Eastern Europe still remains a novelty when it comes to heavy metal. Yet the quality of music coming out of those distant shores is usually far superior to many of its American or/and Scandinavian peers. While Asguard is not a new band in its homeland, American listeners are only now discovering the band's amalgam of melodic blackened death metal somewhat similar to Swedish masters Abyssos due to Asguard's partnership with California's This Dark Reign Records. Bassist/singer Alexander Afonchenko was kind enough to answer our questions.
Thanks to Bob. D for helping out with a few questions.
Asguard has a tendency to put a lot of songs on their releases. Including demo songs, "Wikka" has fifteen tracks while "Dreamslave" has sixteen original compositions. Do you find like quantity can become a bit too much even for the most die hard fans of Asguard? I'd say it's our first big work that consists of 16 tracks. As to Wikka, it's a reissue of our two first works "Summis Desiderantes Effectibus" and demo "In The Darkness Of The Night" with three bonus-tracks. As a result there is such a big work.
From what we know through newspapers and TV coverage, your homeland
If I had to compare Dreamslave-era Asguard to any band out there, I would say Abyssos. Asguard combines a great deal of melody with a blackened metal feel to create music as melodic as it is heavy. How would you describe the sound of present day Asguard compared to anything out there within the metal community? Unfortunately, I haven't chance to get acquainted with the work of Abyssos. It is hard to say, [as] we don't want to identify our music with anyone, but the sound comes as comes. We don't try to imitate anyone.
A question that's often asked of foreign bands, "why not sing in your native tongue?" Have you ever considered singing in Russian? What do you think will be some of the disadvantages, if any, were you to sing in Russian? Our native language is Belarusian [fair enough but I will stick to my guns that the majority of the population speaks Russian -Mike]. We have one track recorded in Belarusian. But it's not that language to sing in. Belarusian is enough poetic language and perhaps it can express a lot of thoughts and feelings but it is not suitable for singing.
On another note, what does Asguard think about the deal with Devil Doll / This Dark Reign that the band signed in 2004? Since the label is based out of California, is the United States a market that Asguard really wants to sink its teeth into, especially with the recent rise in popularity of everything metal in the US? The contract was signed earlier. The Album "Black Fire Land" was released on TDR then already at the beginning of 2003 and at the end of 2003. We signed the contract with this label as their terms were more suitable for us and we don't regret about it. It's a very good label that meets their engagements to us in advertising, promotion and issuing. We are satisfied with this label but we have no idea about the population of metal music in the USA and even don't know what people there think of our music.
Speaking of that, are there any plans to tour over Eastern or Western Europe for the Dreamslave release? A tour with Children of Bodom or Kalmah would be pretty awesome. Yeah, now we begin a number of tour for the support of "Dreamsalve." We have visited several towns and continue to give shows. In October-November we are going for a tour for 3 weeks, it's about 20 shows. Unfortunately without Children of Bodom and Kalmah as a geographical distance between us is quite big
"Wikka" sounded more inspired by 80s traditional and death metal influences especially in guitar solos. How did you approach writing the new material? Was it a conscious decision to make songs on "Dreamslave" heavier? It's better to say "growing-up" of the band. The material for "Wikka" was written in 1999 when we were at the beginning of our creative-work and were inspired by the groups of 80s as we grew up under the influence of their music. We have reached already "our" sound up to "Dreamslave," and we're content with it but I'm not sure we won't change it in our next album.
Many of the post-Soviet bands I have talked to complained about lack professional equipment and quality recording studios in their homeland. I must say that Dreamslave sounds proficiently recorded. What are your thoughts on this subject? That's right. We practically hadn't good studios where it was possible to make good, qualitative and professional record so that the only way out was to go to the nearest states (Finland, Poland etc). But now the situation has changed, there are a few good studios, where you could get not bad record within the country.
With exception of a few session musicians, Asguard's line up has remained stable since the band's inception. What keeps the members of Asguard on the same page. i.e., how have you been able to get along so well for over nine years? Actually it isn't so easy. We quarrel in our band now and then like in any other bands, when we sometimes want to rest from each other for 2-3 weeks and after we just continue to work at our full potential. But sometimes we make it up with the help of alcohol (ha-ha-ha).
Are there plans to get more music out relatively soon, or will Asguard place more emphasis on touring and supporting "Dreamslave" live for the next year or more? We are going to spend the autumn giving gigs in the support of "Dreamslave" and in winter we want to record new songs for a new album in honor of our tenth anniversary.
With such an original and almost catchy sound that seems to go over well on almost all the critics' ears, do you ever run into people that don't care for Asguard's music? Or is all the press positive? Oh no, we are respectful to all the comments on our albums. It's impossible when everyone admires your music. If it was so it would be the cause to doubt their objectivity. But I should concern that we get positive comments for the most part especially on "Dreamslave."
On your first full-length, "Black Fire Land," you covered a Manowar classic, "Metal Warriors." Is Manowar an influence on Asguard? What are some other bands you grew up listening to? Certainly, Manowar is the classics and we all grow up on this music. And also I want to mention a few bands that we have been listening from our childhood and whose covers we played at the shows: Judas Priest, Accept, Kreator, Iron Maiden.
What has kept Asguard going for all these years? What will it take for the band to remain productive and keep releasing new material? Only the wish to carry our music to the bigger amount of people, the support, the opinions that we get from our fans keep the group in enthusiastic mood.