Every once in a while, for some strange reason, we like to give you creeps the VIP1 treatment and surprise y’all with some extracurricular goodness. Today you turds’ll be treated to a trve and tasty twofer: in a gracious act of metal camaraderie and questionable judgment straight outta Israel, blackened death veterans Arallu have granted us the honor of premiering the video for “Spells” from their latest desert-y offering, En Olam, as well as subjected their vocalist, Butchered, to an inquisitive Muppet. The latter proved to be far more insightful and intriguing than anything you lot deserve to read, but Steel will do anything to hedge his bets with Santa as the season approacheth, so gather ’round, yo’s, it’s time to bang those heads and fill ’em with wisdoms.
Master of Muppets: First things first: thanks for even considering us to post the video premiere for “Spells,” and for setting some time aside for me to get all up in your business. Seriously, it’s an honor.
Butchered: Hello from Jerusalem, and thank you very much for this interview, it’s an honor for me as well.
MoM: For starters, how did you and the rest of Arallu end up getting into extreme metal? Forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, but that doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be an obvious or easy scene to explore living in Israel.
Butchered: It was around 1996 when I started to listen to the European black metal bands of the 90’s, I really liked the idea of the local folk music inside the raw sound of the black metal. I thought to myself, “Hell, I can’t play like that! I can’t write music like that. I can feel the cold and mountains coming out from the speakers! This music is awesome! If I try to sound like that, no one will listen to my music. I can’t make (music) like that… BUT if I bring the special sounds of my country, culture and Middle Eastern culture, if I bring guitar riffs with special instruments I can flow above, if I play Middle Eastern music with metal music sound it can work!” And that’s what happened. The debut demo tape The War On The Wailing Wall was released in 1997, and it really crushed some heads around the world. Arallu albums speak of the situation around the Middle East as it crawls toward Europe and the U.S., and some personal issues we deal with in our everyday lives. We’ve used different Middle Eastern instruments in each Arallu album so far, with the exception of the darbukka that has become a staple our music, and I believe that in the next album we will be looking for other instruments.
My father has been listening to this music since I was a child. The connection between the European sound and the Middle Eastern sound is not easy to make; you can’t just add a saz or a darbukka willy nilly to every part. It takes a lot of hard work to add these instruments in the right way and in the right place, as we’ve done here and in our previous albums. Not everyone understands what we’re playing. You can see that even in the way that some reviews seem to really see it and others not so much. When you play risky music you know that can happen. We are not going with the main stream of black metal music, and we’re okay with that.
MoM: To that end, how would you describe the Israeli metal scene? Again, I’m well aware that anything I might assume about it is just that, an assumption, and yet a scant listing of 281 Israeli metal bands on the Metal Archives – active and disbanded – tells me that you don’t exactly suffer from an overcrowded band scene. You might not have as many metal bands as, say, Finland, but is there still at least enough local interest to foster a metal community within your region or are bands like Arallu and Melechesh sort of anomalies?
Butchered: Look, the number of metalheads in Israel didn’t really change over time, but the number of bands increased dramatically. You barely see a metalhead that doesn’t play in a band nowaday. So, if in the 90s there were 3000 metalheads and 6 bands, today you still have 3000 people but you have more than 100 bands. I’m not sure if it happens everywhere or just here, but the numbers are very interesting. Unfortunately, metal bands in Israel are not holding up over the years. Arallu, Salem and Orphaned Land are the only bands left of those formed in the 90s, and new bands (seem to last) for 4-6 years maximum and then falling apart.
MoM: Do you have any words of wisdom for any fellow Israeli artists who might wish to pursue the noble art ov extreme metal? Is there anything that you wish you’d known or been prepared for back when Arallu first came to be?
Butchered: Be true to yourself – it always comes back to that. Right from the start in 1997 when Arallu was formed, the main idea behind creating an extreme metal band was to be honest with yourself, to be “true.” Arallu from 2005-20013 knew really bad days. I used to read local articles with lines like “…why does this band still (play)?” but we keep on with our special line of music, with no regrets and no compromises, because we like what we’re creating and so we bring to the world a really special sound of metal music. We always look to create something new that you’ve never heard before! Arallu acts as the clarion call of the situation in the Middle East, especially so for the wars all around the years in Jerusalem. We aren’t looking for newspaper headlines. We play and live black metal from the 90’s; Arallu‘s been screaming about global terrorism for more than a decade. Satanic War In Jerusalem, our second album from 2002, speaks of the situation in Jerusalem that eventually spread to the world. I wrote that album in 2001, when there were Islamic terror attacks everywhere in Israel and especially in Jerusalem. Sadly, Satanic War In Jerusalem became a self-fulfilling prophecy… same for The War On The Wailing Wall – it’s the mix of our daily lives and extreme anti-religious metal.
When I’m writing music and lyrics, I’m not looking for victory; I’m looking for something fresh, something that no one touched before. Because our music is a mix of extreme black metal music and Arabian / Middle Eastern music, it’s very hard to really get it at first listening. Usually people who like extreme black metal don’t like the Middle Eastern parts and vice versa; when we wrote En Olam we knew it was risky, and we knew it right from the debut album back in ’99. Arallu always looks to bring something different to the global metal scene and we’re doing it in small steps. The atmosphere of this album is similar to the old albums. It’s the feeling of the desert force and battles around the Middle East. We’re coming against what is hurting us – us as human beings, us as individuals.
MoM: Considering the myriad obstacles that one might encounter as an extreme metal band in Israel, what is your greatest motivation to persevere with Arallu? What’s made the 20+ year journey worth all the work and sacrifices that make Arallu possible?
Butchered: Arallu‘s mirrors our own lives, and in many ways what fuels it is the rage we feel at the world. The hypocrisy of the governments all around the world including Israel, religious wars, all of it. Our motivation comes from that, as we feel obligated to tell the entire world what is happening in the Middle East and the Holy City of Jerusalem. (There is) unwillingness and fear to fight against the extremist religious leaders. The people in Israel don’t know what good life is, we are busy with worrying about personal and national security. Arallu‘s lyrics are straight in your face, against the religions and what they represent and of course the people behind them. Our new album En Olam (Hebrew for “There is no world”) talks about all of these things and tries to expose the listeners (to) this feeling of illusion… Religions continue to fight among themselves, but (it’s) for nothing because there really isn’t anything here – all that’s an illusion. Six and Geniewar describe the wars of the ancient times as kings tried to rule Jerusalem, and by way of that, Six and Desert Battles are talking about the wars of today as ISIS are trying to destroy and kill anyone who doesn’t agree with their religious views.
MoM: By this point, a lot of hard work has culminated in En Olam, and I gotta say, I feel it’s probably the best offering by/representation of Arallu to date. I realize that pretty much every band strives to deliver their absolute best on any given album, but was there another, more specific element of the song writing that may have specifically lead to En Olam seeming so much stronger than even the stupendous Six? Did you guys maybe take a different approach to things with this album, or was it just the logical result of being older, wiser, and that much more badass than ever?
Butchered: When you like what you do, 20 years go fast man. We truly believe in our special sound and that’s why we’ve released 7 different albums, and I believe our next album will be unique and special like the others. We don’t want our listeners to feel like every Arallu record is the same. We try to give the listeners the feeling of the desert force and battles around the Middle East.
Middle Eastern music is my childhood home’s music. We are not working with any music producer. With En Olam we went deeper and heavier than we did with Six took more risks both in the metal aspects and the Middle Eastern aspects of the music, just as we did with Six compared to Geniewar. The basic process is the same, but we try to dig deeper into it with every release.
MoM: Piggybacking on that, one of my favorite aspects of En Olam is the increased intensity of the vocals. You’ve always had an impressive scream, but your microphone assault this time around is just straight up fucking lethal. How did you manage to take things to that much more aggressive a level? Seriously, you sound like you must devour souls and chain-smoke nightmares.
Butchered: I’m really tough with my band members. I make their life hell when we write music, (even) more when we are in the recording process. I check everything 100 times, and make sure it’s perfect before we send it to the mixing pros. When I recorded the vox for our previous albums, no one has presented me with the same treatment…BUT NOT THIS TIME! This time around, Eylon (our saz and backing vox guy) was really tough on me! This time he made my life hell… and you can hear the results for yourself.
MoM: My other personal favorite component of Arallu‘s sound, particularly on En Olam, is the drumming, and I’m curious as to which bands or musical works have had the biggest impact inspiring and shaping Arallu‘s percussion department.
Butchered: That’s a really great question! I think you can find in our drum beats on En Olam sounds like those of Dave Lombardo from Slayer, Hellhammer from Mayhem, Proscriptor from ABSU, Frost from Satyricon, and many other great drummers with special style. I work hard with our drummer to get the spirit of the greatest metal bands ever!
MoM: Beyond any artists that might have had an impact on shaping the band itself, can you tell me a little about what you guys listen to in your day-to-day lives? I’m especially interested in any non-metal music you might be into…
Butchered: Wow, a lot! Haha. There’s the new Abbath that reminds us all of the music that we grew up listening to. Then the new Rotting Christ album is really refreshing and interesting. Satyricon who were always innovative, released a great album and are frequently able to bring something new to their music. The comeback of Paradise Lost, as I call it, is one that brought them back to business for me. And the new Morbid Angel is great – finally they came back to their senses! Beside those, I’m a big fan of King Diamond, Mayhem, Emperor, Immortal, old Deicide, old Slayer, old Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost.
Beside the metal bands I mentioned above, there are a bunch of non-metal local artists who inspire us, like Ehud Banay, Yehuda Poliker. Zohar Argove, and many others…all of them are musicians with some Middle Eastern motives with a huge impact of Arallu music.
MoM: Whatever role non-metal music might play in your lives, Arallu is decidedly a metal band, and a particularly violent-sounding one at that; what fuels the fury of Arallu‘s fiery ways? What’s being channeled that summons such sinister and savage sounds?
Butchered: We live in the Middle East, man! It’s not easy here in Jerusalem and Israel. We live in days of religious war, and religious hatred inspired our music and lyrics. It all happened as the first Intifada started, when suicide bombers blew up on buses, in restaurants and even on the streets on an almost daily basis, killing hundreds of people and injuring and traumatizing thousands. You can see it very well in our video clip for “Oiled Machine of Hate” from Six. The streets of Jerusalem are filled with the blood of these people, religious and non-religious. It was a religious war all around the country. All the footage in the clip is real! The news on TV were filled with these horrifying pictures, of body parts, people screaming and burnt down buses. I remember as a child it was a very difficult for me to process, and writing the lyrics to my first album was a coping mechanism – it almost wrote itself.
MoM: Having attained such a distinct sonic signature by now, is there anything you’d still like to see Arallu experiment with in the future? Even if there doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement, there’s always room for exploration.
Butchered: We’d like to experiment with more ethnic instrumentation and sounds, to go deeper down the path we are on. We also think the next one will be faster and harsher! We have had really great experiences during all 22 years as a band; we played around Europe a few times, we supported Marduk, Behemoth, Mayhem, Satyricon, Enslaved and many others in Israel, but we have many plans for the future.
I would really like to come play Inferno Fest, Hellfest and many other big metal fests. We would really like to play in front of the Norwegian metal scene, as theirs is the kind of music that we grew up with. Playing in Great Britain will also be a dream come true for me. But the biggest dream of all for us is to come to the USA and perform there for a long tour!
MoM: If you could tour alongside any 3 bands, active or disbanded, who would you pick?
Butchered: Venom, Slayer, Mayhem.
MoM: Since we’re on the topic, if you could have any super power, what would you go with? I would also like to know more about what kind of mythological creature you might wish to be.
Butchered: Definitely Cerberus, that’s me: the keeper of Jerusalem as you enter the gates of hell.
MoM: Well, clearly I’m still reeling a bit from getting my ass kicked by En Olam and am pretty much out of brain cells to make questions with, but before I let you go: is there anything you’d like to say to our readers? If by any chance it’s ‘stop being so terrible’ or ‘obey your Master (ov Muppets)’ then don’t bother, they won’t listen.
Butchered: I really want to thank you for this great interview, and for your great words about our music in Six and En Olam, and I really hope to get into contact with the promoter who can bring Arallu to the USA or the biggest stages around Europe!
MoM: Thanks so much for your time, and for allowing us to premiere the video for “Spells” here on Angrymetalguy.com. It’s been an honor for me, even if our pesky readers are utterly unworthy.
Butchered: Haha, it’s really an honor for me and I hope to see you someday in front of the stage as we play En Olam!
And there you have it, yo’s. Loathe though I am to have shared anything special with you creeps, I thank the band for allowing us the privilege of premiering the music video for “Spells,” and I thank Butchered for his time and insight into the inner workings of Arallu. If you haven’t checked out En Olam yet,
you should be ashamed ov yourselves be sure to give the album a spin after experiencing the sonic devastation brought to life in today’s video.