Can you build something new without destroying the old?
Opening the album by paying due respect to Bathory’s Hammerheart, Malokarpatan take their time to tell you their stories – and such dark and grimy stories, they are. The long-form songs build up to smooth, galloping leads or choruses and they keep taking twists and turns as the story unfolds with interludes varying from synths to acoustic passages. At the heart of it all lies the signature “dark heavy metal” riffage of the band. The sound they have created and the dark fairy tales they have told are unmistakably Malokarpatan, yet at the same time Krupinské ohne explores a whole new world. The songwriting is careful and creative with making good use of intros and interludes, however this doesn’t come at the sacrifice of the non-stop melodic riff attack.
Some parallels might be drawn between the unique, epic sound of middle era Root and Krupinské ohne as well as the aforementioned Hammerheart, but it would not be a complete comparison without the emphasis on 80s Eastern European heavy metal. Not only Kat’s evil masterpiece 666 – the more traditional side of the spectrum also had a strong influence on, Adam, Malokarpatan’s main songwriter. Especially the title track closer is a beautiful love letter and tribute to the scene.
Even though their albums always had consistent themes and atmosphere, this new album is the one with the heaviest emphasis on a single concept as it tells one overarching story about Krupina, witchcraft, magic, and evil. It has experimentation with different sounds, yet its essence is strongly rooted in familiarity, the essence of Malokarpatan. As it is revealed as you listen to Krupinské ohne, you can indeed build something new without destroying the old.
Have a seat around the fire, get comfortable, and listen to the dark fairy tales of Krupina. It is possible that the comfort won’t last as shadowy figures move in the woods.
Krupinské ohne, featuring the excellent artwork by Svjatogor, is coming out on the 21st of March with the collaboration of Invictus Productions / The AJNA Offensive. You can listen to it in full below with the Ride Into Glory exclusive stream and read an extensive interview with Adam, the main songwriter of Malokarpatan.
Your albums have always had a focus on a consistent atmosphere and story-telling but until Krupinské ohne, they had more songs that could be enjoyed on their own, which naturally led to many possible picks for live shows. How do you imagine new songs will come off live at the stage?
For me albums are more important than live shows (live gigs are temporary, but the albums kind of stay forever), so for example I never limit myself when it comes to using additional instrumentation that can´t be quite fully recreated in a gig environment. This goes also for using more challenging song structures and song lengths. For the coming tour, we will play a mix of songs from all three full-lengths, including the longest song from the new LP. It will definitely change the dramaturgy a bit, but I see it as important to present the new material to people. Some short parts will be cut out, but we will keep the structure almost the same as on the album. I think the gloomy, meditative vibe of the new material will create a natural contrast to the more direct and in-your-face songs from older albums.
You worked with different labels like Hexencave, Sun&Moon, or Temple of Mystery but just like the big part of your discography, Krupinské ohne is also coming out from Invictus Productions (in collaboration with The AJNA Offensive for the other side of the ocean). How important is working with the same label for a long period of time for you? Does it make anything in the whole process of releasing music easier?
I guess I am just naturally loyal to something that works and don´t feel like fixing what is not broken. Darragh from Invictus was the first person beyond Slovakia who contacted me about a possible collaboration and as we became friends, I just stuck with him over these last few years. The collaboration with Ajna also works smooth, Tyler is a very unusual and interesting type of person with whom I basically talk more about all kinds of strange subjects than “business”. We´ve had some interesting offers but I just turned them down politely as I have no issues with how things work at the moment. I think the best option for bands is to release things on their own, but I am far from being some sort of business minded person, so I´d rather have a reliable label to sort things out and spare me the headaches. Having the freedom of working with underground labels is all I need, I would never want to cooperate with people who´d be telling me what kind of music I should play, how many tours I need to attend and all that corporate stuff that doesn´t lead anywhere, as there is hardly any financial gain to be made with metal music save for a few of the biggest bands.
When asked about modern favourites, you mention bands like Negative Plane, Cultes des Ghoules, Faustcoven, Chevalier, etc. One thing these bands (and you) have in common is being able to put their own sound into it while also worshipping the spirit of old school. What separates unique bands with the touch of old school from uninspired second-rate copies of 80s classic bands in your opinion?
It´s exactly that personal element which you mention! If you look at the second wave of black metal for example, they were in a sense being retro at the time, as polished productions, increasing technicality and socially oriented lyrics were all the craze of the day. Being disgusted with this direction, they took inspiration from the early days of bands like Bathory and Celtic Frost and brought back the primitive and ugly Satanic elements which were considered immature and outdated. But they didn´t stop there creatively, instead each band was basically bullied into developing their own style to gain respect. Same principle goes for nowadays – therefore I have tons of more respect for a band like Chevalier who have their own vision over some faceless retro act that has all the “correct” clothes and instruments, but forgets to bring something of their own to the table. We also have parts that are often rather direct homages/references to bands like Mercyful Fate, Bathory or Tormentor, but it never stops there. I would consider it a sacrilege to the pioneers of old if we were just copying their concepts – the most fitting tribute one can make is to at least try to develop things further, without losing the essence. First you need to have the actual content – what you want to say with your music – only then you should think about the form.
Talks about Malokarpatan’s sound inevitably bring up some obvious influences like Master’s Hammer or Mercyful Fate that mostly represent the “bouncy, melodic” side of the guitar work. But finally now, especially with the title track of the new album (with guest vocals from Metalinda), I believe it’s fair to highlight another scene, 80s Eastern European traditional heavy metal. Which personal favourites would you like to mention from the era and the place?
This is a funny thing, as from day one we were always likened to the classic trio of Czech (or Czechoslovakian in their heyday) bands – Master´s Hammer, Root and Törr. But the reality being, our first two records had very little influence from them, it was more about Tormentor and then the usual western classics like Venom, Bathory, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond. I never really protested against these comparisons though, instead rather saw them as compliments that we are doing something which has a genuine local feeling. But this time around, when writing the album, I was revisiting these early Czechoslovakian records a lot and I can safely say they were now a direct influence. Some of those bands were among the first metal records I ever heard, but some I only really understood fully with age. The late 80s/early 90s era is now three decades away, which is pretty crazy when thinking of it. With all this time passing from those records, I can now more clearly see how they were unique in their local sound – when I was a kid you would more often find me listening to Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk or Nemesis Divina. The inspiration sources are always very wide, but for this new album I can mention for example Root around their 3rd and 4th LP– the way they grasped the epic Bathory sound. Also Radegast by Citron was on heavy rotation, they were the first to incorporate lyrical elements of local pre-Christian folklore into epic heavy metal soundscapes. From more obscure bands, I played two albums to death – both conceptual works same as ours – Bloody Mary by Tudor and Trojska vojna by Cerberus. The inclusion of Mr. Palo Drapak who used to be the Metalinda frontman in their glory days was part of this too – I wanted to make sort of a bridge between these early local pioneers and our current reality, where we merge nostalgic sentiments with the hunger for exploring new ground.
How popular are the local dark fairy tales and stories of witchcraft from which Malokarpatan heavily draw influence amongst people there? Is it common to still tell such tales to children, or are they more obscure and forgotten parts of the local literature and history even there? Are there any old local fairy tales or novels/stories available in English as far as you know that you would recommend people to check out?
It somehow predictably gets worse with younger generations, they now all grow up with smartphones in their hands and those give you easier and more primitive sorts of entertainment. For my generation (I was born in the 80s), it was still normal and common to read books containing old Slovakian folk tales. I guess in less urbanized parts of the country, people still try to pass on tradition to their children, but it´s a question of time until they eventually find simpler joys considered “cooler” by their other peers. There was a collector of these folk stories called Pavol Dobsinsky, who during the 19th century made these into a serious body of work – all my interest in the dark and eerie sides of local folklore were started by reading these books I received from my parents at a very young age. They should be available in English, so I just recommend searching through his name, I already had some people writing me that they discovered the world of Slovakian folk tales through Malokarpatan which made me really happy. Much like the Brothers Grimm tales, these are often full of otherworldly creatures and have rather dark contents as back in their time they were meant for adults instead of kids. For other lyrics I also draw information from the work of ethnologists, collectors of folklore tradition and in the case of the new album also from historians, but I´m afraid most of this material is close to impossible to come by in English language.
Any final words for Ride Into Glory readers about Krupinské ohne or otherwise?
I guess just thank you for the interview and keep up the good work with writing about traditional metal! I really enjoy reading about the more exotic scenes from the past especially. For the fans/listeners, I would recommend to give the new album more than just a cursory listen while multitasking – ideally with headphones on and reading through the lyrical story – it makes a big difference as it´s intended as a multi-layered work which you should immerse into fully, not exactly beer drinking music even though one of my greatest pleasure in life is blasting Venom with a few cold ones!