Ciemra - Interview
The Belarusian band Ciemra has recently released their debut album "The Tread Of Darkness" via the Italian label Avantgarde Music and made it to our February top albums. Of course I didn't miss the opportunity to interview a more exotic band, so I was able to learn a lot about the band itself, but also about the Belarusian scene. Due to the current political situation, however, I was also happy to answer some more critical questions about the country. Many thanks to the band whose members all were involved in the interview and have fun reading!
Hello everybody, how are you doing in times like these?
Thank you. We feel pretty confident. Despite all the shit, that is happening in this world.
You are a relatively new band and have just released your debut album The Tread Of Darkness on Avantgarde Music. Can you introduce Ciemra with a little bit more detail?
Yes, of course! First of all, we would like to welcome everyone who is reading this interview. Ciemra took its shape in 2019. The name of the band means "Darkness" in Belarusian. Our band consists of 5 members. Malvain (vocals), Misery (Guitar), Zima (Guitar), Sonn (Drums), Kurz (Bass). We are from Belarus.
How did Avantgarde Records become aware of you?
It's an interesting story. It happened pretty suddenly for us. Before we released the Darkness into the world, we decided that the first thing to do was to make ourselves noticed in some way. Before our first LP release, almost no one had heard of CIEMRA. We knew at that time that there was a You-Tube channel called Black Metal Promotion and it would be nice to see us there. (We didn't even realize at that time how it could turn out for us). After contacting BMP and coming to an agreement we were satisfied that the first official music video would be released on that channel. But beyond that, we didn't know what to do with the whole album. It's like holding a ton of explosives that could explode at any moment from the energy it carries. After "Agony Blasphemy" we were getting offers from different labels. Some labels we just didn't find common ground with. Others just stopped responding to our messages. We don't condemn them. Not everyone can handle the situation... One day we decided to ask Black Metal Promotion, if they know anyone who might be interested? BMP replied: "Avantgarde Music, you can ask them". So, we did, and it was the right decision. The guys from Avantgarde Music, Roberto, Andrea, are extremely competent and professional. Communication began quickly and easily, which pleasantly surprised us. We keep our contact with them to this day. The guys support us with any questions, and we are grateful for that!
In my review I assumed that you have influences like Dark Funeral, Marduk or also Mgla. What would you say are the bands that influence you the most?
All publications compare us and our work to different artists. So many people, so many opinions. Of course, we are inspired by different bands. And each of us has his/her own preferences and points of influence. Each of the five horsemen has these points. Some are similar, some are not. First of all, music influences you not only metaphysically. Sometimes you can experience its physical touch. Dark Funeral, Marduk - very flattering and loud names. But I don’t think we have a lot in common. If you listen to The Tread Of Darkness carefully, you can hear some moods of Shining, the speed and occultism of Watain, and a lot more of keys from first, second, third waves of Black Metal. I would say, there was a kind of search for balance in finding our own sound, and I think we succeeded. Ciemra sounds like Ciemra. No more, no less.
What are your lyrics about? Some of them are written in Belarusian, so it's hard to understand them.
Our songs have a very dark energy that may not be understood by everyone. First and foremost, we want to introduce you to real primal darkness. You may hear pretty different themes of lyrics, but they all have one thing in common. The Mighty Darkness. All the shades and shapes of it. While writing lyrics in Belarusian, we wanted to reflect our native identity. If we wrote these songs in English, we would not be able to fully convey the meaning behind them. We understand that it would be difficult for people to understand what these songs are about, but at the same time, we are not going to live up to anyone's expectations. That is what our Path is about. Our own history.
Do you have a certain (anti-)religious or philosophical point of view that you want to express with Ciemra?
We have quite different worldviews in the band. However, we are united by the Flow of Darkness and a strictly negative attitude towards all official confessions. And if anyone has a problem with "old fashioned" tendencies, it has absolutely nothing to do with us. We are not allies of modern limited society and universal nauseating "tolerance" in everything that happens nowadays.
You have a young lady as a singer, something that is still rather rare in black metal. However, I think that women in the scene are sometimes even more extreme than their male colleagues - do you agree?
Absolutely! Malvain is a completely incredible phenomenon. It's like a new form of life, or energy. There is not even a question that in this case, female vocals will be better or worse than male ones, this voice has no human divisions and barriers. Every word, every sound that Malvain gives out has a magic that is strictly sincere and very close to us. That is what empowers us even more.
In your video you all appear masked - how important is anonymity to you regarding the band?
First of all, we want to focus on the music and the message we want to convey. We don't encrypt or hide our names so that they can't be identified. In other words, we're not a super anonymous band, but we also don't want to distract listeners with any specific personalities. They can say we do it because of our image, copying the well-known bands, but no one minds if somebody copied bullet belts, pentagrams and inverted crosses from another band. It's all part of Black Metal history, and we choose what suits us best. There's no tendency to surprise anyone or reinvent the wheel. There are five riders of Darkness, entities, substances, essences, who have the mission to carry the black flag.
When you think of Belarus, the Ukrainian conflict and the very autocratic regime come to mind. Is it difficult as a (black) metal musician and fan with the typical trademarks like long hair, black clothes etc. to live in the country without being considered an outsider?
That's quite an interesting question. If we are talking about the past, I think that starting from the 90's and up to now any metalhead of our genre will stand out from the rest of the people, and people are different everywhere. In one way or another, we've all encountered misunderstandings regarding appearance and outlook. So, being a dissident outsider in Belarus is just as difficult as in any other country. But in recent years, the situation has become quite tense. Many people had to leave their Homeland to avoid conflict with the authorities and the government. I can't say that Black Metal is directly persecuted and banned by the authorities, but it becomes more and more difficult to hold concerts, up to impossible to reach a good level and stage, wandering in the cellars. I think you will agree that one and a half gigs a year in the basement of the capital is not normal.
I have to admit that I don't really know anything about the Belarusian metal scene. Maybe you can recommend some bands?
Well, you know, the Belarusian metal scene is quite wide, but at the same time pretty fragmented. There are a lot of cool bands in absolutely different styles. And we can basically point out a couple of bands, such as: Raven Throne, Dymna Lotva, Downcross, ZAKLON... But you should understand, each performer has a completely different attitude to music. Someone likes to just play music on stage, and for someone music is the way of life, or the Path. We believe that only the combination of these two things can lead to results. We're not belittling or praising anyone. Everyone chooses their own path and the way to express themselves.
Is it difficult to get new music, be it CD, vinyl, tape or via Spotify etc.?
Due to the development of the Internet and streaming services, music has become available to everyone. This is both good and bad at the same time. Finding good music online is not an easy task; you can spend hours or even days looking for something worthwhile. When it comes to physical media, it's easier. If there is a record, cassette, or CD store in your town, finding good music to your liking won't be a problem since very few artists even make it to the shelves of such stores nowadays, and the names you find there tend to be established artists who make quality and digestible products. Nevertheless, I would recommend looking for new music on the official sources of certain labels. As a rule, there you will find band descriptions and photos, and you can even buy physical copies. We can advise you to use Black Metal Promotion YouTube channel. There is always something you can listen to. It's much more convenient and faster than endlessly scrolling through social networks.
What about live activities or more videos? Is there anything planned?
Yes, of course, we have plans for the near future. We are making a show for the first time in Warsaw on the 4th of May. We think it will be a new milestone for the band. Also, there is a plan to visit Italy and a couple of other European countries this year. We think it would be cool to play a couple of gigs in other continents as well. All in all, we are working on that. As for the video production, I think there will be some playthroughs this year, making music videos is not that easy. It depends on many factors. We are doing our best still.
What are your absolute must-have metal albums?
Difficult. Will just name the first ones that comes to mind:
Watain – "The Wild Hunt", Burzum – "Filosofem", Shining – "V.Halmstad", Advent Sorrow – "As All Lights Leave Her", "Kali Yuga Crown"
The last words belong to you!
Let the Darkness embrace you!
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