(With pleasure, we present Comrade Aleks’ extensive interview with Fedor Kovalevsky of the Tunisian extreme metal bands Vielikan and Omination, whose critically acclaimed new album NGR was just recently released by Hypnotic Dirge Records.)
This Tunisian funeral doom-death project offers high quality material. Created in around 2016 by Fedor Kovalevsky (who has Ukrainian roots), Omination consistently developed ’til it became the size of a trio consisting of Fedor at the helm and his bandmates from progressive death outfit Vielikan – Zied Kochbati and Nassim Toumi. With a full lineup and the support of Hypnotic Dirge Records, Fedor presents Omination’s second full-length NGR (New Golgotha Repvbliq), which has been out since the 5th of February.
The last times are upon us! So be forewarned! And don’t forget to take a listen to NGR.
Hi Fedor! How are you? How hard is the quarantine in Tunis?
Hi Aleks, I’m great thanks for asking, hope you are doing well too.
Quarantine is driving people crazy, like everywhere. Businesses tend to collapse, no one is spared. It might be a good thing in the long term. An opportunity for changes and to adapt. Of course, in a third world country, things may sound harder than in other countries. As far as I’m concerned, that is not relevant. Life is hard and tragic. Any level of hardship must be confronted. People are getting crazy because, roughly speaking, they can’t go socialize. I think it’s a good opportunity for people like this, to put them in a forced situation to develop new skills.
I agree that some may sink into bad habits, but that’s the natural course of life and crisis, like sickness, it is weakening a structure and hastening the end of a cycle. I also think it’s a good thing for some businesses to collapse. People are forced to transform themselves through the new era we are entering into.
Actually, it’s Omination‘s main theme, the natural cycle of life and death. A concept dies and gives birth to a new one. You kill a thought to give birth to a new one, preferably stronger than the original one, which ultimately leads to some revelations.
How do you spend your lockdown? Do you have a space to develop some of your skills?
Actually, the lockdown didn’t affect me that much. I always used to live by myself, without having many interactions with people besides my inner circle. I do have my space for the craft and enjoy simple moments of life.
First of all, I’ve checked your Metal-Archives profile, and it seems you played in half a dozen obscure bands which didn’t release anything. What can you tell about this period?
During my early years entering actively in the local metal scene, I contributed to many bands and people with whom I’ve been associated to help them grow their projects, either as a vocalist, interpreter, or as a songwriter. All of these talented musicians I have been associated with have either changed the path of their music style or completely left the craft away. Tunisia is a very harsh environment for metal musicians to strive in this passion. In developed countries, most of the artists are starving if they don’t have a job until they find a proper way to monetize their craft. In the third world, being a musician in metal music might just kill you or drive you literally crazy.
What’s the metal community like in your region? Are people tolerant enough to your way of living?
The majority of Tunisians are not tolerant towards metal music. On top of that, Tunisia is under the influence of Islam. Although, this country has been among the most “tolerant” of Arab countries and this tolerance is often confusing. To give you a picture, there are many bars/pubs, and people drink a lot in Tunisia. Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Islam. But in Tunisia, as long as people don’t drink in the streets / public places, they are not in trouble. If you drink in a “public place”, you get arrested and probably beaten. You are forbidden to buy alcohol from stores during the sacred day, which is Friday, unless you bring a piece of paper to prove that you are not Tunisian or Arab. The funny part is that all bars are opened on Friday, so people get drunk during all Fridays, no problem.
Hopefully, and at least, you can find in Tunisia many live bands that cover Metallica, Nirvana, or other rock music in some bars and pubs. On the other hand, there are no more extreme metal shows, there are fewer extreme metal bands, and fewer extreme metal fans. As we all know, supply creates its own demand.
Omination – NGR (teaser)
As I understand, the progressive death band Vielikan was your first successful effort to enter the extreme metal scene. At least it seems to be active and there are two full-length albums in its discography. How long did you work over it? Do you consider it an active band now?
When I was 15 years old, I formed my first band Death Awakening. A few years later I changed the band’s name to Ethereal Travel and then to Vielikan. Thanks to my association with many musicians throughout the early years, I earned the trust of many extremely talented musicians who were older, more experienced, and way better than me, and to this day I am very grateful that they worked with me on what I wrote for Death Awakening. Thanks to this implication with more experienced musicians, I learned a lot more than I could have during my teenage days and could lead Vielikan with ease.
Unfortunately, as I said, musicians’ devotion to the craft was weak during some of these times because of the unforgivably hard-living in Tunisia, and most of those musicians had to leave their passion and had to look for full-time consuming jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with their craft and ultimately stop their music. Many people realized that crafting metal music in Tunisia is something nearly impossible. Most of the local talents either left the craft or switched metal music to something more accessible.
Perfectly understandable for a modest man with no particular luxury to switch the genre of music or completely leave behind the music. We are talking about surviving here. The economic situation is way more catastrophic than anyone living in a “normal” country could ever imagine, and that was the case way before the pandemic crisis. It has always been the case. Nothing is getting better and ultimately the country will collapse thanks to the pandemic crisis which is hastening the process. Concerning Vielikan, I am at the moment on the final stage of the creative process for the next record.
Didn’t you ever think to leave the country?
I think about it a lot!
I see that you released Vielikan’s recordings DIY. Is it impossible to find a publisher for music like this? Did you have ambitions to see the band on a proper label?
I was forced to learn graphic design, sound recording, video editing, and everything concerning music and video production because I had no choice. Either I learned how to do stuff, or stay doing nothing with no funds to engage people working on the production. Learning these skills for my development in music also made me open opportunities to monetize these skills; right now the profession I occupy is the fruit of my work and devotion in music. I am currently an art director in the creative department of a small company. I would love to be able to live only with my passion, but this is unrealistic.
I highly recommend every young musician to use this strategy; if possible, to find a job that won’t make you starve to death and make sure that the skills you have to develop in this job are intimately linked to your artistic craft; this way you will be able to eat properly, have a roof over your head, invite your girlfriend for dinner, without suffering the consequence of not creating and getting depressed. Creative minds, if they don’t create, they just die from the inside and become resentful towards life.
Since Vielikan’s first album, I have tried to look for a decent publisher, with no success. As mentioned earlier, I am at the moment writing the next Vielikan material and will only release it when I find a good publishing deal.
How expensive is it to run a band for you? Okay, one can record everything at home, but you need at least a minimal set of equipment and instruments.
Roughly speaking, my equipment and instruments all together do not exceed 2k dollars. The most expensive resource I am using is time. Since I have limitations and expenses that can’t be cut off, my strategy is to use the largest possible amount of time I have outside of my current job to spend on everything technical around audio production, working on graphics, videos, the management stuff, etc.
Speaking of time, I am very grateful that I have been working with Hypnotic Dirge on this album. In the past, I had to deal with contacting radios, magazines, webzines, sending press release news, and everything around promotion. With NGR, Hypnotic Dirge is doing this amazing job and that gives me the opportunity to use time on something else. In addition, I have the huge privilege to be associated with two extremely talented musicians who also happen to be professionals in the field. They immediately accepted my offer to join the project after a discussion while listening to NGR. Nessim, the guitarist, is a brilliant cameraman who worked with most of the best local productions. Zied, the bassist, is an accomplished photographer who happens to also own a production company. Being surrounded by high-quality people is the key to the best possible achievement.
I bet it’s nearly impossible to find fans of doom in Tunis, so how was Omination formed? Was it just your solo project from the start?
Exactly, it is hard to find doom metal fans. In fact, it is hard to find any metal fans in Tunisia. The community is tiny. From what I have seen, most of the metalheads listen to all subgenres with some preferences but you will hardly find people who are madly and exclusively following a specific subgenre. Having only something like ten active local bands is not contributing to the culture. The fact is that the more you have local metal bands performing a specific subgenre, the more the quality of songwriters and supporters in the subgenre will be high. We have many good examples worldwide in the history of metal music, and this rule does not apply only to music. It is all about influence. Sadly, at the moment, Omination is the sole doom metal band in Tunisia and, correct me if I am wrong, Omination is the sole active Funeral doom (death) metal band active in the whole African continent.
Like Vielikan and all my beginnings, I started to work on Omination alone and then I invited musicians to bloom the project.
I’ve used advanced search in Metal-Archives, and it shows one melodic doom death band in Egypt and it seems there are a few bands in South Africa. So who knows… What kind of ideas, both lyrically and musically, did you seek to channel through Omination? How long did you shape its sound?
I don’t know, ideas came to me. Somewhere in 2015, I was writing many really slow and depressing songs which I still never released. I was doing something very different than Vielikan and lost myself in a new sonic and sensitive territory. During that period of time, I was in a very bad place, and things went worse in 2016 after some unpleasant things that happened in my life which I was not prepared for at all. That was an “individual apocalypse”. From there, I got a revelation and created something completely new beside Vielikan that focused primarily on this theme, lyrically, musically and visually.
I always was impregnated with the post-apocalyptic culture. When I was a kid, I was a nerd fan of post-apocalyptic movies and especially video games. The religious atmosphere that haunts the music I write in Omination is also part of my childhood, since I had a strong religious education as a baptized Orthodox Christian. I was part of the local Russian Orthodox church choral and also spent a year learning Greek to sing in the local Greek Orthodox church. I always appreciated singing, following their sacred rituals, and enjoyed being part of their community. The local orthodox Christian community was and is composed of good and virtuous people who helped my family during all the hard times we had, and I am grateful that they were part of my childhood.
It didn’t take much time for me to shape Omination’s sound, I just had to decide that everything I was writing during that time would not be associated with Vielikan.
Omination’s debut album Followers of the Apocalypse was released by the Russian label Endless Winter. How did you find it?
I first released the album digitally, then I started to look for someone who could be interested. Surprisingly enough it did not take long for me to find a good deal thanks to the power of the Internet.
The next release was The Whirlpool of Ignorance tape. It’s marked as a full-length album but it contains just a few songs from Followers of the Apocalypse? What’s the real status of this release?
Depressive Illusion offered me to release a tape edition for the debut album Followers of the Apocalypse. Roughly speaking, it’s Followers of the Apocalypse having its key songs condensed for tape format.
Where did you record these songs? How much time did it take from the first recording session to its last stages?
I recorded Followers of the Apocalypse at my place. I don’t remember precisely how much time it took me to record and work on its production. It was something between January 2018 and finishing around March 2018. Usually, when I finish writing an album, it takes me one to three months for its production. But NGR’s production expanded over one year and a half. Commonly when I finish writing songs, I might change a whole melody or rhythm, and even add or remove a whole structure. Better ideas might pop up during the production and one must know how to stop the creative process because it has absolutely no end. That is precisely what happened with NGR; I got trapped with the creative process and took months changing structures, rewriting, re-recording, until I finally decided that I should stop. NGR‘s production process was also cancelled when the pandemic started because I wanted to switch into the writing of The Pale Horseman, which was released in May 2020.
Omination – Necropolis, The Backbone
The single The New Golgotha Repvbliq (2019) and the EP The Pale Horseman (2020) led us to the new Omination album NGR, which is to be released by Hypnotic Dirge in early February. How did you compose this material? Did you set some certain goals before yourself when you started to write the first tracks?
I constantly have melodies and structures floating in my mind. When I wake up, I think music, when I work I think music, when I eat I think music. It is not always a pleasant state of mind, in fact; it is sometimes very unpleasant, and I constantly must listen to some random music or an audiobook to switch off the self-regulating sonic creative process. I always have to write down any ideas that I find interesting and record melodies with my voice memo app on the phone.
Concerning the writing of an album, I just do the thing. There is absolutely no order during the first drafts. If my first drafts are not good for me, I don’t throw them away. I put them in one of the many folders I call “junk” and work on new drafts. These junk folders might be useful one day; good ideas that are not satisfying means that it is not the right time for their development. Once I have some satisfying drafts, I start to visualize where I am. I start to create order in the chaos and understand slightly what am I doing. Only at this point do I have a concrete direction.
You accompany ‘The New Golgotha Repvbliq’ track, which is also present on the new album, with a manifest about “mother nature” and “father culture”. Is it your obituary for the modern world? Do you see yourself as a chronicler of “final days”?
I have learned that all the stories we hear about the end of the world and the apocalypse are teachings to make people aware and be ready for hard times because hard times are coming, no matter where and how you live. Some might survive the apocalypse, but it is better to be ready than getting stabbed from behind, or at least one should craft a defense for the back in order to resist the stab. We all should be aware that hardship is near and therefore we should act for the good, individually. Our modern world is losing the notion of the individual. Our modern world focuses on groups and wants the best for the whole, but that is not what is happening; what is happening is that culture is dying, which I call Father.
Thanks for the interview Fedor! I hope the NGR album will reach more listeners with the help of Hypnotic Dirge. What are your plans for 2021? Do you plan anything at all in the face of the approaching apocalypse?
Thanks, Aleks. Hypnotic Dirge‘s help is priceless indeed. Concerning 2021, I don’t have any special plans besides keeping moving, taking care of life, and always paying attention to the incoming of the glorious end.