(Today our Russian contributor Comrade Aleks brings us Part 4 of a six-part series in which he puts the same five questions to doom bands from around the world, and introduces us to their music at the same time.)
Sometimes I use this unpopular “quiz” format because there are too many interesting bands that I would like to bring to light, and in my opinion it’s a good way to spread some news and to get new points of view on a few issues (including even some political questions). The list of questions I put to the bands is below:
1. What is the band’s latest news and what are your plans for the near future?
2. What do we get (in the broadest sense) from the release of your last album?
3. What is the best response that your band has ever received?
4. What role does the church (or any other religious organization) play in your life or (let’s take it wider) in the life of the heavy scene? Is there any spiritual, religious, or antireligious component in your songs?
5. What does the Media in your country tell about the situation in Ukraine? And how do you see that situation? Some people from other countries have asked me strange questions about Russia’s policy, and let me say that I have a few friends in Ukraine and my colleagues have relatives there, and believe me, there’s no media in ANY country that is showing the problem as it really is. We can watch as the Cold War turns into real warfare.
Today, we bring the answers to these questions from Eye Of Solitude (United Kingdom), Father Merrin (France), Grimpen Mire (United Kingdom), KYPCK (Finland), Narrow House (Ukraine), and Vin De Mia Trix (Ukraine).
Eye of Soiltude (United Kingdom)
1. We are recording a new EP entitled Dear Insanity and we are talking to a few friends to try and organise another European tour. We are also preparing a nice surprise for our fans in the nearest future.
2. Canto III was an absolute success, the response from media and fans has been truly overwhelming, it opened up doors to new fans and more and more people got to know us. It was really good and we hope that the new EP will have the same impact.
3. Both from fans and media, and I believe it was with our latest release, Canto III. We also received good repsonse and support on our last tour with Faal and The Drowning, the places we’ve played have been an immense experience.
4. We do not include religion in our themes and lyrics, the music and lyrical concept are based on spirituality at the maximum. We are not interested in including religious elements into our music, we only want the music to speak for itself and relate to day-to-day life in general, through the eyes of various elements, whether it be fictional or real.
5. I would very much like to stay away from political conflicts of any nature. I have Ukrainian friends and I support them in their hard times that they are going through. I believe that they and only they will be able to resolve the situation there. I don’t care about media, media will say things that are meant to confuse the masses, and that brings me zero interest.
Father Merrin (France)
A (guitars, vocals)
1. Father Merrin has released its first self-financed EP, All Is Well That Ends In Hell, on May 9 this year. On the same day, the band played a festival in France with LOUDBLAST and many other great bands like Asphyx, Napalm Death, and Onslaught. Earlier this year we welcomed a new guitarist, allowing me to concentrate on singing, and he worked quickly to learn the songs. Then we have played with our buddies of Lying Figures in Nancy and now we are searching for a forum to preach and show how true masses should sound. But in parallel, we continue to write some new material and we defend this first EP, for which we have worked hard.
2. This first EP is a base of what Father Merrin is, 4 tracks of dark, racy, and powerful music. The first feedbacks are very good so far, better than what we could expect. But as the name of Father Merrin begins to be mentioned here and there, we focus on our art and its promotion and we leave the glory and the “likes” to those who know how to abuse it. We are still pretty happy because people who heard our EP are ready to take risks to help us promote our music; there are still passionate people in the music business, especially in the underground of course.
3. We’ve had some very good feedbacks. I remember a live report after a concert in Metz last year with our friends of Surtr, in which we were described as a revelation, and a recent review of our EP on www.lagrosseradio.com, where Hellfest (Wholesale Metal festival in France ) was encouraged to have us play in 2015 on their Doom / Sludge / Stoner stage. But the best feedback was that Father Merrin’s singer is a priest — people are willing to believe everything and anything!
4. Antireligious, no! We are not better than others and we don’t want to give lessons. Everyone lives with what soothes and makes his life better. If it is through faith and religion, why not? After that, in my opinion, religious organizations can in no way help you to live your faith, everything is led by power and money, religion is a business. Some events in the lives of people can make them weaker and receptive to these displays of grime, leading to enslavement. If you believe in a God (whatever it is!), that is no problem for us, but do not preach!
Religion is a great tool of mass manipulation and enslavement of the underwater-held-head people to avoid thinking, but also an easy answer to our fears and especially our fear of death. It was written on the contract from the outset, the outcome is… death! In the Metal scene, religion is a common topic, but often in a hateful way. Father Merrin is not in this case, and we do not claim to be a follower of any spiritual movement; too many Metalheads shelter themselves behind a pseudo-philosophy. In my lyrics, I’m just talking about facts that awaken my senses. I do not count up or build my own religion as some do, we just use a religious vocabulary but not the ideology. We do not even ask the question about the existence of God, we don’t care!
5. The distance does not help to understand what is really happening in Ukraine, without the knowledge of the historical past of this country, but also of the entire region. It is very difficult to have a definite opinion on the matter, only Likers and Followers do! We have no ideology, nor political views in the band, so we can only support those who are trying to keep the Metal scene alive. In this context of fighting, as the real reasons are far beyond our everyday lives, we are only cattle, especially since the Media are difficult to trust! I could only make a personal response, unrelated to what Father Merrin is about. It may sound like a cliché, but we can at least have a thought for all the innocent people who suffer from this shit.
Grimpen Mire (United Kingdom)
Paul Van Linden (bass, vocals)
1. We have recently released a vinyl split with Bastard Of The Skies on Future Noise Records and have had our debut album A Plague Upon Your Houses put out on cassette by Witch Hunter Records. At the moment we are only playing occasional gigs as we are trying to focus on writing our second full-length, which we hope to have completed by the end of the year.
2. It took a while between recording and release for the debut, so I think we were relieved when we finally held the finished article in our hands! Generally it has had favourable reviews with somewhat slow but steady sales so we can’t complain really.
3. The review for the EP Death on the Moor tends to stick in my mind because it was our first proper release and they only had good things to say about it and seemed to get where we were coming from. I was a bit apprehensive as to what kind of a reaction we were going to get for our material so this made me feel more confident about the band.
4. It plays no part at all in our lives as none of us are particularly religious. Within the heavy music scene I think it provides bands with artistic inspiration in terms of lyrics and iconography, but this can be drawn from both Christian and non-Christian sources such as kabbalism and paganism. There is a vague spiritual dimension to Grimpen Mire’s lyrics, as they tend to touch on various esoteric themes, but ultimately they serve as dark horror stories about the internal struggles that can be experienced in mind, body, and soul.
5. I do not feel that I have the required knowledge to put forward a valid opinion on such a complex issue as the situation in Ukraine. Grimpen Mire is not a political band.
Erkki Seppanen (vocals)
1. Well, hello again, after a while… We finished our Finnish tour in support of our latest album, Imena na stene (Names on the Wall). Now we have a couple of festivals to do here and then we’re preparing to do our biggest tour yet of Russia in September-October. We’re playing 11 shows from St. Petersburg to Moscow, Vladimir, Nizhnyi Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Barnaul, Krasnoyarsk, and finishing in Irkutsk near the Mongolian border. Actually very excited about that…
2. A new record label with whom things are actually working. Riku Paakkonen, the founder of Spinefarm, took us on his new label which he recently set up, called Ranka. He’d been a fan of the band for a long time and wanted to make music with us. That obviously made things easier. On the other hand, we got an unusually big response in the Finnish media, even on TV and mainstream newspapers, because some of the lyrics resounded a bit ominously in light of the recent events in Ukraine. So, I got to do my bit of trying to educate the public. Futile, mostly, but at least I got my say.
3. Obviously, the shows in Russia, in general, have been very emotional experiences. But I also remember fondly a few festivals we did, like Narva Bike Fest in Estonia and Brutal Assault in Czech Republic. Those two were really good trips and we got a chance to play to people who wouldn’t normally be able to see us. For me personally, it’s very important when I get direct feedback from the fans. Someone usually writes every day and it gives some more meaning to this thing we’re doing, you know… Gives a bit of light into the greyness, heh!
4. It depends on the occasion. I’ve never belonged to any religious order, but I’ve of course grown up in a culture that has Christian traditions. On the first album Cherno I dealt with some spiritual, religious, or biblical themes, but mostly from the point of view of an atheist. It’s an inescapable part of the world, so you have to comment on it, you have to form some kind of opinion about those issues. I think I’ve made mine clear. I admit that those themes interest me, but I’m not a ”religious” person myself, never have been, and I do believe in the separation of the church and state. Ideology is generally something that needs to be challenged and discussed freely, whether it’s a religious, political, or other ideology. The truth is what matters in the end.
5. Heh, the short answer is that the mainstream media in Finland is mostly repeating the unanalyzed, Western version of the story. Pretty much the opposite of what the mainstream TV and press are saying in Russia. They’re both in the extreme. I’ve been trying to contact people in Ukraine, to hear what they actually hear, see, and do, and I have also tried to read and listen to the stories that both of the extremes are propagating.
Personally, I think both sides, and maybe the West more so than Russia, have failed to address the issues properly. The meddling of the EU and US in the events in Maidan and the overthrow of Yanukovich is very shady, and I think they made a huge mistake in underestimating the consequences in a country that is historically so divided as Ukraine is. The situation escalated out of control very quickly, which was the point when propaganda narratives started to replace the real events, which were of course very difficult to find out about when a country is on the brink of civil war.
As for the joining of Crimea to Russia, well, that’s another riddle. The US is in no place to start criticizing another country for invading. They’ve done it over and over since WW2. And you have to remember that whether it’s constitutional or not, in that situation most of the Crimeans wanted to join Russia and voted for it. Maybe that was also a hasty decision, I don’t know, time will tell, but it’s somehow insane that the leaders in the West didn’t see something like that happening in Eastern Ukraine, where there are a lot of Russian speakers. I’ve been very careful in commenting on the situation, because it is very difficult to find out what’s really happening. What’s sure is that it’s a great tragedy for the whole world. And the way the Ukrainian government reacted against its own people is of course appalling… There should’ve been an international peace-keeping force there as soon as people started dying. We shall see how things turn out later this year.
Narrow House (Ukraine)
Yegor Ostapenko (vocals, bass)
1. The most important thing for us now is the release of Thanathonaut, which was out on Bad Mood Man Music (Solitude Prod. sub-label) on 19th of May. Unlike our first album, which made us known as a funeral doom band, this one has certainly widened the stylistic borders for Narrow House. Using generally accepted genre names, our new music can be described as dark metal. However, I believe this to be a really basic judgment, as we experimented much and added many other genres into the mix, including traditional, stoner, gothic, funeral, and epic doom, along with symphonic, martial, trip-hop, ambient, instrumental, and jazz. Let’s just say I like calling it “apocalyptic doom metal”.
The other interesting thing about Thanathonaut is that we’ve managed to film all the process of recording it and have released all this material in the form of six studio diaries. Each episode is focused on a separate recording phase. I thought that making these would be vital for preparing our listeners for all those changes our music has been through.
Talking about our current perspectives, we continue to promote the latest album. We have already introduced our limited handmade digipack edition of Thanathonaut. There are also some other merch ideas which will probably go public soon. There’s a chance that we will shoot a video for one of our latest songs as well.
2. Thanathonaut gave us an opportunity to create something original in all aspects. I suppose we were also able to develop our own sound with it as well. It has been just a month since the initial release and I’m very pleased that people noticed it. Many talented musicians were working on it and each one of them literally put their souls in it. In other words I’ve got a really great product on my hands that should appeal to a broader audience.
3. “Thanathonaut elects to take a wholly different path, incorporating everything from traditional heavy metal-like guitar riffs, to tinny-sounding saxophone, to a bow’s staccato swipe across a cello. The end result is something of an anomaly and, as a result, pushes doom metal’s envelope as we know it. Because the wartime theme carries across the duration of the album and each song flows seamlessly from one to the other, Thanathonaut feels like an exceptionally well-done concept record.” — The Metal Advisor (USA)
4. My father-in-law is a priest. Sometimes I feel certain appeal to religious topics and tragic religious characters, which find their reflection in my music from time to time. I really like the idea of using church choirs and hopefully I will have such opportunity. In other words, religion serves as another pool of inspiration for me. Talking about the other bands I know, each one of them tends to follow some kind of philosophy which at some point might be connected with religion in a certain way. Can’t judge if it’s good or if it’s it not, as I think that the music comes first. As long as it’s good I don’t really care.
5. Been living in Kyiv for the last 15 years. I’m originally from Kharkiv. All my life I’ve been speaking Russian (I know Ukrainian well, of course). No one had anything against that at any point. There are no fascists here. Politics is what should be blamed for all that is happening here. It always was this way. I don’t recommend watching TV at all, as it’s full of bullshit. Come to Kyiv, Lviv, see everything with your own eyes and come to your own conclusions.
Vin De Mia Trix (Ukraine)
1. These past months we’ve been busy with the upcoming records. First we plan to release a split (although we cannot reveal who else will be featured yet), after which we’ll concentrate on the second album — we are recording demos for it at the moment. We have very ambitious plans for this album, but it will take a lot of time and hard work. Besides that, a couple months ago we played one of our best — in terms of sound, stage lights and performed material — live shows so far, so this is also one of the important events.
2. Our first and so far only album Once Hidden From Sight is something of a report documenting the story of the first five years of the band’s existence. It has introduced us to the international Doom scene and it’s a declaration of our intentions, a first step towards becoming a known and respected band. Of course, it has some flaws, but, as one wise drunk Irishman once said to us, if you are completely and totally satisfied with your latest release, what’s the point in making the next one?
3. There was that one review that called us “Too Artistic”. And although the reviewer used it in a negative sense, we think overall it’s not a bad description at all.
4. We can say that neither Orthodox nor any other church affects our lives. The same can be said about other Ukrainian metal bands we know. But it’s necessary to clearly distinguish the church as a primarily political institution and religion as a social phenomenon. The latter, in turn, shouldn’t be confused with faith or spirituality. We don’t accept the church or religion, but the spiritual component is obviously present in our music. After all, the music itself is immaterial and means very much to each of us, so it clearly has certain spiritual meaning. In the new material we also often turn to mythologies of various religions and symbolism used by them, but in a philosophical and culturological, rather than religious, sense.
5. Living in Ukraine, it’s impossible to stay impartial to what’s happening in the East, but one thing can be said for sure: any death is a tragedy and irreversible loss, so we all hope for the conflict to end as soon as possible. For us as Ukrainians it’s obvious that current tragic events wouldn’t happen if not for a certain neighbouring nation meddling in our internal affairs. But Ukraine will emerge from this fight stronger than it was.
As for the media, we won’t state that Ukrainian press is completely truthful while Russian tells nothing but lies. But the thought that “the truth is somewhere in between” is also too naive. It’s one thing to present the real facts in a certain light, as Ukrainian media often do, but blatantly falsifying the facts or saying that black is white is something completely different.