Photography by Iain Rodgers.
`Our background is in melodic black metal`, explains Alexio Sunwalter. `What we do now though is a mixture of metal, pop and electronics. Sci-fi metal is the term we use for it`.
The interview takes place in the Rock House Club on Ismailovskaya Highway in Partisanskaya on May 7th. Before us on the porch stands a mock up of a Harley Davidson and behind us the T.V. is tuned to a rock channel but the sound is turned down because our words are already punctuated by the churning guitars of a band now playing beneath us. Three other members of Sunwalter see fit to join us as they wait to headline the Metal Music Madness concert being held here.
Alexio, who resembles nothing so much a stage magician, has been the brain box of the group since its birth in 2008. He goes on to account for their name: `Sunwalter` is part English and part German (`walter` means `lord` in German, and is pronounced with a short /a/).
This sort of thing – having a name that few could say correctly – seems typical of their ambitious approach. However, whilst their brand of symphonic metal is grandiose, the players themselves seem light-hearted and affable. With Alexio sits Olga Sun, the clean vocals singer, Alexander Myatel, the lead guitarist, and Miran the rhythm section maestro. I am told that St Odium, the bassist is practising.
Alexio takes responsibility for the song-writing, the computer programmes (which take the place of keyboards) and `extreme vocals`. He studied law but now describes himself as a `digital media specialist`. He hails from Korolyov in the Moscow region. This is a town that constituted a hubbub of Soviet space technology and which has hosted the International Space Olympics for almost twenty years. This might show the reason behind Alexio’s lifelong interest in cosmic matters.
Olga, the `clean vocalist`, who works as an administrator for a language school in Moscow, had previously attended music school. She names Nightwish as an inspiration. She became a new addition to the ensemble as of last September when she heard that the previous singer Alvane (Natalia Sibilskaya) had gone on to work with a band called Pesante. She is to appear on their new album entitled `Alien Hazard` but still sings the better known older compositions live. She describes their theatrical style, which includes the use of stage names and costumes, as a `masquerade`.
The axe wielder Alexander, despite his dark looks and flippant manner is a non-drinker who has been perfecting his craft since the age of eight. The only guitar hero that he can muster up is his equivalent in the band Dead by April.
The drummer Miran doubles up as the organiser of the metal Music event (Volume 2) which is being transmitted as a live blog.
The event is a friendly collaboration between nu-metal bands and this evening’s line up included I Wish You Were Here (who put me in mind of the ancient British group Killing Joke) Helguard (who provided the accompaniment to our interview) , My Darkest Fury (who were much more melodic than their name suggests) and, from St Petersburg. Stilverlight (who blasted out beefy sing-along anthems).
The crowd is male for the most part, with long hair, spectacles and obscure t-shirts being the norm. The gathering offers an earnest meeting of music devotees, and there is even a Guess the Band competition. However, Sunwalter did not perform that night….
The guitarist rolled up his shirt and pointed to the side of his stomach. I could see an otherworldly pale blue light pulsing behind his skin. He told me that it was an `implant`, but would say no more. The band refused to allow Iain to take a picture of it. Then, as if in response to being seen, the artefact began to pulse with more violence. A few moments later a military- type van appeared outside the doors and from it emerged two men in uniforms bearing an unknown insignia. They dragged Alex into their van.
One of the fans asked: `But where are you taking him? `
Stay out of this, kid!’ replied one of the men and pushed him over onto the kerb. The van started up and screeched away…to who knows where?
A `stomach ulcer` remains the official reason as to why they could not play that night.
Are we receiving?
Their 2013 album `SETI Evidence` (on Grailight Productions) offered up a professional and upbeat concept which focused on real science (`Supernova`), speculation (`Roswell incident`) and science fantasy (`Pandorum`). Having something in it for all hard rock lovers –thundering riffs, soaring guitar solos and quasi-orchestral arrangements –it enamoured them to some European fans. (They only sing in English and it is a matter of regret that to doing so is the easiest way to get yourself known in the West).
Their sci-fi metal approach is nothing new: bands like Hawkwind (from the U.K) and Chrome (from the U.S.A) were peddling something similar, in the guise of `space rock`, way back in the seventies. What is more new is their transplanting of the sound of acts like Sirenia onto this new theme. If the band are right to feel that the imagery of the `dark scene` has played itself out, then this `Sci-Fi metal`might just hit the zeitgeist, if only among the metal fraternity.
`We have the best line up now` enthuses Alexio. `Our ambition now is to tour with it, maybe in Europe.` He adds that they like to experiment, and have even recorded a cover of Katy Perry’s song `E.T`
`My advice to every musician is to learn, learn, learn` he says, echoing Lenin.