Tag Archives: Metal

Underground Sounds: Tempel – Tempel

Label: self-released
Band: Tempel
Origin: Norway

The rockers Tempel from Norway are a band of brothers, literally. Espen Gjermundrød (guitarist), Inge Gjermundrød (bassist/vocalist), Kjetil Gjermundrød (drummer), along with their best friend Andreas Espolin Johnson (guitarist), create an eclectic mix of rock music from up north. 

Their heritage is clear in the artwork, showing a wooden stave church as we know them well from Norway. This record is their debut and the identity and image the group brings across are immediately clear and tangible with this exceptional musical effort. All the way from Oslo, with their chest-thumping, t-shirt toting, balls to the wall heavy sounds! It appears no one has signed these guys yet, which is beyond me really.

Tempel instantly releases a barrage of rock’n’roll on ‘Vendetta’, with screaming, hardcore vocals. In the best tradition of Norwegian rock music, it kicks off with vitality and vigorous rhythms. At times their sound has a bit of that thick, black metal layeredness. but overall it’s big, Kvelertak and Skambankt-like waves of powerful rock music. The vocals are definitely the rougher edge this music needs to stand out from the masses, but the frantic drumming has a hand in that too (two hands, obviously).

Dense and fierce, the music never really lets down, but when you get that clear, all-piercing riff like on ‘Fortress’, it is as if the clouds are pierced. The phenomenal sound of Tempel is one I absolutely love. Ranging from bluesy riffs to rigid powerplay, Tempel blasts their way onto the scene with this excellent debut. It has all the catchiness of classic hardrock, but also the Norwegian ruggedness bands from their neck of the woods often produce. Surprising is therefor the emotional ‘Farewell, featuring Benedicte Edvardsen from Mowlith as guest vocalist. It only enhances the versatility this band has to offer on their debut record.

Kazar: Madagascar’s metal fathers

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.

Kazar

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 Iron Maiden’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, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden… Different metal Malagasy bands were formed such as Green, Red MetalLokomotiv, Martù Gass, 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!!

Underground Sounds: Droid – Terrestrial Mutations

Label: NIghtbreaker Productions
Band: Droid
Origin: Canada

This may indeed be the Droid you are looking for. The progressive thrashers from Ontario, Canada have released an album that incorporates everything that is awesome. It’s considered progressive, but with the raw energy of thrash metal. These guys have an eclectic mix that just screams enthusiasm with this debut album ‘Terrestrial Mutations’.

Even the band name is very, very awesome. The sci-fi theme is something that always appeals to me and with a sound that puts them in league with the likes of Voivod (yes I went there), we’ve got some fun listening time ahead of us. The band has been releasing some stuff before, but since 2012 this is their first full length. It’s rather important for me to note, that they were called Wesley Crusher before, the character from Star Trek played by Wil Wheaton. Since my blog originally was titled ‘Wheaton’s Law’, I think we have a click.
The sound is remarkably clean, with a lot of space for frivolous guitar fidgetting and kick-ass riffing. The freedom that a lack of distortion allows is definitely a contributing factor to a great sound that is vibrant and full of crackling energy. The listening pleasure Droid offers stems from the same source, which also allows some little reverb here and there to make things sound just bigger than they are. What I’m also quite amazed by, his the freedom you feel in their music. Listen to the at times almost post-metal sounding ‘Temptation of Terminal Progress’, with its spun out passages. Sometimes it’s that little guitar riff in the thrashing, vibrant sound, like on ‘Abandoned Celestial State’ that does the trick in grabbing your attention.
At times the band has the frantic thrashy energy, that even leans towards some first wave black metal at times. Other moments, the vibe is much more old school thrash or even straight-up rock’n’roll. The futuristic themes and effects often add a different flavor to the music, that is hard to really pin down the style. On ‘Mission Drift’ it even seems like the band leans towards some mathcore at times. Just saying, this album is awesome. If a beardy guy in brown robes comes up to tell you this isn’t your thing, just tell him to fuck off.

1914: Metal and the Horror of War

Ukraine has always had a strong metal scene. Some of the bigger names are well known, but also sort of ignored in the west. That’s mainly in the more black metal side of things, but politics (usually a reason for censorship) are almost unavoidable for bands. The same goes for 1914, even though their main theme is the Great War of a 100 years ago!

The band 1914 has a fascination with history, particularly the great war, which heralded an era of darkness for there part of Europe. The idea of a Ukrainian nation was crushed for years during this period of turmoil by the Soviet Union. The world saw huge changes and took the shape it still largely has.

So I got in touch with Dmytro Kumar, frontman of the band, who is fascinated with the Great War. Not only does he find it a historic time that he wishes to explore, he sees a continuation of sorts in our current history. That and more in this interview.

1914: Eschatology of War

Hey 1914! Can we start by introducing 1914? Who are the band members and how did you guys get together as a band?

We started 3 years ago, on the anniversary of the Great War, in summer 2014. And as it usually happens, first year was spent for rehearsals, grinding in, crew changes. Actually crew changes finished just this summer. So 3 years ago (when we split up with my hardcore punk band) I just wrote to a few good guys in Lviv with proposal – let`s play some kind of black metal and sludge, what do you think?
They said – hmm.. good idea))
So guys, what do you think about WW1 theme, soldiers fate, despair and a lot of history?
They said – ok, man, don’t fuck our brains with all of this, it`s up to you))
And we started.

Did you play in other bands before? And where did the need come from to form this band?

Yeah, all band members had a huge musical experience in another bands and styles – hardcore-punk, grindcore, brutal death, black metal, stoner, noise, industrial, nu-metal, MDM. As for me – my music story was started 20 years ago with my first punk band. So very different experience, but when we started together we liked the result. I define our style as trench core
There a few past band of our members: Disentrail, Ambivalence, Ratbite, John B Gut, and ForceOut.

Your theme is mainly World War I and surrounding themes. What made this theme so compelling to you? Is it the drama of it or maybe its idealism?

I think this type of questions always will be at our interview and will follow us everywhere)) So about Great War:
Over 10 years ago I went into war archaeology, actually WW1 archeology. I love this war, this history, uniforms, weapons, armament, stories about battles, the fate of soldiers. I am a really big fan of Great War. Here in Ukraine, there were many battles of Great War – Brusilov`s offensive, Carpathian winter operation, Galician battle. All kind of troops was there – Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, ottoman, Belgian, Romanian soldiers…they all here.
So I dig up dead soldiers – skeleton, with uniform, weapon, ammo, with all the stuff and wrote songs about their fate, silent death, their feelings, and fear.

I have always been inspired by this theme. I love films, books, stories, artifacts of this war. And no, it`s not about idealism. You cannot idealize any war – because war is always about shitty politics and bullshit propaganda, death, mud, mass graves, suffering, broken lives, despair. I just love history and this strange feeling – when you dig up a soldier, who died here 100 years ago, you sit down near these bones which once were human, with all human’s stuff – love, feelings, hope, some hobbies, maybe he was a beer lover, traveler, good musician, painter, maybe just good father or son, whose parents were waiting at home, you think – why and for what did he die? Why this fucking homo sapiens always killing each other? I don’t know, I just don’t have an answer.

Your music has a sort of grandeur to it, while not shying away from the dark and grim reality. In many ways World War I was a transition from one world to another. Is there a sense of melancholy or nostalgia to that for you?

Hmm…nostalgia. Yeah, maybe nostalgia is a right word. The Great War – this is the time when I would like to live, the strangest war, the last war of gentlemen and knights, the death of all empires, a time when the whole world was changed. I think my irrational love to this war and actually, this period of history was rooted in this word – nostalgia.
Fuck, typing this passage and understood what a boring old fart I am…

How did you find the sound of 1914? What sort of choices do you feel make you guys sound the unique way you do?

To be honest – I don’t know. A lot of rehearsals, good guys and a few bottles of moonshine. We`re just creating our songs the way we consider correct, with passion and every song some kind of a story about soldiers, how they died, their feats, about battles, gas, machine guns and tanks, about all of this deadly stuff of Great War, with all these emotions about nonsense and senseless war.

Are there any bands that inspire you and in what way?

As you can understand there are different musical tastes in band, so I’ll talk about mine
Music that I listen to and about influence – it will be a long list from Japanese noise to grindcore, from true BM to old school rap, from hardcore punk to industrial, electronic, death, doom, sludge, stoner.

Actually, I am a big fan of Misfits, Exploited, Anti-Nowhere League, New Model Army, UK Subs, Bolt thrower, Lake of tears, GBH, Paradise lost, Bathory, Grave, Obituary, Asphyx, Merzbow, Einstürzende Neubauten, Black flag, Mork Gryning, Aube, Mayhem, Bad religion, Darkthrone, Social distortion, Unleashed, Atrax Morgue and tones of old-school hardcore punk, death, true black metal from early 90`s and noise\industrial from 70-80`s. I fucking love Japan noise and some British and Scandinavian bands like Nordvargr, Dead Voices On Air, Cremation Lily, In Slaughter Natives. I`m a big fan and collecting releases of noise\industrial\ambient labels like Cold Meat Industry, Slaughter production, Cold Spring, Old Europa Café, Drone records, Ant-Zen etc. A lot of awesome new music we can have today and it`s great. If we talk about just one band what give`s me an inspiration I think it would be Lake of tears.

You’ve recently released the single ‘Stormtrupp 1917’. Can you tell a bit about that? Maybe what its about and what it signifies to you? (and is it related to the 1934 movie?)

This a first single from our upcoming album. About this song, we received different feedbacks, but mostly positive. The song is about German assault troops, and it’s neither about their glorifications, nor about propaganda or ode to Stormtrupp. No, it’s just a story from the first person, German’s soldier who loved to kill peoples and war. Because at the Western front this Stormtrupp were the most horrible and successful assault brigades. The same we have about Italian, British, Ottoman, Ukrainian troops. And yes, I wrote this song with a strong influence of this propagandist movie and book Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger, he was a German’s assault trooper, he was fought on the Western Front during the Great War. I even receive a letter with words like this – song about German soldiers with iron crosses, why? Are you a nazi band?

What could I say? Just no, it`s about human nature, homo sapiens behavior, history, and war. And – fuck nazis and all kind of totalitarian shitheads.

When I saw you live, I was quite impressed by the stage presentation and the outfits. It was quite powerful. How did you come up with this look and do you think it helps you to get into the state of mind your music requires?

Remember Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?

– Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can –

If you know what I mean. If you get locked into a serious WW1 theme you cannot stop. So we use a some artifacts from WW1, some of this stuff I dig up by myself (all buttons, grenades, trench axes, helmets, etc) we use a real working Mosin–Nagant rifle as custom microphone stand, we use a lot of things to create an atmosphere of Great war – sounds of war, hymn samples, sounds of machineguns, speeches between songs about this part of history, old and rare video footage from WW1. Now we are planning to buy a copy of uniform from WW1 period (British, French, Russian, Austrian) and use it on the stage, so we becoming a real re-enactment. But all this stuff costs a lot of money, and I hope that some WW1 re-enactment clubs and teams will help us with this.

What role do politics play in the music of 1914? Dealing with themes of the World War automatically brings up connotations with the world we live in now. Do you put any of that in the music or does it play a part in themes you chose?

We’re 100% non-political band and we don’t want to have any relation to all that shit. To all that teenage ideology games within system boundaries. Yeah, we against all this bullshit like racism, nazis, commies, religions, all kind of discrimination and totalitarianism or any dictators shit. My only policy is to live, to love and to let others do the same. All the ideologies, politics, subcultures, games of movements that allegedly change the world can go fuck themselves.
War ended a hundred years ago, but still, we’re facing its consequences. Second world war, this monster – it’s an ugly child of Great War. All the geopolitics and Balkan conflict are the heritage of Great War. The Communist regime and the iron curtain, concentration camps and Third Reich, mustached dictators – this all started in the times of Great War. Arms races and conventions, tanks, aviation, chemical weapons – all stems from that time. Great War is way deeper and stronger in our life as you used to think.

I imagine being a band from Ukraine politics are impossible to keep out, seeing what the country is dealing with. At Kilkim Zaibu you paid homage to the Ottoman army who fought against the Russians You also drew a parallel with the modern world. Could you elaborate a bit on that?

As you know (or don’t) Russia invaded the neighboring country as usual. It’s their way of life – shit under every fence around, capture other’s land, and after all, that keep whining that nobody likes Russians. In fact, they invaded us again, as they did during last 100 years. Just the same way they invaded Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and so on, just like they once in the middle of Europe boldly captured Eastern Prussia and Konigsberg. This is what’s happening here right now – military intervention and seizure of territories. Of course, we’re all affected, I have many friends on the frontline now, my fellow musicians. It’s really hard to realize that in 2017 when Tesla rolls over the world and drives out fuel engines, water is found on Mars, Elon Musk plans private space journeys – our young guys are dying just because some insane post-soviet dictators imagined themselves to be masters of the world and invaded a foreign country. And Europe still feels deeply concerned with their tongue stuck deep in the ass. Such a position of frightened impotent. Or do you think these fuckers gonna stop on us?

How does 1914 create its music? Is it a band-effort or are there separate roles and one person in the lead?

I write all lyrics, concept and all this stuff. 90% of the music created by our guitar player Oleksa (Liam Fessen from 37.Division, Feldartillerie-Regiment Nr.73). He just brings to rehearsal some parts and ideas, let`s play this way this and this. After that I often just have a picture in my head – oh… this new piece totally about Somma or about panzer A7V or about a British soldier in the shell hole.

I imagine you draw inspiration from history material. Are there specific books or films that you would recommend as required reading for people who get inspired to dig into this part of history through your music?

There are thousands of great books about WW1, tones of documentary films and photos. Of course books of Gerard De Groot, David Stevenson, John Keegan, Alistair Horne, Erich Maria Remarque and Ernst Junger, Martin Gilbert, Irving Root, Christopher Clark, Barbara Tuchman, Pat Barker, Paul Fussell, Siegfried Sassoon, Dalton Trumbo….i can type and type a thousand names. There are great publishing houses like Pen & Sword, Schiffer Books, and Casemate Publishers, they published a lot of great stuff about WW1. Very recommended their books. About films – there is not too much good films about Great War, some like 100 I think. So if you started right now watch it all, one per day – you will be finished around early spring And of course BBC and History documentary films.

In what way should we look at history? Should we make it a guide for our future or should we see it on its own?

Just a simple phrase – Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

What future plans does 1914 have?

Tell about the Great War to the whole world, to all metalheads, to all military fans. Told this part of history to all who can hear it. Record a new fucking awesome album, make a video clip, collaborate w a th big label (first of all find one), playing tours and gigs in EU as much as we can, and of course – creating a good music and stories about Great War. Sounds like plan?

If you’d have to describe 1914 as a kind of food, a dish, what would it be and why?

Bottle of Carpathian moonshine with marinated cucumbers and homemade salo. Why? Have you ever tasted it? Because it`s fucking good!

Satanakozel: in the far north of Karelia

In the far north, metal has found fertile soil through the years. Finland was late to the party, but is pretty much the most metal nation in the world these days. Just across the Russian border though, a small scene has been brewing in Karelia. A prominent band in these parts is СатанаКозёл, which translates as Satanakozel (Satan’s Goat).

Though the band seems to be mostly having a good time, there’s a deep appreciation for nature, their lands and traditions inherent to Satanakozel. Their last album, titled simply ‘Север’ (North) is a testament for that. Though never very prolific due to their inherent issues (you’ll read about that soon), the band has been a staunch touring group and loves their metal.

I found drummer Nicolai Kuskov willing to answer some of my pressing questions about making music in Karelia, touring, the relation to Finland and how reverence for the nature goes together with good old fun.

Can you kindly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how Satanakozel got started as a band?
Hello! I’m Nickolai Kuskov, the drummer and the co-founder of Satanakozel. Me and Vasiliy Kozlov started the band in 2002 as a nameless duo, in 2003 we have got the first full line-up and started to rehearse as SK. Nowadays SK is a 5 piece band:
Vasiliy Kozlov – guitars, vocals, folk instruments
Nickolai Kuskov – drums
Dmitriy Dobrynin – guitars, vocals, keys
Vladimir Savvateev – guitars
Dmirtiy Makarov – bass
I must mention that we never thought that it could grow bigger than just another garage band, we never had any special goals, we played music only for our own good, nothing more, nothing less. Great that it grew in a something bigger.

What bands influenced you and made you want to make this type of music?
I suppose most of the readers can recognize these influences, the bands from Finland, Scandinavian bands had a huge effect, also the folk music from our region did the job!

I can definitely hear some Finnish influences in your folk metal sound, would you say that is correct and is there a connection between bands from Karelia and Finland?
Yep, you’re right, we are impressed with the Finnish and Karelian folk music, which are quite similar. We share our myths and legends with Finns and, that is why there’s a connection. We do not have a lot of metal bands from the Russian side of Karelia, so I do not know about the rest.

How would you describe the message that Satanakozel has for the world? In biographies you’ve written you’re free from politics and that the band is about nature worship and fun. How do you bring those together?
Well, one would think that our lyrics are full of humor, jokes and so on, but the serious meanings are hidden under the mask of fun. The song ‘Pivovar/the brewer’ is an example, it may sound like the song about how good is to drink beer 24/7 but the real meaning is telling the listener that heavy drinking leads you to death. With the latest album we did a few serious lyrics, the topics are WWII, North and its power, but still we have enough humor.

How did you guys come up with the name? I understand it’s a silly sounding name in Russian and it started as a joke, but how did it stick with you for a good 15 years?
It was a local joke. The ex-keyboard player put our band on the roster of the festival under that name, because we had no other ideas how to name the band. I think we didn’t even think about it. We wanted to change it, but we never came up with anything better, haha.

So what is Satanakozel up to these days? It’s been awhile since ‘North’ came out. Can you tell me a bit about what direction you guys are planning to go in?
We are looking forward to start composing the new album. The biggest problem is Vasiliy Kozlov, our main composer, lives about 400 km from us. It is quite hard to get in touch with him because there’s no mobile coverage, internet or even basic phone in his village.

We tried to gather together at his place to compose something, but it all ended with a vodka and beer party… Still, we have a lot of ideas for the future songs, looks like it will be even more “metal” than “folk” as we did on the last album. Personally, I’m tired of all these shitty pseudo-folk metal bands with the same melodies, same sound, same lyrics.The style itself became too boring, there are no great newcomers and the veterans do not care about the quality of their music.

Also, we would like to have as many gigs as we can. We already did a few tours in Europe, this summer we’re going on the road again.

You clearly identify as a band as being from Karelia or being Karelians. How important is this identity for you and in what way does this appear in your lyrics as it is written that you guys use Karelian folklore in your lyrics.
It is very important for us, especially for me and Dmitriy Dobrynin because we both have Karelian roots. Our cultural heritage gives us a lot of inspiration to compose the music and the lyrics, we have lyrics about characters from local folk tales and legends such as Priest Sivolday, Kullervo from the mighty Kalevala Epic.

We identify as Karelian, though that doesn’t mean we don’t like our mother Russia, it’s just simply closer to our hearts and spreading our culture is important.

Since most people don’t know much about your part of the world, can you give some general outline of what the folklore and mythologies are like from your region?
Is mostly the same as in Finland, it is based on Kalevala Epic, also we have Russian folklore.

What does nature mean to you? Is it something that is generally a large part of your lives?
Northern nature is definitely a big part of us, we spend a lot of time in the forests. Vasiliy Kozlov earned his living for a few years in hunting and fishing, so you may guess that nature and its gifts are the most important part of his life. It always will be the biggest influence and inspiration for us.

It appears that there’s quite a little metal scene in Petrozavodsk. Can you tell a bit about that? You have described yourselves as a DIY band, is that what the scene is like there as well?
There’s no metal scene, Petrozavodsk has been mostly punk/hardcore town, just 2-3 bands and these bands are the side projects of SK members. I can mention only heavy metal band Aspaziya, great USSR metal style!

From the very beginning, we’re trying to do everything without any interference from aside. I run my own recording studio, where we record our music and I do the graphic design for the band. Dmitriy Makarov is in charge of the mixing and mastering process (he did the sound of the “North” album)… I think the DIY thing is the best way for independent musicians, go DIY now!

What bands should people really check out from your region (and why)?
Antimelodix, Minuala, Ork Bastards, Soli Diabili Gloria, Meti Bhuvah, Sattuma, Santtu Karhu & Talvisovat, Myllarit, Toive folk ensemble, Kantele state folk ensemble.

In a sense Karelia is a remote part of the world. The only way to go farther north is Murmansk. How do you think this shapes the music and words that you use?
As I said before the nature of Karelia is the main influence for our music & lyrics. I have nothing to add, just turn the latest SK album on and try to feel it. I highly recommend you to visit Karelia, especially the Paanajarvi national park.

You’ve chosen to be a-political as a band. How did you get to this decision in a world that is so overly political these days? Especially living in such border region. Is this a decision as a band or are you guys also not interested in politics as individuals?
Yep, we are a-political band and it was our choice since we started SK. We all know what is going on in the world, but we never trust the news from the state TV channels, even the independent media became corrupted. Seems like most of the people in Russia are completely brainwashed about the rest of the world. I’m traveling a lot and talking to the people from different countries, that’s how I make my conclusions.

So, what does the future have to offer for Satanakozel?
We’re planning a summer Eurotour with Grai & Gjeldrune, also we will try to get together to start working on a new record. I think that’s it, no special plans.

Final question, if you had to describe yourself as a dish, what dish would it be and why?
Lohikeitto, fish boiled in milk, sounds weird, but the taste is awesome! Try it once.

Underground Sounds: Kurse – Tales of the Wizard

Label: Independent
Band: Kurse
Origin: Canada

In the Marvel Universe, Kurse is a dark elf, named Algrim the Strong, who becomes the champion of the dark elves in the overpowering armor of Kurse. You can see him in the Thor film, he’s quite bad-ass. It’s where the band Kurse takes the name from for their debut EP ‘Tales of the Wizard’.

The Québecois group is a newcomer to the doom/stoner scene. They’ve definitely has taken a good look at the more melodic bands in the genre, that focus more on the emotional sound. The threesome from Montréal has not got any particular band history to point to. Judging by this record, that is quite a surprise. The debut sounds stunningly good.

The opening of ‘Antagonism’ has the magical beauty and simple joy of an Opeth acoustic. That takes almost five minutes to be dispelled by one of those surging riffs that you just have to surf along on. The harsh vocals of Felix Pageau are a bit lower in the mix, but the sharpness of his bark really makes it break through the tide. By the time ‘The Giant’ kicks in, the band has a full-on groove going, with cascading mega guitars and that typical hazy sound.

It’s that psychy haze that really makes Kurse stand out. With the cover and band name, you expect the sort of cool, epic sound, but the band really goes into a more dreamy direction. Vision becomes blurry, as the drums just keep hitting and hitting. ‘Mythos’ really turns into a bass-heavy, gritty onslaught. Think of Sleep, Electric Wizard, and Ufomammut and you’ll get the gist of things. I keep returning to those cool vocals, which sound a bit choked off, but always right on track on ‘Four Princes’.

Kurse sounds quite promising on this EP and a full length may be what they need to really craft something amazing.

Underground Sounds: Sutrah – Dunes

Label:  Independent
Band: Sutrah
Origin: Canada

Eastern promises come from far off places sometimes. Sutrah found inspiration in the oriental mysteries all the way in the northern land of Canada. In a period of 7 years the band crafted their debut album, which is out now, titled ‘Dunes’. An album inspired by esoteric thoughts, metaphysics and oriental folklore.

Drawing inspiration from bands like Lykathea AflameMartyr all the way to Cocteau Twins and Oliver Messiean. Members of the band have also been active in Chthe’ilist. Sonically the band seeks to bridge the wide gap between the turbulence and ferocity of death metal and inner calm that comes from the eastern philosophies and thoughts. They’ve tried to capture this idea and fight in their artwork.

After a moment of meditation, the album launches in full force with the title track. The tremolo riffing and high paced drums sweep in, but soon find a tranquillity in harmonious unity. Like a tapestry, all feels whole. That lasts usually up until the breaks, where a moment of chaos and doubt tear these turmoils apart into a chaotic shredding explosion. The constant search for balance results in an album that truly has two faces.

The album sounds absolutely pristine in production. Sometimes it lacks therefore a certain organic quality I’d say, but that’s a general death metal ailment in my ears. I love the intertjection of strange elements, like the bells on ‘Effervesce’. Though their balance with the music can be extremely weird, it does give that extra thing to the music. When they fade away tight waves of guitar riffs take over again. Sometimes those soar away in wild, brief solo’s. It breaks that steady flow of the sound, which you’ll find if you can transcend the frantic pace and precise cuts.

The vocals are deep growls, barked on cue with the melody of the all over sound. At times the band can sound quite complex, but that technicality and the calm in there is the charm of this Canadian band for sure. I don’t see anyone getting their meditation groove on to Sutrah for now though.

This offers great hopes for the future though.

Avarayr: Upholding the Armenian identity

I got in touch with Avarayr and was under the impression that the band was Armenian. I was right, but the band is located in Iran. Getting in touch with bands from these various places in the world, is often a learning experience in itself. Avarayr is thoroughly Armenian, but part of the Armenians that live in Iran. They were brought there 300 years ago by King Abbas and ever since, Armenians have lived in Iran.

The Armenians as a people have been around for a long time. In antiquity, the Armenian Empire was one of the first nations to adopt Christianity and due to its wide spread territories, we can still find Armenians far out of the region that is currently the country named Armenia. This old part of the world has seen much of history and is therefore rich with stories, fables and tales to tell. The perfect soil for a great metal project that Narek Avedyan started back in 2013.

I got in touch with Narek to talk about making metal music in Iran, Armenian identity, System of a Down and much more. He was kind enough to give open and clear answers to my stream of questions so thanks to him for his time.

Upholding Armenian tradition in Iran

How are you doing?

Barev! Doing fine, hopefully everyone else is as well. Surviving, dealing with the occasional existential crisis. The usual, I guess!

Can you tell me how Avarayr got started and what inspired you to go in the musical direction you’ve taken? Which bands inspired you musically?

Avarayr started in late 2012. I kind of got tired from doing what I was doing musically at that time and decided to take things in another direction. Having a keen interest in Armenian/Persian folk music and folk music from different countries in general led me to the direction the band is currently in. There are a lot of inspiring bands and artists I guess. The classic metal stuff we all grew up with. But for Avarayr specifically, the German band Empyrium and their album ‘Songs of Moors and Misty Fields’, as well as Armenian black metal band Vahagn and of course, Armenian folk music. Particularly the works of Komitas.

What does the name Avarayr mean?

Avarayr is historically the name of a battlefield in which a battle of the same name took place between Persian and Armenian forces. It also represents the dilemma a Diasporan Armenian faces. In this case, an Armenian like myself who is born and lives in Iran, but considers himself an Armenian. It represents a clash. A battle, if you will.

As I understand you started out under the name Symphony of Silence, but in 2013 you switched names. Why so? Was this also the point where you decided you wanted put Armenian folklore in the themes of your music?

SOS ceased to exist as a project. The members took different directions and everyone except myself left Iran for good. That was the main reason. Another reason was that I thought SOS would not be an appropriate title for the direction I was about to take musically. I had always wanted to mix Armenian folklore and actually did with SOS (the only EP features renditions of two Komitas pieces, albeit horribly executed) but this time it was the main focus of my path. Finding out that there was another band of the same name out there as well as the Facebook page being hacked were the final nails in the coffin of SOS.

Avarayr is in essence your solo project. How do you go about writing and recording your music, do you get musicians to help you or is it a full solo endeavour?

I compose everything for Avarayr. There are two songs on the full-length which were written by ex-Avarayr guitarist Emin Khechoomian, but other than that everything is on me.  As for recording, the first EP had sampled drums while I handled everything else. The ‘Rituals’ single also had sampled drums, while Emin did guitars and handled bass and vocals.The full-length is a bit different. It features many musicians. Armen Manukyan (who also plays for Avarayr live) handled all of the electric guitar work beautifully. My friend Peter handled drums and percussion. The bass was handled by my friend Narbe (ex-SOS) and I did vocals, acoustic guitars and keys. Additional vocals were provided by my friend Armen Shahbegian and additional winds were performed by my friend Judie (also ex-SOS). Some traditional instruments were handled by some of my Persian friends. Including the Daf, an Iranian percussive instrument performed by my friend Mehdi. By the way these are all our real names. We have names that sound weird to people from other countries anyway, so we didn’t really choose kvlt black metal nicknames.

There is a full band for live shows. Is that something you initially wanted to do with Avarayr or did it evolve?
I did not intend to perform live shows with Avarayr. I kind of dread the “getting-ready” part of doing live shows, but I do love to perform on stage. It just happened by sheer chance. I found two Armenian musicians, Emin and Ervin, in Tehran who were into black metal and tried Avarayr live. I guess it went on from there.

 

Can you tell a bit about the folktales you use. Most people are probably not familiar with these tales, so perhaps you can share a bit about them?

Sure. I mean, the point of using those folktales is to generate interest in Armenian folklore. Which might be a bit naive, cause very few people are into that these days, but it is still important to me. For example, there is a song on the full-length titled Vahagn, which is about the Armenian pagan deity of the same name. Vahagn is the Armenian counterpart to Heracles and is the god of the Sun, fire and thunder. The song itself uses lyrics from Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents, who laments the death of Vahagn, hinting that the traditional values of a nation die with the death of their gods, who are national symbols to many. Another song is called Gelkheght which is about the Gampr, a breed of dogs unique to Armenia. The song tells the tale of a Gelkheght (roughly meaning “it who suffocates wolves”) who descends from Mount Ararat (national Armenian symbol currently in Western Armenia, or modern-day Turkey) to devour the usurpers who are driving Armenia to ruins. Pretty cool stuff, eh?

As I understand it you currently are working on new music with ‘A Symphony Carved in Stone’? And what can the world expect and what is the concept and story on this album? I’m also interested in your recent live album.

Yeah, progress on the full-length is slow but relentless. It was stuck in “production hell” but friends, especially Armen Manukyan, helped it get back on track. I am busy with my studies and have little time to work on it, but it is almost done. Two years in the making! The world can expect an interesting album because there’s everything on it. From black metal, to acoustic ballads and Wardruna-ish folk pieces, all with a specific Armenian twist. It covers a lot of ground. The concept was born naturally from my ancestral Armenian heritage, countless wanderings in nature and wanting to create something new, if not original. It is an album which sprouts from the Armenian highlands and is dedicated to Armenia, hence the name. As for the live album, it was a sentimental release to celebrate the first (and now defunct) Avarayr live line-up. It includes music which will be released as studio versions both on the full-length and future releases.

I saw on your Facebook page that you’re looking for a drummer in Iran, how so?

I’d really like to have a stable band in Tehran which can always rehearse and be ready for shows in Armenia (and in Tehran, in case of a miracle). Most of the live line-up resides in Armenia and we have little time to rehearse for shows. Everything works out great every time, but having at least a stable drummer would be pretty cool. Shout out to Arthur, our lovely drummer from Armenia and Astghik, our keyboardist. They always managed to help the band put on a kickass show. Double horns to Emin Aghajanian from Outcast Minority, Mher Azizbekyan from Araspel and Side Project (yes, that’s a band name!) and my brother Christopher Amirian for filling in on bass.

What is it like to play metal in Iran, are you allowed to play metal and isn’t it lonely as an outsider?

Well, we can play metal here, but only if concerts are performed with clean vocals or only instrumental. You also need to have permission from the ministry of culture. It’s all quite strictly regulated and people must remain seated at the show. Personally, I don’t associate much with the Persion metal scene, but I do know almost every act there is from Iran. I’m not in contact with most of them though, but one act to look out for is From The Vastland. The story of Sina’s music is quite remarkable, you can see it in the Blackhearts documentary film.

What is the metal scene like in Armenia? It seems that it’s quite a thriving scene, can you also tell a bit about its history and which bands started it?

Armenia is a small country. Hence, the metal scene is also small. Nowadays it consists mostly of teenagers and young adults who like going to shows and having a great time. My love to them all, because they truly support my music. As for the history, the origins are somehow obscured. Many consider the band Apostles (from the 70’s) to be the first Armenian rock band, and I agree.

The band Ayas was definitely one of the first metal ones. Think thrash mixed with classical and King Diamondesque vocals. There was also Asbarez. This was in the 80’s. The 90’s had bands like MDP. Progress was slow because of this little annoyance called the Soviet Republic (until Armenia gained independence in 1991) and that’s why not a lot remains of the early years except some low-quality cassette/vinyl rips on Youtube. In the 2000’s, the scene grew because of two main promoters. MetalFront (now defunct; they brought the likes of Melechesh and Arkona) and Zhesht Events (who would go on to bring giants such as Sepultura and Napalm Death). Zhesht still regularly organizes underground shows in Armenia. Some of the prominent bands of this new era were Sworn, Sadael, Aramazd and Dogma. A company called Vibrogreipus (I probably butchered the name) has brought the likes of Jethro Tull and Ian Gillan to Armenia. Interest in rock and metal grew a lot in 2015, when all-Armenian band System of a Down performed in Armenia for the first time, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

How significant is System of a Down for you and for metalheads in Armenia?
Almost every Armenian metalhead loves at least one song from System of a Down. For me, they are idols and I think the same goes for many other Armenians. I grew up listening to their music and they inspired me in countless ways. Meeting them in Armenia was surreal. They are such humble guys man. They do and have done so much for Armenia and the Armenian cause. That’s why people react to them in such a strong way. In a world where people like Kim Kardashian are the ones representing Armenia globally, System of a Down are like gems. They have become part of our national identity.

Is everything readily available to you, like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music and places to play gigs at?

In Tehran, almost everything is available. Avarayr has always had its own rehearsal space. I also have access to a recording space, though I do most of my work from my bedroom. Places to play gigs at in Iran are very, very limited due to metal being illegal in the country. Hence why Avarayr doesn’t play in Iran that much. We can only play shows in Armenian centers for Armenian audiences only. Outside of that, you could secure gigs for a Persian audience, but with no harsh vocals. It’s a bit complicated and anticlimactic for me. Which is why I prefer to perform in Armenia.

In many places, playing black metal brings with its risks and taboos. I’m talking about censorship, politics, religion etc. Is there anything like that you have to deal with?

Well, I never add any political/religious message to Avarayr. Because let’s be honest, one wrong move in Iran and you’re done for. People might call me a coward for not speaking on taboo subjects, and I probably am. But to me, music comes first and foremost. Even though almost all metal bands from Iran are underground, and quite frankly nobody cares about what they do, even underground bands can get into trouble for crossing the line. I like being behind the line. It’s comfortable. It’s cozy!

Which bands from Armenia should people definitely check out (and why)?

Oh gods…so many to name! Off the top of my head, I’d go for Sworn, Vahagn, Dogma, Aramazd, Unaesthetic, Divahar, Eternally Scarred, Ildaruni, Symmetria, Aralez (based in Germany), Araspel, Nosferatu, Highland (based in the US), Odz-Manouk, Tork Angegh, Ghoulchapel, Sickdeer and Vox Clamantis (also from the US) and many more. Why? Because they are amazing. And you can find some very refreshing ideas in the Armenian music scene. I also recommend non-metal acts such as Hogh, The Clocker, Miqayel Voskanyan and Tigran Hamasyan.

Is there a political aspect to Avarayr? You’ve recently put out a live album titled ‘Echoes From the Diaspora’ and covers of Inquisition and Burzum that might hint to a political agenda.

The answer to that is definitely a no. I do have my political ideas, but I keep Avarayr (and most of my music in general) apolitical. I focus mostly on preserving Armenian culture. People may call that nationalistic, and it might be. I don’t think it is. I don’t put Armenian culture above any other culture. It’s just highlighted in my music because that’s what I enjoy doing. I believe in the promotion and preservation of national history and heritage, but not at the cost of belittling other cultures. Cultures and races are different and that difference is what makes this world exciting.

As for the Burzum and Inquisition covers. The first Burzum cover was done simply to promote the band. It was an easy cover to do. The rest were done for the sole reason of myself being a huge fan of Burzum’s MUSIC, not the ideology behind it. I do not support nor condone the non-musical ideologies of Varg Vikernes. As for the Inquisition one, it was simply done to test my recording equipment. I needed a simple song. That one only has 4 chords which are repeated again and again. As for the ideology, I again am not in line with whatever those guys believe in. I’m just a fan of their music. In retrospect, if I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t choose that song because a lot of people misunderstood it and misunderstood me. But what’s done is done. No point in regrets. I am, however, fond of it because it brings back a lot of great memories. The recording process for that cover was frigging hilarious.

What future plans does Avarayr have at this point?

The release of the full-length is definitely a priority. After that, a hiatus from playing live is probably inevitable. Our guitarist Armen is going to serve at the Armenian military for two years and I kind of need a break to get back into composing mode. Avarayr will definitely be active in the studio.

If you had to compare Avarayr to a dish (food), what would it be and why?

Chalaghach (Armenian pork dish), with a side of Tolma (a common dish in countries from the region) and a pint of Armenian Kilikia draft beer. If you haven’t had any of these, then I’d say a visit to Armenia is long overdue! Thanks for this interview! Let the metal flow!

 

aMakARtUS: humble roars from Mauritius

Isolation for a metal scene can mean a lot of things. It can mean that there’s simply nothing around it, it can be remote from other local scenes or in the case of Mauritius it’s simply the geography of being hundreds of miles from any other country. In fact, the island nation consists of 4 islands, with equally huge distances in between them. Being a metalhead on one of the Mauritian islands can’t be easy.

No surprise then, that the scene aMakARtUS is part of is small, but passionate. Heavy music is not something you can be specific about in places where there’s only a few to share it with. I got in touch with the band and asked them some questions about the music scene in Mauritius. As far as aMakARtUS is concerned, the scene may have humble beginnings. That doesn’t mean they’re not hungry for more.

Hi, so could you guys introduce yourselves?

We started in June 2010. initially known as Bringing Death. We were high school friends sharing a love for the same style of music.

Eddie had the idea to start a metal band, where we would play things we love and write music. At first, we wanted to create something different, we were really into old school metal and punk. We try to fuse modern metal with its old school counterparts.

The group (to date) is composed of 5 people:

vocals – Rodney Sagore
guitar – Mahesh (Eddie)
guitar – Darshan
bass- Vissen
drums – Evan (Yovesh)
We have one debut studio album entitled: In For The Kill.

the album has 8 tracks:

Cannibal Perversion
Angel… Not.
Stench
I die you die
Traitor
The doctrine of fools
Sin with me
Warrior Rebellion

How did Amakartus get started? Like, how did you guys get together as a band and start making music?

We were high school friends and we had metal in common. We were playing music and fooling around since a young age. It was in June 2010 at the University of Mauritius that we decided to form a band and take things seriously and start working on compositions…

What bands inspired each of you to make this sort of music?

Well, we have Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Metallica, Megadeath, Anthrax etc.

I understand you have been recording some demos. How do you guys go about making music together? Who has what role and how does your writing and recording process look like?

Normally for most of the songs, it’s Eddie who comes up with a riff or idea, then the whole band gets involved in arranging and working the idea. Most of the time we do ditch ideas that we feel are not ‘up to the level’. With that idea, we start to jam until something good comes out and we try to get that recorded with whatever means we have.

What sort of themes do you use for your music, what inspires your lyrics and what message does Amakartus have for the world?

We normally talk about violence, hatred and all this negativity consuming the world. We have a message of peace… live and let leave! For example: Traitor is a song about someone who has betrayed his country.

What does Amakartus mean?

AMAkARtUS is KAMASUTRA turned upside down. kamasutra is the book of love. we are like a manual of hate, explaining to people that hatred leads us nowhere. Moreover, we also wanted to show people that a name is not important as most of the time we tell people that the name is bogus and it does not mean anything!

I understand a lot of your music is inspired by themes like human nature, hate, suffering, and war. Are there particular things in your country that inspire you, as metal is in effect a kind of protest music for many people?

Yes! Our culture here in Mauritius is very diverse, so we get inspiration from everywhere.

Metal is indeed some kind of healthy revolt or protest and a way to let things go and accept others. We also want to show people that metal is not taboo. and today we have more and more people coming to gigs!

Obviously, my source has mostly been the internet, but it seems that Mauritius has a small, hardcore metal scene where punk, metal and hardcore kind of blend together. How dit metal music come to your country and who were the pioneers? Can you maybe tell a bit about the history of this music in Mauritius?

Well, obviously the media has a great role to play in this context. At first, we had cassettes etc. I remember buying Iron Maiden’s ‘Number of the Beast’ and Black Sabbath cassettes in 1999. When I was listening to it, people around me thought that I had lost it! So this scene emerged and more and more young people started wearing ‘metal shirts’ and talked about this music in our society. Before that, people would listen to this music on their own, but this started to bring it out in the open.

We do have bands like Feedback, Scar, Tribus, Humanoid and more, that started way before us. Then again, they all stopped for one reason or another and we are now carrying the metal flag along with bands like Revolt, Cryptic Carnage, and Circle Red.

Is metal a big thing in your country? Is there a bit of a scene around it and can you describe it? Do you have places where bands can perform and where they play this music?

Normally, there’s no ‘specific’ place to play metal. As for metal gigs, bands come together, contribute together and make gigs happen. we do not have event organizers for metal concerts or specific venues for rock and metal. it is a big thing here (not considering the number of people)… it’s a big thing for all the metalheads and for our little metal community. everyone knows everybody and day by day, the numbers are growing.

Do you have everything easily available, like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music, and other related gear? Or are there things that make it hard to make this sort of music there? I’m imagining there are some problems since your country is quite remote from others.

There’s no particular place for rehearsing for metal heads available in Mauritius. We have normal studios and they charge a lot. In AMAkARtUS, we tried to build our own studio for rehearsals, which we try to improve daily. Music instruments are way more expensive compared to other countries. We have little choices when it comes to the variety of instruments and most of the time we have to rely on online shopping.

Are you facing any sort of censorship in Mauritius or can you play this music and sing about whatever you want?

There is no censorship as such as long as nobody tries to incite violence.

Mauritius also appears to be a mixture religiously. Historically metal and religion have not been the best buddies. Is there a sort of clash there for you guys?

Yes! There is always the perceptions that metalheads are Satanists or atheists, but we do have a lot of metalheads going to temples and churches.

Do you put anything typical from Mauritius in your music do you think?

Yes, we put a Mauritian touch to our compositions. For example, the song ‘I Die, You Die’ has been inspired by the sega beat (the traditional music from Mauritius).

What bands from your neck of the woods should people really check out (and why)?

Well check out Shred the Glory: they are currently preparing an album and do check cryptic carnage and revolt!

Do foreign bands play in Mauritius? And if not, who would be the dream band for you to visit and play a support slot for?

Nope. No metal bands, but we do have other artists visiting the country. Metallica would be great!

What future plans does Amakartus have?

AMAkARtUS is currently working on its 2nd studio album. We want to reach more people. and we want people to understand our message and follow us if they feel that connection to our message! We do not want to re-invent metal but add-up to what’s already out there!

Ok, if you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?

Well, AMAkARtUS would be a Curry Flavoured Lamb Sauté! From the violence it took to bring down the lamb, to the mixture of flavors and cultures… you could not help but ask for more!

Thank you Guido.

 

Uganda’s Vale of Amonition Interview

Metal’s final frontier lies in Africa and Uganda is one of the unlikely places where something is brewing. Although the scene is extremely tiny and unknown, the passions run deep with artists like Victor Rosewrath. Victor was kind enough to tell a bit more about his band Vale of Amonition.

Most will know Uganda because of General Idi Amin, who was the topic of wide speculation and even the film ‘The Last King of Scotland’. Though that lies in the past, Uganda has troubles of its own like high corruption, severe limitations of LGBT rights and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Still, metal music flourishes here and together with Threatening the Vale of Amonition is paving the way for other artists.

Victor Rosewrath is a man of words and he has plenty to offer for people interested in his work. He’s been playing with poetry and various music styles to express what is inside of his mind. Victor has a romantic soul, clouded with dark visions as you will read here below. Thanks to Victor for his time and words.

The Vale of Amonition is very real…

So first off, thanks for your time. Can you kindly introduce Vale of Amonition to the readers? How did your band get started?
Hello Guido, this is Victor Rosewrath. Thank you for this opportunity. Vale of Amonition is very old…thematically at least. I have been conscious of the Vale since I was a child and I have the sense it existed way before I did. But as for its incarnation into a doom metal band; it started in May 2009 in Uganda where I was living at the time. I needed to tell stories about the Vale and music seemed a good medium for that at the time.

How did you guys get in touch with this music, what bands inspired you to start making music yourself?
The band Queen was my first love and my introduction to heavy music. Now you may argue that they weren’t heavy but I’m familiar with their discography well enough to prove you wrong. They were really the first band I ever truly loved when I was young and just understanding music. All other things came later. Black Sabbath came later. Mercyful Fate came later. Celtic Frost came later, and when I heard Candlemass and Type O Negative, I knew I wanted to create a similar kind of music. Solitude Aeturnus is my biggest influence. Solomon Dust likes Insomnium, Katatonia, Swallow The Sun and My Dying Bride.

Uganda has very little metal bands, but you guys have been around for a while and you are also surprisingly productive, releasing quite a bit of music. How do you guys go about writing your music, who is responsible for what and can you describe how you get new material out so often (particularly in the starting period of the band)?
The metal scene in Uganda is indeed quite poor…we are simply driven by the need to express ourselves as artists. We have never really cared for the absence or presence of a metal scene where we’re from as long as we could create and just be ourselves. I wrote most of the music in the early days. I was progressively inclined. Listening to a lot of bands that could be described as innovative and progressive.

I felt weird as a songwriter because nothing I could come up with could be considered a “song” in the conventional sense. ‘Black Cathedral’ for instance was initially a 23 minute song. We get out material so often because there’s a need for it. I think of the metal scene here as the African metal scene, it makes sense that way…and more and more people are interested in hearing metal from Africa. But we’ve had a bit of time off since our last major release.

I understood that your name refers to a valley of warmakers, but there’s also a lot of occult titles. I’m very curious to learn about the themes and topics you put in your music. Can you describe those and explain your choices? How real is this place to you?
Vale of Amonition is a very real place. I go to sleep there and I wake up there. I can’t escape it so I’ve given up trying. It is both a frame of mind and a real place that I take with me wherever I go or that follows me around until I tell its stories and get them right. There’s no point wrestling with demons; you just have to open the door and let them in. My relationship with demons has been very fruitful so far. The lyrics I write have to do with that relationship; with the general relationship with the darkness that most people find themselves cultivating.

So Victor has just worked on the project Doomcast and in general, you guys seem to have some following abroad, but what is it like in Uganda itself? Is there actually more of a scene than outsiders know or are you sort of a lonely band in your own country (together with Threatening)?

We are a lonely band and we are very lonely people. Also, we haven’t heard from Threatening in ages.

So can you tell a bit how the collaboration with Doomcast came together?
Doomcast came from a conversation between me and Tim Salter, Doomcast’s main composer and guitarist. I have known Tim for years and he really is a fan not just of Vale but of the whole African metal scene. He was working on a black metal project with a friend from Angola that was going nowhere and nothing I was doing with Vale of Amonition and African Doomhammer was going anywhere either so out of mutual frustration, we decided to work together. But Tim is a fan of my style, my whole weirdness and I am an absolute fan of his guitar playing so really we just had to work together. Paulo Bucho who Tim knew joined later on drums and we became fast friends.

Can you tell a bit more about African Doomhammer, I didn’t hear about that?
African Doomhammer is a Namibian project I have been involved with since its inception. I have written music and co-written lyrics for African Doomhammer. They released one E.P. in 2014 and are working on some new music. I have a few ideas that I feel fit more with AD than VoA and I look forward to future collaborations.

I understood that you also started a progressive rock project named Otheorem. You’ve read poetry on video (Poe). Do you feel a strong need to express yourself in many ways and what other things would you still like to do?
Thank you. Yes. I need to express myself in a lot of ways and really I haven’t even done half as much as I know I am capable of. One night I read poetry for a bunch of stoners and they liked it. I was a classic literature scholar so I knew a lot of the old stuff and how to relate it to people and make it interesting. I ended up writing a bunch of poetry with respect to the old rules of meter and precision and a lot of stuff later that didn’t care for any rules. I always want to be able to express myself in both a traditional manner and in an iconoclastic format that shits on the rule-book. But Otheorem was the brainchild of Jon Xarg, Vale ‘s old drummer. He was the one who was tired of all the doom and gloom and wanted me to play with him in a more exuberant band so we did that song and then we argued about music and a lot of other things and we never picked it up again.

Listening to your music, I can’t help but hear a connection between heavy, theatric doom and poetry, how did you develop this unique style of music?
I’m into poetry and I love the theatrical bit of artistic expression so it has always been bound to happen as far as how I write and perform with Vale of Amonition.

Do you feel there’s something that you put in your music that is typical for the place you are from; Uganda? Any sort of music writing, topics, words…? Could your music be from anywhere else?
I don’t think at this point Vale can go into a strictly Folk direction but we’ve always had that as part of our identity. There’s still time enough to find out though. But no, I don’t think this band could easily be from anywhere else.

What does it mean for you as a musician to be where you are and how do you feel that shapes your art in the broadest sense?
I have felt frustrated and limited as an artist in Uganda. I feel the scope of what I can do on a day to day basis is constricted by my environment but long-term projection allows me to view this as meaningful and essential to the creative process…and the fact that I am reaching way beyond my location continues to be a great motivation.

Uganda has been in the news for restrictive policies in the past. Regardless of those, I was wondering how free you are as an artist to express yourself. Can you sing whatever you want? Is there any form of censorship?
I can sing about whatever I want. We wrote a song called “Don’t Tread On Me (In Our Darkness Defiant)” particularly about our president signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. It was my big FUCK YOU! to him. I’ve really never worried about censorship and I’ll never censor myself. We are not a political band by any stretch and even that song had a lot of other themes running through it but we’ve never shied away from controversy either. If we want to say something, we’ll yell it. I’m very fond of Wolves In The Throne Room. How they maintain their mystique while being conscious about the things that matter to them as well.

Seeing you guys are very prolific in creating music, do you have everything available like recording equipment, instruments, rehearsal places and venues or is it a lot of DIY?
Yes, we have instruments. Rehearsal space is also actually easy to find, you’d be surprised. Uganda and Kenya are not some holes where you can’t access things. Good equipment is definitely accessible and studios and producers who actually know what they’re doing can be found. It is not really DIY, I’m afraid. We actually work with producers but we play our own material and write it and perform it but we don’t own a studio. We’ve recorded both in Uganda and Kenya.

I understand that you have a lot of facilities. Does that mean you share those with rock and pop groups and do you take any influence from different music styles?
Yeah, we do share space and facilities with all kinds of artists and performers. Do they influence my art? Not at all. I am not easily influenced. I am very specific about what moves me but most of it can’t adequately be defined by words… but when something connects with me, it just does.

So, this question might be a really simple one, but is there a metal scene in Uganda. If so, how did it get started, are there and were there other bands active?
There’s a metal scene in Uganda. Absolutely. It is mostly made up of fans more than bands. Threatening who you mentioned earlier were probably the first band on the scene. They used to be known as Perfect Strangers. The scene developed out of the larger rock scene that was a culmination of expatriates opening radio stations and bars that strictly played rock music and Touch FM becoming a pioneering everyday man’s rock station and then from the woodwork came the metalheads who had always been silent and waiting, I guess for some sort of union to happen. I’ve never really cared for the scene enough to explore its origins but that’s about it.

I notice that there are a few centers for metal on the African continent, but for people from outlying places, like yourselves, it seems that you might have to travel a lot to play or meet like-minded souls. How do you deal with that?
We travel when the opportunity presents itself. Thanks to the internet, there’s so many ways you can connect that don’t need your actual physical presence. It’s all good.

Are there any bands from your part of the world that you’d like to recommend? (and why are they cool)
I like Crystal Axis. They’re really cool. They are a punkish/alternative band based in Nairobi and they write some really cool songs. I have a friend, Peter Larson who is American but really spends a lot of time in Kenya and he’s doing this fusion thing with a local instrument, the Nyatiti on which he plays all manner of things. He has a band called Ndio Sasa. You should absolutely check them out. My friends The Seeds of Datura are also amazing performers. They’re doing some kind of extreme progressive metal type thing.

What future plans do you have with Vale of Amonition and other projects?
Vale of Amonition plans on having some music out soon, I’ve been told. Right now Solomon Dust holds the reins. I am working on my own stuff for Victor’s Death. More poetry and madness.

Isn’t it hard to hand over the reigns for you?
I’ve not handed the reins over. I think we are co-creators, really. That is more apt. It’s just that Dust writes a bulk of the music now. In a certain sense, our current sound has been shaped by his guitar playing and modified by my personality.

If you had to describe your band as a dish, a type of food. What would it be and why?
It would be Mushroom soup with a lot of indefinable, alien ingredients. It would be thick but it would disappear easily in your mouth. I think that is apt because Vale of Amonition music is rather astounding to get into (so I’ve been told), but when you do listen, it connects with some primal darkness within you and yet it never loses its strangeness.