Named after the goddess of revolt and equilibrium between good and evil in Greek mythology, Adrestia have established themselves as the true heroes of resistance in the present-day extreme music scene.
Since their formation in Sweden back in 2015, Adrestia’s hefty death metal influenced crust punk has been the perfect iron-clad vehicle for channeling the band’s fierce political message firmly rooted in the real-life struggles for radical democracy, women’s liberation and autonomy.
After the release of their second full-length The Wrath Of Euphrates, Adrestia were supposed to go on a North American tour, followed by a number of shorter tours and festival gigs across Europe. Trapped in the realities of a global pandemic and forced to cancel all live shows for a long time, the band decided to keep writing new songs instead. Therefore, Adrestia recorded not one but two new albums in the Summer of 2021.
Released on various digital platforms, as well as in physical format by Alerta Antifascista Records in Europe and Ar Stailc in North America, III: The Betrayal and IV: The Mark Of Cain are Adrestia’s most daring, but also equally eclectic and lyrically challenging albums to date.
DIY Conspiracy spoke with Adrestia’s lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Martin Shukevich, guitarist Mattias Laungeville and new bass player Elma Roth Sandell to learn more about the two new mammoth pieces of work the band is releasing today.
Adrestia have undergone a few changes since the release of The Wrath Of Euphrates in 2019. Tell us about the process of writing the two new albums and how do they differ from your previous works?
Martin: Yes, we have. First we had some line up changes, and for a while we played as a three piece, until Elma entered the band and Mattias changed from playing bass to playing guitar.
We were originally on the way to the US, with a plan to make a ten day long US/Canada tour, but then the pandemic got in our way. We were close though, we were supposed to fly out on a Sunday in March 2020, but Trump canceled all flights to the US just two days before. In hindsight, I’m really happy that we didn’t make it, because if we would have flown there we would probably have gotten stuck in New York for a month or so, because there were no flights back to Europe either.
At that point we didn’t really know what to do. We had a few new songs, and a plan to record a new album some time in the future, but since Jack and I had been speaking about the possibility of recording and releasing two albums at the same time ever since the first recording, we decided to go for that. It took us a year to compose and record those 20 songs. We were short on money too, much due to the lack of live shows and lack of opportunities to sell merchandise, so to save some studio costs we decided to record everything but the drums ourselves.
“Everything” in this case means all vocals including Inga’s clean vocals, rhythm guitars, bass, saz and acoustic guitars. We actually did the whole recording backwards, I recorded everything at home to metronome tracks (except for the vocals that we recorded on my laptop in the rehearsal room). Then we brought those tracks with us to The End studio in Lund, where Ulf Blomberg (who also recorded all our previous releases) recorded the drums and put everything together. After that Henrik Udd took care of the mixing and mastering, just as on The Wrath Of Euphrates.
When we recorded the songs, we knew that we wanted to make two albums, but we had little idea of how to divide the songs. Both the albums I guess can be quite challenging for musically conservative punks. There are a lot of death- and black metal influences, double pedals and so on, but also songs featuring saz (ed. – also known as bağlama, plucked string instrument used in Ottoman classical music, Turkish folk music, Turkish Arabesque music, Azerbaijani music, Kurdish music, Armenian music and in parts of Syria, Iraq, and the Balkan countries), and two songs featuring clean vocals. In the end it was the lyrical content that got to decide how we were to divide the songs.
III: The Betrayal
III: The Betrayal is more of a classic Adrestia album. The lyrics are political, and deal with topics such as the US betrayal of Rojava, the Yezidi genocide, climate change and the struggle for equality.
IV: The Mark of Cain
IV: The Mark Of Cain is lyric wise unlike anything I’ve done before, since all the lyrics are personal rather than political (with some few exceptions). At that time it felt like something I had to do, I had to get those words and those feelings out of me.
Musically, I think, IV: The Mark Of Cain is more influenced by death- and black metal, while III: The Betrayal is probably more of a hardcore album, but maybe that’s just my feeling about it. It’s gonna be interesting to see how people will perceive them anyway.
Mattias: The plan wasn’t to write two albums but Corona and the absence of live gigs made it a fun goal to work towards.
This time all members have contributed with ideas, riffs and lyrics. So some of the songs fit better together than others and so to divide them between two albums turned out nicely. Musically there are some toe-dipping in a lot of genres. We push the d-beat towards death metal and thrash territories, without losing the drive from crust punk.
You have the legendary Tomas Jonsson of Anti Cimex again as a guest on your recordings. Can you talk about the guest musicians and the state of the hardcore punk and metal scenes in Sweden at the moment?
Martin: Jonsson’s contribution on these albums is a part of a song called “Fight”, which appears on III: The Betrayal. I’ve been in regular contact with Jonsson for the past three years, so we thought it would be nice to have him singing a part on this album as well. Personally, I think it’s cool to hear him singing that song, since it sounds quite different from anything he’s sung before. Those who enjoy our collaborations with Jonsson should keep their eyes open for more news on that matter in the future.
Apart from Jonsson the albums feature two appearances by Mattias Fröden from DSM-5 (where our ex-drummer and member of honor Fredrik Dure also plays). Mattias knows how to shred way better than I do, and since we wanted to have some variation when it comes to guitar solos, we asked him to record solos for two songs. The albums also feature two songs with clean vocals by Inga Radziviloviča, a work colleague and good friend of mine (it’s gonna be interesting to hear what people will think of such unorthodox features on crust punk albums).
The metal and punk scenes in Sweden suffered badly from the pandemic of course. The entire culture sector of society did so, but for non-commercial DIY culture, I guess it was even worse than for commercial culture. I don’t really have any connection to the metal scene in Sweden, but I think the punk scene managed to recover quite quickly once live gigs were allowed again. This summer there were some festivals going on, and live gigs started to take place frequently again. Personally, I’m very happy to see bands from the new generation claiming their place within the scene. For example there is an excellent band from Gothenburg called USCH, which I strongly recommend people to check out. They actually remind me a lot of Anti Cimex.
Adrestia has been following the developments of the social revolution in Rojava quite intensively since the early days of the band. What drew you to Rojava as a political issue in the first place? Why do punks need to care about it?
Martin: I originally learned about Rojava during the battle of Kobanî back in 2015. What caught my attention at that time was the photos and the media reports featuring female Kurdish soldiers who defended the city against the Islamic State terrorists. I started to read a bit more about it, and apart from reading about the battle itself, I also came in contact with Democratic Confederalism (for more information about it, read this article on DIY Conspiracy). I’ve always believed in ideas such as syndicalism and direct democracy, so when I realized what kind of society they were trying to build there, and how they actually prioritized women’s rights and equality before anything else, I decided that I wanted to do what I could to support them.
Elma: Rojava should be important to punks, because their society and our scene share the same ideological fundament, which is obvious if you look at the similar standpoints on issues like women’s rights, direct democracy and ecology. These values are fundamental to both the punk scene and the society in Rojava.
In your latest records you sing about how the global powers of the world have betrayed the people of Rojava. Can you explain the current developments of the conflict and how the Turkish state has used the ongoing war in Ukraine to pressure their partners and launch new attacks on the Kurdish territories?
Martin: Yes, the title of III: The Betrayal refers to the events in October 2019, when Donald Trump gave Erdoğan the green light for an invasion of Rojava. That was the second attack in two years, and just as in operation Olive Branch in 2018, the Turkish warfare targeted civilians and was characterized by use of illegal methods such as bombing civilians with white phosphorus, waves of rape and kidnapping of women and ethnic cleansing. When Donald Trump was pressured into stopping the Turkish attack in 2019, the US decided not to withdraw all troops, as initially decided by Trump. Instead they decided to keep some troops within Rojava, mainly in the East (not because they care about Rojava, but because there is oil there). Ever since then, the Turkish regime has been threatening to invade Rojava again.
When the war in Ukraine started, Erdoğan soon took the role of being the mediator between the Russians and the Ukrainians, while he also supported the Ukrainian army with Bayraktar TB2 drones. Taking the role of mediators is of course a well known tactic by dictators who want to whitewash their regimes. Since the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have caused rising prices in all of Europe, and since it will probably spawn a massive energy crisis unless someone puts a bullet in Putin’s ugly face, a lot of politicians hoped that the Turkish diplomacy would contribute to a quick ending of the war. That was during the war’s first months however, at this moment I don’t think that anyone believes that any such efforts will make Putin change his mind. Anyway, this tactic has for a long time made it impossible for European or American politicians to criticize Erdoğan and his terrorist plans when it comes to Rojava. I sincerely hope that the international community won’t let him finish what he started in 2019.
What are some actions that people in Europe are capable of doing in response to the current situation? For example, I just recently saw a new petition to remove PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from EU’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations.
Martin: I think that depends on in which country you live, and how different governments’ relations to Turkey look like. I think the first priority should be not to let European politicians accept the Turkish definitions of terrorists and terrorist organizations. Second, it is my personal opinion that in countries like Sweden, where there are actually political parties in the parliament that advocate support for Rojava, it is important to vote for those parties, no matter what you think of Parliamentarism in general. Removing the PKK from the terror list I think should be the first priority. One of the end goals should be to put the AKP on that same terror list.
You’ve also been a critic of Putin in your music for a long time. What do you think of the involvement of antiauthoritarians and anarchists from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus in the military operations and resistance? Is this a theme that you would explore in future Adrestia releases?
Martin: There will probably be some lyrics about the events in Ukraine on our next releases. Adrestia’s lyrical themes have always been comments to present day events going on in the world. I think it’s great to see the participation of Ukrainian and Belarusian anarchists and activists in the resistance against the Russian invasion. In the beginning of the invasion some people from the more authoritarian kind of left-wing here in Sweden were totally focused on right-wing extremists in the Azov battalion, to the level where some of them even defended the invasion, constantly repeating Russian disinformation and propaganda. I think that when the reports about left-wing soldiers and anarchist groups started to emerge, that kind of killed off the whole Russian narrative about all Ukrainians being Nazis (which some Western people actually were stupid enough to believe). I personally have friends and relatives in Ukraine and Belarus, and as a band we have also collaborated with Nastya Palamar from the Belarusian metal band Exist M on our earlier releases, so apart from the humanist perspective, the resistance against the Russian invasion is important both to me as an individual and to us as a band.
In Sweden, traditionally viewed as a bulwark of tolerance and liberal politics, the nationalist and anti-immigrant party is on the cusp of joining a right-wing coalition in the government. What’s your take on Swedish politics and the direction the country is going to take from now on?
Elma: I think it’s really scary that such a large part of Sweden’s population voted for a party which is deeply rooted in Nazism and racism. On top of that they are also climate change deniers. The thing that scares me the most is not the fact that such a party exists (there are jerks everywhere), but rather the fact that so many common people voted for them, without realizing the potential consequences.
While the struggle for radical democracy in Rojava has gained support mainly by underground artists with leftist and antiauthoritarian background, the aid for Ukraine from the larger metal scene sometimes comes from bands with far-right and fascist leanings. What do you think about that?
Martin: It might sound provoking to some, but Ukraine is up against one of the world’s biggest armies and a complete maniac dictator with nuclear weapons. In a situation like that, there is no such thing as dirty money. Everything that contributes to the resistance is good in a situation like that. Besides, I’d rather see fascists hand over their money to the Ukrainian resistance than to hand them over to fascist organizations.
We talked about a lot of difficult subjects and there’s a lot at stake for the whole world. Do you still remain an optimist and what keeps you motivated being proactive?
Martin: Unfortunately I have to say that the way the world is ignoring climate issues makes me very pessimistic. It seems like people have forgotten the fact that environmental destruction and climate change will cause irreversible damage to nature, people and everything else in this world. Right now I don’t see any signs of improvement on that issue, I see the opposite.
Elma: I think that even if things turn worse, it’s important that people continue to fight, even though the odds might be against us. If we give up, no changes to the better will ever take place.
📸Photos in the article by photographer Peter Rosvik from a gig in Linköping 2021 and We Are The Storm Tour 2022.