If you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, you may recognize the name Alhazred, as in Abdul Alhazred, the “Mad Arab” from the Cthulhu stories. Alhazred is also the name of a fairly new Baltimore area technical death metal group.
The first time I encountered Alhazred was at the December 7, 2011 Obscura show at Sonar. I don’t exactly remember how we connected, but somehow prior to that show, I became friends with Alhazred’s drummer James Spaeth on Facebook. I intended to see Alhazred open, but instead, I ended up having dinner with Obscura and I missed their set entirely. (This will be the subject of another blog post.)
But I picked up a rough demo from James that night and those three songs went into regular rotation on my iTunes playlist. Every time Alhazred would come up in the mix, I would stop what I was doing and check to see what band it was. The songwriting, the musicianship and the production were so great on their little demo that I always, ALWAYS thought it was a song from a more well established death metal group but I just could not place it.
Over the next eight months, I attempted to get to one of Alhazred’s live shows, but the stars never aligned. Eventually, I met all the band members around town at various shows, and they were a wonderfully nice. I sure hoped their live performance did not suck, because that would just be awkward, now wouldn’t it?
It was not until August 19, 2012 when Misery Index and Vital Remains headlined the Ottobar that I finally got to see Alhazred live. They brutalized their set from start to finish, and I mean that in a good way. James, who always seems to be smiling, looked equally happy to be laying down some pretty complex rhythms. His beats produced the perfect punchy counterpoint to bassist Josh Stein heavy bottom lines. Galloping atop this solid and relentless rhythmic foundation were the dueling vocals and balanced guitar shredding of David Morgan and Christopher Fink. Lyrically, the songs are intelligent and thought provoking, focusing on apocalyptic and social themes. The overall effect is a death metal force to be reckoned with. Their sound is incredibly tight and remarkably distinctive for a band that’s been together less than 12 months.
It is important to note, as James did recently on his Facebook, that “(i)n less than a year Alhazred has managed to open for Abysmal Dawn, Obscura, Dying Fetus, Revocation, Landmine Marathon,Vital Remains, & Misery Index!!! And to think, next month we are playing with HAVOK & Skeletonwitch!!!”
|(photo by Rachael Foote)|
This is no small feat, and if you like bands like Obscura and Revocation, Alhazred will fit right in and still stand out. It’s fitting then that since I have actually witnessed a performance, to write something about this emerging band. I sent David Morgan some questions. Here’s what he had to say.
Where did Alhazred get their start?
David Morgan: Chris and I had been writing music together for a few years, and we had a difficult time finding like-minded musicians in the area to actually form a band. Last summer we finally decided to put up some fliers in local music stores in search of a drummer and a bassist and James saw one we posted at Guitar Center in Glen Burnie and gave us a call. We jammed with him and he ended up being a perfect fit for the type of music that we play. I had known Josh through a mutual friend for a few years, and I gave him a call and he worked out just as well and filled the bass position for us.
What were you doing before Alhazred? What other bands have you played in?
David Morgan: Shortly before he joined Alhazred, James played in a local power metal band called Cyberstrike and a few years ago Chris actually played drums in a post-hardcore band called More Watership Down. Chris plays many different types of music on many different instruments but he loves death metal just as much as we do. Josh and myself have played in other bands before but none that have actually made it out of the basement.
What are your musical influences?
David Morgan: We have many different influences in this band. We love all different sub-genres of extreme metal, and I think many of these influences show whether it be death metal, black metal, melodic death metal, thrash, or progressive/technical death metal. We do the best we can to blend these influences tastefully and seamlessly while trying to create a sound of our own. As far as bands that influence us, I’d say that Death, Behemoth, Carcass, and Misery Index are probably those that are the most prominent in our sound.
Who writes the music?
David Morgan: As of now Chris and I are writing most of the music and lyrics but Josh and James definitely give us their input as far as composition and share lyrical ideas with as well. We just recently moved into a rehearsal space so we have more flexibility as to when we can all get together so Josh and James will probably be taking a larger role in the writing process from now on.
Tell me about your first show, the one I was supposed to see.
David Morgan: Our first (Baltimore) show was actually a pretty big deal for us. We somehow managed to get on a bill with Obscura, Abysmal Dawn, and Enfold Darkness at Sonar last December. It was actually a pretty big deal for us and it was also the first time Josh and I ever performed on stage. Although we were all a bit nervous and stiff on stage, we played the handful of songs we had at the time very well and all in all it was a good show.
What is coming up next for you?
David Morgan: For the rest of the year we’ll be finishing writing our first full length and begin recording and playing shows in between. We’re expecting an early 2013 release, but we’ll see what happens. As for next year we’ll be trying to get the album out there and hopefully start playing out of state a little bit and start building an audience outside of Maryland. Aside from that we’re really just always trying to play shows, make friends, and have good times.
What has been the craziest thing that has happened to Alhazred so far?
David Morgan: We haven’t really had too many crazy things happen to us just yet because we’ve only all been playing together for almost a year now. Give us some time though and wait until we’re able to spend some time on the road and I’m sure we’ll have many crazy stories to share.
Who would you love to play a show with?
David Morgan: We’ve already had the opportunity to warm up the stage for many bands that we look up to such as Obscura, Abysmal Dawn, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, and we’ll be playing with Skeletonwitch at the end of September (September 29 at The Ottobar). It would definitely be amazing to play with someone like Behemoth or Carcass on one of the few shows that they play or to just play at Maryland Deathfest would be an honor. I’d say that we dream more of who we’d be able to play for than who we’d be able to play with. We would love to be able to do our fair share of touring and make friends all over the place in the US and overseas and visit places we’ve never been before. Playing some of those huge Euro-fests such as Wacken or Hellfest would be surreal.
Where can people find your music?
David Morgan: People interested in hearing us can download our four song demo for free at alhazred.bandcamp.com and if you like what you hear, keep an eye out for our debut full length which will be available in the not too distant future and come check us out live. We always keep our Facebook page updated with upcoming shows so follow us on there if you’re interested. Thanks!