Roadburn crew are amazing. When they asked us to play a second set in the skate park. We couldn’t believe it. I watched the Lingua Ignota show there and it was amazing.

Bismuth started 8 years ago and we’ve recorded two albums and a few splits and EPs., but this was our first performance at Roadburn, yes. We’ve done a few tours in Europe and the UK. We have always wanted to play Roadburn and were so so excited to be asked.

But then to get a second set, what was that like?

Disbelief! When my friends told me about the queues for the first set, I really didn’t know what to think. It was a great honour for us.

Did the second one feel different?

Yes. I think we were both more at ease. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because it’s more similar to the usual places we play? I think its because its closer to the DIY spaces a lot of the bands are used to normally play. I definitely felt more comfortable there

Do you think Roadburn is a different place to play?

Definitely. I think many bands aspire to play there. The friendship and open-mindedness of the people that attend is something I’ve never experienced at any other festival. It’s really special.

What does the future hold now for Bismuth?

In the next couple of weeks, we are playing Northern Discomfort fest in Copenhagen, DIY fest in Nijmegen and Raw Power fest in London. We also have a show in Leeds with Thou and Moloch. That should be fun. After that, we are going to take a little live break to focus on writing for our third album and a few splits.

If your band was a dish, what would it be and why?

Hmmm well, it depends who you ask! Joe would definitely say kebab. However, I would say tasty lentil dahl, with rice and chipati. We would both agree on tasty Oreo brownie though.

Is that because you both like it or is there a more complex idea?

Haha nope, we both just think it’s tasty. I think it would match is as it appears sweet but can be intense.

Dymna Lotva: Belarussian pagan fires burning bright

Belarus, the last really mysterious place in Europe under the auspicious leadership of a president that seems to be boundlessly popular in a country that is prim and proper like you’ll never see a street in Western Europe. Belarus has a dark underside though, an underground scene full of exciting bands. One of those is folky doomsters Dymna Lotva.

The band has been quite prolific over the years and plays a very distinguished type of music. Their origin leaves a little in the way of the language barrier, but they were kind enough to answer my questions. This took some time, but I’m certain that it will provide you with many new insights on this exciting band.

Dymna Lotva might sound dark and misty, but also presents the listener with the other magic that is Belarus. A country with a long history and a mysterious past.  This is part of what Dymna Lotva is about.

From the fogs of Belarus

First of let me thank you for taking the time to do this. 

Thank you for the interview offer. We apologize wildly for the delay. We have been answering these questions for so long that during this time we have changed our lineup and had to start all over again.

First, can you introduce yourselves and how you got together?

Jauhien: Hi, I’m a Jauhien and I’m the father of Lotva 🙂
It all started with the fact that after writing about 5-6 demos, I made a post on a local music forum about the search for a vocalist to record an EP. Nokt wrote to me and we started to work on material. After the release of the single “A Solitary Human Voice” we began to receive proposals for the concerts and started thinking about a concert lineup.

Forladt: I am Forladt and I play guitar and do some back vocals in Dymna Lotva. For me, Dymna Lotva was the first and is still the only band I joined. I wanted to play in a band so I gave an advertisement on a forum and Nokt replied to me. We met, talked a lot about music and other things. Nokt and Jaŭhien were already making Dymna Lotva and she invited me to play with them. Since then I’m here.

Nokt: I am Nokt and I am the mother of Lotva. I work on vocals parties, lyrics, concept, costumes, etc. In short, in the band, I do everything except what is really important. And sing.

By the way, we were acquainted with Jauhien and played together for some time before Lotva. We just don’t usually mention it. That is why I immediately responded to his post about vocalist search. We got acquainted with Forladt on the topic of music and his own project (now this is Absence of Life), but I didn’t then consider him as a musician for Dymna Lotva because of a very young age. However, we quickly became best friends. And when Lotva began to look for a concert lineup, we listened to a lot of guitarists, no one approached us, and we still had to call Forladt. And I put him before the fact that he would sing (he didn’t know how to do it at all, but he had to learn quickly). Forladt brought us a young drummer, Shen. He played with us for 2 years, but recently our paths diverged. Now our drummer is Barmaley. We also couldn’t find a second guitarist for a long time, so our friends played at concerts like session musicians. However, a little less than a year ago, Igorr joined us.

Dymna Lotva

Do you guys play in any other bands or projects? And what bands inspired you to pursue the type of music you make?

Jauhien: I prefer to play my music, but recently Forladt asked to play in his band Absence of Life and I could not refuse. I was probably inspired by Mastodon, Amenra and Leprous.

Forladt: I have my own DSBM project Absence of Life. About the bands that inspire me… I listen to a lot of different music; it is difficult for me to highlight. But at the moment I joined Dymna Lotva, I listened mostly to DSBM.

Nokt: Everything around inspiring me. Singing is the most important thing in my life, so I’m ready to be involved in as many projects as I can. Unfortunately, free time is not as much as we would like. So besides Dymna Lotva I am the second vocalist in the Absence of Life. I also occasionally record guest vocals for various projects and prepare to start another project with my friends.

Barmaley: Darkthrone and Grazhdanskaya Oborona (seriously!) are my inspiration. I will not talk about playing in other bands, otherwise, it will be a too long interview. Favorite drummers are John Bonham and Buddy Rich.

Igorr: I play covers on Opeth, Tool, Lamb of God, Gojira, etc in a jam band.

Where you inspired by bands from Belarus to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands?

Nokt: I am fully inspired by Belarusian metal and folk scene. Unfortunately, it is not very well known in the world. And it is, even more, a pity that the negative towards all made in Belarus is very characteristic for our mentality.

Forladt: My first metal band ever was Accept, since I listened to lots of heavy metal, then it came to trash, death, black and so on. So I was inspired to start playing guitar and making music mostly from foreign bands.

Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Belarus? How did metal music come to Belarus in the first place?

Nokt: We are not so old, so we did not see the start of metal in Belarus with our own eyes. The most famous of our group was and remains the Gods Tower, they have been playing since the 90s.

You’ve released the single ‘Трудна, нудна на сэрдуньку’. A collaborative effort with Andrei Apanovich. How did this come to be? And are you working on anything new?

Jauhien: It was a very funny story. In fact, this single is the result of losing a bet. In the Russian-language social network VK under one post with voting for the best folk metal band, there was a huge discussion with calls to vote for one or the other side, and we jokingly decided to support Apanovich with his band Trollwald. It was like this: “If Trollwald wins, Dymna Lotva will record folk”. As you can understand – they won.

Yes, at the moment we are working in parallel on several releases. The main one is the second full-length album.

How do you work on creating your music? Is it something you do together as a band or do you have divided tasks?

Jauhien: In general, we have divided the tasks. I write music, and Nokt writes lyrics. Also with the writing of music Forladt helps a little. Well, I hope our new guitarist Igorr will also join this process.

Can you tell a bit about the way you approach creating music and how that process looks like for you as a band? I feel there’s a very distinct feeling to your sound and I really wonder where you derive your inspiration from.

Jauhien: I cannot say that I am inspired by nature, books, films or other music. I am rather inspired by the process of creating music, the search for new sounds and interesting moves and combinations. But one cannot say that I am engaged in such a dry business, for I still write based on my inner feelings and mood.

 

What themes and topics do you put in the music, what topics do you address with your lyrics? The imagery and overall feeling hint at the land, mysteries, and folklore. Can you tell more about this and perhaps provide some examples?

Nokt: Our country has a very sad fate. So at this stage, all our lyrics are somehow about Belarus. This may be the tragedy of a particular person (as in A Solitary Human Voice I and II). This may be something more abstract, general view of the problem (for example, the total passivity of the Belarusians in the “Into the Swamp” track). Of course, in each text, my own history is also explicitly or implicitly present. They are just on different levels. This year we twice used non-original lyrics – the folk song text in “Sick at Heart” and the poem of the Belarusian poetess in “Dying” – however, the approach remains the same.

In pictures, some Dymna Lotva wears traditional clothing. How deep are these aspects connected to Dymna Lotva? Is there a pagan religious side to your work too?

Nokt: In fact, these are not exactly traditional clothes. In any case, not a reconstruction. But yes, Dymna Lotva deep inside is a pagan band. We do not stick it out clearly in the music and lyrics (at least now). But personally, I have long been deeply interested in Belarusian old traditions and mysteries and YES, I am pagan. I really want to work with folk spells as lyrics. I still do not know whether it will be in Lotva or in some kind of side project, but it will happen necessarily. As for the other musicians, they are all pagans to one degree or another.

Do you face any sorts of censorship in Belarus as a musician or are you free to do and say as you please?

Jauhien: Dymna Lotva is not threatened by censorship. We don’t go into political and social issues, we don’t praise Satan and we don’t incite hatred. But yes, there is a lot of censorship in Belarus. Often concerts are canceled, or musicians are simply not allowed to perform. For example, I am sure that in Belarus you should not wait for concerts of such groups as Batushka or Behemoth.

Nokt: I do not fully agree with Jauhien. Almost any band can have problems with censorship in our country. For example, a concert of the Belarusian group TT34 was recently banned. The band has been playing for many years, and as far as I know, they had no problems before. They do not touch dangerous topics in their lyrics. As regards DSBM, rumors have long been circulating about the adoption of a new law on the promotion of suicide in Belarus. Theoretically, then the problem can become much more serious than just canceling concerts. If we talk about the situation specifically now, for example, I cannot cut myself on the stage if I want to be able to perform here in the future. And more recently, our lightest sounding song was not taken on the radio (it completely fits the radio format) because of the lyrics. We used poem of the Belarusian poetess, the winner of one of the national poetry contests. The poem tells about dying and did not pass censorship on the radio. Our folk song was also not accepted because of the lyrics (despite the fact that this is a folk text).

By the way, Behemoth performed in Minsk about 6 years ago.

Which bands from Belarus should people really check out? And why?

Jauhien: Oh, we have such great guys as Nebulae Come Sweet. In my opinion the top 1 in Belarus. Make a unique mixture of Doom and post-metal. It seems to me that in terms of interesting arrangements, they surpassed even some famous groups in the genre.

Forladt: I do not listen to a lot of local scenes, but I think that my favorite Belarusian band is Nebulae Come Sweet. Their music is really deep, sensual and unique, especially for Belarus where most of the music is folk or black metal. They are definitely worth checking out.

Nokt: Of course Nebulae Come Sweet is also in my top. But I have to mention other bands. My favourite are: Pragnavit (ritual folk ambient), Vietah (atmospheric black with bright live image), Dzivia (epic orchestral folk), Vicious Crusade (folk trash), Medievil (black), Massenhinrichtung (melodic black with folk elements), Zaklon (atmospheric black), Re1ikt (post-rock with folk lyrics and really fantastic clean male vocals).

What future plans does Dymna Lotva have?

Jauhien: World musical domination, not otherwise.

Nokt: after the new album release.

If you had to compare Dymna Lotva to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Nokt: We are smoked roach. For Russian-speaking people, this is consonant with our name (do you know that in our homeland we are affectionately called “Plotva”?) And it is good with beer =)

Forladt: I can’t say properly why, but Dymna Lotva for me is associated with mushrooms. Jaŭhien, for example, is boletus, Nokt is death cap, Shen is amanita and Igor is armillaria.

Jauhien: Alcohol is a dish, right? Then we are absinthe. Hard, but it is not felt; smells like wormwood, and you will like it. 🙂

 

 

Zarraza: spreading the virus from Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan definitely got a bad rep throughout the years. The country became the but of the joke, thanks to the Borat film and that pretty much might be everything you know about the country. Zarraza might change that with their slabs of grooving, thrashing metal on their latest album ‘Necroshiva’.

Nick Khalabuzar is one of the founders of Zarraza and to say he’s a passionate metalhead would be a vast understatement. His energy alone when it comes to his band might push them to big things in the near future. Nick was kind enough to tell us something more about his band and playing metal in Kazakhstan.

Raising the flag for metal

Hello, how is Zarraza doing?

Great! We just get approval for two SEPULTURA shows in Central Asia. Our first full-length album “Necroshiva” is gonna be officially released in China on May 11 through MusicDish. After that there will be some special local gig in June – I am working on details now.

How did you get started with Zarraza and what does the name mean (why did you choose it)?

About the name – I did not want to create another SUPER-BLOODY-KILLER-TORMENTOR kind of name. I liked irony behind ANTHRAX name. So one of the options for me was Infection – Zaraza in Russian. The word has second meaning – unbearable and annoying but maybe a funny person. So I liked it. Only after I realize there was a Russian metal magazine ZARRAZA – it was published through 1990-1991. I decided to keep the name – for me, it looks like we raise a flag dropped on the battlefield by a fallen soldier – the founder of the magazine was very supportive about all kinds of metal and unfortunately died in the 2000s.

About the starting point… It was me and my friend Max Saklakov – we decided it’s not enough for us to go to bars together so we should start a band! For a couple of years, we were looking for a proper drummer – and found Ruslan Konon. Then bassist Alex Filatoff came in. But Max left after we recorded the first demo – and from then there were few guitar players. Every one of them brought something special to the band so we are thankful to them. Damir Yunussov, Vladimir Grigoryev, Daniyar Aktayev…

What bands inspired you to start playing metal music?

Before I start to drop big names like MEGADETH, SLAYER and SEPULTURA… I should say it was my mother – she supported my passion and bought me my first guitar. She was patient when I spent my last money on tapes discovering not only big bands but something special like ACID RAIN, LAWNMOWER DEATH, POLTERGEIST, THERAPY? etc.

Can you share with us what sort of theme, message or idea is behind Zarraza?

Musically it is about energy and adrenaline exported into sounds. We considered our role on a scene as shamans who twist your muscles with sounds and then release it helping your inner demons to go out in mosh and slam.

Lyrically it is about spreading the infection of sarcasm. Viruses of free thinking. The face of gods, idols, and politicians should be erodingafter this infection.

And on live performances, it is about having fun in a mosh and slam as much as possible.

Ok, lets talk about Necroshiva, your latest record. How did the writing and recording process go?

From the starting point of writing, I wanted a record full of fast songs hitting listeners in a face. When it was recorded I was a little bit disappointed – not all songs seemed fast enough to my taste. Then we started to play it live – and I see how the audience became too exhausted too fast. We tried to put slow songs among fast and… Realized that all songs are pretty fast. Some of them have slow parts but finally, all of the shit is fast enough. So… Mission complete!

We work on songs very hard and carefully. The first demo was recorded in 2015 – and most of it was butchered. Some songs were re-composed, some – erased. The only song that remains the same is “More Than Hate” – except the title and lyrics. Initially, it was called “Government hates you”. The idea stays the same – I just decided that the new title is a bit cooler. Too much politics make music boring.

We were happy to work on the album with Arkadiy Navaho from Moscow, Russia. He is famous for his work with KATALEPSY, SIBERIAN MEAT GRINDER and a lot of other bands. He understands our style, is very open to our ideas and last but not least – very patient. There were few strong arguments between me and drummer Ruslan during mixing. Arkadiy waited silently the moment when the storm weakened and then just asked: “so where do we go now?”

What sort of record is it, what does it tell the listener?

It is short – we prefer to make it with “All killer – No filler” formula. That’s why we cut one song off the record before starting mixing. That’s why “Shadows” was written for an album few days before recording started – we needed something stronger than the removed song.

Three pieces could be easily released as concept EP – “Abyss Above Me”, “Echo Of the Future”, “Dead Star”. These songs tell one story.

AAM is the first part – it’s about Giordano Bruno story with some quotes from his revelations about the infinity of the Universe and narrow-mindedness of human-made gods. First lines inspired by the poetry of famous Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and it’s about the infinity of the Universe too. Two scientists from different countries and ages were talking about similar ideas… But story concentrated on Giordano Bruno – he realized he cannot be blinded anymore by church’s lies despite threats of inquisition. “Echo Of the Future» musically bonded with next song, “Dead Star”. «Echo» created on the same chord progression that you can hear in a middle part of “Dead Star” – but chords played backward with a different rhythm. It is the same but different. So the name for it was obvious – it’s like an echo of chords from song that will go next… Echo of the future.

«Dead Star” is lyrically the second part of Giordano Bruno’s revelation. But here listener will find him on his way to the inquisition’s stake. He is doomed but not broken still standing on his beliefs and visions of the future. Keeping in mind the picture helps me to perform the song with anger and emotions.

All three songs fit each other musically and lyrically. So I considered the triplet as hidden EP on the album.

As you can see from here it is anti-religious anti-state themes. “Shadows”, “More Than Hate” and “Necroshiva” follow the same agenda.

You guys have performed with bands like Arkona, Tyr and Ektomorf. Im particularly interested in the first two, is there an ethnic element to your music?

– No, but yes. No – there is no ethnic elements in our music except dombra intro on “wRRong Song” – you will hear it on upcoming release this year. Yes – I give you the names of our gods and you will give the name to my tribe: SLAYER, MEGADETH, NAPALM DEATH, DECAPITATED, CANNIBAL CORPSE, SEPULTURA… Probably you are one of us.

And how did you happen to end up performing with these groups?

About ARKONA and TYR it was as simple as that – I asked the local promoter to add us. He listened to our album before, he knew we were gonna play with EKTOMORF so the answer was positive. As far as I know, the promoter from Russia who was responsible for the whole tour attended our gig with EKTOMORF and agreed too.

Honestly speaking, ARKONA/TYR gig was worst gig of the year for me – I told it to my mates right after I came from the scene. My ear monitors went down, and I didn’t hear my voice, my amp had some issues and the whole day before was nervous. But the whole gig was ok. It was interesting to see ARKONA and TYR soundcheck.

There was a funny story. During soundcheck, we muffle a kick drum with a very old fur coat. Our drummer brought it from home – it was made from faux fur I guess. We need it to make drum kick resonate less. But TYR needs this resonance. Their drummer checked the kick drum and found our fur coat inside. He sighed very loudly – “OH MY GOD!” After he discovered it was very old fur coat he continued: “I will perform in this shit!” Other guys from TYR did not let it happen but during soundcheck, he was wearing our fur coat all the time. He really liked the old junk. Now, this relic is lying in our rehearsal room. Inside of the kick drum, of course.

And About EKTOMORF… I was impressed by their “Fury” album. I tolld my friend Arseniy from KASHGAR my desire to bring the band here with gigs. He contacts some promoters in Moscow and together we arrange a short tour for EKTOMORF and played with them.

Would you say your music could be created anywhere else than in Kazakhstan?

Definitely – yes. We don’t have any specific ethnic motives and I not fan of that kind of metal though I like a lot of ethnic music. I know it is possible, but it is not my way. Some people like to incorporate ethnic elements into metal, jazz etc. But it is not my way. No disrespect to others – I just don’t express myself this way.

Youve said on your website that you guys are on the wrong side of the planet. What is it like to be a metal band in Kazakhstan?

You are arrogantly ignored or someone is trying to make laugh of you. You are overdosed with boring revelations from neighbors, colleagues etc like “I used to listen to metal when I was a kid and then I grew up, so when will you grow up?” Never. Let me clarify that word. It is not me who will never grow up. It is you who actually never grow up. Never understand and never value metal music. It was a joke for you. Probably you were a joke. And still is. That is why you try to bring me down with these meaningless disrespectful words. My condolences to your betrayed and buried dreams and beliefs.

By saying “we’re on the wrong side of planet” I react to other kind of discussions and suggestions. “You should move with your music somewhere else, nobody listens to it here”. But somehow we gathered more and more people on our shows – from 100 to 250. Not bad!

Kazakhstan has 52 bands listed on Metal Archives. Now, I know this is not always representative of the actual scene, but how big is metal in your country and can you tell a bit about the history?

The scene is growing but it is not so big – local metal gigs are a pretty rare thing. One in two months approx. First metal bands started in the middle of ’80s. It seems strange but there are no proper releases from them like LP’s or CDs. Even a demo with good quality is a rare thing. Just total underground things.

One of the first important releases I like is tech-death band LEAD WEIGHT and their “Penetrator” album. As far as I know, it was the first album from Kazakhstan metal band officially released on a label outside the country – Russian “CD Maximum” is responsible for it.

Is your music socially accepted or not? Do you face any censorship?

Currently we out of sight of any censorship – probably we are too small for them. There is no official censorship in Kazakhstan but it exists In a form of oppression from so-called “Uyat” («Shame») groups – people who claim themselves as defenders of old traditions. They are very active against young girls wearing short clothes but never say anything against corruption which is really corroding the society. So, does it mean corruption is an important part of tradition or it is just a good way to finance these groups?

Beside that metal and rock in common are no strangers to the culture here in Kazakhstan. It is not so popular, but it is OK to wear metal t-shirts and long hair. Of course, some idiots can try to provoke you but if you can stand for yourself they will f- off.

Are there any bands from Kazakhstan or neighboring countries you feel people should really check out?

Kashgar, My Own Shiva and Shahid – all of them are from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Seven Sins and Tishina, Doubleface, ZeroVoid, Noise Execution from Kazakhstan. All these bands released full lentgh albums with good quality and you can easily listen to them on Bandcamp or Spotify. I believe we should call it new wave of Central Asian metal – and as for me those are the best releases from the scene in a whole time.

What future plans does Zarraza have?

Here is to-do list:

  • to release New EP this year;
  • to record a demo for the second full-length album for next year release. I got three new songs, Den bring another one so we are in the progress;
  • To film 2 new videos.

At the same time I’m trying to figure out the best options and headliner for second edition of Hellmaty Metal Fest – festival I started last year.

If you had to compare Zarraza to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Weak roasted meat with rings of red pepper or ginger. Because I like it, haha. And because I like music with blood, with adrenaline.

Nelecc: Gazing at stars in Kenya

Africa is the final frontier when it comes to metal, but something is definitely brewing with bands like Nelecc from Kenya, creating their very own brand of atmospheric black metal. But the local scene is small and mostly unknown, yet this gives it a unique flavor.

Kenya has been a country with a moving history but has also offered a relatively stable breeding ground for musicians. Unsurprisingly, this also has created bonds across boundaries and the one-man band Nelecc has seen new ties, as the artist, Nelecc himself has joined forces with Victor Rosewrath from Vale of Amonition (Uganda) and Noktal from Djibouti in the band Krummholz.

Also, he was kind enough to tell us some more about his music and vision.

Nelecc: Nature, Stars, and Inspiration 

Hello, how is Nelecc doing?

Nelecc is doing great, thank you. 2018 was quite the year and I am happy with how it went in terms of music.

How did you get started with Nelecc and what does the name mean?

The idea of Nelecc was started while I was in high school. I had a strong will to make music, and get lost in it. Since Nelecc is part nature, part personal life experiences, and part fantastical themes, I decided to mix the real with the ethereal. Hence, the Nel(son)ecc(lesiastes).

Which music inspired you to pursue the path of black metal with your own project and did you have any previous projects or bands you were active in?

There is a lot of different music (even different genres) that inspired me to do black metal. I initially wanted to form a black metal band, but was not able to due to the fact that I grew up in a very remote town with barely four metalheads, and a really bad music scene. Since I was so far away from Nairobi, and couldn’t get in contact with the big city metalheads because of my high school, teen years shyness, I decided to just do it by myself. I hadn’t wrapped my head around the concept of having a solo project, but it grew on me faster than I expected. In Africa, the two bands that have influenced me to do black metal are: Absence of Light, and Wildernessking.

Can you share with us what sort of theme, message or idea you try to convey with Nelecc?

The themes are: Nature, personal life experiences, and fantasy. It is a blend of the three really. Like some sort of tale, but not really one, haha.

You’ve recently released the record ‘The Stars’ with Nelecc. A concept album it seems with a story to tell. Can you share what the story is on the record?

Opening: The Stars – This is practically an intro to the album, and the journey of a guy who seeks another world far from, yet in within this one. The other remaining tracks take you through a fantasy world, my world, and the natural world.

What was the process like of writing and recording the record?

Writing and recording the album was tedious considering how much I had to learn (and what I’m yet to learn) about mixing and mastering. But, as it didn’t seem to be sounding too good, Mike L. of Sojourner continually gave me incredibly important tips on how to get a much better mix. It was incredibly helpful for that process, and definitely boosted the release.

On the cover of your record ‘The Star’ you show, what I believe to be, a Kenyan landscape. The content of the lyrics is also referring to places and is partly in the native language. How important is your origin for your music?

The cover art is a picture of lower Rift Valley. Going to places like these as a child always took my breath away. I was always in awe of the enormity of it all. The peace, the cool breeze, the chirping birds, flowing streams, falling water… It is a place to become. And that is why nature is my greatest influence. Growing up in a small town surrounded by the wilderness definitely helped it. So, it is important how or where the ideas generate for one to come up with a project.

Would you say your music could be created anywhere else than in Kenya?

I believe music can be created anywhere (even Antarctica). It’s universal. Where you draw your inspirations from is what is really important.

Can you tell me if there is a black metal scene or metal scene in your country and how it started, which bands are important and where it is happening?

The main metal scene is in the capital city, Nairobi. There is a blackened death metal band that I mentioned earlier, who also influenced me to carry forth with black metal; Absence of Light. They have a full-length record out from 2013 (Vyom Chakra) and it’s absolutely magnificent.

Are there any bands you’d like to recommend from Kenya or neighboring countries?

I’d recommend my friend, and bandmate’s band, Vale of Amonition (doom metal, Uganda). Some other good bands from Kenya would be The Seeds of Datura (doom), Last Year’s Tragedy (melodic metalcore), In Oath (deathcore), and Mortal Soul (metalcore).

You’ve recently released a joint record with Krummholze, an international East-African project with Victor Rosewrath from Vale of Amonition from Uganda and drummer Noktal. How did this come into being?

It was pretty simple really, and a more than a pleasant surprise. Victor Rosewrath messaged me and proposed to start a band together with Noktal, since they had been acquainted before. As soon as I saw the vision that Noktal had for the soon-to-be band, I was immediately interested. So we joined forces and formed Krummholz.

Can you give me some background on Noktal, I can’t find anything as for where he is from, in which band he played etc.?

Noktal is from Djibouti, but he’s currently in the US. He’s been in multiple bands before, but he can provide more insight on that than I can.

Krummholz seems to have rapidly become your main focus. How does it relate to your Nelecc project and how did you get in touch with Naturmacht Productions, a fantastic label in my opinion?

Well, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that I have a main focus quite honestly. This is because you never know when inspiration is going to strike. So most times, I’ll find myself writing for Krummholz and Nelecc back and forth. Victor was able to get in touch in me because of my work in Nelecc, so there will always be a little bit of Nelecc in Krummholz: not in the sound, not in the lyrics, not in the themes, but in spirit.

Robert, of Naturmacht reached out to us and said that he really liked our sound and offered us a deal. It’s a great label, and we were thrilled to sign with him. The roster is incredible, and the commitment to his artists is real.

What future plans do you have for Nelecc and for Krummholz?

Writing and recording for the new Nelecc album that I’m hoping to release this year is more than halfway done, and the writing process for the debut Krummholz FL album is currently underway. We can’t wait to show everyone what we are brewing when it’s done.

If you had to compare Nelecc to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Rice and beans without a doubt, haha. This is because I AM rice and beans.

Theudho: Answering the summons from the ancient forests

Pagan times have seen renewed interest over recent years. Perhaps it’s slightly one-dimensional with a wide range of Viking themed music, tv-shows and even fitness events. But for those willing to look deeper, there’s such a wealth of ideas and cultures to be found that inspired to this very day. That is a large part of Belgian band Theudho.

Band member and founder J.S. has been making music for many years and is inspired by that remote past as well as the extreme music scene. These two have always combined well and with Theudho, he recently released ‘De Roep van het Woud’, which translates as the call of the forest. He was also kind enough to tell us about his calling, inspiration and work, with some good advice for those looking to find their own green cathedral.

Pagan past, notorious music and wandering the verdant realm with Theudho

Hi, Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Theudho?
I initially planned to use the name þeuđo, as I originally spelled Theudho, for a keyboard/synth project back in 2002. Things rarely go as they are planned; guitars and drums were eventually introduced and the music shifted towards black/pagan metal.
The first demo was recorded as a one-man band and released in 2003. It was a fuzzy lo-fi ordeal that nevertheless resulted in a record deal. By the time of the second album, Theudho had become a band with a full line-up that also performed live. However, for the fifth and latest album, I decided to return to the one man band formula.

As for myself, next to a passion for music, I early on developed an interest in pre-Christian Germanic mythology and culture. Next, to the appeal of the rather notorious local music scene, this is the reason why I started to spend considerable amounts of time in Scandinavia since the latter half of the nineties.

What originally inspired you to create this type of music? Which bands would you consider your inspirators?
As strange as it may sound, I actually became inspired to play this kind of music again when a friend (my partner in crime in the neo-folk/industrial/martial project Weihan) and I were backpacking in Ireland back in 2002. We visited loads of Celtic and even some Norse sites in the south, but especially some of the landscapes we witnessed just breathed the imposing atmosphere that is synonymous with a lot of classic second wave black metal. I just had to do something with these impressions.

There were quite a few worthwhile examples when it came to this kind of music. The early albums of Blut Aus Nord, Falkenbach and of course Bathory and Burzum specifically because they were one man bands too (at least at some point), but there is a whole array of Scandinavian, Slavic and even some German bands that I would consider inspirational.

You’ve been active in a number of bands, lately also with a new project named ‘Slithering Decay’. Can you tell something about your musical endeavors and the latest projects you are working on?
I’ve been in quite a few bands and projects in the last 25+ years. The latest band Slithering Decay is inspired by all those great albums that were released in the Stockholm scene in the early nineties. I was in a death metal band too at the time, but we honestly lacked the skill and knowledge to write and perform music that was even remotely listenable. So this is basically a second attempt to pay tribute to that sound and feel. We released our first demo (tape!) last year and are currently writing our debut album. Hopefully, we will be able to release it later this year. We’re also looking into releasing another Weihan album.

Over the years, Theudho would appear to have embraced different aspects and themes in the realm of paganism, history and aesthetic representation on the album covers. Has this been a journey for you in a sense?
The lyrics have been inspired by themes from all over the Germanic realm, from the Bronze Age to Medieval times; that’s indeed quite a broad range. One could say that the lyrical themes gradually became a bit more obscure as obvious sources of inspiration were depleted early on. The additional issue is that a lot of bands are fishing in the same pond as far as lyrical inspiration goes, so it is a necessity to dig a bit deeper.

As for the aesthetics of the album covers, I tend to prefer actual paintings instead of photographs or digital art. We couldn’t find a suitable historical painting for the “When Ice Crowns the Earth” album, so that is the only one with a photograph as cover art. Definitely my least favorite one.

You’ve recently released ‘De Roep van Het Woud’ on Heidens Hart. What can you tell about this record and its message or concept?
The new album might surprise people as it does sound quite different compared to the old albums. The actual material is constructed differently as far as the compositions go. I use different guitar tunings and the philosophy behind the mix has changed, too. It sure sounds more “black metal”; most people seem to agree that this is the best Theudho album so far.

This time around I also chose to change the way I approached lyrics. The big change obviously is that all the lyrics are in Dutch. Instead of merely re-interpreting known tales or myths, most lyrics were conceived outside in interaction with nature or historical monuments or sites; trying to see heathenism as a living, continued tradition rather than a dusty literary one.

As I understand, you’ve done most of the work for this album by yourself. What made you chose to do that? Is it really a practical choice or is there perhaps also a sense of craftsmanship and creativity involved?
The main reason is convenience, really. The guys in the last full line-up are great musicians and people and greatly appreciate their contributions, but in general, I like to rely on other people as little as possible. The time was right to return to the original one-man band incarnation of Theudho and just do everything by myself.

How did the whole recording process and writing of the album take place? Where did you do most of the work and what sort of resources provide you with inspiration and input for the creative aspect of it?
I recorded everything at my own place. The writing and demo process was one phase where songs would get written, revisited after some months and then subsequently tweaked, re-written or even discarded.

When I finished the demos, I basically only kept the tempo tracks/metronome settings and redid the whole thing with a tighter, smoother and more convincing performance. The actual inspiration comes from a few different places, both literally and figuratively. I travel quite a bit, so there’s always new locations that leave an impression. Next to that, I tend to read a lot, so that offers a lot of new information and insights as well.

The title translates roughly as ‘The call of the forest’. Now, this may be a metaphorical forest of in general the call of a forest, but do you have a specific forest in mind and what makes it call so strongly?
The title of the album is not really meant to be taken literally. It refers to the contrast between the urbanized, Christian world versus untamed nature, which was regarded as “pagan”. The latter was obviously demonized, but ultimately still is the natural habitat in which mankind evolved for millions of years.

You specifically use the term pagan to describe your style of music. How do you relate paganism to life in this day and age? Is it a look backward or a re-application of ideas and is it more to you than a thematic vehicle for Theudho?
It is a philosophical stance in life – I hate to use the word religion because people seem to define religion by the characteristics of the cluster of Middle Eastern religions that dominate large parts of the world today. In the West, the modern consensus seems to be that being religious is synonymous with being intellectually challenged, mentally weak and inept in science, technology, … One only needs to visit countries in the Far East (where people have the highest IQ in the world, after all) to see that this contradiction doesn’t make sense and is unnecessary. It did not exist in Europe in Classical Antiquity for that matter, either.

As you deal with themes of Germanic history and mythology, you are probably bound to be misinterpreted at times (as seems to be the faith of many bands doing this) or even lumped into the NS category. Has this happened to Theudho and how do you view this matter?
Trying to comply with the sensitivities or correcting the misconceptions of others is a Sisyphean task. A much wiser man than me, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, already advised: “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”

Are there still interesting things happening in the black metal scene today and how do you feel about the whole shift in sounds with more progressive bands moving in different directions?
I have to admit that I’m not really keeping track of what’s new and worthwhile. My tape trading days are long behind me, my shelves are bulging as is and I don’t have time to listen to a lot of music. If something survives the initial hype or buzz, I’ll get to hear it sooner or later anyway.

Which bands from your neck of the woods would you recommend at this time?
I coincidentally got the new album of Kludde last week and I would definitely recommend giving it a listen.

Do you have any advice for those wanderers who are feeling ‘the call of the forest’?
“Wit is needful
to him who travels far:
at home all is easy.
A laughing-stock is he
who nothing knows,
and with the instructed sits.”
– Hávamál

What future plans do you currently have with Theudho?
I can’t reveal too much at this point in time, but a Dutch band and I are talking about putting out some music together later this year as a split release. Besides that, I’m working on new material for the next album.

If you had to describe Theudho as a dish, what would it be and why?
Well, that’s an original and unexpected question. I guess horse meat would be appropriate. Why? Christians outlawed the consumption of horse meat because it was a heathen custom. I’m sure it still offends a fair share of people even today.

Iluntze: Basque mythology, identity and black metal

Europe has a wealth of nations with separate identities and traditions, but in some occasions even between those countries, you find identities. The Basque country, partly in Spain and partly in France, is an ancient culture with a language that differs from anything else on the continent. Iluntze is a product and an expression of that identity.

Synder is the sole member behind the band and is currently (at the time of our contact) residing in the far another side of Europe, studying in Lithuania. He was kind enough to tell something more about his project, origin and the meaning behind Iluntze.

Iluntze from Basque Country

Tell me about Iluntze, how did this project get started?

Hello there! Well, Iluntze is a music project that helps me to elaborate my music ideas. I had some other music bands in the past, from high school rock covers bands to different failed projects, from Folk to Death metal. Mostly, the main problem was the coordination with band members and the different music perspective we had. When I moved to Bilbao in 2015 to start my university studies, my interested in black metal started increasing. This events mixed with my interest around Medieval-Ancient period and my craving to record my own creations gave birth to Iluntze. Going back to 2016, when I recorded my first demo, I realize that maybe I should have waited more and work more in the songs and process of recording. I didn’t have any proper equipment to record and my skills in this field were really low. This made me simplify my songs and to don’t allow me to record the lyrics of Ama Ilargia Ama Eguzkia (Mother moon, Mother sun) and Iluntze.

What does the name mean and what is its origin?

Iluntze means dusk. The root -IL is old, even found in inscriptions from Roman times, and it can be understood as ¨Night or Death¨. This word root is really interesting for me since many words have it, such as Ilargi (Moon), -IL (Night, death)+argi (light) or Hilerri (Graveyard), -IL (Death)+ Herri (Village). This interpretation of Night and death is really related to the Basque mythology, where the Day was the daytime of the living beings and the Night was one of the death spirits. So, Iluntze basically means ¨The process of turning night¨. I just liked the name and its sonority and I think I was right choosing it.

You identify as Basque musician with lyrics in this language as well, and themes derived from it. Can you tell me something more about this and what it is your music really is telling?

I really like this theory that explains how your main language influences your way of think thanks to how the language rules interact with your brain (Probably this is quite poorly explained haha). Well, besides I speak some few languages besides Basque, when I think about Iluntze and when I play music, my mind thinks in Basque. Since I was a child, I have been into European history (and Prehistory, Paleolithic times and so on), especially, into medieval years. The city where I come from (Pamplona-Iruña) and the landscapes surrounding it probably had some influence in my music but when I focus in the storytelling, my main inspiration is my own interpretations of Basque mythology and history. You can perceive some kind of nostalgia about old times attached to some rejection of the modern world. We also have auto-parody style lyrics like in Itziarren Semea (The son of Itziar- the name of my mother), where we see some kind of medieval parody of my character.

The artwork and whole style is very typical, what bands inspired you for your sound and the mood of Iluntze? I am mostly reminded of some of the French bands like Peste Noire on their La Chaisse-Dyable.

I am very happy with the overall result of the artistic part of the last demo. The Digifile edition released by Dawn of the Murk (Darkwoods) is really beautiful and the Illustrator, Alvaro M. Buendia did a splendid job. Peste Noire, musically, is one of my biggest influences and I kinda think that this influence can be perceived in my music. But mostly, depends in what I want to share when I think about making a new song. Sometimes, Dissection, Burzum or Isengard makes a big impact at the time of creating the song but when I’m in a rancid and musty mood, Peste Noire style arises. Their first works are masterpieces and I especially love ‘Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor’, really nice artistic style and very melodic sounds.

You are currently located in Lithuania, has that made the desire to make music about your land of origin more strong? And how did you end up there?

Currently, I have been living in this country for almost a year, although I’m coming back to Basque Country in a few weeks, to finish my studies and continue working on Iluntze. Well, firstly I came here to continue my studies but it seems I have found a deeper feeling towards this country, its forests, and people. Lithuania is a big musical inspiration, by its landscapes, history, and culture. For future Iluntze’s work, I will try to reflect this influence, maybe with Lithuanian Folkish influences or even singing in the language.

Iluntze was born in Basque Country and developed in those lands full of mountains. But this time expended in Lithuania is understood as meditation and inspirational. In this time, even though I haven’t created any music for Iluntze besides a few lyrics, I’m trying to improve my clean voice and focus Iluntze’s future.

You’ve recorded 2 demo’s this far, Antzinako Oihartzunak being the latest. What can you tell me about this release and the effort behind finding your sound with Iluntze?

The effort given and done behind this last release has been much bigger than in the first demo. I think that I have evolved the quality of the composition and started defining a sound direction. I was lucky to made contact with the label Darkwoods who has supported me a lot. I wanted to work in a proper way the artistic part of Iluntze so I contacted with Alvaro for that. Finally, I tried to improve my skills with music production, so overall, I think that this last demo has been a big step for Iluntze. To summarize, better songs, better production, beautiful physical edition, and nice collaborations have been archived this year. I hope that my next demo will at least as big improvement compared with the previous one.

How do you go about the recording and writing process for these records? Do you do everything by yourself and is it in one session or over multiple? And how do you craft the songs?

Till this last demo, I have done everything, from playing to recording, besides the mastering of Antzinako Oihartzunak. First of all, I create the melodies and riff with the guitar and later I start with the drums (by computer), that helps me to give a structure to the songs. When the drums are done, I start making the bass line and recording it. Later, I record the final version of the guitars with a shitty microphone and my amp. In the meanwhile, I think and write the lyrics so when all the instrumental parts are recorded, I record the voice. Quite a lot of work, so for futures demos, EP or LP I will try to search for collaborations.

Can you tell me more about the Ignis Fatuus collective?

We are a powerful lobby with the only objective of world domination through money control. In our free time and good days, we just name our self as Ignis Fallus.

Regional identity in Spain is very important. As you identify as Basque can you tell me how you view this and how it works through in Iluntze?

Well, since my mother language is Basque, my culture and traditions are Basque and my ancestors were Basque I obviously identify myself as Basque. This does not mean I do not like Spain or France. Both are beautiful countries with many positive (and negative) things to say about them. Being part of the Spanish state, I should not be fool rejecting this fact and reality. Iluntze has received a lot of support from Spain and I really appreciate that. But, on the other hand, Iluntze’s reality is Basque, from the atmosphere I try to create to the message of the lyrics, and probably that’s one of the most important characteristics of the band.

Can you tell me a bit more about Basque metal? Particularly that which employs the Basque language. When did this get started and which bands were the first to do it?

I would say that the metal is still popular in Basque Country, probably by its side relation with the Punk. Personally, I don’t know much about the Metal status in the French Basque Country. I know that Gojira is from there but they may not identify themselves as Basques. Besides that, I know plenty of basque metal bands that sing in Basque. I’m not an expert on this topic but probably one of the most influential bands has been SU TA GAR, classic speed heavy metal. Taking it to my terrain -black metal- Triarchy of Vasconia split is really important. It was a nice collaboration in 2001 between 3 Basque Black-Folk bands –Ilbeltz, Adur and Aiumeen Basoa.

Which bands from your region should people really check out?

Since the beginning of the century, we still have other good black metal bands, as Nakkiga or Numen. From Iginis Fatuus we have Aehrebelsethe, who recently released its first work. And finally, last week I discovered a new death metal band that sounds really brutal, Bullets of Misery.

Going out from metal, I would recommend folk artist as Benito Lertxundi or Mikel Laboa. I cannot forget about other bands as Hertzainak or Kortatu. Well, thinking about this in a deeper way, there is a strong local music environment in the Basque Country so I recommend everyone to check it out.

What future plans do you have for Iluntze?

Exiting question! There are many plans going on. First of all, I will start recruiting members so we will be able to play live. Second of all, I’m coming back home in the following weeks so I will start creating Iluntze’s next demo. This demo is gonna be something big, some kind of double demo where we will find my own songs in one side and black metal covers of traditional Basque songs in the other one. In the meanwhile, I will probably record a couple of songs for a split between the bands of Ignis Fatuus. I will reprint the design of the first t-shirt due to its success and at the same time, work in a new one with the singer of No Sanctuary. Many more things are in my mind but probably it’s too soon to reveal them

If you had to describe Iluntze as a dish, what would it be and why?

Roasted chestnuts (and if there are worms inside, more protein for the body haha). Well, you need to fight to open them but once it’s done you find something really tasty and hot ;).

 

 

 

Kashgar: Nature, History and Tradition from Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, the name alone beckons with mystery and a peculiar allure. Most people only know it as one of those odd country names, but Khashgar has the potential to change that with their crushing death metal. Time to catch up with them.

The country has a millennia long history and turbulent recent years with clashes within its borders. It is all part of a complex country with many ancient identities and cultural elements. Metal has found its root there too, with the most well-known band being Darkestrah. Kashgar is setting out to play some destructive tunes now.

Guitar player Ars found some time to answer some questions about the band.

From the Ancient Realms

Hello Kashgar, how are things going for you?
Hail, Guido! Many thanks for your interest. Things are well and busy enough – we’re writing songs for the second album, playing shows and organizing our own metal fest.

Can you tell me how the band started and about the history of the group?
Warg, Blauth and I decided to join forces and try to revive the stagnant local extreme scene. There were no active metal bands at the moment and just a couple of metalcore bands. We simply wanted to have some good old heavy live music in town, music that we ourselves would enjoy listening to. It took us a while to find a stable line-up and to write and record the first album. We’ve played quite a few shows over these 4 years and toured the neighboring Kazakhstan several times as well as Moscow and Siberia. Blauth left the country in 2017 and our paths parted. However, we continue to infect the souls around with our mixture of various metal genres and dark sonic rituals.

How did you guys get into metal music and what bands inspired the sound of Kashgar?
We all come from different backgrounds, and maybe that’s why our music is so eclectic at times. I’ll speak about the current line-up further on because things have changed dramatically since the first album. I grew up listening to classic rock’n’roll and hard rock bands, and later I discovered great albums by Death, Samael, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Sepultura, Mayhem, and early Metallica. I think a couple of great Oriental bands like Orphaned Land and Salem influenced me as well. But my inspiration comes mostly from prog pearls like King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Al Di Meola, as well as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Tool.

Warg was always a strict metalhead; he usually searches for something melodic but wild: bands like Sargeist, Satanic War Master, Obed Marsh, and Gaerea truly please his ears. He and Alfer are also big fans of old-school black metal like Bathory, Gorgoroth, Emperor, and Immortal, and it’s impacted our sound a lot. Const adores classic music and such bands as Death, Marduk, and Obituary. Warg and I have played in dozen of different bands before, but Kashgar turned out to be the first serious and long-term metal project for both of us. Alfer and Const are rather young fellas; they played together before, but Kashgar is their first real band.

Your themes are listed as folklore and the occult on metal archives. Can you tell me what stories of folklore and occult themes you tell and where they come from? An example would be great for people who are unfamiliar with your folklore.
For the debut album, Blauth used dark themes from Tengrizm and the history of the region, as well as local superstitions. Erlik is Tengri’s evil creation who is responsible for all the horrors of the world. Albarsty is a female demon that steals your breath when you are sleeping and has a yellow twin that steals your life if you marry her. “Scent of Your Blood” is about Konurbai, an antagonist of epic Kyrgyz hero Manas.

In the new songs, I also explore local nature, literature, traditions, and myths. One song is dedicated to our mountains: it’s about Kumtor, a gold mine located in a distant area at an altitude of 3700m. The lyrics are like a painful scream of the land whose insides are being scrapped out. They have destroyed a huge glacier almost completely and are planning to start with a neighboring one. I worked there with a group of glaciologists, studying the mine’s impact on the neighboring glaciers and the horrendous views inspired the text.

Another song is about an ancient Asian way of making human zombies. This terrifying process is described in a legend told by famous Kyrgyz writer Chyngyz Aitmatov. The zombies, called Mankurt, became mere slaves, silent and obedient to the extent that they would kill even their own mothers if ordered to do so.
We wrote a song about a terrible local “tradition” of bride kidnapping, called Ala-Kachuu, and another song depicts a nasty two-faced creature whose real appearance is only revealed at night. The Central Asian culture and history is an endless well to draw from.

What is, in the end, the big idea or message in your work?
We simply try to create music with a soul and energy in it and mix in a lot of anger that we accumulate thanks to all the craziness and dumbness of today’s world. That’s why we play grim oldschool metal as opposed to all the happy-jumpy modern stuff. We don’t have a message for you: you’ve got enough messages from everywhere every second of your life to make you feel overwhelmed by useless info and products. Just listen to the music and if it helps you feel a primal fear or even make a step or two back to your roots, we are doing the right thing.

What does your home land mean to you both in and out of the musical part. What makes it important?
It’s a bit complicated since all of us are not ethnically Kyrgyz. We’re usually not considered real Kyrgyzstani by Kyrgyz people. But we were born and raised here. We believe that this land is our motherland and we all love and deeply respect the nature and the spirit of the place. It’s enough to spend a day in Kyrgyzstan’s mountains to understand that it is a place of endless power and glory. Kyrgyz ethnic music is something very original and special too. I will never stop gaining huge inspiration from our nature and rich culture! But it’s very sad to see what many people do to their own land. Tons of garbage, cut woods and hunted down rare animals, corruption, police and officials trying to rip you off, lousy infrastructure… This is what Kyrgyzstan looks like for many people today.

How so you go about creating music. Is it a collaborative effort or do band members have their own separate roles? Do you start with lyrics or music?
We always start with music. Sometimes we invent something together and sometimes we arrange a riff or a song written by one of us. Lately ,Alfer has been bringing a lot of material, and we re-arrange some parts and polish it together, working out the rest of the instruments. In the end ,I write the lyrics and arrange vocals.

It’s been 2 years since your last album. Are you currently working on anything new? What direction are you taking Khasgar in?
It’s been 3 years since we recorded it, to tell the truth. Yeah, we’re very slow as all of us have day jobs and up until 2018 we experienced constant line-up changes. But now almost all of the songs for the new release are arranged and we’re finally planning on recording them in February. So let’s hope the album is out by June. As for the direction, Warg keeps trying to drive us into true black metal, me and Alfer keep implementing weird proggy riffs and time measures, and Const keeps gluing all that with mid-tempo blast-bits and straight patterns. I’m also thinking about collaborating with several interesting folk musicians on a couple of songs. After all, we never cared about sticking to strict genres; we just try to make proper metal.

What can you tell me about the debut record? To me, it has a very distinct feel and it’s hard to really categorize it. How did you shape its sound, what story does it have?
The recording itself was a painful experiment involving lots of months of hard work, different drummers, guitarists and booze to ease the stress. After I finally finished recording everybody in my studio, I decided to mix it on my own, and it took quite some time, which was really pissing Blauth off. He wanted to do it the punk-rock style and to release a lo-fi raw material; he simply couldn’t dig what all this “mix wankering” is about. I insisted on better production. In the end, the record came out something in-between, I suppose. And our friend Achilleas C. did a great job mastering it in his Suncord Audiolab in Greece. The sound might still be a bit strange, but at least we did everything by ourselves, using great equipment like Yamaha Tour Custom drums, Peavey heads and Marshal 4×12 cabs. Today most starting bands record the direct signal with plugins and program or trigger the drums, but we wanted it all to feel and sound real.

You had various guests on the album, can you tell me why you chose them and how it materialized?
As I mentioned before, we had lots of line-up changes, so some of the guys were already not in the band when we released the album. We decided to name them as guest musicians.

How did metal music originally come to your country Kyrgyzstan? What bands pioneered the genre in the country?
It started in the 90’s. Up until early ’00s, we had three rock-clubs and many metal bands like Necronomicon, Neocrima, Odyn’s Nocturnal North, Extremistic Negative Clan, Infernus, and Ellodia. Warg was one of the pioneers and played in several of those bands. You could attend a good metal show almost every week. Much has changed since then, but we’re working hard to improve the situation and revive the extreme scene. In 2017 we founded the first international metal festival in Kyrgyzstan – Kuturgan Fest (kyrgyz: “savage”) and we keep developing it by booking world-famous headliners. For our audience, it is a chance to see the metal legends live, and for our bands, it is a chance to perform at bigger venues and for larger crowds. In 2018 I brought in Hungarian groovers Ektomorf and in 2019 the one and the only Sepultura is going to head-line the show! And one day I hope to move the fest to a beautiful open-air location and hold it for a few days like Brutal Assault, which really captured my soul in 2015.

I read that the most well-known metal band from your country, namely Darkestrah, moved away because of the lack of means to make the music. How is it now in Kyrgyzstan with facilities like recording studios, rehearsal space, and availability of instruments etcetera…?
What “means” does one need to make music? You just do it because you can’t be NOT doing it. I know Asbath; they are good friends with Warg. I believe he and Kriegtalith simply took the chance to move to Europe because they could and wanted to. If they had stayed, I’m sure they would have continued to play black metal here. Of course, it was much harder to make a record in the late 90’s, and you still don’t have real options to tour locally. As for the facilities… there are still no labels, booking agencies, promotion companies – nothing for rock and metal. We don’t have even a single rock radio in the whole country. There are some recording studios, but local sound engineers have no idea how to record and produce metal. I have a project studio/rehearsal base and I support underground bands (most of them play rock) by inviting them to practice on high class equipment and sometimes recording them for a low price. There are a couple of other rehearsal spaces around town. Instruments are available to purchase from China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Europe and US, but we have a very limited choice in local shops and the prices are very high.

Do you face any form of censorship, either institutional or social?
Institutional – no as our government tends to preserve the democratic image of the state. However, most people still consider any music with distorted guitars and vocals an “evil” and “unholy” “shaitan” music while others think we’re all alcoholics and drug addicts. They refuse to believe the fact that there is much more trouble at a regular disco club party than at a metal show. Even though we do not experience any direct censorship, it is basically impossible to make it to a local radio or TV show or organize a metal concert in most local venues.

What are the most metal places in your home country?
Outside Bishkek, there are even almost no rock bands, and I’ve never heard of a metal band from other cities. However, people come to Kuturgan Fest from the surrounding towns and even distant cities like Osh.

Which bands from Kyrgyzstan should people really check out and why?
Check out Ordo Sakhna to feel the spirit of Kyrgyzstan – they play great ethnic music. If you like modern nu-metal and death-core, My Own Shiva and TLDOS bands do it fine. Check out Shahid if you feel like listening to some modern hardcore.

What future plans do you currently have with the band?
Besides recording this winter and opening up for Sepultura in April, we’re planning a joint European tour with our brothers Zarraza from Kazakhstan. Hope we can do it autumn 2019. Promoting the album, as well as arranging such a tour, is going to take a lot of time and energy. We’re also looking for a label to release the record and for a manager to promote it.

If you had to describe Khasgar as a dish, what would it be and why?
It would be fried eggs with a wild mixture of everything you find in the fridge. You can literary fry anything not sweet with eggs, add some tomatoes and spices, and get a perfect Shakshuka. That’s my favorite way of arranging breakfast and that’s also our favorite recipe for arranging songs.

Is there anything you’d like to say that I forgot to ask?
Just a word for the readers. We still have a few CDs, LPs and t-shirts left. If you want to support our work, please order it at our kashgar1.bandcamp.com page.

Tons of thanks for the exposure!

Ildaruni: Myth and legends from Armenia

Armenia is mostly known for things like the Kardashians and Dan Bilzerian. Yet it has a long and rich history to explore. Unfortunately, this is hardly known but if it’s up to bands like Ildaruni, that is about to change.

Situated near the cradle of civilization, at the crossroads of east and west, Armenia has a wealth of stories to tell. Bonding their talents into a force to be reckoned with, Ildaruni is here to illuminate the world.

I got in touch with Robert Melksetyan, Garbis Vizoian and Arthur Poghosyan II about their band, the history, and myths of Armenia, and playing black metal.

Ildaruni: into the depths of time

Can you tell me about Ildaruni and how you guys got together?
Robert: I have always wanted to have a band oriented towards a mix of both black and pagan music since I have always felt closest to these two genres. I had come to know that Arthur (drummer) and Garbis (bassist) were also interested in said genres; I also knew that Arthur had played before in some folk bands. We met and decided to form the foundation of our band. By that point, I had already known Arthur in person, but we have never had any experience playing together in a band.

Garbis: I met Robert back in early 2016 through a mutual friend of ours when I heard that he was looking for a whistle player for this very same project. We first met on that basis, but when upon discussing the nature of the band in more detail, we figured it was much more fitting if I joined in as a bass player and writer. At the time, I was searching for a band with folk and mythological influences in order to utilize and further develop my writing skills. Robert’s timing of this project was simply too good not to join in since the project thematically complemented my writing direction at the time. As such, I took the project as an opportunity to delve deeper into the more forgotten aspects of our ancient pagan culture, such as some of the lesser-known ritualistic and mystical sides of our culture, while also unearthing some of the very specific but generally forgotten events from our history. All the while, helping Robert lyrically and to some extent also compositionally, produce and play the songs that we have written so far.

Alright, so you did play in previous bands? Can you tell me which these were and what you played?
Arthur: I used to play in a couple of other bands before Ildaruni. It was Arbor Mortis(black metal project) and Araspel(folk/heavy metal). I also have another active band called The Windrose. There we play just pure Armenian and Celtic folk music

Can you tell me something more about the name of the band and what sort of music you make? What bands inspired you to go in this direction?
Garbis: Regarding the name of the band. Ildaruni is the ancient pagan name of the second largest river that flows through Armenia, currently known as Hrazdan River. As to why we chose Ildaruni as the band’s name, well more so than anything, it is a veneration of life and legacy. Hrazdan River or Ildaruni, has been flowing through our highlands since time immemorial. It has provided life to our people for millennia ever since civilization existed in these lands and as such, we wanted to extend our gratitude and potentially bestow Ildaruni the glorification it deserves. Also, one of the few ancient inscriptions that survived to this day, is a chronicling of the massive efforts spent by king Rusa II of the Van Kingdom (the time period our first length album is based on) in building canals along the Ildaruni River and all the perks that the river has bestowed upon his people. Taking into consideration the thematic focus of our songs around the Van Kingdom, it is only fitting that the name of our band is one of the most venerated and blessed sources of life during those pagan times. I guess Robert can talk more regarding the sort of music we make, since he composes the music.

Robert: In the genre that we play, the inspiration to compose has primarily been from bands like Enslaved, Rotting Christ, Nokturnal Mortum, Dissection and Drudkh. Those are all bands that were able to carve new paths and steer black metal in an unprecedented direction. Musically, they were able to reach new heights and retain compositional prominence. The compositions of said bands are so rich, both as a result of their unique atmosphere and their functionality as compositions, that I can listen to them constantly and still discover new aspects and details within their songs. I’m awestruck every time I think about the way these bands have created masterpieces so frequently and within such short amounts of time, that have such high values for the overall metal world.
Regarding the sort of music that we play, we generally compose within the Black metal genre, but naturally, just as with any metal band, we occasionally make use of compositional structure from other genres as well. For example, in our music you may notice the occasional influence from Thrash metal, just as in any other Black metal band. The core of our music also has folk music as one of our main influencers. The composing process of which has proved very difficult and lengthy endeavor, since it requires a lot of concentration and maximum attention to the composition at hand. But overall, the genre that we compose in when putting the music and lyrics together, could be classified as Pagan Black, which in reality is a much better genre than most people come to realize.

You mentioned that the inspiration for your pagan metal is the very much forgotten ancient pagan past of the Armenian highlands and the myths. As most people are probably unaware of those, would it be possible to tell more about this time and history? And how do you work them into your music?

Robert: Our paganism had a massive, undeniable presence within the daily lives of our ancient ancestors. Needless to say, as is the case in the ancient chronicles of most countries, Christianity took over with violence, killing en masse, the oppression of pagans. Setting aflame all the knowledge, temples, artifacts and every scroll, book and manuscript regarding our pagan past, which could have helped us massively to study and reveal more about our mythos and ancestors. Armenian paganism had a large number of gods and goddesses. It shares many similarities with the ancient Greek pantheon of gods, in terms of how deep and rich it goes.

Through the texts that we write, we touch on various periods of pagan Armenia. On subjects that revolve around not just historical events but also some of the hidden pagan cults who functioned during those times. Our songs mostly echo Van Kingdom’s struggles against the Assyrian Empire, retellings of warfare and also some unsung victories and struggles of certain kings. It is possible to find a lot of information through our songs, regarding some cults and certain hubs of pagan worship, which demands a lot of research, source gathering and textual refining to write about.

Garbis: Regarding how we incorporate the myths and history into our songs; it has all become quite systematic now to be honest, i.e. taking the concept from point A to point Z, regardless though, the process itself is where the art lies. It usually starts with a single event, concept, geographical location, a historical character, a pagan ritual that would pop up in our conversations. Usually, things that are quite vague and unheard of, quite the revelations even for us. Then comes the long and arduous section of research and source-hunting. Considering the unknown nature of these specific events and concepts, this step is usually one of the longer ones in terms of how long it takes to achieve, albeit one of and if not the most important step.

Afterwards, it goes either two ways, usually I take on the historical subjects, i.e. specific historical events or characters, study whatever sources we have gathered and by that point, I would already have the music composed and prepared by Robert. I repeatedly listen to the very early versions of whatever composition we are working on, while I write down the lyrics as I gather all the events and sources into a compositional retelling of sorts of said events. In a way that all the sources and facts connect and make sense. For the concepts and subjects that have to do specifically with the paganism and spiritual aspects of our culture, Robert lays down the overall groundwork after a thorough study and research of the subjects at hand then passes them down to me. I proceed by translating and writing them down in a lyrical format in order to keep a persistent lingual theme in between the rest of our compositions. Finally, it’s only a matter of working together in finalizing the editing in order to have the final lyrics fit the vocal range of our vocalist, alongside any necessary changes in order to have our lyrics and music complement each other, to best represent the specific concepts or events that we’re aiming to bring forward into public eye.

Am I correct in assuming you are talking about the kingdom now called Urartu? What time period are you talking about more precisely and can you maybe share a brief explanation about the pagan tradition, what its believes where and myths? What do these traditions mean to you and why did you chose to go this direction? Is it simply storytelling, identity or a source of pride?

Robert: Yes, that is correct. Urartu goes by different names; most historians call it Araratian or Van Kingdom. If you also check out some of the old Behistun inscriptions, you’ll notice that different nations at the time also called Urartu various other names. In our lyrics you can read specific events that occurred throughout different periods of the Van Kingdom, it’s derived from the entire historical timeline of Van Kingdom’s rule. There is no singular specific year or date that the demo album or the subsequent, potential full-length is based on but rather various specific events, dotted throughout the entirety of Van Kingdom’s history. Also, as mentioned before the lyrics don’t revolve solely around historical events but also conceptual ideas and representations of ancient pagan cults and rituals.

If I were to single out a single one, I find the myth regarding “Mher’s Door” or “Raven’s Rock” as it’s called, very attractive and interesting. It’s a sacred cave near the fortress of Van, where according to myth Little Mher, the final hero in the epos of “Daredevils of Sassoun”. He shut himself inside the cave as a furious retaliation against the world’s injustices. According to the sagas, Mher comes out of the cave atop his horse, traverses the earth but convinced that the earth could not possibly handle his weight and seeing the still prevailing injustices, he returns to Raven’s Rock. It is prophesized that one-day Mher will ride out one last time; to punish the enemies of his people and establish the justice he has long desired, thus will beckon the Day of Wrath. Speaking of Raven’s Rock, the artwork of our demo album, done by our own guitarist Mark Erskine, is a depiction of the legendary “Mher’s Door”.

Thank you, I would like to ask you then, as said above, what these traditions mean to you and why did you chose to go this direction? Is it simply storytelling, identity or a source of pride? In other words, I’m interested in your personal relation to this topic. Maybe to elaborate even further on this, very often any sort of ancestral themes or historic topics can be regarded as political. Perhaps that is something you’d like to respond to?

Robert: Our pagan history and traditions are a source of pride for us. Armenian’s rich ancient past tells of such glorious stories of our ancestral heritage, rich myths and important historical events that impacted greatly on the foundation of our country and defined Armenia and its people as we are today.
We do not consider our lyrics to be politically motivated and they have no reference to modern day or historical political events.

We want to showcase all aspects of ancient Armenia, especially the hidden and lesser-known aspects of our history to our Armenian audience as well as to people in other countries.
We have an interest in the Van Kingdom period which is often forgotten about as there is little information on the era. Writing and playing about our ancestors’ pagan beliefs, traditions, mythology and history is another way of preserving it and we aim to keep the period alive by mixing our ancestral roots with Black metal.

Garbis: I would say it’s all three in conjunction with one another, our identity is our source of pride and what better way to retain our identity and pride than with a little bit of good storytelling. We have taken this direction because there is a dire need of preservation, regarding these topics; especially the specific events that are generally overlooked and aren’t covered in your average school history book. In an increasingly digital world, historical texts are more and more left on the wayside. If our songs manage to instill interest and drives as many as a handful of people to conduct further research in extension to what our lyrics pertains, then I’d personally consider our project a success. Naturally, our ambitious scope is much larger than that.
No, I would consider our output to be completely apolitical. Certainly in this day and age, the political nature of any subject at hand has become a personal matter. Any subject may be wrapped with a political mantle, if the consumer of said subject wishes it to be so. Having said that, as artists we wouldn’t want that fact to hinder us from producing and achieving the primary objectives of our work, which is to unearth and preserve the lesser known parts of our rich and very ancient history. As such, as composers we steer away from tailoring our work to per consumer’s political standing or beliefs, just as well, we do not let our own personal beliefs or political ideologies tarnish the primary objective of presenting our history as accurately as possible.

I would like to continue to your music. Do you use any of the historic or traditional music or instruments in Ildaruni? And if so, what are these? If not, are you intending to do so?
Robert: I compose the majority of our music and we collectively add or remove certain parts of the composition during our rehearsal sessions. In our songs we use whistle and dap, which is a type of traditional Armenian drum. The whistle gives an eerie tone to the music to create an atmospheric ambience to our songs. In future recordings we are going to use a type of Armenian bagpipe called a parkapzuk, which differentiates from other instruments with its uniquely attractive sound. The sound transports you back to ancient life in the Armenian highlands.

Before writing the folk elements of our songs we invest time researching the traditional sound, trying to find ancient melodies to help us reconstruct the historical Armenian sound and to replicate the sound of the instruments we use in as close a way as possible to the music played by our ancestors. When it comes to the creative process of composing the music, we make the sound our own while using the influence of Armenian folk music.

Alright, so what can you tell me about the debut release ‘Towards Subterranean Realms’?
Robert: Towards subterranean realms had been set for release at an earlier date but due to some band issues, like a change of line-up, the release date had to be moved forward.
Our demo is a small taste of what to expect in our full-length album, we already have some great material written.
As we mentioned, the general goal of our music is to present lesser-known excerpts from ancient Armenian paganism and mythology, which are often overlooked or forgotten.
We have had a positive response following the release of our demo which makes us progress to reach new goals.

I wonder how your music, with its themes, is received in your country. Do you face any detractors like bands in Western Europe would have (often accused of nationalism or worse)?
Also how are those sentiments, since I learned that many Armenians live across borders (from my contact with the band Avarayr)?

Robert:Our music was met with positive feedback in both Armenia and abroad. Before we formed Ildaruni, there were other Armenian bands that played pagan black metal, so this genre was already known about and popular in the Armenian metal scene.
We haven’t received any problems as a result of our music. We try to deviate from politics or any kind of movements. Instead, our musical themes revolve around our culture, our pagan history, our ancestor’s beliefs, mythology and the historical representation of some aspects of pagan occultism.

Would you say that metal music is freely played? Or is there still a form of it being frowned upon. For example, metal has always clashed with religion.
Robert: Playing metal or presenting it to our audience etc. doesn’t cause any problems per say; but the scene in general is still considered deep underground. In Armenia, it is still I in the early stages of development. There are some good bands around who really deserve to receive some exposure abroad but there’s no real development or investment in the scene nor the existence of a big metal scene. I would say the reasons for all of that is, there is in general very little interest in metal from the general public and the overall belated introduction of the genre as a whole in the country. We don’t have any problems preparing and organizing concerts but the problem comes from the lack of valid places, venues or organizers in generals. Those are the core issues that present the real difficulties and barriers rather than any societal conflicts.

Alright, so I want to ask you also about the Armenian people abroad, as I mentioned before the interview I did with Avarayr. Does this impact the scene in any way, is it because of that more international (due to the cross-boundary population) or do you think it generally creates an open-mindedness?
Robert: Many Armenians living abroad bring the musical taste and influence of the metal scenes from other countries back to Armenia with them. Some of the bands living abroad making the most impact on the metal scene are Ambehr, Hexen, Highland and Avarayr.
Many people from diaspora returned to Armenia in the past 10 years and they bring new ideas and changes to multiple areas of our country including the music scene. It’s great to see new life and direction being brought into our country.
Armenians from the diaspora are helping to shape and develop the metal scene in Armenia by participating in concerts and adding a new taste and quality to their music. In general, the Armenian people in the metal scene are open-minded and we hope that the metal scene can progress by the organization of more gigs and influencing younger generations to take an interest in the scene.

So, tell me about the scene in Armenia. How did metal come to your country and which bands are the progenitors? What’s happening now and where is the scene happening? In the capital or are there local scenes worth mentioning?
Robert: The popularity of metal in Armenia has been fluctuating over the last 20 years or so. Some members of the local metal scene put in effort to develop metal bars and gigs but usually for little or no financial gain so there are also periods of stagnation in the scene.
During the Soviet Union, in the middle and late 80s, there were bands that impacted on the development of the metal scene and were known for their quality music. Two bands worthy of noting are Ayas and Asparez.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people had more freedom and many started listening to metal and formed bands. Today, conditions have changed immensely compared with the past. Organising metal nights used to be a long and frustrating process but now many bands have clubs where they can host self-organized gigs and have studios where they can rehearse to improve their musical skills. Many bands were formed by our diaspora abroad which also impacted on the Armenian metal scene.
We have bands which are having regular gigs and it’s a good thing to see in Armenia. Unfortunately, there is no major interest in metal in Armenia compared to the scene in the US or Europe and that is the main reason why we don’t have so many bands, there is no demand or interest. I hope that over time this problem will be solved. Almost all metal events are happening in Yerevan because most metal bands and fans are centralized in the capital.

What future plans do you have for the band?
Garbis: Regarding the future plans of the band, we are hard at work to fulfill our most immediate plans for the time being, but we always have a one eye open towards the bigger picture in the future. Since we pretty much have all the material written and rehearsed for our first full-length album release (barring some minor additions and changes here and there), we are trying to figure out the best approach regarding the production of our album that would best represent the true vision that we have for the release.

Having said that, our plans further into the future is definitely to expand the range of our live performances. It is always a great pleasure and a collective challenge to provide an energetic and memorable live performance to our local audience. But we are definitely aiming at playing more shows throughout the year, so in order to do that we are hoping to take our performances to the neighboring country of Georgia to start with and then expanding into greater horizons, playing in some well-regarded pagan festivals. All in due time as we take one step after another.

Robert: There are some distinctive metal bands that have stood out in the past and present metal scene in Armenia, each with a unique sound and approach to their music.
I recommend that people check out atmospheric black metal band, Sworn. Unfortunately, they split up some years ago but they made a big impact on the local metal scene. For fans of raw blackened death metal, I recommend they check out Merial, their music is both aggressive and catchy. Lovers of folk or pagan metal should listen to Araspell or Vahagn, both are a mix of Armenian folk with heavy and unique riffs.

If you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?
Robert: Many different dishes come to mind considering the richness and uniqueness of Armenian cuisine, but if I had to choose, I would say traditional Armenian barbeque. Our music is like a well cooked meat with hidden spices and flavours which represent the folk elements in our music.
Thanks for the interview.