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The (heavy) ties that bind | Malcolm Alden

In under a month, the first documentary on the Maltese metal scene in Malta will be screened, and Teodor Reljic caught up Malcolm Alden who filled him in on the inspiration behind Brotherhood: A Story of Metal in Malta, and what it says about this musical genre 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
22 August 2017, 7:30am
Malcolm Alden
Malcolm Alden
Have you guys always been involved in the metal scene in some capacity? And if so, was your direct engagement with it the reason you decided to up and make this documentary?  

I’ve been playing in metal bands and attending metal gigs since the early 2000s. I was pretty much in my early teens. It’s something I literally grew up with. I was exposed to rock music from a very early age what with my father really into the classic bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Queen and my great uncle being Marc Storace, we would spin Krokus tunes in the car! It was kind of a given that my interest in music would swerve toward the heavier spectrum. I started attending gigs and singing in metal bands (because I couldn’t be bothered to learn an instrument) and slowly but surely you start to realise that it’s a lifestyle and not just a genre of music. It’s a thriving sub-culture with a lot of dedication, talent and friendships. I wanted to document the past, present and future. I know Nicholas [Bonello] has huge respect for local talent, regardless of genre, and he has always supported the bands who come from here, so together we decided to give them something back.

Were there any particular subjects related to the scene that you wanted to explore just as you set out? And were there aspects of it that surprised you as you actually set out doing your research and conducting the interviews?

Up-and-coming local metal band Align The Tide pitch in their two cents on the scene in Alden and Bonello’s documentary
Up-and-coming local metal band Align The Tide pitch in their two cents on the scene in Alden and Bonello’s documentary
We wanted to mainly focus on the evolution of the scene. What it was like back in the golden era of the 80s and 90s to how it is today. For example, back then, the attendance at gigs would be sky high. There would be over 500 people attending gigs on a regular basis. There were venues all over the place, not just Paceville. Gigs would be organised all over the island.

We also asked bands who had played abroad to delve into the differences between the metal community here to that overseas. In Malta, for example, the scene is pretty much D.I.Y. There is no external help. Bands and promoters usually fork everything out of their own pockets. We also asked them what it is they want to see change and whether the bands feel comfortable here or ever feel like they’re ignored. One thing that really surprised us was how conflicting the bands’ opinions on external help was. When I say external help, I mean local council or government funding. Some bands revel in the DIY aspect of it all and feel like external entities have no clue how it works so they would be no help while others feel that the only way the scene can grow and thrive is if the government or whoever actually starts to notice that there is potential in this subculture.

How would you describe the way the ‘general public’ perceives the Maltese metal scene? And could this documentary go some way towards enlightening or changing that perception?

Internationally recognised, Malta-based death metal act Abysmal Torment featured in Brotherhood: A Story of Metal in Malta
Internationally recognised, Malta-based death metal act Abysmal Torment featured in Brotherhood: A Story of Metal in Malta
Well, it’s a hard question to answer. It will always be met with some form of hostility because it is a subculture that is loud and deals with a lot of controversial topics such as religion, politics, war and brutality so in a very Catholic country with a mass political divide, you are definitely going to face a lot of scrutiny at some point. This also affects the way external entities feel about promoting your band or funding your projects. Why would they want to deal with bands or organisers that are so “controversial”? 

On the other hand, we are living in a world were more things are becoming acceptable. When certain genres were in their infancy, some topics were more controversial than they are today so the general public have become more lenient. 

However, it’s still an acquired taste musically so I can’t see the public flocking to metal gigs any time soon. With this documentary, we just wanted to give people the ability to learn about the scene. We want to tell them, “Look, there is talent and dedication here. There is potential. Don’t ignore it just because it’s not on the radio 24/7”.

Why did you settle on ‘Brotherhood’ as your title, and what do you think it implies?

Garages – the starting point for many a local metal band, as captured in the upcoming documentary by Malcolm Alden and Nicholas Bonello
Garages – the starting point for many a local metal band, as captured in the upcoming documentary by Malcolm Alden and Nicholas Bonello
It’s a phrase a lot of bands coincidentally chose to use to explain the metal scene. We were sifting through footage and said to ourselves that it would be a fitting name because it perfectly describes the unity within the scene. We hope it implies the idea that the community here is like a family. 

Judging by your experience with the documentary, how will the Maltese metal scene evolve in the coming years? 

We started working on the documentary in January. Since then, the scene has already seen a drastic change. 

Even some of the topics we discussed have been tackled. Stuff like the need for a proper gig venue. The Garage [Zebbug] opened its doors earlier this year and has been awash with gigs since. Also, a massive increase in foreign bands flocking our shores what with the organisation of Sinfest, Metal Over Malta and Rock the Rock music festivals. 

I just genuinely hope it remains this way. I remember back in the day, big foreign bands would come once in a blue moon. Now we’re getting 5-10 big bands a year! It’s insane. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed that it remains consistent.

Brotherhood: A Story of Metal in Malta will premiere on September 16 at Embassy Cinemas, Valletta at 10:30. For updates and more information, find FigureOfSpeechProductions on Facebook

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...
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