Romuvos Interview

Romuvos is the kind of band you will find only when you start looking for it. Pagan metal, inspired by the ancient Baltic tribes that roamed the lands we now know on our maps as Lithuania and Latvia. One could include the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, though the Prussian Balts are long extinct.

Behind the band is one person who goes by the name Velnias, which is Lithuanian for Devil. Most pagan entities seem to have been taken over by devils, which is shown in the Žmuidzinavičius museum in Kaunas by a large collection of statues. If we look a bit further the name Velnias is taken from the Baltic god of the dead, similar to Odin in Norse mythology. A trickster of sorts, one could say.

I got in touch with Velnias and he was keen to tell us more about his music. Like the trickster he took his name from, there’s more to him than you would think. He doesn’t actually live in the Baltic region, but lives in Israel. He moved there as a child with his family and once in a while he returns to his beloved Lithuania. Because his father is Latvian, he has decided to represent in his music the Baltic tribes as a whole in their pre-Christian form. It’s only fitting then, that I write down these words in the heart of Samogitia, the last pagans to be conquered in Europe back in 1413.

Though Lithuania seems strongly Christian now, not surprising due to their long lasting union with devout Poland in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, there are still plenty of traditions and customs here that remind you of a pagan past and the deep roots they have in both the people and the land. Velnias longs to move back to his beloved country, but feels like the viking warriors who got stranded in far of lands. But one day perhaps, he will return.

Who is Romuvos and how did you get started with this act?

Romuvos is my one man band, the operation is entirely in my hands. I started playing folk music after being part of various black metal projects. I started digging deeper for my roots and the folklore that I hold so dear and decided to dedicate a musical project to it.

Romuvos is music dedicated to the Baltic pagan traditions and way of life. It has always been in my heart, but only now I’ve come to the point where I express it in song. Thus Romuvos was created, a name that refers to reviving the religious practices and pagan traditions of the Lithuanians and Baltic people before their Christianization.

Did you play in other bands before Romuvos?

 Yep, though its nothing worth mentioning. Nothing that got into thte studio or anything. Every band I played in had many rehearsals, worked on songs for a long time until it was time to record and then split up. Most of those were black metal bands with folk influences.

I’m not sure if this is interesting to mention, but I fought in the Israeli army. I fought wars and most of this music I wrote under threat of missiles and bombs. I’m not saying I’m a warrior of old or some brave knight, but I experienced war. Those were not my battles to fight though, not my wars. That however is a different story altogether.

Picture: Lithuanian Devils Museum 'Two very recognizable devils'
Picture: Lithuanian Devils Museum ‘Two very recognizable devils’

Romuvos is clearly a reference to the pagan religion of Lithuania. Can you tell a bit more about what it entails and also the Durwi spin-off?

Well, Romuva is a way of life, tradition and belief. It’s rooted in every Lithuanian heart and deep in the history of the Lithuanian people. Romuva is the name of the most important sanctuary of the Prussians, which was destroyed by crusaders in the 13th century.

One of the most important aspects in the Romuva faith is respect for nature. There are many gods, rituals and festivals that take place and form a part of the yearly calender in the tradition. Many old folksongs teach us about the ways of the Romuva and pagan people fromt he past. Those are the Dainos (folk songs), which play an important role in the religion. They are ancient songs and hymns. There’s so much to tell you about this, fortunately the internet offers much resources for the audience to find out more about this. Im very proud to let people know about our Romuva traditions in my music.

Durwi in old Prussian means faith, its also a revival of the Baltic ancient religions. You can csee how the Lithauanians and other Baltic tribes are untill this very day connected to their traditions and pagan beliefs from before their christianization. I hope the movement will grow and get stronger.

Can you tell a bit more about these traditions, what would these be like?

The Baltic people have preserved their traditions through the ages and Romuva is a direct expression of these unique traditions. It gives a name to the folklore and beliefs that have existed for a long time in the region. I will give you some examples

Krikštas

This refers to the rituals surrounding birth. Before a child was born, the ancient Lithuanians believed in spirits that would influence the unborn child in a bad way. One never directly referred to someone being pregnant to safeguard the mother and the future child. Expressions are still being used in Lithuania, like “The oven fell apart at Petras” or “It’s joyfull at Antanas”.

Once the child was born, it would be inducted into the community. The christening was bound up with various ancient rituals, which tie the new-born to the world, his family and community. These would be performed either at home or in nature when it is the time of the full moon. The room would be decorated with plants and greenery, birds made of straw would be hung from the ceiling and in the middle of the room the hearth would be lit at all time during the ritual. Other materials were prepaired, a bowl of water, clean cloth and scissors. The room would be well lit with candles. In the ritual the mother, father, child, name-givers, relatives and other childern would be present, together with the priestess  – Pribuveja (midwife), who would guide the event and take care of the child

The child is dressed in a festive linen shirt. A sash woven with folk decorations is used as a waist-band.

The feast is a cake, brought by the name-givers. The food upon the table traditionally includes eggs, scrambled eggs, bread, cheese, beer and such. Gifts are brought to the new-born and the mother. It’s all part of this important moment.

Picture: Lithuanian coast of inner-lake near Nida
Picture: Lithuanian coast of inner-lake near Nida

Vestuves

Vestuves is the word for a wedding, which was not just the concern for the young lovers. The entire community had an interest in the marriage and joining in the celebration. Weddings are so important in the ancient taditions, that there were over 100.000 dainos (songs) for Lithuanian weddings. There’s an extensive set of dances that represent the wedding  – starting with the match maker introducing the young couple to each other, the parents agreeing, the young bride weaving her trousseau, and then the wedding ceremony.

There’s a myth of Perkūnas and the Heavenly Wedding: On his way to the wedding, Perkūnas strikes a gold oak – an exorcism to repel evil spirits (Velnias frequently hides under the roots of an oak). When a young bridal couple comes into their new home, before they enter it, the lintel is struck, leaving a “cross” – to ward off evil.

Laidotuves

Funeral/Burial – the traditions surrounding funerals are fairly standard the world over. It is a time of mourning, and of friends gathering in support of the grieving family. But, there are some differences. In villages the coffin would lie in “state” for approximately 6 days, and in cities about 2 days. Every evening there would be the singing of laments, and prayers for the dead members of the family for three generations – each one mentioned by name. Every evening after the prayers a funeral meal is served, prepared by the best cook in the community. If the family has a pig, it is slaughtered for the occasion.

In villages the dead are usually buried in the morning, with final kisses being bestowed upon the loved one.

Velnias has given much more info on the pagan traditions in ancient Lithuania. For the sake of readability, you will find these at the bottom of this article. He mentions the yearly calendar, essential in the pagan rites, and the deities that the ancient Balts worshipped. One deity he goes into very elaborately, which I’m glad he did: Velnias.

In Lithuanian folklore Velnias is the character you will find most often, he originates from the god Velnias or Velinas. He has a relation to the animals, underworld, the dead, economy and magical things. In later Christian times Velnias became the devil.

The folkloric devil in the ethnic legends creates the world together, either alone or with God or only God (there are different versions). God is in some traditions his brother. They both have the same goals in creating the world, but also some opposingones, mainly all the bad things are explained by interference of Velnias. The God creates useful animals and the devil creates ones that harm people and are useless. Velnias is also connected with horses, oxen and cows, of which he would keep herds. In the legends he often harnasses and rides the horses. From the wild life, the wolf, rabbit and bear are closest to him and he assumes their forms.

Velnias is associated with low and wet locations, like moors and lakes, or he may appear in the forest. His dwelling is under the earth, inside the mountain, behind the water. He also may appear in the sky, flying or seen in a storm. The relation between Velnias and treesis also emphasized, he might be found sitting on tree stumps (the reference to the chtonic world, the lower part of the Tree of the World) or hiding in trees (like he hid from Perkunas). The fir tree and birch tree are his trees.

Velnias, also in later times as the devil, would often appears amongst women (at the village parties devils dance with the village girls or the devil would celebrate a wedding with a hanged woman and dances with her) and, in general, he is interested in the weddings and funerals. He often appears when a person dies to take his soul. The devil under the influence of christianity becomes the ruler of the hell (in lith. “pekla”) and there he rules the dead mostly in shape of the animals.

Generally Velnias is close to humans, it is not difficult to find him or call him he also comes without any invitation, let’s say if people decide to play ripka or other games. He often offers his services in farming, to clear the field and such. The manifestations of the devil have a sense of music, often they contract a violinist, play musical instruments themselves and dance. Both life and death are under the jurisdiction of the devil. He is an intermediary or guide for the living, but also was involved with the fertility of people and the land. The harvest was also his. He is inbetween the world of the living and the dead, between earth and the underworld. Therefor he received the patronage of the people who are connected to the both parts of this worlds (i.e. priests, magicians etc). Also, musicians, poets and artists, who are inspired by both worlds fall under this patronage, as they are set in an old Indo-European tradition that associates them with magic and the devil.

What are your personal beliefs when it comes to these traditions?

I can say that my beliefs are very similar to the beliefs of my ancient forefathers. It relies mostly on the pagan past, but I have to say that I walk my own path in this and I walk that alone. I am much influenced by the Romuva. The paganism is a big part of my life, but I follow the path I feel is right to take. I don’t want to impose chains on my life, that are in the hands of another. I will find the truth that is out there for me, which will bring me closer to enlightenment.

I appreciate nature and the pagan religion embraces those elements with deities that are the key to harmony or chaos in what surrounds us as humans. I tyr to represent that in my music, though in a smaller scale. When I use the word pagan in relation to my beliefs, my view is very much connected to those ideas that are part of the pagan traditions. I participated in rituals in the past, spending nights outdoors, camping and having a fire, getting inspired by the sound of the fauna and earth that I feel when I’m out there alone or with my wife. I try to put those experiences in my music, those are they keys or muses for the atmosphere I try to invoke.

I have mentioned my interest in the Baltic history and that is a big part of my music. It’s something I grew up with, the tales told by my grandmother, the sculptures and paintings in my childhoods home. Those inspired me since the day I was born. When I put this to song, the subject is a bit more general and I try to make it larger than life.

Lithuania is now one of the most devout Christian countries in Europe, though the pagan traditions can still be seen in a slightly mutated form. How do you feel about that?

Well, I think we can all agree that Christianity and other missionary religions have utterly destroyed native cultures around the world. I don’t hold any hatred towards them, but I draw strenght from this, deep emotions I can put in my music. Each religion seems to face the same stages and now the Islam has come to a point where people commit atrocities in its name. It led me to believing that one should shy away from crowds and mobs of people. I’m not a misanthrophist, but it gets close to becoming one. I like to be outdoors more nowadays, groups of people make me claustrofobic.

Many bands that pay homage to culture or country get lumped into the NSBM category rather easily. How do you feel about that and is there any political side to Romuvos?

I have no political views, nor do I think people are entitled to express such extreme political ideas as metal heads tend to do these days. Yes, everyone is born and living in a ‘country’, which we consider to be ours. That we think will stand by us and have our back when we need something. That country has been formed by past rulers and is governed by whatever government it currently has. They also have taught us to be proud of it and stand by its laws and order. Well, that is not for me. I can understand and respect other opinions about this topic, to each their own, but that crosses a border when people try to hurt or offend another.

The way I see it, I have no country. I don’t look at it that way atleast, which might be because I left my ‘homeland’ or maybe because I dont hold a vision like the common herd. Therefor I won’t see a country as a value to stand for. Countrys are owned by their governments, which might even be corrupt, and filled with people I can’t call my brothers, yet I would be expected to stand by it in war. The same people that will curse, violate, interfere with and disrespect you while living next to you, while sharing the land you should call ‘ours’ with them.

Yes, I will seek peace in my lasnd and I have the right as a human being to live on such a piece of land that I call home. I will raise a family and will seek friends, but also defend it from foes, but not as an act related to an old ideology and herd mentality that is alient o mine. I would do it as a person who wishes to be left alone by the brainwashing of society that surrounds him. I try to be free in my own space and accept no shackles from others forced on me. So NSBM? No, thats not for me. I would also not like to live in the old days under a man with a crown who can decide my fate, whitout me having any say in it. I dislike the ‘nazi’ ideas and steer clear of them. If others go there, its their choice.

Why did you chose to make music on your own?

I can’t say that I consciously made a choice to make music on my own. Because most bands I was part of ended up splitting up or just fading away, this was the easiest wat to go about things for me. I create music on my own terms, with my visions and no distractions.

Do you plan to play live? How would you go about forming a band?

Yes, I think that in the future I will gather few session musicians that I will play live shows with. Musically I will keep things in my own hands though.

Picture: Lithuanian landscapes
Picture: Lithuanian landscapes

What is the general idea you try to get across to your listeners? What story are you trying to tell?

In some of the songs I tell stories from the Lithuanian folklore, in others I make up a story myself based on my ideas. Sometimes I will use old folk songs from the old days, other times I will write songs that represent Baltic faith and traditions. With Romuvos I wish to represent Baltic history and the pagan beliefs of the people in close relation to the nature.

Your record has a very clear sound that is not typical.  What inspired you to make this style of music? To mind comes a band like Glittertind, does that sound like a fair comparison?

Well, Glittertind is a great band and thanks for the comparison though they are not my main inspiration. I can say that Falkenbach is a big influence and one of my favorite artists for sure, Summoning, early Vintersorg, Storm, Hades, viking era of Bathory and few more…

Even today I mainly listen to black metal, it still is my favorite style of music. Obviously, it is not the sound I create in Romuvos, but that was never my goal.

How did you go about recording this record? How did your writing proces go? All in all, how did you make ‘Romuvan Dainas’?

I have my own studio at home, so I just go and write the music first. Then I take a classic guitar and start playing, sometimes it can start with keboards or electric guitar as well as for the harmonica. Either way, after writing the main theme, i start working around it and build up the entire song. The next step is writing the lyrics and few more adjustments for the song. Ivecord all on my own and when the recording part is done, I mix it and finally do the mastering as well.

What is the general idea behind the record, its story and message?

The idea behind Romuvan Dainas is to make a Baltic folk metal album. In some of the songs you can find old stories from the Baltic folklore and on others tales of heroic battles and myth that I mostly invented. I dont get to see these days many folk bands representing this great area that surrounds the baltic sea and I am happy to take that subject into my music.

You say you invented some stories. Do you feel you put a lot into this record emotionally?

I think I put a lot of emotion and care into my music, it’s as if it erupts out of me and when it does I cannot stop it. I invest a lot of time and effort in it, because I have no other way of doing it. I enjoy every moment of making music, it is a very fulfilling thing to do. When I finish one thing, my mind is already on the next creation.

You released the record through No Colours Records. What kind of label are they and how did you get in touch?

No Colours Records  are a label that mainly releases underground Black Metal music, They have some releases that made it to the big pantheon. I just sent a youtube link with a song to Steffen, the AR of the label, and after few weeks he came back to me, expressing a great desire to put out my album.

What are, in your opinion, the best metal bands from Lithuania and are you in any way in touch with either the scene in Lithuania or Israel?

There’s a few great bands from Lithuania, like Obtest, Ha Lela, Peorth and Žalvarinis (though they are not that metal). There are also some great folk bands, like Rasa Serra, Gyvata and Ugniavijas. I’m not connected to any scene at the moment though.

A few people from the Baltics did buy the album and asked me some questions about it. It’s important to me that they feel connected to my music, but that goes for anyone who listens to my songs. I’m not trying to reach a specific audience or region with my music, but it is a confirmation for me when people from the region and cultural background appreciate the music though. It shows that my message of longing for the Baltic area and its nature and history is clear.

What future plans do you have?

I am planning to get session musicians for recording in a a big and high quality studio for my upcoming albums and live shows. Hope mainly to just make great albums!

 Disclaimer: I share no views with No Colours Records or any of the artists. Pictures (except header) by Justina Lukosiute

 Originally published on Wyrd’s Flight

 

 

Don’t Be A Dick P. II:Games and why being a dick ruins them

How to explain a theory on general behaviour that is based on games in a way that makes sense, while being fun at the same time? I don’t know, how about games?

I will attempt to transfer game situations to real life situations and explain why being a dick ruins things for you and for the other.

PvE (Player vs Environment)

Source: Joystiq.com

In games where you play PvE (Player vs Environment) you basically can not do that much harm, unless it concerns a multiplayer mode. I used to play some silly game with my brothers where you go through a maze with your avatar and shoot monsters. You could also shoot eachother, by accident or on purpose, not that it had any positive effect on the game if you did, just negative. Now, one of my brothers thought it was hilarious to kill you, when playing together. One time is funny, after that it starts getting quite dickish. It takes the whole fun out of trying to make an achievement.

Now, another example can be the MMO. I used to play WoW in a quasi-hardcore way (oh yes, we sucked), meaning 10 and 20 player raids. So often, when a big boss was defeated an item would drop that multiple players desired. Guild leaders (a  guild would back in the day form the core of how you would get together 20 dudes on a monday night), would try all sorts of systems to sort this out fairly. Still people would start insulting the player that would receive the item and just quit the guild or leave the raid group at its critical stage. It sucks not to get the item you want, obviously. That’s why there are pre-made arrangements for those, so everyone gets their share. Ignoring that is immature and also…well, being a dick.

Basically, you ruined the game for everyone, just because you couldn’t just ‘not be a dick’. Due to the game mechanics, this raid is probably over and everyone can get back to whatever else they were doing… like, reading a book….

An MMO where you play PVE is all about teamwork. Teamwork is very recognizable in any situation where you work in a team to achieve a bigger goal. The choice for a team is necessary, but you might have that one guy that refuses to budge. Everyone needs to put in something to make this project succeed, but not him because of reasons. This person will continue to frustrate your project and take all the fun out of it. You might still finnish it, like the WoW raid, but it’s much harder and much less fun.

You can be a dick in all sorts of minimal ways. Imagine, you just didn’t do your bit. It was too hard or there was another reason why you couldn’t make time for it. Now, that does not make you a dick. The way you handle it can though. Be open and honest, ask for understanding and peace be with you. Be a dick and blame everyone else or point to others and there you go!

Be nice = get epics!

PvP (Player versus Player)

PvP

You would think that it is almost logical that being a dick ruins a PvP (Player vs Player) game, but it really is a bit more complex than that. Sure, being an utter dick ruins it, but being all kind and cuddly doesn’t cut it in PvP either, because you’ll die… (which according to some research actually hurts you, somewhere deep inside).  Healthy competition, playing hard, a bit of tactical trickery and such, it’s all part of the game. In a way, it’s fair to say that all is fair in love and war and PvP, but there’s a limit to that. If you’re being mean for the sake of being mean, then it serves no tactical use, you’re just being a dick. A good example is a pest in hockey.

In PvP it’s rarely all for themselves, it’s usually one for all and all  for one. Think of a battleground in WoW, like Warsong Gulch, Alterac Valley or Arathi Basin. You can’t win if you don’t co-operate. Sure you can get ranked the highest on your own, but what is that without the sweet taste of victory? Not much, rewardwise…  There’s no point in capturing the flag in Warsong Gulch and then running while 10 opposing players try to kill you, you need others to defend you and vice versa. Capturing resources in Arathi is great, but yields little if the opponent captures yours at the same time. I can go on about this, but I think the point is clear. There is no I in team and all.

On the workfloor or in your personal life, this works out in various ways. In some sense you are always able to go for personal glory, but whenever that comes by pushing someone else down or throwing another under the bus, it’s not the constructive sort of progress. Working WITH others is always easier than working AGAINST them. Obviously there are opponents, but those are the competition of your company and even with those you can better try to be on good terms. Sure, in one of the earlier mentioned battlegrounds you have an enemy, but that enemy becomes nothing else than the obstacles towards your final goals. In Real Life PvP, working together can help you overcome all sorts of stuff. On your own, you are all you can rely on and that might be very little when you wish to build something larger than life.

In many ways it sounds a lot the same as PvE, but don’t forget that in this case there is glory for those who work alone as well. If you can’t work together on, say a software development project, then you can still get credit for doing your part. Your part will be worth hardly anything though, but atleast you get of looking a bit less bad.  By not being a dick and going for yourself, you can get shit done. It does require some maturity and the ability to put the team ahead of the self.

RP (Role Playing)

When I play WoW, I rarely feel like I’m fully myself in there. I’m playing as a night elf hunter or a gnome warrior, I’m that character and the more social interaction I’ve had with the character, the more specific characteristics it develops.  My warrior is loud and boisterous, mainly because he’s also very small for example. We all roleplay in some way and if you like you can actually join a roleplay server and start roleplaying in Warcraft. There are many games where this is part of what you do, even table-top game Munchkin (ok, let’s not discuss what is and what is not a table-top game) requires some character building and ways of playing. It makes it fun, it makes you able to be what you need to be to achieve goals. If you want to ruin it for everyone, than you break character or you stop playing by the rules. If you don’t obey the rules, you mess up the game for those playing.

Source: Joystiq.com

In real life, this is much more severe. We play roles constantly in the situations we find ourselves in, we adapt to new social structures and try to stick to the rules. If I would behave at work, like I would when I go out, people would think I’m an idiot. It would not fit in the role I have at work. We all do some sort of role playing, otherwise we wouldnt be able to play the daily game we play. Its a dense structure of hierarchies, interactions, codes and ways of conduct that instantly get broken if someone doesn’t play by his or her role. The whole integrity of a team breaks up when one member is playing manager, while thats another one’s role. Like a raid in World of Warcraft, everyone follows their own role, if not, everybody dies.

I mean, it makes you untrustworthy if you don’t stick to role patterns, consistency is what makes you reliable. If you are unable to take the role you have been given, you’d end up the village fool. You don’t want that right.

Conclusion

All may be fair in love, war and the daily game, but not working with others, not playing fair or just being a dick that doesn’t stick to the codes of conduct just messes up the game for everyone. On top of that, it can really make things impossible for yourself so please, don’t be a dick and treat others the way you would want to be treated (or better) and focus on the roles, not the little things that bug you.

Life is a battleground and the most kills count for nothing if there’s no team win.

Next time, I’ll try another game element. Cuz you know, games are like Real Life.

The Reading of Books #7

Another series of books have been read, this time Louis Theroux, Bertrand Russell, Isaiah Berlin and one of the Warcraft books by Richard A. Knaak.

Louis Theroux – Call of the Weird

I’ve loved the docu-reports of Theroux, visiting weirdos all over the place. What I did not experience as yet is a particularly personal touch to all that. In this book Theroux describes his return to a numver of these individuals and groups, like neo-nazis, porn actors, UFO believers and gangsta rappers. This time only armed with a laptop, it’s a  quest for understanding and connection with the individuals he met during his journeys. In some cases getting closer, in others just running into brick walls.

It’s most surprising how Theroux makes people open up and be vulnerable. In writing he is more honest and sincere then when he was in front of the camera. He writes from a personal perspective, which makes it easier to relate to his writings and find understanding for the weirdos he meets with. This book is a must for those who watched the show and who wonder what became of the figures you came across back then. Some will surprise you quite a bit, some stories are new and shocking.

Bertrand Russell – A History of Western Philosophy

Bust of Russell, source: Wikipedia

I will admit that it took me forever to finish this book, which is, obviously about philosophy. This is probably the book that helped Russell get his Nobel Prize and pretty much how he was certain of enough income for the latter part of his life. It has been critisized a lot, but that is hardly surprising, seeing it embodies a whole history on its own. Some parts are totally clear and others, like the bit on Bergson, are very incomprehensible. What is so strong about this book, is that it makes the otherwise dour topic rather witty. In fact, Russell does not shy away from making jokes.

“There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” – Bertrand Russell

Why did I read this book? I have to ask myself that question, since I really started it more than 2 years ago. I listened to it, because it was clear cut, interesting and filled with a wealth of inspiration. It’s hard to understand every philosopher, but it helps to have it buried somewhere in your mind. Apart from that, I must admit that I find a certain joy in struggling with the problems they created, the philosophers, and following their footsteps towards solutions. If that is in any way your thing too, I recommend reading this bulky masterpiece.

Isaiah Berlin – The Crooked Timber of Humanity

Source: Goodreads.com

Berlin is one of the writers I have always felt opposed to untill recently. I started getting intrigued by him due to trying to understand the tradition of counter-enlightenment. Stating that Berlin is a full on part of that, would be false. He does however, offer genuinely philosophical arguments considering problems in the tradition that currently seems to be the prevailing one in the West. In this book a collection of essays and shorter articles tells us about the not so perfect state of humanity and how we try to make the best of it with often faulty, though lofty ideals.

The density and clarity (the combination is the refined brilliance that needs to be mentioned here) of Berlins writing makes me an instant fan of his philosophical writing. Not only is Berlin very clear and cohesive, he also does not shy away from being witty from time to time, which is essential in keeping someones attention peeled for a whole book. His insights have helped me develop new ones and that is the greatest gift a book can give you in my humble opinion. I salute this writer and if I ever pen down one article as brilliant as his, I will be happy.

Richard A. Knaak – Wolfheart

Source: Goodreads.com

Yes, also during this month some pulpy reading took place with a new Warcraft book about king Varian Wrynn. The book ties up some old stories, like the War of Ancients trilogy and Warcraft III. Knaak is a brilliant writer and has been responsible for most of the Warcraft books, or so it feels like. He writes lively characters, with insecurities and flaws and thus creates a debt that in-game you hardly find and that separates the fans from… well, the rest.

source: Galleryhip.com

Also the Worgen start making sense, where I had some issues with the inclusion of a werewolf race at first. It now seems like a brilliant twist to add a race without an actual homeland and thus bringing back good old Gilneas to the fold. The character of Genn Greymane still lacks a bit of debt in my eyes and could really do with some bolstering, but then again, I have not read all books as yet. Varian Wrynn is becoming a nice counterpart of The Horde’s ‘Green Jesus’ Thrall, which is good but should not be the same mistake as before. I am a bit bummed that Maiev turns out to be such a twat. The return of her brother Jarod Shadowsong was more than welcome though. There is also the danger of making Malfurion and Tyrande the mommy and daddy of the alliance, which would suck a bit too. Both have a bit more fury in them then Knaak shows in this book.

 

Blush @ Glaspaviljoen

Ok, wow, so I went to see a short performance of the group Blush at the neighbours yesterday during the yearly Stukafest. During Stukafest bands and groups will perform in student rooms and in this case in the Pavillion build next to my window.

I was astonished by the powerful act of three men, who blend imageries, gender and conceptions of sexuality in a pounding, shocking and devastating act with sound-samples, loud beats and crawling ambient atmosphere. Lights provide an even intenser look at the three. This video gives  a slight impression of the show.

I was quite overwhelmed. In a way, both men and women get completely dehuminized in this act that reduces people to objects for lust. The fact that it’s three guys doing it, makes it even more powerful in my opinion. They are very convincing and when they stare you in the eyes, you can’t help but look away. The act is a mix between performance art and dance, executed to perfection with a whole lot of art and I recommend seeing it if you can.

Sexuality is something that should be fun, nice and good, but in this current world it is too often reduced to a product, a commodity. Gender-patterns are still as rigid as they ever where. This performance made me hope that the world is finally turning a corner and becoming more tolerant.

Website Blush.

 

Eschatos Interview

A bit more than a year ago I did an interview with Latvian black metal band Eschatos. It was published on Alternative.lv and can be found here.

I loved the sound of this band and their genuinely intellectual approach to the genre. This is the unedited version that I received, giving you the raw insights into this band, which I hope to see in action some day. Reading this interview again also gives me some insigths into my own journey. I really was not sure about the stance I was supposed to take, so rather than being inquisitive I might have seemed boastful to the band. Lessons to be learned I suppose.

What remains is my admiration for this band, who make amazing music and have received raving reviews from pretty much anywhere

What can you tell more about how you guys got together and formedup a black metal band by the name of Eschatos? What have you guysplayed in before apart from Grondh and Ocularis Infernum?

Jānis: The formation of Eschatos was a natural outcome of things. We all knew each other, we knew what we wanted to achieve and what to expect from one another.
If we talk about other bands, Edvards is playing in a prog/death metal band „Opifex”, I – Jānis, Edgars and Edvards played together in another black metal band, called „Velna Krusti”, back in the days.

Did you have other names in mind as well? What does the word
Eschatos mean for you guys?

J: The name symbolizes many things for us. It’s the end of something and life after death. It is also the highest point. It came to us pretty naturally. Before that we did briefly pass some other names, but when „Eschatos” rose up, it cleared all the doubts.

Source: Eschatos Facebook with kind permission
Source: Eschatos Facebook with kind permission

What do you guys do in daily life?

J: I earn my daily hunk of bread by working as a graphic designer. It’s one of the things I don’t dislike a great deal amongst the rest useless shit.

Kristiāna: There are a very few things I do not.
I am studding theory of art, designing, taking pictures, painting, making movies, organizing exhibitions, etc.

Edgars is studying Theory of Culture.

Edvards: Most of my time is occupied with Social Anthropology studies, but I somehow always find myself to be immersed in a vast variety of things, ranging from playing music to doing graphic design, video or audio editing, building something, and learning every new thing that I come across.

I find it interesting that you call black metal music Art, can you
elaborate on that? Do you approach it as making art in the sense of
creating something with beauty? (I’m asking this, because early black
metal musicians and many purists still heavily oppose the term art)

J: Art is not necessarily associated with beauty. Although that which is ugly and rotten to one, is beautiful to another. Art is a product of creativity and imagination that triggers an experience. We use the term to describe the passionate and majestic work of our creation.
For me black metal has always been a really deep form of art. I can understand, that some people don’t understand, how destruction can be labeled as creation, but you do create it, right?

K: Considering the fact that the essence of art is still in discussion among art critics and theoreticians, especially due to the strong conceptual tendencies in visual art emerged on the other half of 20th century, I will not argue the nature of it. There is one thing I can say for sure, in “Eschatos’s” case music as art presents itself as combined spiritual experience resulting in a birth of entity of autonomous existence – music.

Is Art something outside of the personal, a product or expression
if you will, or is it a part of life as you lead it?

J: Art is always personal. It’s the expression and reflection of the artist. A little piece of the artist’s soul, if I may say so.

K: I would supplement that the true art always involves personal perspective whether it is a painting, sculpture, symphony or a black metal composition for that matter. Art is the only way to travel to whatever layers of consciousness you can endure.

What are your main inspirations, musically and otherwise?

J: It is hard to emphasize specific things, because there are so many things that inspire me. Mostly it is not music that lights something in me that I strive to manifest in our creations. These are experiences from meditations, visions and vivid emotional bursts I’ve had.
Musically, there is a broad variety of genres, that I listen to, starting from black metal, to experimental, progressive, classical, ambient and even some indie music, to name a few. What I do search for in music is strong atmosphere and artistic and ideological background, because without that the music is empty. I really admire the Swedish and French black metal scenes of nowadays. They kind of have these profoundly dedicated scenes with so many good bands, but, as I said before, many things inspire me, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s probably a lame question, but how’s having a female vocalist
working out in a scene that is pretty much from its start been devoid of women?

K: I believe this question was not meant for me, but I will answer it anyway. At first, I think that women in black metal are not something entirely new. There are bands like “Darkestrah”, “Astarte”, and “Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult”, etc., but unfortunately none of these bands are amongst my favorites.
Secondly, I cannot start to explain the insignificance of gender when it comes to musical abilities, talent, if you will.

So, about the Latvian black metal scene. How is that, are there
many bands that play black metal and does it have some typical sound or own identity to it? 

J: There is no Latvian black metal scene. You can count the active bands on the fingers of one hand, if you skip all the bedroom projects. There have been many bands that come and go without leaving much legacy.
Skyforger is a great band, but they haven’t got much black in their metal anymore. Dark Domination are the sole survivors of Latvian black metal, as they are the only band that has lasted so long. Urskumug is a notable act, also I want to believe, that Ocularis Infernum and Grondh have left a mark of influence on the scene. The rest, for me at least, are just dust in the wind.
If you try to find parallels in the sound, I guess you can stumble upon few bands, that had something in common, but not enough to talk about typical local sound.

Can you give me an overview of how black metal came to Latvia and what developed there?

J: I think, that black metal is still „coming in”. Of course, we have our history that started in mid 90’s but I don’t feel that black metal in Latvia has strong foundation and dedicated scene.

Is the Latvian metal scene tight knit or divided into the different genres?

J: I would say, that it is pretty divided, with emphasis on some genres like death metal and alternative metal, where the last one is like a completely different scene. I’m glad that the last years have brought more tolerance and appreciation for more experimental and unorthodox music in the metal scene.

Edvards: I would like to add that the whole scene thing, while being much divided, maintains certain interaction, due to the fact that almost every metalhead plays some kind of an instrument and is usually involved in a number of different projects. There is a saying in Latvia that “where there are two guys – there are three bands”, or something like that. Everyone seems to know everyone. And in concerts, the genres are usually very inadequately mixed together, which results in the mixing up of the sub-scene representatives attending those concerts.

Source: Eschatos Facebook with kind permission
Source: Eschatos Facebook with kind permission

Black metal has been associated with Satanism, white supremacy but also paganism ideals. I’ve noticed that Grondh for example also
mentions Satanist philosophy as one of their ideals. Do you feel
confined by the overall black metal culture and the strict
anti-attitude towards what is conventional and what do you consider to be the views that Eschatos represents?

K: As unconventional as it may seem there are no such boundaries to our art as traditional black metal ideals – Satanism, racism, paganism or any other “ism” for that matter.
At this point I believe black metal has grown to be more of a unifying phenomenon than restrictive bridle.
It is not our purpose to express absolute ideas. Our art is quite autotelic, but surely – one who is willing to listen, will find one’s own truths as well as ours.

Edvards: In a way, the black metal culture with its ideals can also be seen as the conventional black metal culture, which seems to be in contradiction with the anti-attitude towards the conventional. I do not believe it is wise to present our attitude through some already given instructions/manuals, like the above mentioned “-isms”, because it is often the case that those ideals become in themselves the main point, and not what they represent or were used for in the first place.

Where from do you get lyrical inspiration?

K: I have always believed that in art only pain, suffering and loss can awaken the true genius. For me to write, a strong trigger is required, and the last year has been just that. Of course, amongst the sources of my inspiration there are literature, philosophy, visual art, music and after all – a human being, concealing such a great variety of different self-destructive passions.

What is a show of Eschatos live, what do you try to give people
and let them take home from a live performance? Do you prefer to
record or to play live?

K: I can say for sure that those are both completely different experiences and both – vital. Record gives the advantage of perfectionism when one is needed. Live performance appeals to all the other senses. For me it is hard to comment on the last one due to the fact that during performance the bound with reality is quite loose.

Edvards: I do not prefer any one thing over the other. When we play music it is almost as a spiritual experience, and during live shows we provide the opportunity for others to immerse in it. That is a difficult thing to capture in a recording, but nevertheless it is an inspiring and a very creative activity, which provides many new insights and ideas.

What do you hope to achieve in the next few years as a band?

K: We have already achieved the only thing that truly matters – we create.

Header photo: Aivars Ivbulis

Fat White Family @ Area51

It’s time to get down and dirty in Area51 with the most dangerous band of the moment: The Fat White Family. It’s been quiet in the skatecenter for a while, but music is being made in their refurnished concert hall.

The place was suffering from a lack of isolation for the sound, but that seems to be fixed with this new solution. Luckily, the grimy atmosphere is still there. Walking past the railing, visitors can see kids skate untill they face a black curtain, behind which the magic happens.

Fat White Family getting it on.
Fat White Family getting it on.

Todays show is one by the Gruismeel club, who’ve been putting up awesome psych shows in Eindhoven for a while now. One of their great talents seem to be to find the exact right location for shows.

Warming up is the band The Voyeurs, who capture they eye mainly due to their almost identical guitar players on the stage. Inspiration seems to come from the early garage scene of the artsy seventies and a bit of Iggy Pop. That results in a hazy sort of psych rock, where you can casually drift along with. The turtleneck sweaters are very noticable.

They calm sound of the five from London makes the a good warm-up for what is to come. Interesting is the fact that the band has roots in the middle-east, which might be detectable in their hypnotic sound. There’s something about this band that is captivating, but I find I cannot grasp it fully.

In between the set, DJ ONONiiONIONIION is playing a maddening mixture of what seems to be Eastern folk music, dance beats and Bollywood blitz. Though confusing some visitors, it is a detail to the night that creates a rather fun atmosphere. Better than to drown the crowd in fuzzed out psych, it opens up the bouquet of the bands a bit by letting it breathe.

Properly dressed still
Properly dressed still

Fat White Family has become notorious for their live act. There’s something fatalistic in their whole swagger. Frontman Lias Saudi makes you feel drunk or stoned (or both) by just the way he holds himself. The band needs no words and lunges into a set full of jangling punky tracks, mainly from their debut album ‘Champagne Holocaust’.

Wether you find them ridiculous or outrageous, there’s a strenght to this band and a conviction to simply not give a flying fuck about anything. Saudi soon has his t-shirt of, jumping into the crowd, shrieking and franticly dancing. In fact, I think he’d do the exact same thing if no one had turned up. The pants stay on however, which makes this an occasion where one can actually take a look at the rest of the band.

It’s that empty gaze of doom of guitar player Saul Adamczewski (formerly of The Metros)  that seems to embody the futility of it all that can be felt through songs like ‘I Am Mark E. Smith’, which is one that gets the crowd going. The band just throws itself at one song after another, of which the perverted tones of ‘Touch The Leather’ seems to be the peak of the set.

The band doesn’t last an hour, but that’s ok. Instead of making you think you had enough, they leave you hungry. That feels about right with these guys.

Sounds of the Underground #14

Some new sounds from the underground, worthy a checkout: Cairo PythianBigelf, Árstíðir lífsins and Toundra.

Cairo Pythian – Touched LP 

Source: Katorga Works

The cold sound of Cairo Pythian is touching upon a more melodic interpretation of Joy Division-despair. An element of Soft Cell and the more swirling sounds of the proto-Goth sounds one could hear in the early eighties is added to that. The group from Olympia, WA has surrounded itself with mystery, which ofcourse adds to their image and credibility.

Musically there’s a combination of that coldwave sound, sampling and industrial. On tracks like ‘Down For The Crown’ there’s a shoegaze-like buzzsaw riff pushing the song forward. ‘A-Sexual Cake’ is much more droning industrial again, which shows the range between which Cairo Pythian is doing their thing. There’s an avant-

gardist streak to their sound, remniscent of the progressive postpunk bands that started implementing industrial elements, like The Residents and Devo. They may be 30 years to late, but their album is a testimony of the lasting fun that post-punk offers.

Árstíðir lífsins – Aldaföðr ok munka dróttinn

Source: Bandcamp band

An Icelandic/German band that derives inspiration for their blend of folk and black metal from medieval literature from the land of fire and ice. They distance themselves strongly from the NSBM movement, which fills me with joy. Their music is peculiar, hauntingly natural at times and moments later a barrage of fierce riffing. I guess in a way this project sounds a bit like its inspiration.  Deep vocals tell stories over fingerpicking guitarwork, violins seem to play and set down a haunting atmosphere.

The songs are long and more focussed on atmosphere then on brutality. Slow, cascading riffs move forwards, while traditional singing creates a powerful feeling combined with tremolo guitarpicking, soaring high above. Tradition and extreme metal meet eachother half way and that feels like the right matchup. The release itself looks amazing as well, this is definitely one of the records you wish to return to. The feeling of ancient wisdowm, the haunting folk music and blistering black metal segments (which are lesser than you think) are right up my alley.

Bigelf – Into The Maelstrom

Source: Wikipedia

I’ve started to get into the whole prog thing a while ago, after watching a documentary from the BBC. It’s not a big leap to start listening to a band like Bigelf after that, who incorporate the brilliance of their predecessors like Pink Floyd, Caravan and whatnot with that Cambridge sound. Just add a little swagger to it and some heavy fundamentals and you’ve got a metallized version. Listening to this Bigelf album I must express doubts concerning how metal they are. They’re not heavier than, say, King Crimson in my humble opinion.

Bigelf is the brainchild of Damon Fox, who carries vocal and keyboard duties. ‘Alien Frequency’ is a good example of how the group Americanized the sound, making it more accesible and down to earth then their progenitors. The sound is warm and technical, grand and like a great story the songs unfold with the necessary effects and structured elemens. ‘Control Freak’ is another repetitive and captivating track. I’m amazed at how enjoyable listening to this record is. Though complex, it feels as if it’s open and accesible. Probably a good one to listen to in bed with headphones on, for the ‘Alien Frequency’.

Toundra – IV

Source: GetMetal.org

This Spanish band has just released their number four. I have no idea why its on the lists of new metal releases, but I’m glad it was. Gentle postrock with a folky feel to it, enriched with strings, right up my alley in many ways. Add to that some horns and you have an amazing trip, which might be the reference of the song ‘Strelka’, which was a Russian dog send to space. Also ‘Belenos’, which is a Celtic deity. The music is calm, languid and wavering on at its own pace. Musically there’s no point where anyone drops the ball and the continuity of this record is definitely one of its main strengths.

Think postrock with extra’s and perhaps thats what it should be labled as; postrock+? ‘Kitsune’, which means Fox and that is how fleeting the music sounds at times, like a fox running through the high grass. It almost escapes you as a listener but keeps circling you. It’s a record to immerse yourself in, to feel elated to, while listening to it on a long walk in nature. The track picks up a roaring sound, that swells up towards the end. I’ve totally fallen for Toundra, I hope you will too.

Hockey Night in Krefeld

This was a lovely weekend to see some hockey and since it’s not that great in the Netherlands, we headed to Krefeld in Germany to see the Pinguine play ERC Ingolstadt. 

Source: Eliteprospects ‘Logo Pinguine’

I think it’s a good oppertunity to say something about how awesome German sports fans actually are and the insane atmosphere in the Königspalast in Krefeld. It’s about an hours drive from where I live and well worth the ride. Funny enough, from Eindhoven on it’s about 70 kilometers straight on, take a turn and drive 7 more and then it’s like around the corner.  It’s a nice drive so enough time to chat.

I went down there with a friend and my long suffering girlfriend (just kidding, she likes the hockey too), taking enough time to get a good taste of what it’s like. German fans are well dedicated to the sport and ofcourse their beloved team. Normally they might just as well hang out in the old rink across the street to watch another team, but the amount of people already present during the warm-up is a sight of dedication.

It kinda sucked a bit that Ingolstadt scored two goals in the first period, which started to diminish the fevered chanting of the Krefeld fans. Tirelessly they keep chanting and shouting, during the whole game. During the game there’s also space for some activism, which has a lot to do with the future of the team. I must say I’m hard pressed to fully understand what’s happening, but it seems a political game has started to be involved. Signatures are collected and ofcourse I signed for the Pinguine. Let’s be fair, it’s good to have a funteam on driving distance. Comments with info would be much appreciated. 

Game in progress
Game in progress

So the game starts to be quite a downer, when Krefeld gets the third goal against. The team plays wobbly and confused at times, but gradually builds up to some momentum and scores a brilliant goal. Suddenly the crowd is roaring again, and the last ten minutes of the game feel super intense once more. It’s a shame that the Pinguine did’nt manage to get a goal in against the champion of the DEL. For us, it was still a great experience that we can talk about on our way home from Krefeld. Go Pinguine!

195 Metalheads

In the mist dark figures move and twist
Was this all for real or some kind of hell
666 the number of the beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released

– Iron Maiden, ‘The Number of the Beast’

I have started reading this book titled ‘The Happiness of Persuit’ by Chris Guillebeau. I have come up with a goal that made me get out of bed and excitedly start writing these words to you, my meagre set of readers. I plan to interview 195 bands from all countries in the world, that play metal. I’m not a pure blooded metal head, but this is what I’ve decided to do.

I’ve got one interview soon from Israel, one from Lebanon and I probably have one from the Netherlans. I’m starting work on one from Estonia and now I need more.

Think ‘World Metal’, like Sam Dunn presented it in the documentary, think global and world wide.

From the day Geezer Butler saw a looming dark figure at the end of his bed to the day we live in now, metal has been a genuine counter culture that is also a global tribe. We could shake hands anywhere in the world, when we share this music.

Can you help me out? Let me know.

Raum Kingdom (Ireland) Interview

From the Green Island comes Raum Kingdom. They make bleak blackened doom that has little to do with any of the further stereo types that might pop up when you hear Ireland. The band released a refreshing album of material, that feels like a new wind breathing through what we know in this style. Inspired by the likes of Amenra and Neurosis, the band promises to be an interesting new act on the horizon. Time to check in with the guys from Dublin. Guitar player Andrew Colohan is keen to tell us more about Raum Kingdom.

Originally the interview was published here.

How are you guys doing?

Hello, yes we are all in good spirits, form and health and delighted to be doing this for the Sleeping Shaman.

Who are in the band and how did you get together, did you guys play in other bands before?

There are four of us in the band, Me (Andrew) -Demons Bow, Dave – Chant, Mark – Rattle and Ronan – Devils Bow. We have been close friends for a long time and big lovers of music and over the years have been in different projects with each other. The time came when we could eventually play together and this happened. We hope that real life can be kept at bay so we can continue with this for as long as we can.

As far as I can gather your bandname might be derived from the petty kingdoms of Norway, of which one was called Raumerike. Is that correct?

We have never heard of that place before, So sorry to say, but no. Sounds nice tho. Norway seems like a nice place. We were settled on just Raum but the name was taken so we added kingdom. It doesn’t really come from anywhere as such it was just trial and error.

What inspired you to that name?

We had ideas and a concept from the get go and even as we where progressing through creating the songs we didnt have a name. But the more we tried to find something the more it eluded us. The name eventually was found through trial and error and as everything else was taken. Raum Kingdom is supposed to stimulate the imagination of a place or earth with different values , principles and laws.

Source: Facebook Raum Kingdom
Source: Facebook Raum Kingdom

What can you tell us about your record, how did the recording and writing process go?

We had a blast writing this music and still are enjoying writing. The process is we basically say ” That’s to many notes.” Strip what we can back to the core, do a little shuffling and testers. When it fits the theme of what we want and are about, we take it from there. Recording is when we polish off everything, as we don’t know what it will truly sound like until then.

What is the general theme of the record?

We didn’t intentionality set out to have a theme for the EP but if we had to say there was one it would be Pain with a pinch of hope.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EbGOGTAzbc

When I listen to it and also follow the lyrics, it feels like a story or like a stream of consciousnous from one person. Do you feel that would be in there?

Yeah for sure each song has it’s own story to tell.

What is in your opinion the best song on the record and why?

We all have different opinions about that and it changes with each of us as time passes. But it might be good to say that ” This Sullen Hope ” Could be generally considered one that we all go Yea thats what we want and are about as it has everyting in it.

The record seems to be generally well received, what makes Raum Kingdom stand out in your opinion?

We’re still a bit blown away at how good the response has been none of us really expected it. I don’t think there’s a lot of bands out there trying to do what we are doing.

What is the sludge/doom scene in Ireland like? What hidden gems does Ireland have to offer?

Being such a small nation and an Island. The scene is rather small, That’s not too say the ideals are small. It can get reptitive very quickly here. There are few gems we know of. Fuckhammer, Okus and Weedpriest.  Just to name three. Some vile stuff happening there.

Are you going to tour for this release?

We would love too gig and tour and we will as much as humanly possible with the hopes that the numbers and tempo will increase in time. We are having our EP launch on the 05th Sep 14, Fibber McGee’s in Dublin Ireland, With a few other shows and surprises happening.

What future plans do you guys have?

As a unit we have many hopes and aspirations. But we gotta keep all that in check and be real. We are loving what we have at the moment and we are enjoying every moment of it. We are currently writing, gigging and hopefully playing in other countries soon. But we just gotta wait and see. There’ll be an album within a year called Raum Kingdom II.

Anything you would like to share?

In the absence of will power the most complete collection of virtues and talents is wholly worthless.

Raum Kingdom’s self titled debut is available through their Bandcamp profile http://raumkingdom.bandcamp.com/releases

Pictures, borrowed from Raum Kingdom Facebook.