First, I cannot hide my feelings when I find someone who likes my native ancient culture, especially when they sing for it. Before I start shooting my questions, have you been to Egypt before?
None of us has ever been to Egypt. One thing we have in common is this passion for the myths and the beautiful landscapes, monuments, and of course, Arabic musicality! Now we’re all diving into Egyptian culture we’re even more anxious about seeing it all with our own eyes and maybe even build new concepts and ideas!
You guys chose the ancient Egyptian culture and mythology to be your band’s identity. Although, there are many rich ancient civilizations worldwide, why the Egyptian one in particular?
Being a Historian and Philosopher, Samuka came up with this project and all of us really embraced the idea for this common link. Samuka’s background brings not only credibility to the stories we tell on the songs, but also helps to spread Egyptian culture through music and videos!
After listening to your debut album, I was really surprised by how its implemented in a very professional and unique way, despite that 2020 has been a very tough year. Can you tell me more about the album production process?
First of all, thank you so much for such a compliment! It’s been a very challenging process for several reasons. Fortunately, we managed to record everything by the end of 2019, when nobody could ever imagine what was about to come. It was a true marathon, we are from Belo Horizonte and took an 8-hour car trip to São Paulo to record there, so we had to make the most of our time. Just to have an idea, I recorded sessions of four to five hours daily of vocals and backing vocals three days in a role. After that, we’ve experienced some problems with producers and just when we thought it would be finished, the deadline to deliver the album mixed and mastered was the first week of April, and by March the lockdown hit us all, the studio was closed and our work on standby. After some struggles, we managed to get the tracks we recorded to be mixed and finalized on our city by André Cabelo, renowned producer of Thrash and Heavy Metal bands that did a great job!
I can see there are great special guests in your album, how did you manage to work with them all during the COVID19 lockdown?
Fortunately, all the guests have recorded before the pandemics! Although professional recording today is a bit less complicated than it used to be ten or twenty years ago, and with the right gear and some knowledge, it’s possible to achieve outstanding results recording from home studios… and that’s something that has been helping lots of artists during these rough periods without concerts! Marília Zangrandi, for instance, is from Rio de Janeiro but lives in Portugal. She recorded her part for ‘Revenge of Horus’ there and sent it to us, similarly to May Undead, that recorded her vocals for ‘Lady of the Nile’ at Dharma Studios in São Paulo with Rodrigo Oliveira (Korzus).
Your album took a concept album direction, do you think that nowadays metal fans still interested in concept albums or prefer single topics instead?
For the positive response all over the world, I’d say that YES! Not only for being conceptual but for bringing to the public a rich and interesting cultural perspective! As an avid Iron Maiden fan, conceptual albums and historical topics are something present on my DNA as a musician and I believe this is something that will never be out of fashion, especially for the ones that love music and also appreciate the content.
Many bands have postponed their work to 2021 because of the pandemic, did you think of that?
I believe there’s no right or wrong when it comes to this kind of choice, although I believe postponing compositions or new releases wouldn’t be a good option. Artists have to be more than ever into the internet and find other ways to connect to the public. We had a big tour postponed across Brazil with Armored Dawn, Korzus and Dr Sin, but instead of feeling sorry, we started working on new songs and decided we would release our new album this year. If everything goes according to what we plan this time, should be released by June or July! It’s being produced by Tiago Della Vega, of the band Vikram.
You guys mentioned on your album description that it’s “about controlling our own aggressive nature” how can you implement this through a historical theme album?
The Medjay experiences several moments of pure hate, he literally becomes obsessed with blood and starts killing to fulfil his own pleasure. In the chapters presented on Sandstorm, we present more of a cold-blooded killer ending the album with a ballad that tries to depict that even the most ruthless beasts can fall in love and maybe find redemption.
His story will unfold in other chapters on the next album, but giving a small spoiler, one of the upcoming songs called ‘Shemagh in Blood’ pictures a scene where the Medjay arrives from a war with his Shemagh drenched in blood and starts to question all that killing, the meaning of war, who was he fighting for and what was he fighting for. So, this concept is more of a listener’s perception and evaluation of all the violence this warrior goes through.
‘Sandstorm’ is totally different from the whole album. Won’t this be distracting for your fans while talking about the Egyptian 25th of January revolution through a historical concept album?
Actually, the concept presented in the song Sandstorm shows a relationship that goes beyond time, depicting the people as true Medjay warriors of modern times fighting against the violence and tyranny imposed by the fallen government. That’s why we believe it won’t be a distraction… not mention the song’s atmosphere, that is something we really enjoyed composing and love to play it live!
Rafael Bittencourt of the Brazilian iconic metal act Angra is considered as your mentor. Does this mean that he is the official record producer of the project? And how did you start working together?
This partnership started from his connection with Phil Lima, who was also his personal trainer, back pain therapist and vocal coach. They became good friends and Rafael saw a huge potential when he heard Death in the House of Horus for the first time. After pointing out some suggestions concerning this specific song, we realized it would be a good idea to start a more in-depth approach and that’s when his mentorship started. He helped us plan every step we would take regarding compositions, band concept and commercial strategy based on his thirty-year experience with Angra. Not only he advised us but we ended up composing one song together – ‘Rise for Glory’! The album has been produced by all of us, but with his guidance at all times! It’s been a quite unique experience!
“Cleopatra VII” to be revealed soon!
Your riffs and melodies remind me of the golden 80s/90s power metal era. Would you say that power metal is the main influence on your music?
Glad you mentioned it because at least for me (Phil Lima), this is the era that influences me the most! I’m a huge fan of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and that’s something I just can’t hide…matter of fact, I’m proud that I and the music I play are a mix of all these influences giving birth to my own style shaped by all these masters! Most of the songs are idealized by Samuka and he carries lots of influences of Accept and Sabaton, which brings a more modern Metal to light sometimes, and I believe this is a great balance between the classic and modern metal.
“Lady of the Nile” is taking a different slower path than the rest of the album. And it’s very smart indeed choosing the beautiful voice of May “Undead” Puertas of Torture Squad. Tell me more about her special vocal touch with Medjay.
The different atmosphere present in this song depicts an introspection moment of the Medjay, in which he wanders away after all the killings on his path and arrives at a wonderful place (the Nile Valley) where he sees this beautiful woman by the margins of the river and they start a dialogue where Nefertiti presents herself and comforts the Medjay. This is a part of the story where we try to show that even the most vicious men can find a place for love in their hearts.
About May’s vocal, we thought it would be an interesting surprise to the fans that are used to see her with the powerful guttural voice, and this element of surprise also shows all her brilliant technique and versatility as an artist!
Performing a style that totally different from your music culture requires a study and research that’s why you used the golden fingers of Marco Herrera in the album. How did you both agree on the rhythm vision?
Marco Herrera is a brilliant musician that has been with us since the very beginning. He is also a Flamenco dancer and has dedicated several years of his life to the practice of Arab percussion and dance. When we composed the songs we already imagined where and how we wanted the percussions and ethnical instruments, and Marco had a very important part in executing and suggesting instruments and rhythms which we really loved!
And what about you guys; did you study eastern and oriental music styles? Because I can find some Hijaz and harmonic scales during your soloing and rhythmic riffs.
Although Arab musicality is not necessarily native to us, we all appreciate and have studied it, not to mention it is present in the style of several musicians we admire such as John Lord (Deep Purple), Yngwie Malmsteen and of course, the classic album of Iron Maiden, Powerslave.
‘Me personally (Phil), I’ve always used several Arab scales on my solos even before joining Medjay for I really love the sound of the Phrygian scale and some interesting intervals to make it richer or more enigmatic by implementing diminished 2nd and 6th degree of the scales or with augmented 4th degree adding a unique tension interval. I won’t go further or else it will get very theoretical and it may bore some readers, but in summary, I can say I really love it!’
I am curious about your next projects and its themes. Would it only include Egyptian mythology or you gonna add different cultures later on?
Our next project is called Cleopatra VII and it’s being produced by the renowned guitarist Tiago Della Vega, founder of another important ‘Oriental Metal’ band called Vikram.
Until today, Cleopatra the Seventh (Cleopatra VII) is seen as a symbol of feminine power and wisdom. And yes, there were several ‘Cleopatra’ in history, but the most notorious is the one we refer to, the Seventh!
Differently from Hollywood’s perspective in which Cleopatra’s legacy was justified by her seduction skills, she was raised amongst the rich book collection of Alexandria, has mastered at least seven languages and possessed great intellectual culture. The ‘Queen of Kings’ has absolutely been, and may still be considered one of the most influential women in history if we bring to light her achievements in life and her reign in Egypt.
On this new album the fans can expect a deeper immersion in Egyptian Gods and Myths such as ‘The Boat of Ra’, ‘Osiris and Seth’ and ‘The Magic of Isis’ and some songs that lead to some reflection about the meaning of war such as ‘Shemagh in Blood’ and ‘Sarcophagus’, that brings an important message in times where we all should exercise our tolerance and respect towards the others after all in the end, what will they write in your sarcophagus?!
Answering your last question, Medjay is based on Egyptian culture and at least for now, there are no plans of including other cultures in our songs.
Finally, do you have a message for your Egyptian fans and would you consider touring in the MENA region after the pandemic ends?
I’d like to say on behalf of the entire band that we’re absolutely thrilled that you appreciate the songs we make inspired by your rich and beautiful culture and history! As you mentioned before, it’s quite a challenge because we weren’t created in your musical background or actually know for real how you deal with the topics we approach because this is our interpretation based on our studies and in what the media shows, and it’s a relief and a huge honour that you have received it on the best way possible not only musically but in terms of the contents we bring!
We really hope we can achieve this dream of visiting Egypt soon enough and bring even more reality to the atmosphere we create with our music, record video clips on these marvellous landscapes we only know by pictures and video, and of course, it will be very special to perform all these songs for the ones that inspire our compositions! We’re looking forward to receiving contacts of Egyptian producers to schedule several concerts there!
For the merchandise, you can find here.
– Check out our review for their music video of Sandstorm.