Landlocked by the Pyrenees lies the small nation Andorra. A left-over of past struggles throughout Europe, the nation is a rarity, ruled by the French president and the Bishop of Urgell. The country also has the highest life-expectancy in the world. It is home to the act De Veneficas Inferi.
The country is known as the setting for various myths and legends, giving it a particular aura and attraction as one of those places where something else may still hold sway. The voice of De Veneficas Inferi speaks in mysterious words, befitting this high place in the mountains.
You would imagine that the mountainous nation generates a very specific sort of sound and experience. That is very true for this one-man band. Séan B. is its sole member and kind enough to answer some questions about his project.
Andorrean black metal from the Pyrenees
Could you be so kind to introduce yourself and your project? Are there other people involved in De Veneficas Inferi?
De Veneficas inferi is a one-man act, a spiritual and philosophical representation of a resilient ‘ars moriendi’, that at some point draws a line as a transcendental ritual. It may be narcissistic art. The futility of pleasure. But the ego of oneself acts in a work that ends in vain, in conjunction with the same life as the chaos of this; madness and the symbolism of nothingness. A nihilistic expression of the evolution of a person or a destiny of kindness to learn. I, the path of a sorcerer in hell, will be the one to narrate this path. This is what De Veneficas Inferi represents.
How did you set up De Veneficas Inferi? Do you have other projects going?
De Veneficas Inferi arises from the return to my roots, In Ignem Aeternum. It might be a homecoming to the black metal that I once shared and composed with Manu Rodríguez (TFWM, MorthWyrtha and Torb Key’s Master) at the end of 2007. It could not be another melodic project and as truly elegiac as it was then, but the balm is the same. So I differ from another solitary project that I started in 2010 and that I coexisted until 2016: Aessênce. Declaration of a trip in the light and noisy, depressive and tempestuous urban modernity.
I’ve listened to your 2016 EP. Is there more work by you out there? How would you describe your specific music style?
No more than what remains from the ashes of my beginnings, Bloody Violent Little Red, and its conceptual core in Aessênce. A single recorded in 2008, rescued and released along with the consequent and subsequent works of Aessênce. Although, for my consideration, it’s an endeavor in hiatus.
As far as the style of music is concerned, with De Veneficas Inferi, I do not differ from a genre like black metal, as feeling. I could specify the style as Pyrenean Black Metal as part of the concept. It would not be erratic, in that there’s a representation of where I was born and I’m currently living in, winter passages through the Pirene mortuary monument. Part of its elder or modern histories and cantatas, non-sees or popular experiences and myths.
Your project has a very specific aesthetic in the artwork you share and use. Can you tell more about that and the general idea or concept behind De Veneficas Inferi?
De Veneficas Inferi might be faceless, non-image aesthetic that merges with the arcadian medieval iconography. Inspiration, partly, of those who agreed with the individual mysticism. Incentive, greatly, of the land I’m from. The impetus of draconian tales. Catalyst aside Luciferian visions. And encouraged by Anubis dexterity. All, or none of them.
The Great Decay appears to follow a narrative through the record. Could you tell more about that?
The Great Decay as a first unique concept, set, differs from each part in allegories represented by demons or fates, somewhat they were once, the Roman genii.
The first demon is ritual (“Daemonic I, Stone Witches”). The second is vanity (“Daemonic II, Altar Of Vanities”). The third is a circle (“Daemonic III, Nemini Parco”). Just as the first demon is belief. The second is conflict. The third is eternal return. Memento mori, Vanitas and Dansa de la Mort. Three concepts in order to the beautiful and concise adoration of Death. Concepts intimately related to Western society, whether in the contemporary pseudo-medieval times we live in or in past ages. Concepts in Aristotelian dyes. Concepts of the most glorious Rome. Death is, has been and will be godsified. Choose to feel dread or dance with the terror. That might be what life is for and what you leave behind for the future that you will never see.
Separately each piece of music has its own idea. The first demon, a witch anthem, a replica of those that once sounded in the Andorran mountains and lakes so, therefore, the Pyrenees, performed in sort akelarres and coronations of witches; lost pagan bonds or effusive carnal adorations. The second demon, a song to the memory of the belligerence that, still, this old Europe drags. The third demon, a song to the Dance of the Death, a rhythm of drums and dance of skeletons, histrionic representations of those Danse Macabre that still serenely vibrant between the valleys and the Mediterranean Sea.
How do you go about creating your music? What does the writing and recording process look like and what sources do you use for inspiration?
As it is absolutely an art without limit there is no process other than the equal limitation in our life. The same music is a personal experience. And it is the same inspiration that manipulates the process, which can last a short period or years. But the whole makes the concept as a product: once I have in mind this concept is practiced in influences and experiences. It’s a no more. There is always the intention to go to the nucleus of the idea since technically there is an experiment in the composition, the lyrics, and the background; to later or during the recordings.
Aside, the inspiration is the own project in question although I nourish of external sources and influences as any other kind of. If don’t, you kill every form of creation. Random or deliberated.
Does hailing from Andorra play any part in how you shape your music? As in, is your location part of the art you make?
The Andorran monolithic society has been an influence, of course. But it is his legacy, inheritance of the dark age, that I embrace in its rustic emblem. From its imperative nature to its black history, whether in the past or more recent come together in misfortunes or fantastic jeweled tales, processions of its feudal people, summon the soul of a Romanesque past. Not its religious aspect, but its dirt that emanates each individual that forms the place, its anachronistic hierarchy in harmony with the remains that remain of that dark age.
Is there something like an Andorra metal scene or is it mostly connected to the Spanish and French scenes? What places would be required visits for metalheads visiting Andorra?
There was, then, a strong Death Metal scene from the beginning and middle of the 2000s in affiliation with a sort of melodic bands like Persefone, Perseverance, Egophobia or The Ethereal. In relation, others kind of played core or trasher like as UmbrellaCorpse and its entourage Far From Beyond or It Never Rains Eternally. Many of its members co-segmented in their interests as bands and evolved to reach the Prog Collective that coexists today with continuity with its greatest exponents, Persefone or Nami in its Death Metal side and others more colorful(ed) by rock and soaked in funk, psychedelia or darkwave as Experiments or Redthread.
Chapter and verse and more or less at the same time Morth Wyrtha and Torb loyalized their concept of Black Metal in the Principality Valleys. They were those who idealized the concept of Legions Pirenaiques (inspiration may, in advance, come from Les Légions Noires of France and/or the Norwegian Inner Circle), lyrically inspired by the winter and the Pyrenees so parse a Pyrenean Black Metal Circle.
Strong dishes such as Guturalfest or Testarrock were concerts showing many of these bands. Usual concert organizations such as Dijousderock still have continuity today. And as far as I know, there are certain groups related to the noisy and melodramatic panorama of the Catalan Black Metal (Foscor, O.D.I, Maleït or Entropia). Fuzzed concerning it’s gothic and anarcho-satanist contour, more precise from Barcelona, such as Akollonizer.
Although many of the places that were stalked by metal music already disappeared, there are some places in the capital city, like the Rockódrom or the Harlem Bar, where some formations are exposed Metal bands, among others styles that do not share anything with this genre. The Harlem Bar also recently exhibited and disseminated graphic artists, such as Print This Valley Collective composed by societies such as Dead Flag (artistic contributions made with bands like Persefone, Witchthroad Serpent, Malämar or Belzebong) that have done really spellbinding prints.
Are there other bands from Andorra that people should really be checking out?
Even though they are directly or not directly related to the orbital of metal’s genre there are formations that personally for his style of music associated with the drone and darkwave electronic music I might recommend.
The adroit conceptual musical project in several facets and faces that Nazo Fushigi builds includes a dark music, sometimes cacophonous sometimes lucidly melodic, which I appreciate in its artistic whole. Thespian performance of the Soizu proposal, by a member of Akollonizer, is powerful and hypnotic in its system plus drone and subtle, clearly inspirational. Also, in addition, would like to praise the satirical sort of humor indeed, hard rock blended core of Mordigans done on “El Sabor de una Taza de Té”, and so the jazzy experienced productions of the veteran band Hysteriofunk.
What future plans do you have for De Veneficas Inferi?
I am involved in the slow process of a subsequent LP, mainly lyrically and aesthetically related and inspired by the principle of Prometheus, a myth torn apart in time and countless as names as the Devil has; a lecture of those Bearer of Light, following a Luciferian journey to the Abyss to present ourselves in a Hellish Dante’s way a ethos of his story. May I continue my path.
If you had to compare your product to a dish, what would it be? And why?
Maybe compare it with wine. That sour wine that when you’re satiated invites you to vomit, but you still drink it to quench your thirst. It is worth concomitant it with few lemon stems, as more acid better. The reason is the fun of the same drink and a long night.
The band Marijannah hails from Singapore and plays a very fresh and catchy style of stoner/doom. Inspired by films, their music is captivating, playful and a bit unnerving at times. Havint checked out their recent release, I needed to know more about them.
Signed to Pink Tank Records, their ‘Till Marijannah’ is well worth a spin if you haven’t heard it yet. To get you started, first learn something more about the band and where they come from.
Marijannah takes you to Paradise
Hey Marijannah, how’s everything going?
How did your band get started and where does the name come from?
We all individually wanted to try something different outside the usual styles of music we’ve been playing for years in each of our respective bands and this is something we’ve never created before.
The name is sort of an accidental double entendre initially. It loosely translates to “come to paradise” in Malay, which is a native language where we’re from and it’s also bluntly a pun to you-know-what.
What inspired you to make this particular sound your own? To me ,it feels very much like a mixture of classic psychedelic rock with a hint of occult rock on a thick slab of stoner, which together gives off this timeless sound. What do you think?
I don’t know if we do but if anybody thinks we sound any different from the usual stoner/doom, it’s really just because half of us never regularly listened to this style of music up until like a year ago. We all have roots in different genres. Some of us come from a punk/emo/hardcore background and some of us almost strictly listen to extreme metal so it’s truly a mash of clashing influences.
Can you tell me how you wrote and recorded the album ‘Till Marijannah’? How did the process go and what sort of working method do you have?
Rasyid writes most of the music and I write the lyrics. We record riffs on our shitty phones and send them to each other on a daily basis and dig em out when we need to. There was quite a bit of spontaneity in the studio as well, using weird, new pedals and ancient gongs lying around the room.
I’m interested to learn what inspired the four separate songs. They all have a distinct quality and theme but differ a lot. So what stories and inspiration did you use for each? I’m particularly interested in All Hallow’s Eve.
Lyrically, they’re all tributes to films. I’m a big “film buff” and they go hand in hand with heavy music aesthetically. All Hallow’s Eve is of course about John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and the “Laurie” mentioned is Laurie Strode, portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in the series.
Tell me more about the artwork. Who did it and what inspired it? I originally thought I was going to listen to something more like Yes!
Again, it was a mash of very different ideas we all had individually backed and executed by a very talented artist in mr. Riandy Karuniawan. Like most metal musicians, we like sci-fi imagery and mystical shit so there’s that.
What sort of response did you get this far to the record and what future plans do you currently have?
They’ve been almost all positive from what I’m aware of. I don’t really pay much attention to reviews, I think the record is dope and so does most of my friends who have a good taste. We’re working on new material right now and have been jamming about 5-6 new tunes, probably aiming to enter the studio by August. We’ll be announcing a short tour really soon, maybe it’ll be announced by the time this interview is out and we have another planned for the year’s end.
Is having a Rasyid in Wormrot in any way limiting for what you can do with Marijannah? Do you feel that your other bands in general have an influence on your output?
Not at all. Neither band is looking to be super busy or touring full-time and I think the rotation works well for Rasyid and the rest of us. I think its inevitable that we will share certain influences amongst our bands, we’re the same people as we are in other projects, just expressed differently through multiple entities.
What is currently happening in the heavy scene of Singapore that the world really should not miss out on? Like exciting bands etc?
Radiant Archery, Bethari, Hollowthreat, HRVST, Yumi, Zodd. None of them are similar to us but all worth checking out.
If you had to compare Marijannah to a dish, what would it be and why?
Bolognese. Rustic, traditional, timeless, best served hot and consumed wearing dark-coloured clothing.
Bolivia is a South-American nation, still struggling at some fronts to become one of the stable entities on the continent. Life is interesting there and the metal they play is fierce and proud. Two words that aptly describe black metallers OscuroMito. Often overshadowed by other nations, like Brazil, in music, they are carving out their place on the map.
Bolivia is a nation without an obvious origin, perhaps even more in existence for the mutual benefit of its elements. South-America, like Africa in a way, was chopped up by colonial powers and when nations declared independence, the shape had little to do with any original ethnicities or state-entities.
Bolivia’s borders have been sifting through the years and even in 2003 a dispute raged with Chile over part of the nation’s borders. Oscuro Mito expresses a particular part of the ancient cultures, which have become muddled through the ages, unfortunately. I had some questions for the band and vocalist Fernando and guitar player Andres had time to answer them.
Dancing untill death follows with Oscuro Mito
Hey guys, how are you doing? Can you introduce yourself?
Fernando here, I’m the vocalist
Hey! Andres, here I’m guitarist and make some chorus
We are the founders of Oscuro Mito
How did Oscuro Mito get started? How did you guys meet and what got you into metal in the first place?
Back in October 2008, Armin, Fernando, and Andres decided to make something different mixing music common among them. They used Black Metal and folkloric Bolivian music (it would be Andean music more precisely). Bolivian Traditions and tales are full of stories, experiences, and myths; we chose to talk about that traditions, but we only took that dark gloomy and those that have mystic energy.
As an influence, you name bands like Bathory and Windir alongside Bolivian folk groups. Can you tell me what you took from these Scandinavian bands and what you found appealing in them? Following that, how did you bring these two aspects together?
It had started as a rebellion, burning churches as a repudiation of Christianity. Throwing what it had been self-imposed and embrace back what you are as sons of Odin, it was the clear message. Oscuro Mito are not Scandinavian, Oscuro Mito is from Bolivia.
In your music, you put ancestral legends of the Inca and Aymara heritage. What made you chose to do this and can you also shed some light on what sort of stories these are for people who are completely unfamiliar with it?
Because Scandinavian speak their own heritage and people from Bolivia should talk about their own.
How do you make sure your sound is black metal, but not in the Scandinavian style. What to you makes your music similar but at the same time distinct?
That’s a really good question you know, I think it’s only the feeling when you do compose the songs. I think music leaves things on your soul and this comes out when you are making music. Music is about feelings it’s been said, and you hear this on Oscuro Mito, it’s music inspired on Black Metal from the north but it’s done by Bolivians and it doesn’t have to sound like the north.
We use traditional instruments on all three songs on our demo. About song structures I’d rather say that we mix traditional rhythms than structures, and example is ‘Danza en trance’, it mixes a traditional rhythm called pujllay and electric guitars and metal riffs, basically in this song we used this rhythm for the chorus and verses.
I’ve been listening to your demo/EP ‘Mientras las nubes ciegan la luna…’. The sound is very specific, very unique and I find it very captivating. Can you tell me how you shaped this sound and of course this record and did you find any inspiration in bands that approached black metal similarly?
The three songs were inspired by Bolivian traditions/myths. We tried to concentrate that energy on these topics on the sound of the music. ‘Murmullos de espectros’ is a very common tale that happens on the countryside in a small town. A goblin that lurks in the trees scares a person who was kind of drunk and was going home. So basically, it’s the energy taken by the goblin and the rush to get home.
‘Danza en trance’ is an old underground tradition where a person dances until dying, mixed with a traditional rhythm called ‘pujllay’ (this word is in Quechua another ancient tongue spoken in Bolivia). I think we have found on this song a good mix between metal and Bolivian folklore. It is also very the preferred song for our fans, it also has a video clip that you might like to see.
‘Danza en trance’ is a tradition that has a person dancing until dead. This idea would call your attention, wouldn’t it? Dancing till dead, who would ever dance till they die. It has to be something else… who would choose dance till dead? The answer comes with the culpability of something. Something that makes you feel really bad until the point you want to die. Betraying and killing your best friend for nothing, Killing your mother or whatever really bad to get you broken and wishing to die. This kind of stories on somehow chills you or scare you. This kind of stories is what we want to talk about.
Then we have ‘Luz naciente’ represents a well-known tradition, it is the Inca’s new year tradition that is celebrated on 21 of June Most likely it is on Bathory music in Twilight of the gods or Hammerheart discs. You can hear in ‘Danza en trance’ some chorus that has been used as Bathory started to use with clean voices.
Also ‘murmullos de espectros’ moves to a more black metal sound perhaps touching something of Windir or traditional black metal.
I think the 3 songs are talking about the same, thanks for asking this question and I think what is explained on this, it’s the key for understanding the Oscuro Mito demo.
I’ve gathered that you use traditional instruments in your music. What instruments are those and can you describe them? Do you also use them in a live setting and what is the motivation to put these in your music?
Yes, they are called Andean wind instruments; they vary in the size and the sound they produce. We can have zamponia, quena, quenacho, malta, zanca and toyos. All of them look like a pipe maiden of wood, quite like a flute but wider and large. When you blow they produce a sound depending on the length and width.
Yes, we use these instruments alive. We are not Oscuro Mito if the winds are not present, we are dependent on them.
What process do you follow in creating new music? Do the traditional elements have an effect on the songwriting? Do you start with a story or maybe with music and what roles do all band members have?
I can say we didn’t follow a specific flow on composing the songs. Each song followed a different way like writing first the lyrics than the music, thinking about the wind melody and then the guitars, or having a complete song then doing the winds arrangements.
We also said we wanted to compose a song for a specific myth and then I came with a couple of melodies, then each one gave the remaining pieces.
What sort of experience is a live show by Oscuro Mito? As you find inspiration in black metal, do you also apply the ritual elements to a live show?
We are making to watch OscuroMito performance a good experience, we have corpse painting as our basic beliefs, headbanging, chorus with the people and I think we transmit the energy set on our music. Once we have a presentation where a person with the same mask that is on ‘Danza en trance’ danced along this song.
South America has a rich and vibrant metal scene all over, but some countries are lesser known here for their metal music. I’m curious if you can tell me a bit about the scene in Bolivia, about its history and bands that really shaped the scene.
It has started in the 90s very narrow, there were a bunch of bands though. Very few are active now: Subvertor, Hate, Bael, Estertor, InfernalMalice, Lilith, and Subterfugio are some names to share on that starting.
Other great bands that are and they are not active I can mention: Necromancy, Katalepsy, Sabathan, Track, BestialHolocaust and AtmosferaFunebre.
What are things like in a more practical sense? I understand there are quite some cool festivals happening. Are there plenty of places to play and is everything like instruments, rehearsal spaces, studios etcetera easily accessible for metalheads or is it more DIY?
The only problem I’d say is that the music is not well supported; you cannot live here doing metal so for that the studio is not quite accessible.
Yes, there are good amounts of places for shows, most of them are pubs. Nowadays the scene is getting bigger I think because of the internet and its easy way to spread the news there.
Often we take liberties for granted here in my country, so I’m curious if you can sing about whatever you want and if the metal music is tolerated in Bolivia. Is there any sort of censorship or public discouragement?
Not at all, there are shows every city most of the weekends. There are many bands here in Bolivia. You can sing whatever you want.
What bands from your part of the world should people really check out and why?
We’d probably lead you to really big bands and you’d probably think we would, but not, I’d say look into the very bottom of the box you will find really interesting things. Such as the case of Al-Namrood or other middle east bands. I think when you feel and like the things you are doing, you will do some of the best work in music, especially if it is metal.
So you have to look for it, sometimes it takes hard but it worths.
What makes it important for you to put your Bolivian identity in your music?
I’d say it’s kind of a pride of our origins, but I’d say it’s something philosophic idea for our lives, ‘first embrace your culture then you will who you really are’. We admire our culture, we try to honor our culture and we think this can be shared with music as well.
Are you working on any new releases? And what future plans do you have?
We are finishing a new work with 10 songs, and then we will start the production of this work. We are planning to have this ready in next three months.
Alright, if you had to compare Oscuro Mito to a type of food, what food would it be and why?
Well… it would’ve been something very traditional very Bolivian. It would’ve been a very spicy ‘pique macho’.
Thanks for the patient, thanks for your time, thanks for all!
The land-locked nation of Laos, or in full ‘Lao People’s Democratic Republic’, is not a place known to be brimming with heavy metal artists. There is a thriving underground scene happening and interaction between the south-east Asian countries occurs often. One of those bands is HadesGhosphell.
The band plays black metal, which does make them stand out a scene that is overwhelmingly death metal of the more brutal kind. The band was kind enough to answer some of my questions about playing metal in Laos.
Photo credits: 906 Photography
Could you start by introducing the band? How did you guys get together, can you give me a bit of a history of the band?
The current line-up consists of Lounty (Drums), Tun (Bass), Ben (Guitar) & Aof (Vocals).
Ben: the band was initially formed by Aof and me. I was in Laos for 2 years already and was desperately looking for an underground scene, to no avail. One day a friend brought me to a fun little bar, where there was an acoustic duo playing covers. The singer went on break, grabbed a beer at the counter and asked the owner to play some heavy shit. That was Aof. We spent the rest of the night gulping beers and talking about metal, about the local scene, and how we definitely had to start a band. That’s how Hades Ghosphell started.
We struggled a bit to recruit a drummer and a bassist but eventually managed to cover a couple of classics and organized our first concert (and the first black-metal concert ever in Laos!) in October 2010. I then moved to Thailand for 3 years and our vocalist has had some serious health issues. But we are now back in full force, with a new line-up ready to lay down some devastating shit!
Do I understand correctly that you are French? So how did you end up in Laos?
You understood correctly indeed, je suis Français. I came to Laos 10 years ago as a Trainee for 2 months (on a hydropower project), as part of my university graduation in Supply Chain. The Project then proposed me a 2-year contract at the end of my internship, which I immediately accepted. I joined a logistics company afterward, moved to Thailand for 3 years, then moved back to Laos 3 years ago and here I am!
What made you guys get into metal music and which influences do you consider your most important ones for the sound of Hades Ghosphell?
It was proposed by our singer, Aof, and it was immediately adopted. We liked how the imagery of ritual chants in honor of the Underworld could be interpreted in several ways, both literally and figuratively, as our humble and dedicated contribution to the underworld that the metal scene is.
Did you play in other bands before Hades Ghosphell?
Ben: DCS (punk-HxC) back in France, Sapanakhith (brutal death metal) in Laos, REMAINS (thrash metal) in Thailand, Dissevered (brutal death metal) in Laos.
Tun: Acclaim of Sinner (slamming death metal), Rotkin (brutal death metal), Buddhlust (brutal death metal), Dissevered (brutal death metal) and another dozen bands. This guy is everywhere!
Lounty: Morrana (brutal death metal), Killerz Virginal (grind/death)
What story does Hades Ghosphell tell in the music? What sort of themes do you weave into your own works?
The main themes are centered on the denunciation of religious fanatism, the deceptive and manipulative aspects of any religion under their great holy truths. Desecration, basically.
We will talk a bit about our personal battles, as a band, in our future works as well.
Are you currently working on any releases? If so, can you tell more about it?
We are currently preparing a demo and should start recording real soon. We are truly itching to record our first material after so many years and so many struggles. The current line-up is working very well, we have a good alchemy and shitloads of energy to insufflate in our songs.
What is available from you guys this far, is a couple of covers of true originators of black metal. Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem. You even have the pigs heads on stage. Are these bands your main inspirators and how far will Hades Ghosphell emulate that sound and feel in their music and live shows? Or are you intending different directions?
These classics are undeniably a special influence, among many, many others. But as said, we now have a solid line-up and are more able (and inclined) to pursue our own sound, our own style. We have been and will continue going for an even rawer sound, more black/death vocals, war drums and incisive riffs.
The original black metal wave fiercely rebelled against Christianity. In your country, Laos, the dominant religion is Buddhism followed by Laotian folk religion. There’s hardly any Christianity to rebel against. How do you look upon these religions in relation to the satanic and profane in your music?
There is a quite consequent Christian community in Laos, but nowhere near important or influent as the Buddhist main base. We are more in an open rejection of the holy, the sacred, and all the deviances it brings and justifies. Buddhism here is very much tainted with Animism, which is more a belief, than a religion as such.
It’s an acceptation that spirits exist in all things and that they can manifest or that you can interact with them. Ethnic animistic ceremonies are more rituals, animal sacrifices are pretty common and it can sometimes be related to black magic. There are a lot of folk’s tales about ghosts, evil spirits and it really can make a good inspiration or base for our materials, as the underworld, the dark and incomprehensible side is omnipresent.
I’m curious about the metal scene in Laos. How big would you say it is and where does it center mostly? What sort of styles are dominant in your country?
It’s definitely still a small scene, with its positive and negative sides, gathering around 30-40 core members. Everything metal happening is in the capital, Vientiane. The good thing is that it is pretty much united, there is no segregation between genres, as soon as it remains underground enough. Everybody knows each other and each concert is like a kinda family reunion hahaha.
But that also means a limited musician pool, with many bands sharing the same guys. Our bass player, Tun, is playing in almost all the bands here! You always have some bitching, people that used to play together and for some reason came to hate each other’s guts, but all in all it remains a very united scene. Brutal death metal is big here, there is also a bit of thrash and Hades Ghosphell for black metal. People do listen to quite a wide spectrum of underground music and usually know their stuff, just not enough musicians to represent more styles.
Can you give me a bit of history of metal in Laos. How did metal come to the country, which bands pioneered the scene, are there any important venues or festivals?
There are some old-schoolers, like Sapphire and The Exile (Canada & US), who played during the 90’s and are actually considered the pioneers of the heavy stuff here. It’s more heavy-metal, but all generations of metalheads here acknowledge and respect them.
Very few die-hard metal fans at that time but they never gave up and although not playing music themselves, they always supported and continue to support the scene. Big Joe is the most prominent figure in this respect.
Then came the next wave circa 2005 (Sapanakhith, HadesGhosphell, Dictator, AwakentheDreamer…) and the beginning of the Metal Destruction shows (THE metal event in Laos), organized every year by Big Joe.
Today there are 6-7 active bands, including some youngsters from the new generation who are willing to take on the torch. The Vientiane Death Fest was introduced in 2016 and a new 2018 edition is under preparation, mostly for brutal death. All concerts are organized at bars/discos/restaurants, whose owners are somehow related to the metal scene and are willing to sponsor the gigs.
Do you face any sort of censorship in Laos by the government or other institutions? And how does society look at metal music?
Censorship is real in Laos but luckily the metal scene is not big enough to attract Big Brother’s eyes, so we are not exactly bothered by the communist institutions. We don’t have issues with gigs either, as it is always very friendly. There is, however a strong societal weight on anything or anybody not going with society’s flow.
As you may know, the weight of social rules and regard is pretty important in Asia as a whole, and Laos is no exception. Losing face or appearing shameful to the eyes of society is a much greater humiliation or failure than breaking the law for example. In this context, the external appearances and the musical violence of metal in any form do stand out. As a result, a lot of kids actually stay away from the scene, precisely not to stand out. I personally believe it takes a lot more balls and commitment for Laotian kids to get and stay into metal than, say, in Europe or in the US.
Perhaps a weird question, but is everything easily available to you? Like music, instruments, rehearsal space, recording studio and venues to play live?
Music and merch are now easily available thanks to online stores and it’s really easy to import from neighboring countries, Asia or even internationally. Instruments are another story: there are very few shops and they usually don’t carry a lot of stuff designed for metal musicians. There again we have to rely on import, but it’s always tricky to purchase an instrument/parts without testing beforehand.
The one thing that is easily found in Vientiane is rehearsal studios. There are quite a few and it’s pretty cheap (~5 $ / hour). The equipment provided is crap, but as soon as you have your own gear, no problem. The recording is not an issue either, with a couple of really talented guys for recording & mixing. We are very lucky to have our own rehearsing & recording space with my other band, Dissevered, so we can take all the time needed for practice and recording, it really is super convenient! We plan to record there with Hades Ghosphell, maybe even mix ourselves.
As said previously, all the concerts are organized through connections with bars or discos. They mostly lent us the venue for free, with a percentage of the entrance fees. Plus they are guaranteed to sell quite a nice amount of beers.
Are there any bands from Laos that people should really check out? Can you name them and explain why? Dissevered (brutal death metal). It’s the first Lao band to sign & release albums on an international label (New Standard Elite, USA). Both Tun (bass) and Ben (guitar) play in this band. Straightforward, ultra-brutal stuff!
Buddhlust (brutal death metal). Another spearhead of the brutal scene here, they just recently joined Reality Fade Records (Ukraine) and are to release their debut album in 2018. Rotkin (brutal death metal). With just a demo available for the time being, they are the youngsters of the metal scene. Great dudes and tracks, a debut album should be released soon.
What sort of connection do you have with the metal scenes from surrounding countries? Is there any sort of contact and cooperation happening?
Most definitely, we are in touch regularly with the neighboring metalheads, especially in Thailand. No language barriers as Lao people all understand the Thai language. Metal shows in Laos will always see Thai counterparts joining the party and Lao metal heads regularly attend major shows in Thailand. But we also have good friends and contacts in Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia…
It’s a small scene everywhere (except in Indonesia where metal, especially death metal, is huge) so it is pretty common to have gigs with regional bands.
I’m interested in what the connection with Thailand in general is. I’ve noticed that a lot of metal musicians from surrounding countries have moved there. Has this got to do with liberties? On paper, it is not exactly a good time for liberties in Thailand with the current regime. But in reality, nobody really gives a fuck if you play in a metal band or organize metal gigs, it is just another form of music. So yes, unless you criticize or instigate hate towards the monarchy (which is really not recommended), I would say that the freedom of speech and of being yourself completely is better in Thailand, compared to most of its neighbors.
Plus the scene is good, the public is good, there are some really active organizers who manage to book great international bands…
Traveling to Bangkok from surrounding countries is usually pretty cheap and easy, and staying there for a couple of days will not bleed your bank account dry. You will not have any visa/immigration issues on arrival even if you carry your whole drum set with you.
So yes, all-in-all, Thailand is an easy place to go or to be for underground musicians.
What future plans does Hades Ghosphell have?
A demo very, very soon. Then more composing, more shows too if possible and why not a debut album within early next year… we are back from a long slumber and more eager than ever get things moving forward!
If you had to compare Hades Ghosphell to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
A cured ham. One that you forgot you had, until the day you discover it hidden in a dark corner your fridge and devour it with tears of joy in the eyes.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for the interview man, and keep an eye (and an ear) on the growing Laotian Metal Scene!
Madagascar probably invokes very different images, but metal has been on the island for decades and Kazar are one of the first bands on the African island. Center of the band are Lallah and Milon Kazar and have been since the start.
I got in touch with Nix Adkin, the latest addition to the band that is still growing strong. With only two albums in their decade-spanning carreer, the love has not diminished for the music genre that caught their attention back in the eighties.
Nix was kind enough to answer my questions about metal on tropical Madagascar.
How are you guys doing?
First, we are full well!!
How did you guys get into metal music? What bands inspired you to make this music? We got heavy metal through IronMaiden’s songs! that’s our first influence and by the time, we discovered Slayer, Coroner, Metallica, Overkill…
Lazar was started by the high school classmates! they have seen Lemmy (Motörhead) so, the band began to play. In the band, we’re not a really a family but we act like a true family.
Kazar is probably the oldest active band on Madagascar, is that correct? What is your secret recipe for staying together this long?Yes, Kazar is one of the oldest active metal band from Madagascar, the secret is just the mutual understanding and respect! It’s a Malagasy wisdom
You’ve released, as far as I understand two full length albums, one in 2002 and one in 2004 (titled ‘Two’). What was the reason that your production in 30 years is so limited and yet both albums came out very short after each other? Kazar has 2 albums since 30 years. The reason is just that in your country, Madagascar, heavy metal can’t be considered as a job (showbiz) so the production wasn’t the priority.
What stories are you telling in your music? What messages and such do you try to put in your lyrics? Kazar often tells scared scene, in order to encourage people to be brave to face fear.
When I listen to your music I hear thrash, power, and prog all in one. Would you say that describes the sound of Kazar adequately? Thrash, prog, speed… Let’s be cool and just say “heavy metal”.
Madagascar as a country is a francophone nation from the past and now Malagasy is the dominant nation, your musical tradition has had influences from all over the place, how did metal come to Madagascar? Was it through French metal music or English?
Metal came to Madagascar through English music. After the discovery of glam, metal came to Madagascar around the 80’s under the influence of Motörhead, JudasPriest, Iron Maiden… Different metal Malagasy bands were formed such as Green, RedMetal, Lokomotiv, MartùGass, Kazar, Apost… The main metal genre at this time was heavy and thrash.Those groups often gave shows together through festivals such as Tohivakana metal and Big Rock.
Having your own traditions in music, is there anything of Malagasy musical tradition, instruments or songs that you use in heavy metal? Do you find there’s anything typical about Madagascar metal music? I have the feeling there’s something there.
You are right! We use Malagasy roots music with heavy metal! check the song titled “Mmpangalatr’omby” on YouTube.
How big is the metal scene in Madagascar and how did it get started? Can you give me a bit of history on it and your place in it? What bands pioneered the genre?
Big rock festival was one of the biggest Malagasy metal moments! It was started in the middle of the 90’s. This festival was conceived by some Malagasy journalists, the latest date was in September 2000… The reason was just no more promoter.
Are there any problems in acquiring instruments, rehearsal space, a place to perform etcetera? Do you face any limitations being from a country like Madagascar?
In Madagascar, metal is still an underground music genre! we really have problems with instruments, music tech, promoters, sponsors,…
Is there any censorship on music, any form of repression in your country? Do people understand what you guys are doing? There is no censorship nor repressions but with the trunching-system (marketing system based on giving money to radio an TV tech to broadcast songs and video clips) tropical Malagasy music overruns all places on radio and tv.
Which bands from your country should we be checking out? And why? Have you seen a lot of them come and go? About other bands, let me suggest you some young guys such as Behind the Mask, Beyond Your Ritual, Urban X Tribe(UXT Mada).
What future plans does Kazar have? For the future, Kazar hopes to go abroad to participate in metal festivals.
If you had to compare your band to a dish (food) what dish would it be and why?
You make me laugh with this last question,😄…if we compare Kazar with a dish, it will be a Malagasy sausage + beens+ tomato sauce!!
Metal music, like any cultural expression, is shaped by its surroundings. TheStone hails from Serbia and started out in 1996, in the wake of the black metal boom. Not much later the Yugoslavian civil war broke out, turns out this is actually audible on their debut record.
This did not put any breaks on the band though. The Stone has been going steady for more than 20 years, creating a steady output of records with classic black metal. Their sound is powerful, without trying to sail along with any trends or movements, simply black metal.
The band has recently released a new album, titled ‘Teatar Apsurda’. That and seeing them live was reason enough for me to get in touch and ask some questions to singer Nefas and guitar player Kozeljnik.
Serbian black metal kings
How are you guys doing? Nefas: Not bad. Kozeljnik: Doing fine so far. Busy with promoting the new album we’ve recently put out.
For people who are not familiar with The Stone, can you tell a bit about how the band got together originally?
Nefas: Classic story…that begins in 1996. We were just kids who wanted to play music they like. The Stone is some kind of artistic pact between Kozeljnik, as the composer, and me, as the lyric writer. It works last 22 years…and it works fine so far. Kozeljnik: Back in time of our gathering the initial idea was to form the band, the entity of Black Metal which defines the art within uncompromised line of musical and lyrical expression.
Many black metal bands go through periods of lesser inspiration, sometimes years, before releasing new albums. The Stone has consistently been delivering new music at regular intervals over the last 2 decades. What is the drive or motivation behind the band that makes you keep on delivering top class music?
Nefas: Simply, we really enjoy creating the music. Some kind of artistic madness drives us…
Kozeljnik: A sort of creative appeal madness which takes us every time when the art leads the way to the upper states of creativity. It’s not a cliché when saying you are dealing with a certain kind of ritualization of your art. It’s the rite of your subconscious which delivers magic.
In line with that, you also all have plenty of side-projects. Can you say a bit about those and how do you keep those going at the same time?
Nefas: Actually, I never had a side-project. Kozeljnik always had a surplus of ideas he presented through his other bands/projects like Kozeljnik, Murder, MayResult, Occulus…
Kozeljnik: Sometimes the creativity extends the defined lines, so there’s a need of having other artistic sources, like different bands and projects where you can execute your ideas, is a natural step for the artist.
Your latest release is Teatar Apsurda, which is your eight full length. What can you tell about this album, it’s creative process and it’s message/expression? To me, the title itself might be a good reflection of the world at large in at this time, is that something that you took along in creating this album.
Nefas: Yes, Teatar Apsurda is a view of the world through the eyes of pessimist, satiric review of human grotesqueness. It’s fast, aggressive, intensive black metal, yet chaotic and epic in the same time. We are very satisfied with this album. Definitely, our best shot so far.
Kozeljnik: We’re about to say that after many years we finally recorded the album the exact way we wanted to sound. It’s not that we are displeased with previous works, but this new one simply transcends our expectations.
How do you guys go about creating an album? Is it a similar process for every record? Since there’s definitely a continuity in your sound and the overall feel of music from The Stone through the years. What does the process look like?
Nefas: First and the most important step would be making a vision, the common vision that will be driven with no compromise. Everything else would be just a routine after all these years. It just got out of us.
Kozeljnik: On the other side every new record has a different perspective of creating, a dimension which goes beyond the borders we’ve delivered for the previous ones. It’s a challenge, to express your inner state within the new, refreshing ideas and forms which are, at the same time, carrying the mark of your own identity. We decided not to walk the familiar footsteps, but still keeping the same path.
Your record is out on Mizantropean Records, is that your own label? What prompted you to release through Mizantropean instead of Folter records, which you’ve released the previous albums?
Nefas: We wanted to have an absolute control and freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want. MizantropeonRecords is our own label formed primarily to provide better work conditions for The Stone. And for the beginning, we are very satisfied indeed.
Kozeljnik: It’s not a secret if we say that bands and labels are natural enemies since the creation of music business, especially when it comes to controlling the freedom of creativity. After many years of dealing with other labels, we have decided to be enemies to ourselves, trying to control something which hardly can be controlled. So far, we do not regret our moves.
In your early days you used Slavic paganism as inspiration, later it was more nihilism, misanthropy… In an earlier interview, I read that you expressed that these were never meant literally, but more a starting point for your expression. Can you explain how that looks for both the paganism and the more recent themes? What is the idea you try to put into your music and what do you hope listeners take from it?
Kozeljnik: The Stone’s lyrical side was most of the time misinterpreted in the past, especially by the non-speaking Serbian media circles which declared our band as pagan just because our 2nd and 3rd albums deal with times before monotheism took its role. Judging from that point of view they can easily proclaim Mayhem as a pagan metal band, just because they have a song called Pagan Fears. Not so professional way of giving a conclusion. Anyway, we’ve never considered our band as pagan oriented, despite the fact that in the past we used heathen inspired lyrics which were based on Nefas’s individual approach strictly. His quill has the most significant poetic role in expressing The Stone’s message and definitely, it’s a powerful tool in the band’s arsenal.
The Stone started out as Stone To Flesh during the time when your part of the world was in a total uproar due to the civil war. As I’ve understood from previous interviews and other articles, the scene in Yugoslavia was just beginning to appear at that time. I’d like to ask you how that scene started out and which bands were instrumental in it and how the civil war influenced it and you as a band in your ability to create music. Can you tell about that?
Nefas: The civil war has changed many things in our lives, but I’m not sure it had any influence on our music in a creative way, maybe on our subconscious. Technically speaking, everything was harder to do in war surrounded country, isolated…, but we survived. On our first album, we included the intro, the true sound of NATO bombs falling on Belgrade heating a plant. That’s the exact piece of the warlike atmosphere in which we worked on our debut album.
What’s happening in the current Serbian metal scene? And is it in any way connected to the neighboring countries of former Yugoslavia or are you drawn more towards other countries? Which bands should people really check out from the current scene (and why)?
Nefas: We never had a massive scene, but we have some quality bands to mention. My personal favorite is deathrash legion Infest. As for black metal, try with Kolac, Zloslut, Wolf’sHunger, Samrt…
What does it mean for The Stone to be a band from Serbia? Is there something typical and unique that you take from your culture, history or even nature in your country that to your view, colors or impacts the way you and/or other bands from Serbia make this sort of music?
Nefas: We took the pillar of our culture, Serbian language. Native language gives you the opportunity to express yourself better.
Kozeljnik: Serbian language, with its strong accent, gives us more radical, yet aggressive audible approach to the art we create. During the years we’ve created our own style and usage of our native tongue definitely has a strong impact on that.
Black metal has been gradually changing and taking new forms in recent years. I’m interested to know, what to you defines black metal? Is it something ritualistic, does it need to be ugly or can it be beautiful… How would you define this music now, after having played it for so long?
Nefas: For me, Black Metal is the art of controlling sonic madness in order to make the obscure atmosphere suitable for expressing the negativity and narrating the inner gloom. It’s the darkest corner of musical art.
What future plans does The Stone have at the moment? What are you aiming for in 2018 or will this be a time for the side projects (if so, what are you focussing on)?
Nefas: We have tour plans with Inferno and IXXI settled for March and after that we will enter the studio to record 2 new songs for the upcoming 7”ep. That’s the plan for next six months.
If you had to compare The Stone to a dish or type of food, what would it be and why?
Nefas: A piece of bread and a glass of water, if you are hungry, you will enjoy it.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Please add it below.
Nefas: Nothing more, the point is said. Just to thank you for the support.
The Mediterranean island of Malta is a peculiar place. The two (inhabited) islands of Malta and Gozo are a haven for many and the land has a rich history. It’s also a great soil for heavy metal apparently, which it proudly has been displaying for years.
In fact, it inspired the making of a documentary ‘Brotherhood: A Story of Metal in Malta‘, which will be coming to you soon (keep an eye on their page). If there’s one man in Malta, that can tell everything about metal on the island, it must be AlbertBell. Bell has been playing in bands and organizing gigs for ages and I found him willing to answer some questions.
Albert plays in Forsaken, NomadSon, and Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus at the moment, while organizing Malta Doom Days as well. The festival is a growing feature in the agenda’s of doom-aficionados all over, so put it on your agenda! Due to that, it took some time to get this together, but now you can learn everything about metal music on the small island.
Metal Malta History
What bands are you currently playing in and for those not familiar, what sort of bands are they?
I am the bassist for both Forsaken (established in 1991) and NomadSon. Both are doom metal bands, but while Forsaken tends to thread to epic doom path drawing inspiration from the likes of Candlemass and SolitudeAeternus (while incorporating other influences and obviously our own approach to the genre), I formed Nomad Son in 2006 to realize my passion for 70s heavy rock/metal. I think Nomad Son may be best described as a cross between doom metal and 70s heavy rock with some touches of NWOBHM.
In 2011 I started by own project – Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus which combines various influences (creating a sound that I call blackened, primeval, epic doom heavy metal). The latter celebrates my passion for all things old school and also underscores my passion for the likes of Venom, Motorhead, Candlemass and so forth.
How did you get into metal music in the first place? What bands were the first to capture your attention and what was the charm of the music to you?
I started taking music seriously in early in my teens and possibly the first band that fascinated me was KISS. I guess it was the band’s energy and somewhat dark imagery which attracted me to them. The contrast with other chart hitting bands at the time was quite evident. BLACKSABBATH had an even more profound effect on me in this sense. I still remember hearing tracks like ‘Am I going Insane’, ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Changes’ on National Radio and their mystical, obscure aura was quite gripping.
Through my older brother’s collection, I discovered other important 70s bands and artists – from Peter Frampton, to Rush, Bowie, T-Rex and so on. After that like my brother, and our close English friend Roger I was swept away by the whole punk thing and we used to spend hours on end listening to the most important punk bands at the time, from the Pistols, to the Clash, The Stranglers, Sham 69 and the like. Our image was also heavy influenced by the punk fad that was quite popular even in Malta in the period in question and I even sported a very short, skinhead style hairstyle for some time! Haha!
We were fans of a local punk-ska band called the Rifffs who were quite big in Malta at the beginning of the 80s, and the first shows I attended were local punk gigs. However, one day while we were hanging out at home – our English friend told us that he has this single called ‘Ace of Spades’ by this killer band Motorhead and he made it a point that we to listen to it! Once it started spinning on our turntable, I was totally blown away!! And that was my first real musical epiphany really. I started getting into more and more Motorhead stuff and by 1981 I was totally dedicated to all things metal, getting more and more into the 70s heavy rock/metal bands that I had already enjoyed like Purple, Sabbath, Priest, Lizzy. Rainbow and so on and then really delving in NWOBHM, worshipping the early stuff from Maiden, Saxon, and even DefLeppard.
However, when I turned 15 in 82 I crossed paths with VENOM and that was another important epiphany for me! The sheer energy of that unholy trio totally blew me away and it was very easy for me to embrace the early thrash explosion to the extent that I formed my first band in 1984 (first called Exorcist and then Kremation after I found out that a US band with the same name was in circulation – love that album by the way haha!) with the scope of introducing Thrash/Speed metal to the local scene. Thrash/Speed metal remained my staple diet (without however foregoing the other bands I was always into) until the end of the 80s, but by then also perhaps due to CELTICFROST’s influence on me I started searching for different stuff – which was more based on heaviness and dark atmosphere vs high speed riffage. And this is where doom came in – a genre that I also love with a passion – without ever, however, losing sight of my formative influences.
Malta is a small country, but with a lot of international influences. How did metal music get started there? I think you were in one of the first bands from Malta, but did foreign bands play Malta first or how did the metal scene develop?
You have to keep in mind that though somewhat geographically isolated from the rest of the continent, Malta was under British colonial rule till 1964 with a strong presence of the British forces remaining on the Island till 1979. So basically Malta at the time was imbued with Anglophile influences in various respects. Much of what was played on the local radio at the time reflected chart trends in England and the US and we also had music mags here from abroad like Sounds and Melody Maker and later even Kerrang and Metal Forces (still miss that one), so those of us who were bothered to delve deeper into things were really quite well informed and I already had a cool collection of vinyl at the time.
I used to order stuff from local record stores in cases where the stuff I wanted was out of stock and I also used to get stuff directly from England through my family connections. Moreover, the metal scene at the time was really tightly knit and we used to tape-trade like mad! Discovering obscure bands was our main mission in life really! Haha! There were also several of us active in metal bands in the 80s. However, the genre has even earlier roots. For example, there was a band called EvilGrave in the early 70s that was gaining popularity here at the time strongly inspired by Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Purple. Marc Storace (who later emigrated to Switzerland and after a band called Tea was to join the seminal Swiss rockers Krokus) was already active in local bands like theBoys. You also had great Prog bands like Over and Mirage very active in the early 80s and some great ballsy hard rock/metal bands like B3 (two members of which went to Germany to join High n dry), Acid, Centaur, Overdose, Stratkast and Unexplained. Sphinx was another important band at the time – a sort of fusion between Rush and Rainbow.
Other metal/hard rock important bands in the 80s included IvoryCross, Passion Blade, Coven, Brainstorm. Entract, Epicure, Kremlin, Kraken, Hellequin and the Tarxien based Vandals. The latter was instrumental in introducing Thrash/Speed metal to Malta. By 1985 Speed metal really started to take root here and apart from Vandals (still going on in the form of X-Vandals) my bands Exorcist/Kremation helped to gravitate the scene towards more extreme stuff.
By the 90s then you had a strong wave of death metal bands coming to the fore (with local legends Beheaded being a great case in point, and others like Amentia, Sceptocrpyt etc), doom of course with Forsaken and later ObliqueVisions, Victimsof Creation, WeepingSilence and so forth, some black metal etc. We did not have that many foreign bands visiting the Island (unlike nowadays), so there was something intrinsically Maltese in all those metal bands that pioneered the scene. Even though perhaps small when compared to other countries, Maltese metal has a rich and quite eventful history. The above is just a snippet of its progression.
Which bands really pioneered the scene?
I sincerely think that all the above bands and several more that I haven’t mentioned were all pivotal for the genre’s propagation and entrenchment on the Island. However, I think that it was the 90s wave that helped to internationalize Maltese metal really. It was Forsaken and Beheaded that first started exporting local metal with record deals and tours abroad and then many others followed and also left their indelible mark in this regard to the extent that today you have quite a good number of Maltese metal bands touring abroad, releasing albums regularly, hosting festivals on the Island and networking well within the global metal scene. Bands like Loathe, AbysmalTorment, WeepingSilence, Martyrium, ThyLegion, WeepingSilence, Victims of Creation, NomadSon are now all active in the international circuit and really pushing Maltese metal forward in their own niche scenes.
You played in two bands, which as far as I can tell are the earliest ones in Malta, namely Vandals (later X-Vandals) and Kremation. When you started out this music, was everything available (like instruments, recording studios, other people playing, places to play shows?
Everything was much more an effort then things are today really. Equipment was much more expensive and band shows were concerts really versus the club shows that you have in most cases today. We used to rent out huge halls and basically build stages, with drum risers, doing all the promotion ourselves (designing, printing and running around putting up posters on bus stages at strong personal risk because it was illegal to do so!) and so forth.
Professional studios were few and far between and everything was totally DIY. The younger bands today really cannot fathom the immense effort we used to put into things. I know this sounds patronizing but it is true really. We used to leave no stone unturned to ensure that our shows were a success. And the thing can be said on our efforts to reach out abroad in the early days… the amount of time and money spent on physically writing to people and spreading the word on Forsaken’s first demo was incredible for example. If I had to use one word to describe the scene at the time it would be passion.
Perhaps, today’s bands might be more skilled, and have better equipment, better-sounding demos and recordings, better-designed fliers and all the works – but I think that somehow they lack (obviously one cannot generalise) the gusto to do things their own way, without expecting some higher power to drop manna from the skies. Things just do not happen that way.
How was the response to the music in those early days of Malta metal?
Totally incomparable to what it is today really. 350-500 punters attending shows in the 80s was a regular and realistic expectation really. In many instances even more than that. By the mid-90s this was not the case anymore. The fragmentation of the scene didn’t help really plus the big concert hall shows had ended, and all the bands gravitated towards club shows – and with some exceptions, a 200 plus crowd at a local gig since then is somewhat of a rarity these days. Moreover, merchandise sales have also dwindled with less and fewer fans keen on getting physical albums and so forth. This said I have to say that in my bands’ case we are blessed by a very loyal and committed core of fans and supporters and we have ventured on despite the difficulties. It is also encouraging to see younger fans and bands also taking up the call to arms to take metal forward in the years to come, with some exciting prospects looming on the horizon.
What sort of interest does metal music generate in Malta nowadays? Is there anything typical about bands from Malta and their music, especially since there is a relative isolation of the island?
The virtual, digital world has made this isolation less evident over the years and today one can reach out beyond our shores at the click of a button. Perhaps the scene has lost some of its charm and specificity as a result, but in my opinion, there is still something particular about Maltese bands in whatever style. Our social context does leave an indelible mark on who we are and what we do (of course as a sociologist I cannot say otherwise, but it is true). If anything, quite often, vs. Foreign, especially Nordic bands, Maltese bands (and fans) are still very passionate about what they do and this oozes out in their stage performances. It is never simply about going through the motions. Perhaps, this is a reflection of our national (rather) exorbitant and Latin character….but it’s there.
You’ve later started with bands like Forsaken and Nomad Son. Both in the artwork and lyrics, the theme of Christianity seems to be a returning factor. It seems to be an element of Sacro Sanctus as well. Why is this theme so significant; is it the historical context or something personal?
I guess what I have just said above answers your question. Christianity in Malta (especially in my personal trajectory; it may not necessarily be so for the younger kids with Malta shifting towards a much more secular and multi-cultural society) has strong and profound roots. It is omnipresent really and a strong feature of one’s socialization and personal moral development. Of course, I also rebelled against the over-bearing and often suffocating presence of the institutionalized forces of Christendom on the Island. However, I never really let go of those formative values that were passed on to me by my parents and elders. I am talking about the universal values of respect, community, tolerance, responsibility for one’s actions, solidarity and personal sacrifice (fundamentally rooted in Christ’s teachings in my opinion). Moreover, various personal experiences helped me to rediscover my spirituality over the years. And Christianity/Catholicism offers profound insights in this regard and these often surface (proudly I might add) in my song-texts. Though I often use lots of metaphor, symbolism, and allegory in this respect, to entice the reader/listener to build his/her own opinions on the subject matter at stake. It is certainly not the boring pulpit preaching of some of the more fervent Christian bands out there! And I am open to listening to anything. Exposing yourself to different worldviews often makes you more convinced of yours!
Sacro Sanctus, often presented as Albert Bell’s Sacro Sanctus, seems to really be the project closest to you. You seem to be quite a busy man, why did you start this project and what story are you telling with it. Do you work with other people for this project?
Sacro Sanctus is entirely my vision. I have been in bands since I was a teen. I was 16 when I started my first band. Band democracies may be very enriching on various levels. They are also quite often sources of frustration, as in any situation where decisions are not entirely your own and where you need to pace yourself and adjust to other people’s expectations, situations and ways of doing things. I would best describe it as the best laboratory for developing the art of compromise which after all is very important in various aspects of life. But with Sacro Sanctus, I wanted a different approach. It provides an opportunity where I can realize things (both from a management and musical perspective) my way. And that is how it has been so far and will remain.
I handle all the compositions, the song texts, the vocals and most of the instrumentation, bar for the drums. I have had different approaches to the drums in the project. On the first two albums, I built the drums on midi with the help of Chris from NomadSon (who pre-produced those first two albums) and then brought in a professional drummer (Robert Spiteri, one of the finest and busiest on the Island) to bring them to life in the studio. On the next album ‘LIBER III: Codex Templarium’ I am working differently and totally forgoing the midi process, which was very time-consuming really. So now I have a new drummer called Steve Lombardo (who has also helped me with the album’s preproduction at his cool studio) who basically recorded the drums from scratch after I finalized the guitar and vocal guides and proper bass takes.
The end result sounds really encouraging so far and it has been awesome working with Steve who has a real old school approach to things. I have also roped in a guitar wizard – Owen Grech – for some solo shredding on the album but still did all the rhythm guitars and melodies and arrangements on guitar. So yes, I am ready to get the right people in the project if I am uber-convinced that they share my vision and are excited to participate in Sacro Sanctus. As was also the case with Alexia Baldacchino who guested on the first two albums on a couple of tracks and Luciano Schembri who laid down some awesome organ work on a Death SS cover I did for an upcoming tribute to the Italian horror metal masters on Black Widow records. And this is the great thing about Sacro Sanctus not being a typical band as I can rope in people as requisite without difficulty while keeping total control on things.
Obviously, there are difficulties in respect of threading this path. The financial burden is one them. But I have to say that the end result is really gratifying and I am excited at the prospect of releasing more Sacro Sanctus stuff in future, as long as God gives me the strength and the inspiration continues. As far as the lyrical dimension goes, all these first three album chart important episodes in the history of the Knights Templar combining both fact and myth and imagination in the process. I just love it! Haha!
Do you have anything in the works right now for any of your bands or projects that you can tell us about? I read that Forsaken signed an album deal with Mighty Music?
Yes after a seven-year wait, we (Forsaken) released our new (fifth) full-length album on Mighty Music records last October. It is called ‘Pentateuch’ and basically is inspired and centers on the first five books of Moses. We are also hoping to be touring soon to support the album apart from some local shows. As far as Nomad Son go, we are taking a bit of a breather right now which will possibly extend until the end of 2018. The plan is that we start working on a new album and start gigging again.
Apart from a very busy musician, you also have an academic career. It seems to me from your research fields, that you’ve found a way to at least partly bring the music and the academic side together in your research field. Can you say something about that?
Correct again. One of my main research interests is music subcultures. My Phd and various academic articles culled from it in fact focused on a sociological appraisal of Maltese metal subculture and I am also planning further research to this effect, which will hopefully be realized next year. Basically, my research area marries my love for metal/music and sociology. I enjoy researching and teaching the subject at University – something that I have done for well over 25 years now.
How did you start out organizing the Malta Doom Days as well? Another avenue you’re active in, which I can imagine takes a lot of time, effort, money and love. Also, which shows where the absolute highlights for you personally?
There have been several personal highlights like hosting Leif Edling this year with his new project The Doomsday Kingdom and in previous years, Pagan Altar, ManillaRoad and The Black – all legends that I have long worshipped. But hosting Venom.inc in 2015 surpassed all and hearing classics like ‘Black Metal’, ‘Countess Bathory’, ‘Witching Hour’, ‘Prime Evil’ etc. on our stage was a very proud, emotional and moving moment. Plus meeting and hosting Mantas, Abaddon and Tony Dolan on the Island were awesome as they are really great people and so easy to work with. So basically, despite the huge mammoth effort behind Malta Doom Metal (MDM) – dedicated to all things doom and old school; instances such as this make the whole thing worth it plus of course seeing all those smiling happy faces of the MDM regulars (now from all over Europe) which is ultimately the main reason why I started the festival – to create a quality, international festival where doom and old school metal fans can come and enjoy a great weekend of killer music and like-minded company – a little heaven in the Mediterranean of the doom and old school elite!
If someone was to visit Malta, which they should do during the Malta Doom Days obviously, but outside of the event, what places are go-to ones for metal/rock fans in Malta?
Metal clubs and oriented venues are few and far between right now. However, there’s a great new club called The Garage in Zebbug which hosts metal gigs on a weekly basis. Plus we also have other cool metal festivals throughout the year here including Metal Over Malta which is also another great festival, now running in its fourth year. There’s practically a metal festival occurring every month here next year, so there are quite a few things to do for metalheads on the Island now!
During the Doom Days, I noticed that it’s generally a very passionate scene. I saw as well and heard that there’s a lot of divides in Malta. Between the two islands, between the English and Maltese speaking parts. Are those also visible in the metal scene? For example, apart from Saħħar I haven’t come across bands with Maltese lyrics. Vandals also had some songs in Maltese way back. And Norm Rejection (featuring Sean from Forsaken) was perhaps the first standard bearers for that in the local Metal scene, but you are right Saħħar is certainly the most prolific at present in this respect, and for me personally one of the most exciting bands in the scene along with our label mates Chaotic Remains. I wouldn’t say that our scene here is that representative of the sources of class and status distinction that you find on the Island. I think that the main source of distinction/fragmentation in Maltese metal is music preference and perhaps age and peer groups too as is also the case world-over.
Which bands from Malta should people really be checking out, and why so?
As I mentioned before, there’s loads and loads of bands mirroring different styles and preferences – and most offer high-end quality and passionate stuff. I do not wish to single anybody out, but I cannot end this interview without mentioning X-Vandals (my former band between 89-91 and I have to admit still my absolute faves when it comes to local metal) who are still going strong and released a new killer album just last month called ‘Exhume the Truth’. Killer stuff. 12th Ode is certainly also one of my favorite local bands – very well done old school heavy metal with all the right ingredients and I will be on the lookout for Wolven Hour’s (featuring Leo from Forsaken) to see the light of day for some more old school metal worship. Those looking for something more vintage may check out Frenzy Mono (featuring members of Nomad Son) and prog masters Mirage – who have recently reformed and also rank among my favorite local bands. I am sticking to my personal tastes here, but as I said before the sheer volume of quality bands in diverse styles is quite bewildering really. Hats of to all!
What future plans do you have in music currently?
There’s the new Sacro Sanctus album which as I said above is currently and quite vehemently work-in-progress and should be out on Metal on Metal Records next year – so that is keeping me really and happily busy, plus I have several other songs already written for the project which I will be short-listing and be organizing for future reference soon. We can also expect the Death SS tribute album featuring Sacro Sanctus to be released soon.
I am also expecting 2018 to be quite busy for Forsaken with both local and foreign shows and perhaps some more song-writing too. These will be the main priorities music-wise for me in 2018 and MDM X of course which is an ongoing and pivotal concern right now too.
If you could have your dream line-up for Malta Doom Days, who would be playing?
Haha…this is a trick question! Slowly but surely we are attracting bands that I have always wished to see in Malta. I won’t be revealing any names but if things go to plan then we should be realizing another dream in 2018…enough said though!
If you had to compare the music of your bands to a dish, what dishes would they be and why?
A plate of pasta arrabiata – not too overdone, basic ingredients yet still quite angry, potent with lots of gusto and a dash of chilli hellfire!!! Hahaha!
What if the reality you see before you offers more struggle, than any imaginary hell or dark realms you can conjure? For A Village In Despair, that must have been the line of reasoning. The band from Sri Lanka plays a peculiar brand of black metal, inspired by the situation in their country.
As tourists, you probably see a nice place when you go somewhere. According to the band, this is only a facade. Behind the pretty pictures, most of the people in Sri Lanka live in poverty and subsistence. It’s been that way on the former Brittish colony for a long time, since it changed from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.
A Village In Despair doesn’t make music about the big stories, but the small suffering. That makes them stand out, so I was very eager to get in touch with them and learn more.
The realities of rural life
Hey guys, how are you doing?
Hi Guido, Thank you for taking the time to speak to us.
Can we start of with an introduction to A Village In Despair? How did you guys get started as a band, how did you meet and how did you get into metal?
A Village in Despair (AVID) is a fairly new band, almost everyone in the band plays for other bands and has done so for quite some time. I am the vocalist of Plecto Aliquem Capite and the former vocalist of ForlornHope. Kasun plays with me in PlectoAliquemCapite alongside a host of other metal bands from Sri Lanka. Sandun too, is the guitarist of the black metal band Rathas and we’ve crossed paths many times.
I mulled over the idea of starting an atmospheric black metal band for a while. It really didn’t take off till I had a chat with Sandun who was on the same wave length as I was. Concepts were discussed, riffs were created and Kasun was brought on board to do the drums, recording, mixing and mastering of our first EP. I spoke to my friend Melani about this concept and asked her if she could lend a hand with the female vocals, it was meant to be one-off but it worked so well that we decided to bring her on board as a full-time member of the band.
It seems that A Village in Despair has had a pretty fast start. As I understand it, you guys joined up in 2017 and a single and EP followed quite rapidly. You also signed to PRBM from the UK. How did everything happen so fast and how did you end up with PRBM (and can you tell a bit about them)?
Yeah, things that usually take years took only a couple of months for AVID. Every member was on the same page, I think that helped immensely.
PRBM is a very small operation, a niche underground label if you may. Their main focuses are extreme metal and noise and it is indeed an honour to be on their roster. We got several offers from labels, this was the most sensible option for us.
Your artwork seems very unique. Can you tell me where it is from and why you chose it?
The artwork was designed by our guitarist, Sandun Harshana. We wanted to reflect what we sing about, the artwork was influenced by day to day life in rural Sri Lanka and nature.
I’ve been listening to your music and reading the lyrics, it seems that the band name is in fact also the theme for your music. Struggle, despair, poverty… I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk a bit about that and maybe tell us why you’ve chosen these topics. Does this village physically exist and how does it relate to you?
There are hundreds of families living in rural parts of Sri Lanka without access to what you and I call basic necessities. People forget this quite easily if they don’t have to deal with these hardships themselves. The aim of AVID is to bring these issues to the fore and do something to help them.
We have been fortunate enough to not have been affected by any of these problems, but we feel that it’s not right to turn a blind eye when these issues are still very prevalent in the country we live in. If you look beyond the tourism brochures promoting Sri Lanka, you will see there’s a vast number of people who still live in rural, underdeveloped parts of the country. Life for them is nothing short of a struggle, farming is their main source of income but it is by no means enough to help them meet their basic needs.
What you and I have taken for granted, like having clean drinking water, access to healthcare or access to education doesn’t come too easily for them. Their lives are simple, they don’t have major aspirations and getting through another day is considered a victory by some. Yet they somehow manage a warm smile despite their hardships.
How do you go about making your music? Do you do things DIY? Do you start with lyrics or with the songs and how does everyone work together within the band?
We start off with a concept and lyrics follow soon after. We use lyrics as a guide to set up the song structure. We usually discuss our ideas via Facebook chats and video calls because we are all quite a distance away from each other.
On your EP, which is self-titled, I feel there are some typical elements that truly distinguish you from other bands. It’s as if you’re not encumbered by the rigorous ‘rules’ of the genre and there are these odd spoken word passages. Can you tell something about this EP, those spoken word elements and if you feel your sound is perhaps unique to where you are from?
Yes, the spoken word passages have caught a lot of people off-guard. The spoken passages are done in Sinhala which is our native language. These offer the first-person view of the issues discussed in the song and add a more personal feel.
We try not to restrict ourselves and be confined to the particular genre. We try our level best to include elements that capture the essence of life in rural parts of the country. We will be experimenting a lot more on our next record.
I’m curious about the scene in your country Sri Lanka. Mostly, where I am from, we take the facilities and freedom we have for granted. How are those things in your country? Do you have things like rehearsal spaces, venues to play, instruments and so forth available? Are you free to sing about whatever you want?
The metal scene in Sri Lanka had very humble beginnings. There weren’t many recording studios, rehearsal spaces or even venues during the early 2000s. A lot of individuals put in a lot of time, effort and money into the scene and most of the new bands don’t have to go through the hardships faced by bands back in the day. Things have definitely improved with time in Sri Lanka.
The scene is pretty underground in Sri Lanka and censorship hasn’t been a major concern for local bands. Things might change if the metal scene gets a massive following in Sri Lanka but that is quite unlikely just yet.
What is the scene like in Sri Lanka and maybe can you tell a bit about its history and who pioneered metal music in Sri Lanka?
The metal scene in Sri Lanka is thriving to say the least. The country is blessed with a lot of talented musicians who are in bands that range from black metal and death metal to grunge and punk. The origins of the current metal scene date back to the early 2000s, but there has been a couple of bands in the 70s and 80s as well. It’s a bit difficult to say who really pioneered metal music in Sri Lanka, what I can say though is that everyone who’s a part of it has contributed to its growth.
What bands from your country should people really check out and why?
There’s a lot of great bands from Sri Lanka across a lot of genres and sub-genres of metal. We would recommend you check the Encylopedia Metallum page for Sri Lanka and pick bands that play the genres they fancy.
What future plans does A village In Despair have?
We are hoping to release a 4-track EP by mid/late 2018. We might look at the possibility of playing live towards the end of next year, but nothing’s confirmed. It will be based on the concept of ruin. It will talk about how the 4 elements of nature affect people in rural parts of the country.
If you could choose 3 bands to share the stage with, who would it be? Have any of them ever played in your country?
We are likely to pick Drudkh, Wolves in the throne room and I shalt become. Unfortunately, two of these bands don’t play live and the other hasn’t played in Sri Lanka as of yet.
If you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?
We haven’t really thought about it….. nope still can’t think of anything.
Some bands carve their own path in this world and very rarely one creates a very own style and genre. Rudra from Singapore does, with their unique sounding Vedic metal music. Blending thrash, death and black with folk elements to create a unique sound from their small city-state in Southeast Asia.
Singapore has quite a scene, but Rudra seems to set itself apart musically and aesthetically. The city-state is also extremely densely populated, with a high life quality and a vast influx of world cultures. I asked Kathir, singer and bass player a couple of questions about their music, the meaning behind it and their 25-year existence and more.
Thanks to Kunal Choksi from TranscendingObscurity, for helping realize this interview. This is Vedic metal. This is Rudra.
Rudra: Vedic metal from Singapore
Hello! Could you kindly start by introducing yourself? Can you tell us how the band got started and how you guys got together?
Kathir: I am Kathir, the bassist, and vocalist of the band. The band was formed in 1992 and since then the line-up has gone through a couple of changes. The drummer Shiva and I have remained in the band since its formation. Shiva and I met back in school in 1991 and we immediately got along for our common love for rock music and metal.
What bands influenced your music? I understand that you sort of carved out your own niche, but what metal acts inspired you.
Kathir: As much as we have created a niche for ourselves, it has been the usual suspects that inspired us. Slayer has been the single biggest influence in our early years as well as early Sepultura, Obituary, Bathory, Megadeth, Death, BlackSabbath, Kreator, and Destruction.
So how is Rudra doing? Your last full length came out in 2016. Can you tell us about the album ‘Enemy of Duality’?
Kathir: We just crossed our 25th year of existence. We are currently busy recording our next release which is going to be an EP of covers of six bands that inspired us. We are also releasing a compilation of tracks from our first 5 years which will be entitled ‘Past Life Regression’ and a third release called the ‘ Black Isle Sessions’ which will feature tracks that were played live and re-recorded in the Black Isle Studios. The year 2018 will be a year of renewal by consolidating our past and preparing for the future.
‘ Enemy of Duality’ is another concept album based on a very old Sanskrit text ‘Mandukya Karika’. It is really a special album because it brings back the fusion of Indian instrumentation and modalities into our music. It has been very well received. Having existed for 25 years, it is pretty difficult to incorporate new songs into our live setlist. But a couple of songs have emerged to be crowd favorites from this album.
How do you guys approach the creation, writing and recording process of your music? Does everyone have separate roles or is there a clear order and set of tasks?
Kathir: It has become pretty organic. Everyone contributes to the song writing. With the recent albums, we became more emergent in the song writing process allowing our ideas to emerge in the studio. We stopped walking in prepared with riffs and ideas.
You guys have been around for 25 years, congratulations. Can you tell me what has changed in your music and world as a band over this period?
Kathir: Thank you. One big shift that took place in the 5th year was the clear niche we created for ourselves via Vedic Metal. Since then we have been consistent in playing our brand of Death/Black Metal. With the sole exception of ‘Rta’, our 7th album, every album is of the same vein with varying production value. We have worked with different producers at times to renew our sound and sometimes produced it ourselves. Rta is the only album that brought an epic feel to our music and stood out from our other albums.
Your style has been labeled as Vedic metal. Can you explain in your own words what that means and also what it means to you?
Kathir: We came up with this term to denote the fusion of metal with ancient Indian philosophy and Indian classical music modalities. Our lyrics also revolve around the theme of ancient Vedic philosophy as well.
Can you tell me more about the Vedic mysticism and sacrifices, particularly what you bring into the music? Like me, many listeners and readers will be rather unfamiliar with its meaning and content, so can you offer an explanation? A little historical background would be very interesting too.
Kathir: The Vedas are very ancient texts in the Sanskrit language. They primarily deal with four subjects which are hymns, rituals/sacrifices, meditations, and philosophy. These texts go as far back as 2500 BCE. Rudra’s lyrical themes revolve around the fourth subject which is philosophy or also called the Upanishads in Sanskrit. The philosophy deals with existential topics such as the source of the universe, nature of the world and the Self-knowledge. We have primarily focused on Self-knowledge as the theme of most of our lyrics.
Now, I know that Hinduism, which is your main theme, has many faces. How in your own view does it match with heavy metal music? Where is the click for you?
Kathir: Hinduism is a big word and it does not have a monolithic set of beliefs or philosophy. It has evolved over thousands of years and at times quite unrecognizable from its ancient roots. However, it is the philosophical aspects of Hinduism which clicks for us as a band, in specific the philosophy of non-dualism. We find non-dualism radical enough to be presented via metal.
I hear some traditional instruments in your music, also some interesting structures. How do you put the two things together?
Kathir: These are instruments we have listened to since we were kids. So it was quite natural for us to imagine these ideas before even fusing them with metal. But what made it easy was working with expert musicians.
I particularly like how you guys have records with a distinct look and feel. The artwork really promises a new experience, something unknown and at times even a bit unnerving. I really enjoy that aspect. How much work goes into that and how does this whole vision come together?
Kathir: We spend a great deal of time finding the right fit for the music and the cover art. It needs to make sense to us. And there is much interpretation that goes into the choice of artwork as well as its final form. For example, the artwork for ‘Enemy of Duality’ presents an ancient form of the Indian drum and a trident is tied to it. The three spokes of the trident represent the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. The base of the three spokes is a singular rod which represents the fourth state of Self or non-duality. Together it indicates the causal relationship between the three states and the Self. The drums attached to it represents the sound of the Vedas which become the means to know the Self. This is a typical example of how we come up with design and artworks.
As I understand it, your band has even become a topic for scholarly interest and academics have started noticing you. Can you give some examples and what does it mean for you to get such recognition?
Kathir: It definitely means a lot that we have gotten the attention of musicologists as well. Although as metalheads we do not look for acceptance or mainstream appeal, this attention we got definitely shows that metal, as well as Vedic metal, is worth a deeper study from a musical and anthropological sense.
I’d like to ask you about playing metal music in Singapore. How did the metal scene, in general, get started there? Which bands next to yourselves really pioneered it and is there (in your view) a distinct sound for Singapore bands?
Kathir: The metal scene started in Singapore with bands like RustyBlade in the mid-80’s. After which a new wave of underground metal bands emerged in the late 80’s and early 90’s which inspired us. The bands from this period that inspired us were Martyrdom (RIP), SilentSorrow (RIP), StompingGround (RIP), Lycanthropy (RIP), Morbific (RIP), OppositionParty, GlobalChaos (RIP), Savage (RIP) and Anesthesia (RIP). I do not recall any of these bands had a distinct sound but they sounded just like the bands from the western worlds. And that was what precisely impressed us.
From online sources, I understand there’s a vast metal scene in your country. What does the metal scene in Singapore look like? Is it divided by genre or regions in any way? Are there plenty of venues and rehearsal spaces? Also, is there any form of censorship or public dislike towards extreme metal music, as there is in many places around the world?
Kathir: The current state of the metal scene is pretty good. There are perhaps more serious bands in the scene than perhaps ten years ago. This could be due to the fact that recording and releasing music have gotten a lot less expensive these days. This had created more serious bands that went on to record their music. The scene is pretty united but just that the metal scene hangouts vanished in the 90s. There used to be hangouts where bands used to gather to talk about what’s happening in the scene as well as new discoveries. That’s how we discovered new bands. These days, the internet has replaced this purpose. The metal scene is here is not split into genres. Bands from different metal sub-genres share the same stage. The censorship to has lightened since the 90’s, as well as national funds, have been created for bands to support their music creation. Perhaps we are at the most opportunistic time in Singapore’s music history.
I understand most of you guys have side projects. Would you be willing to tell something about those and how they fit in with playing in Rudra?
Kathir: We do not get too involved in side projects as we did ten years ago due to priorities such as business and family. However, Vinod and I play in The Wandering Ascetic currently. That’s about it for now.
What bands from Singapore should people really check out (and why)?
Kathir: Witchseeker cause they play good old Thrash. Assault because of their new album rocks. Wormrot needs no introduction.
You’ve released an album, titled ‘The Aryan Crusade’. Now, I know that this term has various different meanings, but since people from various places might read this, can you comment on what that means for you to prevent misunderstandings. Also, is there any political element to your music?
Kathir: Firstly there is neither any political nor nationalist element in our music. Secondly, I want to thank you for asking this question. In around 2004-5 one of our fans was confronted by a couple of guys for wearing the Aryan Crusade t-shirt. The bunch of guys assumed that he was a neo-Nazi. At the time of releasing the ‘Aryan Crusade’, we deliberately named the album so, to educate the metal world about the usage of the word Aryan. The word Aryan is explicitly a Sanskrit word, used in Vedic, Jain and Buddhist traditions. The word was not used to denote a race but people of a certain character. The early Vedic definition of an Aryan would be someone who led a highly structured life performing sacrifices to be in harmony with a universal order called Dharma. Therefore, the Vedic perspective refers to a noble quality born out of an appreciation of this order and not something inherited genetically. That’s how we used the word for that album as well as the opening song on that album, ‘Aryaputra’.
What future plans does Rudra have?
Kathir: We will be spending the second half of 2018 writing the next album and hopefully release it in early 2019.
If you had to compare yourself to a dish (a type of food), what would it be and why?
Kathir: This is the most difficult question. I can’t think of any.
It’s the end of an era. Rhapsody, the band for lovers of power metal, swords and sorcery, calls it quits. They don’t just stop though, they’ll come to say bye to everyone in person with a final grand tour.
During their tour, they are visiting Eindhoven for one of these shows. I had the rare opportunity to ask Fabio Lione, lead singer of the band for 20 years, about this final tour, 20 years of Rhapsody and obviously about recording with Sir Christopher Lee (Gandalf and Rhapsody, awesome!).
For me, it all started with ‘Power of the Dragonflame’. The combination of epic metal with a high pace and the drama of grand opera was already much to take in, but add to that the high fantasy themes! It resonated with my love for fantasy and never did I really get the same rush from bands in this genre as from Rhapsody. Maybe younger bands like Twilight Force will take up that torch. But first, we get to say bye. And I got to ask FabioLione about all that.
You’re about to embark on the next part of your farewell tour. Any mixed feelings after spending half your life singing your heart out in Rhapsody to leave this all behind?
Well, of course, I have mixed feelings regarding that.. I mean..from one side I’m really happy to celebrate this 20 years of history of the band with the original members and everything is going great between us, with the fans, venues, promoters, managers etc..From the other side we know that this is a Farewell tour and so it will come to an end…
But I’m happy, proud and motivated. This is exactly what the band has to do now. Everyone in the band is feeling great and me and Luca… Well, we want to “close” this chapter in our life ’cause we feel is the right moment to do it. We are ready to create new things and we are sure we both have new challenges to face…hehe…
When iconic bands get together again for one last time, it’s usually after a period of time. You’ve decided though to simply end Rhapsody with a bang. I read elsewhere that talks took place over a year to get things together. It’s a wonderful way to end, but can you take us through how this all came together like this?
We all knew that was an important moment in the history of the band. We had to celebrate 20 years of band history somehow. My relationship with the Rhapsody of Fire members and management was comin’ to an end due to different views we had and we talked a lot regarding this with all the original member and our managers. Not so easy, but after 1 year we were able to manage and make it!!!
So..finally we decided to do it. We received many offers from promoters and in general, the fans showed us that They wanted this!
And you know…the fans are the boss!!! hahaha!
With you having announced your departure and Luca Turilli having left a few years earlier, was there ever a point where you would have considered this impossible? As in, could this have gone differently?
Honestly 6/7 years ago we couldn’t really think that something like this could happen. Everyone walked his “own path”, made a choice and had new great experiences. I’m sure without some troubles we had, internal discussions, legal issues and so on…
Well, things could have been different but I have to say that today I’m really happy that we had all this probably, because we are more wise, stronger and motivated and the relationship between us is fantastic. I can’t really imagine a better way to close this chapter in our life.
You’ve personally always been prolifically active in various side projects, while a part of Rhapsody. You’ve done so much different styles, from Eurobeat to almost operatic projects. Does it make it easier to end something that has been such a huge part of your life because of that? Which projects do you have in mind to continue or to pick up after the final show of this tour?
Not really..in this case we both ( me and Luca) have decided to end this chapter in our life after many years..
This has nothing to do with other side projects or collaborations.
At the moment I have a new great record with the band Angra to promote. Then, as you may know, I have done a record with the Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody singer Alessandro Conti to make clear for the fans that we are friends and we have no problem at all between us. I also have to work on the new EternalIdol record, both last 2 projects are under Frontiers Records…
Thinkin’ about doing something new with The Vision Divine guys and many other ideas in mind…
You’re playing a show in Eindhoven, which is the main reason I’m asking you these questions now. Was that a location you guys hand-picked or did it just come up? Do you have any special affinity or connection to Eindhoven?
Well, of course, we have someone of our “Team” that lives close to this place..hehe..so probably this has influenced the thing..
Then we had to play in the Netherlands and especially in Eindhoven ’cause we like the place and we always had great reactions from the fans there and we had some good cd sales there!!!
Do you guys have anything special lined-up for these last live shows? Particular songs or maybe special guests?
Of course, we have some “special songs” added to the set-list, but I don’t want now to ruin the surprise, hahaha. I think we will play a good part of both Symphony of Enchanted Lands and Power of the Dragonflame records and we are thinkin’ about some guests at the moment..effects and some surprises on stage!
For me, Rhapsody really hit home with ‘Power of the Dragonflame’, since it was out when I started listening to this music… Nothing quite had that epic sound and I never really managed to find any band that came close to Rhapsody (recently I found Twilight Force impressive though). What do you think, made you guys stand out for many listeners in the realm of power metal?
The general reaction when Power of the Dragonflame was absolutely great! For sure is one of the most important records we have done, I agree with you. Personally, I think ‘Symphony’ was our first big “hit” in the realm of power metal music. Of course, I have to mention the unique ‘Legendary Tales’ and all the other works we have done, with a special mention also for ‘The Frozen Tears of Angels’ and ‘Symphony part 2’.
Anyway thanks for what you are saying! I also think the band Rhapsody created and represents something unique and a very special band for this kind of music.
An added value to me was the fantasy elements in the lyrics of Rhapsody, which completely match with the sound. Its been clear that Luca Turilli has had a big hand in that, but even after he left these themes kept popping up. Where did you guys draw these influences from?
As you said the “fantasy” elements in the lyrics are a big part of the Rhapsody main concept, idea and essence and this matches perfectly with the sound of the band! Luca was the main guy behind this, the Saga and most of the lyrics we had in the past. I
also wrote few lyrics in the past for the band and I wrote all lyrics regarding the last two Rhapsody of Fire records thinking about the message we always wanted to give to our fans and these “fantasy” elements that are really connected with the music.
In the end, I think its something natural for us to think about these topics and write this way for the band. The original main band Rhapsody is extremely connected with fantasy elements as probably we are fascinated by stories, movies, video games or legends.
After 20 years, what memories or moments do you look back upon most fondly and what would you most like people to remember Rhapsody for?
Mmm..not so easy to answer. Hahaha! I’ll make a simple list of events that I think are important for the band.
Reactions after the Legendary Tales record release
First headliner tour of the band
Real orchestra parts in the songs
Positive messages that we wanted to communicate to our fans through our lyrics
Rhapsody in the Italian charts for the first time
Collaboration with Sir Christopher Lee
The Frozen Tears of Angels record and Tour!!! Amazing time…
First time in Japan and China and Latin America and well..everywhere!
Every “cheesy” videoclip we made! Hahaha…
This Last Final Big Tour we are making! Because we are having really a great great time and we would like to thanks all our fans for that!!!
I want to ask you one specific thing: what was it like to record together with Christopher Lee? I mean, that was a match made in power-metal-heaven.
Was absolutely a dream. I mean, something unrepeatable and extraordinary. This mas was a legend, he had a very good sense of humor, he spoke 9 languages perfectly! I remember very well that I was talking with him in Italian and I was actually surprised at how good his Italian was…
Then in the studio, we had some “Great” and “Funny” time! Mr. Lee telling me “why I do I have to use these things ( headphones) to sing!? I just sing in the air, in the room and you can take the sound!” It was a great job for me, to let him understand the right tone, the right time for the song etcetera. Also recording him when he had the right breath while he was singing. I want you to remember that I was recording and singing with him when he was 84!!! One of the best experiences of my life indeed…
Will your show in Madrid really be the last for Rhapsody?
I think so. I mean, at the moment we don’t have in mind to continue and we don’t have more shows programmed.
There’s this one question, that I have been asking bands from around the globe for a long time and I really hope you will answer it too: If you had to describe Rhapsody as a dish, a type of food if you will, what would it be and why?
Hahaha!!! That’s fantastic! I really like this. Hm… I think a “four seasons pizza” because you have all in one. Various types of food and things in the same pizza!
Like Rhapsody’s music, that has many different elements in it (metal, progressive, classic music, medieval, celtic, pop, folk, etc. elements…)
or ” Pasta mari e monti”, which means ” with seafood and mushrooms”.
Any final words for Rhapsody fans who’ve loved your works for all these years?
We have to thank you all!!! Really…without you this band couldn’t exist…
We want to have a special tour and share some great moments with all our fans with nice surprises, great songs and amazing atmosphere!!!
See you all soon on tour my friends!!!