Melechesh Interview

A long time ago I did an interview with the band Melechesh. The group was originally from Israel, moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands later for its political freedom, a bit like the golden age of philosophy.  The band deals thematically with Assyrian and Armenian mythology.  Add to that some Mizrahi rock and there you go: unique metal. This is the interview I did with Ashmedi, main man of the band, in 2010.

Could you kindly tell us who you are and where you come from (musicwise as well as lifewise)?

I come from Jerusalem  my family are Armenian/Assyrian. Musically I come from the rock and metal background but I listen to any and every type of music as long as it is well done . Life wise I am a cosmopolitan who lived around the world and now settled  in this nice , tidy and quiet  corner.

You’ve moved the band from Israel to Amsterdam/France, how was that decision made and what were the reasons you had to move?

Well the reasons were several, many demographical and socio political reaons. Also we wanted to progress our music.  The member who was in France is now doing his PHD in USA so he flies often here to writing sessions and rehearsals.  Coming to Amsterdam was a coincidence actually , I was on my way to USA when my x bassplayer who was living here said Amsterdam got English language Universities, I thought ok its closer to Jerusalem .

 Theres a mix of nationalities in the band, how does this influence your writing and creating process?

Well and it does not change our writing process. Though we got to learn that you should not make music at any cost like we used to believe in and was the way we work,  but rather pay attention to personal convenience which comes first here. In Jerusalem there are many different people from all over the word , same as with Los Angeles where I lived as well so always managed well in cosmopolitan places.

source: ROAR E-zine
source: ROAR E-zine

Is there a political element to your music, and if so what is it? What were the comments when you released the ‘As Jerusalem Burns… Al’Intisar’?

NO , the middle east is much more than politics, it is a place were civilizations were born. We focus on this beyond the mundane but tragic drama . Politics are merely the art of lying and rationalizing human deaths. We don’t play that game, and we say our politics are simple we count the dead and we think everyone deserves to live in dignity. Can you imagine an entire region with many countries billions of people thousands of years of continuous civilizations is categorized by one cliché.  We are critical and know what is going on there but we do not drag the mystical and spiritual artistic creation known as Melechesh in this.

When As Jerusalem Burns …Al Intisiar  (by the way the title is meant metaphorically, as we love our home town ) was released well hell broke loose J we survived it. There many critical of us but in the end we make music with spiritual and mystical context so we did not hurt anyone. ( maybe the righteous can learn for this ). But such things made us appreciate making music and we are grateful to where we have reached today

Could you tell us what Mesopotamian Metal is, what it envelops and what it is you tell about? Obviously for us it’s a very strange and unknown world.

The style of music is already popular in the metal underground and there are several young bands adapting to it which is really cool. But for the readers Roarezine of let me elaborate more on this.  When I started Melechesh the philosophy behind the music was to create not re-create.  So we tried inventing the Middle eastern sound of Black/thrash metal.  Which encompass hard rock and heavy metal as well but with an ethnic twist when it comes to guitar riffs and picking as well as at time, Middle eastern drum patterns.  Lyrically  we deal with Mesopotamian mythology near eastern mysticism .

 Musically who are your influences, metalwise as well as traditional music wise?

I grew up on rock music at home  with time I was drown into heavy metal and punk and got into various types of bands. As a musicians we are shaped by diverse music intentionally or unintentionally. From Metal music , I like the classics black sabbath, led zeppelin, rainbow also Mercyful fate some Metallica , Slayer , Bathory it is hard you know ! traditional musicians I am very much into Persian Indian cross over like Ghazal, Indian ragas , sufi music .

Your new album, The Epigenesis, is almost out. Can you tell us about the process and the record?

The album took a long time to write , almost three times to record. Its is a long album with diverse moods , from a 3 minute song to a 12 minute song.  We decided to break the mold and we flew to Istanbul to record the album. Many here were surprised but the outcome spoke for itself . Istanbul was a unique experience and very inspiring one.  The city is very inspiring for musicians, it is great for night life and culture, and very Metal. So many metal bars out there its crazy.

Everything worked out perfectly it was almost uncanny like how come every step every decision was fitting in like a piece of puzzle , it was quite mystical . It was also very practical to be there, as people were helpful no 9-5 mentality we did put in 16 hrs a day . Also the little things you know you want to order a meal at 3 AM while still recording , its possible. You can even order you wine and whisky at those hours. The little things helped keep the vibe positive. The weather was good too.

How has your work been received in Europe this far?

Well previous works always well received,  we got fans across the globe, positive record sales and the fact most labels offered us a record deal  was very  humbling and a good sign.  As for the new album the general press media is good.  Topped various critics lists, several cover stories I cant ask for more and we are grateful for this.

Source: Wikipedia

Did starting a black metal band in Israel spawn a lot of followers? Are there other metal bands from the Middle-East that you would recommend?

You need to be able to differentiate the various parts of Israel. The fact that it was in Jerusalem was the issue.  AT first people wanted black metal bands from Scandinavia , if the band was from there the fans show the horse teeth with unconditional smiles and frown on bands that had to fight to make music. But this changed. A lot of hard work development of a type of music eventually paid off.  We had followers there, but our larger fan base is in USA and Europe.  There are several talented bands in the middle east they work hard some even were jailed for doing the music they are passionate about.  For sheer brutality check out Keaton, for Melodic doom check out Bilocate. There is a cool rock band called Khalas and so on.

Are there any bands that you would compare yourself to?

Blof (a rather cliché Dutch rockband, GS)

What influence does living in Israel have on your music and on your life and  views?

Some people fight to have a decent life and when they get it they appreciate every second. Some have it all served on a silver platter and deep inside they are very unhappy. This is one thing I learned.  I also learned how racist humans are. I personally believe in one race. Human race. And thankfully I am very color blind.

Where do you see Melechesh going in the future?

I don’t know really, just challenge ourselves and make credible music.

 Are there anything you’d like to tell our readers, that they should know about your band?

Doe het normal is a bad thing for music and art but  a good thing for accounting.

What Album should we start with?

The Epigenisis for sure not because it is the new one but because it represent us now and it has several moods.

If Melechesh would be some kind of food, what food would it be?

A healthy salad which has flavor ! and considered as soul and brain food.

The Reading of Books #5

A new series of books I’ve been reading. H.P Lovecraft, St. Augustine, Richard A. Knaak and E.M. Cioran. Horror, pessimism, religion and World of Warcraft in one blogpost!

H.P. Lovecraft – The Haunter in the Dark (Collected Stories – Volume Three)

Source: Wordsworth-editions.co.uk

Once you get captivated by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, you probably will be hooked for life. I’ve been reading them since I was sixteen and last year I purchased this collection, which features some stories I had not read yet and some I was willing to re-read. The collection has some of the rich and haunting New-England stories, with vague references to witchcraft and deeper mysteries, which all find themselves rounding up in the dream stories of ‘The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath’.

The cosmic proportions of these stories are magnificent and wonderful for those readers open to it. Ofcourse, it is in the end fantastic fiction, but the creative process behind the work of Lovecraft and the creations he wrought. Wordworth has tried to connect the stories in these collections, making it easier for the reader to make sense of them and relate the texts to eachother. One could argue that the intertextual carreer of characters like Randolph Carter should be discovered instead of presented by the publisher. Thanks to digital collections, the real explorer of Lovecraft can still find his or her own way. No matter how well put together, it takes away a bit for those who want to drift through the pages.

E.M.  Cioran – A Short History of Decay

Source: Amazon

Apparently the mother of Romanian philosopher Emile Cioran told him, that if she had known he’d be so unhappy, she would have gotten an abortion. If there’s anyway to introduce his work, that fact does it. The philosophy of pessimism is not the most cheery material to read, and this collection of short essays (ranging from half a page to two/three pages) is definitely not a page turner. The short, condensed passages contain nuggets of wisdom and insight on the futility of life, suicide, sin and nihilism.

Cioran used themes like that life is arbitrary, or the idea that live is inconvenient. Born in Romania, while it was occupied by Austria-Hungary, he searched for meaning pretty much most of his life, embracing nationalism as well as nihilism. His short writings are powerful and also inspiring in strange ways. Pessimists may seem drole and, well …, generally pessimistic, there is also a lot of wit and black humor in it. Cioran must have embraced his pessimism when he wrote this work, since it’s filled with witty remarks of one who has no hope.

Richard A. Knaak – Stormrage

Source: Wowwiki.com

Blizzard is an amazing company when it comes to making video games. The strenght of their flagship game World of Warcraft is not its revolutionairy visuals (not anymore atleast) but its emphasis on strong narrative and continuation. The player is part of a history that develops and fully grows on many levels. The company also invests in that in other media than the digital, releasing books to fill in certain elements of the storylines. Stormrage is one of those, filling the bap between the narratives of ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ and ‘Cataclysm’ (two expansions to the game).

The story is that of night elf Arch Druid Malfurion Stormrage and the people around him. Stormrage had been missing, ever since the start of the World of Warcraft narrative lines and cataclysm finally brought him back into action. In Cataclysm the core world was reshaped and the events in this book lead up to those and explain the sudden ravaged world players enter in that version of the game (which relaunched the whole core world). The story is a bit stretched in some parts and not always as easy to follow. Still Richard A. Knaak always manages to capture the spirit of WoW very well and gives a whole lot of new, exciting questions in this work. It also connects with the ‘War of the Ancients’ story arch.

St. Augustine – Confessions of a sinner 

Source: Amazon

I was rather exciteds about reading St. Augustine, but I was let down quite a bit to be honest. This book is only part of a greater body of work, where Augustine is confessing his sins and describing his life to his deity. The work is a confession of his sinful life, before he became the later St. Augustine. The pages are filled with a dialogue he tries to have with God.

Though this book from the Penguin ideas series is full of touching and beautiful writings, I did not enjoy it too much. The devout way of writing of St. Augustine offered little of the wisdom he is revered for. This does show the man behind the wisdom though, his fallacies and insecurities. It makes him human and that is why this is worth reading.

Sounds of the Underground #11

Once more I’ve tried to pick out some new interesting records from the underground to inform you of what is out there. This time I’ve got for you Sea WitchDrudkh, Laster and Frown.

Sea Witch – As Above (demo 1)

Source: Bandcamp Sea Witch

I like the band name Sea Witch. It immediately feels like one can easily get into the greatest depths  of doom. The bottomless sea and its many mysteries forms a great basis for  a band that plays the clean and deep sound of the abyss, like Sea Witch does. The band from Nova Scotia incorporates atmospheric black metal, drone and a pinch of folk into their ‘nautical doom’. Inspiration obviously comes from the sea. There’s also a video released recently.

The full demo can be listened to on their bandcamp and is part of a series of two, the second titled ‘…So Below’ (like you didn’t see that one coming). The element ‘nautical’ is fairly important here, since it inspires the distinct sound the band demonstrates. There’s a threatening element to the sound, something looming in the dark. The slow sound is clear but full of reverberation. The listener loses sense of up or down on ‘The Atlantic’. Or the slow and atmospheric ‘Out Of The Depths’. It’s a haunting and wonderful experience, to get submerged in their music. 

Source: Metal Archives

Drudkh – Eastern Frontiers On Fire

Drudkh from Ukraine has never shied away from  a little provocation in their words and titles. Obviously, the dangerous NSBM tag has been mentioned in relation to the band. This record is a collection of songs from the EP’s ‘Anti Urban’ and ‘Slavonic Chronicles’ and their work released on the split the band did with Winterfylleth “Thousands of Moons Ago / The Gates”.  Slow mesmerizing black metal opens on ‘Fallen Into Oblivion’, followed by the jangling ‘Ashes’. The tracks feel grey and dry.

The tracks ‘Tam gdzie gaśnie dzień… (Sacrilegium cover)’ and ‘Indiánská píseň hrůzy (Master’s Hammer cover)’ are more raw, but brought in an unmistakable Drudkh way.  The slow, cascading sound has an epic quality and atmosphere to it. The atmosphere is like the far lands of Ukraine on a dusty summer day.  What no one seems to wish to get into is the title of the compilation, which is a clear reference to the current situation. It is unclear to me why only the title and probably cover refer to this. That does however not diminish the beauty of the music that Drudkh shares us. It does serve as a reminder of the harsh place the origin of their sound has become.

Laster – Die Verste Verte Is Hier

Source: Metal Archives

The Utrecht atmospheric black metal band Laster has released their debut album with four tracks, seemingly lasting forever. Their slow and dense sounding tracks have little agression in them and focus mainly on a cold and thought provoking atmosphere. The lyrics are in Dutch and have a wonderfull poetic quality to them.

‘Tot de tocht ons verlicht’ is a torrent of sound, swirling around the listener who will get the feeling depicted on the cover of the album of falling down through this haze. The sudden clean singing marks a shift to more shoegaze-like atmospheres. There are some industrial elements towards the end of the track.  ‘Mijn Masker’ is much more furious and hectic, though maintaining the static, sonic layers of sound. Screams pierce the cloudy sound, creating an grim atmopshere of depressing and dark sound. The music ebbs away, giving room for gentle piano play which wraps up this intriguing track. ‘De Verste Verte Is Hier’ stands out with its gothic chanting and postpunk/shoegaze rhythm. Howling vocals and clean sounds mark those influences even more in what is the most dreamy song on this album. The impressive sound of Laster makes them clearly an intriguing band to take heed of.

Frown – The Greatest Gift To Give

Source: Frown bandcamp

Though I have to admit to finding the name Frown a bit awkward, the unique sound of this band was quite impressive and captivating. The raw and abbrasive vocal style is what stands out most.  After the prayer bells sound, the opening riffs of ‘Trial By Ordeal’ storm in with a kolossal strenght. The nasal and barked vocals of their singer reminds the listener of primitive black metal. The sound lacks the muddy, full sound of a sludgy doom band. It’s really the atmosphere that counts and the reverb in the guitar sound.

‘Harpocrates Unborn’ is a reference to the God of Silence of Greek mythology. The venomous dripping sounds that open up the track are a prelude to the gloomy sound that the guys produce.  A dark and mesmerizing descent into despair follows. Apparently it takes up more muscles to frown than you need to smile. That says something about the complexity the band looks for in their different and unique sound. The Australians blow distorted and gravelling guitar sounds through the thrudging doom of ‘Cold Gail That Blows My Lonely Grave’.  The slow and droning track is calm but full of this feeling that something wicked this way comes. ‘Offering’ closes the record with an almost ten minutes lasting drag that would not be amiss on a Sabbath album.

World of Warcraft is a feeling #1

Source: WIkipedia

In general people assume I’m a gamer, because of Warcraft. By that I mean, people that don’t know me very well. Sure thing, I play various games on our monthly game nights (we hold them with a small and variying group of friends)., but the amount of video games I’ve played is small. Sure, I had days where I would try various ones, but in general it was never much. There’s a few games I did play a lot and one of them, though the word ‘franchise’ might be better, has always had a special place in my heart.

I played video games since I had acces to a Commodore 64 and quickly had a love for the good old RPGs and such, but there was hardly any of that. It took some time for me to get to that. I also played on a Super Nintendo  and a Game Boy, so Lufia and Zelda are no strangers to me. It was the game I played at a friend one day though, that captured me. I was allowed to pick a game from the list and chose the one with the resounding name ‘Warcraft’.

We played for hours, not realizing our mission we started building an enormous expansive conglomoration of buildings over a couple of days. Suddenly other creatures started marching into the screen, which were Orcs. We fought the bravely with our confused mayhem of wizards, clerics and foot soldiers and victory was ours… if we ever figured out about that bridge we had to cross to get to the enemy.

Now, back in that time there was so much on the market when it came to games, so I never got my hands on Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. I only played it at the friends house, but I loved that game. I loved the Tolkienesque setting of humans and elves fighting Orcs (not sure about the elves, but for sake of argument). The game play felt innovative, new and challenging and I was captivated by this game.

The cinematics where impressive, there was a guy speaking about epic warfare between Orcs & Humans. I mean, there were cinematics! What was also really cool is the general atmosphere of seeing a map, a war room with two people on a table and hearing a story every quest. It totally added to the experience, which was quite new. Granted, if you look at videos of the game now on youtube it will be hard to imagine how captivated we were by it. I had been reading Tolkien already and it made a major impact on me, so this game was exactly there at the right moment.

Source: Battle Net

It took some time for it to re-emerge and become the game we played forever. More in a following chapter about my favorite game.

W00t Quest is the new Quest

After focussing on a vague type of quest for a while, I came to a realisation today: I had not typed w00t for any reason for like… forever. To go on a quest with my feelings felt silly suddenly, when I can go for the w00ts!

What does that mean? It means that you can level up your life by focussing on the good things, I think. I learned from Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness what the value is of treating your life like a game. I treat mine already a lot like World of Warcraft. I take challenges and quests, look for groups, trade and farm reputation with certain factions.

Source: Geekadelphia.com

What if I actually transfer these activities to life? I have no idea, but it worked for Steve, so it might work for me. So my first goals will involve reaching a new level in the gym, farming rep among colleagues and finishing some major quests this year.

So back to this w00t, why is it worth so much? It was the cry of joy when reaching goals in WoW in the past. When you defeated a major boss or got some major item and stuff. It signifies the sense of achievement I’ve been missing out on. It signifies purpose and meaning in a sense most people will find silly. It means a lot to me though.

So I declare the start of phase one of W00tQuest, the trial campaign.