Interview: Vale of Amonition
There's no point wrestling with demons; you just have to open the door and let them in. My relationship with demons has been very fruitful so far.
Metal’s final frontier lies in Africa and Uganda is one of the unlikely places where something is brewing. Although the scene is extremely tiny and unknown, the passions run deep with artists like Victor Rosewrath. Victor was kind enough to tell a bit more about his band Vale of Amonition.
Most will know Uganda because of general Idi Amin, who was the topic of wide speculation and even the film The Last King of Scotland. Though that lies in the past, Uganda has troubles of its own like high corruption, severe limitations of LGBT rights and Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army. Still, metal music flourishes here and together with Threatening the Vale of Amonition is paving the way for other artists.
Victor Rosewrath is a man of words and he has plenty to offer for people interested in his work. He’s been playing with poetry and various music styles to express what is inside of his mind. Victor has a romantic soul, clouded with dark visions as you will read here below. Thanks to Victor for his time and words.
E&D: So first of all, thanks for your time. Can you kindly introduce Vale of Amonition to the readers? How did your band get started?
Victor: Hello Guido, this is Victor Rosewrath. Thank you for this opportunity. Vale of Amonition is very old… thematically at least. I have been conscious of the Vale since I was a child and I have the sense it existed way before I did. But as for its incarnation into a doom metal band; it started in May 2009 in Uganda where I was living at the time. I needed to tell stories about the Vale and music seemed a good medium for that at the time.
E&D: How did you guys get in touch with this music, what bands inspired you to start making music yourself?
Victor: The band Queen was my first love and my introduction to heavy music. Now you may argue that they weren’t heavy, but I’m familiar with their discography well enough to prove you wrong. They were really the first band I ever truly loved when I was young and just understanding music. All other things came later. Black Sabbath came later. Mercyful Fate came later. Celtic Frost came later, and when I heard Candlemass and Type O Negative, I knew I wanted to create a similar kind of music. Solitude Aeturnus is my biggest influence. Solomon Dust likes Insomnium, Katatonia, Swallow The Sun and My Dying Bride.
E&D: Uganda has very little metal bands, but you guys have been around for a while and you are also surprisingly productive, releasing quite a bit of music. How do you guys go about writing your music, who is responsible for what and can you describe how you get new material out so often (particularly in the starting period of the band)?
Victor: The metal scene in Uganda is indeed quite poor… we are simply driven by the need to express ourselves as artists. We have never really cared for the absence or presence of a metal scene where we’re from as long as we could create and just be ourselves. I wrote most of the music in the early days. I was progressively inclined. Listening to a lot of bands that could be described as innovative and progressive.
I felt weird as a songwriter because nothing I could come up with could be considered a “song” in the conventional sense. ‘Black Cathedral’ for instance was initially a 23 minute song. We get out material so often because there’s a need for it. I think of the metal scene here as the African metal scene, it makes sense that way…and more and more people are interested in hearing metal from Africa. But we’ve had a bit of time off since our last major release.
E&D: I understood that your name refers to a valley of warmakers, but there’s also a lot of occult titles. I’m very curious to learn about the themes and topics you put in your music. Can you describe those and explain your choices? How real is this place to you?
Victor: Vale of Amonition is a very real place. I go to sleep there and I wake up there. I can’t escape it so I’ve given up trying. It is both a frame of mind and a real place that I take with me wherever I go or that follows me around until I tell its stories and get them right. There’s no point wrestling with demons; you just have to open the door and let them in. My relationship with demons has been very fruitful so far. The lyrics I write have to do with that relationship; with the general relationship with darkness that most people find themselves cultivating.
E&D: So Victor has just worked on the project Doomcast and in general you guys seem to have some following abroad, but what is it like in Uganda itself? Is there actually more of a scene than outsiders know or are you sort of a lonely band in your won country (together with Threatening)?
Victor: We are a lonely band and we are very lonely people. Also, we haven’t heard from Threatening in ages.
E&D: So can you tell a bit how the collaboration with Doomcast came together?
Victor: Doomcast came from a conversation between me and Tim Salter, Doomcast’s main composer and guitarist. I have known Tim for years and he really is a fan not just of Vale but of the whole African metal scene. He was working on a black metal project with a friend from Angola that was going nowhere and nothing I was doing with Vale of Amonition and African Doomhammer was going anywhere either so out of mutual frustration we decided to work together. But Tim is a fan of my style, my whole weirdness and I am an absolute fan of his guitar playing so really we just had to work together. Paulo Bucho who Tim knew joined later on drums and we became fast friends.
E&D: Can you tell a bit more about African Doomhammer, I didn’t hear about that?
Victor: African Doomhammer is a Namibian project I have been involved with since its inception. I have written music and co-written lyrics for African Doomhammer. They released one E.P. in 2014 and are working on some new music. I have a few ideas that I feel fit more with AD than VoA and I look forward to future collaborations.
E&D: I understood that you also started a progressive rock project named Otheorem. You’ve read poetry on video (Poe). Do you feel a strong need to express yourself in many ways and what other things would you still like to do?
Victor: Thank you. Yes. I need to express myself in a lot of ways and really I haven’t even done half as much as I know I am capable of. One night I read poetry for a bunch of stoners and they liked it. I was a classic literature scholar so I knew a lot of the old stuff and how to relate it to people and make it interesting. I ended up writing a bunch of poetry with respect to the old rules of meter and precision and a lot of stuff later that didn’t care for any rules. I always want to be able to express myself in both a traditional manner and in an iconoclastic format that shits on the rule-book. But Otheorem was the brainchild of Jon Xarg, Vale ‘s old drummer. He was the one who was tired of all the doom and gloom and wanted me to play with him in a more exuberant band so we did that song and then we argued about music and a lot of other things and we never picked it up again.
E&D: Listening to your music, I can’t help but hear a connection between heavy, theatrical doom and poetry, how did you develop this unique style of music?
Victor: I’m into poetry and I love the theatrical bit of artistic expression so it has always been bound to happen as far as how I write and perform with Vale of Amonition.
E&D: Do you feel there’s something that you put in your music that is typical for the place you are from; Uganda? Any sort of music writing, topics, words…? Could your music be from anywhere else?
Victor: I don’t think at this point Vale can go into a strictly folk direction but we’ve always had that as part of our identity. There’s still time enough to find out though. But no, I don’t think this band could easily be from anywhere else.
E&D: What does it mean for you as a musician to be where you are and how do you feel that shapes your art in the broadest sense?
Victor: I have felt frustrated and limited as an artist in Uganda. I feel the scope