Band – Yovel
Album – Forthcoming Humanity
Country of Origin – Greece
Genre – Black Metal
Release Date – October 2, 2020
Label – Independent Release
Author – Hayduke X
1917 – St. Petersburg
“All Power to the Soviets!”
Such was the rallying cry of the October Revolution. The Soviets, in late 1917, were councils of urban workers who organized for mutual aid. During the October Revolution, these Soviets, with the help of the military, overthrew the Provisional Government, which had been in place since the February Revolution had overthrown the Czar. The October Revolution shows the strength of banding together.
Yovel, in the liner notes of their new album, list five specific worker struggles. It’s fitting that they start with 1917 St. Petersburg, a successful example of worker revolution, as the greek black metal band is, in their own words, Black Metal For The Oppressed. That was clear from the strong Leftist, Antifascist themes of their debut Hɪðəˈtu and it’s, if anything, even more clear on Forthcoming Humanity.
On their sophomore release, the collective digs into the history of the left within greece, specifically turning to the writings of Revolutionary poet Tassos Leivaditis. Further information on this poet can be found in the liner notes of Forthcoming Humanity, but in short, he was a stalwart voice for the left, suffering arrest and even exile for his beliefs. The nine tracks on the album serve as a fitting tribute to his life and his writings, and are a trumpet call for all of us to raise our voices as loudly and unflinchingly as he did.
1938 – Barcelona
“I wasn’t even there for the worst of it,” [said Alfonso Cánovas]. “But I saw bombs fall, and I was told about how they bombed the Gran Vía, leaving the street littered with body parts, which also hung from the trees.” (source)
What Cánovas is referring to above is the bombing of Barcelona by the Mussolini’s italian air force, as the fascist leader broke nonintervention pacts to side with Franco’s fascist rebels. The Republicans, who were the forces the fascists were fighting against, ranged from anarchists to moderates who supported the Popular Front government, a left leaning party holding power in 1938. This war, referred to as the Spanish Civil War, shows clearly the danger of leaving fascists unchecked and trusting them “to do the right thing.”
Throughout Forthcoming Humanity, Yovel continue a pattern which they first established on their debut, namely using pertinent samples in their blend of atmospheric and violently aggressive black metal to call attention to current and historical oppression. Woe To The Vanquished is a stellar example of this. The song, track three on the album, starts with a sample of a re-enactment of Paul Robeson appearing before the House Unamerican Committee, in which he vehemently defends his stance against fascism. Then the black metal fury kicks in, calling to mind the violence of the dropping bombs in Barcelona. Part way through, we hear a sample of Michael Bloomberg praising unstable times as a perfect time to invest and make money.
So, where’s our Peace? (lyric from Woe To The Vanquished)
1973 – Santiago
“Workers of my country, I have faith in Chile and its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail. Keep in mind that, much sooner than later, the great avenues will again be opened through which will pass free men to construct a better society. Long live Chile!” – Salvador Allende (source)
In 1973, the chilean military used conditions created by the united states under Nixon to carry out a coup over Allende and his left wing Popular Unity government. Under Pinochet and the newly installed (and immediately formally recognized by Nixon’s government) military junta, political activity was ceased and leftists were repressed. This undemocratic rule, supported by a nation claiming to be the world’s greatest democracy, lasted for well over a decade. What might chile be like now if this hadn’t happened?
In the lyrics of Epitaph Part II: Homeland, Yovel implore us to:
Rise above, The ruins of Fear.
The heartfelt, melancholy guitar work is both devastating and hopeful, as they seem to call to mind the hope in Allende’s last speech, even as it must have seemed all hope was lost. Battles may be lost, but the struggle is eternal. The energy of these tracks are potent audio reminders of this. They seem to carry forward forever, even as they move from track to track. Within each moment, each note, each strum, and beat of the drum, is the tension of an eternity of struggle.
1994 – Lacandon Jungle
After the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle was issued in December of 1993 by the EZLN – a declaration which stated that the mexican government was illegitimate – the group began their insurrection in Chiapas, the southernmost province of mexico. The EZLN (in english, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation) stands for the rights of the indigenous people and for democracy. Over many years, various negotiations, cease fires, and agreements have been reached and then breached. Today, though officially unrecognized in the eyes of the nations of the world, the EZLN effectively control their own region and remain an effective and evolving experiment in self-determination by the people.
The heavier passages of Forthcoming Humanity, in particular, hold many moments that feel triumphant and hopeful, even within the wider tone of despairing struggle. Soaring guitar rises above blistering drums, while the vocals bark out exhortations to the listener. For example, in New Planet Earth the lyrics remind us:
[But] beneath the[ir] pile of percentages;
we still draw breath.
Don’t Forget to remember our future;
on this New Planet
The Roads of Portland – Today
Anyone paying attention to the united states right now knows that there is a lot of political disharmony. Police continue to murder black men and women without consequence. Leftist protestors have been rising up in the streets of Portland, among other cities, to call attention to these and other injustices. There have been several attempts to establish autonomous zones within the city. The work is being done. Pay attention.
Forthcoming Humanity, like it’s predecessor from the band, is an album which is more than just stellar, emotional black metal, though it is that as well. The nine tracks are a manifesto of solidarity and action with the working class, with the oppressed, with the people of the world. The final track is entitled Love, and that is fitting. It’s a reminder of why we join the struggle. The reason is love. Love for each other. Love for all life on this planet, regardless of species. Love for all the peoples of the world.
[Editor’s note: In solidarity with a political statement made within the liner notes of this album, I have chosen not to capitalize the name of any nation, except where it is a direct quote.]
Stayed tuned below the Bandcamp Player for an interview with the collective!
Hayduke X: Congratulations on Forthcoming Humanity. As I expected, it is masterful! How are you collectively feeling about it?
Yovel: Thank you for the good words and thank you for the support and solidarity over the years. Words cannot describe our gratitude for what you are doing, not just for Yovel, but for hundreds of bands that deserve to be heard and felt.
We are feeling proud of our work. A sense of fulfillment, actually. We feel that we managed to communicate Leivaditis’ message, and his way of analysing his era, through our eyes, through today’s events – BLM, pandemic, surveillance capitalism, dystopian future.
It was an enormous task, and even though we are exhausted right now, we look forward to feedback and to open the discussion.
HX: The audio presentation of the album bears some similarity to Hɪðəˈtu in the regular use of samples. Is this in your DNA as a band, so to speak?
Yovel: Thank you for the keen observation. We do use samples on a regular basis, from films / interviews / documentaries, that convey our message, so well, that we do not need to sing those parts. And of course, as an aesthetic reason, since they add another voice and feeling to our music.
Let’s take for example the second sample of “Woe to the Vanquished”. Two “economists” [aka priests of profits] at Bloomberg casually discussing “value” and “opportunity”, acknowledging that “the best time to buy is where there is blood on the streets”, with one suggesting patience: “we are getting there; generally speaking”… They didn’t invent this saying. The bourgeoisie has used it for centuries, at their lavish lounges. They are so detached from the humane side of society, that everything’s metric is profit – even blood.
Let that sink in; Isn’t this small audio snippet more describing than yet another analysis about the inherent barbarism of today’s societies?
HX: Forthcoming Humanity is based on the poems of Tasos Leivaditis. You share a lot in the liner notes regarding who he was. Can you share briefly about him and his importance here?
Yovel: Tasos Leivaditis was a Revolutionary; part of a ground-shaking but betrayed, defeated revolution. He used the words “comrade defeat”, showing how embedded loss was in his life and the lives of thousand men and women that fought against nazis, fascists, english, american and greek reactionaries during the 1940’s… A struggle that was lost. In his life he re-lived again and again that loss. From his first exile just after the war, till his persecution for his political beliefs later in life, a man that fought for a better world, won the war but lost the peace. His life and his work follows the path of the radical movement in our country, their struggles and their losses. The struggles and the losses that made us what we are today. A regional story; yet universal. Change names and eras; the same “ingredients” remain. Unselfishness and camaraderie vs misanthropy and deceit.
HX: Why Tasos Leivaditis specifically versus another revolutionary?
Yovel: Tasos Leivaditis for us is not a “special revolutionary”. He is special, exactly because he is us. He was just a man fighting, among many other men and women, for a better world, living through hell for it. His poetry is not a grand speech of a great captain. His poetry is extraordinary; no doubt; but is that of just another man fighting and re-visiting his life and the historical events we took part in. A human being hoping, believing, grieving. That’s why we use Leivaditis in “Forthcoming Humanity”, that’s why we took a risk believing that his poetry is the language of pain, grief as well as hope.
In Tasos Leivaditis’ work the personal and the political converge. He captures the political – social need of fighting against injustice, from a personal standpoint. His characters do not contain heroes – rather typical people, who understand that, if they want to live, they need to fight. And this is inevitable.
His work moved us – and still does. In the song “Our Flags were born”, there is a scene of torture described to someone, forcing him to speak and betray his comrades:
“He must now speak to save himself. To live he must stop loving. The captain says “speak” the whip says “speak” The night says “speak”. But the night is short and the comrades are many. And he cut his tongue with his teeth, like you would.”
This spine chilling part of his work, acknowledging his human side and reflecting his determination on his ideas, will always bring chills down our spines..
HX: In your minds, what are two or three of the most important messages found in his poetry?
Yovel: Perhaps it’s not a message per se, but what is extraordinary in Leivaditis poetry is the way he experiences defeat. “Those who lost cannot die”. He wrote about the “dead of our war” who are still walking; not as flesh-eating zombies, but as your father, daughter, friend. We are the dead of every war! And our exiled cut their tongues, so they would not give away their comrades; “as you would do the same”. Leivaditis is certain that we would do the same. This is how “Our flags were born”, out of every-day decency that under specific circumstances became epic and ecumenical.
You cannot say he’s optimistic and he surely is not naive. He has experienced defeat and suffered in it. And this is what is fascinating – he remains determined, without being optimistic:
“So go ahead and die, all you that must die.. Like the vine dies if the song and the dream and the feast are to be born. If you get scared, life is countless, and more will be sent to defend it. For there is no other way, no other hand, no other dream, no other flag, no other heart, no other star, no other justice; but Life. And the forsaken must go where they must, to be forsaken.”
That’s why we need him.
HX: What do you hope this album inspires in the listener?
Yovel: Every album is a child of its era. Forthcoming Humanity tries to connect Leivaditis’s poetry with our era – to talk about our times, to criticize our times. Every album like that is a call to arms. To be sincere, every album today should be a call to arms. We learned that from Tasos Leivaditis. We are not here to lament perpetually. May this work be a guide to action – a wall against despair.
HX: Tell me about the album art. As I understand it, it’s taken from a painting. The liner notes are full of pictures of Revolutionary actions around the world. How did you choose which ones to use?
Yovel: The album Art is based on Konstantin Yuon’s Red Planet, re-imagined by Argyris Athanasiades, with whom we worked for the whole graphic designing part of the album and are really thankful for.
The original artist imagined a communist society as a Red Planet’s appearance. A historic, cosmic event, causing a range of reactions to the inhabitants of the nearby planet: Anguish, fear, hope, elation. We used this concept. The critical point is that we don’t want another planet and probably there is not going to be one for us. So what choices are we left with? To re-discover life on this New Planet called Earth.
The original artist imagined an equal and just society as a discovery of a new planet, as an evolution, a new state of humankind and its triumph against capitalism, with all the emotional changes that it bears.
“Forthcoming Humanity” follows a similar path conceptually and emotionally. A path that includes different moments of the radical movement around the world. That’s why our “Woe to the Vanquished” is accompanied by Allende’s glasses and “Forthcoming Humanity” takes the form of a kid with a raised fist from the Black Lives Matters Movement. “Forthcoming Humanity” was written for all those movements, inspired by all those movements. “It is us; It is we”. These moments are our capsules taking us to our “new planet” Earth.
HX:It seems like you stand in solidarity with all radical leftist movements which battle oppression throughout the world and throughout history. Is there a particular theory or philosophy to which you subscribe as a band?
Yovel: Throughout both of our albums you can find references from different theories or philosophies emerging from the radical / anticapitalist movements, past and present. It’s our choice to communicate with all those aspects in certain parts of our work.
Our first album, titled hɪðərˈtu, is the phonetic language equivalent of the of the word “Hitherto” – taken from the first phrase of Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels Communist Manifesto – “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
This was the last line whispered, before the ending of the last song, “Centennial”, closing the journey from Trauma to Triumph.
In “Forthcoming Humanity” we followed the trail left in between Tasos Leivaditis words.
A trail leading to a path filled with suffering, grief – but never defeat. This is the suffering and grief that we live today, in rigid class societies, a world with oppressors and oppressed, a world of social injustice, a world of war, a world of terror, a world of rising misanthropy.
We choose the label Black Metal for the Oppressed to signify that we pick a side. To signify that we can’t play music with indifferent “shock value”, just to follow a norm- insensitive to what is happening around us. What is happening against us, what is happening to us. We use the Black Metal for the Oppressed label as a Flag; a rallying point on an ongoing battle. As our call to the people of the world to join.
HX: Ayloss from Spectral Lore contributes to one of the songs. How did that come about?
Yovel: We regard Ayloss as a precious comrade, sharing much common beliefs about life and music. We know him and appreciate his excellent work all these years. It was only natural to work together, and “So, Our Flags Were Born” was the right song. We thank him, and we are sure that we will work together on many fronts in the future.
HX: The Coronavirus seems to have further exposed some of the oppression seen throughout the world. Does that give some hope, even in these terrible times, that perhaps a sustained movement can rise up?
Yovel: The burdens and “answers” to the covid crisis expose the true nature of today’s capitalism. We know that (Too) Late Capitalism is destroying the planet. We know that in today’s world the people are the product. We now know that in a time of crisis governments and enterprises can decide the death of hundreds of thousands of people to keep the profit machine safe. People all over the world understand that. The real question is: will we fight the rich, as you suggest, or will we contemplate conspiracy theories and alt-right trash, that unify and channel their anger towards the immigrants and the poor around them? This (and the fight against climate catastrophe) will define our lives.
HX: What is the current situation in Greece?
Yovel: Greece has suffered a lot in the past ten years. Yovel are the children of that suffering. The people living in Greece lost a lot. They fought, they lost, they got betrayed. They may even become comfortable in their loss. They turned against each other, they turned against the immigrants, many times they just stayed silent. Today’s government chooses to continue attacking the people, while at the same time feeding their hate for each other. We have fights ahead of us. Our intent is to be part of all that movement and for the metal community to be part of that movement. And we are glad to see things moving in that direction.
Recently, Unity, an artist movement released a collection of songs by 160+ Greek artists, in support of refugees in Moria camp, Lesvos, which was recently destroyed by a fire outbreak. We were happy to be included in this collection. You can find the collection, along with merch, here.
HX: What’s next? Will you play live once that’s a possibility? Are you working on new music yet?
Yovel: Our first priority will be to explore ways to communicate Forthcoming Humanity in the era of COVID. As things go, live shows are probably off the table for a while, but we may try making a video for one of the tracks. We also have some other ideas that we could explore. It’s a difficult occasion but we really want to try new things to talk about this album, get feedback from people who will listen to it, etc.
We are waiting for CultheFest, at Munster Germany, in April 2021 with other great antifascist metal bands.
HX: What else would you like to say to our readers?
Yovel: Thank you for this interview. Even though we feel happy that we are able to communicate our message through this interview, our gratitude resides on the fact that we have found active voices, similar to ours, across the Atlantic, shifting the paradigm in modern Black Metal, another barricade of the Struggle. We are watching closely what is happening in the USA right now; We are One!
We have lived similar revolts and counter-revolts; as we are sure that we will live them again. In Greece, on October 7th, we are waiting the verdict for the trial of the Neo-Nazi Criminal Organization “Golden Dawn”. This is a call for everyone to realise the gravity of the situation and to spread the word and help with any way they can.
Be a part of your local community. Fight your fights. Don’t despair.
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Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. Beginning in 2018, he also began writing for VM Metal Underground. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.