In the past couple of years, I have discovered quite a few killer metal bands from Pakistan. I interviewed Multinational Corporations and Dionysus last year. I heard about Islamabad based heavy metal band Blackhour through my friend Kunal Choksi. He has released their second album “Sins Remain” through the distribution arm of his label Transcending Obscurity. I was reminded of bands like Iron Maiden and Saxon listening to the album .
I spoke to the band about “Sins Remain”, being a metal band in Pakistan, performing with Bumblefoot and their plans for this year.
Hi guys, you started the band in in 2007. How did you’ll get together? Are you’ll from the same school/college?
Hashim: So Blackhour started in 2007 when I was in college and recently started playing Iron Maiden licks. At that point I had a vision to make songs that people would sing along to and me along with a few friends got to gather to form a band which had no name… Just a school band to be honest. As luck would have it, we were that one bad band which was boo-ed off stage but it wasn’t going to kill my passion for making music
One year later, me and my brother Diam (Drummer) decided to take things seriously and by late 2008 BLACKHOUR came into existence and it wasn’t until 2010 that the final line-up as our fans know it now, was formed with Tayyab Rehman as vocalist, Salman Afzal on Bass, Mashoo and myself on guitars and little baby bro on drums.
Blackhour indeed started as a bedroom project but with newer musicians from outside our college social circle joining in, Blackhour became bigger and in the early 2012 after release of Age of War album, when Manager, Hassaan Ahmed joined the band… shit just went serious Hahaha!
It is not easy being a band in Pakistan. What are the struggles you faced so far?
Tayyab Rehman: I guess to say at a broader perspective, it is not easy being a musician in any corner of the world, and being in Pakistan brings about a whole new level of challenges. With the local music scene mostly dominated by classical and pop genre, to be a musician in a heavy metal band is like playing in a hockey team with a cricket Bat.
To our surprise we had support from our loved ones but some close friends always forced us to adopt urdu as our lyrical content and make songs more “Listenable” but we knew what we wanted to achieve with our music and we took a big leap of faith. At the end of the day the biggest struggle of being a heavy metal band from Pakistan, is the exposure. The music never gets heard at the level we want it to… but we would try our best to break the boundaries and make a mark!
Your second album “Sins Remain” is out now. It takes further the sound from your debut release “Age of War”. Tell us more about your latest release.
Hashim: The second album was a challenge for the band. With Age of War, it was just me, Tayyab and Hasan Rauf (ex-member) who were involved in the writing process so it was easy to carry. But with this one we decided that each member should bring about their creative process into the songwriting and thus, each song is so much different from the other that you get to hear the versatility of each member.
The title track Sins Remain, is by far our favorite track and it is the brainchild of the most silent member of the band, Slaman Afzal, and I will let him talk about the concept and what not.
Salman Afzal: Umm… well I had this melody which I made back in college and me and Hashim used to jam to it, and it just had a nice ring to it.. When Hashim came with the idea that each member has to put in an individual song in the album, I was actually taken aback. I tried working out various licks but nothing had the “IT” factor, so one night while randomly playing my acoustic guitar the riff for Sins Remain was unleashed on the fret board and I knew it, THIS WAS GOING TO BE MY SONG! We experimented a lot on this song and perhaps spent the most time in structuring it and relating the music with the lyrical content. In fact it is the first song from Pakistan and I dare say from Asia that utilizes the Pashto folk instrument “Rubab” in a metal song which added to the progressive feel of the song.
It is the combination of the whole band’s involvement and the versatility that the song had to offer that we went with Sins Remain as the album title!
How did you go about recording “Sins Remain”? Are there many recording studios for metal music in Pakistan?
Mashoo: The Sins Remain recording process was a rather interesting fatigue because at the time we had tied up with other bands to experiment on different live concerts, and while handling concert/show organizing, our manager was up our asses to finalize the recording for Sins Remain album. We started by setting up our own recording studio, so this was a first for Blackhour to record its own music on their own. Two upbeat songs, Battle Cry and Wind of Change were produced at a good friend, Fahad Humayun from Dissbeleif’s (an alternative rock band from Islamabad) studio – Bracket Productions, who did an amazing job at handling them and the raw feel that we wanted out of these two songs.
For the remaining three songs, we recorded them through a series of ups and downs at our own studios. The writing process had been finalized during the start of 2015 and we were perfecting our songs via live performances to know the studio sound we want. Finally in late September we collaborated with Mr. Saiban Khaliq – Vocalist/Guitarist for Revolt (A death metal band from Islamabad) for the production of the three songs and I still remember the late nights Hashim and Daim used to spend at the producer’s basement to perfect the sound we wanted and I think if not a 100%, we managed to get a good 80% of the raw/live feel in our produced songs.
Hashim: As for recording studios for metal music in Pakistan, as mashoo highlighted, such studios are majorly operated by metal band members… because they understand the music and given the resources are able to extract that sound for other heavy metal bands, and these studios are usually home studios. Don’t get me wrong though, there are formal recording studios as well, but for a metal band like ourselves, affording the formal studio is through the roof so it is the community that helps each other with production, recording etc. And pretty sure there will be a Blackhour Studio to look forward as well.
“Sins Remain” is being released by Transcending Obscurity distribution. How did the deal come about?
Hassaan: Well Blackhour is all about creating a community for metal music and with this, we tied up with Tejali, a good friend from India, to act as Blackhour’s representative in India. It was her brilliant efforts while working as a full time Architect that she linked up Mr. Kunal Choksi with the band and I guess he liked our music which took further our deal. What’s interesting is that the relationship with TO Distribution is more of a very friendly and collaborative venture as opposed to a suit and tie formal business deals. Mr. Kunal understands well what the band is capable of and has helped us out reach a bigger audience.
The metal scene in Pakistan is slowly picking up in the past couple of year. I’ve really enjoyed listening to bands like Multinational Corporations and Dionysus. What are other bands from Pakistan that you recommend?
Diam: Pakistan’s metal scene though very underground is still enriched with some really amazing bands ranging from death metal, grind core to some really progressive alternative rock bands as well. Some of the amazing bands that I would recommend anyone exploring the Pakistani Metal Scene will be; Blackhour (have to tell them about my band lol), Revolt, Inferner, Tak-a-Tak, Ehl-e-Rock, Dissbelief and Qayyas.
In August last year, you performed alongside guitarist Bumblefoot at Lok Virsa Open Air Theater in Islamabad. How was the experience?
Tayyab: FUCKING AMAZING! These are the words that kept repeating in my mind, as I went around answering this question. I guess there are no words to define how out of the world it felt. Bumblefoot is indeed a legendary guitar player and to be alongside on the stage with him, well again FUCKING AMAZING. Despite being on stage, the interaction with him off stage and during jam sessions was an eye-opener for the band. We have never met a musician so down to earth and true to music as him. We really hope to share the stage with him soon. And for us it was an honor, that he flew all the way to Pakistan, despite how the country is portrayed in the media, he took the risk and performed and interacted with the musicians here! Honestly, I did not want that show to end to say the least!
What are your plans for this year?
Hashim: We are planning to go about promoting Sins Remain via performing live. In fact last year in November 2015 we did a national launch of the album by organizing Pakistan’s first ever theatrical concert, where each song of the album was complimented by live on-stage theatrical performances (directed by The Insane Production House), while the band performed live. So we are planning to take this setting and perform this show across all the major cities of the country. Along with that we are trying to perhaps play live across the borders as well.. I guess our Manager can help us with that if he moves off of his lazy butt! Other than that, we are also playing at an upcoming music festival of Pakistan (One of the biggest in the country), Music Mela, in late April.
But beyond the live shows we are also planning to start working on a new album. The Writing process has already started during the production of Sins Remain… So there is a lot more of BLACKHOUR to witness this year and the years ahead to come!
Stay up to date with Blackhour on their facebook page and check out their video for the track “Battle Cry” below
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