When people outside the city think of Chicago’s music scene, they’re probably not thinking of its metal acolytes, and if they are, their impressions are most likely formed by the city’s heady crop of death metal bands like Borken Hope, or the inordinate number of post-metal bands who have staked their claim there, such as Atlas Moth or Huntsmen.
Surprisingly, with Chicago’s tendency to become 227 square miles of frozen meat locker during the winter months, black metal is not one of its more numerous cultural exports. Surprising, that is, because when the temperature drops and the wind speeds are amplified by the funnel-like design of the downtown streets, it can feel as brutally and bitterly cold as any remote area of Scandinavia.
Why, then, do not more black metal bands establish a coven there? We may never know the answer, but one thing is for certain, if you’re not keeping a bead on Matianak, you’re missing one of the city’s more evil and twisted anomalies. Forget the mothman; learn to fear Matianak!
Named after an Indonesian folk monster, a Matianak is a vengeful vampiric spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth. A shapeshifter of sorts, she initially appears as a beautiful woman with long black hair, red eyes, and a white dress, who lures men to their doom in the light of a full moon. After she has captured her quarry, she usually takes on a more bestial form to match her carnivorous intent.
Similar to their namesake, Matianak’s sound is both magnetic in its otherworldly qualities and maddening in its grotesqueries. The group is lead by vocalist Arelys Jimenez, whose monstrous, gargling shrieks and vile, hissing wails really do feel like the incantations of a primordial priestess, casting a hex of pestilence and bloody revenge upon the modern patriarchal world from behind the grave.
If you think you have the grit to experience the terror of Matianak for yourself, then check out our stream of their latest album Compilación De Insaniam, and read our interview with Arelys below:
The following transcript is from a conversation conducted over email on January 5. It has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
What can you tell us about vampires in Indonesian folklore?
I don’t know about vampires of Indonesian folklore besides where my band name comes from, the Pontianak, which has several names that are also from Malay, and one name is also known as matianak, which means “death of a child.”
There seem to be a lot of intimidating, female spirits and monsters in Indonesian culture. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure. I guess women can be pretty scary creatures. Haha! Just get one mad, and you will see. I do know they are pretty crazy in what they do, and I’ve seen documentaries of some of their tribes. Pretty interesting and crazy stuff.
Matianak has a very strong visual presence. What are some of the influences of your live show?
Thank you kindly for the awesome compliment. I try my best to pull that off. My lyrics are about real people and real stories, and I tell their story through the songs. I find the most disturbing news, articles, and documentaries of mentally unstable people. My influence is the hate and pain and the insanity of these psychotic people, and I perform it from a first-person view, expressing what they feel and think and what they go through in their minds.
Is your mic stand made out of real animal parts?
Everything you see are real animal bones. My outfit and the guys’ outfits as well. All handmade by me. My mic stand, the top portion, was created by Chris Pezzano of the former band Wormreich. I added more animal skulls at the bottom of it.
Why is it important for you to cultivate a feeling of disease with your live shows?
Anything to make people feel uneasy and unsettling, and I think it just comes naturally to express it that way. The music transforms me.
Who are some of the bands that have influenced your sound?
The guys all have different influences. A mix of Dissection and Emperor style and some ’80s metal. I have a mix of influences from Latin, to classical, opera, and black metal bands like Watain, Rotting Christ, Carpathian Forest, Naglfar, Dark Fortress, etc. … too many to list. I also am a huge fan of Anaal Nathrakh. They are a very interesting mix of black metal, death metal, grind, and industrial, and pure insanity. I love creative bands and unique musicians. Wardruna and Heilung are other interesting influences that are not black metal at all. Very cultural and magical in their music and stage performances.
You have a very distinct, vocal style. Is it all-natural ability? Or, how do you train to sound so evil?
I’m sure it is hard to believe a voice like that comes from a little person like me. It is all-natural. I do not use any effects nor anything at all to alter or hidea way anything. I have been singing this way since the age of 14, so I have self-taught experience for 18 years now. I started off singing cover songs and pushing my vocals more and more as years went by.
I trained myself and found what worked for me. I have been through a lot, so I channel everything I’ve been through and let it out in the music. I feel in a way possessed and a different character when I’m zoned into the music. I usually fast before I sing and prep by drinking gentle, throat teas and honey and plenty of water with tiny sips.
I use all my diaphragm power and never sing through my throat. It is why I need a fully empty stomach to sing. Breathing techniques are very important to hold longer screams and so your words don’t cut off from losing your breath. It is not an easy thing to do and takes many years of practice and dedication in singing properly to pull off the dynamic ranges I do. But it otherwise just comes naturally to me.
Where do you go for inspiration for your lyrics?
I look online for underground, disturbing, real news. I watch lots of documentaries of crazy people and mentally unstable people, anyone sharing any personal stories as well. I also sometimes encounter personal experiences relating to disturbing events that I sing about. The human mind interests me in how someone can just do the most unimaginable and fucked up shit out there to others or themselves. It is amazing how many of these stories are out there and some not known but I find them.
What was it like recording your new album during the pandemic?
My goal was to record our second album in 2020. We had some setbacks since our jam spot was closed for a few months. No matter what, I was determined to get this damn album out. I fired my drummer and second guitarist in late 2019. I didn’t have a bass player, either. I had a temp, second guitar player and temp drummer to fill in.
The temp guitar player decided he can’t dedicate himself to help record the album, and my temp drummer was still up for being part of the album and decided to be full time in the band. I found a bass player just in time when our jam spot re-opened again. It was cutting it close to the end of the year, and we practice weekly, and we prepared for our eight songs to be recorded in October. It was a breeze.
My drummer recorded in one day and another day did guitar solos and some lead parts for two or three songs. My guitar player did both guitar parts in one day, like 14 hours. The bass player did all his parts in one day. I did all my vocals in one take. We went over and did some overlays on highs and lows. I was actually shocked by what came out of me, and I was like, “that’s really me?” Haha! I amazed even myself. I worked really really hard for this album and pushed my vocals completely out of my comfort zone, and it came out amazing.
We had an amazing good flow and pace going. We had multiple bounces of our track,s and after five revisions, we were finally happy to get our eight songs mastered, and we released our second album on BLACK METAL FRIDAY, November 27. Haha! Very cheesy, I know. Our new album is called Compilación de Insaniam, which is a mix of Latin and Spanish meaning “compilation of insanity.” Which is what all the songs are about. Our album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Vincent of Swift Road Studios
What are Matianak’s goals for 2021?
Rehearse again all our 14 songs and work on a setlist. We are working on some new material, and I’m designing costumes for my guys and a new outfit for myself. I also will be designing the cover art and booklet art for physical CD copies to be made for the new album this year.
Looks like this pandemic will be going on for a while, and due to everyone’s safety, we are not doing any shows until this pandemic has cleared, and we all go back to normal. It sucks, but we care for everyone’s safety and well-being. We may be doing live streaming shows at some point. Possibly working on our first music video as well. We have also been looking at getting signed by a label. We are currently still searching for a second guitarist to join us as well. Until then, things will be a little on hold.