Svaskalver from the folk-metal capital of Russia

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It’s always good to see, folk-metalbands crawling out of the pits of their own countries, crossing the borders and conquer stages outside their own region. Grimner and Midvinterblot from Sweden, Svaskalver from Russia and Polish Warbell join forces to fight battles in Czech Republic soon. An awesome package. You can read about Grimner and Midvinterblot elsewhere on, now it’s time to put the spotlight on Svaskalver.

Svaskalver, Grimner, Midvinterblot & Warbell Tour
Your doing a small tour through the Czech Republic with Grimner, Midvinterblot and Warbell. How do you feel about that?
“We are excited to say the least! This will be our first tour outside of Russia, and the bands we will be playing with are really awesome – we think we’ll have an amazing time not only performing but enjoying their shows as well. Looking forward to meeting all these talented people. Also Czech Republic is a country we would visit anyway, cause it’s great and all – so this is a unique opportunity.”

svaskalver int3How did you get in contact with these bands?
“We’ve only learnt about these bands from our organizer Antonio, so he was the one to introduce us to their music. We’ve heard some of the names mentioned before, but we did not expect such quality and variety from them, some really great stuff.”

Dominating sub-genre
Nowadays it seems all folk-metal comes from Russia. Do you feel there’s a big scene in Russia?
“It’s clearly one of the dominating sub-genres on the Russian scene, but we wouldn’t say that all folk comes from here – at least our favorite bands come from Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Norway etc. There really are a lot of Russian bands in folk though – you can tell by just looking at the line-up of our yearly Folk Summer Fest.”

Even more, St. Petersburg seems to be the capital of folk-metal with bands like Svartby, Helguard, Svaskalver and others. Do these bands have contact with each other? Does is make the bands stronger?
“We definitely stay in touch, since we all play in the same venues. Some of us are friends, some people actually play in multiple bands, so it’s a pretty tight knit community. Not that we are all a big and happy family, but one could describe the general vibe as friendly and respectful. We do help each other out occasionally :)”

“I guess we kinda feel that longing to those places and cultures, even romanticize them a bit”

svaskalverint4What do you think is the reason, a lot of bands from St. Petersburg are into folk?
“There are many reasons. Firstly, Russian culture is very complex and was influenced by lots of other cultures, including the Scandinavian ones — so there’s the ‘roots and heritage’ thing. Secondly there’s a lot of variety in this sub-genre, and a lot of times it’s not too brutal for a wider audience to listen to. It’s also melodically rich and dancy, which is great for live shows. And lastly, Saint Petersburg in particular is very close to Northern Europe (specifically Finland) geographically, so I guess we kinda feel that longing to those places and cultures, even romanticize them a bit.”

The Stars aren’t aligned
A lot of Russian and other bands are at the SoundAge Productions label. Svaskalver is not, is there a reason for this?
“Hey, good observation! Well, the story is simple: our first album was sort of an experiment — we were looking for a direction and trying to gain momentum, so it was self-released and distributed for free. We’ve contacted SoundAge later on, but they said it was not a good idea to release another batch through them, which is understandable. By the time our second album came to be, we didn’t really feel the need to contact them: they couldn’t offer us much help with the release (basically some advertisement), and although this time they reached out to us, we weren’t able to come to an agreement about printing the CDs, since we’ve already had a design which didn’t really fit their preferred packaging method and we wanted more copies for ourselves than what they were offering. We think they are doing a good job, though, lots of great bands are with them, so we definitely respect what they’re doing — maybe the stars just haven’t aligned for us to work together yet.”
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Would you like to stay independent or would you rather be with a label?
“We don’t feel that it matters nowadays, since smaller labels can’t really help the bands much, while the bigger ones have their hands full and it’s really hard to get signed with them. So the answer is: if we could get signed with a major label, we’d probably do it, but we don’t feel like it’s a necessity or anything.”

On the latest album, the violin has quite a big part. There seems to be no violin-player in the band, is this all done by synths or otherwise?
“The violin parts for this album were recorded by Rowan Schuddeboom (ex-Rhovanion) from the Netherlands. The reason being, we couldn’t find any players in our city who were actually able to play those parts and were interested in helping us. That was the reason why we had to part ways with our violinist — we just didn’t feel the parts sounded good enough. Rowan did a fantastic job though — we found him thanks to posting an ad on Facebook in a folk-metal group (Folk Metal Grove). Since then we’ve been sorta looking for a violin play to perform with us live, but that’s a very niche thing to do for a classical musician, at least in our city, so for now we have to stick with a backing track. But hey, having just four members makes travelling much easier :)”

svaskalver int2Talking about the keyboard, I noticed Svaskalver seems to be without a keyboardplayer nowadays. Are you looking for one, or do you like to fill in this position otherwise?
“No, we are not looking for a keyboard player for two reasons:

  • if anything, we’d rather have a violinist
  • the four of us have a pretty good thing going, an established formation, and looking for another person historically proved to be troublesome.”

Our darker side
The songs are about dark fairytales. Are these stories written to the music, or is the music made to the story?
“It depends. Most of the time the music is created first, and the lyrics come later, but when Fyodor writes he has some ideas and images in mind from the start.”

Where do you get the inspiration for these songs from?
“Scandinavian mythology, fantasy literature, folk-tales, but you needn’t go much further than the human nature: our subconscious, our hopes and fears, our darker side are fascinating and worthy of artistic exploration.”

What are your favorite artists?
Fyodor: “Woods of Ypres holds a special place in my heart. Wintersun is otherworldly, different and awesome, real art. Powerwolf is too much fun not to love. Other than that there are too many bands that I enjoy, if we’re talking about folk-metal, I would name Metsatoll and Eluveitie. Amon Amarth and Summoning are sorta folk-related and great in their own ways.”
svaskalver int1Anya: “I agree with all of the above about Wintersun, Powerwolf and Metsatoll. Also, I like Eminem and some good pop-music, like Sia, Maroon 5, Beyonce and so on.”
Denis: “Queen, Manfred Mann, Deep Purple.”
Nastya: “anything atmospheric, melodic and/or epic. It could be anything from black metal to Michael Jackson :)”

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
“You guys are awesome for showing so much support to even the less known bands in the folk-metal community. We really appreciate your interest and we’d love to visit as many places with our shows as possible!”

By: Michel