Scimitar was formed in 2007 by George Anstey (Guitars 2007-2017) and me after I complimented his Iron Maiden shirt in a high school Spanish class. At the time I was hopelessly enamored with the Death, Black and early Viking/Pagan Metal bands that I had found on file-sharing networks such as Kazaa and Limewire; George and I immediately knew that was the type of metal we wanted to play. Soon after we began jamming, George’s little brother Noel also learned guitar and in 2008 we recruited our high school friend Clayton Basi to play drums. We began gigging that year and had the advantage of local originality, as our blend of Melodic Death/Black/Pagan Metal was well established in Europe but didn’t yet exist in our area of Canada. Since then we have released two albums, two EP’s, three singles and played extensively across Western Canada. We are happy to call Victoria, BC our home base and to still be involved in the awesome metal scene that has supported us there.
2. Recently you have released a new full length, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
Our sound has heavily matured since ‘Black Waters,’ ‘Shadows of Man’ is a much more coherent album with stricter songwriting. Like many young metal bands, we used to have a tendency to write long songs that are largely compilations of riffs with not always similar themes. We still write overly long songs, but at least on ‘Shadows’, the structure of them isn’t quite as arbitrary. There is also more variety in the genres of metal we integrate into ‘Shadows,’ with quite a few sections of folk instruments, Brutal Death Metal and Black Metal. Lyrically ‘Shadows’ also has much more historical narrative than ‘Black Waters.’
2. This is also your first full length since 2010, can you tell us a little bit more about what has been going on during that time frame?
In the eight years since ‘Black Waters’ Scimitar has toured Western Canada, played multiple festivals, gigged in Victoria and Vancouver consistently and released three self-produced singles. All four members of Scimitar also finished their university degrees during this time; George with a major in Business, Noel with a double major in Computer Science and Music, Clayton with a major in Communications and myself with a double major-minor in History, Political Science and Writing.
With Noels new training in music production from his degree, we attempted to self-record ‘Shadows’; resulting in the ‘To Cultivate with Spears’ and the ‘Wandering at the Moon’ singles. The album was never entirely finished as Scimitar also went through two major lineup changes over this period, with keyboardist David Douglas leaving the band in 2012 to pursue his education and founding member/guitarist George leaving in 2016 to join the emerging Canadian cannabis industry. Early in 2017, Jesse Turner was recruited to replace George on guitar, two years of dogged production later ‘Shadows of Man’ was finally complete.
4. Your lyrics also cover historical fiction and fantasy themes, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in those topics?
Clayton and I love the Warhammer universe and other dark fantasy such as Steven Erikson’s ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ and the ‘Lord of the Rings/Silmarillion’. Our Warhammer 40k obsession eventually led us to find our album artist Hammk. I have also always enjoyed writing short stories; a few Scimitar songs reflect this fantasy-narrative style.
The historical lyrics became much more prevalent in Scimitar as we all labored away on our degrees, as previously mentioned I majored in History. I always had a feeling that human history is so fraught with compelling stories of violence, glory, and terror that I would be hard-pressed to imagine anything more Metal than our past itself. I then began to make notes specifically for Scimitar songs while I was doing research for essays or even during lectures in class.
Three songs from Shadows of Man are the direct result of these notes; ‘Knights Collapse’ is a tongue-in-cheek tale of the Battle of Agincourt from a History of Medieval Warfare class, ‘Flayed on the Birch Rack’ narrates a Beaver Wars era Haudenosaunee captive-taking ritual from an Early Colonial North America class and ‘To Cultivate with Spears’ is a biographic ballad about Shaka Zulu from an African History class.
5. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Scimitar'?
Our earlier music had a much more nautical feel as evident in our 2010 release, Black Waters and we initially considered a few different pirate-ish band names. The name Scimitar was eventually decided upon largely by the influence of an item drop in Diablo II, which Clayton and I logged many hours in.
6. Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
The artwork for the album was done by the renowned Warhammer fan-artist Hammk. It depicts a scene from the two-part title track of the album, Shadows of Man I: Imperium and II: Cataclysm. These songs are a fantasy narrative about the rise and fall of an ocean-locked archipelago empire, mainly influenced by the fall of Easter Island and 1833-1836 series of paintings ‘The Course of Empire’ by Thomas Cole.
7. What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Our stage performance is specifically sculpted to be highly professional while still maintaining furious energy. We take pride in being an easy and efficient band to work with and in respecting our audience by making our performance as compelling as possible for them. This approach has earned us the honor of opening for quite a few of our Metal heroes over the years; for example Inquistion (2010), Soulfly (2014), Arkona (2013 and ‘15), Heidevolk (2015) and Hibria (2017). Recently we were ecstatic to open for our single biggest influence; Ensiferum, at a Vancouver theatre shows alongside Septic Flesh (2019).
A very memorable show for us was at the late Edmonton festival Farmaggeddon (2014); the festival area was in the middle of a farm plot and a small tornado rolled through the campgrounds while we were mid-song! We didn’t end up stopping our performance even as tents were torn up from the ground and a pair of jeans was carried up into the stratosphere.
Our most recent gig at Vancouver Island Metal Festival 2019 also holds a special place in our hearts as it was our release show for ‘Shadows of Man.’ It was an indescribable feeling of elation to present the material we had worked on for so many years to such a manic crowd in the main square of our home city.
8. Do you have any touring or show plans for the new album?
We have a few exciting gigs coming up soon; speaking of our pirate-metal beginnings we are opening for the Scottish legends Alestorm in our hometown this November. We are also playing Winterfest 2020 at the Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver in January. No solid tour plans as of yet, but we are planning a Western-Canadian festival circuit for summer 2020.
9. Currently, you are unsigned, are you looking for a label or have received any interest?
Honestly, we have not received any direct interest but we have also not shopped ourselves around yet. Once we determine that getting signed is our next priority we will put in the specific work to make it happen.
10. On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of folk, pagan and melodic death metal?
The reception has been overwhelmingly positive; we have received lots of compliments referring to the originality we bring to the melodic death and pagan metal genres, our song and lyrics-writing and how polished the record is despite being self-produced. We have gotten a few negative reviews of the single, ‘Knights Collapse’ due to the unconventional rappy nature of the vocals – though we did expect it to be a divisive song.
11. What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
Noel’s Ska/Raggae group Blackwood Kings is also busy gigging around BC. Clayton also plays drums in the rising deathcore act Shallow End and does vocals in Parasitic Twin. Jesse plays guitar and sings in Secondhand Habit, Aetherion, Thigma, and Strategic Abuse. Scimitar is my only musical project.
12. Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
We will continue to refine our sound to be ever more grandiose, catchy and efficient – we want to achieve excellence with our music that is demonstrable by the experience of the listener. We are also striving to write more concise and musically coherent songs.
13. What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Our primary influences are the first wave of Viking/Pagan/Folk Metal bands such as Ensiferum, Einherjer, Tyr, Thyrfing and Falkenbach. Mithotyn, Kromlek, Black Messiah and Svartsot were also very influential musically, as well as bands from other extreme metal genres like Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, Destroyer 666 and Sodom. We also have to give a serious nod to the legends; Rush, Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest, and Manowar.
Personally I listen to a lot of rap – lately, it’s been Jarv, Masta Ace and A Tribe Called Quest. For metal I always have King Diamond, Taake and Bolt Thrower on rotation; more recently I have really been digging Idle Hands, Heron, Wormwitch and the cassette from Clayton’s other band Shallow End.
14. Does Paganism play any role in your music?
The primary role that Paganism has played in Scimitar is by our influences; as previously mentioned our greatest musical influences were early European Viking/Pagan metal bands that we found on file-sharing networks in the mid 2000’s. A few of our earlier tracks thus have some pagan themes in the lyrical content, but since then our focus has shifted much more towards historical narrative and fantasy.
15. What are some of your non musical interests
As previously mentioned Diablo II played a role in the selection of our band name; both Clayton and I are avid PC gamers. Clayton also is quite involved in tabletop gaming and RPG’s.
Other than making metal I also enjoy lifting it; I compete in powerlifting competitions, this year I did British Columbia Provincials, Canadian Westerns and Nationals as well as the strongman competition at the Victoria Highland Games.
Noel is very involved in music production outside of our band as well; he is part owner and founder of a new studio in Victoria called Quadratic Sound.
Jesse is kept very busy by music as he currently plays guitar and sings for five different bands including Scimitar.
16. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Well, first of all, we would like to thank you for interviewing us! Also a major hail to the Scimi-Tarmy for their steadfast support over the last ten years, and to all the new fans joining us now with the release of ‘Shadows.’ We love you dearly and stay Metal \m/