Azrail – A Headlining Act

azrail-band-photoAfter almost three years of continuous hard gigging and busting balls, Azrail have developed quite a loyal following.  So much so that the Metal Gods have noticed, and commanded that the folk at seriously consider Azrail to co-headline the next event.  And so we, the humble servants of all things metal, have appeased the Gods by granting this wish.  Furthermore, to commemorate this revelation, we sent in our minion to probe into the nitty-gritty of Azrail internal workings.  So against the idyllic backdrop of Table Mountain, the City of Cape Town’s pride and joy, Candice went in search of another of Cape Towns more sinister Pride and Joys…

Inquisition of the Metal Gods…

CKC: Ello – Please introduce yourselves:

AZR: Azrail is Marius Theron on drums, Joel Jardim on vocals, OliverReissner on bass, Riaan Smit on rhythm guitar and Petri Coetzee on lead guitar.


CKB: It is well known by many that Azrail was formed in early 2006 with the original members being Joel and Ollie; but how and when did the actual Idea and inspiration of the band take shape, prior to it’s forming?

AZR: Azrail started its microbial life in the minds of Joel and Ollie when they hooked up and started jamming, back when Joel was working at The Whammy Bar in Table view. Think it was between 2004 and 2006. It actually started life as a sort of hard rock/grunge type project. Seeing as it started in or around a bar, it involved copious amounts of alcohol.


CKB: Looking up the word Azrail, I found myself with a huge grin on my face 🙂 Tell us more about your chosen name, its history, and your purpose for it.


RIAAN: Azrail was the God of Death among the Hausa people of Tunisia in Northern Africa.
He was called in when it was found mortals became a bit depressed after five hundred years or so and wished to rest in peace. Joel had chosen the name as it reflected that we are an African band, an African Death Metal band.

PETRI: European spelling is Azrael, the Angel of Death, same in Islam, only it is spelled Azra’il. We took our name from the Hausa people of Western/North Africa, to them Azrail is the god of death, so, Azrail = African god of death.

Well, we are a death metal band, so I think the connection there is obvious. But we also wanted our name to have an African feel or flavour to it, seeing as this is where we come from, love it here or hate it here, we are an African Death Metal band.


CKB: Since two band members, Riaan and Ollie, are rooted in South Africa ‘s neighboring country, Namibia, we’d like to direct a few questions:

a.) How are where did you all meet up?

RIAAN: Back in 2006 when the band started out I was attending City Varsity in a sound course. Petri and Marius were in my class, but i didnt really know them. Marius and Petri played in a band together when they were growing up in durbanville. A mutual friend of Joel and I, Diane Sytger, introduced me and Joel as he and Ollie were seeking a guitarist to form Azrail. We met and started jamming at the studios in City Varsity, but we had the ‘No real drummer issue”. Ollie would usually be swapping between drums and bass and something needed to be done.

On a day when we were learning drum micing techniques, the class needed a drummer to jam, Marius stepped up and for the first time i’d met a drummer in SA, so I approached Marius and the true beginning of Azrail begun. We just wanted to play the most brutal death metal, but that came true to form when Petri joined us in 2008 after Sergio left for the US marines. The sound of the band had changed but we found ourselves liking the progression to a darker, technical realm of death metal.

b.) Tell us a little about your first visit to Namibia in 2008. How were the South African bands received? Would you say that you have grown somewhat of an Azrail following in Namibia after that? Also, how have you found the Namibian metal scene thus far? Would you compare it to Cape Town ‘s scene at all?

Riaan: Windhoek Metal fest was a fantastically organized event, they put all the work in and we had a great response from the crowd, as did AoA and Mind Assault. We have grown a following there. Namibia embraces bands as gigs in Nam are very rare. When there is a South African band playing in Windhoek the people support it completely.

Because for them it’s a treat, in SA there is always gig or a fest every weekend, not once or twice a year. But also there is a massive population difference compared to here. The scene there is fantastic, but it’s very small. South Africa can learn from the people, and appreciate what bands are doing here at home.

c.) Has this made the South-West Slaughter Tour to Windhoek somewhat easier to organize? Has it given you a slight “advantage” into the Namibian scene?

Riaan: South West slaughter wasn’t very easy to organize. We had a bit of trouble because we did our own sound and had to organize a lot things at the last minute, but as always we came through and did our best, the turnout was great and the show went down amazingly. Warinsane had the crowd by the balls.

Our advantage in the Windhoek metal scene is that Douw, the owner and creator of BlitzKrieg, has always been a great friend, he is the reason there is a scene in Namibia. He has created the perfect venue for Metal Bands to play and he welcomed us in and we both had a very successful night.

d.) And so you and the Mighty Warinsane made a decision to take on this adventure together. Tell us more about how this came about, and if your expectations for the tour were met?

Petri: Most definitely! Might even go as far as to say our expectations were exceeded. It was an amazing weekend. Even though it was as short as it was, I think everyone made the most of it and had a good time up there.

I could be wrong, but I believe the invitation came about at one drunken evening with some of the Warinsane guys.


CKB: Getting to your debut album, Primordial, which was released at the beginning of this year… can you tell us a little about the mechanisms behind the songwriting? Who plays what role? I’m also extremely curious to find out whether you write your lyrics for your music, or whether you create music for lyrics already written??

Petri: To be honest, our music writing is generally quite chaotic, with everyone pitching in their two cents here and there, but somehow we usually get something out at the end of the day. It usually starts with either me or Riaan bringing a few riffs or ideas to band practice and sharing it amongst the rest. I personally like to write songs with a drummer as I feel that it helps to get the groove and feel of everything right, otherwise it really would just be guitar wankery, haha.

As far as I know, we have always done the music first, lyrics are usually the last part of the puzzle to fall in and thus complete it into a coherent song. The way it usually goes is, after the song is written, we record a scratch track of it, basically just guitar, then give that to Joel to write lyrics to and work out the timing of it and so on. Although, sometimes we do have an idea of what we want the lyrics to be about, then we might write or tweak the riffs to complement this idea or atmosphere.

Some of us have taken a stab at writing lyrics before and then giving it to Joel, but we like to give Joel his space to work on his art and basically do his thing.


CKB: Which songs have gone down particularly well at live shows? Any personal favourites?

Petri: Generally depends on the crowd I think, but anything that’s either really heavy or full of groove, or both, goes down well. The last song on the album is usually also the last song in the set, and that seems to usually get a few heads cracked open and such.

We all might have our favourites, my one at the moment is the new song we’ve been playing of late, Logarithmically Ripped Apart. It’s probably the heaviest and most technical we’ve gone so far, really a lot of fun to play.


CKB: Name some of the places you’ve toured to while promoting your album, Primordial. What have you learnt from these experiences, and has it changed your attitude or confidence while playing on stage?

Petri: We launched the album at Whiplash 2008 last year at Klein Libertas in Stellenbosch, and then went on tour in early January. First leg was KZN, Durban (Burn) and PieterMaritzburg (Red Door). For most of us it was our first time in KZN, even though we suffered from the climate, our hosts, Reverend Henry Kane, kept us cool with beer and lodgings, good times, good friends and good shows, what more could you want?

We then went on to Gauteng where we played in Pretoria (Café Arc), then in Boksburg (Black Dahlia) and ending off in Randburg at Thornfest 3 (Tempo’s). Once again, we were amazed by the great people we met, shared a lot of beer with and played some great shows with. The one at Café Arc in Pretoria was probably the best, but to be honest, to play with the legends of Architecture of Aggression is always a honour and privilege, and of course, the most brutal party in the land, haha.

One learns some invaluable lessons on the road and by playing in brand new places. Our stage confidence and overall intensity and professionalism just gets forcibly multiplied and I’d like to believe we came out even better at the other side.


CKB: Since most of you are busy studying and doing courses; how do you manage your time between work, studying and band practice?

Petri: Well, I guess it comes down to one thing, commitment. If one enjoys what one does and commits to it, then you make time for it, no matter how hectic the schedule gets. This is a simple, but, when put in practice, hard rule to follow, but without it you just don’t get anywhere.


CKB: How has each member’s musical background influenced / affected Azrail’s musical style, taking into consideration things like Petri’s history with Black metal band, Noctivian..

Petri: Each member puts a bit of himself and what he likes musically into the songs and stage performance. Most of us listen to a surprisingly diverse collection of music, some of it for pure enjoyment, other for ideas and such. For instance, I know Marius enjoys some 80’s tunes every now and then, haha. I’m probably the most “closed-minded” individual in the band, death metal almost 24/7 for me, but I do enjoy the classical masters and certain movie soundtracks from time to time.

Noctivian was my first introduction into the metal scene here in Cape Town, it was a great learning experience and I met a lot of great people and had a great show. When I started in Noctivian it wasn’t purely black metal as far as I can remember. There actually was a lot of death metal influence as well, so it wasn’t too hard applying that to Azrail, for those in the know, there’s actually one or two old Noctivian riffs in one of Azrail’s songs.


CKB: After Sergio left Azrail in 2008, was it easy for the band to adapt to Petri’s style of playing; and visa versa too, was it easy for you, Petri, to adjust to the band’s style of playing?

Petri: Yeah, it was obviously a bit different from what I was used to, but one learns and adapts as time goes on. As I said, I am and always have been more a death metal fan and it was awesome being able to write that and see it come together in Azrail’s music. It also takes me out of my comfort zone sometimes or forces me to play better. I think playing in a band can sometimes make you a much better musician.


CKB: Riaan, many people are surprised to hear that you will be leaving the band soon, will this just be temporary? What are your reasons for leaving (if I may ask?), and what are your now, future plans?

Riaan: My entire reason for leaving the band come down to personal bullshit, as with any band there is some kind of disagreement. At this point it is musical indifference, and compromises will have to be made. We have been patching things up, and we all came to an agreement. That we are going to see how the next month goes in our song writing process, and if it comes down to Musical incompatibility then I will move on.

I do not want to leave Azrail, but if it is in the best interest for the future of the band, or the members, there is little else I can do. My future plans are to remain friends with this bunch of madmen, and jam with anyone who’s amped for some blues.


CKB: So, we know that you’re in the process of interviewing a new rhythm guitarist, how is this process going? Or have you already found your guy? If so, care for an introduction?

Petri: We have had a couple of auditions, but to replace such a valued member as Riaan has proven quite a task. We have not decided on anyone yet and have postponed the whole process to see, as Riaan said in the previous question, how things go and then take it from there.


CKB: Even with a possible shift in the bands composition, we’ve heard some talk about a new album / EP, I was wondering how the writing process was coming along, or if this is the result of having just written a LOT of material around the time of Primordial? It might also be a little early to ask this, but when, more or less, do you foresee this to come into being?

Petri: We do have a new album somewhere in the back of our minds and have only recently starting writing new material for it. Main reasons for wanting to hit another album is that, although we were quite pleased with Primordial, it was sort of a compilation of our music over the last two or three years. Now we want to go forth and put what we’ve learned in to practice, and show people what we can really do.

If all goes to plan we might start recording some new material by the turn of this year. We want to take our time on this one though, so the schedule for it is quite flexible, but I think if I had to choose a date for release off the top of my head, it would be somewhere in the second quarter of 2010.


CKB: Currently, how does the new material compare to that of Primordial? What is the “aim” of the planned future release, and what do you plan to focus on?

Petri: If and when this new project comes to fruition, people can expect possibly a more modern sound than our debut album, and even heavier, more technical and brutal songs. Basically, this one will be aimed at killing people sonically, all over the world.

We specifically want this one to be on par, if not over, the cutting edge of modern technical/progressive death metal, globally.


CKB: How do you guys feel about being one of the headlining bands for Metal4Africa’s Winterfest 09; as typically, only 2 out of 9 bands get a 40min slot, as opposed to the usual 30min slot! 🙂

Petri: Fucking awesome!

It’s a great honour and we will make sure not to disappoint, I can assure you we are pulling out all the stops for this one. This will be Azrail as you’ve never seen or heard us before. We might be previewing some new material and also pushing the envelope in terms of stage act, beyond breaking point.


CKB: What are your thoughts on initiatives such as Metal4Africa, and what they’re trying to “accomplish” in the African metal scene?

Petri: Well, having seen M4A grow from a mere site on myspace to what it is today brings a tear of joy to me. They’ve always been for the metal bands and fans by the metal bands and fans. Also, it would be great to reach out to the rest of Africa, even though it is hard, I believe it can be done with determination and perseverance, of which M4A has a shit load of.

 The failed gigs of Nile and Devildriver in South Africa last year showed me personally that we need to grow our own scene first, before we can truly bring these international acts to our shores successfully. I believe M4A is and will be instrumental in this process.


CKB: Any future plans for the band so far, or it a “one step at a time ballgame”? Anything else that you’d like to share with the readers?

Petri: There are always plans and dreams/visions in our demented minds, some of which include spreading out beyond our shores, writing new material and always improving. The slaughter can not and will never stop.

On behalf of the rest of the band I’d just like to thank the following people and bands:

Metal4Africa, Dave Sass, The Warinsane, Mind Assault, Day Turns Night, Reverend Henry Kane, Theatre Runs Red, Pledge Defiance, Architecture of Aggression, Deane Crescent, Bile of Man, Strident and A Walk with the Wicked. Also all the other organisers and venue owners in Cape Town and around the country, and of course the fans, the Azrailite Legion. Making it even more fuckin’ brutal!

And the Slaughter continues

We will see Azrail taking their musch deserved headline slot at WinterFest’09, and wish them the best of luck for the future.  As one of Cape Towns hardest working bands, I’m sure that there will be much more in store for them before the sun sets on Azrail…