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Heavy Metal Wakes the Beast

1-Tere Mart! How are you doing my friend? I hope that everything is going alright in Estonia now. What records are you listening while answering this interview ?

Hails, Nathaniel! I'm fine, thanks for asking. The weather is typically shitty and kaamos is starting to set in heavy in every Estonian's head, but we're used to that. At the moment I'm listening to SnakeNet Metal Radio. They just played Mokoma's "Takatalvi", which I enjoyed a lot, and now there's some Testament on the air, which is also fine.

2-HERALD is not really well known all over the world for the moment. How are the responses to the album «Heavy Metal wakes the beast »? You told me that it should be repressed by a label soon. Shall it really happen? Where does this label comes from and what bands are signed on it?

I wouldn't go as far as to call it an album. A demo-album, maybe? So far most of the response has been overly supportive and praising, which is OK with us, of course. Herald has never been one of the bands to take extra effort in order to discourage some particular type of listener. We go down equally well among diehard UG metalheads as well as people they would probably call posers. So what? Maybe we can even bring some wannabe types closer to the true roots of metal.

There have been talks regarding a vinyl pressing of the "HMWTB" material with a certain small German label, but since nothing is certain yet, I'd rather not talk about it in detail. I don't want to jinx this deal, if you know what I mean! But rest assured, you will receive notice among the first, in case it actually happens.

3-People already know hardly something about Estonia, and when it comes to estonian metal, apart maybe from LOITS and MUST MISSA, everybody is amazed when I say that metal is popular in your country. According to you, what are the bands to keep an eye on from Estonia?

I can't imagine why it would be hard to believe Estonia has a metal scene. Estonian scene is certainly thriving and seething with new developments, but that doesn't mean we don't have traditions and our own "dinosaurs". Unfortunately most of the bands in Estonian metal scene have only a few demos or self-released albums to show for their years of labour.

You already mentioned LOITS and MUST MISSA, both of which are working on their new material and developing beyond the standards they have been associated with so far. You should also hear about MANATARK who recently landed a record deal with Metal Age. Their album "Chaos Engine" should be released during the year 2003 yet. Also I hope that the mighty THARAPHITA will find some label soon, because they certainly deserve to get more attention everywhere in the world. Fans of good folk-metal should keep an eye on what METSATÖLL will be doing in near future. Oh, and I almost forgot HORRICANE, a new all-star muscle death metal combo, a totally inspired and powerful band I presume the European scene shall hear about pretty soon.

In the more contemporary vein there are interesting bands like SHELTON SAN, SOLWAIG, LOOM, RECYCLE BIN and others. Electro-metal genre-builders FORGOTTEN SUNRISE will have an album out in the near future... I could go on and on, but these are probably the names you will read and/or hear about sooner, if the bands keep on trucking and promoting themselves.

On the other hand, since new metal bands are popping up like mushrooms after the rain, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the next big metal thing out of Estonia would be something I haven't heard about yet.

4-HERALD is quite a young band, but all of you have already a big metal background. Please tell us more about the career of each member.

I have been an active member of the Estonian metal scene since 1992, and went to metal concerts as early as 1987. Some of the bands I have worked with are MORTIFIED, DAWN OF GEHENNA and WHISPERING FOREST. The only instrument I know how to play is the mouth harp, so I've been stuck with vocals mostly.

Egert, our gutarist and by now the only member of the original line-up of HERALD is also active in several bands and side-projects, such as INSTIGATOR OF GRIEF and THE TRIBUTE TO RUNNING WILD, to name a few.

Taunts, the other guitarist, is also an "old fish", meaning he's been in the scene for most of his life. I remember an obscure death metal band he played in back in the beginning of the 90s, but they never released anything. Before HERALD he played in a southern rock cover combo called DRIVIN' WHEEL and he also rocks in THE TRIBUTE TO RUNNING WILD.

Rajakas, our drummer, played in a few garage bands, then joined WHISPERING FOREST from where he was recruited into the batallion of berserks more widely known as HERALD.

Our bassist Viki may be better known to some people as the guitarist of MUST MISSA, and he also writes some music on his own.

5-You are one of the oldest farts in the Estonian metal scene. How could you compare the days when you played in MORTIFIED (around 1993, not so long after the fall of the communist regime), and now that you play both in HERALD and your main band WHISPERING FOREST ?

Definitely I am not one of the oldest people in the scene. There are guys decades older than me. But I presume some of the representatives of the younger generation of metalheads consider me a relic. It doesn't offend me, though. I even like it a little, actually.

In 1992, when I joined MORTIFIED, the Soviet occupation was over, so I never got a first-hand experience with the so-called "tariffication" of bands. This was a state-governed try-out of new bands who wanted to play live. A band had to have a "tariff" in order to ask money for performing, or to perform at all. If the people in the jury (a lot of them professional censors) didn't like your music (or your lyrics) you didn't get a tariff. I think the last Estonian metal band to pass this ridiculous charade was a then-death-metal-band AGGRESSOR (now NO BIG SILENCE). The rumour says they got tariff 1, which means they could only play for free :)

Otherwise, I would say that right now is the new golden age of Estonian Metal. The scene is bigger and stronger than in the beginning of the 90s, maybe even in the end of the 80s, when it was a big trend.

6-While listening to HERALD, the references to CANDLEMASS, JUDAS PRIEST for instance are unavoidable, but what are the bands that influenced you all when you came up with the idea to form HERALD ?

Mart: This is a question Egert should answer, because he's the only member of the first line-up of Herald.

I can say that when I joined the band, I mostly thought about how my childhood heroes JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN, MANOWAR and other British Heavy Metal bands sounded like, as well as ACCEPT and RUNNING WILD, or sometimes even DESTRUCTION and SLAYER, and how to emulate some of those influences into our sound and attitudes, but I only write the lyrics, so it's actually not much up to me to decide.

Egert: I can't say I was thinking of any particular band when I formed Herald. The idea was to start a band, and since the music I like most of all is the Heavy Metal of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s (bands like KING DIAMOND, MANOWAR, RAGE, IRON MAIDEN etc.), there really was no other way this band could have turned out. The musical ideas just developed by themselves, without us labouring to copy something. And since my taste agreed with the taste of the bassist, together with whom we embodied the original core line-up, there were no internal bickerings about the style.

But I wouldn't say that we were then or are now true to a particular style. I must admit I find a lot of Herald tunes different in sound as well as atmosphere. For example, I can't find any common denominators between the songs "Heavy Metal Wakes the Beast" and "The Swarm, the Hive, the Empire" (except that they both kick ass!). But I find that it's inevitable that sometimes when listening to our music one might note that this riff brings JUDAS PRIEST to mind, or that one reminds one of IRON MAIDEN, because it would be hard to make music that sounds like old school metal but is not similar to anything. We have not tried -- and probably never will try -- to rock the foundations of metal music with something totally new, some never-before-heard stuff. We just do what we like how we like.

7-So, Rajakas, also drummer in WHISPERING FOREST is the drummer of HERALD, and if I am not wrong, in the beginning he was just supposed to help the band ‘cos he was not really into Heavy Metal… But now, I think he would let his place for nothing. So, who turned him so strongly into the Heavy Metal legacy ? Did you put some MANOWAR cd’s under his pillow during the night ? Ha !

Rajakas: All I can say is that I grew up and started to appreciate the roots of the music I listened to as a teenager, mainly death and black metal. In the beginning it was hard for me to swallow that something so brutal and evil could have developed from a relatively "wussy" genre that I mainly associated with high male vocals, striped tights and mullets at the time. But playing in HERALD I have learned that it doesn't matter what genre you play -- as long as you do it with heart, soul and determination, it will sound great no matter what.

8-You played at the HARD ROCK LAAGER festival in Vana Vigala in the end of July, it’s the biggest metal festival in Estonia. Can you tell us the best memories you have from this big metal party ?

The greatest memory, of course, is from when we came off the stage. This year it was a pretty busy and nervous time for us, because we had just received the first batch of demos and had to sell them at Laager, and we also had to stay pretty sober all the time so as not to f*** up our performance. The bands that surprised me the most (in the good sense) were LOOM, SANCTIMONY from Latvia and OBTEST from Lithuania. I also enjoyed THE TRIBUTE TO RUNNING WILD and SIFFLE CHOPES (Fra) immensely, but there was nothing surprising about them.

9-What makes HERALD so particular in comparison to the too numerous pseudo heavy metal bands flooding the scene nowadays ? Do you like bands like METALUCIFER, TWISTED TOWER DIRE ?

Firstly, although I haven't heard most of the new power metal and heavy metal bands, I believe that the good ones with something interesting to offer will survive the inevitable crash of the trend. Others will perish or reform into something new and trendier. This has already happened to black and goth metal, and will definitely keep happening with regard to every trend that is crafted in the future. That's totally normal and I don't mean anything offensive when I say that this band or that genre is trendy. Trend is the engine that floods the scene with one sort of bands, and at the same time the ultimate filter that will separate true gems from the rest of the muck. And the faster today's means of communication, the faster these trends will pop up, live and die out. True ones will survive them all!

Although HERALD use a lot of Heavy Metal clichés, we try to exploit them in the way that is enjoyable to ourselves and comes out as something sincere, heartfelt and thus powerful. I believe we have come a full circle with Heavy and Speed Metal, because we all really want to play what we play, despite some considerable age differences. We work on the same wavelength, generating music that makes our blood run faster and hotter, and do our best to convey this feeling to our audience. Bands that succeed in this are great, no matter what genre they are.

No, I haven't heard neither of the bands you mentioned, but METALUCIFER is something I think I will enjoy (I've seen their album covers and song titles, and it sounds like they're exploiting the same clichés as us, only from a slightly different angle). And TWISTED TOWER DIRE is a pretty great band name. It sticks to memory like glue.

10-SAKU or A.LE COQ ??? (these are the two biggest beer breweries in Estonia).

Mart: I usually support the weaker and despise the monopolies, so I drink A. LeCoq when I have the chance. But there's nothing too wrong with Saku, as well. It has too little flavour and too much gas for my taste, but some people believe these to be bonuses, so everything is relative.
Egert: Usually I prefer Saku beers, but not all of them and not always. The uncontested favourite for me has for a long time been Saku Rock, because of its taste, strength, name and image ("Tough beer in a tough world"). But I have been seen sipping a fair deal of A. LeCoq on occasion without making faces.
Rajakas: Saku!
Viki: Saku.
Taunts: It depends on the mood. Sometimes I prefer Presidendi Pilsner by Saku, sometimes A. LeCoq Premium.

11-What does the future look like for HERALD?

I hope by the time this interview is printed, it already looks even more brighter. Right now we're full of enthusiasm and ready for anything, but none of us have quit our day jobs yet, if you know what I mean ;). Anyway, we're open to all contacts and offers, and happy to give interviews.

12-You’re also responsible of some backing vocals and some mouth harp playing on the BLOODY SIGN song «Vana Vigala loits ». Are you still satisfied with what you did ? With which other foreign bands do you have such a cool contact ?

I haven't heard the final mastering, so I can't possibly say how I like how it's turned out, but I believe you when you say it sounds OK. So far BLOODY SIGN is the only foreign band I've cooperated with, but just last week a friend and metalhead Tarvo Valm who resides in the United States asked for my consent to work with him on some of the future recordings of one of his numerous projects called HUMAN GROUND.

13-Would you like to ask me a question ?

Yes. Please try to write down the sounds that would come out of your mouth if after waking from a long drunkenness you were to discover that somebody has removed your ASPHYX tattoo and replaced it with a logo of EVANESCENCE.

(Well, I think it might be something like «AAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!! Gimme a scalpel in order to erase this iconoclast tattoo from my metal body!» Ha! You're a fucking perverse dude for sure!!!! hahahah!!! - Nathaniel.)

14-Alright this is the end of this little intie, my dear metal brother, may your red beard grow eternally ! ELAGU EESTI ! ! ! And please write «ESTONIAN METAL KEEPS GROWING STRONGER » in your language ! Thanks a lot, and I hope we shall meet again. Hails to all the estonian metalheads !

Thanks to you, too. The next time I drink a beer, I will toast you in my thoughts. Good luck with the zine and your band(s).

Author: Nathaniel Colas
Zine: Mutilating Process #2 (2004)

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