Melechesh – Authentic Sonic Magick

Saturday, 30th March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

You won’t find a more unique or “real” band than Melechesh. They are a band that has always had a great understanding of Middle Eastern mythology, incorporating ideas from Sumerian and Mesopotamian themes into their music, as well as the use of many traditional instruments from their region. Every album has always had a distinctive feel to it, but with a sound that was always definitively their very own. These guys have never deviated from their path, and have never brought us anything lesser than extraordinary. Melechesh’s latest release, The Epigenesis is in the same boat of crushing brutality and one-of-a-kind atmosphere that no other band can do quite like them.

Founder Ashmedi is also an inspirational subject – a man who has gone through great lengths to make his music. From being cast out by his family for making metal music, to dealing with the many struggles of getting the band off the ground in Jerusalem, he and his band have persevered and become one of the staples of the genre. In our conversation with Ashmedi, we learn about his fun experiences at Maryland Deathfest, intimate details of the band’s latest opus, and much more about the band’s creative process. Revere in the insight of one of the true pioneers of metal.

Blistering.com: To begin, it’s great to hear that your experience at Maryland Deathfest was a good one. I also noticed you crowd surfing during Pentagram, which was quite cool! Your performance was definitely the best of the entire festival and it was a privilege to be able to witness it. What were some of your biggest highlights of playing at the fest?

Ashmedi: Haha you saw that! Ok, I was hoping no one noticed. You have to understand I am still a metal fan and I like Pentagram USA (and Pentagram Turkey) a lot! So I let my guard down and was just a headbanger! It felt really good – really therapeutic after being stuck in studio for so long. Playing MDF was great – we really felt at home! So, to the fans and supporters, thank you so much for making us feeling as such! The reaction was great! Meeting goodfriends, making new friends seeing people who have been following us since our debut album release – all was good.

Blistering.com: The Epigenesis has been out for a few weeks in Europe. How has the reaction from there been thus far?

Ashmedi: In Europe, the reaction has been beyond expectations. It has been perfect; top of the critics play lists, several cover stories. I can’t ask for more, really. It is being well received and I am very glad. There was a lot of anticipation and people and critics felt we delivered them a full and credible album.

Blistering.com: How satisfied are you with the end product for this release? Personally, I don’t think it could have come out better.

Ashmedi: Thanks! The Epigenesis turned out like I wanted it to sound like. All the audio elements are perfectly recorded and balanced. Each song represents a different pillar on this album!

Blistering.com: The guitar/sitar combination that you were showing on one of the video album trailers is a really intriguing instrument. How was the experience of using one of those, as well as the other different instruments that you used on the new album?

Ashmedi: It was musically gratifying. We also used an acoustic Indian sitar. Somehow, it fit our musical style perfectly. Using traditional instruments added another dimension, which also gave the album a further sense of authenticity. Such instruments blended well with the guitars. But no mistake – in our perspective, we are a metal band first and foremost. I.E., guitars and drums reign supreme in Melechesh. But we also like to compose and make instrumentals based on the traditional instruments.

Blistering.com: I love that you decided to record in Istanbul, as it feels like the perfect place for Melechesh to make an album. How did that decision come about and in what ways do you think it affected the album?

Ashmedi: We have been looking for a place to record that can offer us an inspiring surrounding. We also like to try new things and places, hence Istanbul. Istanbul was a good place for us. Indeed, the atmosphere there is outstanding and goes hand in hand with our music. Also, there is a long rock tradition in the city. They invented this style called Anatolian rock, and it is a form of Eastern rock music. Actually, one of the pioneers of this style – Mr. Cahit Berkay of the legendary folk rock band Mogollar, who started on the 60s – played on our album, the Tanbur instrument and Saz. Furthermore, the fact that Istanbul is also a very metal city – many metal bars and stores. The scenery is great, the studio was downtown – easy to go out for recreation, which is needed when you are recording so many hours and for so long. Lastly, Babajim Studio is a very high caliber place.

Blistering.com: How would you compare the creative process on this album to those of your previous work?

Ashmedi: I go about writing albums in the same manner we always do – riffs, then demos/rehearsal room work. But in the case of The Epigenesis, there was one significant difference: we were more liberated when writing. Moloch lives in Charlottesville, VA, so he flew several times to Amsterdam for intensive writing sessions. It worked out well. As for in the studio, we did place value on having symbolic items that could affect our mood or mindset.

Blistering.com: Do you have any favorite tracks on The Epigenesis? “Ghouls of Nineveh” is a personal favorite. It’s so intense, yet with so many different layers of sound.

Ashmedi: This is a little hard for me to answer! I cannot be too objective, as I like all the songs. And they offer different moods. “Ghouls of Nineveh” is one of my faves, but so are the other ten tracks! “The Epigenesis” song is a very accomplished number. It is hard to compare “Defeating the Giants” with “The Epigenesis,” or “Sacred Geometry” – they stand alone. I like them all.

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