Despite the hard to bear lockdown measures in most countries, music activity, either way, finds a way to go on. Voivod remained active during the confinement period, preparing their new EP, “The End of Dormancy”, and working on new ideas. Michel “Away” Langevin, the band’s drummer and one of founding members, was very friendly and kind to inform us about the current Voivod’s issues regarding the forthcoming EP, the next live album and the eagerly-awaited 15th studio album. Though, he didn’t hesitate to share with us some thoughts about the band’s past, present and future, and of course science fiction and Dune, since he’s a genuine sci-fi geek! Read the very interesting interview that follows.

by Alex Nikolaidis


Hello Away, how are you? I hope you are healthy, safe and above all COVID-free.

I’m fine. I live in Montreal, which was hit pretty hard, but I’m confined at home working on several projects, so life is OK and I’m healthy.

The band is due to release a new EP next month, “The End of Dormancy”, which contains a brass version of the title track. Why did you choose to make an alternate version of that specific song from the last album (“The Wake”)?

Well, it started the summer of last year. We were invited by the Montreal Jazz Festival to play a special show and Chewy thought it would be a great idea to invite a brass quintet for the song “The End of Dormancy”. So, he wrote the score for every musician and we performed the song live. The reaction of the crowd was really amazing. When the time came to work on a video for the “End of Dormancy”, we thought it would be interesting to invite the same quintet, which we call “The metal section”, in the studio, to record on top of the original studio track (but just for the video). In the end, we wanted to release both the brass version of the video and the live version of last year’s Jazz Festival on vinyl. Also, we added a live of “The Unknown Knows” from “Nothingface”, performed at the same festival.

The video was actually shot in November last year and we were debating about its release, since we live in very sensitive times due to COVID and many deaths. So we were not too sure if it was a good timing or not, but we decided to proceed as planned because the scenario was pure science fiction. It was a strange timing indeed.

Also, we are mixing a full live album from a show last year in Quebec City. I’m working on the front cover art of this album right now.

At the same time, we keep on being very busy because, even though we are under social distancing, we are writing a new album, sharing dropbox folders. We try to move on, as all Voivod’s concerts have been cancelled this summer. So we just want to remain busy.

How difficult or demanding it is to perform with jazz musicians? It’s something that we don’t see it happening every day.

Actually it was surprisingly easy. We only had one rehearsal and did the song two or three times. Then we did it again at soundcheck. These are very seasoned and professional musicians. They’ve been playing a lot in Montreal with avant-garde jazz outfits. Hence, not only was it easy for them to adapt, but also for us, since we always had a progressive rock approach to our music. So, somehow the Van der Graaf Generator, King Crimson style of Voivod ties with experimental jazz.

“The End of Dormancy” is an extremely peculiar and technical song. The addition of brass instruments gave a more theatrical or cinematic feeling. Do you think that Voivod could compose the soundtrack of a sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie? Have you ever thought about it?

Yeah, we always dream of doing a soundtrack for a sci-fi movie with Chewy’s knowledge of writing music and composing scores for musicians, since he is a music teacher in college and a jazz music teacher as well. His knowledge of the subject would make it quite easy for us to write an interesting soundtrack with lots of dynamics. Chewy did such an amazing job on “The End of Dormancy” with the quintet and I am fully confident that we could do something interesting for a dystopian movie.

Let’s talk about the upcoming album. The band is in the composing process. How’s it going on? Are you satisfied with the process so far? Are there any delays?

Well, the only obstacle for us is that the studio is not available right now due to the pandemic situation. It just opened on June 1st but it’s still really uncertain to go there. It’s a huge building, three floors of heavy metal bands. So we’re not too sure if we should rush to the jam studio right now. Before the lockdown we had already recorded a bunch of improvisations and had started some embryos of songs and we’re trying to build on that right now, sharing files online. As soon as we are confident that we can go back to the rehearsal safely, processes will be accelerated significantly.

On my end, I have a lot of work as I’m using these confinement months to prepare publications of my art, to release more books. There are tones of art on the road and I’m scanning all of that right now. I have a book ready. I’m very busy with publishing material.

The fact that we decided to release a live album, hopefully before the end of the year, is a lot of work for me, just for the layout, and for everybody, listening to the mixes and trying to have the proper balance. It’s a constant work. What we learnt from the situation is that you have to keep going on and doing homework. That’s a new structure and it’s going to be beneficial in the end, because we learn from it.

When do you think the new album will be available? Is it too early to talk about it?

We were aiming at early next year, but I think it’s more probable it will be completed next summer. It depends on what will happen in the next few weeks, because they are putting people out of confinement slowly here. Now everybody’s talking about a second wave. Since the Montreal is the place that’s been hit the hardest in Canada, we are taking small steps right now. Hopefully, if everything goes well, we’ll have the live album available by the end of the year and the new album next spring or summer.

Can you give us a clue of how the new album will sound? Will it be somehow related to “The Wake”, or it’ll be something totally different, exploring new musical landscapes?  

Well, we try not to repeat the same things. These are tough choices, as I feel like I’m back in 1989-90, when we did the very successful “Nothingface”. Everybody was hoping for “Nothingface Part 2” and we did “Angel Rat”, which was a totally other spectrum. These are risky moves that can play against you, but that’s the way we are. Right now, the material doesn’t really sound like “The Wake” at all. We enjoy a lot of success with the “The Wake” and it made the band bigger. We gained a very good momentum. It’s very tempting to go into that psychedelic prog path again and enjoy the same success. But so far it seems like it’s gonna be a bit different than “The Wake”. It’s obvious it’s gonna be experimental again and maybe proggy, because that’s the band right now, but I suspect there will be more post-punk songs, like Killing Joke and staff like that as well. We’ll see!

Do you think that Chewy had a major influence in the band’s sound and way of composing? What are the differences between the Piggy era and Chewy era?

Chewy was able to capture Voivod’s essence perfectly. He comes from a different background than Piggy. Piggy was a lot more old-school and he had a sort of a boogie-metal style. Chewy is more of a surgical, technical metal background. It’s a different approach and makes me play differently. However, when we write songs and Snake adds his vocals, it ends up morphing into a Voivod material. The way Chewy and Rocky play and interact with each other makes Snake and I approach the song a bit differently. In the end, it’s Voivod but with a different sound than the Piggy era. There’s probably a little more fusion in the way now instead of a mixture of prog, thrash metal and punk music. It’s all that, plus some short of a jazz feeling to it. That’s the way I hear it myself. Regarding live, it’s the same old Voivodian mixture of thrash, punk and prog. I feel the same when I play live, but when we write songs I can feel the difference. 

Voivod is a highly technical band. Out of the 14 albums, which one of them has the most difficult and demanding drumming patterns?

I’d say “Dimension Hatröss” or “Nothingface” have the most intricate parts, but I think “The Wake” is at the same level with these albums in terms of difficulty.

Do you listen to other progressive metal bands? Have some new bands drawn your attention?

Gojira! They played in Heavy Montreal two years ago. I thought, I have heard a lot about these guys, so let's check them out. We ended up watching the whole show with our jaws to the floor. They are more in the Meshuggah school and they are really great, popular and very intricate. This band really struck me. I’m very old school and I only become aware of newer bands because we play at lots of festivals around the world. That’s where I see new material. I’m not really familiar with buying CDs or downloading or streaming material from newer bands. I’m very bad at that!

I’d like to ask something about Canadian bands now. In recent years many new bands from Canada have emerged from the underground scene, with a more classic heavy / speed metal sound. All of them have released critically acclaimed albums of high quality. Why does the underground scene of Canada thrive? Is it a matter of tradition, or just a coincidence? Do you have an explanation?

Well, it’s a difficult question. When we started, there weren’t that many bands (Exciter, Razor, Anvil), but the excitement for heavy metal was already there in Canada and in Quebec particularly. All of a sudden, everyone was into the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Venom, Slayer and the newer bands of Metal Blade (which we became a part of) made metal popular very quickly.

Around 1986-87 bands started to form in Montreal. We were rehearsing in a building where most bands were rehearsing at. Half of them were hardcore and the other half were metal. We all hung out with each other and listened to each other through the walls. Crossover, between hardcore and metal, emerged quickly in Montreal. Many bands engaged in technical metal, with a mix of punk and hardcore, and just developed very rapidly. All of a sudden, when we were touring the world, we were meeting bands from Montreal all around the planet, like Cryptopsy, Kataklysm, Gorguts. So, the scene has always been super active here. I don’t know if everything comes from Rush in the 70s, but somehow the Canadian metal is very technical. No matter the background you come from, hardcore, progressive or some short of Canadian technical metal, which has a very good reputation with Annihilator, there is in a way some short of a Canadian sound in heavy metal.

I know you are a sci-fi fan. Are you looking forward for Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune? You may know that he was born in Quebec, as well.

Yes, of course! I can’t wait for the new Dune, but I’m still dreaming of Jodorowsky’s Dune with Magma’s music. I’m trying to imagine it! In the past few years movies have become really mind-blowing due to the high-tech approach of the special effects. I was already a sci-fi fan in the 70s and the early 80s when the first cyberpunk movies were shot, like Mad Max and Blade Runner. These were spectacular for me, but now it’s just insane. If you also have the chance to see a movie, like the remake of Tron, with 3D glasses, it’s just mind-blowing. Now with virtual reality, helmets, glasses and all that, watching movies has become a sci-fi experience. It’s really amazing!

Do you think we’ll see Voivod in Europe again, possibly next year, when conditions will be more normal? Is it early to discuss about this?

As soon as we are allowed to travel and play, we’ll do so. As I said before, the summer shows are cancelled. We do have a European tour planned in the fall that’s not cancelled, but I’m not counting on it right now. We have some Japanese shows as well planned this year, but I don’t know what’s gonna happen with these. Everything is postponed, but as soon as we can get back on the road, we’ll do so. The last 2-3 years we’ve been playing more than ever, with so many shows per year, so it’s strange for us to just stop touring. There is a lot of catching up to do right now, in terms of mixing the live album and writing new material. Thus, we are sort of using the opportunity to catch up with many things. So, the business goes on! We’re not about to stop. In terms of playing live, I don’t know how many years we have still in us, but we can definitely record material for ever. The chemistry between Rocky, Chewy, Snake and I is just wonderful. We enjoy so much success that we just gonna surf on it.

Away, thank you very much for this contact. I wish all the best to you, your family, all band members and the crew. Stay healthy and creative and we’ll be very happy to hear further news from Voivod in the upcoming months.

You will! Thank you!

Thank you! Be creative, be active!

Cheers!

Cheers!

With a killer album (“Sudden Death”) in hand, nothing seems that can stop Horisont. The Swedish hard/heavy rock machine is working to the fullest and Myth of Rock grabbed the chance and spoke with Axel Söderberg (vocals). If you are in search of info about Horisont and their story, you are in the right place!

by Antonis Mantzavinos


Hello Axel and thank you very much for this interview, I appreciate. I come from Athens Greece, now living permanently in Stockholm, but I have seen Horisont playing live in Greece, so I am a big fan of the band. First of all, how are you and the band coping with all this Corona situation? Do you have a permanent job? Do you work from home?

Hello, I am doing fine, thank you, just came back from work. I work as an audiologist, with hearing aids and stuff for elderly people. I don’t have so much work to do these days, so my work is not too hectic I must say. So, the situation of course is difficult for the whole healthcare system of course, but I guess that hearing aids and hearing check is not a top priority for the people right now. But of course this whole period is very frustrating.
About Greece, I remember very well the first gig there, was that the one when we were super drunk?? We had a really great time, we really enjoyed that gig!

We would like to know a few things/details about the writing process of this record, which follows the highly appreciative “About Time”. When and where was recorded? Who contributes to the music, lyrics etc?. Do you have your own studio, or do you rent one?

We have our own studio that we record our albums. We started basically with the first drum track back in 2017, so it was a long process. Both Charlie and Pontus have kids, so we only recorded when we felt liked it and when time allowed us to do so. I don’t think we were on the studio all together at the same time more than once actually, or maybe not even once! I wrote this time around, didn’t pick up the guitars, I wrote the songs on the piano, I am not a good guitarist, so I am very limited so to speak. I played the bass and guitar on the couple of gigs at the very early gigs of Horisont. The songs came a bit different this time. I wrote the lyrics for my songs and Magnus wrote the lyrics for his songs, I changed some stuff not fitting my singing style, but Magnus always delivers finished songs to the band. Because he can play drums, guitars and he always brings us finished demo songs. That is very convenient of course except the cases that we don’t like them! (laughs..) But, I always write a verse and a chorus and maybe have a bridge and then of course the whole band contributes to finish the song, but on this album I did not write the guitars.

What I find very interesting is the hockey theme related cover. What is the story behind that, which I am sure is related also to the title “Sudden Death”. I know that hockey is very popular in Sweden, so I thought about asking more about hos this is related to the band. Does someone play hockey on a professional or amateur level?

We are definitely not Hockey fans! I think Charlie played Hockey when he was younger, but we are not into Hockey. For the second album we thought about a similar cover, but we never made it that way due to various reasons. We just had that idea on the back of our heads the entire time. It’s not the sport, but it’s the fight theme behind the whole thing, and hockey is ideal to do that, so we would not do a football album!

“Sudden Death” to my humble opinion is the reasonable and obvious continuity of the sound from the previous two records, incorporating a lot of AOR elements, beautiful keyboards with a strong early 80s feeling. How does the band draw influence from that era and generally speaking, which are the main influences of the band? How do you relate to that?

For me, the first time I heard “Turn on the Night” by KISS, I said “wow!” and that was it. I said, well, this might be something. And then I started listening more music from the late 70s, early 80s, and I always tried to get the other guys to that stuff. When I tried to convince them about “Nightrider” (from the first album) they laughed at me and said “no, we can’t play like that”. For me it was like trying to get them to play like that, so the first album was like “72”, the second like “73”, the third like “75”, etc. And now we are at “82”, right? (laughs). So, they always laugh at me at first when I present them with the songs to play, and then at the end they agree with me! I’ve always wanted to challenge the people who listen to us, and the people who love the first album, I wanted to challenge them to like some else, something different. The first 2 albums are really straight forward, they sound like early 70s rock. And then I really wanted putting more heavy metal elements because they were few who played like that at that time. For example, I thought about “why not putting more Status Quo for example?”, and other stuff as well. I don’t want people to get comfortable when listening to Horisont. I am sure we have lost some fans over the years, but I don’t care because I want us to play the music we like and enjoy ourselves. I want new people to join in. We are not AC/DC and we can’t play this the whole time.

There is a song with Swedish lyrics “Gråa dagar”, and its not the first time that the band incorporates a song like that. What do you think about that?

I think it’s the last song that I wrote in Swedish, because usually Magnus writes all the songs with Swedish lyrics. He is a fantastic singer and songwriter as well. I like to write songs in English because it sounds better probably and it comes more natural to write in English, at least I think so. Magnus has totally different influences than me, but of course he always writes great songs in Swedish that I absolutely love. We recorded a couple of songs in both languages, but I prefer the English versions.

 

Which city does Horisont come from originally? Is it Göteborg, Örebro, or another one?
The first guitarist Kristoffer and me we come from Karlstad in Värmland, but we moved to Gothenburg around 2004 or something. The other guys come from Gothenburg. We wanted to start a band, and I started with Pontus, Magnus and Charlie, they were playing in a Deep Purple cover band, no vocals, only as an instrumental band let’s say. And they had a keyboard player back then. So, I turned up, there was no one to sing! Another funny thing is that Joakim from Graveyard auditioned for that band as well! Then Kristoffer moved to Gothenburg as well, and we wanted to start a band, like power trio, I always had excellent musicians in all bands. I said “Pontus, you can play drums in my new band”! And then also “Kristoffer, come and join my new band, Magnus, you can play bass”. We needed a second guitar, “Charlie, come to the band please”! Instead of us joining their band, they finally joined our band! 

If you had to choose favorite tracks from your new album, which ones could be and why?
“Archaeopteryx in Flight” (Magnus came up with the idea about that one! Which is so hard to pronounce, not for you of course because you are Greek!) is among my favorites, because its so much fun to play, but then I would say that “Free Riding” because its about a friend of mine who committed suicide, and I really love the song, although he would hate it, he was more into heavy metal than me, and this is an AOR song, but it is definitely dedicated to him.. And I would also say “Hold On”, probably my favorite of the whole album. People who have listened to Styx, probably recognize some of the stuff on that song (laughs..). That is and that is not a progressive song, or an easy going progressive song so to speak.

Do you listen to new music, new bands? Any favorite artists in Spotify or any contemporary music you recently bought?
I really like a Canadian band, Freeways, which just released an album recently, a really good album along with their first EP. And then, I must say I am a big fan of Hot Breath who are also from Gothenburg, with Anton from Hypnos and Jennifer from Honeymoon Disease, a great band. But, probably my favorite (modern) Swedish band of all is Troubled Horse. Ever. I really wish that they could make an album every year!

If you had to describe the path, the way that the band wishes to go in the future, how would you describe that?
I would like to tour more, than we did the last years. This is very important for us, and all bands actually. For example, go on tour for a month and then back home for 2 months and then back again for touring. If I could only quit my day job...! (laughs) We had a really nice online gig a couple of weeks ago, along with Spiders at Pustervik in Gothenburg, it went really well and we all enjoyed it a lot! Even though, physically speaking, we played in front of no one! But, overall I can’t really complain at all!

Last but not least, any special message to the Greek fans, or music fans in general? The floor is yours.
I love Demi Roussos! He is the best singer ever, in the entire universe!
All the best to the Greek fans, cheers till we meet soon again!

 

When an Axel Rudi Pell album comes on your way, you know that it will be a fine heavy metal release, a decent guitar-driven album of melodic metal. The well-respected German guitarist is releasing his new album, the beautiful “Sign of the Times” albums, and our magazine grabbed the chance and spoke with Pell. A very interesting chat follows, as you will witness by yourselves: we covered every significant topic, in an interview about Pell, his band, his new album, his past, present and future. Proceed please!

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos


Good afternoon, Axel! How are you doing?

I am fine, thank you! How are you, Dimitris?

 

I am fine too, Axel! Where do I find you now?

I am at home of course, since no one is allowed to go out due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Isolated at home, like everybody, heh?

Yes, isolated with my wife at home, we are living together normally. We are allowed to get to the super market to get some stuff, but nowhere else, as almost everything is closed.

 

How do you spend your free time at home now?

Just giving plenty of phone interviews, like now, haha! I am also preparing some bits and pieces, nothing really special.

 

Axel, these days you are releasing your new album, “Sign of the Times”. Which are your feelings?

I love the new album, it is great. Unfortunately, we had to reschedule its release due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was due out on April 24 and it was finally released on May 8. Everybody is excited with the new album, especially me, the boys in the band and the record company. We will see how far it goes, but it is a really, really great album.

 

Your previous album, “Knights Call”, was a big success, both artistically and commercially. Do you think that with the new album you will have again the same feedback?

We really hope so! With the last album we reached number nine in the German top 100 album charts, which was something really cool! That album was streamed over two million and a half times over the internet. It was a big success. During the coronavirus times, it is hard to say whether this album will reach the same amount of people or not. There are still people who would like to buy the real CD or vinyl of the new album, all record stores are closed at the moment though – they will have to get it via Amazon or any online record shop. Of course, the new album can be downloaded or streamed … we have to wait and see. I hope that the new album will be successful too, because it is a good record. I believe that “Sign of the Times” is one of the best albums we have done so far!

 

When was the new album recorded and at which studio(s)?

As far as I can remember, it was recorded last year, between November and the end of December, in the Twilight Hall Studio (Grefrath, Germany), which is owned by Blind Guardian. We recorded everything there apart from the vocals – Johnny (Gioeli) recorded the vocals at his house in New York.

 

Is it true that you wrote the new album very quickly?

Yes, yes, the writing process went really fast. I sit down and prepare my demos, this time I was very fast, much faster than I thought before, haha!

 

How do you explain this?

Because the magic was right in the air! When I sat down and put together all my ideas, my guitar riffs, melody lines and stuff, in order to come up with the real songs and record them at home, I felt something special, there was something special in the air, something I can’t describe. I had so many new ideas!

 

In the “Sign of the Times” album you don’t co-operate with producer Charlie Bauerfeind, as you did in your nine previous albums. Why did this happen?

I asked Charlie again to be at the production helm for our new album. He answered me that he would like very much to work with us again, but unfortunately, he couldn’t do it, he didn’t have much time, since he was already booked for the recordings of the new Helloween album, for a five-month recording period with Helloween. He said he couldn’t do it, he was so sorry for not being able to work with us in this new album. However, he suggested that we worked with Tommy Geiger. Tommy works together with Charlie, he is his assistant, they have worked together for bands like Blind Guardian and Helloween. Tommy had also mixed our last live album, the “XXX Anniversary Live” album (2019), and of course, our 25th anniversary live album (“Magic Moments”, 2015). I knew that Tommy is a great engineer, a great mixing guy. When I spoke with him, he seemed so enthusiastic and that’s how the whole thing happened.

 

“Sign of the Times” is your 18th full-length studio album. What does inspire you to compose music and write lyrics after so many albums, after so many years?

I am always writing songs, I still feel inside me the fire and the flame burning for music. I want to go out and show to the people that I still can write songs, which are great, at least I really hope that they are great! That’s what is happening with me, I can’t stop it! I think I will write songs even at the age of 120, if I reach it!

 

I think that your new album is simplier, more song-oriented and your guitar solos aren’t too long and over the top. Do you agree with me?

Yes, absolutely. That’s definitely what I had in mind before we recorded our new album. It is very easy for me to have long songs with long guitar solos, I can stretch my songs, for example I could add five minutes to the title song of the new album, with a big guitar solo in the middle or something. That wasn’t my intention this time. I wanted to keep things straight and not to play more than I need to in every song. So, most of the new songs are compact. I don’t want to show off and prove my abilities as a guitarist. I don’t need to have another long song!

 

One of the songs that I really liked in the new album was “Living in a Dream”. This song has some reggae elements!

You know, the song was originally ready, it was done, completed. Then I said to myself, “OK, the song starts with a guitar, I have so many songs which start with a guitar! I think I’ll go for something special!”. I picked up the guitar and started playing something that seemed to me a bit … reggae! Why do I play reggae now, I wondered and I thought that it maybe was a sign from above, haha! Maybe someone wants me to play that reggae thing, haha! So I decided to write down this reggae part of the song. I called the other guys in the band and told them that there will be a reggae part in the next album, everybody was laughing and thought I was making a joke! “Ahhh, a reggae part, come on, you motherfucker!”, they were saying, haha! Bobby (Rondinelli), our drummer, came to the studio and I told him that we will rehearse a song with a reggae part … he asked me if I was crazy, he thought it was just a joke! We laughed so much, it was so much fun doing it!

 

Let’s go to the lyrics, now. The new songs are more realistic lyric wise, this time they don’t refer to kings, knights and dragons but to social and political issues.

A lot of things have happened to the world these last two years, since the release of “Knights Call”, we’ ve got religion wars, we’ ve got street fights, we’ ve got the climate change of our planet, so many different things … I thought to myself that it was time to write some more serious lyrics, so I did it. Of course, not all the songs of the album are about these things, there are a few songs about love, friendship and relationships in general.

 

In the cover of the album, we see a clock and the time is two minutes after midnight. Why is that?

Yes, it is a little too late for the world, because of all these things that are happening at the moment. Let’s see what we can do about it for the rest of the time.

 

Axel, this is your band, so I am wondering which is the contribution of the rest of the guys in the band to the songs.

Of course, they also contribute, they are playing on the album, haha! But, to be honest, they don’t have a big input, because I write everything before we enter the studio, I play all the instruments by myself and I am writing the songs at home. Of course, everybody has his own contribution, for example Bobby, who is one of the top drummers of the world. When he gets to the studio and I present him with a new song, he usually says, “Wow, I know exactly what you want me to play there!” and he starts playing the groove! Everybody has something special to give, as they are all very good musicians, you know. Even Ferdy (Doernberg), the keyboard player, when he is listening to a new song of mine, always asks me if he can change the melody at some point of the song. I think that’s very cool for our band.

 

Let’s say that you decide to play an album of yours in its entirety on a certain live show. Which album would you choose and why?

No! Definetely no! I hate the live concerts, where bands play all the songs of one of their albums, I would never do it! An album is an album, it represents a certain period of my life at a different time. Why should I repeat it now in complete? I don’t see any reason for that. When we go out on a tour, we play at least four-five tracks from our new record and then some best of songs from our past. Sometimes we select to play songs, which we don’t play usually live, like last year in our 30th anniversary tour, when we played the song “Voodoo Nights”! It comes from our “The Masquerade Ball” album (2000) and we have never played it before live. There are rimes that we want to surprise our fans by choosing some different songs that we don’t play live that often.

 

Who are your favorite guitar players of all time?

My favorite guitarsts? … Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Jimi Hendrix, … I have to think … Uli Jon Roth and Eddie Van Halen.

 

You have your birthday in June. You are turning 60 years old.

Well, the conversation is over, bye bye! Hahahaha!

 

Haha! Which would be the perfect birthday present for you?

Unfortunately, no presents at all, since we are living in the Coronavirus times and there isn’t going to be a big party, everything is closed, haha!

 

What about your upcoming tour, Axel?

We had to reschedule the first part of the tour, due to the pandemic, so it won’t be happening at all. It would start now, but it is impossible, so we schedule it for April 2021. There is the second part of the tour, which has now become the first part, and it will take place in October-November 2020. However, we don’t know if we can do it, since the German government announced that no show will be allowed until the end of August, nothing will happen at all, that’s for sure. So, I don’t have a clue … we want to get out and play again, but we will have to wait and see, I can’t tell you at the moment.

 

Your message to the Greek fans?

I really hope that we will be able to play two or three shows in Greece some time. I have been on several vacations in Greece, our bass player, Volker Krawczak, visits Greece three or four times every year, he loves to be in your country. My favorite food is the Greek cuisine, unfortunately, I can’t go to a Greek restaurant now, all are closed, because of this fucking virus, you know. Eventually, in a couple of months, a little light might appear on the sky and everything will be OK again, everything will get to normal again. Stay healthy!

 

OK, Axel, thank you very much!

Thank you, bye bye!

We are living difficult times, as the coronavirus outbreak has forced most countries to take strict lockdown measures. During the home isolation, Firewind’s new album, “Firewind”, came as a gift from god. Guitar hero Gus G (ex-Ozzy Osbourne) and his Greek legion are punctual at their rendezvous with the heavy/power metal fans all over the world, offering us good new music. Myth of Rock met Gus G via Skype, since both the magazine’s editor and the Greek guitar master were self-quarantined at home, and a nice, interesting interview took place. We had a lot things to talk about – members out, members in, new album, old tours, new tours, power metal etc. And yes, we also referred to Ozzy Osbourne!

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos


Hello, Gus, I am Dimitirs, how are you doing?

I am fine, Dimitris, thank you. I am at home now.

 

So you are in Thessaloniki, Greece. Are you at home, because of the lockdown in Greece, due to the coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, of course.

 

How are you spending your free time at home?

Well, things are pretty good at home until now, haha! … Look, I usually stay at home, when I am not travelling for business, for example. I just sit back and relax, with my wife and my cats! We exercise a lot, we watch movies, stuff like that.

 

Do you listen to any albums, new releases or classic albums?

Hmmm, not so much … Of course, I listen to some music, especially on Spotify, but I mainly write down some music ideas, I always come up with new riffs and stuff. On the other hand, this week I had been very busy with the promotion of Firewind’s new album, and interviews, I don’t have any free time right now, this week. I have a job to do right now, haha!

 

What’s your opinion about the lockdown?

I agree with this lockdown, of course, it is something that has to be done. To be honest, I had smelled the whole thing from the beginning, when the new coronavirus hit China. I understood that all this was serious, as soon as I heard the first news from China. I was watching all the posts on Twitter, all the available videos. Besides that, I recently established a new company with guitar magnets – the factory, where these magnets are manufactured, is in China and it was locked down during March. People from the factory were telling me how serious were things there, so I was sure from the beginning that this virus may also come here in Europe and that the government may have to take this quarantine measures. I am happy that here in Greece all the strict measures were taken from the very beginning, before it was too late. We see that the virus infected cases are at a low level, if we compare the situation here with the situation in other countries. Let’s hope that the number of the cases stay low and this will end soon.

 

Yes, hopefully! Gus, Firewind recently toured with Queensryche. How was this experience for you, touring with this iconic metal band?

Yes, we toured twice with Queensryche, firstly last summer and secondly, last November, these tours went really well and all the shows were great. For me, touring with Queensryche was a dream that came true, because I grew up with Queensryche - they belong to the classic metal bands and here in Greece, it is essential to listen to Queensryche, everyone who has a “metal” education should listen to Queensryche! There is no chance that you go to a Greek rock club for a drink and you won’t listen to Queensryche at a certain point! It was a great experience to tour with Queensryche, they treated us very well, I can say that these guys are possibly the best guys we have ever toured with. They were cool with everything, there was no ego and the typical behavior that you usually come across, when one band is the headliner and the other the support act. There was a total respect, to the point that we were telling them “OK, guys, thank you, you don’t have to be so kind!”.

 

Let’s go now to Firewind’s recent line-up changes – Bob Katsionis (keyboards, guitar) and Henning Basse (vocals) aren’t anymore members of the band. What has happened?

I will  continue from where we just left the conversation, from the recent tours with Queensryche. Although the shows were great, there was tension inside the band, there were strained relationships inside the band during all this period. What is more, all the music had been composed and all the guitars and drums had been recorded in the summer (2019). All these months though, until December, no vocals were recorded and I didn’t see any desire, neither from Bob nor from Henning.

 

Really?!

Yes … On the other hand, it was obvious that Bob had a hard time with some things. So, from all these and from conversations that we all made, I was beginning to understand that the team wasn’t going anywhere, at that certain point. There were some more conversations, I made my thoughts and we agreed not to continue together. I could see that Bob wanted to focus on his music productions, on his recording studio, all the things he is doing, I could see that all these activities satisfied him more, he didn’t want to travel that much, he had enough of it all these years, I can understand him. It was the best for both sides to end it here, I didn’t want Bob to be unhappy, I didn’t want both of us to be sad, so sometimes it’s necessary that we go on separate roads.

 

And what about Henning?

The same happened with Henning. He was facing some minor health problems, which somehow distressed him a little, he didn’t know, if he would continue and for how long he would continue. Anyway, we had to make this conversation, and when we returned from our last tour, I made my decision, it was obvious that this couldn’t continue any more, it was almost impossible. Unfortunately, I was the one who should make this decision. It was a decision which was connected with a bigger decision – what should I do? Should I continue with Firewind, at any cost, making all the necessary decisions and all the line-up changes or should I end Firewind?

 

Ohh, you had even the thought of dissolving Firewind?

Yes, this thought came to me.

 

So, what kept Firewind alive?

I think that I still have things to say, things to offer with this band. And Firewind’s new album proves that. I knew that we had a really good new album on our hands – as I told you before, when I made up my mind about the line-up changes, the new album was already written and partially recorded. I knew that we could overcome these changes as a band. So, if Firewind deserves a final effort, this new album should be this effort. I believe it is a very good effort. On the other hand, this is my band! This is the band I started, when I was a boy! Others may consider their band as another job they just should do, a job they would get rid of, because they are bored. I understand that, people change. Firewind has always been a big part in my life, so … , it isn’t something that you can easily dissolve.

 

How is your relationship now with Bob and Henning?

Our relationship is very good! I was talking with the guys the day before yesterday, haha! The most difficult point has passed, the difficult point is when you have to make some important conversations. We are very good friends, especially Bob is almost a family to me! We were almost sixteen years in this group! I know Henning very well too, although he had been an external partner, a touring member. He had been in Firewind since 2007, he has sung with my solo band too, we are friends all these years. As soon the aforementioned conversations were made, as long as things got clear and everyone chose his next step, there isn’t any problem, there isn’t any reason not to have a good relationship.

 

Herbie Langhans is the new singer of Firewind. How did you come in contact with Herbie?

Firewind’s label, AFM Records, brought me in contact with Herbie. When Firewind’s last tour was finished, I spoke with the label guys, I informed them about the line-up changes, and they told me about Herbie. They sent me some links to listen to him. Although I didn’t know him as a name, when I listened to Sinbreed, I remembered him. The first time I had listened to him was in 2013, when Sinbreed was getting more popular, and I was impressed by his voice. I had even then thought that he would be perfect as Firewind’s singer.

 

How would you describe Herbie’s voice to the ones, who may haven’t heard of him before?

Well, Herbie has a special vocal tone. We have also written in our Press Release that Herbie may remind some people, who are familiar of Firewind from the very beginning of its career, of our first singer, Stephen Fredrick. Indeed, Herbie is somehow reminiscent of Stephen, they both have a raucous voice. I personally have some likes and dislikes, as far as voices in rock and metal are concerned, I like certain voices, certain voice styles. All the singers we had in Firewind had their own personal style, but all of them had some common characteristics in their voice. I think that Firewind differs from most bands of the power metal genre, most power metal bands have a common style of singers, they all sound the same, you know, haha! I believe Herbie has a special voice.

 

Is Bob going to be replaced?

No.

 

And how are the keyboard parts going to be performed on stage?

There will be pre-recorded tracks of keyboards in our live shows. I believe that things will now be somehow easier with these keyboard tracks, because there had always been a “worry” in some songs, which featured small guitar parts and small keyboards parts or didn’t feature such parts. I mean, we, Bob and me, even then, had discussed the possibility of using pre-recorded keyboard tracks on stage, so that Bob is concentrated on his rhythm guitar parts. There had been these conversations and now that Bob isn’t in the band anymore, we are ready to realize these plans, as far as the keyboard parts are concerned. I think that I can reset our songs on stage, so that they sound the way I like.

 

Firewind has a new singer and a new album. Do you believe that a new chapter opens in Firewind’s book?

Yes, that’s what I want to believe.

 

How would you like this chapter to be/to sound?

Musical wise?

 

Yes.

Look, I am satisfied with our new album. I believe that the “Firewind” album represents where Firewind is right now, musically speaking. The chemistry between the way I compose, the sound of my guitar riffs and Herbie’s voice, is undeniably strong, I believe that we are at the point where we should be. I am absolutely satisfied, I believe that the new album has a great variety, it contains elements from our past albums, without copying certain songs, you know. In the new album you will find classic heavy metal elements, power metal elements, some speed metal parts, some hard rock parts, the big ballads, the production also sounds more modern than before. This new album combines all the essential elements! I would like to continue that way, but I don’t know what kind of songs will I come up with in two, three years from now, I don’t know which project will I have then on my mind. Time will tell. I believe that now we are at a very good point right now.

 

I always believed that Firewind where are the cross point of classic hard rock, traditional heavy metal and power metal. I assume that you agree with me!

Yes, I agree! Songs like “All my Life”, “Space Cowboy” have hard rock elements, the song “Rising Fire” is a hard rock song, but at the same time, we are much heavier than a hard rock band. Well, we are a metal band. But we sound too much hard rock to be power metallers, haha!

 

Why did you decide to name the new album simply “Firewind”?

I think that after all the things that happened, it was logical to do so. Our philosophy was to make a restart, a makeover. It was like saying, “… I started this band at my twenties, if I restarted this band at my forties, how would I like this band to sound now?!”. I thought about everything, I put all the clues on the table, and I chose our new album to be our eponymous one. I took into account that we are a quartet again, that we have such a voice again. This was our approach, we made a reboot and this was the right album to be our eponymous one. We did that on our ninth album, since we hadn’t named our debut “Firewind”, haha!

 

How do you see now the previous Firewind album, “Immortals”?

I still like it very much, I believe it is one of our strongest albums. It didn’t have the commercial elements, the hit songs that our older albums had, for example “The Prominition”, however, the “Ode to Leonidas” song is a classic Firewind track, an important moment on our setlist. “Immortals” was a strong release, from its first to the last note.

 

Did you compose all the tracks of the new album?

 Yes, except one song, “Orbitual Sunrise”, which is co-written by me and Bob Katsionis. That song came from one of the music ideas that Bob had sent to me. All the other songs are composed by me.

 

What about the lyrics of the new album?

 This time I also wrote some lyrics, I had many years to write lyrics. Three new songs have my lyrics, “Rising Fire”, “Break Away” and “Perfect Stranger”.

 

I know that three of the new songs are lyrically connected. Can you give us some details?

Yes, there is a sci-fi concept story in three of the songs, in “Orbitual Sunrise”, “Longing to Know You” and “Space Cowboy”. The idea came to me, when I was discussing with Herbie about the new songs and the subjects of their lyrics. I told him about the story I had on my mind, and he started writing about this space cowboy, this astronaut in every song! So, I asked him for more details, and he answered me that he had come up with a bigger story, a concept – how was this astronaut watching Earth, nature, humanity and our emotions from his spaceship, through his eyes while alone in space. What I like most in this sci-fi trilogy is that the lyrics are again sociopolitical, they refer to human emotions and not to a space trip of the astronaut, to his space odyssey perhaps, haha! It is very interesting to see which are the feelings of a person who is up there.   

 

Very interesting! The new album production is yours, Gus?

Yes, I produced the album.

 

To what things did you pay attention, during the production process?

First of all, I would like to note that I had a partner in the album’s production - Dennis Ward was the co-producer again. I wanted to pay attention to the drums sound, I liked very much Dennis Ward’s drums productions, so we went to a German studio (Hofa Studio), where Dennis usually works, we recorded the drums there. In general, I didn’t want the songs to be loaded with several tracks, I wanted them rawer, but at the same time not totally naked. There are various tone colors like in the previous albums, there are many layers in the vocals and the guitars. The final mix was very important, it was done by Tobias Lindell, who gave us a very powerful, punchy and big sound. I also like Tobias’ work, because the sound isn’t plastic, like in many new metal releases. The mastering was done in Sweden.

 

You have a scheduled North American tour with Symphony X and Primal Fear for May and June. How are you feeling about it? (editor’s note: when the interview took place, we had no news about the Symphony X tour with Firewind and Primal Fear, which was finally  postponed, due to the coronavirus pandemic).

Let’s see what is going to happen, I don’t know. Currently, we can’t even get our visas, because the American Consulates are closed. I wonder why there is no announcement yet about this upcoming tour. I am eager to see which will be the final announcement of Symphony X, since they are the headliners.

 

Apart from what will finally happen, are you happy that Firewind will tour with Symphony X, this classic prog/power band?

Yes, of course, I always wanted Firewind to tour with Symphony X, of course we aren’t a prog metal band, but I always admired them. I believe we would be a perfect touring pack! It would another great tour for us! Let’s see what will finally happen. Hopefully, if the tour is cancelled, it will take place some time later.

 

Yes! May I ask you two Ozzy Osbourne questions, Gus?

Yes, of course!

 

Have you listened to the new Ozzy album, “Ordinary Man”? Do you like it?

Yes, I listened to it and I like it. I think it has many good moments, what I like the most is that the album is very emotional. Ozzy expressed his emotions through the lyrics and his performances. Of course, two or three songs of the new album are excellent.

 

A hypothetical question. What would you do, if Ozzy asked you to rejoin his band?

I would surely accept his invitation! I would like to play again with Ozzy! I miss all the times with him, the tours we made, everything! All these moments were happy, but, you know, all this thing was more of a Zakk Wylde thing, he has been twenty years with Ozzy. I am not here to take anyone’s place, it is Ozzy’s decision what will he do and who will be his guitarist. To be honest, I believe that my time with Ozzy has finished, what was going to happen has already be done, it isn’t possible that something like that may happen again. Besides that, I think that I have already gained everything I had to gain from all this thing. Ozzy has already given me everything he had to offer me, and he gave me so many things! I thank him so much.

 

Finally, Gus, I would like you to send a message to all the fans, who stay at home during these hard times!

Please, stay at home, until all the cases, all the victims fall down to zero, until we get rid of this virus. It is difficult for everybody, but we have to do this. We are living in hard times, we have to be positive. We have at least music to keep us good company!

 

Thank you very much for your time and answers, Gus!

Thank you!

 

Jim Mutilator (ex - Rotting Christ, ex - Varathron)is back to action after many years with his new band, Yoth Iria. However, we are talking about the great return of the unholy ancient gods, since vocals in Yoth Iria come from Morbid (aka Magus Wampyr Daoloth, Necromantia, Thou Art Lord, ex - Rotting Christ). Myth of Rock was thrilled with Mutilator's new venture and came in contact with him. Our conversation covered a lot of subjects - we talked about the past, the present, the future. Yoth Iria's "Under His Sway" will be out soon, behold the art of darkness - Metal. Magic. Freedom.

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos

We are in 2019, and after many years, you are active again in the music business. Which are your feelings?

I am feeling good, since it is something that I have missed so much. I was working my new songs for many years, I had a lot of ideas and many of these ideas became songs - I have songs that would fill two separate albums. I believe that I also have a right in music and it was at least necessary for me to release these new songs and let people listen to them. Of course, I have never stopped being in the music field all these years – I was working in the Metal Era record shop,  and above all, I have always been a fan of heavy metal music, since my first childhood memories. Music has always been there for me, I was and still am listening to music albums most of the day, heavy metal albums – I was born a heavy metal fan, I will die as a metal fan! At the same time, especially the years when I was living outside Athens, due to family coincidences, and I had isolated myself in a village at Grevena, I spent many hours composing music. I had always a lot of influences as a music composer and a lyrics writer, even from the first days with Rotting Christ – I love writing music and lyrics.

 

How would you define the new songs you have composed the last years. Is it black metal, is it extreme metal, in general?

Well, I am not the one who shall answer this question. I believe that my music has never been only extreme, only black metal, on the contrary, it always had elements from all the different genres of metal. That was also the case with Rotting Christ, too. I don’t think that Rotting Christ, in “Non Serviam” and “Thy Mighty Contract”, when I was in the band, had the extreme, black metal sound that the bands from other countries had. We were playing a mix of heavy metal and black metal. I still don’t have a certain prejudice, when I am writing new songs, I think that they belong in that heavy/black metal style. Of course, there are some more modern elements, I think though that my songs remind mostly this period of Rotting Christ.

 

These new songs will be released under the moniker of Yoth Iria?

Yes.

 

In Yoth Iria you play the bass.

Yes, I play the bass and I write the music and the lyrics.

 

Let’s talk about the lyrics. Where do your lyrics refer to?

Most of my lyrics relate with the occult, with nature and with some personal experiences. Of course, some lyrics will be written by George Zacharopoulos (aka Magus Wampyr Daoloth), whose lyrics are darker.

 

What does inspire you to write music and lyrics?

 My inspiration comes from anything, I think. From our childhood, from what we experienced when we were younger, from what happens around us now, from what we listened to in the past and what we are listening at the present time, really everything, I think that everything may affect you. Many times ideas come to my mind, I just grab my bass or my guitar and start writing.

 

The first release of Yoth Iria will be …

… an EP, with two new songs, and a cover of “Visions of the Dead Lovers” (Rotting Christ), well, not exactly a cover, more like a re-recording of the song. It is a song that I like very much, it is underrated, not to many people know it, and I think that there should be a re-recording with a modern production.

 

When did you start the recordings of this EP?

Recordings began this winter, at the Pentagram Studio with George Emmanuel as the producer, George Emmanuel is now in Lucifer’s Child, he had been also a guitarist of Rotting Christ. We are almost done, what’s left are George Zacharopoulos’ vocals and the mastering. We have already recorded 8-9 songs, and soon our first release will be ready.

 

Who will be responsible for the mixing and mastering of this first release?

George Emmanuel will be responsible for both the mixing and the mastering.

 

Who did the cover of the EP?

 The cover artwork is done by an artist from India! His name is Harshanand Singh, it’s a rather difficult name to remember, haha!

 

In Yoth Iria you are working together again with George Zacharopoulos. How did you decide to team up with him again?

 Well … I was in search of a singer for this new band. We have worked again together in the past, we are close friends for many many years, since we were kids. In the beginning I hadn’t thought of George Zacharopoulos, because he is too busy, but to be frank with you, many people, also friends from foreign countries, told me to ask George. Finally, although I knew George is too busy, I asked him to join the band. Firstly, he was a bit hesitant, but when he listened to the tracks, he liked them and told me: “I dig the songs, let’s go!”.

 

Is George Zacharopoulos going to be a permanent member of Yoth Iria?

Yes, yes, I hope he will be a permanent member, yes.

 

You didn’t tell me the rest members of the band, apart from you and George Zacharopoulos.

When the EP will be ready, I will then look for some other musicians in order to fill the line-up of Yoth Iria. As for now, I have spoken with some guitarists, some other musicians, but nothing is final yet. When the EP will have been released, we will soon then announce the other members of the band.

 

Are you going to tour as Yoth Iria?

We will see, we will see, it is too early now to say something about a tour. We must firstly release the EP, we must find a record company and then, if there is an interest for us, we will tour.

 

You have announced that Repulsive Echo Records will release the EP. You have agreed only for this release or are you going to cooperate also for other future releases?

Well, the guys from Repulsive Echo are very supportive, they try to help us as much as they can, from every aspect. It is rather early to say something about what will happen in the future, we will firstly release the EP and then we will see what happens next. We will always be friends with the guys from Repulsive Echo, we will always have them by our side.

 

Apart from Yoth Iria, you are also a member of Medieval Demon. Are you a permanent member of the band, or is it an one-album cooperation?

That is up to the guys from Medieval Demon. We are friends, I know them since 1993, when they visited me and Sakis Tolis at Storm Studio, at Exarcheia (Athens, Greece). They recorded their demo there, plus some other stuff. Many years later they came again to me and asked me if I wanted to participate in their album – I have already recorded my parts for this album. We will see how this cooperation will progress in the future, Medieval Demon don’t tour, they don’t have many obligations as a band. If they want me again for another album, I am available for them for another album. That’s what we have agreed, but we will see what the future brings.

 

Let’ s sum up; new album with Yoth Iria, new album with Medieval Demon, you also played a session live with Kawir at the Darkness Guides Us Festival in late November – do you feel you are making a strong come back?

It is difficult to say … we are in 2019 and people have listened to almost everything, there are so many bands and so many skilled musicians, I don’t think I came here again to invent something new! I am basically doing whatever I really like, that is very important for me. I hope that the Yoth Iria EP will be fine and that most of the people will like it. After that, let’s see what happens!

 

You are widely known as one of the founding members of Rotting Christ, their first bass player, but here in Athens, Greece you are also known as the owner of the Metal Era record shop.

Yes, I had this record shop from 1994 until 2009.

 

So, you were selling records and was constantly in contact with the Greek metal fan/listener. Can you tell us please, which are the characteristics of the Greek metalhead as a record buyer and listener?

I will be frank, the times when I owned Metal Era record shop were nice for everybody here in Greece, in social and financial terms. People were purchasing very, very much, many metalheads were buying ten CDs or vinyl records per week, they were buying T-Shirts, etc. I am very happy, as I learnt a lot of good people as Metal Era owner, I made so many good friends there, not only from Greece, but also from all over the world – many people from abroad were visiting the store, don’t forget that the first years also Sakis Tolis had been working there too. I can say with certainty that Greek metalheads are the best guys … ehhh, not everybody was perfect, but generally none of us is perfect. I had experienced so many good things in Metal Era, we were chatting, we were drinking beers together, we were having a great time … I learnt so many people there, people, who loved music, for whom music isn’t just a hobby, but a way of life, people like me! Despite the arguments and the differences among the metalheads, there is a solidarity among the metal fans. I also believe that most of the metal listeners are special people, with their own characteristics, their own way of thinking and expressing themselves. That’s why most of us like this special kind of music.

 

Jim, you were also an editor in the Heavy Metal Cosmos web magazine.

Yes! Unfortunately, this webzine isn’t online now, I was writing there and I have reviewed a lot of records, I have written various articles and stuff. Heavy Metal Cosmos doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t even have archives of what I had written.

 

How did you feel, to be a musician and a record reviewer at the same time?

I really liked to make reviews, honestly! When I listen to a new record, I always want to make my mind, to have my own opinion. On the other hand, some people were telling me that I was too lenient and I made always good reviews! In general, I believe that in metal music, there may be some records that don’t fit everybody’s taste, but there is always a high quality. Heavy metal music has progressed so much, there are fantastic musicians, who are much better than me, technically speaking, musicians who study very much … So, when I listen to a CD, I always and immediately make my mind, if I like it or not and why, etc., even if I don’t write any words on a paper. When I had the opportunity to write a review, I did it with pleasure. Believe me, I had written a lot of reviews!

 

As we said before, you were a founding member of Rotting Christ. What do you remember from the early days of Rotting Christ?

Back then in the mid 80s I had formed with Sakis Tolis a band, called Black Church, we were so young then, and we played heavy metal, influenced by the big heavy metal bands of the 80s and the bands of New Wave of British Heavy Metal. We made covers of Rainbow, U.F.O. etc. and composed some tracks, nothing special, in the typical heavy metal style with some extra elements from Venom and Celtic Frost. We then listened to Carcass, Napalm Death, we moved to the extreme metal sound and changed our name to Rotting Christ. That happened in 1987 – 1988 … what else can I say about the beginning of Rotting Christ, huh, we were teenagers then, at the age of sixteen – seventeen, Sakis was younger than me, Themis Tolis was even younger … it was a nice time back then, although we didn’t have the equipment that others in other countries had, for example in Norway, where most of the people had a high standard of living, a music education in school, they could afford buying new music instruments and technical equipment. Things were too difficult for us then, we were three kids from the poor neighborhoods of Nea Ionia, Athens. We had to work in the construction to be able to buy an instrument, Sakis was forced to steal money from his mother to buy a guitar, Themis’ drum kit was of poor quality, just enough for a decent rehearsal. We had so much passion and love for what we were doing though … Although I left Rotting Christ in 1996 and I offered significantly to the “A Dead Poem” album, I feel I have never left from the band, I feel Rotting Christ is a great part of myself, I feel I am a member of Rotting Christ, even if I am not actually playing with them! I always stand by the guys!

 

Why did you leave Rotting Christ?

Well, it was a tough time back then, I could not live by the band, and good or bad, I had two children in the age of 21 years old. As you can understand, I was too stressed to be able to raise these two children. Sakis was aware of this and showed understanding. Just think that at the period of “Triarchy of the Lost Lovers”, we had to be on the road across Europe for one month, we then travelled to Mexico, where we stayed for fifteen days, after that we were playing in festivals. It was too difficult for me to leave my day job and not to have money for my children. There was a great pressure on me.

 

You told me that you feel you never left from Rotting Christ. Did you ever think to get back to the band as a full member?

We can’t make now this conversation, what I thought or what I didn’t think has no meaning, no significance. Rotting Christ have got their own way, they have progressed so much, they have changed level, you see?

 

You had been also a member of Varathron, another great band of the Hellenic black metal scene.

Yes, Varathron have also released some significant albums, they were formed by me, Spiros Papanastassatos and Stefan, the voice and soul of Varathron, since then, because all three of us wanted to play something more in a doom/black metal style, we wanted to express some other feelings that we had. Especially Spiros, the drummer of Sound Pollution, and generally a musician of the Greek hardcore/punk scene, felt he had the need to play something darker, something in a black metal style. So, some day he asked me if I wanted to make with him a black metal project, he had some black metal ideas and feelings he wanted to express. We sat together with Stefan, who was in the same state of mind, and Varathron were formed in 1988 – 1989.

 

I would like you to compare the early days of Hellenic black metal in the mid-90s and the contemporary Hellenic black metal in 2019, amidst the financial and social crisis in Greece. When was it more difficult?

I think that it was more difficult back then in the beginning, because now, even we all live in the crisis, we have the internet, the social media, it is much easier for a band to publish and promote its music, young people are people with music technology, there are many studios with great, modern equipment. Nowadays there are so many abilities and services. I believe that now things are easier than in the mid-90s. Back then we couldn’t find a proper studio to record our stuff, most of the studios couldn’t produce our sound, that’s why our early productions were more underground, we couldn’t find a sound engineer! That’s why we had then the idea to buy some equipment from Molon Lave Records, in order to establish our own studio. We thought we could contribute to the establishment of the Greek sound and the Greek scene.

 

An incident that shocked the Greek metal scene was the cancellation of the Rotting Christ live show in Patras, Greece, due to religious reasons. What do you think about the whole issue?

These things are unacceptable in the year 2019, it is irritating not to be able to express yourself the way you want. No one can force you to go and see a live show that you are not interested in or a live show that makes you upset. Everybody who doesn’t like Rotting Christ, may not attend their concert and turn his/her back to them. No one can stop the audience of Rotting Christ, all the listeners of black metal from going to the concert of their favorite band, no one can stop their artistic expression, no one can stop them from taking part in an artistic event. I don’t know how this is going to sound, but I can tell you with certainty that guys like Sakis and Themis have a better soul and much more love in their heart than many Christians! I am telling that without any anti-Christian empathy, I don’t have anything against Christianity. I know that a lot of Rotting Christ fans are Christians.

 

Which are your influences as a bass player?

 My biggest influence, already as a child, was Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. There are so many bass players that I love, for example Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, etc.), he is an awesome bass player. I am also influenced by guitar players too, good music is good music. I would like to mention that what’s important for a musician isn’t only his technique, how he plays, but also his feeling. Butler and Harris expressed so many feelings.

 

Which are the artistic aims of Yoth Iria? What do you want to contribute to the (Greek) heavy metal scene?

I don’t want to contribute something special, I don’t have a certain aim, everything has been achieved and contributed in the world. I am a composer, and I believe that there are some people who would like to listen to my new music. I don’t want to contribute something.

 

OK, Jim, thank you very much for your time and your answers! Would you like to say something to the Greek heavy metal fans?

I am very proud to be a part of the Greek metal scene. Heavy metal is magic and freedom.


YothIria.Bandcamp.com

Photo: Dayal Patterson (Cult Never Dies)

 

One of Sweden's most distinguished and skilled guitarists and song writers, Robert Pehrsson is back again in the spotlight with the "Out of the Dark" album of his solo outing Robert Pehrsson's Humbucker. Perhsson has been a member of several bands, such as Runemagick, Thunder Express, Death Breath, Dundertåget, Imperial State Electric, Slingblade and Dagger, a proof of his diversity as a musician. Even if it's just rock or death metal, Pehrsson demonstrates with delicacy and finesse all his passion for guitar driven music. Myth of Rock had the chance to speak with Pehrsson a few days ago, and you can read our discussion right below.

by Antonis Mantzavinos

Hello Robert, I hope all is well with you. The new album is absolutely great and I can’t wait to see you playing live the new and old songs of course. Tell us a few things about the writing process, your inspirations, the people who have contributed, etc.

Thank you! I went to my studio and wrote every day for about 6 weeks. I was very focused and it was a lot of fun. Joseph Tholl, Andreas Axelsson and Tobias Egge also contributed to the writing. I always like to have more people writing, it keeps things more interesting. But I wrote the major part of the material as usual. I get a lot of inspiration from life itself. Also books and movies and of course music. But mainly from just living life and everything that comes with that.

You have always been busy with different bands, projects etc. How do you manage being so active in terms of time and availability? Do you have a full or part time job?

I have worked a part time job for the last 12 years. I wish I had more time, to be honest. It's really hard to make a living only playing music so I have to work also, so that eats up a lot of time that I rather spent making more music. I basically spend all my free time on music and not much else. it's the only way to get the things done that I want to accomplish.

Tell us a few things about this awesome album cover, the story behind and how did you come up with that awesome idea.

I wanted this sort of album cover since the first album. A painting, like Rainbow Rising or Dio - Holy Diver, that sort of thing. But I could not afford to have one painted for me. But then last year when I was searching online I found this amazing painting by John Martin from 1851. It's titled "The Great Day of His Wrath" and it's basically a painting of the apocalypse. I contacted the owners of the painting and bought the rights to use it as my album cover. Since it was over a hundred years ago John Martin passed away the work is public domain, so I could use it. It's an amazing work of art and I'm thrilled about how it turned out!

I know that you have your own studio for a few years and this must be really convenient, logistics wise but only that. Please give us some info about that, how did you start it, the various other bands that come and record or rehearse there, etc.

I always wanted a studio because I was always really interested in recording, mixing and engineering. So I have put all the money that I have earned from my bands into developing my own place. At first, I mostly did my own music and close friends' music in the studio, but now I do it commercially and it's open for anyone who wants to record here or have me mix their music. At the moment I'm doing the studio full time, so it's my job and I love it. I have recorded and mixed a lot of bands since I opened the doors. Check it out if you are interested (www.studiohumbucker.se).

Let’s take a step back in time, how was the time while playing with Dundertåget/Thunder Express with Strängen, one of my all-time favorite artists who was so sadly gone?

Me and Robert goes all the way back since childhood. We grew up together and were friends long before we started to play in the same band. We moved from our small home town to the big city and started playing in bands. I was only like 19 years old. I remember all the times we had together fondly and I miss him dearly. It's a tragedy that he is no longer here with us.

Are there any plans for a new record with Death Breath? Would you like to make another death metal album with Nicke Andersson?

There is actually a new album already recorded. Me and Nicke recorded it a long time ago, we just haven't got around to finish it and have it released. But we will eventually when we have the time and it feels right!

Which artists are your biggest inspirations since you were a teenager? Which artists you grew up with and how they have affected you as a song writer?

It's the usual hard rock bands for someone of my generation. Kiss, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Accept, Metallica, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy and such. This was how it started and what ignited the flame to start playing the guitar myself. I have since broadened my taste in music quite a lot and have all kinds of influences from many different bands. I have never quit listening to all the bands I grew up with though, I have just largened my music library.

Which one of the two is more enjoyable for you, singing or guitar playing, and why?

Without a doubt, it's playing guitar. Singing is really hard and it doesn't come as natural for me as playing the guitar does.

How do you explain the fact that so many Swedish artists are involved in so many bands and projects at the same time?

I think it's because Sweden is a small country. You get to be friends with a lot of people and have a lot of stuff in common. So a lot of the bands are based on friends playing music together.

Do you have any plans for gigs at the moment with the Humbucker?

I have a booking agency and they are scouting to see if there is any interest in Humbucker. It's up to the promotors and the people, if there is no demand then we can't play. I, of course, hope there is because I want to get out there and play our new music!

Do you listen to any new hard rock/metal bands at the moment?

The only metal band I can think of is Mastodon. I really like them and I think they just get better for each album. My friend Andreas Axelsson sent me a couple of tracks with his new band Sweet Teeth and it blew me away so I have been listening to that a lot lately.

Would you like to play in Greece at any time in the future? Any special message to the Greek fans?

I love your country. I have never played there, but I have been there on vacation 5 times. It's my favorite place to go on vacation. The food is awesome and the people are very nice and chill! I very much would like to come and play there!

Thank you very much Robert for your time, I appreciate that. Hope to see you soon playing live with your band! Skål

 

 

In a time that you find less and less melody in music, comes Leah and her ethereal music to bring everything upside down. Leah lies there, where metal and chill out music meet. Please welcome the "metal Enya" and listen to her Celtic fantasy metal songs! Her latest album, "The Quest", is a masterpiece and Myth of Rock is here to spread the news. We spoke with her and you can read all her sayings right below. The "Leah" chapter is a very interesting, an exciting part of the book of contemporary heavy metal. Enjoy!

by Dimitris Zacharopoulos - Sylvia Crystal 

How did you decide to begin your career as a solo artist?

It's a bit of a backwards story as I didn't record my first album until after I was married and settled down with kids. Not very typical of me! I've been a songwriter since I was about 13-14 years old, though.

Your music is described as “Celtic Fantasy Metal”. Do you agree with this definition?

Yes, I think that describes it generally. Sometimes it's less metal, but even hardcore metal fans tell me they still want to listen to it when they're in more of a chill mood.

Why people should listen to your music?

If someone is looking to feel like they're in an otherworldly place, transported to another era full of magic, ethereal beings, and beautiful landscapes, I think they'll like this music.

How do you react, when people say that you are “the metal Enya” and your music is “chill out music for metalheads”?

I think it's cool! I usually embrace the terms fans come up with - it gives me insight into the music I didn't objectively have.

What does inspire you to compose your songs? Which artists/bands are your “music heroes”?

Inspiration often comes from places I've been, photos, and fantasy films and TV shows. I tend to bank it all up and then it comes out one day while I'm doing something mundane like doing the dishes. I have many music heroes, spanning across different genres, from The Doors, to The Tea Party, Sarah McLauchlan, Loreena McKennitt, to Symphony X, Dream Theater, Within Temptation, and many more.

Your unique voice is so warm and ethereal but also with a rock color at the same time. What do you feel every time you sing?

Thank you. I'm usually focused on the emotion of the song and lyric. I try to stop thinking about technique when I record and let it flow.

Give us all the details about “The Quest” album: when did you compose the songs, where did you record them, who did the production, who did the mixing and the mastering?

I composed the songs over 2 years, basically writing and recording them one by one, and adding all the final vocals at the very end. I composed and did all the pre-production from my home studio, and Oliver Philipps was the producer. He also did all the orchestration and we collaborated on the arrangements. Jacob Hansen did the mixing and mastering.

You have an impressive amount of great musicians contributing in your new album – Troy Donockley, Barend Courbois, Timo Somers, Sander Zoer and Chen Balbus. How did it come and you collaborated with them?

I asked! :) Most of all these introductions came by way of mutual friends or acquaintances.

Where would you trace the differences between “The Quest” and your previous recordings?

"The Quest" became its own animal and I decided to not try and fit into any mold. That meant accepting that it may not be as heavy as my previous album and just be ok with that.  The recording process was really different in that Oliver and I worked very closely and he's much more picky than I am, which is a good thing in many ways, but it made for a much longer process.

Which is your favorite song from your new album and why?

It changes depending on my mood, but I do love "The Quest"! Also "Ghost Upon a Throne" has nostalgic ties for me.

I believe that “The Quest” is such a good album that you will surely have a big success. Do you agree with me?

I hope so! We will see.

Why are you not a touring artist? Are you planning to tour one day or do you prefer to be a studio musician?

Mainly because I have a big family and the logistics never made sense for me. For now I'm a recording artist, but definitely, have the itch to tour one day. I'm also doing things backwards in that many artists tour when they're first getting started as a way to promote and get their name out there. Instead, I'm building my following online around the world first, so there will hopefully be demand for a tour.

How are you in your personal life? Are you the romantic fairy or the badass rock woman?

I'm more like a romantic fairy badass businesswoman.

You are the composer of your songs. How do you feel when you are composing your songs and which are your feelings, when you listen to them, after the mixing/mastering is done?

It's always magical when I get mixes back - it sounds so different! Always better. Mastering takes it to a whole new level once again. It's like waxing a sports car. It's good without it, but it doesn't really shine until after the treatment. 

What about the lyrics? Do you write the words of your songs? Where do they refer to?

Yes, I write all the lyrics. Sometimes I have no idea what they are about, as some of my songs "write themselves" - so maybe they come from my subconscious. Other times, I do research in Wikipedia on a topic, like in the song Heir - I was researching Scotland's national animal in Wikipedia, which happens to be a unicorn. So that's where that song got its inspiration.

Are you a person who is always inspired or do you sometimes need a boost to get inspiration?

Inspiration is something you have to tap into. It's there but is easily ignored. I find when I am open all kinds of ideas are already there, lying dormant. So I keep my phone nearby and sing into my voice memo app as soon as something comes to me.

Which are your hobbies? I am sure that you read fantasy books and watch fantasy movies!

I don't have a lot of time for novels these days, but I do love fantasy TV series and movies like Outlander, The Hobbit, and so forth. I'm often working on my music, so I consider that my hobby, and when I have time, I do like crafty things like chainmaille and sewing.

You had collaborated with Eric Peterson in the past. Describe to us how this collaboration was. Is there any chance of collaborating with Eric in the future?

Yes, that song was quite spontaneous and we often talk of doing more. I recently sang on his new Dragonlord record, you'll find my voice on several tracks including choirs and solo parts, such as in the song "Love of The Damned".

You are in Inner Wound Records. Are you satisfied with your record label?

Yes, we've been working together for the past several years. It's a different kind of partnership than most, in that I retain my independent status, which I love. It's great to have people on your side that truly care about you in this business.

Which are your plans for the future?

Definitely more music! I'd like to do a non-metal fantasy album, and then another heavier album again. Let's see what happens!

Leah, thank you very much!

Thank you!

 

 

A historic band from France, Seyminhol is one of melodic metal's most enjoyable sensations. But the band's music isn't only melodic, since you can find several elements in its songs, for example progressive metal and symphonic music elements. Without a doubt, Seyminhol's latest album, "Ophelian Fields" (2018), was an impressive piece of art, which shows that the French guys are in perfect shape. Some months after the record release, Myth of Rock came in contact with the band and Nico (guitars,keyboards) answered our questions. Below you can read this interesting chat, but don't miss listening to Seyminhol music, in any case - they really deserve it!

Dimitris Zacharopoulos

Give us a short biography of Seyminhol.

Well, a short biography isn’t really possible because the band is very old! At the beginning, at the end of the darkened days of the eighties, Chris and Eric (our fist guitarist) decides to make a group. And, three years later, I became the new singer of the crew. During three years again we played music, band cover and we worked on our instruments. At the end of 1995, we decided to make our first MCD. It was “Thunder in the dark”. Two short albums have been created in the nineties. And our first album was born in 2002. After that, a second opus arrived and our style was a mixture of power, epic, progressive and symphonic metal. It was the time of “Viking theme”.  I think the change of atmosphere on “Ov Asylum” has been the arrival of another conception of our music. At the end of this offering – it was really a kind of musical sacrifice – we decided to stop the machine. It was important for us, for the creation, the evolution and the future of the band. Five years later, our new album “The wayward son” gave the sense of our new vision. It was a good example of traditions, bombastic inspiration and progressive views we had of the band. Now “Ophelian Fields” is a mix of all our influences. A sane and profitable reflexion about the road that we wanted to use.  And, of course, it isn’t the end of our evolution. It’s just a step, a new level in our particular career.

What does “Seyminhol” mean and why did you decide to have this band name?

It’s not a fictive name. The base of this choice was our interest for the culture, arts and traditions of the Indians. The true orthography is “SEMINOLE”, the name of tribe from Florida in the south of America. You can find the link with this name on our MCD « Indian spirit ». We will propose a special song about that in few months. It will be the roots of our band, a return to the genuine seed. We will sing in French and we’ll use traditional instruments and strange noises.

I didn’t know Seyminhol, until I listened to the song “Behind the Mask”. Do you believe that with “Ophelian Fields” and your next albums you will manage to get more known outside France?

I don’t’ know. It’s not my aim! It’s very important to have the opportunity to offer his music all around the world but we aren’t professional musicians. We work, we have family and we aren’t enough young to realize the conquest of new territories. Maybe in another life or after death when our albums will become famous!

How do you see now your latest album, “Ophelian Fields”, some months after its official release?

I’m always plenty satisfied with this album. It’s a new face of the band.  But I hope it wasn’t too complicated for the fans. We like to have a different approach of the music and sometimes this manner to proceed isn’t evident.

Although your sound is progressive and complex, I liked your songs pretty soon, after the first listen. How difficult is it for you to have a complex but catchy sound at the same time?

We don’t create the music with an established idea. We just search the emotion and a kind of color. After that, two or three listen are the norm to understand our universe. The progressive rock must be listenable if the inner sense is pure. When the creation is guided by a true meaning. It’s just a question of sensitive perception.

Can you give us the details behind the concept of “Ophelian Fields”?

"Ophelian Fields" is the rest of the “Wayward son” album. It is based on Hamlet of Shakespeare but he is more different because we speak about the character of Ophelia. It’s the lover of Hamlet, a kind of lunar figure that appears as a sensitive person. I wanted to work about it and to propose a new vision of the tragedy. I think that the music and the entire atmosphere will be perceived like an evolution. Ophelia is a Mother Nature, a sort of good sorceress, the girl of the river. She can explain the own folly of Hamlet. She is a tutelary figure, maybe the true hero of this dramatic story. This new album describes all the state of this young person: the drama that she incarnates, the tensions that she creates.

How would you describe the music style of Seyminhol?

We don’t play always the same style. Our influences are very large. It’s a specter that is defined by our own story, our personal way and choices. Of course, the base of the music is the power metal and the progressive rock but the black metal, the gothic rock, the hard rock are important too in the process of creation.  Actually, we play a strange progressive rock with a touch of anger and distress.

Who is responsible for Seyminhol music and lyrics?

The lyrics are my job ; the music, the vision of Nico. Although, we work together on the atmosphere, the upper theme of the concept and the sounds.

Did you play live shows for the promotion of “Ophelian Fields”? What do you remember from these live shows?

Of course but I want to be honest with you. I dislike the shows. It’s a question of time, of preparation. We cannot be on the top because we make music inside a strange movement. This movement is split between our professional work and our work of musician. Often, we discover some band during these shows and often the members are very special. It’s a business attitude or maybe just the attitude of the human race.

Have you started composing for your next album? If yes, how does this material sound, until now? Do you know if this is going to be a concept album again?

Yes, we are working on the new material. It will be a concept, a very ambitious concept based on the history of the second part of the twentieth century. The point of this story takes her source during the Second World War in Germany. We will follow the step of an adopted child called Tessmann. We will lulled by the amazing adventures of this guy.

Have you decided, at which studio you will record the new album, who will be the producer and who will do the mixing and the mastering?

We work on our home studio. The production is our matter. No big name, no big project because money is the key. And, of course, we don’t have money.

Where do you get inspiration from? Which are your music influences?

The history and the literary are the two legs of our corps. And our heads can eat all the music of the world. It’s just a question of taste and of beauty. The rock music and its by-products are not the Holy Grail! We adore the movies music, the tribal music, the classical tender and the soul music.

Which is your favorite concept album of all times and why?

It’s a difficult question. As for me I think the theme of the Carmina Burana is the most sober, dark and reflective creation of the twentieth century. It’s really grand and grandiloquent. An excellent vision of the human being, of the seasons of the life, of the time that goes by and of the idea of disappearance. I like the bones because the bones are all the same: there are no kings, there are no beggars. Just a pile of skulls, of ulna and of humeruses! And if I can speak about a modern concept, without hesitation I will say “Metropolis part II”, Dream Theater or, maybe,  “666” by the Aphrodite’s Child. “The Four Horsemen” Is an incredible song.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Shakespeare, for all the ideas that I developed higher in this interview and E. Cioran for his skepticism, his capacity to speak about the ephemeral characters of the life and the poignant of the existence. It’s an amazing mind, very biting and with the hard-hitting humor.

How are things for heavy metal in France?

Nothing. An awful pile of disillusion and shit.

Seyminhol is signed to Lion Music Records. Are you satisfied with Lion Music’s work until now?

Yes, the head manager of this label is a true realistic person. The results are positive for the band and for the fans.

Send your message to our readers!

Be trusting! Listen to the good vibrations of the hope. THANX.

 

 

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