Ashabah's journey into the world of international Black Metal began with a passion for its raw, exclusive aesthetic, and a desire to infuse melody and positivity into the genre. The band's eclectic lineup, occult themes, and unique sound defy conventions while remaining true to Black Metal's essence. In this interview, "Pariah," the main songwriter and lyricist, sheds light on Ashabah's inspirations and the balance between darkness and melody. Discover how this mysterious, caffeine-fueled collective seeks to challenge norms and inspire individuality, all while aspiring to become a titan in the music scene.
1. Can you tell us how Ashabah came together and what inspired you to form this international Black Metal supergroup?
I became interested in Black Metal music in college. I was really drawn to the amateur, raw, intense, and exclusive aesthetic of black metal. It was unapologetic about its sound and didn’t seek mainstream appeal. I saw the opportunity in this for artistic freedom and innovation.
I had always liked melodic guitar playing, and I had been a long time fan of melodic death metal music. At first when I discovered Black Metal I started with the big names we all know. Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem, etc. I noticed that in some of their songs, they had some really catchy riffs, however they were usually buried underneath a lot of noise and atmosphere that most Black Metal is commonly known for.
Everything changed when I eventually discovered the track “When I Died Inside” by a lesser known Finnish black metal band called “Noenum”. This track was unlike anything I had ever heard in black metal. It was melancholic, but also incredibly catchy and upbeat. It was an interesting fusion that I found appealing. This song would eventually inspire me to start my own Black Metal project.
Ultimately, I wanted to push the boundaries with this new style of song, as I believed there was a lot of potential and not many bands were doing this type of sound in black metal. I also saw a lot of potential for mainstream appeal, ironically, considering how inaccessible Black Metal is to the general public.
However there was one big problem. I did not know how to play any instruments, much less read or write music. I began by studying guitars tabs from my favorite black metal tracks. Eventually I started experimenting with different arrangements of notes and at some point along the way i’d find myself with a catchy riff.
I then proceeded to hunt for musicians to work with to record these pieces and help the songs compositionally come to life. As it turns out, there were plenty waiting for me on the internet. Thus, this is how Ashabah began and is the reason why we are so scattered across the globe.
2. Pariah, as the main songwriter and lyricist, can you shed some light on the themes and inspirations behind Ashabah's music and lyrics?
Ashabah’s occult and satanist themes stem from the mystery, inaccessibility, and provactiveness that defines black metal. Artists wear makeup and have pseudonames to disguise their identity. I liked the idea of creating a mysterious, cult-like entity. To me, it is not too different from writing under a pen name. You get the freedom to craft your own image of how you want to appear. My pseudoname, “Pariah”, is a name that partially reflects my personal life and I get to express that identity through my music.
3. Ashabah's lineup features musicians from different corners of the world. How does this diverse cultural background influence the band's creative process and sound?
In truth, I do not know how much it does. For each of the musicians I work with, I simply provide them with the music and instruct them on how it should be performed. I am not familiar enough with regional differences in music to comment on this accurately. I can say that this band was not created to be so diverse on purpose, it was just happenstance based on who I connected with online.
4. Ashabah's music is described as defying black metal's typical conventions. How do you strike a balance between the raw, aggressive, and atmospheric essence of black metal and the catchy, rhythmic 80's heavy metal riffs?
I think there are some clear themes that keep you firmly within black metal territory. Namely, satanism, aggressive lyrics, fast tempo drums with lots of blast beats, tremelo picked guitar riffs, and shrieking vocals. I’ve definitely made those traits a part of Ashabah as much as I can. However, black metal guitar riffs are usually far too dissonant for my tastes. They usually lack melody and tend to be simple chords or notes that are meant to contribute primarily to the atmosphere of the song.
I was never really into the “wall of sound” style of black metal where the guitar is buried in the mix. Electric guitar is by far my favorite instrument, and I love guitar playing that strikes a balance between speed, catchiness, aggressiveness, and melody. Most of my favorite riffs come primarily from bands such as In Flames and Iron Maiden because they seem to capture all those traits perfectly.
When I discovered Noenum though, I discovered that when you mix those riffs with a melancholic undertone, you get a very unique and interesting sound.
First and foremost, when I write riffs I always write them as a standalone, catchy tune and build from there. By circumstance, what I find catchy also sounds a lot like the riffs from my favorite 80’s bands. Mix in some inspiration from Noenum and you get Ashabah’s riffs. It somehow ends up still sounding like black metal, but you can hear my musical inspiration clearly in the songs.
5. The influence of Finnish black metal bands like Noenum and Horna is evident in Ashabah's music. What draws you to these influences, and how do you incorporate them into your own style?
I love that they try to sound a bit different from other black metal. Most black metal bands are all doom and gloom and the intensity of the aggression and darkness is turned up to the maximum. Horna and Noenum feature quite a few songs in their discography that are genuinely just upbeat, catchy songs. Something you could find yourself humming to yourself after hearing it. I realized this quality makes for very good music, and I liked the idea of infusing melody into black metal and blurring the traditional norms of the genre.
I incorporate them into my music by first studying the tabs and learning how they make that sound. I then toy with the sound and add my own spin on things. Ultimately my music sounds very unique because I am purposefully being experimental. I wanted to experiment with sounds that aren’t common in black metal and really take that idea to the next level. The result of which is what you see in Ashabah.
6. Ashabah's music has been praised for its versatility and mass appeal across different metal sub-genres. How do you maintain this balance while staying true to the black metal roots?
I never really made this music to appeal to any particular genre. My music taste has always been incredibly broad. Across metal, I have really enjoyed the thrash, NWOBHM, power and melodic death metal sub genres. Ultimately, this ends up reflecting in my music, and thus my music ends up appealing to fans of those genres.
7.What are your thoughts on the contemporary black metal scene, and where do you see Ashabah fitting into it?
I don’t really pay much attention to the contemporary scene. If i’m being honest, I don’t really care about what’s going on in it either. I’m not as interested in the general happenings of the scene as much as I am interested in exploring new music that appeals to my tastes. I’m always hunting for new music that features catchy riffs, whether it is black, thrash, or melodic death. This is where I draw my inspiration from and thus where I spend most of my time and energy.
I don’t really care where Ashabah ends up fitting in the contemporary scene. Primarily my concern is finding the fans of my music and continuing to deliver them what they love to hear. I enjoy making this style of music, and even better if I get to share that joy with others.
8. Lyrically, how do you navigate the balance between the darkness and aggression of black metal with the more melodic elements in your music?
All the lyrics in my music are firmly in black metal territory. While my guitar’s are melodic, my lyrics don’t stray from black metal themes. I knew from the start I wanted an occult black metal band, and the lyrics would be at the center of that.
9. Do you have any unique rituals or traditions as a band that help solidify your collective identity and inspire your creativity?
All of my music was written on heavy doses of caffeine. I’m not sure what it is, but caffeine turns me into a riff writing machine. Most of my best songs were written while I stayed up all night drinking coffee or energy drinks. Once you find a riff that you know is golden, you don’t want to stop writing until you have a whole song. That’s how I see it anyways, because inspiration and creativity can be fleeting.
10. What specific gear or instruments do you use to achieve your signature sound, and how important is the equipment you use in shaping your music?
All of the gear and instruments is handled by my band mates. I don’t touch any of it. As long as they can get the sound I am going for that’s all that matters. For guitar, I specifically went for a low-fi/distorted sound in the vein of Burzum. Or at least that’s what I requested from my guitarist. For what it’s worth, I’m happy with how everything turned out.
11. Can you share any plans or aspirations for the future of Ashabah, including upcoming releases, or other projects we should be looking out for?
My plan is to grow as large as possible and become a titan in the scene. I am confident in my music and I know it has mass appeal. I feel like i’ve landed on my own unique sound that really does have immense potential. I plan to release a 2nd album some time in the next few years as my album continues to grow in popularity and I acquire the funds to produce said album. I will need time to work on riffs and find inspiration after this most recent album, and that will require a lot of time if I ever hope to top my debut album.
12. Finally, what message or emotions do you hope your music conveys to your listeners, and what do you want them to take away from the experience of listening to Ashabah?
Ignore what others think and create what you want to create. Don’t give a fuck about what society thinks and believe what you want to believe. Be who you want to be. And most importantly, always look for melody and positivity, even in the darkest places.