Pakistan's metal scene has fluctuated over the past 2 decades since it's first emergence way back in the late 90's, but despite this the scene has grown and grabbed ever-expanding attention from the wider global metal community... and now, is perhaps one of the most exciting scenes to emerge on the international stage, further enhancing the need for the western metal music industry to take note and a chance on the flagbearers of the Pakistan metal scene.
One band who carries the flag is Primaeval, a mixture of heartfelt experimenting and ritualistic heavy metal, quite the contrast to many other bands in this part of Asia; whose extreme metal faction is unsurmountable.
Farhan Rathore spoke to Global Metal Apocalypse about the band's humble origins, international recognition following their debut EP launch, sexism within the scene, the origins of the metal scene and the challenges bands faced, among other topics.
"Our love for metal won't die because this is a genre that has saved many lives."
Tell us about your band name Primaeval - why and how did you choose it? After all it relates to the earliest times in history.
"So it's a funny story. The band is founded by one of the oldest active metal musicians in Pakistan, Farhan Rathore. Who has been a musician since 2010. He approached a couple of his friends in 2020 with the idea of creating this band, after taking a break in 2017. They thought it was a great idea and we had named the band Nephilim, but we found out there are a dozen more bands with this name, so we started working on coming up with new names, and then medieval popped into my mind, but I thought what can be more earlier, so that's where Primaeval came into my mind. Basically signalling to the fact that we are old school metalheads."
You released your debut EP 'Horcrux' at the back end of 2021, how was it received locally and overseas?
" 'Horcrux' was not as well received as we'd have wished for locally, but outside of Pakistan the response was good as always. Mostly because of the quality of listeners is far better outside of Pakistan. Nothing to take away from our loyal fanbase here locally who have been brilliant always. But generally it didn't do well as good locally as it did overseas."
As it's your first release, how did you come up with the song tiles and lyrical content? Was the EP's creation straightforward?
"It's actually quite interesting. 'Doom' and 'Bleed' from the EP were written by Farhan in 2013 when he was with his old band, but we got the chance to record those songs now since he wanted those lyrics to be used. Nocturne (alternate version) is our full length album's title track basically (a small chunk of that) used in the EP in a toned down way. It was a pretty personal approach with the material because we are emotionally attached to the songs in the EP. To round off we covered 'I Long' from one of our favourite bands Saturnus. And yes the process was very straightforward because we had recorded the instruments before even planning to put these songs in the EP."
Has Byzma Aref your female vocalist, received any sexist comments by those in the Pakistani metal scene? Generally speaking, what is the attitude towards female musicians in Pakistan?
"First of all, Byzma is talented. A voice that our metal scene hasn't witnessed, you'll be hearing brilliant work from her end soon. And about anything negative being thrown her way, we can confidently say NO.
Females are generally mistreated in the local scene, but with our female vocalist, this hasn't been the case luckily."
What challenges do metal bands in Pakistan face? Is there an established music industry in Pakistan (focusing on the mainstream)?
"Metal has never got the recognition it deserves unfortunately. One band recently made it to a mainstream music show, only to upset the fans because it was a pop themed show. The mainstream industry is more established around pop and hip-hop, and it looks down upon metal like it's a bad genre or something and doesn't give equal opportunities or exposure to a lot of metal musicians.
So it's a day to day struggle building up your audience and putting out original music which is self funded. Not to forget arranging gigs from your own money with free for all entries. Which demotivates us all. But our love for metal won't die because this is a genre that has saved many lives."
Have there been any well-known international bands play in Karachi or elsewhere in Pakistan? If so, who?
"To our knowledge, no well known rock or metal bands from the international scene have been here. Mostly because of the hostile situations and the religious fanaticism. Religious extremism still exists but we've learnt to stay away from it now. But we don't see any big acts coming here to play. Not like India where many big bands have played shows and festivals. We probably will never get to see that sort of thing here unfortunately."
Tell us about your day jobs, what do you do (if employed) and do you talk to colleagues about metal music?
"Farhan is a Senior Customer Success Manager at a multinational company and works at night (as they work according to the US time zones). Byzma is a Data Analyst for a Canadian company (remotely employed), Athar is in the lead HVAC designer for a construction company and Rumi is an Architectural Engineer.
We all talk to our colleagues and friends about metal all the time. We are trying to build a large scale community so that Metal can thrive. We engage with like minded people to discuss ideas and share knowledge where needed. It's well received too."
How did you get into metal music and what do your parents think of the genre?
"Farhan has been into metal since the 9th grade of school, so that makes him a metalhead for 18+ years now. Athar and Rumi got into the metal scene after being hardcore Metallica and Opeth fans for a long time, deciding to make music of their own and have been active musicians for 10 years now. Same goes for the other members, all have been metalheads all their lives and just stepped into the music scene when they felt like it basically.
Initially all of us got some stick for this loud, aggressive music that we listened to. But now that we've grown up, we get little to no stick for it hahaha."
2022 is upon us and so what plans does Primaeval have for the year ahead? Could we see the EP be physically released?
"Good question. We're looking for a label that can sign us and distribute our music physically. Though we're in talks with a local distribution label that might do it digitally, it's not done yet though. It's very hard to find a label or publications that might help you market your work.
About 2022, we can promise a full length album is on the way, it is something Pakistan has never witnessed. It's progressive and very dark. We've put all of our emotions and experience into it. The album will bring the wow factor for all of our listeners locally and overseas. The album is named "Nocturne". We are in the recording phase, it'll be out later this year."