Australian black / death trio Vahrzaw have been around for about 32 year now. Their two full length releases ‘Defiant’ (2009) and ‘Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues’ (2014) exhibit some face melting extreme metal replete with venomous vocals and screaming guitar solos. The band’s second full length has now been picked up by Blood Harvest records for a reissue, thus adding yet another ungodly act to their stellar roster. The band is currently getting ready to record their third full length and while you wait for the new record, you can check out ‘Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues’ in it’s entirety below.
Also included is an interview we conducted with Vahrzaw, where the band talks about the new album, their evolution over the years, the Australian scene and much more.
Transcending Obscurity (Shrivatsan R.): Vahrzaw has been around under different names since 1992. Tell us about the evolution of the band and how you’ve managed to find stability since 2005 after a 7 year break.
Vahrzaw (George van Doorn, Vocals) : The band started as a Death Metal band when we were 16 years old. Within a year we’d heard black metal and shifted the focus of the band. We had some early success and were going well, but then it all just sort of fell apart. Got lazy. Got arrogant. The band split. Time passed and we talked about putting it back together. The chemistry was there and has been ever since. That said, we have changed drummers in the last decade. No animosity. Our last drummer just wanted to go off and explore non-musical interests.
(Scott Williams, Guitars and Bass) : We’d literally just picked up our instruments so we learnt from scratch how to play and write (or attempt to) songs. They were pretty basic & punk-like in the very early days. Embryonic! We only settled on the name in 1994 when we got a deal here with Dark Oceans to release our 2nd demo tape. We were kind of a hybrid of black and death metal by 1996 & by 1998 we split the band up.
TO: You’ve been making music for about 24 years now. What effect does playing extreme metal for so long have on your world view? Or do you prefer to keep personal views separate from the music?
GVD: I actually think I’ve become less angry as I’ve aged. That said, I’m definitely less tolerant of opinions I think are stupid. As for personal views, they definitely creep into my lyrics. ‘Defiant’ was an entire album about our views on religion.
SW: It hasn’t really affected my world view playing this long, I think along the same lines as I did in the 90s albeit in a more refined controlled manner. Channel the vile contempt lurking under the skin into riffs. Ha! Besides the religion bashing we have done and still occasionally do we are politics free. Nothing is more fucking boring to me than politics.
TO: Australia has a thriving black / death scene with bands like Contaminated, Altars, Grave Upheaval etc. What do you think differentiates Australian bands as compared to European and American black / death scenes?
GVD: I don’t really know. I think most bands listen to, and are inspired by, bands from vastly different countries. There seems to be less theatrics with Australian bands.
SW: Far less numerous than other countries.
TO: Some of the leads and solos on Vahrzaw’s music seem to have influences from traditional heavy metal. Can you tell us why you didn’t go for the frantic, chaotic style the bands of this style usually opt for?
SW: Exactly that reason, other bands do it. I grew up on the duel guitars of Murray/Smith & Mustaine/Friedman & of course, the frantic Hanneman/King style of lead playing in the early 90s. I tend to mix both when there’s a lead part, as you’ll hear on the new record. I’m not a huge lead player for the most part though.
TO: What made you decide to reissue ‘Twin Suns and Wolves’ Tongues’? Did it have something to do with Vahrzaw being associated with Blood Harvest?
GVD: The original press was only 100 copies, and was through a small Australian label. Blood Harvest offered to repress it which gave us the opportunity to be exposed to a larger European audience.
SW: It had everything to do with Blood Harvest. Absolutely. It does deserve a wider audience than the initial release we weren’t capable of giving it.
TO: What are your views on styles like black / death metal catering to only a niche audience? Does having limited audience keep the style more grounded and raw?
GVD: I’m not entirely sure what you mean. I don’t think BM/DM cater to a niche audience, but that these styles appeal to only a minority of people. Also, I don’t think the style confines people, but that the musicians who play this style of music WANT to play raw/aggressive music.
SW: Everything has a niche audience really, it’s just another form of artistic expression.
TO: Tell us about the artwork for ‘Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues’ and your long term association with Sean Fitzgerald.
GVD: Conceptually, we wanted something a bit darker/rawer. So we opted for a hand-drawn piece rather than digital work. Sean is a great artist and one of my lucky finds. I stumbled across some of his work about a decade ago and asked him if he’d be willing to develop a piece for our ‘Futile’ EP. He said yes, and we’ve had a great working relationship ever since.
SW: That sprung up from the over-saturation of shit digital art all over metal albums. It started to look… cheap. We had 3 releases with a running theme prior to ‘Twin Suns..’ that was pure digital art, I like them for what they are, but the music for ‘Twin Suns..’ suited a stripped back approach to art, logo & album layout. Sean is easy to work with, knows his art and templates. Good with both digital and free-hand pictures. Listens to ideas and edits. No fuss. Music fan. That’s the kind of person you give your work. He’ll be doing the layout only on the new record, the art is hand-painted from Romania this time.
TO: Do you think cassette tapes are still a viable format to output music, considering everybody is into either Vinyls / CDs / digital format?
GVD: I have no idea why people are interested in the cassette format. It’s cool for collecting, but for listening to music, it’s shit.
SW: As a format they are pretty bad. Limited shelf life, poor sound and prone to easy damage… but in saying that, vital to metal and the demo trades. Personally I prefer CD & vinyl and have done for 25 years, but I have quite an extensive tape collection, both dubbed and original from the late 80s/early 90s. I throw out the dubs if I obtain the CD.
TO: Vahrzaw is currently working on the third full length. What are some of the things that the band is doing differently this time around?
GVD: We’ve spent much more time writing songs this time. They’re more intricate in terms of their structure. There’s many more harmony parts and layers this time round too. I’ve also spent considerably longer writing lyrics. This album won’t be recorded until we’re 100% happy with every element.
SW: More harmony and lead work on my end. I’ve put a lot of work into writing interesting tracks that are instantly recognizable from the last. Arrangements & tasty guitar riffs. Two tracks will have guitar intros and an acoustic might appear. Used sparingly.
TO: Thank you for the time guys. Is there anything else you’d like to add ?
GVD: Thanks for the interview.
SW: Thanks for the interview. Pick up the reissue through Blood Harvest or through the official VAHRZAW Bandcamp. Look out for the new album in 2017 also through Blood Harvest.