(Norway-based NCS contributor Karina Cifuentes brings us this interview with Sina, the man behind From the Vastland, whose new album Chamrosh was released last month by Immortal Frost Productions.)
You are from Iran, but moved to Norway, tell us about how did this happen?
Yeah, true. Well, it is a long story, but to make it short I can say I had another band when I was in Iran, and back in 2007 one of my albums was released on vinyl here in Norway, and then I got an email from the producer of the documentary film Blackhearts and he told me about his project and how he discovered my band by that release, and then everything started from that point when I got the chance to come to Norway and play my show at Inferno Festival. Later in 2014 by help of the Safemuse organization I moved to Norway to continue my music works here.
What was it like to be a metalhead in Iran?
Well, unfortunately, because of all the limitations from the government in Iran we don’t have an active metal scene. You know, it is actually banned (especially when it comes to Black Metal), but of course we have a lot of metalheads (most of them are into thrash, death metal, or progressive). But you know, regular people don’t know much about metal and all they have heard is mostly the wrong info that they get from the media, so, actually it is not easy to be a metalhead in Iran where you have to keep everything by yourself and can’t talk much about your music taste and interest.
Your albums have unique lyrical themes that come from ancient Middle Eastern folklore. You have grown up in a non-Christian culture, so how do your lyrical themes approach the battle between good and evil? How do you interpret the dark side of ancient Persian folklore?
Yeah, all of my lyrics are about ancient Persian mythology and history. Well, I was always into mythology (not just Persian but also Norse mythology, Egyptian, Mayan…) and I have read a lot of books about it. But as a black metal musician I found the Persian mythology so proper for black metal lyrics. It is all about the battle between darkness and light, good and evil, gods and devils…It is full of epic stories, you know. And I always try to stay loyal to the original story whenever I want to write my lyrics.
Well, the Norwegian BM scene was even better than what I expected. Of course, it is really active and alive, lots of shows and festivals during a year, good events… and all the musicians are very professional, everything is organized when it comes to concerts and festivals, etc. But to me the good thing was also that I was very warmly welcomed to the scene when I came to Norway. And it was a great feeling, you know. So, it is actually very good.
What do you think of typical satanic BM themes? How does satanism in BM translate to you?
You know, it has been used from the beginning and still it is part of the BM scene. A lot of bands have satanic themes in their music or lyrics (but not all the BM bands, you know), and they have their own fans. To me the most important thing is music and the atmosphere, but also lyrics are important.
During the years we have seen a lot of new sub-genres created by bands from Satanic BM to depressive, and I think there is a place for ALMOST all kinds of themes. So, as long as you believe in what you are doing, then it is fine, and at the end there are the fans who decide or show that you are doing it right.
What is “Chamrosh” and why did you choose this name for your album?
Chamrosh is a bird in Persian mythology (or better to say it is a griffin) and the protector of the land. There is a famous story about chamrosh that says every three years when the evil pillagers want to attack the land, chamrosh snatches them in a bloody battle and protects the land. The story explains all the details about the location and situation where it happens, and that is what I tried to make on the front cover of the album. What you see on the front cover is representing the event. It is really epic when you read the story and that is why I chose it for the album title.
On the cover of Chamrosh you do mix a typical Norwegian run-down farmhouse and a Persian mythological name. It kinda represents two pretty different worlds and time periods coming together. What do you try to express with it? What are the thoughts behind mixing this imagery like that?
Well, my music style is old-school BM as I am a huge fan of old-school BM, but you know, since I am from Iran, I have my own cultural background. So I always have small touches of Persian melodies in my music as well and also with the lyrics, you know. So, even though it is still old-school BM, it also has some special elements in it. That is what I am trying to do in my music.
You have played alone for years, but now you got the opportunity to meet other musicians. Who has influenced you the most of all the musicians you have met, and what have you learned from them?
Yes, it is true. Back in Iran I was working almost alone for many years but here I got this chance to meet and work with other musicians, which was kind of a new and special experience to me. I have learned a lot by that, from all of them. You know, not just by recording my albums with them, playing live or something — which is great to get better and improve your music skills — but also being active in the scene, meeting other musicians can always help you to improve your art.
You’ve gotten to play with some pretty famous musicians. Tell us who they are and how it felt to have this opportunity.
Yes, I am really lucky that I had/have this chance to play and work with great musicians like “Tjalve” (Den Saakaldte/ ex-1349), “Destructhor” (Myrkskog/ ex-Morbid Angel), “Vyl” (Keep of Kalessin/Gorgoroth-live) and some other ones. You can imagine how great it feels when you get this opportunity to work with the musicians whose music you were listening to and enjoying for years. It was unbelievable and I am extremely glad about it.
Even though you live in Norway, I think your BM style tends a bit more towards the Swedish sound. What bands have influenced you the most and what’s your take on the differences between the Norwegian and Swedish BM sound?
Well, I remember that I heard something like this from some fans back when I had my previous band “Sorg Innkallelse”. You know, I listen to many bands from different countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, France, Greece…) and I always get inspiration from other music. I think it is natural that as a musician when you start writing your music, your background, the music that you have listened during the years, everything that is going on and happening in your life affects your music as well.
So, this is not something that I decide to make in that way, and actually people get different impressions from music by their own experience. So I don’t think about it. And when it comes to different BM sounds, I think Swedish BM bands are more into technical stuff; even for their recordings also a lot of Norwegian bands get inspiration from their folklore music. The way that Norwegian bands write their music, the scale that they use, and the song structure is different than Swedish bands (mostly). A while ago I had a really nice talk about it with “Vyl” when we were recording the Blackhearts EP at the studio.
Why did you choose a Russian label to release the album, what are the advantages? Are your CDs gonna be printed there? Is it more cost-effective maybe?
It is not the Russian label company that released the Chamrosh album. (The Russian company Satanath Records released the Blackhearts EP). It is Immortal Frost Productions from Belgium. So, the CDs are printed there. Both companies are pretty good. I have good experiences working with several/different label companies.
What are the plans for the future when it comes to From the Vastland?
You know, I always have big plans and dreams to work on. From The Vastland is not just a music band to me. It is very personal, that is actually me, everything related to the band comes from deep inside my mind. So, this is my main focus in life and I have lots of big plans for the future.
I would like to improve it more and more, make it better day by day. I always do my best to make good music. I want to play shows, at different festivals, and continue releasing my albums worldwide. So there is still a long way that I want to walk! I want to make a place for my band somewhere on top! But it also depends how things go, especially with my situation regarding my visa here in Norway.
We are going to play a show in less than a month in Kongsberg (Norway) on November 19. It is part of a special event with screening of the Blackhearts documentary (I am one of the characters in the film).
I am also writing some new materials and might want to release it as a split album (still working on it). Also some other things that I am working on, like more shows and official music video for one of the new tracks etc.