Recently, I reviewed the debut EP and album by Polish Death Metal band Vephar, as well as the debut EP from Black Metal band Premonitions. The link between the two bands is vocalist Amira, who has very kindly taken some time out to answer my questions about both of her current bands, plus a whole lot more including a post pregnancy drug that causes mutations, changeable vocal ranges, and blasphemy through the lens of science.
Greetings Amira, and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How is winter in Poland?
Not bad, as we have a wonderful fall this winter. I am very pleased because I prefer warmer temperatures and not having to put on additional heating in my flat (I wish Russia to bankrupt as soon as possible).
You have been rather busy over the last couple of years, splitting your time between Premonitions and Vephar. Lets start with your Death Metal project Vephar. How did you and Bartlomiej come together to form the band?
I moved to Wrocław (in Western Poland) in late 2015 and put my music projects on pause. In the middle of the lockdown in 2020 I felt the urge to look for a band after a 5-year break. I searched for a death metal band among numerous FB groups, with no luck at all. In the end, I reached out to a thrash metal project, hoping that it would be “deathened” to some extent. Bartłomiej was the guitarist who wrote most of the material there. The Covid situation didn’t make things easy, and despite playing in that band for more than a year, we were still not ready to start gigs. From the beginning, Bartłomiej and I were confident about the direction we would like to take when it comes to tuning and introducing a much faster tempo to our compositions. The rest of the band wasn’t very enthusiastic about these changes, and we all decided to take a break from this project. Bartłomiej and I have always been crazy about the old-school, straightforward way of performing extreme music and the death metal pioneers. I was confident in Barłomiej’s ability to compose anything that I could come up with, so I think that I was the one who proposed to him that we form a death metal band on our terms. Even though we would have no option to play gigs as a duo, he agreed immediately and sent me the first riffs just a few days after. The whole EP was written and recorded in less than 3 weeks, and we released physical copies of the album. At this point, a month has gone by since we last played with our thrash project friends. Few months after reunion we decided to part ways. I will never forget this month. I was able to compose vocals, record them, paint the album cover, and design the graphics for the physical copy. After months of pandemic isolation, I reconnected with a passion I thought I left behind me when moving to Wroclaw. Creating together can be demanding, but I never experienced such a level of understanding and respect from any musician I worked with before. Bartłomiej can take criticism and suggestions from me, even though I cannot play any instrument and communicate on a certain level of music theory. Since we finished our first track, I was sure that it was just the beginning of our adventure.
Vephar was born out of anger, frustration, and being done with compromises and expectations of others. I think it can be heard in EP for sure.
Vephar put out a couple of single releases before then taking the plunge with a full EP and then your debut album, ‘Ascension Through Torture’. How was the ‘Human Beasts’ EP and the album received by fans and critics? Have there been any memorable comments or feedback?
The outcome of the premiere was far beyond our expectations. We both knew that in the era of social networks and music streaming platforms, the competition is insanely high and despite having some fans (or haters!) we can end up with zero engagement. But once the entire album was released, people from around the world were reaching out with their congratulations and to ask for physical copies of the album. The most memorable moment for me was during a gig in Germany where I was filling in for my friend in Chainsword band. I was performing their music on stage but after the show, people came up to me and offered to pay double for Vephar EP CDs saying that this vocal deserves much more.
How would you describe the progression between the EP and the album, in terms of both lyrical content and musical style, as well as personally with your own vocals?
I personally believe that we both have grown significantly since EP was recorded. Its content was angry and honest as hell, but the music and lyrics were not as consistent as they are on our full record. We spend much more time composing music, lyrics, and design of the concept of it all. Regarding music, I had little input into the riffs or certain song structures, that came from Bartłomiej. Even if we reinvented the wheel, I enjoyed the simplicity of some parts in Cannibal Corpse bridges and Morbid Angel grimness. While riffs were shared incrementally I worked on lyrics in parallel, aiming to make them about something significant which matters. I spent dozens of hours researching interesting things I read about or heard of in the past. I also paid a lot of attention to the album cover and title, as they were meant to be an illustration of blasphemous and gore lyrics hooked in the modern world of religious superstitions. Even Cathedral is the real building based in Wrocław to refer to the birthplace of our band and music.
In contrast, while working on EP previously, I wrote separate lyrics to each song and just wanted them to be satanic or surrealistic. When I came up with a catchy title I never heard of in the context of any death metal album and literally painted one of the first ideas that came to my mind. Regarding my vocal progression on LP, as compositions were much more pulsating, vibrant, and faster, we decided to adjust my vocals. A higher tempo mean that I had to use more words and variations to make my voice sound more aggressive. It was hard to adjust at first, but with some exercises, I managed to deliver better quality.
As well as the music, I found a lot of enjoyment from reading through your lyrics, and there are some weird and wonderful subjects covered. Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there any limits or boundaries to what you may write about in future?
I tend to be inspired by the everyday world around me, especially the evil side of nature and the flimsy duality of human perceptions such as how one can see the utter ugliness of things others may consider beautiful. Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by many subjects from various art and science disciplines and always hungry to keep on learning and improving. I read a lot, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts, and then immediately write down my thoughts about what strikes me as the most interesting. After a while, I go back to my notes, do more research, and then write lyrics. Sometimes I just can be inspired by seeing beautiful people or buildings, amazing
landscapes, or extraordinary interior design, so I quickly write a poem that potentially can become a lyric later on, but this particular approach is more visible in my black metal project. As we know, Evil has no boundaries. I don’t foresee drawing some kind of line in the future. I will write about any topic I find important, disgusting, or just interesting.
I want to talk about the track ‘Darkness Particle’ in particular. I read into this song as an anti-religious song, but rather than go the usual route of outright blasphemy, or savaging the church, you went down the scientific route to essentially be blasphemous about religion. Am I reading too much into this? Can you tell me more about this tracks lyrics?
You are absolutely right and I’m really pleased that you noticed what I wanted to communicate there. This text is a manifest of my conviction that the truth about universe can only be explained by universal laws described by Physics. I think that it doesn’t matter what we believe, wish for or what we can read in any scripture written thousands of years ago. We need to admit as society that any sacred text cannot be a source for common understanding the world around us. Otherwise, there will be more superstitions…
The observable universe with all its particles cannot be interpreted by apologetics means at someone’s convenience. As there are many processes and theories, which are already confirmed and calculated, most of phenomena described by beliefs are debunked already.
Another track that stood out was ‘Thalidomide’. This was a drug in the 50’s and 60’s that caused countless defects and brain issues in children. Can you explain the concept of the song in more detail?
It’s a terrifying story, especially for an individual who is able to experience pregnancy in a country where abortion is practically banned. The lyrics are about the greed of the pharmaceutical industry which led to a thousand tragedies of mutilated children born with deformed limbs or without limbs at all. The different types of disabilities these individuals experienced made them completely dependent on their caretakers during their short lifespan. The less fortunate were abandoned by their parents and likely never experienced love. This misfortunate event also caused trauma in mothers who trusted that Thalidomide was just a pill to relieve the nagging symptoms of pregnancy. This has happened many times in medical history that drugs for women were introduced to the market without proper research and due diligence.
Many autoimmune diseases mostly affecting women are still underdiagnosed, not fully described, or properly treated even today. Bias in medicine still exists and women are not treated seriously, even while experiencing mental or physical pain… I decided to write about this story as it fits in with the death metal aesthetics and to contribute, in my own way, to ensure that this tragedy won’t be forgotten. I tried to describe the suffering and draw some gore illustrations of cases I read of. The plot twist, in the end, is that sometime after being banned, the substance is still used as an additional treatment for testicle cancer, which is a true story.
Are you and Bartlomiej working on a follow up release to ‘Ascension Through Torture’ If so, what details can you give?
At the moment, we are quite busy with other projects (Bartłomiej also has other bands). But as Vephar is our priority, we made good progress on the next album and our plan is to release it this year. Overall, the concepts of music, lyrics, and the cover are still under discussion, and it is a very exciting process!
Lets move on to the Black Metal band Premonitions. How did it come to pass that you are their vocalist?
It’s an interesting story actually and sometimes I joke that I found them because Bartłomiej went away for longer holidays and I was bored not working on Vephar tracks. I saw an interesting post on a local Facebook Group by a guitarist named Gregor, who released instrumental version of ‘Primordial Instinct EP’ and was looking for the people to form a band with. When I listened to that EP and I felt so much grief and anxiety, so both emotions which should be tied to good black metal material in my opinion. Even though I considered this music as amazing work, I knew that it will be hard for him to draw any attention from potential musicians without any vocal lines. It sounded a little bit empty
without lyrics and additional melodic lines. I wanted to avoid having another duo with a single guitarist, but at the same time I was tempted by a challenge – I never did black metal vocals before. I still had two bands at that time, so I wrote to Gregor and proposed only to write the lyrics and record vocal for the EP. Gregor and the newly-found guitarist insisted to have rehearsals and to form the band with me. I took the drummer from my other band to meet with them several times, and eventually I changed my mind… As I was facing first challenges with black metal vocals, I wanted to explore more and more. Throughout the recordings we found the remaining band members, as the drummer and guitarist from the first rehearsals did not end up being part of the current line-up.
You provide the vocals for both bands. You mentioned to me previously about the training you’ve had to do with your voice. Can you elaborate on that and tell me how long you had to train your voice, and what exercises you undertook? Are you happy with where your voice is at right now or are you still building it up?
When I started playing with Premonitions, I knew I must work on my vocal range. During the first rehearsals my scream sounded at times a bit like a cat growl, so I realized that I need to improve my range to go higher. I grabbed my guitar and started to play some notes to try to go higher with my clean voice. After a few attempts, I looked for ready exercises prepared by professionals. I started practicing with ‘Jacobs Vocal Academy’, ‘Sibila Extreme Vocal’ and many more I don’t remember right now. After a few weeks of dedicated practice, I could sing higher notes using my head voice. And that was it – I added fry vocal and then growls to that base and it started to sound like a proper scream. Regarding growls, it was similar in the past, but without the YouTube tutorials, I just used my guitar and tried to go lower and lower.
I am not entirely happy with my voice right now and I see room for improvement. I don’t sound like the beast I would like to become and still have some limitations in regard to higher notes and faster tempos.
Which do you prefer, or find easier? Death or Black Metal vocals? Are there any other styles you would like to move into?
When I joined Premonitions I preferred death metal vocals, they were much more natural and easier for me as I practiced it for many years with my previous bands. Over the recent years, I improved the rhythm, speed and differed the pitch levels in this technic. Black metal vocals are much more relaxing right now and start to feel even more natural like growls. I didn’t think about other styles actually. In 2021 I realized that I always wanted to be a death metal singer and I don’t have to compromise my vision. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to improve my
clean vocal in the future, as it helps with growls and screams, but I don’t find it exciting to sing this way. Using my clean voice is a much more intimate experience for me to perform.
You released the ‘Primordial Instinct’ EP last year. A very melodic Black Metal release. Again, what kind of reception has the EP released, and what are your thoughts on the EP?
It was my first attempt at black metal vocals ever, so I am really proud to see that people liked it. Unlike Vephar, Premonitions had a full line-up, so after EP with vocals was released, we started playing gigs. I received a lot of positive feedback after the gigs. There was less engagement online than in Vephar’s case, but I find personal opinions of fans much more motivating.
You’ve mentioned to me that there will be a follow up release in the next few months. What details can you give about this?
We finished mixing and mastering, so the title single “Timegates” is just about to go live. As we found wonderful musicians all instruments and their parts are recorded and composed as a band. I find this material much more diverse and interesting as everybody in the band contributed to the final product.
You hail from Wroclaw in Poland. Can you tell me about any other great bands from that city that you feel more people should be checking out?
I am originally from Warsaw and my Wroclaw journey with music started about two years ago. I can recommend Bartłomiej’s other projects which he found after I joined Premonitions – Necrosys and Grób.
Can you tell me what your favourite part of performing in bands is? Also, what do you find the most challenging?
Since I started to play in the bands before my 20s, my only motivation was to perform live. It hasn’t changed much since then to be honest. I adore writing and recording, but without the audience I would rather channel my energy on other mediums of creative expression. When I met Bartłomiej I agreed to have an online project as it seemed the best way to go after my death metal dream at that time. It was a wise move as we turned out to be very efficient even as a duo. I also realized that I don’t need four folks to play the music I want. Now, after such a warm welcome of our debut album we decided to complete a live line-up to play some gigs this year! Vephar is now a complete band with some performances scheduled in upcoming months.
The most challenging part of performing in bands is finding the right people with a similar creative vision and music taste, who are looking in the same direction and can create a focused vision together. The old-school death metal music creation process is hard to do in the means of democratic values. Even if it is not a perfect match and people you have are passionate about other kinds of music, it is crucial to find a team ready to follow focused lead, without getting too distracted or having to compromise individual artistic visions too much.
That is all I have for you. It’s been a pleasure, Amira. I’ll leave the final words to you.
Thank you for this interview and your reviews. I really enjoyed reflecting on these last two years. It was a very rewarding experience and made me want to make even more music. My final words are: follow your dreams and never give up on your visions – they really can come true!