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Sunday Old School: Black Metal History Month Part 2 - Melechesh

Black metal is famous for its fierce opposition to organised religion, particularly Christianity. Most of the bands that espouse the anti-Christian view come from Christian or secular countries with a history of Christianity themselves, such as Norway, Sweden or Great Britain. This week, we’re taking a look at something of a strange case, as we examine a black metal band with opposition to religion from one of the Holiest cities on Earth, Jerusalem. A band who combined the surrounding languages of the Torah, the Bible and the Talmud to forge their name. A moniker formed in fire, Melechesh.

Melechesh was originally intended to be a one man band such as Burzum by Murat Cenan, better known as Ashmedi, or Melechesh Ashmedi, and took the name from the words "melech," which means king, and "esh," which means fire, two words rooted in Hebrew and Aramaic. Melechesh was soon expanded into a full band however, comprising of Israelis of Armenian and Asyrrian descent. Before they even released an album, the group themselves were not just talk of the metal underground with their demo, "As Jerusalem Burns..." and single, "The Siege of Lachish," but also in deep trouble with the local authorities, who charged Melechesh with "dark, cult like activities," with one Jerusalem paper even making them front page news, albeit with plenty of inaccuracies thrown in.

Of course, any such publicity like this, especially for a black metal band, only serves to whip up interest and soon the band, consisting of Ashmedi and Moloch sharing guitar and bass duties, with Ashmedi the lead singer, and drummer Lord Curse, signed a deal with American label, Breath of Night Records, who released the band’s first full length album, "As Jerusalem Burns... Al’Intisar," (with "Al’Intisar" being Arabic for "victory,") in 1996. Though perhaps not quite up to the standard they would become known for, it was nevertheless a popular and well received debut, with the epic, "Assyrian Spirit" being considered a particular highlight.

Though the charges brought against them were eventually dropped, Melechesh continued to face animosity and problems from the religious community in Israel and so decided that it was in their best interests to leave the country, performing a farewell show in Jerusalem before moving first to France and then to the Netherlands, though Lord Curse stayed behind to continue his studies, eventually going on to work for George Lucas' ILM company. He was replaced by a drummer named Proscriptor, who was the main contributor to the band, Absu and soon the band signed with Osmose Productions, who released their first album in five years, "Djinn." The record dealt mostly with Mesopotamian mythology, continuing to explore the dark side of these beliefs and spawned their first music video for the song, "Genies, Sorcerers and Mesopotamian Nights."

Two years later, the band released their third and arguably best album of their career, "Sphynx." The record was produced and mixed by King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRoque, who also made a guest appearance on the song, "Purifier of the Stars," and included a cover of the Celtic Frost classic, "Babylon Fell" on the limited edition vinyl. It also continued their findings on Mesopotamian and Sumerian mythology, this time in a much more aggressive fashion, but marked the end of their collaboration with Proscriptor, who was replaced by Dutch drummer Xul after its release.

With their new drummer in tow, Melechesh got to work on new material, which was initially being documented for a film about the struggle of putting the band together and the challenges they’ve faces, though this idea was scrapped when the original director lost all the footage he’d filmed in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the band finished and released their fourth album, "Emissaries," in 2006, which was another highly praised effort, with the increase in Middle Eastern music proving especially popular. It contained a hidden instrumental called, "Extemporized Ophtalmic Release," and was to be their last both with long serving bassist, Al Hazred and for Osmose Productions, as they signed with Nuclear Blast Records following its release.

Their first album for their new label, "The Epigenesis," was recorded in Istanbul, with Ashmedi claiming it to be the perfect place to record the album, as it’s a city where East and West collide, much like Melechesh’s music itself and that it has a strong metal scene, which is not so well known worldwide. He also confirmed that he recorded all the vocals naked, late at night, when only he and the engineer were in the building and the latter was in another room, with red lights and Sumerian imagery installed in the recording booth. It was yet another critical success, with fans and critics putting it up there as one of their absolute best releases.

Two years after "The Epigenesis," the band announced that Rahm had left the band and a year later confirmed that Moloch had also departed to pursue his academic studies. While Rahm was replaced by a bassist named Scorpios, fans were delighted to hear that not only would Moloch change his mind and return to the band, but also that Lord Curse would be taking over the drum stool once more. With a solid lineup in place, the band released their sixth album, "Enki" in February of last year to a very positive response. Fans and indeed critics will no doubt hope that we don’t have to wait another five years for a new Melechesh album, as they have proven time and again that they are one of the most fascinating bands in the history of extreme metal.

Melechesh - "Assyrian Spirit"

Melechesh - "Hymn to Gibil"

Melechesh - "Genies, Sorcerers and Mesopotamian Nights"

Melechesh - "Secrets of the Sumerian Sphynxology"

Melechesh - "Ladders to Sumeria"

Melechesh - "Grand Gathas of Baal Sin"

Melechesh - "Multiple Truths"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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2 Comments on "Sunday Old School: BMHM Part 2 - Melechesh"

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1. NW_MetalHead writes:

Great write up for an awesome band

# Feb 14, 2016 @ 4:46 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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2. Diamond Oz writes:

Thanks man!

# Feb 22, 2016 @ 5:43 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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