Askara is a progressive / gothic metal band from Switzerland. Their debut album “Horizon of Hope” was released in Oct. 2016. The band recently signed a booking deal with Desert Rose Agency. Read more about the band members, their debut album, the deal with Desert Rose Agency and more in the interview below.
TMR: Hey guys this is The Metal Resource from Holland, how are things going there in Switzerland ?
Things are going pretty much as usual. We spend our spare time with as much music as possible.
TMR: Will you introduce yourself and the band please.
Askara is Miril (Vocals & Piano), Elia (Growls & Bass), Benjamin (Backing Vocals & Guitar) and Raphael (Drums). We are a Gothic Metal Band from Basel, Switzerland. The band unites different elements of Gothic Metal with progressive, heavier Metal. Indicative for this distinctive style are the clear vocals of lead singer Miril together with the contrary placed growls from Elia. This contrast in sound heaviness is also mirrored by the instruments: on one hand, guitars, bass and drums build up a basic layer of powerful sounds while the piano is contributing softer, melodic nuances. Thus Askara reflects the play between light and shadow, hope and darkness.
TMR: Tell us the brief history of Askara.
Askara was founded in 2012 and played live for the first time in 2014. Since then, we’ve released our first album called Horizon Of Hope in 2016. We also played shows in Switzerland, Germany and Sweden. Last year we had a highlight when we were able to support Sleeping Romance on their Alba European tour through Germany, Belgium and of course the Netherlands!
TMR: Why the name Askara? Is there a story behind it ?
We do not know the exact meaning of the word, but Askara is old Hebrew describing incense that ascends towards heaven. That’s why we chose this name: like the flaming bird in our logo, our music rises up to reach freedom in the vastness of the skies. The symbolic freedom for which a flying bird stands or the hope that a distant horizon may give are also an essential part of our lyrics. We feel that many people seek to escape their sadness, their maybe boring jobs or whatever. And in metal most fans find a way to get away from it all and just enjoy live. For us this elevation above everydays problems is what Askara means, and we think it’s a very cool image for a band name.
TMR: How did you get into metal?
Elia: I did start as early teenager when all the punk and nu metal wasn’t fascinating enough. There were always the same beats in punk and not nearly enough solos in anything I used to know. So I quickly got into the whole metal stuff. And then it’s the usual way: friends show you bands, you discover stuff on the internet or see bands live. Basically what killed the switch for me was the instrumentation in metal that struck me with awe and I still love it!
Ben: For me it was a bit the same development like Elia. Maybe because we have the same age? Punk and the new metal stuff became more and more boring. And when I first heard the song from Iron Maiden, the rain maker, it had me and never let me go. So, I started to discover the whole Metal universe and still am far from finished. Like Trump would say: It’s awesome.
Raphi: I knew Elia was listening to Metal when he joined the Band (before Askara was born, we did some covers) and I asked myself “how can anyone listen to this aggressive music with all these nervous guitar riffs, blastbeats etc.? So I asked him to borrow some CDs. In the beginning I just listened some parts of a few songs, after a while I listened the whole song and in the end the whole CD.
Miril: When I was 13 years old Evanescence released their debut album “Fallen” which changed my (musical) world. The songs and the atmosphere on that CD enthralled me in a way that made me want to write similar music and eventually brought me to discover a whole universe of even harder music that was so much more passionate and powerful than the usual radio stuff.
TMR: What is your musical background ?
Elia: I used to play the trumpet as a kid because my father did. When I was 15 I took up the bass and some lessons to finally be able to play the songs I actually listened to (by that time I was listening metal exclusively).
Ben: Since I was a child, I wanted to play the guitar. But my parents didn’t support me at the beginning. With 16 years I started to play the electric guitar. Only guitar. I love music in general. Metal the most of course. But also pop, classic or rock/punk rock music. Even sometimes hip hop.
Raphi: I always liked the drums more than any other Instrument. At home I took Tupperware and Pans and played “Drums”. At the age of 6 I started to take lessons. On a real Drumset! Mostly I listen to Metal, but I also like other genres except mainstream.
Miril: I grew up in a very musical family, we used to sing and play music very often and still do. I took guitar lessons for 6 years when I realized that the piano offered me a better way to indulge in music and express myself, so I took some more years of piano lessons. I also took singing lessons but I wasn’t really happy and always found it rather hard to learn about different techniques. I also played in a band and had some singer-songwriter projects before I joined Askara.
TMR: Who writes the music/lyrics in Askara ? … how do you get in the mood for writing music? And which bands/situations have influenced you for writing music and lyrics ?
We write music instrumentally first. We get together and most of the time someone comes up with only one riff or one melody. After introducing it to the band, the others try to complement this part and fill the arrangement and then together we develop a song. We talk about what it feels like and define if it needs to speed up in a next part or if we’d like to soften things. When this is done, either Miril or Elia write the lyrics. Most of the time the basic atmosphere of the instrumental piece gives an indication on where to go lyrically. We involve personal things, experiences but also topics that come up in our social environment. Sometimes this is an event, sometimes not. In the end, we always re-compose a song. We adjust the parts which we think are not good enough or could be done better. This way we strive to always improve our songs.
TMR: What are some key principles or philosophies that you hold onto as foundational stones as who you are as a person?
We believe that there is more to life than just what we see and that the human soul will outlive death. Out of this thought we gain courage and power for the challenges of life. We are convinced that hope is stronger than despair, that love offers more than hatred and that honesty will pay off. These issues contribute a lot to our songs and resulted in the album title Horizon of Hope.
TMR: Is there a highlight you will always remember, since the beginning of Askara ?
Elia: playing at Elements of Rock Festival and touring for the first time have been highlights in our band history. But there are many more, like our first record or playing a gig in Sweden.
Raphi: Like Elia said. The Elements of Rock in Switzerland and the gig in Sweden with the funny experience at the Airport back in Zurich…
Miril: Being able to record and release our first album was my personal highlight.
Ben: Our album release and the tour were my highlights.
TMR: And the worst thing were ? (if there is one)
Elia: I guess Sweden was hard because we played only hours after the terror attack in Stockholm (the festival was in Stockholm area) and we had only very few people in the crowd.
Raphi: Again like Elia said, the gig in Sweden. Another one was the first concert after the Tour with Sleeping Romance and Within Silence. I had to play on a broken Drumset…
Miril: One of our first gigs was pretty horrible in my opinion because Elia was ill and almost collapsed on stage, the location was really shabby and the gig hardly organized…
Ben: My worst experience was also the same gig as Miril already said and another one when there was no time, no sound engineer and when we finally started to play my guitar string broke.
TMR: What is your favorite drink and food ?
Elia: food would be anything with a lot of salmon. Drink might be Amaretto. And I love Swiss Milk, hahahaha.
Ben: Everything except fondue. I don’t really like cheese. As a true swiss guy I have to say Rivella for drink – and I enjoy a glass of red wine.
Raphi: I like BBQ and Lasagne a lot. But I also like Fondue (sorry Ben) and Korean/Japanese Food. Drinks I would say Water, Beer and red wine.
Miril: Chocolate and red wine – I could survive on these two.
TMR: So what makes you laugh?
Elia: Oh we share a very intense band internal humor that consists of comic situations, imitating different (swiss) german dialects and a lot of jokes. But personally I also like some sarcasm.
Ben: Raphi. And cynism.
Raphi: I totally agree with Elia. And I do like watching some Let`s Play on Youtube.
Miril: movie quotes dropped in the opportune moment.
TMR: What is your biggest fear ?
Elia: I try to live a life apart from fear. Of course there’s disgusting things or situations that I really do not like (financial problems, disputes, etc.). But I don’t fear them! I’m not conscious about them until I happen to face them.
Ben: True words Elia! To lose my job
Raphi: I wouldn’t say it is fear but respect.
Miril: Losing my hearing and not being able to enjoy music anymore…
TMR: What is the last album you bought? (everybody)
Elia: Oh boy, I have recently been at two festivals, so it’s a lot: Demon Hunter – War, Demon Hunter – Piece, Impellitteri – Grin and bear it, Impellitteri – Answer to the Master, Forsaken – Evermore, Sacrificium – The Avowal oft he Centurion, Mylene and the Sons of Disaster – III, The Weakening – Chains of Plato, Atlas & Axis – Confrontation, Atlas & Axis – March of the Night, Allison – One.
Ben: Darkwater – Human, Demon Hunter – Peace and War, Melech – Melech Ha Olam, Sacrificium – The Avowal ot the Centurion and Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
Raphi: Amorphis – Queen of Time, Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens/New World Shadows
Miril: The Awakening – The fountain, Leonov – Wake
TMR: What are some of the things you like to do away from the band?
Elia: I’m into design: I’d like to build up my own brand for band logo and merch design.
Ben: Skiing (sport in general), cooking.
Raphi: I do not have that much free time because I work 80km away from Basel. But I like going out with friends or enjoy nature.
Miril: I enjoy reading and spending time with my pets (or animals in general)
TMR: Speaking of recording, your debut album “Horizon of Hope” is released in Oct. 2016. What more can you tell about it? [such as the recording process, the songs/lyrics etc.]
We think that it is a very solid debut album with quite high quality given that it was only a semi professional studio. The album also keeps a high quality in terms of visuals and artwork since we like to have both a strong appeal to ears and eyes. The lyrical focus is different in each song, but in general the aspect of hope dominates. That’s the reason for naming it Horizon of Hope. Musically it is heavy riffs, break downs, doomy and atmospheric sounds with melodies and hooking lines. Just Gothic Metal we love. If you don’t know it – buy it!
TMR: About the cover artwork. Do you think it is as important as your music? Does it visualize the lyrics of your songs or what’s the actual story behind its concept?
The cover done by Consuelo is reflecting perfectly what we are and want: it’s dark but has a glimpse of hope between the trees. The raven is a creature often used within Gothic and Metal and we do prioritize to show a bird on all visualizations. For us the image clearly indicates the name Horizon of Hope and therefore also reflects the lyrics and the songs.
TMR: How do you promote your band and shows ?
Mainly on social media and online, on our own pages but also on platforms made for metal events.
TMR: Tell us about the hardrock/metal scene in your area please?
Switzerland in general is hard for newcomer bands with low to no budgets. It’s not easy to get to the fans of our sound. In Basel there’s quite a strong Metal culture but it’s mainly focusing on Black, Death and Thrash Metal. Other genres are rather scarce and gigs are not that well visited. But with Zeal&Ardor or Schammash Basel has two (Black) Metal bands being internationally exposed.
TMR: What is your favorite concert that you saw and what made it so good?
Elia: what a question, how should I decide? There’s Virigin Black, Saviour Machine unplugged, Hamferd in front of only 15 people, Omnium Gatherum, Morphia and so many more…
Raphi: Amorphis because Amorphis.
Miril: Seeing Evanescence live for the first time was an overwhelming experience for me because I had listened to their music for many years only from CD.
Ben: Obscura and Threshold each two times – because the musicians are incredibly talented and close to the audience.
TMR: What is the most embarrassing music on your phone or in your collection and how do you justify it to others?
Elia: oh wow I guess this would be Münchner Freiheit – Fantasie. I love this record. It’s what my Mum listened to and I used to hear it a lot as a kid. Explanation could be given that for me it’s not far from Glam Metal, when you give it a closer look.
Raphi: Some memos because I thought it could be an idea for a new song.
Miril: I just found the soundtrack from Twilight in my collection and I’ll delete it – I never listen to it anyway.
Ben: there’s nothing embarrassing in my playlist, only cool stuff.
TMR: If you could pick a band to tour with, who would it be? And where would the tour go?
Amorphis all over Europe?
TMR: What is the dumbest question you have ever been asked?
Elia: Why our Album does not sound as Nightwish was the one I guess. We do something totally different but some people do not listen to the music and only see that there’s female fronted Metal and they immediately think of Nightwish. Assuming that Askara wants to sound like them is just wrong.
Ben: if people assume basically wrong things like me playing two guitars on our album or vocals I didn’t sing.
Raphi: As a sales man I have to hear a lot of dumb questions almost every day. For example „Why is there no discount on this product?“.
But in conjunction with the band, I would say the same about our Album and the comparison with Nightwish.
Miril: I can’t bring it down to one question but we once gave an interview where the interviewer was poorly prepared and his questions were rather unkind and negative.
TMR: Askara has recently signed a deal with Desert Rose Agency from the Netherlands, what exactly does this mean ?
That we hopefully will be playing a lot more in BE and NE! DRA is a booking agency for these countries and will bring us there more often.
TMR: As a band today, what do you think is the biggest challenge you face?
Getting to the huge masses that actually would listen to our music genre but do not know us.
TMR: What are the plans for the near future ? (shows/new album ?)
We have planned some shows and Festivals this fall that are not public yet and it would definitely be nice to do another album in the future.
TMR: Thank you guys for your time and the interview. We wish Askara all the best … Is there anything you wanna say at last ?
Thank you TMR for having an interest in us. It’s always great to talk about music and we hope to meet one day in The Netherlands personally. To all readers: keep on reading stuff from TMR!!!
Sept. 7 – Metalchurch, Niederbipp, Canton of Bern, CH
Video for ‘Broken Wing’
Video for ‘Beyond the Horizon of Hope’