Slovakian folk horror: Malokarpatan interview!

Last halloween brought a new sensation in the black metal world: On october 31th of 2017 Nordkarpatenland was released. If you like this genre and but you’re tired of avarage black and white facepainted bands, Malokarpatan it’s the name for you. Hailing from Bratislava, their music it’s a great mix of Master’s Hammer, Tormentor and Mercyful Fate, with lyrics focused on old Slovakian folktales about fairies, witches, goblins, drunk people and mushrooms. Their last full length gained a great feedback in the underground, in less than a year the band became bigger and played in huge festivals like Covenant Festival in Canada, Beyond The Gates in Norway or Brutal Assault in Czech Republic and Steelfest in Finland (they’re about to play at Old Grave in Romania next month). I had a nice chat with Adam S, their guitar player and main composer of the band’s material.

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Two months ago you uploaded a new song on your Bandcamp, Cesta podzemnými sálami Kovovlada, a raw version of the one in the Samhain Celebration MMXVII split tape. Can you tell us more about this song? It’s way darker and slower than the others on Nordkarpatenland and Stridžie dni, the intro reminds me some kraut/psychedelic rock from the 70’s, are you going to release this version as a 7″ single?

As the Samhain Celebration tape was just a very limited special edition, some people wrote me if we could put this on our Bandcamp, so I thought sure, why not. The song is divided into two parts – first one just serves to provide a psychedelic, cinematic atmosphere. There were several different influences for it – as you correctly noticed, one of those was psychedelic/kraut rock from the 70s, others were local folktale movies we’ve sampled into it and also generally experimental music. I have a small collection of less usual instruments, mostly percussive, which I like to use for atmospheric intermezzos – some of those were used here such as the flexatone, thunderbox or a small children’s glockenspiel. The theme of the song(s) is that of Kovovlad, a ruler of the underworld realms from traditional Slovakian myths, abducting a young maiden from the world above to become his bride. I wanted to take the listener to the strange darkness of the underworld – first part is to resemble long halls in caverns, and the metal part of the composition also has this low, “subterranean” sound – the tempos are slow and plodding, guitar tone is inspired by Celtic Frost, early Samael and others, and even the vocals are in a lower register than we usually use. If some label wanted to release this as a single in the future, I would be fine with it, no such plans from my side though.

The lyrics of your songs are all focused on ancient Slovakian folklore tales and myths. Where did your interest come for this topic? Since how long you have this passion?

It’s a lifelong passion. Already as a child I got a book of traditional Slovakian folktales from my parents and the mystical stories in the book have fascinated me greatly ever since. During the period of Slovak National Romanticism in the 19th century, one of the important figures was Pavol Dobšinský, whose most valuable work consisted of collecting traditional folktales all over the country. It is from this treasury we draw large amounts of inspiration for the overall band concept and it will surely keep on influencing us in the future as well. But there are also other sources – folk customs connected to primitive magic and sorcery, Slovak literary tradition, old movies, myths, etc.

Nordkarpatenland shows a big step ahead in the songwriting process, the songs are way more structured than the ones on your debut album and the production is more powerful. How long did it take to compose and record the material you had for the album?

Thank you! The main reason for this difference is that a big part of the material on our debut album were old songs I wrote during the early 2000s for different demo projects back then. I still liked those songs even including the sometimes slightly primitive composition, so I re-arranged them only to a certain degree and added new lyrics to them. Nordkarpatenland on the other hand was completely new material, written with more ambition, just aiming to explore further in this archaic black metal style we tapped into on the debut, and trying to create something unique instead of becoming just another boring retro fad band. I can’t remember the exact time, but mostly it was all put together during 2016. I was kind of exploding with ideas after the debut, being excited by where we can go with this style, so there were even more songs written than what ended on the album. I already have the third album fully composed and it will once again go further in this specific direction we have decided for.

One of the best songs of their last album, its title means “Not long after Midnight, the Abomination has crawled out of the Hole”

The new album features Annick Giroux and Tom Necrocock as guest musicians on some songs. How did you get in contact with them?

I´ve been a Master’s Hammer fan for most of my life and I am also a huge admirer of Necrocock’s solo work. He is a highly eccentric and original persona, reminiscent of decadent dandy artists from the 19th century – interested in all kinds of hedonistic pleasures, perversions, curiosities and oddities. It’s a pity that people abroad are not much aware of his post-Master’s Hammer work, some of it might be lost in translation so to speak (as he sings only in Czech) but I highly recommend at least checking his videos on YouTube. The first time I got in direct touch with him was in 2003 when I did an interview with him for a local underground fanzine. During the making of Nordkarpatenland, I was thinking of inviting a few special guests who could add a specific, unique atmosphere to some parts. So Necrocock was one of the first ideas and much to my pleasure he agreed to record something for us, as long as he’ll like the music. He is a very private person, so he recorded his vocal harmonies in his personal home studio. There was a chance for us to meet later in Prague during the album sessions, but he was on one of his Asian adventure trips, exploring Cambodia. As for Annick Giroux, we got in touch because of liking each other’s music, her band Cauchemar is one of my favourite recent groups. From the women in the metal world I’ve met, she has the absolutely most insane knowledge of music, reaching to complete obscurities. This combined with her talent for creating eerie atmospheres musically made a very strong impression on me and I wanted to do something together musically. Later we’ve met two times – at the Master’s Hammer reunion gig in Prague where she was crazy enough to travel to all the way from Canada and then during our small North American tour earlier this year, where she performed two songs with us live at Covenant Festival in Montreal. I am extremely happy to have both these special people on our album.

Recently the line up changed, Temnohor left the band, and HV switched from guitar to vocals, with the entrance of Aldaron on the second guitar. How is it going with the new line up? Are you writing some new stuff?

Temnohor is an old friend of mine and we are still on good terms. He’s just a bit older than us and was becoming more and more tired from live gigs, which culminated after the North American trip and he told us he can’t do it anymore. We expected this to happen sooner or later, so a quick decision was made for HV to switch to vocal duties. Neither me or him can properly sing and play guitar simultaneously, so for a few months we had just one guitar. But I felt that something is missing and luckily, Aldaron, also an old friend of ours, who has his own band Algor together with our drummer Miroslav, has expressed interest in playing second guitar with us. I must say I am extremely satisfied with this line-up and feel a lot more energized during live shows than ever before. I think generally our live shows have vastly improved now, especially compared to the early ones where still many of us were not so used to regular live playing at all. Concerning new material – the third album is already written by now, next plan is to record a demo version of it, so others can learn their parts and add own arrangements, then hopefully within the earlier half of 2019 we will enter the studio to record it. Next record will be quite special – a fully conceptual album about witchcraft trials that happened on Slovak soil during the 17th century, with longer and more epic songs having more adventurous song structures.

Live @ Steelfest, Finland, with HV on vocals

The Slovakian metal scene is not well known as the Czech one, can you recommend some new and old bands from your country?

We had our little “glory days” during Czechslovakia times in the 80s and early 90s, but then metal’s popularity over here largely faded away and currently our scene is really small and, to be honest, often with poor qualities when it comes to originality at least. Too many bands try to copy styles from the west (often with a good 10-15 years delay), while forgetting about our own legacy from the past. We never had cult names like Root or Master’s Hammer, but some great material was produced here by bands such as Tublatanka, Metalinda, Makar Čudra, Cerberus, Toxic Trash, later on during the first half of 90s we also had a very decent death metal scene which I still have a nostalgic sentiment for (bands like Dehydrated, Embalmed, Apoplexy, early Dementor, etc). Black metal somehow never caught up too much in Slovakia, always only a couple of bands. The biggest
boom was probably around the early-to-mid 2000s, but many of those bands have vanished since. From those bands I personally like, I can name a few (not only black metal), which, are mostly all somehow tied to us personally or through mutual friendships: Temnohor, Algor, Goatcraft, Radiation, Demolizer, Majster Kat, Skaza 1622 (ex-Evil) and I guess Death Karma if that counts as Slovakian.

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Malokarpatan line up on Nordkarpatenland

Can you tell us more about the intros of your songs? most of them are long and weird, and not all of them are taken from old movies

They are a mix of many different things, when it comes to sources. Most often, they are from old (Czecho)Slovakian movies – I am a huge fan of these movies from the 50s, 60s, 70s & 80s and their unique local atmosphere. I try to incorporate that as a firm part of our Malokarpatan world, it adds to a specific local flavour. Sometimes we also produce these intros and outros ourselves, by recording some unusual percussion instruments such as frogbuzzer or Helix bowl, or mixing different field recordings of nature sounds with excerpts from classical and folk music. I like our albums to be a complete experience, to fully drag the listener into the atmosphere we try to create. So it’s not just about the songs themselves, but also the lyrics, artwork and intros, intermezzos & outros. When you put our album on, just let yourself be carried away into this small remote carpathian village in the mountains, where local drunks vomit on the floor of the inn and supernatural forces roam the surrounding wilderness. If you dare for a walk outside, you might meet the water goblin in the pond lurking for souls to kidnap into his underwater kingdom, the eerie green lights of will-o’-the-wisps carrying you away into the swamps, witches hexing cows, or the Devil himself disguised as a hunter in an elegant green uniform.

You recently toured the US and Canada with Negative Plane for several dates, and you’ve played in big European festivals like Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic and Beyond The Gates in Norway. Are you planning a European tour for the next months?

Touring is a problematic issue for us, because our singer works a job with many different schedules including weekend and night shifts, which forces him to take way more vacation days than would be otherwise needed. The short North American tour, while a great experience, already ate away a lot of his free time which led us to having to say no to several interesting offers in different countries. Some of the other members also have different bands of their own, but also wives, families and all that adult stuff. So given this situation, we prefer doing one-off shows. We already have several European gigs coming next year and I guess sometime in the more distant future, we will also do some shows in South America. I am very flexible with my personal time schedule, but we are five people altogether and many times compromise has to be reached. The nearest gig right now will be Old Grave Fest in Romania, then we will have some time-off to work on the next album and next year starts with Catalonia Extreme Winter in Spain.

David Glomba drew the Nordkarpatenland artwork, what is the concept behind it?

I have already answered this question many times, so I would recommend just googling for any interview after Nordkarpatenland was released. To summarize it shortly: it represents the dark side of Slovakian folklore, on many different levels. That is what our lyrics are all about and what I look for in other black metal bands too – exploring the grim part of your own culture, wherever you come from. This actualy ties nicely to the next, final question.

MALOKARPATAN-Nordkarpatenland-CD

Do you think there are some new bands with the same approach to black metal you have with Malokarpatan?

Very interesting question. I could point out to older, 80s-90s bands more easily, but from the current worldwide scene, I feel associated to bands like Necromante from Brazil, Evil from Japan or Ithaqua from Greece. Which means taking the early sound of black metal and infusing it with your own cultural tradition and historical bands from your area. From a
bit wider perspective, I would also mention Negative Plane, Funereal Presence, Cultes Des Ghoules and Faustcoven who are all, to some degree, our contacts or friends. Vigilance from Slovenia deserve a mention too. If leaving the black metal tag altogether, I would even add Chevalier from Finland. Their grim medieval speed metal has a stronger black metal atmosphere for me personally, than most current black metal I hear, which most often just sounds like some ambient wall of noise and disharmonies.

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