sobota 18. května 2024

Home » , , , , , » Interview - VRYKOLAKAS - Evil, raw black death metal, fury from the darkest depths! You will be burnt to ashes!

Interview - VRYKOLAKAS - Evil, raw black death metal, fury from the darkest depths! You will be burnt to ashes!

Interview with black death metal band from Singapore - VRYKOLAKAS.

Answered Khairil Vryko (guitars, vocals), thank you!

VRYKOLAKAS - Nocturnal Dominion of Death (2024):

Ave VRYKOLAKAS! Greetings to the catacombs of Singapore! As I was preparing for this interview, I found all the albums I have from you guys over the weekend. I found out (and a friend confirmed it) that the first record that made it to us was "Spawned from Hellfire and Brimstone" from 2004. You know what's interesting? I haven't found a single weak record in your entire discography. How is that possible? Do you have a recipe for that? You've kept the bar of quality so high for so many years.

Greetings Jakub! Let us start by thanking you for the opportunity to appear in Deadly Storm Zine. Czech Republic holds a special in our blackened hearts as we had a lot of contacts from there as well as Slovakia. We were admiring bands such as MASTER’S HAMMER, ROOT and then INTERVALLE BIZARRE, ALIENATION MENTAL and KRABATHOR. Thank you for the kind remarks about our releases. To be very honest with you, as a show of respect for someone who have been doing the zine for many years and therefore crossing paths with thousands of amazing bands from around the world, if VRYKOLAKAS ever sounded great, it is mainly because of all the great bands that influenced us when we were growing up. Since the beginning for me as the main songwriter of the band, I had always wanted VRYKOLAKAS to sound like the bands I truly admire. So if anyone were to say, „VRYKOLAKAS is a carbon copy of this band or that band!“ then I would be proud to say we have achieved what we wanted all along – to sound exactly like our influences. Back in the 1990s, you will find this phrase being used when a band is compared to a well-known band from another country, for example, ABHORER was once described as Singapore’s answer to SARCOFAGO. So, we were waiting anxiously for anyone to say, „VRYKOLAKAS is Singapore’s answer to GRAVE or INCANTATION or IMMOLATION“ or many more bands we admired. The recipe is to include as many influences into one song and across the songs in our albums. The many riffs, each sounding like our favourite bands, is sandwiched into one song, garnished with a bridge or interlude sounding like yet another of our favourite bands and the resulting dish sounds great because the listener gets reminded of the many great bands that they have been listening to in one song or throughout the album.

The album "Nocturnal Dominion of Death" is out and it's immediately become one of my most played albums. Listening to it, you feel like you're back on a timeline to the '90s. It is excellent! How was it made? And how does VRYKOLAKAS actually create new material?

We are glad that you enjoyed this album, Jakub! The negative part of our songwriting is I believe we are not able to move away from the 1990s! We may be amazed by the newer and current bands with all the new ideas they bring along, but those ideas don’t sit well in our hands. In the creation of our songs and albums, I am always thinking of riffs and putting together ideas for a song. Most of the time, my thoughts would manifest into a set of 3 to 4 riffs which means 30% of a song is done. Then, I would record this set of riffs on my voice memo app in my iPhone and leave them over a days. I actually have many „30%“ songs recorded in my iPhone. I will then try to put them together, maybe 3 sets of them and see whether they flow logically in terms of arrangement, the continuation of the ending and beginning notes and also whether the parts are playable continuously. While I write these songs, I would also imagine the drum patterns and then explain the ideas to Edi, our drummer. For the past 2 albums, we were aiming to produce a heavy and brutal album without relying on blast beats. Eventually, all these ideas are brought into the recording studio. The album recording always starts with my guitars guided by metronomes. And then from there, even before the drum patterns are laid down, we try to have a sense of the songs from the arrangement and duration of each parts and riffs. We always make mistakes and sometimes we use the mistakes and turn them into a bridge or a surprise element in the song. At this point, we were turning all the mistakes we made into opportunities to make that part of the song interesting. At the end of the recording of this album, we felt that we have produced our best album so far and there is always the worry that we will not be able to replicate the quality. But we’ll see...

I always liked the sound of your albums. "Nocturnal Dominion of Death" is no exception. How did you achieve such a dusty and dense sound? Does it look to me like it was recorded in analogue or am I wrong? Interestingly, I find the sound of the recording very similar to the previous record "The Necromantic Revocation". Do you have a lot of say in how the record should sound or do you leave it to the sound masters?

I must say that nowadays my responses to interviews are truthful confessions. So here is another confession: After all the tracks are recorded, vocals and chorus and leads and solos, we leave the mixing job solely to the engineer. We only need to say, „Make it sound „crushing!“ and we will only get to listen to the initial mix one or two months later. I guess you can say we are trusting in nature. But we know the engineers well, they are friends, we know their abilities and creativity, and they know what VRYKOLAKAS wants in our death metal designs. „The Necromantic Revocation“ was recorded at TNT Studios where the engineer will always set the initial sound for us. That means right from the tracking part, we can already sense how the end product would sound like. TNT Studios will start dirty and then the engineer will clean up the sound. At Studio 47 where we recorded „And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction“ and our latest album, the engineer is also IMPIETY’s guitarist and a big fan of death metal. At Studio 47, he will track every part as clean as possible and then add the dust and dirt to the sound. Mr Nizam Aziz would even advise us on the picking for the riffs and tempo of the drums. This is where the drum patterns had to be written in as interesting way as possible to either match, compliment or outdo the guitars and bass. And he make us redo until he is satisfied. I don’t think studios nowadays are fully analog. The technology is in capturing the best sound from the microphone positions during recording. At TNT Studios, the engineer captures the raw performance, whereas at Studio 47, the engineer takes the time to position the microphone to capture the cleanest sound of each instrument throughout the song. I noticed this aspect. The microphone positions for TNT Studios looks like we are going to play a live show.

I'm an old-school fan and I'm very big on record covers. "Nocturnal Dominion of Death" is signed by a guy called Armaada Art. I traced it to an artist named Andreas Christanetoff. The motif is so cool to me that I put it on my desktop on my computer. However, I couldn't find much more information about Andreas. How did you get together and how did the cover for the album come about?

We had a different album artwork which we purchased from an artist who manipulates artificial intelligence. That artwork looks very similar to BATHORY’s „Blood Fire Death“ album artwork. When we were sending promo kits to labels, we caught the attention of Satanath Records from Georgia. I believe he noticed immediately that it is AI art and recommended we use a hand drawn artwork and engaged Mr Andreas Christanetoff to do it. We liked the eventual artwork as the concept really matched the album title and especially the first song. When you study the album artwork, there seems to be a chronological effect to the whole album. The artwork shows the force of darkness represented by the demons, encircling and assaulting a place of worship which you have to really look for it in the middle of the artwork. The end of that attack will result in the dominion of darkness, therefore the use of the word „nocturnal“. The first song is titled „Darkness Consumes The Soul“ which represents the artwork very well. At the inner self, darkness consumes the soul, leading to the outward manifestation of a dark dominion.

For a band that has been playing since 1991, you have a pretty stable line-up. That's not very common. Have you never had submarine sickness? You never changed your mind about how your music should sound? You know, some people like blondes, some people like brunettes. Then all you need is a few more pointed words. Someone once wrote that a band is like a family. How are VRYKOLAKAS?

We had 2 eras of VRYKOLAKAS members. The first era of the band has a totally different approach to the way we do things. We put in more effort in the outward imagery in the first era and the desire to be dark, serious, satanic, but the music at that time didn’t represent our philosophy. When the second line-up took over, with me as the only original member left, we overhauled our philosophy in music. At the onset, we wanted to be an example or a benchmark in terms of our music. We were the only band who preferred to squeeze as many riffs as we could in one song. The scene couldn’t figure us out. What kind of death metal were we expressing at that time? We had a more casual mindset among us. While our music is serious and brutal in nature, our personalities are very comical and fun-loving, especially me and the other guitarist at that time. People who interacted with us will never guess that we play death metal. In the band, we have never demanded loyalty but somehow we are loyal. We have never demanded or expressed brotherhood or family ties, but we always look out for each other. Musically, we have trust in each other’s ability, limits and how much we can or should demand from each other. In a way, you can sense our relationship as a band in our songs.

The good thing about today is that we have the internet. I mean, as in what, but at least I can remotely watch your concerts. It's not the same, the sound on youtube is always so weird, but from all available information - you guys mainly perform only in Singapore? I'll be honest, I want to see you live so badly, but there's no place. You're not going on tour? I would imagine you, IMPIETY (by the way, I recently saw them here and they were great) and maybe you can take AUTOPSY too. It would be a dream come true. No, seriously - what about VRYKOLAKAS and concerts? What would you say about a trip to Europe with a stop here in the Czech Republic?

Many do not know this but back in 2001-2002, we were invited to do a mini tour in Slovakia with the band TYPHOID. That would have been amazing, but we were never prepared for shows outside Singapore. We admire IMPIETY and WORMROT for diligently touring the world. We were close to IMPIETY during their „Kaos Kommand 696“ era and we were kind of horrified to hear the intensity of touring. We are satisfied enough playing shows here in Singapore and now have started venturing into neighbouring Malaysia. We would probably settle for shows in Asia (Japan, Korea, Taiwan) before considering Europe. We know it takes a lot of commitment to start and complete any tour and at the same time we want to meet the metal community which have been supporting our music since the beginning. As for AUTOPSY, we probably have to beg them to take us along with them.

Just yesterday I was talking to a friend in a pub about how crazy everything has changed in the last few years. Everyone has the internet in their pocket, young people are more influenced by pictures and videos than music and lyrics. Nobody reads much, we agreed that a lot of things are more superficial. Maybe it's different in Singapore, but here in the Czech Republic I encounter it every day. It's no different in music. How do you perceive the changes in society as a musician? We have a lot of new technology, recording studios are better equipped, ideas can be sent over the internet.

We believe that during the turn of the millenium, internet reduced the effort required to achieve the same goal. With the internet comes the technology to do things quicker. And once we learn to do things quicker, we get lazier and more impatient. Things that you mentioned such as reading, listening to physical formats, these things take a longer time. You have to take out a magazine, flip the pages in order to find information which may not be customized to your liking. Whereas with Google, you could type exactly the questions with the keywords and get information within seconds. Similarly, it takes a long time to choose a CD or tape or vinyl, place these formats in their players, and you still need to press buttons to get to your favourite song instead of collating all your favourites in playlists on Spotify platform. And these conveniences have a dire impact on musicians and musicianship. Instead of experimenting with sounds and eventually mixing, musicians purchase customized products even to the point of purchasing digital softwares to produce sounds exactly the way you want it without having to turn knobs and try out different guitar amplifiers or drum skins. This convenience makes musicians choose the short cut. Instead of working on a 4 songs demo or EP, or a 8 songs album, bands nowadays prefer to release singles and even then on Spotify. The common apprehension with today’s musicians are the question: „Can we still sell tapes / CDs / vinyls?“ Which then brings us all to another important question – is metal music a passionate hobby or a career? Here in Singapore things have become very ridiculous when because of the internet, we are able to access the bands who do not need as much support but somehow we are always ready to spend our money on them, instead of putting a bit more effort and discover the bands or the scene in our proximity (local) and support them at a cheaper cost.

It's a different world when it comes to labels, labels. VRYKOLAKAS are a band that for me is synonymous with underground death metal. We have bandcamp, youtube, labels can spread your music faster and it reaches more people. But you know, vinyl is vinyl, cassette is cassette and CD has its charm too. Have you had to change your approach to releasing your music in any way? Or are you still going old school and new releases leave you cold?

The priority for us is still releases in physical formats. For us as a Singaporean band, opportunities for vinyl releases are rare and few (except for IMPIETY and WORMROT and lately INFERNAL EXECRATOR), so when the offer comes, we accept them without second thoughts. Between tapes and CDs, we would prefer tapes as we started at a time where tapes are the staple physical format before CDs emerge. But we do acknowledge the influence of social platforms such as those you mentioned. In today’s context, social platforms work like a digital flyer where the content goes beyond the usual limited information in texts in printed flyers of the old days. We need to get the information to as many people as possible to spread our music. Therefore, social platforms work best when you want to attract the neutral audience. Whether through the old or new school approach, for me as a listener, the music is still important. I would return to the band’s Bandcamp or YouTube platform if I happen to like their music although they do not have physical releases.

You started the band in 1991. You were actually at the beginning of something new. I really like the Singapore school of death. I like that it's so dirty, raw. What was the '90s like in Singapore? Please reminisce for us. What bands did you like to see, for example? Who were your role models? Feel free to add a funny story, I'm sure you have plenty.

I have to say that I was one of the most fortunate metalhead alive right now. I get to experience the beginning of the Singapore metal scene in 1989, right through the 1990s when the metal scene grew and blossomed. I was also unfortunate enough to persevere long enough to reach this phase of metal dystopia where I am seeing the decline in the number of metal bands and even metalheads. You see very few young metalheads and new faces. When you go to metal gigs, you see the same people you know since the 1990s and we needed to rely on them reforming their old bands to sustain the population. Going back to the 1990s, I was ABHORER’s guitarist regular penpal. I would receive his letter every week. He was a sincere supporter of the Singapore underground scene, recommending bands which just recorded or released demos. He would attend some of the recording sessions, and you are talking about ABHORER, attending demo recording sessions and sending me the addresses of new bands and latest news of the scene, for me to contact. Although we lived quite near to each other, writing letters is the metal thing to do at that time. We exchanged flyers and photos and these are the things that really stayed inside your memory for a long time.

When we moved away from writing letters, we started meeting up during the weekends just to exchange demos and fanzines that we receive from the international metal scene. There were already a few record stores selling metal releases. We would frequent these stores and browse through every single item before deciding to buy something. Gigs only started here in Singapore from 1992 and you get to see all genres of bands. We would attend the gigs nevertheless just to wait for that one or two metal bands. Sometimes, things get so desperate that we had to settle for bands that slipped in METALLICA’s songs in their set. Full metal gigs started from 1999 which happened to be the year VRYKOLAKAS played our first ever gig.

I was quite close to the members of the following bands: MUMBRA, LIBATION, DOXOMEDON, ETHOS, AS SAHAR, MORBIFIC, LEVIATHAN, CEMETERY, DEBAUCHERY, EIBON, MESSESCHMITT, PROFANCER, MARTYRDOM, BELIAL, XAMIEN, RUDRA, NECREOUS, BILE PUSCESS, WARTORN NATION, DEMISOR, IMPIETY, ABATTORY and a few others along the way. DOXOMEDON, DEMISOR and AS SAHAR played a lot of shows here and in Malaysia. I have always wanted to watch ABHORER but unfortunately that was never meant to be.

There were hundreds of funny stories but at this point the essence of the comedy cannot be reproduced as the local and cultural context would not be easily understood. But as I mentioned earlier, we belong to that small group of metalheads who were always joking around when we are not playing our music. And then we plug in our instruments, we turn dark and deadly.


I ask this question to every band and I'm really interested in your opinion. What does death metal mean to you? How would you define it? On VRYKOLAKAS records you can hear a lot that you put everything into your music, that it is played with heart. As a fan I feel that way. So death/black metal means to you...?

To put it in simple terms, death metal is my alter ego. And if I want to be more precise, VRYKOLAKAS is my alter ego, manifesting from the members‘ input through their instruments. VRYKOLAKAS also means „vampire“ or „werewolf“ according to Greek mythology which means that most of the time we are normal folks living among normal folks and then when the timing is right, we turn into monsters through the expression of our music. Visually we are humans, artistically we are demons. As an artform, death metal is probably the only one I can relate to. I may not be able to explain in layman’s terms, but I can understand why death metal is expressed the way it is, the outrageous visuals and intense and extreme vibes that comes from it.

Finally, a classic but important question. What are VRYKOLAKAS planning in the near future? Can we look forward to some new album from your kitchen? Alternatively, and I firmly believe in this, will we finally see you somewhere on a club tour in Europe?

We are definitely planning to meet our listeners and would like to experience the metal scene in Europe and America. But the plan has to be financially reasonable for both the band and the organizers. I think we have reached a stage in human existence where everything is meaninglessly costly. We have already calculated that a tour, no matter how small, will be taxing (literally and figuratively). So the next best thing to reach out to our listeners and the general international metal community is try our best to write and release good albums through labels which have international reach. This is why VRYKOLAKAS always try to attract international labels – so that our music is accessible to international listeners at a reasonable cost.

Thank you very much for the interview. I really appreciate it. I'm an old fan of VRYKOLAKAS and you actually made one of my dreams come true. I wish you a lot of sold out shows, let your fans rip your hands off with merchandise and I will be looking forward to more of your music. I hope to see you live as well. May your personal lives prosper as well. VRYKOLAKAS RULES!

Thank you Jakub for the affirmation! We produce albums for listeners like you! We do not believe in fans. We believe that our music builds friendships or brotherhoods – the bond of death! Mutually, we also wish the best for DEADLY STORM ZINE. Together, we ride the DEADLY STORM, bringing chaos and destruction, and rise together in the nocturnal dominion of death! Those who are new, check out death metal, start with VRYKOLAKAS! Those of the old school, write letters to us:

Khairil 714 Tampines Str.71 #11-202 Singapore 520714

VRYKOLAKAS - Nocturnal Dominion of Death (2024):

Recenze/review - VRYKOLAKAS - And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos and Destruction (2021):

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