From the Vastland: Bloody Stories of Demons and Their Dark World

From the Vastland is making some of the best black metal out there today. If you missed their brilliant 2018 album, Daevayasna, get ready to do some much-needed catching up.

The band’s vocalist, main guitarist and chief composer is Sina, who originally comes from Iran and was featured in the Blackhearts documentary, which focused on his life in Tehran and then followed him back to Norway when he was called on to play the Inferno festival in 2013. (Decibel originally interviewed him while the film was in production.) He has since settled in Norway, recruiting bandmates from Norwegian acts like Nordjevel and Horizon Ablaze.

Sina approaches his art from two directions, one that points to the past masters of Scandinavian black metal, and another that leads straight to the myths and stories of his Persian homeland. On songs like “Fall Into Duzakh” and “Sickle Of Melmedas,” combines all the best elements of the style – cold and memorable riffs, rhythms that drive the drama of the song, and in-your-face shrieking vocals – into an endlessly satisfying and cohesive listening experience.

But that’s enough commentary. We should let the artist and the music speak for themselves. So here’s a quick chat I had with Sina about this latest album, his inspirations, and his plans for the future (though I totally forgot to ask him if his bandname is derived from that early Behemoth EP…oh well!):

You released a fantastic new record, Daevayasna, late last year. How would you say this record is different from your past work?
Thanks! Yeah, it was in October last year when we released our new album Daevayasna. You know, regarding to your question I would say it’s a continuation of my past works with the same style, but it’s more shaped the way I wanted it to be. The structure of my songs are always like old school Norwegian/Scandinavian black metal but with a small Persian/oriental touch on it, especially on the melodies that I write – which comes naturally from my background, you know. I would say this album is the darkest of From The Vastland, both when it comes to the music and the lyrics.

I worked on this album for almost two years and I did my best to make the atmosphere of the album exactly as I have it in my mind. It’s so dark and mysterious but at the same time so wild and wrathful. Well, it’s even hard for me to explain it, you know. But If I want to put it into the words then I would say it’s like where the ancient Persian myths, gods and demons meet the old school black metal of 90s. That’s how I can describe Daevayasna.

As a related question, what were your lyrical inspirations for this album? Were there any particular stories or characters you focused on?
You know, all my lyrics are about Persian mythology, our ancient history, legends and their stories. So, the idea and the theme behind this album is the same as the past albums. But whenever I choose the stories to write a song about, or if I have the music all ready and want to write the lyrics for it, I choose a character, myth or a story which is the best fit for the song. For Daevayasna, as the word itself means “prayers of the demons,” almost all the songs are about the demons and their stories in Persian history. I’m telling the bloody stories of different demons and their dark world.

As someone who uses Persian history and myth as a muse, could you recommend any great books or classic texts that people should read if they want to learn more?

The best book I can mention is Shahnameh, The Persian Book of Kings written by one of our greatest poets, Ferdowsi. It’s a classic book, the world’s longest epic poem written by a single poet. Well, it’s a unique book in different aspects. You can read more about the book itself here! In the book, you can read about the most important myths in the ancient Persian history.

There are a lot of other great books about Persian mythology written by Iranian mythologists/historians like Mythological History of Iran by Zhale Amouzegar but not sure if they are all translated to English. There is one I know called Persian Mythology, which is a very good book but it’s written by John R. Hinnells (not Iranian but still very good and he also has more books about Persian mythology).

You used to play all the instruments on your records. What is your creative and recording process like? Do you start with riffs, or lyrics, or beats (maybe even bass lines)?
Well, I write all the music and back when I was in Iran, I also had to record all the instruments myself. But from the Kamarikan album onward, and especially form the time when I moved to Norway in 2014, From The Vastland became a full-member band. For the last four albums, I write the music and make the demo album ready. Then I will send it to my bandmates and they start practicing, we talk about the songs and I always ask them to use their own creativity and just feel free to make changes on their own lines, etc. So, after this when we are all ready, we record the album in the studio.

And when it comes to the writing process, since guitar is my main instrument, I mostly start writing a song by a riff – but there are songs where I started them based on drums or lyrics, for example. Most of the time when I start writing a song, I have an image in my mind which is still not so clear. But during the writing process, by progressing the song, the image gets more and more shaped in my head. I always let the song go by my feelings and then later I will listen to it again and again, so in case I feel there is something that I need to change I can do it!

Are you living in Norway full time now? Are you able to travel back and forth to Iran to visit family and friends?
I moved to Norway in January 2014, and since then I have been living in Norway full time but still I don’t have a permanent visa (now I have to renew my visa every year but hopefully I can get my permanent visa soon). Well, unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to visit my family after moving to Norway. The thing is, all these years here, playing shows, releasing my albums and releasing the BLACKHEARTS documentary (Norwegian documentary about black metal which I am one of the main characters—released in 2016), me and my band got a huge amount of attention from media, a lot of events and interviews, etc. So it became really risky to go back to Iran. Well, I already had some problems back in my country before I moved, just because of my music. Even then I had some threatening emails from unknown sources during the past years when I was living in Norway. Long story, but I know it will make problems for me if I want to travel there.

Finally, what are your plans for 2019? Do you have any tours or festival appearances set for this year?
Well, now I am planning some gigs for this year. Nothing is set yet but hopefully soon, and I am always looking for more possible shows, you know. And when they are confirmed, we will announce them on our page officially. At the same time, I am working on some material for the next album. Not sure if it’s going to be released this year but as far as I see it’s going to be ready by late 2019. So then it depends on which label and how I want to release it.