TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with the Lithuanian extreme heavy metal band Obtest was done via e-mail by Fjordi in February, 2006.
Lithuania´s Obtest have managed to create a wild aggressive heavy metal album full of ravishing hymns and elegies to their homeland´s lore and ancestors, generically titled “I Kartos I Karta”. The interview was mandatory in this case, so we prepared our journalist machinery to attack the band with a bunch of questions to know plenty of details about everything surrounding this act and their excellent latest opus. Here you have the words uttered by their speaker.
Hi! Obtest must be quite busy preparing tours and so on, I suppose. Tell us about the next plans for the future of the band.
Hi there! We just arrived from our "winter generation tour", and it was the first step to introduce our new album to the European headbanging audience. Now we plan to make some concerts in the region (Lithuania, Latvia, Belaruss) and in april return to European stages for more outraging shows.
I presume the reaction of the press and fans to the last album has been very positive. Of course I won´t ask you about it, since I think any person with enough taste must bow his head in reverence towards “I Kartos I Karta”. My question is: was the process of making the album something specially inspired? Were you feeling that something great was to see the light?
To the present moment we achieved over hundred reviews all over the world, so all in all I can mention one thing what is highlighted by the critics: "you can't compare it to any other band".
It seems to have taken lots of time making and rehearsing the songs of this album. Is it due to external factors (tours in between, lack of time, jobs, etc.), or is it simply because the band was really concentrated on preparing the best songs, nevermind the time necessary to carry it out?
That's our path, it seems so, 4 years between each album. The main factors are from a personal life (jobs, families, other activities), and after all we try to put the best songs in to album, so after each recording there are some material left. The most time takes the writing of lyrics.
The artwork is appealing and mysterious, evocative and rather folk than metal, I´d say. Tell us something about the choice of the cover art and the meaning. By the way: what does “Obtest” mean?
If you are talking about the artwork of "Is Kartos I karta" album, I was lookong for pictures made by Lithuanian photographs, and saw thousands of them, starting with 1960 to the present. When I saw the picture of our front cover, I just understood that this is it: the black treaded paths. And when I met this artist to talk about teh copyrights, he showed me another picture, which became our back cover: from generation to generation. The rest material we made to fit the whole concept. The idea behind the album name is clear, I think. The artworks are sepia because of the blink. This is the transition state - from generation to generation, not past not future, the real and raw present, the blink. The blink which has to be captured and experienced NOW. Even if it is the last one.. So all songs in the album are closely conected, and explain each other in the whole.
OBTEST is to "protest" and to "resist". This is the name we gave to our crew in the very beggining, so it lead us all the way.
It seems the previous albums had a bigger black metal touch. This one is instead hell of an unbridled brutal heavy metal album, in my opinion. Are you fond of giving your music a particular description? If so, what is it?
I think you are right about that, the previous album was more in to black metal, but this root will take place in all our future works in one or another shape. We tried to make it more archaic and raw, so it turned to a "heavy" or something. I don't like making descriptions and comparisons about music, it's the work of critics, I always say. For me it is pagan metal.
There is a strong classic heavy metal feeling in your music. Feels like the essence of heavy metal is present in the songs. Melodies seem to play the main role. What is the secret to make good heavy melodies without falling into cheesy landscapes, in your opinion? That´s really difficult.
I don't think like that. I'm not falling in to categories like this, I just transform some impulses in to melodies, that's all. And then you hear what it's all about. The main principle for me while composing music is to gain "flow" in the song.
The production is furious and sharpened as hell. Where has the album been recorded?
Did you trust those studios from the beginning? How are the Lithuanian music studios in general?
Lithuania has no studios. The only good studio in our region is "phoenix" studio in Riga (Latvia), and soundmaster Gints Lundbergs. This is the best place to cast metal! Drums section for our album was captured in "ophis" studio in Kaunas (Lithuania), and the rest of the work made in cult studio "Vytis" (this is our own studio). Our previous album "Auka seniems dievams" was made completely in "Vytis" studio, and has a very special sound.
The album initially was going to be titled in a different manner. What was the first tentative title?
You know more than anyone.. Yes, the album had to be named "Gelezinis vilkas" (the iron wolf), and we thought to dedicate this work to Grand Duke Gediminas, the legendary establisher of our capital Vilnius. The iron wolf was dreamt by grand duke Gediminas, while he was asleep on the hill where the city of Vilnius now is. That's the legend. But when we found out, that it's impossible to complete the album in the year 2003 we just gave it up.
Lithuania is probably not the best country to form a metal band. Please tell us something about the memories you have from the early years of your career. You could also tell us the things you like the most from Lithuania, and the ones you can´t stand.
The first years were really extreme, but so were we! The first rehearsals with the equipement not used to play even rock music, everything stood only on enthusiasm and total metal madness. We wanted to play metal music, so the desire drove us forward, and thru the years we just saw bands splitting up around after a half year or less. My first guitar was made in Russia, it was a real hell to saddle her up! We had no amps, even distortion pedals, so we used local crap "overdrives" worth nothing. We had no opportunities there for a better conditions. No one in the west won't believe what conditions we were to adobt to play metal..
Lithuania is the best place to live, but when you travel much, you meet a different people, and I see that our people, the mass, are much more negative and pesimistic. So when you come back from the adventures you feel something negative here, but after a while you get used to it.
Following the previous question, what are the biggest problems you have in your country regarding the metal scene?
There is no traditions of rock culture in general, that's the main problem. So we have a metal scene 15 years old, and a couple of albums released locally, and a few known worldwide. That's the story. I think Ledo Takas records is doing his best to rise it up. The real metal power is guys from FERRUM web portal, and that's great. Nowadays there are no such problems like rehearsing place, instruments, equipement, you can buy everything you need, just be sure you have an IDEA.
I´d like to know if the fact Lithuania has been “forced to be silent” all these years under the cultural and political influence of the USSR has something to do with the outburst of folklore-related concept of your verses (and other bands´s lyrics from the Baltic regions).
In 1990, when USSR fell, and baltic region regained independances, lots of people took folklore and history as they had to identify them selves. It was a real wave of all pagan and stuff. After couple of years it calm down, and became not so important for the masses. There are some pagan comunities in Lithuania and Latvia, which are deep in to religion, celebrations, rituals. Talking about artists, we had a pagan metal wave here in 1995-1998.
Which are the best bands coming from the Baltic countries, in your opinion? That region seems to be spawning several impressive bands in these years.
Personal best: SKYFORGER, DISSIMULATION, LOITS. There are more old and young bands around like: METSATOL, THARAPHITA, URSKUMUG, SHADOWDANCES, RUINATION, ANDAJA, OSSASTORIUM.
I can´t avoid asking you about sports, throw this question to the trashbin if you find it out of time and place. I always admired those Lithuanian basketball players like Rimas Kurtinaitis, Sharunas Marciulionis or Arvydas Sabonis (nowadays there´s also a good amount of players around but those are the vintage classics for me!). Is basketball the first sport in your country? Is it still very popular there?
Of course! This is our national proud! We grew up with victories of Zalgiris, in USSR times it were more than just basketball victories for us. Lithuanians manage to play this crazy game! The last game few days before we fucked up Macabi, and that happened twice! So that's the game!
I like the Lithuanian language on your vocal style and music. It sounds somehow barbaric and hymnic, raging, aggressive, it fits perfectly. Have you tried to sing in English? The effect would be worse, I think...
Our first songs are written in english, but our own language is perfect for what we are doing, so after demo tapes we started to sing in native tongue. If you'd know lithuanian, and understand what the song is about, you'd get a maximum effect I think.
Does Lithuanian folk music appeal to you, or do you consider it an influence in Obtest?
I like our folk music, I like the archaic structures and tunes, the ritualistic origin of the songs, monotonous flowing mantras, hipnotising chantings. When you deepen in to the source, you see how melodies are bound to the words, and you can imagine how old they are, that's shivering...
And last, one about beer. I heard Latvia has some remarkable beers as Bauskas Gaiđais or Tçrvetes Alus. What about your country´s brewery industry? Lithuanian beer is a topic you could unveil for us right now.
well, Utenos seems to be the best at the moment, Svyturys is perhaps the most popular - it is not bad but it got a bit worse than it was few years back. there are some smaller breweries as well, especially in Pasvalys region, known for its strong taste and good memories the day after..
I´ve got nothing more to add. Time for you to feel relief, complain about how long and disgusting this interview was, or whatever... Thank you very much! Stay heavy!
Thanx for the interview! Keep BURNING!
Links of interest:
Ledo Takas Records