“War Behest” is the title of the new album by Bulgarian metal heads RAMPART. There are a few new upcoming bands in this scene, that really have got that good old heavy metal feeling and we think, that RAMPART is one of them. The artwork of their CD was designed by the guy, who also creates the well-known posters for Keep It True (the German festival). They like to call this new album a metal opera, the way SAVATAGE would have done it. I guess, you will be positively surprised by the great sound of it. All the more reason to find out what Maria Doychinova, vocalist and front lady of this great band, has got to say about “War Behest” and everything else we want to know about Bulgaria’s best kept secret so far. RAMPART is coming to get you and don’t say we didn’t warn you....
When did RAMPART start out as a band and who were in this first line-up?
Maria: “In 2006 I succeeded to attract guitarist Yavor and drummer Bobby to work with me, although they actually wanted a male vocalist. In such a way, the responsibility for finding a bassist and a second guitarist fell on me. Lots of worthy musicians passed through our band, some of them played for a few months, others just being session musicians. The first bass player Todor Dyakov left the country and now he lives in Poland. Guitarist Stoyo Palahanov also left Bulgaria and lives in the U.S.A. for a few years now and the guy, who replaced him, Dimitar Banov, left the band in 2009 and immigrated to the UK. In 2009, Victor Georgiev (second guitar) and Alexander Spiridonov (bass) joined RAMPART. It was after our first album was recorded, but they helped a lot to promote it at our live shows. In the beginning of 2011, the band exploded and I was the only remaining band member. Now the line-up of RAMPART is: Vili Neshev (guitars), Svilen Ivanov (bass), who already participated in the period 2008-2009 and who is back since 2011 and Petar Svetlinov (drums). Our similar metal life style and taste for music brought us together and we will keep this spirit alive!”
How did you team up with each other and did any of the band members play in other bands before they joined RAMPART?
Maria: “We team up in a great way. We became more than friends – we became a metal family. The difficulties on the road of a heavy metal band should not turn to basis for personal attacks. I have always believed, that the family of RAMPART is open to everyone, who contributed to our ideology. In reference to the old line-up, I can say that guitarist Yavor was playing in one or two unnamed projects. RAMPART was the only band for our drummer Borislav Glavev. Victor Georgiev, the second guitarist in 2009 had played in the thrash project MIND DISORDER. He’s a young guitar player with brilliant perspectives and recently he began to compose songs as well. Alexander Spiridonov is a much disciplined bass player, who withstands on inhuman load. These members of RAMPART’s line-up played in the band till 2011.
About the new musicians in our team: guitarist Vili Neshev participated in two prog bands before joining RAMPART. Their names are VELVET PROJECT and PROJECT ARCADIA. Bass player Svilen participated in sixteen (!!) bands before playing from jazz to thrash metal. Drummer Petar Svetlinov participated in two female-fronted formations; THE A.X.E PROJECT and PROEX, in the melodic death metal band DEMENZIA and still plays in the thrash metal band CIROZA.
I fronted four metal bands (SERPENT’S KISS, VIPERA, HARD and REZISTANCE) before RAMPART. But for me RAMPART is the most serious project. My previous bands SERPENT’S KISS and VIPERA were entirely female bands! Unfortunately, they do not exist anymore. Violinist Sofia Vancheva with whom I played in VIPERA, recorded one song on RAMPART’s first album, called “Age Of Steel” and one on our second album called “Fire Circle”. She is a true metal head and a virtuoso violin player and she graduated the Music Academy. The idea of RAMPART through all these years was the most important thing not only for me, but for the drummer Borislav Glavev as well. Unfortunately, he does not play anymore but this band is a way of life so I hope that he will change his mind someday. No matter of the line-up changes, the heavy metal adventure continues!”
Who can we see as the biggest influences for the sound of RAMPART and maybe you can tell us a bit more about the influences of each band member individually here as well?
Maria: “I have grown up with HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY and I adore their music. I am a big fan of Kai Hansen and DIO. I listen to these bands for more than fifteen years. The other members of RAMPART like them, too. It is understandable that RAMPART sounds somewhat different – we have our own style. In reference to our first album “Voice Of The Wilderness”, we were strongly influenced by German power metal bands such as GAMMA RAY, HELLOWEEN, RUNNING WILD, GRAVE DIGGER and so on. In some of RAMPART’s first tracks you may find classic influences from VIVALDI, PAGANINI, BEETHOVEN and WAGNER. In reference to our new album “War Behest”, I will reveal the favourite bands of the other band members. Guitarist Vili Neshev is a big fan of bands like QUEENSRYCHE and CRIMSON GLORY. Bass player Svilen really admires Joey De Mayo from MANOWAR and drummer Petar Svetlinov likes MOTORHEAD and SODOM. For us, music cannot be divided into old (from before twenty years or two hundred years) and new! It can be good (people will always listen to it) and mediocre (which would be easily forgoten)!!! Obviously, we remind the general eighties epic power. The reason is, that we play classic heavy metal. And if it does not suit someone’s taste, we can only say that probably the notes are too many for him (as once a king said to Mozart “Too many notes!” (lol).”
After the release of “Voice Of The Wilderness” there was a huge line-up change, whereas you are the only surviving member. What happened and why did your band members leave? I guess, it was not just the well-known musical differences that we are talking about here or what?
Maria: “The musical differences are not a justified reason for such a change, especially when you talk about people who are united around the idea to devote themselves to the classic heavy metal. The album “Voice Of The Wilderness” put the band on a wider road, that has rules of traffic. It was a road, which we wanted to walk on. At that time our guitarist Yavor became a ‘Rock Star Wannabe’ and tried to control all the processes in the band. He turned his back to the rules and he wanted to influence things, which he did not understand and which he was not able to decide upon. A few important concerts were threatened and our contract with the label. The conflict was between him and me, because I am responsible for the managerial activities. During this time, bass player Alexander Spiridonov left the band, because of Yavor’s attitude towards his band members. Drummer Borislav and tguitarist Victor did not take position about these problems. The dominating egocentrism of Yavor forced him not only to neglect his contractual duties, but also to destroy RAMPART just to demonstrate (mostly to himself) that he is very important and irreplaceable for the band. The negative emotions from these events became the basis of the ideas for the new songs in 2012. In extremely short time, I managed to save a big part of our upcoming gigs (including these in London 2011) and to implement our contract, and also to prove that the idea RAMPART is something more than egocentric self-confidence. There were victims – drummer Borislav refused to go ahead – he wanted but he couldn’t. He stopped to play in the band and he stopped to play at all. Victor received an invitation from the band FALLEN ANGELS and could not be of full value to RAMPART in reference to these terms. The same applied to bass-player Alexander, who joined the band RARE BREED. So I started to look for new musicians, some of which are connected with the fate of RAMPART from earlier years... The attempts of Yavor to form a new band failed, because of his bad attitude towards his colleagues. But RAMPART survived not only as an idea, but as a real band as well.”
Who writes the lyrics for RAMPART and what are they about?
Maria: “I am the one responsible for the lyrical content. The messages of the lyrics are different… In our first album there are some social topics (“Under Control” and “Desert Of Time”), some epic (“WarriorsAand Orchrist”), some interpreted live situations in a metaphoric aspect (“The Flood And Stay Aside”). There is a short annotation to every text in the release of our album, which explains the main idea. As a whole “Voice Of The Wilderness” is an expression of protest and a short retrospection of the mass culture. The first song on the album ”Under Control” expresses disagreement with the forms of social and personal control, which the system uses upon us every day. It proclaims the values of freedom and the right for free choice. It is a fast speed song (like most of the others on the album), but it intentionally starts the album in a lower tonality. The second track ”Warriors” will turn you back into the ancient times of the first crusades. It is a battle epos. The song ”Voice Of The Wilderness” starts with some battle samples. It is a middle tempo track, where the tunes of protest against man-made disasters are melting with the plea for safe-keeping the treasures of earth. It is the ‘Voice of the Wild Nature’... The next song ”The Flood” presents an apocalyptic reflection of a past adventure at the background of a storm of fast riffs. It unites fire and water in the destructive power of disappointment from people, who we trusted. “Desert of Time” is a multifarious epos with a long intro and autro. It describes how sometimes the sandglass of life goes in a wrong direction and we are all sinking in a desert of media manipulations beneath the oblivion. The sixth track is a music equvalent of a fairy tale. ”Orchrist” is the sword of Torin from ”Bilbo Begins” (the legendary trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien ”Lord Of The Rings”). It is a symbol of victory! The text is an interpretation of the battle from the siege of the fortified capital of Gondor - Minas Tirith. In this song you may hear the warlike choir of the army of RAMPART. The ballad ”Age of Steel” is devoted to power of the will. In dark times defenders of the faith stand strong enough to pay the price of the existence. Any future tomorrow depends on the will. Here you may hear the tender violins of our guest musician Sofia Vancheva. “Mirror to Dreams” intentionally is not in our style. It is like a break and the lyrics’ inspiration is from the phychoanalitical theory of Jacque Lacan “The Mirror Stage”. It reveals “méconnaissance”, when the 'moi' becomes alienated from himself through the introduction of the imaginary order subject in a mirror reflection. The main idea of “Stay Aside” is that the solution of life’s equation leads to some points mapped in a dreamland of freedom. The course for sails is set on! This song starts with piano and then goes into our speed expression to end a logical finale of the album and to open new doors for our future creative quests. I often invent texts inspired from real life situations, and I also find themes in history, psychology, mass culture and legends. Our new album “War Behest” is conceptual piece of music and consists of ten compositions. It presents an anti-utopia of war as clash of interest. At the moment the issues of war and conflict are the main inspirations for my lyrics. In the real nature of conflict there are no losers and winners. The opposition is a result of our free will. I entered a world of metaphors and if you want to know the story behind the album, here it is:
*The Army of the Perfect Warriors
Made of steel and darkness the swords in their hands are as harps of death. The thunder of their arms is like a storm. Every man who heard it knows, that this is like the symphony of the Apocalypse. Their perfect battle skills turn them to surgeons and painters of the fights. Their leader is covered in silver mist and mystery. No living man has ever seen him to fight. Some warriors have seen him amongst mountains of fallen enemies after battles. He possesses the magic of the fight. Devoted to aggression they live to shed blood. Attack is their only tactics. Nothing could stop them!
*The Army of the Craftsmen
They forge weapons for ages. Every sword is a masterpiece. Their will for great deeds leads them. When necessary their faith for victory is unbreakable. Every warrior is good in his own field. Their leader is in golden armour. He displays his army strategically in battle. His belief in the common will has mystic forms. Under his leadership the warriors appear as if from the ground. They are silent. Every stroke with the weapon is full of respect. Devoted to construction they are feeding with their own will. The offensive is their only tactics. Together they can stand up as a wall. Nothing could stop them!
The fate sets the Army of the Perfect against the Army of the Craftsmen. These are two irresistible forces: the perfect killing machines against the perfect weapons. Thirst for destruction against the will to contemplate... The longest day in the universe has come. Hurricane of the orchestra of Death breaks the air, but as if the enemy is irresistible. The swords bend under the height of the bones. Blood drowns the battle. The mist of the silver general falls over the Army of the Craftsmen. The bright sun of the golden knight grows dim. The Army of the Perfect is initiated to the battle. Its faith is the most important thing for these warriors. They vindicate it to the end – it is their only chance. Their feeling of supremacy and excellence will never die. Even Death could not stop them! A wall of craftsmen is like pieces of a wound. The anguish is burning in their breasts. The blood of their general – golden knight is so much that his armour turns to rust… Alone amidst the few survivors the silver knight is unable to kill them and to save them from the pain. The Perfect remain only a memory. The hurricane turns to morning mist. A few warriors saw the new day. They refuse to accept defeat and it seems that everything is a dead lock…
The Army of the Craftsmen in union calls the silver general to become their leader. A new age forecast brilliant future and never-ending power. Faith in success again is a common feature! Initiated to victory nowtheir fate leads them to new glory. Success is their only fortune. New perfection is their common goal. This is a story about the restrictions of man and the decisions he could take on his way to perfection. Displaying more complex, richer, song structures and multitude of tempo changes, the music still retains a strong dose of melody, complimented by strong guitar solos. The lyrics also could be applied as a metaphor of the band's history thus far. The libretto is published in the booklet of the release and its poetic expression is in the lyrics.”
How do you deal with negative reactions? Do you try to learn from it (if you agree with the reviewer) or do you rather want to forget about it as quickly as possible?
Maria: “There’s fair criticism, that is of an influence on our plans for the next album. This does not make us feel unsatisfied with “War Behest” – this is the best we can make at this level. And there are things, which we could not change in our songs although the critique is valid – you can’t satisfy everyone! And this is not necessary! We have grown up our RUNNING WILD influences and the fans, who loved this are now disappointed. The traditionally ‘amorous’ relations here on the Balkans brought some fierce criticism from our neighbor countries. This criticism we accept with a smile, because they are a reflection from the scene of that particular country: for example in Greece they noted that our sound is a real disaster and the accent is terrible and in Serbia they wondered how such a small and insignificant band managed to sign a contract with foreign label. Here is the place to mention, that in Italy they noted, that “This is NOT an opera!”. These are funny things...”
Who provided the powerful artwork for your album? I believe, it’s the same guy who also provides the artwork for the Keep It True posters, isn’t that right?
Maria: “The name of the artist is Dimitar Nikolov - a Bulgarian artist, who also provides the artwork for the Keep It True posters for years. He is the author of the artwork of our MCD “A Tale To Cold” as well, which was nominated for “Album Of The Week” in the American website “Reign In Art”. Dimitar is also known for his work for albums of ROSS THE BOSS, SENTINEL BEAST, STEELWING and many more.”
What’s your favorite song on the new album and why?
Maria: “It is “Give Nothing Back”. It is a fast and direct song. Its obsessing rhythm is combined with one of the most specific messages on the album. This is a heavy metal appeal, that I want to hear from our fans, because I feel it as a part of our philosophy. This is also the song that became a single, because besides a final of this anti-utopia story it also is a door to our future messages.”
Your biography tells us, that the album is some kind of metal opera, the way SAVATAGE would do it. Do you want to make any comments on this statement, please?
Maria: “After writing the first metal hymns in this line-up, the idea appeared for an epic multilayered composition based on military history in a fabulously historic style. The lyrics and the music grew up so widely, that this became a project. Inspired by our work we took this direction and the composition became an overture. In a naturel way the things gained the structure of a classical piece of music. We did not cheat on the classic music forms. So we allowed ourselves to call the album ‘a metal opera’. It is a classic heavy metal with its particular parts/songs divided by arias/choruses, instrumental demonstrations and recitatives. Logically appeared the idea for its dramatic performance on big stage, but this depends on the sponsorship. The fans could freely interpret the essence of the album, to understand the whole picture or to listen separate songs. The metal opera reflects the ambitions of RAMPART. Our theory could easily be an object for critics and we are opened to hear the remarks in this direction. I have to mention that because of this concept album “War Behest”, we released the EP “A Tale To Cold”. The songs that are outside of the story lyrically are in this bonus CD.”
With which bands did you share the stages already?
Maria: “Our guitar player Vili Neshev played songs of STRATOVARIUS in the band of Timo Tolkki during his seminars in 2010. In the last two years, he also shared the stage with FATES WARNING, EPICA and ACCEPT.
With RAMPART, we have mainly headliners performances, which frequently last for more than two hours. In the frames of our country our reputation is at such a level, that the promoters do not dare to invite us for a support act… The previous year we played with TRIAXIS in London, because TANK were already on tour. This year we have shared the stage with bands such as WITCHBURNER, LONEWOLF, ELVENPATH, METAL WITCH, IRON KOBRA and many more great acts at Taunus Metal Open Air in Germany. This month we are playing with WIZARD at Rising Fest II in France and with our labelmates ELVENSTORM in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Of course, I dare you to see us and listen to our music live!”
Do you use any show elements (smoke bombs, etc.) during your live shows or what?
Maria: “As a young band with the relevant restrictions during our tours, we carry mostly our own personal skills. Till now we did not use more than standard effects. An exception is a festival, that we played this year, where the lightning exploded! We did not stop to play and the guys and girls from the audience took out their cell-phones and lighters – it was indeed very impressive for us. As I already shared, we have some ideas for a special show, which requires serious logistic support and professional management – things which are in store for RAMPART in the future.”
I can imagine that there were some very funny moments, while being on the road with the band. Maybe you can share one or two crazy moments with our readers here?
Maria: “For our show at Taunus Metal Open Air in Germany we had a problem with the snare drum and the amp. The Frenchmen LONEWOLF helped us a lot. I was so grateful to them, that I decided to declare my appreciation from the stage. As it often happens to me – my approach was global and I enthusiastically congratulated the French people. Have you ever seen in scientific documentaries how the cadre stops, so that the narrator is able to explain something important? Well, in the same way, the German audience stood there like frozen. My explanation, that I meant LONEWOLF in particular, did not help much either. When at the end of the song I said “Danke schön!”, an invisible hand unfreezed the movement in front of the stage. I felt like an idiot, but friends of mine told me that it was very funny.
After a gig, at which our bass-player Svilen presented his just invented ‘great’ jazz bass solo, we joined the mass of fans. We gathered around and watched how Svilen with a great smile crossed a wide lawn… We called him, screamed to him to join us, but he did not pay any attention to our calls. When he reached the end of the space, he returned back. This time we didn’t take any risk and we intercepted him personally. We asked him “Where were you going?”. And he without taking off his smile from the face and with eyes far above the horizon said “You don’t know how many people stopped to tell me, that my solo is the work of genius…”.
What’s the biggest show you did so far?
Maria: “Our greatest and biggest show was at a grand motorcycle festival in Bulgaria at Primorsko in 2009. We were the headlining band and the public was around 4000 fans. We played three hours for the first time (including the encores) and this was like probation for us for this time. I am sure, that everyone of the band, who was at this show will remember this performance until the end of his life.”
Are there any shows on the agenda for RAMPART at the moment? Any plans to go to Germany, Holland or Belgium in the near future?
Maria: “At the end of September begins the autumn part of our tour. We will start in Bulgaria on the 21st with a local show in Sofia. After that, we will play in Holland on 29th September at the Dynamo in Eindhoven. On the next day, 30th September, we will perform in Dijon, France at Rising Fest II. Besides the regular gigs in our country in October, we will play in Romania and Greece. We’d planned a gig in Belgium this month as well, but unfortunately it got cancelled, because the organizers did not succeed in covering part of our expenses. In 2013, we will return to Germany and the UK. Come and see us live!”
With which band would you like to go on tour, if you could pick any band? Let the sky be the limit!
Maria: “We would love to go on tour with QUEENSRYCHE in their formation with the vocalist of CRIMSON GLORY Todd La Torre or with PSYCHOTIC WALTZ.”
What’s the metal scene like in Bulgaria? Are there any clubs, where you can play live in your area or what?
Maria: “The metal scene in Bulgaria was born in illegality, before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Almost thirty years later, its rise does not stop. At the moment there are lots of bands in all metal sub-genres and there are lots of clubs in our biggest cities. It is possible to make a Bulgarian tour without unnecessary efforts, which were obligatory before four or five years. In our country we play mainly at these clubs. The reason not to play at all the festivals is the same one, why you have not heard of more Bulgarian bands. Here in Bulgaria, the music business is of the same level like that of importers of cheap vegetables. Some people think, that music is like a salad and you have nothing to do with it, except to leave it under the sun to wither until someone appears who wants to graze it!”
Which other (metal) bands do we have to watch carefully from Bulgaria? Do you know of any more female fronted metal bands like yourself from Bulgaria?
Maria: “The first significant releases in the Bulgarian heavy metal scene had Bulgarian lyrics. The record “The Gladiator” (1989) of IMPULSE is a burst of studio musicians, who were hiding their music partialities for a long time. Their founder member passed away and they stopped playing. “The March” (1990) of AHAT remained an unique achievement of a band, which activities have been going to zero. Their main composer, guitar player and lyricist took the monastic vows. You can hear some great heavy metal on the last album “The Metal Chronicles Part I” (2005) by SJK, who unfortunately parted ways. If you are into prog metal, I would highly recommend the music by progressive metal bands DOMAIN OF DREAMS (early SOLARIS) and PROJECT ARCADIA. Some classic thrash metal releases are AGGRESSOR– “Love and Blood” (1993), HADES– “Hades” (2010) and CIROZA- “Don’t Try To Hide” (2013). A few quality death metal albums are HATEBOMB– “Suffering Mechanics” (2011) and HYPERBOREA- “Cryogenic Somnia” (2007). I am not an admirer of heavier or modern styles, so I cannot recommend you something from this scene with a clear heart, but the above mentioned bands would surprise you what is happening at the edge of the orient.
As for any active metal front ladies, there’s only a few in Bulgaria. Because of their groovy philosophy and the concentration of live shows, you can hardly find the demos of GRANULOM with their vocalist Nadya. The early NIGHTWISH sound did have a huge impact on our scene and plenty of ladies did make attempts in the operatic singing style. The album of THE A.X.E. PROJECT “Stories From a Lost Realm” (2010) with vocalist Petya is rather interesting in this direction. The more radio-friendly orientated ANI LO. PROJEKT released “Miracles” (2011). For years I know vocalist Veronica, who sang in bands, such as ANTARCTICA, SERPENT’S KISS, VIRUS, THE A.X.E. PROJECT and now formed PROEX. Although she has not released anything until now, I expect something interesting from her very soon.”
We are a Dutch on-line magazine, that is completely focused on the female musicians in the hard rock and heavy metal scene. Do you think that female musicians still need the special attention and recognition?
Maria: “The ladies – we always need special attention. The fact, that you focus on this in your work is so nice. I hope, that your main motive is, that you just like the achievements, the success and the particularities of the female musicians in metal. In my opinion, the metal becomes stronger with a female presence and all the parties are winning. If someone does not like ladies in metal, then this is definitely his problem. The achievements in gender are something universal.”
We are based in The Netherlands, well-known for its colorful tulips and beautiful windmills. What comes to your mind, when you think about Holland or The Netherlands?
Maria: “I have always imagined how ASPHYX are coming out of a weed shop located in a commune and by mistake played a fast gig not in a metal club, but in an erotic bar. There conservative politicians accompanied by their eastern guests that are screaming: “Enough! We will take measures!”... The windmills are somewhere in the background... And the tulips are only sketches painted by Dutch masters from XVIII century on the walls. This comes to my mind, when I think about Holland.”
Take your crystal ball and look what the future will have in mind for RAMPART?
Maria: “I will only take a look at the small crystal ball, because the big one is not an energy-saving… Expect increase of the motions! Our next release will be with faster speed metal songs and more diverse vocals. You will see us more frequently and with a more mature show. RAMPART will continue with the march to the top from its sheer side!”
Do you have any other hobbies or interests besides playing in a heavy metal band?
Maria: “The sensitive part of me occupies the fields of music, drawing and poetry (lyrics). Recently, I defended a Ph.D. in Public Affairs, so that in the sphere of my interests are the social sciences and more specific – the asocial acts. Now I write my second book “PR in Music”. My secret hobbies are shooting with automatic weapons and running helicopter.”
Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
Maria: “We have not always been metal. There were not always metal heads. We are always in opposition and we will always be stronger. That’s why you should not ever say “I was a metalhead!”. Because you cannot become a metalhead – you are born to be a metalhead!”
Is there anything you’d like to this interview? Maybe there is something we forgot to mention here that is essential for the story of RAMPART so far?
Maria: “RAMPART means fortification and we consider ourselves defenders of Bulgarian heavy metal. We focus our efforts on this genre. We intentionally cleared up different influences, because we want to address our message directly. This fire burns inside of us. And the name of the band is a reflection of our disposition. We are Bulgaria’s heavy metal bastion.”
The well-known last words are for Maria and RAMPART…….
Maria: “We expect the number of our engagements to be increasing. We believe, that our songs reach the hearts of the metal fans and we hope that your readers will listen to our music and judge it by its skills. Holland, wait for us and stay loyal to metal!!!”
Visit RAMPART at My Space: www.myspace.com/rampartbg
or listen to RAMPART at Reverbnation: www.reverbnation.com/rampartmetal