Mashhad Prog-Death – Azooma Interviewed

It is possible you haven’t heard of Azooma. If so, it is because you don’t know your Iranian progressive death metal. Hailing from Mashhad, the band has been active for over ten years, but only just now released their debut fullength The Act of Eye on Xtreem Records. Luckily, Archaic Triad and the band are here to rectify the problem you have with ignorance of Iranian metal, with this pleasant little Q&A. After some quick prejudice busting (don’t worry, no need to tweet, it’s perfectly harmless), we got some fine insight into a brilliant band and their thoughts on their music, lyrics, and future.

This is a question I’m sure gets old and boring real quick, but as a Western music media outlet, we have to ask it. How does one play death metal in Iran? I assume it isn’t illegal per se, but I’d also guess many people around you are not entirely comfortable with your look, music and attitude? Can there be problems with the authorities?
Actually it’s like any other place in the world. Those who are interested in playing metal music together can gather and play. We don’t get any problems because of our looks here. We walk the streets with long hair, and wearing metal band T-Shirts and no one bothers us or make us feel uncomfortable by staring at us. Being a metal head or playing metal music doesn’t cause you any problems here.

You have been playing for more than ten years, but have only released an EP and one full length album so far. Will there be more in the near future?
We have always wanted to be on a level which satisfies ourselves from all aspects – musically, when it comes to sound, recording and things like that. So we’ve tried to practice as much as we can, and we still do, because we always want to get better and improve ourselves. Of course we recorded a demo in the past but we didn’t release it because we thought it wasn’t good enough. Surely we want to and think about releasing other albums in future and actually we’re thinking about the story of our next album too in these days.

What bands, death metal and other, do you regularly listen to, and which do you think may have influenced your song writing process?
We listen to almost every genre, and we don’t limit ourselves to listen to any specific one. When any of us discovers a new band or something interesting he plays the album or the songs for others and when we don’t play or practice, there’s always one of us behind the PC playing music for others. There are many bands which have influenced us, such as Opeth, Death, Pantera, King Crimson, Metallica, Kreator, Testament, Iron Maiden and so many others.

Your style is really very original, which is rare with bands from countries with young or very small metal scenes. How did you decide to play this highly technical, almost progressive death metal, rather than more common grind/death?
When someone mentions highly technical Death Metal, we think of bands like Obscura, Faceless or Gorod. We don’t think we are that technical. We didn’t intend to have our style labeled as Progressive Death Metal, we just wanted to create something new, something which no one had heard before.

How is the Persian metal scene? Is it big enough to have different cliques (death metallers, black metallers, punks…), or is there a sense of community between different subcultural groups?
There are many metal bands in different subgenres in Iran. You can check them out on the Internet, for example on metal-archives.com. We have contact with each other too. We lend accessories or instruments to each other, and jam together sometimes too.

Your song titles and lyrics are rather intellectual and poetic, if it’s not just me that’s stupid. Could you tell us a bit about them?
Our EP and album are both conceptual, and each tells a story throughout the songs. The song titles point to the part of the story described in the song. We decided to choose titles in a way which weren’t too direct, so they can be used as metaphors as well. All of us have been interested in horror stories, movies and even comics since our childhood. So we wanted to created something scary too. We also want our music to be such that when a person listens to it, he can imagine the story in his mind and actually see the frames or scenes of it, like reading a novel.

How much time do you spend rehearsing, recording etc. with the band? From other interviews with you I gather the band is quite important to all of you on a personal level.
We try to practice daily, and we play for our own satisfaction. It doesn’t have any specific duration or time. It’s really important to us that we share our ideas and thoughts with each other. For instance, during the recording of The Act of Eye some parts of the songs were changed many times, until they sounded perfect to ourselves.

Do any of you have any other musical projects, or is there no time? Perhaps Azooma is enough of a creative outlet for you guys?
We’d like to have experiences and other musical projects in other genres, not just Metal. But for now none of us participate in other side projects.

Are you interested in Persian/Iranian history? It is a colorful one, to say the least, and especially ancient such history is extremely interesting, I find.
Of course we are interested in the history of our country, who isn’t? We have rich a history and background. But because we want anyone who listens to our music, from any place, to be able to feel close to it we have tried to make our music and the stories told in it such that they have no particular location or time.

I haven’t been able to locate any demo releases from you, and I assume that you didn’t just meet Dave Rotten in Teheran one day, so how did you end up signed with Xtreem Records? How has it been working out so far?
We recorded our EP “A Hymn of the Vicious Monster” and were looking for a label to distribute it way back. We had a friend who writes articles for a musical webzine, and he helped us with it. He sent the songs to Dave Rotten, and he liked our songs, so we signed a contract with Xtreem Records. We have contacts with him through e-mail, and we want to mention that he’s one of the coolest and greatest guys in the music industry. He loves Metal.

We know you guys have played in Georgia and in Turkey. Will we be seeing you live in Europe any time soon?
For us one of the greatest feelings you can have is to see the reactions of the people who listen to our songs, directly in concert. That moment when you see a person who enjoys your music, or headbanging with joy to your songs, is the thing that shows us that despite of all difficulties we have faced we chose the right path for ourselves. We love to play everywhere, and we’d like to have opportunities to perform live in Europe too. We have sent e-mails to some festivals in Europe too, including Tuska in Finland, but we haven’t been confirmed, maybe because we’re not famous enough or still being unknown. Sometimes there’s the problem that some countries in Europe don’t even issue Visas for us.

How does a perfect night out look for the Azooma band members?
Whatever we do, because we are together and we do it together can be perfect for us.

What plans do you have for the future?
We really like it when each performance and live show has it’s own concept and story, and we wish to be able to create visuals and stage decorations in a way which relates to the story and its own atmosphere. Our previous EP and this album told a story, and for sure our future works will too. We also wish and hope that we’ll be able to make comic books, board games or other things. There are even times when we imagine ourselves making a TV series or a movie from the stories of our albums.

That was pretty much it from us. If you’ve got something to say which we forgot to ask about, feel free to do so now. Thank you for your time!
Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity and interview. We hope we will have a gig in your country in the near future! Keep on going. Keep Metal alive. Stay crazy.

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