Seven Gates of Hell with IRON KOBRA

30. dubna 2015 v 23:48 | RaznAgul |  seven gates of hell interviews
The aim of the open series of the blogzine´s Seven Gates of Hell interviews is to introduce the bands and their music that struck my metalhead´s heart and soul recently. In seven questions, the gates are open for those who make their music of true metal spirit, pure dedication and of what I understand as underground approach and aesthetics.
Today, the seven gates open for the German heavy metallers IRON KOBRA. They started their snake headbangers´ journey in 2008 and in March, three years after their debut album, they came with their second long-playing notch "Might & Magic". The questions of this interview were exhaustively answered by the band´s vocalist Sir Serpent.
I. Their Might dwells in their fabulous riff-charged heavy metal kicked on speed and in their uncompromising attitude to their music which builds on unrestrained energy and volume turned to ten. Their Magic comes from their devotion to a penny-worth fantasy tales and their imagery. They would tell you they are dead serious about their headbangers' attitudes, but at the same time they take easy all the "dead-serious metal lyric subjects". Heavy metal is a lifestyle and life of a metalhead should be a wild, horned-fist fun, first and foremost. They are called IRON KOBRA and in March put out their second full-length "Might & Magic". Before they started IRON KOBRA, two of them played in a black metal band. Which is quite interesting because black metal should be "dead serious" in all its aspects, otherwise it is just a crap. What did you discard from your past musical career and what did you retain and transform into IRON KOBRA?
"Well, Lord Python, Commander Conda and me were playing in a band called Minjar before. Back, when we started the band, black metal was the hot thing in heavy metal. We were young, we had close to no expierience when it comes to playing music and we just wanted to play some music we were listening to during that time. All three of us grew up with bands like Manowar, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Metallica, but we were drawn to the more extreme metal due to it's popularity back then. We especially liked the pagan themed more epic stuff that was mainly composed under the banner of the once really popular pagan or folk metal, but soon realized that this term didn't fit our music that well. We decided to call it "black heavy metal" as we had never been seriously into that pagan stuff and we had a really heavy metal-based edge in our music. In retrospective even "black heavy metal" didn't fit that well as the music was mainly heavy metal riffs played a tad faster and some guy screaming to it, haha. But it formed a solid base for what was to come with IRON KOBRA. A while ago, Lord Python and me realized that we play music together for almost 10 years so we have gained some experience concerning songwriting together. With Minjar we never had a rock-solid serious approach. We were just a bunch of teenagers playing music and goofing around on stage. Eventhough we were all into black metal, we smiled at it's dead serious ritualized appearance in the scene. The black metal guys mostly were boring elite losers who only listened to a few bands they hailed as the pinnacle of heavy metal music and who ignored all the great heroes that brought forth a solid base for their music. Even during my worst black metal elite phase (thinking back makes me shiver in shame) I appreciated bands like Manowar, Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. We never forgot our roots and soon realized that going back to basics is what fulfills us most. So we went back to playing plain old heavy metal for good."

II. You claim to be a part of metal underground. You keep to its ethics and stay with your original ug label Dying Victims Prod., despite the calls on you from much bigger music companies. In the booklet of your album you scorn "slaves of the mainstream". But among the bands that influenced your music you name Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Manowar etc., the bands which are well-based in the mainstream, without a single trace of ug characteristics. Well, where do you see the boundary between metal underground and its mainstream and how much do you keep to that boundary?
"Making it out of the underground is a tough route to go. Nowadays you have to change yourself and your band, the logo, the music and even the bandmembers to fit into what the mainstream or the big labels expect from you. This is the thing that annoys me the most about the mainstream - as a musician you're just a tool for the big business people to gain money. And as making a living out of a band is quite tough you have to change a band as much as possible to reach the widest possible audience and potential buyers. A band has to disconnect from its roots and change its music in many cases to fit into what the mainstream expects from the said band and that's what I or we can't accept. I hate changing myself for someone else and the same goes for my music. We wrote the songs not to be liked by others but to be played by us for our own pleasure. And that's why I appreaciate when someone else likes the music I was involved in. If someone reaches out to me after a show saying "guys, you're amazing" or "great show", I always end up being perplexed as for me this is only the music I like to play. When we started IRON KOBRA, we never expected to be listened to or liked by anybody, so everytime we get feedback we're happy about it (especially when it's positive feedback, haha).
So, I think, I got carried away a little, let's get back to the question. The underground is a very organic and connected cicle of people involved in bands, labels and zines and it brings the big scene to a really personal level. In the times of internet connection, you don't depend on a label or a promoter to spread your music - you can do it on your own and your music reaches exactly the people you want it to reach: the underground. And that's what we like the most about it. When it comes to the big bands you mentioned you're totally right saying that those bands are mainstream bands. But if you take a look at Iron Maiden for example, you can see that they do what they want out of their free will. Iron Maiden worked hard to be on such a high level they're on now. They built their legacy up within 30 years of existence and never went out of touch concerning their music. Sure, "Killers" doesn't sound exactly like "The Final Frontier", but you can still hear that the same band composed those songs out of their own will, which we appreciate a lot. And if you take a close look at Manowar, you can see that this band is just brilliant. They appear with such a huge load of self-esteem that they simply ignore anything and anyone against them. It's just funny to see how much irony can fit into a band - I think that Joey DeMaio exactly knows what he's doing making speeches on stage and he is just fooling us all, haha. Sometimes, I think Manowar is a parody-band nowadays and that just no one has the balls to ask about this in an interviews. But like Iron Maiden they made all their choices out of their free will and if you love or hate their music nowadays, you gotta give them some credit for their persistence."

III. I really like those songs on "Might & Magic" that stick to a heavy metal rule which says that a simple, catchy riff can move a heavy load. I mean the songs "Vanguard of Doom", "Watch the Skies", "Fire!". Though, you say that the more elaborated, epic piece "Cult of the Snake" is the way you would like to move your music on your future recordings. There are lots of past cult bands who started with rough, razor-edged heavy metal, but ended up too much polished, too epic, too fairy-tale like. Would you swerve to avoid this direction even with "Cult of the Snake"-styling? I hope so!
"I think that what makes IRON KOBRA the band it is, is the deversity of songs. If you listen to our first releases you can hear that we always experimented with heavy metal styles. While "Will of the Kobra" was a harsh attempt of thrash metal, "Ronin" was a classy heavy metal track based on the style of bands like Heavy Load or early Manowar. The same goes for our album "Dungeon Masters". While "Dungeon Master" was a typical fast-paced speed metal track, "Thousand Fire City" was an epic metal hymn influenced by bands like the later Bathory and such. And looking at our recent album "Might & Magic" we also mixed all styles up as much as possible. While "Fire!" is your typical rocking heavy metal track, "Watch the skies" is a stir of sub-genres and styles and "Cult of the Snake" is a full-blown epos in the vein of early Manowar and Manilla Road. We always liked to mix up styles and we will still go for it in the future. I have always had a strange love for 80´s punk and early American hardcore music, which also reflects in my songwriting. Tracks like "Vanguard of Doom" are heavily influenced by punk and I like it that way. When we ended with the recordings of "Might & Magic" we were just blown away by "Cult of the Snake". It soon reached the top of our personal favorites on this album so maybe that's the reason we are so proud of that song, haha. We'll still mix up musical styles in the future but will never get out of touch with what we've started with: pure good old heavy metal."

IV. Out of your experience, is "Might & Magic" music for old metalheads associating with the album their past years of adolescence, or is it just as well suited for the youngest generation of rockers? What kind of feedback do you get?
"Ah, I don't know. We've got young fans and old ones as well, so it's fun to look into the faces in our audience and see faces way older and ways younger than ours. But I think there is a bigger percentage of younger people in our crowds as they can maybe connect a little better to us than the old guys. For many of the youngsters we're a continuation of old heavy metal played by the bands from the glorious 80´s. And for the older people in the crowd we might just be a slight reflection of a time long gone and therefore not as good as what they experienced in their past. But it's always cool to meet people afterwards telling us "guys, your show remined me of my youth, Overkill, Mannheim, 1987" or something like that, haha. We don't try to reach out to a certain crowd in general when it comes to age, we're just reaching out to those who appreciate old heavy metal played by heavy metal maniacs."

V. As it concerns your next 7" dedicated to the past East German heavy metal bands, I really like the idea! I mean I like such tribute or past-resurrecting things and I am sorry for those bands who re-union or re-animate themselves to kill their cult past for the sake of a few more gigs or some mediocre new recording. Would you say a bit more about that 7" album? Would it be a set of tributes or your original songs catching the past spirits?
"After the recordings of "Might & Magic" we haven't had the time to rehearse properly as our bass-player moved away for his job, so we haven't had the time to plan everything completly. What we think, we'll do, is a two-sided 7" with two tracks: an own track with German lyrics called "Kerker und Drachen" and a cover of a GDR-metal band. Which one won't be told by now. It's a little surprise, some people might know the track, some others won't, but we hope to please some East German heavy metal fans, hehe."

VI. In several of your interviews I found some hints to punk rock music and punk approach. Twenty five years ago, when I discovered heavy metal, I used to listen to it next to punk rock and was quite easy to switch between the two. What does the punk scene mean to you as metalheads, now and in the past?
"This mainly concerns me, as I am the only one besides Don Viper that fully appreciates punk and early hardcore music. For me, it's a very different scene with a very different approach towards music and bands. For me, punk takes it to an even more personal level than heavy metal in the underground does. When I visit punk or hardcore shows, I feel like the bands and the crowd are a solid base together and there is no rockstar-fame-border inbetween those two parties, what I like a lot. I saw OFF! a few weeks ago and the singer of the band is Keith Morris, one of the greatest early american hardcore singers of the past. He was involved in Black Flag (one of my absolute favorite bands), Circle Jerks and others and is a true punk rock legend. And there he was on the stage talking to the audience like we're all just like him - old farts that like to rock. I like that a lot and I want to take this approach into my performance on stage. I'm just like the guys in front of me when we play live. I am just a fan that likes to go to shows, that collects records and wears bandshirts 24/7. I hate that rockstar-appeal of some bands as I want to be connected to our crowd as much as possible. And that's what I think punk does better than heavy metal. What I also like is the DIY-principle of punk. We do nearly all of our merchandise by ourselves, may it be for the designs, the ideas, the financing or distribution. That's something we took out of the punk scene and ethos. In the past I haven't been listening to punk a lot. I ignored it right until I realized that punk has a lot in common with heavy metal underground music. It's raw, unpolished and steems of blood and sweat."

VII. Would you say IRON KOBRA is the band mainly focused on scheduled rehearsal rooms, gig stages or jump-on, hobby-like music sessions?
"We try to focus ourselves onto a more professional level concerning rehearsals and gigs, but the circumstances often don't allow us to reach a more professional appeal. But that's alright, I guess. We're all living our daytime-lifes with studies, working and such and making the band a full-time job isn't possible for us anymore. Even now it takes a lot of time to fully fulfill our band commitments, but we're trying our best. The good thing about this is that we keep on doing IRON KOBRA our own passionated little project. I put as much effort into the band as I can and everytime we get a positive feedback I gain the strength to keep on putting more heart into the band than before. We play gigs, we rehearse as much as possible and we keep on doing stuff like this (answering interviews, haha) and this is cool the way it is."

Thanks for your time and answers! My support!!
"Thanks for your questions and interest in the band! Fuck the world, hail and kill! Fuck off standpunks! Thanks to each and everyone out there and thanks for all of your support!"


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