Before Middle Eastern extreme metallers Melechesh take the stage for their sophomore London appearance at the capital's Incineration Festival, eGigs manage to grab frontman Melechesh Ashmedi for some words on the first new album the band has spawned in five years in addition to his nomadic lifestyle.
How are you?
How has the tour with Keep of Kalessin been so far?
It's nice, it's very good. It's a nice day today and the tour is until the end of the month.
How are you finding Incineration Festival so far?
We just got here. I like the venue, it's pretty big. I didn't know it was going to be like that. I didn't have time to look around but I'm happy I'm in Camden so as soon as we're done with the interviews, I'm going to go for a walk and buy some incense. We put incense on stage and we're running out so why not?
Yeah, Camden is definitely the place to go for incense! How have the critics and fans responding to your new album 'Enki' so far?
Very well. From a critic's point of view, it was album of the month in many magazines and stuff but pretty much for the last four albums, it has been like that. Another thing is the fans like it very much and this is the first time we entered the charts so we entered the American charts, the German charts that's a good sign I guess for extreme metal so I can't complain. It was really hard to make and it turned out good. There were some difficult experiences that I used to my advantage.
What were these difficult experiences?
Human interaction. It helped me as the album turned out angrier [laughs]! I'm all pissed off. That's what I want. I was playing with feeling so it turned out good.
So it was more personal?
Yeah, there are some personal messages on the album there. 'The Palm, the Eye, the Lapis Lazuli' is a letter is about a message I sent to some drones and insects. 'Lost Tribes' is related to ISIS shooting my cousin while I was writing the lyrics so I put some double meaning in the lyrics. I'm talking about the ancient heritage and culture of the area and I'm talking about what's happening now. I've always done double meanings. It's up to the listener to explore. There's always something to find. For us it works.
In your own words, how would you say it musically compares to anything Melechesh has done in the past?
I'm more in control on the last couple of albums with writing songs because I'm more self-confident so I censor myself less. The less I censor myself, the better it sounds. In the underground in metal, there are invisible chains that limit the progress. It's like being in a preppy club in university. There are all these invisible rules and shit so once I shed those chains, the sky's the limit.
It feels like you've been doing that already with your Middle Eastern metal. All of your albums sound distinct.
Yeah, it's not easy but it's worth it.
Perhaps one of the reasons is that in between this and your last album, there was a five year gap whereas bands usually just release an album once every two years.
But also don't forget in the last five years, we've done eight tours. That's a lot. I'm doing everything on my own and that's also a lot. It's an issue of manpower. Drums, guitars, art, management I have to do all that on my own. You do that on tour, you come home, you just want to lay in bed for a week. After this tour, I'm going to go somewhere and lay on the beach or something, just chill out.
I understand you have this almost nomadic lifestyle.
My mum calls me a nomad.
Does this have any effect on the music that you write?
Yeah, different moods, different experiences give me different ideas because it's all personal. It also has an effect on my life; I can't hold a relationship, nothing. I'm on my own always with my computer and my guitar, I can do anything everywhere. I love airports, I don't like the security in the airport but I like the idea that you enter a vehicle and you leave Earth and you're in another country. I'm always travelling, either with Melechesh or not with Melechesh. I'm always somewhere.
Where do you think you'll be living next after this album cycle?
At the moment, I've got a room at the band's headquarters in Germany but it's all temporary. I go there just for the band, just for the tour. When there's no touring, I go to anywhere where there's sun. I go to Jerusalem, California, Greece, whatever.
What languages do you speak?
I speak Dutch, Arabic, Hebrew, English and French - five languages.
That's impressive. Max Cavalera, Sakis from Rotting Christ and Rob from Volbeatmade an appearance on the new album. Why was this the perfect time?
They're all my friends. I was in Greece recording when Sakis came into the studio cool vocal approach. Max and I met and he said he will do something with Melechesh one day and so we did it. I was texting Rob and he said: "I'll do a guitar lead if you want," and I said: "Do it!"
This album is named after the Sumerian god Enki. Why did you decide to name it after him?
He's the creator of mankind. I'm into what our origins are so I wanted to put the head honcho there. Enki is the best for this.
Would you say this is Melechesh's most ambitious album to date?
No, 'Epigenesis' is artistically ambitious. This is more black thrash and rock. I like it this way.
When you started out with 'As Jerusalem Burns', it was a different style that you played then.
We're finding ourselves. We started with Middle Eastern music as well but we didn't invent a style. Leads that followed create and recreate.
As you've left the Middle East, have you found other folk elements in places that you've lived in that you've incorporated into your sound?
It's always Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian. I like these kinds of sounds. Persian I feel like they work well. They're enticing, passionate.
Do you have any final words?
So it begins [laughs].
What is 'it'?
The search for the origins of mankind and the retribution.
Fair enough! Thank you for the interview.