The legend lives on. As you may remember from the article SCALD (RUS) – Will of the gods is great power, 1997, SCALD formed amongst the Soviet Union’s ashes to scar the earth with viking-varangian themed epic «ancient doom metal». However, its trajectory suddenly ended with the death of its young creator Agyl right after the release of their first LP. Yet talent knows no age and Agyl’s legacy has stealthily spread everywhere, many labels re-pressing and re-releasing their material from 1997 onwards. And then it happened. 2019 marked the year of the band’s reunion: Ottar (drums), Harald (guitar), Karry (guitar) and Velingor (bass) alongside a singer with a long history in the music of doom, Felipe Plaza Kutzbach (CAPILLA ARDIENTE, DESTROYER 666, NIFELHEIM, PROCESSION). Why did they reunite, how the fans received it, what are they working on during the pandemic and many more questions are addressed below in stunning detail. So make your oaths and deploy oars, ‘cause this drakkar is about to navigate through all of them.
Please note that this interview was conducted in June, prior to the cancellation of Metal Over Russia festival due to circumstances related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Subterráneo Webzine: First of all, I wish you and your loved ones are all well. Some words about the pandemic shall be written: How are you living this situation in Russia? And, is Felipe currently in Sweden? We hear dire news from over there…
Velingor: Yeah, we are all alive and well – and that’s the most important thing! In our cities (both Yaroslavl and Stockholm) the situation is rather calm, even though we’ve got quite a few cases of corona. But at least we are able to move around the city with no special permits or severe restrictions (as is the case in many other cities of Europe).
Ottar: Yeah, thanks! We are grateful it didn’t affect us or our families. Considering how fast the situation was developing we ourselves were amazed by the scale of this thing! But looks like some positive force was looking over SCALD. We’d like to believe it’s Agyl who is still with us in many ways, and who helps us to continue what we started together. And he looks over Felipe now, too, so don’t worry about him!
Felipe: Yes, in Sweden for eleven years now. The situation seems like everywhere, where there’s an influenza-like virus going around since March eliminating a share of the more vulnerable side of the population and together with this there’s a lot of changes for the future that go hand-in-hand with power games, conspiracy and misinformation, both inside the country and to the rest of the world. So there’s little to say about it or even do, since every country is going through this based on the interests of each government. Now the sun came out and everybody is out, without that incresing the number of deaths so, what to think… but at least in Europe that so called «infection curve» seems to have reached a peak already. The real effects of this I guess is in what this world-pause has done to human brain and small economies since the low and middle class were and will be strongly affected.
Subterráneo Webzine: Let’s hear about your big return to the arena. I know that the story behind SCALD’s comeback has already been told in Ride Into Glory, so I will focus on other details from there. How were you received at the Hammer Of Doom XIV by the public, the bands and the organizers? Did you expect such expectation and even the public singing your chorus?
Velingor: Personally, I can say that all above mentioned was beyond my expectations! I did anticipate success, but this! I think it’s safe to say that all of us felt like major rock stars during that festival. Everything was simply perfect: the way our stay in Wurzburg was organized as well as the show itself; every tiny detail was taken care of. Plenty of people – other musicians, fans, promoters – were excited about SCALD and wanted to talk to us. This definitely was the best SCALD show for the moment. As to the people singing “Night Sky” – that was amazing! A song composed by a Russian band from a provincial town being sang by a thousand people who came from all over the world to see us play – that was definitely a huge success for SCALD!
Ottar: We were surprised and didn’t expect that our songs written over 20 years ago were still of current interest. It was not easy to be playing the songs and at the same time realizing that people don’t just remember them but know them by heart! Our gratitude goes to all the people whose support made it possible for us to come back and carry on with our music.
Harald: The festival was organized flawlessly! Personally I didn’t talk much to other musicians, but on the first day many people approached us to say something nice or ask for an autograph… But when we were on stage and people started singing “Night Sky” – I was really stunned! They sang so loud at times I could hear them better than I did Felipe!
Subterráneo Webzine: Then you had the Up The Hammers XV in Greece, when the pandemic struck, yet you were one of the few bands that made it to Athens. And then you even played a small gig, didn’t you? How was the whole adventure?
Velingor: Oh, that truly was an adventure! I think we were the only foreign band that stayed in Greece after the festival got canceled, and we were willing to play a show at any place, on any conditions. And we managed to play our full set and even an encore. The whole thing took place at a small rehearsal studio the owner of which kindly allowed us to perform to about a dozen fans. There were many more people who wanted to attend but unfortunately there was simply not enough room for everybody. For those who are curious to see how it all went there is our home made video, just look it up at our Facebook page.
Oh, and we also had some serious problems getting back to Russia! All went well in the end though. For details of our Greek adventures see this link.
Ottar: We were looking forward so much to playing for our fans from so many different countries (as we found out later, SCALD fans came to Greece from Portugal, China, the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania… I might be forgetting some more countries!). I guess now, looking back at the whole trip, one could call it an adventure, but when it was actually happening it was hard to follow the events – they were unfolding too fast. What we were getting ready for was a big show in front of a huge crowd, but all we managed in the end was, as you quite correctly put it, a mini-concert for only a dozen fans (our sincere apologies to the rest of you, guys) who could fit into the rehearsal studio…
Harald: At first Athens met us with warm weather, empty streets and somewhat too commercial an approach on the part of our accommodation owner. But the next day the situation became critical – the virus was spreading, most American bands didn’t make it to Greece at all, and finally the local authorities said – go to hell, your festival has been canceled! But luckily enough we had a rehearsal arranged beforehand, so the decision was made to invite the fans in; too bad there was not enough room for everyone… But we played with great pleasure! Our way back to Russia was rather extravagant – during that journey we changed metaxa [a Greek spirit, ed.] to “Ararat” cognac [Harald refers to the fact that the band had to travel through Armenia, ed.], got to see the mountain of the same name, and got home safely in the end, just half-day later then was planned.
Subterráneo Webzine: Before all of that: when, where and how was your last show?
Velingor: It was the summer of 1997, not long before Agyl’s death… The event was rather big – a festival that took place at a stadium in Yaroslavl, with various genres of metal having been represented. Funny enough SCALD played right after the famous Soviet/Russian heavy metal band ARIA, so we used to joke about them being a support band (laughs). About a thousand people were present, and during SCALD show the crowd was mad! Even though we only played 4 songs and not even in the full line-up – Harald was taken to do his compulsory military service just a few weeks before. So Karry was responsible for all the guitars during that show, and he did a brilliant job!
Ottar: I guess you would like us to say all the big words about how it was a fantastic and unforgettable show? Well, in a way it was. Mostly because one of the most influential heavy metal bands in Russia participated in that festival as well, and we were happy and honored to share the stage with them. But back then we lived for the music so every show was equally important – we simply enjoyed getting up there and sharing the results of our hard work with the audience.
Harald: It was June 27 1997, back when I was in the army, as bald as a knee.
Subterráneo Webzine: Was it difficult to make the comeback happen? Did you consider it earlier? If so, what was different this time?
Velingor: Well, back in 1997, after Agyl died, we all agreed that SCALD could no longer exist. And for many years we didn’t even think about any sort of reunion… But in the recent years many things have changed. The band became known worldwide. Not so long ago Will of the gods is great power was re-released by the Italian record label Ordo MCM on vinyl, Hammerheart Rec. did another CD re-edition, Shadow Kingdom Rec. asked us if they could do some SCALD merchandise (which turned out to be really cool, check it out!) and so on… Finally, SCALD was featured on Overkill Global, in the episode dedicated to Russian metal scene; more than that, Sarah Kitteringham [SMOULDER, ed.] said it was her personal favorite!
All these events made our friend Tatiana Krylova (who helped us before with TUMULUS and studio project INTOTHECRYPT) realize that doing a SCALD reunion might be a great idea. So she talked to all of us and suggested we get together and try to recall our old songs (and some of us haven’t even seen each other for years!). We did meet and post some pictures from this historical meeting at SCALD Facebook page. And immediately (the very same day!) the promoter of Hammer of Doom contacted us and invited us to play HoD 2019. Tatiana, who since that moment became our manager, conducted all the negotiations.
Finally, when this one time performance was decided upon, Harald also suggested to try and not just play one show but record a new SCALD album as well.
Harald: I guess the idea to bring SCALD back did not occur to us before simply because there was no vocalist who’d be up to the task. Or maybe we were just lazy, that’s also a possibility.
Subterráneo Webzine: Velingor, from an old interview for The Metal List, you said that “Scald=Agyl, Agyl=Scald”. What changed your mind to bring SCALD back to life?
Velingor: First of all, it was not just my opinion back then – we all thought so, it just so happened that it was me being interviewed. Likewise, it was not just me who changed his mind now. As I said before, a lot of things changed, interest to SCALD kept growing over the years. Plus we met and had a chance to work with Felipe Plaza, a brilliant singer. The result of the work we’ve done together so far (our show at the Hammer of Doom, the new song we performed there etc.) showed us that we were going in the right direction.
Harald: Well, it is true – after Agyl’s death our thoughts were exactly like this, “no Agyl – no SCALD”. It felt simply impossible to try it with a new vocalist, whom we’d be constantly comparing to Agyl… So it was our common decision to just stop whatsoever. But in the end our musical paths have crossed again. Plus we found Felipe, for whom Agyl was a huge influence.
Subterráneo Webzine: Was it hard to find a suitable vocalist to carry on Agyl’s legacy? What made you choose Felipe?
Velingor: Personally I’ve known Felipe (via e-mail) for a few years – more than five, I believe. It was back then when I discovered the cover version of “Night Sky” made by his band PROCESSION. I was really impressed with the way the singer captured the atmosphere of the song, the exact intonations that Agyl used in it etc. So I contacted Felipe to let him know how great that cover version was.
When we decided to make the reunion happen we of course were considering several possible candidates. But in the end it was decided unanimously that Felipe would be the best for the job! It was not just our opinion – the promoter of the Hammer of Doom festival also suggested Felipe when he invited us to play. The rehearsals we had in September 2019 here in Yaroslavl only confirmed that we made a right choice. And the new song called “There Flies Our Wail”, for which Felipe wrote powerful vocal parts, sounds 100% SCALD.
Ottar: When we were invited to play the Hammer of Doom we thought of Felipe immediately. We all heard the cover version of “Night Sky” before, and it made us all feel, quite unexpectedly, like Agyl was back… Of course back when the cover version was released we had no idea we were gonna make a reunion. But Felipe’s vocal manner helped us to make this decision and realize it was actually possible to bring SCALD back to life.
Subterráneo Webzine: Felipe, besides bringing your own talent, did you have to adapt your vocal range to that of Agyl?
Felipe: I was never a professional singer and I considered quitting many times because of the amount of effort and dedication it craves. Never took lessons, never practiced special techniques. I always sang and keep on doing it whenever I truly feel the need to and, specifically with these songs, I am not of the same age he was nor have the same tone, range nor pronunciation he had. I don’t and I never tried to, never will. So I just sing SCALD the way I would do it front row if I had the chance to see them live in Yaroslavl back in the day. Because what I sure have been, since around 2005 when John Perez (SOLITUDE AETURNUS) recommended them to me, it’s a quite obsessive SCALD fanatic and I remember a year later or so I started doing trades with Wroth Emitter label and I was distributing SCALD CD’s in Chile, with a strong sense of «this is too good, I gotta show my friends»…but also I gotta confess I used to be a bit elitist about it (with doom music in general…I even went through a period in the late 90’s where I would buy every scarce copy of Epicus Doomicus Metallicus [CANDLEMASS, ed.] so no-one else could have it… ha!) and sort of «choose» who I’ll talk to about SCALD or sell a CD haha… This was and still is too important for me and I couldn´t just let it be taken by anybody, a young but pretty driving and enthusiastic mindset if you ask me.
Well, while growing up one end up in all sorts of different situations, places and scenarios (including where I am now) where all I had was metal music to use as shield and weapon and, particularly the music of SCALD and the voice of Agyl had always a strong impact during uncountable trips to the extreme south of Chile, with it’s majestic sights and darkest depths, helping me dig deeper and connect and understand things you just can’t put into words and are only understandable through the experience. Not only the south, but also as Chileans (up to my generation and before the «soul rape» of the modern world, for what I know) we always had a strong connection to nature, old tradition, respect for the word of the elder, the true belief that there are old pagan energies ruling the currents of action and reaction of nature. Some of our most popular tales, jokes and slang-words have either a connection with our aborigenes or to what one could consider old witchcraft. Be it in the south, north, east or west and with the right combination of elements you could always go, let’s say camping, hiking or just drinking and get that «ancient enlightening insignificance» feeling back for a moment: just me and this powerful giant called «nature» and a whole lot of secrets untold. And that’s how I grew up. With time and travelling I learned as well that most of the countries that are far distant (closer to the poles), or also islands for that matter, had a similar connection to their roots and a constant-pumping nostalgia for the pagan spirit. And if you add to that, that Chile has also a story of abuse, rape and pillaging in the past, punishing dictatorships in the more recent times, you’ll see that our story and the way our blood boils ain’t that different from other «distant» comrades of the world. Music is a way to understand the past and write a past for the future, so there´s a lot to receive if one listens properly, as well as a lot to write if one is keen to perpetuate the tradition. And if you do it with pride, because there is nothing wrong with pride, you might as well inspire others to do so. For many years of solitude and search, one of my «whispering» comrades was Agyl: now I’m just proud to call myself a comrade of SCALD. And I would consider myself a traitor to not heed their call if they felt like going out and giving it one more chance, for Agyl, for themselves and for the times we live in. So you can easily say what I bring to the sacrifice is my respect, my honour and blood. Hail Agyl, hail SCALD!
Subterráneo Webzine: How did you get that material back then in Russia, and how or why did you decide to play doom metal?
Velingor: There was a substantial illegal music market in Russia in the 1990s. So records of all the above mentioned bands were available as tapes, one could buy them at the same place where food, clothes and other things were being sold. Also there were a few heavy metal magazines in Russian, so we could find some information on various bands there.
Why doom metal? All of us wanted to play nothing else but slow, epic metal with clean vocals. Soon enough we learned from the metal magazines that such style has a name and is called doom metal. We also knew that was what CANDLEMASS played. And even though we loved the band we had no intention of simply copying their style, so we also used BATHORY and MANOWAR oriented elements in our music. But the result still was doom metal, obviously.
Ottar: Well, despite the popular stereotype there are no bears roaming the streets of Russian cities. What I mean is that even back in 1990s it was not that hard to find the records of the bands in question. And I guess we had similar ideas, similar vision, so to say, which brought us together and made us create Will of the gods is great power.
Harald: I would not exactly say that we “chose” to play doom metal. It’s more like we were pushed in that direction by Agyl, who felt there would be more creative opportunities for him in slow harmonies…
Subterráneo Webzine: So, you are working on new material. Can you share any details so far? What differences can be expected compared to Will of the gods is great power? What influences is absorbing the new material?
Velingor: Well, we hope in the end the result will be in the vein of Will of the gods is great power. I would say the lyrics will be more varied and with deeper meaning. And of course the sound will be more powerful, due to the technology being much more developed these days. As to the influences – they are still the same: “Asatru” period BATHORY, early MANOWAR and CANDLEMASS. We stay true to SCALD traditions!
Felipe: You can trust me on this one, since the first chords, melodies, atmospheres and patterns I heard: the essence of SCALD is still strongly present on this one, believe me I’m a fan (laughs).
Subterráneo Webzine: Talking about inspiration in compositions, besides Viking-era history, did (and does) your immediate surrounding environment or nature influence your music? In what ways?
Velingor: These influences now are even stronger than before! Back then the Viking theme was something new and exotic to us, there were not many bands who used it in their lyrics etc. And now all of us like enjoying our Northern nature and being inspired by it.
I (as the main author of the lyrics) read a lot of researches on Scandinavian sagas, as well as sagas themselves. I’m also interested in Northern shamanism (not only the kind related to the Vikings), I even practice some rituals myself.
Ottar: Who knows, we might all have Viking blood in our veins…
Subterráneo Webzine: How is the pandemic affecting the task of creating the new material?
Velingor: Well, there are no festivals where we could play… And we would love to! But seems like nothing’s gonna happen this year…
As to the writing the new material, the pandemic doesn’t affect it very much. We work on the new songs at Harald’s home studio, then send them to Felipe along with the lyrics. He of course makes certain changes and brings his own ideas. Sometimes the four of us get together at a rehearsal studio and play the new stuff live – it helps to add certain nuances to the songs, to hear how they work when played live etc.
Subterráneo Webzine: Will you resume your activity playing live once the pandemic is over? Your next stop is at Metal Over Russia festival, which will take place nearby Moscow (actually near my dacha!) on July 17-19. What’s next after that? More festivals, maybe even full touring?
Velingor: Well, the Metal Over Russia festival has been postponed till next year. We hope it will happen then. All other festivals in Europe (ones that I know of, anyway) were also canceled or postponed. And nobody knows what the situation is gonna be like next year. One can only hope that this shit pandemic will be over and things will be back to normal. So it’s too early to talk about any plans in this regard.
Subterráneo Webzine: What’s your view on the current metal scene in Russia? What have been the main changes since 1997? You say that interest in metal is currently feebling there, could you tell why?
Velingor: You are quite right – in the 1990s and up to the middle of 2000s the metal scene in Russia was very well developed. There were dozens of band representing all kinds of metal, many festivals took place in different cities, lots of people were attending them… In the mid-2000s the interest started to diminish, mostly due to so-called alternative and nu-metal, the two styles which became quite popular at that point (personally I don’t consider them metal at all). But by now even this kind of music doesn’t attract a lot of attention.
Why did this happen? I believe that most people start listening to metal in their teen years, some of them stay true to it as they get older, but some lose interest. And that’s what happened in Russia. For some reason it’s quite the opposite in Europe. It’s hard to tell what the real reason for this is…
As to the bands that survived since those times – they are either well connected and have some level of worldwide fame, or only exist as underground bands, relying on a limited number of old fans.
Ottar: When we were at the very beginning at our musical journey, very few bands managed to somehow get thought the iron curtain. Those were the true metal worriers [sic], gaining worldwide fame by means of their talent. Now things are very different – everything comes down to recording the music and making it available immediately on internet. There are also too many bands, so it’s harder and harder to find something worthy and unique…
Subterráneo Webzine: Russian metal scene is poorly known in Spain. What bands and festivals should we check?
Velingor: My personal favorites are E.S.T. They are often called “Russian MOTÖRHEAD” but it’s not entirely correct. Their style is based on MOTÖRHEAD’s music, true, but there is plenty of specifically Russian elements in both their music and lyrics. I can also recommend the band from Belarus called GODS TOWER. They were probably the very first folk/pagan metal band that appeared in the former USSR in the beginning of 1990s. Their music is both original and epic. Check out their album The turns of 1996 and the demo Canticles (1994). MENTAL HOME, from Moscow, are also worth your attention – they play atmospheric doom metal with some elements of other styles. Personally I prefer their albums Vale (1996) and Ugra (Угра, 2012). For those who like thrash and speed metal – listen to KORROZIA METALLA, but only to their albums from the late 1980s – early 1990s. For example, the one from 1988 called Orden Satany (Орден сатаны, meaning Order of Satan). The band called MASTER (МАСТЕР) is also cool – check out their album from 1989 called S petlyoy na sheye (С петлей на шее, meaning “With a noose on the neck”). Two albums – Kruiz-1 (1988) and Kruiz (1989) – by the band KRUIZ are also worth mentioning; I believe they are still widely known by metalheads in Europe.
As to the festivals – I don’t really know much about Russian festivals. Metal Over Russia was supposed to take place this summer, but it’s a new festival so there is no way to tell how good it would be – we’ll have to wait and see next year (hopefully).
Felipe: I recommend ARIA (all albums, a must!), KORROZIA METALLA (first 5 albums, great drinking or fighting music), MASTER (first 2 albums) and MAGNIT (first album is great and the demo stuff a bit raw and obscure, I remember they had some downloads on their website not so long ago. They called themselves CREDO later and is great too), GODS TOWER (their demo’s are fantastic, there is an anthology CD available!) ALEXANDER NEVSKY 7″ EP (a bit rare but worth the hunt!), NOVY ZAVET‘s two albums (not so good lyrics but great doom feeling and musicianship). SHAH, E.S.T, ZELEZNIY POTOK and HELLRAISER are some great thrash!!! PHANTASM, MORTEM or KRÜGER if you want some extreme stuff! KRUIZ and AVGUST are great heavy metal also and you get a good dose of hard rock with BLACK COFFEE. I’ll get off the subject here a bit and recommend the band from Armenia: AYAS, great heavy/doom stuff with lots of DEEP PURPLE/RAINBOW influences, I say this now because the album was just made available as a re-release, look it up and thank me later. That’s what I could think of right now, I think the best way is to spend time checking the catalogues of the labels that released metal stuff in Russia back in the 90’s, most of the bands had great/attracting artworks and easy to spot what’s metal or not… there’s definitely plenty more and that’s best thing with metal: it never ends.
Ottar: INTOTHECRYPT (studio project of SCALD musicians, pagan shaman metal), SANTERNO (progressive metal), SMUTA (pagan metal), MENTAL HOME (doom metal, described above by Velingor)…
Tatiana: Just a few comments on festivals in Russia – the problem is it’s way too complicated to organize decent international festivals here, because of border controls and visa regulations. One cannot simply invite a foreign band to play – they require visas first (well, most of them), and many complications arise from this: some bands don’t apply for their visas in time, some don’t do it the proper way, some just would not bother to go through with it to only play one show etc. Same problem with the audience – even when an international festival takes place in Russia most of the audience is Russian only; it’s too difficult for foreign metalheads to deal with visas and regulations (most Europeans don’t even know what visas are, ‘cause they can move about freely!), so they would rather visit more festivals in Europe. That’s why I don’t think there is much point in recommending any Russian festivals to Spanish fans. Not before things change!
Subterráneo Webzine: Anything else you would like to add? Many regards! I look forward to see how SCALD’s new saga develops.
Velingor: We all hope that you will see SCALD live in Europe soon and that our new album will be completed in no time!
Studio pics by Stepan Sorokin.
Live pics by Margarita Stefankova.