YOVEL (GRC) – Interview – 26/10/2020 🇬🇧
The genre of black metal is an extreme form of art. We know this. As such, it is the perfect platform for bands and artists to express extreme conditions and feelings triggered by them. Here is the specific angle of YOVEL, a band barely known outside the localized scene of Greece. But no more. With two magnificent full albums already released, it is time for the rest of the extreme metal world to see who they are and what they stand for. This is black metal like no other. This is black metal for the oppressed.
Subterráneo Webzine: Let’s open the discussion by telling us about yourselves and the band. It could be something related to YOVEL that a fan would not know, unless he/she gets to know you.
YOVEL: Greetings from Athens, Greece, the land of eternal crisis. We are really happy we have the chance to speak with you for Forthcoming Humanity. We are proud of it, we feel exhausted right now and with huge anticipation we are waiting for feedback.
Hmm, tricky start. Let’s say novel Q from Luther Blissett, DEATH discography and film Beggotten are quite «inside» YOVEL information. Follow the leads and find out why…
Subterráneo Webzine: YOVEL means Jubilee in Hebrew, correct? What does it signify to you as a band, since you are a black metal band?
YOVEL: Our name refers to «The Year Of Yovel», the year in which according to the Hebrew myth, all land is redistributed, all debts are forgiven and all slaves are freed. It is a collective social restart, it is a new beginning, This is what we feel the world needs. This is what we want. This is – sort of – what we are fighting for. It signifies our connection with the real life goals and struggles; with the human condition.
If black metal is the most extreme genre of all, then it should address these topics. We do not need to stray further than our lives to reveal the darkest, cruelest and «black metal» themes you can find.
Subterráneo Webzine: And now to the phrase or motto that defines you – Black metal for the oppressed. I have used your hashtag wherever I see or post anything related to YOVEL. It could be a red/black banner. What does it mean to you, beyond the literal meaning of it? Do you want to elaborate on it?
YOVEL: From our very start, we realized that YOVEL is something different and refreshing. For us.
The foundations of this band are the necessity for extreme expression during harsh times. After personal and collective defeats. YOVEL was – and still is – an answer to despair. A call to arms. A friend who keeps reminding you that nothing ended and everything can change, so stand up!
So, our black metal had to be different. And it is. This black metal is not for everyone. And it cannot be. It can not align with «no political» beliefs, during times of crises, during times of pandemic. When NSBM bands lead the way to a society of individuals, to a society hostile to the «others» – as long as the others are never the oppressors and the creators of this political – economical system.
Having all this in mind, you can realize why #BlackMetalForTheOppressed
You can understand #BlackMetalForTheOppressed
Subterráneo Webzine: Decades ago, late 80s and early 90s the back-then scene in Greece gave rise to a unique signature sound, many bands followed that path and still do. Yet the sound of YOVEL is a massive departure from it and your black metal “interpretation” is, in my view always, anything but what people call Hellenic Black Metal – why is that?
YOVEL: We have a lot of respect for this sound. We grew up listening to Hellenic black metal and especially ROTTING CHRIST. But our sound is a bit more different. Bitter, more harsh and even we have the »trademark» sense of melody in our parts, the combination with acoustic parts, the lyrics, the samples and the whole aesthetic, define us as something different. We do come from Greece, but, as you mentioned, the similarities probably end there.
Subterráneo Webzine: I would like to ask you to tell us what you think of the local scene, during the years that YOVEL is active.
YOVEL: Greek metal scene is always in motion. There are a lot of new bands and always with high musical standards. But not just this. They also have a proper attitude and this fact warms our heart. DREAMLONGDEAD, SADHUS, all Ayloss projects (SPECTRAL LORE), REVOLTED MASSES are just some of the indications that the local scene is alive and strong. They all consider art as something bigger than music – the way of solidarity – as a statement. Just like us.
Subterráneo Webzine: YOVEL released two albums within two years, and a single before that, but you have not signed with any label. Is it by choice?
YOVEL: We believe that our message is the most significant part of our art. We will never compromise in this aspect. If there is a label that can live with this, we are OK. If they cannot we don’t care. The message will find its way nevertheless.
But, we have to be clear. We are working poors, working on different areas outside of music. We are not interested in the »business» part of the industry. We hate that. And all the big executives who parasite in the backs of the bands and their inspiration.
Subterráneo Webzine: Your second and latest album Forthcoming Humanity has just been released. In my view this is a concept album drawing inspiration from bitter events and dark moments that took place more than seventy years ago in Greece. What do you want to communicate with it? What is the inspirational trigger behind this album?
YOVEL: Forthcoming Humanity is based on poems by Greek revolutionary Tassos Leivaditis, who fought, suffered and wrote about the struggles of our land, about the lives and the sufferings of our people. The poems we use refer to the period after the civil war and the loss the leftists, the democrats and the communists had. Leivaditis’ poems describe with so much intensity and sensitivity the aftermath of this war. How the winners and oppressors destroyed the lives of the defeated in every possible way. From executions, to exile, and from the loss of their beloved ones to the incapability of finding a job or getting married, the story of our land is a story of pain and suffering. But also is a story of courage, and power to carry on, to stand up and fight. We believe you will find similarities to the story of your land. Fascism is the same everywhere. Pain and suffering is the same everywhere. With this in mind we created this album. But this is not just historical events. Through the life and lyrics of Leivaditis, we address today’s world. We make connections to the world today, to similar movements around the world, in the “rebellious” 20th century, with our sights fixed on our foggy future. So this is not just a tribute to our past, but an acknowledgment to rebellions and revolts of the poor – everywhere. And an ode for those yet to come.
We created a 32-page booklet in the physical format, a necessary guide to the translations, the historical inspirations and the overall theme of the whole work. For those of you who will get the CD, we believe you will appreciate our effort and you will fully understand the concept.
Subterráneo Webzine: To anyone I talk I get the feeling people are dying for physical formats, vinyl and tape are back. I understand it is very demanding for an independent band to do all by itself, but not impossible. Do you plan or have you thought of vinyl releases?
YOVEL: We have growing and growing demands for a vinyl release, so we suppose that it will happen in the next few months. Even if it’s hard, it’s something that stands the test of time, so it will be worth it.
Subterráneo Webzine: Forthcoming Humanity is a black metal album, but very different to what most people would expect. Is this representative of the band or just happens to be the conjunction of your individual preferences?
YOVEL: Forthcoming Humanity is who we are during this period of time. You will find our souls and essence in this album, you will realize our vision for society, you will taste our bitterness and you will feel our anger, our anxieties, but also you will embrace our hope. This album is harsh. And is demanding. It is a growing little creature. As long as you give it the attention it needs, it will grow inside you. And probably it will help you with the decisions you have to make.
Subterráneo Webzine: What are the differences, in your view, from your first album Hɪðəˈtu?
YOVEL: Our first album, titled Hɪðərˈtu, revolved around our collective experiences, our disappointments and our ideas, so far. It was a painting as a trajectory of the human condition under crushing capitalism, painted collectively by our lives.
Its title is the phonetic language equivalent of the of the word »Hithertο» – taken from the first phrase of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Communist Manifesto – »The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles». This was the last line whispered, before the ending of the last song, «Centennial«, closing the journey from Trauma to Liberation.
Our sophomore album, Forthcoming Humanity is a next step, as a rational and necessary step for the band. It is a concept album, balanced between, past, present and future, denying the “nativity as our favourite sin”, as a voice of the dead of our struggles, subtly but firmly, creating the Forthcoming Humanity, as a New Planet.
To be clear. We wanted Hɪðəˈtu to be an exceptional piece of black metal art. We want Forthcoming Humanity to be an exceptional piece of Art.
Do not think of our words as vanity; hear them both and let us know if you agree.
Subterráneo Webzine: Let’s get back to influences and be more specific, especially as black metal is very rich in its sub-genres. Tell us the bands/artists each one of you listens to the most «these days», without any restrictions.
YOVEL: This is a difficult one… Everyone of us has different taste in music, and probably even more «widened horizons». Let’s say we fully agree on the influence DEATH and Chuck Shuldiner had on us, on the exploratory spirit and general aesthetic of OPETH and on the mutual agreement that Norwegian black metal brought us here in the first place. Even if we never appreciated their attitude and our path is quite different in every way.
Our current listens begin from USBM and end up even to revolutionary Greek hip hop.
Subterráneo Webzine: I think a metal renaissance is happening the last few years, across almost all genres and I think it will continue. More and more bands appear and even new niche genres seem to form. How do you see YOVEL fitting in?
YOVEL: A genre needs evolution or faces the boredom of perpetual repetition. So we feel lucky we serve a genre that tries to evolve. But beyond that, we don’t feel anxious about the «labeling». We create extreme music, we create extreme art. We consider it as black metal for the oppressed. But to be honest, we don’t really care if it fits in any genre. We care a lot if it fits in people’s minds and hearts.
Subterráneo Webzine: Here is something important in my view – extremism in metal and especially black metal: It seems that certain parts thrive on it and have grown to very extreme views – anything ranging from Nazi ideology to Islamic Jihad (it exists in black metal too) – and they are not «in the fringes». How do you react to it? What do you think of what is happening?
YOVEL: We want to bury nazis six feet underground. Basically it is a necessity for our society to evolve and move on. Right wing extremism and fascism or racism are plagues in our society. And in our music.
But here is the trap. In favour of «extreme» expression, all these scums are left to grow up in our musical communities. «Oh no, they are not Nazis, they just have an edgy historical point of view». «Oh no, they are not racists, they just sing for minorities brutal murders because they praise the extreme in art».
These are the biggest bullshitting lies everyone can tell. If someone praises Nazi Germany, he is a Nazi. Period. If he wants to see Jews in their graves, then he is Nazi too. Period again. If he praises decapitations, women rapes and child abuse, he has to be kicked out of the scene. For us, it is that simple. And no, it is not a matter of freedom of speech, nor artistic expression. Burdening on the pains of the poor and the oppressed, is not extreme, nor a counteraction. It is everyday regularity, and embracing these ideas solidifies the oppressive state of our world.
These are sick beliefs and we have to put an end to them. And we do believe the scene is changing. Not as fast as we want. But it is changing.
Subterráneo Webzine: Assuming there will be a kind of normality back and festivals become standard reality again, what would be the festival you would like ideally to join and play live as YOVEL? Do you have any preferences?
YOVEL: Oh mate. Can we fast forward to that? And we don’t have any preferences.
Subterráneo Webzine: If I may, is there a chance to see you touring Europe together with other band(s)?
YOVEL: We were about to tour in Germany last spring, but pandemic had other plans for all of us. Hopefully we will accomplish that next year, same season. And of course we are open to any kind of suggestion and proposal. Our music becomes alive on the stage. And especially Forthcoming Humanity is an album we can’t wait to present live in its entirety.
Subterráneo Webzine: I can only thank you for this interview to Subterráneo Webzine. I think it is only appropriate that you have the closing remarks and last words.
YOVEL: Open your minds and your eyes. Listen to our music, »feel the music» and the message. It comes from Greece; but it’s universal. Join us in this ride. It will be harsh, but it will be worth it.
We are the Forthcoming Humanity | This is black metal for the oppressed.
Thank you for this interview and the chance to speak to you! Let everybody who want to, contact us and express their solidarity…
Here is our work for your judgement. You can find us, you can see us and you can email us.
Spread the word.
[Author notes: Further reading about novel Q (and Luther Blissett ) as well as the experimental horror film Begotten]