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One of a handful of Metal bands to emerge from Uganda, Vale Of Amonition is the only one to have moved in fiercely experimental Doom circles. Comrade Aleks talks with founder Victor as to the vision behind the Vale...

Interview with Vale Of Amonition.
"According to Metal Archives, there have only been three Metal bands from Uganda, and one of them - Vale of Amonition, is tagged as Doom. Yes, they started playing "bluesy Heavy Metal" before establishing their current "progressive Epic Doom sound", as official sources say, but Avantgarde or Experimental Doom is a more suitable definition from my point of view. The band released almost 15 records of varying length through their 12 years of existence, and I would recommend their second album 'Those of Tartarean Ancestry' (2017) and the EP 'Ancient, Evil & African' (2019) as the most mature works with their own vibe and identity. A mix of different musical influences and an authentic, pretty brave, approach make Vale of Amonition a unique band, so we’ve tried to find out the roots of it in the company of Victor Rosewrath, the band’s vocalist and guitarist. "

Talking to Comrade Aleks: Victor Rosewrath of Vale of Amonition.

Hi Victor! How are you doing? What’s Vale of Amonition's status nowaday?

Hey, we’re all good. We’re contemplating the way forward at the moment. A bit has changed and we don’t have any answers at the moment regarding the future.

Vale of Amonition is marked as an international project, but you started it in Uganda, where there have only been three Metal bands in total, according to metal-archives. How did it happen that you started to play metal there?

I founded Vale of Amonition in 2009 and all the people I played with I met at music schools or through connections based off the music schools I frequented. I didn’t really grow up with friends listening to metal, we all met later on because we wanted to play in a band.

So what was your first encounter with Metal music?

I fully got into heavy music when I was in high school. I had friends who were very much into music like I was and we just fed off each others’ enthusiasm about the artists we discovered. Nine Inch Nails was sort of my gateway into dark brooding music. I am very scholarly and used to read a lot so I did my research on early metal bands and got into bands like Black Sabbath on my own. By the time I was just done with high school, I knew I wanted to make metal music.

How often and where did you play live with the band? Who were the other members? I bet it’s hard to find Metal musicians in this area.

We played public spaces like the National Theatre in Kampala because they fancied themselves promoters of art and tried to be as inclusive as they could. It was hard to find a crowd for the music, there were three of us (myself, Japheth and Xarg) for a long time that we felt formed as a band and the challenge then was to find an audience and build a scene. It was fucking impossible. So we reached out to Kenya and made connections there and learned there were scenes happening in South Africa and Botswana, Namibia, all these places. We quickly aligned ours to the notion of African Metal then – it felt bigger and a lot more significant than just being a band from Uganda.

Vale Of Amonition - 'Of A Painting Grim' (2016):

It’s said your started with bluesy Heavy Metal and then you turned to Progressive Doom. What influenced you? Which bands helped you to shape the sound?

We have been moved and shaped by different things at different times. Just as we are influenced by music so it is with literature, culture, history, spirituality and experience. Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Candlemass, Rotting Christ, Neurosis, My Dying Bride – our influences are varied and really speak more to our tastes than actual impressions on how we play. The sound is shaped by the theme we have at the moment, what we are trying to communicate as words and ideas. The music does not come out of a hole, it is very deliberate and set to what the tone we’re trying to cultivate is.

So you did have a kind of vision, right? What was it about?

The thing is I don’t think the vision was anything explicit and if it was then it has changed.

How did people react to this? That you play in some strange Metal band?

Some were appreciative and amazed, others were confused and dismayed. I have never once cared.

In a short period between 2010 and 2013 you recorded a few demos and singles, how did you manage to keep at that level of activity?

A lot of those were not meant as serious recordings though. They certainly weren’t respectably produced. It was a lot of trial and error stuff. Uganda did not have rock and metal producers, it was alien to make that music there at that time. That’s why we’ll never officially issue a lot of that material. The stuff that mattered made it on Those of Metal Afar.

Vale of Amonition's lyrics deal with dark and abstract topics: what’s your message behind these songs? What do you want to express?

It’s not intentional. It just comes out how it comes out. I like to form stories and associate with mythologies. A lot of the well worn metaphors and turns of phrases still apply. Is there a message within? I don’t know. But I’m not trying to pass on any messages.

Vale Of Amonition - 'Ancient, Evil And African' (EP, 2019):

Okay, then a more blunt question: which mythology do you use as your inspiration? Can you give a few examples?

Vale of Amonition has its own mythos. But I have been influenced by the traditions and beliefs of my corner of Uganda where I was raised and incorporated a lot of that together with references to Christian, Egyptian, Greek mythology and so on. Mervyn Peake’s 'Gormenghast' is the biggest influence on the Vale as far as approaching an explicit mythological inspiration.

How did you record the album 'Those of Metal Afar'? Did you have sessions at home, or did you have rehearsal space back then?

We had rehearsal space. But we were always on the hunt for good rehearsal space. The first four years of Vale of Amonition were mostly spent searching for rehearsal space and good equipment…and mostly failing. We recorded the songs at different times. Those of Metal Afar is more of a compilation of everything we recorded between 2010 – 2013 than an actual album.

The album was released by Namibian Systematic Productions, and there is only Vale of Amonition on its roster. What’s this label?

It was a start up thing by friends that didn’t take. The idea of an African metal label was too novel and perfect to not toy with. We wanted to be at the forefront of a community that builds from within but soon realized there was a long way to go until we’d have the adequate means to do that.

But you did reach foreign listeners, didn't you? Do you remember when you started to get feedback from abroad?

We were on MySpace and that’s where we first got listeners and support. All the first fans and supporters of this band were from abroad. As soon as we were a band, we were on social media writing and reaching out to anybody interested.

Vale Of Amonition - 'Nairobi Metal Festival' (Live, 2017):

Did you try to reach foreign labels as well? Was there any reaction?

We did some tape trading, we got the ball rolling early on with setting up contacts and relationships. I’m still friends with some of the people I got to know through various exchanges back from like 2012. Legion of Death Records (France) put out the Infernal Supremacy EP on vinyl.

Having had the first album released, what kind of sound did you want to achieve with sophomore album 'Those of Tartarean Ancestry'?

There’s a lot that happened before we even thought there would be Tartarean Ancestry. Japheth left, Xarg fled and Solomon Dust joined and I left Uganda for a while. When it came time to put the album together though, we were squarely within the Doom/Death camp. We weren’t feeling very experimental. We just wanted to achieve a heavy but high quality sound, you know?

Yes, I get your point. Do you have a chief songwriter in the band? How do you share your duties?

I was the chief songwriter in the early days of the band. It’s rather evenly split between Solomon Dust and I these days. One of us will birth an idea and then bring it to the table and we take it from.

Vale of Amonition: Solomon Dust (guitars, bass), Victor Rosewrath (guitars, vocals).

The album sounds authentic in some ways, as it combines a lot of different influences, and it has its individuality not only in music but also in lyrics. However, how much of your national background do you see in 'Those of Tartarean Ancestry' songs?

There’s no national background. We’re not nationalists and we’re not a folk band. We are a doom band after all is weighed and appraised. Is it a good doom album? That’s what we think about.

You took part in the 'Doomed & Stoned in South Africa' compilation (2018): did that help you to draw people’s attention to the band?

It did to some extent, I’d say. Generally speaking, there’s more interest in Vale of Amonition these days than before. It can’t all be attributed to that compilation but appreciate them for having us on there.

Your up-to-date release is the EP 'Ancient, Evil & African' and its title song sounds like a sheer Vale of Amonition manifesto. Do you see this song as the most effective message you try to transfer to people through your music?

That title song was a nod to our experimental past. The title sounds very declarative and the vocals in the first part were rousing. It was all in good fun but we didn’t stick with it and it goes all sorts of directions after that.

So you moved to Canada not long ago: do you plan to keep Vale of Amonition on running? Or do you want to start a new project once things are settled down?

I will keep creating. There is probably going to be a bit of time as things settle down and I acclimatize but sooner or later, new forms will materialize. Bet.

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Visit the Vale Of Amonition bandpage.

Interviewed on 2022-02-06 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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