From Kyiv in Ukraine, Ignea is rising to be a reckoning force in the international metal scene. Just recently, the act unveiled their latest effort, Dreams of Lands Unseen, via Napalm Records. With their progressive-symphonic-folk-industrial-death metal fusion driven by vocal powerhouse Helle Bogdanova, the new record is inevitable to be on our list of favorites by the year’s end.
We spoke with Helle about the recent concept album, the effects of Russia’s invasion, Metalocalypse, and their recommendations of bands to check out in the local scene. You may also learn some Ukrainian phrases during the interview too…
You just released the album Dreams of Lands Unseen, which revolves around the life and philosophy of travel photographer / reporter Sofia Yablonska. What was the most compelling aspect of her life that you learned in your research for this record’s concept?
Helle Bogdanova: I think the most amazing thing is that she felt very contemporary to me. We’re nearly a century apart and yet, her philosophy and thoughts are very modern and applicable for today. She was definitely ahead of her time in all aspects. Moreover, she always took her life in her hands and overcame all the obstacles she faced, no matter what dangers and discomforts appeared.
Is there a connection between Yablonska’s critical writings on imperialism and Putin’s invasion?
Helle: Like I said, there are a lot of things she talked about, which are relevant these days. On her travels, not only did she discover new cultures, but also always made sure to bring a piece of Ukrainian culture with her, tell people about her country and customs, etc. She also encountered some Russians abroad, which were very unpleasant experiences, as she described, and when mistaken for a Russian, she made sure to educate people on the differences between our cultures.
You have been upfront about your experience with this war, sharing updates on Patreon, and speaking candidly in interviews. Do you have any optimism or predictions toward peace in the near future?
Helle: Yes, we’ve been very active with informing our audience abroad about everything happening here. Over the past few months though, it became harder and harder. Social media platforms are blocking posts of Ukrainians with sensitive information (well, sorry, but this war isn’t an apple pie!), so we cannot share as much as we did before. Otherwise, our pages may be blocked. We used to share updates on Patreon but the platform approached us, just like it approached other Ukrainian creators, and forced us to remove all info about the war and stop “financing the war.” We did as they said because we’ve grown a big community on Patreon and it’s the band’s main source of income at this point. All I’m saying is we sometimes feel that the world is turning its back on us, no matter what atrocities Russia commits. Interviews have become one of the few places to freely talk about it. As for predictions, we won’t do any. Everyone’s tired of this war but we’ve got no other way but win it, be it near future, or not. Occupation by Russia is the worst that can ever happen.
I understand that you’ve found comfort in writing most of your material in English, but I do believe the inclusion of Ukrainian lyrics is part of Ignea’s core identity. On one of my favorite songs, “To No One I Owe,” you have the following lines. Can you try to explain the meaning of this lyrical segment:
“Для бонзів і факірів
Я – казка з України
Прикраса до обідів світських”
Helle: Oh, that’s my favorite song on the album at this point! When I was reading Yablonska’s travelogues, I sometimes wrote down phrases or events that I liked most.
This part of the lyrics is translated as follows:
“For bonzes and fakirs,
I’m a fairy-tale from Ukraine,
A decoration for secular dinners”
On her travels, Yablonska was sometimes presented to guests as a fairy-tale from Ukraine, as an entertainment, for she had a lot of stories to tell, she was attractive, and had an unusual lifestyle. “To No One I Owe” is a song about her life as a vagabond and all the things coming with that: fascination and also misunderstanding by others, invitations to stay, which she refused, etc. No matter what, she packed her luggage and traveled to distant horizons.
By the way, we posted lyrics to all songs and translations of Ukrainian parts on our Patreon in a publicly accessible post.
What is a Ukrainian saying or phrase you might hear at a Ukrainian metal show?
Helle: “Слава Україні — Героям Слава!” (“Glory to Ukraine — glory to heroes”). Until the war is over, and, most probably, for many more decades ahead of us, it’s the phrase that’s screamed at every show by the artists and fans.
Ignea composer / keyboardist Yevhenii Zhytniuk mentioned “Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle” in a recent Q&A. Are you fans of Metalocalypse and do you have a favorite Dethklok member?
Helle: I think it’s been quite a while since we watched Metalocalypse, but we definitely were fans at some point. Nathan Explosion is surely a favorite, and, interestingly, Yevhenii looked very much like him back in the early days of Ignea, when he also didn’t have a beard and mustache!
Other Ukrainian metal bands we’ve featured on our site include 0% Mercury, White Ward, Motanka, Majesty of Revival, Nug, Space of Variations, and Stoned Jesus. Have you ever met any of these bands or have a relationship with them?
Helle: Igor from Stoned Jesus is quite a close friend of ours. We’ve met 0%Mercury and Space of Variations on backstage several times. And recently, we also got acquainted with guys from White Ward.
What other Ukrainian bands should the rest of the world know about?
Helle: The Ukrainian scene has been going up lately; more bands, more shows, and more support of the local metal acts. I won’t go into details and I certainly cannot name everyone but I’ll drop a few names for you and your readers to check out: Hell:on [death], 1914 [blackened death-doom], Fleshgore [brutal death], Pušča [post-black metal], Vidmershiy Shmat [black metal], Angered Crowd [death-groove], Death Pill [hardcore].
You recently announced a huge European tour with Fear Factory, Butcher Babies, and Ghosts of Atlantis. Do you have any connection with Fear Factory or Butcher Babies? I also believe there’s many countries Ignea hasn’t yet performed for before in this tour. Where are you most looking forward to seeing for the first time?
Helle: Oh yes, it’s really a huge honor for us to join this lineup. We respect Fear Factory a lot and we believe it’s a very influential band in the metal scene. We’re very excited to be able to watch them live every night and learn from them. We already toured with Butcher Babies in 2018; they’re amazing live, and our bands work really well together in a lineup. I’m truly excited to hear their new double album that’s coming out this Summer. As for the countries, we’re really excited to finally visit the UK, and it’s so great that there’s not just one or two dates, but an entire week there. And, as a person who loves Scandinavia, I’m so much looking forward to the North European part of the tour. Especially Finland, as we had to cancel our headline shows there several times, firstly because of the pandemic, and then because of the war. We know that people are waiting for us there, and we can’t wait to finally come and perform! Yet, to be fair, I’m excited to visit all cities of that tour. Fingers crossed, we’re alive until then and are able to do it.