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GenieKing (Arallu)

Interview with GenieKing from Arallu
by Val Smirnoff at 21 February 2015, 12:09 AM

Arallu is one of the veteran bands in the local Israeli scene since 1997, after the previous review on the new album “Geniewar” about to launch on 18th of February 2015. Val Smirnoff had the honor to talk to the leader and the founder, GenieKing, about the band's extensive history, their unwillingness to bend to music formulae and the importance of one's own sound.

So this is my first original copy CD copy of Arallu, didn't have the chance to get the previous albums. Though, I had heard your name many times back in the days and your earlier materials are familiar to me also through mostly live concerts and YouTube and I have to say, Arallu is one of the greatest bands in the Israeli scene. The question is about the genre, who came up with the idea for the concept of Arallu, and why?

Look I was getting my materials together, back then in the 96' as a solo project. I was deeply inspired by Venom, Bathory, Darkthrone, old-school, primitive Black Metal by the book. Back then there was no a cutting line between thrash and black metal, hear the first materials of Slayer, Kreator and Bathory it's kind of a mixture of Black and Thrash Metal together. Today is big difference between these two genres, two different waves of genre. This kind of mixture got me on the hook and I liked it a lot, but there was something that bothered me in the music in general is to be “sound like”, and I got myself in looking to some differences and some deviations in music to bring something else. I liked the concept of Norwegian Black Metal for bringing their culture to the music, and I said to my self, we are not having a lack of culture here in Israel, on the contrary, the things people read in the history books, we are dealing with the same things in the present days, the historical culture in Israel is very rich! And back then we didn't have the crappy eastern music we have today, we had the earlier Yehuda Poliker, Ehud Banai that took guitars and give them the eastern tune, we had the first album of ORPHANED LAND and it was good! In '97 I got to the studio to record the "The War On The Wailing Wall" demo, and there you can hear the eastern culture influences I had back then with the primitive Black Metal. Surprisingly this demo album had a huge success, even though it was incredibly underground Black Metal.

Yes I remember back then, when I was in high-school, about 10 years after the Demo people were still interested in it and talked about it a lot, and this is how I got introduced to the band, “come o see Arallu; it's Eastern Cave Black Metal” and was like “What does that mean?!”

Exactly, this Demo released only with 300 copies and it got such unreal attention, and it was just a beginning! The local record companies such as Raven Music contacted me and asked me, when do I plan to release a full album. So I got to the studio with Nir Nakav for drum sessions and we recorded the "The War On The Wailing Wall” album, but it was still a solo album, the composing and recording of all instruments was performed by me and Nir on drums. And only in 2002 I'd started to gather band mates. The response was amazing, there were people who hated the music and there were fans, from the beginning up to now, is like a half of a cake, there's half haters and there's a half supporters and true fans, and you can see it through all the social media, I couldn't find people yet who sat in the middle.

I see it as a cultural phenomenon when you bring something new to a small community. It caught pretty fast.

Indeed, I see it as a cultural chance of perception and it's good when you have two sides who're bringing the subject to the surface and arguing about it, it makes it interactive and interesting, and if it's not happening and people don't care it means that I didn't prove my point to the audience. And I can see those responses through the whole discography, and after the 4th album I thought to my self, enough with it, people got the point, after one and a half decades, but no! People still see it as a controversial music and a reason to argue and asking either this band has the right for legitimate existence or not, in fact that it does exist, recording albums and rocking stages. One of the most controversial albums that had raised those kind of questions was the second album "Satanic War In Jerusalem" it came out in the time of terrorist attacks, very angry and loaded with hate toward the situation, screaming on top of my lungs for somebody to do something and nobody actually cares, everything is just nonsense and politics. The new album's getting back to the bands origins, to the first and the second albums, with more authentic oriental instruments and elements with harsh and primitive Black Metal, take the “Coronation “ song for example, monotonic entrances, simple like Norwegian Black Metal, kind of like Darkthrone a simple 4/4 tempo, in between you have the Middle-Eastern, oriental parts for the final purpose, to get back to the roots! But still to have the surprise element, just to confuse the listener a little bit, to get the feeling of the same old but still different from the previous albums with a new spice! And this is the meaning behind the bands title and it's musical definitions, and of course the band got through many band members, and not because they didn't like the band or got along with each other but because it's a big responsibility, sacrifice and big budget expenses.

That was a good history lesson about the band, I get now the bigger picture. but still I have questions about the bands genre definition. Why did you choose to focus on the Mesopotamian title, and I did my research about this concept. As far as I can see it has turned more to the Middle Eastern, Oriental, Israeli Zionist standards that could have take the title of the bands definition instead of something that represent an ancient piece of land, and while I listen to songs like “Hayalim Almonim”, “Tzuk Eitan” I hear something more relative, Zionistic, Israeli, why not define this way?

Right, I hear what you're saying and I agree with you, BUT, this is not Zionistic music it's nationalistic, back then to be a nationalist was a proud thing, to day this word gets a bad reputation with a fascistic meaning. I have to confess that in this album you have three songs that you may call them fascistic in that matter, and I don't have any problem with if someone will call it fascistic, “Hayalim Almonim” has a very painful lyrics, same with “Givat Ha Tahmoshet”. “Tzuk Eitan” has a solidarity with the latest war we had in Israel, and you are right that it might be the right definition, but it's not, is a musical combination of Middle – Eastern with Metal, same with the lyrics. It goes through Mesopotamia up to nowadays, the physical boundaries back then which reflects also on cultural and religious differences between people are very similar on what happens today, that's what is all about, as I started with stories and lyrics about those ancient wars and events, up till now it goes more nationalistic with a “Tzuk Eitan” for example. if it hadn't been titled as it is, it would be another typical war song and it was very important for us to let the world know what did we go through in the last war and to express solidarity towards our soldiers. Another song that is more relevant to nowadays is “Hayalim Almonim”, the text for this song is not new, it was written even before Israeli Independence and it also connected to the Mesopotamian times, not to the ancient Mesopotamia but in nowadays.

So what you are saying is Mesopotamia is not just about ancient times it's also issue of mapping the area?

Exactly, and it's also including all the middle east and connecting all these time-lines by pointing out the same area. Songs like “Metal Troops 666” and “Underworld Resistance” are about not so distant past of Israeli under-ground resistance forces against the British. In the same album you have “From The Desert To The Ice” and “Coronation” which talk about Babel, ancient Gods worshiping, Mesopotamian culture. You can not title your bands genre as nationalistic Metal because it will have to be only about present days, while you have songs about ancient cultures such as Babel.

Ok, so it answers on some of my doubtful questions, while I'd had in the review for the album, I just couldn't see the connection between some songs, because Mesopotamia is an ancient culture as I said before. I used to believe that when you touch a cultural element and adopting it into your genre, you have to stick to it. Take for example Folk Metal and its variety of sub genres such as Viking, Celtic etc; they take their traditional and ancient culture and make a music out of it's stories and adopt some elements from the authentic music. So that's why I had a feeling that something is missing or just not right about the definition of this genre as you call it, Mesopotamian.

Back then in '97 I had that feeling while I been exposed genres as Viking Folk Metal, which is about Drinking Beer, ancient Viking Gods and wars they had. I looked through my people history which is full with hatred, wars and bloodshed. And take a look today, those things are happening today also, what they have been reading in their history books, about vikings, we are literally living our history today.

The next question is about the cover you made in this album for the song Iron Maiden – Powerslave. And as I shuffle through the review for Geniewar album, I have to point out the problem I had with this cover. First of all, maybe I haven't done my homework completely the concept of Mesopotamia, but I cant remember that Egypt has any connection to it. And even if it's not, I have very strict approach toward covers, Especially epic ones, those we all grew up on. Either it has to be perfectly authentic to the original song, or it has to be super creative and original, better than the source.

I know it hurts a lot when someone takes something you grow up on and turns it upside down. But! “Powerslave” is Middle-Eastern, Egyptian and Mesopotamian, but it doesn't matter. In 2002 we'd made the cover for Slayer "Evil Has No Boundaries” we had it because we love Slayer and a huge amount of inspiration comes from this band, but, it doesn't have any connection to middle east and Mesopotamia but as a tribute, we had to try to make this song style. Coincidentally, it happened to be that “Powerslave” is one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands and it's Middle-Eastern. I know that we crossed some boundaries here, we had slayed a holy cow! We had a felling that all fans will hate this cover, there's no doubt about it! I've heard dozens of covers, everyone had stuck to the original version. Why to do that? The original song is genius as it is, what's the point of making it again as it is? We just had to make it our style, to make it , more middle-east and oriental. And I have a small scoop for you, originally this cover was suggested long time ago by Raven Music, and when we recorded the cover for the first time, the Raven Music manager hated it, and I'm talking about label company. Ask him what he thinks about it today, he got out of his Iron Maiden way of thinking, he digested it and today he loves it! The song is constructed differently in so many ways, because the right thing in making music is not to make something exactly like someone else's, the right thing is write the music yourself. There are a lot of bands with highly professional musicians but their music suck, because they are not original and creative. If we were made this cover exactly like Iron Maiden nobody would compliment us for how good we are in playing guitars. That's why my singing is so unlike Bruce Dickinson's, the guitars are different percussion are more oriental. As far as I can tell, you've probably heard the cover ones or twice. Am I right?

Not really, I had to hear it at least 10-15 time for the review.

I unsure you, if you will give it a chance to hear it couple more times, you'll change your mind. For example, take the cover we made for Slayer, at first, people hated it, and today the respond is so different, people love it! And it's all about thinking differently. it's hard when you used to something, it's understandable and fine, the time will make the difference when people will start to think objectively and not as they used to. Maybe I'm tapping my shoulder here and bragging about the results, and I do not criticize Iron Maiden, because I just don't have the right to do so, but I do think that we made this song right, and better, we made it oriental as it should be and not British Heavy Metal. As it is, it's beautiful and written perfectly but, in a non objective way, I had to make it oriental and different, the result is perfect, and in time people will understand and love it. Through song writing process, from album to album we search for the opportunity to develop, because when I look to band like Carcass and At The Gates, they had returned with the same tunes as they were back then, and it's not right. Decades in the world Metal scene, you're making a new album and why don't you make it original and different from your past ones? Every album we make as Arallu we try to develop and make something new, the foundation of the band stays as it is but in every album we try to be faster, better and more creative to evolve our music and make something different. Black Metal today is not the Black Sabbath back then, even though Black Sabbath were pioneers in Heavy music, eventually it evolved to something new. This is what I'm looking for, I could make a typical Iron Maiden cover but I chose not to because of that.

I see what are you saying but my point with the critique, comes to contradict the things you had just said, the main reason is maybe to help you out with your attempt to develop your music. I'll quote some of the latest reviews for the album by other magazines, “ the album that sounds like Slayer and Iron Maiden”

Do you agree with that statement?

In some parts I do, and I had also mentioned it in my review. “Bloodshed Around” sounds to me like Slayer - “Reign in Blood”, and there are a lot of other parts in the album when you can hear exact like Iron Maiden and Slayer parts. And it rises a question, if what you said before about is true, could you pass on those “like Slayer and Iron Maiden” parts and make something different? I had a feeling that we're dealing here with a huge Slayer fan with an attempt to be like his favorite band, and it's very hard for me to accept and believe to what I've heard in ”Geniewar” because this band exist for so long in the Israeli Metal scene and it's disappointing for me to see you stuck there.

No no no, “Bloodshed Around” is not a 'Slayer' song at all, because Slayer has no old-school rhythms, and the guitar riffs are more like the first albums of Bathory, the opening song of the first album. Maybe “Metal Troops has some Slayer atmosphere. “Bloodshed Around” , “Coronation” and “Underworld Resistance” are pure Black Metal songs, there are no Iron Maiden in there and not even Slayer. It is more like Immortal, Mayhem Brutal, Pure Black Metal.

But still, I get back to the same point when it doesn't matter if it sounds like Slayer or Immortal, it sounds like somebody else.

So you're saying that we sound like other bands; listen, guitar has 6 strings and distortion has several tunes, but it's still Metal, and there are many bands that I got inspired of and it comes along naturally, have you ever heard a band that doesn't sound like some other band? Everybody are influenced by something that already exists. Listen to the European Black Metal bands, they're the same, like they've been manufactured. Arallu is the least repeatable band, every song composed differently because we don't want to use the recipe for success like all the others.

The “From The Desert To The Ice” for example, is a great song, it started perfectly and I had this exciting feeling that this album is going to be a blast, but something gone wrong. Maybe you are right, I should have listen to it more, but first of all I don't believe that is a good thing to wash your brain with a song just to try to like it. It turns into a non objective opinion, and it's bad for my reviews and live reports, there are several bands that I refuse to review, because they're my close friends and their music is too familiar to me.

This is where you are wrong. All the point in Metal is something you can't say “I love” when you hear it for the first time and if you do like it for the first time it means that this song is a big failure, because it will get boring very quickly. Do you want me to get you the first review of Venom or Slayer? Just for you to read that people thought it was pure shit and whoever thought that is a good idea to make this music is a moron. Do you want to read that? Just to prove to you that time does its magic, it makes changes on people opinions. And it doesn't work on Pop music for example, ask yourself how fast do you get bored of Pop songs on the radio, and how many of them do really remember. And this is why I give a time for every new album I listen to, 2 weeks straight just to hear it closely. Do you think that the new Mayhem album was a good impression for the first time? You have to change your attitude towards music you listen to, because you do not listen.

You're just not right, because this is not how I work, as a person who listen to Metal since 16 years old, I can approach to an album for the first time and like it right away, or I can listen to it one time and hate it, but to decide that it does deserve another chance, and I'm giving it a few times more. But if after 5-10 times it's still annoying me, well it gets a title of piece of garbage. Besides that, as a reviewer and reporter, it's my job to give at least 20-30 full hearings to an album, because I get to certain details and it requires an accurate listening. after all that, if something is still bugging me, I cannot pass it through. And my point goes back to the “From The Desert To The Ice” song, that starts perfectly and I have to say that this is an amazing song, up to the closure point where there's a looping guitar squeal, that repeats itself annoyingly and this is not even the annoying part, the riff just goes off beat.

What??! No way! You have no idea what kind instruments did we use there, but this is not the issue, the thing is we used an oriental scale with 4/4 tempo and oriental scales have other tempos and this is all the point in this part.

Exactly, this is what happens when you combine several type of music that don't fit or made not in the way they're suppose to. I'm not saying not to mix eastern with western music, but if you do you have to do it correctly and carefully. There are people like me that have a trained ear, and I just can not tolerate those kind of errors. But there people who don't get bothered by it. But from my point of view, “From The Desert To The Ice” is a song that could have been perfect.

Look we didn't declare ourselves as elite musicians, but we do proclaim as a group that we are not afraid to take chances and do not afraid of originality and expression. We do break boundaries, and we don't care about somebody that points out for some tune that got away or missed the plot, it's Metal!


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Edited 05 June 2023

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