Intervjun – Malokarpatan: ”Peasant drunks are a part of our world”

Enter vomits, devils and magpie legs.


One the very best albums last year came from Slovakia and Malokarpatan. Their heavy metalish black metal is hard not to like. There is a lot going on through the whole album, from the catchy riffings via the samples and the odd instruments to the detailed lyrics.

Malokarpatan will release vinyl presses around this summer, a repress of the debut album and a vinyl version of the great Nordkarpatenland. A part from that, we know nothing about this band. An interview was necessary. Adam Sičák [guitar and main composer] took a lot of his time to quench our curiosity.

There are a lot of things going on in between the tracks: We can hear things like a cuckoo and classical music, a horn closes the final track and so on. Why did you include all these samples? What do they add?

– The most important part of music for me is atmosphere. Of course atmosphere itself can’t make a really good record, but in this niche of music we play it should be absolutely crucial. So that’s the simple purpose of all these introductions and samples – to immerse the listener deeper into the atmosphere of our world. I’m fascinated by the concept of scenic music in theatre plays, and I try to somehow come close to that, although of course it would be ridiculous to compare two such different worlds, what we do is far more primitive. The horn parts which you mention are all samples, just a bit modified. One is from a Czechoslovakian movie from the 60s, the other two are excerpts from hunting music.

So what is the sampled conversation before track three?

– It is sampled from an old local movie called Bičianka z doliny, it’s a village woman saying that a drunken man is being driven home from the pub on a wheelbarrow by his son. Peasant drunks are a part of our world – they add to the grotesque character. In fact they are a typical part of Slovakian literature, movies, visual art and so on.

I love V hustej hore na stračích nohách but when I saw it performed live on Youtube, you excluded  the choir. How do you look upon the studio versions vs. live versions? Is it a necessary evil to avoid some moments of the songs in order to perform live?

– The studio versions are always superior for me, for live versions you always sacrifice a part of the magic. However, the video you mention was most likely the one where we played this song before the actual album was recorded, because now we play the choir part through a sample live. It was a guest part by Necrocock from Master’s Hammer and it’s one of my favourite moments on the album, he really did a fantastic job there. His voice sounds bittersweet and perverted at the same time, which creates a very specific atmosphere.

– I think overall the live versions of songs show our raw aspects more clearly, while on albums you can dive deeper into the moody elements of our music. The album version is the one that stays forever, so I never sacrifice any unusual ideas with the reasoning of “this will not be possible to recreate live”. It still somehow influences our music though, because otherwise I would most likely record more synthesizer parts.

Another odd thing are the unorthodox instruments like the cow bell and the synthesizers in the excellent track Nedlho po púlnoc… How did you think about these extra instruments?

– These were all recorded live and once again, the only reason is to enhance the atmosphere. Some of the synths were recorded by me, some by the studio owner Zdeněk Šikýř who is a professional keyboard player, but most of them are a work of our other special guest – Annick Giroux from Cauchemar who added this special magic touch to the album. Before the album recording, I sent her demo versions of the songs and just let her imagination work wonders – the results were brilliant.

Did you try out any other instruments that did not fit in?

– I like to collect unusual instruments so I have a decent selection of various percussion – tambourines, sleigh bells, wooden ritual percussion, flexatone, glockenspiel and so on. I am a fan of experimental music and of various strange sounds, so I enjoy incorporating them when they fit in. I brought some more stuff with me into the studio and some was not used simply because there was no time left for it. Most regrettably, I couldn’t use the glockenspiel whose magical sound I really love, but at least I can add it as a new element for the next album.

You seem to carefully blend black metal and heavy metal, inserting folk music and always surprising the listener. How did you come up with this kind of metal? Or in other way – how do you compose a Malokarpatan song?

– I think this variety in our music comes from the fact that I like a lot of different stuff, not just black metal, and the other guys too. It might not be so obvious, but a big inspiration for me are experimental and progressive bands from the 70s – there was a lot of diversity in their music, all kinds of changes in mood, tempo, style, instrumentation and the like. The real challenge is to work this into catchy metal songs instead of ending up with some self-absorbed proggy masturbation that leads nowhere. That’s where the punk in our sound kicks in. If you look at metal historically, there’s always been this struggle between prog and punk in it – you have sophisticated bands like Queensrÿche, Fates Warning, Voivod, Emperor and then there’s Motörhead, Saxon, Hellhammer, Von – the more meat and potatoes-metal. Both are great and I try to fuse both of these perspectives in our music. I hate writing music that sounds too much alike, because it bores me to death. Some people think this sort of eclectic songwriting is too chaotic and doesn’t really work as a whole, well I guess they have enough of metal bands that play the same song all over again – death metal is full of that.

I recognize V hustej hore na stračích… as lyrics similar to the story around the witch Baba Yaga and her house. She is totally unkown in Sweden, so… who is she and why did you do a song about her?

– Baba Yaga is a pretty complex character, in classic folktales she is often ambiguous towards humans, but her malevolent aspects are definitely more prominent. She lives in a hut on chicken, or magpie, legs in deep forests and is known to be either an advisor for adventurers brave enough to come close to her dwelling, or she can also eat humans. We focus on her dark features of course. She can be seen as an embodiment of the dark forces of nature, a terrifying spirit of the woods. The shadowy parts of Eastern European folklore are the main focus of our band concept, so this is an ideal character for us to sing about. Unlike pagan/folk metal bands, we have a Left Hand Path look on the world of our native myths – the forces that symbolize chaos and disorder are what we channel in lyrics

Except for Baba Yaga there is also a song about a water goblin, a monster serpent and so on – Is it a long story unravelling or are you giving recognition to several eastern European fairy tales? Tell us about the concept of the lyrics!

– Not a concept storywise, but every song basically presents a different character from our folklore. We focus on the malevolent, the grotesque and bizarre. Black metal is not a world of beauty, although it should be able to create beauty out of hideousness, like its spiritual godfathers Baudelaire or Goya did. We find beauty in strange water goblins with green skin and hair, in drunken peasants vomitting on the floor in the mountainside inn, in the Devil’s huntsmen who represent the nocturnal woods of Pan and the lurking terror inside them. You can imagine the microcosmos of Malokarpatan as a remote village in the mountains, with isolated, plebeian inhabitants afraid of the unknown surrounding their small world – the woodlands and moors, where in each dark corner a malicious spirit can reside and harm them. A large part of inspiration for this of course comes from local folktales, as you’ve already mentioned.

Regaridng this, what does your name Malokarptan mean and why did you choose it?

– Malokarpatan means an inhabitant of the Little Carpathians region where we all come from. Little Carpathians in our language = Malé Karpaty. Malokarpatan = a dweller of this area. It’s an extremely simple, but I think also effective name and what I like about it is that there is virtually no chance of an other metal band using it. We always put some homages to our local culture into the music and lyrics, I think when bands are influenced by their surroundings it makes them more unique than just singing about more general themes in English. Our region is characteristic for its quite low but still atmospheric mountains with a long tradition in viticulture, with caves and numerous castle ruins – including the castle of Elizabeth Bathory and even an Iron Age cult place where child sacrifice and ritual cannibalism was practised several centuries before Christ.

And the album title?

– Nordkarpatenland means Northern Carpathian Land – an old German name for the territory of current Slovakia. Again a fairly simple, but self-explanatory title. The album is basically a ride across ancient myths of Slovakia and this concise title binds them all together. Personally, what the album title evokes in me is an old 18th or 19th century travelogue bound in leather, describing the peculiarities and oddities of eastern European countryside and warning about supernatural forces lurking within these remote places.

You choose to sing in your language, and it sounds truly great! But why not in English?

– It was a more or less spontaneous decision in the beginnings of the band. I was thinking of a concept for the band and since the music itself is a tribute to old things, why not have a lyrical concept that pays homage to traditions as well. So I decided to write lyrics in our native language, more specifically in its local dialect from the western part of the country where we come from. The dialect here sounds a lot more harsh than official Slovak language, so it fits black metal very well. I think it also adds a certain authenticity and originality – I myself am a fan of bands that sing in their native languages. There’s nothing wrong about singing in English though, so if I ever feel like it will fit us better, we can start using it. So far I’m satisfied with how it sounds this way, so there are no plans to change it, never say never though.

How come it takes you so long to release a vinyl version of Nordkarpatenland?

– LP cover artwork, that’s the answer. It will be handled by Zbigniew Bielak, who is always busy working for much bigger bands than us, so we are still waiting for our turn. Coincidentally, he just talked to me today concerning this and it looks like things will finally start moving in a couple of weeks. I’m perfectly sure it will be worth the wait, though. Then get prepared for yet another excruciating six months wait, because due to the vinyl boom, that’s currently how long it takes for bands our size to get their shit pressed. It’s ridiculous, but there’s nothing we can do about that, maybe just tell pop singers to stop releasing vinyl.

The LP cover artwork? Will it not be the same as the CD?

– It will be different from the CD version, yes. I have sent a basic concept and some stylistic cues and references to Zbigniew, but I have no idea myself what will he create out of that. All I can promise is it will be a different drawing style, different feeling and a completely different motive. Probably a bit more stripped down and grim, but Bielak is also a great detailist, so the end result might be surprising even for me.

By the way, does the CD cover art reflect the lyrics about the folklore tales?

– Both yes and no. Mostly, the central figures all are independent, but you can for example see the čerti – Slavic devil figures, those are part of lyrics in the last two songs. In Slovak and Czech folklore, the devils are very anthropomorphous – they are often even described as dimwits in folktales. We took two folklore depictions of them: the devils as hunstmen, again, there is a connection to the dark forces in nature, as with Baba Yaga and many other of our lyrical characters, and then the devils playing card games in an old watermill – that is again a typical folkloral depiction here. They lure in humans roaming nearby and when they lose the card game, their souls belong to the devils as a part of the bet.

So, finally, I would like to hear your music live. Will you visit Sweden or at least Denmark this year?

– I’m afraid not this time around, because most of our days off from jobs are already spent on the gigs this year. So Scandinavian people can either come see us at Steelfest in Hyvinkää, Finland in May or at Beyond the Gates in Bergen in August. I hope we can visit Sweden and Denmark next year though! There were some talks already. If it was up to me, I’d do more gigs a year, but some of the other members are busy with their dayjobs and families, so it’s all a matter of compromise. Other festivals we will play this year will be in Canada, Germany, Romania, Czech Republic… perhaps I forgot something. Scandinavia is still one of the best places in the world for this kind of music so we’ll do our best to return there again and hopefully to visit more countries.

Visit the band’s bandcamp here. Visit their facebook page here.



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