Press » Interview in Metal Maniacs zine


METAL MANIACS interview with Asguard

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.



I imagine in the early goings of Asguard with the constant personnel shifts, it probably felt as if you guys would never find your footing properly.  Am I right?


At the dawn of our activity I mostly feared that we would never really get going since it had been too long before we got the band line-up together. And even when we seemed to be finished with recruiting members for our band somebody was constantly quitting. It lasted till the year of 1995 this way. At that time we bore the name of ANCIENT CASTLE, and when the line-up changed again in 1996, it shifted to ASGUARD. After all the pains we had taken I was really positive about achieving some kind of success, because I believe that whatever costs you so many efforts, it  will definitely result in something.


I read somewhere that you guys view yourselves as a big fish in a little pond.  How so?


These words dont belong to me, our label Devil Doll used to write that in its press-release to our first album which was released on it. But speaking fairly, Belarus is way too small for us to be distributed by some local labels which have a very limited distribution potential. Weve already had some bitter experience of working with a Belorussian label Fatal Ecstasy Prod for 5 years, and we just  made up our minds to work with transoceanic folks, believing that they would be able to do much more for us.



Aside from the death metal base youve created on your new album Dreamslave, youve incorporated more power metal theories and even more orchestral melody than on the preceding album Wikka.  The difference between these two albums is startling, which is a good thing, having raised yourselves from a solid act into a band with serious potential to gain a wide and attentive audience.  Take us into the intent of this album from your perspective.



Somehow it has turned out that everyone considers WIKKA our preceding album though it was recorded back in 1999, and the bonus tracks are just nothing more than re-release of our demo dated by 1997. This CD has only three tracks recorded after Black Fire Land   Ancient Track, Doomed and  Leather Rebel. From other perspectives this album may be viewed as our starting point, the beginning of our work, re-release of our first two demo and promo records. And what had really been recorded before Dreamslave was Black Fire Land. So Dreamslave is its logical course in terms of the band development.

It's rather hard to speak on the intent of the album. We wanted to come up with something magnificent, imposing that would attract the attention of both critics and listeners, cause when the album came out we started getting loads of admiring reviews from all over the world from America to Australia, and the album reviews didn't go lower than 8-9 of 10 points maximum. But scarcely had it been written in one of the covering press-releases of our label that the album was getting evaluations not lower than 9, when some reviews from some major editions started bearing a negative approach, compared it to the latest works of Dimmu Borgir, calling it commercial black-metal and reviewing it lower than Black Fire land. They labeled Black Fire Land as a true piece of work and Dreamslave a commercial move, though now I can say that we havent earned even a tenths share of the albums budget on it yet. But we just try to ignore such magazines since our fans' judgments speak louder than single opinions.



I gather theres a life lesson being told throughout Dreamslave, particularly on the title track that makes no bones warning against wasting your life.  Is there anything in particular you felt obliged to reveal about yourselves with this album?



Dreamslave is our first piece of work founded on the basic conception, i.e. earlier I wrote the lyrics for it and then we worked on the music. The lyrics is dated by 1997, it was written at the time of my vacation. I had plenty of time to think, be philosophical being on my own in a country house with devilishly beautiful nature around and moonlit nights, so the idea of the story just came to me. Its simply the idea shifted into the story, which was flavored with some thoughts that came to my mindthe thoughts that flooded to my head while writing the lyrics - eventually they turned into linking tracks on the album, for instance Under The Silent Moon, Masquerade, The Main Art Of Mortal.



The title track is so damned good with your shifting signatures and epic chords, along with the added keyboard elements.  Naturally you guys have evolved in such a way Im inclined to think of Amorphis in its early stages, ala the Tales From the Thousand Lakes period.  In your opinion, what do you see has been the differentiating factor in Asguard between Dreamslave and Wikka or Black Fire Land?



Oh, yeah, Amorphis of the times of  Tales from the Thousand Lakes was great, thanks for the comparison, but I would prefer to move in another direction in the future, since now Im not really delighted with what we have come to at the end. The main difference between Dreamslave and Black Fire Land is making more complex arrangements, using live string and brass sections, various effects thats what concerns music. As for the album in general, many people find it rather difficult for perception at first as it's much more complicated in terms of music compared with Black Fire Land. It's logically divided into four acts, each of them tells about some part of the action, each act starting with intro that sets its mood from the very beginning of the act. To understand that one should listen to the album very carefully, going deeply into the lyrics and giving some space to his fantasy. Black Fire Land is more simple in all aspects. I wont cover the fact that I am happy about the result.



I have to single out the entire lyrics for Under the Silent Moon with If all around you is so good that you cant believe it, ask yourself Arent You Dead?  And if not this is the most fearful reason to doubt your real existence.  The paradox is so apparent here, but what exactly inspired these lyrics? 


Well, I guess it all started from that point. Being in some euphoric state I had that idea in my head, I mean I caught myself thinking about it, and I seriously pondered on the reality of my existence at that time. I even felt kind of spooked, so I reflected it all on  paper though I couldnt give it a final shape for a while. After a couple of days had passed I read it all over again, and the idea of the story was born.



Staying with that theme, is there a dormant deadness inside all of us, in your opinion?


Havent you ever thought that this story may be  partially true? That many just sleep without even realizing it. Its not the best example to give, but take cases of lethargy  thats a dreadful, but real fact.



Masquerade is another epic song I adore for its structuring, but lets talk about the message behind it, which is revealing the truth behind the façade.  Exactly what do you feel lurks behind the façade on this song?


When I was a little boy with my dreams and desires I often dreamt of what I wanted to have in reality, that could be either a long expected toy or something else. And how disappointing it was to wake up and realize the cruelty of the dream! Life happens to be rather cruel, too. If Masquerade lyrics is read right after the lyrics for Under The Silent Moon everything immediately falls into place, do you understand me? The song itself successfully and logically reflects the essence of the album.




As I mentioned earlier, theres more of a power metal base to Dreamslave than in the past, particularly on Master of Everything, which features a march rhythm beneath the rapid strumming and the subliminal double-time tempos.  The solo is also indicative of power metal as well.  In all, I might say Master of Everything seems like a cool collision between Manowar and Bathory.  Other examples I think would be Last Day of Real Existence, and the middle section of Supremacy Over the World.  Your thoughts?



First off, you don't really think about a song's constituents when making it, whether it is going to be more brutal or is closer to power-metal. Our early works were always compared with the music of Iron Maiden, Manowar and other veterans of classic hardnheavy.  Its rather obvious cause we grew up on the songs of Manowar, Bathory, Judas Priest, and that base subconsciously lay in the roots of our musicianship. So theres nothing strange in it being reflected this way. 




How would you describe the culture climate in Belarus these days?  With things seemingly more lax in Russia (at least at face value to us Westerners), do you feel theres more or less of a culture stress in your homeland?  The most I ever get to see of Belarus is the Olympic hockey team, which has been formidable of late.  : )



I often come across similar questions in interviews, and Ive got an impression that your media "weed out any positive info about our country in the attempts to show it in the darkest colors. Belarus is a small country with population less than 10 million but despite that fact weve managed to eliminate the label of a Third World Country and at the present time we are rapidly moving forward. Im sure that we'll be known not only forour combined hockey team and our president who supposedly killed all the democracy here. Man, let me tellya, dont believe what you see on TV and read in papers, just come over and see it all yourself! As for comparisons with Russia, I am rather straight at that point weve got much more order here. 



I know you guys have played in arenas and stadiums throughout your continental region that once saw the likes of the legends of metal like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.  When you stepped out onto those massive stages, what was the first thing that crossed your minds?


Of course, its damn pleasant to perform in big arenas, but quite often when Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Accept and other metal legends come to play, they perform in usual spots. If you think that somebody sets up huge stages in the open air for them and hundreds thousands of people come to see it then I have to upset you. Everything is much more simple. Sometimes it happens that these bands rider is not even executed...But they know where they go and are just satisfied with playing in the country of which they've heard so many controversial opinions and come there just to experience it and see it all themselves. It's just my opinion, of course, but I think I'm right at some point.




At this point, we might say that Dreamslave is Asguards most extensive body of work, and again, that the transition since Wikka is quite remarkable.  Do you feel satisfied with your craft at this point, or do you feel theres even further yet to go?



I am satisfied with the album even comparing it to Black Fire Land. Weve done a lot of work on it, and I believe that Ive managed to realize my idea. Of course, glancing back at it all I can say I could have done certain things in another way, but I am happy with everything on the whole. Our next work will be radically different. I guess that even more simple at some point pursuing the purpose of not burdening the listeners mind with another dark and probably psychologically difficult story. But theres even further to go and let me tell you, the story behind Dreamslave hasn't come to en end, its going to be continued and I have it on paper already. We will definitely make the album which can be compared to the first sage of Star Wars by Lucas (ha-ha) in terms of complexity, just be patient.



Answers the questions:


Alexander Afonchenko.



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