What is art metal? Maybe the best answer on this question is checking the Polish band HellHaven, who are the part of our latest Progstravaganza sampler. We talked with the band’s guitarists and keyboard player Jakub Węgrzyn. Check the interview below.
How did the HellHaven story begin?
HellHaven came into existence in Myślenice in order to bring to life original and unorthodox music.
At the beginning HellHaven was inspired by bands in heavy metal or hard rock genres. This period, for us, was a quest to find our own sound, an idea for future music and creation of a strong and solid group backbone. After 12 months of writing our own original material in 2010, using our own financial expenses, we’ve created mini-album “Art for Art’s Sake”. The record was a concept album which music could be described as a combination of progressive metal and heavy metal music styles. The debut record was positively received both by critics and by fans. Thanks to the members’ commitment in the band’s activity, HellHaven music was often presented on polish radio stations.
The new sound, presented on our debut record, lead to the band’s many successes. With the start of 2011 we’ve decided to start to work on a more complex music material for the second long play record. During that time we’ve signed a contract with German record label “Legacy-Records” which allowed us more creative and technical possibilities. In 2012, after 12 months of creating new material, HellHaven registered more than 50 minutes of music dubbed progressive rock/art rock, and we’ve named it “Beyond The Frontier”. From this point we are trying to show HellHaven’s music to the whole world. As much as possible.
You describe your music as art metal. What do you mean by that? Is it art rock with metal edge or totally something new that’s known only in your terminology?
Our starting point was to put ourselves into waves of unpredictable, creative, crazy and remarkable music with no borders. We knew that this would be very hard task for us. After making new material, we’ve realized that we’ve created some kind of mixture of prog, art rock with a touch of prog metal, but not as “vintage” as people were used to known. When we were playing our first shows, some people from music magazines and radio stations couldn’t find the proper name for our music style. In fact, they describe our music as “art metal with heavy art rock influences, with a touch of post rock and native music”. The truth is, that in our style people can find influences of heavy metal, art rock, post rock, prog rock, even polish national music and so on. Crazy mixture, that makes us quite original in this hard days (when thousands of bands plays exactly the same music). What we are proud of, is “art” in our music style. It means, that music is not just a few notes, which go through your brain, but it is also some kind of a theatrical performance that touches deeply your sensitivity.
When I heard the „Beyond the Frontier“ album for the first time, the song Beyond the Frontier (Part 2) made a biggest impression on me. What is your favourite song off the album?
Hard to say – every song has it’s own beauty. But from my personal point of view I will choose “About Reading and Writing”. This song is quite romantic, very diverse, with beauty guitar solo, and soft, fragile vocal parts. Also it has great spatial synths. This song says “they can make something that floats above ground, flies thorough clouds” I think.
„About Reading and Writing“ off the album is also on our latest Progstravaganza compilation. Why did you pick this song for the sampler? Tell us something more about its structure and your view on it.
Well, I think that I’ve already answered it in last question, but let me try to say something more about the purpose of choosing this song to be a sampler. This song gives you HellHaven in a nutshell. It has everything, that we’re proud of – art, prog rock elements, heavy riff, nice final solo, great vocal parts, a lot of synths… If you would like to show HellHaven in one song, I think “About Reading and Writing” would be the best choice. Of course, that is just my opinion. I know, that many people say, that Perikarion is the best mixture of what we are able to create. Also Paper Swan shows our respect to what we’ve learned after many years in the band.
On a studio report video taken from the album session, there is a moment when Marcin (bass player) „uses his head to play“. So, is it always that funny for you guys during the recording process? Anything interesting to share from the recording sessions?
Oh, a lot of funny things happened. That’s why we are still making music ! Music has to give you a lot of joy, fun and should makes your dreams come truth. During recording sessions a lot of little problems appeared. Like when we had problems with electrical current on Marcin’s bass guitar. We had to connect his head and toe by the wire to the strings, to make it ground. Funny story, but saved our… day J What is more interesting, Perikarion was played during recording session for the first time ever ! We’ve never practiced it before. But we are very proud of what we’ve done that day (well, with the support of many beers).
In the same studio report, Marcin uses to compare the song “Hesitation” with “Spanish inquisition”. Would you elaborate on that more?
I had to call Marcin directly, to make this answer as closes to the truth as can be. Marcin says, that in Hesitation, riffs are unpredictable. We could say about them, that “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” like nobody expects which riff suddenly appears in this song. I have to say, that sometimes we are crazy like Monty Python.
Your songs exude energy. How much of your daily life influence the music? Is the music the way of manifesting the energy you carry in yourselves?
The biggest influences were from our childhood, and what we were listening to at those times. We were growing up in hard times, just after Poland regained its independence from the rule of communist Russia. Life has taught us that in order to achieve something, you have to work very hard for it. I think that this gray reality of post-communist Poland made in us a urge to creating something, that will manifest our fresh, shiny energy, in-mind power, our new way of living, of understanding. We wanted to make something that will show to whole world that guys from Poland can do something valuable, and we are not worse than rest of the world. Nowadays we are proud to say, that Poland has one of the brightest prog and art rock bands in the world.
How would you describe your music in one word?
Have you thought about employing any traditional instruments in your songs? I am asking this because „Beyond the Frontier“ is quite eclectic release? Any space for some classical elements in your music? Maybe soprano singing?
We wanted to do it, but our friend, Ryszard Kramarski (leader of polish art rock band Millenium), who watched over technical aspect of our recording session, said very wise words, that this album will be the better, the less people not from the band will be involved. In another words, we’ve decided to make it almost with just our own, HellHaven’s knowledge of making music. Just us, and two violinists to show people what THE BAND can really do. But in the future… yes, we will definitely ask more friends to join us with this great musical adventure.
Are you working on any new songs?
Yes, yes, yes… it is unstoppable process, that makes our life very pleasant. For now, we have two new songs that we are working on. They expand what we’ve done on “Beyond The Frontier” for sure. Those, who are familiar with our unpredictable style, will be glad. People, who like simple, short tracks, will be disappointed. New album will be another “impassable frontier” that we will cross through with a great success, I hope!
How do you see the progressive rock scene in post-2000’s?
Because I live in Poland, I will say something about our scene – from year to year polish prog rock scene is growing massively up. Month after month appears new great bands that really can create beauty music. More and more music editors from all around the world say that Poland is a volcano of great prog rock. We are so proud of that, and proud, that our music is a part of it.
At the end I would like to thank you, that you gave us possibility to present our music, to say a little bit about us, and polish rock. I hope, you will enjoy our newest album. For us the greatest reward is the listener’s smile and shivers on his/her back.
Thank you, stay prog !
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