Heavy Metal Tribune Interview Devilish Impressions

One of Poland Melodic Black/Death Metal heavyweights Devilish Impressions performed in Singapore for the first time as part of the second edition of Metal United World Wide organised by Vent Box Production. We spoke to frontman Quazarre on the bands experience.

Hi Quazarre, thanks for taking your time out for this interview! First of all, the band have recently completed your first Asia tour, how has the response been?

Hi! Thanks for letting us talk about the band here at Heavy Metal Tribune pages! 

Getting back to your question, it has actually been our second run across Asia. We did this massive trek all over China and Taiwan nearly three years ago which is actually believed to be one of the most, if not the very most, extensive run any foreign rock or metal band ever played out there. Anyways, this time around, thanks to Vent Box Productions, we have managed to reach out to fans in Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong. The response has been overwhelming! You know, playing such events makes you think that all you do as a musician actually ends up right there, exactly at that very special spot wherein there’s only you and a bunch of your band mates expressing certain feelings throughout words and tunes that apparently turn out to be as important to you as their creators as to those people who stand among the crowd, to people who truly enjoy them and indentify themselves with them. And, well… I’m loving it, man! The feeling that something you came up with at a certain point of your life can actually touch someone else’s heart on the other side of the globe as deep as you can only imagine. Can’t think of any better reward and I send my best regards to each and every maniac we’d met on the road! 

For fans who might not be familiar with the band, would you mind giving them a short introduction of the band?

Well, I hate this sort of questions, honestly hahaha! But yeah, here you go… 

Formed in 2000, formerly as a side, studio project, Devilish Impressions had become stage active six years later. We toured Europe and beyond and shared stages with many prominent metal bands ever since. So far we released a demo, 4 full-length albums, one EP in between and… actually one more EP is set to come out very soon (“Postmortem Whispering Crows” – out 13th September via Non Serviam Records)

The dominant or the most audible subgenres we may be referred to are certainly Black and Death metal. On the other hand though, there’s much more into it. If you, for example, take a closer look at those more melodic parts of our music, like guitar leads and so on, you’ll easily notice that they even refer to classic, heavy metal patterns. There’s also some thrash riffing here and there, so, I’d say we’re pretty much open-minded when it comes to incorporating different elements into our creation, for as long as it sounds coherent of course. To sum it all up, while being somehow loyal to the core of the Black / Death Metal genre we always try to expand its territories, try to reach out beyond its limits and boundaries. Yes, we’re fans of music in general, not fans of Black Metal only. No matter what means of expressions we use, to me an atmosphere plays a key role here. Also personally I’d always follow bands that have more to say, those who have this “something” within their offerings on top of their abilities, rather than those who shine through thanks to better musicianship skills that usually make them more technically advanced only. Obviously, lyrics, artwork and stage presence always come on top of it. And I think all these factors are somehow inseparable, and that each and every one of them serves a “higher” purpose of creating one, solid monolith that eventually speaks for itself. 

Your latest album “The I” was released back in 2017, how was the album received from fans and critics? 

Luckily enough it was released to a critical acclaim worldwide, having scored many maximum notes in plenty of important magazines from all over the globe. It has also made it to a bunch of the top lists for 2017 metal albums. To those who are not familiar with “The I” as of yet, I would say it’s our most mature, multi-layered and complex offering up to date. I’m not saying it’s the most original work out there yet it certainly has its own, unique flare to whatever had been created in Black / Death Metal so far. 

May you share with us back when “The I” was written were there any concept/idea you had behind the album? 

As expressed in the album’s press-note, the title chosen for the new record is not only a phonetic acronym of the band’s name (The I = DI), but above all it reflects the manifesto we stand for since the very first day of the band’s activity, which is the notion of freedom of choice and will. A supremacy of an individual over any external factors being imposed on us by others, with special emphasis on religion and its convictions, dogmas and paradigms. “The I”is a rebellious manifesto targeted against all those who stand opposed to anything that drives us towards individual perfection.As commented by Darky, a long-time friend of the band considered to be its spirit member and who has also contributed to the album’s lyrics: “Following on the notion that one can never reach full potential out in the open being a slave at heart it all comes down to – plain and simple – rising above and stepping over and beyond all force-fed limitations in order to accomplish honest satisfaction, fulfillment and unsuppressed growth as an individual”. So, it’s about setting ourselves free when it comes to our very own lives, towards decisions we make and paths that I believe we should create rather than blindly follow… As in many other lyrics from Devilish Impressions we do attack religions and those considered to be their leaders for not being open to people’s independent try outs of finding answers on their own, for having those people cracked under their whip while usurping the decision-making powers of each and every human being for themselves…  It’s about the need to stand up for the way we perceive the world individually, not as a whole collective which is constantly being imposed by others from abovewithwhat’s good or bad, imposed by the truth proclaimed as “the only right one”. 

With last release in 2017, has the band begun writing on the next follow-up album? If so, what can the fans be expecting from this follow-up album? 

As I have briefly mentioned earlier on, we’ve got this new EP “Postmortem Whispering Crows” coming out in three weeks from now on. These are unreleased tracks from the “The I” album recording sessions. For some reasons we just considered them inconsistent with others that landed in the “The I” album’s tracklist. I mean, lyric-wise they still fit within the concept behind the latest full-length but musically we felt they were way to diversified, thus we decided to mix and master them once again in a different way we did the album and put them out as a separate release. I do think these are killer songs regardless! Those who are familiar with the band’s previous offerings though can easily notice never we had played this way before, but that’s why I believe some may find it really interesting to see the band explore slightly different areas again. It’s hard to say though if that’s the path we will follow on the next full-length record if you ask me… Devilish Impressions’ music has always been heading towards an unexpected directions. 

Quazarre, I understand, you also play in another side project ASGAARD. The band’s latest album “Stairs to Nowhere” was released in 2012, do you have any plans for the group?

I’ve been quite busy with Asgaard up to 2004-2005 when we released and later promoted live the “EyeMDX-tasy” album. After that other guys in the band started their families, settled-down-for-life kind and so on. Having quite easily realized  that we won’t be as active as before, that we won’t be doing lots of shows or recording on a regular basis anymore, I decided to fully focus on Devilish Impressions instead. And that has actually made Asgaard more like a studio-project while Devilish Impressions have become a full-steam live machine ever since. Indeed, “Stairs to nowhere” came out in 2012 and apart from having appeared at a couple of selected shows after the album’s premiere we’d rather remained quiet ever since. However, I can tell you now that the new album’s in the making. Yes! Asgaard’s newest album (7th in the band’s career) has been on my radar for over a year now but, due to many reasons, it still requires a couple of months to have it completed. I mean, we have got all the instruments tracked and laid down apart from vocals, which is my duty in the band, and to record some additional parts of synthesizers afterwards. But, if all goes smoothly, I shall hit the studio within a month or so to do my job. Once I have done that there will be only mixing and mastering left, which we are planning to do right after the vocals’ recording session. But then, of course, we still need a bit more time to finalize the album’s design and artworks so I would say we shall be ready with everything by the late Autumn.

Being the founding members of DEVILISH IMPRESSIONS since 2000, what keeps you going as a musician for over 19 years? I understand you’re also the band manager, how do you juggle doing multiple roles in the bans? 

I simply got used to it. What keeps me going? At the end of the day I believe that doing something out of pure passion is the most important thing and as such it should remain the only reason for being a part of the scene. If you by any chance happen to succeed then that’s fine, if not? Well, it doesn’t really mean you’ve got to stop doing your own thing, at least not until it makes you proud and happy doing it, right? So, yeah! I would say passion and the need to express my inner self is what drives me do these things and makes me who I am throughout all those years. 

As this is the band second Asian tour, have you encountered any interesting things during your trips to Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong?

Oh, too many to mention them all, hahaha! To cut it short, fell in love for all those beautiful places we managed to visit plus both maniacs and just randomly met people were super-friendly. Yes, we all truly enjoyed it and can’t wait to hit the shores of South-East Asia again!

Any last words for your Asian fans?

On behalf of Devilish Impressions I would like to send our loud hail out to all our fans in Asia! I promise we shall return! Meanwhile make sure to be on a lookout for the coming of our “Postmortem Whispering Crows” EP. 

Thanks you Q for the interview! 

Thank you! I do hope our paths cross again… Cheers!

Quazarre / Devilish Impressions 

Manifestic – Anonymous Souls

Too many thrash metal bands these days preach the “modern” sound, infusing lots of elements from other subgenres of metal into their writing. Oftentimes, the high quality, sterile production value ends up making them sound too “modern” (ironically, ha), leaving me missing the days when thrash metal had that raw aggressive edge to them.

Enter Germany’s Manifestic. While reading the band bio, there are claims that they play thrash metal in the vein of Megadeth – which would have gotten me a little bit wary – my favourite album being Rust in Peace, and their later material being a little bit, erm, modern for my liking. Fortunately this was only after actually listening to their material.

Anonymous Soul is the band’s debut full length album. Right from the opening riff of the title track, one is reminded of the sound popularised by progressive thrash bands such as Vektor and Vexovoid. Not only do the vocals sound similar to those of the aforementioned, but the razor thin guitar tones are also reminiscent especially of Vektor. This comparison doesn’t just end in the production and the tone of the bands, but also in the playing. The most obvious would be in the strings department, in guitarists Rob’s and Samy’s phrasing, and the way the rhythm and the lead complement each other.

Musically, the band also takes influence from the technicality showcased on bands like Death‘s later works (think Symbolic-era), but with a larger dose of melody. For instance, moments like the intro of Code of Silence would have fit comfortably in arena rock of the 80s. At the same time, the easy shift between different tempos and the progressiveness of the writing often harkens back to the works of Vektor on albums like Black Future, although Vektor does take a much speedier approach on their playing. That said, there is sufficient aggression on the album to cater to headbangers, like the Slayer-esque moments on Time will Collapse.

I can see how the Megadeth references may have come into the picture, with the speed and dexterity that each of the band members showcase on their instruments. So if you are suffering from some Vektor, Vexovoid, or even Divine Chaos withdrawal, Manifestic‘s debut would be a good way to hold off the symptoms.

Your Introduction to Black Metal in Singapore

Along with the recent saga came a surge of interest in the black metal genre. Just look at posts on alternative media such as this:

Perhaps it is in good time that we also introduce some local (Singaporean) black metal acts as well. In no order of preference, we present to you… Black metal in Singapore.

1. Impiety

When it comes to black metal in Singapore, who could forget the mighty Impiety? Formed in 1988, Impiety‘s discography spans the entire extreme metal genres. Beginning with the traditional 2nd-wave of black metal sound on Asateerul Awaleen, Impiety‘s style has transformed over the years to incorporate more bestial elements on albums like Formidonis Nex Cultus (which has a thrashy vibe), to the more progressive works on Worshippers of the Seventh Tyranny.

Their material has drawn comparisons to such legends as Blasphemy, Sarcofago, and Angelcorpse. Along with their long-running history, the band can easily be considered one of the black metal legends coming out of Southeast Asia, let alone Singapore.

2. Abhorer

Speaking of legends, how can one not speak of Abhorer? With a string of demos, splits, EPs and just a single full-length album, Zygotical Sabbatory Anabapt, the band’s musical style has remained one of the cornerstones of the black metal sound coming out of Singapore.

3. Rudra

Vedic metal band Rudra burst into the scene in 1992, but it was not until 1998 that the band released their now landmark self-titled album. Unlike Impiety or Abhorer, Rudra adopted a more death metal leaning sound, while incorporating elements of Vedic philosophy and spirituality into their lyrical themes. What made them such a unique band is the ability to also fuse Eastern elements into their musical output, into a sound that they can proudly call their own. The band even got local filmmaker Jacen Tan to direct one of their music videos, which launch remains one of the most memorable events personally.

4. Infernal Execrator

A considerably younger band than the aforementioned, Infernal Execrator takes much of their musical cues from bands such as Impiety, along with other black/death metal legends such as Infernal War, Blasphemy, and the likes. With 2 full lengths under their belts, and their latest offering being last year’s Obsolete Ordinance, Infernal Execrator is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

5. Ilemauzar

Ilemauzar takes a more traditional black metal route compared to their compatriots, incorporating symphonic elements into their musical output. With their debut album The Ascension, the band has managed to capture the blackened hearts and souls of the Southeast Asia region. Fronted by mainman Mike (who also runs regional booking agency Vent Box Productions), the band has already garnered a sizeable fanbase through their tours in such countries as the Philippines and Indonesia.

6. Draconis Infernum

Draconis Infernum remains one of those local bands that has stayed close to my heart, being one of the first Singaporean black metal bands that I really got hooked onto. The band burst into the extreme metal circle in 2008 with their debut full length album, Death in My Veins, and has continued destroying the eardrums of their followers with Rites of Desecration & Demise, and The Sacrilegious Eradication. The band also has the honour of being the first band to perform on German black metal festival, Barther Metal Open Air in 2009.

7. Balberith

Band leader Khaal is also the founder of Ravage Records, a record store that feeds to the desires of local true metal fans. Balberith takes their cue from bestial war metal bands such as Blapshemy, and even regional acts such as Zygoatsis in their musical style.

The list is non-exhaustive as new bands come, and old bands leave their legacy. Know of any bands that we should have mentioned, but failed to make their appearance here? Leave your recommendations in the comments below.

The Irony of the Watain Ban

So… Watain was supposed to perform in Singapore last night for the first time ever (and I conveniently forgot all about it until the night before), and this happens:

And it all started with a petition, courtesy of a certain Rachel Chan, which garnered more than 15,000 signatures overnight. Yet in this whole shitstorm of negative bad press, came along some unexpected benefits to the local scene, and black metal in general.

1. Black metal has never seen more press coverage in Singapore

Seriously, every major English media outlet has at least 1 coverage of the event:

Channel NewsAsia
The Straits Times
The New Paper

So rather than shutting down the band and the scene, this issue has instead raised the status and awareness of Watain and the Singapore metal scene higher than before. And while we’re at it, for the curious, here is what Watain sounds like:

2. It exposes the insecurity and the weak faith of Christians

The vocal minority of Christian extremists claim to have strong faith in their religion, their God. Yet something as minor as a concert that has the potential for a crowd of *gasp* 150 strong is powerful enough to shake your faith. This says more about your beliefs, and your faith in your religion, than black metal and its fans.

3. A private event goes public

Should the event gone ahead undisrupted, what would likely have happened would have been a toned-down version of a Watain show. The multiple conditions that the IMDA originally imposed on the show in order for it to go on, would have likely ensured that there is no blood, and no fire, whatsoever.

In a private, ticketed space, with an M-18 rating. And with limited personal interaction between the band and the attendees.

Instead, with the cancellation, Watain and the event organisers held a meet-and-greet session outside of the venue, bringing what was meant to be a private event into an open space. As an added benefit, fans got to interact with the band personally, and more intimately. So, joke’s on you.

4. The metal scene is more tight-knit than before

For what it’s worth, rather than causing the scene to crumble and disintegrate as intended, the whole saga has brought the scene closer than before. Even people who have been dormant (like yours truly), or people who have been listening to metal but not active in the scene, are coming out to respond to the ridiculousness of the whole saga.

5. The goal of maintaining an intact “social fabric” has resulted in more animosity

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam justified the ban by saying such acts will result in more divide between racial and religious groups, and the intention is to maintain an intact social fabric. 2 days later, Shanmugam then talks about how most of the people in the following photo are Malays, and how it affects sentiments in the Christian community:

Source: Watain

One has to be pretty daft to think that the middle-finger were to the Christian community. Rather, the middle-finger serves as a “fuck you” to the fickle-minded authorities who first approved the license, before changing their minds at the last minute, as well as the small-minded people who caused the ban.

Yet, our dear minister has decided to weaponise the photo to stir racial and religious sentiments, all in the name of scoring political points with the Christian community. And through this ban, rather than helping to bring the different communities closer together, metalheads have been demonised to look like Satan-worshippers, while Christians have become a target-board for despise and hatred.

So, pray tell, who is the one causing harm in the social fabric here?

6. In the midst of it all the negativity, it warms our cold hearts that there are still logical people out there

Coming from a non-metal musician, no less.

The whole hoo-ha reminds me of the case of Nergal being sued for tearing up a bible in his concert. The multiple times the case got thrown out teaches the intolerant a simple lesson: if you can’t deal with it, then don’t watch it. It’s a ticketed event, so if you are there, you chose to be offended.

Metalheads do not force metal down your throat like you force your religion down everyone else’s throats. Not everyone deep throats like you, so learn a bit from your God whom you claim to be so merciful, and grow some humanity and intelligence.

Dream Theater – Distance Over Time

Ever since the departure of Mike Portnoy, my interest in Dream Theater waned over time. The band’s drummer audition web series managed to retain some of my attention, and seeing Mike Mangini’s genius behind the kit initially got me somewhat excited to sound what the band would sound like with the new lineup. Unfortunately, A Dramatic Turn of Events turned out to be a rather boring affair, with Mangini’s drumming sounding uninspired, and the overly-generous usage of the triggers making him sound overly mechanical and machine-like. Apparently this was largely due to the drum portions being pre-programmed, and then re-recorded over by Mangini.

2 years later, with Mangini comfortably integrating with the band, Dream Theater released their self-titled album. With 2 years’ worth of synergy, one would expect an improvement in the band’s output, right? Turns out, the songs remain as sadly boring as their previous output. Which led to me dismissing their next release, The Astonishing, as well. What little that I heard didn’t lead me to listening to the album in its entirety.

This year, the band releases their fourth album with the current lineup, Distance Over Time. Initially I wasn’t keen at all to listen to the album, what with 3 albums worth of material that has caused my disinterest. One day though, Untethered Angel popped up on my discovery playlist on Spotify, and the track sounded surprisingly… Good! And hence this review.

Unlike previous albums where the band sounded like they placed their focus on producing the most technical music, Dream Theater instead attempts a more melodic, emotional approach this time around. Untethered Angel sounds like a throwback to my first (and rather late) introduction to the band with Octavarium, albeit with a more technical edge to the songwriting.

For the first time since Octavarium, it sounds as if Dream Theater has finally found the sweet spot of writing music that sounds effortless enough without sounding as though they were trying to hard. While their sound remains largely rooted in progressive metal, there are moments where the band ventures into hard rock territory, like in the first quarter of Paralyzed. Touted as one of the fastest drummer in the world, Mike Mangini also proves himself to be able to sound human, and not sound overly mechanical on the album, even on faster sections like on the intro of Barstool Warrior.

The attention that the band has put into the record’s detail extends to the album’s production value, where unlike recent works with the over-production, the sound on the album sounds sufficiently organic, making Distance Over Time an easy listen on the ears. To make things more interesting, the band even plays with some slight binaural effects towards the end of At Wit’s End, giving a sort of live atmosphere to the track.

At just short of an hour long, Distance Over Time has been the most enjoyable Dream Theater record with their current lineup. While not the most technical, it feels as though Distance Over Time contains some of the more coherent writing that the band has put out over the last couple of years.

Load more