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Underground Metal Special: Bulgaria

Underground Metal Special: Bulgaria

by Luxi Lahtinen



What do you honestly know about the Bulgarian underground metal scene? If you are like me, not much, really. Not as much as I really wanted to know, that's for sure. The thing is, nearly every country in this world has its metal bands, some more known and some less, and we don't know much about many of them due to many reasons. Some may want to stay obscure and underground; others may be trying hard to become more recognized globally but never make it big, possibly because record companies, promoters and other music industry professionals see these bands and countries too difficult and costly investments, which is a pity.

This applies to the Bulgarian underground metal scene that has a good number of metal bands that are also relatively well-known outside of the country, but there's a huge number of bands that have likely never cross our paths.

This special feature introduces us to 13 metal bands from Bulgaria who all apparently love what they do and want to share a moment in the limelight with us.

Learn more about the hidden and secret underground metal scene of Bulgaria and show your support for them! Thank you.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this special feature.

When you decided to form/join this band, what goals did you want to achieve?

Asen (DIMHOLT): I believe we could say that releasing a full-length album and playing live (especially abroad) were among the first clear goals that we as a band wanted to achieve. This was sufficient for us at the age we were at that time. As you grow and time passes, you naturally adjust your expectations but from the very beginning, we made sure we didn't have false expectations.

Alex (DEADSCAPE): When Deadscape was founded almost six years ago, Ivan B. (lead guitar) and I had just moved from our hometowns to the capital of Sofia for economic reasons and we were, of course, struggling to settle in. Now that I think about it, the formation of the band was strongly connected to (if not an exact reflection of) the process where the two of us built lives for ourselves in this new place. We needed a place to call home and we formed a band. Then we needed other band members, but we found friends instead.

I don't know if we talked much about our goals back then. One of the things we were definitely driven by was every artist's natural need to express themselves through their art—to chisel something beautiful, to share it with the whole world and then revel in the knowledge that it resonated with someone else's soul.

Deadscape was created as a form of escapism from the greyness of the big city and until this day it succeeds in being just that. It's not a coincidence that our music and lyrics are mostly inspired by nature. They have always worked as a counterweight to the haste and the heartlessness of city life, to the overwhelming view of depressing buildings, to the endless traffic jams and so on. It was never an option to just sit and cope with our 9-to-5 jobs and we had to have something on the side to keep us alive and human.

Ivan Lazarov (TERRAVORE): Thanks for reaching out! For me personally, the journey for Terravore started when I moved to Varna (I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria). I had some experience playing in bands and as soon as I got my stuff from Sofia, I met some people from the local scene who told me that Kalin Bachvarov was looking for people to start a new thrash/death project. We met and exchanged some basic ideas over a couple of drinks, and we liked each other's attitude and decided to form the band. We started rehearsing with another drummer called Sven, under another name (Tephra Plague or something like that), but after several months we decided to get rid of the drummer and that name. Meanwhile, I met Trendafil Trendafilov at a party and we talked about some thrash metal stuff, and I learned that he was a drummer. After a few weeks and more random meetings, we decided to have a rehearsal with him. That's how our first stable lineup was formed. Once Trendafil joined the band and left his current one, we decided to set some goals and change the name of the group. One of the main goals was to create a "serious" band and try to get some recognition outside Bulgaria. 7-8 years later we have received some recognition outside our borders, and it was mostly positive. Another main goal which we wanted to achieve was to become better musicians and to create better releases. Personally, I believe we are doing fine with these. Of course, we could be even better, and we should be better for the future as we chase those goals. It might not be possible to satisfy those 100%, so I guess these are not just the initial goals, but forever goals. The thing that I am most proud of is the fact that we're still together making thrash metal. Most bands don't exist for more than five years and that's really sad but also, it's pretty much understandable since making music of this type in Bulgaria is very hard and dependent on a lot of free time, money, persistence, personal sacrifices and compromises.

Niki (EUFOBIA): Hi! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Niki. I play the guitar. I'm also the lead singer and the founder of the Bulgarian death metal band Eufobia. I admit that when I started the band, I wasn't that serious and my main goal was to have some fun and to impress the girls, but little by little my perspective started to change and at a certain point I realized that the people who were coming to our concerts to support the band deserved the best and that was what I wanted to offer them. I talked to my band mates, and I did my best to convince them that we must pull ourselves together and start doing everything in a professional manner. Fortunately, they agreed with me. I believe that the golden years of Eufobia are ahead of us. Now we're more inspired than ever. Judging by the reaction of audiences, I can proudly claim that the band has started to sound really good when we perform live on stage. We're about to release the best album that we have ever created, and an awesome new music video is going be online very soon. I'm not a clairvoyant, but nevertheless I'm confident that a lot of good things are about to happen to our band in the near future.

Yordan Kanchev (HYPERBOREA): When I joined Hyperborea in 1998, I was eager to play thrash or death metal, so the band, which had been formed in the previous year, was a good fit. My personal goals were to play energetic concerts where both the crowd and my band would bang their heads off, as in all good metal, and to record killer albums! The years have proven to me that achieving these goals is hard but not impossible, and definitely worth it. With Hyperborea I both played fantastic shows and recorded, in my opinion, very good albums.

Kalin Kolev (CONCRETE): I didn't start the band with specific goals. I just wanted to play fast and heavy music. I wanted to create something that would reflect my passion for death metal. I guess our goal, as a band, is to try to push the bar with each album. I think we're doing fine as of today. Every record is more complex and heavier than its predecessor. That's what I'm really proud of; to be able to look back and track the progress we are making.

Anton Andonov (BLEAK REVELATION): The band was formed in early 2011 by Alexander Dimitrov (guitars), Anton Andonov (bass guitar), and myself in Sofia, Bulgaria. We wanted to make music in the vein of early Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Opeth, October Tide, In Mourning, etc. However, the only clear goal we had back then was we wanted to write original tracks (unlike a lot of the local bands back then who relied on covers). Nobody was even dreaming of releasing two full-lengths (Afflictive Seclusion in 2015 and Collapse in 2020) or playing dozens of shows with groups we deeply admired.

Back in 2011, the doom metal scene in Bulgaria was almost nonexistent after some great bands had operated in our country during the late '90s and early '2000s. What we did in our early days was far from the popular genres back then (a.k.a. the metalcore/deathcore wave and the thrash revival). We simply wanted to make art that is true to our own understanding of metal and become an integral part of a community we were brand new to. Well, the scene eventually started to develop (we hope we had something to do with it) and through a lot of networking we've managed to form connections with other local metal bands, clubs, promoters, media and fans, and things simply started to click.

Zlatin Atanasov (THE REVENGE PROJECT): The original idea behind the band was to serve as a side project for members of prominent (at the time) Bulgarian bands. It clicked so well between us that this so-called project became our main band. Our goal was and still is to create music we are satisfied with and to make people happy when listening to it. We achieved most of the things we wanted. Well, we did not become the new Metallica, but we can live with that, haha!

Anton Avramov (OBSIDIAN SEA): We formed the band sometime in early 2009, but had been working on the idea for a year or two. By "we" I mean myself (Anton—guitars and vocals) and our drummer Bozhidar. We had a mutual past playing in black metal bands together but as we were both drifting away from that, we wanted to go back to our roots and form a band in the heavy metal/doom metal tradition.

I'm not entirely sure what kind of goals we set for ourselves, to be honest. We were stuck in this basement where we rehearsed with terrible gear, and we weren't very confident in our own abilities. So, the goals included challenging ourselves as musicians and as personalities.

Looking back now, I think I really wanted a more serious band to which I could dedicate myself and feel that I was really doing something worthwhile. I had the feeling that this wasn't exactly happening with my previous experiences in music.

I don't know if "proud" is the right word here. Over time, Obsidian Sea has become a labor of love for me and a journey that's a big part of my life. That is something to appreciate for sure. Also, I had so many "firsts" with this band; first real studio experience, first meaningful live shows, first tour, first time singing, etc. It's also a path that's full of frustrations and the fact that we're still going and dare I say, getting better is something that I look at with a sense of achievement.

Ivan Stalev (JOHN STEEL): We decided to form our band in 2007. We were three friends who currently were without a band, Ivan Stalev, Jivodar Dimitrov and Boyko Gochev. We wanted to have some fun playing rock and heavy metal. Later we start dreaming about making an album and started to compose our own music. Seven years later we recorded our first album with ex-Iron Maiden singer Blaze Bayley (Freedom). In 2017 we recorded our second album with Doogie White and now, in 2020 our third album Distorted Reality is done. We signed with a label and negotiated an official release date.

Martin Manev (CLAYMORE): In the very beginning, we didn't have clear goals. We were driven only by the idea of playing music and having fun. But after a while (when the "core" of the band was formed), we said to ourselves, "Hey, what we're doing is really cool, more people should hear it!" We never had the ambition to become rock stars (although secretly everyone was hoping), but over the years we worked hard to raise the bar higher and higher. We concluded that what had sustained us over the years was not vainglorious ambition or someone's big ego. We are proud to have survived all these years. We are together and our music is evolving with us.

Maria Dièse (RAMPART): Before I became part of the band, I had already become part of the metal subculture, part of the metal society and metal community. When I felt myself part of Rampart, it was more than a logical development. This is not about personal pride or lack of attention; we just outgrew our perception to be only metal fans and we decided that we could create music in a direction we liked. We have gained the skills and the confidence that we can do it. This confidence was not expressed, we simply acted together, and every member of the band contributed. If there is anything to be proud of, they are our achievements in this direction; our music sounds solid and heavy, our songs are unique, and our harmonies satisfy our aesthetic pursuits.

Galen (BRUJA): I've always wanted to make music as it has had a deep impact on my life. Since I don't play an instrument, it was very difficult to form a band and to explain my idea. I was also very unsure of my vocal abilities. I think it was a Halloween night when my close friend Emo and I were drinking, and we decided to start a band. I had some idea of what I wanted to do. My concept was to sing about the darkest, sickest things that have become our daily life and we have become used to. My initial idea for the music and the band was to have some shock value while singing about bizarre subjects, they did not necessarily have to be "real" and "from the streets." I was really tired of clichés, and I was striving for originality.

Jorkata (BRUJA): I wanted to express my dedication to stoner and doom metal and play some groovy tones with other people, that would be my main goal.

Nikolai (BRUJA): When Emo invited me to play with them, I was in another band called Wrong Decision. We had been playing fast thrash/hardcore/punk for a very long time and I liked the idea of playing something completely different. For me making music with this band is more about getting in the right mood. In the right mood, the songs just pop up in my mind. When we practice, I try to think about the lyrics and how they sound in my head if played by drums. I am not trying to play fast or complicated verses. What I want to achieve is beats that support the vocals and blend with the rest of the music without showing off for no reason, which is a very different goal than my drumming with my other band.

Emo (BRUJA): We were drinking with Galen one night listening to sludge and we decided we should start a band as there were very few bands in Bulgaria playing this type of music. I called Niki with whom I have played before in a punk band, and we have been friends for many years. He was the first drummer I thought of as I have always liked his style of playing. We had some rehearsals together as a trio and we had some disputes over whether we should take another member and if he should be a guitarist or play another instrument unusual for the style like violin or saxophone. We decided finding a guitar player would be easier, but it was not easy. We played with several guys, some of whom were very skilled, but they did not fit in. Then came Jorkata who we hadn't known before. We started jamming and everything fell into place. He was like a long-lost brother who had decided to come home. I was very surprised that we didn't know each other earlier as we shared many common interests outside music.

Our main goal was to have fun jamming to groovy riffs, but we also wanted to sound good. As we are playing more and more, we are starting to cross the borders between styles but keeping the same vibe we had in the beginning.

Tell us how you see your band's position in the Bulgarian underground metal scene and outside the country's borders. Does Bulgaria have the potential to produce the kind of quality metal acts that may well become the "next big thing" among metalheads worldwide?

Asen (DIMHOLT): As much as it may sound self-important, we believe that at least in terms of black metal we are among the well-established local acts. This could be due to the insufficient number of black metal bands within Bulgaria, but we have also been playing live regularly except for the last two years (for obvious reasons). We have our share of live gigs and some exposure in the neighboring countries but there's still a lot to be desired when it comes to being recognized outside the country's borders. For the time being I remain skeptical that Bulgaria could produce the "next big thing" in extreme metal. However, I see a positive trend which shows that bands are taking care of equipment, artistic vision, exposure and media coverage, distribution, business decisions, etc.

Alex (DEADSCAPE): If you think "the Bulgarian underground metal scene seems to be a tad underrated even though the country has produced many promising acts," then you are right. With a few exceptions, we do not go much further than "promising" and having "potential." Yes, well-crafted music is always going to be the number one concern, but it is also about building a visual image (from your logo to how you dress on stage), working on your stage presence, acquiring certain marketing skills, etc. You can't have just one, you need them all. Luckily, more and more Bulgarian bands seem to be working in this direction, and once it becomes more common, then we will be able to convince the rest of the world that we are worth checking out.

Deadscape has been around for some time now, but I believe that people have started noticing us more in the last year. Given the fact that our last show before the pandemic was in January 2019, this might seem kind of ironic to the external observer, but the truth is, although we had a somewhat good idea what we were supposed to do before, only in the past year we have started working on perfecting all the important points mentioned above. Realizing that the real work is bigger than we thought, even sometimes discouraging, this is the principle that we have been trying to follow, showcasing ourselves to the public and leaving nothing to chance, and that we take Deadscape seriously.

Ivan Lazarov (TERRAVORE): The Bulgarian scene is quite large, actually. There are a lot of quality bands from the country. The Revenge Project, Bestia Ater, Axecutor, Enthrallment, Concrete, Redound, TDK, Outrage, Smallman, Odd Crew, and a lot more. There is a lot of diversity in styles also! You can find everything here. As I think about our position in the local scene, I believe we are doing just fine. There are people who enjoy our music and thanks to them, we're keeping thrash alive in our country. After all, the people, the fans are the main reason bands keep doing what they do. When it comes to our position outside Bulgaria, I still believe we are pretty much unknown. Hopefully, that will change in the future haha! I believe bands like Odd Crew, Redound, Concrete, TDK, and Smallman could become big easily! They have everything needed; quality music, perfect synchronization, "image," attitude, everything needed to become one of the bigger bands.

Niki (EUFOBIA): Eufobia often shares the stage with world-famous bands, and this is something that gives a local Bulgarian band pretty good status. On the other hand, we play mostly in Bulgaria and Romania because that's where most of the people who know and like our band live, even though we used to tour across the rest of Europe on a regular basis before the beginning of the pandemic. We're not the exception. There are many good bands in Bulgaria and a true army of faithful metal fans who support them, but on the other hand, there's not a single world-famous Bulgarian band and there's a shitty reason for that. North America is far away from Europe and the people who live there probably don't know anything other than how the mainstream media in Western Europe often describes the Bulgarian people who have gone to their countries to work and to earn an honest living, as gangsters, thieves, and liars. Western politicians need someone to blame for their own failure to deal with the political and economic crises in recent years. Unfortunately, many people believe in this stupid propaganda. That's why the Bulgarians are often underestimated and discriminated against, and we must work harder and show better results in order to receive the same recognition as others. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Constantly fighting against stereotypes gives good motivation to ambitious persons. One of our goals is to show the world that the Bulgarians are as talented as any other people and I'm sure that if we work hard enough, we'll be able to achieve this goal.

Yordan Kanchev (HYPERBOREA): There are currently many spectacular young metal bands in Bulgaria and Hyperborea has become somewhat "old stuff" and probably unknown to many of the new generation metalheads. Among the established underground Bulgarian extreme metal acts, however, I think we have our set place. In 2019 we released our most recent album titled Umbra, on the Spanish label Art Gates Records. The album was well received by the Bulgarian media and abroad and it got some very good reviews. For me, Bulgaria has the potential to produce great metal bands. Two things need to take place for this to happen. One, bands should not try to imitate the famous representatives of this or that metal subgenre and two, an intersection should happen between a very good and dedicated band, a very good and dedicated producer, a very good and dedicated studio and a very good and dedicated label. I have not yet seen such an intersection in the Bulgarian metal scene, but we'll see.

Kalin Kolev (CONCRETE): We try to be all over the place and play as many shows as possible. That's what the band is all about, playing the music we love and playing as much as possible to get the music out there. If you follow that simple formula people will gradually start to notice you. We're happy to have a strong fan base here in Bulgaria. Because of the Covid crisis, shows are on hold currently, but we can't wait to get back on track and play some venues. As for the international scene, I'd say Bulgaria has some serious bands that deserve to get out there. There are a lot of factors that make playing outside Bulgaria somewhat harder than shows within the country.

Anton Andonov (BLEAK REVELATION): At least in the Bulgarian underground metal scene we seem to be a recognized name, partially due to the fact we were there and working hard over the last 10 years. Basically, all specialized media here and most metal fans that are interested in local underground bands are fully aware who we are, and some even seem to like us, haha!

We've had fan emails, album purchases and interview requests from many countries across the Globe (the USA, UK, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and even Malaysia, to name a few). However we are talking about selected individuals and metal maniacs and can't really call this "massive" interest. Even on a small scale this is flattering, and we deeply appreciate it. Maybe part of the reason for this is our attempt to contact as many metal webzines around the world to spread the word about our releases, used social media ads (with a modest budget, of course) targeting a global audience and so on.

As for your other question, I kind of understand it focuses on the "competitiveness" of our local scene compared to the international one. This is a tough one, not going to lie. We do have some amazing bands with unique sounds, great musicianship and intense live performances, who can easily swim among the big fish (one example—The Revenge Project). However, many are not investing much time, effort or money in proper management, promotion and PR in general and these things are critical for getting recognized outside of your little bubble. Unfortunately, there is no one to blame, almost 99% of these guys are stuck in their life-draining day jobs and do not have the energy or the funds to make this happen (nor do we...). I would say that Bulgarian scene is yet to develop this habit or culture in investing more or taking risks, but the scene worldwide is also so oversaturated that labels and management with good reach and impact are simply overlooking what is going on here.

I can see some light at the end of the tunnel though. For example, bands like Enthrallment, Eufobia, Concrete and many others are working hard on their publicity and are now reaping the benefits of their efforts.

Zlatin Atanasov (THE REVENGE PROJECT): We are still among the prominent and well-known bands in the Bulgarian underground and kind of obscure outside Bulgaria. The truth is, it takes a lot more work and effort to get fame and recognition, however there are some things in life that cannot be put aside. We are five grown men with five families. That applies to a certain extent to all Bulgarian bands, so I personally do not see Bulgaria becoming the next big thing, especially now that the scene is severely hit by the pandemic (as is the entire world).

Anton Avramov (OBSIDIAN SEA): When it comes to us, I can't say we are strictly speaking just a part of the metal scene here. We've shared the stage with all kinds of bands, from doom metal, death metal, psychedelic rock, hardcore-punk, instrumental stoner and the same applies to the audience we have, as far as I'm aware. I don't exactly know what king of position we hold. On one hand, we are already quite an experienced band, but I'll be pushing it if I say we are widely respected veterans. I think, like many other bands in Bulgaria we exist in this niche where we are known, but I'm quite sure there are regular metalheads here who have never heard of us.

Outside of the country's borders I think we need a lot of work to establish ourselves as a more well-known name. Wherever we've played, be it Austria, Germany, Greece, Serbia, Czech Republic, etc., we've had a good response, but we are more or less still in the deep underground. I don't think there has been a "big thing" from Bulgaria yet. Thinking about it, I'd be hard pressed to say which Bulgarian metal band is widely well known. I know there are death and black metal bands who have had some recognition abroad (within certain circles, of course) but I can't really think of a single traditional heavy metal one, for instance. I think there's this big gap here that is yet to be crossed where on one hand you have the deep underground bands and on the other those who are striving for popularity but could only nominally be considered "metal." So far there hasn't really been a band that would consistently sit in between those extremes.

Is there a potential here for more? I'd say yes, but we're still suffering from a lack of true tradition that dates way back (like in other countries), both in terms of the bands themselves but also management. Oftentimes, that results in bands quitting way too early and not having enough longevity to be able to really work at establishing themselves.

Ivan Stalev (JOHN STEEL): First of all, we don't think that we are a typical underground band, we are trying to be more mainstream. We think we are a well-known band in Bulgaria but for the rest of the world we are not but still we have fans all over the world. Working with singers like Blaze, Doogie and Reece helped us to win fans from all over. Our country has the potential to produce new names we are just missing one good label here in Bulgaria who can build up bands and help them to grow.

Martin Manev (CLAYMORE): The answer is easy—our origin holds us back. In Bulgaria there are many talented and original performers, equal to some of the big bands, but in order for a band to get on a bigger stage you need to have an established network. We are expecting a miracle. We are all looking forward to seeing one of us (and why not ourselves) on the same stage with the greats as equals.

Maria Dièse (RAMPART): Before I became part of the band, I had already become part of the metal subculture, part of the metal society and part of this metal community. When I felt myself part of Rampart, it was more than a logical development. This is not about personal pride or lack of attention. At some point we outgrew our aspirations to be only metal fans and we decided that we could create music in a direction which we liked. We have gained the skills and the confidence to do it. This confidence was not expressed, we simply acted with a joint effort and every member of the band contributed. If there is anything to be proud of, it is our achievements. Our music sounds solid and heavy, our songs are unique, and our harmonies satisfy our aesthetic pursuits.

Rampart is a band with many official releases in Bulgaria, which is unusual, especially when it comes to heavy metal. However, our popularity around here is limited. It is funny that we recorded an album in the Bulgarian language for our Bulgarian fans, but its first edition was sold out almost entirely abroad and is now a rarity in our country. In this trail of thought, our position in Europe is much more stable and our fans value us more abroad.

Bulgaria's potential to produce something significant in metal is quite small, because the metal society is torn apart by envy and every single achievement of a band becomes an occasion for slander among colleagues and fans. It is as if you stole someone's personal "greatness" and sold it somewhere. This is the reason Bulgaria's metal albums are lonely entities in the discography of bands whose members have parted ways, or bands have not created anything new for decades, because of one reason or another. Despite their qualities, these Bulgarian metal albums remain pearls for connoisseurs. The crushing disregard usually results in the lack of belief in the authors of metal music and in the disintegration of the bands.

It is much more realistic for Bulgarian metal bands to find recognition first abroad, and only then in the framework of the country. In our early interviews for foreign metal magazines and radio stations, we constantly recommended Bulgarian bands in different metal genres to readers/listeners. Some of them no longer exist, others were offended by some aspects of their mention. We also have bands that are very good at what they do, but it is definitely not new. They just fill the genre's gaps on home soil. Knowing the state of the "music business" in our country, I am not very optimistic about the outbreak of a significant metal act in Bulgaria any time soon. We are individualists to an anarchist degree. This is embedded in our folklore and in our historical destiny. We have very skillful and qualified musicians, but it is difficult for us to develop successful bands and it is almost impossible to promote them.

Galen (BRUJA): As I see it Bruja is something very new, raw and unpolished. Even if we don't have that much experience in the sludge/doom/stoner genre our previous musical background in punk and hardcore helps a lot. We may not be technically perfect every time, but what is important to me personally in music is a good concept and originality and I think we have both. I think being invited to make our debut at Boro Fest by one of the doom pioneers in Bulgaria, Brodnik, is a good sign. This is proof of our potential. I was pleasantly surprised by people asking for merch and music long before our EP was finished, and we hadn't even played a live concert yet.

As for the Balkans and international scene, I think it's premature to put ourselves there. We have a long road ahead of us. What I think is we are fortunate enough to be close to Greece where there's a huge scene and I love that. There's so much we can learn from them.

When it comes to the Bulgarian metal scene things are quite simple. We have good original musicians with a lot of potential yet our life standard along with other non-music-related things obstructs the progress of our bands. For the last 10-15 years, we have had a few bands that more or less achieved some international recognition. I think the most noticeable will be Odd Crew. I think that because they are behaving as a full-blooded band with an international label behind them, regularly touring and festival appearances.

Jorkata (BRUJA): We are still a very young band and musically undeveloped, so even if we start to get our name put on banners, there is a long way to go. Bulgaria is a dark, cold place with a lot of places to get lost, so we have all the conditions to make quality doom metal. Sharing it with all places in the world would be great.

Nikolai (BRUJA): I've always made music for the joy of it, and where we are now is completely fine by me. Of course, I am ready to support the band in every step forward, but I think I am not the person who is driven by ambitions in the first place. Most of us have been in the scene since we were kids (I started my first project in high school) and when you have so many friends and acquaintances playing in different bands, I don't think you can talk about "position." We just enjoy what we do and being part of the scene without comparisons to other bands is a really nice point of view to have.

As for playing abroad, I've never done it and I am not sure what to expect. What we are used to are a few clubs we've known for a long time, with only minor changes through the years. It sounds great to be the "Next big thing from Bulgaria," but we should never forget that the underground, compared to everything else, is basically very, very small. So, I prefer to stay humble and support the scene in the first place, and from there I believe everything should fall into place.

Emo (BRUJA): Our band is still new. It has been a little more than a year since we formed. I think the best moments are yet to come. There are many bands from the Bulgarian underground which are on an international level, not only sludge or doom but also in all the extreme metal genres, hardcore, punk and all its derivatives. We have to gain more experience before we reach their level.

Life is not easy here and never has been in our lifetime. We all have to work, some of us at more than one job and music is a way of dealing with reality and putting the negative emotions into creativity. I believe everyday life here in the Balkans has a huge impact on the underground scene. You have to learn to deal with big problems from a young age. Most people know how to party but also deal with a huge amount of shit on a daily basis. This is why there has always been an underground music scene here filled with wrath, anger, desperation and all the other negative emotions, even before the fall of communism. I think the only thing stopping Bulgarian bands from being worldwide famous is the lack of resources, mainly time and money.

What are you most proud of regarding your band and why?

Asen (DIMHOLT): Of all things, we are mostly proud of having played live (as warm-up or part of festival bill) alongside great names such as Cradle of Filth, Rotting Christ, Batushka, Shammasch, Bölzer, Inferno, and Lvcifyre to name a few.

As an underground act, we are often flattered by personal references from other bands which we admire or are influenced by. We hold these moments dear because we believe that our effort and sacrifices along the way have helped us achieve these small steps.

Alex (DEADSCAPE): First, I am extremely proud of the people in the current lineup. Even though melodic death metal has a lot of fans in Bulgaria (judging by the crowd at the shows of Wintersun, Dark Tranquillity, Insomnium and other melodeath bands we adore), it was quite the challenge to find five that would not only listen to it (or at least like it to a certain extent) but would also play it in a band. We have gone through numerous personnel changes but obviously it was for the best and the lineup had been stable for the past three years. We have our differences, of course, but I am proud of the fact that we manage to overcome them and to find those sweet crossing points where the music of Deadscape materializes.

Second, as impatient (to say the least) as I always was, I am glad that we waited until now to release Of the Deepest Shade, our debut album. I can't wait until January 14th because I can feel that we are ready, and this is the perfect moment to do it. And no, we were not ready three years ago, not two, not one, even if we thought we were. Also, my mind still can't process the fact that we have managed to get the mighty Dan Swanö on board so he could deal with the mixing and mastering of the album, and that in his enormous portfolio, somewhere between Opeth, Katatonia, Dissection, etc., lies the name of a humble melodic death metal band from Sofia, Bulgaria.

The results are yet to be seen in 2022, but we worked selflessly on this album and on the band, and I believe we made sure we are going to release a high-quality product that will satisfy not only Bulgarian metal fans but also fans from around the globe.

Ivan Lazarov (TERRAVORE): One of the biggest achievements which we think accomplished personally is when we were chosen to support Testament on their last show in Sofia. It was a huge experience! Also, as I mentioned in my answer to the first question, for me personally it's that we are still together and making music. We are also proud of our releases, but most of all with our second album, Vortex of Perishment. Since Boyko Nikolaev, our second guitarist and the main person behind the melodic leads joined the band we have improved a lot. And not just because of his musical experience, we also grew as people and musicians. We are also pretty excited about the new material which we are preparing currently because it's the most mature and complex stuff we have ever done.

Niki (EUFOBIA): We've got enough reasons to be proud of our achievements. Eufobia is one of the very few Bulgarian bands that have toured across Europe. Our songs have been played by radio stations all over the world. We have given many interviews to magazines and websites that write about metal music. It wasn't easy for a metal band from the former communist block to get noticed abroad, believe me! We've got many friends from all over the world who listen to our music and appreciate what we do. We have shared the stage with great bands such as Arch Enemy, At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, Cannibal Corpse, Rotting Christ, Vader, Immolation, Onslaught, Malevolent Creation, Pyogenesis, Christ Agony, Primordial, Gorgoroth, Sinister, Broken Hope, Jinjer, Eluveitie, E-force, Negura Bunget, Suicidal Angels and many more. In 2018, we had the opportunity to perform on the stage of one of the world's most important metal festivals, Wacken Open Air, and that experience literally changed our lives. When we started the band, we didn't even imagine that one day we would share the stage with some of our favorite bands, but we did it and we learned a lot from them. We're here to stay and I believe that the best is yet to come.

Yordan Kanchev (HYPERBOREA): First, we have continued our uninterrupted existence as a band for almost 25 years. This alone is a reason to be proud as, despite all the hardships and difficulties, we managed to stay alive and develop as a band. Second, we released three full-length albums and I am especially proud of that. And third, we supported many great bands, such as Obituary, Vader, Arch Enemy, Pungent Stench, Crematory, Asphyx, Cancer and Angelwitch. Throughout the years, a lot of people were happy headbanging with us at concerts, so this is also something I take pride in, that we made a lot of people happy, if for at least a couple of hours.

Kalin Kolev (CONCRETE): I'm really proud of how the band's evolving. I love seeing fans digging our stuff and really going nuts at shows. I'm very lucky to be playing with excellent musicians and that shows best on our latest album, Ethereal Atrocities. With that said, I'm proud of making it through another record and getting even stronger. We've played with a lot of bands that have made an impact on our musical taste, so I'm thankful for those opportunities too. And finally, I'm proud of the fact that we've been able to meet so many great people along the way.

Anton Andonov (BLEAK REVELATION): We decided to record our demo (2013) by ourselves, and the terrible sound and sloppy playing almost killed the band. We got extremely lucky to find the Belgian producer Déhà (ex-Clouds, Slow, Yhdarl, Imber Luminis, Maladie, etc.), who was living in Bulgaria at the time, to produce our debut single "Defied by Clouds" (2014) and first album Afflictive Seclusion (2015). Having this renowned man taking interest in what we were doing and coaching us to be a better band both in the studio and on the stage helped us a huge deal, and we are extremely proud of making this work.

For our second album, Collapse (2020), we won an online competition that allowed us to record in a professional studio with expensive gear and a duo of legendary producers (Maxim Goranov and Ivo Ivanov). Receiving so much help from our supporters felt amazing as did the time spent in these recording sessions.

After participating in a W.O.A Metal Battle Competition, we were selected by the promoter as local support for the Polish band Batushka (before the famous split). Moreover, we've had the chance to share the stage with well-known underground artists such as Ophis (DE), Eye of Solitude (GB), Evadne (ES), Negura Bunget (RO), Frostmoon Eclispe (IT), etc.

Zlatin Atanasov (THE REVENGE PROJECT): We are very proud to have opened for bands such as Sodom, Dimmu Borgir, Benediction, Amorphis, Destruction, etc. We were proud to be a part of a Nuclear Blast Festival held in Bulgaria, alongside Edguy, Benediction and Amorphis. We are proud of our albums and the countless concerts we have played, from tiny clubs to festivals. The thing we are most proud of is that we never changed our style of music, the typical mixture of death, black and thrash metal, that we play.

Anton Avramov (OBSIDIAN SEA): As I said in my answer to the first question, I try to appreciate the fact that there is such a band and we're able to write and perform our music the way we want. In my eyes, that is a lot! To be more specific, I always feel a sense of fulfillment when we finish an album. Looking back, I can hear the flaws in all of them, but those records are artifacts of someone having lived and breathed and felt something and maybe someone else could find a piece of himself there. And our latest (fourth) record Pathos is to be released in February, so there's that.

Ivan Stalev (JOHN STEEL): We are proud of all our albums and that we have had the chance to work with famous metal and rock singers. Also, we are proud that we have signed a good contract which will help us to become more and more famous, hopefully.

Martin Manev (CLAYMORE): We are proud of the fact that we shared one stage with Destruction, Dimmu Borgir, Primordial, Jorn Lande, Mystic Circle, Napalm Death, Sinister, Lord Belial, Graveworm, Eastern Front, Exumer, Negura Bunget, Izegrim, Spoil Engine, Zombie Inc., etc., because it was difficult for us to be together on the platform, a band out of nowhere but with great music. The fact that in the beginning we didn't have money for instruments was also a big problem. What is important for us and bothers us the most is that we can't find the right person to mix our music.

Maria Dièse (RAMPART): We are proud of the songs we have created. We are pleased with their messages and their musical features, which have a great impact on understanding their meaning. We are proud that our messages are not elementary and do not serve just one musical form, but are complete conceptions of a living art, representing aspects of real life.

Another pride of ours is the invitation that the Wacken Foundation sent to Rampart in 2017 to participate in W.O.A and the (...finally released) DVD of this live show in 2021, which is distributed in a special edition of our new album. Apart from the efforts made for the technical implementation of the entire project, we are pleased with the appreciation of people who understand metal music and the interest of metal fans in this production.

The historical themes in our new album are also the result of in-depth historical research, articles about which are included with each song's lyrics in the booklet of our new album WWII: Memories for the Future. We do not call for "Honor, fight, kill!" on the backdrop of riffs and cannonades. We tell you lesser-known stories about historical events in the context of the contemporary world through the expressive means of heavy metal.

Galen (BRUJA): What I appreciate most is that we manage to bring the "drinking and playing with friends" activity into a real product with intellectual and artistic value.

Jorkata (BRUJA): Releasing our debut album and introducing it with two live shows in our first year as a band.

A lot of bands get stuck in the rehearsal room and stay there for years because of a lack of a productive engine.

We have this force and will keep producing.

Nikolai (BRUJA): I am proud that, compared to my previous project we are growing much faster as a band.

Emo (BRUJA): I am proud that in less than two years we formed a band, created music, recorded it and released an EP. The best thing about this is that it's 100% DIY. Galen, playing throat, is also the designer of all the artwork. Misho from Expectations recorded, mixed and mastered the EP almost for free. Most of us have had and some still have much in common with the punk and hardcore scene and the ethics of this environment has penetrated our perception of the music. I hope this is just the beginning and we will be able to make more and more of the music we love.

Links:

BLEAK REVELATION: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE2bVkpiPMFoqJ9xXzv-3ZQ

BRUJA: https://brujasofia.bandcamp.com

CLAYMORE: http://claymorebg.com

CONCRETE: https://www.youtube.com/user/ConcreteDM

DEADSCAPE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm7vR_zCSANBH78bQf4F-fQ

DIMHOLT: https://www.youtube.com/user/DimholtOfficial

EUFOBIA: https://www.youtube.com/c/Eufobia

HYPERBOREA: https://www.youtube.com/user/hyperboreaband

JOHN STEEL: https://www.youtube.com/user/johnsteelband

OBSIDIAN SEA: https://obsidian-sea.bandcamp.com

RAMPART: https://www.youtube.com/user/RAMPARTmetal

TERRAVORE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKnqgXALG3wDF2PJ5wlSEqQ

THE REVENGE PROJECT: https://the-revenge-project.bandcamp.com




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