Страхор - Interview
"Not all those who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkien
In this desolate everyday life, we often seek solitude in our own world where we find shelter and serenity to nourish us. Some of us human beings have become like lone wolves wandering our path in search for a better tomorrow, to find those that will follow and never stray off. Such are the stories that are told by a handful of people within the black metal community that managed to both find and express themselves in this state of loneliness. One of these interesting individuals that I met a few years back is a man by the name of Volkh, who is in charge of his one-man black metal band Strahor from Serbia. I remember back in 2019 when his debut full-length album "Koledo" was still fresh in the Serbian black metal scene, and now fast forward 4 years later, Strahor released its third album "Gde Vukovi Zavijaju". I always found Strahor to be an interesting band because it always resonated a certain kind of Slavic pagan magic in their music with a lot of heart put into it. Volkh also has his dungeon synth project Aen Seidhe and he also participated in other projects such as Monah, Soul Butcher and Enchanted Sword, all of which have a different story to tell. Although I have exchanged so much with Volkh ever since we started chatting a few years ago, I realized that I never quite managed to meet his artistic side that is still responsible for making and releasing new music. So for today's interview, I present to you the man himself, Volkh of the band Strahor.
Greetings Volkh! First of all, I'd like to wish you a warm welcome on behalf of the MetalBite crew.
Thank you all for showing your interest and support! It means a lot!
Strahor's third album "Gde Vukovi Zavijaju" has been released recently and from what I've seen in the comments, the album has managed to receive a positive word of mouth from fans. Some fans, including me, claim that this might be your best work yet. Although your album managed to meet or possibly exceed expectations from listeners that have been following Strahor, has the overall response from followers managed to satisfy your general expectations?
As much as I hate to say this, but yes, I agree it is the best Strahor material so far, considering the amount of energy and time that was put into making this record. The response is great, I am always happy to hear the criticism from the people on the scene that I respect and from all the new people that hear the material. I don't have any expectation when I release something purely because in the first place, I'm making this for my own soul, as this is the kind of music that is very much individualistic. But of course, anyone who understands this music as I do is welcome on board, we are all one big wolfpack!
Your style of music has changed and progressed over the years, and this new album contains some folk elements which were wonderfully combined along with your traditional pagan black metal to create this final result. What inspired you this time to take on this specific songwriting approach and express yourself in such a variety of ideas?
Folk elements have always been there and always will be, it's the essential part of the formula for Strahor. When I start to plan the new release, I have no idea what it will sound like. I have no plans, no guidelines. The only thing that is there is the drive, some force pushing me to express certain emotions and atmosphere through music. Combine that with the current things I'm listening to, and you get a new Strahor. This time around when creating Gde Vukovi Zavijaju I listened to a variety of things, from the usual black metal and melodic death to some folk, dungeon synth, gothic metal, hardcore punk etc. I think that is why the album is so dynamic, If I can say so. Songwriting and the creating process always evolves, as it should be, it is a natural way for any art form. That being said, I always try to make new stuff sound different, I hope you will never hear two Strahor albums that sound the same.
I remember your last year was quite a busy one since you released the EP "Zverovanje" on May 2022, you participated as a guest vocalist on Niflungar's single "Centuries Of Terror, War And Hate" and you also worked with Ivan Radnić on your new project Enchanted Sword and even released your debut EP "Chapter 1: Hero Reborn" which is an entirely different beast. Can you please tell us a bit about how you and Ivan came up with the idea of starting Enchanted Sword? Also, have there been any talks of you returning to work with Ivan again on new material for Enchanted Sword now that Strahor's third album has finally been released?
Yes, I have been busy and I must say I am a bit exhausted as a result (laughs)! Zverovanje was released for two sole reasons, one being to fill the time gap between albums, and second one to find a place to release 'A Soul Among the Stars', the song I kept in the vault for quite some time. After that as you said I had an honor to be the guest on Niflungar's single which turned out excellent! As for Enchanted Sword, that is a different story. Ivan and myself have been cooperating for quite some time, and he had come up with the idea to start this. He is the main guy in Enchanted Sword, he composes and records, I write lyrics and sing! I'm very proud of the first EP, although it is not perfect, it holds a special place in my heart. I think Ivan is maybe one of the best songwriters in Serbian metal at the moment, his sense of melody is outstanding!
I've seen on a post recently that Enchanted Sword has recruited Vladimir Nedeljković (Mangled, ex-Light Denied) as the band's drummer. What is the current situation now that he joined the band? Have there been any plans to do some live shows or will Vladimir be solely participating as a studio-only drummer?
There are some plans, yes. Vladimir is a beast! He will contribute greatly to ES, I am sure. We are not going to rush things, but they will happen! The new single is coming out soon, we are just waiting for the final mix. It will be a crushing song!
You also have your dungeon synth project Aen Seidhe which released the single "Шума Стриборова (Forest of Stribor)" in September 2020, but that was the last time we heard anything from the project. Have you perhaps considered going back to work more on Aen Seidhe after spending so much time working on Strahor and Enchanted Sword?
Yes, there are plans of course. The new Aen Seidhe has been in the works for a long time, I am taking things slowly but steady. I don't know when it will happen, but it will. Now I am taking a bit of rest, not working on anything, just regaining my energy. I put everything I had in the new Strahor album, so now I'm just empty!
I am very curious to know as to what is your take on the black metal community if it solely consisted of people like yourself who have their one-man projects/bands? Do you think that there are many great minds that put their hearts in the right place or do you think that there are just way too many lifeless and meaningless projects that overpopulate the scene?
There are always great minds in black metal, you can easily sense nowadays when something is made from the heart, or just made to be made. Black metal is going through some strange evolutions these times. Sometimes I think it's done for good, but sometimes I'm reassured that it's still going strong, mostly in the underground. There is a lot of mediocrity around, no one can deny that, there is some trend these years that all black metal needs to be modern, progressive and I get that, but the hard truth is that 90% of the bands you see on certain channels are just the same. You get some 10 to 20 thousand views, you listen through the album once and that's it, you move on as if nothing has happened. There has to be magic, something that punches you in the soul! The biggest quality I think, can be found in the underground scenes, and that is like going back to old school times! On the other hand, we are already giving birth to the new scene in Serbia, that will make a great impact I am sure. The fires will burn eternally!
Where did your musical journey with bands actually begin? I remember that you played drums in a local punk band Razočarenje, but I never really had the courage to ask you about how you got in the music world to work with bands and other musicians?
Ah yes, my path has been somewhat strange. I started playing drums when I was around 12,13 years old. At that time, I was already into metal, but not that extreme. To keep things simple, after some time I played with some friends, we made some songs, and played couple of gigs. Then I got involved in playing in pubs, bars, a usual Serbian thing that has no other meaning and purpose than to make some little money. On the side I was playing in a punk band also, where I got to be more creative and feel what it is like to make your songs, go to the studio and record, sign a deal with a label etc. Slowly during all of that, black metal somehow ended up showing in my life, and that is where I felt most complete. I started to get drawn into this world more and more until it consumed me. I left all the groups and bands, figured out it was all wasting my time. Then the magic of black metal forced me to start creating. It was all crap first, of course. I made some demos, started communicating with people all around the place. I met some great people that gave me their support even though I was just a kid trying to make music. As far as I'm concerned, it was all leading up to the moment I put out Strahor's first official album, Koledo, and that is where my journey starts.
I was always surprised how Strahor never managed to achieve some better status in the Serbian black metal community in the span of six years of its existence, especially since so many other bands in the scene are talked about and gain a big amount of respect and support. Do you believe that the reason behind this is because many bands are living in the shadows of bigger names in the scene like The Stone or similar?
We can argue what exactly is "better status in the Serbian black metal community". Does the Serbian black metal community even exist? I am not sure. I don't care and I don't give a f**k about any "status" in any scene, I am disgusted by any form of elitism (which is common in Serbian metal, let's be clear). I don't care what my band accomplishes, I make this music to connect with other people who share this passion, to meet new friends, to share experience, and if my music makes at least one person happy and gives them motivation, then I have accomplished all that I wanted. People tend to forget what this music is all about in the first place. About the second part of the question, yes, it's also the fact that many young bands don't gain so much attention because the biggest part of the so called "Serbian metal scene" is focused around the same bands over and over. Does being a big name in Serbia actually means that you are the best? We can argue upon that also. And one more thing, in the past 4,5 years quite a few new black metal names emerged in Serbia, that are actually really great, and I am sure that every one of those names will make a great impact.
Besides your main bands Strahor and Enchanted Sword, you have also participated in two other bands, Soul Butcher and Monah, so you're pretty much all over the place. Are there any artists you're close to but haven't worked with yet, with whom you would also like to collaborate with? If there are, what kind of music would you work on this time?
Sometimes I think it's a problem that I'm all over the place! Soul Butcher and Monah are also the bands I am working on with some friends, and both of them will have some new material, I am sure. I may have another thing coming with some friends, but I'm taking things slow and steady, don't wanna rush anything. All in due time.
Every time I listen to Strahor, I always envision a scenery of a lone wolf wandering inside an unknown world which seems so otherworldly yet so peaceful and warm. How would you describe the world surrounding your project Strahor? Do you feel the same way or is there a certain vision that you create when working on your music?
It is in fact a gateway to another world. Everyone can have a different vision, but the core remains the same. There is a greater philosophy behind any Strahor material. It's a deep connection with the old forces of nature, one that is sung in all of our myths and legends. It evokes the force that lies within us. Black metal is just an instrument used to put you in a very specific state of mind, or trance if you will. Every individual that listens can experience all that in their own unique way, and that is I think, the magic of black metal.
Thank you so much Volkh for taking your time to do this interview! I hope that the future carved by the elder gods on runestones will shine a bright tomorrow for you and for Strahor. Are there any final words you'd like to leave for your dedicated fanbase?
You are most welcome! Be true to yourself, be strong and be kind to each other! Slava!
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