The band Marijannah hails from Singapore and plays a very fresh and catchy style of stoner/doom. Inspired by films, their music is captivating, playful and a bit unnerving at times. Havint checked out their recent release, I needed to know more about them.
Signed to Pink Tank Records, their ‘Till Marijannah’ is well worth a spin if you haven’t heard it yet. To get you started, first learn something more about the band and where they come from.
Marijannah takes you to Paradise
Hey Marijannah, how’s everything going?
How did your band get started and where does the name come from?
We all individually wanted to try something different outside the usual styles of music we’ve been playing for years in each of our respective bands and this is something we’ve never created before.
The name is sort of an accidental double entendre initially. It loosely translates to “come to paradise” in Malay, which is a native language where we’re from and it’s also bluntly a pun to you-know-what.
What inspired you to make this particular sound your own? To me ,it feels very much like a mixture of classic psychedelic rock with a hint of occult rock on a thick slab of stoner, which together gives off this timeless sound. What do you think?
I don’t know if we do but if anybody thinks we sound any different from the usual stoner/doom, it’s really just because half of us never regularly listened to this style of music up until like a year ago. We all have roots in different genres. Some of us come from a punk/emo/hardcore background and some of us almost strictly listen to extreme metal so it’s truly a mash of clashing influences.
Can you tell me how you wrote and recorded the album ‘Till Marijannah’? How did the process go and what sort of working method do you have?
Rasyid writes most of the music and I write the lyrics. We record riffs on our shitty phones and send them to each other on a daily basis and dig em out when we need to. There was quite a bit of spontaneity in the studio as well, using weird, new pedals and ancient gongs lying around the room.
I’m interested to learn what inspired the four separate songs. They all have a distinct quality and theme but differ a lot. So what stories and inspiration did you use for each? I’m particularly interested in All Hallow’s Eve.
Lyrically, they’re all tributes to films. I’m a big “film buff” and they go hand in hand with heavy music aesthetically. All Hallow’s Eve is of course about John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and the “Laurie” mentioned is Laurie Strode, portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in the series.
Tell me more about the artwork. Who did it and what inspired it? I originally thought I was going to listen to something more like Yes!
Again, it was a mash of very different ideas we all had individually backed and executed by a very talented artist in mr. Riandy Karuniawan. Like most metal musicians, we like sci-fi imagery and mystical shit so there’s that.
What sort of response did you get this far to the record and what future plans do you currently have?
They’ve been almost all positive from what I’m aware of. I don’t really pay much attention to reviews, I think the record is dope and so does most of my friends who have a good taste. We’re working on new material right now and have been jamming about 5-6 new tunes, probably aiming to enter the studio by August. We’ll be announcing a short tour really soon, maybe it’ll be announced by the time this interview is out and we have another planned for the year’s end.
Is having a Rasyid in Wormrot in any way limiting for what you can do with Marijannah? Do you feel that your other bands in general have an influence on your output?
Not at all. Neither band is looking to be super busy or touring full-time and I think the rotation works well for Rasyid and the rest of us. I think its inevitable that we will share certain influences amongst our bands, we’re the same people as we are in other projects, just expressed differently through multiple entities.
What is currently happening in the heavy scene of Singapore that the world really should not miss out on? Like exciting bands etc?
Radiant Archery, Bethari, Hollowthreat, HRVST, Yumi, Zodd. None of them are similar to us but all worth checking out.
If you had to compare Marijannah to a dish, what would it be and why?
Bolognese. Rustic, traditional, timeless, best served hot and consumed wearing dark-coloured clothing.
Label: Pink Tank Records
Band: Marijannah Origin: Singapore
Marijannah is a project that features members from Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult. As their bio says, two of the hardest touring bands from the island nation Singapore. As it often is, these gents had an itch to do something different. That is, to play stoner/doom, which they do surprisingly well and now on their first record ‘Till Marijannah’.
The band started out in 2016 and it being a side-project, took its time to really get going with their heavy, psychedelic sound and release a record. Sounding rather classical and hazy, this band definitely harks back to the retro-doom sound you hear coming up on and off. Think of bands like The Sword and maybe even a bit of that St. Vitus or Goatsnake vibe. It’s helluvalot catchy.
The foundation of the sound Marijannah offers is a rock-melting buzz of bass and drums, that never lets up. A solid stoner bass on which to build the tunes so to say, like the classics. The lyrics are steeped in horror influences with an occult flavor on opener ‘1974’ and the following ‘Snakecharmer’. It’s really comfortable music to sink into and just ride its waves as you listen to their spaced out sounds. I have to point out the cover, with an interesting color pattern. Definitely does its job too.
Powerful repetition shapes the track ‘Bride of Mine’, which even harks a bit to the sound of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats with its snarling, whiny sound that just clings to you. The snide sound of the track is pretty catchy. ‘All Hallows End’ is the strange big rock anthem on this record. It stands out like a sore thumb, which is exactly what makes it so interesting. The emotional vocals and the ooh and aah backing makes for a pleasant outro, with creepy lyrics of course.
The charm of Marijannah is that they don’t do anything overly complex. It’s pretty straight forward stuff, but with a tinge of their very own mystery. Looking forward to seeing this live.
Some bands carve their own path in this world and very rarely one creates a very own style and genre. Rudra from Singapore does, with their unique sounding Vedic metal music. Blending thrash, death and black with folk elements to create a unique sound from their small city-state in Southeast Asia.
Singapore has quite a scene, but Rudra seems to set itself apart musically and aesthetically. The city-state is also extremely densely populated, with a high life quality and a vast influx of world cultures. I asked Kathir, singer and bass player a couple of questions about their music, the meaning behind it and their 25-year existence and more.
Thanks to Kunal Choksi from TranscendingObscurity, for helping realize this interview. This is Vedic metal. This is Rudra.
Rudra: Vedic metal from Singapore
Hello! Could you kindly start by introducing yourself? Can you tell us how the band got started and how you guys got together?
Kathir: I am Kathir, the bassist, and vocalist of the band. The band was formed in 1992 and since then the line-up has gone through a couple of changes. The drummer Shiva and I have remained in the band since its formation. Shiva and I met back in school in 1991 and we immediately got along for our common love for rock music and metal.
What bands influenced your music? I understand that you sort of carved out your own niche, but what metal acts inspired you.
Kathir: As much as we have created a niche for ourselves, it has been the usual suspects that inspired us. Slayer has been the single biggest influence in our early years as well as early Sepultura, Obituary, Bathory, Megadeth, Death, BlackSabbath, Kreator, and Destruction.
So how is Rudra doing? Your last full length came out in 2016. Can you tell us about the album ‘Enemy of Duality’?
Kathir: We just crossed our 25th year of existence. We are currently busy recording our next release which is going to be an EP of covers of six bands that inspired us. We are also releasing a compilation of tracks from our first 5 years which will be entitled ‘Past Life Regression’ and a third release called the ‘ Black Isle Sessions’ which will feature tracks that were played live and re-recorded in the Black Isle Studios. The year 2018 will be a year of renewal by consolidating our past and preparing for the future.
‘ Enemy of Duality’ is another concept album based on a very old Sanskrit text ‘Mandukya Karika’. It is really a special album because it brings back the fusion of Indian instrumentation and modalities into our music. It has been very well received. Having existed for 25 years, it is pretty difficult to incorporate new songs into our live setlist. But a couple of songs have emerged to be crowd favorites from this album.
How do you guys approach the creation, writing and recording process of your music? Does everyone have separate roles or is there a clear order and set of tasks?
Kathir: It has become pretty organic. Everyone contributes to the song writing. With the recent albums, we became more emergent in the song writing process allowing our ideas to emerge in the studio. We stopped walking in prepared with riffs and ideas.
You guys have been around for 25 years, congratulations. Can you tell me what has changed in your music and world as a band over this period?
Kathir: Thank you. One big shift that took place in the 5th year was the clear niche we created for ourselves via Vedic Metal. Since then we have been consistent in playing our brand of Death/Black Metal. With the sole exception of ‘Rta’, our 7th album, every album is of the same vein with varying production value. We have worked with different producers at times to renew our sound and sometimes produced it ourselves. Rta is the only album that brought an epic feel to our music and stood out from our other albums.
Your style has been labeled as Vedic metal. Can you explain in your own words what that means and also what it means to you?
Kathir: We came up with this term to denote the fusion of metal with ancient Indian philosophy and Indian classical music modalities. Our lyrics also revolve around the theme of ancient Vedic philosophy as well.
Can you tell me more about the Vedic mysticism and sacrifices, particularly what you bring into the music? Like me, many listeners and readers will be rather unfamiliar with its meaning and content, so can you offer an explanation? A little historical background would be very interesting too.
Kathir: The Vedas are very ancient texts in the Sanskrit language. They primarily deal with four subjects which are hymns, rituals/sacrifices, meditations, and philosophy. These texts go as far back as 2500 BCE. Rudra’s lyrical themes revolve around the fourth subject which is philosophy or also called the Upanishads in Sanskrit. The philosophy deals with existential topics such as the source of the universe, nature of the world and the Self-knowledge. We have primarily focused on Self-knowledge as the theme of most of our lyrics.
Now, I know that Hinduism, which is your main theme, has many faces. How in your own view does it match with heavy metal music? Where is the click for you?
Kathir: Hinduism is a big word and it does not have a monolithic set of beliefs or philosophy. It has evolved over thousands of years and at times quite unrecognizable from its ancient roots. However, it is the philosophical aspects of Hinduism which clicks for us as a band, in specific the philosophy of non-dualism. We find non-dualism radical enough to be presented via metal.
I hear some traditional instruments in your music, also some interesting structures. How do you put the two things together?
Kathir: These are instruments we have listened to since we were kids. So it was quite natural for us to imagine these ideas before even fusing them with metal. But what made it easy was working with expert musicians.
I particularly like how you guys have records with a distinct look and feel. The artwork really promises a new experience, something unknown and at times even a bit unnerving. I really enjoy that aspect. How much work goes into that and how does this whole vision come together?
Kathir: We spend a great deal of time finding the right fit for the music and the cover art. It needs to make sense to us. And there is much interpretation that goes into the choice of artwork as well as its final form. For example, the artwork for ‘Enemy of Duality’ presents an ancient form of the Indian drum and a trident is tied to it. The three spokes of the trident represent the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. The base of the three spokes is a singular rod which represents the fourth state of Self or non-duality. Together it indicates the causal relationship between the three states and the Self. The drums attached to it represents the sound of the Vedas which become the means to know the Self. This is a typical example of how we come up with design and artworks.
As I understand it, your band has even become a topic for scholarly interest and academics have started noticing you. Can you give some examples and what does it mean for you to get such recognition?
Kathir: It definitely means a lot that we have gotten the attention of musicologists as well. Although as metalheads we do not look for acceptance or mainstream appeal, this attention we got definitely shows that metal, as well as Vedic metal, is worth a deeper study from a musical and anthropological sense.
I’d like to ask you about playing metal music in Singapore. How did the metal scene, in general, get started there? Which bands next to yourselves really pioneered it and is there (in your view) a distinct sound for Singapore bands?
Kathir: The metal scene started in Singapore with bands like RustyBlade in the mid-80’s. After which a new wave of underground metal bands emerged in the late 80’s and early 90’s which inspired us. The bands from this period that inspired us were Martyrdom (RIP), SilentSorrow (RIP), StompingGround (RIP), Lycanthropy (RIP), Morbific (RIP), OppositionParty, GlobalChaos (RIP), Savage (RIP) and Anesthesia (RIP). I do not recall any of these bands had a distinct sound but they sounded just like the bands from the western worlds. And that was what precisely impressed us.
From online sources, I understand there’s a vast metal scene in your country. What does the metal scene in Singapore look like? Is it divided by genre or regions in any way? Are there plenty of venues and rehearsal spaces? Also, is there any form of censorship or public dislike towards extreme metal music, as there is in many places around the world?
Kathir: The current state of the metal scene is pretty good. There are perhaps more serious bands in the scene than perhaps ten years ago. This could be due to the fact that recording and releasing music have gotten a lot less expensive these days. This had created more serious bands that went on to record their music. The scene is pretty united but just that the metal scene hangouts vanished in the 90s. There used to be hangouts where bands used to gather to talk about what’s happening in the scene as well as new discoveries. That’s how we discovered new bands. These days, the internet has replaced this purpose. The metal scene is here is not split into genres. Bands from different metal sub-genres share the same stage. The censorship to has lightened since the 90’s, as well as national funds, have been created for bands to support their music creation. Perhaps we are at the most opportunistic time in Singapore’s music history.
I understand most of you guys have side projects. Would you be willing to tell something about those and how they fit in with playing in Rudra?
Kathir: We do not get too involved in side projects as we did ten years ago due to priorities such as business and family. However, Vinod and I play in The Wandering Ascetic currently. That’s about it for now.
What bands from Singapore should people really check out (and why)?
Kathir: Witchseeker cause they play good old Thrash. Assault because of their new album rocks. Wormrot needs no introduction.
You’ve released an album, titled ‘The Aryan Crusade’. Now, I know that this term has various different meanings, but since people from various places might read this, can you comment on what that means for you to prevent misunderstandings. Also, is there any political element to your music?
Kathir: Firstly there is neither any political nor nationalist element in our music. Secondly, I want to thank you for asking this question. In around 2004-5 one of our fans was confronted by a couple of guys for wearing the Aryan Crusade t-shirt. The bunch of guys assumed that he was a neo-Nazi. At the time of releasing the ‘Aryan Crusade’, we deliberately named the album so, to educate the metal world about the usage of the word Aryan. The word Aryan is explicitly a Sanskrit word, used in Vedic, Jain and Buddhist traditions. The word was not used to denote a race but people of a certain character. The early Vedic definition of an Aryan would be someone who led a highly structured life performing sacrifices to be in harmony with a universal order called Dharma. Therefore, the Vedic perspective refers to a noble quality born out of an appreciation of this order and not something inherited genetically. That’s how we used the word for that album as well as the opening song on that album, ‘Aryaputra’.
What future plans does Rudra have?
Kathir: We will be spending the second half of 2018 writing the next album and hopefully release it in early 2019.
If you had to compare yourself to a dish (a type of food), what would it be and why?
Kathir: This is the most difficult question. I can’t think of any.