Art: Ardha Lepa

Azaab is a 5-piece death metal band based in Islamabad, Pakistan. The band was formed in 2016 out of love for both old-school and modern death metal. However, the band’s core has known each other for many years, with members playing together in various projects. Having written a heap of material, Shahab Khan (Guitars) called upon his old bandmates Waqar and Afraz to take on bass and guitar duties, respectively. Being the only Death Metal vocalist around then, it was a no-brainer for Saad to join the band as the frontman. After writing albums worth of music, Shahab and Afraz decided to enlist Indonesian drummer Adhytia Perkasa from the legendary act ‘SiksaKubur’ to record drums for the album, adding Southeast Asian aggression and flair to the music.

HMA: What are your lyrics generally about?

Shahab: I agree that you will often find the most outrageous and over-the-top lyrics in metal; however, I feel that sometimes metal lyrics can also be some of the best-written pieces of literature you will find today. It really depends on where you look. I, for one, am a huge fan of good lyrics; it makes the music all the more relatable and worth listening to. I feel that the lyrics are just as important as the music.

Afraz: The lyrics vary from song to song and have a variety of themes, from cataclysmic events, misanthropy, politics, and serial killers to even sci-fi. Most of the lyrics are metaphorical and reference real-world events through the eyes of people living in a third-world, developing country.

HMA: What creative rituals do you have?

Afraz: There is no set process as such; sometimes, it starts with a riff, sometimes with a lyrical hook. Sometimes we start with the overall theme. It varies. So far, we haven’t found the need to sacrifice anything in the name of metal to get our creative juices flowing, but who knows what happens in the future.

Shahab: I’ve found that no laws bind creativity. If it was only as easy as a prayer or ritual to get going, then we would have had a dozen albums out by now. A good riff or lyric idea will often appear out of nowhere, sometimes while playing an instrument or watching the news.

HMA: Do you have a philosophical fixation?

Shahab: Passive Nihilism and Misanthropy. Lately, I find that music does not fuel my need or inspire me to make music or write lyrics. In fact, when I am really angry or frustrated at something, I find myself wanting to let it out through musical expression. More than one of us wrote lyrics for this album, each with their own take on things which surely reflects the varied lyrical themes within the album.

HMA: Is heavy music a form of modern cult worship?

Shahab: I would say that musical artists, in general, seem like what cult worship would look like in the modern age, especially when you look at The Beatles, Elvis or even someone topping the charts these days and how people seem to flock to them. Heavy music has more loyal and dedicated fans, which makes for a more serious and exclusive cult. I have always been interested in music from a very early age. I grew up in the 90s, so I was exposed to the whole grunge explosion, which I liked at the time, but I guess initially, bands like Black Sabbath, Megadeth and Death really influenced me to get better at guitar. There is a great big list of bands and musicians, such as Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman, Muhammad Suicmez, Waclaw Vogg, and David Gilmore, among others, who inspired me at different stages of life. Still, it was Chuck Schuldiner from Death who is the greatest musical hero of mine and without whom there would be no Azaab and no Death Metal as we know it.

HMA: Do you have any vices?

Afraz: No fetishes, really; also I’m not sure I’d want to share them with the world if I had any. I think all of us are quite obsessive regarding the composition and arrangement of the songs. For instance, Shahab and I can go back and forth, bounce ideas off of each other, criticise, and fine-tune things for quite a while before we’re happy with things. Which I think is great and, in my opinion, also helped make this into a somewhat decent record.

HMA: Any people who seem to have a genius-level talent for creativity that transcend the norm in the scene?

Shahab: I don’t aspire to be like anyone in the scene or outside. This may seem cheesy, but I aspire to be the best I can be and to write the best music I can make. That doesn’t mean that I don’t find anyone inspiring. I admire many people for their talents and qualities. The world has seen great minds, great leaders and philanthropists, exceptional athletes, and truly amazing artists. There is an extensive list of such people whom I think are exceptional human beings from different walks of life.

HMA: Why is music important to you and the world?

Afraz: I think it’s different for different people. There’s plenty of good research on how music evokes various kinds of emotions in the listener. There’s also the purely lyrical aspect. For a lot of people, it’s the message behind the music that matters more than just the notes themselves. It also varies from culture to culture, e.g in Pakistan, the lyrics and the way they are sung are paramount, and everything else is secondary. For me personally, it would have to be both, but leaning more on the harmonic and tonal characteristics of the piece I’m listening to. I am comfortable consuming music without any lyrical content, but that might be because I’m a musician. It’s more than just mere entertainment for me. Good music means alot to me, but I wouldn’t call it a spiritual experience. However, there are cultures in the world that place music at the heart of everything, which is very tied to spirituality for them.

Shahab: I was not a very spiritual person, to begin with, and have become even less spiritual with age, especially about music, since I understand the mechanics of playing and making music. For me personally, it is self-expression and reflection of my environment and how I perceive life. As Afraz said, music’s importance in people’s lives varies from person to person, and for me, it is far more significant than just entertainment. I don’t think anyone would be surprised by the music, art and media I consume. I mostly just listen to some form of metal or alternative music. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe Pop music nowadays isn’t worth listening to. The lyrics, especially, are complete garbage. Metal, however, seems to keep improving, especially with the more extreme genres.
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