Vrykolakas Interview With Khairil Vryko

Vrykolakas is a destroying death/black metal band and here is an interview I did with guitar player/singer Khairil Vryko

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

KV: I was born and grew up on this tiny island known as Singapore, in the eastern part known as Bedok. I live in an apartment, sharing the building with many other people, interacting like insects in a nest.

What sort of kid were you growing up and what did you want to be when you were growing up?

KV: As normal as the kid next door who grows up in an era without internet and therefore always away from home playing with my neighbors. I remember enjoying food but not remembering their names. I played football a lot.

When did you start listening to music and what were some of the 1st bands that you heard? What were some of the things you did for fun as a teenager?

KV: When I noticed the music, it was when Micheal Jackson lost his popularity slightly to Prince. I had an auntie who made mix tapes of singers such as Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, and the like. The true awakening for me happened when I was 11 years old when I discovered Malay rock music (basically rock music, with lyrics in Malay Language). I remembered seeing a band named SEARCH from Malaysia, on national television and then this weekly radio show which featured the latest releases and bands. I then learned about local rock bands such as RUSTY BLADE, ROCKERS, HELTER SKELTER, TZ, TRASHED, LAST MINUTE, and many others. During my teenage years, I was really into football and then when I was 14, I discovered heavy metal. I spent a lot of time checking out the international scene through magazines such as Kerrang. The discovery of the underground metal scene pulled me into this universe of obscure music (at that time) and I have been lost deep within ever since. Therefore, if I was not playing football, visiting record shops and going through all the tapes was fun for me.

How did you discover the wonderful world of heavy metal? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard? Are you a fan of any of those bands today?

KV: The discovery was first through “gossip”. I have a schoolmate whose elder brother listens to and has tapes of metal bands. This schoolmate would come to me and my friends often and describe to us what he saw on the cover of those tapes, making it sound like a horror movie. I got curious and wanted to find out more. At that time, metal was growing and spreading like a virus internationally, although it reached our shores a few months later. I found shops selling t-shirts and tapes and as soon as I collected enough cash, I tried buying some tapes. I remember buying IRON MAIDEN’s “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”, HELLOWEEN “Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1”, CANDLEMASS “Ancient Dreams”, KING DIAMOND “Them”, SLAYER “South Of Heaven” and a few others. A few months later, we discovered more extreme bands such as POSSESSED, SODOM, KREATOR, DESTRUCTION, SEPULTURA, and ENERGETIC KRUSHER, and we haven’t turned back ever since. I still listen to these bands because their songs, especially some riffs, some drum patterns, some solos, and build-ups stayed in my mind and I feel the need to return to those moments of discovery that made me ecstatic.

Khairil Vryko
Khairil Vryko

Now about underground metal. When did that enter your life? What were some of the early bands you heard? Were you into it right away or did it take a few lessons before you got hooked? Are you a fan of those early bands still?

KV: That happened about a year later. The “gossip” grew scarier as my school friend spoke about bands with very scary names and releases in xeroxed covers, having skulls and tombstones on the cover and band logos that could only be deciphered by Satan himself. I remember feeling apprehensive at first, really wondering whether these were bands that produced music or some cults practicing cannibalism and butchery on innocent people. Singapore is a very strict country with its laws and restrictions, therefore making everything seem shady and illegal if not publicly accessible. However, having said that the bands that we considered underground in Singapore, were not underground by the time we discovered them, eg. MORBID ANGEL, TERRORIZER, NAPALM DEATH, SARCOFAGO, MUTILATOR, CHAKAL, NIHILIST, MAYHEM, etc. These bands were just breaking out of the underground status in the international arena but are still regarded as underground here in Singapore. We inevitably fell deeper into the underground when we heard of rumors about metal bands existing in Singapore. That was my actual initiation into the underground when I got a Xeroxed copy of the infamous Japanese fanzine, SATANIC DEATH ZINE. It was issue #4 which featured, among many international underground bands, NUCTEMERON, the first Singaporean metal band that released a demo. We found out there were also 2 other bands – DREAD and CRUCIFUCKTOR, the latter of which I still have yet to get to listen to their demo to this day. I guess the reality of discovering NUCTEMERON, a Singaporean metal band that released a demo with metal songs, not rock or heavy metal, got me hooked. I soon discovered ABHORER and when I wrote to them, their guitarist, Exorcist, replied with news and updates on many other Singapore bands playing various sorts of metal music. Through ABHORER, I learned about PROFANCER, DEATH SQUAD, INFIDEL, XTREME OBSESSION, GLOBAL CHAOS, MUMBRA, and many more. As I mentioned in the previous reply, these bands gave me many reasons to remember their songs which made me go back to their releases to relive that initial feeling when I first listened to them.

Now in Singapore, were there record shops that stocked underground music back then? Did you get to see many touring bands back then or was it mostly local bands that put on shows that you got to see?

KV: We had to rely on a few record shops which focused mainly on tape releases. There was Valentine Music Centre and Roxy Records which I frequently go to. They were quite updated in their stocks allowing me to keep myself up to date with the international releases. There was this interesting shop whose name I forgot, but it was probably the only shop that sold dubbed copies of DIY demos. The owner will make copies of whichever demos you want with a Xerox paper of the song titles. Once in a while, there will demos with Xeroxed covers. I purchased dubbed versions of the ABHORER demo, MESSERSCHMITT (another Singaporean band), and GRAVE “Anatomia Corporis Humani” demo before deciding to write directly to the bands and fanzines.

So at what point in your life did you want to pick up the guitar? Were you self-taught or did you ever take any lessons? What do you think of yourself as a guitar player? Favorite guitar players?

KV: I only started playing guitar seriously when VRYKOLAKAS went through a hiatus due to line-up issues. I wrote songs but found it inconvenient to teach the songs to my guitarist and then play drums during rehearsals. We looked for a drummer so that I could move on to playing bass. Eventually, I had to move on fully to playing guitar as we found better drummers. It was more out of desperation at that time, so I forced myself to learn the guitar to keep up with our drummer’s ability. If I were to evaluate myself as a guitar player, I would define myself as a survival guitarist – I have enough abilities to survive a recording or a live set, but I have nothing to show if there were random jam sessions. Until today, I am not familiar with the technical aspects of the instrument, I am not able to play most scales. I can only come up with riffs, but many of them together to make songs, play along with a metronome and play with the band without screwing up the song. As for inspiration, I like guitarists who write great memorable death metal riffs – PHLEGETHON’s Juha Tykkylainen, IMMOLATION’s Robert Vigna, INCANTATION’s John McEntee, NILE’s Karl Sanders, just to name a few, and the many guitarists of death metal bands coming out of SWEDEN, FINLAND and USA.

Now I see, you also play bass and drums too. How long did it take to learn these 2 instruments? Favorite drummers and bass players?

KV: As mentioned earlier, I started off playing drums. It was rubbish in the beginning. My first band was BESTIAL COLONY and every rehearsal saw me playing differently as I stole drum patterns from the different bands I was listening to at that time. I had built up a bit of stamina when I started VRYKOLAKAS but had to move to play bass as I got more involved in songwriting and eventually focused on guitars when the band had a more complete line-up. Again, I would say that I played drums and bass out of desperation for survival. While I play guitars, I was always intrigued by the drummers. Whenever I attended gigs, I would sneak up on stage and squat beside the drum kit so that I could watch the drummers play up close. My favorite drummer initially was Pete Sandoval who did amazing work in MORBID ANGEL’s “Altar Of Madness” and TERRORIZER’s “World Downfall”. After him would be IMMOLATION’s drummers, from Neal Boback to Craig Smilowski, Alex Hernandez, and now Steve Shalaty. After that, I enjoyed watching all these brutal death metal drummers, from SUFFOCATION’s Mike Smith, John Longstreth, Tony Laureano, and many others.

Spawned from Hellfire and Brimstone
Spawned from Hellfire and Brimstone

So how did the coming of Vrykolakas come to be as it was you playing bass, and drums and singing on the band’s debut demo, which was self-titled back in 1992? It was you and one other member who played the guitar. How long were you both together before you started writing original songs? Take me through the 1st 6 months of the band.

KV: A lot of things happened within the 1st 6 months of the band. Back in July 1991, when I realized that BESTIAL COLONY was stagnating, I sought the help of someone to hook me up with other musicians to form a project band. Coincidentally, Shafiee from the band DEMONIAC was also looking for musicians to form a new band. We met and at that point of time, Shafiee had already written a song. Within a week or so, we rehearsed that song. I played drums while Shafiee who also played drums in DEMONIAC, played guitars. We didn’t have a band name. Shafiee pulled his guitarist from DEMONIAC, Herman to play 2nd guitar and we decided to use the name TUMULUS. This name and line-up lasted for only a month as Herman decided to stay out of metal music. By the 2nd month of the band’s existence, we had 3 songs. We rehearsed weekly as a 2-piece band while looking for a studio to record the 3 songs. We dropped the name TUMULUS and discovered the name VRYKOLAKAS. To be honest, the main reason for using this name is simply because of the rarity of band names beginning with “VR” at that time. We were still fascinated by ABHORER’s brand of brutal and dark style, grey in between black and death metal. Back then, black metal was very brutal with bands such as BLASPHEMY, MAYHEM (circa “Death Crush”), and IMPALED NAZARENE. This was just before the Norwegian black metal explosion. So we decided to label our music as “brutal black metal” although it didn’t turn anything close to brutal or black. We finally found a studio in December 1991 as we attended the recording session of BLOOD ANGEL’s “In Noise We Trust” demo and booked slots a few days before 1992. We recorded the guitar and drums together. Shafiee couldn’t keep up with the thickness of the bass strings and fret, so I had to play the bass lines as best as I could. Shafiee couldn’t growl and in honesty, neither could I. I tried singing like BATHORY’s Quorthon but my voice didn’t come out loud enough. So I tried growling and we only accepted that voice because it was loud enough to be captured on a microphone! We recorded and lightly mixed the 3 songs in 3 days and by the 1st day of 1992, we had in our hands the master tape of our self-titled demo. It took us until March 1992 before we decided to release the demo after many listens, and hesitation as we felt it wasn’t good enough. We decided to release it to get the reviews – we just needed listeners to either say, “This rules!” (the most popular 2-worded review a release could get at that time) or “This sucks!” (another very popular 2-worded review a release could get at that time if it sucks) to spur us on. Interestingly, the Singaporean scene made a mockery of us, condemning us as posers and such, while the international scene was more receptive.

So how did you know all about fanzines, tape trading, etc at the time right around your demo came out?

KV: It was ABHORER’s Exorcist who introduced me to a lot of contacts in the beginning. Other than contacts for Singaporean metal bands, I remembered him recommending EVIL ROTTING, LIVING CORPSE, and BACKACHE zines. EVIL ROTTING and LIVING CORPSE were done by the grindcore act DEMISOR’s members while BACKACHE zine, which changed the name to PANDEMONIUM zine before its first issue, was done by the MUMBRA members (they later evolved into LIBATION and then ITNOS). At the same time, I started writing to international fanzines such as NECROTOMY from Italy, SEPTICORE from Belgium, and many more from the USA and South America. We were also in correspondence with many fanzines from Malaysia and Brunei. At this time, the metal scene from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines was still brewing, so we kind of overlooked them in the early 90s. We only started correspondence with the whole region during the early 2000s.

So now you released a “promo” in 1999. Was this for record labels to try to get a record deal at the time? How long did it take for these 4 tunes to come together?

KV: That promo was recorded in April 1999 to announce the return of the band after a 6-year hiatus. Also, we have somewhat changed our sound towards a more brutal death metal approach, with downtuned guitars and low and heavy effects. I wrote the main idea of the song and Iman added harmonies and refined the picking techniques to give the song a more death metal approach. The song title, “Nuthfah”, means “a clot of blood”, and tells the story of a typical human, from his beginnings as a clot of blood to birth, living life, facing death, and being revived during judgment day before finding out what happens in the afterlife. Pretty much describes the life span of a band as well, don’t you think? We sent mostly to zines at that time because we felt that 1 song was too short to entice the established international labels and there were not many regional labels at all at that time. We also had 3 more original songs which were written almost immediately after “Nuthfah” was completed and recorded in different parts of 1999. We were quite in the mood at that time so it didn’t take us too long to come up with those 4 songs.

I assume nobody bit because you released another demo in 2000. This one was 5 tunes, including a cover by the band Leviathan cover doing “Darkness Descends”, yes they are not Dark Angel ha ha. How good of a job do you think you did and has the band ever heard it to your knowledge?

KV: Maybe because it was only 1 song so perhaps labels needed to hear more of us. Also, our presentation was lacking because while other bands were releasing stuff on colored and properly printed covers, we were still doing xeroxed covers. We decided to do LEVIATHAN’s “Dark Descends” for a gig we were playing in July 1999. As a band, we liked that song as it has many riffs and tempo changes within 1 song. We were already rehearsing the song. The band LEVIATHAN had already evolved into another band named SPHERE and played something more groovy like PANTERA and THE HAUNTED. We bumped into the band and respectfully sought their permission to cover that song. So at the gig, we played the song in the presence of their vocalist, guitarist, and drummer. The songwriter (guitarist) even headbanged right in front when we played that song. So it was an interesting and memorable moment for us as a band. We got carried away and even recorded the song in the demo!

Unleashing Vrykolakas upon Mankind
Unleashing Vrykolakas upon Mankind

Now later on in 2002, you hooked up with Mangled Maggot Stew! where you released a cassette of your promo with the title called “Buried in Filthy Vomits”. How did you hook up with the label and did it help you out at all?

KV: We can’t remember the full details but we noticed the label’s catalog putting out hundreds of releases on tapes. We liked the quality of their releases – color-printed covers just like the early 90s and asked whether they were interested. The reply came back asking for master CDs and stuff and within a month, the tape was out. The label already had a network of friends, so before long we were invited to appear on compilations, got the tape reviewed in zines and a few interviews came to us as well.

A couple of splits followed and then your first full-length came out, this being on the label Vrykoblast Productions. How did you hook up with them? How exciting was it to be signed by them and start work on your debut?

KV: VRYKOBLAST PRODUCTIONS was an initiative of ours to release VRYKOLAKAS materials. When we released the 5 songs on CD, “Vrykolakas 2000” MCD, we sensed that labels were not keen to trade with us because we were not represented by a label. So for the sake of credibility, we started the label mainly to release VRYKOLAKAS’ material. It was supposed to work more as a publishing entity for us. It was very convenient because our vocalist had a friend whose mother worked in a CD pressing plant. Pressing CDs was cheap back then, so we went ahead pressing 1000 units every release we did. It wasn’t exciting at all because it was a bit too much of work honestly. We already had to put energy into writing and recording. And then had to design the layout, send the masters to the plant, and work harder to spread the CDs around the world. So when we were doing the 2nd album, the first thing that came to our mind was looking for an established label that could our music fast.

Now were you playing out live much while the splits were coming out and stuff?

KV: We were quite active on stage between 2000 – 2005, playing at least 2 shows a year. But we grew a bit tired of playing live and by 2006, we decided to focus on recording. Simply because at that time, we seldom got a good sound production for our live sets. Our songs from the earlier releases were short and we were up and gone within 15 – 20 minutes. We didn’t think that the audience enjoyed our sets back then. We prefer recording in studios as we are allowed to redo our tracks until we are fully satisfied (and as long as we have money). We were quite insistent on making sure our listeners get their money’s worth, so a CD is probably better than watching our gigs.

Now how was it working with Vrykoblast Productions? Did they promote the band much? What are your thoughts on this release these days? Do you feel the band’s sound was changing much, but changing for the better with this release?

KV: We are the label managers, so we promoted the band as much as we could. In retrospect, we probably made the mistake of opening our doors to other bands. It was quite interesting getting promos from bands from around the world, asking us to release their stuff. We released about 17 – 18 albums and splits by 2009 and then I began realizing that we were putting too much energy on other bands and had less time for VRYKOLAKAS. It was quite bad, as we even put aside the promotion of our 2nd album “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind”, only releasing it on tape 5 years after completing the recording. We also could not complete the recording of our 3rd album “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” back in 2010 and had to re-record the whole album in 2020. Probably things are meant to turn out that way because since 2020, we have become more creative and productive, recorded and released 2 albums and a split, and working on 2 more albums as we speak.

Did you get to play around much when this release came out? What was the response like from the underground around this time?

KV: We had strangely developed this adversity towards playing live when the 1st album was released. While the album received good responses, we always felt that we could produce something better. By then, we were planning on a 5-album plan. We acknowledged that playing in a metal band is more of a hobby that suits our personality and living in Singapore does not allow us to turn this hobby into a career. We observed how challenging it was for IMPIETY to get to where they are and while the world celebrated IMPIETY’s international presence and killer music, being close to the band between 2000 – 2008, we noticed the struggle. It is not as easy as what you hear in their releases and what you see on stage. There were always the worries of maintaining the line-up for recordings and then for tours, getting a good studio engineer and production. So 5 albums for us and then slowing things down to releasing demos and participating in compilations would be sufficient enough to call it a successful “career”.

And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos and Destruction
And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos and Destruction

So did Calamity Productions approach you about the comp CD that came out in 2008? How good of a job do you think he did?

KV: Our vocalist, Andy, was furiously blasting emails to labels, trading CDs and all. He is also the most excited when it comes to our plans and would blurt out every detail despite it being just an initial plan. So at that time, the plan was to re-release our Demo 1992 on CD. We liked the concept of discography releases. We felt that we had enough material from the demos and split to put them all in 1 CD as a discography release to mark an anniversary or something. Andy managed to somehow convince Calamity Productions to release this CD although we were honestly not ready for it mainly because discography releases are usually done for bands that have totally stopped activities or probably have been around much longer. So to release that CD while we are still active and at that time we were only around 17 years old with a limited discography is not meaningful. But we also don’t want to discourage Andy from being enterprising. It was Calamity Productions’ first CD release after releasing tapes. So more than anything else, we were very honoured to be their first release in CD format. Packaging wise we felt he did a great job. We were just excited to see our out-of-print demo on CD!

I wanna backtrack a bit to what you said about your stuff being on your label. Now we’re getting all kinds of bands and stuff sending you stuff to possibly release? At what point did you decide to go and start that, releasing other band’s stuff?

KV: Actually, remember earlier when I mentioned about Andy’s explosive public relations habit? While we were planning the “Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones” CD as the 2nd Vrykoblast Productions, Andy started talking about the label to his contacts and before we knew it, we were eyeing this and that band to offer releases for them. I was still pursuing bands at that demo and promo phase to build up the “Supreme Brutal Legions” (SBL) split release series. Starting listening to metal in the late 80s, I believe strongly in split releases. I had wanted to use the SBL series to help bands. Imagine having your demo or promo on a pro-pressed CD with other brutal bands and having 1000 copies of those going around. Andy on the other hand had a bigger plan. He wanted to release full-length albums. So he told me about this brutal death metal band from Thailand, DEATHGUY. They were looking for a label to release their “Concentrate The Annihilation” album. We loved their brutal music and decided to release it and have them under our wings. So all that began in 2004.

Did you do a full-blown promotion for each release? What was your best-selling release and your least best-selling? If someone were to want to start a record label, what advice would you give them?

KV: It was mostly by blasting emails back then. We would bring our releases to every gig we attend, asking the organizers for a space to set up a booth. After getting to know magazine editors, we also purchased advertisement spaces in magazines. For us, the bestselling release was our “Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones” CD. It was probably the first Singaporean band to release an album in the brutal death metal genre, under a Singaporean label boasting itself as a brutal death metal label. Maybe it was intriguing at that time. We also traded that album a lot with international labels. After a while, I felt the challenge of running a label trying to promote bands outside Singapore. So, we decided to branch away, me focusing on Singaporean bands while Andy continued with international bands. Our worst-selling album was probably a Singaporean band whose name I shall not mention. I wanted to help them because their 1st album was self-released, and I thought I could do something for them. However, I guess their genre was kind of too mixed between death metal with a heavy tinge of modern metal and unmemorable melodies. Their music didn’t go down well with the listeners here in Singapore and even internationally. My advice for anyone to start a label is first to choose the format (tape / CD/vinyl / digital) most preferred. There is a possibility of making a profit but not so fast. There are thousands of labels out there, some major and some small ones. So, choose the bands you like so that promoting their music and releases repeatedly does not become a mundane chore. Most of the time, the best band to release is probably your band.

Are any or all the releases you put out still for sale? If they aren’t, would you like to see someone re-release them?

KV: 2020 was an interesting year for us. As we announced our return with plans to record 30 songs to be released in short formats such as demos, splits, or Eps, we got an offer to release an album. At that time, our last release was a 3-way split tape with 3 songs, initiated by a Singaporean black metal band, SUICIDAL. The split was released on tape by the Ukrainian label Depressive Illusions Records back in 2016. The Argentinian label, Evil Damnations Records, wanted to re-release those 3 songs on tape, retitling it “Into The Shadow Of Death”. At the same time, a Malaysian label, East Gothic Productions, wanted to re-release our 2nd album “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind” which was released on tape in 2011 by Atomik Nuclear Desolation Productions from Chile, on CD and tape. With all these reissues going on we decided that perhaps recording and releasing an album would be a wise thing to do. So that’s how the 3rd album happened, and we have been recording many materials since then – “The Necromantic Revocation” album, “The Anatomy Of The Ungodly” split, “Nocturnal Dominion Of Death” undergoing mixing now, and a 5th album which we intend to let our listeners come up with the album title once the recording is completed. We still have copies of some of our previous releases as we are competing with the thousands of very established international bands who have killer releases every few years. But we get new listeners all the time, so they would ask for our previous releases.

The Anatomy Of The Ungodly Split
The Anatomy Of The Ungodly Split

Now back to the band. In 2011, you released “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind” by the label Atomik Nuclear Desolation Productions. How did you hook up with them? Were most or all the songs ready to go when you signed with them?

KV: The “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind” (UVUM) album was completed in 2006. There were 8 songs and a brutal death metal cover version of IMPALED NAZARENE’s “Condemned To Hell”. That song was something we started all our rehearsals with before practicing our songs. So, as we evolved our sound toward brutal death at that time, we decided to present it according to our style of play. Our version was condemned to hell. We were already starting the writing process of our 3rd album and didn’t focus our energy towards promoting that album although we did plan to get international labels to do it for us for UVUM. Unfortunately, we soon found ourselves promoting the other bands that we released under Vrykoblast Productions, we took it for granted that some labels would approach us due to our contacts and kind of shelved UVUM aside. All of a sudden, it was already 2011, 5 years had passed and UVUM was still not unleashed. At this time, I came across Atomik Nuclear Desolation Productions from Chile, a label that was doing tape releases. While we were handling CDs, I was quite impressed with the label still believing in tapes. So, I asked them if they wanted to release UVUM on tape and they liked the album and decided to do the release.

Would you say the sound had changed much on this release? What was the underground’s reaction to this release? What are your thoughts on this release these days?

KV: There was a huge change between “Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones” (SFHAB) and “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind” (UVUM). The only similarity is the long title! SFHAB was filled with more songs, most were below 3 minutes long and most of the songs contained many many riffs. UVUM was more epic, as we focused on the build-ups, and strived to come up with memorable and headbanging riffs. Except for “Sunless Gravescapes”, the other songs had a more patient build-up and sustained the riffs, following the verse, bridge, and chorus sequence. Locally, the scene noticed the change and liked the arrangements. We liked the album for its attempt to squeeze in as many of our influences as possible. As we listened back, we were glad we wrote the songs in the album the way we did.

2 more splits followed before you hooked up with Evil Damnations Records, who released an EP called “Into the Shadow of Death” in 2020. How did you hook up with them and how did the recording of the EP go? Love the cover, who did it?

KV: We were approached by several international labels as we announced our 30 songs “E-thir-ni-ty Epoch” project, as explained in the earlier questions. But most of the labels wanted to release something for us soon and we had only just started the recording of “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction”. So, we explained to Evil Damnations Records about the 3 songs, which were previously released on CDr under Metal Industries and then on tape under Depressive Illusions Records, being released to a limited audience. We wanted to build a listeners’ base in South America and since the “UVUM” tape Atomik Nuclear Desolation Productions was sold out in Chile, we thought it would be good to build a listener’s base in Argentina through Evil Damnations Records. The label agreed. They came up with the cover artwork and we requested all the credits to be in Spanish. The recording happened after a break of 6 years, as each member settled his personal life affairs. We went back to TNT Studios and this time we decided to let the sound engineer act as a producer as well. We were not involved in the mixing process. We told the sound engineer to make this release sound as death metal as possible. And we believe the engineer achieved it!

How was the scene over the years? Were there many bands or places to see shows and stuff?

KV: For extreme music, the scene is very healthy except for death metal. There are many young bands in the hardcore and punk scene. But the bands in the death metal scene consist of mostly 40-year-old uncles and older. There is only 1 new death metal band – DARAH, and recently they started a project band playing death metal as well, SEVERED. Things do not look good if we have to rely on a bunch of balding uncles wearing death metal t-shirts where the logo disappears behind their dad’s bellies playing dark and heavy death metal. The younger generation prefers deathcore and I believe it is because deathcore caters more to their emotional needs. Playing shows here are getting more and more difficult as Singapore as a nation regresses into archaic conservative practices while pretending to be a modern first-world nation. I am sure you heard of the WATAIN incident. From that incident, show organizers had to adhere to meaningless restrictions to hold a show. A lot of venue owners had to stop hosting shows as neighboring businesses complained to the authorities, although most shows were done after office hours. While our neighboring countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines are producing metal bands like mating rabbits, and organizing metal shows like it’s a porn industry, Singapore’s metal scene is diluting and disappearing.

So after that EP came out, you had 2 songs on a 2 way split put out by Orgasmatron Productions. How did the writing for those 2 songs come together and were you happy with the way it came out?

KV: By now, the readers would be very confused with our rather haphazard discography. We would like to state a disclaimer, although it may sound like we are making excuses. As the main songwriter of the band, my inspirations and aspirations can be random and chaotic. The songs in the EP were recorded in 2015-2016. They were released on CDR under the title “3-Way Chaos” split with SEREIGNOS and SUICIDAL by Metal Industries. This split was then reissued on tape by the Ukrainian DEPRESSIVE ILLUSIONS RECORDS. After this recording, to be honest we don’t foresee ourselves being active in the band beyond 50 years of age (we were in our mid-40s at that time). So, the plan was to record 30 songs, in time for our 30th anniversary as a band in 2021. These 30 songs would be released in parts in the form of demos, EPs, splits, and even compilations. We chose to start with the 2 songs written and rehearsed during 1995-1996 when VRYKOLAKAS was just me and Iman. We thought we should revive these 2 songs and record them as a demo to kick-start our 30-song project (also known as the “E-Thir-Ni-Ty Epoch”). Orgasmatron Productions liked those songs mainly because the production, was filthy enough, heavy enough, and brimming with 90s death metal. We were very happy because we felt we managed to achieve the sound we wanted for those 2 songs with the original feel and atmosphere intended when we wrote them in 1995-1996. I felt that Andy’s performance demonstrated his best representation of vocal ability – a mix between brutal death metal vocals and the vocals of many 90s Swedish death metal bands, including DISMEMBER’s Matti Karki and ENTOMBED’s LG Petrov.

Now at what point in the band’s career, do you think you found the VRYKOLAKAS sound, if you ever have?

KV: The best representation of the VRYKOLAKAS sound would have to be the “Into The Shadow Of Death” and “The Necromantic Revocation”, in terms of songwriting and overall sound as a band. We feel like a band doing very well in the 90s. There is a balance between heaviness, darkness, and relevant brutality at a pace listeners can headbang to and enjoy the memorable riffs. If listeners wish to know VRYKOLAKAS through listening, then the 2 mentioned releases and “The Anatomy Of The Ungodly” split would be the best representation of our personality and identity as a band. We didn’t do much mixing in these recordings because they sounded exactly as we intended. As for “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction”, we were pushing ourselves beyond whatever expectations we had up to that point. The upcoming album in the mixing stage now, “Nocturnal Dominion Of Death”, we were trying to outdo “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” and I think listeners who enjoyed this album will also enjoy “Nocturnal Dominion…” If we were to use an analogy, in “… Shadow Of Death”, “Necromantic…” and “The Anatomy…” releases we were jogging comfortably whereas in “And Vrykolakas…” and “Nocturnal Dominion…” we were sprinting.

Do you think the band’s sound has changed much over the years and for someone who has never heard of the band, what would you say the band sounds like?

KV: This is probably one thing we are proud of. The band’s sound changes according to our mood and inspirations at the point of writing a song or an album. We have a lot of bands influencing us for so many reasons and we want to pay tribute to them without having to play their songs as cover versions. It’s a matter of saying “Let’s do an album that sounds like 90s American death metal” “Let’s mix GRAVE and INCANTATION” or “Let’s do a pounding version of CANDLEMASS”. To whomever asked us to describe our sound, we would consistently answer, “90s American and European death metal”. And they would probably go, “But which bands?”. And our answer would be “That depends…”

You were also pretty busy in 2021 and you also released a 6-song demo on “Bleeding Concrete Records”, which to me was stupidly released on just 66 copies. Don’t you think this is a really stupid idea when you think it over?

KV: On the contrary, we feel proud that any label would want to release any of our material. It’s already late 2023 and there are thousands of bands out there for the labels to choose from. Our philosophy is pretty simple – hopefully, the labels don’t lose money. We would be very impressed if any label would be willing to rip us off and somehow make a lot of money out of us. Bleeding Concrete Records was interested in the 2 songs released under the title “The Cult Of Nocturnal Death”. This was also supposed to be the title of our demo which didn’t happen back in 1995-1996. So right after Orgasmatron Productions released them as a split tape with the Japanese STIGMATIZED, Bleeding Concrete Records approached us and offered to release it with bonus tracks – the 3 songs from the 1992 demo and a song meant to appear in a compilation CD which we somehow forgot to send it to the compilation editor by the deadline! So, there were enough good reasons to do this release. As to the quantity, we also want to respect the label’s resources and we don’t see the need to be demanding with royalties and such things as long as we feel the offer is fair. We consider it a promotional platform for our name to be spread in Thailand. Looking at the bigger picture, we have 100 tapes going around in Malaysia, 100 in Indonesia, 66 in Thailand, and 66 in the Philippines, with our names on them. In a way, our listeners in those countries each have unique releases to enjoy. (that’s different from what I read, I thought it was 66 copies total –  Chris )

A third (!) release, a full length was also released, this time by Dark Blasphemies Records. How did you end up working with them and how quickly did the songs for this release come together?

KV: As mentioned earlier, Andy spreads news very fast. As soon as we completed recording all the parts before any mixing was done, Andy sent his favorite song from that album around to labels he knew. 2 labels from Spain were quick to offer us to release the album. We were also looking at a few factors. First, the label must be able to release the album on 1st July 2021 to commemorate the band’s 30th anniversary. Second, the label suits our musical philosophy – a label that focuses on death metal. Third, either American or European as we want the album to reach listeners in these regions. We are very aware that between 2016 and 2020, 4 years of passive existence without new material, and with the many bands appearing all over the world, VRYKOLAKAS would blend and be hidden behind. So, to a certain extent, we want our music to reach far and wide and conclude that a label from either America or Europe can help us achieve that goal. Dark Blasphemies Records was the first label to show excitement in our music. We are very aware of the caliber of the label’s releases so it didn’t take us long to agree to be part of their roster.

Now COVID was around during this time, did really hurt the band much or you don’t play out live a lot and you just promoted the release throughout the web?

KV: The last time we played live was in 2008 when we opened for GRAVE when they played here in Singapore. By this time, Iman our 2nd guitarist had left the band. We had to look for a 2nd guitarist to make our sound complete (we had been playing live without a bassist since 1999!). After that show, we evaluated our plans and prioritized recording as many albums as we could instead of playing live. COVID didn’t affect us as a band because we had made that choice to be a studio band striving to produce albums. The COVID restrictions legally didn’t stop us from recording. 2020 was the year the restrictions were imposed on the world, but we were busy recording. It started with the 2 songs for “The Cult Of Nocturnal Death”, the compilation song “Infinite Sirat” and then the “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” album followed by the “Necromantic Revocation” album just 2 months after the previous album was released. COVID in a way helped bands with sales of physical formats. While being stuck at home, metalheads around the whole were searching, exploring, and discovering bands beyond their shores. Online platforms and applications such as Bandcamp and Discog helped us in getting our music and releases known to international listeners. We dare say that, maybe for VRYKOLAKAS, COVID helped us. We were one of the virus variants spreading stealthily across the world!

So, in 2022 another full-length came out this time on Ancient Urn Records called “The Necromantic Revocation”. How did the songs for this come together?

KV: This would probably be a good point to share that VRYKOLAKAS had a 5-album plan. When we released the demo in 1992, we immediately faced line-up problems forcing us to be inactive for the next 6 years. When we returned in 1999, we set ourselves this 5-album target. The first album was released in 2004 and titled “Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones”. The second was recorded in 2006, titled “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind”, but only released in limited tapes in 2011. We had already planned a storyline with the next 3 albums titled “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction”, “World Vryko-Domination” and finally “Supreme Brutal Legions”. But once again, we faced some issues in our personal lives and although we started the recording of “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” as our 3rd album in 2010, we couldn’t complete the vocals part. We went into a passive state again between 2010 to 2015 before coming together to record “Into The Shadow Of Death” originally for a split release but was reissued as an EP. It was at that point in 2020 that we decided to do the “E-Thir-Ni-Ty Epoch” project of recording 30 songs and releasing them in batches as demos, Eps, and splits. However, we were offered an album deal and we thought since we couldn’t salvage the 2010 recording of the 3rd album, why not redo the whole process? Even before the release of “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction’, we knew it would be our best album. The raw tracks captured at Studio 47 by engineer Nizam Aziz (IMPIETY’s current guitarist), made us feel proud of our performance in the recording. It was a comfortable process recording that album such that by the time we completed it, we wanted to do more. That’s when I floated the idea of re-recording the songs written by the previous line-ups, from the demo 1992 and 4 more songs rehearsed by the previous line-ups. We wanted to answer the question – how would VRYKOLAKAS’ old songs turn out in today’s recording landscape? We tried to maintain the rough feel of the songs by leveraging on TNT Studio’s naturally raw production. We liked that studio because it always gives that 90s atmosphere in their production. We maintained the sequence of the riffs in the songs but Edi’s playing style made the songs sound heavier!

Now for all these releases over the years did you use different studios a lot? Were you in and out rather quickly?

KV: There are not many studios here in Singapore. For our demo in 1992, we attended a recording session of BLOOD ANGEL at the now defunct SAVOIR FAIRE Studio. We spent a few hours over 3 days and got the recording done before New Year’s Day in 1992. We wanted to record our 2nd demo at FREEWAY JAM Studio where AS SAHAR recorded their demos. We disappeared and when we returned, we discovered NEW TURN Studio. We recorded 5 songs there which appeared in the various demos, EPs, and an MCD titled “Vrykolakas 2000”. Most studios somehow didn’t last long. We then decided to go to TNT Studios. Here is where we recorded the songs for the “Supreme Brutal Legions” split, the “Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones” album, the “Fire Death Chaos” split, the “Into The Shadow Of Death” EP, and “The Necromantic Revocation” album as well as “The Anatomy Of The Ungodly” split. We did the “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” and “Nocturnal Dominion Of Death” albums at Studio 47, owned by IMPIETY’s current guitarist, Mr Nizam Aziz. We liked Studio 47 for pushing us to sound like an internationally known band. But we also liked the TNT Studio sound which made us sound like we are still in the 90s.

Out of all the labels you worked with, was any of them not a pleasure to work with?

KV: We would like to believe that labels were helping us more than working with us. We feel grateful that labels are willing to sacrifice their time and money to release our material. As far as memory serves us, we will include them in the thanks list of all our releases. Having faced the challenges ourselves when we ran VRYKOBLAST PRODUCTIONS, we decided to give the labels more space to do their jobs. At the end of the day, if the label sucked, we only have ourselves to blame for being too cool about their flaws.

Now we come to your latest release a split with the band Nuclear Christ. Where did you find them at? How has the response been to your release?

KV: In terms of songwriting, we were proud of this release. We avoided blast beats in this release. All the songs are in the mid-tempo speed. It was all-out death metal in “And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” and blackened death metal in “The Necromantic Revocation”. After listening to NUCLEAR CHRIST’s song that was supposed to be in the split, we realized they sounded very Floridian style of death metal – MORBID ANGEL. So we decided to try sounding like the other Floridian bands, such as OBITUARY, DEICIDE, and DEATH during “Leprosy”! We hope the listeners notice and approve! So far reviews have been encouraging in our attempt to vary our sound between releases. This split is probably the heaviest in terms of pace and “headbangable”!

Now out of all your releases. How many are out of print or better in print? Do you have original copies of everything you ever released?

KV: Currently, the Zzzoouhh Records reissue of the Demo 1992 on tape and the “Into The Shadow Of Death” tape are sold out. The other releases are still available. Yes, we do keep the original copy of each release in our discography for archiving. (smart man-Chris)

If I had a label and it was for cover tunes only, name 3 tunes you would record.

KV: We’ll start by saying the 3 tunes we have already recorded. We recorded a song by our fellow death metal peers, LEVIATHAN, with their song “Dark Descends” appearing in our “Buried In Filthy Vomits” European and Asian versions and the “Vrykolakas 2000” MCD. We recorded a brutalized version of IMPALED NAZARENE’s “Condemned To Hell” in our “Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind” album. We recently recorded the song “Repulse To Destroy” by the Malaysian BRAIN DEAD for an upcoming tribute release.

Currently, we have no plans to do cover versions. We would write a song that sounds close to the bands we are influenced by. But if we are ever forced to, then these would be the 3 songs: INCUBUS’ (FL) “Engulfed In Unspeakable Horrors”; SUFFOCATION’s “Liege Of Inveracity” and INCANTATION’s “Unholy Massacre”.

How much longer do you see the band around? When can we expect a new release?

KV: We have honestly started talking about “retirement” since 2020. The “E-Thir-Ni-Ty Epoch” 30-song project was planned with that intention. Record 30 songs and release them at various points in the next few years without having to worry about the future. Fortunately, or unfortunately, with the completion of “Nocturnal Dominion Of Death”, we managed to record 30 songs in total:

In 2020:
1. Infinite Sirat – Compilation Track

“The Cult Of Nocturnal Death” demo
2. Darker Than The Occult – Demo
3. Nocturnal Demons Of Death – Demo

“And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction” album
4. Silkhannas Falls From Grace
5. Kaf-Fa-Ra
6. Yajuj Majuj Versus The World
7. The Dajjal Brings Chaos
8. The Storms And The Shadows
9. The Jasad On The Throne
10. Transcending The Quantum Realm Of Barzakh
11. Seven Steps Above Six Feet Under

In 2021:

“The Necromantic Revocation” album
12. The Necromantic Evocation
13. Thy Lord Vrykolakas
14. Baptism To Baptism
15. Blasphemous Womb Spawn
16. Perverse Lust Necrophiliac
17. Darker Than The Occult
18. Nocturnal Demons Of Death

In 2022:

“The Anatomy Of The Ungodly” split
19. The Mouths That Spew Blasphemy
20. The Eyes That Witness Debauchery
21. The Hands That Harvest Idolatry
22. The Hearts That Harbour Heresy

“Nocturnal Dominion Of Death” album
23. Darkness Consumes The Soul
24. Ascension Of The Knowledge
25. Foretaste The Divine Wrath
26. The Forbidden Hope For Death
27. Hind’s Vengeance At Uhud
28. Covenants Leading To Sa’ir
29. Bilateral Venomous Assault
30. From The Hellfire Comes The Spawn

As we respond to this interview, we are working on our 6th album with 10 songs laid down. We are writing songs for the 7th album. We figured that we would be able to be productive for at least another 2-3 years before time and age slows or stops us. Let’s see what death has in store for us.

Please plug any social media pages or websites the band has.

At this moment, we have the following social media sites:





Please plug any merchandise you have, including shirts, etc.


VRYKOLAKAS releases available:

Vrykolakas 2000 MCD – 3 final copies

Supreme Brutal Legions Split CD VOLUME 1 CARDIAC


Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones Slipcase CD (Vrykoblast Productions)

Spawned From Hellfire And Brimstones Tape (Goatlordth Records)

Nocturnal Demons Of Death CD (Calamity Records)

SACRED/VRYKOLAKAS (Vrykoblast Productions)

Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind TAPE (East Gothic Productions)

Unleashing Vrykolakas Upon Mankind CD (East Gothic Productions)

And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction CD European (Dark Blasphemies Records)

And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction CD Asian (Sadist Records)

And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction Tape Asian (Sadist Records)

And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Damnation Tape South American (Evil Damnation Records)

And Vrykolakas Brings Chaos And Destruction LP (Floga Records)

The Necromantic Revocation Tape (The Gate Records)

The Necromantic Revocation CD (Ancient Urn Records)

Do proceed to our Bandcamp site: https://vrykolakas666.bandcamp.com

so that you can listen to the songs first before ordering.

This has been a long and great interview about the band’s career and horns up for doing it. Any last words to wrap this up?

KV: We thank you Chris for this very detailed interview which allows the band to tell our story and happenings to the readers. This approach brings us back to the past when the metal scene was beginning and sprouting in every country and information and updates on bands could only be found in printed zines. We know the long history of  ZINE and it is an honor to finally be among the pages of this great zine! To those who have listened to any of our songs/releases, we thank you for spending that time, and to those who purchased any of our releases and enjoyed our music, we only continue to do this for those few of you who enjoyed our music. For those who believe in death metal – “We rule in shadows, we reign in the umbra, your faith we severe, like storms we devour!”

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