Root has always been one of the strangest members of black metal's Second Wave. Founded in 1987 under the Communist regime in what was then known as Czechoslovakia, the band was extremely isolated from the global metal scene (including the burgeoning black metal movement). Despite the hardships that that entailed, the band's original members managed to channel their love of Bathory and Venom into their own bestial creation, and in doing so make an indelible mark on the history of Czech black metal.
Even after their sound evolved enough for them to roundly reject the "black metal" label in favor of a more expansive and theatrical "dark metal" approach that made more use of Big Boss's incredible vocal range, Root remained inadvertent standard bearers for their homeland's wild, unfailingly unique approach to extreme metal. Without Root (and their peers in Master's Hammer), there would be no Maniac Butcher, Cult of Fire, or Death Karma—and think about how awful that would be!
Still, their Scandinavian peers still reap the lion's share of the attention when it comes to the black metal conversation, and underground icons like Root are often left out. When I asked if they felt that Root's contributions to the genre have been overlooked, though, founder and vocalist Big Boss took umbrage at the very idea. "I don't care personally, but do you think that the overlooked band would play for thirty years?" he replied.
They're still at it, too. The band—which is now comprised of founder Big Boss and newer members Igor Hubik, Pavel Kubát, Jan Konečný, and Alesh A.D.—is about to release its tenth studio album, a concept album that follows 2011's Heritage of Satan and revisits the mythical land of Kärgeräs, which the band originally introduced on a 1996 album of the same name. The album—titled Kärgeräs - Return from Oblivion—is out November 25 via Agonia Records, and we're streaming it below. It certainly sounds like Root, which is to say, it's overtly mystical, very moody and atmospheric, chock full of epic riffs and ritual chanting, and more than a little bonkers. Preorders are available now, in physical and digital versions.
Alongside our album stream, we've also got a quick little Q&A with Big Boss and guitarist Igor Hubik. Due to their varying levels of comfort with English, they elected to answer my questions via email, but the results are still plenty colourful (especially Big Boss's recollections of the time he was accused of being a "Satanic spy for the West").
Big Boss: We believe in our music. We believe in ourselves and we do believe that we can bring still something new to our listeners. It keeps us alive on the way which we are still going on.
This latest record is a concept album, mean to continue the story you first introduced on Kärgeräs. Can you explain what's happening in this story? What has happened in this world you created since 1996?
Big Boss: Kärgeräs is still the same nation I invented back then and who were doomed by their own fault by the Grandiose Magus Equirhodont and his monster named Dygon. Now the sons of the Grandiose Mages come to ask him to return them to their lives.The rest of the story is on our new album. I will not tell you more! It is a direct continuation of Kärgeräs album from 1996—my own closure of the story which I wrote back in the Nineties. I promised once that one day I would finish that story and so I am keeping this promise. Many fans have been waiting for it since the first Kärgeräs album. Now they can finally get it and can enjoy another part of this story. I'm looking forward to listeners' opinions about this new masterpiece. The album is simultaneously a gift directly to Kärgeräs album fans. It´s very important because there are many fans of Root who prefer just some of our albums, and Kärgeräs is the special one.
Czech history has long been a complex, evolving beast, one marked by war and occupation, that continues to shift in the modern world. How do you think that lack of political stability influenced musicians in your generation?
Big Boss: I do not give a fuck about this society. I do not care. I am surrounded with great friends, our fans and great musicians and these are the people I care about. I do not intend to adapt to this hypocritical and worthless mass of people. "Society" is just a bunch of fucking idiots.
When Root began in 1987, the country was still called Czechoslovakia, and people lived under Soviet-style communist rule. What was it like trying to play this dark, blasphemous metal music during that period?
Big Boss: It was fun. Cops used to chase us, two or three times they even wanted to arrest as onstage—but we managed to escape. I was labeled a Satanic spy of the West, etc. We were forbidden to play, so we used to play unofficially in secret. It was the right kind of "fun"!
At what point did it finally become easier to play in a metal band and acquire metal tapes and CDs? I guess that must've happened later, after the Velvet Revolution.
Big Boss: Yes, that was the right time to start with recording official albums and play more shows, of course.
Unlike many other Eastern European bands, Root and the Czech black metal community in general tends to steer clear of politics, preferring instead to focus on the occult. What are your views on mixing politics with black metal?
Big Boss: That´s real bullshit to mix the music and politics. Maybe some protest songs singer as Bob Dylan is. And black metal plus politics? I cannot imagine this at all.
I know Metallica was a big influence on Root in the early days; how do you feel about them now? Do you have any interest in their new music?
Big Boss: I listened to Metallica until their Black Album, and then it went down. I can´t listen to it nowadays.
What else have you got going on? There's a reissue happening as well, right?
Igor Hubik: Yeah, actually two albums should be re-issued on CD and LP – Madness of the Graves and Hell Symphony by Paragon Records and Eternal Death Records, both US labels.
I've got to ask on behalf of your American fans—when will we get to see you play?
Big Boss: It shall be the first US show ever. Root is confirmed for Maryland Deathfest 2017. This is really special one. Otherwise we still play live over here in Czech Republic mostly, sometimes in Germany, Sweden. See you in Hell—stay proud!
Kim Kelly is being a slightly smaller boss on Twitter.